Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FO: Topiary Beanie with Rabbit

My latest hat:  the Topiary Beanie from Weekend Hats.

I knitted this for a friend's birthday.  She is 40, a mere child! ; )

This is one of those projects with a back story.  But rather like explaining a joke, perhaps you had to be there (i.e. in my head) to understand?

The story:
When my Skein Queen yarn club package arrived I wanted to knit up this glorious turquoise alpaca / silk yarn straightaway.  I thought it would make a lovely slouchy hat and earmarked the Topiary Beanie pattern from Weekend Hats.

Then the library emailed to say they had got me the novel which inspired the colourway: "When God Was a Rabbit".  As I read, it became clear that The Rabbit was actually a Belgian hare: this is relevant!

At the weekend, a friend  threw herself a 40th birthday party.  As this involved a large crowd of people, "supper" and a ceilidh, I felt unable to attend.   When I read about the Belgian hare I knew I had to give her this hat.

Because when E sold her flat to come and live up here in the frozen north, she bought herself a rather expensive painting of two hares dancing.  It was an act of profound self-confidence, and an investment in her future independent self...  rather like the party.

The Hat:

So, knitted  in support of an independent woman:  the Topiary Beanie in Skein Queen alpaca / silk mix, colourway "Eleanor Maud".

It is a very slouchy design.  E has more hair than me and I think she will suit the proportions of this hat.  If I knit it again for myself, I will go for the smaller size.
This was a rather intense piece of knitting.  The lace section is quite tricky, but a manageable portion size.  I  never did get used to "knit 4 together" or "slip slip slip knit", let alone throwing a "pass the slipped stitch over" into the mix.  I also encountered an intriguing wrap stitch for the first time, which was easy but momentarily baffling!  So it was quite a good challenge to my lace-knitting skills.

My favourite design feature is an inch-wide band of slipped stitches which runs up the centre back of the hat, drawing it back and down.  It adds stability and definition to the shape, emphasising the drape of the fabric.  The alpaca / silk yarn was a good choice - phew!

The Book:

And what of "When God Was a Rabbit"?

After my first reading, it was easier to say what I did NOT like about it, which seems rather unfair, as it isn't a badly written book.

 I was irritated by the almost-constant references to a timeline from 1968 to 2000-and-something, pinning events a little too self-consciously to their date in recent history .  I can almost guarantee that the author looked at archived copies of The Daily Mail  to validate her period detail, and in the process came across lots of juicy sub-plot ideas.

So this novel has all the topical tabloid news favourites:  a kidnapping, child abuse, domestic violence, television games shows, viagra, cancer, gay parties, camp celebrities, homophobia.  At the same time, I was struck by the avoidance of any mention of race in what is a terribly "issue"-based novel...unless you count the "woolly-haired" murderess Jenny Penny and the messed-up elderly Jewish villain...hmmm. It is a very white middle-class world.
According to the author's postscript, she came in for some criticism for using the Twin Towers in the novel, but I found this no more of a problem than the inclusion of other pieces of news around which the plot was draped.  People closer to that reality may feel differently.

The characters do not seem to have their own identities and their relationships are strangely cold.  They are the subjects and objects of stories and anecdotes.

 I wonder if this is actually a very clever piece of writing and that their apparent lack of feelings is entirely deliberate?  That they are all victims of world events?  That they are not responsible for their own actions?  Things happen to them, but they don't really do anything.

I liked the Rabbit / Belgian hare.  He does a fine line in throwaway humour.  In many ways, this is the most believeable character in the whole book:  a talking rabbit called god.  And yet, he too is the victim of an accident.

Oh dear!  Can't any one of you take control of your lives?!  Is this, then, a book about destiny?  "What's for ye will nae go past ye" as my mother would say.

But for all my disquiet, I found a lot to enjoy in this novel.  I laughed out loud at several points.  I read bits out to FL and he laughed too. I started scanning through the book again last night and realised I had to get a copy to give my friend, alongside her hat.  And that sounds like a recommendation, doesn't it?

So, there you have it:  a hat for E, in celebration of being 40.  Happy Birthday!

Oh - and the final piece of serendipity?  When I went to the cupboard to look for wrapping paper, I found this piece of Belle and Boo paper with illustrations of a girl and her pet rabbit that I had completely forgotten about!  Destiny!


ashley0107 said...

What a gorgeous hat! The yarn looks delicious too :)
I love the wrapping paper! So cute :)
Ashley x

Sigrid said...

My goodness, what a clever and gorgeous present! And isn't it funny how a book can seem meh while you read it, but then stick in your brain after you finish?

Dibs said...

I'm sure she will love the presents. The hat looks really, I hope one day I'll be able to tackle such advanced projects.

Scruffybadger said...

Another awesome hat. I love the shape but particularly the colour. Thanks also for book review- its due to you that I have discovered Maggie o Farrell!! Having read and loved hand that held mine I'm now reading a book with a blue cover about Alice ( yep- cant remember its title!)

Jane said...

Gorgeous hat and what a lovely story about the hare - she's going to love such a thoughtful present. I've read the book and like you, didn't dislike it, it just felt like a poor relative of One Day. I agree that the bits with the hare were amongst the bits too. x

skeinqueen said...

Beautiful, thoughtful gift and LOVE the wrapping paper. Great review - totally agree about the coldness of the characters' relationships. Can someone explain to me the bit about the coin with the future date that Jenny Penny seemingly plucks from her arm? Was it an end not tied up, or did I miss the explanation somewhere.

Karen said...

I love reading your blog.....could you write a book please?

Annie said...

You really are on a roll with these hats!
Belle and Boo was new to me, what lovely things they sell.

christinelaennec said...

Very beautiful hat! Funny about the wrapping paper.

faeriecollege said...

Happy Birthday E! I hope she enjoys her present. You clearly put lots of thought into it, and it turned out lovely.

Minnado said...

Gorgeous hat, lucky friend! And those teal colours suit you. I think I will add Rabbit to my library request list.