I had a fun 'celebrity' encounter this morning, which inspired this post. An Instagram user had liked one of my photographs. This particular image has had more interest than most - it's the entrelac scarf I completed a couple of months ago.
I always appreciate interest in anything I do or post, so I generally check out the user's profile in return. As soon as I saw this person's real name, I gave an internal squeal.
She's only Allison LoCicero, the woman who designed the beautiful scarf I knitted! This scarf was my first proper project, only the second thing I have knitted and the first time I had followed a proper pattern. To have the picture of the finished object 'liked' by the designer herself is massive!
This led me to think back to when I began being a woolly person and, because I know some blog readers are also woolly people, I thought I'd share my non-typical path to Woolville. It started, as all good stories do, at hula-hooping class...
Upon emigration to Australia in 2013, I knew precisely one person in my new country and he was living with me. He's awesome, but woman cannot live by handsome intelligent man alone. So I went to find friends, enrolling at the local college.
Not for me a refresher course in French, or Bookkeeping for Beginners. No: I opted to learn hula hoop tricks in my night class.
It took about five seconds into my first session for me to want my own hoop. I had it custom made by the instructor, the inimitable Bunny Hoop Star. Here it is, in case you love shiny colourful stuff.
I made friends with another girl that first night. She mentioned that she crocheted, I said I'd like to learn to do that and she said she would teach me.
I began crocheting in earnest, sharing my new-found love with a knitter friend, who consequently introduced me to the most famous crocheter out there at present, Lucy of Attic24. When I say introduced, I mean told me about her work so that I could look up her blog, patterns etc: we haven't actually met, though she only lives down the road from where I used to live in England, so you never know...
Okay, so I'm crocheting away very happily, when I suddenly have the brilliant idea of finding more like-minded people, but in the same hemisphere.
The internet comes into its own again and I find a local knitting club that admits crocheters. I gatecrash their gathering one evening and become a regular. My nasty crochet habit is tolerated and even indulged by the rest of the group - it's very decent of them. I even teach one member to crochet (in a cloak and dagger operation that takes place away from the main group so as not to provoke alarm).
The group tells me about Ravelry (don't get me started on Ravelry and, if you don't know what I'm talking about, it's best you never find out) and I discover ever more patterns. But I'm still a happy crocheter and don't feel tempted to join the needle addicts. Until...
...enter a knitted square. Just a small knitted square, hanging from a nail in my favourite yarn shop. But made of the most sparkly, mesmerising yarn imaginable.
I want the square. More specifically, as you can't buy the samples, I want to make the square. But I don't know anything about knitting. Anything.
There's a mature (is it appalling of me to guess 80-year-old?) lady sitting at a table in the middle of the shop. Even without knowing anything about knitting, I know she is knitting. So I speak to her and ask if she can give me some advice. My exact question, posed whilst holding the square out to her, is "What do I need to buy in order to make this?".
She is gracious, explaining to me that this is a sample showing how much knitting can be made with one ball of this particular yarn. She suggests small projects I could complete with one ball of the yarn. She also shows me how to test for a good yarn when making items that will be worn against the skin. She deciphers the label for me, explaining the numbers and symbols.
I am obsessed with the square. I confirm, for absolute clarity, "So if I buy this ball and these needles I can make this square?"
She has seen it all before: another female at the start of her journey. It isn't weird to her. She answers in the affirmative and asks, "Now, have I helped you?"
In another country, another place, that question would imply an expectation of reciprocation. I might be expected to hand over money, do her shopping or clean her shoes with my tongue. Here in the yarn shop in Australia, help is help.
I feel better-informed, confident about my upcoming purchase and grateful for her time and the benefit of her expertise. I confirm that yes, she has helped me. She nods. "Good." She goes back to her knitting. I go home and teach myself to knit. With a marginally cheaper ball of wool, as the sparkly yarn is too precious for one novice's inexperienced fumblings.
So there you go. A tableful of knitters couldn't interest me in knitting. An internet full of knitting patterns didn't do it. But one glittering square in an underground shop...