Category Archives: 2014

Week 7: Clever Girl vs Things Unborn

Two things are unavoidable in Bristol novels: slavery and the suspension bridge. I’m now almost certain that a reference to Bath Spa University will have to be added to that list.

Tessa Hadley would have walked alongside C.J. Flood, Nathan Filer and Anna Freeman at Corsham Court in Bath as she lectured and still lectures at that university. One way in which she stands out from the rest however is that she has often been published in the New Yorker, including two chapters from Clever Girl.

clevergirlIn Clever Girl, she writes about Stella who we follow from the bedsit she shares with her mum in Kingsdown in the 1960s, all the way to adulthood and through most of Bristol. Stella’s auntie ‘Andy went to work on the factory floor of the chocolate manufacturers where Uncle Ray was in dispatch.’ The chocolate manufacturer is Fry’s which was based at Nelson Street.

There is a move from the city centre to a new estate on Stoke Bishop. We chart her various phases through location. Young, single mother Stella works on Park Row and lives in a commune.

What got very tedious for me was the constant description of everyone’s face and personality. The way they were labelled in such detail. Hadley says that “I never think that the material detail is an addition to the story. A story is what it is through the detail.” And yet those details have to progress the story not just be used to add words.

Stella is a sad and burdened kind of character who is talked about by her future self as if she spent her whole life lacking self-awareness. The characters aren’t easy to enjoy but the story did bring up something very Bristolian that doesn’t get discussed very much; the wide disparity between those who participate in higher education and those who don’t. Or those who have opportunities and those who don’t.


The map of Bristol above shows a range of areas with different levels of participation in HE. Dark blue areas are where most young people will go on to HE and the red patches show areas where few, if any, do. In Bristol, it is often the case that these areas are right next to each other. Clifton, Cotham and the city centre are all areas of higher participation and right next to St Philip’s where very few young people may know anyone in HE.

The two universities in Bristol are also very different. One is full of “girls and boys with glossy hair and loudly assured voices who’d been to private school” and the other is UWE, surprisingly not mentioned in this book. Stella in later life gets three As at A Level and ‘with these good grades [she] applied to university” and got in to study English literature. This of course makes little sense in real-world Bristol University. Every one who applies there has three As (or A*s now). Good grades are only a distinguishing factor if that’s what separates you from the other candidates. At Bristol this does not and most people of Stella’s background apply to and attend UWE instead.

Things Unborn by Eugene Byrne is the contender against Clever Girl this week and while I knew it was a novel set in London with very little Bristol reference, I just couldn’t resist writing about Byrne and seeing what his fiction was like. If there is ever a writer who knows Bristol then it is he. He has written about Bristol in magazines, online and in published books. He wrote about Brunel and about plans for Bristol that never did get built.

Things Unborn, however, is just not that informative about this West Country city. There is a wink at Bristol with reference to the Locarno Music Hall which used to be where the O2 Academy is now and was popular in the 1960s. There is also a pretty great description: ‘The great city of Bristol was the light and the shadow of their lives, a huge, sprawling, noisy port where merchants got rich on slaves and sugar, and the poor drank and pissed their money and miseries away in stinking dockside ale houses.

In 1962, the USA and Russia went to nuclear war over Cuba…after millions of deaths, people started returning. Not just those killed in the Atom War, but people who had died centuries previously. And they were always reborn in the place where they died, at the age of their death. In Britain, there were struggles for power between Catholics and Protestants, another Monmouth Rebellion. Now, in 2008, Richard III rules the country – although he holds no real power. And Protestant fanatics would see him, his government and their “Liberal Settlement” destroyed. A handful of policemen and their allies must hunt down the conspirators.

Protagonist Inspector Scipio Africanus lived his previous life as a slave in Bristol and is a reference back to a black slave or servant in the household of the Earl of Suffolk. He died aged about 18 and was buried at Henbury Churchyard, Bristol, in 1720. His grave is one of the few known burial places in the UK of an African from the period when Christian Englishmen traded in slaves.

The links to Bristol are there but not enough to make this book a real contender. It’s a heavy-going read with a lot of information to process. There are many explanations about the new reality, about the retread procedure, about each and every past era from which the people who have died have arrived. Also the new reality consists of current police procedures, geographies, machines and products that all take some explanation and then there’s the parallel world’s history, current politics and future trajectory. And in between all this there is a storyline.

The effect is one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld meets Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. A quality production but not light and breezy.

This week’s winner is unquestionably Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley.

Knitting in August 2014

My knitting news seems to expand and change by the day and invariably I just don’t get around to writing it down. At the back of my mind there is a thought of cataloguing different ideas, techniques and patterns in a more coherent and sequential way. A taxonomy of knitting, if you will. I haven’t yet because I worry that having an order will take away the fun of discovering new things but the idea is there. I have discovered new yarns, discovered designers and patterns and cast on a few times. I’ve also won a few patterns!


Louisa Harding Amitola range of patterns; I knit a shawl for Mersina’s aunty Bridget recently and have begun another one with the Follow Your Arrow KAL. I liked the yarn well enough but it wasn’t until I saw the Louisa Harding Amitola patterns however that I became excited about its potential. I am now tempted to frog my just-begun-shawl and save the yarn for something else. lh_amitola_1 lh_amitola_2

Knitting terms

Talking about frogging, here’s a clip from NPR on the etymology of the word.


Brooklyn Tweed’s Wayfarer scarf is my current project.

wayfarer_140824aI’m not entirely convinced by the Rowan Tweed yarn I’m using but I’m getting more and more used to it. I love the design and the idea that you can create these ripples just through different types of stitches. One of my pictures has been selected as one of 10 finalists in a Brooklyn Tweed competition so if you feel like voting for the one with the three little people (I’m the one on the left) on the boot of a car, then click through to here. All the pictures are so cute.

Kate Davies designs – especially these two; kate_davies_2kate_davies_1

Kate Davies has made my favourite lists recently after Beshley’s Wool Shop (now shut down) posted about her owl jumper. I bought the Peerie Faerie hat and Paper Dolls jumper to try. I’ve been in the mood for some Fair Isle knitting for a while and had all the colours for the hat in Drops Karisma, apart from the greens which I ordered from wool warehouse.

After my sock debacle over Christmas and all the way through to March/April, I became very sick of them and never wanted to see another pair.

I got a bit excited with the Regia fluoro yarn however although it isn’t the most amazing in terms of texture and washing – the colours run. And now I’m still excited after knitting up some baby booties.


I had to knit three socks because my gauge was so off on the first one and they were way too dense. By the third sock however I had the technique down pat and actually enjoyed all the decreases and the toes and the heel and the gussett. I’d happily knit a few more of these little guys and am thinking of selling some so let me know if you’re interested.


Sockupedia looks good from the reviews so I’d like to take a look at that at some point. knitsocklove Love.Sock.Knit is a delightful collection of intricate but not-too-complicated, hopefully, sock patterns. I have some soothing, and bright sock weight yarn from Expression Fiber Arts with which I’m casting on the BFF socks and then hope to knit a few more pairs from the Cookie A book. mothernature knitsocklove_socks

Other projects

Christmas presents – My second tiny person is due to be born at the beginning of December so I thought my Christmas purchases needed some planning ahead this year. For my little people’s dad I have found a design for a cardigan that he likes and bought some Cascade Eco wool. It took three attempts to match the gauge on the swatch but I’ve now got it and am ready to cast on any day.


I have bought some Sublime Vivacious Yarn for a cardigan for my sister but at £14 a skein I’m pacing the purchases. I recently found two more skeins at 30% off when Fyberspates had their last sale (code: lastsale) before stopping retail business. The yarn itself is half merino and half silk, very squidgy, silken and soft – definitely sublime.

I’ll stop there for now but would love to hear other suggestions about designers and yarn if you have any thoughts.

Week 6: Eye Contact vs Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion

Airship300 Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion is published by Wizard’s Tower Press who also produced the tribute Colinthology. They are a curious publisher who specialise in science fiction and fantasy but don’t want submissions and won’t read them if you send any. This isn’t the only reason they have become a firm favourite, they are also very friendly and are big fans of the south west.

The short stories in the current Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall edited work are Bristolian from title to end. The title is a play on the phrase ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, a term dating from 1840 when talking about the treachorous port of Bristol. Its very high tidal range of 13m meant that if things weren’t tied down they would end up overboard.

Not only is the time period fitting to these stories but their genre seems surprisingly apt. “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.” It all makes for a very respectful tribute to this city. The following quotation from the introduction says it quite nicely:

Take a walk around Bristol, and history seeps from the walls. The city can claim more than its fair share of firsts, including the first iron-hulled steamship, the first female doctor, the first chocolate bar and the first use of nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic, the invention of the Plimsoll line, the first undersea telegraph cable, the world’s first test tube baby and the first transplant organ grown from stem cells, and a large share of the world’s first supersonic airliner. Now, from this fertile ground comes an anthology charting other realities and alternate histories, in a collection as rich and varied as the true history of this great British city.

— Gareth L. Powell

“Not bad for a little city” said Bristol Culture editor, Martin Booth,  when I read the above to him and he would add that Bristol is where Ribena was invented too.

Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous aspects of the city such as its slavery connections and the tobacco industry but all is included in a rich Bristol setting.

Two excellent stories from its collection are Joanne Hall’s Brass and Bone which is based in Clifton and touches on the use of the Suspension Bridge in both folklore and local awareness.

The Girl with Red Hair, by Myfanwy Rodman is written so beautifully and hauntingly while making sure to use Bristol to its most picturesque best, never losing sight of its story. Not all the stories are as strong but all are true to their setting.

eyecontact Eye Contact by Fergus McNeill on the other hand is a debut novel published by the same company that has published Stephen King. They are big and they have money to spare. McNeill’s work is about a serial killer whose method of choosing victims is in the title.

It starts on Severn Beach with a body and then begins from the serial killer’s perspective in Clifton. There is a subtitle in parentheses – DI Harland Book I and it has a sequel, published in 2013, with its follow-up title DI Harland Book II.

As all slickly published and promoted books, these days, there is a trailer.

Eye Contact is set in Bristol but it has no love of the city. At least none more than a passing acquaintance because of the fact that it is set here. Clifton Down, Whiteladies and Starbucks feature prominently in the beginning and even after a walk up to the Clifton Observatory, and the obligatory mention of the Suspension Bridge there is no sense that these characters are part of their setting.

Clifton is an obvious choice of a setting for tourists and casual Bristolians but when a character in Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion visits a pawnbroker on Hobbs Lane then you know you’re reading someone who knows their city.

Eye Contact could be set anywhere without the story changing. The depth of the characters doesn’t go far enough to touch anything more than a curiosity about the plot. The writing is smooth, it’s slick and it’s glib. If you like Peter James then you’ll like Fergus McNeill, and if you love Jeffrey Archer then you’re in for a treat.

For the purposes of this tournament however, there is only one choice for the work that is shipshape and Bristol fashion and it’s the collection of short stories which references many airships. Not bad for a little publisher, who certainly outshone Hodder & Stoughton on this occasion.

Week 5: the Fair Fight vs the Accidental Proposal

Once again I got it wrong in the case of a book’s setting. The Accidental Proposal is set in Brighton, not Bristol. It wouldn’t have fared well against Freeman anyway so I won’t say any more about it.

The Fair Fight is Anna Freeman’s debut novel after completing her BA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and then her MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is now a creative writing lecturer at Bath Spa University (where Nathan Filer also lectures).

Bristol, 1799. In Frog Lane, right in the city centre, is a brothel called the Convent and that’s where plain and unremarkable Ruth is born and raised. Destined to follow the profession of those around her she instead catches the eye of Mr Dryer, local merchant and boxing enthusiast.

Dryer takes Ruth under his wing and she soon makes a life as a female boxer – a pugilist – dropping more than her fair share of blood in the sawdust at the infamous Hatchett inn, where in modern times Freeman worked for six years.

On the other side of the class divide is genteel, rich, pockmarked and angry Charlotte, Dryer’s wife. She has lost most of her family to small pox, all except for her bullying brother who hides from the world and spends most of his time staring at the bottom of a bottle.

Freeman provides not only a level of emotional depth to her characters that makes them believable but her research adds some details which while not well-known ring true because they are based in reality.

She was inspired to write The Fair Fight after reading one of her nieces Horrible Histories books. She says “I had no idea that it happened but female prize-fighters used to write challenges to each other in newspapers. I read about Elizabeth Stokes who, in one example, answered Ann Field’s taunt with: “I, Elizabeth Stokes, of the City of London… Do assure her … that the blows I shall present her with will be more difficult to digest than any she ever gave her asses.”

Most women fighters were either prostitutes or suffering in poverty and while they may have made names for themselves in the ring, they had little value outside it.

Freeman’s research also encompassed reading diaries of Georgian women. “There are all these extracts from the diaries of spinsters and loads of them are so bitter and angry.”

There is an examination of injustice and personal power in the Fair Fight and quite a comprehensive look at the Bristol of the times. From schooling at St Michael’s Hill to the poverty in the dirty centre by the docks and the rich houses and families at Queen Square, there is a great sense that this take could not have taken place anywhere else. There is even a festival by the Harbourside which seems the ancestor of our current Harbour Festival.

The Fair Fight is not only a great Bristol novel but also one of the best books of the year.

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on August 28.

Week 4: Bristol Bells vs Where’s My Money?

In front of a low, old house, opposite St Mary Redcliffe and tall business buildings, there sat a thoughtful effigy of Bristol’s best known literary figure, the boy poet Thomas Chatterton. This figure is hidden whilst the house is being repaired but a plaque still helps identify the location.

Feeling disgruntled and under appreciated in his home town of Bristol, Chatterton left for London in 1770. Finding no luck there either his life came to a sad end by the time he was 24.

Since I have not included poets in this tournament, however, I would have had no need to mention him were it not for Emma Marshall.

Marshall, author in 1890 of Bristol Bells, and of over 200 more stories in her lifetime, liked to base her works around a famous figure and in this case it was Chatterton.

The story is also about Bryda, the beautiful and refined granddaughter of a farmer, who wants to follow the sound of the Bristol bells and leave her house in Dundry. When an old debt needs to be repaid she has no choice but to gain employment as a servant in the same house where Chatterton is apprenticed to a lawyer.

Marshall clearly, and fittingly to the story, outlines what is known of Chatterton’s sad and short life. Bristol Bells is a pleasant and short read with two stories running parallel. It is informative of one of the great literary figures of Bristol as she includes bits and pieces of his life and snippets if his poetry along with biographical information.

Much of the story takes place between Corn Street and Dowry Square with ventures to Hot Wells and St Vincent’s Rocks. There is a villain and a love interest, suspense and intrigue and a delightful introduction to the Bristol of 250 years ago.

Power of expression: 6/10
Bristol content: 11/15
Bristol integration: 9/15
Characterisation: 6/10
Total: 32/50

Mike Manson’s Where’s My Money, on the other hand, is a classic in contemporary Bristol fiction and as the cover suggests, it will indeed make you laugh out loud.

Max Redcliffe joins the Ministry of Work at the unemployment office on Union Street after having been on the other side of the counter for quite a while. His colleagues include Lee Woods and Ashley Hill and if you don’t recognise a couple of these names then you’re obviously not a Bristolian.

There is a wicked charm to Redcliffe’s story of his adventures in the unemployment office which while failing to deliver much of a narrative arc does provide lots of entertainment and information about the south west city.

From cider to slavery, tobacco to chocolate, the Downs and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, there is so much Bristol in its pages that this story could not have taken place anywhere else and yet the book does not feel overburdened with facts.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, hanging by a thread across a vertiginous gorge, is one of the world’s most fabulous bridges, and it goes nowhere. There’s nothing on the other side of the bridge apart from a few big houses and a wood. The bridge is an expensive conceit. And rightly so. This golden gateway frames the Avon Gorge – transforming the landscape of grey cliffs and hornbeam woods into a sublime vision of grandeur.

Set in the 70s, it is funny and consistently Bristolian and manages to cover the decade pretty well too. The only thing that seems to have changed in 40 years is that we now have some great places for coffee. Three in fact. Oh and that the Bristol sound is no longer jazz.

Power of expression: 8/10
Bristol content: 15/15
Bristol integration: 13/15
Characterisation: 8/10
Total: 44/5020140727-220433-79473448.jpg

Why writing is better than thinking

Laptop full of stickers - I didn't add those!

I’ve known a few psychology students and graduates but only one has said something that I still remember over a decade later.

We were talking about the difference between thinking and writing and she pointed out that you write linearly. Linear order forces your writing into some kind of structure, but thinking, as Tony Buzan has written about, is more creative and less ordered.

I’ve found this distinction to be useful for me. When thinking about subjects I start off trying to find a solution and then my mind goes all over the place, just one more permutation of what Buddhists call monkey mind.

When writing, though, I can strive towards an end, and follow a path. There is an evolution of an idea, a progression and an actual conclusion. And most probably this helps provide some understanding. Often I don’t know where the topic has come from and how it relates to me until I’ve written through and reached the end.

I don’t rate thinking too much and prefer meditation or waiting for my intuition to kick in but writing seems to help draw both of these processes out.

My 3-year-old computer-hog doesn’t allow me too much access to a computer so I’m trying to get as much writing done as possible on my phone and then tidy it up later.

This post on One Man and his Blog got me thinking about why I blog (when I get around to it).

Order of play for the Bristol Book Tournament

The following table shows the order of play for the tournament.

Group 2 v Group 4
Group 7 v Group 1
Group 5 v Group 3
Group 8 v Group 6.

For the first month, for example, the books competing will be as follows:

  1. Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending vs CJ Flood’s Infinite Sky;
  2. Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall vs Louise Dougas’ In Her Shadow;
  3. MP Wright’s Heartman vs Clark, Ros and Hall’s Colinthology;
  4. Marshall Emma v Bouzane, Lillian’s In the Hands of the Living God

Methodology:  I created eight columns and added the groups in order (Group 1 to 8). Then I created a random function which gives a number between 0 and 1 and sorted in ascending order. The following groups were selected.

Group 2 – Literary Group 4 Group 1 – The Elites Group 7 – Group 3 – Crime Group 5 – Short Stories mostly Group 6 – Historical and sagas Group 8 – the Unknowns
Barnes, Julian – The Sense of An Ending Flood, C.J. – Infinite Sky (2013) Filer, Nathan – The Shock of the Fall (2013) Douglas, Louise – In Her Shadow Wright, M.P. – Heartman Clarke, Roz and Hall, Joanne – Colinthology (Ed.) Marshall, Emma (1830-1899) – inc. Bristol Bells Bouzane, Lillian – In the Hands of the Living God (1999)
Byrne, Eugene – Things Unborn (2001) Tessa Hadley – Clever Girl Freeman, Anna – The Fair Fight (2014) Dunn, Matt – The Accidental Proposal McNeill, Fergus – Eye Contact (2012) Hall, Joanne (ed) – Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion (2014) Smollett, Tobias – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker Random, Bert – Spannered (Feeder Road)
Nichols, David – Starter for Ten (2004) Hardy, Jules – Altered Land Benatar, Stephen – Wish Her Safe at Home Smith, Zadie – Hanwell in Hell (Park Street) Carver, Caroline – Gone Without Trace (2007) Harvey, Colin – Future Bristol (Ed.) Stevenson, Robert Louis – Treasure Island Rowbotham, Michael – Shatter
Cusk, Rachel – Arlington Park (2010) Hayder, Mo – Wolf; Skin; Gone; Ritual Brown, Chris – Guilty Tiger , Bovver Le Carre, John – Our Game English, Lucy – Selfish People (1998). Harvey, Colin – Dark Spires(Ed.) Burney, Fanny – Evelina Sheers, Owen – Pink Mist
Butler, Paul – Cupids Mason, Sarah – Playing James Carter, Angela – ‘The Bristol Trilogy’ Moggach, Deborah – These Foolish Things Ferguson, Patricia – Peripheral Vision; the Midwife’s Daughter White, Tony – Missorts Volume II Lane, Lizzie – Wartime Brides (2012) Mitchell, Diane – Tainted Legacy
Trewavas, Ed – Shawnie (2006). Moate, Jari – Paradise Now Manson, Mike – Where’s My Money Godwin, John – Children of the Wave Lewis,Robert – The Last Llanelli Train (2005) Maughan, Tim – Paintwork(2011) Steen,Marguerite – The Sun Is My Undoing (1941) O’Brien, Maureen – Dead Innocent
Nicholson, Christopher – The Elephant Keeper Johnson, Jeannie (pseudonym of Lizzie Lane) – A Penny for Tomorrow (2003). Wakling, Chris – The Devil’s Mask Mayhew, Daniel – Life and How to Live it (2004). Hall, M.R. – The Coroner (Jenny Cooper 1) (2009) Boyce, Lucienne – To the Fair Land (2012) Young, E.H. – The Misses Mallett (1922). William – A Novel (). Myles, Josephine – Pole Star

A House in the Sky, A Memoir of a Kidnapping That Changed Everything

houseinthesky At 18, Amanda Lindhout moved from her Canadian hometown to the big city, saving tips as a waitress to travel the globe. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a reporter. In August 200, she travelled to Somalia to report on the fighting – and was abducted.

Her story illuminates the psychology, motivations, and desperate extremism of her guards and the men in charge of them. She survived by finding strength and hope in the power of her own mind. A House in the Sky refers to the place Amanda went to during her abuse. A place of peace and happiness she built for herself in the sky and this story is a moving testament to the power of compassion and forgiveness.

Since her release after 460 days in captivity, she has devoted herself to the cause of the rights of women and girls in Somalia, founding the Global Enrichment Foundation charity which funds women’s education projections and offers support for survivors of sexual violence.

A House in the Sky has its opening pages set right in the midst of the kidnapping and the writing allays all fears of a story written for the sake of tearing at the emotions. The events happened and they were real and someone survived them. And then there’s life that comes after that and strength and determination.

“This is one of the most powerfully-written books I have ever read. Harrowing, hopeful, graceful, redeeming and true. It tells a story of inhumanity and humanity that somehow feels deeply ancient and completely modern. It is beautiful, devastating and heroic – both a shout of defiance and a humbling call to prayer,” is how Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love describes it and I couldn’t agree more.

A House in the Sky: A Memoir of a Kidnapping That Changed Everything Published by Viking Paperback on April 3, 2014

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

The Faraway Nearby

This personal, lyrical narrative about storytelling and empathy from award winner Rebecca Solnit is a fitting companion to her beloved A Field Guide for Getting Lost

In this exquisitely written new book by the author of A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit explores the ways we make our lives out of stories, and how we are connected by empathy, by narrative, by imagination.

In the course of unpacking some of her own stories—of her mother and her decline from memory loss, of a trip to Iceland, of an illness—Solnit revisits fairytales and entertains other stories: about arctic explorers, Che Guevara among the leper colonies, and Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, about warmth and coldness, pain and kindness, decay and transformation, making art and making self. Woven together, these stories create a map which charts the boundaries and territories of storytelling, reframing who each of us is and how we might tell our story.

Solnit is almost magical in her use of colour and connections which draw her stories together and help them flow from the specific to the general; from a bedroom floor full of apricots that in their mountainous quantity lose their delicacy, to her own life and each event building up and culminating in a life lived backwards. She touches individual stories from literature and politics but they all feel personal. Her grace and beautiful make for a lovely reading experience and a touching personal story.

This was one of my favourite books this year.


The Faraway Nearby

Rebecca Solnit

Provided by NetGalley

Ephemeral Knitting #2

I’ve called this post Ephemeral Knitting rather than ‘My week in knitting’ because it occurred to me as I was writing the second week, that I was putting all the stuff together which could be found in something called a magazine.

Hooray, I thought. I’ve always wanted to create a magazine and this might be the ideal way of working off the angst I have about opening a yarn shop which I can’t afford.

(Also, those posts are no longer weekly as it takes me so long to do them. Fortnightly, perhaps.)

All things to do with socks

cute_cable_sock_140305aFollowing the kind-of-success of finishing my first sock (of a pair) I have been fascinated with sock yarn.


Ravelry Threads

Ravelry is a knitter’s community paradise with forums, groups, patterns, yarns and anything to do with knitting or crocheting. I like to read some threads to get ideas and learn about various knitting techniques or patterns.

knitting through a book – Some great suggestions of knitting books that other people have already discovered. One of the first ones to be mentioned was a sock knitting book so that caught my interest. –

Knitting term of the week

Variegated – exhibiting different colours, especially as irregular patches or streaks.


There’s a sale on Sock Yarn with 20% off until March 24,2014 on KnitPicks. There’s this sock tool kit but I can’t tell how useful or not it would be.

Sock patterns

tube_socks_140319aThis Tube socks pattern from the Knitting Bunny looks very nice so it’s on my list of ones to try out.




Stitches / Patterns

single lacy rib stitch_140319aI’ve also had time on the couch since being ill with a chest infection so have been trying a Singular lacy rib stitch from Purl Avenue.




arctic_wrap_140319aPurl Bee – Laura’s Loop: Arctic Wrap

I have been coveting the yarn that goes along with this Wrap, when not coveting the actual wrap itself. I was impressed with how beautiful and simple it looks with the delicate colourwork.
improvised_stitch_holder_140319aA cable stitch that doesn’t need a cable needle. Twisting the Barbara Walker Way – I’ve not tried it out yet but it sounds fun, especially after forgetting my cable stitch holder this morning and having to improvise with a key ring. That was some stressful knitting.




Turkish slanted rib stitch

@purlavenue posted a blog post on a Stockinette Elongated Stitch which contains a dropped slip-stitch which I think looks very similar to this hat pattern I’m trying to find, apart from the slant.



When I suggested it to her she suggested I try the Turkish Slanted rib stitch, so I did.

Close, but no cigar, yet.







I’ve finished my daughter’s scarf in neon orange Schachenmayr and so I’ve been exploring how long a scarf should be anyway. I don’t know. If anyone has any information about this then let me know. She still doesn’t like it.mersinas_scarf_140319a





Some patterns [free] [free]
The Regenerate shawl from Knitty

Nightsongs Nightingale – A dainty and elegant shawl with a repetitive leaf design [free]

Yarns / Shops
I had forgotten which yarn I had bought for my socks and then discovered on the website for Beshley’s Wool that it was Artesano British Wool. To my even greater pleasure, I found two skeins of soft Artesano wool in Red and purple that I had bought months ago and had stashed away.

My other favourite yarn this week is the Madeline Tosh Vintage and it can be bought from various places but here is a store in the UK. A lovely store with Uncommon Thread.

Knitpicks – Hugely popular but I’ve just discovered them.

Loop – beautiful and wonderful yarn.

Sites of the week

Amirisu – A Japanese knitting magazine. Very elegant.


This Ravelry thread on what to do if you want to design knitting patterns is a great resource for anyone interested in that kind of thing.

Video knitting

I learnt, and still learn, how to knit patterns through YouTube and WikiHow or Blogs on the web so I am hugely grateful for all the resources out there. On the Mystery Knit-ALong I finished a few weeks ago, one of the trickiest 3-to-5 stitches was explained through the use of video. When I bought my spinning kit, I had no idea what the instructions were telling me to do so I looked it up on YouTube and managed to spin some yarn that night.

The knitting videos on the Purl Bee website are very helpful.

Ephemeral Knitting Kits – a query

I like knitting kits because everything is all ready to go. No delays, no wait no having to leave the house. Also, I really like the scarf I first knit for my little girl and the one I  just finished.

The Boston Schachenmayr yarn is soft and thick and bright, oh-so-bright, and the end results have been quite fabulous. Let me know If anyone would like to buy a scarf kit containing two skeins of yarn, knitting needles size 6 1/2 mm and some instructions and pictures of how K1P1 rib and K2P2 rib come out. I’m going to research different sizes and will list some colours too. The cost will be £15 so I can try it out.

Because you’ve read this far:

Octopi for premature newborns?

And the final pattern is for a backpack from Lion Brand. I think I registered first before I could access the pattern. It looks useful.

Happy knitting until next week.

Joanna – 19 March, 2014