The Aargh of Shoes

Some people enjoy shoe shopping, and who knows? I might be one of them, if there was any chance of me actually finding what I am looking for. It has been about seven years since I last found a suitable pair of footwear in a shop, and even those were one size too large (but since they’re boots, I tend to wear them with thicker socks anyway, so it works).

What I want is not, I would have thought, excessive or unreasonable. What I want is only one pair of Just Right shoes: a plain neat pair of brown leather shoes in size 5 1/2.

Sibyllas bruna sko - Livrustkammaren - 75398
My favourite shoe shop’s nearest equivalent (aside from the Ideal Pair which briefly appeared in only one width: narrower than most), was a clunky pair of broad-soled shoes in brown leather and purple snakeskin with neon orange stitching and laces. I am tempted to suspect that this may have something to do with why they are now in the hands of administrators.

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Interchangeable Knitting Needles: A Thing of Beauty and a Joy Forever

You know how it is. You get to hear of something, you maybe see one somewhere, and then you see the price-tag and it gets firmly shelved under F for Fantasy. But you keep thinking about it. You keep looking at the options, and one day you realize you could actually make it happen. The idea frightens you a bit, but you keep thinking about it, and then one day you actually take the plunge and buy it.

Hammer about to Smash Piggy Bank

And then, in my case, you sit back and wait for it to arrive, and wait, and wait, because they’re out of stock (although it doesn’t mention this on the website) and then there are manufacturing problems, and then you have to wait for them to be shipped from the manufacturer to the merchant, and then to you (all three of you being in separate continents).

The treasure for which I was so eagerly waiting was a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles, the apogee of knitting needle technology. First there were straight needles, then double-pointed needles or DPNs, then fixed circular needles, and now, at last, the inexorable march of progress brings us the interchangeable circular knitting needle. (Once we have accumulated sufficent spondulicks.)

Ball of Yarn 5-1-09 1

The set I got is known as the Karnation set, despite this name not being mentioned on either the merchant’s website ( or the packaging. It’s not the usual way of marketing a product, but then, they apparently keep selling out, so they must be doing something right.

This set has 13 colour-coded sizes of aluminium needle (2.75mm up to 10mm) with five different lengths of cord (16in to 4ft). That is the equivalent of sixty-five different interchangeable needles, even if you don’t take into account the possibility of linking two or three of the cords together to create a needle so long you can skip with it. Or knit a blanket in one piece. Although maybe not both at the same time.

Two cord-connectors are included with the set, along with a rubber pad and a couple of little key-wires so you can tighten the connections to the point where you can’t undo them by hand (nor, more to the point, by knitting with them). There are also a packet of end-caps (to hold stitches on a cord while you are using the needles with another cord) and a card which tells you which of the colour-coded needles is which size. This all comes in a surprisingly small black zippered case (about 18 x 20 cm, closed). It looks something like this:

Knitting needle set

On the downside, the shortest cord (16 inches with needles attached) is so short you can barely get the needles’ points to meet. On the plus side, it’s still useful as a stitch-holder, or an extension to one of the larger cords.

The only thing I don’t like about this set is that the smallest needle is 2.75mm, which, while not huge (and smaller than a lot of sets go), is still larger than I use for a number of things, most notably socks. And this is where the delay came in handy: as compensation for waiting so long, the merchant offered me a 20% discount, which I took up in sets of double-pointed sock needles (three, the smallest of which is 2mm).

Of course, once I had this equivalent-of-sixty-five-circulars set, I had a lot of old needles I no longer needed, so ‘sorting out the knitting needles’ became an important item on the July purging list.


In July I purged:
nine circular needles (of various lengths and widths)
three pairs of straight needles (ditto)
and nineteen books, including poetry, prose, and reference.

This may seem like a short list, but to a bibliophile, purging books is a slow and arduous task. I’m lucky I have my knitting to help me stand the strain.

Lesendes Mädchen 19 Jh

Why I Wear A Padlock Around My Neck

I wear a padlock on a chain around my neck. Not just any padlock, mind you. I do have my standards. This is a 20mm solid brass three-wheel combination lock.

combination lock

Sitting on the couch knitting one day (as you do), I looked down and realized I was wearing a lump of green and white plastic around my neck. And I thought: why? I don’t even like plastic, why am I wearing it like a treasure round my neck? At this point, logical brain kicked in and reminded me that I needed this lump of green and white plastic to keep track of what row of my knitting pattern I was on. (Why logical brain can’t make itself useful and keep track of these things itself, I don’t know, but there it is.)

Row counters have been around for a while, but most of what’s available these days is either a) a lump of plastic or b) a braceletty chainy thing which requires you to count along to figure out which loop you’re in, so you know which row you’re on. The former is practical but ugly; the latter is aesthetically pleasing but requires more mental effort than I am prepared to expend. (In my defence, I am generally doing something else besides knitting at the same time, and there’s only so much brain to go around.)

Beaded row counter

Then I found out that there’s a woman who makes sterling silver row counter rings, which are both practical and beautiful. There are only two downsides: they’re expensive (sterling silver, after all) and they’re not available.

So I carried on with my knitting and my lump of plastic, fulminating against the knitting world that apparently couldn’t combine aesthetics and practicality – and if anyone could, you would think it would be knitters, yes?

And then I had my brainwave: combination lock. Of course, the first combination lock that came to mind is the one I already possess: my bicycle lock from high school. A moment’s reflection ruled this out, however, as the numbers only go up to six and it will be a cold day in hell before I start trying to knit in base six. That way madness lies.

Next thought: padlock. A quick online survey of hardware stores suggested that for a modest outlay, a small brass combination lock could be mine. The first one I went to only had the lock in the slightly-larger-but-twice-as-heavy size, so I went on to the second one. (And that was a mission in itself, having only a rough idea of where it was, and no map. On which subject, Libraries: Not Just Good for Books.)

The second store had the lock in the size I wanted, but only in aluminium. It’s a step up from plastic, true, but if other women can make a fuss about whether gold or silver is more becoming to their colouring, I figure I can make a fuss about brass and aluminium. I went home and ordered it online.

It arrived a few days later. It was aluminium. A few days (and apologetic emails) after that, I went back to the store to exchange the aluminium padlock for a brass one, ordered in from another branch – which turned out to be the larger size. The very helpful man at the locks desk hunted up the supplier’s brochure for me, which showed only aluminium locks made in the desired size.

By now, of course, this was beginning to take on the dimensions of a full-blown quest.

Honoré Daumier 017 (Don Quixote)

Having found exactly what I wanted, I was reluctant to give in, just because it didn’t seem to exist. Perhaps the 30mm lock would do. 80 grams isn’t that much, is it? Could I bear to have that weight around my neck for hours at a time? I decided to find out. I took the sturdiest chain from my jewellery box and weighed it with my heaviest glass pendant. And a large ring-shaped coin. And a rhodonite cocktail ring. And a large rhodonite brooch. Together, they weighed 80g.

It was bearable. Just. Then the Caped Gooseberry (bless his wooly socks) suggested that just because a manufacturer does not make a product available in one part of the world, doesn’t mean it’s unavailable in other areas. (Why this is, I couldn’t tell you. You would think they would want as big a potential market as possible.)

So I went a-hunting on the internet (not as quest-worthy as hunting through a dark forest, but the potential for getting confused and wandering off is similar). I discovered a few very interesting facts.

Gustave Doré - Dante Alighieri - Inferno - Plate 1 (I found myself within a forest dark...)

1) The padlock I wanted was apparently no longer being manufactured.
2) The padlock I wanted was, however, still being sold.
3) But only in the E.U.

Amazon would send me one from the UK for what seemed an excessive quantity of money (more than twice the price of the aluminium one in the local stores, though obviously postage has something to do with that). E-bay might possibly sell & send me one for less, but details as to whether the seller would ship outside their part of the world would not be forthcoming unless I signed up for an account with them. (Side note: if companies make their terms & conditions and privacy policy that long, one suspects they are hoping people will not go to the trouble of reading them.)

There were, of course, many companies with an online presence who were selling these padlocks for less than they’d cost here. But they either refused to post outside the EU (I hear the sailing ships take months to reach the Antipodes) or else they were more than happy to do so! Shipping will be calculated on checkout page: €100. ONE HUNDRED EURO!


So, obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. As I was getting overwrought, the Caped Gooseberry once more came to the rescue and suggested I sleep on it. (Figuratively. One does not recommend sleeping on an actual combination lock: they are hard and knobbly.)

The next morning I decided that while the price quoted by Amazon was quite remarkably expensive for a small padlock, it wasn’t that bad for a combination of practicality and symbolism, and I bought it.

I bought it not only to replace my lump of plastic, but also to replace the little gilt cross I used to wear about my neck until the gilt wore off. Which is why I wanted this 20mm brass 3-wheel combination lock, and not another: because this one has the word Master engraved in it, to remind me of the Master whose way I follow.

Eccentric, ethic & æsthetic, all in one useful pendant. What more could one ask?