It’s never just a pattern when Granny knits your aran

It's never just a pattern when Granny knits your aran by Kate Campbell

Nanna, why don’t your ganseys look like the other ones?”

Peg looked up from her knitting, ‘what do you mean Caitlin? Sure, we all have our own way of building the pattern’.

‘Yes Nanna, but yours are more differenter’.

Peg shifted uncomfortably in her chair and gave the girl a penetrating stare.

‘Tell me, Caitlin, the story in the stitches, and don’t start in with that codswallop about being able to recognise a drown-dead man by the pattern on his back, you don’t believe in fairytales now, do you? Tell me what you see. What you really see. With your inside eyes. This one?’

‘It’s a rope, Nanna. A twisted rope like the one on daddy’s boat, then a big diamondy line with nubbly bits in the middle like brambleberries in the fields. A ziggyzag like the mountain road. A bee’s comb, it that for being busy? A plaited braid like in my hair. Is it for Seamus? The gansey? For his birthday? Nanna, when will I get my gansey?’

‘Whisht, child, yes it’s for wee Seamus, he’s to go out with your Da when the fish run the island. You’ll get yours when you’re old enough to know. It’s early yet’.

‘Nanna, what about those twirly bits? The other grannies don’t do those…’


Two figures struck out across the damp sand in the direction of the island where a fast flowing stream of water was the last link between the natural deep moat and the receding sea. The fish, feeling the ebb, rushed through the channel, a slippery flashing ribbon that unspooled into the bay. It was a perfect spot to set a net, but the tide, when it turned, was fickle and treacherous, flooding the flats quicker than a man could run. Only fools and the Conneeleys walked there.

Da looked down at at Seamus and took his hand, ‘are you ready, son? It’ll be a shock when the water hits but just keep steady, hold on and remember Granny’s knitting’

Seamus closed his eyes as the tide began to turn and, with his free hand, felt the bumps and ribs of his new gansey. His lips moved. ‘A thread of water, a broken net, zigzag ripples in the sand, honeycomb…no, not honeycomb… barnacles on a rock, and the interlocking channels…’

… that were running, faster and faster, deeper and deeper, over the beach, surrounding them…

‘The pattern, Seamus! Concentrate on the pattern!’

The boy’s fingers twitched nervously, plucking at the heavy wool, but the lips kept moving “A thread of water, a broken net, ripples in the sand, barnacles on a rock, interlocking channels, seaweed swirls, a thread of water, a broken net, ripples in the sand.…”

The last footprints are washed away and the two seals twist and flow, twirling and weaving through the kelp forest, liquid in liquid, chasing the darting fish.

About the Author

  1. Avatar Kate Campbell (1 story )

    Kate Campbell was born, bred and buttered in Belfast but now lives in Ireland with kids, husband, dogs, cats and an awful lot of books. She paints and writes in between the gaps.

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