Tools of the Craft

Tools of the Craft

Every craft has its tools, as well as the add-ons and indulgences. Part of the fun of knitting, is having the right stuff to knit with and I have so enjoyed building up the armory with contributions from many a knitter and many more non-knitters!

Enthusiastic knitters of yore, now crippled with arthritis, failing vision, aches and pains, and (the most crippling punishment) lack of an appreciative audience, have handed over their precious knitting needles and pattern books to me. Here, have a look at the knitting needle collection which stays at home.

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I have colored metal needles, ivory sock needles and some smart British ones which had been acquired overseas. Paper-mache, hand painted needle boxes from Kashmir stock my sock needles. After giving away all duplicates, using the bent and curved ones for my garden pots, and keeping some for checking-the-cake-in-the-oven, I still have two boxes of straight needles to hoard. These needles hold stories of countless hours of pleasurable knitting, numerous gatherings of knitters in cool balconies, warm homes, windy gardens and noisy trains.  That generation would take their knitting everywhere, and with that, there would be sharing of patterns, tips and tricks, and anecdotes.

My mother and my aunt, passionate knitters both, would spend every afternoon of the Delhi winter with each other. One of them would hop into a bus and reach the other one, chairs would be put out in the sun, a small bowl of peanuts would be placed on a little table, knitting pulled out of bags and then, the rhythm of knitting would take over. Conversations could be about the day, the family foibles, emotions and wisdom, or about knitting patterns.  And through those afternoons, a line of sweaters, caps, socks, cardigans and gloves would be churned out to keep the families warm, cozy and stylishly comfortable.  We kids were given the task of taking apart and unraveling old sweaters. The skeins would be washed to remove creases and combined to make larger garments for the ever-growing tribe of children. This was my favorite vacation job—hang around the knitters, listen to their spicy chat ( amazing how grown-up conversations were so full of intrigue, gossip and interesting tid-bits) and get a chance to take part in the wondrous process of creation.

To return to my knitting, its circular needles for me, all the way! You can see the three beloved sets of interchangeable needles.. the bright metal ones from China, the exquisite painted birchwood set from Knitpicks.com ( pleaded with a friend to bring them from me, and opened the exquisite set to find imprinted, in small letters, “made in india”) and the smooth and silky bamboo set from ponycraftstore.com. Friends and family have gifted me those lovely Clover and Boyle individual needles which have been arranged artfully in the picture. Circular needles take up less space and can hold much more knitting, give less pain to my fingers and more comfort to my arms, are incapable of falling and going missing under chairs, aircraft and car seats, and always remain in pairs. Elizabeth Zimmerman waxes eloquent about them and now, I do the same too!

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That tray contains all the other necessities (measuring tape, yarn cutters) and the now-growing tribe of indulgences. The pink hairclips are used to hold two pieces together while sewing them up neatly. Row counters are essential for scatter-brained knitters like me. I have to remember, however, to change the row number when I complete knitting a line of a gorgeous, complicated, 46 row repeat, cable pattern which has been crying out to be knit. I usually forget to do that, so its back to confusion and chaos of the pre-indulgence days, but it feels good to know that I have the tool, even if I don’t have the knack of using it! The clips in the foreground are stitch markers and how lovely they look…but a scrap of wool knotted into a loop does the job equally well…these stitch markers have been pulled out just for the photo-session.

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Every knitter/crochet hooker needs a favorite nook to really get into the calm and continuous rhythm of creation. I have a cozy couch with lots of diffuse lighting, some warm throws and a complete view of the house. Sitting there, I can check out the doggies, the front door, the kitchen and the TV and its components. If that is not enough, the laptop (with its blogs, books and facebook) is at arm’s length, as are the headphones. I LOVE this corner and God help anyone who tries to dislodge me from this nook! Family members, guests and visitors—you have now been warned 🙂 !!

This yarn swift and winder have been the icing on the cake..Hauled across continents and oceans by my obliging daughter and a dear friend who has yet to learn the art of saying NO, these two gadgets have a special place in my heart. Winding skeins of yarns into neat little cakes of yarn does great things for my heart and head….Its a state of mindful meditation, a creative way to bring a smile on one’s face, and a great way to give pretty precision to the stash. I have a drawer full of neat yarn cakes and just looking at them gives me a reason to smile.

Thanks to online stores, most of these indulgences are yours for the asking. Ponycraftstore.com is India’s answer to knitpicks.com .It has a wide range of goodies–from stitch holders and cable needles to cute safety pin markers and ergonomic crochet hooks.  I just need a few minutes of free time and there I go, trawling my way through the goodies, and “investing” in some little gadget, or some new yarn. Its  always an investment, never an indulgence, though on some days, it’s a little difficult to justify 5 balls of baby yarn as an investment. Houseofhachi.com is the site for some heavy duty splurging, one I could afford during my high-flying director days in Delhi. Nowadays, I visit the site occasionally, to say hello to the yarns–somewhat like visiting the handicraft emporia at Delhi and saying hello to those lovely saris which I I do not wear anymore..

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