The Valentine's Day List of 14 Knitterly Things to Love
1 and 2: Handmade knitting needles
I first fell through the rabbit-hole of handmade knitting needles in 2004 when I discovered Bill Schmidt and his Turn of the Century
needles. I'm forgetting the details now, but several months after I published my review, Bill finally wrote to tell me that he was so busy filling orders generated by the review that he forgot to pay his bills and almost got kicked out of his house. Maybe those weren't the exact words, but they still make me smile. These needles are the real deal, beautifully turned and finished, with the elegant shaping, density, and smoothness of a fine oboe.
Fast-forward a few years, when I received a package in the mail from a man named Sam Bolton out in Montana. He and his wife have a marriage made in heaven: She owns a yarn store, he supplies her with needles. Over the years, they've gotten so good that he's begun selling them under the Montana Mountain label. Sam uses a variety of woods and has a distinct finial shape, but what's most pleasurable about these needles is the tip: shapely and well-defined without ever becoming fragile or too pointy.
3. Swiss Mountain Cashmere and Silk
Picture a 200-year-old Swiss mill that's powered entirely by mountain streams. From this mill comes the purest, most ethereal cashmere/silk yarn imaginable. It is boxed and shipped across the ocean to Nova Scotia where a group of maidens lovingly dye each skein by hand. All we need are singing birds and we'd have ourselves a movie, right? Except that every word is true, even the maidens. Swiss Mountain Silk from Hand Maiden
is my desert-island yarn, the most perfect blend of the otherwise dissimilar silk and cashmere. It's pricey, but hold even one skein of this yarn in your hands and the world becomes a better place.
4. Elsa Wool Company Cormo
You never forget your first Wool Festival at Taos
. The crisp fall air smells of mesquite woodsmoke and roasting chiles. The sky is an intense blue, the adobe buildings a golden brown, punctuated occasionally by tall spikes of coral-colored hollyhocks or cool lilac Russian sage. The festival takes place at Kit Carson Park in the center of town, a carefully curated selection of vendors set up in a circle like a wagon-train parked for the night.
I wandered around the middle, watching children play, dogs nap, musicians perform. Within this charmed atmosphere you'll find one very special vendor: Elsa Hallowell, whose springy, succulent exquisitely simple and pure Elsa Wool Cormo yarn makes you fall in love with knitting all over again. (Cormo is a finewool breed produced by crossing Corriedale and Merino.) Elsa also sells beautiful machine- and hand-knit hats and socks and gloves, which makes for an ideal solution when shopping: The non-knitters get the finished projects, and you get to cherish the yarn for yourself.
5. The Age of Homespun, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
While most historians like to focus on major historical events, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich takes a highly personal, domestic approach to the telling of Colonial American history. In The Age of Homespun
, she has chosen a handful of items from everyday life—a niddy noddy, silk embroidery, unfinished stocking, and others. Like a detective, she tracks down detailed facts about the people who came into contact with each object. You get an intimate sense of what those people's daily lives were like, their worries, annoyances, and amusements. In the hands of a lesser historian and writer, the subject could be dry, but Ulrich keeps up a steady clip and never fails to hold your attention. After reading this, I've never looked at old niddy noddies the same way again.
I've even written a manifesto
about it. Swatching is not just drudgery, it can be its own form of spiritual practice. Take it from me, I'm a serial swatcher.
7. My kitchen scale
My favorite kitchen gadget doesn't even dice, slice, or julienne. It sits on top of the microwave, and I pull it out whenever I bake cake or make caramels. It comes in especially handy when I'm knitting and need to figure out how much yarn I have left. Do you have a kitchen scale
8. Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac
She has written many books, but this may be my favorite. I return to it again and again, not just for knitting information but for company. It's like slipping into her knitting bag and following her life for an entire year. Intimate, insightful, instructive, and inspiring. (In addition to Amazon
you can also keep your purchase in the family by ordering the book from Schoolhouse Press
9. My Maine-Made Cherry Swift
It was the biggest splurge I'd ever made for any knitting item. The world was telling me I should make do with a simple, sturdy wood model
, but my heart had fallen for the cherry swift hand-made right here in Maine (you'll find it at the bottom of this article
). More than 13 years of loyal service later, it remains as beautiful as ever. I still smile every time I use it.
10. Stranding these two yarns together
In theory, it would be technically impossible to improve upon a lace-weight brushed cashmere and silk. And yet Filatura Di Crosa does just that with the surprisingly simple addition of a superfine strand of tender, bouncy Merino. When you strand Filatura di Crosa Superior and Nirvana
together and knit them as one, you get something truly transcendent.
11. GoKnit Pouches
I've said it before, I'll say it again. Just this week as I headed off to Madrona I had no fewer than five different sizes of these colorful drawstring pouches
tucked away in my various suitcases and carry-on bags. They are insanely simple, made to last, and endlessly useful.
12. Ann and Kay
Many moons ago, back when knit blogging was in its infancy, a clever duo named Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner began carrying on a public correspondence to one-another through a blog. Because Ann was in Nashville, Kay in New York, they named their blog Mason-Dixon Knitting
. Two books, several dozen log cabin blankets and a bajillion Honey Cowls later, Ann and Kay are still sharing their world with us. I enjoy this blog not just for its intelligence, humor, and kindness, but because it is extremely well written. Give it a look.
13. This rocking chair that knits hats while you rock
That's right. Some clever people have figured out how to harness the natural motion of a rocking chair and use it to power a knitting machine
. Nothing fancy or elaborate—yet—but you do get a nice cozy hat when you're done.
14. Letting go
In life, you can't unwind what's done and start over from the beginning. But in knitting you can. Few things give me as much pleasure as digging deep into my stash of unfinished projects, picking one that I know will never be complete, unraveling it back to its bare yarn, winding that yarn into a nice big skein, dropping it in a tub of warm sudsy water, and releasing it back into the wild. Give recycling
a try. I promise, you'll feel better.
I actually have a 15th favorite to add to the list: YOU. Thank you for being there and for loving yarn as much as I do. Will you be my knitting Valentine?