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Split Chain Stitch
About the Author: Steve Toase lives in Munich, Germany. His work has appeared in Lackington’s, Aurealis, Not One Of Us, Cabinet des Feés and Pantheon Magazine. In 2014 Call Out (first published in Innsmouth Magazine) was reprinted in The Best Horror Of The Year 6. From 2014 he worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, the Saboteur Award shortlisted project about Harrogate's haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the town. He also likes old motorbikes and vintage cocktails.


To cast on make sure you have a slip knot on the left hand needle. Place the point of the right hand needle into the slip knot and make a knit stitch. Whatever you do, do not slip it off the left.

Rachael found small towns had a gravity to them like some dense star lay hidden under the marketplace cobbles. Held people in place. Held time in place. She passed through like a comet. There was a skill to prizing herself away from the weight of these little communities. For now though she needed to collapse into the centre and let it consume her. Burn everything else away. She opened the café door, waiting for her eyes to adjust.

Six women sat around on comfy chairs, each headrest protected by a fine lace antimacassar. The only light came from old lamps balanced on rustic wooden shelves, a small constellation of spotlights above the café’s kitchen and single mobile phone. Under the low hum of conversation the sound of needles sounded like claws clattering on tiles.

They all looked up, hands still dancing.

“Can we help you?”

The café air reeked of stewed tea and furniture polish. Rachael looked for the woman who had asked the question. She sat close to the door, lap obscured with a half finished cable knit jumper in thick peacock coloured wool.

“I’m here for the Knit and Natter group,” Rachael said, brandishing her sewing bag like a membership card.

“Knit and Natter? Plenty of both here. Apart from Sally. Always on that phone of hers.”

Sally looked up from the screen and scowled, dropping her glasses back around her neck on their purple cord.

“I’m trying to find that pattern I mentioned, but the Internet keeps fading in and out.”

“Get it for next week,” one of the other knitters said, reaching behind her for a cup of tea.

“I wanted to start tonight. Otherwise I’ve got nothing else to work on. I’ll go outside and pick up a signal there.”

Rachael watched her stand up and stride across the room.

“Sorry, can I just get past,” she said.

“Sorry,” Rachael echoed, moving over to let her through, shivering in the draught from the open door.

“Don’t stand there letting the cold in. Some of us have arthritis. Come and get yourself a cup of tea. Sit down. I’m Joan, this is Liz, and this is Mags. Over there is Jan. Charlotte is in the corner. By the radiator. You’ve already met Sally.”

“I’m Rachael,” she said taking a seat next to Joan.

“Hello, Rachael. Now show us what you’re working on.”

Opening her bag, she took out her needles and the ball of wool.

“I’m not really working on anything, but I want to make something with stars on,” she said, putting them down on the chair arm.

Joan smiled.

“Let’s start at the beginning then.”

By the end of the night Rachael knew how to cast on, cast off, how everyone drank their tea, which ring on the cooker took ages to light, whose husband had been seen with the wrong person, whose son had been arrested for fighting, and the exact place in the near deserted café to get a good WiFi signal. At home she opened the door and shut out the town again.

When attaching the sleeve, match the notches as you pin it in place. When starting the round ensure the stitches of the underarm are put on hold.

Joan was making a sweater for her son, though he never really appreciated them. Jan crocheted toys for the local charity shop. Rabbits and mice. That sort of thing. Liz knitted scarves for anyone who sat still long enough. Charlotte owned the café and knitted jumpers for penguins. She’d been making them for years to send out to the Falkland Islands. Mags mainly did cross-stitch, but they let her come along anyway. Sally was always starting the next thing. The next project. The next idea. None of them lasted until the following meeting. And Rachael?

 “I just want to knit a scarf. Maybe a hat?”

“With stars?”

“With stars,” she said.

Joan nodded, and smiled, her hands never stopping. Needles always clacking.

“Good place to start, a scarf. We all started with scarves didn’t we?”

No-one looked up from their projects, but they all nodded. Sally clicked her phone off.

“I think I saw yours in the museum, Joan.”



This story appears in our NOV 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

6
Nov
Would make a great horror movie!
By James Wright

6
Nov
Wow. Creepy and held my interest throughout. Great wrap-up! NancySweetland.com
By Nancy Sweetland

6
Nov
Good story. Lots of tension. Enjoyed it a great deal. Very good writing, and plotting. Congratulations.
By Darius McClain

6
Nov
Very interesting story. Excellent writing. Definitely not a 'happy ever after'!
By Heather W

6
Nov
Really enjoyed this one, it's fun and really well written with strong characterization and mood.
By Craig

9
Nov
This story kept my attention throughout. A former "knitter" I felt right at home with the "stitches." Clever ending...very clever
By Frances Dunn

10
Nov
Thoroughly enjoyed this. Held my attention throughout.
By Jude Roy

10
Nov
Very cleverly written. The yarn wrapped up amazingly at the end! Hats off to you?
By Nina Ritter


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