From the moment I started knitting, what I’ve loved at least as much as the yarn is the tools — especially the beautiful wooden needles. I fuss over them and adore them maybe more than my stash. About the same time I was knitting my first stitches, I was reading (possibly re-reading) a YA fantasy novel called Among Others. I don’t read YA or fantasy, but my friend Jim Mustich told me to read it and I always do what Jim says. Apart from the ending, it’s a really great little book. Set in Wales, it’s about a teenage girl, Morwenna, whose twin has been killed by their evil witch of a mother. Mor finds herself at boarding school, cut off from her family and their homes and possessions. There’s a tiny but absolutely delightful thread running through the narration, which is Mor’s views on our objects as they relate to ourselves — the ways we get to know each other over time. I think this is the first time it comes up:
“Still on the subject of eating, we don’t have our own plates, or our own knives and forks or cups. Like most of what we use, they’re communal, they’re handed out at random. There’s no chance for anything to become imbued, to come alive through fondness. …
“At home, I walked through a haze of belongings that knew, at least vaguely, who they belonged to. Grampar’s chair resented anyone else sitting in it … . Gramma’s shirts and jumpers adjusted themselves to hide her missing breast. … Our toys looked out for us. …
“None of these things did anything. The coffee spoons didn’t stir the coffee without being held or anything. They didn’t have conversations with the sugar tongs about who was the most cherished. … I suppose what they really did was psychological. They confirmed the past, they connected everything, they were threads in a tapestry. Here there is no tapestry, we jangle about separately.”
Later, when she’s staying at her aunt’s house and trying to cook dinner, she says, “Auntie Teg’s dishes don’t like me any more than [the cat] does. The knives and peelers don’t cut me, but they turn awkward in my hands. They know I’m not the person supposed to be using them.”
Why am I going on about all of this? There’s a thing I’ve been wanting to do since the dawn of this blog. I’m something of a voyeur. I love looking at images of people’s homes and especially their studios. And I’m also fascinated by organizational systems (or the absence thereof). I think you can learn so much about people and about a given craft or subject area from listening to them talk about how they approach whatever it may be. And then there’s Morwenna’s view of our tools as partners in our making. I used to do a series at Readerville (actually in the print version, The Readerville Journal) called Ex Libris, wherein I asked a really broad range of people the same ten questions about how they shelve and use and share (or not) their books. And for more than a year, ever since reading those passages above, I’ve been thinking of starting a series here asking people a similar set of questions about their crafting tools.
I haven’t approached anyone about it yet, nor even written the questions. But I’m hoping that sharing this idea publicly will get me off my arse about it. I’m thinking of calling it “Our Tools, Ourselves” but I’d love your suggestions if you have any. And for you to bug me if you don’t see the first of these coming along soon.
Speaking of learning from people by listening to them talk about their craft, this week’s ICYMI is Blog Crush: vintage Jared Flood.