A Remarkable Two Years

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Two years ago I was in bed. It didn’t matter what time of day it was; chance are I was in bed. We didn’t yet know what was wrong with me, but we knew something was wrong. A few months earlier I abruptly took a leave of absence from my position as an Assistant Professor of Design and began the full-time search for answers. My wife, newborn daughter, and I went from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, took trips to visit specialists, even spent two weeks at Johns Hopkins. Still we had no answers. I was in bed. I wasn’t asleep; I just couldn’t move.

Eventually we learned that I had Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, a rare neuromuscular disorder, and over the next year we slowly developed a management protocol: lots and lots of meds, a crazy diet, and constant vigilance. Slowly we regained some semblance of normalcy: I was able to be a part of my wee daughter’s life; my wife gradually let some of the perpetual fear slip away; in the fall I returned to teaching in a limited capacity. Hope was returning.

One year ago we felt like the rug had been yanked out from under our feet. Because of my illness I was forced out of academia: the one thing I ever wanted to do was stripped away, what we had spent so much of the last year working toward was gone. Yes, I was still giddy to be able to move again, grateful for the ability to be with my wife and daughter again, but I must admit I was at a loss as far was what to do next. I was lost.

Six months ago my mother visited. My darling wife was at a conference in the UK (she is the most stellar young medievalist on the planet) and we were all just excited that I was well enough to be Little One’s primary caregiver while she was away, but I still needed backup – we never know when I will have problems with my HKPP. Well, a long story short, using the sewing machine my mother-in-law had given my wife the previous Xmas, my mother gave me a couple quick lessons on the sewing machine. I don’t know why, but I decided I wanted to make Little One a dress. It turned out to be more of a tunic than a dress, but here is my first sewing effort:

We would never have guessed what we had started. Over the next few months I made dozens of wee dresses. I practiced and practiced and gradually figured out what I was doing. In October I launched Way Cool Kid Dot Com and put a few dresses and some of my prints up for sale, but more importantly I was hooked. I had fallen in love with sewing and fabric. And even more importantly I had stumbled upon a new path. I am generally loath to wax hyperbolic, but I was finally refinding myself, or at least some of the parts of myself I had lost over the past eighteen months.

From there it was a logical leap to jump into textile design. I am a math geek with MFAs in Sculpture and Printmaking; I had spent the previous seven years as a design professor. I love sewing wee dresses, but I patterns were calling me. I went on a designing spree in October and November and put together six sample lines to send off. (That’s one print from each up above there; they are definitely not designed to go together.) Before too long I was emailing back and forth, and then a couple of phone calls, then an agreement, and finally a contract. I signed that contract exactly six months after that first sewing lesson. Two years after the scariest time in my life I find myself excited, ecstatic, giddy, joyous, ebullient, and just downright happy. My wee girl is a constant delight, I am married to the most wonderful person I could ever imagine knowing, and I am in the midst of embarking on a new career in the land of quilts.

So, I am now profoundly happy to announce that I have signed on with Andover Fabrics. In fact I couldn’t imagine being happier. They just put what I think is the sexiest line to come out in ages: Melissa Averinos’ Swoon. Lizzy House and her wonderful Peeps are there. And I am excited to work with them to bring what I hope to be my wonderful designs to cotton near you. I am giddy to be part of the Andover family and am counting the days until Little One and I get to roll around in yards and yards of my designs.

So, as Little One would say: Hip hip Hooray! (Insert best two-year-old yell here.)

Now, about that contest. Once again I want to thank the Fat Quarter Shop for their generosity in offering a $50 gift certificate to their shop to help celebrate. I am totally in love with FQS and want to crawl through the internet tubes to roll around in all that fabric. Thanks Kimberly. Yay you!

Not a lot of you got this one right, but luckily you didn’t have to guess correctly to win. So, the handy dandy random number generator pulled out #28: Judy Blinkenberg is our winner.

Congrats Judy, and thanks to everyone who came by, commented, and helped to celebrate the exciting news. I can’t wait to see my designs on cotton and to see what fabulous things you all make with it.

Finally, I totally need to thank the online sewing and fabric community for all of your support over these past six months. You have offered me so much advice, compassion, feedback, and warmth. You have no idea how much you have meant to me. (Insert giant hug here.) I can’t wait to meet so many of you at Quilt Market, either this spring in Salt Lake City or in the fall in Houston. I will the the extremely giddy one trying to cover up his extraordinary nervousness and general starstruckitude (that’s a word, right?).

Best,
Thomas

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