Welcome to the first installment of my blog series, ‘Fellow Fibre Friend’. Each week I’ll be featuring a guest post by someone in the fibre world. This week you’ll meet Beatriz McTiernan, who designs beautiful jewelry for knitters. You can visit her at her website, Jewelry For Knitters.
The magic all started when I was 12 years old. It was summer vacation and I was spending my days at my grandmother’s house. It was during this time that she taught me how to knit. We lived in Miami and at that time the only yarn available were acrylics and cotton thread for crocheting. One time I found a red mohair yarn and made a scarf. I was so proud of my end result until I wrapped it around my neck and found it was horribly itchy. Besides , who wears mohair scarves in Miami? Needless to say, that although my grandmother was a talented knitter, she was also a fabulous crocheter. She learned when she was a little girl in Spain. But she lived most of her life in balmy Cuba were she crocheted spectacular doilies, dresses for my mom (her favorite was one with cherries made out of mini bobbles) to queen size bedspreads. I still have some of those items displayed in my home. But she chose to bestow the art of knitting which in hindsight, was a blessing in disguise.
I continued knitting with my grandmother. She continued helping me to complete my projects, until she was too elderly to keep guiding me along. Then I met this other fabulous knitter from Cuba living in Miami, about 20 minutes from my house. My mom and I went together. My mom never really took to knitting but she was a very talented seamstress. I guess it skipped a generation. Any way I went to this lady’s studio. I forgot her name. Let’s say her name was Maria. Maria’s studio was filled with the most beautiful yarns. Yarns I had never seen before. Beautiful soft, thin wools and silks, even some ribbon yarns. Definitely not your acrylic drugstore yarn.
Maria said to me , “Pick out the yarn you like and what kind of sweater you want to make.” So I picked out the ribbon yarn which was so unusual and beautiful in a teal color way. She promptly took my measurements then told one of her three assistants, “Cast on X amount of stitches for Betty’s short sleeve sweater “. Then the magic amount of stitches were cast on with 16″ circular needles and little rings. Then she wrote the instructions in Spanish on a piece of paper, “Knit in the round for three inches, then come see me.” So I happily paid for my yarn, needles and the little rings which turned out to be my first stitch markers, and promptly went home to knit those three inches on my sweater. Later I understood this was circular knitting, top down with raglan sleeves.
So each time I would finish her instructions, I would visit her again. I would then change to 24″ needles and continue knitting . She would check my work, show me any mistakes I made, then send me to her assistants to help me correct the mistakes. After everything was corrected, she would measure me again and send me home with the next set of instructions. This continued until I finished knitting my sweater and was ready to bind off. The end result was a beautiful sweater that fit perfectly on me. So that’s how I learned to knit…in Spanish, in sunny Miami.
A few years pass, I start studying for my MBA and I meet a dashing young man from the New England area of the United States. Yes, we would fall madly in love and marry. He always told me though, that he wanted to move back and raise our family in the Northeast. So after a wonderful honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was whisked off to Connecticut.
A few weeks after settling in, of course, I am on the hunt for my local LYS. But there are no Marias measuring you, having assistants casting on for you, and then scribbling the instructions for you to follow. What I did find were wonderfully kind yarn shop owners, with a desirable selections of wools (and the weather to wear them in) leading me to the section where all the pattern booklets were located.
Well, I started looking at the pattern pictures to see the sweaters I really liked, and bought a few. Got home, read the instructions and the only thing I could translate was: Knit meant the ” front” stitch of the sweater as they say in Spanish. I had no clue what the word Purl meant. But since all knitters have steadfast determination, I set out slowly but surely to decipher the English pattern instructions with these wonderfully patient LYS owners They soon became my Marias.
Meanwhile, like all knitters wonder, why does life have to interrupt my knitting? After receiving my MBA degree I went to work in the corporate world. This turned out to be one of my biggest regrets of my life. What had I gotten into? A woman could not thrive, flourish, and be promoted in the corporate world. And forget about family life and babies. These were foreign concepts, at least in the 1980’s. The right side of my brain was exploding with creativity but overall I was heading for a full-blown depression .
They say God works in mysterious ways, and so in the middle of all this pain and turmoil I found out I was pregnant. God gave me the best opportunity to exit this part of my life and in 1992, I gave birth to my daughter. Raising my daughter with my husband turned my life into pure joy. I started knitting again. First for my daughter, then for me and my family.
I joined a knitting guild where I have met lifelong friends, continued learning new knitting skills, and later became co-president of the guild for a number of years. We had wonderful guest speakers. Some of them are now the rock stars of the knitting world.
The late 1990’s turned out to be the beginning of the “explosion” of knitting. It was no longer the image of grandmother knitting. It was young and old, male and female who were taking up this beautiful art form .My daughter was older now and more independent. I started working for local yarn stores teaching knitting, finishing sweaters for customers, and selling yarn. In the new millennium ,the knitting world was alive and fully thriving and so was I.
I eventually had to slow down. I was knitting all the time (careful what you wish for).
My hand began to ache and I couldn’t knit for several years. It was beginning of neck and right arm arthritis which was never diagnosed until several years later. I bypassed many doctors who could care less if I knit or not. Meanwhile, I was desperate for a creative outlet, so I tried beading and making jewelry and found a new love. Miraculously my hands didn’t hurt. I guess I was doing different motions with my hands working with jewelry.
Last year I found a fabulous doctor who understood this “creativeness” was an integral part of me and suggested Botox for my neck and shoulder pain. Now I can knit again but not as extensive as before. This led me to the path of merging my knitting and my jewelry making, and hence, Jewelry by Beatriz, LLC was created along with my website, JewelryForKnitters. Now I am finally happy with my “work” and I have a beautiful daughter who is now a young lady who just completed her Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology. And a patient, loving husband who I could never have done this without his help. The future looks bright…!