Do you know that we are only five days away from getting in to our new home? I am giddy, nervous, excited, anxious, and not sleeping a whole lot... But there are still more teachers to introduce you to! So the next in our series...
One of the first times I ever spoke with Melinda Titus she was wearing the coolest mittens. I knew immediately that I wanted to get to know this woman. I have not been disappointed. Nor will you. She is a great teacher!
Melinda has been knitting for almost as long as she has been breathing. Her grandmother taught her when she was very young. Her first actual project was a seventeen-foot long orange and purple scarf. She knits in the European style, considered the most "efficient" way to knit. Sometimes she uses patterns when she knits but more often she likes to create her own ideas, which often seem to develop on their own as her projects progress. She loves using natural fibers and beautiful stitches to create heirloom pieces.
“I have taught knitting for over thirty years. Men, women and children have taken my classes. I strongly believe that the process of knitting should be as pleasurable as the final product. Knitting need not be limited to garments, I have created bowls, wall hangings and sculptural pieces as well as clothing items.”
“I am inspired by the world around me. I love to watch the ocean and sky on a gray day and try to count how many different grays I see and then go home and create something based on that vision. I have used knitting as a way to keep a journal, over time knitting a few rows daily on one piece using stitches and colors that reflect my thoughts and mood of that day. I can get lost in my knitting and find that hours have passed during what seemed only minutes. It is a skill and craft I love to share with others. I am largely self-taught, though I have attended workshops and classes over the years. One of the skills I like to pass on to my students is problem solving, how to figure out something on your own with whatever resources you have available at the time.”
Melinda grew up in Washington D.C. She went to museums often from an early age and was always drawn to the textiles. She studied archaeology at the University of Idaho and the University of Washington. Maine has been her home since 1988. Currently she divides her time between Peaks Island and a home in town on the Portland Peninsula. She has three grown daughters, one grandchild, a husband (who has not yet learned to knit), and a stubborn Scotty dog named Muffin.
AGOS: What made you first take up knitting? Did you learn from someone dear or important to you?
MT: I learned to knit from my grandmother. She was in the hospital flat on her back recovering from cataract surgery, (Back then it was a big deal, she was in bed for a week with her eyes bandaged) she suggested I get my mom to buy some yarn and needles for each of us and she would show me to how to knit. Well my mother got the supplies, orange, purple and white yarn and two sets of needles. I chose the white for Nannie and I kept the purple and orange for myself. She proceeded to lay there on her back, eyes bandaged, and and demonstrate how to cast on and then knit. I pretended I was doing it, but I was much more interested in watching the cartoons on tv. At some point a nurse came in the room and announced that I really should try to learn. I was busted, so I picked up the set of needles followed along with Nannie and I haven't put my needles down since. That was more than fifty years ago.
AGOS: Do you have a favorite project, something that you are particularly proud of?
MT: My favorite thing to knit tends to be whatever my current project is.
AGOS: Who are your design influences?
MT: Over the years I have been influenced by many knitters, Elizabeth Zimmerman because of her ingenious concepts and methods. Kaffe Fassett and Stephen West have been inspirational because of their fabulous use of color. Of course all of the many knitters I have interacted with over the years who have shared their clever ideas. Knitters tend to be very friendly and generous folks.
AGOS: Do you have a favorite material or fiber to work with?
MT: I really only like working with natural materials. Over the years I have worked with so many different materials. I have knit with seaweed, wire, sheets ripped into strips, and old vines. It is important in any project that your material reflect what you are trying to achieve. Skimping on material is usually a huge mistake. Your yarn need not cost a fortune, but it should always be of good guality. I tend to favor high quality wool. There are also some really interesting blends available now. Currently I am working with a cashmere/linen blend.
AGOS: Why do you knit?
MT: I always have my knitting with me. When my daughters were young I would keep a project in the car. I find knitting to be very calming and grounding. I could never sit and just watch tv, I have to have my knitting or I feel naked and agitated.
AGOS: Coffee of tea?
MT: Coffee, unless its after 5, then wine.