Harpsichord Time.

I’ve had three encounters with the song “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers, and each one has endeared me to it more than the one before it.

I’ve only had a passing interest in The Stranglers. I started listening to them in my junior year of high school, but was not particularly dedicated to them in the way I felt about some of my favorites at that time. The first track I’d ever heard was “All Roads Lead to Rome.” To this day I love how deliberate and controlled it is. The entire song is a little too faint. It never gets to the level you feel it should get to, it never builds, it never establishes contrast. It works for me.

I’d first heard “Golden Brown” in the fall of my senior year of high school, and it was good enough to walk to and from school to, but it was not among some of their more interesting tracks of theirs I’ve chased. Over the course of their career, The Stranglers released a series informally known as “The Chronicles of Vladimir.” They were mysterious, rough, and Soviet-inspired, and they had a sense of humor. Strung together, they tell a loose story of a comrade named Vladimir (and his wife, Olga). At the time they were very hard to track down, which made them precious. It took me THREE YEARS to track down all of the Vladimir tracks, nevermind the amount of time it took to compile a complete list of all the Vladimir tracks. Today I’m sure there’s some precompiled YouTube playlist for them or something.

It wasn’t until I heard “Golden Brown” a couple of years later in the opening scene of “He Died with a Felafel in his Hand” that it gained some significance with me. “Felafel,” by the way, is one of my favorite movies of all time, despite its badly cut trailer. It’s based on the book of the same name by John Birmingham, which is expensive to get in print. The Kindle edition is an affordable $9.99. I haven’t read it. The film is cool and beautiful and witty. I’m sure detractors would find it slow and self-indulgent, but I think it has a great deal of style and I find it beautiful on an aesthetic level and a storytelling level. It’s responsible for a lot of my self. Hearing “Golden Brown” and immediately recognizing it within the first nanosecond of “Felafel” felt very permanent in the context of the film and the context of the song.

The Stranglers are interesting in that they have two distinct sounds: They can sound very aggressive, very 1960s, in-a-word, jangly: “Peaches”, “Nice N’ Sleazy”, “Choosey Susie”, “Walk on By”, “No More Heroes” are all examples of this. Then there’s an entirely different aural trajectory: “Skin Deep”, “Always The Sun”, “All Roads Lead To Rome”, “Duchess”, “European Female.” It’s this latter category that I feel “Golden Brown” falls into, a softer, more ’80s sound. The discernible difference is that in the former they sound underproduced and in the latter they sound, well, produced. Apparently they used to have more of an edge, but went more mainstream as their career progressed.

I watched the video for “Golden Brown” a few times this past weekend. The video is really very nice, though I feel the stock footage of North Africa and the Middle East dilutes it. I prefer the ‘playing music in the parlour or whathaveyou’ parts. I’ve had harpsichords on my mind lately, which led me to do a little research. According to some famous British person who attempted to dance to this song on British Dancing With The Stars UK, this song is impossible to dance to, something about the “alternating bars” or something. I think a song that’s impossible to dance to is a curious idea, because music and dancing seem inexorably linked throughout history. It never crossed my mind that there could be a consonant song that was impossible to dance to. I really, really like this song.

Tagged with music

Winter Booties

Winter Booties

Hey I knit some booties for the future baby of my colleague, Annie. Annie is the Joan Holloway of the office I work at and, like Joan Holloway, she is going to have a baby next season. Annie was my chosen recipient in our office Secret Santa, where the constraints were four gifts at $5 each. I got some nice buttons for $3 and the rest was stuff I already had in my CRAFTSTASH.

Babies are kind of a BIG DEAL where I work; everyone is having them. I don’t care for children, but this year the answer to the question, “Do you want kids?” went from “No” to “Probably not.” THEN a few days ago I realized that children are like cats that you can show off in public, so I felt like I kind of understood the appeal. And then last night I dreamed I was PREGNANT and even though pregnancy strikes me as a little too sci-fi, I liked it in the dream, plus it explained why I’m so fat lately.

Winter Booties

The booties were knit with white superwash Dalegarn Baby Ull (so that they’re machine washable, although white yarn won’t felt anyway), but I also used two strands of silver and gold thread along with the white yarn for a very classic holiday feel, though the booties are really appropriate for any time of the year except for after Labor Day, because they are technically white shoes. I got the idea from a cowl I got at American Eagle, which was cream colored and had gold and silver threading throughout.

Winter Booties
Close-up of silver and gold thread

I listened to Brave New World on Audiobook as I knit these, as read by Michael Yorke. Audiobooks, I can’t get over them. I had Douglas Adams himself read me Hitchikers Guide, audiobooks are like getting famous people to talk to you. The booties took about an evening. I tried different seaming techniques, I even knit one in a different pattern that featured stockinette and at the conclusion of the evening I ended up knitting four booties, because I’m not a perfectionist.

The pattern is familiar: Saartje’s Booties, which I used for my friends Tony and Davida’s infant’s booties in 2010. I attempted stockinette booties but they didn’t look whimsical enough. I secured the buttons with nylon thread, the strongest thread in the world, so that the buttons are not a choking hazard. I also was tempted to put these little bows on the front, because I’m on an embellishment kick.

Winter Booties

Tagged with yarn


Let me tell you all about this tiny bear I crocheted. First, look how small it is compared to USB. Second, I think I found my purpose in life, and it’s crocheting tiny bears.

We don’t need more evidence that I’m the saddest, loneliest young woman alive - I’m writing this on a Saturday night - but I’m not being facetious when I say that crocheting this tiny bear was the singularly most rewarding experience of my life. I’m really moved by tiny objects, by things so small they take your breath away. I have vivid memories of excerpts from Indian in the Cupboard, our assigned reading in second grade, so I assume that’s when my interest in tiny objects began.

Production of the bear began over Thanksgiving weekend (and the weeks that followed), sitting on the sofa, watching/listening to movies and crocheting this tiny bear before I had to switch to audiobooks as the work demanded more of my visual attention. It was one of the best weekends of the year which is just tragic because I didn’t speak to anyone or leave my apartment for three days. Over the course of this project I watched An Education, A Serious Man, Synecdoche, New York and District 9 which are four I absolutely loved and I’m probably going to watch them all again soon and allow myself to weep. I also watched Submarine, Blue Valentine, Hanna, Super 8 and The Safety of Objects, which I liked a lot. I finished listening to Catch-22 on audiobook which is my favorite work of fiction. Consuming culture is very passive, but I didn’t feel guilty because my primary activity was producing something.

I crocheted the tiny bear as a Christmas gift for my boyfriend Andy’s mom, or as he calls her, Mum, because he’s from Northern Ireland and that’s hot. We mutually decided that an appropriate gift would be a Christmas ornament since his parents were welcoming me into their home for the holidays, and it would be a nice symbolic gesture where the ornament could act as a proxy for me being there at Christmas forevermore. I decided on my own that it was more within my ethos to make the ornament myself. I found “Beary Christmas” by Sue Pendleton on Ravelry and was struck by the level of detail and complexity of the finished object compared to all the other patterns for ornaments on Ravelry. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off, as my crochet skills are improvisational and intermediate at best, but I decided to take the risk. I was glad I did because I ended up creating something so fulfilling that I wanted to immediately leave my job and pursue crocheting tiny bears full-time.

Sue Pendleton’s work is beyond delightful. She has 81 patterns on Ravelry, all displaying an elevated level of craftsmanship and creativity. For instance, take her pattern Elspeth. It’s a tiny, fully-realized baby bear that fits in the palm of your hand, a bear for whom a thimble is too big to wear as a hat. It delighted me to no end, and then my delight got cranked up to 11 when I noticed that one of Elspeth’s accessories is AN EVEN TINIER BEAR. The tiny bear has its own tiny bear.

Tiny bears all the way down
It’s just tiny bears all the way down. Photos © Sue Pendleton.

The same level of detail and care present in all of Sue Pendleton’s finished objects also extended to the pattern I was sent for “Beary Christmas:” an 11 page, well-documented roadmap to creating my own tiny bear beyond the perfunctory list of materials and step-by-step instructions. Included were multiple photos for styling options, insets that documented techniques required to add a level of craftsmanship to the bear (did I mention that the bear is posable - the joints are done in such a way that allows this), a full list of resources for where to find materials and further information, a table intended for material substitution, and an appendix of abbreviations. The written instructions were very clear and a joy to follow. One thing I also appreciated about the pattern is the way it’s licensed; you can use the pattern to make bears and sell them, so long as they’re not mass-produced. This pattern is the reason I signed up for a Roth IRA; I want to retire as soon as possible because I feel like that phase of my life is the only one for which this would be an acceptable hobby so I really need to retire immediately because this is all I want to do.

One website I found through the list of external resources included with the pattern was Teds from Threads, an online shop and gallery for people who crochet tiny bears. Until the moment I saw this page I was unaware that this was a niche. I know amigurumi is a thing, but this seems pretty specific. The offerings of the store are all quirky, and that amuses me. Magnets smaller than constricted pupils to make removable accessories adhere to your bear or not. Brushes to groom the nap of your bear’s fur if you used fuzzy thread such as mohair or punch thread. Lilliputian eyes and noses. Buttons so small that they’re probably not even a choking hazard.



  • I had to stuff the parts of the bear WITH TWEEZERS.

  • As I worked on it, I kept its parts in an Altoid tin.

  • It was crocheted not with yarn but with thread. ACTUAL THREAD.
    Thread to crochet bear.

  • The core of the wreath is a foam washer from a hardware store

  • The dimensions of the finished object were not measured, but the bear will fit in the palm of your hand without touching the base of your fingers

Tagged with yarn