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Su Lum: Knitting lessons

The other day someone in the office was talking about knitting, which got me to remembering the slippers I used to knit and thinking that I wished I had a few pairs of them now that the frost is on the pumpkin, but I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind. No more knitting!

The slippers were simple wool slip-ons, with pompoms on top. I especially liked making the pompoms and the fact that they covered the messy area where the slippers were sewn together. My dachshund Peter Mouse also liked (shredding) the pompoms, which often had to be replaced.

I don’t remember now who turned me on to them. I think someone gave me a pair, and I liked them so much I asked for the instructions

My mother and grandmother could knit and read aloud at the same time, but I was always a bumbling knitter who dropped stitches (and then couldn’t find them) and got the knitting needles stuck up my sleeves. Early attempts at mittens were lumpy, tear-stained messes with one thumb twice as long as the other.

The slippers, on the other hand, were an instant success because they were knitted on large needles, the girth of my little finger. The larger the needle, the fewer the stitches you have to take, and I got so I could make a pair of slippers in a couple of hours. That was more like it!

I knitted slippers for my daughters and myself, knitted slippers as Christmas presents for all my friends (“Ah, just what I wanted!”). I had the fever, and just as I ran out of friends to give slippers to, a new knitting craze came on the scene in the form of broomstick needles.

As the name implies, these knitting needles were close to the size of broomsticks, so every stitch was huge, each row adding an inch or more to the finished product. No good for slippers but perfect for sweaters. Using the broomsticks, I could knit a sweater in an evening. If I dropped a stitch, I could rip out a row or two and re-knit it in minutes.

I suspect that the broomstick needles were an inspiration of the wool industry, as one of the consequences of my sweater-knitting fervor was that it seriously upped the ante to my wool supplier, Scandinavian Design.

Knitting sweaters with broomsticks required extra-thick wool to keep the stitches tight, otherwise the sweaters would have resembled fishermen’s nets. This not only meant more wool, but a finished product that, while lovely to my eyes, was too hot to wear in anything less than arctic climates and too heavy for the human frame to carry.

Put on one of my three-hour specials and your knees would buckle.

I gave one to my friend Bruce Berger, who hefted it and remarked, “My, it’s like a coat of mail!”

Meanwhile, I was ripping through $30 a night in 1970s dollars on wool, and it quickly became apparent that I’d have to kick the knitting habit. This was not easy. I weaned myself down to a sweater a week, then one every two weeks, then one every three weeks and supplemented with Springbok jigsaw puzzles (which were the best puzzles on the planet until Hallmark bought them out). And at $5 at Patricia Moore’s and 50 cents at garage sales, the puzzles were considerably cheaper than wool.

[Su Lum is a longtime local for whom old habits die hard. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]


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