Wrong turning

Sorry folks. I didn’t realise I’d come over quite so miserable in my last post, but your comments and the emails I got informed me otherwise! I still don’t read much negativity in my post, but clearly I said something that made it all sound rubbish. Honestly, it’s not.

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There is a lot of sunshine and the people here are very kind, warm, and inclusive. I love that people are more open about their opinions than in the UK (something I enjoy about most of the rest of Europe) and it’s assumed that everyone participating in a discussion is grown up enough to accept disagreement without taking it personally.

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There are hilarious fox squirrels everywhere, and we have a chipmunk living in the rocks outside our flat that takes up way too much time every morning just sitting around being cute and getting watched. Much like our furry friend, who appears to have just woken from hibernation in the past couple of weeks, I’m nesting like crazy, which is something I will post about later this week, hopefully.

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Tracey’s comment pointed me in the direction of an article discussing some agricultural politics in the US that allowed me to investigate further by myself, and I understand the economic mechanisms behind food prices somewhat better. It doesn’t make $7 for a loaf of bread sting any less, but I feel more sympathy for the majority of players in this exchange than I did when I felt like I was being fleeced!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPattern-wise, being in a new environment is great for creativity and I have plenty of sketches and swatches on the go already. I am also very aware that there are 3 patterns that I’ve been promising to finish for months, but the whole moving process massively disrupted that, so I look forward to getting those completed and released. There is plenty to be positive about, squirrels aside, and much to look forward to!

Chilling in the Midwest

SnowfunSo, I’ve been in Michigan for over a week and only just had a chance to get on here to write a quick update. It has been all sorts of temperatures from bloody freezing to t-shirt weather but it’s back to something overcast and cool today.

This time last week it looked something like this:

Stovetop

I was really glad to have completed my Stovetop by TinCanKnits on the flight out, it’s New Lanark Aran in Limestone and just knowing where it comes from adds greatly to the warmth I experience when wearing it. As is clear from this blog, knitwear is never just clothing to me, it has an emotional significance that relates to time, place, colour, texture, construction, and biography. This hat is deeply embedded in all of that. And the pattern is good. Try it. It’s especially good for frigid temperatures when some home comforts are welcome in spite of the obvious joys of frozen water:

BeautifulLots of things about here are different to home. I find supermarkets stressful at the best of times, and had pretty much worked Manchester out, knowing where I needed to go for what items and making fairly straight beelines for them with minimal browsing. Here, I’m having to browse all over again and everything seems so expensive! It’s not just the conversion from dollars to pounds, which in itself would make equivalent-costing items appear more costly, but the fact that things I consider necessities really are more costly here. Broccoli is over twice the price after conversion, as are bread and ground coffee. Butter is at least 3 times the price, and forget decent chocolate.

However, the range of processed foods is far more extensive and includes such things of beauty and destruction as this brownie topped with melted peanut butter cups:

BrowniesThe city of Ann Arbor is a funny place. It’s almost entirely a university and very little else. It’s pleasant but very small and suburban-feeling. Thanks to the university it boasts more integrated public transportation than I’d been warned about expecting in the US, and it’s possible to live here without a car due to a comprehensive and reliable bus system (that, and most places being within walking distance). It doesn’t feel like a “real” place, though, and I’m glad we’re going to be here for the summer to see if that changes when it isn’t packed with students. However, things like this crazy mock Tudor building don’t really help with the reality check:

MadMockTudorAnd now I’m going to be completely honest because I think it will be interesting to some of the people reading this to chart my feelings about the US as I continue to live here, just to see if some things develop or change completely. None of this is a value judgement, and I hope no-one takes umbrage at what I write about living here. It’s obviously my entirely personal perspective, as a culmination of my life experiences, and I can’t possibly expect anyone else to understand it, but at the same time it’s not intended to offend or praise.

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We grow up in Europe with representations of the US as a country of extremes, and assume that most of what we learn is exaggeration or artifice. As I’ve discovered this week, a lot of what we’ve learned is true. It also disguises even more of the extreme differences between the US and the rest of the world. I’m not sure if growing up with roots in Asia and Europe has given me a false impression of the coherance of Old World cultures, but I feel like there are many significant aspects of life here that are in stark contrast to both European and Asian ways. It’s funny, but in spite of the over-exposure of American popular culture, history, politics, and economics in the rest of the world I’m still experiencing a massive culture shock following my arrival here. I look forward to seeing what happens next…

On the move!

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My prolonged absence here is owing to a rather big house move I’m in the middle of. There has been some knitting that I look forward to sharing very soon and there has also been a lot of coffee, hugs, and generally feeling very sad about leaving behind incredible people and this spectacular city.

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So much so I forgot to wish yous all a happy new year – sin ni kuai lok! It’s belated but sincere.

POMELO_20150222181035_fastGive me a week and yous will be sick of my unrelenting posts! Until then, I have some final boxes to pack…

A little bit late, but… Madrid!

I went to Madrid! Ok, I got back 2 weeks ago. But let’s just pretend it was today? It has been the most hectic time over here, with moving preparations, and I really wanted to make this post about more than just photographs. Although photographs are cool:

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I went to visit Ms Juliabe, who is even friendlier, funnier, and sweeter in real life than she is in her artwork. And way more knitting-obsessed… as if that was possible! She also lives in a beautiful city, and took some time to show me around.

We visited the old city, saw lots of cathedrals and government buildings (which I took plenty of pictures of, but won’t waste anyone’s time with showing as you can always Google “Madrid buildings” and find professional photographs!) However, I will show you my favourite photos of the things that really captured my interest and imagination, and leave streetview to fill in the gaps!

Madrid is full of cool old-timey supplies stores, like this one we visited that sold materials to made espadrilles, saddles, and sandles:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing a pair of foodies, we also visited several markets and gawped at food. I especially loved the space outside Mercado de la Cebada, which had been turned into community art and activity spaces, complete with peepholes made from repurposed washing machine doors:

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Julia’s neighbourhood is in the vicinity of the old city abattoir. It’s a beautiful sprawling complex that illustrates how important livestock and meat were in the history of modern Madrid. It has become a cultural centre, with cinemas, hip cafés, and exhibition spaces, and book-vending machines!:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, I loved this juxtaposition of contemporary art and culture with the brutality of mass-butchery. The old buildings are stunning, decorated in detailed tilework (which have inspired some colourwork motifs in my notebook), and the renovation has taken pains to preserve this as much as possible and retains some of its witty signage:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s my wool-obsession shining through right there, as there were other signs for pigs and cows, but they weren’t interesting enough to photograph! Fortunately, there are plenty of yarn shops in Madrid:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs well as yarn-bombing in public spaces:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd of course we bought yarn:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI turned the first 2 skeins of Black Oveja’s Laña de España in Teja into a Guernsey Wrap by Brooklyn Tweed:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s an easy-to-follow pattern that knits up pretty quickly into a very attractive wide scarf. Although scarfs tend to be tedious, the knit-and-purl patterning of this project makes it interesting enough without being too demanding. A single-colour project made a nice change from my recent colourwork spree, and meant this project was super-portable because I didn’t have multiple balls of yarn to tangle up on the go.

It has been snowing on-and-off since I finished this, so there have been plenty of opportunities to wear it. The yarn is not scratchy next to my skin, but not soft either (so perfect for my tastes!), and has a really bouncy texture – especially with the gansey patterning of knits and purls. I haven’t knitted a scarf in years, but this was the perfect project for this yarn, in the perfect colour, and with perfect timing. It is the absolute perfect memento of my time in Madrid: interesting, historical, colourful, and cosy.

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The other 2 skeins are in the process of becoming a colourwork hat. Bear with me!

Dancing isn’t just for the weekend

This is my pal Flo. She’s one of the coolest people I know. She is down-to-earth, happy in her skin, with a wicked style, and easy-going sense of humour. She is also my favourite meme from Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, which launches in full today.

The campaign arose out of research conducted by Sport England which asked women about the gap in participation in sport between the genders. With 2m fewer women than men taking part in exercise, across all age groups, Sport England wanted to know why this number was so high and how it could be reduced. I’m saddened by their findings, which include women’s fear of being judged by other women and feeling like they didn’t look right to exercise among the top reasons that women aren’t active, in spite of 75% of women interviewed saying they would like to me more active.

Along with Victoria, I love it when I’m at the end of a class covered in sweat and I know I’ve given everything to looking so thoroughly disgusting. And I hope you can all see the beauty in melted makeup, sticky joggers, and smelly trainers, because This Girl Can is about embracing the women we are when we exercise even if we look the opposite of these svelte, effortless, and elegant fitness models used by Sweaty Betty.

See us in all our sweaty, exuberant, giving-it-all glory during tonight’s Coronation St ad break (approximately 19:45 UTC/GMT on ITV). 

When you see the advert tonight, it will include views of women’s bodies that aren’t often seen on TV and certainly not usually framed in a positive context. We hope this campaign will encourage women to realise that how our bodies look and what they’re capable of doing are two very separate things.* When we arrive at a point where how you look becomes irrelevant if you’re taking care of your health (in more ways than one), then we will also be at a point where more women are experiencing the joy, community, and myriad benefits of regular activity.

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Sweatt Riott classes are now running in Hulme’s Z-arts on Mondays (19:45-20:45) and Tuesdays (19:15-20:15), along with Zumba on Tuesdays (18:15-17:15) and Thursdays (18:30-19:30). Come along and meet some of the women having a blast in the advert.

* Before anyone points out the relationship between BMI and a host of health problems, it’s fairly universally accepted that being fit and healthy has a relationship with weight, but that isn’t the same as carrying low body fat, and having body parts that wobble is completely unrelated to how far you can push yourself and what you can achieve when you do.