Break the wool at the knot

Elizabeth Zimmerman, titan of modern knitting, remarks on the fact that knitters who would never join two strands of yarn with a knot often accept the knots that come in the skein:

…But one thing is certain—never knit a knot. No matter how careful you are to keep it on the wrong side, it usually pops through to the right side to haunt you. There is a strong human inclination to regard knots in new wool as acts of God, and to knit on. Don’t. Break the wool at the knot and treat it like a regular join. If the skein has an unusual number of knots—say more than three—drop a card to the manufacturer, telling him the dye lot. If he is on his toes, he will be grateful.

Knitting without Tears, 1971

This passage came to mind when such a knot appeared in the yarn I’m using to knit Clara a shawl, and I was able to resist the temptation to just knit through it. But it makes me wonder what other problem situations I resignedly accept, simply because that’s how they came to me. Here are a couple that come to mind:

  • A normal recycling bin cycles through five states: empty, nearly empty, half full, nearly full, and full, at which point it gets emptied again. Ours goes from empty to nearly empty to full to overfull. Somehow that too-soon fullness feels like an act of God that I should not defy by taking the bin out to the dumpster.
  • When I put away our clean dishes, anything that hasn’t completely dried (plastic lids and upright tumblers are repeat offenders) goes into the cabinet without getting toweled off, as if the residual water were an “act of God.” In contrast, whenever I need to put away a big pile of freshly washed dishes, I always make sure to dry them all thoroughly.

I see a couple of common threads: First, the correct behavior is always a little more inconvenient than the easy one—it’s easier to ignore the problem than deal with it, even if dealing with it is not that much harder. Second, and to me more significant, is the feeling that it’s okay to ignore the problem because it shouldn’t be there. The recycling bin shouldn’t already be full, the dishes should be dry by now, the skein of yarn shouldn’t have come with any knots in it.

So from now on I’m going to try to notice that feeling of “this problem shouldn’t be there” and tell myself to just break the wool at the knot.

One thought on “Break the wool at the knot

  1. oh my goodness I do the same thing with dishwasher stuff vs. handwash dishes. I think just out of not thinking about it and now I will so thank you! I will also admit occasionally hanging up freshly laundered clothes inside out instead of turning them the right way. There’s not really a consequence to that once I turn it rightside out before wearing the item, but when I take this route my closet feels unsettling when I look at it


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