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Memoir Comes Full Circle at Vogue Knitting Live

times square at night
Smack-dab in the heart of New York City’s Times Square

debbie bliss lecture
thousands of knitters and fiber enthusiasts converged for this year’s Vogue Knitting Live 3-day event. There were free lectures, like this one with Debbie Bliss, who described how to create flattering knitwear for all body shapes. To be honest, since my bust inflated from menopause’s hormonal havoc, blankets have become my favorite kind of project. But maybe there’s fresh hope now that I’ve learned a bit about how to customize a sweater or jacket’s contours with increases and decreases. By the way, there was a complimentary Fitting Booth in the Marketplace area, in which brave souls surrendered to a stranger with a tape measure. This would be the sensible route to take if one were going to implement Ms. Bliss’ techniques. For now, I took a ‘pass’ and will stick with hats, scarves, mittens, and domestic accessories.

knitting hands
Knitting was a very public activity throughout the hotel.

"Lisa Allen Lambert" "Vogue Knitting Live"

There weren’t many men, but this fellow drew a crowd with his color work.

VKL entrelac workshop
But how does any of this tie in to my memoir?

old friends reconnect
In the 1960s an accomplished needlewoman from NYC was invited to teach crewel embroidery to a group of women on Nantucket Island. The intention was that, under her tutelage, the islanders would equip a restored historical hotel — The Jared Coffin House — with period reproduction interior treatments. This woman would return to the island many times, and because she had developed a friendship with my aunt (one of the island’s prominent craftswomen of the time), she would sometimes stay at our house, too. In 1969 she invited me to NYC as her live-in mother’s helper. … This was none other than Rosemary Drysdale, the instructor for VLK’s Entrelac Workshop! How quickly do you think I registered for her class?! (She is now an editor at Vogue Knitting and Knit Simple magazines, and the author of Entrelac, a gorgeous and comprehensive tome on interlace knitting.)

My stint as mother’s helper did not last more than a few months, but because the memoir I wrote for my MFA thesis captures my high school years, it includes a chapter about Rosemary, her daughter, and their Greenwich Village apartment. Meeting Rosemary again last weekend was nothing short of thrilling!

When I last saw her in 1969, Rosemary was off to Portugal with a bundle of rug designs under her arm, bound for overseas cottage industry production. What seeds of creative possibility were planted during those months on Bleeker Street? Is influence measurable? Impossible to say. But I am certain that although decades have since passed, part of who I am today is rooted in what I experienced then.

Reconnecting with Rosemary was the high point of VLK for me, but the remainder of the experience did not disappoint.

workshop knitters

The weekend was all about group knitting.

nicky epstein edgings
In Nicky Epstein‘s workshop we learned how to manipulate the simplest of knit-and-purl to make ruffled edgings, hand-held bobbles, and all shapes of flowers. I have long admired her books and it was a privilege to attend what may be one of her last workshops of this type.

mitered sweater
Many attendees were decked out in their handmades. I love this mitered sweater in graduated squares. (Am guessing the yarn is Koigu.)

Trending alert! Oversized is ‘in’: needles, hooks, and fiber. The lady on the right offered 5-minute Tunisian crochet instruction from her bench. That was fun.

hotel elevator
And then it was time for hotel check-out and a mad dash to the East Village for a box of Italian pastries, and a train ride back to the country. Whew!

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  • Fran January 28, 2013, 9:53 am

    OMG, Lisa! What a wonderful time you had!!! And how very dear to see Roesmary again–great pic of you both. (I love your smile!) Weekends like that are to die for–er, no, to live for. 🙂