Linda Gesling has a hand-knit shawl for every week of the year and a narrative to match each one.
Ever since her mother helped her learn to knit socks at 8 years old, she's been knitting.
Though knitting is trendy now, Gesling said some years "it was odd to knit."
She's made everything you would expect from an expert knitter - socks, baby blankets, sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens and gloves - but there is a favorite.
"I've found most knitters like knitting one thing above anything else," she said.
For her, it's shawls. Gesling has knit at least 50 shawls for herself, and at least 25 for others, all in different colors, patterns and moments in time.
Memory and meaning
A number of her shawls are pop culture references - the Balrog, Evenstar, TARDIS and Anne of Green Gables shawls are inspired from "The Lord of the Rings" series, "Doctor Who" and the LM Montgomery-penned series. Many of these, she admits, she made after buying the yarn or pattern just from reading the title.
"Names mean a lot to me; I'll buy a yarn based on the name," she said.
Other shawls have much more personal meaning.
"There's memory and meaning in the shawls," she said, later adding: "Shawls became associated with people. Knitting becomes a way to connect with people."
Embedded in the threads she knits are memories of trips she's taken: a three-tone blue shawl is reminiscent of the Hawaiian waves, complete with fluffy, white yarn for the foam; people she's met: a pattern designed by an Amsterdam artist she was able to do workshops and design work with; or related to her life's work: a skein of yarn named "soul food" that the Newport United Methodist pastor said she "couldn't resist".
One particular shawl, in deep purple flecked with green, maroon and blue, was knit from yarn dyed by Maegan Black. Gesling described her as a "very special, very talented dyer."
When Gesling saw Black's shawl from across the room, she knew she had to make her own based on Black's, who shares a birthday with Gesling.
When Black died in September, Gesling said she wore the shawl every day.
"It's a shawl that makes me cry almost every time I see it," she said.
Hanging on a wall in her home, Gesling has a rendering of the Biblical seven days of creation. Her favorite day in the Genesis story, she said, is the fourth day, when the sun, moon and stars were created. The fifth day of the illustration, when animals of the water and air were created, matches the aesthetic of the fourth day with its blues, greens and an aquatic hues.
Gesling commissioned dyed yarn based on the colors of those days and gave skeins to each of the women in her family.
She thinks of them each time she wears her own shawl, as well as the varied patterns the rest of them knitted.
Family is a big part of why she knits, with the craft running in their blood. Her mother taught her to knit, and her father knitted sweaters for himself. Her sisters gave up knitting for some time, but they and her mother have begun again, thanks to Gesling.
She enjoys knowing they knit and loves it when her daughters or friends borrow and wear her shawls.
"I would rather have them out in the world," she said. "I like them out in the world."
Special thoughts go into each of Gesling's creations, no matter what she's knitting. The "endless creation" and connection is what she said she loves most about the craft.
One of her favorite recent projects that's "out there in the world" is a pink hat for the Women's March she made for a friend's daughter.
"Things are knit into (projects), like my positive thoughts and my excitement for her to be politically active," Gesling said. "Your hands are moving and your thoughts are going."
'Shawl we knit'
Knitters of any experience level are welcome to join Linda Gesling and other crafters to make items for charity or learn new or basic knitting techniques.
Gesling said any skill level is welcome, as she and others will be on hand to help beginners, as will other more experienced knitters.
“We can all learn from each other, which is neat,” Gesling said.
Knitters who attended a shawl program Gesling led Jan. 30 had all different skill levels, from experts to those who only know how to do dishcloths or only how to knit with purl stitch. One member said she had knitting needles from her mother, but that’s all the experience she has with the craft.
Gesling is gathering donated yarn and needles to use for their creations.
The group of knitters will create warm clothes from gloves to prayer shawls. The items will be donated to school children through Head Start and the shawls for a women’s shelter.
“The sessions ... will focus on knitting, especially charity knitting, but also whatever people want,” she said.If you go:
Knitting meetings are held at Newport United Methodist Church, 1596 11th Ave. The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27. They will be held every other week. Donated knitting needles and yarn will be provided, but knitters are welcome to bring their own.