Monday, Jan. 21, marked the 10th anniversary of the By Hand column. How did all that time go by so quickly?
When I began this column on Jan. 21, 2003, knitting was being rediscovered by a new generation and interest in sewing, crocheting, embroidery and other needle arts was on the rise. With that came a new focus on sheep, alpaca and other fiber producing animals, which dovetailed neatly with interest in raising them.
Commercial yarn producers began to add natural fibers to their inventory, giving knitters “real” yarn to work with instead of only synthetic fibers. Soon, the fiber industry became infused with ideas held by a more “green minded” younger generation, and manufacturers began making yarns of cotton, bamboo, corn and even milk. In addition, linen and silk made a big comeback. Suddenly, it was possible to buy yarn made of those fibers or blended with wool. Knitters found themselves all snarled up — in a REALLY good way — in thread heaven. The choice of yarns became rich and wide and continues to be so today.
The renaissance of knitting saw the rise of the Pine Kneedlers knitting guild in Bangor, Fiber College in Searsport, the Fiber Frolic in Windsor, and yarn bombing in Skowhegan and at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor. Knitting in public caught on and was used to raise funds for and bring attention to the Orono Bog Boardwalk and other causes, including shaken baby syndrome and women’s heart health. It also caused many of us to go through our stashes of yarn and donate oddballs to programs that teach others to knit — here or in other countries. It saw knitters and crocheters knitting for causes of all kinds including scarves for Special Olympics athletes, helmet liners for soldiers, slippers for personnel aboard U.S. Navy ships, lap robes for residents of veterans and nursing homes, caps and clothing for premature babies, caps for those undergoing treatment for cancer and even mats for cats waiting for adoption at animal shelters.
Quilters created beautiful bed covers they donated to raise funds for special causes. They arranged retreats in remote places to share quilting lore and have a good time. They organized quilt shows to give the public a chance to view the artistry of their work and get rare glimpses of vintage quilts handed down in families. And throughout Maine, chapters of the Pine Tree Quilters Guild still keep the art of quilting alive and well.
I am especially indebted to Mary Bird of the Friday Fiber Friends for sharing over the years so much information about fiber-related events. The Friends, open to anyone who knits, crochets or does other kinds of stitching, meet at noon Fridays at the Page Farm and Home Museum at the University of Maine. I am also indebted to Christine Macchi of Maine Fiberarts in Topsham for sharing information about exhibits, workshops and other events taking place there.
The longevity of the By Hand column is because of you, dear readers, who share stitching stories; histories of handmade family quilts and clothing; provide information about needlework activities, groups and events; and who hand the needlearts on to those — child or grown up — who want to learn.
In the coming year I am looking forward to hearing more of your stitching news, letting you know about stitching events and exhibits, and telling you about some of the many new books that find their way to my desk.
Thank you for 10 lovely years of nimble fingers, busy hands and the kindness of your hearts.
A Wool Applique Workshop under the auspices of the SAD 22 Adult Education program will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, starting Feb. 27, for four weeks at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden. For information or to register, call the adult education office at 862-6545 or go to sad22.us/adulteducation.
“Fransje Killaars: Color at the Center” will be on display Jan. 25 through March 22 at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston. Killaars’ installations focus on textiles and may combine fabrics from Japan, blankets of her own design and hand woven in India, and draped figures that conjure women both present and past. Killaars, who was born and trained in art in the Netherlands, sometimes uses carpets and bedspreads in her work. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and until 7 p.m. Wednesdays during the academic year. For information, call 786-6158 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Canoe City Quilters will host a Blanket Day, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Old Town Knights of Columbus Hall, 5 Gilman Falls Ave. The event is open to the public. Volunteers with many skills are needed. Bring a sewing machine, power strip and sewing supplies. Fabric and batting will be available, but donations are invited. Volunteer for several hours or bring a lunch and stay all day. The goal is to make 100 blankets to donate to Project Linus. For information, contact Merlene Sanborn, Penobscot County coordinator, at 561-9225 or email@example.com. A drop box will be available for previously made items. Monetary gifts, and donations of new cotton or flannel fabric, fleece in 2-yard lengths, yarn, batting or other supplies will be accepted.
The Blue Hill Library’s knitting group will begin again 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the library in the main reading room near the fireplace. Also invited are crocheters, spinners and other fiber artists. The group is open to all. Bring current projects to work on, get help learning to knit or bring a problem that needs solving. For information, call the library at 374-5515.
Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to visit her blog at byhand.bangordailynews.com.