to put in," the middle aged man told me with a questioning look. He also looked rather anxious.
We were collecting the entries for the knitting, crochet and lace work for the state's annual show. There were the usual, "This is the first time I've done this" and "I've forgotten my form but I did put the card on" and "is this the right place" and... well, I am sure you can imagine the rest.
But the middle aged man produced four pieces of knitting carefully wrapped and sealed in plastic bags.
I took one look and, even without unfolding them, told him,
"They will be good enough."
"It's my wife's mother. The kids didn't want anything so she tried something new. We thought it was okay."
A little later I unfolded them carefully for judging. I am not allowed to photograph them or I might even try putting a picture up. The closest examination could find no obvious faults. I left them ready for the official judge to see. Everyone else who was there to help came to have a look as word spread.
What had been entered were four pieces of exquisitely fine lace knitting in the Estonian style. There were two shawls and two scarves. They were made of very, very fine single ply yarn. They had been "blocked" (stretched to "iron" them without actually using an iron) and they had been blocked to perfection.
The judge came in and we worked through the first classes. There were some nice things but nothing outstanding and then we reached the little pile of shawls. I had, as I always do, piled them in order of arrival. The pieces were near the bottom.
There was silence and then I heard the judge breathe out,
She spread the first piece out and then the second and then shook her head slowly in disbelief.
"Well, they are no-brainers," she said, "The only problem is which is first and which is second."
We made a decision between us - by agreeing that one pattern was slightly more complex than another.
We went on to the scarves and the judge repeated the process.
But it did not end there. There is also a prize for the best piece of knitting in the show. The judge has all the first prize pieces left in a line. We had several really interesting and very well done pieces this year but she barely glanced at them again. Her hand went out to the pale, pale creamy-golden coloured shawl with tiny nupps no bigger than a grain of wheat.
"It has to be this one," she told us.
One elderly, housebound woman who thought her work would "not be good enough" will have two first prizes, two second prizes and "best in show".
I hope she uses her prize money for more yarn.