A Thousand Yards of Sea

January 19, 2014

Our family just got back from a camping trip.  We had to drive for quite a ways. We listened to more than a few audio books.  I knitted and there came a moment when a story and the knitting seem to merge.

Once upon a time there was a poor fisherman named Tom Taffet who hauled up a mermaid in his nets when he was all alone on the wide ocean in his fishing boat.  He decided he would take her home to show everyone what he had found, for he knew no one would believe him otherwise.

415px-John_William_Waterhouse_-_MermaidHe smiled at the mermaid for he was a kindly man and told her how he would make a special water tank for her and treat her as his own child.  But as she wept in distress at her captivity and begged him to let her go, his heart was moved.  He remember the tears of his own daughter when she was young and he said to the mermaid, “I can see you are too young to leave home after all.  You had better stop here”.

The mermaid slipped back into the sea and promised to return with a gift for the fisherman for his mercy.  Then with the flick of her tail she was gone.

The fisherman went back to his fishing, believing he would never see the mermaid again, for you know what magical creatures are.

He was just reeling in the last of his nets and getting ready to turn for home, when the mermaid hailed him from water.  “Sorry I was so long. I have got you a thousand yards of sea and it took me ever so long to tie it all up securely”, she said and held up a shimmering bundle. “Now you will have something to show to people so they may believe your tale of having met a mermaid after all”.

IMG_1338The fisherman went straight to the market when he returned home. After he had sold his fish, he cut the cords that bound the yards of sea, calling out, “Come and buy, come and buy, sea by the yard, shimmering, glimmering, straight from the hands of a mermaid”.  Women gathered all around him and bought yards and yards.  Very soon, he had sold every yard.  He had made enough money to buy a little house by the sea to live in comfortably for the rest of his days.

IMG_1339The women took the yards of sea home and sewed them into beautiful dresses and petticoats and ribbons.  The sea rippled and glimmered in the fabric which became known as taffeta.

Is that not a pretty story… and featuring fabric.  It is called A Thousand Yards of Sea by Adele Geras.  Apologies to the author for my retelling. They are my words from memory only and do not do justice to her marvellous little tale.  A Thousand Yards of Sea reminds me of a Japanese fairytale I posted about in Feather Cloak, where a poor farmer meets a celestial being who like the mermaid gives a beautiful gift after being freed.

If you are keen to chase up A Thousand Yards of Sea, it is included in the Puffin Five Minute Stories collection.

The painting is called The Mermaid, by the Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse.

The knitting, which is still on the needles, is Kate Gilbert’s Clapotis in Shibui Linen in Graphite.



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  1. Love the painting and story! I have a languishing clapotis, also in grey, that I started on a holiday in Vancouver last summer. There’s something about the pattern that makes for wonderful travel knitting. I’m feeling inspired to try and finish it!

  2. That is such a beautiful story!! I love the idea of women sewing the yards of sea. Your current knitting is like story seas , the type you see at Port Fairy in the middle of winter. Imagine the mermaids who live there!

  3. Oh, thank you, that was great. I have been flat out trying to do too many things at once HA and we all know how that goes! Didn’t even respond to your last post but I read it!! I looked up the linen you are using and saw the Apple colour…… fave. Otherwise known by me as ‘Obscene Green’, love it. 🙂

  4. I’m really enjoying the way you mingle tales of home and abroad into the knitting, craft and sewing. Beautifully woven. xo

  5. i hope you had the most wonderful time rebecca. i loved those road trips when my children were small, when we would find those pockets of time where things just flowed, like you’ve described here. it is a really pretty story, inspiring too, i really want to sew now and i would like a bit of that shibui too. beautiful.

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