A wet weekend and a good book…

I know the country’s media has been full of ‘snow in the UK’ stories, but large parts of the country have been clear, and we’re one of them (the UK, in this context, appears to mean the south-east corner, extending up the east coast).

While it’s been comparatively warm here in Snowdonia – 10 degrees at one point – it’s also been damp. What a surprise.

I tried a walk, but though the colours were gorgeous, I got fed up with drips down the back of my neck and squishiness underfoot. Just the weather for lighting the stove, bunging an old film on the DVD and getting out your knitting. Only I can’t. Well, I can do the first two – but all I can do is knit about eight lines and then I have to put it away again. Doesn’t last a whole DVD.

So it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on one of my Christmas books. Hooray!

I’d already put my book orders in with my friends and family when I found Knitting Around the World by Lela Nargi, so I bought it for myself. I’m glad I did. I’ve found it fascinating (though debatable in places – but that’s part of the fun). It is also – and you have to bear in mind that I say this as an editor and writer myself – rather badly copy-edited, if it’s been anywhere near a copy editor at all. But that’s just a niggle.

I’ve not finished it – my readathon was interrupted by ancient tribal ritual*, plus I kept getting diverted – and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

The book is divided into regions of the world – and I do mean the world – with some historic or interesting patterns included, as well as pull-out features on particular people working with yarn, such as Françoise Dupré and Solveig Hisdal. Some are new to me, and I’ve found those parts particularly interesting.

And it is wonderfully illustrated – I should have made that clear at the start, instead of droning on about editing. Typical.

It’s great book to flick through, and that was what I had done until this weekend, and I’d enjoyed doing so. But I’d not really concentrated on it, given it a chance – I must admit that the editing errors had put me off a little – and actually read it properly. When I did, I noticed immediately that it kept sending me to other books and reference works, sparking me off in other directions, and for me that’s one of the marks of a good book.

It’s had this effect on other people too. Earlier, I’d taken it along to the January meeting of our branch of the GWSD, where it provoked a predictable debate on the relatively brief section about Welsh knitting. The caption for the photograph on the left suggests that the knitter is working on a sleeve – nah, it’s a long sock: general consensus. (Of course, we were all wearing stovepipe hats, aprons and shawls. It’s what we do at the Llyn Guild.)

In less local territory, I’ve been introduced many other delights. I now know more about Japanese knitting and scary Japanese patterns; I’ve learned more about the really, really ancient craft of nalbinding (there are some clear illustrations – you can see them on the left-hand page of the first spread above) and Greenlandic beaded wrist-warmers. I’ve been introduced to Turkish socks and the world of ‘utopian knitting’ – the Shakers and Mormons. I’ve discovered Icelandic shoe inserts through this book:

And aren’t they fabulous?

I can’t think of a better way of spending a wet weekend, given that I can’t knit or spin properly and wanted to do something woolly – though I suppose I could have done some housework instead. Hmm.

(*Ancient tribal ritual? The little matter of yelling at the TV during a certain rugby match.
I have to admit that I had to watch the end through the fabric of my polo neck, which I’d pulled up over my eyes. There are exciting matches and there are really exciting matches. And commiserations to any Irish readers – bechod…)


8 thoughts on “A wet weekend and a good book…

  1. heikeknits

    This sounds indeed a very fascinating book and I am amazed you were able to do anything during THAT Match…I was hiding behind a cushion at the end whilst giving a running commentary over my i-phone to Mark who is skiing in Switzerland but needed to feel part of the excitement.
    If you liked the Icelandic shoe inserts, you will love reading Icelandic Knitting by Helene Magnusson. She is a French native who married and Icelandic guy and now lives and works from Iceland. Have a look at her website:www.knittingiceland.com to see more. Have a good week!

    1. kate Post author

      Oooo – Icelandic Knitting sounds wonderful. I’m not allowed to buy yarn at Wonderwool this year, so maybe one of the bookstalls will have it so I can droooool (I am allowed to buy books, dyes, patterns, scotch eggs).

      We scared my friend’s dog so much during the match that she went and hid in the study…. what a corker, but a couple of nasty tackles and a dubious decision on a try / not a try… much better than the Saturday matches!

  2. Annie

    How weird to scroll down and see a pic in the book that I’ve used on my blog and have as my avatar on Ravelry and elsewhere!

    Of course it’s a sock, silly author suggesting a sleeve 😉 What’s more the image is from a set held by the National Library of Wales that was taken by a travelling photographer, John Thomas, who carried his own props. If you look at the set as a whole there is little variation in clothing among the women – either he photographed a group dressed up in identical Welsh costume, or he had the pinnies and such with him. The hats differ, which does fit as similar hats are reported in Wales as early as 1800, so each woman may well have been wearing her own, but they appear to be circulating about four different pieces of knitting between them … maybe some forgot to bring their wips to the shoot 😉

    Seriously, as an historian it annoys me immensely when photographs are used without proper reference to what they actually represent, which in this case is most definitely not the authentic Welsh cottage knitter.

    Does that mean I should have similar questions about the rest of the images in the book. I was thinking of buying this one … should I?


    1. kate Post author

      I thought it was your ravatar! Fascinating about John Thomas, too – thanks for that.

      I suspect that Nargi (the author) was responsible for selecting (and possibly financing) the images in this book, as is now increasingly the case. I agree with you wholeheartedly about credits, but Nargi is good about them, either citing sources or crediting photographers, and has credited this one to the National Library of Wales. However, the commentary is all her own (you can see why this book stirred up so much debate), which is a bit of a shame when there are resources available to help – mind you, she has used those from the Shetland Museum and Archives, so maybe most of the rest are reliable.

      I’m not sure whether to recommend it to you or not – all I can say is that I’ve found it fascinating, irritating errors and all. And it’s already provoked a really interesting discussion / debate / argument on the 19thC sock-knitting business round here – worth it for that alone. What it isn’t, is an academic book. I’m still waiting for that!

  3. Lydia

    I recommend Helene Magnusson’s book too. Over here in Western Australia I thought the whole of Britain was wading around in a thick blanket of snow metres thick – at least that is what the news would have us believe. The photos of Welsh spinners with their outfits were mostly taken for English tourists I believe, back in the 19th century. I am sure my Nain (great-grandmother do not know the Welsh for that) would have had a fit! I know she used to spin and I wish I had her spinning wheel but there we are it is lost in the mists of time. It must have been a great game to watch!

    1. kate Post author

      (Listening to the BBC, you’d have thought the whole of Britain was under metres of snow too – hrrumpf)

      Right – two swallows definitely mean a summer, and me buying that book 🙂 It does sound good – not that I need much incentive to buy more knitting books, but I had a third swallow too. I mentioned this exchange at my knitting group last night, and one of the other knitters is after the book too, following another recommendation. So I have to get it; it is written.

      I don’t know what you mean about that not being normal dress (ho ho), it’s how I dress all the time, even in Tescos. Seriously, I’m sure it was every bit as unreal for everyday dress in the nineteenth century as it is today, and that the same is true for a lot of ‘folk costumes’ all over the world. Far too fancy for bringing in the cows. OK if you’re being paid or selling stuff to tourists in something like a market.

  4. Annie

    LOL I too have just posted about the media’s hype about the snow !!
    Great match on Sat wasn’t it but I agree re some of the dubious tackles . Still we won , we won 😉
    Sounds an interesting book too , would like a peek at it sometime if at all possible

    1. kate Post author

      I’ll bring it along to the Guild’s Sunday Spinners… it is interesting. Parts are dubious (or then again..) but it’s really fascinating.

      What a match – and by heavens, the Irish team has a great kicker. Oh my goodness, we’ll miss the Scotland match on Sunday! Live feed!


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