Thursday, November 26, 2020

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving here in the United States, a day that has a somewhat troubling mythology, but nevertheless a day for gathering with family and giving thanks for our blessings. This year will of course be noticeably different from Thanksgivings past. There will be only three of us around the table, and we'll be seeing all our family only via computer screen. But this year, more than any other I can remember, I'm feeling more thankful. There are the very obvious things to be thankful for -- good health, good food to eat, a roof over our heads, steady jobs, etc. -- but also some nontraditional things. So because it's Thursday, here are three things I'm feeling lucky for this year.

1. My library
I have always been a big fan of my local library, dating back to when I was little kid and used to visit about once a week to check out big stacks of picture books. In the past couple of years, I've discovered the apps that enable me to check out ebooks and audiobooks, but it really wasn't until this year that I really took full advantage of them. I'm on track to read about 100 books this year, and when all is said and done, I think the vast majority of them will have been library books. I really credit all the reading I've done this year with helping me to keep my sanity during these difficult times.

2. The internet
In a time when it's been downright dangerous to be around other people, the internet has enabled me to connect with so many others. It's made it possible for me to work from home, stay in touch with family and friends, attend fiber events that have been canceled in person, and find sources of entertainment and distraction. The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but I can't imagine getting through it without the ability to connect across distance and time zones.

3. Online friends
This last one is about all of you, dear readers. I knew a few of you before this year, but thanks to our reliance on our computers, I have gotten to know so many more of you this year. We have read books together, shared our knitting projects, swapped recipes, and talked politics. We've emailed, commented, and chatted in real time on Zoom calls. I feel so lucky to know you all!

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving today, I hope it's a meaningful holiday for you. I hope it's full of good food and some good company. I hope that all of you stay safe and healthy, and let's hope that the world looks very different at this time next year!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday WIPs

Good morning and welcome to the last full day of Thanksgiving prep! Rainbow and I have just prepped two loaves of challah for the stuffing (which translates to cutting off all the crust, cubing the insides, and leaving it to dry out a bit). Yesterday we baked three dozen pumpkin cranberry muffins and made fresh cranberry sauce. Today, in addition to mixing up the stuffing (my great-grandmother's recipe, which is really more of a savory bread pudding), we'll mix up the mashed sweet potatoes, leaving only the turkey, gravy, and apple pie for tomorrow. I honestly thought that I'd spend most of this week crafting, but cooking for Thanksgiving, even when it's a smaller-than-normal dinner, takes a lot of time!

Today I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers to chat about my knitting and my reading.

After I finished my Hitchhiker, I realized that other than a shawl that's in hibernation, I had nothing on the needles! There's still a fair amount of holiday knitting to do, though, so I wasted no time in casting on the first pair of man socks. These are for my father; I figured I'd do his first because they're in the darker (and therefore harder to see) yarn and also because I will want to mail my parents gifts early in December.

I know the yarn looks like a plain-old navy here, but it's actually a pretty complex shade of Knit Picks Stroll called Midnight Heather that has some green and teal shades in it.

Neither of the dads is very adventurous in his clothing choices, so this is about as wild as I could get for my father. I've picked an equally sedate color for my father-in-law, a color called Jack Rabbit Heather that I'd describe as a warm brown-gray:

Both guys are getting plain stockinette socks, worked over 70 stitches, with a heel flap and gusset and wedge toe. I started the first sock on Monday and worked on it through a (Zoom) board meeting, and I already have nearly 5 inches complete on the leg. If I can manage to find time to knit (perhaps while the turkey is in the oven tomorrow?), I think the socks will go quickly. It's really all about prioritization.

Meanwhile, the Giftalong started at 8 last night, so once I got Rainbow into bed, I cast on a gift for her. Last year she saw and fell in love with the Fantastical Fox Mitts (Ravelry link), and while I got the pattern, I didn't have the time or the right yarn to make them for her. So I'm making them now and keeping my fingers crossed that she still likes them!

I'm using Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Allspice and White and knitting the smallest size, though I think there will still be a bit of room for Rainbow to grow. As nice as it is to have her home -- and we've just learned that there are three diagnosed cases of COVID among staff at her school, so I expect she'll be home longer -- it does make it difficult to knit for her in secret! I can only work on presents for her when she's asleep, and this week she's been going to bed later.

Since my last Unraveled Wednesday post, I have finished three books:


Jew(ish) was an Amazon First Reads freebie, and it was a quick, easy read. It was interesting and gave me some food for thought, but as the writer is British and a lot of the book deals with British politics, I felt that there were large chunks of the book that I didn't understand and didn't really apply to me. I guess you get what you pay for, right? I gave it 3 stars.

I think I mentioned before that I wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia because Rainbow was reading it in school and I couldn't remember if I'd actually read it when I was her age. I have since determined that I never actually did read it, so it was worthwhile to pick it up now. While I can see why it's been so praised as a classic, I also found it really dated, so I do wonder how much kids today will relate to it. The edition I got from the library was a special 40th anniversary edition, and I appreciated the addition of a special reflection from the author on the occasion and the text of her Newberry Medal acceptance speech. I gave it 3 stars.

I'd had a long wait from the library for The Vanishing Half and was delighted to get it a week or so before I expected -- and frankly once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It's a really beautifully written story of two light-skinned Black twin sisters, one of whom decides to "pass" as white and live her life as something she is not. Aside from the fact that Brit Bennett tells a really interesting story, I think the questions of race and identity that it poses are quite timely given current events and active efforts to understand and undermine racism. I gave it an enthusiastic 5 stars.

Today, in between all the cooking, I'm hoping to finish my current book, The Great Believers, and move on to the next Gamache book that I have on loan from the library. I hope that your WIPs and your books are entertaining you and that your house is filled with good smells today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The First of Many

I have a finished project to share today that I predict will be the first of many -- and it's all Bonny's fault. After drooling over her many Hitchhiker shawls, I finally cast one one last month, and on Sunday evening, just before bed, I finished it.

Pattern: Hitchhiker by Martina Behm (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Handspun Targhee/bamboo/silk (details in this post)
Needles: US 3 (3.25 mm)
Started/Completed: October 15/November 22

For my very first Hitchhiker, I followed the pattern exactly as written, although because I had less yarn than called for, I only made it to 39 "teeth" rather than 42. Still, it's a lovely little shawlette, and I am thrilled with how it came out. It was really an excellent pattern for knitting while doing something else, as it requires attention in very few spots (the beginning and end of each row and the beginning of every eighth row) -- everything else is just knit.

I have yet to block this, but I plan to take care of that later this week. I think I can stretch it a bit so that it's a bit bigger and so that the fabric has a bit more drape.

I enjoyed this project so much that I'm already contemplating my next one. For starters, Rainbow really wanted this one, so I need to make her one in a skein of sparkly purple yarn so I can keep this one for myself. And I'm also thinking about quite a few skeins of handspun in my stash that would be perfect. How many is too many Hitchhikers for one person?

Before I start another or half a dozen more, though, there is still gift knitting to do, and that has to be the focus for the moment. I will be back to chat about that tomorrow. But the talk of gift knitting reminds me that I wanted to mention that the Indie Design Giftalong kicks off on Ravelry this evening at 8 p.m. Eastern. This is the eighth year for the event and my eighth time participating as a designer (plus I'm also on the mod team), and I'm excited! All participating designers create a bundle of 10-20 designs that are on sale for 25% off for the first week of the event (using the code giftalong2020); you can find my bundle here. If you're one of those people who can't access Ravelry safely right now, the patterns can also be found in my Payhip shop (look for the Gift Knitting 2020 collection), and I'll be offering the same discount using the coupon code giftknit2020.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Another Week, Another Skein

It's a lazy Sunday here chez Knit/Wit. Rainbow and I are both on vacation for the coming week, so while we did have to wake up at a reasonable hour this morning for (online) Sunday School, I technically won't have to set an alarm again until December 1.

Looking ahead to the week off, we've discussed some plans for what to do each day (because there is cooking and baking that needs to be done for Thanksgiving), but it's looking like there is going to be plenty of free time for crafting. I'm actually wondering if I can get my 20 in 2020 fiber list completely taken care of. I have finished the skein that you saw the start of last week, and I am absolutely delighted with it.

This was spun from Bond wool dyed by David of Southern Cross Fibre; the colorway was Land Under Wave. I simply spun the fiber from one end to the other and chain-plied the resulting singles so that I could maintain the colors as much as possible.

The finished yarn is fingering weight, but I suppose I plied it pretty tightly because it's only about 338 yards. I always hope for closer to 400 yards for three-ply fingering weight, but I know that my default style of spinning usually results in dense yarn, so it is what it is.

I now have only two fiber entries left on my 20 in 2020 list, and I've selected these two older SCF club shipments:

On the left is Bond in the colorway Esmerelda; on the right is organic merino in Triumph. I'm still debating how to to spin these (chain-plied fingering weight? slightly heavier two-ply?), so any input is welcome!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Three Random Thoughts on Thursday

It's Thursday, which means I just have to get through today and tomorrow and then I have 10 days in a row off. I am excited about that break, but I'm also a little scatterbrained, so today I'm linking up with Carole and friends with three random thoughts.

1. An unintended running break
I've been running a lot more since this whole pandemic started and in the past couple of months had gotten into a pretty regular schedule of alternating two days of running with one day of walking (my knees appreciate the break). But I haven't been able to run in a week after doing something to my hip, I think pulling a muscle, last Thursday. It happened early on in the workout, and I stupidly kept going, even though I should know better. When I got home, I was in a fair amount of pain. Thankfully it was better the next day and has been improving ever since, and I think today I might try running again (though I'll likely do a shorter distance than usual so I don't overdo it again). I suppose if I had to take a break, it came at a good time, because I donated blood on Monday and wasn't allowed to do any vigorous exercise for a day or two afterwards. And I've been walking every day, so I'm still getting my steps in. But all the same it will be good to get back to it.

2. Thanksgiving planning
I can't believe we're only a week away from Thanksgiving! It's definitely going to be very different this year. Usually my parents host and we have a big crowd of extended family. This year my parents are in Florida and dinner will be just the three of us, though we'll be splitting the cooking (and the food) with my brother and sister-in-law, who live about two blocks away. I am making a turkey for the first time ever (my mother assures me it's very easy!) and making my great-grandmother's stuffing and Ina Garten's cranberry sauce. Rainbow and I will also be baking pumpkin muffins, as we do every year, and she's requested that we make an apple pie for dessert. I know it'll be a bit sad and lonely to be just the three of us at the table, but I think we have a lot to be thankful for.

3. Unexpected knitting
Rainbow's school had already planned to be off all next week, but last night we received an email letting us know that they've decided to go online for at least the week after Thanksgiving (whether they'll be back in person or remain online for the rest of December will be decided at the end of that week). She has been slowly knitting a cowl for her fourth grade teacher for while now, but now that there's a possibility she won't be back in school before the winter break, she is desperate to get it finished so she can take it in and deliver it tomorrow. Which means, of course, that I am the one knitting it.

This cowl is using some of my handspun (some BFL that I spun a number of years ago) and is just stockinette with some ribbing at the ends. The full skein had something like 137 yards in it, so I'm hoping it's realistic to finish this up by the end of the day, but obviously this is not knitting I had planned to do today. Oh well!

I hope you have a calm end to your week, and I promise to be more focused the next time I post!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Mojo Overdrive

I'm not sure what happened in the last week, but I'm suddenly finding myself with tons of knitting mojo. I know that's not a bad thing, but I wish I could figure out how it happened so I could make it happen more often! This is all by way of an explanation for the project spamming I'm about to do in this post, so hold on to your hat.

First, I finished my mother's socks last Wednesday. They are currently soaking in a warm bath and will soon be set to dry on a warm radiator (it's snowing lightly right now, so the heat is kicking!), but in the meantime here is an unblocked shot:

I used my regular vanilla sock recipe for these, working over 64 stitches with size 0/2.0 needles. My mother has narrow feet, and these were just a big snug for me, so they should be perfect on her. I used almost exactly three-quarters of the skein of Emma's Yarn Practically Perfect Sock in the colorway Juneau, leaving me about 100 yards to use for a baby hat or add to a scrappy project. I've now got two more pairs of socks left to knit for holiday gifts, both man socks, so I really do need to cast on the next pair soon.

After the socks were finished, I needed to shift to a different project for meetings, so I pulled out my Hitchhiker. It has grown quite a bit; out of the original 119g, I have 64 remaining, so I am almost halfway through my yarn. The color change is much more noticeable now.

What kicked my mojo into high gear, however, was a new design sample that you saw the start of last Wednesday. Once the socks were off the needles, I turned my attention to it and it alone until it was done, and I am thrilled with how it came out.

One of the hardest things about designing for me is getting the knitting to match what I see in my head, and this one actually turned out even better. I even managed to get the pattern written up and off to my tech editor over the weekend! Now I am working on a coordinating hat with the remaining yarn, and it's teaching me a lesson in humility.

What you're seeing here is actually the third attempt at this hat. I had to rip back to the brim on the first attempt when I found I'd dropped a stitch on the very first round of brioche increases/decreases. On attempt number two, I found that I'd missed an increase and had to tink back four or five rounds. But I am on track now and am paying close attention to what I'm doing so that I don't repeat either of those mistakes. I think it was the universe's way of telling me that I should figure out my math first (I had just cast on and was designing on the needles, but I really needed to do the math to know when to start the crown decreases). Once I fixed the missed increase last night, I got out my calculator and did the necessary math to finish. With any luck, this hat will be done in the next couple of days; I have already promised the pattern to my tech editor by later in the week.

Finally, I'll end with a bit of stash enhancement:

I've decided that I really need to getting more yarn out of the stash than adding it in, but this particular skein was a prize, so I'm not sure it really counts. Obviously this is from Fibernymph Dye Works, and it's Lisa's Bedazzled base (can you see the sparkle?). This is a pretty special skein. It's her Nyan Cat colorway, which she hasn't dyed in some time and doesn't plan to dye again, but she found a single skein not too long ago and I was lucky enough to win it.

I think that's enough from me for one day! I hope your knitting mojo is running high and you're staying safe!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

In Which I Slow Down

Sundays have always seemed like they should be lazy days, especially at this time of year, when the weather is typically gloomy and damp. We're having just such a day here: cool, cloudy, and rainy, with the added fun of high winds. The forecast had called for the rain to move through in the morning, but it looks like it's sticking around, so I may not get out to exercise today. That's certainly a good enough excuse to stay in and craft, so I'm taking it!

I have impressed myself this year with how much spinning I have gotten done, but in the last week or so, my knitting mojo has taken over, so while I have gotten a little bit of spinning done, I'm a bit of a ways off from a finished skein. Currently on my wheel is Bond from Southern Cross Fibre from way back in 2015. I think I'm maybe a third of the way through my singles.

I have only three items left on my 20 in 2020 fiber list, all Southern Cross club shipments, including this one, and considering that I have proven my speed in getting through fiber this year, I think I can take this spin a little easy.

I also have two new fiber acquisitions to share. The first was kind of an impulse purchase. One of my favorite indie fiber dyers is Ginny of FatCatKnits. She stopped dyeing for a while a couple of years back because her business wasn't enough to make a living and she needed to get a full-time job. But recently she's started dyeing and prepping fiber again, and now she's added other beautiful items like hand-made jewelry and poured acrylic paintings. When she posted on Instagram that she was having a sale on jewelry because she needed some sales to help make the rent, I immediately went to her shop to make a purchase. I'd actually had my eye on one of her necklaces for a while (I'll link you to her photo because I will never do it justice), and as long as she was going to be sending me a package, I figured I might as well get some fiber too -- for padding, of course!

This is 4 oz. of Polwarth (my favorite wool to spin) in the colorway Flamingo. I'm thinking this will look amazing as a bouncy barberpoling two ply -- something I can spin up quickly and then knit into something cozy for the winter, when that hot pink and turquoise will be the bright colors I need to cheer me up.

Yesterday I also got a pleasant surprise when my September Southern Cross club shipment showed up. I'd been stalking it since it landed in the United States, but the anticipated delivery date wasn't until tomorrow, so I wasn't looking out for it yet when it landed on my doorstep.

This is South African Superfine (which I really think should be renamed "Supersoft" because it's the most buttery amazing merino) in the colorway First Star. I think David did a stellar (ha!) job of capturing the colors of the night sky in this colorway -- even on a dark day the blues are pretty electric!

I am hoping to be able to at least finish the singles I am working on by the end of this coming week, and I expect I'll do some serious spinning the following week, when I'm taking the whole week off (well, I already have Thursday and Friday off, but I'm taking vacation time Monday through Wednesday as well). I can't believe it's nearly Thanksgiving -- remember how long March seemed? I hope that when we put this year behind us, we're also able to put behind much of the heartache it's caused.