In Europe back in the 1400s, knitting was a ‘blue’ job. Teenaged boys who wanted to join a prestigious knitters guild and trained for six years to do so. This was no “stitch n’ bitch” circle of hobbyists. The thick woollen clothing was a key to human survival and comfort. Plus, knitters made fishing nets – crucial in the middle ages and beyond. Here in 21st century Powell River, men still knit. Kevin Wilson, William Mitchell-Banks, Bill Hopkins and others are all keeping the craft alive and well.
British-born doc learned to knit from quirky & exotic travellers BY WILLIAM MITCHELL-BANKS RETIRED PHYSICIAN
boy, but because my life was so preoccupied striving to excel at academics and hen I was a small boy just be- athletics. Not until I was in practice as a junior fore the war, strangers came in family medicine did I pick up the pins to our home, and would stay a again and knitted a little blue jacket for few months. They were a various bunch. our young son – with brass buttons, just One was the crown Prince of Abyssinlike Peter Rabbit. I remember siting on ia – as it [Ethiopia] was then called – esthe beach at Barmouth in Wales (Abcaping the Italian invasion. Amongst the ermawdach) busy with it – and nobody others were a German-speaking Hungarthought anything of it. ian couple, a husband, wife and a little Another thing a year or two later came cross-eyed girl of maybe three. Small a pretty pleated skirt for our daughter. boys are not good assessors of age. (The All this was before we emigrated fifty husband, years later, turned up as a math years ago. teacher at my private boarding school.) Then, in Creston, I won a couple of The wife was a knitter, and I became first prizes at Fall Fairs, and I knew I had fascinated by the miracle of the process. made progress. Eventually she gave me a pair of green I knit Aran and Icelandic sweaters, plastic knitting pins – they tasted delihoodies for grandchildren, cardigans for cious when chewed – and taught me the Ruth, and some colourful double sided basics. scarves each side having different coDuring my school years at boarding lours. They are tricky to do, and gained school I never thought about knitting, me the admiration of the owner of Great not because I thought it unfitting for a Balls of Wool for “double knitting.” I
SIT AND KNIT: William Mitchell-Banks keeps busy knitting. have knitted Ganseys (densely knitted dark blue fisherman’s sweaters) on long steel double pointed needles. I’ve knitted garments from top down and bottom up. I can repair a frayed cuff or shorten a sleeve - that is trickier than you would think, since it means knitting down to repair something knitted up. I knit anywhere. My photo appeared in one of the Vancouver newspapers knitting while sitting in the front row at a medical meeting. This was one of the funnier things in an otherwise humdrum knitting career. At the moment I knit to keep me sane while CBC 24 hour news plays incessantly. I tell people it gives me something to
think about while I talk. But there is a mantra-like quality about knitting that approaches meditation. Buddhists may repeat “Om mahne pade om” - I repeat the basic binaries of knit-purl. I also feel part of a line going back centuries of folk knitting. It was a guild profession, and a master knitter would have traveled extensively in honing his skills. Before the industrial revolution, everyone in a family knitted, often with a small cage on their belt containing the yarn, so they could walk about. In Peru the men knit and the women spin the yarn. I feel part of that venerable tribe.
This is for carpenters, not your glasses. How will you get measured for your next pair of glasses? When you order online, you’re just guessing at how those glasses will sit on your face. But when the experts at Powell River Optometry measure your face with their professional equipment, you’re assured of the perfect fit.
• january 2017 • prliving.ca
DR JOHN WYSE AND ASSOCIATES powellriveroptometry.com #106 – 4801 Joyce Avenue In Crossroads Village