Gillianne Richards yarn arts

It’s a cold winter evening. I gather my jacket around me, tucking my hands into its folds and shrugging my shoulders to block the wind from my neck. I scurry into a warmly lit store, and see a table circled by eager 20-somethings, chatting and laughing as they pull out their supplies. A no-nonsense woman with silver hair and spirited eyes walks out from the backroom to greet her students. She’s backdropped by dozens of boxes filled with folded orbs of colour, waiting to be plucked and formed into their future shapes.

“What’s everyone working on today?” she asks.

“I thought I would try the left hand fingerless,” says one; “I’m shooting for a hooded cowl,” says another. The only boy in the group pipes up, “I’m making a bikini for my girlfriend.” He throws back a loose strand of hair and pulls out two firm balls of yarn.

I’ve just entered my first knitting class. Not only am I the oldest one here, but by the sounds of it the most out of touch with current trends in the knitting world. “I want to learn how to get the yarn on my needle,” I manage to mumble, my head slowly panning the room, mouth agape at the endless materials, tools, samples, books and patterns that line the walls. I’m at The Art of Yarn, a beautiful shop in Kelowna that provides endless fuel for those passionate about the many things that wool and her threaded sisters have to offer.

I have a small goal, a scarf for my husband. I thought I came to learn a skill from the days of yore, a quaint talent I would pick up from a group of loving and slightly gnarl-fingered grannies crocheting tea cosies as fast as I could pour a cup of Earl Grey. As I sit among my young peers, however, and admire an incredible pair of socks someone made, which are practically Monets in merino, I’m awakened to the truth behind the needles; knitting is for all ages and personality types and you can make anything from a sweater vest to a baby booty into a work of art.

So much can be said with a twist of the needle that it is perhaps the most versatile of three dimensional pallets. That the life span of clothes and bedding is often short lived, makes handmade originals all that much more precious. My mother was not a knitter, but she did turn out a small yellow and orange blanket of soft wool while I was waiting to be born. It is, in its humble innocence and crooked edge, a tale of transition and hope painted in affordable yarn that was sturdy enough to outlive the havoc and daily disasters of a baby gone wild. How can that not be considered art in its most serving form?

I look over basic scarf patterns as the clicking of needles fills the room and the class hums with the energy of creative motion. I pick one that is simple, but different, and decide to stitch a little symbol on the end that means something special to my spouse. In the past I’ve given him paintings and other art as gifts. I hope, in the details of the stitching, he will see my love and imagination indelibly offered through my very first steps into the art of yarn. ~Gillianne Richards