Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Thank you Bess, you dear one. I'm going to make a list, too, because your side trip was so inspiring!

By Blogger Jane, at 6:01 AM  

OMG! Thank you for this.

By Anonymous Williams Gade, at 10:48 AM  

Happy New Year Bess! I knew when I met you at The Yarn Lounge with Jane, that I would want to grow up to be your "English friend". Now I know I was right. I may have to move to Essex County along with Jane! Never stop "waxing poetic" as you do it so well.

By Anonymous Isobel, at 7:04 AM  

How I love the "Vintage Queen" posts.
And a hearty "Yes!! Yes!!" to your Clara & Jennifer & KR pals section. Ditto to the EZ & MS ones too.
Happy 2006, sweets.

By Blogger Martha, at 6:42 PM  

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Sunday, January 01, 2006  

Warning - This post is vintage Queen - it goes on forever.

Happy New Year! Happy 365 days of a fresh calendar. Happy smooth spaces to build new structures in your life. Happy winter snowfalls, spring showers, summer thunderstorms and autumn rains. Happy blossoms. Happy harvests. Happy warm loving embraces. Happy good-byes to bad relationships. Happy energizing work. Happy snoozy rests. And most of all, Happy Fiber Fun to you all.

Since this is a knitting blog - or at least a fiber blog - I have given some thought to the first post of 2006; especially since my NYR won’t be ready till mid-month. And on that note, it’s future looks happy and bright because MsHoroscope assures all Virgos that:

If you can plan to do ‘it’ between January 13 and 18, you have the stars on your side.

I’ll try to schedule everything for Friday the 13th. It seems so appropriate for what I hope will be a devilishly funny event.

But January 1 isn’t just for planning ahead. It’s a sweet time to look back and I have been looking back all weekend, to the people who have made the most impact on me as a fiber femme. Some were teachers, some merely exemplars, some catalysts. All of them have added richly to my fiber skills, my creative eye and my sensual pleasure. In chronological order I’d like to list some people who have had a hand in making TheQueen.


In the end, all things go back to Mama, who instilled phenomenal chutzpah and confidence in me. By example, she led the way into so many artistic realms. She always believed that if someone else had done it, so could she. And if she could do it, so could I. She never once in 53 years, told me to not try, or that it might be hard, or I might fail. What’s hard? Just a little more effort - a little more time. I am sure I also inherited her dexterous fingers. I only wish I’d inherited her eye for line and her glory with a water color brush. But that "give it a go" mind set was the greatest gift a mother could bestow and she gave constantly, generously.

Kenny Mayes:

For he is the boy who admired a sweater I was wearing waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1969 - so long ago it sounds like a joke. And who asked me to knit him one. And selected a Norwegian ski sweater, paid $20 for the yarn, pattern and needles and blithely went off to college in the smug confidence that I would make him look like Jean Claude Killy. He was the opportunity for me to learn how to manipulate knit and purl stitches, tangle stranded colorwork and create a monster landscape of exploding stars, de-horned reindeer and toppled Christmas trees, all out of woolen seersucker. He wasn’t even a boyfriend, but the curse is so strong that after the humiliating afternoon when I shoved the wad of blue and white wool into his hands, I never saw him again.

A stranger - or a computer program - who knows?

But somehow I got on the Patternworks mailing list, the old Patternworks up in New York, and had my eyes opened to all the new and wondrous yarns that were on the market. I couldn’t believe I’d:

#1. spend $43 on a skein of eyelash yarn. I don’t even remember what it was - maybe something from Prism or Trendsetter - but it was shiveringly gorgeous, arrestingly new and the ball band said you could knit a scarf out of only one skein. Of course I didn’t’ pop for the pattern so

#2. I didn’t believe you could knit a scarf on just 11 stitches even if you were using size 13 needles. But after ripping out the fun-fur place mat and the fun-fur diaper, I finally got a very curly fun fur scarf out of it. A sort of been through the wash looking fun fur scarf - but remember - this was in 1998, so I was way ahead of the curve.

That catalog is what got me hankering to knit again after swearing off it 20 years before. I’d worn the pages thin drooling over merinos and silks and sparkly stuff. And when I had finally knit a whole sweater with some yarn I had in the attic - I bought my first New Sweater Yarn from that catalog. It became BD’s first and only sweater.

Maggie Righetti:

Who taught me three important things. First - people in the south do knit - even as far south as Atlanta GA! Sheesh! Whoda’ thought? Second - There’s something you can do about big chests and stomach crawl in sweaters. It’s called Short Row Bust Darts and I will love that woman forever for that knowledge. Even if her calculations came from the math department at MIT - she gave me hope and that was enough. I understood the concept if I didn’t see how to do the math. Besides, knitting is like cooking - it’s adaptable and stretchy.

But the most important thing MR taught me was to play with your yarn; to listen to it and let it tell you what it wants to do. From her I learned to love swatching. Sometimes swatching is enough for a yarn. Many times, a yarn I’ve bought to do one thing has told me it would never cooperate with that design, all in the little swatch, thus saving me from crashing disappointment in a finished garment. She taught me that what I am creating is a fabric, first, and then a garment. What a magnificent gift from an expert teacher.


Who volunteers at the library and has a wardrobe of the most fabulous hand knit sweaters she has made over the years. She’s nearly 90 and as spry as an elf and she dresses in these gorgeous creations and during that dry spell, her wardrobe reminded me that there was a wealth of fiber play awaiting - when I was ready.


Another library volunteer who one day looked at me with a sort of crazy pleading and said "When are you going to buy some of those Elizabeth Zimmermann Videos for the library?"

Huh? I hadn’t even thought of knitting videos. Man. What a revelation!Little did I know what the purchase of those would do to me!

Elizabeth Zimmermann

Who is the person who took me from being a woman who knit a little to a knitter in less than 2 hours. I’d stumbled across her books earlier, but somehow I didn’t get The Message. I’m an auditory learner with what I think of as mild dizzy-lexia - if the words ramble a little my eyes grow dizzy. She writes in a chatty, slightly rambling style. It just didn’t click. But when I watched her knit a circular sweater that had been calculated to fit the wearer - when I saw short rows in action - when I gazed on those sleeves, almost joining themselves to the sweater body - well. Well and then some.

Imagine that. No clunky mismatched shoulder seams. No wretched sleeve insertions, rambling all over the front of the sweater. Nothing but smooth knit stitches clothing pretty nearly any shaped body. Granted, that sweater shape isn’t always the most flattering to everybody - but it was the way it could be calculated - to fit anybody. It made gauge something really worth trying to understand - not just resent.
In addition to EZ’s brilliance in presenting the EPS formula, like Mama, she encouraged confidence. If unlettered children, without calculators or French curves or even graph paper, from ancient rural communities, had knit gorgeous sweaters then you can too.

Belief in yourself is half the journey to success.

Meg Swansen:

Whose warmth and heart is so strong it gushes over the telephone lines to even the most tongue-tied knitting groupie. She made me think she had sat by her phone for days, just hoping I would call. Her beautiful hands inspired me to master continental knitting. Her explanation of the crocheted steek is so clear you’d think it was her idea to begin with. Of course, maybe it was - though I think it came from Rick Mondragon of Knitters Magazine. She’s gorgeous and has the most musical voice. She has fabulous looking kids who are willing to be models in her books and never look like they are thinking "Oh Mom. Not again!" She’s who I would like to be if I couldn’t be TheQueen.

Clara Parkes:

When I picked up knitting again there was one yarn store within 100 miles of my house and it was intimidating to visit. But there were many yarn shops on-line, offering a tempting array of fibers at an wide range of prices. But here’s the rub. How do you know if you’re going to like the stuff after you’ve plunked down the $ and waited a week to get it? What if it is limp? What if it pills once it’s knit up? Does it really knit up at 5 sts. to the inch on #7 needles or will you really have to go to a #9 to make the gauge fit the ball band and will you end up with cheesy fabric if you do that?

Enter Missy Clara - of Knitters Review. This on-line magazine reviewed a yarn, or a needle, or book or shop, every week - and delivered it right to my e-mail box! She described the yarn, told us how it felt to knit, how it held up under rough treatment, what it cost and where to get it! Suddenly it wasn’t scary to buy yarn on-line any more. She fed this gnawing hunger for knitting knowledge every week with skill, humor and good grammar. And then she opened up her web site to The Forum.

Lawsee - who would have believed what that would grow into. If you have not dropped by Knitters Review Forum before, let me prepare you. It’s like attending a knitter’s convention. In the early days I felt like I knew everyone on the forum and I posted much more then, but it’s grown so big now that most of the posters are strangers to me. This doesn’t detract at all from my enjoyment, because I can maneuver around the forum so easily I can find the folks I’m looking for anytime I want. I can see what new topic is being discussed and join in or not, as I please. I continue to meet delightful new knitters, but at my own pace.

Of course, any time you let 1000+ people have their say, you’re bound to have dissension and misunderstandings, but Missy C has handled those eruptions with the grace of a saint. She has been far nicer than I ever would have been, believe me. She doesn’t censor and she doesn’t limit anything but foul language or out and out harassment and those things she halts immediately.

And would you believe it? She provides all of this FOR FREE!!

And there’s MORE!!

There is the Knitters Review Retreat, held each fall since 2002 - where KR folk can meet face2face, knit, learn, teach, shop and eat. This is not free, but the price is less than $400 for 6 meals, 2 night’s lodging, and 48 hours of fellowship. Try getting away from a Stitches event for under $1,000.

Do I admire Clara Parkes? Is the pope Catholic? Do I want to grow up to be her? No. She’s very cute, but not tall enough. But I sure do want to grow up to be her friend.

Jennifer Heverly

Whose eyes gazed at me across a room and we knew we had been friends before, in another life, in another world. Soul sisters who had met again. Funny how you can just know and a thrum of recognition begins vibrating in your body. You may not be on the same pathway this time around, but you know you’re on the same journey.

And she is the first one who made the effort to get at me in my hidey hole world. She’s the one who took the classes with me, who welcomed me as her booth babe, who let me play with her toys, and even drives me to distant places I’d never go to because.... I don’t do Interstate 95. In fact, I don’t do any interstates.

Yes. Sister. You know what you’ve done for me.

That Little Girl:

Who was at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in 2002, spinning away. Who told me "I’ve been on the wheel since I was 7, but I’ve been spinning since I was 5." Which made me think, heck - if a 5 year old can spin that stuff, surely I can too. Whose mother had spindle kits with merino wool in the bag. I forget your name, sugar, but it was you who pushed me over the edge into the whirling vortex of spindom. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Melba Montgomery:

For showing me how to use that drop spindle I bought. I don’t think I would have persevered had it not been for you. I suppose here I ought to thank the folks at The Woolery too, since they’re the ones who sent me, after appropriate recompense, her video.

Patsy Zawistowski:

The Woolery sent me her video Spinning: basics and beyond as well. In for a penny, in for a pound, one might say; a pound of fleece, no?

For cuteness, you can’t do better than PatsyZ. For clarity, succinctness, confidence building and creativity you can’t do better either. There are many fine spinning teachers out there. I’ve been blessed to learn from several of them. But it was Patsy who ushered me into the fold more than anyone else.
Thank you PZ for saying that good yarn would vary between X and Y numbers of wraps per inch. Thank you for saying "It’s yarn if it doesn’t pull apart." Thank you for demystifying novelty yarns - which - by the way - was what convinced me that I needed a spinning wheel. Thank you for that hilarious skit about the crocheted shawl/collar/poncho thing. Thank you for your fabulous carding lessons. Thank you for your beautiful smile, your funny stories and the magical glow you spread around you.

I may not want to grow up to be you because I still want to be tall and slim like Meg, but I sure want to grow up to be your friend.

Barbara Gentry

Because you were open on Saturday and the other shop wasn’t, I found you and your golden light studio and your soft thread of joyful fiber love. And you set up all your wheels for me and pulled out bags of colorful wool. You let me play with them all, even though I had never spun on a wheel before. You let me spin on your own personal wheel - who whispered to me that "it’s a love match, darling."
You were the matchmaker who made me a match, found me a find, caught me a catch. And ever since, you always beam gladness whenever we meet or even just talk on the phone. You make me feel special.

Annie Modeset:

Who showed me that that little correction I used to teach my students, knitting into the back of a stitch that was lined up backwards on the needle, could actually be a real way to knit all the time. Eastern Crossed you called it - but brilliant is what I call it. You are the reason I no longer avoid knitting flat pieces, seed stitch or reverse stockinette backgrounds in cabled sweaters. You are the reason my flat pieces no longer have gutters in them and I thank you for it.

KR Pals - you know who you are and I could never say enough good things about your friendship, the camaraderie you provide, the inspiration you ignite, or the pleasure you bring me.

Jane Pollard and her kindergarten class:

You gave me such an opportunity to try out my retirement job as a fiber story teller. Inside this chatty librarian is a closet teacher. I’m a way off from retirement - but I love to tell stories and I love teach and I’d love to keep doing both even when I no longer work in a library. You all were warm, polite, prepared, interested and made me a success.

To all these wonderful people I say Thank You. Thank you for the gift of yourselves. Thank you for being there at a pivotal moment in my fiber journey, to open a door, offer a hand or whisper a thought. I am so glad to be part of your lives and I am so very glad you are a part of mine.

posted by Bess | 5:35 PM