What led to your interest in knitting?
Initially from my mother, she was a knitter and weaver. As a young person I didn’t want to be like my mother, but I definitely connected with knitting and enjoyed working with fiber. I was perhaps influenced even more by my father, who loved woodworking. My sister and I spent hours with him as he worked in his woodshop, occasionally talking but mostly observing and handing him tools. He appreciated the history and skill of working with one’s hands to create, the handing down of techniques “as they have always been done.” Part of my enjoyment of knitting is the connection it provides to generations past. I think about immigrants who came to America searching for a better life, settling in new and difficult conditions, where women were knitting to help themselves and their families stay warm and survive. Knitting gives me a connection to my direct heritage, and to the past in general.
Your interest eventually resulted in you co-owning a yarn shop (Lila and Claudine’s in Mahtomedi, MN) with your sister. Many knitters were distraught when the store closed, how did your shop become such a destination in the Twin Cities knitting scene?
I knew the important thing was community, that we needed to create a place where people felt comfortable and could bring their questions without fear of judgement. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been following the folk school movement, they are supportive learning communities with no judgement.
What appeals to you about teaching, rather than the more singular activity of creating?
I truly enjoy helping people expand their horizons. I also enjoy de-mystifying the process, breaking knitting down into learnable tasks so that people won’t be afraid of trying. As knitting has become more popular knitters who want to have a following have sometimes created jargon and ‘mystery’ in an attempt to differentiate themselves, making knitting seem more difficult than it really is. Knitting is not only fun, it is a form of meditation. I love to help people overcome their fear and understand that they don’t have to be perfect knitters from the moment they pick up knitting needles.
What do you hope a student will experience in your class?
I want them to leave sharing a passion for knitting, with me and with others in the class. I want them to see how fun knitting is and to feel they’ve become part of a wonderful community.
How would you encourage someone who has become frustrated during the process of creating something?
I’d encourage them to step back and break the process down into smaller tasks that can be achieved. And also to stop being a perfectionist and have the confidence to know things will turn out fine in the end. That’s why I urge people to just knit, to get in lots of practice because it takes many hours of practice to reach that level of confidence.
Do you have any resources you’d recommend to someone who is learning to knit?
I still re-read the books of Elizabeth Zimmermann, for example ‘Knitting Around’ (Schoolhouse Press, 1989). This book is a charming combination of knitting patterns, family history and immigrant experiences in America in the 30’s and 40’s.