Knitting Podcast 13: Bookish Knitting

It’s time to delve back into my knitting basket! So bring out your own crafting project, take a seat, and listen to a bit about my current projects, finished projects, and how I combine books and knitting.

In lieu of detailed episode notes, I’ll direct you to my Ravelry project page, from which you can find any yarn and pattern specifics that might have caught your eye (or friend me for that matter). Here is my queue and stash, in case you want more information about future plans or what’s hiding in my cupboards. There’s also a Ravelry group; I’d love to ‘meet’ my viewers! If you’d like to follow along with my projects, I post frequently knitting photos on Instagram; my account is thecharmofit.

Tip: my beloved tubular cast on method tutorial from TECHknitting (one of my very favourite knitting resources and well worth a comb through her beautiful index). I’ve become so fond of this CO method that unless a pattern grows out of the ribbing, I now do 1 x 1 rib for everything just so I can use it.

Books Mentioned:

  • Vintage Modern Knits by Courtney Kelly & Kate Gagnon Osborne
  • The Sharing Knife Quartet by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  • Tempest Rising by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
  • The Book of Ballads illustrated by Charles Vess, especially the story “The Great Selchie of Sule Skerry” by Jane Yolen

Finished Objects

Castles in the Air Shawl

Sister Grace’s Handwarmer

Loamy Fields Socks

Works in Progress

Post Impressionist Mitts-1.jpg

Post Impressionist Mitts

 

Red as Blood Hat-1.jpg

Red as Blood Beret

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Reading Snapshot: January 19th

Rattle His Bones

It’s only Tuesday, and I’m utterly exhausted. This is shaping up to be a full week, and so I’m having to fit plenty of downtime in around my plans. Which means I’m in need of comfort reads! Fortunately, one of the books I grabbed on my latest library run was Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn, part of her Daisy Dalrymple mystery series that first charmed me on audio. I began this one this afternoon and am now halfway through it; it’s exactly what I needed! Not only is Daisy her usual self, but as the cover implies, the murder takes place in London’s Natural History Museum, giving Dunn the opportunity for all kinds of fun details. It is just what I needed, and as soon as I’m done writing this post I’ll be running back to it. I feel so grateful to be a bookworm, and have access to a library, because books are one of the best coping mechanisms I’ve ever come across.

The Old Wives-2.jpg

Another marvelous book that I’d highly recommend is The Old Wives’ Fairy Tale Book edited by Angela Carter, who includes stories from global cultures, instead of just the usual European suspects (although the majority of the book is still European based). I chose it while browsing my library’s shelves in search of a book that would fit with the ‘wild and wise women’ winter theme of a Ravelry group I’m part of. The cover is unprepossessing at best, which made it all the more excited to begin reading and discover beautiful woodcut illustrations (by Corinna Sargood) throughout. The stories included vary, but Carter made sure all of them are about women, and the collection is just a delight to read with chapter headings like “Good Girls and Where it Gets Them” and “Sillies.” Some of my favourites included “Kate Crackernuts,” which is a bit like “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” but with the genders reversed, “Vasilisa the Priest’s Daughter” which explores  how determined society is to find out someone’s gender,and “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon,” which I was pleasantly surprised to discover is similar to “Psyche and Cupid,” one of my favourite Greek myths, but with a more wintry setting and even a nod to fiber arts.  I shall definitely be exploring it more in future! The various Eskimo (as this 1990 book attributes them) stories were by far the most surprising, since they often seemed to involve women who not only took on culturally masculine attributes but completed the process by creating the appropriate ‘downstairs bits’ (I’m being coy due to search engines) using bone and sealskin. I loved this enough that I’m going to try to get a used copy for my own shelves, although hopefully one with a cover that features the woodcuttings instead of the bright primary colours of the edition that I read. It has also reminded me that I need to reread The Bloody Chamber sooner rather than later; I wasn’t terribly impressed by it when I read it back in 2008, but I’ve changed a lot since then, so I suspect I’ll love it now.

The audiobook I finished this morning also took me pleasantly by surprise: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I’d somehow gathered from the various awards and praise I’d seen that she was a bleak author, and I don’t have a very high tolerance for bleakness, so I’ve only read her nonfiction book. But then I read this article and decided to give it a try. At six and a half hours (unabridged; I checked), this is a fairly short book, but it packs so much richness and life into the pages that I can imagine rereading it over and over and always finding something new. While there is definitely an elegiac tone to Robinson’s writing,  I found the sorrow to be tempered with a love for people and life and the little things that create our lives, so that I will definitely be reading the rest of her books sooner rather than later. Her tone reminds me a bit of Neil Gaiman; not cheerful but not cynical either, with a deep and abiding love for the power of words and stories on our lives. Except in Housekeeping, almost all of the important characters are girls and women. I never declare an author a favourite until I’ve read at least three of their books, but I’m pretty sure I’m about to fall head over heels in love with Robinson.

I do so love being bookish.

Knitting Podcast Episode 12: Wardrobe Building

It’s time to delve back into my knitting basket! So bring out your own crafting project, take a seat, and listen to a bit about my current projects and a few of my favourite resources to learn about wardrobe building & personal style.

In lieu of detailed episode notes, I’ll direct you to my Ravelry project page, from which you can find any yarn and pattern specifics that might have caught your eye (or friend me for that matter). Here is my queue and stash, in case you want more information about my (many) new acquisitions or the patterns I plan to make with them. There’s now a Ravelry group; I’d love to ‘meet’ my viewers! If you’d like to follow along with my projects, I post frequently knitting photos on Instagram; my account is thecharmofit.

Podcasts mentioned include Yarnaceuticals , Minerva Turkey , and NH Knits.I talked about my love for my DyakCraft Heavy Metal Interchangeable Needles and my Knitzi, a Christmas gift. Here’s the thrumming tutorial that I found most useful.

Information about twelve season colour analysis:

  • 12 Blueprints (A lot of information, but not in the easiest to access format, since most of it is in quite wordy blog posts.)
  • Truth is Beauty (A good introduction, since it’s more succinct, but it doesn’t have as many examples or get into as much detail.)
  • Visual inspiration from this colour approach:
  • Cate Linden’s Pinterest Account (a different board for each season by a certified colour analyst; you might need to scroll down a bit)
  • Rachel N’s Pinterest Account (ditto)

Personal style inspiration/help:

Resources for Wardrobe Building Practicalities:

Current Projects

Castles in the Sky Shawl

PostImpressionist Mitts-1

Post Impressionist Mitts

Folksy Leg Warmers

Sister Grace Muff-1.jpg

A Handwarmer for Sister Grace

Loamy Fields Socks-1

Loamy Fields Socks

Quotidian Charms: Mid-January

One of the reasons that I’ve fallen in love with Instagram over the last year is the way that it allows me to capture the little bits of joy in everyday life. However, ultimately my real camera is much more flexible and powerful than my iphone, so this year I’d like to extend that habit to picking up my camera as well. I thought it might be nice to share some of the resulting photographs on the blog. Feel free to offer suggestions or criticisms; I consider photography an art that I’ve barely begun to master so I’m always looking to grow! I have another, more structured photography project planned for this year as well, but I’ll save that discussion for another post. If you click on any of the photos they should enlarge. As you can tell, this week I was most entranced by a fresh snowfall, albeit a light one.

Reading Snapshot: January 12th

Since I arrived home last week, I’m pleased to report that my bookworm tendencies are in full swing! In addition to dipping in and out of The Morville Hours (one of the joys of rereading), I’ve read two novels and just enjoyed a graphic short story collection this morning. Oh and two audiobooks. This is still not at the level of reading I used to do in Texas, but now that I live in independently, I seem to have less time on my hands. 😉 Hopefully the major re-entry sorting is done and I’ll have even more hours to spend with books in the upcoming months.

Reading Snapshot-1

I’ll tell you about the disappointing book first: Deadly Slipper by Michelle Wang, the first in a mystery series. I was browsing my library’s shelves when I came across this one, and I was extra excited because finding diverse genre fiction is even more of a challenge than literary fiction. I was also intrigued by its southern French setting and pleased to discover that both of the protagonists were in their forties. Wang brought the setting to life wonderfully; both the scenery and food are described in loving detail, but in a way that feels organic to the book. This is definitely her strongest writing point. The characters were so-so; I liked some of them but others made me roll my eyes and I occasionally was baffled by the strange motivations of the two primary protagonists; there isn’t a lot of personality depth in the book. But that would have been fine, because it was decent enough for a relaxing read and the setting was so rich, if the plot had held together. I mean, it’s a mystery; I’m perfectly happy to read novels with no real plot (why hello Virginia!) but they’re pretty essential to this genre. Unfortunately, the killer was embarrassingly obvious halfway through due to far too many clues, which made the following hundred and fifty pages of contorted red herrings an exercise in readerly crankiness. And suddenly it went from looking like a traditional puzzle mystery to something more gothic; I love both styles but the transition was clumsy. Ultimately, I won’t be reading her other books. However, if you are less particular than me about plot and in the mood for a light book that sweeps you away to the Dordoge, this might just work for you. There were certainly elements I found very enjoyable, and it’s a shame that my annoyance with the mystery itself ended up winning out over the charming bits. If she wrote a book set in the region that wasn’t a mystery, I would give it a try.

This morning, I woke up in a lot of pain, so after I’d brewed my pot of tea, I decided The Book of Ballads, a graphic short story anthology based on traditional ballads generously gifted to me by Debi, would be a pleasant start to the day. I adored the introduction by Terri Windling, and it’s made me want to go a hunt through the library stacks to learn more about folk ballads and the scholarly pursuit of them, and then I moved on to the stories themselves. While each story has a different author, Charles Vess provides all of the artwork, which does a lot of the heavy lifting; I enjoy his style (done in black and white) although I’ll note that he makes no attempt to break out of traditional white-centric patriarchal visions of beauty and ugliness (on one cringe-inducing page, he portrays the rich & unloved ‘brown girl’ in a setting reminiscent of Disney’s Aladdin). That observation made, I very much enjoyed seeing such a variety of approaches to the folk traditions & have a little list of new authors to look into. I’m pretty sure everything Terri Windling touches is gold, and I would love to be her when I grow up. She has a blog that is full of folk and bookish magic.

And now we come to the cream of the post: To Lie With Lions by Dorothy Dunnett. This is the sixth book in her Niccolo Rising series, which is set in the fifteenth century and follows one of the ‘ancestors’ (I think he’s three generations removed) of Francis Crawford, hero of her first series The Lymond Chronicles. I have read Lymond twice and both times ended up living and breathing with the characters involved; on my rereading of the last book I still stayed up late to finish it, just in case the ending had changed. However, I’ve found it a bit difficult to get into the Niccolo books; while I adore her setting as much as ever, I am frequently annoyed by how the characters all behave. Too often, their actions seem more plot-motivated than legitimately based on their personalities. I also found it difficult to forgive them for not being my favourite Lymond characters. And then I thought she was headed in an exciting new direction in the fourth book, and when that direction failed to materialise I took it hard. All of this is preface (and reflects my reading prejudices, not Dunnett’s superb writing!) for me to tell you that I finally fell head over heels in love with the series in this book. Oh my goodness, it’s so so marvelous, and I held my breath convinced that something would happen to make me angry again, but the ending was just superb, and I cannot wait to read the final two books. Luckily for me, I received them for Christmas! If you haven’t heard of Dorothy Dunnett, she writes beautifully detailed, articulate, clever historical fiction that explore the flawed hero trope on the most elaborate stages you can imagine. I would call her the Dorothy Sayers of historical fiction; if you love books that make you think and long to learn more but also catch your breath in sympathy with a beloved character, you should give her a try. I warn you that she is rarely kind to her characters, and unfortunately suffers from a case of Orientalism, but I love her anyway and know that she has many other fans.

As I debated which book to read next, I realised I was really in the mood for a travelogue. So I popped over to my library’s website and added two of the National Geographic Directions line to my ereader. I’ve begun with Francine Prose’s Sicilian Odyssey and will report back next week. But I realised it’s been so long since I’ve read a travelogue that I don’t have many go-tos anymore. Care to share any favourites of the travel genre? Especially ones that are feminist, post-colonialist, etc. I think I sort of gave up because I tried several books in a row that followed the ‘white US/UK/French/other colonial power author arrives, objectifies locals in picturesque way, has a couple adventures, and ends the book with condescending lessons learned’ style that just annoys me.

Knitting Podcast Episode 11: Knitting Resolutions

It’s time to delve back into my knitting basket! So bring out your own crafting project, take a seat, and listen to a bit about my finished projects, current projects, and my knitting resolutions for the upcoming year.

In lieu of detailed episode notes, I’ll direct you to my Ravelry project page, from which you can find any yarn and pattern specifics that might have caught your eye (or friend me for that matter). Here is my queue and stash, in case you want more information about my (many) new acquisitions or the patterns I plan to make with them. There’s now a Ravelry group; I’d love to ‘meet’ my viewers! If you’d like to follow along with my projects, I post frequently knitting photos on Instagram; my account is thecharmofit.

Podcasts mentioned include Tiny Paper Foxes, Knitting Pretty  , and Holland Handmade. Erin is the source of the giveaways; you’ll find her project bags in her Etsy store. If you’d like to enter to win the KnitPicks Felici yarn, visit this thread.

I briefly discussed my love for Sock Architecture by Cookie A. Two minutes didn’t do justice to the book! I also mentioned how I fold my sweaters; I did manage to turn up the video I learned the method from years ago. Here it is.

Works in Progress

Folksy Legwarmers

Folksy Legwarmers

Castles in the Sky ShawlCastles in the Sky Shawl

Loamy Fields Socks-1Loamy Fields Socks

Finished Objects

Caravanserai Socks

Antiquarian Collar

Antiquarian Collar

This Little Piggy Socks

Sally Sells Seashells Socks

A Year of Welcoming

There’s a liminal quality to that week between Christmas and New Year’s, one that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. I would spend quiet evenings by lamplight, writing in the new journal that would have been waiting under the tree, wondering what new shape my life should take. These days though, I go home for the holidays and have to compress a year’s worth of hugs and games and inside jokes with my family into a mere fortnight or so. Such full days don’t leave a lot of time for quiet introspection, and so I’ve created a new ritual, making the week after I return to my little studio my contemplative time instead. This brings the added advantage of softening the blow of leaving my family behind, a moment which usually makes me question why I decided that trees and winter and a place of my own were worth more than seeing my loved ones every day. Woods

I arrived back home last night, and this morning I went back to those trees to remind myself of how easily my soul expands in this landscape. I’m learning; going on that walk first thing was a marvelous idea. As soon as I saw the treeline ahead of me, I felt once again in my bones why I moved here, and why I hope to stay, and any self reproaches were immediately stifled. After I got home, in between the mundane realities of getting home from a trip, especially one filled with gifts, and the sweeter realities of settling back in with Moth and Thistle, my mind wandered among possibilities for the coming year. Being on that threshold always fills me with hope and wonder; anything at all could happen in the next twelve months, and for these few days I find it easy to trust that whatever comes, it shall be good.

Afternoon

This year, I’d like to hold on to that feeling of trust. For a very long time now, I have felt myself to be at the mercy of fate, with good things arriving because I happen to have the most incredible people in my life and bad things arriving because I can’t be lucky all of the time. I’ve actually found a great deal of relief in this feeling, because it is exhausting to have chronic illnesses in a culture that encourages one to pull oneself up by the bootstraps and fight the good fight and conquer life with positive thinking. However, I’ve realised lately that this philosophy comes with a downside; I hold back a little piece of myself, so that if things ever go wrong, my heart won’t be irreparably broken. For instance, I love it here in New York, but I am afraid to become too attached, in case my circumstances change and I need to move back to Texas. I can’t quite believe the good fortune that’s given me this place, and this life, so I’ve barely put out the tiniest of new roots, only the ones that will be easiest to transplant should the worst happen. I tell myself that this is sensible, but my heart of hearts believes it’s also a bit cowardly. I look back on most of my twenties, and see that while I was growing up, and changing in all kinds of good ways, I was also surrounding myself with layer upon layer of detachment and self-containment and caution. I am grateful to those layers for protecting me through challenging times; yet, I stare wistfully at the open-faced college girl that I was, who knew that whatever the future held it would be bright and beautiful. One of the best things I’ve done since then has been to adopt my pets; first Thistle and more recently Moth. Bringing these incredible, lovable, adorable animals into my life has probably been my most open act; after all, they do not have a life span anywhere near mine. I know that one day I will have to say goodbye to them, and that it will be terrible, and yet each day I love them fully, because to do less would be to rob us all. Mary Oliver puts it beautifully in her poem “In Blackwater Woods”:

To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

I read the poem for the first time in December of 2012, and that passage has echoed within me ever since. I’ve only just now come to see that everything is mortal, not only beloved people and pets. This kind of trust and openness comes easily to me when I travel, and it leads to rich experiences, but I spend most of my life at home. I want it to be just as rich.

Thus, after this pondering, I have decided that my word for the year shall be welcoming. This does not mean that I want to transform all of my introverted qualities into an extrovert extraordinaire. I love being thoughtful and bookish and able to keep myself company. It does mean, though, that I will try to hold myself open, with my tender parts in full view, in the hopes that the joys will outnumber the heartbreaks. After all, I can always curl back up if I find that life is better that way. Or perhaps I’ll find that holding myself open doesn’t change what happens in my life one way or another. I suspect, though, that it will change me. And as this year will also bring my thirtieth birthday, that possibility feels right.

Welcome, 2016. Come on in. I’m terribly curious to find out what you will bring.