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Books and Bikes

There are two non knitting subjects that have had my attention today. Firstly, I finished
The Gargoyle
by Davidson, this was an uplifting but slightly sad novel. It mixed a hard blokey type reality in that the narrator is an ex porn star who is badly burnt in a car accident and spiritual story where another hospital patient tells him she was his lover in 14th century Germany where she was a scribe and originally a nun. An amusing and very cheesy aspect of this book, is that it had been artificially 'aged' with black edges to the pages as if it had been burnt but I did feel like I was reading from a piece of badly burnt toast.

I love the pace of the way the story unfolds and I also enjoyed the references to The Divine Comedy and Dante's Inferno with the interpretation of Hell. Very appropriate for a burns victim. There is also a little bit of Asian, Viking and Medieval culture thrown in.

What is brought home to me, is how our idea of the structure of the Universe according to Christianity is sort of fixed by this very old book. That is, it being in 3 sections Heaven in the skies, Hell in the Earth with purgatory in between. Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise) And the idea that being in Hell means you burn for all eternity with a punishment that fits our crime. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the whole of our Criminal Justice sytem and morality might be shaped by our view that you need to be punished accordingly, but on earth given a time to seek redemption in rehabilitiation.

Of course this vision of hell is a lot more complicated than the 3 sections of the Universe, he has a complicated sytem of circles within Hell itself. What is quite interesting is that the Vikings used the word Hel to describe a bad place that you can go to when you die and in their vision of it it was a freezing icy landscape that was never ending. So each according to their culture.

And talking of naughty things. Look at this bike, it is the Ransom Serpent and has such beautiful lines and curves, it reminds me of something I am working on at the moment in my knitting believe it or not (can't say what it is yet)
Handknit Heroes

Handknit heroes is the first graphic novel for knitters. It features everything you would want from a classic superhero/villain comic book but with a knitting theme. Each issue features a knitted garment or item in the story and then the knitting pattern for the item is featured in the issue too. This first issue features one of my knitting patterns for a scarf. I knew the scarf would be worn by one of the key heroes in the book so I designed it with a hood that would be handy for a disguise and deep pockets to conceal things. As this issue was produced over the other side of the Atlantic I have yet to see the issue and can't wait till my copy arrives.

The artwork was done by Marc Olivent who works in this genre. Actually he works in this genre with a twist and a lot of his work is on the more alternative side of comic book stories.

Anyway, this is the scarf that I designed for the issue.

There was a competition to guess what this project was before release, and the winner would be the person who came closest to filling in some blanks. I am pleased to announce that the winner was Kat Whittaker who guessed this was a Debbier Bliss yarn, and she came closest so Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran is going out to her.

I am looking forward to 2009, I have some really interesting projects coming up that will really satisfy my own artistic needs. It is so good to be able to choose the themes I work with and coming up with the designs and charts that mean a lot to me. Although it has been nice to be constantly busy making things for various publications a certain part of me wonders how much better it would be if all of my efforts went into one publication and that is what I am going to steer towards. I have started the year with a new PC, with Windows Vista which is new to me and a lovely huge widescreen which makes sketching, charting and writing so much easier.

So new PC means I need to learn new skills, this is just a short list of what I want to be able to do

  • Use Illustrator for charts and diagrams
  • Use a graphics tablet and pen
  • Use In Design for tables and charts and page layout for patterns
  • Use Flash and another movies software for instructional video etc
  • Learn how to use Photoshop properly to its full extent
  • Learn how to use a camera more effectively
  • Research into culture and folk styles and designs that can enhance my own designs
  • Learn Dreamweaver if I have time

Now I know that I probably won't get round to that lot, it is a lot to learn whilst keeping up knitting and coping with illness and disabilities that make me slow. However, in the trying, I will not feel like a useless lump stuck at home due to illness. There are plenty of things as well that I don't know about knitting and I hope to continue to learn things with regards to that as well as work on the two books I am committed to this year.

As far as my work and activities go, 2009 and is looking to be good. What is not looking so good is my finances (they are always dire and restricting) and I am missing company close by. I now know not a single person who lives locally and I do feel I miss people popping in for a cup of tea and the day to day contact with human beings. Now, if I want to see someone or talk to them face to face, it involves a trip and to be perfectly honest, I am just not well enough to stay in other peoples houses or to travel that far. So for most of 2008 I was 'just about to' get round to visiting people or seeing them and it just did not happen.

Ironically, I can go on holiday to our favourite cottage because I know we can have a bathroom/toilet to 2 people. Also my brother and his wife and my nephew and niece live in New Zealand and it is sad I don't get to know the kids. My father is in Devon, I haven't seen him for about 18 mths, he is quite ill himself and the only way to see him is to stay in a hotel near his flat as he won't have visitors. Last time we visited about 3 yrs ago, it was over £1000 for a room in Torquay for the week! He lives in an upmarket sea resort on the south coast so it is expensive. So we have been meeting up with my Dad only by staying in cottages outside his area and then him coming to visit.

New Cards on Sale

Zabet of the Anticraft and I collaborated for the first time and she glorified one of my sketches that I charted and was used on a previous issue to come up with this wonderfully sinister and shadowy card for Yule festivities.

I look forward to being involved in more collaborations of an arty nature in 2009.

I also made this Thank You card with a whimsical knitting theme, a Beltane card from A Maiden's Glory crochet headdress project and I have one card for each of my two beautiful greyhounds. All card profits are going to Essex Greyhound Rescue, I will be making more cards as I go along but it is very distracting!

It's A New Year......It's a New Moleskine!

And what could be more exciting than starting a brand new moleskine for 2009. It is my little Bible, or my soul that I keep in my pocket. In it I scribble down absolutely any idea I have however silly and I sketch in coloured pencils the things I want to knit, or the designs I want to chart. Dotted around this page, are little extracts from my very personal knitting accounts in 2007 and 2008. I stumbled across the moleskine notebook purely by accident, I had never heard of them. I didn't really know any 'designers' or other groups of people who used these notebooks. What attracted me was the pocket. In the pocket I can fit the following things
  • A ruler with a stitch gauge reader
  • A needle gauge
  • A conversion chart for imperial and metric
  • Standard size charts
  • A packet of 12 coloured pencils
  • An erasable ink pen
  • A propelling pencil
  • An eraser
  • My contact cards
  • The odd swatch and bits of yarn
  • Knitters graph paper
  • A calculator

You know when you knit you can't work fast enough to catch up with ideas that you might have and if you are anything like me, then you are going to forget those things that pop into your head when you are in Aran mood, and those other patterns you like when in Lace knitting mode. So why not just write everything down, however silly or personal, and then you will find it there when you need to. Of course, I also sketch out my knitting patterns here, and whilst working on a sample I

can do simple maths that makes sense at the time of doing it for grading the other sizes, and t
hen when I look back to write up as a knitting pattern I have done some of the hard work already.

I also take it with me when shopping or out and about, and if I see a pattern or a garment I like I can sketch details. Sometimes it might just be a piece of a wood carving or a gravestone or perhaps a motif printed onto fabric....it all goes in most of the time.

This year, I was getting a little bored with choosing my 5th moleskine though with a black cover, and then I found out with delight that people like to customise their moleskines too and even sell moleskine covers on
etsy like these below. I love the idea of the leather cover you can transfer to new notebooks (and it means extra pockets). I also like the idea of a personalised fabric cover for every year. However, being a knitter means it would probably be very shameful if I didn't design and customise my own journal! Also, to buy a customised journal costs a lot, and if some of it is not that hardwearing.

There was a company offering engraving services, but apparently heating up your moleskine can give off dangerous gases so don't try burning patterns into it yourself. It is not real moleskin, moleskine (r) is a synthetic product.

So, I am slowly thinking on a 2009 cover, perhaps from tiny swatches or with a little motif knitted into it.

Other Books
I have just finished reading The Last Empress by Anchee Min. It is the story of the mother of Tung Chih and the Aunt who moulded her nephew to rule China. The power struggles within the Chi'ing Dynasty themselves were fascinating but I did feel that it swept over other parts to do with foreign affairs so quickly I could hardly gain an impression of it. However, it did span the whole of this lady's life, so there was a lot to tell.

I have just started reading The Lady Elisabeth, and as you might have noticed I have been a little obsessed with literature of a Chinese nature and the Tudor times. I have read the story of the Tudors from just about every angle you could think of, but still there are some things in the storytelling that shock and surprise me. This book by Alison Weir is a really good fast and easy read. In fact, it is nowhere near as claustrophobic as The Innocent Traitor was which told the story from Lady Jane Grey's perspective. I just wish history had been this exciting at school. However, if they had taught these stories, we would have had to have known what 'knowing' a man was all about, and in a girls' boarding school it might have caused some outrage.