PULL THE TAIL ~ Learning to spool knit
My First Lesson -
One day Mom got a hammer, 4 nails and a spent thread spool. Thread spools then were made from wood. Plastic was beginning to come on the scene but wooden ones were abundant. Not like today. She instructed me to remove all the labels on the ends of the spool revealing the hollow core.
She efficiently hammered the nails around the hole of one end of the spool spaced evenly. The nails were jutting out from the spool about ¾ of an inch and not flat to the wood. “Make certain the nails are firm into the wood”, she said as she jiggled each nail to affirm this. “This is your knobby” she added as she handed it to me to inspect.
She held the end of some yarn in her hand. It was white and worsted weight.
I was then shown my first slipknot and told; “this is the foundation of everything”. I recall thinking how odd that a small piece of yarn tied into an interesting knot could be the anchor of it all. It was too fascinating and I practiced many, many times. Trying to shorten the length of the yarn to see how near I could get it to eliminate the tail end. In future lessons I would learn many times how important that wee tail end is. But for then I was determined to ‘master’ that knot and never forget how to do it.
Mom then took the knobby back from me and placed the slipknot over one of the nails. With the yarn end that was connected to the skein, she took it behind an adjacent nail toward the spool hole. It was then wrapped around the back of the nail and brought forward to the front of that nail. The yarn finished ready to repeat that process again and again until home at the slipknot. The circle was completed and all nails had yarn around them.
Back at the starting slipknot nail she placed the yarn over the front of that nail again like she was doing the cast-on for the beginning. She picked up a double pointed knitting needle and inserted it into the slipknot below and pried it over the yarn laying on the top front of the nail toward the spool hole. She repeated this over all the nails until she was again back to the slipknot nail. In this row and every row after the yarn would not go to the back of the nails just rest over the front of them as the needle slipped the thread from the last row over them. This routine was repeated again as I observed. Thankfully she did it ever so slowly so I could see.
Suddenly the yarn and the work seemed stuck. It was difficult to keep the stitches on the nails. Mom took the knobby and showed me how to push the creation down into the spool hole with the needle. She then managed to coax the yarn tail end through the spool hole at the bottom. With tail in hand she tugged and out popped the creation. It was gorgeous. I was given back the knobby and told from now on to “tug on the tail” as I went.
Eagerly I continued around the spool tugging every now and then. In a very short time I had many inches coming from the spool’s bottom. It was beautiful. Every stitch was perfect. I marveled how smart this
knobby was. I pondered how the first person to have invented this contraption ever did it. I was so grateful that my Mum was the amazing. She knew so much.
I carried the knobby with me forever it seemed and made many long rope-things. I would roll these ropes into a ball and then unroll them studying them recalling the hours I had dedicated to them. I also re-discovered thoughts tucked into the inches from the moments I had when working the knobby. The knobby was like a diary of unwritten words. I was too young to realize this was the private place of a knitter.