I’ve done and gone hooking

The Buddha and hyperbolic space

The Buddha and hyperbolic space

Now that does sound rather awful, doesn’t it? Rest assured, it isn’t as weird as it sounds. I have not been around my blog much lately because I have been busy with work, my children (14-year-old requiring serious homework drilling, girls ill on and off), knitting, and so on and so forth.

I went to a symposium associated with the new Hand Made exhibition in collaboration with Etsy at Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam last Friday. It was interesting to be reminded how the crafts are seen by people generally involved in ‘high art’ (whatever that may be – not as much as it is made out to be by the ‘experts’ in my not-so-humble opinion). I’ll tell you more about the symposium and exhibition in another post.

And yes, I took up crochet. Initially for a project that has now been sidelined because I could not bring myself to get started on it (but I will!) and then… well… I got hooked. Seriously. Fortunately my daughters are crazy about the crochet flowers I am churning out because I’m not sure I would wear them myself. Just a tad too granny for my taste, but who knows, that might change because I am discovering that things look quite differently when you make them yourself! As in, less ‘For God’s sake, I would never ever be caught dead in that!’ and more ‘Hmmm… if I changed this, and added that, and picked a really chic yarn… I might actually get to like it!’

I am also fascinated by the fact that there are many scientist knitters and crocheters (is that a word?). Just Google ‘knitted geometric shapes’ or ‘crochet hyperbolic space’ and see what turns up. So the other day I started on a crochet pattern for a dahlia, which at one point somehow seemed to turn into something looking a lot like hyperbolic space. See here, for instance. And here, where I found out that crochet actually intersects with my sister’s work as a marine biologist. She’ll just love that, ahem.DSC08195

It does seem curious that a tangible representation of hyperbolic forms seemed impossible until crochet stepped in, doesn’t it? I would expect to be more aware by now of how everything is connected. I am not as easily surprised as I used to be in that respect but this one threw me!

The most wonderful thing about crafts, however professional or amateur your creations, is that one idea engenders another, and another, and another. And every individual person will come up with something different. I think this is amply illustrated by the Friday Fictioneers, each of whom comes up with something entirely different when looking at the images proposed by Rochelle. Of course there are parallels between stories sometimes but they are never the same. And in the same way, I believe that crafts are a celebration of individual expression. In a world increasingly obsessed with mass production and consumption and utter ‘sameness’, more and more people feel the need to remind themselves that they are not the same, that they are unique creatures capable of unique achievements.

This last little fluffy bit is no mathematical mystery, of course. Just a little present for one of the lovely people I will be meeting at the Breidag in Nieuwegein tomorrow. And yes, that’s my face reflected in the background. I did done and seen it but didn’t feel like taking a new picture. I’ll just be the lady in the mirror, isn’t that lovely and mysterious?DSC08188DSC08222

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Pixie Dust

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She checked the camera one last time. She’d missed the other ones but surely this time…

Too bad she had to work but at least she would finally get to see – and get proof, to boot! With a last hopeful look she walked out, closing the door firmly behind her.

At the witching hour, the last lily bud started to stir. Very gently the petals peeled apart. A tiny face peeked around the edge. With a hum and a tinkle, the baby fairy zoomed away, sweet laughter drifting behind.

Come morning, she screamed in frustration. She’d forgotten her neighbour’s heavy metal band practice last night. As always the entire floor had shuddered to the beat, causing the tripod with its hinky leg to fall over. All she got was an endless shot of vibrating floor, and some pixie dust.

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This is my imagining for this week’s Friday Fictioneers. The picture was made by Lora Mitchell, the challenge issued by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (see her blog and the other Fictioneers’ stories (or parts thereof) here).

Beppe’s leafy neck warmer

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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned working on a little project for my grandmother-in-law (is that even a word?), D’s beloved grandmother. Or properly speaking in Friesian, his Beppe. She is ill and recently celebrated what may be her last birthday, so I wanted it to be a special birthday gift. And of course in many cases making a gift with your own hands is probably much nicer than something store-bought, especially if you want to express your love for and appreciation of the recipient.

I wanted this one to be a little frivolous (because life is serious enough as it is), something sweet and lovely to look at.

My daughters picked a skein of Malabrigo silky merino from my stash. I have no idea what colourway – could it be Arco Iris? I spent an enjoyable hour trolling Ravelry for a suitable pattern and finally picked Grace Mcewen’s Leafy Cabled Neck Warmer as suitably frivolous. It is one pattern from the Tangled Leaves e-book, which contains 10 patterns inspired by nature. You can also find Grace’s patterns in her KnitChicGrace shop Etsy here.

The leafy neck warmer is a quick yet challenging knit (the leaves in particular require a bit of undistracted attention), especially for a beginner like me. It is knit in two halves, which are then grafted together.

Since I blocked the first half I had to do the other one as well, but I think I preferred the unblocked version. It had more body and the leaves really stood out in relief. Unfortunately I cannot show you any pictures of my own (because I forgot to make some) but I think Grace’s pattern on Ravelry shows an unblocked version.

Also I could not figure out how it was supposed to be worn. None of the yarnovers created holes big enough to pass the other end through, so in the end I crocheted a little loop that does the job perfectly. To be honest I’m not sure how wearable it really is as a scarf or how warm it is as a neck warmer but it certainly looks pretty. Especially in this beautiful yarn.

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All in all I was pretty happy with the result. I would knit this pattern again and experiment with yarns and gauges, as well as blocking intensity (the Malabrigo silky merino did a ‘whoosh’ relaxation act when blocked, it flattened out rather a lot).

The girls decorated a bag and were very excited to present our gift to Beppe, who is their great-grandmother of course. It must be such a privilege to live long enough to see your children’s children’s children…

Now it’s a bloody Möbius

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I swear, if I didn’t know better I’d think this thing does NOT want to be knitted by me. Under any circumstance. Ever.

Remember I showed you the Honey Cowl when I had just cast on? Well… about midway through I realised I had ‘misread’ the pattern and it looked all wrong. (You know how that happens. You are so eager to get started, you just don’t pay any real attention. We have this saying in Holland: ‘An ass never hits the same stone twice’. I bet you can guess what that makes me.)

So I frogged the whole thing and started over. That time I made a mistake in casting on: too few stitches and I wanted the long version of the cowl, not the medium one. Frogged, again. Cast on 220 stitches (which is a lot of casting on for a single cowl if you realise I had already done 220 at least twice (I always miscount once) and then another 160) and knitted happily along, hoping I could still get some wear out of this lovely yarn before winter really ends (we are set for one last cold bout, apparently).

And now it’s a bloody Möbius. Grrrrr.

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See this twist, where the fabric wraps around the needle? It is NOT supposed to do that! I am going to have to frog the whole thing once again. And I’m seriously wondering if I should just let it be for now and try again next fall. Except the yarn and pattern combination is just so damned pretty. And I want this cowl. NOW! My vintage ochre Balenciaga bag is languishing in my cabinet waiting for this cowl. So what is a girl to do?

I am going to cast on, again, with a lot of moaning and grumbling.

Am I an ass if I ask what else could possibly go wrong with this thing?

Down the drain, extended

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She ran down the stairs. Her momentum carried her forward when she slipped, down the last steps to the next floor. She grunted, got up, ran. No time to rub that sore knee.

The water was flowing down the steps in steady rivulets now. She hoped they’d keep the overflow valve closed just a little longer. The ocean on the top floor was tapped on a regular basis and this was the conduit for its excess water.

Right now, all she wanted was to reach that door to Carter’s world, to safety. A roar sounded way up there, crashing down the stairs. Five, six steps… She reached for the handle.

‘There are many ways to time-travel if you know where to look,’ Carter had said to her when she had just discovered the Stair-Way. Although strictly speaking this was not time travelling but rather dimension shifting, of course.

Every floor gave onto a different world.  Every door opened up to new possibilities, amazing discoveries. New friends. New enemies, too.

She hung against the door, gasping, trying to catch her breath. Her knee starting to ache in earnest  now.

‘That was too close, Astrid. Way too close…´

She opened her eyes, her familiar crooked smile telling Carter how glad she was to see him. ‘I know, Carts. I was stupid and you have a right to say I told you so.’

‘I’m sorely tempted but, as always, loathe to give you what you want. You know there are too few dimension walkers as it is and we cannot afford to lose even one, no matter how stubborn and reckless. So did you bring it?’

She dug around her pocket. Her fingers closed on the precious bit and brought it out slowly.

‘Yes, I brought it. It doesn’t look like much though,’ she said wryly. How that little bit of sodden… whatever it was was going to save Carter’s world, she couldn’t say. She was just a dimension walker, sent out into the worlds to fetch, carry and communicate. What did she know, anyway?

Carter sighed. Sometimes he felt the joke was on him. Astrid – the name meant Divine Strength and as a dimension walker, she was extraordinarily talented. She truly embodied divine strength. But she was also impossibly stubborn, ornery and horribly reckless. Every time he sent her out into the Stair-Way, he was afraid he would still be waiting fruitlessly for her return a century later. And yet, she had come back every time. No matter how dangerous the places she went, she always came back. Truly Bergdyss* would have been a name more fitting, since it seemed the Gods protected her. Surely they must. (* having divine protection)

Astrid shook out her heavy mane, silvery droplets from the Sea Above spattering heavily onto the forest floor. Small white star flowers bloomed, unfolding delicate petals. She laughed freely, her green/blue locks still sparkling. ‘C’mon Carter, let’s go eat. I’m starving.’

He sighed again. ‘Truly the joke is on me. If you don’t get killed out there one day, then surely I will oblige your enemies out of sheer frustration.’

But his earthy, mottled arm came down heavily on her shoulders and he gently walked with her to the path leading home. Or at least, what had come to count as home since the dimension walker in her had been awakened. So much had changed since then.

Behind them, the door shimmered and was hidden by the veil. The heavy roar of the waters from above dimmed until it could only be heard by the most trained of ears.

Carter carefully stored the precious bit of sodden earth in one of his many pouches. He would come, one day soon. Until then, it was safely hidden at last.

Her lovely grey eyes followed them until they disappeared between the trees. She whistled softly, melodiously, giving rise to a sweet scented breeze that caressed the leaves and made the star flowers dance. They were among her favourites. Heavy, ungainly Carter with his tree-like body and mottled limbs, child of the earth. Bright, eerie Astrid with her dark green locks and bright eyes, her supple runner’s legs and long-fingered hands that parted the veils between the worlds so casually.

Her thoughts lingered on them affectionately a little longer before she turned, a mere ripple in this world, and drifted home.

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The part of this story printed in dark orange was written last weekend for the weekly Friday Fictioneers challenge. You can find it here.

There have been times before when I felt a story asked for more – that it was sitting there all ready and waiting to come out of the closet and present itself to the world. And was rather disappointed to have the door opened a crack, only to be slammed closed before more than a few lines had escaped.

This story was particularly insistent. So, encouraged by comments on the Friday Fictioneer segment, I decided to write on a little and see what happened. What do you think. Should I go on to explore this world?

Down the drain

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She ran down the stairs. Her momentum carried her forward when she slipped, down the last steps to the next floor. She grunted, got up, ran. No time to rub that sore knee.

The water was flowing down the steps in steady rivulets now. She hoped they’d keep the overflow valve closed just a little longer. The ocean on the top floor was tapped on a regular basis and this was the conduit for its excess water.

Right now, all she wanted was to reach that door to Carter’s world, to safety. A roar sounded way up there, crashing down the stairs. Five, six steps… She reached for the handle.

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Another of my instalments in the Friday Fictioneers one hundred word story challenge. This image has been running around my head (hah!) for a couple of days now but I only found the time to write it down this morning. This time, I really hate the word limit. I would have loved to elaborate a little, telling you more about Astrid’s world as it presented itself to me. But there you have it, I must constrain myself to those 100 words or as close as I can get without sacrificing too much of the story. If I am to retain my title as a Friday Fictioneer, that is.

Check out the Grand Mistress Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog for other Friday Fictioneers contributions here. My other stories can be found in the Fiction category on my own blog, right here.

This week’s wonderful picture came courtesy of Jennifer Pendergast. Isn’t that a great name for a fantasy story? A different one, let me think on it…

Another post this weekend will show and tell why my Friday Fictioneers story turned into a Saturday morning foray into the fantastic.

Have a great weekend!

Out of the mouth of babes…

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My eldest daughter Isabeau and I have frequent conversations about the concept of God these days. While I believe, it is an entirely personal faith and I would like my children to make up their own minds as to what they believe – or not. At the same time, I want to offer them guidance, teach them to be open to, respectful of, and curious about what others believe, and help them explore what the world has to offer in this respect.

My five-year-old attends an ecumenical school, which in the Western part of the world tends to mean that religious teaching (if any) is restricted to the Christian churches. I think this is a pity because there is much beauty and goodness to be found in most of the world’s faiths and particularly in a mixed culture like ours, children should learn about as many of them as possible. What matters is the quest for truth, beauty and goodness – the light within – and not what form it has been moulded into by mankind.

Be that as it may, I am grateful that she is taught the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in a playful and (hopefully) loving manner. As long as there is freedom and no force in the learning, any teaching about faith is welcome.

What that teaching, and my own little talks about God (by any of His or Her names), lead to however, is a lot of difficult questions! Any parent who has discussed abstract concepts with their children will know how children infallibly zoom in on the most unanswerable questions – and expect us to answer them, as well!

It is very important to me that I do not obscure their own easy, bright light and understanding with ‘difficult stuff’ so it is a fine line I am treading. I think I will have done one vital part of my job as a parent if I help keep that bright light shining in in my children.

Last week my daughter and I talked (among other things) about how God is both Father and Mother. So I said that God is in everything. God created everything and is in everything, including your heart. Whenever you feel lonely or have a difficult decision to make, you can just be still in your head and listen, and God will help you feel better and know what is right. (‘Still, like this, mommy?’ ‘Exactly so, darling’)

Today while playing a game, Isabeau offhandedly continued our discussion (as if it had never been concluded, as our discussions tend to be) and said that God and Jesus are in everything. So are they also in toys?

– Well, yes of course, darling.

– Because God and Jesus created everything, didn’t they?

– Well… actually God created everything. He imagined everything and created the little pieces that are in everything, like molecules and atoms (oh God, there I went with the difficult stuff)…

– Okay… So God created everything, and Jesus painted it all!

– Right… That’s exactly right, my darling.

Phew… she got me out of a difficult situation there and solved it all neatly and perfectly. Out of the mouth of babes…