Posted in Events, Personal life, Writing

Casting On for Autumn

My column from the October 2019 edition of the Tetbury Advertiser was all about knitting

To read the October issue in full, please click the photo

Winning first prize in the knitting category at a village show has ignited my winter addiction to knitting a little earlier than usual. It generally kicks in as the clocks go back, the evenings become long and dark, and any excuse will do to spend more time in my armchair by the fire.

Knitting gives me the feeling of doing something constructive while just sitting down and having a rest. The rhythmic, repetitive movements of the needles and yarn quickly send me into a pleasant meditative state, especially now I’ve swapped old-fashioned steel and plastic needles and artificial yarns for smooth bamboo and natural fibres warm and soft against my hands.

Every stitch feels like a caress.

Childhood Pattern

I learned to knit at the age of five, and under my mother’s coaching quickly learned to knit and read simultaneously. Before long, I rose to the dizzy heights of having my own named box in the backroom of Rema’s, our local wool shop. Here were stored the requisite number of balls for your current project, and you’d buy them one at a time as it progressed – effectively buying a sweater on the instalment plan.

In those days, everyone knitted because home-made jumpers were significantly cheaper than shop-bought ones. The downside was the slower speed of delivery. When I was ten, I grew faster than the jaunty orange, green and brown striped sweater on my needles. On completion, I had to keep pulling on the sleeves to make them reach my wrists.

Later, I knitted countless sweaters for boyfriends. At university I knitted the same Fair Isle pullover in different colourways for two different boys in quick succession. (I must have been keen.)

My prize-winning tea cosy, knitted for this year’s village show

Downsizing for Charity

These days I prefer to make small items for charities and have found enough outlets to keep my needles busy through the winter. The most innovative is a Canadian project to provide small knitted dolls instead of styrofoam chips in humanitarian medical aid boxes. Twiddlemuffs are another great idea: knitted hand muffs adorned with buttons, beads and other decorations to comfort people with dementia.

But for now I’m keeping it simple, making blanket squares to be taken to India at half term by pupils of Westonbirt School. (Frankenstein blankets, as my friend Charlotte calls them, for obvious reasons!) My teenage daughter is doing the same for Syrian refugees. It’s humbling to be able to help others while, with our pretty yarns and silky-smooth needles, we’re just indulging ourselves in a soothing hobby.

But my prize-winning knitted tea cosy, with its thirty-plus individually knitted flowers and leaves, all sewn on by hand, isn’t going anywhere. Well, they do say charity begins at home.


Coming Soon

This episode has inspired me to write a new Sophie Sayers novella centred around knitting – look out next year for my first collection of novellas featuring Sophie and friends, working title Tales from Wendlebury Barrow. In the meantime, if you’d like to read the first Sophie Sayers novella, The Pride of Peacocks, you can do so for free by joining my Readers’ Club mailing list via the form below.

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Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

The Best Reason to Run

2007 Soochow International 24h Ultra-Marathon ...
Image via Wikipedia

While running the Bristol 10K this morning (she says casually), I couldn’t help but be moved by the very many runners in charity t-shirts.  They raised money and awareness for a tremendous range of fabulous causes, from the local St Peter’s Hospice (one of the Bristol 10K’s two main charities) to obscurities that I’d never heard of till then – though if I see them again, I’ll be more receptive to their appeals for having seen them in this context.

I love to run, but, like many runners, I need a major race in my diary to make me do it.  To train for and complete  the Bristol 10K, I needed a formal commitment to a charity that deeply affects my family – the JDRF, dedicated to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes, which my daughter contracted at the  age of 3 and my husband in adulthood.  When I wavered in my training,  my sense of obligation to  early sponsors kept me at it.   (Aaren Purcell and Bill Chapman, you were the leaders in that race and I thought of you both on every training run.)

Of course,  for those who are more naturally athletic, the running is the thing. What keeps them going is the constant striving for a new personal best, the new medal to add to their collection, the smart new race finisher t-shirt to boost their wardrobe of running clothes.  Running to them is as blogging is to me: it’s my favourite hobby and I wouldn’t dream of asking anyone to pay me for it.   (Though there may be a few who’d gladly pay me to stop…)

But to me, no matter how fulfilling the run, it’s a hugely wasted opportunity if you choose to trek round the route in a top that advertises only your favourite sportswear manufacturer or your last year’s holiday destination. Without a charity emblazoned on it, the runner’s chest is a wasted opportunity – an empty billboard, a bare bus-shelter.  There are plenty of charities who will be grateful to you just to fly the flag and raise awareness, even if you’re not able to muster a bit of sponsorship.  This simple, effortless act could persuade wavering donors to stump up some cash next time they are asked by that charity.  The crowd will cheer you on all the more because of it.  And if people then offer you money for the cause, so much the better.

Well, I’ve flown my JDRF flag, and now it’s in the washing machine.  If you haven’t sponsored me yet but would like to, please feel free!  Here’s the link:

Debbie Young – Helping to Cure Diabetes