D-lights

I went to Detroit again this weekend and, far from losing its novelty value, I’ve fallen even harder for it than before. As my previous post probably suggested, I’ve been obsessing over it fairly constantly for the past few days.

On Saturday, I joined a few of Pure Detroit’s free walking tours and discovered even more to love about the city, from stories of its history to plans for its future. Our guide, Michael Boettcher is a confirmed Detroit enthusiast with a comprehensive knowledge of urban planning and architecture. As he shared his expertise with us, it became even more obvious that Detroit is a force to be reckoned with!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After trying to choose a small(ish!) number of photos for this post, I’ve decided to stick to the more general ones, and reserve my building-obsessive post for a future point in time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a lot of talk these days about its decline following the 2007/8 financial crisis and global recession that followed, but not nearly enough is said about the boom-and-bust history of the city, nor the splendid reincarnation it is currently undergoing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have read too much written about derelict Detroit, seen too many photographs of urban decay and burnt-out buildings, and want to spread the word far and wide that Detroit is not all like that!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a place of grandeur, magnificence, and fortitude, as well as frailty, vulnerability, and lowly humanity, but not enough is seen of its completeness and complexity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When it comes to expressing the sheer affection I have for a city that has reinvented itself time and time again, one crisis after another, words fail me. People say a lot of things about Detroit, but from visiting it and meeting Detroiters, a creative and resilient atmosphere brews there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s enchanting and inspiring. I can’t wait to go back.

This isn’t the last you’ll hear about it, as I trawl through the hundreds of photos I took this weekend – and no doubt take yet more on future visits. Next: skyscrapers!

Detroit playlist I

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Here are some of my current favourite songs about Detroit:

And for something a little longer, here’s Laurent Garnier’s Mix in Detroit.

I’ve been knitting, too!

So, I’ve not really written much about life in the US partly because I’m still not getting settled. As soon as we arrived in Michigan we were told that there was another move planned before the start of the next academic year, and this has now moved forward a couple of months to a mere 6 weeks or so away… Needless to say, this isn’t conducive to really digging down some roots and building any sort of life, so those aspirations are on hold once again.

Factor in a strange transitional season (Spring here is very different to the season of the same name in the UK) and I’m a bit all over the place. I have a couple of designs still in the works but I’ve been very distracted, so apologies for anyone waiting on the release of Schiehallion or Yunling, they are on their ways. While trying to quell my sporadic frustration and anxiety about this ridiculous year of constant uncertainty, I’ve had a bout of startitis and cast on for all sorts of out-of-character projects. One thing that I’ve actually finished is this somewhat unlike-me jumper:

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It was an attempt to use 2 cones of ColourMart’s Corriedale/Alpaca in different colours to make a relaxed-fit jumper with a few interesting features. The yarn is ridiculously soft and fluffy, so although the yardage indicated a sport weight, I found it made a substantial fabric on 4mm needles. The back neck is shaped with short rows as usual, and the construction is a top-down raglan. As well as a looser fit throughout the body and a total lack of ribbing or garter stitch, it uses i-cord edging and a cool overlap at the sides of the shirt-tail hem:

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I worked the sleeves 2-at-a-time and worked the body and sleeves out of sequence to get the maximum length out of the yardage, switching to the silver yarn on the body as soon as I’d separated them at the yoke, knitting until I was worried I wouldn’t have enough silver for the sleeves, and switching to the sleeves until they were the length I wanted in silver before using the remainder for a few more rounds of the body. The body ended up long enough in silver that I could go straight into the hem once I’d switched to the grey yarn, before finishing off the yarn on the sleeves. I could have made everything longer if it was closer-fitting but the point of this garment was to keep it easy and relaxed, and I think that allows the lengths to be shorter without looking undersized.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a great jumper to wear with my favourite jeans, although as the weather warms up it may find itself relegated to the back of a cupboard – and with a move southwards to Georgia on the cards very soon, it may yet stay there…

Given my wardrobe is more suited to the cooler Northern European climate, I’m making some hurried adjustments in preparation for summer in the Deep South. I’ve started exploring linen, silk, and cotton yarns properly for the first time since I learnt to knit in 2009 (so long ago now!), trying to work out how I can make my love for knitted jumpers translate to Athens’ humid subtropical climate. Wish me luck!

International Workers’ Day 2015

So I had written a really long blog post last week, but changed my mind about posting it, so you’re left with the dregs of my writing today. Either way, it’s IWD2015 and my first May Day in the US. It’s not a public holiday here, but that’s besides the point (it’s not one in the UK either, the first Monday in May is.) Still, today is one day of the year that we are supposed to think about the role of workers in our society, one that ritually invisiblises those who make everything possible. It’s not the people in charge who run our countries, but the millions who are forced through economic necessity to wake up before daylight in order to do the jobs no-one else wants to do, or can do, and the thousands of shift-workers who keep us safe and alive on hospital wards and switchboards.

Whether minimum wage and zero-hour contracted, or better paid and more secure (yet probably still facing precarity down the barrel, teetering on the edge of our volatile and unpredictable economic climate, especially in anticipation of a General Election), it’s those of us who don’t own the means of production who make the world go round. Bottoms up.

Today is the day of the year when I generally feel the most complete, utterly ruinous despair at the social condition. A few years back when I started publishing knitting patterns, I chose to use May Day as a ritual day in my working year, when I release a free pattern that is designed to be accessible to most knitters, as a celebration of the people who make my world go round. If I think of functional contributions I can make to improving the economic reality faced by most of us, I end up feeling completely helpless, fateful, and overwhelmed, so instead I’ve chosen to trivialise and make light of something that runs far deeper than any one of us can effect. In any case, while it’s a day I want to make a point of commemorating it would feel utterly contradictory to sell my labour as part of that, so the only logical action is to give a gift. And here is yours: Torx.

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I designed this beanie last summer as part of some experiments with Brooklyn Tweed’s LOFT yarn, which was touted as sharing the appearance of those rustic Shetlands I consistently rave about, while being softer and more accessible to the average knitter. Although, hark at the price! While it’s definitely not a cheap yarn, it does have a decent yardage for its weight thanks to a woollen-spun construction. This also lends itself to a lightweight fabric when knitted at an equivalent gauge to my precious Shetlands.

Also, the colours are amazing.

If you don’t want to shell out for LOFT, then this pattern works well in my perennial favourites of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift (Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumperweight is also a good option) and Colourmart’s 2/9nm Shetland (also Gardiner’s 2/9nm Shetland). I’ve been trying out Polo&Co’s Masgot Fine recently and this is another delectable rustic yarn that I will showcase in the future. Needless to say it slots right into this roster as a prime candidate for Torx.

TorxCrownThe name Torx is a reference to those six-sided star-shaped screwdriver heads that I keep finding in interchangeable sets. I’ve only encountered their usage a couple of times in my life but they do find a way of populating even the cheapest, most basic screwdriver set, as if there’s a commonplace function for them I’ve overlooked. If anyone can suggest what this might be I’m all ears.

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It’s a really simple beanie that is genuinely both a quick knit and easy to wear. I have a couple of these in different sizes that I use to deal with bad hair days and those in-between spring and autumn days when you’re not quite sure if a t-shirt and shorts will be enough. I also love to wear them to dance in, as their lightness allows me to pretend I’m a cool street dancer who doesn’t drip with sweat the minute I so much as twitch a muscle. The delusion doesn’t last long, but it’s fun all the same.

As a basic hat pattern it provides a solid base for experimenting with colour and pattern, and I can think of a dozen colourwork patterns I want to apply to its smooth stockinette body, as well as some ideas on how to exploit the hexagonal decreases for some tricky patterning at the crown. Neither does it have to be knitted in a rustic yarn. If you’re a softness fanatic but want to retain the tweedy texture then Colourmart’s 2/12nm Cashmere/Silk/Viscose/Merino is a great option. But who says it has to be tweed? Go wild.

Spring-a-ling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, here it is. Spring. It’s not only the chipmunk who has noticed!

It happens really fast here, so in order to ensure I pay proper attention and don’t miss it, I’ve been taking photographs! The thing with spring is that, although you can feel it all around (not least with the sudden appearance of bare skin), the devil is in the detail; the magic of tiny signs of life:

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And there’s a change in the colours. Gone are those moody greys and blues of winter, there’s a brightness and crispness to nature. I love this new contrast with our built environment, how the dynamic between the enduring cement, concrete, and brick, and the sudden rush of all things to grow:

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese new shades of yellow, green, and chartreuse are the perfect foil to our browns, greys, and beiges, and lift even the most perennial structures:

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Whereas autumn has a way of blending back into my beloved reds, oranges, browns, and greys, spring bursts out of them and defies us to ignore the nature that lives among us. So we embrace it: we dust off our barbeques and washing lines, welcome the sunshine back into our lives, and step into the light:

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs much as I’m a rain-child who adores wool in all its forms, loves winter, and lives for snow, I also relish the freedom (and general nakedness – glee!) that summer brings, how everyone moves outdoors and starts to breathe clean air again, and the long days that never seem to end. Last week was the first one in months where I enjoyed the scent of line-dried laundry and wore shorts with no tights. It was a good week.

I also took some other photos yous might enjoy… Well, I enjoy them, anyway.

1) I love this. I have no idea what it is, but I love it:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2) If you view this through my eyes, the brickwork (sigh!) on the Hill Auditorium looks like a kilim rug:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt also reminds me of those Fair Isle colourwork epics where there’s a different pattern inside each of the O’s. Marvellous! And an idea for a colourwork epic, perhaps? Hmmm…

3) And a spectacular rust gradient:

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