My mum was a plain knitter. A plain baker. And a plain cook. But a wonderful mother, intelligent, caring, and hardworking. She was a charitable woman, and made a pledge to herself to knit as many bedcovers as the local Barnardo’s children’s home needed, but being a plain knitter, these were made by knitting squares from a variety of begged, found, and rattled down bits of wool of wildly assorted colours. So the first things I learned to knit as a little girl were squares. Plain squares. And my first knitting assignment was to make a cover for my doll’s bed using miniature squares. This was my apprenticeship so that I could eventually help my Mum with her personal Barnardo’s mission.

I found out about fancy knitting at the home of a friend of the family. They had no children and were very welcoming to me. Now she was what you’d call a fancy baker. She plied me with cream cake and Irn Bru and, as a special treat, on each visit she’d show me The Doll. And her fancy knitting.

The Doll lived in her back bedroom. It was very large and pink with a fixed smile and had an exquisite wardrobe of hand-knitted clothes of the utmost complexity. She also had her own doll’s case full of alternative clothes, which were laid out on the bed for me to look at on every visit.

Look, you understand, not touch. Touching was tantalisingly forbidden.

And the lady of the house hovered behind me, just in case a grubby or sticky-with-jam hand should sully The Doll’s extensive wardrobe. Once when she called away briefly, my eye lit on a very fancy hair bow meant for that long blonde hair I so longed to stroke. It was a lovely bow, knitted in a fancy stitch with Ric Rac sewn on to it. Note to self: do people still use Ric Rac? And who decided to call it Ric Rac? Anyway.

I longed for that bow. I wanted it very badly. So, dear reader, in short, I stole it.

All the way home in the bus with my Dad, it burned a hole in my pocket and my conscience. And when I got home there was the dilemma, where to hide it? Where could I put it so that it might pass unnoticed? Suffice to say that for all the years I still played with dolls, my doll had a bedcover made from several clumsily knitted and slightly hole-y squares which had a secret addition on the underside – a large knitted bow trimmed with Ric Rac.

And nothing was ever said about it by anyone.

Posted by: Sylvia Dow