Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Read: July

July was a good reading month for me! I'm still sticking to my summer reading list (I only read one book this month that wasn't on it). There's actually a decent chance that I'll complete my list this year, which would be awesome and a testament to my stubbornness (it would be nicer to say persistence, but let's call it what it is). As always, click on the title to read my Goodreads reviews.

Emma, by Jane Austen. This was my third or fourth time rereading this one. It's such a lovely story! Austen always writes memorable characters, but this one is especially full of them: Emma, Miss Bates, Mr. Woodhouse, Jane Fairfax, etc. And let's not forget Mr. Knightley. I can finally admit that I prefer Mr. Knightley to Mr. Darcy.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Another reread! I love this book. That's all.

I Kill the Mockingbird, by Paul Acampora. A fun middle grade book about three friends who hatch a plot to get more people to read Harper Lee's classic. I really enjoyed it. The three main characters were great and I'd love to be friends with them. :) The plot was the slightest bit underdeveloped, but it's a short book so that's understandable.

Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee. While I only actually enjoyed the first third or so of this book, it's still worth reading and it's fascinating to see what the story of To Kill a Mockingbird began as. I did a whole review/discussion post of this one.

Unsinkable, by Debbie Reynolds. I wouldn't consider Debbie Reynolds to be one of my favorite classic film actresses, though she does happen to star in one of my favorite movies (Singin' in the Rain). But last year I read her first memoir and really enjoyed it. Her life story is depressing because apparently she's unlucky at choosing husbands (all three of them cheated on her and/or left her broke), but both of her memoirs are interesting and very readable. I liked this one less than the first one, because the first half is about her life from the 80s until present day (so no old Hollywood stories), and the second half is a recap of her films (and most of the interesting stories there are repeats from her first book).

The Year the Swallows Came Early, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. This was a cute book. I enjoyed it, but it was just a standard middle grade read...not particularly memorable.

Since You've Been Gone, by Morgan Matson. I was so pleasantly surprised with this one. Honestly, I don't usually like YA contemporary at all...stories about modern-day teenagers tend to get on my nerves. But I enjoyed this book so much! It was a lot of fun, and the emphasis on friendship was nice. The main character, Emily, is shy and introverted, which was refreshing. Since this book lived up to all of the good things I'd heard about it, I'll definitely be picking up more of Morgan Matson's books.

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date, by Katie Heaney. I've been wanting to read this memoir for the longest time, though I was worried it would be disappointing. It was. I expected a light, fun read that I could fly through, but it slogged at times. Also, there was a lot of bad language (which is one of my pet peeves). I could relate to the author at times, but sometimes that wasn't a good thing because whatever she was saying would be a bit ridiculous, and I would think, that how I am? Anyway, mixed feelings on this one. (Also, the subtitle is misleading. Maybe she's never been in any actual relationships, but she definitely describes going on dates in the book.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: Wildwood, by Colin Meloy. I read this book about three years ago, and I was slightly disappointed with it. But I loved the second book in the series, and I've been wanting to read the third and final book, so I've decided to read the whole trilogy. (I don't like reading the next book in a series without rereading the previous ones, especially if it's been several years. I feel so lost!) Hopefully this one will be better the second time around. :) The illustrations are gorgeous, anyway, and there are definitely some quirky, memorable elements to the story.

Knitting: A Nurmilintu shawl in Tosh Sock, in the Jade colorway (which happens to be the most perfect shade of green I've ever seen in yarn). As I mentioned last week, this is my first time knitting lace, other than little easy lace details on a couple of previous projects. This time I'm actually reading a chart, and those things have always intimidated me. But so far, so good! I finished the first lace section, and I only made one mistake. Thankfully, it was on the second to last row of that section so it was easy to fix. I don't have enough yarn to knit the shawl as written, so I'm going to have to figure something out by the end. But I'm trying not to think about that yet. :) One thing at a time!

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Knitting: Antler cardigan.

It's hard to get motivated to take pictures of completed knitting projects in the summer. But it likely won't be cooling down for another two months at least, so somehow I found myself buttoned up to my neck in a wool sweater in 90 degree heat. But it was worth it, because I love this sweater.

I cast on for this cardigan in the middle of June and finished it three and a half weeks later. This is my fourth sweater for myself, and it's definitely my favorite. The whole process of knitting this sweater was such a pleasant experience! I didn't hit any snags and the small changes that I made worked out perfectly. I think I've learned something with every sweater I've finished, and all of those things just came together in this one.

When I ordered the yarn (KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Tweed in dill heather), I was planning on knitting this sweater. But by the time I got around to starting it, that pattern just seemed kind of boring to me. I finally decided on the Antler Cardigan, even though I technically didn't have enough yarn. I was worried about running out, but I ended up using at least 200 yards less than the pattern called for, so I had two skeins left over!

I was exactly between the medium and large sizes. Knowing that most of my sweaters turn out too big (and that this yarn has a tendency to grow with blocking), I went with the medium. That worked out perfectly, though I did decide to knit the large size at the hips and then decrease down to a medium.

As for the changes that I made, they were pretty minor. Because I did a larger size at the hips, I had to do some "waist shaping" to decrease down to a medium. (The pattern originally doesn't have any waist shaping.)  I changed the sleeves a bit (they were too big) and made them an inch longer, and shortened the length of the body by an inch. Also, I didn't want a big, loose neckline, so I did an extra cable repeat in the yoke. (I probably could have done that again, actually, and maybe even added some extra decreases.) I went into more detail on my Ravelry project page.

With a sweater called the Antler Cardigan, you have to use antler buttons, right? I ordered buttons from this Etsy shop and I love them. They're made from deer antlers, so they're all slightly different but consistent enough to match.

When I first tried on the sweater after blocking it, I was disappointed because it had grown a bit and didn't fit exactly like it did before. (Sometimes I think that worsted weight and bulky sweaters might not be the most flattering on girls who aren't thin. But then I wonder if that's just me and my self-esteem issues and how most of the time things don't fit like I wish they would. I don't know, but my next sweater is going to be sportweight, so we'll see if that makes a difference.) But when I look at this sweater compared to my first one, I've come such a long way! This is the best fitting sweater I've knitted so far, and I'm proud of it. :)

Ravelry project page.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Beautiful books.

I love pretty books. Obviously I don't base what I read solely on what it looks like, but I'm definitely more likely to pick up a book if I like the cover. I've also been known to buy prettier editions of books that I love to replace ugly editions.

I've wanted to do a post like this for a while now, but this video inspired me to finally do it. I could only fit in so many books this time, so there will likely be more of these at some point. :) Coincidentally, all five of the books I mentioned here are classics. Classics seem to get more pretty editions than any other books, mostly thanks to Penguin (the absolute best at tempting you to buy multiple copies of the same book).

This copy of Little Women is probably one of my favorite books that I own. (I need to reread this one, by the way. I liked it, but I've only read it once and that was probably seven or eight years ago.) It's just so adorable. It's the Puffin in Bloom edition, and they've only done four books in these editions so far: Little Women, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, and Heidi. (I have those first two and will probably get Heidi at some point...I've never read that one before. I already own a different copy of Anne of Green Gables.)

This book is quite small, but it's really chunky because Little Women isn't as short as most children's stories. I just love the typography and the illustration style and the spine and those sweet endpapers.

I also really love these little Puffin editions. They're basically like children's versions of the beautiful Penguin clothbound books. The colors are nice and I love the repeating motifs on the covers. I own a few of these, and I found them at the bargain bookstore in town. (So if you're looking for them, keep an eye out...they might unexpectedly turn up cheaper somewhere!) The Matilda one is gorgeous, and I like the Wind in the Willows one, too.

Nice editions of Jane Austen's more popular novels are everywhere, but it seems harder to find Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park. All of her novels are available in these Vintage Classics editions, and ironically Pride and Prejudice (my favorite) is the only of the covers that I don't like! (Those pinkish-red zigzags just aren't very appealing to me.) I love how this version of Northanger Abbey is somehow somber and whimsical at the same time. It's a sweet, small paperback copy with French flaps, and the inside covers match one of the other Austen covers (in this case, Emma).

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and this is my favorite edition that I own. It's a 1943 edition that is sort of oversized and features these creepy wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg. The illustrations are so haunting and unusual, and they fit the atmosphere of the book perfectly. I had seen pictures of this edition online, and then several years ago, I found a copy at Goodwill for about $2. (One of the best bookish thrift store finds ever!) They also published a matching edition of Wuthering Heights, but you know how I feel about that book.

You guys have probably seen enough of this book around the blog lately! It's the Penguin Threads edition of Emma. These editions are so incredible...the original pieces were embroidered, and the covers have a great texture to imitate the embroidery. The inside covers show what the back of the embroidered piece looks like- a lovely detail. These editions also have French flaps and deckled edges, which I happen to like (though I know some readers disagree).

What are some of your favorite book editions or covers?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Natural dyeing {onion skins and hollyhock}.

Over the past two weeks, I finally did some more natural dyeing. In 2013 I experimented a lot with several different plants, but last year I didn't really do any. I didn't realize how much I missed it!

On the first day, I used onion skins. My mom and grandma have been saving their onion skins for me over the past year or'd think that would be plenty, but the skins weigh so little that it takes a lot of them. I also had a small bag of garlic skins that I added in. The process took most of the morning, so I sat on the front porch and spun some yarn (that's the white yarn above) while keeping an eye on the dye pot. It was a surprisingly nice, cool day and I enjoyed myself so much...that's when I remembered how much I missed this. It's funny how I have memories stuck in my mind about different dyeing days. I remember sitting outside a couple of summers ago, watching my dye pots and rereading Jane Eyre, when a thunderstorm rolled up. It felt so appropriate to be listening to rumbling thunder while reading that particular book. :) Now I'll remember this morning, and how I listened to the laying hens cackling and a mockingbird singing, which again, was fitting because I was rereading To Kill a Mockingbird then. And how it smelled like something was cooking when the onion skins were steaming...probably because there were some little pieces of garlic floating in the water that had been hidden in the garlic skins. A day of spinning and dyeing and fiber stuff: that's basically my dream job. If I can start actually making money from it. :)

I used alum as a mordant, and though I was hoping for a darker shade, the yarn turned out really nice. It's a light orangey-yellow, similar to what you get from biden. When I was reskeining it, I found several knotted spots in the yarn (places where a ply had broken and been tied back together). So instead of one large skein, I had to break it up into several smaller skeins. The yarn will likely be available in my Etsy shop soon. (Yes, I've been talking about this forever. I meant to open it a couple of months ago, but it won't be long now, I hope!)

On the second day, I decided to finally use my hollyhock. I planted black hollyhock two years ago. It doesn't bloom the first year, so last summer and this summer I collected all of the blooms I could and dried them...which only came to a total of 28 blooms. Last summer, rust got my plants and only one made it through the winter. That one was fine until a couple of weeks ago, when the rest of the buds started drying up without even blooming (I think this time it was insects).

Instead of using the instructions from Jenny Dean's Wild Color, I used the ones from Harvesting Color (probably my favorite natural dyeing book, though it is lacking in east coast plants). I was only two blooms short of the amount I was supposed to have, but it didn't exactly result in a soft, greenish-blue like the book shows! When it was in the pot, I was so disappointed because it just looked gray. But the color has grown on me a lot since then. The last photo is most's sort of a greenish-gray that reminds me of the ocean. It's not exactly what I hoped for, but I really do like it now. I'm going to be keeping this yarn. I was planning on that all along, since it's some KnitPicks Bare Stroll that I bought to dye for myself. Since I had such a limited amount of hollyhock (and since it was such a long time coming!), the yarn is pretty special.

So now I'm very excited about natural dyeing again. I have plans for the rest of the summer and fall: biden, goldenrod, black walnut, pokeberry, sumac...maybe I'll even try to use that bag of zinnia blooms I have in the freezer. :)

{You can find my older natural dyeing posts here.}