Sunday, February 28, 2021

What Was the Big Deal?

Part of the reason I have a fair amount of older fiber from Southern Cross Fibre in my stash is that in my early days in the club, the shipments felt so precious and I was afraid to ruin them (in those days, you had to wait for a spot in the club to open, and I'd been on the wait list for several years before I got my spot). I've gotten over that, though; I have enough spinning experience by now that it'd be hard to me to actually ruin any fiber, so really my only trepidation is that maybe I might regret how I've spun a particular batch of fiber and wish I'd spun it another way.

I really did not have any concerns about this spin, though. Once I decided how to spin it, it was really only a matter of days before I had a finished skein.

This yarn turned out pretty much just how I wanted it to, and it should create some subtle striping when it's knit up. It turned out roughly DK weight and approximately 213 yards. Being that's it's 100% Merino, I thought it might poof up a bit more in the finishing, but it really didn't. The colors are a bit more accurate in this photo:

Just as I was finishing this skein, my newest club shipment arrived. This is actually December's colorway, but given David's dyeing schedule, his taking a break to visit family, and the increased shipping times, it only just arrived this past week. This colorway is called Weathered, and it's on a particularly luscious base of 50% South African Superfine/50% mulberry silk. Let me tell you, this is really nice to pet!

I am really committed to working through the older fiber, though, so I pulled out what is now my oldest unspun SCF stash, Shetland from July 2016 in the colorway Organic Greens.

I've simply pulled the fiber apart into thirds, without much color planning, and I'm going to spin another traditional three-ply yarn, though I'm aiming for fingering weight this time around. Thinner yarn means much finer singles to spin, so I should be busy with this one for more than a few days.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Eye Candy Friday, Shabbat Edition

Happy Friday, all! I am happy to see the end of the week, even though we're expecting a gloomy weekend ahead. I know I don't normally post on Friday, but as I've posted every other weekday this week, why break the streak?

Today I wanted to share one amazing benefit of working from home -- I have time to bake fresh challah for Shabbat. It was the first item on my 21 in 2021 list and the first one I crossed off the list, but it's something I hope to be able to do regularly this year.

I was posting photos from the steps involved in making these freshly baked loaves in my Instagram stories, and Eileen asked if I'd share the recipe, so I figured it was as good an excuse as any to post here! This recipe came to us from a friend of the Mister's who has started baking challahs every Friday with her daughter (who goes to school with Rainbow) that they then give out to friends and family. Be forewarned that this recipe makes A LOT of challah; what you see here is actually the result of making half of the recipe. A stand mixer is highly recommended for making this dough.

Chani's Sweet Challah

2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 cups + 1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups warm water
3 eggs, plus an additional for the egg wash
8 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water in the mixer bowl (allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes, until it's quite bubbly). Add the rest of the sugar, eggs, and oil and whisk until very fluffy. Add the salt and mix.

Gradually add the flour, cup by cup. You can use the mixing blade attachment for the first half and switch to the kneading hook for the second half. If needed, dump out onto the counter and knead until smooth.

Oil a large bowl (cooking spray/Pam works well) and place the dough in it, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the dough and place it in the oven with a pan of hot water beneath the bowl*. Let the dough rise for 60-90 minutes.

Shape into loaves and brush the top of them with the remaining egg mixed with water (a bit of honey or salt can also be added). Let the loaves rise for an additional hour, then bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. You can rebrush the loaves with the egg wash halfway through the baking if desired to cover the braid expansion.

Helpful notes:
- If you're making the full recipe, note that the dough might overwhelm your mixer.
- Every time I've baked this recipe, I've used all-purpose flour and it's been fine. One of these days I'll get some bread flour and see if there's any difference in taste.
- I have successfully made this challah using Egg Beaters/egg substitute in place of the eggs. Today's loaves (made with half the recipe) used 1 egg plus some Egg Beaters.
- For today's loaves, I put the egg wash on just prior to baking. I lost some braid definition, but the crust is shinier.

*If you have a family member who's in the habit of turning on the oven without checking if anything is inside it and/or doesn't understand that bread has to rise in a warm place (like an oven), I suggest putting a large sign on the oven door at this point.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Signs of Spring

As someone who runs cold and has a tendency toward seasonal affective disorder, it's fair to say that winter is not my favorite season. I also live in a place where winter can stay past its ending date; we've been known to get snow into the early days of April. But around this time of year, when we're not far from the start of meteorological spring, we start getting some hints that winter is slowly giving up its grip. Yesterday we certainly got a big tease of things to come -- we hit a high temperature north of 60 degrees! It made me think of other ways nature reminds us that winter can't last forever, and because it's Thursday and Carole is hosting us for our weekly link-up, here are three that I've been noticing lately.

1. A change in the light
Have you noticed lately that the days are not only getting longer but the light is better? That's because during the winter, the sun's highest position in the sky is actually lower than it is during the summer. So not only is there less total sunlight during the winter, but the intensity of it is actually reduced. As we get closer to the spring equinox, I am noticing both that I am turning on lights later in the day and that I need them less often during even cloudy days. This does a lot for me, because it's the darkness that I find most depressing during the winter.

2. Morning birdsong
Bonny mentioned earlier this week that she viewed sightings of robins as a harbinger of spring. I haven't stopped seeing robins around me, but I have noticed a definite uptick in the noise from birds in the mornings. Winter days are usually quiet in this respect, aside from the occasional squawk of a Bluejay or Grackle, but in the past week or so, I've been treated to a small chorus of birds greeting the rising sun.

3. Spring flowers are on their way
Yesterday's mini heat wave served to melt a lot of snow and ice, uncovering much of the ground that had been covered for several weeks. While I was out on my daily walk, I was treated to this very welcome sight:

Nature is pretty amazing, isn't it? Despite months of cold and snow and ice, life still finds a way.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Unraveled, Week 8/2021

Last week, when I had a "short" work week because I took Monday off, felt really long. This week, I'm surprised that it's already Wednesday. Time is such a fickle thing, isn't it?

But it is Wednesday, when I link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk knitting and books, so let's get to it.

My primary WIP has been Rainbow's Little Boxy, which suddenly seems to be growing! As of last night, I've knit 11 inches of the body; I need to get to 14.75 inches before I divide the front and back. Although it's somewhat slow going because there are so many stitches on the needles, it's mindless knitting that's easy to do while watching TV, listening to something, or sitting through a work meeting.

Yes, that is sunlight illuminating the photo!

I am eager to finish this up not just so that Rainbow can wear it but also because I made a discovery this morning in the stash room. After weeks of looking, I finally found that bag of handspun I'd mentally designated for my Ramona Cardigan (Ravelry link)! Didn't I say it would just show up when I'd stopped looking for it? It was all in one bag that had fallen behind another one, so it was just out of my line of sight.

I've finished one book in the past week, but it was a good one.

I am working my way through that stack of three print books I blogged about last week, and the first one I read was Natasha Trethewey's memoir, Memorial Drive. What a gut punch this book was! In terms of total pages, it's not very long, only a bit more than 200 pages. But this is not a book you can rush through; every single word carries so much weight. Trethewey's memoir covers what it was like to grow up as a biracial child in the South whose parents divorced when she was young and then who had to deal with a new reality when her mother remarried a man who would end up killing her. She reflects as an adult what it was like to lose her mother to an act of violence, a trauma she has lived with for decades. You can tell that she is a poet by how beautifully she puts together words that so painfully convey her heartache. I rated this 4 stars on Goodreads, but it's probably closer to 4.5 stars. Highly recommend.

I am now reading two books. The first is an audiobook from the library, Barack Obama's A Promised Land. A number of you urged me to read this with my ears rather than my eyes, and you were so right. I'm sure I would be enjoying it in any format, but it's been an absolute delight to listen to him read it. I have been listening on my walks and a bit at other times, and even though I've put in extra time since I started it on Sunday and am listening at 1.25 speed, I'm still not quite a quarter of the way through with it! I usually like to get my library books back before they're due, but this is one I might need the full three weeks to finish.

My other current read is the second in the stack of print books, A Thousand Ships. I am getting through this one a bit faster, and I'm enjoying it immensely. Reading this account of the Trojan War from the point of view of the women on all sides of it is taking me back to my college days (did I ever mention that I minored in classics in college?). Aside from the fact that my hands are not used to holding a book open, I am not missing being able to do something else while I read with this one.

One other reading-adjacent rabbit hole I've gone down this week is listening to author interviews. Someone in my Sunday Zoom group shared an interview with Barbara Kingsolver, and then Mary gave us links to two sessions with Colum McCann about the book Apeirogon in preparation for a discussion we're planning to have this coming weekend. One of those was from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and as I was watching and listening to that one, I saw a suggested video off to the side with an interview from the same event with Maggie O'Farrell on Hamnet. It's about an hour long but well worth your time if you loved the book as much as I did.

I hope your reading and crafting has giving you as much joy this week as mine has!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Not *Quite* Spring

I just checked the calendar and it's still February, so still winter. And yet there are signs that spring is coming. Yesterday we had a bit of snow early in the morning that turned into rain. This morning it was already above the freezing mark when we woke up and I heard birds singing while I was eating breakfast. Tomorrow, we might even hit 50F! I'm sure winter isn't ready to release its grip on us just yet, but it's clear that we're headed out of it.

So, naturally, I knit myself a new hat over the weekend, because of course I did.

I've kept my giant bag of sock yarn scraps next to my work chair, which means that I am constantly looking all it and getting inspired by all the color. I've been trying to remain diligent about working on WIPs (specifically Rainbow's Little Boxy), but last Friday I had another four-hour Zoom workshop for work and needed something with a bit more instant gratification to keep my hands busy. Another one of my scrappy marled hats was just the ticket.

I followed my usual recipe for this one (though I went down to 100 stitches rather than 104 for a slightly snugger fit) and used some leftover Knit Picks Hawthorne in a deep purple for the color that was consistent throughout (it was nearly a full skein) and scraps of a Gale's Art sock blank as well as some Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in a self-striping for the other colors. I used up nearly all of the latter, which was leftover from a 2016 project. In all, there's about 280 yards of yarn used in this simple hat -- though the bag of scraps doesn't look any emptier, I'm afraid. I guess I will need to keep knitting scrappy hats for a while yet!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Balance in 2021: February

Your eyes do not deceive you -- this is a rare Monday post from me. It's the last Monday of the month (yes, really!), and today Carolyn is hosting us for our monthly One Little Word link-up. So today is my day to reflect on Balance and the role it's been playing in my life this past month.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about Balance as it applies to my reading life and how I can be more focused and intentional in what I read. I've been inspired by Mary and her effort to "read better" this year. For so much of my life, the reading I do for pleasure has been almost exclusively focused on just that, pleasure, and my choice of what to read next has largely been dictated by what's caught my eye. But in the more recent past, and this year especially, I am trying to be more discerning in what I choose to read, with the hope that I can strike a balance between reading that is strictly for pleasure and reading that helps me grow in some way. This means reading nonfiction as well as fiction and reading voices that are typically less amplified in our society.

Here is a snapshot of my 2021 reading shelf thus far:

It's obviously hard to get a good handle on how well I'm doing only two months into the year, but if this is representative of the trends of the year to come, I think I'm doing pretty well: Six of these titles are by authors of color. Eight are nonfiction. Ten are by female authors. One is a work in translation.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, I hope to continue to diversify the books on my Read shelf. Specifically, I want to read more books by authors of color, more nonfiction that helps me to educate myself about racism and anti-racism, and more books that challenge my perspectives and that are outside my sphere of experience.

Reading is part of my 21 in 2021 list as well, and I've been able to cross a few items off that list this month. To date, I've completed six items on my list thus far:
- Bake challah
- Sew a project bag
- Knit or crochet a toy
- Read a biography/autobiography
- Spin the oldest fiber in my stash
- Knit five items for charity

I've got plans to cross off a few more in the next month or so, too, and I like how this list is helping me to balance (see what I did there?) how I choose to spend my leisure time.

I look forward to hearing about how your One Little Word has been making itself known in your life this past month, and I'll see you back here tomorrow for a regular post.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

An Equinox in Wool

Yesterday afternoon I met up with Eileen, Kat, and Jane online to chat about spinning. This is the second time we've done this, and I think we'll continue to do it for the foreseeable future. While we were chatting, I managed to chain-ply an entire skein of handspun! This is the Loop Bullseye Bump that I've been spinning for the past week or so. The colorway is Vernal Equinox, and it's a mix of pretty pastel colors interspersed with black. Here it is fresh off the wheel last night, right before I put it in to soak:

I know the lighting is terrible, but I think you can get the picture -- it was a little limp and scraggly, clearly in need a good long spa treatment. This morning, it looked much better:

The yarn was fingering-ish weight fresh off the wheel, but it plumped up nicely to more of a sport/DK after washing and drying. There's also the tiniest bit of sparkle in it, just enough to catch the light every now and then.

This isn't very consistent yarn, which I expected. I typically spin from combed top, in which all the fibers are nicely aligned and lend themselves to a smooth yarn. This fiber, however, comes in roving form, so even though I used my typical short forward draw to spin it, the prep makes for a slightly more textured yarn. I'm not really bothered by the inconsistencies, and I think it actually works with the fact that the yarn is mostly merino -- it's got a soft fuzziness to it.

Speaking of merino, I have already pulled out the next bit of fiber to spin. I am tackling that big backlog of Southern Cross Fibre club shipments, starting with the oldest one, which happens to be organic merino.

I spent some time contemplating how to spin this. First, there was the number of plies to consider. I was tempted to do another end-to-end chain-ply, but it's been a while since I did something a bit more fun, so I've come up with a different plan. I pulled the fiber apart so the green/blue areas are mostly separated from the brownish gray areas and weighed what I had to more or less divide it into thirds:

I'm going to spin a traditional three-ply, and I'm hoping that if I've thought this out correctly, I'll end up with something like the Spincycle yarns. I've had to borrow a bit of the blue/green fiber to add the the brown/gray in order to have the bundles weigh closer to the same amount, but I think if I distribute them evenly, it won't be too obvious. I'm really excited to see if it works out as I'm hoping -- it's a good thing I got an audiobook from the library that should keep me entertained for a while!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Three on Thursday: From the TBR Pile

While I have certainly increased the number of books I've read over the past few years, the vast majority of them have been digital books. Why? Because they enabling multitasking -- I can read while I knit or spin, and thus I feel like I'm getting more done in my limited downtime. Because of this notable shift in my reading habits, my physical To Be Read pile (the one that sits on the shelf of my nightstand for easy access when I get into bed) has gotten a bit unwieldy of late, and I'm determined to tackle it. So for Three on Thursday, which Carole is so nice to host each week, I've picked out three physical books I would like to read in the near future.

1. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
This was recommended to me by Margene, and like her, I ordered my copy from Blackwell's so that I had it before it was actually published in the U.S. It's a take on the Trojan War from the point of view of the women, and it was short-listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction. I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

2. Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey
Natasha Trethewey is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. poet laureate. This memoir tells the story of her mother's murder at the hands of her stepfather. My friend Louisa (a member of the Sunday morning Zoom crew) passed along her copy to me. Tracking the package was an exercise in frustration, so I was delighted when it finally got to me.

3. Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey
NERD ALERT! This is a book about diagramming sentences. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm probably one of few people in the entire world who actually enjoyed diagramming sentences (and I'm pretty sure no one even teaches it anymore), and I've wanted to read this book for years. I even remember where I first found out about it: Back when podcasts were a relatively new thing, I discovered one put out by NPR about books, and I jotted down the name of this one when I heard about it (it was published back in 2006, so that gives you a time frame). A couple of years ago, I finally bought a copy. Now I just need to get around to reading it!

Now that I've posted that I want to read these, please hold me to it, friends! I'd also love to hear what books are on your TBR pile that you're determined to read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Unraveled, Week 7/2021

A frosty good morning to you! I am posting a little later than usual today because I lucked into a last-minute dentist appointment first thing this morning. The last time I had a cleaning was sometime in fall 2019 (I was due for my next one just when things shut down last March), and the soonest I was able to schedule was May, but they told me they'd call if they had an earlier cancellation and it worked out perfectly! Everything looked good and it was easy to get in and out, but it also meant I was a bit rushed this morning (how easily I have settled into the more relaxed routine of working from home!).

It's Wednesday, so it's time to check in with Kat and the Unravelers on my knitting and reading.

Now that the crochet blanket is done, I've turned to my next WIP, and that happens to be Rainbow's Little Boxy (Ravelry link) sweater. Because I've been focusing on it, I now have about 7.5 inches of body done, and I think I need to get to 13 inches before I separate for the front and back.

The yarn I'm using for this is hand dyed (it's from Ex Libris Fibers) and I think you can tell that one of the two skeins I'm using right now is lighter than the other, so naturally I am alternating skein. There's a third skein in my project bag, and I'll work in all three at some point so that the colors are evenly distributed.

Reading the past week has been mostly good. I finished three books.

While I was between library holds, I decided to read something that was already in my Kindle account. Opium and Absinthe was an Amazon First Reads freebie from sometime last year, and it sounded like it would be right up my alley -- historical fiction with a female main character trying to solve a mystery. Unfortunately, it was a major disappointment. The author spent too much time describing the setting in an effort to make it convincing but didn't take the same care with her characters; they sounded like they were from the 21st century and doing an Gilded Age cosplay. I gave the book 2 stars, but really only because the author managed to do a decent job of keeping the ending a surprise.

If you've been a parent or caretaker to a small child at some point in your life, then you'll likely easily recognize the title of this biography, In the Great Green Room, as the opening lines of its subject's most favorite work. I knew nothing about the life of Margaret Wise Brown, but it turns out that she had a truly fascinating life! She was born in 1910 and died tragically early in 1952, but in her short life she was amazingly prolific as a writer and editor of children's literature -- and her personal life was as colorful as her professional life. My appreciation for her work has grown now that I know more about her (for instance, that Goodnight, Moon was heavily influenced by the style of Gertrude Stein!). I got this as an audiobook from the library, and it kept me company on my walks for several days. I gave it 4 stars.

Speaking of stars, my most recent finish, just yesterday afternoon, is Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars. This book is set in Ireland during the 1918 flu pandemic, but the pandemic itself is almost secondary here. The book is set over a few days and follows nurse Julia Power as she cares for a small group of patients in the hospital who are in the Maternity/Fever ward (that is, they are maternity patients also suffering from the potentially deadly flu). The virus has left the hospital so short-staffed that Julia is left to care for her patients virtually single-handedly, and these few days are filled with life and death and everything in between. I truly loved this book. It's a fairly quick read (less than 300 pages and very fast moving), but it's beautifully written and so moving. 5 stars for this one!

I've got about three weeks until my next library hold comes up (maybe less), so today I get to look at what books I already have and decide what to read next. I hope you're keeping warm and that your knitting and reading are keeping you good company!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Craftly Long Weekend

After four lovely days off, I am back "at work" today (already dealing with a noisy inbox), but before I get my head totally back into work mode, I wanted to share some results of my long weekend.

As you know, I've been focusing on finishing projects this month, and late last week I finished my oldest active WIP, the C2C crochet blanket.

Started July 3, 2020/Completed February 12, 2021

I used this tutorial (Ravelry link) to get me started with a size E/3.5 mm hook and a giant ball of baby acrylic from Michaels that Rainbow had started crocheting into a granny square blanket and lost interest in. My plan was to increase until I'd used half the yarn (by weight) and then start decreasing, which theoretically should have resulted in having just enough yarn but in practice didn't quite work out that way. So one corner of the blanket was finished with some white Lion Brand Baby Soft that I inherited from my mother awhile back. After I finished the final square, I added a simple border of single crochet around the outside edge to stabilize it, and then I gave the entire blanket a generous steaming with an iron. I'm not sure if I officially "killed" the acrylic, but it's certainly much softer and has more drape. In all, I used 1,185 yards of yarn, which seems like a lot given that the blanket is only about 31 inches by 31 inches square. But it does make a nice lap blanket (I've been putting it over my legs the past few evenings while I knit and watch TV), and more importantly I've now got another way to crochet a blanket in my tool box -- and I'm eyeing my giant bag of sock yarn scraps and pondering another blanket now.

Rainbow and I also did some sewing yesterday, and I used the opportunity to complete another item on my 21 in 2021 list.

I used up the last of the RGB fabric that I ordered from Spoonflower last year for this project bag (I wanted to maximize what I had left, which is why this is so tall). I also felt pretty smug because I repurposed a cloth bag that a piece of luggage came in for the lining and I adapted the basic pattern from the drawstring bag tutorial I'd used in the past. Rainbow made her own bag alongside me as well. Both bags are a bit wonky because we weren't being terribly exact about measurements (or, as is likely apparent in the photo, about pressing the fabric), but they are perfectly functional. All that remains for my bag is to do something about drawstrings; I had some cotton rope that came from the cloth bag we repurposed, but I we used that for Rainbow's bag and there wasn't enough for both. So I'll likely need to make and sew up some bias tape for mine, or perhaps I'll use my lucet and make some cording.

Finally, there was cooking this weekend. On Friday, we successfully baked another challah (thanks in large part to the fact that the Mister was in Zoom meetings all day -- though I did put a sign on the oven warning him not to touch it just in case!):

And we made dinner for Valentine's Day as well. After flipping through quite a few cookbooks, we settled on a menu of baked shrimp scampi with a side of pasta aglio e olio and green beans. The star of the meal, though, was dessert:

These are s'mores brownies that we made more or less following this recipe (we were making a smaller batch, so we used fewer graham crackers and less butter for the crust). I did accidentally burn the marshmallow topping and set off the smoke alarm (oops!), but I actually like that bit of char -- it gives them an authentic flavor! The recipe is quite easy, particularly as it calls for using a boxed brownie mix, but it would be just as easy to use a scratch brownie recipe. My main piece of advice is to watch the pan when you put it in under the broiler to toast the marshmallows, because it happens really quickly! If you have a kitchen torch (like the sort you'd use for creme brulee), it might be safer to use it for this step.

Okay, the work inbox beckons. Stay warm and catch you back here tomorrow!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Spin the ... Bag?

I think I mentioned in my last post that my fiber stash was in need of some reorganization, so today I decided to tackle one portion of it: my Southern Cross Fibre stash. I don't remember exactly when I joined the club, but it was back when there was still a waiting list, and I was on that list for several years before I got a spot. At the time I first joined, David was dyeing two colorways a month, and you could sign up to receive one or both. If you paid for just one, David would pick which one you'd get based on your color preferences, but there would usually be extras of both colorways so that if you wanted both (and were quick enough to get to his store when he posted them), you could buy the other one. He'd also offer semisolid coordinates to go with the multicolored colorways and offer limited quantities of those. So over the years, I've amassed quite a fiber stash from him and haven't been able to keep up with the spinning. I did get a good portion spun last year, but I wanted to pull out everything today to get a good sense of just how much I have. So in the interest of full disclosure, here is the entirety of my SCF fiber stash:

I've arranged it more or less in chronological order, from left to right, top to bottom. The oldest bag of fiber is on the top left; it's from August 2015. The most recent is the bottom right, from October 2020 (I've actually spun the most recent fiber I've received, which was the November 2020 shipment). There are two bags in here (far right on the top row and on the third row from the top) that are undated that I received as prizes, and you'll also notice a double in the second row -- one of those was a prize as well but was a duplicate of a club colorway, so I was able to date it. Each of these bags contains a minimum of 110 g/3.9 oz. of fiber, so in all, I've got 2,530 g or 89 oz. of fiber here to spin!

There's a spinning group on Ravelry that does an annual event called Spin the Bin. I've never actually participated in it, but from what I gather, you get some sort of bin and put in it everything you want to spin over the course of the year as a personal challenge. My bins are all full, so I have instead a zippered comforter bag that I've now put all this fiber into, and while I can't promise I will spin only SCF fiber this year, I want to make a decent dent in it. There are some bags I can combine (the two that are the same, obviously, but also some that are the same fiber base and similar colors), but there's also nothing wrong with spinning these bags individually. I really want to embrace the mentality that none of these is precious and should be saved, because, really, saving fiber for someday doesn't actually accomplish anything.

Before I can dig into this pile, though, I have a new project on the wheel that I started late last week. Back in October, during "virtual" Rhinebeck, I won a bullseye bump of fiber from Loop Fiber Studio. I never put it away in the stash room, so I figured I might as well start spinning it because it was already next to my wheel. This one is called Vernal Equinox and is a mix of merino and nylon with a touch of sparkle. It alternates sections of color with sections of black, and as I'm planning to chain-ply, I'll get stripes.

This method of fiber preparation is really interesting. The fiber is carded, I believe, and then arranged in a cylindrical form that you pull from kind of like a center-pull ball of yarn. They're beautiful to look at and fun to spin. I think I'm maybe halfway through this one.

This spin has been keeping me company while I've been reading, and I expect by this time next week, it'll be a finished skein!

We are hunkering down here for another snowstorm that's supposed to come through tomorrow into Tuesday; the current estimate is 6-10 inches (though yesterday they were saying 8-12). I'm glad that Rainbow and I are both off tomorrow and none of us has to go anywhere!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Three Things Making Me Smile

It's Thursday (I think? I've been confused again this week), so once again I'm joining up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday. Today, because it's been a busy, stressful week, I'm focusing on three things that are making me happy today.

1. My yarn finally came!
I mentioned on Tuesday that I was expecting a package from HipStrings that day, but due to the snow, we never got mail delivered that day -- so much for the USPS creed! I did see mail carriers out delivering that day, so I think they just must've gotten a late start due to the snow and didn't manage to make all their deliveries that day. But my yarn arrived safely yesterday, and it's even more beautiful in person.

This is my beloved Buoy DK (a blend of BFL, Shetland, and Manx Loaghtan) in the colorway Dionysus. I'm planning to use it to make myself an Aldous (Ravelry link).

2. I finally released my first pattern of 2021!
The new year hasn't done much to fix my lack of motivation to get my designs knit and written up, but I was determined to get through this one. You've seen these socks before -- they're the ankle socks that I just finished for Rainbow -- but now you can knit your own. I've named them Piccoletti, which is Italian for "shorties" or "little guys," and they're a quick and super comfy ankle sock.

She's not only a great knitwear photographer, she's also a willing model!

The pattern is now up on Ravelry and Payhip and is on sale for the first week!

3. I have a long weekend!
Rainbow is off from school tomorrow and Monday, so I decided to make use of all the time off I've accrued at work (in no small part because after this month we can no longer accrue unlimited time) and take those days off as well. We have a few activities planned (we're going to bake challah and likely do a Target run tomorrow, and we want to cook a Valentine's day dinner on Sunday), but I think both of us are looking forward to having a relaxing few days. First, though, I have to get through what's looking like a long day of work and a board meeting this evening. Thank goodness I will have yarn in my hands for much of it.

I hope you have some reasons to smile this weekend! See you back here on Sunday!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Unraveled, Week 6/2021

Thanks to Kat for hosting us for this weekly link-up of projects and reading! In keeping with my theme this month of finishing up works in progress, I have been totally monogamous to my C2C crochet blanket, and look how much I've added just since yesterday!

Please excuse the wrinkly duvet cover; I thought I'd try something other than the carpeting in an effort to get the colors right, and while I still haven't quite managed to do that, this photo is a better representation than yesterday's. The rows are now getting noticeably shorter and the ball of yarn is getting smaller, so the end is in sight. I'm hoping I can manage to finish this up by the end of the week!

I have only finished one book since last week, but it was a good one! I ended up staying up after everyone else went to sleep on Friday night to finish The Once and Future Witches -- normally I would be reading in bed, but I wanted to make sure I stayed awake, so I went into the den so I could turn on a light! I spent much of the book worrying that it would live up to my expectations (because I adored the author's first book), but I'm happy to report that it did. This was another 5-star book for me. I think what I really love the most about both books is the worlds that Alix Harrow creates, especially that they are worlds in which strong women are the norm. I wrote quite an extensive review of this book on Goodreads, so I'll direct you there if you'd like to know more about my thoughts.

I have a bit of a wait until my next hold from the library (the next one in the list is the audiobook of Barack Obama's new book, so you can imagine how long that wait is!), so in the meantime I'm trying to read some of the books already in my Kindle library. I'm currently reading Opium and Absinthe, which was an Amazon First Reads freebie from sometime last year. It's not really grabbing me at the moment, but I'm invested enough to see where it goes.

I hope your projects and books are moving right along!

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

C'mon Get Happy

Good morning, friends! Yesterday was a very long day in part because I spent the last two hours of the work day doing school pickup and then at the pediatrician's office with Rainbow (she's fine -- it was just her annual checkup, but she had to get three vaccinations, so it was a bit dramatic for my needle-fearing girl). After such a Monday Monday, if you catch my meaning, I did not expect to wake up so happy this morning, but I did, so I thought I'd share some of that happiness with you!

First of all, look at what we woke up to (with apologies for the screen):

We were supposed to get 1-3 inches of snow overnight, but the Mister estimates that we got more than that. He was out shoveling for a full hour this morning and said that what he'd shoveled was already covered again by the time he came in. Normally I'd not be that excited by snow, but there was enough overnight that Rainbow's school decided to close for the day, so she's home doing school online. That means I get to have lunch with her and I don't have to drive in this mess to pick her up! She's also excited because it means she can stay in her pajama pants all day!

One good thing to come out of yesterday was that I managed to finish up the baby sweater, just in time for the last day of the Pigskin Party, too.

This is, of course, the classic Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I used the instructions found in The Opinionated Knitter, but you can now get the pattern for the baby, child, and adult versions directly from Schoolhouse Press. I was a bit worried that this version was going to come out a tad small, even for a preemie, but I compared it to the version that Rainbow came home from the hospital in and it's just a tad smaller (I blocked out a little more room in it as well). I used scraps of several fingering weight yarns for this one -- the green is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal, the blue is Little Skein in the Big Wool House Sock, the yellow is Dale Garn Baby Ull, and the red is Malabrigo Sock. I followed the pattern as written except for working on a smaller needle (US 3)/at a smaller gauge to make it suitable for a preemie and adding the applied I-cord around the entire body edge. If you look very closely, you might be able to see where I joined the I-cord at the center of the back, but I think I did a decent job of finishing. I did add buttonholes to one side, but I think the neck opening becomes way too small for even a tiny baby if you overlap the fronts enough to button it, so I'm going to do some duplicate stitch on the wrong side to close those holes up before I deliver it.

Another reason to be happy? Finishing the sweater means I can move on to the next WIP to finish, and that's my C2C crochet blanket. I've officially started decreasing!

The colors are again completely off here, but at least you can see that the sides are starting to square up. I've noticed that I'm also getting a little faster at this and can manage a little bit of it without looking, so clearly all the practice is paying off. And now that I understand this method of construction, I can see making a lot more blankets like this in the future.

Finally, what is happier than getting yarn in the mail?

These two half skeins of Fibernymph Dye Works Ridgetop Fingering arrived yesterday (they were a prize). They should have been here on Saturday, as the USPS told me they were out for delivery, but when they didn't show up, I checked the tracking and discovered that they hadn't been delivered because the carrier "could not access the delivery location." I'm not sure what that was supposed to mean; the mail carrier delivered the rest of our mail with no problem, so I can only surmise that we had a sub for our usual carrier who didn't want to be bothered with carrying packages down our street. In any case, it arrived safely yesterday, and at least it didn't take a tour of the state this time! I also am expecting another squishy delivery today, as I might have taken advantage of the HipStrings moving sale (they are moving out of their commercial studio and into a new space). Assuming the snow doesn't deter the mail carrier today, I'll share that tomorrow.

Stay warm out there, friends, and keep and eye out for things to be happy about!

Sunday, February 07, 2021

My City in Yarn

As promised, I have finished Pittsburgh mini skeins to share! Each skein was spun from about 1 oz. of custom-blended fiber from HipStrings and has some connection to my hometown. I spun each fiber sample end to end and chain-plied, so the resulting yarn is a sort-of three ply, and they're all roughly fingering weight.

Here are the details on each skein, from left to right:

Cathedral of Learning (50% Rambouillet/25% baby llama/25% baby alpaca): The Cathedral of Learning is the second-tallest educational building in the world at 42 stories and is arguably the most well-known building on the University of Pittsburgh campus. It was build at the height of the Depression with the financial support of, among others, a number of local schoolchildren who contributed a dime each to "buy a brick" in the building. Today it's home to several Pitt schools and offices as well as the internationally known Nationality Rooms. Learn more here.

Won't You Be My Neighbor (50% BFL/50% Shetland): I think that most of you will recognize the reference to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, but what you might not realize is that it was filmed here at WQED, the nation's first community-sponsored TV station and one of its very first public television stations. You can still visit the Fred Rogers Studio at the station's building today.

Environmental (50% Merino/50% Shetland): Pittsburgh is home to a number of large parks and green spaces as well as the historic Phipps Conservatory. Pittsburgh is also the birthplace of noted writer and naturalist Rachel Carson.

Hill District (75% Merino/25% Bombyx silk): Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood is special to me, as it's where my maternal grandfather grew up. Though back then it was a Jewish neighborhood, it eventually became the center of the city's African American cultural life. It's where playwright August Wilson was born, and it's the setting for his series of 10 plays.

The Pinkertons (75% Merino/25% Tussah silk): You might have heard of the Pinkerton detectives, but I'm guessing that you've probably never heard of the Homestead Steel strike in which they were involved, even if you're a native Pittsburgher. I have, but only because in my junior year of high school, I had to write a term paper on local history and it was my topic.

And finally Coal (25% Black Welsh/25% Black Finnish/25% Black Shetland/25% Tussah silk): Pittsburgh has long been known as the Steel City, and the making of all that steel requires a lot of power. And back when steel was still being made here, that power came from coal.

In all, I've got just shy of 410 yards of yarn. I have no idea what I'll do with them -- I really just spun these for the sake of spinning them!

Thursday, February 04, 2021

My Three WIPs

It's Thursday, when Carole hosts us for our Three on Thursday link-up, and today I thought I'd talk about my three WIPs. Now the very astute among you will realize that I actually have more than three WIPs because I started a new project earlier in the week (and I'm not including spinning projects, either). But when I think about WIPs, I'm specifically thinking about the three that were started last year and are still lingering.

First, there's the C2C blanket, which has not gotten any work on it since you saw it last but I thought I'd try to get a better representation of the colors in the yarn.

This blanket was started July 3, 2020, and I have 145 g of yarn (a little more than half) still to add. The good news is that because I'm nearly to the halfway mark on the yarn, I will probably start decreasing after I finish this row.

Next, Rainbow's Little Boxy (Ravelry link), take two. Technically this was cast on this year (January 2, to be exact), but I bought the yarn for it back in 2019, so it feels like it's been in progress for longer. I really haven't gotten very far on this sweater, despite the fact that it should be very easy to make progress on because it's just stockinette in the round for a while, but it just hasn't been exciting me. I do want to finish it soon-ish so that Rainbow can actually wear it while it still fits and is cool enough for a sweater.

Custom project bag from Oak & Arbor

Finally, there's my Breathe and Hope (Ravelry link) shawl. This is my oldest WIP; it was cast on May 9, 2020, and I think I just got bored with it. But the yarn, a delicious merino/cashmere/nylon blend from Fiber Optic Yarns, is so lovely to work with, and I really want to be able to drape this shawl around my neck, so I'm determined to finish this.


I'm under no illusion that I'm going to finish all my WIPs this month, but it would be great if I could at least make some serious progress on them. Rainbow has a long weekend next weekend (both Friday and Monday off), and I decided to take those two days as vacation days to hang out with her. We have grand plans about making a fancy dinner for the three of us for Valentine's Day, but we have no plans other than that, which means lots of crafting time. I hope it's enough to make a dent!

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Unraveled, Week 5/2021

Good morning from a chilly Western Pennsylvania! We did not receive as much snow as some of you from the most recent storm, but we did get enough for Rainbow to have a snow day on Monday (I was expecting they'd do a remote learning day, as they're already well set up for that, but I think they decided that everyone could do with the mental health benefits of the day off!). We did get a bit of sun yesterday that started to melt some of the snow and ice, but everything froze again overnight. One good thing about the snow is that I've been wearing my snow boots for my daily walk instead of my sneakers, and underneath I've been wearing wool socks that have kept my feet warm.

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers today to talk about WIPs and reading. In addition to the long-suffering WIPs (the crochet blanket you saw yesterday and a two-color shawl from last summer), I have a new project on the needles that I started Monday evening. I found out in a work meeting on Monday that one of my coworkers had a baby over the weekend. This might seem like unexciting information, but we have been working remotely so long that I didn't even know this coworker was pregnant! Her baby boy arrived a bit early and is pretty tiny (4 pounds-something), but is doing well. He'll need some wool to keep him warm, though, so I cast on what I hope will be an appropriately sized Baby Surprise Jacket using yarns from the giant scrap bag.

I picked out the green and the blue yarns (Knit Picks Stroll Tonal and Little House in the Big Wool House Sock, respectively), and Rainbow dug through the bag to pick out the other two (the yellow is Dale Baby Ull and the red is Malabrigo Sock). As you can see, I've begun working garter stripes with the first two colors, and that's what I plan to do for the rest of the garment. I always think that a BSJ is going to be a quick knit and am almost always proved wrong, but in this case I'm hoping I can really plow through it so that I can get it to the recipient while it still fits him. I'm using a US 3 (3.25 mm) needle; when I knit the BSJ that was Rainbow's coming-home-from-the-hospital sweater, I used heavy fingering weight yarn and a US 5 (3.75 mm) needle and it was on the large side, so I thought I'd go down a bit so that this preemie doesn't swim in his sweater. Fingers crossed!

The past week was a very good reading week for me, with two 5-star finishes!

My parents and I have been reading and sharing Fredrik Backman's books for the past several years, so when my mother told me that she loved his most recent book, Anxious People, I immediately put it on hold at the library. If you're a fan of Backman's books, you'll love this one (and, similarly, if his books annoy you, stay away from this one). As usual, his characters all have unusual quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them both slightly irritating and endearing. The plot of this book is a bit hard to explain (click over to the Goodreads page to see what I mean), but the story is told in a circular fashion that shows how all the characters are connected in a way that makes the plot really ingenious. I tore through this book in two days and loved those interconnections and the way that Backman plays with our assumptions about gender and professions.

My other finish for the week was a very different sort of book but one that was also very well worth reading. I'd been meaning to read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness for some time, I think since watching the documentary 13th sometime last year. It's an utterly devastating read but a necessary one, in my opinion, especially if you don't have any inside knowledge of the criminal justice system. If you're someone, like me, who is committed to racial justice and anti-racism, I'd highly recommend reading it (and watching the documentary as well). I will caution you that the book lays bare the problem without giving solutions, but I think having the knowledge of just how broken the system is is critical if we're ever going to fix it.

I'm currently reading a long-awaited library book, The Once and Future Witches, which I'd had to delay delivery of last week when all my holds seemed to come up at the same time. I'm about a third of the way through it and enjoying it, though perhaps not as much as the last book I read by the same author.

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

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

It's a Wrap on Another January

January has always been my least-favorite month. It's always dark and cold and long, and there's not much to look forward to other than its being over. So I was happy to say good-bye to it over the weekend.

While this particular January was more eventful than most, in both good and bad ways, one thing I can say for it was that it was pretty productive for me. I finished my fifth scrappy charity hat on Sunday morning -- that's five hats knit from January 20-31!

I opted to keep this one with the stockinette side out because I was using a textured/slubby yarn (Fibernymph Dye Works Pouf) along with two smooth yarns (Knit Picks Stroll Tonal). I started off holding the Pouf along with the darker of the Stroll shades for the brim and then started alternating between the two shades every round until the darker shade ran out just before the last couple of decrease rounds in the crown. I used a total of 305 yards of yarn in this hat! I also used up two of the three scraps, which was more exciting to me. There was a tiny amount, maybe a yard or two, of the Pouf left, but it wasn't enough to actually do much of anything with, so I tossed it.

Here's an array of all the hats I knit in this brief period of productivity:

They officially complete my "knit five items for charity" on my 21 in 2021 list, but I highly doubt these will be the only items I knit this year, especially considering how much yarn is still left in the scrap bag. I've now got a nice pile of knits to donate, but before I drop them off, I want to add some labels and tie together the two pairs of socks and the mitten and hat set so that the components don't get separated from one another.

Yesterday I pulled out a WIP that's been ignored for a while, and I think I might give it some more attention now that it's February and, as my friend Bekah reminded me, February Is for Finishing.

This is the corner-to-corner (or C2C) crochet blanket that I started with a giant ball of big box store acrylic last summer. I don't even think I'm halfway through at this point; my plan is just to increase until I've used up about half the yarn and then start decreasing. I think getting this done this month might be a good goal, and I actually do want to get out some older WIPs and finish them up (that's another item on my 21 in 2021 list, after all!). This project is pretty mindless, but it's not one I can work on while reading because I still have to look while I crochet.

And that's a good segue to tell you to remember to stop by here tomorrow, when I'll review some other WIPs and update you on my reading!