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
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.

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.

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. 

Books · Reading Challenge

Read the Year: January

“New Beginnings”

North and South: I chose Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel about the Industrial north for my first read. Margaret Hale and her family move from the rural south to Milton, a fictional town of cotton mills and nouveau riche mill owners. Gaskell uses these outsiders to show how completely divorced the lives of owners and employees are, and put forward the notion that the owners have a responsibility to the men they employ. Add in a Pride-and-Prejudice-esque love story, and a sub-plot with a mutineer family member to add complications, and this is a cracking read. While there is perhaps a touch more moralising than a modern reader may want, Gaskell is a keen observer of humanity, and sketches her characters with sympathy and honesty, allowing us to laugh at their foibles without despising them.

Related Books

Hard Times: Dickens’ Industrial novel suffered a little in comparison by being read immediately after North and South. I tend to roll my eyes when people start praising Dickens, because I don’t rate his writing ability very highly. His characters are rarely more than stereotypes, and his taste for melodrama is tedious. But his novels are very readable, and this one was no exception. Dickens focusses on the effect of environmental pressures on the formation of the individual, and in some ways the novel is a plea for the importance of leisure, entertainment, fictions, and imagination for a fulfilling life.

I also began both Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley and Jenny Uglow’s biography of Elizabeth Gaskell. I found both hard work (though the biography is interesting), and will probably set them aside until I’ve finished my February challenge book.

Other Reading

Fiction

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children: I picked up this trilogy on a 3 for 2 offer and read it over the course of a weekend. The first novel has a Gothic feel, with its claustrophobic island setting, and uncertainty over what is real. The subsequent books have a more action feel to them and lose something as a result. The time travel and magical aspects expose plot holes if closely examined, and the ‘found photos’ are overused after the first novel, but this is a fun, readable series for those times when you need an undemanding read.

Non-Fiction

Dyeing to Spin & Knit: Colour is my primary draw when buying yarn, and I’ve been wanting to learn a little more about the processes used by independent dyers, and how these interact with the fibres being dyed. Felicia Lo’s book includes an overview of colour theory, instructions on different dyeing methods, and even advice on how to work with dyed spinning fibre and yarn to achieve different colour effects. It’s a great primer, and will be a valuable resource should I decide to try my hand at dyeing.

Running Total

Books read: 8

Currently reading: 5

Upcoming

Read the Year invites me to “get stuck into a story of obsessive love” in February, so I’m thinking it’s time to read Anna Karenina.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #16

Blue Monday Lasted All Week

I know. It’s a marketing gimmick. But it seemed appropriate as we spent the first part of the week being ill, and then the boiler stopped working. Also it snowed. A lot.

Neighbo(u)rhood Sheep Society 2018

On Saturday I had the chance to go into Edinburgh to collect my first NSS parcel from Ginger Twist Studio. Continuing the theme of the week, I managed to slip on the ice, mix-up the opening times and arrive early, and then all my homeward transport was delayed. On the bright side I got to sample the great coffee, and bacon rolls, at the Happy Bean Café, and my parcel was totally worth the journey. The first instalment is a skein of a New Leaf Yarns blend of alpaca, bfl, and Lincoln longwool, dyed a gorgeous blue-gray toned purple, intended for Clare Devine’s Blairdenon sock pattern. I’ve yet to decide whether I cast on right away, or try a simpler sock pattern before attempting Blairdenon with this precious skein.

Odds and Sods

  • While out and about on Saturday I picked up the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy on a 3 for 2 offer. I’ll spare you the saga of acquiring them – nothing has gone smoothly this week – but will say that they’re very readable. I’ve finished the trilogy already.
  • I may have given in to the Blue Monday feeling and made a few purchases from Countess Ablaze’s Absolute B*llocks update. I should be able to show you the results of my trip to 1993 next week.
  • I succumbed to peer pressure and did my Year of Colour on instagram. It’s a lot more neutral than I anticipated:

Upcoming

This looks set to be a fairly normal week, which probably means it will be anything but. Sigh.

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

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds and (Week)ends #15

I’m feeling exhausted today as I’ve been parenting solo on a busy, busy week, so this post will be short and sweet, and probably not proofread.

#KB100DECK

It’s always a little daunting to go to an event on your own, so I’m pleased to report I had a really great time. It was nice to meet some local knitters, there were great info sessions with Blacker Yarns (a lot of discussion around the ethics of wool), and New Leaf Yarns (their origin story, and a meet-and-greet with their range of yarns), prizes, cake, a chance to buy yarn, and lots of coffee and knitting. I’d cast on my Blacker PodKAL project (Stephen West’s Dustland Legwarmers in the Splosh colourway of Brushwork) on the bus, and by the time I got home I had 2/3 of a legwarmer. Not bad. I couldn’t resist a skein of New Leaf Yarns Alpaca/BFL/Teeswater blend, and then couldn’t resist casting on a Rattan shawl. I think my other WIPs are going to languish a bit this week. All in all, a fun day, and a real privilege to be able to celebrate 100 episodes of KnitBritish with Louise.

From the Mailbag

It was pretentious book week:

Odds and Sods

  • The Tyrant Tyrant referred to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as “the statue shop with lots of stairs” and I giggle every time I think about it (obvs I’m very proud that she’s asked to go there again).
  • I’ve been made to watch a lot of Trollhunters this week. It’s good enough that I may have to rewatch it in my own time.
  • I’m reading Shirley, and it is doing nothing to dispel my feeling that Charlotte was the dullest and most overrated of the Brontës.

Upcoming

I have a tutorial next weekend, so I need to get my head down and study. I expect to make good progress with my Rattan shawl, and may feel the need to talk to you about socks. I make no promises.

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

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #14

No ‘Turner in January’ For Me

I was hoping to talk a bit about the annual Turner exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland, but the bus was running early today, and for once I was running to time, not absurdly early, so I missed it. January is shaping up to get busy from this next week, so I doubt I’ll get to the exhibition now, but I definitely recommend taking the opportunity to see some of Turner’s lesser known, and beautifully preserved, works if you can get into Edinburgh. Take a look at the National Galleries website for more info and to learn about the bequest that made it all possible.

WIPs and FOs

Q2 Good Intentions: I’m knitting a row or two each day just to keep it in hand, and expect to do a longer burst once I finish my other sweater.

Threipmuir: I’ve been knitting this while watching TV and, inevitably, made a mistake. Except that I can’t figure out where – I’ve knitted the round correctly, but I’m a stitch short. I don’t seem to have dropped one in this round, so I wonder if I’ve missed an increase on the previous round. I’ve set it aside til TT starts back at nursery so that I can examine it in daylight, and without interruption. I have almost finished the colourwork, after which it’ll be a much quicker knit, so I’m not too frustrated over losing a couple of days.

One for the Books: Time off from Threipmuir means that I’m finishing my Strickplaner cover today. It’s been a fascinating little masterclass in using decreases and increases to create structure, and I’ll be excited to see it in use.

From the Mailbag

I’ve had a few parcels of yarn this week (some one-off colours from Old Maiden Aunt, and some more yarn in Easyknits toxic-spill colourway for an idea that’s brewing), and some final Christmas books that I need to fit in around my Reading Challenge.

Odds and Sods

  • I stayed up far too late last night watching series 2 of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. It was a little easier to figure out the ending this time, though I’m not sure if that’s down to my familiarity with the storytelling of the show, or the fact that it’s a linear story this time.
  • I just tried Taylor’s of Harrogate Rare Blossom Ethiopia coffee and it’s delicious. Also Fairtrade certified.
  • I’ve managed to get back to my 06:00 morning starts, having abandoned them at the height of the plague month because my body needed all the sleep. Pleased to say it didn’t feel like a struggle to get back into the habit.

Upcoming

The Tiny Tyrant goes back to nursery this week, so I will need to allow for her being exhausted. This is also the week when I need to ease back into my study routine. On Saturday it’s the KnitBritish 100th episode ‘drink; eat; chat; knit’ or #KB100DECK for which I am very excited, and the Blacker PodKAL cast on is the same day, so I expect to start at least one new knit this week.

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