Archive for May, 2008

A Pretty Secret Uncovered

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Flower Top Tam in Hand Jive Nature's Palette Fingering weight, Autumn Leaf

I’m about to begin work, but I wanted to show you the result of the pattern I tested over the weekend, since the designer said she was happy for me to do so. (Between the laptop and the router it’s taken twelve hours of trying, on and off.) It’s an infant sized hat, but I’m planning on making a few in other sizes, and I’ll aim to let you know when the pattern is generally available.

I love this yarn, too, and want to go buy some more of it, in just this colourway, to make something for myself. I’ll try to restrain myself until I’ve used up some more stash, however. It’s Hand Jive Nature’s Palette Fingering, in Autumn Leaf. (Personally I think it’s very summery, however.)


Monday, 19 May 2008

Moving does take up an awful lot of time, even with help from my wonderful friends. Add to that the fact that my latest crochet project is a lovely fast pattern I’m testing for someone on Ravelry, that I haven’t had her explicit permission to share with you, so I’ll leave showing you the pictures until I have it. I’m planning on making it again, in another size, though, perhaps even for myself. One good thing about moving is that I’ve had to sort through my stash and hibernating projects, and of course I picked up a couple of abandoned ones and started joining them together into something, probably a floor mat for somewhere in the flat, seeing as they’re of string. I didn’t have the camera with me in the flat to show what I was up to, so you will have to wait for that too. Both sections are so old they aren’t among my Ravelry projects, either.

Still, I have read another couple of books, both of which involve several secrets, good and bad.

124. Mystery of the Amazon by Gita Gordon

Despite the cover, there are no parrot protagonists in this novel, although a significant portion of it does take place in Brazil, with others in Israel, America and a few other places. It’s not bad, and a fun quick read (at 168 pages).

125. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

I have read one other of Funke’s novels (Dragon Rider) and they’re good. I loved all the literary references in this one, probably because I share the heroes’ love of books and reading. I have often imagined myself in some of my favourite books, but to bring the villains into mine? That would be scary indeed! What more can I say without giving too much away?

Overly popular

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The popularity of the spool-knitting drop-in has not abated, and I’ve run out of tubes to rework into spools! I’ve put out a request at work for more (preferably in a variety of sizes), and put the girls’ names on the ones I’ve made already. I’m also taking more yarn along. I got to see some great completed projects today already, and thoughts of how to develop skills and new projects to use the technique for. Lessons in straight crochet are becoming more popular again too, which is great.

I got to do a bit more on the granny square blanket, but once involved in shopping for the new flat I simply didn’t have the hands available. In work I got to practice with the Brailler (I’m amused that the manual specifies that they are available in blue and green, when I got a grey one!), and I think I’m getting the hang of it. I’m going back to redo all the exercises with it, but I think I’ll continue progressing on the graph paper, as I can (messily) do that on the bus.

I’m really happy at the moment, what with the new flat, its peace and the fun of doing it up, learning (Braille) and teaching (yarncraft) things I enjoy, reclaiming my social life, reading again, and getting compliments. I even got to 23,000 steps on my pedometer today. It’s fabulous!

Yarn Enabling

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Not only did I get to the knitting & crochet group this evening (yay!), I taught three kids to spool knit today, with one of them adding in beads already! I’ve shown them someone else’s striped project, and told them about other types of colour use, and they all went home with their spools and should be showing me how far they’ve got tomorrow or Friday. (They also asked me about other things that can be done with the crochet hooks they were lifting their loops with, and more kids asked about crafty skills too.)

Basically, one began looking at the Klutz Spool Knitting kit that was lying around, and I said I’d teach her, on the spool from the kit, and her friend asked to learn too, so I took off the elastic band project I began a few weeks ago so I could give her the spool I’d made then. And five or ten minutes after the third girl came in and asked to learn too, so she unwound some address labels from their cardboard tube, and then came back an hour or two later, after I’d made another spool for her.

I took some pictures as I went, so I could show you how I make these spools, which come out much stronger than any others I’ve made. Besides the tube, one needs about six large paperclips, which can be bent by hand against the table.
Creating a knitting spool 001

I use normal sticky tape to get the hooks in place.
Creating a knitting spool 002 Creating a knitting spool 003

And then cloth tape (for repairing books) to actually hold the paperclips in place.
Creating a knitting spool 004

Wind the cloth tape tightly around the clips and the tube. This makes for a good strong spool, as can be seen from my elastic band project (which did pull hard) that I took off the first of these spools I made. (The elastic cylinder is just about big enough to get my finger into.)
Creating a knitting spool 006

Beyond that fun, my Perkins Brailler arrived today, although I didn’t get to really look at it (hopefully I will tomorrow) and won’t get to show it to you, or even play with it much, until I can bring it home next week. I’m up to lesson 13 of the RNIB Braille Primer, working on graph paper, so hopefully I’ll be able to pick up the use of the machine quickly and keep progressing.

Plus two more books read. This has been a pretty good day!

122. Modern Peacemakers: Aung San Suu Kyi: Activist for Democracy in Myanmar by Judy L. Hasday

The current discussions of Burma (because of the trouble getting aid from outside into the country, let alone to the actual victims of the cyclone) inspired me to finally actually read this, and I’m glad I did, as I learned a lot about the Lady, as she is called in some chapters of this book, and the country she is from. I had known that Burma/Myanmar is a very (self-)isolated and brutal dictatorship, and that Aung San Suu Kyi, as leader of the opposition movement seeking democratic government in the country, has spent many years under house arrest, but I didn’t really know any more than that, so I was glad to learn more.

This series is about the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, and gives lots of background about both the person and the situation they work(ed) in, and I’ve found all of them that I’ve read quite enthralling.

123. 100 Things You Should Know About Penguins by Camilla de la Bedoyere

I’ll get over all these series sometime soon, but they are very useful, and in many cases informative and interesting too. This looks to be a good one, with clear and cohesive numbered paragraphs that can be read either in order or at random. There is general information about penguins, but also plenty of space given to the varieties of them. I hadn’t realised there were quite so many, myself.


Tuesday, 13 May 2008

I thought I’d read another book last week, and tonight I found where I’d noted down the details.

117. Shoes and Slippers from Snowshill by Althea Mackenzie

Despite forgetting about it over the following days, I did actually enjoy it. It’s reasonably short, and does exactly what it says on the cover. This is one of a series of pretty volumes, each focussing on a different aspect of the Snowshill collection. I haven’t read the others yet, but this one is most informative, with clear well-annotated photos of a good selection of shoes from the 18th Century.

120. Wildlife Monographs: Cheetahs by Dr Tracey Rich and Andy Rouse

This is my first in another attractive series I’m looking forward to delving into further. The photographs really are the main point, and are stunning. The text gives a very good introduction to cheetahs, but is a little repetitive, especially if you read the captions too! I don’t much like anthropomorphising (wild) animals, but there’s one full page shot of a mother cheetah licking the face of a fairly young cub, who has exactly the same style of frustrated scrunched up look of any child whose mother insists on wiping his/her face for them in public!

It is a shame that the cover fell off the book just as I finished reading it, as I can see this small tome being very useful to other readers, presuming my rough repair works.

121. People on the Move: Economic Migrants by Dave Dalton

Yet another series, and if the rest of it are this good I’ll be very pleased. Economic migration as defined here mostly covers people seeking to improve the lifestyle of themselves (by moving to a more prosperous environment) and/or their families (by bringing them along or sending money home), but also those driven off the land from Famine and the like, as well as those brought along forcibly as slaves.

Everyday Beauty

Monday, 12 May 2008

118. A Vision of Yemen by Sheikh Hassan Al Thani

This is a fabulous collection of photographs of Yemen, by a skilled photographer. There are many views of the landscape, which I hadn’t realised was so green, but also portraits of men, boys, and one older woman. Fully covered anonymous women do appear in a few urban settings, alone or in pairs (this is not a book to look for crowd scenes in). Every house, and most items of clothing, appears to be carefully embellished, with simple and effective patterns.

119. Decorative Stencils by Kathryn Collyer and Carol Daniel

My mother gave me this very informative book/kit a few years ago, but I’ve never had/taken the opportunity to use it. I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned that part of the reason I’ve been so quiet over the last week or so is that my housemate and I are moving. Anyhow, there’s an old battered bedside locker in my new room, that’s dirty and covered in splashes of paint, which the landlord told me to throw away, unless I wanted to repaint it — he has got me a better one either way — so I’m thinking about doing that, and trying out stenciling it. The base colour is very similar to the walls in my room, so if I can I might retain that and then decorate it. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Sunday, 11 May 2008

The computer’s been playing up, still, and I’ve had hundreds of things on (some good ones, but they still throw my priority list out of the window) and basically I must just apologise, both for the horrendous delay in writing, and for how harsh I might have been in a previous post.

I’m mostly keeping up with the Braille lessons, and I had a great walk on Monday, during which I took lots of photos I’ve been trying to get up for you, but that’ll have to wait, but I’ve finished just three (I thought it was four, but have only noted down three) books, done hardly any crocheting, and no laundry. (No, thinking about it, there was one load; that’s okay then.) I did buy a little more yarn, but there’ll be more on that when I can put up more pictures and/or when I use it. I’m sorry there’s so little to say on the crochet, but even had I been doing more, the two blankets I’m working on aren’t really going to be very interesting again until I finish them, I think…

114. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

This book is very well written and put together, and I can see why many have it as a lifetime favourite. Cassandra, the narrator, tells both the bad and the good of the dramatic changes in her family and its circumstances over several months, and while she doesn’t consciously foretell disaster, her “conscious naivete” does foreshadow problems, for the reader.

There are many levels of tension Cassandra is or becomes aware of (for example of class, finances, religious belief, love and attraction), but she obviously doesn’t know about the coming war. The book is set in the 1930s, but was first published in 1948/9, so the reader would always have known that Thomas and Steven are most likely destined for the army, and in fact, it might end up being a time of opportunity for Cassandra herself.

115. Everyday Dress of Rural America, 1783-1800 with instructions and patterns by Merideth Wright. Illustrated by Nancy Rexford

This will be of especial interest to those of you who are Diana Gabaldon fans, as it covers the period specifically that her books are getting to, and helps my imagination better see what the characters are likely to be wearing. This book is based on research done in and about Vermont, rather than North Carolina, but the basics will be very similar. The descriptions are clear and informative, as are the illustrations, and each chapter includes a basic pattern and discussion of materials especially for those hoping to recreate the clothing.

116. Recycled Crafts Box by Laura C. Martin

Lots of fun both to read and look through, and, I am sure, to follow and be inspired for. Plenty of information on recycling there too.


Sunday, 4 May 2008

Over Shabbos, and finishing this morning, I read two books from a new set of children’s historical fiction from Israel Bookshop. I’m also reading another book I’d hoped to have to discuss with you today, but it isn’t finished, so I’ll go ahead.

112. Ten and a Kid by Sadie Rose Weilerstein

This is a new edition of a book originally published in 1961, and it’s lovely. It’s one year in the life of a happy but poor family in the Shtetl, from the Pesach where a kid goat turns up just at the right time for the middle daughter to decide he has been left for them by Eliyahu haNavi to the following Pesach, by which time the various members of the family have each had some of their dearest wishes granted. The book has well integrated occasional illustrations, and is a lot of fun. I’d recommend it heartily (as would a colleague who saw it before I’d begun it, and remembered it favourably from her own childhood).

113. Exiled Down Under by Miriam Szokovski

Unfortunately the new series is badly let down by this book, which I really thought had a lot of potential, from its stablemate and from the first chapter, but it’s ridiculous, and not even mostly in the ways it tries to be. The basic storyline (an eleven year old Jewish girl in 18th century England is mistakenly accused of pickpocketing and sentenced to transportation to Australia, where she is assigned to work as housemaid to an aristocratic English family whose mistress takes a shine to her) could have become a very good novel in the hands of someone willing to do the basic historical research to make it realistic. As it was, the obvious inaccuracies and implausibilities (children being sent alone to the market to buy fruits like oranges and bananas that surely would have been luxuries if available at all, names like Kimberly and Rhonda, and worst of all, characters saying “okay“, all in the 18th century) made the wild exaggerations seem to me not amusing but stupid. The story just about hangs together, but is not well crafted, and I’m actually more disappointed with the publishers than the author, as I feel they should have helped her bring this story to a much higher standard.

13th May: ETA Some of the kids I know who have read this really like it. I suspect they don’t know enough of the history to be so upset at the mangling that they can’t enjoy it, which is what happened to me.


Saturday, 3 May 2008

Day 14 of the Omer

So, I said I’d recount what I remember of Christine de Pisan, before I reread the book I just got (although I’ve never seen this edition before) or research what’s up on the web about her. I’ll expand on what I said to (enthused at) the man in the charity shop yesterday. He seemed rather intrigued by the time I finished, and I almost felt I should have left him the book to read!

I first came across de Pisan when I was about 15, and perusing the Classics section of one of the larger bookshops in Dublin. There was a fairly new translation of The Treasure of the City of Ladies, which was either the first ever, or the first in several hundred years, into English, apparently. The Book of the City of Ladies, had been translated at various intervals, including the version I first read it in, from the late 1990s, and the one I got yesterday, from 1982. I read The Treasure with very great interest, and then a few months later we got set to do a major project on any topic of our choice for school, so I decided to research Christine. As it happened there was only so much information I could find out about her without reading Medieval French, and so my appendix on other women writers of the period became about half of the project, but I did the thing as well as I could, including going to a one day seminar on the latter subject at TCD. (I learnt from de Pisan to use my connections…) I didn’t win any prizes for that project, but I did get a mention at the end of the year. Apparently no-one else in my school had ever chosen to research some obscure Medieval woman writer, but they weren’t that surprised that I would…

Christine de Pisan was born in about 1364[5], in Italy. Her father, Tommaso [di Benvenuto] da Pizzano, became a favourite [and court astrologer] of King Charles V of France, and brought his family to Paris in about 1370, where their names were used in the French style, so the father became Thomas de Pisan, and little Cristina became Christine. The family did very well at the French court, and in her mid-teens Christine married Estienne Somebody [de Castel] most happily. They had two or three children, and then in quick succession [a decade, 1380-1389] the King, her father and her husband all died, leaving Christine, her mother, children and much younger brothers (and a nephew/niece?) with no obvious means of support.

What Christine did have, and used most effectively in supporting her family, were connections, especially in the older part of the Court (the Duc de Berry was a strong Patron of hers), and a developing skill for writing. Her authorship showed itself in a huge range of genres, from poetry of all kinds, to Instruction for Princes, to her Book of Feats of Arms and Chivalry (which was among Caxton’s early translations and publishing[?], except that in English it wasn’t credited to her, because such a book would sell better if assumed to have been written by a man) to a biography of Charles V. She was involved in the debate on the Roman de la Rose, after the second author [Jean de Meung] turned made it highly misogynistic, and also wrote in support of Joan of Arc (this presumably near the end of Christine’s life, after she had been silent for many years). She was (nearly?) the only contemporary to mention Jeanne d’Arc before her trial records [at least in her honour], and some of those who write about Christine seem to rather hope she died before all her hopes for the good Joan might do were dashed in about 1429, as de Pisan is not heard from after that.

Christine de Pisan was the first woman (in Western Europe?) known to have supported herself (and her family) by her pen, and she wrote The Book of the City of Ladies as an allegory of how the women of the world (or at least France) could join together with the Virtues and build a perfect city [also giving many examples of virtuous and productive female leaders, educators, craftswomen and more]. She then later wrote The Treasure of the City of Ladies as an instruction manual for the ladies in (and out) of that city, addressing all women, from the Queen right down to the commoners, as to how they could improve and should behave. Although she sought patronage from the Court Ladies, Christine does not refrain from mentioning some of their stumbling blocks.

Alright, that’s all from memory. I don’t want to leave up inaccuracies, so I’ll make clear what I change on a little bit of research now…

Quickly, quickly

Friday, 2 May 2008

Day 12 of the Omer.
The Secret Life of Cows

Shabbos is in an hour, my laptop is playing up, and I have burnt fingers, so this will be short. The bottom book in the picture is the one I finished rereading today, which is just lovely, and very interesting indeed. Beside it is my completed exercise 4 and the Braille Primer – I now know the most basic word contractions! – in the top right is the granny square blanket so far as I’d got last night, and the six books I got in a two-for-one deal at the charity shop (they didn’t have any yarn in).

The two books on the left I’ve heard bits of on the radio, the two in the middle I’ve heard commendations of, the Dodie Smith one I’ve had my eye out for, and the Christine de Pisan, well, that brings me straight back to my teen years when I discovered and did a major project on her for school.

I’ll fix the tags, links etc on this entry after Shabbos, and then tell you all I remember about de Pisan (and see does the internet agree with my memory.)

111. The Secret Life of Cows: Animal Sentience at Work by Rosamund Young

This account of several of the cows from the Youngs’ farm is well put together and a wonderful read, more convincing as to how intelligent and loving cattle, and indeed many of the other farm animals, can be, by its friendly style than it might be were it to evangelise.

Good Shabbos!