Saturday, January 31, 2009

Time Folds

"Time folds, he said, meaning that as time goes on and on it buckles, in the extreme heat, in the extreme cold, and what is long past becomes closer. You can demonstrate this by pleating a ribbon and sticking a pin through: Point Two, once yards away from Point One, now lies just beside it. Is time/space like an accordion, but without the music? Was he making a statement about hard physics?

Or was he saying: Time folds its wings, at long last. Time folds its tents and silently steals away. Time folds you in its folds, as if you were a lamb and the lack of time a wolf. Time folds you in the blanket of itself, it folds you tenderly and wraps you round, for where would you be without it? Time folds you in its arms and gives you one last kiss and then it flattens you out and folds you up and tucks you away until it's time for you to become someone else's past time, and then time folds again."

Atwood, Margaret (2006), The Tent, Bloomsbury, London, p.147, 148

Hose and class

"One of the most interesting stories I have come across in my study of knitting is how the craft travelled from Holland to Denmark in the sixteenth century. The King of Denmark was presented with a pair of knitted hose. He was so delighted with the gift that he decided the people of his own country must become knitters. A group of knitters from Holland were invited [...] to teach the Danish women how to knit. The King was so proud of his hose that he immediately issued an edict that no one, other than himself and members of his court, must wear this finely knitted hosiery. The Burghers of Copenhagen rebelled [...] their grumble being:'Why should they wear rough puttees around their calves, while the court wore fully fashioned stockings?' A second edict was then passed allowing the Burghers to wear hose, but these must be knitted in cotton and not in the fine silk used to cover the royal calves. The peasants then took up the cry that they wanted stockings, and a third edict was passed allowing the peasants to wear hosiery of coarse wool. Here, surely, we have class distinction with a vengeance, for in this period in Denmark one could easily tell to what group in society a person belonged by studying his legs."

Norbury, James & Agutter, Margaret (n.d.), Oldham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting, Odham Press Ltd, Long Acre, London, p.14

Men who knit

"Another point which must be emphasized is that the knitters at this time were always men. The women would sit in their homes and spin, while the shepherds and fishermen, who were probably the first knitters, took the wool on the mountain sides and in their fishing boats, making it into garments for themselves and for members of their families."

Norbury, James & Agutter, Margaret (n.d.), Oldham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting, Odham Press Ltd, Long Acre, London, p.15

more on men who knit at

Friday, January 23, 2009

Washing Line

“And there you’ll be, in your cotton housecoat,
holding a wooden peg
between your teeth, as the washing flaps
on the clothesline you once briefly considered
hanging yourself with –“

from Margaret Atwood, Bring back Mom: an Invocation

in Atwood, Margaret (2006), The Tent, Bloomsbury, London, p. 111

A heartstring for my longings

Christmas in Spain an almost dream-like memory by now. Rummaging through the drawer looking for my passport I come across a guitar string wrapper. My daughter picked it up for me on Christmas Day, when we went into the mountains north of Malaga to a hermitage where the people from the surrounding farms and villages were coming together to celebrate with dance and music, food and drink.

For photos of the 'Verdiales" see

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Brain Fabrics

"As soon as she saw her first images of the brain, Marjorie Taylor was spellbound. The vibrant pinks and blues, the intricate detailing - somehow they spoke to her. 'I couldn't help but look at them with the eye of a quilter,' says Taylor, a psychologist at the University of Oregon. 'I thought the folds of the cerebral cortex would be great in velvet.'

And so was born a new genre of visual art: scientifically accurate fabric brains. True to her original vision, Taylor's first piece was a quilt with a cerebral cortex in blue velvet on a silver background.


Taylor isn't the only fabric artist who draws inspiration from neuroscience. Psychiatrist Karen Norberg of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, also creates anatomically correct brain art. Independently of Taylor, she decided to make an accurate model of the human brain - in wool.

It took a year to knit, and the result is astonishing. The cortex of Norberg's larger-than-life brain has realistic folds, while the internal structure is correct down to the last stitch. All the parts are properly connected, as can be revealed by undoing a well-concealed zip that connects the two hemispheres."

Michael Brooks, Neural knitworks: It's the human brain as you've never seen it before, in New Scientist, 20/27 December 2008, p.51

for more info go to

Presence of the past

"Has the world's oldest spider web been found? Strands 140 million years old were found inside a piece of amber on a UK beach and look similar to those made by modern orb spiders, says Martin Brasier of the University of Oxford. The fossil web beats the previous record-holder found in Lebanon by around 10 million years."

New Scientist, 20/27 December 2008, p.7

Monday, January 05, 2009

... by women, for women?

"I said to Nicolas, 'I cannot choose between you and my music, it's ridiculous. I'm not going to drop my job and iron my husband's shirts for the next four years.'"

Carla Bruni, on keeping her husband, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his place

They said what?
Quotes of the week...
The Observer, 4.1.2009, p.32

Image from Housewife, November 1958


"It is not enough, as Jesus said, to put patches on an old suit."

The Pope, in his New Year's Day blessing, challenges world leaders to come up with a better solution to the financial crisis than the Son of God could.

They said what?
Quotes of the week...
The Observer, 4.1.2009, p.32

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Plasticos Barrera, La Cala del Moral, Malaga

My good friend and ex sister-in-law Puri has a plastic and curtain shop on the main square and I pop in on my way from her home to beach Bar Juani. Sometimes I take some waxed cloth with me for my kitchen table, different patterns than I would find in Eastbourne or Brighton. A bright pattern catches my eye - it turns out to be an authentic 1960s plastic cloth Puri came across in the warehouse. She cuts a couple of meters off the roll and gives it to me. It will cheer me up when I go onto the kitchen in the dark winter mornings to make coffee.

I use a piece of the cloth to line a box entitled The Shock of the New.

La realidad inteligente

“La realidad inteligente, si señor. Todos soltamos un hilo, como los gusanos de seda. Roemos y nos disputamos las hojas de morera pero ese hilo, si se entrecruza con otros, si se entrelaza, puede hacer un hermoso tapiz, una tela inolvidable."

Manuel Rivas, El Lapiz del Carpintero, translated from Portuguese, Punto de Lectura, Madrid/Spain 2001, p.14

["The intelligent reality, yes sir. We all release a thread, like silk worms. We gnaw and we argue over the mulberry leaves, but this thread, if it crosses others, if it interlaces, can make a beautiful tapestry, an unforgettable fabric." my translation]

My daughter is on a gap year in Spain. She went to Portugal and brought this potholder back for me and some beautiful tea towels.

Merceria Marymar

Merceria Marymar in Malaga is one of several haberdashery shops in a row, all with beautiful window displays, treasures of ribbons, trimmings, lace, buttons, silk flowers, feathers, sequins and embroidery silks artfully arranged. I remember these glorious shops from when I lived here over twenty years ago, and they are as alluring as ever.

These are busy shops, customers asking for buttons, yarns, ribbons brought out for their inspection from drawers and cases, piling up on the long wooden counter. I enter not knowing what to ask for - I would really just like to explore all these drawers and boxes at the back of the shop in search for hidden treasure.

I spot some ribbon in the colours of the Andalusian flag - green, white, green, and in the colours of Malaga, green and purple, and buy some. I ask for the little boxes I have seen in the window, containing poppers, maybe? They have in fact hooks in them, but I don't mind: it's the little box I am after, not the content.

I like these old-fashioned looking little things, I explain to the lady serving me. I ask for some cotton reels I can see behind the counter with interesting looking labels. She understands what I am after and gets another drawer full of old wooden cotton reels out - they don't make these anymore, she says. I am sure we have got lots more old stuff, she says, come back another day when it is not so busy and I find you some more.

I can't, sadly I am only here on holiday now.

Merceria Margarita

While my daughters were heading for 'el centro commercial' - the shopping centre, I strolled through the narrow streets in the old town 'en busqueda del tiempo perdido'.

Some shops that I remembered from when I first came to Malaga almost 30 years ago are still there, unchanged. I look for old haberdashery shops. I find two, both are closed, shutters down, building work just about to start, the writing still on the wall: 'Merceria'. In the backstreets, only a few minutes walk away from the posh lingerie shops on Calle Larios, there are shops selling more solid wares, pairs of huge white cotton knickers, enormous underpants, aprons, stockings, piles of napkins and traditional baby dresses displayed in the window.

I come across Merceria Margarita when the shutters are just let down for the night. I go back the next day. The tiny corner shop is crammed full of stuff, windows, display cases around the walls, drawers and boxes on and behind the corner tantalizingly out of reach. I ask for some yarn I have seen in the window - algodon, the one with the old-fashioned label. The woman seems miffed - not 'algodon', 'ovillas', she corrects me. Not old, she says, new, they have always been like that, de toda la vida, as if I was suggesting her merchandise was old. Alguna cosa mas?

I hesitate, not daring to ask for anything old or old-fashioned. A mother with pushchair and two little girls enters asking for leotards, they almost fill up the entire shop, followed by two young women asking for fishnet stockings. A welcome interruption giving me more time to look around. I spot some ric-rac, red & white, green & white - cinta? I ask. Piquito, she replies. I buy some and also a small good luck doll with a knitted dress and some hair clips.

Happy New Year - suerte!

Back from Malaga. Happy New Year: suerte, luck, fortuna!