I think my favourite series though is her first, the Fairacre series. Beginnng with Village School, Miss Read writes in the person of a village schoolmistress and, throughout twenty books, we follow the children and their families through the years. Dora Saint was a schoolteacher so she knew of what she wrote.
The books were illustrated with beautiful drawings by John Goodall which really serve to bring the characters to life. Miss Read has a reputation as a 'cosy' author who glossed over the realities of village life but this is simply not true. There are neglected children, damp cottages and plenty of poverty to be found in the books but the overall tone is a positive one.
'So, who is Miss Clare?' I hear you cry. Miss Clare is an older colleague of Miss Read's, one of the old pupil teachers who lost their men in the First World War and remained single. Miss Read values her friendship and visits her often after Miss Clare has had to retire. In Storm in the Village, the two friends share tea ...
'She had brought out the family silver teapot for the occasion, a wonderful fluted object with a yellowed ivory knob like a blanched almond.'
Now this teapot really caught my imagination when I read this and, ever since, I've been looking out for one like it in my visits to antique shops. It turns out that teapots with black knobs are much easier to find; I suspect that they replaced the old ivory ones. I carried on looking for years, keeping my fingers crossed that, when I finally found my teapot, it wouldn't be too expensive.
Finally, on a trip to Banbury Antiques early in the New Year, there it was - on the first stall I looked at and only £12.
There were some nervous moments as I tested that it didn't leak - I really wanted to use this teapot, not just keep it as an ornament. And ... it's fine, watertight and pours like a dream. Metal teapots nearly always pour better than china ones.
So the next thing to do was to knit my new teapot its own cosy. That shape meant that none of my others were the right size. Miss Read doesn't mention whether Miss Clare's teapot had a cosy but, if it had, I think it would have been one like this ...
If you look through old knitting patterns from the middle of the twentieth century, you'll find lots of tea cosies knitted in this pleated pattern. The yarns are carried tightly across the back of the work, resulting in a very thick fabric. These cosies are particularly warm, dating as they do from before the days of central heating. My old house is always cold in winter so this seemed the ideal sort of pattern for me to use.
The most tricky part was the shaping. The top of the teapot is nearly flat so I had to decrease stitches rapidly while still keeping the stitch pattern going. After lots of unsuccessful tries, I eventually got it right. The cosy is knitted in two identical parts and joined so that the pattern continues uninterrupted.
Now I can enjoy my pot of tea, knowing that the last cup will be as hot as the first. Should you by any chance have a teapot of a similar shape, you can download the free pattern for my Old-Fashioned Tea Cosy from my design page on ravelry. For a normal, rounded teapot you'll want to start the shaping earlier and space it out much more. One day I might design a matching cosy for round teapots but not now.