<<whispers>> I’m taking a risk writing this post, because it’s about a gift that I’m knitting for a friend. I don’t think Mary reads here – yarn is not her thing – but occasionally the most unexpected people fess up to following my blog, so you never know.
So for reasons of secrecy, I’ll keep my voice down. And if I suddenly change the subject AND START TALKING LOUDLY ABOUT HOW ISN’T IT A LOVELY DAY TODAY, AND OOOOH LOOK, A SQUIRREL! then that’s because I’ve spotted Mary looking this way, and I don’t want her to see what I’m making. OK? Thanks for your understanding.
Mary and I go way back, but these days she lives in a beautiful stone cottage in deepest south west Wales with her husband and dogs, and she works in a theatre. Trust me, you’d like her a lot. But the universe hasn’t been particularly kind to her this year, and her health has suffered. This culminated in some properly major surgery, as a result of which she’s currently flat on her back at home, working hard on getting better.
The week before her surgery, she came to visit us here in Oxfordshire, and we talked about what her life was likely to be like as she recovered from the operation, and that’s when an idea began to form. I should mention at this point that Mary and I met about 15 years ago over our shared love of literature. At the top of her staircase at home is her ‘book nook’, a small library with just the right kind of seating for losing a few hours in a good read. Mary planned to spend a lot of time there as she recovered. But being in an old house, the book nook can get chilly. You can probably see where all this is going. I offered to knit her a blanket to keep her warm as she read – she said yes – so whilst she does know that a blanket is coming, the details are to be a surprise, hence all this whispering. We were both pretty realistic about the fact that this thing wasn’t going to ready by the date of her surgery, but I promised it’d be done as soon as humanly possible.
Obviously I couldn’t make something simple. Or normal. Or easy. That was never going to happen.
So I decided to knit her a book. Yeah, it was obvious, really, wasn’t it?
I’m not making an entire book; I mean, there won’t be separate chapters or any complex sub-plots. But I drafted 67 words of a micro-story about Mary, and knitted them in dark blue and parchment-coloured yarn. And now I’m knitting the cover in purple, ready to embroider it in gold. Pages will then be sewn to cover, to create a blanket that is also an open book.
Because my love of stranded knitting doesn’t extend to purling the stuff, I worked the pages of text in the round with a steek, which I’ve since cut. (New to steeking? I’ve written about it here.) It’s not really a proper steek because the yarn is mostly acrylic, so I had to super-reinforce it with a lot of violent hand-sewing and I’m still worried that it’ll unravel at some point. The yarn is Stylecraft Special Aran With Wool, by the way. And the text?
Once upon a time, there was a marvellous woman called Mary. She lived in an old and beautiful house near the sea, and was loved by all her friends. Her favourite thing was to read, and she was never without a good novel. One year, she was ill, but with her books and her friends’ and family’s love, she recovered, and lived happily ever after.
Simple, I know, but there’s only so much character development and plot-twisting you can cram in to 67 words.
So I’m getting there. I just hope that Mary likes it. And whilst I really do wish her a speedy recovery, I hope that I can get this thing finished whilst she’s still just about poorly enough to appreciate it! I promise to show you once it’s finished.