Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Things I learned this week

1. Spraying moth killing chemicals may exterminate more than moths - a thorough-going spritz of moth-be-gone can lead to definite deadening of the brain cells and some fairly intense moments of feeling a bit fluttery myself.  Still, personal sacrifices aside, I showed no mercy.  Seriously moth, be gone.

2. Those midnight moments of inspiration (possibly related to the inhalation of large quantities of toxic material) do need some kind of concrete base of knowledge to follow through on and prevent embarrassment.  I'm convinced that my dissertation idea has legs for further research, but the fact it came to me in the middle of the night and converges on some fairly massive historical and theological themes of which I have less than a minimal grasp does make it problematic (nothing like a good understatement).  Couple that with a pathological fear of history after a tricky encounter with a teacher in secondary school means that I have a very steep hill to climb in terms of getting a proposal ready and obviously actually delivering something of any use at the end of it.

3. If one doesn't learn something at school, then it might be at least partly the teacher's fault for not teaching it properly.  Now I'm not writing that to discount my responsibility for not knowing things that I jolly well should know but as an aside, I was chatting with several friends about their childrens' experience of school.  In each case, a teacher had made a statement about the child, effectively labelling them as shy, not academic, creative but no good at science or vice versa and, in one quite alarming case, "a lost cause."  In the latter case, she's now head of an academic faculty.  Anyway, it got me thinking that often teachers will label a child something quite early on and then it's the child's fault and their problem to overcome.  There seems to be a lack of reflection that, as the teacher and, more specifically, the adult in the relationship, it might be their responsibility to make the effort, to reach across the void to the child who isn't grasping their concepts and may not be grasping them because the teacher isn't articulating them in a way that accesses that child's imagination.

No doubt everyone has seen this, but I was particularly struck by this quite old now TED lecture with Ken Robinson and it really got me pondering for many days.  In another of his lectures he refers to teaching not as a "delivery system" but as a creative profession; he makes the point that what great teachers do beyond teaching itself is "mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage" rather than simply transmitting facts for learning by rote.  It must be very boring for teachers who are hamstrung by protocols preventing them taking on these other exciting elements of their role, placing them instead in thrall to the spectre of examinations.  

So that isn't to say there aren't lots of fantastic teachers out there, I'm not trying to write off a whole profession.  It just that I'm not that keen on the labelling of children early on, and it seems odd to me that so many of my friends with children - including very young children who are still at nursery - have experienced that moment where their child is labelled.  It strikes me as very limiting because if one hears something at such a formative moment, it could become a defining feature.  Shyness is a particularly personal label that I resist.  I've been reading Quiet by Susan Cain which has resonated loudly.  When I was little I was told I was shy and should speak up.  One particular experience at the hairdresser springs to mind: because of my unwillingness to loudly tell the hairdresser what I wanted, I was gifted an extraordinarily short hair cut, and my newly scalped self was informed on my first day at school, by another new girl (with long flowing locks),  "that this isn't a school for boys."  Consequently I'm a chatter box who feels very uncomfortable being a chatter box, but I struggle to break the habit because I've always been told it's what's expected of me.  It's impossible to say how much I envy those quiet types, who can sit in total silence while all around them are competing for air space, and seem totally at ease bucking the conventional wisdom that you have to speak up to be heard.  I wish I had been brave enough before, it's a bit embarrassing to be only realising it at my age.

On a less curmudgeonly note, and because this is supposed to be a blog about textiles and craft, Liberty new season fabrics are out and two of them leaped out at me as particularly lovely.  The first is beautiful just because it is.  The Isabel Susan in this colour way takes my breath away and reminds me of a William Morris wallpaper we had in our bathroom (smallest room in the house so the only affordable place to put the stuff) when I was growing up.  It was the house we moved into after my parents divorced and my mother couldn't bear to stay in the old house any more - it was also the first house she got to have total autonomy over decorating.  I remember, when I was about 14, disputing vigorously with her about the wallpaper and claiming it was hideous; actually I think she was really on to something which either means I am getting old or confirms that I was probably a bit of a plonker for not realising that the boldness of the wallpaper was really her way of saying she was feeling bolder … anyway, it's the meandering of the tendrils and the setting side by side of the colours in a pattern that when you squint, almost leap out like lacework that gets me.  
Isabel Susan A Tana Lawn, image from Liberty.co.uk
William Morris, Chrysanthemum Wallpaper, V&A catalogue
The second fabric that particularly struck me is Heidi Maria and I love this because it is sufficiently abstract not to be twee, and sufficiently obviously plants and seed heads not to be oppressive in this colour.  

Heidi Maria C Tana Lawn, image from Liberty.co.uk
It also reminds me of Blackwork techniques with the range of density of darks and lights across it, and it prompted lots of doodles which may or may not end up being incorporated into the Blackwork project I will eventually do when I manage to pick up my RSN certificate later this year when I'm back from Glasgow.

Monday, 6 January 2014

The scourge of the moth ...

I knew there was something wrong, but I've had my head in the sand.  Eventually, new year and all that, I had to face facts - the jumper I started many moons ago (literally years), knit lovingly to just that point that you can't get past, and then left lurking in a basket somewhere for ages, had been devoured by the evil moth. 

Now, my yarn is all kept in big plastic boxes (organised into colour families you know) with moth balls and lumps of cedar liberally scattered amongst them.  Then, I was not so savvy.  I had a feeling something was wrong, but didn't really want to confront it.  And worse, the bag it was in was a lovely Jigsaw bag, the sort one buys oneself as a treat - that's been eaten too.  The Bastards.  

So the wool is in the bin.  The jumper's in the bin.  The bag is in the bin.  I feel sad and more than a little silly - I knew it, and did nothing about it.  A lesson in not putting things off until tomorrow if the moth needs to be murdered today ...

Friday, 3 January 2014

The last of the antlers …

Christmas Eve and the reindeers arrive ...
It's always a little gloomy when the festivity is over and the antlers get packed up for another year but there's also something reassuring about the world returning to normal and the return to a routine.  This year I indulged in epic amounts of Soprano, discovered a new cocktail of sloe gin and champagne (I'd run out of tonic water, but you can only manage one so on a cost per drink basis I think very economical, and knit my Port O'Leith sweater and collar.  I ended up making a bonus cuff as well (see below for notes on displacement activity).  Husband described this as "anachronistic" but today in the sudden hail storm that swept over St Albans, my hands couldn't have been warmer.  

The hail storm might have made a change from the recent trend for a Deluge a Day except that it came shortly on the heels of the hail.  What a relief, it would have been very disorientating not to have flash flooding on our unfinished road, and I'm not sure what my feet would have thought if they had finally dried out after several weeks of near trench-foot conditions.  Anyhoo, I wore my new sweater and it's fantastically warm - can't speak highly enough of the S&J chunky from its lustrous hand to its sheen in the finished garment; just lovely.  And … here it is, the finished jumper with notes on my Ravelry page:

That is my third Toft Beginners Beret perched aloft the sweater there - it keeps taking itself off on adventures and having to be reknit but it's so quick to do and I love it, so it keeps on keeping on in new incarnations.  

As is always the case, I've managed to procrastinate and sniffle my way through the break in a fug of Vicks and Lemsip steam (you can just make out the red nose in the picture above) without achieving half the things I wanted to.  So I'm sitting at the dining table now, this is the last bit of displacement activity and then I'm knuckling down to some proper reading, writing and general busyness.  You hear, that's what I'm doing.  No more distractions.  Not a one.  Hang on, I think there's some fluff over there, I should hoover that up.  And lordy, look at the cobwebs, best deal with those.  Actually the fire is on, and the reading is interesting so there's really no excuse.  If I turn one of the lights off, I can't see the cobwebs or dust so I really am knuckling down now.  Honest.  

I will just cut myself a slice of Christmas cake - ought to try and get it finished, not least because I've another jar of the Pink Whisk's amazing boozy fruit to make up into another cake and if I don't get them eaten soon, when will the healthy living for which January is famed get started. 

Nothing changes really does it - a habit for easy distraction is a difficult one to break, what are the chances that 2014 will be the year it happens ...