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

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

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.

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.

September

September the 1st is a fixture in my calendar: Sock Sniper begins. I’ve already written a little, but wasn’t able to disclose much in my last post. My heart sank when I discovered I had a Canadian target. This would be the year I discovered the truth of whether Canada Post lives up to its reputation.

It did.

My socks were completed on September 4th and posted on September 5th. The made landfall in Canada on September 9th, but didn’t reach their destination until the 24th. I believe it was Canadian customs, rather than Canada Post itself that was the real culprit, but it was infuriating to watch the tracking websites show no update for weeks on end.

Sniper Socks
Sniper Socks

My death came at the hands of yogaknot on September 24th as well.

Lethal Weapon 2015
Lethal Weapon 2015

In between posting and receiving death socks, I busied myself with a secret project that I must get round to posting to France. Then I decided that I really should do some serious work on one of my long-term WIPs.

The sock yarn blanket scarf has been on the needles for 5 years. It made steady progress until it became too big to carry around in a bag and work on during meetings. Every so often, usually for the olympics, I would set a target of knitting a handful of squares. Looking back at photos, I can see that it reached the designated halfway point before February this year, then I realised that there were ‘only’ about 70 squares left to knit and it sounded achievable.  By mid-September I decided that I wanted to wear it to Yarndale, so I knuckled down and knitted as much as possible. In the last few days leading up to Yarndale I had about 40 squares left to do, plus the applied i-cord border to knit and the ends to sew in from the last few sessions.

I called time on the project at midnight the evening before Yarndale. All the squares were knitted, all the ends were sewn in, but there were still about 14 edge squares without a border. So close. I took it to Yarndale anyway, where I showed it to Joy at The Knitting Goddess, since it is approximately 50% her yarn.  She liked it (and you may see some of these pictures on her blog in the next week or two). I’m keeping the rest of the Yarndale stuff for another post.

After a few days, I finished the final bit of the edging and took it outside for some beauty shots.

This, then, is a history of my sock-knitting up until now. It contains at least one square from every sock (or glove) I have ever knitted. It began only 3 years into my knitting career, when I was concerned that my sock-yarn scraps were getting out of hand. With hindsight, I can see they weren’t out of hand at all. At that time I had knitted only 7 pairs of socks and 2 pairs of gloves. Now, it is well over 50 pairs, so there’s a little more variation as it gets up the blanket.

The question remains: will I actually wear it? It’s a little cumbersome for regular wear, but it is lovely wrapped around the shoulders in the evenings.

Now, of course, I need another sock yarn scrap project. I’m not going to do another of these exactly the same because it lost its usefulness as a travelling project when it got too big.  Perhaps I will make squares of about 25 little squares joined together, then seam them all into a bigger item.

WIP round-up

  • I have started the Snow under Cedar sock. Lovely braided cast-on, some colourwork with beading. The next thing to do is another braid, then onto the main colour chart.
  • No progress on the cotton square a month blanket
  • Still unsure what to do with the Greebo socks. Still probably looking at a restart
  • No progress on the Curl
  • No progress on Color Affection
  • New item: pink socks for the little girl. Last week (when I was in the throes of knitting the scarf) she demanded I make her some pink socks. I promised that when I had finished another project, I would. I’m using scraps from various socks for these. So tiny: only 44 stitches at the ankle, so they shouldn’t take long.

Knitting plans

A friend (and blog-reader – Hi Daisy) has a rather large bump, so I need to knit something for her. Are you bothered about it being a surprise, or would you like to see it growing? I have yarn and a plan.

I’ve bought Ysolda’s pattern collection, Knitworthy 2, and I’m very tempted by the gloves.

Perhaps it is time to bite the bullet and make some knee-high socks. I now have three pairs of skeins set aside for knee-highs. I’ve even bought a nice dress for work that might go with them.

What have I been reading?

  • The latest in the Lord Peter Wimsey books, originally by Dorothy L Sayers, but continued by Jill Paton Walsh. It’s called The Late Scholar. I rather enjoyed it, particularly the references to earlier books in the series.
  • Final Witness by Simon Tolkien. No guesses what made me pick this one up in the library! Simon is JRRT’s grandson. Very different writing style and subject matter, but a cracking read. I love stories where it is not obvious who is telling the truth and you have to try to figure it out along with the main characters.
  • On the road bike: the search for the nation’s cycling soul by Ned Boulting. I’m familiar with Ned from ITV’s Tour de France coverage. This was an entertaining parade of anecdotes and stories of cycling in the UK. The world of cycling seems much the same as many other niche interests in terms of the passion of those involved in organising it (and the resentment aimed at those who either don’t understand it or seem to have betrayed it).
  • Who Governs Britain? by Anthony King, Millennium Professor of British Government at the University of Essex. This is a pelican introduction, so short, well-structured and readable. I bought it before the election to see if it would help me to figure out what is going on.  Any large organisation or institution becomes unwieldy as it grows. This is taken to extreme in government. Each chapter deals with a group having more or less power and influence on government, exploring the limits of their power and drawing together all the strands of influence. I’m left wondering how the country functions at all.
  • Currently I’m reading Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue: English And How It Got That Way.
  • For work, I’m also reading Memories, Hopes and Conversations by Mark Lau Branson, and St Teresa’s The Interior Castle

The state of the stash

Yarn Weight Total metres Total Grams
Cobweb 240 30
Lace 3102.1 303
Light Fingering 1797.3 425
Fingering 15992.4 4392
Sport 1161 510
DK 2526.2 1395
Worsted 482.8 240
Aran 1502 890
Bulky 919.1 620
Total 27722.9 8805

Thanks to Ravelry, I can look at how much I have quite easily. Last time I did a stash inventory in 2013, I had 8.67kg of yarn. Looks like I’ve been remarkably consistent and only added less than 150g of yarn since then. This is not quite true: I’ve just gone through and excluded all my scraps and leftover balls from my stash, thus bringing down the totals considerably. When it comes to yardage, I’ve added about 2 miles of yarn to the stash. (When I did this round-up in 2013, I converted all the distances to Miles, chains, yards and feet. Can’t be bothered to do that today, so an approximation will have to do).

That’s a wrap

A wrap?

Well, actually, no – not a literal wrap but rather some socks, a strange square item and a blanket.

It’s all about finishing projects this year. I’ve been aiming for one a month and I’m up to date.

April came in a few days late, but the camouflage lace socks are done and dusted, a mere 11 months after their debut on the needles.

finished socks

They really did come out pretty much exactly as I hoped. The camouflage colours have pooled and swirled exactly as needed, particularly on the legs. The feet are almost striping, but not too regularly.

Here’s the nice daylight shot.

the beauty shot

The boring but beautiful garter blanket has been finished, along with a little surprise extra, meeting my arbitrary May finished item deadline, but steaming right on past the arrival of Baby Joshua, who is now over a week old. Never mind, he’ll get it before too long. There were a LOT of ends to sew in, but I think I got the hang of sewing in ends on garter stitch after a while.

blankie

Here’s the strange square object:

squarething

It is the sampler piece for Franklin Habit’s Craftsy class on Heirloom Lace Edgings: four pieces of the same edging attached in different ways: one knitted on, one in herringbone, one in whip stitch and one in a modified version of mattress stitch. It’s been a good exercise, and I could listen to Franklin all day. This item is definitely one to tuck away in a box somewhere: I can’t think of a sensible use for it. I have one more chapter in this class to listen to and work through, then onto one of the spinning classes I bought in the sale earlier in the year.

We got a Google Chromecast earlier in the year and it has really come into its own with the Craftsy classes. I watch them using the Craftsy app on the tablet, then cast the screen to the tv.

WIP update

  • No progress on the cotton square a month blanket
  • A few squares added to the sock yarn scarf
  • The crochet amigurumi project has gone into hibernation – in fact it has gone home with my Mum to be finished. I don’t like the yarn, or the tight gauge needed for stuffed objects and I can’t face making another three elephants. Happily, Mum can.
  • New item: Rachel Coopey’s Greebo socks in the Greebo colourway from Knitting Goddess. This is a same-difference set of sock yarn: one set of yellow yarn with grey bits and one set of grey yarn with yellow.
  • New item: Ianthine: A Curl from Hunter Hammersen’s book Curls. Using lace-weight handspun that I bought from Grace and Jacob when they had their shop in York. There really isn’t enough of the handspun for a full scarf, but I can’t think what else to use it for. At least with a Curl, you just keep going until all the yarn is gone and there isn’t really a right size for it. I tried a few different gauges until I found one I liked. It’s been a while since I knitted with lace-weight.

Reading update

I did pick up Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell again. I started from the beginning and got about two chapters further on than I did last time before getting bored. I will try and finish it, but I really don’t care much what happens to the characters. I’ve got the new BBC dramatization recording, so I would like to finish the book before watching that. I got sidetracked into a complete re-read of The Earth’s Children series by Jean M Auel.

Biographies are always part of my reading life: perhaps the only non-frivolous reading I regularly commit to. This spring I’ve really enjoyed Rowan’s Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop, by Rupert Shott. Now I’ve moved onto Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. The biography of Rowan Williams was very interesting from a work point of view, since it analyses events and trends from the recent past. Looking back, it puts a different perspective on it than it felt living through it at the time. I’m rather enjoying the mathematical bits of the Alan Turing book. So far, it’s a good general introduction to the state of mathematical thinking at the beginning of the 1930s, as well as a horrifying view of the lack of respect for scientific education at the time.

I also finished the complete re-read of the Yarn Harlot’s blog just after Easter and very much enjoyed it. It’s like spending time with someone you know very well. Bizarre, this blogging thing, isn’t it? The number of people whose blogs I’ve been reading for years without them knowing the first thing about me.

Spinning update

That needs a whole other post I think. There is yarn.