Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meet Renate: Finishing Queen!

When Suzanne asked me to interview Renate (Ri-NA-ta) I was thrilled. I’d heard Deb and Fran talk about Renate a lot during classes I’d taken over the years, describing this woman who can finish your work and make it look like a couple of million bucks. And I’d heard others speak of her skills, too. Suzanne likens Renate's abilities with finishing knit projects to those of a laying-on-of-hands faith healer-- yes, Renate is that talented.

In fact, she is so revered that I now realize I had, at some point, decided that Renate must be a mythical creature. Like Santa Claus. Because she was rumored to make all this magic happen, and everyone who ever spoke of her lit up. But I had never seen her with my own eyes.

Turns out Renate, who moved to the US from Germany after college, does really exist, and she can really help you finish your work. Here’s a little interview I put together from our conversation:

Spike: How did you get started knitting?
Renate: The Catholic nuns taught me in kindergarten—they gave us white yarn. If I dropped a stitch or if my yarn got dirty they would pull my pigtails. I didn’t like that, so I learned to knit. That was when I was five. I’m 62 now.

Spike: How did you learn to finish things so nicely?
Renate: The way German schools worked at the time, you would have to take what you call handiwork— knitting, crocheting. We had to do it all. You learned how to knit and how to put it together.

Spike: Is there anything you don’t like to knit?
Renate: I hate knitting socks. And gloves. My grandmother had to finish every pair of socks I started.

Spike: What do you like to knit?
Renate: Sweaters. I like to work with leftover yarn— you have to be creative and work it into a pattern. I do my own patterns-- I like cables and combining different colors. I start off and don’t’ know where it’s going to take me. While I work, I think, Maybe I’ll put a little design in the center. I don’t start out with a great plan.

Spike: Is finishing work relaxing for you?
Renate: Some projects are more relaxing than others. Some of them—they’re challenges but I enjoy doing it.

Spike: How come some knitters don’t finish their projects and instead rely on you?
Renate: I think some people just enjoy the knitting part and it either frustrates or doesn’t interest them putting it together. Some don’t feel competent. If it’s not finished correctly it looks homemade.

Spike: Have you hit any finishing bumps over the years when working on other people’s stuff?
Renate: I had lots of projects where one sleeve would be longer. I have a friend who knitted sweater in the round and it was a pretzel—she couldn’t wear it but she would not rip it. Twenty years later she still has a pretzel she cannot wear.

Spike: What’s your advice to stubborn people like me who keep trying to finish their own stuff with mixed results?
Renate: Practice makes perfect. Have fun with it. Never be afraid of something. I’ve taught many friends how to knit and sometimes they wanted to start with the most difficult pattern. I never discourage them—instilling confidence is important. The possibilities are endless.

If you want Renate to turn your pieces into a finished work of beauty, you can get her contact info by calling or visiting the shop.


lindar said...

Love this post on Renate! She and I met in the San Diego airport terminal. She was kniting, so I sit next to her. I am knitting and we start conversing, share my husband's sandwich with her ( I am nice) and then we realize we both knit out of HCW and ta da!! Kismet!! She is the sweetest ever and knits the most fabulous sweaters. Thanks for always being there for us non-finishers!! Your work is perfection!!!

c said...

This blog on Renate is so well deserved. Because we work together and we are friends as well, I get to see a lot of the projects from HCW and I am amazed at the miracles she brings to fruition. I am truly one of the people whose first sweater was a very difficult pattern, but she just smiled when I asked her if she thought I could manage it and she said "of course you can". She builds confidence, helps you think outside of the box, and has the patience of Jobe...she is a blessing to us all. Thanks Renate!