When Grace Alexander was growing up in Scotland, and later, England, everyone knitted, so much so her children refused to wear hand-knitted garments, equating them with being poor. So the popularity of knitting as a hobby took Alexander aback when she moved to America in 2002.
When Grace Alexander was growing up in Scotland, and later, England, everyone knitted, so much so her children refused to wear hand-knitted garments, equating them with being poor.
So the popularity of knitting as a hobby took Alexander aback when she moved to America in 2002. She worked in an arts and crafts store and taught knitting at an adult education class, which turned into a private class held at one of the knitter’s homes on Monday nights. The class has been going now for two years.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself, because I’m doing something I love,” Alexander said in her thick Scottish burr.
She also creates patterns for Coats and Clark, a leading yarn manufacturer based in South Carolina, and also works at Yarn and Wool in Haddam, Conn.
Her first job as a professional knitter was in England, for Hayfield Yarn Company, after working in the restaurant business.
She was so excited, she recalled, she called her “mum” who taught her to knit.
Alexander, surrounded by a wall of yarn neatly arranged in built-in shelving, tears up when she talks about her mother, Mary Carson, the youngest of 18 children, whose father worked in the coal mines.
“Everyone had a job in the house, hers was to knit,” she said. “She was the best knitter I ever knew and she didn’t earn a penny but loved to do it.”
When she was growing up, all her school uniforms were knitted by her mother, as were sweaters and skirts.
She passed that love on to Alexander, who in turn inspires others — whether they be veteran knitters or beginners, said Sally Sweezey of Norwich, Conn., who is in Alexander’s class.
“I love Mondays,” Sweezey said. “it’s the best day of the week because I love to knit.”
She got caught up in the knitting craze several years ago, when everyone was making fuzzy scarves.
“I thought, ‘I can do that,’ ” she said. “The yarn is so fuzzy, if I make a mistake, no one will know.”
She met Alexander when she was at the yarn store, and was invited to the knitting class. Like many, she was captured by Alexander’s affability.
“Grace is so smart, you can come with an idea and she can put it on paper. She’s an incredible artist,” Sweezey said.
About four years ago, according to Marilyn Coleman, a Norwich resident who retired as a publication manager at Coats and Clark, knitting saw a resurgence due to some fancy yarns that were easy to work with.
“People were making scarves that were easy, that anyone can do if they can cast on and knit,” she said.
In America, knitting isn’t linked to being unable to afford store bought items, but rather expresses individuality, Coleman added.
“You have something unique, something your own.”
And giving someone something unique, and made by you, is a joy to knitter Cathy Papparelli of Preston, who came to Alexander’s class as someone adept at crocheting, but who wanted to learn knitting so she could make sweaters.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction in making something for loved ones,” she said. “What better gift can you give someone?”
Although Papparelli is considered by the other knitters as one of the more advanced, she said she continues to go to class so if she has a problem, Alexander can talk her through it. Also, the class to her is more than just knitting, its camaraderie.
“We all laugh so much, we talk about books, Oprah, kids, watching ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ ”
It’s a group of women bonded by a love of the craft, but also held together, said Coleman, by Alexander’s colorful personality and natural teaching ability.
“Grace is magnificent. She can teach anyone to knit in 30 minutes,” she said. “She has a charming personality but she’s a no nonsense person, she tells you straight in your face what’s on her mind. She’s wonderful, and that’s part of why she’s been followed, she easy to be around.”
Reach Norwich Bulletin writer Sharma Howard at 425-4235 or email@example.com
Technique at a glance
Making the first row of stitches on the needle is called casting on.
- Wind the yarn around your finger and form a slip knot. Move the knot onto the needle and pull the yarn to form the first stitch. Do not pull the yarn too tight.
- Hold the needle with the stitch on it in your left hand. Insert the right-hand needle into the stitch and wrap the yarn under and then over the point of the right needle.
- Using the point of the right needle, draw the yarn loop through the stitch to make a second stitch. Place the second stitch on the left needle.
- For the third stitch, insert the right needle in between the first two stitches, wrap yarn under and over the point of the right needle and continue as before.