Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Decisions, Decisions.....


Mike says we must choose something grand to make out of his fine fleece.

Mike is correct...and in any case, with those horns, who wants to cross him?

So here are some of my ideas with a few notes.  
Please feel free to weigh in or vote in the comments!
(Pictures snagged from Ravelry)

1.  The best part of this is that the cables rather marvelously change direction, and go in a flattering angle over the chest.  The big problem is that the pattern is apparently a wreck, and it would almost be more of a hassle than it's worth. (I totally buy it...I did sample pieces for both of this designer's books...she's an artist who couldn't care less about accuracy in the patterns.)

 2.  I hadn't intended lace for this...but I keep coming back to this design. 

3. This one is a party in the back, boring on the front sort of sweater.

 4,  It's a very traditional type of jacket, and it's been in my favorites for years.  

5.I adore everything but the neckline, which would need to be altered to be more flattering.

6.  I'm not sure about the hood...but I adore these cables.


Here are a few other ideas....these actually call for a heavier yarn, but I could make it work with some extra work.  (or I could just save them for later, and make it easier on myself by getting the right weight of yarn!)

7.

8.

9.

 10.




Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Reading, Part 2 - JULY!

My Series:

The Novels of the Jaren, Kate Elliot:

1. An Earthly Crown (Act 3) - I don't remember what happened that drew me away from reading these books a few months ago, but whatever it was, I was glad that the books were divided into acts so that I had a natural stopping place.  I'm also glad that I didn't wait any longer to get back to it!

Comments for this specific book - I'm not near as crazy about the 'space' portions of the story as I am about the Jaran.  Not that it isn't well-written, etc....it's just that traditional science fiction isn't my sort of thing, and so...eh.  Interesting to add in the theater company.  Theater companies abound in fantasy books, because they can get away with living outside the bonds of a normal culture, and this was well-played even if I didn't care about the characters near as much as the Jaran.

2. His Conquering Sword - A lot of stuff happens, but there's not any specific overarching plot for this portion of the saga.  That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, or that I found that it lacked focus.  One of Elliott's strong points is that she writes amazing characters, and I feel that she did them justice in this book.  At times I felt that the whole war aspect of the book was annoying to me on a personal level, but I totally understand why this is how the story plays out.

3. The Law of Becoming - Truth.  It was pretty hard to get through this one.  I lost interest a couple of times and had to push myself to go back.  Problems I'd had with HCS were worse here, and I hated the religion and family dysfunction that were added.  We got even farther away from the Jaren, and the parts that were focused on them were often so different that they just didn't feel the same.  Some of her characters began to feel like caricatures, and not real people.  If I had to put a finger on the problem, I'd say that Elliott got too far away from where she'd begun...that or she tried to do much too much with this series.  (I say this, and she's written other big, complicated series that I love.)  In the end, I hate that she also felt the need to break Ilya.  (Reminiscent of Rochester in Jane Eyre...which also annoys me.)  The ending was just too sad, too lost.

While I'm glad I read these books, at the end of the day I'd have probably been happier if I'd never got past the first one.

Bonus Series:

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry:  This was truly a bonus, and was completely unplanned.  My eldest daughter, Gillian, and I spent a lot of time watching movies together while her sister was in Art Camp, and during that time she suggested we watch the adaptation of The Giver.  It was gorgeous.....one of the rare movies that's truly touched my heart.  It's been years and years since I read The Giver, though, and as I'd never read any of the sequels....well, here we are.  I did chose to listen to the audio, which allowed me to multitask while I was knitting.  (It's a great way to sneak in MORE BOOKS!!!)  Altogether, the four books equal to about the same amount of listening time as my average literary audio.

4. The Giver - Perhaps I didn't read it at the right time when I first approached this book.  I honestly don't remember loving it as much as I do now...or appreciating it as much.  It's a beautiful book that asks some really powerful questions, and I think it's a must read.

5. Gathering Blue - Oh goodness, if anyone had told me that this book was centered around fiber arts and embroidery, I would have read it years and years ago!  Gorgeous!

6. Messenger - Hmmm....this may be the weak link.  It's a pretty short book, and while it should have packed a big emotional punch, it felt more like a whimper to me.  Perhaps, though, that's because I saw what was coming from the very beginning.

7. Son - These books are just so darn beautiful.  I almost think they are wasted on the young audience they were intended for.  I cried.  I really did.

Short Story Collection:

8a. From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review: A Lady Trent Story, Maria Brennan - I love Lady Trent, as you know, and was tickled when I discovered this short story.  It's brief, but it's super fun!

8b. Daughter of Necessity, Marie Brennan - Greek myth?  A slightly alternative perspective?  Yes please!

8c. Monstrous Beauty, Marie Brennan - This is actually a slim collection of 7 very brief fairy tales.  I'm really loving Marie Brennan now, and am wondering if I need to go pick up her other books!

9. Unnatural Creatures, Collected by Neil Gaiman - It's a much more lighthearted collection than the Liu book last month, and I have to admit it rather struck me as more whimsical than I generally want.  Big shoulder shrug.  It almost grew wearisome.

The Rest:

10. Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt - Oh my.  This book wound up on a lot of best of type of lists last year (and I believe it was also a Books on the Nightstand recommendation), so when it showed up on the itunes sale page, I snagged a copy.  I had a lot of hope, and it definitely lived up to my expectations.  This is a deliciously Gothic story, from start to finish, and I loved every single minute of it.  (Not a surprise, Gothic lit. has long been a favorite...I just don't read much anymore that fits that genre because I love the classics so much, and because modern Gothic often leaves me feeling a bit meh.)  I was actually caught off guard by the ending, which is a very pleasant surprise indeed!

11.  His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik - Damn, damn, damn.  My own summer reading rules prohibit me from rushing out and buying books 2-10 in this series, and right now that seems ridiculously unfair, because this book was so darn much fun.  I fell in love with Novik's award winning book Uprooted last summer.  As she was a new to me writer, I quite naturally decided I needed to check out her other books.  I hesitated, though, because of the large number of books in the series...but I did snag this one when it went on sale for just a couple of bucks several months ago in advance of the release of the 10th and final book.  Dragons in the Napoleonic war....it's that, and so much more.  I'm in love, and although I'm being super good and am not rushing out to buy more I really, really want to.  (The library has the final three available on their streaming service in audio...I'm actually hoping that if I wait a while the rest will show up there as well.)

12.  An Altar on the World, Barbara Brown Taylor  - My early morning reading/study book, this was recommended to me by my partner for facilitating my Spec Today class last year.  I'm not sure why it took so very long to get around to it...but then again, sometimes you just happen to read the right book at the right time.  I found myself in tears at some point during every single chapter, and there will be lots of journaling about the ideas presented.  Amazing, and just what I needed right now to help me along my own spiritual path.  I have a feeling I will be reading more of Taylor's work.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mike

 This is Mike.

Mike is rather magnificent, and he knows it.

Mike happens to be my parents' favorite ram, in part because of his lovely, lilac-spotted fleece.

My mother had Mike's fleece spun into some wonderful yarn last year.

She didn't want to share.

I don't blame her.

I claimed this year's fleece.

2,000 plus yards

Let the adventure begin....

Friday, July 22, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different!

Some years back, I fell in love with this style of simple stitch markers.  That wire ensures that the marker doesn't disrupt the stitches because it's so very fine (making them also perfect for so much of the fine work I do), they don't snag or catch on anything, and they move easily on the needles while you are working.  

At the time, I bought a bunch from an Etsy seller.  They were gorgeous, but they didn't last.  I was sad/annoyed about the whole thing.  They weren't super expensive, but I had certainly hoped they would last longer!

I also purchased a set at one of our LYS's, which was made by the daughter of the shop owner.  Just out of curiosity, I duplicated one of the stitch markers with materials I had on hand.  You know what?  All of those markers are still on hand, still gorgeous, and still functional.

The last of the Etsy markers died recently, which meant I was down to five...which is clearly not enough. 

For whatever reason, I got the urge to make some more this week.

Voila!

I had the wire and beads on hand, although I did have to purchase some crimping beads.  My BKB loaned me her crimping tool as mine has gone missing since I last used it.  (To be fair, I can't remember when that was....)

Problem solved!





Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bunny Love

  I just so happen to love knit toys...but I don't knit them often because they are usually so fiddly.

But...

I needed something to knit because I've been a bit disgruntled lately with the knitting, and this seemed like just the thing.  The pattern is seamless, so finish work is almost nonexistent.

Bunny was fun to make, and he just makes me happy!

Opal Sock Yarn Bunny
by Susan B. Anderson
2.5 mm Harmony DPN's (US 1.5)
1/2 skein Opal Sock Yarn
July 14-21, 2016




Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Reading, Part 1 - JUNE!

I love summer reading, but it is often no different than regular reading.  After all, I read a lot....and I read all of the time...and I tend to stick within certain guidelines as to what I read.

This summer, though, I have a plan.  Which is:
  1. To read a major series each month.  
  2. To read one short story collection/month.  Pretty simple...I have three books of short stories that are just sitting in my pile because I tend to pass over them in favor of full length novels.  But they are amazing books.  And I want to read them.  (Check that, it's more like four or five short story collections...whoops...this may need to last through the fall.)
  3. To read all of the books on my to-read ibooks shelf. It's actually totally doable given my average number of books/month that I usually read.  
  4. To buy NO NEW BOOKS until I've caught up on that to-read pile.  My one caviat - It's now my habit to read something to help improve myself on Sunday mornings.  I read these books very slowly - a chapter/week - and I don't have a stockpile of them, so I will allow that purchase if need be.  
  5. To also - with a couple of exceptions below - avoid library books while I read the things I own already.  Love the library, but I have plenty on my shelves right now!  
And so...in June I read:

My trilogy:

1.  The Passage (audio),  --.  The Twelve, 2. The City of Mirrors, Justin Cronin - The other two series I plan on reading this summer are in book bundles that I bought a while back and just hadn't had time to get to yet.  (Preferring to read them when I had time to read them in one fell swoop.)  This is different.  I actually first read The Passage years ago after hearing about it on Books on the Nightstand.  I was totally blown away, and remember waiting not so patiently for The Twelve to be released.  I devoured it as well.  Quite frankly, this was one of the best new series I'd found in ages.  I was totally blown away by Cronin's world and storytelling abilities, and I was utterly enchanted by the origin story of these books...which is that Cronin's daughter asked him to write about a girl who saved the world.

I preordered The City of Mirrors just as soon as that was an option...and made sure to clear my reading so that I could pounce on it as soon as it arrived in my inbox.  And then it did.  And I read a few pages.  And damn it....it's been over three years since the last book came out, and even though I remember the books better than most I realized I would enjoy this final book more if I read through the entire trilogy.  (I even looked up the synopsis on Wikipedia...yeah, I wanted the entire reading experience.)

So I decided to listen to the audio of The Passage because I've been really craving a good audiobook.  There's just nothing like having someone tell you a good, long story.  (36.75 hours...although I sped it up a bit.)  The reader was excellent, and I was actually shocked with just how well I remembered it.  That is the sign of a really good book! I only made it about 2/3 the way through, though, before I realized that life is too short and I just flat out didn't have the time to listen to the rest of it right now.  AND, I didn't want to read the second book (which really wasn't near as good as the first, and had - now that I was remembering things - actually dissapointed me a bit)  So, I...I decided to cut this series short

...and went ahead and read City of Mirrors.

To my delight (and I admit, to my relief as well), City of Mirrors was an excellent conclusion to the series.  As I expect from Cronin's writing, it was the sort of engrossing storytelling that refuses to allow you to set the book down.  True, I rolled my eyes at one or two plot points....some things were a little too convenient....but by and large I feel satisfied with how Cronin wrapped up his story.  The last book in a series can be a little fraught - as in please, dear writer, don't do anything that's going to leave me feeling angry, unsatisfied, annoyed, incomplete, etc - but this particular book was an excellent conclusion!

Having Not Really Read The Full Series, A Bonus:

3.  Lady of the Forrest and 4. Lady of Sherwood, Jennifer Roberson - Lady of the Forrest is an old favorite of mine which I purchased in hardback way back in '92 when it was first published.  I'm a sucker for a good Robin Hood story!  I'd discovered years later that there was a sequel, but it proved to be very difficult to track down.  When I finally found a copy, I was horrified by the bodice ripper cover it had....which is maybe part of why I never got around to reading it.  (Both books are now easily available in ebook format with matching, simple covers.)  I found myself watching a few Robin Hood movies this month, and that turned my attention back to these books, which have been on my to-read shelf in my bedroom for years.  Can't read the sequel, after all, without rereading the first!  And it had been a very, very long time.

Jennifer Roberson was once upon a time one of my favorite female fantasy writers, and I have almost all of the books she's ever written - including two major series and a collaboration with two other amazing women writers.  I adore her, and I adore her books. Which isn't to say that they are perfect....and it isn't to say that upon reading this book in a very different stage of my life I found every thing exactly as I remembered it.

Lordy.  Lady of the Forrest is LOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGGG.  It's 600 pages with a plot that moves very, very slowely.  I get it.  Roberson's Robin Hood is more character study than adventure novel.  Actually, that's a lot of what I love about it.  But wow...it could easily have trimmed 150 pages and still have been amazing.  I'm also going to confess a very large amount of frustration with Roberson's style in this book, which is to break up the narrative with each character into fairly small chunks and then constantly bounce around between the different characters.  I don't remember feeling this way when I first read it, but this time I found the book to be disjointed and abrupt...and thoroughly hard to get into.

The story...I still love.  Roberson's version of our characters...I adore.  There is that.

After that, it was hard to get into Lady of Sherwood.  (and that awful, awful cover...sigh.)  Honestly, meh.  I could have taken it or left it.  While it was blessedly much shorter, it still had the problem with the short sections that bounced back and forth between characters.  Part of me feels like I could cut and paste this into a better book just by linking up those sections into longer pieces.

Ah well.  I'm still a sucker for a good Robin Hood story!

My Short Story Collection:

5.  The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu - Liu's story, The Paper Menagerie, was the first work of fiction to win the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards all in the same year.  It was such a big deal that the publisher made it available for free online.  I remember reading it....tears flowing through the entire piece.  Thus, I had to get this book.  Truth be told, not all of it was my cup of tea.  I'm really not for example, much of a scifi girl...and lots of it was scifi.  However, there were a few stories that were so beautiful that they still haunt me - The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species and State Change among them.  Will it go down as one of my favorite collections?  Probably not.  Am I glad I read it?  Absolutely.

The Rest:

6.  Roses and Rot, Kat Howard - I found Howard's debut novel through a list of up and coming fantasy novels that was posted on the Huff Post Books page, and decided to take a chance by preordering it.  When it arrived and I saw that Neil Gaiman had put the blurb on the cover....well, I rushed to read it.  This is the second debut novel that I've read in the last year that had a Neil Gaiman stamp of approval, and my oh my...he was sooooo right about both books!  In my heart I love fairy tales most of all, and this was a real, honest to goodness fairy tale in the truest sense.  It's the story of two sisters who go to a reclusive artists' colony.  There were elements of many of the oldest tales in here, and I rejoiced at all of those details. It shares much with Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, another of my great favorites.  Loved it.  Love, love, loved it.

7.  What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami (audio) - I absolutely love listening to books about running while I run.  I think this is rather hilarious.  I'm not actually a fan of Murakami's.  For whatever reason, I've been unable to read any of his books...although I have tried.  I was utterly charmed by this exploration of his running life/writing memoir though.  It's a short book, and well worth it.

8.  Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People, Nadia Bolz-Weber - I first heard of Bolz-Weber via the OnBeing podcast, and was blown away by her interview.  Here's a woman who lives the type of faith I aspire to...who believes in the type of loving God who I was raised to believe in.  When I found out she would be speaking at SPEC this summer...that I would have the opportunity to hear her in person....well, I ran out and bought her latest book right away.  Ordinarily, I savor such books a bit at a time on Sunday mornings, and that was my intent here....but I wound up blasting through it in a single day, crying through sections.  It's an excellent read, with a powerful message.

9.  Last Song Before Night, Ilana C. Myer - I just couldn't get around the ridiculously heavy overly dramatic forshadowing and the following sentence: "Light assaulted her in the vast room:...from wineglasses reflecting light like a thousand flashes of bared teeth."  I tried.  I gave it another 40 pages beyond that.  Apparently my ability to pick out amazing now writers/books is not unfallable.  Irony alert....Myer wrote the article that recommended Roses and Rot to me.

10.  Mighty Be Our Powers; How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation At War, Leymah Gbowee  - Gbowee is the recipient of my church's 2016 International Peace Award, and as such she attended our World Conference this spring, where my 13 year old daughter got to meet her.  My father first told me about her after she was announced as the winner, and had gone on and on about her book.  I knew that it was going to be difficult to get through.  Even though I know it had a happy ending, I didn't really want to read of the real life horrors Gbowee went through during the war in Liberia.   I'm glad I did, though.  Gbowee is an amazing, amazing woman and the story she tells is truly powerful.  Excellent book.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Tale of Two Swatches


Truth be told, I almost never swatch for lace projects because:
A.  Gauge in lace is largely a matter of personal preference
B. I've done so much lace over the years that I have a relatively good idea of how it's going to turn out anyway.
C.  My lace swatches lie more than anything else.
D.  I'm a bit lazy, and just want to get into the project.  Seriously.

My one big exception is that I do swatch when getting ready to start a major Shetland Shawl.  After all, if I'm going to spend 300+ hours with a project, it'd darn well better be right from the first stitch and the minute differences in those wee needles actually can make a pretty big difference in both the finished size and the look of the lace.  Plus, the time spent on the swatches generally helps to acclimate my hands and my brain to the tiny yarn and needles. It's absolutely time well spent.

So I swatched for the Queen Susan.

For my first swatch I used my trusty HiyaHiya 2.0mm needles, which are much beloved by me because they are the needles I used for the Princess shawl.

Would you believe that crazy little swatch took two hours to knit?

Truth be told, I fell in love with that swatch from the start.  It was just sooo beautiful!  And so light and airy!  And so inspiring!  And so amazing!  (I could go on....). I carried it with me for a week, watching how it reacted to being handled.  I hung it on my inspiration board as a beautiful reminder of all that's good in my world.  I showed it to all of my friends and family.  No point in doing another swatch, it was perfect!

But....

I couldn't get the niggling thought out of my head that the recommended size of needle for the Phoenix yarn was a 1.75 mm.

And it is silly to start such a momentous undertaking without at least checking that out.

So I pulled out my Addi Turbo 1.75 mm needles and tried again.

I fell in love with that swatch too....but I was already emotionally attached to the first.

Nevertheless, I meticulously measured both swatches and did the math to find figure out what the end results would be with both gauges.  To my great surprise, it wasn't much.  The swatches are visibly different, but the actual measurements are so minute that the finished centers would only be about an inch different in size.  Given how close that was, it all came down to personal preference.  Which one did I like best??

I hemmed and hawed for a long time.

In the end, I trusted my gut and went with the 2.0mm needle.  I wanted the finished shawl to be light and airy....a little bit less dense than the Princess Shawl is...a floating cloud.

So I cast on, and happily knit 10 rows...

...only to discover the truth I already knew.  My swatches lie, and the gauge I was actually getting while working on the actual piece was considerably looser than the gauge from the 2.0mm swatch.  I confirmed this with my BKB last weekend.  The fact was, at the new, looser gauge the lace was tipping over the edge to being too loosely goosey.

There was only one thing to do.

I ripped it out and started it over.