Hello, everybody, and welcome once again! Come on in, have a seat and a drink of your choice.
This week, I recommend the cider: cool and fresh for a hot day, if you’re having one of those, or mulled to keep that autumnal chill at bay. I know, it’s only August, but the mornings here are definitely cooler than they used to be, wet and foggy, though we are having some balmy days of sunshine and only a few showers. The air is beginning to smell like autumn is approaching ... and I have my woollen socks on.
So, how have you been? Well, I hope, and looking forward to either autumn or spring, depending on your hemispherical persuasion. Life here is finding a routine with the boys in school and me doing what I call work these days. And knitting, of course.
The Apple of the Week this time is all about – apples.
It is late summer now, and the earlier apples are ready for picking; some have been for a while. Already a whole month ago, Victor and I picked apples for his birthday cake.
And for the next couple of months, more apples will ripen and fall to the ground, releasing sweetness when they are crushed underfoot or in a lawn mower, or be picked and used for cakes, desserts, cider, savoury dishes, decoration – or simply for munching. Apples are intrinsic to the feel and smell of autumn in northern temperate areas: the crispness in the air, the first cool mornings, are accompanied by the red fruits hanging from trees.
A lot of traditional Christmas foods contain apples: many Danish families have duck for Christmas dinner, in which the filling consists of apples and prunes; several variations of pork, always a popular meat around these parts, come with apples in some form; and the Waldorf salad has apples, as well.
The popularity of apples in Nordic winter foods is, of course, based on the fact that apples thrive in temperate climates and keep well when stored coolly. Some types of apples even benefit from a touch of frost. So from the earliest of times, people have been able to gather apples all through autumn and keep them through the winter, when everything else is frozen. They can be dried in slices over a wood fire and munched like that, or they can add rare sweetness to porridges and stews of meat and cabbage.
Not surprising, then, that apples play an important part in ancient myths and folklore.
Apples in mythology
We all know of the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden; this is traditionally portrayed as an apple. The text only defines the forbidden fruit as a tree-fruit, though; and given the Middle Eastern setting of the story, it is much more likely to have been a fig or a peach. But never mind about that – in this context, we can be happy to call it an apple. Because the forbidden knowledge that the eating of the fruit imparted to these first humans was the knowledge of sexuality, and apples in many mythologies are symbols of fertility.
It probably didn’t hinder the identification, either, that the words in Latin for ‘apple’ and ‘bad / evil’ are similar – though by no means the same: apple is mālus with a long a, while bad is mălus with a short a.
Apple trees spring up everywhere, seemingly in random places and of their own accord; they grow and bear fruits with many uses, fruit that sustain people through darkness and cold: a red apple in the dead of winter is a sign that world is not dead, even though it may be buried under the snow for now.
The Norse goddess Ydun (or Ydunn, or Idun, or Idunn: there are several ways to spell this) guards the apples of longevity and youth that all the gods need to eat once a year. The apple has a connection to both the Vanir, the fertility gods Frej and Freja; and possibly to a goddess of the Underworld, making the apple the fruit of the dead.
Again, the apple is connected to life & death, sexuality and mortality.
In Greek mythology, we have the golden apples on the tree that the Hesperides, the daughters of the Evening, guard in the westernmost part of the world; and golden apples are used to lure and distract people on several occasions.
The goddess of strife, Eris, is miffed at not being invited to the wedding of king Peleus and the sea goddess Thetis (later parents of Achilles) and, much like the thirteenth godmother at Sleeping Beauty’s christening, decides to ruin the party. She lets a golden apple on which is inscribed the words HE KALLISTE, ‘to the most beautiful’ (in feminine form), roll onto the floor. The goddesses immediately turn into America’s Next Top Model candidates, and Zeus wisely decides to not be the judge, but get a mortal to do it. They locate a prince, Paris from Troy, who chooses Aphrodite in return for the lovely Helena, queen of Sparta. Aphrodite is not bothered by the fact that the lady is married; but her husband is, and thus begins the Trojan War ...
And the apple becomes one of the symbols of Aphrodite and love: erotic love, as in sexual attraction and desire, that is; Eros is the love-child (sorry about that) of Aphrodite and Ares, the war demon. Once again, we have the connection between apples, sex, and death.
No coincidence, either, that the evil queen in Snow White chooses an apple to poison her stepdaughter with, the apple being the symbol of youth and fertility and therefore beauty and desirability: that the young woman should die by a sign of the very traits that the older woman begrudges her, is the ultimate irony.
So, what shall we make of the saying ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’? In the case of Doctor Who, that may not be what we want; on the other hand, if apples keep you young and strong and sexy, it might be an idea – as long as you make sure it isn’t poisoned.
I mentioned last week the post-Ravellenic knitalong; in the meantime, I finished the cowl. Several knitters, including myself, found that the suggested needle size, 5 mm / US 8, made for a very loose gauge, and changed down. I went so far as a size 3 mm / US 2½, but then my yarn is a bit lighter than what the pattern calls for.
I did only 7 pattern repeats instead of 8, because I wanted it to fit snugly. And I put in buttonholes on the final garter edge. The buttons with the snakes on them remind me of the Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail to symbolise the wheel of time – which goes rather well with the whole time-travelling theme, I think.
Anyway, when the cowl was done and sitting there all soft on my neck, I still had 22 grams of yarn left out of the original 50. It is a light fingering weight tussah silk from BC Garn; you can see the blue, green and purple tweed flecks in the photo. This was the one that somehow slipped into my virtual shopping basket, when I was buying Christmas presents last year. Oops.
My sister has made a pair of fingerless mitts and a Baktus scarf from her skein, so I thought: Tardis mitts! I could make a pair of fingerless mitts to go with the cowl. So I cast on, weighing the yarn several times to make sure I didn’t use more than half for the first mitt. They are worked in the round, so I had to modify the pattern a bit. I’m writing it up, and I’ll put it up on Ravelry when I’ve finished the mitts – just to make sure the instructions are followable.
As for the other knitalong project, the Damson is coming along nicely. I rather quickly decided to make a lace edging from one of the modifications put up on Ravelry; after the garter body of the shawl, something had to happen. So, beaded lace it is.
This is my second one-skein shawlette, the first being the Haruni I made for my mum in June; for quick gift knits, both are good, though I personally prefer the Haruni in terms of interesting knitting.
One important criterion for choosing the yarn for the Damson was that I had to have enough of it for one of the four colours in the Creekbed scarf, as well. The Damson is for my cousin’s wife, and the Creekbed for my cousin; and though I’m not into the matching his & hers type of dressing or accessorising, this has a rather discreet matching effect. Not surprisingly, given my predilection for purples, I had about a skein and a half of the purple Shetland wool, a fingering weight, again from BC Garn (they are not paying me for this, I promise!); and I found several possible combinations for the Creekbed. I ended up with purple, blue, green, and yellow; many years ago (well, 14), I made a jumper while expecting my third child, who turned out to be Victor, in those colours. I haven’t got the jumper (or sweater, if you’re American) anymore, but I can still see it in my mind’s eye. The colour combination was intended to be gender neutral with just a hint of the daring – not that purple on a man can shock anybody these days, which is fine.
And then I changed my mind, just a bit, so the scarf will be purple, blue, green, and grey instead of yellow. Stuff happens.
I actually already cast on for the Creekbed; this Sunday, I went to check out a new local crafting group, and I wanted to bring something simple that didn’t require looking at a pattern or fiddling with beads. Casting on 441 stitches and maybe knitting a few rows seemed doable while chatting.
And it was; I spent a lot of time counting and re-counting, though, as I kept getting distracted and losing my place. But in the end, all of the stitches were cast on, I knit a few rows and counted again, when I got home. Still 441 stitches.
The predominant age range in this group is somewhat on the granny side, including the obligatory little old lady with dyed hair and pastel coloured acrylic yarn on plastic needles. Even though the hair on this one is black, not blue ...
There are a handful of women – no men at all – around my age and a couple even younger. Not that I count myself as young, but I am nowhere near granny age, mind you! And knitting in company is nice for a change; my mum knits on occasion, my sister knits, a friend of my parents is now my knitting buddy – but that’s about it. Most of my knitting ‘friends’ are scattered around the world, and I only ‘meet’ them on Ravelry or listen to their podcasts. So I’ll be going along to the group again next month.
I had intended to tell you about more knitting podcasts, but that will have to wait; I am re-embarking on a dyeing adventure. The sun is shining, the fresh air is beckoning me outside – my workshop is in the bike shed – and there is wool yarn to be soaked and treated and dyed.
Much more about that next time; and about the craft exhibition this Saturday, and a movie, and ... some knitting, I suppose :o)
But for now, have a good weekend! Enjoy the weather, keep happy & healthy, stay crafty :o)