Knitters are passionate people. I knew this already. One of my earliest posts on a knitting exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum found a much larger than usual readership. So why did it take me decades to have a go myself? More about that in a later post but I come from a family of knitters – my mother, grandmother and various aunts were all highly competent knitters and seamstresses. In fact, my grandmother died with her knitting needles still gripped firmly in her fingers, clutching the sweater she had finished in that very moment: the maker now ready to meet her Maker. Having mentioned this fact to other knitters, they all agree that it would be the ideal passage from this world to the next: knitting is their happy place and their relaxed state.
Learning to knit, however is not a relaxed state and attending my first beginners class in Richmond’s Tribe Yarns, I found it to be trickier than I expected. Others had told me proudly how they taught themselves or learnt by watching internet videos, but for me it was invaluable to have a real-life teacher able to demonstrate (repeatedly) casting on, knitting and purling. Like swimming, its all about getting your co-ordination right and mastering a repetitive movement.
Once I’d got the basics, I was off and slowly became aware that I was adopting a variety of gurning facial expressions ranging from concentration to pure horror as I laboured to cast on 50 stitches. It turned out that that was the hardest part. Knitting and purling then came easily and after that, a few dropped stitches aside, came addiction. I’d been warned of course that that might well be the outcome. Tales had been told of knitters unravelling their finished product just to have the pleasure of knitting something else. Perhaps one needs a bigger and harder project every time to deliver the required satisfaction. For now at least, it is challenge enough to remember the difference between knitting and purling from one day to the next.
One aspect that I know will be attracting me again and again is the endless fascination of Tribe’s yarn selection. The joy to eye and hand of the luscious racks of yarn will be familiar to all knitters, but the needles too have a tactile pleasure of their own, made from satiny driftwood. During our class there was a constant round of visitors to the shop, many regulars, who came to explore, to chat, to soak up the colour. That’s really the special thing about this shop: it is a destination in itself, a total immersion in colour and texture with a dedicated and passionate following. A tribe in fact. I desperately want to be initiated, so I’ll be knitting and purling for all I’m worth so that I can go back and enjoy the pleasure of choosing and planning my next yarn trip. I already have more courses planned: next project will be a woolly hat.
Tribe Yarns is based at 20b, Richmond Hill, London TW10 6QX and online . They run regular classes and events – details all available on their website.