Introducing This Thing of Paper

P1320207aaa It is time to announce a project that has been a long time coming.  It is a project dear to my heart and one that I hope you will love as much as I do.

May I introduce you to This Thing of Paper? As both a knitter and a bibliophile, I have been yearning to do a project that combines my two loves. So many of you have been asking for a physical book, and I'm afraid I really took that concept and ran with it. On May 23, 2016 I will launch a Kickstarter for the publication of the book. I have chosen to do this as I want to produce a book that is as beautiful to hold and read as the patterns themselves will be to knit and wear.

This Thing of Paper is a a book of ten knitting projects with accompanying essays. The project is inspired by the age of Johan Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press. Gutenberg's work meant that books changed from being rare objects reserved for the elite to something that ordinary folk could access. I have always been fascinated by how one invention could change the course of history.

But there is more to this story.

I have been working with primary sources ranging from 14th century illuminated manuscripts to 16th century embroidery manuals. I have cast my own type* and printed a facsimile page of Gutenberg's 42-line bible on a replica 15th century printing press (once used by Stephen Fry, no less!). This Thing of Paper is steeped in one woman's love of vellum, marginalia, woodcuts and rubrication.

*(which won't be used in the book, though. I'm not inflicting pre-1500 typefaces on you!)

And I am doing all of this firmly focused on knitting.

Knitting and books share several characteristics and I particularly love the materiality of them both. Yarn flows through my fingers - and some yarns just feel right in my hands which means I keep returning to them. Books give me that feeling too. Some books are perennial favourites simply because they rest in my hands just so. One recurrent theme throughout This Thing of Paper will be the materiality of things and how we interact with those - just like inhabiting physical and imaginary landscapes was a core part of my Doggerland collection.

As for the knitting patterns, they will not be replica 15th century fashion. All the patterns inside This Thing of Paper are parts of a book, both figuratively and literally. In reality this means three garments (in seven sizes because that is how I roll) and seven accessories. I will later share a Pinterest board, so you can see exactly what inspired me. The patterns are contemporary and come in a range of difficulties.

Oh, and why This Thing of Paper? The title is taken from a 15th century treatise raging against the terrible, terrible modernity of the printing press called De laude scriptorum (In Praise of Scribes - I've read this treatise, so you don't have to). The full quote reads:

Who is ignorant of the difference between writing [scriptura] and printing [impressura]? A manuscript, written on parchment, can last a thousand years. How long will print, this thing of paper [res papirea] last?

I just couldn't resist.

Stay tuned for more blog posts about the designs, the Kickstarter details (there are some truly ace rewards) and I even have a blog tour lined up with some really amazing, talented people.

Free Books? Free Typefaces Too.

Thanks to Kim, I discovered BookMooch yesterday (I'm slow sometimes). The basic idea is that you compile a list of books you like to give away, people who have that book on their wishlist are then given the option to request the book, you send the book to them and you are given points you can spend on your own requests or "mooches". I signed up around 7.30pm and by 8pm I had already given away my first book. Two hours later another book had been claimed. I'm struggling a bit to find books I want to put on my wishlist - mostly because I have some fantastic secondhand bookshops here - but I'm sure I will cope. It's a great idea and you can even donate towards charity.

If you are on BookMooch too, my username is (unsurprisingly) karie bookish. Get in touch.

Two typeface links:

Buttons and Books

These are my Buttony Mitts. I test-knitted them for Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt. Basically, she asked me one day if I wanted free handpainted yarn and I replied with my best teenage "dooooh" face. The yarn is gorgeous. It is a soft alpaca-merino-bamboo blend and is handpainted in shades of forest green, khaki and pine. It knits to aran-weight but Lilith had decided to use a 4mm needle to create a warm, durable fabric. It worked a treat. The pattern itself was well-written and taught me how to make paired increases. If not for other commitments I could have finished the mitts in the course of two evenings (I love instant gratification projects).

Lilith is planning to make Buttony Mitt kits available on her site, so keep an eye out for those.

Other commitments? Among other things I went to Edinburgh on Friday night for a panel on the future of the book at The Scottish Book Trust. I was pleasantly surprised to see a relatively large turnout (fifty people or so! on a Friday night! in November!) and was even more pleasantly surprised by the panellists who all had interesting points to make. I was particularly impressed by Donald Smith (of the Scottish Storytelling Centre) who knew his book history and made good points about the book (codex) as a material object. The panel ran out of time, so the Q&A session was cut short, but I managed to raise a point about the socio-economic implications of digitalising books which was well-received. I suppose "you had to be there", but I really enjoyed myself.

As an aside, I was cornered by an American who wanted to know what I had bought my cardigan. Score!

PS. I trust the permalinks are working for people now. If not, let me know.

Drinking Tea Will Muddle Your Brain

Sometimes I worry that Domestic Bliss has ruined my ice-cold demeanour and unsentimental outlook on life. To wit, I am sitting here with a lump in my throat after stumbling across this:

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president.

Then again I also found Make Art From Starbucks Junk with a really, really cool TIE Fighter and I was instantaneously reassured that despite lapses into sentimentality my inner self will remain a 12-year-old geek (with an ice-cold demeanour).

This morning I read Nancy Mitford's Love In A Cold Climate which reads like a funnier and far more grown-up version of Dodie Smith's I Capture The Castle (which left me completely cold, I'm afraid). I'm now off to find more of Mitford's novels as I think the brisk winds of October are best kept away by tea, knitting and books set in interwar England (Waugh as well, I think, in addition to Mitford). Hello, favourite bookshop, here I come.

Tell Me What It's All About*

Monday. So far this Monday has brought me blue skies, sunshine, absolute silence, an important letter and a book which I finished in less than two hours. I like this sort of Monday. The book was Scarlett Thomas's Going Out which easily summed up as a light UK version of early Douglas Coupland novels. I do not know why I've read three Scarlett Thomas novels because if you take away the colourful packaging of a) metafiction ("The End of Mr Y"), b) anti-consumerism ("PopCo") and c) popculture ("Going Out") you get pretty much the same novel.

New Age health solutions? Check. Schrödinger's cat? Check. Main protagonist being into her math puzzles? Check. Slightly deviant sexual orientation painted in a fairly vague way? Check. C-category drug use? Check. Vegetarianism or some variant upon it? Check. Internet featuring heavily? Check.

But I still like her novels - particularly PopCo - even if they feel like a Linda McCartney meal. You know, easily digested vegetarian fare with a touch of celebrity to it? Perhaps it's just because I can see myself being firm friends with the people populating her novels. Perhaps I just want to go for (organic, herbal) tea with Ms. Thomas?

Next on the reading list: I need to finish Iain Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost (which isn't a chore to read, it is just really long) and then Andrew Sean Greer's The Story of a Marriage. I also have a strange longing for something non-fiction.

* title taken from Supergrass's "Going Out" (which I bet Scarlett Thomas has heard once or twice).