Saturday, February 28, 2015

Books!

1.  Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng - Heartbreaking and beautiful, all at the same time.  Ng's book was on many, many best of 2014 lists, which is what prompted me to put it on hold at the library.  It's the story of the death of the favorite child of a biracial couple in the 70's.  Yes, it's a terribly sad sort of book...but there was redemption in the end.  Amazing.  As I was reading through it, I really and truly didn't expect to like the end...or to feel so uplifted. 

2.  The Children Act, Ian McEwan - It was checked out.  The waiting list had been long.  I had to finish it. So here's the thing...I'm very conflicted about McEwan.  On the one hand, he writes some of the most beautiful prose I've ever written, and his characters are amazingly drawn portraits.  On the other hand, I kind of feel like jumping off of a bridge after I finish every book.  Does the man ev.er write about anything happy?  Would a small touch of redemption or hope be too much to ask?  Sigh.

3.  An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine - I love, love, love this book. I contacted three of my most bookish friends to tell them they needed to read it asap...and so do you.  It's about an elderly woman in Beirut, who has spent her life living mostly alone amongst books.  It's a book that must be read slowly...preferably with a device nearby with which to do some research on the many, many references found within Alliyah's reflections.  I'm in love with this character, I'm in love with this writer, and I'm in love with this book.

4.  Havisham, Ronald Frame - A BOTNS recommendation, this is the story of Dicken's Miss Havisham from Great Expectations.  Everyone knows about Miss Havisham and about how crazy she was.  It was a lot of fun to take a closer look at the character.  Curiously enough, Frame really didn't make her any more sympathetic.  He managed to build a story to explain the crazy, but he didn't feel it necessary to actually make the reader like her or truly sorrow for her.  I have to say, I admire that. 

5.  Girlchild, Tupelo Hassman - This is also a BOTNS recommendation, one that I've heard them speak of multiple times.  My, oh my, I understand why now.  It's a brilliant novel...heartbreaking, funny, eye-opening, and so, so very well written.  This is an example of the type of novel that teaches compassion....and for me, that makes it a special novel indeed.

6.  Animal dreams, Barbara Kingsolver - I'd picked up several of Kingsolver's books on sale over the years, and then they sat and sat and sat on my to-read shelf in iBooks.  Who knows why I finally decided to read it, but I'm glad I did!  I was very pleasantly surprised with how invested I quickly became with the characters and the storyline. 

7.  Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain (audio, read by author) - I'd been intrigued by this book for a while.  Food writing is something I tend to enjoy but don't read (if that makes sense at all).  I'm a fan of Bourdain's tv shows, although they are not something I seek out to watch.  Mostly, I stumbled on this while browsing the library's online catalog in search of a book that was a bit - ahem - lighter in overall tone than everything else I've been reading.  I loved it.  Bourdain is not to everyone's taste, and his language and writing style is very much on the "salty" side, but his passion comes through so clearly.  I was particularly hooked by his opinion of craftsman v. artist, and I loved hearing his thoughts on that subject as it's something I think about a lot with my own handwork. 

CraftLit:

I pay for a premium subscription because this is a podcast I have loved for years, and because it makes me happy to be able to support Heather Ordover in even a small way.  Having caught up 100% on my podcasts, I decided it was time to catch up on my Craftlit books.

1. Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman - It's interesting, but I got tired of it.  I truly appreciated the extra commentary that Ordover provides because that commentary kept me listening when I otherwise would have given up.  (Regular podcast)  There's still some to go, but I'm including it in this month because that's when I listened to the bulk of it. 

2. A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - I love Sherlock, especially in audio form.  It's been a really long while, though, since I listened to anything from the canon so it was a real treat to revisit this short novel, which is Sherlock's introduction to the world.  (subscription extra)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Great Stash Toss of 2015, Part 2

As promised, here's the rest of my stash:
 The misc. yarns - mostly bound for sweaters of some sort.
 And the drawer full of Knit Picks Palette A.
 And B. 
(Not shown in the picture is the new kit for my sweater and the Woodlands mittens kit which is currently being transformed into a hap shawl.)
Last, and best of all, is my collection of handspun yarns.  Not as extensive of a collection as you might think, but precious nonetheless.  I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to my handspun.  Just yesterday I was telling a friend about how important it is for the things I knit to be USED...and yet I tend to shy away from the things that I spin.  That needs to be fixed, asap.
 
After giving it some thought, I think I am going to make it a challenge for the year to see just how much of my precious stash I can use up...without buying anything new.  In fact, I may make new yarn purchases contingent on and an incentive for using up x amount of yarn I already own.  Let's come back in December with pictures of what's left and see how I did!
 
For now I'm leaving the misc. yarn and the handspun out where I can see it.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Great Stash Toss of 2015, part 1

OK, so compared with some people - a LOT of people - my stash is actually relatively small. 
 
Several years ago, being somewhat appalled by how much yarn was sitting around not being used, I stopped the random acquisition phase.  No more trips to the yarn shop for fun. No more bringing home something just because it was pretty.  No more sale yarn.  No more I might need this someday.  Nope, I made a decision to ONLY buy yarn that I needed for specific projects that I intended to start right away, and I've done a darn good job of sticking to that.
 
Which means that I often forget what's tucked away inside of my yarn cabinet.  (The old dresser that lived in the girls' nurseries.)
 
Which means that periodically I need to unpack everything, lay it out, and have a good, long look at what I've still got in there. (This is not as much fun as my old yarn naps - when the yarn lived under my bed and I would pull the bins out, open them up on top of the bed, and then take a wee nap with all of that possibility.  It's good for the soul.  and for the dreams.)
 
 The good news is that I long ago got rid of any superfluous yarn.  There's nothing left that I don't love, and that's a very good thing.
 
I thought you might like to see what's in there.  Maybe we should play a game of "How Much Can Kristin Knit Up in 2015?"  Could be fun!  Could make me crazy.  But it could be fun!
 
Ta Da:
 The sock yarn
The laceweights.
 
I've got ideas for some of it....Hmmmmm......
 
Tomorrow, the rest...including a massive pile of handspun which I have been avoiding for the most ridiculous reason of it being too nice to knit with.  (Silly me.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

For My Fairy Godmother

 
The gift that I sent in such a hurry on Friday?
 
Yep, this is the sort of picture you get when you are in the car and you realize you need a pic for the blog.  Surprise!  The grey of my car seats make an excellent background for a hard to photograph color.  It's a tad washed out (and I'm not one for altering photos...although it would be good if I would learn...ahem), but by and by the color is pretty accurate.

Without further ado, the present was - as you can see -
A custom-fit, cozy pair of socks for my Fairy Godmother, Cathy Johnson.

Kate is amazing, and I like to try to spoil her a little bit.  I grew up in absolute awe of her talent - and with more than one of her paintings on the wall in our home.  (We have a portrait she did of my mother that is gorgeous, and a portrait of me as a baby, and a picture of the family farm, and, and, and...)  It's been one of the great delights of my life to have become such good friends with her, and I value her insight and wisdom more than I can say.  She's a true kindred spirit.

 Kate received her socks yesterday, and she shared this photo on FB.


The sock info: 
Basic Sock, Ann Budd
Malabrigo Sock, Rayon Vert, 1 skein
Knit Picks Harmony DPN's - US 1, 2.25mm
August 10, 2014 - February 20, 2015
 
Notes: The first attempt was an attempt with 80 stitches in 2x2 rib, with 66 rows in the leg.  I took it home for a weekend visit, and was able to see Kate for a fitting.  She wanted a looser fit in the leg, and so, as custom fit is my specialty, we tried again!  Round two included 88 stitches in 2x2 rib on the leg.  I only did 60 rows (to make sure we had enough yarn for both socks), and then decreased to 80 stitches in the last row....mirroring the decreases in both halves of the ribbing on top for the sake of looks, but working them evenly across the bottom.  50 rows in the foot.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Monday List

Opal, demonstrating her love for the Feather and Fan/Old Shell afghan my Gram knit for me when I was in college.  If the afghan is on the bed, Opal is on the afghan.  
Also, she really is that fat.  Poor cat has starvation syndrome, and keeping her at a reasonable size is impossible.
 

Do you remember how we talked about the fact that these lists are aspirational?  That they aren't set in stone requirements because sometimes life happens?  Well, life happened again.  I came down with the flu - or something like it - last Monday after posting my list for the week.  Sigh.  The good news is that the worst of it only lasted 24-36 hours or so.  The bad news is...well, the bad news is that I've been sick for practically half the year so far, and I'm heartily sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Ah well.  I'm well now, and back up and about, and it's time to take a look at the Monday list.
 
Last week:
  1. I did get the gift in the mail
  2. I did start my new sweater - albeit, a tiny start
  3. I'm catching up on my letters today, and have given up on doubling the numbers...sigh.
  4. &
  5. Didn't happen.
  6. I AM back in 100% compliance.  I - ahem - decided I might as well take advantage of being sick, and so I used it as a springboard.  Go me! 
 
And, my plans for this week:
  1. This is the last week for the month of letters, and I want to go out in a blaze of glory!
  2. Goodreads update.  Seriously.
  3. Continue on with some serious pre-spring spring cleaning.  I've got the bug, and I want to take advantage of it.  I've started work on a room by room list.....
  4. Find my keys.  What?  This is a weird entry.  Yeah.  Two weeks ago on a Saturday I used my keys to move the car in and out of the garage so that my youngest could ride her bike.  The next morning I discovered they were missing when we tried to leave to go to church.  I've been using my husband's spare every since, and this is honest to God driving me crazy.  There are only so many places I put my keys.  The blasted things can't just vanish...can they?
  5. The car needs an oil change. 
  6. Also, now that Dad has officially and finally retired, the dog needs an appointment with our local vet. 
  7. My shoes died yesterday, which means I can no longer avoid having to buy new ones. The kid needs new jazz shoes, too. 
  8. This is really not a fun list so far...so let's shake it up a bit...progress needs to be made on my sweater!
  9. And spinning!  Again!  (If I put it on the list often enough, eventually I'll do it.....)
  10. I find myself unwilling to put goals on my creative life this week.  That's an interesting place to be, so I shall honor it.  Instead, I'll leave this space to fill in for SOMETHING creative in the week to come....

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Decision Day

Now that I'm completely caught up - and now that my workbasket has been cleared of all lingering projects - it's time to turn my attention to new projects!
 
Yay!
 
You may remember that right after Christmas I finally decided to start a project I had been considering for a while - a hap shawl made with my Knit Picks Palette Woodland Mittens Kit.  The diamond center was a quick and easy knit, and it gave me a very nice break from Sean's sweater.  The plan at the time was to wait until everything else was done before I figured out how to move on with the colors in the border.
 
Well, today's the day.

 After much consideration (believe me, this took way longer than it should have), I decided to line the 10 colors up in the order shown in this picture.  It's a fairly natural progression, and was based somewhat on how the colors are lined up in several of the Woodland mitten patterns.


Here they are, back in the basket in the order they are to be added - starting at the bottom left and moving from bottom to top of each row as you go to the right.  The two skeins of black at the end are for the edging.
 Hours invested in that meant that it was time to invest yet more hours in looking at stripe patterns in Sharon Miller's brilliant hap shawl book.  (Which I'm using for the instructions/template to this shawl.)  Here's an example of some of the traditional, symmetrical stripes,
 and here are some of the modern, asymmetrical looks.  I'm leaning towards traditional.
The big trick is that I have a total of 11 colors...and none of the examples that Miller provides tops 7.  So really, I'm going to have to figure this one out for myself.  The good news is that I'm using a template for the shawl that allows me to make the striped border as wide as I want to make it!  Yay!  I don't want to go too crazy as I like the proportions of the originals, but it does help. I'm leaning towards the second from the right...but I also freely admit this might be something I want to play with as I actually knit the piece.*
 
At this point, I'm leaning towards using a more symmetrical, traditional look.  The one thing I know for sure right now is that I'm going to edge the stripes on either side with a narrow stripe of the lightest color (oyster, which is lovely, lovely, lovely) and then work from the darkest inwards.  My inspiration for this is one of the historical pictures in the book.**
 
It feels really good to have made some of these decisions.  (I would have preferred to have not spent the entire day working on them - I'm normally a LOT more decisive - but that's just how it went this time!)  The fact of the matter is that this is going to be a fast knit now that I know what I'm doing.  The feather and fan/old shell design in the border is not only super-easy, but it's also something of a family tradition.  As such, it's so deeply ingrained in my hands that I practically don't have to think about it while I knit!
 
Now...it's time for me to get to work.  This is going to be fun!
 
*Who am I kidding...you know my reputation for "random" and "freeform"!!!
** I love this book...I can see myself making dozens of these!  Crazy, but who cares!?!

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Letter

Dear Friend (who's name I'm not going to mention because I actually want you to be surprised),

I just did the world's WORST job of gift wrapping.  Seriously, I am embarrassed.  I swear I love you more than the plastic grocery store bag carelessly slopped around your present would imply.

Let me explain.

As I was getting ready to leave for our round of after-school activities I realized that I had a chance - a very slight chance - of finishing your gift while at our first destination.  Hmmmm.  IF I could do that, there was a small window of time where I then could get it to the post office!  Total win!  This gift is way overdue, and the sooner it got to the post office the better.

So at the last minute I grabbed the only thing I could think of to protect your gift from rubbing against the inside of the box.  (That's not likely to do any harm....but one can never be too careful.)  I had absolutely no time to go hunting in the basement for more appropriate materials.  Heck.  I have bought more tissue paper than could fill my bathroom...and it always disappears before I can use it, so I'm not sure I had better material anyway.  Thus, the plastic grocery bag.  (Which I'm also embarrassed by.  I have my own darn bags....I just occasionally forget them....)  I was exasperated with myself, but it was the best I could do.

Well, as you've guessed, I DID finish the gift, and I DID to a horrid wrapping job when I DID manage to get to the post office before it closed.

I love you!

Just don't hold that plastic bag against me.

Kristin