Francince Merry walked into the shop on a sunny morning just a few months after I opened in 2014, wearing a fabulously elaborately cabled red jacket, which she quickly explained had recently been featured in a big knitting magazine. She’d already started an even more impressive fairisle sweater by Catherine Earnshaw. I tried and failed to make a literary allusion to Wuthering Heights, whilst Francine continued to explain that she’d only recently started knitting as part a change in life direction after giving up a long career in the opera. We found the colours she needed to complete her fairisle and I thought that that would be that. But happily for me and the shop, it was just the beginning.
Over the months and years that followed, Francine didn’t just come back, but she played an integral part in making this shop into a place where all of life happens – crises and celebrations, Torte Santiagos and flapjacks, hiariousnesses and tragedies. From a long-winded operation to sever the ribbing and lengthen the now unacceptably cropped fairisle ‘which shows far too much tummy for my liking’, to adapting the stitch count, fit and gauge of a pure alpaca full-circle dress pattern, to re-doing the lace several rows down on a 450 stitch row of cobweb fine yarn, Francine’s knitting has always tended towards the dramatic. When it goes wrong, it’s a ‘complete and utter disaster’, but in truth it always ends up being fabulous, because Francine is Fabulous. In spite of catastrophising at the hint of a dropped stitch, she always sees her projects through, and they look wonderful.
Francine’s lockdown project was the Dark and Stormy cardigan by Thea Coleman, worked in a beautiful Cumparsita shade of Malabrigo Rios, and is described by Francine as ‘incredibly complicated and almost impossible’, but thanks to some slow and careful re-reading of the pattern instructions it became possible afterall. I miss you Francine. I hope you’ll be back soon.