So a while back, I forgot why it was I didn’t buy wool in skeins and bought some anyway. A then, a few days ago, having finished one pair of socks, I decided to start on another, which first meant rewinding the skein into balls.
Suffice it to say, this did not go well.
If there’s a trick to dealing with skeins, I have not mastered it (vague childhood memories suggests it involves finding someone prepared to stand there holding the wool stretched out so it cannot tangle. Truly, we made our own entertainment in those days). And besides, it is now too late because the skein is now irrevocably in a fankle and can only be retrieved by the patient teasing out of the wool, one tangle at a time.
I’d be more annoyed about this, and myself, if I didn’t actually find the process rather soothing. Although it’s a bit too close to an old Jack Dee joke about wicker unravelling for comfort, it’s the perfect way of filling a bit of time – it doesn’t involve looking at a screen, it’s not as pointless as colouring in (seriously, are we over that now?), and it keeps the fingers and just enough of the brain occupied that the rest of it can wander at will. Knitting is a great way of adding value to any given bit of dead time, but its repetitive nature means it’s not really that interesting to do unless you’re trying something new, so I generally need something else going on. Untangling wool, on the other hand, can be utterly absorbing, consisting as it does of a series of small, varied but ultimately solvable problems, each of which immediately leads to the next, and the next, and the next. You (and by you, obviously, I mean me) sit down to do a bit while the kettle boils and your coffee brews and the next thing you know half an hour has passed, your coffee is cold and untouched at your side, and you’re saying to yourself, I’ll just get this really juicy knot loose and then I really will stop …
I like to think that it functions as a sort of meditation – a pause in the day, a chance for the subconscious to roam free, and a way to untangle the knots in my mind as well as in the wool. But even if it doesn’t, I will at least get a couple of balls of unknotted wool out of the deal, which, once re-knotted in a more systematic fashion, will hopefully end up as socks. And you can’t say that about colouring in.