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One of the things I really enjoyed about reading Sweater Quest was the various discussions around knitting and knitting philosophy. I think you can find universal truths everywhere and I am always looking for them. Something that the Knit Harlot said in it was that she loved how nothing really terrible can happen when you knit. She says the worst thing is you set out with a ball of yarn to knit a sweater, and you end up with a ball of yarn (no sweater). You still have your ball of yarn. I like that. And it’s helped me move beyond perfectionism about the first jumper I’m currently knitting. It’s not perfect. It looks handmade. That’s because it is. And it’s not the last thing I will ever knit, I will get better and more than that, the jumper will eventually get worn and then worn out and I’ll part with it. It’s the circle of (knitted) life.

But I liked the idea that … you know … if you never do anything because you’re so scared of it not being perfectly executed, then you will never do anything. And how is that better? And this turns out to be a really good way to break through paralysis or roadblocks. Or in other words, sometimes a decision is better than the right decision, especially when you no longer fear failure. What’s the worst thing that can happen when you execute an idea (especially when it’s not a life or death one) and it doesn’t work out?

I’m starting to feel like I’m making headway on things that have been hard to conquer in the past. And it turns out, that with progress on any of these, the most effective thing has been consistency. So I’ve been very slowly, every day, working on culling and decluttering. And some days it might only be one or two things but will power is a muscle – it gets stronger the more you use it. It gets easier to cull and part with things the more often and regularly you do it. And I used to know this, I just got out of practice. I have now almost completely cleared out the “to donate or sell” corner of stuff I had piled when unpacking. I have slowly been taking it in small shopping bags, now and again, to charity bins (there aren’t many near our place so I have to do it when I go up to Perth). Today, I made the decision that selling my culled books on eBay was not worth it and, after the discussion with the secondhand bookstore owner yesterday, I decided to donate them. Today, I took all those not currently up on eBay, and also some craft kits that I was planning on selling, and donated them. And it felt AWESOME!  I parted with stash and I parted with book collection and the world didn’t end and I feel more free! I am loving the cleared space – the space that I know used to be filled with things that made me feel bad and guilty.

And I went a step further. Whilst I was procrastinating on making a decision about something else (I did, in the end, just make one and moved on), I decided to sort my To Be Read bookcase in my bedroom. I decided to shelve the books by genre since I feel like I am more of a reader who feels like genre (so I might feel in the mood for YA, a short story or nonfiction). I took them all out to sort and as I did so, I did the kind of “airing of the stash” thing that knitters do. I looked at each book. And I decided that some of them I didn’t actually want to read, that if I was in the middle of one and hadn’t gone back to it in over a year, then it was ok to not force myself to finish it just to say I had but rather to just … NOT! OMG I feel AWESOME having given myself the permission to not finish books I’m not enjoying. I kind of want to (and am) start looking at reading like Simon from The Readers Podcast – he’s reading like it’s the Apocalypse. And seriously, if you think, hey I might only have this year left to read, do I want this book to be one of those?, it’s amazing how much easier deciding not to finish or read something becomes. Guilt free!

And I decided to cull my TBR bookcase to only contain books I honestly see myself reading in the next year or two. And the rest  I took out. That makes this bookcase much less guilt making with the books I feel I *should* be reading and more with the enticing here’s the books I *want* to read, which shall I read next? excitement. Aka how reading should be. And I’m going to be totally ok now with shelving unread books back into my general collection – that is, books that I want to read *at some point*. If I genuinely want to read something, and I feel in the mood for it, then I am perfectly capable of going and finding that book to read. So now I feel happier about sorting and culling the general collection and then having everything shelved by genre etc. Read and unread mingled. Because what is definitely worse than read and unread books co-mingling, is not being able to find any of the books you own exactly at the minute you want to find them. It especially applies to books like short story collections or nonfiction, which I really see as “own with intent” – books I want to own and intend one day to read, or to refer to.

And all of this has had me thinking about craft stash. And other perishable things (like gift soaps etc). I think I have gotten to a place where I don’t know what happens if you use the stash. I was rummaging in the stash on Saturday night (where, OMG I think I found evidence of moths OMG) and happened upon a very delicious hank of yarn I had forgotten I’d bought – Socks that Rock in Stormy Weather (it’s a gorgeous spectrum of greys). And I thought, hey that might be great for a new scarf – I need some lacy, lovely scarves now that I work back in the city, total scarf wearing for decoration type attire requirements. And my next thought was, but I bought that for socks and I also really want a pair of socks in that colourway. And I think that’s where an obstacle comes up for me. I could knit the skein and buy a new one. Or I could knit the skein and knit myself a pair of socks in a different colourway. Or whatever. But I literally couldn’t think past the idea of actually using up my stash. That I like the stash and don’t know what I would do if I actually worked through it – this concept is not one I am comfortable with. When in reality, working through the stash would make me happy by a) knitting, which I love b) turning lovely skeins into lovely wearable possessions for me or for gifts and c) free me from guilt about buying new yarn. Yet this is still not something I feel comfortable with.

And I wonder if this is a similar thing at play with my TBR. Working through it would mean I would have to go out there and find new books to read (note, I have no problem impulse buying books). There is something comfortable at being familiar with what you have yet still to do. That and, I always feel like I need brain energy to switch into reading a new book – new writing, new concepts, new worlds to get used to. I suspect though, that this is just a reading muscle that needs to get flexed to build strength again. Hence the encouragement of reading what I feel like reading and maybe reviewing them here to a) mark the read books b) validate book choices beyond the peer pressure and c) getting back comfortable at review

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April 17   A book confession

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The other day something I had been avoiding for a while now smacked me in the face. Well actually, it knocked one of my Ditmars off a shelf and broke it (it’s one that was probably glued together in the first place so can be easily fixed, I hope). I’ve been in denial about it but the truth is – I have never actually unpacked my books and put them away in this house. Terri came to borrow a couple of books that I *know* I own but when I went looking for them, I couldn’t find them. Normally I am really pedantic about my books. They are the first possessions that I pack and move when I move house and I always always have a very specific way to shelve them.

Alas, I moved in with C in June last year and all I did was *unpack* my books. And locate them kind of in the study. I had lost bookcases in all my various house moves and all the bookcases here were full. So there was nowhere to unpack them into it. I did go and buy myself four bookcases from Ikea. Two are in the study and are filled hapazardly with my books. One got pilfered for C’s games in his man cave. And the fourth is in our bedroom and is filled with my To Be Read books. But there is no order or reason to any of my bookcases at the moment and worse, they nowhere near fit all of my book collection, some of which are stacked in front on the shelves (leading to Ditmar fatalities) or piled under my desk and just around.

I was really upset that I couldn’t lend Terri the books she was looking for. I did lend her some books she didn’t *know* she was looking for and I think that worked out ok. But I am really really unhappy that I don’t know which books are where and have just abandoned this part of settling in. I think maybe, I can’t really be properly settled in if my books aren’t.

On the weekend, I finally started to confront this issue. I started to sort my books into some grouping order – everything was just everywhere. As I started to sort them, I started to realise I could actually cull some books. This could help with the storage issue. And something else too. As I’ve continued to declutter, both in my physical and my electronic world, I’ve found a great sense of freedom and removal of weight from letting go or letting myself off the hook or out of the guilt of wanting to want to read or do or like certain things. I think this might also be part of settling into your late (eek!) thirties. I’m caring less about doing things to fit in. And I know we as a community pride ourselves on not doing things to fit in but even in this community, there is still pressure to read (and like) certain books or blogs or whatever. And I’ve started to notice that I force myself to try to like some things and then I ignore or don’t allow myself to just not. And lately, I’m kinda starting to let that go. Who cares if I don’t like something? Life is pretty short, too damn short, to spend it reading books you don’t like or doing something you don’t care for just because everyone else is. And as I start to let go, I’m actually finding I’m discovering ore of me in the process. But that’s something for another blog post.

So I realised that I didn’t need to keep books, to let them take up shelf space, just so I can impress someone else. If I don’t own a book any more, does that mean I didn’t read it? How would you know? And if I do own a book, does that mean I *have* read it? How would you know? So I started being ok with removing books from the collection. And some of that is about letting go of possessions I have dragged with me for the last 15 years and somehow contribute to defining me for that reason alone. I’m not done. I’m not nearly done. But I’m ok with having started.

I am still going to need more bookcases. But I have to first figure out where they would go.

But I’m actually posting about this to ask a question. I have more than one To Be Read area. My bookcase in my bedroom is my recent (last 2 to 3 years) accumulation of books to be read. I have another little bookcase (15 cm wide and only three shelves) in the study which is an overflow To Be Read bookcase, probably of books with a similar book stashing timeframe, possibly a bit longer. Kind of books I’m somewhat less wanting to read. This case can probably be properly sorted and perhaps weeded. But in my main book collection, I noticed I have a lot of books that I haven’t read but still want to own and at some point, not in the immediate future, intend to read. Some are classics and I never really feel bad about buying those and then popping them in the main collection. But not all are. And for some reason, I’m ok with them being there and not in the To Be Read and feel confident that when I feel like reading those specific titles, I will go looking for them. BUT … why don’t I feel that way about the main To Be Read books? And further, those books take up an entire bookcase. At some point, I intend to read them and then shelve them in the main collection. So … that means that I need another whole bookcase just for the To Be Read alone, assuming I continue to accumulate at a constant rate.

Do you keep your To Be Read books separately? How do you tell the difference between books you really intend to read and books you feel you should just own?

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Wednesday I finally managed to get to my post office box. It feels weird after it being the regular detour on the way home every day to only make it once a week or once a fortnight! I kinda hate not knowing what mail has arrived. On the other hand, whenever I go now, I get to stagger out with a huge pile of parcels and ephemera. In this batch, all but one of the boxes of books were not for ASif! and instead were the random book buying purchases I did for a week a while back in a blur of online shopping and then forgetting. I had to actually stop completely when I couldn’t remember which sites I’d visited and what I’d actually bought. Just as well I stopped because I totally didn’t remember shopping at Fishpond at all and the evidence says differently!

Just after I posted my first Creativity Dysfunction post, Amazon sent me a book recommendation that looked gorgeous – Sunday Morning Quilts. It got me thinking about quilts but then I deleted the link. Then I was auditioning some quilt related podcasts maybe two weeks ago now. One of them was American Patchwork and Quilting Radio (still not sure I like this one). The episode I listened to had the two authors of Sunday Morning Quilts on as guests. I was actually more interested in them talking about their blogs and the communities they’d built around them and how. And then they spoke about the book and I realized a) it was the book I’d seen and b) their thing is scrap quilting and in fact, playing with colour and scraps. I was INTRIGUED.

I went straight home and spent *quite some time* on the webs looking at options, their blogs and also some books. It had not occurred to me until that moment that scrap quilts – plural – was a thing. That I could in fact make several. Or that they are ongoing projects rather than one ongoing project and I could finish the one I’m making and then move on. That I need not feel the weight of the ever-increasing- with every other project – pile-of-scraps. That scraps could be a great thing, just like stash. I got excited. And then, for some reason, I did not buy that particular book but these.

I’m really excited by the uniformity that lots of small pieces of non uniform fabrics can convey. I’m ready to get started!! (except for that pesky in progress and queued queues of projects)

And so now I do not know why I didn’t get Sunday Morning Quilts. A look on Fishpond has it quite expensive, which could be the reason but it’s not as expensive on other sites. Hmmm …I also had a great peek around the book online last night. I think I’ll start sorting my scrap stash in the meantime, anyway.

I also got these knitting books. Guess why?

 Yup – 1 point for Knitting and 2 points for LISTS!!

And the other is Elizabeth Zimmerman, who is Knitting. The book inside seems to be The Opinionated Knitter and she’s grumpy and fabulous.

I had a quick squizz through Knitter’s Life Lists last night. It’s a combination of lists of things you should do before you die (love!) and also all kinds of interesting factoids and resources to go chase up. I’m definitely one for setting goals for lists of things I want to do, less on the execution of (you may have noticed …) Though I also quite like the idea of just setting aside a small portion at a time/year to look at.

I hunted through to see how part of the knitting zeitgeist I am – in their research for the book they asked lots of knitters what their goal patterns and stitches and techniques and so on were and that was used to compile some of them. I tend to not really *apply myself in knitting. I like the monotony of known patterns and stitches and I tend to knit to switch off. Except, actually that’s not really true at all. When I looked at, for example, all the yarns you should aim to try at some point in your life, I thought that wasn’t something I was really interested in, flicked down the list and thought, “ooh but bamboo! And seasilk and soy silk!” – materials I’ve been wanting to try for agggges. And then when I looked at sweaters and the holy grail and very long list of things to try there, I saw I’m already working on a couple of them! – the kimono jacket, which is my first ever sweater, and also I have the Baby Surprise Jacket which I bought all the yarn for when my niece was incubating and then didn’t make. I’ve since tracked down the pattern (it was hard to find as basically out of print) and now I have a new nephiece coming so I was intending to whip that up for them. So I’m already working on these and I realise do get adventurous at times. Only need a little bit every year and my lifetime of knitting will always be new and challenging.

And then I noticed that the list has Alice Starmore on it.

And look what also arrived in the same book haul, talk about yet more synchronicity.

I’ve not really ever had a desire to try fair isle other than … maybe if I’m stuck on 6 months holidays somewhere and really had no tv to watch or something… But I came across Adrienne Martini on Cast On a while ago (yes, it’s the same Adrienne Martini, the world is this small and I LOVE it) and she was talking about this book that she wrote which was based on her one year quest to complete an Alice Starmore sweater. That’s all I know about the book but I was instantly drawn to it and wished I’d known about it to follow along her journey of it. I can’t wait to read all about it. I just love these kinds of things (similar to the Julie and Julia blog etc). I wish I could be consistent for a year and commit to one thing that I could obsess about (oh! Nevermind! Stop judging!) Anyway, these sweaters are really hard to make and also, really hard to find the yarn, I think. I’ll tell you more when I’ve read the book which I’m dying to start right now.

And finally, I got Redwood and Wildfire from Aqueduct Press which is very funny because in the morning I’d gotten a refund on postage for a book I’d ordered the night before (Brit Mandeolo’s new book on Joanna Russ) and was swooning about how much I love Aqueduct Press books and then one of the packages had their sticker on it and I thought … huh? What ELSE have I bought! This is the Tiptree winner for this year and Tansy raved about it on Galactic Suburbia as well. I’m thinking if you liked The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, you might like this. But I’ll let you know.

So many books and craft and things and so fricking little time!

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First, some book p0rn. Here’s my WFC stash:

From my con bag I kept The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle and Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. The top four books are from Charles Tan and are Philippine SF for me to bring home. I did some secondhand bookshopping with S, D and V and walked away with the Agatha Christie and the Andre Nortons. And the rest, I’m afraid, was dealer room shopping. I love the kind of bookshopping you do with friends. I’d told Jonathan and Ellen that I’m looking for old books written by women (the few I bought are the ones wrapped in plastic) and they both kept popping out at me from behind bookstacks to read me out crazy blurbs or first pages. And then when Ellen had been unsuccessful at nabbing Jonathan a copy of Delia’s book because they were quickly sold out at her book launch, we rushed off to the dealer’s room where rumour had it there were a few left. So I joined in and bought a copy too and then as the three of us were heading out of the centre in search of the bar or something, we bumped straight into Delia so we all promptly thrust our copies at her for signing. Much fun.

And then, *even though* I am starting to stress about things like “how will we afford children?” and “what if this is my very last year of fulltime paid work (and can no longer impulse buy yarn/fabric/books on the internet)?” I seem to be dealing with that by doing things like this, the books I have acquired *since* coming home from WFC:

And my to read bookcase, before the addition of the above:

And the worst of it? Those are all OLD books. The 2012 publishing year has already begun and I can be sure that on the next episode of Galactic Suburbia, Tansy is going to tell me about a bunch of books I should have read.

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So, I’m moving house and complaining about how much stuff I have and asking why I have so much stuff. I didn’t think I had that many books (been feeling down about how many books I have) and yet, in moving them – I have a lot of books. So we spent the morning working on culling, packing and moving and then headed past the Planet Books sale. We needed some books on puppy training.

My haul (for a mere $37 – ridiculous!)

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Passage by Connie Willis

Wizard Squared by K E Mills

The Margarets by Sheri S Tepper


Now, I’d been starting to think, since I HAVE been reading, that I could justify some book accumulation. Probably not 5 new books though. So am blogging here to remind myself to either finish 5 books and/or remove 5 books from my current collection/to read shelves.



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