Loyal and longtime The PEACE Fund contributor Kathy Johnson has knitted a huge batch of very special blankets for us. As these lovely blankets begin their journey to warm the children helped by our newest recipient, Mercy & Sharing, we're giving you a front-row seat to how they're made, where they'll be traveling, how they'll help once they arrive at their final destination, and as many other points in between that we can explore along the way. Join us for an interview with Kathy....
The PEACE Fund (PF): Kathy, when did you first become interested in knitting?
Kathy Johnson (KJ): It began when I discovered McCall's Book of Crafts for Children when I was seven years old. Actually, all needlework interested me, so I tried everything listed. Knitting was easier to accomplish as I found some yarn, and I borrowed a couple of really big nails from my dad's carpentry workshop. Once my Aunt Betty showed me how to pull the yarn through the previous stitch, I was off and running. I would take knitting projects to school to work on during recess, and I scoured libraries for knitting patterns.
PF: What kinds of projects do you tend to gravitate toward?
KJ: I seem to prefer the more challenging, lacey, or delicate patterns. Thin yarns, tiny needles and centuries-old patterns have always been my favorites. I just love being able to take some yarn and create something beautiful with it and, hopefully, something that can be used. I like to create practical and pretty items using the colors I or the recipient prefer. I like to make one of a kind or specially enhanced items, like a fluorescent orange Aran cabled turtleneck sweater with matching double-knit mittens that someone requested.
PF: So it's safe to say that the learning process never really ends.
KJ: Exactly. About 1990, a friend gave me her old knitting machine. I found an evening class and a knitting club and tried a few projects. I even convinced my daughter Emily to join me for a couple of years. I had the standard machine (thin yarns) and she had a bulky one (sport and knitting worsted-weight yarns). However, once she started high school, she dropped knitting for musical activities. (By the way, our knitting instructor was a huge Star Trek fan, and got us to go to the annual conventions in Pasadena.) I've attended a couple of knitting workshops as well, and saw several techniques, but have yet to try them all.
PF: How did the knitting machine change your knitting?
KJ: The knitting machine enabled me to make more items. I find it very difficult to hold needles of any sort now for more than 15 minutes as my hands go numb, so I can make the bulk of the item on the machine, and use hand-finishing for the details.
PF: When did you first begin thinking about items for The PEACE Fund?
KJ: When I moved to Oklahoma in 2005, I was determined not to put the machines under the bed, so I had them set up in my spare room. I was heading to Leeds, UK in 2006 for Highlander Worldwide's HLWW7 convention there, and decided I should knit something special for the Four Horsemen and Adrian, thus the "pilloghans" or "aphilows" -- blankets that fold into pillows. Carmel caught up with me in Leeds and asked if I would knit a matching PEACE design to auction for The PEACE Fund. This led to me creating one of each of The PEACE Fund logos.
PF: Your passion for it really shows through in the work.
KJ: Knitting is a form of meditation for me. It is challenging, creative, and can involve a wide variety of techniques. While it can involve a lot of repetition, it does require paying attention, or you will be picking up a lot of stitches and wishing that you did. Knitting with a machine can be more of a workout than you think and, if the yarn gets caught, you can drop all the work on the floor and need to start over. I find it the perfect antithesis to working at a highly challenged urban middle school!