And so Christmas is over for another year, which is always a sentence tinged with melancholy. I hope you got what you wanted; in my case I got a cold that developed unpleasantly, stopping short of flu but not as far as I’d have liked. (There’s a vile advert on TV at the moment for some cold remedy, in which a wife and mother heroically soldiers on with the benefit of said remedy while her partner selfishly lies in bed succumbing to “man flu” – and the smug, self-righteous smile on her face as she listens to the children pelt the poor bloke with snowballs upstairs in his sickbed is enough to persuade us that yes, indeed, there is such a thing as pure evil and that Satan stalks the earth among us disguised as an advertising executive – and also that some conscienceless women are prepared to act as his handmaidens.)
More positively I also got a wonderful, 37-CD box set of music by one of Britain’s greatest composers, Benjamin Britten, and a talking book of the classic novel Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, or “Mr Chuckles” as he was known to his friends, both of which I’m looking forward to exploring in my new life in Edinburgh next year.
My main treat to myself was finishing the pullover, finally. I didn’t quite manage to get it done by Christmas, but on the Saturday after. (In fact I did cast off the cuff on Christmas Eve, but I have a small confession to make: when I picked up the stitches around the neck, all those weeks ago, I made a mistake – not a big one, hardly noticeable in fact – but I knew it was there and I found that, like Poe’s Tell-tale Heart, it just wouldn’t go away. Plus I always try to follow the rule that I’m only allowed one mistake per gansey, and I’d already used up my allowance. So, with a sigh, out it all had to come, and I re-knit the neck. Looks just the same, doesn’t it? But at least my conscience is clear now.)
The last task before washing and blocking is darning in all the ends – and when I turned it inside out my heart sank: I had no idea there were so many. Nothing fancy here. When I join two balls of wool I knit them together for 4 stitches, using both the end of the old ball and the start of the new ball together. This makes for slightly bulky stitches at first sight, but it disappears when the pullover’s finished. Then I leave 3 or 4 inches from the end of each ball dangling loose and continue with the new ball.
Finally, when it’s all done, I scrounge a needle off Margaret and darn all the loose ends through the backs of adjacent stitches (so they won’t show from the front) – usually for an inch or two, just to prevent any chance of their unravelling – and cut the rest of the end off with scissors. Sometimes I get carried away and darn the ends in zigzags that meander whimsically around the pattern; sometimes – usually around the first couple of stitches of shoulder joins – I find one or two little gaps or holes have appeared because my tension was too slack, so I darn the holes shut at the same time.
It takes about an hour and a half all told, and is about as much fun as doing fractions homework on Saturday morning when you’re twelve, but it’s a great feeling when it’s done and you turn your pullover right side out again and you know that it’s finished – all it needs now is a good wash and a stretch, and who among us can honestly say we’re any different?
Time for some more cold remedy…
Happy New Year!