DIY: Upgrading a birthday gift on a bus

Let me explain: on Saturday, I went to a birthday party.

The girl celebrating her birthday had recently taken up Portuguese so that the safest gift I could think of was Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. And if the novel was about an elephant on a journey, all the better.

Only the big library in Oxford would surprisingly not do gift wrapping and I was to hop on the bus to London straightaway. I still found that giving a plain book was a bit of a shame. So I made the most of a few minutes on the bus to give my gift a slight makeover.

Photo on 15-03-2014 at 14.54

Photo credits: a very nice girl on the bus

Fortunately, I always have some yarn leftovers and a crochet in my bag. I chained stitches for a while to make a fancy ribbon and I improvised a crochet bookmark, with 3dc rows and a tiny pom pom.

Well obviously the novel matters most but I was still happy to upgrade the gift with a minimum of supplies.


Reading and knitting


To the question: can one knit and read at the same time, someone with a bit of common sense will most likely answer in the negative way.

So how are we supposed to combine these two passions? Dull people might just say “Well drop your needles and pick up a book” which is actually the easiest way to go.

But then there are audiobooks. I hardly meet people who are fond of audiobooks to be honest, probably because for avid readers, the idea of being read to is at odds with the idea of reading.

Audiobooks are met with polite skepticism among intellectuals, as if  confessing your use of it equalled your saying in a literature talk on Jane Austen that you only knew of her work through BBC series.

More generally speaking, it is a common opinion to believe that only those who can’t read (children) should be read to.

But audiobooks have some good in them: it makes one hear the text, its rhythms, its implied meaning and its repeated motifs. They are in keeping with old traditions of reading aloud and above all, they are a gentler immersion in a text, especially for the days when one feels a little tired.

And it allows knitters to knit away while listening to the stories of the greatest heroes and heroines of all times.

Of course, there is some inconvenience too (beside the impossibility of dogearing your audiobook), mainly because the audiobook industry is not a very rich one and  draws mostly on volunteering (like LibriVox) so that there are good things and not-so- good things to be found. More significantly, I think it is a pity that most audiobooks simply do not make the most of this medium: there is often but one reader, very little reflection on atmospheres or extra sounds, in a word it is a traditional reading-aloud while it could be much more in some cases – it could be genuine audio adaptations, without texy editing  like in some good quality radio programmes.

Do you know of any nice audiobooks? Gothic tales and fantasy are usually good (Lovecraft, Harry Potter,…).

I have just finished to listen to Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth via Librivox free version  and I must say it was quite nice – I had already read the novel a few years ago but I really enjoyed rediscovering the 1900s Gilded New York. And it enabled me to complete a  shawl, which I will show here pretty soon!





I have just finished to read Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities, and I must confess that I she a few tears during the last pages, and a great deal on  the very last sentence. I am quite curious to watch film adaptations, but rendering the puzzling atmosphere of this novel must be something of a tricky tour de force.

But that is not why I am mentioning this novel – as you may or may not know, the Tale of Two Cities features a bloodthirsty Tricoteuse (those French knitting women who attended executions by guillotine during the French Revolution).

(Mais pourquoi la fleur de lys ?)

The notorious Madame Defarge indeed silently knits with bloodcurdling steadiness- besides, she encodes the names of the people she wants dead through her knitting (which I must say is pretty cool, I’d like to be able to communicate secrets by knitting and purling). She ends tragically, but then she is the villain of the story.

Anyway, if A Tale of Two Cities was a knit, it would be a gorgeous Phrygian cap of course!  A vibrant, slightly felted hat which would keep your ears warm, even during winter- and no beheading for you if you wear such a thing.

… I know what you thing… not quite the casual style, eh? Well, no worries, because some Ravelry designer actually created lovely Dickensian mice toys patterns (cf pictures above). You even get the nice Peggotty knitter!

Photo : Alan Dart