Sunday, May 30, 2021

An Unintended Gradient

I have gotten more spinning done this week than I expected, in part because I finally got some library books I've had on hold for a while, and you know how much I love to spin and read an ebook. I am now two-thirds of the way done with my New Hope three ply, having finished up the second bobbin of singles yesterday:

This second bobbin seemed to go much faster, and when I compared it to the first, I could see why. I clearly did not divide up my fiber very evenly, as there are more singles on the first bobbin (that's the yellow-orange one above) than on the second (the purple). When I split up the fiber, I was trying to separate the lighter blues from the darker ones in addition to splitting the weight of it all. It looks to me, now that I see the two finished bobbins and the fiber to be spun on the third, that I ended up with components of a gradient. I expect the singles on the final bobbin to be darker overall. It really doesn't matter too much to me, as the will still end up with an interesting effect when plied, but it's certainly a reminder of how I could have spun it differently.

This weekend has turned out to be a complete failure in the sense of it being the traditional start to summer: Yesterday it rained nearly all day and was chilly enough that we had to turn our heat back on and I had to get out wool socks and a sweater. Today was only marginally better -- dry, but just as gloomy. Tomorrow the sun is supposed to reappear, though I don't think we're supposed to get any warmer than 70F. On the plus side, this kind of weather is perfect for curling up with a cup of tea, my crafting, and a good book. That's exactly what I did yesterday afternoon. Today, as a way of getting Rainbow out of the house for a bit, I proposed that we visit our local independent bookstore. She found a young reader's edition of a memoir by Sonia Sotomayor, and I came home with copies of two of my recent favorite reads:

I was delighted to find the copy of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies because I originally listened to the audiobook and want to reread it with my eyes. The author is also local to me. And when I saw signed copies of Writers & Lovers, which I absolutely adored and think everyone should read, I had to bring a copy home with me. I did look for books that I want to read, rather than two that I've already read, but it's a small bookstore and the books they feature are the same ones that you see everyone reading and talking about. It's funny -- I used to be the kind of reader who would buy all the books I wanted to read, but now I seem to be more likely to borrow them from the library first and then read the ones that I really love. I suppose it's a more sustainable approach to it, even if I'm not economically supporting the bookstore or the author as much (but I do donate to the library, and I know the library buys the ebooks and audiobooks I borrow!).

Anyway, I have two books out from the library right now that I expect will be more than enough to keep me company through the final bobbin of singles and plying. I very much expect that come this time next week, I'll be showing you a finished skein of yarn.

I hope your long weekend is more summery than mine, and if not, I hope you have a good book and some crafting to keep you entertained!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Three Random and Unrelated Things

It feels like the week should be over already, so it's a good thing that Carole hosts a Three on Thursday link-up because I can't seem to come up with anything coherent today. Instead, you're going to get three random things that have only me/my life as their common element.

1. I am sorry to say that my hip was not cooperative when I went for a run the other day.
I managed about 2 miles altogether (I did short spurts of running with walking in between), and two days later my hip is still giving me trouble, so I'm going to stick with walking for the time being. That means I need to replace that 5K run item on my 21 in 2021 list. I am thinking that some sort of virtual walking challenge would be a good replacement. I know that Juliann has been doing the Land's End to John O'Groats walking challenge -- a total of 1,083 miles -- and while I'm not planning to sign up to officially do it, I do like that number, not to mention that it's nice to imagine walking the length of the UK at a time when I haven't traveled farther than a few zip codes. I've been using an app that tracks my walking distance, so I totaled up how much I've walked so far this year, and I'm already to almost 620 miles, not counting this week's walks. I thought about trying to walk the equivalent of the length of the Appalachian Trail, but that seemed a bit high at almost 2,200 miles (I'm trying to challenge myself, but I do have only so many hours in the day). Suggestions are welcome!

2. I'm in need of some plant advice.
Our landscapers were here this morning to cut the grass, right around the time the Mister was arriving home after dropping Rainbow off at school. I have long hated these holly "bushes" on either side of our front steps, so he asked the landscapers their opinion. The bottom line is that they're finally going. But now we need to decide what to plant in their place. Ideally I would like something that stays green and looks (relatively) alive year-round. Our house faces east and gets a lot of morning sun. I can't tell you anything about soil conditions or zones -- I'm really clueless! So those of you who are good with plants, do you have any ideas?

3. It's a long holiday weekend!
This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend in the United States, the official start to the summer season, and that means that everything is closed on Monday. As as added bonus, we got an email from our office personnel director yesterday that our office will be "closing" at noon tomorrow. Of course, that just means that I'll be able to log out of my email at noon but otherwise carry on as per usual, but I'll take it! We're unfortunately expecting a cool and rainy weekend here, so no pool parties for us, but I will be more than happy with extra time to knit and read. Whatever your plans are for the weekend, whether or not it's a holiday weekend for you, I hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Unraveled, Week 21/2021

Well friends, we've made it to another Wednesday! That means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk knitting and reading. And it's been a productive week in both areas for me.

I have primarily been focused on knitting my Threipmuir sweater this past week, specifically on getting through the colorwork yoke so that I can move on to the stockinette portion (for which I will not need my eyes as much as I knit). I finished the colorwork yesterday, and I'm almost through the last of the short-row shaping below it and very soon will be ready to split the sleeves from the body and start the long process of knitting the body.

This project has actually taught me a new technique: the ladderback jacquard method of dealing with long floats. I've been aware of this method for a while and understood the general method of it, but I hadn't yet tried it, and to be honest, when I cast on this sweater, I didn't even realize that it used this technique. It's only used for a small number of rounds in this sweater, but it's very handy and can see how I can use it in the future. (And hey -- that's another item crossed off my 21 in 2021 list!)

I've also been working on my brother's socks and have passed the heel on the first sock, though I messed it up a tiny bit because I was knitting on it on Saturday afternoon when we were at a little happy hour party with some friends and family. My brother will never know the difference, frankly, so I just went with it (and I dare you to even find the error -- I can't even seen it anymore!). Now I'm knitting until I'm out of yarn or the leg seems long enough, whichever comes first.

Reading has been continuing at a good pace, though for a while I felt kind of at a loss as to what to read next so as not to mess with my bingo plans. I have finished three books in the past week.

When I was between holds and didn't want to start anything too heavy, I decided to read one of the many books I have in my Kindle library from Amazon First Reads (those freebies you get every month if you have a Prime account). Sorry I Missed You sounded like a fairly silly and easy read. I am sorry to say it was silly, but not in a good way, and not good. I didn't hate it, but I didn't particularly like it, either. The plot is way too complicated and unnecessarily convoluted, and the writing is confusing at times. I know some of you will wonder why I bothered to finish it, and my only answer is that it was quick to read and by the time I realized I wasn't going to care for it much, I was already most of the way done (and there was a bit of a mystery that I wanted to know the answer to). I gave it 2 stars.

I thankfully got very lucky with my next read when I got surprised by a hold coming up from the library; I wasn't expecting to get Piranesi for a few more weeks at least! And this was a good one -- I read it cover to cover over the course of Monday. You can read the description of the plot on Goodreads, but trust me when I tell you that it really won't tell you much. This is the kind of book you can start reading without knowing anything, and you need to be prepared to be completely confused at the beginning, but it will all come together beautifully in the end. This novel is propulsive and completely original, and though it made me think of The Secret History quite a bit, it's unlike anything else I've read. I gave it 4 stars.

After reading a book in a day on Monday, I repeated the experience yesterday when I finally read 84, Charing Cross Road. I know many of you have already read it and enjoyed it, and I've been meaning to get to it for a while. I actually tried to read it on Monday as an ebook from the library, but when I opened it, I discovered that the one version available was not in English! Luckily, I found it available as an audiobook (less than 2 hours long) on Hoopla, so I listened to it yesterday afternoon. I'm actually very glad I listened with my ears -- I think it's such a lovely experience to hear it performed with authentic accents! I really enjoyed this collection of letters, as so many of you have, and I gave it 4 stars.

I am now (im)patiently waiting on some library holds, including one that has said it should be "available soon" (meaning I'm first in line) for more than a week now. I've decided that it's safe to start my bingo reading now because, according to Mary's rules, any book that's finished on Saturday or after counts, so I began The Autobiography of Malcolm X last night before bed. I have owned this book for many years, perhaps since high school, and I can tell that I started it at least once before because I have found some creased corners of pages, but obviously I was not quite ready to read it then. I am not even a chapter in at this point, but I can already tell it's going to be a powerful read.

How about you? What are you working on and reading these days? If you're participating in Summer Book Bingo, have you started reading for it yet?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Balance in 2021: May

Does anyone else feel like the days are going by faster even as they get longer? I can't believe it's already the last week of May; Rainbow only has two weeks of fifth grade left, which is completely bonkers to me. But the end of the month means it's time to look back on my One Little Word for the year as well as progress on my 21 in 2021 list. Thanks as always to Carolyn for hosting us for this monthly check-in.

Balance this past month has been in part about balancing work and life, but I've also been thinking a lot lately about Balance in terms of my diet. Many of you have been along for the ride with me these past few years as I've made some pretty significant changes in my diet and lifestyle to lose weight and get healthier. The pandemic has been really good for getting in regular exercise. Lately I've been walking an average of 4.8 miles a day, and I'm a pretty good step streak -- I've hit at least 10K steps every day since September 29, 2020. I do my strength exercises (a 2-minute plank, deep knee bends, crunches, and push-ups) almost every day. And for the most part, my diet has been pretty good. My approach has been one of moderation, so not totally denying myself entire categories or particular foods but rather trying to eat mostly food that is good for me in a traditional sense: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins. Most days I have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and an Israeli salad (chopped cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper) for lunch. Where I get in trouble is that I have a sweet tooth, and often when I've been "good" during the day, I perhaps overindulge a bit with dessert after dinner. I suspect some of it is related to stress from work, but I'm also trying to be more mindful of it. A little bit of chocolate isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I know that restricting myself entirely would be a very bad idea, so it's really a matter of being more mindful of what I'm consuming and how much.

As to my 21 in 2021 list, it's been a less productive month than previously, but I think a large part of that has to do with the fact that I've already crossed several items off the list. Let's take a look at where things stand:

  1. Bake challah for shabbat DONE
  2. Run a 5K straight
  3. Learn a new knitting technique
  4. Sew a project bag DONE
  5. Knit a sweater out of handspun DONE
  6. Spin for a sweater - in progress
  7. Read a book outside my comfort zone DONE
  8. Try making pastry
  9. Knit or crochet a toy DONE
  10. Design a crochet pattern
  11. Read a biography/autobiography DONE
  12. Spin the oldest fiber in my stash DONE
  13. Knit five items for charity DONE
  14. Finish my WIPs from 2020 DONE
  15. Knit a sweater for Rainbow DONE
  16. Knit socks for my brother - in progress
  17. Read a book of poetry DONE
  18. Read a book by a Native American/Indigenous author
  19. Try three new meatless recipes DONE
  20. Go for at least three bike rides
  21. Read a book Rainbow reads for school DONE
I don't know that I've crossed any new items off the list this month, but I have started two of them (spinning for a sweater and knitting socks for my brother). I also have plans to read two books by Native American/Indigenous authors this summer, and now that the weather is heating up and Rainbow is almost out of school, I expect we'll resume family bike rides. I am getting a little nervous about item number 2. I have not started running yet this year, and that's something I typically do in April to get ready for the two 5Ks we usually do in September and October. I stopped running in the fall because I was having terrible hip pain, and I've been nervous to try to run again because of it. I have become a really excellent walker, so it's not an issue about not getting the exercise if I can't run, but if it's still painful, I'm going to have to come up with a new item for that one. I guess the only way to know if I need to do that is to give it a try and see how the old hip feels! I'll keep you posted. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Dark and Ocean-y

The good news is that I've finished a skein of handspun, the first for my Southern Cross Fibre sweater spin. The bad news is that I cannot seem to get my camera to correctly capture the deep, dark blue that it is in real life. The colorway is Dark Ocean, and it's just that -- a deep, moody blue verging on teal. It makes me think of the colors you see in the ocean in Renaissance paintings of ships at sea in the middle of a violent storm, like this:

I've tried to edit the colors to get them to be more accurate in the photo, but I still don't really know what I'm doing with photo editing, so trust me when I say this is darker and really stunning in person.

I think one reason that this yarn turned out so beautifully is, in addition to David's beautiful dyeing ability, that the base fiber was a grey merino. A colored fiber really adds so much depth to the dyed product! The yarn is still drying, so I can't tell you the final yardage just yet, but it did turn out to be fingering, and I used every last bit of the singles. I anticipate somewhere in the range of 350 yards or so.

The next skein to be spun will be from this organic superfine merino from November 2018. The colorway is A New Hope:

I plan to pull this apart so that the light and dark areas are separated as much as possible to get more of the look I'm going for.

I also got a pretty amazing surprise this week when my April club shipment arrived. I knew it was on its way because I got an email from Australia Post telling me so, but because shipments now come by boat and arrive in the United States in San Francisco (rather than the route by plane through New York, as they did in the Before Times), they typically take several weeks to arrive. So you could have knocked me over with a feather when this took a mere eight days to arrive here!

This colorway is called Kingfisher, and it's on Corriedale wool. I absolutely love these colors, and I'm actually wondering if they might fit in with the blues and purples I've already selected for my sweater spin. Something to ponder!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Three Small Joys

I am posting a little later than usual because I only *just* got caught up with work, so I'm stealing the few moments of calm I have left to share a few things making me happy today, seeing as it is Thursday. Thanks to Carole for hosting us every week for Three on Thursday!

1. I received some new (to me) books.
I have thank Katie for introducing me to Thriftbooks. I've been trying to reduce rather than increase my book collection and buy used books when possible, but I don't have a good used book store near me. But thanks to this site, I was able to get three books (two gently used, one new) for very reasonable prices to add to my big stack for Summer Book Bingo!

You can go ahead and laugh at my totally unrealistic plans to read all of these plus some additional digital and audio books this summer, but I am totally excited to dig in!

2. The roofers are almost done with the house.
They've spent the past couple of days putting the roof on the addition on the back of the house, which has a very shallow slope compared to the main roof. They told the Mister that they expect to finish it up by Monday. There's still the garage roof to do, so I'm not quite done hearing the banging all day, but at least it won't also make the house vibrate at the same time.

3. I've had a bit of luck.
Speaking of Carole, if you read her blog, you may remember that last month she asked us to consider supporting her local Kiwanis Club by buying a cash calendar. I was happy to do so because I remember my grandfather and great-uncle were involved in Kiwanis (we got that box of individual packets of salted peanuts to hand out at Halloween every year), but I was even more delighted to receive an email earlier this week to let me know that my calendar number was drawn the other day and I'd won a cash prize! So thanks, Carole!

I hope the end of your week is full of some little joys and maybe even a little luck. See you back here on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Unraveled, Week 20/2021

It's shaping up to be a busy week here! I'm getting inundated with work as of yesterday afternoon, so I'm going to try to keep this as short and sweet as possible.

It's Wednesday, so I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers as per usual. I have little knitting progress to report since yesterday (see the aforementioned work), but I did wake up to the news that my city will have its first Black mayor ever, so that's something! County residents also voted to ban solitary confinement in jails and no-knock warrants. There's still a lot of work to be done, but we're making some baby steps.

While I don't expect much reading to happen this week, this past week was a good reading week -- I finished four books. I'm just giving you some brief run-downs here, but you can visit my Goodreads account if you want my complete thoughts on each book.



I read Homeland Elegies because the author is part of a local speaker series I bought a ticket to that's starting later in the year, and everyone I know who has read it raved about it. Perhaps I'll feel different about it once I hear the author speak about it, but this book just left me confused -- mainly about what the point of the book was supposed to be -- and I just felt dumb reading it. I gave it 2 stars.


My next read was much more enjoyable and somewhat thematically linked. While Homeland Elegies is, at least in part, about the experience of Muslims in America, The Undocumented Americans takes on the experience of undocumented immigrants, particularly those from Latin America. The author is herself undocumented, and she brings her own experiences and her own worries to the fore in this book. I tore through this book in two days. It's eye-opening and heartbreaking, and it's definitely worth a read. I gave it 4 stars.

I know many of you have read Four Hundred Souls already; if you haven't, you really should. I borrowed the audiobook from the library, primarily because it's read by a full cast (including many names and voices you will recognize), but I will likely read it in print again at some point because there is so much to take in that one read (or listen, as the case may be) is definitely not sufficient to fully appreciate it. I gave it 4 stars.

Finally, I listened to the audiobook of Interior Chinatown on Monday (yes, in one day -- it's only about 4 hours long, and I listened on 1.5x speed!). This is another author who will be part of that local speaker series, and I'd also heard this book mentioned on one of the reading podcasts I listened to. It was an interesting, inventive way of telling a story (it's set up like a film script) and the narration is quite good, but I think there are some things I missed in listening over reading with my eyes, and that resulted in my confusion at some points. I gave it 3 stars.

Currently I'm reading an Amazon freebie while I wait for library holds -- holds that I'm expecting to start me off on my bingo card! I hope your day is less crazy than mine and that it gives you time to work on a project and read a good book!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Bind Off One, Cast On Two

It's a sunny but noisy morning here in Pittsburgh; I had to finish up my coffee faster than I'd planned because the roofers were creating such a racket over my head. They have finished up the shingles on the back side of the roof, but this morning they are starting to replace the roof on the addition that was put on the back of the house sometime in the '80s. I am hoping it doesn't take too long to do that because it's not a very big roof -- at least we're supposed to have another dry week, so the weather will be amenable to roofing work!

Although I did not do much spinning over the weekend, I did do a fair amount of knitting. First, I finished up a pair of socks for the charity pile that had been on the needles for quite a while:

These were knit in Trekking XXL, color 119, that I bought years ago when a local yarn shop was closing and everything was on clearance. I'm sure I got a good deal on it, but there is no price tag on the skein, so I have no idea what I spent. I used a US 1/2.25 mm needle and worked my basic sock recipe over 64 stitches; to keep things simple for me, I made them to fit my feet. Even though I worked long legs (7 inches) and the feet are about 9.5 inches long, I still used only about 308 yards, so there's a good amount of yarn that's been added to the scrap bag.

Finishing these socks meant no active projects on the needles (there's still one hibernating WIP, but I'm not paying it much attention at the moment), so I cast on not one but two new projects. First, socks for my brother, who only recently mentioned that he'd wear hand-knit socks.

He has large feet -- 9 inches around and 10.75 inches long -- so even though I typically prefer to knit my socks cuff down, I decided that toe up was the best plan for him to make the yarn go as far as it can. I wound the yarn, which is Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in the colorway Gettin' Crabby (it was the special colorway for Needles Up at MDSW in 2019), and then weighed it so that I could divide it in half more or less evenly, and I'll just knit until I'm out of yarn.

I also cast on for my Threirmuir, though my progress on that is much less impressive:

This sweater is knit in fingering weight (I'm using Fibernymph Dye Works Ridgetop Fingering, Lisa's custom-milled blend of Romney and Falkland), so I'm anticipating it will be a long-ish knit, but all the excitement happens in the colorwork yoke at the beginning. After that, it's just single-color stockinette in the round, so I'll be able to work on it while reading or doing other things. The yoke is 50 rounds in total, and I've gotten through 10 rounds in the last couple of nights. Obviously as there are increases added the rounds will get longer, but as I've spent less than an hour working on it the past two evenings, that's not bad progress. I would like to get both my brother's socks and the sweater done by the end of June so that they count for Lisa's Nature MAL, but then again I always seem to have expectations that exceed my abilities. I do plan to take some vacation time in the next month, especially when Rainbow is done with school for the year, and a long weekend is coming up. Fingers crossed!

I hope whatever you have planned for today, it's filled with sunshine and less noise than I have in my neck of the woods!

Sunday, May 16, 2021

More Temptation

I have not very much spinning to share this evening, mainly because I often find myself doing more spinning on the weekends and this weekend we were actually fairly busy! Yesterday morning, we watched my cousin's son's bar mitzvah, which was live-streamed from Chicago. He was originally supposed to have it a year ago, and they postponed it for a year hoping that we'd all be able to gather in person this year. Sadly that was not the case, though immediate family was there at the synagogue, so it was better than it would have been last May in that respect. Then today we were able to get together with some friends who we had not seen in person since late last summer other than a brief drive-by visit. They have a 1-year-old daughter who really hasn't seen many people other than her parents for her entire life, so I guess we provided a bit of novelty to her.

All of that is to say that there was more time spent socializing than spinning this weekend -- but that's okay! I did get most of a second bobbin of dark blue singles spun (the fluff you see here is the fiber still to be spun on this bobbin):

I hope to have the rest of this spun by tomorrow so I can move on to the third and final bobbin. I am anxious to ply this first skein to get a rough idea of yardage so I know approximately how many skeins I might need for the sweater.

In the meantime, I've got some more motivation to finish this sweater spin in the form of the most recent Southern Cross Fibre club shipment, which arrived earlier last week. It may seem like they're coming more frequently than once a month lately, but that's partly because David had a bit of a backlog because he had some trouble getting wool to dye due to pandemic shortages and also because shipping times have only recently started to get more normal. Anyway, this is March's shipment, a colorway called Autumn's Last Breath on Rambouillet top:

I really love this one, but I couldn't figure out why this particular color combination looked so familiar. Then, just a day or so ago, it hit me:

I guess if I wanted to spin fiber that reminded me of book covers, this one would work perfectly! It may not be as much fun as painting your nails to match the cover of a book you're reading (look at Mary's Monday photos!), but it is fun to combine two of my favorite pastimes.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Eye Candy Friday, Design Edition

Hello, blog friends! I didn't intended to post today, but I got a little surprise yesterday and couldn't wait to share it.

If you've read this blog for any length of time then you know that most of my knitting designs are self-published. Sometimes, though, I will submit a pattern to a third-party publisher. It's a nice change of pace because someone else takes care of the editing, the layout, the photography, and the marketing, but it has its own challenges for me as a designer -- namely having to keep a pattern a secret for a long time because production schedules for magazines and other publications are such that the work has to be done many months ahead of publication. That's the case with my latest pattern, and it also was affected by changes at the publisher. A lot of those details are boring, so suffice it to say that I wrote up this pattern and knit up this sample last summer and I've been sitting on it ever since. But as of yesterday afternoon, it's up and I can share it!

My Echinacea Hat is part of the knitscene Summer Solstice Collection, a digital-only set of patterns that is now available from the Interweave website.

This is a slouchy hat, available in two sizes, that incorporates a stitch pattern that's a combination of lace and ribbing. That there are only two sizes is a bit misleading because the stitch pattern is actually super stretchy. The amount of slouch is also easy to adjust by changing the number of vertical repeats of the stitch pattern. The hat is worked in worsted weight yarn, and obviously it really shines in a vibrant, saturated solid or semisolid color.

Because this pattern is in a digital collection, you can only get it on the Interweave site for now. You can buy the pattern on its own (and it's on sale right now!) or as part of the entire collection (there are 10 patterns total in the collection, so that price is a bit of a steal if you ask me). I don't make anything off these sales, by the way -- I was paid a flat fee for the design. But I'm really excited to have it out and to not have to keep it a secret anymore!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Three Small Joys

It's Thursday, a day when I often link up with Carole for Three on Thursday. In her post today, Carole chose to focus on three seemingly normal things that have become simple joys for her. Her post really resonated with me because part of my daily journaling practice during the pandemic has included a list each day of three things I've accomplished and five small things that have brought me joy that day. I started doing it early on, when every day felt the same and all the news seemed to be horrible. Reframing my perspective and forcing myself to find things to be happy about each day has really shown me how much I have to be grateful for. Often those simple joys are little things that made me smile -- like when I saw a fluffy young sparrow on my walk or when the sun came out after several days of rain -- but that's kind of the point, I think. So today I'm sharing three small joys from the past few days.

1. The weather has been dry this week after tons of rain last week, so the roofers have been able to work again.
As of yesterday, they'd gotten maybe a third to half of the back of the roof shingled. The back of the house is a bit more complicated than the front because we have a dormer back there, but it looks like they just might finish it this week. That leaves just the roof over the addition on the back of the house to do before the entire house part of the project is complete (they're going to be doing the roof of our garage as well, but it's smaller and shorter than the house and I hope will take less time as a result).

2. Our rose bushes have started to bloom.
This one was the first one to open up, and I have a feeling there might be a few more open this morning when I go to check on them. These bushes along our driveway were planted a long time ago by a previous owner of the house, and considering that I know nothing about growing roses and the landscapers who come to cut our grass and week likely don't, either, it's nothing short of a miracle that they keep growing. But every year they treat us to these beautiful hot pink blooms starting in the spring.

3. I finished my shawl -- and won at yarn chicken.
That little tangle of yarn you see in the top left of the photo (which is mysteriously coming out very grainy -- sorry about that) is all that is left of the skein after I bound off last night. It's just enough to weave in. I'll block the shawl tonight, if the timing works out, and I hope get the pattern ready this weekend.

I hope your day brings you some small joys and that they make you smile! Have a lovely end to your week. See you back here on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Unraveled, Week 19/2021

I'm honestly a bit surprised that it's already Wednesday, probably because for long stretches yesterday I was convinced that it was still Monday, but it is, so it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers yet again.

My shawl doesn't look much different from yesterday's photo, but the number on the scale is quickly shrinking, so the end is in sight! I will be focusing on getting it finished before I cast on for a new sweater.

Reading has been fairly good this week. I've added another three books to my finished pile:

I'd had The Essex Serpent tagged "to read" on my Libby app for a while and finally saw it had no wait when I was ready to start something new. Based on the Goodreads reviews for this book, it appears to be one you either love or hate. Personally, I loved it. It hit so many sweet spots for me: historical fiction with a strong female protagonist and gorgeous writing. It's hard to explain what it's about, but I guess if I had to, I'd say it's about a woman, recently widowed and with an unusual teenage son, whose intellectual sensibilities are ahead of her time (the novel is set in the late 1900s). As she explores her newfound freedom, she learns of rumors of a serpent-like creature that is killing people and animals. She also meets and is strangely drawn to a local clergyman who is trying to convince his parishioners that the serpent doesn't exist and that it isn't something sent to punish them for their sins. It's a novel about the tension between faith and reason, about the role of women in society, about love and relationships. I recognize it's not going to be for everyone, but it was a completely immersive book for me. I gave it 5 stars.

And now for something completely different! I've mentioned that I've been listening a lot to the Novel Pairings podcast recently, and Elizabeth Acevedo is one author that the hosts regularly rave about. So I decided to borrow the audiobook of her most recent book, Clap When You Land. This is a novel told in verse from the perspectives of two teenage half-sisters, one in New York and one in the Dominican Republic, who only learn of each other's existence when their father is killed in a plane crash. It's a really beautiful, emotional novel, and it was a real treat to listen to (Acevedo narrates the part of the American sister). I gave it 4 stars.

Another Novel Pairings recommendation was The Other Typist, which, if I remember correctly, was chosen as a pairing for The Great Gatsby. It's set in the mid-1920s, in the middle of Prohibition, and is told by Rose, a typist in a New York City police precinct whose life is dramatically changed when Odalie, a glamorous and mysterious young woman, is hired as another typist. I'll admit that this book turned into a bit of a slog toward the middle because I could see where the story was heading. While I was mostly right, there was a major twist at the very end that left me questioning everything. I gave it 3 stars.

Currently I am reading Homeland Elegies, and just this morning I got a notice from the library that the audiobook of Four Hundred Souls was ready for me, so I'll be starting my listen on my walk this morning.

So, what are you working on and reading these days?

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

WIPs and What's Next

Good morning from the noisy house -- the roofers are here for the second day in a row, doing their very best to make the house vibrate! That banging can get annoying, but after last week, when they only managed a few hours of work due to all the rain we got, I am happy to have them here. They've even got a few extra workers on the crew in an effort to make up for lost time, so we'll see how much progress they make this week.

I have been plodding away at some WIPs during my knitting time. First, there's my shawl sample, which was grown considerably since last you saw it:

Because I'm basically knitting until I run out of yarn, it's hard to know exactly how much I've completed at this point. But I just weighed what's left of the ball, and it's 43 g (I started with 127 g, which was more than the advertised skein weight of 114 g). So I'm getting closer. Soon I'll need to start weighing after each pattern repeat so I can get a sense of how much is needed for each. I am writing the pattern in such a way that you can use any skein of yarn, but I'd like to give a general guideline of how much you should leave to finish it off.

I've also been putting in a round here and there on a pair of charity socks. I finished the first sock and started the second over the weekend:

The yarn is Trekking XXL, color 119.

A stockinette sock is perfect meeting knitting, and I have two of them in the next two days (an office staff meeting this afternoon and a synagogue committee meeting tomorrow evening), so that second sock will get a bit more attention.

While I work on these WIPs, I'm also planning my next cast on. Yesterday while I read a library book, I knit up a swatch for Threipmuir. I've been planning to knit this sweater for a while, and I even bought the yarn for it last year:

The yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Ridgetop Fingering, Lisa's custom-milled blend of 80% Romney and 20% Falkland. I had leftovers from the colorwork hat I knit in March in the same base (just a different color), so I thought I'd use some of them for swatching, particularly as I wanted to be sure to swatch in the round. Because they were leftovers, I didn't mind using them up without having to worry about needing the yarn later, so I knit a tube and cut it open.

There is a way to do a faux swatch in the round without having to cut the yarn or the fabric (see this video for a demonstration), but I find that it doesn't always give an accurate representation of gauge. If I'm going to knit a sweater in fingering weight yarn, I darn sure want to make sure that I get gauge, and I know that my gauge is slightly tighter when I work in the round than when I work flat, so working a flat gauge swatch wouldn't do me any favors -- and if you're looking for a more detailed explanation for why you should swatch in the same way you'll knit the item, my friend Kristen has you covered. So I cast on 40 stitches, joined in the round, and knit a tube. After I bound off, I did what was effectually the same as a couple of lines of single crochet (but I did them by picking up stitches and then immediately binding off) and then cut down the middle. [If anyone is interested in this technique, by the way, let me know and I'll do a photo tutorial.] This way, I knew that I'd get a true measurement of my gauge knitting in the round. I soaked my swatch and let it dry overnight and then measured it this morning. And I'm happy to report that my gauge is pretty much spot on at 24 stitches and 34 rounds over 4 inches. So perhaps later today I'll be winding up my yarn and using it as motivation to finish up the shawl. All the exciting stuff in this sweater happens at the beginning, so I'm thinking all that body stockinette would make for good knitting while I read for book bingo this summer!

Are you working on WIPs and using the prospect of new projects to motivate you to finish? Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this! See you back here tomorrow for a reading update!

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Oops! I Did It Again

Remember how when I finished my last skein of handspun, I said I'd overestimated just how fine I needed to spin my singles? Well, it appears I am the proverbial old dog who can't learn new tricks.

This is the Crown Mountain Farms Polwarth that I'd been spinning as the compliment to the really bright and colorful skein for Rainbow's bat mitzvah tallit. It was the most sedate fiber we found in my stash, at least of the stuff that was dyed, and I still have no recollection of why I bought it. Unlike the previous spin, this one had no silk in it, so you would have thought that it would have been a little more of a challenge to get a really fine yarn. But no:

From 4 oz. of fiber, I have approximately 778 yards of two-ply heavy lace weight. I am still astonished by that number. And I'm also thankful I had my Super Skeiner when it came time to wind it off, because I think I would have damaged my shoulder had I had to do it using a niddy noddy and very likely would have lost count while winding (there were 459 wraps, in case you were wondering). I still need to dig out my Zoom Loom and weave up a little sample with the two yarns to get Rainbow's approval, but I think the skeins look really nice together:

Because I am not a weaver, I'm not sure which yarn would be better for warp and which for weft, but I think the darker skein will tone down the colors in the other skein and give a colorful but muted fabric. And I think there's certainly enough yardage -- more than 1,400 yards in total!

Up next, I've started a project to spin for a sweater. Mary and I have decided to to a little knitalong together of Andrea Mowry's Shifty pullover. The pattern calls for Spincycle yarn, which is (in my opinion) absurdly expensive, most of all because I can spin yarn that looks pretty much the same. So that is what I'm going to do. I have started with my most recent Southern Cross Fibre club shipment, a colorway called Dark Ocean on gray Merino. I'm spinning a traditional three ply and started the first bobbin yesterday:

This colorway is a semisolid, so I just split the fiber into thirds, but for the other colorways, I'll be going for a Spincycle-eque look and dividing different colors or shades for different plies (much like I did with this skein). I am going to need quite a lot of yarn for this project, but I have quite a few colorways from SCF with shades of blue, so while it may take a while to get all the yarn spun up, it will be a good stash-busting project.

I hope those of you who are celebrating Mother's Day today have an enjoyable day. For those of you for whom this is a tough day, I send you love.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Three Reasons to Smile

It's Thursday, though it's my Friday because I am off tomorrow, and if that isn't reason enough to be happy, I thought I'd link up with Carole and share three more things that are bringing me joy today.

1. Our lilac bushes are blooming (and they smell amazing!)

These bushes are along our driveway, and I normally pass them a lot, but the current stage of the roof project means that there is scaffolding along the back of the house and a dumpster in the driveway, both of which prevent us from getting in and out through the back door. On top of that, there's usually a roofer's truck parked in front of the dumpster during the day, so when I leave the house, I've been missing them altogether. Today, though, I had to take Rainbow to school while the Mister took my car to the dealer for its annual inspection, and I got to get up close and personal with the bushes. Good thing, too, or I would have missed these fragrant blooms! I have never seen as many flowers on them as I have this year (they only started flowering at all a few years ago), so I can only imagine how amazing they will be in years to come.

2. Thanks to vaccines, we were able to safely have dinner with all our siblings last night.
My brother- and sister-in-law hosted us for a Cinco de Mayo-themed dinner, and that meant that I got to see and squish this cutie:

He's 19 months old now and is running around and talking up a storm. I hadn't seen him in person since sometime last year, I think (we did a few outside meals when the weather was good last year), though we've video chatted with him plenty of times and they've been showing him our pictures so he doesn't forget us. He can say all our names, more or less (I'm "Sadah" -- R's are hard!), and he's got the stubborn toddler persona down. He's going to be a handful, especially because of item number 3 ...

3. I'm going to be an aunt again!
Baby #2 for my brother- and sister-in-law is due around Thanksgiving! They'll be finding out the sex (my sister-in-law is convinced it'll be another boy), so I will have some guidance as far as my knitting is concerned. I'll also be putting some stuff on the list for my nephew, because I know that when his sibling comes along he's not going to be happy about not getting all his mama's attention!

I hope your Thursday is full of reasons to smile! See you back here on Sunday (spoiler alert: I'll have a finished skein of handspun to share!).

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Unraveled, Week 18/2021

Good morning from a very dark and rainy Western Pennsylvania! We seem to be stuck in a very wet system here; this is the third day in a row we've had soaking rain for most of the day. It may be better than snow, but it doesn't help the roofing project move along.

It is Wednesday, which means it's time for my weekly check-in with Kat and the Unravelers. Since finishing my Aldous, I haven't done a ton of knitting (mainly because I've been trying to finish the spinning for Rainbow's tallit project). But I did finally cast on a new shawl design:

I am using yarn that I purchased at Indie Untangled at my very first Rhinebeck (hooray for stash!) as well as some seed beads for a little bit of bling. I'm hoping to get this pattern out sometime later this month, so once the current spinning project is done, I need to focus on this.

While knitting hasn't been that plentiful here, the reading has been very good lately. I have finished four books since this time last week.

I know that Before We Were Yours came out several years ago and many of you have already read it, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. I have a list of books on my Libby app that I've tagged "to read," and when I'm between holds, I check out that list and see what's available. It was this book's turn last week. I found it to be an okay read, something I'd likely read while on vacation and that I might get as a hand-me-down from my mother. I enjoyed the storyline set in the past more than the present-day plot, which I found to be both unrealistic and entirely predictable. I wouldn't call it a wasted read, because it did entertain me and I did want to find out how the story ended, but it didn't blow me away, either. I gave it 3 stars.

My next choice was much more entertaining. One of my all-time favorite books is Jane Eyre, so I was really intrigued by the idea of a modern-day take on the classic. The Wife Upstairs, though, isn't really a retelling as much as it is a reimagining -- and it's great fun. In Hawkins' version of events, Jane is a young 20-something who has aged out of the foster care system and is working as a dog walker in an upscale Southern housing development when she meets and falls for the mysterious Eddie Rochester, whose wife disappeared and is presumed dead. But is she? Everyone in this book is suspicious and has secrets, and I couldn't wait to see how it ended. It kept me guessing and in actual suspense. I gave it 4 stars. I especially enjoyed how the author reworked some famous lines from the original!

Lately I've been spending a lot of my walking time listening to the Novel Pairings podcast (I've gotten hooked on it after listening thanks to Mary's recommendation), and Passing is a classic that the hosts have mentioned frequently. This short book is a kind of earlier version of The Vanishing Half. Set during the Harlem Renaissance, it tells the story of two women, Irene and Clare, who knew each other as children and reconnect years later as adults. Both are Black but light skinned and make different decisions about whether or not to pass as white. I did enjoy the book, but I think I could have gotten more out of it had I read it in the context of a class; I think it's a novel that would benefit from a good discussion. I gave it 3 stars.

Finally, just before bed last night, I finished Salvage the Bones. I read Jesmyn Ward's more recent Sing, Unburied, Sing back in 2018 and found it to be really depressing and troubling, but Mary had mentioned to me that she thought this was the better book. Early on, I thought I was in for more sadness -- and yes, you know that this is going to be a sad book because it's about a poor Black family in the days leading up to and during Hurricane Katrina. But it's also beautifully written and does such a masterful job of showing the love in this family, how they take such good care of each other despite having so little and having lost so much. I cried at the end. I gave it 4 stars (but really it's closer to 4.5).

I'm ready to start a new book today, but I'm also thinking ahead to Summer Book Bingo! I have my card and printed out a copy so I can start jotting down ideas for many of the categories.

I'm using some of my library holds and some titles on my Libby "to read" list to fill in some boxes, and I'm also planning some rereads of books I already own. Some of the boxes that don't yet have anything in them will be easy to fill (Best seller, Set in more than one time period, Borrowed), but some are a little trickier (Author with a disability, About religion, About art/artists). The hardest part, of course, is not starting anything yet! Technically books only need to be finished to count for bingo, so I could start them earlier, but I'm not the type of reader who can start a book now and wait to finish it.

Will you be joining us for bingo this summer? Are there titles you are looking forward to reading? Any suggestions for me for those tricky-to-fill categories?

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Perfect Timing

It can be risky to knit a wool sweater in April. This most recent April, more so than any I can remember, was a real roller coaster of a month in terms of weather. We had snow and we also had days that were downright hot. We toggled between heat and air conditioning several times. And while I don't usually pay much attention to the weather when I choose what to knit and am happy to knit wool sweaters in the summer, there is always a part of me that likes to be able to wear something when I finish it. I almost always expect that when I finish a sweater and it's not the middle of winter, I will automatically trigger a heat wave, and we did have some warmer weather last week right after this sweater came off the needles. But then we had a cold front come through last Thursday night, and as a result, I got to wear my new sweater not once but twice!

Pattern: Aldous (Ravelry link) by Isabell Kraemer, size 2 (37.5 in./93.5 cm bust), straight body option
Yarn: HipStrings Buoy DK (37.5% BFL/37.5% Shetland/25% Manx Loaghtan) in Dionysus, 3.1 skeins (893 yds./816 m)
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 3 (3.25 mm)
Started/Completed: March 23/April 27
Mods: nada

This was my second Isabell Kraemer sweater and my third in Buoy DK -- it's really become my favorite sweater yarn. The blend of wools is really unusual, and while some people might find it a bit scratchy, I think it softens up really nicely as you wear it, and it's light and warm but also sturdy feeling. I am surprised that I used as little as I did, about 100 yards less than the pattern called for, but I have no complaints on that front!

The pattern itself was really well written, and it used a new-to-me construction: a top-down saddle shoulder. It begins with the collar and some short-row shaping so that the back of the neck sits higher than the front. The sweater is entirely in stockinette and seamless, though there are faux seams (in the form of columns of single purl stitches) to give the illusion of a seamed garment and one down the center of the back, just because.

While the shoulder construction was fun to do because it was new to me, I'm not sure it fits me as well as some other methods. I know it looks just fine in these shots, but if I lift my arms, the shoulder area looks a bit constricted to me. There's enough positive ease that it doesn't cause an issue in the actual fit, but I don't love the look of it. Still, it's good to try something new.

Speaking of which, this pattern gave me a chance to try another new technique -- a lateral braid:

This decorative element is worked just above the ribbing on both the body and the sleeves. It's actually much easier than you might think, though it's very fiddly. Essentially you are using two strands of yarn and twisting them between every stitch. It's a two-round process, so you twist them one way on the first round and the opposite way on the second. Theoretically the second round should undo all the tangle of the first, but I couldn't deal with it on the body with so many stitches on the needles and stopped to untangle frequently. For the sleeves, I left the tangle alone and did have success with the second round (mostly) undoing the mess of the first.

All in all, I am very pleased with this sweater and can highly recommend the pattern. I'm sure there will be more Isabell Kraemer sweaters in my future, though I'm hoping to have to wait a while before it's chilly enough to need one again!