Karie Bookish Dot Net

A Very Personal Note

This is just to say that life has happened.

I’m away from email & work queries for a few days. I don’t know when I’ll return to work. If you have any queries, please ask in my Ravelry group where I’m sure the fantastic knitters will be happy to help.

Love those around you & let them know every day.

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In Her Soft Wind I Will Whisper

Lady on the left? My great-grandmother. She would have been a hundred years old today.

The photo was taken in the early 1950s outside her cottage and she is with two of her sons, K and T.

I have several photos of her; my other favourite is from the 1930s when she was approached by a travelling salesman who wanted her to become a hair model. I presume she shot him one of her withering glances. The photo shows her with long, gorgeous hair. I was told it was chestnut-coloured. The photo is black/white.

I was lucky enough to grow up around her. She looked after me when I was pre-kindergarten and I spent most of my school holidays in her cottage. Her cottage did not have running water until I was maybe seven or eight and never got central heating.

I can still envision her sitting in her chair in front of the kerosene-fuelled stove. She’d knit long garter stitch strips from yarn scraps and sew them into blankets. She was the one who taught me to knit. She was certainly the one who taught me how to skip rope.

Happy birthday, momse. We may not always have seen eye to eye, but we loved and understood each other. And I still miss you.

Title comes from this beautiful farewell song (youtube link). Post reposted from previous years with Momse’s age amended. I continue to miss her.

The Joy Of Making Stuff

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Oh, but the joy of making.

Recently I have begun dressmaking again. I had previous forays into dressmaking around 2011, but I have not been seriously sewing clothes since I was a teenager. This time around I have discovered how relaxing I find the rituals and processes of dressmaking. Casa Bookish is fairly petite, so I do my sewing on the dining table which presents its own challenges. Despite a pressed schedule and lack of space, I am really enjoying myself.

Which brings me to this outburst:

LET’S MAKE STUFF and make the world a more creative, imaginative, happier, more colourful, and enjoyable place.

Some times I worry we overthink the act of making.

We swathe it in mystique (all those “15 Things You Need To Know To Unlock Your Creativity” pieces).

We become consumers rather than creators (“You cannot do origami unless you buy authentic unicorn paper from this off-shore Japanese monastery”).

We are tourists rather than inhabitants of MakingLand (spending more time browsing Pinterest and blogs rather than make all the things we pin and queue).

LET’S MAKE STUFF and make the world a more creative, imaginative, happier, more colourful, and enjoyable place.

I know that a full-time job and family life leaves us with precious little time. I know it’d be amazing to have a whole weekend just making stuff. I know time is a scarce resource.

But if you have 30 minutes free every Sunday, you too can make stuff! Don’t feel you need to have tonnes of free time. Make when you can! Make when you are on the train! Make in your lunch break! Make whilst the pasta is boiling! Make whilst watching TV!

LET’S MAKE STUFF and make the world a more creative, imaginative, happier, more colourful, and enjoyable place.

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So, I’m dress-making.

A) I feel really happy when I wear something I have made.

B) I have become increasingly aware of my making needing to reflect my everyday wardrobe.

C) I want sewn clothes that fit me as well as my knitted items do.

My main reason for dress-making is wardrobe, so my main focus is to find a basic dress pattern that I can make over & over with a few tweaks. I wear dresses all the time – occasionally skirts – so I am not to bothered about keeping up with what’s the latest trendy pattern to make in the sewing world.

I spent a bit of time on a disastrous pattern which I nicknamed The Apron Dress. I had seen some pretty versions of the dress on various people I know, but the fit was so, so awful. The lack of any actual structure (i.e. darts, supportive seams and shaping within the pattern itself) means that I was wearing a cutesy apron dress in which my bust looked to be extending outwards! The overall effect was not good. Fortunately I was just making a toile using cheap charity shop fabric – lessons gained and no beautiful fabric lost.

Moving on, I have been playing around with the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes which comes with beautifully clear instructions and structure. I’ve really hacked’n’slashed the Emery bodice. I’ve added extra coverage for my bust, moved the darts, and I’m about to alter the waist a tiny bit too. The first toile was almost spot on – I just had to move the bust apex a bit, lower the waist darts and .. well, I am having fun. when I was dressmaking as a teenager, I had no notion of fit but this time around I’m geeking out.

And there is knitting too, but I am in the midst of ‘stuff’ that will be unveiled at a later date. There is nothing more frustrating than some very pleasing things I cannot discuss. Fortunately there is always, always making stuff.

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F-f-fashion: Some Thoughts on Clothes & Knitting

Fashion. I was one of those people who always said I didn’t care about fashion because fashion didn’t care about me, but in the last decade or so, I changed my mind. Maybe it was my move from Copenhagen to Glasgow that prompted my change of heart? The two cities have radically different approaches to fashion. Maybe it was because I began making clothes? I started thinking about necklines and silhouettes in another way. Whatever the reason I began thinking about fashion as both visual communication and social history.

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I spent last week doing jury duty. I was never picked to sit on a jury but I spent several hours every day sitting in a crowd of around 100 strangers. It was so interesting to observe what people were wearing. It was a sea of black trousers, various blouses, and suits but people still looked so different depending upon the cut of their trousers or how their jacket sat. One guy stood out for a slim-cut navy suit with brown brogues – I imagined him working in media or the trendy part of IT. Another man wore a loose, baggy suit that screamed 1990s to me – I guessed that maybe he didn’t wear suits to work and only owned this one suit? What people wear say a lot about them – just as much as body and verbal language do.

What has this to do with me working as a designer?fashion

I don’t live and work in a context-less world. I am influenced by what I see around me as much as anybody else. I have my own specific aesthetic which is tied to my body, my colouring and my love of vintage shopping. I design things that I want to wear myself (unless it is a very, very, very specific brief which rarely happens). I have pinterest boards that I edit frequently to help me hone my aesthetic (How to Wear Clothes is my imaginary wardrobe, for instance; Knitting Inspiration does what it says on the tin). I keep an eye on people like Shirley Kurata whose stylistic instincts I admire. I also spend a working day each season going through catwalk shows on style.com thinking about things like necklines, colour combinations, sleeve caps, tailoring etc. You may not be able to see all this work in my design, but it is there. When someone commented on the Lindgren mittens saying “they look like the most amazing vintage find!” I had a quiet, internal fistbump of yay, yay, yay, that is what I wanted to say!

 

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I think talking about hand-knitting in a fashion context is always likely to be fraught with danger. I know many Ravelry people have the same ‘I don’t care about fashion because fashion don’t care about me’ stance that I used to have (which in its own way is a reaction to fashion – or at least the fast fashion of the retail world). But what we choose to make speaks its own language and forms part of social history (increased leisure time; rejection of consumerism; ethical consumerism; concerns about sustainability; the rise of nostalgia industry etc). Clothes are never ‘just’ clothes. I’d argue we even see micro-trends within hand-knitting that are as much about fashion as we’d like to pretend they are not.

What are your thoughts on the act of making and fashion? Do you try to imitate current high street trends? Do you have a specific style you try to make? Do you follow making trends and like making ‘the in-thing’? Do you follow fashion? How do you think about the clothes you wear & make?

“Don’t Think You Knew You Were in this Song” – Goodbye Bowie.

You are going to read this many times for mine’s a common tale even though it feels otherwise.

Short version: I grew up in Nowheresville. I grew up, left Nowheresville, and found David Bowie’s artistic output to be a constant touchstone. Bowie passed away today and I am very, very sad.

Longer version: I grew up in rural Denmark in a family whose cultural references were mainly the Great American Songbook and 1950s American pop culture. The school playground was a hard, cold, bewildering place. I knew I had to fit in somehow and that I couldn’t manage. The other kids loved Disney, sport, and Madonna while I was really into prehistoric archaeology, art history, and Gene Kelly.

When I was 18, I moved to London. It was the first big move in a life that’s seen quite a few big moves. I spent my days looking after spoiled kids and my nights going to art galleries and listening to music. London was in the early throes of what would later be known as Britpop – the rank commercialism of the Blur vs Oasis feud was not even a glimmer in a record exec’s eyes. I discovered music that was to be mine – Suede, Pulp, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, and dEUS among others. Drifting towards David Bowie was inevitable. Strange, raw, androgynous, glamorous, queer, desolate, alien, and utterly beautiful Bowie.

One of my favourite songs is by an obscure 1990s band called Subcircus called 20th Century Bitch and there is such a beautiful line: “There is a hole in the sky / Where Bowie fell through” before it continues to blur the lines between gender, desire, and self.

I made more big moves. I ended up in Copenhagen. And I met people who were strange, raw, androgynous, glamorous, queer, desolate, alien, and utterly beautiful themselves. Bowie and his cultural brethren/descendants became shorthand for a lot of identity-making. We discovered we were free to define (and crucially choosing not to define) ourselves in every way that mattered.  Bowie paved the way.

One of my favourite films is Todd Haynes’ glam musical Velvet Goldmine. It is a thinly veiled Bowie biopic and isn’t particularly complimentary towards him (you cannot blame Bowie for turning down requests to feature his music). It is a wildly ambititous, crazily messy film. I love it. There is an unforgettable moment where Christian Bale’s character points to Brian Slade (i.e. Bowie) on TV and exclaims: That is me! Mum, that is me! That powerful moment of recognising something buried so deep inside yourself in someone else. That joyful surprise of realising that you are not alone even if it feels like that sitting in a shabby living room in the middle of nowhere. There is a whole world out there where you’ll feel some sense of belonging: That is me! Mum, that is me!

Along the way I managed to catch David Bowie live. He was about the size of my thumb nail and his charisma hit me squarely in the face. I could not take my eyes off him. He made you feel like you were a member of an exclusive club of misfits and outcasts – yet Bowie was touring 1. Outside and we were 80,000 people in front of him at the Roskilde Festival. This was part of the paradox and fascination with David Bowie: so much intimacy in such a remote way. Bowie was like a two-way mirror. We all looked at him and saw ourselves reflected back at us – but there was always something else lurking behind it all. Something we could never reach or see.

I am very sad today but most of all I think of the people who knew David Jones rather than David Bowie. They are the ones who really feel the loss. The rest of us mourn the man and the masks that brought us solace from loneliness and a sense of freedom.

Authors & Artists: Hello Astrid

When I grew up my best friend was called Astrid. I don’t know if she were named after Astrid Lindgren (I suspect as much) but I do know that I loved reading books by someone called the same as my best friend. Then Astrid moved schools and met cool girls who liked clothes and makeup way more than books. Heartbreak is really hard (especially when you are a kid) but books get you through.

Yesterday I released the Astrid hat.

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When I released the Lindgren mittens back in December, I had a slew of people asking about a hat. As it happens, I had left-over yarn from the mittens – and I also had cold ears. You can see where this is going. Yes, this is a companion pattern.

It became very clear during the design process that I didn’t just want to take the colourwork pattern from the mittens and slab that on top of a generic hat. I just don’t work that way and I wanted something that had its own identity whilst still calling back to the mittens. Instead I took the pattern from the thumb and opened it up across the top of the hat. The lower rim has the same pattern as the mittens but I love how the hat plays with “open” and “close” patterns.

The pompom is striped – Katya Frankel has a neat little tutorial on how to get a speckled pompom. To get a stripe you simply add more layers of your contrast colour before going back to the pompom’s main colour.

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We had the first photo shoot on Boxing Day on the beach in my favourite Scottish fishing village. The weather was horrendous. I had sleet flying in my face and the wind was blowing a gale. I was so happy to be wearing my cosy mittens and hat. The weather did not make for great photos, though.

The next day we went back as the weather had cleared. We had a lovely time climbing the rocks, watching the surf and strolling down the coastal path.

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And I felt much better about having a camera pointing at me.

As Dave was taking photos, I thought about my life and the things we go through that make us the people we are today. As a lonely child, I found solace and strength in books. As an adult I do the same – but I also find strength and joy in making things, sharing my makes with other makers, and in walking down steep coastal paths with my best friend who understands silence and everyday beauty and me.

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2016: New Words & An Almost Blank Slate

2016. I start the year with a spring in my step. I gave myself real, honest time off and I cannot believe the difference it has made to my general state of mind. I did a touch of dress-making, I watched a lot of films, I went for long walks with D. and I finished some work knitting. I also had a lovely Christmas in Aberdeenshire and I spent New Year’s Eve in Glasgow. Oh, and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice because I am a nerd.

So, 2016.

I sat down this morning and made a quick list.

joy

While I am not one for inspirational quotes, I found having a word lodged at the back of my mind incredibly useful last year. I also think we all have a word or two guiding us throughout our lives (“family” and “money” are two such words I have encountered a lot). It’s just nice to sit down and really have a think about what I have to have a guiding principle – and this year it is joy.

I struggle a lot with perfectionism (like many other creatives do), work/life balance, and my desire to say yes to everything. By asking Will this job bring me joy? Does designing this fill me with joy? If I go to this event, will I enjoy it? I hope to have a tool that will cut through a lot of the noise. Will it work?

Well, I ended 2015 looking like this. Yes, it’s a hat to match the Lindgren mitts. Yes, the pattern is forthcoming. Most importantly, I look happy and relaxed. Here’s to joy in 2016.

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2015 – A Year In Knitting

2015 was a terrible year, generally speaking. It was a year that seemed to bring out the worst in people and the world appeared to be heading towards darkness, fear, and hatred. I finally stopped watching the news this year (and I’m a total news junkie). Instead I tried to find beauty wherever I could find it: art, literature, and kind gestures.

But I am also a knitter and knitting brings solace (even when I’m stressed out of my skull over deadlines, I love knitting).

So, I’m going to spend this post looking back at my year in knitting (and crochet).

2015 was my first year of being fully self-employed. I made the big leap in 2014, and 2015 was a year of me realising what that meant. I got used to a full inbox and I learned big lessons on Saying No to Things. I travelled a lot and I met so many brilliant, talented, wonderful people.

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I taught so many workshops all over the UK – from the buzz of Hackney in London to the quiet, quiet countryside of Northern Ireland. Bikes, busses, trains, and ferries. Astounding views ranging from the Lake District, Scottish glens, the flat streets of Cambridge, and the strange aircraft hangar feeling of a giant exhibition hall.

Design-wise, 2015 was another busy year.

I released three Authors & Artists patterns: Byatt, Mahy, and Lindgren. I had a few patterns published elsewhere: the Chard top in Knit Now and the Swale hap in the wonderful Drift book by Eden Cottage Yarns. I also had three sock patterns released with Old Maiden Aunt yarns, and the Crosstown Traffic released as a Malabrigo Quickie pattern. And I released the lovely HYGGE collection: Fika, Top Hygge, Skovtur, Brygga and Tryghed.

14 designs in one year – that should be grand, right? I feel quite bad about the low tally but I also know how much I ripped out and how hard I’ve been on myself (..may 2016 be the year of less perfectionism). I also worked on a few things that are yet to be released. I also knitted myself a comfy jumper with no pattern to show for it.

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I went on three knitting retreats.

The first one was in February in Dunoon and had amazing views. I hung out with my Glasgow posse, watched Labyrinth & Flash Gordon for the first time, and knitted myself a Hetty cardigan.

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The second was a combination knitting retreat/hen party for one of my dearest friends. We stayed in a fabulous farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales. We watched cheesy Doctor Who episode, ate cheese, and I played the worst round of pool ever seen. I also worked on the Mahy shawl constantly.

The third knitting retreat was in Lancaster at the Crawfords’ farm. A handful of designers camped on site and we spent a very fruitful summer weekend learning from each other, working on various future designs, and cooking amazing food. I was working on something that is yet to be released. Here’s a photo of some yoked jumpers/cardigans we were sporting.

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(photo by Katya Frankel)

And then there were events. Three in particular stand out for me:

The Edinburgh Yarn Festival was such momentous event for me personally. I tend to sit on my own and work – and suddenly people came up to me and chatted. You are real! There are people out there! I had some thought-provoking, smart conversations and I got to spend time with some very special people. EYF 2015 was the event that made me realise that it is all real. You guys exist and you are awesome. Also, there was much yarn.

Yarndale 2015 was a mad lark. I said hello to so many people, talked so much, and did so many things for one very short day that I had to take a short holiday afterwards. Most of all, Yarndale was the day of the Scollay-along meetup and I got very verklempt.

And In the Loop 4 was fantastic. An inspiring three-day conference on all things knitting & textile. I gave a paper on Faroese knitting and the idea of tradition. Three days in the company of some of the brightest thinkers on knitting culture and knitting history. It really made me think hard and restored some confidence in my ability to think. I am eagerly awaiting the next ITL in 2017.

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(photo by Jeni Reid)

Looking back, 2015 was probably the year of meeting people. I am a natural introverted hermit who lives in her own head, so it was a challenge for me at times, but I learned so much from each and every one I met.

2016 looks to be busy in terms of me being on the road talking to fabulous folks, but I have blocked out several weeks of me-time. I think I need that in order to be able to work. I am looking forward to seeing new faces and go places I have never been.

Thank you for 2015. It’s been a tough year out there in the world, but thankfully there has also been knitting and good people.

A Little Something

I’ve begun looking back at the year now almost over. I’ll be writing about all my knitting adventures soon, so stay tuned for that. However, 2015 was a hard year in many ways that has nothing to do with knitting, friends, or family. It was a year that worried me and made me want to spread kindness and beauty.

And so as we make our way towards the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, celebrate the return of light and look towards a new year, I thought I’d do something a bit unusual (for me).

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I don’t usually do sales and discounts – I don’t like buying something only to find it cheaper the next day and I’m not a fan of the whole “tag five of your friends, follow me on 17 different social media accounts and tell me a secret about yourself” spiel. I am too old and grumpy for that! However, I do want to celebrate we are nearing the end of a tough year. So, without any further ado..

The first pattern is Chinese Kites.

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I won’t be updating this blog everyday with the new patterns and codes, so keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram. You don’t need to follow me as such. I am just posting the pattern names and codes those two places. If you do follow, it makes it easier to keep up with the annnouncements (and I would love for you to say hello too if you are a long-time lurker).

‘ll be back soon with my look back at 2015 and a sneak peek at what 2016 will bring. I’ll also share my favourite makes of 2015, designs that caught my eye, and what I hope 2016 will bring (apart from kindness, light, and open hearts which I definitely think we all need).

Authors & Artists: Lindgren Mitts

I was a bookish child, and when you are a bookish child in Scandinavia, you grow up reading Astrid Lindgren. Lindgren was a Swedish author who wrote books for children of all ages. I grew up alongside the unruly children of the Bullerby books and the exceptionally naughty Emil from Lönneberga. I cheered for the feisty Pippi Longstocking. And I was heartened by the strong, empowering presence of Ronja the Robber’s Daughter when the Brothers Lionheart broke my heart.  Astrid Lindgren’s characters were constant companions – I learned so much from her books about love, family, friendships, and the power of gentle, yet firm civil disobedience.

And so I designed a pair of utterly Nordic mittens with Astrid Lindgren in mind. The children of Bullerby could have worn these ice-skating. Maybe Emil’s sister Ida was looking to wear these, but Emil dumped them in the soup. Pippi misplaced them and only found them when her monkey put them on his ears. Who knows. I wore them to my favourite Scottish fishing village where I skipped stones.

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The Lindgren mittens are adorable. They are also a rather quick knit as they are worked in DK/light worsted on 4mm needles. No row uses more than two colours and the pattern repeat is pleasingly small. The only slightly fiddly bit is that the top uses a three-needle bind-off – I have included written instructions for this in the pattern (and there are some very good youtube videos too).

The mittens use three colours of double-knitting/light worsted yarn. My sample uses Drops Lima – a wool/alpaca blend. My sample used around 1.5 balls of shade 0701 (Petrol mix) and one ball each of shades 0619 (Beige) and 3609 (Red). Drops Lima is currently on sale until end of December 2015 which means the Lindgren mittens could be knitted or gifted for around £10!

Because I used a DK yarn, there are many alternatives. Blacker Yarns has a whole world of suitable British yarns (the Classic DK range is a favourite of mine). Eden Cottage Yarns Whitfell Alpaca DK would be super-cosy. Rowan Baby Merino Silk is top-range luxury (and I love how its heathered shades look in colourwork). Baa Ram Ewe’s Dovestone DK would be even more luxurious.

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Over the last few years I have taught so many classes on Nordic knitting – I am always very keen on emphasising that Nordic knitting isn’t a monolithic beastie that resembles reindeers adorned with snowflakes. Lindgren reflects my own reflection upon the multiple strands that make up my knitting heritage as well as giving thanks to a woman whose books opened my heart and my mind.

“Everything great that ever happened in this world happened first in somebody’s imagination.”
– Astrid Lindgren