Thursday, July 29, 2021

Pattern Release: Mammillaria

It's been a while -- maybe too long -- since I last published a pattern. The pandemic really killed my creativity for a while, but I can feel it starting to come back. And I'm really excited about this one, especially since the lovely ladies in my Sunday Zoom group oohed and ahhed over my sample.

This design started with the idea for the pleated crown decreases. I had knit them in my head, and it seemed like they would work, but of course I didn't know for sure until I had yarn and needles in hand. And honestly? I think it turned out even better in real life.

As fun as those decreases are, I knew that I didn't want the rest of the hat to be plain, so I've combined them with a hemmed brim and a fun bubble stitch for the body of the hat. As you can see, the texture plays really nicely with a self-striping yarn (this is Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce, my fave), but it'll look just as good in a variegated or solid/semisolid.

The pattern has been graded to three sizes, to fit head circumference of 20 (22, 24) in./51 (56, 61) cm, and you'll need 250 (300, 360) yds./229 (274.5, 329) m of yarn. There is a photo tutorial included for the pleated decreases, for which you'll need two additional DPNs in addition to the needles you prefer for knitting small circumferences in the round. As always, the pattern has been professionally tech edited to ensure that it is correct and easy to follow.

I really hope you love this one as much as I do! You'll find it on Ravelry, Payhip, and LoveCrafts.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Unraveled, Week 30/2021

We have made to Wednesday, which is also my Friday this week (I'm taking the next two days off from work). It's time to join Kat and the Unravelers to talk about what I'm making and what I'm reading.

What I am making will be no surprise at all; it's still all ADVENTuresome Wrap, all the time. I got a lot knit yesterday, though, and I have just three stripes left to knit (plus a bunch of ends to weave in). I think getting it done today might be a bit of a stretch, but with the rest of the week off, I can confidently say it will be done and blocked before the week is over.

I've had another pretty good week of reading, with three books finished. I think I might have gotten another book in, but Monday was a crazy busy day (I ended the day with 20.5K steps!). And three books finished in a week is still great!

After I mentioned it last week, I remembered that it was Juliann who brought The Heart to my attention. This was a quick read, which makes sense given that it follows the events of one day. It is a work of fiction, but much of it reads like nonfiction as it explains the process of the donation of a heart. In addition to the medical details, it also focuses on the individuals involved -- the donor, his parents, and his girlfriend; the doctor who treats the donor; the nurse who coordinates the donation process; the surgeon who performs the transplant; and the transplant recipient -- and explores their thoughts and feelings in depth. I was most touched by the coordinator and his respect for both the process and the donor, and the writing (or perhaps the translation?) is really beautiful. I gave it 4 stars.
Bingo square: Translation

I heard about Infinite Country on the Novel Pairings podcast and luckily did not have too long of a wait at the library. This short novel follows a Colombian family and their struggle to make a new home in the United States. At the opening of the book, they are separated, with the mother and two children in the U.S. and the father and youngest child, Talia, back in Colombia after the father was deported and Talia was sent back to be raised by her grandmother so that her mother could work to support her two older siblings. The book goes back and forth in time, telling the story of how the parents met and fell in love, how they made the journey north, and how they struggled to make a life as undocumented immigrants. It also explores the relationships between parent and child and how that relationship can be tested by politics and distance. I highly recommend you follow this one up with the nonfiction The Undocumented Americans.  I gave it 4 stars.
Bingo square: Set in a place you'd like to know more about

When I had a little break in my library holds, I decided to work on catching up with the Gamache series before the newest one comes out. I didn't think A Better Man was among Penny's strongest in the series, and frankly I still don't think that the resolution of the murder investigation really made complete sense, but I do always enjoy the time I spend with Gamache, Beauvoir, and Lacoste and all the residents of Three Pines, and frankly I'd be happy to read a book about them all just hanging out in the absence of any murder or investigation. I gave this 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4 because Goodreads doesn't do half stars).

Bingo square: An author you love

I still haven't completed my cover-all on my first bingo card because I am still reading Beloved; it sadly gets pushed to the back burner every time a library hold comes in. I am going to try to set aside time on my days off to read it, though, and I don't think it will take me that long to finish. I also started and got more than halfway through The Whispering House yesterday, and depending on how this afternoon plays out, I may very well finish it.

How about you? What you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Balance in 2021: July

Raise your hand if, like me, you were caught completely by surprise that this the last week of July. I honestly don't know where this month has gone, even though it hasn't felt terribly busy. But it is the end of the month, and that means a check-in on my word for the year.

For me, Balance this month has felt less like me putting in an effort to stay balanced and more like the universe reminding me that I have to take both the good and the bad in each day. The month started off well, with lower COVID numbers and a trip to see my aunt and uncle for the first time in more than a year and a half. But as the month progressed, the outlook on the pandemic started to look worse again, and then there was the loss suffered by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law that brought us all low.

Life is a rollercoaster. I'm not a big fan of wild ups and downs and try my best to stay on an even keel. But as this month has shown, we can't always control everything in our lives, and there will always be highs and lows. The key is how we react to them, and on that score, I think I'm doing a pretty good job. In the past, I might have ruminated on the low points and worked myself up, but thanks to practice (and a lot of therapy), I have gotten better at working through the pain or anxiety or frustration as it comes. And isn't that exactly how balance is supposed to work?

Thanks to Carolyn for hosting us for our monthly OLW link-up. I'd love to hear how your word has been showing up (or not) this month in the comments, and I'll be back tomorrow with my weekly knitting and reading update.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Inchworming to a Sweater Spin

Spinning has taken a bit of a back seat this week as I've been focusing on finishing up my wrap, but it's still happening here and there, and my Shifty sweater spin is getting closer to being finished. I have grouped all my finished skeins together and laid them out with my current spin, and I really like what I'm seeing.

The fiber is my current spin -- Ice Cave on Bond -- and I think I'm going to use it and the two skeins to the left of it for my main colors. The lightest blue skein and the purple and orange skein will be my contrast colors. I'm going to spin one more contrast skein as well (the pattern calls for three contrast colors), and I pulled this recent club shipment:

The lighting wasn't great for this photo, but I think the colors will go well together. There's a bluish gray and some deep purple-y reds in here, plus the orange. I think once I get finished with my knitting project, it won't take me too long to get these last two skeins spun up. I already bought the pattern and hope to be able to start knitting by the end of next month at the latest!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Three on Thursday: 3 R's Edition

First, an update: Two days have passed and 60 rows have been worked on my wrap. I'm right on track and expect I will have a significant update for you early next week.

It's Thursday, so I am linking up with Carole for Three on Thursday this week with something a little different.

I have long thought of myself as a bit of an environmentalist. I was one of those annoying kids who was telling you to recycle, and I've turned into one of those annoying adults who has no qualms about pulling things out of the trash that should be in the recycling bin and vice versa. While I haven't explicitly taught Rainbow to be like me, I'm delighted that she's taken the message of environmentalism so much to heart and has pushed me to do better. So I wanted my three items today to be the so-called three R's: reduce, reuse, recycle.

1. Reduce
I have really been making a concerted effort the past few years to reduce how much we throw out in the trash. Nearly all of our food waste gets tossed into the composter -- fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, bread that's gone stale, etc. I also occasionally add paper like newspaper and the paper trays that produce often gets packaged in. Come fall, I add in leaves and yard waste. I have yet to actually use any of my compost, but I also have yet to fill the container up and have it stay that way, so I know stuff is breaking down well.

I've also been trying to have a "make do and mend" mindset. I am more likely to sew up/darn holes in clothing, which is really helped by the fact that visible mending is very in right now. When there's an item that really isn't salvageable, I try to see if it can be useful in another way (as cleaning rags or stuffing for well-loved stuffed animals, for instance).

2. Reuse
This has long been a practice in our house. We have the reusable water bottles and mugs (and use them pretty much every day). We take cloth bags to do our grocery shopping. But here's an area where Rainbow has made us better. She asked if we could get some more cloth napkins to use on a daily basis. I had bought a handful of cheap ones from the Target Dollar Spot a while back, but we only used them when we wanted to feel a little fancy and used paper napkins most of the time. After she expressed this desire, I ordered a set of 24 cloth napkins -- not particularly fancy ones, just ones with printed designs on them so that any stains wouldn't be too obvious -- and we've been using them ever since. I try to use just one a day (so for three meals) if I can, and the dirty ones get placed on top of the washing machine so they can get thrown in with our regular laundry. Plus I also find ironing them to be strangely satisfying, despite the fact that I normally hate ironing. Rainbow has also asked that our next step be to replace the Dixie cups we use in the bathroom with washable cups as soon as our supply runs out.

3. Recycle
I've been known to be a little militant about recycling, and anything that possibly can be recycled is in this house. We are even recycling all the paper Trader Joe's bags we got when we were allowed to use the cloth bags by using them as liners for our inside receptacle and then placing the filled bags into our city recycling bins that we put out at the curb. I've been a little disappointed that our city's rules have changed in the past year and there are some things that we used to be able to put in the bin and now can't (like the clam shell plastic packaging that berries and grapes often come in and the plastic cups that yogurt comes in). I recently heard that there is an organization that does a collection of some of these plastics a few times a year and will be looking into that. I am glad that our city is determined to go plastic bag free in its recycling collection and has been distributing the big blue bins to all residents free of charge (did you know that those blue plastic bags that they told us to put our recyclables into for so many years are not only not recyclable themselves but actually jam up the machinery used to sort items in the recycling?).

The photo at the top of this post has nothing to do with the three R's, but it's relevant to the general efforts to be kind to the Earth. This patch of Russian sage originated on our neighbor's side of the fence. For years it kept creeping under to our side and I kept pulling it out. One year I just let it go because it was pretty, and since then I've discovered that the bees love it (and we all know how important bees are to our ecosystem). Last year I transplanted a couple of sprigs of it to our backyard, and I was delighted to see that they were still alive this year. I'm hoping that in a few years we have a bit patch of it and have a garden that's friendly to pollinators.

If you have other suggestions for how we can all reduce our footprint and be good stewards of the Earth, I'd love to hear them! I hope you all have a good end to your week and a relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Unraveled, Week 29/2021

Good morning and happy hump day! I am feeling the need for lots of coffee today thanks to a loud thunderstorm that hit just as I was trying to go to bed last night. It's time for a weekly check-in with Kat and the Unravelers to talk knitting and reading.

I am happy to report that I completed 30 rows of my wrap yesterday, despite a coworker's best attempts to foil my plan by sending me two magazine articles to edit. I have discovered that I now have the pattern pretty much memorized (though I keep the pattern nearby to double-check, just in case), and I think that's making things much faster. I've also managed to work on it while reading, and that's been a real game-changer.

Also on my needles right now is a pair of socks (well, the first sock of the pair) that I cast on while I was sitting at the orthodontist with Rainbow on Friday. Thank you, by the way, to all of you who said you hoped she was doing better. She had a couple of miserable days, but she's now adjusted and is doing much better!

These socks are going to be this year's Christmas socks for my sister-in-law. The yarn is my favorite Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce, and it's in one of what Lisa is referring to as her Serendipitous Stripes colorways. Earlier in the summer she decided to have a fun day in the dye studio and play with colors without the pressure of creating repeatable colorways. So all the skeins she dyed are one of a kind and don't have names. I bought two of them in her first update, and I think she's planning on doing this kind of dye day from time to time in the future (and, actually, I see she has some in the shop right now!). This made the yarn even more fun to knit -- I could see what colors were in the skein, but I couldn't tell in what order they'd appear, and I definitely didn't see the skinny stripes coming! I'm not in any rush to finish these (especially not while I'm on deadline for the wrap), but it's always good to have a mindless-stockinette-in-the-round project on the needles for meetings or car rides or other otherwise tedious situations.

Reading is continuing to move along at a good pace despite work occasionally getting in the way. I have finished another four books since this time last week:

I'd borrowed No One Is Coming to Save Us from the library because it was purportedly a retelling of The Great Gatsby, but I found that connection to be tenuous at best. I honestly don't have a full grasp of what this book is actually about, even having read the whole thing; it's basically just a glimpse into the lives of a bunch of people who are related in one way or another and who are miserable. I think what bothered me most was what seemed like a complete lack of editing. There were a number of poorly phrased sentences that made for confusing reading, and someone (author or editor) did not seem to have an understanding of how to use commas correctly. I gave it 2 stars.

Bingo square: Retelling

Inspired in large part by the Novel Pairings podcast, I've been trying to go back and read some of the so-called classics that I never read, and one of the books on that list was Their Eyes Were Watching G-d. Chelsey and Sara really loved this one, and I thought I would, too. I also thought it would be a quick read (it's less than 200 pages long), but it ended up being a bit of a slog for me. I found the stark difference between the descriptive writing and the dialogue to be really jarring, and the latter was so hard for me to read and understand that it really took away from my enjoyment of the novel. I did love the penultimate chapter, which is really where all the excitement happens, though. I gave it 3 stars.

Bingo square: Originally published in the 20th century

Along the same lines of revisiting the classics, I pulled out my copy of The Crucible to reread; I'd originally read it in my junior year of high school, when the focus of my English class was American literature. But because it's a play, not a novel, I decided that listening to it was a better way to revisit it, so I borrowed the audio version from the library and listened to the entire thing while on my walk on Sunday and while cooling down after. The audio featured a full cast with some well-known names and was quite enjoyable. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Adapted for the screen

Like so many people, I binge-watched Bridgerton on Netflix when it first came out, so even though I already knew the story and the ending, when I needed a bit of fluff after all the seriousness of my recent reading, I picked up The Duke & I. Is it fine literature? No, but sometimes that's exactly what you need. I found this to be a refreshing and delightful palate cleanser, and despite the fact that it's more than 400 pages long, I found it to be a very quick read. I am not typically a romance novel reader, but I'm also not prudish about this kind of stuff, and honestly it was tamer than I expected (certainly much less explicit than the series!). I gave it 4 stars, mainly because it was so entertaining.

Bingo square: With a cover you might want to hide on the subway

Here's the current state of my bingo cards, which is making me very happy indeed:

You can click to embiggen, but it's clear that I have only one square left to fill to completely cover the first card, and one of the books I'm currently reading will do just that. That book is Beloved, which I am rereading. I first read it in high school, and the copy I own was a tie-in to the movie version, so it had to have been around 1998, so I am guessing it was during my junior or senior year. I remember really liking the writing when I read it the first time though also feeling like a lot of it was over my head. I am only a couple of chapters in so far on this second read, but I can already tell that I am going to understand more this time around.

I started a new library book yesterday, which is filling a square on my second card. The Heart was recommended by one of you friends (I can't remember who right now!) and also on one of the reading podcasts I listen to, and I'd had it tagged to read on my Libby app, so I snapped it up when I saw it was available yesterday. I'm not quite halfway through it and hope to get through the rest today because I also just got a notification that my hold was up on Infinite Country and have it waiting in my Kindle library.

What about you? How are your crafting and reading going this week? Got any good recommendations for my second bingo card?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

What's the Holdup?

Tuesday again -- the weekend flew by, as it always does. Isn't it strange in this new reality of working from home that I sometimes look forward to a work day because it means I'll be forced to sit all day and that means a higher likelihood of getting some knitting done?

Saturday would have been the perfect day to sit and knit all day -- starting midday, it was gloomy and pouring off and on. But I ended up being busy most of the day. I went for my walk in the morning, while it was dry, then cleaned the bathroom and started the laundry, and then Rainbow and I did a Target run in the afternoon, mainly because while the few things we needed we were in desperate need of, she needed the distraction from the discomfort of her new orthodontic device (she's doing much better with it now, by the way, but she was cranky for a couple of days after she got it). Once I did get a chance to sit down, I was determined to finish plying the last skein of my HipStrings yarn, and then I spent pretty much all of my Saturday evening skeining and washing the skeins.

Sunday was a similar story. I knit through my weekly Zoom session, but then there were chores to do around my house and my walk, and then we had dinner on Sunday evening with our siblings and siblings-in-law and nephew (only the human one; the dog nephew stayed home).

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I really have not made as much progress on my ADVENTuresome Wrap, and while I know that one reason is just a general lack of time, I still can't figure out what's taking me so long. I have only had to tink back one row in the past week because I've forgotten the wrong-side decreases, which means I'm finally getting the pattern into my head. But I've only just started the eighth stripe, so I'm not quite a third of the way through it.

I know one issue is that this is a project that I have to look at while I knit, so I typically only work on it while I'm watching TV or other videos. And lately I've been prioritizing projects (be they knitting or spinning) that I can do while I read so that I can make progress on my bingo cards. So maybe I need to listen to more audiobooks. But I think there's also something about the fact that this project uses mini skeins, and that means that there are inevitable interruptions to my knitting -- I have to wind a new mini for each stripe and periodically pause to weave in ends -- so I can't really get into much of a flow. 

It might be a little ambitious of me, but I would really love to finish this by the end of the month. That would mean knitting almost two stripes per day on average or, by my count, about 30 rows a day. That seems doable, especially if I prioritize the project. So please, hold me accountable, will you? I'm going to start keeping track of how many rows I knit per day, and maybe I'll even make things easier on myself by using my ball winder to wind a few mini skeins ahead of time (so far I've just been hand-winding them because it seemed like too much work to set up the ball winder and swift for something that would take just a few minutes). I've found lately that I also seem to be getting more done when I make a daily to-do list for myself, so I'm going to put those 30 rows on my list as well. What do you think -- can I do it?

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Wearing My Yellow Jersey

Today marks the end of the Tour de Fleece, which really seemed to fly by this year. Traditionally the leader of the Tour de France wears a yellow cycling jersey, so spinners are encouraged to do the same on the final day. Yellow is not a great color on me, though so I am only wearing one in spirit.

My goals for this year's Tour weren't very lofty -- I just wanted to spin at least a little every day and finish a small number of skeins. And that's exactly what I did. I didn't even have to spin up to the last minute to finish my last project, my HipStrings custom-blended batts. I had finished spinning the last bobbin of singles on Thursday, so I plied a bobbin each on Friday and yesterday and skeined and washed the resulting yarn last night.

I've had to edit these photos quite a bit to get them to even somewhat resemble what the yarn looks like in real life; for some reason, every photo I take comes out looking washed out and much lighter than the actual color. So the surface the skeins are sitting on is actually white, even if it appears blue here.

I ended up with two bit skeins of three ply, falling roughly in the sport to DK range, and a tiny mini skein of the remaining singles from the dark purple batt. The yarn is reading overall as a blue, but I love how there are not only two different shades of blue, plus purple, in the plies but also pops of many other colors from all the bits of silk and sari silk and other add-ins. I still have no idea of the actual fiber content of these batts, but that's just fine -- they were a delight to spin!

My two big skeins gave me nearly 780 yards, which is more than enough for a little sweater (I have my eye on Zero Crops Given, though I might work the body plain and lengthen both the body and the sleeves just a bit). My mini skein is only about 8.5 yards, and I only spun it to use up the rest of the singles, not with any real use in mind.

This may not have been my most prolific Tour ever, but by my count, I finished a bit more than 1,500 yards of yarn. Not too shabby! These most recently finished skeins also put me over the 10K mark for Stash Dash, thanks to the way that handspun is calculated (you get to count the length of each ply plus the total final length of the skein). In fact, I'm almost to 11K!

I am still on a long-term effort to spin down my stash, so don't think that because the Tour de Fleece is over you'll be seeing any less handspun from me. But you just might see me knitting with the handspun more in the months ahead.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Three Unrelated Things

It's Thursday, and it's been one of those weeks, so I'm joining up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday with three things that have nothing to do with each other -- just three things I'm enjoying right now!

1. Good listening for my walks
Margene mentioned the Wind of Change podcast in our Zoom chat this past week, and I've been listening to it all week during my walks. It's kind of like an audio miniseries in that it's an eight-episode exploration of whether the CIA had any hand in creating the Scorpions' song "Wind of Change," which just happened to become a big hit right around the time that the Soviet Union was starting to crumble. Even though I'd never heard of the song and most of the events that are discussed happened before I was really paying attention to world events, it's been a fascinating listen. It's hosted/created by Patrick Radden Keefe, the journalist and author who wrote Say Nothing and Empire of Pain. I am just about finished with all eight episodes (I'll listen to the last 10 minutes or so right after I hit publish on this post!) and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

2. Low-maintenance hair styling
With the humid weather we've been having and with my hair being shorter than it's been in a long time, I have been letting it do its own thing most days and experimenting with different curl products I have. My hair is naturally curly -- as in I get spiral curls if I have a little bit of product in it to keep it from frizzing -- though most of the time, especially when I was still going to the office, I'd blow it straight. I'm enjoying the much easier routine of letting it air dry and curl up, and I'm also hugely entertained by the rather prominent gray "highlight" I always seem to get, even if it forms more of a wave than a curl:

3. Knitting up a new skein of yarn
I've pulled out a skein of sock yarn to wind later today to take with me to the orthodontist tomorrow. They will be socks for my sister-in-law (the one married to my brother, as opposed to the one married to my brother-in-law) for this Christmas, mainly because these really look like her colors:

I'm even more excited to knit this particular skein up because although I can see the colors and know that there are six different stripes from the label, I don't have any idea of what order they'll knit up in. This is one of Lisa's one-of-a-kind skeins, the result of her playing with her dyes but not really noting what colors she used or in what order. So the first repeat will be a lot of fun!

I hope you can find at least three random things to enjoy today and that the end of your week goes well. I'll be back on Sunday with a conclusion to the 2021 Tour de Fleece!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Unraveled, Week 28/2021

It is Wednesday again, so I'm linking up as per usual with Kat and the Unravelers to talk making and reading.

If you can believe it, I'm down to just one knitting WIP -- I'm as shocked as you are! It's my ADVENTuresome Wrap, which has sadly been largely ignored for quite a while. I took it with me on our trip to Michigan but never took it out. I've decided that it's been neglected long enough, so I am going to focus on it now until it's done. Last night I started the fifth stripe (remember that there will be a total of 24):

I expect that it won't be very long at all until there's another project on the needles. I'm taking Rainbow to the orthodontist on Friday to get her first appliance put on and may be there for as long as an hour and a half, so I will need something to keep me busy -- maybe some socks or another charity hat.

Reading has been good this past week, though that pesky day job has shortened my time to read a bit. I've finished three books:

I had been meaning to read Suite Fran├žaise for quite a while, since I heard the story of how it came to be (the short version: the author wrote it in France during WWII and had planned it to be a series of five books but was deported to Auschwitz, where she died, before she could write the last three; the two volumes she finished were only just published in 2007). I have read a lot of WWII/Holocaust fiction -- it's probably my most-read genre -- but this is the first one I can remember that focused solely on stories of non-Jewish civilians. I did enjoy it, though I didn't quite get a sense of a cohesive narrative; I suspect this is largely due to the fact that it was unfinished. I gave it 3 stars.

Bingo square: Originally published posthumously

Dear Senthuran, by the author of The Death of Vivek Oji, was recommended by Margene in one of our Sunday Zoom sessions. It's a memoir in the form of letters, and in it, Akwaeke Emezi explores and tries to explain their identity and how this identity has complicated and enriched their life. I was really fascinated by this read, though at times I felt that there was much I was not getting or fully appreciating. Emezi identifies as trans and as not a woman but a non-human god, an ogbanje. While I still have much to learn about the broad spectrum of gender identity, I can honestly say that this identity is one I have never come across, and I am now anxious to read Emezi's debut novel, Freshwater, which sounds quite informed by their own experiences. This is a hard read, and I admit it made me occasionally uncomfortable, but it was worth it. I gave it 3 stars.
Bingo square: Epistolary (card #2)

I did not intended to read two books about the trans experience back to back, but Detransition, Baby popped up from my library holds on Saturday morning and the timing was perfect to get lost in a book, so that's what happened. This is an excellent read and well worth the buzz surrounding its release earlier this year. I can honestly say that I learned a ton from reading this book, even though it is fiction. I would hope that, given that the author is trans herself, it's an accurate representation of what it's like to be trans on a day-to-day basis. I will note that this book is fairly explicit in its sexual content, so if that makes you uncomfortable, it may not be the book for you, but I think it's well worth reading if you are cis and want to be a better ally. I gave it 4 stars.
Bingo square: An LGBTQIA+ author (card #2)

I now have just five squares left to fill on my first bingo card, and I am going to focus on filling those squares before I read any more for the second (and I know exactly which books I'll be reading for those as yet empty squares, too). My two current reads are Their Eyes Were Watching G-d, which, though a short book, is going slowly because of the dialect, and No One Is Coming to Save Us, which I just started yesterday and is my current reading-while-spinning choice. My three remaining squares consist of two books I own in print and one that I can borrow from the library via Hoopla, so there will be no waiting to get to those.

What are you working on and reading these days? How is your bingo card coming along?

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Day for a To-Do List

Is it really only Tuesday? It's been a really busy week so far, and last night I was awakened several times by some crazy lightning and thunderstorms (here's a short video if you want a visual). I need all the coffee today as well as a to-do list so I can make sure I don't forget everything (I don't want to be like the Mister, who just had to turn around and come home on his way to the office because he forgot his coffee!).

One item on my to-do list, provided work allows for it, is to turn my cryptic notes for this hat -- finished over the weekend -- into a real pattern:

I am so pleased with how this turned out, especially the crown. I'd been thinking about this crazy decrease for a while, but I wasn't sure if it would turn out the same way in yarn as it did in my head. That seems to be a common issue for me in my designing. This time, however, it turned out pretty much exactly as I'd hoped, so the only challenge left is how to describe it so that others can do it; I'm thinking that a photo tutorial might be in order.

Also on my list for today? Finish a library book -- I have 50 more pages to go and want to include it in tomorrow's post!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Embracing the Texture

Before I get into the spinning for today, I want to thank all of you who left comments or sent me emails about my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I really appreciate all your thoughts. The Mister has talked to his brother a few times, but they've decided to spend some time with just their little family for a bit, so we've told them to let us know if they need anything and are around when and if they want company.

We are now entering the last week of the Tour de Fleece, and I'm determined to finish at least one more spin before it ends. In a typically go big or go home move, I've decided that the final project won't be an achievable 4 oz. spin but rather to spin up all my HipStrings custom batts -- all 12 oz. of fiber. I dithered a bit about how to spin them and whether I wanted to fade them together somehow, but I realized that if I was going to use the yarn for a garment of some sort (because with 12 oz. I very well might end up with enough yarn), then I didn't want to end up with yarn that I'd have to fiddle with if there were sleeves to deal with. I landed on the simplest option, short of spinning each batt into its own skein: I am spinning all of each batt onto its own bobbin and then will ply the three singles together. And I have already completed the first:

I know many people will spin batts woolen (they are a woolen prep, after all), but when I do long draw, I have to watch what I'm doing and can't read at the same time. And I think you all know how much I enjoy being able to multi-task while I spin or knit! So I am spinning these batts semi-woolen, which means that I'm taking a woolen prep (carded batts) and spinning them with a worsted technique, short forward draw. It means that I press a lot of air out of the fiber as I spin, so the singles are denser, but I also find that worsted spinning helps to trap some of the textured add-ins to these batts -- things like colored silk, sari silk, etc. I will admit that I've been pulling out some of these bits when I get a good clump of them that won't draft evenly, but for the most part these singles are much more textured than my typical singles spun from combed top. And all those bits and bobs create real depth of color in addition to texture. I'm nearly halfway through the second batt (the darker blue), and I love the bits of yellow, orange, and hot pink that have been showing up.

I finished a knitting project last night and have a really good library book started, so if we get the predicted thunderstorms later this afternoon, I should be very happy spinning and reading for the remainder of the day.

I also got a surprise in the mail yesterday (well, I knew it was coming, but I didn't expect it to come until Monday) in the form of my June Southern Cross Fibre club shipment. This is called Ice Cave and it's on Bond wool:

This will work very nicely for my Shifty sweater spin, don't you think? It'll be going on the wheel just as soon as I finish up the HipStrings batts.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Not What I'd Hoped to Write

Today I had intended to join in on Three on Thursday and share three baby patterns I was thinking of knitting for my new nibling. But yesterday we got some devastating news: When my brother-in-law and sister-in-law went in for the ultrasound to tell them the sex of the baby, they instead learned that there was no heartbeat. So there won't be any baby knitting happening in the near future, at least not for this baby. It's very sad, even though I know this sort of thing happens, probably more often than we realize. Rainbow is taking the news rather hard, as you might expect. The photo above is some of my leftovers and scraps of worsted and DK superwash that we'd pulled out yesterday morning because she was planning on starting a blanket for her new cousin. Now she's decided that she'll make a blanket for my nephew instead. He was here for a couple of hours yesterday while his parents went to the hospital, and I decided to give him his new blanket then rather than waiting for his birthday next month. He didn't seem very excited about it, but I think he was also a bit disoriented; he's too young to understand what's going on, but this was also the first time he'd been in our house in a long time and the first time he'd been here without his parents. He really hasn't spent all that much time with us because of the pandemic, so I imagine we feel a little like strangers to him. But he adjusted (especially after he had a snack), and it's hard to be too sad when there's a chatty toddler around.

I'm sure we'll all be sad for a while, but life goes on. For now, we'll be thankful for what we have and give each other extra hugs. I hope you all do the same.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Unraveled, Week 27/2021

Another good thing about the work week starting on Tuesday is that today is already Wednesday! That means it's time for my weekly check-in with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about my WIPs and what I'm reading.

Since finishing my nephew's blanket, my focus has shifted to a new design sample, which actually got all of my (knitting) attention over the weekend away.

I am using Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce, my old standby, in a special colorway called Keep On Going that Lisa created last year for participants in her Monthly Makes program (if you used up a certain amount of her yarn over the course of the year, you earned a free skein of this exclusive colorway). I really love how this is a self-striping and yet the stripes aren't so clearly defined but rather blend into one another. I'm planning something fun and different for the crown of this hat, but I still have a bit more of the body to knit. It's going to be a slouchy fit, and the crown will involve some rapid decreases, so I need to make the body a little taller than usual to account for that.

It has been another good week of reading, though I still only have just the one bingo. I'm getting closer and closer to a cover-all on my first card, though. Here's a round-up of this week's finishes:

After more than a solid month of reading, I finally finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X, something I had been meaning to do for decades. The paperback copy I read is one I've owned since probably the early '90s; I know it had to have come out in 1992 or later, because there's a plug for the Spike Lee biopic on the cover. I suspect I bought it after I read Roots, and I know I read that in the fifth grade (yes, I've always been an advanced reader). I found several pages in the first couple of chapters that had been dogeared, so I know I attempted to read it once before but didn't make it very far. And it's a dense book, so getting through it was a bit of a challenge. But it was definitely worth it, and I now have a better sense of who Malcolm X was and what he stood for. I gave it 4 stars.
Bingo square: Best-seller

I'd heard about Hour of the Witch on the What Should I Read Next podcast and was intrigued. It's the story of a young woman in Puritan Boston who wants to divorce her abusive husband, but her outspokenness and childlessness in an extremely patriarchal society leads just where you think it will -- to suspicion that she is a witch. I enjoyed the first half of the book, but it dragged a bit in the second, and I think the two sections/trials could easily have been combined into one and the book could have been just as satisfying if it had been half the length. No spoilers, but I also think the ending was wildly unrealistic. I gave it 3 stars.

Bingo square: About religion

The Nickel Boys was a reread for me; I'd first read it a couple of years ago when it came out, and I know I rushed through it because it was a library book. This time, I didn't feel the same urgency because I had a physical copy in my hands, courtesy of the neighborhood Little Free Library, but all the same I managed to read it in one day, during our drive home from Michigan on Sunday. It was just as much as a gut punch the second time, but I think I picked up on more on the reread, in part because I knew of the twist that's revealed at the end. I also felt it to be a really timely read given the recent revelations about the so-called residential schools for First Nations children in Canada. If you haven't read this book yet, I'd highly recommend it. I gave it 4 stars again.
Bingo square: Buddy read (with Mary)

I had been meaning to read Americanah for several years and was glad that book bingo finally gave me to the push to do it. I decided to listen to this one, and I'm so glad I did; the narrator does an excellent job of performing quite a few different accents and helps to bring the characters to life in a way that I'm not sure would have happened for me if I'd read with my eyes. The story follows two Nigerians, childhood sweethearts, who follow different paths -- one to America, one to England -- and then reconnect years later back in Nigeria. It explores how their conceptions of race, nationality, class, and identity become shaped by their disparate experiences. It's a big book (the audio was 17 hours, I think), but very good. I gave it 4 stars.
Bingo square: A Diverse Spines selection

My bingo cards are filling up, and I'm hoping to complete the first one this month:

I'm currently reading Suite Fran├žaise for the Originally published posthumously square, and I've got Dear Senthuran on loan from the library. The former is actually two books in one and was planned to be a five-part sequence of novels. I finished the first book last night, and I'm hoping for a quieter work day today so I can plow through much of the second. It's going to be another 90-degree day here, with a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, so once I get my walk out of the way, it'll be a good day to stay in the air conditioning and read!

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Ready for Number 2

I know that I'll be confused about what day it is for the rest of this week, but I am very glad to have had yesterday as a bonus day off. Working from home takes away some of the stress and depression of Sunday night, but when you get home from a trip Sunday afternoon and have all the weekend chores and errands to run in a matter of hours, it's nice to have a bonus day before you have to get back to the daily grind. And it's always nice to be able to sleep in on a Monday morning!

One other thing the extra day off allowed me to do was finish up my nephew's blanket, in plenty of time for his second birthday!

It's on our queen-sized bed here, for scale.

I made this blanket using the corner-to-corner (C2C) method of crochet. It's a pretty simple concept in which you work on the diagonal and add blocks of double crochet stitches perpendicular to the previous row -- kind of like entrelac in knitting. There are ways to use the method to create designs/images by changing yarn and colors, but I stuck with simple stripes. My plan was to work with each color until it looked like I didn't have enough left to work another row, then join the next color. Once I had used all the colors, I started decreasing and mirrored the colors for the second half to create a square.

The yarn is Mission Falls 1824 Cotton, a yarn that was discontinued many years ago and that I bought on clearance at my former LYS, I think when I was pregnant with Rainbow, because I had it in my stash with a printed copy of a baby sweater that I think I'd intended to knit with it. I don't remember if I bought all the yarn they had left, but it sure seems like it given that I had 17 skeins of it. I used a bit more than 12 skeins in the blanket; in addition to the leftovers, which varied in amount by color, I somehow missed the two skeins of a more pinky purple when I was deciding on the order of colors, so I have two full skeins of that remaining. 

The colors actually used in the blanket are Truffle (dark brown), Goldenrod (yellow), Moss and Lichen (greens), Aubergine and Phlox (purples), and Graphite (dark blue/gray). I had two skeins of each color except Truffle, of which I had three, so I used some of the third skein to add a round of single crochet around the whole blanket when it was finished. In all, I used 1,018 yards -- and that's quite a chunk of yarn taken out of my stash! It weighs 606 grams, which is pretty heavy but not surprising given that it's a cotton yarn. The leftovers will likely become some washcloths.

I still need to wash the blanket, so it may shrink a bit, but the finished dimensions at the moment are approximately 32 by 32 inches. I used a size G/4.0 mm crochet hook, and I can't tell you what my gauge is (I really don't know how to measure it with this method because the stitches are in different directions), but it's fairly dense. My nephew's birthday is the beginning of next month, so I will wash it and wrap it up so it's ready to go. Finishing the blanket nearly a month early means that there's still time to make him a little amigurumi friend to go with it, too! And baby knitting will start soon -- my brother- and sister-in-law will find out the sex of baby number 2 tomorrow!

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Not a Bad Match

Hello, friends, and happy Independence Day to those of you celebrating today. I have mixed feelings about this holiday, but this weekend certainly felt like a reason for celebration because we spent it with my aunt and uncle, who we hadn't seen in person since December 2019. We had a quiet weekend of talking and looking at old family photos and laughing and eating entirely too much. My heart was so full of gratitude for the science that enabled us to be together safely.

Before we left on our trip, though, I wrapped up my week of vacation by plying and skeining my most recent spin, the Bond/Suri alpaca from my Southern Cross Fibre backlog. It was still slightly damp when we left, so I waited until we got home this afternoon before taking photos. I am quite happy with this one!

It is a pretty decent two-ply light fingering weight totaling a tad more than 400 yards. I was trying to match the skein I spun from the club colorway it was intended to coordinate with almost exactly five years ago, and it's close:

The main difference I can see between the two is that the older skein is much more tightly plied; overplying was often a problem for me in those days because I was so used to spinning sock yarn, where lots of twist is warranted. The yardage in both skeins is close enough that they should work very well together in a project, perhaps a shawl. And it feels really good to get another skein of SCF fiber spun up; I think I have only one bag of fiber older than this one was.

Before I start the next spinning project, I'm going to focus on that very long-term spindle project I shared last Thursday and that I was planning to take along this weekend. I actually made some pretty amazing progress while we were gone -- take a look at this cop!

That fiber underneath the spindle? That is all that's left to spin for the first single! I really did try to finish it up last night, but I still had this much left to do when Rainbow wanted to go to sleep (and we were all in the same hotel room, so that meant lights out for me, too). I will try to finish this evening, while our neighbors set off their fireworks. That cop is already starting to fall apart on me, so it's going to be a careful and slow process to get the last bit spun. I am determined to finish this project this summer -- this month, even, if I can manage it -- so I'll be starting on the second single just as soon as this one is wound off and my spindle is empty again. So I hope you won't get too bored of seeing this fiber, because it's going to feature here for the foreseeable future!

I hope that however you've spent this weekend, it brought you some joy!

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Three Things to Pack

We're leaving tomorrow morning for our quick trip up to Michigan, so that means that today is packing day. I'm linking up with Carole and friends for Three on Thursday with three things that are definitely coming with me.

1. At least one knitting project

This is that hat that I'd started and had to rip and redo because the brim was too big. I've done a round or two here and there, but I really need to get moving on it, and I think it'll be a perfect car project. I may bring along my ADVENTuresome Wrap as well, though it would be worked on while we're at my aunt and uncle's or the hotel -- there will be three of us in the back seat of the car, and that might be just a tad too tight to wind mini skeins.

2. Plenty of reading

My iPad will be coming with me, so of course I'll have access to ebooks, but I've picked out two hard-copy books to come along that are both for my bingo card.

3. My long-suffering spindle project

You've seen this project before -- it seems to come out once or twice a year but never actually get finished. I'm embarrassed by how long this has been in progress (I started it in May 2015!), and I'd really like to get it done. It's still Tour de Fleece and it's unrealistic to bring a wheel with me, so it seems like the perfect motivation to do some spindle spinning. Even if I only work on it for 15 minutes a day, that's better than nothing!

Whatever you have planned for the holiday weekend, I hope it's enjoyable, relaxing, and safe. See you back here on the 4th for some handspun!