Monday, March 30, 2015

Knitting: Irish Oats socks (and a blog announcement!).

Here's my third pair of socks for the year! I'm halfway through my goal. :)

These socks are pretty special. I won January's giveaway for Liesl's Monthly Sock Challenge, and the prize was a gift certificate to Quince & Co. and the Irish Oats sock pattern. I used that pattern and some of the yarn I chose to make these socks. :)

The Irish Oats pattern is so lovely and well written. I've only done vanilla socks and simple textured socks so far, and I expected the cables in this pattern to make it more time-consuming. But I was amazed at how quickly they knit up! The pattern was so easy to memorize. (I know sportweight is closer to fingering weight, but these socks knitted up almost as quickly as worsted weight ones for me.)

I've mentioned before that I actually knitted three of these socks. The first sock was a bit snug. Not uncomfortably tight, but the stitches were stretched so much that I worried they would wear out quicker. I finished that first sock, anyway, because I wanted to make sure I'd have enough yarn left over to make them bigger. When I started over, I ended up adding some extra stitches, and it worked out well. I probably should have distributed the extra ones a bit differently, because the heel turn worked out at a slightly odd place. I knew that I had wide, fat feet, but this is the first time I've had to alter a pattern because of it. :)

The yarn is Quince and Co.'s Chickadee. I was thrilled to have won this giveaway because I had been wanting to try Quince and Co.'s yarn for the longest time, and I was not disappointed. It's 100% US wool, which is awesome. And it was so soft and springy and tightly spun (which I tend to like). Even with ripping out an entire sock, the yarn was just as beautiful as it was before it was knitted. I didn't wash these socks before taking pictures, and I can't tell which one used the frogged yarn and which didn't.  (I used the colorway Belize, by the way, which is a lot prettier and darker in person. It looks sort of washed out in the pictures.) The next time I buy a sweater's quantity of yarn, it's going to be something from Quince and Co. It'll cost a bit more, but it will definitely be worth it.

Ravelry project page. I'm linking up with the Monthly Sock Challenge again this month.

Okay, and now for the blog announcement!

For a long time now I've been wanting to get a custom domain for my blog. I've put it off because I was worried about messing something up, but I'm finally going to do it. I'm changing the name of my blog from Sew Technicolor to Wool and Wheel. I'm doing all of this now because my new Etsy shop name will be Wool and Wheel, and I wanted my blog name to tie in with that. Either today or tomorrow, I'm going to be going through the process of switching things over, and hopefully it's going to be a simple, seamless transition!

I just wanted to let you guys know in case something goes wrong and my blog posts stop appearing in your feed. I'll be back with a Yarn Along post on Wednesday, so if you don't see that post, you might need to manually change my blog url in your feed to But like I said, everything should switch over fine. (Fingers crossed.)

P.S. To you readers who don't care anything about yarn or knitting or spinning, don't worry. The content of the blog won't be changing at all...there will still be movie reviews, book posts, etc. mixed in with the knitting posts. :) The only thing changing is the name of the blog and the url, and like I said, I'm only doing it to be more cohesive with my shop.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mini Reviews: Into the Woods and Cinderella.

I've been really bad at posting reviews of new release films lately! I struggle with writing reviews at the best of times (my "reviews" are basically just lists of what I like and don't like...), but when I see a film in theaters and can't jot down some notes, I seem to have a hard time gathering my thoughts into coherent sentences. :)

My mom and I recently went to see Cinderella, and I wanted to write about it. And we saw Into the Woods back in January, but I didn't do a post about it then because it was the sort of movie that I needed to see a second time. (Which I just did this week after getting it on DVD.) Since these are both Disney films and both fairy tales but otherwise very different, I thought it would work to do mini-reviews of them within the same post.

I'll talk about Into the Woods first. After seeing it in theaters, my overall reaction was that it was unlike anything I'd seen. I liked it, but there were a couple of things that bugged me. (More on that later.) But after having three months to listen to the soundtrack repeatedly and then watching the film again, it has grown on me tremendously.

On the surface, this movie is really gorgeous. The colors and costumes and sets are lovely. I really appreciate the general lack of CGI...I didn't realize how awful and overbearing the CGI is in most live action Disney films until I saw the refreshing realness of this film. And the casting- can we just talk about the cast? I haven't seen Meryl Streep in much (this one, Julie and Julia, and A Series of Unfortunate Events), but I'm always amazed at what a good actress she is. And she can sing, too! All of the cast did great with the songs. Other highlights were James Corden and Emily Blunt as the Baker and the Baker's Wife. But I shouldn't start naming names because the entire cast was wonderful.

Now let's talk about the songs, because after all, this is a musical. I know that the majority of people aren't too fond of musicals, but I personally love them. And Into the Woods is one of the best sorts of musicals: the songs actually help tell the story. They're not just there...if you cut out the songs, you'd be missing half the story! And I love how the songs were all unique but somehow seamlessly connected. Little bits of familiar refrains wind their way through the songs and tie everything together. And I happen to think that all of the songs are very catchy and memorable. (The only one I don't like is Hello, Little Girl, and even that one is catchy. More on that later, though.)

If I had to pick favorites, I would probably choose anything sang by Cinderella (Anna Kendrick's voice reminds me so much of Amy Adams' voice in Enchanted!), Agony, Last Midnight, and No One Is Alone. Agony is one of my favorite scenes in the whole film. It's so over-the-top and hilarious...when we saw it in theaters, everyone in the room was cracking up. :) And I just really, really love No One Is Alone. The way they cut between the Baker and Jack and Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood is so perfect, and the song itself is lovely. There's one little line in there I don't agree with: "You decide what's right, you decide what's good," because obviously, as a Christian, I think God is pretty clear about what is right and good.

{Random note: I think my mouth fell open when the Baker said, "Why does he always cry when I hold him?" I was like, was that a Doctor Who reference? Tell me I'm not the only one who thought that! There are a couple of lines that are word-for-word taken from James Corden's awesome character Craig in DW.}

I really love it when humor is combined with darker themes. I don't just seems to create the perfect balance. Of course I love fluffy comedy and I can also appreciate strictly dramatic stories. But pure comedy seems superficial sometimes, and darker movies without any light are just depressing. So I love how Into the Woods makes me laugh with its random humor but also makes me think.

I've always liked fairy tales, whether they're the originals or retellings. I loved the darker twists in this story and how it turns traditional tales upside down. You think you know where things are going but then everything changes. I love how it tackles things like right and wrong, happy endings, stealing, lying, cheating, blaming other people, and making mistakes. Perfect, happily-ever-after fairy tales are wonderful, of course...but life isn't always like that, so it's nice to see something a little different. As Hannah said in her lovely post, the film raises questions and while it doesn't always answer them in the best way (if it answers them at all), it's still good.

I have two tiny qualms with this film. The first is the whole Red Riding Hood/Wolf thing. I know Disney cleaned up quite a few questionable issues with the plot (and I appreciate that), but this part is still creepy. Also, there's one beloved character who makes a bad decision and doesn't really get a chance at redemption before the said character dies. This bothered me more at first. After listening to the soundtrack a lot since then, I can see a little bit of redemption in the song that comes between the bad decision and the death, but still, I wanted more.

I loved Into the Woods. I think it's going to be one of those films that just gets better and grows on me more each time I watch it. :)

Now onto Cinderella! My thoughts on this one are going to be a lot more straight-forward, because it's just a beautiful, traditional fairy tale. :) And even though you know exactly what's going to happen, it never felt dull or predictable.

The casting in this film was awesome! Of course Cinderella and Drisella were familiar faces since I'm a fan of Downton Abbey, and I have to say it was interesting to see their roles reversed. Helena Bonham Carter was perfect as the Fairy Godmother, and Cate Blanchett was equally perfect as the villainous Stepmother. I couldn't figure out why the King looked so familiar until I looked it up and realized he's from Doctor Who. :) The only one that I wasn't completely sold on was the Prince. I'm not even sure why...he just didn't look like I was expecting, I guess.

Like Into the Woods, this film was visually stunning (honestly, it was even prettier than Into the Woods). The colors! The costumes...oh my goodness, those costumes. Cinderella's floaty dress, the 20s/30s glamour of the Stepmother's wardrobe and hairstyle, the matchingness of the stepsisters' bright clothes- it was all perfect. I think I could sit through this movie several times just looking at everything. The settings were also incredible. I want to live in their's like the perfect English cottage (except it's probably a little large to call a cottage.)

I was impressed with the CGI in this movie, because as I've mentioned before, Disney tends to go a little overboard with it in their live action films. One of my favorite scenes was the whole part with the Fairy Godmother transforming everything, and then everything returning to what it was. I loved how the footman still looked like a lizard, how the driver of the coach still had a beak-like nose and feathers on his uniform, and how the mice's ears stuck with them for a while even when they were horses! That whole bit was just really well done. :) I also really liked how they incorporated the mice and Lucifer the cat into the film.

I love the 50s animated Cinderella, but I feel like this was a wonderful live action adaptation of the story. Seeing the story play out with real people made it so much more dramatic and realistic, you know? Of course you feel sorry for animated Cinderella, but you feel even worse for real Cinderella (when that branch is sent back from her father...oh my). And the Stepmother is bad enough in animated form, but in this movie her cruelty takes on a whole new meaning.

I loved this line: To be seen as we truly are is the biggest risk we will ever take. Of course, it feels a bit ironic since it's talking about Cinderella. Her character in this film is basically the most loving, kind, selfless person ever, and it's only referring to the fact that she's poor. I think it applies much more to the rest of us who have tendencies to be unkind and selfish. :) If you're as sweet as Cinderella, it's not really a risk to let someone see you as you truly are!

The only disappointment with this film was that I expected them to use the music from the original film. I knew this wasn't a musical, but I really thought they would incorporate this songs into the background somehow, like as music at the ball or something. I really like those songs, and it would have been a nice tribute to the animated film! Maybe they did this and I just missed it, but I tried to pay attention to the music and none of it sounded familiar. (Speaking of music, what about Drisella playing the piano and singing off-key? That was hilarious.)

Basically, Into the Woods and Cinderella couldn't be more different, besides the fairytale aspects and the fact that they're both really beautiful. One is as traditional as you can get, and it's all about love and happy endings. The other twists traditional stories and wonders what happens when people aren't perfect and if things don't turn out you like expected them to. But I love them both. :)

(It turns out that my mini reviews weren't so "mini" after all! Sorry about that.)

What did you think of Into the Woods and/or Cinderella? Do you prefer traditional fairy tales or retellings?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Knitting: Onward shawl.

I love the end result, but I have to admit I'm relieved that this shawl is finally done. :)

This is my Onward shawl, and I've been working on it forever. Okay, so maybe it was just a month and a half. There wasn't a problem with the's well written, and like I said, I really, really love the finished shawl.

But here's the thing: I'm not an intuitive knitter. Unless I've knitted something multiple times or it's just a very simple pattern, I'm not good at figuring out what should be happening. I've read lots of people say that this pattern was easy to memorize. There are four main stitch sections that are repeated a certain number of times, and while two of those sections were easy for me to remember, the other two weren't, so I had to keep track by the pattern. Also, by the time you're nearing the end, the rows are getting pretty long and time-consuming, so it seemed slow going.

Plus there's this weird phenomenon with big, worsted weight shawls like this...the shawl is bunched up on your needles, and you know it's growing because you're using up more yarn and it's getting heavier, but you can't stretch it out and see your progress. Of course there's a magical moment when you're binding off and realize just how big the shawl is, but it's sort of disheartening during the actual knitting. :)

I used KnitPicks' Wool of the Andes worsted in the Cobblestone Heather colorway. It's a nice, dark-without-being-too-dark gray. I've knitted with a lot of WOTA, and it's not the softest yarn, but this particular batch felt especially coarse. (And I don't consider myself sensitive to wool at all!) I was happy to find that it softened up quite a bit after soaking, though. Also, in my experience, this yarn grows after soaking (my Lady Marple sweater unexpectedly gained three inches in length), which I was grateful for this time because it meant the shawl turned out even larger than I expected. (I can't remember the exact measurements, but it was about 3 inches longer than the pattern said and about 8-9 inches wider.)

(I don't think I've mentioned this before, but when I knit with WOTA, spit splicing is my best friend. It sounds grosser than it is...I don't actually use spit. I just run a little water from the sink into my hand, ha. Anyway, I hate weaving in ends, and splicing different balls of yarn together solves that. I used seven or eight balls of yarn in this shawl and only had to weave in two ends! WOTA is a fuzzier, loosely spun yarn, so I've found that the joins are basically invisible and they hold up.)

So, enough about the process and on to the finished item: have I mentioned that I love it? :) It's dense and huge and cozy and I love the texture of the stitch pattern. I know I'll get a lot of use out of it! After I knitted my Lark Rise shawl, I wondered how much I would actually use it. I ended up wearing that one around the house nearly every day over the past three winters. It's very pilled and slightly ragged-looking now, which is why I decided to knit a new shawl. Though I don't think this one will be designated a "house shawl" for quite a while yet! :) Even if I don't wear it out in the traditional way, I can still wrap it around my shoulders and neck. Next winter, that is. It seems I finished this shawl just in time for spring...

Ravelry project page.

P.S. I made my shirt, too. It's a Renfrew t-shirt I never blogged about that I sewed last Halloween. Just the long-sleeved version made from some gray and navy striped rayon/poly blend from Hobby Lobby.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

An Uncertain Choice.

Despite the fact that I read a lot of Christian historical fiction, Jody Hedlund's books weren't on my radar until a couple of years ago, when I won a copy of her book Unending Devotion. I ended up loving that book as well as her next book, Rebellious Heart.

An Uncertain Choice is the first in a new series, which is set during medieval times and is aimed at a YA audience (her previous books are for adults).

First of all, let me say that I didn't love this book, but I did enjoy it. The characters were likable and I liked the camaraderie between the three knights. The setting wasn't described in great detail, but you still have a clear feeling of when the story takes place. A lot of action happens at the very end: a suspenseful conclusion to a slower paced story.

The first thing I noticed when I got the book was how small it was...I thought it would be a lot thicker. I hadn't looked at the page count beforehand, so I expected it to be more in line with her adult books, which average at least a hundred pages longer than this one. I'm not saying that shorter books can't be impactful, but I do think this story (and the characters) would have benefited from being fleshed out more.

In my opinion, this book feels weaker than Jody Hedlund's other books. I can't help but think that's because it's marketed at teens, but honestly, I don't think that all of the wonderful things about her previous books had to be sacrificed just to appeal to a younger audience! The plot is very predictable and moves quite slowly. I don't think there's ever really any doubt as to who the "bad guy" is. Most of the books I read involve some sort of romance, and I consider myself someone who can appreciate that in a story. But the majority of this book is just Lady Rosemarie being pursued by the three knights, and it becomes repetitive at times. The other books I've read by Hedlund had lots of suspenseful moments and exciting parts that kept my attention and made it difficult to put the book down. I also found the writing to be a bit lacking. It was awkward at times and the dialogue didn't feel very natural.

Honestly, I think my expectations were just too high for An Uncertain Choice, and I was disappointed. I feel like if this was my first Jody Hedlund book, I would have enjoyed it more. But as it is, I kept comparing it to her previous books, which have richer plots, more developed characters, and a very enjoyable writing style. I will read the rest of this series, but I hope the books will continue to improve and recapture the amazingness of Hedlund's previous books, despite being written for a younger audience!

*Note: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.*

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: Anne of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery. This will be the last of the Anne series for me, for now anyway! I know there are a couple more books that are technically considered Anne books, but this is the last one I own. I'll probably buy and read Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside sometime later this year, but there are some other series I want to read or reread first.

Knitting: Are you tired of seeing these socks yet? Ha. This should be the last Yarn Along post they're featured in, since I'm on the foot of the second sock and plan on finishing these in the next couple of days.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Knitting: mountain meadow mitts.

This is the first completed knitting project I've shared in over a month! I feel like I've been working on the same projects for weeks now, but I'm finally finishing them all. :)

I bought this yarn at the fiber festival last year, and I changed my mind several times about what it should be. I finally decided on fingerless gloves. (The colorway is called Mountain Meadow, hence the name.) I'm a little sad that I didn't knit it into socks, because I think it would have made really pretty socks. But it was 100% Merino and while it was really tightly spun, I was still worried it would be too prone to holes without any nylon.

I used this pattern. I made a few small changes to the thumb, and I also went down to size 2 needles for the entire mitt. I've learned that I don't really like slouchy wrist-warmers. It worked out...they're the tiniest bit loose at the wrist but everywhere else they fit perfectly. You can't tell from the pictures, but they come up my arm about 6.5" from my wrist, so they're plenty long enough (and I didn't even make them as long as the pattern called for).

These are definitely among the brightest knitted items I've ever made. :) It's a bit out of my comfort zone, but I love them! The colors are most accurate in the pictures where they're not on my hands.

Ravelry project page.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sewing: double pointed needles case.

I've been wanting to have a better system for organizing my knitting needles. I mostly only use circulars (even for knitting flat) and DPNs now. I have a lot of vintage metal straight needles that I keep in a big jar, mostly for decoration because I rarely use those anymore. (Metal needles make my hands ache, so I stick with bamboo or just wooden ones.) I also keep my fixed circulars in a small, wide jar...they're mostly 16" ones for hats and such. My interchangeable circulars set is currently still in the plastic case it came in, but that's next on my sewing list. :)

And now, after a lot of figuring and measuring and planning (it's ironic how often you have to use math, which I've always hated, in knitting and sewing), my double pointed needles are neatly organized!

This is another of my "special fabrics." It's from Sarah Watson's Indian Summer line. I also own a bit of this coordinating print (which is probably one of my favorite fabrics ever), and I had planned on using them together. But I decided to save that one for something that will get used more often, like a smaller project bag or maybe a new notions bag. Anyway, I love the feathers and mushrooms on this fabric, and the colors are really nice, too. (Since I had several favorite fabrics that I wanted to use, I realized that my set of knitting accessories wasn't going to match. But it worked out that most of them coordinate together because they have the same colors: navy blue, turquoise, light coral, etc.)

For all the planning I did, I feel like this case took a lot of improvising. I was going to use some more of the teal linen (like this lining) for the inside, but I didn't have a piece that was big enough. I found some of this gray-blue broadcloth in my stash that nearly matched the gray in the outer fabric, and it ended up looking nicer than I expected. When I started to cut out the bottom piece for the pockets, I realized that what I had left over wasn't wide I had to stick in a little piece of that turquoise polka dots in the center. I started out topstitching everything with turquoise thread and then unexpectedly ran out, so the outside is topstitched with gray thread. Then I didn't have any good elastic for the closure, so I used part of a hair tie that was almost broken on one end.

I lined it with batting and a layer of fusible interfacing. I used the interfacing because I wanted it to be sturdier and more like a case than a needle roll, but it probably wasn't necessary. The whole thing is a little too bulky, and with how it's folded up the interfacing gets wrinkly.

Anyway, it's not perfect but I'm happy with it! It holds all of my bamboo DPNs from size 1 to 15, and it's nice to have them all in one place.

(In case you're wondering, this is the set of bamboo needles that I own, in the 7" length. They're not the best, but they're what I could afford. I bought them last year and I've used a lot of the sizes, and I've found that from about size 4 or 5 up, they hold up nicely. The points aren't super sharp, but they work for me, and none of mine have had rough edges. The sizes 1, 2, and 3 bend too easily. Before I bought the complete set, I already owned Clover bamboo needles in sizes 2 and 3, which I still always use for socks. After many pairs of socks, the Clover ones are only slightly warped, but the cheap ones have noticeably bent after just one project. So I recommend this set of needles, but just know that if you do a lot of sock knitting, you're going to also need to purchase nicer needles for that. For heavier socks, sweater sleeves, etc., these needles are a good deal.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Favorite Picture Books {Yarn Edition}

Something you may not know about me: I love picture books.
I started collecting them back when I was in the early childhood education program at the community college. During that two years, we had to do tons of lesson plans for the children at the center, and most of the lesson plans were supposed to be based on picture books. We could check them out from the library or borrow ones from the center so it wasn't like I had to start to collecting just happened. And now I have two storage containers under my bed full of them. So if I have kids, I basically already have a library ready for them, ha. :) I might use future children as an excuse to buy picture books, but honestly I love reading them myself.
I'm kind of picky about picture books. I know what I like in them and what I don't like, and it turns out there are a lot of dull ones out there. But there are a lot of amazing ones, too, and some of them just happen to involve yarn. :) You didn't see that coming, right? Here are the ones I've come across:
Extra Yarn: written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. This is hands down one of my favorite picture books ever. It is just so darn cute. It's a story about a little girl who finds a magical box of yarn and proceeds to knit sweaters for everyone (and everything) in her drab town. The story is simple, but there's knitting and yarn and Jon Klassen's glorious illustrations. He's one of my favorite illustrators, and I love how he contrasts black and white with color in this book.
Charlie Needs a Cloak: written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. I like it when picture books show the process of something. In this one, Charlie is a shepherd who needs a new cloak. So it goes through the entire process, from the shearing of the sheep to the end result of the cloak (including hand carding, dyeing, spinning, weaving, sewing, etc.). I love Tomie dePaola's books anyway, and this one is more simply written than some of his others. There's one particular sheep in the background that you should keep an eye on...he's always trying to get the wool back on after being sheared. :)

Knit Your Bit: written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia. Picture books that are based on historical events or real people can be written awkwardly, in my experience. But this one handles it nicely. It's about civilians knitting items to send to soldiers during World War I. The boys don't want to join in at first because "boys don't knit," but they end up getting involved. It's a pretty cute story, and part of it even makes me tear up. (What can I say? I'm sentimental, and apparently the war effort plus knitting is enough to get to me.)

Let me know if you guys would like some more picture book recommendations...I have a few more ideas for categories if it's something you'd like to see. :) I meant to do some of these posts several years ago when I had planned on a children's literature series that never happened. Better late than never, I guess.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sewing: Woodland Girl project bag.

Recently I've been working on two of my new year's resolutions: use up some of my "special" fabrics, and sew a set of knitting accessories.

It wasn't until the past six months or so that I finally realized why most knitters tend to have tons of project bags. I used to only have one or two WIPs at any given time, and I never really used project bags. Well, now I do. Not only are they useful when you take your knitting with you everywhere (which I do), but it's also nice to have everything separate and organized instead of just having piles of knitting scattered around my room.

I'd been hoarding a 1/2 yard piece of fabric from Teagen White's Fort Firefly line since last year. It was organic cotton, probably the most expensive fabric I've ever purchased (which is why I only bought half a yard), and so adorable. I never used it because I was always trying to save it for the "perfect project." Finally I realized if I kept waiting for that, this fabric would probably never be used. (I have this thing for whimsical woodland fabric. Anything with flowers, trees, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, etc. See my knitting bag.)

I decided to use it to make a large-ish project bag. I have a couple of smaller bags, but anything bigger than a cowl or socks outgrows them quickly. This one is the perfect size for sweaters and shawls.

I used this tutorial again (as with this little bag, which I still use constantly), except I tweaked the numbers to made a bigger version. Mine turned out to be 10" tall and 13-14" wide, with a 5.5" gusset. Above I have my Onward Shawl and a clipboard with the pattern in it. The other day I also added my little notions bag and the socks that I'm working on and was still able to zip it up.

The outside is the above mentioned organic cotton print. The inside is a teal linen-blend that I had left over from a dress I made right before I graduated high school. (Which I'm shocked to realize was six years ago now!) I basted some cotton batting to the lining to make the bag sturdier and used some fusible interfacing on the outside pieces, which is already wrinkling, as you can see (I've had bad luck with interfacing lately). The zipper is vintage. I seem to have acquired tons of old zippers over the years...from yard sales and hidden in sewing boxes from thrift stores and others just given to me. A lot of them are in the most atrocious 70s colors, and I always used to think, what on earth am I going to use these for? I would never wear clothes this color! But ironically they often match well with bags that I sew. :)

(I feel like all I've been posting this month are Yarn Along posts! I just haven't had many finished projects to share, but lately I've completed some things. So hopefully there will be more variety.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: An Uncertain Choice, by Jody Hedlund. I've read two of this author's historical fiction novels and really enjoyed them, so I had high hopes for this one. I'm not quite halfway through it far it's good but not amazing. But I won't say anymore until I've actually finished it. (I received it to review so I will be posting a full review, hopefully by the end of the week.)

I don't know...I don't want to say I'm in a reading slump but I feel like lately I've been reading too many books that a bit too similar, or ones that are just mediocre. I haven't read anything that has absolutely blown me away since last month when I read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. I guess I just need to read something different or maybe try a reread of a favorite (I've been wanting to reread Emma for a long time so maybe I'll pick that up soon!).

Knitting: I'm knitting on my third Irish Oats sock. Yes, third. Not because I've grown an extra foot but because I had to frog my first one because it was too tight! For the second one, I added more stitches and it turned out nicely, so I ripped out the first one to start over. Thank goodness these socks knit up quickly. :)

I finished my mitts from last week (pictures coming soon) and I'm hoping to finally finish my Onward shawl by the weekend. And of course I've also been knitting on my sock yarn blanket. I still get excited over every square and it's hard not to post pictures of each one! But I know you guys would get sick of that pretty quickly. :) I think I'm going to do a monthly post showing my progress, though.

I had a wonderful mini-skein mail day on Monday. Andi was kind enough to send me some gorgeous scraps for my blanket (first picture below). Thank you, Andi! (Her own blanket was one of the biggest reasons why I started one.) And I ordered a grab bag of five mini-skeins from GnomeAcres during their recent shop update (second photo below). I've been wanting to try their yarn for a long time and this was the perfect excuse. I've convinced myself that these don't count as "real yarn." (Andi confirmed this theory.) So technically I haven't broken my yarn buying ban...right? Not buying yarn for three and a half months is hard, but I know when I'm at the fiber festival next month I'll be glad I saved up that money. :)

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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Oliver & Company {1988}

{Animated Disney Film #27 of 54}

Though it came out a few years before I was born, I grew up watching Oliver & Company. I remember it being one of the Disney films that my brother really liked, and thanks to him, one of my cats is named Oliver after the character in the film. (Though our Oliver is black and doesn't remotely resemble the Oliver in the movie.)

But while I generally rewatch my favorite childhood Disney films every couple of years, this is one that I hadn't seen in forever. It had probably been at least ten years since I last watched it, so I was curious as to how much I'd remember.

Well, as soon as I heard that opening song ("Once Upon a Time in New York City," or the longest song title ever), all of this nostalgia came rushing back. I remembered so much more of this film than I expected to!

Oliver & Company is definitely rooted in its 80s era. As I've been doing this Disney marathon, I've tried to think of the movies compared to the time when they were made. Sometimes they're so timeless that it's hard to see a connection, and other times there's something about the film that suggests the decade in which it was created (like The Jungle Book, with its jazzy music and reference to the Beatles). With Oliver & Company, there's no question. The boomboxes, the sneakers and sunglasses, the music...classic 80s. Or what I think of the 80s as, anyway. I'm a 90s kid myself. :)

This movie might be set in the 80s, but it's inspired by a much older story: Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. A couple of you guys mentioned this in my last Disney post, and my mind was blown. I had never, ever made the connection! Granted, I've never read Oliver Twist or seen any film adaptations, so I'm not familiar with the story. But it's true...this movie is inspired by Oliver Twist! I've since read a summary of the novel and it sounds like they changed some things, but they even kept the names of the main characters: Oliver, Dodger (the Artful Dodger in the book), Fagin, and Sikes.

The voice cast for this film includes some pretty famous people, though not many that I'm especially familiar with: Billy Joel as Dodger, Dom DeLuise as Fagin, Bette Midler as Georgette, and a twelve year old Joey Lawrence as Oliver (known to me mostly as the guy who did that sweet tribute to Singin' in the Rain on Dancing with the Stars a while back).

Oliver & Company has the tiniest bit of a Robin Hood thing going on, except in this case it's not outlaws stealing from the rich to give to the poor. The gang of dogs and Fagin seem to basically be pickpockets (I think? Or maybe they're just collecting junk?), but at the same time they're not "bad." Even when Fagin decides to supposedly hold Oliver for ransom, you can't help but feel sorry for him. He's not a bad guy, he's just desperate. (And that Sikes guy is so creepy and threatening that it's no wonder Fagin feels desperate.) From what I read that's a big difference from the book...I think in the novel Fagin is just an all-around evil guy?

Some familiar faces pop up in this movie, which isn't surprising. I've noticed before that characters from certain Disney movies will appear briefly in others, especially dogs- the dogs from Lady and the Tramp are scattered everywhere! A couple of them have cameos in this film, and you also get a glimpse of Pongo from 101 Dalmatians (and Anita, the lady from that movie, is briefly seen driving a VW Beetle).

Speaking of dogs, I love the different personalities in the gang of dogs. The Chihuahua especially cracks me up, and I love his "relationship" with Georgette the poodle. Their ending is hilarious. :)

When I watched The Rescuers, I mentioned that certain parts of it reminded me of this movie. Especially the little girl getting kidnapped aspect. (The two little girls, Jenny and Penny, even look alike.) It turns out that Oliver & Company was originally going to be a sequel to The Rescuers, so I guess that makes sense now!

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually like the music in this movie. I usually find 80s music to be pretty terrible (no offense to anyone who likes it, but it's just not my style!), but I think these songs are catchy. Then again, it just might be the whole nostalgic aspect. All I know is that I've had "Why Should I Worry?" stuck in my head ever since I watched this movie.

So...I kind of love Oliver & Company. It's funny but has sweet and dramatic moments, too. But this is one of the few Disney movies from my childhood that actually might not be very good. I think I'm blinded by nostalgia. If I was just watching this movie now for the first time, I feel like I wouldn't have been impressed. Watching The Fox and the Hound proved that I can dislike a movie that I enjoyed in my childhood, though, so maybe I really do like this one for its own sake? I guess there's no way of knowing! :)

Next up on the list: The Little Mermaid. It was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid.

What do you think about Oliver & Company? Is it truly a good movie or am I biased because it was a childhood favorite?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: The Wig in the Window, by Kristen Kittscher. I really love middle grade books, but there's a specific kind of them that I especially love...sort of dark, creepy, slightly sinister stories that are also funny. (Think along the lines of A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket.) I think this book has the potential to fit into that category. It's about two young girls who are spying on a guidance counselor from the local school because they suspect she's up to something terrible (or maybe they're just imagining things?). What really drew me in was the comparison to Rear Window, which is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. So far it's cute and I'm definitely intrigued by the mystery aspect.

Knitting: I've had this beautiful, incredibly saturated skein of yarn for almost a year. I could never decide what it should be: 100% merino so I didn't want to risk socks, it was a bit bright for a hat or I finally decided on long fingerless gloves. I've finished with one, getting ready to start the second. This yarn is obnoxiously bright and colorful but I love it. :) I'm going to have quite a bit left over, so I'm not sure what I'll do with it.

But with the way things are going now, most of the leftovers will probably end up as squares on my new blanket. It's amazing. I start a sock yarn scrap blanket and suddenly I want to knit with every bit of fingering weight yarn I own right now...just so I can use the scraps in my blanket. Crazy. In a matter of about two weeks I went from only one WIP (my Onward shawl) to four (shawl, Irish Oats socks, scrap blanket, and these fingerless gloves). How does that even happen?

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

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sock yarn scrap blanket.

So I've finally done it...I've given in and started knitting a sock yarn scrap blanket.

I've seen these around ever since I started knitting, but I never really understood the appeal. I mean, making a big blanket from sockweight yarn? Those knitters must be crazy! Well, I guess I'm one of the crazy ones now.

A couple of weeks ago, I gathered up all of my fingering weight scraps, and I was a little surprised by how many I had. Not just from socks, but also from a couple of shawls and cowls. Then I read this blog post and it got me even more excited about the idea.

Yesterday I cast on (using this pattern) and after three attempts, I had my first little square! (Three attempts because I kept forgetting to slip stitches at the beginning of the rows...not because the pattern is hard. It's actually super easy.) It was so adorable that I kept going and a couple of hours later, I had four squares and a new addiction. :)

Obviously I don't have enough scraps for even a tiny blanket. But most of my leftovers are enough to make at least two squares, and of course I'll gather more scraps as I finish more projects. And you know those little mini skeins you can buy? Yeah...never saw any use for those, either, and now I find myself browsing Etsy for them. (Yes, I remember I'm not supposed to be buying any yarn until the fiber festival next month. So far, so good.)

I love the idea of using up my leftover yarn! I kept enough of each yarn to darn socks with, but the rest of it would just be going to waste. It seems that sock yarn blankets are more practical (and more fun) than I realized...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: To All the Boys I've Loved Before, by Jenny Han. YA contemporaries aren't usually my thing, but I always thought the premise of this one sounded cute. (A girl writes letters to guys that she has a crush on, and then puts them away with no intention of sending them...until one day they accidentally get mailed.) I'm about halfway through and it's good so far. Nothing spectacular, but pretty good (and clean) as far as YA goes. I've been pleasantly surprised with how there's just as much (or more) focus on the relationships between the sisters and their dad as there is on the romantic relationships.  

Knitting: I just started this month's pair of socks. I'm using the yarn and pattern that I won in last month's giveaway: Quince & Co.'s Chickadee yarn for the Irish Oats pattern. I just cast on yesterday, but after taking this photo I knitted several more inches (starting into the cable design). This yarn is so lovely and the pattern is very addictive and easy to memorize! I have a feeling I'm going to be knitting this pattern again. :)  I'm also still working on my Onward shawl (knitting the fifth of six sections) and I made a couple of baby gifts over the weekend that I'll probably share soon.

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