Jos Memories from Jessica and Harriet to Diane

Jos Memories from Jessica and Harriet B=e=r=m=a=n to Diane


My mother taught me to knit. I spent nearly every summer from age 10 to 20 at a Quaker summer camp in Vermont where we lived without electricity or plumbing, left to our own creativity and ability to use one another's resources for eight weeks of the summer. This was the sort of place that tended to attract the children of hippies, or people who wished they were the children of hippies. So, as a staff member for the girls' camp, you can imagine the scene at staff meetings. Lots of women in overalls and tie-dyed shirts, Indian print skirts and tank tops, knitting. I endured my first summer on staff exceedingly bored at these meetings-I did not know how to knit. As I planned to return on staff the following summer, I knew I needed to sit down with Mom, a verified ex-hippie who had always taken her knitting bag with her to staff meetings at the counseling centers where she worked during my early childhood and learn how to make balls of yarn into wearable articles of clothing.

Mom taught me how to knit that winter, my winter vacation of 1995-1996. She also taught my friend Sharda, who had come to visit overnight and was subsequently stranded at our house by an early-winter snowstorm that shut down Greyhound for 48 hours. I learned one stitch, which I could accomplish only on round needles, only to make hats. I was very proud. I completed my first hat, white, maroon, and green striped with a roll-up bottom, before vacation was over.


I learned to knit from my mother who was always proud of her "European" technique, which was fast and efficient. It always frustrates me to watch people knitting "American" style, which involves too many extra movements and slows the process down unnecessarily.


About a month after I arrived in Washington, DC (19 months after I first learned to knit) I began to work on my second knitted endeavor: a hat for my boyfriend, to give to him as a going away present when he left to study in Spain in January. Jos was instantly intrigued with my knitting. "Table" (the massage table) was not yet entirely complete, which is why I say Jos was intrigued, and not obsessed. There was always a fine line between intrigue and obsession for Jos, and once he crossed it, he rarely turned back .

Jos crossed this line one lazy Saturday soon after, on a day when he was feeling confident that even though Table weighed just less than a ton and did not fold, as originally planned, it could be dismantled in less that 30 minutes and squeezed into a folding grocery cart. This way, it was, theoretically, portable, as he had hoped--the wheels on the cart eased Table's weight, and with a few tools in his bag, Jos could set-up shop wherever an amateur masseuse like him was called for. As good as finished, he figured. On this day, with no hobby to pursue, Jos sat down beside me on Couch (Jano surely must have been at work that day, for otherwise Jos surely could have convinced Jano to spend the daylight hours on his computer, battling one another in game upon game of Warcraft II). I knew that my task for the day would be to teach Jos to knit.

I tried my best. He quickly picked-up the basic stitch that I knew, or so we thought. I am left-handed. Jos was not. This caused more than a few dropped stitches, knots, and mishaps which I, in my limited skill, could not determine how to fix. Jos was insatiable, and I could barely help. Luckily, my mother came to town for a four-day visit. We held out for her arrival, and she heroically stepped up to the plate.


As far as I can remember, Jos had taken up knitting as part of his new life in Washington, D.C. where he moved to do a semester in Public Policy studies. He was sharing an apartment with Jessica and Jano near DuPont Circle. Not content with the intensity of the program and his internship, he was learning to knit and building a massage table in his spare time.

When I visited Jess one weekend, we spent a lot of time laughing and getting to know one another. Jos was struggling with his knitting technique and Jessica, my left-handed daughter was finding it difficult to help him. I sat with Jos and helped him learn to speed up his knitting. We knit on the couch, in the middle of the "living room" of the apartment, while I was inducted into the X-Files cult, for which I will always feel indebted to Jos. Little did I know that the speed Jos developed as he perfected his technique during those hours would eventually contribute to the success of his toessel industry.


As soon as Mom left, Jos became a knitting machine. He couldn't get enough of it. Everyday, when I arrived home, Jos would belt out "B=e=r=m=a=n !" from his seat on couch, knitting needles in hand, eventually wearing a hat he had created, and well into finishing a second, third, or fourth. The simple stitch Mom and I taught him was not enough, either. He soon needed to know more. He began searching the District for knitting stores, befriending the women who worked there, learning new stitches, new patterns. Of course, I got to know all of these women through the Jos' enthusiastic stories of what they had told him, what he had bought, and his glee at finding others who shared his passion upon his return from these trips.

When we returned to Claremont, Jos became intent on forming a knitting circle. He really wanted me there, but I quickly became wrapped up in other things and, to be honest, while I enjoyed knitting, I never shared Jos' passion. Jos did make the knitting circle happen, knitting with those who knew, introducing those who didn't to his avenue of the artistic world. Jos' prolific hat creation continued.

Last spring (1999), while surfing the net one day, I found a collection of Jos items on the WebTV site, and sent him an email. It had been over a year since we'd spoken, although I had been privy to many updates through Jano, and knew a little about Jos' career at WebTV. I told him about the fellowship I was doing, about my love for Los Angeles, and about my pride in the fact that my second knitting student, my roommate Tabby, was about to finish knitting her first full-length coat (I still can only knit and purl, on round needles, making hats). Jos wrote back, rambling about his adventures, and told me to visit the Toessel site.

But let's get back to you. Have you been to the toessel site yet? (WEB SITE REMOVED) As the WOMAN WHO TAUGHT ME TO KNIT, I think you're certainly entitled to a free lid. Pick one and let me know. I have quite a few already in stock if you'll settle for something less than custom made. Hope all is well, and you're preparing to lead the world into a BOLD NEW FUTURE. -Jossel
Hmm. I checked it out. My favorite part was the order form, in which Jos asked questions about the weather where consumers lived, and gave a list of services that they could render in exchange for Toessels. I ordered a pHat, and told Jos I trusted him to pick the colors (those who knew Jos knew that it was a great leap of faith to trust him with something like color selection, as his creativity far exceeded the bounds of most human beings). I told him I could not render any services, but I hoped that teaching him to knit was enough. An immediate response.
Jessica -
I can't even believe I didn't make this explicit in my e-mail. You immediately get a pHat, no questions asked. You've already paid it off a thousandfold. And, once you send me a picture of you wearing it, you get not only your own place among the models, but also a special homage as the woman who got me on the way.

I have two pHats currently in stock. They're pretty incredible, I think you'll agree. There is the the one pictured, then one that is more of a pink and purple. They are both, without question, pHat. I will even, should you desire, and this is just because of the special place you occupy in my heart and needles, make you a a whole new pHat according to your custom colors.

BTW - Two mice [I edited the next word out for younger readers, and also because I can't remember what it is in reference to] in a wool sock is the term, I believe.


My pHat arrived shortly thereafter. I love it. The fruit of the labor of love to which Jos was so committed.

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