I remember first learning to knit. My sorority sister, whose name I cannot recall right now, used to knit through our meetings, crafting beautiful garments from impossibly soft fluffy yarn. Oh, I so envied that girl! Later that semester, I went on a mission. From Woolworths on Route 29 in Charlottesville I selected some blue brushed acrylic, a pair of pink aluminum needles, and a Susan Bates “Learn to Knit” pamphlet. I hurried back to our house on Broad Avenue and laid out my equipment. The drawings depicted a pair of utterly graceful and well manicured hands holding the needles and yarn. In the next image, these lovely hands were making a knit stitch. I sat on the couch for hours laboring to duplicate the motions exactly as shown. My first bit of knitting was a tight and matted little mess that looked mostly like hairball, but I kept at it. Eventually my hands got used to the awkwardness and my knitting relaxed into something recognizable. By the end of the week, I was totally hooked and spent all my free time (and some of what should have been studying time) knitting. The following Sunday, I showed my sorority sister my progress and said I wanted to try and make a vest. She smiled and said, “That’s great!” and then raised one eyebrow and added, “But not with that yarn, right?”
“Oh no, of course not,” I said, wondering where I might get my hands on some of the stuff she used for her projects. It never occurred to me that there existed an entire store devoted entirely to my new passion. But there did – Yarns Galore – in Albemarle Square. The owner was a lovely, tiny little woman in her mid forties who wore a chic hand-knit sweater every day. Think Paula, only short. She was from Australia and was married to an executive at Reynolds Aluminum. She had beautiful yarns from all over the world. Some of the yarns she carried are still around today, like Brown Sheep, Berroco, Anny Blatt, Reynold’s and Crystal Palace. Others she carried are no longer in business, or no longer distributed in the US (sadly) such as Pingouin, and Phildar.
I left the shop that day with 8 skeins of a pink mohair blend, a new pair of size 10 knitting needles and a free pattern for an easy vest. It was all pretty daunting because here was this pattern, and a whopping $40 worth of yarn (remember that this was 1982 and I was a college student). I looked over the pattern and just dove in. Boy, was I lucky. I knit that vest, and to my amazement, it came out pretty well. The other day I ran across an ancient photo of me wearing that vest, and my goodness, what bad hair! I’ll try to post that photo one day so you can all have a really good laugh.
It’s actually a really good vest pattern – I’ll see if I can dig it up as well and post it here. I wonder how it would look in Cuzco—hmmm.