Wednesday, February 29, 2012

12 in 12 books: February

February proved to be goodish on the book-buying front. I bought two books. So I'm now a bit ahead of where I should be with my book-buying, but I hope I can be more restrained somewhere later in the year to compensate.

Feb books

As with my clothes buying challenge last year, limiting my book-buying has revealed previously unacknowledged habits and attitudes. One of the things I've discovered about myself is that I find it almost impossible, if I'm by myself, to have a coffee or lunch out without a book to read. It must be the kind of deep association that cigarette smokers have with drinking tea or coffee. It's not that I'm at all embarrassed or uncomfortable about eating alone in public - in fact, I quite enjoy it. I don't feel the need to retreat behind a book. Maybe it's just because I was never allowed to read at the table as a child that I find reading while eating so pleasurable.

I blame my first book purchase for the month on that habit. I was in the city and needed to have lunch and I didn't have a book with me. I felt a deep need to have a book to read and so I bought Anne Enright's 2007 Booker prize-winning novel 'The Gathering'. I'm deeply concerned about the viability of publishers and publishing in the transition from real books to e-books. I don't disapprove of e-books. I think anything that makes reading easier, more accessible and pleasurable for people is to be lauded. But I am concerned that publishers find ways to continue to make book production profitable so that good writing gets published. One of the outcomes of this rethinking of publishing practices seems to me to be an outbreak of schemes to market cheap books. In Australia, where inscrutable world-wide book distributing agreements have meant very expensive books for many years, this is an unexpected pleasure. This book of Anne Enright's was only $9.95 as it was part of a celebration of Vintage's first 21 years as a publisher. They republished 21 of their most successful books. A present for their readers.

Buying Charles Dickens 'Our Mutual Friend' was a mistake; but not a mistake I will regret. My book group had decided we should read or reread some 'classics' and decided on 'Dombey and Son'. For some reason I thought the book we'd selected was 'Our Mutual Friend' and bought a copy. I've now discovered my mistake. But I suspect reading one Dickens will make me want to read another, so this can happily join my growing pile of books to read in 2012. And it also cost only $9.95. For whatever reason (copyright?) 'classics' are sold more cheaply. Dickens is very good value reading - you get lots of words for your dollar!

My 2012 reading has been slowed down over the last few weeks by reading Frank Moorhouse's doorstop of a book - 'Cold Light', which I hasten to add was a Christmas gift - I didn't buy it. Such a wonderful read. It's the third book in a trilogy about Edith Campbell Berry, who, as a young woman leaves Australia to work for the League of Nations in the cause of world disarmament. By this final book in the trilogy Edith returns to Australia in 1950 after the second world war doomed the ideals of the League of Nations and she finds herself out of a job. Edith settles in Canberra in the vain hope of gaining a diplomatic position, but finds herself caught up in the planning of Canberra and the movement to resist the banning of Communism. The book is a most wonderful combination of a personal story and political and diplomatic settings and events. Thoroughly recommended for whenever you need a BIG book to read.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Enough. Move on.

I've called an end to my bunting flag knitting. Ten bunts.

Bunt circle

It's easy, addictive knitting - so addictive I could just keep knitting bunts until I run out of odds and ends of sock yarn. As I was knitting the bunts I found myself becoming more adventurous with mixing yarns in various combinations of stripes - partly because it used up the bits and pieces of yarn I had, but also because with repetitive tasks it's almost impossible not to try variations on a theme. I love variations on a theme.

Bunt line

But ten bunts is enough. I could go on, but it's distracting me from other knitting. And with all the reports of bunting on blogs, ravelry and facebook, I'm sure we'll have enough for our strings of bunting for the Royal Easter Show.

Bunts column

Monday, February 13, 2012


I don't usually think of myself as an obsessive person. I think I'm both too easily bored and too lazy to really cultivate obsessions. But I have to admit that my liking for garter stitch knitting does border on obsession. My knitting over the last few weeks has taken garter stitch geometry to a new level of preoccupation (a nice euphemism for obsession).

There's the log cabin squares I've already written about. You knit one square and then knitters know what happens next. One square leads to another - 'this time I'll just adjust the size of the commencing square; this time I'll make the borders of different depths; this time I'll do some stripes' - and in a relatively short time I'd finished four squares.

Buncha squares 2

That was when I finally had to face up to the fact that I didn't have nearly enough yarn to finish a blanket or throw of any useful size and that the yarn had been discontinued. So I tried all the usual suppliers for this yarn - in Australia, in the USA, in the UK, in Canada, and while most of them had some balls of the Mission Falls 1824 cotton at wonderfully discounted prices, most of them didn't have the colours I needed. Then Ravelry came to the rescue. I posted that I was looking for this yarn and various helpful people sent me the results of systematic searches they had made through Ravelry stashes. As an outcome, after a number of suitably apologetic and beseeching emails to Ravellers, I assembled my yarn. This blanket or throw when finished will have more airmiles and postage attached to it than anyone would think possible. Bits of yarn came from Canada; some from the USA; some from interstate; and some after a car trip to Berry on the south coast. Perhaps this has been a bit obsessive after all.

But even the squares have had to make way for another garter stitch binge. Along with some friends and members of the Inner City branch of the NSW Knitters Guild we're making a string of bunting*. This is a kind of double obsession for me - not only garter stitch but also bunting. It follows on from the cloth bunting I made for a Christmas swap and the Bye Baby Bunting cardi I knitted for a colleague's new baby.

Bunts 2

So, I'm sharing with knitting friends an obsession for knitting triangular garter stitch flags (bunts) from sock wool scraps. They're breaking out over twitter and facebook in plains and stripes and even quarters. Great fun. There's even an emerging vocabulary. The flags themselves are bunts. People knitting them are bunters. The obsession is bunterism. I think we're going to have a very long, very varied string of bunting.

So my current knitting switches between log cabin squares and bunts. Very geometric. Very neat. Lots and lots of garter stitch. I imagine I'll tire of all this repetitive garter stitch sometime, but just for the moment it's very satisfying.

* In case you're interested in sharing the bunting craze, we're using an adaptation of Karen Wessel's pattern - casting on 55 stitches rather than the 35 of the original pattern as we want the bunting to draw attention to itself.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sock rest

It's taken me ages to finish these socks. There were several stops and restarts - the final one just a few rows short of the toe on the second sock. My enthusiasm for sock knitting seems to have dwindled; I hope only temporarily.

Fair Isle and shoes
Fair Isle socks

There are pluses and minuses to these socks. I really like the colour combination - camel and grey. A very classic combination. I like the plainness of the old-fashioned Patonyl sock yarn in stocking stitch and the slightly irregular fine stripes on the toes. However, I think the patterned band at the top of the socks doesn't really work well. The fleur de lys and heart pattern is lovely before you put on the sock, but once the pattern is stretched around my admittedly generously sized legs the pretty pattern is distorted. Maybe a fair isle pattern would work better around the ankle where the fabric is not stretched to the same extent.

Fair Isle socks 2

The fair isle motifs and stripey toes are taken from Kristen Kapur's Sockstravaganza pattern that features in Julie Turjoman's book "Brave New Knits'. But I omitted the cabling and travelling stitches on the body of the socks to limit their extravagance.

For the first time in several years I have no socks on the needles. I think I might leave it that way for a little while and have a sock rest, even though there are a couple of Nancy Bush patterns I'm finding very attractive (what a surprise!)

Fair Isle socks and shoes 2

Saturday, February 4, 2012

12 in 12 books: January

I forgot to post about my progress with my personal challenge to buy only 12 books in 2012. So far, so good.

Alice Waters

I bought only one book - Alice Waters' cookbook 'The Art of Simple Food' which, though published only in 2007, is already well on the way to becoming a classic. I'm hoping it will inspire me to cook simple meals with fresh ingredients, frequently. Once upon a time I think I was regarded as quite a competent cook; but living by myself has made me lazy. I'm fully aware that buying cookbooks has a kind of magical quality to it - you trick yourself into believing that somehow the act of buying the book will of itself improve the quality of your cooking. I know what I really need to do is overcome my laziness about putting effort into cooking for myself: but I am hoping that the new book will provide sufficient inspiration to overcome my laziness.

By the way, I've added an exception to my no-book-buying resolution. I'm allowed to buy gift books for others. This is a necessary variation as I just couldn't manage without buying books for my grandchildren.

Even though I've not bought books I have been reading. Mainly I'm still reading books I was given at Christmas time and books I bought last year. I also read some of my daughter's books when I was staying at her place. So far I haven't lacked for very pleasurable things to read. But this challenge has made me realise that I'm in the habit of just popping into bookshops if I have a few minutes to spare. The Bookshop of Doom in the Devonshire Street tunnel is a particular temptation on my way home from work, and a visit to the city seems incomplete without a few minutes in Kinokuniya.