Two of the questions I am most frequently asked are ‘When did you first start knitting?’ and ‘What made you start The Lace Knittery?’
The first is the most easy to answer…I have no idea! I cannot remember being taught to knit but I can definitely remember the first piece of knitting I was aware of and excited by. It was at Primary School and I was six or seven. We knitted squares from donated yarn. I can remember being selected to knit two because I was one of the quicker and more even knitters. I can remember the struggle and hard work in making those squares BUT also the pride in the finished square (ish!) shapes and the fascination starting then with all things yarn. It was also the era of The Good Life on TV and I was imagining the sheep that my lovely bright red acrylic came from…I have got MUCH better at fibre identifying since then and have gone on to process from fleece to finished garment on a regular basis.
Anyway some poor parent got to cobble together our squares into two blankets and we sent them as a class to the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon. The clincher into making me a yarnivore and general fibre obsessive was the Donkey Sanctuary sent us story books as a thank you! Not only was I a knitter but an an appreciated knitter…sold!!!
The second question is much more multifaceted but is something I shout about to anyone…soz, if you are someone who had asked this question and then backed away as I was still going after ten minutes…I am passionate about what I do.
Firstly, as already said acrylic was king in the 1970s and this continued into the 1980s when I first started knitting lace (Aged 14 when I decided my first project would be a wedding ring shawl. I finished it after 4 years.) you could not get natural fibre yarn. For a while in the 1990s I imported and ordered from outside the UK but I really wanted to find homegrown, natural yarn.
I started spinning in the early 2000s…and bam…we have this wonderful, unique, renewable resource I had to get word out. A huge part of starting the Lace Knittery was to stock, use and promote natural fibres, build bridges and relationships with fibre producers and educate anyone who wants to learn about this…and I won’t stop going on about it!
Secondly we were starting to lose skills…not while I am around! I have demonstrated cast on, cast off, different yarns, knit stitch, purl stitch, yarn overs, reading patterns and a myriad of other things from the middle of fields to on stand at an exhibition. I love encouraging and passing on skills. We are all part of one big yarnieverse. If I can help, encourage and teach I will…go on just ask!
Finally, and probably most personally, I cannot say enough about how good the act of creating something, be it single stitch or entire sweater is for you. It is food for the soul. You are doing something with your hands, which frees your mind from every day cares. It is my me time of mindfulness. It has helped me cope at the most stressful times of my life as well as celebrate the most happy and fun.
When I was being sexually harassed and assaulted by a coworker, knitting helped me calm down and ask for help.
It was there in the aftermath when I was moved departments while the perpetrator was given gardening leave until I had left, taking the form of me furiously knitting the most enormous and complicated aran sweaters to hide under.
It was there with the excitement of being pregnant and anticipating new life. The wedding ring shawl pattern got another go.
It was there in the long evenings and nights alone while my OH was working. My twenty something children still have the knitted cat.
It was there when I bounced around the room because The Lace Knittery was going to exhibit at The Knitting and Stitching Shows. I treasure each and every interaction and am still amazed by it all but can’t stop the designs coming out of my head.
It was there when I was diagnosed with MS…
…you see we never know what other people have in their life, good or bad, but making, creating, be it drawing, colouring, knitting, stitching, cooking or anything else cannot be overlooked. We are all as important and as valid as the next person. Yarn doesn’t know about race, or sexuality or religion or disability it is just a tool for you to use and enjoy. If we were all given the same yarn and needles we would all produce something different AND THAT’S what I love, the diversity of the yarniverse, the willingness to share, the ability to calm and validate…oh and probably a myriad of other emotions that swirl around and make me talk fast and hand out yarn and needles and encourage and encourage and encourage…