Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: Lizzy & Jane, by Katherine Reay. I read this author's first book, Dear Mr. Knightley, a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I've just started this one, but if it's half as good as the first I'll be pleased. :)

Knitting: I think these socks showed up in a Yarn Along post a couple of months ago. I've been knitting on them off and on when I have the chance, so progress has been slow. The first sock is finished and I'm only a couple of stripes away from the heel on this second one. Honestly, I'm not in love with these colors so I want to finish up this pair so I can cast on some fall-colored socks.

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What I Read: September

September was a decent reading month. I know I'm doing this post a few days early, but I'm pretty sure that I won't finish the book I'm currently reading before October 1st. :) I loved about half of what I read this month and the other half was a As always, click on the title to read my full review.

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, by Liesl Shurtliff. For some reason, I always go into middle grade books with this hope that they'll be charming and special, but unfortunately a lot of them end up being rather forgettable. Which was the case with this book. It sounded so promising...Rumpelstiltskin's backstory! But it was a bit slow and the resolution about his name felt forced. The best parts were all of the mentions of spinning and the illustration of a spinning wheel at the beginning. :)

How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn. Reading this book was such an unusual experience. I literally couldn't rush through it. Not that I was trying to fly through it, but it took me two and a half weeks to read it and I honestly don't think I could have done it any quicker. This book forces you to read it slowly. After I got used to the Welsh dialect and finally straightened out who was who (there are a lot of brothers!), I absolutely adored this book. The writing was beautiful and I felt like I was there in the village, and the struggles of the family felt so real. I liked the second half a bit less...Huw was less likable after he grew up and things took a darker turn for a lot of the members of the family. But this is one of those books that really sticks with you.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. This one is a new favorite. It was so creepy and disturbing (a perfect fall or Halloween read!), but I couldn't put it down. The characters are unhinged and crazy, but I felt so much sympathy for them. Despite all of the sinister weirdness going on, the writing is so simple and matter-of-fact. The first half or so reminded me of the Addams Family...humorous but dark. The scenes with the villagers and Charles made me so angry! I had to give this book five stars because it's been a long time since a story sucked me in like that. Highly recommended, though it's definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea. Now I really want to read more from Shirley Jackson. (I read her famous short story The Lottery online earlier this year, but that's it.)

Going Vintage, by Lindsey Leavitt. After reading two rather intense books that I ended up loving, I picked this one up because I wanted something light and fluffy. might have been a bit too fluffy, or maybe I just shouldn't have read it right after two such amazing books. This one was cute, but a bit disappointing. I did like Oliver, but I felt like I just breezed through this one without connecting to the story or the characters.

The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket. I loved The Series of Unfortunate Events when I was a kid (and a teenager, since I was 15 when the last book came out). I've been wanting to reread them for a long time, so I think I'll read one or two of them each month until I'm finished. It's probably been 10 years since I last read this book, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it just as much now as I did then! It was an incredibly fast read. I love the characters and the illustrations and the writing style (I didn't find the "defining" aspect of it to be as annoying as I expected). This is my favorite type of children's literature: quirky and slightly creepy and sinister while still being hilarious. (That's probably why I'm so often disappointed with middle grade books trying to be like SOUE...they just don't measure up!)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: Going Vintage, by Lindsey Leavitt. I loved the last two books that I read, but they were both sort of unusual experiences. (How Green Was My Valley was so good, but took me two and a half weeks to read. And I absolutely loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but it was dark and very bizarre.) So I'm definitely ready for something light and fluffy! This one is about a teenage girl who decides to quit technology and "go vintage" by completing a list of goals that her grandmother wrote in the 60s. It sounds like it'll be cute and a nice change from what I've been reading lately. :)

Knitting: I'm still knitting hats to sell. October is sneaking up on me, and my first craft fair of the fall is only a week and a half away! I got tired of knitting solid colored and striped hats, so lately I've been knitting ones with a bit of easy colorwork at the bottom, inspired by the Golden Pear pattern. My current one is going to be a children's version of this baby hat that I made last week. I want to knit some colorwork mittens this winter, so I'm hoping this basic colorwork will give me the confidence to attempt that.

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

Monday, September 21, 2015

Spinning: goldenrod/black walnut and local fiber.

I wanted to share some spinning I've finished lately. I had two ounces of BFL that I naturally dyed with goldenrod, and another two ounces dyed with black walnut. So I combined those four ounces into this yarn.

It's spun fractal style, so there are sections of solid brown and solid yellow, and a lot of sections where those two colors are together. I wasn't really sure how the yellow and brown would look together, but I'm pretty happy with it! It's approx. DK weight and ended up being 150 yards. This yarn will be going in the Etsy shop as soon as I can get some better pictures of it. :)

This is some dark brown (natural colored) wool that I spun, and the exciting thing is that the fiber is local! It came from less than an hour from my house, and I know the ladies who own the sheep. :) This particular sheep was a Finn and Jacob cross...I've spun Finn fiber before, and I have some Jacob roving but I haven't spun it yet.

I wanted to try something different with this fiber, so I attempted to spin it woolen style. (I've only tried that once before, and I don't think I was doing long draw properly, so I'm considering this my first woolen spin.) It's so different from my usual yarn! Very lofty and fuzzy and surprisingly soft, though the yarn is rather "rustic" because I'm not consistent with woolen spinning yet. I feel like it was the perfect way to spin this fiber. And the fiber went so much further! It was a bit over 4 ounces, but I somehow ended up with 174 yards of aran weight yarn. There was so much yarn that it almost filled up two bobbins, and when plying I had to split it up into two skeins (the third one is the Andean-plied leftovers).

I'll be keeping this yarn for myself. It's not the prettiest yarn I've ever spun, but it's so satisfying to spin with fiber that was not only American wool, but wool from so close to home. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Summer reading update.

I completed my whole summer reading list this year, which was surprising! (I don't think I've ever read everything on the list before.) It took me about three and a half months, but I managed to finish before the first day of fall. :)

My list included 19 books in total, including two trilogies. I also got distracted a few times and read books that weren't on the list. (Sometimes when a new book comes in the mail, you can't help but start it right then, you know?)

Favorites: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, and Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson.

Least Favorites: Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney, and The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. (I still enjoyed these books for the most part, but they were just a bit disappointing.)

Prettiest Covers: Burial Rites and the Wildwood trilogy.

Ugliest Cover: The Importance of Being Earnest.

Rereads: A Tale Dark & Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz, Emma by Jane Austen, Wildwood and Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy.

Biggest Surprise: Since You've Been Gone. (I normally really dislike YA contemporary novels, but I loved this one!)

Book Discussions: The Wildwood Chronicles and To Kill a Mockingbird/Go Set a Watchman. (I did full reviews of these on the blog.)

Books Not on the List: Never Have I Ever, Adventures in Yarn Farming, and Knitting Rules.

What I learned from this summer reading list: It's fun at first, when you still have lots of books to choose from. But when it comes down to it, I don't like being restricted on what I'm "supposed" to be reading (even if it's a self-imposed restriction). Towards the end it really bugged me when I only had a few books left on the list to pick from. I started looking through my shelves and dreaming around reading something different. :) But apparently I'm just stubborn enough to follow through...I did love marking each book off my list!

A lot of these books were ones I'd been meaning to read for a long time now, so it feels good to have finally read them! Overall it was a summer full of good books. I really did enjoy nearly everything I read, and I found a few new favorites.

What were your favorite books that you read this summer?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Slow Fashion October.

I've always loved the idea of Me-Made-May and wanted to participate, but it has never worked out for me. (In case you didn't know, Me-Made-May is a sort of challenge to wear the clothes you've sewn. Most people try to wear at least one handmade item per day that month.) For one thing, I don't have a ton of handmade summer clothes, so there would have to be lots of repeats. Also, I only wear my "good clothes" when I'm going to town or church...which is about three days a week. On the days when I'm at home or babysitting, I'm usually in old t-shirts or holey jeans, so it would be almost impossible to work the challenge around that.

But when I read that Karen Templer of Fringe Association was going to be hosting Slow Fashion October? Yes. I can get behind that. You can read more here, but basically it's a broader take on Me-Made-May and there are lots of ways to interpret it. I've written a little before about this subject (here and here) and I was planning on doing a post sometime soon about why making my own clothes is so important to me. But now I'm hoping it will be easier to sort out my thoughts using the five weekly themes that Karen has come up with.

I don't think that I'll be able to make any additions to my wardrobe that month, unless I can squeeze in some sewing. (There's so much going on in October...two craft fairs, working on my niece's birthday gifts, hopefully starting on Christmas gifts, and just enjoying the amazingness of my favorite season!) I am hoping to plan some projects, though. I'll write more about this at the beginning of the month, but here's an idea of how I'm planning on participating.

I'm going to try to wear at least one handmade item each day in October. But I'm not being too technical here...some days it might not be an actual item of clothing. I'm counting all handknits (socks, hats, shawls, etc.) and pajamas and basically anything that I've made that is wearable. :) Of course I won't be doing traditional daily outfit photos (remember the old t-shirt and holey jeans thing I mentioned before?), but I am going to try to take a photo every day to document what handmade item I'm wearing. Then I'll do some sort of weekly post about that week's theme and include those photos in the post.

I'm really hoping that the weather will cooperate with me. October can still be pretty warm here, and if it's too warm for handknits, then this goal of mine will be much harder. :)

Anyway, I'm really excited about Slow Fashion October! All of this has been on my mind a lot lately because I haven't been buying clothes, and I have to get more motivated about sewing my own. (Besides t-shirts. I've sewn lots of Renfrews this year, but that's about it.) I think this will be a fun challenge and I hope it'll get more people thinking about where their clothes come from. :) Let me know if you're planning on participating in any way!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

In which I venture out of my comfort zone.

Earlier this week, I went to a knitting group for the first time.

I had been thinking lately about how lovely it would be if my town had a yarn shop. I mean, the online knitting community (blogs, Ravelry, podcasts, etc.) is amazing and I'm really thankful for it. But I'm rarely around other knitters in real life. A couple of times a year, maybe, at craft fairs or fiber festivals. So I've always been a solitary knitter, and I'd been okay with that. I'm a homebody, anyway, and I'm content curled up in a chair, watching a favorite movie or show and knitting away.

But suddenly I just really wanted to be around other knitters. I remembered that someone (the lady who I got my spinning wheel from, actually) had told me about a group of knitters that meet once a week. So that's how I found myself driving to Starbucks one evening and knitting with three other knitters for a couple of hours. Everyone was kind and it was really nice, and I'll be going back.

If you had told me a month ago that I'd be going to a place I've never been before* and hanging out with people I'd never met, I would have laughed. That's so unlike me. Basically, I'm a hobbit...adventures make me nervous. I'm an introvert who likes my comfort zone, thank you very much. I like my routine and knowing what to expect. I know I've mentioned it before, but social things are hard for me. I'm awkward and unsure and a little too worried about how other people perceive me. I usually rely on others to start conversations because unless I know someone well, it's hard for me to do that.

I'm not sure how writing about a knitting group morphed into a discussion of my social awkwardness, but there it is. :) I guess these things have been on my mind lately. You know those people who seem to be naturally confident? Not an arrogant, bold confidence, but a quiet, genuine one. People who just seem really comfortable being themselves, wearing what they want to wear, and doing what they enjoy doing. It's like it never crosses their mind to fret over how others see them. I'm jealous of those people and inspired by them. As someone who has always struggled with insecurities, I dream of being like that someday.

I don't know where I'm going with all of this, and honestly it's probably a bit more personal than I'd intended. I know that going to knitting group probably seems like a tiny thing in the grand scheme of things. But I did something that I was afraid of doing and hopefully that's a step (however small) in the right direction.

*Yes, this was my first time going to Starbucks. I don't drink coffee, so it's not exactly the sort of place I'd find myself drawn to. The hot chocolate was good but not any better than what I make at home, I think. I love the smell of coffee, though, so the whole place does smell amazing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Knitting: summer socks.

I've always thought it was a shame that I only wore my knitted socks during the fall and winter. I'm not one of those people who likes going around the house barefoot, so all summer I wear cheap ankle socks that are basically polyester...I don't think they have a bit of cotton in them, and they develop holes really quickly.

Inspired by the recently popular Rose City Rollers pattern, I decided last month to cast on some ankle socks. It's going to be a bit of an experiment to see if I can stand to wear wool socks during the summer. :)

I just did my usual vanilla socks, except that I only knit for one inch before starting the heel. And as you can see, I started with stockinette instead of ribbing so the cuff would roll. Without an 8 inch cuff (which is what I usually do), knitting these socks was incredibly quick!

The yarn is KnitPicks' Hawthorne, which I'd never tried. As I've mentioned before, I love the softness and strength of their Stroll sock holds up really well. But I don't love the colors. I always end up being disappointed with how they pool, in the tonal and handpainted yarns. Hawthorne isn't quite as soft as Stroll, but it has a high twist, which I love in sock yarn. It makes it feel even more durable. And while I was worried about how the colors might pool, they knitted up in such a pretty way! This is how I want all hand-dyed, variegated yarn to knit up. :) The colors are so much nicer than they look in the photos: rich teal blues and purples.

I'm pretty happy with how these socks turned out. They feel a little big. I'm not sure if that's because of the yarn (maybe my gauge is a little different with Hawthorne) or because there's no ribbed cuff to hold them up. Maybe I should have done ribbing? Anyway, I'll know better for my next pair.

Ravelry project page.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Autumn inspiration.

I've been pretending that it's already fall, though of course it isn't yet. It likely won't cool down here until at least November. (Of course I'm thankful for anything below 80 degrees, but my definition of cool weather is when it's chilly enough to wear something knitted, of course!) Fall is my favorite season, and I'm so ready for it.

A few days ago, I pulled out my tote of hand knits. During the fall and winter I keep them in a drawer in my room, but I pack them away into a plastic tote during the summer. I dug through them, because yes, now there are enough to dig through. There are three new shawls, a cardigan, and some other things that I only finished this year, so I haven't had the chance to wear them yet. Also, I bought some new boots. They're my first investment in good quality, American made shoes. I've never been one of those shoe girls, but wow...I love these boots. And they even smell amazing. I can't bring myself to stick them in the closet yet, so I leave them sitting out in my room. They make the whole room smell like leather, and I usually can't walk by them without trying them on again. (I wore them around for a few minutes yesterday while still in pajamas. Mom keeps asking me, "Are you wearing your boots?") I'm going to be one happy girl on the day when it's cool enough to wear my new boots and my antler cardigan. :)

I've been lighting pumpkin candles and watching You've Got Mail. Isn't it amazing how that movie seems completely appropriate for every season? Yes, it could be a Christmas movie, but it also feels perfect for fall. {"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."} And spring. {"I hope you feel better soon. It'd be a shame to miss New York in the spring."}

While waiting for the new issue of Taproot, I've been catching up on back issues. I especially love the Dream issue (issue 5, I think?) from a couple of years ago...there were several wonderful articles in that one. I've also been eyeing my unfinished fall quilt. Oh, yeah, remember that? I need to finish hand quilting it, but it's hard to get motivated about having a heavy quilt on your lap during the summer. It would be nice to finish it soon enough to actually use it this fall.

A few things that have been inspiring me lately:

- This's so lovely, especially the part about the shawl she made after her husband died.

- Looking at pictures of bloggers' Ginger Jeans and reading the sewalong posts. Because guess what? I'm going to do something I never thought I'd do: I'm going to attempt to sew jeans. If I'm serious about a handmade wardrobe, then learning to sew jeans is a must, because I wear them all the time. But more on that soon!

- I should have learned by now to "never say never" when it comes to making things. When I first started knitting, I remember thinking, I'll never want to learn how to spin. A year later and I'm buying a spindle. I would have told you a week ago that I had zero interest in weaving. But now, suddenly, I'm obsessed with the idea of weaving a quirky, textured wall hanging. I'm thinking about asking for this little loom for Christmas. (Because I obviously need another fiber-y hobby, you know? I don't know what's the matter with me.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

More natural dyeing {tickseed sunflower, black walnut, goldenrod, and pokeberry}.

I managed to do some more natural dyeing over the past couple of weeks. But I think I'm done for now...only because I've finally run out of white yarn. :) I did freeze enough pokeberries for another dye bath, though, and I also have plenty of walnuts left. Maybe sometime this winter?

I dyed one skein of Targhee wool with tickseed sunflower, or biden. I've used those flowers before, but this time the orange was much brighter, and it's very tonal. There are bright sections, and other sections that are so light they're almost golden.

Black walnut was the only new-to-me dyeing that I did this time around. I was so pleased with the results! It's a really pretty, unusual brown...I think Harvesting Color describes it as "brassy," and that's about right. I dyed a skein of handspun Corriedale and some BFL fiber.

I also did a bit more goldenrod, though this time it's so much lighter than last time! The goldenrod is some Targhee wool and also BFL fiber. I've started spinning the goldenrod and black walnut dyed fibers together, which should be interesting. :) And finally, besides picking enough pokeberries to freeze, I also did a small dye bath...enough for one skein. This time it wasn't quite as vibrant as before, though it's more red than pink, which I like. I think I'm going to knit it into a cabled hat to sell.

If you're interested in any of these colors, most of them are available in my Etsy shop! :) Over the past few weeks, I've added four skeins of naturally dyed yarn and some handspun alpaca yarn. Also, unscented goat's milk soap is in stock now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn. I am enjoying this book so much! It's about a boy who grew up in a mining community in Wales, told from his perspective as an older man looking back over his life. I'm about a hundred pages in, and he's still a young boy, but I think it's going to cover most of his life. It's not the sort of book you can rush through...the story is very simple and slow-paced, but the writing is beautiful. I wasn't expecting this one to draw me in, but it has.

Knitting: A sweet purple baby cardigan. It's not for any particular baby (I'm going to take it along to the craft fairs next month), which is a change because usually I know the baby I'm knitting for. I thought it would be nice to break up the monotony of hat knitting! :)

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

Monday, September 7, 2015

Frostbeard Studio {Bookish Candle Review}

Today's post is something a little different. Last fall, I ordered some candles from Frostbeard Studio. They sell soy candles for bookworms: all of their scents are book-themed. I always meant to do some sort of review about the candles, and since I'm a bit short on blog post ideas at the moment, why not? :)

{By the way, I feel like I'm going to be really awful at describing how the candles smell, so bear with me.}

I ordered two of the regular sized candles (8 ounces). I chose Dumbledore's Office (now called Headmaster's Office- they changed the names of their Harry Potter inspired candles...for copyright reasons, I suppose) and The Shire. According to the shop, the scent for Dumbledore's Office is "cedarwood vanilla, fireplace, and lemon." It does smell really sweet and homey, and every once in a while you get a hint of lemon. Basically, it reminds me of a dessert, though it is a bit smoky at times (I guess that's the fireplace?).

Before I even opened the box, I could already smell one of the candles. That turned out to be The Shire. :) It was a bit strong at first, but once it's lit, it's much more subtle. They describe the scent as "oakmoss, clover, aloe, with a hint of sweet cherry pipe tobacco." It's a very clean smell, but also sort of earthy. And it smells masculine to me, almost like men's soap or cologne but not in an overwhelming way. (Remember what I said about describing the candles? I'll just stop here because it sounds like I'm saying this one smells like a clean guy.)

So out of the two big candles, The Shire is definitely my favorite, though my initial reaction was the opposite. (It's actually my favorite out of all of them that I've tried so far.) I've actually burned Dumbledore's Office a lot more than The Shire, because I'm saving that one. My excuse is that I'm saving it for when I reread the LOTR trilogy, but who knows if that will happen this year or not? Anyway, those books take me so long to read that I would probably burn through two or three of these candles in that time. :)

When I ordered my candles, I also picked out a sampler pack of tea lights for my parents to give me for Christmas. Of course I'd rather have the bigger candles, but I figured this was a good way to try lots of scents without investing in candles that I might not like. I got the "Bibliophile Sample Pack," which isn't currently listed in their I'm not sure if they still sell this particular pack or not. I would burn a tea light for a couple of hours each evening, and I could get three evenings out of one tea light.

Old Books: Paper, dust, newsprint, and a hint of vanilla. This one was actually the last tea light that I burned, and I loved it. It was definitely one of my favorites. It wasn't musty at had a sweet and comforting smell.

Oxford Library: Oakmoss, amber, sandalwood, with hints of tobacco and leather. To me, this one just smelled like strong cologne. And it really lingered in the air. I lit it one night for a couple of hours, and when I came back into my room the next morning, I got a whiff of it! I didn't really like it while it was burning, but it was okay afterwards.

Trashy Romance Novel: Peachy and floral. This was one of my least favorites. I might have been biased against it from the beginning because of the name and the fact that it was pink (not my favorite color). But it was flowery and fruity, and honestly those just aren't the kind of candles that I like.

Bookstore: Timber, driftwood, hazelnut cappuccino, and a hint of leather. This was another of my favorites! I can't really explain it: it was just really clean and bookish. It's been so long since I've been in a real bookstore (our town is sadly lacking one) that I don't know if it actually smells like one or not, but I like to think it does. :)

Book Cellar: Dirt, basement, vanilla bean. Honestly, this one was just musty! I don't mind a slightly musty book smell in real life, but I don't particularly want a candle that smells like that.

Sherlock's Study: Sweet pipe tobacco, cherrywood, and fresh rain. I absolutely loved this one. It was my favorite of the sampler, and I plan on getting this in a full candle! I don't know about it smelling like pipe tobacco, but it was nice and cozy and sort of sweet. For some reason, it reminded me of Christmas. I know that most Christmas candles smell like desserts or peppermint or pine. This one doesn't smell like any of those things, but it still reminded me of Christmas.

Overall, I was so pleased with my candles from Frostbeard Studio. They were packaged carefully and beautifully (down to the tissue paper that matches their logo), and the candles themselves are pretty (I love the colors they use) and smell amazing. I love the scents of the two candles I got, and I can see myself buying Sherlock's Study, Old Books, and Bookstore candles sometime.

The candles are fairly expensive, but for the whole concept and the quality, I think it's worth it. (I know there are other Etsy shops selling similar bookish candles, but I don't have any experience with them.) They're special...instead of lighting them for hours at a time every day, I tend to use them a bit more sparingly to make them last longer. :) Also, if you can't bear to pay full price, they do have sales several times throughout the year, so keep an eye out for those!

*Note: I'm not affiliated with Frostbeard Studios in any way. I just love their candles.*