Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stash-to-Story Update: What's New, How to Submit

Greetings all!  Time for an update. My life has taken a wonderful turn: I'm now studying for a second undergraduate degree in biochemistry. That change is its own story and someday I will share. For now, I'm overly occupied with studying math and chemistry to narrate my own career-change!

Yet, I am still committed to Stash-to-Story. I am passionate about encouraging others to tell and preserve their stories. Instead of actively gathering stories, I'm accepting what comes my way and holding them in a queue.

Please follow these steps to contact me or to get your story on this blog:

  • If you have sent a story in and have not seen it on this blog please resubmit it to me directly at:
  • If you'd like to submit a story please submit it directly to me at
  • Please direct any questions, concerns, or ideas to me at
  • Please note that I'm expanding my collection to all forms of craft.
  • I will be giving occasional Stash-to-Story classes in the greater Boston area including SouthCoast Massachusetts. Email me at for the next class.

Above all: remember, to tell your story. You must carry your story into the future by its telling. You will enhance the value and appreciation of the craft you practice and love.

I look forward to the time when I can resume this project. In the meantime, every stitch tells a story -- be sure to tell yours.
Be well!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stash to Story on the Road: Knitting in Swansea, Massachussets

Hello! This is a cross-post from WabiSabi Knitter ( Keep knitting and writing! Your stories matter. Your projects are heirlooms. Value them! I hope to preserve the generous spirit of knitters on this blog. Please join me -- send in your stories.

A grant from the Swansea Cultural Council sponsored a session at the Swansea Public Library. Five wonderful women gathered to share stories about learning to knit and quilt.

Here's an excerpt from one story about learning to knit:

"Gramma was the one big influence in my life. In many ways I realize she encouraged me to be interested in many things -- gardening, church, and knitting. I sat for what seemed like hours on the floor at her feet, while she unwound skeins of yarn and it was my job to put the yarn into an ever-growing ball. She made sweaters for my brother and I and every afghan in the house was one she had made...once I finally learned the various stitches I made small things like blankets for my doll's cradle...Gramma's motto was one that many people lived by then, 'idle hands are the devil's workshop' so I always made sure I was busy...I still feel compelled to never have idle hands. If I'm not reading or writing, I'm knitting for embroidering. It's always rewarding to be productive. Being bored has never been a part of my life."

Knitters do have the advantage over boredom. And there is a beauty when a skill such as knitting is given to another person, especially a family member. The purpose of Stash to Story is to celebrate these moments and understand how they can lead to life-long appreciation of and participation in the arts. They can also shape a person's philosophy of life and affect quality of life for the better!

Thank you to the Swansea Local Arts Council. Thank you to Lorna, Dilia, Alice, Melissa and Marty for two wonderful evenings! Keep knitting, quilting, crocheting, embroidering, painting, crafting in all its forms. And, please, for me, tell the stories of your creative journeys so you can remember and celebrate!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Stash Skirt

My knitting skills develop in fits and starts. Sometimes I only want to make easy and mindless scarves, then I’ll wake up one day and select the most complicated pattern and the most finicky yarn. The stars must have aligned on the day that little voice inside demanded that I learn to knit on circular needles. It wasn’t difficult, although I still don’t believe you can just knit and get stockinette. I mean, I see it happening, but I don’t understand it exactly: it’s like Leap Year—I don’t get it, but I go along with the experts and it seems to work out ok.

Part of the little-voice demand came from the kind of infatuation for a glossy photo that I have not experienced since propping up a Shaun Cassidy album cover on my nightstand so I could look at it while I fell asleep. Our crushes are a little different as grown women...I was obsessing over the skirt in Greetings From Knit CafĂ©. It is scarcely a pattern, more like an equation: you figure it out based on who it is meant to fit. The seamlessness also appealed to me because I’m not great at “finishing” or sewing pieces together. And it is the easy mindless scarf of circular needles—you just knit around and around and around, which I did mostly during my younger daughter’s ballet class. I even used the aloe-coated yarn from Brooks pharmacy, which I bought just so I could say, “I bought yarn at Brooks.” (If it has aloe, it must be medicinal.)

Things I loved about the skirt in the photo, the inspiration I wanted to emulate:

  • kooky and colorful—it is one of a kind, no color combination is wrong, novelty yarns appear, some of them fuzzy

  • you get to “design” it yourself—patterns are only a suggestion for me anyway, and I love something that is constantly changing throughout the process, so the designing choices continue all the way through

  • stripes—I love stripes! Random stripes! Unexpected combinations!

  • use what you have knitting—STASH REDUCTION! very important: it frees up storage space including the kind in your soul, where guilt used to hang out

  • free—since I didn’t buy any yarn and I used up my stash, and we all know Nature Abhors a Vaccuum (only slightly more than I abhor a vaccuum)...I can buy more yarn!

In that spirit, I went and knit a tube of amazing color collusion the likes of which the world has never seen. It didn’t fit either daughter, but it looked great. Except for know what’s coming next...hundreds HUNDREDS! of ends!

That is the price you pay for all those random stripes.

The poor forsaken thing sat like a dirty dishrag on a bookshelf, smooshed in with the Stash—almost like the Stash wouldn’t let go of its own. Sometimes the skirt would try to make a break for it and leap off the shelf, and I would, no lie, kick it back into the recesses of the bookcase. So ashamed. Later I’d try to make up with it and tell it I loved it. “C’mon let’s go buy you something pretty.”

Then one day, just as mysteriously as the urge to start the project appeared, the little voice demanded that I sew in the ends right now. It was a long snowy afternoon by the fire, the kids were laughing at the TV...there are worse ways to spend the day. And all the ends were in. It didn’t kill me. I repeat, it did not kill me.

It just proves to me, again, that no amount of guilt or “shoulding” can make me do something one second before I’m darn good and ready. And I know two little leaves who are not falling far from the tree (the second little leaf grew just enough while the skirt was “resting” and now it has a proper owner).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gerry Ruddy

---by Pat Richards

In my world, rural New York, in the sixties…knitting yarns---a limited color range of worsted-weight Red Heart yarn---nestled among the sewing notions and camphor balls in Newberry’s basement could be matched to the pattern you had selected in Workbasket.

Lacking a knitting store or knitting circle, I would lug my project to Lorrayne’s beauty parlor located further down Main Street.

Lorrayne and I would swap patterns and unsnarl the mysteries of those confusing directions to the sound of the whirring dryers.

When all else failed, Lorrayne would say, “I’ll ask Gerry Ruddy; she will be in on Thursday.”

Gerry Ruddy was the fount of all wisdom. She owned needles in every size…knitted and crocheted complicated patterns in all weights of yarn. She owned a Mary Maxim catalog.

Strangely enough…we seldom asked Gerry. Most of the time the relinquishment of the problem allowed one or the other of us to find the answer.

For close to forty years, I’ve purchased patterns and problematic instructions and tagged them…Ask Gerry Ruddy!

Sometimes I’ve failed to make the project. Other times, I’ve figured out the next step as I knitted along.

About a year ago, I was thinking about trying a new pattern but the cost of the yarn and the complexity of the repeat gave me pause.

So, I asked Lorrayne, “Do you think Gerry Ruddy could teach me this sequence?”

Lorrayne shook her head. “Gerry is in the nursing home. Doesn’t come in anymore. She gave me her knitting needles.”

I tried to remember Gerry. I know I met her once.

A sturdy middle-aged woman…She had smiled, nodded her expertly pin-curled head in my direction and blushed as Lorrayne praised her skills.

Truly, I hadn’t paid close attention to the real woman. I hadn’t made the construct between the pleasant woman in the chair and the knitting guru in my fantasy.

Just recently, Lorrayne said, “Gerry Ruddy died.”

How could that be? Knitting goddesses don’t die.

Alas, it is not true. They disappear into another realm and take all that knitting knowledge with them.

Newberry’s is gone. The beauty parlor closed this week. An era has ended.

Innumerable fine knitters share their expertise on the web. Yarn shops dot the landscape. Patterns and yarn options abound.

But for me, Gerry Ruddy remains “the knitting goddess.”

Sunday, April 27, 2008

In Memorium: Uncle Smitty

A host of crises caused my temporary absence from blogging. The death of my husband's Uncle, Anthony Rego, otherwise known as our beloved Uncle Smitty, is the chief cause of my silence. Uncle Smitty died on April 4, 2008. I was struck silent with grief and it is only fitting that I break my silence with a tribute to him.

I cannot say enough good things about Uncle Smitty. From the moment I met him over ten years ago, he accepted me as part of the family. No inquisition, no keeping his distance. "Hello dear. Nice to meet you. What'll you have to eat?" I was welcome at the table forever after. I lucked out with my in laws. They (including father-in-law Jim and mother-in-law Vivian, as well as Aunt Laura, Uncle Smitty's wife of over fifty years) accepted me as family and have treated me with love and respect ever since.

Uncle Smitty was the favorite uncle of our children, as well as of my husband and me. Here, though, I will focus on one of the qualities I admired most about him: Uncle Smitty cherished memories of his mother, avid knitter and crocheter, Mary Rego. He valued the process and the product of her craft by holding those memories in his heart for a lifetime; something I hope my children will do. May we all be blessed with such faithful interpreters of our knitting legacies as Uncle Smitty.

Uncle Smitty would reminisce with Jim about going out to buy her yarn: "She liked Red Heart. We used to go and ask the lady at the store to help us find exactly what she wanted." He showed me with pride the afghans she made for him. He explained she made them for all her children and grandchildren and even recalled that it was "Kenny who got the brown one, Janice the mixed colors." It is encouraging to know that our knitting can be so treasured. I will remember him as he remembered his mother: with stories affectionately told.

--Chris Peter


There on Jame's kitchen table sat a knitted cap, all warm and colorful and very tiny. I'm sure there is some fancy name for the hat, something along the lines of Warm, Colorful Knitted Cap with Rolled Edges and No Seams: the WCKCRENS. I couldn't stop fiddling with the WCKCRENS, imagining it sitting on my head.

I said as much aloud.

Flash forward a few weeks. Back at Jame's kitchen table. Tiny WCKCRENS gone, surely stuffed in a coat pocket after an outdoor romp on a sweet little girl's head. And then--surprise! Jame says Pat knitted me my very own WCKCRENS. I put it on.

I still have it on. In fact, I wear the WCKCRENS a lot--and not just because New England has decided to throw us a bit of winter during springtime, although I do take it out for outdoor romps as well.

Here's when the WCKCRENS comes in handy--and why we all need our very own WCKCRENS:

  • Getting a cold/flu sends the body into wacky thermonuclear/arctic jet streams, as we all know. When snuggling time comes a-callin', the WCKCRENS completes the blanket/bed covers wrap up--now everything's covered and cozy.
  • Threatening to throw the printer (desktop accessory, not man with stained fingers in newspaper office basement) out the window because it THINKS it has a paper jam and it SAYS it has a paper jam, even though there is NO PAPER TO JAM. The anger approaches rolling boil, the first bubbles just beginning to pop. The WCKCRENS settles it all down, diffusing the rage like a calm hand turning down the temperature.
  • Brewing a migraine because students don't care about honesty in their work (AKA plagiarism), don't care about deadlines, don't take pride in their class performance causes Professor Meltdown. The professor can't let go of student apathy (even though it's really nothing new--a sweeping generalization, but all-too-often true one). Questioning the decision to shape the minds of America's youth could make a person start a job hunt. The WCKCRENS truly does make calmer heads prevail (and the rolled brim whispers--you can only do so much).
  • Writing a novel is as easy as dealing with students while the printer gives the finger and the flu threatens to topple the otherwise sane individual. How to focus when there's so much else to do? How to manage all the ideas? How to create a new (or old) world where readers want to visit? How to remain ever-reminded that this writing is not only a viable, enviable task but a necessary one? How to stay alert to the (very true) fact that you are wonderful and talented, and the world wants to hear what you have to say, and is, in fact, waiting for you to finish draft one (or two or three) and start sharing? The WCKCRENS. Pull it down low over your brow for the world's best brain hug. You can do it. Now go write something. Forget the rest of the stuff.

--Penny Piva