Doing what you do best...then combine it with something else

A couple of months ago I was contacted by Robin Hunter, whose blog: How to Become a Professional Knitter has been gaining popularity. One of the features of Robin's blog is that she does interviews with people in the yarn industry, asking a series of questions about their attitudes towards the present and the future of knitting as well as about how they came to find themselves in this field. I was happy to be asked to participate- and the interview and my answers can be found here.

Robin subtitles her site: a knitting blog about career transition, personal development and the search for fulfillment. I love it.

When I was teaching school, I spent most of my career telling my Grade 8 students to prepare for a world that is unlike their parents' world. There will be very few single career lives anymore, they will have to be flexible, creative, open to change and able to see value in unexpected situations. Although I had had many different jobs before coming to teaching, I really assumed that it would be my career for the rest of my working life. I never suspected that having joined those ranks at 30 that I'd be getting out at 42. But truly, as I look back on it now, I AM A TEACHER. No one will ever be able to change that about me. It just happens that a lay off notice in 1996 pushed me to follow the lessons that I'd been passing on to my students for 12 years: Be flexible! Embrace Change!

So it would appear that Robin, like so many others including me, has done the career shift and has realized that it's not a matter of exchanging one hat for another, of wearing many different hats - sometimes simultaneously - sometimes in succession.

Maria Offin
approached me this winter to do a photoshoot at the store. Maria is a knitter who was wanting to expand her photography portfolio at this new stage of her life. And like so many of you, Maria recognizes the beauty of fibre and she was wanting to incorporate it into some of her photographic business. I was thrilled and have some great shots of the store to use including this one of me, that I must say, I quite like.

Frankie LeMonde-Meunier
is one of the featured artists from the Kingston Fibre Artists on display at the WOOL-TYME Kingston store this month. Don't you love her crocheted garden? Frankie's Fibre Art is usually more of the needle-and-thread-and-fabric-and beads type. Here, she let herself go into another whole world of crochet crazy colours grouped together in a giant wild and wooly bouquet.

Finally, let's hear it for Alicia Peltsch whose knitted brain was a very special gift, incorporating her grounding in neuroscience and her love of knitting. Here's how she describes it:

When I graduated with a PhD in neuroscience I wanted to give my supervisor a non-traditional but special gift that was more “me” than the traditional bottle of scotch.

Since I basically knit my way through my PhD to keep my sanity intact, I thought it would be only fitting to knit him a brain. He LOVED it! He even brought it to work the next week to show everyone.

I’ve finally attached the free pattern - enjoy!!

Each of us, Robin with her knitwear design and blog writing, Maria with her developing (pardon the out of date pun) career in photography, Frankie with the beauty of her crochet bursting into her other artistic media, Alicia with her statement of combined commitments, and me - taking the plunge all those years ago to opening the store into a world I love, have had to spread our wings over new territory, incorporating several aspects of ourselves that we know we're good at and developing a link between them. How lucky we are to be able to play in the same garden where we work!


The Knitted Legacy

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a noon hour call-in show on the radio and the question was: "How have you kept the legacy of a loved one alive after their death?"

There were lots of calls about recipes, treks through mountains and so on. Then a call came through that had me nodding to myself.

The caller's mother had begun a knitted baby blanket for the first grandchild who was expected within a few months. This soon-to-be grandmother's terminal condition made it difficult for her to work on the blanket for long periods of time but she did what she could. Predictably, the caller told us that her mother died before she was able to finish the blanket.

I thought back to all the similar stories that I've heard at our store. Seldom a month goes by without someone bringing in a project left unfinished by a loved one. Sometimes the pieces arrive ...well, in pieces, moth eaten, dust worn. Sometimes they're wrapped in a tea towel, sometimes in a plastic garbage bag, sometimes in blue tissue paper. The bearer sometimes just wants more material to finish it themselves. Sometimes they would like to pay us to do it for them. And seldom does it work out.

As any crafter knows, it's almost impossible to pick up someone else's project and complete it to anyone's satisfaction. Often there's a very practical crafting reason why the person stopped working on it: the pattern got lost, torn or was just too complicated or boring. Sometimes it becomes painfully obvious that there won't be enough yarn to complete the project: try finding yarn to match a 30 year old product or colour! And even if everything is in place to complete the project...who has the precise tension of the original person or the time to develop it in order to achieve a beautiful finish?

And let me tell you, it's heartbreaking to have to tell these people that there is very little likelihood that we can help them achieve the finished product that will live up to their hopes and expectations. I have a personal reason to feel bad for them as my grandmother, the one who taught my brother and I to knit by creating those great Mary Maxim sweaters for us when we were little, and who made beautiful hats and mittens galore for us, left as her knitting legacy to me but a single pair of really ugly socks in a crystal blue plastic-like worsted weight acrylic yarn. She never knew that these would be the only things that I still had of hers that fit and hadn't worn out - probably because I never wore them.

All this was going through my head as the caller relayed her story...which then took an amazing turn. After her mother's death, her father decided to learn to knit in order to complete the baby blanket. His skill was that of a beginner, but he did finish it and the baby has a wonderful momento of a grandmother that he never met and a grandfather who went above and beyond the call of duty. I think that as a knitting teacher, I would have been so proud to help this man in his quest.

I do not, however, plan to take up woodworking in order to complete any of my husband's unfinished projects in his shop. I value my fingers too much to put them that close to something sharp that is whirring that fast.


Presenting WOOL-TYME Kingston's IRISH Knitting Tour 2011

This time last year, I was on the train heading for the west coast, traveling through northern Ontario on the only rainy day of the whole trip. But what did the rain matter, I was watching the amazing wilderness roll by from the comfort of the club car, knitting on my first toe-up sock. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the whole experience, and every time I hear the sound of a train I reaffirm my resolve to make travel a part of my life for a long time.

On the right are a couple of young ladies that I met in the observation car. They too had brought handicrafts to pass the hours, showing off their model airplane. It was all just too much fun for words.

And in just a few months, I get to strap on my traveling shoes again and head to Ireland with WOOL-TYME Kingston's very own tour, organized in conjunction with Service Guaranteed Travel.

From Sept 26th to Oct 6th, 2011, you can join us on a tour of that most fabled land of glorious knits, visiting castles, cathedrals, pubs, abbeys, a sheep and wool museum, capped off with an authentic Irish knitting workshop which will include learning all about Aran knitting.

You will touch down in Dublin, Waterford for the crystal factory, Cork, Kerry, Killarney, Limerick, the Aran Islands, Connemara, Galway and back to Dublin with lots of time in each location to gain a sense of the flavour of the area. All this in the luxury of a modern motor coach with driver and a guide, offering a half day tour of Dublin, a ferry trip to Inishmor (and back, of course), breakfasts each day, a medieval banquet, and 4 other dinners along the way. And all of this for the very sensible sum of about $2500. Truly a travel bargain.

With a local guide to shepherd us around the country, my job will be to act as your knitting support, on deck to answer any and all knitting questions, help with patterns that befuddle, pick up stitches that escape and generally be your knitting "auntie" for the trip so the experience will be as fulfilling as possible in all ways.
Link here or on the tab at the top to go to WOOL-TIME Kingston's IRISH Knitting Tour 2011 page to keep abreast of new information and to get further details.

For just $250 you can reserve your spot for this wonderful knitting experience of a lifetime.
Don't miss out.

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