Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Books!

1.  Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo - I absolutely adored Bardugo's first Grisha trilogy, but there are always some nerves when a writer starts a new series.  Will it live up to the last?  I'm happy to say that the answer is a definite yes.  In fact, Bardugo is now one of my favorite writers!  In Six of Crows she chooses to stay within her Grisha universe, but she moves to focus on a new cast of characters in a completely different country some time after the events of her first trilogy.  This time around we get a band of young misfits and criminals, who are the sort who do really bad things but you can't help but love anyway.  One of my favorite parts of this book is how beautifully Bardugo seamlessly weaves in the backstories of her characters throughout the novel.  It's definitely the first in a new series, so be prepared to be annoyed a tad that you have to wait for what comes next....but at the same time, it's a book that can stand on it's own.  A note:  It got a starred review on Kirkus, which pointed out the diversity of our main cast of characters in ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.  I hadn't thought about it before, but that is one of the things that makes this book special. 

2.  Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall (audio) - A perfect book to listen to during solo runs!  I'm a sucker for a non-fiction book that reads like fiction, and with the bonus of a reader that really gets into the story it was a lot of fun.  Never in a million years would I ever have suspected that a sports book would be so entertaining!  Gave me a lot to think about as far as the biomechanics of running are concerned - specifically when it comes to how our feet work.  Probably won't be taking up barefoot running anytime soon, but I may be checking out a couple of the books that are recommended to learn better running form. 

3.  Train Like A Mother, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea - The follow up to Run Like A Mother, which I read last month, this time around the authors focus on specific training plans for races of various lengths.  It was a pretty quick read, in large part because I did skim the training programs.  I *might* actually purchase this one in order to have a copy of the training programs to keep for myself.  They looked pretty good...although, truth be told you can get a million training programs for free online.  Occasionally I get tired of the author's brand of humor and their POV, but I'm willing to say that part of my problem is me overdosing on their books and podcasts.  

4.  Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon - A brand new YA book that was a BOTNS recommendation.  I was intrigued by the idea of a girl with 'allergies' so bad that she had to live in a completely isolated/sterilized home.  It was a delightful book.  I checked the ebook out from my library's digital services and then devoured it in a single afternoon.  It was absolutely lovely, and the ending did surprise me a bit. 

As you know, for the last several years I've enjoyed a month of "scary" books to celebrate Halloween.  As usual, I took to Facebook to ask for recommendations.  (This is NOT my normal genre, so I need help!)  This year I had the excellent question of what, exactly, was I in the mood for?  My response was that this is an exploratory month for me, and that I care more for quality of writing than I do for actual subgenre.  Makes for a more interesting month!

Unfortunately, the month turned out to be a bit of a bust for me.  I didn't find any new books that truly stand-out, and my generally experimental attitude went up in smoke.  Ultimately I realized I wanted Gothic...and I couldn't find anything new that fit the bill.  (I don't think it's in vogue right now.)  I'm seriously considering rereading some Gothic classics in November instead....

Anyway, here's what I read - or tried to read. 

1.  Through The Woods, Emily Carroll - The friend who recommended this graphic novel said it was so scary that she drove it immediately back to the library because she didn't want it in the house.  Sounds good to me!   It was a super-quick read, and while I didn't find anything new in the stories contained within, I did find them to be beautiful interpretations of familiar old scary stories.  Very nice!

2.  Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury (audio) - First of all, the audio narration is lovely.  I'd never read this book, despite it being considered a classic.  It is wonderfully atmospheric, and it does take advantage of one of the great tropes of the horror universe - the spooky traveling carnival.  Problem is, it's a quasi adventure story about young boys and a dad, and I've never been much of a fan of that type of book. I find it really hard to connect with such boy books, and honestly didn't care about the characters one way or another.  I gave up about half way through.  (Ok, in part the audio was wonderful to listen to because of the melodic reading...which unfortunately didn't have any tension to it and had a tendency to leave me wondering what, exactly, was it that I'd just listened to?  Super hard to focus)

3.  Horrorstor, Grady Hendrix - I'm only sorry that I've never been to an Ikea store - or even seen their catalog - because that would have made this book even more fun.  It's basically a haunted house book that reads like a movie script.  (Oh man, would this be fun on the big screen.)  I loved the humor, and I loved the crazy cast of characters.  The style of the book adds a lot to the fun - with employee reviews and product descriptions sprinkled throughout.  While it wasn't as scary or as haunting as I'd like (although there were some gross moments) it was definitely a great book to read this month.  This was the one clear winner of the month. 

4.  The Hunt, 5. Prey, 6. The Trap Andrew Fukada -  The first book was recommended by a friend, and I wasn't even half way through it when I put the second and third books on hold at the library.  I'm a sucker for a good, original concept, and while the idea of a world that's been overrun by vampires isn't entirely new this spin on it was definitely cool enough to draw me in.  Part Hunger Games, Part Daywalkers (the movie), the first book was amazing.  Unfortunately, Fukada isn't a good enough writer to carry his ideas through an entire trilogy.  The second one was ok, and the third...well, let's just say I think he wrote himself into a corner and then couldn't figure out how to get out of it.  There were also some clear slip ups in the details of his world, and some plot holes so big you could drive a semi through.  So much promise....Oh well.  I wound up listening to them in audio, and as they were short (33 hours all together) and could be listened to at 1.5x speed (bringing it to 22) it went quickly enough.

7.  The Woven Path, Robin Jarvis (unfinished) - I wanted to love this book because of the set-up and because it was recommended by a friend.  I had a really tough time getting into it.  The author suffers from a surfeit of adjectives and adverbs, which comes across as not-so-great, completely overblown writing. 

8.  Salem's Lot, Stephen King (unfinished) - I hate Stephen King.  I think he's a total hack.  I don't know why I bothered trying, except that I thought maybe his older work would be better.

The following I explored because of Random House's Scary Sixteen Bracket.  They were the only books on the list I hadn't read....

9.  Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk (unfinished) -  The set up should be awesome.  A novel told in stories, a group of writers at a secret writing retreat....until I read the first story, which was a total gross-out and that is soooo not my thing. 

10.  The Ruins, Scott Smith (unfinished) - I skimmed it.  I've seen the movie.  It's weird, and eh. 

11.  Infected, Scott Sigler (unfinished) - By this time I had given up.  I skimmed a bit and called it good. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Weird



Seriously people, the black strand of yarn/thread is made of SILK AND STAINLESS STEEL!!!!!!

The green is a super fine merino. 

The scarf is the Kusha Kusha Scarf, designed by the folk at Habu Textiles, who are the mad geniuses who decided that it would be a good idea to make a yarn out of stainless steel.  

I will admit, though I had heard plenty about both the yarn and pattern online for a long while - you can't be a knitter and NOT hear about such an interesting concoction - I had no intention of actually knitting one myself until a blog friend of mine made one about 5 or 6 years ago.  I was truly impressed with how beautiful it was...but I still wasn't willing to actually track down a kit for myself. 
Apparently, randomly stumbling on one while on a trip to visit my brother was an entirely different story, though.  The cute little shop in Chicago had the kits on the shelf, and so home with me one came.  

Best of intentions...other projects which took precedence...yadda, yadda, yadda. 

I finally decided to start my Kusha Kusha this week while I was waiting for my new sweater swatch to dry.  Fortunately, the good people at Purl Soho have free instructions on how to interpret the pattern.  (Japanese style charts only...something I don't have experience with.)  So with pattern, explanation, and needles in hand I set to work.  

I'm not sure what, exactly, I expected.  

It's...well...it's weird. 

You would never guess that there's metal in the yarn, in part because it's so very fine.  It actually feels quite soft to the touch, and is easy to work with.  BUT, it does make a fabric that - even when knit in a super-loose gauge - has a definite shape and body to it. You make a stitch, and it stays put....that simple.  

I'm looking forward to finishing this one up so that I can see what the finished fabric does.  I'm not sure that I'll ever knit with this yarn again, but I'm very glad that I'm knitting with it now.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Could Get Used To This Knitting For Myself Thing



Having finished my gorgeous Mesmeric Cardigan (I will show it off soon, promise.  I'm still looking for buttons.), I set myself the challenge of finding a pattern that would work with yarn from my stash.  This is, ahem, harder than you'd think.  I have a BUNCH of sweaters that I'd LOVE to make for myself....but I don't actually own the right yarn for any of them.  Instead, I have a drawer full of yarn from my random yarn buying days, and I'm fairly committed to NOT BUYING ANYTHING ELSE until I've used up at least half of it.  My goal for the year was to work down my stash, and I'm sticking to it!!!  Or Else!!!*

Now, the truth of the matter is that at least three sweater-quantity batches of yarn in my stash are being saved for something special once I my body settles down to a size it likes.  I'm not there yet, so that yarn is just going to have to wait.  At least three other batches are variegated (shudders....I know, I know...past mistakes that will have to be made right...).  It's a motley collection at best, and it's going to require some creativity.

I could have started more socks, or a shawl, or something else from the stash...but darn it, I wanted to start another sweater post-haste!

So I turned to the one option that made sense.  Years ago my mom and I bought kits to make Anna Zilboorg's sweater, Rosemary.  The yarn - Anna's Yarn, now produced by The Unique Sheep - is a hand-dyed wool/mohair blend that works up beautifully, but pills like a son-of-a-gun under regular wear.  I actually knit my Rosemary, and I wore it several times.  It was pretty, but ultimately I decided that the pattern aged me.  Several years ago I gave it to Mom...and was delighted when she tried it on because on her it was an elegant, lovely thing.  (I admit, this was a tad annoying....)  In return, Mom gave me her kit so that I could make something else for myself.

Over the last week I've had several sessions with the pattern search on Ravelry.  I narrowed the search as much as I possibly could, and ultimately came up with three or four options from my own library which I knew would work.  The big trick was in finding something that was simple...but that would look good and wouldn't be boring to knit.  The fact that I had worked with the yarn before, and knew both how it would knit up and how it would wear, was a huge influence on my decision.

The winner is Hannah Fettig's Gooseberry Cardigan, from Interweave Knit's Weekend 2009 Special Edition, pictured above.  (Bonus points to me for using a magazine I've been hanging on to for six years!)  It's a perfect, timeless cardigan to add to my wardrobe, with a little bit of waist shaping and top-down construction that will help me get a great fit.  At the same time, it's a shape that will be forgiving if my size continues to change!

My swatch is perfect, and so today...today the fun begins!



*I don't know actually know "or else what."  I do know that my continuing health journey has left me in a position where any extra money I have has to be spent on actual clothes right now.  Seriously.  I cleaned out the closet last week.  There's not much left. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Brand Of Crazy

 It was beautiful...but it just wasn't right.
 
You may remember that I started this beaded shawl several months ago, only to discover that I would most likely only be using about half of the skein of yarn.  This was a problem.  I loved the yarn, and wanted to use as much of it as I could.  However, I also loved the way it looked as I was knitting it, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to use bigger needles or not.  There was also the fact that I like my lace pieces to be as big as possible...I find them more wearable when they are bigger.

What to do....what to do....
 I finally decided. 

I had to take it apart and start over.

It can be tedious work, and it's work that tends to shock and horrify my non-knitting friends and family.  They think I'm nuts, and often can't imagine tearing apart something that was so lovingly created.  They think of the time and skill already invested, and they hate to think of that wasted.

But I was brought up in the 4-H tradition of doing something to the best of your ability, up to and including redoing it as often as it takes until each and every problem is fixed.  It's never wasted time if you learn something, and the trick is to remember that every mistake can be an opportunity to learn something new.

Even if that lesson is as simple as 'I used the wrong sized needle for this one.'
 
 I spent some time yesterday morning undoing all of my work, carefully picking out the beads and rewinding the yarn. 
 
My intention is to keep them paired up...I do love this color combination, and the yarn is special enough that it deserves to be matched with beads in order to make an heirloom quality piece.  I may or may not stick with the same pattern...I haven't decided that yet.
 
The important thing is that now I have the opportunity to start over and make it right.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Knitting Paradox

 A picture with my ballet flats, which fit me perfectly, to give you an idea of how big these boogers are when they are knit up.  Amazing that a little bit of heat and water and friction will take them down to a fitting slipper!
 
What you behold in this picture is the one thing I detest knitting...
but do so anyway because I want the finished product...
but even then only under some duress.
 
I hate working with chunky yarns, and I hate working with big, fat needles.  It all feels so very wrong in my hands.  The pattern is fiddly, and with every row being different.  It's not hard, but you do have to pay attention.  And you have to repeat stuff....four separate souls....yuck.  I find the whole project repulsive, and I try to knit it as fast as possible so that I can get it over with.
 
At the end of the day, though, I'll have a pair of double souled slippers that are nice and toasty warm for the winter.  I will felt them the next time we go to my parents' farm (my washer won't work for felting), and I'll make sure they come out the perfect size for me.  Even better, after I wear them a few times they will mold to my feet.  When I'm tucked away in my corner of the basement this winter, the cold, cold floors won't be near so much of a problem.
 
Felt Clogs
by Bev Galeskas
Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky - 5 skeins
Addi Turbo US 13, 9mm needles
October 8-10, 2015


Thursday, October 8, 2015

85

 
Having completed a large project - or almost so, I need to do the hems- it's time to finish up some smaller projects and/or crank out a few quick knits over the next week or so.
 
Up first:  my 85th pair of socks.
 
That's right...I've knit 85 pair of socks in the last 12 years.  If you have handknit socks, you understand why.  If not, you probably think I'm a tad nuts.
 
Anyway.
 
As always, this is Ann Budd's basic sock pattern
from The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns
(a sock formula I could knit in my sleep at this point....)
1 skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Montana Chokecherry
KnitPicks Blonde DPN's - US 2.25 mm
(I snapped one in the process...I am annoyed.)
May 24 - Oct. 7, 2015
(with truly most of the work being done in the last week.)
 
Onward!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Day After

The pile of scrap I created yesterday when doing the finish work on my new sweater.
There's always a particular beauty to a pile of ends like this.
 
It is generally understood that there are two distinct types of knitters.
 
1. Product Knitters
&
2.  Process Knitters
 
Product Knitters are the sort who love to knit because they love to have a drawer full of gorgeous sweaters, scarves, mittens, hats, etc. to wear.  They delight not in the actual making of the garment, but in the enjoyment that comes with wearing each custom made piece...with having a unique wardrobe that is tailored to their every whim.  For these knitters, the actual knitting process can sometimes be an annoyance that must be gone through to get the finished product.
 
Process Knitters, on the other hand, are those who love to knit simply because they love the act of knitting in and of itself.  Sure, they make gorgeous things too, but they aren't usually that attached to the final project.  Once a project is finished, they let go and move on, ready to savor each stitch in the next project.  The beauty is in the physical actions involved in creating.
 
I've always been firmly in the later camp - a process knitter who's chronically - and comically - unattached to my finished pieces.  I delight in my nimble, clever fingers, and I rejoice in the details of each and every project that flows through my needles.
 
Which is to say that when I finish a particularly satisfying project, as I did yesterday with my Mesmeric Cardigan, I tend to feel...well...rather lost. 
 
Berefit even.
 
Sometimes this leads to a ridiculous delay in actually finishing a project.  Knitting completed, I might throw it into a basket or bag to wait an indeterminate length of time for the finish work.  Or, I might just stop working with a tiny bit of edging left to do.  If I don't finish it, I'm still working on it, right?
 
Wrong.
 
Inevitably every project must come to an end.
 
Equally as inevitable...I'm going to be sad when it does, especially if it's been a project as deeply satisfying as my cardigan has been.  In fact, the depth of my emotion is directly related to the importance of the project - through level of complexity, reasons for making that item, or satisfaction over the way it's all turning out.
 
Given how big of a deal it is that I just made myself my first ever fitting sweater at a time when I'm finally starting to feel good about myself and am thus building a nice wardrobe for the first time in years....yep, this was a darn big one.  Throw in on top of that the fact that it was a modern fair isle that incorporated some of my favorite traditional techniques with modern fitting, providing an actual challenge to my knitting brain.
 
Sniffle.
 
As happy as I'll be to wear this sweater soon, I'm also feeling pretty sad that it's done.
 
(And yes, you may all laugh at me now...I know I'm a tad ridiculous!)
 
Ask my husband and girls - I'll be wandering around the house for the next few days like a lost child.  It's not yet the time for a new project, nor even to start planning or dreaming for the next big one.  I might work on a pair of socks, or maybe the scrap yarn blankets.  Most likely I'll lose myself in books for a few days, or finally get around to tackling one of a few big household projects.  Might even do a stash reorganization, which always helps.
 
Soon enough though...soon enough it'll be time to pick up the needles and move on.
 
There are always knitting projects just waiting to happen.