Knitting fosters related interests

01:29, Feb 10 2014
Southland Times photo
Invercargill woman Ailsa O’Brien has collected thousands of the labels found around balls of knitting wool, some of which she has glued to different items for show and for use, such as the mini wheelie bin she uses to keep her emergency earthquake supplies in.

Invercargill woman Ailsa O'Brien confesses she is nuts about knitting.

"I'm probably what you would call an obsessive knitter."

Mrs O'Brien loves the craft so much she fills her time not just by creating with wool but writing about it too.

"I started a newsletter about 10 years ago, called the Knitknutz Knitting Club, and in 2006 put a throw-away line in the newsletter that I wondered how many different labels there were from balls of knitting wool."

Mrs O'Brien was astounded when her innocent comment prompted subscribers to send in their wool labels, which they still do today.

She has collected 3126 different labels but has received thousands more than that; there are labels from 40 countries and 582 companies.


She has labels from cashmere, merino and silk yarn, to name a few, but has also received labels for yarn made from banana peel and bamboo.

"I suppose there are some places in the world where you don't have easy access to real wool, so this is their substitute," Mrs O'Brien said.

She has entered all of her labels into a database on her computer so when a new label arrives she can check to see if she already has it.

"My collection doesn't take up much room but so that people could see some of the labels I have covered a bust, an old suitcase and a wheelie bin I use for my emergency kit for an earthquake."

Mrs O'Brien's love of knitting began 65 years ago when she knitted her first doll's blanket.

When her husband fell ill, she fulfilled a life-long dream of gathering people's knitting stories and having them published in a book: Knitting Yarns, Past, Present, How will the future Unravel?

"It's still unravelling for me," she said.

After the book, she began the newsletter, which has 250 subscribers from around New Zealand.

Mrs O'Brien said her favourite things to knit was anything a bit odd.

"I had a friend who was trying to quit smoking so I knitted her a packet of cigarettes for Christmas," she said.

"I do weird and strange things."

Mrs O'Brien said she has a very special idea for the labels next.

"I would love to make a wearable art piece out of them but I'm not sure how to go about it.

"I'm hoping someone might have a suggestion.

"Knitting really is my passion and I just love sharing it with people."

The Southland Times