An idea for a hat has been tugging on my sleeve for months. I finally charted out and knitted it over the scorchingly hot post-Christmas break and the cool, wintery colours sang to me as I worked, relieving my hot and sweating fingers…
Laura and the Wolf
Drawn from a favourite childhood book, it tells of Laura and Carrie’s night ramble, bundled up against the cold, across the frozen waters of Silver Lake on a winter’s night:
“It was so beautiful that they hardly breathed. The great round moon hung in the sky and its radiance poured over a silvery world. Far, far away in every direction stretched motionless flatness, softly shining as if it were made of soft light. In the midst lay the smooth, dark lake, and a glittering moonpath stretched across it… Laura’s heart swelled. She felt herself a part of the wide land, of the far deep sky and the brilliant moonlight. She wanted to fly…
‘On the moonpath, Carrie! Let’s follow the moonpath,’ Laura cried.
And so they ran and slid, and ran and slid again, on the glittering moonpath into the light from the silver moon. Farther and farther from shore they went, straight towards the high bank on the other side… Close to the farther shore, almost in the shadow of the high bank, they stopped. Something made Laura look up to the top of the bank.
And there, dark against the moonlight, stood a great wolf! He was looking towards her. The wind stirred his fur and the moonlight seemed to run in and out of it.
‘Let’s go back,’ Laura said quickly, as she turned, taking Carrie with her. ‘I can go faster than you.’
She ran and slid and ran again as fast as she could, but Carrie kept up.
‘I saw it too,’ Carrie panted. ‘Was it a wolf?’
‘Don’t talk!’ Laura answered. ‘Hurry!’
Laura was glad to be safe in the warm room with the desolate prairie shut out. If anything had happened to Carrie, it would have been her fault for taking her so far across the lake.
But nothing had happened. She could almost see again the great wolf with the wind ruffling the moonlight on his fur.
‘Pa!’ she said in a low voice.
‘Yes, Laura?’ Pa answered.
‘I hope you don’t find the wolf, Pa,’ Laura said.
‘Why ever not?’ Ma wondered.
‘Because he didn’t chase us,’ Laura said. ‘He didn’t chase us, Pa, and he could have caught us.’
A long, wild, wolf howl rose and faded away on the stillness. Another answered it. Then silence again.”
I love how this chapter speaks of Laura’s joy in the wild beauty of that desolate landscape and of the delicate coexistence of man and animal before the flood of settlers poured into the west. At a time when many across the world considered wilderness as full of danger and evil, it must have been only a few that could live in such a place and still celebrate its wildness. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books are often (at least here in Australia) considered a bit twee- maybe due to that TV series?!- but passages like these make me contemplate the places and ways humans have lived, the changes we’ve undergone and a time when children were allowed out into the night to run under the moon across a frozen lake. I don’t have children of my own so I can’t honestly say how I’d feel about it… but I do think that experience of such wildness is good for the soul, adult or child.
When I first had the idea of knitting this story into a tam, I wondered how to portray all the elements- the moonpath, the frozen lake, the wolf and the joy and panic of the girls. I found this wintery combination of yarns (Rowan Scottish and Yorkshire Tweeds, plus scraps of Shetland salvaged from an op-shop vest) in my stash and decided that the key was not to try to recreate the story literally (night-time, moon etc) but to pick out the elements that meant most- the light and snow, the lake, the wolf, the flight home and the love. I traded wolf colour for fox colour (sweet!) and hunted through various colourwork books, as well as improvising my own patterns, to make three border patterns that were 10 stitches across by 9 high, breaking them up with simple stripes.
Wolf in the frozen landscape
Running home across the lake
I used a twisted rib band to begin (I love the look but not the feel of corrugated rib) and followed the shaping from Mary Rowe’s Knitted Tams, adding a bit of length to accommodate my big head and using one of her lovely patterns for the wheel decreases. I have so much to learn about colour- for example, the hearts are so strong and the contrast between the white and grey so subtle that the snowflake kind of disappears, but I am excited to learn and I love it and am also very happy to have finished my first proper, not-just-a-scarf, all-my-own-ideas design : )