Scumbling towards story

After diving headfirst into Renaissance Italy from condottieri to ciarlatani for a couple of weeks, I started feeling an intense need to balance all the reading and note-taking with something that did not involve looking at printed pages or computer screens. So I found a tutorial by Prudence Mapstone on freeform knitting, filled a very large basket with purple and pink and red yarns from my stash, and started making what she calls “scumbles” – knitted fragments that combine little swatches in harmonious colors and textures and a more or less random composition. The idea is that you make a whole lot of these fragments and then you assemble them by sewing or crocheting; I’m planning to join them with a kind of freeform Irish lace, if I get that far, and create a big floppy shawl that I could really have used during the Big Freeze And Power Outage. With any luck we’ll get more cold weather next winter so I can use the shawl if it’s done by then, though I’d just as soon pass on the electrical grid failure.

And while I knit, I think over the interesting bits I’ve culled from research and they start forming themselves into little fragments of story.

Hmm, so the totally over-the-top displays of wealth at the weddings of the nobility weren’t quite all they seemed; friends and families lent out their finery to help each other out. There must have been times when untold packages of silks and jewels were criss-crossing the country. And a small band of condottieri who were temporarily down on their luck might not have been above snapping up somebody’s mule train with the emeralds and the good brocade; kind of a fifteenth-century version of robbing the payroll train. Wouldn’t it be interesting if my hero, who doesn’t exactly know that he’s magically talented, keeps trying to convince his boss this is a bad idea but cannot articulate why? And wouldn’t it be even more interesting if this particular shipment of finery belonged to a wizard who didn’t hire a lot of guards because she put her own magical protections on the items, so that stealing them could lead to really bad luck?

Then I’ve got instructions on how to summon a magical horse that will take you wherever you need to go… except that the complicated procedure has to begin on a Thursday afternoon and there’s a six-day wait time built in. So what if the wizard believes implicitly in this procedure because as far as she knows, it always works… but, unbeknownst to her, her servant always just goes out and steals a horse during the waiting time?

I’ve also got a fairly detailed recipe for that famous medieval set-piece, the roasted peacock reassembled with all of its feathers. That one doesn’t feel so interesting, but I’m not throwing it away.

What if our hero gets sent to spy on a city, disguised as a wandering barber-surgeon, because his boss has noticed that he’s really good at treating wounded men after the battles? And what if this particular city happens to be the one he was exiled from – well, his entire family was exiled, actually, he was merely an unimportant younger son – anyway, it’s been ten years, he’s no longer using that name, and he’s changed a lot. He hopes.

Scumbles. It remains to be seen if I can knit them together into a story.

11 comments

  1. This was supposed to go up tomorrow! Also, it was supposed to have a nice image at the top! WordPress kind of ran away with me; I will study the new system before next month.

    1. Check my post earlier this week. I hate the new WP format with a passion.

      As for the bits of story, write it. Write it now. I want to read it NOW! (No, I’m not holding my breath and stamping my foot like a spoiled child. Just doing the squeeing of a fangirl because I can’t wait to read it.)

    2. I think I maybe found a way to get your image as the preview. WordPress Delenda Est!

  2. eh, that’s life.

    My stories tend to start out as notes. And the real aid to novel length is getting story ideas to play together nicely.

  3. Are those your actual knitted pieces shown above, or is that a stock photo? If it’s the actual pieces, they’re gorgeous, although it definitely would take a certain panache to wear a shawl made from them.

    1. Oh, thanks! Yes, those are my current batch of scumbles, or rather, yesterday’s; today I’ve moved on to a more pink and purple palette. As for wearing the thing… well, it’ll probably wind up being a back-of-the-couch decoration unless we have another Great Freeze.

  4. Oh, those sound truly interesting! And yes, I collect bits and snippets – and I know we’re not alone, because Alma has stopped in the middle of things to write down some bon mot or interesting fact in her little black book of story ideas and fragments.

  5. Your story snippets definitely sound interesting, and I’m not even mildly interested in that era of history! It just goes to show that the power of good story-telling can overcome even disinterest in the social setting or era.

    Keep knitting…and writing!

  6. Where does one get peacock bodies? Let alone with the feathers still attached!

    BTW: I just created a WordPress blog for my cake adventures, so “markedup2” is the person formerly known as “mrsizer” (the “m” being “mark”). Bonus: the information for commenting now auto-fills! Not sure why the link defaults to “gravitar.com”. Following it asks me to sign up for something. I fixed it.

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