Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

The Secret Way of Patterns


This is both a happy and sad story but I’m hoping that readers can help this story have an exceptional ending.

Miriam wearing The Secret Way of Patterns

Miriam wearing The Secret Way of Patterns

My niece Miriam (7 years old) wants to be a fashion designer (and the Prime Minister of Canada but that’s another story). She spends a great deal of time drawing outfits and has had very distinct opinions on fashion style for several years. I thought it would be a great activity for us to start designing knitting patterns together and Miriam agreed.

Early in 2016 we went out to a local coffee house to discuss what Miriam wanted for her cowl. She made some initial sketches and we went through one of my Japanese stitch pattern books together, with Miriam marking down the number of the patterns she liked for about 20 pages before she got overwhelmed. She then narrowed the selection to 5 or 6 patterns after which we discussed how she’d like the cowl knit.

Of course, she had clear ideas about the direction the knitting should be done (along the length), the length of the cowl, how the patterns should go together (in bands) and the way the patterns should be repeated. She quickly narrowed down the smaller patterns to go between the larger motif but it took a bit of work before she finally managed to get it down to a final selection.

I swatched the patterns and that resulted in more fine-tuning and a change in how the smaller motifs were ordered between the larger one. After another swatch, Miriam was satisfied and I was ready to begin knitting on her cowl.

Miriam's sketch for her cowl

Miriam’s sketch for her cowl

Miriam wanted her cowl knit in a cream colour, with large blue buttons so she could wear it multiple ways. The result is the shorter sample which she is modeling in the photos. I knit this over the summer and part of it was done while in Haliburton (Ontario). My friends and I had rented a cottage there while they attended Indigodragonfly’s Stained Fingers Dye Camp. Kim McBrien Evans saw the piece and asked what I was working on and I told her the story behind the pattern. Kim got very excited and wanted to support Miriam in her design work and offered yarn support for the adult version of the cowl, which she is wearing in the photo of her and Miriam.

It was decided that the design would be “launched” at the Knitter’s Fair (held each September by the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters’ Guild) in the Indigodragonfly booth. I was really excited because that meant I could take Miriam to the show and she could see her design on display, meet Kim and get inspired for our next design collaboration by looking at all the yarn.

Knitting was done, the pattern was written up and all was on track. Miriam named it “The Secret Way of Patterns.” We were going to have to do the photo shoot after the event but excitement was building for Miriam and I, as well as for my mother, Miriam’s grandmother. Other family members had seen the cowl since it was finished but Miriam hadn’t seen it. The plan was for it to be a surprise for her a day or two before the show. But this is where the story gets very sad.

Mom wearing Vieux Carré Stole

My Mom wearing Vieux Carré Stole

Three days before the Knitter’s Fair my mother passed away very suddenly due to health complications from a long term illness. None of us were expecting that and it was devastating to all of us, but especially to Miriam and her brother. It’s difficult to lose a grandmother at any age but it’s especially traumatic when you are under the age of 10. Friends scrambled together to get the sample to Kim for the show but we weren’t sure if Miriam and I would attend. Friday night I showed the cowl to Miriam and she suddenly started crying. I asked why and she said “Grandma won’t ever get to see it, how will she know I’m a designer now?” Luckily I was able to reassure her that Grandma did see it and thought it was beautiful. And in the end we attended the Knitter’s Fair together and Miriam got to meet Kim, show off her first design and feel like a designer for the first time, although it was very bittersweet. And even though we both felt very sad, we still had the photo shoot this past Saturday and Miriam did a great job.

Kim and Miriam at KW Knitter's Fair

Kim and Miriam at KW Knitter’s Fair

Now here’s where I’m hoping some of you can help make this story have an exceptional ending. My mother had asked that Learning For Humanity be listed as the charity for those wishing to make a donation in her name – she believed so much in education. My mom taught me to dream and passed on her love of crafting to both Miriam and I. She was always very supportive of my designing and was so excited that Miriam and I were designing together. In fact, the photo of my mother used for her funeral is her wearing my Vieux Carré Stole, a design I knit as a gift for her.

Miriam and I want to honour and remember my mother by supporting Learning For Humanity and inviting many others to support it as well. We’ve decided that 100% of the money from pattern sales of The Secret Way of Patterns will go to support the installation of Learning For Humanity educational systems in schools in Zambia until the end of 2016. Miriam is hoping that we could sell several thousand patterns (she’s hoping to raise enough to cover the costs of one school – I told her that we would need to sell 8,000 patterns to do that).

So our request is this – can you help us give this story an exceptional ending? You can buy the pattern here or make a direct donation (and receive a charitable receipt) here.

Miriam wearing The Secret Way of Patterns on a swing


BOOK REVIEW: The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther


Maryam, the young daughter of an Iranian general, wants a different life than the one envisioned for her by her father. A man of influence, her father begins arranging a marriage for his beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter while Maryam longs for a life of adventure and to be a nurse. Her strong will and dreams cause her to be unsettled with her life and longing for freedome.

As violence erupts in her hometown, Maryam is left behind in the family compound and in her desperation she leaves safety to seek shelter with her father’s assistant Ali, for whom she secretly harbours feelings. Her return to the family home is noted by a family servant and – her secret out – she is summarily banished while Ali is brutally punished.

In present-day London, the arrival of Saeed, Maryam’s young nephew, sets off a chain of events whose roots extend back forty years. Maryam flees to her past in Iran leaving her daughter Sara behind to piece together long hidden secrets while caring for Saeed and her father.

Yasmin Crowther’s The Saffron Kitchen is set during the U.S.-backed 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s prime minister, Mossadegh. As the daughter of one of the Shah’s generals, Maryam’s willful behaviour causes shame for her father, an act which he is unable to forgive. His retribution is swift and fierce, setting off a deadly chain of consequences.

Maryam’s story is one of repression and a struggle for identity. Seeking a life different from that offered by her culture, she seeks a chance to be heard in a culture where her only value is as a bride and mother. “I thought of Zohreh, the deaf and dumb girl in Ehzat’s story and wondered whether I would ever be permitted to use the voice with which I had been born.”

Her punishment and subsequent banishment effectively silenced Maryam for decades. Even though she constructed a life in England and lived within a family, the violence in her history caused her to be cold and distant – a woman without country or identity.

Despite her history, Maryam’s belief that punishment made her strong and able to survive leads her to lash out at the weakness she perceives in Saeed. This act of aggression perpetuates the cycle of family violence and is the catalyst for change.

The Saffron Kitchen is told in the alternating voices of Sara and Maryam, moving through time to piece together Maryam’s fragmented story. The reader shares Sara’s quest to understand her mother and shares her anger at the wake of destruction which follows Maryam’s path.

Readers will feel horror at what Maryam lived through; however, Crowther makes the difficult choice to allow readers to feel outrage and anger toward her protagonist. Through this, Crowther forces readers to confront their own stereotypes and assess how individual choices affect family and friends, and eventually, to understand and accept Maryam’s decisions.

Yasmin Crowther shows exceptional promise with The Saffron Kitchen. It is difficult to fathom that such a strong voice is portrayed in a first novel. Where her inexperience shows is in balancing Maryam and Sara’s voices. Sara, unfortunately, is not an equal player and functions as a mechanism to move her mother’s story forward.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0670038113
ISBN13: 9780670038114

272 Pages
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Publication Date: December 28, 2006 (United States)
(released in Canada in August 2006)


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Audrey II

Angular Path Scarf

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Don't Ask Y

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