Drawing things together

We seem to be in the  part of the year that I categorise as ‘too hot to knit’. It doesn’t tend to last very long, but the thought of holding anything woolly in my hands for longer than absolutely necessary is currently not tempting.

What does a knitter do when knitting becomes unpalatable?

  1. Crochet – there’s less hand to yarn contact.  My daughter insisted that the barbies were cold, despite meteorological evidence to the contrary.
  2. Catches up on reading about knitting, whether blogs or books. I got a very tasty selection of knitting and spinning books for my birthday.
  3. Plans new projects and buys the yarn. Loveknitting had a rather tasty sale last weekend and I might have just come in under the wire before the discounts ran out with a very large order of Millamia.
  4. Remembers that there was a time before knitting became such a big part of life and goes back to reading novels at a bank-breaking rate.
  5. Looks out of the window and enjoys the spring.
  6. The other thing I’ve been working on quite a lot is pen-control, whether for handwriting or drawing. I did an online handwriting course via Boho Berry, which gave me the impetus to work on making my handwriting more beautiful, while remaining legible. Bizarrely, I can justify this as professional development for work, as I have to have decent handwriting for filling out marriage registers.
    Before the course on the left, after on the right

    For drawing, I’m doing a basic online course with the Doodle Institute, I have a book on botanical line drawing to work through, and I have Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote workbook. It’s sketchnoting that has provoked this interest. It’s such a good way of organising information on the page so that it’s easy to review, but also sticks in the brain.

There hasn’t been a complete dearth of knitting since March. I’m most of the way through a hat made from my handspun and I’ve started another pair of socks.

Reading update

From the library:

  • The world of cycling according to G, by Geraint Thomas
    I find the world of professional cycling fascinating. Geraint always seems to be quite grounded and interesting when he’s interviewed. His book seems that he might have had a significant hand in writing it: much more individual a voice than other cycling memoirs I’ve read.

On Kindle:

  • I’m working my way through the complete works of L. M. Montgomery. It wasn’t free, but 49p for 20 books plus assorted other writing was too good to miss. I never read more than the first half of Anne of Green Gables as a child and I’ve really enjoyed it.  I’m now on the sixth book of the series.
    Anne of Green Gables
    Anne of Avonlea 
    Anne of the Island 
    Anne of Windy Poplars 
    Anne’s House of Dreams
    Anne of Ingleside

Re-reads:

  • My other half started a re-read of the Dragonriders of Pern series, which made me want to go back to that world. Needless to say, he’s on book 3 and I have decided to pause after book 15. It’s such a good world to escape to, (as long as thread isn’t falling).

A book I own but have never read:

  • I bought the Wizard of Earthsea quartet (by Ursula K LeGuin) when I was a student the first time round. A friend of my Mum’s had lent me the first two books when I was about 14, but I didn’t really get on with them. The book sat on my shelves and moved house with me around 9 times. I always thought I ought to read it (female author, fairly early fantasy). Now I’m two thirds of the way through the final volume and I really like it. Very interesting handling of themes like light vs dark, truth, power, male/female conflict, aging.
    Looking up background stuff for this post, I now discover that there are now 2 further volumes in the series, published since I bought it. Excellent! I suspect that Le Guin’s non-fiction stuff is worth reading too.

Whatever I want to read:

  • Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno
  • Knit Wear Love and You Can Knit That by Amy Herzog

Reading in 2017 – first quarter

Rather than repeating the list of reading aims for the year each time, I have built a page that I can keep updated throughout the year.

There are probably more books that I have read or re-read since January, but I haven’t been keeping a very effective list. This is just what I can find from my various electronic devices and from looking around.

Borrowed from the library

  • 1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke – fascinating and very readable whizz through history looking at the differences between how the French remember decisive moments of history and how the British do. Both nations seem guilty of interpreting events to suit their national egos.
  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web – by David Lagercrantz – I held off reading this because of the controversy following the death of Stieg Larson over who owned the rights to his characters.  This book is different in style, with less of the detailed descriptions of journalistic life, but I enjoyed it. Still can’t bring myself to spend money on a copy.
  • Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: the story of women in the 1950s by Virginia Nicholson – my favourite sort of history book: lots of anecdote and personal stories mixed with statistics to show the wider context. Incredible how much life has changed for women in 60 years
  • Colossus: Bletchley Park’s greatest secret – I only read about half of this, until the technical computer stuff got beyond what I found interesting. The Enigma story is much more interesting to me
  • The Silent Ones by William Brodrick – my favourite contemporary detective is Father Anselm. I was very pleased to find this on the shelves of the library.

My local library is closing for refurbishment in a week or two, after which it will reopen as a volunteer-run library. I overheard the librarian this afternoon explaining that she will shortly be out of a job. Such short-sighted policy from the government, taking so much local authority budget away that they have no choice but to cut library staff. It’s fine for our local town as there is a small army of active retired people there. I can foresee in other places it will be incredibly difficult to recruit enough volunteers. Plus, what does it say to people wanting to become professional librarians if it is implied that anyone can do this with willingness and a couple of hours training. The rate that our kids get through books, we would be stony broke if it wasn’t for the library. I like to think that my library fines, however small, are helping in some way to keep it going! Yes, that’s why I don’t take the books back on time, nothing to do with always forgetting to write down the due-date in my diary.

Bought on Amazon

  • A good year by Mark Oakley – essays on the liturgical year (2nd hand). Not yet read this
  • The Cornish Trilogy by Robertson Davies – 2nd hand, replacing because my copy has gone astray. This trilogy is one of my favourite pieces of literature. Davies is (was?) Canadian, so it is interesting to see a different culture, particularly the first in the trilogy, which is set in a Canadian theological college. I got a lot more from the first in the trilogy (The Rebel Angels) this time, as I understood more about philosophy and theology than I did the last time I read it.
  • Christian Belief for Everyone: Faith and the Creeds by Alister McGrath. Bought for work, not yet read
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman – I got a very good deal on this in the sale, started reading, but got distracted.

Kindle Unlimited

  • Knit Together: Amish Knitting Novel by Karen Anna Vogel – I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited ages ago, as it was one of the first things the algorithm recommended for me. It took a while to be in the mood for it. This winter I’ve wanted feel-good reading, to distract from some challenging work things, so I started reading. This is a rare entry in the ‘Knitting in Literature’ category of blog-posts. What I love about this book (and the other 5 by the same author that I’ve read below) is the matter-of-factness of the way faith and life are intertwined. You might say that the stories of faith are a little contrived and everyone is more inclined to repent and come right in the end than they are in real life. However, it’s interesting to see how reading stories like this helps to keep my faith and life intertwined. Perhaps there is something to be said for St Paul’s parting words to the Philippians:

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. […] And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

  • Amish Knitting Circle: Smicksburg Tales 1 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Friends Knitting Circle: Smicksburg Tales 2 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Knit Lit Circle: Smicksburg Tales 3 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Knit & Stitch Circle: Smicksburg Tales 4 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Knit & Crochet Circle: Smicksburg Tales 5 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard – A historical novel set during the American War of Independence. Good story, interesting characters, though they are very modern in outlook. Interesting take on how war affects the women left behind.
  • Our Own Country: A Novel by Jodi Daynard
  • The Pocket Notebook Book by Ray Blake – just including this here for completeness. A very lightweight book with instructions on how to use a notebook effectively. Obviously written before bullet journalling became a thing, but some interesting stuff. Nothing I hadn’t come across before.

On my bedside table, but not started yet

  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter – I’m reluctant to read this (and the sequels) because then there will be no more new Pratchett to read. Typing this makes me realise that this is not a logical viewpoint to hold. If I never read it and it’s good, I’ve missed out.
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi

    Borrowed from my sister

  • Grow your own veg by Carol Klein – an excellent book, but it needs to be combined with some enthusiasm for gardening if it is to have any effect. I have very little of this.

2017 First Quarter Knitting

Here’s a reminder of my 2017 knitting/fibre goals.

  • Complete 12 or more knitting/crochet projects
  • Complete 2 or more spinning projects
  • Keep accurate spinning records
  • Knit something from handspun
  • Brioche stitch
  • Watch more Craftsy classes

The year started very well, with finished projects flying off the needles throughout January.

The silk mittens were completed and put into immediate use underneath the fingerless mitts I made last year. For cycling in winter, two layers of gloves are perfect. The silk mittens are quite rustic, as the gauge varies significantly depending on how thin I drafted the silk. If I were to make them again, I’d make the hand section smaller, as they feel a little loose. Having used the Knitters Handy Book of Patterns to make them, I was quite chuffed to get a comment from Ann Budd herself on my project page.

Next, I finally finished my god-daughter’s Christmas present, only a week or two late. It’s a cardigan/jacket knit in one piece, mostly plain stockinette, but with a sideways cabled border round the edge.  This gave me some good practice at grafting in pattern. I’ve since received several pictures of her wearing it, so it has obviously proved popular. The yarn is a cotton-wool mix that should be fairly hard-wearing.

This next project was a first attempt at illusion knitting. The pattern appeared as one of the puzzle weeks that we take part in. Sadly, I was completely stumped by the puzzle, which you can find here, until the solution was revealed, but I decided to knit the mystery pattern anyway. I used some cheap acrylic black and white yarns that haven’t even made it onto Ravelry yet, despite being bought several years ago.

Oh the irony, when I discovered that I had knit the woolmark in a yarn that is against everything that trademark stands for.

As far as spinning goes, I’ve done a bit: turning a gorgeous braid of Merino, Shetland, Alpaca and Silk into some singles. Plying is next on the agenda. The yarn looks as if it is dark red, but it has lovely flecks of green in. I think it will end up looking heathered. I have spent today keeping my Ravelry stash up to date, but can’t really add much to the spinning records until the plying is done, when I can have a go at calculating wpi, grist etc. Perhaps one day this will be a hat.

My intention of learning brioche stitch is making progress, having cast on  a swatch and nailed the basics. It really is a lot easier than I was expecting (and much easier using two colours than it would be using one). I started to look at increases and decreases, then got bored because the swatch really will never be anything other than a swatch as I’m using up scraps of yarn. One of my online friends suggests making an object instead. She may be right. Anyway, it’s a step in the right direction.

I have looked at a few Craftsy classes. The other day I watched several hours on a day I was very tired indeed. It was Stephen West on Shawlscapes. Deliciously eccentric and I learned some interesting ideas for how to change the shape of shawls.

There may have been yarn buying going on.  Most for specific projects. T came to choose some yarn for a scarf and picked Stylecraft DK. Very cheap tastes! The Woosheeps gradient pack was, however, pure indulgence in a colourway called Gothling. I wonder what it will be.

As far as keeping up with my 2017 goals, I think I’ve made good progress with all of them. It would be nice to finish March with another finished item, but then I’ve cast on another new one today rather than pressing on.

WIP update

Sock knitting progress has been mixed. I signed up for Sock Madness, but was defeated by the round 1 pattern, which consisted of half of every row being twisted stitches. It was an interesting fabric, but it met an end shortly after I realised I had misinterpreted the pattern and done all the gussets wrong. In the mean time, I’ve been gradually continuing with the Scrappies,  using up rainbow coloured scraps from my scrap box.  Using some of the Knitting Goddess yarn I got from the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show, I have started a shawl in some simple lace.

During February, I took part in an Instagram game, following yarn-related prompts each day. This got me to evaluate some of my WIPS and so I can admit that the Color Affection that I started with some gorgeous cashmere laceweight has gone to the frog pond. The colours did not have enough contrast for Color Affection so I need to find another use for them.

I’ll leave you with this morning’s work: destined to be legwarmers for a small person. Incredible how fast DK yarn knits up when you are used to fingering weight.

2016 Knitting Project round-up

Here are my knitting/crochet/spinning aims from the beginning of 2016:

  • Continue with the aim of one finished object per month
    Considering I had almost three months off knitting, I’m fairly pleased with managing to complete 11 projects.  3 of the completed items were started in 2015, the others are all from 2016.
  • Knit a usable item from my handspun
    Still not quite managed this, but I’m including my mittens from unspun mawata in this category.
  • Watch more of the Craftsy classes I have bought (so tempting when they are on sale to buy them all)
    I have watched a few more of them, but still could do better. At least I haven’t bought many this year!
  • Learn a new skill (perhaps Brioche stitch)
    Still not learned Brioche.
    I did spend a week learning inkle weaving, so I’m ticking this category
    I also learnt to knit backwards
  • Spin more
    Had a go at spindle-spinning silk tops
    I’m pretty bad at keeping records of spinning. I have done some more spinning.

Here’s the gallery of finished items: 6 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of mittens, a shawl, a blanket and a toy.

Note that Ravelry links will only work if you are a Rav member (sign up: it’s free)

  1. Mittens from Knitworthy 2, project finished on New Year’s Day
  2. Sweet Coriolis socks. Using yarn from a Knitting Goddess club from years ago – one sock is mostly yellow with some grey, the other is mostly grey with some yellow. I don’t have a picture of the finished pair, but they fit very well.
  3. A non-matching pair of socks, using two patterns that I only wanted to knit once.
  4. Tour de Sock 2016 round 1
  5. Tour de Sock 2016 round 2
  6. Tour de Sock 2016 round 3: backwards knitting!
  7. My Ravellenic Games project: A Follow Your Arrow 2 shawl. Really chuffed to get this done within the time limit
  8. Crochet blanket for my beautiful niece
  9. Tour de Sock 2016 round 6: finished some time after the deadline
  10. Squad Mitts – a surprise present for a good friend
  11. Denise: a toy for de niece, from Edwards Crochet Imaginarium

Aims for 2017:

  • Complete 12 or more knitting/crochet projects
  • Complete 2 or more spinning projects
  • Keep accurate spinning records
  • Knit something from handspun
  • Brioche stitch
  • Watch more Craftsy classes

2016 Reading Challenge final round-up and 2017 challenge launch

Towards the end of the year,  I stopped checking the challenge list for things to read, so I wasn’t sure how many of these I would have managed. I’ve relaxed my rule on not including re-reads and I’m allowing books to appear in more than one category.

  • a book published this year.
    The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
    Poison or Protect, by Gail Carriger
    Angel of Storms, by Trudi Canavan (paperback published this year)
    Imprudence, by Gail Carriger
    Virgins: An Outlander short story, by Diana Gabaldon
  • a book you can finish in a day.
    According to Yes by Dawn French
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read.
    The Hunger Games Trilogy
    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.
    The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Recommended by  White Rose Books in Thirsk.
  • a book you should have read in school.
    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.
    Recommended by my son:
    Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
    Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
    Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
    Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth
    Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian
  • a book published before you were born.
    I’ve had to go to the re-reads for this category.
    The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • a book that was banned at some point.
    Third entry for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • a book you previously abandoned.
    I don’t think I ever managed this category. I did try Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell again, but stalled at about the same place as before.
  • a book you own but have never read.
    having wandered round the house looking at bookshelves, I’m not sure I finished any books in this category. I’ve picked up various work books that I have for reference and read the odd chapter.
  • a book that intimidates you.
    I really don’t think any book intimidates me, but these are the closest I can come to this category
    Girl Up, by Laura Bates. More stridently feminist than I am comfortable with, but I found this a really interesting read. Given that I’m going to be the mother of teenagers before too long, this is a good thing to read and understand the world they are growing up in.
    Jerusalem: The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. I don’t always manage to get to the end of historical books, but I enjoyed this one.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once.
    See here for quite a long list. Towards the end of the year, I’ve also re-read
    The Island, by Victoria Hislop
    The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas

New books read that don’t quite fit any of these categories.
The Pact, by Jodi Picoult
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin
Better than before, by Gretchen Rubin
I really enjoyed these three books. Gretchen has spent a lot of time figuring out what makes her happier and trying different methods of improving her life and her habits. While we are quite different personality types, there was plenty of food for thought there.
Fast Exercise, by Michael Mosley
Vulcan 607, by Rowland White
Prudence,  by Gail Carriger
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson

Over-all, the reading challenge did make me read some books I would never have picked up. The recommendation from your local bookshop category was particularly good. I’ve got into the habit of popping in there and picking up something every two to three months or so.

Here are the 2017 reading challenges from the same person (Modern Mrs Darcy).

I’m not particularly taken with either of them, so here is my own list, taking inspiration from both of them (and last year too).

I’ll include re-reads unless the category particularly excludes them and also allow books to appear in multiple categories.

First, looking at how I spend money on books:

  • A book borrowed from the library
  • A book on Kindle Unlimited
  • A book that has been waiting on your bedside table for a long time
  • A book you own but have never read
  • A book from a second-hand bookshop
  • A book bought in 2017 from an independent bookshop

Second, considering reading that will stretch my mind

  • A book published before 1900
  • A book from a Booker prize shortlist (any year)
  • A book recommended by a friend or family member
  • A historical book (can include biography/autobiography)
  • An academic theological book
  • A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author

Third, including reading that will relax and restore me

  • A Discworld book (re-read)
  • A new book by a favourite author
  • A book I have wanted to read for a while
  • A book that inspires personal growth
  • A spiritual classic
  • Whatever I want to read

Tidy up

Happy New Year. I’m beginning the year with a major focus on tidying up and organising. The blog (although often neglected as usual) is no exception.  New theme (Twenty Seventeen), new header.

Coming soon:

  • An update on the 2016 reading challenge  (done)
  • The state of the stash
  • Completed knitting/crochet projects 2016 (done)

Darn it 2

It only took me nearly 4 months to get round to putting the instructions I linked to in my last post into action.

darn2 darn1

It’s a bit fiddly, and I’m not sure how comfortable it will be in a shoe, but I think it works.

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted

The last three months in brief

  • My thumb is better
  • I got out of the habit of knitting and have had to re-introduce it into my routine
  • Work went crazy for a while, but it is a little calmer at the moment.
  • I’ve been doing huge amounts of reading, but mostly as a kind of warm blanket, so very light reading
  • In June I knitted three pairs of socks for Tour de Sock
  • Since last autumn I’ve been trying to complete 10,000 steps per day using a fitbit. It appears I can either achieve this or knit, not both.

The reading challenge

Bearing in mind my self-imposed extra rule that there should be no re-reads except in the re-read category.

  • a book published this year. The new Ben Aaronovitch is on pre-order, but delayed until October. In the mean time I have have read Poison or Protect, by Gail Carriger. Only a novella, but I very much enjoyed it.
  • a book you can finish in a day. According to Yes by Dawn French
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read. I have shelves full of stuff I’ve been meaning to read, but the lure of the new seems to win.
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Recommended by  White Rose Books in Thirsk.
  • a book you should have read in school. To Kill a Mockingbird. Amazing book. I see what all the fuss is about now.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF. My son has been enjoying the Percy Jackson books, and he has encouraged me to read them too. I’ve read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
  • a book published before you were born. Haven’t got round to thinking about this yet. I’ve had Lorna Doone suggested, but I haven’t made any headway.
  • a book that was banned at some point. Not looked into this yet
  • a book you previously abandoned. Ideas: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Gormenghast, or Wuthering Heights
  • a book you own but have never read. Not got round to looking through the bookshelves yet
  • a book that intimidates you. Although not easily intimidated by literature, I sometimes struggle with feminist writing. I have bought Girl Up, by Laura Bates and I’m working my way through it. I like the style and, although I don’t agree with everything she says, I am beginning to think it should be required reading for every parent. This next generation are going to have a tough time.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once. I’m doing very well with this category. See below

Progress at the beginning of July: six complete, one under way, five to begin

Also-read, in no particular order

I did a complete re-read of all my Gail Carriger books and picked up more of them. I absolutely adore her fantasy world. Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, Timeless, Prudence, Etiquette and Espionage, Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoats and Weaponry, Manners and Mutiny, The Curious Case of the Werewolf that wasn’t etc.

Another mammoth re-read: most of Diana Gabaldon’s output

Vulcan 607, an account of the longest range bombing mission ever, to the Falkland Islands. I heard a talk by the pilot of the mission and read the book over the next couple of days. An incredible story.

Three books by Gretchen Rubin that don’t really fit into any of the categories above: Happier at Home, The Happiness Project and Better than Before. The first two are all about what makes people happy and how to improve our happiness. The third book is about how people form habits. I really enjoyed these.

Finding a voice: A Lent course on The King’s Speech. This one was for work. Really interesting and provoked a lot of fascinating discussion.

I re-read The Nine Tailors and Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers.

The Hunger Games trilogy – heartbreaking dystopia – Also did another re-read of the Twilight series.

I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It would have been better if it wasn’t plastered in reviews raving about the ‘unreliable narrator’. I would have preferred to work that out for myself.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Yeuch. I couldn’t even remember whether it was a re-read or just so similar to his other books. From the library.

Tiny Stations by Dixe Wills. Quintessentially British travelogue. Rather like Bill Bryson, but without the sense of the outsider looking in. Loved it.