Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Looking Through a Window

Snowing like blazes out. I need to make a milk run later, but I think I will postpone the library run for a day or two.

One of the books I had out this round is the diary of a parson in late 18th C England. I love things like this - they're a fascinating look at the everyday life of the time and place. Pepys' diary is well known as being full of detail (although I must admit I didn't finish that - it was too full of details of his affairs with other women and fights with his wife and servants). Parson Woodforde is calmer, and of course rural rather than urban, but still full of detail.

We hear about his worries and annoyances over the frequency with which his brother comes home drunk, and we learn about the ubiquity and cheapness of alcohol in the era - one party where he hosts 5 others they go through madeira and port, beer, cider, and ale at dinner, and then arrac punch and port wine after supper - 8 bottles of port total for the night, beside the rest. Travelling, he records that a glass of wine at an inn is 3p, and at the parsonage he has gin and whiskey delivered by the barrel by a local smuggler, but brews his own beer and mead. He is also proud of his farm, and we see his barley, butter, and apples being sold or gifted.

We see the going rates for servants - from 2 to 10 pounds per year for live-in people (who get food, board and clothing paid for), and a shilling a day for outside hired labour (with 20 shillings in a pound).

The market town is 2 hours ride away, and they get letters and newspapers there, but people come around selling also. The cloth-peddler often gets good custom there - on one occasion he pays over three pounds to the peddler, buying gown material for his servant girls, waistcoat material for the men, and morning coat material and lining for himself.

Travelling is slow, and if you visit, you stay for a while. On the rare occasions he visits his sister and family, it takes a few days to get there, plus they usually stop in London to shop and see the sights when passing through. He is away from home for several months for such a visit, and with shopping and travelling expenses and tips, it can cost 70-80 pounds (out of his yearly tithe collection of maybe 260 pounds).

Charity, and giving money or goods, is a constant thing. From sending a piece of veal or a shilling to a sick parishioner, hosting Christmas dinner for several local old men and women, giving sixpences to beggars, to donating to a relief fund for the poor during a particularly cold winter, to giving pennies to children on Valentine's Day, his money is always going out.

Medicines are basic. Rhubarb (a purgative or laxative, I think) is as commonly mentioned or used as aspirin or tylenol nowadays. Basilicum ointment and blistering are also used, among others. On one occasion when his niece is feeling ill, the doctor recommends she drink 2 pints of wine daily.

The parsonage is thatched but apparently not insulated, as in cold weather it can be frigid. He records days where the apples freeze indoors and the chamber pots upstairs as well. And yet it is the rare day he records that he has his bed warmed or a fire in the bedroom, while noting that he slept badly because of the cold. You would think he would take a hint and warm the bed at least. I know from experience it helps!

There are the thousand and one other things that make daily life interesting as well. News of the war (England is at odds with America, France and the Dutch during this period)and the accompanying tax hikes, of local alarms (his neighbor's dog, thought to be mad, escaped and bit a number of animals and a person before being caught and killed), of special events (a concert of Handel's music in the cathedral, or rubbernecking with 5000 other people when the king and his family come to visit a local lord), and social issues (his maid is found to be pregnant, and swears to the magistrate about the father's identity, which meant the man in question would be put in jail until he paid a large fine or married the girl).

Altogether, it was a lovely wander through a bygone era!

Friday, 12 February 2016

New Word and New Project

Staying inside hunkered down and knitting rather than going out in the cold? We now have a word for that. The husband of someone on Ravelry described her as 'hiberknitting'. I like it. 

This morning I carded the rest of the white wool I'm working on - 2 skeins' worth, which means I should be done tomorrow, since my target is 1 skein per day. 

The rest of my projects, I'm feeling a little less enthusiastic about, it seems. I settled down after supper last night to do some work on the shawl in progress, and did a few rows, but it really wasn't holding me. The rows are getting long, and there are no real changes to the 4-row repeat until I get to the border.

I didn't want to work on my cross-stitch. I didn't want to sew on the quilt square. I didn't want to get into picking or carding. All this work to do and nothing I wanted to do. Really, rather ridiculous. Something new and exciting was clearly indicated. And it's been over a year since I knit anything for me. So I pulled out the skein of sock yarn I bought at Rhinebeck 2014 from Hudson Valley Sheep And Wool Company, rolled it into a ball, and surfed on Ravelry for a bit. I'm going to make me a pair of Hypnosis socks. 

But I think I will do toe-up instead of top-down, and make them a bit longer in the leg. That should keep me entertained for a while!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pick, Card, Spin, Repeat

February project goal: get the fleece from my aunt's sheep all spun, so I can knit the baby sweater she wants for her son's firstborn. This is going to be a job. Part is still white, part is already dyed. The white is going first. I got the picking done, and filled a bag with it, now I've started on the carding and spinning. I figure as long as I'm spinning it, I might as well spin all of it, not just what I think I need for the sweater.

Based on how fast the level in the bag is going down as I card, I figure it'll be 7-8 skeins of white total. (There may be a few darker hairs in the white, though, since someone has decided she likes to help keep the fluff from escaping while I card.)

Then will come the fun of the coloured stuff! I figure by then I will be happy to spin something not white, so royal blue and taupe will be a treat.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Real Applesauce

Sunday is often a day to make food for me, and today is no exception. The bread is rising beside the radiator, and I soaked beans last night for a crockpot of chili that will be supper tonight. And I'm making applesauce, which I've been meaning to do for a while. I even brought real apples back from the parents' last time I was down for that specific reason.

I know, they're not the prettiest apples at this time of year, but that's kind of the point. They're apples from a tree belonging to someone my mother does the gardening for. The tree had a bumper crop, and since the owner is only around on weekends, he let her bring a bunch home. Like 2 bushels. And random homegrown apples make the best sauce and pie. Some years all the semi-wild stuff in our bush does really well, and we use those. No idea what they are, each tree is different - you sample a few and gather the best ones. No sprays or anything means they're maybe spotty or bumpy (these look a bit like I kicked them all the way here) - and after a few months, getting wrinkly - but you peel 'em and cut out the bad bits, and cook 'em, and you get something that is to store-bought applesauce what a sirloin steak is to a McDonald's hamburger.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

On the Needles and On My Mind

The fish mittens are completed as of yesterday morning. Also, the second pair, with cats, are well started despite several tinkings (because I get distracted reading, and forget something crucial like colour changes). So definitely on track to get both pairs done and delivered for the 11th.

End results of the January spinning attempt to destash: 4 skeins alpaca-silk to Johanne, 1 skein mohair to Constance, and 4 assorted skeins in my basket - from top to bottom, a mouse-brown mohair/Romney x Leicester blend, some white Jacob, kid mohair, and yearling mohair.

February's goal will be to get the spinning done for a baby sweater on the list - the white fleece for the body is mostly picked but needs carding and spinning, then there are the dyed bits of fleece for the yoke to pick, card, and spin. That will be the focus after the mittens are done.

I have been bringing home copies of Vav magazine from our Guild library, less because I weave than because they have great articles and occasionally something way inspiring that could transfer to knitting. Right now I'm crushing on textiles from Skane, and a 3-shaft weaving from Bosarp which I think has some major possibilities as a knit:

I do love traditional textile patterns and history, and have a number of books and magazines with motifs and knits from many countries, mostly European. But it struck me the other day that there is very little from the Netherlands that I've seen. It would be nice to have more information on something more in my heritage. My mother is Dutch, and she knits, her mother knit, the relatives in Holland knit (and sent mittens to her family when she was growing up.) There is certainly a knitting tradition there - what little information I turned up in a few searches mentions guilds, and glove exports, and damask knitting, and old photos show people knitting (often what looks like socks, and hey, there's a Dutch Heel). I know I saw an article on knit lace caps also. One book mentioned in passing that colorwork motifs were limited, small and geometric. But with a plethora of books on Baltic and Scandinavian, and Shetland knitting, the only ones on Holland I could find are of fishermen's ganseys, which are nice - but where's the rest? Wouldn't a country with sailors habitually travelling to other countries with strong knitting traditions have brought back some souvenirs that might have been copied and elaborated on? And despite the stereotype of hard-working Dutch practicality, I can't see that a people whose folk costume has starched lace bonnets, gold ornaments, and ribbon trim would have only knit plain things. Where are the colourful mittens, the clocked socks? I need to do some investigation.