Library assistant adds twist to knitting circle
VINTON–For years, Kimberly Burnette-Dean spent her days at Explore Park’s Hofauger House. Like many 19th century housewives, Burnette-Dean’s job was to cook, care for livestock, and spin fiber into yarn. Unlike most housewives, she was doing this for an audience, mostly schoolchildren.
Watching her spin raw fiber into yarn at Yack and Yarn at the Vinton Library, it is easy to imagine Burnette-Dean in her period clothing. Change the fashion, replace the women bent over their knitting with schoolchildren, and swap the library’s large meeting room for the tight walls of a 19th century home, and Burnette-Dean could once again be at Explore Park, spinning away.
Since Explore Park closed in 2007, the former Explore Park employee has been back in the 21st century, working as a library assistant at the Vinton library. She has not let her skills from Explore Park go to waste, however.
Burnette-Dean first learned to knit as a costumed park ranger at Humpback Rocks Mountain Farm on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Her job was similar to her responsibilities at Explore Park: teach visitors about the past by showing them, mainly with old-fashioned cooking and spinning.
“I was spinning all this yarn, and I knew I needed to do something with it,” Burnette-Dean said.
Knitting was a natural fit. And when she was hired at Explore Park in 1994, Burnette-Dean took her knack for spinning and knitting with her. The skill certainly came in handy in a 19th century farm house. But in a modern library? Not as much.
Luckily for patrons at the Vinton library, Burnette-Dean found a way to merge the two careers. In April, Burnette-Dean began Yack and Yarn for knitting and crochet lovers to gather once a month.
“I had always wanted to be in a group of spinners and knitters,” the librarian said.
Burnette-Dean noticed that one of the library’s patrons, Cindy Baldwin, checked out knitting books often, and asked if she would be interested in a knitting group at the library. Baldwin, and the eight other library patrons and staff at Yack and Yarn on Tuesday night, had been looking for the same thing. From a 23-year-old library assistant to a 93-year-old grandmother, all of the women at Yack and Yarn were glad to have company.
“It’s fun to get with other ladies that knit,” Vinton resident Cara Blake said.
Blake, who is an avid knitter herself, designs hats, knits, and then sells them.
Other women were working on mittens, blankets, and scarves. The atmosphere switched from silent concentration to laughter, but usually quieted to a low murmur as the women gave each other advice.
“That’s one good thing about this group,” knitter Pam Vaughan said. “They’re willing to share their ideas.”
In fact, Burnette-Dean, who has been spinning for 21 years, was not the most experienced knitter in the group.
“I’ve probably learned more about knitting in the four times we’ve met than any time before,” Burnette-Dean said.
Nevertheless, Burnette-Dean still has a few tricks up her sleeve. In late August, she will be teaching the art of the drop spindle, something which other members of the group should not have much experience in.
Yack and Yarn meets the last Tuesday of every month at the Vinton Library, from 6:30 to 8:30.