Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Balance in 2021: August

Even though it feels like we got an extra week in this month (I think because Labor Day is so late this year), I'm still astonished at how quickly this month has flown by. It may have something to do with the fact that the days are getting noticeably shorter or that we're closing in on the final part of the year. But it's officially the final day of August, conveniently falling on the last Tuesday of the month, so it's time for my monthly check-in with my One Little Word. Thanks as always to Carolyn for hosting us for our monthly link-up!

Balance this month had a lot to do with Rainbow, so it feels very appropriate that my monthly reflection should fall on her first day of school for the new year.

It's really hit me in so many ways this moment that Rainbow is right on the cusp of leaving childhood. Physically, she's noticed her body changing (in some ways that are welcome and some that are not), and socially and emotionally, she's starting to assert her independence and separate herself from us. Earlier this month, she moved into the bedroom on our third floor, where she now has her own space and more privacy. Though she still relies on us for plenty of things, she's becoming more self-sufficient and learning to rely more on her own thoughts and judgments.

I thinking most, if not all, of you who are parents and have had children go through this period of adolescence will know how I'm feeling and how I am struggling to find a good middle ground between wanting to protect my "baby" from anything that might hurt her, physically or emotionally, and at the same time wanting to push her to challenge herself and learn those important life lessons that our children will really only learn when they've experienced them directly. I strive to make her know that I'm always here for her and will always support her but that I want her to feel comfortable relying on herself. I know that this is a process we'll be going through together for many years.

I realized not long ago that I'd completely forgotten to update my 21 in 2021 last month, so let's check in on that, shall we?

  1. Bake challah for shabbat DONE
  2. Run a 5K straight Walk the length of the UK - in progress
  3. Learn a new knitting technique DONE
  4. Sew a project bag DONE
  5. Knit a sweater out of handspun DONE
  6. Spin for a sweater - DONE
  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 DONE
  17. Read a book of poetry DONE
  18. Read a book by a Native American/Indigenous author DONE
  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 have only crossed one item off my list this month (that would be number 6, Spin for a sweater), but I'm making excellent progress on number 2 and should be able to cross it off at the end of this week because I have only about 20 miles left to walk to reach 1,083 miles and have already walked 11 miles so far this week. I'm trying to decide if I want to count the amigurumi pierogi I made way back in January for item number 10 or if I want to formally design something -- meaning writing up the instructions, whether or not I choose to publish. And we haven't succeeded in doing any family bike rides this year, though I'm hoping it's something we can do when the weather gets a little less oppressive. I am regularly thinking about making pastry and am determined to try it, so that will be one I am not likely to forget about. So all in all, very good progress toward completing this list!

How has the month of August been for you and your word? How are you feeling about the summer ending and the fall starting?

I will be back tomorrow with a big update!


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ready for the Gymnastics

There are two more days (after today) left in the month of August, and I am determined to finish up one more skein of handspun by month's end so that it counts for Stash Dash. As of this morning, I have two bobbins of singles ready to be plied:

I tried to explain how I would be plying these last week, but it seems that few (if any) of you understood what I'd be trying to do. So here's a little photo illustration for you, with a bit more explanation. First, you have to understand that chain-plying is a way of creating a faux three-ply yarn. It look like a three ply, but it's actually all one strand that's just been folded back on itself and twisted. An easy way to understand it is to think of crochet chains, stretched out really big, with added twist. What I'm doing is taking it one step further to create a faux four ply. I'm still making those loops but with only one of the two strands; the other strand just hangs out next to the loop. And each time I make a new loop, I'll grab from a different bobbin. So if the first loop comes from the gray bobbin, the second will come from the orange bobbin, the third from the gray, the fourth from the orange, etc.

Here is what this looks like in some commercial yarn:

On the top are just the loops. I made the first loop (to the left-hand side) with the yellow, so it looks like there are three strands of yellow and one of the dark green. The second loop used the dark green, so it appears to be three strands of green and one of yellow. On the bottom half the photo, you can see what the loops look like when twist is added. If you click the photo to embiggen, you'll be able to see that the yarn has the appearance of having four plies, but it's really only two. And you can see that each section of the yarn is like the photo negative of the other. I don't think the yarn I'm about to ply will be quite that dramatic (because both bobbins contain singles from the same batch of fiber in the same colorway), but I expect that there will be sections where the shades in the two singles don't match and there's more of a contrast. I'm excited to see how it looks, and I'm determined to finish it by end of day on Tuesday, so I promise you'll get to see it next Sunday!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Random Good Thoughts

It's been a long week, yesterday especially, but there have been some good moments, so today's post is a random collection of those.

Yesterday started with a dentist appointment for me. I knew I'd be doing a lot of walking back and forth yesterday and that it was going to be warm, so I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt -- specifically this t-shirt:

I bought this on my first visit to the New York Sheep and Wool festival, and although it's now a bit big on me, it's one of my favorites. As my hygienist was taking me back to the exam room, the other one was hanging out in the hallway, and as I passed him and he saw my shirt, he asked, "Is that Rhinebeck?" It turns out that his sister-in-law is a big knitter and talks about her trips to Rhinebeck a lot, enough that a non-fiber person knew about it!

Remember the sock photo I shared yesterday? Here it is again, in case you need a reminder:

These were originally intended to be for my sister-in-law for Christmas this year. But last night I remembered that her birthday is a week from Monday, and as the first sock is nearly finished, it would be entirely reasonable to try to finish the pair as a birthday present. The first sock was cast on more than a month ago, but I really haven't given it that much attention and that's why it's taken so long to finish. If pressed, I can knit an entire socks in a short period of time. I figure I'll give it my best shot (without stressing myself too much), and if they're not done by her birthday, then I'll go with the original plan.

Yesterday when I posted my reading update, I totally forgot to mention that All the Devils Are Here was the 100th book I've read this year! And I finished another (short) book yesterday, taking me to 101 so far. That matches the total number I read in all of last year, so that means that this year is officially going to be my best year of reading (at least in terms of the total number of books read) since I started keeping track of my reading on Goodreads. That's absolutely astounding to me, but at the same time, it's also not entirely surprising: One of the real boons of this pandemic has been both more time to read and better connections with reading friends, both of which have exploded my lists of books read and to be read.

I hope that your week has had at least a few random good things! See you back here on Sunday with a spinning update!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Unraveled, Week 34/2021

It is the last full week of August (how did that happen already?) and feels like the last week of summer because at this time next week, Rainbow will be back at school. It's going to be a busy day for me, but it's Wednesday, and that means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about crafting and reading.

I'm still working on the charity hat, and I've also added a bit to my sister-in-law's socks (well, the first sock, anyway). I have about an inch more to knit before I start the toe -- I'm very grateful that my big-footed brother married a woman with tiny feet!

Reading has been very good this past week. I am getting very close to completing a second bingo card, and I am determined to try my hardest to get that second cover-all by the end of Labor Day weekend. Since this time last week, I've finished five books!

I listened to the audiobook of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, a very buzzy recent release that's been on a lot of summer book lists this year. Even though I generally prefer to read with my eyes, this is one that I really wanted to listen to and really enjoyed in an audio format. (The primary narrator is Bahni Turpin, who I know some of you love.) The book reads like a nonfiction documentary about a 1970s band and a violent, racist incident that broke it apart. It was compelling and well written, and I definitely recommend it. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Audiobook with multiple narrators

Plenty was an Amazon First Reads selection for August; the book actually doesn't come out until September 1 (and if you're interested, there's currently a Goodreads giveaway for it). Given my experience with previous selections, I went in with low expectations, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this memoir. The author is a freelance food writer, but she's also someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder and thus has a complicated relationship with food. This book gave me Ruth Reichl Save Me the Plums vibes, and I enjoyed it so much that I even bought Howard's first memoir when I got an email from Amazon with a deal on it. I gave this one 4 stars.

Bingo square: About food

I'd had The Illness Lesson on my TBR list since hearing about it (a couple of times!) on the Novel Pairings podcast, and I got really lucky last month when I found a copy of it in the Little Free Library in our neighborhood. I got even more excited to read it when I looked at the author's bio and realized she's local! This book has pretty mixed reviews on Goodreads, and I can understand why. I think it's one that really would benefit from discussion or study, because there's a lot about this book that's just not written on the page but that you have to intuit. I enjoyed it but feel like I might have to reread it to get more out of it, and I'd love to talk about it with someone else! I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: That you want to read because of the cover

I listened to the audio of Saturday mainly at Kat's recommendation and because it filled a square on my card. This is the third novel by Ian McEwan that I have read and not my favorite, although I will say I liked how this one ended a lot more than Atonement! I found it to be pushing my suspension of disbelief just a bit that all of the drama in this book could have happened over the course of one day -- not that it's impossible, just highly unlikely. But the narration was good and kept me company on three walks and while cleaning the bathrooms, so that's saying something. I gave it 3 stars.

Bingo square: Month or day of the week in the title

I finally caught up on the Inspector Gamache series on the day that the 17th book was released (that would be yesterday). All the Devils Are Here, like pretty much any Gamache book for me, was pure pleasure reading. I enjoy seeing where the mystery will take me -- and more often than not being surprised by the ending -- as well as the humorous and touching moments. Reading one set in Paris was also a delightful change of scenery and was even more enjoyable because I've been brushing up on my French via Duolingo this summer. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Any book (free square)

I have four squares left to fill to get my second cover-all, and I'm pretty sure I have books to cover all of them, two of them hard copies in my possession. On Monday I started All Who Go Do Not Return, which I've had on my TBR list for several years, and yesterday I started The Summer Book -- I know several of you have read it, and I expect that it'll be a quick read. I may get a couple of large-ish projects for work this week, but there are 13 days left in Summer Book Bingo, and I plan to use them all if I have to in order to finish these last four books!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Some Good News

A number of you have noted that last week was a hard week in terms of the news coming from around the world. Any one news item was bad enough -- rising COVID cases, the devastation in Haiti, the collapse of Afghanistan -- but all at once? It was a lot to take. I was very thankful in the face of all this bad news that I have been cultivating a practice of looking for the good and the things that bring me joy. It's something I started at the beginning of the pandemic, alongside my daily journaling. In my entry each evening, in addition to reflecting on the day, I record three things I've accomplished that day and five things that have brought me joy. I am someone who has always tended toward pessimism, so shifting my focus to find good things in every day (and they don't have to be big things, just things that made me smile or lifted my mood a bit) has improved my outlook a lot.

There are some bigger things that are making me happy this week, beyond the usual things like meeting a sweet dog on my walk or getting a visit by a butterfly in the garden. One is the fact that the Pfizer vaccine was approved by the FDA yesterday, which I hope will encourage more people to get vaccinated. The biggest thing is a resolution, of sorts, to something that has been causing me a lot of anxiety recently. You may remember that I was supposed to go back to work at the office two days a week. Last Wednesday, we had an office staff meeting (via Zoom) to discuss the logistics of the move back to the office. Part of the plan was that we'd be "hoteling," meaning almost no one would have their own dedicated office and that we'd instead reserve an office space for those days we'd be there physically. This would enable the entire staff to use a smaller physical space -- in the days before the pandemic, we had two locations. But at the meeting, a number of my coworkers expressed concern about returning. Quite a few of us have children who are still too young to be vaccinated, and one person said exactly what I was thinking: If it's been working so well for us to work remotely, why are we rushing back to being there in person when case numbers are starting to rise again? The "big boss," the head of the office, who I've always had great respect for, told us that she appreciated us sharing these concerns and while she couldn't respond to them right then and there, mainly because she needed to consult with others and didn't want to promise something she couldn't deliver, she was taking them to heart and would get back to us. On Friday morning, she sent out a response: For the time being, as long as we could complete our job duties successfully, we could continue to work remotely. That means I am not going back to the office until I'm required to! This is such a huge weight off my shoulders, and Rainbow is relieved as well because it means that I can pick her up at school every afternoon.

You know what else is making me happy? Using up scraps of yarn for a charity hat:

You saw the beginning of this hat last week, but it's grown quite a bit since then. I've completely improvised this hat but have been inspired by the construction of Ysolda's Musselburgh hat. I started with a circular cast on and increased out until I had the stitch count I wanted (128 stitches, I think?), and now I'm just knitting straight until I have the total length that I want before I decrease for the second crown. I'm holding two fingering-weight yarns together to get a roughly DK-weight gauge -- about 6 stitches per inch. One crown will be folded inside the other when it's done, so the finished hat will be a double thickness, and if the brim is folded up, it'll actually be a quadruple thickness. This has been my go-to project for while I've been in meetings or doing online training for work, and I think it will likely be finished this week. It was also what I worked on over the weekend, when Rainbow had a pre-school year get-together with some friends at a local park:

It was a hot day, but the Mister and I parked ourselves in some fold-out chairs in the shade and I worked on the hat and read a Kindle book while the girls talked and did gymnastics in the grass and took silly selfies.

I've got a bit of a crazy day tomorrow (I have an early morning dentist appointment and then a blood donation appointment late morning), but I will be back with an update on crafting and reading. I hope this week hold some good news for you!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Getting Closer to a Sweater

I know many of you are anxious to see me start knitting my handspun Shifty -- I'm pretty anxious to start it myself! But after all the work I did spinning the yarn, I'm not about to take any shortcuts, which means that some serious swatching has to come first. And before I could get to that point, I needed to get my yarn from twisted hank to "cake" form, so that is how I spent some of my afternoon. All six skeins are now wound and ready to go.

I'm also determined to get one more skein of handspun done by the end of the month, and as I haven't crossed any skeins off my Southern Cross Fibre club backlog list for a while (only two of the six sweater skeins were from before this year), I thought I'd spin not one but two bags of fiber. I had received a second bag of August 2018's shipment, Yesterday's Love on New Zealand Merino, and I thought it would be perfect for spinning an alternating chain-ply yarn. I'm spinning each bag of fiber onto its own bobbin first and am maybe between halfway and two-thirds of the way done with the first bobbin.

I'm sure most of you are mystified by what I mean by an alternating chain-ply, even those of you who spin! The truth is that I don't even know if that's the actual name for it or even if the method has a name. What I mean by it is that I'm going to create a faux four-ply yarn. I will have two bobbins of singles and start out as if I were chain-plying (essentially creating a long crochet chain and twisting it), but instead of just the one single, I'll be holding the other single alongside the loop. On top of that, when it's time to form a new loop, I'll alternate which bobbin I pull from. I am spinning the fiber from one end of the top to the other, and I checked to make sure that the colors did not line up in the two batches of fiber I have, so the colors -- pink, red, and deep purple -- should end up pretty well distributed. I am thinking that I will get something like a sport- or DK-weight yarn when all it's plied, though seeing as it's Merino, it could poof up in the finishing. I am not spinning this for a particular project, though, so however it ends up is fine by me. Here's hoping I can finish it in time -- it should give me a lot of meters for Stash Dash!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Baby's First Stripes

It turns out that when you focus on one project, it does get finished!

Pattern: Flax Light by Tin Can Knits, size 6-12 months
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon), OOAK colorway, 0.77 skeins (308 yards/281.6 meters)
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 2 (2.75 mm)
Started/Completed: August 2/August 18

As you can see, this wee baby sweater is still in need of a good blocking, but it's done, with fairly closely matching sleeves to boot. I started both sleeves in the exact same place in the stripe sequence, but I had to fudge things a little on the second sleeve to make them look almost identical. They are just the tiniest bit off, but I'm not too bothered by this and doubt anyone but me will notice.

The pattern is great -- well written, easy to follow -- and my only modification, if you can even call it that, was to pick up some additional stitches at the underarm when I started the sleeves to avoid holes. I decreased them away in the first few rounds. This is something I often do with top-down sweaters because there's always that gap when you change directions in knitting.

I haven't talked much about Stash Dash on the blog this year, but I have been keeping track of how much yarn I've used up or spun. In the true spirit of the event, I'm challenging no one but myself, and even that has been more casual this year. I didn't set a goal for myself at all but instead have been keeping a tally just to see what the number is. With the addition of this sweater, my current total stands at a bit more than 15,392 meters. It would be amazing to get to 20K, but if I don't, that's fine, too. The event ends at the end of this month, which is not a lot of time left, so we'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, I had the urge to start a new project yesterday but forced myself to finish the sweater first, so my reward for finishing was starting a new scrappy charity hat last night:

I had a good amount of the blue/gray variegated yarn, so I pulled some other grays and blues to hold with it and am knitting a marled, double-stranded hat. I decided to do a Musselburgh-style doubled beanie, but mine will be closer to DK weight thanks to the double stranding. The finished product should be a very warm hat for someone and will use up a bunch of scraps. And once I finish the increases, there should be a lot of stockinette in the round (I plan to switch over to a 16" circ then), which should be perfect for knitting while reading!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Unraveled, Week 33/2021

It's a dark, rainy Wednesday here as we are dealing with the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred. Kat is taking the week off from blogging and thus isn't hosting a link-up for Unraveled Wednesday, but I've been posting every Wednesday this year so far, and I'm not about to break my streak! Plus, I have quite a reading update, and as I expect to be back in the office at this time next Wednesday, it doesn't make sense to wait until next week.

I am focused today on finishing up that baby-sized Flax Light that I shared yesterday -- I've got a couple of inches left to knit on the first sleeve, so that doesn't seem like too big of a stretch. I can also report that while it isn't all that pretty, the stash is officially contained in its new home, the closet of what is now the guest/stash room:

The only things that aren't in the closet now are two bags that are in my bedroom, one containing some handspun that I've been slowly adding to Instagram for sale and one containing a fleece, which I've put there in the hopes that seeing it will inspire me to finish processing it so I can spin it (I am planning to spin for a Dissent Pullover).

Reading has been good this past week, and I've finished three books:

I had put Home Fire on hold at the library after Mary recommended it, and then it was mentioned on last week's episode of Novel Pairings about mythology-inspired titles, so it all felt very timely. This novel is a modern retelling of Antigone that focuses on three English siblings, children of Pakistani immigrants who were abandoned by their father and then orphaned when their mother died, leaving the two youngest children, twins, to be raised by their teenage older sister. They are grown when we meet them, but they are still grappling with their past and dealing with their connections to Islamic terrorism and conflicts within their Muslim community. It's a heartbreaking and moving book. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: An author of color

On that same episode of Novel Pairings, Sara and Chelsey mentioned Lovely War, which I'd never heard of but put on hold at the library right away. The main narrative of this book is set during World War I and follows two couples as they make their way through the war facing all sorts of challenges, but this story line is actually a story within a story: When the book opens, it's the middle of World War II, and Aphrodite and Ares have been caught in a tryst in a New York City hotel room by Aphrodite's husband, Hephaestus. The story of the two couples in WWI is told by Aphrodite in a trial overseen by her husband to explain why he has found her with Ares, and in fact the story reveals just how much love and war are intertwined. I listened to the audiobook, which uses music strategically to enhance the narrative. I'll admit that my attention wandered at some points, so the book was perhaps a little long for my taste, but I enjoyed it in general. I gave it 3 stars.
Bingo square: Story within a story

My final finish for the week was completed yesterday afternoon. I'd had The Rose Code in my to-read stack for the entire summer but only just got to it this month. This is definitely one of those books that, if I'd picked it up on vacation, I would have sped through in a day or two, but reading it before bedtime made it take much longer. The story takes place in two timelines, one during WWII and one in the days leading up to the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, and follows three women who all worked at Bletchley Park during the war. In the later timeline, one is falsely imprisoned in a mental hospital because of something that happened at Bletchley, and the wartime chapters slowly reveal why. This is a 600+-page book but didn't feel like it, and I really enjoyed the setting because I've been fascinated by the code-breaking efforts at Bletchley for quite a while. There's a very interesting author's note at the end that you must read, and she also gives a list of other books (both fiction and nonfiction) and TV shows and movies that tell more about Bletchley Park. I gave it 4 stars.
Bingo square: Color in the title

My second bingo card is filling up quickly, and I'm challenging myself to complete a second cover-all before Summer Book Bingo ends!

You can see that I already have one bingo (the right-most column), and I'm hoping to soon have a second (the fourth row). I am listening to the audiobook of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev and am, according to my Libby app, 64% through it. I also started The Illness Lesson last night after finding a copy of it in my neighborhood Little Free Library earlier this summer; I haven't yet added it to my card, but it's going in the "That you want to read because of the cover" square. That leaves me seven squares to fill, and I know what I'm reading for five of them for sure. Even if I don't manage to fill this card, I will for sure have done some excellent reading this summer!

How is your reading going this week?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Little Circles

Good morning, blog friends! I am still recovering from the weekend, even though it's Tuesday. We officially moved Rainbow upstairs into her new bedroom, and that involved some pretty physical labor -- my upper arms are still sore from moving her dresser! It's a bit strange to not have her just across the hall, but it's also nice not to have to tiptoe around when I get up for work.

Speaking of work, I am thinking of this week as my last week of freedom, because unless a major change is announced in our staff meeting tomorrow, I will begin to go back to the office two days a week (it'll be Tuesdays and Wednesdays for me) starting next week. I know that this is not entirely a bad situation, but personally I think it's ill advised given that COVID numbers are rising again. We'll see what happens.

Since finishing that last skein of handspun, I have turned back to the knitting I have on the needles and, not surprisingly, have made some good progress (isn't it amazing how progress gets made quickly when you actually work on something?). The theme of my WIPs seems to be small circumferences in self-striping yarn.

I got several inches of the sock done over the weekend, and though I haven't measured it, I'm guessing I'm getting close to the toe (these socks are for my sister-in-law, and she has the smallest feet among the adults in the family). I also finished the body of the baby-sized Flax Light just before bed last night and only need to weave in the end before I start the sleeves. I'll be winding off some yarn to make sure that the striping sequence is uninterrupted in the sleeves -- fussy but worth it, even if the baby won't know the difference.

Wondering what that cute thing is off to the side of the sweater?

That is one of several adorable progress keepers I have from Charmed and Dangerous. I started following Noelle on Instagram a while back after a friend posted some of her creations and just love what she makes. If you like her work, I recommend following her to see when she's going to put stuff in her shop -- it goes fast!

On today's to-do list is to finish emptying out an old IKEA dresser that's in the closet of Rainbow's former room (henceforth the combination guest room/stash room) so it can be put out with the trash tonight. It was one of two I had in my apartment after grad school and has been moved twice, so needless to say, it's falling apart now and has more than outlived its usefulness. There are a few other items to be removed from that closet and then I can begin moving the bins of stash into it. I will feel so much better when things are put away! (I know the Mister will as well, as I'm using his home office as a temporary holding space as well!)

I know Kat is taking the week off from her blog and will not be hosting a link-up tomorrow, but I will still be posting my regular Unraveled post tomorrow. Another item on today's to-do list is finishing a book, which would give me four finishes to talk about!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Is This the Little Skein I Carried?

Friends, my spinning for my handspun Shifty is done! I finished plying the last skein on Thursday and washed it on Friday. And it's a beauty, if I do say so myself (Rainbow thinks so as well). This is Sunrise, Sunset from Southern Cross Fibre:

After drying, I have approximately 343 yards in this skein. The fiber base was South African Superfine, which shrunk up quite a bit but is also very elastic. Still, it's plenty for my purposes, even given that there are probably some sections of the skein that don't have enough contrast because they're a little too dark blue. There's enough with that beautiful rusty orange and pale blue.

And here's the real money shot -- all of the skeins together, in the order I plan to use them top to bottom:

In all, I have a total of approximately 2,323 yards of yarn here. If that number isn't impressive enough, consider that it represents nearly 7,000 yards of singles spun. I am extremely pleased with how this project turned out, and as soon as we finish the big bedroom switcheroo and I can get my stash and supplies settled in their new place, I will swatch for my sweater!

By the way, I hope you forgive me for the earworm the title of this post may have given you. If it didn't then I offer you this:

Thursday, August 12, 2021

A Sneak Peek

I have slowly been adding handspun skeins to Instagram (@fluvialfibershandspunpgh), with some help from Rainbow. But several of you asked specifically for fingering weight, so I pulled a number of skeins yesterday and thought I'd give my blog friends first dibs at these skeins. Here's what I pulled and some details. I'm happy to share more information if you need it. Some of these may be closer to heavy fingering/sport, but they're all in the neighborhood.

All the skeins in this photo are from Southern Cross Fibre and are chain-plied (so they will stripe when knit up). Left to right:
  • Spring on Corriedale, 242 yards
  • Hope Springs on Grey Corriedale, 319 yards
  • Autumn on Corriedale, 332 yards
  • Breeze on Finn, 293 yards

These skeins are a mix of dyers and fiber content. They're all chain-plied except for the one on the far left, which is a traditional three ply. Left to right:

  • SCF Flanders Fields on Rambouillet, 406 yards
  • Loop Vernal Equinox on Merino/nylon/sparkle, 373 yards
  • SCF Kandinsky on Rambouillet, 334 yards
  • Yarn Hollow Red Rocks and Spruce on alpaca/Merino/silk, 419 yards SOLD!
  • SCF Caravaggio on Corriedale, 292 yards

I calculate prices based on the number of plies and the yardage. For blog friends, I'm giving a little bit of a discount, and I'm also covering shipping within the United States.

Please do not feel obligated to buy anything -- I just wanted to make these skeins available to those of you who were interested before I post them to Instagram! I know some of you have expressed surprise that I could part with a lot of this handspun, but honestly I am feeling overwhelmed by how much I have and would rather it go to someone who will actually craft with it than have it sit in a bin for years. I would quite honestly give it away, but I do have some costs to cover (shipping, the cost of the fiber, the maintenance costs of my wheels, etc.), hence the "friends and family" discount. Please do let me know if I should continue to share skeins here first as I uncover more!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Unraveled, Week 32/2021

Despite Rainbow's insistence yesterday that it was Monday, I know that today is Wednesday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers and catch up on what I'm knitting and reading.

While I have been focused primarily on spinning again in an effort to finish my final skein for handspun Shifty (I should finish the third and final bobbin of singles today), I have made a bit of progress on my knitting projects. I took my sister-in-law's socks with me to my nephew's birthday party and successfully avoided all water balloons, so they (and I) stayed dry and I turned a heel. I also picked up the baby-sized Flax Light last night and finished the yoke, so today I'll be splitting the sleeves from the body and starting the mindless stockinette in the round.

It's been an excellent week of reading, with four books finished:

has long been singing the praises of Jayber Crow, so when she mentioned that it was a Kindle deal last week, it took me about five seconds to snap it up, and I am happy to report that it was more than worth it. This is a slow book in the sense that not a long happens, so this is not the kind of book for you if you prefer propulsive page-turners. But this is very much a comfort read, filled with stories about interesting people and the reflections of a very thoughtful narrator. If you liked Middlemarch, I think you'd like this a lot. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Recommended by a friend

I had heard Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy mentioned on the Novel Pairings podcast, and it seemed like a good audiobook option because it wasn't too long (I have a tendency to not pay attention to audiobooks that are too long). At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book because the first third or so gave me an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach. But as I got further into it, I realized that was pretty much the point. This is a brutally honest accounting of the weight of the trauma of racism, poverty, addiction, abuse, and so many other issues. The audio is read by the author, which only added to the impact of his words. It's not an easy read, but it certainly is a powerful one. I gave it 4 stars.

Bingo square: Memoir or autobiography

I finished Heavy in the middle of a walk, so I immediately went onto Hoopla and borrowed the audio of A Streetcar Named Desire. I had already listened to the Novel Pairings episode on this play and so the plot wasn't a surprise, but I had never read this dramatic classic before. The version that was available to me was from a performance from the '70s, and I think having an older recording actually worked because the voices sounded more of the time of the setting to me. I wouldn't say I really enjoyed the play because frankly all the characters have something to hate about them, but I appreciated the writing and admired Williams' skill. I gave it 3 stars.

Bingo square: Adapted for the screen

I finished the fourth book, Claire Fuller's Our Endless Numbered Days, just yesterday afternoon, and I am still processing it. I have a feeling this is one I'm going to need to discuss with others! I picked it up because I so enjoyed Unsettled Ground that I thought I would read Fuller's other novels, and a couple of you had recommended her debut. I enjoyed most of this book, though I felt a growing sense of dread as I got closer to the end and the full picture of what had happened, and frankly the ending threw me for a loop. I haven't given this book a star rating or written a review yet because I'm still not sure what to think! I will say it's well written, though, and I'm looking forward to reading her other two books.

Bingo square: An author you read for another square

My second bingo card is filling up nicely, with 12 squares left to fill for a second cover-all. One of those will be filled by The Rose Code, which I'm still reading (nearly halfway through), and one will be filled by Home Fire, which I just got from the library this morning. I mentally have books designated for most of the other squares, too, so it's just a matter of finding the time to read!

What have you been reading and making this week?

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

A Collaboration

Phew, it's been a busy start to the week! Work was a bit busier than usual yesterday and included the news of an unexpected immediate resignation in my group, so I'm hoping for a calmer day today.

We had a really nice weekend, even if it went too quickly (as it usually does), and it was highlighted by a party for my nephew's birthday -- he turned 2 last week. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law recently moved into a new house that has a nice backyard, and the weather cooperated to allow them to have a small gathering of family and a few friends outside. Everyone there was vaccinated, too, other than the handful of kids who are still too young (Rainbow was by far the oldest one there). The highlight was probably a massive water balloon fight that started out being for the kids and ended up with most of the adults involved in trying to soak each other.

We took some more traditional gifts (toys, a book), but Rainbow really wanted to give her cousin something handmade, and she asked me to help her with it so it would be done in time. She had dug through one of my stash bins and pulled out several partial skeins in shades of blue -- including one that was from a cardigan I knit for her when she was little and that she has since passed on to my nephew! I helped her get started on a "solid" granny square, and she asked me to make an amigurumi animal head to attach to make it a lovey or woobie or whatever you want to call it. I think it turned out very cute:

I used the head of a bear pattern from Zoomigurumi, one of six books in the series that I won in an Instagram giveaway. I opted to embroider the face to make it safer for a kid who is still putting almost everything in his mouth but otherwise followed the pattern exactly (or at least tried to -- I'm still new to this and likely made a mistake or two!). After I had stuffed it and closed it up, I sewed it on well to the center of the blanket. I can identify most of the yarns used here -- from the outside in is Madelinetosh in Robin's Egg, Well Water, Betty Draper's Blues, and Lapis, and I think the darkest blue at the center is Cascade 220 Superwash Paints in Sapphire Seas.

When my nephew opened this gift at his party, he was nonplussed, but that was pretty much his reaction to most if not all of his gifts. My sister-in-law said he'd love it, though, and reported the next day that he slept with it that night. And then yesterday my brother-in-law texted us this photo:

I think it's safe to say that it was a successful collaboration and a great gift!

Sunday, August 08, 2021

I Couldn't Have Done Better

I did indeed finish up a skein of handspun this week, and it turned out pretty much perfect -- it's consistent, it's well balanced, it has a lot of yardage, and I had maybe six inches of singles remaining when I finished plying.

This was June's Southern Cross Fibre club shipment, the colorway Ice Cave on Bond. I did a traditional three ply, and when the first bobbin ran out, I made a plying bracelet with the singles on one of the two remaining to use up as much as I could of what was left. When it was done, washed, and dry, I found myself with a skein of approximately 430 yards!

I finished just in time, too, because July's shipment -- Turtle on Polwarth -- showed up late last week, too. It's a stunner as well:

I will not be doing anything other than fondling it for a while yet, though, because I still have one more contrast skein left to spin for my handspun Shifty. I finished the first bobbin of singles last night, so two more to go! I'm hoping that work is a little more cooperative this week in giving me time to spin.

The stash move is still underway, though all the yarn and fiber is now out of what was the stash room and in two temporary locations. The house will be a bit of a mess until we can move some furniture and free up space to put the stash. I've started looking through all my handspun and getting an idea of what I'm ready to part with. Here's a little preview:

I think the easiest thing for me to do is to post the skeins, one at a time, on my second Instagram account, which has long been dormant (I started it when I first opened my Etsy shop a long time ago). I'm giving you all the first dibs, so to speak, on what you see here, so if something is calling to you and you don't want to wait, let me know and I'll share some details!

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Three on Thursday: Sweater Planning

I'm joining with Carole and friends this week for Three on Thursday with three sweaters I'd like to knit soon-ish. I know many of you are still dealing with record heat and probably don't want to think about covering yourself in wool just yet, but I've already noticed that the days are getting shorter, and that means that fall isn't that far away. If I want to have new sweaters to wear when the weather is suitable for them, I need to get started soon.

The first of the three sweaters, shouldn't be a surprise because I've been spinning for it for a while now. It's the Shifty pullover (Ravelry link) by Andrea Mowry.

I'm planning to start this one just as soon as the spinning is done, which I'm hoping will be within a week or two. I'm thinking of this as my Rhinebeck sweater, whether or not Rhinebeck ends up happening. It's on as of right now, but with the Delta COVID variant wreaking havoc, you never know what will happen.

The second sweater is one I've had my eye on while it was in testing and even bought in the presale before it went live. It's Recalibrate (Ravelry link) by Shana Cohen. 

This top is knit mostly sideways, with some vertical garter panels, and it looks like it would be great for smaller amounts of handspun that might not be enough for a sweater on their own but would be enough if combined with other skeins.

Finally, there's Garland (Ravelry link) by Stephanie Lotven:

This actually a two-fer because there's a matching girl's version that I also got so that Rainbow and I could have coordinating sweaters (not matching, of course -- she's way too mature for the Mommy and Me look now!). We haven't planned too far ahead, but we've discussed potentially doing them in a neutral shade that would be the same and then using some multicolor handspun for the colorwork. 

Am I the only one already thinking about sweaters? I hope not! Have a great end to your week and see you back here on Sunday for a handspun update!

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Unraveled, Week 31/2021

Wednesday again, already? Apparently so! Time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk what I'm making and reading.

After I finished up that scrappy charity hat, I cast on for Flax Light as a baby gift. Some friends of ours just welcomed a baby girl, and I thought this OOAK skein of Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce would make for a cheerful baby sweater. I've only just started the raglan increases, but I think it should go pretty quickly.

Reading has been a little slower this past week, and I know for certain that's because while I was so focused on finishing my wrap last week, I was watching TV and video podcasts instead of reading. But that's okay! I finished two books.

I had been looking forward to reading The Whispering House since I heard it mentioned on the What Should I Read Next podcast before it even came out in the U.S. and had it on hold at the library for a while. It sounded really good: A young woman still grieving the apparent suicide of her older sister is drawn to a mysterious old house where she sees a painting of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to that sister and sets her on a path to find out what really happened. It promised to be a thrilling Gothic mystery -- but sadly I found it to be not so thrilling and not much of a mystery either. Maybe it was just because I figured everything out and saw where it was going early on, but I didn't really care for it and gave it 2 stars.
Bingo square: Written in the first person

My second finish for the week was much better. Technically this was the second time I had read Beloved, but the first time was in high school (the copy I own was a tie-in with the movie, which came out in 1998, when I was 17) and I didn't remember much of anything about it, so it may have well been the first time. Reading it now, I can see why the first reading didn't make much of an impression at the time; there is so much in this book that has to do with the trauma of enslavement, and I just didn't have enough knowledge or life experience back then to fully appreciate it. I clearly didn't understand the main plot point that drives the narrative back then, either. I decided to revisit this after hearing Chelsey and Sara discuss it on an episode of the Novel Pairings podcast, and I am so glad I did. I was absolutely blown away by this book. There are still things I didn't understand, though that didn't take away from my enjoyment of it, and I'd be willing to bet that I would be able to reread this several times in the future and still find new things to be amazed at. I gave it 5 stars.
Bingo square: Modern classic

Not only was Beloved a great book to read, but in finishing it, I also completed a cover-all on my first bingo card!

I am currently reading two books, one on Kindle and one in paper. Katie alerted me to the fact that Jayber Crow, one of her all-time favorites, was a Kindle daily deal the other day, so I didn't hesitate to click buy. I'm about halfway through it now and finding it quite enjoyable. I also started The Rose Code, which I've had on my TBR pile (the physical one) since I found it at Costco a couple of months ago. I'm not very far into it because I've only read for a bit before bed the past couple of nights, but it's already hooked me.

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

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Completion -- and Then Some

As I hinted in my last post, I achieved success in my goal to finish my wrap before the end of July with time to spare -- but trying to photograph it on my own was another matter!

Pattern: ADVENTuresome Wrap by Ambah O'Brien (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon) in Wisp (main color) and Holiday Pops mini skein set (contrast colors)
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: January 14/July 29

This project had been on the needles for far too long, and once I forced myself to be monogamous, I did the bulk of the knitting in a relatively short amount of time. So don't let the dates fool you -- there were actually very few days of active work on it during that time span.

The wrap was designed to be knit with one of those Advent mini skein sets that have become so ubiquitous the past few years. I've been getting Lisa's holiday sets for a while now, but I think last year was the first year I decided to do yarn mini skeins rather than her fiber option because I was feeling so overwhelmed by the size of my fiber stash. I figured that unless I had a pattern that was specifically for such a set, the minis would never get used, so that's how I got to the wrap. The pattern itself isn't too terribly challenging, but there are three wrong-side rows in each pattern repeat that have decreases, and the problem with not working on a project regularly is that you forget such things, and that leads to a lot of tinking. After just a couple days of monogamously working on it, though, I had the pattern memorized and could get through it faster. I still had those moments of forgetfulness, but I caught them much faster.

As with any pattern designed for mini skeins, I had a lot of ends to weave in. At first I was cutting the main color, too, thereby giving myself an additional two ends for each stripe, but I quickly realized that I could just carry it up the side and save myself some finishing time. I also paused my knitting after every four or five stripes to weave in ends so that I didn't have to deal with them all at the end, and that proved to be a smart move.

I made no changes to the pattern other than accidental user-error-type ones; there were a couple of times I'd missed a decrease or somehow was short a stitch, so I fudged things to make up for them, and I honestly can't find where they were now. I must admit that I did a quick-and-dirty blocking job and thus the wrap is probably not as tidy or crisp as it could be, but I just wanted to be done at the time, and as I'm not entering it in any beauty contests, I'm happy with it the way it is.

In all, I used 1,124 yards/1,027.8 meters of yarn, about 63 grams (252 yards/230.4 meters) of the main color and 218 grams (872 yards/797.4 meters) of the mini skeins. When I finished each stripe, I cut the mini skein strand and tossed what was left in my project bag, and there was enough yarn leftover from the whole project to whip up an easy charity hat, which I finished yesterday afternoon:

This is just a basic beanie holding the yarn double -- one strand is the Wisp (the main color in the wrap) and the other strand is the leftover from the minis. I used the clasped weft join to add in each scrap and ended up using all the mini leftovers. The reddish yarn at the very top of the crown was dug out of my big bag 'o scraps. The finished hat used a total of 240 yards/256 meters of yarn. I have just a small amount of the gray leftover, and it makes me very happy to have used up nearly all of the yarn from a big project. I'm also quite happy with the cheery colors in the hat and hope it'll make someone smile (and keep their head warm) come this winter.