Monday, 13 February 2012

Nan-next-door and the knitted jumper

Nan-next-door was a slightly obsessive knitter - so as a family we wore lots of woolly homemade clothes.  For me she made little fair isle jumpers, cardigans with rabbit, lamb or flower-shaped buttons, jumpers made with fancy stitches, scarves with matching mittens, bobble hats, caps with straps under the chin that buttoned up and bonnets with animal ears.  There was some unwritten rule that as a girl I should generally wear pastel colours; insipid lemon, pale blues, mint green  and blossom pink. For Christmas I might be allowed something more vivid, perhaps red or emerald green - usually with a seasonal motif.  I fear my passion for the cardigan may have developed in these early years - not as a professional badge of honour  which many have presumed (or should it be the badge of shame - the librarian's scarlet letter?).

Grampy (my maternal grandfather) also had an considerable knitted wardrobe - as extensive, but not as cute as mine .  He had chunky, textured jumpers in rather more masculine colours: mustard yellow, plum, moss green and  - if he was really lucky- a sober navy blue.  He also had some Scandinavian patterned ones (he could have been an extra in The Killing - providing it was a non-speaking part - he wasn't a linguist by any means - actually he didn't speak much at all).  The zip-up cardies were his favourites - good apparel for the allotment where he spent most of his waking hours; they could be removed easily and draped over a handy spade.  The masculine collection also included gloves,  so thick it was impossible to bend the fingers and rather creepy balaclavas with strangely small eye holes.

The disadvantage of these woollies was that they were always scratchy.  The fact that they got smaller with each wash trigger what I believe is my only phobia - stuckjumperphobia, a variation on claustrophobia.
I was getting ready for bed and needed help getting the Christmas jumper off (oatmeal brown with red snowflakes and robin buttons).  But when Nan-next-door tried to pull it over my head it got stuck at the level of my ears.  As I shrieked in pain (and probably for the effect, I did like a drama) she tried to pull my arms out of the sleeves to get more leverage, but as I wasn't double-jointed this manoeuvre wasn't possible.    Panicking,  as I could hardly breath with felted wool obscuring my nose and mouth,  I started to bellow.  Grampy rushed in to see what was happening (and probably to tell me to shut up).  The jumper would neither go up or back down.  They had a lengthy debate about the best course of action while I slowly asphyxiated.  In the end Grampy's solution was adopted; he got a pair of scissors and cut me out much to Nan-next-doors dismay - she was very fond of that sweater. 
Hyperventilating and with a red furrow (fortunately not permanent)  all around my head I was very cross and could only be comforted with a lettuce sandwich.

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