|My name is Brenda and I live in Henniker, NH where I'm owned by a cat, Leonbergers and one VDH (net-speak for very darling hubby).
I was born in Virginia to Native American parents and am a card-carrying member of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. My grandfather was a chief, my uncle was a chief and my father served as acting chief for several years. The older I get, the more I realize how important my heritage is and how much it has shaped my life and value system. Having two older brothers who struggled through reservation life during the 40's and 50's has taught me a great deal about cultural tolerance and the real value of opportunity.
My mother became a seamstress in her early teens. I think having my crib positioned next to the sewing machine was the hand-writing on the wall; I sewed my first button on a scrap of fabric before I was 2, made clothes for my dolls when I was 4 and made my first dress for myself at the age of 8. I continued to make my own clothes through high school and college.
At some point during my sewing education, I developed my first quirk. Whenever my mother would notice that I was about to take a short cut that would result in less than perfect results, she never said anything to me directly... she would quietly recite a poem to herself just loud enough for me to hear:
|I don't think any of my family or friends would say that I aim for psychotic perfection, but to this day, these words have encouraged me to always do my best.
I started taking piano lessons when I was 6. When I wasn't studying or sewing, I was practicing -- hours upon hours. In 1979, I graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory with one bachelor's degree and just a hair shy of the requirements for a second one.
In the early 80's I learned to do counted cross-stitch and began to limit my sewing to household items -- pillows, quilts, curtains and upholstering furniture. Around the same time, I discovered my first love -- anything and everything having to do with computers. I've now been a software engineer for better than 20 years and have loved every minute of it. I still love it and openly admit that I am a technology junkie.
In the early 90's, I found myself on a 6-month TDY in Connecticut and decided to take a weaving class for something to do. I think it was after the second or third class I bought a 36" 8-harnass Mighty Wolf. I still have it, but it has seen more than its share of inactivity in recent years. It seems like every household move means moving most of the toys to a spare room and setting up my Pfaff sewing machine in a more permanent location for a couple of years while I do more pillows, curtains and quilts.
I got married at the age of 40. It was the first marriage for both me and my husband who was 42 at the time. I think the best description of our relationship is that I married my best friend and we're still best friends. If I had to pick the one thing we do more than anything else, it would be laughing. It's nice to still know how to play when you've reached the era of black-balloon birthdays. Yet another reason to be thankful for my native heritage -- I've aged, but hair is still as dark as it was when I was a teenager... good thing, because I don't believe in face lifts, breast implants or hair dyes.
Fast forward to the day one of my husband's family friends called and said "we're cleaning out the attic and found a knitting machine... do you want it?". Sure, why not? So a few weeks later, here come these boxes that contain an unidentifiable machine I know nothing about and there's not a manual in sight. I poked around for a bit and ended up putting it away for fear that I'd break it. Over the course of the next several months, I was able to identify the machine as a Singer 2200 -- a French machine manufactured by S.I.T. I later figured out that my Singer was the old pegboard version of the White 1602/Superba S48. About a year later, the machine was still sitting in a spare bedroom when I get a package in the mail. The previous owner had found the manuals and I was up and running before I went to bed that night. I spent weeks practicing and doing swatches and I made my first sweater on Thanksgiving Day.
When the Singer's pegboard went kaput, I invested in a used White 1602. It suffered a little damage during shipping, but I was able to repair it for about $75 and now have a like-new knitting machine with a working selection box.
The next acquisition was a Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine. I didn't think I was going to do all that much with worsted and bulky yarns so it made sense to buy something inexpensive. This was probably one of the best decisions I've made during my short machine knitting experience. Working on the Bond forced me to experiment with hand-manipulated stitches which ultimately led to my belief that any pattern -- even hand-knitting patterns -- can be done on any knitting machine in one form or another. I eventually dumped the Bond and purchased a Studio SK-155. VDH is of the impression that I gave up my Bond because I "don't need 4 knitting machines". That's not true -- I need 4 knitting machines just like he needs 10 TV remotes, 2 DVD recorders and 3 computers. But selling the Bond did give me some extra funds for buying yarn.
I now have 3 Superbas, a Silver Reed SK-155, a Silver Reed SK-860 with ribber, a Silver Reed SK-890 with ribber, a Brother KH-860 with ribber and garter carriage and a Toyota 757 that I rescued from a curb.
The rest of the story remains to be written. I now dabble with drafting my own patterns and converting HK patterns to MK. I finally have a yarn stash, but it's not yet to the point where I have to hide it in the freezer or at my neighbor's house. I have a collection of patterns, magazines and books -- mostly old and out-of-print to complement my vintage machines. When we moved to New Hampshire, we were lucky to find a large house for a ridiculously low price... and there's a wonderful sun room that made a very nice hen den.
I'm still amazed at how things have a way of just happening if you simply keep an open mind and soak up each of life's little experiences as if you'd never have another opportunity. In addition to being one of my favorite musicians, John Lennon is also the author of my favorite quote: