Category Archives: crafts

The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

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Mind Matters and Knitting and Hats

Voltaire says:

Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.

I will respect  that not everybody needs to be perfect. Sometime just knitting is enough.

See Knitting Meditations

_Female_Magician

Also Erma Bombeck says:

I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and gives me a certain dignity, as if I were attending a funeral or something…

So there are 5 reasons to knit a hat:

  1. They are a small project;
  2. A great deal of body heat is lost through the head;
  3. A great hat makes up for a bad hair day;
  4. They knit up very quickly;
  5. Even timid dressers will wear a hat.

streep.jpg

 

There’s a technicality to designing and wearing hats. A hat is balancing the proportions of your face; it’s like architecture or mathematics.

I have different hats; I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’m a human being, I’m an artist and hopefully I’m an advocate. All of those plates are things I spin all the time.

Cognitive Psychology and Knitting: Pattern matching and selective attention

There is a very interesting book called Things I learnt from Knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

In her introduction/foreword she discusses the idea that Knitting is a very strong example of certain Cognitive Psychology concepts. Namely those of Attention;  Pattern recognition; Object Identification; and Time Sensations.

In Cognitive Psychology they are interested in how people choose what to focus on, the way patterns are recognised even though they may be very different in apparent appearance, and how time is perceived.

Filtering and attention relate to how we use our mental energy. How we decide on what we should pay attention to and what we should ignore, what we will store in our neuron and pathways and what we will discard or not pay sufficient attention to for it to register in our brain.

Thinking about pattern recognition, the theory states that pattern recognition describes a cognitive process that matches information from a stimulus with information retrieved from memory.

So consider the letter a. As a child we are taught how to read and write, but each book we read uses a different font or paper size and thus font size and so on, and yet after a while we recognise all the letter ‘A’s we come across. I realised this fact just recently as I was being read to by my grand-daughter. we had written each of us, our own books on small folded pieces of paper – concertina books –  and I had written in cursive script – clearly I thought but… It was a different cursive from the one she was used to and thus some letters she had difficulty in recognising eg I use the continental way of writing a cursive ‘z’ and my ‘s’  was different and so on. Yet once explained she knew them and recognised the letters when they came up again. Reading is her joy at the moment but she is still learning how the combinations of letters make words and how they can be pronounced differently in different contexts eg ‘bow’.  English is very tricksy!

In a crowded train carriage my husband dons his noise cancelling headphones. I get out my reading and knitting. Which of us hears less of the noise made by the loud chatterers? Which of us knows where we are in terms of stations? Not me, that’s for sure. I am immersed in what I am doing and all the other sensory information within the train carriage passes me by. I am not paying attention to it. I am focussed on my tasks.

Sensory information comes in four formats:  visual; auditory; tactile; and olfactory. It is more than just simple registering of sensory information… it involves some sort of interpretation of that information. We can ignore that part of the sensory information that surrounds us if we are focussed on our tasks. We filter and pay attention only to that which interest us.

Broadbent (1958) argued that information from all of the stimuli presented at any given time enters a sensory buffer.  One of the inputs is then selected on the basis of its physical characteristics for further processing by being allowed to pass through a filter.  Because we have only a limited capacity to process information, this filter is designed to prevent the information-processing system from becoming overloaded.  The inputs not initially selected by the filter remain briefly in the sensory buffer, and if they are not processed they decay rapidly. We therefore lose them and do not remember them.

Alternatively Treisman’s (1964) model retains this early filter (Broadbent’s) which works on physical features of the message only. The crucial difference is that Treisman’s filter ATTENUATES rather than eliminates the unattended material.  Attenuation is like turning down the volume so that if you have 4 sources of sound in one room (TV, radio, people talking, baby crying) you can turn down or attenuate 3 in order to attend to the fourth.

It is my experience that we can do both – we can choose which model to follow – or at least I can. Sometimes I am completely immersed and nothing will come in from the external world, sometimes I am not so focussed – I am not paying enough attention because what I am doing does not require me to – perhaps it is very familiar – eg knitting plain and purl stitches – I can do this without looking at the needles and the wool as I very familiar with the feel and pattern my hands need to make to complete the physical task.

Yet when we knit we can focus on our counting, our pattern changes and the rows we need before we change colour etc to such an extent that the external world fades away and the world is concentrated in the movement of our hands.

Many different patterns can all be recognised as examples of the same concept. We use pattern recognition all the time we understand a stitch or the regularity of a decrease on a sleeve so that we do them automatically. We know when something has gone wrong – when what we are knitting does not look right.

We also use object recognition to know what a stitch or a pattern looks like on different items – a hat Vs a coat or a scarf, and in different colours; and when we know and understand that one sleeve is different from the other in the sweater we are knitting.

cable patternfairisle

What the author claims is that by virtue of knitting we change the way our brains work in terms of those cognitive functions. We train our brains to work in different ways from those people who do not knit.

 

Emily knows a thing or two

That it will never come again

Is what makes life so sweet.

As written by Emily Dickinson.

I do so agree with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee when she says that she will resist hoarding that very special wool for that very special project – until they are just right and the project is ‘worthy’. She comments that if she knits the wool, she doesn’t have it any more and thus cannot look at it and think about it and the potential it holds within the ball.  Once knitted all that potential has gone, it is just a garment now. Whilst un-knitted it has all the possibilities of the future. I am like that sometimes myself. I have some lovely wool my daughter gave me and it sits in the yarn stash drawers and every now and then I look at it and feel it but never knit it. Perhaps as the new year starts I will gain the courage to knit it up.

And then there is Bo Derek:

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping

or as Stephanie says about her yarn stash (and it applies to our wardrobes too) ‘Just why did I buy that?!’ So Bo Derek is wrong?

The colour isn’t right. The texture is wrong. For that weight you will need more wool than you have for that project. The wool is old (I rescued it from my mother-in-law’s drawers) and falls apart and you really don’t want a garment that is all knots. And yes that wool was really too much of a bargain, the colour runs or it is rough on your fingers to knit and even rougher to wear!

No matter the discount,  not everything is a bargain.

 

 

 

 

Knit yourself Sane and Well: Stress and Illness

Knitting benefits an individual’s emotional and physical health.

Knitting can reduce stress in an individual who is trying to manage the severity of their chronic illness.

It can also help reduce stress in individuals who lead very hectic lifestyles.

Bette Davis and Her Stand-In Sally Sage

Gary Scholar: American Hospital Association

  1. The Harvard Medical School has found that when an individual knits their heart rate can drop 11 beats per minute and their blood pressure also drops.
  2. Knitting for charity gives ‘Helper’s High’
  3. Knitting can conquer addiction – it occupies the mind and hands.
  4. Knitting activates the pre-frontal cortex of the brain – thus strengthening hand-eye coordination as well as keeping the brain active.
  5. Knitting teaches patience.
  6. knitting teaches anger management, goal setting, and pride.
  7. Knitting teaches concentration.
  8. Knitting helps those who are chronically bored to have something to do – always- you can take it anywhere .

women-knitting1

A day in London – what can be seen:

Last week we had a day ‘out’. My husband and I decided to see some things we had been wanting to see for a while plus we had booked tickets to the theatre AND to a concert.

So the two things we had wanted to see were situated very close together near Goodge Street Tube Station. Just opposite is Heal’s. The famous store. That specialises in design and craft work. As it was hosting a craft market of modern craft workers and I wanted to go and see just what was on offer and also what the prices were.  This proved to be very instructive as someone was selling hand-knitted hats with a pompom – in a bag – at £75 each! I couldn’t believe this and immediately decided I needed to add some pompoms onto the hats I knit for charity as clearly they will be more worthwhile – but £75 of more worthwhile I am not sure….

Just round the corner from there is the Building Centre- http://www.buildingcentre.co.uk/. Where they had an 3D model of London showing the new tube lines and also posters and other interesting items discussing how London was being developed and where the new ‘towns’ within London were to be built.

Whilst interesting as both these exhibitions were, neither took too long to visit so there was plenty of time to go to an afternoon performance at the theatre. At the Hampstead Theatre was a play called Hello Goodbye. Now this was really a ‘duvet day’ play – a RomCom with amusing and quite sharp wit.

The play by Peter Souter (his first) and directed by Tamara Harvey starred Shaun Evans and Miranda Raison with Bathsheba Piepe playing in the second half plus a substitute for Luke Neal. Shaun will be familiar to many TV watchers of crime drama as the Young Morse  in the series where we get the prequels to Morse the grizzled detective – and plays him  very well too. In fact it was somewhat surprising when he took off his shirt to see just how toned his muscles were and that he actually had a six-pack considering how weedy he looked in his baggy clothes! But I guess all actors needed to show some muscle these days. So Shaun did very well on stage and played the geek well. His co-star Miranda did her very best with the script but it did, initially, leave her looking very unlikeable and shrill. She did better as the play progressed, but overall, in our theatre group discussion, we felt that the playwright had not done a great job with her lines. And we didn’t give the play more than 3 stars. We also were not that impressed with the direction and found that seeing it on a large apron stage left a number of people unable to see vital parts of the stage, including one member of our group who was behind a pillar and had to move her seat.

So that was the afternoon spent reasonably agreeably but the play did leave us somewhat unsettled.

We found the evening entertainment much more satisfying.

We went to the church of St Andrew, Holborn for a concert (http://standrewholborn.org.uk/).

St Andrew Holborn has been a site of worship for at least 1000 years but when the Crypt was excavated in 2001 Roman remains were found so the site could have been in use for much longer still. It is situated between the City and the West End, and St Andrew’s first appears in written records in AD 951 as a church on top of the hill above the river Fleet. The river Fleet being the river most associated with the press of course ie Fleet Street. But is now very hidden indeed. The Fleet flows from Hampstead Heath starting with 2 springs on either side of Parliament Hill going down to the Thames, joining it at Blackfriars Bridge. In Roman times it had an estuary at Blackfriars and even a tide mill and the word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon for estuary. Now it is a sewer! The Hampstead and Highgate Ponds come from the Fleet and the river flows down through what is now called Kings Cross but was originally Battle Bridge where Queen Boudicca fought the Romans in 60AD. There is of course a legend hat says Boudicca is buried under Kings Cross station – platform 10 to be precise. You can trace an amount of the old river’s course through the wells it fed, of which some still remain as wall remnants eg the Chalybeate Well in Hampstead. The Fleet also provided the water for the Bagnigge Wells spa of 1760 which was located on Kings Cross Road.  In Farringdon Lane you can see another well through a window which used to belong to St Mary’s Nunnery. If you stand in front of the Coach and Horses pub on Ray Street  you can sometimes hear the river through a grating as it flows beneath. For more on London’s Lost Rivers do take a look at the book by Paul Talling.

If you want to read more about the River Fleet as a river rather than a sewer  as it now is and as Micelle Obama saw it, then look at the page http://lndn.blogspot.co.uk/2005_08_01_lndn_archive.html where Diamond Geezer ( a Cockner rhyming slang name) gives a really detailed history and description of the river from which I have snipped the following map of the river’s route.

fleet

The concert was given by the Londinium choir (http://www.londinium-voices.org.uk/) and compromised ne short work and then the Rachmaninoff Vespers (All-Night Vigil) performed in the ancient Church Slavonic chant. It was Rachmaninoff’s last major work before leaving Russia and also represents both the final flowering and greatest achievement of the Russian Orthodox (Church) tradition before its suppression after the October Revolution. Rachmaninoff’s work was preceded by Knut Nystedt’s haunting O Crux, performed in memory of its composer whose hundredth birthday would have fallen in 2015 had he lived.

This performance we gave 5 stars. Luckily we didn’t have to sit all through the night for the Vespers as we were just given the movements 1-15 although it could have taken 3-4 hours if sang in its entirety.

Note that the Londonium choir was some 40 people singing in harmonies without instrument and was truly heavenly.

 

Knit yourself Sane: connections and meditations

Whenever I would take up the needles, I would feel myself connected not only to my own mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, but also to the many women who lived centuries before me, the women who had developed the craft, the women who had known, as I did, the incredible satisfaction and sense of serenity that could come from the steady rhythmic click-click-click of one’s knitting needles.

These women had experienced the meditative and peaceful quality that overcomes one’s mind while knitting; they understood the way that one’s thoughts etc worked into one’s knitting, discovering, as I did, that whatever I was thinking about when last I worked on a piece would immediately spring back into my mind when I picked up the work again later on, as though knitting were a sort of mental tape-recorder.

Debbie Stoller

Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook

as in p165 Keep Calm and Cast On

cast on