HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 2, 2006

Heritage shows in Sue Asplin's knitting

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Sue Asplin of Dassel displays and sells knit caps from her Berry Patch collection at Latte Da Coffee Shop in Dassel. She knits a strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry and blackberry caps and pumpkin caps. The money from the sales goes to missions at her church, Evangelical Covenant Church of Dassel, she said.

Her real passion, though, is knitting Scandinavian sweaters, Asplin said.

Asplin, a native of Independence, Wis., actually went to Norway to buy authentic patterns, yarns and buttons for them.

“My stepfather grew up in Norway so he could help me translate the patterns,” she said.

Asplin started knitting Scandinavian sweaters while she was still in high school. “My mother was a knitter and she taught me as a child,” she said.

Asplin enjoys the bold, contrasting designs and Nordic themes in the patterns. A stand alone stitch in a field of stand alone stitches is called a “snowflake,” in Norwegian, for example. To most Americans, though, the stitch looks like a tiny heart, she said.

“It’s such a sense of accomplishment, because they are challenging,” Asplin said.

Cardigan Scandinavian sweaters are knitted all around as pullovers are. Then, using a sewing machine, Asplin sews two parallel seams down the front and cuts between them. Next, she sews bands on the cut edges and around the collar. The sleeves are cut and sewn with seams also, Asplin said.

One of her favorite Scandinavian sweaters is a pullover with large and small snowflake designs on it, called, the Norwegian Olympic pattern. It was created for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Asplin said.

Asplin’s family descended from the people of the Garthus valley area in Norway. Her maiden name is Garthus, also.

She and her husband, Myron (Ted,) who died four years ago, named their son, Garth, after her Norwegian ancestors.

Not only does knitting keep her in touch with her heritage, but also challenges her. Scandinavian sweaters have patterns that are more difficult to read than others, she must be careful to count the stitches, and carry the color across in the inside, Asplin said.

“I enjoyed doing it with my mother as a child and continued doing it,” she said.

Asplin’s mother taught her to carry the second color loosely across the back so the pattern doesn’t pucker, and keep her gauge even, she said.

Asplin is now teaching her grandsons, Peter, 6, and Michael, 8. how to knit, too. They are the children of her son, Jay, and his wife, Maria Asplin of Dassel. She bought them some “masculine” camouflage-colored yarn and taught them a little story to recite that guides them through the knitting steps, Asplin said.

The left needle is the forest where the completed stitches are. The right needle is the hunter. “The hunter goes into the woods, around the tree, out the other way, and out of the forest,” they recite for each stitch.

Knitting is more popular than ever, Asplin said. “There are so many different, different yarns now,” Asplin said.

Knitting also has a kind of therapeutic affect. When Asplin was recovering from cancer surgery, she knitted a sweater with a floral pattern.

“No two rows were the same,” she said.

It was the most difficult pattern she ever did. The difficulty distracted her enough, though, that it made recuperating from the surgery much more tolerable.

The little children’s caps from her Berry Patch collection are easy patterns, she said. “These are really for recreation,” Asplin said.

Asplin has lived for the past 20 years in her home on a hilltop along Long Lake, north of Dassel. Before that, she lived in Cokato for 18 years, where her sons, Garth and Kirk still live.

Asplin recommends those who want to start knitting, take a class.

“Most yarn shops have good classes, so does community education,” she said.

Latte Da also hosts a group of beginners and experienced knitters on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Asplin said it’s not a formal class. The members talk, laugh and show each other their knitting projects, she said.

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