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Crocheted rib cowl

Not sponsored and even though I mention brand names, there are no affiliate links or anything of the sort

I’ve not written much about any type of craft recently but thought I would mention this new crocheted rib cowl that I’m making for the second time.

I started to crochet less than a year ago because I was looking to make a baby blanket and I wanted to make one like the ones my friends Kimberlee and Mouse made for their babies. I couldn’t find any knitting patterns that were similar and then discovered Granny Squares. It was a bit of a revelation. Well, for the next 11 months or so, I didn’t know there was more to crocheting than Granny Squares. I bought lovely yarn and made many. At some point I moved on to another project and part of the reason was that my baby had arrived and her wonderful auntie Jenny had already crocheted her a perfect blanket herself so I wasn’t as motivated as I had been.

Lois's baby blanket from Auntie Jenny

The granny squares are still unjoined but I learnt to love crochet.

I have found that it’s easier for me to crochet than knit because the project isn’t as likely to unravel. When I’ve crocheted enough, I take out the hook, pull the loop to make it longer, and put it all away for another day. With knitting, and especially lace knitting, there is so much that can go wrong and with my sleep deprivation and lack of energy, I just couldn’t find it in me to make some of the more creative stuff.

Crochet seems to be more comforting, mindless (depending on the pattern – see Sophie’s Universe) and quicker for me.

Unlike with knitting, where I already knew some of the basic stitches, I found crocheting harder in terms of learning the physical process of it. There was a proper learning curve with in-built frustration and lots of repetition required to perfect / learn the techniques. I could create a chain with no problem but then making the magic circle was incredibly tough for me and also learning how to hold the yarn with the right amount of tension.

I used two books I borrowed from the library and plenty of YouTube videos. I still couldn’t do a magic circle until I found a new technique from one of the most amazing CALs (crochet a long’s) I’ve ever been part of and read. Hours and hours of work have contributed to this tutorial for the Sophie’s Universe project. Also, this Facebook group of crocheters is genuinely the nicest group I’ve belonged to. There is rarely any arguing at all and the members spend a lot of time supporting each other and praising everyone’s work. It also represents a hell of a lot of countries.

So here we are to the mindless but great crocheted rib cowl:

 

Crocheted rib cowl in Skeino

Finished rib cowl in Skeino

 

I had some luxurious and beautiful yarn by Skeino that I wanted to make sure I used up so I found something that I thought would be easy and that I would wear. I mainly scrolled through Pinterest while nursing Lois.

 

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Skein of Skeino from Yarnbox March

 

 

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Half-way through the Skeino crocheted rib cowl

I am now making the same cowl but with Manos del Uruguay yarn from the Clasica range.

 

boxed yarn

Manos del Uruguay yarn, Clasica, from Yarnbox April shipment

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Crocheted rib cowl in Manos Clasica

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Half-way through crocheted rib cowl in Manos Clasica

I’m not sure it’s turning out as nicely so will see. I may even try to find a different pattern but so far the actual crafting itself is nice.

After writing this I remembered a competition that Deramores had for blogging about a trend and the chance to win £500 worth of yarn. The competition is now closed but there are six blog posts about different trends and the rib cowl is one of the ones written about – crocheting that looks like knitting. If you’re interested, the blogs are here. They seem to be great crafty blogs too.

The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds and how men get to speak while women stay silent

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The following are some thoughts after seeing the show:

I have just watched the Secret Life of 4 Year Olds which is based on observation over two weekends, each six months apart, observing children. The men with PhDs, who said they had never been able to listen to children like that before (this group of children wore microphones), were the only ones who commented on behaviour while the female teachers were not shown expressing any opinion even though they had a lot more contact with children this age. This felt one-sided. 

The children were fascinating but I won’t comment on their behaviour. 

Channel 4 describes the show as follows: 

 This documentary follows 10 four-year-olds as they meet at nursery, exploring how children make and break friendships, share, stand up for themselves, and find their place in a new social group.

Dr Paul Howard -Jones is from the University of Bristol and one of two educational neuroscientists who observe the children from behind the scenes by observing the action on monitors. The show cuts away at regular intervals to the two male scientists reacting to the children while watching them and listening on headphones. 

Jones said :”Even though I wasn’t interacting with the children, I found myself becoming incredibly involved, emotionally, in the narratives that were developing for each individual child.”

The other scientist was Dr Sam Wass from the Cognition and Brain Science Unit at Cambridge University.

The two women who do interact with the children are “highly trained teachers” and their profiles are not posted on the website and their opinions are not sought. 

 The questions I have about this show 

 1. How much of children’s  behaviour is copied from their carers? 

 2. How can the scientists draw conclusions from the children’s actions without seeing how their carers behave? 

3. Do the teachers agree with all the conclusions?

 4. what do the teachers have to add about individual children and group behaviour based on their experience and education?

5. What do they think about the limitations and benefits of filming  children over such short periods of time?

How dumb do you have to be to call a baby lazy?

The first person who implied my seven day old newborn was lazy was the midwife. She was teasing, supposedly, and when talking about how Lois slept a lot she said “it’s a hard life, isn’t it?” in a sarcastic tone. She was a very helpful health professional who showed me how to breastfeed, checked that we were both ok and made sure I knew what to do in an emergency. She was brilliant but there was still something in her tone that implied my child, any child that age, was lazy.

Today on instagram, a woman with a baby born under a week ago called her baby lazy for sleeping all the time. She probably meant to be funny and cute but she made me angry.

A woman in a blog post a few months ago didn’t know why people were criticising her for saying her two-year-old had nothing to worry or get upset about and then listed a whole host of reasons that effectively made fun of him for getting upset at things like having a green rather than a blue sippy cup. He had told her jokingly that he’d been having a tough day so she wrote a blog post mocking him. She didn’t understand the criticism.

My child is just over three weeks old. She can’t hold her head up and can’t control her body movements and has no control of her life at all. She is defenceless and vulnerable and has to sleep a lot and feed to grow. I don’t think it’s easy to grow a whole body from nothing. I think the energy it takes induces lethargy to the extent that the only time in my life I can remember being like that is when I had the measles and thought that I might be dying.

Growing is tough for a little baby. Losing the few things that are familiar to you in a world you simply can’t understand must be tough for a two year old. Life doesn’t feel easy for a lot of the time but when you’re little, things being different to normal are unexplained and can bring on a terror close to thinking you’re going to die.

A mum walked out of St Michael’s Hospital two days ago with her four-day-old baby in her arms. The police found and identified their bodies in the last 24 hours. That baby was utterly defenceless and had no chance and no choice.

Not lazy. Just growing and defenceless.

What does 4G testing mean for Bristol?

This post was not written by me

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The rise of the famed 4G mobile internet network has a lot more significance to the smartphone users of today than just a flurry of Kevin Bacon adverts.

Short for fourth generation, 4G provides mobile internet at considerably faster speeds than its predecessor, 3G, averaging around six megabytes per second compared to the average speeds of one megabyte per second during the 3G era.

While it may not sound like much, this increase in speed has given rise to a whole new host of opportunities for those who browse on the go. Whereas 3G could scarcely do more than open an email or allow a user to access a relatively uncomplicated website, 4G is apt for video streaming, video calls and more.

But how has 4G affected Bristol? In August of this year, mobile telecommunications giant O2 announced that they were commencing 4G testing in the area. At the time, the company kept quiet about testing, choosing to tell their followers on Twitter that anybody experiencing 4G was doing so because of the testing.

However, keen to outdo their competitors Three and EE (Everything Everywhere), O2 soon began bringing their services to the city. Masts are now springing up everywhere around the city in locations such as Ashton Road, which has already proven to have speeds far higher than the aforementioned average of six megabytes per second.

A test taken in the area this August near the Dovecote Pub revealed that smartphone users could actually achieve download speeds of up to 57.3 megabytes per second, while upload speeds of 21.9 megabytes per second were equally as impressive. With speeds faster than those afforded by most home broadband packages, the rise of 4G could mean big changes for Bristol.

As one of the most populous areas of Britain, Bristol has its fair share of mobile internet demands, particularly in city centres where Wi-Fi facilities can only do so much. This gives Bristol’s residents the chance to take on all that the internet has to offer, with the mobile internet offering of today extending beyond just communication.

The online gaming world, for instance, has only grown in popularity thanks to the the availability of wireless internet and the new range of choice out there. For example, games at MrSmithCasino have come a long way in recent years, moving away from traditional slot games to incorporating gamification and working to many topical themes.

So whether we’re gaming, talking to our friends on Facetime or just checking our emails, the rise of 4G can only be good news for Bristol.

Week 3: the Sense of an Ending vs Infinite Skies

This week’s choices are a good opportunity to explore the definition of a Bristol novel. When I was crowd sourcing the books for my list, I tried to impose as few limits as possible so the long list could actually be long. There just aren’t that many works of fiction associated with Bristol.

I didn’t know whether having a Local author or setting or theme would be the appropriate criteria and I was open to going with whatever seemed right.

I ended up thinking that the novel itself had to represent Bristol culturally and physically. A Bristol novel wouldn’t just come from the domicile of the authors but would be the fictional space the city occupies in the creative world.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I left a book on the list because the author lived in Bristol and I didn’t check the setting.

Infinite Skies is a novel from the Young Adult genre, written by University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing MA alumnus Chelsey Flood. C.J. Flood is 29 and likes to work in the Bristol Central Library which also occupies a big part of my Bristol heart.

Unfortunately that’s about as Bristolian as the amble about Infinite Skies gets. Its protagonist Iris is 13 and her mother has just left their home to travel around and, presumably, find herself. Older brother Sam is struggling to cope and dad is having a hard time and it all gets worse when a group of travellers move in on the family’s land. The story is set near Derby and not in the south west at all.

Any kind of interest or suspense in the story is slowly killed off with the overwriting however and it feels like technique is prioritised, rather than used for effect, which is the wrong choice to make.

The characters are all likeable enough but the storyline is not strong enough to compel further reading.

I’m stealing from someone else when I say this but it’s relevant if not original: similes and metaphors are used to help the reader picture and understand a situation. With access to so much information, these days, the need for these literary techniques has been drastically reduced.

Flood fills most pages with constant description, similes and metaphors and when we finally got to a sunset looking like Chinese pork, I had to give up pretending I could stand it.

When each scene feels like a creative writing exercise then the story has taken second place.

Power of expression: 7/10
Bristol content: 0/15
Bristol integration: 0/15
Well written: 7/10

Total: 14/50

I am sad to say that Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending is this week’s winner because I disliked it, a lot. However it does have some Bristol content.

A group of boys form a friendship in high school, go off to separate universities, something a bit dramatic happens with friendships and girlfriends and that’s the end of part one.

Part two starts consists of our much older protagonist revisiting the past because of a discovery. He spends a lot of time being tedious on purpose, as he tells us. He has an unpleasant and judgemental ex-wife with who he is still friends.

He isn’t particularly likeable and he is forced to face an unpleasant letter he wrote as a young man when his girlfriend left him for one of his best friends. It seemed a perfectly reasonable time to be unpleasant, if you ask me. If you can’t be vile at that point in your life, when can you be?

The plot is very boring and I expect Barnes thought he was being clever by putting in an irrational and erratic ex-girlfriend to show off the unexpected behaviour in the past that our hero/non -hero was not even aware of. I found her behaviour in the end more than a bit ludicrous and pointless.

I had to force myself to finish it but there were two points which I quite liked. One, there was a good use of the Clifton Suspension Bridge as both a Bristol tourist spot and a theoretical suicide location; and two, in one of the literary bits, Barnes pontificates on a philosopher’s wish to a newborn baby, “May you lead a boring life,” and this resonated with me.

Barnes got his wish but it’s not much of one to bestow on a newly born piece of fiction. This is a boring book with barely a hero’s journey to speak of.

In 2011, The Sense of an Ending won the Man Booker prize but then Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize while keeping people locked up without charge in Guantanamo and killing more people while in power than Bush did. Awards are wrong all the time.

Power of expression: 5/10
Bristol content: 5/15
Bristol integration: 9/15
Well written: 6/10

Total: 25/50

Week 2: The Shock of the Fall vs The Choice

Pitting Susan Lewis against Nathan Filer is like making Tweetie bird fight Muhammad Ali and I just don’t have it in me. Well, I do but I’ll do my best to keep as bloodless as possible.

filer_nathan_shock_of_the_Fall_140225a vs susan lewis_the choice

The Shock of the Fall describes the life of a boy from Bristol dealing with his grief at the death of his brother and experience of mental health care services for schizophrenia. The Choice is about a young girl (21, not 19 as the blurb says) who falls pregnant, falls out with her parents and then is confronted by a choice no parent should have to make.

Whereas Filer’s first book is sparse and clear, Lewis’s writing is filled with adjectives, adverbs and every possible type of description she could find.

There are mischievous eyes, eyes full of mischief and eyes of grey lead. Hearts surge, worried faces light up, voices soften with tenderness, or are husky with pride. Cliches fill the pages, serving no purpose other than to provide fodder for those who don’t have the time to turn on their television at midday and catch another made-for-TV-melodrama.

We don’t even find out what The Choice is until about 300 pages in to a 500 page novel and then every possible plot combination gets thrown in for good measure.

In direct contrast, Filer shows and never tells. As the writer he doesn’t presume anything about our understanding. Every word in the Shock of the Fall is direct and helps the story. He is a storyteller because he has a story to tell and nothing more. Lewis’s 26th* novel is an example of pulp publication where words are put in one after the other and spat out to people who just want to stay distracted for a few hours and aren’t too fussed about engaging and growing with their characters.

One thing Lewis does do well, however, is write about Bristol. It doesn’t matter whether the story requires it, and it seldom does, but if you read the Choice, you’ll find yourself finding out all about Brunel, Corn Street, Broadmead, the Banana bridge, the ss Great Britain, Southville, the Tobacco Factory and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. All are mentioned quite familiarly by the Bristol writer and are well written. They add nothing to the story, however. Lewis could just as easily have set her story somewhere else and it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The Shock of the Fall is not inherently Bristolian but unlike Lewis, Filer touches on location only where he has to. The occasional mention of Kingsdown in passing doesn’t have to mean much but when his protagonist talks to a homeless man on the corner of Jamaica Street and Stokes Croft (not Cheltenham Road as he writes) we Bristolians, know exactly what he’s talking about and why it’s easy to make that mistake. The area adds to the story, to the characters, it needs no further explanation.

One of the most poignant scenes takes a Bristolian landmark and misses it. The protagonist Matthew Homes’ mother, tells him of how she had tried to find the Clifton Suspension Bridge when she was younger and in despair about what to do wanted to jump off it but ended up circling around Clifton instead. Bristol is integrated into the story, not an aside, not a random description. Filer does it beautifully. The Shock of the Fall won Best First Novel and Book of the Year at the 2013 Costa Book Awards.

The winner this week, Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall, was never in doubt but it’s interesting to see that even though Lewis wrote pages and pages about Bristol, the snippets which Filer uses add more to a Bristolian sense of his work than constant references used as filler.

Apologies for the delay in the Bristol Book Tournament

The book tournament was meant to start on the 1st of June but as yet I haven’t published a thing. My apologies for the delay. About a month ago my computer broke down and it has taken a month to get it fixed again. By fixed, I mean I ordered a new hard drive and replaced it. Fought and battled with courier companies to bring the hard drive and the recovery disks for the operating system and then went ahead and installed Ubuntu because the disks didn’t work for me.

I’m now back though and while I haven’t been writing, I have been reading so the book tournament is back on.

Thank you for your patience and possibly forgetfulness.

The 7 best places to read in Bristol

In honour of World Book Day, which in my household is like saying we need to celebrate World Oxygen Day, I have been thinking of the best places to read around Bristol.

1. On a sunny day, at the edge of the Floating Harbour, near where the ferry docks to take passengers to the other side for 80p.  Recommended reads: The Cider House Rules or A Prayer for Owen Meany, both by John Irving and perfectly crafted to shine a light on all that is beautiful in people’s lives.

2. On Brandon Hill, with an ice cream from Double Vee Moo. People love to talk about the amazing views but unless you climb to the top of Cabot Tower, the sights of south Bristol aren’t that exciting. Recommended reads: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer or Love by Angela Carter, two Bristol novels showcasing the seamier side of the people in our city and the madness within all of us.

3. At Castle Park just past the beginning of spring when the trees are full of white blossoms and the grass carpeted with lunchtime passersby. Recommended read: Be Here Now by Ram Dass – feel at one with nature while in direct contact with bugs and ants running around your feet.

4. At the Watershed where for the price of a green tea or Americano you can enjoy the spacious surroundings with little pressure to hurry and leave. Recommended read: The American by Martin Booth to suit your black coffee (or whiskey) and the stormy nights reflected on the water of the harbour outside your window. Sit near the window.

5. Small Street Espresso / Full Court Press / Didn’t You Do Well. The three best coffee shops in Bristol. You may not want to stay for hours because the excellent selections will bring in lots of people wanting your seat but that one coffee and a few pages will make it worthwhile. Recommended read: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey to honour the great, great notion that all three sets of cafe owners had in opening their splendid establishments.

6. Papadeli at the RWA or Alma Vale Road opposite the Sainsbury’s car park. Delicious worldwide treats and sublime cakes and sandwiches are a perfect accompaniment to something classical. Take War and Peace or something by Jane Austen.

7. Alma Tavern near Beshley’s Wool Shop. Browse the wool shop first for some crafting ideas and when you select your heart’s desire go sit in the spacious pub and accompany a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with Cupcakes and Kalsnikovs about female foreign correspondents or The Ashford book of dyeing.

Enjoy.

filer_nathan_shock_of_the_Fall_140225a ramdass be here now cupcakes and kalashnikovs

This week in knitting, February 24 to March 2

I spend more time on knitting than on anything else these days, so I thought it would be useful to keep track of the things I do and find.

New Courses

homemademama_cable_140305aKnitting lessons – The Homemade Mama teaches many different skills for knitters with skills from beginners to more knowledgeable. All materials and patterns are provided and the cost for 2.5 hours is only £15.

 

New sites

Knitty  – a free online knitting magazine

Verena Stricken – A German knitting magazine with some out-of-the-ordinary designs and patterns.

Stickpodden – A Swedish podcast about knitting which I discovered from someone knitting a hat on instagram (see below for Kirstin Kurbitz hat). It is so great it makes me want to learn Swedish just to understand it.

Stitchlinks – In my cyclical wonderings about whether I’ll ever study for a PhD, mostly led by my love of university libraries and nostalgia at exploring the American Literature shelves, I Googled PhD in knitting.

One link was for some Doctoral work in the therapeutic value of knitting, with funding secured by Stitchlinks. There is information about the benefits of knitting, or more accurately, about the benefits inherent in the externalities of knitting, i.e. the side affects, as such.

Ravelry is a large and rich community for all types of knitters and commuters so this is a firm favourite. The new thing I discovered this week was the Patterns forum.

New patterns / techniques
Knitting with dental floss – beading: http://chaosvortex.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/i-try-beading-with-dental-floss.html

Rib and welt pattern: http://www.yarnspirations.com/stitch-gallery-rib-and-welt-pattern

spiral_mitten_pattern_140305ahttp://heknitsnspins.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/spiral-mitten-pattern/

New yarns

Sweet Merino DK - George - Colour Adventures (fibers: superwash merino) Colour Adventures  George DK

 

 

 

superkid_silk-fingering_yarn_140305aUndyed Yarn

 

 

 
corriedale_wool_silver_140305aUndyed Fibres

 

 

 

Self striping sock yarn from Eaden Yarns Self striping sock yarns from Eaden Yarns

 

 

 

New projects

Karin Kurbits hat knit by Stormblomma

I discovered the pattern for Karin’s Kurbitz hat from Stormblomma who I follow on Instagram.

 

 

 

Works in progress

cute_cable_socks_140227a My “cute cable socks” went from an unfinished beginning to a complete single sock which fits only with a lot of effort.

 

 

Still, that’s progress, and it’s a real sock. cute_cable_sock_140305a

 

 

 

 

Mersina's scarf in Schachenmayr Boston neon orangeMersina’s scarf in neon bright orange Boston from Schachenmayr, my new favourite yarn for scarves.

I cast on 16 stitches and am doing it in K1 P1 rib. I like it. The yarn is soft and lovely and thick and warm.

 

Finished projects
I finished the shawl for the Follow Your Arrow Knit-a-long.

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My final pattern choices were AAAAA but turns out I didn’t love the initial A so I’ve started a new shawl and am beginning with B.

 

 

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Let’s see how this one goes.

 

 

 

Resources
Tools to Help You Convert Knitting Patterns

The statistical probability of falling in love at first sight, by Jennifer E. Smith

The statistical probably of falling in love at first sight must be infinitesimal unless there is a relationship and the two people are meant to come together. That’s the beauty of statistics and love. One says it is highly unlikely and the other suggests that nothing is random.

Our main character has just missed the flight to her father’s wedding across the world and the only thing that makes this a sad event is that she is forced to wait for another flight. She hates to go, she hates the wedding and she hates his new bride.

Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.
A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

In this very well written story which is meant for a young adult audience, the story and the characters are written clearly and with a touch of sympathy which leaves no one unlikable.

This is Jennifer E. Smith’s fourth novel and one I highly recommend for younger readers.