reading & knitting

My favourite Elizabeth Zimmermann book is the Knitter’s Almanac. When I first encountered it a few years ago, I remember being very struck by the passages on reading while knitting (in the ‘April’ chapter). At the time I thought this was utterly remarkable — combining two activities simultaneously? Two activities requiring two very different kinds of concentration? Surely it was impossible! I have since discovered that this is not the case, and that reading and knitting actually complement each other rather well. Clearly one should always trust EZ. In fact, I now find that knitting serves to focus my reading in quite a weird but useful way. I tend to read quickly and impatiently, but knitting makes me slower, more careful, and much more methodical. At the moment I am catching up with a backlog of books for review. One has to take one’s time with those. This is just the right kind of reading to knit to.

This is what makes the whole thing possible.


I am very fond of this bookstand, which is made of a lovely old piece of oak. It gets a lot of use, and in fact I tend to treat it rather brutally — it usually sits on my desk overloaded with a few too too many books and scribbled notes. This is probably all too evident from its battered appearance, and the several places where it has been fixed and glued.

In terms of the knitting, I just needed a project that I could go either round and round, or back and forth with, in a relatively simple manner. No cables or lace. I found such a project . . .


. . . and both the reading and the knitting zoomed by at a ready pace. Yesterday I wrote up my reviews, and in the evening sewed up this:


A bolero jacket from this collection by Debbie Bliss.

It hasn’t been blocked yet, and I think it probably needs it, but the slightly uneven (would others say ‘rustic’?) appearance is at least partly a feature of the yarn its made from — handspun cashmere that I bought at Teo’s on Skye last summer. Knitting with this stuff was amazing. I can only compare the feeling to running ones hands through a bowl of sifted flour of a very fine grade. Ah me. The gauge was quite difficult to approximate because of the way the yarn behaves — it wasn’t sure from one row to the next whether it wanted to be aran or chunky. But I trusted my instincts and Debbie Bliss, and it worked out just fine. I knit it on 5.5mm needles, rather than the 6.5 the pattern calls for, and this has produced a shape that’s reasonably tailored on someone with narrow shoulders like me. Not a Spring jacket, by any means, but just right for now.


Can I say that several hours of careful, focussed, and stimulating reading while knitting cashmere at the same time probably constitutes my ideal working day? A shame that writing while knitting is a complete impossibility. . . . or is it?

Pattern: Bolero Jacket, Debbie Bliss “Simply Soft”
Needles: 5mm (for ribs) and 5.5 mm
Yarn: Teo’s handspun cashmere, 450g.