Monday, 26 January 2015

Finished Object: Starshower Cowl

It has been a long time since I blogged about an FO (nearly two years, eek!). This is partly because I'm horrendous at remembering to take nice pictures of things, and partly because (whisper it) I knit really slowly.


I finished a beautiful cowl project in early December, and when I woke up to a blanket of snow yesterday morning I knew I had to go outside and take photos.

I was quite literally freezing my butt off while taking the pictures, not going to lie.

This is the Starshower cowl by Hilary Smith Callis, knitted from Lang Yarns Mille Colori Socks & Lace Luxe. See the 'Luxe' bit? Yeah, it sparkles! (My project page)

If you recognise the designer's name, it may be because she designed Citron, one of the loveliest patterns ever published in Knitty.

I bought the yarn in an adorably tiny yarn store here in Konstanz, and just knew that I wasn't going to waste the glittery awesomeness in a pair of socks. Some searching on Ravelry turned up the Starshower pattern, which I really enjoyed making. It's a hybrid shawl/cowl: you start off as if you were making a shawl, and then join in the round to make more of a cowl. I really like to wear it looking like a yoke, as shown in the pictures above, especially to give boring jersey dresses a bit more oomph.

It also looks great tucked into a coat (not really sure what my hair was doing at this point, but we'll go with it, okay?)...

Or pulled out of the top of a coat, perhaps to cover up a coffee stain (this is more of a consideration for me than it probably should be)

The star stitch pattern uses a similar method to the Froot Loop socks I've previously made (but not yet blogged about), which is a little odd at first but really easy to get used to. There's a relatively low number of 'pattern' rounds, and the pattern rounds themselves are very repetitive, so this was great TV/ audiobook knitting (I'm looking at you, Middlemarch...).

Just for funsies, would you like to see my extremely high-tech photography set-up?

I've made the picture extra big because otherwise you wouldn't have had a hope in hell of spotting my camera - it's the tiny black rectangle attached to the post with a Gorillapod.

I hadn't used my Gorillapod in ages and I now remember how fantastic it is.

Something I may have to invest in, however, is a remote control, to eliminate the constant running backward and forward and guessing whether the self-timer was done yet! (Oh, blogger problems...)

The first photo has been put through an Instagram filter (though annoyingly I can't remember which one, sorry); the other photos have just been cropped.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Book That Saved My Life

Browsing the Guardian instead of doing uni work just now, I came across this article in which authors and readers shared the books that saved their lives. I thought I'd join in and share mine.

This Song Will Save Your Life*, by Leila Sales. No question about it.

This book has been mentioned on the blog before, as part of a book haul post just over a year ago, when I said I'd fallen in love with it.

What I didn't admit then was what I've told you all since, that I was crumbling. And this book helped me to pick myself up, finally admit that I had a problem and that I needed to see someone and get help.

The protagonist, Elise, starts the book feeling alone. She doesn't fit in, and trying only makes it worse. By chance, when she's out alone, roaming around her city at night, she comes across a secret nightclub that plays her kind of music and is full of her kind of people. I think that this is one of those books that is spoilt by telling you much more, so I'm going to leave it there.

The rest of the post will spoil the story slightly, but I'll do my best to keep spoilers minor and leave you still able to discover the book for yourselves.

This book reminded me what it was to be in my element; it reminded me what it was like to be good at something. I'm no musician or DJ, but (like Elise) I've learnt how great it feels to get a room of people dancing. Give me a laptop, an internet connection, and some speakers, and I can get people on their feet. I've learnt how great it feels to be able to hold a room's attention with my words and skill, both through poetry and public speaking.

And this book reminded me of that. After a particularly horrible few months, this book reminded me that there wasan alternative to spending my days fighting through treacle. It was the impetus I needed to sit in the back of my head and, when things hit their rock bottom last January (three weeks or so after I read it), seek help.

A year later, this remains the only book that I haven't studied that I've annotated all the way through.

Read it and share it. It saved my life, and it might just save someone else's too.

PS: If you're not convinced, give the book's playlist a listen. The book's been optioned for the stage and I imagine a few of these songs will make an appearance...

* - Affiliate link: If you click through and buy anything from Amazon, I'll get a tiny cut and the price to you is the same as it would be otherwise.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

2014 in Books

So, according to Goodreads, I read *gulp* 60 books in 2014, of which 8 were five-star reads, and two were worth only one star. I'm not going to use the star ratings here, though, but instead I'm going to talk about the books that stayed with me and that I particularly enjoyed.

In 2014 I read more classics than I ever have before: Persuasion (Austen), Middlemarch (Eliot), North and South (Gaskell), Excellent Women (Pym), and Lady Audley's Secret (Braddon). I really loved both North and South and Persuasion. Middlemarch, on the other hand... it's better that we don't talk about it. I also read Val McDermid's update of Northanger Abbey, which was a lot of fun, and Jo Baker's Longbourn, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants. Oh, and the highly silly but enjoyable Me & Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter!

I also read a lot of YA, gaining two new favourite authors in the year: I read both Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins for the first time and loved both, especially Fangirl and Lola and the Boy Next Door, respectively (although my issue with Lola is that the protagonist, Lola, really annoys me - but I love the male main character so much that he outweighs all my irritation). I also really enjoyed The Summer I Became a Nerd, by Leah Rae Miller.

In terms of general adult fiction, I really enjoyed Mr Rosenblum's List (also titled Mr. Roseblum Dreams in English) by Natasha Solomons, a story about trying to fit in, in your own special way. The Vacationers, by Emma Straub, was also a good read: it might be interesting to go back and re-read it in ten years time to see if I identify more with other characters. And, of course, I read and loved The Silkworm, book 2 in Robert Galbraith's (cough, cough, JK Rowling's) Cormoran Strike series.

There were some really hyped-up books around in 2014, of which I read Game of Thrones, We Were Liars, and The Maze Runner. Would it be churlish to say that I wasn't a huge fan of any of them? Probably, but I'll say it anyway!

Lastly: non-fiction. I read Laura Bates' Everyday Sexism, which is an incredibly important, shocking, and depressing book which I think everyone needs ro read. I also enjoyed the third release from the team behind Freakonomics: Think Like a Freak.


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