I found some pleasant soft nubby wool in a clearance basket in Phildar in Loudeac. The sales lady and other customers smiled benignly as they stepped over me sitting cross-legged on the floor rummaging through it. When I went to pay for it she asked 'Et avez-vous trouvé votre bonheur?' a question which may or may not have been as existential as it sounds; anyway, I affirmed that I had. There were two bluish shades, a dark French blue (marine, but not the same as our navy of course, far richer) and a dark greenish-blue of a shade I can seldom resist, called persan.
At around this time, I was balancing on my knee whilst wielding my trusty circular needle, with a clothes paeg to hold the page if I were outside ona breezy day, an old copy of Rilke's selected letters. It is a mustard colour, clothbound edition from 1946, with a strange very thick cellophane jacket trimmed with passepartout tape, and a super heraldic engraved bookplate from Liverpool public libraries and a dour red 'Withdrawn from Stock' stamp. Paper shortages notwithstanding, the paper is still thick and creamy and the print beautifully clear. The translation is by R.F.C. Hull, who acknowledges amateur scholars Major Crick and Flight-Lieutenant van Rood for their help, and I find it quite moving to think of Germanophile military men at that time giving their leisure in a labour of love to offer Rilke's words to readers in English. Also thanked and providing the introduction, a fine one, was Professor E M Butler, a towering and controversial Germanist of her time, such as would have been called a blue-stocking, with quite a story of her own. Her reading of the Faust legend, and other things, led her to an interest in the occult. Talking of this with Heather, the question was raised as to whether someone with leanings that way could maintain their intellectual, academic, literary whatever credibility. I pointed out that Yeats did, which she had to concede.
Why did I bring this up, apart from a vain desire to prove that my brain has not simply turned into a woolly mess? Oh yes, the green-blue colour, dubbed by Phildar persan - Persian. I found a lovely passage in one of RMR's letters to his wife from Naples, which I feel like transcribing:
At the corner of one of the back alleyways which branch off from the Via Roma, I saw yesterday the stall of a lemonade merchant. Posts, roof and backcloth of his little booth were blue - that thrilling blue of certain Turkish and Persian amulets, shading off into green; it was evening and the lamps placed opposite the back wall of the booth made everything else show up very distinctly in front of this colour: the burnt sienna of an earthenware jug continually running over with a thin trickle of water, the yellow of single lemons and finally the smooth, glassified, ever-changing scarlet in some big and little goldfish bowls... Van Gogh would have turned back to it.
Now doesn't that make you feel thirsty?
I decided to knit the wool up into a waistcoat (or vest as Americans say, though for us that conjures up a winter undergarment for the upper body). I found a nice looking pattern, (I found I could order a second-hand book full of patterns and pictures for less than the price of one pattern to download), decided perhaps I ought to supplement the wool by a couple of balls, which weren't on clearance at another Phildar shop thereby making it rather less of a bargain, and formulated a means of blending the two colours by using a section of the Fibonacci sequence to make graduating stripes. That's to say I used decreasing stripes of the first colour to increasing ones of the second, thus: 13 - 2 - 8 - 3 - 5 - 5 - 3 - 8 - 2 - 13 and the rest. It's not very strict Fibbing; I left out the single row as it means you have one rather thin line of colour floating about untethered, but it's a good way to make a transition.
All very fine, but alas, the wool wasn't really quite right for the pattern, and more importantly, I didn't get the gauge right, and all that the knitting gurus say about that is true, it is the road to perdition.
(I've photographed it hanging on the bookcase as I know some of you like to nose in bookshelves.)
It is enormously wide, the armholes gape like the mouth of Hades, that special circle of it reserved for knitting sinners who do not pay attention to their gauges, it flops and slides about all over the place, is more like a shrug to wear than a waistcoat.
Even so, I find I'm very fond of it, and wear it a lot; in this warm weather it's very comfortable as an extra layer in the coolth of morning or evening, and the colour and texture are very appealing. I found some funny little dome-shaped, Bakelite buttons in the ancestral button tin which has come down to me which must have been in there from a time before I was born, which matched it perfectly, and that was nice. The Fib sequence as I used it in fact used much more blue and less green-blue, so I have plenty of the latter left to work into things like gloves and mittens later. And in fact it was really very largely a prototype, to try out the pattern for the next project.