A chance to learn…

Some time last year I posted a comment over on “Casaubon’s Book” to the effect that I needed to learn to spin and also to machine-knit. The spinning I cracked fairly soon afterwards, and have enjoyed so much that I’m saving very hard to add a brand-new (handmade) spinning wheel to my stable of workshop tools, now that I have a clear idea of what kind of spinning I like best and what features will be most useful. But the machine-knitting was proving a little harder to get to grips with. I tried contacting the nearest machine-knitting group I could find online, but they’re 30 miles away, which is too far to go on a regular basis, and they didn’t know of anyone closer.

But on Saturday, on my way back from the monthly Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Guild meeting, my elderly Louet wheel fell over in the back of the car and smashed an already-cracked demijohn that was awaiting its final trip to the Tip. So I popped it straight down there whilst the engine was still warm. And there sat a battered box containing a Singer Designer 2 knitting machine… naturally it had to come home with me. It’s so much less complicated than any of the other full-size machines I’ve seen that at first I thought half of it was missing. But the instruction book listed the parts, and there they all were. And this machine is extremely simple; it’s probably not very versatile, but who cares? I can work it! It’s just one step up from my Simpleframe knitter; basically the same, a bit bigger, with a carriage!  No complicated tension devices or impossibly-intricate storage cases which you can never shut again, just a bed, a counter, a carriage and a few straightforward weights, combs and hooks. I’d made a scarf out of scrap yarn within a couple of hours of getting it out of the box…

Now I know I will eventually be able to master those great complicated beasties up in my loft (a Passap and a Toyota, with hundreds of bits and manuals and pattern books) as I’m beginning to understand what’s going on and how. But in the meantime, I have a tool with which I can churn out simple scarves & jumpers that I can embellish with other techniques, and maybe one day I can use it to help other people in the same position.

I never cease to be amazed how things work out…

Wrong planet…

??? Why are people so proud of not having the time or patience to learn how to do things ???
Shawl made on the Simpleframe knitter, using Noro's Ganki Abaka yarn
Shawl made on the Simpleframe knitter, using Noro's Ganki Abaka yarn

I’ve recently rescued a small 1980s handheld, handpowered knitting machine from the tip, luckily complete with instructions. I’m no good with two needles (I’m always dropping one needle, or the stitches, or the cat that inevitably attached itself to the ball of wool. Or my glass…) but this little beastie has genuinely made the whole ghastly process easier, and I mastered the basic stitch within a couple of hours. It’s small enough to take into work with me and as the place runs down there’s nothing much else for me to do, so I was sitting knitting a lacy shawl (for a Christmas present) in the office this morning. And one by one, my remaining tenants trotted in and said, “Ooooh, aren’t you good? I wouldn’t have the patience to do that/learn to do that…” Bless their cotton socks, they say this every time I take any kind of project in, and they’re not the only ones. And there’s definitely a little element of “I’m too busy/important/got better things to do with my time…” with some of them. As the tenants are all OAPs, mostly this something better consists of sitting in a traffic jam outside our local Shopping Experience, queueing for somewhere to park before battling through the crowds to buy something identical to everyone else’s for 100 times what some poor slave-child was actually paid to make it…

I do know that many people of that age group see having to make your own stuff as a sign of poverty & failure. As a result of which there’s an entire generation growing up who can’t make anything for themselves because their parents & grandparents looked down on people who could & did. This includes skills as basic as cookery; most of my friends think I’m “good” (or possibly just daft) for cooking nearly everything from scratch. And craft is just an activity for tiny children, before they get on with the real business of formal learning, aged 4…

I’ve just been round our local market’s “craft” hall and was dismayed to find it nearly all just “handmade” (i.e. embellishments stuck haphazardly onto blanks) cards, with two shining exceptions, a woodturner and two ladies who were spinning their own wool & trying to sell nice chunky knitted & handwoven items. People were happily snapping up the cards, squawking, “Oooh look! This one looks just like one you’d buy in a shop!” and paying well over the odds for them, but hardly anyone was even looking at the lovely, inexpensive handmade wooden & woollen stuff.

I think I’m on the wrong planet sometimes…