Sunday, November 29, 2020

Inspiration without Motivation

When I planned to take this past week off from work, I had visions of getting tons of knitting and spinning done. The reality is that I spent so much time in the kitchen, either cooking or cleaning up after cooking, that I got hardly any of either done! So I do not have a finished skein or something even remotely close to one to share today, but I am really enjoying the spin I have in progress.

This is organic merino from Southern Cross Fibre in a colorway called Triumph. It was a club shipment from August 2015. I loved these colors so much that I didn't want to risk muddying them, so once again I'm spinning from one end to the other and will be chain plying*.

This particular stretch of singles is pretty unexciting and dark, but I think it'll be lovely when it's all plied.

*In our Zoom session this morning, we had a brief discussion about chain plying versus Navajo plying. They are the same thing -- creating what's essentially a long crochet chain and adding twist -- but I have learned in recent years that the term "Navajo plying" is really a misnomer because it's not something that Navajo spinners actually do or originated. So I prefer to use the term "chain plying" instead.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving here in the United States, a day that has a somewhat troubling mythology, but nevertheless a day for gathering with family and giving thanks for our blessings. This year will of course be noticeably different from Thanksgivings past. There will be only three of us around the table, and we'll be seeing all our family only via computer screen. But this year, more than any other I can remember, I'm feeling more thankful. There are the very obvious things to be thankful for -- good health, good food to eat, a roof over our heads, steady jobs, etc. -- but also some nontraditional things. So because it's Thursday, here are three things I'm feeling lucky for this year.

1. My library
I have always been a big fan of my local library, dating back to when I was little kid and used to visit about once a week to check out big stacks of picture books. In the past couple of years, I've discovered the apps that enable me to check out ebooks and audiobooks, but it really wasn't until this year that I really took full advantage of them. I'm on track to read about 100 books this year, and when all is said and done, I think the vast majority of them will have been library books. I really credit all the reading I've done this year with helping me to keep my sanity during these difficult times.

2. The internet
In a time when it's been downright dangerous to be around other people, the internet has enabled me to connect with so many others. It's made it possible for me to work from home, stay in touch with family and friends, attend fiber events that have been canceled in person, and find sources of entertainment and distraction. The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but I can't imagine getting through it without the ability to connect across distance and time zones.

3. Online friends
This last one is about all of you, dear readers. I knew a few of you before this year, but thanks to our reliance on our computers, I have gotten to know so many more of you this year. We have read books together, shared our knitting projects, swapped recipes, and talked politics. We've emailed, commented, and chatted in real time on Zoom calls. I feel so lucky to know you all!

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving today, I hope it's a meaningful holiday for you. I hope it's full of good food and some good company. I hope that all of you stay safe and healthy, and let's hope that the world looks very different at this time next year!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday WIPs

Good morning and welcome to the last full day of Thanksgiving prep! Rainbow and I have just prepped two loaves of challah for the stuffing (which translates to cutting off all the crust, cubing the insides, and leaving it to dry out a bit). Yesterday we baked three dozen pumpkin cranberry muffins and made fresh cranberry sauce. Today, in addition to mixing up the stuffing (my great-grandmother's recipe, which is really more of a savory bread pudding), we'll mix up the mashed sweet potatoes, leaving only the turkey, gravy, and apple pie for tomorrow. I honestly thought that I'd spend most of this week crafting, but cooking for Thanksgiving, even when it's a smaller-than-normal dinner, takes a lot of time!

Today I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers to chat about my knitting and my reading.

After I finished my Hitchhiker, I realized that other than a shawl that's in hibernation, I had nothing on the needles! There's still a fair amount of holiday knitting to do, though, so I wasted no time in casting on the first pair of man socks. These are for my father; I figured I'd do his first because they're in the darker (and therefore harder to see) yarn and also because I will want to mail my parents gifts early in December.

I know the yarn looks like a plain-old navy here, but it's actually a pretty complex shade of Knit Picks Stroll called Midnight Heather that has some green and teal shades in it.

Neither of the dads is very adventurous in his clothing choices, so this is about as wild as I could get for my father. I've picked an equally sedate color for my father-in-law, a color called Jack Rabbit Heather that I'd describe as a warm brown-gray:

Both guys are getting plain stockinette socks, worked over 70 stitches, with a heel flap and gusset and wedge toe. I started the first sock on Monday and worked on it through a (Zoom) board meeting, and I already have nearly 5 inches complete on the leg. If I can manage to find time to knit (perhaps while the turkey is in the oven tomorrow?), I think the socks will go quickly. It's really all about prioritization.

Meanwhile, the Giftalong started at 8 last night, so once I got Rainbow into bed, I cast on a gift for her. Last year she saw and fell in love with the Fantastical Fox Mitts (Ravelry link), and while I got the pattern, I didn't have the time or the right yarn to make them for her. So I'm making them now and keeping my fingers crossed that she still likes them!

I'm using Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Allspice and White and knitting the smallest size, though I think there will still be a bit of room for Rainbow to grow. As nice as it is to have her home -- and we've just learned that there are three diagnosed cases of COVID among staff at her school, so I expect she'll be home longer -- it does make it difficult to knit for her in secret! I can only work on presents for her when she's asleep, and this week she's been going to bed later.

Since my last Unraveled Wednesday post, I have finished three books:


Jew(ish) was an Amazon First Reads freebie, and it was a quick, easy read. It was interesting and gave me some food for thought, but as the writer is British and a lot of the book deals with British politics, I felt that there were large chunks of the book that I didn't understand and didn't really apply to me. I guess you get what you pay for, right? I gave it 3 stars.

I think I mentioned before that I wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia because Rainbow was reading it in school and I couldn't remember if I'd actually read it when I was her age. I have since determined that I never actually did read it, so it was worthwhile to pick it up now. While I can see why it's been so praised as a classic, I also found it really dated, so I do wonder how much kids today will relate to it. The edition I got from the library was a special 40th anniversary edition, and I appreciated the addition of a special reflection from the author on the occasion and the text of her Newberry Medal acceptance speech. I gave it 3 stars.

I'd had a long wait from the library for The Vanishing Half and was delighted to get it a week or so before I expected -- and frankly once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It's a really beautifully written story of two light-skinned Black twin sisters, one of whom decides to "pass" as white and live her life as something she is not. Aside from the fact that Brit Bennett tells a really interesting story, I think the questions of race and identity that it poses are quite timely given current events and active efforts to understand and undermine racism. I gave it an enthusiastic 5 stars.

Today, in between all the cooking, I'm hoping to finish my current book, The Great Believers, and move on to the next Gamache book that I have on loan from the library. I hope that your WIPs and your books are entertaining you and that your house is filled with good smells today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The First of Many

I have a finished project to share today that I predict will be the first of many -- and it's all Bonny's fault. After drooling over her many Hitchhiker shawls, I finally cast one one last month, and on Sunday evening, just before bed, I finished it.

Pattern: Hitchhiker by Martina Behm (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Handspun Targhee/bamboo/silk (details in this post)
Needles: US 3 (3.25 mm)
Started/Completed: October 15/November 22

For my very first Hitchhiker, I followed the pattern exactly as written, although because I had less yarn than called for, I only made it to 39 "teeth" rather than 42. Still, it's a lovely little shawlette, and I am thrilled with how it came out. It was really an excellent pattern for knitting while doing something else, as it requires attention in very few spots (the beginning and end of each row and the beginning of every eighth row) -- everything else is just knit.

I have yet to block this, but I plan to take care of that later this week. I think I can stretch it a bit so that it's a bit bigger and so that the fabric has a bit more drape.

I enjoyed this project so much that I'm already contemplating my next one. For starters, Rainbow really wanted this one, so I need to make her one in a skein of sparkly purple yarn so I can keep this one for myself. And I'm also thinking about quite a few skeins of handspun in my stash that would be perfect. How many is too many Hitchhikers for one person?

Before I start another or half a dozen more, though, there is still gift knitting to do, and that has to be the focus for the moment. I will be back to chat about that tomorrow. But the talk of gift knitting reminds me that I wanted to mention that the Indie Design Giftalong kicks off on Ravelry this evening at 8 p.m. Eastern. This is the eighth year for the event and my eighth time participating as a designer (plus I'm also on the mod team), and I'm excited! All participating designers create a bundle of 10-20 designs that are on sale for 25% off for the first week of the event (using the code giftalong2020); you can find my bundle here. If you're one of those people who can't access Ravelry safely right now, the patterns can also be found in my Payhip shop (look for the Gift Knitting 2020 collection), and I'll be offering the same discount using the coupon code giftknit2020.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Another Week, Another Skein

It's a lazy Sunday here chez Knit/Wit. Rainbow and I are both on vacation for the coming week, so while we did have to wake up at a reasonable hour this morning for (online) Sunday School, I technically won't have to set an alarm again until December 1.

Looking ahead to the week off, we've discussed some plans for what to do each day (because there is cooking and baking that needs to be done for Thanksgiving), but it's looking like there is going to be plenty of free time for crafting. I'm actually wondering if I can get my 20 in 2020 fiber list completely taken care of. I have finished the skein that you saw the start of last week, and I am absolutely delighted with it.

This was spun from Bond wool dyed by David of Southern Cross Fibre; the colorway was Land Under Wave. I simply spun the fiber from one end to the other and chain-plied the resulting singles so that I could maintain the colors as much as possible.

The finished yarn is fingering weight, but I suppose I plied it pretty tightly because it's only about 338 yards. I always hope for closer to 400 yards for three-ply fingering weight, but I know that my default style of spinning usually results in dense yarn, so it is what it is.

I now have only two fiber entries left on my 20 in 2020 list, and I've selected these two older SCF club shipments:

On the left is Bond in the colorway Esmerelda; on the right is organic merino in Triumph. I'm still debating how to to spin these (chain-plied fingering weight? slightly heavier two-ply?), so any input is welcome!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Three Random Thoughts on Thursday

It's Thursday, which means I just have to get through today and tomorrow and then I have 10 days in a row off. I am excited about that break, but I'm also a little scatterbrained, so today I'm linking up with Carole and friends with three random thoughts.

1. An unintended running break
I've been running a lot more since this whole pandemic started and in the past couple of months had gotten into a pretty regular schedule of alternating two days of running with one day of walking (my knees appreciate the break). But I haven't been able to run in a week after doing something to my hip, I think pulling a muscle, last Thursday. It happened early on in the workout, and I stupidly kept going, even though I should know better. When I got home, I was in a fair amount of pain. Thankfully it was better the next day and has been improving ever since, and I think today I might try running again (though I'll likely do a shorter distance than usual so I don't overdo it again). I suppose if I had to take a break, it came at a good time, because I donated blood on Monday and wasn't allowed to do any vigorous exercise for a day or two afterwards. And I've been walking every day, so I'm still getting my steps in. But all the same it will be good to get back to it.

2. Thanksgiving planning
I can't believe we're only a week away from Thanksgiving! It's definitely going to be very different this year. Usually my parents host and we have a big crowd of extended family. This year my parents are in Florida and dinner will be just the three of us, though we'll be splitting the cooking (and the food) with my brother and sister-in-law, who live about two blocks away. I am making a turkey for the first time ever (my mother assures me it's very easy!) and making my great-grandmother's stuffing and Ina Garten's cranberry sauce. Rainbow and I will also be baking pumpkin muffins, as we do every year, and she's requested that we make an apple pie for dessert. I know it'll be a bit sad and lonely to be just the three of us at the table, but I think we have a lot to be thankful for.

3. Unexpected knitting
Rainbow's school had already planned to be off all next week, but last night we received an email letting us know that they've decided to go online for at least the week after Thanksgiving (whether they'll be back in person or remain online for the rest of December will be decided at the end of that week). She has been slowly knitting a cowl for her fourth grade teacher for while now, but now that there's a possibility she won't be back in school before the winter break, she is desperate to get it finished so she can take it in and deliver it tomorrow. Which means, of course, that I am the one knitting it.

This cowl is using some of my handspun (some BFL that I spun a number of years ago) and is just stockinette with some ribbing at the ends. The full skein had something like 137 yards in it, so I'm hoping it's realistic to finish this up by the end of the day, but obviously this is not knitting I had planned to do today. Oh well!

I hope you have a calm end to your week, and I promise to be more focused the next time I post!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Mojo Overdrive

I'm not sure what happened in the last week, but I'm suddenly finding myself with tons of knitting mojo. I know that's not a bad thing, but I wish I could figure out how it happened so I could make it happen more often! This is all by way of an explanation for the project spamming I'm about to do in this post, so hold on to your hat.

First, I finished my mother's socks last Wednesday. They are currently soaking in a warm bath and will soon be set to dry on a warm radiator (it's snowing lightly right now, so the heat is kicking!), but in the meantime here is an unblocked shot:

I used my regular vanilla sock recipe for these, working over 64 stitches with size 0/2.0 needles. My mother has narrow feet, and these were just a big snug for me, so they should be perfect on her. I used almost exactly three-quarters of the skein of Emma's Yarn Practically Perfect Sock in the colorway Juneau, leaving me about 100 yards to use for a baby hat or add to a scrappy project. I've now got two more pairs of socks left to knit for holiday gifts, both man socks, so I really do need to cast on the next pair soon.

After the socks were finished, I needed to shift to a different project for meetings, so I pulled out my Hitchhiker. It has grown quite a bit; out of the original 119g, I have 64 remaining, so I am almost halfway through my yarn. The color change is much more noticeable now.

What kicked my mojo into high gear, however, was a new design sample that you saw the start of last Wednesday. Once the socks were off the needles, I turned my attention to it and it alone until it was done, and I am thrilled with how it came out.

One of the hardest things about designing for me is getting the knitting to match what I see in my head, and this one actually turned out even better. I even managed to get the pattern written up and off to my tech editor over the weekend! Now I am working on a coordinating hat with the remaining yarn, and it's teaching me a lesson in humility.

What you're seeing here is actually the third attempt at this hat. I had to rip back to the brim on the first attempt when I found I'd dropped a stitch on the very first round of brioche increases/decreases. On attempt number two, I found that I'd missed an increase and had to tink back four or five rounds. But I am on track now and am paying close attention to what I'm doing so that I don't repeat either of those mistakes. I think it was the universe's way of telling me that I should figure out my math first (I had just cast on and was designing on the needles, but I really needed to do the math to know when to start the crown decreases). Once I fixed the missed increase last night, I got out my calculator and did the necessary math to finish. With any luck, this hat will be done in the next couple of days; I have already promised the pattern to my tech editor by later in the week.

Finally, I'll end with a bit of stash enhancement:

I've decided that I really need to getting more yarn out of the stash than adding it in, but this particular skein was a prize, so I'm not sure it really counts. Obviously this is from Fibernymph Dye Works, and it's Lisa's Bedazzled base (can you see the sparkle?). This is a pretty special skein. It's her Nyan Cat colorway, which she hasn't dyed in some time and doesn't plan to dye again, but she found a single skein not too long ago and I was lucky enough to win it.

I think that's enough from me for one day! I hope your knitting mojo is running high and you're staying safe!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

In Which I Slow Down

Sundays have always seemed like they should be lazy days, especially at this time of year, when the weather is typically gloomy and damp. We're having just such a day here: cool, cloudy, and rainy, with the added fun of high winds. The forecast had called for the rain to move through in the morning, but it looks like it's sticking around, so I may not get out to exercise today. That's certainly a good enough excuse to stay in and craft, so I'm taking it!

I have impressed myself this year with how much spinning I have gotten done, but in the last week or so, my knitting mojo has taken over, so while I have gotten a little bit of spinning done, I'm a bit of a ways off from a finished skein. Currently on my wheel is Bond from Southern Cross Fibre from way back in 2015. I think I'm maybe a third of the way through my singles.

I have only three items left on my 20 in 2020 fiber list, all Southern Cross club shipments, including this one, and considering that I have proven my speed in getting through fiber this year, I think I can take this spin a little easy.

I also have two new fiber acquisitions to share. The first was kind of an impulse purchase. One of my favorite indie fiber dyers is Ginny of FatCatKnits. She stopped dyeing for a while a couple of years back because her business wasn't enough to make a living and she needed to get a full-time job. But recently she's started dyeing and prepping fiber again, and now she's added other beautiful items like hand-made jewelry and poured acrylic paintings. When she posted on Instagram that she was having a sale on jewelry because she needed some sales to help make the rent, I immediately went to her shop to make a purchase. I'd actually had my eye on one of her necklaces for a while (I'll link you to her photo because I will never do it justice), and as long as she was going to be sending me a package, I figured I might as well get some fiber too -- for padding, of course!

This is 4 oz. of Polwarth (my favorite wool to spin) in the colorway Flamingo. I'm thinking this will look amazing as a bouncy barberpoling two ply -- something I can spin up quickly and then knit into something cozy for the winter, when that hot pink and turquoise will be the bright colors I need to cheer me up.

Yesterday I also got a pleasant surprise when my September Southern Cross club shipment showed up. I'd been stalking it since it landed in the United States, but the anticipated delivery date wasn't until tomorrow, so I wasn't looking out for it yet when it landed on my doorstep.

This is South African Superfine (which I really think should be renamed "Supersoft" because it's the most buttery amazing merino) in the colorway First Star. I think David did a stellar (ha!) job of capturing the colors of the night sky in this colorway -- even on a dark day the blues are pretty electric!

I am hoping to be able to at least finish the singles I am working on by the end of this coming week, and I expect I'll do some serious spinning the following week, when I'm taking the whole week off (well, I already have Thursday and Friday off, but I'm taking vacation time Monday through Wednesday as well). I can't believe it's nearly Thanksgiving -- remember how long March seemed? I hope that when we put this year behind us, we're also able to put behind much of the heartache it's caused.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Happy Cardigan Day!

Happy Friday from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood! Did you know that today, while some may think of it as being an unlucky day (Friday the 13th and all that), is actually World Kindness Day? And it's also the birthday of everyone's favorite royal puppet, King Friday XIII! So today our local PBS station is celebrating Cardigan Day! I have already shared this photo on Twitter (and then Kat posted it on her blog this morning!), but here is the cardigan I am wearing today:

This photo was taken last year at the WQED Cardigan Party, and yes, that is David Newell, aka Mr. McFeely, posing with me!

In the interest of keeping Fred Rogers' spirit alive, I hope we can all make an effort to express kindness to one another. Given the concerning COVID numbers we've been seeing lately, I'd like to say that I consider wearing a mask and keeping my distance from others to be a great act of kindness. So please, be kind and be safe! And have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Three Reasons to Smile

After the joy of the weekend, this week has taken a grim turn with the rising coronavirus numbers, so I have been searching out and paying attention to reasons to be happy, party as a coping mechanism and partly to combat my natural tendency toward pessimism. So today I'm linking up with Carole with three things that have made me smile in the past couple of days.

1. The sun is out again.
After that stretch of unusually warm weather, yesterday started with rain -- including a thunderstorm that woke us all up at 5 a.m. The rain did let up later in the day, but it was still quite gloomy. So it's lifting my mood quite a bit today that the sun is out again. As the hours of daylight we get each day start to diminish, I'm always thankful for any time I can see the sun.

2. Beauty in unexpected places
I'd spotted this on a run earlier in the week but obviously couldn't snap a photo at the time, so as yesterday was a walking day, I made sure to pause to capture this petunia that has chosen an unlikely place to thrive:

This is the base of a streetlight, right near a curb at an intersections. I can't imagine someone purposefully planting flowers here (mostly because it seems like a physical impossibility), so I assume they're growing wild -- and they seem to be thriving despite the inhospitable environment. I love when that happens.

3. The generosity of others
I know I have mentioned before that I serve on the board of our synagogue, but I can't remember if I've mentioned that I'm also cochair of the Community Outreach and Social Action Committee. We have recently revamped the committee, largely through the involvement of my new cochair (a retired man who has time to do more than I can and is a real go-getter), and our first event was a winter clothing drive to benefit the Braddock Free Store, which was founded by our state's second lady. We had a committee meeting last night, and my cochair reported that the effort garnered 160+ coats and more than 130 boxes of other warm clothing. We didn't have any real expectations for how it would go, but we were all blown away by how generous our congregants were!

I hope that no matter how depressing the news might be right now, you're finding some things that will still make you smile. Be safe out there!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Plodding Along: Unraveled Wednesday

After quite a few days of unseasonably warm and sunny weather, it is a rainy Wednesday here; we were all awakened this morning at around 5 a.m. by a very loud clap of thunder. I suppose it's a very good day to stay in and craft!

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers today to talk about what I'm working on and what I'm reading.

My top priority right now as far as my WIPs are concerned is finishing up my mother's socks. I have two more pairs of socks to knit when these are done (for my father and father-in-law, so they'll be big and boring), so I'm anxious to get this pair off the needles. The good news is that I am almost there. I've finished all the gusset decreases on the second sock and am cruising down the foot. This sock is perfect to work on while reading or sitting in meetings, and I happen to have a synagogue committee meeting tonight. I expect that I'll be able to finish the pair before the week is out.

My treat to myself after finishing my sweater was to cast on a new project with the two skeins I shared last week. On Sunday I wound them and got started, and I am having so much fun with this new design!

This is the start of a brioche cowl that's a step up from basic two-color brioche but still relatively easy, as brioche designs go. I'm really pleased with how it's working up and am hoping to have enough yarn leftover to do a coordinating hat.

My Hitchhiker is still on the needles but hasn't gotten any attention recently. I do plan to pull it out and devote some time to it soon, though!

Reading has been a mixed bag this week. I've still got about three weeks until my next library hold comes to me, so I've been going through the books I've tagged "to read" in Libby and seeing what's available to borrow right away. I've finished two books in the last week.

I know a lot of you read Station Eleven a while ago, and I've been wanting to read it for a long time but kept seeing a long wait, so I put it off. I realize that a book about a global pandemic is probably not the wisest thing to read during an actual global pandemic -- in fact, I seem to remember some people saying not to read it! I understand that concern, but it didn't really make me too anxious, and I really loved the book. I kept reminding myself that it was fiction, and instead on focusing on the illness, I really focused on the characters (which, in my opinion, were meant to be the focus anyway). I loved how the different story lines were woven together and how so many lives were interconnected through seemingly minor things. I gave this book 5 stars.

In the "they can't all be winners" category was Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book I'd never heard of until it was mentioned by Sara of the Yarns at Yin Hoo podcast, who has been designing a series of patterns inspired by it. It was available and the audio was only about two hours long, so I decided to give it a try. While I found some good aspects of it, I overwhelmingly found it to be a little out far out there for me. Had it been a longer book, I probably would have abandoned it, but it was so short that I figured I might as well listen to the whole thing, just in case it got better. I'm sorry to say it didn't, and I gave it 1 star.
I am currently reading an Amazon First Reads selection, Jew(ish), which I'm hoping to finish today, and am contemplating borrowing Bridge to Terabithia, which Rainbow is currently reading for school. I really enjoyed revisiting her last English assignment and might just continue to read/reread what she is this year so I can help her with her assignments if she needs me to. Both the digital and audiobook are available through Hoopla, so I just have to decide which format I want to borrow. I would probably be able to get through the ebook faster than listening to the audio, but the audio is narrated by Robert Sean Leonard. Tough choice!

I hope you can fill your Wednesday with good reads and good crafts. And if you are a veteran, thank you for your service!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Major Finish

What a difference a week makes, eh? It feels like an eternity since last Tuesday, but one benefit of all those anxious days is that I got a lot of knitting done and have a big FO to share today! My apologies for not having any modeled shots just yet; I'm the only one home today, and you already know that I have very poor selfie skills. I promise I will get some modeled shots soon, but for today you'll have to enjoy the old sweater on the floor trick.

Pattern: Radiate by Joji Locatelli (Ravelry link), size S
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Cozy (100% superwash merino) Serendipity Sweater Set
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)
Started/Completed: September 25/November 7
Mods: adjusted sleeve length (see below)

This sweater was one of the biggest projects on my 20 in 2020 list, and I'd intended to knit it with this sweater set since last year. The set came with six skeins of yarn, a five-skein gradient in shades of blue and one variegated skein to coordinate. Although Joji's sample uses two solid colors, I thought the pattern would look just as nice with a little more color variation.

I dithered a bit about which size to knit because Joji recommends some positive ease, but I knew that I was also using a superwash yarn that was likely to grow, and I didn't want a few inches of positive ease to turn into a potato sack. So in the end I opted for the size that would give me pretty much zero ease, and though I can't prove it yet with a photo, I can tell you that the fit is perfect. It's fitted with a long-sleeve t-shirt on underneath, but it's not tight.

The yoke in this sweater is really clever. It looks like stranded colorwork, but it's actually slip-stitch colorwork, meaning you only ever use one color per round. The increases are very cleverly incorporated into the design, too. I think the impact might be a bit stronger with solid colors, but I really like how the variegated yarn knit up here.

As far as the gradient went, I had to pretty much wing it. Every time I introduced a new color, I worked a total of eight rounds, alternating colors every round. When to introduce a new color was the real guessing game, because I wanted to be sure that I had enough of each color to work the same sequence on the sleeves as well as the body. I suspect there was probably some math I could have done to be more exact, but I really just made a guess when to switch by weighing what was left in each skein and starting the switch when I had between 40 and 50 grams of yarn left. I don't think it's terribly obvious, but if you look closely at the sleeves as compared to the body, you'll see that the sleeve colors, while in the same order, don't have quite the same proportions.

It would have been cool if the colors transitioned at the exact same spots, but I really don't care that they don't. I'm more than satisfied that I managed to get all the colors on both body and sleeves without running out. What's more, I never even had to break into the final, darkest color in the gradient! Here is how much yarn I have left:

You can see I cut it pretty close on the darker blues, and I'm feeling pretty good about maximizing my yarn usage because of that. I think the untouched skein will likely be a charity hat, and I might just have enough with all the scraps combined for another one.

We're expecting record-breaking high temperatures here today (close to 80!), but rain is coming through tomorrow and then we'll be back to more typical weather for this time of year, so I expect this sweater will get its inaugural wearing pretty soon. Bring on the sweater weather!

Monday, November 09, 2020

Some Treats for Your Ears

Do not adjust your computer -- yes, I'm blogging on a Monday! I know it's something I rarely do, but I'm feeling so happy this particular Monday morning and I'm the only one at home today, so I felt like putting up a post. Last week I mentioned something about podcasts, prompting Juliann to ask for recommendations and then a request from Mary to put those recommendations into a blog post, so that's what this bonus post is all about.

I'm not sure if I'd technically be considered an early adopter of podcasts, but I've been listening to knitting podcasts since about 2005, so quite a while. Back then I was still single, living in an apartment by myself, and taking the bus to work every day. Podcasts were still a new thing back then, but I found a few to listen to during my commute, and it's a practice I've continued. Back in the Before Times, I'd typically listen on my walk to and from work and during my lunch break while I knit. Now that I don't have that commute or that lunch break (I typically work through lunch because I use my break time to run or walk), I'm mainly listening while I exercise. I actually used to listen to upbeat music on my runs, thinking that the beat would help me to keep a steady pace, but I've found that listening to something spoken word, be that a podcast or an audiobook, actually works better because I usually focus on what I'm listening to more than how hard it is to breathe or how my muscles are burning. And when you've borrowed an audiobook from the library and have only a limited amount of time to listen, and you only listen when you're exercising, it's a great motivator to get out there!

I've listened to quite a lot of podcasts over the years, quite of a few of which have "pod-faded," so I am limiting my recommendations to what I am currently enjoying. This isn't a complete list, just some highlights that I can highly recommend.

Knitting Podcasts:

  • Cast On with Brenda Dayne: This podcast was actually one of the first ones I listened to, and it was among my very favorites -- it still is! Brenda recently resurrected it and has begun publishing new episodes. There are only three out so far, but I'm pretty sure you can also go back and listen to the old episodes as well.
  • Knitmore Girls Podcast: This is one I've been listening to for many years. They have 600 episodes out right now, and I'm pretty sure I listened to all of them (I don't remember exactly when I started listening, but when I did I went back and listened to all their previous episodes). It's cohosted by a mother and daughter team, and the granddaughter also occasionally makes guest appearances. They talk about knitting, sewing, spinning, and other crafty things.
  • Yarns at Yin Hoo: This is a podcast I listen to when I want something soothing and relaxing in my ears. It's hosted by Sara, a knitter, spinner, and sewer (sewist?) who also likes to talk about cooking and read poetry on the podcast. She has a very soothing voice and speaks at a calming pace.
  • Down Cellar Studio Podcast: Hosted by Jen (aka Boston Jen), who is now actually a friend, this podcast is really inspiring because of how prolific she is. Jen knits and crochets and recently learned to spin, and she loves to make things for her many nieces and nephews.
  • Craftlit: I have been listening to this podcast since the summer of 2007, and while it's not really a knitting podcast (though Heather, the host, does talk a bit about what she is knitting or crafting), it's a great accompaniment to knitting or other fiber arts. Heather is a former high school English teacher, so listening to her is a bit like sitting in on a literature class. She plays audio recordings of books that are in the public domain (so she's done a lot of classics) and discusses them.

Non-knitting Podcasts:

  • This American Life: I'm sure many of you have either heard of this show or already listen to it, particularly if you're an NPR junkie like me. There have been some episodes that don't excite me much, but usually I can count on about an hour on some interesting topic.
  • Radiolab: I'm pretty sure I heard part of an episode of Radiolab on the radio a number of years ago and then went looking for it because it was so fascinating and so unusual. This show focuses on interesting topics in science and politics, human interest stories, and a host of other totally random things. The pieces are extremely well researched and the recordings are always top notch.
  • Hidden Brain: This is another NPR podcast, and I'd say it's along the same lines as Radiolab except that its main focus is on psychology -- the brain, emotions, human behavior, etc. It's always interesting to listen to.
  • What's Her Name: I have to admit that I am waaaay behind on this podcast, and I've long given up on trying to keep up with it. I just listen to an episode or two every now and then. It's hosted by two sisters, and each episode focuses on a different notable woman from history who you probably haven't heard of.
  • In the Dark: This is a podcast that definitely won't be for everyone. It's an investigative journalism podcast focusing on true crime. The first season may be very hard to listen to. What I want to specifically recommend to you is Season 2, which focuses on the case of Curtis Flowers, a Black man from Mississippi who was tried six times for the murders of four people -- murders he maintained he didn't commit. Over the course of this season, the reporters investigated every aspect of the case in great detail. I can tell you that there's been a resolution to the case in the past several months, but it's still worth listening if you want a real-life example of systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

So there you have it! I hope if you're looking for something new to listen to, these recommendations are helpful to you. The photo at the top of the post was one I snapped yesterday while I was out listening to podcasts on a long walk -- it was really a spectacular day, and the sun was just right to illuminate that beautiful tree.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Spinning Joy

The sun seems to be shining a little brighter here today! I don't know about you, but over the past 24 hours, I've felt a ton of tension leave my body. I'm so relieved that the election is now behind us, and I'm feeling more hopeful for the future!

I did a fair amount of spinning this week amidst all the anxiety, and I have a freshly plied skein of handspun to show for it. Showing you these photos is a bit like showing you a finished lace shawl before it's been blocked; it's soaking in a warm bath right now and will likely change a bit, so keep that in mind. This skein was spun from 4 oz. of mini batts containing merino, bamboo, silk, and sparkle. Usually multicolored fiber gets more homogenized when you spin it, but this managed to keep all the lovely pops of so many colors -- it was a bit like spinning a rainbow.

I especially love that hot pink!

I spun the batts semi-worsted, meaning I used a short forward draw in combination with a carded (woolen) prep. So the yarn isn't terribly consistent, but that's not what I was really going for anyway. I wanted some of the texture in there that the batts had, so I really only pulled things out when they were really obviously inconsistent.

I spun all the singles for this skein onto one bobbin, then wound them off on my ball winder so I could ply from both ends of a center-pull ball and use up every bit. The finished yarn is a two ply, and straight off the bobbin it looks like a heavy lace weight/light fingering weight, but it might pouf up a bit from washing.

The batts had just the right amount of sparkle in them for my taste, and combined with the shine of the silk and bamboo content, the effect is quite luminous. I'm really pleased with this skein!

Up next, I'm going deep into the stash for one of my early Southern Cross Fibre club shipments -- this is from September 2015.

I thought briefly about playing with the colors here, but I just decided not to make things any more complicated than they need to be, so I'm just going to spin the strip of fiber from end to end and chain-ply the singles. Easy peasy. This colorway is called Land Under Wave, and I really love it. I suspect that's why I hadn't spun it; when I first got into the club, every shipment seemed so precious that I didn't want to risk ruining it somehow. But 2020 is all about enjoying the precious stash -- we need to find all the joy we can!

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Three Happy Things

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm feeling a lot better this morning than I was yesterday or the day before. I know we still need to be patient, but I am feeling more and more confident that we'll have a good outcome.

To keep my mood up, I've been trying to focus on good, happy things as much as possible this week. It's Thursday, so I'm joining Carole and friends with three things that have been improving my mood this week.

1. Daily exercise
I will fully admit that I've been consuming more junk food the past several days (whose idea was it to have Election Day fall right after Halloween?!), but I've also been making a point to get out and exercise just about every day. I have been trying to keep up with my running and generally do a schedule of run two days, walk one day, which my knees seem to appreciate. We all know exercise is important in general, but I've found that it really makes a difference in reducing my stress level and improving my sleep. I guess I really did a good job of it on Tuesday -- this is what my FitBit recorded:

I normally get about 12K steps per day lately, so that was a really surprising number to me!

2. Good weather
This time of year is when I start to feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder because the days are shorter and are more likely to be gloomy. Last week was definitely a gloomy one. But this week has been fantastic -- it's not only sunny, it's unseasonably warm!

Look at that weekend forecast! We haven't seen my in-laws in a while because it hasn't been warm or dry enough to be outside, but it looks like we'll definitely be able to manage a get-together this weekend.

3.  Design inspiration
Yesterday morning I made the point of listening to knitting podcasts while I was out on my walk (I also listen to a number of non-knitting podcasts that tend to be longer and thus often accompany me when I exercise). I wanted to focus on happy stuff, and knitting is definitely happy stuff. All that knitting talk got me really excited about starting a design I've been thinking about for a while, so when I came home I dug these two skeins out of my stash:

These are from Marianated Yarns, and I'm planning to use them for a brioche cowl. Yesterday I also realized I could do a hat to match. I'm not sure I can get both items out of these two skeins, but nevertheless I am excited to get going. So far I've restrained myself from winding the yarn (because I really want to finish my sweater before starting something new), but depending on how the day goes I might break down and do it later today.

I hope you can find some happy things to distract you from the waiting and the stress of uncertainty today. Keep breathing, friends! I think we're almost there!

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Holding It Together -- So Far

Well, we made it through yesterday. I think I did a pretty good job of staying calm for the majority of the day (though I did have one slightly scary moment that I'll refer you to my Twitter feed to read about, because I really don't want to rehash it here), but this morning I'm definitely feeling the nerves. Rainbow's school has a delayed start this morning, so at least I get a little bit of extra time with my girlie. After I drop her off, I'm planning on going for a long walk to (I hope) clear my head and maybe work out some of the jitters.

I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers today to talk about crafting and reading -- because really those are the things keeping me sane right now!

The two knitting projects I'm mainly focused on right now are my Radiate and the socks for my mother. Radiate mainly gets worked on in the evening while reading or watching TV, and at the moment I am cruising toward finishing the first sleeve:

Hi, here I am in my workout clothes and with bed head -- I am being very real for you today! It's a bit hard to see where the sleeve ends because I'm wearing a black shirt and the end of the sleeve is dark blue, but if you look closely at my right arm (the arm holding the yarn) you can probably see the little flare of the knitting and the cable of my needle. I've been following the same fade progression with the sleeve that I did for the body, but the sections of each color are a little different because I only estimated how much yarn I'd need for the sleeves and in some cases didn't have quite enough to work the same number of rounds in each color on the sleeve as I did for the body. I'm not too concerned about that; I split the remaining yarn for each other in half, so at least I can make the sleeves match each other. It's still possible that might need to dig into the darkest blue skein, which I didn't touch for the body, to finish the sleeves, but I think I'm also likely to make the sleeves quite a bit shorter than called for in the pattern. The instructions say to start the 2.25 inches of cuff ribbing when the sleeve measures 17 inches from the underarm, but my best-fitting sweater (my Humulus) has sleeves that measure a total of 17 inches, including the cuff. As much as I enjoy a cozy sweater, I also don't want my sleeves trailing through my dinner plate when I wear it.

My mother's socks are now more than 50% done, as I finished the first one and started the second on Sunday.

There's a bit of pooling around the gusset, which I expected but otherwise I got that great micro-striping effect for the whole sock, and I'm quite happy with that. I know that if I sit down and focus on the second sock, it won't take me too long to finish (and I have two work meetings tomorrow that will provide some time for just that). Once these are done, I have some father and father-in-law socks to knit; I placed an order with Knit Picks that arrived in the past week with some fairly sedate sock yarn for those.

Reading has been continuing at a steady pace the past week, and I've now finished 90 books this year, so I think it's definitely realistic to think I can finish 100 by year's end. I'm in a bit of a lull in my library holds (the three books I'm still waiting on are expected to be available in the four-to-seven-week time frame), so I've looked at books I've tagged as "to read" in the Libby app and have borrowed some that didn't have any wait. I've read two of those books in the past week:


Someone mentioned Late Migrations during one of the Sunday Zoom sessions a while back, and I'd added it to my list. It ended up being the perfect thing to read during an anxious week. It's nonfiction, part memoir and part nature study, that takes the form of what are essentially short essays. The chapters are short and easy to read, and though the memoir-type sections do have some sadness in them, I found the book as a whole to be refreshing and uplifting. It was really a delight. I gave it 4 stars.

I know many of you have been on the Ali Smith four seasons train for a while, but I hadn't yet read any of the books and jumped on Autumn when I saw there was no wait. Technically I started it Monday night before bed, but I only got through one chapter and essentially read the whole thing yesterday. I didn't have any idea what it was about before I started it, and to be honest after finishing I'm still not sure I could adequate describe it, but I did enjoy it. It's quite different from anything else I've read in style and format, and it took a bit of getting used to, but I think it says a lot about the quality of the book that it successfully distracted me from the news yesterday. I gave it 4 stars as well.

I hope you're all doing okay today. Remember to breathe and take care of yourself. It's out of our hands now, so let's try to keep our spirits up with the things that bring us joy!

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Trying to Keep Calm and Carry On

Well, we've made it to Election Day. At least the wait for that is now over. I know it will be a while before we get the final results, and as hard as it is for me to wait, I don't have much of a choice, so I will do my best to fill my time.

I know many of you are staying away from the Internet and social media today for the sake of your mental health; I don't know that I can stay away entirely, but I'm going to limit it as much as I can. I have plans to go out for a run later this morning (always good for getting out the jitters), and I've got my outfit all laid out for after my shower:

Those are my Swing Left socks (Ravelry link) and my RBG enamel pin. A family friend texted me yesterday that she'd heard that people are wearing pearls today to honor RBG, so I've got my earrings out, too.

Remember to breathe today, friends. I know we're all worried and anxious, but those emotions won't help the process. If you've voted, thank you. If you haven't, please be sure to get to your polling place today to get your vote in and counted. Be sure to be kind to the poll workers, who are special heroes this year (shout-out to Kat and Kym!). Think positive thoughts. We'll get through this!

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Let Me Spin You a Yarn

It's Sunday again, and November to boot! I have lost all concept of time this year, and I'm sure it's the same for all of you. But I got an extra hour of sleep, I've had my coffee and reset all the clocks, and I am ready to talk about spinning!

I finished my latest spinning project on Friday, and thanks to the temperature dropping quite a bit over the course of the day, the radiators were kicking and served me well to dry the wet yarn overnight.

The large/main skein here is a crepe yarn. This is a ply structure in which you spin a two-ply yarn and ply it with a single. I know that doesn't seem very complicated, but it requires careful attention to the way you're spinning so that you have twist in all the elements going the right direction. Typically, handspun yarn is spun with singles twist in the Z direction (meaning it's twisted to the right) and plied in the S direction (twisted to the left). That's what I did with the two-ply component of this yarn. But because it was plied S, that meant that the second step of plying would have to be in the Z direction, and thus the single I'd be plying it with would have to be spun S. Confused yet? Basically the rule here is that for each step, you need to reverse the direction to balance out the twist. That's not that hard to keep track of, but muscle memory is a real thing to contend with, so I had to put a note with an arrow on my wheel so that I remembered which direction I was meant to be spinning.

The finished skein is in the sport to DK range and about 208 yards. The mini skein above is what was left of the two ply when the single ran out. I find this ply structure to be interesting, but I don't love it. I suspect it's something to do with the unevenness of the structure -- crossing one ply with two. I also admit I didn't do a great job of balancing the twist, so the yarn does kink up a bit. But it was good to do for the learning aspect in any case.

Up next on my wheel is another item from my 20 in 2020 spinning list: battlings from the now out of business Hobbledehoy:

"Battlings" are just small bits of fiber that come from pulling apart a larger batt. I have two bags of these, for a total of 4 oz., and my plan is just to spin them at random onto one bobbin and then ply from both ends to use every last bit. These are a blend of merino, silk, bamboo, and sparkle, so they should be pretty easy to spin.

I also got some fiber in the mail yesterday that was a bit of a surprise!

Over not-Rhinebeck weekend, Loop Fiber Studio had a series of giveaways on Instagram, and I won one of them! I had a choice between a skein of their Yin Yang yarn or one of their bullseye bumps, and as it's been years since I've spun one and I'm always tempted when I visit their booth at festivals, I chose the fiber. These are pretty fun to spin, because they're made like a center-pull ball of yarn but in fiber form. The one I chose is called Vernal Equinox, and it's a mix of merino, nylon, and sparkle. It looks like it'll alternate sections of black with pastel colors.

Finally, I have some photos to share that I promised Vera I would take. These are from the front yard of a house in my neighborhood; I rerouted my run yesterday so I would be able to stop and take photos. Whoever lives in this house clearly has a sense of humor and is left leaning. Click the photos to embiggen and read the signs!

We had a very low-key Halloween here. We went out to have a small get-together with my brother and sister-in-law and some family friends on their deck (so we were outside and socially distanced) and then picked up pizza for dinner. We did not hand out candy or carve pumpkins. I suppose it was a bit depressing, but no one complained! Today is supposed to be another gloomy, cold day, with rain turning to snow(!) later on. I am helping out at a clothing drive at our synagogue for a couple of hours this afternoon, but otherwise I plan to stay home and craft and try not to think about Tuesday.

I almost forgot to mention! Eileen and I have been talking about doing a virtual spin-in via Zoom or Google Hangouts. If you would be interested in joining us, please let me know! It would likely be on a weekday evening or weekend afternoon.