Friday, 22 March 2013

Cute pet photos, OR, cross-species love

How can it be that only four posts in to this blog I am already resorting to cute pet photos? How can it be past the middle of March? How can I stretch time to get more of it into a day? Would an extra four hours a day be enough? If it is possible to warp the space/time continuum, would it be better to go back to the beginning of the year? Or last year? An extra year, entirely fitted in to next Wednesday, say, would be lovely.

While I'm waiting for that delightful event, here are two photos from my cute pet collection (I'm holding a pet or two back as I think I'm going to need them in the future...)

Elvis and Vincent when Vincent was small...
Elvis and Vincent when Vincent was all grown up...
 Despite her name, Elvis is a girl, so nothing for the homophobes to worry about here...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

the c word...

No, not THAT c word, and not 'cancer', and not even 'community' (my personal hated c word when used to describe an almost entirely disparate group of people): I'm on about a c word that should be positive, but increasingly isn't – craft.

Time for a brief, but hearfelt, rant – a rantette possibly.

I work as a freelance project manager and editor specialising in illustrated craft books, and I consider myself lucky in that I love my job and am always busy. More often than not I admire the skills of the authors I work with, and am inspired by their creativity and their enthusiasm for what they do. For many of them it's a struggle to balance working as they want to with the need to eat and put a roof over their heads, and I'm often impressed and moved by the extent of their commitment to their art and craft. And the publishers I work for battle onward in the face of free products on the Web (not that there is anything wrong with many of those) and the global recession (which has hit craft books at every level, from volatile currency markets making sales into foreign countries ever more difficult, to the crafter who's stopped buying books in order to keep feeding their family), to produce gorgeous and informative books. A good-looking, well-written book takes a team of variously skilled people and thousands and thousands of pounds to produce, something that people who decide to self-publish usually start to realise quite early on in the process of making their book. But I'm getting distracted here; the nature of publishing isn't the point of this rantette (we can come back to it another day; along with written English...).

This rant is supposed to be about the nature of craft; and why it's become a bit of a dodgy word. Can I direct you to Cassandra Ellis who has summed up this issue very neatly for me: 'I worry that craft and craftmanship are sliding further and further apart...' (do read her post in full, it's thought-provoking; and her book is lovely). I work in crafts, and I worry about this slide, too. Now, I'm not saying that the only good aesthetic is one that involves perfection, or that anyone should be embarrassed by early attempts at making anything: seriously, we all start somewhere and having a go at something is worthwhile in itself. But can't we do the best we can with the skills, time and materials we have? Can't we strive for excellence? What's wrong with trying hard? (Okay, the last question isn't simple if you apply it to life as a whole – though still a good question, I think – but let's not get distracted in that direction...).

Do you think we can reclaim the c word? I'm not always a fan of reclaiming words (really don't understand the desire/possibility of 'reclaiming' the word 'slut' – as in slut walk – as it IS pejorative, though the principles of the walks are certainly positive; but that's another distraction from the rant in hand...), but for centuries craftswomen and craftsmen were respected for their skills as well as their creativity; can't we make the effort to keep that true today? Whether you are spinning and dying your own yarns to create a unique Fair Isle jumper, or putting together a last-minute birthday card from ready-made bits and bobs, can we steer away from 'that'll do', and aim for 'that's the best I can do'?

What do you think?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Knit 400

I knitted, and knitted, and knitted, and knitted, and knitted, and... and was rescued from complete knitting insanity by the lovely LR and scrumptious SH, and the result is this new book.

The UK cover on the left and the US cover on the right. The titles are different, but the insides are the same (apart from some spellings...)

There are 224 packed pages: don't worry, I'm not going to go for a blow-by-blow tour of each one – here are just a few faves.

I'm very pleased with my knitted colour wheel. The lovely LR steered me in the right direction for this, and was very patient with my dimness when it comes to comprehending shaping charts (I'm a words knitter).

A fabulous opportunity to shop for yarns, though sometimes a serious struggle to find the right type of yarn in the right colourway...thank you Mrs Moon for stocking such a fabulous yarn selection: couldn't have done it without you.

Slip stitch was the revelation for me when researching this book. I'd only known it as rather clunky colourwork, and wondered why one would – stranding or intarsia aren't impossible to master. But a limited palette and lots of texture and I was a true convert.

My editor was staggeringly patient with my endless requests for tiny changes to the artworks. I think it was worth it: I hope he's forgotten the pain.

Excellent colour knitting, don't you think? Sadly, not my own work in this instance: thank you LR.

Each chapter (there are nine) deals with a different type of knitting, and each palette in a chapter looks at a different way of influencing that knitting; so here are some thoughts on beads and embroidery with stranded knitting. As always, one has more thoughts than there are space for...

Colour and Aran combos: I really liked doing this palette.

So, there you are, a taster of the new written offspring. I hope you like him.