One good about having relatives spread across a wide area is that gifts intended for specific dates often arrive at times that spread to form a skewed distribution in the vicinity of the date. I'm not certain if my birthday presents skew right or left (I think it depends on whether one's looking forward or back through time), but at any rate they're still arriving. My sister usually asks what I'd like, so I try to have a list of stuff available from Amazon for her to choose from (I toy with the idea of demanding yarn from obscure online retailers shipping only to North America, but that seems... unreasonable). Anyway, while procrastinating madly, er, compiling the list one day I discovered the Crossed in Translation KAL for Am Kamin in 'New Style of Heirloom Knitting'. I'm trying to cut down on cables, so was pleased to find Crafting Japanese which strangely enough features links to a variety of crafts in Japan and has a list of books, each with a lovely little thumbnail of the cover, which is where another book by Toshiyuki Shimada caught my eye. The review at Purlwise had only to mention that Google translates the title as something like 'European knit it is dense thing' for me to put it at the top of the list. I'm still considering the meaning of that stunningly profound statement as I admire the contents of the book. It's fabulous, a little paperback full of attractive and beautifully presented puzzles.
The items (gloves, mittens, scarves and hats) seem so... elegant. Tiny, intricate interpretations of Northern European techniques incorporating colour combinations so tasteful they leave me painfully aware that I'm a hulking great Caucasian barbarian. There are little sequences of photographs showing how to cast on for fair-isle or twined knitting (at least I think that's what they show), and the charted instructions are straight out of a perfectly-drawn manga. And all with such decorative text! Not a word of English anywhere. Best of all was the note from K telling me that if there's anything I can't understand she'll forward an image of the problem to several Japanese ladies who knit.
I am, however, not without my talents :-) I need an illustration to explain the importance of what are known as 'veteran trees', trees at least several hundred years old (I know of one that's at least 700 years old), home to an astonishing range of wildlife that relies on the holes, hollows, crevices and dead wood characteristic of ancient trees. I have photos of veteran trees in this particular park, but no photo shows all the important features: that's what illustrators are for. Being a bit pressed for time I threw my photo into Illustrator and began tracing/drawing, using colours that stood out against the overall greenness. The final version appears in shades of brown and green without the photo behind it, but I think this WIP looks amazing. I lay odds visitors would pay much more attention to the veteran trees if they were highlighted in neon lights.
p.s. That's him sitting on the bench, watching the cricket. The tree is a sweet chestnut growing in one of several clumps that were probably planted in the 1770s as part of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown's design for what was then a private landscape.