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.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pat, what a lovely story and so well told.

Chris, thank you for this great venue for us to enjoy over our morning tea or coffee.

Bless you both,