Hello, everybody, and welcome once again to the Apple Basket! Winter has returned, and the snow is gently falling outside, so it feels like January again; not like the spring-like temperatures we have had lately.
I do hope you have had a great week and been encouraged rather than oppressed by resolutions and goals and whatnot, now that we are at the end of the second week of the new year; I have had an interesting week – more on that in upcoming posts – and have been steadily working towards my goals.
Hence the title of today’s post: some psychological research suggests that happiness lies not as much in achieving and acquiring as in seeking and striving. Happiness is a process, not a state.
This week, it will be mostly about knitting – with all the happiness-inducing process that entails – and something about books in various formats.
So, last week I posted a quick overview of my Christmas knitting; there are a couple of items I would like to chat about some more, because they have a story to them.
When I was reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King (if you like epic fantasy and haven’t done so yet, you really should) and Victor could finally chat with me about the books and the characters, I found out why he had been mentioning – and quoting – the billy bumbler named Oy. And I found out what a billy bumbler is: a creature something like a cross between a raccoon and a dog, with soft, stripy fur and gold-ringed eyes. He speaks on occasion, which is how he gets his name: the boy Jake says ‘Come here, boy’ or something similar, as you would to a dog, and the billy bumbler responds: ‘Oy!’
At some point, Victor casually asked if I would knit him an Oy, and I said ‘Um ... [insert non-committal mumble].’ And then I decided to knit him one for Christmas.
Now, I am not all that experienced in knitting toys, certainly not enough to wing it; so I had to find me a pattern. I actually bought a book of dog patterns, Best in Show by Sally Muir & Joanna Osborne, and picked out the one that best resembled the descriptions of a billy bumbler. I googled artists’ representations of Oy for comparison; and then I realised that the body of all the dogs in the book are knitted vertically from belly to spine. Since Oy is striped, that would entail stranded colourwork knitting. Which I like a lot, I just don’t want to do it if I can find another way.
That other way in this case turned out be the way of the tiger: I found on Ravelry a pattern for a cotton tiger from an Australian women’s magazine from 1966. That was fun; the instructions are obviously made for experienced knitters and thus very brief. None of your modern mentioning stitch counts after in- or decreases; no pictures other than the photo of the finished tiger posing along with the other items included in the article.
So, substituting soft, grey mohair for yellow cotton (only identified as ‘mc’; you have to guess – or maybe reason – which colour is which), I dove into it. I made a few alterations, one of which was knitting each leg in one piece instead of two and seaming it (too much like work); the face became two-coloured; and I ended up making double layers because the fabric was too loose and the stuffing would have shown. I stuffed it with merino roving (bought almost 1½ years ago when I thought I was going to start spindle spinning and then hurt my shoulder).
And voila: Oy the billy bumbler. That took a bit of explaining on Christmas Eve.
More explicitly, Victor had asked me to make him a cross stitch Dark Tower bookmark; so again, we googled images of the Tower and the Rose to decide on the overall motif. And while he wasn’t around, I drew it up, coloured in, and went through my leftovers from various cross stitch kits – luckily, there is always lots of yarn in those.
With cross stitching, as with so much other image work, you focus on the details while working on it, and the overall picture only emerges when you take a step back and look at it. In this case, I didn’t even have a this-is-how-it-is-supposed-to-look picture to tell me if I was doing it right, only my own sketch, coloured in with roughly similar colours to the yarn I was using, and with my eyes on the single stitches, it did look rather dodgy along the way. So getting to the end and viewing the whole thing was quite a revelation, a ‘hey, I can do this!’ moment.
Similarly the Dalek and the Space Marine: I googled images, drew up the motifs, picked out colours and tried to get it to look right. Including surreptitiously (or not) checking out Andreas’ models to do the shoulder part right: the colour on the edges shows which company a Space Marine belongs to, while the overall colour of the armour shows his chapter. So this guy is Ultramarine, 3rd company.
I did make a LOT more half and quarter and whatnot stitches than I have ever done with a professional kit; all those slanting lines and weird angles do not lend themselves well to a squared chart – or maybe it’s the other way round.
But the boys liked their bookmarks; they seem to be a welcome update to the ones I made years ago with wild animal motifs. Andreas being who he is, he did point out the shortcomings in the design of the Space Marine, and has a couple of times encouraged me to make him another, better (as in more ‘historically’ correct) bookmark some time. Which, of course, I will be happy to.
And my first foray into Estonian lace knitting, the Regrowth shawl, was finished in time for Christmas! I had to move furniture, spread out (non-matching) sheets and take up about half of the free floor space in the living room to block it – and this was on the same day that we brought in the Christmas tree – but it turned out beautifully, if you don’t mind my saying so. Well, I can say it without being immodest, at least, since I didn’t design it or anything, I just followed the charts.
Rowan Magazine number 53:
So, let’s see what Rowan have in mind for the coming summer season! As always, the patterns are grouped into three themes, this time Glorious, Ikon and the usual Essentials. Some of the patterns already have pages on Ravelry; I will link to those I mention if possible.
There are a couple of brief articles: an interview with the Danish designer Vibe Ulrik, a bit about modernism in fashion, about cotton and about travelling in Santorini. Oh, and an ad for Martin Storey’s Scottish Heritage Knits, a veritable fair isle fest.
Glorious consists of 11 feminine, lacy or floral garments, beautifully photographed in Santorini. Quite makes you want to go there and soak up the sun while gazing out over the blue, blue sea; the challenge in deciding what you might want to knit and wear lies, as ever, in separating the actual garment and its qualities from the lovely surroundings.
We get 10 jumpers / sweaters / tees / cardigans and a wrap; they all look fairly practical and wearable. Three of the garments are long-sleeved jumpers (useful in a Scandinavian summer) with various floral motifs: Hydra sports flowers all over (but WHY is the model wearing shorts with a floral motif that is louder than the jumper?!), Rhodes wears a cluster of roses on the front, and Halkidiki shows blossoms on a blue-and-white striped background. All very sweet and summery.
The cardigan named Artemis features a textured stitch pattern and lots of little flowers at the neckline, very cute. But all the photos show only the front, so you can’t see whether you’re supposed to attach the flowers all the way round at the back of the neckline – and the pattern instructions says to ‘use photo as guide’. Very helpful. I guess you have to count the number of flowers visible in the pictures and see if there is a surplus to put in the back.
Crete is quite attractive: a cream-coloured tee with three-quarter length sleeves, a bit of lace at the lower edge of the sleeves and the body and a keyhole opening tied with a ribbon (i-cord, crochet or twisted) at the neck.
From summery femininity to retro-ish colourfulness: Ikon wants to celebrate modernism, the 60’s and all that. With names like Carnaby, Hip, Mod, and Vidal, these garments are ... mostly odd. Several of the men’s things look like they came straight from a shop – and I don’t mean that as a compliment. One of them (Yves) even has creases down the sleeves as if it had been folded up for storage & shipping.
We do have a bit of the airy femininity here, as well: Pixie is a short-sleeved tee in Kidsilk Haze with little not-quite-flowers in various colours. Rather cute, though I seem to remember having seen something very similar a few years back. But then, having to come up with 30-odd unique designs twice a year can’t be easy.
A collection for the hipster crowd.
How essential are the Essentials, then? Well, this is a collection of more or less basic shapes, mostly long sleeves, with ice cream flavour names. I quite like a couple of them: Cappuccino is all in ribbing, with a vertically ribbed central panel and slanting side panels that give an interesting shaping to it.
Banoffi is presented as the ‘Handcrafted’ knit, which seems slightly absurd given the overall concept of the whole thing – or is that just me? Anyway, it does look like a first attempt at sweater knitting: with four strands of yarns in different colours held together and worked on large (6½ and 7 mm) needles. It must also be heavy as sin: for the smallest size it calls for twenty (20) 50-gram skeins! – so you will be lugging around a whole kilo of cotton (or cotton blends). And the neckline is huge.
There seem on the whole to be a lot of wide necklines; you would have to either have broad shoulders or not mind that your neckline slips down over one shoulder.
Rather more attractive is Bubblegum, your simple, striped jumper in blue & blue. On the body, the stripes are even in width, while the sleeves have more of the light blue with narrower stripes in the darker hue.
So, all in all Rowan is rather traditional in its range and outlook: apart from the one wrap, all patterns are for jumpers / sweaters, cardigans and tees. All jumpers are knitted bottom up and seamed; nothing is worked top down, sideways or in the round.
The patterns are almost exclusively for knitting; only two lacy tees are crocheted: Kos and Tutti Frutti.
Having done with the knitting of the past and the (potential) knitting of the future, let’s take a look at the knitting of the present.
My little project this week is finishing up a batch of woollen squares; back in September, I joined the Knit-A-Square (KAS) – prompted by the lovely Jo of Shinybees podcast fame – group on Ravelry to knit something for South African AIDS orphans. There are over a million children in this situation, and they do get cold; so people knit them squares for blankets, hats, sweaters, toys – you name it. I found a use for some Greenland wool that I had used for some of my first plant dyeing experiments the year before last: smallish skeins in blue, purple, red, yellow, and brown. I am getting 10 squares from that; not an awful lot, but it is something, and the wool is warm.
The Tribbles are turning out to be very useful, by the way: I enjoy them – as much as one can be expected to ‘enjoy’ tools for washing up, anyway. At some point I will probably make a batch in a lighter yarn, just for comparison.
The Georgia Blues cardigan is coming along very nicely: the body is nearly done, and after that I will just have the sleeves left. I really like the top-down approach; it makes it much easier to try on the garment as you go. And I like the ‘organic’ feel to it, with the garment growing outward from a centre, in this case the neckline; with socks, of course, the equivalent is the toe-up method.
You see, there was a reason I wished for the Daniel Yuhas book (Knitting from the Center Out) that I got for Christmas! Which, by the way, I will have more to say about, when I get properly into it; so watch this space.
The weather has turned cold again here; we had a lot of snow in early December, and then – nothing. Well, rain and wind and such nonsense, but no proper winter weather. Until this week, that is. Now we’re below zero (Celsius, that is) night and day, and there’s even a bit of snow on the ground.
And why am I going on about the weather (again)? Because I need new mittens, of course! Not that I haven’t got both mittens and gloves; but I really, really, really need some flip-tops, so I don’t have to expose a whole hand to the cold when I need to take out money or my phone or something. I can, of course, just wear handwarmers under mittens, and I have done that before (last month); but I think I deserve flip-tops. I want to do them top-down or finger-down, something similar to Knucks with hoods. So as soon as the squares are done (autumn and winter are approaching in South Africa), I am knittin’ mittens.
One of my goals this year is to read a lot of books. Surprising, right? I bet you didn’t see that one coming ... Anyway, just for the heck of it, I entered the Goodreads challenge – there is a widget in the sidebar; I am loving these new toys – and so far, I am ‘on track’, having read three books a week.
Now, I know I’ve mentioned this before, so bear with me, please, if I seem to be repeating myself: I love audio books. Finding the time to sit down and read a paper book – which I love and have loved for thirty-five years – can be tricky, particularly when you want to be knitting, too. It can be done, with something to hold the book open and some simple knitting that doesn’t need to be looked at all the time; but having someone read you the book, while crafting or on the go, is brilliant. Can I just say: James Marsters reading the Dresden Files?
And as for the classics; well, there is the Moby-Dick Big Read, which comes as a free podcast on iTunes. Each chapter is read by someone new, which some people find off-putting, I know, and to be honest, some readers are better than others. Chapter 58 is read by Benedict Cumberbatch, so there is that to look forward to; whereas chapter 79 is read by a jazz composer ... with a very peculiar intonation and way too many sound effects.
Nevertheless, that may be a good way to take in a classic novel, not least for those of us who have not grown up in an English-speaking school system and so have to seek out a lot of this literature for ourselves.
What could be better, then, than to listen to these classic novels with the aid of a real live English teacher? The fabulous Heather Ordover at CraftLit, ‘the podcast for crafters who love books’, introduces, comments and explains. If you don’t know this podcast already, go take a look. The link will take you to the homepage, and I trust you to be able to find iTunes on your own. All of the literature on CraftLit is classic, since it has to be old enough to be in the public domain; and a lot of the readings come from LibriVox. We have had Jane Austen, Dickens, Hawthorne, Shelley, Henry James and lots more; and there is a library, so you can go back and find older episodes containing specific books – or do as I did last summer and simply begin at the beginning, in 2006.
Now, of course CraftLit has a group on Ravelry ... and from that group I learned something new the other day. Several times, I have heard Heather talking about the author Jasper Fforde and his book Shades of Grey (this is in podcast episodes from 2010: I haven’t caught up yet); and it had me wondering. Why would someone like Heather praise the bad prose of a sado-masochistic erotic novel? Well, I finally saw the Jasper Fforde name and title in print in a discussion thread, and the penny dropped ... Shades of Grey is number something-or-other in a series about a female detective named Thursday Next, set in a parallel universe; it all sounds rather wacky and Pratchett-y – I can’t wait to read it.
And, of course, Fifty Shades of Grey is something completely different.
Once again, my world is righted through Ravelry :o)
So, what else has happened? I fell off the sheep, as they say hangs head in shame. Shopping in a local supermarket (føtex), I came across their brand of sock yarn (Bumbo) at reduced price – and accidentally bought 10 balls of it. Oops. I got six balls in variegated blues and greens; if the Georgia turns out to be as useful as I intend it to be, I am making at least one more.
And I got twice two balls for socks, in grey and blue. All in all, it cost me 165 DKK (about €22 / $30); so it could have been worse, I guess.
Later in the same day, I was looking up something on amazon, and it told me that the price of the Doctor Who box set Revenge of the Cybermen had decreased from £27 to £14.75; so as the shopping dams were already broken, I simply had to buy that. And since there is free shipping to Denmark when you buy for at least £25, I now had the perfect reason to get that book on lace knitting I’ve been coveting lately. And the first Thursday Next book.
But these are all good things, I’m sure you’ll agree – every item will contribute towards my happiness and the happiness of others: I will be knitting, reading, and watching; and my boys will be watching with me, and reading. And they get socks.
So, to end on this happy note: have a great week! I will be back with more, and until then: