Did you know I have a spot on the skin of my index finger that has a slight groove? A seasonal groove made by the path of knitting yarn being tensioned. Depending on the yarn and how often I knit, of course. It typically disappears in the summer, when I put knitting aside to enjoy the season, but when it gets chilly , and I can no longer resist buying new yarn, it comes back.
Some of you have similar craft scars. I remember my Dad's hands and specifically his fingers. and how dinged up they were from working on the farm.
I remember the way Al Kohout's hand would slightly tremor when he would show me a new grommet setting technique at a Cleveland Regional Theatre. And I remember the way Frank of "Frank's Tailor Shop" in Mishawaka masterfully pulled the thread as he showed me how he used to make hand sewn buttonholes from his training as 12 year old apprentice in Italy.
There is something special about seeing a master's hands doing a craft. Those hands were shaped by a lifelong craft. Teaching and performing sewing is my life's work.
In the summers of my 3rd grade -12th grade years I would ride my bike to Tyner in Marshall County, IN where a 4H leader there offered a 2 week long summer sewing class in her home. Virginia Bollhoefer was a lifelong 4H member/ leader and she taught kids the same craft she had been taught in the same way.
Her living room and dining room had sewing machines along all the walls, including a very old one she called “old chug-a-lug” rigged to sew soooooo slowly that anyone could learn on it. Her husband Hank would check in on us sometimes, always grinning that we were there, and she had a little dachshund who would help us sew. It was a magical experience. No one paid her to do this work.
Because of her I went to work in professional theatre for years… because of her I did all roles in my career: sewing, designing, managing, dressing.
I learned to pull a wool hood over a hat block to make a cowboy hat because she opened a door for me. I was able to make uniforms at JGHS for the band and theatre for 8 years because she taught me a craft useful and valued by adults in the adult world.
She also taught me yarn craft, in the form of crochet and to read a crochet pattern. From this I leaped to tatting, and knitting.
Recently, I decided to offer a class in knitting at the local library. A "free to attend experience," and I am reminded of how one person can change the path of another by offering to allow them to learn an old craft.
Jenny Fry Modeling some of her colorful creations that she designed. Her experience continues to lend to others who share her passion for the knitting craft over 1000 years old.
There is something we gain from showing and modeling the making of useful things. We are a people of tool use, and learning to perform a craft allows us to see the thoughts and journeys of our parents and grandparents.
It also let's us look for a way to create useful and beautiful things in our own lives. Crafting does much for our brains. It increases attention to detail, encourages patience, pride of work, perseverance. It changes our ability to see and understand cause and effect, spacial relationships, technical reading etc. But, a key part of doing a craft is the relationships that you build as learners and teachers.
There is a kindness in this, two people together modeling and responding… the teacher waiting, the student deciphering… sometimes the teacher leaps ahead, but then this inspires a question of how, and it is no bother to undo the
work and model it again.
There is a blessing in this sort of kindness, to have 2 folks allowing each other to earnestly teach and learn. It is equally rewarding. I am always proud of a student's effort. I have never loved a piece of knitting more than I have loved seeing someone learn how to perfectly cast on. It really isn't very far from my base of knowledge to talk about the importance of teaching and learning a craft.
We need more of this in our culture. I challenge you to come learn to knit. Bring your kids to knit. Think of what you yourself could teach others, like Virginia, and the impact it would have on your life and theirs. Generations of us have learned and passed on their learning, and the void of that is a real shame. What can you offer?
I am teaching knitting at the library in Walkerton thru February on Saturday mornings from 10- 12:45. Come sit with us in the library and learn to knit…. It is a 1000+ year old craft.