I compromised on the knitting. I resisted the siren call of Fair Isle (though I’m still thinking about it), and am also not immediately leaping into the next cream-colored cable project (though feebeeglee (http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=feebeeglee ) sent me the perfect hat pattern). Instead, I am knitting a Christmas present with cotton yarn in a handsome shade of burgundy. Instead of cabling, I am doing a texture stitch. Texture stitches, which use knit and purl to make designs, are strongly associated with gansies, the traditional sweaters of Guernsey. CheriM ( http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=CheriM ) reminds us that families were said to have their own patterns, there and in the Aran Isles, so that they could recognise the corpses of drowned sailors washed up on the shore.
This is not the gory knitting story for today, however. We had drowned bodies yesterday. Today, I am working with the texture stitch known as King Charles Brocade, named for the waistcoat worn by King Charles I at his execution.The waistcoat was knitted in this pattern, and it is in a museum in London, washed perhaps of its bloodstains. Since the body of Charles was left out for several days after his death (so people would be sure that he was dead), this seems like a very nasty souvenir. The death of Charles was of course the boundary between the Age of Kings and the Age of Revolution, and you will doubtless remember it from history classes, where they may have neglected entirely to tell you that the knitting pattern of his waitcoat is well-known still today.
People who always read this blog and have total recall will also remember that there was another gory knitting story: the story of the Luddites, many of whom were hanged for breaking up the sock-making machines that were (they felt) taking away their livelihoods. While I had always heard these guys described as weavers, they were actually knitting socks on frames much like the spool knitting frames kids use to make jump ropes. You can find the details on August 9th.
With all these exciting tales of knitting history, it should be possible to make a good movie. Unfortunately, the Spanish shipwreck was mid-1500s, King Charles was executed in 1649, and the Luddites were in the early 1800s. Time travel is popular in movies now, but I think we can do it with a multi-generational family saga miniseries.
We can begin with a late medieval master knitter. We include his adventures as he travels and goes through the arduous process of being a Master in his guild, and then jump to his granddaughter, played by the latest spunky blonde. She learns all her grandfather’s skills, but is unable to further herself in the profession, since she is a girl. She refuses to go along with the life path chosen for her, and runs away from an arranged marriage (Jack Nicholson plays the groom), ending up in Fair Isle, where she is just in time to see the knitters learning the patterns from the sweaters of the drowned Spaniards. She sees the old women hunkered down over the distended corpses, and is repulsed — yet recognizes in them the same knitting fever that possesses her. Horrified, she stumbles away — only to encounter a survivor of the Spanish shipwreck (played by Keanu Reeves).
Touched by her fastidiousness, he teaches her the Spanish knitting patterns and they settle down together to make a life for themselves, knitting. They have a daughter who is, when Sir Walter Raleigh visits Fair Isle, a lovely young woman. She is smitten by him, but after all, he is a pirate. He leaves her pregnant and enslaved by tobacco. She can be played by Catherine Zeta-Jones as she dies, leaving her son to be raised by her parents. As it happens, Raleigh wrote about the hose (socks) being made on Fair Isle when he visited there, but not about the special patterns — one reason that the Spanish shipwreck story is not generally believed. We will overlook this.
The young man is not contented, though, and stows away on a ship leaving Fair Isle when he is still a boy. He is adopted by a female pirate (Jamie Lee Curtis) and grows up on the sea. His rather ambiguous relationship with her leaves him confused and lacking in social skills. Perhaps he can be played by Owen Wilson. He reaches England just in time to see the execution of King Charles. The knitted waistcoat worn by the erstwhile monarch touches his heart, as does the gallant self-possession of the condemned man.
He decides to remain in England and carry on the textile trade, enriching it with all that he has learned from his parents and from sailors during his travels. We have a century and a half till the next knitting incident, so he had better marry and have a whole lot of children, the youngest of whom are a pair of twins. One fathers a family which goes up in the world as the industrial revolution takes hold, and the other a family which goes down, clinging to their craft of hand-knitting. There can be scenes contrasting the two sets of descendants as their lives diverge and they lose track of one another. Also the Napoleonic wars come in here, allowing battle scenes and some cool ballads.
The great-great-grandson of one twin is, by an ironic coincidence, one of the wretched fellows oppressed by the g-g-grandson of the fortunate twin (played by Brendan Fraser). In desperation, he allies himself with the Luddites and is captured and tried for frame-breaking. When he is sentenced to die on the gallows, the young Lord Byron makes his impassioned speech in the House of Lords. The wealthy g-g-grandson hears this speech, and his eyes are opened to the suffering of the poor.
As Byron heads off for his wild adventures, the g-g-grandsons, having somehow learned that they are indeed cousins, are reconciled. They put their heads together to find ways to meld technology and art. We can let Byron (Johnny Depp) have some dissolute sexual encounters for the sake of the ratings, but there will also be a heartwarming family thing. The wealthy textile guy’s wife (somehow I see her as Olivia de Haviland, but there will have to be a live person to play her, of course), who has felt alienated from him because of his lack of compassion for his miserable workers, rediscovers her love for him as he becomes more concerned for his fellow man. There can be many charming scenes as the two families learn from one another and so forth. Several photogenic children will be needed for this bit.
In the final scene, the youngest sons of the two g-g-grandsons (I hope you haven’t gotten lost yet) set off for America on a ship, while their parents, filled with a quiet joy in spite of their sorrow at losing their children, watch the ship sail out of the harbor.
Knitting patterns can be printed on all the ticket stubs.