Winding Wool

[Some years ago, I started another craft blog, which quickly died a death. Today on Twitter, the incomparable Kate (of Rebel Raising and I Blame the Mother, among other valiant and inspiring endeavours) suggested that I repost this entry, which I’m delighted to do. It’s from spring 2008 – hence the amazingly grainy photos, taken with my last camera but one – and rereading it reminds me how pleased I was with the baby tanktop I made from this wool. I must write up the pattern.]

Believe it or not, although I’ve been knitting on and off for maybe 27 years, I’ve just finished my very first project knitted from a skein – specifically, a skein of delicious Shepherd Worsted from Lorna’s Laces, in the “Watercolor” colourway. I wound the wool ten days ago, while watching the second half of Casino Royale (see under: four-month-old baby with unpredictable evening sleep pattern; films that can if necessary be watched in eighteen-minute segments preferred).

Winding the wool took me back. I did it my grandmother’s way (she knitted constantly, and was my steady source of random ends of yarn for many years – though she, and I, always called it “wool”). She showed me her winding method when I was around eleven, and I went through a phase of winding my own balls from the ends she gave me – and sometimes even from new-bought balls. They were so much nicer, with their pineappley tufts and firm thumb-holes, and so satisfying to make.

So, as James Bond suited up to face Le Chiffre across the poker table, I hung the skein around my knees, found an end, and made a figure-8 around a thumb and two fingers, winding until I had a comfortable handful. Then I laid the handful against my thumb and started winding around both, each turn slightly crossing the turn below.

As the stakes rose, the body count mounted and the question of whom to trust became steadily more open, I wound and wound, rotating the ball on my thumb, feeling it grow larger and more coherent, enjoying the softness and smoothness of the wool, the regularity of the ball’s surface, and the rhythm of my progress around the skein on my knees, around, and around again.

Finally, just when it looked as though Bond had really fallen for the accountant, I came to the end of my skein, and watched the last few set-piece sequences with my hands still in my lap. Only when the credits started to roll did I pull my thumb out from its neat little burrow and admire my finished ball.

This last photo and the one at the top of the post were taken the following day, in the light. (I’m stuck with my camera phone at the moment – looking into sorting something better out soon.) To start knitting, you pull on the loopy bit at the top to retrieve your original handful of figure-8, leaving you knitting from the centre of the ball, just like my grandmother and me. No dancing, tumbling, tangling rigmarole when you want to get more yarn as you knit. So convenient!

3 thoughts on “Winding Wool

  1. That is seriously brilliant. I have some skeins of absolutely beautiful multicolour mohair so I will try your method when I’m finished the two arrans I’m doing as Christmas presents. Incidentally if your looking for moderately priced amazing wools try texere yarns (can’t remember the website but Google them and you’ll get there. They have an astonishing selection and the price makes it worth the postage.

  2. Thanks, Anne! I love knitting from the middle of the ball – it’s so convenient. How organised you must be, to be already ahead with your Christmas presents 🙂 Thanks for the shop tip: I’ll check it out.

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