Back in the day, I used to knit for three reasons:

  • it was cheaper to buy wool and a pattern than to buy ready-made (and this was true of fabric and dresses too, in my mini-skirted youth -why not contact me to commission more stories and reminiscences about this );
  • by nature messy and erratic, disorganised and absent-minded, I felt I had to “rein myself in” and emulate the efforts of the third of my elder sisters, whose stichery is immaculate to this day (and indeed, studied Textiles as her special subject at training college, the Roehampton Froebel Institute, in the 1960s, and wrote a dissertation on the History of Knitting);
  • it was kind-of therapeutic, and in some ways may have calmed me as I navigated my canoe, as a non-swimmer (to this day; recruiting for volunteer teachers and life-guards please!) through the rocky waters of adolescence, teenage lurve, and leaving home – although I did tend towards crochet squares, as more portable, less prickly, and more in tune with my patchwork personality, of which more, another time.

When I was 12-13 I suffered a lot of bullying at my new grammar school (in Hatfield, 180 miles away south from my Primary School). I didn’t really feel comfortable with most of the girls in my year until sixth-form (16-18 years old), when there were anyway very few who stayed on to do A-levels, and only two of us went on from school to university. One to Leicester to “do” Geography and to pursue her love of sport, and me to Cambridge (after a gap not-quite-year) to read Natural Sciences.

So it was a welcome boost to my esteem when – aged 14 – I (the class “swot”) was reprimanded for knitting in a history lesson (a subject that I had decided most emphatically to Give Up when we underwent Middle School Choice and selected our future specialisation in life – more on that another time).

The garment-in-making that was not-quite-concealed-enough under the desk was tantalisingly ugly both in colour and form (a bit like my view of myself at that time). And required great focus, because I was teaching myself to knit- on four needles – in coal-ash-coloured 4-ply wool, a lumpy, oddly shapen sock.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t recall that I ever wore the thing – and did I ever make it a partner? Although I do recall sewing in the thread ends, so I must have been through the whole process of “turning the heel” and “decreasing at the toe” at least once, if not twice.

And my hands ( a few years more gnarled now) can still feel the gritty texture of that wool. Even my feet, when in deepest Scottish winter I wear handmade socks (though no longer made by me), can relate to – can even remember – the chafe and grate of unpleasant rough-spun, so unlike the soft and yet strong fibre to which I treat my feet (occasionally) some fifty years later.

Now before I offer you some BrainDump prompts and Golden Threadwork, here for the history buffs among my expanding readership is a little knitting intrigue from the time of Charles the I of England (and we all know what happened to him)

A pair of 18th century Jacobite garters, unworn (as revealed by their uncut join), and sold at Bonhams in 2005.

Socks and stockings are private, intimate things: they are the personal objects with which we protect and care for our legs and feet. They are worn next to the skin, beneath the clothes. But what do socks reveal, and what might they conceal? Today’s sock of the week is a stocking that would have been regarded as treacherous in eighteenth-century Britain: a stocking encoding a secret message that proclaimed one’s sympathy with the outlawed Jacobite cause.

But who were the Jacobites and why might they need secret garters to hold up their eighteenth-century stockings?

Copyright KDD&Co

Brain Dump

The feel of yarn in between my fingers makes me …

Ths clackety-clack of knitting needles reminds me of …

The itchy doggy smell of wet wool on ….

Today I have lost the thread of …

The knitted toy I best remember was/is a …

I keep dropping the stitches of …

I arrived at this point in my word-knitting pattern over a fortnight ago.

And have been procrastinating in releasing this post, because I thought I needed to sort through my photo library (which is true) first, for worthy illustrations.

However, into my Email Inbox this morning arrived a link, a stitch, to another offering from my knitting, blogging friend Kate Davies at KDD & Co, who in turn posted a poem about hosiery (that’s socks to you and me) by Ogden Nash – referred to her by another blogger…

The Shrinking Song

Woollen socks, woollen socks!
Full of colour, full of clocks!
Plain and fancy, yellow, blue,
From the counter beam at you.
O golden fleece, O magic flocks!
O irresistible woollen socks!
O happy haberdasher’s clerk
Amid that galaxy to work!
And now it festers, now it rankles
Not to have them round your ankles;
Now with your conscience do you spar;
They look expensive, and they are;
Now conscience whispers, You ought not to,
And human nature roars, You’ve got to!
Woollen socks, woollen socks!
First you buy them in a box.
You buy them several sizes large,
Fit for Hercules, or a barge.
You buy them thus because you think
These lovely woollen socks may shrink.
At home you don your socks with ease,
You find the heels contain your knees;
You realise with saddened heart
Their toes and yours are far apart.
You take them off and mutter Bosh,
You up and send them to the wash.
Too soon, too soon the socks return,
Too soon the horrid truth you learn;
Your woollen socks can not be worn
Unless a midget child is born;
And either sockless you must go,
Or buy a sock for every toe,
Woollen socks, woollen socks!
Infuriating paradox!
Hosiery wonderful and terrible,
Heaven to wear, and yet unwearable.
The man enmeshed in such a quandary
Can only hie him to the laundry,
And while his socks are hung to dry,
Wear them once as they’re shrinking by.

From Nash’s Selected Poems (1945)

And at this point I am going to encourage you to write your own knitting-themed Golden Threads, and to follow one or many, in a DIY knitted hosiery activity, because I want to publish this post straight away, without many photos, although I shall add a few as soon as I can.

That’s because I need to pause today to remember my dear friend and gardening client Gloria who died peacefully at home in England last night, and whose daughter has just phoned me.

I shal tell you more of our beautiful, and knitting-entangled, friendship another time.

Just now it is enough to remember that at the time of her passing, I was picking blackcurrants from my Scottish garden.

And blackcurrants were – and remain – a significant part of our friendship and sharing, as I shall relate to you another day.

Appreciation practice for you to fill in

Today I am grateful for:




And my own

Today I am grateful for:

~ the blackbird with whom I share my blackcurrants, and whose furtive flight from my bushes last night reminded me that the fruits of the south-facing bushes were ripe and ready;

~ the knitted slippers that Gloria made for me, still with her darns in place;

~ the infinity sign in the kaleidoscope colours of a rainbow, for reasons