Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Only Raveling*

It's Wednesday, so today I'm joining with Kat and friends to share my WIPs and my reading.

Here is the current WIP situation:

When I said last week that I was back to three WIPs after finishing Rainbow's blanket, what I should have said was that I was back to three active WIPs. Technically I have four projects in progress, but my Breathe and Hope shawl is still in hibernation for the time being. I've been thinking about getting it out to finish it for Stash Dash, but I haven't acted on that just yet. Left to right here are my Torbellino sweater, which now has about four inches of body knit under the arms; the hat I'm knitting to match my Slipdash cowl; and the corner-to-corner crochet blanket out of the giant skein of acrylic I inherited from Rainbow. I've been alternating the first two for the past several days, and both are good projects to work on while reading.

Which leads me to my reading update! My pace has hardly slowed, and I'm hoping to keep it up to complete a cover-all on my second bingo card:

Since my last reading update, I've finished four more books:

The Last of the Moon Girls was an Amazon First Reads selection from this summer, and I picked it mainly because it seemed like a good summer read -- not too deep, not too heavy. It was a fairly pleasant read, a combination of magical realism and murder mystery, but it also felt pretty derivative of other books I've read and was rather predictable. I saw where the story line was going early on and also more or less figured out the mystery by about halfway through the book. The writing was okay, though the author has a tendency to use certain words over and over again (one I can remember is "pong," as in odor), which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine -- ever heard of a thesaurus? I ended up giving it 2 stars. It was a quick read but not necessarily one I'd recommend. I put it in the "Magical Realism" square on my second bingo card.

The Power is a book that was on my radar a few years ago when it came out, but I never got around to reading it. I was happy to see it had no wait from the library when I was looking for something to fill my "Speculative Fiction" square. I found it to be an interesting read in that Alderman completely flips the script and creates a world in which women not only have the power in society but typical gender characteristics are also reversed -- in this world, men are considered the gentler, more nurturing sex. While I appreciated this unusual perspective, I found it very unsettling. I also felt like I was missing something, like there was part of the story I wasn't getting but that I was meant to have understood implicitly. I gave it 2 stars.

I received St. Ivo as a hand-me-down from my mother. It went in my "Originally Published This Year" square. I'm a bit conflicted about it, because it was well written and fairly enjoyable to read, but at the same time it didn't feel like a complete book to me. The author's note at the end reveals that it was developed from a short story, and to be honest, I think it still is one. The story feels unresolved, even though the secrets at the heart of it are revealed by the end. I gave it 3 stars.

Finally, I read The First Mrs. Rothschild, a fictionalized first-person narrative (in the form of a diary) of the wife of Meir Rothschild, the founder of the famous banking family. This was another First Reads selection and went into the "Title That's a Character's Name" square on my card. The first 100 or so pages were okay, but after that it became a slog. The real Mrs. Rothschild lived a long life, and so her "diary" went on for a long time and became very repetitive. It didn't feel realistic to me, in part because of the language used, though I don't know if the author or the translator is to blame for that. I was determined to finish so I could fill that square on my card, though. I gave it two stars.

At the moment, I'm reading two books: The Things We Cannnot Say, which I should be able to finish up today (I have less than 100 pages to go and it's a fast read), and Grit, which I started listening to yesterday on my run. After these two, I'll only have 10 more squares to fill on my second bingo card to get another cover-all!

*The opposite of unraveling is raveling, right?

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Heinz or Hunt's?

If you're wondering about the strange post title, it's because I'm feeling a little punny this morning -- this is a catch-up post (get it?). (Oh, and the answer to the question is always Heinz. Always.)

I'm still trying to get Rainbow to pose with her finished blanket, but thus far she's only been interested in snuggling with it. I guess it's a indication of the blanket's success that she's been sleeping with it every single night since it was finished. Blocking went well and squared it up decently, but it also stretched it out just enough that the fabric has really nice drape now. Here it is atop my queen-size bed for scale:

The details: I used Casapinka's Blanket of Calm (Ravelry link) as a jumping-off point to get me started, mainly because it was free and had just been released when I was thinking about starting this blanket. Once I understood the construction, I didn't have to refer to the pattern at all. The entire blanket is double crochet, with about four rounds of single crochet for a border. I used an F hook (3.75 mm) for the whole thing; I didn't swatch, but I knew that I generally use a US 5 (3.75 mm) knitting needle with fingering weight yarn for things like shawls, so I figured it would work well with crochet, too. The very center of the blanket is Holly Press Fibers SHEEPISHsock leftover from my I've Got Sunshine (Ravelry link) socks and the rest of it is Knit Picks Felici. I used two skeins each of the colorways Thunderstruck, Summer Camp, Test Pattern, Goth Kitty, Material Girl, Ever After, and Dark Rainbow (though there's about half of the second skein of Dark Rainbow left because Rainbow declared the blanket Big Enough at that point). Altogether, I used 677 grams -- 2,957.9 yards/2704.7 meters -- of yarn, and the only Felici left in my stash is that half skein or so of Dark Rainbow. I'm quite happy to have all that yarn out of my stash and that big boost to my Stash Dash total (which right now stands at 13,445.5 meters!).

Over the weekend we attended our nephew's first birthday party in the park. The theme was the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I have to say that my sister-in-law did an excellent job on the treats (she ordered the cookies, which, though it's hard to see here, are foods with holes in them, just like in the book):

My nephew, however, remained unimpressed by the whole thing:

(That's Rainbow's hand and drink on the left side of the frame, trying to get his attention so he'd look at the camera. And yes, quite a few people at the party were not wearing masks. My sister-in-law comes from a Faux News family. Le sigh. We were all masked, and thankfully the party was outside.)

The good news is that the crocheted alpaca I made him seems to be a hit. Or at least it passed his taste test. I received this photo from my brother-in-law this morning:

I can't ask for a better reception than that to a hand-made gift for a 1-year-old!

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Hope Springs (Eternal?)

I'm looking at the clock as I type this and can't believe another weekend is almost over -- where does the time go? We didn't do very much this weekend other than a trip to Target yesterday (which was, frankly, exhausting due to all the people) and a little birthday party for my nephew at the park today, but somehow the past two days have flown by. I honestly think I've been getting more crafting done during the week than over the weekend lately!

I suspect you will not be surprised that I finished another skein of handspun this week, and I think it's the second most-recent Southern Cross Fibre club shipment I received. This was April's club (they're usually mailed out toward the end of the month to begin with, and the mail is obviously taking longer these days, so I don't think I received it until close to the end of May). This moody colorway, called Hope Springs, was dyed on grey Corriedale fiber, and I think that color in the original fiber really gives such depth to the colors.

I spun my default yarn for this skein -- worsted style, short forward draw, three-ply fingering weight. Before I started, I split the fiber into four long strips and then spun each strip all onto one bobbin. I chain-plied the singles to preserve the colors, so this will stripe (albeit subtly) when it's knit up.

I'm very pleased with the finished appearance and the amount of twist in the yarn, but the yardage was a bit low -- only 319 yards/291.7 meters from 4 oz./113 g of fiber. Normally I hope to get about 350-400 yards for that amount, but I suppose this fiber was on the denser side. It'll be excellent for socks, though, and the yarn could easily be stretched by using a contrast color for cuffs, heels, and toes. And according to the special rules for handspun, it'll count for more than 1,160 meters toward my total!

This skein was a bit of a palate cleanser because I'm getting ready to start another sweater spin. The next one won't be quite as bit an undertaking as the fleece, but I will need some stamina to get through spinning a lot of the same color. This is what's on tap next:

This was February's Southern Cross club shipment, Rambouillet in a colorway called Thunderstruck. I loved it so much when David posted the spoiler photo that I went on to the website and bought three more lots of it. My plan is to spin up all four bags into three-ply fingering and use it along with the skein of Pebbles I finished a few weeks ago in a Tiny Dancer (Ravelry link) sweater. Although all the fiber is purple, you can see that it's multiple shades, so I'm splitting up the fiber into some smaller pieces before I spin to mix it up as much as possible. I am spinning using my WooLee Winder, which allows me to get more on my bobbin than my standard flyer, so I will be spinning three bobbins of singles. I have four bags of fiber, so I split one of them into thirds and am adding some additional fiber to each of the three other bags. All the purple should be well mixed up, and I'll be plying it all together in the end, which should counteract any inconsistencies. Here's hoping the plan works as well in real life as it does in my head!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Back to Three WIPs

It's Thursday, a day to link up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday. Appropriately, this morning I find myself with three current knit and crochet projects because I finished up a rather large one last night:

The blanket has not been washed and blocked yet (if that wasn't completely obvious from the curling edges and ends that have not yet been trimmed), but Rainbow and I plan to take care of it tonight. I finished the final round on the single-crochet border last night after she went to sleep, so I presented it to her first thing this morning and she immediately curled up in it. I think that means she likes it! I'll do a proper FO write-up once we've blocked it and gotten some glamour shots, but for now I can tell you that it used a total of 2,957.9 yards/2,704.7 meters of yarn. That's a major addition to my Stash Dash totals!

I am quite relieved to have this project done and to turn back to the other WIPs. Two you have already seen and have not changed since you last saw them -- my Torbellino sweater and the C2C crochet blanket. But I also have a new project cast on in the last week.

I think most of you will likely be able to guess the yarn -- it's my old standby, Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce. This is the colorway Seven Deadly Sins. I'm knitting a hat to match my Slipdash cowl (Ravelry link), something I've been meaning to do for quite some time but had been procrastinating on the two minutes -- no exaggeration! -- of math I needed to do to get started. The hat will have a deep ribbed brim and the same slip-stitch patterning as the cowl. I'm planning to grade it to five sizes (baby through adult), and I'm hoping to get the sample knit up pretty quickly because I know that the pattern writing will be very straightforward.

All the craziness of the times we're in has really messed with my creativity and my concentration, so I haven't been very productive with my designing this year and am behind my self-imposed schedule of releases (but I am working to give myself some grace in that area; as the situation is unprecedented, I'm reminding myself that I can't reasonably hold myself to the same high standards of the past). I'm itching to cast on another design sample, too, a shawl with some handspun, so maybe the tide is beginning to turn again? With all of the madness surrounding the Ravelry redesign, I'm also spending some time getting my patterns into a Payhip shop so that the folx who can't use Ravelry can still buy my patterns, and of course there's still work. One day at a time, right? I'm doing my best, just as I suspect most of you are, and I'm finding comfort wherever I can. As it so often is, comfort is frequently found in playing with yarn and fiber, so I plan to do more of it this weekend. Be well and stay cool!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

One Little Word: July 2020

I'm sure many of you have experienced the same warped sense of time this year that I have: March lasted forever, April was slightly faster, and every month since then has flown by. I honestly feel like I was just typing up June's OLW post and here we are in the last week of July. I can only hope that this speed also applies to this pandemic and that as the days fly by we're also getting closer to a vaccine and a marked decrease in suffering.

When I started this year and chose SAVOR as my word for the year, I didn't and couldn't know what was in store for us. Though I didn't realize it at the time, I think I was likely influenced by the loss of my uncle last year. He was someone who had a long history of health problems, but he was always someone who wanted to live life to the fullest and truly enjoyed every moment. While I didn't need a global pandemic to remind me that life is precious and precarious, it's certainly been a constant reminder for me, so I'm really trying to focus on what is good and what makes me happy.

In July, I think what I savored more than anything was reading. I have finished 14 books so far this month -- and the month isn't over yet, either! All but three of them were borrowed from the library, too. I have always been a fan of my library, but I've really come to treasure it so much more thanks the current times.

I am really so thankful to be living in a time when I can borrow books from the comfort of my own home and be reading them in a matter of seconds. And when it's even more important to my mental health to be able to calm my anxious mind by occupying it with stories, I am even more grateful to have such a wide selection and so many choices.

While my library and its apps have made much of the reading possible, something else I've been savoring is what has become a summer tradition: Book Bingo. While the challenge to fill my bingo card is good motivation on its own, I love that the categories propel me to step outside my comfort zone and try new genres, new authors, and new styles of writing. My "want to read" list grows longer by the day, so sometimes looking at the squares I have to fill on my card helps me to narrow down my choices.

I hope that you've found time for your word this month and look forward to seeing all the links over on Honoré's blog for this month's reflections.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

That'll Do

Yesterday one of my daily goals was to ply up the merino I'd been spinning to serve as my contrast color for my Rambouillet fleece spin. I was a bit nervous about matching the grist, so I was anxious to finish the skein and wash it to see if it would work. I should have trusted myself -- it seems like it'll work just fine!

It's a traditional three-ply yarn, and I spun the singles just a tad thicker than I normally would for my default yarn. That was the main challenge, but I think I did okay in the long run. It looks good next to the Rambo:

And a side-by-side comparison shows that the thickness is pretty spot on:

I ended up with approximately 260 yards, which is a bit less than I'd hoped for, though my finished skein seemed like it was a bit light at 100 g (the fiber was labeled 4 oz., which is about 113 g, and the tiny bit of leftover singles I had probably didn't weigh enough to make up the difference). That really doesn't matter in the long run, though, as I should have plenty for the sweater it's intended for and still have some leftover. It's also another braid of fiber that's been converted to yarn in less than a week and another 950 meters toward my Stash Dash total, putting me at 9,574 m at the moment. I've upped my goal to 15K or higher, and frankly with the projects I have going right now, I don't think that's at all inconceivable.

The next spin is ready to go: the April 2020 Southern Cross Fibre club shipment, Hope Springs, on grey Corriedale:

I'm going to spin another chain-plied fingering weight, so I've split the fiber into four vertical strips for striping. I have a three-day online conference to attend this week, which means I'll be doing a lot of listening to speakers, so I expect this'll go fairly quickly. The spinning mojo isn't showing any signs of slowing down!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Time to Get Monogamous

It's July 23 (yes, really; I checked!). One week remains in the month, and I've decided that I really want to finish Rainbow's blanket by the end of the month. So I've decided to buckle down and focus on it almost exclusively. But I have updates on other projects. First, an FO you got a peek at yesterday:

Pattern: Amigurumi Alpaca from A Little Love Every Day
Yarn: Knit Picks Dishie in Verdigris (approximately 66.5 yds.) and Swan (approximately 19 yds.)
Hook: 3.0 mm
Started/Completed: July 16/July 21
Mods: none (at least not any that were intentional!)

I went through a period when I was a teenager when I was making little stuffed animals, but that was, um, quite a few years ago and I had to relearn the technique. Once I got the hang of it, and once I realized that I needed to stick a locking stitch marker in the first stitch of the round to keep track of where it was, it was much easier to than I was expecting. In reality, this little guy didn't take as long as the start-to-finish dates would suggest. I did a bunch when I first started, then put it aside for a couple days, and then pretty much did the rest on Tuesday. I'm sure there are a few mistakes, but you really can't tell and I know for a fact that my nephew won't know the difference. I may try to make a companion in the next week, but I'm not stressing about it if I don't get around to it. I stuffed him just enough to make him squishy and embroidered the face to make him baby safe. The hardest part of the project was definitely sewing on all the little appendages!

I've also gotten past the split on my Torbellino, though I haven't knit on it in a couple of days. I'm at least at the point where it's all stockinette in the round for quite a bit, so it's now a mindless knit.

And here's where things stand on Rainbow's blanket. I've got about half of the current skein left to add plus two full skeins.

I'm fairly certain that she will find this to be big enough when this yarn is used up, particularly given that we can stretch it out even bigger in blocking. Lately she's been favoring blankets that are technically baby blankets, ones that either cover her legs or can be wrapped around her shoulders. And I'm feeling pretty confident that if I focus on this project for even just a few days, I'll be able to wrap it up. If I just end up using the yarn I have left here, it should mean about 3,100 yards or 2,800 meters to add to my Stash Dash total -- more than enough to push me over the 10K mark!