Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

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!

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