Jim is amazingly healthy from his bout with stage 4 lymphoma and its wretched treatment. Fatigue, minor feet neuropathy and cold sensitivity are the main treatment remnants. Awhile ago, I generously promised to knit him a classic, soft , warm grey cardigan to wear with his slippers even though he doesn’t smoke a pipe and DustyKitty isn’t likely to bring him the newspaper. The only hand knit sweater he remembers, was sent by an aunt in England when he was a young boy. Even though he admits it was beautiful, it picked like crazy and he didn’t like wearing it. I promised him softness.
I have had only one knitting experience—a disastrous one. Forty-nine years ago as a first time expectant mother I decided to knit my daughter a sweater as was the family tradition. It was such a struggle. It was ¾ done and looked terrible, a dirty white from too much handling. One morning I walked into the living room and noticed that the cat had spent the night unraveling the sweater and wrapping it around the living room. I was so happy.
My current challenge was to find the best pattern and softest, warmest wool. I found it at the Wooly Ewe, in the tiny town of Telkwa “on the banks of the Bulkley River” in British Columbia. It was in a nondescript part of town with no other stores nearby. I’m glad I had the card and enthusiastic recommendation about it from the fabric store in Smithers.
We parked the Sprinter and walked into the tiny building, immediately surrounded by natural warmth from the wide pine planked floor and a room filled with yarn tucked into wall slots and baskets. The elegantly, but not expensively dressed proprietress, rose from her work table—a polished slab from a huge tree. Behind her was a beautifully framed print made by her niece—a copy of which I had purchased at the bookstore in Smithers.
I explained my project. Jim, who normally would avoid shops, was as immediately taken with the shop as I was. First, she looked through a pattern book and found the perfect pattern and promised to copy it for me. Then we started looking at colours and kinds of yarn—-light, soft and warm. Jim selected charcoal grey, the same colour as The Grey Panther. We talked about the pros and cons of each yarn. At her suggestion we picked an alpaca from Norway that “the Quebec Knitters had just purchased for their projects.” She gathered 14 balls after determining the right size for Jim.
We chatted. It seems she had owned her own made-from-scratch bakery for 22 years and wanted a change. We talked about how hard it was to find people with high standards to take over a passion. She opened the Wooly Ewe a year ago.
Talk drifted to the beautiful handmade rocking chair in the store. Jim sat in it and rocked. A friend had made it, she said, finally able to focus his love on woodworking after spending his career in an area that made money but not the same passion as woodcarving provided. Jim and she talked about how hard it is for an artisan to support himself. Her brother, like Jim, had been a shop teacher even though he studied History and Geography. He wanted to get more girls in Industrial Arts classes. When Jim retired, his classes were so popular they had to add more classes. Her brother, now retired, focused on his real love as an artisan.
She wrapped our purchases and we left, more than a customer, less than a friend.
I began rolling the yarn into balls as we drove, admiring the texture and the balls of yarn. Then I looked at the pattern and gulped—experienced knitter. But this will be a “community of love” sweater. We are visiting a number of great knitters on this trip and surely they will help me over the rough spots. Jim will have a warm, beautiful sweater made by many loving hands and holding beautiful memories. So if you want to knit a row or two……….