:??Paula Lalish's knitting needle exploded Aug. 1 as she was knitting while being driven to Marrowstone Island from Port Angeles. � Photo by Reuben Lalish
[FONT=Arial]Paula Lalish, a longtime Marrowstone Island resident returning home from Port Angeles on Aug. 1 in her Ford Aerostar, was quietly knitting a sweater alongside her husband, Greg, as he drove. Suddenly, a sound as loud as a gunshot rang out inside the car.
At first Paula and Greg thought they had been shot at by a sniper, a knee-jerk response �simply because we could find no other instantaneous way to relate to the combination of deafening report and physical injury,� Paula said.
Then they thought they�d been hit by a stray elk-hunter�s bullet. But it's not hunting season.
Other people have since proposed that it was terrorists or �space aliens� who were responsible for the explosion that made Paula and Greg�s ears ring alarmingly for hours afterward.
But it was weirder than either terrorists, snipers or elk hunters on the loose. Paula�s knitting needle had exploded.
Most of the time, when Greg drives, Paula knits; she�s been knitting during car trips for 35 years. �I knit fast,� she said. So, as usual, she was working fast, her fingers flying as the car sped down the highway. This time she was working with a skein of undyed wool on a big fat number 13 circular needle, the kind with a metal point on each end connected by a plastic cable.
After the explosion, Paula and Greg watched the end of her left index finger turn blue and begin to swell. Both Paula and Greg are emergency responders for the Marrowstone Volunteer Fire Department, part of Fire District 1. �We knew my finger had tissue trauma and needed to be iced and elevated immediately," said Paula.
Just outside of Sequim�s Costco when the explosion occurred, they swerved in for ice. Paula is a harpist, and �my hands are awfully important to me,� she said. Greg and Paula, her finger iced and pointed skyward, searched their car.
No shrapnel had flown, but as they looked for an explanation, Paula discovered that one of her knitting needles was badly misshapen and the metal peeled back. It appeared that what flew out of the needle with such an explosive noise was air under pressure. On closer inspection there appeared to be a white-gray powder inside the needle, presumably a byproduct of the manufacturing process.
As soon as they returned home, Paula said, �I rummaged for a bottle and had a couple of stiff shots and went to bed for an hour.
�It wasn�t funny for a whole day, and then we started joking around."
There were no marks identifying the needle's brand. Paula thinks she might have purchased it in a thrift store.
Paula got on the Internet and called up knitters' chat rooms, posting a photograph of the damaged needle and asking knitters to help her identify the needle, asking if any knitters had a similar experience and if they might know the cause of the explosion.
Meanwhile she was looking at her other metal knitting needles as if they were bombs ready to detonate. She also replaced her exploded needle with a number 13 all-plastic version.
News travels fast on the World Wide Web, far faster than Paula can knit a scarf. Among the more interesting replies was one from the British manufacturer of a knitting needle similar to Paula�s who denied that his company was the maker of the exploding needle. And then there were these two comments:
�The cause of your exploding knitting needle was probably a buildup of static electricity resulting from friction of two diverse materials, i.e., plastic and aluminum, exacerbated by the generation of yet more static by the vehicle (the cause of most travel sickness and the reason why many vehicles have an earth strip connecting the rear of the vehicle with the ground). This explanation comes from a former quality control engineer, toolmaker and steel worker, Sheffield, England."
�My name is Monika and I post as 'mokey' on www.knittersreview.com, where I found the following link, containing your name: http://www.surfshopcomputers.net/temporary/exploded_knitting_needle.
"This has now started some speculation as to whether or not this is an urban legend: http://www.knittersreview.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=19010. Could you please confirm if this really did happen to you? Many knitters want to know. Monika�
�I have a sinking feeling I�m going to end up in the National Enquirer,� groaned a droll Paula, �After all these years of community service, what I�ll be famous for is my exploding knitting needle.�
(Jan Halliday is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous magazines. She's also the author of "Native Peoples of the Northwest: A Travelers Guide to Land, Art and Culture" and other travel guides. See "Jan's Diary" at www.ptleader.com.)[/FONT]