I went into a wool shop… (ii)

Yesterday I shared the first part of a short story… here is part two, and the introduction:

Like many writers, I quite often end up with scenes from novels which never actually get included. Sometimes the scenes are just ideas inside my head, sometimes they get written down and filed away; they might get used, they might get changed and used in a completely different story, or they might just sit there.

In my second Radwinter story, Magick, there is an episode where Thomas Radwinter is searching for a missing woman and goes to a small village out in the country. There is a wool shop and he goes in and there is a scene between him and the wool shop man… and that is it. However, in my head something else happened, which I have never written about until today… and here is part two. In the story his little son is only three – in my current novel he’s much older!

(Here’s a link to part 1 if you want to read that first: https://wp.me/p2hGAs-71c   )

I went into a wool shop… (ii)

 I put my laptop on the table and set the video going having watched it a couple of times to check I knew what I was doing… maybe, on reflection, not enough times… It actually didn’t start too well… and I got a bit knotted and had to cut a couple of foot of wool off and throw it away. I think I should have realised then that this simple task was completely beyond me… Maybe if I had known how to knit in the first place I might have had a bit more of a clue, and seen the logic in the instructions. As it was the lovely lady in the video led me completely astray…
I think the mistake was to involve the chair. I thought its arms would do as an extra pair of hands and I somehow managed – and I don’t know how, to attach myself to the chair, and the more I tried to untangle, the more tangled I became. I had used the arms, but a ball of the sparkly pink and purple wool fell on the floor, and when I picked it up with a free hand (the other already secured to the arm) I didn’t realise but it had rolled under the brace and when I picked it up I became further attached but this time to the strut between the legs… I was on my knees now.
I used my mouth to try and position the ball correctly so I could bring it back through the loop but of course that made the wool very wet (I must have drooled a bit with the effort), and what I had not noticed was that somehow I had stepped over the ball so it was now pulled tight in a rather uncomfortably intimate place.
I never realised that wool was so strong. It wouldn’t break however much I tried to pull with my tightly bound hand and my less tightly bound other hand. In fact what I was doing by pulling was making another bit which I had sort of successfully knitted, tighten even more round my arm – how had it got there? I was getting very hot by now. We don’t have the heating on during the day and I had put two jumpers on… maybe if I took one off…
I didn’t think this through. I got the jumper over my head, but of course then the sleeves were pulled down my arms sort of inside out and hid the wool so I could no longer even see what I was doing. At this point I also thought it would be a good idea to try with one foot (still wearing a shoe because I forgot to take them of when I came in) to try with the other foot to loosen the wool round my ankle.
The chair, no doubt as fed up as I was, had had enough and threw me to the ground, twisting me painfully, with the damned heavy piece of furniture on top of me… and this was when I began to laugh…
… and then stopped laughing…
What to do? Shout? The neighbours who we didn’t know, were out at work. I began to inch my way towards the closed door into the hall… Even if I got it open I couldn’t drag me and the chair through… I needed to get into the hall, get to the ornamental Chinese pot, tip it over and get my phone… But it was impossible…
I was doomed… doomed to lie here like an idiot, thirsty yet dying for a pee until Kylie came home… doomed, doomed, doomed…
Then to my joy I heard a banging on the front door! I was saved!! There was more banging… not the sort of banging from the postman but the banging of someone coming to save me!
I took a big breath to bellow ‘HELP!!!! in the loudest possible voice but inhaled a great fluff of wool – honestly I thought I was going to choke to death… I was hacking and coughing, eyes streaming, trying to spit the damned wool out of my mouth but it seemed determined to stick to my tongue and inveigle its way down my throat… oh this would be too much! After finding true love and true happiness, to be killed by pink wool!
Suddenly the kitchen door burst open and Geoff and Pete stood there looking shocked… within seconds one of them had whipped out his handy penknife and I was cut free and helped to my feet as Daph came rushing in looking alarmed, anxious and almost frightened.
“What the heck have you been up to, lad?” asked Geoff as Pete began to chuckle.
With as much dignity as I could muster (which wasn’t very much to be honest) and pulling bits off wool off me and pulling my jumper back on, I told them what had happened… I have to confess I didn’t get very far with the story because they were all convulsed with laugher.
“I hate to be sexist,” Daph had her hankie out and was wiping her eyes, “I hate to be sexist, but I can really understand why more men don’t take up knitting…”
I’m going to buy Kylie a scarf, and damn the expense!

If you want to read Magick, and see if Thomas found the missing woman, here is a link:

http://amzn.eu/edI2Ohf

and a link to my other Radwinter novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1517176302&sr=8-15&keywords=lois+elsden

I went into a wool shop… (i)

Like many writers, I quite often end up with scenes from novels which never actually get included. Sometimes the scenes are just ideas inside my head, sometimes they get written down and filed away; they might get used, they might get changed and used in a completely different story, or they might just sit there.

In my second Radwinter story, Magick, there is an episode where Thomas Radwinter is searching for a missing woman and goes to a small village out in the country. There is a wool shop and he goes in and there is a scene between him and the wool shop man… and that is it. However, in my head something else happened, which I have never written about until today… and here is part one. In the story his little son is only three – in my current novel he’s much older!

I went into a wool shop…

It actually wasn’t funny… it wasn’t funny at all… I was just grateful that Kenneil was out for the day with Daph and Sheila, but on the other hand out for the day meant they wouldn’t be back until three o’clock at the earliest…
If only I hadn’t dropped my damned phone, or had picked it up at the time… It had rung a couple of times, and obviously I could hear it but couldn’t answer it… as it was at the bottom of the Chinese flower vase filled with twigs and sprays which Kenneil and I had painted with silver paint and Kylie’s red nail polish for a Christmas effect.
I’d been coming down stairs with an armful of laundry, caught a pillowslip on the lock of the stair gate and almost catapulted myself and the washing down the narrow stairs… fortunately the washing and my phone had gone but I’d managed with a superhuman and virtuoso gymnastic display, unfortunately unwitnessed by any admiring wife or son, not to tumble after it. I landed on my ample – but less ample than formerly – rear, in what was actually a graceful, slo-mo descent onto the stairs.
Laughing at myself I’d bounded down, gathered the washing then heard my phone ring. I couldn’t locate it for a moment then realised it had gone into the pot… it was safe, I would get it when the laundry was in the machine… but of course I didn’t… I got side-tacked by my brilliant idea.
Kylie and I had gone to an auction… ever keen to save money, we had gone to see what an auction was like, just in case we might want to buy something in the future… and I had inadvertently bought something… the Chinese pot and luckily it was only £2… I was apologetic, Kylie was amused, and it was a nice pot, a big one about three foot tall. It was cracked so could never be used for flowers, but with the crack turned to the wall and a seasonal display, it actually looked very nice, and Kylie was pleased with me… Someone being pleased with me thrills me no end, I can tell you! How my life has changed!
I stopped my futile struggling and tried to lie down to work out what to do. I was a prisoner… I was trapped until someone came to my rescue, and it was my own stupid fault. Luckily rescue would be this afternoon when Daph and Sheila brought Kenneil home… except they would knock on the door, I wouldn’t answer, even with my most ferocious bellow they wouldn’t hear me crying for help, so they would think I had gone to the shops or to see Kylie or something and take our boy home… and Kylie wouldn’t be home until about five… unless she worked late in which case…
I would be very hungry, thirsty and in pain by then… thank goodness I didn’t need the loo… except now I thought about it… don’t think… don’t think about toilets… put them out of your mind, Thomas!
So here I was lying on the floor of the back room where we spend most of our time to be economical and not heat the rest of the house, and I was lying in a painfully awkward position with a rather heavy wooden chair on top of me. We’d inherited the chair from a neighbour, and I actually think it’s too big and too heavy to be practical… I certainly did now as I lay beneath it, pinned by the annoying piece of furniture, which was actually quite painful.  My hands were bound and the more I tugged, the tighter the ties became… the tighter and more agonising.
So how had I come to be in this ludicrous position? It had all started with such good intention, and so promisingly – in fact I was quite excited and quite smug as I set to. It all began to go wrong quite quickly and I stopped and started again… in fact I started again several times, becoming less enthusiastic, more cross with myself for being useless (I’ve been conditioned to feel useless and this simple thing was proving it) and really irritated. Things had gone awry yet again and this was where the disaster was primed to happen. I enlisted the aid of the chair… yes, the chair was to blame, and it soon became apparent that things were going wrong one more blasted time and I had a bit of a rage resulting in the chair having a mind of its own deliberately engaged with me, and before I knew it, I was on the floor and the chair was atop me.
I suddenly had a vision of myself, lying on the floor, a great chubster – yes, even though I’ve lost weight I’m still a big lad, pinned in a very awkward position by the chair… and it suddenly struck me as really funny and I lay there, on my own in the back room, in a painful and awkward position laughing my head off – not literally of course.
I stopped laughing… It actually wasn’t funny… it wasn’t funny at all… I was just grateful that Kenneil was out for the day with Daph and Sheila, but on the other hand out for the day they wouldn’t be back until three o’clock at the earliest…
So what had happened? Well, believe it or not, it had started several days ago when I’d been trying to track down a missing woman and for some reason I had gone into a small knitting and wool shop in the village of Little Oak. Actually the some reason was that pondering on what to get Kylie for Christmas which would be lovely and appreciated but would not cost a lot, I’d seen a video about knitting… yes I do watch some random stuff when I’m supposed to be working. In the video a rather attractive woman with dark hair had knitted a beautiful scarf without using knitting needles, just using her hands. It looked so simple! You needed very thick fluffy wool, you wound one end round your wrist and then made some loops and then put your other hand through and took a loop, and some wool, and somehow, magically and very easily you made a wonderful wide scarf – then it was simplicity to sew the ends together and make what apparently is called a snood.
Kylie would love it! She would look so beautiful! It would not cost a lot, but it would be made with lots and lots of love! Simples, as a meerkats once said! So in the wool shop, a very handsome and suave man helped me choose some wool of just the right sort – and enough of it, and today was the day I would make the snood! Kenneil was having a lovely time out with our friends; I had the place to myself… simples!

The title by the way comes from the silly rhyme – I went into a felt shop to feel a piece of felt; of all the felt I’ve ever felt, I’ve never felt a piece of felt that felt as that felt felt.

If you want to read Magick, and see if Thomas found the missing woman, here is a link:

http://amzn.eu/edI2Ohf

and a link to my other Radwinter novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1517176302&sr=8-15&keywords=lois+elsden

You are faced with the problem of finding woollen undergarments…

My lovely old Knitting For All book, presents some dilemmas which no longer occur in everyday life… for example, being faced with the problem of finding woollen undergarments… I actually cannot imagine anything worse than woollen undies!

In the chapter on Everyday Underwear (smart, warm, sensible), there are knitting patterns for vests, panties, brassières and knickers,  and the ‘not quite so “everyday”‘…

You think it’s a charming pattern, but you don’t like knitted shoulders to your vests? To ring the changes and turn it into an opera-top vest is very simple. You work exactly as given for the original vest as far as the beginnings of the neck and armhole shaping. Here you cast off right across. Work back to correspond, then join the side seams and work the picot edge as given in the instructions all round the top. Thread ribbon through the edging and sew on the shoulder straps.
There are not a few of you who really do feel the cold severely, and unless you wear woollen underwear are never properly warm. You are faced with the problem of finding woollen undergarments sufficiently fine and well fitting not to spoil the line of frocks. This vest and pantie set can be adapted to your particular needs
“Who cares if it snows?” Certainly no-one if they’re wearing this variation of the vest and pantie set. It is knitted of such fine wool that it can be worn under s fitting frock, and it is so warm you can laugh at a north-east wind…

I am not convinced…

… and men don’t escape the knitted undies either!

If you’re feeling spring like…

I’m looking through the delightful 1946 knitting book, Knitting For All, and I’ve come across a chapter I’ve looked at before, entitled ‘The Fascinating Fez’. There is a city of Fez in Morocco, which was once the capital city of the country until 1925 and even now is now the capital of the Fès-Meknès  region. It’s listed as a World Heritage Site and its University of Al Quaraouiyine, founded in 859, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the whole world!

However the fez in the knitting book, is the hat which is so named because that is where the style came from – replacing the turbans Moroccans originally wore. Fezes are traditionally made of felt and are mainly known as being red with a black tassel.

Here is the fez. Just the plain fez, worn as a fez. But that’s just the beginning of the story. With your plain fez, wear a tassel, or if you’re feeling spring like, a bunch of flowers as the girl in the picture above has.

I cannot imagine any ‘girl’ these days decorating a knitted fez with a bunch of flowers, and I struggle to imagine any woman in the 1940’s would! I guess sewing on some knitted flowers might work… maybe…

 The great thing about this fez  is that it’s adaptable; coax it a bit and you can do anything with it. here, for instance, (left) the top is squashed down and rolled – and the scarf has been swathed round like a turban and tied in a cunning knot.
One last disguise for the fez (right). Swathe it round with the scarf, which should be stitched lightly round the lower edge of the fez, and pass the two ends of the scarf through the loop, letting them hang down. Crown of the fez can be high or low as your fancy dictates.

The cunning knot… it all depends on the cunning knot…

My family story in ten objects… number 4

Object 4 – a pair of men’s knitted socks

With this object, it is not so much the object itself but a lot of associations knitted round it… my feeble pun is part of the story, not in itself but because we grew up in a happy family, a jolly family, where there was laughter and jokes. We weren’t a family who was noisy, there was not a lot of teasing (teasing had to be gentle and witty, not cruel or unkind) there wasn’t a lot of shouted laughter, we were more smiles, chuckles and giggles… a lot of giggles. The humour came from words and stories, so using a pun is a gentle and silly way of nodding towards my childhood.

My parents married after the war and neither came from affluent families; my father’s parents had a pub, but it was not their own, they held the license, my mother’s parent’s lived in what could be described as genteel poverty – where there was an appearance of middle-class comfortability (is there such a word? If there isn’t maybe there should be!) but my mum’s father always spent more than he earned and was known for ‘borrowing’ ten bob or so (ten shillings)

So as  children we grew up in a house very rich in love, fun, interesting things to do but not necessarily a lot of material things. We lived in a rented flat – but we had a wonderful landlady who lived upstairs, and we had the whole of the nearly one hundred yard long garden, half of which grew fruit and vegetables. My dad tended the garden, my mum sewed and knitted our clothes. My mum did most of the cooking as she was at home, but my dad was an excellent cook too. We went to the excellent local primary school, and we had a week’s holiday at a holiday camp (think ‘Hi-di-Hi’) and occasionally visited friends in Nottingham for a weekend.

So, to the knitted socks. My my mum knitted, jumpers and cardigans, but it wasn’t a passionate hobby, it was a practical job which she enjoyed, and as with everything she did, she was very good at.

I have very clear memories of sitting on a little pouffe (which we called a humpty) holding a skein of wool between my hands, while mum wound it into balls… later, when I was older, I wound the balls as well… I never really got into knitting, although I can knit. In these memories, I’m sitting by the open fire, the curtains closed, on an autumn or winter’s evening, because knitting was mainly to create winter woollies!

Going back to the socks… My dad was a person who needed very little sleep, so late to bed and up with the sun. In the summer he would go out and do the gardening, and make the milkman a cup of tea – they would sit chatting in the kitchen at about five o’clock… but in the winter, he would listen to the radio, catch up on yesterday’s newspaper, and sometimes knit! I don’t know what set him off knitting – I have a feeling someone must have said ‘you can’t do that, men don’t knit‘ (not my mum!) and he would have taken up the challenge. So he knitted socks…

Men knitting… in many communities in the old days, men as well as women knitted, sometimes only men knitted, so it actually isn’t unusual… however it was when my dad did it, unless there were men who did it in private as an almost guilty secret!

I’ve told this story not just as a reminiscence, but as an example of the way we lived our lives, growing and making things, mostly because we couldn’t afford to do anything else, but also for the pleasure of it and because what was made or produced was better than what could be bought – clothes made to measure, meals tailored for fussy eaters (I’m thinking of such things as thickness of gravy, texture of sauces, thick shreds of marmalade for example) We didn’t have a TV, we didn’t have a car, but we had great fun, and a very happy family life, and if no-one but dad wore the socks he knitted… well that was fine too!

The featured image, by the way, is from a wonderful 1946 knitting book I have…

My mum never wore anything like this

… she never ever knitted anything like this, and none of us would have worn it if she did… an elaborate joke maybe!

No, dad did not have knitted underwear…

…nor did mum!

A courageous pioneer in headlines

Knitting has become really fashionable again, a really popular hobby – and not just knitting to make garments, but knitting to produce art works. Knitters from the past, mainly women, are now being recognised as really creative people. Retro styles are also coming back, and  a twenty-first century take on 1940’s clothes is everywhere,

I’m not entirely sure that the two-coloured turban will ever be really popular… But just in case you want to start a trend, here, from the 1946 book, Knitting For All,  is something about it:

Tying yourself in knots

Girl guides, scouts ans sailors learn all about knots as a matter of course. it has now become or should become, part of what every woman  knows owing to the prevailing fashion in turbans, and their allied forms of headgear.
Now, as regards this two-coloured turban, it has been suggested that the two ends should be twisted and tucked in. Incidentally, the gathered end may be placed either to the front or to the back of the head, to suit the wearer. It may be found advisable to pin the gathered end in position with a hairgrip before arranging the ends.
To use up odd half-ounces of wool, introduce three colours – one for the wide part and two more for the narrow ends.
If you prefer actually to tie a knot with your ends before tucking them in, the secret of a successful knot is to pad it – tie a pad of cotton wool for instance, in the knot. This is an especially useful tip where the turban is knitted to produce a thinnish fabric and give a streamlined effect. The knot needs to be given bulk, otherwise it may a look a bit under-fed or, after wearing for a while, like a piece of string.
Another idea for the really courageous pioneer in headlines is to tie the knot over an ornamental skewer, the ends of which stick out on either side of the knot and you will add a charmingly rakish air to your turban

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It might amuse us, the way this is written, ‘the really courageous pioneer in headlines’ and the ‘charmingly rakish air to your turban’, but the country was just emerging from over six years of war, wool was still rationed, and clothes and the materials to make them expensive and in short supply. After so long with the grey and the dreary, everyone must have been doing all they could by their meagre means to be bright and colourful, cheerful and fashionable.

We live in such a throw-away society, we wouldn’t keep half ounces of anything in case it might be useful, or try and find ways of actually using left-overs… I’m not suggesting we should return to such times, but I think we might want to adopt some of the values! … I’m still puzzling over the ornamental skewer!

Still unpicking, not knitting

Actually, I’m not knitting at all… I’m using this to explain that I’m still unravelling some stories I need to work on before I actually begin to properly write. I’ve just published my latest e-book, ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ which I’ve been editing since January; there is a certain amount of creativity in editing, but it’s not the same as writing something fresh. At fist because it was so boring, all the checking, cutting out, rewriting, I began to write a new novel, provisionally entitled ‘Earthquake’, but I got to a stage where I just had to focus on ‘Lucky’. So ‘Earthquake’ needs finishing – I’m about three-quarters of the way through the first draft… but now I’m free to do it, I realise that it is really muddled – three complex story lines, and I need to have it ordered before I can finish it… so effectively, I’m back editing again. I am also going to publish a short book called ‘So You Want To Write’, and that is in its final stages, but it is still passively editing and rearranging…

It soon will be the beginning of October… one month until November and November is the National Novel Writing Month – an on-line challenge to write 50,000 words of a new book… I have done it for the past two years, and it has been really great – and I would like to do it again this year… so I have to sort out my muddles before I do if I want a chance of success. Because the challenge is to write a new novel, I can’t just carry on with what i have started.

So to go back to my knitting, I feel as if I have the jumble of a half-knitted item, which needs to be a little unpicked and reknitted before I take up my needles and ball of wool and crack on with it. I was never a knitter really, although I can knit. I have  a sad memory of knitting a whole jumper for someone I cared about greatly… sadly the jumper was not appreciated, and nor was I! My mum was more of a needle-worker than a knitter, but she did knit, and so did my dad. In the days before we had TV, in the winter evening when it was too dark for him to do his normal activities, rowing, golf, gardening, fishing, in the evenings he would make things – marcasite jewellery, for example, and knitting!

As a child I liked helping wind the wool from skeins into balls, and we would do what we called French knitting,  a cotton reel with four little pins nailed in, and making a long snake of knitting… I would make yards and yards of it but I don’t remember it ever being made into anything else.

… so back to the unpicking and reknitting, then I’ll take up my needles properly and get going on the next books!