A Knitting Question to Consider

While doing some errands yesterday, I tuned into the local NPR station. I found myself in the midst of a discussion of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

One of the discussion participants read the paragraph which begins, “It was the best of times.” As I listened to the list of items contrasted to each other, I was reminded of a Biblical passage from Ecclesiastes 3 where the writer lists a bunch of things like “a time for birth and a time for death.” I don’t know if Dickens deliberately patterned his paragraph on this passage. No one on the discussion panel mentioned it.

As I continued to listen, a caller asked about the knitting which takes place. That led to a brief discussion of Madame Defarge putting the names of the victims into her knitting. At that point, my mind went veering off.

How did she knit the names … did she use purl stitches on a stockinette background? Did she use intarsia for the names? Did she knit them in stranded knitting?

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. Which method she used would depend on how obvious she wanted the names to be, how could she make them stand out so they could be easily read, and how much and what kind of yarn she had.

Another issue would be how she could knit them without a pattern. For any of the methods I’ve imagined, I’d need a chart.  I doubt she had one.

If you were going to knit names into something, how would you do it?

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2 Responses to A Knitting Question to Consider

  1. Robbyn says:

    I guess I’d use an intarsia method and a simple blocky alphabet. I don’t think I’d need a chart to accomplish this. Then again, I always had the feeling that Madame DeFarge was a *far* moire accomplished and experienced knitter that I could ever hope to be 🙂

  2. ray says:

    Madame Defarge with her work in her hand was accustomed to pass from place to place and from group to group: a Missionary–there were many like her–such as the world will do well never to breed again. All the women knitted. They knitted worthless things; but, the mechanical work was a mechanical substitute for eating and drinking; the hands moved for the jaws and the digestive apparatus: if the bony fingers had been still, the stomachs would have been more famine-pinched.

    But, as the fingers went, the eyes went, and the thoughts. And as Madame Defarge moved on from group to group, all three went quicker and fiercer among every little knot of women that she had spoken with, and left behind.

    Her husband smoked at his door, looking after her with admiration. “A great woman,” said he, “a strong woman, a grand woman, a frightfully grand woman!”

    Darkness closed around, and then came the ringing of church bells and the distant beating of the military drums in the Palace Courtyard, as the women sat knitting, knitting. Darkness encompassed them. Another darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.

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