Thursday, February 4, 2010

A (very belated) Happy New Year

This new year is galloping ahead, and I have not sat down to record life in London once this year.

 Christmas has gone.


Santa and Rudolph are exhausted and looking forward to a three season nap.

But the Welcome Bears have refused to give up their Santa hats claiming the exceptional cold weather merits exceptional measures to stay warm.

London has mostly been dominated by its weather. The coldest winter in 35 years, I believe was the determination. Certainly the coldest in the 12 winters since we moved here — although to be precise, my 11 winters, since last winter I was in Hingham doing grandmother duty, and that was a cold snowy winter by London standards too. By New England standards the amount of snow and the temperature lows in London were not remarkable, but icy sidewalks made the outside world treacherous for nearly a week.


The snow began at night.

 And in the morning our street looked like this.

 And the back garden was a winter wonderland.

The snow has gone, but every day we are greeted with rainy, grey winter gloom.  Although the day lengthens a minute or two every day now, so sunset is already nearly at 5:00 in the afternoon. Groundhog Day is of course an ancient holiday marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The pagans celebrate Imbolc, a festival of lights to honour the Celtic goddess Brid, keeper of the home fires, apparently. Conveniently, the favourite Irish female saint St Brigid (died c. 525)— or sometimes St Bride — has a feast day, smack dab at the same time as Imbolc. We have a St Brigid's cross made of Kildare reeds — she was abbess of Kildare — that has protected us for 35 years. Sadly it fell apart last year as the reeds are a bit old and dried, but I was able to push it back together into a respectable cross, so I hope it will continue to keep us in good stead. Just as conveniently, the Holy Family presented themselves in the Temple in Jerusalem at the same time, giving Christians the festival of Candlemas to celebrate — more lights, candles, etc. to help wake up the earth.  Candlemas never made it to Catholic New York City, but St Blaise did. On the day after Candlemas, my Catholic family trooped to church after school to queue up to have the priest at St Gregory the Great bless our throats by crossing two candles (unlit!) under our chins and mumbling a Latin phrase. When I say my Catholic family, I mean everyone but my Lutheran father, but I just had the worrying thought that he died of cancer of the esophagus. Perhaps I should check if any Catholic churches still perform these proto-pagan rituals.

The New Year Resolutions are going pretty well. I spent the end of 2009 organising my yarn stash, finding forgotten treasures, winding skeins into balls with my new swift, joining many too many Ravelry groups, and setting out projects for the month. I did finish several of those projects.

Mittens for Lavinia.
The checked pattern makes them nice and warm because the strand running behind gives them double thickness. The yarn is the lovely Wensleydale Longwool from Yorkshire.
Mittens were the theme of the month here.

A Ravelry group for Fingerless Mitts offered this free pattern for Cupcake Mittlets. The yarn is a hand dyed one I bought in Devon last summer in a lovely colour mix whose subtlety does not photograph well. And the pattern looks pretty shapeless. You can just about see the thumb on the right. My friend Martha told me the fingerless mitts are so popular these days because the majority of the population who wander the streets texting and phoning are not impeded from the steady pursuit of communication. For us incommunicados, grabbing the transit pass was made easy too.

The Selbuvotter Mittens are much more impressive in a photograph. I bought the book years ago at Halcyon Yarns in Maine. Teri Shea, a University of Washington Museum Studies grad student interned at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, and as a research project studied the mitten collection associated with migrants from the Selbu district of Norway. She charted dozens of mitten designs and published the book. She runs a Ravelry group to promote the book and knitting the designs; that was a good enough prod for me to join. I used a rather fine shetland yarn that I saw in the window of a haberdashery in Copenhagen and bought because it was bargain priced.

And finally, I finished this wonderful scarf from a truly wonderful book Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr. Last autumn, a quilting group member brought it to a meeting, and I immediately ordered it from Amazon. The number of projects I love in this book will keep me busy for years. This yarn bought years ago is from Wool in the Woods which I see from googling, no longer exists, except perhaps as part of Cherry Hill yarns.

The pattern is called Aria, and Lynne Barr says she was inspired by the seaweed Laminaria.

The frilly edge is done with short-row shaping slightly more visible in the photo below.