Monday, April 26, 2010

Knit & Crochet Blog Week - Day 1

The question of the day for the K&C Blog Week is how did I get started into the world of fiber. Here is my answer:

I grew up surrounded by pretty lace doilies, elaborately embroidered table runners, warm quilts, and tatted lace handkerchiefs – all done by my grandmother, who died four years before I was born. I was utterly fascinated by all of these items and would study them, trying to figure out how they had been constructed.

My mother had a sturdy Kenmore sewing machine in a nice cabinet that could be used as extra table space when the machine was folded away. She would occasionally make garments for us, and when I was in the third grade, she started showing me the basics of sewing, including signing me up for a sewing class through 4-H. A couple of years later, she showed my sisters and me the basics of embroidery, and we all diligently practiced our embroidery stitches for a summer, completing some small doilies, I think.

On an autumn weekend in the sixth grade, my study of a crocheted doily led me to a piece of string and a bent paperclip. I figured out how to get slip knots in a row that looked like the knots on the doily. When I showed this to my parents, my father exclaimed, “You’re teaching yourself to crochet!” Neither of them knew how I would go about joining to form rows and the suggestion was to ask my teacher on Monday. At morning recess, I stayed behind for a minute and showed my teacher what I had done, at which point, she opened her desk drawer, pulled out her crocheting, and showed me the basic stitches. Then, she cut off a piece of yarn and suggested I use a pencil to practice with. My brother (a fifth grader at the time) got fascinated, and he got his own piece of yarn and began practicing as well. Then, someone showed us basic knitting stitches, and we went around with two pencils and the same pieces of yarn, practicing all the time.

At Christmas, we each got some acrylic yarn, real aluminum knitting needles (size 8, I believe), and crochet hooks (size J). We made ourselves scarves that winter and were very proud. I don’t believe my brother stayed with the yarn beyond that scarf. Throughout my teen years and into my twenties, I sewed the occasional piece of clothing and knitted and crocheted various items. Along the way, I discovered needlepoint and latchhooking and counted cross stitch and plastic canvas projects. I usually had at least one project going of some sort, but there were long stretches when I was not actively working on anything.

In my early 30s, my youngest sister took up painting, and she had a fairly successful craft show career going for several years. I worked with water colors and artists’ chalks and took a pottery class. During the years of my 20s and 30s, I read books about art and architecture, went to museums and art shows and absorbed a lot of color theory. I finally bought my own sewing machine in my early 30s and started making a lot of clothes for myself. In my mid-30s, about the time I got married (in a dress I made myself), I discovered quilts and quilting and made a promise to myself that the year I turned 40 I would make a quilt (and be done with that fascination, or so I thought). I actually took a beginner’s quilting class over a long weekend the autumn I was 38.

Three months before I turned 39, my brother died in a car crash. Soon after that, as my family was coping with this huge loss, my brother’s first wife (and the mother of his son) approached me about some sort of tangible memorial that we could collaborate on for my 5-year-old nephew. We made a picture quilt for him with background fabrics that shaded from black through dark blues into medium blues into light blues and into white. It was around this time that I finally finished crocheting a blanket I had started about six years earlier.

One quilt led to another and then another, and then I discovered my local quilt guild and joined it. I took classes, including one in fabric dyeing, and my self-study of color found expression in the mixing of dyes and the joys of experimentation. This was a chance to join my love of watercolors with my love of fiber.

As a guild member, I volunteered for various projects. When the guild needed a vice president for programs, I volunteered for that. I got to meet the various speakers who came to the guild, including Frieda Anderson, who carried her knitting with her wherever she went. The yarns she used looked yummy, and the process again looked intriguing. Frieda has a good friend named Melody Johnson. Frieda’s blog has a link to Melody’s blog. Melody is not only an art quilter, but she is a gardener, a painter, and a knitter. She has published patterns on her website. In my 40s, I found myself rediscovering the simple pleasures of knitting and purling.

Now, at 50, I have the following projects going in my life:

1. A quilted wallhanging on which I have done a lot of handquilting, some couching, and some fusing. I will probably add beads and some machine quilting before I finish. (For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call this piece “Julia” – the name of one portrayed.)

2. A pair of socks that still consists of two balls of yarn and a designated pattern.

3. Several wallhangings and a probable bed-sized quilt based on the Scraptastic work I’ve been doing

4. A flower quilt that is a collaborative project for the quilt guild (soon to be a raffle quilt)

5. A scarf I am knitting from the Argosy pattern

6. Some roving I’ve been slowly handspindling into yarn (slowly because I only seem to take it out about every two or three months)

7. Some summer dresses that at this point are yardages of fabric and designated patterns

8. A butterfly quilt that is in the fabric compilation stage

9. A galaxy quilt for which I have the fabric but still need to finish designing

There is another project on this list, but more about that tomorrow…

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