Tuesday, March 31, 2020

One Little Word: March 2020

Well friends, we've made it to the end of March. I'm fairly confident in saying that this has been the longest month I can ever remember living through. The end of the month doesn't necessarily mean an end to these uncertain times, but at least we've adapted somewhat to the new normal.

It's also the final Tuesday of the month, which means it's time to join with Honoré and friends for a reflection on my One Little Word for the year. I think I must have been somewhat prescient to choose savor as my word this year, because these strange times of social distancing have caused me to really appreciate so many things I previously took for granted. For example, here are some things I've been especially savoring the past couple of weeks as we've been at home:
  • An extra half hour of sleep (I don't have to commute to work anymore, and my morning routine is faster, so I can use that time to sleep in a little!)
  • Time to drink my two cups of morning coffee at a leisurely pace
  • Three meals a day with my family
  • When the weather cooperates, long walks through my neighborhood
  • Sunshine, when it appears
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Snuggles with Rainbow
  • Working on a jigsaw puzzle
  • Extra time at my spinning wheel
  • Writing in my journal and focusing on daily accomplishments and joys
  • Toilet paper (especially now that we have plenty and I don't feel like I have to ration it!)
My increased focus on the good things in my life right now has really made me extra aware of how lucky we are to have what we have. Yesterday the local news showed a really long line of cars with people waiting to get food from our local food bank. For all that I might complain on what I'm missing right now, there are so many basic things that I've been taking for granted that so many people are struggling with right now. The Mister and I are able to work from home so we're still getting a paycheck. We have a roof over our heads and don't have to worry about not being able to afford our mortgage or utilities payments. We have enough food to eat and can easily get more. We'll definitely be increasing our donations to food banks and other relief organizations during this pandemic, and if you're able to, I encourage you to do the same.

One project I've been particularly savoring during this time is my granny square blanket. Here's a size check-in for you (with apologies for the odd perspective, gloomy lighting, and clutter in the background):

That's a queen-size bed, for reference. I've just joined in the second of six 20 g mini skeins I'd set aside for this, and I've used up nearly all the leftovers I had. I think it's getting close to being done. I know I'm going to miss working on it when I've decided it's finally Big Enough, so I likely will be starting another one for Rainbow. I've floated the idea of using a number of skeins of Knit Picks Felici I have in my stash, and she's considering it.

I'll end this by sharing some photos from my walks the past few days. First is a response that I found taped up to the "thank you for being such good neighbors" sign I shared previously:

It says: "Thank you for making my walk so cheerful! It will be okay!"

And here's a painted rock I spotted in someone's front yard on Sunday and made a point of photographing on yesterday's walk:

Stay calm, friends, and savor the good in your life right now.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

My Heart in a Skein

I started spinning more than a dozen years ago, at a time when I was very very into knitting socks. I mean, I'm still into knitting socks, but back then I was really churning them out at a very high rate. My interest in spinning came primarily from wanting to spin my own sock yarn, something I achieved fairly quickly (thanks, Type A personality!). Every spinner will likely tell you they have a default yarn -- that is, the yarn they tend to spin when they don't think about what they're doing or get distracted when trying to spin something else. For me, that default is a three-ply fingering weight yarn. I have to really pay attention if I want to spin something different, but the good news is that most of the time I'm perfectly happy to spin fingering weight yarn.

Over the past couple of weeks, as I've been working (or "working," depending on the day) from home, and as the news of the world has gotten grimmer, I've been turning to my spinning more and more. I think this is mainly because it's both soothing and mindless. The treadling of my wheel is good for getting out anxious energy, keeping my hands busy keeps me from biting my nails or otherwise touching my face, and the mindless nature of spinning my default yarn means that I can zone out to some extent. It's been incredibly therapeutic. Ending up with a gorgeous skein of yarn is just a bonus.

This Hello Yarn Targhee came to me in a swap a number of years ago. It was a club shipment that my swap partner either didn't care for or felt she wasn't likely to spin, so she passed it along to me. And I loved the colors so much that I did my usual thing and hid it away in the stash to save it (yes, I know that's completely illogical). Perhaps I had a premonition of what was to come and knew that I'd need to use the good stuff, because I put it on my 20 in 2020 list to spin, and toward the beginning of this stay at home thing, I decided the time was finally right.

I did very little with the fiber before I started to spin. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to chain-ply it to preserve the colors, but I didn't want huge sections of them, so I split the top into four strips lengthwise and spun each from end to end in the same order. So now when this is knit up, it'll stripe, to some degree, but as my splitting was imperfect, it won't stripe in a predictable way, which I rather like -- I fully believe that all handspun should have some sort of imperfection or irregularity to remind you that it's made by hand.

I couldn't be more pleased with this skein. Despite spinning it under a state of near-constant anxiety, it came off the wheel well balanced (and that's unusual for me, because I tend to like a lot of plying twist and overdo it on occasion). It poofed up nicely in the finishing and has a nice spring and squoosh to it. I have approximately 389 yards, plenty for socks or a hat or a cowl. I haven't decided what I want to do with it just yet, and I don't need to. I'm perfectly happy just squishing it in the skein for the time being.

I wasted no time at all getting the next spinning project on the wheel in the form of a more recent stash enhancement:

This is the fiber that came in the October 2019 club shipment from Southern Cross Fibre. It's on Corriedale and is called New Day. It's mostly a muted, dark mix of blues and purples with a few spots of that bright burnt orange. As you can see, I've split the fiber into thirds, and for this skein I'm going back to my comfort spinning: three-ply fingering weight.

The first bobbin was started with the ball of fiber in the lower left in the photo above, so that brilliant orange is now hidden underneath all this darkness. I'm hoping that the finished yarn, once it's plied, will be dark overall with the occasional pop of orange, sort of like that last sliver of sunlight just before it slips below the horizon at dusk.

I think you may be able to tell from the tone of my writing that I'm feeling a bit calmer today than I was a few days ago. I'm still worried about the situation in the world in general, but I'm feeling a little more secure at home. My wonderful partner spent much of the weekend shopping to make sure we have enough supplies and food. He went to Costco first thing yesterday and brought home Clorox wipes and toilet paper(!) among some needed food and health supplies. He then went and bought my in-laws a huge load of groceries because they've been unable to schedule a delivery (and as they're both considered high risk, they've been avoiding supermarkets when they can). Then he went to get a new laptop for himself so he could give his old one to Rainbow to use for her schoolwork. As if all that wasn't enough, this morning he went out again to buy fresh produce, chicken, fish, and milk so that our refrigerator is now well stocked.

I've also shamelessly copied Mary's idea of taking a bit of time each day to focus on three things I've accomplished and five things that made me happy or brought me joy. I started last night by listing them in my journal, and I plan to try to continue to do it every day for at least as long as we're holed up. You may be hearing from me more on here, as well, as I seem to find blogging sort of a public way of journaling and sometimes just getting my thoughts out helps me to feel I can breathe again.

I hope your weekend was restorative in some way and that you were able to find at least a few things to bring you joy!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Small Delights

Another day with more bad news, and I'm getting increasingly anxious. So I'm focusing more and more on little things that make me happy or bring me joy in an effort to combat the panic, and I'm joining up with Carole and friends by sharing three of them with you.

1. Baking with Rainbow

One of the gifts Rainbow received last year from my parents was the American Girl Baking cookbook. She has been looking through it ever since and drooling over the recipes, and this time at home seemed like the perfect time to make something out of it. We started with something simple, a baked apple pancake. There was no picture of the finished item in the book, but we had all the ingredients on hand (save the powdered sugar for topping, but we thought we could live without it). We prepped the apples and the batter before dinner and popped it into the oven while we were eating so it would be ready for dessert. This beauty is what came out:

Actually, it was even taller when it first came out of the oven, like a good souffle, but of course it settled as it cooled. It was very easy to make, though we agreed in the future we'd use a bit more apple (the recipe called for one large baking apple and we used two small Honeycrisps). It uses only 4 tablespoons of sugar, so it wasn't overly sweet. We all had seconds last night and Rainbow enjoyed what was left for breakfast this morning!

2. A pile of handspun

I retrieved these skeins from the stash room this morning and plan to wind them up (or at least wind some of them up) later today so they're ready to be knit.

The purple gradient, thanks to Bonny's influence, is going to become my first-ever Hitchhiker. The chocolate brown and pinky-purple skeins are bulky weight Bond and Charollais, respectively, from Southern Cross Fibre that I spun a couple of summers ago. Earlier in the week I learned that designer Whitney Hayward had made all her designs for Harrisville free (I believe just for the duration of the current public health crisis), and I fell in love with her Cleburne Cardigan. I immediately thought of these skeins of handspun, so I'm going to swatch and see if I can make it work.

3. Treat yo'self

I've realized that an easy way to boost my mood is through self-pampering, so I've been doing things like using the nice hand lotion instead of my everyday Aveeno. Yesterday I gave myself a manicure, something I rarely do because I'm usually so busy that I don't feel I can spare the time to sit and wait for the polish to dry (though I did use the quick-drying polish I have so I didn't have to wait too long). Yesterday I was listening to the Knitmore Girls episode from last week and Gigi mentioned that she'd been wearing perfume since she started staying at home. I've stopped wearing my perfume when I've been out in public so as not to bother those who are sensitive to scents, but I knew no one in my house would have a problem, so I put on a spritz after my shower this morning. That was such a tiny thing, but catching a whiff of scent injects a little joy throughout the day.

How about you? What small delights have you found or indulged in this week?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

On Keeping Calm and Carrying On

I'm now into my second week of working from home full time and have somewhat settled into the new schedule. Because I no longer have to get up and get everyone out the door on time and walk to my office, I've been able to sleep in a bit (only an extra half hour, but it makes a difference). My morning routine isn't so rushed because I'm no longer bothering to put on makeup (my family knows what I look like without it, so I'm saving it). I can linger over my email and blogs and drink all my coffee at a leisurely pace. And then I go back up to my bed room to sit in my comfy chair and log in to work.

The lack of the normal frenetic pace in the morning is helping to keep me calm, as is staying mostly away from the news during the day (I'll still peek at Twitter a few times during the day, but I usually wait until the evening news to see what's happened because it's rarely anything good). And I'm doing as much crafting as I can whenever I can -- I suppose that's one major benefit to working at home, because during my down time I no longer have to look busy. Yesterday after I finished up what I needed to do, I read a book and worked on a sock for Rainbow:

As you can see, I'm now past the heel, for which I used some of the coordinating mini skein that came with the self-striping yarn to do a garter stitch Fish Lips Kiss Heel. The heel itself is a little shorter/shallower than the usual stockinette heel, but it's nice and squishy and I've also made the sock a bit bigger than Rainbow's foot on purpose so that she won't outgrow it right away. She mostly wears her hand-knit socks around the house and to bed anyway, so I'm not concerned about this not fitting in a shoe.

Today featured two other crafts. First, this morning, I did some spinning. Then, during a large conference call this afternoon, I pulled out my granny square blanket, which is frankly starting to get a bit unwieldy.

I've found that I've been reaching for this project quite a lot, probably because it's very soothing and easy to work on. I have officially finished up the last of my holiday mini skeins and have started adding in the remaining sock leftovers I had in my project bag. I also have a small number of minis in a separate bag that I can add in when I get through all the leftovers if I want the blanket to be bigger. I honestly thought this blanket would be in progress throughout the year, but if I continue at this rate, it might be done in another week or two!

The yarn that you saw me unraveling over the weekend has now been washed and caked up, ready to be knit:

The colors are terribly off in this photo, but at least you can see that I have a decent amount -- in fact, not including the half skein leftover from Rainbow's mittens, I have about 1,160 yards salvaged from the sweater, so I'd say probably enough to make about 10 pairs of mittens. I keep thinking about how great it would be to come out of this pandemic (because, let's be honest, we could be at home a while) with a bunch of warm things to donate come next winter.

It's making me feel better to think about helping others, and having something like this to contemplate and plan for gives me a little sense of control. I'd say feeling like there's nothing I can do to stop or help with the crises is what's most stressing me at the moment (well, that and not being able to see my family in person). As of 8 p.m. last night, my county is officially under a stay at home order, so at least I know everyone else is stuck, too! I will say this for these extraordinary times: Thanks to the current situation, I was able to have a virtual meet-up of my old knitting group last night, something we haven't managed in person in many years!

So how are you doing? Are you finding comfort in yarn? Do you miss going to places? I hope we can continue to support each other for as long as this crisis lasts.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Making Yarn Two Ways

Spinning continues, and I'm now probably a bit more than halfway done with my singles because I am on the third of four balls of fiber:

I spun quite a bit yesterday while watching video podcasts and during a virtual knitting group that Mary hosted this afternoon. If the pace continues, I expect to be plying by next weekend.

Meanwhile, I made yarn a slightly different way this morning. After doing a lot of snipping and unweaving of ends last night, this morning I was able to unravel my sweater.

I wasn't able to salvage all the yarn and in fact lost quite a bit due to some haphazard snipping last night, but I did end up with a decent pile of yarn ramen:

All this yarn has now been washed and is hanging to dry, and once it's dry I'll wind it into cakes and weigh it to see how much I have to work with. Seeing as we may end up being home for a while, I figure I can at least use some of that time to make some charity items, and this pile is all destined to become felted mittens (though I'm planning to keep one pair for myself).

This weekend seemed a little less surreal than last, though I still only left my house to take a long walk each day -- thankfully the sun was out both days though it's been a little chilly. Rainbow and I had our Hebrew class via Zoom this morning and then she had Sunday School, and the Mister went out to brave the supermarket. We're well stocked with food and have a lot of flour, butter, and eggs (but they were out of yeast; I thought I might try making challah for this coming Friday night), so it appears that I might have to try my hand at making pastry. Somehow I don't think that's entirely a bad thing! I'm really trying to focus on the good things, even if they seem inconsequential, like how neatly I managed to fold the sheets this morning and how lovely the sunshine feels on my face. Then I saw this hanging from a tree in front of one of the houses in our neighborhood on my walk this afternoon and nearly lost it:

Be kind to each other, friends. I think it's the only way we're all going to get through this.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Three Things Making Me Happy

It's Thursday, so a full week since I started working at home. We've settled into a bit of a routine, and one thing I will say that I really like about this new routine is that I can sleep in an extra half hour and have time to drink all my coffee in the morning. Plus, the commute is pretty easy, too.

Today I'm joining with Carole and friends to focus on some things that are bright spots in an otherwise pretty grim reality. I'm trying to limit my intake of the news, but I'm also the type of person who needs -- no, craves -- information to battle the anxiety of uncertainty, so I'm probably still watching and reading more than I should. To counteract that, I'm trying to focus on the moments of pleasure, and today I'm sharing three of them with you.

One thing that's been giving me lots of pleasure the past few days has been my sock yarn scraps granny square blanket. I was ignoring it for a while to work on knitting projects, but I pulled it out again a few evenings ago, and it's really been the best thing when my brain has been completely fried from work.

It's gotten quite a bit bigger! You may have seen my last Instagram post, where I noted that it's now big enough to cover me while I work on it, which is just fabulous. Also, as of right now, I have only two minis left from my Fibernymph Dye Works holiday minis set! I have some additional sock scraps in the project bag that's been (mostly) containing the blanket, so it won't be done just yet, but I think I will call this big enough soon.

The second thing is spinning. I always find spinning to be a relaxing, meditative activity, and that's especially the case when I'm spinning my default yarn and can completely zone out. It's a bonus when the fiber is beautiful and well prepped, and all of that's the case with my current project.

These particular colors look like the ocean to me, and what's more relaxing than thinking of the ocean?

Finally, I've been experiencing some joy in the form of collaboration with Rainbow. Quite some time ago, long before we knew we'd all be cooped up together for an extended period of time, she told me that she wanted to knit a cowl for her art teacher, who only teaches the elementary kids (and so this is Rainbow's last year with her). We dug through my stash and found some handspun from 2017 that was the same colorway in batt and top form. The teacher is very fair with red hair, so the cooler pastels will suit her well. We decided to hold both yarns together, and I cast on and knit the ribbing for Rainbow so she could do the stockinette in the round.

I love the effect we're getting -- and this is making me look at my stash in a whole new way! This seems like an excellent way to really bust some stash, particularly if I'm trying to whip up some things in a jiffy. I expect that if we're stuck at home for a while, I can take care of holiday knitting and do some decent charity knitting at well.

Now I think I'm going to go cast on a new project, which you might get to see if you join us for a virtual knit night tonight that Mary is hosting. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What to Do While the World Unravels; Or, a Few Good Things

Hello, friends. I figured since I'm home for the foreseeable future, I can probably get some extra posts up, so today I'm joining Kat and friends to discuss some knitting, some reading, and some happy things in this time of so much trouble and sadness.

First, I can't believe I forgot to mention it yesterday, but I started out my week with a very good thing: I got my braces off first thing Monday morning! My orthodontist's office had called me on Sunday to see if I'd be willing to reschedule. I'll admit I was a bit selfish and asked if I could still come in, and they told me that was okay. Frankly I couldn't see being home for as long as we may be and having to deal with the braces for much longer. The office was almost completely empty when I got there (I was the only patient, and the doctor did the work himself in about 15 minutes), and I washed my hands as soon as I walked in. I think I also got in just under the wire, as apparently they're now telling people to delay dental treatment unless it's an emergency.

Ohai. Working remote = no makeup and crazy hair.

Second, I've been engaging in a little retail therapy to cheer me up. I placed a small order from Knit Picks and took advantage of some sale prices on Felici as well as getting a few other things (the white Swish is to make Rainbow a pair of fox mittens for later in the year as a surprise):

I also ordered a sweater's quantity (oops!) of yarn from HipStrings, seeing as I just finished up my last SQ. Jill told me I really needed to try their Targhee Worsted next, and as it was on sale and she was offering free shipping, I couldn't resist.

This very Gryffindor-esque color combo is going to become a Goldwing. The colors are really quite far outside my usual comfort zone, but I think it's a good opportunity to push myself.

Next: knitting! I was anticipating that getting my braces off would take a while (they'd told me to allow an hour and a half), but I guess when it's just the boss, it goes very quickly. I didn't know that beforehand, of course, so in anticipation of waiting time, I cast on a new pair of socks for Rainbow and completed the toe on Sunday night. I think I knit all of one round while I was actually in the chair. Thankfully, I had a couple of conference calls when I got home, and it proved to be just the ticket.

This is Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in the colorway Gimme Some Sugar (Cookies), which was a club colorway last year. Yes, I'm using the not-so-great needles again, mainly because they coordinate so well with the yarn. I'm weird like that.

Finally, reading! Over the weekend, I finished Lab Girl, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was not what I expected, but in a good way. I'm thankful for my library every day for being able to read just about any book I want via digital tools, but I expect my app is going to get a lot more use in the weeks ahead.

That's it for me for today, but I'll be back tomorrow with, I hope, some more crafting! Stay healthy and wash your hands!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Cross Another Off the List

The sudden change in our daily lives is meaning a lot of time at home, which isn't all that unusual for a homebody like me, but usually over the weekend we get out a bit. Obviously any plans we had before have been canceled, so now I have the perfect excuse to stay in with my knitting. Over this past weekend, that meant the perfect opportunity to finish up a project and cross another item off my 20 in 2020 list.

Pattern: Brackthaw by Faye Kennington, size medium
Yarn: Quince & Co. Finch (100% American wool) in Sage, less than one skein, and handspun Georgia "rustic wool"/silk/nylon
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm) Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: February 13/March 14

These mittens have been on my want-to-knit list for a while, and I decided that the Woolly Thistle's annual mitten KAL was the perfect opportunity to finally do it. I'd already decided that I was going to use these two yarns for the mittens, both of which were in my FibreShare package a year ago. It felt good to use stash yarn for a pattern already in my library.

So let's talk details.

This pattern was a bit of a challenge not because it was hard but because of the level of detail. It's worked at a dense gauge -- 9 stitches per inch -- and, as you can see, has a very delicate design. Faye's pattern is very well written and easy to follow, but the charts might be a challenge if your vision isn't great. My sight is generally good, but I had to be very deliberate about keeping my place in the chart. Once I got to the second mitten, however, I found that the patterning was a little more intuitive to me, and the knitting definitely got faster as a result.

I made one modification and one error (that I could easily identify) in the knitting. As I was doing the decreases at the top of the second hand, I notice -- several rounds later -- that I'd done a decrease stitch in the wrong color. I wasn't about to rip back at that point, so I just used one of my yarn tails after I finished to duplicate stitch over the offending stitch as part of weaving that end in. I felt a little smug about it, actually, and though I know exactly where it is, I'm guessing that you can't see it, even if you enlarge the photo. The modification is likewise one that's not easy to spot: I did two additional decreases at the top of each mitten, a centered double decrease on each side (the palm and the back of the hand are separated on each side by three stitches -- white/green/white -- so I just decreased each set to one stitch). This meant that each mitten ended with a small number of stitches all in green, and that was aesthetically pleasing to me.

I generally don't block colorwork too aggressively, but these were a little lumpy because the handspun was a bit inconsistent and overall just a tad thicker than the Finch. I discovered that the top of my Knit Picks sock blockers were the perfect size and shape to stick into the hand, so after the mittens got a good soak, I stuck the blockers into them while they dried. The fabric is still not as even as it could be, but I have a feeling that as these get worn and rewashed, they will even out a bit more.

I'm completely delighted with how these turned out and now have an urge to knit more colorwork mittens -- and perhaps even design a new pair myself!

How are the rest of you coping with the new reality? It's been a long time since I had a knitting group to go to, but I'm finding that it would be really great to have one right now. Would anyone be up for a virtual knitting get-together sometime soon? I'm sure I could figure out Google Hangouts or something similar, and it would be great to be able to talk to some of you in real time while knitting. Let me know!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Meditation for Social Distancing

I'm on day 3 of staying home, and while that wouldn't be that unusual for me for a normal long weekend, there's definitely a weird vibe. I'd be lying if I said I was completely calm. I was doing okay, but this morning I woke up a bit panicked and ran to Trader Joe's to stock on up groceries right after it opened. Many other people seemed to have the same idea, which didn't help my nerves. But after I got that out of the way, I tried to do as much as possible to self-soothe. Rainbow and I went for a leisurely walk in the sunshine. We used last week's bananas to make two loaves of chocolate chip banana bread. And I did some spinning, which I always find wonderfully meditative. I did quite a bit of spinning this weekend, actually.

First, on Friday, I finished up the singles of the natural Clun Forest. I let them sit on the bobbin overnight (for the non-spinners reading, this makes it easier to ply because the twist rests a bit and so isn't quite so active when you ply, which means less fighting with the singles). On Saturday morning, I wound them off into a center-pull ball/cake, and then I plied from both ends of it. Here's the yarn fresh off the wheel:

You can tell that the ply twist is more active by how much it's twisting back on itself. So it got a nice soak in hot water to relax and then hung to dry overnight. This morning, I had this:

There's still maybe a bit of excess ply twist in there, but I think there's also some floofy bits that just look like too much twist. Overall I'd call it a heavy laceweight/light fingering. I had neglected to weigh the fiber before I started spinning, so I weighed the cake of singles and found that I had 72 g, which is about 2. 5 oz. The finished skein is approximately 218 yards.

I don't have any particular plan for this yarn, though Rainbow and I might try our hand at dyeing it with turmeric or dried marigolds for fun.

For my next spin, I wanted something truly relaxing and in my comfort zone, so I pulled out some Hello Yarn Targhee that I received in a swap several years ago:

I split the fiber into four vertical strips that I am spinning one after another and plan to chain ply, and as I'm spinning my default singles, I really don't have to think much as I spin. This has been the perfect project as I've been reading and trying to finish Lab Girl from the library.

It doesn't look like much, but that's about two hours of spinning time because these singles are very fine; I want the finished yarn to be fingering weight, and Targhee is one of those wools that poofs up when you wash it, so I have to make the singles very fine to compensate. It's drafting and spinning beautifully, though, so it's the perfect thing to help soothe my anxiety. And as both of these spins are on my 20 in 20 list, they're helping me feel like I can be productive even if I'm just sitting at home.

As of right now, it looks like I can expect to spend quite a lot of time at home. Rainbow is off on spring break for the next two weeks, and her school has elected to stay closed for the two weeks after that (all schools in Pennsylvania will be closed for at least the next two weeks anyway, as our governor ordered them to close). Pretty much everything is shutting down, and I'm pretty much expecting to work from home until things start opening up again. I got a call from my orthodontist's office earlier this afternoon to see if I'd be willing to postpone my appointment tomorrow morning, but he said he'd also be willing to see me because I'm due to get my braces off(!) as long as I understood that it might be a bit slow because it would be just him in the office. So that is my one bright point in the near future, and I expect things in this country and the world are going to get worse before they get better. I am trying to make smart choices and am certainly following public health guidelines as much as possible, but I'm also reminding myself that if we get sick, the three of us will likely be okay. It's all very surreal at the moment, and I think it's the uncertainty that's getting to me.

I realize I'm starting to get a bit dark here, and I apologize for that -- I'm someone who generally tends toward worrying and seeing the glass half empty, though I try to be more hopeful. I hope that wherever you are, you're staying healthy and safe and trying not to go too stir crazy!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Heeding EZ's Sage Advice

"Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises."
- Elizabeth Zimmermann

I don't know about you, but to me, everything is a bit surreal right now. Things are being cancelled left and right, and preparations are being made should we all need to stay home for an extended period of time. I tend to be an anxious person in general, and I am really thankful right now that I'm already taking medication for my anxiety, which I'm pretty sure is keeping me from having a full-fledged panic attack right now. I'm also thankful that if we need to self-isolate, I am able to work from home; I know not everyone has that privilege. Some of you may know that I work for a public university, and yesterday it was announced that the resumption of classes is being pushed back a week and all classes are being moved online for the remainder of the semester. My office is remaining open for the time being, but we've been making preparations in case we need to work from home. The Mister is likely to be working from home for the foreseeable future as well, and Rainbow is on spring break for two weeks starting Monday.

While the near future remains very much uncertain, I am continuing to turn to my knitting as a source of comfort. It can be hard at times like this when you feel like you have no control over things, especially as someone who gets anxious due to a perceived lack of control, so I am grateful to be able to be the boss of my knitting. Lately it seems to be all about the colorwork -- and on that note, I have to start by saying thank you for all your lovely comments on my Darkwater sweater!

In the evenings this week, I've been working up some samples of my Yofi Hat and Yofi Cowl for my friend Lisa so she can have them to display in her booth. I'm using two colors in her Mountain Tweed DK base, Eggplant and Mist.

And my lunchtime knitting has been very productive in the past week or so -- I'm on the home stretch on my second mitten! Looks like I won't be scrambling at the last minute to get these done for the end of the Woolly Thistle Mitten KAL after all.

I have a conference call later this afternoon that should yield me some additional knitting time (one of the benefits of having an office with a door that can be closed!)

Tomorrow I have the day off from work, as it's the Friday of spring break week and a regular annual holiday for staff. Lisa is actually going to be coming over tomorrow afternoon so we can seam up the squares people have made for a comfort blanket for Amy of Ross Farm. I don't remember if I ever shared my finished square, so here it is:

This is all Ross Farm Shetland, which seemed appropriate. I am actually supposed to have lunch with Amy on Sunday (though of course those plans could change given the public health situation), and if it goes ahead, I may be delivering the blanket to her then.

In times of heartache and helplessness, it can make you feel a little better to do some good. For me, that means following the recommendations to slow the spread of disease (because while I would likely be fine if I caught COVID-19, there are plenty of people who I care about who might not). But it's also nice to be able to do something more tangible to help others. One thing that's happening now in the fiber arts world is an effort spearheaded by Angie of Gamer Crafting to support marginalized communities, especially in response to some truly heinous actions by White Supremacists (I won't link to give those voices any extra amplification, but if you're clueless about what I'm referring to, you can email me). This all came together so quickly that I didn't have time to design something specifically for it, so instead I'm going to be donating 20% of all my pattern sales from this Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month to Keshet, an organization that promotes the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals in Jewish life. If you've read this blog for the last year and a half or so, then you know that the Jewish community locally has recently experienced extreme anti-Semitism, and while the congregation I belong to has fully embraced the LGBTQ+ community for quite some time, that's not the case with every congregation or every stream of Judaism. While I'm not a very religious person, my faith is a large part of my life and my identity, and it's important to me that everyone who identifies similarly be able to participate in Jewish life to the extent of their wishes. If social justice is important to you, then I hope you'll take a look at all the participating businesses and consider making purchases to aid in this effort (and in light of the public health crisis and the cancellation of shows and festivals, those small businesses would also appreciate your help!).

With that note, I'm signing off until later in the weekend. Be well, check in on your loved ones, and wash your hands!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Pleased as Punch

If you follow me on Instagram then you will already have seen these photos, but I think you can understand why I want to post them everywhere. I really couldn't be happier with my first finished sweater of 2020.

Pattern: Darkwater by Jennifer Steingass, size A/37.75 in.
Yarn: HipStrings Buoy DK (37.5% BFL/37.5% Shetland/25% Manx Loaghtan) in Marine (MC) and Goldenrod
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm), US 5 (3.75 mm), and US 6 (4.0 mm)
Started/Completed: January 24/March 4
Mods: cast on/bound off using CC

This project had been in planning for quite a while. I bought the yarn at Indie Knit & Spin last February and really wanted to cast on right away, but I had other things to knit first and then things distracted me, as they so often do. I wear my other Buoy DK sweater so much, though, that I knew I wanted another one in rotation, and so I put this project atop my 20 in 2020 list.

The pattern calls for using fingering weight yarn, but the gauge given is really more suited to a DK, in my opinion. Buoy DK, as it happens, is more of a light DK at 288 yards per 100 g, and I knew it would knit up nicely at the pattern gauge. I was able to get spot-on stitch gauge, but my row gauge was a little off, so while the fit in this sweater is exactly as I wanted it, I do have a fair amount of positive ease, especially in the yoke, which I think you can see well in this photo:

The yoke ended up being a bit deeper than it likely would have been if I'd used fingering weight; the underarm of the sweater, for instance, is about 2 inches below my actual underarm. All this really means is that I just have to make sure that the yoke isn't riding up too much when I wear it, but it sits nicely and doesn't look sloppy, so I'm okay with it. It's a good reminder for me to have good posture, in any case.

The difference in row gauge also necessitated recalculating the sleeve decreases, and I ended up pretty much doing my own thing for the sleeves anyway because I picked up more stitches under the arm to avoid holes and then worked mini gussets to decrease them away. I knew how many stitches I should have at the top of the sleeve and how many I needed for the cuff, so it was really just a matter of doing some basic math using my gauge to figure out when to decrease.

When I blocked the sweater, I was very deliberate about smoothing out the colorwork yoke. It's still not as flat as it could be, but I know that it will even out over time as I wear the sweater (and trust me, I'm going to wear the heck out of it!) and wash it. It's certainly extra cozy with all those floats in there, and over time I expect them to stick together a bit.

The only other real mod I made that wasn't necessitated by fit issues was to add a pop of the contrast color to the edges of the sweater by casting on the neckline and binding off the lower hem and cuffs with it. It made for a few extra ends to weave in, which was a bit of a pain, but I had plenty of CC yarn to work with and like the effect a lot.

While I was worried (as I usually am) that I'd be cutting it close on yarn, I ended up having plenty: I used just a smidge more than three skeins of the main color and about half of the contrast color, so just a little more than 1,000 yards altogether.

I've already worn the sweater once (and gotten tons of compliments on it) and hope to get in another wear or two before I pack it way for the summer!

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Back to Basics

One of the main reasons I enjoy spinning is the playing with color I get to do with dyed fiber. Sometimes, though, it's very soothing to spin something natural and undyed.

When we were at Rhinebeck this past year, one of our housekeeping tasks for the booth the night before the festival opened was to bag up some freshly milled roving. There was a bit leftover (meaning not enough to sell), so I brought it home with me, and it's been sitting next to my wheel ever since. It's a natural cream color with the occasional bit of VM in it as a reminder that it came right from the farm. I think it's Clun Forest wool, though I could be wrong (of course I didn't label my bag because I assumed I'd remember).

In addition to not labeling the fiber, I also didn't weigh it before I started spinning, so I have no clue how much I have to play with. I'm spinning it fairly fine and semi-worsted, and I plan to ply it back on itself when I'm done with the singles.

Some of this was done Friday evening, during my regular weekly spinning session, and some this afternoon while I was finishing Red Bones (iPad reading for the win!). I'd say I'm through about half of the fiber, and it's a nice little diversion, but all the same I think I'll be getting back to dyed fiber for the next project.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Pattern Release: Querrine

My newest pattern might look a bit familiar if you stop by here regularly. I started knitting the first sample when we were away at the end of the year and promptly started the second after it was finished. I can only blame the winter doldrums for it taking me so long to get the pattern together (not really ideal when you're designing a winter hat), but winter has yet to fully release its grip on us here, so I'm not packing away my hats just yet. Here is Querrine, the newest hat in my pattern portfolio.

I know I'm very late to get on the mohair/silk bandwagon; for years I was convinced I was allergic to mohair because one sweater I had one time was itchy. I should've known better (how many times have I told my mother that finding a rough wool sweater itchy did not mean she was allergic to wool?). I mean there's the scratchy mohair of cheap sweaters from long ago and then there's the luscious mohair/silk you can get from so many indie dyers these days -- and there's quite a difference! This stuff is like petting the softest kitten you can imagine, and it's so warm on a windy day without being bulky. For this hat, I held a laceweight mohair/silk yarn alongside a fingering weight (Mirage and Deep Sock, respectively, from Murky Depths Dyeworks) to create this wonderfully haloed fabric. The fingering weight was a deep gray with hints of acid green and blue, and the lace weight was a pale gray, giving this lovely marled effect when held together.

The stitch pattern is subtle when the halo is out in full force. I took this rather dramatic photo of the hat being modeled by one of our lamps so you can see the pattern when it's backlit.

Can you believe this isn't lace? I promise, it's not! It's just m1 increases and centered double decreases amid knits and purls, resulting in a very stretchy but delicate fabric that is warm but not too heavy. It's pair with a hemmed ribbed brim for a double thickness around the ears, where you feel the cold most on a blustery day. And if you like the look of the pattern but not the halo (or if you're truly allergic to mohair), then you can work it in a single strand of sport weight yarn, as I did with some well-aged handspun.

The pattern is graded to three sizes, to fit children through adults; has both charted and written instructions for the stitch pattern; and has been reviewed by my tech editor to ensure that it's error free and easy to follow. And for the first week, it's $1 off when you add it to your cart and use the code HALO.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Finishing Streak

For a while there I felt like I was in a bit of a rut with my projects, but now the stars are all starting to align and things are starting to come off my needles! For starters, I finished my handspun socks:

Pattern: Louisette Socks by Ruth Brasch
Yarn: Handspun Fibernymph Dye Works Cheviot in Beach Wedding
Needles: 40 in. US 0 (2.0 mm) Knitter's Pride SmartStix, magic loop
Started/Completed: February 7/February 27
Mods: did my own toe and subbed a Fish Lips Kiss Heel for the heel in the pattern

These were a fun knit and, once I had the pattern memorized, a fast project as well. I definitely picked up speed on the second sock once I knew what I was doing. I can still see the mistake in the first sock (it's the one on the left in the photo, and the mistake is right at the bend of the ankle), but I don't think it's very obvious to anyone else, so it's staying in. I'm very pleased with how the yarn striped, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the Cheviot holds up in socks.

This is the first thing I'd knit with these needles, and while they weren't too bad to use, I'm not terribly impressed with them. The cable was rather a bother at times, as it would curl up on me and get in the way, and the inch markings along the cable itself were rubbing off as I worked. The markings on the needle tips, though, were definitely helpful to have (and I actually remembered to use them by the time I got to the second sock!), and the tips are good and pointy. I don't think they'll replace my favorite Addi Sock Rockets for socks, but they are a much more reasonably priced alternative.

If everything goes according to plan this evening, by the time I go to bed, I'll have another project off the needles, and it's a big one -- my Darkwater.

All that's left is that little bit of sleeve, maybe 4 inches or so. I've already put Rainbow on notice that we're having a girls' evening (the Mister has a work dinner), so that means a quick dinner so that I can get to knitting and she can get to reading a library book. If I can get in a solid two hours of knitting, I should be golden.

I'm also making noticeable progress on my Brackthaw mittens, which are now my main focus during my lunch breaks. Yesterday I finished up the thumb gusset of the first mitten, and now I'm flying up the rest of the hand.

Yes, it's dark and rainy again today. Why do you ask?

I had neglected to put my tapestry needles back into my project bag, so I made do with what I had on hand to put the thumb stitches on hold: I used the string from the tag from the Quince & Co. Finch I'm using as my waste yarn and got the stitches onto it by using it as my working yarn and pulling through each stitch I used. Was it the most efficient way to get the job done? Probably not, but it worked just fine -- and I felt rather smart as an added bonus, which is always a good thing.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

I Wish You Could Squish This

The stars finally aligned for me this past weekend. I was "working" from home Friday afternoon so I could be there as we got our new ovens installed (the Mister was as well but was on calls up in his office pretty much the whole time). When I say working, I mean that I was sitting next to my computer with my email open in case something came in requiring my attention -- and nothing did -- but in the meantime I was able to catch up on some video podcasts and finish spinning my second bobbin of Pretty (the colorway) singles. Yesterday, after a rather harrowing trip to Costco, which I would not have done had we not been running low on our preferred coffee, I decided I would reward myself with plying time. I was able to finish up the skein in one go and then skeined and washed right away so it would be dry this morning. And oh my goodness, I am absolutely in love!

I had split my original fiber in half down the middle vertically, spun each half in the same direction, and then plied the halves together. The idea was that there would be lots of places where the colors of the plies were the same but also some places (because I am human and therefore inconsistent) where the colors would not match and I'd get some lovely barberpoling.

Before washing, the yarn looked to be about fingering to sport and in the ballpark of 300 yards or so. But one amazing thing about washing your finished yarn -- particularly if it's been spun from a fine wool -- is that is plumps and fluffs up. So the finished yarn is closer to DK and about 210 yards total.

This fiber is uber soft, so naturally I want to put it up against my neck. In fact, while I was plying, I had an interesting idea for a new design that I might use it for, which means this skein isn't likely to get buried in my stash anytime soon. At the moment, though, I'm just planning to keep squishing it, and I wish you could squish it through the screen!