Farm Shoes

So, this week I bought these farm shoes. I know that some people call them “wellies,” but I don’t know what they’re called around here. Just “rubber boots” maybe.

I need them not because I am a real farmer in any way, but because Spring has sprung (sort of … we are also still getting snow), and even if a person only has 3 chickens, their run is still surrounded by mud. With these boots, I feel that I have leveled up in some small way.

As a person who romanticizes the past, the boots naturally got me thinking about what people did for mud shoes (in Europe, say) before they had access to rubber. The answer, of course, was clogs or wooden shoes. You can see them on French peasants in Millet’s paintings sometimes.

“The Gleaners,” by Millet. You can’t really tell what the shoes are made of, but you can see that they’re sort of in the clog family.

But I’m Dutch (actually, Frisian) by ancestry, and we have our own iconic version of the wooden shoe. I don’t know about other peasant clogs, but Dutch wooden shoes have to fit rather large and be worn with several layers of socks. They float, which is important in Holland.

Here is me in a partially authentic “Dutch costume” that my mom made, displaying the klompen. (That’s what the wooden shoes are called, for obvious reasons.) She did not make the klompen. We got those at De Klomp Wooden Shoe factory in Holland, Michigan, which is still in operation to this day. There, you can buy everything from tiny souvenir klompen to ones that fit you to huge painted klompen to put on your porch. You can watch the shoes being carved and hollowed out. You can have your name woodburned onto a pair if you wish. The whole place smells really good, like fresh wood shavings and woodburning smoke.

Here is someone I know (also of Frisian blood), modeling the klompen and the milk maid buckets. I know the blurring, and the basket in the foreground, make it look like this picture was taken in a studio, but it was actually snapped outdoors. The roses are real and those are real, fake Dutch farmer accoutrements.

If you, Reader, work outdoors (whether it’s farming or forestry or plein-air paintings), what do you prefer for spring mud shoes?

Ragtag Bonnet

Also known as the Stashbuster Bonnet. But this one just felt like it should be named Ragtag to me. Perhaps I was thinking of the book The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.

Believe it or not, I made this bonnet using this ribbed bonnet pattern. Here are the changes I made:

  • Instead of knitting in 3×3 rib, I used moss stitch (I love moss stitch! so textury!) for the first four inches, then switched to stocking stitch for the next three inches before doing garter for the back.
  • As before, I knit for seven inches instead of six before joining in the round. (Again, big head.)
  • I also made the bonnet larger from ear to ear by casting on an additional six stitches. I decreased these as I ended the moss stitch section. This created slightly longer ear flaps.

The most striking thing about the bonnet, its “bag of rags” look, came because I used a variety of odds and ends of yarns in my stash, including a dark brown wool, a dark green wool, a dark blue blend, a couple of ombre balls, and even a leftover ball of glittery navy blue (used sparingly). The result is more or less the color story that I was going for. It was inspired by a hat on Pinterest made from a ball of yarn that wavered between shades of gold, brown, and grey. Making my own edgy colored hat was a lot more work, because I had to keep stopping to twine the ends of the different colored yarns together. When I get time, I’ll definitely knit this hat again, but “cheat” and buy a self-striping ball.

For now, I absolutely love this and I also love how it helps me pull off the “witchy lady” look that I am going for as I age. As you can see, it’s still cold here. A poor old woman needs a warm wool bonnet to wear when she toddles out to gather a few sticks for her meagre fire.

Knitting: Peasant Bonnet

This all started because I wanted a hat that would cover my ears.

Most hats, like berets, slouches, and beanies, only protect your ears from the wind if they are pulled way way down so as to cover your eyebrows. That’s not necessarily bad (especially in truly Arctic conditions), but we don’t always need it. Also, such hats tend to have tightish bands that don’t play well with most hairstyles.

It occurred to me that, for covering the ears and gracefully skimming over a bun or whatever, a bonnet might be just the thing. I checked Pinterest for bonnet patterns was immediately drawn into a whole new, magical world. Many of the patterns are for little girls or babies, and, well … swoon. Others are elfin-looking (swoon again). Plus, it turns out that women as far back as the Iron Age were wearing knitted or crocheted looking hair nets, and these can be found intact on bog bodies in Denmark, but I digress.

After one false start that involved purchasing a darling pattern that was way too small for me, I remembered this pattern.

It was in this book, which was the first-ever knitting book I tried to do a pattern from. It was actually too advanced for me, but I didn’t realize that at the time. I had found it in our local library when I lived in the Midwest, and interestingly, it’s also in our local library here in rural Idaho! I guess the book’s marketing team is really good with libraries, or maybe it has something to do with the gorgeous photographs. Anyway, I checked it out yet again, and looking at all the patterns and the photography was quite a trip down memory lane. I remembered that there was a bonnet pattern in this book, and it turns out that it’s a really useful and basic one.

Here’s what the bonnet looks like on the model in the book. As you can see, she has taken it in a more punk direction. I didn’t realize that putting my own spin on the bonnet – and then wearing it – would make me look like a close-up of a Millet painting, but I’m pleased with the results.

Here’s my version from the side so that you can compare them. I’m not sure why my edge is rolling in and hers isn’t. Theories: different yarn; my tassels have less weight than her long i-cord ties; they blocked their bonnet and/or pulled it straight right before the photographer snapped the picture.

I made mine with ivory-colored wool which I had left over, until I ran out; then I used ivory-colored acrylic that was also in my stash. (Did you know that if yarn sits around your house for several years, it becomes free?) Other changes: I cast on with dark green wool. I knit an extra inch of length before joining the hat in the round, because I have a big head. As you can see, the bonnet hits me right where it hits the model, even with the extra inch. Finally, I used tassels hung from a short crochet chain rather than long i-cords with “flowers” on the end for accents.

The bonnet does OK keeping my ears warm in windy subzero conditions, and it hasn’t blown off my head yet. If I were going to do a serious outdoor version, I’d want to line it with flannel or something and make sure it could tie under the chin. But this is fine for looking like a peasant and not getting rained or winded on while running to the car.

Kind of Disorganized Over Here

… my thoughts, I mean.

This post might be a little … rambling. A poorly thought-out combination of recent events in my life, vague political implications, and nostalgic revisiting of old favorite fantasy novels. You know, the way blogs used to be back in the day. Because I am just so dedicated to bringing you, my faithful Internet friends, content, even if it is crummy content.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve done a couple of knitting marathons (about which, more in the near future). I like having something to watch while knitting, and the least repellant thing on Netflix was The Lord of the Rings, so I have recently watched through all three movies. I enjoyed the movies mostly because they reminded me of the books, which I haven’t read in a long time. Yeah, I’m a purist. I couldn’t believe they left out Old Man Willow, Tom Bombadil, the Barrow Wights, and they completely messed up the scene in Bree, and they Hollywooded up Gandalf’s confrontation with Saruman and with Theoden, and they destroyed Faramir … but even so, even so, they kept enough of the original plot that watching the movies was edifying.

The theme that jumped out to me this time — well, there were a couple. One was the way that every single member of the party pays a high cost in the service of the quest. Even people with fairly minor roles, such as Merry and Pippin, suffer greatly – Merry from stabbing the Witch King, and Pippin has to deal with Denethor’s madness. Multiple people had to be willing to pour out their lives. Not just Gandalf, and not just Frodo. This rings true to me. Whether we are fighting the good fight by building a family, a school, or a local church, everyone feels like they are giving 110%, and then the job just barely gets done.

The other theme that I noticed this time was that of despair. Denethor succumbs to despair, kills himself, and nearly kills Faramir. Well before that, he essentially abandoned his duty to the people of Minas Tirith because he believed the cause was lost. And it turns out, this was a stratagem of the enemy, who had been showing him misleading things in the Palantir.

Meanwhile, over in Rohan, Wormtongue has gotten Theoden to abandon his duties to his people by convincing him that he’s old and tired and the heroic age has ended. Wormtongue gets inside Eowyn’s head, getting her to see Edoras, the glorious hall of her ancestors, as a stupid redneck hovel, and her own role in it as boring and stultifying. She ends up, essentially, suicidal, but luckily the presence of Aragorn has turned her suicidal impulses in the direction of brave self-sacrifice, rather than foolish action like Denethor’s. But this is another case where despair doesn’t just happen, it is a direct, intentional action of the enemy.

Other characters suffer feelings of, or temptations to, despair, pretty much in direct proportion as they come in contact with the enemy. Physical contact with the Ringwraiths pulls a personal partially into their world, as happens to Frodo at Weathertop, and the Eowyn and to Merry, who says to Pippin, “Are you going to bury me?” Victims don’t just despair of victory, but they doubt their own judgment, their own senses, even their own existence. It’s at times like these that we need the shoulder of a friend.

James Lindsay has posted recently about how modern-day deceivers will try to induce despair by robbing us of epistemic authority (“you don’t know what you are talking about.” “Do you have a degree?”), psychological authority (“you are crazy/phobic”), and moral authority (“you are a bigot/oppressor” “It’s so heartless/insensitive to say that”). The goal is to get their interlocutor to stop trusting their own mind and conscience, and just accept the new system of thought they are being offered. Perhaps this podcast of his was the thing that caused me to notice this dynamic happening in Middle Earth.

Anyway, you can make your own applications. Don’t despair. Your mind is probably working OK. You are probably not a crazy bigot oppressor who doesn’t have a working conscience. You are not the only one who has questions. There are friendly shoulders to lean on.

I was going to call this post “Don’t Despair,” but I thought that would sound too cliched and I wasn’t sure I could follow through on the promise of such a title.

Knitting Picture: Western Mountains Poncho

You may recall that a while back, I accidentally discovered that if you make zigzag stripes on a poncho in a gradient of colors, it looks like mountains receding into the distance. I’ve been wanting to make one for myself, for some time.

I discovered this nice, affordable yarn that is something like 90% acrylic, 10% alpaca. I could have done the poncho in shades of grey, and that would have looked awesome, but I already own a grey poncho and I “needed” one that was more in the orange family. So, these mountains are going to have a cloudy sky in the background, alpenglow on the upper peaks, dun lower peaks.

When I have two long rectangles, I’ll sew them together to make a poncho.

Fall Knitting Picture: Sleeveless Cardigan

I worked on this all summer. It took a long time, because it’s oversized. I planned this project mainly to showcase the variety of coordinating colors, which were sold as a group at the yarn store. The color palette matched several items of clothing I already had. It can be worn with grey, green, gold, orange, or camel. Basically anything in the warm or cool neutral families. I ended up having to buy the coordinating yarn sets three times.

For the dimensions, I referred to a pattern for a bulky sweater with sleeves and a shawl collar, but just left those off. I began by knitting granny squares and then sewing them together, but as the work progressed, I found I had to pick up stitches on the end of finished squares and then just sew the sides together. I added a few rows of ribbing at the arm holes and neck, and a few more rows of ribbing along the bottom.

Here it is from the front. (This picture was taken on Halloween, hence the cave woman hairdo.)

Even with the ribbing, the sides and arm openings tend to roll in.

If only, before I began, I had come across this Pinterest video:

This is such a simple but brilliant way to join knitted squares.