Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year!

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! Yes, I am back, and I do hope that you are, too.
It has been a while, I know, and I am sorry about that. Coming up to Christmas, I had so much to do that I felt unable to take time off knitting to write ... bad planning. I did finish the last present around noon on the 24th, just in time to wrap it before Christmas Eve – which is the time, as you may know, that is celebrated in Denmark.

Then, of course, Christmas happened – and I got the flu; so between that and visiting family near and far, I was pretty much fully occupied. I did start on an essay about the Winter Solstice; but that will have to keep. Since the world didn’t end this time around, either, I expect to get another chance to share my wisdom (!) on that topic.
But now the gift frenzy and the festivities are all over, the boys are back in school, and I have only a cough left to remind me of my mortality, so it is time for the first Apple of this year, and a substantial overview of The Knitting.

The Apple of the Week:
So, a new year has begun – but why now? Using the span of a year as a measurement of time makes sense, whether it is regarded as a whole cycle of seasons or a whole cycle of the Earth around our Sun. Different seasons present different opportunities and challenges to Stone Age hunters as well as to farmers; it seems obvious to note the return of a set of similar conditions. But how does one decide when to mark the beginning of a new year?

Several ancient calendar systems have chosen springtime as the Beginning: this is when the world wakes up from her winter sleep; the ground thaws, plants grow new leaves, birds mate, and life generally becomes easier and more pleasant – for a while, at least. It is time for the farmer to sow, for the sailor to put out to sea without the threat of winter storms, for the armies to leave their winter shelters and march again.
A lot more can be said about this particular choice of timing for the new year’s beginning, and I will do that in a few months, when the time is right.

In the Celtic calendar, the year ends on Halloween, when the doors between this world and the next are open, and the dead walk among us. The new year begins after a not-day, on what in our modern calendar would be the 2nd November.
The Jewish calendar lets the New Year begin in the autumn, around harvest time; and for the Chinese, the year changes in January or February. In some desert regions, the new year begins when the rains come.
Practically every time of the year is regarded as a starting-point by one culture or another, and none can be said to be more or less right than any.

The ancient Roman calendar is the basis for the Gregorian one that we use; the names of the months are mostly the same, and the system of 12 months with roughly 30 days in each is familiar, as well.

But: the original calendar, allegedly designed by Romulus himself, featured 10 months from March to December; the first four months were (more or less) named after Roman gods. So:
Martius           after Mars, god of war and fertility
Aprilis              may mean ‘opening’
Maius               after Maia, the mother of Mercurius (Hermes in Greek)
Junius              after Juno, the queen of the gods
After those, they gave up; the following months only had numbers: Quintilis, Sextilis, Septembris, Octobris, Novembris, Decembris, aka the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth. Imaginative, eh?
We recognise most of these names, of course; those that have stayed with us. Quintilis was renamed Julius after Julius Caesar, since that was his birth month; and later, the emperor Augustus wanted his own month, too.

These 10 original months consisted of about 30 days each – which leaves a gap in the year. The time of winter had no name; this was a dead period. The problem was soon remedied, though, by the second Roman king, Numa Pompilius; he named two more months at the end of the year, Januarius and Februarius. These were named after the two-headed god Janus, who gazes into both past and future; and the purification ritual februum, held at year’s end.

There was on several occasions some fiddling about with the number of days in each month, and every time someone came up short, they stole the missing days from the last month of the year – which February has never really recovered from.

Anyway, March was still the first month of the year, in keeping with the Greek and Babylonian calendar systems which the Roman calendar was based on, and the people celebrated New Year in the spring. But during the Republic (509 – 44 BCE), the magisterial year came to begin on the 1st of January; and so, when Julius Caesar reformed the calendar during his third consulship in 46 BCE, he kept this date as the beginning of the new year.

It may seem odd to have several different beginnings of the year; but for farmers and country people in general, the seasons of the soil were the most significant, while the magistrates in the city saw to their own affairs. It may be compared with the academic year nowadays, which begins after the summer holidays in August or September; talking to a child of school age (or, indeed, a teacher!), ‘next year’ can mean equally the next year in the calendar or the next level of school.
The 1st of January did not become the official New Year’s day in Europe until the 17th century, by which time it had acquired a new layer of meaning: the circumcision day of the child Jesus, since a Jewish boy is circumcised on the eighth day after his birth.
Incidentally, the Church has her own day for beginning the year: the first of the four advent Sundays, placing it in late November or, occasionally, very early December (this time around on the 2nd December 2012).

Well, that’s the date taken care of, but what about the year? I have already seen talk about 2013 being an ‘unlucky’ year – presumably because of the 13 in it – so why does this year have that number? Silly question, I hear you cry: we are counting since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, whether we believe him to be the Christ or not. What’s funny, though, is that the king Herod who ordered the slaughter of the babies to get rid of this one perceived threat to his rule, died in 4 BCE. So Jesus was born not later than that; this discrepancy was noted centuries ago but does not seem to be fixable.
Other traditions count from other starting points and come up with wildly varying numbers; so let’s not fret about the number 2013. We could choose to note, instead, that this is the first year since 1987 that has four different digits.

So there you have it – the date and the year may be random, but I wish you a Happy New Year all the same :o)

The turning of the year is traditionally the time to take stock, to do like Janus and regard the past and the future at the same time. How did you fare in the past year, did you accomplish what you set out to do? And what about the coming year: which goals and wishes do you have set up for yourself?
These considerations can of course be done at any time, and should probably be addressed more than once during the course of a year to make sure that you are still on the right path towards your goals.
The yearly stock-taking, however, is a sound undertaking, and you can pick any time of the year to do it: you could pick your birthday, your own personal new year’s day; or coming back from the summer break to a new academic year. 31st December / 1st January is the obvious point, supported by the media, by the expectations of people around you, by the changing of the date to be written itself.

Whenever you choose to do it, make sure that you set yourself reasonable goals. The public view of January seems to be a month of purgatory, of dieting and exercising to get rid of the Christmas-induced blubber and to be ‘healthy in the new year’. At the same time, we have to get started on all those old projects that lie in wait, all the old hibernating dreams, so that we can become who we really are: fit, healthy, slim, creative, sexy, social, and rich (feel free to add to the list). And all that in January.
Really? No. It is all well and good to set yourself a number of goals and work to fulfil them – just don’t try to do it all at once. If you stop smoking and drinking and eating sugar or wheat or whatever is the trend right now, and start exercising five times a week, and put on lingerie every night for your man’s sake, and join a pottery class as well as that course in French conversation, and set out to write a novel, all in the first week of the new year, chances are you will give up most of it, if not all, during the second week.

Make a list. Find out what you really want to accomplish, and why. The ‘why’ is important for clarity and motivation: you want to do what you want to do, not what your friends do or the magazines tell you the celebs do – or what you think your mother would want you to do.
Then break down your plans into smaller bits, make a timeline and set dates for these partial goals. Losing 20 kilos, writing a novel or running a marathon are huge and daunting tasks – but you can have one cookie instead of two, write 100 words and run for one minute, right? Every journey, including the unexpected ones, begins with a single step.

The Knitting:
For this section, we need to call on Janus again to look back and forwards; I have so many things I couldn’t really share before Christmas, so let’s first take a look at that. Afterwards, I will show you what I am working on right now, and divulge my plans.

Remember The List? This is the slightly amended version after the additions I made along the way:
4 cowls: Minotaur, Moya, Moebius, and Owl
6 hats: Turbine, 2 Nottingham, Knotty but Nice, and 2 Helmet
4 pairs of mittens: Podster Gloves, Knucks, and 2 toddler mittens
1 pair of socks: Farmer McGregor
2 shawls: Dragonfly Wings and Cassandra
6 animals: 2 Little Owls, Oliver Owl, Nessie, Tarragon, and Oy the billy bumbler (from the Dark Tower series by Stephen King); 
a set of stitch markers; 
and 3 cross-stitch bookmarks: the Dark Tower itself + the Rose (read the books); a Dalek (no introduction required), and a Space Marine from Warhammer 40K.

Everything got done, right in the nick of time – I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I am really pleased with that. I would have absolutely hated to have to hand out IOU’s.
So, here comes the picture gallery; all the links are to Ravelry pattern pages.
From top left: Minotaur, Moya, Moebius, and Owl Cowl
Top left: Turbine, Nottingham x 2; Knotty but Nice, Helmet x 2

Podster Gloves, Knucks and two pairs of toddler mittens
Farmer McGregor socks by Alice Yu

Bottom half: Dragonfly Wings, top right: Cassandra, top left: Regrowth
From top left: 2 Little Owls, Oy the billy bumbler, Tarragon, Nessie, and Oliver Owl
Stitch markers

Left: a Dalek and a Space Marine; right: the Tower and the Rose

Those were the Christmas presents I gave out; I got knitting-related presents, as well: my lovely sister gave me a skein of Fyberspates Scrumptious DK in a gorgeous, deep purple. I promise you, this yarn is made of kitten fur, it is soooo soft. I have to find just the right thing to make with it: I am leaning towards a cowl or scarf, something to wrap around my neck. Yummy.
And KnitPro cubic dpns, 2 and 2½ mm; those I would have had to buy, if they hadn’t been presented to me – after knitting my Dad’s socks on 2 mm bamboo needles that bend, I need something sturdier.
And books: my parents gave me Knitting from the Center Out by Daniel Yuhas; I love books with new techniques, and I already have a couple of things in my queue from that book. How do you like heel-up socks, for instance?

Now for the now:

Having read through several Ravelry threads on the joys of handknitted dishcloths – many of them started with a Why? – I have come across the concept of tribbles:  round, knitted scrubbies, named after the featureless, multiplying creatures in Star Trek.
Now, while washing dishes and pots with a cloth is alien to me, I have usually employed a polyester sponge with one rough side; and so using and reusing washable cotton scrubbies instead of adding yet more petrochemicals to the landfill appeals greatly to me. I can use a tribble for up to a day, depending on the level of yuckiness involved, then toss it in the hot wash and this time of year in the dryer. Voila: it’s ready for a new day.
I have entered into this new project by making a set of 10 tribbles in a bulky cotton; a few years ago, I was planning to make a bedspread out of mitred squares in different colours, but gradually came to realise that I would have to not only weave in all the ends, but sew up all the bloody squares, as well. And weave those ends in, too.
So the squares have been sitting around together with the remainders of the huge, 1-kilo spools of thick yarn for way too long. I have used bits of it for cushions and potholders – and now I may have found a new use for it. A tribble takes up 20 grams of yarn ... so they have plenty of resources for multiplying!

The tribbles are my little project this week; the big one is the Georgia Blues that I was going to cast on in September. I found the pattern for this sock yarn cardigan in an aplayfulday group thread on Ravelry, fell in love, bought it straightaway and decided on a yarn: the Arwetta sock yarn in the Perfect Storm colourway that I used for my Bigger on the Inside shawl. Then, of course, I had to go and decide that I wanted to dye the yarn for it; that took a while, and in the meantime the Christmas knitting had descended on me. So the cast-on for this cardigan was officially put off until the 25th December, and I could daydream about it whenever I felt oppressed by gift knitting.
It is a very easy knit: a top down raglan cardigan, all in stocking stitch with incorporated button bands and the sleeves done in the round. No seaming at all. Perfect for my fevered brain, for TV knitting or for reading.
The yarn is knitting up nicely, as well: I know and love the base yarn already, the Zitron Trekking XXL, from sock knitting for both Victor and my Dad. With variegated yarn, especially hand dyed, there is always an added element of surprise: how will it look? – and it is behaving rather well, I think, even living up to the name of the colourway Clouds Across the Moon.

So, all is well on the knitting front; the immediate future holds more stuff for me, more socks for Victor, and sometime soon I need to start looking into the next birthday sweater for my nephew.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget my own 2013 Doctor Who toy-along: during the Ravellenics, I was inspired by another Raveller’s project to try and make little Doctors, and decided to make 13 toys in 2013: the 11 Doctors, a Dalek, and K-9. So, I’ll be reviving that thread – in the Who Knits? group – and looking more into patterns for little stuff, probably some amigurumi. More about that – and, of course, come along and join in the fun, if you are so inclined!

That’s it for this week; the new Rowan magazine, no. 53, has come out, but that will keep for next time. Have a great week, and:
Happy knitting!

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