Friday, March 6, 2015

Follow Your Arrow II Finished

 The shawl is done! I knitted the last clue in the lighter blue, so as to make clue four and five one continuous piece. In the end I have a shawl all made up out of B clues. I choose each clue based on what I liked best, when I reading through the pattern. So it's purely coincidental that it ended up being all B's. After seeing both clue fives (and deciding to go with clue B) I thought that clue 4B and 5B built really well on each other, especially in a solid colour. In the end I did a variation on clue 5B. Instead of having two point I made four smaller ones, creating an effect that reminds me a bit of a lotus. I made the clue a bit lacier as well. This is the only clue, in which I differed a bit from the pattern as written. I did not do any extension rows. While I had enough yarn to do that if I wanted to, I felt that the shawl was done.

Can you believe this was my first time doing Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off? I've been knitting for years and have come across it before, but apparently just never saw the need to try it. My loss! It enabled me to block the shawl beautifully into these pointy edges, thanks to the stretch.

The yarn I used was Old Maiden Aunt Merino Superwash. It's one of those yarns I had been meaning to try for a while, but never really got around to. It is beautiful hand dyed yarn, and it knits up beautifully. The smooth superwash did require some getting used to after all the "sticky" yarns I've been using for my colourwork projects. I have to admit that I'd forgotten how much worse it is to weave in ends with smooth yarns. Luckily there weren't many ends to weave in, so irritation was kept at a minimum.

 I meant to post this last week, but I was in rotten-cold land, had to stay in bed for a couple of days, and had about the worst week at uni in terms of workload. Subsequently, I couldn't  take photos and blogging about it had to wait.

Can you believe it's March already? Time to turn my personal calendar over again, and add another year whenever I need to fill in a survey, I suppose! This weekend I'll be celebrating my birthday. I'm much looking forward to that!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Follow Your Arrow Clue IV

(fellow arrow knitters: there will be spoilers in this post so click away if you don't want to see them!) 

The end is in sight! The last clue is in, and I hope to choose and knit on the final clue tonight.
But first I have to show you what I did for clue number four.

I made clue four entirely in my contrast colour, the light blue, so the bands with the arrow motif wouldn't feel so lonely. Pick and choose for clue four was easy, clue B  immediately stood out to me and I'm quite pleased with how it looks and works with the other clues.

Now I'm on to the last clue, with a bit of luck I have a finished shawl in a couple of days.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Follow Your Arrow Clue III

(fellow arrow knitters: there will be spoilers in this post so click away if you don't want to see them!)

Another week, another piece added to my mystery shawl! Clue three is my favourite clue thus far. Making the arrows was a lot of fun to do. I'm learning a lot of new things from knitting this shawl. The arrows are made with elongated cables, a technique I had never used or even heard of before, just like last week's yarn float arrows.

It is getting harder to get decent photos of the shawl. I always struggle to make interesting in-progress project photos but somehow this shawl is even trickier! The colour is a bit hard to photograph and the size of the shawl is at that uneasy stage of being to large for small surfaces and to small for big surfaces.

Clue four was published yesterday, and I hope to be able to start working on it tonight. Coincidentally I've only knitted the B clues to far. Let's see what strikes my fancy this time!


Saturday, February 7, 2015

December & January Reads

Another book post! Perhaps you already missed them around here? At least I did! I didn't post my December reads at the end of that month nor at the beginning of January. I had meant to post December and January Reads as two different posts but with all the start of the new year posts, the Mystery KAL posts, and the exam madness that was the whole of January didn't find the time to post the December reads. By the time I had, I thought it better to post the month December and January together. As it happens I hardly read anything in the month January (due to aforementioned exam madness) so it's better to combine them anyway. December was definitely a Gaiman month. Because of the Christmas Holiday I had a lot more time for non-uni reads, and that is reflected in this post I think. 

The Tempest - William Shakespeare
The Tempest is one of the few plays written by Shakespeare that is believed to be completely his original work. In other scholars have not found a source text he based his story on. There are only a handful of plays that are ascribed to him as being his original work. For other works he "borrowed" a basic plot line, but made it his own with alterations and flavouring. One of the other important plays that is believed to be Shakespeare's original work is A Midsummer Night's Dream, and just as in The Tempest, the supernatural and magic played an important role in the play, which makes you think that Shakespeare had a taste for that kind of stuff.
For years the play was surrounded by lots of myths legends, mainly concerning the claim of it being the last play written by Shakespeare. Many have read it as an autobiographical play, but in the last couple of years scholars have questioned both of these claims. Personally I think that it's tempting to try and read a lot into an authors work, especially one whose stature has risen to epic proportions. Fact is that we know very little. frustratingly little if you will, about Shakespeare, and there is no reason to assume The Tempest is in any way autobiographical.
Painting by William Maw Egley, circa 1850.
 Plot: Duke of Milan, Prospero, is betrayed by his brother Antonio, and shipped of to a deserted island together with his daughter Miranda. They are supposed to die there, but they hadn't read the script and live in relative solitude for ten years or so. Then a ship carrying all the important rulers of Milan sails by. Prospero, in the meantime has studied magic, and with his spells and spirit servant Ariel in tow, creates a storm and sets out to take revenge on the people who wronged him.
What I thought: I quite enjoyed reading this play, though not as much as that other supernatural play, but well enough on the whole. While revenge and justice certainly are a themes in the play it is not a archetypal revenge play like Hamlet. The play contains some complex character and makes you wonder about the good or evil nature of them. The play raises a lot of questions about magic, and one can wonder where Prospero's magic comes from. Is it really he who has the power of magic, or is it only Ariel and is he simply commander of the magic. You might have noticed it already but I quite like plays/novels that raise a lot of questions and don't fully answers them, leaving the reader to come op with a vision of their own. 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
This was a reread. Does that count? Yes...yes it does. I love this book. Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, and I enjoy reading all of his books, but this one especially is a gem. I love Gaiman's style of writing. Seemingly effortlessly he creates worlds and characters who enchants the reader making you never want the story to end. The book was made into a film, back in 2006, I believe. I only watched it once, and though it doesn't follow the book in every way, I still enjoyed it and thought it was a charming story brought to screen. (though if you haven't seen it I (obviously!) recommend you read the book first.

Plot: Tristran Thorn lives in the tiny village of Wall. The village is named after the wall that runs by it. The wall divides the normal world from the Faery world. Tristran has lost his heart to the the most beautiful girl in the village: Victoria Forester. She doesn't see much in him, but one night in a bold effort to impress Victoria he vows her to bring him the falling star they saw just a few minutes before.
To get to the star he has to go through the hole in the wall and step into a magical world full of adventure. In this world, he'll meet witches, ghosts and even walking and talking stars. It's almost enough to make a man forget about Wall at all.
What I thought: The story is set in the Victorian age and I loved how the story alluded to important (literary) events such as Dickens serializing Oliver Twist and jokes about the Pilgrim's Progress. What I loved even more was that Gaiman went out of his way to format and style his story to Victorian adventure novels. Every chapter starts with a little sentence, which is a brief summarize of what happens in the chapter. This was common in 19th century adventure novels. Jules Verne uses them in his famous novel Around the World in 80 Days and there are many more examples. Some examples of the chapter headings in Stardust are: 'Chapter I "In Which We Learn of the Village of Wall, and of the Curious Thing That Occurs There Every Nine Years"' and 'Chapter 5 "In Which There is Much Fighting for the Crown"'. I really like how much care Gaiman put into details like these. It helps that this is a style I'm rather fond of, but regardless I think it works really well for this novel.

Divergent - Veronica Roth
Confession: I'm not a big young adult fiction reader, and I'm probably the last of my bookish friends to read it. I picked it up, when I was truly down and needed some light reading to pass the time. On top of that I read it as an ebook (a first!) on a tablet. I have to admit that I'm no fan of ebooks. I champion those who are, and don't think book readers are in any way superior over ebook readers or the other way around. I just think that different people have different preferences. While I was fairly certain that I was a book person I wanted to try ebooks before writing them off completely. The experience confirmed my thoughts about the whole thing. 
Plot: In a post-apocalyptic Chicago, survivors of the apocalypse are divided into five factions reflecting their character. Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Candor, for the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, for the intellectual. Each year all sixteen-year-olds have to take a test which will tell them which faction suits them best. The protagonist, Beatrice, is born in the Abnegation faction, but doesn't feel she fits into any of the factions. She still has to make a choice and prove to be worthy of that choice.
What I thought: Not the best book I've read this month, not by a long shot, but it was not as bad as I expected either. The story is set in a post apocalyptic environment, as many young adult books are these days. I guess the Hunger Games' success set about an avalanche of these stories. Just as with the Twilight books which set about an avalanche of vampire/supernatural beings series, it's waiting for the moment it's target group gets bored with this theme and finds a new theme to champion.

What I liked about this book is that it for ones didn't contain the notorious 'love triangle'. I'm not against love triangle story arcs per se, especially if they are well executed. But in YA series they seemed to be a must these days, almost as if you can't write about interesting relationships without a third person being involved. It makes me questions whether it is good thing that this theme is so present in young adult novels. Especially since these novels are written for an age group that is still developing its own ideas about love and relationships and whose members are going through it for the first time.  Is it a good thing to send the idea that relationships are somehow not complete if they didn't go through a love triangle? I don't know, but I thought it refreshing to not see a YA book without a triangle.

Neil and Terry in BBC's promotion for the radio play
Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Read this for the first time a long while back, went for a reread in preparation of the BBC Radio show which aired in December. 
Plot: Two supernatural beings on earth are preparing for the inevitable (and ineffable) Apocalypse: one angel and one demon who 'did not so much fall, as saunter vaguely downward'. After spending the last six thousand years on Earth, they're rather reluctant to let it be destroyed. With a bit of effort to justify it each in their own heavenly or hellish moral code, they start to track the Antichrist, a very British eleven-year old.
 What I thought: Definitely one of the best comic novels I've read. Pratchett's absurd humour and Gaiman's atmospheric writing fit like a glove. Strong female characters, although none of them as a main protagonist, including Agnes Nutter, the renaissance witch whose Nice and Accurate Prophecies form the drive for many of the protagonists' actions.  Although it is possible to guess which ideas sprang from which author's mind, the whole is a very consistent work, with great comedy and characters that stay with you long after you've read the book. Not to mention, the many in-jokes that can be shared with other readers.
Last Christmas, the BBC broadcast a radio play based on this book. Though no substitute for the book, it's well made with the appropriate amount of nods towards the book readers. If you find the opportunity to listen to it, do!

Hansel and Gretel - Neil Gaiman &  Lorenzo Mattotti
Author Neil Gaiman and Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti join forces to breath new life in the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale. I like books with illustrations and I love fairy tales, so it was no surprise I picked this up. The book is fairly short, and you will probably spend more time looking at the illustrations than reading the actual text. 
Plot:It follows the plot of the original story, with some twist and touches by Gaiman here and there.

What I thought: What I loved most about this book is the illustrations. Hands down. The black and white ink illustrations perfectly set the tone for the story. It taps into the darker side of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. As for the writing, it is harder to re-write a classic story like this without loosing to much of it's original feeling. Therefore I think Gaiman kept a lot the way it was, which was a good decision I think. I loved the twist at the end, and thought it was very Gaiman. There wasn't really a downside to this book, except...well that it isn't a very long sit. 

Yokes -Kate Davies 
 I wasn't sure whether I should post Yokes here, as it isn't exactly a novel or a non-fiction book. However, while the patterns do take up most of the book, I felt that the essay bit was substantial enough to be included here. In her new book Kate Davies unravels the story on the yoke sweater, one of the most influential garments of the twentieth century. Circular-yoke sweaters are my favourite things to knit, so I could not contain my excitement when I heard Kate was to write a whole book about them!

 The essays included:

1.Why Yokes?
2. Greenlanders and Norwegians
3. Kerstin Olsson and the Bohus Yoke
4. The Shetland Tree and Star
5. Perspectives on the Lopapeysa
6. A conversation with Meg Swansen (On the legacy of Zimmermann)
7. Yoke Connections
What I thought: The essays explore different cultural traditions. Some are more introductory and some go into more detail. Kate put a lot of care in these essays and she really tried to put in some different perspectives and shed some new lights on both these old and relatively new traditions. Some of them are interviews with specialists on the topic and others are essays about Kate's research. My favourites were 'Greenlanders' and 'Norwegians and Perspectives on the Lopapeysa'. 

Those were the books I read in December and January. I didn't read as much as I usually do in a month, but due to my midterms. Writing essays and studying for a bunch of exams cuts heavily into my reading time.  February is going to be different though.We're only one week in and I already read half of what I did in the two previous months. I'm taking a lot of literature courses so expect to see a lot of that in the next bookish post!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Follow Your Arrow Clue II

(fellow arrow knitters: there will be spoilers in this post so click away if you don't want to see them!)

Another week has passed and another clue has been knitted! After I finished my last exam on Thursday, I grabbed the project and started working my way through the next clue.

Both of the new clues were provided with charts, which made it easier to predict what the finished clue would look like. I went with clue B, which incorporated yarn floats to create a subtle arrow effect. I choose to introduce a second colour in this clue by making the arrows in a contrasting colour.

This clue was only charted and not written out, which always makes me a bit nervous with non-colourwork projects, as I tend to use both of them as a reference. However, this chart was very easy to follow and it was smooth sailing from the start.

It's been a lot of fun to start seeing all the different combinations and colours knitters are making in the Ravelry group. Next clue is out on Monday and I look forward to see what Ysolda has cooked up for us next.

Tomorrow classes for my next term at uni start. Going from exams strait into classes is a bit intense, so I'm hoping they'll take it a bit easy on us (one can always hope, right?). I have a pretty full schedule, so it's going to be a challenge to see whether I can keep up with the next clues as the shawl gets bigger.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Freydis Eiriksdottir and a new Lopapeysa

If you've ever had a course in creative writing, you've probably heard of the adage "Show, don't tell". This time, however, I simply have to tell a little story before I can show you my new sweater...  

In the first decade of the 11th century, something remarkable happened. European colonists, long before the famous Columbus would even be born, found a mysterious, vast and rich continent to the west of the Ocean. These events are described in The Saga of Eirik the Red, whose main character is, you might have guessed it, not Eirik the Red. Though Eirik does discover Greenland over the span of a few chapters, the mainland Americas are left to another generation. Instead, Eirik is the common link between the five protagonists who actually do discover America: his sons Leif and Thorvald* Eiriksson, his son-in-law Thorfin* Karlsefni, his servant Thorhall* the Pagan, but most remarkably, his daughter Freydis.

*There's a nice rythm to these names, isn't there?

After Leif Eiriksson is blown off course by a storm and thus accidentally discovers Vinland, it's Freydis and her husband Karlsefni who instigate a new expedition to find and colonize the land. They leave together with Thorhall and Thorvald, and a great group of men and women. After a long quest, they find a suitable place to settle. There, they are surprised to find Skraelingar already living in this new land. Swiftly, the Norse settlers manage to set up trade with these natives, trading Norse red-dyed cloth for fur and food. One day, however, a Norse bull, driven mad by the constant waving of red cloth, escapes and attacks the native traders, who promptly flee the scene.

The Skraelingar come back, this time to wage war on the settlers. The bull, they reason, was one of the Norsemen and attacked them on purpose. The fight is fierce: the natives, though lightly armed, have an overwhelming numerous advantage over the settlers. The fierce Vikings are routed and turn to flee, until the first lady of the expedition, the by now pregnant Freydis, comes out of her hut, scolding her male relatives: "Such gallant lads as you, I thought you would have knocked them on the head like cattle. Why, if I had a weapon, I think I could put up a better fight than any of you!". Freydis proceeds to pick up the sword of a fallen Viking, and indeed puts up quite the fight. When she is finally in danger of being overwhelmed, she put up a final show of defiance: according to the saga, Freydis "pulled out her breasts from under her clothes, and slapped the naked sword on them, at which the Skraelings took fright and ran of to their boats".

Through this unconventional act of heroism, Freydis saved the Norse settlers. Deciding however that this land was apparently already ruled by a foreign people, the Vikings turn homewards to Greenland. Although the pattern is actually named after a different Icelandic Saga, I thought it fitting to name my latest Lopi-sweater after this rare Viking heroine.

Pattern: Grettir
Designer: Jared Flood
 Collection: Brooklyn Tweed Winter 2013
Yarn: Istex Lett Lopi
Raveled here

I made this jumper in Istex Lett Lopi instead of the Brooklyn Tweed the pattern calls for. Mainly because I take any excuse to make a jumper in my favourite yarn, especially when the Icelandic inspiration jumps at you from the pattern. In any case Brooklyn Tweed yarns aren't available in mainland Europe so I had to use a different yarn anyway. I used a beautiful deep dark red shade from lett lopi that I had in my stash for quite a while. I initially planned to use it for a different sweater, but that design lost its appeal to me. I saved it waiting for the appeal to come back. Unfortunately it never did, so I just embraced it and finally busted it out of its box to be used for this design. I'm so glad I did! I can't get over how gloriously red the colour is! It also convinced me that I need more red sweaters. Because of the striking main colour I opted for a subtle yoke. I'm absolutely besotted with the sweater and have worn it almost non stop since I casted it off.

I have made many Icelandic jumpers before, but this one was a bit different. It incorporates some less traditional techniques in the designs that I have not encountered in  in any of the (more traditional?) original Icelandic patterns. Some I of these I adopted for my version, such as the short-rows. Other design elements I left out or altered because I did not like the look of them, or because they seemed a very difficult way of achieving something relatively simple, such as the tubular cast on method. I left the of the high collar off, as I dislike dislike sweaters with a cowl attached to it. Instead I knitted a ribbed neckband.

The pictures of this sweater were taken after a particularly heavy snowfall earlier this month. Here at the Treehouse we made the most of this glorious occasion by having lots of magical walks in the snow under a starry night sky, having even more snow fights, getting epically stuck in train traffic and seizing the opportunity to take project pictures in the snow. Sadly it was already on it's way out when we took these, but ah well, you can't have it all. Aside from this particular snow week  and the snow we had during Christmas, our winter has been confusingly mild. Since January, February and the beginning of March are usually our coldest months it may well be that we're in for some more snow later. We'll see.

I hope you liked my little story about Freydis Eiriksdottir, if you are into (old) literature of the legend and myth kind, I definitely recommend it. I certainly plan on reading more of the Icelandic and Scandinavian Viking sagas. Similarly I plan to make many more Icelandic sweaters during the rest of my merry life, but that should come as no surprise.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Follow Your Arrow: Clue 1

(fellow arrow knitters: there will be spoilers in this post so click away if you don't want to see them!)

Time to report on my shawl progress! A lot has been going on this week, but in between studying, making exams and celebrating my boyfriend's birthday I managed to squeeze in some mystery knit time yesterday. Luckily Ysolda started gently this time, so I finished it within a day.

I finally made a yarn choice. I'm sure lots of people in my life are very happy about that, since I've finally stopped buggering them about yarn options. In the end I went with the Old Maiden Aunt yarn. So far I've only used one colour, but Ysolda said that there will be many options later on to add a colour should you wish to do so.

I went with clue 1b, because it had some texture added. It resembles the tail end of an arrow slightly doesn't it? On the pattern page Ysolda says:"The overall shapes aren’t weird and won’t form an arrow pointing at your arse.", so I'm trusting her and go with it! Clue A and B are very different, and which one you choose determines the shape of the rest of the shawl. It's going to be exciting to see how different the shawls will be. In the Ysolda KAL Ravlery group you can see how creative everyone has been with yarn options ets. Some brave souls are even making more than one shawl. I'm very close to finishing another knitting project, which I hope to do this weekend so I can then fully commit to the Follow Your Arrow KAL (and exams...booo!).

 Now the wait for the next clue starts!