Sunday, September 19, 2021

Not for Lack of Wanting

Although I had hoped to get a lot of spinning done over the past week, it was yet another crazy week in terms of work. I certainly could have used the stress relief of spinning, and I kept wanting to do it, so my lack of progress is only because I just haven't had the time. Maybe this week will be better? I've gotten through a couple more bundles of fiber, and the amount of singles on the bobbin has grown.

My August club shipment showed up this week, and in an interesting twist, it would have been perfect for this spin:

The colorway is called Gran Cenote (after the place of the same name in Mexico), and it's on Falkland fiber. At least it's in my comfort zone, even if I can't use it for my current combo spin!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Unraveled, Week 37/20221

Wednesday already? It's been quite a week, and frankly I am ready for things to calm down. I have a fairly short post to join up with Kat and the Unravelers this week because sadly there hasn't been much crafting or reading. I sent off a 46-page document at the end of the workday yesterday, and I'm hoping for a bit of calm today -- and I hope I haven't just jinxed myself!

I only managed to squeeze in about 35 minutes of knitting time on my Shifty last night, so it doesn't look much different from yesterday. I did, however, make some very good progress on the sock during last night's Read With Us Zoom -- the heel and gusset are complete!

(Don't worry; the socks will be washed before they're given to their recipient!)

Reading has been slow for obvious reasons, and I've finished only one book in the last week. Luckily it was a good one!

I'd had The Jane Austen Society tagged "to read" on Libby for several months, and I didn't hesitate to borrow it over the weekend when I was looking for a new audiobook to listen to while walking and cleaning and saw that there was no wait. The audio is read by Richard Armitage, and he does a wonderful job of doing different voices and accents of all the characters, which was a big help for me in keeping the many people straight. If you love Jane Austen and haven't read this yet, I highly recommend it -- it's pure delight! I gave it 4 stars.

I am still reading Jane Eyre and I also started (but didn't get very far along in) Claire Fuller's Swimming Lessons -- I am trying to be a Claire Fuller completist this year! If work doesn't get in the way, I'll be reading that today.

I will likely take tomorrow off from the blog, as it's Yom Kippur and I'll be fasting (which means I probably won't be too coherent). I still want to hear what you're working on and reading this week, though!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Keeping Me from My Knitting

Good morning! It's shaping up to be another busy work week, with yet another big and urgent work project keeping me away from my knitting time (don't you hate when that happens?). I thought I would get a bunch done over the weekend, but we ended up spending a lot of time outside because the weather was so spectacular. I know these days are limited, so I'm trying to enjoy then while we can. On Saturday afternoon, we finally convinced Rainbow to go for a bike ride -- a shortish one. We did a trail along Pittsburgh's North Shore, along the Allegheny River to the Point and a little farther past that by the stadiums and the Carnegie Science Center. She's usually the one to complain when we ride, but she was all smiles this time:

Because of the aforementioned work, I haven't gotten much knitting done, but I have managed to put in some rounds on a sock (something I can do a little of while reading for work) and have gotten to the heel flap:

I really like these colors!

What I most want to work on right now, though, is my Shifty pullover, which I did finally cast on last week after dithering about the needle size for several days. I ultimately decided to go with the larger needle size and the smaller size in the pattern to account for the difference in gauge. I haven't gotten very far with it (mainly because I haven't had too much time to work on it), but I have at least finished the tedious 1x1 rib of the collar and the short rows to raise the back of the neck, which were a bit more complicated because they also involved joining the second color. It was a bit like wrangling and octopus there for a bit, with two strands of yarn and two sets of needles, but I did it, and now I am working in the round and it's going much faster.

I'm hoping I can finish up this work project today and have more time to work on it so that I can make some visible progress. I've tentatively calling this my Rhinebeck sweater, both because I'm not sure if I can finish it in a month or so and because whether or not Rhinebeck happens still feels like it's up in the air, but I'm going to do my best to finish it by then regardless.

I hope to see some of you on tonight's Read With Us Zoom, and I'll be back tomorrow!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Mixing Things Up

I had so much fun spinning for my Shifty that I've decided to do it again and clear out some of my older Southern Cross Fibre club shipments at the same time. This time around, I'm mixing them up in a combo spin. Remember the five bags of green-heavy fiber I showed you last week? On Friday afternoon, when I finally caught up with work and found myself with a little downtime, I pulled them all out and split up each colorway into 12 smaller bundles (I divided the fiber into thirds by width and then split each third into quarters by length).

Why 12 of each? Well, I'm trying to get all the singles onto three bobbins, and the math worked out easiest to have 20 little bundles of fiber for each bobbin. In other words, math. I mixed up all the bundles so that I had three piles, with four bundles of each colorway in each pile. The colorways and fiber bases here are (clockwise from top left) Allium on Rambouillet from September 2016, Verdant on Falkland from October 2020, Star Trails on New Zealand Corriedale from September 2018, Grazing on Bond from January of this year, and Dewfall on Falkland from July of 2019.

I've got them all in bags and have started spinning up the first bobbin. The only color management I'm doing is making sure that I don't spin two bundles of the same colorway in a row. I want the color order to be as random as possible so that the five colorways are well and truly mixed up in the finished yarn, and my hope is that all of the yarn comes out more or less greenish, with the blue and brown and cream serving to give some dimension to all the greens. I haven't gotten very far in my spinning (I only just started on Friday, and yesterday I spent most of the day outside, enjoying the absolutely perfect weather), but I am enjoying it. One really nice thing about splitting up the fiber like this is that it feels so easy to sit down and spin up a bundle or two without it feeling like a really big project.

I did have to do a little bit of spinning wheel maintenance when I started this, which you can see blurred in the background. After replacing the elastic that connects the brake band to the wheel several times, I finally had to replace the band itself because the bit of string that was left was no longer long enough -- I'd had to cut it every time I replaced the elastic. On the plus side, the pink Knit Picks Dishie that I used for the replacement is much more cheerful that the boring old white of the original, and I made it extra long so that I don't have to go through that whole process again anytime soon.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Thursday Funnies

Just a quick post from me today -- I'm joining up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday with three images that made me laugh. I hope they give you a chuckle as well!

1. I passed these mops leaning against a building to dry on my walk over the weekend and thought they looked like angry faces. When I passed them again, I noticed the sign behind them and had to snap a photo -- they're mop bouncers!

2. Rainbow has been asking for honeydew all summer, but for some reason they've been really hard to find. Finally, on Sunday, the Mister found one, and you might say it's big enough to make up for not having found one earlier in the summer. I was joking with Rainbow as I was about to cut it up that it was as big as a baby, and she snapped this photo of me hamming it up with the melon:

(In case you were wondering, it was bigger than my largest knife and, even after giving Rainbow a big bowl of melon chunks to eat right away, what I cut up filled up three takeout food containers. We only just used up the first one this morning!)

3. I was taking an online survey earlier this week, and it asked me which Pennsylvania metro area I lived in. See if you can find what made me laugh out loud (and here's your reminder that spell check isn't always useful):

I hope you find many reasons to laugh today!

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Unraveled, Week 36/2021

I have to say that I rather like having the start of the work week be a Wednesday! We are expecting some rain to move in later this morning, so I'm keeping this short so I can get out for my walk before then, but I can't let a Wednesday go by without checking in with Kat and the Unravelers.

I actually don't have much to share this week because with a busy work week last week and the holidays this week, I haven't done much crafting or reading. I'm also holding off on starting any new projects until the Pigskin Party starts tomorrow (because WIPs don't count), but I also didn't like the idea of my hands being idle until then, so I started a dishcloth -- just a variation on the old standby Ballband Dishcloth:

The multicolored yarn is Knit Picks Dishie and the dark blue is Lily Sugar'n Cream Denim. I expect I'll be able to finish this up at some point today, because it's mindless enough knitting that I can work on it while reading stuff for work.

Yesterday I also finished (and blocked) my Shifty swatch, and now I have a bit of a conundrum that I hope you all can help me with!

This swatch was done on US 3/3.25 mm needles (bottom) and US 2/2.75 mm needles (top). My stitch gauge is spot on with the smaller of the two needles and about a stitch and a half off with the larger size. Here is my conundrum: My bust size falls between two sizes in the pattern (34 and 38 inches), and the recommended ease is 2 inches of negative ease to 2 inches of positive ease. I'd prefer to have a little bit of positive ease because I always wear my sweaters with a shirt underneath them. If I go with the US 2, the smaller size would give me 1 inch of negative ease but the larger size would give me 3 inches of positive ease. If I go with with the US 3, I could knit the smaller size and end up with almost 2 inches of positive ease, but the fabric is also a little looser. Then there's a third possibility -- use a US 2.5/3.0 mm needle -- that would give me a fabric somewhere in between and I could knit the smaller size and likely end up with closer to zero ease or minimal positive ease. What do you think?

I haven't done very much reading since last Wednesday, in large part because work got very busy, so I've only finished one book -- but it was a good one!

Both Mary and Katie had raved about A Tale for the Time Being, so I was excited to read it when my hold from the library came up several weeks earlier than I was expecting it. It took me several chapters to get into it, but once I did, I was hooked. This was one of those books that I found myself thinking about any time I wasn't reading it, and I found it to be so delightfully original in how it approached the story. It's not a book that's easy to describe, but I will say that what I found most interesting was that the author was a main character in it, even though it's considered fiction. That had me wondering often what was real, if any of it was, and what was made up. I can definitely see myself rereading this at some point, because I'm sure I missed things in my excitement to see how it would end. I gave it 5 stars.

Currently I am rereading Jane Eyre, which I have read many times and which I reread every several years (it's one of my all-time favorites). It is the classic that Sara and Chelsey are discussing this month on the Novel Pairings podcast. The copy I've linked to here is the paperback I used when I read it the first time, for my eighth-grade English class, and the price listed on it is $2.95! I've also started listening to the Craftlit podcast again after a long hiatus, and the new book The Leavenworth Case, which is entirely new to me.

What are you crafting and reading these days?

Tuesday, September 07, 2021


Good morning! I am writing a bit later than usual today because it's still kind of the weekend for me -- we were all off yesterday for Labor Day, and we're off again today for Rosh Hashanah. If you're wondering the significance of the big number in the title, that is what year we've just begun in the Jewish calendar (yes, we've been counting for a long time!). We started the holiday last night (all Jewish holidays begin at sundown, as that's considered the start of the day) with a big family dinner, the first one we've been able to have since 2019. It was all of my family -- the three of us, my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law -- plus the Mister's brother and sister-in-law and our nephew, his parents, my brother's in-laws, and my uncle as well as the Mister's cousin, who just started a master's program here and decided not to go home for the holiday because she didn't want to miss classes so soon after starting. In addition to celebrating the holiday, we were also celebrating my sister-in-law's birthday (which was actually yesterday) and my brother-in-law's birthday (this Thursday), so we had a birthday cake in addition to the traditional apple cake.

And because it was her birthday, I could give her the socks I've been working on -- even right in front of her!

You've seen these quite a few times because I've been working on them since last month, but that second sock got knit very quickly in order to have them done by yesterday. I finished them Sunday morning during my weekly knitting Zoom and blocked them that evening. These are essentially my Piccoletti (Ravelry link) pattern on the feet and a plain stockinette leg. The yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in one of Lisa's one-of-a-kind Serendipitous Stripes colorway. Because of the long stripe repeat, I didn't try to get them to match, but I'm pretty tickled that they coordinate quite well, especially with that little bit of color at the very tip of the toes. And my sister-in-law was thrilled with them, so that's all I really care about!

Yesterday was a pretty low-key day. The Mister went on a long (40+ miles!) bike ride in the morning, so Rainbow and I went to the craft store to pick up some supplies to make her a soft ottoman for the "reading nook" in her new room -- yes, I bought entirely synthetic super-bulky chenille-typle yarn! We then sat down to watch an episode of a Disney+ series that is based on a series of book she's been reading and do some crafting, and I finally finished that big charity hat.

I made it large enough so that when one end is pushed inside the other, the brim can be folded up as you can see on the right. It's a bit large on me, so it will likely have to go to an adult with a large head, but I'm going to stretch it out vertically when I wash/block it in the hopes that it'll make it slightly narrower. I'd been keeping track of the weight of all the scraps I've been using and weighed what was left when I finished to determine how much I used. Would you believe I used up almost 800 yards of fingering weight scraps in this one project? I was pretty shocked when I saw the final number.

Today will be another fairly calm day. Our synagogue decided to make vaccination mandatory for those attending in-person services, so the Mister went on his own and Rainbow and I are watching the service online. As nice it as it can be to be there in person and wish everyone a happy new year, it's really not safe to be with a large gathering of people yet, particularly as Rainbow won't be vaccinated for another four months. And I have to say that neither of us much minds attending services in comfy clothes! It's going to be a beautiful day, so I'll be going for a long walk this afternoon, and then we'll go back to my parents' this evening to eat leftovers from last night's dinner.

I hope you all had an enjoyable and relaxing long weekend, and if you are celebrating the new year, Shanah Tovah!

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Do It Twice

If there was a theme for my most recent spinning project, it was "do it twice." Of course, I'd anticipated some of that because I started out with two bags of the same fiber, New Zealand Merino from Southern Cross Fibre in the colorway Yesterday's Love. What I didn't anticipate was that, in addition to spinning the two bobbins of singles to start, I'd also end up plying the yarn twice.

I wanted to have just one skein of yarn after I plied, and so in order to accommodate that much yarn (I'd started with at least 220 g/close to 8 oz. of fiber), I needed to use my Hansen miniSpinner to ply because its bobbins have the largest capacity of any of my wheels. In the past, my miniSpinner was my go-to wheel, but I hadn't used it in some time and was clearly out of practice. Unlike with a treadle wheel, where you have a sense of how much twist is being put into yarn because you're physically adding it by moving the wheel through your treadling, with an espinner you have to rely on how the yarn looks. And looks can be deceiving when it comes to ply twist, because not only do you lose a little bit as the yarn gets wound onto the bobbin, but washing the finished yarn reawakens the twist put into the singles (which is in in the opposite direction of the ply twist) and counteracts the ply twist. That's a long-winded and somewhat technical way of saying that I wasn't getting a good idea of how much ply twist I was putting into the yarn and it wound up being too little for my taste, though I didn't know that for sure until after I'd skeined and washed the yarn. Here is what it looked like at that point (apologies for the glare -- there wasn't good lighting to be had when I took this photo):

Notice how the yarn looks like of scraggly? That means there isn't enough ply twist, at least in my opinion. Fortunately, it's an easy enough problem to solve, provided you're willing to invest a bit more time. Once the yarn was dry, I put it on my swift and wound it into a center-pull ball. Then I ran it back through the miniSpinner to add more ply twist (which is much faster the second time around, and with an espinner means just sitting and holding the ball of yarn) and skeined and washed it again. Much better!

Can you see how the yarn looks like a cohesive unit now, rather than just some strands lying side by side? I'm much happier with it now. Here is a look at the entire skein:

After plying the second time, the finished yarn is sport weight and approximately 580-ish yards/530-ish meters. It was also my last official project for Stash Dash, which I was really only doing on my own (the KnitGirllls moved all the discussion for the event from Ravelry to Discord, and though I signed up there, I didn't really have the mental energy to keep up with the discussion). I tracked my meters through an Excel spreadsheet I kept on my desktop and updated as I finished a project. Handspun meters for this event are counted based on the number of times the yarn goes through your hands, so you get credit for the length of the singles and well as the plying. Because this is a four-ply (sort of) yarn, that means I got to calculate the Stash Dash total for this skein by multiplying the final length times five -- and that means that this skein alone contributed 2,647.5 meters to my total. When Stash Dash officially ended on August 31, my final total for the entire event was close to 18,050 meters. Not bad at all!

Let's take a look at where things stand on my effort to spin down my SCF club stash. Here's the photo I took at the beginning of the year of what I had (and note that this does not include club fiber that has come in since, though I've already spun much of that), along with what I have already spun checked off:

I've made a dent, but there's still a lot to be spun, and I still have another bag coming in each month. I so enjoyed my Shifty sweater spin that I'm contemplating spinning up another sweater's quantity in club fiber, though this time I think I'd do another combo spin. I pulled out several bags that are all predominantly green, with some hints of yellow, blue, and brown, that I thing would go well together:

I think what I'd do with these is split them up into little bits and mix them up to spin the singles, similar with what I did for the yarn I used in my Ramona Cardigan. There's less variation in color in these fiber selections, though, so I think if I mixed them up well, I'd end up with yarn that reads green overall. I was thinking that such a yarn, assuming I could spin enough, would be great for my planned Garland (Ravelry link) sweater for use as the main color, and I could use a contrasting color or even an undyed yarn for the colorwork. Looking at the photo of all the club shipments, I also see quite a few in the red/pink family that look like they'd work well together, so perhaps I could spin those for Rainbow's Little Garland? I'm excited about the possibility of using up a lot of fiber in one spinning project, but I won't be getting started just yet -- my first priority is finally finishing my swatch for my Shifty so that I verify my needle size and get going on that sweater. One handspun sweater at a time!

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Three Reasons to Celebrate

Just a quick post from me today because I'm slammed with work, but it's conveniently Thursday, so I'm joining up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday. Today, I've got three reasons to celebrate in the next several days.

1. It's our anniversary today!

Us under the chuppah

The Mister and I are celebrating 14 years of marriage today, which feels like a lot. It's not an especially important number of years and it's a workday, so we're not doing much. We exchanged cards this morning, and I'll make us a good dinner tonight. We didn't get each other gifts but instead decided that we're going to get some new linens for our bed (are we exciting or what?).

2. We have a long weekend ahead of us!
My office is "closing" at 2 p.m. tomorrow ahead of the holiday weekend, and we'll all be off on Monday for Labor Day. Which leads me to ...

3. It's an extra-long holiday weekend.
In addition to being Labor Day, Monday is also my sister-in-law's birthday and, at sundown, is the start of Rosh Hashanah, so we will be having a big family dinner to celebrate all of the above. As if that wasn't enough, my brother and sister-in-law are also moving into their new house tomorrow, so we'll be bringing dinner to them tomorrow evening and probably helping them to get settled in over the next few days.

I hope that whatever you have planned for the weekend ahead, you can find at least one reason to celebrate, if not three!


Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Unraveled, Week 35/2021

It is a gloomy, very wet Wednesday here in Western Pennsylvania, where the remnants of Ida are moving through and causing a lot of flash flooding. I am extremely thankful to be working from home today, because I know I would have arrived at the office completely soaked through if I'd had to go in today.

A wet and dreary day is a perfect day for knitting and curling up with a good book, so it's very appropriate that I'm linking up with Kat and the Unravelers for my weekly crafting and reading check-in.

A lot of the past week has been spent trying to finish that one last spinning project for Stash Dash (it's done and it was sort of an ordeal -- I'll share more this Sunday), so there hasn't been a ton of knitting.
But I did finish the first of the socks for my sister-in-law and am cruising down the leg of sock number two, so I'm pretty confident I can finish the pair in time for her birthday. I also put in some time on my scrappy double-layer charity hat, which has eaten up nearly all of the original scraps I selected and has forced me to unearth some more.

Can you tell by the glow of the lamp how dark it is outside?

If I haven't been all that prolific in my crafting life this past week, I've more than made up for it with my reading. I finished another five books this past week:

Of the five books I finished, I think The Summer Book was my least favorite. I picked it up because Sara and Chelsey of Novel Pairings made it sound so good and at least a couple of you have read and enjoyed it, but I'm sorry to say I didn't like it much. It felt disjointed and disorganized to me. I know it's meant to be a series of vignettes rather than a cohesive narrative, but I honestly felt like some important background information had been left out and I never got a sense that I fully understood the situation or the characters. It was a quick read, though, and it's not that I hated it -- I was just unimpressed. I gave it 2 stars.

Bingo square: Modern classic

Mary recommended Interpreter of Maladies to me for the square I put it in, and while the fit for that square might be a little bit of a stretch, the recommendation was spot on. This is a collection of short stories that all have some connection to immigrants from India/Pakistan. The stories explore national identity and the meaning of home as a concept, and they're all gorgeously written. What usually bothers me most of about short stories is that they often feel incomplete, but every single one in this connection felt satisfyingly whole to me. I'll definitely be reading more by this author in the future! I gave it 4 stars (maybe 4.5).

Bingo square: About travel

When I was in need of a new audiobook to listen to on my walks, I conveniently found that The English Patient was available with no wait and fit neatly into one of my squares. I'd enjoyed Michael Ondaatje's writing previously and remembered liking the movie inspired by the novel (though the specifics and plot were lost to me). I did enjoy the writing quite a lot, but I found this one really hard to follow. I suspect that was compounded by listening rather than reading with my eyes; I just don't process information as thoroughly when I hear it as oppose to see it. But it was bad enough that after I finished, I had to look up a plot summary because I wasn't sure what I had read. I gave it 3 stars.

Bingo square: Booker Prize finalist or winner

I am gradually making my way through all of Maggie O'Farrell's backlist, and I had put I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death on hold recently because it had a long wait and I didn't expect it to come to me that soon. But you know how the library is -- when you assume you'll be waiting a long time, you're often surprised, so I read it when it was available to me even though I didn't have a square for it on my bingo card. This is a memoir of sorts in which O'Farrell recounts instances where she's had a brush with death, some very serious (her childhood bout of encephalitis or a knife held to her throat by a robber in South America) and some less so (narrowly avoiding being hit by a car). It was a quick read and written in the same style I've come to love. I gave it 4 stars.

I have been wanting to read All Who Go Do Not Return for several years and finally borrowed my father's copy a few weeks ago. This memoir is written by a man who was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in New York who, in his early 30s, realized he no longer believed any of what he had been taught and that had guided every aspect of his life. When he begins, he has just learned that he has been ordered to leave his sect, and he proceeds to detail what his life was like growing up and how he got to this moment. If you watched and enjoyed Unorthodox on Netflix, you'd likely enjoy this book. It's sometimes shocking and horrifying but definitely fascinating. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Wanted to read for more than a year

Summer Book Bingo doesn't officially end until the end of Labor Day weekend, but look at this:

Click to embiggen and see all the books!

I really thought it would be a stretch to fill two cards, but I guess all the stars aligned and I was able to get it done with time to spare!

I am currently reading A Tale for the Time Being, which was another surprise from the library (I thought I had several more weeks to wait for it), and I'm thinking about what I want to read this month now that I no longer have bingo squares to consider. Thanks again to Mary for hosting this delightful summer event that pushed me to read so many good books!

What are you reading and making these days? If you were doing Summer Book Bingo, how's your card looking heading into the last few days?

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Balance in 2021: August

Even though it feels like we got an extra week in this month (I think because Labor Day is so late this year), I'm still astonished at how quickly this month has flown by. It may have something to do with the fact that the days are getting noticeably shorter or that we're closing in on the final part of the year. But it's officially the final day of August, conveniently falling on the last Tuesday of the month, so it's time for my monthly check-in with my One Little Word. Thanks as always to Carolyn for hosting us for our monthly link-up!

Balance this month had a lot to do with Rainbow, so it feels very appropriate that my monthly reflection should fall on her first day of school for the new year.

It's really hit me in so many ways this moment that Rainbow is right on the cusp of leaving childhood. Physically, she's noticed her body changing (in some ways that are welcome and some that are not), and socially and emotionally, she's starting to assert her independence and separate herself from us. Earlier this month, she moved into the bedroom on our third floor, where she now has her own space and more privacy. Though she still relies on us for plenty of things, she's becoming more self-sufficient and learning to rely more on her own thoughts and judgments.

I thinking most, if not all, of you who are parents and have had children go through this period of adolescence will know how I'm feeling and how I am struggling to find a good middle ground between wanting to protect my "baby" from anything that might hurt her, physically or emotionally, and at the same time wanting to push her to challenge herself and learn those important life lessons that our children will really only learn when they've experienced them directly. I strive to make her know that I'm always here for her and will always support her but that I want her to feel comfortable relying on herself. I know that this is a process we'll be going through together for many years.

I realized not long ago that I'd completely forgotten to update my 21 in 2021 last month, so let's check in on that, shall we?

  1. Bake challah for shabbat DONE
  2. Run a 5K straight Walk the length of the UK - in progress
  3. Learn a new knitting technique DONE
  4. Sew a project bag DONE
  5. Knit a sweater out of handspun DONE
  6. Spin for a sweater - DONE
  7. Read a book outside my comfort zone DONE
  8. Try making pastry
  9. Knit or crochet a toy DONE
  10. Design a crochet pattern
  11. Read a biography/autobiography DONE
  12. Spin the oldest fiber in my stash DONE
  13. Knit five items for charity DONE
  14. Finish my WIPs from 2020 DONE
  15. Knit a sweater for Rainbow DONE
  16. Knit socks for my brother DONE
  17. Read a book of poetry DONE
  18. Read a book by a Native American/Indigenous author DONE
  19. Try three new meatless recipes DONE
  20. Go for at least three bike rides
  21. Read a book Rainbow reads for school DONE

I have only crossed one item off my list this month (that would be number 6, Spin for a sweater), but I'm making excellent progress on number 2 and should be able to cross it off at the end of this week because I have only about 20 miles left to walk to reach 1,083 miles and have already walked 11 miles so far this week. I'm trying to decide if I want to count the amigurumi pierogi I made way back in January for item number 10 or if I want to formally design something -- meaning writing up the instructions, whether or not I choose to publish. And we haven't succeeded in doing any family bike rides this year, though I'm hoping it's something we can do when the weather gets a little less oppressive. I am regularly thinking about making pastry and am determined to try it, so that will be one I am not likely to forget about. So all in all, very good progress toward completing this list!

How has the month of August been for you and your word? How are you feeling about the summer ending and the fall starting?

I will be back tomorrow with a big update!


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ready for the Gymnastics

There are two more days (after today) left in the month of August, and I am determined to finish up one more skein of handspun by month's end so that it counts for Stash Dash. As of this morning, I have two bobbins of singles ready to be plied:

I tried to explain how I would be plying these last week, but it seems that few (if any) of you understood what I'd be trying to do. So here's a little photo illustration for you, with a bit more explanation. First, you have to understand that chain-plying is a way of creating a faux three-ply yarn. It look like a three ply, but it's actually all one strand that's just been folded back on itself and twisted. An easy way to understand it is to think of crochet chains, stretched out really big, with added twist. What I'm doing is taking it one step further to create a faux four ply. I'm still making those loops but with only one of the two strands; the other strand just hangs out next to the loop. And each time I make a new loop, I'll grab from a different bobbin. So if the first loop comes from the gray bobbin, the second will come from the orange bobbin, the third from the gray, the fourth from the orange, etc.

Here is what this looks like in some commercial yarn:

On the top are just the loops. I made the first loop (to the left-hand side) with the yellow, so it looks like there are three strands of yellow and one of the dark green. The second loop used the dark green, so it appears to be three strands of green and one of yellow. On the bottom half the photo, you can see what the loops look like when twist is added. If you click the photo to embiggen, you'll be able to see that the yarn has the appearance of having four plies, but it's really only two. And you can see that each section of the yarn is like the photo negative of the other. I don't think the yarn I'm about to ply will be quite that dramatic (because both bobbins contain singles from the same batch of fiber in the same colorway), but I expect that there will be sections where the shades in the two singles don't match and there's more of a contrast. I'm excited to see how it looks, and I'm determined to finish it by end of day on Tuesday, so I promise you'll get to see it next Sunday!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Random Good Thoughts

It's been a long week, yesterday especially, but there have been some good moments, so today's post is a random collection of those.

Yesterday started with a dentist appointment for me. I knew I'd be doing a lot of walking back and forth yesterday and that it was going to be warm, so I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt -- specifically this t-shirt:

I bought this on my first visit to the New York Sheep and Wool festival, and although it's now a bit big on me, it's one of my favorites. As my hygienist was taking me back to the exam room, the other one was hanging out in the hallway, and as I passed him and he saw my shirt, he asked, "Is that Rhinebeck?" It turns out that his sister-in-law is a big knitter and talks about her trips to Rhinebeck a lot, enough that a non-fiber person knew about it!

Remember the sock photo I shared yesterday? Here it is again, in case you need a reminder:

These were originally intended to be for my sister-in-law for Christmas this year. But last night I remembered that her birthday is a week from Monday, and as the first sock is nearly finished, it would be entirely reasonable to try to finish the pair as a birthday present. The first sock was cast on more than a month ago, but I really haven't given it that much attention and that's why it's taken so long to finish. If pressed, I can knit an entire socks in a short period of time. I figure I'll give it my best shot (without stressing myself too much), and if they're not done by her birthday, then I'll go with the original plan.

Yesterday when I posted my reading update, I totally forgot to mention that All the Devils Are Here was the 100th book I've read this year! And I finished another (short) book yesterday, taking me to 101 so far. That matches the total number I read in all of last year, so that means that this year is officially going to be my best year of reading (at least in terms of the total number of books read) since I started keeping track of my reading on Goodreads. That's absolutely astounding to me, but at the same time, it's also not entirely surprising: One of the real boons of this pandemic has been both more time to read and better connections with reading friends, both of which have exploded my lists of books read and to be read.

I hope that your week has had at least a few random good things! See you back here on Sunday with a spinning update!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Unraveled, Week 34/2021

It is the last full week of August (how did that happen already?) and feels like the last week of summer because at this time next week, Rainbow will be back at school. It's going to be a busy day for me, but it's Wednesday, and that means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about crafting and reading.

I'm still working on the charity hat, and I've also added a bit to my sister-in-law's socks (well, the first sock, anyway). I have about an inch more to knit before I start the toe -- I'm very grateful that my big-footed brother married a woman with tiny feet!

Reading has been very good this past week. I am getting very close to completing a second bingo card, and I am determined to try my hardest to get that second cover-all by the end of Labor Day weekend. Since this time last week, I've finished five books!

I listened to the audiobook of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, a very buzzy recent release that's been on a lot of summer book lists this year. Even though I generally prefer to read with my eyes, this is one that I really wanted to listen to and really enjoyed in an audio format. (The primary narrator is Bahni Turpin, who I know some of you love.) The book reads like a nonfiction documentary about a 1970s band and a violent, racist incident that broke it apart. It was compelling and well written, and I definitely recommend it. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Audiobook with multiple narrators

Plenty was an Amazon First Reads selection for August; the book actually doesn't come out until September 1 (and if you're interested, there's currently a Goodreads giveaway for it). Given my experience with previous selections, I went in with low expectations, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this memoir. The author is a freelance food writer, but she's also someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder and thus has a complicated relationship with food. This book gave me Ruth Reichl Save Me the Plums vibes, and I enjoyed it so much that I even bought Howard's first memoir when I got an email from Amazon with a deal on it. I gave this one 4 stars.

Bingo square: About food

I'd had The Illness Lesson on my TBR list since hearing about it (a couple of times!) on the Novel Pairings podcast, and I got really lucky last month when I found a copy of it in the Little Free Library in our neighborhood. I got even more excited to read it when I looked at the author's bio and realized she's local! This book has pretty mixed reviews on Goodreads, and I can understand why. I think it's one that really would benefit from discussion or study, because there's a lot about this book that's just not written on the page but that you have to intuit. I enjoyed it but feel like I might have to reread it to get more out of it, and I'd love to talk about it with someone else! I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: That you want to read because of the cover

I listened to the audio of Saturday mainly at Kat's recommendation and because it filled a square on my card. This is the third novel by Ian McEwan that I have read and not my favorite, although I will say I liked how this one ended a lot more than Atonement! I found it to be pushing my suspension of disbelief just a bit that all of the drama in this book could have happened over the course of one day -- not that it's impossible, just highly unlikely. But the narration was good and kept me company on three walks and while cleaning the bathrooms, so that's saying something. I gave it 3 stars.

Bingo square: Month or day of the week in the title

I finally caught up on the Inspector Gamache series on the day that the 17th book was released (that would be yesterday). All the Devils Are Here, like pretty much any Gamache book for me, was pure pleasure reading. I enjoy seeing where the mystery will take me -- and more often than not being surprised by the ending -- as well as the humorous and touching moments. Reading one set in Paris was also a delightful change of scenery and was even more enjoyable because I've been brushing up on my French via Duolingo this summer. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Any book (free square)

I have four squares left to fill to get my second cover-all, and I'm pretty sure I have books to cover all of them, two of them hard copies in my possession. On Monday I started All Who Go Do Not Return, which I've had on my TBR list for several years, and yesterday I started The Summer Book -- I know several of you have read it, and I expect that it'll be a quick read. I may get a couple of large-ish projects for work this week, but there are 13 days left in Summer Book Bingo, and I plan to use them all if I have to in order to finish these last four books!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Some Good News

A number of you have noted that last week was a hard week in terms of the news coming from around the world. Any one news item was bad enough -- rising COVID cases, the devastation in Haiti, the collapse of Afghanistan -- but all at once? It was a lot to take. I was very thankful in the face of all this bad news that I have been cultivating a practice of looking for the good and the things that bring me joy. It's something I started at the beginning of the pandemic, alongside my daily journaling. In my entry each evening, in addition to reflecting on the day, I record three things I've accomplished that day and five things that have brought me joy. I am someone who has always tended toward pessimism, so shifting my focus to find good things in every day (and they don't have to be big things, just things that made me smile or lifted my mood a bit) has improved my outlook a lot.

There are some bigger things that are making me happy this week, beyond the usual things like meeting a sweet dog on my walk or getting a visit by a butterfly in the garden. One is the fact that the Pfizer vaccine was approved by the FDA yesterday, which I hope will encourage more people to get vaccinated. The biggest thing is a resolution, of sorts, to something that has been causing me a lot of anxiety recently. You may remember that I was supposed to go back to work at the office two days a week. Last Wednesday, we had an office staff meeting (via Zoom) to discuss the logistics of the move back to the office. Part of the plan was that we'd be "hoteling," meaning almost no one would have their own dedicated office and that we'd instead reserve an office space for those days we'd be there physically. This would enable the entire staff to use a smaller physical space -- in the days before the pandemic, we had two locations. But at the meeting, a number of my coworkers expressed concern about returning. Quite a few of us have children who are still too young to be vaccinated, and one person said exactly what I was thinking: If it's been working so well for us to work remotely, why are we rushing back to being there in person when case numbers are starting to rise again? The "big boss," the head of the office, who I've always had great respect for, told us that she appreciated us sharing these concerns and while she couldn't respond to them right then and there, mainly because she needed to consult with others and didn't want to promise something she couldn't deliver, she was taking them to heart and would get back to us. On Friday morning, she sent out a response: For the time being, as long as we could complete our job duties successfully, we could continue to work remotely. That means I am not going back to the office until I'm required to! This is such a huge weight off my shoulders, and Rainbow is relieved as well because it means that I can pick her up at school every afternoon.

You know what else is making me happy? Using up scraps of yarn for a charity hat:

You saw the beginning of this hat last week, but it's grown quite a bit since then. I've completely improvised this hat but have been inspired by the construction of Ysolda's Musselburgh hat. I started with a circular cast on and increased out until I had the stitch count I wanted (128 stitches, I think?), and now I'm just knitting straight until I have the total length that I want before I decrease for the second crown. I'm holding two fingering-weight yarns together to get a roughly DK-weight gauge -- about 6 stitches per inch. One crown will be folded inside the other when it's done, so the finished hat will be a double thickness, and if the brim is folded up, it'll actually be a quadruple thickness. This has been my go-to project for while I've been in meetings or doing online training for work, and I think it will likely be finished this week. It was also what I worked on over the weekend, when Rainbow had a pre-school year get-together with some friends at a local park:

It was a hot day, but the Mister and I parked ourselves in some fold-out chairs in the shade and I worked on the hat and read a Kindle book while the girls talked and did gymnastics in the grass and took silly selfies.

I've got a bit of a crazy day tomorrow (I have an early morning dentist appointment and then a blood donation appointment late morning), but I will be back with an update on crafting and reading. I hope this week hold some good news for you!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Getting Closer to a Sweater

I know many of you are anxious to see me start knitting my handspun Shifty -- I'm pretty anxious to start it myself! But after all the work I did spinning the yarn, I'm not about to take any shortcuts, which means that some serious swatching has to come first. And before I could get to that point, I needed to get my yarn from twisted hank to "cake" form, so that is how I spent some of my afternoon. All six skeins are now wound and ready to go.

I'm also determined to get one more skein of handspun done by the end of the month, and as I haven't crossed any skeins off my Southern Cross Fibre club backlog list for a while (only two of the six sweater skeins were from before this year), I thought I'd spin not one but two bags of fiber. I had received a second bag of August 2018's shipment, Yesterday's Love on New Zealand Merino, and I thought it would be perfect for spinning an alternating chain-ply yarn. I'm spinning each bag of fiber onto its own bobbin first and am maybe between halfway and two-thirds of the way done with the first bobbin.

I'm sure most of you are mystified by what I mean by an alternating chain-ply, even those of you who spin! The truth is that I don't even know if that's the actual name for it or even if the method has a name. What I mean by it is that I'm going to create a faux four-ply yarn. I will have two bobbins of singles and start out as if I were chain-plying (essentially creating a long crochet chain and twisting it), but instead of just the one single, I'll be holding the other single alongside the loop. On top of that, when it's time to form a new loop, I'll alternate which bobbin I pull from. I am spinning the fiber from one end of the top to the other, and I checked to make sure that the colors did not line up in the two batches of fiber I have, so the colors -- pink, red, and deep purple -- should end up pretty well distributed. I am thinking that I will get something like a sport- or DK-weight yarn when all it's plied, though seeing as it's Merino, it could poof up in the finishing. I am not spinning this for a particular project, though, so however it ends up is fine by me. Here's hoping I can finish it in time -- it should give me a lot of meters for Stash Dash!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Baby's First Stripes

It turns out that when you focus on one project, it does get finished!

Pattern: Flax Light by Tin Can Knits, size 6-12 months
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon), OOAK colorway, 0.77 skeins (308 yards/281.6 meters)
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 2 (2.75 mm)
Started/Completed: August 2/August 18

As you can see, this wee baby sweater is still in need of a good blocking, but it's done, with fairly closely matching sleeves to boot. I started both sleeves in the exact same place in the stripe sequence, but I had to fudge things a little on the second sleeve to make them look almost identical. They are just the tiniest bit off, but I'm not too bothered by this and doubt anyone but me will notice.

The pattern is great -- well written, easy to follow -- and my only modification, if you can even call it that, was to pick up some additional stitches at the underarm when I started the sleeves to avoid holes. I decreased them away in the first few rounds. This is something I often do with top-down sweaters because there's always that gap when you change directions in knitting.

I haven't talked much about Stash Dash on the blog this year, but I have been keeping track of how much yarn I've used up or spun. In the true spirit of the event, I'm challenging no one but myself, and even that has been more casual this year. I didn't set a goal for myself at all but instead have been keeping a tally just to see what the number is. With the addition of this sweater, my current total stands at a bit more than 15,392 meters. It would be amazing to get to 20K, but if I don't, that's fine, too. The event ends at the end of this month, which is not a lot of time left, so we'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, I had the urge to start a new project yesterday but forced myself to finish the sweater first, so my reward for finishing was starting a new scrappy charity hat last night:

I had a good amount of the blue/gray variegated yarn, so I pulled some other grays and blues to hold with it and am knitting a marled, double-stranded hat. I decided to do a Musselburgh-style doubled beanie, but mine will be closer to DK weight thanks to the double stranding. The finished product should be a very warm hat for someone and will use up a bunch of scraps. And once I finish the increases, there should be a lot of stockinette in the round (I plan to switch over to a 16" circ then), which should be perfect for knitting while reading!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Unraveled, Week 33/2021

It's a dark, rainy Wednesday here as we are dealing with the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred. Kat is taking the week off from blogging and thus isn't hosting a link-up for Unraveled Wednesday, but I've been posting every Wednesday this year so far, and I'm not about to break my streak! Plus, I have quite a reading update, and as I expect to be back in the office at this time next Wednesday, it doesn't make sense to wait until next week.

I am focused today on finishing up that baby-sized Flax Light that I shared yesterday -- I've got a couple of inches left to knit on the first sleeve, so that doesn't seem like too big of a stretch. I can also report that while it isn't all that pretty, the stash is officially contained in its new home, the closet of what is now the guest/stash room:

The only things that aren't in the closet now are two bags that are in my bedroom, one containing some handspun that I've been slowly adding to Instagram for sale and one containing a fleece, which I've put there in the hopes that seeing it will inspire me to finish processing it so I can spin it (I am planning to spin for a Dissent Pullover).

Reading has been good this past week, and I've finished three books:

I had put Home Fire on hold at the library after Mary recommended it, and then it was mentioned on last week's episode of Novel Pairings about mythology-inspired titles, so it all felt very timely. This novel is a modern retelling of Antigone that focuses on three English siblings, children of Pakistani immigrants who were abandoned by their father and then orphaned when their mother died, leaving the two youngest children, twins, to be raised by their teenage older sister. They are grown when we meet them, but they are still grappling with their past and dealing with their connections to Islamic terrorism and conflicts within their Muslim community. It's a heartbreaking and moving book. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: An author of color

On that same episode of Novel Pairings, Sara and Chelsey mentioned Lovely War, which I'd never heard of but put on hold at the library right away. The main narrative of this book is set during World War I and follows two couples as they make their way through the war facing all sorts of challenges, but this story line is actually a story within a story: When the book opens, it's the middle of World War II, and Aphrodite and Ares have been caught in a tryst in a New York City hotel room by Aphrodite's husband, Hephaestus. The story of the two couples in WWI is told by Aphrodite in a trial overseen by her husband to explain why he has found her with Ares, and in fact the story reveals just how much love and war are intertwined. I listened to the audiobook, which uses music strategically to enhance the narrative. I'll admit that my attention wandered at some points, so the book was perhaps a little long for my taste, but I enjoyed it in general. I gave it 3 stars.
Bingo square: Story within a story

My final finish for the week was completed yesterday afternoon. I'd had The Rose Code in my to-read stack for the entire summer but only just got to it this month. This is definitely one of those books that, if I'd picked it up on vacation, I would have sped through in a day or two, but reading it before bedtime made it take much longer. The story takes place in two timelines, one during WWII and one in the days leading up to the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, and follows three women who all worked at Bletchley Park during the war. In the later timeline, one is falsely imprisoned in a mental hospital because of something that happened at Bletchley, and the wartime chapters slowly reveal why. This is a 600+-page book but didn't feel like it, and I really enjoyed the setting because I've been fascinated by the code-breaking efforts at Bletchley for quite a while. There's a very interesting author's note at the end that you must read, and she also gives a list of other books (both fiction and nonfiction) and TV shows and movies that tell more about Bletchley Park. I gave it 4 stars.
Bingo square: Color in the title

My second bingo card is filling up quickly, and I'm challenging myself to complete a second cover-all before Summer Book Bingo ends!

You can see that I already have one bingo (the right-most column), and I'm hoping to soon have a second (the fourth row). I am listening to the audiobook of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev and am, according to my Libby app, 64% through it. I also started The Illness Lesson last night after finding a copy of it in my neighborhood Little Free Library earlier this summer; I haven't yet added it to my card, but it's going in the "That you want to read because of the cover" square. That leaves me seven squares to fill, and I know what I'm reading for five of them for sure. Even if I don't manage to fill this card, I will for sure have done some excellent reading this summer!

How is your reading going this week?