Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Knitting Galore

Viborg has been bombed – yarn bombed, happily, which is so much nicer than the awful goings-on in Boston earlier this week.

A couple of trees on the edge of Borgvold, a little park by the lakes, have been wrapped in colourful knitting. Before we had two days of stormy weather, there was also a sign on the fence next to the multi-trunked tree, saying ‘There is so much work you never see’ – which is why I suspect locked-out teachers to be behind this.

Yes, the school lockout is still in effect; it has lasted three full weeks now, and rumours are that the government is not going to interfere after all. At Victor’s school, some degree of teaching is being done by teachers who are employed as civil servants: so the ninth graders, over whom the final tests are looming, are getting some lessons, and the sixth, third, and second graders, as well.
Victor is in eighth grade, so he is concentrating on his guitar lessons and practice. And he should: he has been entered to audition for the Talent Programme at his music school – very exiting!

But I digress. One major point of conflict and discussion in all this mess is the apparent inability of politicians and people in general to understand that teachers have more work to do than merely classroom teaching; this also pertains to the negotiations over the conditions for high school teachers earlier this year. For some obscure reason, teachers in all levels of the school system are accused of ‘sitting around and drinking coffee’ half the day instead of working. And well, yes, teachers do sit around drinking coffee half the day – while they work. Preparation, grading, meetings, &c – all this is invisible work and thus susceptible to denigration by those who do not know what it is to teach, or do not care.
And this is why it seems probable to me that the yarn bombing was done by teachers.

The Knitting
I wanted to report back on the Ocean socks that I knitted recently, just to say how much I love them! Love the yarn, love the pattern, really enjoyed knitting them – and then I had them sitting there in all their pristine glory for several days before putting them on to wear for real, not only to model.
Because herein lies truly the eternal Dilemma of the Hand-knit Socks: you want to wear them all the time, because they are soft and warm and pretty, but you don’t want them to be worn out, ever. And you know that yet they will be worn out, that a thinning of the fabric will occur, and eventually a hole under the heel or the ball of the foot; and you will have to choose whether to try darning them or chucking them out. Thus hand-knit socks can teach us a lesson about the transience of beauty: like the flowers that are appearing now, in springtime, must wither and die at the end of summer, so all socks must be worn out. But as new flowers will appear next spring to replace the dead, thus new socks can be knitted to fill the shoes of the worn out (sorry about the awful pun, couldn’t help it).
And with the abundance of gorgeous sock patterns and yarns available, the transient nature of the hand-knit sock is live-with-able. Though a thing of beauty really is a joy forever, the bittersweet knowledge of its impermanence can enhance the enjoyment of it. So, I wear my Ocean socks with love and pride, relishing their warm softness and knowing that they won’t last forever – although I can’t help wishing they would, sometimes.

But there will be other hand-knit socks: I am down the leg of the first Fosco sock and onto the heel. This pattern has several interesting features: a cuff with cross-over ribbing, followed by a complicated cable going down the side of the leg – the two socks have separate charts – and a combined cable and eyelet pattern on the remaining part of the leg. So far, so good. Next came the Welsh heel, which I haven’t tried before, so this is really a quite interesting project. Right now I am fiddling with the beginning of the gusset: my stitch count may be off, as I can’t get the instep pattern to fit – I’ll have to look at it again and work it out.

I promised you pictures of my two most recent FOs, the Wilhelmina shawlette and the driftwood cardigan, so here goes, straight from the spring sunshine in the garden today:

The KAL for the Comfort of a Friend Woman Shawl started on Tuesday; I inadvertently jumped the gun and dove into swatching while it was morning over here – and seven hours later, the official start was announced. Oops. And then later, next day I think, I realised that the plan for the KAL has the cast-on happening NEXT WEEK. By that time, I had done the ribbing and was started on the body increases. Oops again. Almost as if I had planned it, by the time I had done half of the increases I realised that the shawl was getting too wide too quickly, so I frogged all of the garter part and did it over, increasing on every 6th row instead of every 4th.
Anyway, I am not the only one to have worked ahead. To fill the whole five weeks of the KAL I can either string this shawl out, so to speak, by only working on it once in a while – or I can finish it and then go on to knitting the doll and girl versions that I want to make for my niece Laura, anyway. Or I could string the adult shawl out by working on the little ones alongside it. Decisions, decisions ...

The Books
As I mentioned last week, I have been listening to Quiet by Susan Cain, about introverts in an extravert society. It is no wonder that I enjoyed this book: any book that caters to your own personality traits, confirming their validity and values, is easy to love. Cain provides both anecdotal and scientific evidence for the distinction between the two major personality types treated in the book: stories of people and their lives, how they handle or fail to handle the challenges they meet; and studies done by psychologists and psychiatrists in babies, children, college students. We get a description of a Tony Robbins seminar – that left me tired just hearing about it – and later in the book advice for couples, parents, employers and employees on how to respect the needs of introverts in a world that continually demands outgoingness.

Next up in my Audible downloads is Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, a history of biology, evolution, language, culture, invention, and warfare to explain how it is that Europeans have conquered so many other parts of the world instead of the other way round. The whole of the explanation can, not surprisingly, be summed up in the title of the book.
This book is in no way a justification of the white European’s superiority or claim to rule the world; rather a list of natural and geographical factors that have coincided to make Eurasia the place where ‘civilised’ life developed earliest. Europeans are, of course, no more intelligent or inventive than peoples around the world: they simply had better conditions in which to work.
To give a few examples: Eurasia is mainly orientated East-West, so plant and animal species adapted to the climate of a certain latitude can spread more easily than on continents lying on a North-South axis (the Americas and Africa). Most of the ‘big fourteen’, the large herbivores suited for domestication, were originally found in Eurasia (cows, horses, pigs, camels, &c).
And so, settled life providing more food and closer contact with other people and with animals developed earlier in Eurasia than in other parts of the world, thus exposing humans to various microbes that either kill you or make you stronger. It wasn’t just Spaniards on horses with guns (the Spaniards, not the horses) that killed so many Indians in the 16th century, it was smallpox and measles.

An entirely different book on humans and animals is George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Thomas has been reading Orwell lately, so I decided to re-read Animal Farm to better be able to talk with him about it; it is probably at least 25 years since I last read it, so there may have been a couple of details I had either forgotten or missed altogether.
It is really a rather depressing story, reminding us of the glaring incompatibilities between the ideals and the realities of Communist societies.
‘All Animals are Equal, but some are more Equal than other.’

And I finished the Ravenor trilogy; as all good science fiction, this is not only about space travel and gadgetry, or even daemons and weird magic, but also the human condition in general and particularly when faced with evil. Ultimate evil, of course, but also the more squalid kind: slavers, corruption, greed and meanness. I like the way Dan Abnett manages to write whole persons, not cardboard cut-outs, for minor characters as well as the main ones; and to drop in those everyday observations that bring life and depth to the story.

On that happy note, I will leave you for now. Have a great week; keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

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