January 2013 Club

The Night Circus

“The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen… Black-and-white stripes on grey sky.”

Welcome to Erin Morgenstern’s nocturnal world of the The Night Circus – a black and white extravaganza, so filled with entrancing magic and belief-defying tricks, that the visitor is usually left mystified and unsure of whether he just dreamt the whole experience.

Morgenstern weaves a caramel-infused realm centred on a white-flamed bonfire, which appears to be the very life-force of the circus. The significance of the bonfire is revealed in good time, but not before we meet a rich melee of characters including magicians, contortionists, Tarot readers, half-ghosts, orange-haired twins, costume designers and assistants.

A life-and-death magician’s challenge exists at the centre of the plot between Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair, although they are unsure as to whom their opponent is at first. Both have been trained and taught in very different ways – Celia by her father, Prospero the Enchanter, who now exists as a mere ghostly shadow after a trick he was working on went too far. And Marco by The Man in the Grey Suit.

The question is, why is an ambitious young man destined for life on a farm drawn into the Night Circus?

Colourway inspiration

I cannot express to you how much I mulled over what colours to use to represent this book. My heart sank twice. First at the opening sentence quoted above, and secondly when Mme. Padva says “We have a color scheme to work with, dear, or lack thereof, rather.”

I pondered whether to dye up the rich, sumptuous colours of Chandresh’s apartments, or whether to go for the emerald green of Celia’s dress and Marco’s “enhanced” eyes. Should I attempt the colours of the Ice Garden or recreate the colour of the scarf being knitted by a rêveur for Bailey in crimson yarn, but red had been the colour used for the December yarn and I don’t like to repeat a similar colour so soon.

There was no way out of it. If you thought of The Night Circus, you thought of black, white, grey and red.

For the variegated option, I based it on the black and white stripes of the circus tent plus the tradition of rêveurs attending the circus wearing black, white or grey with “a single shock of red” which might be a hat, scarf, handkerchief or red rose. When randomly dyeing yarn, I usually deliberately avoid painting yarn across the skein to avoid blocks of colour, but this time, I experimented with big, bold black stripes. And drizzled pale grey between them with a sprinkling of scarlet, leaving plenty of white.

For the semi-solid version, I dyed up a pale silvery grey. You don’t have to look too carefully to see how much grey there is in this novel.

Randomly dyed colourways work so well on the high twist yarn bases, so I ditched my original yarn plan and opted for Exquisite Twist, which has that little touch of cashmere magic on a practical merino/nylon base.

I’m often asked how best to use such a variegated yarn. You could work a slipped stitch pattern, which breaks up the colour to some degree, but my preference is to use it along with a semi-solid colourway. Either using each yarn in colour blocks, or even holding two yarns together. Or you could just go with the flow, and enjoy the colours appearing one after the other.