Having read Victoria Hislop’s first novel The Island several years ago, I was excited when a friend gave me The Thread to take with me to Greece as a holiday read. Hislop’s novels absorb the reader into the nooks and crannies of past lives in Mediterranean settings, whilst expertly painting the historical backdrop against which her characters to come to life.
The Thread is set in 20th century Thessaloniki in northern Greece; a city in which Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in harmony in the early part of the century. Konstantinos Komninos is a wealthy hard-hearted businessman who owns the city’s best fabric warehouse. He lives with his trophy wife, Olga, in a grand mansion near the seafront. On the day his son is born, a fire breaks out in the city, and instead of saving his wife and newly born son, Dimitri, he puts all his efforts into saving his precious fabric stock, caring only for his business.
In the upper, impoverished part of the city, we meet Eugenia and her daughters who take in Katerina Sarafoglou, a child who arrived in a refugee ship from Asia Minor having become separated from her mother in the urgency to flee the fighting there. Irini Street is a caring neighbourhood where houses are close together and everybody knows everybody else. Their closest neighbours and friends are a Jewish family of skilled tailors, the Morenos.
This is the cast of characters around which the story is woven, relating how resistance-fighter Dimitri and skilled seamstress Katerina find love, as told in their latter years to their grandson who is trying to decide whether to settle back in Greece. But the historical and political backdrop encompassing WWI and WWII – in addition to the descriptions of the detailed embroidery and immense skill of the bespoke tailors of the day – throws a deeper dimension into the novel.
“Everything was arranged by colour from one end of the room to the other, with crimson silk next to scarlet wool, and green velvet next to emerald taffeta.”
“..he planned to return with jewellery for his wife, something even better than the emerald necklace and matching earrings that he had brought last time. With her jet black hair, he preferred her in red and would probably buy rubies.”
These descriptions of the Komninos fabric warehouse and Konstantinos’ desire to buy his wife gems as a way of showing off his status, were the inspiration behind this month’s colourways.
The variegated colourway – rich greens and reds – was technically extremely challenging on this yarn type. I devised a method based on an idea by my son, to ensure the colours remained as separate as possible.
For the semi-solid colourway, I wanted a rich, emerald green – not too bright and summery, but with a wintery touch to better reflect the time of year.
Finally, it had to be Oasis Grande camel-silk, not only for its luxurious nature, like Konstantinos’ luxury fabrics, but also Thessaloniki is very much a city where East meets West, and the silk and camel always remind me of the ancient Silk Road.
Inspiration for November: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Simon Mawer