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The Knitting Adventures of Wetherill Winder
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"My knitting adventures started in 1946 when I was six. Mother was the one who taught me-Rebecca Shannon Cresson."
- Wetherill Winder, from the first page of her knitting journal

Wetherill WinderIn 1950 Wetherill Winder carefully knit a six-color swatch for her first sweater. She was ten years old and had moved to Afghanistan with her family. Her father would teach math there. Her mother, with the help of the Calvert Correspondence Course, homeschooled Wetherill and her brother.

In the knitting journal Wetherill started decades later, there's a picture of that first swatch--which she still has.

With green, white, blue, red and yellow stripes, it's a moth-eaten testimony that even her early stitching efforts stretched beyond the simple. And like Wetherill, this artifact has traveled across states, countries and continents.

Wetherill's parents were involved with the Experiment in International Living--an inspiration for the Peace Corps. The family moved a lot and Wetherill learned to adapt to new places and absorb new cultural influences. In Iran, where she lived after Afghanistan, she learned Gujarati embroidery. Wetherill taught it to her mother, who later taught it to Costa Rican women to use in their handwork. Pictures of her embroidery swatches are tucked in her knitting journal, recorded and remembered.

Wetherill was one of the first knitters I met when I moved back to Iowa City over ten years ago. Getting to know her has been like an archaeological dig, fascinating at each level. Last summer, on her 70th birthday, she held a hobby display in the lobby of the retirement home where she and her husband John Bovey now live. "Lifetime knitting, bike riding, elegant cakes and other hobbies, artwork, sewing and embroidery. Drop by and discover my interests."

That day, tables were covered with an array of projects and ventures Wetherill had undertaken. Most remarkable for me was her knitting display which included: a lace liseuse, a bed jacket knit for her mother on a college year in France, a nine-piece layette knit for her grandchildren, an embroidered mohair sweater, a polka dot Lopi sweater, two cabled child's cardigans, a moebius scarf, Kaffe Fasset-inspired vest, lace shawls, scarves, a felted purse from locally spun wool, "walk away" socks that show off special heels when worn with open back clogs, a diagonally knit jacket, Norwegian pullovers, and a Fair Isle sweater using her own color combination reflecting the changing light of day. Nestled alongside all these knitting wonders was Wetherill's knitting journal with her first swatch--a complicated piece of knitting for a ten year old.

Recently Wetherill told me that since her retirement in 2000, she has indulged in "her fascination with new knitting techniques and patterns." That means knitting projects I once believed were designed to push the edges of knitting possibility. Before I met Wetherill, I never knew anyone who knit those patterns. I certainly I didn't. Like Nicky Epstein's hooded Enchanted French Traveling Cape, a nineteen color intarsia knit of "a moonlit château, with turrets and a drawbridge, cypress trees, wisteria, and fleur-de-lis." The cape, which also has cables, took Wetherill four years and eight months to finish.

From childhood, Wetherill Winder has walked unfamiliar roads, explored new terrains and ventured forth into unknowns with curiosity. These days she travels to exotic places in her knitting. For the sweater she knit last year, she learned the language of double knitting, mastered its syntax. She spent six months knitting swatches of increasing difficulty, understanding how this technique creates a completely reversible fabric—-positive image on one side, negative image on the other.

Wetherill Winder stays on her knitting explorations even when they take years. Her knitting journal has slip-in plastic sleeves for her finished project's photos and space for jotting down notes. Like the travel journals that some keep on their treks to the near and far, these pages mark where she's been as a knitter. From the swatch she made in Afghanistan over sixty years ago, to the double-knit sweater she finished last year, this small book holds a lifetime of her knitting adventures.

Some Additional Notes of Interest:
  • Wetherill has bicycled through Holland, and for two months, across the United States. She participated in a dozen RAGBRAI--The Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
  • In 2003, Wetherill organized knitters to knit Afghans for Afghanistan. She took an ad out in the paper and rented a room for knitters to stitch their donations at the Senior Center.
  • Downsizing a few years ago, Wetherill keeps a few shelves of boxes with knitting books. And a very small stash.
  • Wetherill puts labels on her finished work--Creations by Wetherill.
  • Wetherill is part of a hospice knitting group. They make lap robes. Wetherill knits hers in the Bee Stitch, which she learned from Mon Tricot knitting magazine.

Bee Stitch

K1 b Insert needle through center of stitch 1 row below next stitch and knit, slipping stitch above off needle at the same time.

Cast on an odd number of stitches
Row 1 (WS): knit
Row 2 (RS): K1, * K1 b, K1; rep from *
Row 3: Knit
Row 4 (RS): K2, K1 b, * k1, k1 b; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2
Rep these 4 rows for pattern.



Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
 
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