Thursday, April 29, 2021

Poetry on Thursdays: A Poem in Your Pocket

It is the last Thursday in April (how did that happen so quickly?), and today is Poem in Your Pocket Day! That link will lead you to the Academy of American Poets website and their page on this annual celebration of poetry, so click on over if you'd like to learn more. The basic idea behind this event is to share poetry, typically with a poem that's short enough to fit in your pocket (I guess because short poems often seem more accessible).

Today I'm doing something brave: I'm sharing a poem I wrote myself. I used to write a lot of poetry as a child and teenager (and most of it, as you might expect, was angst-y and filled with teenager-type stuff), but I haven't written any in years. I guess you could say I've been inspired by all the poetry I've been reading this month because I've found myself jotting phrases down here and there. This is a short one, as befitting the occasion, and it was inspired by the first Thursday of this month (and I even have a photo from that day to set the mood).

                                                On Arising to Snow on the First of April

                                                Though the flakes float down,
Spring flowers are still blooming
                                                And birds greet the day.

                                                                                (c) Sarah Jordan, 2021

I hope you've enjoyed all the poetry this month as much as I have! Be sure to visit Bonny, Kat, and Kym today for more poetry for your pocket!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Unraveled, Week 17/2021

It's Wednesday again, and as per usual I am linking up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk knitting and reading.

I am happy to report that there has been no actual unraveling this week and instead I have a finished object to share today! Though it's technically not finished finished finished because, as you will see, it still very badly needs to be blocked, and thus I have no modeled shots to share. But the knitting portion is complete.

Please forgive the strange light this morning!

Pattern: Aldous (Ravelry link) by Isabell Kraemer, size 2 (37.5 in./93.5 cm)
Yarn: HipStrings Buoy DK (37.5% BFL, 37.5% Shetland, 25% Manx Loaghtan) in Dionysus, 3.1 skeins (about 890 yards/814 meters)
Needles: US 3 (3.25 mm) and US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: March 23/April 27

A sweater in just a little more than a month is not bad at all, particularly given that it wasn't my sole focus! Predictably, as I finished it yesterday, our temperatures jumped into the low 80s, but it's supposed to cool off this weekend, so perhaps I'll get a chance to wear it once before it gets put away until fall. I followed the pattern exactly as written with no modifications, and as it's a very well written pattern, that was easy to do. The shoulder construction was a bit new to me, though not difficult. I'm not entirely convinced that it fits me all that well, but I'm reserving judgment until the sweater is blocked and the fabric settles into place. The horizontal "braid" was new to me; I've worked a Vikkel braid in the past, but it was much more fiddly. This method is easier to execute though does tangle your yarn a lot -- but it's a two-round process that theoretically untangles the yarn on the second round, if you can stand to leave it alone. I couldn't deal with it on the body and stopped frequently to untwist my skeins, but I let the yarn be on the braids on the sleeves. I promise to share more details and more photos once it's blocked and I can model it!

Reading has been a mixed bag the past week. I did not have much reading time at all last week thanks to a busy work schedule, but I made up for that over the weekend. I've finished three books since this time last week:

I borrowed The God of Small Things from the library after Mary raved about it in one of our Zoom calls, and I have to admit that I was doubting her recommendation for about two-thirds of the book because I was thoroughly confused. This is a family drama set in India that focuses on a set of fraternal twins, and it's told in a sort of circular fashion, going back and forth in time and through the points of view of a number of characters. It's a bit hard to follow and to get a sense of the bigger picture -- but as I approached the end, I realized that that is done on purpose. You're meant to see the events unfold as the twins did as young children and to not really have a full understanding of what's happening. The story is sad, and I'd maybe give the plot alone 3 stars, but the writing is really wonderful and inventive -- I will forever remember "Gnap" and "Bar Nowl" -- and bumped my rating up to 4 stars.

After a hard read, I wanted something that didn't require me to think much, so I borrowed what supposed to be a thriller from the library. Goodnight Beautiful came out late last year and was recently recommended on WSIRN. It sounded like a good mystery to get lost in. It was a decent distraction but, sadly, not very thrilling. The big twist that's promised is revealed pretty early on, and I found the wrap-up at the end to be a bit too convenient. The best thing I can say is that I read it in less than 24 hours and it was definitely a mindless read -- good for a vacation/beach read, I'd say. I gave it 2 stars.

Finally, I finished my re-read of The Giver. Rainbow has a few more chapters left to read, which I expect will be her assignment for English class today. There were no surprises for me this time, obviously, but it's been good to read it again as she's been reading it for the first time. She got to the explanation of "release" on Monday afternoon while we was reading that day's assigned chapters and had a pretty emotional response to it, and that made me glad I had decided to pick the book up again so I am able to discuss it with her with the book fresh in my mind. I really do have to applaud her school for assigning this one and for handling it so well in their class discussions.

Yesterday I started (and read more than half of) Before We Were Yours. I know many of you have already read it (I'm late to the party as usual). I'm pretty sure I know where it's going, but it's passing the time while I wait for my next library holds. And now that my sweater is done, I need to decide what to cast on next!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Balance in 2021: April

What a fast month April has been! It's been a roller coaster of a month as well, with snow and summer-like temperatures and some crazy work stuff. Keeping Balance in mind has been so helpful as things got hectic, and balancing my work life with my non-work life has been particularly important, perhaps even more so given that my office is now at home.

Last week ended up being the kind of week that would have sent me into a full-blown meltdown in the past. I got hit with a big work project with a tight deadline. I had the mammogram call-back. I had a board meeting one evening. I had scheduled a day off on Friday to hang out with Rainbow that I considered canceling. But through it all, I remembered to keep things balanced. Though I did work a little late one evening (because our planned dinner did not require a lot of cooking time and thus I had the time to spare), but otherwise I stuck to my normal work schedule. I made sure to take my "lunch" break each day to go for a walk -- because I know that the daily physical activity is good not only for my long-term health but also for relieving my stress level. I took time each evening to knit or spin and read for pleasure so that I could switch my work brain off. And even when I was in full work mode, I made sure to take frequent breaks, even if it was just to go to the bathroom or throw in a load of laundry. You might think that this would draw things out, but in the end I finished the project before the end of the day on Thursday, I took off Friday as planned, and in general I felt less stress overall than I would have thought. Maybe I'm on to something here, don't you think?

I've also crossed three more things off my 21 in 2021 list. Although when I put "Try three new meatless recipes" on my list I was thinking mainly about dinner entrees, it occurred to me that I wasn't that specific and that a lot of the baking that Rainbow and I have been doing really does count. We've obviously tried a challah recipe and made it several times, we made the cookies for Passover, and I recently made my great-grandmother's noodle kugel recipe. I'm sure there will be more new recipes tried before the year is out, too. I also read a collection of poetry this month (and purchased another one that's now on my nightstand) and, just yesterday, finished reading one of the books that Rainbow is reading for school (but I'll be talking about that tomorrow).

Thanks to Carolyn for hosting us for these monthly One Little Word updates! I will be back tomorrow with a knitting and reading update.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sufficient Motivation

It would have been wonderful to have had another finished skein of handspun to share with you this weekend, but the past week was so busy that it did not allow much time for spinning. I only just got started on the second skein for Rainbow's tallit on Thursday, but I am making decent progress on it:

I just happen to be in one of the sections of the fiber that is a little lighter (or maybe just didn't have as much dye in it), so you can see here, at least, that it's not solid black. This skein isn't going to be that exciting to look at in progress -- and perhaps not even when it's done -- but at least I have something new to motivate me to finish.

My Southern Cross Fibre club has been behind for several months, thanks to delays in shipping that meant that first David had a hard time getting in a supply of wool to dye and then that what he sent out was taking much longer to reach its destination. So while it's nearly the end of April, the shipment for the month of February just showed up. It's a stunner and well worth the wait, though.

I had to edit the heck out of this photo to try to get something remotely resembling the fiber in person because it is so dark that it was completely blowing out my phone camera. The colorway is called Dark Ocean, and it's dyed on gray merino wool that adds even more depth. The variation in shade that you're seeing in the photo is less obvious in real life, but if I'd made the photo any darker, it would just be a dark blob. It occurred to me when this arrived that I had several other blue or mostly blue colorways in the backlog, so I pulled them out to compare and see how they look together:

Again here the colors are not quite right -- the blues of the lighter colorways aren't quite as electric as they look here. But I like how all of these are playing together, and I thought it might be an interesting experiment to spin these all up as three-ply yarns, in the style of some of the Spincycle yarns, and then use them together in a sweater -- perhaps a Shifty? A friend did one in handspun yarn and it turn out amazing (if Ravelry is safe for you, you can see her project page here). One of my 21 in 2021 items is to spin for a sweater, and while this isn't the one I had in mind, I do like the idea of combining several bags of fiber and using them in a larger project. So stay tuned! I'm excited about this idea and want to get started on, but I will be good and finish the current skein first.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Poetry on Thursday: Good for a Laugh

Though the month is flying by, we still have two Thursdays left in National Poetry month, and today's theme is poetry that is humorous or clever. I mentioned yesterday that I really enjoyed the volume of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry that I read last week, so I thought I'd share the two shortest poems in the collection. They're both ones that made me laugh at loud, and we could all use more laughter in our lives. These are also two for which you're likely to know the reference of the named male counterpart (and thus get the full effect of the joke).

Mrs Darwin

7 April 1852.

Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him --
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.

Mrs Icarus

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.

From The World's Wife (c) Carol Ann Duffy 1999

Be sure to visit Kym, Kat, and Bonny today for more poetry!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Unraveled, Week 16/2021

Wednesday again! It feels like it's been a very long week, even though we're not officially halfway through. Obviously work has kept me very busy, and then there was the verdict yesterday, which had me in knots until it will announced. I'm still feeling the tension, however, because tomorrow I have to go back for a follow-up mammogram after some "nodules" were found on my previous scan. I've been assured that I shouldn't worry too much and that this is not uncommon, but try telling a naturally anxious person not to worry and see how well that goes!

In any case, it is Wednesday, despite the fact that it's snowing right now and feels more like February than late April. As per usually, I'm linking up today with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about knitting and reading.

Last night, because I was feeling so wrung out by work stress and verdict anxiety, I decided not to pick up the first sleeve of my Aldous and instead finished up this brioche cowl for the charity pile. It's nothing terribly exciting, but it used all but 6 grams of the yarn leftover from the two charity hats that I just knit (the yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Cozy, a worsted weight superwash merino).

I had a little more of the blue colorway than the yellow/green, so I did a few rounds of 1x1 rib at the top and bottom in just the blue (which you can see better on the inside). I don't remember how many stitches I cast on for this -- I just cast on until it more or less filled my 16 in. circular needle and then made sure I had an even number -- but I did plain-old two-color brioche until I didn't have enough of the yellow/green to work another round and then finished off with the blue. I ended up using 42 grams of each color or about 185 yards in total. It feels really good to have used up just about every last bit of those two skeins of yarn.

Very little reading has been happening this week, but I did quite a bit since last Wednesday that was excellent.

I'd had Writers & Lovers tagged "to read" on my Libby app since hearing it recommended on the What Should I Read Next? podcast, and when I was ready for a new book and saw it had no wait, I thought I'd give it a try. This book grabbed me and pulled me in from the first chapter. I can't put my finger on exactly why this book had such a hold on me, but it felt familiar and comfortable and I just could not put it down. I suppose I identified with the main character -- a woman in her early 30s struggling with the recent death of her mother, the writing of her first novel, her love life, and trying to work off huge student debt -- despite the fact we seem to have nothing in common besides our gender, but I felt so at ease in her thoughts. I gave this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Nadia Owusu's debut memoir Aftershocks was another phenomenal read that I couldn't put down. The daughter of a Ghanaian father and an Armenian American mother, Owusu beautifully and lyrically writes about her parents' split, her mother's abandonment of her, her complicated relationship with her stepmother, her struggles with mental illness, the death of her father (who she saw as the one stable constant in her life), and her ongoing difficulty in understanding her identity and a search for her home. This isn't an easy read, but it is extremely well done. I certainly hope that we hear more from Owusu, as it's clear that she is an extremely talented voice. I gave it 5 stars.

Finally, I rounded out my week with a volume of poetry. I've recently started listening to the Novel Pairings podcast (following Mary's recommendation) and listening back from the beginning. One of the earlier episodes was about poetry, and one of the hosts mentioned a new-to-me poet, Carol Ann Duffy, and specifically this collection of her poems, The World's Wife. I couldn't find it from the library so ended up buying a Kindle copy, and I'm delighted I did. All the poems in this collection are told from the point of view of women in myth and history. Some are sad, some are saucy, some are laugh-out-loud funny. It's a quick read (I started reading one night at bedtime and finished the next morning) and one I'm sure to go back to. I gave it 4 stars.

I am still reading The Giver, which I really could finish in an afternoon if I wanted to, but I have chosen to read it at the same pace as Rainbow so I don't inadvertently spoil anything, and on Monday I started reading The God of Small Things, though with my work schedule this week I haven't gotten very far. I hope to spend some time getting lost in it toward the end of the week.

How are your knitting and reading going this week? I hope you have more time for both than I have so far!

See you back here tomorrow for some more poetry!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Now Departing for Sleeve Island

The best thing I can say this morning is that it's Tuesday -- i.e., it's not Monday anymore. Yesterday started off really well, but then I got a ton of work dumped on me and ended up working until 6 p.m., and that's looking like it will be the general trend for the week. I am glad that I decided to take a personal day on Friday (Rainbow is off from school for parent/teacher conferences and asked me to spend the day with her), even though it will mean more work to make up for it.

Because this year is all about balance for me, I made a point to round out a stressful day yesterday with some pleasure. After putting Rainbow to bed, I put on the most recent episode of the newest Masterpiece production, Atlantic Crossing (it's really good -- but be aware that it has a lot of subtitles!), and pulled out my Aldous. Last night I officially finished the body:

I thought about picking up for the first sleeve before bed, but in the end I decided that probably wasn't the smartest thing after a long and stressful day, so I wove in a few ends instead. Tonight I'll get started on that sleeve. It would be great to get them both done by the end of the month, for no other reason than it's an arbitrary deadline -- although, if you can believe it, we are expecting snow here tomorrow! It's possible that if I finish this sweater soon there might be a chance to wear it once or twice before it's packed up for the fall, but really I'd just like to get it off the needles so I can start something new.

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on my reading life. Here's hoping Tuesday treats us better than Monday!

Sunday, April 18, 2021


I'm happy to report that I am upright and feeling mostly okay this morning! My arm is a little sore, and my joints are a little achy (and between that and the Mister's snoring, I did not sleep all that well last night), but a little Tylenol and a couple cups of coffee have done a word of good. It's still quite chilly here, but the sun is out and it looks like I'll be feeling well enough to go for a walk later.

And on top of that good news, I managed to finish my skein of Polwarth/silk! It took me all day to ply it on Friday (not all at once, of course -- that's several sessions of sitting down at my wheel over the course of the day) and probably more than 20 minutes to skein it yesterday. Here is what it looked like fresh off the wheel, before wet finishing:

It was fairly well balanced when I took it off my Super Skeiner, and that's the result of being very conscious of not putting in too much twist when plying. For one thing, when Polwarth does poof up when it's washed, a side effect is that the ply often tightens on its own. And while I may not know very much about weaving, I do know that yarn meant to be woven does not need to be as tightly plied as it does for knitting. Here is a closeup shot so you can get a sense of the looser ply:

Under normal circumstances, I'd call this underplied, but I knew that if it didn't tighten up enough in the finishing process, I could always add more twist by running it back through the wheel. I was also making a conscious effort to spin my singles fine, with the hope that after it was plied and washed the yarn would be fingering. But it appears I may have overcompensated just a bit:

Notice how you can barely make out the strand of yarn running over the dime in the center of the skein? Yep, my yarn is closer to laceweight than fingering, and there's more than 680 yards of it in this skein!

The skein did shrink up quite a bit in the finishing (it went from 72 inches around to 56 inches), and the ply did tighten up, but it still has good drape, and I am really pleased -- and I hope Rainbow is soon. The challenge now will be to spin the muted Polwarth fiber I shared last week at roughly the same grist so that they can be woven together, and I am eager enough to see how they look that I don't think it'll take me too much time to spin up the second skein. It may even get started today, provided I'm feeling up to it!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Well friends, tomorrow is the day: I'm scheduled for vaccination #2 at 3 tomorrow afternoon. At least part of my wardrobe is sorted:

I have been looking forward to this day because getting past it means being able to be with more friends and family safely, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about side effects. Pretty much everyone I know who is fully vaccinated has had some reaction, but they've ranged from things as mild as feeling tired or having a slight headache to being down for the count for several days. I'm really hoping for the former, obviously, though we've planned it so that if we're not feeling well, we'll be able to take it easy. Rainbow is going to sleep over at my parents' on Saturday night and likely hang out there for most of the day on Sunday. We'll try to get as many of the weekend chores and errands done tomorrow morning. And I might even make a batch of matzah ball soup tomorrow so we'll have some "Jewish penicillin" on hand should we need it!

I am still planning a spinning post on Sunday, though I may write it ahead of time and schedule it to post automatically just in case. With any luck, I'll be feeling just a little tired on Sunday and will just have to have a quiet day of knitting.

I hope all you, my blog friends, have a lovely weekend. Here's to more shots in arms and better days ahead for all of us!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Poetry on Thursday: Spring/New Beginnings

This week's poetry prompt from Kym was "spring/new beginnings." When I think of spring, I think of nature and the flora and fauna of the world know when spring is coming even when it feels to us humans like winter will never end.

The combination of nature and poetry always brings to mind the work of one poet in particular for me: Robert Frost. I think I may have mentioned here before that in my junior year of high school, I was required to pick an American writer to do an in-depth study of and then write a term paper on. I chose Frost and read every poem he ever wrote in preparation to write the paper, and my thesis was that he chose nature as a canvas on which to paint his internal emotional state. Frost was a fairly traditional poet, in that his poems were rhyming and often had regular meter. They're also familiar to many people, even those who don't typically read poetry, because some of them are ubiquitous and easily memorized. But chances are you've never heard or read this one, though I think you'll like it -- to me, it so perfectly captures my feelings when there's the very first hint of spring in the air.

To the Thawing Wind

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate'er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit's crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o'er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost, (c) 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Unraveled, Week 15/2021

Wednesday again, eh? This month seems to be going by at a pretty fast clip. As per usual, I am joining Kat and the Unravelers to chat about knitting and reading this Wednesday.

I am still working on my Aldous, though I'm in that long straight section of the body that can get a little monotonous, hence the little break to knit the two hats I shared yesterday. I tried it on yesterday afternoon to do a check-in on the fit and all is still well (Rainbow is the photographer of this shot, if you're wondering why the angle seems a little odd -- she's growing but is still significantly shorter than I am!):

I measured the body last night before packing it up, and I'm at 7.5 inches under the underarm, so that means three more inches to knit before I get to the next exciting part.

Even though I know I should really focus on this sweater if I want to get it done soon, I worked on another diversion yesterday:

This sweet little fellow is Jabby the Friendly Syringe from Mochimochi Land. The original is obviously much cuter than mine; I think I executed the knitting part okay, but my face embroidery needs a little work (why do my faces always seem to come out looking angry?). It was a quick if fiddly project using tiny scraps from my big bag. The pattern is very easy to follow, but there are a lot of ends to deal with and knitting with a small number of stitches on DPNs isn't my favorite. I had pulled out a set of Clover DPNs that I'd gotten from a friend when he was destashing and managed to lose two of them. One just split on its own as I was knitting, and another I accidentally snapped in two when I sat on it by mistake. Luckily the original set had six DPNs in the package, so I still have a usable set should I want to use them! The project only took a couple of hours, including all the finishing, so now I have a little mascot to take with me for my second shot on Saturday. If you're thinking ahead to the holidays, I think Jabby would make an excellent Christmas ornament to remember a good part of 2021!

Reading has been really excellent this past week. I have finished three good books.


I think I may be the last person to read Summerwater among the group of my blog friends, but my library had only one copy of it and I had a bit of a wait. It was worth it, though -- as promised, it was an expertly written and absorbing read. I would have liked to have been able to sit down and read it in one go, but work wasn't cooperating. It was still a quick read, and I'm definitely interested in reading more of Sarah Moss's books now. I gave it 4 stars.

The Death of Vivek Oji has been talked about quite a bit in my Sunday Zoom group, and it was also on the Aspen Prize long list (I've read everything on the short list, so apparently I'm now working my way backwards!). It's a beautiful book. You know from the outset that the title character is dead, but the narrative moves back and forth in time and between characters to tell the story of how they got to that death. It's set in Nigeria, a country and culture I don't know much about, but all the same it felt relevant to me. It's also a relatively short novel, so one that can be read in a short amount of time -- though I recommend taking your time with it to fully appreciate it. I gave it 4 stars as well.

My final finish in the past week was a real surprise. I don't read a lot of science fiction (though I suppose you could call speculative fiction a subsection of the genre, and I've read my fair share of that). But Mary read Stories of Your Life, a collection of short stories, and raved about it so much that I had to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. There are two stories in this collection that I could have done without, but the vast majority are fascinating and absorbing. Really, most of these stories could qualify as novellas -- they're not really short! My favorite was probably "The Story of Your Life," which felt incredibly familiar to me until I realized that it was the basis of the screenplay for the movie Arrival. Much of the more scientific content of these stories was completely over my head, but they made me really think hard about so many things, even after I was finished reading. I gave this collection (you guessed it!) 4 stars.

I am still reading The Giver (and Rainbow told me just before she left for school that they'll likely be reading a few more chapters in class today; so far I've been keeping up with her), and yesterday I started Writers & Lovers, which I've been keeping an eye on at the library and happen to catch with no wait. I'm hoping that today will be calm enough to let me finish it, because last night before bed I got a notification that my next hold, Aftershocks, is ready for me.

I'll be back tomorrow with more poetry, but in the meantime, I'd love to hear what you're knitting and reading this week!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

So Nice, I Knit It Twice

One of my 21 in 2021 goals was to knit five items for charity. I've blown well past that by now, but I'm showing no signs of stopping! I've found that a quick hat or cowl is a good break when I'm in the middle of a larger project, and when my sweater started to get just a tad boring in the last week, I though I'd knit up a quick hat as a breather. I had so much fun with it that I almost immediately cast on a second!

The pattern is the Ice Time Hat (Ravelry link) by Jennifer Lassonde, aka Boston Jen of the Down Cellar Studio podcast. The pattern calls for DK yarn, but I used two skeins of Fibernymph Dye Works Cozy (worsted) that were part of a yarn club Lisa did several years ago in which she dyed yarn inspired by a camping trip she took with her husband in Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario. The bluish colorway is called Twilight on Harry Lake and the yellow/green is called Magical Marshes. Despite using a thicker yarn than called for, I went down in needle size (to a US 4/3.5 mm and US 6/4.0 mm) because I was worried my fabric would be too loose otherwise.

For the first hat, on the left, I used the yellow/green as the main color and the blue as the contrast, and I switched them for the second hat (well, mostly -- I accidentally cast on with the wrong color on the second hat, so the brims are identical, but I threw in an extra round so that the patterning would be reversed). The stitch pattern is a slip-stitch mosaic stitch, so you're only knitting with one color per round. Because both of my yarns were variegated, it looks much busier than it is, rather like an Impressionist painting. Here's one of Jen's photos from the pattern using two solids, showing off the pattern much more clearly:

Because the first hat ended up a little snug and a little shallow for my taste (though it'll be fine for a child), I decided to add an extra vertical repeat for the second hat. There is only one size in the pattern, so I couldn't make a larger size, but I figured the extra length would help. I also decided to try a slight change in the stitch pattern. As written, the pattern involves two rounds per repeat with two-stitch cable crosses. These aren't hard (I managed them just fine without a cable needle), but they are a bit slow, so I thought I'd try right and left twists, which are sort of faux cables, in place of them. I think the overall effect is pretty much the same, though if you look closely, you can see a difference, especially on the right twists:

It's pretty subtle. I think the overall effect is that each slipped stitch actually ends up being smaller when worked as a twist than when worked as a cable. And I think it's the reason why the second hat, despite having eight more rounds than the first, somehow used less yarn that the first!

Both hats are in the charity pile now, and I still have just under 200 yards of the yarn left, so I will probably use them for a cowl (I'm thinking two-color brioche). At some point I'll try the pattern again with two solids, or maybe one solid and one variegated, and perhaps I'll use larger needles. I will say that the pattern is very well written and easy to follow, so if you're looking for something that looks really impressive but isn't hard, I'd recommend it!

Monday, April 12, 2021

A Monday Pause

No, you haven't lost track of a day -- it's still Monday and I decided I wanted to post, mainly because it was a very busy weekend and I didn't want to have to cram everything into tomorrow's post!

Mondays are usually rough in our house. Rainbow is very much not a morning person and it can be hard getting her out of bed on any day, but Mondays are especially hard -- and this Monday is the first day she had to get up and go back to school in person after being home for the last three weeks (she was on spring break for the last two weeks of March, and then they did school remotely last week to give people time to quarantine without missing school if they'd traveled). Surprisingly, though, she was up and ready to go, and it was a very pleasant morning because of it.

We really did have a nice weekend; while I say it was busy, it's not that we really went anywhere or did much out of the ordinary, but we got a lot done. The highlight of the weekend was probably Friday night, as it was the first time we had our once-traditional family dinner with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. As I think I've mentioned, my parents came back from Florida about two weeks ago, once they were two weeks past their second vaccination shots. My sister-in-law was the first to be vaccinated because she's a pharmacist at our local children's hospital, and my brother got his second shot about two weeks ago (he has a heart condition that qualified him to get one under Pennsylvania's 1a phase). And though I haven't really been broadcasting it, the Mister and I were lucky enough to get our first shots a little more than two weeks ago. Normally we would have had to wait until next Monday, when the state opens up eligibility to all adults, but we got a tip from several people about a vaccination clinic near us that had open slots that day, and they were looking for people to come get the shots. So because we were now two weeks out from that, it was decided that it was safe for all of us to resume our Friday night dinners. Rainbow is the only one in the group who has not been vaccinated (we're watching those trials for 6-11-year-olds closely!), but she'd been home for three weeks anyway. And let me tell you, it was simply wonderful. For a couple of hours, things felt normal. I'd almost forgotten what that was like, and it was such a balm for my troubled soul.

On Saturday, Rainbow and I did a big clean-out of her closet and dresser, partly to switch over what's in her dresser to her warmer weather clothing and partly to set aside the clothes that no longer fit her or aren't really her style anymore. The synagogue committee I cochair is holding a clothing drive for spring/summer clothes in a few weeks, and we've all pulled out things to donate. Right now there are about seven or eight large shopping bags in the corner of our living room to contribute, and I'm anticipating that pile will grow! Rainbow is delighted with how much space she now has, particularly in her closet, and I'm delighted that people who could really use the clothing will get it.

Yesterday was cooler and windy after some rain overnight, but I did convince Rainbow to take a stroll around the neighborhood with me. I guess I'm fully in spring cleaning mode, because before we left I did a scan of my bookshelves and pulled about six books out to drop off at the Little Free Library in the neighborhood; when I'd walked by it earlier in the afternoon, I'd noticed that it looked pretty empty and could use refilling. Quite a few books in my collections are hand-me-downs from my mother or ones I've picked up from the "free space" in my office, and usually I'm not emotionally attached to them; I'd much rather make room on the shelves for books that I really love and will want to read again. I didn't plan on taking anything from the FLL, but when we stopped to drop off the books, I found a pristine paperback copy of The Nickel Boys that I had to take home (I borrowed it from the library when I read it, and I'd really like to read it again).

We were noticing a lot of gorgeous flowers and flowering trees in bloom on our walk, and when we got back, I had to stop and snap a photo of the dogwood in our backyard, which is in peak bloom right now and know won't be this beautiful for long!

It was a challenge to take this without also getting all of the roofers' tools and equipment in the shot! They are still working steadily and should finish the front of the roof today. We are hoping they'll be completely done by the end of the month, but that all depends on the weather (they obviously don't work when it's raining, and it is April -- in fact, I can hear them yelling to each other right now about the sky looking like rain soon).

I hope you had a wonderful spring weekend and that your spring cleaning, if you're doing it, is going well! I will be back tomorrow with knitting content!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Right on Track

Spinning progress has been a little slower than in the past, but I'm still on track (at least as far as I'm concerned) with the spinning for Rainbow's tallit. Thanks in large part to a virtual spinning meet-up yesterday afternoon, I've officially passed the halfway point on the FatCatKnits Polwarth/silk singles. I had split the fiber into four strips and am now on the third of them.

I have also pulled out the other color that we have been entertaining as a pairing for this brighter colorway, and it's from very deep stash. It's Polwarth from Crown Mountain Farms, which closed down a number of years ago (I think, in fact, that this might've been from the last order I placed when they announced they were closing).

It's actually a bit darker in real life than it's appearing here (I was getting a bit of a glare from the window), but at least you can see the hints of pink and purple and orange that I think will play nicely with the colors in the brighter Polwarth/silk.

For those of you who, like me, are fans of HipStrings and are thinking ahead to the Tour de Fleece, I wanted to mention that Jill has made available some really intriguing batt options for TdF this year. I decided on the "personal favorites" option, and I'm really excited to see what she comes up with!

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Poetry on Thursday: Poet of the Week

After I shared that favorite Sharon Olds poem last week, Kym asked me if I would like join her, Kat, and Bonny in featuring poetry on our blogs for this month, and of course I said yes! There's a loose schedule with themes for each week, and this week we're all focusing on the same poet, Elizabeth Alexander.

Though her name was not immediately familiar to me, I have surely heard her poetry before, most notably because she read her poem "Praise Song for the Day" at Barack Obama's first inauguration (I think I was so overcome by emotion that all I could remember about the ceremony was Aretha Franklin's hat). Still, I couldn't have told you any of her poems by name or really anything about her biography, so it was a real treat to get to know her a little and read some of her poems. Unfortunately neither of my library apps had any of her poetry collections available, so I was limited to what I could find online. The poem I am sharing today, however, stood out -- maybe because I wrote a poem with the same title back in my angst-y teenage poetry-writing days or maybe because of the change in season. But I certainly hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Now is the time of year when bees are wild
and eccentric. They fly fast and in cramped
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants
in the bright, late-September out-of-doors.
I have found their dried husks in my clothes.

They are dervishes because they are dying,
one last sting, a warm place to squeeze
a drop of venom or of honey.
After the stroke we thought would be her last
my grandmother came back, reared back and slapped

a nurse across the face. Then she stood up,
walked outside, and lay down in the snow.
Two years later there is no other way
to say, we are waiting. She is silent, light
as an empty hive, and she is breathing.

From Body of Life, published by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright 1996 Elizabeth Alexander.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Unraveled, Week 14, 2021

Wednesday again, eh? Time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers and give an update on my knitting and reading.

The knitting hasn't been hugely productive (mainly because work has been busy), but I did manage to finish up my scrappy socks yesterday:

I followed my basic sock recipe for these -- 64 stitches on size 1/2.25 needles, cuff down with a flap and gusset -- and used scraps of sturdier wool/nylon sock yarn from my giant Bag 'o Scraps. I pulled out a bunch of options and then selected five that seemed like they wouldn't look too horrible together. I knew there was no way I was going to get the two socks to match each other, but I figured I could at least have them look like they went together by using the same yarn for the same section of both socks. That meant weighing out each scrap and only using half (or less) of each for the first sock so I'd have enough for the second. I played a little bit of yarn chicken as I approached the toe for the second sock, but I finished with 2 grams of yarn left. The yarns used in these are, from the top down, Trekking XXL, Knit Picks Simple Stripes (discontinued), ONline Supersocke, Austermann Step, and Regia Design Line by Arne and Carlos. I used a total of 71 grams and 326 yards of yarn.

Reading has been very good the past week. I've finished another three books since last Wednesday.

I seem to be on a short story collection kick lately; Sabrina & Corina was my third in the past month or so. Carolyn recommended it, after having discovered that the author is local to her and the stories are all set in her area, and I decided to give it a try when I found that it was available from my library with no wait. All the stories in the collection focus on Indigenous and Latina women in and around Denver, Colorado. There is a heavy sadness to all the stories -- missing family members, addiction, a yearning for love -- and I can't say that there are happy endings. I also think I probably missed something in not being familiar with the setting, but overall I did enjoy reading these stories. I gave the collection 3 stars.

Speaking of short stories, I recommend you see if your library has the audiobook of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies available. That was the only option for me, and while usually I prefer to read with my eyes, listening to these stories being performed was a real treat (and, at only 4 hours long, it was the perfectly length for two long walks). I didn't love every single story in this collection, but I really liked the vast majority of them, and the writing in all of them is excellent. I had to look up the author as I was listening when there was a mention of Wholey's in an unnamed northern city, and sure enough, she lived here at some point in her career (I'm not sure if she still does). In any case, this book is a quick, intriguing read that is well worth your time -- even if, like me, you are neither a Black woman nor a church lady. I gave it 4 stars.

In a fantastic coincidence, I finished the Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain just yesterday -- and then today it was announced as the next Read With Us selection! I am extremely pleased with that choice, because this is a difficult book that really begs for discussion. It's tricky to read because nearly all the talking is written in dialect and there's a fair amount of slang used, but it's also emotionally taxing. And did I mention it's long (nearly 600 pages in the digital copy I borrowed)? I'm sure my thoughts on it will continue to evolve as I reflect on it, and I'm very much looking forward to the discussion to come. I gave it 4 stars.

As to what I'm currently reading, I finally got Summerwater from the library after a long wait. I am hoping for a quiet day at work today so I can read more. One of my 21 in 2021 goals is to read a book that Rainbow is reading for school, and her class started reading The Giver yesterday, so I have pulled out my copy to read along. I have read it before -- I've read the whole series, actually, and think they're all amazing -- but it's been several years and because I know it's a tricky book in terms of the serious questions it raises, I want to read along with her to help her with her homework and discuss it with her.

That's it for me for today. What's on your needles and your book stack?

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Keep Calm, Knit On

Things are starting to calm down a bit here, but I wouldn't call it quiet just yet. After setting up the scaffolding late last week, the roofers started working in earnest here yesterday, taking advantage of a beautiful day to start removing the old slates from the roof. There was a lot of hammering going on, which made me very happy to go for my walk! My big work project is almost done, with the last read-through of the commencement program starting today, and Rainbow is back to school (remotely) this week. Somehow the craziness doesn't bother me as much when I have a routine to fall back on.

And, of course, knitting helps. I'm sure I'll need it much more as the roofing project goes on and the banging continues, too. My primary project has been my Aldous, which is finally looking like a sweater:

For once, the color is pretty accurate!

You're looking at the front of the sweater here; if you look carefully, you can see the column of purl stitches at the center back (obviously showing up as a column of knits on the reverse stockinette inside). I think I mentioned when I cast this on that I didn't swatch because I had knit a sweater at the same gauge in the same yarn previously, so I was pretty sure it would fit okay, but that didn't stop me from worrying -- gauge is such a fickle thing, after all. So over the weekend, once I had separated the sleeve stitches from the body and knit about an inch of fabric under the arms, I put half the body stitches on another needle and tried it on to be sure. I'm happy to report that all is well and the fit looks to be exactly as I hoped, just enough positive ease for the sweater to feel like a comfy (but not sloppy) sweatshirt.

My other WIP, which has been good mindless knitting for the more stressful moments of my day, is this pair of scrappy socks that I'm pretty sure I can finish up today.

I have just joined the final scrap to the second sock, which will take me through the final part of the foot and the toe. As much fun as these have been, I'm also looking forward to knitting a pair all in the same color and for which I don't constantly have to be weighing my scraps. The scrap bag is still very full, so I'm sure there will be more scrappy projects ahead, just maybe not socks!

I hope your week is off to a slightly less noisy start than mine and that all your WIPs are behaving nicely! See you back here tomorrow for a big reading update!

Sunday, April 04, 2021

In a Field of Poppies

Happy Easter, if you are celebrating today, and happy Sunday if you are not. It's an absolutely gorgeous day here; I am just back from a long walk in the sunshine, which felt especially good considering that it was snowing here just a few days ago. I was glad to see the daffodils and tulips that had just recently started blooming weren't killed by our brief return to winter weather, though some of the more delicate blossoms on the the flowering trees in the neighborhood didn't fare so well. 

My spinning has made me very happy this past week. First, I finished up the Rambouillet I was about to ply at this time last week, and not only am I delighted with the look of it, I am also very happy that I finally got some decent yardage -- 400+ yards!

Rambouillet (a French merino, if you are not familiar with it) is quite bouncy, so the skein shrank up a bit in the finishing but not as much as it could have. I also seemed to have balanced my twist a bit better with this skein, which makes sense -- fibers with more crimp seem to be better suited to more twist.

I was a bit surprised by the range of colors in the finished yarn, as the fiber was mostly deep red, navy, and dark gray, but one thing that I love about spinning is that you can never truly judge how the yarn will end up based upon the fiber. As the fiber is drafted, the colors blend and change, so I ended up with sections of orange and purple and tan. I am happy, though, that there's still quite a bit of that vivid red, which I am fairly certain is meant to be the red of the poppies growing in the field in the poem that inspired the name of this color way "In Flanders Fields."

Shortly after I finished plying this skein, my next club shipment was delivered, having made it to me from Australia in record time -- faster, even, than some mail has taken even within my own city or state! This is January's club (we're a bit behind due to mail delays in general), and if David had dyed this colorway with me in mind, he couldn't have done any better:

The colorway is Grazing, and it's on Bond, which is one of my favorite wools to spin. This will be excellent as a three-ply sock yarn, though I can't decide if I want to do a traditional three ply and mix the colors up or strip it down lengthwise and chain-ply to preserve the colors. It's a moot point for now, in any case, because it's not the next thing on my wheel.

Instead, I am starting what might be a rather important project. Rainbow's bat mitzvah is coming up next December, and what I have been wanting to do since we started thinking about it it to spin yarn and then commission a friend to weave a piece of cloth to create a custom tallit for her. A tallit is a prayer shawl worn by typically male Jews and often given as a gift on the occasion of the bar mitzvah. But in less religious congregations, like ours, women often wear them as well. So the plan at this point is to spin the yarn and then hand it off to the weaver to weave cloth with it, and then I will attach the pieces that make it a tallit. I thought I knew which fiber in my stash I was going to use for it, but it seems Rainbow's tastes have changed. We did a little dig through the fiber stash, and she pulled out this braid of fiber:

This is a braid of Polwarth/silk from FatCatKnits. It's a Day's End braid, what Ginny calls her one-of-a-kind colorways that she creates from the dyes leftover at the end of the day, called Gorgeous. Rather appropriate, I think! I divided it lengthwise into four strips that I am spinning end to end, one after the other, and when all the singles are spun, I will wind them into a center-pull ball and ply from both ends. I am spinning the singles very fine, knowing that the Polwarth will poof up when it's washed and that I want this yarn to be fingering weight at the very thickest. I'm also using one of the new Akerworks bobbins that my brother and sister-in-law gave me for my birthday, and it coordinates so well with the fiber!

If Rainbow likes how the yarn comes out and approves it for the tallit, we also found a bundle of Polwarth in my stash in some dark shades of gray that I will spin to weave with the more colorful yarn and mute it a bit. She wants something pretty, she said, but not too loud or over the top. I think it's going to be stunning, but she gets the final say. If it's too much color, at least I end up with some pretty yarn in the end!

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

It's the first of April, which happens to be national poetry month. One of my goals this year is to read more poetry, so I thought I'd join in with those of you sharing poems on your blogs with one that's stayed with me for many years.

I did a lot of creative writing as a teenager, primarily poetry. In high school, between my freshman and sophomore years, I attended a summer precollege program at Brandeis University (my mother's alma mater!), where I took two classes. One was about the psychological and physiological effects of stress (I was already thinking about the field that would become my undergraduate major) and the other a creative writing course. For the latter, we studied poems out of The Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, which I still have and pull out now and then. The poem I am sharing with you today is one that we studied and that had a really powerful effect on me, partly because it was an emotional poem and partly because the style in which it was written reminded me so much of my own. Twenty-five years later, it's still powerful to me, so even though it's a sad poem, I've decided to share it.

Cambridge Elegy
For Henry Averell Gerry, 1941-1960

I hardly know how to speak to you now,
you are so young now, closer to my daughter's age
than mine--but I have been there and seen it, and must
tell you, as the seeing and hearing
spell the world into the deaf-mute's hand.
The tiny dormer windows like the ears of a fox, like the
long row of teats on a pig, still
perk up over the Square, though they're tearing up the
street now, as if digging a grave,
the shovels shrieking on stone like your car
sliding along on its roof after the crash.
How I wanted everyone to die if you had to die,
how sealed into my own world I was,
deaf and blind. What can I tell you now,
now that I know so much and you are a
freshman still, drinking a quart of orange juice and
playing three sets of tennis to cure a hangover, such an
ardent student of the grown-ups! I can tell you
we were right, our bodies were right, life was
really going to be that good, that
pleasurable in every cell.
Suddenly I remember the exact look of your body, but
better than the bright corners of your eyes, or the
light of your face, the rich Long Island
puppy-fat of your thighs, or the slick
chino of your pants bright in the corners of my eyes, I
remember your extraordinary act of courage in
loving me, something which no one but the
blind and halt had done before. You were
fearless, you could drive after a sleepless night
just like a grown-up, and not be afraid, you could
fall asleep at the wheel easily and
never know it, each blond hair of your head--and they were
thickly laid--put out like a filament of light,
twenty years ago. The Charles still
slides by with that ease that made me bitter when I
wanted all things hard as your death was hard;
wanted all things broken and rigid as the
bricks in the sidewalk or your love for me
stopped cell by cell in your young body.
Ave--I went ahead and had the children,
the life of ease and faithfulness, the
palm and the breast, every millimeter of delight in the body,
I took the road we stood on at the start together, I
took it all without you as if
in taking it after all I could most
honor you.

Sharon Olds

The Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, edited Robert Pack, Sydney Lea, and Jay Parini, (c) 1985 by Bread Loaf Writers' Conference/Middlebury College