The most delightful commemorative item of the upcoming wedding is also the most bizarre: a how-to book titled Knit Your Own Royal Wedding. Follow its detailed instructions and on April 29 you can have your own balcony scene, complete with a 20-cm-high Prince William kissing his new bride, Kate Middleton, while the royal family wave in front of a stiff backdrop of Buckingham Palace. Other figures in the book include the archbishop of Canterbury, palace footmen and even a troop of ubiquitous royal corgis.
Author Fiona Goble, a knitting, sewing and crafting expert based just outside London, is astounded by the book’s runaway success. The 64-page paperback sold an astounding 25,000 copies in Britain during its first month. Now publisher Ivy Press is finalizing a third printing of its fastest-selling title.
This isn’t Goble’s first hit. Last fall, Knitivity: Create Your Own Christmas Scene was snapped up by enthusiasts fascinated by the fuzzy holy scene showcasing Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in his manger, surrounded by his parents, three wise men, shepherds, an angel and a plethora of animals including an ass, ox and sheep. Even with Knitivity‘s success, Goble was still apprehensive about tackling living subjects: “It’s one thing knitting something that doesn’t have to look particularly like someone, but it’s a bit hard to knit something that looks like someone.”
The resulting attention to detail makes the characters instantly identifiable. Charles’s ears are big, Queen Elizabeth II is wearing her favourite blue, and even Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, has a trademark swooping feathered hat. In addition to Middleton’s ivory wedding dress, fringed with mohair, the 53-year-old author recreated the blue engagement dress, replicating the crossover waist with an embroidered chain stitch. To be accurate, Ivy Press even got an expert to vet the men’s military uniforms as well as their complicated assortment of medals and sashes.
The last pattern Goble created, the Queen’s beloved corgi, was also the most problematic: “The first time he was the size of a donkey, compared to the figures. Then I knitted him and my son said it looks like a dog but not a corgi. Finally I re-knitted him smaller with shorter legs.” That got the seal of approval. In March, she sold several books to corgi lovers at the huge Stitch & Craft Show in London. They wanted it just for the dog pattern.
While the book isn’t aimed at novices, the author believes just about everyone else could do it. “It hasn’t got any fancy stitches,” Goble notes, though “there is obviously much more increasing and decreasing and small bits.” Goble has designed the bodies to be quite similar, the only difference is that “girls go in and out and boys are a bit taller.” The detail is in the outfits and the faces. Each character takes about a day to make.
Knitting chatrooms have been buzzing about the book. Reached through Ravelry.com, northwestern Ontario’s Margorie Stintzi says she bought the book because, “I love knitting toys and thought it was so silly.” Stintzi laughingly adds that “perhaps I have been nurturing a closet fetish to knit an archbishop of Canterbury.” The veteran knitter is in luck, for Goble’s version is an exact likeness of the current title holder, Rowan Williams, right down to his full beard and glasses. To complete his scholarly appearance, she used “some soft grey yarn to do his hair in and then I brushed it up with an old toothbrush.”
For Stintzi and other brave knitters, Goble has some advice: start, as she did, with the simplest figures, the bride and especially the groom; use yarn with at least 20 per cent wool, and scour craft and discount shops for the bits and bobs needed to finish the outfits. For example, the Queen’s pearl necklace is actually a cheap bracelet strung on elastic.
Currently, the prototypes are on tour throughout Britain, travelling in a special case complete with model royal balcony. Still, Goble hopes they will be able to join her when she and her neighbours in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, throw a traditional street party on April 29. Naturally, the dolls would be the guests of honour.