Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Knitting Trip Down Memory Lane

In going through an old cedar chest of my mother's, I turned up some interesting finds. It got me started looking for other old bits of knitting from different times in my life, and I thought it might be interesting, if perhaps embarrassing at times, to share them.

When I was eight or nine, a friend's mother decided it was time her daughter took up knitting and they invited me over for that first lesson. Now the mother pretty much knitted all day long and had a penchant for knitting ugly suits on very small needles. Not very inspiring. But she gave me that one lesson in cast on, knit and purl. When she saw that I seemed to have grasped the concept, she told me to go to the LYS and pick out a pattern and some yarn. Our LYS at that time was anything but exciting, but they had some old stand-bys in Reynolds and Plymouth and such. I chose a pattern with a two color slip-stitch, long set-in sleeves and a turtleneck with some red and white yarn to work it in. I took that pattern, started knitting, and actually finished the sweater in record time without a single mistake (because I tinked back and reknit when I saw one). The only question I asked my teacher was how to knit the turtleneck. No one even questioned that I could or should do it, and therefore I just did. Unfortunately, no record exists of that sweater, but I remember every stitch I put into it.

Once finished, probably the following season when I was nine or ten, I set about knitting sweater number two, the one I found in the cedar chest. I made it for my mother.

Let's see, two color with cables, shaping, turned hems all around, and finished off with tassels. What a sweater! Mother wore it quite a bit and professed to love it. And saved it all those years.
At fourteen, I knit this mohair and wool worsted number, also as a gift for my mother. I saved up babysitting money to buy the yarns and knitted in secret to surprise her for Christmas. Again, I found it tucked away in my mother's cedar chest.
A few years passed and the boys arrived, and I was knitting coordinating sweaters for them. There were multicolor vests and little jumpsuits knit on small needles, and some lovely rugby style sweaters, and these Aran Isle numbers. All the sweaters have disappeared, but there is this one photo with Santa, wearing their little sweaters. Awwwww! That little redhead is now a surgeon and the moptop is the one awaiting a marrow transplant. How time flies.

I remember knitting another sweater or two for me, one allover moss stitch in pink comes to mind. I got so bored with all that moss stitch and then when I put it on, I realized that baby pink just wasn't my color. The LYS in my little college town was woefully lacking in choice. Probably wore it two or three times and who knows to where it vanished. Oh dear, and there was the puce green mohair mutton sleeved ballet mini mini-dress! And I wore it, long skinny legs sticking out all over! Probably with my underpants on view. Thank goodness no pictures. Then in the Seventies in New Orleans, I got on a jag of knitting boat-neck tees. I could whip them out in garter stitch in a few days and wore them to death. There was this natural wool one, a black wool one, the yellow linen one below, and who knows how many more. During this period, there was also a chenille turtleneck design I liked, which I knitted in soft fuschia, mauve, and teal. Somewhere there are photos of them.
I was travelling around the world constantly for my work, knitting wasn't terribly portable, so I took up Bargello and carried my needlepoint with me. The owner of the needlepoint shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans near where I lived was fascinated with my knitting, asked me to teach her and began to order yarns. It is called the Quarter Stitch and is still there today, worth a visit. More yarn than needlepoint these days.

Then came the Eighties. Novelty yarns. Here's where the embarrassment starts. By then I had moved to Paris and was again constantly travelling, so needed airplane suitable work. When I would visit New Orleans every year or two, the Quarter Stitch had started stocking novelty yarns. The owner of the shop convinced me to start making little triangle neck scarves with short needles for the plane and I knit dozens. I would stock up with ten projects at a time to last until my next visit. I wore them and would end up giving them away off my neck, everyone wanted them. Can you imagine?These lovelies are only a few of the multitude I produced. Wonder if I could shave off all that eyelash since I still like the idea and the colors. I've got a couple of drawers of scarves that definitely look like something alien is alive and multiplying in them.And then there was this hairy beauty. The owner of the Quarter Stitch again convinced me it would be fantastic. Wonder what I was smoking that day???? After two fronts were knitted and the back started, I came to my senses and it became a UFO, which believe it or not, I still possess. Think it's time to send it to the Frog Pond. Perhaps I could recuperate the base yarn and use it in a Jane Thornley creation.
And then there were the huge shawls knitted with Wild Stuff. I'm seriously thinking about frogging those for more Jane Thornleys. Perhaps pull out the eyelash threads? I probably have ten more projects worth (eyelash, not Wild Stuff). This is good eyelash (if that's not an oxymoron), not hobby store quality. I need to find a worthy recipient and de-stash the lot of it. In the Nineties, there was the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater, a glorious cabled affair in tweedy charcoal handspun. The poor guy loved it, but couldn't wear it more than five minutes in the frigid Russian winter without sweating. And it grew, and grew, and grew. And finally, the curse worked, thank goodness. One photo somewhere if only I can find it.

Interesting to note that all this knitting was done as a completely solitary pursuit; I didn't know anyone who knit nor have anyone to inspire me or assist me with questions. I didn't have any books. I didn't know you needed a pattern to make a sweater or a scarf for the most part. The Aran Isle sweaters for the boys were probably found in a woman's magazine sold at the supermarket. It is simply amazing all of the knitting inspiration that is available now.
Now that I have quite embarrassed myself and just so you know I'm still knitting, Shedir is in the decreases. I actually added an extra repeat as had been suggested, but when I tried it on my son, it was too long, so I removed a full repeat of all those cables and started the decreases over again. Should finish it soon.
Thanks to Micki and Bea and Grace for nominating Purls Before Frogs for a You Make My Day Award. I am honored. I have to name all of you on my list, not as a tag back, but because I truly enjoy checking in on our your blogs regularly.

Now to pass the award on, in no particular order:

Celtic Memory Yarns - for Jo's beautiful writing and Richard's glorious photos.

Clementine's Shoes - for a look at Australia through Di's eyes, her lovely design sense, and her really cute baby.

Thing 4 String - for Micki's gorgeous knitting and spinning. We have this symbiotic relationship of starting the same projects at the same time unbeknownst.

Bea-Blacksheep - for her knitting, writing and all those photos of Abby and Gus.

Immer Wieder Socken - just to drool over all her gorgeous socks.

Florence Knitingale - because she makes me hold my sides laughing.

Knitspot - to see what Anne's designing and cooking.

Habetrot - for her wonderful research and photos.

Bookgrump - Grace makes me smile with all her critters, and it is so much fun to tease her.

Techknitting and NonaKnits - a tie for informative and generous technical information.

All of you brighten my day and teach me so much. Thank you.

Friends invited me to dinner tonight. I stopped by their house for a drink first, and the husband took me on a tour of their home. In their beautiful bedroom, I saw several knitting projects by a chair. I couldn't believe we had known each other for so long and we didn't know we were both obsessed knitters. What a delightful surprise. She doesn't use the internet and thought knitting was dying out! That she was one of the last who knew how. We've gotta change that.

And finally, I want to say how sad I was to hear of Gigi Silva's death, way, way too early. I've knit three of her beautiful sock patterns, and they are among my favorites. Her e-mails were always sweet and helpful and she gave her work freely for everyone to enjoy. I was wearing my beloved Brigits when I read the news. Sympathy and best wishes for her young family.

9 comments:

Micki said...

I had no idea you were such a knitting prodigy!

Lynn said...

Holy cow, woman! What a lovely excursion through time, and learning, you've given us. We started knitting about the same age. I just wanted to do Barbie stuff until I was fourteen or fifteen. And I had the same dismal luck with yarn shops that you did, until then. My first FO was a sleeveless Aran dress in oiled wool that scratched like fury. I had nobody to tell me how inappropriate that was for something that was to be worn next to the skin. Or how awful it would smell when wet!

Bea said...

Thank you for the award.

I love your look back at your knitting. You were tremendously productive, even if not all of it looked good (hem hem...eyelashes...) I love the sweater from the flower shop picture. So pretty.

You should drag your friend onto the internet where she can meet the 73000 knitters on ravelry!! She's so not alone!

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Angeluna. Your work is inspiring. How impressive are your first works, too. Thank you for the co-award with my fellow blogger Nona. I hope Nona will start posting again soon, and that she is OK, as we all miss her imaginative posts. Thanks again!
--TECHknitter

bookgrump said...

So now we know that you have almost always been a wonderful knitter. Even the mad, hairy yarn can't hide that fact! Thanks for letting us peek into your past!

Deborah (aka Mt. Mom) said...

Such ambitious early projects -- no intimidation, no fear! I enjoyed getting to see the old family pictures.

Marcy said...

Why, thanks, Angeluna! Thanks for the award. I love hearing that people who enjoy Habetrot. :D

Di said...

Wow- thanks for the award! I'm glad you enjoy my blog so much.
And what an amazing knitting career you've had- those first sweaters are amazing!

Probably Jane said...

What a wonderful journey through your knitting history.