Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stitching Update: January 16, 2018

I rotated back to my Winter's Encounter project for the past 5 days and made some good progress on it.

I managed to finish all of page 1 (which is the top left-hand corder of the piece), and added another 300 stitches just below that page to start page...uh.... 5, I think it is?  Whatever the next row of the pattern would be - and that puts me just over the halfway mark in that first column of stitches!

This one will be on hold for the next 5 days while I work on my Chatelaine Desert Mandala.  I think I will probably work on that and then switch off to another full coverage piece, my Six of Swords tarot card image by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law for the remainder of the month. 

I'd like to see if I can make a page finish happen on Six of Swords while it's up for rotation as my "Air" element project in the Full Coverage Fanatics group.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 3

I did a lot of reading this week!  First up, I finished my choice for week 4's prompt: Books linked by the 4 elements - earth.  I selected Breath of Earth by Beth Cato.

Book Summary:  In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer Wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills. 

When assassins kill the Wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . . 

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

My Rating/Review:  4/5 stars.  A fun read.  I particularly liked the fact that our heroine is a mix of different cultures, while still managing to kick-butt in a girl power sort of way.  I also appreciated this was not the typical Steampunk Victorian England setting, but rather San Francisco on the eve of what would be the Great Earthquake.  A good cast of characters - I enjoyed finding out about Ingrid's powers/skills as she discovered them for herself, and loved the mythology tie-ins.  The book is obviously meant to be a set-up to the rest of the series, which I will probably read.  It reached a semi-satisfactory conclusion where some of the loose ends were tied up.  I'll be interested to see how the author develops the rest of the plot since there's obviously a lot that we, the readers, and Ingrid don't yet know about the forces behind the forces. 

I also started and finished The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco this week, for the week 9 prompt: A book with a body part in the title.

Book Summary:  Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

My Rating/Review:  4/5 stars.  A very well-written, almost lyrical book. My main complaint is that it really doesn't finish the story here - I know... I complain about this a lot... but I think books should be able to stand alone with a completed story and not leave one hanging waiting for the next in the series.  (And there is a second one in the works, due out this year - 2018 - at some point).  That said, this was a great young adult-type read.  The main character, Tea, is strong and intelligent, and while she has a lot of growing up to do in the book, she's still a great role model-type character. I liked the way the author bracketed each chapter of the history of her development as a dark Asha and her exploration of her magical powers with a contemporary storyline (which I am hoping is further developed and expanded on in the sequel).  I was also impressed with the level of descriptive details included in the story - they always make or break a book for me and there were lots of them here.  I bookmarked many of the descriptions of the kimono-type garments the Ashas wear as design inspiration for "someday".  A wonderful adventure story, a great heroine and good supporting cast = lots to enjoy in this one.  A recommended read. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Stitching Update: January 11, 2018

A few things to update y'all on over the last week:

I finished up Wipocalypse/Year of WIPs 2018 project #1.  This is February Word Play by Brenda Gervais.

I stitched this 1/2 on a 32-count linen from R&R Reproductions in the Creme Brulee colorway.  I used mostly the called-for GAST threads, although I didn't have 2 of the colors, so I substituted Cherry Cobbler from Classic Colorworks for the red and Heirloom Gold from Colour and Cotton for the pale yellow in the center of the flowers.  I backed this using a red and white striped cotton ticking fabric.

I'm quite fond of the little Colonial couple - super cute!

Since I had set aside 5 days in my rotation to work on this project, and it only took me 2 to finish it up, I used the remaining 3 days to pull out the Every Heart pincushion from Shepherd's Bush.  This little kit came with everything to stitch up the design - pattern, linen, needle, threads, buttons and finishing ribbon/seed pearls.  I didn't quite it finished, but I did make enough progress I think I can finish it up in February during my WIP project 5-day rotation slot. I'd really like to have this one to display during July this year!

Finally, I got my Colour and Cotton FOTM club fabric.  This gorgeous colorway is "Oasis" and it's shown here on 28-count Jobelan. 

Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Knitting Wednesday: January 10, 2018

Happy ro report I have the finished sample/contract knit done!  It's blocked, buttons are sewn on and after I do some photographs shortly, it'll be ready to go to layout.  This one will be an exclusive pattern available only through Greenwood Fiberworks, and my lovely friend, Carolyn's shop.  She'll have it for sale (and the yarn to go with it at Stitches West too!)  Yes..yes... it's a tease since I can't show it to you yet, but it a really pretty piece.

With that off the needles Monday, I've been putting some stitches into my Bolt shawl.  Here's where I am on that one currently:

I'll likely focus on making some progress on that over the next week. 

In the meantime, however, I've also started swatching for my next sekret design knit project - this one for the next issue of Filament magazine. I'm playing around with some colorway options, but I do know it will be knit from Miss Babs Yet which is a heavy laceweight, 80/20 merino/silk yarn.  I've picked some totally "me" colors for this one too!

This is swatching up really nicely - I like the slightly crisp hand from the tight yarn twist and I think it's still going to have gorgeous drape when it's done.

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 2

The theme of week 2 was a book from the first 10 books added to your Goodreads To-Read list.  I picked The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone.

Book Summary:  A haunting, compelling historical novel, The Sea Road is a daring retelling of the 11th-century Viking exploration of the North Atlantic from the viewpoint of one extraordinary woman. Gudrid lives at the remote edge of the known world, in a starkly beautiful landscape where the sea is the only connection to the shores beyond. It is a world where the old Norse gods are still invoked even as Christianity gains favor, where the spirits of the dead roam the vast northern ice-fields, tormenting the living, and Viking explorers plunder foreign shores. Taking the accidental discovery of North America as its focal point, Gudrid's narrative describes a multilayered voyage into the unknown, all recounted with astonishing immediacy and rich atmospheric detail.

My Rating/Review:  3-1/2 out of 5 stars.  I wanted to like this book more than I did.  The basic story and premise of the book were great, but I felt it lacked....something... Closure?  I had originally tossed this book into the To-Read list since I'm very interested in Viking culture and I thought a book written from a woman's viewpoint would have some of that.  It does, but only sort of peripherally.  The story is told in flashbacks of the main character, Gudrin's, life to a young monk in Rome.  The book vaguely hints towards some other history - like... why does anyone in Rome and the clergy care anything about this woman's story - and there are 2 pages at the end of the book that sort of sum up what was happening with the Papacy and Rome in the 11th century but it really doesn't tie together and I'm even a history major and I had to stop and go look up details (and yes, a history major with lots of reading done fairly close to this time period).  That aside, I found the fact that certain sections of the book are Gudrin telling her tale and included asides she's making to the young man/monk who is the scribe of her story, and all of his dialogue is missing.  That was an odd choice, I thought, to advance the story.  Ultimately, it covers the explorations of Eric the Red into the North American continent and other Viking voyages to what they refer to as Vinland.   Netflix actually has a great documentary about the long houses and other evidence of Viking life found on the coast of Newfoundland, and I liked the fact that the author obviously had done her research on those archealogical findings but I felt like some of the book was really contrived and that there could have been a more seamless blending of the narrative with all those historical details.   Liked it, but didn't love it - appreciated the details but felt the story-telling lacked a bit. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Spinning Friday: January 5, 2018

A bit late, but I finished up my final 2017 spin on January 2, 2018 (and since most of it was spun during 2017, I'm not counting it in my 2018 production.)

Fiber: 80/20 superfine merino/cashmere roving - OMG! SOFT!
Dyer: Oceanwind Knits.  This is from an ancient fiber club from Lori.
Colorway: Peppi.
Specs: 208 yards/1.9 oz of a 2-ply fingering weight.

Super smooth and easy to spin, this one was an absolute delight to put on the wheel.  Originally this was colorway #2 of a 2-braid set for the club, but I spun the other 2 ounces (which were plain merino, if memory serves) a while ago and knit them up for something else.  Enough yardage here for fingerless mitts and the skein is a lovely herby-green color with slate blue highlights.

I have two spinning-related resolutions for 2018:
1.  Spin 15 minutes a day if I'm at home (which I am most of the time).
2.  Spin at least 5 pounds of fiber from stash.

With those in mind (and with the Wooly Wonkapalooza "gray" colorway prompt as well), I grabbed another Oceanwind Knits roving from this year's fiber club to tackle first this year. 

This is from February 2017 (so, comparatively speaking, not that ancient for my stash).  It's inspired by a photograph of Lake Louise in Alberta. All of Lori's 2017 club fiber colorways were themed on something Canadian (she's near Toronto).  This is on superwash merino.

I've started spinning the first half of singles and I'm looking to make a sportweight(ish) 2-ply yarn from this for either socks or mittens.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Stitching Update: January 4, 2017

A quick update on my stitching progress for this week.

  • While it's not cross-stitch, it is stitching.  For my New Year, New Start, I began my holiday gift from last year from my SIL/BIL/nephews that they picked up on a tour to France.  This is the motif of Harold on his destrier with his hunting falcon from the Bayeux tapestry.  It came as a kit with the stamped pattern on fabric and wool threads to use.  I was happy to find several tutorial videos on YouTube.  The best of these (IMHO) were the series by Sarah Homfray.  Her explanations are super clear and she's shot video looking down at what she's working on in which you can see the entire piece.  I made a small start on mine, choosing to start work on Harold's sleeve.  I plan to pick this up occasionally throughout the year and see if I can get it finished over the next 12 months. 

  • Next up, I've been trying to put in at least 100 stitches a day (more if I can squeeze it in) on my Winter's Encounter.  This is the mini version from HAED. Artwork by Laura Prindle.  I'm currently at about 6% complete on this and I want to try for a page finish this month, which I'm pretty sure I can accomplish. I've reached the top right-hand corner of page 1, and the bottom left-hand corner as well.  I love how many colors go into a seemingly monochromatic mane and snowbank!

  • Finally, I've just started working on my February Word Play by Brenda Gervais.  My goal is to finish this during the month of January.  I've only put a few threads into it so far this month, but it'll get some focused time next weekend with any luck and I'm hoping to make really good progress on it then. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Knitting Wednesday: January 3, 2018

I'm really going to try to make sure I do more scheduled posts here on the blog in 2018!  (Giving myself permission to slide a bit when I'm on travel but otherwise, I'll attempt to be better about posting here.)

This week, I'm working on a few different knit projects:

  • I'm in the home stretch on the contract design sweater I've been working on for what seems like ForEVER. The plan is to finish that up this week.  I ordered and received the buttons I need to fully finish it post-blocking, and it'd be really nice to have that off my plate. 

  • I am hosting a year-long craftalong over in my Ravelry Group - Wooly Wonkapalooza 2018.  Each month we'll have a different set of prompts to try to motivate everyone (me included!) to get some crafting done - spinning, knitting, crocheting are all fair game.  January's prompts are lace projects and/or gray.  I've opted to cast on Veera Valimaki's Bolt Shawl in Aerten Sock in Chimney Sweep and Soot.  Just a small start on this, but it's a start!

On deck, I've got new designs to work on for Filament magazine's spring collection.  I've got yarn in hand for 2 of those, and another project's worth en route, so I'll have plenty to keep my needles busy.  I think the first thing I'll likely tackle is a colorwork set - I've got basic charting done on that and I'll be able to cast on once I take a look at some gauge numbers. 

Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 1

Hello all!  I'm delighted to kick off 2018 with a great book: The City of Brass, and fulfilled the topic for week #1 of A Book with A, T & Y in the title.

Book Summary:  Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.  After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for.

My Rating/Review:  4/5 stars.  I loved the fact that this fantasy with a historical fiction vibe was set in Cairo and the magical city of Daevabad.  The main character was a spunky, interesting, layered character and the development of the city and it's history was seamlessly interwoven with the adventure story of the heroine and the djinn warrior she summons.  A fun read with lots of great details you can sink your teeth into.  This is the first in a trilogy series, so there's a bit of a "left hanging" moment at the end, but this first one was well enough written I'll likely look for more by this author to finish filling out the entire story and didn't spoil the storyline contained within this one.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2018 Wipocalypse and beyond!

If you watch my podcasts at all that are stitching related, you'll know I'm planning on participating in several online-hosted stitchalong-type things in 2018.  Nicely enough, my plans fit together pretty well for all of these to triple-dip as I work on things this year.  I'm planning on participating in Stitch from Stash 2018 and since I'm the group founder/moderator of Full Coverage Fanatics, of course I'll be working thru most of the yearly SALs I created over there.  I'm also doing my own indie Year of WIPs challenge, basically following the guidelines in the Soulful Stitchers group, but not all of them, so I'm going rogue on that one. 

In addition, I'm going to be participating in 2018 Wipocalypse - it fits in really nicely with my work down the WIPs goals, and I'm of the opinion that any sort of public forum helps keep me accountable and on track. For 2018, I've set up a separate page here at the blog, which has all of my current works in progress.  Pictures there of what they should all look like when they are finished.

Here's my grand plan for 2018:

  1. Finish 6 of the small-sized pieces. That will include: 
    1. A Bowl Full of Scaries.
    2. Believe.
    3. February Word Play.
    4. Every Heart Beats True.
    5. Welcome Autumn.
    6. Key to My Heart. 
  2. Work on each of the other pieces that are not full coverage designs for a minimum of one 5-day rotation over the course of the year.   Those will include: 
    1. Autumn Leaves.
    2. When Witches Go Riding.
    3. Winter Garden.
    4. Desert Mandala.
    5. Shoot the Moon.
    6. The Star Gazer. 
    7. Village of Hawk Run Hollow.
    8. 12 Days of Christmas.
  3. Work on my full coverage designs as pertinent for the SALs in Full Coverage Fanatics.  Overly optimistic, but a goal I'm going to shoot for is a page finish on each one of these:
    1. Winter's Encounter.
    2. Six of Swords
    3. Stitching Shelf.
    4. Witch Way
    5. River's Edge
    6. Gypsy Firefly. 
I've got a 5-day rotation set up.  I'm going to try that at least for the first couple of months and see if I can make that work for myself in terms of making some progress but not getting totally burned out on any one piece.  Since the Wipocalypse SAL is mostly blog-based (although they do now have a Facebook group - see link above), I'll be posting progress as I go along here - and will hopefully also help me remember to actually post posts during the year.  

Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Reading Challenge - FINISHED!

Hello and happy Christmas Eve to you all!

I'm super delighted to say that I've finished all 52 books for this year's Around the Year in 52 Books challenge.  I finished up the final one, The Time Traveller's Almanac yesterday.  I'm really looking forward to next year's prompts and I've already got the first couple of months' worth lined up (tentatively at least).

Some highlights from the year:
1.  The Raven Boys.  A surprise sleeper for me.  I am not normally a huge YA fan, but I LOVED this book and will definitely be reading more of the series at some point.
2.  Daughter of the Forest and Tower of Thorns.  Really happy I found another author whose entire body of works I would happily read going forward.
3. The Settling Earth.  Without this challenge I would never have picked up this book - it probably wouldn't even have ever hit my radar, and it was so good!  This, in a nutshell, is the reason I love this challenge.  It spurs me on to select books I wouldn't ever pick up and to find some excellent writing that would have stayed unknown to me.

I hope that whatever reading choices you make for next year for yourself, they are all good ones! 

Happy holidays!

The 2017 List
1. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2016: The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel.
2. A book with at least 2 perspectives (multiple points of view): Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce.
3. A book you meant to read in 2016: A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott.
4. A title that doesn't contain the letter "E":  Longbourn by Jo Baker.
5. A historical fiction: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.
6. A book being released as a movie in 2017:  Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout.
7. A book with an animal on the cover or in the title: The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht.
8. A book written by a person of color: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
9. A book in the middle of your To Be Read list: Speaks the Night Bird by Robert McCammon
10. A dual-timeline novel: The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor.
11. A category from another challenge: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.
12. A book based on a myth:  Summerlong by Peter Beagle.
13. A book recommended by one of your favorite authors: The Lodestar of Ys by Amy Durreson.
14. A book with a strong female character: The Ornatrix by Kate Howard.
15. A book written or set in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland): A Death in Sweden by Kevin Wignall.
16. A mystery: By Book or by Crook by Eva Gates.
17. A book with illustrations:  Prairie Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
18. A really long book (600+ pages): The Time Traveler's Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.
19. A New York Times best-seller: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
20. A book that you've owned for a while but haven't gotten around to reading: Just One Damn Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor.
21. A book that is a continuation of a book you've already read: A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor.
22. A book by an author you haven't read before:  The Secrets of Wishtide, by Kate Saunders.
23. A book from the BBC "The Big Read" list (link) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
24. A book written by at least two authors: Jane Austen's England by Roy and Lesley Adams.
25. A book about a famous historical figure: The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg.
26. An adventure book:  The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.
27. A book by one of your favorite authors: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
28. A non-fiction: The Lost World of the Old Ones by David Roberts.
29. A book published outside the 4 major publishing houses (Simon & Schuster; HarperCollins; Penguin Random House; Hachette Livre) - check all the editions:  Wool by Hugh Howey.
30. A book from Goodreads Top 100 YA Books (link): The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.
31. A book from a sub-genre of your favorite genre: Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster.
32. A book with a long title (5+ words, excluding subtitle):  I Shall Be Near to You by Erin McCabe.
33. A magical realism novel: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
34. A book set in or by an author from the Southern Hemisphere: The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns.
35. A book where one of the main characters is royalty: The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean.
36. A Hugo Award winner or nominee (link): The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Kowal.
37. A book you choose randomly: A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell.
38. A novel inspired by a work of classic literature: Lady MacBeth by Susan Fraser King.
39. An epistolary fiction: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
40. A book published in 2017: A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang.
41. A book with an unreliable narrator: His Bloody Project by Graeme McRae Burnet.
42. A best book of the 21st century (so far): The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
43. A book with a chilling atmosphere (scary, unsettling, cold):  Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase.
44. A recommendation from "What Should I Read Next" (link): Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier.
45. A book with a one-word title: Uprooted by Naomi Novik.
46. A time travel novel:  Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon.
47. A past suggestion that didn't win (link) - A book you saw a stranger reading: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff.
48. A banned book: So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins.
49. A book from someone else's bookshelf: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguru.
50. A Penguin Modern Classic - any edition: Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett.
51. A collection (e.g. essays, short stories, poetry, plays) : Beyond the Woods; Fairy Tales Retold by Paula Guran.
52. A book set in a fictional location: Stronger than Magic by Melinda VanLone.

Stitching Update: January 16, 2018

I rotated back to my Winter's Encounter project for the past 5 days and made some good progress on it. I managed to finish all of p...