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May 07, 2007

Newsflash!

As previously hinted, Storytellers rides again.

Sort of.

We've just finished judging the final competition (which I've nicknamed "open mic"), so those winners will shortly be published in the usual place; the honourable mentions, however, will be posted on the new Storytellers blog. Sort of an ice-breaker.

May 05, 2007

Stories to prolong life, knitting to save it

["How Scheherazade was saved by her knitting", by Jessica Mayes.

Once again, technical issues are interefering with pictures... *sigh*]

“Enough!” said the king as he strode toward Shahrazad. “The people are in suspense as to how much longer you shall live. The advisors tell me to either let you live and be my wife until I die, or to command you to finish your story so I can kill you. But I,” he said as he leaned toward Shahrazad until he was almost touching her; “have a better plan. As you seem to enjoy knitting, judging by all the hours you spend with needles and string, I propose this plan: I will give you one week. During this time you shall live by yourself, seeing no one else. You will be given any supplies you wish; and at the end of that week, you shall present a garment you shall either wear to your crowning as queen or your death. I shall judge if you garment is worthy of your life. After the cunning you displayed in prolonging your life, I expect no less ingenuity in this. The week starts now. Your servant shall bring whatever supplies you wish.” The king turned and left the room, slamming the ornate wooden door behind him with an echoing bang.

One week later

Shahrazad stood before the doors leading to the King’s court. She was not nervous at all, but stood calmly with her head up. The heavy doors slowly creaked open. “You may enter!” The King’s loud voice commanded. Slowly and coolly Shahrazad drifted down the floor to stand before the King. She bowed. “What is this garment?” The King sounded only vaguely interested.

“This O King,” Shahrazad replied, “is a mobius shawl. The garment has only one half twist, and one surface. It represents the way my stories are all part of one story, the one I began when I first arrived here. The design in the middle of the shawl is encased by five knit rows on either side. This represents the way my tales are stories-within-a-story. And finally, O King, the design in the middle of trees, shows the way I started with one story that branched out into many stories, just as a tree extends out with roots and branches that are still connected to the trunk.” Shahrazad bowed low to await the King’s decision.

“I was prepared to kill you upon your entrance to this court and be done with the matter, but the curiosity that kept me waiting for the end of your story made me wait for the completion of this task. I am glad I waited. Here is my decision: Shahrazad shall live.” Shahrazad knelt to the ground, still wearing her shawl, and was crowned queen. “No more shall I kill. A wife like this,” said the King, “is surely enough.”

April 29, 2007

A story with a twist

[Keri Brenning's story, and the last of our honourable mentions.]

The first weak rays of light streaked the sky and were greeted by the call to prayer. Sunrise was still an hour or so away and it seemed Scheherazade would survive to see the sun trek across the sky once more. She had performed for her husband well enough that she would be spared the fate of the countless women before her. She would not join the corpses of the broken queens, not yet.

Light and shadows creeping through the sandalwood shutters played with one another in the empty corridors. The scent of fine incense hung gently in the warm air. The soft padding of her silk slippers on the marble floor was the only noise to disturb the silence of her journey. The finery that surrounded her should have brought her joy, but it only served to accentuate the pain and fear she lived in, the pain she had lived in since her wedding day. No, that was not true, it was before that. It was a pain she had lived in since the king had slain his first wife. The queen's betrayal shattered the king and set into motion the slaughter of hundreds of innocents. None dared to speak openly about it, but still everyone knew that one summer day, the king discovered his wife and her lover lying together and executed them both, savagely, with his own hand. That very day he married again and when dawn broke the next morning, his new bride too was slain. The king decreed that he would marry a new queen every day and have her slain on the following dawn. It may have been the queen's betrayal that shattered the king, but it was the king's betrayal that shattered his country, and Scheherazade could not sit idly by and watch her land be torn to shreds.

She begged and pleaded with her father to let her help, to give her the chance to end the king's madness, to stem the tide of blood. As the king's vizier he was responsible for finding new wives and had the power to grant her request, but he could not sentence his own daughter to death. Time passed, as is inevitable, and soon there were no more women to marry the king. Scheherazade's father had no choice. He tried once more to dissuade her, telling her he could have her smuggled out of the country, but she knew she must wed the king. She could not shut out the cries of those innocents that were slain. She was bound to her duty, and could blame no one for her fate.

The king and Scheherazade were married, and her father feared that her wedding would be the last time he would see his daughter alive. He did not know that she had a plan. On her wedding night when she entered the kings quarters, she begged him one last request, "Please your majesty, may I tell my younger sister, Dunyazade a story one last time?"

The tale she had chosen specifically because it was exciting and lengthy. As light streaked the sky, it became clear that she would not be able to finish and her husband granted her one more day. That was a thousand nights ago.
She arrived in her private quarters, her sanctuary. Picking up the worn bone needles that had once been her mother's, she set to work, falling into the trance that the elaborate lattice provided. Her world contracted into a single burning point of warmth and comfort, focused solely on the gentle click of her needles and the barest whisper of the thread as she effortlessly slid it forward across the needles, always forward; the past did not bare thinking about. She lay down stitch after stitch, occasionally performing the quick deft movements required to decrease a stitch and just as simply add a new one. Quick movements that created the seemingly fragile lacework of the scarf.

She paused for a moment in her knitting and noticed that on the floor, no more than five feet away, sat her sister. She had not even heard her enter. Scheherazade knew that the soft swish of the thread as it left her needles did not reach Dunyazade's ears over the hum of her spindle. To watch her sister work, to see the raw piles black cotton sail away into a single strong fine thread, soothed her, just as her own work soothed her. Dunyazade's creation was finest cotton thread she had ever known.

The cotton was black at Scheherazade's command. "Black cotton," She had said, "Black as the final night they lived through, Black as the fear that now plagues our land, black as the despair of our people." The scarf she knit in their honor, in their memory. It was also knit for her. Every night she would go to her husband's quarters and tell Dunyazade and her three children their tale, and every dawn she would offer her prayers of thanks and add another row to her scarf, another day to her life, while Dunyazade spun her another length of thread. The thread was never broken. Using the tail of Scheherazade's thread as the leader for her next length Dunyazade would continue. "Just as you spin your tales, as you knit our king and our land together again, so I shall spin you the thread to do it with," Dunyazade had vowed.

The scarf would not end until end of the killing. On her wedding day Scheherazade had ordered the raw cotton brought to her, and then she had asked her sister to spin it for her. "Spin a length for me , but do not cut the thread, it must remain united." Dunyazade did as she was asked. That first evening of her married life, at dusk, Scheherazade took the length of cotton and cast on. When dawn broke and she was granted her life for one more day, she had Dunyazade spin another length and she knit a single row, to represent her life, to represent her story. She had no time to knit other things through out the days, tending to her queenly duties or scouring books for stories that were just right, just enough to save her life, but that scarf was always on her needles. No part of the scarf was ever torn out, it was always growing, but only a single row every dawn.

And now it held one thousand rows. One thousand rows for one thousand nights, and to Scheherazade that number seemed to hold a great importance. As darkness fell on her one thousand and first night, Scheherazade readied herself to meet her husband. Dunyazade entered her room as she had every evening for one thousand nights, the children in tow, excited for their ritual story. Scheherazade smiled and crossed the room to kiss her sister. "Dunya," she said, " return my sons to their room and retire yourself. You will not go with me this night. I go alone."

Panic and a fierce anger rose in Dunyazade's eyes. She gripped her sister's arm, shaking her in her anger.

"Scheherazade, no! I will not allow you to go to your death alone! I will not!"

Scheherazade pulled herself free and hissed at her, "Keep your voice down! I am not a performing monkey Dunyazade! I do not dance each night for a few scraps of food! I fight for my life each and every night, and this man who I have born three sons for, who I have learned to love through all his sins, still demands this of me, still refuses to simply let me be…and it is time. It must stop now. One way or another, it must stop."

"And have you not thought of us Scheherazade? What will become of the rest of us if you are wrong? What of your sons?"

" Who are you to suggest that I have not? How can you dare to involve my sons? I have lived nearly three years with this weight on me Dunyazade…"

The wail of Scheherazade's youngest son pierced through their anger and they broke apart and turned to the children. All three of them were crying. Scheherazade turned to her sons and kissed and soothed and tickled them until it was as if the outburst had never happened.

"A story now mama, a story!" her oldest son demanded. She smiled slightly, " No my love, not tonight. Tonight I go to see your father alone."

"But mama…" he whined. "I will hear none of it," she said firmly, "Listen to your Aunt Dunya and to bed with you now my sons." She bent down to kiss and hug each one, as if it were her last time. "I love you." She turned to her sister. "Do not argue Dunya, please. You know I cannot go on like this. Take care of my sons. If…if I do not see you in the morning, tell our father I love him." Dunyazade looked as if she were about to argue again, but stopped. She nodded with tears streaming down her face and turned to usher her nephews out.

Scheherazade walked once again down the empty corridors and came to the bedchamber in which she had never slept, the kings bedchamber. She braced herself and strode into the middle of the expansive room. As the chants of prayer rang through the palace, dusk fell and the king entered. A look of mild surprise registered on his face when he saw that she was not in her usual place on the bed, the children arrayed around her. Scheherazade did not move, but met his eyes without hesitation. "Where are my sons?" he asked her. "I have sent them to bed my husband. I have no tales to offer them this night. I have nothing to offer but myself." His face remained impassive. She continued, "I have given you three strong sons. I have given you my loyalty. I have given you my love despite the things that you have done. I have given you a thousand nights of tales," she took a breath to steady herself, and came to her point. "I cannot help but wonder, husband, will that be enough?" her voice did not tremble, but a single tear slid down her cheek. He reached out a hand to cup her face. She met his eyes and saw his soul, stripped bare, and all his pain laid out. "Yes," he said, his voice cracking, "yes, it will be enough."

The morning dawned bright and clear. Scheherazade made her traditional journey through the halls, but this morning the emptiness held only peace, not foreboding. She reached her private chambers and found Dunyazade waiting for her there. She flew into Scheherazade's arms and they wept and laughed together for a long time. Finally, Dunyazade lifted her head from her sister's shoulder. "I have a gift for you," she said, and, arm around Scheherazade's waist, she lead her across the room to the finished final length of yarn. Scheherazade bent down and carefully picked up her needles. She toyed with the needles listlessly for a moment. She could not bring herself to bind the end of the scarf.

"It seems too final," she said. Then inspiration dawned on her. Dunyazade gazed on, confused and intrigued. She heard Scheherazade muttering, but could make little sense of it "…a twist … his change of heart …." Her pace quickened, and suddenly it was finished. Instead of two separate and final ends, the scarf was one continuous length, a circle, symbolizing the strength and unity that love creates and the endless possibilities of life.

Scheherazade's magic carpet

[An honourable mention from Julie Blosser, who writes:
"I've always loved the story of the Thousand and One Nights, and I think Scheherazade must have been an incredible and well-educated woman. I love the idea that she would have a wide variety of skills, including knitting, story-telling, and smattering of practical magic. I also love magic carpets. Think of what a compendium of wonderful things they are — a useful home furnishing, a means of transportation, a work of art, and an enchantment. The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit was part of my inspiration for this carpet."

Julie submitted a lovely illustration, which for some reason MT is not displaying properly, and alas I'm not geeky enough to figure out why. Sorry. By the way, who else here is an E Nesbit fan? Wonderful stuff!]

It came to pass that Scheherazade, weary from telling tales to the king, sent for her sister to bring wool, silks, and needles from her father's home to while away the hours of the night. And when her sister had come, Scheherazade touched the skeins and saw in her mind's eye what they would become — a carpet, not a carpet to cushion her dainty feet on the king's marble floors, but something rarer, requiring greater skill.

Night upon night she worked with the deep blue wool her young sister wound in balls for her, the king nearly as mesmerized by the thread in her fingers as by the thread of her tale. The rosewood needles clicked and clacked gently with the rise and fall of her voice. She worked steadily on, knitting each stitch together with the magic of
her story.

As the nights wore on, the carpet grew. It grew to cover Scheherazade's lap, then spilled across the shining floor. At last it spanned the distance between her own silken cushion and the bed where the king reclined. It was enough. But as she looked at his face, she hesitated. Filled with danger as her life in the palace was, she was not yet ready to give it up.

So she cast on again and knit broad bands in the glass-green of Sinbad's sea, stranded with gold of burning sands and magicians' hoards. Slender ribbons of blood-crimson she worked as she told a tale of sisters turned to hounds,
forced to endure beatings before their curse was broken. Silver-white of moonlight and tinkling fountains swirled with velvety purple shadows where where thieves and lovers hid.

At last came the night Scheherazade had dreaded for a thousand nights. The king sent her away well before dawn. She saw him rise to pace his chamber as she left, and feared the worst. On coming to her own apartment she sent her sister back to their father's house, and dismissed her attendants. Then she cut shimmering silk and knotted it into a shining fringe at each end of her carpet. After she tied the last knot and straightened the last thread, she knelt upon the carpet, tears quivering in her eyes. If her tales had failed, if she could no longer save the maidens of her beloved country, at least she would not stay here to die.

Laying her hands on the soft fibers, she commanded the carpet to carry her away to the place she would be happiest in all the world.

A breeze began to blow through the open window, billowing the curtains and weaving its tendrils into Scheherazade's cinder-black hair. The breeze grew to a wind, and the wind grew to a gale as the carpet rose
from the floor and floated out into the night. She looked down on the palace gardens as the carpet hovered for a moment, then shot out over the city. The carpet flew swiftly over tiled domes and gold-capped minarets, past the humbler dwellings of the common denizens of the city, and at last over the city wall. It flashed past desert sands, wide seas, snow-frosted mountains, and forests primeval until it was moving so fast Scheherazade could only grip the silken fringes, close her eyes, and hope it would stop. Then, suddenly, without a heave or a lurch, she realized she had stopped, and only a faint breeze brushed her skin. She smelled jasmine in the air. Stepping off the carpet, she opened her eyes and found herself in her own garden. The carpet slipped away into the palace as Scheherazade saw the king approach her with a smile and hands outstretched. His terrible order had been rescinded. Taking the hands of her beloved, her husband, she searched her heart and found a deep well of happiness there, now unclouded by fear.

Was this love only what had been there all along, or did the magic of all the happy endings Scheherazade had knit into her carpet make her wish come true? Scheherazade never knew, and the carpet kept its own counsel. The only sign it gave was three gold stars that appeared in the blue.

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April 25, 2007

The Story of a Storyteller

This is Catherine Procter's entry for our Scheherazade competition — exquisitely presented in a little handmade book, bound with three ribbons! Catherine tells me she is an engineer by training, and she seems to believe this means she's not naturally artistic. I beg to differ.

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King Shahryar fell in love with Scheherazade during one thousand and one nights of storytelling. He was entranced by her tales and captivated by her beauty. She was wise and kind, and in loving her the King forgot the anger which had filled his heart since the betrayal of his first wife. Scheherazade bore the King three sons, bringing even greater love and joy to his heart.

Scheherazade brought her sons up to be as kind, loving and thoughtful as she. From their earliest days, she took pleasure in telling them wonderful stories, and they grew up loving to tell and hear stories as much as their Mother and Father did.

Scheherazade was creative in many other ways, and made many beautiful things. She particularly enjoyed knitting, keeping her hands busy with one kind of yarn, while her head was full of the other kind. For each of her sons she created a blanket, which he sat on to listen to his Mother's tales. Each blanket was different, reflecting the different personalities and tastes of her boys.

The first born son of Scheherazade and Shahryar displayed, from a very young age, a charming and confident manner, and a spirit that knew, without being told, that he would one day be a King.

He was happy and sociable, adored by everyone at the court, and never happier than when he was at a party or banquet. He was always at his Father's side when the King greeted important guests. The boy was kind and intelligent, and all who met him knew that he would one day be a great and wise ruler.

His favourite stories were true ones, tales of rulers of long ago, and he learned much from his Mother's tales that would help him in later years when he inherited his Father's crown.

His story blanket was knit in rich colours — purple, crimson, royal blue and green, with shining gold stripes.

The second son was happiest outdoors, and away from the noise and excitement of the palace. He was quiet and gentle, and shy around strangers. He liked to be alone in his own little garden, where he grew beautiful flowers, which he would never allow to be picked for anyone but his Mother, or out walking in the countryside.

His favourite time for storytelling was summer, when he would coax his mother outside to sit under his favourite tree with him, while he sat on a blanket adorned with flowers and leaves.

The third son was the one who was most like his mother. He lived to tell and hear stories. He spent his days gathering tales from anyone he could find. He heard tales of far off lands from visiting princes, listened to the servants as they gossiped, or walked to the surrounding villages to listen to old men as they embroidered tales of their youth. At night he sat on the terrace, watching the moon, and dreaming fanciful stories of his own.

His favourite time was evening, when he sat with his family, listening to his Mother's stories, and telling stories to her and his brothers. the blanket he sat on had been knitted in variegated blue yarn, and felted. Stars of misty grey fibre were needle felted on it.

[ Scheherazade winners here; they are wonderful as ever.]

April 17, 2007

Back!

Scene: a dark and empty room. Cobwebs flutter in the corners; wind whistles through the broken windows. Somewhere, a shutter bangs.
An ominous creak is heard... a beam of light cuts across the dusty floor. As the door slowly opens, a freckled nose peers around it.

Whispers: "Hello?"

Silence.

The freckled nose is followed by an embarrassed-looking 30-something woman, clutching a knitting bag. She shuts the door behind her and switches on the light. The room suddenly looks a little more friendly. She clears her throat, tries again in a stronger voice. "I'm back." Dumps the bag on the table in the centre of the room. "And I've got some stuff to show you... if you're still talking to me."

By far the biggest, best and most exciting thing is — at LAST — the first of the Storytellers patterns. Including those stockings. Go here (the patterns are linked under three entries: Cinders' Secret Stockings, the Fairy Godmother Scarf and the Wire-Laced Bag) and be sure to come back and tell me what you think!

After that it's hard for any knitting to measure up — so I'm not even going to try, just yet. Enjoy some pretty pictures of Italy instead.

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More here and here.

March 17, 2007

Some things

1. I am, despite all appearances, in fact alive.

2. My beloved partner in crime, and in Purlescence, is about as busy as I am — which is to say, shockingly, outrageously, life-threateningly* busy. This is unfortunate for Purlescence, since his involvement in it is at this point, entirely for love, not money, and must be maintained alongside his real job. And, of late, his real job-related but out-of-hours pet project. Yep. He busy man.

3. I have finished judging Alice (and what a great bunch of entries they were); the winners have been notified. But because of this crazy busyness abovementioned, we're struggling to get them published in any kind of reasonable time. I'm so sorry. It's coming, I promise.

4. Similarly, Scheherazade is now closed and will be judged soon - but not just yet. I can tell you that I've looked at just a handful of the entries, and of those, absolutely every one has made me go "Oh! This one's a winner for sure." Probably going to be a really difficult decision, then...

5. The first of our winners' completed patterns are in my hands for editing and, in one case, photography. Given the huge monster busyness etc, it's going to be just a leetle bit longer before you get to see them... but not long. I mean it.

6. Finally, as you know, the Storytellers competition is drawing to a close. This month is the last of the six challenges, so it's absolutely your last chance to get the glory and the swag...

...or is it?

Well, sort of. But we've had such a strong response to the idea, and have had so very much fun with it, that I've come up with a way of continuing the party. We can't keep up the monthly competition as it now stands — we don't have the budget, and more importantly, as is becoming apparent, we don't have the time. But that's a lousy reason to put an end to the fun, isn't it?

So in not very much time, we'll tell you all about the new, ongoing Storytellers challenge. Are you excited?

7. Last thing. We're going on holiday for a week. Yes yes, I know, we only just went away over Christmas! Forgive me, knitters. Let me tell you just how important this holiday is: it's our long delayed honeymoon. And it is our third attempt to go to Venice: the one city in the world I have always, always longed to see.** The first two attempts (one of which was scheduled for our first wedding anniversary, and first honeymoon opportunity) were foiled by visa problems.

Now, it was quite clear to me that nowhere but Venice would do for a honeymoon, so we put it off... and off. We got married almost five years ago. And this year also marks our 10th anniversary of, y'know, being together. So we thought this year was clearly the time to make this honeymoon happen. Originally, the plan was to go for our actual wedding anniversary, in May. But, wouldn't you know? Visa issues again. It's like I'm cursed. Still, this time it turned out I could still go; just had to go a little bit earlier.

So we're going. Honeymoon (and, incidentally, my birthday) in Venice in Florence. I'm so excited, it's almost, almost enough to assuage my guilt at abandoning Storytellers for a week when there's so much to be done. You know what? After a couple of days in Italy, I think it just might turn out to be enough, after all.

___________
* Using "life" in the colloquial, "get a life" sense, that is. We have been working too hard, to the detriment of any "life" we previously aspired to have. And by the way, who came up with that horrid phrase, "work-life balance"? I'm all in favour of balance (especially these days, when I have none), but I reject the implied opposition. Work is not the opposite of life. At least, not mine. I like my work. It's a great part of my life. And I'm pretty sure my life continues while I'm working. Let's just call it life balance, then, okay? Work, play, rest — all combined in balance, in a healthy life. Does that work?

** Being from South Africa, my travel opportunities were for most of my life pretty limited, so you shouldn't be too surprised that this rather modest ambition went unrealised for so long.

January 31, 2007

Snow White's practical streak

By Karen Holdup

…The dwarfs said, "If you will take care of our house, cook, make the beds, wash, sew and knit, and if you will keep everything neat and clean you can stay with us and you shall want for nothing."
"Yes," said Snow White, "with all my heart." And she stayed with them.
She kept the house in order for them. In the mornings they went to the mountains and looked for copper and gold, in the evenings they came back, and then their supper had to be ready...

Now the dwarves were a messy lot and would get very dirty from mining in the mountains, so every evening when they got home Snow White insisted they washed and changed for dinner. However when they did change they scattered their clothes rather than take them to Snow White to be washed. So Snow White decided to knit each one of them their own laundry bag to hang at the end of each of their beds, to put their dirty clothes in ready to be washed. This way she didn’t have to pick them up off the floor and didn’t trip over them all the time.
She wanted the bags to be fun and bright and remind the dwarves of herself, so she modelled them on the sleeves of her dress in bright blue and red and gave each one a tag, on which she embroidered their names.

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December 20, 2006

Cinderella's opera gloves

The godmother is clearly one of those who don't *get* knitting... but Cinders certainly does, and what stunning gloves she creates!

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By Kim-Xuan Nguyen

"Such ghastly inequity," Cinderella fumed. "I spend all day cooking, and they turn up their noses at dinner, saying they're watching their figures. Then they sneak into the kitchen, steal slices of cake and leave the empty plates to mold in their rooms for me to come across as I clean. And now it's all disgusting and stuck."

Cinderella looked ruefully down into the dishwater. Her arms were shapely and muscular from scrubbing dishes, floors, doors and anything else her stepmother could think of. Anyone might admire her arms, but those hands! Her hands were rough and wrinkled, with stubby nails that however short, always seemed to be collecting dirt or in this case dried chocolate cake crumbs.

"Life is not always fair," said her fairy godmother as she materialized somewhat fastidiously behind Cinderella.

"That's all well and good for you to say when you can wave your wand and disappear from all this," said Cinderella, "I'm the one stuck at home with 60 year old hands."

"My poor girl, I would love to give you some waterproof gloves to keep your hands dry as you wash the dishes, but I'm afraid that would be anachronistic."

"Ana-whuh? Oh, fairy godmother, I don't mind much how my hands look, I'd rather they looked like they do useful work than look like the unblemished useless hands of my stepsisters. But I do want to go to the ball and although I know anyone intelligent won't care what my hands look like, there will be lots of unintelligent people there who will. If only I could knit myself some long lacy gloves. Imagine everyone admiring my gorgeous gloves not even knowing that the ugly hands hidden inside made them."

"You seem to have enough to do without knitting lace gloves in two weeks for the ball. Are you sure you don't want satin gloves? I'm pretty sure that could be arranged."

"Oh no, knitted lace would be just divine. Something super soft and delicate. Can you imagine?"

"You seem to be doing enough for two. When exactly are you going to find time to knit these increasingly intricate gloves?"

"I'll find time. I could use those little beads my stepmother made me pick out from among the ashes. She was so upset I managed to pick them all out that she threw them back at me."

"She should use lentils next time, they're more difficult to see. I'd better give you the yarn and needles before you come up with even more elaborate plans. I'll throw in some extra time too. Look under the oak tree tomorrow. If it were ready made ballgowns that you wanted, I could have them there by tonight, but strangely, not too many of my charges want yarn or extra time to do manual labor. I'll have to consult my conjuring manual."

"Thank you, fairy godmama! Long beaded lace gloves! I can't wait, I'm going to work out a design right now. Or as soon as I finish the dishes." She set herself to the task with renewed vigor and the beautiful dreamy smile her stepsisters found so irritating.

The fairy godmother's own smile was bemused but not unattractive as she waved her wand and disappeared in a grand exit that Cinderella was too preoccupied to notice.

December 19, 2006

A Cinderella tale with a moral

Another great story... besides the punchline, I like how the animals are incorporated.

By Donyale Grant

Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl called Cinderella. She led a horrible life with her Nasty Evil Stepmother and 2 Ugly Stepsisters who made her work night and day, with only the midnight hours for herself.

Her days were filled with cooking, cleaning, dusting and polishing, washing clothes, washing floors, tending to the every whim of her Step Family. Only very late in the evening was she allowed to go to her room, an awful drafty garret high up in a tower, with only her animal friends to keep her company…including some mice, a few hungry sparrows and spiders to chat to.

She would throw herself onto her bed at night, and look up into the night sky, through a hole in her roof….and wish and hope for some magic to come her way. Her ultimate dream was to run far far away from her horrible life, to meet the Prince, sweep him off his feet live happily ever after.

Her animal friends knew this wish and in hope to make her life a little easier they hatched a plan. The Mice scavenged around and found some old kindling used to make the fire in the morning for the Ugly Sisters.
The Sparrows darted around; flying to the latest balls in the Area, looking at all the latest fashions and at night time they would fly home and chirp the details to Cinderella.

Her Spider Friend supplied her with the softest finest web it could so that she could use the kindling to create a beautiful light wrap, in the simplest yet most elegant style of the day.

They wanted to help her knit the finest lightest thing she could use to help keep her warm yet transport her so far away in her imagination from her awful life, something so sheer and light that when she put it on it would seem as though the moonlight had wrapped itself around her shoulders. Something so light and ethereal, yet so small and easy to hide quickly under her mattress should the Evil Step-mother ever venture into her room and discover it.
Yet, when she tried to knit it with the sticks and the web, it snagged and broke. No matter how many times she tried to fix it, it was not to be. The simplest pattern, and the simplest idea was useless.

Until, one evening, after working so hard, when she thought she could take no more, a star seemed to fall from the sky down towards the hole in her roof.

It burst through the hole in a cloud of shimmering silver, and she found herself holding the softest yarn, the most beautiful knitting needles and with a soft touch on her head, her Fairy Godmother planted the softest
kiss on her forehead, and disappeared. She worked on the wrap, nothing difficult, a simple pattern, useful if she
could only snatch a few moments each day, and soon it was ready. She tried it on, and couldn’t believe how soft and light it was, yet how warm she felt and she soon fell asleep, cocooned in its warmth.

The next day she was awoken by the sound of a messenger’s horse, delivering an invitation to every eligible maiden in the Country to come to the Princes birthday party that evening. The Evil Stepmother thwarted
her every move to get to the party and after the Stepmother and Ugly Sisters had left, she was once again filled with despair.

The Fairy Godmother appeared and gifted her with the most beautiful dress and shoes, but ran out of time to find the perfect wrap to help complete her outfit. Cinderella reached under her pillow, pulled out her
Wrap, and the outfit was complete. The warning was issued to be home by 12 midnight and off she went to the ball. The Prince was absolutely smitten by Cinderella, a girl so beautiful, and seemingly swathed in glittering moonlight that his breath was taken away. When she had to dash away, sadly, her wrap snagged on a rose
bush and she left without it.

When the Prince came seeking the owner of the Wrap, no-one else could produce the yarn that matched the Wrap, except, of course, Cinderella, who was able to produce a swatch that she had made, and the Ball Band.
And they lived happily every after.

The Moral to the Story is

ALWAYS SWATCH

You never know when it will save you from a Disaster of Epic Proportions.

December 18, 2006

And the winners are...

You'll never believe it. The winning Cinderella designs are up. I know! So soon!

*ahem*

Okay, it took a while. I'm very sorry. I hadn't counted on just how busy I was going to be in the run-up to Christmas — see, knitters, it's all your fault for shopping with such a festive frenzy. (Need I mention, I'm so glad you did... I have no problem with being kept so busy, and it's great to picture you all enjoying a very knitty holiday. I think a lot of husbands are going to be patting themselves on the back after the wrapping paper comes off, too.)

So anyway, take a look at our favourite designs here. Aren't they fabulous? I wish you could see everything we got... so much fun. Now it's just time to knuckle down and judge the Snow White entries. I'm pretty sure we won't take half as long with those.

By the way, I was struck at how much effort went into the writing of the actual stories; this was intended to be a design competition rather than a fiction contest, and I realise that I hadn't made it clear enough that the story could be just a few lines to set the scene. Don't be intimidated by the length and literary detail of some of these; that's not the main focus of the challenge, although a great story definitely does win you extra points. Also by the way, if you're looking for the actual patterns — they're coming. Watch this space.

Now read this: one of my favourite almost-winners. (More honourable mentions will be posted in the next few days.) And then run off and look at the rest.

Continue reading "And the winners are..." »

November 14, 2006

Wow.

Just... wow. It's (just about) the end of the first Storytellers challenge, and I have been just blown away by the quality of the entries. I mean that. I knew knitters were imaginative, talented folk, but honestly? I wasn't expecting this much creativity. I'm stunned.

Judging is going to be so much harder than I thought.