Tuesday, June 30, 2020

One Little Word: June

Is it just me, or does time seem to be speeding up? March felt like it was about three years long. April wasn't much faster. But June feels like it started last week. Crazy! In any case, we now find ourselves on the last Tuesday of the month, also the last day of the month, so it's time to join Honoré and friends to look back on our word for the year and how it's been playing a role in the past month.

My word for 2020 is SAVOR. When I selected it, I had no idea that I'd be spending a large part of this year essentially trapped at home without the ability to do many of the things I associated with the word. I can't eat a meal out at a good restaurant. I can't go to the movies or the theater. I can't visit a museum. I can't spend an hour perusing the shelves of the library or a bookstore. But the beauty of the One Little Word practice is that there is always a way to find your word in your life, no matter the circumstances. So my world may have gotten smaller over the past three months, but there is still plenty to appreciate.

One thing I've really come to savor, much to my surprise, has been my daily exercise. As of yesterday, I have a streak of 43 days of hitting at least 10,000 steps, and I've tried to get out to either walk or run every day since we've been home. Take a look at the last three months versus the three months prior:

I know it's helpful that the weather has been amenable to getting outside, though I distinctly remember taking a walk in early April in a rain/snow mix! I'm still not quite to the point where I can say I truly enjoy running, but it has definitely gotten easier. I'm now covering about five miles per run in total and even managing to run four miles straight before I have to slow to a walk for a bit to catch my breath. On days when I walk, I typically cover about four miles over an hour or so. No matter what my activity, I've been listening to audiobooks and podcasts while I exercise, making my time working up a sweat also a period of entertainment for me. There are so many things to savor about these workouts -- sunshine, fresh air, feeling strong and healthy, learning new things. I suspect these daily outings are going to be part of my life for the foreseeable future.

Another thing I've been really savoring about working from home is how much extra crafting time I've been getting. My job tends to be very much feast or famine -- I'm either really busy or have nothing to do. When I was still working in the office, I had to appear busy during the lean times, which meant I could bum around on the computer but that was about it. I occasionally get a lot of reading done, but my knitting has always been relegated to lunch breaks. Not anymore -- I can knit, crochet, and spin to my heart's content now when I'm not busy. And that ability has meant not only that I'm getting more projects done but that my stress levels have decreased. I am much calmer about the state of the world because I am getting plenty of that meditative practice of stitching and treadling.

Finally, I'm getting a lot of joy from my garden, which is not nearly as impressive as some of yours, but I savor my time out there and my ability to get things to grow, especially because I do not seem to have a naturally green thumb. Our back garden is doing so-so, which is generally the case because it doesn't really get enough sun to grow as much as I'd like, but some things are doing well. Here is the vegetable patch, where I have one surviving tomato plant, peas (which seem to be the only thing doing really well), and just-planted cucumber and butternut squash seedlings. That huge green thing on the left? That's what happens when you plant the root of a head of celery. I did that last year and have just let it grow.

The flower side is doing well, as it gets more sun. The marigolds are going strong, as are the bits of Russian sage I transplanted from along the driveway in an effort to get more bees to the backyard. Those things with the chopstick supports? Those are our recently transplanted sunflower seedlings.

Finally, I have the herb corner next to the porch. The very tall green things are garlic; we had a few cloves that were sprouting last fall, so I stuck them in the ground just to see what would happen. We should have several bulbs to harvest at the end of the summer. The lower pot looks a bit scraggly because I've recently transplanted some of the herbs (the rosemary into the larger pot to join the two plants that have been there since last year and the oregano into the ground), but it still contains chives, basil, parsley, and sage.

Above all, what I've most been savoring this month has been the slower pace of life in general. There's been extra time to appreciate the sunshine, the warmer weather, the time spent with my family, the time to read good books and get extra sleep and cook good meals. I hope that when this pandemic is finally over, that's one thing that sticks around.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Tour Commences

Today is Day 2 of the Tour de Fleece. In previous years, I've basically abandoned by knitting for the duration of the Tour, but considering how much spinning I've gotten done this year, especially during that first bit of lockdown when spinning was all I could do for any extended period of time, I figured it was okay to be more relaxed about it this year. I am still working on my Rambouillet fleece and am determined to stay focused on it until it's done!

In addition to spinning a bit already today, I also took the time to wind off the singles from bobbins 5 through 8:

I think the color is finally pretty accurate here -- it's a lovely milky brown, kind of how I like my coffee. I was very pleased that I had no breakage while winding these, which means that the singles are a lot stronger than I think they are! If they can withstand the force of the ball winder, then I shouldn't have any issues when I'm plying.

This evening I'll continue to work on bobbin number 9, which looks very much like its predecessors:

I am cautiously optimistic that I will be plying by week's end!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Plans for My Three-Day Weekend

Today is my Friday. Although my employer has temporarily removed the limits on the amount of vacation time we can accrue, the two personal days I get each year will still go POOF! at the end of the fiscal year (which is the end of this month), so this month, as I've done for several years now, I've taken two random Fridays off. In the past, one of those has typically been Rainbow's last day of school, but of course this year everything is different. Taking a day off now pretty much just means doing what I normally do every other day but not being glued to my computer. Tomorrow is my second of those days off, and while I don't have any specific plans for the day, I do have an idea of what I want to do this weekend.

For starters, I want to put some serious time in on Rainbow's crochet blanket. I must admit that I've missed a couple of days of work on it, completely unintentionally, though I'm still tracking my days so that I make sure I put in at least 100 days. As of this morning, this is all I have left to add of the original yarn set aside for the blanket:

It's now measuring about 40 inches across, which is a good size for a lap blanket but not as big as Rainbow wants it to be. So now I will start adding the additional six skeins of Felici we discovered in my stash. We will reassess the size after those have been added.

I also want to see how much I can get done on my Tegna. I finished up the back on Tuesday evening and got started on the front last night. There really isn't that much knitting left to do, though I may make the sleeves longer than specified given that it looks like I'll have plenty of yarn.

Finally, I want to devote some serious time to reading. I'm about 30-ish% into The Beautiful Mystery and am absolutely loving it, but I haven't been able to read it for any extended period of time just yet. The weather forecast for the weekend looks steamy and rainy, so it will be a good excuse to curl up in the AC with a book.

I'm off to see what Carole and friends are up to. Please share what you're working on and planning for the weekend ahead in the comments!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I've Been a Busy Little Bee

You know one really great thing about working from home during a pandemic? When work is slow, I can craft! And I have I ever been crafting lately. Last week was pretty darn slow at work, so although I had to keep an eye on my computer throughout the day, I pretty much always had something going in my hands. And that means I've made a lot of progress on my current projects. I just discussed my spinning two days ago and have only just started a new bobbin of singles since then, so no update is really needed there, but look, I finished a project!

These are the socks that I've been knitting for my sister-in-law as part of planning way ahead for holiday gift knitting. I finished these up last Thursday, getting the foot of the second sock done in just a day or two. I used my regular sock recipe and size 0 needles, working them over 68 stitches. The only modification I made, of course, was to add a little visual interest by slipping every other stitch for a round when the yarn changed color; I did this all the way around on the leg but only on the instep on the foot. I did take steps to make the stripes match on both sock, and I also manipulated the striping a big after I finished turning the heel by pulling out a little yarn to get to the next color so that I wouldn't have one awkward round of gold as I started the gussets. That meant a couple of extra ends to weave in, but I did that under the heel, which I figure will just add a bit of extra durability. My sister-in-law's feet are a bit smaller than mine, so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about running out of yarn, and I still have some leftover. I have yet to block these, but I will soon and then pack them away until December or until I can't wait to give them to her, whichever comes first.

I also made quite a bit of progress on my Tegna -- I've now split for the front and back and am ready to start the shoulder shaping on the back.

It looks like a silly face, doesn't it?

Now that I've made the split, I'm working with only one strand of yarn; the purpose of alternating the skeins every round before was to keep the color progression without too much variation, and now I should have front and back pieces that more or less match. This project was great company last week while I was reading, but now that I have to count and do short rows, it requires a bit more attention.

My main focus yesterday, as it has been for the past few weeks, has been the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl. I didn't have to tink or rip back at all to complete Clue 4, but I also didn't manage to get it all done yesterday, so I literally just finished the last four rows. Spoiler alert -- here comes a photo with Clue 4 all done!

I think this photo doesn't do it much justice because the lace is all scrunched up and it's hard to see the small section with mosaic knitting, so trust me when I tell you that it's stunning. This has definitely been a fun knit, and I'm really looking forward to seeing where it goes in the last two clues. I'm also thankful that I've been able to keep up with the clues every week!

Though I haven't been able to do it as part of multitasking as much in the past few days, I have still been reading. I finished Such a Fun Age last week, which was just so-so for me. It had the potential to be better, in my opinion, but it wasn't bad. I gave it 3 stars. I am now onto The Beautiful Mystery, which I've anxiously been awaiting from the library. I'm fighting simultaneous urges to rush through it (because I know others are waiting for it) and to savor it (because I love these books and I've been waiting to read it). I expect I'll make it through all of it this week. I'm also still reading How to Be an Antiracist and am taking my time with it because it deserves my full attention.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Over the Hump

I don't know about you, but when I'm in the middle of something difficult or time consuming, be it a long run on a hot day (like this morning) or a project that takes a long time to complete, I like to watch for that moment when I get past the midway point. For whatever reason, once I pass that point, I feel like I will have no problem completing whatever it is, like if I've made it this far, I know I can make it the rest of the way. That is certainly the case with any large spinning project, like my current fleece spin. And I had my head down so much that when I finished up the most recent bobbin of singles yesterday and went to get more fiber, I realized that moment had already whizzed past me.

For anyone who's counting, this is bobbin number seven. Those four balls of roving underneath are all that I have left to spin. Suddenly it seems like not so much! And that's a good thing, too, because this month has also flown by without me really noticing and the Tour de Fleece -- which is occurring even though the Tour de France is not --- starts next Saturday, June 27. Originally I'd hoped to have all the spinning done on this fleece by then, but I'm not going to kill myself (or, actually, my knees) to get it done. I will certainly spin up what I can this week and then use the beginning of the Tour to finish. If I needed any additional motivation to get through this last leg of singles spinning, this certainly works.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Three Components of Sanity

It's Thursday again and time for another list of three things. As we wrap up our 14th week of staying home, I've come to realize that there are three big areas of my life that are helping me to keep calm and keep it together. These are probably no-brainers, but when you need a list of three things for a blog post, they work!

The first thing is obviously crafting. I've become a crafter who has a lot of projects going at once -- something that previously would have given me a lot of anxiety -- because I've found that my attention span has noticeably shortened, so I like having variety and the ability to jump from one project to another. This week the focus has largely been on two projects: my TTL mystery shawl and my handspun Tegna. I'm going to talk about the latter so that the picture of the former doesn't show up right away, just in case you're worried about spoilers.

This project has been the perfect thing for knitting while reading (something I'll discuss in a bit). I've been working on it most evenings and have only a couple more inches of body to knit before I reach the specified body length and can split for the front and the back. I am not stretching out the lace border much when I measure, and I'm pretty sure I can block it fairly aggressively to get some additional length should I want it.

Most of my knitting time this week, though, has been spent working on my mystery shawl. Remember how when I last posted, I was just going to secure that dropped stitch and carry on as if nothing had happened? Let's just say that plan went out the window shortly after I posted it publicly. I sat down to work on the shawl and decided that something else had gone awry with the lace at the beginning of Clue 3, so I ripped back a bit. When I got to the section just above the dropped stitch, I thought I might as well try to drop down a handful of stitches there and try to fix it. It looked like crap, so I tried again. In short, I ended up ripping way back into the last third or so of the second chart for Clue 2, reknitting it, and then starting fresh with Clue 3. It took me until yesterday afternoon to get caught up, but now I'm much happier.

Of course you can't see the lace at all in this photo, but I trust it will be more apparent after blocking. I should note that what I thought was an error on my part in the lace at the beginning of Clue 3 is still there, so I've concluded that it's the pattern and not a mistake. It's something I hope will also resolve with blocking.

My second sanity saver is exercise. I've been continuing to run several times a week, and I've actually surprised myself by increasing my total miles per run. As I did for the past two months, I'm tracking the distance I cover in each run and the cumulative distance for the month.

I know this analog method of tracking is very primitive, and I do use an app when I run that tracks distance and pace and all that jazz, but it also assumes I'm running the whole time. Though I have increased my endurance significantly (yesterday, for instance, I ran 4 miles straight), I do generally walk somewhere in the middle to catch my breath, so my total distance covered isn't the same as my total running distance.

All the running is making me feel pretty great, but my knees also need recovery time, so I alternate running days with long walk days. I generally walk (at a brisk pace) for about an hour; I recently downloaded a walking app to see how far I go, and it's usually in the neighborhood of 3.5-4 miles or so. All this exercise is of course good for my physical health (and it's helped me start a pretty cool streak of 29 days of 10K+ steps to date!), but I've found it's also essential to my mental health. Getting time out of the house, away from the computer, breathing fresh air is so good for reducing stress and anxiety. I am so thankful for the time and ability to get outside every day.

Finally, my third item is (no surprise, I'm sure) all the reading I've been doing. Later this morning I should be able to finish Such a Fun Age -- I have less than 50 pages to go -- and get another bingo on my card. I'm next in line at the library for my next Gamache book, and I'm still reading How to Be an Antiracist. I have three squares on my first bingo card left without a book associated with them (though I have one of my library holds in mind for one of the three), so it looks like it won't be long until I achieve a cover-all!

I'm off to see what Carole and friends are up to, and I'd love to hear what's keeping you sane these days in the comments!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Near Miss

Yesterday was Monday, which meant a new clue of the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl. I've been trying to stay on top of the clues as much as possible and have managed to do the first two clues within a day or so of them being released. Yesterday was a bit busy, though, so I didn't get to pick up my shawl until the evening. I was happily knitting away when I saw it: a dropped stitch in the previous clue's knitting.

Friends, let me tell you just how lucky I was with this dropped stitch. First of all, despite the fact that I'm using a wool/silk singles yarn, it had somehow not gone anywhere. Second, I seem to not have gotten off on the pattern despite being a stitch short. Third, it happened in a spot just below are area of several decreases, so I was able to ladder it up a couple of rows and then pull it to the wrong side, where I've secured it with a locking stitch marker. I briefly thought about ripping back but decided that since everything was on track, I'd just carry on. Eventually I will take a scrap of yarn, run it through that stitch, and weave in the ends to secure it.

I hope to be able to finish up Clue 3 today, provided work cooperates and doesn't keep me too busy.

My other projects are progressing but don't look too much different from the last time you saw them, so I'll wait to share photos. But I am happy to report that I finally have my first bingo -- two, actually!

Over the weekend I finished Picnic at Hanging Rock to fill in my "Historical fiction" box and achieve both a vertical and a diagonal bingo. It was just an okay read; I didn't really love it, but I didn't hate it either. I tend to not particularly like stories that don't really wrap up in the end, and that's precisely what happens in this book. It was a pretty quick read, though, at less than 200 pages, so I don't feel like I spent too much time to get that square filled.

I now have three books in progress: How to Be an Antiracist, which I'm just a little less than halfway through; Such a Fun Age, which I started over the weekend; and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall via Craftlit. Yesterday evening I got to join a Zoom session to discuss How to Be an Antiracist as part of my synagogue's newly started social justice book club. I'm delighted that it drew a pretty good sized group of people and look forward to seeing where the club takes us. I'm a quarter of the way through Such a Fun Age and it seems like I'll be able to finish it up this week. Tenant might actually take a while, as Heather typically only includes a chapter or two per podcast episode, so I may borrow the audiobook from the library (I checked and it's available with no wait!) in order to finish it in time to put it on my bingo card. I'd really like to get a cover-all on this card!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Make Like Dory

When I started spinning this Rambouillet fleece a few weeks ago, I was completely excited by it. After finishing the first three bobbins (which was my original objective), it was going so well that I thought I'd continue and just spin it all. After all, I was averaging a bobbin every two to three days, so how long would it take me to spin 11?

The answer would be not that long, but the assumption is that I wouldn't get really bored with it. And you know what they say about making assumptions. Though I still very much like spinning it, the same brown fiber over and over does get a little old, not to mention that my body is not as young as it used to me and my knees get angry with me if I do too much treadling. So I haven't done as much spinning in the past week, and as a consequence I'm not yet done with the sixth bobbin.

The important thing I'm trying to focus on here is that I'm more than halfway done. It would be great if I could finish all the singles by the end of the month. It would be super if I could then do the all the plying and be done with the fleece before the start of the Tour de Fleece (which I believe is occurring even though the Tour de France is not). If I don't, then I don't, but in the meantime, I will be like Dory and Just Keep Swimming -- or rather Spinning.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Three Check-ins

First, I want to thank everyone for leaving such nice comments on my last post about the new shawl design. It feels very good to have gotten it out after working on it (mentally and physically) for more than half a year.

Second, it's Thursday (and my sort-of Friday, because I'm taking tomorrow off from work), so I'm joining up with Carole and friends with three check-ins on my leisure activities.

1. Knitting projects
Over the past week, I've been rotating through three main knitting projects. First, there are the socks I started for my sister-in-law in the long-term planning category. They have been worked on while reading and while attending (virtual) meetings. The first sock is now finished and the second begun.

I did wind off yarn when I started the second sock so that the socks would start in the same point in the striping sequence, and I made some notes for myself so I could (fingers crossed) get them to match. My sister-in-law's feet are a bit shorter than mine, so I know I'll have plenty of yarn.

I also have been working on the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl and spent most of the day Monday (in between work meetings and whatnot) knitting up Clue 2. I hope no one is concerned about spoilers, because I'm going to show you what the shawl looks like through this clue. You've been forewarned! (Side note: When I posted a photo of Clue 1 a full week after it came out on my Instagram feed, someone commented that they'd been spoiled and probably shouldn't follow the hashtag for the shawl. If you don't want spoilers, why are you following the hashtag in the first place?)

I'm a bit surprised how much I'm enjoying this, because honestly, if I saw this much of a pattern before buying, I probably wouldn't be interested, but I'm having such fun! The second repeat of the lace in Clue 1 was a bit of a slog for me, but the second clue was completely engaging because of the variety of techniques used. I'm excited to see where Clue 3 takes us!

Finally, there's my Tegna, which I've been working on almost every evening. I finished up the lace over the weekend, so now it's just miles of stockinette in the round, and the only thing I have to pay attention to is switching which strand of yarn I'm working with when I get to the beginning of the round.

I absolutely adore how the yarn is working up and am feeling rather proud for working out the plan when I spun it.

2. Crochet/100 Day Project
It's been a fairly busy week at work, so I think I may have forgotten to work on this one day by accident, but the blanket is continuing to grow. I'm into the first of the last two original skeins of yarn we picked for it, and in the meantime Rainbow and I found six more skeins of Felici in my stash, so those have been designated for the blanket as well.

For a sense of scale, those are 50 g skeins of yarn, and if I lay it out flat(ish), it's measuring about 37 inches across.

3. Reading
Work has gotten in the way of my reading time a bit this week, but I've finished two more books since last Thursday -- but still no bingo!

I listened to A Wrinkle in Time while exercising and doing household chores last week. It's a book I read several times as a child but didn't remember very much about, so I'd been meaning to reread it. I actually bought a paperback of it a while back to give to Rainbow (who, it turns out, is not at all interested, grr), but when I saw it was available from the library on audio, I jumped at it. This particular version is narrated by Hope Davis and has additional "bonus" features in the form of an appreciation by Ava DuVernay (who directed the recent film version), an introduction by the author, and an afterward by the author's granddaughter that gives some background about the author and how the novel came to be. While I enjoyed it, I found that it had lost some of the luster that it had for me as a child. But that's okay. I gave it 3 stars and put it in the "Children's classic" box on my second bingo card.

Last night I stayed up a teensy bit late to finish reading Thin Air, the sixth book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland series. These books are consistently good and I'm a little sad that I have only two more left to read (though I hear the Vera series is good as well). I gave the book 4 stars and put it in the "Set in a different country" box on my original card. It's also the third Shetland book to fill a square on this card!

It's a good thing I finished that book last night, because when I went into the library app to return it, I discovered I'd gotten two books off my holds: Picnic at Hanging Rock (which has been talked about recently on the Craftlit podcast) and Such a Fun Age. I'm pretty sure I can put the former into the "Historical fiction" box on my card, but I'll have to figure out where to put the latter. In any case, I have quite a lot of reading ahead of me!

I'm looking forward to a long weekend of reading and crafting, and I hope yours is full of the same!

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Pattern Release: Maze and Blue

My newest shawl pattern has been a long time coming. I'd intended to get the sample knit up (or at least started) while we were on vacation in Florida at the end of December. I typically use that time away to get a head start on design samples for the year ahead, but for whatever reason, I didn't do as much knitting this past year. So the yarn for the sample, which had already been wound, came back home in the same form, and it wasn't until March that I finally got around to casting on.

The pandemic stole my knitting mojo for a while, but fortunately the idea for this shawl came to me fully formed. Back in the "old days" when I was a kid, birthday party favor bags always had an assortment of inexpensive toys and often included those plastic maze toys where you had to try to get a tiny silver ball through a labyrinth. Do you remember those? My idea was to use the method I call short-row intarsia to create a shawl that looked like one of those toys. I was pretty happy to discover that when I finally got around to knitting it, it looked exactly like I'd imagined.

This shawl is the ultimate in customization. The pattern is essentially a formula, so every shawl created from it will look different. For one thing, it can be worked with any amount of any weight of yarn and at any gauge. Once you've completed the original set-up rows, there's a four-row pattern repeat that is worked until you're just about out of your main color (or you're just ready to be done), and then all that's left is adding a border in your contrast color.

The shawl is worked from the top down, starting with a garter tab, and uses shaping that's typically used to create a crescent-shaped shawl (6 increases every two rows). But then you add in the short-row intarsia stripes, and the added fabric created by them results in a shawl that's closer to a half circle after blocking.

So just what is short-row intarsia, exactly? I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with it, but I've now used it in several of my shawl patterns. In a nutshell, it's a way to do intarsia without having to deal with the tangle or extra ends of the many bobbins and balls that you typically see in intarsia. Instead, the contrast color is added in short rows, which enables you to use just one strand of yarn at a time while the other just hangs from the work until you're ready for it. The only ends to deal with are the normal ones at the beginning and end. It may sound a little complicated, but I promise you it's not. If you can knit stripes, you can knit this.

I couldn't resist a name with a pun for this design. The yarn I used in the sample is MollyGirl Yarn Honky Tonk Lite, a fingering-weight singles yarn that's a blend of superwash merino and Ingeo (or corn) fiber. And while I didn't necessarily pick these colors because of the association, they just happen to be the colors of the University of Michigan, my brother's alma mater: maize and blue. You see what I did there -- corn/maize/maze? Yeah, I groaned, too, when it occurred to me, but once it did, I just had to go for it.

The pattern is now available on Ravelry, and if you're interested in buying a kit, Angela of MollyGirl Yarn has some available on her site. Through June 15, the pattern is on sale for $1 off in my Ravelry shop using the code AMAZING. (Yes, I went there. Go ahead and groan again!)

Sunday, June 07, 2020

The Refrain Is the Same

It's been a very active day here. We started out by driving out to see my in-laws and taking a walk around their neighborhood. After lunch and the weekly knitting Zoom call that Mary hosts, I went for a run. And then after I'd showered and cooled off, I sat down at my wheel for a bit before dinner. Right now, I have almost 17,500 steps on my Fitbit -- my knees are feeling it!

My spinning is getting a tad bit monotonous. I have four completed bobbins of singles, with the fifth just a bit away from being done.

I am still enjoying the spinning, and I'm finding that my singles are getting more consistent as I get more comfortable with my long draw, but it's going to be a long haul to get through this entire fleece. The one thing that I don't really like about spinning this way is that I really have to keep an eye on my singles as I spin, which means I can't simultaneously watch something or read. I've been getting around that by listening to podcasts or audiobooks, so at least I feel that I'm multitasking a bit.

The next step in this big spinning project is to wind the singles off the bobbins and put them on my oh-so-fancy storage bobbins (aka empty TP tubes). I have a fair number of WooLee Winder bobbins but not enough to hold all the singles for this project, so I'm going to empty these and then fill them again. This will also make it easier to mix up the singles when I ply to even out the inconsistencies across the entire time I spin.

While much of the weekend was spent outside enjoying the gorgeous weather, I've also spent a fair part of it in educating myself. I started reading the much-lauded How to Be an Antiracist and am reading it carefully, as if I were studying it for a class. I bought myself a hard copy a while back, and I'm grateful to be able to underline and highlight and make notes as I read. The Mister and I also watched the documentary 13th over the past couple evenings, and I watched Just Mercy at the end of last week (note that it's available to stream for free for the month of June!). I recommend both movies, though be prepared to be both very angry and very sad.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Three Things Bringing Me Joy

There's a lot of sadness in the world right now; I've talked about it and don't want to rehash it, but I don't think I need to, as I'm fairly sure you're all aware of it without me telling you. As someone with a history of depression and anxiety, it's very easy for me to get overwhelmed by sadness and worry, and one coping mechanism I've been using throughout this time is to focus on good things when I find them and cultivate gratitude for what I have. So for today's post, I'm joining Carole and friends by sharing three things that are bringing me a bit of joy right now.

1. Our "victory garden"
During WWII, many people in the United States grew a victory garden to supplement their food supply in a time of scarcity. While we have not had a real scarcity of food personally, I do derive a fair amount of joy and satisfaction from growing my own food. In the past, though, I haven't been too successful at it. Our backyard isn't really ideal for a garden, as it doesn't get a ton of sunlight, and typically during the summer I don't always take the best care of the garden as a result of being busy. Seeing as I have a lot of time this year, though, I thought it would be worth being a big more adventurous. I did buy tomato plants and herbs last month, but Rainbow and I have also been experimenting with starting some plants from seed inside.

We've started the seeds by placing them in snack-sized plastic baggies with a wet paper towel and putting the bags next to a window that gets a fair amount of sun. Left to right here we have bell peppers (the seeds came from a pepper we bought at the store), peas, and cucumbers. I've still got some butternut squash seeds in a bag, but they don't seem to be doing anything. The peas here are actually the second round we've done this year; the first round was grown from peas that were harvested last year and allowed to dry, and they've already been transplanted outside.

2. My $5* Sweater**
I ordered some yarn late last week that arrived a couple of days ago. No, I didn't really need more yarn, but I'd been wanting a sweater out of this yarn for a while, and I took advantage of the fact that I had a gift certificate and a discount code to use that made it extremely affordable.

This is Fibernymph Dye Works Ridgetop Fingering. Ridgetop is Lisa's custom-blended 80% Romney/20% Falkland non-superwash yarn. I'm going to be using this to make myself a Threipmuir. I debated colors for a while and in the end went for my typical choice of blue for the main color -- I am nothing if not predictable.

3. Reading
Though I still haven't gotten a bingo and I still have more squares to fill before I fill this card, this morning I filled out another bingo card.

I knew that several of the books I plan to read would not fit into squares in my first card, so I got a second with some appropriate categories. If you look closely, you'll see that I have only seven squares on my initial card that have not been filled, and I'm pretty confident I'll be able to fill those with no problem by at least midway through the summer -- several of my library holds alone will fill some of those squares.

I hope that whatever you're doing this week and over the coming weekend, you find something to bring you a little joy.

*Technically, $4.88
**Some assembly required

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday: WIP Wrangling

I know I don't normally post on Wednesdays, but yesterday's post was pretty heavy and serious. I felt like it made sense to add an extra post this week, so I'm joining it with Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

There has been no actual unraveling this week, but there has been a lot of wrangling of WIPs. I'm normally not someone who has a lot of projects going on at once (usually I have a smaller project that goes with me to work and a larger, more complex project for my evening crafting time), but the crazy times we live in mean that my attention is similarly crazy and scattered, so I find myself with four active yarn WIPs at the moment (I am excluding my spinning from the count).

I'm continuing to work on the crochet blanket for Rainbow as part of the 100 Day Project. We're on day 50-something, I think; I've done my best to check off each day, but I'm not 100% sure I've recorded every day. Yesterday I joined in skein number 7 of Felici, the penultimate skein of the original yarn selected for the blanket.

I'm completely sure now that I'll be adding in more yarn once I get through the second ball of this colorway (Goth Kitty, if you're interested), but I will be letting Rainbow determine what yarn is added and how much. I think I've also figured out that the skewing that's happening is at least in part due to a slight error I've been making in joining as I get to the end of a round which has translated to one less stitch than I should have when I start the next round, but I'm hoping that I will able to block out the blanket to be square enough in the next. Rainbow has not complained about the effect, and if she's happy, I'm not worried about it being perfect.

Late last week I cast on for my handspun Tegna, which is what I've been primarily working on in the evening. It's been a bit slow going because the rounds are long, some of these stitches are a bit tricky (hello, k4tog), and my attention hasn't been fully focused on knitting the past few nights anyway. But I think it will be much faster once I get through the lace chart and am just working in stockinette.

The Through the Loops Mystery Shawl 2020 started this past Monday, and I cast on for it pretty much first thing on Monday morning. I am knitting it using two skeins of Skeinny Dipping Merino Silk Single in the colorways Zingbat and Malaria Dreams. It's very different from the yarn Kirsten recommended for the pattern, but I am loving how it's knitting up. Zingbat, which is the color I've used for the first clue, looks almost like metal wire when knit up; I've included the skein of Malaria Dreams here so you can see how well it coordinates with the speckles in Zingbat.

Finally, I've got a sock WIP. While I have no room for more socks in my own sock drawers at the moment, I like to have a sock on the go, so I thought I'd get a head start on holiday knitting. These are going to be for my sister-in-law, who proved herself totally knitworthy last year when I gave her the first pair of socks I knit for her. I thought of her immediately when I saw these colors.

I'm doing my usual top-down vanilla sock (heel flap and gusset, wedge toe) with the slight variation of working the first round when the color changes as (sl 1, k1). This means that I can't entirely work on this sock without looking -- I do have glance at it from time to time to know when the color is changing -- but at the moment it's the best thing to work on while I'm trying to knit and read at the same time.

My Breathe and Hope shawl is still on the needles (sorry to disappoint those of you who told me to rip it out!). I guess I didn't do a good job of explaining my issues with it before: There is nothing wrong with the pattern itself, or with the yarn, or really with knitting it. It just wasn't what I wanted to be knitting at the time. But I do like the pattern and the yarn and very much would like to have the finished shawl, so it's hibernating for the time being, and I'll come back to it when the mood strikes.

I have not been reading as much as I'd like the past several days, mostly because I've been watching or reading news instead. But I am enjoying my current book, A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. I can't remember where or how I first heard about this book, but it's been on my want to read list for a while and on my hold list from the library for at least a month. I'm nearly a quarter of the way through it, though I'm hoping to make some significant progress today if my schedule allows. I've read a ton of fiction set during WWII but not nearly enough nonfiction, so it's really fascinating to learn the actual facts that formed the basis of some of that fiction.

Up next on my TBR list is How to Be an Antiracist. I've had the physical copy of the book on my nightstand for months and have been meaning to get around to reading it, but the events of the past week have made it clear that I can't put it off any longer. I'm eager to add it to my Goodreads bookshelf that I've titled My Antiracist Education, a shelf that has far too few books on it. I'm going to make it a real priority to add to that shelf, so I welcome any recommendations you have.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

What's Even the Point?

For the past few days, I've really been struggling with what to post here given the events of the past week or so. On Sunday, I didn't address those events because I didn't yet feel like I'd fully gathered my thoughts to say something coherent. I'm still not sure I'm there yet -- nor am I sure I ever will be. What's become apparent to me -- brutally, painfully apparent -- is that this country is very much broken and that what it means to be an American is very different depending on the color of your skin. We've seen that the coronovirus pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, just as they've been disproportionately affected by poverty, unemployment, housing availability, substandard education, lack of opportunity, and so many other things for so many years. Added on top of all this is the violence that has led to the deaths of African Americans at the hand of police and the shocking lack of accountability.

At this moment in time, I am feeling very helpless and simultaneously very guilty. I know that as a white person, any benefit I derive from the privileges I get simply for the color of my skin makes me complicit in upholding a racist system. I've been working on confronting that reality for the past year or so by educating myself, by listening and amplifying BIPOC voices, and by helping where I can by donating to causes that are working to change things.

But it all feels like not enough and like what I'm doing every day is completely pointless. Why should I be worrying about comma placement at work when people are dying? Why should I be going for a run for my own health benefit when doing the same can result in others' getting killed? Why should I be talking about yarn and fiber when people are suffering, starving, being beaten? Why should I be getting lost in a book when there's already a dystopian reality around me?

I can see where this is going if I'm not careful. I can see the black dog of depression bearing down on me. And I won't let it. So yes, I'm still knitting and spinning -- because I know that it helps me to relieve anxiety and will keep me from getting so anxious I can't be of use to anyone. Yes, I'm still going out to run and walk every day that I can -- because I know that it's good to relieve stress and keep me healthy, and staying healthy and strong will make it easier for me to help others. Yes, I'm still online and using social media -- because it's a tool I can use to amplify the voices of others who have better, more effective things to say than I do. Yes, I'm still reading -- because reading is a way I can educate myself.

If you're feeling like me and want to get some ideas of how to help, here's a very incomplete list to get you started:
  • This article has a number of links to ways to help monetarily as well as ways to help that cost nothing but a bit of your time.
  • Here is a list of books for white readers specifically to educate themselves about the role we play in white supremacy and how we can help to dismantle it.
  • Children's book author Karina Yan Glaser (Rainbow loves her Vanderbeekers series) tweeted a list of 100 children's books by African American creators. This is a great place to start if you have children at home who you're trying to educate to be anti-racist.
  • VOTE! Today is primary day in Pennsylvania. I already sent in my ballot by mail last month, but in-person voting is still an option. Remember that while the big federal offices get a lot of attention, local races are just as important. If you feel that your leaders do not have the best interests of all citizens at heart, vote them out and replace them with people who will make changes to ensure the equality of all.
I was thinking last night of the last big community gathering I was at in the aftermath of the Tree of Life shooting. One of our local rabbis spoke and reminded us that the Star of David, or Magen David, so many of us were wearing wasn't a star. The meaning of magen isn't "star" but rather "shield." Be a shield, he reminded us. That's something I hope to keep in mind going forward.

If you have additional resources to share, please do so in the comments. Thank you for reading and, if you're going to be out protesting, please stay safe.