I say "pencilled notes" because I only write, or draw, in pencil, in this book. Pencil feels creatively provisional to me - it is reassuringly easy to erase and rewrite - but in a way it's strange to have information that I really want to preserve, mapped in such an ephemeral medium. When I was at university, my tutor was very sniffy about writing in pencil and claimed it reflected a "lack of willingness to commit to a given thesis and a lack of confidence in what one was expressing". I didn't agree then (and I don't agree now) that that is always a bad thing.
There's a softness about pencil notes that makes the transition from thought in the mind, to arrival on paper, easy and because writing in ink always feels more definite, it can restrict experimental expression, whether written or drawn. Pencil invites the experimental - it says, "Don't be afraid to try something, even if you decide it doesn't work and want to redo it or rework it." It says, "Why not push the limits, because you can always change your mind?" Ink is more demanding and less open to possibility and playing with options. It says, "Are you sure about this? Because if not, think again!" It says, "Stick to what is tried and tested rather than potentially make the mistake of playing around with what you don't know will work." Perhaps my tutor was right to be pejorative about a pencilled essay discussing Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" but for notes exploring creative options and marking creative progress, the open possibilities of graphite, I find much more congenial and comfortable than the unequivocal definition of ink.
Anyway I digress. Notebook Volume 2 is waiting in the wings and actually has quite a pretty pink cover of its own already, but I'd seen Sue Pinner's pattern for a notebook cover in "Granny Squares" and it seemed like a nice small-scale project that would have the benefit of making the notebook distinctively difficult to lose or, (God forbid!), leave behind somewhere, and the nature of its construction would supply the book with two convenient pockets for all the things that currently have a tendency to drop out of the old one.
So here it is. Complete with the first pickings from my slightly-dilatory-but-getting-there, sweet peas whose colours happen to harmonise rather nicely with the granny square centres.
I experimented with the colours of the tiny grannies a bit and wondered about making them all different but in the end I restricted the number of centre colours to six and made all the outer rounds in this chartreuse green. The squares are worked on a 3.75mm hook and I've used Cascade Ultra Pima cotton yarn from my stash. I usually use a 4mm hook with the Cascade Ultra Pima but this time I went down a size to make sure the squares came out nice and dense.
I know it's bright, but I love the way this kind of lime green acts unexpectedly, almost as a neutral colour, setting off all the others, while still blowing its own bright trumpet. I used the same green to crochet all the squares together once I had them arranged as I wanted them. I just can't get on with joining-as-you-go, somehow - quite apart from getting the components lined up as I want them, which I can't always decide on happily in advance, my joining-as-you-go efforts always look lumpy rather than smooth and even. I know many of you hooky people swear by it as a method and it saves a lot of time, so I wonder if I am simply doing it wrong. Perhaps I must try again.
The button is a printed wooden one
- couldn't resist them when I saw them here.
The cover is held in place by two panels of straightforward (but deliciously stripy!) single crochet, crocheted onto the border of the outer cover, to make two "sleeves" at either end. Perfect for holding templates, small pattern pieces, yarn labels or other vital scraps as well as their primary function of holding the cover on the book.
And the loop for the button neatly holds a nice fat twiggy pencil in place, ready for use. I like these pencils. They are made from Indian Neem twigs. Not very practical to sharpen as they are too fat to fit any normal pencil-sharpener and when blunt, require the judicious application of a very sharp craft knife, but they remain useable for a surprisingly long time and their quirky, slightly irregular shape, sits in harmony with the invitation to irregular possibility, that writing or drawing in pencil offers.
In his rather grim poem, "Dolor", Theodore Roethke writes "I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils, neat in their boxes" and you may agree with Roethke, but I can't see it that way. As a school-girl of around eight or nine, one of my favourite rainy break-time activities was to wend my way along the long corridor that led to "Stationery" and visit dear, kind Mrs Pepper in her treasure-store. The little room was piled high with new exercise books, pink blotting paper, pairs of compasses (with inch-long stiletto points, that would now be deemed far too dangerous to allow in the classroom, but which we blithely wielded without the slightest anxiety, or indeed, injury) and boxes of beautiful, shiny new pencils, each tipped with a soft, new rubber, on one end. On production of a completed exercise book, or a note initialled by the teacher, you could collect new supplies, gratis, but you could also purchase items for yourself, for next to nothing.
"Stationery" smelt of paper and wood-shavings, coffee and filing boxes. It was a little hidden world in which no mistakes ever marred the white, squared pages of the red mathematics books (unlike mine, back in my desk, which was a sorry mess of painfully reworked sums, rubbings out and red ink crosses); creamy sheets of graph-paper waited expectantly for the perfect points of new "H" or even "2H" pencils to draw flamboyant, rainbow arcs against their checkered skies; ordinary "HB" pencils "neat in their boxes", held, not "inexorable sadness", but the promise of stories and poems waiting to be written and drawings that, you never knew, might give Picasso a run for his money; all was possible somehow and when the bell rudely ended my exploration of Mrs Pepper's wares, I never failed to return to the afternoon's lessons that awaited, without feeling re-energised and somehow encouraged to renew my efforts at intractable maths problems or whatever was on the timetable. I still love stationery shops and can happily wile away the odd half hour in them although they don't have the same evocative smell as the secret, paper-and-pencil-filled nooks of Mrs Pepper's hideaway, all those years ago.
Happy Hooking and Scribbling!