As mentioned in the last post, I also have a new niece, born at Easter. I was in Ireland at the time, and made sure to be the first person to see her apart from her parents, even though this meant getting involved an undignified race with my 65-year-old mother. Remarkable turn of speed for her age – I was impressed by the way she skipped over the bin and vaulted the pill-trolley I threw in her way. I foiled her at the end, thanks to her Luddism – the hi-tech security door to the maternity unit posed no difficulties for me. But it was worth it – living in Birmingham, I never get to see these babes till they’re acne-riddled strop-monsters.
There was a certain bittersweetness to the occasion too. My reason for being ‘home’ at all was that my father died suddenly a week earlier, at the incredibly young age of 69. He was a huge, powerful man, apparently glowingly healthy all his life. In his later years, he developed diabetes which did not respond to treatment, and had heart problems of a fairly non-specific nature. Through it all, though, he had never let up. My mother and brother could not convince him that he could not still do the work of a 20-year-old. At every opportunity he would be out on the farm, checking ‘his’ cattle, making sure my 35-year-old brother knew what was what and generally driving everyone scatty. Not that he wasn’t useful – when my brother had an accident that almost lost him a leg last year, my father stepped into the breach (with a little insignificant assistance from other brother) and kept things going – but he did not need to push himself anymore.
Ultimately, it was that attitude that killed him. Some cattle got into difficulties due to methane escaping from a slurry tank in one of the cattle houses and my brother called for help to move them. Dad basically got too worked up, trying to move these 2-ton brutes practically by hand, and collapsed. He was dead before he hit the ground. Mum, my brother and other brother’s wife did CPR until the ambulance arrived, but there was never the slightest indication of life.
The last day had been a good one. All his grandchildren – except my little boy – had been down on the farm with him, and they’d spent the morning following him round like little ducklings after a mother duck. Then after lunch they all tumbled into my parents’ big bed for a nap together. All of them adored their big Ganda, and he was daft about them. He was so looking forward to seeing his two new grandchildren, unable to decide if he wanted girls or boys. It’s one of my big regrets that my son will never get to know his Ganda. He is the most like Dad of all the grandchildren. We thought we had plenty of time to move back, but there’s never any time.
So I made this little matinee outfit for my niece. I’d brought needles (of course) but no yarn, and despite the importance of the sheep industry on our door step, there’s darn few woolshops about. So I settled for 100% acrylic Robin Bonny Babe Aran in pink and white. The pattern, which I stuck to quite religiously – go me! – was one from an unknown magazine, which I’d bought on eBay: two outfits, the coat and bonnet I made up, and a sweater and Inca-style hat which I thought I’d make up for my soon-to-be nephew as and when, though I’ve changed my mind about it, as that sister-in-law is a bit odd and probably would not see the cuteness, so he’s getting the teddy from the last post and a rather ordinary Norwegian jumper instead. And maybe a hat, I haven’t decided.
The reason I was so rigid about the pattern this time is that I really really wanted to figure out the mechanics of making the beret. The coat is no biggie, bored the tits off me tbh, but having got a copy of Alice Starmore’s Celtic Collection, I was keen to try some Aran-y stitchery on a beret for my son*, and I thought I could see how to adapt her designs. But this depended on getting the pinwheel technique into my head first, so I could do it in my sleep like my balaclava pattern*.
It’s quite straightforward though, starting with the rib for the brim, increasing to a multiple of 8 stitches for the under-band, then in a reverse of the Pinwheel Sweater pattern, decrease every one-eighth of the total stitches on odd rows, working a plain-knit row on even rows – i.e., if you have 120 stitches total, decrease 1st every 15 stitches on Row1, plain knit Row 2, decrease 1st every 14sts on row 3, etc.
So here’s the finished product, modelled by my vintage Ideal Giggles (who still wriggles AND giggles, in original orange-and-pink hotpants and shoes, for those who are interested in such-like)
* – to appear later!