A few years ago, I decided to learn how to knit. Knitting had become en vogue again with DIY clothing gaining momentum, and every celebrity talking about how they knitted in between scenes on movie sets.
Watching multi-taskers effortlessly busy their hands to create something is interesting. Its outcome is also a far-cry from things typically found in stores. The looks aren't necessarily perfect, but they're cozy. They can be as fashionable or expensive as anything found in major department stores depending on the material used. And they're one of a kind, even when using a pattern: you choose the color, you create, and no two people knit alike.
Being a clothes horse, I thought this might be the craft for me -- it was more than creating art but making something I could wear; sewing had long ago been taken out of the running. Try as I might, I have never really been an arts and crafts person. I watch enviously as my painter and photographer friends make amazing pieces that have been shown in local galleries; and I think of my inability to paint the entry way of my dad's house and how every photo I take somehow ends up blurry.
As a kid, I would delve into an arts and crafts project occasionally, but the excitement lasted momentarily. After a weekend or so, I realized I couldn't quite get things to look as I wanted them.
I eventually approached my great-grandmother, who had been knitting since forever. She made quilts for her 15 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren well into her 80s. For our first lesson, she taught me the basics on some bright purple yarn that ended up filled with her corrections and was only the size of a Kleenex.
It was enjoyable, but entirely because of the bonding experience with my Granny. I am certainly not the only one who has deepened a relationship with a relative while learning how to work the needles.
Learning from your mother, grandmother or great-grandmother is half the fun. This is the basis for a book-signing and workshop for Mother-Daughter Knits with Sally Melville, March 19-20, at midtown yarn store Loops, 2042 Utica Square,
Shelley Brander started Loops in 2005 on a quest to find the kind of knitting store she wanted: "One that is friendly, fun and very fashion-forward." The store has become a well-rounded environment for knitters. Beyond providing the necessary tools and materials to create nearly anything, the store hosts workshops and classes.
It's a place for a community of knitters to help one another and exchange patterns. Brander herself is an enthusiastic participant, and while attending a Tulsa Knitting Guild workshop, she spoke with knitting celebrity Sally Melville. Melville has become a strong figure in the knitting world, appearing regularly at trade shows where her craftsmanship and personality garners a crowd, Brander said.
At the Tulsa Knitting Guild workshop, Melville mentioned she was publishing another book. Brander asked where the upcoming book tour might be taking Melville, and a few weeks later Brander was answering questions about her store and what kind of turnout an event in Tulsa would have to Melville's publisher. The numbers -- a mailing list of around 4,000 people in Green Country and around the world - was impressive. The store is now one of the stops on Melville's short tour.
Mother-Daughter Knits, available in stores March 17, was a collaborative effort between Melville and her daughter Caddy Melville Ledbetter; both women will be in Tulsa as part of the event.
The book features patterns for 30 wearable items, while also giving insight on the impact of knitting on the mother-daughter relationship. Brander, who received an advanced copy, said that it's the first time she's really seen the mother-daughter concept used in a craft book.
She identifies with the experience of passing along the art of knitting to a daughter. Her own three daughters knit; and Brander felt proud this past holiday season when she watched her 8-year-old daughter knit gifts for her friends.
The book also offers an extensive array of patterns; and it takes the multi-generational tone further as it provides patterns for the young and old alike. Brander pointed out, though, that there is nothing "grandma" in the book (meaning that nothing looks old-fashioned; certainly nothing wrong with grandmas).
And most importantly, the patterns aren't exclusive to one body shape or size. The patterns for sweater coats, fitted tops, wrist warmers/fingerless gloves, wraps, skirts, sweater hoodies and more are worn by real-world women. Brander noted that one color-blocked, striped tunic with cap sleeves looks like something you would find in a high-end retailer.
Knit Going to Happen
The Mother-Daughter Knits events begin March 19 with the book signing. Brander is excited because it will be more personable and intimate than typical book signings in big-box book retailers. Books will be available for signing, and those who attend can expect to meet Sally Melville and Caddy Melville Ledbetter.
Garments created from patterns in the book will be on display as well. The signing, which begins at 6pm on Thursday, will continue until everyone's book is signed. Brander is hoping for "a line around Utica Square" to greet Melville.
The real treat is the workshop on Fri., March 20. Forty to 50 people will be selected to have lunch with Melville and participate in a workshop for knitting to flatter and fit. The popularity of the lunch has been greater than expected; originally planned to be held at Loops for 20 participants, it is now at the Polo Grill, 2038 Utica Square. Brander hopes to keep this event as intimate as possible. Tickets are $29 per person, which includes lunch.
Loop's Web site is suitable for a novice or an avid knitter. For an assortment of yarns available, Brander's blog and other upcoming news and events, check out www.loopsknitting.com. And to find out more about the lady of the hour, you can visit Sally Melville's Web site at www.sallymelvilleknits.com.
As for my own foray into knitting, the second lesson with my Granny never came about. Like everything else I tried to pick and couldn't master within the first 10 minutes, I threw in the towel. While it aggravates me today that I can't make the sweater from Coraline (yes, there is a pattern out there; it's on the Internet) or an oversized scarf, I'm mostly disheartened that what we began remains the same: a bright purple square, still attached on its needles, jabbed into the ball of yarn. She passed away this January and I wish that I had the skill to continue what we'd started. As the event and book proves, the relationships you build through learning the craft are just as special as the outcome of your stitches.
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