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Knitting

June 22, 2011

During WWII, it was so difficult to find wool that knitters had to be quite inventive, both in finding a source of it and also in using every scrap available.

Mother, with three toddlers, always had a garment on the go. She used to hunt around for old discarded pullovers or cardigans and laboriously unpick them. My brother or I would have to take it in turns to help her. With our elbows resting on a table, our forearms raised and parallel, she would wind the zig-zaggy strands around our arms and wrists and form a skein of sorts. This could take an eternity and for us, it was painful and very tedious.

She did her best to keep us occupied mentally by telling us stories she made up as she went along or singing our favourite songs. Hopefully, the previous knitter was experienced and would not have stitched her work carelessly or else, that meant more time wasted undoing knots. Our legs ached so much and we wriggled and wriggled. The wool often felt scratchy and, as the skein got bigger, we got hotter and hotter.

When that ordeal was over, Mother gave us a big cuddle and a treat and she went on to steam the skein to straighten up the wool. The smell was unpleasant and we hated the whole process. When she was satisfied the wool was ready, she made balls with it which she stored in a large basket in her bedroom.

She had all sorts of colours ready to be used but never quite enough of one to make jumpers for all of us. She liked to make identical garments to fit us so we would match one another. Invariably, we ended up with Fair Isle style pieces which she was very proud of and complimented on.

Sometimes, two or three knitters came to the house to knit in unison and exchange gossip. Of course, the others didn’t know of my mother’s work in the Resistance and gossip could turn out to be most useful.

After the war was over, Mother always kept knitting on the go, even when there was no need. For decades, our large family has been blessed with smart, individual, original pullovers that attracted envy all round. Now that Mother is in her nineties and very arthritic, the needles have been laid to rest but she yearns to continue. I have discovered that it isn’t so much the end product she misses but rather the therapeutic value of the exercise. She says that through her often traumatic adult life, knitting has helped her to keep sane and in control.

Indeed, knitting is now reputed to be the new yoga. It is claimed that it can help deal with all sorts of anxiety associated for example with eating disorders, cancer, smoking, debilitating conditions such as fibromyalgia. It keeps the mind alert and receptive well into old age and goes a long way to alleviate pain and depression. Also, some individuals shine when it comes to making things with their hands and there is a great sense of achievement with the end product.

Knitting however is a dying art form. Modern fabrics have taken over and people’s lifestyles allow less time for this kind of pursuit. How many of us keep half finished woollies at the bottom of the wardrobe?

Yarn Bombing

Knit Knot Tree by the Jafagirls

The new craze of yarn bombing came about recently in Texas when some frustrated knitters thought of graffitting their local streets with unfinished jumpers and scarves. The craze quickly took off and led to the outlandish decoration of trees and all kinds of street furniture, including the transformation of an entire unwanted bus. A club was formed and thanks to internet communications, yarn bombing ,also known as yarn storming, has become a world wide hobby. The ironic twist is that some knitters are now beginning to knit for street decoration rather than for the clothing needs of family, friends or charitable organisations. What a crazy world!

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