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
haircut.

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.

Summer Catch-up

Well, school‘s out once again. The temperatures have shot up and most people had to reconsider their holiday plans. Some decided to anyway. We all watched with bated breath. And a few came come with Covid-19, but the health authorities are doing what they can to get people tested at airports and train stations.
A lot of people, unable or unwilling to travel overseas are looking into traveling within Germany or to stable neighboring countries.
This summer we‘ve been chilling at home watching shows like – „Eurovision, The Story of Fire Saga“, which is a must see, not only for the fabulous knits (I was laughing so hard, I only managed to snap this pic), but also for the fairly humorous explanation of what the heck Eurovision is, and why Europeans go gaga every spring.

This year, the show was cancelled, so the film was a lovely replacement. There were a lot of real Eurovision stars from former years to spot, and the music was actually as good as what we would have seen in the show! (Link to the singalong)

All Europeans vote in by telephone or App, but the catch is you can’t vote for your own country. Sort of like regular people wearing cloth masks: you’re not protecting yourself, but other people as a public service.

Stay safe and healthy, and keep on crafting.

Knitting BLM

Michelle Bernard/ GetKnitfacedinCo  source: Ravelry.com

 

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 6.5: Time for Questions

Had time during the week, to ask myself and the Internet about things that puzzled me about Making the Cut, reviewed last time.
We had this “wow” feeling of watching the show, then being able to go straight online to the Amazon Making the Cut store and ordering the winning pieces. It feels like magic, having the possibility to see something, like it and order it right away.

Deedee on Youtube was the first person to post an Unboxing video to show her Esther Perbandt trousers and vest top from episode 2. She seemed well-pleased with her purchases. Unfortunately, quite a few people commented on the pieces being sold out, or not being available in their country.

My questions to Amazon are, what happened between the designer winning and the item popping up in the online store 6-8 months later? They are in a position to provide some transparency to the production process as well.

I’m no expert, so bear with me. As far as I can find out, thanks to Zoe Hong’s educational fashion videos on Youtube:

How to get your Ideas made into clothes

Watch me design 8: Initial Costing

How to Design for Every Price Point

How to Produce a Fashion Collection

I get the idea, that the item gets broken down from the pattern and tech pack, where each piece has a production cost attached. And depending on what Amazon budgeted for the production run, certain details (fabric quality, embellishments, trims, etc) get tweaked until the price is right. That explains why Esther Perbandt designed the trousers using one material, but they are on sale made of polyester and elastane. (For the record, she has stated on her website, that her boutique production takes place in Berlin, Germany and in Poland)

After the number-crunching, fabric, linings and trims are sourced, then off to producers. So, WHERE was it produced? BY WHOM? Under what conditions? All we see is “Imported”. Is that code for they don’t think we want to know the clothing may have been sewn in China?

Amazon missed a chance here to show the world that they can produce fair and sustainably, rather than jumping feet first into Fast Fashion. If any global organization could redefine fashion in this new decade, it could have been Amazon – if they set a new pace with transparency and traceability rather than following the pack.

Stay safe and healthy.

Q Notes 6: Binge watching the future

woman in white bed holding remote control while eating popcorn
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Believe it or not, I’ve had very little time for binging shows. It’s family viewing until the kids withdraw.

As I’ve posted here, I watched Love is Blind, but I’ve also caught Netflix’ Next in Fashion and am now watching Amazon’s Making the Cut.
There’s less drama than Project Runway, there’s more design (even though sewing is still necessary) and more behind the scenes of how the fashion business works, from idea to finished garment in shops or runways.
I also like to watch episode reviews and see what other people are saying about these shows. What shocks me is how little people know about fashion history and often conflate their personal taste with the idea that their way of dressing is the only way and any deviation is wrong. Shoutout to HauteLeMode and SpillitBoytv on Youtube for their analyses. They know their fashion history.

What I’ve learned: Black is a non-color as well as a philosophy in fashion. Museum Galliera has even showed Balenciaga’s work in black. So, a designer who only makes garments in black is a statement. I even found Making the Startup podcast, where my fellow countrywoman Esther Perbandt talks about her experiences on the show (there are no spoilers, though). I’m now looking through her previous collections on Vogue.de.

Thanks to the Internet, we can look up a Betsey Johnson or Japanese street fashion  to learn and understand the aesthetic of contestant Martha. Or we could look up Comme des Garçons or the  Antwerp Six,  to find out why Sander is sending a donut dress (which totally reminded me of Janelle Monae’s Pynk pants) down the runway. It’s great to see him learning in real time, to find the balance between avant-garde and accessibility. Which is basically the question: will this sell?

The fact that Amazon is using the show to attempt to
jumpstart its Fashion category is not surprising given the literally captive audience in lockdown. As a logistics giant, it certainly won’t hurt their bottom line, if they present themselves as good partners for small and emerging designers like those in the competition. For the record though, we have to keep in mind that Amazon has had a muddy track record protecting partners from counterfeits, fakes and copies. Remember Birkenstock?
It’s fitting, now that so many in-person fashion and sustainability conferences and trade fairs have been cancelled or postponed, that we consumers have another way to mull over how this worldwide crisis is going to change fashion.

Tamsin Blanchard also looks at how this might cause the fashion industry players to recalibrate their thinking. Li Edelkoort, my favorite trend forecaster (and the closest we have to a Deplhic Oracle), talks about a quarantine of consumption.

“It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful.”

– Li Edelkoort in Dezeen magazine

We’re looking at what young/small designers can create (hopefully sustainable, green and fair), and we are asking ourselves what do we really want and need. Interestingly enough, I’ve been seeing more online ads for loungewear, blouses (we only need waist-up for teleconferencing, I guess) and sportswear.

Edelkoort also describes what will come next, post-virus, as the Age of the Amateur (which she explains in greater depth on the BoF Podcast). She sees arts and crafts, artisanal production and DIY as a survival mechanism. And that’s where hobby makers firmly sit. So let’s keep on making.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Q notes 4: Online inspiration

Puttering around the website of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, I learned that multimedia collage artist, Wangechi Mutu was commissioned to create sculptures for the Museum facade. She explains the inspiration behind her 4 pieces, titled The New Ones, will free us in her artist interview.

They have a regal, ethereal, otherworldly beauty that reminds me of the Watchers/ Monitors from comic books, who observe humanity.

The texture of these modern caryatids‘ tunics remind me not only of ribbing, but of brioche, which has been on my to do list for YEARS. As Dana of Yards of Happiness recently said, now is the time to learn it. Because we have the time now.

 

Ribbed Cowlet by Shannon Charles
Ribbed Capelet by StevenBe
Horizontal Ribbed Cowl by Maxine Levinson

Very Pink Knits‘ brioche tutorial.
Felicia from Sweet Georgia yarn has a very soothing, well-shot and clear video on how to do 2 color brioche.

Links to online content @ Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Coco Chanel: Romanticism
Christian Dior‘s The New Look
The Millicent Rogers Collection of Schiaparelli at the Brooklyn Museum
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between
Charles James Muslins
At the Tate Britain: Re.Create with Tate Britain: Fashion

More links to virtual museum offerings.

And CreativeLive is offering free health and wellness courses.

Stay well.

Knitfree TV – Love is Blind (no spoilers)

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could knit a balaclava fine enough to replace the face masks dominating the news about the Corona Virus days? Which mask would help against the airborne virus? Info here.
Besides preparing for the global pandemic (buying supplies, increasing handwashing and general immune system-friendly habits), I fell into the Love is Blind hole on Netflix. And yes, it is absolutely trash TV, but it is addictive. Netflix released the first batch of episodes on Valentine‘s Day.

TV viewers have loved dating shows for years. And loved to hate them too. But they are a reflection of our society, from our ideas of what is attractive to what is okay to do and say in public and on TV.
Back in 2009, a show Dating in the Dark was created in Holland, and the franchise sold all over the world. Three men and three women were in a house and went on a date in a light-free room. The idea was to find someone to date without prejudices that would come from the person‘s appearance. Of course, the participants were chosen by a group of unseen experts to be thrown together.

Naturally, humans being humans, the participants decided to compensate for the loss of sight by using other senses: hearing, smell and in particular touch. The shows rapidly turned the viewers into voyeurs. And curiously, even though producers didn’t prohibit touching, there was an amazingly high rate of rejection in the cold light of day.

Then we had the gamification of the dating show, with Bachelor, Bachelorette, and Love Island franchises (and the like), which have as an end result an engagement (for the first two shows). So viewers have been willing to see all the contortions contestants are willing to go through to „win“. The Bachelor has a German version running here, but it’s nowhere near as popular as the US version in its home market.

Then we had Married at First Sight, which does have its fanbase, where marriage is the goal and the start of the process. Couples are paired up by unseen experts and the viewer watches them struggle until they settle in or throw in the towel. To be honest, it’s not unlike arranged marriages of yore (and some non-Western cultures today) where the bride never met her bridegroom  before the ceremony. These days, it’s more likely that arranged fiancés talk on the phone or meet in chaperoned circumstances.
This brings up the questions as to why these relationships „work“ and can such a situation work in the western societies. From a rough calculation, we can see that only 33% of the couples in this type of show stays married.

Parallel to TV presenting us unusual iterations of the couples trying to get together, the science of love burst onto the public awareness. Mandy Len Catron wrote an article about 36 Questions (people often ignore the 4 minutes of intense unbroken eye contact at the end) which could foster enough closeness that the couple would decide they had fallen in love.

Which brings us around to Love is Blind (where one of the ladies asks a fella one of the 36 questions and end up crying together). It‘s a mashup of bits we‘ve seen before. The pod phase which is more often likened to speed-dating, is actually Dating in the Dark idea but taken to its proper conclusion. If you really want to cut out outside/appearance related factors, then the dark isn’t enough. So a wall (where not even a shadow – which would betray body shape and possibly  fitness level) makes perfect sense.
Interestingly another update was that engagement was NOT the end-goal, and so participants were not able to see and then judge their choice until they had made the commitment to become engaged. There’s a bit of an IKEA effect going on here, where making a conscious choice in the middle motivated many to stick with their partner through thick and thin.
So the formula playing out on our screens was emotional connection + conscious choice + physical attraction + external factors. Each taking place in a different location, from the pods, to a Mexican beach resort and finally in an Atlanta condominium complex. The finale episode released yesterday was the culmination, where the couples would walk up the aisle and then state whether the formula solved the love equation for them or not.

I feel terrible for viewers who had to get up at 3am to watch, but not too much because it released at a very humane time for European viewers. Especially those on midterm holidays. The memes on social media were worth it though. The global community which built up this show has been quite impressive – not only people recapping and reviewing each episode, but especially the analyses from psychological, and socio-cultural perspectives.

Shoutout to Youtubers The Compassionate Behaviorist who dissects Carlton’s and Diamond‘s argument, Kiss My Cheeks TV whose bubbly personality, local knowledge and prompt postings are a joy to watch, and Supernaturally Sagittarius who looked at the couple dynamics. Special mention to Grace Report for alternate views on Jessica and breaking news on Amber.

As mentioned, all the episodes are now available on Netflix. The Reunion episode has been taped and will air on March 5, 2020 on the Netflix Youtube channel. The season was apparently filmed 15 months ago, so at the time of airing, the couples who married have now been together that long.

It boggles the mind, not only that they had to keep their social media accounts circumspect for so long, but that so many viewers became internet sleuths to sift through Instagram and Twitter to find minute clues about who married and who is still together. Do we as a society have shorter attention spans? Are we unable to sit out any type of suspense?

 

The Woman from the Sea

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Angela Rossi /arte.tv

I just finished watching Julien Trousselier’s six-part series, Une Île, (The Woman from the Sea). A fascinating, fantasy-horror-crime story that just gives one a lot of food for thought.

There’s pretty much every issue in Europe right now, simmering under the surface here: immigration, how we treat immigrants, how good intentions can backfire, friendship, families intact and torn apart, the decline of rural communities (often helpless and relying on the mainland/capital/city), youth unemployment and subsequent departures from these communities, and lastly the currently seemingly troubled relationships between men and women (a drug-aided rape attempt, obsessive stalking, kidnapping, and even an uncommunicative, grief-stalled, alcohol-numbed marriage).

The series works, because it keeps the viewer guessing what exactly is happening, and although they play with these myths of Nature as woman, the Woman (like Tiamat, the angry mother) out of the deep, coming to take revenge on humanity, the filmmaker has a light touch.
It’s as much a coming of age story, as it is a romance and a detective story. And yes, former model Laetitia Casta ( shown here with Noée Abita above) is the titular “Woman”, and I think she does a brilliant job being gorgeous yet creepy.
The Mediterranean land and seascapes are gorgeous and

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Michelangelo di Battista /arte.tv

There are a few sweaters. I liked this one best, and reminded me of these:


Ajeng Sitoresmi’s No Seam Cable Pullover, Adrienne Vittadini’s #9 Cabled Pullover and Kristen TenDyke’s Cable Rib Pullover. The last is a free sweater, child-sized but not too difficult to adapt to adult size.

The Woman from the Sea is pretty much the perfect mix of winter thriller, worrying about the environment, and a bit of wishing for the warmth of summer by the seaside.
So I couldn’t resist throwing in this gorgeous The crocheted swimsuit Poliana by Nomad Stitches is quite lovely…

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Other Links:

Barbarakafka‘s lovely post on swimsuits, knitting and Sonia Delaunay’s art.

Dressed Podcast has a two part podcast on the history of Swimwear (here and here) which is a delightful listen while knitting your one-piece, bikini, coverup or beachbag.

A knitting canon?

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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?