Summer Reading

macro photography of black sunglasses on sand
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

My kids absolutely hate the thought of doing anything remotely school-related during the summer. And that includes reading anything that could possibly be edifying or remotely educating in any way. I, on the other hand, like to stock up on books throughout the year so that I have something nearby to read, when the days get too sticky and muggy for me to even contemplate taking up a knitting needle.

Here are a few books (fiction and non-fiction), that I’ve read in summers past, that I can recommend, and what’s on my ‘reading now’ part of the bookshelf… What are you reading this summer?

Books to Change how we see People
Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The reading of this taught me that gender does not have anything to do with love, friendship and heroism.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Fascinating what behavioral scientists learn about us humans.
Going, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck. Recently translated German bestseller about Germany’s attempt to come to grips with what immigration really means.

Books to Change how we see the world around us
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Another translated bestseller written by a forester about how trees grow, form friendships, raise their kids and have a different sense of time than we do.
The Swarm: A Novel by Frank Schätzing. Packed with research and action, bringing science fiction and environmentalism together. I would love this to be filmed.

On My Bookshelf
Limit by Frank Schatzing. My son gave this to me as a gift, and it’s a bit of a doorstop.
Book of Knitting Patterns by Mary Thomas – I jump backwards and forwards trying to envision these timeless patterns in modern yarns living in my stash at the moment.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin  Nosrat. Because it’s lovely to laze somewhere in the shade and read about food and look at the gorgeous illustrations.

 

 

Other reading lists:

Guardian reading list

TED’s summer reading list

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Chaos, Gardens and Knitting

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I finally got around to seeing This Beautiful Fantastic week, and it‘s got me thinking about Gardens and chaos.

As I wrote earlier, the german title pretty much gave away the idea that they were trying to make an Amelie film, but I was looking forward to the knitwear. Which was a bit of a letdown, but I started thinking about why people love gardening, gardens, and what the film has tried to say about life.

Bella is an orphan, who was abandoned in a box in a park. That would make anyone anxious, I‘d imagine. Bella attempts to control her life by imposing extreme order on every aspect of her life. She doesn‘t want to let in any chaos, which brings us to gardens. Nature can be chaotic, unpredictable and well, wild. That‘s why humans developed order and culture to tame Nature in its various forms: none more lovely than the garden.

A garden is the creation of order from chaos. It’s the creation of a little paradise, or eden. A refuge from the wild or hectic hustle and bustle of daily life. A chance to centre oneself and reconnect with nature and one‘s self. In fact, it is only when Bella is able to reconnect with Nature through her garden, that she is able to connect with her own creativity and attain her goals of becoming a writer, making friends, finding love and overcoming that anxiety.

Although the garden shots were lovely (although whose point of view were the out of focus flowers supposed to represent?), there were too many references (the story in the story brought ‚The Little Prince’ to mind) to other works for this to shine on its own merits. It was predictable, but that can be comforting at times. If you want a little more excitement, look into how many instances of twinning or doubling you can spot throughout the film.

From gardening, it‘s a short jump back to crafting and knitting, because it‘s all about taking that „chaos“ or undefined potential and making something out of it. And that’s why I love knitting.

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Andrew Scott (aka Moriarty from the „Sherlock“ series) in This Beautiful Fantastic

 

 

 

Diversity in German fashion

Fran Summers Vogue Germany 072018

I ran into this Vogue cover today, and of course had to take it home. Not just because it is simply stunning, but also because it is actually quite rare for a black model to get the cover of Vogue Germany. While Vogue in the US and the UK are considered quite groundbreaking in pursuing diversity in Fashion, Vogue Germany hasn’t so much.

After a bit of digging, I found out how rare this is, and yet, there’s still a ways to go.

A Brief History of Diversity of Vogue Germany Covers

Vogue Germany existed briefly toward the end of the Weimar Republic (1929-1930). It came back to Germany in 1979, following the brand’s acquisition by Conde Nast and the following worldwide expansion. The German language edition serves German-speaking Europe: Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Iman (above, left) was the first black model to grace the cover in June 1982. Of the fifteen times a black model has been on the cover (alone, in a collage or a group of models), Naomi Campbell (middle) is the clear winner, with 5 covers to her name. Special mention to Jamaican model Lois Samuels (right), because although she appeared with a group of models, she actually indirectly influenced the Cover title!

Every few years or so, Vogue Germany will have a black model on their cover. After Iman, came Jennifer Beals, Beverly Peele, Naomi Campbell, Lois Samuels, Kiara Kabukuru, Alek Wek (though sadly inside the fold), Arlenis Sosa, Lais Ribeiro, Liya Kebede, Yasmin Wijnaldum and now Nigerian Mayowa Nicholas. The first asian cover model was Ling Tan (November 1998). Not a lot, still nothing to sneeze at.

I’m hoping future covers of Vogue Germany will show how diverse German society has become in the last few years…

 

photosource: Condé Nast/ vogue.de

Trade show overload

Nadelwelt

My knitting friend and I thought we would pop in to Nadelwelt in Karlsruhe, have a quick look and get home in time for lunch. I don’t know why we thought that would be possible. We’re still young. That’s the only excuse I’m prepared to give.

If you’re ever in the area (next year the show falls on May 3-5, 2019) and find you have a full day to spare, definitely check out Nadelwelt. The trade show is held in the same place that the ARTkarlsruhe is held, and it’s just massive. My eyes have been opened to how the needlecrafts have taken off in Germany (despite you not seeing a lot of people knitting, crocheting or otherwise crafting in public here).

There was a distinct focus on quilting, with a quilted art exhibition right out front. We had a lovely chat with two British textile artists Cas Holmes and Gillian Travis, who apparently travel around to exhibit and sell at textile shows and fairs all around Europe.

Cas Holmes treats paper, thread and fabric like paints, and her work has the ethereal quality of memories half forgotten, floating out of the subconscious.

Gillian Travis, on the other hand, makes vibrant, graphic quilts which reflect her travels and other sources of inspiration, and just whisks the viewer away as if on a magic carpet. She has an amazing eye for colour, and a wicked sense of humour. I had a great time talking to her.

Although we were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the show (from fabrics, buttons, yarns, sewing machines of all types, etc), we did make a lovely find: our nearest LYS shut down late last year, and now we’ve found a new one. The owner happened to be on hand and she and one of her staff gave us a mini-workshop on Tunisian Crochet.

So while I am not quite in the mood to knit at the moment, I’ve been practising my tunisian crochet and staring at my boot socks, hoping that they’ll have the decency to finish themselves up without me. Thankfully I did them two at a time (each on two DPNs) so each only has about an inch of ribbing left.

 

 

On the road

About a month ago, I went off with friends on a mystery weekend, and ended up in Bonn (friends willing to plan mystery weekends, and go along on mystery weekends are the best sort, in my opinion!). We went a gorgeous bike tour of the city, and eventually ended up at the University of Bonn’s Arithmeum. Museum of the history of calculating.

We had a great guide, who explained how complicated it had been to create a working adding machine, that would carry all the digits. It used to be complicated work.

These days we can whip out our phones and calculate what 15% off on those fabulous knitting needles will mean to our budgets.

As luck would have it, the Arithmeum (attached to the University Math Department) also had an art exhibit from their works inspired by discrete mathematics.

Absolutely gorgeous. Speaks to the knitter in me. Very much intarsia or mosaic-knitting…

Met Gala: Heavenly Bodies

I look at the Met Gala fashions first and foremost because it’s fun. Tom and Lorenzo always has a great look-through at the Met Exhibition: “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” and the Gala guests. And because as Amanda Heath (née Hallay) of Ultimate Fashion History says, “Fashion is not an Island, it’s a Response.” So I was really curious to see what Fashion was responding to Society.

 

(photo source: Tomandlorenzo.com)

Now while the catholic church has given way to an amazing outpouring of creative Imagination in the arts, it cannot be ignored that the church was a suppressive force in the sciences at one Point: Galileo Galilei, anyone? I thought for sure that the Italian astronomer would get a sartorial clapback on the red carpet. A sequined ‘Eppur si muove‘ to send sharp-eyed watchers to search out the meaning (Galileo challenged the geocentric world view of the time, and proved that the sun is the actual centre of the solar System). Almost 360 years later, he was vindicated in 1992.

So honourable mention to Kim Kardashian on left, for coming as the sun (although she may not have been aware of the Galileo Affair)!

I thought the connections or controversies between Religion and science (in particular astronomy)  would have been right there, because there are so many  hot topics in Society these days. Further honourable mention to Zendaya Coleman for channelling Joan of Arc, a teen girl who was hearing voices (and possibly also hallucinating). Because in the age of #metoo, who doesn’t need to find their inner warrior maiden?

 

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Joan of Arc, 1879, Jules Bastien-Lepage (French, 1848–1884)
Oil on canvas; 100 x 110 in. (254 x 279.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Funnily enough, my favourite depiction of Joan hangs at the Metropolitan in New York, it actually portrays her as a real person, getting on with her life as a country girl when her visions hit – you can see her discarded spinning wheel on the ground there as she gets overwhelmed by her visions. Carol at watchmepaint goes into the fascinating detail about the painter, the painting and his subject.

At this year’s Met Gala, most of what I saw was opulence as distraction from all the Things we as a Society are going through. That’s why I have to give props to Solange Knowles for bring that weirdly fabulous sci-fi creation that at first glance calls out to space travel, androids, and the like. Yet it’s not as farfetched as one might think…

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Solange Knowles in Iris van Herpen

This dress, by Dutch designer Iris van Herpen is actually called ‘Cathedral Dress’ and was constructed using 3-D printing techniques. It’s from a van Herpen Collection called Hybrid Holism and was inspired by:

“…Hylozoism, the ancient belief that all matter is in some sense alive. van Herpen is intrigued by … possibilities for a future of fashion that might take on quite unimaginable shapes.
Fashion that might be partly alive and growing, and, therefore, existing partly independent from us, which in turn allows for a new treatment by humans: instead of discarding the fashion after use, we cherish, value, and maintain it in its abilities to change constantly.”

-source: www.irisvanherpen.com

This look is therefore talking about the future of imagination and fashion. I sure hope we get there…

 

Finished up: MoMA’s Fashion as Design

knit vest alternate materials
Moma – is Fashion modern?

 

It’s been a while since I finished the MoMA’s online course collaboration with Coursera, “Fashion as Design” which run more or less parallel to their Exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern.”

We looked at various items, we looked at production, inspirational heroes, silhouettes, lifecycles, modesty and expression. There were some tricky quizzes at the end of each week, but all in all, I managed to pull myself together to get it done.

I learned some new things about fashion in the late 19th and 20th centuries. But I won’t lie, it got a bit tedious at times, because I was constantly looking at the course material through the eyes of a knitter.

And there is no easy answer to the question, ‘Is fashion modern?’ because people are doing so many different things with the clothes that they put on their/our backs. Recycling, upcycling or even restyling garments of a bygone decade may feel less than modern, but the actual idea that this should be important to us is a fairly new one.

Or that making (and in particular knitting and crochet) is not old-fashioned or quaint, but a growing niche of forward-thinking activism (where supporting shepherds producing wool locally can help with anti-desertification around the world)…

 

Of note: Coursera blog’s conversation with Curator Paola Antonelli.

 

 

Woolfest haul

 

There were about 26 vendors at Wollandia, but it seemed like more.

Even though sock yarn (ie fingering weight) is extremely popular here in Germany, I now get the feeling that the new trend (on top of Hand dyed and naturally dyed yarns) is socks with glitter?

I told Sandra from Farbenpracht, that you just can’t have enough glitter in your life. There is no way I would want to hide that in shoes! She even suggested the lovely Moonrise shawl pattern from Olga Buraya-Kefelian.

I found my Ultraviolet (every time I look at these skeins, I feel it in my Ajna!): The skeins from Filzlinge were by far and away the most Vibrant colours on Show. I realized that the yarns are single handspun, but the colours are so gorgeous, I figured that the Internet would teach me how to make it work: Charles at Knitmuch’s tips for knitting with fuzzy yarn.

 

Honourable Mention:

Lütt Wollhus on Facebook

How to visit a woolfest

 

So, I went to my first fibre Festival this Weekend: Wollandia. And it was awesome. It was an intimate (less than 100 exhibitors) gathering of independent dyers, Spinners and purveyors of other sheep-related goodness.  It was Wollandia’s first time too, so we had that in common! The organizer Erica Carnevale did an amazing job.

 

If this is going to be a yearly event, then I can definitely recommend stopping by if you’re in the Pforzheim area (any good sat-nav will get you there). There were independent dyers (whose names I only know from Ravelry and browsing Etsy or its German pendant Dawanda). And of course it’s great to be able to take the yarn into your hands before buying.

Tips for visiting yarn festivals:

  • Wear layers
  • Wear walking shoes
  • Take a friend – or make friends there -complimenting dyers’ work, collecting cards and having a chat always goes down a treat.
  • Beforehand – look at the exhibitor list and develop a strategy.
    • Do a full circle and have a good look at everything before starting to buy. Unless you plan to visit a specific vendor.
    • plan for emergencies: Enough cash on hand? the location of the next closest cash machine may be good to know.
    • have a plan for how to actually use those speckled or otherwise multicoloured skeins of yarn. (Skeinyarn’s tips on knitting with variegated yarns; Dana at Yards of Happiness is my inspiration to get more colour in my knitting life)
    • What’s the minimum amount of yarn that I should purchase? if I don’t have a project in mind?
  • Have a budget – look up what things cost in real life, so that you can recognize a deal on equipment if you see one.
  • Plan some breaks: At German events like this, there is ALWAYS food – cakes, waffles, sandwiches, even Flammkuchen.

Interweave’s Tips on how to shop at Yarn and Wool festivals.

Black Panther: A study of Xenophobia

 

Black Panther Double Knit Square / lattesandllamas.com

 

It’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts on this film, because I had to continue with real life, while reflecting on what I had seen.

To be honest, I learned one thing and was reminded of another. I learned that filmmaker Ryan Coogler is not to be messed with. His newest film, Black Panther proves that he’s a talented director able to work on several conceptual levels, who is able to take what should be a ‘simple superhero film’ and turn it into something else altogether. Is there a category called ‘Superhero-Politthriller’?

Yes, it works as a superhero film that kids will have a blast watching. It even works as a faithful comic book adaptation. As a gorgeous love letter from the African Diaspora to the Motherland, it hits the ball out of the park (Well done Ruth E. Carter and the production team! Amazing job!)

 

It also works as a double-whammy political thriller. On one level, this afrofuturistic piece deep-dives onto the political intrigue following a change in government (head of state). On the other hand, it  is a thought-provoking piece, which very subtly compares the US (and parts of the Western world in the throes of wrestling with issues of identity and ultra-conservative xenophobia) to the proud nation of Wakanda. High tech force-shields do the same thing that Mexican Walls are supposed to do.

I will admit that I was lulled into the haze of I-have-to-accompany-my-child-to-the-cinema mixed with admiring the costumes and production design, until one phrase jerked me wide awake: “The Sun will never set on the Kingdom of Wakanda.” I won’t lie, even as a naturalized German, the chills ran down my spine (because 1933-1945). These folks are such an advanced nation, and they are xenophobic. For me, it is therefore disconcerting to see folks running around post-cinema experience beaming “Wakanda Forever!” (And the Daily Beast’s Ira Madison III thinks so too).
That the society within the film manages to tackle such a thorny problem that propels them to the brink of civil war is makes it no less compelling for theater-goers to ask themselves what type of society do we want to be. And to keep talking about it.
That was the reminder, that comic books are often not  just about fighting or solving problems with violence, there is a message, if you care to look.
And now, the handcrafts:
Basotho blankets on the big screen in 'Black Panther'.
Letitia Wright, Lupita N’yongo, Angela Bassett and Martin Freeman on set.                      Fotosource: Times of South Africa/ Marvel Studios 2018

 

 

The fabulous blankets, seen above, are made in Southern Africa, and are called Basotho Heritage Blankets. Notably, worn by the royal family and their guest (for the sake of accuracy, the border guards/tribe do wear a similar blanket which appears to be part of a uniform). Regular people like Nakia (played by Lupita N’yongo) seem or choose to make do with knits and crochets. 
This shawl-wrap was the only knit I spotted. It seems to be long, rectangular piece, done in stocking stitch with an occasional row of eyelets interspersed. While this knit is done in fairly sombre tones (at a fairly sombre point in the story) of her signature greens and blues of the River tribe, by the end of the film, she is in a lovely sparkly green crocheted pullover with a single cut out shoulder.
Honourable Mention: Latte&Llamas 2017 Geek-along