Hi all! It’s been a long time since I posted a project, for which I apologize. However, I’ve mostly been knitting socks and gifts lately, which hasn’t been terribly interesting. The rest of my knitting time has been spent making this Gingkophyte tee.
I don’t, as a rule, knit a lot of summer clothes. Mostly because it would be a little counterproductive: knitting’s structure lends itself to warmth. However, I also just really dislike knitting with cotton and linen yarn. Wool 4Ever! Once in a blue moon, though, I will pick up a cute summer look with some cotton or linen yarn.
This is such a time.
I have been wanting to make the Gingkophyte tee since the pattern came out, but just kind of never got around to it. However, I no longer had any excuses. While I think I may have picked a size too small, it came out very well. The look is very vintage and very, very cute. The lace work is modern, which is something that is hard to achieve with lace. It’s also been a bit since I knit a sweater flat (edit: I completely forgot that I just made the Quarantine Cardi, whoops), so I had to brush up on my sewing knitwear skills. However, I am so pleased with the results.
Does this mean I will be making more summery knits? Probably not. Wool is still my first, truest love. But maybe sometime in the next century I’ll make something else out of cotton.
P.S. For more details about the yarn, needles, etc. I used, click here!
My dear Prue, we are the inheritors of a wonderful world, a beautiful world, full of life and mystery, goodness and pain. But likewise are we the children of an indifferent universe. We break our own hearts imposing our moral order on what is, by nature, a wide web of chaos. It is a hopeless task
Wildwood, Colin Meloy
I adore middle grade fiction. (What a good word adore is: it perfectly captures that beautiful and intangible emotion). Middle grade books capture all the imagination of whimsy of children’s literature but are equally comfortable exploring difficult themes in the way that teen or adult literature does.
Summer is the perfect time to get caught up in a series and even more so when it is summer in a pandemic. I wanted to share a few of my favourite middle grade series — all of which can be enjoyed by readers of any age!
The Wildwood Chronicles follow two friends, Prue and Curtis, who enter the Impassible Wilderness on a journey of rescue and discovery. Inside, they discover a world of talking birds, wolf bandits, sentient ivy, and a government in turmoil. The two children become unwillingly embroiled in the politics of the Impassible Wilderness and discover that they may be able to leave the wilderness, but it will always be inside them.
These books are incredible on so many levels. Not only are the illustrations and story beautiful (they are the product of a husband and wife team!), but it’s easy to draw parallels to our own world. The Impassible Wilderness is under threat from industrialization, and its destruction would mean the loss of a vibrant and unique world. In the forest, a corrupt government arises from the vacuum of power caused by a prince’s disappearance. Orphaned children work for no wages to line the pockets of an industrialist. Danger lurks behind every tree.
For thousands of years, stories have acted as lessons in less frightening clothes for children. While our values may have changed (the original Grimm brothers might not go over so well at bedtime anymore), the method remains sound. Children are capable of absorbing more difficult topics than we might think and those lessons remain with them throughout their lives. I still remember the stories my parents told me as a child: warriors and princesses and talking animals. Those stories taught me the importance of bravery, wisdom, and compassion.
We are not children anymore. But that does not mean we are not still learning.
The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price – in the form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.
Michael Mann, leading climate scientist
The first time I remember hearing about climate change was in about the third grade. We read a book in class all about ways we could save water or energy around the house: turn off the lights in rooms we weren’t using, turn off the taps while we brushed our teeth, etc. To my memory, we weren’t really told why we should do this – only that it would help the planet. I was all for helping the planet so I just went with it.
I was born in 1999, seven years after the Rio Earth Summit and well after the science of climate change had been proven and broadcast. There was no definitive moment where I was taught about climate change; the information came to gradually in the same way we learn about other huge, overreaching concepts like war. However, for a very long time I was not told the true causes of climate change. Sure, I knew that it was caused by “fossil fuels” but if you had asked me at fifteen to describe who was emitting those fossil fuels, I would not have known. So much of my haphazard education on climate change had been focused on personal solutions that I was completely unaware of exactly who was responsible for the current crisis and how that impacted the way we will need to go forward.
The truth is that only about twenty companies worldwide are responsible for a third of the greenhouse gas emissions since 1965. These companies have pumped 480 billion tons of carbon dioxide and other gasses into the atmosphere. The biggest offenders, unsurprisingly, are oil companies like Exxon, BP, Shell, and Gazprom. Carbon and methane emissions from these companies and the next 70 largest producers are responsible for half the temperature rise and a third of the sea level rise we have seen since 1880. How, in all good conscience, can these companies continue to emit greenhouse gasses at the same rates despite the scientific proof of the human cost?
The answer is profit. Most of these companies are publicly traded and whenever environmental measures are tabled at board meetings, investors will often perceive a greater loss of profit than actually exists. Therefore, the stock prices drop and the company loses money. These heroes of capitalism would rather do almost anything than lose money. Despite any gains in public relations they might receive from adopting social responsibility, their profits would suffer, and that is just not a sacrifice they are willing to make. Not only do these corporations not want to make these commitments to social responsibility, they also don’t want anyone suggesting they should. The five largest public oil and gas companies spend roughly $200 million (USD) each year lobbying to block climate change policy in the United States Congress. For years the complete and total denial of the reality of climate change was effective, but now being green has gone mainstream. Companies are under unprecedented pressure to show environmental commitment. Therefore, the latest strategy is to simply lie. Many companies will simply say that they are committed to reducing climate change without putting any action behind that statement. Then the get the best of both worlds: good publicity and good profits.
Despite all their efforts to avoid it, there are good reasons for corporations to reduce emissions. Putting aside the tremendous and compelling ethical reasons, efforts to reduce emissions can reduce future environmental liabilities and lawsuits. It can also (depending on the industry) cut production costs. Finally, corporations that adopt environmental measures early will be ahead of the curve by the time government regulation comes into play and have an advantage over their competitors. However, even in a world where these benefits were recognized, voluntary reductions of corporate emissions will not be effective in mitigating climate change. There is simply not sufficient capitalist motivation for them to purse voluntary reduction. Corporate structure is designed to pursue self-interest rather than ethical necessities and that will not change in the near future. Therefore, government and industry-wide regulatory bodies must step in and emplace strict guidelines on emissions and pollution.
As a child I had been taught that greenhouse gas emissions and the degradation of the environment are classic cases of the Tragedy of the Commons – we all took too much and now we are suffering because of it. This is not exactly the case. Ours is a world of vast inequalities of all kinds, including responsibility for emissions. Out of the more than seven billion people living on the planet, less than a hundred are responsible for a large part of our current crisis. They have thus far escaped any consequences for their reckless endangerment of human lives in the search of profit. This is not a Tragedy of the Commons. This has been a robbery, and now lives are on the line.
Chen, Y., Nie, P., Wang, C., & Meng, Y. (2019). Effects of corporate social responsibility considering emission restrictions. Energy Strategy Reviews, 24, 121-131.
Fisher-Vanden, K. & Thorburn, K. (2011). Voluntary corporate environmental, initiatives and shareholder wealth. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 62, 430-445.
Kim, J., Bach, S.B., & Clelland, I.J. (2007). Symbolic or Behavioral Management? Corporate Reputation in High-Emission Industries. Corporate Reputation Review, 10 (2), 77-98.
Patt, A. (2017). Beyond the tragedy of the commons: Reframing effective climate change governance. Energy Research & Social Science, 34, 1-3.
Rhodes, C. (2016). Democratic Business Ethics: Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal and the Disruption of Corporate Sovereignty. Organization Studies, 37 (10), 1501-1518.
Taylor, M. & Watts, J. (2019, October 9). Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions. The Guardian. Retrieved from link.
Wang, L., Li, S., & Gao, S. (2014). Do Greenhouse Gas Emissions Affect Financial Performance? – an Empirical Examination of Australian Public Firms. Business Strategy and the Environment, 23, 505-519.
Wegener, M., Labelle, R., & Jerman, L. (2019). Unpacking carbon accounting numbers: A study of the commensurability and comparability of corporate greenhouse gas emission disclosures. Journal of Cleaner Production, 211, 652-664.
Hi all! I have some exciting news: today I just released a new pattern, the Barn Owl!
The Barn Owl is the perfect thing to throw on when it gets a little chilly; when you need a little something to take the edge off the cold. It is rustic but beautiful, reminiscent of woodland birds and lonely farmsteads. This is a timeless staple that will be brought out again and again for sitting by the fireside and tramping through the wilderness.
It is knit top-down in one piece from the collar in stockinette, displayed inside out to show reverse stockinette when worn. The bottom hem features a split hem for comfort and style. Sleeves are wrist length and length is adjustable.
Available in eight sizes to fit 30 (34, 38, 42) (46, 50, 54, 58) inch // 76 (86, 97, 107) (117, 127, 137, 147) centimetre body circumference.
Sewing has been with human civilization since the beginning. Humanity needs clothing and there is really a limit to how many ways you can effectively drape fabric. However, despite the importance of sewing and needlework to our history, the general population knows very little about it — in history or execution.
I have always been a crafty person and the natural extension of that was sewing. In high school, if I was not known as the person to help you with math homework then I was certainly known as the person who could tell you how to fix your clothes (or occasionally just do it for you). One of the most shocking moments for me in high school was when a seventeen year old boy asked me in all seriousness how to sew on a button.
It is not news that “women’s work” has been devalued and de-emphasized for centuries. We see this in the low wages paid in the fields of cooking, cleaning, sewing, and childcare. Home economics is being dropped from the curriculums of many schools, despite the fact that cooking for yourself and being able to fix your clothes are arguably much more relevant to the average life than physics. A symptom of the devaluation of women’s work means that many people, especially men, have never been taught these skills and, furthermore, are ashamed to learn them. Modern masculinity seems to find traditionally feminine skills emasculating, despite the complete lack of evidence that needle and thread remove any testosterone from the body.
Clare Hunter has brought the world of needlework to life in this book. She traces sewing through history, unearthing characters like Mary Queen of Scots, recovering WWI soldiers, female artists of the 18th century, prisoners of war who sent messages of hope in quilts, countless grievers who made banners to showcase the loss of lives to AIDS. Behind and around these people there were also countless women and men who will never be named. These are the people who sewed clothes and blankets by candlelight — who twisted their souls in with the thread and let their stitches be their legacy.
To sew is to create intimacy between yourself, your clothes, and your mind. Speaking from personal experience, sewing is an intensely personal act. The repetition of pushing needle and thread into fabric quiets the mind and lifts the spirits. You know that even while you are sitting, you are creating something beautiful, something worthwhile. There’s no feeling quite like it.
Since most of us are spending a lot more time at home lately, perhaps it’s time for a longer read. Allow me to present you to my favourite book, Wolf Hall. The award-winning trilogy tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, the low-born advisor to Henry VIII.
It’s hard to accurately describe this book. Certainly, I could tell you about the plot, but that would only capture about 15% of the magic. Most of Mantel’s considerable skill emerges in her use of language to convey the terror and discomfort present during a time of absolute monarchy. Henry VIII was an unstable ruler and those close to him were in constant danger (as evidenced by the two wives, many councillors, and many courtiers who were executed). The insidious creep of Mantel’s prose does not let us forget the dangers facing the characters at all times.
Fortitude … it means fixity of purpose. It means having the endurance to live with what constrains you.
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
The anti-absolute power message takes on new urgency in the Trump era. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen the danger presented by an unstable man with too much power. While the setting for Henry VIII and Trump are different, there are an uncomfortable amount of similarities. Both are middle aged men with a few marriages under their belt who are untroubled by the needs and safety of others as they pursue their own interests. Through the lens of the sixteenth century, we are able to see our own times.
I, like so many of us, do not have a thigh gap. This means that I tend to wear through pants very quickly, with the thighs worn to shreds and everything else absolutely fine. Since I don’t want to buy new pants every six months, a solution needed to be found. Today I will be sharing that solution with you.
The crotch is a weird place to repair because you really don’t want something super visible or bulky. This rules out patching, darning, and most of the other mending techniques I know. What I’ve done is create an interior patch which acts to stabilize and strengthen the fabric. This method is discreet and helps your pants last so much longer!
Note: This is not super helpful if you already have a hole. Despite a lot of trial and error, I don’t have a great solution for existing holes in the crotch. Think of this as a preventative measure.
In order to protect your pants you will need:
The pants (obviously)
Needle and thread
Fabric to form your patch (the lighter the better, you don’t want anything bulky)
Pins and scissors
Your first step is to identify the problem area on the pants. It can help to look at a pair of pants that have already been destroyed to see the most distressed areas. For me, it starts about 1″ (2.5cm) from the centre seam and continues for 4″ (10cm), all along the back of the inseam. Once you know where you need support, turn the pants inside out and pin your fabric to the area.
Now you are going to take your thread and stitch in vertical lines across the patch. The lines should be about 1/3″ (1cm) apart or slightly less. You will continue working back and forth across the patch until the entire thing is filled.
Repeat on the other side!
Your patch is now attached! If you turn your pants right side out, you will notice that the stitching is barely visible, especially if you have chosen thread that is a similar colour to your pants. Now you can feel secure knowing that your pants are protected!
I hope this is helpful to all my fellow ladies with no thigh gap, and anyone else who wants to reinforce a problem area in their clothes! This same process could be repeated for knees, elbows, or anywhere else that sees a lot of strain.
Clothes maketh the man and we certainly attach a lot of importance to our clothes. There is no end to the magazines, websites, and advertisements telling us what and how to wear clothes. Unfortunately, there is less information of how to keep clothes. Fashion in this day and age is designed to be close to disposable, with the ideal customer buying a new wardrobe for every season.
There a host of reasons for exiting this cycle of commerce. Clothes production involves the use of many harsh chemicals, as well as a huge amount of water and textile waste. Textile factories are also nightmares of worker abuse, as evidenced by the fire in the Dhaka garment factory in 2013. Fast fashion is economically, ethically, and ecologically heinous thereby begging the question: what can we do?
One solution is to make your clothes last as long as possible. The practice of mending has fallen by the wayside in the past few decades as cheap clothes became more readily available, but I think the time for its resurrection has come. Thus begins a little mini-series here that explores some simple ways to mend your clothes.
Darning is a method used to fill in small holes where a patch would not be appropriate. I often use darning on my socks and sweaters. To darn you will need:
a small embroidery hoop (not totally necessary but it will help to stabilize the fabric!)
some embroidery thread (this can either be a matching or contrasting colour to the fabric you are darning)
Your first step is to place your embroidery hoop over the hole, which will cause the hole to stretch out a little. Don’t be alarmed if the hole seems larger than you thought it was!
Then you will stitch around the hole. Think of it as outlining the hole and providing a frame for the darn.
Next you are going to make the warp of your darn. You are going to insert the needle on the other side of the hole, creating a vertical line across the hole with your thread. You want to start at one end of the hole and continue creating vertical lines across the entirety of the hole.
Once the entire hole has vertical lines stitched over it, you will create the weft of your darn. To do this you will repeat the same process as the warp, but you will also weave your needle over and under the warp of the darn. Think of it as a small little loom.
Continue weaving this way until the entire darn has been filled. On the wrong side of your work, create a small stitch (you don’t want this to be visible from the other side!) and use it to knot your thread. Then cut the tail and you are done!
Now your item has been repaired and should last for a long time to come! Repeat as needed over any other holes.
I hope some of you found this helpful and stay tuned for more scrappy tips on how to mend your clothes!
The world is a pretty chaotic place right now and so I thought you wouldn’t mind if we did something a little different for Book Club. Instead of my deep thoughts on a work of non-fiction or literary excellence, you will instead be subjected to my shallow thoughts on works of perhaps lesser quality.
Anyone who knows me knows that I adore trashy novels. I could talk for hours about Dan Brown and Meg Cabot, and would if you let me! Trashy novels are the perfect form of escapism in that you can read them with a completely empty mind. Not all of the following books are truly trashy and most of them are excellent books. However, all of them have nothing to do with pandemics and are a guaranteed good time. So without further ado, please enjoy my recommended quarantine reads.
Georgette Heyer wrote from 1921 to 1974 and basically invented the historical romance genre. Among her many, many novels, these three are my favourite. Her books are delightfully witty and romantic and I’ve read each of these approximately four thousand times.
In The Masqueraders, a brother and sister caught up in the Jacobite rebellion must go into a disguise as … a brother and sister. Prudence becomes Peter Merriot and Robin becomes Kate Merriot (do not ask me why exactly this is necessary, because I don’t know). Drama and hilarity ensue when they meet Sir Anthony Fanshawe and Letitia Grayson, and fall in love. Further complications arise when their adventuring father returns to England, claiming to be a long lost duke!
Cotillion follows Kit Charing, who has been the ward of a cantankerous old man deep in the countryside. When he decides that he will leave his fortune to her on the condition that she marry one of his great-nephews, Kit cooks up a plan to fake a betrothal to one nephew, Freddy, in order to make the nephew she has a crush on, Jack, jealous. She and Freddy travel to London, where — perhaps unsurprisingly — the plan backfires.
In Lady of Quality, we meet Miss Annis Wychwood: twenty-seven, independent, beautiful, rich, unmarried, and a true icon. Bored with her confined Regency life, she helps young Lucilla Carleton run away from home. This of course, brings Lucilla’s uncle, Oliver Carleton into her life. How will Annis deal with a man just as opinionated and witty as herself?
I first read these thrillers in middle school, upon the recommendation of a very earnest boy in my Creative Writing class whose name I have forgotten (if you’re out there, sorry!). Fragment and its sequel, Pandemonium, are based on idea that life in isolation will evolve along completely different paths than other places. Fragment finds our heroes on a remote island in the South Pacific that has been isolated for millions of years, where everything has been evolved … to kill (so delicious, so dramatic). In Pandemonium, our heroes return to explore a cave that has been isolated for millions of years, where everything has been evolved … to kill. Laugh all you want at the melodrama, but these books are a lot of fun and come with drawings of super weird animals and plants!
This book is nothing short of a delight. I read it in twenty-four hours and then a week later went and read it again because I loved it so much. The first son of the United States and the Prince of England have had a not-so-friendly rivalry going for years. When a PR disaster forces them to fake a friendship, this rivalry transitions into something a lot less malicious and a lot more sexy. Be advised, this book will make you feel a lot of emotions.
Okay, story time. Several years ago, someone gave me The Summer Tree as a present and I cannot remember who it was. I promptly lost the book, found it a few months ago while cleaning out my stuff, read it, screamed, and ordered the sequels on Amazon with one day delivery.
Y’all, this book is so dramatic and I loved it so much. I gasped every second page because the twists and turns kept coming! Without giving too much away, five grad students (from University of Toronto!) are brought to the first of all worlds, Fionavar, by a wizard. When they arrive, they discover a world in crisis where they will all have an important role to play in the coming war. The book draws from Celtic mythology and has the vibe of The Lord of the Rings if everyone were having sex all the time.
Would this list be complete without a representative from the trashy romance novels? This book is delightful and in lieu of a full summary (you get the gist: they’re in love but don’t know, they have a bunch of sex), I am providing you with a list of some other, excellent, heteronormative romances:
The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
The Hating Game and 99% Mine by Sally Thorne
The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot
I have had and loved these books since I was about ten years old. They’re each quite short and feature brave young girls who are about twelve, have a beautiful and kind older sister/brother, a brave and kind older friend (who is naturally in love with the beautiful and kind older sibling), and a kind friend and love interest. These young girls are also, of course, princesses. The books are a delight, nearly everyone is kind with pure motives and they read just like the fairytales they retell. The Thirteenth Princess tells the story of the forgotten younger sister of her more famous, dancing older sisters, who was raised as a servant and forced to watch their slow slide into despair. A True Princess follows a young girl on her journey to find her true family, where she runs into some trouble making elves, and finally reaches a kingdom where a pea-related obstacle confronts her. And Princess of the Wild Swans introduces us to a talkative young princess who would do anything for her older brothers, including no longer talking.
I cannot recommend enough that you read these books, they are completely designed to restore your faith in humanity.
Finally, my list would not be complete without the Queen of Mystery herself, Agatha Christie. While her more straight-forward whodunnits are more popular, I really enjoy her spy thrillers. Destination Unknown follows Hilary Craven, who no longer wants to live, and her journey to the Middle East. There she meets a mysterious man convinces her to try a more interesting method of suicide, impersonate the dying wife of a physicist and follow him into the belly of a mysterious organization, in order to find the masterminds who want nothing short of world domination. By the end, Hilary realizes that maybe she doesn’t want to die after all.
Warning: this book does contain brown face.
Some other notable and often overlooked Agatha Christie novels:
The Secret Adversary
They Came to Baghdad
Partners in Crime
The Secret of Chimneys
I hope you that some of these books will entertain you in your quarantine experience! Let me know if you liked them and please give your own recommendations in the comments!
Stay safe and, as always, lots of love, Valentine.
World War I was many different things to many different people. Above all, it was a conflict that claimed over twenty million lives and wounded the same number. The world would not — could not — be the same afterwards. It spelled the final end of the feudal system and the beginnings of the modern world.
One of the war’s quieter changes was the end of the corset. Steel was required for the war effort and therefore banned in women’s corsets. While some women continued to wear a girdle-type garment, many women abandoned the corset and all its works. This left them without a critical source of warmth and so they turned to knitwear.
Sweaters became part of the uniform of World War I for civilian women. Many of them were working for the first time and needed comfortable, practical clothes. Sweaters fitted that bill to a tee.
In addition, there was push by the government and in the media to knit for the war effort. Women at home would knit gloves, socks, and balaclavas for their loved ones on the front lines or send care packages to soldiers who were strangers to them. The government published free patterns to help facilitate these efforts.
Elizabeth Lovick and the costume team behind the film Tell Them of Us, knew that knitwear was going to play an important role in the World War I era drama. By enlisting the help of knitters worldwide, they were able to use period patterns and photos to reconstruct garments similar to those worn by the real life people portrayed in the film.
After filming was finished, they compiled the newly created patterns into a book, Centenary Stitches, which it has been a pleasure to read and explore.
The book includes women’s, children’s, and men’s garments, as well as home goods. Most poignantly, instructions are included for the socks and gloves that women would knit for the men they loved who had gone away to war and, far too often, their deaths.
World War I was more than a hundred years ago, which is both a long time ago and not long enough. It was a brutal and bloody conflict, eclipsed only twenty years later by the unimaginable carnage of World War II. Perhaps this book will help us to remember the ordinary men and women who lived and died in that war so many years ago.