Underwater December 2, 2011Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Edinburgh, Knitting, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Small things.
…That’s a comment on how wet it is up here, by the way. It’s been raining horizontally on and off for about a week.
I was walking down to the library about ten past eight this morning. You know, when it’s got to the point where you’re just following your feet, and you’ve stopped noticing things around you? I’ve been trying to fend it off of late, because Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and I don’t have very long to enjoy it – only this year – but it’s caught up with me recently. And, as I was walking past Bristo Square, I spotted something on the railings.
It was World AIDS day yesterday, which I assume accounts for it.
Yarn bombing is one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ll tell you for why. I always seem to see it when there’s a lot going on around me, when I’m up to my eyeballs in late nights and my head is spinning with all the things I should have done and I haven’t yet. And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there are knitters. If I didn’t knit, it would still say to me that someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to brighten things up. That would just be fabulous all by itself. But as a knitter myself, it feels like a reminder that even though it’s getting dark at 4 o’clock, even though I’ve barely seen the outside for quite a while and I haven’t had an evening in to myself where I haven’t had to work in weeks… some things are constant. There are people out there who take a bit of time to knit red ribbons and tie them on railings. There are people who still think that’s a worthwhile use of their time – which, of course, I have to wholeheartedly agree with.
It’s like someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to just reach across and say hey, hang on a minute – how are you?
…All the way down the road. I don’t know if you can see it.
I won NaNoWriMo the other day. It’s been good to take a bit of time out – I’ve met some fantastic people and learned a lot about myself. It was a lot easier to keep going than this time last year. I discovered, though, that it’s a bad idea to force myself to research about wartime mental illness when the nights are drawing in. That on top of work – my first essay went in this morning, one down, two to go. I’ve had to be pretty careful – yet another reason that seeing knitting just made it all a bit better.
My camera’s playing up at the moment – sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t. But I have FOs to show you, and I’m determined to find the time soon! Maybe I should instate WIP Wednesday, or whatever it is that the other bloggers are doing these days. Something to think about.
The Satanic Verses November 7, 2011Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Edinburgh, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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I’ve just gone onto Wikipedia, and found out the plot of Salman Rusdie’s The Satanic Verses. It was interesting.
Of course, I’ve heard of the book before – who hasn’t? It’s practically synonymous with Rushdie’s name, with controversy, with all kinds of things – for the last few months, there’s been an exhibition about banned books at the National Library of Scotland, and I’ve gone round at least three times since August. The Satanic Verses was all over it, that and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
The last time I went round the exhibition, I went with my mother.
“Do you know what it’s about?” She didn’t. She remembered the controversy, the protests, the fatwah, but she had no idea what the book was about, and neither did I. The exhibition wasn’t particularly enlightening on that front, although if I hadn’t known the plot of Lady Chatterley before I went in, I certainly did when I came out.
On Saturday, I went to Leeds, to see DV8’s new performance, ‘Can We Talk About This?’ I had no idea what I was going in to see – I didn’t look it up in advance – but it was one of the most thought-provoking pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. It’s based around interviews with all kinds of people, and has the basic premise of comment on how British attachment to multiculturalism means that it is failing to protect people who need to be protected. It focuses on radical Islam. There’s discussion of forced marriage, vigilantes, the murder or intimidation of writers and artists and film-makers accused of committing blasphemy, allegations of racism against people suggesting integration, or one law for everyone to abide by, or that Sharia might not be the right legal system for Britain.
I don’t know where I sit about this: it was more partisan than I was expecting. I think I need to read more about it.
And yes, there was a bit about Salman Rushdie, and The Satanic Verses, and how dreadfully controversial it was and how some people took it as a religious insult. And yet, until today, I had no idea what the plot of it was.
Other things I have found out in the last month: the workings of an international arrest warrant, what Idi Amin did, the geographic whereabouts of the Central African Republic and Nicaragua, who was in charge in South Africa when they implemented Apartheid, and that there is no actual treaty giving explicit state immunity to national Foreign Ministers.
What do you know? The more about the world I find out, the more ignorant I am of it. The more I feel like I’m swayed by anyone I meet telling me what the facts are and saying hey, well, you could look at it like this. The greater the divide I feel there is between what I think about something, and what I happen to be arguing for this week. (On the question of “Are human rights universal?”, in the last few weeks I have successfully argued both ways, in two different seminars, and in both I’ve succeeded in swaying several other members of the class. It’s difficult not to feel manipulative, sometimes, even if it is in the safe confines of a seminar room.)
Having said which, I still don’t think I’ll bother reading any Rushdie any time soon.
LLM October 20, 2011Posted by Fiona in Edinburgh, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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It’s hard work, this LLM business.
First of all, I have no lectures (well, one lecture, but the politics department are weird like that). It’s all two hour seminars, once a week for each of three subjects, the result of which is that I don’t have a lot of contact time, but what I do have is very intense, and requires I reckon in the region of 300 pages of reading for every seminar. Yes, you read that right. Come to think of it, chances are I probably didn’t. Read it right, that is. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Most of the time I do as much as I can without smoke coming out of my ears and call it a day.
The content is highly technical, and assumes a good deal of prior knowledge. For my politics module, International Relations Theory, I started off not understanding any of the technical language and having to sit down with a dictionary and try and work out what this means: “The anti-foundationalism of post-modernism so undermines the discipline… that it often provokes anger and despair among those it attacks. It calls into question the very possibility of non-normative theory; to charge post-modernists with relativism does, of course, rely on the assumption that it is possible to be non-relativistic!”
For the other modules, the law ones, I (nominally) know what they’re talking about, so it’s just a case of processing the ideas. Undergraduate law is child’s play. Well, it’s not. But it feels like it at the moment.
I am getting through an ink cartridge every six days, on average. It’s taking me longer to get to sleep, because I have to shut the thought processes down, and longer to wake up in the morning, because I have to start them all back up again and these days it takes a few warm-up exercises. It’s very strange, to get to the grand old age of twenty-one and be very, very aware of your own intellectual limits, in the sense that at times, I feel like I can’t make my mind go any faster. I genuinely can’t figure concepts out in my own head fast enough to have time to process them, and that’s something I’ve never really dealt with before.
Oh, but it’s such good fun, though. In the last five weeks, I’ve dredged the depths of GCSE History (League of Nations, self-determination, post-war social movements), Year Nine Geography (who knew half of these places were countries, never mind where they are and who they border!), Politics-By-Osmosis (I spent an entire afternoon last week looking at Central African dictators in the 1970s on Wikipedia – which, by the way, is an absolute godsend – I really have no recollection of international current affairs pre-2006, which is a bit scary). It’s like the world’s biggest pub quiz has gone crashing into a newspaper archive, and expected you to have something useful to say out of the end of it. The remembering, and rediscovering things I used to know about, is just as much fun as the finding out new stuff. I love it to pieces.
The trouble, then, is working out where to stop. Historically speaking, I am not very good at this. It is very difficult to put the brakes on. But I’m trying to remind myself that if I want to keep going, I have to pause occasionally. Sometimes your brain freezes up, or grinds to a halt and there’s nothing you can do, and you just have to accept that and take a break. So it’s taking a bit of practice, at the moment. We’ll see.
First Things First – Uskglass October 17, 2011Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns.
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This is one of the big things I missed out on telling you about in the last few months – in August, I published Uskglass.
Do you remember the green sample hat I christened ‘Strange’? It got a makeover, and I love it very much. It amuses me that I ended up in Edinburgh, actually, because the first sample for Uskglass was knitted the first time I ever came here, and I remember adoring the place and being really worried that I wouldn’t be able to come back. And then, it was published from the Starbucks on the High Street while I was up for the Fringe, and now I’m living here properly. I feel like Uskglass was lucky for me.
It was originally designed around the book Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is one of my favourites, but quite sensibly my tech editor pointed out that calling a hat ‘Strange’ when it wasn’t in the least bit strange was bound to give the wrong impression, so it got renamed after John Uskglass, the Raven King from the book, the most powerful English magician possibly ever to have lived, and who had a strong connection with Britain and its history. I like to think that that’s fitting – the cables from Uskglass were inspired a bit by traditional ganseys. The honeycomb band, particularly.
I’m a bit in love with slightly slouchy hats with a deep brim at the moment. There’s at least one more on the way. Watch this space.
And can I talk about the yarn for a moment? It’s grey. For a change. I really need to knit something that isn’t grey, it has turned into my default colour. It’s also Rowan British Sheep Breeds DK, and it’s Bluefaced Leicester. The more BFL I get to play with, the more I like it. It’s so shiny. It smells so sheepy. It barely pills at all, and it appears to be the warmest thing in the world. If I could afford a jumper’s worth of Rowan, I’d be knitting one right now – it’s so much fun to knit with. As it is, I’ve worn this hat about four days a week for the last month (‘warm’ is relative, I think – I know we’re supposed to have had a heatwave!) and I think the combination of the yarn and the cables make it the warmest piece of headgear I own.
So yeah. New knitwear. Three sizes. I love it. Say it’s not just me?
Dreich October 14, 2011Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Edinburgh, University.
Well, I thought it was about time I got this up and going again.
A lot has changed since the end of July, and I’ve not been on the internet for a lot of it. I mentioned before that I was heading off to do a Masters in Edinburgh – well, I’m here now, and I’m completely snowed under a lot of the time. I’ve been mostly absent from Ravelry for the last few months as well – which is another thing I’m going to have to rectify in the next few weeks. Frankly, I’ve not really been on the internet so much. But there’s been a lot going on and I think I’ve been able to cope with it, and adjust to it, a lot better for just keeping out of the way for a while. I hope you haven’t minded.
Anyway, I’m back now. I miss blogging and I’ve missed the blogging community as well – I’m sure a lot of changes have happened where you are, too! So over the next few weeks I’m going to instate a rule of making sure to post at least once a week. I want to get back into this, and I miss the dialogue of it too. There’ll probably be a fairly high proportion of knitting posts for a while, partly because I have some absolutely smashing FOs and WIPs to show you, and partly because unless you’ve developed a sudden interest in the law of the sea, you really don’t want to know the gory details of my degree right now.
Also, my god, but Edinburgh is beautiful. I’m going to have to show you a few bits, you’ll absolutely adore the place. It’s stunning.
Holiday July 13, 2011Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.
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I’m off to Larmer Tree festival tomorrow morning. I’ll be back on Monday. It’ll be exciting, see you soon – and rain dance on my behalf, yes?
Oh, these old things July 10, 2011Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Small things.
Just got home today to discover a new post from the Purl Bee on friendship bracelets. This was probably my first craft – certainly the first craft I got into obsessively. I still have a collection of fifty or sixty colours of cotton embroidery thread, and I remember being very young and spending my pocket money on one or two extra colours, or sitting in the front garden spending entire afternoons winding thread onto little cardboard bobbins.
My favourite bracelets were very narrow two-colour striped ones, and I’d wear four or five of them all the time. I could make one eight inches long in half an hour, and I’d make dozens of the things – it was a bit like it is with knitting for me today, once I could go like the clappers, I couldn’t stop. I could make stripes, chevrons, diamonds, and all kinds of twists and knot patterns that I either got from the Girl Guides or, more likely, looked up in library books. Which, probably, was how I got interested in any kind of knotwork, and, probably, is why I love knitting cables so much these days. My goodness, I’d forgotten the friendship bracelets. Wow. It’s amazing how one thing leads to another, isn’t it?
I’m quite tempted to get my threads and my safety pins out and have another go. Did you ever make friendship bracelets, as a child? And, I’m interested, did you do any other of that sort of craft? French knitting on bobbins? Multi-strand braids on pieces of card with slits cut into them and a hole down the middle? And does anyone remember scoubidous? It’s amazing what we used to get up to, back before anything like that was the domain of Cath Kidston and People With More Patience Than Me.
This new adventure July 7, 2011Posted by Fiona in Big things, Edinburgh, Look what I did, University.
After months of agonising, worrying and trying not to think about things, I’ve finally heard today from Edinburgh University – they’re offering me a place, starting in September, to study a one-year Masters course in International Law. I am unbelievably excited. I’ve been not daring to hope for this for most of this year: the course, and the city, look like the best thing I could possibly have wished for and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into both of them.
The course is amazing. It looks like I’ll have ample opportunity to get stuck into my twin loves of humanitarian law and the European Convention of Human Rights (you know I can’t get enough of it!) and I’m really hoping the seminar format is going to help me get over my main problem of the last few years’ study – that I really don’t like giving presentations or speaking in front of people. Looks like it’s unavoidable here, though, so fingers crossed I’ll get used to it. That aside, there’s opportunity for a lot of discussion, and a lot of independent research, and they’re two of my favourite things.
As for the city, well, it’s beautiful. I’m going to be spending all of August there (if you’re going to the Fringe festival, come and see us! They’re giving me a lighting desk to play with and everything!) and I gather it’s a good place for everything I love – coffee shops, a vibrant crafting community, a lot of local history and folklore, beautiful walks, it’s going to be such an adventure and I can’t wait.
I almost wonder if a year is going to be long enough.
Academia July 5, 2011Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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It seems fitting that, now that I’ve left Durham altogether – and that they’ve moved the law library to a totally different site to where it used to be – that I should finally be publishing a pattern inspired by weeks and weeks sat in that very library.
I actually had the idea for this cardigan in a café in Lancaster last summer. I was sat there for a few hours with not a lot to do but read, knit and let my coffee get cold – the best kind of afternoon. A girl opposite me was wearing a cardigan with a similar sort of back detail and I wondered how one might go about knitting something like that.
It came to me not all that long afterwards, and I knitted up a prototype which is notable only in the fact that it is made of blue Wollmeise, which was lovely, but other than that was totally hideous. It didn’t fit. I couldn’t fit my arms into the sleeves. Everything about it was too tight, or bulged, or drooped, and it had buttons which were far too heavy for it. Anyway, I thought I could do without buttons. I’m not surprised it ended up like this – I had knitted a grand total of most of one cardigan in my entire life by that point, and had really no idea what I was doing. It was a bit of a learning curve.
This year, I have become a far better knitter. I’ve met the concepts of ease, and drape, and what might actually look any good, and I’m so proud of what this has turned into. I named it Academia, after something else that it has taken a lot of effort and trial and error to get the hang of, that I’ve spent a lot of time at, and that quite frankly I love to bits. This sample was knitted mostly over the second term of this year: cast on in the green room of the Gala theatre before the matinee of The Producers, knitted on during my high points and my low points and as a bit of a distraction from work – and, yes, in the law library. It was finished within about two days of my dissertation, and I love it and wear it often.
The thing I’m most proud of about it is that my test knitters also loved knitting it, and that it looks fantastic on all of them. If you’re on Ravelry, you can see their cardigans here, and I’m so pleased that it seems to fit different body shapes and sizes so well. Several of them are already knitting a second one in different yarn, or intend to do so. And, of course, the banter was the best of any test-knitting group I’ve come across so far. I fell on my feet with that one.
Oh, and one more thing – remember August of last year, when I said that the thing I aspired to most in the field of knitting was to design my own cardigan? So do I. Just goes to show, doesn’t it, that it’s really not all that complicated when you put your mind to it, and that it’s just a case of having your idea and going at it like you think it’s important.
If you can knit in the round, and do left- and right- slanting decreases (which if you knit I bet you can), then you can knit this with no difficulty at all. The pattern on the back makes it go faster, too – and it really is ridiculously simple to do. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s short rows, they’re laughably simple and you’ll have them down to a fine art in an inch or two.
There’s a fair bit of I-cord, but I swear that’s it. And besides, I don’t know about you, but I think I-cord looks rather good.
Not so strange July 3, 2011Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo.
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There are a few types of projects I keep coming back to.
My default no-brainer project is the plain pair of stocking stitch toe-up socks: I’ve made a few for me, one for each parent, His Nibs has a variation on them (one round plain, one round double rib, repeat ad infinitem), and although I haven’t always got one on the go, I always have the yarn for one about ready, just in case. I can knit the whole thing with no pattern and very little thought, so they’re perfect for times when I want to concentrate on something else, or even on nothing in particular. I currently have two pairs of these in the works, a throwback to the fact that I’ve just come out of exams and sometimes, you know, you just don’t want to have to think too hard. These ones are going to be for some very special people who have yet to receive my knitwear but have had to sit through my telling them about it for quite long enough.
The other thing I come back to a lot is the cabled hat. I’ve talked before about why I love cables – they’re the first knitting ‘trick’ I learned to do, and I love improvising them and seeing where they go. At the beginning of June, I was given a challenge to knit something based on the last book I’d read, and as luck would have it, I’d just put down my copy of this:
It’s about eighteenth century gentleman magicians in England, it features cameos from Lord Wellington and Byron, and I highly recommend you pick it up. It takes a while, it’s a long book and it’s not something you can read in a few days but my goodness, it’s worth it for the denouement alone. The fact that the rest of it is marvellous can only add to things. Every so often I pick it up again, intending to just revisit the best bits, and find myself reading the whole thing from cover to cover again.
This is comfort reading at its best for me, so I headed straight in the direction of comfort knitting to try and represent it. This is ‘Strange':
I wasn’t entirely sure about it to begin with, I have to admit, but it’s grown on me hugely. I’ve knitted on this for a month – it was the project I took to Edinburgh when Linguistic Housemate and I decided to take an impromptu trip for my 21st birthday (oh yeah, I’m 21 now, sorry – forgot to tell you that. Oops).
The new short hair is making hats so much easier to wear, I have to say! I’d never have dared wear something this cloche-y before I had it all cut off. It’s most exciting – expect it to be very much taken advantage of!
Beyond that… it’s great. Since I’ve got home, I’ve found time to read again. It seems so strange not to have anything more deadline-based to do, I have to admit I’m not adapting to it very well. So I’ve embarked upon Camp NaNoWriMo which debuts this month. Do you remember the novel I wrote 50,000 words of in November? At the beginning of July, it stood at almost exactly 60,000 words, and had ground somewhat to a halt. I’m hoping, in the next few weeks, that having the time and the cheers of other writers will give me the impetus to finish the first draft. I love the story so much, it’s just getting it out and on paper that’s the problem.
There’s no rest for the wicked, after all! But would I have it any other way?