Archive for September, 2010

Erev Rosh Hashana

Wednesday, 8 September 2010
blowing the shofar (by Alphonse Lévy)

Image via Wikipedia

So, it’s just a few short hours till Rosh Hashana begins, and thus I’ll be offline for the next three days. For those of you celebrating, have a wonderful chag, leading into the best of new years. For the rest – enjoy the rest of the week!

Are there wild things here?

Monday, 6 September 2010
Cover of "Where the Wild Things Are"

Cover of Where the Wild Things Are

32. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My DH and I were out shopping a few weeks ago, and came across two classic kids’ books we felt we had to have. (He’s reading me the Winnie the Pooh books chapter by chapter, so we haven’t got to the end of those yet.) He actually wasn’t familiar with WtWTA, so we had to read that together as soon as we got home. I think he liked it, but was expecting a bit more depth than a short picture book could provide.

Neither of us has seen the new film, which I believe  does expand the story.

Finished the blanket sample

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Well, I ran out of yarn, and therefore brought the blanket sample to a close. Not at all sure what I’m going to do with it, as it’s too small for a blanket, and too synthetic for a trivet (which the size and shape and thickness would otherwise make it great for).

Petal piece (top) in four colours

Oh well, whatever I end up using it for (in my garish colour combinations), I can show you how to use up every scrap of yarn by changing colours mid-way through the increase (flat) rounds, rather than in the more visible petal rounds.

back of petal piece, with unevenly coloured rows visible

In the bottom left section of the first picture, you can see where I’ve used up the purple on part of the increase round, even after the first petal round in yellow, but none of the other partial rows are noticeable (and I didn’t hide them).

Edging close-up

You may also notice that instead of ending with a petal round in both loops of an increase round, I finished out with a round of petals in the back loops only, where another had been in the front loops. This was because I didn’t have enough yarn for the extra row, but may even work better (particularly because of the tendancy of the petals to hug the centre of the piece). I’m thinking about going back and changing the instructions, or at least offering this alternative.

Guest post: Racism and the Works of Joseph Conrad

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Today I’m doing a guest post for Kaet because the subject matter fits her blog more than my own.

Joseph Conrad

Image via Wikipedia

I first encountered the works of Joseph Conrad when I was in high school when I had to read Heart of Darkness for English class. The volume I purchased for the class also had in it the novella The Secret Sharer which I promptly read as well. Although I was constantly reading, I usually selected my own fare to read and did not go above and beyond in school. However, Conrad was the first author I encountered who wrote above the sea and life at sea who got the details right. At the time, I still lived on a boat myself, and so The Secret Sharer was particularly vivid. Conrad instantly became one of those authors I regarded as a favorite. Yet somehow, I didn’t read more by Conrad, although I purchased a few volumes by him which I placed on my ever-overflowing “to read” shelf– or shelves, to be honest.

I did re-read Heart of Darkness my final year of high school, again for English class. I’d switched school and it was part of the curriculum for the final year, but the English teacher gave it short shrift that year. She made all too clear she was reading it because she had to but she preferred romances like Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice.  The subject matter of Heart of Darkness could easily have lent itself to racism, and yet I did not notice any in the two works of Conrad I had read nor did either English teacher– both of whom reveled in such criticism– point it out to me.

Book Nigger of the NarcissusSo when recently I pulled off my shelf to read a volume containing three novellas by Conrad, I was not put off by the fact that the first of them was entitled The Nigger of the Narcissus. I assumed confidently that here was Conrad’s work analogous to Mark Twain‘s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which uses a thoroughly offensive word but which does so in a way that is thoroughly justified by a point that decries racism.

Then I started reading. The famous preface of the work enheartened me; here was a manifesto about art with recurring themes of words and color. Surely these were allusions to his following major work confronting racism. The objectionable word in the title appears repeatedly in the text, but with each of the five chapters I became more forced to the conclusion that the fact that the title character James “Jimmy” Wait happens to be a black man makes no difference in the story or its events. Maybe, I thought, that was itself the point?! Yet the casual racism of the characters, including the narrator, is never questioned, never challenged, never even held up in contrast to confront the reader. To all appearances, the matter of fact bigotry of the ship’s company in the novel, not a burning raging vehemence against a black man but thoroughly careless assumption that the title character is socially inferior by virtue of his color, remains throughout entirely unquestioned– even by the author. I conclude so reluctantly because no point whatsoever is made in the book that could not be made as well or better were James Wait white or his color simply never mentioned.

The other book in the volume I’ve been reading other than Heart of Darkness is the Conrad’s novella Typhoon, but that will have to wait. I’m still coming to grips with what I think of Conrad as an author. Certainly I’m disappointed and I feel I’ve lost my respect for Conrad as an author. In future when I refer to my liking of Conrad, doing so will always be apologetic, because in my mind his work has become tainted. While I know the prejudice was common in his time, yet that just does not seem to me a good enough excuse when others like Twain were coming out against racism before the book was published (which by the date of the preface was 1897).

Kaet here: My DH finished reading this novella today, and while I haven’t read it myself, he’s been sharing his impressions (and the storyline) with me throughout. Long time readers of this blog will know that reading classic fiction with racist and sexist elements in it, apparently acceptable at the time, but certainly not now, has been something I’ve struggled with (it’s something I certainly discussed when deciding how much of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s Tarzan series to read, for example), and so I thought these perspectives on the topic might be of interest here.


Friday, 3 September 2010
Front cover of Wind in the Willows

Image via Wikipedia

35. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

I have memories of my father reading this to me (and probably later to my brother) when I was little. Also of going to at least one play version (specifically an adaptation of the Toad of Toad Hall plotline), as well as reading it myself. So, of course, it’s a long-time favourite, with a lot of nostalgia attached.

Thankfully, then, it seems to stand up fairly well to an adult going back and assessing its merits. (Unlike some of what I and my DH have been returning to of our own and each other’s youthful libraries. But more on that another time.) The main thing I still can’t work out with this book is how much the animals are supposed to be of their own species and behaviour (including size), with a veneer of anthropomorphic speech and clothing, and how much they’re humans with an overlay of animalised individuation. I amn’t really convinced Grahame has decided this himself.

Basically, the problem is Toad. The other animals live in burrows and other holes dug in the ground (depending on their species), and undertake activities reasonably consistent with those of their real-life brethren. (Eg Mole and Badger prefer to live underground and are relatively shy of the wider world, the (Water) Rat and the Otter don’t like to go too far from their source of food and safety, the river.) Their size is never completely clarified, but there are suggestions in the text (when Toad isn’t involved, at least) that they are certainly smaller than humans, if not as small as a mole or mouse in real life. None of these animals interacts directly with humans, either.

Toad, however, is a rich, pampered playboy, who lives in a large stately home with grounds and servants, and has several interactions with definite humans. (Usually involving him getting or being on the wrong side of the general law.) Toad buys, crashes and steals several cars and other vehicles, all of which are made for the general market, and is also able to dress up and pass as a human, certainly suggesting no size differential. (I’ve just remembered the one stated conversation between a human and an animal other than Toad – which is when Badger, Mole and Ratty are trying to save Toad from himself, and Badger tells the latest car delivery man to take the vehicle away again, as Toad won’t be wanting it.)

Still, even while Toad is subject to the same laws as any human, he is not treated as exactly the same. In prison the gaoler’s daughter tries to help him (and gets permission from her father to do so) because she is fond of animals and has several pets. Then when his disguise is discovered while he’s on the run he is referred to with disgust as a ‘nasty toad’. Horses seem to be a particular in-between case. They are definitely used as beasts of work, and while the first time we meet one we are given the impression this is at least partially voluntary, and that the other animals speak to the horse they’re using, the second time there is no such suggestion.

My personal feeling (and I haven’t looked at what others may have written in this regard, as yet) is that when Grahame started this story he intended the animals to be just that, if somewhat anthropomorphised (they wear clothing, paint their homes, use boats, and so on) and avoiders of humans. However once he introduced Toad, things got somewhat out of hand. The story still works, and it is certainly a fun read for/with kids (although I could have done without the scene with Pan, which doesn’t really add anything, and completely changes the mood of that part of the story).

Onwards, ever onwards

Thursday, 2 September 2010

NaBloPoMo finished August iconSo, here we are on the 2nd of September. As I mentioned, this isn’t a good month to try for a post every day, but I do want to keep it up when I do have the time (and something to say!). I’m glad the August NaBloPoMo blogging worked, though, since I really doubt I’ll manage in November this year (or October) either.

Anyway, I’ve done a few more rows on my Petal Rows blanket sample. Unfortunately I really don’t have very much of the yarn I’m using, so even mixing the colours more than I like, it’s going to be pretty tiny (this pattern really does take a lot of yarn). Oh well, no-one ever said my colour choices were fabulous anyhow!

I should really go back to telling you about The Wind in the Willows, or one of the books I finished even before that, but perhaps that’ll be good to do tomorrow. Right now I think it’s time to go read a bit in bed unless/until I fall asleep.

Multiple Layer Crochet Flower Petals – in detail – part 3

Thursday, 2 September 2010

This post continues from part 1 and part 2 in elaborating the basic recipe for my Many Petalled Baby Blanket. (Sample project’s public Ravelry page.)

As I said yesterday (in part 2), do continue in the htr pattern for as many repeats as you see fit. (This will mean your round numbers and stitch counts will be different from mine, but I hope it is still clear what to do. Let me know if I can clarify anything.) I am going to move straight on to the tr part of the pattern, so that I can show it to you sooner.

  • R15: In blo of R13, *2tr in first htr, 1tr in each of next 3htr. Repeat from * to end of round. (60 tr)
  • after first tr round

  • R16: In flo make 10 petals.
  • 10 petals around

  • R17: In blo of R15, *tr in each of first 4tr, 2tr in next tr. Repeat from * to end of round. (72 tr)
  • back of piece at this point

  • Continue in pattern (increase by 2 petals in each flo round; increase by 12 tr in each blo round).
  • End with a petal round in both loops.

Some general tips for this pattern:

  • Don’t worry about the front loops getting pulled too large, as these will be tightened up in the back loop rounds.
  • If you use more than one colour, change at the beginning of a round, or potentially during an increase round, as this won’t be seen as much as during a petal round.
  • one petal row in new colour

  • Bear in mind that this makes for a thick blanket! For the same reason (roughly double the normal stitches of a similarly sized item) it will take more yarn than you expect.
  • Once you’re doing a stable number of increases per round, crochet-friendly stitch markers are your friend!
  • back of piece with 12 stitch markers showing

  • If the previous round had a useful multiple of petals, those can help with increase placement. (In the picture below increases are made between each petal, for 12.)
  • arrow marks increase between petals

I think that pretty much ends my tutorial/pattern expansion. I’ll blog more pictures when it’s finished. Do let me know if there’s anything still to clarify. I’d love to see how you use the pattern or techniques!

Multiple Layer Crochet Flower Petals – in detail – part 2

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

This will be a straight continuation of Part 1 (Rounds 1-8), and further exposition on the previously described basic recipe.

There are two options with this design (at least!):

  1. Continue in pattern (adding 6 stitches in each dc round and one petal in each petal round) until the blanket (or brooch, cushion cover front, rug, whatever) is the size you want, ending in a petal round through both loops of the previous dc round. This will give very dense  petals throughout, and a thicker item.
  2. Continue in the pattern above for as far as you want such dense petals, and then switching to htr with 8 increases per round (petals stay the same, and I recommend doing the switch where the last dc round ended with a multiple of 8 stitches – eg at 24/48) and then later switching from htr to tr with 12 increases per round. This will involve some fudging on the petal rounds, since they will not fit precisely the number of stitches per round when coming out of the htr rounds.

The reason I go for the second method (and will aim to show you pictures of how that works out), even though it involves petal fudging, is that I designed this blanket to be good for baby hands to grip and play with, without the potential risks of getting tiny fingers caught in a lacy/holey design. (My very first thought for this blanket, three years ago, used Irish crochet flowers – thankfully someone pointed out the flaw only a few rows in, when it was no bother to rip it out and start again.) I’m not really sure how much of a risk this really is, but especially as I get ever closer to having an infant of my own, baby safety is an important consideration! Having the petal rows slightly further apart makes them easier for baby to find, while starting them off closer together just looks better, in my opinion!

So, in my sample I’m going to move to htr increase rounds already. (It’s just more interesting to me to show you the changes straight away!)

NB I try to alter slightly exactly where the increases come out, to keep the piece more circular. As the rounds get longer and thus counting is more of a pain I suggest roughly placed stitch markers as reminders.

  • Thus, R9: In blo of R7 *htr in first two dc, 2htr in next dc. Repeat from * to end of round. (32 htr)
  • first round of htr

  • R10: In flo, 5 petals. Begin R11 in two remaining stitches. The offset will be made up in R14.
  • with five petal round
    and underneath
    from the back

  • R11: In blo of R9 * 2htr in first htr, htr in next 3 htr. Repeat from * to end of round. (40 htr)
  • R12: 6 petals. Begin R13 in four remaining stitches. The offset will be made up in R14.
  • 6 petals and gap

  • R13: In blo of R11 *htr in first four htr, 2htr in next htr. Repeat from * to end of round. (48htr)
  • htr round

  • R14: 8 petals. (This makes up for the previous offset.)
  • flower pattern 009

In the third part of this tutorial, I will move on to tr rows around, and you’ll be pleased to know there shouldn’t be any petal fudging there, as there will be 12 increases each round, and thus two whole extra petals. This will take us back to a visible line of petal separation (breaking this up may be a good reason to do extra repeats of the htr row section), but I don’t think this is a fatal flaw in the design. The benefit is the lack of visible gap.

Part 3.