This is a question some of us, as knitters, ask ourselves. Are we wearing our hand knits? We ask that question for the sole purpose of giving ourselves a reality check. If the idea is to be adding a beautiful hand knit to our wardrobe, truly are we? This is essentially the honesty factor as to why we do what we do and whether we are succeeding in pulling off the look that we were after by knitting these garments in the first place. We all know, no matter what the creative process or how capable we are in our craft, some projects ‘work’ while others do not.
One such knitter has taken this particular topic to task and back in January of 2019 offered an opportunity via a thread on Ravelry to post what she calls ‘street-wear’ photos. Street-wear photos are candid shots of us in our hand knits, in our every day lives, doing whatever it is we do, at work or at play. And, then to post those photos on the thread.
I was smitten with this question because I have always thought and have said . . . yes, I do wear my projects and very much consider them a part of my wardrobe. I have even been known to say, I shop very little for clothes because finishing a garment is like adding a new piece to my wardrobe. So, I remembered this sort of self-monitoring opportunity and as I traveled through this last year, thought, I am going to test my own statement. Not sure on how I was I going to get the photo, I figured I could lean on selfies as a last resort. Of course, I was thrilled when I found some candid shot that had been taken of some activity or function I was at and found that I just happened to be in the background . . . with a hand knit on!
The below is a one year effort. The photos are not necessarily becoming (boo) but they do illustrate that my hand knits are my wardrobe. I have paired the ‘every day shot’ with a photo that was taken during the original photo shoot so you can more clearly see the garment. The top photos or photos on the right are from the ‘posed’ while the others are the recent, candid ones. All of these projects can be found on my Ravelry page and are discussed in full length on my website.
This morning, I am indulging in reminiscing. Perhaps because it is a typical snowy morning in January, the likes that have been unusually rare this winter. Or perhaps it is because I have recently recaptured my mojo for knitting and feel a need to keep my writing in sync or perhaps I was inspired by a recent thread on Ravelry. It could also be a good time for reflection as we head into 2020 perhaps with ideas of projects for the year and goals for completion.
I am thinking about sewing. The years and years of sewing I did long before I became a knitter. I remember waking up one day during my fifth grade summer and asking to make a dress. Mom pointed to a pile of newspapers and said, “There! Use all you need.” I said, “No, I mean with fabric.” And, so it began that I was sent to a neighbors who gathered up supplies and time and helped her daughter and I sew our first dress. Well, the experience stuck and through the years, the basement of childhood home turned into a sewing room, begging for fabric was my second name, and learning about construction through trial and error was my passion.
The volunteer position of teaching knitting, aka my ‘found’ knitting group, includes teaching basic skills. The hope is that this art will serve these ladies well in some capacity in their future. The classes are offered in semesters so the size of the group of ladies varies. And so does the skill level of the participants. With that in mind, I offer a variety of patterns,
all free from Ravelry, from very simple to a bit more complex. Complex in that some patterns may include cables, may have increase and decrease steps, or expect the knitter to read a chart. It is with great effort that I am knitting samples of these patterns so the ladies can see and feel exactly what they are embarking upon.
One lady in particular was zooming right along on her projects. She was a great knitter and expressed a desire to learn how to read charts. So, I found this muffler pattern, a hooded scarf, that I thought would serve well. One could make just the scarf or the entire muffler, has a chart to follow with simple cables and I knew I loved the pattern. So by making it, I would have this great item in my wardrobe as well as serve as the sample of this pattern.
I call the project ‘transition’ as you will see how, as the weather transitions, so does this fun piece. I knitted it in Lion Brand’s Wool-Ease, worsted weight
wanting to utilize the exact yarn the ladies knit with. (A large collection of this particular yarn was donated for this volunteer position.)
Here I am along Erie Basin Marina’s inner break wall modeling the hooded scarf as single layer.
Much like Facebook’s posts and ability for friends to comment and/or like a post, Ravelry, a knitter’s online paradise, has a function called forums. Forums are generally written and like-interested people comment, share, like, or otherwise support the theme of the post. Reading these threads is as interesting as posting on them. Groups on Ravelry generally have many such forums going on at once and of course, there are people in all ranges of activity on them. Some are so active, they have become moderators and those moderators are now posting what we affectionately call challenges. This is true within the Vogue Knitting Group, at least. This is where the inspiration came, or maybe an excuse, to go all the way back to my complete VK magazine collection dating Fall/Winter 1982 (easy access here on shelving).
Call me old-fashioned, not with the times, or even schoolmarmish, I cannot say enough how I appreciate a well-intentioned thank you. Whether a wave from a stranger in a car, a smile followed by a nod in a waiting line, it matters to me. When it comes in the form of writing it is especially sweet but when in handwriting, that thank you lingers in my heart for a very long time.
As I transition back into the work force, I want to share these heart-felt notes that came my way from the volunteer experiences I recently had. The first is from Buffalo City Mission where I taught knitting during their winter semester. We had a very successful time as evidenced by the ladies’ projects as seen here. I am heading back for their summer session and look forward to new projects while promoting our big idea of Stitch(ing) Away Stress. That’s the name of our class.
This is on the topic of life after the loss of a loved one. Not the emotional impact nor the significant life change but more-so on the items that were labeled ‘his’ that were left behind. What I call the layers of physical reminders in and around the house. Loss is a tricky thing and we all cope differently. I am speaking of how I handled his ‘comforts of joy’ that I no longer desired to have around. Where to begin? How to deal? Well, I did what I do best. I organized them. I organized in groupings, like layers, from easiest to most difficult in their significance to our relationship meaning the easiest to the most difficult in coping with each of his things.
I call it the removal of layer one. These are the large furniture-like pieces that I wanted removed from the house quite immediately after his passing. Like neon signs of significant loss. Examples: his leather chair, his dresser. Our bed. I was on the hunt very quickly to find someone who could utilize this large furniture. His clothing and shoes. These items found alternate homes quickly.
Layer two. These are things that were of significance to him, only. His toys. Such examples: his fishing rods and equipment, baseball hat collection, pen sets. Homes for these things were sought after the ‘big’ items. Of course, offerings to family members were made, accepted, and appreciated as keepsakes.
Layer three and by far the most difficult to confront were items of his, however held the memories of our connection to one another, his passion and obvious talent. These items of his stemmed around all things music. His large collection of musical instruments, both woodwind and baroque, sheets of music, and extensive CD collection had to go. About a year and a half has gone by and I knew it was finally time to face the inevitable. What to do with them? Knowing that instruments need to be played to keep from self-destructing as well as knowing their function is to be played, it was time. Well, what instruments need are musicians. Musical friends came to mind first in bidding them farewell. Then, consignment shops. A local shop took in his woodwinds. The baroque instruments . . . a trip to Boston. Taking the baroque instruments back from whence they came could serve as purpose, perhaps some pleasure.
Potpourri Boston ~ We chose a quaint little apartment airbnb in Boston’s Historic North End.
Pretty much my entire life, I’ve knitted alone. Happily, on the couch, in a relaxed state of mind, figuring out the pattern stitch or the possible mistake in the pattern or in my thinking, always knitting alone . . happily. The main advantage of that is the ease of stealing an hour here or there between the hustle bustle of family life, after a school day (whether a student or teacher or both), in between the piles of homework and/or housework, there were always those precious hours.
Well, at this point, this project has been knitted twice. Not by choice, of course, but to eliminate too much shelf time, aka, not be worn. I knit to wear so if there is something about a garment that doesn’t feel right or comfortable, I know its future is doomed. I must say, the fabric that was created by this stitch was the conundrum.
The honeycomb stitch is a type of cable that is dense, especially when using Lion Brand’s fisherman wool . . held double. Not so much dense in weight as the pulled stitches create a kind of air hole behind it. Maybe, you can make this out here, but dense in body.
I’m always talking about Vogue Knitting. Likely, I will always be talking about Vogue Knitting. Not only have I found this publication the most fashionable, fashion is my motivation to knit, I have come to understand the way their patterns are written and follow designers who have found their work published there. Adding to my attraction and deep dedication to this magazine are the more recent events of attending Vogue Knitting Live, walking the runway at the event, and being recognized for my knitted garments. That does not mean I am not aware or do not appreciate other publications for knitting, crocheting, and sewing that are forever beckoning our attention.
While at last year’s VKL in NYC, I took classes, many of them. The classes I chose were specific to the theme of design. For me, choosing a theme made it easier to choose what classes to take. There are literally hundreds of classes not to mention lectures, fashion shows, and vendors at these events. One of the classes in particular was with Deborah Newton, a VK designer who’s patterns I have knit and who’s books I have read. The topic for her class was sketching, sketching fashion, for me the highlight of the entire weekend. I couldn’t wait for it and I couldn’t wait to meet her. She showed many examples of sketches explaining the purpose of them and the importance of honing that skill. Her enthusiasm for the artists of the sketches as well as the aesthetic nature of each was infectious. That enthusiasm, maybe more than my actual desire to sketch, has stayed with me. The below are exercises from the class.
So, when a friend of mine, who knows I love to knit and who seems to love to find treasures for people (a genuine act of kindness), handed me a box of vintage knitting magazines, I was not only appreciative that he would think of me while rummaging, but I fell in love with the covers. They reminded me of the sketches from Deborah’s class. None of these publications were Vogue Knitting, but all of them represented some collective aspect of what I hold dear when thinking of my knittings’ past. Such titles as Gifts, Brunswick hits, Fashion and Accessories, Headliners, Modern Knitting all called to me as I could relate to each of them. “Yes, I’ve knitted gifts. I remember knitting with Brunswick yarns. Modern knitting? That’s what VK is all about!”, I was saying to myself. These covers were literally speaking to me.
How fortunate am I that my DB is a graphic designer. I showed him the box of these vintage magazines, all of different sizes, fragile, and color-aged. I explained my passion over the covers and asked if they could somehow become art for my wall. He did what he does. Many pdfs, lots of frame discussions, measurements . . . he planned to solve what potential challenges there might be.
I love the way the kindness of one, the enthusiastic teachings of another, and the willing and abled spirit of a third has come together to make this most meaningful wall art display for me.
And, what’s more? The magazines are still intact, so now I can begin perusing ideas for knitting!
Sometimes you cheat on your own website. My View, a column in the Buffalo News offers a place for writers to express their own personal thoughts on a topic of your choosing. There are some guidelines (of course) which can easily be found online. Today, I was published. Some of you have been asking how I’ve been since my great loss(es) of 2017 and here I try (within the word count allowed) to express where I am today.
My View: Beginning life again after a year full of loss
As we live our lives, we can expect to lose our elderly loved ones. We are saddened, of course, and we respectfully mourn those we loved. We realize it is the natural order of things when the aged pass away. The stone that is cast by that death has rippling effects that last for years.
Adult children who may have come into town to visit that parent stop doing so, family gatherings are less frequent and sometimes difficult without an identifiable matriarch or patriarch, and the next generation of babies born to those adult children are born and create new, exciting attentions.
Now, when there are losses of loved ones that are unexpected and do not align with the natural circle of life, that brings on a grief of a whole other kind. You wonder how your life will go on. After a long and successful marriage, I lost my husband of 35 years. He was my best friend, cheerleader and protective caretaker my entire adult life.
Through the last few months of his life, we had to re-home our Labrador of five years, a sacrifice for hubby’s safety in the household. Even though it was a successful transition, one’s pet is like one’s child, a terrific loss.
In the meantime, my sister with Down syndrome passed away, a death more bittersweet than upsetting as at the age of 62 and born in the 1950s we felt she lived a full life. However, it was indeed a significant, heartfelt loss to me. Having lost my sister, pooch and hubby all in one year, I felt like I had lost my entire identity.
This was overwhelming, to say the least, for me. Where to begin? Where to pick up the pieces? Where to turn?
At first I was numb. In shock, anger, and likely, in denial. So, I did nothing. Mourning: Who knows what that looks like? They say gather with others, join groups. Keep old traditions, consider new. Give permission to yourself for time, space and for your family.
So, I took on some new things. I now volunteer at Habitat for Humanity at the construction site and run with a group from Fleet Feet. I’ve just signed on to teach knitting at Cornerstone for the winter semester and completed a grief group session at Hospice.
I’ve learned how to time manage the job of two people regarding house maintenance, including grocery shopping and cooking. Children are out of the area and trips scheduled to see them are and will always be in the works.
It has been over one year. I am dating. While all this was well and good, the busy, full schedule was not filling the void and the loneliness I was continuing to feel. It wasn’t until I had a euphoric moment that things began to take a turn for me. My past and present do not need to look the same in relationships. While I understood and had accepted my activities looking different, why not my relationships, as well?
This simple shift in thinking, of taking off the parameters of expectation of the familiar interpersonal relationships I had known, is allowing me to be more open to friendships of all kinds.
Much like starting adulthood over, I can enjoy people I meet, find joy in others’ ways and traditions, and accept new ideas in conversation and lifestyle. The world actually feels like a bright promising place for happiness and love, once again.
Holly Olmstead, of Kenmore, is a retired teacher from the Sweet Home Central School District.
PS. The photo, above is of my home where I’ve hung outside lights for the first time, have a new storm door, new mailbox, and hung a vintage poinsettia wreath, a wreath that hung on the front door during my childhood recently given to me by my mom. Not forgotten, the beautiful wreath hubby gave me a few years back is hanging on the mantle, where sweet memories of Christmas past remain present.
[HERE] is how the article appeared in the Buffalo Evening News.