Sunday, May 17, 2015

Syttende Mai and a bit of Norwegian history

Last evening's Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor talking about Syttende Mai (and singing some traditional Norwegian songs) prompted me to do some research on this holiday...and brush up on some essential Norwegian history...

Today is the 17th of May, a national holiday in Norway.  It is Nasjonaldagen (National Day) or Grunnlovsdagen (Constitution Day). In 1814 on this day Norway declared itself an independent kingdom to avoid being given to Sweden by Denmark after Denmark-Norway's defeat in the Napoleanic Wars.   (The Norwegian provinces of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes remained with Denmark).  There was terrible poverty and mass starvation as a result of this defeat. 

 In of course the expected political ironies, Norway actually WAS given to Sweden.  but the opportunity presented itself for the country to attempt to declare a level of independence.  Norway kept its liberal constitution and institutions with exception of the foreign service. Because of the Napoleonic Wars, economic development in Norway was slow until around 1830..(making immigration to the US in the 19th century very tempting). Because of the lack of independence, there was a rise in Norwegian romantic nationalism. 

Norway's true independence  did not actually happen until June 7, 1905, when Prince Carl of Denmark was named King of Norway and called himself Haakon VII. 

Coincidentally, WWII ended 9 days before Syttende Mai in 1945, adding more meaning to independence at this time of May! (As we know, Norway was occupied by the Nazi's during WWII).   As the website for the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah Iowa suggests, it is a great day to celebrate freedom all around!

Here is an old photo taken by Paul Stang in the early 1900's of a Syttende Mai celebration in Stongfjorden

Mom and I visited Norway and a few other places  around Scandinavia in 2002 

Here's a postcard that I picked up of a little one and her castle wheel, dated 1904, the distaff suggests that she is spinning, or pretending to spin... flax

We went to the Norsk Folkemuseum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History at Bygdøy in Oslo, and saw dancers in traditional costumes, some of which people wore today!

The women are wearing Bunad, here's a definition from Wikipedia

"Bunad (Norwegian plural: bunader) is a Norwegian umbrella term encompassing, in its broadest sense, a range of both traditional rural clothes (mostly dating to the 19th and 18th centuries) as well as modern 20th-century folk costumes. In its narrow sense the word bunad refers only to clothes designed in the early 20th century that are loosely based on traditional costumes. The word bunad in itself is a 20th-century invention.
The bunad movement has its root in 19th-century national romanticism, which included an interest for traditional folk costumes not only in Norway, but also in neighbouring countries such as Denmark and notably Germany. However, in Norway national romanticist ideas had a more lasting impact, as seen in the use of folk inspired costumes"

Finally, we took a boat down Sognefjord, here I am at Kvikne's resort

King Harald and Queen Sonja just happened to be visiting that day, here you see Harald me!  He is the Grandson of Haakon VII.

 And here I am outside of Bergen at the tomb of Edvard Grieg and his wife, I am wearing a Dale sweater purchased in Norway...

(Thanks as usual to wikipedia...yes, I send them a donation yearly!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Blazing Dyeing

So... I knew that my local fiber guild, Fiber Guild of the Savannahs, was sponsoring a warp dyeing workshop. Now, I am not a weaver at the present time but I know what a warp is.  I went to the guild meeting on Saturday last. The workshop presenter, Kathrin from Blazing Shuttles, from the Asheville area, gave a talk. Kathrin dyes and sells warps in different color ways!

Turns out, the next day, she was doing a dyeing workshop that would include skein dyeing for knitters. Any other plans for Sunday left my head!  

We used ProChemical & Dye kits that Kathrin assembled to manipulate most colors of the rainbow and variations in between!  The dyes were for cellulose based fibers...cotton and types of rayon which  include bamboo and tensel (lyocell). The fibers are created by processing cellulose fibers from different plants (e.g. bamboo) and "extruding" them in a single filament, hence the slipperiness and shininess. While the source is "natural" the fibers are highly processed.  However...these dyes worked well on the silk caps that I brought....

 I am in Kathrin's camp of enjoying intense colors or hues. Apparently "colorfulness" "saturation" and "chroma" are slightly different ways of expressing the intensity of a color.  (I don't understand these nuances but I think that they are important...)

Here are photos...the first two are warps that were dyed by Kathrin on some of our guild's looms

Here is an assortment of undyed and dyed warps

Here are my finished fibers, first, a silk cap from stash, ironically, I had not spun hankies or caps till after this workshop! But now I'm off and running, more on this in an upcoming post...

Tencel roving, dip dyed. I bought the roving from Jennifer in Savannah some time ago

Mercerized cotton in my stash for 20 years probably, haha, the yarn had been used prior in this

Purchased from Kathrin, a rayon chenille skein

More of the tensel, only this was spun quickly the night before

My advice to you: go buy a skein or warp from Kathrin's website or go to a workshop as soon as you can!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Thoughts on Linda's book, the McGarrigles, and knitting

This is my review of Linda Ronstadt's autobiography that I also put up on goodreads (the photo is on my Ravelry page):

I was a huge Linda Ronstadt fan through my young adult years. I will confess to being more of a rock n roll fan that a ballad fan. The heartrenching ballad does little for me. I love her loud versions of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Tumbling Dice."

This book is a story of her albums and career with little mention of former lovers etc etc, other than a tip of the hat to Jerry Brown. I love that she protects her children's privacy by barely mentioning them, and her Parkinson's disease diagnosis goes unmentioned. Good for her.

What she describes that I think is very important was her ability to follow her art in the way her soul (and not the music industry) wanted her to go, and her understanding that she was lucky to do so. I have not listened to her work with Nelson Riddle to any extent, or to her exploration into Mexican canciones. I did however sample a bit, and the beauty of her voice and development of her vocal technique in her post California country rock scene recordings is just stunning.  What was also a bit surprising is how incredibly well read and intellectual she is (sorry Linda, I just didn't know).

I loved the paragraphs about the McGarrigle Sisters who I also still listen to but also never saw live. My friend Susan has, and had them autograph a CD for me! . Linda says about them " They wrote heart music, indeed... Onstage their sibling dynamic made one think of unseparated litter mates. In the audience, it felt like we had entered their living room unannounced and discovered them squabbling, working out harmonies, or sweeping up after a boisterous party. They wore odd clothing, even by show business standards. Canadian are quite different from Americans and I have always though that, where clothing is concerned, they are more invest in quality , while we are more invested in glamour. This can make their tweeds and hand knitted sweaters (things I adore) seem stodgy".

And of course as a knitter (I knew she was one) was her discussion of knitting "Kate Taylor had taught me how to knit woolen socks on five needles and I told her about the pattern of hearts that I had plotted on graph  paper." In an interview with the Washington Post she briefly commented on what a loss her inability to knit now that she has Parkinson's Disease.

Linda also has strong respect for the home sewn garment, her Mother sewed clothes for her until she was a young adult.

I really enjoyed this. Her favorite quote is from Flaubert:   “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

In search of my Grandmother's Yarn I've said before, some of my forebears came from Langeland, in Denmark. And as a shawl knitter, I must wonder what breed of sheep my grandmothers shawls were knit from?  

The answer is still a research project, however...I did actually find a local yarn store in Rudkobing which made me quite happy...LundGarn

Part of the reason for happiness is that I discovered that one of the few spinneries left in Denmark is close to Langeland in Svendborg, just over the bridge. It's Hjelholts.   Hjelholts sources it's Gotland wool from Denmark and Sweden. It is blended with some merino from the Falklands. The wool is three shades of gray and colors are dyed over either very light, medium or dark gray, depending on the color to be dyed. Of course they give tours and of course, I missed visiting. The spinnery is on the list for the next trip! I saw their yarn in shops throughout Denmark. 

This is their Farvestkiftegarn, color changing yarn, purchased at Lundgarn, all single ply fingering weight

Here is a skein of their color changing yarn with a coordinating solid. 

These two are double plied fingering weight, purchased elsewhere in Denmark, I think the orange was from a shop in Roskilde

And here I am at the marina-hotel in Rudkobing,  our favorite accommodation. I am perhaps contemplating my next project...and whether Grandma's shawl was knit from Gotland

Here are a few sheep in Troenekoer near the church, couldn't get close enough to see if they were Gotland...

A shot of the bakery in Troenekoer, I believe. We got some awesome treats there....

And here are some views from Langeland

And here are Icelandic poppies blooming in my yard yesterday

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Adventures in Spinning Cat and Dog Fur


I do not own dogs, I have two cats.  I used to have  a white Persian, I was the poor thing's third owner. His name was Gable, perhaps an earlier owner named him after Clark.  He was rather neurotic and was a former Bronx resident.  I recall that he had lived through a fire in the Bronx. (I used to live in the north Bronx so I felt a bit bonded with Gable on that part...). The person that I got him from had a child with allergies and needed to pass him on to a third home.  Here is a portrait that my son R did when Gable was with us. The downturned mouth/jaw kind of says it all!!

But he was very sweet and declawed. I saved his fur and spun some yarn, using a puni rolags (this is not the time or place to define puni rolags, sometime I'll go there...), I spun it then  I double plied it. 

Gable is gone now, for several years, and I'm still not sure what to do with this bit of yarn, which is very soft.  Perhaps knit a star to represent Gable's star in the firmament. He had a hard life and I hope that he was happy with us!

(My current cats are  Domestic American Shorthairs and their fur is fairly useless on the spinning front, however they are great pets. Both are female and there is only the occasional territorial fight.)


A friend of mine from work acquired a Landseer (kind of like a Newfoundland but not quite) named "Mariska" a couple of years ago. 

Here is Mariska, lookit that tail wagging...she KNOWS her photo is being taken!

Knowing that Mariska's fur had a relatively long staple (fiber speak for length), I jumped at the chance to spin it up. Jim has been diligent about bringing me bags of fur.  It is at about 7 wpi and pretty makes a bulky yarn.  I roughly separated the darker from the lighter fibers and spun them separately.  Here's the darker yarn

I had an inspired idea...knit a dog from dog fur. I found a pattern, amazingly enough, for a Newfoundland dog. Shaped quite like a Landseer. After some spinning had happened I realized that the pattern was crocheted, not knit.   I mentioned this to Jim who enthusiastically said "oh but my Mom crochets!"  

Here is the pattern,  results to follow...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nuno One

Janice and I went to SAFF...the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival in Asheville last October.  Had a grand time!

I did a class on nuno felting...I will confess that I didn't really understand nuno when I signed up. However, I certainly did by the end of the class!  Essentially, nuno is a process by which fibers, usually wool, are manually worked in to a somewhat open weave fabric, often silk.

My friend Margo  is an incredible fiber artist and I probably learned just the word "nuno" from meeting Margo two years ago.

So, the class...felting, as I had suspected, is a significant calorie burner.

I had chosen a greenish colored silk scarf as my base, which was placed on a long piece of plastic pool covering. I had chosen  green and blue merino fibers and some white silk accents to "mesh" into the silk.  The merino fibers were lightly layered or "shingled" on  the silk scarf.

A mesh covering was place over the scarf and the soapy rubbing began. We rubbed about 18 inches of scarf at a time, After the wool fibers appeared on the other side of the silk, the next 18 inches was rubbed. Once all done, the scarf was rolled up and tied and the rolling began. Not sure how many rolls...maybe 800. 

Here is the result wet

And dry


Friday, January 30, 2015

Denmark Part Seven... Langeland and some tips on how to trace one's Danish ancestors

After Skagen we had a long drive to Langeland with a brief stop in Aalborg for coffee. I had hoped to meet a fellow blogger in Aalborg but it didn't happen. It's a fast-paced university town and probably worth another visit.

So here's the story about Langeland and why we went there:

Family lore told us that my Mom 's Grandmother's parents had emigrated from Langeland. Langeland is translated at “long island” and is part of Funen  or Fyn. Langeland is it’s own municipality. 

We had planned to do some genealogy sleuthing while there. We found the Archives in Rudkobing, thanks to a tip from a waitress on our first night there!  Here is the website in case you too have ancestors from Langeland: Only the contact page is in English, unfortunately.  (If your ancestors are from another municipality in Denmark, there probably is an archive there). 

Here's Mom/Nancy on the steps of the Archives in Rudkobing. 

 We walked in and met Else Wolsgård, the director. Apparently Else is PAID by the Danish government to manage the Archives and assist people in genealogy research(imagine that in the US!) Here are Nancy and Else chatting over a cup of coffee. Apparently Nancy chose the correct top and glasses that day!  Too cute!

The archives were most impressive with records dating back over 100 years

I had put together a tree on based on   a print tree that Nancy had previously documented. 

Our family name (Nancy's Great Grandparents) is  “Rasmussen” and I suspected that is was originally a  patronymic, meaning that at some point there was a “Rasmus” in our line  and his son, “Rasmussen” decided to keep that as a permanent surname for his children.  Here is an article on patronyms in Scandinavia from Wikipedia:

Else allowed me to use their computer and access my record and I printed out more on these individuals, mostly US censuses which she said might help her to trace some individuals.  This would be a task as there are 15 parishes on Langeland and one needed to know the parish for a definite identification, and of course there are many many Rasmussens.

Else noted that Americans tended to come to Denmark in search of  an ancestor’s grave. She usually cannot do this as there were no remaining graves. If someone died in Denmark 100 years ago, the grave was rented for 20 years. If no one paid the rent, the grave was reused. I asked whether remains were dug up (!). She said that bodies disintegrate within the course of 20 years and that occasionally  a piece of wood from a casket might be found. There was not enough room for all the graves.

Farming and fishing were the usual trades for the working class in Langeland and likely most of Denmark. Regarding immigration, Else noted that ¼ of Langeland’s population immigrated in the 19th century. By the 19th century, people tended to be healthier therefore more children survived. (That was a surprise to me...). Traditionally the oldest son inherited the family farm or estate (through primogeniture).  As the population grew and land became less available,   younger sons were forced to look elsewhere for a place to own land in order to not become “landless," often opting for immigration to another country.

In my reading, I also discovered this: In 1862, America’s Homestead Act made land available to immigrants, increasing the impetus to emigrate.  Of note, in 1864 Denmark lost about ¼ of it’s territory when Slesvig-Holsten was lost to Germany. While this territory is adjacent to Jutland and not Funen, the repression of Danish culture and mandatory German military service to the former Danes in nearby Jutland likely made immigration even more tempting in the general culture.  An important note here: part of family history is that Jochum, my Great Great Grandfather,  emigrated because of mandatory military service. Of course he did not live in Slesvig-Holsten and I am not of this writing able to find references to mandatory military service for Danes in other areas at the time.

We suspect that Jochum and Marian, his wife,  emigrated around 1861. Individuals who were emigrating would go to Esbjerg harbor, according to Else,  and take a ship to Liverpool where ships would embark to America. This is consistent with our oral family history that Jochum and Marian went to England before coming to New York. 

 "Rasmussen" was obviously chosen to be the permanent surname once the family emigrated.  Here again is the painting that I viewed at the Aarhus Kunstmuseum (art museum), by Edvard Peterson from 1890 "Emigrants at Larsens Plads." 

While painted 30 years after my family emigrated, this work describes in part the emotional challenges that my Great Great Grandparents suffered.

While we know that Jochum and his family stayed in the New York area, the majority of Danes moved onward to the midwest especially after 1862 to take advantage of the Homestead Act. 

Our encounter with Else proved to be most fruitful. As the Lutheran Church documented the comings and goings, weddings, funeral, and births, she was able to successfully corroborate our family in Denmark and their antecedents for two generations before my Great Grandparents.

Here's a photo of Mom on the balcony of our waterfront rental in Langeland with a photo (from our US family archives) of Marian and a son, a brother to her Great Grandfather.  Marian and another son, were buried in Connecticut, a fact that we did not know before this!