Thursday, 29 October 2009



I am a reader. I love to read. I take pride in my reading. But - knitting has come between me and my books.

Turns out, I love both too much to choose between them. Usually, on a tube ride into Central London, I will bring both a book and some knitting, and depending on the conditions of the train (how hot, how crowded, how bumpy) I will choose one or the other to take up the journey. (I absolutely, positively loathe any kind of waiting or idleness, and must keep busy somehow or else I go mad.)

At home, it's a different story. Do I read or do I knit?? How could I possibly choose? When I was writing my MA dissertation on knitting in literature, my supervisor even asked me if I was able to knit and read at the same time. (She really shouldn't have encouraged this.) I developed a method of opening a book out on to a pillow on my lap and weighing it down so it stayed open with my phone. This was okay, and fairly do-able as long as I wasn't knitting something too complicated or reading something too complicated.

And then, an epiphany. I didn't need to use my eyes to read - I could use my ears! So, my adventures in podcasts and audiobooks began. I have listened to a lot of stuff now. Here in the UK you can get a good amount of quality listening from BBC Radio 4. However, I just can't seem to get into the radio drama, The Archers, which seems to be their leading fiction. It seems strange, then, that now I live over here, I am in love with NPR - the closest thing Americans have to the BBC. In particular, I just can't get enough of This American Life. I will go as far as to say it's one of my favourite things in the world. Ever. (Other favourite things include Murder She Wrote, but for entirely different reasons...)

It's sort of difficult to explain TAL, but it's basically a real life story or stories based around a theme. It's an hour, weekly, and it's just never enough.

Going through TAL withdrawal for the rest of the week (it's available on Mondays on iTunes), I had to find something to tide me over. TAL lead me to The Moth - more real life stories, except these are one-off, 15 minute stories told live in front of an audience. It's people from all walks of life, and though they aren't necessarily professional story-tellers, it does often turn into a performance. Some are really funny (in fact most have elements of humour) and a lot of them are really touching.

From there, (because clearly, 1 hour of TAL and 15 mins of The Moth are just. not. enough.) I found Selected Shorts. This time it's fiction. Short stories from any time period, often read by actors or other theatre people. Also usually on a theme (French Fictions, anyone?). It's wonderful.

Not exhausted by all this storytelling, I then fall back on the knitting podcasts. I have tried out quite a few over the past couple of months, and my favourites are now The Electric Sheep and Stash & Burn. I also used to enjoy the Cast On podcast, but she hasn't had a new show on since early August, so fingers crossed she comes back. Cast On is probably the most professionally made of the three, but I have to admit I actually like the more lo-fi atmosphere of the other two. Of course, the host, "Hoxton Handmade", of Electric Sheep, has a voice for Radio 4 - a clear, English, made-for-reading-the-news voice that's lovely to listen to. Not everything she talks about is necessarily knitting related, but great for knitting along to. She even throws a ukulele Radiohead performance in there occasionally. The Stash & Burn podcast is great for catching up on what patterns are big on Ravelry at the moment, info about different yarns, etc - and they always have a great song on at the end that usually I have never heard before.

So needless to say, with all this listening, I have been getting a lot of knitting done. But that's not all! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have also been taking advantage of the free, in-the-public-domain audiobooks that are available on My library also has audiobooks to check out, and I've currently got Ali Smith's The Accidental on the go.

In the photo above: a favourite antique book - an 1892 copy of Charles Dickens' Christmas Boooks and the in-progress and appropriately named Endpaper Mitts by Eunny Jang. Book vs Yarn crisis averted.


rosemary said...

I'm a total TAL fanatic, too! I download the podcast every Monday morning to listen on my drive between school and home (about 2 hrs) - and the time just flies by. I'll have to check out the other podcasts you mentioned; I'm always looking for driving entertainment :)

Renee said...

I have Stash and Burn on right now. Like you, I hate wasted time and knit or read in any off minutes I can find. Thanks for the heads up on all the great stuff to listen to while I knit. :)

kate said...

Even far apart our great minds think alike. I just discovered The Moth not all that long ago. When I drove to Colorado with Emily I made a ton of mix cd's and also brought some TAL and Moth podcasts that I burned. Good stuff. And yes, I owe you an email. Its coming. This weekend. xoxo

meghanaf said...

So glad I am not the only one enjoying TAL. I just listened to the first episode of the new Moth Radio Hour ( It's amazing - I cried - seriously. Highly recommended. Happy listening!