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Friday, January 21, 2022

Not That I'm Saying I'm an Old Dog

One of the things I love about knitting is that no matter how long I've been doing it, I can always learn something new. Something that's been on my list to learn for quite a while is a tubular bind-off. Mary has been raving about this bind-off for quite some time, and it seemed like kismet that May(be) Queen called for it. As with most knitting techniques, once I actually sat down to do it, it turned out to be not nearly as difficult or as scary as I'd imagined -- really it was more time consuming than anything else.


When you do a tubular bind-off, what you're essentially doing is creating a horizontal channel (or tube) along the edge of your fabric. In this particular pattern, I was working in 1x1 rib, so there was a two-row set-up for the bind-off. In each row, I knit the knit stitches and slipped the purl stitches with the yarn in front. Next, I slipped the stitches to two needles, the knit stitches to the needle in front and the purl stitches to the needle in back. The final step is a very long graft. If you're someone who hates grafting the toe of a sock, I'd advise against this bind-off. Me? I happen to love grafting, so I didn't mind at all. I think the edge will improve with blocking but is already very attractive, and I'm excited to do it again for the other hem of this split-hem sweater.

[As an aside, I wanted to mention that I am making an effort to use the more generic term "grafting" to describe this method of stitching rather than "Kitchener stitch." The stitch was so named because it was believed that it came about during WWI, when the Earl of Kitchener was the British secretary of state for war and women were encouraged to knit socks for British soldiers. But the man was also responsible for some pretty terrible humanitarian tragedies, like concentration camps in South Africa, that I'd rather not associate with knitting.]

Also, I thought I'd share this photo of the "shark fin" sock on the foot, so you can see how it fits. It could use some blocking, but I'm quite happy with it.


As further proof of the pattern, I'm going to knit the second sock toe up, and then we'll see if anyone can tell which was knit which way at a glance. It's going to be a frigid weekend, so I'm hoping I can set aside some time to sit down with my numbers and write up a draft of the pattern to get to my tech editor. (And if any of you wants to test this out before it's formally published, let me know!)

Are there any knitting tricks you've picked up recently or that you want to try?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Unraveled, Week 3/2022

It's Wednesday again, in spite of my brain insisting that it's only Tuesday (something that happens without fail anytime I have a Monday off), so that means it's time for my weekly link-up with Kat and the Unravelers!

No unraveling has happened this week, but not that much knitting progress has been made since the weekend, either, and that's mainly because much of my attention has been focused on this:


This is the first bobbin of plied yarn from my combo spin (which is actually more green than blue, as it appears here), and there's going to be at least one more. I'm going to cram as much as I can on this bobbin before I switch it out. Plying handspun can get a little tedious; at least when I was spinning the singles, I was actively doing something and I had the novelty of each new bundle of fiber I pulled out of the bag. This is more mindless, but it's at least something that lends itself well to reading at the same time.

I have done a little knitting (though I haven't touched my sweater since the weekend). I'd cast on a sock for our trip home from Florida, and the intention was for it to be a way to try out an idea I had to combine two of my sock patterns -- one cuff down, one toe up -- into a new version that could be knit in either direction. I've been just about to the heel for a while and kept putting it off, in the way that you put off something that requires a little thought and seems like it'll require a huge effort but in actuality really doesn't take much time at all once you sit down and do it. And that was the case with this heel. About an hour of knitting time gave me proof of concept.


I know it looks a little like a shark fin, but it's a combination of gussets and a short-row heel, and it seems to work! I tried it on right after finishing and was happy with it, but I want to try it on again after knitting a bit more of the foot to be sure. Then it's just a matter of working out all the numbers for the different sizes.

Reading has been good this week! I've finished two books.

Shortly after I posted about Magpie Murders last week, I got really sucked into it, and I think I listened to the second half of the book over the course of Thursday. The story follows a book editor, Susan Ryeland, who has just gotten the latest murder mystery from her publisher's most popular author, and we read the book along with her at the start. But she discovers that the final chapters are missing from the manuscript, leaving the murder unsolved, and when the author of the book turns up dead, she finds herself involved in her own murder mystery as she tries to find the missing pages. Horowitz's detective in the book-within-a-book felt a bit like Poirot to me, but both story lines were very entertaining, and I thoroughly enjoyed both narrators. I gave it 4 stars.


The more Lauren Groff I read, the more I am impressed with her as a writer. I found the characters and the plot of Fates and Furies to be completely unrealistic and yet completely compelling, primarily because of the writing. I'm choosing to view this book as a modern Greek tragedy rather than an attempt at realism; Groff even inserts her own commentary on the plot in real time in brackets as a sort of chorus. I kept reading not because I cared about the characters, who at times seemed even too much for fiction, but because I was fascinated by how the author wrote about them and I wanted to see where she would take their story. This was a read that for me was less about the plot and more about the craft. I gave it 4 stars.


At the moment, I am only reading Braiding Sweetgrass, still quite slowly, but I've got the new Read With Us title, Agatha of Little Neon, queued up in my Kindle library to start later today and am hoping that soon I'll have Stanley Tucci's memoir to listen to from the library.

What are you making and reading this week?


Monday, January 17, 2022

No Day Like a Snow Day

It's a snow day here in Western Pennsylvania! We were all scheduled to be off anyway for the holiday, but I'm glad that we're all home and don't have to go anywhere, because this is what we're seeing in our backyard this morning:


I'd estimate we've gotten at least six inches so far, and the snow is going to continue for at least 2-3 more hours, so we might get a couple more inches before this storm is done. In the past, I would've gotten really anxious watching the snow come down because I'd be worrying about having to drive in it. I'm less worried about it these days, but when it snows like this on a day when we can all be home, I really get to enjoy it. We might go out for a walk as a family later so we can see how pretty the neighborhood looks, but I expect to spend the day mainly inside -- spinning, knitting, and staying warm.

Rainbow and I had a fun time puppy-sitting over the weekend. Other than taking him out for walks in absolutely frigid temperatures, it was an easy job, and he was happy to see us.


He spent a lot of time snoozing on "his" chair in the living room, but he was very cute yesterday morning when he heard us moving around upstairs and ran up to greet us -- it was like he forgot we were there and was jumping with excitement to see us! Because we didn't spend a lot of time playing with him (we tried; he just wasn't interested), I got quite a lot of knitting done! The body of my May(be) Queen is almost done. I've got just a few rows left on the back ribbing and the front ribbing to do (the bottom has a split hem and is longer in back than in front).

I think I'll be able to finish the body with the two original skeins, and I'll switch over to the two other skeins I have for the sleeves so that I don't add any more ends to weave in. I'm fairly certain I will be modifying the sleeves to make them more fitted and eliminating the stitch detail in favor of plain stockinette and a twisted rib cuff. I don't dislike the stitch detail, but I'm not hugely a fan of the puffed sleeve. This modification, though, will require a little math on my part, so I'll have to sit down with a measuring tape and a calculator and doing a little bit of work before I pick up for the first sleeve.

Before any of that, though, I'm going to spend some time at my wheel this morning. I started plying my combo spin singles late last week, and I'm eager to see the finished yarn!

I hope you are enjoying your Monday and staying safe and warm if you're getting snow like us!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Reasons to Smile

Happy Friday, friends! It's a gloomy day, and there's a snowstorm coming, but I am trying to focus on good things today. I am convinced that there are always reasons to smile and be happy, though sometimes they can be harder to find. Today I want to share a few of them with you in the hopes that you can find some of your own.

First of all, Rainbow's mittens are done! I had a Zoom board meeting last night, and it lasted long enough that I was able to finish up the second mitten and weave in all my ends.


Obviously they still need to be felted, as you can see that they are bigger than even my hands at this point, but that will be easy enough to do. My own felted mittens could use a wash and a touch up, so I will throw both pairs in the wash at some point this weekend, and Rainbow's hands will finally be warm when she heads back to school next week.

I also reached a critical point in my combo spin: I finished spinning the last bobbin of singles on Wednesday and started plying yesterday!


This is a pretty crummy photo (see above re: gloom), but at least you can see it coming together. I anticipate that I'll fill at least two bobbins with yarn, maybe even three. Even a conservative estimate gives me about 1,500 yards of yarn from my five bags of fiber, so there is a lot of treadling in my future. In retrospect, my electric miniSpinner probably would have made sense for plying this project, but now that I've started on the Lendrum, I'm going to keep going.

Finally, we have a long weekend ahead, as all three of us are off on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And that timing is excellent, given that there's a storm coming in on Sunday that could make things very sloppy on Monday morning, so I'm happy we won't have to go anywhere. A long weekend is always a reason to smile, but this one in particular is making me extra happy. My brother and sister-in-law are taking a quick trip to see her brother's family, so Rainbow and I are dog-sitting Saturday night. We haven't seen our favorite puppy since before the holidays, I think since we had everyone over for her birthday in mid-December, so we're both looking forward to spending some extra time with him. And given that it's supposed to be very cold in the lead-up to the storm, what could be better than curling up with a puppy?

I hope you have some great reasons to smile this weekend, and if you're in the path of this storm, stay safe and warm!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Unraveled, Week 2/2022

First, I want to thank all of you for the kind comments and good wishes for Rainbow. She was able to get back to school yesterday (double-masked!) and is feeling great, other than a little bit of lingering congestion that may or may not be related. I was feeling a little gross over the weekend, mainly with sinus issues, but I started using my nasal spray again and they've resolved, so who knows. I did go back and get another PCR test yesterday -- which turned into quite an adventure when my first swab decided to jump out of the vial and I had to redo it! -- and it's currently being processed, so I hope to have results later today. [Edit: Just got results -- negative!]  The Mister has felt fine the entire time, so he's either not been infected or been asymptomatic.

It is Wednesday today, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about what's in progress and what I'm reading. I am still working on my sweaters (well, actively only on one sweater), but you know that old adage about how the cobbler's children have no shoes? This weekend Rainbow informed me that she has no mittens that fit her. So guess what I'm knitting?

I'm using the Snow Day Mittens pattern (Ravelry link), which I've used many times before, but I've had to go up to the women's small size. The pink here is some Knit Picks Swish Worsted and the heathered  purple is a 50% wool/50% alpaca from a sweater I frogged. I knit all of the purple part you see here during last night's Read With Us Zoom session, just to give you an idea of how quickly these work up. I've got maybe another round or two to knit before I start the decreases.

High on my list of priorities today, however, is finishing up the singles of my combo spin, because this is all I have left to be spun:


I am really excited to get to start plying and see what this mashup yarn looks like!

Reading has been challenging (in a good way) and fulfilling this past week. I finished two books:

 I had heard about Eloquent Rage on a podcast and tagged it as to read in my library app several months ago, and I finally listened to it over the course of a few days. Cooper is a writer and a professor of women's and gender studies and Africana studies, and this book (which she reads herself) is a collection of essays about identity, racism, sexism, and feminism. She is brutally honest about how she views her role as a Black woman in a patriarchal country grounded in systemic racism, and her writing is incredibly powerful. I have a feeling I'm going to need to read this again, in print, because so much of it passed by quickly on audio and I have so many things I want to highlight and take notes on. I gave it 4 stars.


I know several of you have already read and raved about How the Word Is Passed, and someone (forgive me for forgetting who!) mentioned right before the end of the year that the Kindle version was on sale, so I bought it immediately. I took my time with this one and read it slowly; Smith is a poet, which you can tell from his prose, and his writing almost begs to be read at a slower pace. In this nonfiction book, the author takes the reader along to visit a number of historical locations that have strong ties to slavery and reflects on how their legacy can be felt today, both in our society in general and in his own life as a Black man descended from enslaved people. Given his background, you'd expect to get a particular viewpoint, but I really felt that he went out of his way to try to get honest opinions and responses from the people he met during his travels, including white descendants of those who fought for the Confederacy. I had a lot of highlights in this book, but the most powerful one, I think, was the very last one:

"The history of slavery is the history of the United States. It was not peripheral to our founding;
it was central to it. It is not irrelevant to our contemporary society; it created it.
This history is in our soil, it is in our policies, and it must, too, be in our memories."

I gave this book 4 stars.

I'm currently reading three books -- one on paper, one on audio, and one on ebook. The paper book is Braiding Sweetgrass, which is likely to be a long-term read for me. I am listening to Magpie Murders on my walks this week. It's been on my radar for a while, and when Katie mentioned how much she enjoyed it on Monday and it was available with no wait from the library, it seemed like kismet. I'm roughly a third of the way through it and am enjoying it immensely. Finally, after last night's Zoom discussion, I was inspired to read another Lauren Groff. Fates and Furies was mentioned as a favorite a couple of times, and I've been meaning to read it, so I finally borrowed it from the library and started it right before bed.

What are you working on and reading this week?

Monday, January 10, 2022

Too Much Drama for One Weekend

I had hoped that this past weekend would be a relaxing one. We didn't have much on the calendar, and the weather was supposed to be very cold on Saturday and rainy on Sunday, so it looked like a good weekend for staying in.

And then all hell broke loose.

Rainbow was online last week for the first week back at school. Her school did this last year as well, and I thought it was a smart way to allow those students who might have traveled to isolate at home for a bit without having to miss any school. They asked everyone to get a COVID test prior to returning in person, just to be safe. So I took her to get a PCR test on Thursday afternoon, and I got one as well, as it was easy and I figured it couldn't hurt. The wait for results was longer than the last time we went, but I got my negative result around noon on Saturday, just before we left for a field trip at the museum with her Girl Scout troop. Rainbow had had some allergy-like congestion but felt fine otherwise, so we just assumed she'd get a negative result as well. I think you can see where this is going. Saturday night, as I was keeping her company while she was in the shower, her positive result came in.

Before anyone gets worried, she is fine, though clearly upset. We figure she had to have caught it when we were coming home from Florida, because before and after that, she hasn't been around anyone but immediate family. I am sharing this news, with her permission, because I want you all to get a sense of just how contagious this new variant is. As you know, she was only recently fully vaccinated, having gotten her second shot just about a month ago. When we traveled, she was double-masked with a surgical mask and a cloth mask (because the N95 masks we had on hand were too big on her). I've ordered some child-sized N95 masks, but they're going to take some time to come in. This new variant, though, is so contagious that I'm not sure even the best mask can stop it. So be careful out there!

As Elizabeth Zimmermann so wisely advised, "Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises." And that's what I've continued to do (though I've been spinning as well as knitting). I am getting very close to finishing up my combo spin singles; I'm convinced that these last few bundles of fiber are taking the longest of any part of this project to finish! There are three more to spin after this one.


I've also put in quite a few rounds on my May(be) Queen, and I'm not that far off from the end of the body.


I know the needles flipping up is making it hard to see exactly how the fabric is laying, but the back of the sweater is in fact longer than the front thanks to a series of short rows that are worked every now and then along with the fake increases and actual increases and decreases to shape the side panels.

I hope that your weekend was much less dramatic than mine. Stay safe out there!

Friday, January 07, 2022

A Week In

We are officially a week in on this new year, and my view out back is drastically different from last week. This is what we woke up to this morning:


That flat surface you see is the roof of the little shed we had built this summer to hold our garbage and recycling cans. I'd say we got maybe an inch and a half of snow, not terribly much compared to other parts of the Northeast, but it's bitterly cold outside. I'll be bundling up in a winter coat and boots this morning for my walk instead of my usual activewear jacket and sneakers.

Yesterday I finished up a little project that I'd started last month. It was something I cast on mainly to have something to do with my hands during meetings, so I never even mentioned it on the blog. But now I have a new way to keep my ears warm on those rare days when it's cold enough to want them covered but a bit too warm for a hat:

Embracing my inner Kym with a real me, no-makeup selfie

Sorry for the blurriness of the photo, but the coffee hasn't fully kicked in yet. I used up some Fibernymph Dye Works leftovers from a pair of socks I knit Rainbow a couple years ago and had just enough -- maybe a yard leftover. What's a little hard to see in this photo is that the fabric is doubled; I knit it as a long tube. I still have some adjustments to make (like I added a twist that I don't think is needed), but it's certainly functional. Rainbow has asked for one, so I guess I'm knitting another.

Speaking of Rainbow, it's going to be a big year for her. If you can believe it, she will have her bat mitzvah this year, just a couple of days after her 13th birthday. Last night we had our first meeting with the rabbi to talk about this major right of passage. And tomorrow I will be handing off two skeins of handspun yarn to a friend who is going to weave a piece of fabric for her tallit. You may recall that last year, I spun up the two skeins that I thought would be used only for Rainbow to tell me (rather late in the game) that one of them was too colorful. Thankfully she found something else already in my stash that would work so I didn't have to rush to spin a replacement, and while I'm a bit surprised by her choices, I'm happy that she is satisfied.


The darker skein, which will be used for the warp, is Polwarth from the now-defunct Crown Mountain Farms. The bright blue, which will be the weft, was spun from Merino dyed by what was then called Scarlet Fleece and now seems to be known as Sweet Tree Hill Farm that I hand-carded with some undyed silk sliver. The silk is pretty subtle and a bit slubby, so I think it will add just a hint of shine and some texture.

I hope the first week of 2022 has treated you gently and that you're staying warm in wool if you've got cold like us. Have a great weekend!