The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

The Faraway Nearby

This personal, lyrical narrative about storytelling and empathy from award winner Rebecca Solnit is a fitting companion to her beloved A Field Guide for Getting Lost

In this exquisitely written new book by the author of A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit explores the ways we make our lives out of stories, and how we are connected by empathy, by narrative, by imagination.

In the course of unpacking some of her own stories—of her mother and her decline from memory loss, of a trip to Iceland, of an illness—Solnit revisits fairytales and entertains other stories: about arctic explorers, Che Guevara among the leper colonies, and Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, about warmth and coldness, pain and kindness, decay and transformation, making art and making self. Woven together, these stories create a map which charts the boundaries and territories of storytelling, reframing who each of us is and how we might tell our story.

Solnit is almost magical in her use of colour and connections which draw her stories together and help them flow from the specific to the general; from a bedroom floor full of apricots that in their mountainous quantity lose their delicacy, to her own life and each event building up and culminating in a life lived backwards. She touches individual stories from literature and politics but they all feel personal. Her grace and beautiful make for a lovely reading experience and a touching personal story.

This was one of my favourite books this year.


The Faraway Nearby

Rebecca Solnit

Provided by NetGalley

Ephemeral Knitting #2

I’ve called this post Ephemeral Knitting rather than ‘My week in knitting’ because it occurred to me as I was writing the second week, that I was putting all the stuff together which could be found in something called a magazine.

Hooray, I thought. I’ve always wanted to create a magazine and this might be the ideal way of working off the angst I have about opening a yarn shop which I can’t afford.

(Also, those posts are no longer weekly as it takes me so long to do them. Fortnightly, perhaps.)

All things to do with socks

cute_cable_sock_140305aFollowing the kind-of-success of finishing my first sock (of a pair) I have been fascinated with sock yarn.


Ravelry Threads

Ravelry is a knitter’s community paradise with forums, groups, patterns, yarns and anything to do with knitting or crocheting. I like to read some threads to get ideas and learn about various knitting techniques or patterns.

knitting through a book – Some great suggestions of knitting books that other people have already discovered. One of the first ones to be mentioned was a sock knitting book so that caught my interest. -

Knitting term of the week

Variegated – exhibiting different colours, especially as irregular patches or streaks.


There’s a sale on Sock Yarn with 20% off until March 24,2014 on KnitPicks. There’s this sock tool kit but I can’t tell how useful or not it would be.

Sock patterns

tube_socks_140319aThis Tube socks pattern from the Knitting Bunny looks very nice so it’s on my list of ones to try out.




Stitches / Patterns

single lacy rib stitch_140319aI’ve also had time on the couch since being ill with a chest infection so have been trying a Singular lacy rib stitch from Purl Avenue.




arctic_wrap_140319aPurl Bee – Laura’s Loop: Arctic Wrap

I have been coveting the yarn that goes along with this Wrap, when not coveting the actual wrap itself. I was impressed with how beautiful and simple it looks with the delicate colourwork.
improvised_stitch_holder_140319aA cable stitch that doesn’t need a cable needle. Twisting the Barbara Walker Way – I’ve not tried it out yet but it sounds fun, especially after forgetting my cable stitch holder this morning and having to improvise with a key ring. That was some stressful knitting.




Turkish slanted rib stitch

@purlavenue posted a blog post on a Stockinette Elongated Stitch which contains a dropped slip-stitch which I think looks very similar to this hat pattern I’m trying to find, apart from the slant.



When I suggested it to her she suggested I try the Turkish Slanted rib stitch, so I did.

Close, but no cigar, yet.







I’ve finished my daughter’s scarf in neon orange Schachenmayr and so I’ve been exploring how long a scarf should be anyway. I don’t know. If anyone has any information about this then let me know. She still doesn’t like it.mersinas_scarf_140319a





Some patterns [free] [free]
The Regenerate shawl from Knitty

Nightsongs Nightingale – A dainty and elegant shawl with a repetitive leaf design [free]

Yarns / Shops
I had forgotten which yarn I had bought for my socks and then discovered on the website for Beshley’s Wool that it was Artesano British Wool. To my even greater pleasure, I found two skeins of soft Artesano wool in Red and purple that I had bought months ago and had stashed away.

My other favourite yarn this week is the Madeline Tosh Vintage and it can be bought from various places but here is a store in the UK. A lovely store with Uncommon Thread.

Knitpicks - Hugely popular but I’ve just discovered them.

Loop - beautiful and wonderful yarn.

Sites of the week

Amirisu – A Japanese knitting magazine. Very elegant.


This Ravelry thread on what to do if you want to design knitting patterns is a great resource for anyone interested in that kind of thing.

Video knitting

I learnt, and still learn, how to knit patterns through YouTube and WikiHow or Blogs on the web so I am hugely grateful for all the resources out there. On the Mystery Knit-ALong I finished a few weeks ago, one of the trickiest 3-to-5 stitches was explained through the use of video. When I bought my spinning kit, I had no idea what the instructions were telling me to do so I looked it up on YouTube and managed to spin some yarn that night.

The knitting videos on the Purl Bee website are very helpful.

Ephemeral Knitting Kits – a query

I like knitting kits because everything is all ready to go. No delays, no wait no having to leave the house. Also, I really like the scarf I first knit for my little girl and the one I  just finished.

The Boston Schachenmayr yarn is soft and thick and bright, oh-so-bright, and the end results have been quite fabulous. Let me know If anyone would like to buy a scarf kit containing two skeins of yarn, knitting needles size 6 1/2 mm and some instructions and pictures of how K1P1 rib and K2P2 rib come out. I’m going to research different sizes and will list some colours too. The cost will be £15 so I can try it out.

Because you’ve read this far:

Octopi for premature newborns?

And the final pattern is for a backpack from Lion Brand. I think I registered first before I could access the pattern. It looks useful.

Happy knitting until next week.

Joanna – 19 March, 2014

The 7 best places to read in Bristol

In honour of World Book Day, which in my household is like saying we need to celebrate World Oxygen Day, I have been thinking of the best places to read around Bristol.

1. On a sunny day, at the edge of the Floating Harbour, near where the ferry docks to take passengers to the other side for 80p.  Recommended reads: The Cider House Rules or A Prayer for Owen Meany, both by John Irving and perfectly crafted to shine a light on all that is beautiful in people’s lives.

2. On Brandon Hill, with an ice cream from Double Vee Moo. People love to talk about the amazing views but unless you climb to the top of Cabot Tower, the sights of south Bristol aren’t that exciting. Recommended reads: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer or Love by Angela Carter, two Bristol novels showcasing the seamier side of the people in our city and the madness within all of us.

3. At Castle Park just past the beginning of spring when the trees are full of white blossoms and the grass carpeted with lunchtime passersby. Recommended read: Be Here Now by Ram Dass – feel at one with nature while in direct contact with bugs and ants running around your feet.

4. At the Watershed where for the price of a green tea or Americano you can enjoy the spacious surroundings with little pressure to hurry and leave. Recommended read: The American by Martin Booth to suit your black coffee (or whiskey) and the stormy nights reflected on the water of the harbour outside your window. Sit near the window.

5. Small Street Espresso / Full Court Press / Didn’t You Do Well. The three best coffee shops in Bristol. You may not want to stay for hours because the excellent selections will bring in lots of people wanting your seat but that one coffee and a few pages will make it worthwhile. Recommended read: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey to honour the great, great notion that all three sets of cafe owners had in opening their splendid establishments.

6. Papadeli at the RWA or Alma Vale Road opposite the Sainsbury’s car park. Delicious worldwide treats and sublime cakes and sandwiches are a perfect accompaniment to something classical. Take War and Peace or something by Jane Austen.

7. Alma Tavern near Beshley’s Wool Shop. Browse the wool shop first for some crafting ideas and when you select your heart’s desire go sit in the spacious pub and accompany a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with Cupcakes and Kalsnikovs about female foreign correspondents or The Ashford book of dyeing.


filer_nathan_shock_of_the_Fall_140225a ramdass be here now cupcakes and kalashnikovs

This week in knitting, February 24 to March 2

I spend more time on knitting than on anything else these days, so I thought it would be useful to keep track of the things I do and find.

New Courses

homemademama_cable_140305aKnitting lessons – The Homemade Mama teaches many different skills for knitters with skills from beginners to more knowledgeable. All materials and patterns are provided and the cost for 2.5 hours is only £15.


New sites

Knitty  – a free online knitting magazine

Verena Stricken - A German knitting magazine with some out-of-the-ordinary designs and patterns.

Stickpodden – A Swedish podcast about knitting which I discovered from someone knitting a hat on instagram (see below for Kirstin Kurbitz hat). It is so great it makes me want to learn Swedish just to understand it.

Stitchlinks – In my cyclical wonderings about whether I’ll ever study for a PhD, mostly led by my love of university libraries and nostalgia at exploring the American Literature shelves, I Googled PhD in knitting.

One link was for some Doctoral work in the therapeutic value of knitting, with funding secured by Stitchlinks. There is information about the benefits of knitting, or more accurately, about the benefits inherent in the externalities of knitting, i.e. the side affects, as such.

Ravelry is a large and rich community for all types of knitters and commuters so this is a firm favourite. The new thing I discovered this week was the Patterns forum.

New patterns / techniques
Knitting with dental floss – beading:

Rib and welt pattern:


New yarns

Sweet Merino DK - George - Colour Adventures (fibers: superwash merino) Colour Adventures  George DK




superkid_silk-fingering_yarn_140305aUndyed Yarn



corriedale_wool_silver_140305aUndyed Fibres




Self striping sock yarn from Eaden Yarns Self striping sock yarns from Eaden Yarns




New projects

Karin Kurbits hat knit by Stormblomma

I discovered the pattern for Karin’s Kurbitz hat from Stormblomma who I follow on Instagram.




Works in progress

cute_cable_socks_140227a My “cute cable socks” went from an unfinished beginning to a complete single sock which fits only with a lot of effort.



Still, that’s progress, and it’s a real sock. cute_cable_sock_140305a





Mersina's scarf in Schachenmayr Boston neon orangeMersina’s scarf in neon bright orange Boston from Schachenmayr, my new favourite yarn for scarves.

I cast on 16 stitches and am doing it in K1 P1 rib. I like it. The yarn is soft and lovely and thick and warm.


Finished projects
I finished the shawl for the Follow Your Arrow Knit-a-long.


My final pattern choices were AAAAA but turns out I didn’t love the initial A so I’ve started a new shawl and am beginning with B.




Let’s see how this one goes.




Tools to Help You Convert Knitting Patterns

What I’m reading now? February, 2014

I haven’t shared or read properly in a while but find myself in the middle of a kind of ‘spree’ so I thought I’d share.

Dass_Ram_Grist_for_the Mill_140225aRam Dass – Grist for the Mill

Grist for the Mill has been taking up most of my reading time and I love it as much as I love all of Ram Dass’s writings.

From Ram Dass, one of America’s most beloved spiritual figures and bestselling author of Be Here Now and Be Love Now, comes this timeless classic about the experience of being and the risks and rewards of our spiritual path. Originally published in 1976, the book is fully revised with a new introduction.

The-Examined-Life-140225aGrosz, Stephen – The Examined Life

I bought this book with a voucher for Waterstones that I received for Christmas. The case studies so far are fascinating and not too fantastical. Simple and strange experiences pinpoint personal issues that offer lessons for ordinary life as well. I like it so far.



The Last Days of Detroit

The Last Days of DetroitI borrowed this one from the library. I find Detroit’s collapse just impossibly incredible and yet it is true. There are whole suburbs just left in ruins and abandoned. Tows with no services, house sold off for nothing.


Once America’s capitalist dream town, the Silicon Valley of the Jazz Age, Detroit became the country’s greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the furthest. The city of Henry Ford, modernity, and Motown found itself blighted by riots, arson, unemployment, crime and corruption.

But what happens to a once-great place after it has been used up and discarded? Who stays there to try to make things work again? And what sorts of newcomers are drawn there?

filer_nathan_shock_of_the_Fall_140225aFiler, Nathan – The Shock of the Fall

Winner of the Costa Book Awards 2014 and a contender for my Bristol book tournament, the only question is why is it taking me so long to read this? I bought this one with my Waterstones voucher as well and it took a little longer than usual to add it to my phone because of the DRM Waterstones use. I won’t be buying from them again.

The Shock of the Fall is meant to cover mental health, loss and grief in an unsentimental manner.

The statistical probability of falling in love at first sight, by Jennifer E. Smith

The statistical probably of falling in love at first sight must be infinitesimal unless there is a relationship and the two people are meant to come together. That’s the beauty of statistics and love. One says it is highly unlikely and the other suggests that nothing is random.

Our main character has just missed the flight to her father’s wedding across the world and the only thing that makes this a sad event is that she is forced to wait for another flight. She hates to go, she hates the wedding and she hates his new bride.

Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.
A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

In this very well written story which is meant for a young adult audience, the story and the characters are written clearly and with a touch of sympathy which leaves no one unlikable.

This is Jennifer E. Smith’s fourth novel and one I highly recommend for younger readers.

My new plants of delight, thanks Bristol Old Vic

Following a performance of The Table of Delights at the Old Vic, we were left with a packet of seeds of unknown origin and quantity.

I finally planted them last week using an ingenious method Mersina and I learnt about at At-Bristol. We put a strip of absorbent paper within a plastic sealable pocket and added water. I created a little shelf for the seeds by stapling across the bag near the top and I put them near sunshine.

Here are the results, two to three days after attaching to the window.

New plant life

New life!

I still don’t know what the seeds have the potential to become but I have replanted them into this wellie boot. It was Mersina’s first ever wellie.

Mersina's first welly boot

The Shapeshifter – Detox Motivation Tool from AXA PPP healthcare


The Shapeshifter – Detox Motivation Tool from AXA PPP healthcare

AXA PPP healthcare has launched a unique new Shapeshifter tool aimed at keeping the nation on track with their New Year resolutions.

The end of January is traditionally when the majority of people dump their resolutions and return to former unhealthy ways. Just a third of people carry their resolutions into February.

AXA PPP healthcare’s Shapeshifter calculates what the impact would be on your health if you lived every month like December, based on your individual food and alcohol consumption.

The average person is said to drink 40 per cent more alcohol and gain four pounds in weight over the festive period. That would amount to more than three stones in weight gain throughout the year. However, more worrying is the additional pressure fatty foods and alcohol put on your heart, liver and bones increasing your risks of health problems including heart disease, diabetes and infertility.

Check out the health impact of your festive excesses at

Also take a look at the following useful resources,  drinkaware and NHS weight loss.

It’s not too late to start your New Year detox.

Good cop, bad cop in parenting

This is the story that I was trying to relate to my daughter’s father about not taking things personally when you had to be an authority figure at home, but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind*.

When something goes wrong at home, when a child is naughty etc, you can act in one of two ways:

You can be the kind of police officer who when they spot a driver who has just committed a crime, can either pull them over, yell at them to get out of the car, slam them against the bonnet and rage in what seems to be a justified rant;
or, you can pull the person over, ask for their details, give them a fine and then get on with your night.

When it’s your job to be the police officer you can’t afford to take it personally. Expending all that energy and having to deal with the aftermath of the stress hormones and the upsetedness of the little child with whom your angry is just not sustainable.

You choose the type of enforcement that goes on in your family life. I do my best to be police officer that does her job and moves on. I try not to take it personally even when my child slaps me across the face and laughs and laughs. Whether I succeed or not, this is always my intention.


*Our daughter was getting manic and wanted a bath and someone had to chase after her.

Libraries are the best, and cheapest, at easing cravings

Smashing Plates Last December, Mark Taylor, the food reviewer, talked excitedly about a brand new cookbook he had received for review. It was called Smashing Plates and I wanted it. I went to Amazon ready to buy, but at £18+ I became a bit hesitant. What could I do? How long could I wait? I had no idea when I’d be able to afford £18 given over to just one purchase, and a trivial one at that.

On the very unlikely chance I could reserve it for the future, I went to the library catalogue to see if our library had it registered yet. Not only did they have it on their system but it was in our local library, just sitting on the shelf. I went and picked it up that evening after work.

Two months later and I was coveting a book about how Detroit went bust.


This is a topic which I find endlessly fascinating but I doubt I would ever do more than skim through this new work. At £4+ on Kindle, the price wasn’t excessive but it was too much to just buy a book that I would never read past the first few pages. This didn’t stop me wanting it ever since I’d seen it in Waterstones yesterday. Again I looked on the library’s catalogue as the very last resort and once again it was at the library just sitting there waiting for me.

Libraries are a beautiful thing. The one thing I didn’t manage to find there recently was a new knitting book called Botanical Knits 2.

I guess you can’t have everything.