Thursday, January 03, 2008

House of Wool

My nearest town is small and full of interesting characters. I very much like it. One of the characters is a lovely lady called Olive who has a wool shop. She is an accomplished mistress of the knitting needles. Jumpers and cardigans, scarves and gloves, socks and hats - these no longer present any sort of challenge for her. For Olive is famous locally for her skills in making woolly worlds, knitted alternative realities. She knits people. And animals. Even vegetables.

Her creations can be found displayed in vacant shop windows along the High Street. On my first visit to the town, when I originally moved here, I was perplexed as to why there were life-sized knitted figures in random shop windows. Since then I have come to understand that this is a local tradition and have grown to eagerly anticipate her next flurry of knitted activity. McColleague and I always text each other with updates on the knitted figures situation whenever one of us spots a new display.

So it was that I found myself outside her wool shop in the days before Christmas, gazing in awe at the knitted Widow Twanky in her shop window, and boggling at the knitted paper chains draped overhead. Next door stood an empty shop, but instead of the soaped windows and a few dead flies you might expect to see in a normal High Street, this housed an impressively random selection of Olive's finest knitted figures. You see, that's one of the things I enjoy the most - the fact that there is no theme, no common element to these displays that I can discern. To my delight I could see a Land Army Girl, an Arab and a person in a white coat - a vet? A doctor? Who knows? Oh, and a donkey. And a collection of knitted mice, carrots and even a woolly turnip, scattered across the floor. I fumbled in my bag for my mobile. I needed to send visual evidence to McColleague at once.It was as I took the picture on my cameraphone that I heard a voice behind me.

"Hello! Photographing my knitted people, are you?"

Eek! It was Olive! I was caught.

"Yes," I replied. "I always take a picture to show my friends. We love your knitting."

"Are you local?"

Olive asks me this every time she meets me. I explained again that, yes, I only live up the road at the manor house.

"Would you like to see more of my knitted figures?"

"Um....well I'm a bit pushed for time."

"I've got loads more in the back of my shop, come and look."

It was hard to refuse. The shop was right there and I had been caught showing an interest. Olive ushered me through, into the dark recesses beyond the counter. The bell above the door jangled as someone else came into the shop. "I'll leave you to it," she said.

And so I found myself alone in a room surrounded by life-sized knitted figures. Apart from what I think was a knitted mayor. He was half the size of all the others. I don't know why.I wondered how long was the politely correct amount of time to spend on my own among the knitted people. My cameraphone pictures weren't doing them justice, my hands were far too shaky with the excitement of it all.I texted McColleague. "I am in the back of Olive's wool shop! If I appear in knitted form in a shop window in a few days time you will know I fell to the House of Wool." And I sent an accompanying picture to illustrate my predicament.After a while I decided to venture back out again. Olive was serving some customers in the front of the shop so I was able to call out a cheery "Well, thanks for that, I've some lovely pics now to show everyone!" as I made for the door without slowing or making eye contact.

I must return the favour when the house re-opens and invite Olive along to see our Nursery Rhyme Trail. I've a feeling she'd really like it.


Reg Pither said...

What an interesting old bag.
I fear the knitted "person in a white coat" is modelled on someone in one of Olive's recurrent nightmares!
P.S. No Mr Olive, I notice. I'd get the filth to dig up her patio, if I were you.

Doris said...

Reg - yes, but she's a character.

stitchwort said...

No need to dig up the patio - there's probably someone inside each of those figures!

cogidubnus said...

Many many many years ago I used to buy tiny hand-crafted mouse figures from an arts and crafts shop in Steyning, West Sussex - they depicted nearly all aspects of everyday life - It worries me most of all that your (hand-knitted) figures are that really what you wanted to convey? I'm scared....

Despina said...

Excellent! I love your photos! So very random.

Garry Nixon said...

When I read "are you local?" the hairs went up on the back of my neck.

Doris said...

Stitchwort - that thought had crossed my mind!

Cogidubnus - yes, I am most definitely trying to convey the sheer Wicker (Woolly) Man-like scariness of lifesized knitted figures.

Despina - thank you kindly, it's amazing any of them came out without too much camera shake!

Garry - exactly!