Recently I was talking to Annie, a fellow member of the South Gippsland Spinner’s & Fibre Art Group. We were discussing various things and knitted lace shawls was mentioned. I told Annie that I had been able to purchase a pattern and the wool required to make a Shetland ring shawl. I was living in Scotland at the time and looking for something to do that would be from where I was. Annie said she had had a loan of a novel from one of the other members of the SG&FAG, Noelle. She felt I would be interested as the story involved ring shawls from Estonia. Noelle loaned the novel to me and I have since read it and thought I would like to share it with you all.
The book is: The Lace Weaver by Lauren Chater
I do like her writing she is very descriptive without being verbose. You feel as if you are seeing, smelling and experiencing what is unfolding, as if you were there. The story involves two girls who then become women in the time of the second World War. Estonia was invaded by Russia and then Germany invaded. The girls are unknown to each other, but as the story evolves, they meet. These girls have very different lives but the war changes that. Because the story interchanges one girl, then to the other, you are privy to information that one or the other does not know.
Throughout the story the knitted lace shawls are a constant. There is a knitting group that make the shawls and develop the patterns. These patterns are kept and used, handed down the generations. The pride the women have and the privilege they feel is evident. They are involved in something that is part of their heritage. The sense of community and friendship comes to the fore during the time the Russian Army is removing the undesirable people “they nominate”. On the other hand, one of the girls has a shawl her Mother knitted and treasures it because it was her Mother’s, something worth fighting for. There is an awakening in this girl on several fronts, brought about by her circumstances, she finds a new life with the help of the knitting group.
There were times when I was reading something dire would occur and I found myself quite emotional, reading on fast to find out what happened next. The information that you as a reader are privy to is woven in the story and becomes known to both girls. Very heart warming.
If you do take my recommendation of this book and choose to read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
The Shetland ring shawl is usually made by the Mother and passed to her daughter (it can be threaded through the wedding ring-hence ring shawl). The daughter would wear it around her shoulders and would wrap her babies in it. I was nursing in Edinburgh at the time and looked after a couple of ladies in their 80s from Shetland and Orkney, they would wear their shawls all the time whilst in hospital.
The shawl I knitted commenced with a scalloped border, joined at the appropriate length. The first row was picking up the stitches for the body of the shawl. The knitting progressed shaping a square and completed at the center. That first picking up stitches was a doozy. Counting the number of stitches nearly did my head in. The pattern was easy enough once you started but you could not afford distractions such as someone talking to you or listening to the radio. I decided to do one row at a sitting. I started three times and three times found the pattern was not done correctly missing stitches or dropping stitches. Without distraction and sticking to one row at a sitting all went well. As you can imagine getting closer to the center the pattern was revealing itself and the number of stitches in a row decreased.