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Knitting in the Dark

Friday 31/8/18 03:00

I’ve been virusy lately.  I suspect I picked something up on a trip to London last week, because on Friday, mid-shift at work, I began feeling the familiar tingle in the sinuses, and flu-like symptoms descended, and they’ve been hanging around ever since. If nothing else, it’s played havoc with my sleep pattern, which is fractious as it is.  Too many late nights, sitting up knitting stock, followed by too little sleep, then the overwhelming need for an afternoon nana nap, followed by a wakeful night.  Which is what I’m experiencing right now (it’s currently a little after 2.30am).

After my shift at Hut No.13 earlier (Thursday), I dropped no.1 son off at the bus stop for his final pre-uni “Cuban Thursday” (it’s a drinking spot in Canterbury, full of students and 40 somethings, and not much in between).  I got home and the nana nap urge forced me to climb into bed for a snooze.  BIG mistake.  I usually nana nap on the sofa, with the alarm set for 40 minutes later.  Any longer than 40 minutes and it’s no longer a nap, it’s a full blown “body thinks you’ve had your night’s sleep” kind of thing, even if you’ve only slept for 90 minutes.  So, I settled in for a quick, refreshing nap, and woke up, 5 hours later, at 11pm.  Darnit.

I got up, and began my evening.  All the TV had finished, but I settled for a bit of Newsnight, followed by Romesh Ranganathan’s stand-up gig, and a programme about Coco Chanel and her collaboration with the Nazi’s in WW2 (that’s an interesting programme) and knitting commenced.  You might wonder, why on earth I would start knitting at that time of night, but I’m seriously short of stock at the hut, despite knitting at every available opportunity.  And… AND, on Monday I’m being interviewed for a magazine, and they’re sending round a photographer to photograph my wares, so I need to make some wares, and more importantly, need to either clear up or disguise the horror that working from home produces.  There’s stuff EVERYWHERE.



  1. Bag with half finished Solomon.
  2. Today’s post
  3. Spare seagull wool
  4. Another knit in progress
  5. Stuffing
  6. Kent Adult Ed lesson file
  7. Box with pompom wool for new jumbo scarves
  8. A random ball of wool, not put away
  9. A box with toadstool parts, ready for assembly.


And that’s just one corner of the lounge.  The kitchen is my makeshift office.  My bedroom is my makeshift warehouse.  When no.1 son does go to uni, his room is mine…

So!  By the time I was midway through the Coco Chanel programme, I had knitting 2 Cedric bodies, 3 baby gull bodies, 1 hand sized gull and poof.  Power went off.  I was plunged into darkness mid-gull.

Now… we have loads of power cuts in Newnham.  Powergen would probably come back with some statistics, but none that would dissuade the belief that we do, in fact, have loads in Newnham.  More in the past 5 years of living here, than I even remember from the 1970s.  Ok, slight exaggeration, but we do still get loads.  Back in the 70s at least you still had a working landline, and fewer expectations.  Newnham has no 4G or mobile reception, so once the power’s off, it’s communication by post or pigeon.  Even my landline is plugged in.

Mid-gull, rather than abandoning, I carried on and finished it in the dark.  Having successfully done that, I set myself a challenge, and decided to knit an entire gull body in the dark, so I gathered needles, scissors and 2 balls of wool (feeling wide awake and ambitious), took myself upstairs to bed.

I often knit without looking.  It’s a necessity, really.  I knit at the hut and can still keep an eye out for customers wanting my attention.  I do look down at the knitting regularly though, and I stick to knitting something I’m familiar with, that has a basic stitch.  I wouldn’t try cable for instance.  The gulls are embedded into my brain, etched forever, I suspect, so if you think I’m being all fancy, I’m not, and I do occasionally come a cropper.  I made the mistake of taking a lace stitch blanket with me recently, and that required far too much attention.

Anyway, back to last night… I like a dark room when I sleep, and perhaps the source of my lack of a proper night’s sleep is because the main phone line is in my bedroom.  It would have made perfect sense to my predecessor, who slept in the room above, but for me, I have to have a UFO level blue glow emitting from the BT Infinity modem (when I say main phone line, I should have said ONLY phone line).  The modem gets very warm too, so I’m reluctant to cover it up too much.  It has a photo of my parents leaning on it, which cuts out the main beam.  But because I’m a bit panicky about it setting fire to something, I’m a bit limited to what I cover it up with.  My neighbour’s father told me how his daughter’s bedroom had caught fire, in a bizarre and random event involving the sun shining on a bead from a necklace which acted like a magnifying glass and set the curtains alight.  That’s got me considering all kinds of random objects as potential fire hazards.  Luckily wool is non-flammable.

Anyway, I digress (again), what with the modem and blue light-emitting boiler in the hall, the entire house had been plunged into glorious blackness.

My task was set.

I picked up the needles, cast on, and knitted the seagull body.  It took constant counting, stitch after stitch, row after row.  I’ve just worked out that a gull takes 855 sts, and takes around 20 minutes which is approx. 42.75 sts per minute.   I think that’s a pretty average speed, possibly fairly fast for the English method (Continental knitting is faster on average).  The gull involves a lot of shaping, so I might time myself on something plain.  I have to knit a baby set by Sunday, so I’ll try timing that.  Cast on 45 sts, knit 45 rows (click here for the pattern).

20180831_023040Anyway (again), off I went, knit knit, increase, decrease, cast on, cast off. The hardest was knitting 2 together, at the beginning of a row, but the rest was plain sailing.  And I had myself the luxury of shutting my eyes.  I was hoping for at least some micro sleeps in that time, but I think only an electrode could have measured my consciousness, so knitting in my sleep, I suspect, still eludes me.  Here it is.  A gull body.  Knitted entirely in the dark.   Apart from the cast off being a little tight, it’s pretty much a replica of all of the other gull awaiting their wings.

The church bell, which chimes on the hour, every hour, to remind me of how little sleep I have had most nights, told me that it was 3am, and having begun to feel a little weary, decided to attempt sleep, in the vain hope that I would awaken refreshed, and there would be a little pile of seagull bodies waiting for me on the bedside table.  Alas I awoke feeling as though it was bedtime, and I hadn’t magically formed the ability to knit in my sleep.

So, I’m still very short of stock, but at least I can say, without fear of contradiction, that I can, indeed, knit without looking.

If you’d like to buy a finished gull, click here: (I can’t guarantee it’ll have been knitted in the dark however).


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