Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Living up to your name

My parents must have known something when they chose my name - Penelope.  Weaver by name and weaver by nature, that's me.  I love to weave yarns, whether threads or words.  However, I can remember disliking the name as a child.  To begin with I couldn't spell it and then there was that dreaded nickname Penelope Pitstop.  Funny I should detest being likened to one so good looking with a figure to die for.  No I think the problem had more to do with my tom boy nature.  All that pink stuff and helplessness went against the grain.  Then there was Penelope Keith who seemed type cast as a snob.  Remember Margo in the good life?  Why couldn't she have played Barbara the hippy neighbour.  Maybe then I wouldn't have developed such a complex about my name. 

Time is a great healer though and as I have woven my life I have grown to love my name.  Its mispronunciation Pen-ee-lope (that's lope as rhymes with rope) no longer rattles me.  In fact it makes perfect sense.  If I didn't know otherwise I would pronounce it that way too.  Phonetically its correct.

So where does the name Penelope come from.  In Homer's epic legend of the Odyssey Penelope was the faithful, patient and wily wife of Odysseus.  When Odysseus went to fight in the Trojan war, Penelope waited patiently for him to return.  So patiently she waited twenty years.  Whilst Penelope was convinced Odysseus would return others believed him dead.  Being the wife of a king Penelope was highly valued and many potential suitors came forward with proposals of marriage.  To delay her suitors Penelope devised a cunning plan.  She agreed to choose a suitor once she had completed weaving a funeral robe for her father-in-law.  Every night for three years Penelope unravelled the part of the shroud she had woven that day.  This is the famous Penelope's web which is used as a proverbial expression for anything which is perpetually doing but never done.  I think a few of my knitting projects could be described thus.

Knitting Mantra

Whilst musing over the Knitters of Dent last night, I came up with my own knitting mantra.....

Knit one, purl one, make a row
Then turn and have another go

Monday, December 26, 2011

Terrible Knitters

Whilst reading "Knit One, Purl a Prayer: A Spirituality of Knitting" I was intrigued by the following activity described in a section entitled Knitting Along the Lines. 

Choose a single line or phrase from a sacred text or scripture and read it aloud slowly.  Hold these words in your heart as you knit along the row, saying the words silently as a mantra.

Thinking about this brought the Terrible Knitters of Dent to mind who I recall hearing about some years ago.  My curiosity aroused I googled.  The Terrible Knitters of Dent were not called terrible because they were lousy knitters; no quite the opposite.  Terrible referred to the incredible speed at which they moved the wool and needles.  The knitters were so accomplished in their dexterity that they could knit whilst undertaking other activities such as churning butter or wrapping cheese; true multi-taskers.  And it wasn't just women who were multi-tasking!  Shepherds, carters, navvies and quarrymen would all knit on their way to work. 

Mike Bagshaw in his travel guide "Slow North Yorkshire" describes how an 18th century traveller peering through a Dent cottage window on a winter's eve would see an eerie and disturbing sight.  Reading his guide got me musing and knitting together some words of my own.....

The Knitters of Dent

Let me tell you traveller of a terrible fright
my eyes beheld, in Dent, one winter's night

Portrayed upon a wall in black
eerie shadows danced, swaying front and back

They danced to a strange chanting and singing
and a continuous rhythm of click, click clicking

But when I faced my fears I found no coven of witches
just a mere circle of men and women, with needles and stitches

Swaying gently like trees in a breeze
they knitted with truly astonishing ease

Farmers, quarrymen, navvies and wives
each knitted patterns that shaped their lives

And helping them achieve all that was tasked
one carved hollow goose quill, to the waist was clasped

There's but one thing I'll add about those knitters in Dent
they knit with unrivalled dexterity and sheer fearsome intent

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Drunken Duck

Whilst out and about on my Christmas shopping expedition today I ventured in to Waterstones to peruse the shelves.  I gravitated, as always, to the knitting books whereas my husband sought solace in the travel section.  Like most men Christmas shopping is just not his thing! As I struggled with the usual urge to buy or not to buy my dearly beloved wandered over and kindly thrust a book under my nose.  "Thought this might interest you!" he said pointing to a section in a book on pub names.  Now why would a self-confessed knitterholic be interested in pub names I hear you ask,  well let me enlighten you.  The section in question related to the Lakeland pub - "The Drunken Duck".  The pub apparently acquired its name following an incident with a leaking beer barrel, a duck, and a resourceful landlady.  Intrigued? then I'll begin.  Once upon a time, one fine day a landlady wandered out into her yard and to her great surprise stumbled upon a dead duck.  Not wanting to waste the fine creature she decided to pluck it and roast it for dinner but as she removed the last of its feathers it began to stir.  Staggering to its feet the duck then waddled and swayed its way back into the yard followed by one rather startled landlady.  Back outside the mystery was soon solved.  The duck had not been dead but merely dead drunk.  A beer barrel had leaked into the feed trough and the unsuspecting duck had drunk its fill, and more besides.  Feeling quite sorry for the duck the repentant landlady knitted the little creature a pullover to wear until its feathers grew back.  The duck subsequently became quite a celebrity and the pub changed its name accordingly.