It was Christmas Eve 2018. There were a last few last-minuters coming in for row counters and stitch markers to bulk out stockings, but the rush for yarn had passed. I looked around the shop struggling with the immensity of what had to be done over the coming week. Christmas Day was now all that stood between closing up and a long-planned refurbishment which would need me to empty the shop of every last ball of wool, knitting needle, paper bag and roll of tape and staple.

The door swung open and I mustered up another merry christmas smile. Julia came in and looked at me and appeared to just know. She smiled an it’s-going-to-be-ok sort of smile, and with it, she unwittingly loosened my grip on the the pretense, that I could manage everything. She gave me a hug and tears of end-of-December exhaustion and overwhelmedness, that I couldn’t explain, much less understand, rolled down my cheeks.

It was down to Julia’s gentle knowingness, her quiet it’s-ok-ness, that my tears ended up in a smile of relief, and not in a knot of humiliation and embarrassment. Julia works in a kindergarten as an educator of very young children. She’s also a lapsed harp player but I know her as a knitter. Sadly I’ve never heard her play or met the children she teaches but there’s something about her knitting – understated yoked sweaters, the sort which stop at 2 or 3 colours, simply ribbed beanies, plainish lace shawls, whose stitches carry some thread of the thoughtfulness that sits behind her heavy lidded eyes, which makes the finished fabric strangely moving when she brings the knitting back, and which I suspect runs through her teaching and her playing too.

She spent the lockdown knitting Orlane Sucche’s Azor sweater in a moody midnight heather shade of Rosy Green’s Cheeky Merino, and had nearly reached the cuff of the second sleeve and the end of her last skein around the time when I re-opened the shop. In a rare moment of perfect serendipity, Marilyn Rixhon, showed up with swatches from a range of yarns she’d been sampling, to say she’d decided in favour of the brown bluefaced Leicester and against the Rosy Green. She generously passed on the remainder of her unwanted skein to Julia whom she’d never met before, so that Julia would be able to finish with yarn from the same dye batch. The next time I saw Julia, she had finished the sweater. She caught me at a moment when I’d been feeling slightly lost in how I could bring my shop back from it’s lonely months of knitter-less-ness. But the beautiful sweater, made possible with Marylin’s donated yarn, Orlane’s lovely design, and of course Julia’s characteristically considered stitches, seemed like an oracle to say that the knitters are all still there, and we will all fit together again.

Thank you for showing up when you did Julia.

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