At Knitty City, we love stories, and one of the things we particularly enjoy is learning about how a knitter came to the craft. So, when we met Wallace Boyd, we couldn't wait to ask him about his own journey. He did more than tell us, he agreed to be a guest blogger...
My Knitting Story
Wallace Bass Boyd
Raised in the Heart of Dixie, I am first and foremost a southern storyteller. It began early: On cool summer evenings and warm winter nights, my father and I often found ourselves on the porch of our small green house in West Point, Georgia, talking about everything from politics to the Bible. Sometimes those discussions would have a gentleness to them that allowed us to watch each car pass out of view; at other times, they would be so intense that neither one of us saw anything but our own anger, and one of us ended up walking away from the conversation in a huff. “Let’s just procrastinate it,” my father often said when he was through talking.
My mother was not a porch sitter. With her gardening, cooking, sewing, and working her two blue-collar jobs as a maid and a factory worker, she was too busy to tell stories on the porch. She saved her stories for the Ladies Savings Club meetings that she hosted at least once a month. It was there that my mother told her tales of family struggle, work troubles, and clever financial management to her lady friends who would either erupt into laughter or nod in quiet, respectful agreement.
Although I was forbidden from contributing to these “grow folks” conversations of my mother’s, I listened as much as I could, especially when my mother would summon me to play the piano to entertain her friends.
My mother and great grandmother sewed. I learned color theory by accompanying my mother to the fabric store. While she shopped the fine paisley, cotton, and seer-sucker offerings, I tunneled my way through cathedrals of fabric bolts leaning against one another. This is how I learned about colorways.
I started knitting seriously in 1997 after I finished Florida State University's Masters of Mass Communications program in Tallahassee, Florida. Suddenly in possession of a degree that was personally unfulfilling for me, it was a time of personal upheaval and starting over. Seeing my angst, a long-time friend turned me on to Julia Cameron’s seminal self-help creative recovery book, "The Artist’s Way", in which she counsels blocked creatives to get a hobby as part of her 12 week program. I chose knitting.
So, in time, when I was looking for an inexpensive way to quickly improve my knitting skills, after moving to Washington, DC in January 2001, a knitting-crochet support group seemed a perfect fit for me because of its potential for social circle storytelling. Shortly after arriving in Washington, I posted a call for help on a Washington area knitter's listserv, with the intention of starting a face-to-face knitting group. I connected with a Takoma Park, Md. woman who wanted to form such a group, Together we decided to call it "Knitting-n-The-City", after the popular television show “Sex and the City.”
Starting with a monthly meeting on the 4th Tuesday of each month, the now-defunct free support group began meeting in Takoma Park in February 2001. It eventually spread to each of the DC quadrants, with groups meeting monthly, on different days of the month. By 2005, the email list had almost 250 subscribers who supported each other on-line and in-person, sometimes several times a month.
While I came to Washington with basic knitting skills and excellent manual dexterity, thanks to piano studies and manual typing skills, it was Knitting-n-The-City that allowed me to flourish.
Today, I am making a name for myself in the fiber arts world under my brand “That Brother Can Knit!”. In my early days of knitting, people were so fascinated by seeing me knitting in public that I decided to capitalize on it.
Now, I sell my self-published book and stranded knitting designs under that moniker. The name brand grabs people’s attention, and it reflects my awareness of the novelty of my fiber arts practice. In addition, I tell inspirational and transformational stories about knitting. “Knitting My Father Breath” is my favorite.
Author of That Brother Can Knit: A Creative Memoir of A Black Gay Man From Alabama (lulu.com), Wallace Bass Boyd is a creative writer, multicultural storyteller, and folk fiber artist. He has taught knitting classes at the prestigious John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina and in craft stores in Washington, DC. He also enjoys empowering others to tell their story. He has taught memoir writing workshops to New York City elders at the Riverdale YHA and the JASA Coop City senior centers. Look for his knitwear designs at quality yarn shops and on Ravelry.com. Following is a brief slide show of some of his designs. Wallace will be appearing on First Thursday, Feb. 2, at Knitty City, from 6:00-8:00PM. Please join us.