Thursday, 22 September 2016

Riders to the Sea

For the sodding record, apparently too many people are actually not bothering to actually read the play Riders to the Sea, and are misquoting it.  It's in the public domain and available online.

I was actually quite shocked recently when I discovered the parallels with my life and that of JM Synge.  I was lucky, I got my Hodgkins Lymphoma almost 100 years later than him, the swelling in my neck went down with Chemotherapy, I didn't die of it.  I found it quite strange to read his biography online and realise how lucky I was.

from Stitches in Time

Stitches in Time
Lucy Adlington
p 289 -290
Guernsey sweaters - also known as ganseys - have long been associated with fishermen and seamen. Fanciful writers say the cable stitch on the gansey was invented to mimic the ropes that played such an important part in the lives of sea faring men. As families and communities evolved the basic pattern into new adaptations, a myth arose that a fisherman pulled from the sea could be identified by his individual sweater. This story was enhanced by the 1904 stage play by J.M. Synge, Riders to the Sea, in which the jumper in question is actually in simple stocking stitch. [gah, misreading of the play] There are no recorded instances of any such identification being made in real life. Ganseys are traditionally dark blue and they have no designated front, the repaired patch could be worn at the back where it would be less noticeable.
Aran sweaters are often an unbleached natural wool colour, patterned with honeycombs, cables and diamonds. Original Aran knits kept the water-resistant natural lanolin, rather than washing it out, making them more practical as outdoor wear.  Far from being an age-old pattern contemporary with the twining artwork of the Book of Kells, as one myth suggests, it is likely that Aran Sweaters really began life as a twentieth-century initiative to boot dwindling household budgets.

From Galway Women in the 19th Century

By Maureen Langan-Egan
P 9 - 10
“The destruction of the textile industries affected Galway, a noted ‘yarn county’, very badly.  Flax, in particular, was a very useful crop on small pieces of ground; no tithes were payable to the Established Church on income from its sales, and it was easier to spin than wool. ‘Bandle-linen’  (a poor-quality fabric) was widely made. Landlords had distributed spinning wheels (tuirni) and reels in Connacht, either free of charge or for a minimum charge.  Their motives were not altogether altruistic, for it was reported that ‘the women in many families spin more than the whole amount of the house and gardens’, which means that the income earned from spinning was greater than that earned from the produce of the gardens and the earnings of other family members; thus, landlords were assured of their rents. The linen industry declined after 1815, which marked the end of the Napeolonic [sic] Wars.  As regards woollen goods, Ireland had been able to supply its requirements in 1800, but by 1830 the industry was in ‘terminal decline’; tariffs were lifted in 1826, allowing cheaper imports.”

P 95-96 “an examination of the Regulations and Curriculum of the Dominican Convent Superior School (A Superior school taught at least one foreign language) in Taylor’s Hill, Galway reveal both its ethos and curriculum.  The Regulations stated:

Each young lady to approach the Sacrament of Penance once a month.
Out of school no pupil is to associate with a companion unless she have the sanction of her parents and the religious.
Each child to be provided with work materials, books, according to the list; and no one is to lend or borrow from another.
Silence to be observed during school hours.
Shoes to be changed before entering the school room and each pupil to be particular in making her salutation. (Polite greetings were the order of the day)
The lessons marked to be well studied at home and music pupils to practice one hour daily.
In 1858, the curriculum was set out as follows:
Daily Duties: Religious Instruction, English Reading, Parsing, Dictation, Needlework, Tables.

Alternate Duties:
Monday,              Grammar, Arithmetic, History
Wednesday,        Chronology French Conversation
Tuesday,              Sacred history, Geography, Spelling.
Thursday,            Mythology, French Dictation

Monday               English Letter
Tuesday               Object Lesson
Wednesday         Natural History
Thursday              Astronomy
Friday                   -
Saturday              Long Religious Instruction.

This plan had to be modified, as the pupils were ‘too backward for such a course’. Such a wide-ranging curriculum was rare.  There was an on-going debate about which subjects should be taught to girls, and there was much sex-stereotyping in the curriculum.

P 118
Members of all religious organisations worked actively to obtain relief from abroad, including £24,000 from Calcutta. [in the 1840s]

Sunday, 8 May 2016

WTF Knits

WTF Knits by Gabrielle Grillo and Lucy Sweet, is one of the low-hanging fruit of the knitting book world, sometimes it is easy to mock patterns and to find them ridiculous.  To me some of these fall into 3 categories, Art, actually clever if you think about it and lastly they're strange adventures in using yarn.

It seems to be coming from a place where yarn is only good if it's used for a utiliarian project and not in sculptural projects and as some of the profits from this are going to charity it would have been hard for many of the copyright owners to refuse use of their photos for use here.

Much of it is stuff I'd never knit but I found some of it more clever than WTF.  It did annoy me to see the TitBits in here.  These are pieces knit for women with Breast Cancer as soft, caring, replacement prosthesis while they're healing and need something soft and the idea that someone would do that for me appeals, also the knitted falopian tubes are being used in activism.

Much of the garments are insane and I couldn't see myself wearing or making them but Haute Couture is insane, the yearly fashion design student catwalk is full of garments that will never be worn outside of the runway, but the authors of this choose to mock rather than to ask why fashion is so out of touch with reality, why it's almost compulsary for designers to make garments with no function (though it could also be asked why companies are making fortunes from making shoes that are crippling people more comfortable!).

Overall this book just made me slighly annoyed, yes there are knits in it that I have no idea why they were even conceived but there also knits that I can see could be used for education or entertainment. Kids get fake food toys all the time we don't seem to question it as much when we get it from a shop, or see it in a gallery, but we seem to question it a lot when someone who isn't part of the artistic establishment chooses to make it themselves.

I still don't understand some of them, but I also sometimes don't understand modern art, I wouldn't choose some of it for my house or to knit it myself (unless hugely bribed, and it would have to be huge) but each to their own.

I got this one from the library a while ago. Dublin City public libraries employ me and provided this book, I get no added inducements for doing this above my salary, access and generous lending facilities

Thursday, 7 April 2016

May, Lou & Cass

By Sophia Hillan
The story of Jane Austen's nieces in Ireland.
P. 125 "Despite the personal stress of 1845, by the year's end Lord George [Hill] had published his detailed pamphlet, Facts from Gweedore, an account of the work he had begun in 1838 on his estate. At the same time, Louisa began to work her own mission. Though she had originally come to Ireland to care for the motherless Hill children, she found herself becoming increasingly involved with their father's cause. It became a matter of vital importance for Louisa to publicise her brother-in-law's efforts to improve the lot of his tenants, and she enlisted the willing assistance of Fanny who, in her turn, wrote to her old friend Miss Chapman, asking her to make the work known. This early marketing was quite concentrated: the sisters were determined to raise money through the sale of the book and of hand - knitted garments, mostly socks and stockings, in order to bring Anglicanism to Gweedore. "
p. 134 "Fanny, too, continued on her mission to promote the sale of Facts from Gweedore: 'I am now negotiating the sale of 6,000 pair of Gweedore socks and stockings, which [Lord George] has on hand, knit by his own people, all of which he buys from them and disposes of as he can.'"
p. 156 [Crimea campaign] Lord George, too old to go into battle himself, sent consignments of the hand - knitted socks which his Donegal tenants had made in their homes, and George Billington appears to have been one of the recipients.  His letter from the camp shows how necessary such apparently simple gifts were: in an attempt to keep their packs light and their progress swift, the men had been ordered ashore without tents, ambulances or sufficient protection against the Russian weather: 'I don't know what I would have done without those Irish socks you gave me the last time I was at home,' George Billington wrote. 'Those and the mittens Miss Rice gave me have been of more use than anything I have. I believe they saved me from being frostbitten the other night.'
p. 175 A list in the Garden Book for Christmas 1867 reveals that their provision for the poor included jerseys, blankets, hand-knitted socks, 'linsey gowns' and 'crochet shawls'. Some of these may have been Marianne's own handwork for, like her aunt Jane,  who commended her skill when she was seven years old, Marianne was an expert needlewoman; some of their gifts to the poor may have been the work of Lord George's tenants, as the socks and mittens sent to their family and acquaintance in the Crimea had so often been.
The bold print is all mine, if I come across more I will add to this post.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Dominitrix Review

 Domiknitrix - Jennifer Stafford

I've got to the stage in my knitting career where I assess books I'm going to buy more on the patterns than the information on how to knit in them.  I have a chunk of books on that topic and I know most of the basics. Yeah, yeah, I know pride goes before a fall and all that, but such is life.  I had dismissed this one before as her aesthetic isn't mine but it turns up on a lot of recommended beginner books so I decided to try it out and I have to apologise to Jennifer Stafford, her book did have a few tips that I hadn't come across before and her well-organised photographs, however goth, are very instructive.  Her reasons to knit a gauge swatch are excellent and made me think a bit more about them.  I'm not sure that clothes should be fitted as well as wearable, my rule would be Clothes should be wearable and make the owner comfortable.

She doesn't do the knitted cast-on, or the cable cast-on, but does offer a lot of other options, I'm not sure that it's one I'd recommend to a rank beginner for these instructions but it's a good set of reminders for people who know some basics and it would make a valuable reference book for a lot of people.

The how-to section is helpfully coloured to the edge in black so it stands out in the book, the white coloured pages are the patterns and as I said before I'm not a great fan of them. Some of them appeal in a "I'd bet a friend or family member would get a kick out of" way but none appeal to me personally to knit for myself.

One of the best things I have seen is an actual bust-waist-hip measuring for what the author means for XS, S, M, L & XL, a quite helpful hint

Thin mint is a scarf that's a tubular knit from the middle and grafted together at the end, knit with 4mm needles in a light dk weight yarn with stripes.

Valentine Candy Pillows, offers heart-shaped cushions in bulky yarn on 6 mm needles with embroidered lettering that doesn't offer a template but gives somewhat vague instructions on spacing and placement.

Flower Pins are lillies, camellia and rose flowers knit in an aran weight yarn (noro kureyon that the author snipped out the sections of 6 balls that she wanted... ) they're felted

Snood Spiral Mesh cap is both a Cap and a Snood, though it doesn't show it being worn as a snood. A open lace cap knit in an acrylic/nylon yarn  in an aran-weight yarn with 5.5mm needles.

Mohawk Hat is basically a close-fitting hat with a mohawk for those people who want one without the career-limiting head-shaving.  Knit in Bulky wool on 5.5mm needles.

Strings of Purls is a set of stuffed spheres along an icord, there are some suggestions for variants.

Homegrown is a hemp yarn handbag using a bamboo placemat and pair of chopsticks for structure. The yarn is DK using 4mm needles and with an icord decoration and closure

Devil & Snow devil hats knit in a bulky-weight yarn with 5.5mm needles.

Star Pillow - a cushion with a pentacle knit on the front in intarsia in a super bulky yarn with 9mm needles

The next chapter are more challenging knits beginning with L'il red riding hoodie, a cardigan with pockets and a zip knit in a bulky yarn and 6.5mm needles.

Big Bad Wolf pullover has an intarsia wolf on it and some suggestions for other pattern ideas.  Knit in a bulky yarn with 6mm needles.

Bob Dobbs & skull vests are a tank top with some intarsia patterns on them knit in a bulky yarn in 5.5mm needles.

The Winged heart bralet is for a or b cup sized women with some colourwork.

Sweetheart is a jumper with a intarsia bow, worked in black for the body and the bow in pink, knit in a dk yarn with 4mm needles

Diva Halter is a halter-neck waistcoat with a zipped front. Knit in two colours in a bulky yarn with 5.5mm needles.  It also has suggestions for a mock-laced-up back.

Swizzle vest is another zipped waistcoat knit in a super bulky yarn with 9 & 10mm needles in two colours.

Next chapter is side to side and on the bias, more difficult projects.

Jughead hat is knit using short-rows in a dk yarn on 5mm needles

The Slink is a top knit on the side with some stitch shaping incorporated, a v-neck and cap sleeves.  Using Crystal Palace shimmer with 5mm and 8mm needles.

The final pattern printed in the book is City Coat which is knit sidewards with a double ended zip or buttons, there's some suggestion for variations under the Mod Coat title, this is a bulky weight yarn knit at a tighter gauge on 5mm needles to try to give it weight and body.

The final project in the book is a teaser for the Elfin Bride & Gothlet pattern which is available on the web site. Free if you have the book.

I got this one from another Irish library via Borrowbooks 

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Some people don't get it

I read a book recently that made me a bit cranky. Craftsman by Richard Sennet,  apart from the view of craftsmanship as being mostly male he also didn't get the concept of mindless crafting. Sometimes mindless crafting is an accompaniment to complex working, but sometimes it's it's own thing.  When you're in a crafting slump or something complex is occupying your brain,  and not necessarily a crafting project, retreating into the simple is actually comforting. When a lace project is in the slog,  why is there no progress stage, a simple dishcloth can be useful,  a sense of accomplishment can be made out of that little thing. Without slogging by assistants there isn't time made for a master.  But also there is the issue that until you understand your material, you can't really explore it's possibilities. Without scales and warmups your hands will suffer on the piano. Also without understanding both your and the materials issues you can't work with them and through them. I will never play some pieces on the piano that require octave stretches, my hands can't do that, but I can work with it, choose the notes that sound the best, the most right.

But what really ticked me off,  as the daughter of a master cabinetmaker and carpenter; sister of a master carpenter; cousin of a master glassworker (not sure of his proper title but he made a glass sword as his masterpiece!) on page 58 when he talked about a chef d'oeuvre éleve I was somewhat annoyed,  it didn't convince me that he knew enough about what he was talking about because that's known as a masterpiece or master piece. And maybe if we regarded those pieces made by more crafters as being as important and we saw the beauty in them and the skill it took to make them like we look at paintings maybe we would start to have a better understanding of how there is more artfulnes in the world than we notice.  That the present by someone that took more effort than a few minutes in a shop actually has worth, and doesn't deserve derision.

Cross posted to my reading blog

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Knockout Knits review

Knockout Knits by Laura Nelkin

Interesting collection of knitwear accessories under three basic themes; wrapped stitches, lace and beading.  I'm not sure why I'm not more impressed with this, it's possibly because it's not quite me.  They're nice but I was looking at it and I wouldn't buy it for me.

It's filled with interesting information, detailed advice on techniques and on swatching and in many ways it's an excellent book, but it's just not me.

Each project has a feature to it to lift it out of the ordinary, several clever ideas and designs.

Wrapped Stitches at Play has several interesting projects:
Wave Cuff - basically an exercise in how to work with wrapped stitches. Done in DK weight yarn on 4.5mm needles.

Prolix Mitts - worsted weight with 4 and 5mm needles, fingerless mitts with a long cuff, the wrapped stitches provide a rouching.

Folly Cloche crossed wrapped stitches pull the band in, very Downton. Knit in worsted yarn with 4 & 4.5mm needles

Laxo Hat - faux cable using wrapped stitches, a fairly unisex beanie hat.  Made in fingering weight yarn on 2.75 & 3.25mm needles.

Bootsy Boot Toppers - knit in bulky yarn with 8mm needles. A good test of the cross stitch method.

Las Cruces Shawl - two mirrored panels with a centre panel knit in a light fingering weight yarn with 4mm needles, sadly the only apparent photograph in the book is of it worn wrapped round someone's neck.

Traversus Socks - top down socks with a crossed stitch pattern down to the heel and along the edge, interesting for very busy variagated sock yarns. Knit in fingering weight yarn with 2.25mm needles.

Crux Cowl - dropped stitches and criss-cross stitch in a DK weight yarn with 4mm needles. Way to open a cowl for me.

Get your lace on features tips and tricks on lace knitting, including lifelines.
Gateway Cuff - something small to learn how to start into lace knitting useful for playing with some laceweight and 2.75mm needles.

Juego Cowl worked flat in a plain and patterned yarn using both slipped stiches and lace, worked flat and then joined. It's worked in sport-weight yarns on 4.5mm needles. With the right yarns this could be spectacular, the designer here uses a Noro yarn and something like that where the yarn play with each other would be amazing.

Fornido Shawlette worked from the bottom in an aran-weight yarn first making the border and then the body with short-rows.  Knit with 5mm needles.

Techo Hooded Scarf a hood with a scarf attached in sport-weight yarn and using 4mm needles.

Quadro Convertable Shrug interesting construction to this sport-weight shrug and shawl/scarf. Buttons enable the arms to be closed or left opened, it works from the centre with a square and then becomes a rectangle. Worked with 4mm needles.

Gyrus Tam - nupps and lace every round, this one would need care and attention.  Worked in fingering weight yarn with 3.5 and 3.25mm needles.

Loco Shawl - top-down lace shawl in laceweight yarn with 3.75mm needles. A central panel with two increasing triangles, somewhat unusual construction again here.

Beaded beauties details several methods of adding beads to a piece.
Bulb Cuff and necklace - again starting with a piece to learn the technique, the necklace fastens with a sew-on snap. Uses fingering weight yarn, size 8 beads and 2.75mm needles.

Hibisco Necklace A more complicated neck-piece this is in laceweight yarn with size 8 beads and 2.75mm needles.

Cha-Ching Tam - coin stitch with an attached bead. Interesting and looks warm uses light fingering-weight yarn and 3.25 an 3.5mm needles.

Cha-Ching Mitts - the gloves that decorate the cover of this edition, to match the tam, if you want, again with light fingering-weight yarn and 2.5 and 2.25mm needles.

Halli Shawl - garter tab shawl worked in lackweight yarn this is an interesting use of an ombre yarn.

Laden Fauxbius - worked flat and then twisted, grafted and anded to hide the seam.  Optional beads here, worked in fingering-weight yarn with 3.75 and 3.5mm needles.

Trapese Scarf - centre out both sides this is in light-fingering weight yarn with 3.5mm needles and size 8 beads.

Reversible Undulating Waves Scarf- a double sided lace that almost looks like entrelac in a fingering-weight yarn and with 6 and 8 beads and 3.75mm needles.

Forza Scarf is a free teaser from the book, included on the Ravelry page, but I don't recall it in the book.

The book closes with basic how-tos and abbreviations etc which is always useful if you need to check something that could be ambivalent. 

It's a book that I probably would have bought earlier in my knitting career but the projects aren't standout enough against the rest of the library for me to get it.  Nice stuff but the book isn't different enough for me to add it to my collection.  I'd say many people I know would really love it.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Crochetopedia review

The edition to hand was the UK edition in the link and the Dublin City Public Libraries edition.

Dublin City Public Libraries

The first thing that I really like about this book is that it's spiral bound, great for a reference book.  Starts with a history of Crochet.  It then moves onto a discussion of yarns and fibres, with a piece on yarn weights, equipment etc.  It even has a mention of where to measure a crochet hook.  Yarn labels are examined, yarn substitution and care are all covered, as are blocking and reading patterns.  The How-to even mentions left-handed crocheting (the advice of using a mirror is used), there is also a mention that this book is UK terminology and what the US terms are.  The descriptions of methods and stitches are detailed using drawings with supportive photographs.  There are almost 100 pages of introduction before any projects are discussed.  The words Worsted and Aran seem to be used interchangeably with some of the yarns.

The only way I think this book could be improved would be to have the page numbers associated with the skills alongside the skills list on the projects, and a bibliography.

Is it the only reference you will ever need? No. There is no one book that can offer everything, but it's a solid beginners book with a lot of jumping off points for a lot of techniques.  I would recommend it to beginners.

Projects are divided into Simple, Intermediate and advanced.  Each pattern comes with stitches and skills, yarn, measurement, notions and yarn alternatives.
The simple projects are
Square Pot Holder - could be done in a single colour but two colour allows you to hearn how to work with multiple colours.  Made in an Aran medium weight yarn.
Beanie Hat with Pom-pom - again some minor colourwork (I would use some of the alternative colour in the pom-pom myself.  This is pretty simple and easy enough, uses a worsted weight yarn.
Bow Headband - quite simple but can give a sense of pride, made in a worsted-weight yarn
Fingerless Gloves - made from side to side these have texture and are made in worsted/Aran yarn
Phone Cosy - made in worsted yarn, it's a chance to practice stripe colourwork.
Bobble Scarf - a chance to try texture, aran yarn
Baby Booties - this is a make a square and seam it for the shape, the original is in a DK yarn.
Motif decoration - another project that could be in any yarn, dependent on hook.  Original is in Worsted.
Arm Warmers - with the fashion for 3/4 length sleeves these are a useful bridge between bottom of sleeve and wrist made in a worsted weight yarn.
Flower Brooch - a felted project in a worsted weight wool
Amigurumi Russian Dolls - not nested dolls but like the nested dolls, enhanced with embroidery. Made in Sport-weight yarn these would be a good introduction to amigurumi.

Sampler Baby Blanket - Play with practice swatches using some of the patterns from the book or other books, make squares, join them together, use a single yarn to join, this is a good project to use up practice squares or spare yarn.  It uses worsted weight yarn but any yarn would do.  With some squares you might have to work it a few times to get the proper tension but with only about 20-22 stitches per square this isn't too hard.  The only thing not noted is to ensure that you don't mix yarn types, like pure wool and pure acrylic for ease of washing.
Chevron Rug - looks impressive, made in super bulky yarn and it does suggest using a hardwearing yarn, contrasting stripes.
Intarsia Cushion - a good learning tool to working in Intarsia, and pretty quick in a worsted weight yarn. Very Mondrian.
Lacy Beret - this one hits a bit of a button, it isn't very lacy, it starts with a small lacy motif and then works down in a solid pattern, which reduces the usefulness of the hat.  It's worked in a DK yarn.
Lace Scarf - worked to the middle and seamed, so both ends match, uses sportweight yarn
Starry Night place mat Plain worked mat with surface crochet on top. Uses worsted yarn.  While pretty I sometimes question the practicality of non-flat place mats.
Slippers - worked in worsted yarn, I would add a tip to research non-slip grips for painting or sewing on.
Felted Tote Bag - I am a big bag person, but this one is quite big. Also features no zip or closing mechanism, I'd be inclined to make the half-granny into a full granny and use half as a flap.
Honey Cat - worsted weight stuffed toy.
Little Hen - DK weight stuffed toy

Advanced Projects
Broomstick Lace Clutch - worsted weight, this is lined.
Beaded Earrings - with a bead this is a delicate piece and rather fun
Hairpin lace mobius wrap - made in a light or medium weight yarn this will expand the hairpin lace skills.
Lacy Cardigan - simple repeated clusters for this v-necked light cardigan.  Uses DK yarn.
Shell Top - small amount of shaping for this DK weight sleevless t-shirt.
Toe-up lacy socks - done in sock yarn.
Swirl thread bowl - spray starch is used to make this with 3ply yarn, you will also need a bowl form to finish.
Filet thread runner - has several elements of filet crochet in 3-ply yarn.
Tunisian Neck Warmer - two button to fasten bulky weight yarn using the Tunisian diagonal stitch.
Child's Unisex sweater - in the main quite basic but the contrast stripe features cable stitches to learn the technique.  Made in DK yarn.

The book closes out with a stitch directory, which isn't exhaustive but a good set of begining stitches.  It also has some motifs. 

They do mention Ravelry in the resources.  Many of the mentioned yarns are US brands.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Tatting Collage review

This isn't my usual type of book but after seeing some fo the amazing things a friend can do with tatting I thought I'd take a look at this one when I came across it.  This is a compact book that has a lot of ideas in it.  Multiple designs for flowers, butterflies and other shapes and then ideas to combine these to create pictures in thread.  Intimidating and inspiring but I'm not sure it's really a beginners book.  I'm still peering at the pictures trying to work out how to do it