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Missing Mojo

13 Jul

So I’m skulking around the house in a bad temper and I don’t know why. I can’t settle to anything and I’m not cheerful. And then I realise what’s going on:  my knitting isn’t inspiring me – I’ve lost my mojo. This happens to me every now and then so I know what to do about it. I need to put aside the projects that are boring me, or do enough on them to make them exciting again. And then I need to start some new ones.

It’s a little too early to start my Xmas knitting – I usually do that around August time, and I only have the yarn and pattern for one of them at the moment. That’s a pattern for socks for my eldest, called Renesmee. I bought the yarn for it in Bristol at Get Knitted.  I really love that shop. I need to go back and get some Aran for Rows o Ruffles dress for my youngest. Not sure what the middle one wants yet.

I’m not really in the mood for socks – I knitted 12 pairs last year and seem to have had enough of them. I’m quite enjoying freeform crochet, though, so might have another go at that.

So I have the whole evening to myself – hubby is away, the girls will happily occupy themselves, and I can hibernate in my room and start some new things.


Strange Projects

6 Jul

It’s been a while since I have updated this blog so I though I would share some of the strangest project I’ve been working on recently.

I was asked to knit a couple of sensory bands for mums of friends of mine. If you haven’t come across these before, they’re like little hand cosies for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The idea is that they feel nice, they’re familiar and they have little things on them to fiddle with. Apparently, this is very calming for people with mental health issues.

So I set to work digging out all the softest and strangest yarns from my stash – while the cat watched 🙂

Yarn stash for sensory bands

Yarn stash for sensory bands

I plyed several strands together a lot of the time, to make it nice and chunky. I used those eyelash yarns that look lovely on the ball, but can be pretty tricky to knit and impossible to crochet.

Hairy yarn

Hairy yarn

When they were finished, I attached bits and pieces to one of them for fiddling with. Some of them appeared on the inside, some on the outside. The finished objects were pretty strange looking.



Even stranger was my next project – nipple cosies! These were to form a bikini for a facebook photo.

Nipple cosies

Nipple cosies

I haven’t seen them in situ yet but I bet they will look great.

Well, if you’ve made anything stranger this year, please get in touch. I’d love to hear about it 🙂


16 Mar
Mel's freeform crochet

Mel's freeform crochet

Once I had a first love . . .

When I knat as a teenager, I had one project on the go at a time. It was usually a jumper (sweater) and I worked on it until it was finished. This seemed the natural thing to do and I never realised that there was another way.

When I came back to knitting after a 20-year gap, things were very different. I simply couldn’t entertain the idea of project monogamy now. Looking at my Ravelry project will show that I have 5 wips (works in progress) at the moment. (On Ravelry, I am funkyforty – find me and make me a friend :))

. . . then a shawl . . .

The longest running is a lace shawl that I started in July last year. It escaped the end-of-year cull because I did a few rows on it and decided to continue, but haven’t touched it since. It’s easy enough to do, but I’m not sure I will have enough yarn to make it long enough, which is denting my enthusiasm. So, I always find something I’d rather do. My heart says that I will go back to this and finish it, but it won’t escape another cull so if it isn’t finished this year, it will be frogged and stashed.

. . . and hexipuffs . . .

Next oldest is the hexipuff project. It’s a collection of cute little stuffed heaxagons that you make into a quilt or something similar. I have that in my handbag and it’s what I do when I’m sitting in the doctor’s waiting room or turned up early for something. That will go on until I have enough to make a quilt, which will not be this year.

. . . and freeform crochet . . .

Then there’s my freeform crochet project. I bought a skein of wierd and wonderful yarn at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate in November and then picked out some of the colours in other yarns. And when I feel like it, I crochet what I fancy in any shape and size. When I have enough, I will put them together, fill in the gaps with crochet then crochet them together into cushion covers for the front room.

. . . and two jumpers . . .

Then this year’s new projects are two jumpers for me – going back to my teenage passions. I loved making aran jumpers – cream sweaters with complicated cable patterns, favoured by fishermen! I even designed my own pattern once, but can’t remember if I finished knitting it. So, I have one of those and one lacy jumper in a drapey blue yarn and I am making good progress on them both.

. . . and here’s why

So, why do I have so many projects at once? Well, I have to be in the right mood to do the freeform crochet: I need to feel creative and imaginative and ideally come to it with a new idea. I have to concentrate a bit on the aran as the pattern is on several different sheets and I have to refer to it all the time. The blue is easy because I know the pattern now so I can do that when I’m teaching. And the lace will have its day eventually. Sometimes I want a challenge – something to get my mental teeth into. Sometimes I want something I can do while people-watching and not make a mistake. Sometimes I want something that will occupy enough of my mind to free me to think clearly. And sometimes I just want to start something new because that’s the mood I’m in.

And because it’s my hobby, I do what I want to and won’t allow myself to make it into a job. No ‘if I make  myself do 4 rows a day then the lace will be finished by ….’ because that’s the way I do my work and this is not my work. My MIL doesn’t understand – she says “how do you ever get anything finished?” Well, I do, and even if I didn’t, it doesn’t matter because I am happy 🙂

So, how many projects do you have going? Knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery, papercraft, spinning, whatever your craft is, tell us about your monogamy, or lack of.

Happy knitting 🙂

Interruption #5, by Linda

4 Mar
Portrait of Fanny Gail by Heinrich Maria von Hess (1820-21)

Portrait of Fanny Gail by Heinrich Maria von Hess (1820-21)

Knitting . . .

Yup another painting; OK, two paintings. Sorry but some people have asked for more of the same, so as that’s the only feedback I’ve had, you’re stuck with it my dear friends until you ask for something different.  

. . . from start to . . .

This, as you see, is a painting by the Bavarian Heinrich Maria von Hess of Fanny Gail nearly 200 years ago; she’s aged around 13 years and probably at puberty. By holding her knitting correctly she’s showing us that she has a domestic skill.  The spring flowers, fresh sky and little else in the background demonstrate her brief and innocent history.  It could be an advertisement for a marriageable daughter, couldn’t it.  

But every mother looking at this picture knows what she’s seeing in those big, follow-you-round-the-room sad and serious eyes.  There’s an intelligence and a sad knowingness there; Fanny would be wasted on childbearing and household management alone.  And what future can you predict from that concentrated gaze, those competent hands, that stillness?  And what of now, with the unpredictability of that teenage expression: the awkward nose, the mouth about to speak?  

If she speaks to us she will be abrupt, serious, perceptive; but if she is with her friends she will smile and her face will light up. I think that’s where the beauty of this image lies: in the dichotomy between the sweet grace of the composition and the piquant emotions of the sitter. Right now, knitting is no priority for her.

. . . finish

As you can see, the second painting below shows the other end of it: knitting in old age; this time in Russia nearly two decades later. Just look at that bone structure: she was clearly a beauty once, and the artist lights up her best features in a loving glow that could almost be emanating from her knitting.  Here is that spiritual redemption from concentration on skilled work again (see Interruption #3).  This old woman manipulates her knitting, whereas the young woman manipulated us . . . or is the old woman teasing us mischievously by being painted knitting a top-down stocking-top?  

So who is happier?  Who’s got the best deal?  You decide.

Old Woman Knitting (Russian, 1838)

Old Woman Knitting (Russian, 1838)

Interruption #3, by Linda

19 Feb
Rural Household Chores Germany 1900

"Rural Household Chores", German oil painting ca.1900. Artist unknown.

I just found another one of these old wool-craft paintings. This one appears to be an oil with an illegible signature; it is dated about 1900, and I think it’s German.

Just two women alone . . .

It’s piquant: sweet and sad at the same time, and with the usual symbolism that you find in these things. Mother and daughter sit at home and hatless in the usual bare room, working in the light of the closed and curtained window. Mother is elderly; she spins a fine thread, while her strapping daughter knits something shapeless and in the round – too big for socks, and it’s not a sleeve . . .

. . . not sadness . . .

. . . It could be a shroud for a baby. Daughter’s water jar sits upright and firmly stoppered by her feet; she wears no ring; she’s unmarried and has no baby. Her mother’s water jar is empty; finished and put away on the shelf – the sign of a widow, perhaps. Or was mother ever married? No ring is visible. Daughter depends on her mother’s spinning for her yarn, but her thread is running out: it perhaps references her genetic line running out? And her shoe buckle is undone – some linguistic German reference there, maybe.

. . .  but serenity . . .

It’s not sad, though, because they’re living in the moment. Mother is hunched over her spinning, taking great care in her fine work. Daughter wears a gorgeously-coloured shawl – woven and dyed by these two, maybe? Or an exotic and imported gift from a past admirer? She too is raptly concentrating on her work; it’s her pleasure and maybe even redemption.

The redemption of both is signified in their hands: beautiful, powerful yet elegant workwomen’s hands which create fine artefacts. A light shines on their peaceful faces, and it doesn’t come from the window. Even if they have no descendants, the world will have the results of their work. So can we appreciate that? Our respect is maybe all they have.

Interruption #2 by Linda

13 Feb

Sorry Mel, here I am taking up space again on your blog – but you talking about a swift put me in mind of this painting.

C19 Dutch interior with swift

19th century Dutch interior with swift

It’s one of those Dutch interiors which used to sell very well all over Europe and the UK, like the Delft crockery which has been judiciously included as one of the props.  At that time, people liked story-pictures, preferably with a moral implication, and today we are inclined to shrug our shoulders at the story and look for social history instead.  And therein lies a problem.

A story . . .

This kind of story is always going to be a bit of a giggle, isn’t it.  Father has answered the door.  He is head of the household, but he steps back when the urchin says he has been told to hand the letter to the youngest daughter instead.  The fun is in people’s reactions; everyone except the cat  looks at said daughter.  Our little heroine blushes as well she might, because the letter is a billet-doux from a sailor who has just left with the tide: the sea is visible through the door, and the lover is absent.  Her friend sniggers, her sister is jealous, and Father is indulgent and bemused. The girls drink tea; is the lover from a tea clipper?

 . . . and questions . . .

As with all of these things, the more you look at it, the more questions you find yourself asking. Two of the women are not working; is it a Sunday?  And if so, where is the Bible, why is one woman working, and why is Father wearing his working clothes?  So it’s not Sunday.  According to his costume, Father is perhaps an artisan, or maybe he works on the wharfe in the fishmarket or making blocks and spars.  No tools of his trade are visible in the house, so he works elsewhere.  If so, why has he been sitting in that now-empty chair and smoking, while it is daylight? Maybe Father is a prop, made to act like the rich buyers of paintings of Dutch interiors; men who could afford to spend time at home during daylight. Maybe Father has hastily accompanied the urchin to his own home, in the middle of the working day, because he thinks the letter is important? 

So in that case, what’s with the empty chair, half pulled out from the table?  The teacup is unused – although there was a tradition of telling fortunes by swirling remaining tealeaves in the bottom of the cup, inverting the cup on the saucer to remove the last drops of tea, then imagining you could see pictures in the tealeaves now stuck around the inside of the cup.  Perhaps the friend was sitting there and telling fortunes, and has now run round to the eldest sister to whisper what she knows about the lovers?  Mother is missing, presumed dead – more symbolism for the empty chair – but there are still three cups and four people in the room (urchins don’t count).

. . . and secrets

The room is almost unfurnished by modern standards – a style beloved of the Dutch interior painters, because no clutter means more perspective to show off, and more focus on the actors in the story.  In this picture it’s a simple and honest setting for simple and honest folk, but the result is frustratingly that we can’t work out what these girls do for a living.  Our heroine winds wool from a peg-swift (yes, we’ve got there at last), but what is she going to do with all that white yarn?  There is no sign of needles, hook or loom.  Her wool is white; is it symbolism of virginity, therefore purity?  White wool was inconvenient to knit with in those days, because steel needles stained it, so you had to use bone needles, if you could get them.  Everyone in the picture wears dark-coloured and woven outer garments, which leaves undergarments and baby clothes as targets for the white wool; this is yarn for intimacy and domesticity; private things.  

If we’re into symbolism, then, is there anything to tell us whether our heroine is as virginal as she is made out to be?  She’s cute and fluffy and looks down modestly.  Tick.  But the cat looks down too, not too cutely, and she has her tail up: a lively cat, maybe?  Big sister’s apron covers the whole front of her dress – you can just see that under the table.  But little sister’s apron is pulled halfway up; what is that supposed to mean? Is there going to be an embarrassment in her life?  The picture appears to show the briefest of moments, but the swift is turning, like time. It’s in the foreground at centre-stage, so take another look at it; what does it remind you of?

Close-up of 19th century Dutch swift, painted to look like a woman holding a baby

Close-up of Dutch swift

So there’s really so much scene-setting and story-telling and symbolism there, that there’s not much left for us social history hounds – except the swift.  They had jolly good swifts in the Netherlands in the old days, didn’t they, complete with stash boxes, and I wish that one was mine.

tags: swift holland netherlands 19th century winding ball skein