Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Unraveled, Week 35/2022

It's Wednesday -- again?! I'm having a little bit of a hard time keeping track of what day it is this week because Rainbow's first day of school was yesterday (a Tuesday), which is a weird day to start school, if you ask me. She had a great first day and was very excited to tell me all about it when I picked her up yesterday, so now we just have to make it through the rest of the week.

As per usual, I'm linking up today with Kat and the Unravelers and giving an update on my making and my reading.

Knitting has been a bit slow the past couple of days because work has been very busy. I got a bit annual report dropped on me late last week that has been filling up my days, but I should be able to finish it up today, and then I'm hoping there's a bit of a lull. I've still been working on my Quotidian Tee pretty much every day, though, and I'm almost ready to split for the front and back after finishing the last of the decreases Monday night.

That ball off to the right is all that's left of my third skein of yarn, and I'm hoping to take some photos of my process when I join the next skein.

I'm thinking that I might give this project a little bit of a break, though, in order to whip up some socks. I cast on a pair last week while I was at the orthodontist with Rainbow (you saw just the cuff last Wednesday), and I'd like to get them done to give to my sister-in-law for her birthday next week. That might be a tall order, but I figure that if I can't quite manage the pair, I could at least give her one completed sock and then give her the other one as soon as it's done. These are just plain stockinette -- I'm letting the yarn do the work -- so they should be fast.

Reading this past week has been all about quick books. I've finished three, but it feels a bit like cheating because they were all so fast!

My first book was a reread of Sorrow and Bliss in preparation for the Read With Us discussion next month. I read it earlier this year, prior to the announcement of the Women's Prize, but at the time could only get it on audio from the library. I really loved it, but I also wanted to experience reading it with my eyes, so this time I read it as an ebook. The good news is that I liked it just as much. I still found it to be laugh-out-loud funny at times, heartbreakingly sad at others, and overall very well written. I think it's a really clever way of addressing how and if mental illness has an effect on interpersonal relationships and the impact of a label (in this case, Martha's illness is made up and isn't even given a name). This is a still a 5-star read for me, and I'm looking forward to talking about it!

Next I listened to two short audiobooks by Julie Otsuka, both less than four hours: When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic. Although I read them in the order in which they were written and published, I'd recommend you read them in the reverse order if you plan to. Buddha follows the immigration of Japanese "picture brides" who came to the California prior to WWII and is told largely in the first person plural, giving a sense of the collective experience of these women who were promised an exciting new life in a new country and instead found lives of hard work and frequent discrimination.

From those varied stories with common through-lines, Emperor focuses on one (unnamed) Japanese American family in San Francisco, beginning just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The father has been arrested and sent away to a prison camp, and soon the wife and two children are on a train headed to an internment camp in Utah. The story follows their experience and those of the others in the camp for the duration of the war and their return to their homes afterward. 

Both books are well written and impactful in their stories of the treatment of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans, but they really only scratch the surface of a part of U.S. history that's often not told. I'm interested in reading more, so if you have recommendations, let me have 'em! I gave both books 4 stars.

Currently I'm reading the next selection for the Erdrich-along, The Plague of Doves, though I've only just started because I have been so tired the last few nights that I've only managed a few pages before I've been ready to call it a night.

What have you been making and reading this week?

Monday, August 29, 2022

Growth in 2022: August

It is, unbelievably, the last Monday in August. Rainbow goes back to school tomorrow, and the Mister and I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary on Friday. Summer is coming to an end. And today it's time for my monthly One Little Word check-in and the link up that Carolyn so kindly hosts.

Growth this month has been very much of the personal variety. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my body, how I feel about it, and how I choose to treat it. Like many women, I've long had a complicated relationship with my body -- most of the time that means I haven't liked it. It's nearly impossible to avoid the messages that women get sent all the time that they should be thin and pretty and flawless. And that's just ... not me. In fact, I'm finally beginning to accept that will never be me. I've lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off, but I'm never going to look like a model in an advertisement. And that's okay. Because you know what? My body is pretty amazing. I mean, it grew and birthed and fed a human -- a human who is now almost as tall as I am! My body is strong and allows me to go about my day without pain, even when I ask it to do a little more. And the big lesson I've learned this month is that my body also sends me signals when I need to be a little more gentle with it.

I think I mentioned recently that I started running again. I got really into running that first summer of the pandemic, when pounding the pavement was the primary way I dealt with the stress and anxiety. And then that fall I did ... something ... to my right hip. I didn't fall or do anything specific I could identify; I just knew that all of a sudden my hip really hurt. And so I stopped running and started doing longer walks instead. Occasionally I'd try to run to see if the hip still hurt, and if it did, I stopped. Finally in the last year I've been able to run a little again, and I'm now doing it regularly. But instead of running the old way, when I'd try to run as long as I could before stopping and keep trying to increase the time and distance I could go, I've been doing more of an interval training thing: I run a couple of blocks, then walk a couple of blocks. I alternate for the whole workout (usually around 7 miles). Sometimes, if it's really nice and cool outside (so I don't feel like I'm melting) and if I have a stretch where I've got a downhill slope, I might do more than a couple of blocks. On a couple of occasions, I've run a mile straight -- just to see if I could and to see what my pace was like. But I've found that my body (and especially my joints) is happier with me if I alternate running and walking and if I just walk every two or three days. I still get a good workout every day, and not every one has to be high intensity. The goal is to keep moving.

The Mister and I are signed up for the Great Race 5K in September. In a previous year, I would have been pushing myself so that I could run the whole thing. This year? Meh. I figure I'll do what I can, and as long as I'm listening to my body, having fun, and not hurting myself, I'll be happy. I know I am not, and never will be, an elite athlete. I'm not going to win any races or set any records. The only person I am competing with is me, and I've decided I really don't need to set a new PR every year. The reality is that I've probably peaked and am unlikely to get much faster. So now the goal is just to be able to finish. I'm hoping that I can keep running for years yet -- because even though I still kind of hate it while I'm doing it, I do love the strong feeling I get from having done it. I like the muscle definition I can see in my legs after I've been running regularly. I like that good feeling of exhaustion after a long run in the heat. I like chugging cold water and standing under a cool shower and feeling the heat leave me. And I really like not having terrible pain because I've pushed myself too far or too hard. Moderation in all things, right?

Last month my big growth was in thinking of myself as an adult. Well I can tell you with certainty that my body has long felt like an adult and does not work as well or recover as quickly as it once did. Being honest with myself about that means that I can take steps (ha) now so that I can keep moving long into the future.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Hopeful Signs

It's Friday, and the last Friday of summer vacation. Rainbow starts back at school on Tuesday, though she'll be there for a bit on Monday because she's been asked to be a buddy to a new student joining her class and they have an orientation/welcome session Monday morning. I'm still in denial a bit that I will shortly have a seventh grader, and I'm also a little sad that I won't have her around all day, but I think it will be good for her to be back to a regular schedule.

A while back, Kym was using her Friday posts to focus on things that gave her hope, and those posts always lifted my mood, so I've decided to copy her use her posts as inspiration for today. First, after feeling like my sweater was creeping along, I was very pleasantly surprised to measure it yesterday and see just how much I'd knit:

You can click on that photo to embiggen if, like me, you have older eyes, or you can just trust me that the measuring tape says I have 11 inches of body knit. I have three more sets of decreases to work (I'm knitting an A-line body) and then have to work even until the body measures 17 inches before I split for the front and back. That suddenly doesn't seem so far off! I joined my third ball of yarn yesterday.

Even though the summer is coming to a close, our garden still apparently has some surprises in store for us. We've managed to keep our melon vines alive and even have a melon growing! We thought it was a honeydew, but based upon what's happening with the skin, we now think it's a cantaloupe. I've got the vines draped over the fence along our driveway to keep them off the ground, but I think I'll need to rig up some sort of support for the melon soon.

Finally, I can't remember if I mentioned it, but a while back something (I suspect a bunny or bunnies) ate all the leaves off our bell pepper plants. I figured that was it for our attempt to grow peppers this year, but I just left the bare stems in the ground and continued to water them along with the other plants in the front yard. To my delight, more leaves grew, and then yesterday, I discovered flower buds:

Although September is usually still warm here, we may or may not have enough time to actually grow some peppers, but I'm delighted to see these buds all the same. I have grand plans for next year's garden, including putting in a raised planter in the front to lift what we plant off the ground and, I hope, out of reach of local wildlife.

I hope (hehe) that you're finding some hopeful signs in your life this Friday. Happy weekend, all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Unraveled, Week 34/2022

Happy hump day, all! It's Wednesday again, and as usual I'm linking up with Kat and the Unravelers, but first I have to thank all of you who left such lovely comments on Monday's post. I shared all of them with Rainbow, who is feeling very gratified and encouraged to continue her crafting. I'm sure I'll be sharing more of her work in the future.

So, back to my crafting. These days, it's all about my Quotidian Tee:

I know it doesn't look like a ton of progress, but you have to keep in mind that I'm knitting this on size 3/3.25 mm needles, so it's bound to grow slowly. Knitting with this yarn is an interesting experience. It's a linen/cotton blend but feels cool and silky to the touch. It's a chainette construction, which makes joining a new skein a little tricky, but Mary (who has knit with this yarn a lot) was able to give me some good tips, and I think I did a decent job on my first join:

On Monday Rainbow and I were back at the orthodontist (and we'll be leaving in a little bit for our third visit in the past week). I thought the sweater was a bit large to take with me, so I cast on a new pair of socks, which will be for my sister-in-law for her birthday next month. I'm using some Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce from stash from several years ago. Monday's visit was relatively short, so I was only able to cast on and complete part of the cuff, but today the lower braces are going on and we'll be there longer. I'll be interested to see how much of this sock I get knit today.

There's been a lot of reading here the past week! Remember how last week I said I probably wouldn't read much more Elizabeth Strout? Well, you can go ahead and laugh at me -- because I read two more of her books this week!

On Friday, I found myself all caught up on podcasts, so I went in search of available audiobooks on Libby and found, to my surprise, that Oh William! was available with no wait. It took me two workouts and a bit of housecleaning to finish it, and I think I've discovered that audio works much better for me with Strout's books because they are so very conversational and having someone read to me is more like listening to someone tell me a story. I liked this one much better that the two books of hers I'd read previously, and even though I got a bit annoyed with how many times the phrase in the title was uttered, I enjoyed getting to know these characters a bit better. I gave this one 4 stars.

Then, because I wanted to know more about the characters, I borrowed the book that technically comes in between My Name Is Lucy Barton and Oh William! Anything Is Possible is a series of interconnected short stories set in Amgash, Illinois, Lucy's hometown, and though she does make an appearance toward the end, she is not really a main figure. I found a number of these stories to be rather disturbing and didn't like the book as much, but it certainly gave me more insight into Lucy's background and enabled me to understand her (and her book) better. I gave it 3 stars.

My next read was the last of Maggie O'Farrell's back catalog that I had not yet read, The Distance Between Us. This book is what I've come to think of as classic O'Farrell: stories of characters who seem unrelated at the beginning and whose lives come together as more is revealed about them as the plot plays out. The writing is, as usual, quite excellent, and I was kept guessing about a key plot point that isn't uncovered until almost the end. I gave it 4 stars, and I'm really looking forward to her new book, which comes out next month!

Finally, just yesterday afternoon, I finished another book off the Booker Prize long list, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies. I will start out by saying that this is a somewhat unconventional book in its structure, and it's likely to be one you'll either love or hate. It tells the story of a woman, a wife and mother, whose breast cancer has recurred some years after her first bout with it, and interspersed with the stories of this character and her life, the cancer actually cuts in. Over time, the cancer's voice becomes more and more prominent until eventually it has taken over so much of her that it becomes "we" rather than "I."  I found myself a bit confused early on but kept with it, and when I finished it yesterday, I was in tears. I think what's most impressive about this book is that the author is only 26 years old -- such a talent! I found myself emotionally worn out by this book, but in a good way. I gave it 5 stars.

I've just started rereading Sorrow and Bliss for the next Read With Us discussion, and I'll be interested to see how the experience of reading it with my eyes compares to reading it with my ears.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 22, 2022

She's Hooked

Today, I have something a little different -- a special guest appearance by our resident hooker! (And by that, I mean crocheter, of course!) Rainbow learned how to crochet several years ago, but this summer, she's really gotten hooked on it -- pun intended. First, she used up a ton of my leftover scraps to make some fun scrappy blankets. Then, last week, she dug into my kitchen cotton stash and has started making bags. But I'll let her tell you more about it all.

Hi, I'm Rainbow. That's not my real name, but that's what I go by online. First, I'll tell why I recently got back into crocheting. It started out as just something to do over the summer to pass time, but eventually I was crocheting for a reason. First I found out I would have a new cousin this fall, then that a family friend was having a baby. I wanted both babies to have a handmade blanket, and I wanted to use up all of the colorful scraps my mom has acquired over the years. So I got to work. Before I knew it, I had completed four blankets: two for those babies and two to donate. In that time, I also completed a lap blanket for my best friend.

A scrappy blanket using fingering held double, a clutch, and a tote bag

The more I crocheted, the better I got. I was ready for a harder project. I remembered a video one of my favorite YouTubers had made a while ago, so I went back and re-watched it. In the video, she crocheted an adorable tote bag. That's when an idea popped into my mind. I dug into my mom's kitchen cotton supply and found a few colors I liked. Then, I went onto Stitch Fiddle and used an image I had found online to create a simple flower design. Finally, it was time to get to work! I carefully followed the graph and after about four days, I had finished my first tote bag! I immediately got to work on another, but took a short break to make a small clutch/pouch. I'm still working on the second bag, although I'm very close to finishing. 

The tote bag made with the flower motif

As for my future as a crocheter, I plan on not only making things for myself, but for others. I'll make blankets, bags, and much more for my family, friends, and to donate.

Another tote bag in progress

Sarah here again! I want to point out that while I have offered a little advice and my opinion from time to time, Rainbow has done all this work on her own. And I couldn't be prouder! She's also doing a great job of helping me use up stash, particularly my scraps and leftovers, and I think it's only a matter of time before I have to hide the good stuff so she doesn't use it before I do. She doesn't plan to start a blog just yet, but she did recently open a Ravelry account so she can keep track of her projects (especially because she now has more than one WIP at a time). Perhaps one day she'll dip her toe into designing as well! She starts school (seventh grade, if you can believe it!) next week, so there will be a lot of yarn flying around this week as she savors her last week of freedom.

Thanks for indulging me and my parental pride for a bit. I'll be back on Wednesday with a knitting and reading update!

Friday, August 19, 2022

We've Almost Made It

To the weekend, that is. It's been a long week with less-than-optimal sleep thanks to Rainbow's orthodontic woes, and this morning we're dealing with another one -- last night, her expander inexplicably popped off one of her teeth. So later this morning I'll be taking her to the orthodontist to get it fixed, we hope, and that means that this has to be short so I can squeeze in my daily workout and a shower before then.

It doesn't look like I've made a lot of progress on my sweater, but 1x1 half-twisted ribbing is not exactly fast. Now that I've finished the bottom hem and have moved on to stockinette in the round, I think the knitting will grow much faster.

I'm enjoying knitting with this yarn, although due to its chainette construction, it can be a bit tricky at times, and I'm taking care to make sure I don't split it.

I'm hoping that the weekend ahead includes a lot of knitting time. It looks like there's some rain in the forecast, so I just might get my wish. I hope your weekend also has good things in store, and to send you off into it, I'll share a photo of some of our impatiens. After several years of planting them and not getting good results, this year, they're flourishing.

Update: We're back from the orthodontist, and I have a very happy kid on my hands -- the expander is out! Her upper palate is sufficiently widened, so we'll make a quick trip in on Monday so he can put in a wire or something to keep the teeth in place, and then on Wednesday we'll be back for bottom braces. I'm really thankful they could fit us in, and Rainbow is very happy she can eat and talk normally again!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Unraveled, Week 33/2022

Wednesday again! As per usual, I'm here with an update on my making and my reading and linking up with Kat and the Unravelers.

After finishing up my Twofer Tank, I've been focused on some smaller projects, specifically some design projects. I've been very slow with my design work this year, but I'm feeling my mojo slowly coming back. Yesterday, in fact, I finished up a pattern layout for my hat re-release that just needs some photos before it's ready to head off to my tech editor. The coordinating cowl isn't far behind.

I'm also preparing to cast on a new sweater for me! Late last week I applied to be a preview knitter for Kerri Blumer's new design, and on Monday evening, I got word that I'd been accepted. Yesterday I knit and blocked my swatch. It's still just a tad damp, but my stitch gauge is spot on and my row gauge just slightly off.

The yarn is the Lindy Chain that I bought earlier in the summer, and the chainette construction is taking a little getting used to, but I really like the fabric I'm getting. Once I get started on the sweater, it should make for some mindless knitting (lots of stockinette in the round), and I think it will move pretty fast even though I'll be using size 3/3.25 mm needles.

Reading has been a little slower this past week because my knitting has required my eyes a bit more, but I've finished two books.

While I'm not necessarily attempting to read the entire Booker Prize long list, I will probably try to read the short list when it's announced, and because Oh, William! may be on it, I figured it would make sense to read My Name Is Lucy Barton first so I'd be familiar with the characters. This was a very quick read -- I started it at bedtime one night, got about 20 pages in, and then read the rest the next day. I know that the sparse language of this book is often cited as one of its best features, but I constantly felt that I was missing something. I was a bit frustrated that Strout hinted at things in Lucy's past and never actually explained them. I'm still a bit confused. So this was an okay read for me, not great. I'm not sure I'll read Oh, William! unless it makes the short list.

I needed a new audiobook to listen to over the weekend, so I turned to my "to read" list on Libby and found Evvie Drake Starts Over available. I know many of you have already read it, as it came out three years ago; I've had it on my radar and just never got around to it. But this was just perfect for the time. Is it fine literature? No. Is it predictable? Yes. But it was absolutely enjoyable. The writing is witty, with many references to public radio (Linda Holmes works for NPR), and it was an easy listen. It kept me good company on my workouts and while cleaning bathrooms. I gave it 4 stars.

I'm currently trying to make my way through my last unread Maggie O'Farrell book that's been published, The Distance Between Us, which I'm enjoying but is taking longer because (a) I'm reading it on paper and (b) I keep falling asleep while reading (due to my being tired, not the quality of the book!).

Apropos of nothing, here's our latest gardening triumph -- we have a baby honeydew melon!

We'll see if we can keep it alive until it's ready to be eaten -- and if whatever keeps eating our tomatoes gets to it first!

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 15, 2022

Twofer, Technically

 Look what's finished and being worn!

Pattern: Twofer Tank (Ravelry link) by Heidi Kirrmaier, size M1 (36.5 in. bust)
Yarn: Knit Picks CotLin (70% cotton/30% linen) in Pistachio, 4.82 skeins used (approximately 593 yards)
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: August 1/August 11
Mods: added length to the back; didn't decrease or go down in needle size for bottom hem

I think it's fairly obvious from the start and finish dates that this was a very fast knit. Really, the fiddly bits are all at the beginning, and even those are fast because you're working with smaller numbers of stitches. This top is worked top down, starting with the straps. I did a provisional cast on for mine, which enabled me to pick up live stitches when I was ready to start the back portion. I also wove in ends as I went, and as the edgings are worked as you're working the whole piece, there was little finishing to be done when I finished the bind-off.

But let me back up a bit. The reason this is called the Twofer Tank is that it's intended to be reversible, so you get two looks in one garment -- a V-neck and a square neckline. I knew I'd always want to wear the V-neck at the front, though, and I made some adjustments that mean this top definitely has a front and a back and I won't be reversing it. The main modification was that I added a series of short rows to the back to make a subtle high-low hem. One of my main annoyances with tops that aren't long enough is that when I bend or crouch down, they expose that bit of my lower back. Having just a bit of extra fabric in this spot helps to eliminate the possibility of that happening.

The other major modification I made was to the bottom hem. The pattern calls for doing a series of decreases just before switching to the textured stitch pattern as well as for going down a needle size. If you look at the pattern photos, you'll see this has a big of a blousing effect, and for someone who is already sensitive about her stomach area, I didn't want my garment to make my stomach look larger than it is. I actually increased one stitch (because the textured pattern requires an even stitch count) and continued to knit with the same needle I used for the rest of the garment. The result is a very slight A-line shape that I think is very flattering.

I finished the knitting of this top last Thursday, and on Friday, I tossed it into the washer and dryer with a load of darks. I know some of you may have just gasped, especially because I did not wash and dry a swatch beforehand to know how much it might shrink. But it was a calculated risk. I knew it probably would shrink up a bit, and I did add some length to the body to counteract that. I also knew that machine washing and drying is how I planned to care for this top, so I figured that if it didn't make it through the first wash, it wasn't going to be a useful garment to me anyway. The yarn was not that expensive and I didn't spend so much time on it that it would be devastating if it didn't survive. But it turned out just fine. Yes, it did shrink up a tiny bit, but I gave it a steam press afterwards to coax the edgings to lie flat and it gained back a bit. I think it will also grow as I wear it, and it will likely need that shrinking to get it back to size. The fabric was also much improved by not treating it so gently. It evened out nicely and got even softer.

I have to say that I was really pleasantly surprised by this yarn. Normally cotton hurts my hands, but the blend with the linen makes it a lot nicer to work with. And it's really soft and comfortable to wear. I could definitely see myself using it for future warm-weather wear -- just as I could see myself knitting another one of these tanks! The size I knit has about four inches of positive ease, and I could see the next size down (about 1.5 inches of positive ease) and being perfectly comfortable. I can absolutely vouch for the quality of the pattern and appreciate the many nice touches it has that make it engaging to knit and attractive to wear. I can already tell that I'm going to be wearing the heck out of this top while the nice weather lasts and will be packing it for Florida in December!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Knitting Small Things

Phew, we made it to Friday! Work hasn't been too busy this week, but it's been a long week nonetheless. After getting her first appliance off a couple of weeks ago, Rainbow was back at the orthodontist on Tuesday to get her expander and some braces brackets put in. The expander will only be in for about three months, but it's a major adjustment for her -- I have to use a special "key" to expand it twice a day for two weeks, and it's made it harder for her to talk and eat, so she's been pretty pitiful for the past several days. We'll go back the week after next for the lower braces to be put on and the wires to be added.

On our way to the orthodontist's office, we stopped by the post office to mail a baby gift. If you've read this blog for any length of time, then you probably remember that my best friend's family has long been like extended family (we spent Christmas with them for many years, for example). My best friend is one of three daughters, and those three daughters have had nothing but sons -- until a couple of weeks ago, when the youngest one had a little girl. As per usual, I made some gifts for the new little one. You saw one of them a couple of weeks ago, though at the time it wasn't yet blocked and still needed a button at the time:

Because they were specifically requested, I also added some booties (Ravelry link), which were made with leftovers from the sweater I knit for the recipient's big brother several years ago:

Rainbow wanted to get into the act, too. She's been doing a lot of crochet lately, raiding my stash for leftovers, and she made this blanket using a skein of fingering MCN held together with a set of mini skeins (I did the single crochet edging):

The colors are more vibrant in real life, but I think you get the idea of it! The recipient lives in Miami, so we chose bright colors. The yarns I used in the sweater and booties are both cotton blends, and obviously the blanket, though primarily wool, is light and airy. The gifts arrived safely yesterday and were enthusiastically received.

I finished up my Twofer Tank yesterday (photos coming once it's blocked!), so I'm ready to cast on some new small projects:

These are both skeins of DK (A Hundred Ravens Vanir on the left and Fibernymph Dye Works Bona Fide tweed on the right) that will soon become a cowl and a hat, respectively. The hat is a new sample of a design that I have the rights back to and the cowl will be a new design that will coordinate with the hat. My designing has been woefully slow this year, so I'm anxious to get these knit up, edited, and published.

Also on tap for today: baking challah! My parents are out of town, so we're hosting my in-laws for Friday night dinner.

Here's hoping this weekend is a good one!

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Unraveled, Week 32/2022

This week has been such that it took me a minute or two when I got up this morning to figure out what day it was, but it is Wednesday (I double-checked!), which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers and to talk about making and reading.

This week I've primarily been focused on my Twofer Tank, which is rapidly approaching completion.

I have reached the specified body length before the hem given in the pattern, but I am on my fourth ball of yarn and still have two full skeins remaining, so I'm going to keep knitting for a while. I've also decided that I'm going to ignore the decreases before the hem listed in the pattern and might even do an increase or two so that the bottom edge isn't fitted. Obviously this is going to need a good blocking, but I'm happy with how it's knitting up and I have tried it on a couple of times to ensure the fit is good. I'm excited to wear this top very soon!

It's been an excellent week for reading with three finishes -- all books I thoroughly enjoyed!

Mary recommended Bomb Shelter to me a couple of months ago, I think, but it took a while for my library to get it and then I had to wait patiently on the hold list. It was worth the wait, though. This memoir in essays deals with subjects both serious, like her son's seizure in the middle of the night and subsequent epilepsy diagnosis, and hilarious, like the turtle who regularly "knocks" at the family's front door and becomes a beloved visitor. Reading these essays is a lot like sitting down and chatting with a friend, and the book reminded me a lot of Ann Patchett's These Precious Days -- so I was not at all surprised to find that not only do the two writers live in the same city, but they also know each other! I identified a lot with Philpott's worries about parenting and life in general and laughed out loud at several points. I gave this book 4 stars.

Up next was The Colony, which is on the Booker Prize long list and came highly recommended by Mary and Margene. I was only able to get it on audio from the library, and I understand that listening to it takes away some of the impact that the printed copy has, but it was still a powerful read. The story is set on a tiny Irish island on a summer in the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and follows two visitors to the island, an English painter and a French linguist studying the inhabitants of the island, who may be among the last native speakers of the Irish language. Interspersed in the narrative of what is happening on the island are brief mentions of the violence in the north, almost emotionless reporting of who is killed and why. The book as a whole examines the long-term impacts and trauma of colonization, and I'd say it's a real contender for the Booker this year. Highly recommend! I gave it 4 stars.

Finally, in the late to the party category, I read The Glass Hotel. I'd been wanting to read it for a while, but there was always a long wait at the library, so I finally picked up a copy at my local bookstore earlier in the summer. I didn't adore this one like I adored Station Eleven, but I really, really liked it. There's something about Emily St. John Mandel's writing that just clicks so well with my brain and pulls me in. I didn't think I would find a story about a Ponzi scheme (quite obviously modeled on the Bernie Madoff scandal) so intriguing, but I did. It was fascinating to me how Mandel manages to have several seemingly unrelated stories all come together in the end, and I enjoyed the explorations into alternate realities and the supernatural. I gave it 4 stars (and I have Sea of Tranquility on hold!).

I have several holds I'm waiting for, so in the meantime I started My Name Is Lucy Barton last night. I have only read one Elizabeth Strout book, and seeing as everyone is reading Oh William!, I figured I should read this one first.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 08, 2022

Still Getting Caught Up

G'morning, friends. I hope you all had a good weekend. We ended up being busier than I was expecting, but I got everything done that I needed to and had some much-needed down time. One of the things I got done was taking care of the last steps to finish my latest skein of handspun. I am still working on my long-term project to spin my older Southern Cross Fibre club shipments, and this particular skein was spun from what was the oldest shipment I had -- Dot on Bond from October 2017.

I have to admit that the main reason I didn't spin this one for so long is because I didn't love the colorway in fiber form. But as is so often the case with David's colorways, I changed my opinion after I spun it. I simply divided the length of fiber into thirds and spun a traditional three ply. I was planning to do a slighter heavier yarn than usual, but this Bond wanted to be spun fine, so it's a fingering weight.

I was hoping that the tan/light brown would be more distributed, but somehow it ended up getting concentrated primarily in one part of the skein. But that meant that the reds were also concentrated, and that made those reds really intense.

I used up every bit of singles that I spun by making a plying bracelet when the first bobbin ran out and then chain-plying a yard or two when the second one ran out, and I ended up with approximately 426 yards. That would make this yarn pretty much perfect for socks. I do like the colorway much better in yarn form, but it's still not really something I'd pick on my own, so this skein will probably be posted on the Instagram account where I sell my handspun (though if any of you wants first dibs, let me know!).

Here is where things stand on this project now -- this is a photo I took of the remaining SCF club stash in March, I think, so it's missing the three most recent shipments:

I'm not quite keeping up with the influx of new shipments, but I am spinning up older ones! The colorway in the center of the second row (the blue/green) has been sitting next to my wheel waiting to be spun up next, and I also think I'm going to do a combo spin of three red-heavy colorways. We'll see if I ever manage to catch up!

Friday, August 05, 2022

Not Just Yarn Crafts

Phew, it's been a week! I was worried that coming back to work after a week off would be really stressful, but it turns out that I did so much work before my vacation that there hasn't been too much coming in this week, but it's been a long week nevertheless. It's been hot and humid here, and I've run four days in a row in that heat, so I've been falling into bed pretty spent each night and am looking forward to sleeping in a bit this weekend.

Last Friday I shared a peek into how I spent my week off, and you saw a photo of a sewing project. Today I want the share the results of that project, one that had been in the works for more than a year.

You may remember that during the first summer of the pandemic, Rainbow took a sewing class via Zoom. I was sitting with her during the classes so that I could help out if she ran into trouble, and I did a little sewing alongside her. That experience piqued my interest in learning to sew, and certainly I improved my minimal skills a bit when I managed to master cloth masks (remember the good old days when those were sufficient?). Last summer, when Rainbow finished school for the year, we decided we wanted to try another project that was a bit more challenging, and in a case of perfect timing, Juliann had just finished a Pepin Tote and assured me that we had the skills to handle it. So I bought the pattern, and Rainbow and I headed to a local independent fabric store to pick up the supplies. It then took us more than a year to get around to actually doing the sewing. In the end, it was a matter of just a few afternoons (and the third afternoon was because I got cocky and made a mistake that required picking out four seams).

While these bags aren't perfect, we are so pleased with them, and they are functional, which is really what matters most. We sewed these bags side by side, with Rainbow sewing nearly all of hers herself (I did some of the trickier top stitching through multiple layers at the end). I'm sure those of you who are more experienced with sewing will be able to spot some mistakes and irregularities, but I'm feeling very proud of the fact that we made these and they look as they should!

Here's a peek inside the bags. Rainbow's has a floral pattern for the lining:

and mine has a knitting and crochet-themed lining:

The one slight departure we made from the pattern was to make three interior pockets rather than two. Technically the pattern says you can make however many pockets you want, but the illustration shows two. We decided that if we did two, they'd be fairly large pockets, and even the three are fairly sizeable. 

This project taught me a lot, most notably that if I want to continue sewing, I'm going to need to invest in a rotary cutter and cutting board; we made do with a ruler, a Frixion pen, and fabric scissors, but it became clear as we went along that our measuring was less than exact. But the pattern was excellent and the one mistake I made was entirely due to user error. I wouldn't hesitate to use it again or to recommend it. Rainbow has been using her bag nonstop since we finished them. Her bedroom is on the top floor of our house, but she spends a lot of her day downstairs, so she's been using her tote to carry all the stuff she tends to use during the day -- laptop and charger, Nintendo Switch and charger, her crochet project, and sometimes other things. I'm fairly confident that there are more sewing projects in our future!

This weekend we're hoping the thunderstorms hold off for my nephew's third birthday party, and Rainbow and I hope to do a little back-to-school shopping (we've ordered larger uniform pieces online but need to stock up on some school supplies). I hope your weekend is full of good things!

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Unraveled, Week 31/2022

Happy Wednesday, friends! The week is flying by already, which I suppose is a good thing for a week back at work after a vacation. As usual, today I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers to talk about what I'm making and reading.

I did some quick baby gift knitting as a palate cleanser after finishing my brother's sweater (and thank you so much for your many compliments on it!), but now I'm on to my next garment, and it's for me.

This is the start of my Twofer Tank (Ravelry link), which I've had on my list to make since Mary made hers. I have only made a couple of warm-weather tops in my knitting career but haven't chosen the best fibers. This one I'm knitting in Knit Picks CotLin, a machine-washable cotton/linen blend, and I am really enjoying knitting with it. I started this top on Monday and even having not spent that much time on it already have something that looks like a top! This tank is worked from the shoulders down, starting with the fronts; last night I joined the back straps, so now I just have to work a bit more on the back before I cast on stitches for the underarms and start working in the round.

I also picked up the C2C crochet blanket I started for Rainbow several months ago. This is likely a long-term project, but it does go pretty quickly when I work on it. And it matches my knitting this week!

Reading has been pretty phenomenal this past week. I've finished five(!) books since last Wednesday, but one was a short story and one a very short audiobook, so don't be too impressed.

I had picked up a copy of Tony Morrison's 1983 short story Recitatif earlier in the summer at my local bookstore. It's a quick read but a powerful one, and this edition includes an excellent introduction/analysis by Zadie Smith that I think is actually longer than the story itself. This tells the story of two girls, later women, who meet in a shelter as children when their mothers find themselves unable to care for them for a time. They connect again several times as adults, at different points in their lives, and learn how their lives compare. What is most intriguing about this story is that one girl is Black and one is white, but we never know which is which, so it makes for a really powerful way to examine our prejudices and assumptions as readers. I gave it 4 stars.

Next I turned to Maggie O'Farrell's backlist in my continuing effort to be an O'Farrell completist. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox was my first pick, and it felt very much like what I expect from the author: multiple timelines, hints at what is to come, and several stories that come together at the end. While I did figure out a plot twist that is revealed toward the end early on, it didn't spoiled it for me. I also really enjoyed the fact that this novel is a bit of commentary on the history of women's unconventional behavior being labeled madness. There are some elements of this book that are rather troubling, but the writing is good and propulsive, and I enjoyed it. I gave it 4 stars.

Next up in my O'Farrell list was My Lover's Lover, the last one I could find available from my library, and I could only find it on audio. This is one of the author's earliest books, so I think she hadn't quite hit her stride yet, and the format was likely also not the best because it wasn't always clear to me when the timeline had changed. I think this is probably my least favorite of her books that I've read so far, and mainly that's because I didn't really like any of the main characters. There's a bit of a nod to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, including a reference to the Hitchcock film version of it, but in my opinion, it's not as successful as the earlier book. I gave it 3 stars. I now have one book left to read to have read all of O'Farrell's backlist, and a hard copy is on its way to me!

I listened to In Love, Amy Bloom's memoir of her husband's decline into early onset Alzheimer's disease and his decision to end his life via "accompanied suicide" in Switzerland, in its entirety on Monday. It's a very short book -- less than 5 hours on audio -- and read by the author, who speaks slowly enough that I upped the speed to 1.5. As you would imagine from the subject, it's an emotional and heartbreaking book, but Bloom does an excellent job of describing how she and her husband navigated the devastating diagnosis and the very difficult decision to choose when the end comes. I gave it 4 stars.

Finally, I read a book that Mary mentioned recently, The Undertaking by Audrey Magee. I was actually more interested in reading her newest book, The Colony, and finally found it on Hoopla but only on audio. I decided to start with Magee's first book because I wanted something to read with my eyes. This one tells the story of two Germans during WWII, a soldier who wants to get away from the Russian front and marries a young woman in Berlin in order to get leave for his honeymoon. It then follows the couple throughout the war and their efforts to survive. While the book certainly highlights the horrors of war -- on all sides -- I'm not sure if it's meant to make the reader feel sympathy for those committed to the Nazi cause. While ultimately both of the main characters come to reject the story they've been told by their government, it still gave me a bit of an icky feeling; I wanted to know if they survived the war, but once I finished the last page, I was no longer invested in what happened to them. I gave it 3 stars.

Up next for me? I think either The Glass Hotel or The Tsar of Love and Techno, both of which I bought at my local bookstore earlier this year and have been waiting to get to.

What are you making and reading this week?