This is a scarf that I started knitting in Rome, where I stayed for three weeks as part of a backpack ramble through Italy and France. I was staying in a small apartment behind the Vatican and enjoying Rome (it was the Christmas season), but increasingly restless in the evenings, which I largely spent reading in the apartment.
During the day I pounded the pavement, or should I say the cobblestones, exploring the various piazzas and neighbourhoods of the central historical district. One afternoon, on my way to the Piazza Navona, I suddenly realized I had walked past a wool shop — those were balls of wool I’d seen out of the corner of my eye. I backtracked to have a closer look.
It was a tiny shop, about the size of my bathroom. An L-shaped counter made it even smaller so that only two or three customers could squeeze in at one time. In addition to wool, it sold lingerie.
I only started knitting a couple of years ago, when I took a couple of courses at a local knit shop. I’m not a skilled knitter, so I thought a simple scarf would be the best project to travel with. I scooped up a handful of balls of blue and green baby merino, along with a pair of needles and went to the piazza to knit up a swatch.
I was trying to imitate the wool scarves I was seeing for sale at several street stalls. They were wide and loosely knit from fine wool so they draped nicely. By the time I’d knit a couple of inches, I realized I needed bigger needles, and fewer stitches. I went back to the wool shop, asked to try larger needles and stood at the counter for half an hour or so, knitting, while customers all around me bought bras and stockings.
Naturally I realized pretty soon that I didn’t have nearly enough yarn and by the time I got to my next stop, Bologna, I knew I had to get more. The first thing I learned as a novice knitter was never use yarn from more than one dye lot, but in Bologna I had to buy yarn from a completely different manufacturer. I can see the difference, but I’m not sure anybody else can. And for me, the flaw, the slight differences in colour and also in weight of the wool, will always remind me of this trip, and this story. Maybe it’s always in the imperfections that the stories lie.