Monday, November 30, 2015

What I Read: November

In November, I read mostly children's books. I didn't plan it that way, but it might have something to do with this bookish YouTube channel that I enjoy watching. She was doing a children's literature month in November, so that might have accidentally influenced me. :) As always, click on the title to read my full review.

One + One = Blue, by M.J. Auch. This one wasn't what I was expecting. I picked it up because the main characters have synesthesia, a condition that I'm really interested in. But the synesthesia aspect wasn't a very big part of the book. Things got a little crazy near the end and went in a direction I didn't expect, and overall I was just disappointed.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling. Obviously this was a reread, but the new illustrated edition totally warrants a reread. This book is so, so gorgeous. The illustrations are perfect and my only complaint is that there aren't quite enough of them! :)

The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson. Why is this book not a famous classic that every kid reads? I want every children's book to be like this one: charming and funny and addicting. (And British. What is it with the British and their weird ability to write children's books better than everyone else?) I couldn't believe that this book was just published in the has such a classic, timeless feel. It reminded me of Roald Dahl with a bit of Narnia and Harry Potter thrown in. So yes, this is a new favorite.

Winter, by Marissa Meyer. The conclusion of the Lunar Chronicles! It didn't blow me away, but it was everything I could have wanted in the last book. Winter was a great character (slightly unhinged, but still endearing), and I feel like the fairy tale parallels were especially strong with her story.

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke. I've had a copy of this book for a long time. It was completely different from what I was expecting, but in a good way. Victor was my favorite character, by far. :) The bit of magic at the end threw me off, but it didn't take away from the story. (I watched the film after finishing the book and didn't like it very much. But Mr. Carson was great as Victor, ha!)

The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson. I always have mixed feelings about Bill Bryson's books. I love reading travel memoirs and he can be so funny, but goodness, he can be such a sarcastic jerk. I start off enjoying his books (this one made me laugh a lot near the beginning), but by the end, I'm sick of his negativity and crudeness. Of the four of his books that I've read so far, this isn't one of my favorites.

The Reptile Room, by Lemony Snicket. Another reread....sometimes it's nice to pick up something that you can read in a couple of hours, and I needed something fun after The Lost Continent! :) I always liked this book because Uncle Monty is a great character (I love the film portrayal of him, too).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Knitting: TARDIS mitts.

My first colorwork project is finished! One of my goals over the past year (and last year, too, I think?) was to learn how to knit colorwork. It turns out that, just like everyone said, it wasn't as scary as I'd expected. :)

I used the Police Box Mittens pattern, though obviously I chose the fingerless gloves version. The only real change I made was to add a thumb gusset instead of doing an afterthought thumb. A lot of people mentioned in their project pages that they added a gusset or wished they'd added one, but nobody really gave specific instructions for how to do so. I'm not good at improvising, but I looked at several other patterns and managed to figure it out. (I went into more detail on my project page.) I also went down to size 1 needles (the smallest I've ever knit with!) because the mitts were turning out huge on size 2's. They're still slightly big, especially around the wrist. The yarn is KnitPicks Palette, in celestial and silver. It was splitty at times, but I like how it's wooly and slightly fuzzy.

You can definitely tell that I'm new to colorwork if you look closely. :) My tension puckered the knitting a bit at the edges, and in some spots you can see the blue through the gray where I trapped the floats...especially on the thumb gusset. But even though they're not perfect, I'm so proud of these! They were really addicting to work on. It's sort of like using self-striping yarn: I would always think, one more repeat, and then I'll stop. Being able to knit colorwork opens up a ton of new pattern possibilities. (I have been eyeing this sweater for a long time!)

Ravelry project page.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Knitting: marigold dyed hat (and a new sweatshirt).

Back in the spring, I won a skein of Liesl's naturally dyed yarn in a giveaway (ironically, on a blog that I'd just started reading, though I've been following Liesl's blog for a long time). It was some DK organic Merino, dyed with marigolds...a gorgeous shade of yellow, which happens to be my favorite color. Originally I had other plans, but ended up deciding on a hat.

I used the FreshMint pattern, and while the larger size should theoretically have been snug on my head, it was too big. So I went down a needle size and it seems to have worked out okay. I'm still not crazy about how loose it is at the crown, but I really like the chevron design made from purl stitches.

The yarn was wonderful to knit with, of course. It's so soft but still feels sturdy, and I love the color. When I posted a work in progress picture of this hat here, someone had mentioned that they wished they could pull off wearing this color. Honestly, while I know what colors I'm drawn to and which ones I wear the most, I'm not one of those people who knows what colors match with their skin tone, hair color, etc. I don't know if this is a color I "should" be wearing or not, but that doesn't bother me.

Ravelry project page.

I made this sweatshirt last week, and while it's not very flattering, it's probably the most cozy garment I've ever sewn. :) Of course, it was made from the Renfrew shirt pattern. The fabric is this sweatshirt fleece from Girl Charlee, which is made in America. It looks like a regular knit on the outside, but the wrong side is a brushed fleece. Because sweatshirt fleece is supposed to not be as stretchy as regular knit fabric, I added an inch to each side seam because obviously I didn't want a sweatshirt to be too tight. But this fabric has a lot of stretch, and making it bigger wasn't necessary at all. I ended up taking in the side seams until it was about the normal size of my t-shirts. I'm not sure how well this sweatshirt will hold up (the fleece side shed a lot when I prewashed it), but for now, it sure is comfortable. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I've never been what you would call a minimalist, not in any way. My idea of a cozy home is one where there are lots of quilts thrown across couches and too many books on the bookshelves. It won't look like a picture in a magazine, but it will be comfortable and lived in and full of things that I love. (Maybe that's the problem...I love too many things, ha! Right now my bedroom walls are overcrowded with art prints and pictures and embroidered pieces, because I'm trying to fit so many things that I love into one room.)

I am peculiar about being organized and having things in their place, though. I feel distracted if my stuff isn't where it belongs. I think I have to be that way, in this case, or things can quickly clutter up.

But lately it seems that certain aspects of Slow Fashion October have been creeping into other areas of my life. I've been trying to weed through my books and movies, deciding what should stay and what should go. I've accumulated a lot of them over the years, and for some reason, it has suddenly become overwhelming. I feel like I'm getting to a point in my life where I'm happy with less.

I love movies, and I like seeing movies that I've never seen before. But when it comes down to it, I have my absolute favorites that I end up watching over and over. So I sorted through my DVDs and ended up with a stack of nearly twenty movies. I've been systematically watching through those to decide if they're worth keeping or not. (So far I'm only keeping one.)

And then there are the books. I'm a reader...I accumulate books. I want my shelves to be full of my favorite stories: the books that mean something or the ones that I know I'll reread. I own a lot of books that I haven't read yet (too many), but I'm hesitant to get rid of most of those until I know what I think of them. But if I currently have zero interest in reading a book, it's probably time for it to go. I had an old two-volume set of Les Miserables. I'm always hearing about that story, and I'd like to try it sometime during my life, but right now? I have no interest in reading a huge book with tiny print that involves a lot of history that I know nothing it's going. As for the books that I have read and thought they were just okay, why are they still taking up space on my shelves? If I know I won't read them again, why am I keeping them?

I'll probably take the DVDs to a thrift store, but I'm not sure what to do with the books. Any suggestions? Over the past couple of years I've donated a lot of books to the Little Free Libraries in our town, and I will be doing that again with some of these. But others are newer releases and in like-new condition, so I'd like to do something different. I looked into Paperback Swap, but it seems that they now charge fees. I might try to find a used bookstore nearby that will either buy them or trade store credit for them (our town, sadly, doesn't have a bookstore).
What about you? Are you a minimalist, or like me, do you lean towards clutter? How do you decide what stays and what goes?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: Winter, by Marissa Meyer. I'm so excited for this book! I don't read much YA, but the Lunar Chronicles series is incredible. It's basically fairy tale retellings set in a futuristic world...think Cinderella and Rapunzel (and others) mixed with Doctor Who. These books are funny and action-packed and very addicting, and this is the final book in the series. I highly recommend checking them out, even if they don't sound like the sort of thing you'd normally read. (I held off on reading them for a long time for that reason, but then I felt silly after I realized how good they are.)

Knitting: I'm still working on my first colorwork project, my TARDIS mitts! The first one is finished, and though it's a little bigger than I'd like, going down a needle size helped a lot. I'm really happy with how my improvised thumb gusset turned out, too. I was hoping to finish these before I started on my Christmas gift knitting, but that yarn is supposed to arrive the mitts might have to get set aside for a few weeks.

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}