Katrina Buckland has a whole room in her house allocated for her yarns and knitting. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Katrina Buckland has a whole room in her house allocated for her yarns and knitting. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Heart of Our City: Keeping us warm

Katrina Buckland shares a good ole’ yarn about her knitting

Katrina Buckland says she fell in love with the beauty in Prince Rupert before she moved to the city almost two years ago.

Having now purchased a home in Port Edward, Katrina has become comfortable in the area and has been getting to learn of its lifestyle and sees how self-sufficient many of its residents are. Katrina said she feels at home with self-sufficiency and said there are many life skills being lost because people are not learning them or passing them along – including herself. That’s why she cans and jars produce and taught herself to knit.

She and her partner Shawn had been living in Quesnel when they came to check out the region for new job possibilities.

Katrina had worked more than 10 years in the hotel and hospitality industry and knew straight away that she wanted to work in the hotel where the couple stayed on their investigative expedition prior to making the north coast their permanent home. She became employed at the Crest, but due to COVID-19 is on lay off, where she can quietly devote her time to her passion for knitting.

“I’m not a big city person, ” Katrina told The Northern View. “I’m a small-town girl. I love small towns.”

Katrina lived in Edmonton once – for a month, but the metropolitan burgh didn’t appeal to her.

She spent the first six years of her life living near Williams Lake in a one-room cabin in the bush without running water or electricity. Self-sufficiency was taught to her from birth. She and her brother had the freedom to play and learn about the outdoors and taking a bath in the summertime was usually a jump in the lake, she said.

Her step-father had been given a piece of land and at the time things were financially tough for the family. After a few years, her parents built a log house with four bedrooms across the lake from the cabin – still with no running water or power.

“We lived like that for about three more years, it was pretty tough. We lived off the land,” she said. “My mom was in her early 20’s with two little kids. She needed to be closer to civilization.”

Her parents eventually purchased a store ‘just down the hill’ from their log house, where they sold cigarettes and pop before turning it into a second-hand store. The family moved into space above the business, where they had electricity and running water.

Katrina laughed when said sometimes the children would come from school and furniture would be missing.

“All of a sudden we’d turn around and realize, ‘Where’s the couch?’, and Dad would just say ‘Oh, we sold it,’ then he would just go and buy another. Gradually they just built up their business,” she said. They have owned it now for more than 30 years.

Katrina said she grew up watching her mother and her grandmother knit. Her mom would knit clothing and her grandmother would knit socks. She remembers every year her grandmother would knit and knit busily in the months preceding Christmas. Everyone in the family would be given a new pair of knitted socks, tied together with a yarn bow and addressed with a label, from her grandmother.

“I would watch her knit. I never really had the desire to learn when I was a child. I crocheted stuff, but it was Grandma who would sit for hours every day and knit to make sure everybody got at least two pairs of socks each winter.”

Katrina’s grandmother learned to knit during the war years and would knit socks for the servicemen. She carried on knitting when she had her own family.

After her grandmother passed away, it was five or six later Katrina said to herself that someone needed to learn the skill because no one was receiving any socks, and the tradition needed to be carried on in memory of her grandmother.

“It was my turn to learn. So, I just sat down and started watching Youtube videos and taught myself to knit,” she said.

“When I grew up my mom was always busy because she worked in the store. They (her parents) worked every day of the year for 10 hours a day. Of course, somebody had to learn to cook and clean and right help out. So eventually, I learned how to cook and I learned how to can and I learned all those techniques, ” Katrina said. “At the time, I hated it, but now I’m an adult, and I’m like, ‘Wow’ – I have those skills. Today, a lot of those traditions, like being able to can peaches, are lost.”

Katrina, who is in her early 40’s, said those homemaking life skills of self-sufficiency are no longer taught like when she was younger.

“Even when we moved into town ‘down the hill’, as kids we more inclined to be outside playing, or in the bush with our friends. I spent most days riding horses in the bush or on my friends’ farm,” she said. “I wouldn’t say we were the ‘wild child’ but basically that’s just how we lived. We were just doing our thing. We didn’t know what an X-box was. We grew up outside being chased by geese.”

It wasn’t until Katrina took a knitting class with an in-person teacher when the instructor noted to her that she was knitting ‘right’ even though she was left-handed. Katrina said it had never dawned on her to knit any other way, as she was just following what she had seen all her life. Even when she had tried knitting as a child her mother and grandmother had always found it a challenge to teach her and never shown her differently. Katrina still does not primarily knit ‘left’, but is now able to knit both ways.

“I’m at the stage where I know both ways because there are patterns that require you to hold two yarns at once,” she said.

Katrina said she loves a challenge and loves to test herself with new techniques and patterns. She recently has set up a social media page to start her home-based business. While she does knit custom orders in between knitting socks, sweaters, baby clothing, and hats, she said she doesn’t want to become like a factory. She does all of her sales by word of mouth or online.

“I’m always looking for the next project. It’s got to challenge me,” she said. She is teaching herself fair isle knitting, which is an art where patterns and multiple threads of coloured yarn are used in a project.

One of Katrina’s beliefs is that knitting is done for the love of it and not the profit of it. At Christmas, someone ordered a sweater. It took her about 30 hours to complete and she charged just $50. She charges $25 for a good quality adult-sized pair of knitted socks and said she is concerned to charge more in case people think the cost is too high. She knits eight hours a day, and it can take two days to make a pair of socks using five knitting needles at once.

When the mathematics of it and cost efficiency was pointed out, she nodded and said she knew. She has done the math herself.

“I don’t want it to be crazy – just a home-based business so when I can knit, I knit. I don’t want to get too big because then it takes the love out of the project,” she said. “I want to keep it at a level that it’s homemade. So it’s built with care and love — because that’s what it’s based on. So I don’t want to be like some kind of factory.”

Katrina is well stocked up with wool, yarns, and knitting supplies which she said are hard to purchase in Prince Rupert since the yarn store closed. She said she bought boxes of supplies from when the store went out of business. If she needs something she orders online or goes to Terrace every few weeks.

She doesn’t want to stop knitting, and Katrina said she certainly has the time during COVID-19 to sit with her cat Willis by her side as she keeps growing the warmth for people in Prince Rupert stitch by stitch.

“I don’t want to lose that passion for it or that it just becomes so monotonous that I feel I have to do it. I like it when I get an order and can say, ‘O.K. I can handle this — I can get this done and still enjoy the process of doing it.”

READ MORE: Heart of our City: Heart for business resilience – Sarah Ridgway

K-J Millar | Journalist
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As well as knitting clothing, Katrina Buckland collects buttons and has more than 200 salt and pepper shakers. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

As well as knitting clothing, Katrina Buckland collects buttons and has more than 200 salt and pepper shakers. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

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