Julie Barrett has knit bear claws, Celtic knots, horseshoe crabs, and innumerable intricate patterns and designs into blankets, sweaters, hats, and scarves. She’s been knitting since she was eight years old. Retinal pigmentosis caused Julie to become legally blind as a toddler, but thanks to thick glasses, computers to enlarge the font size of instructions, and her natural artistic flair, Julie has become a world-class fiber artist whose creations have warmed thousands of people, including babies born to USN and USMC moms and dads.
In response to a newspaper ad about the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society that someone read to Julie in the 1980s, she began knitting baby layettes for the Society. “I’m happy that the babies of Sailors and Marines are getting a handmade item. A lot of service members are not near home or family, so a handmade blanket is kind of a hug for them.” Julie is not from a military family, but she jumped at the chance to support military families through the Society.
Julie’s first knitting projects were scarves for her Barbie dolls that she made while she and her mom waited for Julie’s brothers to finish baseball practice. Julie’s skills quickly advanced. “I went to Catholic school, and I was asked to come up with a project,” she recalled. “I created a priest’s outfit, with all the different parts, to dress up my Ken doll. From then on people started asking me for help with their knitting—either to finish projects they started or to knit something for them.”
Baby blankets are a particular favorite of Julie’s. She knits them for several organizations in addition to the Society, as well as for friends and family and people she hears about who could benefit from a soft blanket made with love. “Knitting an afghan gives me the opportunity to be creative, to create my own pattern, and tell a story.”
Julie’s knitting prowess is so well known that yarn companies often ask her to knit projects from their patterns and then photograph them for advertising purposes. They send her the yarn and the pattern, and she brings it to life.
While she knits, Julie often listens to books on tape. “I can read three books a day,” she said. “I multitask.”
While she sometimes follows pre-made patterns (that she writes out and enlarges), she often experiments with ideas of her own. She has an innate sense of whether or not something is working. “If I’m knitting along and it doesn’t feel right, I will take it apart and start all over again. I can just feel if it’s not right. I was taught that a mistake in a pattern is to prove that God is there. If I do make a small mistake I just leave it, as long as it’s not a hole, it’s ok. We’re human.”
Thank you Julie for the thousands of blankets you’ve knitted for our sea service babies!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso