Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Unraveled, Week 38/2023

Good morning, friends, and thank you for the ongoing good thoughts. I'm sorry to say I'm still testing positive this morning, though I am feeling better -- I noticed on my (masked) walk yesterday that I could take deeper breaths and walk more or less at my usual pace, though I can still recognize the lingering symptoms of the virus in my body. I have pretty much accepted that I'm going to test positive for a while and I very well may miss out on the Great Race and Yom Kippur this weekend. I just keep reminding myself that although it's a disappointment to have to keep isolating and to miss out on things, the important thing is that I am feeling better.

It's Wednesday, so that means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers!

Today finds me working on two projects:

On the left are the Polwarth singles I started spinning over the weekend that were finished last night. I just wound them into a center-pull ball so that I can ply from both ends of the skein today, I hope. On the right is my current sock WIP, using the skein of Woolens and Nosh self-striping that I bought at SSK. I'm going to be knitting afterthought heels on these socks for a bit of a change from my usual.

I still haven't pulled out my Birch Pullover to do the math I need to in order to continue, but it's on my list for this week.

Reading has been slower in the past week (for obvious reasons), so I've only finished one book.

A Spell of Good Things is from the Booker Longlist and tells the story of two Nigerians: a young boy whose family is struggling to make ends meet and a late-20-something female doctor who is financially well off but struggling with a sometimes abusive relationship. At first this seems like a book whose purpose is to compare the lives of the haves and have-nots, but as the two main characters' lives move closer together, it becomes clear that they both face huge challenges and that their decisions can have far-reaching impacts on their lives. It also shows just how broken modern society can be and who can fall through the cracks when power is in the hands of a few. It's a challenging read, but it's one I appreciated. I gave it 4 stars. I'll also note that I bought a copy through Blackwell's, for which I am now an affiliate, and the book itself is really beautiful.

I'm still working my way through the Booker titles and obviously won't succeed in reading all of the Longlist before the Shortlist is announced tomorrow, but I did buy quite a lot of the books from Blackwell's and thus will read them, even if they don't make the cut. Right now I'm reading The Bee Sting and am about 50 pages is. It's good so far, but I've been reading before bed and have not been able to keep my eyes open for long, so I'll have to find some time during the day to make some real progress.

What are you making and reading this week? Have any predictions for the Booker Shortlist?

Monday, September 18, 2023

Welcome to My Pity Party

I am happy to report that I am feeling about ten times better this morning than I was at the end of last week. That said, I still haven't tested negative yet, so I'm still isolating from the Mister -- and it meant that I missed family dinners and services for Rosh Hashanah. I did, however, manage to make challah, and as promised, here's a photo:

The braid/weave looked a lot clearer before it was baked, but I'm still pretty happy with how this turned out, given it was the first time I'd ever tried a round loaf. I sent it to dinner with Mo and the Mister on Friday night and then had my sad little dinner alone with no challah. I didn't want to replicate that particular pity party on Saturday, so I baked some more and tried a different method of shaping:

One of these loaves went into the freezer, but I just had a couple of slices of the other for breakfast. Yum!

I spent a lot of the weekend crocheting and watching TV, but yesterday I was feeling well enough to tackle some cleaning (bathrooms), laundry, and a walk. Today it's back to work, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a negative test later today.

It wasn't all doom and gloom over the weekend, though. Thanks to all the extra crocheting time, I finished the blanket -- which I'd only just started last Thursday!

I did not use a pattern for this blanket, but I can try to explain how I did it. First, I'd learned this method of crochet using a free tutorial that I found on Ravelry (there are a ton of tutorials out there, on blogs and YouTube). Then, I did a little swatch. I crocheted a small square using the variegated skein that came with this set and weighed and measured it to determine how much yarn I used per square inch. Then I used that information to figure out how large a blanket I could make with the yarn I had and what dimensions it could be (I knew I wanted a rectangle, so that made the math a little more challenging). Once I had my numbers, the rest was straightforward. 

I based my calculations on having 500 grams of yarn (five 100 g skeins), but all of mine were a bit more than that, and so I ended up with a bit left of the last skein -- I used a total of 479 grams. I didn't want to cut it too close and risk running out, so I'm happy with that. The finished blanket is about 25 inches wide and 40 inches long, but the yarn is superwash, so I may try to stretch it out a bit larger when I block it. As is, though, it's the perfect size to cover my legs. Perhaps more importantly, it used up a bit more than 1,100 yards of yarn from my stash! It was really the perfect thing to work on while I was sick because it's pretty darn mindless, and now I'm a bit sad that it's done because I won't have it to work on. I suppose I will just need to start another one!

Friday, September 15, 2023

It Finally Got Me

Well friends, after three and a half years of avoiding it, I've finally been hit with the 'vid. Those of you who follow me on Instagram likely saw the positive test I posted yesterday. I honestly did think I just had a sinus infection, but when I woke up yesterday with my whole body hurting again, I thought I should test. I read somewhere a while back that the side effects you feel from getting a dose of the vaccine are likely an indication of how the virus itself would make you feel, and that whole-body ache has been primarily the effect I've had each time I've gotten a vaccine or booster. On the plus side, I started getting these aches Monday afternoon, so clearly I've had it for a while, and I'm actually feeling a lot better this morning. Even better, Mo tested negative yesterday afternoon and is back to school today. While I would have preferred not to have gotten it, I am relieved that my bout with COVID has been relatively mild. My symptoms have been the aforementioned body aches, sinus pain, and some congestion (and some associated lightheadedness, which you'd expect). I've been coughing a little, but mainly just because of the postnasal drip from the sinus congestion. I've not had a fever or lost my sense of taste or smell. I have been taking extra-strength Tylenol every six hours, and I knew I was turning a corner last night when I didn't start feeling terrible before my next dose was due. I also slept through the night last night, unlike the two prior, so I'm fairly confident that I will be back to normal in a few more days. It's a bummer that I will miss out on Rosh Hashanah dinner with the family tonight and services this weekend, but my mother will no doubt be dropping off food for me and I can watch services online. I'm happy to be feeling better and able to stay home to keep others from getting sick. I did want to share my experience with all of you because it seems like the new variant that is going around is not causing the typical COVID symptoms and so people may not be testing when they should. So consider this your PSA!

While I never like being sick, I will say that it's been a relief to take time off from work and to not be so sick that I'm not feeling up to crafting. In fact, I've gotten quite a lot done in the past couple of days, primarily on my crochet blanket:

Last night I joined the fourth skein of yarn and started decreasing along the other edge, so I am in the home stretch now. If I keep up the pace, I would not be surprised if I finish this blanket by the end of the weekend! It looks like it's going to be the perfect size for covering my legs; I'm working to 25" wide by 40" long, though I'm sure that I'll be able to coax a bit more out of it when I blog it, given that it's superwash. This has really been the perfect project because it's require so little thinking. While I haven't really experienced the so-called COVID brain fog, it is still hard to concentrate when you're feeling lousy.

Later today, provided my head is feeling clear enough, I may pull out my long-dormant Birch Pullover, which hasn't been touched since the day we left Florida after our spring break trip. It's been sitting in a bag since then for a very silly reason: I need to do some basic math to determine how much of each skein of yarn to set aside for the sleeves so I can blend my skeins sufficiently. It'll probably take me less than five minutes to do so, but my ridiculous unwillingness to do that has meant that I've ignored the sweater for nearly half a year. Now that fall weather is finally here, I want to get back to that sweater so it's done and ready to be worn when we have legitimate sweater weather!

I hope the weekend ahead is as beautiful for you as it's predicted to be for us. Keep your fingers crossed that by the next time I post, I'm COVID negative!

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Unraveled, Week 37/2023

Good morning from the sick house, friends. Mo is feeling a lot better, but I've come done with my annual sinus infection and am feeling pretty miserable. I'm glad I'm already working from home and don't have to go anywhere!

Time to check in with Kat and the Unravelers about making and reading. If there's one good thing to say about being at home with a sick kid, it's that there's plenty of time for both! 

I'm still working on my C2C blanket, and though I haven't added much more since you saw it on Monday, I plan to work on it during two work meetings today, one of which is supposed to be two hours long (it's on off-site meeting, but luckily I'd already planned to Zoom in because school pickup time is right in the middle of it).

I'm in the middle of a wrong-side row at the moment, and based on the measurement I took just after snapping this photo, I should reach my target width after one more right-side row. At that point, I will start decreasing on the left-hand side of the blanket and it'll start looking like a rectangle.

I also have added a few stripes to my current pair of socks, and I'm really enjoying this Targhee base.

The main reason I haven't made a ton of progress on either of these projects the past couple of days is because I've been almost completely focused on spinning -- and I finished another skein!

It's still a tad bit damp and the skein got a bit mussed up so I'll have to rewind it to tidy it up, but this is about 187 yards of three-ply worsted. This was Southern Cross Fibre Polwarth from May 2022 in the colorway Maelstrom. I did a very quick-and-dirty spin on this for a change, and while I don't have a ton of yardage, I'm very happy with this one.

I just love a round, bouncy three-ply yarn! Normally I don't have a specific plan for yarn I spin, but as these colors are right up Mo's alley, I'm thinking this might become a hat for her. I'll likely knit it top down so I can use up as much yarn as possible.

Reading has been good this past week, even if it's not been especially plentiful. With all the illness in the house, I've been a bit distracted. But I did finish two good books.

When I was in need of an audiobook late last week, I decided to reread Rebecca, in part because it's on the Novel Pairings calendar for this month but also because it's been a very long time since I read it (I'm pretty sure when I was in eighth grade!). I watched the Hitchcock film a ton when I was a kid and saw the not-so-great more recent Netflix version, so I knew the basic story, but I'd forgotten just how amazing the writing is! The audio version was well done, too. I think I could appreciate it all a lot more now that I'm older and more well read, and it wasn't until yesterday, while I was listening to Novel Pairings, that I learned that it was inspired by Jane Eyre, but it makes total sense! If you've never read this book, I highly recommend it. I gave my reread 5 stars.

My other finish came from the Booker Prize longlist. How to Build a Boat tells the story of Jamie, a young man who we're led to believe is on the autism spectrum and who believes that if he finds a way to build a perpetual motion machine, it will somehow connect him to his month, who died shortly after giving birth to him. He's helped in this mission by two of his teachers at his Catholic boys' high school, a place where all three of them are outsiders in their own way, and the book is really a lovely story of how they find and help one another through their respective life difficulties. This is one of those books that has no quotation marks for the dialogue, making it a little challenging in parts to know when someone is speaking and when they're just thinking, but it's a beautiful story. I gave it 4 stars.

I'm still reading An Immense World, though I haven't picked it up in the past several days, and I've been reading my next Booker selection, A Spell of Good Things, at bedtime.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, September 11, 2023

So Much for Those Plans

I am happy to report that it was a very restful weekend. Unfortunately, that was unplanned and was due to Mo coming down with COVID over the weekend. She woke up Saturday with a slight fever, and so we tested her because we were supposed to go to a bat mitzvah (read: lots of people). She luckily isn't feeling too ill (low-grade fever and congestion), but it's a bummer. She was mostly upset that she exposed everyone in the family at Friday night dinner, but so far everyone seems to be okay. She'll be home with me for most if not all of the week (I think she'll be able to go back to school, masked, on Friday, provided she tests negative before then), and as a result of all this, we all ended up with a very quiet weekend.

One nice thing was that there were Zooms happening for much of the day on Saturday for the Pigskin Party, so both of us were able to join while we crafted for several hours. I made quite a lot of progress on my crocheted blanket, and yesterday I actually finished up the first skein and joined in the second. This project is very addictive, so I would not be surprised if it's finished very quickly!

The color change isn't quite as stark as it looks here; I think that's just because the sun isn't really out yet, so the lighting wasn't great when I took this photo. I've almost reached my target width, so pretty soon I'll start decreasing on one side so that it will start looking like a rectangle.

After I posted on Friday, I was able to ply the singles I shared in that post, and I have another lovely skein finished:

I chain-plied this one, and I ended up with approximately 456 yards of fingering. I love the autumnal shades in this colorway -- and I'm also celebrating the fact that this was my 24th bag of Southern Cross Fibre spun this year! That was my doubled goal, and I'm not stopping now. I've been keeping up such a pace of spinning these club shipments that I might as well continue the momentum, and if I do, I should be able to get caught up by early next year. My ultimate goal is that I have no SCF stash but rather spin up each club shipment in the month that it arrives.

For accountability purposes, here was the SCF stash (minus one bag that was hiding) at the beginning of the year, with the bags I've spun checked off:

And here is what is currently in the stash, though my next shipment is out for delivery today and there will be one more bag added:

I should have another skein finished this week as well because I started spinning up that blue/purple fiber in the bag at the top left on Saturday and am nearly finished with the second bobbin (I thought a thicker yarn was in order; this'll probably be DK or worsted when it's plied).

I am hoping that this week is slightly less exciting, not least because Rosh Hashanah starts Friday night and we really want everyone to be healthy for it! I will be baking challah for our family dinner and trying my hand at a round loaf (a round challah is traditional for the new year). Please send us all your good thoughts for health!

Friday, September 08, 2023

Finishes and Starts

Why is it that sometimes the shorter weeks feel longer than the regular ones? I can only think it's been the heat here this week -- we officially had a heat wave, with three days hitting 90ยบ F or higher. (I even ran on one of those days, and it was very much Not Fun.) But it's Friday, and we had some rain move through yesterday (including when I thought I was in the clear and went out for a walk, only have to run home in a downpour), so things are looking up.

I know this will likely come as a surprise to none of you, but I did finish the socks for my sister-in-law on Wednesday evening, thanks in part to a rabbi search Zoom meeting. I blocked them yesterday, so today they're all ready to be wrapped up and presented to her at dinner.

After I was so successful in focusing on that project on Wednesday, I decided to do the same with my current spinning project yesterday and finished all my singles, so today I am ready to ply.

While I'm wrapping up my WIPs, I'm also starting some new projects. Yesterday was kickoff day for the Down Cellar Studio Pigskin Party (and the NFL season), and that meant casting on some new projects because WIPs aren't allowed for this make-along. Obviously I had to cast on some new socks, so I dove into my SSK stash and pulled out the skein I brought home from Woolens and Nosh and cast on.

The other project I started is a crocheted corner-to-corner blanket using five of the six skeins from the Fibernymph Dye Works sweater kit that I wound up last week. I made a swatch a couple of days ago, weighed and measured it, and did some math to figure out how big a blanket I could make with the yarn I have and the measurements for it. I'll admit I had to do a bit of Googling to help with the last step, but I'm pretty sure I got it right, and I have a bit of extra yarn should I need it (I did my calculations based on 100 g skeins, but all of mine are a few grams more than that).

Today should be a quiet day at work -- my boss's mother-in-law passed away earlier this week, so she is off for the funeral today -- so I am hoping I can take care of plying that bobbin of singles and make some progress on one or both of the new projects. We have a bat mitzvah to attend tomorrow and thankfully nothing planned on Sunday, so I'm hoping the weekend will be a good reset. Here's hoping it's a good one for you, too!

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Unraveled, Week 36/2023

A nice side benefit of having a three-day weekend is that when you feel like the week is just getting started, it's already Wednesday! Time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers.

I'm slowly but surely working my way through the foot of the second sock of this pair; I finished the gusset decreases while we were at mahj on Monday. Today is actually my sister-in-law's birthday, so I'm hoping I can finish these up in the next two days so I can give them to her on Friday when I see her next. Luckily she has the smallest feet among the person I knit socks for, so there's not a ton of knitting left.

I'm also still working on the current spin, which isn't surprising given how fine my singles are. I am, at least, on the second half of the fiber.

I haven't done a ton of reading in the last week because work got so busy, but I have managed to finish two books -- both of them rated 3 stars.

Study for Obedience was picked up because it's on the Booker Prize longlist. It's a small novel -- less than 200 pages -- but isn't an especially quick read. It feels very much like it was written a couple of centuries ago except for the occasional mention of modern technology. And it's very vague: The unnamed narrator has moved to an unnamed country to serve as housekeeper for her recently divorced brother. She doesn't speak the language, but we know that her Jewish family used to live in this country, and the implication is that they left to escape the Holocaust. As she tries to become part of the community, strange things begin to happen and there is overt hostility (and, presumably, anti-Semitism) toward her, leading to a reckoning that is similarly vague. It's a very strange book that doesn't have a clear resolution but is certainly one that will make you think.

I'd put Hello Beautiful on hold at the library because everyone seemed to be reading it and excited about it, and my hold finally came up late last week. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with it. The story is intriguing but also rather predictable, and I have to say that I was thoroughly unimpressed with the writing. While I love a good story, I think what I value most in what I read is the writing and craft itself, and I didn't see much artistry in this book. There are a few spots where there was a nice turn of phrase, but in most cases the writing seemed very unsophisticated. There was a lot of telling and very little showing. I'm not sorry I read it, but I wouldn't rush to read any of the author's other books if this is typical of her writing style.

I'm still reading An Immense World and I've started my next title on the Booker list, How to Build a Boat.

What are you making and reading this week?