Joan of Oregon
We were given the modest grant we had applied for, so now it was time for Knitco to dream big. With the money in hand, we decided to shoot very high and work on enticing some wonderful knitting teachers to travel here from afar to give workshops: Joan Schrouder from the far north-western US, and Debbie New from Ontario were amongst these. It may be a stretch for most of you, but imagine the world with NO Youtube or video chat software! In those antediluvian times, the only way we could get to see how famous knitters did things, was to buy them an airplane ticket and bring them here in person! (Of course, having the live person to interact with is still as good as it gets.)
At Joan Schrouder’s workshop, which was an innovative sock class called Shockin’ Stockin’s, I spied her collection of Bavarian knitting books—oh yes, I began to drool most indelicately! Joan kindly shared the information on how to obtain them. I immediately wrote (paper, pen, envelope, stamp) to the publisher in southern West Germany to see if I could order copies of these treasures. A few months later, I had these delicious books in my hands, all the way from Germany. (Now, of course, I buy e-books in a few seconds…from just about anywhere…sigh!)
I can read German well enough to read knitting instructions, so this was no impediment. I still use these books for pattern inspiration several decades later, the twisted stitch and the lace patterns are so beautiful. Although I have never made any of the incredible traditional stockings (covered in exquisite detail in one of the books), I just love looking at the patterns and dreaming about one day making a pair of these! Why, and where, would I ever wear them? I could just make one and frame it? So little time, so many things to knit!
Debbie New does it her way!
Debbie New was all kinds of fun! She burst the seams of the knitting straitjackets some of us were in. She has a terrific imagination, a fine grasp of mathematics in knitting, and she likes to see ‘What happens if we…’. All things are allowed: yarn and needles do not have to be employed in pattern-instructions or society-approved ways. Imagine some otherwise staid and respectable women being totally silly (and discovering a lot) with needles and string—that was us (OK, maybe not entirely staid, but certainly respectable). We had so much fun doing totally weird things with our yarn! The nuttiness of virtual knitting was something I would have been hard-pressed to come up with on my own—Oh, the sacrilege! My 4th grade handicrafts (girls-only class, of course) teacher would have been appalled. All of a sudden I am wondering what the boys were doing during that time… It was probably a lot more fun. Those were the days, indeed.
Virtual knitting consisted of sewing yarn in knitted-style interlocking stitches onto something like a cheesecloth base, and when done, removing the cheesecloth!
Another topic we explored with Debbie was swirl knitting, a form of knitting that makes curves and knits into curves, next to curves, and then comes out with a perfectly usable knitted object. It struck me at the time, that knitting is not really constrained to being linear art, even though most of us see it as a row-by-horizontal-row construct.
Want to be amused and amazed?
For knitting brain candy, have a look at her book Unexpected Knitting.
(I see that Ravelry has some of her very odd, very entertaining patterns from this book available for sale.)
To be continued…