I started knitting as an adult about three years ago. I stole my mother’s collection of straight plastic and aluminium needles, unused since my childhood, and I bought a load of ill-chosen yarn from an uninspiring (with hindsight) craft shop. I’ve been acquiring new tools and materials ever since.
I got my latest knitting gadget from Sainsbury’s last week. They haven’t started selling craft supplies; this was in the kitchen equipment section: a set of digital weighing scales with accuracy to one gram. (We’ve got kitchen weighing scales, but they’re mechanical and not accurate enough for yarn.) I’ve used the new scales loads of times in their first week: weighing skeins of handspun to mark on their labels, and weighing bought yarn to estimate remaining yardage. I’ll use them to weigh the riverbed socks when I’ve got the first one ‘long enough’, to estimate how much further I can go and still have enough yarn to make the second one match.
In between my mother’s straight needles and the scales, I’ve bought and been given an awful lot of knitting kit. I now own so many circular needles (including two different sets of interchangeables) that I’ve given away all my straights. I’ve got a small library of knitting books, and have now started on spinning books too. I’ve got crochet hooks (I can’t crochet – I use them for fixing dropped stitches and doing provisional cast ons). I’ve got a swift and a ball winder. I have spindles and a spinning wheel and bobbins and hand carders. I have an fairly large stash of bought and handspun yarn, and of unspun fibre. I have stitch markers made of beads, of earrings, and of tiny pieces of knotted yarn. I have five different tapestry needles, spare parts and oil for the wheel, and a day-by-day knitting calendar.
I have a lot of stuff. My library, which is effectively my study and workroom, was full before I started acquiring all this stuff, and now it’s even fuller. I’m typing this sitting at my desk, and without even looking away from the desk’s surface, I see two small skeins of handspun, index cards with handspun samples wrapped around them, spinning wheel oil, a small wooden box containing stitch markers, tapestry needles and a tape measure. I see a ruler (out on the surface because I’ve been measuring gauge). The handcream doesn’t look as if it’s knitting-related, but it is – I’m trying to remember to use it so the next time I handle the silk hankies the fibre snags less on my skin. My laptop is resting on a print out of the charts from BMP
To one side of the desk is the stack of knitting and spinning books, the set of plastic drawers containing my bought-yarn stash, and my handspun on display in a basket and in a transparent plastic tube. My hand carders are on top of the drawers, and my ball winder is tucked into a cubby hole on a CD rack. To the other side of me my swift is tucked in beside the desk, and there are two piles of largely non-knitting-related stuff, one topped with the aforementioned weighing scales, and the other with a book and a notebook relating to my current sock project.
If I walk through the house, just looking at rooms without touching anything or opening any doors, I will see knitted garments everywhere. Socks and cardigans and hats and scarves and gloves. I will encounter the spinning wheel and the lazy kate in the living room, and I will encounter my bag of fibre stash on the other side of the library, hiding far away from the rest of the knitting supplies.
And just as my house is full of yarn-related objects, my life is full of yarn-related activities. In between the other business of the day, I will knit a bit, spin a bit. In the middle of other activities I will be thinking about yarn – about creating it and about creating with it. I will tear off today’s page on the knitting calendar, and decide whether it is worth keeping, or just reading and discarding. I wear my hand-knitted garments often in the cold, and I find myself now starting to think not only about the construction of the garment, but about the construction of its yarn. Wearing Rogue, I understood for the first time that this is singles yarn, and that if I was to knit it again, I’d use plied yarn to better show the cables. I wear handmade socks, and think about how many plies, and how fine each singles is, and wait impatiently for the day I can spin that fine. I wear bought socks and I examine the short row heels and toes, and compare them with handknitted gusset heels. And I think about how much warmer handknit socks are, and I wish for the time when I can choose to wear no other kind.
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