Thank you, Ingrid.

While this blog is typically “all business,” I’m going to get sentimental and sappy for a second in order to introduce my newest project.

Two thousand four was in many ways the worst year of my life. Lab work and teaching were stressful and time-consuming, being out of classes strained my friendships with my classmates, and I was in a rollercoaster relationship from hell. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I cried myself to sleep every single day of that year. I was lonely, sad, moving through my life in a daze.

During the summer I taught myself to knit – the circumstances of that glorious event are documented here. I wish I could say that knitting fixed all my problems, but fairy tale endings occur very infrequently in real life. While life marched on, knitting provided me with a nice distraction in my spare time. Instead of being consumed with panic, I would flip through pattern books and troll various knitting boards.

And thus, I made my first set of internet knitting contacts – a handful of wonderful ladies on the knitting forum. They held my hand as I learned the most basic techniques: (I was “surprisegirl” on the forum)

(click for bigger – it’s quite amusing)

We were all beginners once, right? 😉

In October, one of the ladies invited me to the Wool Arts Tour in New Hampshire. I was thrilled to pieces! Just a few days before going I had my heart broken, chewed up, and spit out, so a trip out to the country was just what the doctor ordered. I was beyond excited.

Knowing that we’d be visiting small farms, I came with cold hard cash in hand. Two hundred dollars, to be exact. Oh yeah, I was going to be the big spender that Monday. I had been knitting for a whole two months, and I was ready! But of course once I was actually faced with wooly goods, I was completely lost. While my hostess knowingly combed through fiber, yarns, shawl pins, and spindles, all I could do is grin at the angora bunnies.

The day was coming to a close, and I had purchased nothing. At the very last farm we visited, I spotted a basket of hand-dyed yarns – small hanks in many juicy colors. I dragged the basket out into the dwindling sunlight, and with the help of my hostess, selected 3 skeins – two pink, and one burgundy. Total purchase price: $11.90.

I know this because three years later, I still have the receipt. And I still have the receipt because I’m a sentimental fool, because that day was so incredibly meaningful to me. Because that day defined me in some way, inspired me to keep going, propelled me to seek balance once again.

If I have such attachment to the receipt, you can just imagine the meaning I ascribe to the yarn. It’s just some wool, yet for three years no project has been good enough. This one won’t show the variegation, and this one requires way more yarn than I have, and this one is better suited to cotton… In addition, I really wanted the project to be simple, in accord with my knitting experience (or lack thereof) when I bought it.

Finally, something caught my eye, and I decided to break out the only yarn in my stash that is truly irreplaceable:

Focus on Fringe scarf from The Elegant Knitter by Gina Macris

The Focus on Fringe scarf is exactly what I wanted – simple, delicate, interesting, easy to incorporate into my wardrobe. There are other wonderful scarves in this book – I’ll show you some pics later (this post is already long enough). But this one seemed to be the perfect match for my special yarn.

I’m not sure who Ingrid is, but her handiwork is very special to me. I’ve touched this yarn and looked at those jagged-edged labels enough times to know them by heart. Thank you, Ingrid.


83 thoughts on “Thank you, Ingrid.

  1. Sheila

    And oh how you have grown! The surprise girl has become a very talented knitter – and a lovely lady besides!

  2. Kathy

    Ingrid vends at NH Sheep and Wool! I met her last year during that weekend, when it was crazy weather (cold and buckets of rain). She is terrifically helpful. I’ve also heard that she has a spot in the Portsmouth (NH) Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

  3. earthchick

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing with us! It’s so amazing to read how you got your start out of such a rough time. It’s cool to look at the picture of you at the Wool Arts Tour and think how the woman in that picture had no idea she would become Grumperina, knitblogger, knit designer, and knitter extraordinaire!

  4. Jenn

    I picked up knitting at a rough time in my life too. I’m so glad you found a project worthy of your sentimental yarn.

  5. eudyptes

    I picked up knitting during the year I taught in the middle school from hades (i was actually assaulted) while separated from my fiancee because he couldn’t find a job where I was going to grad school. I know just how you feel and am all the more happy for you that you’ve pulled through! Your incisive mind has helped improve my own knitting, good luck on this sentimentally important project.

  6. Monica

    Mousepotat1 was right, you learned fast! That is nice yarn for a 2 month knitter to pick out. It’s not about how much you spend, but about will you still like it when you get home and then months (years?) later when you finally get to it!

  7. sylvia

    What a touching story! I’m glad you found so much inspiration from your wool visit and knitting. I so look forward to your posts and your beautiful creations.


  8. Acapella

    Kathy, you amaze me ! You only started three years ago and you are soooo good at it now !

    I wish I had your talent and could progress at your speed.

    Love the picture with the angora rabbit too !

    It’s a very touching post, thank you for sharing your feelings with us, other sentimental knitters -;)

  9. Alexis

    I loved that post…and you have a great sense of elegance as well as great knitting skills. It’s so much fun reading your blog. Oh, and thanks for the tips on the jeans… 😉

  10. Teresa C

    Hey! My very first spinning fiber was dyed by Ingrid! And I still have some of her yarns that I haven’t found the perfect project for, although I am thinking a felted tea cozy with needle felting on top to match a teapot. She means a lot to me, thanks to that spinning fiber. I am pretty sure that she sets up fairly regularly at a farmer’s market in Portsmouth. SeedStich Cheryl would know for sure.

    This is a beautiful post, and I know that you are the type of person that is really appreciating your good times, having lived through a rough one. I, for one of many, am so glad you chose knitting to help you through. I have grown as a knitter just by knowing you.

  11. Linda

    Thanks so much for sharing your story; love the photo of you and the bunny; you both look like a contented pair. Sometimes “sentimental” and “sappy” are good 🙂

  12. Nancy

    This was a truly beautiful post. I just love visiting your blog. I eagerly come for the pictures of your knitting, but today you have touched our hearts. Thanks, Kathy!

  13. Angeluna

    I love your story. I too have many sentimental skeins in the stash that can never find a pattern good enough. Great photo with bunny. May the good times roll for you.

  14. Debi

    Wonderful story! I too picked up knitting after my husband passed away 2-1/2 yrs ago. Started with scarves, shawls and now on to socks and the beginning of a sweater/poncho jacket type thingy. Can’t wait to see how your scarf comes out.

  15. Kate

    That’s an awesome story Grump. I am so glad you have found something for your “good yarn” to do! It gives me hope! 🙂

  16. Karma

    Thanks for sharing that story… it’s wonderful to see how your life has changed in the context of learning to knit. And to know that so much of your life is better these days!

  17. isela

    Thank you for sharing that beautiful story. The scarf will be indeed special and everytime you wear it will be a special moment.

  18. Laurakeet

    Wow, what a great story. Very generous and brave of you to share it. I have some first-yarn like that, which I’ve knit and ripped several times due to beginner mistakes, ugly patterns and at this point nothing is good enough. That scarf is beautiful and a great throwback-to-beginner idea. Three cheers, lady!

  19. Helene

    I’m sooo happy for you!! True magic is in the little things, like the jagged-edged labels from Ingrid 🙂

    There is hope for all of us.


  20. regine

    That story really touched me, Grumperina. Knitting has really helped me keep in touch with beautiful things during tough times so I can totally understand the attachment to your special yarn and what it represents. And the scarf is really cool!

  21. Mama Cat

    Oh my … your story reminds me SO much of my own experiences in grad school. I too cried myself to sleep every night. I already knew how to knit but hadn’t done it for many years and would consider myself to be still a beginner at that point. There was a LYS right next door to my apartment building and one day I wandered in and …. I was able to cope a lot better from that day on. I had a weird relationship with the LYSO … I thought she was awfully fussy and aggravating but in retrospect I realize that she gave me some of the best knitting advice I ever received. I learned a lot from her, and I think of her often.

    Anyway I left that grad program but later went back and eventually finished the PhD. I am here to tell you that there is life after the doctorate. I ended up not going the research route – my first horrible experience was nature’s way of telling me that I’m not cut out for that. But I need the doctorate for my current work and I’m glad I have it. I finished 11 years ago, and have never stopped knitting.

    I am constantly amazed by the number of “famous knit bloggers” out there (but you especially) who design and create beautiful projects who are so relatively new to knitting. It is a wonderful and precious thing.

  22. Lolly

    Kathy, I loved your story. I am so happy to see you found a great match for that yarn. I love the textures in this pattern. Cheers~

  23. karla (threadbndr)

    I came BACK to knitting in 2004 after my husband died (though I didn’t start blogging until later). Yes, it was a terrible year, but we all got through it. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your story, though parts of it must have been painful to recall.

    You are a fantastic knitter and designer and make all our days a little brighter with your wonderful blog. Your ‘early’ yarn deserves a fantastic project like this one. Your ‘eye’ was there, even in the very beginning.

  24. Carolyn

    What a beautiful post! I’m getting all teary in my office this morning. : ) Glad to hear you’ve found the perfect project to show off this especially meaningful yarn.

  25. Kenny

    I feel for you. When I read your post, it reminded me of 2003 for me………. but we’re all here and alive and well and knitting right?

  26. mari

    I absolutely love your story and the yarn – I wonder if we started polling knitters, how many people would talk about how much it has changed their lives. I think crafting in general helps me take my mind off of myself (even though I make things for myself!) and then after a bit, my problems really do seem insignificant.

    Thank you for sharing how one of the best knitbloggers got her start – inspirational!

  27. stephanie

    what a touching story…thank you for sharing. i think all of us knitters have a similar one, albeit i’m sure not all are life-changing. hell, i’m still holding onto remnants of my first knit scarf (a mere 2 yards or so thats left), i can’t seem to get rid of that tiny little ball 🙂

  28. anne

    Thank you for your story — somehow it helps to know that climbing out of the hole is possible.

    I wish I’d learned to knit in grad school. I was miserable there, too. Hmmm — it just occurred to me. None of the grad students in my department were knitters. Seems to me, looking back, that this is a very accurate indicator that All Was Not Well in that department!

    Enjoy your knitting, enjoy your life, and thank you for sharing bits of it here!

  29. Katy

    I don’t think I’ve ever posted a comment here before… One of the things I like best about your blog is that it is “all business.” However, I think today’s post is completely consistent with the “mission” of your blog. Thank you for the regular helping of information and inspiration!

  30. ames

    Oh, that’s a lovely story! It’s amazing how knitting can be so helpful. I can’t imagine how I would have survived my own personal Year from Hell (which would be May 2006-May 2007, yep, just coming out of it) if I hadn’t had knitting to turn to.

    Your Ingrid shawl is going to be gorgeous. It already is.

  31. Ruby

    Thank you for taking the time, and the courage to share your story. It reminds me of a couple years of my life.

    I learned to knit as a child and had knit off and on for years. But, it wasn’t until I had a job from hell that by happenstance I started a knitting project. What I found was that with knitting I was able to focus and stay sane. I’ve since changed jobs, much to the better!

    I’ve found that knitting hs an activity that makes me a better person and provides the positive energy to keep my world centered. I found that reading blogs of people who knit and stretch their abilities an inspiration. You constantly inspire me! Thank you!

  32. Angie

    The surprise is how quickly knitting took to you as you leap frogged over those of us who have knit our whole lives. Your designs are inspiring me to try to catch up.

  33. grace

    I remember you as suprisegirl on About, I was needles54, your words here on your blog are so eloquent and soothing, I wish you lots of success in your life, I know just reading your blog makes mine brighter!

  34. Elise

    That’s such a wonderful story. I’m glad knitting has helped you so much during a difficult time. I can’t wait to see the scarf, wearing it this winter will mean so much. The great thing about handknits is they often have much more meaning than something store bought. Your scarf will be proof of that.

  35. Yaya

    It’s been said quite a few times already, but thank you for your post! I started knitting as a way to occupy my time and not focus on the state of things during that time. My mom’s advice was, “you need a hobby.” Well she was right! Oh and I’m starting grad. school too, ha!

    The real reason why I enjoyed your post, was because as a semi-beginner knitter it’s great to read about a really great knitter’s start. I don’t think we always realize that everyone was a beginner at some point, especially after perusing some of the knitblogs!

    Once again, thanks for sharing your story!

  36. Sally A

    This is just one reason why I love your blog, Kathy. It’s so beautifully written and full of heart. The fact that it has gorgeous pictures of wonderful knitting is icing on the cake. Thanks for this post. I just loved it. As for that guy… he was totally not good enough for you.

  37. Shamiran

    Count me in the “Wonderful post” group too. 🙂 I had a rough ’03 as well… Had someone do the Mexican hat dance with my heart too… Let just say quite a few blankets were crocheted that year. (The whole experience made me turn to hooking!) ha ha 😉

    It’s amzaing how something so simple can make you feel better and change your life. I know I am a completely different person when I have a hook or a pair of needles in my hand. I take a deep breath and then I am lost in my own little world.

  38. Karen B.

    How prophetic: “You’ll be a great knitter sooner than you think!”

    A perfect use for your irreplaceable purchase, Kathy.

    -xo- Karen

  39. julia fc

    I know Ingrid. Her farm is Ward Brook, and she was almost a vendor at Fiber Revival. She goes to New Hampshire Sheep and Wool, and she sold me some of my first rovings. She is an enabler of the highest order, and a serene goddess of the wool. Nice choice for your yarn totems.

    Thanks for the story.

  40. nanda

    wow, i really find this post inspirational. this year has been just awful (struggles with depression, getting pregnant, and then just losing our baby boy when i was almost 5 months along), and while i’ve been knitting for years, i’ve been knitting with such a vengeance since we lost our baby. in the past 2 months, i’ve knit 5 pairs of socks, never having knit socks before now. it’s saved my sanity, i tell you.

    anyway, thanks so much for posting. you brought this lurker out. 🙂

  41. Beth S.

    Mine was 1997… and 1998. Sadly, I had to throw out the sweater I was working on. It was too potent a reminder of that very bad time in my life. But the passion for knitting stuck with me, and that’s what counts!

    It was really nice yarn, too. Silk blend…

    But I’m so glad you’re doing this special project in a year when everything is going swimmingly. 🙂

  42. Peggy

    I am amazed and ashamed. Amazed that you have been knitting for such a short period of time and ashamed that I am not further along in my knitting. But, all us knitters are the same in many ways. There isn’t a day that goes by and I wonder what in the world non-knitters do. Knitting is my friend when no one else is around or I’m too cantankerous for company. 🙂

  43. Manise

    Great story! I met Ingrid for the first time this year at NH Sheep and Wool and bought my second fleece from her. She is very kind and extremely helpful. I like the pattern you’ve chosen for those sentimental skeins. I too save receipts and tags from my fleeces- three thus far.

  44. Christie

    Wow, you were thinking outside the box from the very beginning, huh?

    I love the story…yes were all were beginners at one time…and with every new technique we try, we’re beginners again. 🙂

  45. KathyMarie

    A great story, and one that speaks to me and my hoarding of “memory” yarn. Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to seeing your scarf evolve!

  46. Sarah

    I’m currently in grad school, and it has been a nightmare. If not for my mom and knitting, I would have left 2 years ago! Knitting definitely keeps you sane! Thanks for sharing your experiences…I look forward to seeing how your scarf turns out:)

  47. Haley

    Thank you for sharing such a personal post. It was very generous of you. Love the scarf and can’t wait to see it made with your lovely yarn.

  48. Val

    I too picked up knitting at an otherwise unpleasant time in my life, which coincidentally, was 2004. Thank you for sharing your story; it is wonderful to see a creative outlet come full circle, if you will. It inspires me to renew that same soothing joy that comes with yarn flowing through my fingers.

  49. Cheryl

    I know Ingrid too! Her farm is down the street from my work, and she vends at my farmer’s market. She has a wonderful eye for color and is a kind, caring woman. Good choice for meaningful yarn!

  50. Red

    Everytime I’ve moved knitters have been my first friends. It’s been one of the best ways to meet the most facinating people.

  51. Thea

    A wonderful post, thank you. I started to knit in 2003, after years of watching my mother. It was under much happier circumstances. But now, as a college student, I find knitting often keeps me sane, so to speak.

    I’m from New Hampshire, and still live there, so I when I got down to the end and saw those were Ingrid’s, I nearly leapt out of my chair. She has such beautiful colors, and I’m glad it was New Hampshire that has such a special place in your knitting heart. We’re cool like that.

  52. beth

    That is such a sweet story. I’m glad knitting helped you through a difficult time.

    The yarn is very pretty and that pattern looks like it would be perfect for it! Sorry it’s wool though, maybe you could put it on display so it’s still where you could see it:)

  53. TracyKM

    Mousepotato is such a patient and kind lady with all the newbies. I really miss all the friends at but I was getting a little tired of ‘why does my knitting curl up?’. That’s why I love blogs so much, I get so very inspired. I remember you gals taking that trip, LOL. You continually impress me that you’ve been doing this only 3 years; it makes me examine what I do a little more closely and wish I was still in university, LOL. I hope you get as much comfort from the scarf as you’ve gotten so far.

  54. Juti

    That’s the perfect project for that yarn.

    When I had my heart torn out and handed to me on a paper plate, I went out and got a PhD. Now he calls me “doctor.”

  55. anne

    oh that is such a special story . . i too have yarns in my stash from far away times (trust me, not a lie), travels and special events. someday i WILL knit them, as i have other special yarns. but finding the right project is a must.

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