Thursday, April 30, 2015

Knitting: Make Believe socks.

Somehow I managed to knit two pairs of socks this month: my handspun socks and this pair. (Probably because the only other thing I worked on was my Multnomah shawl.) I've just really been enjoying knitting socks this year!

There's not much to say about these...they're pretty basic. After the fitting problems I had with my handspun socks, it was nice to knit something knowing that they would fit perfectly without any extra effort. :) This pair started out as vanilla socks, but the yarn was pooling in a way that I really didn't like. So I switched over to Hermione's Everyday Socks, which had enough texture to make the pooling more subtle.

I'm really happy with these. They're not the prettiest socks I've ever made by any means, but I love the colors in this yarn. I used KnitPicks Stroll Hand-Painted in the "Make Believe" colorway. This is my fourth pair of socks made with KnitPicks sock yarn, and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I'm never really happy with how the colors knit up (except Felici- you can't go wrong with stripes!). The hand-painted yarns and even the tonal ones always pool for me, and I'm not a fan of that. But...I find myself wearing those socks the most often. I'm not sure whether it's because the yarn itself knits up nicely (even though it looks loosely plied) and seems to wear well. Or maybe because this yarn is quite a bit cheaper than indie-dyed yarns, and I don't feel like I have to be as "careful" with these socks. Whatever the reason, I'm sure these socks will get worn a lot! :)

Ravelry project page. I'm once again linking up with Liesl's Monthly Sock Challenge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: Paris in Love, by Eloisa James. This is a memoir written by a lady who took a sabbatical from her work and moved with her husband and two kids to Paris for a year. I'm really liking it so far. I wasn't sure about the style at first: the book is made up of very brief anecdotes that are only about a paragraph long each (they're adapted from her Facebook and/or Twitter posts at the time, apparently?), and every once in a while there might be one that has been expanded into a page or two. Sometimes it feels choppy, but overall it makes for very quick reading. And some of the stories are quite funny. :)

Knitting: More socks this week, of course! I finished the first of this pair at the beginning of the month, but I didn't cast on the second one until after I finished my handspun socks. Now I'm nearly at the end of this second sock...I'm hoping I'll finish it tonight. {Edit: I already finished them!} When I first started these socks, the yarn started pooling (ugly pooling) in plain stockinette. So I decided to use Hermione's Everyday Socks pattern to at least make the pooling more subtle, and thankfully it worked! They're still a bit unusual looking, though...

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Knitting: Multnomah shawl.

I've been planning on knitting this shawl for a year and a half now, and I've had this yarn in my stash (planned for this project) for almost that long.

Multnomah is one of the more popular patterns on Ravelry (over 9,000 projects), and I can see why! It was fun and easy to knit, and I love the end result. This year I'm trying to ease my way into a bit of lace knitting, and this is a good place to start. (It isn't charted, though, which is one of the things I really need to work on: getting comfortable reading charts. I've only used really simple ones before.)

I used KnitPicks' Gloss in fingering weight in the colorway cranberry. It's a pretty, deep red. Because I had more yardage than the pattern called for, I decided to make the shawl a little bigger. I knitted the garter section longer before I began the lace trim, and I also went up two needle sizes (to a size 5). I probably should have left well enough alone, because I ended up running out of yarn. I couldn't finish the full trim (8 repeats instead of 10), but I also had to do some fudging at the end with my stitch count (more details on my project page).

And, horror of horrors, I didn't have enough yarn to bind off! I think that's only happened to me two or three times since I started knitting. I hated the idea of having to rip back the last four or so rows of the lace pattern, with all of the refiguring I'd already had to do. I thought about all of the other yarn I owned, and then I remembered that I had some leftover sock yarn from KnitPicks that was a very similar color to this (from these socks). So I decided to use that yarn to bind off with. The sock yarn was tonal, so in some spots it matches the Gloss yarn perfectly, but in other places it's brighter. Honestly, it's not that noticeable unless you're looking for it, and I don't even think you can see it in the pictures. But I like it! It gives the trim a sort of ombre look...almost like it was planned instead of a desperate effort to not rip back my knitting. :)

The shawl turned out to be a good size, perfect for wrapping around my neck. It blocked out to about 14 inches deep with a wingspan of about 55 inches. We've had some chilly weather lately, so even though I've packed away my handknits (sad day!) until the fall, I got to wear this to church on Sunday and it was cozy.

Ravelry project page.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

From the Start.

When it comes to Christian novels, historical fiction is definitely my comfort zone. But in the last couple of years, I've been venturing into more contemporary, and Melissa Tagg is one of the authors in that genre whose books I've come to expect wonderful things from.

Her latest, From the Start, was no exception. This book is the first in a new series (I hope so, anyway? That seems to be the case) that is loosely tied to her previous two books. It revolves around Kate Walker, a writer of TV romance movie screenplays, and Colton Greene, a former NFL quarterback who can't play anymore due to an injury. After a tornado hits Kate's hometown, both she and Colton end up there, helping the townspeople put things back together.

I really enjoyed this book. I haven't had a lot of time for reading lately, so it took me longer than it should have to finish this book. But when I was reading it, I flew through it because I didn't want to put it down. Kate and Colton were both great characters, and I enjoyed the way that their backstories were revealed. Sometimes authors will mysteriously hint about things in a character's past and then take forever to actually reveal what happened, but that wasn't the case here. And while the main characters both had pasts and things that were seemingly going to pull them in different directions in the future, there wasn't any over-the-top drama or any huge argument/falling out between them. (I appreciated that.)

There are lots of fun supporting characters, which gives the town of Maple Valley a slight Stars Hollow feel (though less kooky, I think). I hope that the series will continue on with the rest of the Walker siblings, because I'm interested in learning more about them. I also hope that Megan will play a part in later books, because I feel like her story isn't done!

I know that Melissa Tagg is a classic movie fan, and as a fellow fan, I really loved all of the references. And besides the slight Gilmore Girls vibe I was picking up from the town, part of the story also reminded me of It's a Wonderful Life (I think I can say "the old house part" without spoiling anything). Also, if you're not a sports fan, don't let the fact that Colton is a football player turn you off from this book. I know absolutely nothing about sports, and I was never lost by anything going on. :)

While I still think Here to Stay might be my favorite of Melissa's books (Blake is an awesome character, you guys!), From the Start is a close second. I can't wait to see what's next from this author! :)
*Note: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.*

Friday, April 24, 2015

Knitting: first handspun socks!

I'm so excited to have finished my first pair of handspun socks! I spun this yarn off and on for about six weeks, and then three weeks after finishing the yarn, I have a pair of socks.

This was my first time knitting toe-up socks (my twentieth pair, but all of the others were cuff down). It was definitely an interesting experience! Toe-up does have a few advantages. The first is the reason why I chose to use this method for my handspun socks: you don't have to worry about running out of yarn. After you get the foot and heel done, you just keep knitting until you run out. The second thing I liked is that the increases look really smooth and neat. When I'm decreasing on socks, my k2tog's look fine, but my ssk's look so messy. With toe-up socks, you're only increasing, and the m1's look nice (I knitted through the front and back loop, so there's a little ridge at each increase, but I don't mind).

The things I didn't like about toe-up: getting started. For the first half of toe increases, it is so fiddly. Maybe it's not so bad if you use magic loop and you're used to that, but I was using DPNs and it was driving me crazy. The pattern tells you to divide the stitches over 4 DPNs, but I always just use three so I switched to that and it was a bit easier. But I dreaded getting started on the second sock. Also, I don't know if my gauge is different this way or it was just my handspun yarn, but these socks are too big. And since this was my first time knitting them, I didn't know exactly how the heel was going to work out, and I knitted the foot too long. The heel doesn't sit exactly where it should, so next time I'll know to make the foot about an inch shorter.

It's nice to have options, but I still much prefer knitting socks from the cuff down. It's so easy and natural to me at this point, and the process makes more sense to my brain. :)

I have a lot to learn about spinning sock yarn. I kept reading that lots of twist was important for sock yarn, but I think I may have went overboard. My yarn wasn't very elastic at all, and so it wasn't as enjoyable and easy to knit with as sock yarn generally is. Sometimes I felt like I was having to force the yarn around, like I do with cotton.

Also, the fit on these socks isn't perfect. They're a bit big, and that's with fewer stitches than usual. I always do 64 stitches on size 2 needles, but these only have 60 stitches on the foot and even less on the leg. The foot is a little too loose, but the main problem is around the heel. I think it's because, as I mentioned, the heel doesn't sit at the correct place. You can see in the pictures how the sock folds over on top of the ankle and how I can pinch about an inch of excess at the back of the heel. Anyway, I went into more detail about stitch counts and such on my project page so I'll know how to improve these things next time.

I knew when I was spinning the yarn that these socks weren't going to actually match...that one was going to be mostly blueish-purple and one was going to be mostly tan. Honestly, this doesn't bother me. In my head they still "match"...the colors sort of reverse at the top and it's not like I have to worry about accidentally pairing them up with other socks, ha. This pair actually turned out longer than I expected, too! Even with the low yardage, they're only about 3-4 inches shorter than my other socks. I had about 20 yards leftover, so I could have made them a bit longer. (But I like having scraps for my blanket!)

Even though they're not perfect, I'm super proud of these socks. This was a time-consuming project from start to finish, but it feels good to have accomplished the goal of spinning sock yarn and knitting socks from it. I'll definitely be doing this again, but not for quite a while. :)

Ravelry project page. I'm linking up with Liesl's Monthly Sock Challenge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: From the Start, by Melissa Tagg. This is basically a romantic comedy (well, there's more to it than that), which is exactly what I'm in the mood to read right now! When I make time to read, that seems like knitting has been cutting into my reading time lately.

Knitting: Socks are the only thing I'm knitting right now. I'm trying to finish the two pairs that I currently have in progress (this is the second of my handspun pair- I'm at the heel) so I can start some new projects. Including more socks. Because you know I'm itching to use some of that gorgeous yarn I just bought at the fiber festival. :)

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Olde Liberty Fibre Faire {2015}

You might remember that last year I went to a fiber festival for the first time. Of course I absolutely loved it, and I knew I wanted to go back this year! On Saturday we headed to Bedford, Virginia for the Olde Liberty Fibre Faire.

It was a beautiful day (after a rather damp week), and I had such a good time. I know I've said this before, but I don't spend a lot of time with other knitters and spinners in real life. The online community is wonderful, of course, but sometimes it's so nice to be around people who are just as obsessed with yarn and fiber as I am. It was fun to get to talk to some of the spinners who were really encouraging when I started spinning a few years ago.

And also, I got to meet Carolynn for the first time! A while back, we were paired up as penpals through a blog. Not only did we have a lot in common (we both love yarn, books, and Doctor Who), but it turned out that we live in the same state! So after being penpals and then blog friends for a couple of years, we met up at the fiber festival. Carolynn is so sweet. She surprised me with a book and a bag that she sewed! It's made from the cutest fabric (which coordinates with my big project bag), and it's currently holding one of the socks I'm knitting. :)

The fiber community is pretty awesome. I love that fiber arts are so've got knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, fiber preparation, and other things I'm sure I'm forgetting, plus any combination of those. And the people in this community are just as diverse! I like seeing very traditional knitters rubbing shoulders with modern dyers or people spinning art yarn. Grandmothers and teenagers, brightly dyed roving next to straight-off-the-sheep fleece, farmers and nerds*, and everyone in between.

*I wore my Doctor Who/Sherlock shirt and several people commented on it.

Of course I bought some pretty stuff. :) With the exception of a few mini-skeins for my blanket (which I'm not counting), I hadn't bought any yarn this year. I was trying to shrink my stash a little, but I also wanted to save up money for the fiber festival. {Ironically, I won yarn in a couple of giveaways during that time.} So I met my goal! The only problem is that I'm afraid my stash is going to start growing again now that I don't have a specific no-yarn rule. (I think I need to go back and reread this post.)'s what I got:

I used to roll my eyes at knitters who were obsessed with sock yarn. Guess what? I'm one of those people now. (Knitting has taught me to never say never. Everything I say comes back to haunt me.) I bought three yarns and they're all sock yarn. And interestingly, I bought yarn from the exact same three vendors that I bought yarn from last year. :)

The one on the left is from Gershubie Fiber Arts. It's like mint chocolate chip ice cream in yarn form, and it was on sale because it was the last skein of that colorway! It's 440 yards of a 75/25 SW Merino and nylon blend.

The one in the center is from Fairy Tale Knits (the dyer of the yarn from my recently knitted mitts!). I made sure to get a blend with nylon in it this time so I can knit socks from it. I saw some spinning fiber once that was dyed very similar to this, bright red and turquoise, and the colorway was called Jaws. Slightly morbid and gross, but I love these two colors together and I've always wanted to knit with them. :) This one is 410 yards of 80/20 SW Merino and nylon.

And the last yarn, on the right, is from one of my favorite local dyers: Unplanned Peacock Studio. I've made a Hitchhiker from her sock yarn (and a pair of socks for my mom), so now I'll finally have my own socks from her yarn! And I love the colors in this beautiful skein: purples and blues and greenish-browns. (Plus, with 460 yards there will be plenty left over for my scrap blanket!)

I also got some spinning fiber. This is approx. 4 ounces of Falkland wool from Tale & Tendril. I'll probably be spinning this into some yarn for the shop.

And because I'm apparently always drawn to the same colors, I bought this Merino spinning fiber from Shirsty Cat Designs. It's similar to the fiber above, purples and blues, but in lighter shades.

I also bought a pack of these pretty stitch markers (there are more than two, obviously, but I didn't want to dump them all out) and this handmade diz (I'm hoping to get some wool combs this year, and you use a diz to turn the fiber on the combs into combed top). I love that goofy sheep face. :) They also had some pottery pieces with alpaca faces on them, and those were adorable.

And finally, I got some natural roving. I have plans for a Nordic Wind shawl made from handspun US wool. So I picked out 4 ounces of white Coopworth and 8 ounces of gray Jacob roving from a farm in West Virginia. Then I also have 4 ounces of black wool. I originally planned on using four colors, but I couldn't really find grays that were different enough, so I might just use these or find some way to combine them to make four colors. I'm excited! :) It'll be fun to spin wool breeds that I've never spun before and use them all in one big project.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Knitting: My first handspun, toe-up sock is finished! It doesn't fit perfectly, but for my first try with toe-up socks, I think it's pretty good. (I'll go into more detail when I post about the finished pair.) I'm getting ready to start the second one. I also have another lone sock finished from the Hermione's Everyday Sock pattern. I'd already knitted that one when I started my handspun socks, and since I only have one good set of sock needles (and a self-imposed rule of only knitting one pair of socks at a time), I set it aside until my handspun ones are done. And finally, my red Multnomah shawl is coming along nicely. I'm halfway through with the lace section at the bottom. I didn't love this shawl until I had knitted a couple of rows of the lace and could see how it was turning out. I love how it's making the bottom of the garter section look sort of scalloped...I think this little shawl is going to be a new favorite. I'm really enjoying knitting it and I can't wait to see the end result. :)

Spinning: The yarn shown above is supposed to be for my shop, but I'm really smitten with it! I've only spun half of the braid so far. This was my first time spinning yarn with the intention of the finished yarn being singles. I've always plied my yarn before, but I imagined this fiber would look really good as a single ply, and thankfully it does! See that gorgeous shine? That's because it's something like a 70/30 BFL and silk blend. I fulled the singles to strengthen them a bit. (Basically doing everything you're normally not supposed to do with wool yarn: switching it between hot and cold water and then beating it on the kitchen counter...surprisingly fun!)

Reading: From the Start, by Melissa Tagg. I'm a third of the way in and loving it. I think this was just what I needed to get me out of my reading slump. :) I've also started the latest issue of Taproot.

Listening: Lately I've been listening to the Austenland soundtrack, which makes me want to watch the movie again. It should come as no surprise that I love the soundtrack, since I've probably watched this movie 12 times in the past year. It's one of my comfort always makes me laugh. I've also been listening to a lot of Switchfoot, particularly the albums Vice Verses and Fading West (which I'll admit I didn't like at first, but it's grown on me).

Watching: I'm currently watching Boy Meets World and Monk through again. BMW makes me feel so nostalgic, and I've even got my parents watching it, too. (We used to watch it when it was airing on TV, but this is the first time they've seen it all the way through.) I'm in the last season, but they've nearly caught up with me. :) And Monk- I was afraid I might not enjoy this show as much the second time through, because now I know how the mysteries are solved. But it turns out I'd forgotten a lot of the details of the cases. The show is worth watching just for Monk and the supporting characters, though!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Natural beauty products {update!}.

Almost two years ago, I did a post about natural "beauty" products (for lack of a better name) can find it here. I've been meaning to do an update on that post for quite a while now, because I've changed some of the items I use.
Basically, I try to use products that are as natural as possible. There are certain types of chemicals and things I try to avoid, and I like it when I actually know what the listed ingredients are. It would be ideal if I could make most (if not all) of these things myself, but as you can see, I'm definitely not there yet. (Also, I don't wear make-up so you'll be disappointed if you're looking for natural make-up recommendations here!)


I'm still using the goat's milk soap that I make myself. I've been using only homemade soap for probably four or five years now, and I've been making my own for about two years. It's just basic soap but I love it! (Last summer I started selling some soap at the farmers' market for a bit of extra money, and -sneak peek- it's also going to be for sale in my new Etsy shop. Which is why it's labeled.)


When I wrote my last post, deodorant was the one major product I hadn't figured out yet. Thankfully, after some trial and error, I think I'm finally happy with what I'm using.

I went into more detail last time, but apparently I'm sensitive and any deodorants with baking soda break me out. I started using Deodo Mom, which is a deodorant originally created for pregnant women who wanted to avoid aluminum. It's the first (and only) natural deodorant I have tried that hasn't given me a rash, because it doesn't contain any baking soda. In my experience, it works okay. It doesn't work nearly as good as I wish it would. It's better for the winter than the summer...because Virginia summers are hot and humid.

Then about a year ago, I decided to try Truly's. It had mostly good reviews and they also offered a money-back guarantee (except the $4 shipping charge doesn't get reimbursed). I used it for a month with no problems, and I was so happy to have finally found a natural deodorant that worked well! But then I broke out again. I'm not sure why it took a month to affect me, because the other ones I've tried have started feeling irritating after just a couple of days. (Maybe it contains a lower amount of baking soda, or one of the other ingredients helps balance it out or something?)

So here's my routine. I can use Truly's for three to four days before my skin starts feeling irritated. When that happens, I switch back over to Deodo Mom for a couple of days, and then repeat the process. It's not perfect, but it's working for me right now. Of the natural deodorants I've tried, Truly definitely works the best and I would use it everyday if I could. (Deodo Mom comes in several forms, but I like the cream kind in the jar best. You do have to make sure you close it tightly or it will dry out. I've tried all of the other kinds and even though it's supposedly the same formula, they didn't work as well for me.)

I've seen several recipes for homemade deodorant for sensitive skin that don't include baking soda, and eventually I want to try to make those. But they call for ingredients that I don't have on hand, and they're ingredients that usually come in bulk amounts. I just hate to spend money on ingredients to make a deodorant that might not work!


Still the same as last time. :) I ditched my Bath and Body Works lotions with the lists of unknown ingredients. I use this locally made goat's milk lotion and Burt's Bees body lotion. (The Burt's Bees lotion is 99% natural and my little cousins that I babysit tell me that it makes me smell like vanilla frosting. Smelling like dessert is a good thing in my book!)

Face Wash

I'd been using this face wash from Burt's Bees for several years, but sometimes my skin would look a little dry after using it. I still use it once every couple of weeks, but now I use raw honey to wash my face. We had some older honey from Dad's hives stored upstairs that had crystallized into basically a solid form (and maybe even fermented a little, because it smells stronger than normal honey). We heated it up to make it the right consistency again, but the taste is a little off. So I don't feel guilty about using this honey on my face, since the only use it would probably get otherwise is sweetener for my dad's coffee. :)

The honey seems to be working just as well as the face wash did. It is a bit messier, so I have to make sure I don't leave a trail of stickiness everywhere when I wash my face. I just wet my face with a warm washcloth, put the honey on my face and leave it on for about two minutes, and then wash it off with warm water.

I also occasionally use coconut oil on my face. If I start getting a zit, I'll put a bit of coconut oil on that spot and then wash it off with a warm water. It seems like that helps the zit clear up a lot quicker than it would otherwise.


I'm still using this Tom's toothpaste. Most of their toothpaste is not fluoride-free, so you just have to make sure to check the label!

Lip Balm

I've long since ran out of the locally made lip balms I was using, so it's back to the original Burt's Bees kind. I love this stuff, but I'm still planning on making my own lip balm soon. We have beeswax from my dad's hives that we have to clean, and then I have to get one more ingredient and some empty lip balm containers before I can try to make any.


When I wrote the last post, I had my hair routine under control. But now a lot of things have changed. I'll try my best to be brief and not repeat too much from last time, but there's a lot to say! :)

My hair is naturally wavy/curly and fairly thick (though not as thick as it used to be). It's oily at the roots but the rest of my hair has a tendency to be dry and sort of coarse (and frizzy if there's any moisture in the air!). Over the last couple of years I've had a bit of a problem with what I thought was build-up from the homemade flax seed gel I was using. It got a lot worse this past winter, so I decided to switch to a store-bought natural gel instead. But I did some research and instead of product build-up, I think my problem is dry scalp. That sounds ridiculous to me, since I've always had oily hair at the roots. Anyway, that's made me change my hair routine quite a bit.

Up until a year ago, I was using Burt's Bees shampoo and conditioner. But I was never super-pleased with them, especially the conditioner. I had to use a lot of the seemed like I was having to buy more every other week, and that stuff isn't cheap. Our Target doesn't have many sulfate-free shampoo choices, but I stumbled on Shea Moisture. {Note: Because of where it's located in the store, I think that this line might be targeted at ethnic hair. But it works well on my hair, so I don't think it really matters!} No sulfates or parabens or other nasty stuff. It's a little more expensive than Burt's Bees but it's a bigger bottle and it's often on sale. And the best part: the bottle of shampoo lasted for about 7 months, and the conditioner lasted about 6 months. I love that! I have no problem paying $9-10 each for shampoo and conditioner if I only have to buy it twice a year.

I started off with the Coconut and Hibiscus ones and really liked them (they smell good, too). The first time I used them, I thought they might make my hair feel too oily, but I used less shampoo and it wasn't a problem anymore. When I ran out of conditioner, that kind was out of stock at Target, so I had to get the Raw Shea Butter kind instead. It turns out that conditioner doesn't work as well on my hair as the other did. I have to use more of it and to me, the smell is really strong.

Lately, with my scalp being dry, I switched back to Burt's Bees' More Moisture shampoo (while still using the Shea Moisture conditioner). I don't really know if it's helping, so I might just switch back. Also, I want to try using the Shea Moisture Deep Cleansing shampoo every once in a while to see if that helps.

I tried several things to help my scalp (including coconut oil and olive oil), but so far the only thing that has worked is raw honey. (Again! Honey is good stuff, you guys.) I wash my hair three to four times a week, and before I wash it, I massage honey into my scalp (mixed with just enough water to make it not sticky). I leave it on for at least 30 minutes, but it works better if it's on for at least an hour before I wash my hair. It's kind of a pain, and it does feel sticky in your hair after about 5 minutes, but it really is helping and it rinses right out with warm water before I shampoo. I don't realize how much it helps with my dry scalp unless I skip it.

I'm currently using the B5 Design Gel from Aubrey Organics as my hair gel. I really like it! It has a bit of a strange's very plant-y and now that I think of it, maybe it's aloe vera that it smells like? (That is one of the main ingredients.) Anyway, it smells odd for a hair gel, but the scent doesn't linger in your hair. It works about the same as my homemade flax seed gel, and it's nice that you don't have to make it every two weeks or keep it refrigerated. But since they work about the same and this kind is much more expensive than my homemade gel, I might switch back. I'll decide when I finish this bottle. :) It does last quite a while, even though I have to use more than the recommended dime-sized amount. I've been using this bottle for about four months and I still have a decent amount left.

What sort of natural products do you use? Do you have any recommendations?

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

{Of course there will be spoilers! Also, you can find my reviews of the first two films here: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug.}

I'm finally getting around to writing about the last Hobbit film. I've mentioned before that I missed seeing it in theaters, but of course I bought the DVD on the day it came out and watched it that night. It probably worked out better that way, actually...not only could I pause it to take notes for this post, but I also had tissues nearby. :)

Okay, I'll just jump straight in with my rambling. With the book, I didn't blame the dwarves as much for Smaug's attack on Lake-town. But in the movie, it definitely feels like they're to blame since they had been inside the mountain riling Smaug up and trying to kill him. So I don't exactly feel as much fondness for the dwarves in this movie as I did in the first two! (One dwarf in particular.) Speaking of Smaug, how can they possibly make a CGI dragon look so cruel? I never noticed it before this film, but he's so evil looking.

Let's talk about Thorin. "Dragon sickness" or not, he goes from being a pretty awesome character to being a jerk. I love the moment between him and Bilbo with the acorn, because it's one of the few times in this movie when he's actually likable again. I was so ashamed of him in the scenes when the war is going on and he's shut up in the mountain, worrying about his stupid gold and the Arkenstone! I mean, I was disappointed with some of Thorin's actions in the book, but seeing it played out on screen makes is so much worse somehow.

Random thoughts on a couple more characters: the whole thing with Galadriel was pretty creepy. Also, Thorin's cousin Dain cracked me up. Was he riding on a pig? I knew his voice sounded familiar, and when I looked it up, I realized that he was Uncle Monty in the Series of Unfortunate Events movie (and the voice of the dad in Brave).

Even though Thorin let me down in the movie, there's one character who never disappoints: Legolas. You knew that was coming, right? :) I just can't get over how awesome that guy is. He dances across rivers on the heads of dwarves in barrels. He glides down hills on dead Orcs. He can hang onto a bat in order to soar across the sky and he can defy gravity to run up falling rubble. And his hair always looks disgustingly perfect. I don't even know what else to say. (Except now I really want to rewatch the LOTR trilogy to see more of Legolas's awesomeness, but I won't let myself watch them again until I reread the books. I'm trying to get motivated.)

And then there's Bilbo. I just love Bilbo Baggins. He's so likable and normal. He loves his home and his routine and his cozy, comfortable life (oh, how I can relate to that). But he's brave and loyal and pretty clever, too. I'm not saying he always makes the best decisions, but he's such a good guy. And Martin Freeman portrays him perfectly. It's like Freeman really is a hobbit...the mannerisms and everything are perfect. I know I say this every time I talk about LOTR, but I think movie-Frodo is a wimp. It's been so long since I read the entire trilogy that I can't really remember how book-Frodo is, but I dislike movie-Frodo so much. Bilbo is a real hero and Frodo wouldn't have made it without Sam (in my opinion!).

Of course I have to talk about the deaths. Kili's death didn't affect me like I thought it would! I think it was because it was with Tauriel instead of with Thorin. I don't exactly mind Tauriel as a character in general, but as a love interest for a dwarf, it's ridiculous. The whole thing about Fili and Kili dying is that they were supposed to die protecting their uncle, Thorin. I guess in a way they still were, but I just thought the way it was done in the film felt cheap.

But Thorin's death...that made me cry. I knew the way he supposedly defeated Azog was too easy, which is why he shouldn't have just stood there when he saw him under the ice! I always imagined him dying in the midst of the battle, so at first it bothered me that he was away from the others. But then it felt fitting that it was just Bilbo there with him. It was so sad but I was glad he had some redemption before he died. It almost made me forget about how infuriating he was for most of the movie. :)

After all of that build-up and action and excitement, the battle was over a little abruptly! I liked that they showed Beorn and Radagast with the eagles, but I don't think they made it clear that the eagles were what really turned the battle.

I enjoyed this movie. I didn't feel as much closure with it as I do with The Return of the King, but I guess that's understandable since this is really only the beginning of the story.

I still feel like turning The Hobbit into three films was overkill. I wish that there were fewer Orc chases and that they had kept the lighter, more whimsical tone of the book. But I still really enjoyed these three films. I think they did a good job of connecting them with the Lord of the Rings films. I feel like you could watch the Hobbit films and then the LOTR trilogy (goodness, what a marathon that would be...) and it would all be pretty seamless, because they did a good job of connecting everything. That in itself is impressive considering that they were made about a decade apart! I liked the way they did some foreshadowing/references (depending on when you're watching them) to the LOTR films...having Legolas insult Gimli years before they even met made me smile.

What did you think of the last Hobbit film? Did you like what they did with these three films or not?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Slow crafting and being content. {Cheap Fashion: Part 2}

{A month and a half later and I finally got around to this post! You can read part 1 here.}

Since clothes have never been super important to me, the thing that actually got me thinking about fast, cheap fashion was yarn. I could care less about buying clothes, but yarn and fiber...that's another story. :)

Listening to the Woolful podcast really started to open my eyes about the origin of yarn. (Are you listening to that podcast yet? I know I talk about it all the time, but seriously...go listen!) I spin so of course I know how yarn is created, but I had never really thought about the other aspects: where the sheep are raised, how they're raised, and how the fiber is treated during the processes from fleece to yarn. The podcast combined with this amazing post by Felicia spurred me into thinking more about my sewing and knitting habits and about the crafting community in general.

Disclaimer: I am talking about myself here. I'm not being judgmental about anyone else...I'm just telling you what I see in myself.

I would like to think that I'm one of those really thoughtful makers: someone who plans out projects, uses good materials, and takes her time to make a nice finished object. But too often I'm not. I buy cheap materials (and then I'm surprised when they don't hold up...go figure!) and rush through projects just to get them done.

I'd like to know where my yarn comes from and how it was processed. Most yarns I've seen (especially in person rather than online) are labeled pretty vaguely about what country and breed of sheep the yarn came from. After learning about the superwash process and about misleading labels (yarn being labeled as the product of one country when it has spent most of its life in China), I decided that I want to be more careful about what new yarn I buy. (I'm still using the yarns I already owned because if I weeded through my stash to find only American yarns, I probably wouldn't have any.) I want to focus on buying yarn that was grown in the U.S. and minimally processed with the least amount of chemicals possible. Wool is such an amazing material that it's a shame we won't just leave it alone in its natural state!

It's not just about quality, though. It's also about the quantity, which ties into discontent. I know that I personally struggle with being content, and in our society, I don't think I'm the only one. Since I don't do nearly as much sewing as I used to, my fabric stash currently isn't too out of control. But there are still fabrics that I have had for too long without using them. Yarn is a bigger issue for me right now. If I knitted exclusively from my stash, I estimate that I would have enough yarn to keep me busy for a year and a half to two years. And still I find myself wanting more.

The internet is a great resource. I wouldn't be knitting or sewing today if it weren't for the amazing online crafting community. I love Ravelry and reading blogs by people who are creating beautiful things. But I think there's a fine line between feeling inspired and feeling envy and discontent. Sometimes I just have to step back. I have to take a break from knitting podcasts and stop browsing yarn sites or Etsy. If I'm not constantly being exposed to all of these things that I think I need, it's easier to feel happy with what I have. I can look through my stash and get excited about the yarn I already own instead of planning what to buy next.

There are so many yarns out there that I'd love to try. There are so many patterns that I'd love to knit. I catch myself thinking things like, I really want that yarn. Having that yarn would make me so happy. It would feel awesome to be wearing that sweater. I wish I had that shawl. It's like I somehow believe that having more will make my life better. Of course knitting and wearing the finished object do make me happy, but not in a life-changing sort of way. Creating in general is a huge part of my life and I hope it will always be. I hope that when I'm old, I'll look back over my life and be thankful for that, but there are other things that are more important. And when I'm eighty, I probably won't think, "Goodness, I'm glad I bought that pretty sock yarn way back in 2015! It changed my life."

(Ha. Maybe this is getting a little dramatic for a post about yarn. Moving along...)

The world is full of gorgeous yarn and beautiful fabric. I would like to have more. But I already have so much. (I need to repeat that to myself whenever I start feeling discontented, because it's true: I'm so blessed and I should be thankful for what I have. Not just with yarn, but with everything in my life.) My drawer of handknits is overflowing...just how many cowls/hats/mitts do I actually need? I live in Virginia, not Antarctica.

Obviously I'm not going to stop knitting. I'm finally at the point now where I love the process of it. Of course there are still patterns that I want to make for myself, but I think I'm more open to knitting for other people than I used to be. It's a good way to still be knitting, but to do something nice for someone else. (Another bonus: the handknits drawer doesn't get fuller.)

And I'm not going to stop buying yarn. Buying yarn is one of my favorite things! :) I just want to be more selective with what I do buy.

I want to change my creative mindset a bit. I don't want to keep churning out stuff that I don't need, things that probably aren't going to get used often because I already have so much. Instead of worrying about knitting all the things, I want to focus on creating items that are better quality that I will use all the time and that will last forever. I need to learn that it's okay if something takes a while to make. Sometimes I think I have this fear of long-term projects* (which is also probably why I seem to avoid really thick books). It's better to take my time and do it right than to rush through and be disappointed.

That's the whole point of creating, honestly. Why would I take the time to make something rather than just go buy it at the store? Because if I do my best, I can (hopefully) make a higher quality, better fitting, longer-lasting item with special details. I can make a sweater that actually fits my long arms. I can make cute socks that don't get holes in them after a week (like the ones from Target tend to). I can make the inside of a skirt look as nice as the outside. I need to remember that. But just like I don't need to buy lots of clothes at the store, I don't need to make more clothes than I'll wear. Making things is supposed to be's not supposed to be an adaptation of the fast fashion world.

{I was also going to talk about US-made clothes, yarn, etc. but once again, this post is too long. So apparently there will be a third part...}

How about you? Do you take your time and make things right, or do you find yourself rushing through projects? How do you sort through materials and projects to decide what you want to focus on?

*This sounds ironic coming from someone who recently started a sock yarn blanket.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. I started reading this book when I was 15! That was right around the time I fell in love with the movie, so naturally I wanted to read the book. But all of the stuff at the beginning bogged me down (I didn't realize what was real and what was made up, and it was too confusing), and even after skipping ahead to the actual story, I eventually gave up. I held onto the book all this time, and ever since I read As You Wish last year (and loved it), I've been wanting to give it another try. (Cary Elwes and all of the others kept raving about how brilliant the book is.) I'm liking it a lot more this time around! :)

Knitting: Besides socks, I'm currently working on a Multnomah shawl. I've been wanting to knit this pattern for about two years now, and it fits into my goal of trying to knit more lace this year. (The border is lacey but right now it's just squishy garter stitch.) This pattern is uncharted and I really want to become more comfortable with reading charts, but I have some other patterns in mind that will help accomplish that!

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sock Scrap Blanket {Month 1}

To avoid bombarding you guys with tons of pictures of my sock yarn scrap blanket, I decided to do monthly progress posts. If I don't work on it enough during a month to do a post, then I'll just lump a couple of months together.

Here's how the first month went:
-22 completed squares.
-14 squares from my own scraps.
-3 squares from mini-skeins I purchased from GnomeAcres.
-5 squares from mini-skeins that Andi so kindly sent me!
-1 handspun square, 3 sparkly squares, and 1 tweedy square.

So far I've been keeping up with each one on Ravelry, but I can't say whether I'll still be doing that when I have a hundred squares. :) I love looking at my blanket (though it's more of a placemat at this point) and remembering the projects that these scraps came from!

Favorite squares this month: the green one below the bright rainbow-ish one (it's the perfect shade of green and the yarn was really nice), the blue one on the bottom row from my Doctor Who Hitchhiker, and the colorful one shown in the third photo above (from my favorite socks).

Things I've learned...don't knit too many squares without stopping to weave in ends. I try to weave them in every two or three squares, because it's not fun when you have to play catch up. It takes me 30 minutes to knit a square if I'm just knitting, but 45 minutes if I'm knitting while watching TV. :) And finally, it's impossible to knit just one square in a sitting. I don't think I've ever done's been at least two, but usually three or four. (It's addicting.)