There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t have a craft project in my hands. I have always taken great pride and pleasure from making things and I have a special interest in how they are made.
I still have strong, clear memories of building a “fort” out in the woods with neighborhood kids and weaving cattails through the saplings to define the walls. But, apart from that fort, most of my strongest childhood memories revolve around sewing. I remember a very sweet, young teacher asking me if my mother had sewed my coat – a sturdy tweed with a velvet collar – and I was mortified. I was in second grade and ashamed of the fact that my mother sewed most of my clothes. You see, I thought it was because she was a single mother and we didn’t have a lot of money. I didn’t understand that the teacher was impressed with my wardrobe and that little couture coat.
It took me years to realize that (although she could have) my mother didn’t sew my brothers’ clothes and the things she made for me were both an act of love and her own creative outlet. It wasn’t until my first home economics class in 7th grade that I really understood and appreciated the skills that both Mom and my grandmother (Oh! Those smocked dresses!) shared with me.
When the teacher told the class we would be learning how to sew on a sewing machine to make gathered skirts and aprons I was shaken because I had long since moved past such simple, uninteresting projects. After class I quietly told the teacher that I was working on a reversible linen jacket from a Vogue pattern and offered to bring it to class to show her. When she inspected the garment and said I could continue working on it in class, it felt like a huge victory! And it was probably the moment when I began to realize how special all those hand-made clothes really were.
So, over the years I honed my sewing skills and began to branch out to other textile crafts. In college I embroidered 48 different wild flowers for a quilt top and now wish I had chosen a better fabric than dime-store gingham for the base. I also started hand knitting and shortly after Arthur and I were married we traded a piece of his artwork for a loom. Weaving led to spinning and dyeing and eventually to a busy studio with a dozen looms for teaching.
The weaving studio was my entrée to the National Needlework Show in NYC in the early 80’s. A two-hour workshop on a Superba knitting machine changed the entire direction of my life. The abbreviated version of the story is that I took a job with the U.S. importer for Passap and Superba knitting machines, and then went on to work for Singer as an educator. From there I became the Education Director for knitting machines for Viking White, the distributor of Silver Red machines in the U.S.
Along the way I wrote Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters and produced videos and workbooks and a variety of training materials for Studio. I worked with all the equipment before we introduced new products into the line. In fact, I am still knitting on the first SK860 that came into the country in the early 90’s and just recently did a major cleaning and overhaul.
(By the way, many of the teaching materials I developed for Studio are available on my web site (www.guagliumi.com) along with lots of other free downloads.)
People often ask me if I do any electronic knitting and the answer is yes – but – it isn’t what makes my heart beat faster. All my years of sewing, weaving, beading, hand knitting and basket making have made me a lover of the process, more so than the product. I was hooked on hand manipulations as soon as I crossed my first cable on a Passap back in the 80’s.
I have always found great satisfaction in craft and still take sheer delight in what my hands can accomplish. For me, it all meshes together as sort of a textile “stew” as I merge a little from all the media I have enjoyed into a recipe of my own. I think my Mom and my grandmother (who thought I had “golden hands”) would be proud of my stitching and I still get vivid flashes of them both at the strangest moments. Like when I find myself holding pins in my mouth as I turn up a hem – just as I saw each of them do so many times.
I am quite sure that few of us ever bought a knitting machine because we needed a sweater. I know that I got involved for the love of learning and for the creative expression a machine afforded me. After the slow pace of dressing a loom, the immediacy of machine knitting was astounding!
It is so easy to be seduced by what the machines can do and forget that we can make the machine do our bidding instead. I’d like to see us all produce fewer sweaters, but better, more interesting and more individual sweaters.
I live in Connecticut with my husband of 47 years, Arthur. My son is married and lives nearby with his beautiful wife and two energetic boys. The current line up of furry creatures our the house includes Arlo, a black lab who keeps the biscuit companies in business and Buster, a 7-toed stray who moved in for good about 12 years ago.
In addition to machine knitting, I am a gardener, sewer, beader and enthusiastic cook – all of which probably explains the fact that I usually have an aching back, neck or hands! I seem to spend half the year focused on machine knitting and the other half digging in the dirt outside.
I plan on using this blog as a teaching tool as often as I can. And because students always request videos of the various manipulations that I teach, I plan to keep you supplied with short, instructional videos. I have begun working my way through all three of my books (and the fourth on its way) to illustrate the fine points and the little tricks that lead to success. I hope you will subscribe to my blog and that you find the information useful and fun! Welcome!