THE RETURN OF MADAME DEFARGE*

Oh, there you are. Or are you? Given that it’s approximately one year and seven months since I was last on here, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you weren’t. There, that is. But if you are, a very big warm hello and thank you. If you’re completely new, know that this blog has had an absence and has now returned and please do come along for the ride.

Now that I’m back I want to talk about knitting. I know the title of the blog is Of Writers and Writing but there we are, things and people change. The pandemic has altered us all. Perhaps I should rename it Of Writers, Writing and Wool.

What happened was this. I had a secret yearning to knit. I went on Etsy and bought a beginners kit and then I bought another and then my partner said: ‘How many scarves can you wear?’ And now I’m hanging around online ogling wool shops although for some reason I haven’t been able to set foot in one. Not strictly true I did go in one but only because I was encouraged. When I was a bookseller I thought it was good to bear in mind that for some people bookshops were intimidating. Well for me a wool shop is because I don’t know what I am doing. Will I point at patterns and scream with horror or laugh inappropriately. Do I know my DK from my Aran, my chunky from my super chunky. Well, just look in the mirror darling.

So, I know you long to look at my knitting. Here are the early ones that I might join to create a sort of Tom Baker/Dr Who thing.

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I was rather proud of the one on the seat of the chair until I made the mistake of wearing it to my local Co Op and had a set back. The woman serving me clapped her hands to her cheeks and exclaimed:  ‘Oh my God, that scarf just screams Christmas.’ And dear reader we were regrettably many months from that date. I did also think, turquoise and orange? What sort of Christmas are you having? Can I have it too? Maybe what she meant was that it was the kind of dodgy present an aunt might give to you that you immediately put away and then give to a charity shop. Incidentally during lock down our Co Op appeared to have taken on a large number of staff who had previously been acting in West End musicals. I particularly enjoyed the blond boy who raised an eyebrow when he looked at my shopping basket containing a pineapple, a roll of bin liners and a bottle of white wine and said: ‘Friday night essentials?’ This is a very good reason for not using those self service machines. They don’t make you laugh in the same way.

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These are better I think. The wool is spun by The West Yorkshire Spinners which sounds like a sixties band.

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This one is my current work in progress. My partner keeps saying what is it because she’s terrified I’m going to throw it on the bed which is clearly not a good idea. I think it’s a huge shawl thing. Or maybe I’ll put it over my knees in the winter like an elderly crone. That’s presupposing we ever have another winter. Takes a bit of time to get that 40 degrees out of your system, doesn’t it?

Sorry for the absence. Lovely to be back. Next time, hopefully not one year and seven months later, you might get a little of the neuroscience of knitting. Or a yarn about yarn. And eventually I’ll probably get back to the writing and writers thing. Tune in to see if I get over my wool shop phobia. Tell me below of your experiences of knitting. Did your mother, grandmother, father or grandfather or aunt knit. Is that a pair of homemade socks I see on your feet? Have you seen a nice bit of knitting on film? Could you explain to me how you use circular needles without feeling dizzy?

* Madame Defarge evil knitter in Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities.


12 thoughts on “THE RETURN OF MADAME DEFARGE*

  1. Welcome back. Lovely surprise to have an email this morning from WordPress. The knitting looks good but I’m not sure how you avoid dizziness with circular needles. Maybe you need to keep your head focused on one spot like you do in a pirouette, before whipping it round to focus on the same spot once more. Not that I’ve ever tried it. Although I did try a little crocheting between jigsaws during the pandemic even though neither Louise or I had covid. Isolation can make you do weird things. Let’s have lots more blogs. We won’t feel so isolated.

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    • Hi Keir how nice to hear from you! I like the fixed eye thing. I think with the circular needles I’m just going to have to buy some and do it. Thinking about it won’t work. I fancy a bit of crochet myself. Need to get myself the hooks. Hope you and Louise are well and love to you both.

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  2. So lovely to have you back. And so on-trend with the knitting malarkey. As the son of a knitter, I can remember a childhood home filled with the clicking of needles and the indignity of having to wear a school jumper with slightly different arm lengths and a baggy neck – oh how I wanted one from M&S!

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  3. Circular needles don’t really feel circular when you use them – trust me! Good to see you back, and do enter those wool shops! It’s lovely to pick a yarn by its feel as well as its look, and when one calls your name then you’ll find the patterns that work with it. Have you used a cable needle yet? Much more fun than circular needles…

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    • Hello FF and thank you. Feel and look yes absolutely. I think I am currently at the primary school stage of knitting. Very bright colours and wools that change colour and large needles. I don’t think I could knit looking at one colour. I love the patterns being revealed. I’ve never heard of cable needles. A whole new world for me to explore! I have to say that at the moment knitting is considerably more satisfying than writing.

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  4. Great to see the knitting V. Fabulous! It’s crochet for me. Having made cot blankets out of crochet squares as a child, I have returned to this as an adult to make three such blankets for my great nephews and niece. But I have now recently, for the first time, embarked on a grown up sized blanket for a friend’s 40th. So I am using a much bigger hook and chunkier wool, in order to create much bigger squares. And where does that chunky wool come from? West Yorkshire Spinners! Not only is it beautiful, and totally British, but the type I am using is called Re:Treat and has lovely names. The colours I am using are called Bliss, Mellow, Ponder and Soothe! It all adds to the experience! I do know what you mean about wool shops!

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  5. Welcome back, it’s great to see you! Your creations are lovely. We learned knitting at school but I was never any good at it – no patience for it. We have quite a few knit and natter groups in our libraries these days. I read a book recently that said knitting is huge in Iceland – supermarkets all have knitting aisles apparently and people even sit in business meetings and knit!

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    • Hi Andrea how lovely to hear from you. I think I need to move to Iceland! I can really understand about having knitting aisles in the supermarket. Shopping can be stressful. My mother always used to leave my father in the car with a book. I like the idea of him sitting in an aisle knitting instead! I learnt it at school as well and still have an image of the stitch I dropped in the middle of a green square. I feel very differently about it now. Something about the feel, colours (mine are currently very bright!) and that it ties up some part of the brain that can otherwise be a bit fretful and its portability. I might check out my library for knit and natter now you’ve said that.

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