Sunday, January 31, 2021

Plying Time

At the beginning of the week (or last week, depending on whether you think of Sunday as the first or last day of the week), I started spinning up a fiber sampler that has been in my stash for far too long. I never entered it into my fiber stash or even took a photo of the full box, so I have no idea when it was that I bought it. I actually lost it in my stash for a while, which I know sounds ridiculous, but it was in a white cardboard box that was identical to the boxes that some fiber club shipments had come in, and I'd saved those boxes for mailing, so I just assumed the box with this fiber sampler was one of those empties. But when Rainbow and I did our stash clean-out in December, I found it again and set it aside to spin.

This sampler is from HipStrings, one of my favorite fiber companies that also happens to be local to me. They are known for their interesting fiber blends, and I have never spun any of their fiber that wasn't perfectly prepped and thoughtfully blended. The sampler contains 1 oz. each of six different fiber blends all designed to represent something about Pittsburgh and its history. In addition to the fiber, the box contained a small photo album with images and cards explaining each fiber blend (or, more accurately, the inspiration behind each blend) and tags for each blend. I am spinning each blend on its own and chain-plying the singles. I thought I would do most of the spinning first, but now that I've filled all the slots on my lazy kate, it's time to ply:

Left to right here are Coal, Cathedral of Learning, Won't You Be My Neighbor, and Environmental. Once these are plied and skeined, I'll get to the last two blends (and I admit they're my favorites of the six, so I saved them for last). This time next week, I should have all six spun, plied, skeined, and washed, and I'll be able to share more about the blends and their names!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday Fiber Fun (2/2021)

The last time I did a Friday post, I shared how I felt in the dryer. I had such fun sharing that I thought I'd make Friday Fiber Fun an occasional series, and as I've posted every day this week, I figured I might as well make the week complete with a post today!

Today's fiber fun is my latest obsession: the scrappy marled hat. I've now finished four of these hats and don't feel bored of knitting them yet, so I imagine there will be still more to come from me. Knitting one of these hats isn't rocket science, especially if you've knit enough basic hats to be able to wing a beanie on your own, but I know not everyone is comfortable knitting without a pattern, and certainly the scrappy nature of these hats adds a level of complexity. So I'm going to give you my basic recipe below and also give you some tips to make knitting one of these hats easier and faster. These are great for charity knitting or when you're knitting for someone whose measurements you don't know.

The Scrappy Marled Hat: A Basic Recipe
To fit an average child (adult) head, with a bit of vertical slouch

Yarn: two strands of fingering, held together
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 6 (4.0 mm), or sizes needed to obtain gauge
Gauge: 20 stitches and 30 rounds = 4 in./10 cm in stockinette stitch in the round
Notions: one stitch marker, yarn needle to weave in ends

With two strands of yarn held together and smaller needles, cast on 96 (104) stitches. Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist, and place marker to indicate beginning of round. Work in 2x2 ribbing (k2, p2) for 1 in./2.5 cm. Change to larger needles and work in stockinette stitch (knit all stitches) until hat measures 5.5 (6) in./14 (15) cm or desired length to start of crown. 

Work crown decreases as follows:
Round 1: *K10 (11), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 88 (96) sts.
Round 2 (and all even rounds): K.
Round 3: *K9 (10), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 80 (88) sts.
Round 5: *K8 (9), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 72 (80) sts.
Round 7: *K7 (8), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 64 (72) sts.
Round 9: *K6 (7), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 56 (64) sts.
Round 11: *K5 (6), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 48 (56) sts.
Round 13: *K4 (5), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 40 (48) sts.
Round 15: *K3 (4), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 32 (40) sts.
Round 17: *K2 (3), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 24 (32) sts.
Round 19: *K1 (2), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 16 (24) sts.
Round 21: *K0 (1), k2tog; repeat from * to end -- 8 (16) sts. Child size ends here.
Round 23: (K2tog) around -- 8 sts.

Break yarn and thread it through 8 remaining stitches. Weave in ends on right side of fabric, then flip the hat inside out to show the reverse stockinette, or weave in ends on inside if you want your stockinette side to show. Block as desired.

Now, the tips!

First of all, if you're planning to flip the hat inside out and you want your cast-on edge to look the same, cast on using an alternating long-tail cast on. This video shows how to do it with a 1x1 rib. I do the same thing, but I cast on two stitches knitwise, then two stitches purlwise.

Next, an easy way to join your scraps: If you're using up lots of little bits of leftovers, you're going to end up with a lot of ends to deal with, and not many of us really likes weaving in ends. So when I knit these hats, I join in new scraps using the clasped weft join. This is actually a technique used in weaving, but it comes in handy in knitting as well and it's a way to avoid having any extra ends to weave in. If you've ever done a Russian join, then this will seem similar to you, but it's much faster and easier. First, when you get to about the last foot of one of your strands, fold it back on itself and place the end between your needles and poking out at you:

You'll now continue to knit a few more stitches, but now you'll be holding three strands together rather than two (don't worry, the extra bulk is totally not noticeable in the knit fabric). When you have just a small loop of the double yarn left, thread the new yarn through it and double it back on itself in the opposite direction:

Continue to knit, holding all the strands together. When the tail of the new strand pokes out, you can just trim it off (I recommend trimming off all the ends after blocking). If you'd like to see a video of this join, here is one showing it in the context of a sock using a single strand of yarn, but the method is exactly the same here. Using this join as you add in new scraps means that when you finish, the only ends you actually have to weave in are from the cast on and bind off.

Finally, the same methods used here can be used for an easy cowl! Do the ribbing, work in stockinette until it's about an inch shorter than the total desired length, do another inch of ribbing, and bind off -- easy peasy!

I hope these basic instructions and tips will help you look at your scraps in a new way!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Three Sweaters

I've been having a really hard time keeping track of what day it is this week, so I'm very thankful for the Three on Thursday posts for the reminder today! I'm linking up with Carole and friends with three sweaters I'd like to make this year (note that all the links below go to Ravelry pattern pages).

1. Ramona Cardigan by Elizabeth Smith
I did a combo spin a couple of years ago and am hoping to use that yarn for this sweater, though whether I have enough yardage for it is debatable. The sweater is at least knit top down, so I will likely knit to the split for the body and sleeves, make sure the sleeves are long enough, and then see how long I can make the body. It might end up being a cropped cardigan, which would be okay.

2. Threipmuir by Ysolda Teague
This one I definitely have enough yarn for. I'll be knitting it in Fibernymph Dye Works Ridgetop Fingering, a non-superwash blend of Romney and Falkland, using Peacock (blue) for the main color and Lime (green) and Wisp (silvery gray) for the colorwork.

3. Kerrytown by Annie Lupton
I have some deep stash (as in bought before Rainbow was born) Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK in a deep teal set aside for this sweater. I originally bought it for a different pattern, but I didn't end up using it before I got pregnant and my body totally changed, and that pattern no longer appeals to me. I have more than enough yarn for the size I'll be making, so I plan to make the sleeves full length.

I've got sweaters on the brain today because I'm about to head out for my walk, and the current feels-like temp with windchill is about 8 degrees F. I'll be wearing all the wool today!

Check back here tomorrow for my marled hat recipe!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Unraveled, Week 4/2021

We've reached the final Wednesday of January, and here's hoping it's the least dramatic of the four! I am joining with Kat and the Unravelers today to talk about WIPs and reading.

I should be working on projects that were started earlier, but what did I do yesterday? I'm sure you can guess -- I cast on another marled scrap hat.

This one is using the remains of a skein of Noro Kureyon Sock (a completely terrible yarn for socks, by the way, but brilliant for this use) and a skein of Murky Depths Dyeworks Deep Sock in a colorway called It's Complicated that is a deep charcoal, almost black, with the slightest hint of blue here and there. The combination of the two has me swooning; I just might keep this hat for myself.

Keeping me excellent company while I've been churning out these marled hats have been some good books thanks to my library hold list. I keep getting surprised by books being available despite being told just before that I have a two-week wait -- I even had to put off a book for a week (love that I can do that!) because I already had two checked out when it came up! Since last Wednesday, I've finished two books, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish a third today.

Yaa Gyasi's second novel, Transcendent Kingdom, has shown up on a lot of best-of and award lists from last year, and there's a good reason for that -- it's an excellent book. The main character, Gifty, is a doctoral student in neuroscience contemplating the conflict between what science tells us about the brain and human existence and what the Pentecostal church she grew up in tells her about human nature. In less than 300 pages, Gyasi manages to tackle, with beautiful writing, this conflict as well as issues related to mental illness, addiction, the dissolution of a family, the struggles of being an immigrant and a minority, racism, and loss. It was a treat to read, well worth the time I waited, and a book I could have easily read in one sitting if I'd had the time. 5 stars!

 The House in the Cerulean Sea is a book that I know a number of you have read and recommended. It's a little hokey and certainly a book where the moral message -- all beings have value, no matter how "different" they may seem -- is very obvious, but that doesn't take away from the joy. It's a lovely read, especially in these dark times. I waffled between giving it 3 or 4 stars, mainly because I knew exactly where the story was going from about 50 pages in, but in the end I decided it was worth 4 because it was such a feel-good read.

I'm currently reading (and hoping to finish today) Fredrik Bachman's most recent book, Anxious People. I started it yesterday after lunch and have already gotten more than halfway through it, so provided my work email inbox cooperates, I shouldn't have much trouble. If you enjoy Bachman's books, I think you'll like this one -- it seems very typical of his writing style and characterization (and likewise if you find his books annoying, you probably won't like this one). Once I finish, I'll be starting another library book, one that I checked out but didn't get to start because The House in the Cerulean Sea came it about an hour later (and I figured I should read it first because it has a long wait list). I've been meaning to read The New Jim Crow for several months, and while it'll be very different from what I've been reading, I think it will be a good one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Officially Obsessed

If you've read this blog long enough, then you know I'm typically not one to jump on a bandwagon. It's rare for me to knit that sweater that everyone is knitting or buy the yarn that everyone's talking about. That's not to say that it never happens, it's just rare. But in the past week I've been bitten by the marled scrappy hat bug, and I'm not sorry.

These three charity hats have all been knit since last Wednesday, when I started the first while watching the inauguration. You'd think I'd have gotten the urge to do this out of my system with the first hat, but I found myself casting on the next one as soon as it was finished and did it again with the second and third. The only thing that's kept be from starting another is that my elbow was hurting a bit, so I decided to take a brief break just in case it was the hat knitting that was causing it.

There are number of patterns out there for hats like this, but I just did my own thing because I've knit enough hats to be able to knit a basic beanie without a pattern. I know that's not the case for everyone, so I'll be sharing my basic recipe later this week if you'd like to use it (though certainly there are many other basic hat patterns out there, and any one will do the job, so I'm under no delusion that mine is anything special). 

What makes these hats so fun is the color play that comes from using up scraps. These hats were all knit using bits of leftover fingering weight sock yarn held double. The wilder the color combination, the more fun the hat seems to be. The first two hats used leftovers of Knit Picks Felici exclusively. The third, which was completed yesterday, used a strand of ONline Supersocke self-patterning yarn and scraps of two semisolid Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply leftover from my Color Affection (I used up all the light pink and part of the purple). You know what the best part is? These three hats, which all took me only a couple of days each to knit, used up a whopping 864 yards of scrap yarn. I'm going to have to remember these when Stash Dash rolls around again this year.

All the hats were intended to be worn with the reverse stockinette side out, but someone on Ravelry asked what they look like the other way, and I guess technically if you weave in your ends really neatly, they can be considered reversible. But here's what they look like as knit (I've been knitting them in stockinette and turning them inside out after weaving in my ends):

You can definitely see the self-patterning yarn more on the third hat, and I don't think the scraps blend as well this way, but whoever ends up with this hat can decide how they want to wear it! I'm thinking about adding some cowls to the mix, using the same method, and maybe some mittens. That 800+ yards of yarn used has hardly made a dent in the bag of leftovers, but I'm certainly feeling better about my pack rat tendencies now that I see I can do something good with the bits of yarn I never could bring myself to throw away.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Balance in 2021: January

No, your eyes are not deceiving you -- I really am posting on a Monday! Carolyn is graciously hosting our One Little Word link-ups this year, and as she's posting her reflections on the last Monday of the month, I thought I might as well follow suit. If I can manage it, I might just post every day this week! That's my intention, anyway.

We still have a week of January left, but it's been quite a month in the three weeks that have already passed, so I feel that more than enough time has gone by to reflect on it. There of course have been some pretty big goings-on in the country that I won't rehash here, but there have also been changes at home. Rainbow started out the year with school back to being virtual, in part to give those who might have traveled over the winter break longer to self-isolate without having to miss any instruction. She was certainly perfectly happy about that because she could sleep a little later and didn't have to dress in her full uniform. But on January 11, she went back to school in person, and this meant a shift in my daily schedule. I am still trying to get in my hour (or so)-long walk every day, but now in addition to working that in around work meetings, I also have to keep an eye on the clock so that I can pick her up at 3 every day. Most days, that means getting out for my walk in the morning (I'll be heading out for today's walk shortly after I post this, in fact). While later in the day might be more comfortable for me because it might be a few degrees warmer in the afternoon, I'm finding that I'm really enjoying doing my exercise in the morning and, in many cases, hitting my daily step goal by midday. This shift in schedule also means that I am not sitting for too long in a stretch at any time of the day, and I have a really good rhythm going of times of activity alternating with times of rest.

I've also made a couple of schedule changes this month that seem to be working out much better for doing some daily tasks consistently. One is my (almost) daily strengthening exercises. For the past couple of years, I've done things like crunches and pushups and planks just about every evening to build up my core strength. Usually I'd do them after dinner and brushing my teeth in the evening, but I've recently shifted to trying to do them when I get back from my daily walk, before I jump in the shower. For one thing, I'm already in workout mode, so it feels natural. But it's also meant that I do these exercises more consistently, because I've been known to skip them some nights because I'm tired or full from a big dinner or just feel like I can't be bothered. I'll still occasionally skip a day if I'm not feeling well or if something's hurting, but this feels like a good practice. I have also adjusted my journaling time to allow for a more relaxed writing period. I used to write in my journal just before crawling into bed to read before lights out. This timing meant I often felt pressured to write quickly (and, thus, incompletely) because I wanted to get to the reading. Instead, I'm now writing earlier in the evening, while Rainbow does her nightly reading for pleasure. She's taken to coming to sit with us in our bedroom to do that, which means I can't yet turn on the TV and take up my knitting. So it's the perfect time to pull out my journal. I don't necessarily write more every night, but there have been plenty of nights when I have, and I no longer feel like I'm writing against the clock. In turn, that's made for a more meaningful experience.

So I'd say that I'm doing a decent job of finding balance in my life thus far, but it's something I also feel like I have to continuously work on to be effective at it.

How about my 21 in 2021 list? I'm planning to check in on it each month along with my One Little Word.

When I set up the list, it was done with the full understanding that I was not going to cross off all the items in the first few months of the year and with the hope that I'd cross off one or two each month. January started out well in this regard. Rainbow and I baked challah on New Year's Day, so I was able to check off the very first item off the list. I also spun the oldest fiber in my stash this month, and I've been making excellent progress on making five items for charity (which I'll share tomorrow). So it looks like I'll end the month with definitely two and maybe three items crossed off the list. Not a bad start!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Poof! There It Is

I promised a Polwarth Poof in this post, and I hope I will not disappoint! I plied the entire skein over several spinning sessions last Thursday and then skeined and washed the yarn on Friday. By yesterday morning, after resting on the radiator overnight (one good thing about the winter cold), it was dry and nicely poofed.

I was very pleased with how the colors stayed together -- my primary reason for chain-plying the yarn. I don't think my photos do the colors justice, to be honest. They're quite saturated and dimensional, but capturing them accurately with my camera is difficult. Perhaps if I was a better photographer, I'd do a better job of conveying just how talented David of Southern Cross Fibre is with his dyeing talents. (Really click on that link to see. His photography is much better than mine.)

The only thing about this yarn that I'm not as pleased with is the yardage. I knew the skein would shrink when it was washed -- we all know that when things get wider, they also get shorter, so the poofing up in the thickness of the yarn would mean a corresponding shortening of the length. While I succeeded in getting a yarn that's fingering weight after washing, it shrank up from about 72 inches around to closer to about 56 inches. That is quite a difference! So my finished skein is only about 280 yards for 110 g (just a smidge less than 4 oz.), when the normal yardage for that amount of fingering weight would typically be in the neighborhood of 350-400 yards. Handspun is often denser than commercial yarn, particularly worsted-spun handspun, so I'm not entirely surprised, but I was hoping for more than 300 yards.

Here's the side by side so you can get a sense of how the yarn poofs up in the finishing. On the left in the above photo is the yarn before it was washed. You can see that it looks a little limp and has some active twist in it (that's why the yarn looks kind of wavy). On the right is after washing. I know it's not terribly dramatic; that's mainly because the plying was pretty tight. But you can see that the yarn is noticeably plumper and even the angle of the ply twist looks a bit steeper. While in my experience all handspun yarns do benefit from a wash after plying (and several snaps of the skein to even out the twist), they don't all change this much. The shrinkage in this skein means that it's very elastic and bouncy, and of course it's extremely squishy if you give it a squeeze. I didn't have anything in mind for this skein, so now I'm just admiring it while I decide what to spin next!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Three Things Making Me Smile

I mean, aside from the obvious. Yesterday was such a beautiful day, but it was also an emotional one. I'll admit that as excited as I was to see it come, I was also feeling a bit on edge the whole time. It had only been two weeks since all the violence at the Capitol, and there was so much talk of all the extra security that I didn't feel completely okay until it was over without incident. I recorded the whole thing for Rainbow, although she did end up getting to watch parts of it at school, and we plan to watch it again this weekend. I'm hoping that the second time around, I won't ugly cry.

So this morning, I woke up without the feeling of impending doom that I've had for the past 4+ years, and it was a strange feeling. All the executive orders issues yesterday and watching the first press conference also had me feeling like I was in some alternate reality. I think it says a lot about just how awful the last administration was that hearing about acts of decency and honesty seem so foreign to us. You know what else is weird? Feeling happy about normal things again -- not because I'm forcing myself to look for things to be happy about! I've decided to share three of them for today's Three on Thursday post.

1. The colors of Inauguration Day
I have always looked forward to see what people (well, really the women) are wearing on Inauguration Day. Because the day always falls at what seems like the most depressing part of the winter, I am always cheered by the colors. Dr. Biden, Vice President Harris, Michelle Obama, and Hilary Clinton, among others, did not disappoint yesterday. I'm sure you've seen the photos and video many places, but you may not have seen this brilliant act of marketing on Instagram from Neighborhood Fiber Co. where they pulled yarn combinations to perfectly match all the outfits (even Bernie's mittens that were all over social media yesterday!).

I'd encourage you to click over and look at all the slides on the first two posts, if only just to see the gorgeous outfits again (and I claim no responsibility if some yarn happens to fall into your cart in the process).

2. Amanda Gorman's beautiful poetry
I'm sure many of you were equally awed by this talented young woman yesterday and by her beautiful words. Her poem, "The Hill We Climb," seemed so perfect for the moment -- and didn't you just love how she started by addressing the president and vice president and their spouses and emphasizing Dr. Biden and Vice President Harris? You can read a transcript of the poem here, and you can also preorder a printed copy (the publication date is currently set for September, but I'm wondering if they just might speed that up after yesterday!). I've ordered by copy from my local bookstore.

3. The start of what may be a new obsession
I did cast on a new hat yesterday while watching the ceremony and am officially obsessed. It's just a plain hat, with a 2x2 ribbed brim and a stockinette body, but combining self-striping sock yarn scraps is so much fun. I'm planning to turn the hat inside out when I'm done so that the reverse stockinette shows, because I think this view is so much more interesting!

This hat is all leftover Knit Picks Felici sock yarn, and so far I'm using leftovers from two pairs of socks I knit Rainbow in the past. This hat will go in the charity pile, and I have a feeling I'll be making a bunch more like it!

Here's to a happy end of the week! Thanks as always to Carole for hosting us for these weekly link-ups.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

It's a Beautiful Day: Unraveled, Week 3/2021

Good morning, friends! I don't know about you but I have been waiting for this day for a very long four years. I kept waking up super early this morning -- I can't remember the last time I actually looked forward to my alarm going off! I was able to get Rainbow up fairly quickly this morning, too, I think because she couldn't wait to get into our matching outfits:

We're even wearing the same pants! I've discovered that I can fit into a teen size of the joggers she really likes from Target, so now we can really do twinning right. She was planning on wearing her shirt under her uniform polo shirt to school today, but she came home all excited yesterday because they were told today would be a dress-down day. They didn't say that the girls would be able to watch the inauguration at school, though, so we're recording it so we can watch together tonight.

It's Wednesday, so I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about crafting and reading.

My projects haven't changed much since yesterday, although I did spend a good amount of time on Rainbow's socks yesterday and just have to finish up a toe to have a finished pair. Once that is done, I've decided to do a little charity knitting in honor of the incoming administration, so I've pulled out the big bag of fingering weight scraps to do some scrappy hats. When I say big bag, this is what I mean:

It's hard to get a true sense of scale but I can tell you that this bag is about 18 inches tall and was stuffed to the gills. I plan on holding two strands of fingering weight together (to make roughly a DK) and adding an additional strand every time one runs out.

Reading has been excellent this past week. I've finished three books since my Unraveled post last week, and they were all 4-star reads for me:

James McBride's The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

I read three of McBride's novels last year and was amazed and impressed by his ability to create such vibrant and unusual characters. Now I understand that his unusual childhood was a large reason why. He was raised as one of 12 children by his mother and step-father, having never met his biological father (his mother was pregnant with him when his father died). His mother always said she was "light skinned," but it wasn't until McBride was older that he discovered she was raised as an Orthodox Jew, the daughter of a rabbi and a Polish immigrant. I listened to the audiobook, which alternates chapters "read" by McBride and his mother telling their respective stories.

Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance during the Blitz

I know many of you read and loved this book, so I won't be telling you anything new, but it is a wonderful read and I learned so much by reading it. Books about history have a tendency to be slow and dull, but this one is neither. It took me a while to read it, but only because it is long and I wanted to read slowly enough to take it all in. I'm definitely going to be reading more of Larson's books in the future!

Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind is the next Read With Us selection, and I was lucky enough to not have to wait too long to get it from the library. It's a very strange book, but strange in a way that invites a lot of thought and is great for a discussion. I'd encourage you to read the synopsis but don't write it off completely if it doesn't sound like something you'd normally read. It wasn't really what I thought of as "my" kind of book, but I really enjoyed it, despite how unsettled it made me feel. I'm really looking forward to discussing it with the group!

I am starting to suspect that the library/Libby app knows when you're a reader who typically returns books early and rewards you by shortening your wait time, because despite the app telling me I had three more weeks to wait, I was surprised by a notification that Transcendent Kingdom was available for me to borrow yesterday morning! I started reading it last night and am already something like 22% through it, so I expect I'll be able to finish it up before the end of the week. It's really good so far.

It looks like things are about to get started on the Capitol, so I am signing off for the day. I wish you a good day today, hope for things to improve, and (as always) projects and books that make you happy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

It Was Still a Monday

I had really hoped that yesterday would be a good, relaxing day off, but it was a still a Monday, if you know what I mean, and so despite my hopes and plans, things did not pan out as I expected.

Case in point: Rainbow wanted to bake challah again, in part because she really likes having it for breakfast. So we figured out how to make half the recipe that we used last time so that we'd end up with just one big loaf instead of two, and we also discovered the with the smaller amount, the mixer can handle the dough just fine and do our kneading for us. We were delighted with how our loaf came out and were just waiting for it to finish its second rise in a slightly warmed oven before we could bake it.

And then the Mister came home from a bike ride and decided that he was going to heat up a couple of slices of leftover pizza for lunch. Now most people would probably do that in the toaster oven rather than use the energy of the big oven. Most people, knowing that their family was baking bread that day, might think to check the big oven if they were going to be using it. But the Mister is not most people. He is a smart guy and I love him dearly, but sometimes common sense escapes him. He went right to turning on the big oven, where this lovely braid was rising under a cover of plastic wrap. I think you can figure out what happened. When I asked him where he thought the bread was rising, he said the refrigerator. The refrigerator! Sigh. To his credit, he went to the supermarket to buy a loaf of challah so Rainbow could have the breakfast she was so looking forward to, but now it's clear to me that I need to be super obvious about what is going on in the kitchen. And at least I've learned that the half recipe works well and can do it again (I might do it on Friday if I have time), but I feel bad about the wasted time and ingredients.

My knitting has not been going much better, and I'm starting to wonder if it's just all the underlying stress that is making my brain not fire at 100%. I cast on for my Adventuresome Wrap (Ravelry link) on Thursday and have screwed it up so many times I've lost count. In most cases I've tinked back to fix the errors, but one was a missed decrease several rows back that I just decided to add in when I noticed and live with.

It's clear that the speckled minis are going to have much less contrast with the pale gray that's the main color in between the stripes, but I think it will be a nice effect overall. Now that I've finally gotten through a stripe successfully, I'm hoping it's not too hard to replicate it.

One benefit of that four-hour Zoom session on Friday was that I was able to knit through it and finished the first of Rainbow's new pair of ankle socks. I cast on for the second over the weekend and was knitting away on it while she and I did a FaceTime call with my mother yesterday afternoon, and then I realized that I'd forgotten to switch to ribbing on the sole after I finished the gusset and had to rip out about an inch of knitting.

At least in this case I know I can make up that time fairly quickly and that these socks will be perfect to work on while reading -- I have a new library book to start today!

The one bright spot in my crafting over the holiday weekend was a quick little crochet project. Rainbow wanted to try some basic techniques so she can eventually make some amigurumi projects, so I taught her to do a magic circle and increase in rounds. We were working on our own projects side by side, and when she lost interest, I carried on with any idea I wanted to try out. About an hour later, I had this little guy:

It was meant to be a pierogi, but it could also pass as a Cornish pasty or an empanada. I know my embroidery leaves a lot to be desired, but it's pretty cute, don't you think? I'm glad at least one thing went right this weekend!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Spin to Savor

Normally by almost 8:30 on a Sunday evening, I'd be tucked up in bed with my knitting, waiting for my PBS program to start. Tonight, however, I am just sitting down to type up a quick blog post. It's been a heck of a weekend, and I'm thankful that I am off tomorrow because it means I'll finally have a day that will feel like a weekend. I had such a busy end to my work week, culminating in a four-hour Zoom session Friday morning that prevented me from doing actual work and resulted in me having to catch up on that work this afternoon. So needless to say, I do not have a finished skein of handspun to share this Sunday, though I started a new spin earlier in the week and for a while thought I might have it finished up in a matter of days.

While the stress of work is something I could do without, the fact that it's forced me to take things slowly with this spin is not entirely a bad thing. I'm spinning this gorgeous Polwarth from Southern Cross Fibre:

I briefly entertained the idea of doing a fractal spin with this, but in the end I could not bear to mix up these gloriously saturated colors, so I am spinning the fiber from end to end and will chain-ply the singles.

Polwarth is probably my favorite wool breed to spin. It's the result of crossing Merino and Lincoln sheep; while you're likely very familiar with Merino, let me tell you that if you've ever encountered Lincoln wool, it's likely been in something like a carpet. I have spun it and it gave me the willies because it felt like spinning human hair, and it's generally not used for anything worn next to the skin. But cross-breeding resulted in a soft wool with a slightly longer staple length than Merino, and it's an absolute delight to spin. I am consciously spinning my singles very fine because there's this thing called the Polwarth poof: When you wash Polwarth yarn, it has a tendency to poof up dramatically. So you might put a skein in to soak thinking you have fingering and wind up with DK or worsted weight. I am hoping to get fingering with this spin, but I've been fooled before. Regardless, I'm about 2/3 of the way done with the singles, and I'm hoping I can spin up the last of the fiber in the next day or two. If I can remember, I will take before and after photos of the yarn so you can see the poof!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

A New Chance for Good Habits

I long ago realized that it was pointless for me to make new year's resolutions, both because they're so easily broken and because the start of the new year, like any measure of time, is largely arbitrary. Over the past decade or so, I've had more luck with building good habits, and while that practice can start any time, sometimes an artificial marker like starting a new calendar year can feel like as good a time as any to look at the habits I've been building and make adjustments. So for this Three on Thursday, I'm linking up with Carole and friends to look at strengthening some habits I've made and working on a new one.

1. Getting in my 10,000 steps every day
Much like the start of the new year, the 10K milestone is someone arbitrary. My goal is to keep my body moving and to aim for at least 10,000 steps a day, as measured by my Fitbit. When the pandemic started and we were all staying at home, I found that I not only looked forward to getting out to exercise every day (because it was my one chance to leave the house) but that the daily physical activity did a huge amount toward relieving my stress and anxiety. I have tried to get out for a walk or a run every day, with working from home giving me more flexibility because I'm not running to and from work and home and school. I can take my "lunch break" whenever I want, as long as I'm around for my twice-weekly team meetings, and that's been enabling me to keep this practice up. Over the last 10 months or so, there have certainly been days I didn't hit the mark because I was feeling under the weather or had hurt something, but in 2020 I averaged 13,622 steps daily, and as of yesterday, I'm on a 107-day streak of 10,000 steps per day or more. What matters to me more than those numbers is how I feel, which is less stressed, stronger, and less anxious. This is a habit I want to make permanent if I can, so when things return to "normal," I will have to examine my schedule and figure out where to fit it in.

2. Daily journaling
Another practice I started near the start of the pandemic was a (nearly) daily reflection in my journal. I missed a few days in the first several months, but now I've gotten into the swing of things and it's become a cherished daily habit. I recently made a slight change to this habit that's made it an easier one to keep going. I know many of you start out your day with your journal, but for me it works best to do my daily entry at night so I can reflect on the day that just was. For much of last year I was doing this right before bed, and often I felt like I needed to do it quickly so I could get as much time as possible to read before turning in for the night. But I've now started writing a bit earlier in the evening, and that's given me more time to write and really reflect. Rainbow also enjoys reading before bed, and lately she's been bringing her book into our room so she can hang out with us. That means I can't turn on the TV yet, so I figured it would be the perfect time to pull out the journal. It is working really well, and I can't believe I didn't think of doing it months ago.

3. Charity knitting
You may remember that one of my 21 in 2021 items is to knit at least five items for charity, and in general I want to make it a habit this year to regularly knit items to donate. The sisterhood of my synagogue has been collecting hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, socks, etc., so now I have a place I can donate and no excuse for not doing it. I've got a little pile of items all ready to go:

I knit the two hats on the left a couple of years ago, and they've just been sitting in my stash. Then there are two pairs of socks I knit for Rainbow that she's outgrown, and they hardly look like they've been warm and are both very sturdy. Finally there's the hat and mittens set I knit last month. After last month's stash reorganization, I have a ton of partial skeins that will be perfect for hats and mittens, plus I have a big bag of sock yarn scraps that would make fun scrappy socks, so using those up for charity items will both be doing a good deed and helping to clear out some space in my stash.

Finally, although this isn't so much a new habit as a bit of a new tradition, I've been trying to make myself a cup of tea to end the day during the week. By the time I pick Rainbow up from school, get her settled with a snack, and clean out her lunch stuff, it's usually around 3:30, so I make a cup of tea that is usually cooled off enough to sip through the last hour of the workday. I have always been a tea drinker, but as I've been able to stomach coffee again, I've been drinking less. Since we've been home, however, I've been drinking more as a kind of treat. I've ordered several varieties of loose tea from Plum Deluxe, both black/caffeinated and herbal, and I have several infusers I use. I even cleaned out a shelf of my spice cabinet so that it's now almost totally devoted to teas! My current favorite is Spice of Life Hot Cinnamon Spice -- it's the perfect warming thing to sip on a damp, cold day. If you'd like to give it or any of their teas a try, I can offer you this referral code: REFZMJXKFEWFA (full disclosure: I get free tea if you order a certain amount -- but feel free not to use it; I think their teas are wonderful and would recommend them even if I didn't get anything from referring you!).

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Unraveled, Week 2/2021

Doesn't it seem like it's been more than a week since last Wednesday? When that day started, none of us had any inkling of the drama that would unfold later that day. But life goes on, as it does, and I haven't stopped knitting and reading, so I'm once again joining Kat and the Unravelers to talk about both.

I am still working on Rainbow's Little Boxy, though I haven't touched it in the past several days, so it's not worth showing you -- it doesn't look much different from the last time you saw it! I did start a new project yesterday, though, a new pair of ankle socks for Rainbow/design sample. She is all about shortie socks these days, and I have no complaint about that because it means less knitting for her ever-growing feet.

This may look like handspun, but in fact it is not! This is some very cool yarn from Brooke at Fully Spun that Rainbow picked out at the last Indie Knit & Spin (back in November 2019). This is a marled fingering weight superwash Merino/nylon blend that mimics handspun. It doesn't look like she currently has any in stock, sadly, because it's very cool stuff. I am nearly finished with the heel flap and hope to get through the heel turn at some point today because I have a synagogue committee Zoom meeting tonight and could use some fairly mindless knitting to get me through it.

I have finished one book since last week:

was responsible for putting Monogamy on my radar, and it didn't have a really long wait at the library, so I thought I'd give it a try. It didn't hook me right away (in fact, I was thinking I wasn't going to like it much on the basis of the first few chapters), but I liked it more and more as I read more. It's definitely a book without a lot of action in that not very much actually happens in the book. Rather, it's one that is pretty much all about the character's thoughts and feelings -- and thoughts about those feelings. Miller does a really good job of fleshing out her characters, and they really come off the page. I wouldn't call it a must read, but it's good if you like this sort of book. I gave it 4 stars.

I am currently in the middle of two books that I am hoping to finish before the week is out. With my eyes, I am reading The Splendid and the Vile, which is just as good as everyone has told me it is but certainly isn't a quick read. And with my ears I'm reading The Color of Water, James McBride's memoir about his childhood and his mother's fascinating life. I heard about this book from the What Should I Read Next podcast, and it intrigued me because I read three of McBride's books last year and really enjoyed them. I normally prefer reading with my eyes to audiobooks, but in this case the audio really works because the book alternates chapters, with McBride narrating one and his mother the next, and the audio has two readers. I was amazed by his imagination in coming up with some of the characters in his books, but now I am seeing that his extraordinary early life gave him a lot to draw from!

Looking forward to hearing what you're reading and working on!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

I Can Stop Anytime I Want

I have to start this post by saying that I am really happy it's Tuesday. Mondays are never my favorite, but yesterday was a doozy. Rainbow went back to in-person school yesterday morning for the first time since before Thanksgiving, and because the school had had them bring all their stuff home to do virtual class in December, she had a fully stuffed backpack plus two full tote bags to take in with her. I guess that was too much to keep track of, because about three minutes after she and the Mister drove off, I noticed that she'd forgotten her lunch, so I called him and they had to circle back to retrieve it. As if that wasn't enough, around the same time, we got an automated phone call from the water company letting us know that they were doing work in our area and we might experience low water pressure or total loss of service. "Might experience" turned into about five hours of no water (and I have to say that from what I could see when I went to pick Rainbow up from school, it didn't look like they'd done anything). Thankfully the switch-off happened while I was on my walk, after I'd already had coffee and breakfast and brushed my teeth, but there's nothing like knowing that you don't have water to make you constantly feel like you have to pee! I also didn't get to shower until about 2:15, so I was in my workout clothes most of the day. At least I didn't have to go to the office!

Knitting was pretty crucial to maintaining my sanity yesterday. In between checking the faucet, I worked on my second Bousta Beanie (yes, you read that correctly), and I finished it up last night:

The first hat, the one on the right here, was finished and blocked last week, and I so enjoyed knitting it, I decided to do another with the leftover yarn and the colors reversed. The latest one, on the left, obviously has not been blocked yet, but you might be able to tell that it's a bit smaller than the first. The first one fits me but has a little room, and because the natural yarn was a bit thinner than the dyed yarn, I thought I'd go down a needle size when using it as the main color. It's a snug fit on me but likely will relax a bit in blocking. Rainbow had asked if I'd make her a hat and I'd intended to give her one of these, but she tried on the first one and said it was a little too scratchy for her, so I guess I need to use some merino for hers and find another recipient for one of these (or, I suppose, just keep them both for myself). I still have some of both yarns leftover, though not nearly enough for another hat. I am tempted to raid my stash for partial skeins of fingering and see what color combinations I can come up with, but I also should probably move on to another project. Right?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

From Deep, Deep Stash

One of the items in my 21 in 2021 list was "Spin the oldest fiber in my stash." This week, I did just that.

I started spinning in 2008. At the time, there weren't a lot of indie fiber dyers -- even indie-dyed yarn was still a rarity. My first few spins were things that I found at my LYS at the time. It wasn't very long, though, before I started looking for dyed fiber on Etsy and found my first fiber love, AllSpunUp. I am linking to Kristin's shop not so that you can buy from her (because sadly she stopped dyeing -- or at least selling her dyed fiber online -- a while ago) but so that you can look at what she's sold and get a sense of her skill. If you look at the handspun section of my Ravelry notebook and scroll back toward the beginning, you'll see a lot of ASU spins. Most of what I bought was spun pretty quickly, though I have a number of braids still in the stash from after she got really popular and it became harder to get her fiber, thus making that stash precious. This braid, however, was purchased on December 13, 2008, and I'd never gotten around to it.

Once or twice I contemplated spinning it; at some point I'd divided it into thirds, and I guess I thought I would card it into rolags at one point, because I found two of them in the bag. I never got further than that, though, and I suppose because it was superwash BFL (not necessarily my favorite fiber to spin) and kind o of boring in its colors (just tones of one color), it wasn't a priority. But there wasn't anything wrong with it, and good fiber deserves to be spun! So my spinning this week was focused on doing just that.

I know that with BFL I tend to get lower yardage than with other wools (I suppose it's just denser), so even though the fiber had been split into thirds, I decided to spin a two-ply yarn to maximize the yardage. The easiest way to do that and to ensure zero waste was to spin all the singles onto a single bobbin, wind them off into a center-pull ball, and ply from both ends.

It ended up being a very quick spin -- I spun the singles on Tuesday and Wednesday and plied on Thursday, and then on Friday I skeined and washed the yarn. I'm very pleased with how well distributed the different shades of blue are throughout the skein.

As predicted, the yardage was a bit lower than I'd usually get for the amount of fiber, just 293 yards of two-ply fingering. But I'm still happy with how it looks and thrilled to have finally converted this very well-aged fiber into yarn!

Friday, January 08, 2021

Friday Fiber Fun

At the beginning of this week, I intended to post something every day. It's something I do occasionally, and I thought it would be fun for the first full week of the new year. Yesterday, though, I just couldn't. While I was not completely surprised by what I saw happening at the Capitol on Wednesday, I was still completely disturbed by it, and I hope it truly shocked some Americans who didn't see it coming.

After taking a day to reflect on it, I have decided that a little thing I can do in the face of such outrage is just continue to live my life, fully and unapologetically, and to find joy and pleasure where I can. Obviously, if you're reading this blog, then you know that my fiber pursuits bring me a lot of joy. So I thought I'd do a special Friday post about some fiber fun, something I may do from time to time in the future.

Today I want to share how I felt in the dryer -- well, technically, I'm fulling in the dryer (felting is done with fibers, fulling with fabric), but most people don't know the difference. This is the final step in finishing the two pairs of Snow Day Mittens I've knit in the past month or so. Many people do this process in the washing machine, but there are a number of reasons why you might want to do it in a dryer:

  • You have a front-loading washing machine. Felting/fulling isn't an exact science, so often you have to stop the cycle and check your item's progress. That's something easily done with a top-loading machine, but most front loaders have a lock to prevent you from opening the door mid-cycle, and even if you can pause the cycle, that usually means draining the water and then restarting, which totally defeats the purpose of using less water with a front loader. By doing it in the dryer, you can stop the machine as often as you like without a risk of flooding and without having to wait for a cycle to finish.
  • You don't want to clog up your pipes. One bit of advice that's often given about fulling or felting in the washer is to put your item into a pillowcase or other bag to catch all the fuzz that comes off of it as it's being washed. That fuzz can easily clog your pipes. But when you felt/full in the dryer, it all goes into your lint trap and can easily be removed -- and the whole project is much less messy as a result.
  • You want to save water. While some never washing machines do have settings for small loads, many use the same amount of water no matter how much or how little is being washed. If you're washing in hot water, you typically don't want much else in the washer just in case you have issues with dye bleeding. To full an item in the dryer, you just need to make sure that the item itself is good and wet, which you can do in a small dishpan or the sink with a small amount of water. And if one cycle isn't enough, you can just get the item wet again and put it in for another cycle.
  • You don't want your item to get permanently creased. Many washing machines rely on a strong spin cycle to get water out of the items being washed. That's great on the one hand because it means a shorter drying time, but if you're fulling something, that force can also sometimes cause the item to get a crease in them that can be difficult to get rid of. In contrast, the spin of the dryer is much gentler.

So, assuming you're going to try it, how do you do it? The good news is that it's simple enough that a child can do it (and you might want your kid to help you because it'll be an interesting and educational experience about why you should never put handknits in the dryer unless you're absolutely certain they're superwash!). First, get your item or items good and wet. I use a small dishpan that's kept on one side of our utility sink and is usually used for washing fleece.

You don't have to let the items soak for too long -- just squish them in the water until you can see that the fabric is soaked through. Next, squeeze out the excess (they should be wet, but they don't need to be dripping) and toss them in the dryer along with something for agitation. If you're worried about dye bleeding at all, make sure you're not putting in anything that could get stained or ruined. I tossed my mittens in with some old towels I use for blocking that are already stained and that I'd just washed so that I was doing double duty with my dryer cycle. I also added some dryer balls for additional agitation.

I ended up having to run my dryer through two cycles to get the level of fulling I wanted in my mittens. If you have to do this, I recommend that when you wet your knit items again, you also empty your lint trap, particularly if you have other items in the load -- you'll be surprised by just how much fuzz is in there! When you knit items are fulled to your satisfaction, take them out and lay them out to dry, taking a moment to shape them or stretch them if you need to. It's okay if they're still quite wet at this point. I like to set mine on the top of the radiator to dry in the winter.

All knit items have a point at which they will not full anymore, and sometimes you'll never get to the point where all stitch definition is lost. And while fulling is a one-way street, if at a later point you decide that you'd like to full your item some more, you can repeat the process (though be aware that it might not make much of a difference). Once you've reached that end point, you can safely toss your item in with your laundry and wash and dry as usual, if you like, and just like any knit item, if it fuzzes up, you can use a shaver or Gleener to tidy it up.

So that's it! This process takes some time, but it's largely hands off. I'll also note that while this process is usually done with items that are knit with the intention to be fulled/felted, it can be done just as easily with, say, a thrift-store sweater you want to cut up and sew with or some other knit item that has outlived its first use and is now being repurposed as a hot pad or dusting rag.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Unraveled, Week 1/2021

Good morning! I'll say this for taking a Monday off -- it's nice to wake up and have it already be the middle of the week! And because it's Wednesday, I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers to talk about what I'm knitting and reading, this time with a bit of catch-up because last week's post was more of a year-end review.

First, let's talk knitting. My first finished project of the year was one I'd hope to be my last FO of 2020, but it was not to be, mainly because I decided to spend much of my time on December 31 doing other things. It was a conscious choice that I don't regret, and it also meant that a bit of work on January 1 enabled me to start off the year with a finish.

These are a pair of Snow Day Mittens (Ravelry link) that I knit for me. I've knit several pairs of these in the past, both for Rainbow and for charity, but never managed to make myself one, so that was one of my goals last year. I used mostly Fibernymph Dye Works yarn for these -- leftover variegated Cozy (superwash Merino) from my Radiate pullover for the cuffs and a combination of Ridgetop DK (Romney/Falkland blend) and Floof (mohair/silk) for the hands -- but as you can see, it wasn't quite enough. The darker purple at the top of the hands is a wool/alpaca blend from a sweater I unraveled last year. I added it in, still holding the mohair/silk along for the ride, when it became clear that I would not have enough of the Ridgetop to knit all of both mittens. I knew I'd be cutting it very close from the beginning, so I'd already divided the Ridgetop in half to start with, and when it became clear that I'd need more yarn to finish, I added in the wool/alpaca so that I'd have enough of the Ridgetop to finish the thumbs and so that both mittens will match. While these are done in terms of knitting, they still need to be felted for them to be done done, and that will happens sometime this week. I'm going to be felting them in the dryer, and I'll be documenting the process because a couple of people have asked me how I do it.

In addition to casting on the new sweater for Rainbow, I've also started another new project that I'd intended to cast on last year but never got around to:

This is the start of my handspun Bousta Beanie (direct PDF link) using Southern Cross Fibre Scarlet Woods on BFL/silk and natural Clun Forest, I believe, from Ross Farm (it was spun from a small bag of fiber that I brought home from Rhinebeck in 2019, the leftovers from a giant bag of processed roving that we had divided up into smaller portions for the booth).

Now, on to the reading! I ended up finishing one more book on New Year's Eve to bring my 2020 total to 101 books, and I've already finished one book so far this year. Here is the last round of reviews:

Kym had recommended Girl, Woman, Other to me after our discussion of the last Read With Us book, so I'd put it on hold at the library and read it over the course of a week or so after I received it. I really enjoyed it, though it took a bit of time for me to get used to the unusual style. It's written without much punctuation, almost like a stream of consciousness, and while that bothered the editor in me at first, I soon came to like the way it seemed to push me along through the stories. The book seems like a collection of short stories focused on a group of women, but eventually it's clear that they're all interconnected -- and the ending brought that home in a way that I didn't expect and that, quite frankly, brought me to tears. I rated it 4 stars on Goodreads, but really I'd say it's closer to 4.5 stars for me.

I'd been meaning to read The Island of Sea Women for some time after I won a free Kindle copy in a Goodreads giveaway and finally got around to starting it in early December. It was an interesting story and certainly taught me quite a bit about Korean history that I didn't know before, but parts of it were a bit of a slog for me. It reminded me in many was of two earlier reads, Pachinko and The Mountains Sing, in that it details a period of great suffering and a volatile political situation and that it has gotten some good reviews, but all three fell a bit flat for me. This one, I think, could have benefited from a glossary of Korean terms; there were quite a few that were used a lot whose meaning I never was never able to figure out. I gave it 3 stars.

My last finish of 2020 was a bit of a dud. Confessions of a Curious Bookseller was an Amazon First Reads freebie for December, and I only chose it because I wanted something light and fluffy to counteract all the sad news. It was billed as "book club fiction" or some such, so I thought I'd give it a go even though it didn't have great reviews on Amazon. Although the writing wasn't bad, the main character was utterly unlikable -- and not in a dark, twisty way that can make for a great read, just in an annoying way. I joked in my review on Goodreads that a better title would have been "Delusions of a Curious Bookseller," and I only finished it because it was quick to read (and I made sure to finish it on New Year's Eve because I did NOT want it to be my first finish of 2021). I gave it 2 stars.

 My first finish of 2021 was the perfect antidote. Many of you have known about Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy fame for a while, but I've only just started listening to her podcast, What Should I Read Next?, and when she mentioned on her last episode in December that her book I'd Rather Be Reading was a Kindle deal, I snapped it up right away. It was delightful. If you're a reader who loves to talk about reading and books, then you'll love it. It's a quick read, too, at only about 120 pages, so I was able to finish it in just a few short reading sessions. An added bonus of the book is that it includes a bibliography at the end of other books about books and reading! I gave it 4 stars.

Right now, I am reading Monogamy, which I had put on hold at the library after Bonny reviewed it, and am about halfway through. I was hoping to get through a good portion of it yesterday, but I had to do actual work for much of the day (can you believe that?). I'm hoping I can finish it up today, because I just got a notification from the library app that The Splendid and the Vile is ready for me to borrow! I've set my Goodreads challenge at 65 books for this year, an increase of five over last year, and I feel like I'm already well on my way.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

One Little Word 2021

Last year was my first choosing a word for the year, and choosing my word didn't require too much effort or thought -- as soon as it occurred to me, I knew it was the right one. For this year, though, I agonized a bit. I was thinking about it a lot while I was out on my daily walks (one of the primary times I mull things over), and I was starting to panic a bit as the end of the year was looming and my word wasn't naturally occurring to me. The word I ultimately chose came up several times in my considering, but I dismissed it at least twice as too obvious before I realized that its being obvious meant it was the right one for me. My word for 2021 is BALANCE.

I think this is a word that comes up a lot at this time of year, with people making their resolutions and talking about getting more work/life balance or balancing their budget or having a more balanced diet. While these are certainly all important in my life, I want my focus on balance this year to be more of a continuation of some good practices I put in place last year.

I am choosing to look at balance as being about trying to bring about moderation in all aspects of my life. it means finding time to be physically active as well as time to get the rest my body needs. It means nourishing my body with healthy foods but also not feeling guilty about occasionally indulging in the treats that lift my mood. It means reading fiction that is easy and mindless and also reading nonfiction that is troubling and difficult. It means continuing to have variety in my crafting time. And it means prioritizing quality time with my family and time for self-reflection, especially when my office is my home and the boundaries are not so easy to see.

I'm looking forward to seeing where balance takes me this year and hoping that my second year of OLW ends up being as successful as the first!

Monday, January 04, 2021

Plans for 2021

Today is my last day of vacation. Technically my break from work would be over today, but as Rainbow doesn't start school again until tomorrow (the teachers have an in-service day today), I decided to add one more day on and spend it with her. I still set my alarm for the regular time this morning, though, so that tomorrow won't be too much of a shock -- although, to be honest, working from home does make it much easier to face waking up early!

I know that Mondays aren't usually a blogging day for me, but with it being the start of a new year, I have a lot to talk about and didn't want to write short novels in my usual posts, so I thought that for this week, I'd spread it out a bit.

Today I want to talk about my plans for this year. I really enjoyed having my 20 in 2020 lists, even though I only finished one of them, so I thought I'd continue that a bit into 2021. Instead of listing specific yarns I want to use, patterns I want to knit, and fiber I want to spin, though, I've come up with a list of 21 experiences I want to have throughout the year. Some are craft related, some have to do with reading, and some are physical activities, but all of them are things that are achievable (one, in fact, has already been achieved). I'll be returning to this list every month in addition to reviewing how my One Little Word for the year has been playing a role in my life (and I'll be revealing my word tomorrow). So without further ado, here's the list!

21 Things I Want to Do in 2021:
1. Bake challah for Shabbat
2. Run a 5K straight (i.e., without stopping to walk)
3. Learn a new knitting technique
4. Sew a project bag
5. Knit a sweater out of handspun
6. Spin for a sweater
7. Read a book outside my comfort zone
8. Try making pastry
9. Knit or crochet a toy
10. Design a crochet pattern
11. Read a biography/autobiography
12. Spin the oldest fiber in my stash
13. Knit five items for charity
14. Finish my WIPs from 2020
15. Knit a sweater for Rainbow
16. Knit socks for my brother
17. Read a book of poetry
18. Read a book by a Native American/Indigenous author
19. Try three new meatless recipes
20. Go for three bike rides
21. Read a book Rainbow reads for school

My plan is to space these out over the course of the year, but just a few days into the new year, I've already crossed one of these off the list and started on another. The first item to be completed was the first one on the list, and I did it on the first day of the year. I'd been promising Rainbow that we'd bake challah, and as New Year's Day happened to fall on a Friday, we decided to do it. I'd call it a success:

We used a recipe we got from a friend that used the better part of a bag of flour (the recipe called for bread flour, but we used all purpose, which seems to have worked okay, but I'd certainly try it again with the correct flour in the future). The result was two fairly large loaves, one of which we gave to my brother and sister-in-law. Rainbow has been eating a slice with Nutella for breakfast and really enjoying it. I think there's probably room for improvement, especially because I'm still very much a novice bread baker. So I expect we'll be making challah again this year, and I'd like to find a recipe that doesn't make quite so much!

The item that I've started on is the sweater for Rainbow. We bought yarn for another Little Boxy (Ravelry link) more than a year ago -- it's the three skeins of green yarn in the photo in this post -- but I didn't get around to casting on last year. But her original Little Boxy is started to get small, and after she discovered that some critter had nibbled a hole in it when it she took it out to wear it for her school photos this fall, I knew it was time. I had wound the yarn and printed out the pattern already, so over the weekend, I finally cast on. 

Despite how it might look, it's not twisted -- that's just a stubborn circular needle cord twisting up on itself. I've already modified the pattern by working the ribbing at the bottom for a full inch rather than the few rounds that Joji calls for; experience has taught me that a small amount of ribbing does nothing to control the roll of stockinette. The project is living in my brand-new custom-made Oak & Arbor bag using fabric I bought last summer when Rainbow was doing her sewing camp and I got a little overambitious. Susie does amazing work, much better than anything I could do, so I gave her this fabric and one other print to make me a couple of bags. I highly recommend her bags if you're looking for some new containers for your projects!

I think that's enough for today, don't you? I'll be back tomorrow with my word for the year. If you're headed back to work today, I hope it's an easy day!