Category Archives: Art

Knitting reduces stress…and don’t call me a goddess

Two links for you today. On the front page of CNN, an article that will surprise no one who knits, or does any kind craft work: Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain, experts say. My own non-scientific self-study shows this is true. Had I not picked up my knitting needles at the end of 2010, I’m not sure I could have gotten through 2011 without turning to scotch. Sometimes I joke with friends who ask why I knit so much, “Knitting saved my life,” but the truth is, it kind of did. 🙂

Then a spot-on blog post I stumbled upon yesterday, written by blogger and author Kim Werker, former editor of Interweave Crochet, where she says and I quote: “My pet peeve is this: woo-woo rhetoric in the context of business advice for women. It seems like everywhere I look, someone is selling an ebook, course or seminar on some or another topic that involves the words goddesssoulfulness, or spirituality. Or some variation or combination of words like that.” It was one of those posts I wish I’d written because the mashup of business education and feminized woo-woo claptrap annoys the stuffing out of me. Full disclosure: I teach a class for freelance writers of either gender designed to help them develop ideas for magazine articles, but they find no talk about spirituality, inner goddesses, or discovering their souls although I do urge students to write about topics that speak to their interests. Practical advice, not potions!

The snowstorm we were supposed to get fizzled into nothing, which is fine with me … no complaints. It is, however, quite windy and cold. I’ve been standing in the kitchen window with my hot cups of coffee, watching the birds feed outside our garage. O and I are getting better at bird identification. So far, we’ve spotted male and female cardinals, tufted titmouses (titmice?), hairy woodpeckers, female blue jays, juncos, and chickadees. Oh yes, and a very naughty squirrel who climbs down our garage roof and onto the birdfeeder, draping himself over it like a blanket to nibble the black oil sunflower seeds upside down. It’s so funny to watch that it’s hard to get mad at him. Next time I see him out there, I’ll get a picture or video through our kitchen window.

How is your week going?

What I’ve been reading (and a giveaway)

My right hand has been giving me some trouble (too much knitting?), so I’ve been catching up on my reading while giving my poor hands a break.

First up is Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill, a book I’ve had on my Goodreads list for a long while. If you’re the type of person who walks into a friend’s home and studies her bookshelf for clues about who she really is, you’ll like this book. Hill, the author of the The Woman in Black (yes, the scary film starring Daniel Radcliffe is based upon it), decided to spend a year reacquainting herself with her personal book collection rather than shopping for new books. Hill is a lovely, evocative writer; my only quibble —  keeping in mind that I haven’t yet finished the book — is that it reads more like a book of essays than a flowing narrative, which I’d prefer. On the other hand, since I find myself dipping into the book in the few short minutes I have reading in bed, I can get through a chapter and know that when I pick up the book again, I won’t have to backtrack to pick up. I’ve found myself making mental notes of books I’d like to read or re-read: Great Expectations, Enid Blyton’s children’s books, and yes, The Woman in Black since I don’t like watching ghost stories on film (too scary!).

I’ve written here about my enjoyment of Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Domesticity. It’s a book where I like looking the pictures more than reading the text: Brocket has a habit of dropping reference to her advanced degrees that I find a little offputting. I got to the point where I said to the book, “I get it! You’re educated! Give it a break!” She reminds me of a friend who cannot get through a conversation without mention of her Ivy League degree.

But I digress. So if you’re like me and like Brocket’s book sans copy or you hated Brocket’s book, you might like the book I picked up last week called Homemade: 101 Beautiful and Useful Craft Projects You Can Make at Home by Ros Badger and (the late) Elspeth Thompson. The book is set up by seasons, which I love, and most of the projects can be completed with found objects around the house. There are recipes (elderflower cordial, spicy chutney, pumpkin soup), as well as simple knitting projects and even household fix-its, like instructions on how to restore garden furniture, create planters, and build a pebble garden. But what I really love about this book is that none of the projects have that “cutesy” look I detest in so many modern-day craft books. Everything looks stylish, but organic if that makes sense. It’s the kind of book I can flip through to give me inspiration on decorating my home on a tight budget. For example, we have some dreadfully ugly floor registers. My hope was to replace them with some brass registers but they’re prohibitively expensive. While glancing through Homemade, I got the idea to clean them and give them a good coating of spray paint. I was going to do them in an antiqued brass, but decided to paint them glossy black to match the thresholds. I just finished the project this a.m., and while the registers don’t look as pretty as brass ones would, they’re 1000% better looking with a coat of paint.

Last week the publisher of The Real Elizabeth by journalist Andrew Marr sent me a couple review copies. I’ve been itching to read this biography as I’ve heard that the Queen gave many of her staff and intimates permission to talk to Marr as he researched the book. I’ve also read excerpts on the web, which piqued my interest in Elizabeth’s 60-year-reign as Britain’s monarch. Last week marked the beginning of her jubilee year so in celebration, I’m giving my other copy of The Real Elizabeth away to one lucky Hail Britannia reader. All you have to do is tell me, in the comments below, what you admire about the Queen … even if it’s just her corgis. I’m sorry but with this giveaway, I can only ship to addresses in the U.S. or Canada. The giveaway closes on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. ET, and I’ll draw a name at random early next week. Good luck … and thanks for entering!

Light Traffic Only mug

I was reading through Ben Pentreath’s garden and design blog last week (o i’m so in love with his gardens) when my eye fell upon these delightful china mugs featuring typography from old-style English village signposts. So much more clever and stylish than china emblazoned with Will’s and Kate’s mugs, don’t you think?  You can also get the design imprinted on tea towels. The mugs are just £10 ($16.30 U.S.) inclusive of shipping in the UK; call for international shipping. — 59HIGHSTREET Gallery

Keep calm and carry yarn

My love of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” theme is well documented here on the blog, although I must admit some growing ambivalence over the last few months as the artwork has become ubiquitous: mugs, tea towels, light switches … what next? Toilet paper?

That said, I adore these knitting bags from Etsy shop Jenniegee, Perfect for my summer sweater and sock projects and an apropos slogan in that I knit to relieve anxiety. She also offers the slogan on posters … hmm, maybe one for the knitting nook I hope to develop in our new house.

 

Retro video and photos

I spent a good amount of time this morning poring over the photos and videos posted at How to be a Retronaut, which is sort of like a web-based time machine powered by a database of video, photos, documents, recordings, and more. My favorites are the color film of London shot by cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene in 1927. There’s a brief shot of the women bending down to leave flowers at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, which brought me to tears as I was reminded that WWI was only a few short years behind them and their grief was probably cold and fresh. We also know that in just a few years, London would be under raid by the Germans.

Then there are the high definition photos taken around London in the late 40s (love the signage!) And, of course, this opening sequence (above) from “The Prisoner,” filmed in the mid-60s. You’d never see a long opening sequence like this in a television show today! Another series worth checking out are the color photos taken in Paris during the occupation by the Germans. In many ways, Paris looks the same to me today than it did then, except for the fashion and cars (and Nazi soldiers, of course.)

Knitting the Union Jack

Whenever I travel, I like to bring something home with that nation’s national flag on it. I guess I have this thing for flags. To wit: my writer friend Alison can attest to my excitement finding a roadside stand in southern India covered in hundreds of cheerful red communist flags.  That said, I’m not one of those yee-haw Americans who goes around waving the red, white, and blue every chance I get, although I do think the American flag is a thing of beauty and the national flag I find most aesthetically pleasing. (Ok, so I’m biased. Throw tomatoes.)

The Union Jack is my second favorite flag, naturally, and I get excited whenever I see it on a pillow, poster, bunting, or dress. Unfortunately, these pieces are usually fairly expensive — some of the Union Jack pillows I’ve seen are close to $500! — so I’ve been thinking about making one myself, and indeed, just found a pattern for a Cath Kidston-like one in last month’s issue of the British craft mag, Sew Hip. (Photos of completed project TK.)

But what I’d really love to make is this sweater-dress from British yarn company, Rowan. They’ve done theirs in gray, but I’d go all-out crazy-Anglophile on this and knit it in dark blue. (Right now, they’ve only got the pattern for the scarf, which is probably more within my skill level, but whatever.) They’ve also had a pattern up for a knitted Union Jack pillow. The key is to keep checking back every couple days because they switch things around.

The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking by Jane Brocket

Last week I blogged about my obsession with British writer and crafter Jane Brocket‘s book The Gentle Art of Domesticity. I’ve just learned that she has a new book coming out — it’s already out in the UK! — called The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking: 15 Projects Inspired by Everyday Beauty. It looks like it’ll be released the second week in May.

I’m a novice quilter, but I’m much more confident with a needle and thread (or sewing machine) over a pair of knitting needles. And even if the projects are above my skill level, I’m sure I’ll love looking at the pictures; one thing I love about The Gentle Art of Domesticity (and Jane’s blog) are all the photos of flowers, food, and fabric. Yummy!

So this and Elizabeth George’s latest Inspector Lynley mystery in one month. So much to read, so little time. What’s on your Anglophile reading list this spring?

Keep calm and carry on. Or not.

keep_calm_carry_onI’ve mentioned my love of the Keep Calm and Carry On posters in the past and have kept my eyes open for the spoofs now that the posters have become ubiquitous. Some of my new favorites:

keep_calm_rock_on

Keep calm and rock on $25.99.

now_panic_freak_out

Now Panic and Freak Out $15

More parodies here. I want the Now Panic and Freak Out on a coffee mug!