I finished a little knitted thing this week but I cannot show you any details until the little knitted thing has been gifted to a very special expectant mother. And I cannot show any of the works-in-progress for various reasons.
I finished no books this week either (though Other Half returned a book to me so I can get finally finish it). No sewing. No general crafting. No exciting road trips.
However, I did have a design submission accepted and my design is off Somewhere Else being knitted up and photographed! It’ll be interesting to see what it looks like. I also bought a bike so I can Copenhagen-ise Glasgow a tiny bit. And I had a most wonderful latte somewhere in the still-bohemian outskirts of the almost-gentrified West End.
I came home from my holidays Monday. Apparently I cannot leave the UK for seven days before the place is going to hell in a handbag as I have been rushed off my feet ever since returning. I’d share details but nobody really needs to hear me whine about my mountain of work!
Denmark was lovely – absolutely lovely – and I want to share some of the highlights with you. There will be knitting involved (of course there will) but there will also be some tales of history and culture. Before I do so in a series of posts, let me just link some of the things I’ve read/seen/enjoyed on the internet over the past few days..
Scandinavian Food – why is it becoming popular in the UK? Quite apart from tonnes of expats seeking out their pickled herring, I think it’s possibly because Brits are All About Scandinavia right now. Possibly. I just want to know why a slab of Norwegian Goat’s Cheese cost £11 in Denmark. I wasn’t impressed.
The Internet Archive hosts a great many films that have slipped out of copyright. That’s right: you can watch classics like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, His Girl Friday, Sabotage, and Battleship Potemkin. And it is free and completely legal!
I have a lot of time for China Mieville. This article on London – a city capturedbefore the real hysteria of the Olympics sets in – is fantastic. I love the detail about the fox in the shard.
I am currently re-reading Dorian Gray. Happy 65th Birthday to a man with a portrait of his own hidden away in the attic.
+ The iconic performance of Rock’n’Roll Suicide at Hammersmith Apollo, 1973
+ Five Years performed on the Old Grey Whistle Test 1972
+ I adore Slow Burn, such an underrated song from Heathen. Live 2002.
+ And “Heroes” always did sound better in the German version.
Ah, everything Danish is super-hip in Britain right now thanks to The Killing/Forbrydelsen and mid-century modern design yadda yadda yadda. Did you know that I am Danish? I don’t consider myself super-hip, though, and I had my reasons for leaving Denmark.
But it is lovely to see Denmark + fashion + knitting. It makes me feel proud (and very homesick) to see this video:
‘Kaffeslabberas’ is a knitting club in the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Amager. Its members are female pensioners, whose rich history and zest for life overshadows their advanced age. This project partners up these ladies with Danish artists and designers, with the intent of creating a connection across generations, through the strengths of craftmanship, diversity and experience.
I wish the subtitles were grammatically correct and the spelling was better, but we can’t have everything.
Visual poetry: a poetry form in which the shape of the poem is as important as the words themselves. The Scottish poet and gardener Ian Hamilton Smith combined gardening, sculptures and poetry to great effect. The woods around Bennachie yield beautiful surprises as you walk around in them: words carved in stone, sentences arranged amongst branches and trunks. I live far from Bennachie, but I live very close to The Glasgow Arboretum (you can almost see my home in the photo) where you can also find fragments of poetry scattered among the trees.
My winter mitts? A fairly quick, uncomplicated knit. I used a pattern I found in The Knitting Book and yarn given to me by my mother. I have tiny hands, so went down a few needle sizes and I also added thumbs. The yarn matches a cowl and a hat I made earlier, so I’m all set for winter now. Bring it on.
I am spending today swatching for a future project/design. I played around with charts in Excel earlier and now I’m trying to figure out which texture I like best. It is always fun trying to strike a balance between my personal aesthetics, an imagined level of difficulty, and the actual purpose of the pattern.
I had a quick Twitter exchange with a few people after I came up with a true lace chart (i.e. lace knitted on both sides). I loved the idea of the pattern, but when I started to work it up in 4ply I knew it did not work in such a relatively heavy yarn. Twitterati consensus was that true lace is scary. I don’t think this is necessarily true, but I know that this is what many people feel. Honestly, this project is not one for ‘scary’ lace so that chart was shelved alongside many other charts. Hopefully I will find the right project for it at some point.
Meanwhile I have come up with another chart – or, rather, four different versions of the same chart. I am busy swatching trying to figure out which version works best. I’m using some leftover Old Maiden Aunt merino/silk for the swatches. I need more of this yarn, I really do. It’s beautiful to work with on my new Addi bamboo needles.
Finally, the soundtrack for work: I rediscovered this album this morning. The light is pale and thin. Like you. Has it really been 19 years?
When I asked my Twitter and Facebook pals about their favourite cakes, I was not prepared for the deluge of replies. Everybody has an opinion on cake, apparently. Who knew?
I have a handful of go-to cakes – the classic pound cake, upside-down caramel & pear spiced cake, lemon & raspberry meringue, Danish ‘dream cake’, and (the latest addition) chocolate and beetroot cake – but am always interested in expanding my repertoire. My good friend Liz makes a stunning, but super-easy, ‘medieval’ apple tart as well as the best lemon drizzle cake I have ever tasted. I need to try making both of those cakes. I have also sampled a take on Nigella’s chocolate/guinness cake which I’d be interested in tweaking a tiny bit.
Here’s a recipe for one of my cakes. It is not vegan, it is not gluten-free, and it is not healthy – I’m not one of those bloggers (and I’m also not a food stylist as you can tell from the photo) – but it is really tasty.
Upside-down caramel & pear cake
60 g butter
100 g brown sugar (you can use either light or dark depending upon how you feel about strong flavours)
4 pears (or apples – you can use either)
125 g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cinnamon
75 g dark treacle (use honey or syrup if you don’t like strong flavours)
1 egg, beaten lightly
125 g brown sugar (you can use either light or dark depending upon how you feel about strong flavours)
125 ml milk
butter for greasing the pan
Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Prep the pears by pealing them, removing the grit and dividing them into quarters. Place them neatly in the greased cake tin. Melt sugar and butter in a saucepan. Watch the mixture closely as it’ll turn to sticky, HOT caramel and you don’t want to burn it (or yourself). Pour the caramel mixture on top of the pears.
Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl: beaten egg, treacle, sugar, butter, and milk. Combine the wet & dry ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the battern on top of the pears and bake for approx 45 minutes. Test the centre of the cake with a knitting needle or other sharp, pointy implement. The needle should come out of the cake without anything sticking to it.
This cake is extra good the next day. I’d usually serve it with honey-laced Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche, but it is also very good on its own.
My baking soundtrack was courtesy of local indie pop band, Belle & Sebastian. If you ever wonder about my neighbourhood, go watch all their videos as they like to film them here in Glasgow’s West End. This one, Wrapped Up in Books, was filmed in Caledonia Books just down the road from me. I sometimes worry that my life has become one long Belle & Sebastian video: bookish, arty girl wearing retro clothes around the West End and looking a bit twee in her handknits. Hmmm… worse things could happen.
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.
Excuse me while I pretend I constantly hang about grey wooden panels wearing a red woollen dress and a gawjus mossy green scarf/shawl. Okay, so I actually do that quite a bit but I rarely wear matching lipstick and have my photo taken whilst faffing, so there is that.
In short, we had a photo shoot for the Karise shawl yesterday. For some reason the sun came out just as I took off my cape and the sunshine just made everything so much easier. I am never comfortable in front of a camera (stand straight, suck in tummy, smile, look natural) but the photo shoot wasn’t too bad.
Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you..
Hopefully that means tomorrow will be sunny too. I am heading out to West Kilbride to see Old Maiden Aunt’s Lilith and her new studio. Her housewarming is on Saturday but true to form I shall be working, so instead I am heading out to lend a hand prepping the place for the hordes. Some sunshine would be most welcome as my train will have a view of the Isle of Arran – and Arran is just prettier when it is sunny.
Oh, hell. Here you go. That song. I don’t actually like it, you know, but it is the sound of summer..