Unorthodox Crafts
 
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In April of 2009 I wandered into Tess' Yarns in Portland, Maine totally by accident.  My best friend Mary Jo and I had attended a matinee at the Portland Stage Company and we had dinner reservations for six o'clock.  We had an hour to kill and it was a gloomy, rainy day.  We stumbled into the small shop primarily to escape the weather.  Just inside the door, we saw bins filled with ribbon yarn.  Neither of us could make a connection between these skeins of colorful nylon ribbon and the gorgeous knitted creations hanging above them.  The colors were the same, but how could these cheerleader pom-poms morph into such amazing tops and scarves?  We wandered through the rest of the cozy shop, met Melinda (the owner, who dyes ALL the yarn in the shop), Max the cat, and Deuce the dog.  But we kept returning to the ribbon - marveling at the range of colors, touching the unwound skeins and the knitted tops.  Such a great feel!  Such wonderful color combinations!  I was entranced.

Mary Jo and I were both knitters.  But, since I had left the busy world of medical practice behind, I had much more time to spend on the craft.  Mary Jo was still working as an Occupational Health physician.  I was a somewhat new knitter and loved to challenge myself; I enjoyed trying unusual patterns and experimenting with new yarns.  Mary Jo sensed my intrigue and offered to buy the ribbon and pattern for me to make a top for myself.  "It's a birthday present," she said.  Hmmm.....my birthday is October 1.  It was only April.  She explained that I had six months to finish making the present.  Well, I was not about to turn down such an offer/challenge! 


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I knitted the top (pictured here) in about two months.  I absolutely loved knitting with the ribbon.  The pattern was actually fairly simple to knit  (just knits and purls, no complicated lace or shaping) and I was fascinated as I watched it evolve. It started with four central stitches (just below the v-neck) and spread out from there.  It is the most striking thing I have ever knitted and it never fails to evoke comments.  Mary Jo saw it in progress, but did not get to see the finished product.  Sadly, she was killed in a car accident in June of that year. 

That is why this knitted top is so very special to me.  I wear it on my birthday every year in Mary Jo's honor.  I consider it my good luck top - I wear it when I attend my son's performances and when I do craft fairs.  And I wear it on those days when I just need to feel Mary Jo's spirit. 


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I made the first wavy scarf to use up leftover yarn.  I gave it as a gift and immediately received requests for more scarves.  I was happy to expand my product line and have an excuse to visit Tess' Yarns frequently.  Melinda's color palette is ever-changing; browsing in her shop is always a visual delight.   I began experimenting with other accessories - necklaces and bracelets - as a way of using up smaller amounts of leftover yarn.  Every ribbon product is knitted in Mary Jo's memory.  Mary Jo, who somehow knew to give me my birthday present six months early that year.  I miss her every day!