Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Officially Obsessed

If you've read this blog long enough, then you know I'm typically not one to jump on a bandwagon. It's rare for me to knit that sweater that everyone is knitting or buy the yarn that everyone's talking about. That's not to say that it never happens, it's just rare. But in the past week I've been bitten by the marled scrappy hat bug, and I'm not sorry.

These three charity hats have all been knit since last Wednesday, when I started the first while watching the inauguration. You'd think I'd have gotten the urge to do this out of my system with the first hat, but I found myself casting on the next one as soon as it was finished and did it again with the second and third. The only thing that's kept be from starting another is that my elbow was hurting a bit, so I decided to take a brief break just in case it was the hat knitting that was causing it.

There are number of patterns out there for hats like this, but I just did my own thing because I've knit enough hats to be able to knit a basic beanie without a pattern. I know that's not the case for everyone, so I'll be sharing my basic recipe later this week if you'd like to use it (though certainly there are many other basic hat patterns out there, and any one will do the job, so I'm under no delusion that mine is anything special). 

What makes these hats so fun is the color play that comes from using up scraps. These hats were all knit using bits of leftover fingering weight sock yarn held double. The wilder the color combination, the more fun the hat seems to be. The first two hats used leftovers of Knit Picks Felici exclusively. The third, which was completed yesterday, used a strand of ONline Supersocke self-patterning yarn and scraps of two semisolid Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply leftover from my Color Affection (I used up all the light pink and part of the purple). You know what the best part is? These three hats, which all took me only a couple of days each to knit, used up a whopping 864 yards of scrap yarn. I'm going to have to remember these when Stash Dash rolls around again this year.

All the hats were intended to be worn with the reverse stockinette side out, but someone on Ravelry asked what they look like the other way, and I guess technically if you weave in your ends really neatly, they can be considered reversible. But here's what they look like as knit (I've been knitting them in stockinette and turning them inside out after weaving in my ends):

You can definitely see the self-patterning yarn more on the third hat, and I don't think the scraps blend as well this way, but whoever ends up with this hat can decide how they want to wear it! I'm thinking about adding some cowls to the mix, using the same method, and maybe some mittens. That 800+ yards of yarn used has hardly made a dent in the bag of leftovers, but I'm certainly feeling better about my pack rat tendencies now that I see I can do something good with the bits of yarn I never could bring myself to throw away.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Balance in 2021: January

No, your eyes are not deceiving you -- I really am posting on a Monday! Carolyn is graciously hosting our One Little Word link-ups this year, and as she's posting her reflections on the last Monday of the month, I thought I might as well follow suit. If I can manage it, I might just post every day this week! That's my intention, anyway.

We still have a week of January left, but it's been quite a month in the three weeks that have already passed, so I feel that more than enough time has gone by to reflect on it. There of course have been some pretty big goings-on in the country that I won't rehash here, but there have also been changes at home. Rainbow started out the year with school back to being virtual, in part to give those who might have traveled over the winter break longer to self-isolate without having to miss any instruction. She was certainly perfectly happy about that because she could sleep a little later and didn't have to dress in her full uniform. But on January 11, she went back to school in person, and this meant a shift in my daily schedule. I am still trying to get in my hour (or so)-long walk every day, but now in addition to working that in around work meetings, I also have to keep an eye on the clock so that I can pick her up at 3 every day. Most days, that means getting out for my walk in the morning (I'll be heading out for today's walk shortly after I post this, in fact). While later in the day might be more comfortable for me because it might be a few degrees warmer in the afternoon, I'm finding that I'm really enjoying doing my exercise in the morning and, in many cases, hitting my daily step goal by midday. This shift in schedule also means that I am not sitting for too long in a stretch at any time of the day, and I have a really good rhythm going of times of activity alternating with times of rest.

I've also made a couple of schedule changes this month that seem to be working out much better for doing some daily tasks consistently. One is my (almost) daily strengthening exercises. For the past couple of years, I've done things like crunches and pushups and planks just about every evening to build up my core strength. Usually I'd do them after dinner and brushing my teeth in the evening, but I've recently shifted to trying to do them when I get back from my daily walk, before I jump in the shower. For one thing, I'm already in workout mode, so it feels natural. But it's also meant that I do these exercises more consistently, because I've been known to skip them some nights because I'm tired or full from a big dinner or just feel like I can't be bothered. I'll still occasionally skip a day if I'm not feeling well or if something's hurting, but this feels like a good practice. I have also adjusted my journaling time to allow for a more relaxed writing period. I used to write in my journal just before crawling into bed to read before lights out. This timing meant I often felt pressured to write quickly (and, thus, incompletely) because I wanted to get to the reading. Instead, I'm now writing earlier in the evening, while Rainbow does her nightly reading for pleasure. She's taken to coming to sit with us in our bedroom to do that, which means I can't yet turn on the TV and take up my knitting. So it's the perfect time to pull out my journal. I don't necessarily write more every night, but there have been plenty of nights when I have, and I no longer feel like I'm writing against the clock. In turn, that's made for a more meaningful experience.

So I'd say that I'm doing a decent job of finding balance in my life thus far, but it's something I also feel like I have to continuously work on to be effective at it.

How about my 21 in 2021 list? I'm planning to check in on it each month along with my One Little Word.

When I set up the list, it was done with the full understanding that I was not going to cross off all the items in the first few months of the year and with the hope that I'd cross off one or two each month. January started out well in this regard. Rainbow and I baked challah on New Year's Day, so I was able to check off the very first item off the list. I also spun the oldest fiber in my stash this month, and I've been making excellent progress on making five items for charity (which I'll share tomorrow). So it looks like I'll end the month with definitely two and maybe three items crossed off the list. Not a bad start!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Poof! There It Is

I promised a Polwarth Poof in this post, and I hope I will not disappoint! I plied the entire skein over several spinning sessions last Thursday and then skeined and washed the yarn on Friday. By yesterday morning, after resting on the radiator overnight (one good thing about the winter cold), it was dry and nicely poofed.

I was very pleased with how the colors stayed together -- my primary reason for chain-plying the yarn. I don't think my photos do the colors justice, to be honest. They're quite saturated and dimensional, but capturing them accurately with my camera is difficult. Perhaps if I was a better photographer, I'd do a better job of conveying just how talented David of Southern Cross Fibre is with his dyeing talents. (Really click on that link to see. His photography is much better than mine.)

The only thing about this yarn that I'm not as pleased with is the yardage. I knew the skein would shrink when it was washed -- we all know that when things get wider, they also get shorter, so the poofing up in the thickness of the yarn would mean a corresponding shortening of the length. While I succeeded in getting a yarn that's fingering weight after washing, it shrank up from about 72 inches around to closer to about 56 inches. That is quite a difference! So my finished skein is only about 280 yards for 110 g (just a smidge less than 4 oz.), when the normal yardage for that amount of fingering weight would typically be in the neighborhood of 350-400 yards. Handspun is often denser than commercial yarn, particularly worsted-spun handspun, so I'm not entirely surprised, but I was hoping for more than 300 yards.

Here's the side by side so you can get a sense of how the yarn poofs up in the finishing. On the left in the above photo is the yarn before it was washed. You can see that it looks a little limp and has some active twist in it (that's why the yarn looks kind of wavy). On the right is after washing. I know it's not terribly dramatic; that's mainly because the plying was pretty tight. But you can see that the yarn is noticeably plumper and even the angle of the ply twist looks a bit steeper. While in my experience all handspun yarns do benefit from a wash after plying (and several snaps of the skein to even out the twist), they don't all change this much. The shrinkage in this skein means that it's very elastic and bouncy, and of course it's extremely squishy if you give it a squeeze. I didn't have anything in mind for this skein, so now I'm just admiring it while I decide what to spin next!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Three Things Making Me Smile

I mean, aside from the obvious. Yesterday was such a beautiful day, but it was also an emotional one. I'll admit that as excited as I was to see it come, I was also feeling a bit on edge the whole time. It had only been two weeks since all the violence at the Capitol, and there was so much talk of all the extra security that I didn't feel completely okay until it was over without incident. I recorded the whole thing for Rainbow, although she did end up getting to watch parts of it at school, and we plan to watch it again this weekend. I'm hoping that the second time around, I won't ugly cry.

So this morning, I woke up without the feeling of impending doom that I've had for the past 4+ years, and it was a strange feeling. All the executive orders issues yesterday and watching the first press conference also had me feeling like I was in some alternate reality. I think it says a lot about just how awful the last administration was that hearing about acts of decency and honesty seem so foreign to us. You know what else is weird? Feeling happy about normal things again -- not because I'm forcing myself to look for things to be happy about! I've decided to share three of them for today's Three on Thursday post.

1. The colors of Inauguration Day
I have always looked forward to see what people (well, really the women) are wearing on Inauguration Day. Because the day always falls at what seems like the most depressing part of the winter, I am always cheered by the colors. Dr. Biden, Vice President Harris, Michelle Obama, and Hilary Clinton, among others, did not disappoint yesterday. I'm sure you've seen the photos and video many places, but you may not have seen this brilliant act of marketing on Instagram from Neighborhood Fiber Co. where they pulled yarn combinations to perfectly match all the outfits (even Bernie's mittens that were all over social media yesterday!).

I'd encourage you to click over and look at all the slides on the first two posts, if only just to see the gorgeous outfits again (and I claim no responsibility if some yarn happens to fall into your cart in the process).

2. Amanda Gorman's beautiful poetry
I'm sure many of you were equally awed by this talented young woman yesterday and by her beautiful words. Her poem, "The Hill We Climb," seemed so perfect for the moment -- and didn't you just love how she started by addressing the president and vice president and their spouses and emphasizing Dr. Biden and Vice President Harris? You can read a transcript of the poem here, and you can also preorder a printed copy (the publication date is currently set for September, but I'm wondering if they just might speed that up after yesterday!). I've ordered by copy from my local bookstore.

3. The start of what may be a new obsession
I did cast on a new hat yesterday while watching the ceremony and am officially obsessed. It's just a plain hat, with a 2x2 ribbed brim and a stockinette body, but combining self-striping sock yarn scraps is so much fun. I'm planning to turn the hat inside out when I'm done so that the reverse stockinette shows, because I think this view is so much more interesting!

This hat is all leftover Knit Picks Felici sock yarn, and so far I'm using leftovers from two pairs of socks I knit Rainbow in the past. This hat will go in the charity pile, and I have a feeling I'll be making a bunch more like it!

Here's to a happy end of the week! Thanks as always to Carole for hosting us for these weekly link-ups.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

It's a Beautiful Day: Unraveled, Week 3/2021

Good morning, friends! I don't know about you but I have been waiting for this day for a very long four years. I kept waking up super early this morning -- I can't remember the last time I actually looked forward to my alarm going off! I was able to get Rainbow up fairly quickly this morning, too, I think because she couldn't wait to get into our matching outfits:

We're even wearing the same pants! I've discovered that I can fit into a teen size of the joggers she really likes from Target, so now we can really do twinning right. She was planning on wearing her shirt under her uniform polo shirt to school today, but she came home all excited yesterday because they were told today would be a dress-down day. They didn't say that the girls would be able to watch the inauguration at school, though, so we're recording it so we can watch together tonight.

It's Wednesday, so I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about crafting and reading.

My projects haven't changed much since yesterday, although I did spend a good amount of time on Rainbow's socks yesterday and just have to finish up a toe to have a finished pair. Once that is done, I've decided to do a little charity knitting in honor of the incoming administration, so I've pulled out the big bag of fingering weight scraps to do some scrappy hats. When I say big bag, this is what I mean:

It's hard to get a true sense of scale but I can tell you that this bag is about 18 inches tall and was stuffed to the gills. I plan on holding two strands of fingering weight together (to make roughly a DK) and adding an additional strand every time one runs out.

Reading has been excellent this past week. I've finished three books since my Unraveled post last week, and they were all 4-star reads for me:

James McBride's The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

I read three of McBride's novels last year and was amazed and impressed by his ability to create such vibrant and unusual characters. Now I understand that his unusual childhood was a large reason why. He was raised as one of 12 children by his mother and step-father, having never met his biological father (his mother was pregnant with him when his father died). His mother always said she was "light skinned," but it wasn't until McBride was older that he discovered she was raised as an Orthodox Jew, the daughter of a rabbi and a Polish immigrant. I listened to the audiobook, which alternates chapters "read" by McBride and his mother telling their respective stories.

Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance during the Blitz

I know many of you read and loved this book, so I won't be telling you anything new, but it is a wonderful read and I learned so much by reading it. Books about history have a tendency to be slow and dull, but this one is neither. It took me a while to read it, but only because it is long and I wanted to read slowly enough to take it all in. I'm definitely going to be reading more of Larson's books in the future!

Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind is the next Read With Us selection, and I was lucky enough to not have to wait too long to get it from the library. It's a very strange book, but strange in a way that invites a lot of thought and is great for a discussion. I'd encourage you to read the synopsis but don't write it off completely if it doesn't sound like something you'd normally read. It wasn't really what I thought of as "my" kind of book, but I really enjoyed it, despite how unsettled it made me feel. I'm really looking forward to discussing it with the group!

I am starting to suspect that the library/Libby app knows when you're a reader who typically returns books early and rewards you by shortening your wait time, because despite the app telling me I had three more weeks to wait, I was surprised by a notification that Transcendent Kingdom was available for me to borrow yesterday morning! I started reading it last night and am already something like 22% through it, so I expect I'll be able to finish it up before the end of the week. It's really good so far.

It looks like things are about to get started on the Capitol, so I am signing off for the day. I wish you a good day today, hope for things to improve, and (as always) projects and books that make you happy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

It Was Still a Monday

I had really hoped that yesterday would be a good, relaxing day off, but it was a still a Monday, if you know what I mean, and so despite my hopes and plans, things did not pan out as I expected.

Case in point: Rainbow wanted to bake challah again, in part because she really likes having it for breakfast. So we figured out how to make half the recipe that we used last time so that we'd end up with just one big loaf instead of two, and we also discovered the with the smaller amount, the mixer can handle the dough just fine and do our kneading for us. We were delighted with how our loaf came out and were just waiting for it to finish its second rise in a slightly warmed oven before we could bake it.

And then the Mister came home from a bike ride and decided that he was going to heat up a couple of slices of leftover pizza for lunch. Now most people would probably do that in the toaster oven rather than use the energy of the big oven. Most people, knowing that their family was baking bread that day, might think to check the big oven if they were going to be using it. But the Mister is not most people. He is a smart guy and I love him dearly, but sometimes common sense escapes him. He went right to turning on the big oven, where this lovely braid was rising under a cover of plastic wrap. I think you can figure out what happened. When I asked him where he thought the bread was rising, he said the refrigerator. The refrigerator! Sigh. To his credit, he went to the supermarket to buy a loaf of challah so Rainbow could have the breakfast she was so looking forward to, but now it's clear to me that I need to be super obvious about what is going on in the kitchen. And at least I've learned that the half recipe works well and can do it again (I might do it on Friday if I have time), but I feel bad about the wasted time and ingredients.

My knitting has not been going much better, and I'm starting to wonder if it's just all the underlying stress that is making my brain not fire at 100%. I cast on for my Adventuresome Wrap (Ravelry link) on Thursday and have screwed it up so many times I've lost count. In most cases I've tinked back to fix the errors, but one was a missed decrease several rows back that I just decided to add in when I noticed and live with.

It's clear that the speckled minis are going to have much less contrast with the pale gray that's the main color in between the stripes, but I think it will be a nice effect overall. Now that I've finally gotten through a stripe successfully, I'm hoping it's not too hard to replicate it.

One benefit of that four-hour Zoom session on Friday was that I was able to knit through it and finished the first of Rainbow's new pair of ankle socks. I cast on for the second over the weekend and was knitting away on it while she and I did a FaceTime call with my mother yesterday afternoon, and then I realized that I'd forgotten to switch to ribbing on the sole after I finished the gusset and had to rip out about an inch of knitting.

At least in this case I know I can make up that time fairly quickly and that these socks will be perfect to work on while reading -- I have a new library book to start today!

The one bright spot in my crafting over the holiday weekend was a quick little crochet project. Rainbow wanted to try some basic techniques so she can eventually make some amigurumi projects, so I taught her to do a magic circle and increase in rounds. We were working on our own projects side by side, and when she lost interest, I carried on with any idea I wanted to try out. About an hour later, I had this little guy:

It was meant to be a pierogi, but it could also pass as a Cornish pasty or an empanada. I know my embroidery leaves a lot to be desired, but it's pretty cute, don't you think? I'm glad at least one thing went right this weekend!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Spin to Savor

Normally by almost 8:30 on a Sunday evening, I'd be tucked up in bed with my knitting, waiting for my PBS program to start. Tonight, however, I am just sitting down to type up a quick blog post. It's been a heck of a weekend, and I'm thankful that I am off tomorrow because it means I'll finally have a day that will feel like a weekend. I had such a busy end to my work week, culminating in a four-hour Zoom session Friday morning that prevented me from doing actual work and resulted in me having to catch up on that work this afternoon. So needless to say, I do not have a finished skein of handspun to share this Sunday, though I started a new spin earlier in the week and for a while thought I might have it finished up in a matter of days.

While the stress of work is something I could do without, the fact that it's forced me to take things slowly with this spin is not entirely a bad thing. I'm spinning this gorgeous Polwarth from Southern Cross Fibre:

I briefly entertained the idea of doing a fractal spin with this, but in the end I could not bear to mix up these gloriously saturated colors, so I am spinning the fiber from end to end and will chain-ply the singles.

Polwarth is probably my favorite wool breed to spin. It's the result of crossing Merino and Lincoln sheep; while you're likely very familiar with Merino, let me tell you that if you've ever encountered Lincoln wool, it's likely been in something like a carpet. I have spun it and it gave me the willies because it felt like spinning human hair, and it's generally not used for anything worn next to the skin. But cross-breeding resulted in a soft wool with a slightly longer staple length than Merino, and it's an absolute delight to spin. I am consciously spinning my singles very fine because there's this thing called the Polwarth poof: When you wash Polwarth yarn, it has a tendency to poof up dramatically. So you might put a skein in to soak thinking you have fingering and wind up with DK or worsted weight. I am hoping to get fingering with this spin, but I've been fooled before. Regardless, I'm about 2/3 of the way done with the singles, and I'm hoping I can spin up the last of the fiber in the next day or two. If I can remember, I will take before and after photos of the yarn so you can see the poof!