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PART OF THE Inner Space ISSUE

‘Madame Jeanne is concerned with the glamour, the story-telling of knitwear.’

Hannah Richards, former code-breaker at Bletchley Park and gay before the time of liberation, is recovering from a mind broken by the strain of secrecy. With the Cuban missile crisis looming, she’s one of a group of patients taken to Tharn, an island famed for its fantastic knitwear, and things only get wilder from there. Dive in below.

Extract taken from The Knitting Station
By Kirsti Wishart
Published by Rymour Books

 

Although the tour of the Factory proved fascinating, Hannah couldn’t shake the sensation she was under constant observation and that what they were being shown was carefully stage-managed. Had she been less paranoid, it would have been easy to succumb to the Factory’s allure, led by the charming Camille. After a brief visit to the dorm, she took them to the section of the Factory devoted to design and the production of patterns and publicity known as the Studios. The decision of a movie star the magnitude of Elsie Brixton to come this far north and advertise knitting had made sense when they entered a warehouse-sized space broken up into sets by moveable plywood partitions. 

Hannah wasn’t sure whether to be amazed or appalled at the scale of the operation devoted to the sale of jumpers. Camille explained, ‘Madame Jeanne is concerned with the glamour, the story-telling of knitwear,’ with enough of an ironic set of the eyebrows to stop her sounding as if she were the lunatic here. ‘She wants the customer to feel that when they buy a product of Tharn, they’re buying a passport to another world. A pattern is like the view from the window of an aeroplane and it should transport them.’ 

Despite the grandiosity of Camille’s spiel, passing individual worlds in each box displaying breath-taking scenes of Alpine mountains, Norwegian fjords, chic Parisians in boulevard cafes and slick American teenagers hopping out of a Corvette to meet their friends in a burger bar, Hannah became impressed. Surprisingly, it reminded her of War work. This struck her more so when they entered the design rooms—a long white space filled with Tharn sunlight, walls as stunning as the multiple rainbows that had greeted them, decorated with swatches of colour, movie posters, photos ripped from Vogue and, inevitably, knitting patterns. The floor was filled with drawing desks where young men and women mingled to discuss their latest sketches, the contrast of knits, how this particular design would make their customer feel. They smiled distractedly at their visitors and, although the aims of the Park and the Factory were completely different, Hannah recognised their enthusiasm and focus as being that of shared endeavour towards a single purpose. Admittedly, yes, one had been to break codes and speed the end of the War while the other was dedicated to making wool products. 

The man in the grey suit caught her attention while the others were watching a shoot featuring Barry Hunt and Lance Gilchrist. A breathless Maisie informed her those two were stars of the knitting pattern world. ‘They’re both so handsome,’ Maisie swooned. 

Hannah muttered, ‘And don’t they know it.’ She recognised them from flicking through Maisie’s collection of patterns, becoming intrigued by the exact nature of their relationship. Lance, a grey-haired, distinguished older gentleman was forever initiating the fresh-faced Barry into some new manly activity, like ski-ing or mountaineering or archery. Here they were in a board-room, the back-story being they were catching up on sales before a trip to the golf-course—Barry the thrusting, young, sales executive, Lance the sceptical Chairman of the Board. Seeing the familiar way Lance adjusted Barry’s pointer to show off a rising profit graph, Hannah smirked and guessed getting used to mechanised looms may have been the least of Tharn’s cultural adjustments. 

Gordon asked obscure technical questions about the photographer’s camera, Alfie was thrilled to be given a clip-board to hold and Maisie giggled as the kindly make-up artist allowed her to apply a powder-puff to Lance’s brow. Hannah noticed the man in grey wander past the set’s entrance. He was preoccupied, leafing through a bundle of what appeared to be index cards. In any other environment he’d have gone unnoticed, the assumption being he was some sort of clerk. Here his total lack of knitwear immediately drew Hannah’s attention. He looked so normal. After the rainbows and the sheep and disorientatingly beautiful people, this proved intriguing. Her experience at the Park had taught her that anomalies are always worth investigating. Hannah’s interest was piqued. This gentlemen stood out like an accountant at the Rio Carnival, 

It was easy enough to slip away while Camille explained male eye-shadowing techniques to Maisie. Following proved tricky however. In the maze of studio cubicles his greyness appeared then disappeared behind groups of prop-shifters and set dressers. When she saw him duck into a fake doorway, she was sure she had him cornered. Entering the room, however, she was confronted by walls lined with bookshelves packed with books. A green leather-backed armchair stood next to a dark wooden side table on which sat a decanter filled with whisky and two crystal glasses. Despite there being no sign of any other exit, the man in the grey suit had disappeared. 

The Knitting Station by Kirsti Wishart is published by Rymour Books, priced £8.99.

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