And the winners are…

You’ll never believe it. The winning Cinderella designs are up. I know! So soon!
Okay, it took a while. I’m very sorry. I hadn’t counted on just how busy I was going to be in the run-up to Christmas — see, knitters, it’s all your fault for shopping with such a festive frenzy. (Need I mention, I’m so glad you did… I have no problem with being kept so busy, and it’s great to picture you all enjoying a very knitty holiday. I think a lot of husbands are going to be patting themselves on the back after the wrapping paper comes off, too.)
So anyway, take a look at our favourite designs here. Aren’t they fabulous? I wish you could see everything we got… so much fun. Now it’s just time to knuckle down and judge the Snow White entries. I’m pretty sure we won’t take half as long with those.
By the way, I was struck at how much effort went into the writing of the actual stories; this was intended to be a design competition rather than a fiction contest, and I realise that I hadn’t made it clear enough that the story could be just a few lines to set the scene. Don’t be intimidated by the length and literary detail of some of these; that’s not the main focus of the challenge, although a great story definitely does win you extra points. Also by the way, if you’re looking for the actual patterns — they’re coming. Watch this space.
Now read this: one of my favourite almost-winners. (More honourable mentions will be posted in the next few days.) And then run off and look at the rest.

Cinderella’s knitting lessons
By Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth
Cinderella was dreaming again. She was sitting at her mother’s knee watching the soothing rhythm, listening to the gentle click of her mother’s knitting. She could feel the warmth of her mother’s leg through the folds of her heavy silk skirt. For some reason she couldn’t look up, look around, and was aware of nothing but the knitting and her mother’s hands, knitting. They were surrounded by a soft, warm, grey mist.
“Watch carefully, dear,” said a well-remembered voice, gently, and Cinderella stared at the delicate ivory needles and the white silk stocking growing from them.

The next night, the household finally having all gone to bed, all of a twitter because of the invitations delivered that morning, Cinderella curled up in her blanket inside the inglenook, enjoying the residual heat from the stone walls. Shutting her eyes, she willed herself to sleep and remembrance of her mother, barely wondering why she was dreaming of the knitting lessons her mother promised, and died before she could deliver.
This time, she was knelt on the floor with her mother sitting behind her, her small hands holding smooth ebony needles and her mother’s hands guiding hers. Her yarn was less silky but soft as a kitten, grey-blue as the surrounding mist. A small lacy ribbed tube grew from the square of black pointed needles in her hands, and she was barely aware when her mother’s hands moved away and she controlled the movements herself.

The third night, Cinderella was exhausted. Her two step-sisters and their mother had been out all morning (blessed peace!) to find frills and furbelows to furbish up gowns for tomorrow’s Grand Ball, there being no notice to have new ones made. But when they returned, Cinderella hadn’t stopped. At least she’d been given the chance for a bath and clean clothes before having to stitch, and fit, and take in, and let out, and trim, and flourish, and feather, and frill, and embroider, and froth up her sisters’ dresses. Perhaps she thought one sister’s choice of violet puce didn’t quite go with her high complexion, and the other’s lime green certainly didn’t make the most of a sallow skin, but she wouldn’t dream of saying so. Curling up into her warm blanket, she slept.
She was sitting next to her mother, both on the little settee in her mother’s dressing room. Her mother had a finished white silk stocking laid across her satin skirt, with another starting to grow from her ivory needles. Cinderella’s grey tube had become a delicate lace-ribbed cuff, flaring to accommodate her hand, a few stitches held on a golden thread for her thumb, and she was just casting off at the base of her fingers. She enjoyed the contrast between the soft-as-soft yarn and the smooth satiny black needles and picked up for the thumb. Carrying on the feather rib pattern, a thumb quickly grew and was cast off. A right-hand fingerless mitt, from yarn the exact colour of her blue-grey eyes, was finished. Cinderella felt her mother smile at her proudly as she cast on for the left-hand one.

The house was quiet much earlier than usual the next evening. Her step-mother and step-sisters had finally left in a cloud of pungent perfume and drifting ostrich feathers, gabbling with excitement. After tidying away the utter chaos caused by their dressing, she’d retired to the inglenook where a fire actually remained, rather than the usual embers.
The dark kitchen suddenly filled with a golden light, and a glowing figure appeared. “Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!” it declared, and before Cinderella could wonder what was happening, in a whirl of light and stars and spangles she’d been magicked into a hot frothy bath, dried with white cushiony towels and her rough hands smoothed with a rose-scented lotion, somehow while her strange benefactor explained that she was Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, of all things. Cinderella found herself standing in the centre of the kitchen (but a warmer, lighter kitchen than normal), wearing a satin gown of the exact grey-blue of her eyes. The low square bodice, full skirts, and tight sleeves felt wonderful and rustled as she moved. The fine cabric chemise and petticoats caressed her skin.
“Just one thing more,” the being that was her godmother seemed to say. And on the scrubbed surface of the kitchen table Cinderella saw (and was sure hadn’t been there a moment ago) the pair of soft, lace-ribbed fingerless mitts she had learned to knit with her mother. Somehow, they were the exact colour of her gown. And lying next to them, draped over the table’s edge, the long, elegant silk stockings her mother had knitted for her. The stockings were drawn over her legs and tied with golden garters that her godmother gave her (“a bit of my own knitting too — I like to keep my hand in”) and the mittens slipped over her hands like mist.
A warm golden hug enveloped her, a kiss fell on her brow, and Cinderella found herself out the door, in a strange (and rather orange) coach, and being swept away before she knew what was happening. And settling back into the soft, golden, and rather fibrous cushions of the coach, she smiled as she remembered, at last, the concealed cupboard in her mother’s dressing room where her workbox, including the knitting-needles made from rare and precious materials, was hidden.