Tag Archives: knitting

Yarn, Yarn, and More Yarn

L is an avid knitter and crocheter. My mother used to knit us sweaters and afghans and taught both of her daughters to wield knitting needles and crochet hooks as well. I’ve crochetted afghans and scarves and, though I haven’t done much in the past couple years, I was kind of excited when L suggested we check out a couple of the knitting stores downtown as a part of our day romping around TO. So, after finally paying for our tasty brunch, we set off toward the Knit Cafe.

We got a little way-laid on the way.

Romni Wools on Queen Street is packed floor to ceiling with yarn. It’s like a second-hand book store, one of those that goes on and on and on with multiple levels and multiple rooms, cramming more and more and more into each nook and cranny. Every colour, every texture.

But, the store was dark and cramped. When L asked for help, the staff seemed to have no idea what they were talking about, or at least didn’t listen properly in order to get what she was asking. They were friendly, but useless. Perfect, L said, for someone who knew exactly what they needed.

So, we continued on.

The Knit Cafe is a completely different kind of yarn store. It’s not packed floor to ceiling. In fact, a knitter looking for a store with lots of selection would probably be a little bit disappointed. There’s one wall of yarn, one wall of needles and other tools, a small wall of books and patterns.

The yarns they sell are quite beautiful. Many are handspun, handcrafted yarns in bright, vibrant colours.

We spent some time here, and L carefully picked out two colours for a cupcake scarf. While she hemmed and hawed over her colours, my brother and I order cappucinos and lattes and settled in at the tables in the centre of the room. Yes, you all read that right — cappucinos and lattes. At a yarn store.

And then, things got really interesting. Apparently, skeins of yarn need to be wound. This is where you all realize how little expertise I actually have in yarn crafts. Sure, I’ve made an afghan or two, but I’ve never actually bought yarn from anywhere other than Walmart and Len’s Mill Store. In other words, I’ve never actually bought a skein. Only balls.

L buys skeins. She knows how to wind a skein. I was fascinated how the twisted rope of yarn ended up in the perfect tightly wound ball, so easy to manage, easier, I would wager, than the loose balls you can buy in bags from any department store.

She picked some beautiful colours.

It was a fun afternoon tromping around Toronto, visiting yarn stores. I might go back to the Knit Cafe someday, bring a friend along, buy a skein, learn to wind it, and settle down with a new project. I think it’s about time I had a new project.

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Crucial skills: the granny square

I love to crochet.  My mom, as far as I can tell, was primarily a knitter.  She’s made me upwards of five sweaters throughout my lifetime, not counting baby clothes, and who knows how many for my two siblings and dad combined, not to mention herself. Of the afghans I can think of in my parents’ afghan chest, the majority are either quilted or knitted.  There’s maybe one that was crocheted.

But somehow, despite the influence of my mother’s craftiness, I rejected knitting after a (mostly) failed attempt at a shrug in first year.  It was boring and I had issues with the counting. (I’m an English major for a reason…) I’d lose track of how many rows I had decreased by and found it difficult to identify individual stitches and rows enough to count backwards.

I love the feeling of yarn passing through my fingers though.  Maybe it’s because my baby blanket, tattered and fraying by the time my parents took it away from me when I was seven, was a knitted blanket. There’s something comforting about it.

The first time I ever crocheted was, I think, while I was a member of a girls club at my church called GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Saviour). One of the main activities in this girls club is the completion of various badges. (My original goal was to complete all 150 or so.  I managed around 34, and was one of the top badge achievers in my year.)

My mom was my counsellor. In a couple of the evening meetings, she taught a group of five or six 10 year olds to crochet granny squares.  I don’t know how she did it.  I tried teaching a friend once and failed miserably. Anyway, she bought a selection of crochet hooks, sparkling and bright colours.  I believe I picked metallic blue.  And, using her own leftover scraps, we each picked two colours and began the laborious task of learning chain stitches and double crochets, the pattern of threes and the switching colours.  The first ones weren’t perfect.  I remember unravelling whole sections just to add three more simple stitches. It wasn’t easy, and it often wasn’t pretty.

I think I made 10 granny squares that year.  My mom had a lot of scraps and each one made a completely different, often clashing square.

And then, they sat in the crafting cupboard as I dragged myself through high school and broke through into university.  And then, something made me finish the afghan. Perhaps it was the cold, somewhat hostile dorm room, perhaps a subconcious home-sickness.

I made 10 or so more squares, crocheted white yarn in between the squares and finally ended up with this:

Hpim1427

I wouldn’t exactly call it pretty,  It’s not even finished: I never did get a chance to work in the ends. But it reminds me of me, 10 years ago.  (And here comes a sappy metaphor…) This blanket has grown with me, from a wonky start, to a small, semi-finished work, not useful for much at this point, except curling up in on camping trips, when my other, prettier afghans are safe and clean at home. And maybe someday I’ll finish it.  Or, maybe I won’t, as a reminder that I’m never really going to be finished myself.

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