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The Hand Made Object: All the Same but Different

The two recent additions to our family have been displaying a keen interest in knitting. Sitting either side of me on the sofa they watch my needles intently and I have spotted them covertly eyeing up my lovely, berry red, wool, clearly itching to get their paws on it.

This morning’s knitting class was interrupted with a request;

“We want you to knit something for us”

I was delighted by this apparent U-turn on the pre-Christmas loathing of all things knitted.

“We want you to knit a felt ball for the cats to play with”

I hid my disappointment.

“OK- would you like me to decorate it with shisha mirrors in the tradition of textiles from the Indian subcontinent- to trap the evil eye and hold its reflection for all eternity?”

“No thanks”

“Should I embellish it with embroidery inspired by 18th century crewel work?”


“How about if I needle punch a felt pattern on it, derived from a 15th century Mongolian yurt?”

“No. Just knitted and felted is fine thanks.”

I fished out a knitting pattern and this afternoon, as I made the ball, I recalled a short project I had worked on with a group of knitters at Dragon Hall in Norwich. I had given everyone a small amount of red wool and the pattern,  and they were each going to knit, and felt, a small red ball to bring in the following week.

Seven days later I was presented with a collection of 11 beautiful red balls, all essentially the same, but each one, exquisitely different. One was rather oversized and squashy; another was on the small side, and rather hard. One was slightly misshapen and another had been clearly overstuffed.

This episode exposes the beauty and uniqueness of the handmade object. Personal interpretation and the trace of the hand always result in a kind of difference unknown in mechanical, or digital, reproduction. An object made by hand, even one that follows a formula, or pattern, is naturally rendered as unique as the individual that made it, and as I finished the cats ball this afternoon I considered this and pondered it’s pure, modernist, form.

Then I threw it into the hallway and we watched as the cats pounced on it, fought over it, and patted it down a hole in the floor.

Photograph by Dragon Hall Knitter: Gillian Wood

The knitting pattern and full instructions on how to make these balls will be in issue 2 of The Mercerie Post. Register here for your copy by 9th January to make sure you don’t miss out!

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