In praise of Wovember

Fleece on wire fence, Isle of Skye

Oh this is so exciting! Two of my very favourite bloggers, Felix and Kate, are collaborating on a fabulous project that celebrates all things woollen – Wovember. The website is an absolute joy for anyone who has the slightest interest in wool or sheep.

Just like Kate and Felix’s blogs, the website is full of stunning photographs and interesting facts. There’s also a petition which should be signed by anyone who is remotely concerned about issues such as ethical trading, supporting local economies or truthfulness in advertising.

Newborn lambs, Derbyshire

I used to do quite a lot of knitting, but studying and reading have rather taken over of late. So along with the woolly pictures I have included here, I would like my contribution to Wovember to be this passage from Rose Tremain’s marvellous novel Music and Silence. I love the way she manages to convey a real sense of the pleasure of knitting, along with a humorous dig at the type of men who find ‘women’s pastimes’ threatening.

They say that Queen Sofie, when she was young and before she had begun her habit of scolding and cursing and hoarding money, loved to be rowed in a little boat to this island and there sit in the sunshine and indulge in secret her passion for knitting. This activity had been proscribed throughout the land as tending to induce in women an idle trance of mind, in which their proper thoughts would fly away and be replaced by fancy. Men called this state ‘wool gathering’. That the wool itself could be fashioned into useful articles of haberdashery such as stockings or night bonnets made them no less superstitiously afraid of the knitting craze. They believed that any knitted night bonnet might contain among its million stitches the longings of their wives that they could never satisfy and which in consequence would give them nightmares of the darkest kind. The knitted stocking they feared yet more completely as the probable instrument of their own enfeeblement. They imagined their feet becoming swollen and all the muscles of their legs beginning to grow weak.

‘Queen Sofie had, from the very first, transgressed the anti-knitting edict. Yarn was shipped to her from England in boxes labelled ‘goose down’. At the back of her ebony armoire lay concealed a growing quantity of soft garments of many colours for which she knew that one day she would find a use. Only her maid Elizabeth knew her secret and she had been told she would pay with her life if it was revealed.

‘On the morning of the twelfth of April 1577, a day of pale sunlight and a tender blue sky, Queen Sofie, eight and a half months pregnant with her third child, set out at nine o’clock with Elizabeth to cross the lake and spend the morning knitting. Her chosen spot was a clearing in the woods, a little shaded by some hazel bushes and rose briars, where she would set down her cushions on the mossy grass. Here she was sitting putting the finishing touches to a pair of underdrawers while Elizabeth worked upon a sock, with the coils of yarn unravelling moment by moment between them, when the Queen felt a troublesome thirst come upon her. They had brought no provisions, only the secret knitting in a wooden box, and so Queen Sofie asked Elizabeth if she would row back across the lake to the castle and return with a flagon of beer … (get the book to find out what happens next!)

Happy Wovember!

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2 comments

  1. Hurrah indeed for Wovember; and clever you for remembering the lovely piece from Music and Silence. I had completely forgotten about this, and now may well have to read it again.

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