Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Look Back and a Look Ahead

Sometimes celebrating New Year's Eve and New Year's Day seems so arbitrary, especially given how much importance people seem to place on it. I mean, really, the switch from December 31 to January 1 is the same as the switch from any other day to the next. I suppose part of it is due to the big industry that's grown out of people making new year's resolutions, something I used to do many years ago and have long ago given up because I know I'll never keep them.

But the part of me that enjoys looking back and reflecting on my life does like the artificial division of one year to another because it forces me to pause and take a look back at the year that was and ponder what I'd like to do and see in the year that is yet to be.

2019 was a busy year. For much of it, I was solo parenting, as my husband was traveling a lot for work. This year it felt like things got a little easier. Keeping up with the daily schedule was still busy, but Rainbow is now old enough that she can do some things on her own, can help with some things, and can understand that sometimes Mommy needs some Mommy time. I did a lot of reading, made some wonderful new Internet friends, and did a fair amount of knitting and spinning (as well as some crochet, for the first time in a long time). I met some pretty serious design goals, publishing 13 new patterns -- including my second sweater -- and hitting 100 total designs in my portfolio.

It seems fitting that my final projects for 2019 (which technically aren't finished, but at least individual components are) are two socks, both my own designs. While I enjoy making so many things, the things that I come back to all the time are socks.


Looking ahead to 2020, I am looking forward to joining those of you who have a word that sets your intentions and your focus for the year. I've actually had my word in mind for a while now, but I was sitting with it until now to make sure it's the right one. I'll have to see how it goes next year, of course, but for now, it feels very apt.

My word for 2020 is SAVOR.

One thing this past year has shown me is that life is uncertain and unpredictable. I don't want to miss the beautiful things in my life because I'm so busy rushing from one thing to another -- rushing to finish that book, this project, that meal, and so on. I want to remind myself regularly to stop and enjoy the moment and to appreciate it to its fullest. Life isn't a race, and in fact we should actually all try to take as much time as we can to get to the end. It's about the journey, the experiences, and the people we meet along the way.

Wherever the new year takes you, I hope it's full of things and people you love, good health, and things that bring you joy.

Monday, December 30, 2019

A Year in Pages

It's not one of my normal days for blogging, but vacation and an utter lack of anything resembling a schedule have made it hard to keep track of what day it is -- and of course I haven't any spinning to share to merit a Sunday post in any case -- so this week I'm free-styling it. Today, I thought I'd look back on what I've read this year, because it's been quite a productive year of reading for me.

Based upon my Goodreads records, I have finished 74 books this year (and if I can squeeze in one more before going to bed tomorrow, I'll hit 75). My initial goal was 50, so I pretty much blew that out of the water. A lot of that is thanks to Summer Book Bingo, when I achieved a cover-all. But I think I also got more reading done this year thanks to my full embrace of the digital format. Of the 74 books, only eight were actual, physical books -- the rest were ebooks or audiobooks. That's quite a change for me, someone who considers herself a book collector, but it's also very freeing in a way. I think it's also notable that a very high percentage of the books I read were borrowed, either from the library or via Amazon Prime Reading. And 10 of those 74 were audiobooks, which is another departure for me, as typically I've had trouble focusing. I think discovering that listening to audiobooks while running works to both get me to pay attention to the book and keep running has been great for both my reading list and my physical fitness!

I've read so many good books this year that it's hard to pick the top ones, but I'll try. Here are the reads I'll remember the most from 2019, in no particular order except the order in which I read them this year:


The Overstory by Richard Powers is one that many people recommended to me, and for good reason. It's masterfully written and incredibly powerful in its environmentalist message. I will never look at trees the same way again.

You can read my 5-star review here.







Becoming by Michelle Obama was a hit for good reason -- she is a phenomenal writer! I thought I had hit my limit of admiration for her before I read her entire life story, but it turns out I was wrong.

You can read my 5-star review here.







One of my goals for my reading this year was to spend some of my reading time working on educating myself on recognizing and challenging my white privilege and working toward antiracist causes. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo is a must read for any white person who is committed to fighting racism, because you can't fight it without recognizing and accepting that you are part of the problem.

You can read my 5-star review here.




The waiting list at the library for Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb was long but worth it. I think this book resonated with me so much because at one point in my life I wanted to be a psychologist and therapist. I've been through a lot of therapy myself and recognize its value, so reading this memoir felt familiar and even comforting to me.

You can read my 5-star review here.





If you've ever asked me to name my favorite book, chances are that I've said that one of them is Jane Eyre, so when I heard there was a book that told the story from Mr. Rochester's point of view, I was intrigued. But Sarah Shoemaker's Mr. Rochester goes far beyond that part of the story and gives us Edward Fairfax Rochester's entire life up to the point where Jane becomes part of it, and she does a stunning job of it.

You can read my 5-star review here.





I know reactions to Margaret Atwood's The Testaments were varied, but I loved it and found it to be a hopeful antidote to the despair created by The Handmaid's Tale. I gave it 5 stars (and I'm not linking my review here because I didn't say much more in it than I've already said here).







The virtual book club did a superb job in its first selection. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which has recently been released in movie form, is at times a difficult and heartbreaking read. But it's something that should be read, and read widely, if only to open eyes and minds about the injustice of our criminal justice system.

You can read my 5-star review here.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a gem of a book, and while I have no doubt I would have enjoyed reading it on my own, the performance of it by Tom Hanks made it pure pleasure from start to finish. I honestly lost count of the number of people I recommended it to.

You can read my 5-star review here.





When your first book is a hit, it's not easy to do the same thing with your sophomore effort, but Erin Morgenstern has done it, in my opinion, with The Starless Sea. I'll add the caveat that this will not be a book for everyone, and to enjoy it you will need to let go of preconceived notions of how a story should be told and even what is possible. You need to be okay with magic and fantasy. But if you can do these things, you'll be rewarded with positively gorgeous writing.

You can read my 5-star review here.



My final 5-star read of the year (at least as of this moment) was Alice Hoffman's The World That We Knew. If you know me and my reading, then you'll know that I've done quite extensive reading the Holocaust fiction genre. Quite a lot has been bad, but this book is exceptionally good. Hoffman is know for her magical realism, and it's at play in this book in the form of a bit of Jewish mysticism. I found the writing to be good, the plot to be believable, and the denouement to be satisfying. What more could a reader ask for?




I hope your virtual bookshelves have been similarly blessed this past year. Here's to many more good books and lots of good reading time in 2020!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

I've Been Waiting All Year

Ah, vacation. I take time off so infrequently that I think I appreciate it all the more. We've now been in Florida for almost a week (we arrived last Friday evening), and as usual it has flown by. But I've been completely enjoying it. I've been staying up late -- for me, anyway -- mostly reading and sleeping in. I've gone for long walks outside and a couple of runs, one outside and one on the treadmill because it was pouring. I've enjoyed leisurely cups of coffee and good dinners. And I've been knitting!

I started a new sock design sample just before we left but also brought another skein of sock yarn for movie knitting, because we always go to the movies on Christmas Day. Appropriately, the yarn I chose was Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in the colorway 12 Days of Christmas, though I don't think the colors are particularly Christmas-y. This is a 12-stripe repeat, with each stripe's color representing the item(s) mentioned for that day in the song. I cast on Christmas Eve and knit up the ribbed cuff so I'd be all ready to go the next day and then knit nearly 4 inches of leg in the movie.


I'm really enjoying the colors! The movie we saw, by the way, was the new adaptation of Little Women. I really loved it, but Rainbow had some trouble following it because she wasn't familiar with the plot beforehand. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to tell you that this version departs from the story a bit in that it jumps back and forth in time, so unless you know the general order in which major events happen, you are likely to be a bit confused. The acting is, on the whole, quite wonderful, though I find Timothee Chalamet a little young to be playing Laurie, at least in the later part of the story. Still, if you're a fan of Little Women in general, I highly recommend it -- and I probably don't need to tell you to bring the tissues.

The other knitting I've been doing is secret knitting for Rainbow for her final Chanukah present, and that means I've only been able to work on it after she goes to bed -- which, when we're on vacation, is much later than normal. That means that it's taken me longer than it normally would, but as long as it's finished before Sunday, I'll be okay. I'm knitting the Neon hat using a one-of-a-kind skein of FDW Cozy (worsted weight), and I'm ready to start the crown decreases tonight. In fact, provided I can stay awake long enough, I might even finish it this evening.


My reading has been quite good this past week. First I finished reading The Starless Sea, which I'd been anxiously awaiting from the library. I absolutely loved Erin Morgenstern's first novel, The Night Circus, and was a bit worried that her follow-up wouldn't live up to my expectations -- but it did! I will add the caveat that you need to read it knowing that there won't be an answer to everything and a lot of it won't make sense (or won't make sense right away), but it was so beautifully written that I can't even fault its very minor shortcomings. It was definitely a 5-star review from me, and if you want to hear more, you can read my review here.

As soon as I finished that, I moved on to Alice Hoffman's The World That We Knew, which I know many of you have already read and recommended. I'm a little more than a third of the way through it, am enjoying it immensely, and hope to finish it up in the next couple of days.

I hope if you celebrated Christmas yesterday that you had a wonderful holiday, and whatever's on tap for the rest of the week, I hope it's bringing you joy! I'm signing off to try to finish a hat.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Pattern Release: Yofi Hat and Cowl

I think I may have mentioned earlier that one of my design goals for the year was to reach 100 designs in my portfolio by the end of 2019. Thanks in no small part to the speedy assistance of my tech editor, I am delighted to debut patterns number 99 and 100 today!


Presenting my Yofi Hat and Yofi Cowl, two squooshy, warm accessories for the coldest winter days. Both use Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn (or any DK/worsted weight you'd like) and the same addictive and straightforward stranded colorwork pattern.


The hat is graded to five sizes to fit everyone from babies to large-headed adults. The colorwork pattern is suitable for even beginners to stranded work, as there are no long floats and several lines that repeat. As written, it has a slightly slouchy fit.


The cowl comes in one size, but it's a size that will fit children and adults comfortably. It uses the same easy colorwork design and no shaping at all, so it requires even less thought and attention than the hat. Both of them are great if you need to whip up a last-minute gift or just want to do some easy knitting for yourself if you need something that doesn't require too much active thinking during the craziness that is the holidays. And they're both perfect for the cold winter weather, as all that stranding traps air and adds extra insulation.

To celebrate their release and meeting my big goal for the year, I've put both patterns on sale. Add both patterns to your cart on Ravelry and enter the code HOLIDAYS to get 25% off!

Whatever you may be celebrating (or not) this week, I wish you well. I hope that you can enjoy whatever it is you do with family, friends, and loved ones at this time of year and that amid your celebrations you can find time to yourself to craft.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

My Bags Aren't Yet Packed (but I'm Ready to Go)

It's Thursday morning, with less than three hours of work left for me this year, and I am more than ready to be on vacation. There's still a list of things to do around the house before we leave, including packing (ha!), but I've gotten the most important thing done -- my sister-in-law's socks.


These were knit using Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in Lisa's seventh anniversary colorway (from 2017), the Seventh-Year Stitch. The skein had been waiting patiently in my stash for the right time to be knit, and I think they colors are perfect for her. I knit my plain vanilla sock recipe over 68 stitches on size 0/2.0 mm needles, the same that I'd do for socks for me, but her feet are shorter than mine (9 inches to my 9.75). Because the stripe pattern repeat is so long, I didn't try to get them to match but rather made them coordinate; when I did my cast on, I made the first loop right at the spot where the speckled white stripe changes to a semisolid color stripe. I figured that way at least the stripes would hit in roughly the same place. I think I goofed a little on the second sock, though, and made the leg about two rounds longer, so if you look closely you can see a little spot of color at the tip of the toe. I highly doubt my sister-in-law will mind, though, and I was too pressed for time to rip back.

I'm trying to squeeze in one more knit gift before we leave, and I should manage to finish it up tonight or tomorrow morning. If you weren't already aware, let me tell you that scrunchies are back. And Rainbow is a big fan. She's got a small collection of store-bought scrunchies already, but I thought I'd try my hand at knitting one.


It's hard to tell now because the tube is curling up on itself, but eventually I'll fold the tube of stockinette in on itself like a donut and seam the ends together, enclosing that black hair elastic inside. I'll see how well that works before I embark on a real scrunchie-making career.

The one project that's now actively being worked on but isn't making the trip is my granny square blanket, which has grown a bit since you saw it last:


I've been adding in my FDW holiday mini skeins, slowly but surely, and am about up to day 7 or 8. Clearly this won't get done before we leave, but I'd rather have a big cozy blanket than call it done just to finish before the end of the year. My plan is to incorporate all the remaining mini skeins and then add on other sock leftovers until I either run out entirely or decide that it's big enough. I'm really having so much fun with this project that I'm not in any hurry at this point, and I honestly can see myself starting another one as soon as this one is finished.

This afternoon, the Mister and I are both attending a performance of Rainbow's elementary school musical (she and her classmates are in the starring roles), and then this evening we'll get down to the laundry and cleaning and packing. Rainbow has half a day of school tomorrow morning and then we're off!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

2.5 Days

Not that I'm counting or anything, but I have 2.5 days of work left this year. We leave Friday afternoon for our annual trip to Florida, and I'd already planned to take that day off so I could do the last-minute packing and prep, but I also decided to take Thursday afternoon off so that I could go see Rainbow's school musical performance. So soon I will be counting down the hours until I'm on vacation.

I'm happy to report that I am going to meet my knitting deadlines with time to spare. The first deadline was really self-imposed, and that was the sample for what will be my last published pattern of the year. It was finished and blocked Sunday night, and I've just gotten the pattern off to my tech editor this morning. If you're not quite awake yet, you might need some sunglasses for this one:


Rainbow has already claimed the sample as soon as I get all the pattern photos taken, and I'm happy to give it to her. At least wearing something this bright, I'll be able to spot her easily.

The other deadline is for the only real gift I'm knitting, and that's the socks for my sister-in-law. I'd hoped to be able to finish them last night, but I ended up with too much to do around the house and didn't have as much time to knit as I'd planned, so they'll be wrapped up at lunchtime today. All that remains is part of the toe on the second sock.


I'm quite happy with how these have turned out and think they will suit her quite well. I'll give them a quick block tonight and then arrange for a time to deliver them in the next couple of days.

My vacation knitting is almost sorted. It looks like I'll mostly be taking "work" knitting in the form of design samples for patterns for next year, but Rainbow has also expressed interest in learning to knit socks, so I'm pondering how best to approach that. She hasn't yet knit with anything thinner than worsted/DK weight yarn, nor has she wrestled with DPNs yet, so we might do something like Fuzzy Feet and some stash yarn. There are also some big-box craft stores nearby in Florida, so we can pick up some Patons Kroy or similar yarn if she wants something closer to the real thing. I'll also likely have some plain vanilla socks for movie knitting (we always go to the movies on Christmas), and of course I'm likely to throw in an extra skein of sock yarn just in case.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

It's Been a Decade


On the top, December 15, 2009 -- our first picture together. On the bottom, December 15, 2019 -- she still likes to cuddle!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I Call a Do-over

Sometimes I really need to remember to remind myself (ha!) that it's worth it to take my time. Way back before Thanksgiving, I finished up a new hat, wrote up the pattern, and sent it off to my tech editor.


I'll admit I was rushing a bit because I wanted to get it to her before December and all the craziness I knew was in store for us in the first week. When she got her comments back to me over the weekend, I had a moment of reckoning and realized that the sizing was completely off. While the numbers all worked out, I'd come up with the sizes based upon the gauge I thought I was going to get rather than the gauge I actually ended up getting, so everything was too small. So on Monday I decided to start from scratch and rewrite the pattern for actual head sizes. Of course, I was out of the green I used for the contrast in the original sample, so I had to use something else. I rather like this new combination, even though it wasn't my first choice.


I finished up the colorwork section on this new sample last night, and tonight I expect to get through the crown. I'm also planning a matching cowl (with the colors reversed, provided I have enough purple), and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be able to get both patterns back to the tech editor by the end of the weekend so that I can publish them by the end of the year, thereby getting me patterns number 99 and 100 in my portfolio and achieving my last design goal for the year.

I'm posting this to prove to you that designing often involves as much ripping and redoing as it does knitting -- and also to show you that it takes time to get things right! Even though I've been knitting for most of my life, there are still plenty of times I don't get it right on my first try. And even when I'm the one coming up with the pattern, I can still manage to screw it up.

When the design knitting is done, I'm going to take a bit of a break and do some knitting for pleasure, at least for a couple of weeks. I haven't completely decided on what projects/yarn I'm taking to Florida, but chances are good it'll involve at least some dishcloth knitting because this yarn bonanza showed up in yesterday's mail:


It actually doesn't look like that much here, but that's 23 balls of Knit Picks Dishie that I ordered when they had a big sale on it Thanksgiving weekend. My supply of kitchen cotton has gotten down to only small leftovers, and I actually like Dishie a little better than the typical big box store cottons, so I figured I'd stock up. There are at least two dishcloth/washcloth patterns I want to make, and I frequently get the urge to cast one on, so it'll be good to have a small stash of the stuff. Or at least that's how I'm justifying the purchase to myself!

Monday, December 09, 2019

A Roller Coaster of Emotions

You may have surmised from the lack of a post yesterday that it was an extremely busy weekend. I figured it was pointless to try to post on Sunday because I had exactly zero new spinning to share and hardly any other crafting, for that matter. This weekend was my brother's wedding, and as all three of us were in the wedding party, that meant a lot of activity in addition to spending time catching up with family and friends who came from out of town for the occasion. I did not carry a purse, nor did I have any pockets in my dress, so the only photos I have are from the Mister (and I don't think he too many, either).


This photo is a little strange in terms of perspective (my head looks enormous and I look much shorter than I am), but at least you can see me and Rainbow in our dresses and with our beautiful flowers.

And here's the junior bridesmaid again with the bride and groom right after the ceremony:


She had a fun time at the wedding, though she left shortly after the ceremony for a slumber party at our house with my cousins' kids. I don't think anyone got much sleep, but these cousins get together so infrequently that it was probably worth it. She seems to have picked up some germs from someone, though, because she woke up with a fever this morning, so we're having a quiet day at home today (I took her in to the pediatrician this morning to get her checked out; the strep test was negative and her ears looked fine, so it's likely just a cold or similar virus).

While the majority of the weekend was happy and celebratory, there was some sadness as well. On Thursday, as I was getting ready for the craziness ahead, I learned that Scott "Scooterpie" Manko of the Ross Farm had been killed in a tragic accident on the farm. The funeral was today, and I knew I wouldn't be able to make it, so I went to the visitation at the funeral home yesterday. It was as sad as you can imagine. If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you know how wonderful Amy and Scooterpie have been to me over the years, taking me to Rhinebeck and Maryland and supporting my designs, so I was devastated by the news. If you'd like to do something to help, a fund has been set up to assist Amy with the expenses from the funeral and of running the farm, and you can donate here.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Pattern Release: The Sky in the Stream

I am not a very outdoorsy person. It's not that I don't like nature; I just never much cared for some of the things in nature, like mud and bugs that bite. I also grew up in a city, where we didn't have much nature other than a patch of grass in front and behind the house and some old oak trees lining the street. Perhaps that's why the memories of one particular nature hike have stayed with me all these years: It was a fall day, cool enough for long sleeves but warm in the sun. I was probably 10 or 11, which would have made my younger brother 4 or 5. My family had driven out to the suburbs for some reason, and my father decided to pull the car over at a place called Salamander Park to take a "nature walk." I wasn't keen on it, but it was a nice day and I didn't put up a fight. My brother, because a very boyish boy, was delighted to pick up sticks and poke at things. I know we took some family photos, and I'm pretty sure we got a bit muddy, but what I remember most was the golden color that seemed to be everywhere.

Why am I telling you this? Well, when I spotted the colors I used in the pattern I'm publishing today, they reminded me so much of the colors of that day: the blue of the clear sky, with only a fluffy cloud here and there, and the warm, rusty red-brown of the dead leaves on the ground and the changing leaves still on the trees. This one is called The Sky in the Stream.


The gorgeous colors in the yarn are from the very talented Rebecca of Dusty Tree DyeWorks. When I bought them, I knew they were destined to be together, though at the time I didn't have a plan. I patiently tucked them away in my stash until the right idea came along, which it eventually did. Today, I'm delighted to share with you my new shawl pattern, The Sky in the Stream.


With this design, I've returned to my beloved top-down triangle and the squish of garter stitch. The knitting is pretty mindless until you join in the contrast color, where there's a little bit of slip-stitch colorwork and some short rows for fun. A row of eyelets near the bottom edge adds some lightness, not to mention a shortcut for blocking. Finally, the ends are finished with optional ornamental leaves, which you can toss over your shoulder, like so:


or, if you prefer to wear your shawls bandana style, tie in a loose overhand knot to secure the shawl around your neck:


Here are all the specs on this pattern:
  • You'll need two 100 g skeins of fingering weight yarn in two colors that go well together. You'll use all or nearly all of the main color and about three-quarters of the contrast color.
  • The gauge isn't critical (because it's a shawl), but keep in mind that if you work to a larger gauge, you'll likely need yarn, so plan accordingly.
  • The shawl starts with a garter tab, so if you hate those, feel free to sub in another way to start.
  • The short rows call for w&t, but you can sub in any other method you like. I find w&t works well with garter, because the wraps just blend in.
  • As with all my patterns, this one has been professionally tech edited for accuracy and clarity.
I really love this one, maybe more than I should (I should love all my designs equally, right?), and I hope you do, too. It's 20% off with the code LEAFY through December 10.


Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Fulled and Fuzzy

It's the week leading up to my brother's wedding, I'm still working, and the Mister is away, so it's super busy around these parts, but I did manage to find time to whip up a pair of mittens for Rainbow over the long weekend. You've seen the pattern before -- it's the Snow Day Mittens that use superwash for the cuff and non-superwash for the hand. I knew I was going to use a skein of Cascade Alpaca Lana D'Oro, a 50/50 wool/alpaca blend, leftover from one of my sweaters for the hands, but I let Rainbow choose the yarn for the cuffs, and she selected leftovers from one of my favorite sweaters I've ever knit her. Last night I tossed her finished mittens, along with the two pairs I'd previously knit for charity, into the dryer to felt (I soaked them first and tossed in a few dryer balls for friction).

Here are all three pairs before felting:


and here they are after:


There's still a bit of stitch definition in a few spots, so they could probably be felted even more, but I'm pretty happy with them. Rainbow's pair, which fit me perfect before, are now just the right size for her, and as she snagged the pair she's been wearing at school yesterday, the timing couldn't be more perfect. I've left all three pairs sitting on my radiator today to dry out, and with any luck, they'll be ready to be put into the regular rotation tomorrow.

Here's a closer look at Rainbow's mittens -- just look at that fuzzy halo from the alpaca!


I've resumed working on the socks for my almost-sister-in-law during my lunch breaks, but I've decided to dedicate my evening crafting time this week to my granny square blanket. As of this morning (when it was very overcast, hence the dark photo), it was this big:

For reference, that's a queen-size bed.
I started opening my Fibernymph Dye Works holiday mini skein yesterday and plan to start adding them into the blanket, but I want to work through a few more leftover bits first. The plan is then to work the minis in order, as they're intended to flow from one to the next. It'd be great to get this finished up before we leave for our trip, as I really don't want to have to drag this big of a project all the way to Florida -- it'd take up precious room in my luggage, not to mention that sitting with a lap full of wool isn't ideal for the climate!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

It's Going Too Quickly

The title of this post refers both to the long holiday weekend and to this year in general; I am absolutely astounded that today is December 1. Less than a week from day is my brother's wedding. Two weeks from today is Rainbow's 10th birthday. Three weeks from today we'll be in Florida. How is it that the weekdays can crawl by but yet 2019 is almost over?

I suppose one way to (artificially) make time seem to slow down is to do a slow craft, so I did spend a little bit of time at my wheel this weekend, though not as much as I would have hoped. The truth is that there were many things to do to get ready for upcoming events in the next few weeks, and so crafting necessarily had to take a back seat to those things. But I'm almost halfway through the singles for this spin, and it's really such a perfect spin that I'm not in any rush to hurry it along.

Southern Cross Fibre Bond wool in the colorway Two Roads Diverged

These colors are moody and subtle, and I'm finding them very soothing. The fiber is drafting beautifully and is very soft. There's nothing I don't love about this spin (except that I'm not finding enough time for it). It might end up being my last spin of the year, depending on how busy things get before we leave for our trip. I'm toying with the idea of taking a spindle or even my Nano wheel with me to Florida, but I think I'll likely end up just taking knitting -- after all, it'll give me something at home to look forward to rather than dread!

Friday, November 29, 2019

I Blame the Food Coma

I fully intended to put up a post yesterday, as I usually do on Thursdays, but yesterday was no ordinary Thursday. As you probably know, it was Thanksgiving here in the United States, so we were all home and had a somewhat leisurely day. After I took my time drinking my coffee (which never happens on a typical weekday), I got to work on the cooking.

My parents were hosting the big meal, as they always do, but with the size of the crowd increasing over the years, my mother has ceded some of the cooking to the rest of us. Our assignments were the vegetables (roasted Brussels sprouts and green bean casserole) and, as we've done for the past several years, pumpkin muffins (basically pumpkin bread in muffin form that's served alongside the dinner rolls). Last year, we overbaked on the muffins, so while Rainbow and I still made two batches (one with craisins, one plain), we made only two dozen muffins per batch and used the extra batter to make two loaves of pumpkin bread to keep.


I got a little fancy and topped the one with craisins in it with some pepitas leftover from a salad kit. Rainbow, of course, won't touch the topping, but at least I can enjoy it.

While the muffins and bread were in the oven, I sat down and finished the giant handspun cowl. It's now drying from its bath, so it's not as fluffy as I expect it will be when it's dry, and it's a gloomy day here, so apologies for the less-than-stellar photo.


I'm happy with how this turned out, especially that I used pretty much every last inch of the yarn (I even played a little yarn chicken on the bind-off round), and I can't wait to deliver it to the recipient.

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful and I ate way too much, though I'd decided ahead of time that I wasn't going to worry about it for the one day. Just as good as the food was the company. In addition to our family (the three of us, my parents and brother, and my in-laws), we were joined by my brother's fiancee and her family -- her parents, her brother and sister-in-law, and her two nieces. My brother- and sister-in-law and my nephew joined us for dessert after they had dinner with her family. I kept my phone in my purse for most of the night, but I did pull it out toward the end to capture a few family photos. This one might be my favorite:


What you can't see under his bib is that he's wearing suspenders to go with his plaid shirt and khakis. Too cute!

Today we're enjoying another quiet family day at home. No Black Friday shopping for us -- Rainbow and the Mister are busy building the giant Lego set that they've decided counts as Rainbow's birthday present and a present for him, and I'm planning on doing some knitting and spinning. We're all looking forward to having a relaxing weekend together before the wedding craziness of next weekend!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Pattern Release: Hakova Sheli

I think I've said before that one of the hardest parts about pattern designing for me is coming up with a good name. In this case of this hat, I had no problems whatsoever because the crown of the hat immediately reminded me of a fond memory from childhood.


For the Jewish holiday of Purim, it's a tradition to make and eat a special type of cookie, called hamantaschen. These cookies are triangular and said by some to represent the three-cornered hat favored by Haman, the villain of the Purim story. While that story may be apocryphal, what's undeniable is that the cookies are delicious, and it's a fun tradition in many families to make the cookies and share them with friends and families. I have some very clear memories of helping my mother fill hamentaschen as a child, and I also remember her singing a Purim song in Hebrew that goes "Hakova sheli shalosh pinot," which translates to "My hat has three corners." Could there be a more perfect name for this crown? I think not!

Hakova Sheli is worked in basic brioche stitch using a fingering weight yarn. It's super simple until you get to the crown decreases, which are really more fiddly than difficult and go very quickly once you've got the hang of them. I've graded the pattern to four sizes, approximately toddler to adult large, but the stretchiness of the brioche stitch makes for a very flexible fit.


I used a self-striping yarn from Fibernymph Dye Works for my sample (the colorway is called Cold Snap), and I just love what brioche stitch does to stripes. As with all of my patterns, it's been professionally tech edited, and I also had a bunch of volunteers preview knit it, so you can be sure the pattern is easy to follow. Through the end of the month, I'm offering it for sale for 20% using the code MYHAT.



But wait, that's not all!

In addition to offering you this new hat, I also want to mention that the seventh annual Indie Designer Giftalong starts tonight at 8 p.m. EST! I have participated every year as a designer and for the past few years as a group moderator, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's my favorite time of year! I've selected 20 of my most popular patterns for the pattern sale portion of the event, which runs from the start of the event until 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, December 2. All my paid patterns are eligible for prizes in the KALs, including Hakova Sheli. I hope you see you in the group!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

A New Start

I'm feeling very relaxed about my spinning these days, so I didn't feel like I needed to start a new spinning project, but today I had the house to myself for a bit and it felt like the right thing to do to relax (and, somewhat predictably, it did lull me to sleep for a bit!). I only just started, but it's looking good already -- but I guess that's to be expected when you start with beautiful fiber.


This is the fiber I'm spinning, Bond from Southern Cross Fibre in a colorway called Two Roads Diverged (I always love David's dyeing, but he gets extra bonus points from me for the Robert Frost reference):


I'm trying to tackle the fiber club shipments in a more timely fashion these days, because quite frankly I have quite a backlog. This fiber was August's shipment (which means I received it in September). I thought I would start spinning this because October's shipment arrived last week:


This one is on Corriedale and is called A New Day. Pretty, right?

For the current spin, I'm spinning my default three-ply fingering (well, in a manner of speaking -- I'm going to chain-ply the singles). I split the fiber in half lengthwise and I'm spinning it from end to end so I'll have long color runs. It's extremely soft and the color shifts are subtle. It's truly a delight. I'm going to savor this spin for sure!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Three Things for Your To-Do List

Today I have three suggestions for things you might want to do this weekend.

1. Read The Dutch House.
Even better, listen to the audiobook, which is expertly performed by Tom Hanks. I finished listening yesterday and loved every minute of it. Ann Patchett is an author whose work I've long enjoyed, and her newest might be my favorite. I'm fairly certain I would have enjoyed it just as well had I read the book on my own, but having it read to me by the wonderful Tom Hanks was pure pleasure. It got a five-star review from me, and it's a book I could easily see myself rereading in the future.

2. Speaking of Tom Hanks, go see It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
We were very lucky to be able to attend the Pittsburgh premiere of the movie last night (thanks, WQED!), and I think it's fair to say it was a hit with the whole audience. Though we were not graced by the presence of the stars, sadly, we did get an introduction to the film from the director; the writers; several of the producers; and Tom Junod, who wrote the original article upon which the film was based. The movie was wonderful, and Tom Hanks does a marvelous job of portraying Fred Rogers, even down to how he holds his body. I think that as a Pittsburgh audience, we especially enjoyed seeing places in Pittsburgh we could identify (for instance, the pool where Mr. Rogers is shown swimming laps is our JCC, where I swam laps when I was on the swim team in middle school!). Keep an eye out, too, for brief cameos by Mrs. Rogers and David Newell (aka Mr. McFeely) in the scene in the Chinese restaurant.

3. Knit some colorwork in worsted weight yarn.
I cast on that hat earlier this week and have been reminded how quickly worsted weight colorwork knits up!


What you see here is the result of two evenings of work, and not even two particularly productive evenings. I have a board meeting this evening, but I'm hoping that it'll be done early enough to allow  me to finish up the colorwork portion of the hat when I get home. It'd be great to finish the entire hat by the weekend so I can send off the pattern to my tech editor before Thanksgiving!

Hop on over to Carole's to see what everyone else is up to today, and have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

At the Speed of Life

This time of year, when the holidays are coming and people are trying to wrap things up before the end of the year, is always a bit chaotic, but things feel especially rushed this year. I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that we don't have a free weekend until we go to Florida. This coming weekend Rainbow has events to go to and we have to start cooking for Thanksgiving, the following weekend is my brother's wedding, and the weekend after that is Rainbow's 10th (yes, you read that correctly) birthday. There's a lot to do before we go away, but I'm trying to stay calm and not get too crazed.

Knitting is helping, as it always does. I'm trying not to put any undue pressure on myself to knit things by certain deadlines, and I'm only making one hand-knit gift for the holidays (a pair of socks for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, as she's the only one in the family who hasn't yet received a hand-knit gift from me). I am still hoping to hit 100 designs in my portfolio by the end of the year, and though that will mean a bit of a time crunch, it's looking good. Of the four left to get me there, one is in testing, a second is with my tech editor, the third has just been cast on, and the fourth can likely get done in December.

One project I was happy to get off the needles over the weekend was Rainbow's knee socks, which were nearly finished Thursday night (I had only half the bind off on the second sock to finish when the Mister made me go to bed) but then took me another day or so weave in the ends. But they're done, and she's thrilled with them. They look a little wonky here because she's worn them but hasn't yet relinquished them to be washed for the first time.


I knit these toe up, using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel and her foot template. The yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in Favorite Carrot Cake, and the contrasting toes, heels, and cuffs were done using the mini skein that came with the yarn; it's meant to look like the cream cheese frosting and toasted pecans that finish off the carrot cake. I magic looped these using a US 1/2.25 mm needle, which made them go quite quickly compared to my socks. I also did two sets of increases toward the top of the calf to add about half an inch of additional circumference and bound off using a variation of the Russian bind off. Amazingly, there's still some yarn leftover, so it's gone into the bag with the other leftovers to be added to my granny square blanket.

Last night I started that new design sample I mentioned. This is going to be a worsted weight colorwork hat, so it should be the matter of a few evenings of knitting. There's not much to see just yet, just the brim and one round of colorwork.


The yarn is Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Amethyst Heather and Peapod. It's a good workhorse yarn, and quite soft -- great for kids and babies. I bought a number of skeins earlier in the year in several colors to knit charity hats with. (And in going over to get the link, I noticed that quite a few colors are currently on sale, if you have similar thoughts.)

In reading, I have been listening to and thoroughly enjoying The Dutch House as performed by Tom Hanks and have about three hours left. I expect that means I will be finished by tomorrow evening, when I'll get some more time with Tom Hanks (at least on screen) at the Pittsburgh premiere of It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Though the movie doesn't come out until Friday everywhere else, we're getting an early peek at it via a fundraiser for WQED, our local PBS station where Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was created and filmed. I can't wait!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Curse Lives

If you know my spinning, you know that I like to spin fine yarns; my default yarn (or the yarn I spin if I don't pay attention and just let my hands do their thing) is a three-ply fingering weight. And that's what I set out to spin in this latest project, and I achieve that, yet I had the same outcome I always seem to have when I spin BFL: low yardage. I was hoping the silk content in this fiber would help some, but my 110 g yielded only 280 yards.


Now don't get me wrong -- I am completely in love with this yarn! I love the colors and I'm very happy with how it spun up. I'm just disappointed there isn't more of it.


I edited these photos a bit, but I still can't quite get the color right. In real life, they're less Christmas-y and the greens are more pine-y. The luster on the yarn is pretty amazing, too. And it's another bag of fiber converted into yarn, so that makes me happy. (This one didn't even make it into the larger stash -- I started spinning it almost as soon as it arrived!)

I haven't started another project yet, but I'm sure it'll only be a matter of time. My next club shipment is due to arrive in the mail tomorrow, so that might just have to jump on the wheel.

Meanwhile, Rainbow and I did a little stash enhancement today at Indie Knit and Spin:


Would you believe that none of the yarn in this photo is for me? Rainbow wanted to pick out yarn for another Little Boxy sweater and selected the three greenish skeins from Ex Libris Fibers. She also picked out the blue/green skein on the far right from Fully Spun, probably for a new slouchy hat. The blue/purple skein second from the right is worsted from Rita Mae Yarns that she won in the raffle (the second time in a row she's won a raffle prize, by the way) and is destined to be a new squishy cowl. Finally, we picked out a couple of bars of soap and a bottle of wool wash from Dusty Tree. I'm not sure that buying yarn to make things for someone else in the house really counts as not adding to the stash, but I feel okay about these purchases. And it's always fun to spend an afternoon with my girl enjoying all things wooly.