Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Hoffmann And A Good Yarn

Dearest readers,
I promise to share with you the colours and natural beauty of our winter holiday very soon but today I feel compelled to link up with Ginny's Yarn Along over at Small Things. In this space she shares her love of knitting and reading and invites others to reveal which books and patterns are tickling their current fancy.

My knitting needs little introduction:
I hope to join the tail end of the current 1705 Madelinetosh Tea Leaves Cardigans over at Ravelry by the end of this week. I am nothing if not original! This pattern was carefully chosen with my eldest daughter Héloïse for her post Christmas gift and is - please listen out for the shrill blast of trumpets - my first adult-sized pullover project to date after two years of knitting.  Héloïse was unshakable in her choice of Malabrigo Worsted despite my various attempts at seducing her to choose Madelinetosh.  Her choice of colour - Black Forest - was perfect for our holiday destination.... More on that soon.
My book, Hoffmann's Nutcracker and Mouse King, was chosen initially for its obvious Christmas season overtones.  I wanted to get away from the sugary simplicity of the ballet's libretto (which I love really) and turn to the original fairy tale with its darker, more violent atmosphere. Aside from being a wonderful piece of escapism for these long wintery nights its central message has struck a chord with me and is, I believe, important to all of us.
In his introduction to this tale Jack Zipes explains that E.T.A. Hoffmann was never able to discard his middle-class social conditioning to become a free-spirited artist.  When he wrote Nutcracker and Mouse King in 1816 Hoffmann had observed how the children of bourgeois families were overly regulated.  Zipes writes "they were drilled to behave according to moral and ethical principles that were to curb their imagination".  The question that Hoffmann asks in Nutcracker and Mouse King is how to free the children's imaginations so that they may fulfill their desires.  It is no coincidence that the parents of the two children, Marie and Fritz, bear the surname Stahlbaum, or "Steel Tree".  They are indeed inflexible and made nervous by the threatening figure of the godfather Drosselmeier with his creative mind and eerie stories.
 If Marie's family believes she talks nonsense Drosselmeier is struck by the manner in which she marries her visions and dreams with the everyday world which surrounds her.  As the tale draws to an end Hoffmann wrote " Marie suposedly is still queen of a land where you can see sparkling Christmas Forests everywhere as well as translucent Marzipan Castles -- in short, the most splendid and most wondrous things, if you only have the right eyes to see them with." (My italics.)

And so I dedicate this post to my seven-year old Tristan whose creative energy is a force to be reckoned with (REALLY) although his baroque guitar playing and detailed explanations concerning the composition of the pieces he plays help ease my knotted neck muscles at the end of a day.

I shall leave you with Hoffmann's following description of the Marzipan Castle:

"A rose red brightly shimmering castle with a hundred airy turrets... the dark, burning colors simply dazzled as they heightened the rosy tint against the white ground.  The vast dome of the central building as well as the pyramid-shaped roofs of the turrets were strewn with a thousand gold and silver twinkling stars."

And Tristan's own version of this enchanted palace which is big enough to cover our entire dining table:
I wish you all a peaceful and imaginative new year.  I know I will be endeavouring in 2012 to see the everyday world with Marie's imaginative eyes... most of the time ;-)
I'll return soon.
A bientôt,

from Tristan and Stephanie


  1. Wonderful post! What an awesome knitting project you're working on, I'm always in awe of those that can make sweaters and shirts with knitting :) the book sounds magical too, I didnt realize the story was so old! And what an interesting backstory too. And love Tristan's drawing, its so grand and beautiful!~

  2. I was amazed the first time I read the Nutcracker too. It's amazing, isn't it?

  3. Wow! I love Tristan's drawing, it is amazing...and it takes up the whole table! The book sounds wonderful as is your fantastic pullover. What a gorgeous choice of yarn.
    Much love to you and your family for 2012.xxx

  4. amazing castle! ...
    I always wanted to knit Tea Leaves Cardi, but never did - not sure why... I like the way the yarn works with the pattern! :) hmmm maybe this will inspire me to knit one myself :)
    happy new year!

  5. As always you delight us with magic and wonderment (and knitting). I too know and love Hoffman's tale, but it is good to 'see' it through your eyes. You are a Marie my friend, you don't need to try!

    Tristan, that is one amazing castle, it must have taken you hours to draw it, well done x

  6. I love the idea of Tristan’s Palace, it’s just gorgeous, and so is he. And i can’t believe i have not read this book yet! it sounds fabulous, i must get it.
    xo sandra

  7. I love the colour of that cardi,am in awe that you're making it, and that book looks amazing!!

  8. Oh what a beautiful knitted cardigan...such magic in those needles. Way too many quilting projects but my own knitting needles are clicking in my mind...must return someday.

    And young Tristan's artwork is grand - love his sense of color!

    As is often the case, so many tales stem from much darker origins...what would Christmas be without The Nutcracker in its fairyland setting.

  9. stephanie, what a charming post, your sweater is looking so pretty. you will be happy to know that i have finally cast on for a tea leaves too, and i'm not quite as far as you!
    love tristan's drawing too, amazing rendering of a magical place.
    happy happy new year to you and yours.

  10. Greetings dear Stephanie...
    Clearly, magic swirls freely about your household! From the clicky-clack of knitting needles most enchanted, to magnificent castle drawings, and serene musical notes. Such a home is most desired indeed.

    Bravo to Tristan on his splendid illustration!

    Wishing you much joy...
    Judy x

  11. What a handsome boy Tristan is and a brilliant artist too! :)
    I also have to say what wonderful taste Héloïse has, I love her choice of yarn!
    I think if anyone will be able to see the world through Marie's imaginative eyes, it will be you Stephanie. :)
    Happy 2012, lovely to have you back.
    Vivienne x

  12. So nice to have you back, Stephanie (and thank you, the carol service was wonderful as always, even down to the dissonant, atonal modern works).

    What a gorgeous yarn and a beautiful sweater. Lucky Héloïse.

    I remember reading a condensed children's version of Nutcracker as a child and even then thinking it rather dark - but very magical too. Most original fairy tales were darker and more violent than their modern sterilised counterparts, I think.

    How talented Tristan is (and what a romantic name). Wonderful to have live baroque guitar about the house, played by such a many-gifted artist. Long may he strum and paint.

    Looking forward to your Christmas photos and post.

  13. A wonderful description of a marzipan castle and lovely artistic interpretation by Tristan too. Thank you for visiting my blog Stephanie and leaving such a lovely comment. It seems your Mum has a very good imagination too! x

  14. What a wonderful post...thank you
    and Tristan's beautiful artwork brings it all to life...clever boy x
    i love the cardigan, you are fabulous
    love jooles x

  15. Your sweater is such a pretty design and cleverly "knit" together with Nutcracker and Mouse King. Also wonderful is your son's art. What fun!

  16. Your cardigan is beautiful and I admire your daughter's choice in yarn. I too have a son called Tristan, he turns 14 this year. Thank you for your lovely comments over on my blog.


    Ps, Tristan's drawing is lovely!

  17. A delightful post! The cardigan is amazing!!

    Thank you for stopping over at my blog and for your kind comments & wishes. I'm so happy to have you following.

    Tristan's picture is perfect! I keep a collection of my children's priceless works of art. They always make me smile.

    A very Happy & Prosperous New Year to you from the United States!


  18. STEPHANIE!!!!

    Your creations are simply wonderful. That deep black and the velvety texture is so wonderful, I can feel it! And your little Tristan is darling. I wish you the best in a new year filled with LOVE!! Anita

  19. What a fabulous drawing. We do quickly loose the play and the lack of self conciousness that children have when they create. Gorgeous knitting as always.

  20. Happy New Year!
    What a delightful post, so descriptive. It makes me want to read the book now. Tristan is so talented, and fun by the look of him!
    Just off to check out the cardi's now. I'm not really a knitter, but I love cardi's.

  21. Hello lovely Stephanie...back from your magical travels (as they most surely will have been!)...Your latest project looks beautiful and such a wise choice by Héloïse who clearly has wonderful taste!
    I love Tristan's enchanted palace...I have already noted there is such a creative soul there and now I see so handsome too!...
    Wishing you and your family a 2012 full of all things wonderful...
    Susan x

  22. HAPPY NEW YEAR Miss Stephanie! Your son is such a darling! Love that castle!

    Can you believe I have never read the Hoffman version of The Nutcracker? It's time I think.

    How was the roulotte? I am so excited to hear all about it!

  23. Gorgeous knitting project!
    And a gorgeous, magical picture!!!
    I love the Nutcracker ballet. But I've never read the actual story. I think I will now, though!

  24. Fabulous post! I can't believe you have only been knitting for two years, your cardigan is looking amazing! A beautiful choice of yarn too :)

    Thank you for your lovely messages, I am so glad you were pleased to recieve the blog award (it was very well deserved)

    Happy new year to you xx


  25. Really love the yarn choice for the Cardi. And although admittedly I haven't read the Nutcracker, I absolutely adore the ballet. Now that you have so completely piqued my interest, I have placed the book on my "must read" list. And I see you have another artist in the family... what a talented illustrator!

  26. I absolutely adore your knitting!

    Thanks for visiting my blog which has lead me to yours.

    Best wishes for 2012.

  27. Dear Stephanie,
    First of all: a Happy New Year to you! I hope you enjoyed your winter holiday (in the black forest???)

    I followed your link to Ravelry to have a quick look at the Tea Leaves Cardigan. It´s gorgeous! And I love the Malabrigo yarn your daughter chose, I suppose like all Malabrigo yarns it is very, very soft.

    Tristan´s artistic interpretation of the Marzipan castle is perfect!

    Liebe Grüße, Bärbel

  28. What a fabulous post. I love the idea of your talented son and his drawing. I knitted as a child and a teenager and then nothing for years. I came back to it quite recently and am loving the meditative nature of it all. Haven't quite built up to making an adult size garment yet though. You inspire me!

  29. Gorgeous knitting, that yarn looks wonderful!

    I've not read that book but it sounds really special, love Tristan's drawing, that's some castle!!

    love Lori xx

  30. Good afternoon sweet friend,

    Yes, I lost a dear colleague to....cancer. That dirty word, that killer that took away both my parents the same month, the same year. But the flip side of our sorrows is this:

    That love never ends.

    Thank you for your kind words and concern. We carry on to make the Butterfly Effect EFFECTIVE and that is really all we can do. No wonder I want wings......


  31. I think Tristan has the 'right eyes', he's picked out all the detail from the text and transferred it in to his magical drawing, just wonderful. I love the cardigan and I think your daughter has chosen well, both the pattern and the yarn.

  32. What an amazing artist Tristan is! I’ve never read the book, I might have to have a look at that. You
    are so talented with your knitting.

    Lou x x x

    PS. as for getting a dog, I would say go for it. We have always had dogs, they are such great company. I will look forward to seeing if you get a dog some time this year. X

  33. Just look at the size of that icicle! Stephanie, I am lost in the thought of you listening to Tristan soothing you with his baroque guitar, it sounds absolutely perfect. And the tea leaves, oh oh oh, there are many versions on my Ravelry favourites list and now I shall be adding yours. The colour .. so moi! I would so love to knit that one for my girlie and then for me - some day, some day ..

    Happy New Year to you all!
    Kate x

  34. A lovely thought inspiring post! I love Tchaikovsky's music, sugar sweet but with darker undertones, the book looks interesting. I love very much the dark colour of the wool you've used too. :)
    Jess x

  35. I love your sons castle!! That is one of my favorite fairy tales... my father read it to me (and my sisters) when I was a little girl. I still have my childhood book of Hoffmans tales.

  36. The cardigan is beautiful Stephanie, the yarn very covetable too, what a gift, and well done on knitting an adult size cardigan, won't it be so satisfying to see it worn. The tea leaves cardi is on my list of things to knit, a real classic that design. What a handsome boy Tristan is, and he's got a talent for drawing. I love the magnificence of his vision too. And savouring icicles is princely behaviour! Vanessa xxx

  37. Hello Stephanie I'm so glad you have enjoyed wearing your earrings so much. It really is good to know that you enjoy wearing them as much as I enjoy making them. Tristan's art work is beautiful. When I was teaching I loved listening to and chatting with the children I was working with as I loved to step into their world and see things through their eyes. I love the natural creativity of children and their absolute belief in the magic of life. Wishing you and your family a magical and beautiful 2012. Em xx

  38. I just wanted to say hello and thank you so much for popping over to my blog! thanks also for such a lovely comment :) hot choc with marshmallows is the perfect accompaniment with a WiP!! Am looking forward to having a good read hear....nice to 'meet' you :)

    Jo x

  39. Dear Stephanie,

    Thank you for you get well wishes. I hope you and your family are having a wonderful time in the black forest!

    I enjoyed hearing about the book by Hoffman. Do you know, I never heard of it before. Your son Tristan made a beautiful fairy tale drawing of the castle. It looks magical!

    Enjoy the snow!

    Love the new sweater for Heloise :-)

    Much love,

    Madelief x

  40. Tristan will have a magnificent future in quilting with that wonderful design, and Héloïse's Worsted looks gorgeous in the making. Your children have wonderful names, so dashingly romantic.

  41. I love the pure creativity of children, well done for encouraging it! Beautiful book as well

  42. Dearest Stephanie, your reflections call to mind the quote of Albert Einstein that "imagination is more important than knowledge". I have been pondering such things a good deal of late. I suspect it is a bit trickier than we might imagine to throw off the steel shackles & revel in the unmetered spaces of creativity..coming from middle class constraints as many of us do. I shall keep practicing & hope to bravely fill up the whole table too from time to time as I journey through this year.
    May your year overflow with imaginative endeavour & satisfaction. Much love Catherine xoxox

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