There was something a little magical about Sabira’s arrival at the Winter 2019 Sweater Club. Never mind that she’d only booked her place hours before it began or that most of the others were already serial sweater club attendees, or that she’d never even been in the shop before. She took a seat and pulled out some astonishingly beautiful deep midnightish blue yarn, and it was immediately obvious that there must have been a Sabira-shaped hole in the shop until then. For now that she filled the hole, there was a most delicious feeling of completeness. She was like a long lost elegant aunty that you vaguely knew about from family myths, so that when she arrived, she completely fitted in but she was also new and brought a specialness to everything. In the sweater-knitting hours that followed conversations roamed over herbacious borders, yarn shopping in Paris, the east African railway, disappointing home secretaries, and always with the delightful melody of Sabira’s voice.
Here is Sabira’s story.. “During the lockdown, two things became very significant in my life: yarn and seeds. As London shops started to shut their doors to customers, it dawned on me to call Anna at Wild & Woolly in haste. Other people began to panic buy supermarket goods, I started to make a list of all the sweaters I needed to make for myself and my loved ones.
First on the list was to continue the Elton Cardigan by JojiLocatelli knit in La Bien Aimeé wool which I had begun at Anna’s beguiling sweater club. Next, was the yarn for the Northland Sweater by PetiteKnit for my husband’s birthday, for which Anna provided Gilliatt Le Heure Bleue wool. I thought of my two daughters flocking back to our home in Orley Farm. As well as jigsaw puzzles, there had to be a ball of yarn in case one of them had the urge to pick up the pins. I bought a hank of Malabrigo chunky wool in azul profundo just perfect for a hat. Life in Harrow-on-the-Hill now began to resemble a prolonged Christmas punctuated by tales of Covid-19 at dinnertime from my husband’s frontline work as a paediatric consultant and mine as a Sunday pharmacist at Boots. Pregnant positive mothers carrying neonatal babies, PPE shortages, eerily empty dispensaries with a huge workload of prescriptions on and on it went all whilst munching on Ottolenghi’s ‘Simple’ dinners deliciously prepared by our daughters back in the soothing comfort of home from their studies in Cambridge.
Striping the Elton made me fondly remember how we would all gather at Anna’s on Thursday evenings. Tea would flow from her distinct teapot accompanied by mouth-watering biscuits. Someone would acknowledge a birthday and a cake would be brought in celebration. I, with my strong Indian sweet tooth, would bring a mithai box to be shared amongst us. In these evenings, Wild & Woolly became a safe space where women shared, knitting was taught, and time flew by.
It was when a government letter arrived in June two months late advising me to shield due to a brush with cancer in the past that I decided to contact the accomplished sock-knitter Jane Lithgow. How better to spend the time than to learn how to knit socks! Rifling through my stash, I came across a ball bought on holiday from La Bien Aimée in Paris. Alas I was too late to purchase Laine Magazine’s ’52 Weeks of Socks’ Book, so I chose to knit monkey socks by Cookie A. These were to be the perfect 21st Birthday present for my daughter’s Reynaud’s feet during winter 2020.
The sock-knitting Zoom sessions were a delight. Each week a bite-sized lesson with Jane and myself and of course Frankensock lurking in the background. Jane happens to be a keen gardener as well, so abundant chatter followed of happy courgettes, misbehaving Euonymus and of course, what to do about the big tree in the front of her house (Prunus lusitanica no less!). Luckily armed with my RHS course knowledge we managed to wrestle with both identifying the plants and with her patient sock-teaching we managed to reach the toe.
I miss you Sabira. I hope you’ll be back soon.