Yesterday I was working on the second sleeve of my Orkney cardigan when the following exchange happened.
Passer-by: Hey, what are you doing?
Me: Oh, I’m working on this fair-isle cardigan..
Passer-by: Oh no! That’s not fair-isle. You are not from Shetland. You cannot be knitting fair-isle. I am from Shetland and I am telling you that you cannot work fair-isle.
Me: .. uhmm, okay?
This led to an interesting discussion on Twitter about geographical locations, if any non-Shetlanders are allowed to say their stranded colourwork is fair-isle (and if it is fair isle, Fair Isle or Fair-Isle) and if we are able to talk about “traditional knitting” at all. Here are some selected highlights:
(Great point! Can a technique or motif be geographically trademarked?) Some snarky comments from amused knitters:
And, finally, less snarkily and more to the point:
I am interested in the socio-political aspects of so-called traditional knitting: there is definitely a discussion to be had about what constitutes a tradition – who decides something is a tradition – and if we can talk about origins at all. Motifs and techniques have criss-crossed geographical boundaries and what we may think of as “traditional knitting” may only date back to the early 20th century. My personal view is that all these things only tend to be “fixed” in time and place long after actual innovation has occurred – and that many of these “fixes” have little to do with the actual innovations and more to do with money/prestige.
It’s a fascinating topic and I wish I had a fresh mind with which to tackle it (alas, I am writing this after working all day on another piece of writing). I’ll keep knitting my Orkney, mind. Only half a sleeve to go and I refuse to leave it alone despite my personal geographical failings.
About two weeks ago I was working for a client in a yarn store when I suffered an accident. Some big shelves fell on the back of my knee and I was left with a very impressive bruise. As the bruise faded away, I expected to be back to normal but unfortunately my knee is still bad.
Image via WebMD
I went to the A&E last week and they concluded that while I didn’t have a fracture, the overarching conclusion is that I have torn or badly bruised my lateral collateral ligament. The LCL stabilises the outside of the knee and also grips the fibula (the outside bone of the lower half of the leg). I have an appointment with an orthopaedic clinic next week and hopefully that will lead to physiotherapy.
For me, enforced rest is always difficult. I like being active and I get easily bored if I’m restricted in my movements. I have kept myself going by writing patterns and doing some sample knitting, but as the days have passed I just feel increasingly worried about how long this is going to take and what that means for my working life. While it has been great to dig into some editing gigs, I have been forced to cancel quite a lot of jobs. March is going to be an exceptionally lean month, in other words. Being self-employed means a huge amount of freedom but it is also a precarious way of making a living.
Yesterday I celebrated my birthday and it was a curiously low-key day. I received some lovely presents (among others: my bestie gave me an ace book on Doggerland and my parents gave me a fantastic-sounding novel about 18th C Danish colonisation of Greenland) but most of the day was spent resting in bed. We caught a taxi down to the best burger joint in town but although I enjoyed being outside Casa Bookish, I ended up in considerable pain (and waking up in the middle of the night begging for painkillers is not the best way to end my birthday).
So it is a hermit’s life for me right now.
(If you need anything tech-edited, copy-edited or actually written, now is a fantastic time to get in touch (just fill in the form). If you were considering buying one of my patterns, now would be an equally great time to do so! If you want to recommend any knee exercises, leave a comment!)
2012 was the year my boyfriend read more than 120 books – not including re-reads. I read 80 books – a vast increase on 2011’s 45 books, 2010’s 21 and 2009’s 38 . I wish I could say it also meant a huge increase in quality, but 2012 was a year of reading low-brow, easily-digested genre literature. My Kindle had something to do with this: it became far too easy to grab yet another regency romance when I found myself in need of distraction. And so I read books called things like The Wicked Wyckerly, Mad About the Duke, Surrender to a Wicked Spy and so forth. I remember very little about most of these books. So easy to read, so easy to forget.
Writing about the best books I read in 2012 is easy. There weren’t that many.
Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin was fantastic. I also really liked an anthology called Justified Sinner: An Archaeology of Scottish Counter-Culture which looked at radical arts & literature in Scotland from the 1960s onwards. It’s a niche publication but definitely my sort of niche.
I did have a handful of decent reads – mostly regencies like Loretta Chase’s Miss Wonderful which was a thoughtful, well-researched look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution upon rural Derbyshire post-Waterloo. It was also a look at what warfare does to the human psyche. It veered closer to traditional romance territory in the second half, but even so it remained psychologically convincing. Sherry Thomas’ Ravishing the Heiress was beautifully cynical and almost uncomfortable to read.
But there were far too many forgettable, formulaic books in my reading year. The few times I read non-regencies, I didn’t like the books much due to poor choices on my part.
I have a plan, though. And that plan is called “my bookshelves”. I have so many books that I genuinely want to read:
From the bottom up:
- Andrew Drummond’s Volapük – An Abridged History which appears to combine many of my favourite literary topics (Scottish literature, universal languages, Sir Thomas Urquhart and lunacy).
- Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died A Lot. The seventh book in the Thursday Next series. We met him in 2012 and I turned into a puddle of fangirl goo despite myself.
- AS Byatt’s Ragnarok. One of my all-time favourite novelists reworking Norse mythology. Why haven’t I read this already?
- Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. Her Oryx & Crake was one of my novels of the last decade. Why haven’t I read the sequel yet? Why?
- Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie. I found this on the kitchen table, cornered the boyfriend and accused him of keeping an interesting sounding book away from me. Apparently I bought this for myself for my 2012 birthday..
- Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Because I have read Charlotte and I have read Emily. And I’m a sucker for 19th century melodrama Brontë-style.
Finally, and not shown in the photo because I bought it for my Kindle, Keith Ridgway’s Hawthorn & Child. The novel has been making serious waves among book bloggers and publishers – and since I used to move in those circles (before knitting took over my life) I am rather curious.
Care to see how much I am sticking to my plan? Want to exchange some book love? Why not catch up with me on GoodReads? One thing is sure: the only way is up..
I have a long list of things I tell myself I Should Really Blog About and somehow I end up keeping them in my head. It has been puzzling me why this is so, but I think it is the combination of no longer being relatively anonymous and being able to talk to my Other Half about these things that I end up keeping things off the blog.
It is a shame and so here we go.
Recently I was having a quick little internet chat about STFU, Parents. It is a website in the vein of Regretsy and Lamebook with a dash of Ravelry Rubberneckers and F_W (all these links should be considered NSFW) as it navigates social media sites and documents some truly unfortunate oversharing and jerky behaviour. I had an exchange with a friend who thought the site was rather mean. I agree that it is mean but also that it documents meanness towards other people. Let me expand upon that.
It never ceases to amaze me that my gender plus age plus relationship status = it is perfectly okay for people to ask very personal questions about the state of my uterus. What I take from STFUP is that I am not the only one who gets random “lol, so r u preggers? lol why not?” comments at me (or get emailed some insensitive ‘lol’ questions). I find some of those remarks and mails really, really mean too.
Of course, STFUP documents meanness towards other people too – particularly towards people’s own children. That hilarious poop story will be infinitely less funny when your child finds it online 15 years from now – and it is really not funny now.
If a site like STFUP can make one person less likely to mommy-jack, ask me questions about my uterus and/or sexual orientation, post an embarrassing story about their kiddo, or name their child something horrid – then I am all for it. Even if that makes me a mean person. Incidentally there are also other variants upon the same theme and I think the common message is (as always): don’t be a jerk.
Now that is out of my system, let me share an altogether lovely story about the kindness of strangers.
Remember the story about the lost shawl I found in Glasgow City Centre? It has been reunited with its rightful owner. In a completely unnecessary gesture, the owner has given me a gift – this made me tear up as I certainly did not expect anything.
Thank you Jules and Jules’ Mum. You are amazing and much too kind.
First task of the year: sort out the wardrobe.
I should probably not use the word ‘wardrobe’ as that word implies system, thoughtfulness, and coherence. Most of my clothes stem from the frantic days of arriving in the UK with a suitcase of clothes and needing workplace-suitable attire. As a consequence, most of my wardrobe consists of cheap clothes bought in a state of panic.
Nowadays I lead the charmed life of a freelancer working within a creative industry with ties to fashion. Interestingly this means two things: 1) I have a great collection of pyjamas because I spend a lot of time working in my jammies, and 2) I have discovered that while I do not care much for fashion I do care a lot about style.
So I went through my wardrobe and threw out everything that did not fit, that needed a degree of mending that was at great odds with the intrinsic value of the item itself, or which had been too fashionable when I bought it and thus no longer stylish (I think of style as something which cannot pinned down to a particular time nor place – rather it transcends time and place).
Verdict: I need tops and trousers somewhat badly. I need basic cardigans. And I am not allowed to knit myself any scarves or shawls because I have a lot (note the phrasing: ..knit myself.. which means I can knit for others or for design purposes). I can sew some of the things myself, but what I really need is a focused shopping spree.
I hate clothes shopping.
My neighbourhood made national news yesterday after the recent hurricane felled a few trees, made several chimney pots collapse, and ripped roof tiles off. The police have closed off one street due to unstable masonry. I was safely ensconced at work but was troubled by the amounts of roof tiles I encountered on the way from work. One of the big trees in our back garden has fallen too. It is still blustery out there, but the worst has passed. In case you are curious, I live very close to where the fourth photo in this series was taken.
Knitting-wise: I’m swatching for a few designs. Reading-wise: I have finished two books so far this year, although the less said about the second book the better (it was not my idea).
I’m going to have nightmares tonight.
However. Some things are more important than lace knitting. Way, way, way more important: speak up and speak out.
This BBC article, Why are Women Finally Designing Women’s Clothes, makes me so damn angry. I will give you a few choice quotes.
“Of course there are many more gay male designers,” [designer Tom Ford] said. “I think we are more objective. We don’t come with the baggage of hating certain parts of our bodies.”
“Designers are normally men. I don’t know of an eminent motorcar or motorbike designer who was a woman. Or many female architects.” It’s not because of any lack of ability but because women aren’t as “pushy” – designer Jeff Banks
Men like Lagerfeld, McQueen and Galliano were defined by the need to be spectacular, unlike the “self-effacing” [Sarah] Burton, who has won great acclaim since replacing McQueen (..) “Men put on great shows. Women design clothes that people want to wear” – fashion editor Lisa Armstrong
Mmm, makes you wonder why they want to make us clothes in the first place, doesn’t it? Or maybe that explains the clothes we get? Don’t you just love the implied sneer at the idea of ‘wearable clothes’?
I believe the handmade movement can offer a useful counterpoint to the fashion world’s often misogynistic view of women. Handmade clothes can be stunningly beautiful, full of showmanship, flattering to the female form, and within reach.
Female entrepreneurs like Sarai of Colette Patterns and Ysolda Teague are not just examples of young women setting up their own businesses, but also of women giving other women the chance to reject token notions of female beauty and the confinements of the high street/runway by making our own clothes. Locally I see the Glasgow Craft Mafia leading with a strong, clear voice that makes my heart sing: independent small shops abound where you can buy handmade clothes designed and stitched by female designers. Craft Mafias exist throughout the globe and I recommend you seeking them out if you want to get involved or are simply interested in learning more.
I find that the more interested I become in fashion, the more I find it imperative to question it. Making parts of my own wardrobe (and hoping to create larger and larger chunks of it as I improve as a sewer) continues to be an important part of this questioning.
This was supposed to be my first step into autumn knitting. “Grab some lovely yellow yarn (sure to brighten up the dreich days of Scotland) and whip up some quick wrist warmers”. That was my plan last night and I felt quite pleased with myself when I found a very suitable pattern on Ravelry.
Except I have now spent more time rewriting the pattern than I would have spent designing and writing my own pattern. Sometimes you get what you pay for with free patterns:
- spelling mistakes to the point of rendering the pattern incomprehensible
- using wrong terminology to explain specific actions (CB4/C4B clearly means something different to the designer than it does to me)
- Instructions that look like short row instructions – except there are no short rows in the pattern
- And if you follow the pattern you end up with a fingerless glove which looks very weird on my hand (the thumb goes where?)
Maybe I am the odd one as a handful of people have knitted these gloves and they all loooove the pattern? Or maybe they are best friends with the designer? I’m in a very cynical mood today. The lone glove is going to the frog pond to die and I am going to find a tried-and-tested pattern (at least 100 projects) for my autumn knitting.
But lovely, lovely things happen too. Look what landed on my doorstep yesterday!
Ms Mooncalf had run out of wool for a current project and I just happened to have ½ a ball of the right yarn in the right colour.
One swap later and I have the pincushion I so desperately need for my dress-making adventures – handmade and in my favourite colours! – and she even included some gorgeous coasters too. Bless her, Casa Bookish is not a household that uses coasters but I shall think of a way to put them to good use.
Thank you very much, dear swap partner!
As a blogger and a social media type, I think frequently about privacy issues. It matters to me even if my face is plastered across Ravelry and my full name is easily uncovered.
Yesterday I joked I was going to sue if my little private gathering of knitters were declared ‘the next cool thing’ in Scottish newspapers. Well, we just ended up having our photo tweeted by some UK television personalities. I might have thought it a fun little interlude (just like when we appeared on TV) if they had actually asked our permission before taking the photo. They had not and I am not amused. I respected their privacy; it would have been nice if they had afforded me the same courtesy.
(ETA Wednesday lunchtime: They have pulled the photo with an apology. I really appreciate that. Thanks.)
And then tonight I was knitting on the bus home. A rather thuggish group of ladies congregated around me and stared as though I were juggling sharp knives. That was a very long bus ride.
I think it is time to retire my knitting in public, at least for a little while. I’m tired of being a circus performer for other people’s blooming amusement.
This is one of my favourite weeks of the year: the Eurovision Song Contest week. For my non-European readers, imagine American Idol with 45 different countries competing. Then add xenophobia, bad blood, neighbourly love, dubious ethnic costumes, weird instruments, and mangled lyrics. The combination is oddly compelling.
The first semi-finale took place yesterday with the second one happening tomorrow and the finale is on Saturday. Here are some selected highlights:
(* I have heaps of ideas of who to represent the UK at the ESC. Alexandra Burke, Little Boots and The Saturdays would be fabulous if completely unlikely competitors.)
Just to finish off, some of my recent ESC favourites: Turkey 2008, Bosnia & Herzegovia 2008 (which included knitting ladies!), Romania 2006 and France 2007. For sheer WTF-ness, try Azerbaijan 2008. For cuddliness, try Norway 2009 (which won).
And Sweden 1983 which spawned a life-long Eurovision love.