As mentioned in a previous post, Linda LaBelle, founder of The Yarn Tree, formerly a Brooklyn shop, now an online-only vendor, really helped shape my earliest knitting experience. And not just in my direct dealings with her as the proprietress of the store and knitting instructor, but in all that she did. She’s always been a sort of icon to me of what’s possible if you work hard at what you love. In addition to the yarn store, she’s traveled the world teaching women in impoverished communities how to dye, which provides them with valuable income in economies that don’t present many opportunities for women. She also wrote a book on the subject. She’s a very talented costumer designer, who worked with, among others, the visual artist Matthew Barney. And on top of all that, she’s a lovely person, who always took the time to give some pointers to a new, clueless knitter. I can’t say that was the case with many other yarn store owners/staff I encountered in New York City, where the inexperienced were often largely ignored or greeted with a roll of the eyes and a heavy sigh (hear that, Purl Soho?).
I would say my other big crafting hero is Maggie Righetti. I happened upon her book Knitting in Plain English when I worked for the parent company of its publisher, St. Martin’s Press. It is, exactly as the title indicates – an indispensable guide for the new knitter, written in language that is easy to understand. For a novice, it was a welcome resource, as there wasn’t the abundance of online videos, books, and helpful yarn store staff back in 2001 as there is now. Her approach is all about, “Yes, there’s lots to learn, but you don’t have to be an expert from day one. Here’s the most important stuff you need to know now.” So, it’s not a comprehensive resource for every type of stitch, cast on, and technique out there in the wide, wide world of knitting, and though I wouldn’t agree with the statement on the cover that it’s “The only book any knitter will ever need,” I do believe that every knitter should have this book. Because of its clear, concise instruction and easy-going tone, I also invested in her books Crocheting in Plain English, which I use whenever I have to add crochet stitches to my knitting (I am HOPELESS at crochet), and Sweater Design in Plain English, which I admit, I have only just perused. But I’ll come back to that on day 16, when the discussion will be about my “dream project.”