The Queen’s Gambit: searching for Mother

Recreating a womb-feeling/ Screenshot, The Queen‘s Gambit, Netflix.

It’s a fairly new series on Netflix. Based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. I think I may just take the time to go read it.
The series though is getting a lot of push by Netflix and is steadily climbing the Top Ten in Germany list. Am I being snarky if I say that I don’t overly care by what other people are watching? Well, it’s nice to know, but I’m trying to curate my Netflix algorithm, so…

Still, the series fits my loose set of wants. Historical, unusual topic, character-driven, gorgeous costumes. So, why not, I thought.
The first thing that hit me, is that Anna Taylor-Joy is even more Amélie than Amélie (remember Audrey Tatou in the 2001 hit?), even down to the

Beth Harmon, The Queen‘s Gambit/Netflix
By the end of the second episode, I get the feeling that the fashion transformation will be fascinating to watch (Tom and Lorenzo already have an in-depth look at the chess-themed costuming). In this regard, it reminds me a lot of Lewis Carrol‘s Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is also based on a chess game, where Alice moves from pawn to Queen (check out the book, not the movie).

The reason this series resonates with so many people who know nothing about chess, and haven’t played Lewis Carroll‘s chess problem to get a pawn to checkmate in eleven moves, is that the series thoroughly mines the archetype of the Mother complex in a way we can all relate.
Beth is the gifted prodigy searching for family, friendship, love and belonging. Chess is actually incidental.
Almost every female character is a fascinating study that makes me want to dive deeper. Beth‘s mom, the math genius who lives in Beth‘s memory as giver of hard but valuable advice (imagine calling your ex „a rounding error“!), the replacement mom Alma who tries to finds new purpose in becoming a manager-mom.
It’s painful to see Beth getting picked on by the mean girls in school, but the pay-off comes firstly when Beth sitting with the Apple Pi girls, in a chic little black dress, realizes she‘s a swan and will never be a duck. A real Ugly Duckling moment.
And when she finds her tribe, it‘s all the more heartwarming how she puts herself back together with their help and moves on to her happy end.

A great series. Well done Netflix, well done German costume designer Gabriele Binder (and her team) and well done to the entire cast.

Agnes Claude’s embroidery for Beth’s linen dress/ Netflix, Brooklyn Museum

If you’re not in the mood to take up embroidery, but want close ups and a bit of background to some of the costumes, visit the Brooklyn Museum’s online Exhibition.

Stay safe.

Knitting BLM

Michelle Bernard/ GetKnitfacedinCo  source:


I think it’s all been said by now. But I like Michelle Bernard‘s BLM Dishcloth because it invites us even in mundane moments to remember what the movement stands for.

Books better than „White Fragility“:

If you want the facts, take a moment to read „White Rage“ by Dr Carol Anderson, a history professor who looks at the development of a system intent on keeping certain people in their place. She explains what she means in this video.

Richard Rothstein‘s „The Color of Law“ is also eye opening. Here‘s a short talk he gave about the myth of segregation in the US. 

And Jane Elliot‘s „A Collar in my pocket- the blue eyes brown eyes exercise“ or the documentary about her work called „A Class Divided.“ There are several things interesting about her exercise:
a) how quickly adults (even though the exercise was developed to be used for young children) seem to believe preposterous statements once they are based on science.

b) how quickly people will accept a status quo, especially if they are on the comfortable side.

c) how distressed participation made people and how they refuse to make the analogy to current events. Here is the exercise taking place on the Oprah Show

d) how the language Ms. Elliott used is eerily similar to the language politicians have used to and about the Black Community or the Civil Rights movement.

I think instead of trying to convince people that they are racist, often against their will, we should be telling them what they can do to change the system: helping people get registered to vote, and contacting local and state government representatives to stop redlining in housing policy and voter suppression. 



Q notes 7: Black in Fashion

If you can spare the time, Michel Pastoureau’s Black: The History of a Color will take us from the beginning of recorded history through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and on into modern times. He argues quite credibly, that up until Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments in optics in the 17th Century, proved that colours were made by “breaking up” white light, and that black wasn’t even on the spectrum, people DID think of black as a colour.

It’s a fascinating and accessible read, with lots of lovely images from various types of Art through the ages – I never thought it would be so interesting to find out about how artists and artisans mixed black, or worked to dye cloth a deep black, and how the meanings that Europeans attached to black would swing back and forth.

Funnily enough Pastoureau’s book took me back to a Coursera course I just completed: Magic in the Middle Ages. Not just the connection between Black, the devil and witches, but also how Islamic magic contributed to European/Western rediscovery of Greek science writing, which inspired Newton and as a result modern science.

Other links:

Blogger Manrepeller talks about black as a fashion uniform,

Dazed has a brief history of the shade in fashion,

Bourncreativ discusses several modern meanings  of black as a colour; and

This Jungian Life Podcast goes deeper and explains the psychological meanings associated with one particular type of black, Nigredo

Interweave’s Ten Tips for working with dark yarn.

Stay safe and healthy.

Q notes 5: Bookclub

The Plague” and author Albert Camus
(Vintage/ Everett/Shutterstock) / source: LA Times

I’ve finished my felted slippers and put in my cardigan pockets. I’m finishing my Ankers Sommer shirt, my last major WIP, while getting used to lockdown life. It helps that the sun is shining. And that we have enough space that we aren’t up under each other all day.

I get the New York Times’ and the Economist’s Corona Daily Briefing Newsletters. The most practical and inspirational is the NYT Cooking newsletter. Not only do I get an idea of what people are cooking under quarantine, but I have learned a lot about what one can do with things I only knew one way of cooking.

Unusually satisfying, almost like a balancing of the daily news, is reading Albert Camus’ Absurdist novel The Plague with the Quillette magazine bookclub.

It sounds morbid, but it is actually soothing that this Franco-Algerian writer wrote this in 1947 and humans in 2020 are acting in exactly the same ways.

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

And it fits right in with news report of a certain US governor saying he had no idea Covid-19 was so dangerous. Here’s also what LA Times writer Stephen Metcalf also had to say about reading this book now…

Stay safe everyone.


Q Notes 3: Spring cleaning

gray and brown floor mop on white wall
Photo by Rony Stephen Chowdhury on

Half Germany is using the lockdown/ quarantine time for what probably would have gotten started this weekend: spring cleaning.

On the agenda, even above and beyond a basic Corona wipedown of surfaces and door handles, are windows, blinds, bedsheets and duvets. Every nook and cranny has to be freed of dust and cobwebs that do accumulate in the darker half of the year. If you have a fireplace, you know what I mean. It always amazes me how much dust can accumulate on a heater/radiator.

Now that it’s spring, everyone wants to let the light, fresh air and warmth in.
If you’re working from home, here are some general tips on cleaning your workspace.

I‘m hearing discussions on the Internet about cleaning and cooking as the new wellness. I can well imagine that, as especially in these times, doing something like these simple tasks can help us feel like we are in control of even a small part of our lives. Plus we have the advantage of starting, practicing and getting better over time. Becoming good at it. We talked about micromastery here.

I think on a micro scale, cleaning is deeply satisfying because it’s really creating order from chaos. Like when Marie Kondo says, „I love mess.“ She’s thinking about the pleasure she gets from sorting it all out.


At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott, who also vlogged about mentally rebranding domestic tasks.

Happy starts at Home by Rebecca West is on my reading list.

Shannon’s The Simple Sophisticate podcast, where I learned about this book.

Other links:

Roy Wood Jr on best pandemic movies to watch after the cleaning is done.

Dana „DWJ“ from Yards of Happiness on what to knit while self-quarantining.

Notes 2: Max Ernst’s Woman in Red

Markus Orth‘s book Max, that I just finished listening to, inspired me to start looking at the art created by the main character Max Ernst, and some of the women he had relationships with: Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning and Luise Straus-Ernst.
Ernst was an unusually versatile and prolific artist working in the early Dadaist and later surrealist. What struck me, was that Max Ernst returned again and again to portraying a woman in red.


I particularly struck by the Virgin mother, disciplining her child. She has removed the blue cloak that we normally associate her with (to cushion her son on her lap), and has what we would today call a bodycon skin-tight red garment underneath, revealing every curve of her body. It very much reminds me of several art historians‘ claim that Mary took the place of a more ancient mother goddess.

I‘m no art historian, but I find it fascinating how often he paints women in red. I couldn’t find anything online, so I thought I‘d put them all on one page to see if my hunch was correct.

It‘s interesting how sparingly Ernst used red, but once in the US in the 1940s, he painted so many female figure with these red tones. Despite the fact that they are, with two exceptions masked, the decalcomania technique he uses gives them an earthy, elemental allure.
The tattered garments which hang on nude bodies remind me of what Camille Paglia calls „liquid nature „ in her book Sexual Personae. In every case, he balances the repulsion we feel with the „beautiful“ bodies stepping forward or peeking out from the red. As Paglia writes,
“Beauty is our escape from the murky flesh-envelope that imprisons us.”

Cardi B at Met Gala 2019
Cardi B in Thom Browne gown Met Gala 2019 /source:

And speaking of our mortality, this morning I woke up to find these Cardi B remixes:

1) by iMarkkeyz and 2) DJ Snake, and this other guy jazz pianist Charles Cornell, I‘ll throw in because NOW we have time, right?


Stash and Hoard

A German lady I was talking to this week expressed amazement at  people’s hoarding behaviour. She said she’s never experienced empty store shelves in her life. Because of anxiety about the Corona epidemic, people having been rushing to stores to buy noodles, tomato sauce, flour, sugar, disinfectants and toilet paper. Everything else is still available. Just those things are sold out. Or are being rationed to prevent panic-buying and hoarding, called Hamsterkäufe, which brings up loads of jokes about hamsters.
And so, I’ve just pulled a favourite cookbook and knitting book from my collection: Judith Will‘s The New Home Larder and Cathy Carron’s Cowlgirls. The cookbook is to get my kitchen, larder and headspace ready for cooking from non-perishables (if it should come to it), and Cowlgirls has me thinking about high necked woolen hugs, acting like a barrier between us and the dangerous world.

Although the styling of the photos feels a little dated, the super bulky knit Ribbed Cowl has a feel similar to Espace Tricot’s bulky  Getting Warmer cowl… It’s interesting that the stitch patterns are reversed.

This morning, I heard that wiggling your toes can help with feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Stay well everyone, and keep knitting….



First cardy: Emma C


Started out with Julie Weisenberger‘s Emma cardy from her Cocoknits Sweater Workshop. This book is unbelievably complete.
I‘m not a speedy knitter, but her worksheet facilitates efficient knitting. Even though I redid the back of the neck several times, it took me two days to get to the armholes. Yes, I have a slightly bulky yarn, but it took me more time to do the swatches than the body.

I’m currently on the sleeves. What I‘ve learned so far: I  have spent time at the swatching stage to practice the new-to-me increase techniques like KLL, etc. That would have saved me time and several attempts before ripping out. Julie also recommends what to do it ones yarn is normally vs tightly spun. In hindsight, I‘d have made two mini swatches just to see which looked better.

I‘m waiting to knit the sleeves, so that I can do it in one go, so I don’t lose my place with the decreases and elbow ribbing pattern.

What I watched while knitting: Les hommes au tricot (with subtitles) about men who knit in Iceland. It starts out working the idea of Iceland‘s viking history (and what would those vikings think?!) to death, but it eventually gets into discussing Lopi, the Lopapeysa industry, burgeoning tourism to the small nation state, and we follow a young man as he goes to visit a sheep farmer, a small wool producer, the large wool producer Istex, and the Handknitting Association, where women can earn money with their sweaters (average of 70 sweaters a year!).
Filmmaker Vincent Froehly also highlights the conundrum of exporting the Lopi to Asia, where it is made into sweaters then reimported to Iceland and sold in souvenir shops. Terrible carbon footprint compared to made in Iceland.
Apart from the clichés in the beginning, I got a great look at modern Iceland (love seeing everyday street scenes, people sitting at cafés, in parks or busstops). And I loved that Peter finished his Riddari pullover (by Védís Jónsdóttir) by the end of the documentary. And as I learned from my headband, Lopi is knit with metal needles.

Riddari pullover / Screenshot from

A knitting canon?



I was at another Bücherschau event a few days ago, where an author and literary critic, Denis Scheck, read from his new book Kanon der Weltliteratur (Canon of World Literature). And I thought it rather unusual and quite flattering, that when he signed two books for me to gift, that he seemed to thank me sincerely for attending.
I figured out today, why (not because I was the only Black person in the room, and it’s still a bit unusual for Black people to attend literary events outside of the bigger metropoles here in Germany), but because he‘s had his own little blackface shitstorm 
(Text is in German, but the pictures speak for themselves). The Internet never forgets, y‘all.

He donned blackface to protest the German publishers of Pippi Longstocking books from removing the N-word from new editions. The publishers weren‘t forced. They did so because it was the right thing to do in 2013. And folks went bananas. Fortunately, the publishers stuck to their guns, and the „purists“ had to get over it.

And so, I think it may have been him wishing fervently that I wouldn’t ask him about it in the Q&A section. Instead, I asked him about his top 3 books/authors of the last decade. I stumped him, I think. He mumbled something about David Foster Wallace‘s  Infinite Jest (was published in 1996, but was translated into German in 2009).

Still, it got me thinking about canons and lists. Emily Kinder at the Boar explains the word canon comes from the Greek meaning measuring rod or standard. Do we have anything like that in knitting?

Bookfair plus


If you find yourself in Frankfurt for the Bookfair this year (Norway is the Guest country!), you may want to check out the Hannah Ryggen exhibition at the Frankfurt Schirn Kunsthalle. The exhibition runs til January 2020.

Ryggen in her studio, around 1964. source: Adresseavisen, Trondheim.

The Swedish-Norwegian artist Ryggen (1894-1970) lived on a self-sustaining farm in Norway, spun and dyed her own wool and taught herself to make huge collage-like tapestries. How cool is that?


Did I mention the Book Fair (October 16-20)? Yes, there’s books, calendars, cookbooks, posters, and just about everything book-related. Yes, there’s cosplay and cooking demos and giveaways and book prizes, but in addition to all that, folks, NORWAY.

27B95109-6542-4C33-80B9-9D2E5BEC3419 As we all know, Norway isn’t just about fantastic nature and fjords, but also great writers – we love those crime thriller authors, Jo Nesbø, Karin Fossum, Åsne Seierstad and the polarizing Karl Ove Knausgård.

There’s plenty for knitters too: According to the programme, designer Wenche Roald, and Annemor Sundbø, the godmother of norwegian knitting will be in attendance, and there may even be a workshop on knitting selbu mittens.


What, you ask, is selbu? It’s an eight-petalled flower design (often called the Selbu rose), used in traditional Norwegian stranded knitting. It’s actually older than Norway itself, according to The Atlantic, but has come to be associated with Selbu, a municipality in Northern Norway.

Fotos: Todd Gocken’s Norwegian Snowflake Scarf and Monica Værholm’s Eggwarmers. Source: