In the Beginning

I am not a hoarder, or known to save much stuff. I like things clean, organized and free from clutter. But over the years I have been known to throw mementos into a box, only to get stuffed in storage and forgotten.

For our anniversary celebration I decided to drag these boxes of random clippings & such out of our upstairs storage and finally do something with them. Fortunately Jeannie is a serious scrapbooker, so we turned boxes of randomness into a visual story of SWAK.

Over the upcoming months I plan on telling you more about the memories contained in these books, along with annotations that just didn’t work in a scrapbook format.


Let me set the scene. I had just passed my CPA exam, but was embroiled in the middle of a federal white collar crime investigation. No, I’m not that interesting. I was just a witness, but can tell you it really sucks to be a witness to a mess like this. Frequent interviews with FBI agents and federal prosectors had taken its toll, leaving me unemployed and in a bit of a funk.

Mom was coming off a long stint in quilting, turned off by the new quick/machine quilting rage of the time. She was an old school hand quilter, so her interest turned back to knitting. Naturally she wanted to knit for me. If you were actively knitting around that time and remember what was usually available you’d know why a daughter in her early twenties would say “please don’t!”

Intarsia picture sweaters were all the rage at the time, but patterns were hard to find and often poorly designed. Mom, hoping to get me out of my funk, suggested I design the motifs and she’d knit the sweater. I figured there were other moms/daughters out there in the same boat and before you know it we decided to start our own pattern company.


Mom started teaching knitting classes out of her living room to ladies in our neighborhood and from her quilt group. We were still in Edmond for this first year. I set up a card table and began designing, starting with sweaters for all 50 states. It was a big undertaking. The internet was still some mysterious “information highway” that none of us really understood, so I’d check books out of the library to do research. I really have no talent in drawing, but discovered I had a knack for forming colored rectangles into pictures. I’ve even designed Mount Rushmore in knit, and that isn’t easy to do!

Our first ad appeared in the fall of 1993, in the Winter 1994 edition of Vogue Knitting. The orders and catalog requests started rolling in. We sold patterns for $14.50, which was really expensive at the time. People weren’t accustomed to paying much, if anything for a pattern. But our patterns were large, not mass produced, and unique so our price was well justified.

Finding the all of the colors needed for our designs could prove difficult if not impossible for knitters, many without access to a yarn shop. Plus purchasing full skeins when only a few yards were required would make for quite an expensive sweater, so we offered kits for $110.

Initially we used a cotton yarn from Crystal Palace in our kits. It came coned, so we would wind off yardage needed for each kit on a contraption my dad hobbled together for us. Initially the contraption was powered by a motor dad snagged off of my great grandmother’s antique sewing machine. Boy was mom mad! Plus it would overheat, and we’d have to cool it in a bowl of ice. I can still smell that nasty motor. Dad improved the contraption by replacing the (now ruined) sewing machine motor with a Makita drill. It still works! Sometimes I drag the contraption down from the storeroom for different projects, but no one could operate it quite like mom!

A rare picture of the contraption in action. That’s me with dad behind the swift. Mom must have taken the picture.

And this my friends is how it all began.



  • Shawndalynn Wilkinson

    18.03.2018 at 14:56

    I love your pictures especially the cats.

  • Linda W.

    21.03.2018 at 21:41

    I love all the creativity that went into starting the business, from your drawings to the “contraption” motor.
    My best friend’s late mom was an avid quilter. She made a baby quilt for Caleb when he was born, all hand-stitched. It has a little tag on it that says, “May you know happiness all your life.” It’s one of the most precious things I own. My friend hasn’t been able to bring herself to go through her mom’s things; we’re looking forward to doing that together when I go home to visit this summer. I’m sure I’ll be bringing some quilting patterns home with me.
    She’s also the reason I keep trying to learn tatting; she made notecards by drawing designs on blank stationery, then completing them with tiny tatted flowers. Someday, with Anna’s help, I know I will get the hang of it!

  • Rosemary Smith

    04.04.2018 at 20:13

    Keely–I’m enjoying your ” Celebrating 25 Years” 1993 walk down memory lane. I look forward to more. Thanks for sharing.