As my mother used to say, if it’s not one thing, it’s another…..
Just as we thought it was safe to go in the water, or at the very least to let out a deep sigh, Japan happens. I can’t watch videos of the tsunami. It’s too upsetting. I’m trying not to watch the news because if I do, I’ll be living in fear. More than ever I feel a connection with the people of the Pacific Rim and deep, deep sympathy for the people of Japan.
You might think the knitting needles above are any old wooden needles. They’re not. The wood they’re made from is 35,000 years old.
The kauri tree is our sequoia or redwood. It can grow to more than 50 metres tall, with a girth of up to 16 metres and live for more than 2000 years. They used to grow in vast forests, and were used by Maori for boat building, carving and building houses. Unfortunately, European settlers who began arriving here in the 17-1800’s began to decimate the forests. The trunks were ideal for ships’ masts, and for building. The reason for this is that the lowest branches are shed as the tree matures making a parallel grain and an absence of knots, which gives the timber strength. The legend is that kauri masts contributed to the success of the British navy in the Battle of Trafalgar because they allowed Nelson’s ships more maneuverability to sail close to the wind.
Many of our lovely old houses were built from kauri and their polished floors are one of our national treasures.
Today its use is far more restricted, which is why the ancient kauri that are found under the swamps in the north are so highly prized. They came to be there due to the huge size and shallow root structure of the trees which would make them unstable in the moist ground around lakes. They’d grow to maturity over millennia and topple, one crop lying on top of another, like an ancient game of pick-up sticks. Now they’re being salvaged and used.
On a trip to Northland I saw beautiful pieces made of swamp kauri
and wondered if it would be suitable for knitting needles. Asking around, I found a craftsman who made me two sets, 4.5 mm and 6 mm, which I love to use. They’re very dense and strong, but silky and warm. I was hoping to be able to produce them for other knitters. They would be expensive, I was told, but still I thought that knitters would love to have such beautiful wooden needles and know that no precious tree has been felled to make them. Unfortunately my craftsman told me that they are too difficult to make by hand and that he would need a special machine the likes of which we do not have in New Zealand. Pity.
Ideas, anyone? do you have a suitable wood tooling machine in your garage?
So that is how I came to have 35,000 year old knitting needles.