Apryl Veld – Omineca Express
If you’ve received a cozy knit sweater or a hat in recent years, you may appreciate the value of the hand knitted item for the comfort you get and the charm it adds to your wardrobe.
It’s certain that if you were the one who made this or another piece, then you appreciate the work and care put into its construction.
The earliest known knitted items were a pair of socks, unearthed in Egypt, and dated to around 300 AD. In modern times, the Great Depression, wars and other hard times saw surges in people learning knitting in larger numbers.
In many parts of the northern hemisphere knitting has been celebrated where a garment’s cold stopping properties really come in handy. It is famously rumored that France’s King Charlemagne went to Friesland in the Netherlands to get a set of knitted long underwear he had custom ordered.
Whether you’re pursuing outdoor adventures, or sitting in a chilly castle, it’s not dignified to shiver, be you a royal or everyday person. And the skill to keep you warm can be learned by most anyone.
Vanderhoof knitter, Ruth Wiebe certainly understand this, having knitted since the age of 12, putting together countless items, and is now instructing others in this very useful craft.
While there are books and websites for instruction most people find it’s more helpful to learn with a real live teacher. That’s where Wiebe comes in.
“Seeing it is easier, and is usually more successful,” the veteran knitter says.
Wiebe says she learned how to knit from a neighbour who took her under her wing.
Once you have the basics you can go on to learn a lot more, she explains.
Wiebe teaches beginners and then more advanced classes in downtown Vanderhoof. First-time knitters must start with step-by-step instruction, but many get better quickly with practice.
“The beginning classes are toughest to teach,” she explained, because newbies aren’t used to the terminology or basic steps,
“More advanced knitters know what you mean when you say, ‘cast on 36 stitches.’”
Then once you’re successful with a few projects, there’s a lot more clothing or accessories to make, or to fancy up with new techniques.
It’s said that teachers are always learning, and this is true of Wiebe.
One skill she learned so she would be able to help a knitter was left-handed knitting. Who knew such a thing existed? But when duty calls, a solution can be found.
Wiebe teaches children and youth as well as adults, and she’s even gone to teach in people’s homes for a group or family requesting it.
In March, she is holding a variety of advanced classes on Thursdays at the Quilters Corner in the Vanderhoof Department Store. She said there are still openings for knitters wanting to join.
“One of the classes I’ll teach (on March 8) is Fair Isle – which is knitting with colours,” she explained.
Then on March 15 she will offer instruction on the mysterious skill of heel turning for hand knitted socks.
In her many projects, does she have a favourite material to work with?
“I’ve been working with self-striping yarn,” she says, showing a photo of an attractive sweater, “you don’t have to work the colours in because they’re in the yarn.”
Wiebe notes she displays different items at the department store so crafters can see what can be achieved with the various things available.
“Once you see what is possible with some materials, you may want to try that type of yarn or technique,” Wiebe said.
As she works full time, it’s hard to imagine where she finds the time to make the many things she does.
“Some people only knit seasonally, but I knit year-round,” she noted.
And she can knit while doing other things, such as visiting or taking in a show
This is because, as Wiebe explained, knitting for her is much more than a hobby.
“I’m passionate about it,” she emphasized, “I just really love to make home made gifts.”
Her favorites to work on are baby things, though not all of them are typical baby clothes.
On one occasion she made a baby sweater for a mother who was expecting, and whose spouse was a hockey official. She designed the striped referee sweater herself
“It was not easy to find the materials, because baby yarn doesn’t come in black,” the knitting veteran said.
She explained they had to wait for the baby to be born to finish the sweater, since the parents wanted pink for the armbands if the infant ref should turn out to be a girl.
Wiebe notes she has since made sweaters for older children and their siblings.
And most would agree, it’s a heartwarming thing to give and receive a home made gift, even if you don’t always make it yourself.