This year we journey together to explore our knitting roots and learn more about knitters and designers of many different backgrounds. Enjoy this guest post by Beatriz (Betty) McTernan, who designs jewelry for knitters, as she tells us about her family’s immigration from Cuba and her renewed political activism.
For me, knitting and politics became intertwined in my life. It started the classical way. My grandmother taught me how to knit. This was a few years after I emigrated with my family from Habana to Miami. For those who are old to remember, this was during the 1960’s and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Russia and the US were at a nuclear standoff. (Does this sound familiar today?). Luckily, the situation was resolved, but my parents livelihood was completely destroyed by a communist Cuba under the regime of dictator, Fidel Castro. My parents had to start from scratch, learning to speak a new language, learning a new culture, and trying to find a way to put food on the table. My father and uncle left Cuba first to find a place for us to live in Miami. Yet finding a hotel to stay while looking for a home was difficult when the hotel signs said, “No Negros, No Cubans, No Dogs.” I was a small girl at that time and I will never know what other hardships my parents went through in those early years. I continued to knit scarves, sweaters, and hats with my grandmother’s loving guidance. But I stopped while I was in high school, then college. I was simply too busy with my studies. I was a political science and French major. I wanted to be a diplomat in an exciting nation. But the year I graduated, American diplomats became hostages in Iran. This definitely put a damper in my plans, so I enrolled in graduate school to study business. Soon after I began knitting again, but taking Spanish knitting lessons because that was how I was taught by my grandmother. I soon met my future husband, a handsome Irish-American and ended up marrying and moving to Connecticut. There were some adjustments, including the weather. But this meant more sweaters; therefore, more knitting. I had one big problem, though, I could not knit “in English.” I couldn’t read an English pattern. I felt just like my parents; I had to start all over. I was very determined and eventually became very proficient. While busy knitting, I was dreaming of starting a business in the yarn industry. You may ask, why a jewelry business in the yarn industry? Well, I could not knit for 10 years. I had overdone it. I was knitting for others, doing finishing work, working at a knitting store, giving private knitting lessons, and doing my own personal knitting. I felt like my hand was a flat tire and I couldn’t patch it up. I was going crazy. I needed to do something crafty. One year I gave Jewelry making a try, and curiously enough, my hands did not hurt. I became proficient and sold many necklaces. Yet, I still could not knit. Ten years passed when finally a doctor diagnosed me with severe neck arthritis. The miracle cure was Botox shots on my shoulders. But I also take breaks from knitting, do exercises and stretches to strengthen neck, shoulder, and back muscles. After the blessing of a second chance, I opened my online store, www.jewelryforknitters.com blending the love of knitting and jewelry making. It is a very niche market where I sell high quality jewelry geared toward knitters. My designs usually include a heart motif to express the love of these two crafts. The Swarovski Crystals Heart Shawl Pin/Pendant is my classic design. It not only looks beautiful pinned to a shawl, but it can also be worn as a pendant necklace. My political activity was dormant for the past several years. This year with the total hatred of the majority of the American population expressed by the new president, indignation and political activity were reignited. I needed something, however minor, that would oppose his agenda. This inspired me to create the Rainbow Shawl Pin/Pendant. This Pin is circular with Swarovski crystals in rainbow colors,a yarn ball charm, and a Swarovski Crystal Heart on the stick pin. The Rainbow Shawl Pin/ Pendant expresses the love of all people, and who better to channel that love than knitters. Now I don’t know if all of my jewelry will be politically inspired in the future, but I can tell you I will knit and create with my heart full of love, and always putting a little sparkle on your knitwear! Beatriz (Betty) McTiernan