In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 6:45 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Knitting circle: warming up for the winter season

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer NewsPhoto provided

Jerri Nagaruk displays a knitted hat she made

You should have seen the beautiful sweaters at the Lutheran Church's Scandinavian dinner last week. Sure, there was lutefisk, but even lutefisk — as popular as it is— couldn't compete with the sweaters.

Maybe it was seeing those gorgeous creations or maybe it was that colder temperatures have made warm sweaters, thick socks, mittens and hats fashion necessities, but my mind has turned toward knitting.

So, I decided to check out Homer Public Library's knitting circle.

"For people of all ages and skill levels. Come to look for ideas or solutions, or to work on your knitting projects in a friendly environment," said the description on the library's website.

I became fascinated with knitting when I was a little kid and met Eva, an Inupiaq woman who moved from King Island to Ninilchik. Eva's needles would click, the yarn would move from one needle to the next, a pattern would develop and a garment would grow. All the while she carried on a conversation, never looking at what her hands were creating. It was like magic.

Not so magical were my attempts to learn to knit. For starters, Eva was right-handed and I'm left-handed. Then there was the problem of my needless sliding out of the stitches. To stop that, I kept the needles upright, clumsily propping the flat end on my legs.

I was an awkward duckling to Eva's swan-like grace.

Being warm is a motivating force and the passage of years is a softener of feelings, however, so there I was Monday afternoon, with a newly purchased skein of yarn and needles, sitting in the library's meeting room with a group of knitters and crocheters.

Wearing a sweater resembling those at the Scandinavian dinner, Jerri Nagaruk set out the makings for tea and heated a kettle of water. She walked me though casting on stitches for a simple scarf pattern, not even raising an eyebrow when I confessed being left-handed. When I anxiously asked about the proper way to hold the needles, Jerri's answer calmed my nerves.

"Whatever works," she said.

Josh Delie, Dana Payne and Debbie Pastro also were working on scarves, but theirs were for the 2012 Special Olympics USA Scarf Project. Josh was crocheting; Dana and Debbie were knitting. Directions were available on the Red Heart yarn website.

Dee Forsythe pulled a completed Special Olympic scarf from her bag, only to be told she'd made it too wide. After a few moments of disappointment, Dee began unraveling hours of work.

Connie Prouty also was working on a scarf, but hers was for someone who had been ill.

Before working on a baby blanket for a great-grandbaby due later this month, Jerri pulled out of her bag two beautiful hats she had knit. The intricate pattern and fine yarns were things of beauty.

Jeanne Carroll showed up wearing a sweater she had crocheted. Others asked for details and discussed pattern adaptations. Her project-of-the-day was a hat using Jerri's pattern, but made with different colors, creating a completely different appearance.

A matching hat and sweater Ginger VanWagoner was wearing drew oohs and ahhs. A hat for a 6-year-old grandson grew from her needles as Ginger incorporated her grandson's requested details into the project.

The library's knitting circle is one of several places local knitters gather to share ideas, develop their skills and create items to ward off chilly temperatures. Not a bad place to be with winter just around the corner. I think Eva would have approved.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at