They began to appear in February one year. Serena thought nothing of it at first. Ever since she had begun the charity Warm and Cosy, she had been sent squares that were clearly first attempts at knitting. They went into the pile anyway. Surrounded by better squares, they wouldn’t be noticeable and the people that received the blankets made from the squares were usually just grateful for the warmth. She did however notice these knitted squares as they were knitted from such lovely yarn. There were some in a khaki green colour, some in a pillar box red and others in a deep brown. The yarn was flecked with other colours and was as soft as a baby’s skin.
When the next batch in the same yarn came in, it was clear that the knitter had been practising. There was a marked improvement and Serena smiled to herself thinking of the mysterious donor who was getting better with every square. She checked the package for a note. If the donors sent their contact details, she liked to get back to them with a note of thanks but there was nothing. She was about to put the squares into the pile to be sown into blankets when she thought better of it. If this knitter was going to continue to produce squares in that yarn, it would be nice to make up a blanket of just them. She fished through the pile and dug out the previous ones that she had been sent.
She spent much of her spare time that summer sewing together other squares into blankets ready for the winter. It wasn’t just squares that were sent her way. She also received plenty of donations of knitted garments. She sorted them all into their types and sizes. Warm and Cosy had been going for almost ten years now so she had contacts all around the country who could get items to those that needed them. Anything particularly beautiful, she put to one side. She liked to take photos of them and put them up on the Warm and Cosy Facebook page before they got sorted. She found that it not only inspired her regulars to produce more but, since the photos got shared, it tended to bring new donors in. Not that she needed more donors really. It was hard enough balancing running the charity alongside her day job in the hospital but it was important to her so she made it work.
Every few weeks there would be another parcel full of the beautifully soft squares of khaki, red and brown. And each time they arrived, Serena would put them aside into a separate box. They came in so regularly and so many each time that Serena wondered whether the knitter had time to do anything else. She wondered what had prompted someone to start knitting and then, as far as she could tell, never put down the needles. And to be so generous as to send so much to charity rather than keeping their hard work for themselves.
By mid-September, there were enough squares in the separate box that Serena decided to start sewing them together. She laid them out making sure that the early ones were spread out amongst the better ones. The next issue was finding a yarn to join them togethers. She really didn’t want to ruin the lovely squares by joining them together with a substandard yarn. Hunting through her yarn collection, she pulled out lots of potential ones and then dismissed them one by one as just not being perfect enough. Usually she would have made a decision and just used one of them but there was something about these squares that made her want to do the best possible job. She sighed and picked up one square of each colour. It looked like she was going to need a trip to the wool shop in town for this one.
The young women on the counter smiled at Serena when she came in. She was a regular in the shop and found the place comforting. She smiled back and tried to remember the woman’s name. Charlene, she thought but she couldn’t be certain. After a quick hello, she moved towards the back wall to look more closely at the yarns. She ran her fingers over some of them, assessing their softness, when she saw some familiar colours. There, tucked away in the corner, were balls of khaki, red and brown complete with flecks. She moved towards them and picked one up. It was as soft as the squares. She pulled out one of the squares from her bag to check the colour and it was a perfect match. So this was the yarn her mysterious knitter was using. She looked at the price tag and raised her eyebrows. The knitter must be rich. This was expensive wool. And to be producing so much, they must have bought multiple balls of it.
She thought about whether she should just use one of the colours of the squares to join them together. Unconsciously she reached for a ball of brown when her eyes caught on another colour in the row above. She paused for a moment and then reached up instead. It was the same brand of yarn but it another colour. This one was in a sky blue. She held it up against the other colours and smiled. It was perfect. It still had the flecks of colour in that the other yarns had and it was just as soft but the contrast was perfect. In fact, she thought, she might use a crochet technique to make the border more obvious rather than using one of the near invisible borders like usual. She grabbed a second ball of the same colour. It would do no good to run out part way through.
Serena handed over the eye wateringly large sum of money to the woman, Chantelle maybe?, at the counter.
“Got some special plans for this wool?” the woman asked.
Serena smiled. “It’s going to finish off a rather lovely blanket.”
Of course the people that worked in the shop knew all about Serena’s charity. She’d talked to them when she’d first started and they always made sure to display posters about it. Serena always wondered how many of her donations came as a result of that publicity.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Well I’m sure it will be lovely then,” the woman said, “Particularly with such soft wool to finish.”
Serena worked at it over the next week. When she got home from work, the first thing she did was pick up the blanket and carry on joining squares. She loved the feeling of the soft yarn sliding through her fingers as she pulled it through with the crochet hook. She loved how the blanket was growing every day and how it would sit over her knees as she worked, keeping her warm against the coolness that was creeping into the house now that October was ending.
As the weather cooled, the hospital got busier and busier. The winter health crisis stretched out longer and longer each year causing Serena to work longer hours and eating into her time making the blanket. Alongside managing the rest of the running of the charity, dealing with donations, sending off parcels to where they were needed, checking the accounts, she barely had any time to get the blanket finished. Consequently it was almost November before she put in the final stitch and cut the yarn for the final time. She ran her hand over the blanket, still marvelling at its softness. It had come out really well, perfect even. She sighed. Every now and then a piece would come along that she just desperately wanted to keep for herself rather than sending on. This one was even worse than usual as she had put so much time and effort into it herself. But the mysterious knitter had donated the squares in good faith and so it would be unfair for Serena to keep it.
Still, this was definitely one for the Facebook page. She dug out her camera and laid out the blanket carefully on the floor. It was so large that it was difficult to get the whole thing into the picture. In the end Serena managed it by standing on a chair, the light carefully positioned so as not to show her shadow in the photo. Satisfied, she uploaded the photo to her computer for a final check and then headed for Facebook. She added the photo to the Warm and Cosy page with the caption “A beautiful blanket made with donations from a single knitter! Thank you to our mysterious donor, the recipient will be very grateful for such a soft blanket to keep them warm this year.”