Although I learned to knit when I was a kid, in the UK, I didn’t seriously pick up my needles until I finished University, in the early 1990s. It was the worst possible time in recent memory to take up knitting…. my knitting grandmother had recently died, all the yarn shops were closing, books and magazines were hard to come by, and there seemed to be so few other knitters around.
For a few years, I muddled through on my own, learning what I could from the few books I could find, buying yarn and patterns where I could find it, feeling totally isolated.
And then, one quiet day at the office, around 1997, my life changed: I found woolworks.org. (The site is not longer being maintained, but there is a version of it available online here. You can also browse the site as it was in the past through the WayBack machine, here.)
The founder of Wool Works, the lovely Emily, was a knitter in a very similar position to me: she’d taken up the craft, and found herself struggling to locate resources and products and indeed other knitters. She was a subscriber to the email discussion group, the KnitList. She had a simple realization: the answers to many of her questions were in the archives, but there was no easy way to search them. So, using skills developed in her day job, she built a website. Seems obvious now, but this was a revolutionary thought in the mid 1990s.
For about 6 or 7 years in the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Wool Works was the online knitting resource. It wasn’t the only site, but it was the largest, and it was the most active. It had a section of tips & techniques, it had free patterns (notably, the KnitList Christmas gift exchange patterns), it had a gallery of finished projects, it had links out to other online knitting resources (knitters were starting to maintain personal sites, the forerunners of blogs). It had a spinning section, which seemed seriously radical to me Â at the time (eating my words, as I look at the huge box of roving beside my desk), and a list of stores. The store list was particularly wonderful, as I was travelling on business a lot at the time.
I would not be the knitter I am without Wool Works. Wool Works let me know I was not alone. Â Through Wool Works, I was able to learn more and expand my skills. Wool Works kept me interested and engaged in knitting when the rest of the world was less interested in it.
Thanks to Wool Works, I am a sock knitter. My first socks were knitted from a pattern published there: the legendary Joan Hamer’s socks. And indeed, I not only used Wool Works to find my first sock pattern, I used the store list to help me locate the yarn, and I used the tips and techniques section to help me with the heel turn.
As a knitter, I owe Emily a huge debt of gratitude for providing so much support and so many resources, perhaps most important of all, making me feel connected. Thanks Emily!