Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Year Wrap-Up: Books, Personal Bits and Highlights



Here is the second part of my year review. It contains the more personal bits, or anything not knit or craft related to be more precise. In general 2014 has been a lot quieter on the personal level than 2013. Which is good, for the most part: no frantic hospital visits and no sad partings. Instead, 2014 saw the Treehouse residents making their merry way across the pond, have loads adventures in-between working steadily on my university degree.

☆  Books   

A new year has come and gone, which means that a lot of new books have been read, loved, laughed at, cried with and occasionally thrown at the wall. New favourites have been added to the ever growing list of loved books. Here is my list of favourite reads of this year, perhaps they are your favourites too, perhaps you hated them or the list might inspire you to read some of these books and (hopefully) be enchanted by them as well. If you read any brilliant books this year, feel invited to recommend them to me!

Favourite books I read in 2014: 

- The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
- The Awakening -Kate Chopin
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain 
- Dracula - Bram Stoker ( I did not expect to like this book, but it completely floored me) 
- Macbeth - William Shakespeare
- A Room of one's own - Virginia Woolf

 
Books I want to read in 2015:  

The great thing about reading books is that there are always MORE books to read. And rereading books, or reading different editions of books. I think we might need to put up some new shelves in the Treehouse next year.


Academic reading: 

- Loads of classical literature. Unlike my partner, I never had to read a lot of classical literature at school, and my personal interest lay more with the pre-medieval northern European, Old and Middle English texts. I mainly want to read some more classical literature because of their influence on other literature, and I think it will help me understand them. Last year I read The Aeneid, and was surprised by how much I liked it.
- For my main research of the next couple of months I want (actually, need) to read a lot academic works on colonial and post colonial literature. To contextualize it I want to read more (post) colonial literature. 
- Irish-language novels, specifically, specifically autobiographical fiction and Gaeltacht autobiographies. Again this is reading I need to do for my research as well. High on the list are The Poor Mouth by Brian O'Nolan and The Islandman by Tomas O'Crohan
- I'm taking a course on Canadian Literature, so that's on the list as well. 
- Finally, I'm taking a course on "The European Novel", for which I need to read some of the important novels of Europe. I'm looking forward to reading some of the novels; All Quiet on the Western Front, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but not so much to some of the others such as rereading A Rebours, which I already read for an optional course last year. 



Non-uni reading:

Not sure how much time will be left for non uni reading, as I will be working on my bachelor research and have lots of course related reading material. But what is life, if you cannot look forward to more books? 

- The Needle and The Spindle - Neil Gaiman
- Hansel and Gretel - Neil Gaiman
- The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath
- Through the Woods - Emily Carroll
- We, the Drowned - Carsten Jensen
- To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
- Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales - Angela Carter
- Faery Tales (Re-telling) - Caroll Ann Duffy 
- The Poetic Edda
- Peter Pan -  J. M. Barrie

☆  Other highlights   


Most listened artist in 2014:

1. Gach Sgeul - Every Story - Julie Fowlis
2. Nebraska - Bruce Springsteen
3. To Be Still - Alela Diane

 Alela Diane performing in Roepaen. Photo taken by my brother.

Most loved Tv/Radio/ series: 

1. Frozen Planet - BBC ( documentary series originally aired in 2011, but only saw it this year).
2. Good Omens - BBC radio 4

Blogging: 

 My goal was to blog more often in 2014, something I succeeded in, albeit by a few posts only. My other blogging goal was to comment on other blogs more often. I did comment on blogs more often, especially in the first half of the year, and it comes in spurges. When I'm busy I comment less than when things have eased up. I'm quite content with this progress. For the time being I simply do not have the time to be one of those multiple times a week bloggers ( I admire these bloggers greatly, but phew, where do they find the time?) For the next year I want to try to blog more consistently and a wee bit more, resulting in roughly one blog post a week. Apart from that I want to keep up with other blogs and keep on commenting more frequently on the blogs that I visit.

Other social media platforms:

I didn't set any specific goals for other social platforms I'm on, and don't plan so for next year but I did want to mention them here. I'm not big on social media, I don't have a personal (or any kind of) facebook page for example. I'm active on Ravelry and Goodreads, but I rank them as a "special" kind of social media, because they are not social purely, you learn a lot from them and they're communities for a specific hobby.

Other than those two I'm on Twitter and on Instagram. On twitter my presence hasn't much changed. I don't tweet every single day but I don't only tweet blog links either. I'm content with my "middle of the road" approach. Instagram has seen a lot more activity this year. After account creation, it sat idle on my phone for a while, but after I discovered how active the knit community is on there I've been a lot more active. This includes both posting there and following others, I'm still a bit gun shy with commenting on others, it's something I have to get over ( and I will!), but there is an introvert part in me that I'll have to get out of the way each time I post something. I don't post something every day, but it's not something I aim for. I post something when I have something to say or show and when I don't that's okay I'll just wait until I do.

Personal highlight of the Year: 

My personal highlight of the year was visiting Scotland. It was a long standing wish of mine to visit Britain, and Scotland specifically, though for a long time my mind had settled on the idea that it wouldn't be proper to visit Britain but not London first. Though I still want to visit London one day, I'm glad that I decided to go to Edinburgh and Scotland this year, as it was a truly heart-warming experience with great people, awe inspiring nature and a country that will stay with me for many years to come. *




*Scotland is awesome because of its nature, mostly. Well, and its people. Its nature, its people, and its yarn shops. Oops, I meant castles! Scotland is awesome because of its nature, its people, its yarn shops, its wild sheep, its rainy weather, its castles ánd its bagels.

Here at the Treehouse we look forward to the new year with lot's of excitement. I will be spending most of my year working on my most important thesis I've ever worked on, while trying to balance it with regular uni work and, you know, irrelevant things like personal life (AND KNITTING!). Meanwhile my partner will be finishing his final project, graduate and you know... start life as an ex-student. Next year promises to be exciting, challenging and a tad bit scary, but I look forward to sharing it with you here on the blog. Thank you for reading and joining me in my crafty adventures! See you on the other side!



Best wishes for you and yours in 2015. May it be filled with love and lots of creativity.
Enjoy your New Years Eve tonight!

Happy New Year!

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

Nisse



Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Year Wrap-up: Looking back at crafting in 2014


I hope you all had a lovely Christmas time, however you spend it. Mine was pretty good, we actually had some snow at the end of the week making it all the more magical. Now it's time for something different thought. There are only a couple of days left in 2014, so it is time to wrap up the year here on the blog. the next couple of days I'll go through some different aspects of my year. Initially I wanted to make it one post, but it was getting slightly out of hand length-wise and I wanted to spare you such a long sit. Let's go through some high, lows, new things, traditions and ambitions for the new year shall we? 


☆  Knitting   

2014 was a good year for knitting. I'm very happy with the amount of knitting and the things I've knitted this year. I tried out some new yarns and designers/pattern companies. Last year I was in a bit of a knitting funk and not exceptionally happy with what I had made that year. This year is a very different story. I made several sweaters and hats that now rank firmly among my favourites.
It was actually really hard to pick a favourite make this year, which is the best problem to have. 

Favourite make of this year: 





Garments: 
1. Hairst Cardigan
2. Puffin Sweater
3. Porridge and Honey

Accessories:
1. Tantallon 
2. Yggdrassil
3.Tea Jenny




Favourite knitting books this year: 
1. Yokes - Kate Davies
2.  KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook - Felicity Ford 
3. The Shetland Trader book II - Gudrun Johnston 
Bonus: Poems of Color (bonus because while I read it this year, it was definitely not published this year).

Knitting Ebooks of this year: 

1. Celtic Cable Shawls - Lucy Hague
2. Knitbot Yoked - Hannah Fettig 
3. Knitworthy - Ysolda Teague ( I especially like the idea behind this collection. A subscription based collection, with small projects designed by Ysolda, perfect to knit as gifts for those you deem knitworthy.)


Most popular designer/design company: 
End of the year is always the time to make lists and count. I counted how many projects I made per designer. Thought it be fun to look whether what I've made this year actually matched my internal list of favourite designers. I expected Kate Davies to rank high upon that list, so that was no surprise. However, I never expected Brooklyn Tweed to stand out. Don't get me wrong I like most of their designs, but they do a lot of cable work which I do less of.

1. Kate Davies - knitted five projects
2. Brooklyn Tweed - Knitted three projects
3. Undecided, as I only knitted one design per designer, thus making it a tie between everything else I knitted this year.






☆  Sewing   

For sewing, it wasn't as good a year as last year. I believe this was for a couple of reasons. First and foremost while I'm a patient knitter, I'm not a patient seamstress. When I start a sewing project I want to have it done after a few days: a few frantic days in which I do nothing but sew until the project is done. 2014, unfortunately hasn't granted me a weekend free enough for that. In that regard 2015 is not looking much better for sewing, but I'll try to pace my sewing time a bit more.

Another reason why sewing has been on the low side this year, is because I tried my hand at some tricky fabrics and new techniques this year. Rushing is no good at all, and I learned this the hard way, ruining some pretty fabrics in the process.

One of my goals for 2014 was sewing tricot. I ordered some tricot at the end of spring, but thanks to mysterious mishaps at border control, it didn't arrive until after summer, in literally my first week back at university. Still, sewing tricot is something I really want to do and learn, so I'm determined to make it happen next year.

Sewing is still something I'm very fond of and enjoy doing, so I want to make it a 2015 goal to sew more.






☆  Ambitions for 2014   ☆

Even though I did not fulfil all my craft goals, I'm still very happy with what I did craft wise in 2014. Most importantly, I got out of my knit funk. While the passion never went away, I didn't enjoy it in 2013 like I used to. In 2014 that joy came back, perhaps even more than it used to be. I had a couple of projects in 2013 that I was disappointed with, which didn't help to drive my funk away.

I'm bad with sticking to goals precisely, I mostly make them to draw out a plan of what I want to do roughly. I think it worked for this year.

Knitting:


♥ Shetland cardigan/jumper - Success!
♥ Icelandic Cardigan/jumper - Success! I made two Icelandic jumpers!
♥ Fishermen Sweater - Failed, but by choice. I wanted to make one for my boyfriend, but then he lost something I knitted for him earlier, which made me loose all motivation and interest. He'll be in the 'no-knits-for-you-zone' for a while longer.
♥ Vintage Cardigan/jumper - Does Hairst count? Otherwise, I failed. I did do sweater surgery on my Christmas cardigan, making it al lot more wearable.
♥ A colourwork cardigan - Success! Moreover, I just realised I've only made colourwork sweaters this year! I made several yoke sweaters and I made Porridge and Honey, which was the cardigan I had in mind when I set this goal for myself. 
♥ Make a shawl by Lucy Hague - Strictly I failed this, however I'm working on one and it is almost done...which makes this half a fail?


Other craft ambitions for 2014:
Learn to embroider - Success! 
I would like to knit and sew more projects next year than I did this year - Success!





 Let me know how your creative year was, and if you blogged about it feel free to let me know.
I always like reading these year review posts.

 Tomorrow I'll be back with the second instalment of the Treehouse year wrap up. 
Until then!

xxx

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Yggdrasil


Guys! I did a pompom hat! It only took me eight years of being a knitter to get to this point. I ought to celebrate this joyous occasion. Which I will by taking a large tree inside of the tree house, putting lights in it, and hanging tons of very fragile decorations in it. Oh wait. I was doing that already.

Pattern: Bough
Designer:Leila Raabe
Collection: Brooklyn Tweed's Wool People 6
Yarn: Rowan Kid Classic
Raveled here

I've wanted to make this pattern since it was published. I only got around to it last month, as a small, but more interesting knit after I'd done miles and miles of plain stockinette. Like most of Brooklyn Tweed's patterns, this pattern only has charts and no written instructions. While I wish they'd do both, is does not put me off from making their patterns.



I used Rowan Kid Classic for this project. Kid Classic is a yarn I never used before, even though it is one of Rowan's most popular yarns. I picked up a ball or two about a year ago, during a clearance sale, to try it out. I got just enough for a small shawl or a hat. The yarn is quite fuzzy so not the best yarn if you want clean cables, as the fuzzyness of the yarn does not make for the best stitch definition. Therefore the yarn drowns the tree motif a bit. If I where to make it again I'd probably use another yarn. All in all I'm not unhappy with the look, though.


Now lets talk about the colour! I don't know what it is about this yarn, or this colourway, but it changes every time I look at it. Seriously. It's not just me either, I've frequently mentioned it to my boyfriend, friends and innocent passerby and they all agreed (accept for the innocent passerby, he just looked at me dumbfounded...weird). The colour seems to change between dark purple, dark brown and black (okay fine, so it does stay within the darker colour segments, but isn't that more variation than you'd expect from one ball of yarn?).



The feeling of the yarn is a bit weird though. It doesn't feel very woolly, even though  the fibre content is largely wool. At the risk of being called a yarn snob, but knitted up if feels a bit plastic-y to me. Which is odd, because it has a whopping 8% of Polyamide (Lambswool: 70%, Kid Mohair: 22%, Polyamide: 8%). I simply cannot believe that it's the 8% that overpowers the all the rest. Perhaps it's simply something I have to get used to. In general I do not use a lot of yarns that have a mix of different fibres. The only ones I have used before have alpaca and wool mixed together, which to me seems different as they are both animal fibres so still somewhat related.

All in all I think the hat is quite a success. I've worn it loads of times already and it kept me nice and warm during this week's stormy weather!


Friday, 5 December 2014

Yokes



I know I said I was going to post a new finished project later in the week, but look what arrived at the Treehouse just before Saint Nick's to distract me!

I think many of you know how much I anticipated this book, and judging from the many voices in the Kate Davies Ravelry forum, I was not the only one. Yoke sweaters have been my favourite thing to make and wear ever since I started knitting, so when I heard Kate was goign to publish a book solely on Yokes I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. The book was absolutely worth all the anticipation. It is a bit more substantial than Colours of Shetland. The book contains essays on different aspects and perspectives on yokes. There are eleven designs included in the book, all yoke sweaters.
You can view the designs here if you haven't already.



The essays included are:
1.Why Yokes?
2. Greenlanders and Norwegians
3. Kerstin Olsson and the Bohus Yoke
4. The Shetland Tree and Star
5. Perspectives on the Lopapeysa
6. A conversation with Meg Swansen (On the legacy of Zimmermann)
7. Yoke Connections

The publication of the book was delayed for a week or so due to problems at the printer. Because of this, Kate had emailed everyone a unique code to download the e-book on Ravelry. Initially these codes would accompany our book as a sticker, but they were send earlier because of the delay. Kate and her team really went out of their way to make the delay as unnoticeable as possible.I think the team did brilliant. I downloaded the book to print one of the patterns that I wanted to cast on right away, but saved the rest for when my copy arrived in the mailbox. As far as books go, I much prefer paper as opposed to ebooks and kindles.

The book was signed, which was a lovely surprise. According to my boyfriend,
Saint Nick can arrange a great many of things and I should ask no further questions.

As expected, I love all of the designs and most of them I'd want to make at some point. Unsurprisingly the colourwork designs rank among my favourites. There are three design using lopi wool and three designs using Shetland wool, which are at the moment my favourite yarns to work with so I think I'm all set. My favourite designs at the moment are: Ásta Sóllilja, Buchanan, Foxglove, Cockatoo Brae and Epistrophy.



 I'm currently working on Foxglove. Progress, however, is slow as I've had little time to knit these past few weeks. I've worked a lot on university stuff and...this week I had a deadline for a rather important research proposal *gulp*. December and January is always crazy busy with lots of university work planned around the holidays. So I'm planning to reward myself by reading the essays in yokes tonight so I have them done before the real craziness starts next week.

I'm curious about your favourite designs! Have you looked forward to this book as much as I have ? (it's okay if you haven't!) Have you casted on for something already? Do tell!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

November Reads


Hey there,

I thought I'd try something new on the blog here. I mostly talk about knitting, sewing and craft related things on this blog, as that's what I'm very passionate about. However my other great love is literature. I think most of you know that I read quite a lot. My major, English language and Culture, is literature focused, and I read a lot in my spare time as well. I don't think crafting and reading is a very odd combination, as I know many knitters who are fond of reading as well. That's why I thought it'd be fun to try something with books on the blog. For now the plan is to do a monthly installment of the literature that I read each month, and we'll see how things get on from there.

First up, this month there are a lot of plays, specifically Shakespeare plays. My university requires that each student of English Language and Culture takes a course on Shakespearean plays and their context towards the end of their bachelor's. The "last leg of your study" bit is stressed here. The idea is that towards the end of your study you've mastered (at least to some degree) literary theories and historic events of the time as well are familiar with the early modern language and the context in which the plays were written. Therefore. understanding the plays and it's many layers should be less of a problem. I have to say that for me at least it really helped to get more meaning out of them. I'm not saying that I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the plays a couple of years ago, but the extra knowledge really helped with opening my eyes to the many layers that are in them. I'm not saying that everyone who wants to read Shakespeare should have a literary degree (absolutely not!) but the plays are more fun if you are at least a bit familiar with the context they were written in.

Now... onward with the plays. You join me at the end of the course, so at this point I've already read quite a bit of his plays. This month I read four plays, three of which were by Shakespeare and one by Ben Johnson.  I  read Measure for Measure, Macbeth and King Lear by Shakespeare and Volpone by Ben Johnson. First up are the Shakespeare plays.

Macbeth - William Shakespeare
A tragedy? Written by Shakespeare? As a reaction to the witch-hunts? A play that is believed to be cursed by actors over the centuries? Hand it over to me! Macbeth, or 'the Scottish play', is one of Shakespeare's famous works and  rightfully so! Possibly my favourite Shakespeare play. It blew me away when I read it, and I hadn't expected it to do so.
Plot: MacBeth, a Scottish Thane, rides home from battle with his friend Banquo. In the field they meet a group of witches, who prophecy some rather good fortunes for the two thanes. When the prophecies start to come true, MacBeth and his wife initiate a rather bloody game of intrigue and murder to 'help' the other prophecies to come true, including the one where the witches proclaim MacBeth 'King of Scotland'.
Things I loved:  I loved the witches. Seriously they were amazing. Macbeth's downfall rather complicated, as he constantly doubts himself and ultimately does it because of Lady Macneth's manipulation. This makes Macbeth a slightly more complicated character, instead of relishing in his evil, like for example Iago, Macbeth questions his deeds even before he does them. Finally there is Lady Macbeth who has got to be one of the most badass characters Shakespeare has ever written about. If you haven't read any of Shakespeare's plays, this is a good starting point. 
In Short: Must-read classic. Great story with a lot of suspense.

MacBeth and Banquo encounter the witches for the first time
Measure for Measure - William Shakespeare
This is one of Shakespeare's plays that is less well known, he wrote this play somewhere around 1603/1604 and it's written as a comedy, albeit a dark comedy. This makes the play very different  from the other two I'll be discussing. It's regarded as one of Shakespeare's 'problem plays'. Overall I really enjoyed reading this play, and think it's one of the more accessible plays.Often I like Shakespeare's plays not necessarily because they're rounded, closed narratives, but precisely because it leaves open room for unanswered questions. This play is no exception. It's a play that lays bare some issues, but doesn't solve them.
Plot: We're taken to Vienna, where the Duke decides to leave the city for a few days, leaving his nephew Angelo in charge of things. Angelo decides to enforce the laws in place much stricter than the Duke ever did. So strict, that many much more sympathetic characters fall victim to his rule. Soon enough we find out that Angelo is not such a do-goody as he wants the public to believe...and where is that Duke of too? 
Things I liked about the play: The complicated nature of the Duke, is he good? Is he bad? I like Isabella as a strong female character, even though in the end she's not strong enough to let the patriarchal world crumble. I like how Shakespeare uses Vienna to portray what was going on in London (in short: the puritans tried to ban everything that was fun for the public, this included brothels, but theaters as well). In general I liked how Shakespeare used the play to comment on the religious tensions that were going on at the time. I liked the complicated ending, because again, it raises a lot of questions about the Duke and his motives. Finally, I liked Isabella's silence, even though it is also an incredibly sad moment. I know that this silence has been interpreted differently over the time, but my favourite interpretation is that it represents a final form of resistance. What I did not like about the play was the moralistic tone, that sometimes is a bit too present.
In short: Great political analogy with a good story of it's own. Powerful female character and complex ending.
Ian McKellen as King Lear

King Lear - William Shakespeare
King Lear is Shakespeare darkest and gloomiest play that I'll discuss today. It has a devastating ending, and you should not read it when you're in the mood for something uplifting. Of all the mad characters Shakespeare has written, and that list is long, King Lear is probably the maddest. From the beginning of the play it's pretty clear that he has lost his marbles. I think Ian McKellen shows that really well in his depiction of King Lear of the 2008 film (side note, what is it about this guy that he has had a role in basically every Shakespeare play?).
Plot: King Lear is a mighty king. However, he's slowly (or quickly?) descending into madness. He's got three daughters, the youngest of which is closest to him. King Lear dictates that each of his daughters should inherit a third of his kingdom, but only if they can publicly prove their love for him...
What I liked: Perhaps it was because I had a bursting headache when reading this, but to me this was one of Shakespeare's least accessible plays. There was one character, the Fool, commenting about certain things happening in the play. The fool supposed to be witty, and enigmatic in his comments on the other characters, but I somehow it didn't come across to me.
In Short: A bit confusing with many Elizabethan in-jokes. However, a great story and perfect character development on the  Mad King.

Volpone - Ben Jonson
Portrait of Ben Jonson, Oil painting
So, you are in the mood for a comedy, with fable elements, from the Jacobean Era? Congratulations, we've got just the thing for you! These days Jonson doesn't ring a bell for most people, so it might be hard to imagine that this was one of the most popular and most performed plays of it's day. I have read other works by Jonson before, but never this one, even though it is his most famous play. It has humour, lots of it, but not in the same way as Shakespeare wrote comedies. I found, that at least for this play, it was a more accessible, perhaps lower form of satire, whereas Shakespeare is, most of the time, a bit more refined and because of that perhaps less accessible. While I did like reading the play, I preferred reading Shakespeare's work. Sorry, Jonson... you're probably sick to death of hearing this for the thousandth time.



Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Okay, so I'll finish this month's reading with something lighter and different all together. The book was recommended to me by a friend, and I picked it up when I was in need of some light, non academic reading.
Plot: We join Cath just as she leaves home for university. She has to cope with getting used to new surroundings, new courses and new people while at the same time she has to learn to let go of her old life, her dad and her twin sister. This is no small task, especially not for a shy, socially awkward girl who has a hard time of letting go of the things she is used to and trying new things. At the same time has to uphold her "secret life" as a well-known fan fiction writer on the internet, She tries to branch out with a creative writing course, which proves to be much more difficult than she imagined.
What I liked:
-The coming of age aspect of the novel. It is about this girl who goes to university and her growing as a person from her experiences.
- It was a coming of age story from an introvert's point of view. The social awkward situations were relatable.
-The writer's aspect and the exploration of fan fiction as a literary genre.
- The fandom around this "Harry Potter, but let's not call it Harry Potter"-series in-world.
- The romance story was cute,  though it never consumes the story. I felt that towards the end some of the other themes in the book were sacrificed for the romance plot, which was a shame.
 Overall I liked this novel, I flew through it in just a couple of hours. It's probably not something I'll remember for years to come. But that's okay, it's not meant to be that kind of book.

There were also quite some fanfiction bits included, written by the main character . For me they didn't add much to the story,and could have been left out.

So that was it for this month. I'm pretty excited about this new addition to the blog, but I'm curious to know what you think about it as well.  I'll be back later this week with a new finished project and next month with more bookish thoughts.