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Tag Archives: Personal

In Her Soft Wind I Will Whisper

Lady on the left? My great-grandmother. She would have been ninety-eight 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 looked after 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, 2010, 2011, and 2012 with Momse’s age amended. I continue to miss her.

Doggerland: Ronaes

Ronaes ShawlSo here we are.

I released the Ronaes shawl pattern on Monday. It is the first of the Doggerland patterns to be published and I do so with a sigh of relief.

I’m really proud of Ronaes – it was one of those designs that just fell into place really quickly and where the finished object looked even better than I had imagined.

(I have issues with the way I look in the pattern photos: oh, all the issues that arise when you stare at your own face and body as you edit photos and patterns – but I think that’s a topic for another day.)

The original Ronaes was knitted in Garthenor 1ply – a beautiful and bouncy laceweight. It’s called a cobweb on Ravelry which I think is a touch misleading. It’s more like a heavy 2ply or a light 3ply. Maybe if I spun yarn I’d have a better idea? Looking at all the different yarn choices made for Ronaes in the Doggerland KAL is my favourite activity at the moment.

Also this week I could finally share some really exciting news. The Island Wool Company is the UK importer of the fantastic Snældan yarns. They love the Doggerland collection so much that they asked if they could team up with me. Imagine that. How could I say no? So, apart from Ravelry, the Doggerland patterns will pop up on the Island Wool Company website. I have already ordered some Snældan 2ply in Mist, so I can knit myself another Ronaes.

And in final Ronaes news, Louise Scollay of the excellent Knit British blog took an early look at Doggerland – and especially Ronaes:

What excites me about this collection is the connection to landscape and the past, and also a sense of otherness – something I often feel keenly in my own landscape.


So here we are.

The past fortnight has been crazily busy – but I’m happy to say that I’m meeting some absolutely fantastic people as part of the general insanity. If you’re reading this, you are one of them.

I Didn’t Know That You Cared

Casa Bookish was hit by runny noses and sore throats this week. The affliction resulted in two things: a lot of books being read and some impromptu dress-making.

The dress in question is still a work in progress. It’s based upon Simplicity 2925, view A but I cannot be trusted to do anything by the book – not even sewing. I did away with some ruffles, altered the yoke/neckline and I’m adding buttons where there are no buttons. Rebel.

The fabric is a very light polycotton from Mandors. I fell in love with the subtle geometric print and the black/dark green/cream colours. It won’t keep me warm, but it will be a great layering piece (once I finish it – the basic construction is done, but the small bits are not).

I have become aware that I’m increasingly dressing like an art teacher. A very Danish art teacher with restrained colour schemes and attention to details – but an art teacher nonetheless. Making more of my own clothes will not – will not – curb that tendency.

Meanwhile, as some of you may know, The Huffington Post published a blog post about knitting and baking betraying the feminist movement. The post itself read like someone had taken a Feminism 101 class and just scraping home a pass (because the teacher was in a good mood having devoured a home-baked cup cake). The responses to the post were far more interesting. This one is one of my favourites so far: succinct, humorous, and blunt. Any recommendations for more smart, funny, self-aware responses?

On the agenda: getting better, saving Other Half from the plague, choosing non-functioning buttons for the dress, cooking dinner (soup?) and reading my book. It’s a hard life.

In My Arms

My first birthday present was given to me today by David (a day early!). I was so thrilled when I realised it was a ticket to see Mr Rufus Wainwright live later this year. I have seen Rufus on three earlier occasions, but this one will be just him and a piano. Cor.

Now to wait a few more hours before I can start to unwrap the rest of my presents. Whee.

She Comes Scattered

Just a little peek of my just-off-the-blocking-board shawl. It’s beautiful, it’s warm and it’s mine. Sorry. I notice how my projects travel by colour. I had a green phase last spring/summer, then recently I have knitted a lot of blue-ish purples and pink fuschia, and now I appear to gravitate towards rich reds. I hope I will never have a pastel phase. I do not think I’d be able to keep my sanity. Anyway, proper photos to come this weekend after Official Photographer and I manage to have a full day together.

Official Photographer called me this morning to let me know that Crowded House will be touring the UK this spring and that tickets go on sale tomorrow. I have written about this before, so it suffices to say that Crowded House provided the soundtrack to most of my life. I connect places I have lived or been with their songs, and although I no longer listen to them on a regular basis, they are “my band”. For one glorious moment I contemplated seeing every Scottish gig, but then I checked ticket prices and also remembered that I will be on my way to West Yorkshire for work reasons when they play Aberdeen. If you had told me ten years ago I would have to forego seeing Neil Finn live for matters involving sheep, I would have thought you mad.

Anna has written an interesting post about her relationship with “things”, crafting and feminism. I enjoyed reading it. You may too.

Turning It Around

I am very bad at receiving compliments, but am very good at taking criticisms to heart. Yesterday I was called something Not Very Nice by a random passer-by at my workplace. It was completely out of order, had no basis in reality and all my colleagues were stunned into silence (which does not happen often). I felt so bad yesterday that I bought two balls of Kidsilk Haze and then went home for a big hug. I’m in my mid-thirties and I still do not know how to handle unfair criticism. That too makes me feel a bit blue and inadequate.

So let me write about good things. Happy things. Things, thoughts, places and people who make me smile.

  • Sarah Haskins makes me really happy. She hosts Target Women which takes a look at the often-ridiculous way the media reaches out to women. The Yoghurt edition had me at “yoghurt is the official food of women!” (and not just because I’m lactose-intolerant and yoghurt makes me feel really sick), but they are all very funny and, excuse the pun, on-target. That’s Gay looks at gay representation in mainstream media with equally great results.
  • At Academia Nuts, my good buddy R. writes about art as resistance and wonders how she can incorporate her thoughts into her knitting. I have similar issues with regards to my own crafting and would love to read other people’s thoughts on this.
  • I bought the pattern for the Snapdragon Tam today after coveting the hat ever since I first spotted a photo of it. Paula has just knitted a gawjuss version which pushed me over the edge. I am going to use one of the oldest yarns I have in my stash, a Malabrigo-ish 1-ply merino in a dark, lush forest green. This yarn was once fondled by Robert Carlyle, I’ll have you know.
  • I was watching Nerdstock: Christmas for Rationalists last night on BBC4 (BBC4 makes me very happy very frequently). The show was very hit-and-miss: I continue to have huge problems with the evangelical branch of atheism (hello Richard Dawkins), some of the comedians were clearly out of their depths and the shiny face of Professor Brian Cox distracted me from whatever he was saying – but I really, really enjoyed Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Evolution. Brinkman’s not the best rapper in the world but he is very clever (and I find it delightful he also does a rap version of Canterbury Tales).
  • I have finished my second shawl of the year (Rav Link – I have reasons for not writing about it here just yet) and am 2/3rds through my third shawl. I’m knitting this one out of Fame Trend (yes, still knitting up what I brought from Scandinavia) and I’m liking the yarn so much more than Drops Delight. I must admit I’m a tad tired of knitting shawls out of self-striping yarn.. but hey, it’s good that I’m getting through projects!

Still Waters

Yes, it continues to be cold. The novelty of snow has long worn off. My sole source of weather-related amusement is the media who insist 60,000 people will die in the Big Freeze, the British Army is being set in and the beginning of food shortages lead to soaring prices. Yesterday night BBC News ran a Breaking News! story which was – and I kid you not – that snowflakes were seen falling in London. Panic, panic, panic.. but I do find it annoying that we have to pour hot water down our loo every few hours so that the pipes do not freeze. One part of our apartment building had to be shut down because the pipes burst. If ever there was an argument against pipes being stuck to the outside of buildings and exposed to the elements, then this is surely it? Oh you wacky Britons.

While I was at work yesterday (and hello to those of you who came visiting), David went for a walk along the River Kelvin. It is almost completely frozen and signs are up warning people against letting their dogs run unto the ice. Despite all the stern signage, Dave did spot a few illiterate animals out and about on the ice – including a little mink drinking a bit of water. I continue to be amazed at how much wildlife we have on our doorstep, even if we live in the middle of a sprawling city.

I’m currently reading Glen David Gold’s Carter Beats the Devil which I gave David for Christmas (he hasn’t had a chance to start it yet as he is reading his way through the other five novels I gave him). I bought it because I knew how much Dave had enjoyed Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and I got a similar vibe from CBTD. If you like Kavalier & Clay, early 20th century popular entertainment or maybe even Wilkie Collins, I think CBTD might appeal. I’m certainly enjoying the glimpses into vaudeville performances, music halls and larger-than-life personalities.

Finally, I’m listening a fair bit to Martha Wainwright’s album of Edith Piaf songs, Sans Fusils Ni Souliers A Paris. You can get a taste of it by watching Martha singing L’Accordéoniste on Jools Holland’s show (youtube link). Her darling brother is touring Britain in April and I’m hoping for a concert ticket for my birthday.

Swings & Roundabouts

DSC00812 Maybe it is the festive season, maybe it is the constant news coverage of the climate conference, but I am homesick. I have lived in Glasgow well over three years now and I have settled reasonably well, but even so this is Not Quite Home.

I miss my Danish friends. I miss meeting up with them for coffee and croissant. I miss the easy chatter which comes with fifteen years (and then some) of friendship. I miss getting on my bike and making my way home together with thousands of other cyclists. I miss the recycling system, my favourite cinema and buying proper pastries. I miss the cobbled streets, the public fountains, the neon signs and watching the New Year’s fireworks displays.

Thank heavens I’m off to Denmark soon. That usually cures any amount of homesickness. And I am not fooling myself, anyway. If I were to return to Denmark, I would miss Scotland. I would miss having easy access to any book I wanted, the BBC, dramatic landscapes, the easy-going attitude, my lovely neighbourhood and a certain sense of freedom. Swings and roundabouts, dear reader, swings and roundabouts.

Yesterday we went craft fair hopping. First, we visited the Glasgow Craft Fair Mafia at Mono, then we headed back to our own neighbourhood where The De Courcy Arcade has undergone a facelift and a slew of new quirky boutiques have opened showcasing handmade gifts and vintage fashion. It felt like I spent the entire afternoon living in Etsy-land: little owls, ironic embroidery and felted flowers ..

.. and I realised I wasn’t enchanted. I can partly blame the old “I could make that myself” attitude and partly that I am a crafter myself and know what well-finished items should look like. The stern Scandinavian in me was particularly blind to the virtues of an ironic embroidered portrait of Dolly Parton or Burt Reynolds.  I fear I am too old to be a irony-embracing hipster or maybe I have just started living by William Morris’ creed: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.

I’m homesick and I’m grumpy.

Work As If You Live in the Early Days of a Better Nation

Alasdair Gray, SignedI do not know how many of you have read Alasdair Gray’s excellent dystopian novel, Lanark: a Life in Four Books? It takes place partly in Glasgow and partly in an imaginary Glasgow, known as Unthank. In Unthank the characters are forever chasing sunlight whilst seemingly dying of a symbolic disease known as ‘dragonhide’ (Yes, well, Lanark isn’t your average book). Right now I am feeling like I’m living in Unthank-Glasgow and not Glasgow-Glasgow because sunlight seems just out of reach and like something I vaguely remember from a dream.

I have a lot of time for Alasdair Gray. He is one of those novelists I am never sure whether people will like or not. I tend to recommend Poor Things as the gateway to Gray’s oeuvre: it reads like a postmodern feminist Frankenstein; it is exuberant and giddy; and it is wildly entertaining.  Unlikely Stories, Mostly is a rare beast: a short story collection which feels like a cohesive book and which is also a compulsive read. The stories ranges from short childhood snippets to the fantastic typographic fantasy of “Sir Thomas’ Logopandocy” about Sir Thomas Urquhart (it remains my favourite piece by Gray).  Lanark tends to divide people – my boyfriend still cannot believe that I like a book that nasty and unpleasant, but then again he has not read Gray’s 1982, Janine which is Gray’s tour-de-force in sheer unpleasantness and utter despair (and I really like that one too).

I once spent a lot of time looking at how Alasdair Gray imagines the Book as an object. 1982, Janine is not only a typographical wonder (at one point the protagonist attempts suicide which is portrayed in visual poetry) but its hardcover is beautifully decorated by Gray himself. I always try to get hold of Gray’s books in hardcover whenever I can because underneath the dust jackets, you get elaborate beautiful books. Gray also writes his own blurbs, controls the typesetting and draws his own illustrations. The Book of Prefaces is as close as Gray has come to a postmodern Gesamtkunstwerk. The book is beautiful, of course, but Gray adds an extra layer by writing prefaces to the selected prefaces and writing prefaces to those prefaces. It is all rather dazzling.

And as fate would have it, I have ended up in Glasgow. Alasdair Gray lives just a few streets down from me (I may have said “Good afternoon, sir” once or twice), my local pub features his artwork and my boyfriend has drawn him at art class. Strange how these things work out.

Read more about dear Ally Gray and his artwork or his writing and remember that Poor Things is the best place to start. Meanwhile I shall continue to chase sunlight.

The Reading Survey

15. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

This is being written whilst I’m gritting my teeth: Ben Marcus’ The Age of Wire and String. It’s a very, very short novel. I spent a month reading it. Then Stupid Boyfriend said: “Oh. Did you try to make sense of it? I didn’t. I just read it for the beautiful words.”

&/#”/! The book was excellent, actually, and said really interesting things about ritual language and how language acquires meaning. I am never going to read it again.

That question/answer and thirty-one others can be found at The Reading Survey which I have posted as a static page as it is too long to post here.

Thank you for all your well-wishing. I am still under the weather and have developed a nasty cough. This means I’ll miss out on tonight’s Guy Fawkes events but there will be others.

Also, in case you have not read it, this little post by Ysolda Teague summed up everything I wanted to say today (and it reminded me that I need to make a batch of Apple Butter as Casa Bookish’s usual supply from the St. Alban Church Fete has finally run low after I have been unable to attend/stock up for several years).