In Which It Is Too Damn Hot

It is stupid hot here and it seems my life has been on hold for the past several weeks while I eat ice cream and wait for it to cool down. I’ve been knitting a sweater but that seems an exercise in futility since obviously I will never need such a thing again.

But I did read The Brass Giant by Brooke Johnson and I can’t quite decide if I didn’t much care for it or if it’s just that it’s hot and I hate everything. I wanted it to be about clockwork automatons and schemes, which it is, a bit. But there is way too much romance for my liking. Possibly because it is too hot to hear about warm embraces – just standing next to people on the bus is gross. (Is there a genre about hooking up with snowmen? I think that could do well.) But even so, it just seemed too much. I mean, surely when you are escaping from prison you should focus on the task at hand rather than daydreaming about making out. (Disclaimer: I have never escaped from prison. Perhaps that is actually the secret to success.)

Know any good books about polar exploration? I might need to take a field trip soon.

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Belle Epoque

I finished reading Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross the other day and I still can’t really make up my mind what I thought of it. It’s about Maude, who runs away to Paris and takes a job as a repoussoir, which is a professional ugly friend – your wealthy client hires you to stand around and make her look good by comparison.

There’s some fun stuff, like running away to Paris, old-timey photography, the Eiffel tower in progress, fancy clothes and balls. (I like the idea of a ball but would hate to actually be called upon to wear a corset and dance in public. Good thing I can read about them in my pajamas.)

But the premise got on my nerves, like when people talk about brides who deliberately pick hideous bridesmaids dresses so they can look good at their friends’ expense. Because, y’know, women are vain and secretly hate each other. Isn’t it cute? Blech. (Although there are bridesmaids dresses out there that seem to defy any other explanation, I think there’s just something about weddings that causes epic lapses in judgement. Not, alas, limited to dresses.)

On the other hand, when beauty has high stakes – like if you are a Parisian socialite and marriage is your best/only career option – surely it isn’t shallow and petty to go for it. Is hiring a professional ugly friend and hoping for an aristocratic marriage all that different from paying tuition and hoping for your dream job?

Oh, socialites, I can’t stop with the side-eye, but I do see your predicament. What can you do when the only way to win is to be effortlessly gorgeous in a way that no one actually is?

“Overthrow the patriarchy” is probably a better answer than “Hire a professional ugly friend.” But I do see how the latter is simpler.

Anyway, of course Maude meets a boy who thinks she’s beautiful. And on the one hand, good for her! She’s had a rough time and who am I to begrudge her a little lovin’? It’s Paris after all. But on the other hand, can’t we have a story about an ugly woman who is actually ugly? I know, I know, eye of the beholder and all that. But it irks me that so often the message is that of course we’re all beautiful! Body image! Self esteem! I would so much rather it was that beauty is not a requirement.

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B Is A Pretty Good Grade

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t quite manage to finish that sweater before the end of the Dauphiné. I realized there was no way I was going to make it, lost my motivation a bit (also, I had to go to my job and stuff) and finished almost a week late. Which, in keeping with the theme, is probably what would happen if I actually participated in a bike race. Good thing knitting has lower stakes.

It’s blocking now:

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Points off for lateness, but overall seems like a success.

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Cables du Dauphiné

I don’t spin and have no plans to take it up but in July I suffer from fleeting sadness that I can’t do the Tour de Fleece. I actually do follow cycling. (Well, sort of. I got into it because it’s the perfect insomniac TV – hours of footage of people riding bikes, minimal concentration required, often aired at weird hours of the night.) And I do love a crazy knitting challenge. So this year I thought to myself, how about I do my own thing in honour of the Criterium du Dauphiné  – y’know, similar but different.

I thought of this plan while I was casting on a new sweater during the prologue, so it was not especially well thought out and has a couple of obvious problems:

1 – The connection with wheels and spinning isn’t there. As it happens I’m knitting a cabled sweater (Telluride Aran) so I’ve decided the cables represent winding roads. Best I can do at short notice.

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If that doesn’t remind you of biking through France I don’t know what will.

2 – The Dauphiné is way shorter than the tour (1 week vs 3) and there’s no way I’m going to finish. Today’s the last day and I have the front, back and part of a sleeve. (This is only possible because the back and sleeves are plain.) Maybe I can pull of some kind of unlikely come from behind win this afternoon? You never know if you don’t try.

How about Vest du Dauphiné  next year?

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Small Coloured Things

For the last few years it seemed like I spent a lot of time thinking about colourwork projects, thinking about what patterns to make, which colours to pick. But then somehow  I never actually knit any of them.

So it kind of surprises me that lately I’ve been on a stranded kick. I made those mittens, then these socks, which you can tell are fabulous because they have elephants on them:

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Pattern is Water for the Elephants which I’ve had my eye on literally for years. I am so absurdly delighted with these. Yellow and blue elephant socks!

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And! As if that were not enough, there’s also a hat

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I’d been kind of wanting to try out Kate Davies’ yarn for a while. I’m supposed to be working through all the other yarn I already have at home, but what fun is that? So when there was a free shipping day I got the kit for Epistropheid.  Nice yarn, as it turns out. It’s sturdy and woolly but not excessively scratchy. I might need to make a sweater out of it.

Once I’ve used up that yarn in the closet, naturally…

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The Taxidermist’s Daughter

Neither of my parents is a taxidermist (at least as far as I know) but I picked up Kate Mosse’s The Taxidermist’s Daughter based mostly on the title. (Also, I was looking for a  paperback for the train since I always end up with 45 pound hardcover library books then have to haul them around all weekend. I know the obvious solution is just get a Kindle or whatever but I have a general aversion to gadgets and try to minimize my ownership of them. I don’t understand the point of, say, rice cookers.)

Anyway, I am sort of skeeved out but also morbidly interested by taxidermy. I can mostly get behind dioramas at natural history museums which at least seem sort of dignified.  But a museum with taxidermied kittens dancing and ravens taking tea as described in the book? Yikes Like, is it a craft project or a corpse? It’s both! That’s … kind of weird mix. It’s the sort of hobby you would expect a serial killer to have.

And coincidentally, the book is pretty serial killer-y. I wanted it to be more moody and creepy what with all the taxidermy/churchyard gatherings/ominous weather. But it is pretty straight up murder-y. Olden times, young woman terribly wronged, vengeance with a side of taxidermy.

Eh, I dunno, I feel like I’ve seen this stuff a bunch of times already. Although usually without the taxidermy.

For your creepy taxidermy book needs you might want to check out The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos. I read it years ago and I still remember it was creepy as fuck.

 

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A Week In Stripes

Last Friday I got some new yarn in my mailbox. I’m trying to knit the yarn I have instead of buying shiny new things, but this stuff is just SO COOL. I have a longstanding love of self-striping sock yarn (like here for example) but the thing about that is if you change the number of stitches per row you get weird looking stripes. Increase the stitches: narrower stripes; decrease the stitches: wider stripes.

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Caterpillergreen has self-striping Shawl yarn that lets you knit a top-down triangle with tidily spaced stripes. (As you increase stitches the length of each stripe of yarn gets longer. Genius.) I cast on last weekend and merrily knit all week doing garter stitch for the coloured parts and stocking stitch for the grey.

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Then I finished this morning and played yarn chicken with the bind-off. It was close.

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Not trimmed at all. I’m just that lucky good.

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I think the green stripes might be slightly excessive but they do have “green” right there in the name. I love it. Triangle! Stripes! I even have a striped shirt to match.

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Now I, uh, think I was knitting some socks or something? Whatever happened with that?

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