Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
The TARDIS wearing a Santa hat ... in the snow
Today is a snow day; most of Denmark is veiled in snow, and in parts of the country, driving is discouraged or even impossible. It isn’t too crazy around here; but still, my visit with friends in Aarhus was cancelled. We agreed that today was not the day to choose for driving 80 km and back, and that we will meet some other time, when the weather is in a better mood.
So I have only been out on foot today, which was fine. Now, of course, it is after 4 pm and so utterly dark outside; but it is light and warm inside, and I have my knitting – and you! Or, at any rate, my laptop and the illusion that I am writing to someone. So, there will be an update on the Christmas knitting, of course, and some musings about what people believe and how that is regarded.

The Apple of the Week:
I came across a Ravelry thread the other day about knitting superstitions: what you should and certainly should not do with your knitting. Examples ranged from ‘do not stick needles into a ball of yarn’ over ‘never knit with green’ to ‘never knit on a Sunday’; including such advice as ‘do not let your needles be empty: cast on a new project immediately’. This, it seems, is particularly important when working on socks: make sure you can cast on the second sock right after casting off the first.

All this got me thinking about superstitions, their nature and origins. After all, one person’s superstition is another’s religious doctrine; so what is it that we deem ‘superstition’ and not ‘belief’ – or even ‘fact’?
It seems that superstitions fall into several categories:
practical advice based on everyday observations and given a supernatural weight;
religious beliefs and/or practices that you do not yourself subscribe to, either because they belong to a belief system that differs from your own, or because the belief system they belong to has become obsolete;
instances of magical thinking based on intuition rather than evidence: the connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm or between substances that look alike or even whose names sound alike in a given language (time and thyme).

Examples of practical advice.
If we look at the above, knitting-related instances, the one about never letting your needles be empty is akin to the adage about idle hands being the Devil’s playground: it ties in neatly with the Protestant work ethic – which was very appropriate in a world where clothes were handmade, food had to be grown and/or killed, houses were built of timber that you felled with an axe, &c. Everybody needed warm socks, and somebody had to knit each and every pair of them. So of course you were always knitting.
The one about casting on the second sock immediately after casting off the first could be a specific instance of the above; I have also seen it interpreted as a means to avoid the dreaded SSS, second sock syndrome. This ‘syndrome’ is, of course, a modern, first-world problem – but hey, if it works. I did it myself the other night: I finished the first of the Christmas socks for my Dad, felt greatly accomplished – and cast on the other sock before I was tempted to feel that I was done. Allowing a pause at this point could make it harder to ‘start over’ on a new sock; better to stay in the I-can-totally-twist-those-stitches mode.

Outside of knitting, there is always the ‘don’t walk under a ladder’. Now there’s a piece of sound advice: by squeezing through the often tight space, you could knock over the ladder, including the guy who is probably perched on it, and his tools, paint, bucket of soapy water – you name it. And even if the ladder stays where it is, you risk having something drop on you. So, there is every reason to walk around it.

Of course, one could go into anthropology mode and talk about doorways and liminality: the junction of the ladder, the wall (or other vertical structure) and the ground underneath create a temporary door or opening, which by its nature will always lead to somewhere else. This is on the face of it rather obvious: doors and doorways lead to other rooms or to the outside. By extension, then, doorways are believed to lead into other worlds or other planes of existence. Around 1790, the poet William Blake spoke of the doors of perception, allegedly referred to by the 60’s rock band The Doors: there are things known and things unknown, and between them are the Doors. So, any opening, be it natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, is perceived to be a doorway into another place. And if you cannot see what may be on the other side, it is even more mysterious and magical. Standing beside a ladder and looking through the ‘opening’ to the other side – and lest we forget, this doorway is triangular, which imbues it with even more magical power – nothing may seem out of the ordinary; but that does not mean that it isn’t.
Rites of passage often utilise temporary portals to symbolise the passage from one stage of life to the next; think, for instance, of the blossoming arches wrought over couples at weddings.
Lots of literature utilises this concept of doorways into other worlds: first and foremost, we remember the wardrobe that leads to Narnia; Stephen King has a whole series of doors in the Dark Tower books, as has N.D. Wilson in the 100 Cupboards books; and Stargate is all about doorways to distant places.

The question of whether a certain non-rational practice is seen and respected as religious doctrine or dismissed as superstition is rather interesting and depends on the status of the belief system it is a part of.
Many people regard with a good deal of scepticism Ronald Reagan’s deferral to his wife Nancy’s astrologer; astrology is not these days generally believed to be ‘true’, whatever that may mean. There is no discernible scientific basis for believing in connections between individual persons and the constellations of stars – which are in themselves imaginary – or the positions of planets in the sky at the time of their birth. Astrology, as do many instances of magic, relies on the perceived interplay between the microcosm, the individual, and the macrocosm, the universe in general. So, those who set their stock in horoscopes are not taken all that seriously; people question, as they should, the decisions made by a president who consults, or at any rate is influenced by, an astrologer.

An altogether different matter is the eating or not eating of pigs’ meat; this is a religious and cultural tradition based on problems with food hygiene and disease in a certain part of the world around 3,000 years ago. If you repeatedly get sick after eating certain foods, you learn not to; and in an age when the supernatural was looked to for explanations, it would have been obvious to infer that Jahwe did not want you to eat those foods. As such, the rules surrounding foods that are found in Exodus, can be viewed by us methodological agnostics as instances of practical advice turned into supernatural rule.
But these rules are not generally deemed ‘superstitions’, though there is no scientific basis these days for following them. You can agree or disagree with the validity of them; but no one in their right mind will insist that Jews or Muslims eat pork, if they find it important not to. Please note here that I am for now only concerned with the religious argument against pork; questions of health, animal welfare &c belong in an entirely different discussion.

So, the difference in the respect afforded on the one hand looking to the stars for guidance and on the other following ancient and obsolete rules about cooking lies not in the level of rationality of the practice, nor in its age: Babylonian astrology is just as old as the texts of the Pentateuch. What is it, then?

It used to be that astrology and astronomy were two sides of a coin: the court-appointed Tycho Brahe made observations in the skies, not least discovering a supernova, a stella nova (new star), in 1572 and thereby challenging the Aristotelian concept of the immutable heavens – and he calculated the birth horoscope for the newborn prince who grew up to be Christian IV, King of Denmark.
During the age of enlightenment in the 17th century, belief systems were challenged by the search for scientific evidence – and the art and science of star-gazing were separated. Gradually, astrology as well as alchemy was relegated to the realm of magic and superstition, while the factual, physical and falsifiable became science.
So, astrology was demoted to pseudoscience; but what about the food rules?

Well, the Middle Eastern, Muslim world never had its age of enlightenment bringing with it the scrutiny and sometimes rejection of religious rules – or cultural rules with divine justification – that seemed old-fashioned. Hence the continued obeisance to practices long since abandoned elsewhere.
Jewish communities have historically been persecuted and threatened; being under constant siege from the surrounding world, a society tends to close in on itself and cling to tradition. Thus, the ancient laws have been upheld to this day.

In my personal view, people can eat what they like and believe what they want – as long as they do not insist on others doing the same. Of course, decisions concerning matters of state should not be made based on the position of the stars or planets rather than analyses of the political or socio-economic situation; but lots of people (including myself) read their daily horoscope, take note if it seems relevant and forget it otherwise. No harm done.

So, what else is new? I have opened an Etsy shop. Or rather, in the virtual market place that is Etsy, I have put up a parasol, spread a rug under it and laid out my – so far very few – wares. I have a handful of skeins of plant-dyed yarn there, and I will have more in future times; but as long as the temperatures around here are below freezing, I am not going to work with water solutions of anything out in my studio shed. So, when weather permits, and if there is any interest, I will put up more in the shop. We’ll see.

The shop’s name is Bifrost Yarns, in keeping with the whole Norse theme I seem to have going. As you know, my username on Ravelry is Ydun, as it is here; the Norse goddess Ydun provided the other gods with strength, health and longevity from her apples. So my offerings of chat & wisdom are named after Ydun’s basket of apples, in the hope that you all will gain something from reading them. Bifrost is the name of the rainbow, the passage between Asgard, the home of the gods, and Midgard (or Middle Earth), the home of the humans. In the Marvel Thor movie, that’s the one that is a wormhole generator. So there you have it.

nray ym yub
This is a subliminal message designed to creep into your subconscious and control your actions. Mwahahahaha ...

The Knitting:
If you were with me back in the summer, you may remember a certain huge Estonian lace shawl that I was planning to wear for a wedding in July. No? Well, it has been a while, I’ll be the first to admit that. It is the Regrowth shawl by Toby MacNutt; I am knitting it in dark purple Semilla Fino from BC Garn, a fingering weight organic wool, very soft. Anyway, this shawl was not finished for the wedding – which by the way was no problem, as it was 25 degrees that day – and I decided to repurpose it. No longer a wedding shawl, it became a Christmas shawl; a big woollen thing is much more useful in December, after all, and I had loads of time to get it done. After the Ravellenics stuff and the post-Ravellenic knitalong and the other stuff ... and then the idea of the knitting for everybody for Christmas entered my head, and took over my needles. I did at some point in September, I think, or October, tink back a few rows that I had had to do in another colour and knit several rows on it, but then it was put aside. So, now that the calendar says December, I felt I had to face it again and find out just how much needed to be done.

Nine rows.
That’s right, I had only nine rows left. Of course, that is at least ten hours’ knitting, because I have something like 1,200 bloody stitches per row by now, but still, if I can manage one row a day, I will have time to wash & block it before Christmas. So that is the plan; I have this week done a row nearly every day. Five rows in seven days. Impressive, eh?

And I have been working on the Elven Leaves cowl for the Knit 1 Geek 2 hobbitalong. That was done fairly quickly: the pattern was easy to memorise, and I even did six repeats in the round instead of seven, because I was using a heavier yarn. I even have enough yarn left over for fingerless mitts or handwarmers to match; right now I seem to be wearing a pair most of the time. Those will be for after Christmas, though. So early this week, two of my four active projects – I try to have four things on the go and do a bit of each every day – have been for me; which seems a bit weird given the whole Christmas knitting deal. But that didn’t last, of course.
Even before the cowl was finished, I cast on another gift – which I would love to tell you about, but I can’t just yet. Some sneaky people may be reading this.

The third active project is – still – the socks for my Dad; I am on the second sock now. These are the Farmer McGregor socks from Socktopus by Alice Yu. Not surprisingly, I have developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with this pattern; I know it well by now, though I haven’t memorised all 16 rows, and I set myself the task of completing one pattern repeat every day. Some days, it is all I can manage to get that done; other days, I happily knit ‘ahead’ of this schedule. I am looking forward to being done with them – I only hope he’ll like them and that they fit. I measured the first sock against Victor’s foot to see where the toe ought to begin, so it can’t be far off.

What else? Oh, I finished a little owl for my cousin’s little girl; this is the third little owl I've done, so now I am done with this pattern for now. And I cast on – finally – the Cassandra shawl for my mother. This being deadline knitting and all, I felt the need for a schematic to know how much I have to knit every day; so I counted the number of stitches in each row and added them all up, knowing from experience that a fitting ‘chunk’ of knitting is around 1,000 stitches. Or 1,200, if that is how many there are in a row ... Anyway, the total number of stitches in a Cassandra shawl is 22,580. Aren’t you glad to know that? That means, of course, that it won’t be enough to do one 1,000-stitch chunk every day, I’ll have to do 1½. Or something. Luckily, the WS rows are just purled, so as they get longer, I can read while I do them. Silver lining. 
And it will be pretty, and I may at some point learn not to do a yarnover with every k2tog, like I am doing on the Regrowth ... by the way, a quick guesstimate says that there must be about 100,000 stitches in that. The mind boggles.
So, that will be it for this week – as always, I have knitting to do.

I will be back next week with more chitchat and general weirdness. And knitting.
Until then, have a great time, and:
Happy knitting!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter is here!

So, December arrived – and with it the snow:
Sunday morning, just before 8 o'clock and dawn

The green


The cat is enjoying it: he crouches and pounces, chasing leaves and making snowballs – seriously, he grabbed snow between his front paws and threw it like he would throw a mouse or a mole; it mostly got into his own face.

The Knitting:
Is still, of course, all about Christmas knitting. The List is dwindling, and things are moving along, though not at all as quickly as I would like right now. At times, I even question the sanity of attempting to knit for everybody ... I know, that must be a sign of weakness. Snap out of it and get knitting!

Several things are done, though: this coming Sunday, we are visiting friends of mine together with another couple of friends – and all their gifts are ready (apart from the washing & blocking, which I will do today). 
I present to you: a Dragonfly Wings scarf, a Nottingham hat, a pair of Podster Gloves, a Knotty but Nice hat and a Little Owl. So far, so good.

Everything except for the owl is made with plant-dyed yarn; both hats and the mittens in an Aran weight wool I picked up last year in Netto, of all places – a supermarket chain that apart from the standard goods has various temporary deals. Including yarn: horrid acrylic, fun fur and such as well as nicer yarns, 100 % wool, soy-wool blends etc. So I bought two kilos of that wool, when they had it, and now I’m rather hoping it will show up again.
For the scarf I used the Zitron Trekking wool-silk-bamboo blend; this is the first I have knitted with it, and it is somewhat different to the sock yarn, not quite as soft, it seems to me. Still soft and lovely, though, don’t get me wrong, just slightly different.

And the socks for my Dad are moving: I’m on the toe of the first one, and now I have those twisted stitches’ number! Both the right twist and the left twist. So maybe the second sock will be quicker. A girl can dream, right?

And the ... um, thing is nearly done, will be so this week, and then I can start on the ... well, other thing and maybe even a ... third thing. Because I have too much time on my hands. This is fascinating, isn’t it? I will tell you more after Christmas – I have to be secretive right now concerning stuff for people who might be reading this.

Some time ago, the Knit 1 Geek 2 girls announced a ‘hobbitalong’: a Tolkien-themed knit-/crochet-/sew-/cross stitch-along for items to wear when going to the Hobbit movie. And I came across a cowl with a leaf motif that to my mind looks somewhat Elvish – they live in the woods, don’t they – and happily declared my participation. This was in October, mind you, way before the threat of impending Christmas gift giving loomed over me. Oh, well, in for a penny ... so last night I swatched for this cowl, and luckily it seems to be a really quick knit. I am using a heavier yarn than called for, a silk-wool blend that I dyed last year, and so I will be doing one less pattern repeat in the round.
The pattern is the Abstract Leaves Cowl by Deb Mulder; the yarn is a DK weight silk & wool blend that has been sitting in my stash for ... maybe 16 years. Can that be? I got it when my kids were little, that much I know. Well, about time I put it to work, then.
So, quick knit; and tonight I am going along – for the first time – to the monthly meeting in the Story Tellers’ club. Since I am new, I will be listening to stories and not yet telling any, so I can knit. Good times.

Other than that, I am working on yet another Little Owl, this time for my cousin’s little girl; and her brother will be getting something too, maybe a different owl. And I want to cast on this week for the Cassandra shawl for my mum and a couple of ... other things (I’m doing it again, I know. Sorry about that.).

Well, that’s it for now – short & sweet this time: I have some knitting to do ...
Till next time: have a great week, and
Happy Knitting!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Words, Music, Colour

Hello, everybody, and once again welcome to the Apple Basket!

Considering the recent extreme weather across the pond, I cannot complain, but I will comment on the weather: it is windy, to say the least, and the rain is pouring down. The few leaves still trying to hang on are being stripped from their branches and thrown about. A perfect day for snuggling up on the sofa with a hot drink and some woolly knitting ... I will be going out in a bit, though: it is the last Sunday of the month and so time for the local knitting café.
This is also the day exactly mid way between the birthdays that mark the beginning of the festive season: Thomas was 17 last Sunday, and Andreas will be 19 next Sunday. I am continually amazed – how did I get to have boys that big all of a sudden?

But first, before I brave the elements, let me bring you up to speed with my recent exploits. There will not be a lot of knitting this time – after all, not so very much has happened on that front since Tuesday apart from progress on the wips – but instead talk about books, music and dyestuffs. And pictures.

Words, words, words

Sunrise above the clouds

 A Rhino parked outside Warhammer World

Lovely weather in Nottingham

The Ultra Marine guarding the elevators

For all these years, my main impression of Warhammer has been through the figures that Andreas collects, assembles, and paints. And very well, too, by the way; if he lets me, I’ll show you some one day.
I even at some point bought a set of three female warriors (I forget which), painted one, and never got round to doing more. Knitting makes so much more sense to me. And playing the board game doesn’t really appeal to me, either. I can see that it’s all about tactics, an elaborate version of something akin to chess; but still. Not my thing. Oh, well, to each his/her own.

But the bookish side of the whole thing should speak to me – after all, I have read vast amounts of books in all genres since I was five years old (not all genres at first, of course).
So, as I mentioned several weeks ago, I read the Eisenhorn Trilogy by Dan Abnett before going to the weekender – to find out a bit about what it’s all about and not be a total noob ...
And, to my vague surprise, I really liked it; getting into the flow and the ambience of the story, I found myself invested in the characters and hoping for their success.
I don’t know why it should surprise me, though: I’ve read tons of detective stories and sci-fi, and I’ll take Band of Brothers over Sex & the City any day of the week. So it’s not like this is an alien world to me, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Dan Abnett signing for Andreas
During our stay in Nottingham, I read First and Only, the first book in a series, also by Dan Abnett, called Gaunt’s Ghosts. These are war stories: brothers in arms, fighting in the trenches, being screwed over by armchair generals while battling Chaos enemies; stories of loyalty and bravery – or cowardice, in some instances. Andreas had brought this particular volume with him to be signed by Dan Abnett; it was the first Black Library book he ever bought, in Edinburgh in 2006. It is battered and coffee-stained, much read – and now signed by the author.
The hotel lobby was turned into a book store
 The event schedule was packed: in each programme slot were three simultaneous events, which called for some deliberation, prioritising and choosing. I let Andreas set the pace and just tagged along with my knitting – while, of course, soaking up as much as I could. Listening to a Q & A session with an author is always rewarding, even if you haven’t read any of their books.
And in this case, everybody is working within the same parameters – all the books are set in the Warhammer universe. A lot of the stories take place in the 40K part of it, including the ones I’ve read so far, which means that the time is around and after the year 40,000 A.D. (I use this denomination deliberately due to the religious nature of the civilisation).
Then there is the major event of the (relative) past, a galactic civil war named the Horus Heresy, which took place around 30,000 A.D. So far, 23 books of war stories have been published on this subject, and they say that they have about as many left to do. In-universe, the Horus Heresy is comparable to World War II: stuff happened, in this case thought out by the game masters of Warhammer; and a band of writers tell the stories of battles, treacheries, what happened with this or that legion of Space Marines, etc.

It seems from the way the authors and publishers – and artists, for there is a whole painter’s side to this, as well – interact, that a huge part of the loneliness of a writer is alleviated by this collaborative way of working. And, as Dan Abnett put it when asked about writing within a given universe: sure, you can make up your own world, but then you do have to make it all up, define all the rules. Most of his writing is about knowing the rules of the world he is writing in, and following them. The parameters are already there, be it Warhammer, Doctor Who, Marvel or Wallace & Grommit; you know, as a writer, what is possible and what is not. And so, you can concentrate on telling the story.

Lately, I’ve been mostly into sci-fi and magic in my reading: the Warhammer books, of course; and I listened to a new Doctor Who story, The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter. This one features the second Doctor, with Jamie and Zoë – and it is read by David Troughton, the son of Patrick Troughton who played the second Doctor. Here, again, you have the whole writing-within-parameters: everybody knows the Doctor and his companions, when and where they come from, and how they look, behave and are likely to react to the unfolding events.

Having kids who read is a blessing – sometimes, I’m reading their books more than my own. Victor collects the Discworld series (by Terry Pratchett), and now I’ve read the second as well. I got him into the Dresden Files; I bought three of them months ago, he discovered the audio versions read by James Marsters (a.k.a. Spike from Buffy) and got them from Audible, and now we can actually get all of them on audio book here. So I am currently listening to the fourth Dresden File, Summer Knight. They are by Jim Butcher; the protagonist is the Chicago-based wizard detective Harry Dresden.
One of the great things about Audible is the way you can download your books any number of times; so if you access your account from someone else’s computer, you can download a book to their computer and so share audio books just like you would lend out a paper book. Oh, and they just introduced a Returns option – which I promptly used, having inadvertently downloaded an abridged version of Rose Tremain’s Restoration. I want the whole thing.

So, November. Or Movember, if you’re into moustaches. Or Wovember, if you’re in Britain and want to support the local wool industry – which I’m all for; no offence to New Zealand, but in this part of the world should be able to produce our own wool. Of course, I would primarily support Icelandic and Faroese wool, and Greenlandic.
November also means NaNoWriMo, the national novel writing month. I heard about this first on the CraftLit podcast; binge-listening as I do to old episodes, I have listened to Heather talking about her attempt at writing a novel in November 2008, and her success at doing it in November 2009.
I only found out that there is a Danish group when November had already begun, and anyway I am nowhere near ready to take on that challenge – writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November – this year. But now I know about it, and I can practise my writing, and next year I can either not do Christmas knitting or plan ahead.

If music be the food for love ...

This past weekend, the music schools held their annual talent competition for young musicians. As I may have mentioned, my youngest son, Victor, plays classical guitar, and this was his first time to participate. The budding musicians have to have played their instrument for at least two years and be entered by their tutor; so it is not open for everybody.
Victor playing Prelude no. 4 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
The music school in Viborg, where we live, hosted the competition for the Mid-West area this year; and somewhere around 50 or 60 young musicians gathered to perform for the judges and audience during the Saturday. All day: from 9 a.m. to around 8 p.m. And one of the judges even had to go and do the same thing at another music school the next day. The set-up rather resembled X-Factor or American Idol with the three judges at the table and the performing musicians in front of them – except these judges do not have to contend with the clueless.

On the Sunday, there was a gala concert featuring those of the gold winners who had been selected for the finale this coming Sunday, when they will be competing against finalists from other parts of the country. After that, the diplomas were given out.
The scoring system awards bronze, silver or gold according to merit; everyone who participates is guaranteed at least a bronze diploma. This year, they said, they had raised the bar compared to previous years because of the high numbers of talented musicians. I must confess, that gave my insides a twist; waiting for the announcements was every bit as nerve-wracking as waiting for the result of an exam – and I was only excited by proxy! Victor had to perform Saturday morning and then wait until Sunday afternoon for the verdict.

In Victor’s group, the 10- to 14-year old soloists, they gave out 1 gold diploma, for a brilliant violinist, 4 silver diplomas, for Victor (yay!), one of his guitar buddies, and two others; and 8 or 10 bronze diplomas.
The silver for Victor was not a surprise (but it was still a relief to have it announced): he is very good, and he practises diligently – and willingly. I have never, in the four years he has played, had to remind or coax or threaten him to pick up the guitar. Or the ukulele. Or the banjo. Or the piano – well, he doesn’t pick that up, of course, but you know what I mean.
Next year, though, he will be in the older age group and will be competing not only against his two buddies, one of whom also won the silver, but against the older and more experienced musicians, including the 15-year old guitarist who won gold this year ... Oh, well, he’ll just have to keep at it. And no matter what comes out of it, the participation itself is a huge, confidence-enhancing experience.


My mother has been hinting about another scarf / shawlette being a good Christmas present, and confessed to wishing for a burgundy Haruni, when I asked her outright. So the blue Hitchhiker I was knitting for her was put on hold – she is my mum, after all – and I set out to make a red lace shawl.
Phase 1: some dyeing experiments to see if I could get a wine red. So on Tuesday, I set several dyestuffs up for soaking overnight: madder, brazilwood and logwood. With madder, I usually get an orangey red; brazilwood yields pink, and logwood abounds with blue or purple depending on the mordant. So some mix of those dyes might get me a burgundy.

And I made six 25 gram sampler skeins from the lovely, soft undyed Arwetta Classic sock yarn (80% merino, 20% nylon) to play with before getting into the real thing. I was going to mordant three with alum and three with copper and dye them two by two to compare the results.
I left everything to soak overnight and came back to it Wednesday morning – and found rust stains at the bottom of the pot for copper mordanting. Rust, as in iron oxide. Somehow, I had managed to not only not read on the jar, but to measure out, and stir while dissolving in the pot, pale green iron vitriol instead of bright blue copper sulphate without noticing. Brilliant.
Well, flectere necesse est, as they say, and nobody got hurt in the process. I adjusted my plans accordingly and went ahead.

There is a reason why treating fibre with iron is called ‘saddening’: the colours all become darker and greyer. 
Compare brazilwood on alum versus iron in the two middle skeins: pink and purplish grey.

These pictures are all of the newly dyed, still wet yarn hanging outside to drip.

Anyway, for the burgundy shawl I chose the madder-brazilwood-logwood combination with lots of madder, some brazilwood and just a bit of logwood to pull the colour from the orange towards the purple. 
I am quite pleased with the result, even though it may be a stretch to call it a wine red – it would be a very new wine, in that case!

So, that’s it for this week.
Have a great coming week, and I will look forward to chatting to you again soon. Until then:
Happy knitting!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Knitting My Day Away

Hello, everybody, and welcome again to the Apple Basket!
I hope you are well and enjoying the late autumn weather – or spring, if you are so situated; and if you happen to be somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard I do hope that you are not suffering too much from the aftermath of Sandy.

It has been a very long time, I know; and I do apologise about that. I have missed chatting to you all ... I managed to pick up some English infection when my eldest son, Andreas, and I went to Nottingham two weeks ago, and my brain hasn’t quite been up to scratch.

Hence the title of this (or rather, these) week’s goings-on: what can you do when feeling under the weather, and the actual outside weather is not very accommodating? Yes, of course: knit. Danish readers, and maybe others, will recognise the provenance of the title: in the early 90’s, a heavy rock band named initially Disneyland After Dark and soon after that, unsurprisingly, D.A.D. (yes, they were told to ‘cease and desist’ and all that), put out a song with the uplifting and encouraging refrain ‘I’m sleeping my day away’.
Well, I don’t generally do that, even when ill, and not only because I have three kids around the house. But some days you just do what is necessary to keep the wheels turning, and the rest of day is spent waiting for the energy to come back. And how better to spend waiting time than with knitting?

The Knitting:

I can’t talk as much as I would like about my knitting right now, since most of it is Christmas knitting ... Suffice it to say that I am working on items from The List that I put together a few weeks back; so far, I’ve made four hats, two pairs of mittens and started the third, and I’ve started one of the shawlettes and the socks for my Dad. And something else.
I am making notes to give a full report on it all after Christmas – with pictures. So watch this space!
Farmer McGregor socks from Socktopus by Alice Yu

I love all this knitting for others: considering the best pattern and colour for a particular person, looking forward to giving the gift and helping people around me keep warm. It makes me feel all warm & fuzzy – and also has me fantasising about all the things I want to knit for ME afterwards ... see, I am not a saint. I want stuff, too; but I don’t want to only knit for myself. I guess the best thing for me is to find a balance between ‘selfish’ knitting and knitting for loved ones, with a bit of charity knitting thrown into the mix as well.

Sometimes the colours in active projects seem to ‘pool’: last week, I was working on a pair of mittens, a hat, the Bowtie socks for Thomas and a little owl. All in blue, for some reason.

I’m enjoying the interplay of colour in several of my hand dyed yarns when they get together at random – because as usual, I have at least three projects literally within reach, and they seem to huddle for breaks when they are not working.

And, as I may have mentioned before, plant dyes almost always go well together; of course, various blues made with logwood on copper will go together, being shades of the same basic colour, but all of the colours mix & match, so to speak. Their secret is that, unlike chemical dyes which consist of one colour only, plant dyes are really in themselves a mixture of shades and tones. When seen under a microscope, the orangey red of madder contains yellow, brown, and even blue, as well; and the same goes for other natural dyestuffs. So when they are put together, the subtleties inherent in each main colour are brought out by the others.
Which is why this accidental piling up of a sock, a shawl and a skirt looks so appealing:

You may have noticed last week that I put up a post in Danish, for once: at last month’s Sunday knitting café, I was working on my Carnaby skirt to finish it before going to England (more on that in a bit), and several of the ladies there admired it and asked about the pattern. So, I said I would translate it – trust me to take on a project on a whim. I e-mailed the designer to get her consent, got it, and dug into it. It did get put on hold for about a week surrounding the weekend away, but I came back to it and finished it last week. So that’s that.

Working with someone else’s pattern has been quite interesting; I write up my own patterns in both Danish and English – or mostly, I have notes-to-self in Danish and write the full pattern in English for Ravelry. And since a Danish Raveller asked about a pattern in Danish, I have been (slowly) working on writing the proper pattern in Danish to put up as well. No reason not to, really.

About the Carnaby skirt itself: well, I did mention that I wanted to wear it during the weekend in Nottingham – so, I knitted away, ran out of blue yarn (my calculation guess about the amount needed, when I was using a heavier yarn than the pattern calls for, was apparently somewhat off ...) and chose a walnut brown for the buttonhole band. I was aiming for a uniform-trouser-with-leather-trimmings kind of look, embellished with goldlike buttons. 

I finished the skirt on the Thursday evening – and decided that I had better try it on before actually closing my suitcase and setting off. Good thing I did: the waist edging was way too loose, and the skirt itself seemed scratchy. I knew that it isn’t the softest yarn, the ridge across my left forefinger had told me that during the knitting, but I hadn’t foreseen actual scratchiness. Quick rethinking of the packing ... and the skirt was left to think about its behaviour for a few days; which turned into nearly two weeks.
Last week, I finally picked up the thing again – and decided that I didn’t really like the blue and the brown together. Somehow, it was a bit too harsh for me. The colours in themselves worked well, being plant dyes and all, and of the same level of warmth; but I wasn’t happy. 

So, I chose a purple yarn, frogged the edgings and re-knit them; this time, I knit a waistband as well, with two buttons. Nice and snug. And purple, which always makes me happy. This purple is made with logwood, as is the blue, so they are closely related and make for a much more relaxed colour scheme.

Also, only the top button on the skirt itself opens; the others are sewn into both layers of fabric. The scratchiness seems less offensive now, somehow, and barely noticeable; maybe I was just surprised at first.

Speaking of plant dyes: I am finally ready to do the experiments for the burgundy red that I had planned on doing two weeks ago. This stupid airway infection stole my energy and pretty much kept me indoors for a while; but I’m better now. I have plans ... and yarn soaking to be ready for mordants.
You may remember that my Mum more or less requested a second Haruni shawl, this time in burgundy, for Christmas. Well, she is not getting a Haruni – not that I don’t like the pattern or anything, I just want to knit something new. So I found a similar shawl, the Cassandra, and if I can make the colour work out, I will knit it from hand-dyed yarn. Otherwise, I’m going shopping.
And the season for outdoor – or practically outdoor – dyeing is coming to an end; my dye studio (sounds grand, doesn’t it?) is in the bike shed, because I don’t want the chemicals and, frankly, the mess, in my kitchen. So I have a very nicely ventilated workspace, which is important, but it is also not heated in any way, and the temperatures outside are creeping downwards. We have had a touch of frost some nights ago, and the air smells of winter. So, now is the time, if I want to get any dyeing done in the foreseeable future.


Now, I know I promised you pictures from Nottingham, and you will get them – later this week. For now, I’ll just say that we had a great trip, I learned a lot, and we are going again next year.

Oh, and if you are at all a Bond fan – or a Daniel Craig fan – and you haven’t yet seen Skyfall: go, go, go! We went the weekend before last, all four of us, for once, and it is brilliant.
I even managed to start a hat! 
One of the Christmas hats, a ribbed and cabled beanie in Aran weight wool, called Nottingham; I made one for my cousin while actually in Nottingham, and decided to make another one for a friend, since it is a good pattern and a very nice hat. I think so, anyway, let’s hope the recipients agree :o) 
This second one is done with hand-dyed yarn, logwood blue.

So, that’s it for now; I will go cut up some madder root now and soak it – and I will be back in a few days’ time!
Have a very good week, and
Happy knitting!