Monday, November 15, 2010


When I was a toddler, I dragged two things with me everywhere: "La-La", a threadbare toy kitten, and "Cover", a blanket. Cover gave me much more pleasure and comfort than La-La because Cover had a silk binding. When I was drifting asleep or needed comfort, I just rubbed that soft slippery binding between my thumb and finger, and it made me happy inside. Years after Cover fell apart I was doing the same with a lock of my own hair, or the fluffy collie dog I grew up with. Even at my (ahem) rather advanced age I STILL have been known to twiddle my hair on occasion, and I still own a fluffy dog.

I never understood just how much tactile pleasure knitting gave me until I purchased a knitting machine some years ago, a Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine. At the time it seemed like a really great thing to make a sweater or afghan in a week! Even though the machine turned out to have a disappointingly steep learning curve, I finally figured it out, and made plenty of one-week sweaters that looked great.

The funny thing was, much to my surprise, I didn't actually enjoy making them! I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of figuring out HOW to make them. I enjoyed teaching my kids how to run the machine once I set things up (they loved it!). I enjoyed the fast results, even as the successes were often countered by the just-as-fast big messes.

But I really missed the feeling of the soft yarn in my hands! I found the machine strangely unfullfilling. It was sort of like owning a big soft friendly Golden Retriever, but never being allowed to stroke it. Or having a contented warm purring cat in your lap, and only looking at it.

Alas, the knitting machine is put away, and I have gone back to the excruciatingly slow but SO comforting hand knitting. As you can probably guess, my favorite yarns are soft fibers like merino wool, angora, cashmere, alpaca, and (if only I could afford it!) quiviut, made from the soft undercoat of musk oxen. (In fact, if I thought for a single minute that a musk ox might be happy here in South Carolina, I would go up to Alaska and capture one, and bring it home for a pet. No alpaca is safe around me either, for that matter!)

The reason that I am longing for soft fibers at the moment is because I am being paid to knit something out of (choke!) ACRYLIC fiber. While I do admit that some plastic yarns are maybe sort of OK, this particular project is using one of the cheapest, stiffest, and scratchiest ones. I am not enjoying it. The only thing that makes it bearable is the thought of spending the money I am making on some really beautiful alpaca, and holding that delicious softness to my cheek while purring and drooling!


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