Saturday, August 9, 2008

Knitting in the 80s and my Knitting Mentor

A while ago I started talking about knitting in the "olden days" but never got back to it because of all the stuff going on with my family. Time to get back to my story about knitting in the 70s and 80s and tell you about the best knitting mentor a person could ever have.

So far in our story - I was an idiot and thought I could relearn to knit and learn to purl and make an afghan between Thanksgiving and Christmas while going to college. That afghan is still in good condition in the basement and if you ever come over, I'll let you warm up with it.

My last couple years of college were spent in my hometown after I transferred schools and majors. I switched to Nutrition and Dietetics which meant a chemistry class every single quarter and classes that melted my brain. I also worked 24 hours a week to pay for an apartment. I know I was pretty crazy but then - don't all young people think they can do everything! I needed a nice distraction from all this and ended up working part time (2nd job) for a family friend at her shop. Our two families went to the same church and were linked together by Boy Scouts. Both Dad's were leaders and Vivian, Mom and myself would stay together at the family camp of the Boy scout camp while the guys roughed it in tents. So - I got brave and asked Vivian if I could work for her cause I couldn't imagine anything better than working in a yarn shop. Bless her heart she said, "yes". For the next several years I worked Friday nights and Saturdays for minimum wage and was thrilled to do it.

Back then most yarn was plastic/acrylic stuff purchased at Target or KMart or your local drug store. There were a few other places like Lee Wards (bought out by Michaels) but Red Heart was the yarn of the day. Then there was the few place like The Yarn Shed that had the real deal - wool, alpaca, good cotton, yarn you could make something out of and be proud. I loved that place. It was my oasis from the crazy college world. You would walk in and could just smell the wool wonderfulness.

We had Lopi, Bernat Germantown, Bemidji wool, German wool, tweeds, real sock yarn, so much more. We had some yarns that I really miss today. Mirage was ahead of its time. It was a wool with a bit of tweed in it and it would very slowly change from one color on the color wheel to the color next to it. My favorite color was the one that went from deep royal blue to deep royal purple. That stuff made the best vests!

We also had books - and patterns - and magazines. But the best part was, Vivian let me read all those books and patterns and magazines. It was good for her to have staff know what was available but it was great for us. I had an education that couldn't be beat. I absorbed everything. I was introduced to Elizabeth Zimmermann at the shop through her books. I bought them all and read them all. I started designing using her books and Vivian's encouragement.

During this time I also was given a chance to teach way before I was really ready. What was she thinking?!? But I got that first class under my belt and found out how I needed to change what I did and improve. I entered outfits I designed to the State Fair and came home with ribbons every time (not always first but ribbons none the less). I even ended up corresponding with Elizabeth Zimmermann briefly. This was a great time to knit!

Vivian also introduced me to weaving through the ridgid heddle looms she had at the shop to rent. Dad made me a 4 heddle table loom from some instructions I found at the library and then I ended up going to Siever's School in Washington Island, Wisconsin one summer to learn more about weaving. I came home with one of their 4 heddle floor looms and the next few years were dedicated to learning how to weave. More State Fair ribbons followed. Through it all, Vivian encouraged me and showed me what it was to be a mentor and friend.

As time passed I had to give up my Friday night and Saturdays at the Yarn Shed because I was a dietitian and had to work Saturday's at my full time job. But "The Shed" was still the place to go and hang out when possible. About the time I decided to quit being a dietitian (10 years was enough) Vivian was deciding to retire from the shop. I opened my own business with knitting machines and sewing machines in a different part of town so she gave me advise and well wishes.

My business survived 5 years but that's a story for another day. I, sad to say, got lazy with keeping up with Vivian and hadn't seen her for many, many years until the day of Mom's funeral. I turned around and there was Vivian, still supporting me when I needed it. What more could you ask for in a mentor!


toni in florida said...

What a great relationship you two developed! And how wonderful that you appreciate how lucky you were to have had such a mentor and friend.

Guinifer said...

Funny how time doesn't matter when someone shows up to be your friend again.