Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Intergenerational and Cross-cultural Knitting

One of the most amazing things about knitting is the reach it has through many generations and across cultures. Before Julia was born, The Farmer and I used to take a nice trip once a year (I racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles which surely did help). We traveled to France a few times, exploring the back roads and enjoying the food and wine. We visited Scotland, England and Wales - sheep peeping and wool watching, meeting local farmers at the many independent pubs in the towns we stayed in. In Portugal, we snuck into every church we could find – they were filled with art and craft and amazing ceramic tiles from the hey day of the Portuguese explorers. The fabulous seafood, the site of the little gardens behind every home poked onto steep hillsides, the wines and vineyards – these memories still flash through my mind from time to time. I'm still lusting after the amazingly tall kale plants which seemed to be in every garden. I can still taste the caldo verde soup I ate day after day made from this amazing plant. Portugal is the reason I love low care geraniums so much.

One of the fondest memories I have of our traveling days is an afternoon stop at a little café somewhere deep in the Portuguese countryside. We found a quaint little bar in the center of the town and stopped in for an afternoon espresso. The café was full of local working men in their blue jumpsuits, all downing a quick drink before heading home to their families. We were always an oddity in these places – the towns we traveled to didn’t see many Americans.

Never one to a woman without her knitting, I pulled out a pair of multi-colored gloves I was working on. I sat there knitting at a little table while The Farmer order his espresso and my cappucino. I saw a woman across the room staring at my hands knitting. She had her grandchildren in tow. I could tell she was fascinated watching the pattern build up from the different colors of yarn I was knitting with. Round and round I went on my double pointed needles as she kept watching. I caught her eye and smiled at her. She drew up her nerve and came and sat next to me. She couldn’t speak English and I could only say “Obrigado” (thank you) in Portuguese.

The Farmer came back to the little table to find us deep in conversation – knitting conversation that is. She was speaking in Portuguese – telling me Portuguese knitting terms and asking me questions. I was explaining in English what I was doing and the plans I had for the gloves. The Farmer gave me my drink and promptly went back to the bar to sip his. He knew there was no hope. The woman and I continued to chat about knitting. It was a curious conversation – neither of us knew what the other was saying but through the language of knitting we learned about each other. I didn’t want the conversation to end.

I’ll never forget that afternoon – probably not for the rest of my life. It’s amazing how knitting can bring people together – odd combinations of people. Without knitting, they wouldn’t give each other the time of day. Throw in a little knitting at a café or wear a handknit hat and scarf and watch the conversation start.

I’ve made many friends throughout my knitting career. Many of these friends I have initially met because they have knit projects that I have designed. We meet through the knitting but then we become friends. I learn about their families, their jobs, their bosses, and their pets. They are women of all ages from throughout the USA. Most of them knit because they love to – they like the challenge of a new project. They like to take some rough directions, some charts, and some little sketches and turn the yarn I give them into what I want. I think about all of them as I am designing a project and knitting a swatch. I think about who would like to do what. I wonder how they are doing. I catch up with them when I send them a project. They call and ask questions and I find out what’s going on in their personal life. I love this connection – of many years and many projects.

It’s a similar thing with the blogosphere – I began my blog as a marketing tool but it has become something else. By reading other people’s blogs, I see how other knitters live and stitch. I learn about their families, their trials and tribulations. It’s an odd thing, this knitting blog thing – but it’s a good thing. I see what other knitbloggers are knitting without leaving the comfort of my home. It still blows my mind!

I’ve had my blog now for well over a year and I thank all of you who read and comment. I like to think my blog has become a small part of one giant knitting circle with a little farming and life thrown in – similar to the quilting bees of old. How lucky we all are to have this new medium to continue to pass on the stitching love and lore.


Willow said...

I check your blog almost daily, just to see what you're knitting or stitching, cooking or painting. It inspires me to keep on creating, even on the days I don't have time to get to my needles.
Thanks for posting regularly

Miss T said...

Great story. What better way to communicate than through making something?

ruthee said...

What a lovely post. Thank you for reminding us that we have a lovely community - online, while traveling, locally.

Julie said...

What a great analogy! And like a quilting bee, the craft is the commonality, to which we all bring our unique talents and life stories. Thanks for the inspiration that your blog always provides!

Penny said...

the blogosphere (and some other web-based items) have created a wonderful community which i'm amazed i can take part in. i always come visit just to see how you, the farmer, and julia are doing and for amazing and wonderful colour inspiration. thank you for jumping in and adding to the community.

tut-tut said...

Blogging and reading blogs gradually connects us to more and more people and ideas. Thanks for sharing so much with us.

RI said...


Anonymous said...

I had the exact type if incident happen, but mine was with a Chinese woman on a bus. She spoke no English and I don't speak Chinese. It was wonderful! Other riders on the bus thought we were nuts........Debi

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

I love the story of you and your knitting and the Portugese lady and her curiosity! Wonderful story. I agree that the blogs are like being part of a huge knitting circle and you don't have to serve on any committees if you don't want to. Join KALs if you wish, or don't if you don't wish! It suits me to a tee!!

southern gal said...

Yours is on of the few blogs (knitting or not) that I REVEL in - and get a frission of delight when I see it lit up in my FeedDemon list (you don't really want to know how many blogs are in that list).

I love reading about your life - a bit of vicarious country living for me. (and yes, the UK Country Living magazine is my most favorite in the world - even over knitting mags)

Thank you for opening your life and bringing your family and the farm life to all of us...while I have made it out of the big city, i am still in a little village with a tiny backyard garden and only two cats (although we may have more soon?) and the yearning for a farm and the country life is stronger than ever. I get some satisfaction by reading about yours.

Christine Thresh said...

Thank you for such a lovely story. I have a link to your blog on mine. I check in every day.

Connie said...

I've really enjoyed your posts and reading about designing, life on the farm, knitting, etc. Thanks for joining the blog world! :)

Kristin Nicholas said...

This note came from a reader who had trouble with posting to the comments section. She wanted everyone to be able to read it.

Dear Kristin,

I am really happy with your post of today and your memories of Portugal.

I read your blog every day, ever since I bought your book on embroidery, and love it.

Probably what the woman was trying to tell you is that in Portugal we have a different way of knitting, since we do it with the yarn over our neck, so she probably thought you had a funny way of knitting.

Knitting is back in fashion here with the new generation on their 20's organising groups and knitting in public cafes.
I remember as a teenager knitting sweater after sweater based on a german magazine I used to buy. I saved money all month long to buy every issue.
I do not know any German but, as you say, knitting is an international language.

I have no words to say how you brighten my day with this post. I hope you came again soon and this time I hope I can meet you.

Meanwhile I will surely remember you every time I eat Caldo Verde which I also love.


Heather said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful post.

The language of crafts and art go so far beyond the barriers of culture and words. Thank you for such a lovely example :)

Anonymous said...

I love the way that knitting has become such an ice breaker. Whereever I knit- doctor offices, hockey rinks, busses, people feel so comfortable starting a conversation which they may not be as apt to do otherwise. I learn so much from people who strike up a conversation. It gives me great faith in people around my world.


Kary said...

A wonderful story .... thanks for sharing. Once again, I realize how small the world actually is and how so very, very connected we all are! (PS ... I started to embroider knitted charity vests because of YOUR inspiration! Obrigado!)

sonja poor said...

What a great story. So many of friends (different from me in many ways) I met through handwork. I always enjoy your blog and the COLORFUL things you share.

Joanne said...

Beautiful post! I feel much the same way...and have had many encounters with people on my travels. Most memorable was the Greek Orthodox nun in Crete--knitting with wooden needles, mustard colored wool and very serious. When I whipped out my travelling sock with its bright colors, her smile filled her eyes and her whole face! Thanks for posting about your adventures.

ColorJoy LynnH said...

Ohhhh... that reminds me of when I was on a small plane in Ethiopia a few years ago. I was knitting a sock I'd made to look like Ethiopian baskets (an important cultural symbol) and their flag. It had four stranded colors total (sometimes 3 on a row).

The woman sitting next to me was very nervous and kept praying to make it through her trip. She and I did not share any language so we could not talk.

Then I pulled out the sock and started knitting it. She reached over, looked it over, turned the leg inside out to see how it was made, put it back on my tray table, and patted it fondly with a smile. I made a friend.

In fact, I made a lot of friends in Africa by knitting in public, but that was the most profound. Yes, I did speak English to the woman who didn't know a word of it! What else could I do?

Gammy aka Peggy said...

Don't you just love Europe. I enjoyed my few travels there and hope to go back again.

Mama Urchin said...

I would love to run into you knitting in a cafe.