Coming back from Edinburgh on the train, I was sitting next to a girl who was knitting something very intricate on four slender knitting needles. She was following a pattern so complicated that she had to pause every other stitch and consult it. Eventually I asked what she was doing.
‘I’m making my Mum’s Christmas present’, she replied. ‘It’s a pair of long socks with the opening lines of ‘Beowulf‘ knitted into them. I’ve been at it since May! My Mum loves Beowulf.’ I looked closer and saw that, indeed, the socks were covered with tiny words in Old English script. To make it even more impressive, the basic colour of the socks was a kind of oatmeal, with the tiny letters standing out in a delicate mushroom brown, so the effect was subtle unless you knew what you were seeing.
After I had realised that an artwork was unfolding in front of me, I couldn’t concentrate on my book, but had to keep sneaking a look at the tiny Anglo-Saxon words as they emerged from the gently clicking needles. I don’t remember when I last saw anything so skilful.