Sunday, July 21, 2013

Knitting lessons in the Jardin des Anglais

Last weekend we took Iso, mother of Princeling, on an outing to Dinan.  Despite already being perhaps one of the most tirelessly busy people imaginable, she has become seduced by the idea of knitting, and I am more than willing to step into the role of wool pusher. Princeling stayed at home with his papa.  

It was a hot day, but we kept going rather well, with the help of cold beer and iced tea; we parked the car and Molly in the coolth of the underground car park, and had a lovely lunch out at a restaurant called La Courtine, which doesn't have a web site but probably doesn't need one, as it's rated no 1 out of eighty something in the town on Tripadvisor, booking is recommended and it certainly was very good.  Then we repaired to the fairly newly opened premises of Fil de Lune, a little further toward the edge of town, where she and I entered into a state of bliss, surrounded by threads and yarns and fibres of surpassing loveliness, which the charming lady proprietor was only to happy to advise us on and sell to us.  Iso came away with some large and lumpy fluffy stuff with a coppery coloured twinkly thread running through it and a pair of the most beautiful, huge, polished bamboo knitting needles to put it on, with the intention of making a scarf.

'I think I love my new needles even more than my new wool...' she sighed as we left.

As a quite unnecessary thank you gift for knitting-related favours she also treated me to three balls of Lang Mille Colori (it's colourway 0017 on that page, quite predominantly pink and green which aren't normally colours I go for, but found myself drawn to in this instance).  

The other thing she had requested was a knitting lesson, which task I delegated to Tom, since it seemed a bit unfair that he was only really involved as chauffeur and dog minder, and since he has been a skilled knitter since the age of about five and is actually rather better than I am at explanations and demonstrations of procedures.  So we took ourselves to the leafy and pleasant shade of the appropriately named Jardin des Anglais, where the benches were rather well subscribed but they found space beside a man doing his crossword.

and the lesson commenced.

Having begun his knitting career at such a tender age in such an early epoch, I have the impression that Tom rather holds to the idea that anything thicker than double knitting wool is something of an abomination and a violence to the spirit.  He tutted a bit at the plumptious confection of fluff and tinsel she had chosen, and remarked later that the needles were a bit like tree stakes, but she seemed pleased with her lesson, and as I countered, with wool like that any mistakes or unevennesses wouldn't be too apparent.

Molly and I wandered off, and said hello to the bust of Auguste Pavie, Dinan's son, explorer of Laos and Cambodia, he learned Cambodian, went native and barefoot, annoyed the colonial administration, dwelled below the Elephant Mountains and clearly sported an impressive beard.

Then we lay down under a magnolia tree and enjoyed its shade,

and the scent of the flowers.


I wonder how Iso's getting on with her scarf in this heatwave?


(On the subject of knitting, I'm in the process of putting all my projects, finished and in progress, and any other appropriate material, onto Ravelry.  When I've completed doing so I'll put a sidebar link here, in case anyone is interested, though I'll still do some related posts, it'll give me an outlet for that activity so this doesn't become a mainly knitting blog!)


Rouchswalwe said...

Learning to knit in the park! How refreshing. This picture of Iso learning from Tom with the crossword puzzler sitting next to them is thought-provoking. Connections are made in my mind, and I suddenly see knitting in a whole new light.

And Molly sitting in the shade with you under the magnolia ... magnolia molly!

marja-leena said...

Oh, if I had someone like Tom teach me, starting with lunch and then a lovely park bench in shade, maybe I'd at last learn how to knit. But really, I'd be lying under the magnolia tree. Lovely photos, Lucy.

Zhoen said...

Wonderful wool, such much fluffiness.

The Crow said...

Ooooh! I like numbers 0019 and 0090. They make me wish I could knit, as well.

Lovely post.

Catalyst said...

Tom is such a distinguished looking teacher.

Julia said...

Now that looks like a perfect day

Roderick Robinson said...

Having mentioned the single sock I created for my elder daughter, I've rather shot my bolt on knitting. But, as is so often the case, the mere act of writing that opens up this rich field once again.

Watching coverage of the last day of the TdF yesterday I was informed that 160,000 aristocrats lost their heads to Mme. la Guillotine erected in the Place de la Concorde. Frankly, I found that figure slightly unbelievable but be that as it may. The rather more pressing question is: what on earth became of all the surely unnecessary outpourings of the tricoteuses?

Lise ( Lysevaine) said...

Très amusant la leçon de tricot! J'ai toujours lerêve d'aller tricoter au bord de l'eau avec quelques amies, mais le jardin Anglais , je n'y aurai pas pensé!
La laine semble bien moelleuse. Voilà quelques heures d'occupations en perspective !
Bonne journée .

Ellena said...

A new one to me 'Three-handed knitting'. Lovely!
That my fingers now cramp up says it all. I wish I still could.

Roderick Robinson said...

Is Ravelry an inordinate interest in the composer of the Left-Handed Piano Concerto?

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

R - I like nice town parks like that, where people go and do their own thing together, and the boundaries between public and private become more porous. Dinan has one or two fine magnolia trees.

ML - that's the trouble with making things generally, you can learn how but then you've got to keep up with doing it! But you make plenty of other wonderful things, I shouldn't worry about not knitting!

Z - well, perhaps it wasn't the easiest choice for a beginner, but she did rather fall for it, and time being at a premium it's better she works with something she loves and makes something she really wants to wear. (Better to work with what you love anyway, if you can...) It was very 'her'.

Crow - yes, they're nice too, aren't they? It's funny seeing it on the chart like that, gives a different impression from when you see and touch it in the ball. I started knitting up a scarf with it, and found a great technique for that kind of fuzzy, graduated self-striping stuff where take each end of the ball (or of two balls) and stripe it with itself two rows at a time, which breaks up the self-stripe irregularly... difficult to explain clearly without pictures, maybe I'll have to do a post on it! These fancy new wools and their colours are very seductive!

Bruce - oh he is! He's a very distinguished sort of chap really.

Julia - it really was a very good one. Even missing the turn off the N176 for Iso's house on the way back and having to drive about another 20km to the next junction didn't spoil it!

RR - I'm going to give you your own response in a separate comment below lest I over-run!

Lise - bonjour! Donc il faut le faire! On peut se rendre au plan d'eau à Lamballe peut-être... La laine était tellement jolie, mais plutôt difficile pour une débutante - mais elle est tombée amoureuse! Le Jardin des Anglais était très sympa.

Ellena - Looks funny, doesn't it! I am sorry about your fingers, I know a few people who say the same thing, that they used to knit but their hands no longer can. One must knit all one can while one can - make scarves while the sun shines!

Lucy said...

RR - funnily enough I was going to tell you about a group on Ravelry, one of several dedicated to 'reco' knitting (historical reconstruction) whose aim is to knit the kind of thing Mme Defarge would have done!

Then I got rather distracted going over yer man Hobsbawm to confirm the 160,000, (which I've not yet found but I think he does, with a rather Marxist-historian shrugging cheap-at-half-the price kind of tone as I remember). Of course they were by no means all aristocrats anyway, there were quite a few ci-devant revolutionaries too, and just ordinary people who could be denounced as harbouring ill-will to the authorities or, not unconnectedly, who had fallen foul of pricing laws which potentially criminalised large section of economic activity. And those doing the condemning were sometimes ci-devant aristocrats themselves.

Hilary Mantel's 'A Place of Greater Safety' is good on the details, (so that one is rather glad to have finished it). There's an interesting passage from the point of view of the executioner, bemoaning his workload, the loss of respect for his calling, the cost of clothes ruined and additional help required, and what did the clever buggers who invented this apparently quick and efficient means of dispatching think was going to happen to all the blood?The tricoteuses, it seems, were often rather more coerced or bribed to be there, even it it was a pleasure for them to begin with, bloodlust presumably like other lusts is subject to the law of diminishing returns, and eventually the appeal of the guillotine as a spectator sport palled, so the knitting was really just a matter of making some constructive use of time they were obliged to spend there.

As to what they were knitting, there was of course a war on. A lot of war, on several fronts, including that in the Vendée and Brittany, where there were ten victims of the Terror for every one in Paris. So perhaps they were knitting vests and socks for the troops? And I suppose even revolutionary tricoteuses had grandchildren to clothe. I'm just as inclined to wonder where they got all the wool from.

Anyway, jolly good news about the Tdf result - ça ira, ça ira, ça ira!

Unknown said...

I love the idea of a retired English physicist giving a knitting lesson to a a French woman in the Jardin des Anglais

Francesca said...

I have just realised that as a left hander, it would have been easier to learn how to knit by sitting opposite a living human knitter, rather than looking at a diagram in a mirror,which is what i did!
What a lovely place to learn, and to teach.

Roderick Robinson said...

Thanks for taking the PdlC baton and running with it. It was careless of me to refer to them all as aristos and I stand willingly corrected. And am delighted by the disclosure about EJH - I saw him several times at Hay before he died.

However, now I've got something else to worry about. We both play the same game: comment = comment. But now your re-comments are starting to exceed in length my (already prolix) comments. They are hugely welcome and a privilege but I'm faced with a dilemma: do I make my comments even longer or do I take regular sabbaticals so that the rest of your charming, articulate and (now) multilingual link names can get a word in edgewise?

Do not answer this.

One reflection. Blogging started under the banner of free, democratic expression. Now it's been going long enough to have developed an etiquette just as pronounced as that practised in JA's drawing rooms. Soon we'll be issuing knighthoods and damehoods. When, as it surely must, the letter in the stiff manila envelope comes to you from Google remember EJH and turn it down.

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Joe - Yes, and such pleasing quirks and colourful moments are present even in the most quiet lives! In fact Iso isn't quite French, (hence she is Isobel not Isabelle) but has been here most of her adult life, is married in and works in French, and one might say she looked it, so near enough!

Francesca - looking at a diagram in the mirror seems to me to show quite a bit of initiative! Many of the modern knitting books deal with left-handed techniques, and I think maybe what's known as continental knitting actually favours it. Anyway, kudos to you for teaching yourself regardless.

RR - well, just quickly. Trubba not, my commenting and comment responding, like my general blogging practice, is fairly haphazard and desultory; I'm as likely to leave the baton lying on the ground and wander off like an ill-trained spaniel, and usually do, which is why you should not assume my ignoring you, or anyone else, is a sign of disapproval, I might just be thinking of something else, not having anything to say or not even reading.

I've read quite a bit about the French Revolution period and forgotten most of it. EJH is interesting and presents illuminating facts and figures very clearly. He's not entirely without affect either, referring to Marie Antoinette as 'chicken-brained', and while he does get a bit dewy-eyed about the Sans-culottes, he freely admits the barriers they put up have impeded French economic growth ever since...