Confessions of a Knitting Fanatic: An Interview with Master Knitter Virginia Sigsworth

Posted on February 01, 2012 by kim fenton | 0 Comments

Learn how to knit at Unwind in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast Virginia Sigsworth started knitting at an age when most little girls would be more interested in playing with dolls or toys than trying to figure out the difference between a knit and a purl stitch. “I started when I was a little kid—about four or five years old,” she says. “By the time I was eight years old, I was able to knit a three-piece baby set with a sweater, hat, and booties.” Knitting quickly became an obsession for her. “I was really bad,” she confesses. “When I was in elementary school, I can remember feigning illness just so I could stay home to knit.”

Love her, love her knitting

As she grew older, Virginia’s passion for knitting only grew more intense. “I’ve always been kind of fanatical about it,” she says. “I can remember when I was a teenager I even took my knitting out on dates with my boyfriend. On dates! Who would do that? “Of course, that was when gas was a whole lot cheaper, and so our dates were mostly going out for long drives,” she remembers. “So while he was driving, I would look out at the scenery and knit.” It was on drives such as these that Virginia made her first sweater. “It was a bright red cardigan with a sailor-shaped collar. It took me eleven months to do. I still remember some of the car trips I went on while making it.” When Virginia was in her 30s, she got her hands on an old second-hand knitting machine so she could knit with finer yarns. “For a long time, I mostly machine knitted,” she says. “But these days it’s probably one quarter machine knitting, three quarters hand knitting.”

Mastering Her Obsession

Virginia decided to join the Canadian Knitting Guild and try for her Master’s Certificate when she and her partner at the time moved from Surrey to Texada Island 20 years ago. “I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of extra-curricular activities on the island – or so I thought – and so I signed up for it,” she says. It took Virginia about one year to complete the course. “But if I had been working a full-time job at the time it would have probably taken two or more years,” she says. “There are a lot of steps—about 19 or 20 for each level, and they’d all have to be sent off to someone for critiquing before I could move on to the next level. “It was a real learning curve.”

The Sock Lady of Texada Island

These days Virginia is known as the “Sock Lady of Texada island”—and for good reason. “I knit a lot of socks,” she says, laughing. “I’ve knitted socks for almost everyone on the island, from little babies to grown men.” Virginia has immersed herself in the local fibre community. “When I moved to Texada I got a job in Powell River and ended up spending a lot of time there, and discovered a local machine knitting club,” she says. “I also joined an embroidery guild on Texada… and since I’ve been house-sitting in Roberts Creek I’ve been invited to join a spinning group. So now I’m learning to spin!”

 A Never-Ending Learning Process

One of the things Virginia loves so much about knitting is that there’s always something new to learn. “The history of knitting is quite amazing,” she says. “It dates all the way back to the Egyptians… It used to be only men who knitted, did you know that?” For Virginia, knitting patterns can open a window back into times long past. “Take textured sweaters, like fishermen’s sweaters dating back to the Victorian period,” she says. “Each different village, each family used to have their own design. They used to use the sweater patterns to identify bodies that washed up on the beach when sailors were lost at sea.” But it’s not just the patterns that fascinate her. “It’s also the type of material you’re working with,” she says. “What kind of sheep did the wool come from? How is it different from other wools? There are so many questions to be answered…  It’s like studying any course at university.” Virginia says she learns a lot from the students she teaches as well. “Take the sock course I’m teaching right now,” she says. “I learn something from those ladies every night. I’m supposed to be the master knitter—and they’re the ones who are teaching me!”

Never a Dull Moment

Virginia says that knitting has filled her life with meaning in many different ways. “It’s really satisfying to sit down with a ball of yarn and create something with it,” she says. “I feel  just like an artist painting.” Her only regret is that there are so many different projects she’d like to work on, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do them all. “I’ve people over the years who tell me they’re bored and I can’t even relate to them. I don’t know what that means,” she says. “There’s never a day goes by that I don’t have something to do.” To meet Virginia in person, sign up for the upcoming lace knitting course she’ll be teaching at Unwind later this month. Click here to learn more about it!

Upcoming Workshop: Knitting Lace with Charts and Graphs

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