Last night we took the first step in over a year to revive Knit 15 – our series of niche talks for knitters – with a virtual talks night hosted by this year’s Unravel Festival of Knitting. We plan to get the talks up online for all of you to be able to listen to as soon as possible. In the meanwhile I thought I would share my introduction with you all to get you in the mood…
7 years ago I opened a wool shop and discovered that the world is full of lapsed knitters.
People would come to the shop and tell me that they hadn’t knitted for years – not since their now grown up children were toddlers, not since school sewing classes, not since learning from their mothers, grandmothers, aunts.
We’d look at patterns together, and they’d leave with a new project and all the excitement that goes with that.
Then a new thing happened. It turns out that patterns are different now and we don’t knit like they used to knit then. Circular needles, yarn overs, starting at the top of a sweater or the bottom of a sock… It also turns out that rekindling interest in knitting and selling the wool is the easy bit. It’s keeping people going that’s the challenge. If I was going to keep these knitters on board and see my wool being worn in actual sweaters and hats, scarves and cardies, I knew I had to be around right up to the bit where we talk about how casting off is now called binding off.
For what are lapsed knitters, if not people who for whatever reason, fell out with their knitting before the end of the sweater?
And so the shop turned into what it became.
Not only a shop but a pattern-explaining place, a picking-up-stitches place, a gauge-measuring place, a woollen versus worsted place.
It needed to be a place that fixed people and their knitting so that they could carry on and get to the end.
We fixed the mistakes, got over the distress and the shop played its part in rescuing the knitting from a future in a dusty project bag next to the sofa.
It was a bit like the shop needed to find a way to blow gently on some embers to rekindle the knitters and keep the knitting going.
This shop isn’t special in that regard. All knitting shops do it. We do it because it makes sense – on every level. And as a shop keeper who’s had to work hard to make their peace with the profit-making requirement of running a small business, it’s this knitter-knitting-fixing part of what we do that has made the shop and the community around it so utterly compelling. Fixing, mending, healing, sorting out – it’s how we ever get from one end of the sweater to the other. Regardless of talent and supplies, it will always be needed and creates the relationships of dependency between us all that make the community what it is – complicated, sometimes difficult and messy, but also spirit lifting, creative, and for me endlessly fascinating.
It is also why we decided to stage a whole set of talks that spin around the idea of mending and repair. I do hope you’ll enjoy listening to them.