• neil

Day 60 (16 May): Knit one, purl one, chuck it all away

Those of you who have been following what passes for my progress through confinement will remember I purchased a ‘Beginners’ Knitting Kit’ to expand my exceptionally narrow practical skills set. The kit consists of a few balls of yarn and an instruction book.

Today I took a big step. I opened the book.

In true wind me up, let me go and send me on a rant fashion, the first thing I learned is that I would also need darning needles, thread, a tape measure, a row counter, needle point protectors and a stitch holder; all of which, of course, are not included.

Why in the name of the gods of crochet could they not have stuck that stuff in the box and billed me appropriately? Having explained to Alfie what a half-witted cretin is, and why they write knitting books, I made a cup of tea, calmed down and resumed reading.

I was introduced to six different yarn classifications, the arts of casting on and casting off (binding if you are American), and the concepts of tension (gauge), purling, yarning forward, casting on, stockinette stitching and yarning over. Or yawning just begun in my case.

The next bit was going to be about rib stitching. I already have a full set of ribs and the idea of replacing them with woollen ones just seemed silly. Exhausted by all this new knowledge I put the book down - by an injection using one of the knitting needles.

Of course, by turning my back on these skills I will now never be able make a 'Bunny Rabbit Doorstop' or a 'Rabbit Phone Holder'. I’m not sure what a bunny rabbit door is and have no idea why I would want to stop it and I don’t know any rabbits, let alone rabbits with phones. Frankly, this book has more data relating to rabbits than knitting. All my motivation had vaporised.

But it did set me to thinking. To make anything useful such as a jumper or a blanket takes skills and a lot of time. And that’s when you you have the benefit of a pre-prepared stock of the appropriate balls of yarn. If you were to start with a sheep you would have to catch the animal, shear it, clean and scour the fleece, grade, sort, card, spin and weave it. Taken as a whole this is a huge undertaking which you would never complete before Lyme Disease contracted from sheep ticks completely addled your brains. You would have set out to make a blanket and finished up with a rabbit phone holder. As a result you would then have died of cold and never passed on your genes.

Why am I going down this path? Because I have read a few articles during confinement which confuse doing some home baking and growing a few veggies with self sufficiency. Just to take the baking example, people are starting out with bags of flour, packets of yeast and boxes of salt . Nobody is reaping the corn, mining the salt or hunting the yeast beast.

The idea that self-sufficiency is a source of self-fulfilment and pleasure, or even that it is remotely practical, strikes me as ludicrous.

The drudgery, the endless hours of toil to produce very rough and ready food and clothing is something horrendous. And that is assuming that the crops you plant grow, are not wiped out by disease, drought or flooding. Or nicked by the neighbours.

To do that gardening and shear those sheep requires spades, hoes, buckets, scissors, knives, saws and a host of other material you most definitely cannot make yourself. And at the end of the day your back-breaking work hasn't produced anything resembling antibiotics, anaesthetics or Baskin Robbins Chunky Monkey ice cream.

I for one am very happy to be living in a highly complex society where the essentials such as shelter, heating, warmth, lighting, running water, clothing, food and medicine are not hit and miss, unavailable or desperately difficult for most of us to obtain. I am quite happy to go to the shops once a year and buy all my woolly pullies ready made.

I the meantime I can probably get the phone holders those rabbits want on Amazon.

So self sufficiency? No thank you. But what I can realistically do is put much more effort into sustainability. That bloody knitting book is going to have a useful second life as fire lighters.

Say something lovely to a stranger!



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