Saturday, January 30, 2016

What I Read: January

January was a pretty good reading month, though I only read four books: two extremely quick reads and two that took me a while to finish. :) As always, click on the title to read my Goodreads review.

Steps in Time, by Fred Astaire. Honestly, this book was a little disappointing. I don't particularly want one of those tell-all memoirs, but when I'm reading an autobiography, I like to feel that I know the person a little better after finishing the book. Not so with this one. The writing didn't feel very emotional or seemed like he glazed over a lot. And most of the book was about his time in vaudeville and the theater, not his time making classic movies. It was kind of boring! It did make me want to rewatch a lot of his musicals with Ginger Rogers, though.

The Case of the Missing Marquess, by Nancy Springer. This is the first in a series about Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock (and Mycroft). Enola is a great character...she reminds me a bit of an older, less eccentric version of Flavia de Luce. I loved the portrayals of her older brothers in this book and the family dynamics. I thought it was a middle grade novel, but really it's somewhere between that and YA. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and hopefully I can read more of the series this year.

Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. Definitely a new favorite. I loved this book! I don't know why I was so scared of reading it takes a while to get used to Thomas Hardy's wordy writing style, but for a classic, it was a lot easier to read than I expected. The story and characters sucked me in right from the beginning, and even though it took me almost two weeks to read, I didn't want to put it down. The book started off rather sweet, but it took some unexpectedly dramatic turns, and I've never read anything like it. I'm going to see the new film adaptation soon, and I might do a whole post about the book and film then, so I won't say any more now.

84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff. This tiny little book was a pleasant surprise. It features the correspondence between Helene, a writer living in New York, and a man working in a bookshop in London that she orders books from. It sounds odd and dull, but it was so good. Their letters are so lovely that it almost seems impossible that they're was interesting to see two such different people strike up a friendship.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Knitting: stripe study shawl.

Why is it that shawls seem to take an incredibly long time to knit? (Especially ones knit from fingering weight yarn!) It feels like I worked on this shawl forever, but really it only took a month, off and on.

I didn't plan on using these two yarns together. The variegated yarn was a skein that I purchased from a local dyer at the fiber festival last spring. I planned on using it for socks. The brown yarn is some US Merino yarn from Jill Draper Makes Stuff, and I was planning on using it for a shawl. But when I saw these two skeins next to each other, they looked so nice that I decided to use them together in a project.

The pattern is the Stripe Study Shawl. It's a simple garter stitch shawl that incorporates short rows. It was pretty easy to memorize the pattern after a while, so it was good TV knitting. Because my yarns matched a little too well, the stripes are subtle. There are twelve sections between stripes, but I ran out of yarn in the last section, so that one isn't as wide as it's supposed to be.

I'm really happy with how this shawl turned out! It's a lot bigger than I expected...I guess the yarn being superwash really helped it stretch when I blocked it. Because the shawl is asymmetrical and one end is shorter, it's trickier to wear, but since it's a larger shawl, I don't have to worry about it shifting around too much.

Project page.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: I'm still reading Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. I'm glad to say that I'm still enjoying it just as much as I was last week! There has been a lot of drama and while I was sucked into the story from the start, I'm especially curious to see how things will turn out now. I should finish it within the next day or so, and then I'll watch the new adaptation as soon as possible. :)

Knitting: Since I usually find myself knitting heavy sweaters during the summer, I just cast on a new one, hoping that I'll actually be able to wear it this winter. It's In Stillness, a basic pullover with a bit of texture near the neckline. Even though I went down a needle size, my gauge is still loose so I'm hoping that knitting a smaller size will result in this sweater not being huge. (That was a problem I had with the sweater I previously knit in the round.)

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

Knitting: honey mittens.

These mittens had been in my Ravelry queue for over two years, but I've never really had any reason to knit mittens. (Besides a couple pairs of baby and toddler sized ones.) Lately, though, fingerless gloves haven't been warm enough when I'm driving on cold mornings. I'm planning on making a pair of full gloves sometime this year, but I didn't want to make them now so I decided on mittens.

The pattern is Emma's Mittens. It's one of those patterns that looks complicated and busy but is actually pretty simple to follow. Things did get a little off with the last couple of rows of decreases before you graft the top of the mittens closed...the instructions aren't very clear and I didn't have the correct stitch count, but it worked out fine. The only thing I changed about the pattern was to do one less repeat of the chart before the thumb. I always knit longer gloves and mittens, but these were plenty long enough with only four repeats.

I love all of the texture on these mittens: cables and bobbles on the front and seed stitch on the back. It makes them feel even thicker and warmer.

I used some Quince & Co. yarn: Lark in the honey colorway. When I ordered this yarn, I thought it was going to be a mustard yellow. (That's how it looked on the website, and that's what "honey" implies, right?) It turned out to be a rather unusual shade of greenish brown, so it sat in my stash for about a year before I finally decided it would work well for mittens. As usual, Quince & Co.'s yarn is wonderful to knit with, plus it's American wool.

{The snowy background seemed fitting since I knitted the second mitten while being snowed in over the weekend.}

Project page.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Pride and Prejudice {Illustrated}

Over the last couple of years, I've been gradually replacing all of my cheap copies of Jane Austen's novels with prettier ones. (I'm a sucker for pretty books.) Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of her books and one of my favorite books in general, but it was the only one I didn't have a nice copy of. I had almost decided on the clothbound Penguin edition until I randomly stumbled across this one, which I had never seen before.

You guys. This has to be the most beautiful book I own. It looked pretty enough online, but it's so much better in reality!  It's an oversized hardcover, and the edges of the pages are orange with a floral design. The illustrations, by Alice Pattullo, are gorgeous. They're sort of modern but with a folksy feel, and there are lots of unexpectedly bright colors. Besides the illustrations, there are other charming the fact that all of the letters in the novel are in a font that looks handwritten. The pages are sturdy and matte, and they're made from that kind of paper that makes the book smell really good. (I know that sounds weird but it's completely true.)

I was planning on rereading Pride and Prejudice this year anyway, and now I can't wait to reread it in this edition!
{Amazon has it here, but they were out of stock when I ordered mine, so I ordered from Book Depository. They're based out of the UK, but their prices are good, usually the same as Amazon, and they offer free shipping worldwide, no minimum. I'm not affiliated with them at all, by the way. There are also some other illustrated editions of classics by this publisher.}

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. I want to see the most recent film adaptation of this book so badly, but I'm determined to read the book first. This is my first Thomas Hardy novel, and honestly, I was intimidated about starting it. It took me several pages to settle into the wordiness of his writing style, but I'm actually enjoying it a lot more than I expected to so far. There have been some beautifully descriptive passages, and I like the way that Hardy paints his feels like he knows them really well and it makes you feel that you do, too. I think this will be one of those books that takes me a while to read, but that's okay.

Knitting: My first pair of mittens. I'm tired of my hands freezing when I'm driving, and I don't feel like knitting a full pair of gloves at the moment, so...mittens. (It should be fun trying to adjust the heat, music, etc. while wearing these, ha!) The pattern is enjoyable to knit, interesting while still being easy, and I love the resulting texture (on both the front and back of the mittens).

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Things to knit.

I don't generally plan out my knitting in advance (unless it's a gift or something with a deadline). When I finish a project and start another, I just go with whatever I feel like knitting at the time. Having said that, there are a few patterns that I would love to knit in 2016, and here are four of them.

Praline. I've been eyeing this cardigan for a while! Of the four sweaters I've knitted, they have all been worsted weight and I'd like to make a lighter sweater. This one is sportweight. I've never done a textured sweater or one with pockets or a v-neck, so it will probably be a bit of a challenge. I already have the yarn for this's a dark heathered purple.

Nordic Wind. I might not use this exact pattern, but I want to knit a simple shawl heavily inspired by this one. But it might take a while, since I'm still spinning the yarn for it now. :) Mine will be a gradient from black to gray to white. I've already spun the gray and started the white, but there's still quite a bit to go. All of the yarn will be handspun from American wool (all from small farms), so I'm really excited about that!

Strokkur. While I probably wear cardigans the most, I still want to knit a few more pullover sweaters. I've always wanted to knit this one in particular but was put off because of the colorwork yoke. Now that I've finished my first colorwork project, I feel more confident about maybe knitting this one in 2016. :) I would love to knit it in Icelandic wool, too.

Elder Tree Shawl. This pattern has been in my queue for a long time. I love the idea of a cozy lace shawl knit from worsted weight yarn! Again, I've been putting it off because I didn't have any experience knitting lace, but I think I'm ready to attempt it now. (I already have the's actually the same tweedy wool that I used for my favorite cardigan.)

What are you hoping to knit this year?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Knitting: {long overdue} fall socks.

I started these socks three months ago, around the beginning of October. While I finished the first sock that month, they got set aside during the flurry of craft fair knitting and then Christmas knitting that happened over the past few months. Now they're finally finished...technically my first finished project of the new year. :)

This is my third pair of Hermione's Everyday Socks, which is a lovely pattern. It's so simple but results in a nice texture and can sometimes even break up pooling in a subtle way (seen here). I love this's sock yarn from Spun Right Round in the colorway Hay Day. I love how speckled it is, and the colors really remind me of fall. These photos are a bit washed out, because the background color is more tan/gray than white. Her Merino and nylon sock yarn is high twist, which I like. It makes the socks feel sturdier.

Project page.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: Steps in Time, by Fred Astaire. It's a little slow at the moment, to be honest. I'm still reading about his time in vaudeville, and I'm much more interested in his years spent in classic movies. :) Also, the writing feels very detached and unemotional...I don't feel like I'm getting to know Mr. Astaire very much.

Knitting: I'm knitting a Stripe Study Shawl. I'm at that point that you always reach with shawls when they're too big to really see your progress, but not big enough to feel that you're almost done. Even more so with this one because the yarn is fingering weight, so progress is slow. But I really love the yarns I'm using, so I hope the end result will be worth it. :)

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My 2016 resolutions.

{Sadly, this picture is from last year. We had a tiny tease of a flurry yesterday, so I have snow on the brain.}

Five days into the new year, and I'm finally getting around to writing out my resolutions. :) I know it's cheesy, but I always feel optimistic at the beginning of the year. I'm a list maker (and I'm highly motivated by checking things off a list), so I always enjoy making resolutions.


- Read 60 books. I'm cutting my goal back this year, because I'm hoping to read some longer books that will understandably take more time to read. :)
- Drastically reduce my number of own-but-unread books. Because it's out of control. I'm not going to set a number, but I'm going to try to read almost entirely from my own shelves and not buy many books that I haven't already read.
- Reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I know, I know. I say this every year. But I'm feeling good about it this time. :) I think I'll try to start the first book at least by February...I feel like I'll be more likely to reread all three if I start early in the year.

Knitting, Spinning, Etc.:

- Make time to spin at least once a week. I love to spin yarn but sometimes I get so caught up with knitting that I'm not very consistent with making time to spin.
- Take this Craftsy class. I started it last year but never finished. I had learned a lot from it already, so I'll probably start over to refresh my memory.
- Learn the basics of weaving and make a small rug. For Christmas, I received a very basic loom. I want to learn how to use it and eventually weave a small rug from fabric scraps (inspired by the latest issue of Taproot).
- Continue to be very selective with my yarn purchases. Focusing on American wool, preferably non-superwash, etc. I want to knit down my stash rather than buying a lot of new yarn.
- Make inventory for craft fairs throughout the year. I always wait until the last couple of months before festival season to frantically start making things, and it's just too stressful. I need to at least make a few hats each month or something like that.


- Sew a pair of jeans. This is still a pretty terrifying thought for me, ha! But if I can master sewing jeans this year, that's a big step in the right direction for my handmade wardrobe.
- Start a new quilt. I don't have any specific plans...I just have a ton of scraps that I'd like to use up, and I'm a little sick of the colors in my first quilt (which is my bed quilt). I want something more subtle.

I'm not going to post any personal, miscellaneous goals this year. I have a few, but they're rather vague and not something I can specifically check off a list. Basically, I want to learn to be content and grateful for the life that God has given me right now. But I also want to stop being afraid of change or getting out of my comfort zone. 2015 wasn't a bad year, but here's hoping that 2016 will be a much better one!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What I Read: December

December was a bit hit-or-miss as far as reading goes. There are two photos this month because I had to take the first one before returning those library books, not knowing what else I'd read later on in the month. :)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley. It had been over a year and a half since I last read a book from this series. I enjoy these books so much! Flavia de Luce (a twelve year old girl who is obsessed with chemistry, particularly poisons, and solving murders) is such an endearing character. These books are all about the characters for me, and the Christmas setting made this one even cozier.

The Marvels, by Brian Selznick. Though I really love The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, unfortunately I didn't enjoy this book. The illustrated section was gorgeous, of course, but the written section didn't hold my attention at all.

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. This book was so strange. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to, since it was so far away from what I normally read. The main plot point felt a little silly to me, but I got sucked in by the writing and interesting characters and the odd atmosphere of the story. It almost had a magical realism vibe, which is something I like.

Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty. I had such high expectations for this book! The cover is gorgeous, it's set at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina (a historical house several hours from where I live), it's a mystery...but unfortunately I was so disappointed. I didn't feel invested in the characters or story at all, and if the book hadn't been so short, I probably wouldn't have finished it.

Harry Potter's Bookshelf, by John Granger. I liked this one at first, when he was comparing aspects of Harry Potter to Jane Austen, Gothic literature, etc. But soon it became less comparison and more analysis, and that just wasn't what I was expecting.

Speaking From Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley. This was probably my favorite book in the Flavia de Luce series so far, though I can't really explain why. All of the characters in the family and the village just grow on me with each book.

George's Marvelous Medicine, by Roald Dahl. I feel like this book only took me about half an hour to read, because it is so short. It was amusing but not my favorite from Roald Dahl.

The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell. I really need to stop having such high expectations for certain books. This one felt a little weird to me. And it took me nearly 200 pages to get into the story (which isn't a good thing for a book that's only about 350 pages long). It was just okay.