Preparing for the footie

Afte taking my inspiration from a group of 1954 Preston North End supporters and deciding to create a bar scarf for my father-in-law, I then had to decide on the colours and design. Scarves, as well as being tribal banners, are also practical, keeping fans warm on the terraces – the football season mostly runs through the colder months, and stands are open to the elements on at least one side. Something soft and chunky should perfect – plus thicker wools are quicker to knit. In this month of renovation, knitting will need to be squeezed in around polyfilla-ing, sanding, papering and painting.

But before I begin I need to decide what colours to use. My father-in-law already has at least one Middlesbrough scarf, so it seems redundant to make him another Boro one. He is one of what I imagine are very few people to own both Hearts and Hibs scarves, totems of Edinburgh arch-rivals Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian. Long ago someone knitted him a black and white scarf, shades of the Toon Army – he was born in Alnwick and has a soft spot for nearby Newcastle United. Which other clubs might he want a scarf from?

As someone who professes to love DIY, my father-in-law quickly booked in a visit to come and help out at the new house. Living two hundred miles away in the English Lake District, visits from him are relatively rare – once or twice a year at most. As we talk about logistics, an idea pops into my head. Why not go and watch a football match with him whilst he’s here? To truly understand the scarf I need to understand the game, something impossible to achieve without standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the stands at a match. He is somewhat surprised by my suggestion, but agrees. There are two matches he’d be keen to see that weekend, and I can pick. Dundee United versus St Mirren, or Raith Rovers playing Queen of the South at Stark’s Park in Kirkcaldy.

I choose Raith Rovers vs. Queen of the South. There are two reasons for this. One is that Stark’s Park lies a mere half an hour from home. Two: Queen of the South is one of two Scottish clubs to hold peculiar place in my affections. The first is Ayr, Scotland’s only club with a literary nickname. ‘The Honest Men’ moniker is taken from Robert Burns’ Tam o’ Shanter:  ‘Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses, For honest men and bonie lasses’. Robert Burns also brought me into contact with Queen of the South whilst working at the Burns Birthplace Museum, where I found myself in a Robert Burns-inspired photo shoot with Queen’s midfielder Paul Burns. Paul Burns QotSNo relation to the poet, but the shared surname was enough to bring the paparazzi round for some Burns Night snaps. Dressed in breeches and a waistcoat, Paul stood uncomfortably by Burns Cottage whilst three of us female staff fawned over him dressed in the costumes of his lovers (pictured left). This spectacle earned me the dubious honour of appearing on the front page of the sports section of the Scottish Sun. A career highlight.

P1020720The Rovers and QotS both play in blue – Raith in navy, their opponents in a brighter shade – so blue and white this scarf will be. I opt for the navy of the Rovers: we’ll be watching a match at their ground so it seems a safer shade to sport. Scanning Ravelry for patterns, I decide on a simple knit two, purl two band, thirty-two stitches wide, to be worked in chunky wool that knits up quickly. It will need tassels too – all the Preston North End fans sport jolly fringes. Now I all I need is yarn – and by good fortune I have a stash of beautiful white and blue alpaca (pictured rigth) with silk yarn from Town End Yarns in the Lake District which I picked up earlier this month at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. As an added bonus, my father-in-law lives in a place called Town End, a mere 15 miles from Town End Farm which produced this wool. Town End is where I met not only him but his son, the man who became my husband.

I use a simply chunky scarf pattern on 9mm wooden needles, casting on 32 stitches and doing knit 2, purl 2 sixteen times for each row. Alternating between navy and ivory, the yarn knits up quickly: two afternoons of watching England win, then loose, in the last two Six Nations matches see me through most of it, leaving me to work in the ends and make tassels before our big game. Ta – da: here’s the finished item!

Now just to road-test it at the football…

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