April 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Well, God, glad that’s over.
In the interest of talking about the most normal, friendly, innocuous things, here’s a picture of my friend Maggie wearing the sweater I knit her for Christmas to work:
It’s a Kristen Johnstone pattern; I knit it in the mountains this past fall.
More of the wonderfully banal:
- guy’s coming to fix the sink tomorrow
- meatballs for dinner
- 1 week left of classes
February 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A few weeks ago, in genetics class, we went over pedigree analysis. The most famous family tree in genetics is Queen Victoria’s–specifically her descendents’ royal inheritance of hemophilia.
It’s a family tree I’ve looked at all my life–reading a children’s book about the Princess Anastasia, in AP European History, in previous genetics classes–and for good reason: the health and reproduction of royalty was (and remains) a topic of the utmost importance, and so we have plenty of good data to illustrate our lessons. For the lulz, we also had a gander at the pedigree of the Ptolemies, because, when it comes to royalty, there really is only one joke. And that’s inbreeding.
I’m not sure if it’s my new HIPPA compliance training, a Greek-philosophical discomfort with the ugliness of the sick body, or an old-fashioned, Southern sense of propriety, but the collision of the medical and the world-historical, and the way we picked at its intersection as a means of jokey introduction, left me feeling a little gnawed. I think it does still shock me that the royal and the physical actually intrude on other another, and, moreover that we have license to comment on that intrusion. And yet they do, we do.
Last week, Hilary Mantel kicked up a hell of a good fight on the Internet (I think the last one this fun was the week before: Did ugly Lena Dunham really just have sex with that good-lookin’ dude on TV?) with her LRB lecture Royal Bodies. By good, I mean a) everyone wants in on the action and b) everyone, yea- and nay-sayers alike, seems to be having a good time. Lots of vitriol and you ugly jealous old bat on one side, and lots of smarm and but you haven’t even read the thing! on the other, so, really, a pedant’s dream. And since we Americans are increasingly Anglophilic, we get to weigh in, too, despite having zero dogs in the fight (NB: it’s a fight, but not between the persons of whom you might think).
The aspersions cast? Mantel, carefully couching her own well-turned phrases in the glossy-but-not-quite-smearproof language of seeming and appearing to, placed the (still-living) Duchess of Cambridge in the historical pantheon of utterly-scrutinized royal bodies, frozen and objectified, wholly reduced to their ability to produce royal offspring: Henry VIII, his wives, Princess Diana, Marie Antoinette, and, even Prince Harry. “Kate Middleton, as she was, appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished,” Mantel said, and the world damned her.
Mantel’s lecture sits upon central dogma of royalty and unspools its fundamental paradox: royal persons, male and female, are set apart from, above, their existence as persons by virtue of the very blood in their veins. “Royal persons are both gods and beasts,” Mantel says. “They are personal but they are supra-personal, carriers of a bloodline: at their most basic, they are breeding stock, collections of organs.” And although we are centuries past L’etat, c’est moi, we are less than a week out from the head of the British government interrupting a diplomatic tour of India in order to denounce Mantel’s essay (at which the academic chorus mocks, Oh, David, since you’ve weighed in, will you join our LRB reading group? What did you think of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s piece on Syria?).
The crucial caveat, unmentioned in this essay, is that Kate’s blood isn’t royal–she only became royal by choice, via royal marriage (if, in Mantel’s estimation, the “crux of the matter is this: a royal lady is a royal vagina” can we just as well say that a royal man is a royalty-bestowing penis? Another topic.). Either way, Kate having been born
Muggle non-royal lends her both agency and interest–her performed princessy perfection wouldn’t be so consistently fascinating to us if she had been born that way. “One is compelled to look at them,” Mantel says, “to ask what they are made of, and is their substance the same as ours.” With Kate, this compulsion is raised to an infinitely higher power, because we know that the answer, impossibly, is yes.
It’s also important to note that the bodies under scrutiny aren’t exclusively female. Henry VIII, fat, decrepit, and dying of (possibly) McLeod syndrome and osteomyelitis, learned what “historians–and, I’m afraid, doctors– underestimate”–the power of chronic pain to “sour the temper and wear away both the personality and the intellect.” Once-magnificent, watching others watch his deterioration, “he was quite unable to keep private what was happening to his own body. The royal body exists to be looked at.” Prince Harry, Mantel points out, learned this same lesson of scrutiny the hard way in Las Vegas–that “adulation can swing to persecution, within hours, within the same press report.”
Royal female bodies, however, are peculiarly able to “focus the rays of misogyny,” especially in the matter of their fashion choices. Just as Marie Antoinette and Princess Diana’s clothes, hairstyles, and physiques were subject to endless debate and critique, pored over for meaning and searched for inconsistency, Kate cannot wear a thing in public without it being a) named, b) linked to, c) interpreted, d) cross-indexed against all the clothes she’s worn in the past, and e) sold out within a few hours. (An interesting confluence of d and e results in articles admonishing Kate for wearing the same thing twice, ever. Don’t you want to help the British economy?) I have to admit that I am very excited to see the Dutchess in her maternity-wear–if the rumors of a Sarah Burton collaboration are true, we only have to look at the 2013 pre-fall collection, a magisterial high-church fantasy, to get an idea about the clothes that will swaddle the Royal Baby Bump. In Mantel’s words: I roll her back onto the bolt and price her by the yard.
Mantel doesn’t go in for any of this–she warns strongly against it. “Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty,” she warns. “It can easily become fatal…I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes.” What
non-readers the media has characterized as an attack on a nice, pretty princess by a fat, barren hag is really Mantel’s eloquent and erudite version of “Leave Britney Alone“.
Some people–those who read the essay and found it lacking–felt that Mantel’s protective tone was condescending, that her cruel descriptions of the perfect Kate are too well-penned to be have been conceived in anything but hate. Mantel, they argue, is concern-trolling. She might not be jealous, but she sure does think Kate’s dumb, which, in this modern age, is just as damning. Or, at the very least, they argue, she thinks Kate’s made a dumb choice: why else would a normal girl choose the frozen life of a plastic pablum princess?
It’s funny, because the only thing Mantel is cheerfully curious about is what Kate reads. “It’s a question,” she states mildly. The question of what Kate reads, how her story will be written, and its relation to the royal stories Mantel writes: this is the masterful ringform underpinning of Mantel’s entire essay–Kate’s reading, for Mantel, is the question. What does it look like when a surveilled person reads, when, in front of our eyes, she escapes? The popularity of images of celebrities reading attests to our collective interest in the question. In these pictures, we afford the subject interiority, headspace: a means of escape from both the precise eye of the camera and the compulsion-bound body that is the locus of that surveillance. At the same time, we scrutinize and examine that escape: what does I’m not there look like? Does Marilyn yet know that she will die? Are we seeing the moment when Ulysses changed her life?
All these questions swirl around the perfect, unknowable figure of the pregnant Duchess who chose her story, and will live it. Kate herself did not reply to the article and went out to as planned, her bump wearing a MaxMara jersey wrap dress, now sold out.
November 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
Anyway, because one of the ladies I went with is 1) a terrific photographer who 2) planned on shooting a few rolls over the weekend, I made sure to oh so casually wear pretty much exclusively knitwear. I ruined the all-the-wool-all-the-time effect by layering a windbreaker over the whole ensemble, but, hey, it was cold: we walked up along the ridges all weekend, got hella windburn, and woke up with our tent encrusted in ice.
Nic took lots of photos, but I selfishly picked out the ones featuring my knitting, since that’s what this blog is all about. Also, to pre-explain: the Highlands are home to a bunch of sweet lil’ pon’s.
So, um, there’s my hat, doing a great job as a hat.
Guest starring Cormo Rusticus,
and an extra pair of gloves that came in handy,
and my pretty-much-all-time-favorite-knitted-thing, the Peerie Flooers vest.
All photos © Nic Anthony
November 12, 2012 § 3 Comments
I admit, for the past two weeks, I’ve been spending most of my free time reading Hurricane Sandy coverage. Absolutely everything the Times and the Atlantic have to say, and lots of pieces about the pervasive inequality laid bare by the hurricane, what people are doing to help one another, plus a good bit of let’s-process-how-we’re-feeling (which, well, maybe a little indulgent of me).
There’ve been plenty of opportunities to donate money (hey, thanks, Wells Fargo, for making it so easy! You asked me right at the ATM, point-blank, and how could I say no?), but I was so glad to read, this past weekend, that there’s a way to contribute knitted goods, too.
I’m going to just lift some text real quick:
HOW TO HELP
MAKE IT. Simply knit, crochet or sew a warm garment or blanket–items most needed are hats, socks, gloves/mittens, scarves, sweaters, and blankets. Use one of the quick and easy free patterns we found below, or any pattern you like. If you’d like to include other small items to help the relief effort, feel free to donate another warm garment (new or gently used, please). We are hearing reports that general clothing is no longer needed, so please restrict your donations to warm winter items only.SEND IT. Send your finished item to
Natalie Soud, 310 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013 as soon as possible. We want to start distributing warm goods within a week or less, so stitch something quick and send it off! Our volunteers will deliver the items to various points in and around New York City. (Although we’ll start delivering immediately, we’ll be accepting donations for the near future, so free free to send projects whenever they’re complete.)CRAFTALONG. Share what you’ve made and help spread the word! Please, please, please blog, Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, and Pin that you’re participating in the Sandy Craftalong as soon as you can (like today!) so that we can get as many hands stitching as possible. Then, when you finish your project, share what you’ve made by posting it on your own blog and on our Facebook page at facebook.com/sandycraftalong. Also remember to use the tags #makeitbetter and #sandycraftalong
Here is the thing: I have not and do not ever enter the tricky world of knitting-for-charity, because, well, Pamela Wynne really has said it best in this encapsulation: Charity is always political, and it’s always about power. And, as a rule, I’m going to steer way way clear of that particular ball of wax. However, she goes on to say that charitable knitting & crafting do get some things right:
For one thing, charitable knitting has the potential to make the personal political, to create spaces not only for sharing, compassion, and cross-class solidarity, but also for critical consciousness and social support in a world where women’s lives are too often marked by violence, victimization, and isolation…We knit when we encounter the violence, poverty, and loss that are endemic to modern, white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, capitalist societies.
And, as Laurie Penny points out in the New Statesman and Sarah Jaffe notes in Jacobin, it’s entirely appropriate to link the “violence, poverty, and loss” out in the Rockaways to that which we’re accustomed to seeing only in the third world (and, since the “juddering crisis of capitalism” in 2008, we’re increasingly used to seeing at home):
Crisis is what people in the United States have been living with for at least four years. Active emergency, turning people out of their homes and into the cold, destroying lives. It’s not crass to compare a climate disaster to a juddering crisis of capitalism, because the two are connected, not least because those most responsible are also those most likely to be cosily tucked away in gated compounds shrugging their shoulders when the storm hits. Like the crash, Hurricane Sandy hit the poorest hardest, smashing through Staten Island and the Rockaways while the lights stayed on on the Upper East Side.
I’m really, really worried about how poor people in New York are doing in the cold (shoot, for that matter, I’m also worried about how Syrian refugees will do this winter), so, for Sandy, I’m going to cross that line–risk the intimate tangle of charitable knitting, gendered morality, and class privilege–in order to work some utterly practical and apotropaic magic. As Brett says in her post announcing the Craftalong:
If there’s anything knitters, crocheters and sewers are good at, it’s making warm things.
Amen to that!
I have an enormous pine chest full of knitwear, a good lot of it intended as Christmas gifts, and therefore never worn. I’m sending it all: gloves, scarves, hats, a sweater (or two), and socks. It’s a considerable-sized box, and I am so grateful for the chance to be able to send it–to know that they’ll be able to make the life of a faraway stranger a little bit warmer, a little bit more comfortable. You should consider doing the same.
September 27, 2012 § 5 Comments
Because I was (and still am) pretty excited about ombré effects in knitting, I was particularly drawn to the unique way that Bohus knitting uses texture to help blend and incorporate color (in short: sometimes there are purls). But I didn’t want the colorplay to dominate the entire garment, so, for Cora I left it as a yoke detail.
This croqi reminds you of Selma Blair’s character in Legally Blonde, right? Severe black bob, an even severer expression– somewhere between petulant and pugnacious.
Anyway I opened up my copy of Poems of Color, which was a Christmas gift from my parents, and swatched around.
This is what I came up with.
photo © Caro Sheridan
Anyway, this is me. I’m wearing my most beautiful wool pants and a nice wool fedora (despite my fears) from Rag & Bone’s Fall 2011 collection (this is the one thing I bought when we went to San Francisco back in January– it was even more expensive than my emergency-room visit! (turns out, I had an ulcer!))
photo © Caro Sheridan
I’ll be the first to say that this design doesn’t even come close to approaching the level of intricacy and precise blur for which the original Bohus Stickning garments are so rightly famous. This is an approximation– a taste, I guess, of what’s possible.
September 20, 2012 § 4 Comments
One of the first decisions we made, when putting together the Herriot book, was that it was going to start easy and finish hard– we wanted to start our knitters off with stripes and simple shapes, and take them on a neutral-toned tour through all the colorwork techniques we could think of. I wanted to add a little something– but not too much!– to my stripes, so I designed Bessie in a ticking stripe, then added set-in sleeves, waist shaping, and turned hems for extra neatness.
A few changes were made along the way: the set-in sleeves became faux set-in sleeves with saddle shoulders, the crew neck became a boatneck, and I became the model (so, well, there were a few more inches of ease).
I’m really pleased with the result:
photo © Caro Sheridan
If I could wear this outfit every day of the fall, I’d consider it a fine season. I’m in the market for pants & boots.
photo © Caro Sheridan
My favorite part about the ticking stripe sequence I chose is that you can’t tell whether it’s a light stripe on a dark background, or a dark stripe on a light background. While knitting it (I had to pinch-knit for this one– it’s not usual that I’d knit my own sample), I kept going back and forth on what it looked more like.
photo © Caro Sheridan
This technique of creating faux set-in sleeves + saddle shoulders is probably not my own invention, given all the neato work that’s currently being done in the world of armscyes (I am being completely sincere.), but I’m pretty fond of it and will most likely use it in my future knitting.
Queue it up, y’all.
August 24, 2012 § 6 Comments
It’s done, and I love it!
The cables are gorgeous, the fit is perfect– cozily one-size-too-big– and the Sabine really is shown off to its best advantage. My only complaint is that I’ve already promised this sweater to my sister for her birthday in October (and I should probably send it to her early, so that I’m not tempted to wear it any more than I already have).
Charlotte asked for long sleeves instead of 3/4 length ones, and a simple crew neck– both modifications that I’d definitely have made for myself.
The pattern’s repeated on the back, and the sleeves are left unadorned, which I like.
Of course, I’m wearing it with running shorts.
I guess if I were going to knit another that I’d work it in the round, and knit the sleeves seamlessly instead of setting them in. But, really, that’s it. I’ve also been thinking that, if you were to take out the waist shaping, this would work just as well as a man’s pattern. One more thing to add to the list, I guess.
August 20, 2012 § 2 Comments
Last week, I finally cracked and bought this pattern. I’ve been a blog-reader and serious admirer of Jenny’s since, gosh, 2008. She’s a talented designer (both sewing and knitting) and photographer, and also a lovely writer. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s a quarter Swedish, and that the name of her blog and online shop, Wiksten, is the surname of her Swedish grandmother.
photo © Jenny Gordy
After seeing so many beautiful versions of this top, it seemed like a perfect way to play around with different fabrics, a yard and a half at a time.
It also seems like a pattern I can make again and again, and (hopefully) become better at sewing in the meantime.
August 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
August 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Maybe it’s just the deadly-hot weather of dried-up August, but I’ve been dreaming of a northern summer.
© 2008–2011 Nina Egli and Family Affairs
I’ve had my eye on the Swedish Summer dress since the Family Affairs Spring/Summer 2012 collection debuted back in March. For me, though, the really alluring part isn’t so much the dress as it is the description:
…you have been making blueberry jam all day in your summer cottage in the middle of the Swedish woods, it’s a full moon tonight and you are going for a skinny dip later…
I mean, of course you are.
photo © Hilda Grahnat
Photo via Fantastic Frank
On the non-summer side of things, I’ve fallen pretty hard for the Pia Wallén Crux Blanket, which is unfortunately a) very expensive and b) now only available in cotton flannel (instead of WOOL, like God intended). At least I know I’m in very good company– and I feel like someone I know (I guess it’s Susan?) often says that the cross on the Swiss flag is the greatest piece of design that exists.
Anyway, I have it in mind to make a quilt version– I guess out of the different greys of old men’s suits, like the quilt that hangs in my parents’ downstairs hallway. It looks like Celine has already made a beautiful Crux Quilt– plus, hers features a grey ombré background– so I know it definitely can be done!
I don’t know if the next step is to go spend $50 on a pile of old suit jackets and start cutting squares, or if it’s to find a similar quilt pattern and modify it. If anyone knows anything about quilting, I’d appreciate hearing it.
It’s old news, I know, but this article from the New York Times about Minneapolis’ Bachelor Farmer also has me wishing I lived somewhere colder (or, at the very least, near a restaurant inspired by the New Nordic Cuisine). Just, listen to Noma’s Claus Meyer:
We have got Mosc ox, reindeer, juice turnip from the arctic area, king crab, slow growing Limefiord oysters, Greenlandic ice water flounder, grouse – the one bird in the world than in the most intimate way communicates the flavours of its territory, ancient local cow, pork and lamb varieties, more than 50 species of wild berries from the forests; broke berries, cloudberries, artic bramble, cowberries… Berries that have only been sampled and tasted by few people outside the Nordic region.
The unambitious home market demand was mainly the result of a 300 year long evil partnership formed by ascetic doctors and puritan priest. In together they have led an antihedonistic crusade against the pleasure giving qualities of food and against sensuality as such. The idea of organizing beautiful meals with great food has been considered a sin. The philosophy they so successfully communicated was that if you just ate something of inferior taste and did it in a hurry instead of enjoying too much you would get a long healthy life and end up in heaven.