In my knitting adventures I often come across people who have picked up needlecrafts in response to a stressful or traumatic event in their lives. Loss of a loved one, loss of a job, empty nest, post traumatic stress- the list could go on. Author, artist and knitter Gregory Patrick is one such person. I met Gregory online and his story is both interesting and compelling. He is a self-taught knitter whose command of the craft is precise and beautiful and his workmanship is of the highest quality. He developed his interest in knitting after he spotted a sweater in a store. "I wanted a sweater from J. Crew. Cashmere. Beautiful. Couldn't afford it. I was determined to have one, though. SO I taught myself." He bought a book and taught himself to knit. But Gregory's story doesn't end at the beautiful pieces he creates: In fact, knitting is where it all begins. Knitting, as Gregory explains, literally "saved my life".
Circumstances found Gregory without a home or money. He explains, "I had nowhere to go except my grandfather’s abandoned country home 20 miles from nowhere. My income, being so far from anything, are the knitted items I sell in my shop, and the books that I sell through Amazon." Most other people in his situation would have given up but Gregory chose to dig into the skill he had taught himself that day after the cashmere sweater lit a fire in his soul for wielding a pair of needles. His product was knitted teddy bears. "What I find fascinating is that I never even intended to make bears....THEY decided they wanted to be made....so I go with whatever the needles ask of me." He opened up an Etsy shop and created the blog Madman Knitting to self promote his work. When asked about reactions to his knitting he replies, "Its odd being out in public doing it. People find me....odd? They don't wanna talk about the craft- they wanna know why a guy who looks like he works construction knits!" Stories such as this spread fast throughout the knitting community and soon many in the community were also spreading the word- and buying bears.
Circumstances in Gregory's life continue to leave him on a roller coaster but he has found, like so many of us, that knitting is an anchor. As long as he has his knitting he has a way to create income. When asked about the highs and lows in his life at the moment, he relates to me the following story: "I met one of my customers a few days ago. She asked to pick it up in person. My first local. She said the bear was for a woman who was finally, after 4 miscariages, coming to term with her first baby. That's why my bears decided to be made, I think." As an artist, especially one that produces crafts, it is a major compliment to see people using the products you make. These little bears are going places and I see them becoming heirlooms and collectibles- each carrying with it an incredible story of the resilence of the human spirit.
You can find Gregory Patrick's story, bears and books online at www.madmanknitting.wordpress.com
Leila Cook is an artist, writer and activist- she lives in Tennessee with her husand Earnie and five children. You can find her at www.leilacookartist.weebly.com