KitHead or KnitHead?

As I look to make my most recent transition from student to employee, I would like to take on a hobby. Since so much of my day is spent in front of a computer or reading a book, I want to do something that keeps my hands busy -- devil's workshop and all that -- but that doesn't require much innate talent or mental engagement.

The last time I went from school into the workforce, I tried playing music (the ukulele) and drawing (took a class at the Durham Arts Council). I was working as a writer then and figured, hey, I'm creative, I can do this! Well, I couldn't. I've got a tin ear and fat fingers and never did really understand perspective, or shadow, or anything about drawing... and truth be told, I did skip class a lot because it was at night and I was tired.

Given that I've been in a library and information science program for the past three years, perhaps my decision to give knitting a try was only natural. I have become fascinated by textile fabrics mostly because of the wide variety and rich history of their use, the opportunity to obsess over a new taxonomy, and the not-so-far-fetched chance that I will one day knit an ugly cat sweater. But since this idea first took hold, I've noticed that I'm most intrigued by having a small, familiar collection of knitting paraphernalia -- well-loved knitting needles, a basket, and other odds and ends. Yes, I want to knit, but I also want a knit kit.

There are kits I remember from my childhood, which was not too long ago. Two, in particular, have stuck in my memory -- both were owned and used by my father. First, his shoe-shine kit, which contained special brushes, clothes, shoe-polish tins, shoe trees, and all other sorts of things. (My dad wears Merrell clogs to work now, a decision I'm not sure I'll ever understand.) The other kit was for cleaning his vinyl record collection and turntable, and included a variety of oils, special brushes, and creams of some kind. Both kits smelled wonderful, chemical.

I don't know, maybe it's that these activities -- shoe shining and record cleaning -- seem so antiquated, or perhaps it has something to do with routine maintenance and respect for personal items of value, but the idea of having and using these types of kits, keeping them organized, and so on, really appeals to me. Maybe we've abstracted the idea of a toolkit too quickly or too completely for my taste (at least for the white-collar worker), just as we did with the desktop, which exists virtually as the computer screen plops in the middle of the actual, valuable desk real estate. Supposedly I have a rather robust "toolkit" of skills, and should continue to develop this toolkit professionally. I understand that we need metaphor, or at least have needed it, to make sense of our digital lives at work and at play. But sometimes abstraction is just that.

Hobbies, in part, are a great signal to others about what things are safe to converse about or what things would make appropriate gifts. Shoe-shine kits retail from the most basic to the most Brooklynite. And my small vinyl collection needs some maintaining, though I'll have to reconstruct just how one habitually cares for one's records and turntable, not having received the folk knowledge from my father. Just don't bother getting me a shaving kit -- I won't use it.