Meet the Teachers
Sandy AldridgeWhile on a family vacation as a young child, Sandy observed an elderly lady knitting. Watching the woman’s hands and fingers do an amazing dance with yarn and needles and magically creating fabric, Sandy vowed to learn this dance. Returning home, she borrowed several knitting books from the library and begged her parents to buy her yarn and needles. Days past, still no needles and yarn. Undeterred and impatient to begin, Sandy went down to her father’s workshop and found two old dowel rods and a ball of twine. She sharpened the dowel rods in a pencil sharpener, opened one of the knitting books, and proceeded to teach herself how to cast on, knit, and purl. A lifelong love and obsession with all things knitted-related was born that day - and thankfully her parents soon replaced those dowel rods and twine with some “real” yarn and needles!
Combining her background in special education teaching and love of knitting, Sandy brings over forty years of knitting experience and a passion for teaching new knitting techniques, tricks, and tips to each of her classes. A certified Knitting Instructor by the Yarn Council of America, Sandy teaches knitting classes and offers private lessons in the Richmond, Virginia area and is a knitting pattern tech editor and test/sample knitter for several top knitting designers. The best part of teaching knitting - seeing that “Aha” moment in her students’ eyes!
Debbi BowankoI grew up in a very small town in southern New Jersey and all the women in my family were crafty. My Grandma would knit baby clothes to sell and my Mother would crochet beautiful doilies and loved embroidery. One day I saw my Great-Aunt knitting and stood behind her chair and watched, I was mesmerized! The first chance I had, I set off to W.T. Grant to buy some yarn and knitting needles. My only success was a very plain garter stitch scarf, but I loved it!
I also loved crocheting and was always working on something. If I wasn’t crocheting, I was doing macramé, counted cross stitch, or making clothing with my first big purchase – a sewing machine. But I had never mastered knitting. In 2013 I joined a knitting club that sent out the yarn and two cable patterns each month. At the end of ten months, I had twenty knitted blanket squares and had learned a variety of stitches. I reconnected with an old friend who took me to her knitting group and introduced me to Ravelry.
I started knitting various patterns and then volunteering for test knits. This was a great avenue for learning construction and new stitches. Then in 2017 after a myriad of test knits, I was bitten by the designing bug. I would test someone’s design and think it would be nice if done a bit differently. I finally had to give up test knitting to make time for designing. Since 2017 I have published eight patterns and have many more on the drawing board.
Jenna HycnerI caught the knitting bug one day, more than 30 years ago, waiting on line in a grocery store and spotted a copy of Family Circle (or maybe it was Better Homes & Garden), which had a beautiful seed stitch cardigan sweater. “That was it, I just had to knit it. I can’t remember where I got the supplies, but based on the pictures in the magazine, a sweater was born. One I can still wear today. Some say teaching oneself how to knit a sweater that would likely have been labeled intermediate to advanced was a challenge not to be taken, but I had no one to tell me I couldn’t do it – not even myself. It is that attitude of fearlessness that I want to impart to my students.
Colorwork, such as fair Isle and brioche is some of my favorite work. I am also madly in love with entrelac. Knit garments with unusual construction will also catch my eye. In a class, find what you love to create. My teaching style is driven by showing you how to make decisions about projects, how to execute them well and really nail down a technique. Most classes will cover pattern reading, how to make modifications and how to hit the “easy” button – even if the project is hard.
Rebecca LaganaI’m Rebecca Lagana. I am a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. I have a degree in Crafts. I have been a maker of things my whole life. I enjoy working with fiber, metal and gemstones primarily, but also enjoy clay and painting and drawing. Jewelry is my passion and being able to incorporate fiber into my designs has been satisfying.
Diane PortwoodHi there, my name is Dianne Portwood. I have lived around the Richmond area most of my life. Going to school and college in Richmond and working during this time, I found knitting and crocheting was a great way to relax and think about other things other than what life brought my way.
At the age of nine, my grandmother taught me how to crochet. My first item was the granny square, which turned into a large pink and blue afghan. The afghan was entered in the Virginia State Fair. I won third place in the youth division. From there, I was hooked.
Knowing how to crochet a granny square, I used different stitches and turned them into many different blocks.
Not only do I find crocheting very relaxing, but I also find the finished items very satisfying. Knowing that a needle and yarn can turn into something beautiful that I can either keep or give as a gift.
I also enjoy other fibers arts, to name a few, quilting, sewing clothes, and making handbags. I have taught for over …. more years than I can recall!
Out of all the gifts my grandmother gave me over the years, the gift of crocheting continued throughout my life. I am pleased to be asked to teach others how to crochet at the Center of the Yarniverse.
Jennifer RaymondMy name is Jennifer Raymond, and I reside in the small town of Ashland, VA, which is right outside of Richmond.
I spend most of my time dreaming up patterns and preparing for my next teaching engagement. When I’m not stitching up a storm, I love to garden, dabble in photography, take long bike rides, and learn about other fiberart crafts.
With more than 20 years of stitching experience under my belt, I first learned to crochet when I was 7 years old, and knit when I was eight. But I didn’t discover my first Local Yarn Store until I attended Davidson College in Davidson, NC.
While not studying, I spent my time at the Needlecraft Center, honing my craft. While completing my degree in English Literature, I taught knitting and crochet in the summers at Chimney Corners Camp.
My senior year I took two semesters of Sculpture Class, culminating in my piece, “Rebellion Against the Sampler” winning second place in the Student Art Show. After graduation, I moved to Silver Spring, where I began Tinking Turtle, before relocating to Ashland, VA.