Monday, September 02, 2013

Knitting 2) My blue-green Fibonacci waistcoat

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trimmed with passepartout tape, and a super heraldic engraved bookplate from Liverpool public libraries and a dour red 'Withdrawn from Stock' stamp.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 - 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.


marja-leena said...

Oooh, that is lovely, Lucy! Makes me feel greedy for one, if only I were a knitter. Love the Rilke quote with all those luscious colours.

Zhoen said...

I feel this way about dark, dark, dark purple with a midnight blue undertone. Irresistible.

Catalyst said...

Ah, Lucy, you always have several things to comment upon. The sweater-vest-waistcoat is delicious in it's blue and aqua colors and looks perfectly warming for a cool autumn day. (What are those anyway???)

I agree with marja-leena on the Rilke quote. It conjures up such a picture.

And thank you for hanging the garment on your bookshelf. After turning it sideways and enlarging it I was able to read quite a few titles in your eclectic collection. I am one of those bookshelf browsers.

Lyse said...

Vraiment Lucy, tu fais des jolis tricots, celui-ci est sûrement très agréable à porter, il semble que ta laine soit bien souple et confortable. Merci pour le partage, on pourra te piquer des idées LOL!

Roderick Robinson said...

Catalyst got there first: for those whose interest in knitting is finite, there is the infinite pleasure of your bookshelves. I may go even further; not only rotate left through 90 deg but also copy, tr. to Photoshop and apply the sharpening function to blurred spine titles. Why this curiosity? Not, I assure you, to unearth a guilty pleasure, rather to build up an overview based on a growing conviction that I am likely to be left in awe.

Can't do philosophy (while knitting) but can do Rilke. That'll do.

You've saved me from an unlikely gaffe. I always imagined there was an extra i, triggered no doubt by the belief that Philidar is more euphonious than Phildar. Which reminds me of one of those weather saws: February filldyke. Tangentialism is catching.

But I must apply myself to the garment. I'll ignore the Fibonacci reference; there's a trap lying in and around that I suspect. I'll wait until you break into primes. In the interim it's words again. I don't see you wearing a waistcoat
and certainly not a vest; but I do see you graced by a gilet, again in the service of euphony. As usual it's the l that counts, most savourable words have at least one. And the Welsh are prodigal, no doubt one of the reasons why Welsh sings so well.

Button tins. Scoopimg into my mother's tin and allowing a handful to avalanche back uttering a muliplicity (euphony there, too) of differently pitched rattles. Often I was tempted to suck them since they appeared to share evolutionary links with sweeties.

quilteddogs said...

Funny post. Glad to discover you.

Ellena said...

I like the look you achieved by blending navy blue and persan for the lovely vest. We can't go out in the evenings without taking such back warming garment along. Nights are always cool here.
Fibonacci was new to me until his name came up with your pine cone
photos. When I mentioned his name to Pasha, my oldest, she said that his name came up in reference to graphs when she was dabbling a bit in 'hobby trading'.
Your books must love you as much as you love them. Mine turned yellow and smell. La cigarette.

Fire Bird said...

I love your waistcoat. Fibonacci sequence, wow

Soize said...

Que lis-je ? que vois-je ? "Fibonacci sequence" ? alors là non ! Lucy comment veux-tu que je m'y retrouve si tu mélanges les mathématiques et l'anglais ?!!

Il doit être bien pratique à cette saison ton gilet : le matin, il fait déjà un peu frais.

Lucy said...

ML - Oh thank you. I do like sleeveles things. If you'll come and visit I'll knit you one!

Z - I like that colour too, it's quite difficult to find. The shade is important, lighter, brighter turquoise and aqua I don't care for so much, unless they're quite sludgy.

Bruce - I should have included more bookshelf!

Lyse = vas y piquer! Phildar produit de laines jolies; le gilet est très pratique et confortable.

RR - a gilet is OK, but somehow a cardigan is a bit frowsty and middle aged, its Welsh roots notwithstanding. Rilke's letters are light reading, a bit of high-minded extrapolation about art but generally vivid and descriptive, quite a bit of anecdote, including a lovely description of Rodin sculpting Bernard-Shaw ('he stood still with such energy!'). I suppose modern kids probably don't know about button tins.

Q-Ds - thanks and welcome, I've seen you around for years!

Ellena - the pine cone didn't really demonstrate Fibonacci, they do apparently if you plot the points of the 'petals' seen from above, though probably only loosely; despite what the fractal mystics would have us believe I think nature only conforms to theit formulae quite haphazardly. I haven't owned the Rilke letters very long, it was a second hand one from Amazon marketplace. Modern books don't keep as well, even in smoke-free homes, the paper yellows and goes brittle very quickly.

FB - sort of thing both of us would probably like to wear I think. The Fib sequence wasn't my original idea, I saw it on something somewhere, probably on Ravelry, and researched it a bit to use it here. It's supposed to produce aesthetically satisfying proportions.

Lucy said...

Soize - je t'ai raté là! Le truc Fibonacci me fait sembler plus maline et sophistiquée que la réalité, hélas! J'ai recherché sur Ravelry comment calculer les rayures dégradées (?) comme ça. Je suis un peu méfiante des rayures horizontales à cause de ma taille...

Ellena said...

Lucy!!! Do I read 'à cause de ma taille'? I see you as a fragile papillon.

Lucy said...

Ellena dear, I am not elephantine, but certainly no fragile papillon, and quite short and broad with no waist to speak of, and horizontal stripes do me no favours, though I am often drawn to bright striped things!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Lucy, j'adore ce gilet! Just my kind of thing. And I'm shaped more or less as you describe yourself. If I come to see you, I will humbly demand that you knit me one like it tout de suite.