Aug 10, 2014

Hand Knits in TV Land (Halifax)

If you’re a knitter or fiber fanatic of any sort you should check out Last Tango in Halifax (PBS).  The story takes place in Halifax, West Yorkshire, the historic center of wool production in England.

The main story line features an elderly couple who reconnect after 60 years apart. Key characters include Alan and Celia, the romantic leads; Alan’s daughter Gillian, who owns a sheep farm; Celia’s daughter Caroline, who is headmistress at an elite school; Celia’s son-in-law who is often drunk, always philandering and striving to recapture his status as a best-selling author; plus various grandsons, lovers, bedmates and pals who create the requisite cast of quirky characters.

Accents and colloquial expressions run rampant, but they're intriguing and sound quite genuine to my American ears. Currently, the program is wrapping up season two. (Some episodes are available online and both seasons are available on DVD. Season three starts in Britain in the fall, but a US release date has not yet been announced.)

Enough context. Let’s get down to business.

Subtle threads of knitwear and wool fabrics weave through the show. It starts in the first few minutes of episode one with several key characters wearing warm wool scarves and sweaters. As the show progresses, each episode features something woolly to drool over. Hand knit or not, these include:
Gillian’s fair isle sweater that’s intricate, colorful and suited to her active life as a sheep farmer.
Caroline’s fabulous silvery gray wool topper that’s stylish, upscale and perfect for a polished, wealthy headmistress. (I own something similar in black and brown alpaca, but I covet this version in gray.)
Caroline’s lush gray sweater made with a stitch that resembles the Sprig Pattern (Walker, Second Treasury, p. 32).
Gillian’s practical red cardigan with a simple cable accent.
Alan’s myriad pullovers, vests and cardigans that are timeless and traditional.
Raff’s fair isle vest glimpsed under a coat.
Gillian's long-sleeved gradient pullover and Kate's similar short-sleeved version.
Kate’s long cabled cardigan made with tweedy brown yarn.
The baby’s sweet pink and gray garter square blanket that will make knitters ooh and ahh out loud. (The baby's cute too.)
The program is engaging, but the knitwear definitely boosts its appeal. Watch carefully and you’ll spot many more examples than the few cited above.

I’ve said it before but will say it again: If the producers want to juice their already successful ratings and broaden international appeal, they’d be smart to provide some behind-the-scenes info on knitwear featured in the show along with facts about wool production and sheep farming in West Yorkshire.

Feed the insatiable appetite of knitters, weavers and fiber enthusiasts and Last Tango in Halifax could become the quintessential “must see TV” show for an entirely new group of rabid devoted followers.

We are legion.

To read more about handknits in TV land, click here.


  1. Now, I must watch this show. Apparently, you are part of their marketing program

    1. Nope! Not part of their marketing program but do hope you enjoy watching for the knitwear if you see the show.

  2. Sounds perfect: An interesting assortment of knits to entertain me while I watch ... and knit!

  3. Being a Brit I've seen it advertised but not actually watched it. I get so absorbed in watching American TV shows on Netflix! I'll definitely look out for it now though.


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