Wilting - Some Links While I Melt

As a heatwave has swept across the UK, activities in Casa Bookish have been kept to a bare minimum. Oh, there was that trip to Linlithgow Palace, a trip to Edinburgh, some art exhibitions,  designing/plotting, preparations for the launch of new Autumn/Winter yarn collections - but mainly I have languished in the shade with an ice cream for company. I've enjoyed some really fantastic and thought-provoking Twitter conversations about hand-knitting, fashion, and women's self-image. So, in short: I don't exactly lack blog post material. I just lack the energy and presence of mind to write the blog posts! What's a girl to do? Well, I have some choice links for you to peruse whilst I hope for cooler temps to hit my corner of the UK:

  • Ventures & Adventures in Topography - a podcast about rambling through London using old walking guides. Yes, I continue to be fascinated by psychogeography - how we interact with landscapes and how landscapes interact with us.
  • Speaking of which: Cafe Pantopia - trying to establish "a common meeting-place that traverses the vast distances of the North Atlantic Ocean." I am a North Atlantic Ocean girl and I love, love, love this idea.
  • Fringe Association is my new favourite knitting blog. There. I said it. She makes me look at things differently. FA  is a refreshing, smart look at knitting, style, and design.
  • I am currently teaching myself (very basic) French using DuoLingo. I'd quite like an outline of basic grammar alongside vocabulary lessons and commonly used phrases, but I genuinely feel like I'm learning Stuff.
  • Fancy living somewhere which has serious literary credentials? Why, William Blake's cottage is for sale!
  • And this serves a neat segueway into the Man Booker longlist. The jury is spear-headed by Robert MacFarlane whose The Old Ways is my current bedside table book. In Days of Yore I would have had Opinions but Opinions have been wilted by the heat and an insane amount of work knitting.
  • I have finished a book recently, though. Yes, That Book by That Author. I enjoyed it - and it was very low on gore which I appreciated. I am a squeamish reader in some ways.

And how are you doing?

Thinking With My Fingers

I have been thinking about what unites all the things I do and the things I care about. It struck me that I need my hands in order to translate (or transmit) all the things in my head. I am far more eloquent when I write than when I speak. I express my ideas better when I draw or knit them than if I try to describe them. And I sit down to tap away at a keyboard when I feel I have a nebulous notion brewing away in my head. The Greek philosopher Plato once addressed the mind-body problem and how the mind and body can be connected. Plato was a great fan of 'the soul' and thought our bodies inferior. Philosophers have discussed this ever since (it's known as Dualism) - when I was younger, I'd scoff at my body and be firmly in Plato's camp. The life of the mind! Pure soul! These days I definitely cannot imagine life without my fingers acting as transmitters or translators. We all mellow as we get older, don't we?

Anyway, I began thinking about this because I am just back from a work trip to Yorkshire. I had my camera with me and I snapped a lot of photos - but mostly unexpected photos.

June: Yorkshire Trip

Who knew I'd ever take an arty photo of a horse grazing in a field as a way of expressing my innermost thoughts? But there you go: life is bright and sunny with a tinge of blue. Beautiful things are in focus, bigger things are rather blurry (but I'm pushing those to the back for the time being). And everything is good.

I want to thank everybody for the lovely stream of messages concerning Doggerland. When I first started talking about my idea for the collection, a few people told me it was a bit too “out there” so I didn’t know what to expect .. but I have received so much great feedback and so much support over the last week. I have been particularly thrilled by emails from strangers who told me about their own connection to the Doggerland area - if I can make people think about their personal/emotional connections to landscapes and knitting, I have done my job well.

This would have been an excellent time to insert a photo of sheep grazing on Yorkshire hills. Unfortunately I had to take those photos from a moving train and this is the best one. Try to spot the sheep:

June Trip: Yorkshire I'll write more about my work trip to Yorkshire later - it was essentially a three-day knitting & yarn mini-conference at this place:

June: Yorkshire Trip

As I said, everything is good. I am meeting interesting people, I am being pushed out of my comfort zone, and I am thinking a lot with my fingers.

A few links &c:

  • You can still pre-order my Doggerland collection and get 20% off. Hurry, though, as the offer only runs for a few more days.
  • Stories In Stitches is a new venture from the amazing Donna Druchunas. Stories in Stitches combine so many of my favourite things: story-telling, knitting, writing and social history - not to mention that strange (but so exhilarating) sense of continuity and connection across places and ages you get when you combine all those things.
  • A very interesting interview with Harry Potter star, Emma Watson. Yes, really. I was struck by her take on feeling insecure and trying to balance her own self-perception with how others perceive her.
  • Finally, a great article about how the Eurovision Song Contest can be read as something other than just a way of life six-months-long week-long fun evening. It's a way of nation-building in the 21st century.

Funny Old Life: An Knitterly Interlude

Taking a tiny break from writing about Doggerland. Of sorts. Here are some other things that have been happening.. + BBC4 continues to have unlimited access to my brain. They have just started an archaeology season, for heaven's sake. If you have access to BBC iPlayer, I recommend watching The Peat Bog Mystery. It first aired in 1954(!) and it is an excellent insight into how archaeology was communicated to the masses. No gloves when handling artefacts! Lady archaeologists get to talk about cooking! Sir Mortimer Wheeler is especially fascinating (just check out his wikipedia page). Also, the artefacts themselves are fabulous and you get to see some of the highlights of the National Museum of Denmark including an awkward assessment of the Gundestrup Cauldron ("Nazi eagles"!).

+ I was very amused by this news story: the author of Fifty Shades of Gray went to a Romance Book convention/trade show under an assumed name, unveiled her real identity interrupting a panel discussion before telling them to "stop talking about my book!". Good times.

+ I have been playing with the new Rowan sock yarn, Rowan Fine Art sock. It's their first sock yarn, it's 'handpainted' (well, sponged) in South Africa and has a really interesting base: merino, polyamide, silk and mohair. Hmm. It looked very pretty in the skein:

Rowan Fine Art

I wound the yarn last night for a quick swatch. It is quite variegated compared to the semi-solid sock yarns I have been using over the last couple of years, but the variegation works pretty well. For shawl design purposes, I think you'd look at slipped stitches, textures, and well-defined big-chunks lace.

Rowan Fine Art

The base is interesting - it has a fairly tight twist compared to other commercial sock yarns but not quite the high twist you get from, say, Wollmeise. The silk makes for nice drape + sheen. Such a contrast to the rustic yarns I've worked with over the last few weeks.

+ I found a photo from my old primary school the other day. This was taken a few years before my time, but I loved it as soon as I saw it. Look at all the handknits! And do I spot handknitted socks on the young gent on the left? My friend Kaisa told me the photo looked like  a cross between Grange Hill (British kids' show) and The Killing. She may have a point.

+ Finally, the fine people of the Netherlands have a new king. Seeing I am not a royalist, that shouldn't really register on my radar. What did register was Garnstudio's patterns they released to coincide with the coronation. Fun little fact: my first knitting project in many, many, many years was a little stripy cotton jumper for the little Queenie when she was first born. Isn't it strange how life works out?

It is a funny old life.

The Glamorous Life of A Quiet Knitter

When people tell me they'd love to work in the knitting industry, I don't think my last fortnight is what they had in mind. I have been crawling around on my knees finding stray balls of yarn underneath boxes, behind furniture, and in strange places. I have been covered in yarn fluff and dust (achoo). My hands have been rubbed raw from handling thousands and thousands of balls of yarn. And then I spent several days tracking down product codes for long-discontinued qualities, noting everything down and triple-checking it against inventory notes before going home for long showers that did not get rid of the yarn fluff stuck inside my ear. Life, she has not been glamorous.

Still, there are good things to report. Firstly, there are new shadecards in front of me together with glossy previews of all the new summer collections. Secondly, two new designs are currently blocking on my living room floor. Thirdly, I have a logo for Karie Bookish Knits (more on which in a future blog post). And fourthly, Edinburgh Yarn Festival have finally announced their workshop list!

I have also finished my third read of the year.

Susan Cain's Quiet has been a real hit with readers this past year. As a reader it is hard not to be enthralled when a book tells you that it's really, really cool that you prefer reading a book to a loud party. That may sound like a cynical take but much of this book reads like a hard sell to the quiet, bookish crowd (i.e. people who buy books). Introverts like me are amazing - we invent things! we empathise! we could have stopped the recession! When Cain forgets to stroke egos or offer self-help solutions, the book becomes far more interesting: her examination of the 20th century as the century of the 'extrovert' is good as is her take on 21st technology enabling social interaction without sensory overload. As a non-American, I didn't quite connect with some of Cain's examples and some of her generalisations about cultural personalities were iffy - but Quiet was a decent read. If you've ever hid out in a bathroom stall to avoid small-talking your way through an evening, this may be a book you'll want to read.

A few random links:

Hope you are all keeping warm and are knitting away. Me? Well, tomorrow I am donning my oldest clothes and will return to crawling around on dusty floors..

Careful With Words

Twitter sometimes gets a reputation for being Celebrity Central, but I frequently manage to have interesting conversations with people despite the 140-character cut-off.

Yesterday we discussed women's self-image and societal pressure to emphasise external over internal qualities. We covered a lot of ground: eating disorders, women's self-enforced ignorance as a feminist issue (Ellie's line and it's a great one), patriarchal/matriarchal gender politics and much more. Mooncalf pointed out that we should not conflate ignorance with body obsession. Miss M. wrote eloquently about how body image and a need to take control could collide. Later same night I logged back into Twitter to find a whole other discussion about women's bodies was taking place. It was a discussion I found downright scary by its very ignorance of how women's bodies actually work.

I think it is time to quietly take back that whole discussion about women's rights and women's bodies. I really enjoyed the thoughtful discussion I had on Twitter with other women (and one man) but I think we should be having that discussion off-line too. It is not a call to arms - I am not the militant sort - but it is a plea that we keep having these discussions, we keep having them in public and that we keep challenging everyday sexism. Odd how it can still be a revelation to some that women are people too.

Phew. It felt good to get that off my chest.

I will now return to my fluffy little world of trying to make stripe patterns align and figuring out why I suddenly cannot make PDF files with my word-processing programmes. Here are a few random links for your everyday perusal:

Drive-By Blogging

This week has been fun, stressful, and interesting. Prepare for bullet-points as I don't think my brain has the capacity for entire paragraphs. First some knitting bits:

  • Rowan has published my Windsor hat pattern. It is free and you can download it from the Rowan website.
  • I took part in another crafts/textiles conference at the University of Glasgow. Highlights: Edith Rattay from the Moray Firth Gansey Project speaking about East Coast ganseys with such authority and passion; Di Gilpin and Rosie Eribé asking questions about the heritage and future of Scottish textiles. It was a good day.
  • I had a few more commissions for patterns come through my in-box. I am really, really excited!
  • And because 2012 has been a fantastic year for me so far (which I needed after some very soul-destroying years not so long ago), I am throwing a mini-celebration. I'm knocking 12% off all my patterns until June 5th - just use "Love2012" when you purchase any of my Ravelry designs.

And some non-knitting bits:

  • I finally read some books(!). I re-visited The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald after some 18 years. My first thought? "That'd be a breeze to teach." My second thought? "Damn, but it is slight."
  • London Under by Peter Ackroyd was my next read. My Other Half has an affinity for psychogeography and recommended me the book. It was okay - but for a book about the London subterrain it did skim the surface an awful (if you'll pardon me the pun).
  • I am quietly addicted to W.E.L.D.E.R. - a word game for iPods and iPads. I am yet to get beyond level 10, sadly.
  • Eurovision came around and it was awesome. While I do have opinions on the proceedings, so far I am just listening to Loreen's "Euphoria" for the 464th time.
  • And you may enjoy the Overthinking Person's Drinking Game. Hic.