Sunday, April 29, 2012

3CKBWDAY7: Crafting balance

I confess it, I'm multicraftual.  If it can be made with thread, yarn or fabric, I'm right there.  Most of my crafting time is spent on trains these days, so knitting is dominant, but that's only been so since November 2007.

I've always knitted - well, since I was 11 or so; and that's been a constant for the last 34 years.  I'm not sure I remember a time when there wasn't a knitting project of some sort on the go - it just wouldn't be right.

Again, since I was 11 or so, I've been making my own clothes on a semi-regular basis.  These days, it's mainly pyjama trousers (because there's more nice fabric out there than there are people producing affordable cute PJ bottoms) and knitting bags, but I've made more elaborate things in the past including my wedding dress.  As I've blogged before, I love my sewing machine.

About 18 years ago I joined rec.crafts.textiles.needlecraft - and that was an eye-opener; there was So Much Stuff out there.  I found myself able to order threads and fabric from the US I'd never even dreamed of, and patterns, too.  This is Summer Sampler, by Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum (a woman whose rightful enforcement of copyright makes Alice Starmore look like a total slacker).


I also love the Hardanger embroidery which has developed from traditional Norwegian embroidery.  Scandinavian Americans have taken it from skirt and apron edgings into a more decorative sphere and included modern materials like space-dyed threads.  This piece won Best in Show at my village show in 2005 or so - the first non-food exhibit to have done so, so yes, I was chuffed about that...

In the mid-90s, I was getting completely hacked off with my job, and signed up for a City and Guilds qualification in Creative Embroidery, which was an eye-opener on many levels.  At the time, the tutor was recovering from a couple of serious illnesses; but the design substitute was very inspiring.  We learned to dye, to make felt (this was made at Wingham with their felting machine),


...to stitch, to design...  It gave me confidence in so many ways.


This is part of a 180cm by 60cm opera stole I made; based on the work of Gustav Klimt.



This is a close-up of a box-top I made while part of the Fibrefusion group.  Work mine, photo (c) Kevin Mead.  For info on Kevin's lovely textile photography, contact Art Van Go.

Most recently, I've got into weaving, which I love.  Before that, I also started spinning.... but maybe more of both of those later...

And yup; there's something missing here.  I think we were meant to be talking about a balance between knitting and crochet...  I love what you get out of crochet.  Looking around my living room, I have two pillow-sized (as in UK bed-type-pillows) cushions on the sofa, and a throw over both chairs, all made by Wibbo who literally wrote the book when it comes to crochet.  I also love what someone like Amanda from the Natural Dye Studio can do with crochet patterns. - you can't get that effect with knitting.

Me, personally ... well, I've made a couple of pot-holders and frilly scarves; but fundamentally, I can't quite work out what to do with a crochet hook.  I'm left-handed but do a lot of things right-handed (including knitting, using scissors and manipulating a computer mouse), and am in a perpetual state of indecision as to which hand to use to hold a hook...  I've had teaching from the best (along with a huge degree of hilarity as to my clumsiness)... One of these days, maybe.  Until then, I just live in awe.

This is me, signing off from the blog week.  It's been fun.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

3KCBWDAY6: Improving your skillset

My knitting skillset seems to proceed in fits and starts.  It took me 20 years to realise there were things you could knit which weren't sweaters or cardigans, for instance; there were shawls, but those always came with the word "christening" or "baby" before them; and the cardigans and sweaters could also be made in baby sizes...  Having said that, I knitted for my local Phildar shop between the ages of 16 and 18, and I knitted lace and cables there...  And also a vast array of mohair batwing sweaters in 1980s colours (grey, cerise and white anyone?)

I'm not sure when I first started knitting socks and hats, but it was relatively recently, in the last 10 years, anyway.  Felting knitting in the washing machine happened at around the same time.  The development of online yarn stores meant that as-yet-unexperienced delights such as laceweight yarn, unobtainable in colours other than cream in my local shops, opened up the possibilities of what could be made.  Reading a library copy of Debbie New's Unexpected Knitting made me realise that knitting could be mathematics and art simultaneously.  Meeting Rosie in the spring of 2004 got me into the world of knitting groups, and meant craft was no longer a solitary activity.

And finally, along came Ravelry, and everything exploded.  I joined in July 2007 (I'm greensideknits over there - the name of this blog was 2 characters too long!)  and the amount of help, information and advice available is stunning.  There seems to be a YouTube video for every technique; and if there isn't, someone may well just make one for the purpose.  There's information on extra-stretchy bind-offs, magic cast-ons, ways to avoid that irritating jog in stripes if working in the round, advice to new designers, new shop-owners, indie dyers...  And I've met people on Ravelry who I now know in real life and would consider friends.

So I feel as if my personal skillset is still expanding, probably by tiny increments, and probably while I'm not looking.  I do have a couple of things on the list though.

I'd like to learn to knit brioche stitches - I have this wonderful book, and haven't yet used it despite admiring the huge amount of technical information it covers.  I admired someone beautiful brioche stitch scarf at Knit Camp, and only later found out it was being worn by the author of the book.  (Probably best I didn't know that at the time, as I might have come over all fangirlish...)  So that's on the list.

And I'd like to be more confident in designing things.  I have one design for sale on Ravelry and it has a trickle of sales; I'm told by people who've knitted it that it's well-explained; but I'd like to do more.  No idea what - it's just sitting there as an ill-formed idea in my head at the moment...


2012 books, #36-40

The litigators, by John Grisham. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2011.

David Zinc goes to work at his soul-crushing corporate law job one morning, has a panic attack in the lift and spends the day in a bar.  When he gets out of there, the only address he has on him is that of a two-person ambulance-chaser practice at the wrong end of Chicago, so he goes there.  Zinc decides he's going to practice law with Wally, an unscrupulous chancer, and Oscar, a slightly less unscrupulous but still broke partner with a wife everyone hates.  For a while life is good for David, but then comes a cholesterol-lowering drug called Krayoxx, a class action which spins out of control, and a Big Pharma company which is desperate for a quick legal win against a small law firm with no trial experience.  This is a wonderfully engaging and occasionally laugh-out-loud book - Grisham brings all the whimsy and charm he usually reserves for his non-legal books, and the tone has something of the Carl Hiaasens about it.

Pray for silence, by Linda Castillo. London: Macmillan, 2010.

The second of the Kate Burkholder books, again set in Painters Mill Ohio. A whole Amish family has been killed in their farmhouse and barns, the girls horribly tortured.  There are hints that one of the girls may have had a secret, but otherwise nobody has any idea why the Plank family would have suffered this fate. Burkholder's slightly odd position in the community, as someone brought up Amish but who had decided not to join the church due to an incident in the past, is to her advantage here, and the presence of John  Tomasetti, disgraced federal agent, as an assistant, adds an extra touch.  Another excellent book by Castillo.

The enemy, by Lee Child. Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2004.

A Jack Reacher - but this time set in 1990, when Reacher is still a major in the military police.  Child says these books can be read in any order, and it seems that he also writes them in any order!  The Berlin Wall is coming down, the Cold War is ending, and Reacher has been dragged back from the search for Noriega in Panama to a temporary command.  The first call he gets is to the dead body of a two-star general, supposedly of a heart attack, in a local motel.  When Reacher goes to notify the next of kin, he finds that the general's wife has been murdered in their home.  Reacher's own family ties are also involved in this novel, and provide some of the more fascinating moments.  This is an extremely intriguing novel, showing new aspects to a character who risks becoming stereotypical in some of Child's other books.

Blood trail, by C J Box.  New York: Berkley, 2009.

A Joe Pickett novel; and one I nearly gave up on due to the US mass-market paperback size and type-style; but these are books which need to be read in order.  Pickett's own life, and the lives of his family and friends, are as important as the plots of the individual books.  Once I'd read the first couple of chapters, I was, as ever, hooked.  (According to the blurb on the back, so were Lee Child and Michael Connolly, which I can understand.)  Someone is slaughtering hunters in the same way as hunters slaughter elk, and Joe's ultimate boss and hated adversary Randy Pope is inexplicably asking for Joe's help, as is Governor Rulon.  I came to two completely wrong conclusions as to the identity of the murderer before Box revealed it; which is always fun.

False picture, by Veronica Heley [audiobook]. Read by Patience Tomlinson. Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2008.

Bea Abbott's old friend Velma asks her to investigate the disappearance of her stepson Philip, who seems to have absconded with a Millais from the flat of his godmother, who has been murdered.  Bea's assistant Maggie moves into Philip's flat to investigate.  However, an art thief is also on the trail of Philip and the painting, and not above using the housemates to do some smuggling for him on the side.  Set between London and Bruges this is fairly flimsy on plot, but the characterisation is nice and it's an excellent audiobook to listen to while pottering about.

Friday, April 27, 2012

3KCBWDAY5: Something different

I thought about a wordless post, and a sonnet.  And a crossword.

But here's my contribution - and a competition. Yes, it's a wordsearch.

A number of fibres/materials commonly used for knitting (more than 10, fewer than 20) are concealed in this grid.  All are included in Ravelry's yarn list.  The fibre starting with Q which is very difficult to spell isn't here.

Tell me how many you've found in the comments, and let me know where to find you (Ravelry name, blog, whatever... )

If I have any entries at all, I'll close entries at midnight BST between 1st and 2nd May.   In the unlikely event of two people finding the same number, I'll need a list...

The winner will receive a skein of good-quality sock yarn in a mutually happy colour and my enduring thanks....

I'll post the results when the winners are announced...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

3KCBWDAY4: A knitter for all seasons

I think one of the best things about living in the UK is that we do quite often get proper seasons.  Sometimes, like this week, the weather can't decide whether it's winter, spring or summer, but it is a season.  I can't imagine living somewhere where it's hot and sunny all year round.  Nor can I imagine living somewhere it's regularly -30F in the winter and +90F in the summer with very little transition...  I love the colours of the seasons, and the way they change.  I'm not a great fan of winter but only because of the lack of light.  I'm sure if I weren't leaving home 3 hours before dawn and getting back 3 hours after dark, I'd enjoy that one too.

But a knitter for all seasons?  Nope, not me.

I knit in all seasons - I have the same rail journey to work all year round, and knit during it.  I tend to knit for myself in the first half of the year, and for others in the second half, because the small people I knit for have birthdays in the late summer and autumn, and I have family members who seem to appreciate knitted Christmas gifts.

It's been an incredibly long time since something in a Spring or Summer edition of any of the online magazines, or the print magazines, caught my eye.  I don't like sleeveless tops - big boobs and narrow shoulders mean the armholes need major engineering (of the Isambard Kingdom Brunel level of skill) to fit  - and so many of the summer offerings are made for little sylph-like things, or are shruggy things which really don't work on me.  I could knit diaphanous wafty things in the summer, but really, I'd just get them caught in a Tube door and do an Isadora Duncan.

I do have one cotton sweater.  It's made of Rowan Denim (24 balls of the stuff); it wears like iron, and it's warmer than a lot of my wool ones.  So that probably doesn't count as summer wear either...

I remember two idyllic summers at the ages of 14 and 16, knitting under shady trees in Provence with my penfriend's mother and aunt knitting and quilting beside me.  And I remember the projects - one was a big black 1980s boxy jumper in 4ply; and the other was a school tank-top in navy blue with little cables, also 4-ply.  (I learned early from Françoise and Monique that you got more knitting-hours for your money with fine yarns...)

Whatever the season outside, I seem to be perpetually a girl in winter.  Knitty's move to a Spring and Summer/First Fall/Deep Fall/Winter publishing schedule made total sense to me.  I love nothing more than knitting outside on a bright summer day - just don't expect me to be knitting something summery...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

3KCBWDAY3: Knitting heroes

There are people I know in person who I'd think of as knitting heroes - people who use their craft to sustain their sense of self-worth amid mental or physical illness or disability; people who will rip and re-knit the same yarn a dozen times until it becomes that perfect item; people who'll take on a complex project as a relative beginner and come out with a stunning finished object.  And then I was going to play this conventionally today and go for two of the Big Beasts of the knitting world, Kaffe Fassett, king of colour inspiration and Debbie New, knitting genius.

But while I was coming home this evening on the train, reading the business pages and thinking of a couple of conversations I'd had over the last few days, I totally changed my mind.

Knitting hero: Emma Jacobsson


Some of the details here are from Wendy Keele's Poems of Color; some are from Susannah Hansson's wonderful Bohus class last summer at Knit Nation, and some others are from Kjell Andersson's brilliant and moving film on Bohus (available on DVD from Schoolhouse Press).  All errors are my own.


Emma Jacobsson's husband was the governor of Gothenburg in Sweden, at a time when the stone-miners in the Bohuslän quarries were hit by both the Depression and the Second World War.  Thinking of production which could be done without too much equipment but which would bring in a significant amount of income, she settled on knitting - but knitting to rival the great couture houses of New York and Paris.


At one stage, a Bohus twinset, sweater or cardigan rivalled anything available in New York department stores from designers like Ralph Lauren.  The knitting was done on 1.75mm or 2mm needles throughout.  The designs used several colours in a row, and a combination of knit and purl stitches for texture.  The yarn used was a wool and angora blend (again sourced by Jacobsson), which fuzzed out into the most beautiful colour blend.


There are photos of everyone from Princess Grace of Monaco to Audrey Hepburn wearing these sweaters and cardigans.  They were knitted top-down, but worked with seams after the yoke shaping/underarms to give the feel of other couture garments.


The knitters were paid by garment, and quality was strictly monitored.  However, for an industrious knitter, the payment was a huge help to the family; such that it actually caused some family rows on occasion because it meant the woman was earning more than the man.


Gradually, as clothes became more throwaway, it became more difficult for Emma Jacobsson to find new markets in North America, or preserve existing markets.  In the end, the Bohus enterprise closed in 1969, to the regret of many of the knitters, despite the packet of yarns they received as thanks.


I don't think I'd have liked Emma Jacobsson if I'd met her in person.  She seems to have been a somewhat relentless, pushy person who really didn't take "no" for an answer.  In my head, she was a cross between The Killing's Sarah Lund, The Archers' Lynda Snell and Princess Michael of Kent.  And all of those women get things done.


Emma Jacobsson ensured employment for hundreds of women, making a high quality product which was desired worldwide, and for which the knitters were adequately paid.  The knitting itself was extraordinarily beautiful, as seen by the colour combinations above.  The Bohus designers and knitters corresponded back and forth, and all were very skilled.

For 30 years, women in one of the poorest areas of Sweden made knitting pay, thanks to Emma Jacobsson and the team she assembled around her.

All photos taken by consent of Susanna Hansson from her personal collection of Bohus Knitting.  For details on her work,go to http://oneofsusannas.com - if you can attend one of her classes, it's a treat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

3CKBWDAY2: Photography challenge day

I'm not going for technically clever here; I'm just hoping for awesomely cute.

The wool dormouse (glis glis lanamicum) in its natural setting. Click to embiggen.



Monday, April 23, 2012

3KCBWDAY1: Colour Lovers

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I'm somewhat ill-prepared for this - it was only after Hoxton's post (I love her Electric Sheep podcast) earlier on today that I realised this was happening again this year, and I hadn't missed it...  It's only a week, I thought, when I signed up at lunchtime... and then I looked at the prompts for the week...

But this evening's is relatively easy.  Colour... shutting me up about colour is easier.

As an example, this is a quick snap of my dining room/door into the living-room taken after I came in this evening (work bag still on the table, but as it's Monday night there isn't a heap of post and other detritus on there...).  I love bright, vibrant colours.  I like to think I don't "do" subtle.  There's weaving, knitting, feltmaking, crochet, embroidery, cross-stitch and stained-glass visible there, and it's all pretty bright...

(It seems that after a brief heady period where Blogger and Flickr frolicked happily together, they're completely incompatible in any of my 3 browsers.  Apologies.  It's taken me over 2 hours to work this out...)




I have Views on certain objects.  Work shoes, my everyday small handbag, my everyday coat, camera bags and my favourite small-project knitting bag need to be black, or as near black as readily obtainable.  Likewise most of the work wardrobe.

This is mainly to provide a backdrop for other things though - nice knitted items; excellent not-everyday-small bags; cool jewellery.  Excellent curtains and beautiful cushions. (The cushions aren't made by me - Wibbo saw my pathetic attempts at crochet and made these two utterly beautiful pillow-sized ones...)




Commuting from a flat Fenland village to central London, for 4-5 months of the year I leave home in the dark and I arrive home in the dark.  I see grey, grey daylight through office windows and on the occasions I force myself to walk on cold streets at lunchtime.

I have colours I gravitate towards; I'm a fan of purple, and burgundy, and magenta; and jade, and turquoise, and aquamarine.  But now I realise I also love golds and yellows, leaf greens and even, god help me, sometimes browns and neutrals.  I think the greyness actually helps to make the idea of colour more valuable.

When yarn clubs work (and there are currently a couple of infamous examples of dysfunctional ones from one UK source), they're brilliant.  They take you out of your little corner and present you with something new - you wouldn't have chosen this one off a table if there was, say, purple, around, but once presented with it in a parcel,on its own, your mind starts reeling with the possibilities. I'm currently signed up to the second part of Yarnscape's Wheel of the Year club, and to a Clan Surprise from The YarnYard; both have opened my mind to the possibilities of less intense colours in the past few months, and beautifully so.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 books, #35

What it is like to go to war, by Karl Marlantes [audiobook]. Read by Jeff Harding. Rearsby, Leics. : Clipper, 2012.

This merits a post on its own.  I think it's probably the modern equivalent of The art of war, and was certainly an excellent thing to be reading over Easter.

Karl Marlantes went to war in Vietnam, and wrote a novel called Matterhorn, which was made into one of the first Vietnam films.  He also writes with the perspective of someone who left a Rhodes scholarship to go to Vietnam and returned to it later; and with the perspective of someone who believes there's a spirituality to war, completely divorced from any individual faith - he calls it the arena of Mars.

Thisis a much more considered book, with perspective right up to last year's Libyan conflict, which aims to analyse and give advice on how government, society and the armed forces should look at the very young people who wage war on our behalf.

Marlantes believes we should prepare young soldiers psychologically for war before they are deployed - he asks "Why put on the armor after the war?".    He also has interesting things to say about very modern warfare; there are people who are commuting daily to their homes while deploying drones flying in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations, for instance; soldiers in the field can be shooting at insurgents at 7pm and be talking to their friends and family via Facebook at 8pm.  In Marlantes's opinion, this makes the likelihood of post-traumatic stress greater, because there's less of a distinction between being at war and not being at war.

There's a chapter on the honesty, or lack of it, in reporting of war.  Lying covers up the lack of meaning of war.  Body count statistics count more than strategic importance, and at least in Vietnam, there was no way of independently verifying the field reports.  Within that, there's the idea of standards rather than ideals; everyone knows what the ideals are, but standards can be steadily eroded by the experience of war.

One of the more moving chapters was an account of how Vietnam soldiers were returned to their families, discharged before they returned home, and (until the current post-9/ll fervour, were largely ignored or an embarrassment).  Marlantes fervently believes there should be "some sort of commitment to the future we are returning them to", with a ceremony of handing over weapons and compulsory psychological assessment.

Above all, Marlantes remains a warrior, with the knowledge that in the heat of situations, there's something beyond the individual which needs to be acknowledged in the current bureaucracy.  I'm probably not explaining this very well, but to my mind, when I finished this book on Easter Sunday, the statement that "Some people obviously rate victory as greater than their own death. This does not make them irrational" made a lot of sense to me, while also terrifying me because yes, this is the justification suicide bombers will also use.

Monday, April 09, 2012

2012 books, #31-34

The drop, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2011.

Another Harry Bosch book, and another excellent read.  Bosch has two cases to investigate; one is his Open-Unsolved work - DNA found on a victim is found to be that of a convicted paedophile; but the man was only 8 years old at the time of the murder.  The other case is the apparent suicide of a councillor's son; unfortunately that councillor is Irvin Irving, Harry's nemesis and himself a former senior policeman.  Office politics and some of the darker parts of the history of the Los Angeles Police Department come to the fore, and Bosch risks losing both a good friend and his shift partner while trying to solve both cases.  This was pretty unputdownable; Connelly's consistency is amazing.

Blood hunt, by Ian Rankin writing as Jack Harvey [audiobook]. Read by Christian Rodska. Bath: Chivers, [1995].

Gordon Reeve is a survival expert in the Scottish Highlands, with an SAS past.  Then his journalist brother dies in San Diego, and when Reeve starts to disbelieve the official theory of suicide and investigate the matter, someone starts trying to kill him too.  The action criss-crosses back between Scotland and California, as Reeve goes on the run and tries to shelter his family.  There's a fair amount of gore in this book, and Reeve is seriously out of control at times, which makes for uncomfortable reading.  I think I'd probably have given up on this one before the end if it hadn't been superbly read by Rodska, who slips in and out of Scottish, English and American accents in a convincing way.

They also raise chickens, by Martin Parker. Kindle edition, 2011.

This is a very strange book.  It dots between 1918, 1962 and 1988, sometimes slightly confusingly.  The title comes from a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in The little prince:  "Men", said the fox. "They have guns and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests."  Two series of murders in the same small town, normally a tranquil place, alert both Harry Dangerfield (then a police sergeant, now an inspector) and his ex-wife Susan (now chief editor of the local paper).  Surely there must be a connection between the two groups of killings, despite the 1962 sequence having been closed after the suicide of a local policeman?  Dangerfield has never really subscribed to this theory, and the repeated rumours of the presence of a WWI soldier in the area enhances his suspicions.  The tone of the book is quite jokey in parts which doesn't really fit with the crimes being committed.  Patchy, but good fun in general.

Tom-all-alone's, by Lynn Shepherd. Kindle edition, 2012.

A new detective novel set among the characters of Dickens's Bleak house (published as The solitary house in the US); but you don't need to have read your Dickens recently (or at all, probably) to enjoy this for its own sake.  Shepherd captures the squalor and degradation of 1850s London, and the lack of law or order in the poor neighbourhoods (it's amusing to find with hindsight that these are Seven Dials and the Strand). The omniscient narrator is able to draw sly 21st-century parallels; this sometimes works very well, and sometimes breaks into the narrative in a disruptive way. The main character, Charles Maddox, is hired by the lawyer Tulkinghorn to investigate a case of anonymous letter-writing, but all is now what it seems with the assignment.  There is also a parallel narration by Hester, as there is by Esther in the original novel; but again, there is a much more sinister story behind this.  Shepherd is able to deal with even more disturbing themes than Dickens was, and Charles's investigations strip away the veneer of respectability to uncover some chambers of horrors.

2012 books, #26-30

Double wedding ring, by Lizbie Brown.  London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1999.

The tone of this book is slightly strange - the protagonist (and I'd imagine the author) are from the US, and it definitely reads like one of the US "cozies" produced around quilting, knitting, sewing etc. - this is set in the UK, and seems to stand out from the rest though, and the first scene - a wedding at which the bride not only turns out not to be the groom's fiancée but is also pregnant with his child - is somewhat arresting!  When the false bride's body is discovered the next morning, Elizabeth Blair (a semi-retired private detective who also runs a quilt shop in Bath) is called in to try to prove that the obvious suspect, the groom, is not guilty of the murder.  It rattles along very nicely; not anything particularly special but a good couple of hours' read.

Lost light, by Michael Connelly [audiobook]. Read by John Chancer. Bath: BBC, [n.d.].

I don't know where this fits into the Harry Bosch series, other than that it's after he was married to Eleanor Wish, after she's had their child, but before he finds out about this...  but as ever, the library gubbins was stuck all over the bibliographic information!  Just when I think I've read all of the Bosch stuff, another one I haven't found yet comes along; which is great, when someone can consistently write at this standard.  Harry has left the LAPD, but is unable to forget one particular case, that of a young woman murdered in the wake of a $2million robbery on a film set.  Released from the day job and unable to decide what to do next, Harry takes the file and continues the investigation, pissing off just about everyone he knows in the process.  Really good stuff, and Chancer reads it very well, as ever.

The secret life of France, by Lucy Wadham. Kindle edition.

Lucy Wadham was married to an upper-class Frenchman for the best part of two decades, has two teenage children and moved from the 16e arrondissement  to la France profonde  following her divorce.  She talks about her experiences of France and the French as someone who married very young, finished her degree at Oxford after having a child and then worked freelance for UK newspapers and the BBC over the years.  A surprising amount of the book is spent on discussing sex and infidelity in a particular very elevated stratum of Parisian society; but when she gets down to subjects such as the French education system, French bureaucracy, the conflict between secularism and Catholicism and so on, she's fascinating.  And it was heartening to find that someone had to go back to the office near Parmentier métro station even more often than I did to obtain that elusive permis de séjour which was needed by all EU citizens before the dawning of the single market in labour, and was notoriously difficult and time-consuming to obtain...  She's loved and hated France in almost equal measure over the years; but despite having children who are now rediscovering the joys of the British sense of humour, she's still there.  And if you want to follow up on a social history of France from the mid-80s to now, Wadham's journalistic sense means she's documented all her sources in the references at the back, which take up nearly a quarter of the book.

The knitter's book of wool: the ultimate guide to understanding, using, and loving this most fabulous fiber, by Clara Parkes.  New York: Potter Craft, 2009.

I'm fairly sure this was a present from Wibbo.  I had a flick through it and registered the lovely patterns in it at the time, but a couple of weeks ago, after I came back from a spinning day at Rampton, I got it off the shelf and took it up into the bedroom as bedtime reading (most of my reading is done in transit, but this is a sturdy hardback with a nice dust-jacket).  And it's fascinating.  Parkes is the person who created the Knitters' Review website, my primary source for all things fibre before Ravelry and still a site I visit, and here she goes back a step from her previous book, The knitter's book of yarn, to talk about sheep, and sheep breeds, and the way that taking raw fleece and turning it into yarn works.  She doesn't automatically assume you want to spin your own yarn, but she does assume that if you're interested in yarn, you have some interest in understanding how different breeds work, and what you might be able to use each yarn for.  However, if you do want to spin your own yarn, there's lots of information there, too.  It's about half information, and half patterns; and the patterns are good, and explain why each yarn has been chosen for each project.

The death of Amy Parris, by T. R. Bowen.  London: Penguin, 1998.

One of the books I picked up while weeding the crime/thrillers at the local library - this one is set in and around Cambridge, and gets the geography right, although there's an awful lot more driving between Cambridge and the North Norfolk coast than most locals would be prepared to do!  John Bewick, formerly of Cambridgeshire police and now seconded to an advanced training unit, is asked to re-investigate what looks like an open and closed case, because the son of friends has been arrested for a murder he claims not to have committed.  Meanwhile a body is found on a North Norfolk beach and turns out to be the best friend of the murdered woman, lost at sea a year before.  There's a very creepy dénouement to this one, and it's tightly-plotted throughout.