Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Few Craft Plugs

I wanted to put in a plug for the knitting magazine, Creative Knitting. I subscribed to this last year and I've found this magazine fun to look at and worth the subscription cost. Here's the good points.

  • The clothing patterns are not high fashion garments but things average people might actually wear.

  • The magazine is plus-size friendly. I don't think I've ever seen a women's pattern in CK that did not go up to XL, most seem to have XXL sizing, and I've seen some that went up to 5X.

  • There is usually an article teaching a new technique--typically with accompanying project that uses the technique--and, of course, a basics how-to section at the back of each magazine.

  • A year's subscription is inexpensive (US$19.97 for six issues), and the patterns' sample garments often use less expensive yarns.

  • They follow the practice of telling you what weight the suggested yarn is and what the yardage is, as opposed to just saying "5 skeins of Brand XYZ yarn".

  • If there's a correction to a pattern, you can find it on the magazine's easily-navigated website.

I've decided not to renew my subscription because I have too many craft-related books and magazines already, but if you're looking to subscribe to a knitting magazine, this is the one I would recommend to most people.


My acknowledgement of having too much craft-related material about did not prevent me from picking up a small stack of back issue craft magazines (including a few CK mags) at a library book sale recently. Among those were three issues of an early '80s magazine from Lark Communications called handmade. This was a general craft magazine--sewing, knitting, crochet, needlepoint, etc--that had a good quality feel to it. If it were still around, I would subscribe. (There is an Australian magazine with the same name still publishing, but as far as I can tell, they seem to be a different entity.) If you ever come across an issue at a yard sale or wherever, I don't think you'll regret picking it up.


I'm not big on crocheted or knit flowers as a rule, but the ones Lion Brand has been featuring in its email newsletter recently have sometimes been pretty cute. Still, I wouldn't be mentioning it if they hadn't included a photo an awfully familiar-looking flower they called Tradescantia. It turned out to be the official name for my favorite weed, spiderwort. (There's also a nice close-up picture here.) As most people don't seem to know the name of this flower when I mention it, I say kudos to LB for showing a relatively obscure flower.


I sometimes hear people saying they don't know how to do basic hand stitching. There are some videos showing some hand-sewing techniques here. I didn't watch all of the videos, but the ones I watched were pretty well done. The presenter's slip stitch method was different from what I learned as a kid, and it is much better, so I'm glad I saw that video.

Warning: They seem to have added annoying advertisements at the beginning of the videos since I first saw the site.


Two weeks ago I saw this Daily Mail article about a group of women who knit a replica of their village. That's both really fun and a bigger feat than many people would realize. I think it falls into the"you ask why and I ask why not" category of pursuits, which I consider to be a generally good category.

Less happily, the ladies touch on people not knitting much anymore because people prefer storebought items to handmade. One says, "I used to knit such complicated stuff, but now I watch television instead." I know some people would say that whatever consumers want is right and good so therefore I shouldn't say this, but still I find it rather sad that handcrafts are dying out as people buy great quantities of whatever the advertisers are telling us we should like this month and that a skilled knitter is increasingly watching television instead of knitting because no one is interested in her stuff.


The By Hand, With Heart blogger, who is also the author of the interesting-looking knitting book Great Yarns for the Close-knit Family, suggests a possible unofficial patron saint of knitters, St. Rafqa. I've heard a couple of other possibilities floated, but this sounds good to me.


I was pretty struck by the customer pictures that accompanied this page for the out-of-print book Hard Crochet by Mark Dittrick on Amazon. The book is supposed to have a new technique for really stiff crochet that lets you make firm brimmed hats, bowls, and even briefcases. I'm not going to buy it because I don't crochet much, but I'm passing the link along for any crocheters who may not have heard of it.


And that's about it for today.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Girls Only Society

I have sometimes seen instances of parents buying or crafting their daughters items that read, "Girls Rule, Boys Drool". I'm as sympathetic as anyone to people in that stage of childhood in which the opposite sex is presumed to have cooties, but having attained adolescence myself I know we grow out of it. And as I doubt very much that the mothers buying or crafting these anti-boy slogan items would permit their sons to wear "Girls Are Stupid" tee-shirts, their allowing their daughters to do the same sort of thing has always seemed fundamentally unfair to me.

However, I'm going to look, if not a little more kindly, then a little less unkindly on the practice from now on.

See, Knitting Pattern Central (a great site that serves as a clearinghouse for free knitting patterns) currently has in its newly added section a link to a dishcloth emblazoned with the charming legend:


What a delightful message for the kiddies! Just think: every time Junior goes through the kitchen he can read a message proclaiming not only the stupidity of his own personal father, but of all fathers everywhere. Personally, I can't wait for this slogan to catch on in the broader society, in the form of bumperstickers and adult clothing. I'm particularly looking forward to the line of maternity wear. What could be better for family life and the promotion of a humane, livable society than mothers constantly proclaiming their contempt for the men who gave their children half their DNA? If they could do it with sparkly lettering stretched across their pregnant bellies, so much the better, but meanwhile I'll settle for a dishcloth.

And if there might be some slight effect on Junior's developing self-image from seeing this sort of anti-dad and, by extension, anti-male message day in and day out, so what? Little boys (and their sisters) are never too young to learn about the general drooling idiocy of men and the uselessness of fathers. And if , for some unfathomable reason, Junior should harbor any belief that he won't become a drooling idiot until he is grown up, he can always consult his sister's tee-shirt for re-education.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It Droppeth as the Gentle Rain

I recently found myself becoming attracted to the Divine Mercy prayer. I never used to be. In fact, I once described this chaplet to my husband as "not a beautiful prayer, like the rosary". Two to three months ago I suddenly began to be drawn to it; looking back, I realize I'd found myself noticing the image back even before Christmas, but my recent attraction to the prayer itself seemed out of the blue.

The chaplet of Divine Mercy is usually spoken, of course, but there is a lovely sung version that has been featured on EWTN and which you can hear multiple places. It is available on YouTube here: The Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Song, Part 1 of 3, Part 2, and Part 3. It is available as an audio file here. (I am not necessarily endorsing that site, BTW; this prayer is the only thing I have seen there and I know nothing about the site otherwise.) The CD is available from Amazon, and I heartily recommend it for praying in your car; not only is it lovely to hear, but as a prayer, it is easier to focus on while driving than the rosary is. If you'd like to pray along with others in real-time, EWTN television and radio airs the Divine Mercy prayer daily at 3PM Central Time, though it may not always be this same version.

I have never really gotten into praying this at the hour it is often prayed, 3PM, but I have sometimes wondered if would be good for more people to pray a mini mercy prayer then. Most people are busy with (secular) jobs or school at three in the afternoon. But if, when someone notices it's three o-clock (or a few minutes after), that person were to think of Jesus on the cross and offer a quick internal prayer for mercy, he could be in union with everyone else in his time zone praying for mercy. Just a fast "Lord have mercy", "God have mercy on us", "For the sake of Your Son's suffering, have mercy on us", or something similar. Anyway, it's just a thought. I figure the more people praying for mercy, the better.

Of course, my own recent attraction to this prayer was not really some happenstance out of the blue. Long story short, I needed to go to Confession and was, I'm ashamed to say, putting it off. My attraction to this devotion was in part a manifestation of my own largely subconscious need for mercy. I got it. I felt it. God's mercy is great.

Please pray for divine mercy for yourself, for your loved ones, for America, for the world. If not this particular prayer for mercy, then one you make up yourself. Or perhaps the Jesus Prayer, from Orthodox practice. (Salinger readers, you know it already! If not, you can learn about it from this book; I'm not qualified to comment on the translation, but it seemed a good book to me when I read it last November or December.) I did not realize at the time of my sudden inexplicable attraction that when I said "have mercy on us and on the whole world" I was praying for myself, except in a general way--in fact, the most urgent of my prayers were for someone else entirely--but I was blessed anyway. We all need mercy. And with God, if not always with our fellow humans, it is there for our asking.