Signature certainly has come a long way since its “birthday” June 18, 2007. Lots of growth, lots of growing pains and lots of wonderful customers who we feel are friends. When those of us here from the beginning sit around and do some of the “remember how we used to…” we have to laugh and feel a real sense of joy in how far we have come.
I know many of you have enjoyed the “Signature Circle” where you can meet some of our special customers. We hope that this will help you and us open up to how wide the world of knitting really is. In thinking about how far we have come we wanted to introduce you to a special knitter and designer who is from a special place, St. Petersburg, Russia, which is it turns out is a mere 4546 miles from the home of Signature. But as we have come to know Maria she seems like a friend from close by.
Her life story and life in a fabulous city is one we will share with you with our best wishes on our 5th birthday:
1. When did you learn to knit? Did someone teach you or are you self-taught?
My mother taught me when I was 6. Sure, you cannot expect a 6 year old to produce tailored cardigans, but my education started there. My mother is a wonderful knitter herself, so along with her experience and advice, I had the advantage of wearing the hand-knitted garments from infancy. And I learned to appreciate it and the wonder of making things with one’s own hands.
2. How much time do you knit in a week?
One hard question. Sometimes I wish I had more knitting time, because I was too busy, and sometimes I wish I had less, because I was slack on my duties. In average, I knit every day for about an hour, except when I have no time for myself at all. It makes 7 hours a week – come to think of it, may be a little bit more.
3. Are you a stay at home person or do you have other work outside your home?
My speciality is software programming, and my work is in an office. I find it very productive, that my hobby and job differ so widely – it produces a nice drive when I turn from one to another. It’s like some part of my brain is at rest, while the other is powered on. The well-rested mind can come up with all sorts of new ideas and is most willing to bring them to life. The best kind of quiet relaxation is a book and knitting. Preferably with a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate. I cannot pretend to drink tea at the same time as I read and knit, but somehow the relaxation process envelops all of it in alternating bits. Most enjoyable! However, my interests on vacations are in exploring other places. I like to spend a week with my husband in a city or a country we haven’t been to before, going to all sorts of museums, walking the streets and trying to get a whiff of the place. It’s a nice change also to spend a fortnight in a seaside resort, using it as our headquarters and venturing out on short expeditions. It always feels awesome to return home, though. Wherever we trip, we like our home best.
4. Tell us a bit about your beautiful home city of St. Petersburg?
Well… when there is so much to say, it’s always hard to choose a small part and be brief. My city was a capital of Russian Empire for more than 200 years, and the capital was transferred to Moscow only after the Revolution in 1917. When so much of money, talent, craft, and driving urgency are in one place for such a long time, it cannot but produce a great heritage. The historic city center spreads wide, and it is prohibited to build modern buildings there, to preserve its original beauty and harmony. You can walk along the granite-clad waterfronts and look on panoramas of palaces and monuments, all united to create a perfectly balanced views, one after another, unexpected after every corner. Most of what you see is stone and water expanses, but here and there noble trees peek out from behind carved stone walls or wrought fences. And if you just step there – you will see an absolutely different picture, gardens and small laid groves of oaks, maples and chestnuts, marching along the grand stone views, but not so evident on first sight. I cannot say that nothing in the world will interest me after my city – quite the reverse, I love to travel and see new places, it’s always a source of wonder and excitement to me. But with years I understand that nowhere I could be quite as much at ease as under these frowning skies. Not only the views I love – but the great potential too. If I would wish to pursuit more thoroughly some art or science, I know I can find here all grades of education, and people distinguished in that art. As Saint-Petersburg always was a center attracting all sorts of artists, so it is now. I know there is a lot of people much more distinguished and subtle than myself – and it inspires me to aim higher.
5. Where do you get yarns?
Here we have lots of small yarn stores. May be several hundreds in the city, in all. But generally the yarn there is of poor to middling quality – mostly from Turkey, China or our homeland. I don’t use synthetics, so it cuts the choice for me by half. However, there is a number of stores of high grade yarn and supplies, which I used to frequent. Mostly I prefer Italian and German yarn – their quality/price rate is the best. Also I like to order yarns and notions by mail in Internet stores. There is a wide wealth of color and sensation, and I feel like a pioneer – an explorer to some unknown land. When you order something you have never seen before, there is always a chance you won’t like it. Or that you will like it above all the rest you ever seen. Who can say? It is a thrilling challenge for me. And of course, the choice of hand-dyed yarns on the Internet is a real treat, as they are rare in the local stores.
6. Are there locally made yarns?
Alas, Russian spun wool is not above average quality – you cannot achieve classy look for your knitted garment however hard you try. I’m sure there are plenty of sheep in Russia, some of them with fine fleeces, but I don’t know where the fleece goes. Probably to some mills in China and Turkey, and then back here as a yarn. There is some very good quality cotton produced here in St-Petersburg, on a factory not far from my work. It is one of the best choices of thin yarn for crochet. I remember having summer dresses in my childhood crocheted by my grandmother from this cotton, and even the white ones have seen a lot of wear without being the worse for it.
7. How is life different now from before the breakup of the old government?
Summing up, it is better now. But it all broke up back in 1985, when I was 7 – so mostly I remember just that there were hard times, especially after the breaking, up to ’95 at least. What was before the breaking? I’m pretty sure there was no Internet in every house, and you couldn’t find yarn ever so easy, no matter the quality. But I cannot say there was a shortage of candies, and I had my favorites. To be serious… I believe the life is much better now and more open. People have more job opportunities and more choices, and some can create the opportunities themselves – it’s great. It looks like the small business is still not at an advantage, despite all the effort of our government. But the people are willing to start on their own, so I believe something will be worked out in time.
8. Do many people knit? And what ages?
What I can say… people knit, sure. Some of the younger ones – not many. Some grandmothers, and mostly young mothers. Skill level seldom reaches high – you have to take pains, you know, to give your garment professional finish. And a lot of knitters prefer cheaper yarns, and acrylic before wool – that explains the choice in stores. So the public opinion about knitting is sometimes not very high – some people think about it as a matter of saving expenses, and look down their noses at it, saying “Ha! We have money enough to buy clothes, not knit them!”. Most people look at a knitter as at a strange beast with 5 legs, who eats iron screws and never sleeps. They are fascinated, but cannot comprehend why I would do it. And then there is a number of people who knit, who buy cute yarns from all around the world (thanks internet shops and international mail), who place their standards of perfection very high, and aim high – so that our produce are really great garments, without regard that we made them. There is not a lot of such knitters, but I suppose that is the case anywhere. Their age is from 20 to 50, as far as I can say.
9. How did you learn such perfect English?
Please let me say a great “thank you” for such an appreciation! My English is mostly due to tons of reading – I dearly love science fiction, fantasy, adventure and so forth – and quite a lot of it is written in English, so I don’t bother with translations. Thus the vocabulary and the general literary style.
10. What do you like to knit most? What kind of yarn is your favorite?
It’s hard to single something out. I knit all kind of sweaters – cardigans, pullovers, tanks and so on. I love to make out accessories for my family and friends – hats, scarves, shawls. Sometimes I fall for the sock passion and knit some pairs before the obsession burn out. I suppose this all is what I like most The same is true to my favorites. I adore all kinds of natural wool yarns, if they are super soft and well-made. And pretty, of course! High-grade merino, cashmeres, baby alpacas and their blends. Natural silk is also one of my favorites – whose not? Sometimes I like to work with some good cotton, mercerized one for crocheting and soft one for knitting. About the coloring and texture… all of it has its uses, every one is perfect for something. If the mail delivers me an order with a yarn whose beauty I cannot see right away, I usually let it rest for some time. And eventually I come up with an idea for it, to make it bloom and embellish the design. Classic solids, tweeds, hand-dyed yarns, some fluff or no fluff – my choice depends on a kind of project I plan at the moment.
11. How did you find Signature?
First I fell for an ad a couple of yours ago, but right then there were no circulars and no shipping to Russia available. And now it’s hard not to notice that most knitting teaching videos use the Signature needle – such an implicit advertising. No chance to forget about them!
12. Do you design too? How do you sell your designs? What made you start to design?
There was no start to my designing things. I did it as long as I have knit, from my childhood – but the results were not always satisfactory, and neither are they now at times. Eventually I came to make out something I like, and not ashamed to share with other people. I must say that shaping the design in my head and then in a completed project is much easier than writing it down – it’s an absolutely different kind of work, hard, but wonderful. My designs are available on Ravelry here: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/maria-petikhina. Mostly they are free downloads, but for the ones I put a bulk of work into, I charge the usual design price.
13. How does the internet affect your knitting? Shopping, social network, etc.
I learned a lot after I first discovered knitting on the Internet. To it I own my acquaintance with such world leading knitting magazines and designers, and opened wells of information on techniques and style. Also, the Internet and a digital camera is a wonderful means to communicate with knitters all around the world, and discuss details of our work. Sure, I order a lot of yarn from e-stores, too. That way I’m independent on what our local stores decide to be in popular demand and can make my own yarn collection.
14. Are there shops in your town or other places where knitters meet for social reasons or classes?
Some yarn shops are trying to introduce the tradition for several years, but it hasn’t spread very far. Though one thing speaks for them – the shops that do so are the ones with best yarns. Of course, there are always knitting classes for beginners – sometimes in yarn stores, but usually in places where all other hobby classes are being held.
15. What is the name and URL of your blog?
My blog http://linda-en-casa.blogspot.com/, by name – roughly translated to English – “A chance to talk about knitting”. I write for my blog in Russian, as my audience is Russian-speaking.
16. Can people find you on Ravelry?