23 March 2010


I have my Grandma Sally's tatting shuttles.  I keep them in a little drawer with my knitting needles and crochet hooks, but the shuttles have their own little case, a gold one with a latch that clicks shut.  Two of them are plastic, but my favorite is made of metal.  Sometimes, I take them out of the case just to look at them.  They're special, because they connect me to the memory of my grandmother.  But here's the sad truth: I don't have the faintest idea what to do with the things.

Grandma Sally was one crafty lady.  Besides the tatting, she also made stationery sets by painstakingly cutting designs from old greeting cards and pasting the artwork onto colored sheets of paper.  I'm sure she had plenty of other projects going on, too.  It's my bad luck, then, that she died when I was so little.  The only arty thing I really learned from her was to make circular patterns when I colored with crayons, because it filled the space faster and gave everything an even look.  (This really does work and I've shared it with every rookie crayon-user I've ever met...)

I know I'm not the only one who missed out on that intergenerational exchange of handwork skills.  Maybe we were too young to learn the lessons our elders tried to teach us, or too stubborn, or just not there at all.  Now that we're grown and eager to continue the traditions, we've found that we have to be pretty creative in how we find the knowledge we need.  Knitting circles, co-ed craft nights, and community exchanges like Seattle Free School have helped to fill the void.

My favorite new place to pick up a skill might turn out to be a light-filled space in the Phinney/Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle.  At Assemble Gallery and Studio, co-owners Andie Wurster and Emily Grosse have created what I have a hard time describing as anything but a dream come true.

For starters, there's the shop.  I couldn't begin to resist a place that carries the work of artists like Nikki McClure, Love + Luck, and The Small Object.  And the little jars of knitting needles, thimbles, and sewing scissors just really make me want to stock up on knitting needles, thimbles, and sewing scissors.

But more exciting for me than the shop--or the inspiring gallery--is the studio, which hosts classes that range from squeaky-toy making to t-shirt quilting.  If you're intrigued, the current class listings are here.
Given our recent fascination with table cloths, the block printed table linens class is probably the one I'd start with.

The very best part?  The studio hosts custom events.  Like, say, bridal showers?

I don't know.  Maybe taking a class is cheating, but if a class is what it takes to help me master hand embroidery or the inner workings of my nasty, nasty sewing machine, I think my Grandma Sally would be proud.

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