Thursday, September 24, 2020

Making Plans and Tying Up Loose Ends

It's Thursday again, and I'm linking up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday (even though it feels a bit like cheating) because I have three photos to share today.

First, my top priority today, as far as knitting is concerned, is finishing up my sister-in-law's socks. I am very close to the toe of the second sock and had hoped to finish it last night, but it ended up being a bit busier than I had anticipated. The good news is that I have one work meeting today and a board meeting this evening, so even if I get too busy to knit during the day, those two meetings alone should be sufficient time to knock out a toe.

I am also getting ready to cast on some new project, and to that end I have some yarn winding to do.

Tomorrow is the kickoff for one of the big knitalongs I participate in every year, and WIPs do not count (hence my goal to finish the socks), so I am getting things ready to start some new projects tomorrow. The yarn in the photo above is a sweater set from Fibernymph Dye Works that I bought specifically for Joji Locatelli's Radiate pullover (Ravelry link), and I am finally ready to cast it on. I'm still debating which size to knit; the 34.75" bust will just fit me in the chest (Joji recommends about 2 inches of positive ease), but the next size up, 38", will be pretty loose in the arms. The yarn is a superwash, which means I can coax some additional room out of it, so at this point I'm leaning toward the smaller size. Any advice is welcome!

Finally, I'll leave you with a sticker I spotted on a car yesterday while I was out on a walk. This same car also has a magnet on it for Rainbow's school, and it made me doubly happy to see this -- I hope you can get its meaning:

Have a wonderful weekend! See you back here on Sunday for some spinning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday: Keeping Up the Pace

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers today to catch you up on what I've been reading lately. Even though Book Bingo has been over for several weeks, I haven't slowed my pace, and if I keep it up, I might just hit 100 books read this year (I'm already at 74)!

I've finished three books since this time last week, all good reads:

recommended Zadie Smith's recent collection of essays reflecting on the current state of affairs in one of our recent Zoom calls, and when I found I had some Amazon credits to cover the cost of the Kindle book, I snapped it up. It's a very quick read (maybe an hour), but an enjoyable one. Though Zadie Smith had been on my radar for a while, this was the first of her works that I've actually read. I enjoyed her writing so much that I borrowed another of her books from the library (see current reads below). This small volume isn't anything earth-shattering, but it's always a joy for me to read anything by a writer who has such a commanding control of language. I gave it 4 stars.

While most of my book recommendations come from my blog friends, my next read came from a much closer source: Rainbow! While she isn't yet quite the reader I am, she does enjoy books a lot (we're still working on her attention span, which seems to be the main challenge in getting her to read longer books). She is particularly a fan of graphic novels, and she's read this one twice and enjoyed it so much that she insisted I read it. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy is a modern retelling of Little Women that really brings the story of the four sisters into the 21st century. Their family in this version is a blended, interracial one, and they deal with very different obstacles compared to the original March sisters. It was a fast read and a really appreciated fresh take on one of my favorites. I gave it 4 stars.

I'd been waiting on The Mothers from the library for quite a while and was a bit surprised when my hold came up sooner than expected. That I finished it in two days, even with work and all the stuff I have to do in my daily life, should tell you just how good it was. I knew very little about the plot before I put it on hold; others' recommendations were enough to convince me I needed to read it. And I was not at all disappointed. It's a really stunning look at all sorts of relationships -- familial, romantic, friend, etc. -- and it's beautifully written. I did find it to be a bit sad, overall, and there was no real satisfying resolution (at least in my opinion), but all the same it's worth a read. I gave it 4 stars, and I'm eagerly awaiting my hold on Bennett's most recent book, The Vanishing Half.

At this time last week, all my library holds looked like they were about two weeks from being ready for me, so I decided to borrow Zadie Smith's White Teeth. This was a mistake, of course, because in borrowing something else from the library rather than something I already had on my Kindle shelf, I pretty much guaranteed all my holds would come up at the same time! So right now I am reading a book that had already been available for me but that I'd delayed delivery on once, Christina Baker Kline's newest, The Exiles. I am nearly halfway through and really enjoying it. I'm also expecting my next Gamache book to be ready for me in the next couple of days, and I had to put another hold that came up on delay for the time being as well. It never rains but it pours, am I right? I suppose having too many good books to read is not something to complain about, but all the same I'd like to have more hours in the day to read them.

I hope you've been reading some great books lately, and I'm all ears if you have recommendations!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Feeling Equinox-y

It is officially fall, though the past several mornings it's felt more like winter. Aside from the fact that the house is colder than I'd like, I'm really enjoying this cooler weather and the chance it affords me to break out my woolens! It's also kicked my sock mojo into high gear. I finished up my mother-in-law's socks last week, though they haven't been blocked yet (so please excuse their wonkiness):

I'm pretty chuffed with how well I managed to match up the stripes -- the only place where they're a little off is at the tip of the toe, where one sock has a little more gray (like maybe one more round) than the other. I'm not too concerned about that, because I highly doubt the recipient will notice and certainly it'll be hidden in her shoes anyway.

The next sock recipient is my sister-in-law, whose feet I finally measured about a month ago. It turns out that she has large feet -- 9.25 inches around and 9.5 inches long -- so sportweight ankle socks are the way to go! You saw the start of the first sock last Thursday, but I've since finished it and cast on for the second (which now has part of the heel flap done):

This yarn was a OOAK colorway, and I honestly didn't expect it to do this palindrome-style striping, so that was a fun surprise. I did not worry about making these match because the striping sequence is too long and the yardage too short, plus I think these fun colors make mismatched socks even more fun. These have been perfect to work on during work meetings, and I fully expect them to be a finish pair by the end of the week.

Just a short post from me today, but I'll be back tomorrow because there has been reading, and a lot of it. Happy equinox!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Mixed Bag

I was really looking forward to this weekend. The weather was supposed to be nice, and of course we had the holiday to look forward to. And then on Friday evening, just after we'd finished dinner, we heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. She was a much-admired human in this household, particularly by Rainbow, who took the news really hard, and it put a damper on the celebratory mood as we went to bed that night.

The weather was pretty spectacular both yesterday and today, true perfect fall days, with clear, sunny skies and a crispness to the air -- good running weather (I did five miles yesterday afternoon)! If this had been a normal year, we would have enjoyed that sunshine while we walked to and from our synagogue for services and then during lunch out at one of our favorite restaurants with my parents and brother (the place we usually go has a nice patio that's enclosed but still feels like it's in the open air). But obviously this is not a normal year, so we instead "went" to services from the comfort of our family room couch, watching on our TV via YouTube. And then yesterday evening my parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law came to share Rosh Hashanah dinner with us on our deck, safely distanced from one another. Again, if it were a normal year, we would have been at my parents' house with the extended family; I must report to you that my mother still cooked as though all that extended family was going to be joining us, and we'll be eating leftovers for the next several days!

Though things were strange and the holiday was tinged by a sense of sadness, I am so very thankful to still have been able to celebrate with my loved ones. We are all safe and healthy, and that's what matters.

Spinning has been happening here as well. I managed to ply up the yarn I was spinning for Rainbow last night and skeined and washed it today. It got to dry out on the porch this afternoon (and I have a feeling that's a practice I won't get to enjoy for much longer, although soon enough I'll be able dry skeins on a warm radiator). I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out -- and, more importantly, Rainbow is delighted with it.

The colors are a little less washed-out than they appear here; by the time the yarn was dry enough for a photo, the light was already starting to fade. Here's a better representation and a close up of the twist:

I was trying to spin this a bit thicker, and I certainly succeeded. I'd say this is about a DK or worsted, and I have approximately 220 yards of it, which is square in worsted territory.

I started my next spinning project earlier this afternoon, and it'll be a quick spin as well. I am trying to get back on track with spinning fiber I put on my 20 in 2020 list, so I pulled out these batts that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool several years ago. They're a blend of merino, sari silk, and nylon sparkle.

There's 3 oz. of fiber total in these six little batts, so I'm spinning three onto one bobbin and three onto another for a two ply. I am spinning them semi-worsted (so I'm using a short forward draw on a carded prep), and I'm really not trying to get singles that are too insanely consistent. The sari silk creates a lot of texture, and I want to maintain that. In about an hour of spinning, I'd already gotten through one batt and started a second, so I think it's fair to say that this fiber should be in yarn form in short order.

After all the fine spinning I did for my most recent sweater spin, I am really enjoying how much faster these singles go, so I might continue and plow through several more bags of fiber when this is done.

I hope you've had a pleasant weekend. I'm off to go eat some leftovers!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Three Hopes for the New Year

I know many of us have trouble remembering what day of the week it is, but I'm also sure most of you are aware enough of the calendar to wonder why I'm talking about a new year in the middle of September. Well, my friends, that's because Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts tomorrow at sundown. The new year is 5781, which right now is a heck of a lot more appealing to me than 2020. And because it's Thursday, I thought I'd join Carole and friends to share three things I'm hoping to do more of in the new year to come.

1. More civic engagement
I'm really thankful to Carolyn for pointing me to Postcards to Voters, an easy way for me to help the get out the vote effort in a time of social distancing (and in a way that's very appealing to an introvert who hates talking on the phone). On my to-do list for today is to get 30 postcards written up to send to Kentucky voters to encourage them to vote for Amy McGrath. I got the postcards from Etsy and ironically had to wait the longest to get the stamps from the post office, but I'm set for a while now!

2. More knitting for others
As much as I love hand-knit socks, I have so many pairs that it feels selfish to continue to knit them for myself, and I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of sharing the joy of wearing hand-knit socks by making them for my loved ones. I finished my mother-in-law's pair yesterday, so now I'm on to a pair of ankle socks in sport weight for my sister-in-law. I'm starting to think sport weight may be the way to go because it's so fast!

3. More running
Normally at this time of year I'd be in my last days of training for the two 5K races that the Mister and I typically run, the Pittsburgh Great Race and a neighborhood run that raises money for the local Boys & Girls Club. The neighborhood event isn't happening, but the Great Race went digital this year, meaning if you were signed up for it you'd get your race t-shirt and finisher medal and you could do your event any time you wanted. Though you don't have to do it, you can enter your time online, which I did after a particularly good run on Tuesday (cool temps for the win!):

I know that's not the fastest time ever, but I went to look up my final time from last year's event, which I believe was a PR for me at the time, and it was 28:33. That means I shaved almost two and a half minutes off my previous best time -- and that is amazing to me! I have been running a lot these past six months, not so much to set any records but because the exercise is good for me, both in terms of my long-term health and my mental health. There's been so much anxiety during this time, and I've found that my daily exercise really helps to dispel a lot of that for me. A nice thing about working from home is that I can take my lunch break at any time, really, so I've been taking it mid-morning most days to go out for a run or walk, and I've really noticed how much better I've felt, physically and emotionally, since I started this new routine. I know one day I will be back in the office full time and this new habit will have to come to an end, but for now, I'm keeping up with it.

On a more serious note, I'm thinking a lot about what this time of year in the Jewish calendar means. It's said that during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is decided who will live and who will die in the year to come. This year, that decree feels much more serious and real. We can't always change whether we or our loved ones will live or die; so much is left up to chance or fate or whatever you want to call it. Certainly with the pandemic, it's become much more clear that there are some steps we can take to reduce our chance of dying from this particular disease -- staying home, wearing a mask, keeping our distance from others. But we can't control others, and we can't foresee what the future will hold. My friends, regardless of whether this weekend is a holiday for you or not, I send you all my best wishes for health and happiness. As we say: May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

More Multitasking

It's another cool morning here in Western Pennsylvania, currently 55F as I type, and my toes are very happy to be wearing some wool socks! It's Wednesday, or so the calendar tells me, so I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers to chat about what I'm knitting and what I'm reading.

After finishing up my sweater, my top priority was that secret project that I couldn't show you. I'm happy to say that I finished it on Monday, and the sample has been blocked. Now I just need to finish writing up the pattern and get it and the sample off to the publisher. I'm hoping to have all that done by the end of the week. And now my sock mojo is running high!

These are socks for my mother-in-law for the holidays, and I'm nearly done with the second. One of the joys of working from home is that I can knit while I work, when feasible, and I got all of the gusset decreases on the second sock done yesterday while proofing a document. I expect I'll be able to finish this sock today, and then I'm planning on casting on some socks for my sister-in-law (who, I think, is the only member of the immediate family who has not received a pair of hand-knit socks from me because I didn't have her feet measurements until recently).

Stockinette socks are good knitting to do while reading, and I've been doing some of that this week as well. I finished another good book over the weekend (in fact, I stayed up late one night to finish it!).

A number of my well-read friends recommended Deacon King Kong, and I decided to give it a go because I really enjoyed McBride's writing in Song Yet Sung. I'll admit that when I first started reading, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it because the setting and characters seemed so wildly outside my usual areas of interest. But I have so rarely been led astray by the friends who'd recommended it, so I stuck with it. I am so glad I did! It's pretty much impossible to describe what this book is about save that it involves a cast of pretty unforgettable characters who seem like they'd be completely unrelated but wind up all being involved in one slightly crazy and very complex story. The writing is excellent and the characterization superb. I gave it 4 stars.

Currently in progress (and likely soon to be finished) is a new book, published earlier this year, that I am reading for a discussion with the group that Mary hosts on Zoom on Sundays. The Mountains Sing is set in Vietnam and is told from the point of view of two women, Tran Dieu, who struggles to raise her children and keep her family safe during the rise of Communism, and her granddaughter Huong, who is struggling to find her own way and to connect with her family in the years during and just after the Vietnam War. It's interesting to get a non-Western perspective on a conflict that was so divisive here in the United States, and the book has made it clear to me just how little I know about the region and the politics of the time.

I'm waiting on several holds from the library to come up, so there should be lots more reading in the coming days. I'd love to hear what good reads you've been getting lost in lately!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Perfect Timing

I rarely seem to finish things at the right time to use them. It's not unusual for me to finish a heavy, super-warm sweater in the middle of the summer. But friends, this time I got it right. When I got up this morning, it was 46F outside -- fall is here! And I have a brand-new sweater to wear!

Pattern: Torbellino (Ravelry link) by Kristen Jancuk, size XS
Yarn: Jill Draper Makes Stuff Kingston (100% Targhee wool) in Hasbrouck Ave. (red) and Wiltwyck (gray)
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: July 8/September 9
Mods: adjustments for gauge (see below)

This project had been planned for quite a while. I bought the pattern as part of the larger collection (Ravelry link) that Kristen released in the spring of 2018 and then bought the yarn for the sweater at Maryland Sheep and Wool that May. Jill had just released the yarn, and I went to her booth first for the specific purpose of getting my hands on some for this sweater.

When I finally got around to casting on this sweater this summer, finally egged on to do it by Kristen's Sweater-along, I discovered that not only did I probably need to knit a smaller size than I originally intended, but I had to knit the smallest size because my gauge was a bit off and going down another needle size would have resulted in bulletproof fabric. Knitting a smaller size worked for my stitch gauge, but my row gauge was also off a tad, so I had to add some additional rounds to the yoke to make up for the difference. If you looked closely at the slip-stitch colorwork in the yoke, you'd see that I have more of it than called for, as I added additional rounds (without increasing) and continued the colorwork pattern.

Other than those minor modifications, I followed the pattern as written, and I'm really happy with how it turned out! I also used much less yarn than anticipated -- only about 790 yards of the red and a bit less than 100 yards of the gray. That leaves me plenty leftover to play with in another project; I'm thinking mittens.

Wearing this sweater will take a little bit of thought due to the wide neckline and shorter sleeves; I'm used to wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath my sweaters, and that really won't work with this one (though certainly if I wear that ensemble at home, no one but my family will see me and they already think I'm a bit odd). I had to tuck in my bra straps for these photos, but I don't see that as a viable solution for the long term. Any advice on how to wear a wide neckline like this? You can tell I don't usually go for this silhouette because I'm clueless about how to wear it!