Heroes and Ravens

Photo by Mette Urdahl

Photo by Mette Urdahl

This is Annemor Sundbo, and she is my hero.  She saved Norwegian knitting for Norway, and for knitters everywhere, by rescuing a ragpile.  A great article that tells you more about her experiences is HERE, but the summary is this:  As the new owner of Torridal Tweed, a shoddy mill where wool was sent for reprocessing into comforter and sleeping bag filler, Annemor discovered over 16 tons of knitting, waiting to be shredded.  And a lot of that knitting was handmade.  And a lot of that knitting was the only record of the way Norway knitted.

Because she was a fiber artist who knew what she was looking at, Annemor saved, and studied and cataloged the treasures in her ragpile.  The journey of discovery she began in the early 1980s culminated last year in her being named an official National Treasure of Norway, and still continues today.  She spoke to the knitters of Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum last weekend, and I had the great good fortune to meet her.

Photo by Annemor Sundbo

Photo by Annemor Sundbo

This sweater fragment was pulled from a gap in a wall, where it had been insulating against the cold.  Long past its usefulness as something to wear, it still was doing its job of keeping out the chills.  Annemor fell in love with its eight-pointed stars, which set her on her path of exploration of the symbolism of Norwegian hand knitting.

What was it like to meet my hero?  Nearly everything I would have hoped.  She held a mitten I was working on and proclaimed it good.  She asked what I was teaching.  When I responded that it would be introductory stranded knitting, she said she wished all the students could come to me first.  She graciously accepted a copy of my book from me.  I wanted so much to tell her what her heroic deeds have meant to me:

That without her I would never have learned as much about Scandinavian stranded colorwork as I have, living so far away from Norway.

That if she hadn't done what she did, Norway and all the rest of us might have forgotten how knitting used to be.

That the ripples of her actions have spread farther and wider than she ever could have imagined, changing my life , and probably many others.

Instead, I choked.  I gagged out something like "Thank you for so much for everything". and slunk away, because I was afraid I was going to cry, I was so overcome.  But before I did, I pointed to a photo in my book of the ravens I invented:

I wanted to show her somehow that we speak the same language, and I think she understood.  Here are Annemor's ravens; knitted long before I was born, by someone she never met:

For one of the VERY few times in my life where the power of speech abandoned me, I'm glad I at least was still able to point at a picture.