3 stars, crafting, non fiction

A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn

34227605Title: A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn
Editor: Clara Parkes

This addictive-to-read anthology celebrates yarn—specifically, the knitter’s reputation for acquiring it in large quantities and storing it away in what’s lovingly referred to as a “stash.” Consider contributions from knitting and teaching luminaries, including:
Stitch ’n Bitch co-founder Debbie Stoller
Meg Swansen, daughter of master knitter Elizabeth Zimmermann
Knitting blogger and author Susan B. Anderson
alongside offerings from knitting greats Amy Herzog, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and Franklin Habit—plus, stories from a romance novelist, an illustrator, a PhD-wielding feminist publisher, a globetrotting textile artist, a licensed clinical social worker, and the people behind the world’s largest collective online stash, Ravelry.com. The pieces range from comical to earnest, lighthearted to deeply philosophical as each seeks to answer the question of how the stash a knitter has accumulated over the years reflects his or her place in universe.

The stories in A Stash of One’s Own represent and provide validation for knitters’ wildly varying perspectives on yarn, from holding zero stash, to stash-busting, to stockpiling masses of it—and even including it in estate plans. These tales are for all fiber artists, spinners, dyers, crafters, crocheters, sheep farmers, shop owners, beginning knitters to yarn experts, and everyone who has ever loved a skein too hard to let it go.

Rating3star

Asking a knitter what he or she plans on doing with the yarn he or she just bought is like asking a squirrel what it plans on doing with that nut it just buried under a pile of leaves. Obviously we plan on using it. Now? Later? For what? How can we know? Our main priority is simply to get that yarn safely back home and stored away in our stash. We’ll know when we need it.

I read this book to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now…

As it is the case with anthologies you get a mixed bag with this book. In Stashers: Who the heck are we? Lela Nargi simply wrote out some Ravelry stats about stash. I could never get much out of these “If you put all these together it would be enough to do X” things. Blame my failure to imagine measurements of any kind properly. Or the fact that for me 17 times to the moon and back and 100 times to the moon and back both boils down to ‘a bloody lot’.

But you also get a hilarious story by the Yarn Harlot about having too much stash, dealing with it and still having a lot that manages to describe the reason she is keeping a skein that looks like “Barbie and My Little Pony dropped acid and tried to come up with a colorway” in a rather touching way.

In another essay, Amy Herzog insists that she doesn’t have any stash. The yarn she has at home isn’t a stash. Never mind that it’s a lot more than I have in my two IKEA boxes (and that additional bag with sock yarn leftovers…) and that that yarn she has at home is not intended for specific projects which is for me the only reason to consider it not stash.

But then there’s also a beautiful essay by Franklin Habit (of It Itches-fame) talks about dealing with being a boy that wasn’t interested in typical masculine pursuits and then with the loss of his mother which was very moving.

After some outstanding (good and bad) stories, in the beginning, everything blurs together in the middle. Every essay seems to be some variation of ‘this is how I started knitting’ followed by ‘this is my stash’ and ‘this is when I realized it was too much and this is how I dealt with it’. Optionally accompanied by a story that is only vaguely/not at all connected to knitting and that sometimes takes more space than the parts about knitting. Somewhere in between a psychologist explains how much stash is too much and requires outside help (I don’t have that much).

Then, in the last third or so, we get some variety again. Lilith Green’s Work in Progress talks about her body image issues and how that also affected her knitting (and stashing) habits: muted colours, nothing that stands out, nothing that draws attention. And how she finally came to the conclusion that “I stash for the body I have now and will have for years to come. Not for the body others think I should have, or that I think I should have, but this body here and now.” while also admitting that loving her body is still ‘a work in progress’.

 

Here’s the thing. As makers, we fix things. That’s what we do. It’s our superpower. We’re good at it. When it comes to grief and loss, though, there’s no fixing.

 

A few more essays tell very personal stories about knitting as a way of dealing with loss and grief. For me, Comfort Yarn by Rachael Herron stood out especially but the others were great as well.

We also get A Proper Stash which has very little to do with (yarn or fabric) stash but sounds uncomfortably white saviour-y in parts. Eugene Wyatt’s On Giving is the essay that sounds most like self-promotion. It also opens with a quote by Anne Frank.
Allow me to throw a deeply-felt fuck you at that level of emotional manipulation. And finally, we look at Yarn as a Feminist Issue which makes some great points. Unfortunately, the writing is so condescending in some parts that I want to disagree out of spite.

So what do I think of the whole collection? It was…nice. The good stories (especially Comfort Yarn, Work in Progress and Habit’s Her Pretty String) were so good that I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time with this. Despite some boredom (and anger). Am I saying this is a must-have for a knitter? No. Listen to a crafting podcast (I suggest The Crafting System or their sister-podcast On Pins and Needles) and knit some of your stash instead.

 

ARC provided by NetGalley

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4 stars, fantasy

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (The Risen Kingdoms #1)

31702733Title: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors
Author: Curtis Craddock
Series:  The Risen Kingdoms #1

A polymath princess and her faithful musketeer must unravel the plot of a thousand-year-old madman in order to save an a foreign kingdom from a disastrous civil war.

Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a thousand miles across. Suspended by magic, they float in the upper layers of Caelum’s clouds. 

Born with a deformed hand and utter lack of the family’s blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jean-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l’Empire Céleste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood, but with mirrors.

Rating4star

“I still think I should-”
“No!” Isabelle rallied against the automatic male assumption that anything she might do, they could do better, even if they had no experience whatsoever.

After the awesome-sounding blurb and the advance praise, I expected a lot from this book and was slightly disappointed in the first few chapters. It infodumps a lot on the world and there is too much magical technobabble for my taste. It also doesn’t need long till my fantasy pet peeve appears: the brutal execution method (described in detail) that shows us just how horrible the world the protagonists live in is. It is pointed out that that method isn’t the norm in the whole country, only the duke that rules over the Isle des Zephyrs is a psychopath but that doesn’t make it much better. I’m very tired of books that begin that way.

I wasn’t grumpy for long, though because the book soon made up for its mediocre start. (And the mustache-twirling villain that is the heroine’s father…who also made sense in context later). We get a math-loving heroine whose life is turned on its head when she is married off to the son of a neighboring country’s king. He’s only the second son but there is pressure on his father to disinherit his firstborn because he refuses to divorce his barren wife.

Isabelle is now thrown into a cesspool of intrigue. Her husband-to-be’s older half-brother and his wife are unsurprisingly not pleased by her. But she also isn’t sure what her groom’s mother wants. Her own son on the throne instead of the son of her husband’s first wife, so much is obvious, but what role does Isabelle play in her schemes? And what about the priest who arranged the marriage? The prince and Isabelle come from different magical bloodlines and the church says those should never mix. Add a few more people with uncertain loyalties and I wished I’d made some notes during reading to keep things straight. (Seriously. Especially during the very grand, very epic and very awesome finale it almost got a bit much).

And what does Isabelle want?
Peace.
That’s right. She knows that any uncertainty about the succession will throw the country into a bloody civil war and she wants to avoid that. And she has only one certain ally in that endeavor: Jean-Claude, a Musketeer that has been more of a father than her actual father and who has now accompanied her to the foreign court.
Of course, Jean-Claude is a King’s Musketeer. And the king of Céleste also has plans for his neighboring country. He and Jean-Claude have some disagreements about the importance of Isabelle for these plans. That leads to some…intense discussions between the two.

tumblr_ootzc0y3m51udbbido1_500
Pictured: How I imagined Jean-Claude and King Leon

Now this book isn’t only about court-intrigue. There is also action (a couple of princes have to be saved after all) but if you don’t think that a scene in which Isabelle has to figure out what’s the right thing to say to her future mother-in-law can be just as tense and exciting as a swordfight you won’t enjoy that book as much as I did. (I enjoyed it a lot, in case that wasn’t obvious…now how long do I have to wait for the next book?)