Characters in Depth:

First Trilogy
All Manor of Yarns

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Prussian Yarns


A Stitch in Time


Tinctures & Tantrums

Second Trilogy
The Snow Queen and
The Caterpillar


There is a Season


 Viennese Yarns



Third Trilogy
Taffeta Tales


British Yarns


Polish Yarns


Threads of Strife

Favourites Writers
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Lorraine Stanton
Vicki Wootton
Shalanna Collins

Katharina Scheltgen, who was known as Katya, was eighteen years old when she started work at Schönwald.  The daughter of a maid and a footman who lived in married servant's quarters in a fashionable villa in Berlin, she had earned her first wages at the age of twelve working for the people who employed her parents.

Born with an outgoing, feisty personality, Katya had been a delight to her parents as a small child, but as she reached her teens her forthright manner caused conflict between her and her mother.  What had started as an attempt to pull Katya "into line" when she was twelve and thirteen years old had become all out war by the time Katya was fourteen.  Her father's attempts to mediate between his wife and his daughter brought him into conflict with both of them, so he basically stayed out of it from then on.

To get away from the fighting, Katya sought work in other villas around Berlin.  That was only partially successful.  On the one hand she was away from her mother during her working week, so there was no sniping and squabbling between them in that time.  On the other hand, when she was working in a villa close-by her mother expected her to live at home and walk to work, so they still fought every day.

Katya found work far enough away that she could not live at home, but since her mother expected her to be home on her half-day off, and to go to church with her family every Sunday, the fighting was still constant.  Unable to spend any time in her mother's presence without squabbling with her, Katya finally looked for work so far away that she could not go home every week.

The employment agency Katya had registered with presented her with an opportunity for work in one of the large estates out in the country, 50 kilometres from Berlin.  Filled with visions of great balls and hunting parties, Katya instructed the employment agency to tender her application.  The name itself, "Schönwald," "Beautiful Forest" seemed to hold promise of a lovely place to live and work.

The housekeeper for Schönwald, Minna Müller, interviewed Katya for the position of assistant maid to the lady's maid.  Trained as a "tweeney," a young woman who runs between the upstairs and the downstairs, mostly doing cleaning, Katya was delighted with the opportunity to move up to assistant to a lady's maid.  She couldn't believe her luck when she was accepted for the position.

Her family was astonished that she had been accepted for such a position when she had no training for it.  Afraid that there was something "fishy" about it, and not wanting her to go so far away, they forbade her to take the job.

Despite their objection, and even though she knew she might end up estranged from them forever for doing so, Katya presented herself at the appointed time and place to be picked up by the Schönwald carriage and driven off to her new life.

Her visions of luxury and an easy life disintegrated within a day of her arrival at Schönwald.  Trapped inside three darkened, cramped rooms with a crazy woman who wouldn't eat and seemed to do little but sleep and complain, and her long-suffering maid, Katya was constantly hungry.  At first she was too stunned to be miserable, but as the hunger intensified she thought of little else but finding ways to get food, and planning her escape.

Katya's new mistress, Hildegard von Goff, was prescribed various tonics and potions by her doctor.  All of the medications contained preparations of opium, morphine, or cocaine along with various other ingredients dissolved in alcohol.  To supplement these medications, Hildegard also had a wide variety of herbal preparations for every little ache and pain, real or imaginary.  The majority of her potions and tinctures suppressed her appetite, leaving her unable to eat.  The more she was urged to eat, the more Hildegard abhorred eating, and when she didn't eat, no one around her could eat.

As well as refusing to eat, Hildegard was afraid to leave her rooms, imagining all sorts of terrifying evils on the other side of her door.  Eating with her husband in the dining rooms required leaving her rooms, so she refused to do that.  All of her food was brought to her rooms on trays, which she usually sent away, which left no food available for Katya, or the woman Katya was supposed to be assisting, Philomele Hübner.

Forbidden to leave Hildegard's rooms without permission, and never given permission, Katya had no access to the staff dining room.  Forbidden to talk to the few people who did enter Hildegard's apartment, Katya had no access to the gossip in the house.  The loneliness was almost as hard on a gregarious personality as the hunger was.

A Stitch in Time opens when Katya has been isolated in Hildegard's rooms for a week, hungry almost all of the time.  She regrets moving so far from her mother, and now appreciates how well off she was in Berlin in a way she never had before.  Spending every moment that she's not thinking about food planning how to get back to her mother, Katya paces back and forth in Hildegard's rooms while Hildegard and Philomele are asleep.

Prolonged opium use makes eyes sensitive to light, so Hildegard kept the heavy, dark drapes pulled shut at all times, so that Katya was in constant dim light as well as hungry and lonely.

Before she plucks up the nerve to simply walk all the way back to Berlin, Katya begins to have an attachment to Philomele.  She sees that Philomele's life is thankless and limited.  Not wanting to abandon Philomele, and not wanting to face a life of unemployment from leaving a job with no reference, Katya decides to stay a little longer to try to find a way to return to her mother with her head held high instead of returning in disgrace.

Inventing a system of keeping the trays in Hildegard's rooms long enough to be able to secrete food from them so that she can eat regularly, even if she is eating when Hildegard and Philomele are asleep, Katya works to find ways to make her new life bearable.

When the Master of Schönwald, Otto von Goff, discovers that Hildegard is starving her maids, he insists that the maid must eat even if Hildegard does not.  He also has Frau Müller hire another assistant for Philomele so that there will be someone with Philomele while Katya has time off.  The new girl, Gurda Ritter, is from the little village of Schönwald and goes home every evening.  However, Otto's plan of Katya and Gurda alternating meal times in the staff dining room does not eventuate.  Hildegard is filled with nameless fears of what will happen if people come and go from her rooms, and won't allow Katya to eat with the staff.

Much as she longs to go home, Katya keeps on putting off the time that she'll leave.  After a month of seeing what Philomele goes through she can't bear to abandon her.  On top of that, she is so afraid that if she leaves Schönwald by just walking out she won't be able to get another decent job.  Trapped in the murky world of Hildegard's opium dreams, it doesn't occur to Katya that if she told Otto or Minna Müller that she couldn't take it and wanted to go home, they would have sympathised with her, given her a good reference, and a ride back to Berlin.


Previous Character Bio: Jean-Emile Beaulieu

Next Character Bio: Philomele

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