Friday, June 27, 2014

It's More About a Trend ...

... this Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday, my crafty friends. A trend that started a few seasons ago, and will definitely continue in a big way this fall: bling and glitter.

Now I know for some of you, that might strike fear in your fashiony hearts. Bad 80s visions are, perhaps, swirling in your head. But deep down maybe, just maybe, you fancy a little flashy something-something, right? I see you nodding your head. Yes, yes I do.

Never fear. There is no need to drape yourself in bling. Just start thinking about accessories that wink ever so nicely. Maybe some sparkle at the neck or wrist here; a little pop from a bag there; perhaps some yarn that goes twinkle, twinkle. See, that's the spirit.

Now don't forget to head on over to Andrea's - you know, the Wonder Why Gal - to see all that glitters over on the farm ... and on her loom ... and with her kids ... and on her spinning wheel ... you get the idea.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Well, I Don't Know Exactly How Much Melange Is In This Post ...

... but it's Monday, so time for some blogging from yours truly.

Last week's book review as well as a few recent Twitter exchanges has had me ruminating on words and culture and political correctness. I cannot be certain how Ann Mah has received my review (cause it's not like I'm expecting her to fill me in or anything), but I do know that my review had a slightly different take than most others out there (which are solidly focused on food). Part of living and/or working in a foreign country (or even just traveling for a short visit) is dealing not only with the cultural miscommunication that invariably will occur, but also with cultural norms that are outside one's comfort zone. Ann had a whole year of dealing with it, by herself no less. That takes real courage. I've done it for several months at a time, as well as several weeks. Sometimes it can be scary, but in many instances just plain hilarious (there's a fine pronunciation line between the French words for beer and butter [although I expect the French don't think they sound anything alike] - as a fellow American in a French dining experience one time found out. It was funny at the time.) 

I was part of a Twitter exchange recently where we were discussing how a recent U.K.-based crafty magazine had a headdress project that another designer found rather abhorent (with good reason, really), and that exchange led to a well-intentioned publisher apology. An offshoot of that discussion also focused on the word "gypsy," which this same designer also commented was culturally and historically loaded with meaning. Here in the U.S., our use of the word gypsy isn't quite so culturally loaded (think gypsy jazz, that 70s Cher tune Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, heck, even the current issue of Interweave Crochet contains two designs from Doris Chan (!) using the word gypsy in their respective titles - see them here and here, staged in a camping story line); however, the Roma culture in Eastern Europe has a long history of being persecuted, discriminated against, and exploited. It is from the Roma that we get our word "gypsy" as well as a "bohemian" lifestyle (since many Roma work in non-traditional occupations that require travel - musicians, artists, circus performers, carnival workers, etc.). To be clear, though, Bohemia was also an actual historical place in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Roma culture and tradition is still alive and (we hope) well in Eastern Europe.

I mention that Cher tune because, in fact, she was trying to highlight at minimum, the double standard, at worst, the exploitation, of traveling people:

          gypsies, tramps and thieves/
          we hear it from the people of the town they call us/
          gypsies, tramps and thieves/
          but every night all the men would come around/
          and lay their money down.

I think it's perfectly fine to absentmindedly sing that song (we've all done it - in fact, I wrote the above from my childhood memory, no Googling the lyrics necessary); I also think it's fine to use the word gypsy to describe a form of jazz or even a design. I am absolutely not here to play the political correctness/thought police. Well meaning and well-intentioned people can get it wrong; but their benign meaning can also be misinterpreted. The best I can do is remain authentic, design and write in a clear voice, own up if and/or when I get it wrong, and hope my audience will understand. After that ... well ... all bets are off. No money laid down.

Isn't this just the most gorgeous Dream In Color Starry colorway?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Lesson in (Most) Things Cultural and Sociological

Ann Mah's Mastering the Art of French Eating
Published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking;
273 pages, hardcover
The memoir form is, perhaps, one of the most difficult literary forms to successfully pen. It is a delicate balance between self-aggrandizement and vulnerability; the best ones strike that balance perfectly, thus allowing the reader to make a meaningful connection. However, since the form is also the most accessible for many writers (whether beginners or well-seasoned), there's a sea of bad memoirs upon which one can cast a wide net.

So it is with great pleasure (and more than a little relief, really) that I highly recommend Ann Mah's Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris. Let's get the set-up quickly out of the way: Mah, a food and travel writer working (at the time) on her first novel Kitchen Chinese, along with her diplomat husband Calvin (who really delivers quite an heroic supporting role) move to Paris for what is, at first blush, a dream diplomatic assignment. Things get complicated rather quickly when Calvin delivers the bad news: for the first year of his assignment, he'll actually be stationed in Iraq. Mah's dreams of dinners à deux in quaint Parisian cafes are quickly dashed and replaced with lonely nights in their apartment eating toast (albeit with some tasty toppings) and speaking nightly to Calvin from the Baghdad war zone via Skype. So much for love in the city of lights.

Now, to be certain, Mah's problems are middle class - she's got a great place to live in one of the most exciting cities in the world. As she herself recounts (and I'm paraphrasing), she's got all the emotional and economic support any "trailing spouse" could need or want. Nevertheless, she's still a foreigner in a strange land, and is forced to deal with creating a meaningful life for herself (and all that entails in a foreign city), while at the same time dealing with the anxiety of knowing first-hand the danger her husband faces each day. 

I used both cultural and sociological in this blog entry's title because I was amazed at the breadth of experiences Mah shares with her readers in these 273 pages. There's definitely a whole lot of French history, travel, and food lore (and enough food locations throughout France to make this book almost necessary if one were planning a visit anytime soon). That I fairly expected. What reeled me in were her honest accounts of everything from French waiters who showed their exasperation at her beginner's French when ordering in the opening chapter, to her experience in a French citizenship class (an eye and ear opening as well as thought-provoking experience for Mah; having taught political sociology, I instantly identified with the instructor after the lunch break). Mah infuses her year of discovery with a healthy dose of 21st century feminism in all its complexity, as well as a willingness to admit to lessons learned that she never could have expected. Low on the self-aggrandizement, fairly balanced with vulnerability - a winning combination. I pretty much couldn't put the book down.

Definitely read Mastering the Art of French Eating if you want to learn about French history and food; certainly try the recipes, but stay for a personal story that will absolutely touch you, with an epilogue bursting with poetic justice. Merci, Madame Mah. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Where Voie de Vie Goes International

Happy Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday everyone. I have a little exciting news to tell you:

Scialle Pommi and Pearls

See that lovely Italian? My Pommi and Pearls shawl pattern has been translated into Italian. Molto bene! Veruska Sabucco, who writes for this independent Italian website, has kindly translated the pattern. He's actually done quite a bit of translation of many crochet designs on Ravelry, so it was a real pleasure working with him on this project. I've updated my Ravelry design page to reflect the additional language, as well as to accept sales of the pattern in euros. Veruska tells me that crafting is rather seasonal in Italy, with summer being the slowest time of the year. Nevertheless, I just couldn't wait - so there you have it. Grin.

Finally, I leave you with the current fiber on my hooks/needles at the right - this is such a super secret project, even our very own Wonder Why Gal doesn't know what I'm whipping up! However, I had this skein of alpaca/merino/silk awesomeness in my stash, and it's going to go to good use. Just you wait, my little crafty ones.

Now definitely get on over to Andrea's (linky above) and see all the crafty goodness everyone's been up to this week. Have a fibery good weekend.

Update: Just to clarify, I sell all of my patterns to which I retain copyright through Ravelry, as well as other of those selected designs on Craftsy and Kollabora. The ability "to accept sales" in euros reflects my reconfiguration of my Paypal business account.

Monday, June 9, 2014

(Just Another) Melange Monday

Hello everyone - it's Monday, time for melange.

Sorry, taken with crappy cell phone camera
 I am in the process of reading Ann Mah's Mastering the Art of French Eating (on which I will have more to say, probably next week), but knowing that Ann would be including a lot of French food history in her memoir, I thought I would re-read portions of Linda Civitello's Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People to prime the historical pump. If you've not read too much food history, this is a good survey book to start with. As an undergrad I read (in what now feels like a parallel universe) Changes in the Land which, while not a history of food but ecology, pretty much planted the seed in me concerning food history. I had never really thought of food and its impact on cultures until that undergrad watershed moment. 

Civitello's book is a fascinating (if somewhat facile in places) look at how we've come to our 21st century views of food. A few (of so many!) interesting notes as they pertain to France: (1) Catherine de Medici introduced the fork to France more than a century before Louis XIV's indulgent dinners at Versaille (at which he always ate with his fingers); (2) the first Paris cafe was opened not by a Frenchman but an Italian (which cafe Mah briefly describes in her steak frites chapter); and (3) the Enlightenment brought us the term nouvelle cuisine, which actually referred to "wicked dishes": dinner guests were always "presented with wicked dishes, that is to say with just those dishes that make you eat even when you have no appetite at all." Oh the things we've done for food (myself included). 


I am a huge Cirque du Soleil fan. A long while ago, I saw Alegria live and was completely mesmerized with the acrobatics, costumes and great live music, as well as impressed with the show's excellent use of the hero motif and Cirque's ethos. Recently, I rented World's Away and I highly recommend it. Again, it's as close to mythic storytelling as you'll get this side of science fiction/fantasy, and their use of light, costume and music to tell a tale is unmatched.  


Finally, I leave you with what's currently on my hooks/needle. Isn't this a wonderful colorway? And of course, it's alpaca, so I couldn't ask for anything more.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Well ... not really any finished stuff, but ...

Aren't these greens fantastic?
... what's a designing gal to do? I have finished stuff; I just can't tell you about it.

I'm loving how the Abode is working up.
The best I can do is keep showing you all the lovely fiber I've been working with. The published projects will start to come ... eventually ... really they will. Really. 

Don't forget to head on over to Andrea's at Wisdom Begins in Wonder and see what everyone else is working on - at least they can talk to you about it.