Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 2018 WIPocalypse Check-In

I was pretty pleased with my progress on things this month: One finish (actually an FFO), and good progress on 3 other projects as well.

I finished the February Word Play WIP.  Design by Brenda Gervais.  I stitched this 1 over 2 on a 32-count R&R Reproductions linen in Creme Brulee'.  I used most of the called-for GAST threads but substituted a Classic Colorworks (Cherry Cobbler) for the red that I didn't have and Colour and Cotton's Heirloom Gold for the palest yellow that I was missing.

A fun, cute small-ish stitch and a nice balance to the seemingly never-ending list of BAPs I keep starting.  I finished this off with a red/natural cotton ticking backing and I have it out on a table in the living room near the door.

I managed a page finish on my Winter's Encounter.  Charted by Heaven and Earth Designs with artwork by Laura Prindle.  I'm stitching this 1 over 1 full-crosses on a 25-count Easy Guide Lugana with DMC.

I made some good progress on my Desert Mandala. Design by Martina Rosenberg/Chatelaine.  Mostly the called-for floss with a couple of minor substitutions and I'm stitching this 2 over 2 on a 28-count Lugana from Picture This Plus in Calypso.  This month's rotation I managed to finish half of the cacti around the interior border.  Next month, I'll move the fabric down and work on the top half.

Finally, I put in 5 days' of stitching on my Six of Swords from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law's Tarot series.  Charted by Heaven and Earth Designs and worked in the called-for DMC.  I'll be putting in another 5 days on this at least this month as I'd like to meet my page finish goal on it. 

The January Question of The Month is: What SALs are you participating in this year, and if you are participating in the Olympic Stitching Challenge, what challenge are you accepting?

I'm really only doing this WIPocalypse SAL and the Full Coverage Fanatic group themed SALs.  I may pop in and do a few of the Stitch Maynia ones as the year progresses, but I am so swamped at work for the next 3 months, I don't really have bandwidth for the Olympic challenge, unfortunately, but maybe for the summer Olympics when they roll around again!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Spinning Friday: January 26, 2018

I finished up my first official spin of 2018.

Fiber: 100% superwash merino wool.
Dyer: Oceanwind Knits, from the 2017 Oh Canada fiber club.
Colorway: Lake Louise.
Specs: 230 yards/4 oz of DK-weight 2-ply.

I loved spinning up this soft, bouncy fiber.  It was an easy spin which I spun fractally, splitting one half of the braid into 8ths and one half into 3rds. No specific project earmarked for this, although it's a guy-friendly enough colorway I might use it for a hat or other accessory for the Mittens for Akkol group.

Currently on the wheel is a set of 1-oz colorways from a 4-color Potions Pack, dyed by Two If By Hand.  Colorways include: Luna Lovegood, My Little Pony, Shimmer and Fairy Wings.  I'll be spinning these up into little mini skeins and then will use them (and possibly also the other 2 packs' worth I've got) for striped socks or mittens.

I've got the first oz spun up, and I've started on the singles of the second.  Probably won't get much work done on these this weekend while I'm visiting with family, but will get back to them next week.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stitching Update: January 23, 2018

Last week, I had 5 days slated to work on my Desert Mandala from Chatelaine.   Here's my stopping point after those 5 days' worth of time with it:

I've finished about half of the cacti motifs around the center panel.  These are almost all worked in silks (so pretty! so soft!) with the exception of the little orange blossoms and the pale yellow on the sagebrush. I'm stitching this on a 28-count Lugana in the Calypso colorway from Picture This Plus fabrics. I'm at the point where it's time to roll the fabric up so I can work on the top portion, which is what I will do next go-round and try to finish up the remaining cacti motifs.

I think my plan once those are done will be to work just on the top half until that is finished and then move the fabric again to work on the bottom half.  (I say this like I'll be zipping through that, but this is a BIG project with lots of detail, so it'll be a while).  The next sections to be worked on this will be a speciality stitch octagon-shaped border around the cacti, and then the exterior landscape motifs and the feathers that go between them.  

Once I had finished work for this rotation on my Chatelaine, I moved over to work on another full coverage piece.  This is Six of Swords from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law's Tarot collection, charted by Heaven and Earth Designs.  I'm stitching this on 25-count Easy Guide fabric.  I had the first 800 stitches put in to this already, and I'll be working on this through the end of the month of January (albeit a bit hit and miss since I've got some travel coming up).

I'll see how far I get on this one, but I'd like to try for a page finish by the end of February, if I can, to keep up with my personal Year of WIPs/WIPocalypse goals of a page finish on each of my full-coverage pieces in 2018.  (For those of you keeping score, there will be 6 full-coverage pieces on the go this year.)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 4

I finished In the Belly of the Elephant by Susan Corbett this week.  This was for the week 5 topic - a book about or inspired by real events.

Book Summary:  Everybody needs to run away from home at least once. Susan Corbett told people she was out to save the world, but really she was running--running from her home as much as to anywhere. Like many women, she was searching for meaning to her life or for a good man to share it with. In Africa, she hoped to find both. 

Compelling and compassionate, In the Belly of the Elephant is Susan's transformative story of what happens when you decide to try to achieve world peace while searching for a good man. More than a fish-out-of-water story, it's a surprising and heart-rending account of her time in Africa trying to change the world as she battles heat, sandstorms, drought, riots, intestinal bugs, burnout, love affairs and more than one meeting with death. Against a backdrop of vivid beauty and culture, in a narrative interwoven with a rich tapestry of African myths and fables, Susan learns the true simplicity of life, and discovers people full of kindness, wisdom and resilience, and shares with us lessons we, too, can learn from her experiences.

My Rating/Review:  3/5 stars.  What I liked:  This was a fascinating personal story about one woman's desire to find a place for herself in the world.  Raised in a conservative (Catholic and Mormon) family in rural Idaho, the author decided to join the Peace Corps and worked overseas in Africa.  This book covers the course of 2 of those years overseas.  During her time as a relief worker, she comes to know (and love like family) the people in the small town she is  based in.  Her descriptions of her fellow aid workers, the villagers, the landscape that is her part of Africa were wonderful, and I appreciated that she pulled in more of the unrest and war that was happening in Africa in the mid-90s (especially in Somalia) without bashing you over the head with it.  What I didn't like: All very well and good that she was "looking for a good man", but there was a bit more navel gazing about this topic than I really needed to hear.  For me, it kept being an interruption of the rest of the storyline, which I very much wanted to read more about, and by the end of the book, I found it disruptive enough I skimmed over those parts to get back to hearing about her trip to Kenya, and whether or not the local weaver's guild was able to repay their thread loans at the end of the year.  

I am glad I picked up this book and read it.  It's outside my normal go-to kind of reading, which, for me, is all about why I do this yearly reading challenge.  It's not one I would put on a permanent bookshelf and go back and read again, but I am glad I read it, which I suppose is a recommendation to some extent in and of itself. I also really enjoyed how the author interwove traditional African folklore with her own personal journey (the title refers to one of these tales) - a nice addition to her own personal tale of growth and personal development. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Knitting Update: January 19, 2018

I finished up my Bolt Shawl this week.  I knit mine using 2 colors of Aerten Sock (80/10/10 SW merino/cashmere/nylon) in Soot (dark gray) and Chimney Sweep (speckle dye).

Pattern design by Veera Valimaki.  I used approximately 260 yards/60 g of Chimney Sweep and 218 yards/50 g of Soot to knit mine.

Very fun construction - and a quick knit to boot.  It features garter stitch stripes, short row shaping, multidirectional knitting and some plain garter stitch.   I would categorize this more as a large scarf than a true shawl - it's not very big - but it was a blast to knit AND I got to use a couple of my favorite colorways for the Wooly Wonkapalooza "gray" prompt. 

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.

WIPocalypse October 2018 Check-In

I worked on a bunch of things this month as I've settled back into a 5-day rotation on my projects, which seems to be working pretty wel...