Grateful for a Warm Cardigan

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“The Writerly Jumper”

Sadly, my “writerly jumper” has a hole worn through at the right elbow. Being right handed, that elbow gets more wear. Like just now, as these words speed left to right across the page, then sure as a typewriter carriage, my arm with elbow resting on the tapestry of the armchair swings back, pen in hand. Ding, repeated abrasion to elbow of cashmere jumper.

Cashmere sounds posh doesn’t it- if you saw this jumper even prior to the unseemly elbow hole, I assure you that posh would not have been your adjective of choice. Nor elegant or swag-rich either. Nope, this is a once-beige, shrunken, shape-distorted, daggy writerly jumper.

The writerly jumper began life as a birthday gift from my two daughters, the first year they were off my parental payroll. My kind and tasteful daughters pooled some of their first paycheques post-university, and bought my first ever cashmere cardigan.

See, I’m an op shop, thrift store gal – from long before vintage was a thing, and decades before simplicity belonged ironically to the wealthy. I was a single mum with two dear daughters and years without child support. Vinnies was our upscale shopping option, in preference to the higher polyester count of the cheaper church basement shops. My daughters still recall the thrill of their first new boots from Walmart at age eight and ten (The Canadian version of Big W). So you can see why it was special that these young women who understand value and thrift bought Mum a cozy cashmere jumper.

That I was living in a rented garage, writing my first novel at night and working fulltime, meant that I treasured this jumper and wore it every minute that wasn’t summer. Even in Australia, an uninsulated garage complete with a roller door with gaps for spider passage, well, it was cold. Thank the compatriot of Dickens who invented fingerless gloves for the frozen writer.

Two years later, two winters, two manuscripts, and plenty of revisions, that jumper elbow has seen a lot of action, and this week I’ve worn a hole in the fabric. I’ll mend it with darning wool and wear it for further years and pages. I’m thankful to the amber-eyed goats of Kashmir with their snow white coats that provided this finest, warmest wool. Oh my, after you’ve been spoiled with cashmere, you’ll scorn any other woolly fibre. So soft, so warm, and even somewhat windproof, this writer’s own special pelt.

Should my manuscripts, stitched and shaped into worthy garments of their own, be picked up by a publisher, I pledge to buy my lovely generous daughters their own brand-new cashmere jumpers. And wish them many cozy winters to come. My darned and daggy garment will continue to be the pelt I slip into at the end of my counselling workday, as I shapeshift into that other well-worn skin, the writer. 

Resources you may find interesting: Terrific writers’ podcasts with a nod to Allison Tate with her “authorial blazer” Tips on how and why to get by on less  How can we fix child support? Join Ellen McMahon in the thrift shop revolution

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