Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Life Goes On

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! I hope you have had a lovely week.
Spring has finally arrived: the snow is all gone, and the breeze is mild today, more caressing than biting.

Remember that I mentioned a sore elbow a week or two (or three) ago? Well, it didn’t go away by itself, so this Friday, I mentioned it to my physiotherapist. He did what these people do best: prodded the tender spots and found some more that I hadn’t noticed; and now I officially have a tennis elbow. Not that I’ve played tennis more than at most a couple of times in my life, but there you have it. So now I am supposed to not do all the things that make it hurt ... like gripping, lifting, twisting, stirring, and cut down on typing and (oh, the horror!) knitting.
Instead, I need to do a daily exercise; a Swedish researcher has found out that controlled exercises are more effective against chronic tennis elbow than rest and anti-inflammatory medication. On the bright side, it should all be over in about three months’ time.

The school lockout is ongoing and as of now seems to be going to last until the end of next week, the third week of April and of the lockout itself.
I can be fairly sanguine about the day-to-day side of it, having only one fourteen year-old stay at home: Victor looks after himself a lot of the time and doesn’t get too bored. But there are lots of children in the streets and shops in the daytime, many of them with grandparents; and some people need to take their kids to work with them. The receptionists at the physiotherapists’ clinic had a couple of small boys rummaging around on Friday; and Victor’s guitar tutor brings hers along, as well.
And supermarkets are overflowing with all the cut meats and other stuff usually put into the packed lunches that most of these 875,000 school children eat every day; while unpaid teachers are very likely to spend as little money as possible for the duration of the conflict.
So, teachers, children, parents, grandparents, retailers, anybody employing parents – nobody is unaffected by this whole mess.
And for what? To save money on a short term basis by forcing teachers to spend more time in classrooms and less time preparing for classes. And by forcing teachers and children to spend 8 hours every day in schools, allegedly comprising all needs of a child in one big package. This whole-day school model wants to incorporate after-school activities into the school environment; but no schools have the facilities or professionals for that amount of sports, music, crafts and whatever the kids actually do. Or, for that matter, individual work spaces for all of the teachers.
So, I am in no way sanguine about the contents and prospects for the conflict; the only comfort is that if things go as badly as one can fear, given the suggestions and plans put forward by various politicians, Victor at least has only a year left in that part of the school system.

The Knitting
When I have just two active WIPs, as was my custom these three months (I have been reading & listening to too much Victorian fiction lately, it’s rubbing off on my language!) – anyway, with two active WIPs, the situation is quiet and manageable: they sit there nicely, waiting their turn. With four or five or even more, there is a constant clamour for attention, as if they all are afraid to be overlooked or forgotten. This bustle can be quite invigorating for a while, even fun; but only for so long, before I start to feel overwhelmed and pulled in every direction.
Luckily, WIPs can be put away into a bag or a closet for a while, until I am ready to attend to their needs again – quite unlike children or school students or even pets. Nobody will make a fuss if I ignore a certain piece of knitting for a week or a month (or more) to maintain some order in my day-to-day business.
On the other hand, having several WIPs going can be an inducement to get more knitting done. It is all a matter of finding that delicate balance that will keep away boredom on the one hand, and confusion on the other.

My stripy summer driftwood cardigan is almost finished; I put on Downton Abbey to get the last of the second sleeve done, and now I have only ends to weave in and buttons to attach.

And the Wilhelmina shawlette for Victor’s guitar tutor is finished and right now soaking, waiting to be blocked. This is really an approachable knit: the lace pattern is repeated a number of times; and if you choose to make it as written, it is quick and not too big, more a scarf than a shawl. If, on the other hand, you want it more shawl-sized, it is easy to keep going and make more repeats on the body before adding the edge.

So, last Saturday I downloaded the PDF version of WeWMDfK?; and I made it all the way to Sunday evening before casting on the Fosco socks by Heather Ordover, Fosco’s Pret-pret-pretties that I have been eyeing ever since the sneak peek. Some purple sock yarn had found its way into my shopping basket one day, and now it is going to be socks. I haven’t made it very far yet, as I decided to quiet the clamouring by actually finishing a few things this week; only the ribbed cuff on the first sock. But now that the Wilhelmina is done, Fosco is next ...

Another incentive to turn at least one WIP into a FO is the KAL that starts next week, on the 16th April: as you may know, pre-ordering Madame Defarge Deux, WeWMDfK?, gave access to a free bonus pattern. In the book are two little shawls, one doll-sized, one little girl-sized, called Comfort of a Friend and inspired by Beth in Little Women; and the bonus pattern is this same shawl in several sizes for adults. What I particularly like is that the tips are buttoned to the waistband; I am forever tying knots on my shawl tips to keep them from flapping and dangling, so this seems hugely practical. And while springtime may not seem the obvious time to seek woollen comfort, it will be cold again soon enough.
Contemplating this KAL had me, of course, looking through my stash for suitable yarn; or rather, my virtual stash on Ravelry: so much easier than dragging all those boxes out from under the bed. In the end, I finally got the impetus I have been waiting for to go about frogging a long cardigan I have had lying around. This is my Lomond Jacket that I knitted a few years back, while I was in the process of shedding quite a few extra kilos. So by the time I had finished the thing, it was already a bit big, and now I am swimming in it. Or rather, I would be swimming in it if I ever wore it, which is kind of the point here.
Now, then, I am transforming a big, heavy, dusty cardigan into new(ish) yarn for knitting. The drill goes as follows:
Unpick seams; which may sound like a lot of fun, but really isn’t.
Frog pieces into skeins (for this, I find a niddy-noddy to be extremely useful).
Soak skeins overnight to get rid of kinks, dust, and cat hairs. This is where the fun begins, in picking up those skeins of refreshed yarn from the water basin.
Allow skeins to dry.
Wind skeins into balls.
And voila: yarn as good as new, ready to be knitted into new lovely things. Brilliant.

The Books
Jane Eyre is still ongoing; I have actually this week caught up with the CraftLit podcast and experienced for the first time the wait for the next episode. Only a couple of days; but now I am waiting a whole week for the next one. Weird.
In the meantime, of course, I can catch up on all the other podcasts I listen to, including Chop Bard, where Hamlet is up next. I bought the Royal Shakespeare Company version with David Tennant to watch when I’ve listened and (re-)read ... looking forward to that.

So I’ll manage; and now that I have the Audible app, I can haz audio books on the go again. The one I am listening to right now is Quiet by Susan Cain, about introverts in an extrovert culture; a book that tells you that it’s fine to want to be left alone is the perfect one to stick in your ear for a solitary walk. Besides, it makes a lot of sense to me.

While knitting Wilhelmina, I listened to more of the Vampire Archives, including a story by sir Arthur Conan Doyle about mesmerism. Once again, the law of synchronicity prevails: I have just begun re-reading all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, the excuse for which is my intention to submit a design for Defarge Does Sherlock later this year; so far, I’ve read A Study in Scarlet.
And the lady practising mesmerism in the Conan Doyle story comes from the West Indies, as does the mysterious Bertha in Jane Eyre. That last coincidence is not so strange, perhaps: it is not difficult to imagine the West Indies as an exotic locale from which 19th century writers could let strange characters with unusual traits and abilities derive.

In a quite different genre, I am again reading Warhammer 40K sci-fi, this time the Ravenor trilogy by Dan Abnett. I read last autumn, before going to the Black Library weekender with Andreas, the Eisenhorn trilogy, about an Imperial Inquisitor and his works & deeds. Ravenor was Eisenhorn’s pupil and later colleague; this trilogy explores his way of dealing with the warp-infested dealings that take place in a troubled world.
Dan Abnett is a star author at Black Library, and no wonder: he manages the eccentricities of the corner of the galaxy in which his stories take place about 38,000 years hence, as well as interesting and well-rounded characters. The good guys have their shadows (and sometimes even daemons), and it is – at times – possible to have at least some sympathy for the bad guys. Rarely is a person without redeeming features; except for Lijah fething Cuu in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, of course.

So, that’s it for this week; I had better stop typing and rest my elbow a bit. Next time, I will have photos of pretty FOs to show off :o)

Until then: keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

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