Books

I’ve been writing about knitting a lot lately, and technically this blog is supposed to also be related to the fact that I am a librarian. So, without further ado, some book-ish things (though some of it is still yarn-related, but I digress) :

The Toronto Public Library’s Arthur Conan Doyle Collection recently acquired an autograph notebook. This item was purchased from someone who found it at a flea market in England.

What makes this find so interesting is that it seems to have belonged to two children with the last name Cubitt. On one of its pages they concocted a unique code using images of dancing stick figures.

This was in 1902. In 1903 Doyle signed the book for the children.

What is interesting is that in that same year Doyle published his Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” and Holmes’ client in the story bears the last name Cubitt. Additionally, Doyle is said to have gotten the idea for this inventive code after seeing some stick-figure letters drawn by a young boy in an autograph book. Intriguing, wouldn’t you say? Full story here.

Sometimes I wish I worked in a collection like the Doyle Collection. For one, I’m a nerd who likes history and having the responsibility of preserving it, but another reason is that it would get me out of public service.

Don’t get me wrong, 90% of the time I like it. You get your difficult patrons, of which there have been many of late for some reason, but the good experiences make up for it. And I’m too social a person to be content hiding behing books all day. It’s just that this coming week I have my first class visit :S

I love doing storytimes for the kiddos, and have been doing that for almost two years, but this is another level. It’s not just fun and games, read them books, teach them songs, and just get across that literacy = fun. I have to talk about what the library is and offers… to 5 year olds. Do they even know what “borrow” means? Probably not. I need to remember to explain absolutely everything, but as simply and non-boringly as possible. And their teachers will be watching. Adults are so much harder to please than kids…

This brings me to this new book I’m quite impressed with:

Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuburger has been giving me lots of ideas of things to try next week. It might just save my bacon…

And now for the latest editions to books-Erin-shouldn’t-be-buying-but-did:

Sewing Basics : All You Need to Know About Machine and Hand Sewing by Sandra Bardwell I am hoping will answer all of my myriad of questions as I enter the netherworld of sewing machine use. By the look of things, it will:

That's a lot of types of machine feet...

So excited for Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson, which I scored for $10. Priscilla also wrote this other gem, which I wrote about here. It’s not flashy, but it is packed with information. If you are at all interested in textile history, this is one you should pick up.

I got these two books at the Creativ Festival today, where I modelled for the fashion show displaying local designers, organized by Creative Yarns. It was a lot of fun and very inspiring (we have a lot of talent in Toronto). Off to bed now for round two and more shopping tomorrow.

I leave you with the progress I’ve made on my fingerless gloves WIP…

and Ozzy the alpaca.

And as a bonus for making it to the end of this post, have some free book plates I’ve pinned on Pinterest. Cheers!

Hi-yah!

Besides the fact that the fiancé and I were sick for a bit, it’s been a good couple weeks. First off, I must take a moment to point out an initiative very close to my heart that I found out about through a post on the wonderful Simply Notable blog:

The idea behind the Purple Stitch Project is to knit, crochet, or sew purple (the epilepsy awareness color) gifts for kids with seizure disorders. These gifts will serve as a reminder that they are not alone — that they have community support. The 2nd goal of PSP is to raise awareness about epilepsy, the 3rd most prevalent neurological disorder (next to stroke and Alzheimer’s). With every purple stitch made and every handmade item worn or carried, perhaps a collective conversation will begin about a disorder that surprisingly little is known about.

As some of you know, my fiancé has epilepsy, hence I am super excited to hear about such an awesome initiative. The fact that it involves the hobby I love helps too.

There are all kinds of patterns listed on Craftsy and Pinterest. Including awesomeness like this:

Everyone should make one!

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In other news, my shrug is coming along well. If I like it, I might also make it in white for the wedding 😀

Isn’t the drawstring square-bottom project bag you see in the photo awesome? I got it, along with another one in a funky pink, gold, and white fabric, from one of my fellow World Wide Knit in Public Day organizers, who made them for all of us who helped plan WWKIP Toronto Edition. It was such a nice surprise!

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On Friday I went to the latest

If you’ve never been and you’re ever in the area, you should go. Click on the Knitty logo/banner for the link to more info, but essentially it’s a great time in one of Toronto’s greatest (and probably coziest) yarn stores, The Purple Purl. You and twenty-nine other knitters get to test and review five new yarns ranging from super luxury skeins to bargain ones. The reviews are used by Knitty for their magazine.

Voilà, the swatch I had at the end of the night. There be alpaca, merino, and even cashmere in them there hills of inadvertent garter stitch.
And their are door prizes! I went home with this:

And the entire store was on sale, so this had to follow me home:

Did you spot my invasive cat in, not one, but both of the pics above? Because, you know, I don’t give him any attention, not at all.

More free things! :

This is chunky/bulky weight wool yarn from Briggs & Little that I got from a destashing friend.

Last weekend I visited family out in the country, and came back from antique shopping with some pieces of handicraft history.

These are two antique yarn bobbins/spools. Well used from the looks of them. See how they would have been used here.

This handkerchief is hand embroidered and edged with crochet. I love the little pieces of detail. And I couldn’t very well resist a four leafed (leaved?) clover.

Beyond that I’ve found myself cooking and baking a lot. It’s the fall weather – it is finally not too hot to have the oven on, and nothing is better than long-simmering soup, à la this recipe for Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup I made on the weekend. Pinterest is likely also partially to blame. I’ve been pinning way too much.

Speaking of baking…

We had a potluck at work. One of my colleagues and I are a) very nerdy and b) share a love of Game of Thrones (we’re librarians, so it’s not a surprise). Plus there is my love of all things medieval. This led to us using this:

To make things like this (complete with explanatory notes) :

Whole story here.

Ewes-ful information

Lookit! My last entry got noticed by Geek & Sundry. Thanks for mentioning me, guys 🙂

Speaking of things that are both geeky and awesome, I am very excited about something a friend showed me on Patrick Rothfuss’ website:

This is totally what I wear to work... I do want those shoes, however. In flats...

Speaking of work, I stumble across this post on Tumblr, which sums up why I’ve decided I want to persue work as a children’s specialist:

Sidenote: I have recently become rather obsessed with Tumblr (in addition to Pinterest…) Follow me!

The full quote, from Neil Gaiman (who else?):

“Stories that you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely visit.” ~ from M is for Magic

Something else library related that I think will make your day:

Recently, a library customer left her laptop at the bus stop outside a library. Another library customer found the laptop and took it into the library, on the assumption that the owner might return to the library to look for it.

That’s exactly what happened. The owner took a cab back to the library and found the laptop waiting for her there. She left the note above for her anonymous saviour on the bus stop hydro pole, thanking him/her and relaying the cabbie’s similar story that he shared during the cab ride.

After a shitty day at work, with printer problems, kids breaking the elevator, and grumpy old men being indignant over having to prove they still live in the municipality once a year (“I’ve lived here for 40 years! I’m not moving any time soon.” Well that’s great sir, but I have no way of knowing that and unfortunately your word is not going to cut it with the Public Libraries Act) I really needed to read something like that 🙂

The CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) ended on labour day weekend. Here is a round-up of yarn and fibre-related goodness. Sorry, they’re cell phone pictures…

The Peru booth of hand-knits and crafts was a stop I had to make.

A close-up of the 100% alpaca coat. The fibres were more glorious in real life.

Incredibly detailed kids and baby sweaters.

This fantastic crochet top, I mean lady, sat in front of me at the talk by Richard Palmisano on hauntings at the CNE grounds.

These three pics below are of a display on sheep at the Farm Building ❤

Actual sheep!

This llama was not impressed with my taking her picture.

Alpacas with funny haircuts.

And now I’m off to finally start work on my shrug. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Knitting self help books? Pt 1

Yes indeed! Once I discovered this genre existed, I went on a bit of a reading binge. As some of you may recall from a post or two a while back, the why of knitting is a big interest of mine. By the “why” of knitting, I mean what is is that compells so many of us to habitually reach for our needles.

My Grandmother's Knitting: Family Stories and Inspired Knits from Top DesignersMy Grandmother’s Knitting: Family Stories and Inspired Knits from Top Designers by Larissa Golden Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stories are short reads, but very cute and inspiring. It was neat to get a glimpse into the lives and development of some big names in knitting design – I especially love the family photos. Most of the patterns are nothing out of the ordinary, but all are something I would make, and a few are even quite innovative.

The Knitting Way: A Guide to Spiritual Self-DiscoveryThe Knitting Way: A Guide to Spiritual Self-Discovery by Linda Skolnik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The unique concept behind this book drew me in. While I was not as blown away by any profound revelations as I have been with similar works, there are moments that made me ponder and I think it’s worth a read. I found I actually quite enjoyed reading about the authors’ stories and experiences of discovering knitting’s importance in their spiritual lives. I found that the philosophical discussions, guided meditations and the like were a little overkill for my tastes. The patterns are nothing to write home about and are perhaps a little dated.

Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and CreativityZen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and Creativity by Bernadette Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When it comes to inspirational or spiritual books I prefer those authors who illustrate their points by story and example rather than just waxing philosophic or religious ad nauseum. Hence, I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend Bernadette Murphy’s book to any knitter (or any crafter, for that matter) who enjoys a good story and is interested in delving into the ‘deeper’ reasons behind their yarn obsession.

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a SpinAll Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Yarn Harlot? Yes, I know I recently mentioned the Yarn Harlot’s latest endeavour and my thoughts on it here, but I had to include it in this list. And yes, it arguably doesn’t fit into the topic of “self help books,” but this is MY blog, so whatever. Really, it’s a comedy: a quick, light read that made my commutes fly by. At moments I actually had to laugh out loud, which probably made other subway passengers move clear of me… Yet what kept me reading were the little nuggets of wisdom and revelations about life and knitting’s place in it.

Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the CraftMindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft by Tara Jon Manning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this to be similar to The Knitting Way but more succinct, weighing in at only 136 pages. Tara Jon Manning explores how knitting can help one practice the buddhist meditative approach known as mindfulness. This makes perfect sense, considering the quiet, contemplative nature of the activity. This books sheds light on why so many knitters describe knitting as a soothing, comforting pastime. More discussion on how a state of mindfulness relates to creativity would be interesting.

Ah, the cold!

Ah the cold, I love you and hate you at the same time. I may be stuck in the house with an epic cough, afraid to go outside lest the -25°C (that’s -13°F for you American folk) gusts worsen it, but then again there is something nice about genuinely having a day with nothing to do but hunker down inside while the snow drifts prettily onto the windowsill with    andand my knitting. I’m even still in my PJs, I’m not gonna lie.

And luckily, there is no housework to do. I somehow had the foresight to do it all yesterday on our first day back after the holiday. In fact, we did more than housework, we also did a much-needed purge of stuff to send to the Sally Ann. One of the things we did? consolidate all of my books onto one bookcase. ONE. Those that know me will have an idea of how monumental an undertaking this was. Tears were shed. But look! it all fits now! (sort of)

I’d like to point out that one half of the entire top shelf (how appropriate, since my collection is ‘top shelf’ indeed, har har) is devoted to crafting (95% knitting). Obviously I have a book problem – which reminds me that you should all go read this

My problem also extends to loose-leaf pattern collecting as well. I have a file folder separated by pattern type. I know, it’s a tad on the crazy side, but don’t worry, I am normal to the extent that here is the yet-to-be-categorized pile –>

 

 

 

 

Alas, I have not been able to get much knitting or crochet accomplished over the holidays. Though I did manage to whip this off on Dec 23rd to go with my brother’s girlfriend’s gift.

It’s cute, in squishy 3D, and takes no time at all! I’m so happy with it, I’m making two in lace weight to make into necklace pendants. I may go cross-eyed, but it’ll be worth it.  The pattern is free on Ravelry or here.

What I spent most of my holidays doing is driving to various functions. A highlight was our Dec 31st drive to Newmarket to take advantage of the last day of Unwind‘s Boxing Week sale. What a great store! And a very pretty drive, even with (or maybe because of) the fog.

Between Unwind and Michael’s, I got some pretty good yarn sales over boxing week, including Noro for the Lanesplitter KAL the Toronto 20-Somethings are going to be doing soon. Extra surprising because I only had 15 minutes at Unwind before we had to leave for the next stop on our New Years tour :S Definitely have to go back.

Behold, my booty:

Plus of course there are the gifts I got from my family, who know me well enough to know exactly what to get me 😉

Why do we knit?

I often wonder why I am so drawn to this hobby. Especially as someone who tends to fret over how wisely I spend my time and how enriching my pastimes are. But I love to knit. I have URGES to knit – my hands will actually itch. I browse Ravelry and Knitty in my breaks at work.

What is it about using sticks to loop string around and around itself in repetitive motions until you have something functional, something that took 100+ hours of your life to produce when you could have bought it pre-made for $30 (and quite possibly less than the cost of your wool)?

To be entirely honest, I don’t quite get it. I’m nearly as obsessed as they come, and I can’t come up with a solid answer.

Is knitting the new yoga? I’ve heard this oft-quoted mantra many a time, but I’m not quite buying it. And this is coming from a girl who quit yoga after 3 sessions.

Though, there may be something to the calming aspect of it. It forces one to slow down and contemplate. It’s almost meditative in a way.

I think that is a big part of the attraction, however I think there is more to it than that for me. On a recent trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario, I was struck by their new photography exhibit. Featured were stunning turn-of-the-century prints taken in rural parts of France. Now, I don’t want to romanticize what I’m sure was a tough existence, but part of me felt a connection to the images, especially those featuring women going about their daily lives, namely spinning yarn, knitting, and washing and mending clothes by hand. (For more on my love of handicrafts in the days of yore, see here).

Suddenly, something clicked. I was reminded of an essay I had recently read in Ann Budd‘s book Knitting Green and immediately re-read it when I got back home.

In Touching the Sun Through Fiber Carmen S. Hall writes, “I can feel my dear grandmothers watching over me when I knit, and the presence of other ancestors I never knew… I touch the souls of others when I knit. I also learn to better touch my own soul… Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh tells a beautiful story about looking deeply into a piece of paper. He says that if you are still enough and look deeply enough, it is possible to touch the tree from which the paper was made, to feel the soil beneath its roots, the wind that blew through its branches, the shade of the cloud that passed overhead, the gentle rain that fell… if you look deep enough, it is possible to touch the sun… As I knit, I hope to pave the path for others as they tap into the mystery of craft and creation. I hope my children will remember me knitting though joys and through sorrows… I hope they too will learn to touch the sun.”

I could not have said it better myself.

Elizabeth Zimmerman may be able to say it more succinctly, however:

“Knit on, with confidence & hope, through all crises.”

Knitting in Vegas

It’s been a couple of weeks, I know. I have a good excuse! I was in Las Vegas. The strip was all that it’s chalked-up to be, but the highlight for me was definitely the Grand Canyon.

Didn’t get much knitting in, besides some on the plane (you can bring needles now! though I erred on the side of caution and stayed away from metal) and on the 4 hours bus ride to the canyon. At least I got a start on the scarf though.

I need to have it done by the time the Creativ Festival rolls around at the end of October. I want my free gift! (of course, giving to charity is a great added bonus too 🙂

Aaaannnd I have yet another book I am hankering to buy: Amigurumi Two!: Crocheted Toys for Me and You and Baby Too by Ana Rimoli.

So. much. cute! Just look at this little guy. He fits INTO the pear! And this is by far the cutest mobile I have ever seen.

Yarn Porn

Obsessions among those given to needle crafts is taken as a given these days. Knitters and crocheters often talk about obscene amounts of “stash” they have squirreled away in every nook and cranny of their homes. Pattern collecting is another sore affliction, one from which yours truly suffers.

However, of late I have developed a new compulsion: more and more I find myself taking armloads of books home from the library, and then proceeding to purchase my favourites.

Like this             and this 

and this        and this

The list goes on, and my wallet suffers.

These glossy tomes are of the new breed of pattern book. Glossy pages, expert photography, and professional modeling abound. I know just by looking at the complex patterns, perfect fits, and sumptuous non-acrylic (and therefore expensive) yarns that most of these pieces I will never ever make, yet I can’t help but gawk. You are likely aware of the term food porn. I declare that yarn porn is just as serious a phenomenon. Based on my reconnaissance of this blog and this tumblr account, it appears I am not alone.