CH 268: Summer Reading and Sweater Knitting


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This episode, as part of my effort to design my summer and come up with holiday projects, I am putting together a reading list. I have some really amazing reads coming up but as they are on the more serious side I’m also looking for some fun fiction recommendations, if you have any! I am also building a fantasy sweater knitting queue…if I start now I might have one finished by the end of the year!

Show Links:

Court Number One: The Old Bailey Court Cases That Defined Modern Britain by Thomas Grant

Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture by Bruce Pascoe

Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands

Hay by Clare Mountain

Like a Cloud by Jojo Locatelli 

Confetti by Veera Välimäki

Clio by Elizabeth Doherty

Zweig Pullover by Caitlin Hunter

Magnolia Pullover by Camilla Vad

Laine Magazine

Cushendale Woollen Mill

La Bien Aimée

Elton Cardigan by Joji Locatelli

Winterfell Cardigan by Katrin Schneider

Episode transcript:

Welcome to the Curious Handmade podcast. You’re listening to episode 268. This podcast is all about crafting a life of happiness and creativity. I’m your host, Helen, and you can find me on Ravelry as Hell’s Bells and on social media as Curious Handmade. You can also find full show notes and transcript on my website at

Hello and welcome to the show. I hope you’ve had a fantastic week. Thank you for everybody who commented and sent me messages about your holiday projects. I loved hearing about those. I’m still working on mine actually. I haven’t had much time this week to think about it in too much detail. But today I thought I would share with you a couple of books that I’m hoping to read over the summer holidays that I have in my pile beside my bed at the moment. Also do an update on my thinking about my knitting capsule wardrobe pattern ideas. Just before I get into all of that, I wanted to remind you that we just have a couple of days left for my birthday sale. It’s my birthday today in fact, so I have been running a sale for the last week or so to celebrate, and it is a buy one, get one free sale.

So all you have to do to make the most of that is to put two or more of my patterns from my Ravelry store into a basket and use the code, happybirthday, oh, one word. So I just wanted to give you a little reminder about that, that runs through to Sunday 30th of June before that offer ends. It’s also to celebrate the release of the individual patterns from last year’s show society collection. So I have just had that available as a collection up until now. And now each of the patterns from the Shawl Society Season 3 from last year are now available as single patterns. So lots of people have been waiting for that, sorry it’s taken me so long. I meant to do it earlier in the year, but the years got away from me a little bit. So we’re doing it now with a lovely buy one get one free sale to go along with it.

So as part of my summer holiday project, along with moving countries, I am compiling a bit of a reading list. I have a few books collected already, and I thought I’d just share about them a little bit with you. So I’ve just grabbed three books from the top of my pile beside my bed. So the first one I grabbed, I picked up recently at a local independent bookshop. And it is called, Court Number One: The Old Bailey Trials That Defined Modern Britain by Thomas Grant QC. This was just on the counter when I was buying some books for the kids and I just thought it looked interesting. When I was working in the city many years ago, in one of my very first jobs in London, I worked in an office building opposite the Old Bailey. And so I was always fascinated with the comings and goings from the court. And also, one or two of my ancestors were tried in the Old Bailey before being transported to the colonies. So I guess that’s why the title piqued my interest a little bit.

The book says,

Court Number One of the Old Bailey is the most famous court room in the world, and the venue of some of the most sensational human dramas ever to be played out in a criminal trial. The principal criminal court of England, historically reserved for the more serious and high-profile trials, Court Number One opened its doors in 1907 after the building of the ‘new’ Old Bailey. In the decades that followed it witnessed the trials of the most famous and infamous defendants of the twentieth century. It was here that the likes of Madame Fahmy, Lord Haw Haw, John Christie, Ruth Ellis, George Blake (and his unlikely jailbreakers, Michael Randle and Pat Pottle), Jeremy Thorpe and Ian Huntley were defined in history, alongside a wide assortment of other traitors, lovers, politicians, psychopaths, spies, con men and – of course – the innocent.

Not only notorious for its murder trials, Court Number One recorded the changing face of modern British society, bearing witness to alternate attitudes to homosexuality, the death penalty, freedom of expression, insanity and the psychology of violence. Telling the stories of twelve of the most scandalous and celebrated cases across a radically shifting century, this book traces the evolving attitudes of Britain, the decline of a society built on deference and discretion, the tensions brought by a more permissive society and the rise of trial by mass media.

So I thought that sounded quite interesting. And yeah, we’ll see, I hadn’t read any of the pages sometimes before buying an unknown author. I like to stand in the bookshop for a while and read a few pages just to see if I like the style, but I didn’t have time, this time. So we’ll see. It’s quite unknown at this point. The next one I have seen recommended on Instagram by mostly Australian Instagrammers I guess, in the knitting community. It’s called Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture by Bruce Pascoe. And this was recommended and I thought sounded very interesting, especially with the move from the UK to Australia. I thought I would inform myself a little bit by reading this book.

So the blurb says history has portrayed Australia’s first peoples the Aboriginals as hunter gatherers who lived on an empty uncultivated land. History is wrong. In the seminal book, Bruce Pascoe uncovers evidence that long before the arrival of white men, Aboriginal people across the continent were building dams and wells, planting and irrigating and harvesting seeds and then preserving the surplus and storing it in houses, sheds or secure vessels and creating elaborate cemeteries and manipulating the landscape. All of these behaviors were inconsistent with a hunter gatherer tag, which turns out to have been a convenient lie that works to justify dispossession. Using compelling evidence from the records and diaries of early Australian explorers and colonists. Pascoe reveals that Aboriginal systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern retellings of early Aboriginal history. And that a new look at Australia’s past is required for the benefit of us all. That gave me a bestseller in Australia, won both the Book of the Year Award and the indigenous writers prize in the New South Wales premiers literary awards. The truth telling must go on.

So I’m looking forward to reading that. When I was in primary school, we learnt a version of Australian history and it will be really interesting to supplement that with this book. Finally, I have a book which was recommended to me by my copywriter and teammate Amanda. And it’s called, Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands. Craeft is spelled C-R-A-E-F-T, in one letter F-T. So, not sure quite how to pronounce that, but Craeft, something like that I’m not sure. And this sounds super interesting, especially for crafty creative types.

In the midst of a seemingly endless supply of mass manufactured products, we find ourselves nostalgic for products bearing the mark of authenticity, handmade furniture, artisan breads, craft beers and other goods produced by human hands. What often goes unnoticed is the transformation of our understanding of craft, or rather craft in the wake of industrialization.

In craft archeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands argues that our modern understanding of craft only skims the surface. His journeys from his home in Wales have taken him along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe, from Spain through France and England to Scotland and Iceland, in search of the last meaning of craft, reaching as far back as the Neolithic period. He combines deep history with scientific analysis and personal anecdotes. We follow the author as he herds sheep, keeps bees, tends hides, spins wool, and thatches roofs. We learned that sides work much better on tall grass than the latest model of wheat trimmers, that you can spin wool using a large wooden spoon, and it was once considered criminal to work on animal hides before a requisite 12 months soak. When it first appeared in old English the word craft signified an indefinable sense of knowledge, wisdom and resourcefulness, rediscovering craft will connect us with our human past, a sense of place and our remarkable capacity to survive in the harshest of landscapes. Craft helps us more fully appreciate human ingenuity, and the passing on of traditions from generation to generation.

So, that sounds a bit interesting. I feel like we would be quite receptive audiences to this message. I wouldn’t go so far as to say preaching to the choir, but you know what I mean. I think we kind of understand the idea, but I’m very interested to delve into it a bit more and find out a bit more of the history and a more in depth analysis of it. So those are three books that I am looking forward to reading. I feel like that towards the heavier end of the spectrum for me, at least, the nonfiction, so I would be very welcome to any suggestions of some fiction series, especially along the lines of Jack Reacher style, John Milton style, action thrillers, I suppose you call them. I really enjoyed books by Mark Dawson. He’s an English writer. He has a podcast about writing and having an author business that I really liked listening to. And so I started reading his thrillers and I’ve read all of them now. So I really enjoyed those.

I’ve also recently just read the Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling books, The Cormorant Strike detective series, really enjoyed those. I like a good detective series I really enjoy Ian Rankin. So if you have any fairly light hearted, not too gory, fun series to recommend I would be very open and would welcome that because I need something light and trashy to offset the serious and the nonfiction. I’ve also been thinking about my capsule wardrobe ideas. And I have really loved having a couple of hand knit sweaters, cardigans to wear in the last year or so. I knit Hay by Claire Mountain and Like a Cloud by Joji Locatelli and I mean I’ve knit sweaters before but these two along with Confetti that I knit by Veera Välimäki. I guess the three have been really great wearable pieces, and probably my most successful garments to date.

So I am considering what’s next on the list. As you probably know, I am halfway through knitting Clio by Elizabeth Doherty. And that’s going to be a wonderful staple in the wardrobe as well is sport weight, I’m knitting it in a really lovely neutral, light neutral color. So I think that’s going to be super versatile. But of course, once that’s done, I’m going to be looking for something else. So I’ve got four contenders for my capsule wardrobe. Again, I think this time of year is quite a good time of year to start thinking about knitting garments. Because even though it might not be, you might not think it’s the best time of year to knit. I mean here in the UK, it’s really knitting weather all year round. It doesn’t really get that hot most of the time, that isn’t very pleasant to knit. And I’ll be heading to Australia where it will be winter so again, very pleasant knitting weather. And then you have something ready for the Northern hemisphere winter if you start now. Possibly if you’re a faster knitter than me or Christmas 2020 perhaps.

Anyway, the first one on my list is Zweig by Caitlin Hunter. I met Caitlin at Squam recently very briefly, but it was absolutely lovely to meet her. I’ve been wanting to meet her for ages, and I have been admiring her patterns since she first started publishing them on Ravelry. And so it was so nice to meet her and there were quite a few Zweig pullovers at Squam. So I was admiring those. And this is a fingering white pullover knit in I think two colors. I think I’m right to say two colors. Some people knit it in one color, which looks fabulous as well. And so I think the fingering white pull over is a really great white, especially for me. It doesn’t really get that cold here in the UK, so it’s nice to have light layers. And of course, moving to Queensland where we don’t really have winter, fingering white is about as heavy a pullover as you want as well. So, that’s going to be a good white.

And I think with the lovely yoke detail, it’s got some lace, it’s got some texture. It’s really interesting. And I think this piece can go from casual to a bit more dressy so you can dress it up and dress it down. My uniform is basically jeans 24/7 well, not while I’m sleeping obviously but you know what I mean, I don’t often not wear jeans. And so I think a nice sweater really dresses that look up a little bit. So I think that would be a really nice contender. I’ve just seen so many lovely versions. You can’t go wrong with any color combination almost and yet it just always looks really good. Another one that I think is a nice casual but can also look quite classy is Magnolia by Camilla Vad. This one was in Laine magazine, I can’t remember which issue. I think it comes out at about a sport weight.

Looking at the materials, I’m 99% sure that it’s a lace weight and a silk mohair, how to double, pretty sure that’s what’s happening. And so it’s fairly lightweight, but also cozy and warm. It’s knit on 3.5 millimeter and four millimeter needles. And I have some Cushendale lambs wool in a lace white that I purchased on my trip to Ireland recently and I would have enough I bought four scans of a beautiful greeny blue color called Jade. And I have lots of silk mohair and I think I could find something to match. So potentially I have the yarn in stash for this one. And I think it would just look really adorable with a skirt and boots. It’s a really plain pullover except it has a beautiful lace section around the bottom of the body of the pullover. So it’s really classic but it just has beautiful pretty detail without being over the top. So it’s a little bit romantic. And again, I think it would dress up boring jeans and a T-shirt uniform really well.

So I’m really like that one, I’ve been admiring that since it was first released in Laine a little while ago, lot sometime ages I’ve been admiring it for a long time. And then looking at cardigans. I think if I was to do a cardigan my first pick would be Elton by Joji Locatelli, because I have the exact cold for yarn for that. I have the La Bien Aimee yarn in yellow brick rod and it’s a really fabulous yellow and it’s knit in two skeins of single pi and one skein of lightweight for my size which is I think medium. This is just a super chic cardigan, the mohair and singles or striped it’s really simple in concept but super effective in the end result. It’s quite cropped so I think Joji designed it to wear over dresses over tunic style dresses and would dress up a skirt or jeans and it would be the perfect white for not very cold Australian winters.

Similarly, the Winterfell cardigan jumped out at me. And this is by designer Katrin Schneider she has really gorgeous designs. I love everything she does. She has a tagline of, I think something like pure and timeless which is what all her designs are, just super classic, super timeless, but really lovely details. So this one is a fairly classic cardigan. I think it’s a little bit fitted. I’m not 100% sure, but it has really nice slip stitch diagonal stripes going across the front piece, and I think the rest of it is quite plain. Her description says, beginning with the neck band the cardigan is worked back and forth in rows from the top down diagonal slipped stitch lines are added to the front. The body is worked with a slight A shaping and finished with a rib turn. The front bent picked up a netted after the body is complete. The sleeves are worked in the round and finished with ripped cuffs.

So yes just lovely simple tilled and she has knitted her sample in the La Bien Aimee Winterfell colorway which is an absolutely stunning dark blue almost with a bit of gray in it I think. I’m not very good at describing colors but this is just a lovely really dark rich color. So those would be my picks for my capsule wardrobe that I’m slowly working on. I think that I would have the yarn for all of those except perhaps the Winterfell. I’m not sure if I’ve got anything in my stash, that sport weight and sweater quantities. I definitely have the yarn for Elton and probably have the yarn Magnolia and definitely have some fingering white skeins for Zweig. So yeah, so I think I probably start with Elton first from that list, although they’re all just calling me at the moment. So yeah, so I would like to know what is on your sweater knitting list.

You can leave a comment in the show notes or on Instagram. I’ll do a post about it. And I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about, get some ideas. 

So I hope you all have a fantastic week. Don’t forget last couple of days of my birthday sale. It’s a buy one, get one free on Ravelry. And don’t forget the coupon code. Happybirthday. So have a fantastic week. Happy knitting and I’ll talk to you again soon.

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