Posted on | May 8, 2012 | 2 Comments

Last week, I headed out to the Lion Brand Studio for a special event with Brenda Dayne from Cast-On. Being a loyal listener for years, I jumped at the chance to be able to see and meet her in person. If she happens to be stopping by your area, I highly suggest going to see her!

She spoke on the topic of “A Memorable Yarn”. The essay was a mix of how memories are formed and how we form special yarn related memories when we are knitting. How many of you have bought a skein of yarn on vacation as a souvenir? Or how many of you can pick up a sweater and remember exactly what was going on when it was in the process of being knit? That skein of yarn or sweater can trigger an almost photographic memory and bring you back to that period in your life.

In between, we were treated to a story about Brenda’s second sweater. It had quite a journey that ended up becoming another sweater (after all, you can’t waste good wool!). However, this second incarnation of the sweater didn’t quite make the cut and she planned on reclaiming the yarn once again. At this point, she took the sweater out of her bag and showed us. The audience approved of the sweater, but it was to no avail. She began to unravel the sweater in front of us, which brought quite a bit of panic from some audience members! Her reason for doing so was a simple way for her to attach a new memory to the yarn that had been through so much already. Her reasoning: when she is back in Wales and knitting her new sweater, she will think about all of the people she met on her journey and the new memories that are now attached to the yarn.

To coincide with the event, the attendees were asked to bring in a memory bag. We were instructed to take a bit of yarn that had some sort of memory or meaning attached to it and knit a little bag. Inside the bag, we placed a piece of paper with a story about the yarn and what memories are attached to it. Here is my memory:

About 10 years ago, I submitted a design for a little book called Stitch n’ Bitch Nation. I was fresh out of design school, in my first job as a sweater designer, and I decided to try my hand at something new. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it, well, until I got the acceptance email from Debbie Stoller herself. The. Debbie. Stoller. Wow. Breathe Melissa. Breathe.

The first design that is accepted to any publication always has its own special memories attached to it. I remember jumping up and down a lot and telling anyone that would listen. My knitting group in LIC was ecstatic and very supportive as well. Celebrating your triumph with other understanding knitters is really second to none.

After the excitement wore off (a little), reality set in. “I have no idea how to write a pattern!! What am I going to do?”

While waiting for my yarn, I picked up and started reading every pattern from Rowan magazine in my collection. It probably would have been helpful to pick up some American publications as well, but I wasn’t really as connected to the knitting world then. I didn’t even know that existed!

The yarn finally arrived and I was off! I had chosen Rowan 4 ply Cotton in a pretty teal blue color. I was particularly devoted to Rowan at that time in my knitting life. I was also particularly devoted to small needles as well. Typically beginners go for the larger needles, but not me. My first sweater was on size 2’s. My first design was on size 4’s. Seemed perfectly natural to me.

With a little bit of luck, and some help from Helen in my knitting group, the sweater was finished. I don’t really remember how long it took, but I remember stitching the last seam on the floor of my apartment during the 2002 Winter Olympic closing ceremonies. I also remember being so emotional that I cried. Was I going to miss the sweater or the Olympics? Who knows!

I took the sweater to work the next day, took a few pictures with my co-worker modeling it, and then prepared it to be dropped off. Because I was in New York City and didn’t trust my first baby to be delivered safely in the mail, I decided to go down personally to the Bust magazine office and hand it to Debbie myself.

I walked into the Bust office like a shy puppy. I was shown to Debbie’s desk, but she was on the phone. I quickly muttered something to someone at a nearby desk and practically took off. As I was waiting for the elevator, Debbie came around the corner and thanked me for dropping it off personally and I felt like a total geek for running off. Who knew meeting the Stitch n’ Bitch queen could make me so nervous! If you’ve ever met Debbie, she really is one of the nicest, most approachable person ever.

When the book arrived in the bookstores, the Lucky Clover Wrap ended up being one of the more popular patterns in the book. Maybe I had a career in hand knit design after all! 10 years later, I’d say that is the case. With a few books, magazines, and a self-published line under my belt plus a book of my own coming out next year with Interweave, I’d say I haven’t done too bad.

With these bits of leftover Rowan 4 ply cotton, I celebrate the memory of the unknown opportunities at the time and what is yet to come in my yarny journey!

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  • Helen (of troy)

    Thank you–I can’t remember doing anything special to assist–but I do remember how exciting it was–and it’s so much fun for me to have some knitting friends like you, who are PhD level knitters–I love how so many knitter have taken up the skill–but its also wonderful to be able to engage with some knitters who are peers. I am sure the book will be great!

  • Pat Blazer

    So enjoyed this “memories” article! Last week I was going through my thread stash, looking for the right burgundy to hem a skirt I’d cut from slacks that are now (joy of joys!) too big. Near the bottom of the clear plastic ziplock bag that organizes red/pink/purple colored thread in my stash, I found a large spool of salmon-colored cotton thread. Now, I’ve only made one salmon colored garment in my entire life: an Indianhead cotton circle skirt in 8th Grade HomeEc over 55 years ago–and here I still had the thread! With couterior training and years of running a studio behind me now, it brought back memories of when every sewing project was a challenge not a pleasure. In the last 10 years I’ve learned to knit one sock pattern perfectly but I’ve been hesitant to try another pattern. The message of the spool was: Try, you can succeed! Again, thanks, Melissa