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16 February 2008

New knitting

It's almost Autumn, so for me, it's time to knit with wool instead of cotton. I went to the shops yesterday - yes, I know, it's scary out there - to buy a longer set of circular needles. I'm going to make a cowl for the cold days of winter. I have two balls of very soft 100% fine merino wool in my stash, all I needed was the needles.

I took my camera to the store.

Knitting is a really interesting activity. It's like a mediation, in that it's often a solitary repetition that calms and slows you down. But it's also something that, when you do it in public, will connect you to all the other knitters in the vicinity. Knitters like watching and talking to other knitters. It's like being in a club. When you knit in public, you make a statement. You're silently saying that you like to be productive, you prefer homemade to mass production and your modern creative spirit is satisfied by an age old craft. When you knit at home alone, you're nurturing your soul with the doing of it and giving yourself, or whomever the knitting is for, the warm and generous gift of the handmade.

On to the store. I thought I'd be able to buy needles at the big department store here - Myer. I drove over there, searched high and low, and guess what! You probably already know what I will write - NO needles, no wool, no cotton, no materials of any kind that would allow me to make for myself what I wanted. They only sell pre-made everything. Pfffffffft! I did get some photos though. Can you imagine, they're already selling Easter eggs!

Clicking on the photos will enlarge them

I went to Spotlight. For those readers not in Australia, Spotlight is our big chain craft store. I knew they had needles and all the yarn to go with them, but it's really impersonal there. You scan the aisles, much like in a supermarket, and then take your purchase to a checkout. I would love to find a small local shop that sells a good range of wool and cotton, where I could talk about my purchase to someone with knowledge and advice, where they had swatches of knitting done in various patterns using a variety of yarns, where my love of the handmade was affirmed.

I bought my needles, and two balls of 100% cotton in the bargain bin for $1 each. One of them is red! I don't know why but red cotton is as scarce as hen's teeth here, so when I saw it sitting there I picked it up without hesitation. Click Click with the camera, much to the surprise of the women shopping there, and off I went.

I felt like the cat with all the cream as I drove home with visions of the cowl and the many knitting sessions in store for me. I've already written that I don't see knitting and sewing as a craft but rather a part of the work I do for my home. No matter what it is called though, knitting is always pure pleasure and the starting of a new project is a time of happy anticipation. And when I settle down on the front verandah later this morning and settle into the rhythm of this new knitting, it will provide the satisfaction and enjoyment of the making as well as a warm garment for me to wear in winter. You can't get much better than that.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”


  1. I have rediscovered the joy of knitting and crocheting. I too went to Spotlight yesterday which looks remakably similar to your store.LOL I think they must all be identical.
    I picked up quite a few balls of pure wool for 50c each for my MIL who makes things for a charity so whenever I spot a bargain I grab a few balls for her.
    I am currently crocheting a blanket for my sister who recently moved to Tassie and am looking forward to finishing it so I can move onto a knitting project.
    P.S. They have been selling Easter things since January 1st!

  2. Your comment about knitting linking people brought back a wonderful memory for me. In 1987 I was lucky enough to be able to go for a week to Florence in Italy with a girlfriend (I broke my back in an accident in 1984 and my DH suggested that I use part of the insurance money for a trip I really longed to make).
    We were on the train from Bologna to Florence and I was knitting....actually casting on.
    A couple of elderly Italian ladies sitting opposite were spellbound watching me. Then they asked me to show them what I was doing. I didn't speak Italian, they didn't speak English.....impasse. But in the corner of the carriage was a lad around 20 years old.....English, but spoke Italian.....whose Mother had taught him to knit when he was a child. We "talked" knitting for the whole hour's journey. They had never seen the way we cast on, they just use the thumb method. They were delighted at how stretchy our way ends up. By the time we got to Florence they had both had a go and learned it.....
    Truly a treasured memory....!

  3. I know just what you mean Rhonda - it is the one thing I miss from Sydney - those little craft stores! Whenmy familyI was visiting family in USA last Xmas ((2006/7) in New York we saw "knitting cafes" where people would be sitting drinking their coffee/tea and knitting, chatting to one another - women and MEN. I thought what a wonderful idea - wouldn't it be wonderful if we had one of THOSE on the coast. And I agree with you about Myer - I cannot believe the things they DON'T sell - have come away disappointed so often I don't go there now. Easter eggs are out in IGA at Cooroy too!

  4. I have been working on a baby blanket now for two monthes. I am almost finished. I can't wait to finish it so I can move on to another project:)

    Although, I do think about the beautiful baby I am making it for the whole time.



  5. Rhonda Jean,

    I take my knitting with me to the various meetings I attend. Including to my bible study group which meets in public places. It helps me to relax and stay focused on the important issues as oppose to the nitty bitty in-fighting that can occur at some of the volunteer organizations i help out with.

    If I could get away with taking my knitting with me to work related meetings I would...but I don't think that would fly very well.

    Thank you for the pictures of your stores. I'm jealous that you can find wool for a dollar or less! Wool is so hard to find where I am, unless I go to a specialty shop, which don't exist here :( My plan while on my summer holidays is to seek out wool and yarn shops to stalk up for Autumn and Winter projects.

    When I get groceries tomorrow [Saturday], I will see if the Easter goodies are out yet. Maybe I'll luck out and get some half price St. V chocolates!

  6. I love the picture of all the bolts of fabric! My passion! We have only one big chain fabric store and that gets kinda of boring. If I travel about an hour and half I can be in Amish country and there are ALOT of fabrics stores....I do that about 3xs a year. Have a great weekend.


  7. Unfortunately I cant knit any more becuase I have a problem with my joints in my hands but I knitted all the kids clothes a few years back and some really trendy styles too (well, i thought so!). I really miss it. The pleasure you get from turning a length of cotton or wool into an item compares, to me, with growing a plant and fruit & vegetables from a seed, its just a massive leap in existence. Quite differnt from making clothes from fabric, which is more like re-arrangng the pieces, if you see what I mean.
    I wanted to comment on the craft & other shop in your photos. They are HUGE! The wool shop looked like an aircraft hanger. I am sure they have a lot of choice but I think I would find that much choice quite overwhelming.

    A lovely intersting post (as usual)Rhonda, thank you & happy knitting!


  8. Just on the Easter forum... some friends on a British parenting forum were asking in early December if anyone else felt like Christmas was over and done with already as they hype had dragged on for so long. One woman replied "Definitely done and dusted. I went to Sainsburys (supermarket) on the weekened and they're stocking Easter goods already" :-O

    No wonder these holidays are becoming all hype and no substance :-(

  9. I LOVE that quote at the end.

    I was just discussing with my daughter today that If I had the money, I'd love to start a store with quality yarns, threads, fabrics, etc. There is nothing around us like that for over 100 miles!

  10. good grief, michelle, since jan 1! That's a nice pick up for 50c.

    lilymarlene, that's a lovely story, thank you for sharing it. It's so true, knitting unites people.

    robbie, I'd like to visit one of those knitting cafes. That was my first visit to myer in years. I won't be going back soon.

    making things for babies is especially lovely, Renee. Enjoy your knitting.

    Maggie, I pick up wool when I see what I like at a good price. I just know it will come in handy someday.

    Coleen, I'd love to visit those amish store with you. How great would that be!

    I know what you mean Lizzie, knitting is like gardening. Pity you can use your needles now.

    Deborah, I think the commercialisation of the holdiays is ruining them.

    Tracy, that would be a lovely store to own. You could sell yarn and fabric and I'd could make the tea and cakes for you. ; - )

    Happy knitting everyone.

  11. I remember knitting was very trendy among the office girls last winter. Every second person on the bus had her needles out. It was a great way to make a unique scarf no-one else had. I actually knitted a soft fluffy blanket on my way to work that year!

  12. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    My store is like that too. Most of the workers know nothing about sewing or any other craft. Some can't even speak english.
    I am teaching myself to crochet. I still struggle with turning when I get to the end.
    My stores are just now getting Easter in. I love Easter. All the rabbits.

  13. Rhonda, your spotlight looks a whole lot better organised than ours. BTW: I recently found a villawool guide on "how to knit & crochet". I recall you making a New Year commitment to learn to crochet. I'm not sure how basic your skills are, but I'd be happy to scan the crochet pages for you and send them up your way. Lisa x

  14. p.s. for all you crazy needlecrafters out there, I've seen some really amazing wool/cotton bargains on ebay - it's worth a look for some cheap buys.

  15. Hello, there. I've been "lurking" (as I now know it to be called) for a month or so now. I wanted to wait until I had time to write a small introduction before I made random comments on your site but I realise now that bloggers sometimes find lurking a bit intrusive or hurtful so...

    Just wanted to say that your blog is an absolute inspiration to me at this point in my life. Our lives have very little in common at the moment - I live in Scotland, my oldest child is only three and a quarter (and is oldest of three), and I live in a Barratt-box modern house in a suburban estate.
    However, the pleasure and satisfaction that you take from homemaking is something that I aspire to and my husband and I are are aiming for a more "simple life" in as many ways as we can.

    I'd bookmaked your blog on my computer shortly before the hard drive blew up last year but hadn't had time to read you. Last month, I wanted to sort out some cleaning rags and I thought to myself "I bet that Australian wifie has something on them." I hunted you down and was a little stunned that "cleaning with rags" was your subject that day! I felt it was a sign ;-)
    Since then, you've covered budgeting, gardening and I've looked at breadmaking, mending and repairs and so much more in your archives.
    Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write your thoughts, advice and ideas and to assure you that most lurkers are probably just like me - eternally grateful for contact with the outside world but busy drinking first cup of coffee, bouncing the baby in the bouncy chair and writing the list for the day as they try to read your blog!

    I'll stop now as I'm fairly sure this is too lengthy for a public comment!


    PS Just started knitting this year. I come from a family of knitters so the gentle clicking of needles is a very therapeutic sound to me!

  16. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Maybe they do things differently in Queensland but I can certainly imagine Myer selling Easter eggs now (Lent has begun). I live in Melbourne and I was in Tasmania at Christmas and on Boxing Day my husband went to the supermarket and what did he see? Hot crossed buns and Easter eggs! Ludicrous, I know. There were letters to the local paper. What a world we live in.
    Happy knitting, I love knitting and I do love this blog.
    Regards, Ann.

  17. I have about 7 ufo knitting projects. There are a couple new knit shops in the city about 45 minutes away. I think I need to take a "finishing" class. I hate when things don't turn out "perfectly"!

  18. As tempting as it is to whip out my credit card to purchase yarn/wool online, my goal this year is to pay off the credit card. I think I'll wait 'til summer when I am on vacation to purchase my wool/yarn with cash.
    But thanks for the tip all the same :) I've seen some beautiful bamboo textiles in online shops in New York City, plus some real gorgeous wool from New England. Oh to live there some days!

  19. I really miss those haberdashery shops that used to be in every suburban shopping strip. Absolute treasure troves of useful things. Like old fashioned hardware shops. You could always buy plain old unbleached calico for a christmas pudding. Or a reel of white cotton. Or a pair of scissors that would cut.
    Now shopping for haberdashery is an exercise in frustration.

    Its our own fault this has happened though. We have allowed ourselves to be manipulated into this situation. Small shops are undercut by big companies, who do it all so much cheaper on the bigger scale (by employing god knows what tactics in the background). Then once all the little shops have closed down, the big shops change tack and replace the stock you used to buy with acres of cheap imported ready mades. After getting us to the point where we don't (and often can't) make stuff any more, and convincing us that price is the only criterion for a good buy, we're told there's no demand for standard or good quality stock. And we are left with whatever crap the big stores deign to stock, and have to make do with that. No choice, just take it or leave it.

    I remember when Lincraft opened a shop in our big shopping centre. For about three months it was heaven. I thought Haberdashery is Back! Cotton in all the colours you could hope for. A full selection of ribbons, buttons, zips etc. After 6 months they were down to four rolls of three inch satin ribbon in lurid lime green, only the very large or very small buttons (often yellow for some reason), 60cm zips in dark grey or pink, and more empty shelves than full in that basics section. But, there were suddenly rows and rows of garish plastic flowers, and wierd expensive kits of things you never knew existed, let alone had ever thought of spending hard earned cash on.
    Shopping there is an exercise in sheer frustration. Its not a haberdashery shop at all. Its a garage sale. A whole pile of useless rubbish that they want to get rid of as cheaply and quickly as possible.

    This makes me disapprove a little of buying cheap wool etc. at Lincraft, Spotlight etc, , because I think its part of the same sort of process. I think we should seek out the little craft shops and specialists and patronise them, even if they are more expensive, or require a special trip to get to, or we should shop from small online specialists.
    I go to a lovely wool shop, run by an older Austrian lady. She doesn't sell anything for 50c. She has spectacularly beautiful wools from all over the world, often quite expensive, and proper needles, in all sizes. You feel so energised after visiting her shop - like life is beautiful and worth living, rather than feeling a bit sullied like you do after going to Lincraft, where the only high you get is if you actually find something remotely like what you wanted, or score a ridiculously cheap bargain, even if its for something you didn't really want in the first place. Ikea, Bunnings, Freedom - they are all the same. We are serving them, not the other way around.

    I remember Bob Ellis ranting about all this much more eloquently than me in a great book called "First Abolish the Customer - 202 Arguments against Economic Rationalism" ...

  20. I love Grandmother was a wonderful knitter and she spent many hours with me patiently teaching and fixing mistakes. Some of it must have sunk in because I re-taught myself to knit last year. The first thing I knitted was a cardigan for the baby. Currently I am knitting a toy elephant for the boys and as soon as I have finished it I will need to start on their winter jumpers for this year. I am so looking forward to the project. I love it all from finding the pattern to seaching out the wool.Just a note of something (which I'm sure you are aware of) if you go to Spotlight at the end of the season ie around Aug/Sep they sell of their remaining wool for as little as 50c a ball.I picked up some great bargins last year to add to my small but growing stash.
    Enjoy your knitting and your weekend.....
    Love Jenx

  21. Just 'Who' actually buys Easter Eggs in January. Is there 'really' a market for them ?

    Here in Switzerland Easter Chocs and 'stuff'' are just being put on the shelves this week. About the right time I would say.


  22. The Easter eggs and Hot Cross Buns were on the shelves in January here in Tamworth, NSW. I don't think they can come out earlier than that because Christmas would be in the way.

  23. Just got back from the grocery store about an hour ago. Easter goodies are out in full force -- though they place them in the BACK of the store, by the frozen premade foods...hmmm good marketing tactic? yes?

    No left over St. V's chocolate that I could find. So I bought my organic dark chocolate bars instead. And feel much better for it :)

  24. Haha no they are not all identical, your spotlight looks huge compared to ours and thankfully the ladies behind the counter here are always happy to give advice, chat with the kids etc, but maybe thats because we are a rural city and have that small town mentality even though we are a city (a small one but a city nonetheless).

    I must say though that the easter egg thing with Myers (nearest Myers to us is either the gold coast (1-2 hours) or Brisbane (2-3hours away) is not just contained to large stores, every store i have walked into lately is full of chocolate eggs and has been so since january 3rd (when coles started putting theirs out on display).

    When my kids asked me why easter eggs were out so soon after christmas, all I could say was that the shop was hoping they would insist i buy them now, then they get eaten before easter so I need to go back and buy them again, and they hope this happens several times over so that they make more sales.

    I was overjoyed to see the comprehension and actual horror on my kids faces as they realised stores would do this to them. Yayy, I think I am going to like having a 7 and 10 yr old so much more than a 6 and 9 year old, just that little bit of comprehension has made shopping each week so much nicer, cause this time last year they wanted every easter egg they saw for the 6 or so weeks they were displayed before easter.

    I have a question though, I like knitting but am not very proficient, and still a newbie after many years of on again off again knitting, WHAT ARE THE CIRCULAR NEEDLES YOU BOUGHT AND WHAT ARE THEY USED FOR? I would google this, but not exactly sure what I am googling lol and would prefer a more personal answer from an actual knitter, iykwim. An answer from any knitter will do lol.

  25. Oh forgot to add crazy clarkes (and like stores) have fantastic priced acrylic yarn in amazing colours and nearly always on bargain prices (for those that dont like or cant wear real wool) and funny enough the local CC has a better selection of needles than most craft stores.


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