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Tag Archives: Family

Of Petals and Parcelforce

I spent the evening sewing again. I’m making a much needed lined corduroy skirt and I had this idea in my head. I am using remnants of Liberty fabric swatches for the embellishment. Let’s see how my idea looks when the skirt is properly assembled, though.

The pattern is from a Danish sewing magazine my mum sent me earlier this year. I love receiving parcels from my family. Tiny presents and unexpected treats. My partner gets his beloved Danish marzipan, I get craft magazines and licorice. Win-win .. except when Parcelforce messes up and they do mess up quite frequently.

Add another Parcelforce failure to my bunch of stories – this time my story guest-stars my gran who sent me a lovely surprise parcel in July. Of course the parcel just happened to be picked up by a driver who ‘forgets’ about collection cards and just dumps parcels in the local post office rather than try to deliver them. And of course the post office gets tired of undelivered parcels taking up space and returns them to the Parcelforce depot where they disappear.

I have never lied this much to Gran over so short a timespan. Of course I knew where the parcel was! Unfortunately the post office was closed just as I made it there. Oh, I am just waiting for the delivery man to confirm when he’s going to pop by.. If you have ever had a gran whose worried silence speaks volumes, you will know how I have felt these past two days.

Thankfully, Parcelforce does have nice people working for them. Steve found my parcel tonight after trawling the depot. And he is going to make sure that the parcel is being delivered tomorrow.

It better be. I cannot deal with Day Three of Gran being worried.

In other news, I was rather underwhelmed by BBC4’s Elegance & Decadence: The Age of Regency. The subject matter is so interesting – the early parts of the 19th century were filled with radical ideas, grand geopolitical events, and amazing cultural upheaval – but despite an enthusiastic presenter, the while thing got mired down in cumbersome details about marble tables and gilded tableware. At least Beau Brummell was briefly mentioned (to my great geeky delight) but why he was to be singled out among the rarified set was never really fully explained beyond a brief dressing-up session. I shall keep watching but my hopes are slightly dampened.

Off to read some Russian literature. As you do.

Desert Island Discs: Day 1

I enjoy listening to Desert Island Discs on my iPod as I make my way to work. The people you think will be interesting rarely are; the people I don’t know or feel indifferent towards end up my favourites. Lady Caroline Cranbrook‘s episode was an absolute joy, for instance.

And so for my own pleasure (and indulgence), I decided to make my own Desert Island Disc iPod playlist. I added far more than eight records to my playlist, of course, but for your listening pleasure I shall stick to eight records (one per entry) and even add a few words.

I grew up in a very large family filled with people obsessed with (mostly American) pop culture circa 1940-1965. This recent Guardian article on so-called superfans rattled me because I had no idea that this sort of behaviour was in any way unusual. I grew up surrounded by pop culture memorabilia: big murals of Sinatra et al on the walls, concert tickets carefully curated, mountains of carefully sourced vinyls, autographs, signed photos, VHS tapes of 1940s musicals, and handwritten databases detailing when this or that song was recorded. What do you mean your childhood wasn’t like that?

Over dinner my uncles would toss out the first names of stars, as though they knew them personally: Frank, Dean, Bing .. Occasionally they did know the people they gossiped about. My dotty aunt T. briefly dated Gustav. My other dotty aunt A. semi-stalked Otto for four decades. Looking back, I can see that this approved pop culture was predominantly white pop culture. It was also two or three decades out of sync with contemporary pop culture.

My gran has always loved Fats Domino. I remember her playing Blueberry Hill, Ain’t That A Shame and I Hear You Knocking whenever my uncles weren’t around (“Fats is okay, but he’s no Frank, if you know what I mean” – oh, I can hear them). And for me Fats Domino is about happiness, about feeling loved and about a tiny glimpse of freedom: there is a world beyond my large, chaotic family and so many things to discover.

I am the product of my family, of course. I had a phase of obsessively hoarding bootlegs, travelling to foreign countries for concerts, subscribing to mailing lists and knowing the name of certain musicians’ dogs – but unlike my uncles it did not turn into a lifestyle. To this day, I have a thing for 1940s MGM musicals and I’m still on a first-name basis with Frank – but it is Fats Domino that I keep coming back to.

There & Back Again

AberdeenshireMornings are less rough when you wake up to this view. The north-east coast of Scotland is gorgeous: expansive light, dramatic cliffs, and teeming with wildlife. During my days in Aberdeenshire, I spotted seals, puffins, deer, and more buzzards than I have ever seen before.

I wish I could have stayed longer.

As always I paid Aberdeen Art Gallery a visit. It is relatively small, but has an exquisite collection mixing works by well-known artists such as J.W. Waterhouse, and Francis Bacon with less famous (but really interesting) artists like Phoebe Anna Traquair and applied arts & crafts, textiles, and metalwork within Scotland. As always I was drawn to Joan Eardley‘s work  as well as Francis Cadell’s, but I also enjoyed the new exhibit on wartime watercolours.

June 2011 072For the first time I visited the Maritime Museum – just a short walk away from the Art Gallery.

As Aberdeen is an oil industry city, the museum had plenty of information about the black gold and the 1970s oil boom. I was slightly saddened by how this recent event had pushed a lot of Aberdeenshire’s fishing heritage into the periphery. The small exhibition on herring fishing made me think fondly of Kate Davies’ Caller Herrin hat. I seem able to find a knitterly angle to most things these days..

Finding a knitterly angle to my last port-of-call is not difficult, though. Wool 4 Ewe is a lovely independent yarn shop and I visit them as often as I can.

SpringThis time around I was there by special invitation from the friendly Wool 4 Ewe team in order to run a workshop on triangular lace shawls.

Teaching lace shawl knitting is always rewarding because there are so many different aspects to cover: construction, yarn & needle choice, chart-reading, and post-knitting care. I find it quite a technical topic to teach and I try hard to balance all the technical information with fun hands-on experiments.

I’m happy to say that all my students left all excited and enthused about knitting lace shawls. The Wool 4 Ewe team asked me which shawls I would recommend to beginners. I gave them this list of free patterns which I hope you will also find useful. All links (and roads?) lead to Ravelry.

I left the shop empty-handed although the new-to-me Manos Del Uruguay yarn called Serena called out to me with its subtle colours and beautiful blend of alpaca and pima cotton. It is really pretty. I am just so snowed under with projects and commissions that I have no idea when I would have time for an indulgent little project. I am not complaining: such is life..

.. I did manage to finish China Mieville’s Embassytown whilst travelling. More on that book soon.

Day Six: Aspiration

Last year I wrote about a sweater I wanted to make:

My grandmother has been knitting me jumpers and cardigans all my life. My all-time favourite jumper was one she knitted me when I was eleven. I chose the colours myself – forest green and dark red – and I wore it until my gran decided she had better knit me another one. Unfortunately I did not get to choose the colours second time around as I was living in London, not rural Denmark, and I ended up with a beige/fawn combination which I loathed.

(..)

I want to knit that jumper. I want my forest-green/red jumper back and I have the pattern right here in front of me. It is a 24-stitches/37-rows repeat, and fortunately I have Gran’s marginal notes so I can follow her math. I plan on knitting it in the round as well, but I am not sure about the sleeve construction. Should I steek for drop-shoulders? Should I attempt to re-chart the pattern for a round yoke? I know I will be wanting a high-turtleneck.

Mitts

The Vicar's Fields Mitts

Ah, one day.

At least my Vicar’s Fields Mitts are knitted in the right colour combination in a pattern reminiscent of the geometrical Faroese patterning used in the cardigan/sweater.

Maybe this time next year I will have taken yet another step towards a project which feels Terribly Important.

As I explained:

I am actually a bit afraid of undertaking this project due to its many layers of meaning. By undertaking this project I will be admitting that Gran is no longer able to knit me a jumper and that I am, in a sense, “taking over” from her. In fact, I am now knitting her things, not the other way around.

By knitting this jumper I am also reaching out to my own younger self – that young girl who feared so many things and felt so horribly out of place. And I am attempting to replace something which meant a great deal to me and I am afraid that my recreation will not measure up.

I maintain that handmade things have layers of meaning that mass-produced items cannot possibly emulate (Walter Benjamin? I have a head full of swirling fog today, so I will leave it up to others to write about auratic art. No, I’m still not well). Certainly this future project of mine holds so many implications for me that it feels like a truly aspirational project rather than any old colourwork project.

One day. I promise.

You can find more blogs participating in the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week by googling 2KCBWDAY6.

Homebound: Who We Are

Homebound 6Homebound: Who We Are is my knitted artwork currently on show at Glasgow’s Tramway Arts Centre.

Using site-specific materials I have created a piece asking how we understand ourselves, how we become who we are, and how big a part gender & geography play.

I was inspired to make this piece by my own journey as a knitter, as a woman, and as an immigrant. I am myself but I am also previous generations of ordinary women crafters. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother are all represented by this piece.

Homebound 1

My "momse" - my great-grandmother Lilly.

It was important to me that I only used yarn I already owned and which was tied to specific geographical areas. I used yarn from a farm just a few miles from where my great-great-grandmother lived. I used yarn from the Faroe Islands because my paternal grandmother is Faroese. I used yarn spun locally to Glasgow because I live here now.

I used undyed Aberdeenshire yarn for the hand. I have family living in Aberdeenshire now and I wanted to include them in the piece.

The hand is very significant to me – and my partner helped me construct the hand, so he is included in this piece too – as it is the giver and holder of identity. Not only does it hold all the strands together but the strands also spring from the hand. As a crafter I make things with my hands; my hands turn ideas in my head into reality. People much cleverer than I would be able to tell you about the notion of creation. The hand holds that concept for me.

Homebound 5As you can see, photos are included. I have found photos of all five generations.

As I was looking through the photo albums I was struck by how gender-segregated my family seemed. The women were all pictured holding babies or wearing nice dresses or cooking. The men were all pictured sitting at tables drinking beers or playing football or standing next to cars. I rarely found pictures of women and men together – except wedding photos or pictures of couples dancing.

I found several photos of both women and men wearing knitwear. I could only find two photos of anyone knitting. One of them was of me.

Finally, the title. I chose Homebound because while it means two mutually exclusive things (travelling//constriction) my project suggests there is an additional meaning lurking within the word, a meaning linked to the notion of creating. Home-bound – to bind or to tie or to make within the home.

I am really excited about this piece and I want to thank the people behind Loop: Garterstitch100 for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their amazing event. It has been an incredible journey for everyone concerned – me included.

In Her Soft Wind I Will Whisper

Lady on the left? My great-grandmother. She would have been ninety-five today.

The photo was taken in the early 1950s outside her cottage and she is with two of her sons, K and T.

I have several photos of her; my other favourite is from the 1930s when she was approached by a travelling salesman who wanted her to become a hair model. I presume she shot him one of her withering glances. The photo shows her with long, gorgeous hair. I was told it was chestnut-coloured. The photo is black/white.

I was lucky enough to grow up around her. She minded me when I was pre-kindergarten and I spent most of my school holidays in her cottage. Her cottage did not have running water until I was maybe seven or eight and never got central heating. I can still envision her sitting in her chair in front of the kerosene-fuelled stove. She’d knit long garter stitch strips from yarn scraps and sew them into blankets. I think she was the one who taught me to knit. She was certainly the one who taught me how to skip rope.

Happy birthday, momse. We may not always have seen eye to eye, but we loved and understood each other. And I still miss you.

Title comes from this beautiful farewell song (youtube link). Post reposted from 2009 and 2010 with Momse’s age amended. I continue to miss her.

Pre-Holiday Panic

It has been a week of woe in Casa Bookish. A possible burst water pipe, a plumber missing in action, parcels also missing (prompting a vaguely panicked last-ditch shopping expedition today) and a tonne of other mishaps great and small. To round it all off tonight I accidentally snapped a key-fob made for me by a dear friend. At that point I sat down in the hallway and laughed hysterically.

At least my last(?) knitting project of 2010 has turned out nice. My twee winter hat is currently blocking over a plate and I’m actually wearing the matching fingerless gloves as I’m typing this. I love the mitts: they’re pretty, wintery, warm and soft. I’m also loving how much colour they mitts and hat provide – this is very much appreciated in a miserable Scottish winter when everything seems to be a shade of grey.

The River Kelvin, December 19, 2010.

I am running behind on everything, though.

I am yet to writing Christmas cards, yet to make some gingerbread cookies to bring with us to the big Christmas family gathering, yet to finish my red cardigan, yet to do all the necessary household chores, yet to conquer the mountain of work I need to do before Christmas, yet to finish re-reading Atwood’s Oryx & Crake so I can take The Year of the Flood with me on holiday, and .. oh, I make life so difficult for myself sometimes.

At least I accomplished quite a few things today: paperwork, laundry, xmas shopping, snow-emergency-xmas-dinner-buying, present-wrapping. Check, check, check! I am also rather relieved I decided against handmade presents this year.

Also: I really miss my Danish family and friends because .. well, it’s Christmas-time and the season for missing my dear ones.My mother is having a big birthday this Thursday and it is pretty hard that I cannot be there to celebrate her. I knew some things were going to be tough when I decided to move to the UK and this is one of them.

Onwards and upwards. I’ll finish some paperwork whilst listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing Christmas songs and I have assorted Christmas candy next to me to help me along and things will work out fine.

Deep breath.

Canvas

Preben Andersen

Collograph by Preben Andersen

Christmas came early this year. I just received this beautiful collographic print in the post. The sender? My artist uncle, Preben Andersen.The photo does not pay it justice as you don’t get the wonderful play between print and paper so evident in real life.

I grew up in a working-class family in rural Denmark, but ours was a weird family. Everybody seemed to be creative one way or another. Some of my uncles set up their own ‘beat combo’ in the mid-1960s which led to much heartache among the local teenage girls. Others became more interested in visual arts and crafts: murals, collages, sculpture, pottery.. Of course my family still obsessed over football results and popular music, but there was a definite and pervasive sense of self-expression and creative exploration which I recognise in myself.

One of my uncles painting in a field late 1950s/early 1960s.

I grew up with paintings on the wall and frequent visits to galleries exhibiting works by members of my family. I inherited a big pile of art history books from my great-grandmother’s brother (who had been a farm labourer as well as a painter). I recall one summer when I spent days in my great-grandmother’s backyard trying to use a hammer and chisel so I could carve out a sculpture from a cheap piece of concete.

I never knew my upbringing to be different from everybody else – that is, until I started school and other kids did not make their own Christmas decorations, their mums did not knit them jumpers in mad colours, and their parents much preferred reproductions of famous paintings (Monet’s water lilies, in particular) to no-name oil paintings by weird uncles. It was a rude awakening but thankfully I did not reject my unusual upbringing. I just .. well, I’m still a crafty, creative, slightly odd person, am I not?

Canvas

One of my paintings - circa 2002?

I paint too.

Well, I used to paint. I have sold a couple of paintings over the years, never made enough decent paintings to stage a real exhibition and currently I live in a space which does not lend itself to splashing acrylic paint around. I miss it, though I know I am not particularly gifted; I just love colour – one of my first art loves was Wassily Kandinsky unsurprisingly. I am also shacked up with an art school boy who is a creative, slightly oddball and colour-obsessed man. They always say you end up marrying your father – I did not have a father but I had a huge number of creative, slightly oddball, and colour-obsessed uncles. Draw your own conclusions.

Finally, just two quick links to two of my favourite artists/paintings. I grew up with figurative art but I fell in love with abstract art very early on in my life.

Family

The Danish landscape is more subtle than Scotland’s but no less beautiful.

My parents live on the outskirts of a large bog area famous for its archaeological finds (link in Danish) and today we went for a long drive through the area: small lakes, rolling hills, undisturbed bogs, Viking settlements and numerous megalithic tombs. I always wonder why Denmark does not market its history as a major tourist attraction (Scotland has already twigged that tourists love history). My childhood landscape is steeped in impressive history and I think tourists would love to visit these places.

I spent the afternoon having a mutual brainstorming crochet workshop with my mum. We were armed with crochet hooks and various balls of wool. It was a lot of fun and super-inspirational. We were both tossing out ideas, workshopping to find solutions to conundrums, and trying out techniques. Crochet has always felt more intuitive than knitting and I really enjoyed what we ended up working on .. I’m the latest one in a long line of crafters and doing a workshop with my mum felt fabulous. If we lived closer, I could definitely see us collaborating on a few projects.

Incidentally, iSketch is way too much fun.

It’s in the Air

IKEA’s Christmas 2010 wrapping paper and Christmas cards include Selbu motifs. Very cute. Clearly I had to buy a roll of wrapping paper.

Other recent shopping include a trip to Granny Would Be Proud, a fairly recent addition to the Glasgow crafts fair scene. Today they had set up camp at Hillhead Book Club, an atmospheric and eclectic bar/restaurant just off Byres Road, and we could not resist going. It was a good mix, actually. I tend to be fairly critical of crafts fairs as they can easily be quite bland or veer into unfortunate handmade-irony. The craft fair seemed well curated with some lovely touches: a photo booth where you could get photographed wearing vintage gear and Vintage Spectacles which let you try on frames dating back to the early 20th century. I tried on several 1930s and 1940s frames and now know where to get my next set of glasses. I may also have succumbed to some handmade buttons whilst looking wistfully at Sylvia & Nicola‘s bespoke dresses.

Somewhere else entirely I came across tops labelled “1930s handknit” which were neither. That is the side of the vintage industry which I really do not like.

Anyway, I have been buying Christmas presents too – and sent off my own wish list to my Danish family. I managed to think of other things besides 1-ply Faroese yarn and I’m pretty proud of that. Note self: I need to start utilising various online wish list facilities, so I do not start to panic come present-buying season. I tried using Wist but it never really clicked for me. Apart from the obvious Amazon wish list feature, do you use any other wish list facilities? Any recommendations?

(I cannot believe I’m already writing about Christmas! Then again I have just been swatching for some Christmas workshops I’m doing later this year..)

Things I have liked recently:
+ I met a girl recently who wore the nicest cardigan. I nearly ripped it off her back and ran away.
+ People can be incredibly wonderful sometimes.
+ Pretty film posters. I’m not sure I’m interested in the film, though.
+ We are now spending time apart but this is pretty sweet.

Highlight of my weekend? Probably not doing the laundry but it needs to be done, so I can start packing for my holiday. Not that I’m counting the hours or anything..