Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Unraveling September

Is it really the last day of September? How on earth did that happen? I only hope that the days of this pandemic and these crazy times go by with the speed with which this year appears to be going.

I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers today to talk about what I've been knitting and reading.

I just (and I mean literally just) finished a pair of socks for me -- I waited to start this post until they were truly done!

These were knit out of Fibernymph Dye Works Traveler (sport weight) in a OOAK colorway that I fell in love with, so it's a good thing I decided to keep them for myself. I was pretty much making up the pattern, such as it is, as I went along -- it's just a variation on my typical sock recipe -- but I got such a response to them on Instagram that it looks like I'll be writing it up as a pattern. That means I'll need to knit it again, though likely in fingering because I have no more sport weight (plus I'd rather do it in a colorway that can be repeated!).

I have been focusing almost exclusively on these socks for the past several days because today marks the last day of the quarter and I needed to meet my quarterly goal for Lisa's Monthly Makes program (everyone who uses a minimum of 300 g of Fibernymph Dye Works yarn or fiber each quarter gets perks like discount codes and free yarn). I was so focused on spinning this summer that I almost didn't make it, so I was scrambling this month to get to my 300 g. These socks weigh 75 g, so I'm just over 300 with their completion. Phew!

My other active project will count toward my Monthly Makes grams for the final quarter of the year and will probably end up meeting the minimum all on its own. This is the very start of my Radiate (Ravelry link) in FDW Cozy, Lisa's worsted base. There isn't much to see at this point because I pretty much only worked on it one evening so far; I've just completed the collar and have done about two rounds of the yoke. Now that I've met my self-imposed deadline on the socks, I'll be devoting more time to this sweater.

Reading continues apace here. I have finished three more books since last week and hope I can get through a fourth today, which would bring my total for the year to 78 (NB: My original reading challenge number was 60, but now I think I'd like to get to 100).

I got on the wait list for The Exiles before it was released, having read and enjoyed two previous books by the author, and once my hold came up I plowed through it in two days. I loved this book. It has several elements that drew me in (it's historical fiction that centers around strong female characters) despite the fact that I was largely ignorant of the setting. It takes place during the time of British transportation of convicts to what is now Australia and simultaneously follows the lives of two of the female convicts and an Aborginal girl in Australia who has been removed from her people and brought to live among the English. I gave this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.

After my first encounter with Zadie Smith a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to read more of her writing, so I went with her debut novel, White Teeth, mainly because it was the only one of her books that was available without a wait at the library. I vaguely remember this book getting a lot of buzz when it came out, in large part because of the relative youth of the author (she was only 25 when it was published) and her skill as a writer. I could very much admire her skill in this book, but the plot fell a bit flat for me. It felt like she attempted too much and, at least in my opinion, failed to bring it all together successfully in the end. I got interrupted by a library hold in the middle of this, and had I not been just about halfway through at that point, I probably wouldn't have finished it. But I did and gave it 2 stars.


Finally, I spent much of yesterday finishing up book 10 in the Inspector Gamache series, The Long Way Home. This one was a bit of a departure from the previous books in that it wasn't really a murder mystery and instead focused on a missing person case. But it had the same characters I love to spend time with, the same mix of serious mystery and lighthearted humor, and I enjoyed it very much. I think it takes a lot of talent to keep coming up with ways to surprise readers, and Penny has yet to disappoint me in that respect. I gave this installment 4 stars and already have number 11 on hold at the library!

I am now reading Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, which I've been waiting for from the library for an unusually long time given that it didn't have many people on the wait list and it's a short book (averaging less than three hours to read, according to my Kindle app). I'm only a few pages in but hope to have enough time to get through it today.

What have you been working on and reading lately?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

One Little Word: September 2020

On the last Tuesday of each month, Honoré at Morning Glory Studio hosts us for a link-up for our monthly review of our One Little Word. Amazingly it's the final Tuesday in September; I think this month has been the fastest this year, and I can't believe it's over tomorrow!

My word for 2020 is savor, and over the past month, I've been noticing that the one thing I've been savoring more than anything else is time with my family. Now, I don't mean just my immediate family, because we all know we've been spending plenty of time together. I'm talking about my extended family -- my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law -- who all live within a mile of us but who we've still been pretty isolated from during the pandemic. We have gotten together occasionally in safe ways (outside, mainly, where we could be at a safe distance from one another), but as the days start to get shorter and cooler, I've become more aware that the time when we can do that is limited. The scarcity of our time together has thus given it more meaning.

In the early days of the pandemic, back when we didn't know too much about how the virus spread or how easily it spread, we were being extra careful. Passover fell shortly after lockdown measures were put in place, so we had a Zoom seder, connecting with all the extended family online while we had our festival meal, with food my mother had cooked and delivered in care packages to everyone in town. Everything was still new and something of a novelty, so it was kind of exciting and fun.

By this month, though, Zoom fatigue had become a real thing, so we have switched from involving everyone to smaller in-person gatherings -- again, safely distanced. We've resumed our weekly Friday night Shabbat dinners with my parents, though we only do them when we can eat outside. And for Rosh Hashanah earlier this month, we had a small dinner with my parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law on our deck, where we set up two long folding tables so we could all be properly spaced out. There was a lot of delicious food to eat and the weather was beautiful. I paused in the middle of my matzah ball soup to snap this photo:

In the Before Times, I really used to take it for granted that I'd be able to gather with my family for holidays and even normal dinners. We didn't have to worry about whether or not it was warm and dry enough to eat outside or how far apart we had to sit from one another. And now I appreciate the opportunities to gather and celebrate together so much more, and I'm savoring them all the more now because I know they are limited in number. Soon the weather will make it impossible to sit outside for a meal and we'll be back to Zoom and FaceTime to see each other. As excited as I typically get for fall and sweater weather, I am extra grateful for the warmer, dry weather we've had this month, as it made this and other get-togethers possible. Next month my parents are headed down to Florida, where they plan to stay through the winter. I am hoping that by the time they're ready to head back home, there is a vaccine available and we can all be together again, in person and close to one another. I know I will savor nothing more than being able to once again hug my family!

You can find all my previous One Little Word posts for the year here, and I'm looking forward to reading yours!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Three Stages of Yarn

I've been quite energized lately about burning through some of my older fiber stash. I hope I communicated well last week just how much fun I had spinning a thicker yarn, and I've decided to stick with that theme for the time being. You saw the beginning of this yarn last week, and it only took me a few days to spin up two bobbins of singles and then ply them for this fun, funky art yarn:

I encourage you to click on the photo to embiggen it so you can see the sparkle and the texture of the sari silk. It was a lot of fun to spin, particularly as I really let go in spinning the singles and didn't worry much at all about consistency. The yarn ranges in thickness from fingering to worsted or even bulky, but overall I'd say it's in the DK range. I have about 176 yards from 3 oz. of fiber, and I have absolutely no idea what I will do with it. (One of these days I need to figure out another solution for selling handspun now that FiberCrafty is no more, because I honestly have more of it than I will ever use.)

Earlier this afternoon I finished up the third bobbin of singles for my next spin, which was some mystery fiber -- the label on the bag literally says "International Wool of Mystery" -- that I received as a Tour de Fleece prize from the Southern Cross Fibre team back in 2015. It looked to me a lot like a colorway that David created for a big spinalong earlier that year, but I can't be completely sure. All I know is that it's very dark (I had dark hands after spinning from some excess dye rubbing off on me) and very soft. I will be ready to ply tomorrow.

And finally in our backwards progression of how handspun is made I present the fiber for my next spin, also Southern Cross, this time some luscious South African Superfine Merino. This was the club fiber from January 2018, when David was doing a series of colorways inspired by artists. This one is Fragonard, and I look at it and immediately think of The Swing.

As with the International Wool of Mystery, I split the fiber into thirds, with no rhyme or reason, so it will be completely random how it turns out. This was a colorway I didn't love, but I have a feeling I'll be pleasantly surprised by its transformation, as I always seem to be. And if I still don't like it, I'm sure someone will!

And now I am off to make a big meal. Yom Kippur starts at sundown, and I'll be fasting, so no food or drink after dinner until dinnertime tomorrow. I've spent most of the day drinking as much water as possible (and then, as you can probably guess, visiting the bathroom). This is something I do every year, but normally we'd be spending a good portion of the day tomorrow at our synagogue. Services will be mostly online this year, although I will be helping out with some in-person services as a member of the board (my first time in the building since early March). It will be strange, but I am so thankful that we're still able to observe the holiday and that I will do so with my family close by. Wishing you an easy fast, if you're observing, and a good start to the week!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Making Plans and Tying Up Loose Ends

It's Thursday again, and I'm linking up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday (even though it feels a bit like cheating) because I have three photos to share today.

First, my top priority today, as far as knitting is concerned, is finishing up my sister-in-law's socks. I am very close to the toe of the second sock and had hoped to finish it last night, but it ended up being a bit busier than I had anticipated. The good news is that I have one work meeting today and a board meeting this evening, so even if I get too busy to knit during the day, those two meetings alone should be sufficient time to knock out a toe.

I am also getting ready to cast on some new project, and to that end I have some yarn winding to do.

Tomorrow is the kickoff for one of the big knitalongs I participate in every year, and WIPs do not count (hence my goal to finish the socks), so I am getting things ready to start some new projects tomorrow. The yarn in the photo above is a sweater set from Fibernymph Dye Works that I bought specifically for Joji Locatelli's Radiate pullover (Ravelry link), and I am finally ready to cast it on. I'm still debating which size to knit; the 34.75" bust will just fit me in the chest (Joji recommends about 2 inches of positive ease), but the next size up, 38", will be pretty loose in the arms. The yarn is a superwash, which means I can coax some additional room out of it, so at this point I'm leaning toward the smaller size. Any advice is welcome!

Finally, I'll leave you with a sticker I spotted on a car yesterday while I was out on a walk. This same car also has a magnet on it for Rainbow's school, and it made me doubly happy to see this -- I hope you can get its meaning:

Have a wonderful weekend! See you back here on Sunday for some spinning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday: Keeping Up the Pace

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers today to catch you up on what I've been reading lately. Even though Book Bingo has been over for several weeks, I haven't slowed my pace, and if I keep it up, I might just hit 100 books read this year (I'm already at 74)!

I've finished three books since this time last week, all good reads:

recommended Zadie Smith's recent collection of essays reflecting on the current state of affairs in one of our recent Zoom calls, and when I found I had some Amazon credits to cover the cost of the Kindle book, I snapped it up. It's a very quick read (maybe an hour), but an enjoyable one. Though Zadie Smith had been on my radar for a while, this was the first of her works that I've actually read. I enjoyed her writing so much that I borrowed another of her books from the library (see current reads below). This small volume isn't anything earth-shattering, but it's always a joy for me to read anything by a writer who has such a commanding control of language. I gave it 4 stars.

While most of my book recommendations come from my blog friends, my next read came from a much closer source: Rainbow! While she isn't yet quite the reader I am, she does enjoy books a lot (we're still working on her attention span, which seems to be the main challenge in getting her to read longer books). She is particularly a fan of graphic novels, and she's read this one twice and enjoyed it so much that she insisted I read it. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy is a modern retelling of Little Women that really brings the story of the four sisters into the 21st century. Their family in this version is a blended, interracial one, and they deal with very different obstacles compared to the original March sisters. It was a fast read and a really appreciated fresh take on one of my favorites. I gave it 4 stars.

I'd been waiting on The Mothers from the library for quite a while and was a bit surprised when my hold came up sooner than expected. That I finished it in two days, even with work and all the stuff I have to do in my daily life, should tell you just how good it was. I knew very little about the plot before I put it on hold; others' recommendations were enough to convince me I needed to read it. And I was not at all disappointed. It's a really stunning look at all sorts of relationships -- familial, romantic, friend, etc. -- and it's beautifully written. I did find it to be a bit sad, overall, and there was no real satisfying resolution (at least in my opinion), but all the same it's worth a read. I gave it 4 stars, and I'm eagerly awaiting my hold on Bennett's most recent book, The Vanishing Half.

At this time last week, all my library holds looked like they were about two weeks from being ready for me, so I decided to borrow Zadie Smith's White Teeth. This was a mistake, of course, because in borrowing something else from the library rather than something I already had on my Kindle shelf, I pretty much guaranteed all my holds would come up at the same time! So right now I am reading a book that had already been available for me but that I'd delayed delivery on once, Christina Baker Kline's newest, The Exiles. I am nearly halfway through and really enjoying it. I'm also expecting my next Gamache book to be ready for me in the next couple of days, and I had to put another hold that came up on delay for the time being as well. It never rains but it pours, am I right? I suppose having too many good books to read is not something to complain about, but all the same I'd like to have more hours in the day to read them.

I hope you've been reading some great books lately, and I'm all ears if you have recommendations!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Feeling Equinox-y

It is officially fall, though the past several mornings it's felt more like winter. Aside from the fact that the house is colder than I'd like, I'm really enjoying this cooler weather and the chance it affords me to break out my woolens! It's also kicked my sock mojo into high gear. I finished up my mother-in-law's socks last week, though they haven't been blocked yet (so please excuse their wonkiness):

I'm pretty chuffed with how well I managed to match up the stripes -- the only place where they're a little off is at the tip of the toe, where one sock has a little more gray (like maybe one more round) than the other. I'm not too concerned about that, because I highly doubt the recipient will notice and certainly it'll be hidden in her shoes anyway.

The next sock recipient is my sister-in-law, whose feet I finally measured about a month ago. It turns out that she has large feet -- 9.25 inches around and 9.5 inches long -- so sportweight ankle socks are the way to go! You saw the start of the first sock last Thursday, but I've since finished it and cast on for the second (which now has part of the heel flap done):

This yarn was a OOAK colorway, and I honestly didn't expect it to do this palindrome-style striping, so that was a fun surprise. I did not worry about making these match because the striping sequence is too long and the yardage too short, plus I think these fun colors make mismatched socks even more fun. These have been perfect to work on during work meetings, and I fully expect them to be a finish pair by the end of the week.

Just a short post from me today, but I'll be back tomorrow because there has been reading, and a lot of it. Happy equinox!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Mixed Bag

I was really looking forward to this weekend. The weather was supposed to be nice, and of course we had the holiday to look forward to. And then on Friday evening, just after we'd finished dinner, we heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. She was a much-admired human in this household, particularly by Rainbow, who took the news really hard, and it put a damper on the celebratory mood as we went to bed that night.

The weather was pretty spectacular both yesterday and today, true perfect fall days, with clear, sunny skies and a crispness to the air -- good running weather (I did five miles yesterday afternoon)! If this had been a normal year, we would have enjoyed that sunshine while we walked to and from our synagogue for services and then during lunch out at one of our favorite restaurants with my parents and brother (the place we usually go has a nice patio that's enclosed but still feels like it's in the open air). But obviously this is not a normal year, so we instead "went" to services from the comfort of our family room couch, watching on our TV via YouTube. And then yesterday evening my parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law came to share Rosh Hashanah dinner with us on our deck, safely distanced from one another. Again, if it were a normal year, we would have been at my parents' house with the extended family; I must report to you that my mother still cooked as though all that extended family was going to be joining us, and we'll be eating leftovers for the next several days!

Though things were strange and the holiday was tinged by a sense of sadness, I am so very thankful to still have been able to celebrate with my loved ones. We are all safe and healthy, and that's what matters.

Spinning has been happening here as well. I managed to ply up the yarn I was spinning for Rainbow last night and skeined and washed it today. It got to dry out on the porch this afternoon (and I have a feeling that's a practice I won't get to enjoy for much longer, although soon enough I'll be able dry skeins on a warm radiator). I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out -- and, more importantly, Rainbow is delighted with it.

The colors are a little less washed-out than they appear here; by the time the yarn was dry enough for a photo, the light was already starting to fade. Here's a better representation and a close up of the twist:

I was trying to spin this a bit thicker, and I certainly succeeded. I'd say this is about a DK or worsted, and I have approximately 220 yards of it, which is square in worsted territory.

I started my next spinning project earlier this afternoon, and it'll be a quick spin as well. I am trying to get back on track with spinning fiber I put on my 20 in 2020 list, so I pulled out these batts that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool several years ago. They're a blend of merino, sari silk, and nylon sparkle.

There's 3 oz. of fiber total in these six little batts, so I'm spinning three onto one bobbin and three onto another for a two ply. I am spinning them semi-worsted (so I'm using a short forward draw on a carded prep), and I'm really not trying to get singles that are too insanely consistent. The sari silk creates a lot of texture, and I want to maintain that. In about an hour of spinning, I'd already gotten through one batt and started a second, so I think it's fair to say that this fiber should be in yarn form in short order.

After all the fine spinning I did for my most recent sweater spin, I am really enjoying how much faster these singles go, so I might continue and plow through several more bags of fiber when this is done.

I hope you've had a pleasant weekend. I'm off to go eat some leftovers!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Three Hopes for the New Year

I know many of us have trouble remembering what day of the week it is, but I'm also sure most of you are aware enough of the calendar to wonder why I'm talking about a new year in the middle of September. Well, my friends, that's because Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts tomorrow at sundown. The new year is 5781, which right now is a heck of a lot more appealing to me than 2020. And because it's Thursday, I thought I'd join Carole and friends to share three things I'm hoping to do more of in the new year to come.

1. More civic engagement
I'm really thankful to Carolyn for pointing me to Postcards to Voters, an easy way for me to help the get out the vote effort in a time of social distancing (and in a way that's very appealing to an introvert who hates talking on the phone). On my to-do list for today is to get 30 postcards written up to send to Kentucky voters to encourage them to vote for Amy McGrath. I got the postcards from Etsy and ironically had to wait the longest to get the stamps from the post office, but I'm set for a while now!

2. More knitting for others
As much as I love hand-knit socks, I have so many pairs that it feels selfish to continue to knit them for myself, and I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of sharing the joy of wearing hand-knit socks by making them for my loved ones. I finished my mother-in-law's pair yesterday, so now I'm on to a pair of ankle socks in sport weight for my sister-in-law. I'm starting to think sport weight may be the way to go because it's so fast!

3. More running
Normally at this time of year I'd be in my last days of training for the two 5K races that the Mister and I typically run, the Pittsburgh Great Race and a neighborhood run that raises money for the local Boys & Girls Club. The neighborhood event isn't happening, but the Great Race went digital this year, meaning if you were signed up for it you'd get your race t-shirt and finisher medal and you could do your event any time you wanted. Though you don't have to do it, you can enter your time online, which I did after a particularly good run on Tuesday (cool temps for the win!):

I know that's not the fastest time ever, but I went to look up my final time from last year's event, which I believe was a PR for me at the time, and it was 28:33. That means I shaved almost two and a half minutes off my previous best time -- and that is amazing to me! I have been running a lot these past six months, not so much to set any records but because the exercise is good for me, both in terms of my long-term health and my mental health. There's been so much anxiety during this time, and I've found that my daily exercise really helps to dispel a lot of that for me. A nice thing about working from home is that I can take my lunch break at any time, really, so I've been taking it mid-morning most days to go out for a run or walk, and I've really noticed how much better I've felt, physically and emotionally, since I started this new routine. I know one day I will be back in the office full time and this new habit will have to come to an end, but for now, I'm keeping up with it.

On a more serious note, I'm thinking a lot about what this time of year in the Jewish calendar means. It's said that during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is decided who will live and who will die in the year to come. This year, that decree feels much more serious and real. We can't always change whether we or our loved ones will live or die; so much is left up to chance or fate or whatever you want to call it. Certainly with the pandemic, it's become much more clear that there are some steps we can take to reduce our chance of dying from this particular disease -- staying home, wearing a mask, keeping our distance from others. But we can't control others, and we can't foresee what the future will hold. My friends, regardless of whether this weekend is a holiday for you or not, I send you all my best wishes for health and happiness. As we say: May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

More Multitasking

It's another cool morning here in Western Pennsylvania, currently 55F as I type, and my toes are very happy to be wearing some wool socks! It's Wednesday, or so the calendar tells me, so I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers to chat about what I'm knitting and what I'm reading.

After finishing up my sweater, my top priority was that secret project that I couldn't show you. I'm happy to say that I finished it on Monday, and the sample has been blocked. Now I just need to finish writing up the pattern and get it and the sample off to the publisher. I'm hoping to have all that done by the end of the week. And now my sock mojo is running high!

These are socks for my mother-in-law for the holidays, and I'm nearly done with the second. One of the joys of working from home is that I can knit while I work, when feasible, and I got all of the gusset decreases on the second sock done yesterday while proofing a document. I expect I'll be able to finish this sock today, and then I'm planning on casting on some socks for my sister-in-law (who, I think, is the only member of the immediate family who has not received a pair of hand-knit socks from me because I didn't have her feet measurements until recently).

Stockinette socks are good knitting to do while reading, and I've been doing some of that this week as well. I finished another good book over the weekend (in fact, I stayed up late one night to finish it!).

A number of my well-read friends recommended Deacon King Kong, and I decided to give it a go because I really enjoyed McBride's writing in Song Yet Sung. I'll admit that when I first started reading, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it because the setting and characters seemed so wildly outside my usual areas of interest. But I have so rarely been led astray by the friends who'd recommended it, so I stuck with it. I am so glad I did! It's pretty much impossible to describe what this book is about save that it involves a cast of pretty unforgettable characters who seem like they'd be completely unrelated but wind up all being involved in one slightly crazy and very complex story. The writing is excellent and the characterization superb. I gave it 4 stars.

Currently in progress (and likely soon to be finished) is a new book, published earlier this year, that I am reading for a discussion with the group that Mary hosts on Zoom on Sundays. The Mountains Sing is set in Vietnam and is told from the point of view of two women, Tran Dieu, who struggles to raise her children and keep her family safe during the rise of Communism, and her granddaughter Huong, who is struggling to find her own way and to connect with her family in the years during and just after the Vietnam War. It's interesting to get a non-Western perspective on a conflict that was so divisive here in the United States, and the book has made it clear to me just how little I know about the region and the politics of the time.

I'm waiting on several holds from the library to come up, so there should be lots more reading in the coming days. I'd love to hear what good reads you've been getting lost in lately!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Perfect Timing

I rarely seem to finish things at the right time to use them. It's not unusual for me to finish a heavy, super-warm sweater in the middle of the summer. But friends, this time I got it right. When I got up this morning, it was 46F outside -- fall is here! And I have a brand-new sweater to wear!

Pattern: Torbellino (Ravelry link) by Kristen Jancuk, size XS
Yarn: Jill Draper Makes Stuff Kingston (100% Targhee wool) in Hasbrouck Ave. (red) and Wiltwyck (gray)
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: July 8/September 9
Mods: adjustments for gauge (see below)

This project had been planned for quite a while. I bought the pattern as part of the larger collection (Ravelry link) that Kristen released in the spring of 2018 and then bought the yarn for the sweater at Maryland Sheep and Wool that May. Jill had just released the yarn, and I went to her booth first for the specific purpose of getting my hands on some for this sweater.

When I finally got around to casting on this sweater this summer, finally egged on to do it by Kristen's Sweater-along, I discovered that not only did I probably need to knit a smaller size than I originally intended, but I had to knit the smallest size because my gauge was a bit off and going down another needle size would have resulted in bulletproof fabric. Knitting a smaller size worked for my stitch gauge, but my row gauge was also off a tad, so I had to add some additional rounds to the yoke to make up for the difference. If you looked closely at the slip-stitch colorwork in the yoke, you'd see that I have more of it than called for, as I added additional rounds (without increasing) and continued the colorwork pattern.

Other than those minor modifications, I followed the pattern as written, and I'm really happy with how it turned out! I also used much less yarn than anticipated -- only about 790 yards of the red and a bit less than 100 yards of the gray. That leaves me plenty leftover to play with in another project; I'm thinking mittens.

Wearing this sweater will take a little bit of thought due to the wide neckline and shorter sleeves; I'm used to wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath my sweaters, and that really won't work with this one (though certainly if I wear that ensemble at home, no one but my family will see me and they already think I'm a bit odd). I had to tuck in my bra straps for these photos, but I don't see that as a viable solution for the long term. Any advice on how to wear a wide neckline like this? You can tell I don't usually go for this silhouette because I'm clueless about how to wear it!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

This Is the Ply That Never Ends

I really wanted to have my purple Rambouillet sweater spin all done to share with you today, and let me tell you that it took a lot of plying time yesterday to get it done -- I was washing skeins just before bed! But I did indeed finish, and in fact the yarn is still a little damp, so please forgive me for not having it all twisted up in a neat and tidy way.

I had a heck of time getting the color to photograph accurately; in real life, it's actually a bit darker and not quite as blue as it's showing up here. But I am not an expert on photo editing, and it's been rainy and overcast all day here, so this is the best I could do.

I'd originally thought I'd be able to get two plied skeins out of my three bobbins of singles, but obviously I had to go to three because I could not cram all the yarn onto two bobbins. And if you can believe it, there are still singles leftover! I tried to splice some in but ended up with a big tangle, and as it was so late in the evening, I decided to cut my losses and call it done for the night (I ended up throwing the extra singles that were still on bobbins onto my leftovers bobbin, so someday they'll end up in a mashup skein). When I spin for a specific project, which I so rarely do, I'm always worried that I'll end up short on yarn, but these singles never seemed to run out!

The sweater I'm planning to knit with this yarn is Tiny Dancer (Ravelry link), and for the size I'd make, I need 735 yards of the main color, which seemed very doable for this particular spin. Turns out that I'd needn't have worried -- I ended up with approximately 1,216 yards, and that's a conservative estimate! So I won't need to worry about playing yarn chicken and will very likely have a good amount of yarn leftover to use for something else. As a reminder, here the yarn I plan to pair with the purple for the mosaic colorwork:

The skein on top was also from the Southern Cross Fibre club, though the fiber base was a mystery.

After all that fine spinning (and ALL that plying!), I am ready for something quick and satisfying, and I think I found just the thing. Rainbow wants to knit herself a cowl as soon as she's finished with the one she's working on for a former teacher, so I offered to spin her some yarn. I pulled this rainbow in fiber form out of the stash I inherited from a friend and she gave it an immediate thumbs up.

This is superwash merino from Twisted Fiber Art, in a colorway that I believe is called Totally. I've split it for a fractal two-ply spin, meaning I split the fiber in half lengthwise and then split one of the halves in half again the same way. This will create a lot of barberpoling as well as some spots where the colors in both plies line up. I'm also trying to spin a little thicker/heavier than usual, which means it'll go a lot faster, too. With any luck, you'll see it here in yarn form very soon!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Three Finishes

It's Thursday (right? I'm having a hard time keeping track this week), and I conveniently have three things that I've finished in the past day to share with you to join up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday.

1. A must-read book

I finished reading Isabel Wilkerson's newest book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, last night just before bed, and wow, is it an amazing book! I had put it on hold at the library right after finishing The Warmth of Other Suns, and I'm so glad I did -- it was well worth the wait. Wilkerson compares the United States with two clearly defined casts systems that are well known: India and Nazi Germany. Her thesis is that the reason that Americans who are Black have always been on the bottom rung of the ladder in our society is not just due to racism but due to caste, that the dominant group (Whites) do everything they can to maintain their power over society and over nondominant groups. She explains this so well and draws parallels between the three caste systems in a way that really illuminates how we've come to where we are. She even gives an explanation for why so many polls and pundits seemed to be wrong about the 2016 election. This was a 5-star read for me and a book I think everyone should read right now!

2. All my Rambouillet singles


I finally finished the third bobbin of singles for this sweater spin yesterday, and though I very much wanted to start plying right away, I knew it would go better if I let the most recently spun singles rest a bit. So plying will likely start later today, and with any luck I'll have some finished skeins to share this weekend!

3. A sweater!

Yes, I finished my Torbellino! Obviously it's still in need of blocking, so this isn't a full FO post, but I did finish all the knitting and wove in all my ends last night. And it does fit -- I tried it on to be sure -- but will be much more flattering once it's blocked and the fabric has a chance to relax a bit. On the to-do list for today is weighing the yarn that's leftover to figure out how much I used, but I suspect I have nearly the equivalent of a full skein of the red remaining. No, I didn't miscalculate how much I needed; when I bought the yarn originally, I was planning to make a larger size (because I've since lost some weight). It was nice not to worry about yarn chicken for once.

There are a lot of unhappy things in the world right now, so I leave you today with a bit of happiness in my yard: One of our sunflowers finally bloomed. It took a long time to do so, and it's quite small in comparison to the blooms we had a few years ago, but I can't look at it and not smile.

Be well and be safe, my friends.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Back to (Almost) Normal

Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. I'm happy to report that the Mister is feeling almost completely back to normal -- he even went for a run this morning! He's got follow-up appointments with the surgeon and his PCP in the next week, but as far as I can tell he is healing well, and he certainly appreciates your concern.

After the crazy weekend and having to work on Monday, my internal schedule got all out of whack, so it was nice to wake up this morning and realize that it's already Wednesday! I am once again joining Kat and the Unravelers for a round-up of what I'm working on and what I'm reading.

Though I set it aside for a little bit last week, this week my top knitting priority is finishing up my Torbellino. Here is where it stands right now:

I have about three and a half inches to knit on the second sleeve in the main color and then the ribbing in contrast and I will be DONE. I'm actually hoping to manage to do that today, if I can. I started knitting this for the Media Peruana Designs Sweater-along, and it ends next Monday, which is what prompted me to pull it out again. Just in case anyone is worried about yarn chicken, let me reassure you that the yarn you see here is not all the yarn I have left -- there's still most of the fourth skein of red remaining. I just figured that I'd try to eke out this sleeve from the skeins that had less yarn remaining so that the leftovers are in just one skein, which will make it easier to use them for something else.

All the time sitting at the hospital on Saturday also enabled me to finish a sock and start its mate:

These are for my mother-in-law and should match; I wound off a bit of yarn to get to the same point in the striping sequence to start the second sock.

I'm still working on the secret design project (which will be the top priority once the sweater is done), and one of these days I will get back to my Breathe and Hope shawl, which I abandoned earlier in the summer.

Reading has been good this past week. Since last Wednesday, I've finished two books and have begun reaping the benefits of having a number of books on hold at the library.

The Resilience Factor filled the final square on my second bingo card, making it my 50th finished book of the "summer" (we started SAH Book Bingo in early April). This was technically a re-read for me, as I originally read it in college as part of a seminar with the authors. Reading it again brought back some good memories, but it also reminded me how far I've come, emotionally, since the last time I read it. The first time around, I was still in treatment for a major depressive episode, so I was reading the book as much for my personal benefit as I was to fulfill the course requirements. And though I chose to read it again in part because I already owned it and it filled the "More than one author" square on my card, it also felt like a worthwhile read given the difficulties of our current times. I'm not sure the authors could have imagined using resilience during a global pandemic, but it certainly can't hurt. I gave it 4 stars.

Just yesterday I finished The Bookman's Tale, which I'd put on hold after Mary mentioned how much she'd enjoyed listening to a chat with the author at the virtual book retreat she attended. It was a delightful diversion for me, combining so many things I love -- books, England, a good mystery. It takes place at several points in time, following the main character during two periods in his life and a book that plays a key role in the plot as it traveled from person to person. It was a quick read and an intelligent page-turner. My only complaint is that (how to put this politely?) it was very clear to me in reading some of the, um, intimate scenes that the author was a man. I gave it 4 stars.

I am currently reading the anxiously awaited Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by the supremely talented Isabel Wilkerson. I actually got a notification that my hold was up while I was sitting in the surgical family lounge on Saturday, and it was the perfect diversion while I waited. Though I am only about a third of the way through it, I could tell from just the first few pages that it was going to be a phenomenal book, and I have not yet been proven wrong. If you haven't yet gotten yourself on a waiting list for this book, do it now!

That's all for me for today. I hope you'll share what you're reading and working on in the comments!

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Sometimes I Publish Patterns, Too

First, I have to thank you all for your kind words for the Mister. I'm happy to report that he is doing well, save a little stomach upset from the antibiotics, which we expected (it happened frequently to Rainbow with her many ear infections -- at least this time I don't have to change any diapers). We are very thankful that if this had to happen, it at least happened over a weekend, enabling the Mister to step back a bit from work and my parents to keep an eye on Rainbow while we were at the hospital. I am glad that everyone is now back to the "new normal," as it were, and I hope this is the last medical issue we have to deal with for a long time.

The past few months have been filled with a lot of crafting and reading but not that much designing. Just as in the early days of lock down I didn't have the attention for knitting, the pandemic has really suppressed my creative juices. That finally seems to be lifting a bit (and I have no doubt that cooler temperatures and the calendar's creep to fall are partly responsible), and today I've actually published a new pattern. This is the Slipdash Hat, which a number of people requested I design to coordinate with the cowl of the same name.

As you can see, it's a comfy, slouchy hat knit in fingering weight yarn, using the same slip-stitch pattern that plays so nicely with self-striping yarn. I once again used Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce, this time in the colorway Seven Deadly Sins -- that's an eight-striper (one color for each sin plus the black in between). I love this kind of hat for these transitional times of year, those days when there's a chill in the air first thing in the morning or after the sun goes down but it's not quite cold yet. I designed this one to have a bit of flexibility in the amount of slouch, determined by how much of the deep ribbed brim you fold up.

The crown of the hat has the traditional "swirl" of gradual decreases, and to keep the top in harmony with the slipped stitches on the body, the rounds in between decrease rounds have slipped stitches in them, too. The effect -- other than the obvious visual effect, of course -- is a somewhat nubbly texture to the fabric, and I'm wondering if it might make for a slightly warmer hat than straight stockinette because of the small floats on the wrong side.

I've graded this one to fit everyone in the family, baby to adult large, and you can get a hat for any size out of one 100 g skein of most fingering weight yarns. It's now available on Ravelry and on Payhip, and it's $1 off for the first week on both sites using the code SLIPITGOOD.

I'll be back tomorrow with a post looking back at SAH Book Bingo and an update on my WIPs!

Sunday, September 06, 2020

This Is Not the Post I'd Planned


John Lennon once sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." That is indeed what happened here this weekend. Even though I didn't have a three-day holiday weekend to look forward to, I was at least expecting this weekend to be the usual mix of chores and fun. The weather was predicted to be nice, so I figured I'd be able to go for at least one run and one long walk, and I had a book to finish and plenty of knitting and spinning to do. And I'd hoped that by the time I sat down to write this post, I'd at least have finished spinning my purple Rambouillet singles and maybe even have started plying. But none of that happened.

Before I tell you the story of the last few days, let me start out by reassuring you that everyone is okay, so you don't have to get too stressed out. But it was an eventful weekend.

On Friday, the Mister decided to take the day off from work to take advantage of the beautiful weather and take a long bike ride around the city. Rainbow was at school as usual, and after I got back from my run, I settled in for a quiet afternoon, as it was the first time in a long time I'd had the house entirely to myself. Just as I was sitting down after lunch, though, I got a text message from the Mister asking if it was an okay time to call me -- his way of preparing me for a serious phone call. The short of it is that he'd gotten into a bit of a bike accident. As he came to a trail switchback, the gravel making up the trail caused him to lose his balance a bit, and though he stayed upright on the bike, a branch from a nearby bush poked him in the cheek, just below the eye, and had punctured the skin. Luckily someone who lived nearby saw him and gave him a bag of ice, and he was also very close to a riverside restaurant, so he was able to stop the bleeding with some napkins and even get some lunch while he waited for me to come get him (he wasn't that far away, but it would have been a long and painful bike ride back home).

We are very lucky to live pretty much around the corner from an excellent hospital, so I dropped him off at the ER on the way home; he thought he might need a stitch or two. I then picked Rainbow up at school, and when he still wasn't done by dinnertime, we went to parents' as we usually do on Friday nights, figuring when he finished he'd walk home and drive over to meet us.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Not long after we finished, I got a call from him saying that I needed to come get him and take him to another hospital, because they'd done a CT scan and discovered that he had pieces of the branch embedded in his sinus cavity. He ended up spending the night in another ER before finally being moved to a room at the hospital, and when I woke up yesterday morning, he still hadn't been told when the surgery would happen. But he was allowed to have one visitor/support person with him while he waited, so I went over shortly after.

He finally ended up being taken into the OR yesterday afternoon and was discharged yesterday evening. The surgeon, who came out to talk to me after the procedure was complete, described the injury as "one in a million" -- the branch had managed to hit the one section of sinus bone that is eggshell thin. But the removal went perfectly, and the important thing is that the Mister is now home and slept in his own bed (well, on the sofa bed in the den, so that neither of us would disturb the other last night). He's swollen and a bit numb on that side of his face, and he has to take various medications for a week or so, but all things considered, he was pretty lucky, and he'll make a full recovery. I am so very grateful for that.

So I didn't really get the relaxing weekend I'd hoped for, but at least with all the sitting around at the hospital, I was able to finish my 50th book for bingo, completing my second card, and I finished knitting a sock, so it was not a total waste. Plus, I wouldn't have been anywhere else, especially considering that he's been there for me the two times I was in the hospital. COVID certainly made it an unusual experience, but as everything had a good outcome, I am not complaining, and I am so, so grateful for the amazing doctors and nurses who helped to make him whole again.

The photo at the top of the post is all the fiber I have left to spin for this project, and I'll be chipping away at it this week. By next week, I am confident, you will see it in yarn form!

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Wrapping Up Summer

While I know that technically fall doesn't start until later this month, I always feel like the beginning of September -- in addition to being the start of meteorological fall -- is the start of a new year in addition to the start of a new season. I guess after so many years as a student, then a teacher, and now working for an educational institution, I tend to think in terms of academic years rather than calendar years. About now is when I start thinking about the colder weather and what I will knit for myself and others to keep warm, and I'm certainly not immune to the siren call of new school/office supplies. When Rainbow and I went shopping last month, I was fairly restrained but did treat myself to some new pens. I also recently bought myself a pair of new running shoes (my old ones are starting to fall apart, but doesn't everyone have fond memories of a new pair of shoes for the new school year?), and yesterday I got another new thing as an anniversary gift from the Mister:

That, my friends, is a box from my shiny new iPhone 11 -- a HUGE upgrade from my previous iPhone 6. I now have the fancy camera(s) and effects, which I think will really help my knitting and pattern photography, and I finally feel like I'm with the tech "in crowd" for the first time ever. 

I have picked up for and started the second sleeve of my Torbellino, so I'll also soon have a new sweater to add to my wardrobe:

If I'm honest, this is what I'm most excited about related to the end of summer:

I know it's a little hard to see (it's a very gloomy, rainy day here), but I have just one square left to fill to complete my second SAH Book Bingo cover-all! I finished two very long books this week, Little Dorrit and Stamped from the Beginning, and I truly enjoyed both. Yesterday I started my final book. I'm rereading The Resilience Factor, which I originally read as part of a seminar in college -- I was lucky enough to have both authors as instructors, and Andrew Shatté was actually my very favorite college professor, so it's fun to revisit it now. I'll admit that I am not giving it a very deep reading, as my goal is to complete it rather than study it at this point, but I still think it's a useful text to read for our current situation. And frankly I'm really excited about the fact that when I finish it, I will have finished 50 books since April. Many thanks to Mary for hosting us again for what has become a beloved summer tradition for me!

We have absolutely nothing planned for this weekend, but I'm looking forward to what's predicted to be really nice weather. It's technically a holiday weekend, but my employer has decided that we now have to work on Monday, which is Labor Day (a federal holiday here in the United States) -- but it's okay because they're going to give us the Monday after Thanksgiving off. Grrr. I keep thinking what my labor-lawyer grandfather would have to say about that! I suppose at least this year I don't actually have to go into the office, and it's A-OK if I spend Labor Day in my pajamas!

Hope you all have a good end to your week and a pleasant weekend to look forward to!

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Bring On Fall

Happy September! I can't believe that August is already over and the unofficial start of fall is already here. I'm just back from dropping Rainbow off at school for her first day of middle school(!), and things are starting to feel decidedly autumnal. And I am here for it, let me tell you. I love the longer days of summer but long for the cooler temperatures of fall.

Once I used to get excited about the start of the new school year because it meant all those new school supplies. I still get excited about the supplies, but this year I'm hoping to start off the new year with a new sweater. I'm almost there -- last night I finished the first sleeve (except for weaving in ends) on my Torbellino:

Once I do a little weaving in of ends, I will pick up for sleeve number two. I was able to knit the first sleeve while reading, so I'm hopeful I can do the same with the second and have it finished up at about the same time I'm finishing my bingo card.

There is good news on that front -- I finished Little Dorrit last night! I really enjoyed it, except for perhaps how long it took to read, but that's really my own fault for picking such a tome. Now my focus moves to finishing up Stamped from the Beginnning; I have 188 pages left, so I'll need to read about 26 pages a day to finish it by the end of Labor Day and meet my deadline. And of course I have to read another book in the next week as well if I want to achieve my second cover-all. Please keep your fingers crossed that it's a slow work week so I can focus on reading!

I have started another project this past week, but unfortunately it's a design piece for a publication that I can't share, so instead let me share a little yarn pr0n with you:

I think we all know that I don't need any more yarn, but Lisa had a big shop update a couple of weeks ago and I had a coupon code, so I took advantage. The two skeins on the left are from her new Rain Clouds and Tie-Dye collection. On the far left is is the cool tie-dye variegated (there's a warm variegated version as well) on Lisa's newest base, a 90% superwash merino/10% nylon slub fingering weight. I plan to hold it together with the mohair/silk laceweight next to it. The other two skeins are both Lisa's Traveler sport weight base that came from her "dyer's secret stash." She occasionally offers up skeins that aren't quite up to her high standards for some reason -- they're a little short in yardage, they have a knot, they have a dye mistake, etc. These two were colorway prototypes that didn't quite make the cut, but I like them just fine. I think the more colorful of the two is going to become socks for my sister-in-law, whose foot measurements I finally got recently. The other skein I think I might need to keep for me.

That's all I've got for today -- I have to get back to my reading! Hope you're all having a great start to the month!