Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Universe of Knitting

Today, it’s all about knitting, as promised.

Some weeks back, I fell into a Ravelry thread about shawls: someone was wondering when and how to wear all these pretty, lacy shawls that abound on the site. And of course, hundreds of helpful knitters and crocheters answered the query, posting pictures of different ways to wear shawls and linking to patterns. Needless to say, I found several shawls that I just HAD TO knit! Never mind that I had never done something called ‘Estonian lace’ before or that I’m really not that familiar with beading – I had to knit all of these shawls.

I also posted about my own shawls and was prompted to write up my notes in English for a woollen shawl done in one of my favourite yarns, the multi-coloured Kauni Effektgarn.  It is a free download on Ravelry.

After a bit of cooling down and thinking about it, I realised that maybe I do not need 11 shawls to wear apart from those I have already, and the frantic queuing and planning came to a rest. I prioritised – yes, I am capable of rational thinking, even when it comes to my knitting desires – and made a few realistic plans.

From the shawl thread, I had learned of at least one new concept: the wedding shawl. It seems to be common to American knitters, but is not really something you see around these parts. But who cares – if the trend isn’t there, you can create it, right? And I am actually going to a wedding this summer, on the 24th July. A good friend of mine is - finally! - marrying her Dutch boyfriend, which is lovely.
So I chose one of the pretty lace shawl patterns for a wedding shawl, ordered the yarn and was set to go.
Note the prioritising here: the knitted shawl comes first, then I’ll find a dress to match. It does make sense, though – I can find a dress the day before the wedding, if need be, but knitting a lace shawl (or anything else) takes time. So this is the first WIP (Work In Progress) to show you:

The pattern is a free Ravelry download: Regrowth
And it WILL be finished in time for the wedding!

Now, just because I am not going to knit myself 11 shawls, I can still knit them ...

This is technically not something I am working on right now, but it fits in with the theme: I persuaded my mum that she wanted a Haruni for her birthday – not only because I wanted to knit the pattern, I primarily wanted to knit something nice for my mum. I do like knitting for other people; and the Haruni seemed appropriate for several reasons.
It is not very big, and my mum is petite; the word haruni means grandmother in Quenya, Tolkien’s Elven language, and my mum is a grandmother. Perfect, right? 
I knitted it in 4 days, and she is very happy with it. 

I already showed you my Bifrost baby blanket last week; it is almost done now, apart from the last of the cast off. This is another shawl knitting trick: shawls can become blankets. The brilliant thing – one of them – about shawls is that they are so versatile, and because they are accessories and do not need to fit a body, they can be done in a variety of yarns and gauges and sizes. Substitute the lace weight for a sport weight, and voila! you have a blanket. Do a garter edging instead of the frilly picot, and the whole expression changes. Use a multi-coloured yarn, and it just pops.
The pattern is, as mentioned, the Vortex shawl , another free Ravelry download (I'm quite a fan of those).

And of course there is a point to the rainbow yarn and the name of the blanket: the baby in question has two sets of parents, one male couple and one female couple. So, a rainbow blanket for a rainbow baby. And as you may know, Bifrost is the rainbow in Norse mythology, the bridge between Midgard / Middle Earth and Asgard, the home of the gods. Everything comes together.

There is a project on my needles that I can’t tell you about right now, because it’s a gift. It’s coming along very nicely, I am happy with it, as I hope the recipient(s) will be.

I have two socks on my needles – two different socks, not two-at-a-time socks – that are taken out once in a while when I’m not doing anything else, or for a lightweight travelling project.

The Wavy red socks are a travelling project: I started them – oh dear, two months ago. Oops. Well, never mind, they’ll be done when they are done.

The Bibliophile socks are plain stocking stitch socks, a.k.a. vanilla socks, started because I needed something simple to knit while reading. And the Estonian lace does NOT fit that description. So I started the socks, toe up, also to try out the toe up gusset heel for the Watson socks in the Knit 1 Geek 2 Watson-along that I wanted – and still want – to join. But then I started the Bifrost blanket, with stocking stitch in the round, every other row plain knitting, and a deadline, so the socks were put to one side. Not forgotten, though, I do like the way the colours spiral :o)

Let’s see, what else? Oh, the Charm. Well, this is going to be a tee, with elbow length or ¾-length sleeves, I’m not quite sure yet. I’ve made the band to go around the bottom of it, at the hip, I think, and am ready to pick up stitches and knit up the body. It’s been put to side somewhat because of the deadline projects and because I’m still debating how much stitch patterning I want to do. I’m mainly thinking a few braided cables and a bit of eyelets. I’ll get back to you on that, when I get round to it.

Now, you may think that I have quite enough to contend with for the next 4 weeks, what with thousands of stitches in the wedding shawl, multiple gifts, socks and a tee. But you don’t know me yet ...

Several years ago, my sister and her then boyfriend, now husband, went to Goa on vacation, the lucky bastards, and brought me back a beautiful, dark purple silk sari. Absolutely gorgeous. I admired it – and put it in a drawer. Seriously, how often do you wear a sari? At least, when you’re a blond, Nordic, (then) rotund, not-quite-young female (of course, if you were a male, it might be even less)? Happily, some time later a wedding was announced, and I had a use for the sari, or rather, the many metres of purple silk with embroidered borders. I made a top & skirt to wear at my sister’s wedding.
I haven’t worn it since, but now that I’m going to another wedding, I could just maybe see how well the skirt fits, maybe tweak it a bit – and knit a pretty, lacy, strappy top to go with it. I’ve got some fingering weight organic cotton in white, so a purple skirt, white top, and purple shawl could be nice.

And now that we’re into the planned knitting, I want to make a couple more gifts that I will tell you about later.
And I did mention the Watson socks, didn’t I? They are inspired by Watson’s Aran sweater in the BBC series Sherlock – that I haven’t watched yet, but the dvd’s are sitting on my shelf, waiting. The socks will be for Victor, my youngest son (I haven’t even mentioned my kids before, how selfish am I?). He’s 13 (almost 14), and his feet are man-sized.
And my sweet niece Laura will be 3 in August; she is reared on designer hand knits, so of course I’ll be making something for her. I’ve got the yarn for that – see, I’m even thinking about stash-downing :o)

Oh, and 27th July is the date for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, and so the mass cast-on for The Crafting Games Formerly Known As The Ravelympics – now renamed! The new name is, I’m happy to say, the one I voted for:

The Ravellenic Games

I like this name, because it plays upon the Pan-Hellenic Games, that is the all-inclusive games; also because I did want to keep the connection to the Hellenic origins of games (I know, that must be a surprise!).
For these games, I have joined Team TARDIS and will be knitting Doctor Who-inspired items. I have three projects planned, all TARDIS-related. But those I will tell you about later, when it’s nearer the time.

I have, on purpose, not mentioned my Ravelry queue or what’s in it; that will just have to wait.
Providing, of course, I haven’t by that time suffered a complete overload melt-down and have been carted away by the nice men in white coats to a safe place with no pointy sticks ...

Happy knitting!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Names for Games

This week, it's all about fun & games - or rather, Games and something not very funny.

Apple of the Week:

Since last week, there has been a certain amount of – let’s say, kerfuffle – over the use of names for certain events and possible infringements of rights. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it; if you’re on Ravelry, you know already, and if you’re not ... well, you probably don’t care.

Putting it shortly: the USOC (rhymes with ‘you suck’) had an intern, a law student, write a letter to the amazing, brilliant, clever staff at Ravelry (no, they’re not paying me, I mean it!), claiming that the use of the name Ravelympics for the knitting-and-much-more-crafting-event that coincides with the sports event that takes place every 4 years, might be an infringement of trademark rules & regulations, because the word Olympics is trademarked for the specific sports event. (And everybody seeing the name Ravelympics will confuse it with Olympics, because people are stupid – or something like that, I don’t know.) That may be so. I speak several languages, but legalese is not one of them.

The BIG issue with this was that the letter said: ‘We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.’

No surprise, everybody was outraged and felt that this wording in itself is disrespectful. And it is: crafting takes years of dedicated practice to produce beautiful, unique results. Any knitter/crocheter/spinner/dyer/&c constantly educates her or himself, seeks out new challenges, practices, invents, and spends hours of their life in an ongoing pursuit of their art.
I do not in any way want to denigrate or belittle the dedication and hard work of athletes, Olympic or otherwise. I am a runner – on a definitely non-Olympic scale – and I know (some of) what it takes. And the point is not to say that this is better than that or vice versa.

The event formerly known as the Ravelympics – there is a poll today for the new name! – was created to celebrate the sports event, to play along, as it were. The names of the crafting events, that so got the USOC intern’s panties in a twist are fun, tongue-in-cheek references to the sports events. Running a marathon is a big job: knitting or crocheting an afghan is a big job. Hence ‘Afghan Marathon’. That’s all there is to it.

That said, there are things I don’t get. For one, how can a WORD be trademarked – unless, of course, you made it up? Like, for instance, a compound word, like, say, Ravel-ympics?
Olympic is an adjective derived from Olympos / Olympus, the name of a certain mountain in Greece, where the gods were believed to live, because the mountain is so tall. Other mountains around the world are named after this, including the Olympic Mountains in Washington – the USOC is, by the way, also trying to make companies, restaurants and others in those parts change their names ... But they were there first!
It reminds me of the time when the fast food chain McDonald’s tried to sue an Irish pub in Ireland for being called McDonald’s – and the owners pulled out the registration documents to show that the pub had been in their family before the US even existed.

On the plains below the mountain of the gods was a city, Olympia, and in 776 BCE the first official games were held there in honour of the king of the gods and the god of kings, Zeus.
Later, three other games were initiated: the Isthmian in Korinth (by the isthmus), the Pythian in Delfi, and the Panathenean in Athens. Each of these games was held every four years, alternating so that the Hellenes could travel to games every year, if they so wished (and were able to).
The Olympic Games became the most famous, so much so that the years were counted by them: an Olympiad is the 4-year timespan between two events, and Rome was built not in 753 BCE, as we would say (well, obviously not), but in the 3rd year of the 6th Olympiad.
The games were shut down in the 390’s CE, when Christianity became the only legal religion of the Roman Empire (there’s another story for another day): a self-respecting Christian society can’t have naked people running around in honour of Zeus, now, can they?

We have literary evidence of games from way before the (original) Olympics. The Iliad (by Homer, or not, that is a question for another time) was probably written in the 8th century BCE, around the time of the first Olympic Games, but the story or stories in it are much older, dating back at least to around 1200 BCE, when the city of Troy / Ilion was sacked and destroyed.
The most famous hero of the Iliad, Akhilles, had a companion named Patroklos (and no, Patroklos was NOT Akhilles’ cousin). Patroklos dies in the fighting, sad story, and in book 23 of the Iliad, his funeral is celebrated with games. The sports events, both here and in the later games are clearly of military origin: running, throwing heavy and/or sharp objects, boxing/wrestling, chariot driving &c.

The reason for having sports and games at a funeral is usually interpreted somewhere along these lines:
To the ancient Greeks, there was no reward for dying, young or otherwise: the afterlife takes place – or unplace – in Hades, a realm of shadows and twilight, where you lose your memories and identity. No fun at all. So obviously, the dead man is envious of the living, particularly if he has died too soon, while he was still young. And unhappy dead people tend to haunt the living, which can make their life quite unpleasant.
Now, since the games are a re-enactment of various ways of fighting, they are symbolic of war, which means that the winner of the contest equals the survivor, while the losers are symbolically dead – there are no silver medals here. Thus, the dead man can see that he is not the only one to die, and be less envious and vengeful. Or so we hope ...

Of course, on a more practical and everyday scale, sports is a good way to keep in shape. In later times, when the democratic Athens owned her citizens, it was every man’s duty to keep fit and ready for fighting in the next battle.

On the question of nudity: the story goes that a girl snuck in to the games – normally, women weren’t even allowed to watch – and even won a race. The male contestants were furious, and so the rule of nudity was imposed. It’s kinda hard to disguise your biological gender without any clothes on.
Personally, I think it was as much about the aesthetics. The Hellenic approach to anything incorporates the idea of beauty – and, hey, we’re talking olive-skinned athletes here ...

I have a lot of knitting to tell you about, but not today. Kudos to you, if you have stayed with me so far :o) There will be knitting in a day or two, I promise. With pictures.

Thanks for stopping by; I hope to see you again soon.
Happy knitting!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Midsummer Day's Introduction

Welcome to the first of hopefully many talks about knitting, books, running, mythology and other interesting things that go on in life. This week, I'll show you what I'm knitting right now and  tell you a bit about Midsummer (as you probably have already guessed from the title).

First, The Knitting:
I am working on a woollen baby blanket for some good friends of mine, who are expecting. The pattern is Vortex Shawl by Kristina McCurley; it can be found on Ravelry for free.
This is a lovely knit: quick and easy to do, but interesting - unless you're prone to vertigo, I suppose. It is stocking stitch, worked in the round, with yarnover increases that form a vortex or spiral. I love it, I think it's beautiful, and it is simple enough that I can knit it while I read - when I can get the book to lie flat.
And the yarn is gorgeous, too: Kauni Effektgarn, colourway EQ. That is the rainbow coloured one. I have a shawl in that yarn and sometimes wonder why I haven't made tons of stuff in this yarn - but then, there really is a limit to how many rainbow coloured garments you need.

When I'm not reading, I'm knitting another shawl, this time a lace shawl for myself: Regrowth by Toby McNutt, also a free Ravelry download. This is going to be big, but light, in Semilla Fino from BC Garn.

Both of these knits are on KnitPro interchangeable circulars, with cubic needles. I discovered them only recently, and I love them!

Apple of the Week:

Tonight at 23:09 UT, the Sun peaks in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the time of the Summer Solstice.
A time of light, of celebration and lamentation; here in the North, a time of daylight (almost) around the clock. We celebrate the sunlight and warmth, that is so necessary for life, and at the same time know that the Sun is turning away from us, that even though the weather will be warmer, the corn in the fields and the fruit on the trees will grow and ripen - even so, darkness and winter is nearing.

In ancient calendars, the summer solstice was regarded as the middle of summer and the night as a time for revelry and magic, as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The name of the official midsummer day in the Western, Christianized calendar, is John, from John the Baptist. The names John and the Danish version Hans (and lots more) both derive from Johannes, the Latin form of the Hebrew name Yokhanaan or Yehokhanan meaning ‘Yahwe is gracious’. According to Luke’s gospel, John the Baptist was 6 months older than Jesus, which would put his birthday on or around 24th June.

The Danish celebrations take place on the eve of St. Johns’ Day, Sankt Hans aften on 23rd June. Until 1770, it was a national holiday; this year, we can be happy it’s on a Saturday :o)
The main feature of the festivities are big bonfires, traditionally to ward off evil.
It is all very jolly (a bit less so, of course, when it rains), people bring food and drink, local politicians hold speeches, we all sing together – and some of the ancient fertility rites associated with summer festivals probably also take place: couples sneaking off behind some bushes to do whatever it is young couples do when they’re alone.

The bonfires are traditionally set on a beach, or, if a beach is not available, by or even on a lake (on a raft). These traditions go way back in time to before anybody in these parts had even heard of St. John or of baptism, to the times when Midsummer was what it was all about.
A beach is the border between land and sea, between known and unknown, between home and away; and as such provides a naturally liminal setting for placing a guard against evil forces, be it enemy invaders on ships or spirits on the wind.
Fire is well known to chase away wild animals and may therefore also be thought to protect against more disembodied predators, again spirits or even trolls.

Midsummer is an auspicious time to gather herbs for healing (practically and symbolically); the wise men & women of old would use this day to gather what they needed for the coming winter.
Maybe that is why, in the 1920’s, the Sankt Hans bonfires saw the addition of an effigy: a witch to be burnt. It is said that the burning of the doll, usually clad in a dress and a headscarf like an old woman, will make the witch fly away to Brocken (Bloksbjerg) in Harzen, Germany. Thus evil is warded off. The Midsummer Song by Holger Drachmann speaks of ‘a witch in every town and trolls in every parish’ to be kept away by bonfires of joy.

I’m all for warding off evil and celebrating summer and all that, and picnics on the beach with bonfires and singing – but celebrating the burning of wise women and healers? Not so much. It seems to me that it makes light of what really was persecution of individuals who stood on the edge of or outside the community, who were socially and physically vulnerable and at the same time feared because of their knowledge and powers, real or perceived.
In our present day and age, we should not fear or condemn those who know more than most, who push the boundaries of science and open up vistas of knowledge for all of us. Exploration into remote corners of the Earth, the ocean depths and outer space can and do bring new and wonderful techniques and insights that benefit the advancement of health & happiness all round, often in unexpected ways or areas. The search for knowledge ought to be always celebrated and encouraged.

Well, that's all for this week. Thank you for stopping by, I hope to see you again soon.
Happy knitting!