According to my childhood journal, the summer I turned 8 was a big one. I learned to both water-ski and knit (not at the same time, but hey, maybe that’s something I can work up to.) I think it might have all happened in the same week, actually.
My grandparents have a cabin in McCall, ID. (It’s the best place in the world, but I am not supposed to tell you that because of the unwritten Idahoan rule to keep it our “Own Private Idaho”.) We would spend our summers swimming and boating and eventually knitting. It was glorious.
My mom is a needle pointer and while she downplays her knitting expertise, she has knit close to 1,000,000,000 washcloths and a few Elizabeth Zimmerman sweaters. She is the one that stumbled upon Keep Me In Stitches and Lynda Vrgora. She came home one day and told my sister and me she had signed us up for a knitting class. I remember having a curiosity for the fiber arts from a young age—I made stuffed animals out of paper, cotton balls, and staples (maybe not the safest choice…), my sister and I made hundreds of friendship bracelets and tried to sell them, I remember seeing my mom needlepointing throughout my childhood (she even won a blue ribbon at the county fair for a beautiful tapestry she stitched!)—but I am not sure if I had ever thought much about knitting….
Needles to say, we all went to Keep Me In Stitches the next day, met Lynda Vrgora and learned to knit. I most definitely did not know that my life was forever changed that day, but I am getting teary writing this and thinking about what a special gift this was—a gift that keeps on giving and giving and growing and growing.
Lynda Vrgora is a woman that you meet and will never forget. She is a conundrum because she is Ms. Frizzle-like in curiosity and eccentricity, but also has this wonderful laissez-faire attitude about it all. Lynda was my first real creative steward and she was exactly what this little perfectionist 8 year old needed. When I said I had made a mistake in my knitting, Lynda said, “oh, that’s just a button hole.” When she taught my cousin to knit, the project started with 10 stitches, by the next day it had grown to 99 stitches and resembled a bikini bottom. Lynda allowed it all. She gifted us all permission. Nothing was bad or wrong when it came to making. I can still feel that teaching in my knitting DNA. My critic (the judgmental voice in my head) is so much quieter when it comes to my knitting, almost non-existent, because of Lynda Vrgora and her cozy yarn shop.
We would come back every summer and make a new little project: hair scrunchies, Tilly dolls, purses, felted purses, hats, skirts, EVERYTHING. The cousins all slept in the attic together and we would knit in bed until we could barely keep our eyes open…“just one more row.” In the daytime, we would knit a row, then go jump in the lake, then come back to our knitting, then go waterskiing, then knit. It was a very sweet time.
I wouldn’t knit as much during the school year, except when I went through the phase of knitting all my elementary school friends scarves that were way too long for them. I would also always start them the day before or the day of their birthday parties and be furiously knitting right up until the minute we had to leave to go to the party. (It is probably why I am now a very selfish knitter—the pressure got to me.) But every summer when we would go to McCall, we’d stop into Keep Me In Stitches, get re-inspired and the needles would come back out with a vengeance.
I still have my first knitting project framed, holes and all.