Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #26

Heatwave

This is not a complaint about the hot weather. I love hot weather; I spend most of my time complaining about being too cold. This is a complaint about how ill-equipped the UK is to deal with this kind of heat: there isn’t enough shade, all the buildings are too hot (tile your floors, people!), and I don’t live close enough to a decent beach. Grump.

It’s too hot to write a proper post this evening, so I’ll keep the rest of this short.

From the Mailbag

My final #titsoutcollective parcels arrived this week. I had a pattern picked out for the Gamercrafting sock yarn, but as soon as I saw it next to the Giddy Aunt Yarns mohair I knew they needed to be paired, so I’m revising my plans on what do do with my haul. I got a lovely surprise with my Rusty Ferret order: last month I managed to snap my star-shaped gauge ruler by shutting it in a drawer, which made me very sad – not only was it one of the goodies from my first Rusty Ferret yarn club box, but I use it all the time – and Leona, the dyer behind Rusty Ferret yarns, very kindly made and sent me a new one.

Another arrival was this beautiful book, ordered after reading a wonderful review through Brainpickings.

Odds and sods

  • Spotted a lot of cuckoo spit while out for a walk in the woods; and learned that it’s also known as frog spit (which actually makes more sense as it’s a hiding place for froghopper larvae).
  • I’ve been quiet on the knitting front as I’ve been test knitting a pattern over the past week. I’ll share a pic or two once I know it’s ok to do so.
  • On the fundraising front, I recently discovered the Flower Power Fund, which is raising money for Marie Curie in collaboration with indie dyers. There are a number of ways to contribute, beyond buying indie dyed yarn, so definitely check this out and get involved if you can.

Upcoming

It looks like our Glasgow trip will happen this week. Hopefully this cooler weather I keep being promised will show up, and I’ll have the energy to write the blog post about my Gallery trip that I meant to do last Friday. And many more things besides 😅

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

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Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #25

All the Plans

The Technician has some time off in July so I’m making plans to wallow in a bit of culture. I’m hoping to take a day to see Raqib Shaw’s Reinventing the Old Masters at the Modern One, Rembrandt Britain’s Discovery of the Master at the National Gallery, and the Victoria Crowe exhibition at the Portrait Gallery. I recently renewed my Friends membership with Scottish National Galleries, which means free entry to the Rembrandt exhibition, and a cheeky 10% discount in some of their cafes – I highly recommend the scones, even if you don’t fancy the art.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers will be holding their National Exhibition at the Scottish Universities Insight Institute from 16-29th July. Getting over to see that will probably need to be coordinated with a ‘Tiny Tyrant-appropriate’ activity. We’re thinking Glasgow Science Centre, but if the weather stays this hot an outdoor option may be preferable.

From the Mailbag

The first of my Tits Out Collective purchases arrived this week. And the rest of my David Eddings books (pictured below). I’ve had all the dispatch orders for the Collective, and July’s Clan of Igors, so I’m expecting a bumper yarn mailbag post next week.

Odds and Sods

  • My cistus is flowering with abandon now I’ve moved it to a more sheltered spot.
  • I’ve totally lost control of Amazing Tales – the Tiny Tyrant is now DM-ing, and I found myself playing a knight whose skills consisted of counting butterflies, and growing flowers. A knight who needed to fight a dragon….
  • I’ve finished The Belgariad and now I have a book hangover ☹️

Upcoming

Yet more of the Tetris puzzle that is fitting knitting, writing, housework, and childcare into days that don’t come with that blessed 3 hours of nursery time. 😥

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

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #24

Tits Everywhere

So today I got to do the equivalent of a supermarket dash, as Countess Ablaze and a coterie of makers launched the Tits Out Collective: yarn, patterns, notions and more, inspired by the Countess’ iconic limited edition colourway ‘If I want exposure, I’ll get my tits out’. Each dyer/designer/maker chose a charity to donate some of the proceeds to. If you want the full story on how this came about, check out the Countess Ablaze site for her blog post, and a gallery linking you to all 287 individuals and businesses involved.

If you’re wondering how on Earth one chooses what, out of 287 possibilities, to buy, let me fill you in on my approach. First I decided to stick to UK businesses (this isn’t some patriotic thing, I just have a limited budget and I’d rather spend it on wool than postage), then I looked at the charities being supported (I’m sure they’re all meaningful to the person who chose them, but aligning my purchases with causes I care about made sense), and finally I looked at what yarn bases were on offer so that I ended up with yarn that would play well with my current stash (in the case of patterns I chose ones that I felt I would actually knit).

I could tell you what I ordered, but I’d rather tell you that I was able to support 11 charities today: Addaction, Alfred Kennedy Trust, Alliance for Choice, Bliss, Cornwall Air Ambulance, Dogs for Good, Insight Counselling, Rape Crisis England, Refuge, Women’s Aid, and Womencentre. I’ve also discovered a whole host of new independent dyers. If you’re really curious about my purchases keep an eye out for mailbag updates over the next month. Better than that, please browse the gallery (here’s that link again) and support this awesome movement.

Finished Objects

On the topic of wool, I though I’d spotlight a few things I’ve finished over the past month or so.

La Vie Est Belle (Dieppe) Cowl

In May I felt the need to knit something simple and bright. I already had some DK yarn caked, so I whipped up this cowl. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the shape when I came to wear it (the downside of a pattern that requires seaming is that you can’t try it on as you go), so it’s sitting in the gift pile waiting to be loved by someone else.

Lanes Cardigan

It took me exactly 3 months to knit this (including a long stretch when it was sleeveless, and another stretch when I couldn’t quite face picking up all those stitches for the collar). This is another knit that I’m not 100% happy with. The yarn is beautiful and I can tell it’s only going to get softer and lovelier to wear, but the sleeves need to be shortened, and I don’t feel that the shawl collar suits me. If it were one thing I might try to fix it, but I’m wondering if the best solution might not be to frog the whole thing, and knit something I will actually wear – I suspect a Strange Brew yoked sweater would be wonderful, and provide an opportunity to use up leftovers from my Wool Explorations.

Maytham Shawl

I fully expected to be gifting this shawl, as I couldn’t see myself wearing a lace half-pi shawl (even in the colours ‘Eat the Rich’ and ‘Fight for your right to party’ on Countess Ablaze Tia Merino), which I was fine with because I enjoyed knitting it so much. Then I blocked it, and, oh my…, it was like being cuddled by butterflies. So I think I’ll be keeping that one. ☺️

From the Mailbag

Also for a charity initiative, I picked up some yarn from Gamercrafting this week. It’s sort of hilarious because it’s Harry Potter-themed and, as you may know, I’m a heathen when it comes to the Potterverse (or whatever the fandom calls it). I once took some online quiz that sorted me into Ravenclaw, so I think I’m ok to own this. 😂 Also check out the cool sticker. And my first Belgariad book arrived – luckily it was Book 1 so I was able to get started right away.

Odds and Sods

  • The Tiny Tyrant and I have been playing an RPG for kids called Amazing Tales. Which would be more fun for me if she didn’t insist on naming all her PCs Cinderella. 😑
  • Potato Update: one of my plants has flowered. So in a month or so I can go digging for spuddy treasure. Fingers crossed.
  • We bought a new hoover. He’s kind of a hit:

Upcoming

Six weeks of summer holidays! 😰 In which I will also attempt to read some books, write some words, and knit some things….

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

Books · Reading Challenge

Read the Year: June

“The Experience of Fatherhood”

I chose Silas Marner as my Read The Year pick, and I was a little worried that I might have made a tenuous link as an excuse to cross another Eliot novel off the TBR list. While Eliot is making a point about the ways in which our values affect our conduct, and we reap what we sow, she uses the contrasting conduct of Eppie’s biological and adoptive fathers to do so. Even now, there are people who feel that there’s something shameful about raising another man’s children, but Eliot offers a touching portrait of the bonds that can form with the family we choose, which still resonates today. I think this is one of the more accessible of Eliot’s novels, and a good starting point for anyone who is intimidated by her reputation.

Related Reading

I also read The Secret Garden this month. I’d read it as a child, but found it hard to relate to, and much preferred Burnett’s The Little Princess. Since it’s the theme for The Shawl Society this year I decided it was time to revisit it. Perhaps it was the 8 or so years living in Yorkshire, which meant I came back to this with a fondness for characters like Ben Weatherstaff, but I found that I couldn’t put it down, and the reunion of Colin and his father reduced me to tears.

Other Reading

Fiction

As planned I read Alison Weir’s Jane Seymour novel. It was gripping, and made me a little more sympathetic toward Jane than I had felt previously (Katherine of Aragon is still my favourite #truequeen). The conclusions about her death, which I won’t spoil, are interesting, and highlight the difference modern medicine has made to a woman’s chances of surviving childbirth. I have a ticket for Weir’s talk at Edinburgh Book Festival this summer, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about her research for this novel. I also finished The Tamuli, and, still in the grip of nostalgia, read my way through The Malloreon. Since I’m not quite ready to leave Garion and friends, I’ve tracked down second-hand copies of The Belgariad, and am waiting on their arrival to start another fantasy binge. Fond as I am of Sparhawk and his fellow adventurers (my first introduction to David Eddings’ work), I do think the cosmology is better thought out in the Garion books, and they’re a masterclass in how to elevate stereotypes like ‘the knight’ or ‘the rogue’ into complex characters.

Non-Fiction

Most of my non-fiction this month was on Audible – I stuck with the 15th and 16th centuries with John Julius Norwich’s Four Princes, and Giles Tremlett’s Isabella of Castile: Europe’s First Great Queen. The latter is a wonderful companion to the author’s earlier work on Katherine of Aragon, and would work as an interesting preface to Game of Queens, which I read last month. I then embarked on Max Adams’ The King in the North – one of my birthday paperbacks. This was a recommendation Warren Ellis made in his newsletter ages ago, and it’s every bit as good as he suggested, with a density to the prose which most ‘popular’ history books lack. I’m finding I need to read small snatches and absorb, hence why I’m re-reading old fantasy alongside it.

Running Total

Books Read: 65

Currently Reading: 4

Next Month

The initial plan is to finish The King in the North and read my way through The Belgariad. I’m taking a little break from history on Audible to catch up on some podcasts, and the Tiny Tyrant is now on school holidays, so I’m resigned to July being a light month as regards reading.

Books · Reading Challenge

Read the Year: May

“Closer to Nature”

In May I read Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways. I greatly enjoyed his Landmarks (a wonderful marriage of words and nature) last year, and the Tiny Tyrant and I love to read The Lost Words, so he seemed like the obvious author to turn to for this prompt. Plus I already had a copy of The Old Ways on the TBR shelf.

I found this book harder to get stuck into, and my attention and interest wasn’t consistent. While I’ve lived near water for most of my life, I’m not a fan of boats (I can barely keep my balance on dry land), so the various ‘sea paths’ held little appeal. On the other hand, the chapter on walking in Palestine, and then the stretch of the Camino de Santiago (a walk that’s been a lifelong ambition of mine), were gripping. Which does suggest that this book probably holds a chapter for everyone. What I did notice about reading it, was that The Old Ways made me more aware of my surroundings on the ‘everyday’ commutes of my neighbourhood; especially those in-between spaces that have been colonised by wildflowers/weeds and wildlife.

Related Reading

A quick glance at Goodreads reveals that none of my other reads in May were related to nature, which is a shame as I’d planned to finally read Nan Shepard’s The Living Mountain. What is interesting, given how The Old Ways highlights the eerieness inherent in walking paths which have been marked for centuries, is that I read a number of Shirley Jackson’s short stories alongside this book. I’m saving one or more of her novels for October’s prompt, but, despite her reputation among horror authors of note, I found the short stories to be more eerie and uncanny than anything else.

Other Reading

Fiction

I did read some fiction, beyond short stories, in May, as a wave of nostalgia sent me back to David Edding’s wonderful Elenium series. Eddings’ fantasy always seems, to me, rather formulaic in the ‘band of heroes goes to fetch macguffin and save world’ plot that he managed to repeat over 4 different series, but he writes memorable characters, and there’s a rich vein of humour to his writing, that makes these novels so readable. It felt like catching up with old friends, and I’m slowly working my way through the Tamuli as well at those times when I need an easy read. Off the back of the Netflix series (which I never actually finished watching), I also read The Alienist and it’s sequel. Crime isn’t usually my genre, but the detailed historical setting and wonderful fin-de-siècle feminist Miss Sara Howard made this a compelling read.

Non-fiction

My history obssession continued both in written and audible form. Stand-outs were Sarah Gristwood’s Game of Queens, which I’ve been meaning to read since Alison Weir name-checked it at her Edinburgh Book Festival talk last year, and the audio version of John Julius Norwich’s history of the papacy (I was so sorry to hear that he passed away last week; I greatly admired the scope of his interests). The former introduced me to a few 16th C women who had hitherto only been names to me, and I look forward to getting to know them a little better. The latter was a whistlestop tour, which has given me some context for how the papacy made it to its current state. It’s only a shame that it stopped at Benedict XVI, having been written before his abdication.

Running Total

Books Read: 50

Currently Reading: 4

Next Month

June’s theme is the experience of fatherhood, which I’m using as an excuse to read Silas Marner. I expect that other anticipated reads, Alison Weir’s Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, and The Secret Garden, will throw up other perspectives on fatherhood.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #23

And we’re back…

The final assignment is in, we’ve got over our various colds (mostly), it’s starting to feel like summer, and my brain is up to writing a regular update again. I hope.

Except we’re not?

Other than essay writing, May was mostly spent knitting and reading. Since the knitting was mostly Good Intentions related, I want to dedicate a whole post to that. And as my Read The Year post for May is overdue, I’ll cover the books I want to talk about there, rather than repeat myself.

The Shawl Society Season III

Ok, a little talk about knitting, as the Shawl Society isn’t a Good Intention – more of an impulsive decision. Helen of the Curious Handmade podcast has been running themed shawl societies for a couple of years now, in which participants buy the ebook, patterns unseen, and knit through the shawls as they’re released. This year’s theme was irresistible: The Secret Garden, and so I jumped aboard, hoping to learn a few new techniques, use up some of my more impulsive yarn purchases, and end up with some lovely shawls, either to keep or gift. The first pattern, Maytham, is wonderful – simple, but interesting, and hard to put down. It helps that I’m using some Countess Ablaze Tia Merino. I also love Helen’s pattern layout, which makes it so easy to keep track of where you are.

From the Mailbag

I couldn’t resist picking up a secondhand copy of The Secret Garden to read while I work through the Shawl Society patterns.

Odds and Sods

  • Royal Mail appears to have lost my second Nerd Sock Club instalment, so while that’s getting sorted I’ve cast on a Lamina Wrap. The plan is to use Sock Club remnants and some Wickedlets mini-skeins to gradually knit the wrap over the year.
  • My potato plants are coming up beautifully, but it’s occurred to me that I don’t actually know how you know when to harvest potatoes. Time to Google?!
  • With the TMA out of the way I’m planning on looking at some Craftsy sewing classes and getting the sewing machine out. No doubt much swearing will ensue. 😐

Upcoming

I’m working my way through 14 Days to a Solid Writing Habit (well, my notes from it) again over the next couple of weeks, as it originally coincided with my assignment and I’d like to actually do all of the exercises and, you know, build a habit. I will probably spend every spare moment working on my shawl, but I’d like to get my socks finished this week too. No pressure! 😬

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

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.

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.