Category Archives: knit the classics

Reading the 20th Century

(First, and as an aside: I am winning over knitting. The socks are 90% complete and all they need is a Sunday afternoon movie and they will doneski. Take that, knitting ennui! You are not the boss of me!)

Once upon a time there was a group blog called ‘Knit the Classics’, a project in the shape of a virtual book club where participants would read a ‘classic’ book each month and have the option of doing a crafting project to accompany that read. Then, something happened in the Blogger brand of internet and the KTC blog got nixed. The KTC project was revived in part by a Knitting 19th Century Novels group on Ravelry (Ravelry link there), which I’ve been happily participating in (I’d never read Alice in Wonderland before and am excited to read Dracula).

And then I got to thinking that the 20th Century could use a companion group. I started thinking about it months and months ago, and finally now that I’m using my brain to think thoughts again post-thesis I have had enough wherewithal to start on this. Naturally every project needs co-conspirators, so I enlisted the help of my friend Liz who is both a Ravelry user and a knitter, avid reader, and generally friendly and all-around groovy person.

To get this party started we have to come up with a half-dozen or so titles to put on a reading list (I’m sure we’ll end up soliciting suggestions as the group continues, but hey, we gotta start somewhere), so we each went off and tried to come up with a list of 20 titles and are planning a chat this afternoon to start whittling them down. She’s posted her list and since all’s fair in knitting and Reading List Elimination Death Matches, I figured I’d do the same and post mine. Impressively, our lists are almost 100% different, which should make this all the more interesting to choose the first few. Do we go with the most widely-known? Even balance between male and female authors? Alternate late-20th C with early-20th C? A mixture of genres? Short ones? Long ones? Prize-winning ones? Obscure rarely-read ones? Oi with the poodles already.

I don’t know who’s going to survive the bloodbath of the selection process, but by tonight we should have a starting selection. Even a short list of 20 was hard enough that we both copped out and added extra. Here’s mine:

20 from the 20th Century

Lord Jim (1900), by Joseph Conrad
Mrs Dalloway (1925), by Virginia Woolf
The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald
All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque
The Maltese Falcon (1930), by Dashiell Hammet
Rebecca (1938), by Daphne DuMaurier
Nineteen Eighty Four (1949), by George Orwell
The Wicked Pavilion (1954), by Dawn Powell
Catch-22 (1961), by Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse Five (1969), by Kurt Vonnegut
Watership Down (1972), by Richard Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), by Douglas Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), by John Kennedy Toole
The Name of the Rose (1980), by Umberto Eco
Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie
The Color Purple (1983) or Meridian (1976), by Alice Walker
In the Skin of a Lion (1987), by Michael Ondaatje
Oscar and Lucinda (1988 ) or The True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), by Peter Carey
The Remains of the Day (1989), by Kazuo Ishiguro
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) or Girlfriend in a Coma (1989), by Douglas Coupland
A Fine Balance (1995), by Rohinton Mistry

But first, I’m going to finish these socks.

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Summer Distractions

In the heat this past week, my knitting progress has been slooooow. I think I’m also experiencing a bit of knitting ennui, but I think that might be starting to pass. I’m beginning to perk up at the idea of having new projects, which means that I have got to put the pedal to the metal on this honeymoon cami and my 2nd Jaywalker sock. Mama’s got more knittin’ to do.

On the other hand, I’ve been reading.

Summer reads

I’ve been reading Waverley as an alternative to the current Knit the Classics pick, (it’s Mansfield Park, which is neither my favourite Jane Austen novel nor a book I wish to read a second time, although I have indeed been considering a re-read of Pride and Prejudice.). It was starting to slow me down, though, so instead I went looking for some contemporary literature not of the pop crap variety. (Phillipa Gregory, I’m looking at you. I think I may have actually lost brain cells reading The Other Boleyn Girl.)

And lo, in the last few days I’ve torn through Atonement by Ian McEwan (which was GREAT, i think i will look for more by him), and Evening by Susan Minot (which was lovely but makes me very curious how they are going to turn the book into a film, it is far from linear storytelling), and am now contemplating something longer. I’ve had A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry on my shelf for ages and ages, and some fellow grads recommended it to me this week. Also, back towards the classic pics, I’m curious about The Red and The Black by Stendhal, in addition to being a little smug at the idea of using it as a ‘Project Spectrum’ tie-in. (June/July belong to Red, Black, and Metallics ;) )

In other news…my laptop is still not with me. It’s going to be another week at least. F@&%-ing Toshiba. So…I am trying ever more coping mechanisms, and am landing on summer treats, particularly since it is cooler again and I don’t feel the need to hide from the warm kitchen.

Several times a year the Ontario liquor board publishes a ‘Food and Drink’ magazine which is absolutely chock full of recipes, entertaining guides, and short articles. In my volunteer days there were women who would come to meetings in Toronto from other provinces and they would specifically make sure to collect copies of this magazine (it’s free in stores) to take home with them. Handily, all of the recipes are also catalogued online. In the current issue, there is a feature on homemade ice cream sandwiches, at least half a dozen kinds. At the moment, I am coveting the ‘Black Forest’ recipe which uses brownies instead of cookies, and black cherry ice cream mixed with bits of chocolate and cherry liqueur. Oh yeah, baby.

I wonder how fast I can get a few hundred words written so I can justify spending the rest of my day in the kitchen. Then reclining with a book and/or knitting in hand, nibbling on a homemade ice cream sandwich. It’s important to have little fantasies to cling to, right?

Happy long weekend to fellow Canucks!

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Inferno Legwarmers – 2 ways

At Knit the Classics, participants are challenged to work on a knitted or otherwise crafted project to parallel the ‘classic’ novel selection of each month. It’s sort of an online book club with the option of putting your crafting skills to work at the same time. The May 2007 selection was ‘The Inferno’ by Dante Alighieri. So, naturally, I decided to make legwarmers with flames on them. You know, so the flames of Hell can literally lick at your heels. That makes sense, right? ;)

Inferno1large Inferno4

Download the free pattern here:
InfernoLegwarmersPDF

[EDIT]: Hey, look, now it’s a prize-winning pattern, too! Aw, shucks.

Yarn: Patons Classic Merino in ‘black’and ‘regency’. You would need 2 balls of black and 1 ball of regency if you make 1 of each version or if you make both with the flame pattern, and 1 ball of each colour if you are making both with the striped version.
Length: 16.5 ins
Size: To fit leg circumference 14-16 ins around at upper calf.
Needles: 4.5mm and 3.5mm DPNs
Cast on: May 22
Cast off: June 2
Notes: Since I couldn’t decide between the flame motif and the nine circles (one for each of the circles of hell through which Dante descends), I decided to do one of each. There are instructions for both included in the pattern. There is also a vertical band of k1, p1 ribbing at the front and back of the legwarmer to add a bit more cling and structural integrity.

I must say quite like the contrast between the black and the red/orange variegated – it’s one of the new variegated shades of Patons Classic Merino and this was a fun excuse to try it out since I’ve only ever used the solids. And since it is officially June and now in the land of red/black/metallics for Project Spectrum, I suppose I could count this as my first project for that too, right? Look at that, it’s a two-fer!

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Feeling Finished

I finished something last night:

KiltHose

Full pics this weekend when I can do it properly. Maybe if it’s cool enough for the Knit in Public day TTC yarn crawl I can wear them then and ‘represent’ in style.

I’ve also been working on a smaller project for Knit the Classics, which I have until Sunday to finish. (Me + Deadline Knitting = Anxious Me.) The book was Dante’s Inferno, which explains why part of it looks like this (perhaps less blurry in real life):

Inferno1


So, I gotta get the 2nd half finished by Sunday, then contemplate next projects. And put my head in my hands and wonder how it got to be June already. Also, I’ve spent the last couple of evenings engaging my inner fangirl and hunkering down with some Buffy DVDs. Just had to. It’s good for the knitting and frivolity, what can I say. Any other Buffy fans out there?

The humidity and heat has arrived and promptly started sucking the life out of me yesterday – I have to remember to drink more water. On with Friday…May your knitting not be far!

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Filed under finished object: socks, knit the classics

Dangit

(Knit the Classics picks)

I finished The Blind Assassin today at lunch – in the end I quite enjoyed it, although I may have to go back for a bit of a re-read. Is it just me or do some of the final plot reveals come out of flaming nowhere? Most of it I was intrigued by, though. Oh, Margaret Atwood, you so crazeh. I think it is tied with The Woman in White for my favourite pick so far, and although I haven’t knitted anything to tie into either book it wasn’t for lack of ideas. Also, as a pair I think they are interesting glimpses into feminist critique of very different centuries. Brideshead Revisited was fine, but I don’t think the narrative style grabbed me quite so much. It lacked something…more like I was reading several short novels than one whole one.

The Joy Luck Club is up next for April, and would ya lookie there, I am ahead by almost a full week. And it is a good thing I am finishing something around here, because there’s a dire lack of knitting finishing. I’ve been felled by dreaded knitting injury.

(Ice pack on my elbow. Woe, woe is me…)

I’d like to say this past weekend was to blame (and it is true, I did quite a bit of knitting this weekend, trying desperately to finish things and make way for new projects), but in fact I think it is the cumulative result of 2 heavy knitting weekends in a row, without enough ease-up time. I felt the symptomatic stiffness last week, but stupidly ignored it. And alas, now my cruel world has been sans knitting for the past 48 hours. Woe. Is this what it’s like for the rest of the world, people who don’t knit? How can people live like this every day of their lives? I can’t even talk about it.

So, with any luck I’ll be able to get ye olde needles and yarn out again tomorrow night, as I am hoping to get out to the knitting night again and possibly cast on for Poppy. In the mean time, I suppose there are other things I can do besides knit, right? Par example…

(Mmm. MMMM.)

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The Joy of Finishing


The weather continues to fall in line with Project Spectrum’s grey, blue, and white theme for February and March:

(Snowy, fluffy footprints outside a local school.)

And, for the fourth time in as many weeks, some more things are done, around here:

(Patons Kroy Socks, ‘Winter Eclipse’, 3.0 mm needles and basic sock pattern; ‘The Woman in White’ for KTC)

The Woman in White was an enjoyable read, all 730 pages of it, and next up (well, currently up, I should say) with a couple of weeks to spare is Brideshead Revisited. Hey look ma, I can read books again!

As I say, this is the fourth knitted item I’ve cast off in the last few weeks, and without immediately casting on for something new. I’m trying to start a new phase of my knitting life where I take projects one at a time (or two at a time), because lately it’s been more like five-or-six at a time and that’s too many for my psyche to handle. Most of the projects I’ve recently finished were things that were on the needles for a few months, and they were causing me stress with their unfinished-ness because they were holding me back from casting on new things that I wanted to start.

So, new plan. I will not allow my knitting to cause me stress. I will take pleasure in project anticipation without casting on all the time.

I will enjoy my finished objects for their own merits, rather than using them as an excuse to immediately start three new projects.

I will remember that limiting the # of current projects on the needles does not limit my knitting abilities, and that in fact it allows me more freedom to choose what projects to try next.

I will also remember not to be disturbed by mocking laughter, should anyone be amused that I feel the need to write lists like this. ;)

Hey, I always say I like knitting for its challenges, right? ;)

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Filed under finished object: socks, knit the classics, knitting philosophy, project spectrum

Firsts for February

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February has arrived (eek! my deadlines!) along with the beginning of Project Spectrum. I wasn’t in blog-land during the beginning of this enterprise in 2006, but I’m excited to be here for Take #2. The idea behind it is to get knitters/crafters to focus on different parts of the colour wheel, and to incorporate different colours into their projects (or not.)

February and March are dedicated to Blue, Grey, and White. I don’t currently have a blue, grey or white project on the needles – or at least I didn’t think I did, until I remembered my poor wee Patons Kroy ‘Winter Eclipse’ sock that I started a few weeks ago on a whim and then put down again.

(Potential Project Spectrum subjects.)

I hauled it out and did a few rows on it before bed last night. Do you know what the singular joy of knitting with Patons Kroy is? Well, maybe you do. It’s the fact that Kroy is plump enough that you can knit it on 3.0mm needles. I underestimated the increase in speed that happens when you go from 64 sts on 2.75mm to 60 sts on 3.0mm. Woo hoo! I might actually finish these socks just as a side project! Plus, knitting from my stash, bonus there.

The February Project Spectrum also makes me feel a little reassured and possibly even vindicated for not having finished The Woman in White yet, which was the January selection over at Knit the Classics. (It may be a Victorian gothic potboiler but it is also 700 pages long. I feel some slack-cutting is deserved.) So I am making the bold move of allowing myself to slot that reading into a Project Spectrum project, in the thematic sense.

Me, this morning: “The groundhogs call for an early spring.”
My sister (singsongy): “I don’t believe them.”
Me: “Neither do I.”

In Groundhog Day news, apparently Wiarton Willie calls for an early spring, as does Punxsutawney Phil, although given the way the wind has been blowing through Ontario these days, I’m still holding out some skepticism. And besides, the longer winter lasts, the longer I get to wear my sweaters and socks. ;)

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"Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it."

Over at Knit the Classics, knitters read a different ‘classic’ novel each month, and are challenged to come up with a knitting project that matches the novel in some way. December’s novel was, appropriately, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I decided to knit this cap, for reasons I shall explain further below (along with the pattern for the cap). Time will tell if it’s at all clever or just plain dull ;)

(Bob Cratchit’s stocking night cap – or is it Scrooge’s?
Briggs & Little sport-weight 1-ply)

By the end of the first chapter of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge makes his way back to his large but cold and dark house. Despite the fact that he is extremely well off, he doesn’t even bother to light all the gaslamps in his home because light costs money – “Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” He dresses in simple bedtime attire and eats a bowl of gruel before retiring – “Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.”

We aren’t given an impression at this point of what the home life of his clerk, Mr. Cratchit, must be like, but given the miserly wages that we are led to understand Mr. Scrooge pays him, we can assume it is quite meagre. By the time we see the Cratchits on Christmas Day, we are shown that their merry feast is gratefully received but still quite sparse – the goose isn’t very fat, and Mrs. Cratchit frets over the pudding because if it doesn’t work out there is nothing else to serve instead.

It occurred to me, reading these passages, that Scrooge and Cratchit’s day-to-day home lives are actually quite similar on a material level – the only difference is that Scrooge keeps himself in a simple and modest lifestyle because of his miserly inclinations, but Cratchit is forced to do so by necessity. I began thinking of the kinds of basic, modest garments they might both wear – knee socks came to mind, particularly with the cold winter – and eventually settled on the idea of the night cap. We know Scrooge wears one and I can only guess that Cratchit does, too.


In my stash I have had a couple of skeins of very simple, very utiliatrian sport weight wool from Briggs & Little, just waiting for a project to complete it. I thought it matched the basic materiality of A Christmas Carol‘s humble beginnings quite well, and so the nightcap pattern seemed to fit. Here is the pattern, for those of you who would like to try it!

Scrooge/Cratchit Night Cap

Size:
One
22 ins circumference, 19 ins (approx.) from brim to top
(to modify the size, simply add or subtract from the given # of CO sts by a multiple of 4)

Materials:
1 skein Briggs & Little sport weight 1 ply (or other sport weight yarn to substitute, approx. 420 yds), dark grey

1 40 cm 3.5 mm circular needle
1 40 cm 3.25 mm circular needle (or DPNs)
1 set 3.5mm DPNs
tapestry needle
stitch markers

Gauge:
6 sts/8 rows per inch on 3.5mm needles, or needle size required to match gauge

Pattern:

Available here.

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