Update on reading

Remember the reading challenge I mentioned last month?
After a trip to the library this afternoon, I have completed one of the challenges.
A book you can read in a day – According to Yes by Dawn French, a very funny novel, with some of the best swearing I have read. It has something to say about families and how easy it is to become disfunctional.
I’m also continuing to rack up the re-reads, in the absence of knitting. I’m on the fourth installment of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, having begun from the beginning.

My thumb has got worse again this week, so I’ll be back off to the doctor again soon. However, I’ve been doing a very small amount of practice at continental knitting, which doesn’t involve moving that thumb very much at all. I bought a very useful craftsy class that shows exactly how to hold the yarn and move the fingers.

I keep adding to the list of things I shouldn’t do because it aggravates the tendons. Today I added “clean stove”: a great excuse to avoid housework.

Cold Turkey

It feels like absolutely AGES since I last picked up the needles. I’ve been very good and tried to minimise any use of my right thumb – no sewing, knitting, spinning or crochet and minimal typing and writing. Every day I can feel that the healing is progressing more. Today I’ve hardly thought about resting it because I’ve had very few reminders of the tendonitis.

The day before I went to the doctor, I tried to open a screw-lid on a can of petrol to decant into the car. It was very tight and it aggravated the thumb to the worst pain it had been. I had to call DH to come and help me in the end.

After a couple of days of rest, I couldn’t feel any ill effects of typing so I could at least do my work. The handwriting took longer to be painless, so my great resolution of daily writing took a bit of a knock, but that is now back to normal. Yesterday I did a colouring page in my Mason-Dixon Knitter’s Colouring Book and only felt a little twinge.

This evening I am going to try knitting again, just for a little while, with plenty of breaks and hand-stretches.

The deprivation has been really annoying. I’ve spent evenings feeling twitchy and as if I’m wasting time in front of the tv with nothing to do. As I was telling one of my knitting friends about this at the school gate, I estimated that I’ve been off knitting for 3 weeks. Nope – 10 days, (I just checked my diary) but it has felt a lot longer. I think it has felt a lot longer to the people around me too! Poor children: why is Mummy so grumpy?

For the next week, I’m going to try avoiding pulling, twisting and lifting things with my right hand, as that seems to be what aggravates the tendon. Fine movements, such as flicking yarn round a needle, should be OK.

Edit to add: Alas, knitting is not possible yet. I set myself the challenge of completing 2 rounds of a sock. Round 1 was fine. Round 2 not so much.

Off knitting

Before Christmas, my lovely daughter was dancing with me and swung her full weight on my right thumb. I thought little of it at the time, just carried on with the day.
A month or so later I realised that the thumb was still aching on and off. One trip to the doctor later and I have come away with a diagnosis of tendonitis in the thumb. Apparently quite a common injury, but can go on a while. I’m under instructions to rest it, and treat with ibuprofen and heat.
It turns out that I use my right thumb for… everything. Getting dressed, cutting food, writing, typing, lifting, turning, shaking hands and, of course, knitting, spinning and crochet.
I have a feeling that crochet doesn’t use it as much as the others do, so hopefully I’ll be back to that before too long.
Anyone want to take a guess how long it is until I start to crack under the strain of being without my destressing mechanism?

Sketchy

For Christmas I was given, among other things, a copy of The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde. I came across sketchnoting a few months ago (via a link from the Bullet Journal site I think) and I’ve been following his website and reading about it.

My initial impression was that sketchnoting isn’t really that ground-breaking, just a way of entertaining yourself while taking notes in lectures and talks. I also was sceptical about whether I could draw well enough to make it worthwhile trying.

Today I went to a day conference on rural ministry, over the border in the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. With four half hour talks in the morning and two seminars in the afternoon, there was plenty of scope for trying out sketchnoting.

Drawing arrows works well
Drawing arrows works well

Of the six talks, here’s the one that looks most like a sketchnote. I still wonder if I could have captured more using traditional notes, but I do think I’ve got the most important things down in a way that makes sense to me. More importantly, I found it easy to concentrate, didn’t fall asleep and found that the quality of my listening was better: I was listening with the question, “what are the most important things I’m hearing” foremost in my mind.

My conclusion is that sketchnoting may well be a fruitful way forward. It relies on the people speaking being well organised and flagging up verbally what they consider to be the most important areas. I think it would be very difficult to sketchnote a poor speaker. I will continue to explore the concept (including finishing reading the book – just chapter 7 to go, which is the chapter that concentrates on how to draw) and see how it goes.

In the past year I’ve really got attached to my notebook. It’s a Moleskine 5″ by 7″ with lined pages. Being a Moleskine, the paper is too flimsy for fountain pens but I use it with a Staedtler triplus ball medium and I’ve found it really useful. Since last February, when I started it, I’ve used 181 pages out of 240.

  • I keep my master to-do lists in there.
  • I use a page per day, when I’ve got a day at my desk, to keep track of all the things I should be doing.
  • It travels with me to meetings and I write down all my action points in there, so I know there’s only one place to look.
  • I’m using a version of the bullet journal system (including
  • I keep notes from lectures and sermons in there
  • the children have used it to draw in when they are bored

I’m now at the point of deciding whether to get another Moleskine or switch to a different notebook. I’ve got a Leuchterm A5 with a dot grid for my longer pieces of writing and reflection, but I think it is too big to use for a notebook that travels everywhere (the Moleskine is just that bit narrower and it makes the difference). I also picked up a Rhodiarama, so I could have a notebook that would take fountain pen ink, but it is the same size as the Leuchterm and I’m not sure that fountain pen would be very practical in the places I use my travelling notebook. The Church seems to have something against the idea of providing tables to lean on in any kind of taught session or meeting.

In other news

There was also a really beautiful window in the seminar room I was in. I tried drawing it in a quieter moment, but it didn’t work out well. Good thing I had my camera handy. There were some green and pink parts to the window that you can’t see in the photo that added to the perfection.

Small but perfectly formed
Small but perfectly formed

I continued with my crochet scarf during the talks – another way to stop me falling asleep is to have a knitting or crochet project that I know off by heart (or nearly) in my hands. Progress: 5/90. I need a spreadsheet to keep track of which colour combinations I have used.

Literary input

I don’t manage to keep much track of what I read but here’s a few of the books I read towards the end of last year.

First the re-reads

  • Mist over Pendle by Robert Neill. One of my favourite novels: the story of a young girl moving to live with a distant relative in Lancashire at the time of the witch trials. You learn a lot about the clothing of the time in this historical novel. The heroine is a lovely character, but rather too twentieth-century to be believable.
  • Snoop by Sam Gosling. I spend a lot of time in other people’s houses and this book is all about what you can tell about character based on people’s living environment. The main conclusion is that you can’t draw as many conclusions from surroundings as you think you can.
  • Lingo: A language-spotter’s guide to Europe by Gaston Dorren – Having read this in the summer, I fancied another go through it over Christmas. The little snippets about rare languages are really interesting. It must be having some impact as I was chuffed to be able to identify some European languages correctly in a University Challenge picture round.
  • Lord John and the… by Diana Gabaldon. After the midnight service on Christmas Eve when it was 1am, I was wired and full of adrenalin, I needed something short to read in order to calm me down enough to sleep so I could be at work again within 8 hours. This turned out to be the first Lord John short story: Lord John and the Hellfire Club. I’ve carried on and read all the others since then because why not?
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde – no, not the book you think I mean. This is one of my favourite books ever, a distopian futuristic fantasy where the level of colour vision people possess is their defining feature. It was meant to be the first in a series, but the series has never been forthcoming. Very clever writing.
  • Soulless, Heartless, Timeless & Blameless by Gail Carriger. First four books in The Parasol Protectorate series, a steam punk setting with vampires, werewolves and accessories. The main character is so pragmatic in a world where no-one else is. I read these a few years ago and loved them. I treat these as a fluffy dessert: no real substance, but a delight to read.
  • The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I read this before I read all the Twilight series.
  • The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt. We went to see the stage production of this in the summer at the National Railway Museum, so I decided to re-read this afterwards.

I did read some new stuff too

  • The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. I read this during advent and really enjoyed the gentle retelling of the nativity, along with a missing person mystery.
  • Red Moon Rising by Pete Grieg. This was a freebie on Kindle and is the story of the 24-7 prayer movement. I found it really inspiring and a good reminder of the effectiveness and impact of prayer.
  • Gail Carriger – Changeless, The Curious Case (prequel novella), Curtseys and Conspiracies, Etiquette and Espionage, Waistcoats and Weaponry, Manners and Mutiny. Having re-read the first few of Gail’s books (above), I rather binged by buying the rest on Kindle. The four finishing-school books are aimed at a younger readership, but still maintain that glorious cynical tone and balance of frivolity and menace.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is the book that inspired my commitment to writing more this year. It probably deserves a post of its own at some point.
  • Final Witness by Simon Tolkien. You can guess why I picked this up. This is written by the grandson of the great JRRT. It’s a while since I read it, but I remember really enjoying the behind the scenes view of the legal world. There’s three more books by the same author that I’m hoping to get to before too long.
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker. Behind the scenes of Pride and Prejudice. This was a Christmas present from my lovely sister. P&P has been a favourite since my teens and this gives an interesting counterpoint to it. The author has taken everything she possibly can about the servants that appear in P&P (actually strikingly little) and woven a narrative around them. This was the perfect antidote to a couple of weeks of overwork.

I found an interesting reading challenge that doesn’t seem too arduous.

MMD-2016-Reading-Challenge

  • a book published this year. This shouldn’t be hard. I have the new Ben Aaronovitch on pre-order.
  • a book you can finish in a day. Plenty of scope here.
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read. I have shelves full of stuff I’ve been meaning to read.
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller. My nearest bookseller is White Rose Books in Thirsk. I’ll go and ask them. Our local library is going to be down-graded to a community-run facility in the coming year. I’ve thought about volunteering there.
  • a book you should have read in school. This one is a puzzling one and I can’t quite get a handle on it. I’m pretty certain I read everything that school required at the time. Following a conversation on Facebook this week, I’ve received several selections from friends of things they think I should have read.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF. This won’t be hard. My sister teaches English and is full of good ideas for stuff I might like.
  • a book published before you were born.
  • a book that was banned at some point. Presumably it doesn’t matter where it was banned. Looking forward to this one, although I’ll choose something that was banned for political or religious reasons rather than Lady Chatterley. I’ll go in search of the banned books list from the Vatican.
  • a book you previously abandoned. Shall I give Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell one final chance? It turns out that part of the recent tv adaptation was filmed in our village. My other tip for this category is Gormenghast, but I’ve lent it to someone. If neither of those comes to anything I suppose I could try Wuthering Heights again, although I really hated it (a friend of mine burnt their copy because they hated it so much).
  • a book you own but have never read. There is quite a large choice for this category. I seem to have been born with a gene that fears one day not being able to buy any more books. I probably won’t run out, even if no more books were available from now on. (The same goes for yarn)
  • a book that intimidates you. This requires some thought. I’m not easily intimidated by books.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once. See the section of re-reads, above. This will not be hard to fulfil. I adore re-reading old favourites. It’s like spending time with an old friend.

In order to make this a little more interesting, I’m going to stipulate no re-reads except the final category and the partial re-read for the abandoned category. I wonder how long it will take.

2015 round-up

At the beginning of 2015 I had 6 knitting WIPs and an aim to reduce this significantly during the year. Several of the WIPs had been on the needles for some time, the oldest being from 2010. I wanted to spend more time on knitting I wanted to do, rather than being limited to what I felt I ought to be knitting.

Here’s the parade of finished objects for the year.

My target for the year was one finished project per month, which I exceeded over the course of the year, although some months did not contain a finished item. May was a particularly strong month with four completed items and September was also strong.

This year included my first real foray into knitting for other people’s babies. The Millamia blanket kit was a really good buy – I just love to knit that yarn and the miles of garter stitch was an exceedingly pleasant way to pass the time.The whimsy of including a one sixteenth scale replica of the blanket for the enclosed cuddly toy kept me entertained for ages.

The final completed project of the year: a Baby Surprise Jacket was a joy to knit as well. You can see the yarn in my post-Yarndale post, but I never got round to blogging progress. It is just such a clever design and intuitive to knit once you get into it. I  chose the yarn knowing that the baby in question has a Mum (Hi Daisy) who understands about handwash items. Definitely not a practical choice, but very soft. I had a good time picking colours that were gender-neutral but leaning towards probably being a girl. Tip for next time: put a buttonhole in the swatch so you don’t have to wait until it is finished to buy the buttons.

Of the WIPs from the beginning of 2015 I passed on one unfinished to Mum for her to finish (the crochet amigurumi). I finished four projects and have one remaining. This is the one I predicted would still be a WIP at the end of the year – the cotton square blanket, begun in 2011. I really ought to bring that to a close one way or another this year.

This year I have also finished some spinning projects, although I don’t appear to have photos of them all.

I kicked off 2016 in style by finishing my first knitting project on New Year’s Day.

Kaerlig handwarmers by Ysolda Teague
Kaerlig handwarmers by Ysolda Teague

I was particularly chuffed that the pooling of colours matched so well between the pair. This is an intriguing construction, beginning with the ribbing on the cuff, then casting on for the hand, knitting it onto the cuff as you go, then short-rowing for the thumb section.

At the beginning of the year, I once again had 6 WIPs, briefly reduced to five before starting the crochet modular scarf seen in the previous post.

Targets for 2016:

  • Continue with the aim of one finished object per month
  • Knit a usable item from my handspun
  • Watch more of the Craftsy classes I have bought (so tempting when they are on sale to buy them all)
  • Learn a new skill (perhaps Brioche stitch)
  • Spin more

Needles at the ready: onwards.

A little bit of WIP

This evening I decided to tackle a new project, which has been queued up for 15 months. At Yarndale in 2014 I bought a scarf kit from the now sadly discontinued Natural Dye Studio to make a Plankton Scarf.
It’s a modular project, which fills the gap left by the epic sock yarn scarf, but using specific yarn, so not diminishing the sock yarn scraps in any way. This may become problematic at a later date, but is fine for now, (one can always buy bigger boxes).
The children very helpfully assisted in winding the yarn before bedtime, then I perused the pattern before jumping in and making the first motif.
There’s a couple of challenges:

The pattern is written for 8 colours, but the kit only contains 5, so there’s no compunction to follow the very detailed chart of colour options at the end of the pattern, but I’ll have to come up with my own colour design instead.

There’s one instruction that has me baffled, which is to do with the chain stitches at the beginning of the rounds. How do you “crochet chain stitches into a gap”? Chain stitches just are where they are as far as I’ve ever known. The intended effect seems to be anchoring the chain stitches slightly to the rear of where they would naturally form. More experimentation needed. My crochet tutor (aka Mum) is popping by for a visit tomorrow so I shall consult her and see what she says.

Anyway, I’ve got one finished motif with ends sewn in ready for blocking.

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One down, 89 to go.

I think I’ve found an error in the written instructions, although the chart is correct. 9dcs on round 5 rather than 8.

Here’s the latest on the yellow and grey socks. They’ve been frogged once and I’m not sure whether they won’t succumb again, as I’m not overly impressed with the pooling on the leg.

image

The blue and white sock is progressing nicely, albeit slowly. I’ve just tackled two colour purling for the heel flap.

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That’s all the active WIPs at the moment. There are inactive ones too, but they’ve made no progress since the last update.

Finished objects will follow in due course.

A year of writing

Happy New Year.

I’ve decided that 2016 will be a year of writing. Quite what that looks like I’m not yet sure but don’t hold your breath that there will suddenly be more frequent posts on the blog. My plan is to write something, somewhere every day. Some days this will be covered by work: for example I usually write 1000 words per week for a Sunday morning sermon. I’m also trying to be more intentional about doing theological reflection as I’ve finally come round to the idea that it might occasionally be useful. Blogging about knitting is also included, as well as writing letters. It might include creative writing or calligraphy.

In October I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat,Pray,Love fame). It’s a fabulous book about creativity and I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is one concept that has stuck with me particularly from the book: being a disciplined half-ass as opposed to a lazy perfectionist. Creativity is stifled by our own propensity to think that we are not good enough. Writing something, whether it is good or not, without self-censorship on the grounds of being rubbish is the key to getting better at writing. I see that every week as I’m writing sermons for work. There’s no real way of getting around the fact that, come Sunday morning, I have to be standing up talking about Jesus. This happens, whether or not I am actually happy with what I have prepared. I have discovered that there is very little correlation between how happy I am with the sermon and how happy other people are. (They tend to like the short ones and the ones with funny bits). The discipline of writing and writing and writing, week after week, means that I suffer far less from the crippling lack of self-esteem and writer’s block that I used to be plagued with in the early days.  Remind me of this at 6am tomorrow morning when I am staring at the screen in despair.

That will have to do for now. I have a date with the family at a Chinese restaurant. My daughter has just enquired whether it is bonfire night tonight. I think this is because the last time we went out after dark it was bonfire night, so her expectations are set accordingly. She is now changing out of her wellies and putting her torch away.

Commonplace

In the last few months I’ve been reading a lot about notebooks, planners and various ways of organising life in an analogue way. The digital way, whether digital calendar or task list, just doesn’t suit me. It has to be pens and notebooks all the way.
One of the things I kept reading about was the practice of keeping a Commonplace book, but I couldn’t find anywhere that said what it was or what the point is or how to do it. Imagine my joy when I found this post:
http://alyjuma.com/commonplace-book/
Just what I wanted. Found via The Well-Appointed Desk.
More here.
I do keep a couple of notebooks on the go. I have a Moleskine which goes with me everywhere I go, for planning, work stuff and random notes. I also keep a notebook for knitting, which is where I keep notes of how I customise patterns, plus useful knowledge. Here is my favourite page.

image

Transcription: “How to get blood out of wool
Cold water soak
Rinse over & over until it is all out
A little mild soap if needed
Rinse from back side, with pressure.”
No idea where that information comes from. Hope I never need to use it.