Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #22

After an hour spent dealing with interruptions while putting the first version of this post together, I then managed to delete it while fighting with a photo that wouldn’t upload. It’s the end of the Easter holidays, and I’m still trying to shift a cold I’ve had since just after EYF. Here are some photos. See you next week.

 

 

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Advertisements
Knitting · Year of Socks

Year of Socks: April

Work in Progress

I had this mad idea that I would rush these and get them finished in March, but, between other WIPs and being ill, my BOB socks proceeded in fits and starts, mostly on bus and car journeys (socks are such a good travel project). This is a great pattern: simple, straightforward, but with options and suggestions that allow you to customise it a little. The short row heel instructions are easy to follow, and I think this might be my favourite kind of heel – I can knit it as I go, and don’t have to pick up stitches. I knit the first sock with bamboo circulars, and did struggle to pick up the wraps with the blunter tips, so I moved to metal sharps for the second socks, which made life much easier, and I think will be my sock needles of choice going forward.

Finished Object

Though you can’t tell from the photo, the second sock ended up noticeably bigger than the other – a pointed lesson in why not to change needle type partway through a project. I’m not going to reknit, however, because the socks are for me, both of them fit, and you can’t really tell once they’re on.

I enjoyed working with the Squirm Sock. It’s an 80/20 blend of merino and nylon, and I was surprised by how much softer that ratio was compared to 75/25 blends of sock weight I’ve used before. I adore this colourway, and am plotting what I might make with a sweater quantity of it.

Next Project

The plan was to knit my A Year of TechniquesAntirrhinum socks next, as I’ve had the yarn sat waiting for ages, but I was seduced away by the arrival of the first Nerd Sock Club parcel from easyknits. The theme was Jessica Jones:

I’ve chosen a pattern called Double Stripe Socks, which calls for 2 colours. I’m excited to get started on these, but have learned my lesson and won’t try to predict when I’ll finish 😂

Socks away!

Books · Reading Challenge

Read the Year: March

“Unknown Woman”

Since I spent most of the month finishing February’s novel, for March I settled on The Diary of Lady Murasaki, a short book with journal and letter extracts written by the woman known as Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese author and courtier, about her time in the service of Empress Shōshi, at the height of the famous Heian period. The main events documented in the diary are the birth of Prince Atsuhira, and the celebrations which followed. For comparison, Appendix 2 offers translations of records of these events made by male authors, and I was struck by the attention that Murasaki shows to the people involved in comparison to those authors. She details the reactions, interactions, and outfits of a wide range of participants, and builds a textured picture of the events that unfold, her gaze at times critical, at others empathetic. It’s a wonderful window into history, and astonishing to think, as the translator notes in the introduction, that this elegant, refined world existed at a time roughly 50 years prior to the Norman conquest. At the time she wrote this ‘diary’ Murasaki was already well known as the author of Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), considered to be one of the first Japanese novels, and still revered as one of its greatest cultural works. Certainly one I’ll be adding to the TBR list.

Related Reading

Mary Catherine Bateson’s Composing a Life came to my attention via a Brain Pickings newsletter. A book examining the ways in which women construct their lives seemed like a good companion to the Diary, which moves between formal comment on public events, and inward-looking musing on what is possible for women. Composing a Life draws from the stories of five women (including the author), moving between the anecdotal, and published research. The main argument is that women have a long history of composing their lives through compromise and negotiation between personal ambition and desire, and societal pressures and responsibilities, and that there is potential in embracing this model for both men and women, rather than competitive ‘equality’. We’ll be in April before I finish this one, but I can already tell that I’ll be coming back to it.

Other Reading

Fictional Non-Fiction

Do D&D manuals class as fiction or non-fiction? They are books that offer the tools to tell a story, which suggests non-fiction, yet role-playing relies on suspension of disbelief, just as fiction. No doubt smarter people than I have answered this question. All I know is that I find them very enjoyable to read, both as a writer and gamer. This month I perused Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (an extension of the Player’s Handbook), and The Tomb of Annihilation (an adventure module set in the jungles of Chult). For me the latter wasn’t on a par with Storm King’s Thunder or The Curse of Strahd, but there were some fun ideas there (for a taste of ToA check out the 2017 Acquisitions Inc live shows on YouTube).

Non-Fiction

I’ve been reading Folk Fashion in a slow and thoughtful manner, as it raised questions for me around my own choices and processes of making. Broadly speaking, her thesis is that there is nothing inherently sustainable about making our own clothes if we engage with the process in the same mindset that we engage with fast fashion. She also explores the circumstances under which we feel permitted to alter or unmake existing designs and garments, and the ways in which we might encourage ourselves, and others, to do so. While this is a well-referenced, academic work, it is very readable, and I feel that I will be unpacking her insights and reflecting on my making for a while to come.

Running Total

Books Read: 20

Currently Reading: 5

Next Month

The next Read The Year prompt is to “Grab a book that will help you to explore your creativity” so I shall be working through Keri Smith’s The Imaginary World of… in April.

Year of Socks

Year of Socks: March

Work in Progress

My second project was Katya Frankel’s Brixham sock pattern, which I snagged from an old copy of The Knitter magazine, designed in Eden Cottage Yarns Oakworth DK. I had the specified yarn in the Lichen colourway, and I used magic loop for the first sock, as I didn’t have small circulars in the right size, but caved and ordered them in time to knit sock two as I just find it a smoother and quicker method. Being DK, they sped along nicely, and I turned my full attention to sock two in the week running up to EYF, so that I could wear them to the festival (which turned out to be an excellent plan as it snowed on us). The cuff transitions from rib to a gansey-inspired knit and purl pattern, which I wasn’t too sure about, but looks great when the socks are worn. The pattern calls for a traditional turned heel (my first experience of that), and was clear enough that I didn’t feel the need to resort to my copy of A Year of Techniques. I stuffed up the slipped stitch heel flap on the first one, somehow, and I’m not picking up the stitches as neatly as I’d like when turning the heel, but I think I’ve done quite well for a first attempt.

The Oakworth DK was dreamy to knit with, and I really loved the luminosity of this particular green. This yarn has been in short supply on the Eden Cottage Yarns online shop, and hasn’t featured in an update for a while, so I did speak to Victoria at EYF to ask if it had been discontinued. I was assured that it is on the list to dye again, but they have a wide range of bases, and dye in small batches, so it can take time to get around them all. Certainly a yarn I’ll be keeping an eye out for in future updates from them.

Finished Object

The Brixham socks are a good fit, in terms of length and heel, but I dislike the pointed toe. I think when I knit these again (I do have another cheeky skein of Oakworth tucked away 😄), I’ll decrease at the sides and then graft the toe as I did with last month’s Dave Socks.

Next Project

I picked up a gorgeous skein of Undercover Otter‘s Squirm Sock at EYF, colourway Pieces, and will be casting on Louise Tilbrook’s BOB socks with it. The pattern uses the wrap and turn method for the heel, and is well suited to speckled colourways, so I’m looking forward to the result. I may even finish these before the end of March 😱

Socks away!

Knitting · Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & Week(ends) #21

The Edinburgh Yarn Festival Edition

The Marketplace

 

This year I made a plan for which stands to visit, and what to buy, and I’m pleased to say I largely stuck to it, so I have projects lined up for most of my purchases. The impulse buys: a fabulous skein of DyeNinja’s new High Merino Twist Aran in her Embers colourway, and Rusty Ferret’s blue-purple Space Muffin on her Doll base (she had me at “space”), would suit any number of patterns I own. I had a slightly panicked moment at the Martin’s Lab stand where my bank, confused by a sudden large payment in Polish Zloty, declined the transaction, and blocked my card. Luckily I had a back-up, but who knew I’d need to inform my bank I was going to my local Yarn Festival?!

Beyond the lovely yarns on offer, it was wonderful to spend time with my tribe: I had so many fun moments with fellow knitters, complimenting each other on knitwear, sharing advice on colour choices and potential patterns; and it was such a pleasure to meet so many of the dyers who I interact with on social media, and express my admiration (generally in an incoherent, slightly starstruck way, but I think they got it 😳).

The Darning Masterclass

In the afternoon I attended Tom van Deijnen’s Darning Masterclass. He covered both Swiss Darning, for reinforcement and embellishments, and Sock Darning, used when holes have already formed. My many years of embroidery experience meant that, once I understood how the stitching interacted with the knitted fabric, everything fell into place for me. I’m now eyeing up all fabrics I come into contact with as prospective mending projects. Tom also ran an Advanced Darning Masterclass this year, so I hope that he’ll be back next year as I’d like to learn more.

 

From the mailbag

My new knitting notebook arrived this week (and can be spotted above in my darning pics), and I dealt with my EYF fomo by setting up a section specially for my day at the festival.

Odds and Sods

  • I finished Anna Karenina. Finally!
  • The Darning Masterclass was held at the Water of Leith Conservation Centre. I had a few minutes to look around and will definitely be taking the Tiny Tyrant for a visit.
  • The Truly Myrtle Spring Shawl Autumn Wrap Up KAL cast-on was yesterday (the 17th). I cast my Windsinger on while travelling in to EYF. I’m using Old Maiden Aunt merino cashmere nylon 4ply in colours Cold Sheep and Pretty Floral Bonnet. img_8998The deadline is the 17th May, and you’ll find some beautiful WIPs under #springshawlautumnwrapupkal on social media.

Upcoming

We have a busy week ahead, including a day trip to Amble. I think there may be a Neighbo(u)rhood Sheep Society parcel to collect this week as well, because I spotted a new NSS pattern on Ravelry. And I want to make a push on my Lanes cardigan, as I’d quite like to wear it.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & Week(ends) #20

Cooking on a Bootstrap During Snowmaggeddon

The sudden influx of rewards from projects I’ve backed continued this week with the long-anticipated arrival of Cooking on a Bootstrap from Jack Monroe. It proved to be good timing, as we were then struck by the ‘beast from the east’ snow storm.

While not technically snowed in, in practice, since the buses stopped running along our road, the Technician is working away, and the supermarket is too far for TT to walk there and back even in good weather, we were snowed in. Being unable to get out for supplies encouraged my creativity to make the most of what I found in my cupboard, ably assisted by my newly-arrived cookbook.

Exploration and Reflection

As mentioned a while back, I’m taking part in the KnitBritish Wool Exploration. I submitted my first review, on Gotland wool, in February, and I’m partway through my explorations of Ryeland and Jacob, guided by Louise’s excellent template for notes, which you can find on her blog. I am finding that the number of swatches and pieces of A4 are becoming unwieldy, so decided to use a sketchbook to collate the information.

I chose a sketchbook as the paper will be sturdy enough for me to attach the swatch to the relevant page, and the spiral binding should mean that it copes better with multiple inserts. While the first part will be dedicated to the KnitBritish breed swatches, I’m going to use the rest to start noting down my own impressions of particular breeds and brands.

Tangentially, I started reading Folk Fashion today (a book from my Christmas haul), which is making me realise that I rarely reflect on my making in any structured way – there’s a lot of “ooh, pretty I want to knit (with) that”, but less attention on whether it’s an item I need, or uses what I already have. It can sometimes feel like I’ve shifted focus from high-street consumerism to independent supplier consumerism, and I feel like I need to slow down and unpack that a bit. It seems that the Wool Exploration is part of that thought process too. A topic I may return to if I come to any conclusions worth sharing.

From the Mailbag

For obvious reasons it’s been a slow post week, but my Read The Year book for March made it to me, along with the aforementioned cookbook.

Odds and Sods

  • Libby Johnson of the Truly Myrtle blog and podcast is running an Autumn/Spring Shawl KAL between 17th March – 17th May. I shall be taking part as I’ve wanted to make her Windsinger shawl for a while.
  • Craftsy has been offering unlimited access this weekend, so I’m taking the opportunity to audit a few courses that I’d marked as favourites.
  • If you missed out on the Kickstarter of Cooking on a Bootstrap, Jack Monroe has announced that a revised version is being released via a traditional publisher too.

Upcoming

The worst of the snow is over, and thawing fast, but they’re predicting rain from tomorrow so I expect to get damp when heading out in search of supplies. Nursery is due to re-open tomorrow – a relief because the Tiny Tyrant and I are sick of the sight of each other. My main plans for the week are to knit, and start plotting what I want to do and see at EYF.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Books · Reading Challenge

Read The Year: February

“Obsessive Love”

Full disclosure: I have yet to finish Anna Karenina. This should not be taken as a criticism – it’s a result of my starting late, reading less than usual, and the style of the novel, which encourages a slow reading pace and close attention.

I knew very little about the novel going in: I knew it involved an affair between Anna and Vronsky, and was an examination of marriage and love, but there is also a secondary plot, interrelated with the first, about Levin, a friend of Anna’s brother, and Kitty, related to Anna by marriage (and a former flirtation of Vronsky’s) which examines the theme from a different angle.img_8727

Having read War and Peace a few years back, I remembered that Tolstoy can be quite wordy, but I had forgotten his talent for delineating characters. In some respects his knack resembles that of Elizabeth Gaskell (see last month’s post), in showing faults, and foibles, as well as the good, but his eye for character errs more toward the satirical than the sympathetic.

I’m about halfway through, and while I’m aware that things don’t end well for Anna, I’m allowing myself to hope a little for Levin and Kitty.

Related Reading

Madame Bovary seemed like a suitable accompaniment to Anna Karenina, but my slow pace meant I never got to it. However, Napoleon the Great, which I listened to on Audible, tied in more than I expected. The Napoleonic era was much earlier than Anna Karenina , which is set in the 1870s, but it was a time that fundamentally reshaped Europe, and the reforms which resulted from Alexander’s wars with Napoleon underpin the concerns of Tolstoy’s characters. In its own right Napoleon the Great is a fantastic book, which gave me a new perspective on both the man and his actions.

Other Reading

I’ve not read many adult books this month, partly because it’s been a short month, partly because the books I was concentrating on are so long.

Fiction

I borrowed some Hulk comics through my Amazon Prime membership. I’ve never bothered to buy any of the Planet Hulk tie-ins, but I wanted to check them out because Thor: Ragnarok used some of the Hulk material. They’re interesting from that perspective, but I’m glad I didn’t buy them, as I don’t think I’d read them again.

Non-Fiction

Back in January, I ordered a book about Portuguese calçada (the mosaic-style, cobbled paving that is widely used in Portuguese cities). Calçada Portuguesa is a photograph book, but does briefly cover the history of calçada (which is of more recent provenance than I imagined, given its ubiquity in Portugal), and shows the spread the art form to former Portuguese territories worldwide. It’s also trilingual: Portuguese, English, and Chinese (I assume they mean Mandarin), which is a nice touch.

Running Total

Books Read: 12

Currently Reading: 8

Upcoming

Since I still have half of Anna Karenina to read, my March book needs to be short. The theme is ‘Read a book about a woman you hadn’t previously heard of’. I was planning to read a biography of Christine de Pizan, but have settled on the shorter The Diary of Lady Murasaki.

Knitting · Year of Socks

Year of Socks: February

Work in Progress

I took the full month to work on these socks as I wanted to finish my Threipmuir sweater, and Rattan shawl. Then I was seduced into casting on my Lanes cardigan. With the 28th looming I set all other projects aside and pushed myself to finish, so that I could cast on my next pair of socks in February. The stop-start progress on the project means that stocking stitch of the first sock is a little scrappy, but I was aiming for my first finished pair of socks, so decided perfection could wait. I pressed on with the second sock so that I could do both heels together at the end. The second sock and heels took 2-3 days, which suggests I could have made these in the space of a week had I not been distracted earlier in the month. This was a lovely straightforward pattern, which I know I will knit again.

Finished Object:

It turns out that my sock blockers aren’t ideal for this particular heel (the decreases spiral in toward a central point, so the heel is pointier as a result), but I did try my finished socks on before blocking and the fit is excellent. I want to try a couple of other patterns, and heel constructions, but Dave is already a strong contender as my go-to plain sock pattern.

Next Project:

February’s sock (I’m casting on today; it counts) is a DK weight in the hope that they’ll knit up faster, and I can catch up to hit my target of knitting 12 pairs of socks in 2018. The wool is Eden Cottage Yarns Oakworth DK, in the Lichen colourway, bought from Gorgeous Yarns last autumn. This is a heel flap construction, so I’ll probably refer to A Year of Techniques when I come to turn my first heel. Results to follow in next month’s update.

Socks away!

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #19

The Fruits of Crowdfunding

I’ve generally had a good experience with supporting crowdfunded books and games, and this week 2 longstanding pledges arrived:

The Lady and the Tiger, from Jellybean Games, is loosely inspired by Frank R. Stockton’s short story, and includes 5 games, ranging from a solitaire game to 2-6 player options, all using the same components. I’ve only played Hoard, the solitaire game, so far – it’s been a solo parenting week – but I’m looking forward to working my way through the others. And I must just mention that Tania’s artwork is divine. The ladies and tigers are so unique and distinctive that I find myself imagining their backstories as I play – I probably shouldn’t do that when I come to play the pair, and group games though.

My other ‘reward’ was The Secret History of Mac Gaming, which I backed on Unbound. We had Macs at home when I was growing up so any gaming that couldn’t be done on various iterations of Gameboy was done on the Mac. In the ’90s that meant not getting to play the games my console-blessed friends were playing, but it has left me with a lifelong love of the Civilisation series (Civ II was the best; I will accept no debate on this). Timescales on Unbound are typically longer than other types of crowdfunding, but both books I’ve backed have been worth the wait.

From the Mailbag

As anticipated, my copy of Laine #4, and the Ysolda shawl club yarn arrived this week. The latter is the most smooshable blend of Corriedale and Zwartbles, spun specially for the club by John Arbon Textiles (which amused me as I’ve just started my Lanes cardigan in some of their Exmoor Zwartbles blend). My Valentines dice from Q-Workshop also arrived, so I’m well supplied with red D20s.

Odds and Sods

  • Easyknits’ new website is up and running, and as part of the relaunch they’ve announced a new Nerd Sock Club, which will include a skein of sock yarn and a pin, themed around a nerdy topic, sent out bi-monthly. Naturally, I signed up.
  • I’ve been enjoying Reedsy’s bite-sized writing emails over coffee this past week. I’ve finished Kristen Kiefer’s How to Plot a Novel Using the 3-Act Story Structure, which I thoroughly recommend, and have moved on to How to Start Writing a Book. Can you tell my writing motivation is low right now? 🙂
  • We’re trialling the monthly ToucanBox as the Tiny Tyrant is blazing through the fortnightly craft boxes when they arrive. The Grande box includes 2 crafts, a book, and a list of activity ideas around a theme (adventure, most recently). The books we’ve had have been excellent, and ToucanBox are generous with the craft supplies. If you’d like to try a free Petite box, click here.

Upcoming

It doesn’t seem possible that we’re at the end of February already. I expect to finish my first ‘Year of Socks’ socks in the next day or so, and cast on the next pair before March arrives – all of which I’ll devote a post to during the week. I suspect that I also have a school shoes trip to Clark’s in my immediate future. Oh, joy.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #18

My week in pictures

It’s been a slow week 😐

Odds and Sods

  • I’ve been re-listening to some old Acquisitions Inq D&D podcasts this week. The stuff when Wil Wheaton guests is comedy gold.
  • In related news I may have purchased myself some dice from Q-workshop’s Valentine offer 😳
  • Progress on Anna Karenina is slow. It’s looking like I’ll need a really short read in March.

Upcoming

This next week appears hellish: back to the nursery routine, family visiting, a trip to the GP, and the prospect of several hours without power while our fuse board gets changed, all while parenting solo. On the bright side, my copy of Laine #4 will be arriving this week, and the first instalment from Ysolda’s Shawl Club is due to be sent out, so if I make it to the weekend I can reward myself by retreating to a duvet cocoon with my goodies. 😁

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.