Knitting has mostly defeated me. No patience. Some little thing goes wrong, and after a short struggle the new balls of wool are abandoned and eventually passed on to someone who can’t believe I’m getting rid of them. ‘But this is really good wool,’ she says, astonished, and gets to work, and a couple of weeks later she’s made something lovely. I give it a rest for another three or four years, and then I try again.
I love watching a good knitter at work. I love the sight of a half-made garment in interesting colours hanging from her needles. I love the feel of the finished jumper: strong and soft, stretching in all the right places. There are sewing bloggers (like Pegsewer of Deconstruct Alter Create) who also make gorgeous knitted shawls and jumpers. I’ve seen women knitting Fair Isle patterns in fabulous colour combinations, while paying attention to what’s going on in a meeting and interjecting from time to time while their hands carry on with needles and wool. How do they do it?
Last year I came across some extraordinary wool. There’s a craft market outside the Melbourne arts centre on Sundays, and there, in among the jewellery and children’s clothes, was a table covered with brilliantly multicoloured skeins of wool. Sue Flynn of Hawthorne Cottage in Sebastopol, outside Ballarat, keeps and shears her own sheep and spins and dyes her own wool, and it feels like silk. She sold me a couple of rainbow skeins, lumpy and gorgeous, and told me I’d need enormous knitting needles:
I took it home and started knitting. No idea how many stitches to make a scarf. It soon became clear that 25 was too many – 20 was too many (a lot of ripping apart of my painfully slow work) – and I settled for only 12 stitches. The resulting scarf was light and warm and oddly shaped, and the colours were so lovely that the lumpiness hardly mattered. I wore it all last winter.
Meanwhile my friend Celia in the UK lives in an old mill that was built well before Australia was colonised by the British, and it gets seriously cold in winter. So the next time I passed the craft market I bought a couple more skeins of Sue Flynn’s wool, even more brightly coloured than the first two. Knitted up another scarf and sent it off to Celia.
This is incredible. Not only have I successfully knitted myself a scarf, I’ve knitted one for a friend and she seems to like it.
So when my son mentioned casually that he’d quite like me to knit him a jumper, of course I said yes.