I spoke previously about a phenomenal workshop I took at work Leading Through Story. During the class we had to craft our own story. While the storytelling we did was oral, I wanted to document the story that I told. Through the process of crafting the story and telling it I had a personal revelation that has stuck with me in the months (5! Whoa time flies) since my class. I found it difficult to translate an oral story to written and I am not entirely satisfied with this draft, but it’s about damn time I shared it. Enjoy.
It was a Charles Dickens Christmas… Well not really, it was early December in Mukilteo (MUCK-ILL-TEE-O) Washington and my apartment community was hosting a Charles Dickens’ Christmas celebration in the square. The air was crisp and steamy breathy trailed from my lips as I exhaled. As I neared the square, I inhaled the smell of kettle corn popping and chestnuts roasting. Strolling through the people filled street, I listened to children singing Christmas carols. It was nice to be out of the apartment and around other people. Just a few months earlier I had moved to Washington from Atlanta. A big promotion brought me west where I didn’t know a soul. Even if I did know people in the area that big promotion was taking all of my time. Office, home, dinner, bed was the rhythm of my days. But tonight I saw the flyer on my door inviting me out around other people. Walking alone in a crowd has an eerie calm to it as I watched families sip on hot cider. I felt like if i squeezed my eyes shut I could disappear into the crowd.
“Hi! I’m opening a yarn store in a couple of months. Do you knit?” a mittened hand thrust towards me with a flyer. I lifted my eyes to see a woman in her late thirties, with smiling eyes and cheeks red from the cold.
“Uh, no… but I wish I could learn” I stammered out, eyeing her hand-knit hat.
“If you want to learn, I can teach you!” She said “Just come by when the shop in February and I will teach you to knit. My name is Patience.”
“Patience, how appropriate,” I thought to myself. My mom had tried to teach me to crochet as a child and patience was something I didn’t have. My squares always ended up trapezoidal in shape. Patience would need a lot of her namesake to teach me to knit.
Patience and I on my 30th birthday
I posted the flyer on my fridge when I got home. Christmas came and went. The dreary Washington winter stretched on. In early spring I came across the flyer one Saturday morning. “I should learn to knit, ” I thought to myself. I grabbed a cup of coffee at the cafe and ventured over to the newly opened yarn store. I opened the door and felt like I had walked into someone’s living room. The antique sofa and arm-chair looked like a cozy spot to curl up with a book. The cash register sat on an antique desk and the walls were lined with bookcases filled with color. Oh the color! The rainbow of color and texture drew me in. I immediately began sampling the different yarns with my eyes and my fingers. Patience stepped from behind the desk and I turned to her. “I think I want to try knitting” I said. She helped me to select yarn and needles. I picked out a spring green colored yarn made from llama and wooden needles. The wooden needles were warm in my hands, unlike the metal crochet hooks of my childhood ,and the yarn felt good slipping between my fingers. Patience motioned for me to sit on the sofa and I plopped down making myself at home on the antique sofa.
Bamboo Belt Personal Design
Patience taught me the basics and got me started on my first scarf. I sat on the couch all day and knitted. Click, click, click, my needles clicked as I pulled yarn through each stitched. She helped me when I got stuck, but mostly I just knitted and chatted with her until the shop closed. At home I picked up the needles again, almost afraid that I would forget how to knit if I didn’t keep practicing. By the end of the weekend I had a good two feet of scarf.
I had acquaintances from work, but I didn’t really have any friends yet. This new job was taking a lot of my time and energy. I began stopping in the yarn store after work. At first for help, there was a point where I convinced myself I was “knitting backwards”. As time went on my regular visits were less and less for help and more for the social aspect. Wednesday nights the shop hosted an open knitting night where a large but tight-knit group gathered to chat, knit (of course), and built friendships over wine and cheese. I look forward to Wednesday every week. I introduced Heather, a friend from work, to the yarn store and taught her how to knit. It was between knits and purls that our friendship blossomed.
Faye and I on my 30th birthday
There seemed to be only one other person who was in the store more than me, Faye. Faye was a 60-something year old widow from the midwest. An accomplished knitter, with no-nonsense ways, quick wit, and a kind heart she quickly became a close friend. Between Patience and Faye I had the best knitting instructors and most wonderfully supportive friends. They encouraged me to begin designing my own patterns and before I knew it I was teaching classes.
My first commissioned design on display in the yarn store
The shop exuded comfort, the mere motion of knitting is soothing and the supportive environment that Patience and Faye created made it easy to talk about problems and worries and to be the ear when someone else needed it.
Knitting on retreat
I took that support and comfort with me when I had to fly to Maine because my grandfather had fallen ill. I brought it with me in the form of two knitting needles and a ball of yarn. As I kept watch at my Grandfather’s hospital bed each morning from 7 to 10 I was not alone. Patience and Faye were with me in every stitch I knit. The methodic rhythm of needle sliding against needle and yarn wrapping is so comforting. Knit, knit, purl, purl, knit, knit… soon my grandfather’s health stabilized and I returned home.
Knitting on the bus
One day in early summer I walked with heavy steps to the yarn store. Patience was with a customer and Faye was knitting socks in the arm-chair. I walked over to the sofa and plopped down as I had so many times before, but there was a heaviness to my plop. Patience glanced at me as I sat quiet on the sofa. She finished up the transaction and saw the customer to the door. As she closed the door she turned the open sign to close and sat down beside me. Tears streamed down my face as the three of us sat in silence. Eventually I spoke. “I am taking a medical leave of absence from work.”
Patience and Faye knew about only a little recent medical struggles and this statement meant that I had not shared with them the severity of the problem. I hadn’t shared it with anyone. The job that had brought me to Seattle, the job that I derived so much pride and self-identity from needed to be set aside for my health. They didn’t say much, but hugged me and comforted me as I cried. Over the next few months I visited the store every chance I could, many times after visits to the Dr. I didn’t talk much about my appointments, usually choosing to draw comfort from the warmth of the store and the people in it. Listening to the customers and Patience discuss yarn weight, needles size, and finishing techniques was the perfect distraction. And with every stitch I knitted I gained strength and healed. Someone once told me that the name Faye means Faith. That seems appropriate, at the hardest time of my life I was surrounded by Patience and Faith. The fall came and I returned to work with a clean bill of health, but the job, I didn’t love it anymore.
My place above the yarn store. Knit and W(h)ine.
In the spring I left that job and took a new opportunity. Patience moved the shop to a larger space and sublet the apartment over the store to me. She returned to working in the corporate world and Faye ran the store. It was a big time of change but through it all we supported each other and through it all we knitted. These women, Patience in her 40s and Fay in her 60s, while not close to me in age, were like big sisters. As a larger community of knitters we went through health problems, pregnancy, job loss, relocation, and other life moments together. We saw our dear friend Grace be diagnosed and succumb to cancer. Grace, who knit the most beautiful lace and loved martinis was in her 90’s and she knit with us every saturday morning until she couldn’t anymore.
One evening I was with Faye as we were closing up the shop. Patience came in set her things down and plopped on the sofa. There was a heaviness to her plop. She told us she had to close the store. The economy had turned and the store was one of its casualties. With tearful eyes we nodded our heads because we understood. That was 3 and a half years ago. I moved out of the space above the yarn store and out of Mukilteo. Our knitting community slowly dissipated and over time my needles began to collect dust. I got engaged, planned a wedding, and celebrated my first anniversary. Patience has been busy with work and family. Faye started working at a yarn store in Seattle. The time between phone calls or text messages has increased. My husband told me the other day that it makes him sad that I don’t knit anymore. Its simple, I told him, I feel a sadness when I do.
Personal Design. Purple handbag with felted and beaded rose motif.
I picked up my needles the other day. I made a knitting date with Heather, and then another. With regularity, we are setting aside time to knit and connect.
Needle slides against needle, yarn wraps around and is pulled through… knit, knit, knit…