Thanks for your encouragement to precipitate myself down the primrose path. I’ll do it!
I have spent some time already this morning with Jimmy Bean’s madelinetosh DK list (which is brilliant) and got as far as putting in a request with them to let me know when they have any more “Byzantine” and asking my sister if she’d bring it when she and her husband come in November to celebrate a faux Thanksgiving with the Ogdens in London. It’s bulky and inconvenient stuff, yarn, and she’s not always keen.
I don't mind paying pretty well anything for yarn, but I hate having to pay extra on the doorstep for Customs and Excise, or VAT, or whatever the hell they call it, plus a hefty charge to the Post Office for the trouble they have taken in collecting the tax.
What is it about red? Something that utterly transcends culture – it is the colour of choice for Hindu brides and Chinese emperors. Transcends even species – the birds will strip our red current bush bare unless carefully netted, but leave us almost the entire white current crop of almost identical taste. At
Hampton Elementary School
the 40’s, whenever we did coloring, there were never enough red crayons. The
few there were, were appropriated at once by the big fierce children. Detroit
I found by accident some years ago that knitting with red yarn was a cheering thing to do in the dark days around the winter solstice. At the rate I’m going, I don’t think Thomas’s sweater is going to last me all the way through:
That’s to let you know how far I’ve got on. I hate to have you see it with the colour dulled. The delicious slight variations at least show up somewhat.
Red is a difficult one to get with natural dyes. I learned in my natural-dye phase that the local lichens mostly produce brown and yellow. I did find ochrolechia tartarea on the hill behind the Croft of Cultalonie – it produces a sort of purple, and a gentle red if macerated in vinegar (or urine) for awhile. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I used the results in Helen’s MacDougall sweater. I think all the colours of that one are either natural sheep colours or Strathardle lichens:
There is a famous passage in Virgil’s 4th Eclogue in which he imagines a golden age in which sheep will run about their fields all red and purple and gold without the need for any dye. It is difficult not to giggle, reading the passage. I think it was not until I was passing through my own natural-dye phase – long after student days – that I grasped that he doesn’t use the normal colour-words in that passage, but instead the names of the expensive imported dyestuffs needed to produce those colours. Red is “sandyx” – either oxide of lead or red sandalwood, pterocarpus santalinus, according to the commentator.
I think I could be very happy, knitting the Effortless cardigan in madelinetosh DK “Byzantine” this winter. Failing that, “Blackcurrant” from Die Wollbox.