Everyone knows who taught them how to knit or crochet. With all the vampire lingo going around these days, I supposed we could call that person our “maker.” My maker is my grandmother. Your maker is probably fairly special to you, particularly if this handicraft changed your life in any way. Knitting came into my life at the right time. I needed an outlet for the anxiety of graduate school and deciding what to do with the rest of my life. Would I travel the world and work in international affairs or settle down with Phillip and build a family? Even though I had learned to knit as a young child, the tiny scarf that I started for my cabbage patch doll was never finished, and I don’t remember picking up needles again until graduate school. That year, I traveled to Rockford, IL to visit my grandmother and grandfather. Like most 21 year olds away from friends and the internet, I was bored and stir crazy. I asked my grandmother if she would teach me to knit again. She had made me so many amazing things as a child – doll clothes and sweaters. I still have many of them. I grew up appreciated handmade gifts and the time and effort that went into making them. My gram’s hands were already suffering from arthritis, and she hadn’t used her needles in years. I remember her going into the drawer of a dresser in her spare room and pulling out several cases of vintage metal needles. She gave me a set of US#8 needles and we went off to the big box store to buy some yarn! My second scarf ever was made in Lion Brand Homespun – a yarn specifically not designed for beginner knitters. It was a mess, but I was hooked. I knitted away the entire holiday break with my grandmother keeping a close eye on me and then returned to Pittsburgh to find a local yarn shop. At the time, there was just one: Pittsburgh Knit & Bead (since closed). Shortly after that, I hosted a knitting class at my university for the residents who lived in my dorm (I was a resident director while in graduate school.) I guess this was my first knitting class..I wonder how many still knit.
Needless to say, my grandmother’s single knitting lesson has absolutely changed my life. This craft not only soothed my mind and kept my hands busy, but it slowly became a business and is now my love and my passion. I guess I have my dream job..one that I didn’t even know was my dream job when I went back to Pittsburgh that winter to finish up my graduate degree.
Today I am on a flight back to Illinois to visit my grandmother – perhaps for the last time. She was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, spread from a cancer that she battled and won over ten years ago. She never did get to see the shop. The last time that I saw her was just before we opened last year, at my brother’s funeral. She was completely blown away by the entire “LYS” concept and was really amazed that I could make an entire business and life around a yarn store. I plan to bring her photos so that she can see what she inspired and how she impacted my life forever just by sharing her craft with me. She is an absolutely amazing person and I am incredibly grateful for her. See you soon Gram!