Sunday, August 30, 2020

TdF, Take 2, and a Circle of Yarn

So many things have been canceled this year, but if you heard a little cheer yesterday, it's because spinners were celebrating the start of the second Tour de Fleece for the year. Yes, you read that correctly. The first one was held during the original dates for the Tour de France, even though it was postponed. But yesterday the Tour de France started for real, which means we get another chance to spin along! I suspect that TdF2 will feel a little more normal because there will be cycling to watch while spinning. I myself am not a big cycling fan, but the Mister and I have always enjoyed watching the evening replays of the day's race when we can, and I feel a little more motivated to keep treadling when I see how hard the cyclists are riding.

While I've been a little less focused on spinning since the end of Stash Dash, I have been working on my purple Rambouillet singles again, and I think finishing them (and plying them) is a reasonable TdF2 goal. I'd estimate I'm about halfway done with my singles; this is the second bobbin, which coordinates so nicely with the singles, don't you think? Because my fiber has been split up into little bundles, it's very easy to sit and spin up one or two at a time.

I'm excited to get through this fiber and add the resulting skeins to the pile of yarn I've spun this year, which is getting quite sizeable! Mary commented last week that she'd love to see all that yarn together. A lot of it was spun for Stash Dash, but because I was doing so much spinning at the beginning of Stay at Home, here is everything I have spun since then (around March 12 or so):

What you see here is a total of nineteen skeins (plus one tiny mini skeins) containing more than 5,565 yards of handspun. And I just realized that I left one skein out, which accounts for another (I think) 550 yards. So let's say that I've spun about 6,000 yards of yarn in less than five months. If I achieve nothing else during this pandemic, I'll at least have made a dent in my fiber stash!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Big Reads and Big Knits

It's Wednesday again (how is it that this keeps happening so quickly?), so I'm linking up with Kat and the Unravelers again to chat about my reading and my knitting.

Since this time last week, I've finished two more books:

For the "Originally published within 5 years of the year you were born" square on my second bingo card, I picked Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, primarily because it was on a New York Times "best books" list for the year I was born (it was actually published the year before, but that still works) and it was immediately available in audio from the library. Bonus: It was only about 6 hours long. I listened over the course of several days, while exercising and doing things around the house. I appreciated the writing, but after the first chapter or two, I was very confused and had trouble following it. I thought perhaps that it was a case of me not paying full attention (a common problem with listening to books for me), but the summaries I found online confirmed that I'd heard everything correctly. I just didn't get it. I gave it 2 stars, mainly because the writing was good but the story bizarre.


A much more enjoyable read for me was The Secrets We Kept, which I selected for the "Set in a place you'd like to know more about" square on my card. This book takes place during the early days of the CIA and in the USSR and follows several story lines by focusing on several women: a Russian-American woman new to espionage, a American veteran of the OSS (the precursor to the CIA), and the mistress of author Boris Pasternak who was said to the be inspiration for the character of Lara in Doctor Zhivago. I don't know how much of the story was embellished and how much was fact, but I found it to be a really entertaining read and plowed through it in just two days. I gave it 4 stars.

I now have three squares left to fill on my second bingo card. I am reading two of those books right now, and I think I've certainly made filling this card a challenge for myself, because both of these books are more than 500 pages! For the "More than 500 pages" square, I'm reading Stamped from the Beginning, which is an excellent read but not a quick one! It's essentially a history text, so it's dense and requires attention. For the "Classic" square, I am reading Little Dorrit, which I've had in my Kindle library and wanted to read for a while, since I watched the 2008 miniseries. It's good, but it's also Dickens, which means that it's not a quick read. My last square to be filled is "With more than one author listed on the cover," and I've already selected my book to fill it. I'm going to be rereading The Resilience Factor, which I first read in a college seminar (one of the authors was my favorite college professor). In addition to filling that final square, I think it will also be a helpful read for these times. I don't know if I can get through all three of these books in the next 13 days, but I'm sure as heck going to try!

I can't seem to read without doing something else, with the exception of the reading I do in bed right before I go to sleep, and over the past few days I've been working almost exclusively on my Torbellino. As of yesterday afternoon, the body is done!

It obviously will need a good blocking to get that hem to stop flipping, but I think it looks worse than it actually is here because the back part of the hem is lower than the front. I wove in most of my ends after I finished binding off the body, so now it's time to pick up for the sleeves. I am hopeful that they will knit up quickly -- we're still experiencing very hot, humid weather here, but I know fall will be here before we know it, and I'd love to have a new sweater ready to wear!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

One Little Word: August 2020

Unbelievably, we've arrived at the last Tuesday of the month again, so it's time to join up with Honoré at Morning Glory Studio to reflect on my word for the year -- SAVOR -- and how it's been showing up in the past month. Last month was all about the reading. This month, it seems to be about writing. Specifically, it's about my daily journaling and about interacting with those of you I've come to think of as Blog Friends.

There was a time in my life (mainly when I was an angst-filled teenager and in my early 20s) when my journal was a regular part of my life. I didn't write every day, but it was a normal practice for me to set aside an hour or so every few days or a couple of times a week to pour out my thoughts and feelings to my journal. As part of joining in on the One Little Word group this year, I decided to start keeping a journal again, and in the smaller black notebook in the photo above, you'd find that on January 1 of this year, I started the practice with an optimistic entry about how I was going to do it. But in reality, that entry was the only entry for a couple of months -- and then the pandemic hit. I didn't realize it at the time, but I revived my journaling practice at a perfect time. Midway through March, when it became clear that staying at home was going to be a long-term thing, I wrote in my journal again, and by the end of the month, it had become a nearly daily practice. I've missed a few days here and there, but for the most part I am spending some time each evening before getting into bed looking back on the day and, at a minimum, making note of three things I accomplished and five things that brought me some joy. I haven't given myself any restrictions or expectations with regard to what I write about; the important thing has just been to write, and I have been so thankful for the time I've given myself to do just that. Earlier this month, I filled the first notebook and moved onto the larger Moleskine notebook (which I shamelessly stole from the Mister -- he's got a stack of notebooks he's acquired from various conferences and events over the years and hasn't even noticed that I took this one even though I write in it every night right in front of him). The larger pages in this notebook are lined, unlike my previous one, so I think that's prompted me to write more, which in turn has been better for my state of mind because I'm working out my frustrations and anxieties on the page.

The other thing I've been really savoring this month has been my connection with the wonderful community of crafters and bloggers I've come to know the past several years and especially this year. As someone who has long struggled to make new friends as an adult, it means so much to be able to connect with others who share some of my interests and pastimes -- and thanks to the wonders of technology, we're able to discuss and share them in real time! The weekly Zoom meet-up that Mary has been hosting has been one of the anchors of my week and has truly been a blessing during these strange times. Were it not for this pandemic and being forced to conduct so much of our lives online, I doubt I would have ever "met" or interacted with some of the individuals I now think of as friends. And I've likewise been really savoring the interactions I've been able to have through reading and commenting on blogs. Many of you chimed in a couple of weeks ago when I asked about how you reply to comments, and so going forward I'm taking a hybrid approach. I get all blog comments sent to me by email, so for those of you whose email address I have, I'll reply that way, and for those whose email addresses I don't have, I'll reply to your original comment on the blog itself. The dialogue around the blog has been so good and such a great way to stay connected with others outside of my immediate sphere, so I want to encourage it in any way I can.

That's all from me to day -- I have some staycationing to do! -- but I'll be back tomorrow with a reading and knitting update. I hope you're doing well, and I look forward to hearing about how your One Little Word has been appearing in your life this past month.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

On Meeting -- and Exceeding -- My Goal

I wasn't too worried, if I'm honest, but I'm happy to report that I did indeed meet my Stash Dash goal by finishing up that skein of Finnsheep yarn. Here it is after washing and drying:

It made for an interesting spin. The fiber was in roving form and very minimally processed, so there was still quite a bit of lanolin still in the wool and a fair amount of VM that I pulled out or that fell out as I was spinning (I had to make liberal use of my lint roller after each spinning session). Although it was roving, a carded preparation, I decided to spin it short forward draw, which I typically do with combed top, mainly because I wanted it to be a little more consistent and I knew I'd be faster spinning with my default style. It's still a bit lumpy bumpy because the fiber was a mix of different colors, and it's not uncommon for different colors of fleece -- even on the same animal -- to have different textures. I wasn't aiming for perfection, so I'm quite happy with the more rustic finished look. I did give it a good long soak in hot water with some dish soap to get out the lanolin, and it puffed up very nicely.

The finished yarn is, I'd say, in the range of fingering to sport weight and approximately 350.8 yards/320.8 meters. With the way handspun is counted for Stash Dash, it contributed 962.4 meters toward my total, more than enough to get me over my 15K finish line. In fact, my final total was more than 15,800 meters! Even though I did all the work on the projects that got me there, I'm still a bit surprised at how high my total was! More than a third of it was due to my Rambouillet fleece spin, and that's probably what I'm most proud of among my finished projects this summer.

I have since started in on the second bobbin of purple Rambouillet singles, but I haven't gotten very far on it because I've done almost no spinning this weekend. Since late yesterday, I've been feeling strangely under the weather -- no COVID-like symptoms, thank goodness, but I've been tired and my leg joints have all been achy. Last night I didn't sleep very well, and this morning I had a little incident (I'm pretty sure related to an IBS issue; I'll spare you the details) where I actually passed out very briefly in the bathroom. Thankfully I didn't fall this time, but it was scary for a bit there. I spent all today resting in bed, curled up with a cozy blanket and my knitting. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm back to normal tomorrow; I can tell it's nothing serious because I was able to knit for most of the day (I have learned from past experience that if I don't feel like knitting, something is really wrong!). Thankfully even if I need another day of lounging, I don't have to worry about it because I am taking this week off from work! Rainbow and I have a list of things we'd like to do, but mostly the goal is to spend some time together before she goes back to school on September 1. And I am very lucky that she has been used to me knitting all the time for her whole life, so she thinks nothing of it if my hands are busy while we're talking or playing a game. I may not get as much reading time in this week, but you can be sure we'll be doing a lot of crafting.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

15K Just Hours Away

Friends, I am going to do it -- I'm going to hit my Stash Dash goal! Yesterday I finished spinning the singles from the Finnsheep roving, and last night I used my ball winder to wind a center-pull ball. Today's mission is to ply, which I'll be doing from both ends of the ball. And as soon as I'm done, I'll skein and wash it and hang it to dry outside so I can measure the length and confirm that I have met my goal. I will of course be sharing the finished skein on Sunday (or sooner, if you follow me on Instagram).

Yesterday we had dinner with my brother- and sister-in-law and my nephew, who is now walking and getting into everything. He's also very drooly:

I knew we'd be sitting outside and talking for a while, so I cast on a new pair of socks. These will be for my mother-in-law for the winter holidays:

The yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Mountain Tweed, which is a superwash BFL/nylon blend. This colorway is Love Notes, which was one of Lisa's Valentine's Day colorways. It's a four-stripe colorway, with three shades of pink separated by gray, and it's the first time I've knit with this fingering-weight tweed base. I really like how it's working up, and it's also nice to have a sock on the needles again. I may or may not have some other FDW sock yarn on its way to me from Lisa's shop update last weekend, so I expect more socks on the needles in the weeks and months to come.

We don't have any big plans for the weekend (really, who does these days anyway?), but I am looking forward to taking a week off from work next week. Due to the pandemic, my employer has temporarily suspended the accrual limits on vacation time, and as I rarely take time off, I've got a lot of it. It looks very unlikely that we'll be making our annual trip to Florida this year, so I figured I might as well take some of that vacation time now. Rainbow starts school on September 1, so next week is about mother/daughter fun time. One item on our to-do list is making her more masks for school, and we've ordered some fun fabric choices, including this one that we splurged on at Spoonflower (you can get it here, if you're so inclined):

If we all have to wear masks, we might as well do it in style, right?

Have a great end to your week! I'll be back on Sunday to do my victory lap.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Slow and Steady: Unraveled Wednesday

As I have been for the past several weeks, today I'm joining Kat and friends to share what I've been reading. My pace has slowed a bit since last week (mainly because I've been reading some longer books), but I'm still on track to fill my second bingo card!

The quickest recent read for me was Ordinary Grace, which I borrowed from the library and plowed through in just a few days. I really enjoyed the story and the "back when times were simpler" setting. In many ways it reminded me of books like To Kill a Mockingbird, in which stories are told from the point of view of a child who is just becoming aware of the fact that adulthood is messy and complicated. I also was quite tickled by the fact that the fiber I was spinning as I was reading seemed to match the cover artwork perfectly! My one complaint about the book was that it seemed to have a shocking lack of (to my mind, anyway) necessary commas; the copy editor in me could have easily taken a red pen to the book if I'd been reading a physical copy! I have no idea if that was intentional or just the author's style, but it did bother me more than it might bother the average person whose day job doesn't involve the correct placement of commas. I put it in the "Protagonist with a different gender/sexual orientation from your own" square on my bingo card and gave it 4 stars.

Yesterday I finished The Warmth of Other Suns, and my goodness, was it a great read! I put it in the "About politics" square on my card, because it's about the Great Migration of Black Americans fleeing the Jim Crow South for the North and West and all the barriers they faced -- and systemic racism is politics, as far as I'm concerned. If you just heard a summary of what this book was about, you might think it would be a dry, academic-type book, but it's really not. Wilkerson tells the story of the Great Migration by focusing on three individuals who left different parts of the South at different times and for different destinations, and she follows their paths for the rest of their lives. It's really masterfully done and engaging -- I really had trouble putting it down! And in addition to enjoying it, I learned a lot, which is really a great combination in a book. I gave it 5 stars and highly recommend it!

I have about half an hour left in the audiobook of Housekeeping, which will fill my "Originally published within five years of the year you were born" square, and I'm still reading Stamped from the Beginning for my "More than 500 pages" square. I just borrowed The Secrets We Kept for my "Set in a place you'd like to know more about" square (it's set in the USSR), so I have just two squares left on my card to pick books for: "Classic" (for which I have several options already in my Kindle library) and "With more than one author listed on the cover." I think I'll be reading quite a lot to get this whole card filled, but I'm feeling good about doing it!

I'd love to hear what you've been reading or what you have queued up to read next!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hedging My Bets

It was a productive weekend in terms of finishing things and racking up the meters for Stash Dash, but as I predicted, it's going to come down to the wire.

First, the finished object: I finally finished the hat that has been on the needles for way too long.

The crown ended up taking a lot longer than I thought it would (which makes sense given how many stitches I had on the needles!), but I did finish it and get it blocked. I have the pattern roughly written out using my very scientific method of notes on slips of paper, so now it's a matter of getting it typed and into a layout so I can send it to my tech editor. I used a little more than three quarters of my skein of yarn, 281.6 m toward my total.

And though it's not Sunday, I'll share the finished photos of the skein you saw pre-wash on Sunday. It poofed up perfectly!

Polwarth, as I mentioned, does have a tendency to puff up when it's washed; Polwarth is a result of cross-breeding Merino and Lincoln sheep. In the past, I've had it puff up so much that what looked like, say, fingering weight fresh off the wheel turn into sport or DK after washing. But this particular skein stayed firmly in fingering territory, and the poofing it did resulted in a slight tightening of the ply so it's just like I like it. The final yardage was just shy of 417 yards or about 380 meters. The Stash Dash handspun rules allow you to count the length of the skein for each time the yarn passes through your hands, so the total number of plies plus one for plying. For a two-ply yarn, that means length times three, so this skein counted for 1,140.9 meters toward my total.

At the moment, my Stash Dash total is 14,868 m. I am so close to 15K -- just 132 meters left to go! Unfortunately, my WIPs are all are the large side, and I thought it unlikely that I'd finish one by Friday. So what to do? Start another spinning project, of course!

This is some natural Finnsheep roving that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool in 2016(!), when it was the featured breed and there was a special tent for Finnsheep breeders. The fiber, which apparently came from a sheep named Stormy from a farm in the middle of Pennsylvania, is very minimally processed -- there's lots of VM to pick out and a good amount of lanolin softening my hands as I spin. I'm spinning the roving from beginning to end and plan to ply from both ends. I'm sure that I'll end up with more than enough meters in the end to get me over the 15K mark, but this particular spin is doing double duty of getting me to spin something that's been in my mental queue for far too long.

I'm not making myself crazy with the spinning and still doing some knitting, and I've turned my attention back to my Torbellino sweater. I'm still on the body and have a little more than 6 inches left to knit before the next section where I have to pay attention (the short rows that make the back of the sweater a little longer than the front).

If you look closely, you'll see that I'm almost at the end of my first skein of my main color, and that's one way I've been able to see that I'm making progress -- it seems like the body of this sweater should be going a lot faster than it has! I am starting to see some signs outside that fall is not that far away, so I'm hopeful that that's enough motivation to get me to really focus on this project. I am very much looking forward to weather that's cool enough to require a sweater!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

It's Going to Be a Nail-biter

As of right now, there are five more days of Stash Dash. If I want to hit my 15K goal, I need to make up a gap of just a little less than 1,300 yards. I don't think this skein of handspun is going to take care of all of it, but it'll get me much closer.

The singles were finished yesterday, and though I was very excited to start plying, I made myself wait until today to let the singles rest overnight. (That's strictly not necessary, by the way, but I've found that letting the singles rest allows the spinning twist to calm down a bit, which makes plying a bit easier.) Once I started plying today, though, I really couldn't rest until I was done.

I'm really pleased by the way the colors mixed and mingled, and I was pretty consistent, too, because when one bobbin ran out of singles I had only a bit left on the other bobbin that I Andean plied in order to use every last bit in this skein.

For those of you who think my yarn is perfect coming off the wheel, I present the following exhibit -- how most of my skeins look when they've just been plied:

Many spinners will tell you that the goal of spinning is to get a balanced yarn -- that is, the amount of twist you put into the singles is balanced out by the amount of twist in the other direction that you put in when plying. I don't necessarily think that's the goal for me, and in fact sometimes I like more plying twist because it can help to create a more elastic and thereby more durable yarn, but I share this picture because you really can't tell for sure whether a skein of handspun is balanced or not when it comes off the wheel. In this case, the plying twist is most active because the singles were spun prior to plying, so all that kinking up you're seeing is from the plying. The wonderful thing about wool is that when you get it well, it reawakens the crimp in the fiber and the twist in the singles, so the twist in both directions works itself out.

The skein has been washed and is now sitting out on the porch to dry, so we'll have to wait and see what the final yardage is. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I have some happy news to share! Yesterday my brother and sister-in-law welcomed a new family member. Meet Leo McGarry!

He is a 10-month-old Boxer/hound mix, and he is super sweet. They found in at a shelter in West Virginia and drove down yesterday to meet him. He's still settling in, but based upon the photo my brother texted us last night, he seems to be happy in his new forever home:

I still would like a dog of my own, but we're not quite ready for one just yet. So in the meantime I'll be happy to be "dog aunt"!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Running Out of Time

I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that if I'm going to hit my 15K Stash Dash goal, I needed to do something different. I'm still working my way out of that knitting black hole here; I'd hoped to finish my hat yesterday, which didn't happen (I've only just started the crown decreases), but even if I had, it would only have been a drop in the bucket with maybe a few hundred meters. The truth is that the fastest way to rack up the meters is by spinning, because the Stash Dash rules allow you to count your meters for each ply in the yarn and for plying. That means that if I spin 100 meters of three-ply yarn, I get to count it as 400 meters. I was also getting pretty close to finishing up my first bobbin of purple singles yesterday, so I decided to take decisive action and split up the Southern Cross Fibre Polwarth I just received and spin it next.

I've spit the fiber for a fractal spin. That's when you have dyed fiber and you split it so that each ply in the yarn goes through the same sequence of colors but at different rates. I split the long piece of fiber in half, and then I intended to split one of those pieces into half again but did a lousy job, so I ended up with three strips. It'll still work just fine; having more pieces for one of the plies just means that the colors will have shorter runs when the fiber is spun. I'm spinning a two ply and aiming for fingering weight -- I'm spinning the singles at my default thickness because I know that Polwarth tends to poof up when you wash it. The goal is to spin and ply by next Friday for the end of Stash Dash.

One reason spinning is so appealing right now (aside from the fact that it seems a bit faster than knitting) is that it's something I can easily do while reading. Yesterday I was surprised -- delighted, actually -- when my library hold came up for The Warmth of Other Suns; I'd thought I had at least another week to wait for it! As luck would have it, I was just about to finish another library book, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect. I finished my bobbin of purple and the book by early afternoon yesterday and then started both the new book and the new spin at about the same time. Those of you who have read it know that this book isn't a short read, so it will be excellent to keep me company while I try to spin this one last skein.

Tomorrow I get to go to my office to pick up some items, and it's been almost exactly five months since I left it. I have a feeling it's going to be a bit surreal. I'm sure all my plants have long since died, but otherwise I expect everything will look exactly the same. When I was last there, I knew I'd be off for a couple of days, but none of us thought we'd be out for the foreseeable future. I certainly never expected to miss the office, either, but I have caught myself staring at the building wistfully from time to time (I see it regularly because it's along my running route).

I'll leave you today with a little bit of eye candy that Rainbow and I spotted when we took a stroll around the neighborhood yesterday. We had a lot of pretty shades of pink and blue in our hydrangeas earlier this summer, before the heat burned all the flowers up, but we'd never before spotted this deep purple shade:

Have a good rest of the week, stay safe and hydrated, and wash your hands! I'll be back to update you on my spinning on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday: Closing In on the Cover-all

It seems it's becoming a new tradition for me to blog on Wednesdays now, joining up with Kat and friends, and as my reading pace is showing no signs of slowing, I am here for it! Earlier in the week I officially hit my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the year, more than four months early, so that should give you some idea of just how much reading I've been doing.

Here's what I've finished since last week:


I heard about The Things We Cannot Say from Katie, who raved about it and who, like me, is a fan of the WWII novel. I had a fairly long wait for it from the library, but given how much is available to read, I didn't get too impatient waiting for it. When I did finally get it, I ended up plowing through it in a couple of days. I had some issues with it (which I detailed in my review), but overall I really enjoyed it. It was definitely a page-turner. I really enjoyed having two connected, parallel stories to follow -- one looking back at WWII, one in present day, and I appreciated (and I hope this isn't considered a spoiler) that the stories came together in a satisfying ending. I gave it 4 stars.

I'd been meaning to read Grit for several years, in part because I've "known" Angela Duckworth for many years -- when I was in college and she was in graduate school, we took a seminar together. We weren't exactly personally acquainted, but I was impressed by her at the time, and since then I've followed her accomplishments. And though I didn't take my psychology degree any farther than my college graduation, I'm still interested in the field and wanted to learn more about her research. I listened to the audiobook of this while I was out running, expecting it to be a little dry (as many academic books are), but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. At one point I even laughed out loud at her comments about Marty Seligman, who taught that seminar we took together. This is a book I expect I will buy a hard copy of and reread at some point -- it's great! I gave it 5 stars.

I had another long wait from the library for the ninth Inspector Gamache book, How the Light Gets In, but my goodness, it was so worth it! This was my favorite book in the series yet. Those of you who have read the books will likely understand why I felt so unsettled at the end of the previous book, and this one resolved all of those feelings and then some. I sensed a bit of a departure in this installment, in that the murder investigation seemed secondary to the plot. Instead, the main focus is on the key characters and their relationships. And I loved that, because as much as I enjoy the process of solving the mysteries in these books, what I love about them are the characters and how they related to each other. I gave this a very enthusiastic 5 stars.

I know a number of you have read Brown Girl Dreaming already, because one or more of you put it on my radar. I picked it for the "Author of Color" square on my bingo card and chose to borrow the audiobook from the library because, in my opinion, the best way to experience poetry is by hearing it read -- and as the author reads the work herself, it's even better. This is a really imaginative way of writing a memoir, if you ask me, and how Woodson structured her narrative reminded me a lot of how I think of my childhood: not as a continuous narrative but as snapshots in the form of individual memories. It was wonderful to listen to, and I have even more insight into Woodson and how she became a writer now. I gave it 4 stars.

There There was a book that was on my radar because it was much talked about, but I didn't really know much about it when I bought a hard copy earlier this year as a way to support Rainbow's school through their book fair (which likewise supported a local independent book store). The book fair happened after lockdown had started, and so book selections were put online. This was one of the adult selections. It'd been sitting on my nightstand ever since, and I picked it up last week when I realized it would be perfect for the "Told from more than two points of view" square on my bingo card. I wasn't too impressed with it at first, and it takes a while to keep all the characters straight, but it's a slow burn that's well worth sticking around for. At less than 300 pages, it's a pretty quick read, too, and it builds to an exciting finish. I gave it 4 stars.

Let's take a look at my bingo card (my second card, that is), which is getting pretty close to being covered!

I'm currently reading two books, Ordinary Grace (on the Kindle app) and Stamped from the Beginning (in hard copy). I'm already a bit more than halfway through the former and may even finish it today, but the latter is a bit of a tome and, I expect, will be the book I'm rushing to try to finish to complete my square.

I'd love to hear what you've been reading and enjoying, and if you have any suggestions for my unfilled bingo squares, I'm happy to hear them!

One final note before I sign off for the day: I wanted to mention that while I really appreciate all the comments I receive on the blog and love interacting with you, to this point I've been responding only via email to those of you whose email address I have (either because you have a Blogger account that is linked to your comment or because I've emailed with you before). I've noticed recently that a number of other bloggers have been replying to others' comments by replying in the comments, and this surprised me a bit because I've never thought to go back to posts I've commented on to see if I have a reply. What are your thoughts on this? If I can't reply to you via email, do you come back after you comment to see if I've replied to your comment (and if you do, would you prefer that I reply to you that way)? Please let me know -- I don't want anyone to feel that I'm ignoring them!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Coming from Inside the Black Hole

From time to time I find myself in this position, where I feel like I'm working on my projects a lot and yet nothing seems to make any progress. It's the black hole of knitting -- a place I'm sure you've all visited from time to time. I'm in there right now with my current WIPs, which isn't ideal considering that time is running out for Stash Dash and I'm trying to hit 15K. Right now, I have a little more than 1,500 meters to go to get there, so I've really got to get a move on.

Over the past couple of days, I've been trying to focus on my hat design sample, because in addition to trying to get projects finished for Stash Dash, I'm also aware that my design output has suffered this year. Plus, out of all my current WIPs, it's the one that will be fastest to get done. It seemed to be taking forever, but I guess it has grown a bit since you last saw it.

I need to decide just how slouchy I want it to be and then figure out my crown decreases. I think I'm almost there; I just need to stay focused on it.

My sweater hasn't gotten any attention at all in the past several days, but once I'm finished with the hat, I'll get back on it. It has the benefit of being very simple knitting at this point, so it'll be easy to work on while reading or doing something else.

I did take a little break from fiber crafts yesterday afternoon and whipped up a couple more face masks, one to try out a new-to-me pattern and one using my go-to pattern for Rainbow.

I didn't try too hard, but I'm still pretty impressed by how well I got the plaid to work on hers! We ordered a bunch of fabric online over the weekend (mostly bundles of fat quarters from Jo-Ann) so we (well, I) can make her more masks. Her school is still on track for in-person instruction for the fall, so she'll need a bunch of masks in order to have at least a couple to use every day. When I talked last year about wanting to learn to sew, I never anticipated having to learn in order to make piles of face masks, but here we are.

I'll be back tomorrow with a reading update, and let's hope by the time I check in on the knitting projects again on Thursday, I'll have clawed my way out of this black hole!

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Off-Kilter but Still Here

Hello, friends. I'm feeling a bit off these days due to, well, everything but also because I got a little off schedule in my blogging. After posting this past Wednesday, I did think it made sense to post again on Thursday because not much had changed in the status of my WIPs. I then thought I'd post on Friday, but I was busy with a big work project all day and it slipped my mind. So I'm trying to get back on track. Rest assured everything here is fine -- I've just been having to double check what day it is!

Because it's Sunday, I'm getting back to the normal schedule by talking about spinning today. I am still working on the first bobbin of my current sweater spin, the purple Rambouillet. The aforementioned big work project got in the way of some progress on it, but that happens. I'm really enjoying the spin and am not trying to rush it too much.

I am noticing some very definite color changes in my singles as I'm spinning, so when it comes time to split up the next bag of fiber, I'll be dividing it up into much smaller, shorter segments. I really want all the shades of purple to blend together and give an overall semisolid look when plied, so I want to ensure that there aren't long stretches of the different shades in all of the bobbins.

If I need some motivation to finish this spin, I can find it in the most recent club shipment, which finally arrived on Friday after taking quite a journey to get to me. Obviously shipping is slowed down worldwide due to the pandemic, and shipping from Australia is now coming by boat (rather than airmail) through San Francisco instead of New York. It now seems to take longer to go through customs, and this time it took an extra trip back and forth between the regional distribution center and my local post office. It was well worth the wait, though. I mean, look at it!

As if the colors weren't amazing enough, this month's fiber is Polwarth, which is my absolute favorite fiber to spin. I'm thinking that this is just begging to be a barber-poling two ply.

I would have been happy to spend yesterday afternoon spinning, once I finished up all the cleaning and laundry that are my usual Saturday chores, but Rainbow asked if we could do a little sewing together, and who am I to turn down a request like that? She wanted to make another drawstring project bag, so we gathered some scraps together and got stitching (well, I mostly did the stitching -- she lost interest about 10 minutes in but at least sat in the same room to watch me finish).

I've turned up the bottom here so you can see that while the llamas' heads got cut off at the top of the bag (we were working from a scrap of fabric and had to cut out the pieces where we had room, so there wasn't much flexibility to think about pattern placement), they are popping up unexpectedly on the bottom!

This attempt went much better than our first. For one thing, I'm much more comfortable using the sewing machine now, and I also have a better understanding of how the bag is constructed. I also brought down and used the iron while sewing this time to press open seams, press the bias tape, and so on for a much more professional finish. The inside of the bag isn't much to look at -- it's just white with some pale colored triangles printed on it -- so I didn't bother taking a photo. It's clear, though, that using some better quality fabric made a bit difference, so I expect Rainbow and I will be doing some online fabric shopping soon for some additional options.

(Side note: I have no idea why, but Blogger is not letting me center my photos today. It's also doing weird things with spacing. Just in case you were wondering why this post doesn't look like my typical ones!)

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Only Raveling*

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

Here is the current WIP situation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*The opposite of unraveling is raveling, right?

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Heinz or Hunt's?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Hope Springs (Eternal?)

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

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

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

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

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

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