Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Scrumptious Goodies from the U.K. . .

Oh, yummy, yummy yarn.  I had heard a lot about Fyberspates'  Scrumptious from U.K. bloggers and podcasters, so I had to check it out while I was in England.  This stuff is absolutely wonderful to touch and the colours are just gorgeous.  I bought of skein of Scrumptious Lace in "Water" and several skeins of the Scrumptious DK/Worsted in "Magenta" (the above photo doesn't show how deep the colour really is). They are all made up of 45% silk and 55% merino so there's softness and sheen and I'm really excited to knit with them.

I also picked up the Scrumptious Collection pattern book which has twenty really lovely patterns. It's rare when I want to knit almost everything in a pattern book.  I think I'll be knitting a Wytham with the magenta and a lace shawl with the water.

The greenish olive wool on the right is for Kate Davies' Deco sweater - something I've long wanted to knit and since I was in the UK, I thought I'd go for the exact same wool that she used.  It's a pure organic wool from Blacker Yarns in Cornwall and it's sturdy but soft with excellent stitch definition.  I love working with it. Not too far into the pattern, but it's coming along nicely.

And while browsing the shelves in a supermarket, I excitedly came across this:

Sorry the photo is blurry but it's EXTRA STRONG MARMITE!  Of course I had to buy a jar.  To be honest, I can't really tell the difference, but then I've always spread it on rather thick.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Testament of a Holiday. . .

I've been on holiday for the last two weeks, visiting the lad in Liverpool.  Spring had arrived.  There were flowers out everywhere.

It was my fourth trip to the city and I finally got a chance to ride the famous ferry over the Mersey where you get a terrific view of the historic and very beautiful city skyline.

And the city clearly has knitters - we stumbled on some yarn bombing around the pillars in Sefton Park.

There will be more on the scrumptious yarn goodies that I picked up in the UK but that's for another post.

It's not hard to find the HMV at Liverpool One, the shopping centre downtown.  You just look for this.

And while browsing the DVD section, I audibly gasped when I came across this:

I have been wanting to watch this 1979 mini-series of Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth for over ten years as I had continually heard it was quite marvellous and it's based on one of my all-time favourite books. I immediately bought the DVD and the next day watched all five episodes in one glorious mini-marathon.  I was enthralled and incredibly moved. It was almost as powerful as the book yet never veered too heavily towards sentimentality. I thought Cheryl Campbell was terrific as Vera  and you just ached for what she went though.  One of the best episodes was the final one where she goes back to Oxford, meets Winifred Holtby, and participates in a university debate defending life experience over book learning. Openly laughed at as self-righteous because of her passionate opinions on the war, she returns to her flat and completely breaks down in tears, misunderstood and humiliated, and despite all the horrors of the war, for me, it was this moment that was the most emotional to watch.  It's a scene recounted in Brittain's first novel, The Dark Tide which, while not a literary masterpiece, is nevertheless a fascinating portrayal not only of women in academia after the war, (see also Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night for example), but of the various societal attitudes to their experiences and the post-war options left to them.  It's a novel that will make you wince at times, but it is well worth reading alongside Testament of Youth and makes for an interesting exercise in comparing how similar events get portrayed in fiction versus memoir.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

WIP Wednesdays: Malabrigo Blues Shawl. . .

Finished my Stacy Shawl over the weekend and despite a few mistakes (yarnovers mysteriously appearing where they should not - how did THAT happen?) I'm really happy with it.  This Malabrigo Rios worsted yarn is gorgeous.  I'm always a bit worried about variegated and how it will knit up, but these colours blend very nicely and form a nice pattern.  I'll probably be wearing this shawl more as a scarf because it feels so lovely and soft against a bare neck.  I'd highly recommend the pattern for a beginner in lace - despite my inattention and its attendant mistakes, it is an easy pattern to follow.  You can find it in the book Wendy Knits Lace by Wendy D. Johnson.  On to a slightly more complicated shawl next.  I'll be using another very soft wool - Misti Alpaca's Hand Painted Worsted.  The colours in this are fantastic - a blend of mauves, greys, bit of dusty rose, brown, and some greens too.

I'll be attempting a new pattern by queen of the shawl designers,  Romi Hill,  called Calliope's Odyssey which you can see here.  I'll be using the Misti Alpaca as the main colour and will pull out one of the colours (not sure yet which one) for the contrast colour.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Best Translated Book Awards. . .

The 25 book longlist for the 2012 Best Translated Book Awards has just been announced and there are some really interesting books to explore if, like myself, you love reading international literature.  I've alas only read two of the books on the list, but can wholeheartedly recommend them:  Peter Stamm's Seven Years, translated by Michael Hofman, which is a fascinating dissection of a modern marriage and an obsessive affair, and Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vilas-Matas, translated by Anne McLean, which is an amusing take on trying to write in a garret in Paris, some decades after Hemingway.

I do have several others waiting on the shelves so I can delve more deeply into the list. There's Zone by Mathias Enard, translated by Charlotte Mandel, a five hundred page book constructed entirely in one sentence (not everyone's cup of tea I do acknowledge, but I love literary experimentation), and Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad, translated by Deborah Dawkin, which promises to be Scandinavian literature that's a bit more on the light side, The Truth About Marie by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, translated by Matthew B. Smith  (I do love quirky French novels), and Kornel Esti by Dezso Kosztolanyi, translated by Bernard Adams (I loved Kosztolanyi's previous novel Skylark) have also moved to the nightstand pile.

So a list well worth checking out.  You can see the full longlist here and the Three Percent blog will be dedicating a detailed post about each book in the coming weeks.  Run by Open Letter Books, it's nice to see their work has been recognized by some nominations for this award too - they publish very attractive books and I've been introduced to many fascinating authors through them.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A Book of Bookshelves. . .

A book about the history and design of this very essential staple of our lives?  Oh, yes please!  I've followed Alex Johnson's blog Bookshelf for a few years now.  I'm thrilled he's now got a book.  More info located here.