Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Reads

Just a list of my January reading. I've finally been getting back into reading as of late (the start of the school term in September put a hamper on my initial motivation last summer), so I figured I should keep a list and see whether Goodreads won't give me any suggestions as to what I might like after I input 20 books. Also, seeing a list of everything makes it look like I've been doing something (because I overdid it with knitting a couple of days ago, and my thesis is currently going nowhere if only because we need to wait on something to continue it).

*Note on WorldCat: I do not see the public libraries closest to me even though I got most of these books from those libraries (I can only assume the system is not connected to WorldCat), so before going to purchase the books (which, feel free - I will enable whatever book-purchasing endeavours anyone might be entertaining), search it up on your local library catalogue. Libraries - both public & academic - are a great resource that I cannot recommend enough! All the luckier are you who have access to academic libraries (and access also to academic journal directories/search engines)!

*ETA: Also watched Mustang & Richard II from the Hollow Crown Series (borrowed also from my public library).
*ETA also: forgot about Zoobiquity by Barbara Horowitz (Amazon | WorldCat). I believe this was the first book of the year I read. I gave it a 3/5, but only because I can't give half stars on Goodreads, else it would be 3.5. Interesting, and I think it set me up for reading Your Inner Fish, in a sense.

  1. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S.Eliot (Amazon | WorldCat)
    • Delightful, as expected! The cover told me that much, and T.S.Eliot, of course. I was very tempted while reading to make a children's program with these little poems as the reading material, until I ran into terms like Chink, which quickly made me rethink that plan (not that I have any semblance of control over the programs anyway). It was published 1939, so I suppose it wasn't much of an issue then. Or so I hope, really.
  2. Snobbery by Joseph Epstein (Amazon | WorldCat)
    • This was actually Plan B for me. I couldn't find another book (called Snobs) in the catalogue of my public library, so I settled for Snobbery, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was very entertaining, and the style of writing was very engaging. I wonder if it's possible, really, to not be a snob at all (and not be a snob in the sense of snobbishly avoiding snobbishness), even if one were not to be given money, a good upbringing, etc. that Epstein notes. This is the sort of book I might purchase if I ran into it in a second-hand book store.
  3. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (Amazon | WorldCat)
    • Perhaps I had too high hopes for this, but I was left a little wanting when I had finished reading this collection of essays. I agree with what Solnit has to say, and it brought up issues I hadn't even thought to question before (e.g. notices telling female students to be careful & not wander campuses late at night, but not telling males to stay indoors, and how that in itself is problematic), but overall, it was not as revelatory as I wanted it to be. It's a good book, but my expectations made it into an ok read.
  4. Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff (Amazon | WorldCat)
    • While I found it an enjoyable enough read, sometimes I couldn't help but feel like the tone of writing was a bit too self-conscious at times. In a way that made it seem as though it wasn't quite on purpose, but kind of was, and tried a little too hard? And as a collection, I personally didn't follow from one essay to another as well as maybe I expected to.
  5. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (Amazon | WorldCat)
    • Relateable, but not life-changing for me. (I'm getting this feeling my expectations are set way too high.) I did enjoy Keegan's style of writing very much, especially in her fiction pieces. At first I wasn't sure whether I was reading fiction or non-fiction even though the section had a page that introduced all the fiction with a "Fiction" page, and tried to integrate all these names and lovers and information into one universe, which didn't quite work. Until I reached the non-fiction section and realized why it didn't work. Oops.
  6. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz (Amazon | WorldCat)
    • You know when you read something like The Art of War and everything seems so obvious you're wondering why anyone felt the need to write it down? This was kind of like that for me, except I valued reading The Art of War more (and would do so again). It was everything I expected it to be, covering the topics I expected it to cover, and providing the sort of suggestions I expected it to cover. Looking at the call number, it was also the first self-help book I've read (that I know of).
  7. Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin (Amazon | WorldCat)
    • I read it in a day. Well-written, punny section titles, and easy to understand. I never really questioned that there might be intermediary organisms and that they should fit into the theoretical framework so perfectly that it would seem the theory was pretty solid, but I still enjoyed reading this very much. The examples Shubin gives are not limited to fish (don't let the title mislead you!), and I am left wanting to read more on the topic, more in-depth. Shubin also included a recommended reading list at the end of the book (the notes section, I believe), which I skipped since I had a list of other books I had already borrowed, but which I imagine would satisfy my desire to continue reading on the topic had I pursued that line of action. I would recommend this to people.
And, in the same fashion as my knitting WIPs - why do I feel the need to start everything at once, all the time? - my in-progress reading list:
  1. Demons by Dostoevsky (Amazon | WorldCat)
  2. The Savage God: A Study of Suicide by Alvarez (Amazon | WorldCat)
  3. The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller (Amazon | WorldCat)
  4. The Outsider by Camus (Amazon | WorldCat)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pointed Progress

pink threads aplenty
A bunch of ends to weave in.
See what I did there? Pointed progress? Please don't hurt me.

There's been some progress on the Chevron Cardigan that I've been plugging away at. The body has been completed, with a couple of mods to the original pattern, and one sleeve is being churned out as we speak. So, because I don't really plan on making more mods beyond the neck & button band treatment (except for maybe a couple of steeks for pockets, but then again, maybe not), here are the mods I made so far & some other comments:

  1. I made a crew-neck instead of the v-neck (or what I assume is a v-neck... it's kind of covered by the model's hair, unfortunately, so I can't quite make it out, but the instructions look like a v-ish-neck).
  2. Instead of binding off in stair-like fashion for the shoulders, I made short-row slopes, put the live stitches on a holder, and connected it all when I knit across the back using 3-needle BO, then binding off the back neck stitches and knitting across to pick up all the short row yos, before coming around again to do a 3-needle BO for the other shoulder. Much handier than doing more of that sewing stuff.
  3. That being said, I still knit this in pieces. I wanted the structure side seams would offer me.
  4. Because I went down a needle size (3.5mm & 2.75mm), I'm making the second size (M).
  5. I made the shorter version, and even measured the pieces to be around 14" while stretching it out, since I knew it would grow (this tosh dk stuff is lovely, but it has a tendency to do that without remorse), but it has since grown without any regard for my regards for its nature, to about 15~16" long.

Perfect fit though!
Knitting the first sleeve.
As you can see, the ribbing at the bottom of the cardigan/jacket pulls in quite a lot - which is exactly what I wanted, so that I can get the bubbled look in the first photo (I was pulling the fronts in, to simulate actually having buttonbands holding it all together). The crew neck modification looks great right now, and the shoulders are a good fit. One sleeve has passed the point of increases (oddly only about halfway up the arm or so?) and is on a straight path to completion. Also, that white dress? It's my own from this exhibition. Perfect fit. As it should. I wouldn't mind me another one in black.

I'm pretty excited to wear this when it's all done! My first garishly pink clothing item! (Or not. I mean, one could argue this is also garishly pink. They would lose the argument hands down, but they could still theoretically try. Not to mention a hand-me-down dress I chose to keep, which is an undeniably bright pink.) And once I'm done, I can start something that isn't in the colour range of red-pink-pink/orange/blinding! Nevermind that the pink slip hasn't even been cast on yet. Also nevermind that my burnt brioche has not seen one stitch of progress for a while now. Or that I haven't really gotten too far into my scarlet billows dress either. And don't even get me started on those two forever-unfinished objects. I just saw this nice and simple cowl on ravelry yesterday (free!) and I want to cast on already! I'm thinking of using up the rest of my Malabrigo Mecha in Mostaza (the one I used for the bulky Change of Heart). This is looking to be a productive year already (if I get things finished, mind you)!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Scarlet Billows Start to Spread... So Throw Yourself a Lifeline!

Scarlet billows really are starting to spread. It's much neater than it looks though.
This is a cautionary tale.

I've been drawing up a design - inspired by Mack the Knife - for a lacy red dress using a variety of red yarns from my stash (hurrah stashbusting!). Now, lace isn't really my thing; I mean, I love it, and I love working with it when they're other people's patterns, but I've never designed with lace before. But I understand how pi shawls work, so I figured that as long as the stitch counts match up, I should be fine. And in theory, I really was. Only, the first ring of lace is a 12-stitch repeat. The second one was a 20-stitch repeat. So the numbers didn't quite match when doubled, but all I needed were a couple more stitches, so add them I did, and proceeded along my merry way halfway through the stitch pattern or so, willing myself to ignore all the while that the lace doesn't match up with the first ring of lace that well... it was just a little off, every time I looked at it, but a little off enough to matter. And because I knew it would bother me endlessly, relentlessly, I ripped back. I hadn't put in a lifeline, but I've messed up enough on other projects to know how to read my knitting here! (A simple lace, thank goodness. May I tell you the secret to becoming a great knitter? Or maybe just tell you to make a million mistakes and learn to fix them all, as I've been doing and continue to do.)

Why you should put in a lifeline
White buoy of hope.
I proceeded to look up a 12-stitch repeat lace to replace that second pattern and forged right on ahead after doubling my stitches... without putting in a lifeline. A repeat and a half in, I knew I would have to rip back again: this lace was a simpler, smaller-looking version of my first lace! (And because I'm either hopelessly optimistic or an idiot, I refused to swatch that lace beforehand also, which is why I had little clue what exactly it looked like in comparison to the first.) I knew I didn't want the outer rings to be denser than the inside one - this would make no sense in terms of practicality, the inside ring being the part that would provide cover from my waist down - so hi-ho, alas, and also lackaday, this just wouldn't do! And so I tugged and pulled and silently hoped the yarn would hold - which it did - and placed all those loose stitches onto my needles again.

(Shibui Knits Sock, it's been a real pleasure working with you so far - you're a real trooper. I'm sorry to see you're discontinued. Oddly enough though, considering you're a superwash merino, I dry-felt-joined you just fine.)

I then cut some yarn, threaded a needle, and pulled that needle through all my stitches. It took all of a minute or so, if that, and if I need to rip out again, I'm more prepared. Third time's the charm, though, so here's to hoping I won't even have to use it.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kitten Mittens

Cats for Wancat
Very belated post, but I had forgotten about these. Above are the kitten mittens I made for my friend for Secret Santa! I used the Moggies pattern, which was very easy to follow (it's more or less completely done by following the chart) and turned out beautifully. It was my first extensive colourwork project (the sheep sweater doesn't count. It just - truly and honestly - does not count.) and I definitely noticed my gauge relaxing by the second mitten. Also, look what happens when you don't really plan that well and run out of yarn! The upper left grey kitten is pinching in visibly because I had to substitute a couple of other (thinner) grey yarns since I ran out of the rest of my Cascade Heritage. Also, better colour combinations next time. The grey and the green almost blend into each other, which was completely unexpected. The recipient didn't even realize there were cats on the mittens at first and thought they were camo mittens! He was delighted when I pointed them out though, so I suppose it's fine? And maybe if they're less noticeable, the chances they'll be worn is higher...

In other news: a new issue of Brooklyn Tweed is out! I absolutely adore the colour palette and the styling (as always). Very tempted to cast on an Intersect, and League intrigues me, so I might get it for the sake of figuring out how to do intarsia so cleanly, but not actually make it for myself. Riptide's another beauty that I'm not sure I'd be able to incorporate into my wardrobe, but would love to make. It's actually a bit of an issue, the things that I want to make not being the things I would wear. Also the colours I want to use not being the colours I would wear. (Although I wouldn't hesitate too much wearing rather outlandish colours so long as I don't have to colour-coordinate them with other outlandish colours.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Through & Through

madtosh white spots?
See those light spots?
There was a part of the chorus of The Penelopiad, a number of years ago (I was still in... first year, second year? Now I'm in my fifth, if that gives this context.), that went:
weaving, weaving, all deceiving
what a tangled web we're weaving
- I don't remember this line -
when will dear Odysseus come
I forget where I went to see it. I get the feeling Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. A quick search says Nightwood Theatre. And another link (the trailer to the play, which includes part of the song) tells me my memory is flawed. What I do remember, without a doubt, is that this was my very favourite of all the plays we had to go see.

I want to go see a play or two this year. This has nothing to do, really, with the main topic of discussion. Which is about all those comments (read: complaints) about madelinetosh yarns not being dyed all the way through, and how people expect more from such a known & trusted brand of yarn. Maybe the undyed centre section of their yarns is necessary?

Doesn't make it less annoying though.
White spots!
I get the feeling that the white spots coming from the core yarn that haven't been dyed all the way through actually help madtosh yarns with the brilliance & lustre that their yarns are kind of known for. Because the dye penetrates more or less enough so that you wouldn't normally see the white core for the most part unless you split your yarn or it's been frogged enough that its structure has been changed, the dye rests on a white background, which makes the yarn look like it's glowing a bit. Not that the yarn produces any light. But I think it might be a similar sort of thing as when images on your computer screen appear brighter than when you print them out (always make a test print! also, soft proof!). Instead, here it's the light hitting the yarn actually bouncing off the white (or lighter) core instead of a dark, dyed centre. Does that make sense? I haven't actually done science for so long I might just be rambling.

And besides, it doesn't make it any less worrying while you're actually knitting and encountering all these lighter spots. I'm pretty sure one skein might just be lighter here though.

A pile of red ready to become scarlet billows, starting to spread
And this pile of red & pink yarn (minus the forest green & the two skeins of madtosh at the top, which are for the chevron cardigan/jacket) - all from stash! - are in the planning stage of becoming scarlet billows. So excited for this one. Not that I've finished the black dress or the above cardigan though.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


where my pockets at tho?
Fully recommend wholesome addition of pockets. Grandpa style.
So I finally seamed up that Timberline I was working on (and that I finished knitting Christmas eve)! And I wore it for a good couple of hours at home after I finished seaming everything and tried it on, before realizing I still hadn't woven in the ends! Probably the cosiest sweater/cardigan I have made to date. Sadly, it is a bit too big for me. Not woefully, but somewhat noticeably. It would have done me good to skip those purl panels at the sides (though maybe not the sleeves, so I would still be able to layer stuff under it). The sleeves are also a touch too long, but that's fine, since that means they're at that comfy length where I can grab at them at will without dragging them down with my other hand. That being said, I can layer a bunch under this! And it's incredibly warm. Did I mention it's soft? And that even the camera isn't picking up those dye lot differences anymore? Don't ask me why the camera has accepted it, but I can still spot them with my naked eye. That might just be me though.

Nice buttonholes! Easy to find & feel sturdy.
The pattern is written up beautifully (as expected of a BT pattern), and walks you through every step you need to be walked through. The charts are repetitive and simple to follow, so after making the two sleeves, I was more or less on my way to not needing them anymore past the setup chart. One thing I would like to point out, though, with respect to charts: notice how, at the v-neck, the small cables disappear at different points? It's not a glaring difference, but it's there. So if you're super-nitpicky, you might want to reverse the cable pattern on one side (and for continuity's sake, probably mirror that for the back cables) so that you start with the right cable instead of the left cable cross. Or vice versa. I don't remember which you do first. The large cables are fine. They don't bother me at all. But all the large cables point in the same direction, so if that bothers you, keep that in mind.

There's also the fact that this design has a conspicuous lack of pockets. I would fully recommend you make them! My hands keep reaching for them and they're nowhere to be found. I had considered making them, but the idea of the BO at the pocket hole being glaringly obvious because of the cables deterred me. Don't let that deter you! Figure out a way! Maybe change it to ribbing for an inch or two. You're welcome.

This was my first time making these buttonholes, and I really like how they feel like they're going to hold up! They're sturdy and easy to find, and I don't have to pry open the hole to know where the button's supposed to go (or am I prying open the stitch? None of that confusion). These lovely wood buttons were also from my stash! Hurray for stash-busting! I purchased a bag of buttons from VV a number of years ago and proceeded to never use them (just the way things go, you know), so being able to use up almost all of one lot is great. (Just two left.) I guess the solution is just to make more cardigans that need buttons so I can use up the buttons? And use yarn from my stash to do it? Double win.

Sexy back, yeah! (So sorry. Seriously though.)
I did take an absurdly long amount of time to seam this up though. It lay in a pile for a good week or so, I think, before the new year came around and I decided enough was enough. And even then I had to do it over 2 days! I definitely need to polish up my kitchener stitching skills. Or my patience skills. I also didn't read the instructions that said to do a 3-needle BO for the back of the neck (see how smooth that centre back neck is?). So I grafted. And figured out how to make it so the purl to purl stitches grafted inconspicuously the second time around. Otherwise, everything came together really smoothly; everything fit in their proper places without too much stretching, and sewed together easily (just a couple of skipping stitches every so often while seaming), so I'm glad for that. Maybe seaming isn't the horrible beast I've made it out to be?

Definitely won that beast over. Anyway, this is the first FO of the year, officially! Does it count? I finished knitting it last year though.

And as for the pattern, it was really fun to work through it, and it became - surprisingly - my mindless knitting project on the couch! Those cables are easy to memorize, don't let the looks of them intimidate you! I'd love another one, with the changes stated above.

Club Monaco dress
And here's that lovely knit dress I bought from Club Monaco during their holiday sale. I had to get it the moment I put it on. Great fit and super comfy. The skirt doesn't get stuck between my legs for some reason (I suspect because it's heavy and drapey?) either, which is great.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Snow Day

snow day
Fat fluffy snowflakes - my fave.

The snow is not actually coming down enough to make it a snow day, but it's New Year's day, and it's snowing, and it finally looks the way it's supposed to in the winter hereabouts. I went to a New Year's party last night and didn't sleep a wink till around 8 this morning or so, and when I woke up a couple hours later, it was, for the first time in what I think must be weeks, bright and sunny and white with snow. It hasn't been very wintery this winter so far, and I'm a big fan of winter, so this is pretty much just the best welcome for the new year I can think of that could have happened.

That and making bread. Which is also being done right now.

Quiet on the street

I guess now is the time for me to start making my resolutions. I generally try to avoid making them because it seems as though they're simply a constant list of failures attributable to myself throughout all the year, but there are things I want to address. And these are things I have been trying to address for the past couple of years, so nothing particularly surprising, but maybe putting it down into words & out in public will make me try harder to adhere to them? I think what sums up all of my possible resolutions or goals at all times is simply to "become a better human being", but that's also a pretty shoddy resolution because it doesn't have any specific targets. So here are a couple of things I want to keep in mind this year (there's even headings!):

  1. Drink more water!
  2. Exercise. School got in the way, but I'd like to get back into doing something and not just sit and knit all day long (not that there's anything wrong with that picture! Except possibly health-related issues that will most definitely arise!). And if I can't get myself to work out, I want to at least go out and take a stroll around the neighbourhood. Go on nature trails. Just get up and move.
  3. Eat out less. There have been very few times I have enjoyed eating out to a degree that justifies my having done so, so much, this past year. I think we simply go out to the wrong types of places (all-you-can-eat? basically.) to eat whenever I'm out and about with friends, so I'm never too impressed. I think maybe in addition to eating out less, choose more wisely and try new things.
    • I do really like Mr.Tonkatsu though, which opened up closeby not too long ago, so I'm glad I tried it! And Genji Sushi is also great. Though that's a tried-and-true from at least a year or two ago.
    • The Vending Machine is the devil. Enough said.
    • Eating on campus is equally the devil.
      • Tims' Runs are problematic because they're so easy.
      • Pad Thai from Thai Express makes me cry because it's way too spicy (even at medium spice; I'm a baby), but it's so good. I feel horrible & super bloated after eating it though - I don't eat out often enough, so the amount of oil & other unhealthy amounts of unhealthy stuff that go into it destroy me almost instantly - so after I finish off that one more pad thai order that I have on my student card (because yes, I loaded exactly enough money to order one more pad thai), I am through with doing that to myself. One more late-night-in-the-studio-unplanned-dinner to go.
Textiles & Books
  1. Draft another pattern. Publish another pattern.
  2. Bring home less yarn & equipment (looms, needles, spinning supplies).
  3. Craft more. I kind of want to try to knit 12 sweaters/dresses/tops/clothing items in a year again. I didn't get quite close at all last year, but seeing as I'll be done school after April, I'm going to have lots of time to attempt to do it!
    • On a related note: Use up stash yarn! I want to clear out space, yes, but I'd love to see some of the old-timer yarns actually become something instead of sitting around as decoration.
    • Also: weave more! I have 3 looms (3!!). That should be plenty reason to weave. I also have a huge cardboard box filled with cone yarns (in addition to the ones that don't fit into the box), so I'd like to thin the herd a bit. Either knit with the cone yarns or weave it up, whatever works.
  4. I've got a stack of books I haven't read which, if piled carefully, would probably be taller than I am. Read them. Read War and Peace. It's been so many years. And I have 2 copies of it!

I don't believe one iota that I'll be keeping to these things 100% of the time, but I do want to at least keep them in mind. Let's see how this year goes. Judging by the start of it, it's going to be pretty stellar.