It is often said that moving house tops the list for the most stressful situations in life. I’ve recently experienced that truth; we were moving, to an interim home in the country, just as my husband came out of hospital.
We looked out to lush pastures, Alpacas, ponies, and Shetland cattle. A bucolic setting; good for my husband’s recovery, and mine. Until … my heart decided to change its rhythm; racing at intervals, making me swoon (lovely word) during my daily walks. I didn’t stop walking, but it was no longer the pleasure it had been all my life. I was constantly tired. I had started the writing the fictionalised memoir but couldn’t find the energy, or creativity I needed, to continue. I needed to find my equilibrium. So knitting it was: my ‘go to’ activity when all else fails. I have loved the craft since casting on my first stitches at the age of six.
Me at six (aka Sophia) >
An excerpt from the memoir in progress:
‘Sophia saw the skeins of wool in the large wicker basket. She waited, and waited and one Saturday morning … “Sophia.”
She dropped the hopscotch stone on the concrete.
“Ready to be my arms?” her mother called. Sophia skipped down the hall after her mother and into the lounge. She held her arms out wide while her mother cut the string that bound the skeins together and looped the woollen hoop between her daughter’s hands. “Keep your thumbs up, remember?” “Yes, Mum.” It was magic the way her mother could make the ball grow from a tiny circle to a large tight ball. She watched the wool going around and around. Her mother would wind the wool one way, then she’d shift her fingers and go another. Sophia yearned to be old enough to do the grownup’s job.
“Keep your thumbs up Sophia.”
Not until the last piece of wool flicked from her fingers and wrapped itself around the ball in her mother’s hands, did she let her thumbs drop. And when she did her arms went all light and funny and tried to fly by themselves…’
I rummaged in my craft box for the bag filled with knitted bear bits. All that was left to do was stuffing and sewing the seams and attaching each piece. With the bear complete, but naked, I added the finishing touches. I embroidered the nose and mouth, and fixed in the bought bear eyes, carefully securing them from the inside. With that done, I chose colours for the striped shirt and overalls, and knitted them. And last, I stitched on the claws. I always try and make my toys with a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ quality, and this one was no different. His ears are a bit small, his nose is on the large side, but he is a charmer and rather cute. My cat Ninja clearly thinks so.
My first knitted bear was conceived after a trip to London a few years back, when I jumped aboard the underground on the Piccadilly Line, and I happened to sit opposite two little girls, who held large and intriguing boxes on their knees… Find below, an extract from a fictional piece I wrote titled: How To Make A Bear
…“Excuse me,” I said, leaning toward the older girl, “But are you going to make a bear today?”
The dimple deepened, the blue eyes widened. “I’ve already made one,” she said, before whispering to her mother. “I’ll show you,” she added, pulling apart the cardboard handles.
I had visions of a Paddington Bear lookalike. But no …
It was made of a faux-leopard-print fur and wearing a white frilly apron.“Your bear is marvellous,” I told her.
“Well, this is how it got made,” she said. And without my saying another word, the delightful child proceeded to articulate the bear-making process.
“It is in bits. First, you choose the material. My sister got orange material with dots on.”
I glanced at the younger sister, but she was having none of it: eyes averted, arms crossed.
“… But I didn’t want that.” The girl continued. “There are legs, and arms and a lady helped me stuff them. Then there is a body and a head. We had to stuff those too. Then the lady sewed the bits together and we got to choose the clothes.” She adjusted the white frilled apron, tightened the bow at its back and packed the brilliant creature back in its box.
I grabbed my shopping cart praying I’d not fall as I hobbled towards the exit. “Thank you for explaining the mechanisms of a bear workshop to me,” I told the girl. “Oh, I forgot something,” she said. “It can talk and play music too, ’cause there’s a special piece inside you have to push …”
“Oh.” I said, and clambered off the train, my head stuffed full of lovely bear thoughts…’
During that year in the country, I knitted one bear, two jerseys, a scarf, three beanies, two tea cosies and a kangaroo. I also sewed dresses for my granddaughters and skirts for me. My heart problems were also on track, with pills to keep the wobbles at bay. Too bad I had to move again.