The Pandemic and Our World
My Birthday is on February 1st, so each year when that date arrives it is a magical moment. It is a day of joy and celebration, as well as a time to reflect and reset. This year was particularly special because of the enormous challenges overcome and obstacles hurdled during the past 12 months for all who share this nation and this planet. First, looking back at the challenge for the planet, I could not separate my story from the incredible human story that turned this world upside down and made us understand that our precious earth is actually one large home that we all must share. It is a home where all fates are interconnected. That is a consciousness that for centuries has seemed illusory. However, with a raging pandemic on the ground and the very survival of the species at stake, in 2020 it became the reigning long-term lesson. The beauty of the story is that we had the courage and consciousness as an intelligent species to join hands across the seven continents, travel to the safety of cyberspace, tirelessly share research and creativity, and wage war against a common viral enemy that for a while appeared unstoppable. We lived through a worldwide shutdown in March, and dark days with grim news and mounting statistics of lives lost throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Then, a ray of hope arrived in the form of a vaccine in December. Once again, there on display was the brilliance of this animal, the reminder of our need for each other, and the triumph of the indomitable human spirit. Brighter Days Ahead!
Looking back at our nation’s 2020 story, we saw the best and worst of what we could be. That included deep-seated political, racial, and cultural divides that set off a chain of events that left us shaken to the core. Thankfully, as with the pandemic, after a frightening series of events registering some of the darkest days in the history of this country, the brilliance of the founding fathers once again prevailed as we turned out to vote in record numbers. Bravely exercising our rights as citizens by casting our ballots, our democracy held strong. That set the stage for an eventual peaceful transfer of power. Our nation has now opened a new chapter and can move forward with a renewed hope for healing,
Our Knitting Community
Finally, during this incredible year, being a member of this wonderful knitting community was a constant source of sustenance. It is a community that is a never-ending beacon of light. It is fearless, resilient, and determined. It is also a worldwide community that understands that the way forward is always through learning and inclusivity. Knitting Guilds across this country and around the world celebrate excellence in craftsmanship and a love of adventure. That spirit was never more on display than during this year of the pandemic. Cyber connections brought us closer together than ever with nonstop knitting events that celebrated all aspects of our beloved handcraft.
2020 was also a year where we lost four of our big stars who had brought much light and learning to our knitting community. They were Cat Bordhi, Pearl Chin, Annie Modesitt, and Jon Giswold. All had an enormous generosity of spirit. All four were also larger than life in spirit.
I would like to personally thank each of them for leaving this world a richer and more enlightened place.
Cat Bordhi was a brilliant knitwear designer and teacher who almost single-handedly
saved my design reference book, Knitwear Design Workshop (KDW). When it was released in 2010 those writing the reviews on Amazon were not taking the book seriously. The reviews were not substantive. She then wrote a long and very detailed review that turned the tide. Her words and obvious diligence in her investigation of the book made people sit up and take notice. I did not know her at that time and she certainly did not have to come to my rescue, but she did. She was kind and caring. At that moment I was introduced to her selflessness, her sense of fairness, and her diligence. I wrote her a note of thanks. The words in her reply were, “they do not understand what you have given them.” Knitwear Design Workshop finished at #5 that year for all craft books sold on Amazon. We used a quote from Cat’s review on the 10th Anniversary promotions for KDW where she described it as “A backstage glimpse into the thinking process of a gifted designer.” For leaving such a rich legacy of knitting techniques and for being willing to lend your voice wherever you thought it was needed, Thank you, Cat.
Pearl Chin owned Knitty City, a yarn shop here in New York City that was a knitting sanctuary/ community center on the Upper West Side. For me, she was also a dear friend. For several years I taught at the shop. Whenever I walked in my spirits were always buoyed by the loving atmosphere. Like her, the shop was a place that was soft-spoken, yet self-assured, a place where there was always some community or knitting activity being planned or executed. She once explained that her parents had owned a store in Texas that was a place where people would come to sit and comfortably congregate. She liked that feeling of community and wanted to create that type of comforting atmosphere in her shop. Indeed, she more than succeeded in doing that! Pearl was a calm ball of energy who was truly a mover and shaker with what she called her “craftivism”. Whether she was donating yarn to women’s shelters, or sponsoring knitting-centered social awareness events, she was constantly giving, caring, encouraging, and innovating. She was truly an inspiration to all who knew her. Walking into her ICU room felt like entering a warm pool of hugs. There were photos, written thoughts, and handmade items sent from those whose lives she had touched. Aside from the photo of her 1year old grandson dressed in an Air Force uniform, my favorite was a framed, handmade felted heart. In my mind, it represented the incredible outpouring of love from family, friends, and the knitting community that she held dear. For bringing such a bright light to this community, Thank you, Pearl.
Annie Modesitt called herself the Knitting Heretic. She took pride in the fact that she knit in an unconventional way. She was a gifted designer and teacher who was a part of the industry when magazines began to open online stores where they would sell electronic downloads of the patterns that had been featured in their publications. Since those patterns were the intellectual property of the designers who had created them, they felt that they should receive a fair share of the profits in the form of royalties from any sales. Annie was one of the designers who negotiated the contracts that were being offered to ensure that they would be fairly compensated. By doing that she helped to change a payment system that had always been totally slanted in the direction of the publishers. For teaching us that doing things differently can lead to greatness, and for helping to orchestrate a lasting change that lifted the entire industry, Thank you, Annie.
Jon Giswold was a part of a group of gifted fitness instructors that I worked out with when getting my body back in shape after major surgery years ago. Even then he was an avid knitter. We both also frequented the same yarn shop. He was one of the kindest and most compassionate individuals who ever walked on the planet. He touched many with his social knitting group Knit in the Pit in Asbury Park, also his project to teach kids to knit, and his podcast Moments that Matter where he explored life lessons. For all the sunshine you left behind, Thank you, Jon