Sunday, June 30, 2019

Spinning for Sanity

Rainbow is home, and with her return comes the return of the hectic weekend schedule. The camp bus came more than an hour past when it was expected Friday afternoon, so it was a rush to get her home, unpacked, and showered before our traditional Friday night dinner at my parents'. Yesterday we did a quick shopping run to get some necessary items and birthday presents for the birthday party for two of her school friends (which was today) and then drove out to attend my sister-in-law's baby shower. Last night we went out for dinner at a Japanese steakhouse with all the grandparents to celebrate Rainbow's homecoming. Today, in addition to the birthday party, there were the usual chores and errands. And we still have to get Rainbow ready to start day camp tomorrow!

All the fun stuff aside, we also had some minor drama this weekend. First, when we got home from the shower yesterday, we found the Mister limping around the house with what he thought was a sprained toe from a fall he took during his run. As we were getting ready to go out to dinner, we got a call from my parents from the urgent care center, where my father was getting stitches on his elbow from a fall he took in the shower (he's fine, though sore, after a few stitches and a tetanus booster). And after we left dinner, the Mister decided that he should really go to the urgent care himself because he was in such pain, and it's a good thing he did, as it turns out his toe is broken. It never rains but it pours, am I right?

With all the craziness, it's been nice to regain my calm a little by sitting down at my wheel. I wasn't planning on starting any new projects before the start of Tour de Fleece, but that pretty purple gradient braid has just been sitting next to my wheel and taunting me, so I broke down and started spinning it. I figure that if I can give it a few good evenings, I might just finish it before, and if I don't, it'll wait for me to get back to it. I haven't done that much spinning since I first got it started on Friday, but I've already made a dent.

I'm spinning this fiber end to end and undoing the braid as I go, with the plan to chain-ply all the singles when I'm done. I'm spinning fairly fine, so I imagine the finished yarn will be in the neighborhood of fingering to sport, but the wool in this is Targhee, so there may be some poofage to contend with.

I also spent some time this afternoon prepping my fiber for the start of TdF next Saturday. I'm going to attempt to spin up a sweater's quantity of yarn from some Southern Cross Fibre Polwarth that I bought extras of last summer. I had five 110 g bags total, and I split the fiber in each bag into 16 little fiber bundles, much like I did with my combo spin earlier in the year.

The colorway, called Plot Twist, has a really gorgeous combination of greens, blues, and purples. I didn't really want obvious stripes (though I know that all handspun tends to stripe somewhat when knit up), so I figured my best best for mixing up the colors as much as possible was to split up the fiber as much as possible and then spin the bundles at random. I'm going for a traditional three ply, so I think I will just fill my bobbins with singles and then do the same with plying, splicing together the leftovers on bobbins as needed. With any luck, I'll get some good color blending.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Tomorrow: You're Only a Day Away*

Tomorrow's the day: Rainbow comes home from camp! I thought she'd be getting in at noon-ish, but it turns out the bus doesn't arrive until around 3, so it looks like I have more of a day to myself than I thought (I have a use-it-or-lose-it day off from work). Perhaps I'll use that extra time to do some of the things I said I'd do while she was gone but never actually got around to?

My main focus this week (or, at least, the past few evenings) has been my Soldotna Crop. Last night I just made it to the sleeve/body split, which means that tonight I'll get moving on the body.

If you look closely at the pattern pictures, you'll see that I messed around with the colors a bit. The reason for this is that I'm working with four skeins that were already in my stash, all the same base, and two of them are very close in color -- the dark blue that I started with at the collar and the dark purple in that center arrow-like motif. If I had followed the pattern as written, I would have ended up with some sections where both those colors were used side by side and you really wouldn't have been able to tell them apart without looking at them closely in bright light. I also used the light purple in the top vertical stripe section rather than the light blue so I'd have a little bit of cushion on the light blue in case I want to make the body a bit longer (and/or add a little length to the sleeves before adding the cuff).

At work, I've been making good progress on my socks, thanks in no small part to the all-day diversity retreat I attended on Tuesday. I knit during the two keynote addresses, part of lunch, and the panel discussion at the end of the day (all were in a big ballroom with a lot of people and I was sitting toward the back, so I didn't distract anyone). All that time took me from a little bit more than the cuff done to being partway through the heel. I'm now ready to turn the heel and move on toward the foot.

A little trick I did on this pair (which I picked up from someone on Ravelry recently) is to use the yarn from the other end of the ball/cake when I start turning the heel. This keeps the stripe pattern from being interrupted on the front of the sock. Smart, right?  I lucked out when I did the first sock, as the yarn on the other end was the same color at the stripe I was in the middle of when I finished the heel increases, so you can't even tell by looking that I didn't just carry on with the same strand.

Incidentally, I should mention that I've now got a Non-Euclidian heel "cheat sheet" with my tech editor that will be added on to the pattern to allow you to work it at any gauge and with any stitch count, so those of you who aren't as crazy as I am and don't work socks with fingering and size 0 needles (coughcoughMarycoughcough) can try out the heel.

Reading has been happening as well as knitting, so let's take a look at my bingo card.

I've added one book to my card since my last check-in, and that is The Goldfinch, which I finished on Monday. I really enjoyed it, though there were some parts I didn't much care for (the last chapter, in particular, lost me). I'm now listening to Harbor Me for a group read-along and discussion sponsored by Anne of Little Skein in the Big Wool. I totally missed out on discussing the first book, even though it was a book I had already read -- I blame a busy time at work. This one is only about four hours long and I've got about an hour and a half left, so I should finish it by this evening. I think it will likely go in the "Protagonist with a different ethnicity from you own" box on the bingo card.

I've already got my next books lined up as well. I'm number 1 on the wait list for the next Inspector Gamache audiobook from the library, and bought a new hardback book that arrived yesterday that I think will be a very timely read given recent events. One of the two phenomenal keynote speakers at the retreat on Tuesday was Crystal Marie Fleming. She was such an amazing speaker that while I was listening to her I got on my phone and ordered her most recent book, How to Be Less Stupid About Race. It's been a while since I bought a hardback book, but I think this was worth it. I'm looking forward to reading it and learning more!

*I apologize for the earworm I'm sure I've given some of you. It probably wouldn't surprise you to know that at one point in my childhood I loved to sit on the counter of the built-ins in my living room and belt out the songs from Annie.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cute (but Not Especially Little)

'Tis done! In plenty of time, no less!

Pattern: Little Boxy by Joji Locatelli, size 8
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon) in Peacock Blue, 2.21 skeins (another 808 m for Stash Dash!)
Needles: US 2.5 (3.0 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: April 28/June 22
Mods: None

This was such a fun knit. Yes, it's true that the body was a bit of a slog, but in reality the hardest part about this adorable sweater was dealing with two skeins of yarn (I alternated every round on the body and every other row on the parts that were worked flat) and having all those extra ends to weave in -- and those have nothing to do with the pattern itself but rather with my decision to use hand-dyed yarn, which meant alternating to avoid pooling or clear lines where I switched from one skein to another. It really wasn't that much extra work, and I think it was more than worth it. The only place I did not alternate was on the sleeves, where I used the remains of the two skeins I started with in order to leave the third skein more or less intact for use in another project.

I was originally going to knit the next size up, thinking that Rainbow will be 10 later this year and I wanted this to fit her for more than the next few months, but I did some measurements and she's such a skinny little thing that the 8 was more than big enough. I did have a brief moment of panic when I went to pick up the stitches for the first sleeve that the arm openings were too small, but then I pulled out one of her pajama tops for comparison and my fears were laid to rest.

As you can see, the circumference of the sweater is nearly twice that of her body (this top has minimal positive ease on her), meaning that the sleeves are going to hit in the middle of her arm to begin with, and on top of that, the armhole opening on the sweater is the same circumference of the armhole opening on the top -- so that even if the sweater armhole did hit at the biggest part of her arm, she'd still be fine.

I'm thrilled, and more importantly I think she'll be thrilled, and I'm happy to have finished it up in plenty of time. I even blocked it over the weekend so that it's all tidy and ready for her to wear, should she so choose (and should the weather cooperate) when she gets back on Friday. And I'm fighting an urge to cast on a new one for me!

Now that this is done, I'm focusing on a sweater for me, specifically my Soldotna Crop. I think that if I give it the same amount of attention I gave Rainbow's sweater last week, I can make quite a dent in it! I'm about halfway through the yoke chart at this point, and the number of stitches is now big enough that I've been able to spread out the fabric on the entire length of my circular needle instead of magic looping.

Today I'm attending a diversity retreat at work all day, and I'm taking my sock project with me (I finished the first one on Saturday). I think there will be enough attendees that I can blend in and knit without disturbing someone, though of course I'll put it away if someone takes issue. But just think of how much sock I can get done if I'm able to work on it more or less all day!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Quick and Dirty and Pink and Fluffy

After my last spin, I was craving something that would be fast, so I pulled a braid of BFL out of the stash and started long drawing it (yes, I verbed it). I was so focused on finishing up Rainbow's sweater this week that I only got back to it yesterday, but I did finish up all the singles last night. I let them sit on the bobbin overnight and then, this morning, used my ball winder to make a center-pull ball so I could ply from both ends.

This afternoon, I sat down and plied it all. I literally just finished, so I haven't even skeined it yet, but I'm hoping to do that later this evening.

My long draw technique is not as precise as my short forward draw, so the finished yarn is a bit thick and thin and pretty much fuzzy all over. But I'm happy. This is just the kind of palate cleanser I needed (especially as I'm planning to start another fairly fine yarn sweater spin soon), and it was very satisfying because I think it took a total of three spinning sessions to do the singles and one to ply.

I'm debating about whether or not to start something new, given that the Tour de Fleece starts in less than two weeks; perhaps I will do another spin like this one to bust some more fiber stash.

While I was plying this afternoon, I was multitasking. Thanks to Kat's link on Friday and a big box of good-looking strawberries at the market today, I thought it was the perfect time to make some Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Jam.


and after:

I think this might be my topping for my daily oatmeal this week!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

For Want of a Sleeve

I thought I was setting myself a rather lofty goal when I decided to try to finish Rainbow's Little Boxy before she got back from camp. As it turns out, I had much less left to knit on it than I'd realized, and thanks to several evening of undivided knitting time, it's now nearly done -- all that's left to do is the second sleeve.

I knit all of the first one last night, after I had finished weaving in the remaining ends from the body and the neckline. Sadly, I then had only about 10 minutes left before my usual bedtime, so I didn't even attempt to start the second (picking up a precise number of stitches is never a fast process because I usually have to do it three or more times before I get it right). I'll at least get a start on it tonight -- I'll be out looking at bridesmaid dresses with my future sister-in-law for part of the evening, so I won't get as much time as normal. Even so, I'm pretty confident that this sweater will be done before I go to bed tomorrow night, and I am thrilled about that.

After my last reading post, I did indeed finish the Inspector Gamache book (and gave it five stars). I also read a short but powerful book around the same time: When Breath Becomes Air. It had been on my want to read list for a while, and I saw that there was no wait for it at the library. In the end, I read the entire thing in a day. It's a very moving and sad memoir; I cried at the end, mainly at the thought of what Kalanithi could have done had he lived a full life. And it made me think a lot about life and death and how to make the most of our time on earth. It's a heavy book, to be sure, but one that's worth reading. And it fills the "Originally Published Posthumously" square on my bingo card.

My current read is The Goldfinch, which I've been wanting to read for some time. My mother had it in hardback when we were in Florida a few years ago and was reading it, and she said she'd lend it to me when she was done and then apparently lent to it a friend first. But I found it from the library with no wait, so now I just need to try to finish it before the loan is up -- it is more than 700 pages long! It'll fill my More than 500 Pages square on my bingo card, and I'm finding the writing quite good (though I'm finding the story to be quite depressing). I'm about 40% through it and hope to make a decent dent in it this weekend.

We've got a relatively quiet weekend ahead, the only one we'll have with Rainbow away. We have  a nice dinner out planned for Saturday evening, but other than that we don't have anything on the schedule. The weather is supposed to be nice on Saturday, so I'm hoping to get out for a run and generally be outside after a week when it's been rainy and gloomy pretty much nonstop. The rain has been good for all the plants, though, so I expect at least some of my time will be spent in the garden, pulling weeds!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fessing Up

I have a confession to make: I bought yarn. I am supposed to be on a yarn and fiber diet, and yet I bought some yarn. But I don't feel too bad about it, to be perfectly honest. I have been successfully knitting from my stash for a while now, and in addition to using yarn up that way, I sent six skeins of DK yarn off to someone else this weekend as a prize for a knitlong (it was a sweater quantity of a Madelinetosh yarn that I had one in the same event a couple of years ago, and I was never going to use it, so I offered it up as a prize). I also have a plan for the yarn in question, which arrived yesterday:

This set of six skeins of DK is a Serendipitous Sweater Kit from Fibernymph Dye Works; Lisa only recently started offering up sweater sets, and after seeing a Ravelry/Instagram friend knit up a Bubble Sweater with one of these sets, I just had to make one. I'm not casting on just yet, but I expect I will soon, as soon as the current sweaters are off the needles.

About those current sweaters? They're moving right along. Rainbow's Little Boxy, in fact, is getting very close to being done!

I've got about three rows total left to work on the back shoulders and then I'll be ready to the three-needle bind-off to join the shoulders. After that, all that's left is the neckline (which I'm thinking I might do first) and the sleeves -- and of course weaving in a bunch of ends, but I can probably take care of that in an evening. I've been knitting on this furiously the past two evenings, and I think I can realistically say that this WIP will be an FO before the week is out.

I also gave my Soldotna Crop a bit off attention over the weekend and am moving right along on the colorwork.

The colors are a bit more vivid in real life; unfortunately we're in a gloomy weather pattern this week, so the light is not ideal. I do like how my color swap worked out, though, so I'm plowing ahead.

In addition to the sweaters, I've got one new WIP, which I started on Friday morning thinking I'd have time to work on it during my orthodontist appointment first thing (it turned out that I didn't). But it did come in handy when we went to the movies on Saturday afternoon.

This was some FDW Bounce from a club shipment earlier in the year; the colorway is called Fairies' Dance. I'm doing a Non-Euclidian heel on these, but I'm trying a little twist (literally) in the form of some twisted ribbing on either side of the increase area. I'm curious to see if this changes the fit at all or if it's purely ornamental. In either case, it's something a little different and therefore quite engaging, and socks are always good for lunchtime knitting!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Sounds of Silence

Well, she's gone. We put Rainbow on the bus to camp this morning, and so for the next two weeks (well, the next 12 days, anyway), the house will be unusually quiet.

I did, however, get lots of extra time with her, including the entire day on Friday. I told her we could do whatever she wanted, which turned out to be watching a lot of TV (presumably in preparation for not being able to watch it for quite a while). That gave me lots of extra time at my wheel, and that enabled me to finish up my spin in progress.

I couldn't be more pleased with how this turned out. This skein combined two different batches of fiber (one Polwarth/silk, one Targhee/bamboo/silk) in similar colors. I created, in effect, a four-ply yarn by doing an alternating chain ply. This structure is a bit hard to explain, so bear with me here. To chain ply, you essentially create a crochet chain with long loops and add twist. This enables you to create a three-ply yarn from one single/strand. For an alternating chain ply, you still create the loops but also hold an additional strand alongside it, and you alternate which strand you grab to form the next loop. The finished yarn is fingering weight (which gives you a true sense of how fine my singles were!) and approximately 320 yards.

Though I have a lot of knitting to do right now, I do feel like spinning more on the weekends, so I almost immediately started a new project. I pulled out some BFL from Fibernymph Dye Works that I won as a prize sometime last year, I think, and decided to spin it all onto one bobbin and ply it back on itself for a quick-and-dirty two ply.

To make things even quicker, I'm spinning it mostly supported long draw, so my singles are a bit fuzzy. I feel like I've hardly spent any time on this, and yet I'd say I'm already two-thirds of the way done with the singles. Here is the gratuitous bobbin shot:

My spinning area also underwent a minor makeover this weekend, with some help from Rainbow. The utility cart I ordered arrived, so I took it as the perfect opportunity to clean up the area, throw some things away, and generally organize my spinning things. Now I have a neater corner, even if it isn't quite a cozy as it could be (that will come, once the new chair arrives).

Here's a close-up of the cart itself:

There are various tools and such in the top drawer, which has a removable cover that doubles as a surface for my miniSpinner to sit on, and all my lazy kates and extra bobbins fit in the other two. This purchase was worth every penny!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Counting the Days

It's Thursday, which means I have three more days with Rainbow before she leaves for two weeks at overnight camp. I know she's going to have a great time, and I know I'm going to enjoy getting a break from parenting, but I'm also dreading it because I know I'm going to miss her a ton. It seems appropriate that I managed to finish up something for her before she leaves.

I knit these shortie socks for her after she saw my Rose City Rollers and asked if I could make her a pair (how could I say no?). Because I was using leftovers and yarn supply would be limited, I opted to go toe up using the Fish Lip Kiss Heel template, adding in a smidge of extra length because it's been six months since I last measured her foot. I worked two inches after the heel and did a stretchy bind off to allow the cuff to roll. She was thrilled with them, as evidenced by what I saw last night when I poked my head in her room to tell her it was almost time for bed.

This is definitely my kid -- wearing handknits and reading!

Now that the socks are done, I've been stuffing the project bag with her sweater into my work bag so I can knit on it during the day as well as in the evening. I think I should get to the splitting point today!

Shall we take a look at my Summer Book Bingo card for an update?

I think it's filling up quite nicely! I haven't really thought about any strategies for filling it or getting a bingo; I'm pretty much just reading what interests me and finding a square to fill in that works. I believe I've finished one book since my last reading update, and that's in the square in the top right: All This I Will Give to You. It was a freebie from Amazon at one point, and it sounded interesting (and it is set in Spain, thus earning it that spot on my card). I ended up giving it three stars. It was a decent read, but it went on too long without really building to the climax, so I started losing interest about two-thirds of way through (but of course I was far enough along that I had to finish it).

Provided there are no emergencies at work today, I should finish another book during my lunch break. All this past week I've been listening to the audiobook of the second Inspector Gamache mystery, A Fatal Grace. I've rarely listened to audiobooks in the past because I have trouble staying focused, but I didn't have as much trouble with this one. I even listened to it while I was on a run last weekend, and I'm convinced that the run went so well because I was so involved in listening to the story that I wasn't thinking about how much I hate running! I got this one from the library and only went the audiobook route because the wait was a lot shorter than for the e-book. I think there were still some things that I missed because I wasn't looking at the printed page, but the narrator is excellent and overall I've really enjoyed it. I'm sure I'll listen to more in the series in the future.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Hop on the Bandwagon

I'm typically pretty good at sticking to my WIPs and not getting distracted by the new and shiny, but now I have to fess up to doing just that: I've just cast on a new project, a sweater for me, and as a result I'm now neglecting the projects that were already on the needles. And yet I don't feel too bad about it! Let me explain.

For a while now, it seems like everybody has been knitting the Soldtotna Crop sweater. I thought it was cute but wasn't too tempted -- until I realized that I had four skeins of DK that would work for it in my stash already (Yarn Hollow Tango, a Polwarth/silk blend, if you're wondering). And then I couldn't get the idea out of my head. So I gave in, dug the skeins out, and swatched. And on Sunday evening, I cast on.

I haven't gotten very far yet, and that's mainly because I ripped back a couple of times last night, first because I realized I'd used the wrong color for C3 (that's the mauve-y purple) and then because I just mixed up my colors in the pattern. I'm only eight or nine rounds into the colorwork, and I've already changed the pattern. The color I'm supposed to be using for C3 is actually a deep purple, but it's so close in tone to the dark blue I'm using for C1 that it would be impossible to tell them apart. So I'm substituting the lighter purple for most of the areas where the pattern would have had me knit in the dark purple in order to have the stranded pattern actually show up. I have plenty of yarn, so that's not an issue, and even though the contrast between the light purple and the light blue isn't very strong, it's certainly better than it would be if I were using the dark purple here.

I'm sure that a cropped sweater in DK yarn won't take too long, so I don't really view it as cheating on my other WIPs -- and I am using up stash yarn! I'm still plugging away at the other two projects on the needles, the largest of which is Rainbow's Little Boxy.

After working on it diligently most evenings last week, I'm now about an inch and a half away from splitting the body for the front and back yoke. I'll give it some additional attention tonight (I meant to knit on it some last night but got pulled in by the colorwork), and with any luck I'll get to the splitting point. Rainbow leaves this coming Sunday for two weeks at overnight camp, and I've gotten this crazy idea in my head to try to get the sweater done by the time she returns. I'd say that's an ambitious goal but not unrealistic, provided I can stay focused.

The other WIP is very close to being done and should be wrapped by tomorrow.

These are the toe-up shortie socks I started for Rainbow last week using the yarn leftover from my slouchy hat. The first sock was finished on Saturday, and the second is now about half an inch away from being ready for the heel. I'm fairly certain I'll have enough yarn to finish, as I think I had 42 g to start and the first sock used up 20 g. It will be close, though, so keep your fingers crossed that I don't have to play another round of yarn chicken!

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Spinning the Shine

I've spent a good part of the weekend spinning up the Polwarth/silk I received in the fiber swap and it's been absolutely dreamy. I have no idea what the fiber percentages are, but based on this shine, I'd say the amount of silk is fairly high.

I estimate I'll need another session or two finish up these singles before I can ply. I'm very excited for the plying step on this yarn and can't wait to see how the two colorways look together.

Meanwhile, my spinning today was done in slightly different surroundings. My brother-in-law came over this morning to get the last of the baby furniture, and that included the rocking chair/glider that I used to sit in to spin and the accompanying ottoman, which I always had next to me to hold my lazy kates. We've ordered a new upholstered chair to take its place, but it hasn't arrived yet (apparently it's made custom), so in the meantime I'm making do with a folding chair.

I'm probably sitting with better posture that I was in the old chair, but it's not nearly as comfortable. I'll manage for the time being; to be honest, the most difficult thing is not having a space next to me for all the gear (the kates are on the floor for now, but that won't do for actually plying). I going to get a small cart like this one to hold all the supplies, and I can even get a lid for the top drawer so I can put my miniSpinner on it and get rid of the awful folding tray table!

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Knitting, Reading, and Thinking

It's Thursday, and while I don't typically join in on the Three on Thursday thing, my post today seems to have three parts and I'm going with it.

I. Knitting

I have finished a thing! A small thing, true, but it is finished and blocked and pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.

Pattern: Flax Light by Tin Can Knits, size 6-12 months
Yarn: Knit Picks Felici in Baker Street, 1.46 skeins
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 2 (2.75 mm)
Started/Completed: May 27/June 4

This pattern has been knit thousands of times, and with good reason -- it's a classic style that's good for anyone and it's very well written, as you'd expect from a Tin Can Knits pattern. I have a feeling I'll knit it again in the future, perhaps for me and Rainbow and maybe even for the Mister, should he decide he wants another sweater (though perhaps for him I'll opt for the heavier version). I didn't make any modifications to the pattern and only messed with the yarn when I did the sleeves, starting each one with the same color as the last row worked in the yoke. I'll admit I'm a bit annoyed with the breaks in the patterning in the yarn. One happened toward the end of the yoke (that thin line of the dark blue that doesn't quite go all the way around) and I was hoping it was a fluke, but then it happened again on the sleeve you see in on the right. It doesn't seem to be an interruption of the pattern, just a random length of the dark blue where it doesn't belong. There were also a couple of blips of white/undyed yarn that ended up being only about two stitches wide; I think one got blended into the garter stitch on the sleeve, but the other is more obvious on one of the sleeves and I made sure to make that fall on the back of the sweater. I hardly doubt anyone but me (and, well, now you) will notice these issues, so I'm not sweating them too much.

The remaining WIPs on the needles at the moment are Rainbow's Little Boxy, which is still a big tube, and a new pair of shortie socks I started for her.

If the yarn looks familiar, that's because it's leftover from the brioche slouchy hat I knit last month. I have 40-ish grams of the skein left, which I'm hoping is enough for a pair of socks for her. My recent pair weighed 55 g, and her feet are shorter and smaller than mine, so I'm hoping I'll have enough. If I run out, I'll just add in some scraps -- she won't care.

II. Reading

I've been reading quite a bit lately and finished three books since I last posted about it:
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed: This was an incredibly absorbing and enjoyable book. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on the blog, but when I was in college, I majored in psychology and intended to go to grad school to get a PhD and become a therapist. That plan got a little derailed by the statistics courses I had to take, but I'm still quite interested in the profession (and have benefited from therapy myself several times). It was one of those rare books that I could not put down and also didn't want to end. I gave it five stars.
  • We Should All Be Feminists: I got this as an audiobook from the library, and it feels a little like cheating to count it as a book that I've read because it's a very short book; the whole audiobook, read by the author, is a brief 45 minutes. I listened while spinning on Sunday and enjoyed it a great deal, and not just because of the content. It was a real treat to listen to the author, with her rich voice and beautiful Nigerian accent, read her own words. I gave it four stars.
  • The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing & Coming Out: One of the squares on my summer book bingo card is "protagonist with a different gender/sexual orientation from your own," so I decided to think outside the box a bit when I was looking over June's choices for the Amazon First Reads program and go with this memoir. I found it to be an interesting and at times heartbreaking read. Though I feel like I stretched my horizons a bit by reading it, I had trouble following it at times -- it jumps around in time a lot. I gave it two stars, not because it wasn't good, but because of that difficulty.

III. Thinking

There's been a lot of discussion in the online knitting community lately about sizing and inclusivity. Given that the fashion industry has long focused on body types that aren't very realistic, it's no surprise that the knitwear design industry has struggled with its sizing range, and recently a lot of designers have begun the process of making their garment size ranges much larger. Kat posted today about an Instagram post from Romi Hill, and reading Romi's words got me thinking. I've mainly kept this blog as a record of knitting, spinning, and reading, but from time to time over the past year, I may have mentioned that I have been making an effort to lose some weight over the past year. I know that weight and body image are things that nearly all women struggle with (many men do, too, but society is particularly tough on women); it's something I've been dealing with since my early teenage days. For most of my adult life, I've been overweight -- not terribly so, but enough that I've been self-conscious of my body and my size for pretty much most of my life. I've tried numerous diets over the years, but nothing ever worked. And as I've been reflecting on it, I think that the reason nothing ever worked was because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was trying to be thin so that I'd meet society's idea of what I "should" look like.

What changed in the last year or so is that I made changes to my diet and my lifestyle in order to be healthier. I had stopped eating meat for a while because my cholesterol was a little high, but when that did nothing to change it (my cholesterol levels actually went up), I realized that losing weight was probably going to be the most effective way to get those numbers down. So I started paying closer attention to what I ate. I'm eating less, yes, but I'm also making better choices about what I put into my body -- eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and fewer processed carbs and sweets. And I'm moving more and doing some exercises daily to strengthen my body. For as good as it has felt to see the numbers on the scale go down and to wear clothes that I hadn't been able to wear comfortably in years, what really feels good is that I've made a lifestyle change that I feel like I can keep up in the long term. And I feel more comfortable in my own skin, which is really a better measure of the effectiveness than any number on the scale. (Oh, and my cholesterol has gone down, too, which is one less thing to stress about.)

I'm telling you all this not so you can pat me on the back about what a good job I've done or to make you feel guilty if you're not happy with how you look but to show you that any change can be made if you do it for the right reasons -- most especially if you do it for yourself. There are plenty of things in this world and in my life that I can't control, but I can look out for my health in terms of how I care for my body, and that's very empowering.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Pattern Release: Reverberations

Early on in my knitting obsession, I tried intarsia. I found it fiddly and perhaps not worth the trouble (though I did do it again on occasion when I couldn't resist an adorable pattern using the technique). It's one of those skills that can be useful to be able to do, but as far as I was concerned, I could happily knit lots of beautiful things without having to use it.

But then, as so often happens, I had a design idea. And to get the look I wanted, it would require intarsia. Still not wanting to deal with the fiddly aspect of the technique -- the need for multiple strands of yarn and the resulting tangles, the inevitable tension issues, the extra ends to weave it -- I resolved to come up with a different method to achieve the same look. The result was what I'm now thinking of as short-row intarsia, and you saw my first use of it in my Frenemy shawl, which debuted in the Knit Picks Radiance accessory collection earlier this year.

Not long after I finished swatching for that submission (yes, I hadn't even knit the shawl yet!), I knew that it was not going to be my only design using this technique, and in fact I very quickly came up with two additional design ideas. The second of this trio of short-row intarsia shawls is making its debut today. This is Reverberations.

This shawl starts like your typical top-down triangle shawl, with a garter tab cast-on and four increases every right-side row. Because of the placement of the increases, however, the shape you get is actually more of a half-circle. Accentuating that is the addition of the intarsia stripes, which are worked in a contrast color in garter stitch for an added textural element. The pattern created by those stripes is like the shape of sound waves or ripples in a pond when you toss in a pebble (or even, if you're being really creative, like the Wi-Fi symbol on a computer). Each stripe that's added is longer, and the combination of the shaping in the shawl and the short rows creates a very pleasing curve. That curve is echoed in the reverse stockinette i-cord edging, which adds weight to the bottom of the shawl to keep the stockinette from curling and makes it super easy to block out the bottom of the shawl. The shaping makes this shawl very comfortable to wear because it sits perfectly on the shoulders.

The yarn I used in the sample is Jill Draper Makes Stuff Mohonk, a wonderfully soft and fuzzy two-ply sportweight made of 100% Cormo lambswool. I picked up these two skeins at Jill's open studio even at Rhinebeck last fall with this design in mind. The beauty of this design is that you can use any yarn you like and make it any size you like; there are instructions in the pattern for how to end the shawl at any time (either when you're almost out of your main color or when you're just ready to be done).

The pattern, which has been tech edited, is now available in my Ravelry shop. With any luck, you can also expect to see the third shawl in the series later this summer!

Sunday, June 02, 2019

A Very Fine Thread

The weekend now wrapping up is just the weekend I needed. Friday, when I took off from work to spend it with Rainbow, couldn't have been a more perfect day. The sun was out, the humidity was low, and the temperature wasn't too warm. We left her school before 10 a.m., had lunch with my sister-in-law, got our summer haircuts, and did a little shopping. We both had some down time before we joined my father for dinner (both the Mister and my mother were out of town). Then we had a leisurely evening at home and a good night's sleep. I woke up Saturday morning went out for a run while the Mister slept in (he got home very late Friday night), then got to have a leisurely breakfast. I did the usual chores around the house but still had time to do some spinning and knitting. Today we likewise woke up on our own schedule and then did the necessary errands. We then walked to our favorite local Middle Eastern restaurant for lunch and treated ourselves to some ice cream as part of a long walk around the neighborhood. All of this is to say that I've caught up on my sleep, gotten my exercise, and spent some quality time with my family, so I have zero regrets about the several hours I have spent at my wheel this weekend -- and I have a finished bobbin of singles to show for it.

These singles were spun from the Gwen Erin Targhee/bamboo/silk from my stash. The fiber that the bobbin is sitting on is what the Polwarth/silk I received in the swap, and that will be next on the wheel.

I was thinking that these singles seemed to be taking a really long time to finish, and then I realized that they were superfine. Here's what I mean:

Single on the left; single plied back on itself on the right (the coin is a U.S. penny)
Usually silk content in fiber helps me to spin finer singles, but it seems the bamboo exacerbated that. With any luck, I'll be able to match the Polwarth/silk singles. I've decided to do an alternating chain-plied yarn, meaning that you hold the two singles together and alternate which strand you grab to form the next loop. The result is a pseudo-four ply, and the color effects are interesting because the strand that is used to form the loop will make up 3/4 of that section of the finished yarn. I don't think it'll be too obvious in this yarn, given that both batches of fiber were very similar, but it should make for a really interesting skein. I can't wait to see how it turns out!