My latest design with Quince & Co is Milliken, a seamless vest knit up in their luscious Ibis yarn, a bulky-weight mohair/merino blend. It features a split hem, cozy cowl neck and my favorite part is the slip stitch pattern that adorns the front, over a garter stitch background.
When I had completed the sample, one thing that I loved was that this stitch pattern on the front kind of reminded me of sheet music – the garter background looked like musical staff and the slipped stitches like the bar lines. It was the first thing that popped in my head when I saw it in its completion and it’s what inspired the named!
Ruth Milliken was my piano teacher when I was younger, growing up in Connecticut. I had learned to play piano at a very young age (6 or 7 I believe?), but I started going to Miss Milliken (as I always called her!) when I was maybe 12 or so and continued until I graduated high school. What a teacher she was – she had that perfect combination of empathy, kindness and patience but also held high standards and was able to push her students in her ever-so-graceful way to strive higher and better. When she would pick out a new composition for me to learn, she always picked something that would push me out of my comfort zone a bit but always made me feel that it was something I could do with lots of practice, hard work and perseverance. I remember her and I having conversations about that – that just because I wasn’t naturally good at something the first time I encountered it didn’t mean that I couldn’t eventually master it. Miss Milliken always approached it from the angle of, you’re not good yet, but you’ll get there if you put the time and dedication in. She would break down a composition piece by piece and we’d tackle each section until I got it, no matter how long it took. She’d send me home to keep at it and always told me that with practice I would get there. And sure enough, I always did. She was an amazing teacher and woman.
In my eyes, she was always a dignified, graceful and amazingly talented musician and woman. It wasn’t until she passed away almost 10 years ago and I read her obituary that I learned that she was even more amazing that I had known. Her musical accolades included degrees from Julliard and a long resume of many musical accomplishments from choir director roles, professional soloist and even the first woman to serve on the national American Guild of Organists executive board as Registrar, Secretary and Vice President.
I can’t look at a piano or sheet music without thinking of Miss Milliken even to this day, and how her advice of never giving up, putting in the hard work and ‘practice makes perfect’ is still something I follow to this day in all areas of my life but especially my creative life of designing. So it’s only fitting that I have a piece named for her 🙂
What a beautiful story…what a great tribute to a teacher, that you remember her and practise the values she taught you. Do you ever play the piano these days, Elizabeth?
Thanks so much! I do still play – not as much as I would like to of course. When my parents moved south to retire they were nice enough to ship up the piano I had growing up (that I learned on) so that’s the piano I have in my home now. It’s nice to still have that same piano for all these years 🙂