Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Upcoming Tolkien Title - Beowulf

This is a book that I've heard rumors of for over a decade now: J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of Beowulf.
Beowulf - J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien
Release Date: May 22, 2014

The amazon.com product description:
The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.

From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.

But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf "snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup"; but he rebuts the notion that this is "a mere treasure story", "just another dragon tale". He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is "the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history" that raises it to another level. "The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The ‘treasure’ is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination."

Sellic spell, a "marvellous tale", is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the "historical legends" of the Northern kingdoms.
I own and have read other translations of Beowulf, including the Chickering edition, but even so, I've been looking forward to this one for a while. J.R.R. Tolkien was a known expert on the subject and I'd really like to find out what he had to say.

Definitely, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this one. May 22 can't come soon enough for me.

Monday, April 28, 2014

From Wool To Waulking (DVD) - Norman Kennedy

From Wool To Waulking: Spinning Wool and Creating Cloth
From Wool To Waulking: Spinning Wool and Creating Cloth With Norman Kennedy
Norman Kennedy
Interweave Press
Copyright: November 2012

The amazon.com product description:
The History! The Stories! The Techniques! Join Norman Kennedy in an enthralling workshop about spinning, weaving, and waulking wool. Following his passion for weaving and knitting around the British Isles and around the world, Norman Kennedy watched traditional artisans making textiles as they had for generations. By listening to their stories and learning their craft, Norman preserved skills that were on the verge of disappearing. Now you have the chance to experience these traditions, learn the stories, and gain valuable spinning techniques with this workshop! In this video workshop, he teaches a new generation of spinners these techniques: Oiling wool for carding Using hand cards to prepare rolls and batts Dressing and spinning with a distaff Creating Shetland-style lace yarn Successfully spinning wool with a variety of spindles, a treadle wheel, and a great wheel The workshop culminates in a waulking, a method for fulling cloth that brings people together to finish cloth by hand-led and accompanied by Norman's singing in a variety of languages. In a bonus segment, Norman demonstrates using a traditional indigo dye vat and discusses a variety of natural dye techniques. Norman Kennedy teaches using the rich past as his course.
I bought Waulking with Wool a couple of months ago now on the strength of this sample clip:

I have to say that the rest of the video more than equals that clip. I've watched the whole thing once and the first disc a second time, with the full intent of watching it several more times as I try and figure out the techniques that Norman Kennedy demonstrates.

I'd also like to try out a spindle like the one he's demonstrating on and see how well that works - or not - I'm pretty used to a drop spindle now after almost ten years of using one and I'm trying to figure out the supported spindle and it's techniques intermittently - planning a month long blitz on that one for May thanks to a couple of Ravelry challenges.

Norman Kennedy seems, in the video, to imply that drop spindles were/are less common historically than more supported style spindles, but I've seen quite a few depictions of drop spindles in the art of the ancient world and in medieval illuminated manuscripts. I'd love to be able to discuss that a bit more, if only to find out if I'm misinterpreting what he's saying.

You really get your money's worth on this one: two discs making a total of three hours of clear and detailed spinning instruction. But, even non-spinners find this interesting watching. It's all interspersed with anecdotes, personal history, history in general and even folk-lore - including some traditional songs involved in fibre-crafts (something I wouldn't mind hearing more about. I wonder if any of these are on his cd?). I started watching it with some other spinners for the second watch, and they were finding little bits of things to try as well, and these are people who have much more experience than I do, so there's stuff here for spinners at all levels.

At this point in time the section of the video I'm focused on is the beginning half of the first disc: the initial fibre-preparation descriptions and instructions: cleaning, processing, and carding. All the things you have to do with a raw fleece before you can spin it.

Next time I'm watching, I'll probably be paying a lot more attention to another section of the dvd. Perhaps it'll be where he's spinning on the flax-wheel and how he's controlling the twist going into the singles. I've watched that a couple of times and when I've tried it myself, it just feels really uncomfortable. I don't know if that's because I've been doing it the way I have for so long, or if it's because of how and where my wheel is set up - I'm right next to a wall, so I'm sitting a little off-center from my wheel, and the orifice is more in line with my left hand, while I'm right handed. Comfortable enough with the way I've been handling the roving, but for his method, it feels like I'm trying to work across my body.

Overall though, this is definitely the best spinning resource I've found to date - short of being able to spin live with someone more experienced who can demonstrate, correct and answer questions as I'm working. Still this is pretty close.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Latest Crochet Project Started and Finished

My latest crochet project, the Aruba Storage Basket from Crochet In A Snap:
Where the original pattern called for solid colored yarn, I happened to have a couple of skeins of the multicolored line, pictured to the right, which I used instead. Also, I omitted the colored stripes from the pattern - which possibly made the process somewhat more boring. Next time I think I want to try doing this pattern in something closer to the suggested yarns, although I really don't care for Red Heart Super Saver. I find it to be quite scratchy on my hands as I work. Still, for this kind of project it works well, and I will use it again.

One of the things I did like about this basket is just how quickly it worked up. I got it finished in about three days. It's also pretty sturdy, probably because of the way the stitches were all done with two strands of yarn - a first for me.

I found that the best way of dealing with the project was to use two skeins at the same time, rather than to try doing something like winding half of a skein into a new ball to work with. A rather good choice, as I have the feeling that to use one skein for this project, it would have to be a jumbo skein - I used up nearly all of both skeins.

Simple stitches, but some new techniques nonetheless. I like it, and I'll probably end up making more of these storage baskets.

And, a third photo. So cute, I just couldn't resist:


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