There's a Monkey on My Back

Miriam-Webster describes the word "obsessive" as, "thinking about something or someone too much or in a way that is not normal". I'm not really sure who gets to decide what's a "normal" way or amount to think about something or someone, but I get the gist so I can roll with it. They describe the word "compulsive" as, "caused by a desire that is too strong to resist : impossible to stop or control" and, "very interesting". I have been (not falsely) accused of being a little of both obsessive and compulsive. I don't mind. I take it as a compliment, especially the bit about "very interesting". Why thank you, I like to think so. But I don't know that there's anything particularly special or unusual (i.e., not "normal") about it. I think that I probably share this distinction with most of you fiberistas. We have our own special word to describe it - "stash". So I'm sure most of you will understand the drive to think about something in a way that is not normal (and here I'll add "for non-fiberistas" to the definition) I'm also pretty sure that "desire that is too strong to resist" is something that you not only understand but have experienced and enjoy. Of course you do. Just look in your closet. Yarn, yarn, yarn! You know it. I know it. The clothes that should be hanging in there but instead are on the treadmill know it. I'm not judging, I'm just saying. You might as well own your compulsion.

I have another compulsion besides fiber and yarn. Its kind of secret so I hope you'll be as non-judgmental of it as I am of your stash (and mine). Its office supplies. Specifically writing tools and paper. Ever since I learned to hold a crayon I've just been madly attracted to tools that make marks and the stuff you mark upon. This came in very handy when I was in art school. Perhaps I should say that art school came in handy as it allowed me to indulge my little secret. But I don't paint any more and my drawing is pretty limited to patterns and  designs so its kind of rare that I go to a store that has this type of candy. Understandably I thought I had the addiction under control. That is until my recent visit to my Besty, Madame Huff pictured below in front of one of her most clever designs and books.

 Noted author, relentlessly talented designer, and evil enabling super genius, Mary Scott Huff. Cute but dangerous.

Noted author, relentlessly talented designer, and evil enabling super genius, Mary Scott Huff. Cute but dangerous.

 

One morning I was sitting at her desk, kvetching about its poor ergonomics I'm sure  (will she never listen to me?), when I discovered an artsy little container filled with fountain pens sitting beside the computer. Beads of sweat formed on my brow. Then I started to worry, no panic. I have this thing under control, right? I don't need to touch them. I have my own fountain pen and while its one of my favorite things I am its master, not the other way around. I don't need to see what its like to use another fountain pen.

So Huff says with faux innocence, "I see you've noticed my fountain pens. Do you like them?" More beads of sweat. "How about my (pause) mechanical pencils?", she said breathlessly.  If she had a mustache like Simon Legree she'd have stroked it. She knew she'd hit a nerve. And I knew I was about to be tied to the railroad tracks unless Dudley Dooright were to come along. "Have you ever shopped on the Goulet Pens website?" she purred. "How about Levenger or Jetpen?" The next thing I remember we were on the couch our hands filled with iPads which we feverishly stroked while looking lustfully at page after page of pen and paper porn. I'm not going to lie, it was heady. But I resisted and walked away with my dignity and wallet intact. 

So this week I'm minding my own business knitting on a sweater and using my mechanical pencil to update a chart, as I always do, when suddenly the pencil breaks. Totally broken -  beyond repair. It was an inexpensive but effective pencil and I got years of service from it, so no tears really. But then I realized I'd need to replace it. My hands got clammy. There are those damn beads of sweat again. There must be another way. I'll use a wooden pencil. I have one on the desk. I sprinted the two feet from my chair to the desk and grabbed it. Holding it with just the right amount of grip I moved it across my chart. It dragged clumsily.  It's body, too thin for my manly grip, lacked contour and caused my hand to strain. It's eraser, hard and smudgy gave me no satisfaction when I made a correction. This wasn't fun! Who was I kidding? This was never going to work. "Its me, not you, pencil. You see, there was another." And it must be replaced. I knew I had to go inside the belly of the beast - the art supply store.

Loins girded I set off this morning after a hearty breakfast for Flax Art and Design which is  one of my favorite store of all time. I felt they knew I was coming, too, and they were ready. Entering the store the first thing I encountered was a huge case of fountain pens and mechanical pencils. More beads of sweat. ("You can handle this".) I was sure I'd be dead in the water. ("You're in control") Putty in their hands ("The power is in the moment!"). But then suddenly, not just pens. Look at this wall of ink!

 Just a portion of the wall of ink at Flax. I can't breathe, OMG, I can't breathe!

Just a portion of the wall of ink at Flax. I can't breathe, OMG, I can't breathe!

Through the kindness and expertise of these two talented and knowledgeable folks I manged to emerge with just want I needed.

 Lani (left) and Stephanie (right) know everything in the world about pens, ink, and paper. They totally rock!

Lani (left) and Stephanie (right) know everything in the world about pens, ink, and paper. They totally rock!

Okay, more than I needed. But it could have been so much worse. And tell me you could resist this fountain pen and pencil. And as the theme was red I was in for some Noodler's Red Black ink as well. Delicious!

 I used a red mechanical pencil throughout grad school and ever since. So glad they had the Kerry in red!

I used a red mechanical pencil throughout grad school and ever since. So glad they had the Kerry in red!

Now, what in the world has this to do with knitting? Everything! Tools inspire us to work. They are a part of the very experience of every part of knitting. Tools need to be comfortable to work with and, in my not so humble opinion, joyous to hold and use. They need to excite you. I'm sorry, but I won't apologize for not compromising on this and I hope you won't either! Everything from your needles to your stitch markers should be things that you enjoy. I'm not saying form over function (necessarily) but I will go down crying that if you don't love what you're working with then you shouldn't be using it because you won't enjoy the work. Nothing is more dissatisfying than knitting with needles that don't feel good in your hand. Or yarn that doesn't drape or display stitches as you wish it to. Why would you bother? Its the same with writing instruments, ball winders, bags, everything! In my mind, there are things you can skimp on with an eye toward economizing, but tools that I plan to spend time with are not among them. (I feel similarly about chocolate and wine. Life's short - enjoy!) And since I'm an accidental writer of sorts I get to have nice writing tools, too.

So with that in mind you can look forward to some posts in the future about Carson's favorite fiber tools and supplies. And if you have a favorite fiber tool - or writing implement - won't you share it with us in the Comments section below?

Until then, Knit Comfy!

Knitting allows me to experience the joy of other hand workers products. Ergo I Knit.