27 October 2014


Character Connection 47

Hosted @ The Introverted Reader

Do you have any idea how hard it is to blog and to knit at the same time??? If you do, then I don't really have to explain why posts take a longer time to get published. LOL!

A more positive way that my knitting will affect my blogging is through a little rereading challenge I've given myself, to hunt down vaguely remembered passages about knitting in my old books. I'm not sure why I had such a good memory for them back then. Maybe my inner knitter was already asserting herself. =P Anyway, I revisited another knitter character a few nights ago that I'd like to tell you about today.

The Landlady
My Sweet Folly
by Laura Kinsale

. . . "What are you making?" he asked at last.

"I don't know," she said. "Sometimes I just knits and see what comes of it. Often enough, I pull it all apart again. But now and then, ah, my hands just seem to know what they want to do . . . I love the best what I make that way . . . 'Just make me a scarf,' me husband, he'd say. 'Just make me a waistcoat, can't you? How hard can it be?' But even if I tried, it would come out ugly. And I took it apart. Don't know why. It was because my hands wanted to make something else."

He thought of [his dead wife].
Can't you just put your mind to something useful. You've wits enough. How hard can it be?

"Makes no sense, I know," the landlady said.

Robert stared into the flames. "Yes, it does," he said quietly.

In one of the State of Fear readalong posts, I wrote about what I call "middle eight" sections in novels--parts that "[don't] move the plot along or contribute much to character development, but [provide] a place for reflection." I was referring to the big moment with Professor Norman Hoffman, but I was also thinking of a lovely scene with an unnamed character in Laura Kinsale's My Sweet Folly.

When a lost and disorientated Robert Cambourne wanders into the rundown "Highflyer" inn just outside of London, he doesn't expect to find a landlady who can cook the sort of food that his soul has missed since he left India . . . and who can offer him the consolation he never thought he'd find after his verbally abusive wife left him with symptoms that we now associate with strong post-traumatic stress disorder. The landlady never shows up again in the story, and his meeting with her doesn't directly contribute to the actions he takes to turn his life around, but I guess it's enough that he was able to say, for just one evening, to just one person, C.S. Lewis's "What? You too? I thought I was the only one . . ."

It was Mrs. Darwin who reminded me of Lewis's definition of friendship in the first discussion of our current readalong novel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I'm more into G.K. Chesterton's description of "comradeship and comfort" in The Man Who Was Thursday, which, inasmuch as My Sweet Folly is also a Thriller, can be applied exactly to what Cambourne finds with the crafty landlady: "Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one." (To be fair, Lewis refers to the same idea when he adds that new friends feel that they "stand together in an immense solitude." He just lacks Chesterton's excellent sense of horror.) So what does the landlady do to reveal herself as one comrade that Cambourne can count on? She simply tells him about the odd way she knits and how her crafts all manage to turn out beautifully.

She lifted yarn over her forefinger deftly. "They don't always do the handiest things for me. Times I would have liked a soft little cap for me grandbaby, and I got a shawl fit for a fine lady. But afterward I seen that the wool weren't soft enough, and the ribbons I bought to weave in were too stiff for a baby. But the hands knew it y'see, before I did." She chuckled. "So I give it to me daughter-in-law and never said naught o' the cap at all. And she's a happy mother, full o' love. Maybe it's that shawl, for she was main pleased by it."

Cambourne knows exactly what it's like to be guided by his own hands--to find, at the end of a letter, that he has written himself into some place where he never intended to go, but which is more wonderful than a planned destination would have been. His whole life has been like that sort of wandering, but only his letters--his love letters--have not been used against him by those unable to understand why he couldn't just make a plan and stick to it.

I think that anyone who has ever taken pleasure in creative writing knows the magic of leaving established paths and seeing where the will-o-the-wisps lead--which is why I've always suspected that the landlady is a "cameo" of Kinsale herself! Perhaps there are also crafters who knit as if they're writing, though according to this charming Twitter conversation, Kinsale is not also one of them. And well, neither am I! =P Knitting has made me the most methodical and systematic that I've ever been, and yet it still manages to fit my wandering template in a way that I'll tell you about someday . . . if I ever write myself into a post that is the right fit for it!

Image Source: My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale


Lady Lilith said...

I see the problem. You really have to choose one activity to use your hands for.
I feel the same way about blogging and photography :)

Enbrethiliel said...


I guess it's a problem that all hobbyists have in common, but I also think that finding a balance between book blogging and knitting will lead to some good "hybrid" posts that I would never have written if I hadn't taken up knitting. Such as, well, this one. =P

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. =)

Sheila said...

I am more that kind of knitter. I do generally know what I'm going to make, but I don't follow a pattern. I just kind of look at it and decide if it's time for a few increases or decreases or whatever. Ditto with cooking -- I taste as I go and throw in whatever I think will go well, or whatever happens to be lying around.

And with writing most of all. I'm getting back into it now (yes, there is NO WAY I have time to be doing this now, it's basically insanity to try, but what can I say?) and I really don't know where I'm going with it. I've heard it described as being a gardener rather than an architect. An architect draws up a plan and then starts building. A gardener plants a lot of things and sees what grows, rogues out the things that aren't any good, plants some more, ties stuff to poles to see if she can get it to grow the direction she wants, and always ends up with a few surprises. The thing that was an afterthought (this year, chard) ends up being the big producer, and the thing we counted on to do well (green beans) get eaten by something.

And, like the landlady in this story, I have a husband who doesn't get it at all. How can I be writing if I don't know what happens next? But I never know what happens next till I get there and see what seeds I inadvertently have been planting all this time.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, I'm all about patterns! Which is so unlike me. LOL! I guess it's partly to do with being a beginner and knowing that I need to practice the techniques before I can "freestyle" . . . and partly to do with the very real pleasure I get when I see the pattern on the picture emerging in my own work!

My first gardening experiment didn't go too well (as you might have guessed from the dearth of posts about it =P), but I'm fairly sure that I'm more of a "gardener gardener" than an "architect gardener." ;-)

DMS said...

Knitting and blogging can definitely be a challenge together. :) Unless, you have a way of talking and having what you say transferred to words (an app or Dragon Speak Naturally or something like those). Then you could knit and dictate your basic posts. Of course, you would have to go back and fix errors- but you could try to kill two birds with one stone. :)

Knitting seems like a fun hobby!

Enbrethiliel said...


As you may have seen from a later post, I'm trying to make my knitting and my blogging meet halfway by blogging about my finished knits! And it kind of works, as long as I don't beat myself up over not being as productive at blogging as before. =)