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Blog - Letty McHugh

I hope this blog post finds you well in these strange and crinkly times


Do you ever look at a hand-knit jumper, or any knitting really and just feel totally blown away by the idea that it’s just one long piece of string? I do all the time. Well, not all the time, I’d never get anything done. I am blown away by it occasionally when I see some hand knitting and I am in that sort of mood.

a short block of purple knitting still on the needles. The knitting needles are crossed and sticking out of a ball of purple wool.

Some wild knitting appeared

I don’t know if you personally ever do any knitting? I do a bit sometimes, I am not a good knitter, I can’t keep track of the patterns, and somehow inexplicably always pick up stitches, I made a scarf once that was double the width at the top edge than at the bottom. When I was a student in Bath I did a lot of knitting, I was in a knitting club even, it was called Got Knits? and it met on Monday nights in the pub.

As I mentioned I am rubbish at knitting, so my time at knitting club was mostly spent pulling back. I don’t know if you’ve ever pulled any knitting back? Basically, what you do is pull on that long thread with pretensions of being a jumper (or whatever) and turn it back into a long string. To be honest with you I often found pulling back to be significantly more satisfying than the actual knitting, it’s instant gratification.

In the foreground a white woman with brown hair is knitting in a dingy pub. She is wearing a grey t shirt with the word music on. The woman is clearly concentrating on her knitting, she  has only managed one or two messy lines. In the background another white woman in knitting, behind the second woman's head is a large glowing lampshade.

Photographic evidence of me knitting in a pub in 2010.

The problem is wool is never quite the same after you’ve pulled it back. It’s crinkly like it remembers being so much more than it currently is, and also, it’s usually everywhere, crinkly carnage as far as the eye can see. Like most things involved in a glamorous rock and roll lifestyle, pulling back a knitted garment is easy, fast and thrilling, but ultimately it leaves you feeling a little cheap, and it probably isn’t worth the clean-up.

In the autumn of 2011, (I a person with a long and checkered history of over-identifying with intimate objects) began looking into the chaotic piles of crinkled chaos constantly strewn around my student bedroom and thinking, I am this pulled back knitting. (Friends and long-time readers may remember other such classics as I am those dead moths, I am that anchor in a scrapyard, and, I am the sea) The wool encapsulated this mounting feeling I had that I couldn’t seem to explain to anyone with words. I was coming apart somehow, unravelling, I was a long string in the shape of a person and someone was pulling me back faster than I could knit. (This feeling, as it turned out, was an undiagnosed chronic illness)

(This video is a dramatisation of events in 2010. Any similarity to other knitting videos existing or deleted is purely coincidental)

I actually spent three weeks making a film where I knit a long purple scarf and then pulled it back, but when I watched it back I wasn’t happy with it so I deleted all the footage and never told my tutors about it. I wasn’t a very good art student, to be honest, I was always either spending ages on work I didn’t like enough to hand in then destroying it or telling my tutors elaborate lies about the amazing work I’d forgotten to bring with me to my tutorial and then having to frantically make it before my hand in. I spent the last two weeks of every term in a blind panic trying to remember my lies well enough to make them a reality. I just hated sharing my mistakes and half-formed ideas, I never wanted to show my working out. I still don’t.

the purple knitting from the earlier image has been pulled back and is messily strewn across a blue bed sheet. The knitting needles are discarded underneath the mass of crinkly wool.

This took (my mum) an hour to knit and (me) just over a minute to pull back.

I’ll give you three guesses why I’ve wheeled this story out today. If you said: our normal lives are the jumper and coronavirus is pulling it back, you get five points. I hope this blog post finds you well in these strange and crinkly times.

I also bring it up because of the last thing, the part where I don’t like showing my working out. I’m finding it hard to write or be creative at the minute, it feels like it’s all workings out. I don’t know how to write in a pandemic, I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do to crack jokes, I don’t feel like anyone wants to read about the trials and tribulations of my lockdown life when you all have your own trials and tribulations to deal with. All my ideas are half baked at the minute because most things I had planned are on hold. I’m trying to find a way to work in lockdown that won’t involve me deleting everything I do or telling elaborate lies about my productivity to try and impress you. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, and I’m glad I have this community to chat with while I try.

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Lisette Auton
10 months ago

I want to read them – lies and deletions and workings out and all stuff. Your writing is mighty and I feel like I’ve had a hug when I’ve read it. We need more hugs.

10 months ago

I shall never look at a woolie pully the same again …or a string vest come to that! 😉

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