Book Review: Things I Learned from Knitting

51fhyy2xxsl-_sx344_bo1204203200_Title: Things I Learned from Knitting, Whether I wanted to or not.

Author: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Year Published: 2008

Category: Humor, Memoir, Knitting

*No Spoilers*

 


 

Stephanie Pear-McPhee is one of my personal writing idols and has been an inspiration to me since about seventh grade when I started reading her blog. Reading one of her full books was something I had been wanting to do since middle school as well. Jake was sweet enough to get a copy of this book for me for our two-year anniversary.

‘Things’ is a well written little book, (Seriously, I was surprised how little the book was) that is the literary equivalent of your favorite warm beverage and a blanket on a rainy day. A few of the stories were familiar from her blog (although I did read the whole thing last winter), but most were new, and all brought a smile to my face.

 

I rate it: 4/5

Goodreads says: 4/5

Amazon says: 4.5/5

Warnings:

none

Book review: The Raven Boys

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Title: The Raven Boys

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Year Published: 2012

Category: Supernatural, fantasy, thriller, young adult

*No Spoilers*

 


 

‘The Raven Boys’is a book I’ve had my eye on for a while. I read a free excerpt on my  Kindle app. It was tantalizing; Blue’s colorful family, the fortunes, her fortune in particular, and the ghosts floating through the ruined church, and a boy she would either kill or fall in love with.

Stiefvater’s writing style is friendly and casual. That’s not to say boring, though. She weaves subtle allusions to later plot twists into her writing. She also is able to quietly amp up the suspense without the reader noticing. Then, suddenly, the book morphs into a gripping thriller. One I was unable to put down and read until after midnight, even though my fall classes started the next day.

The main cast consists of Blue and the Raven Boys; Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Ganesy. They are on a quest to find the fabled knight  Glendower, however, they don’t realize that they are not the only ones looking. Indeed, the mystery surrounding the power in Henrietta is much larger than any of them realize

I rate it: 5/5

Goodreads says: 4.04/5 (that’s specific)

Amazon says: 4.3/5

Warnings:

foul language, violence, physical abuse, tarot cards, witchcraft, spirits

Those Three Little Words

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Last summer my Step-Grandmother was kind enough to give me her White Zigzag Sewing Machine (model 2134). I affectionately call her Blanca and, on the warranty card inside the instruction manual, it says it was purchased on May seventeenth nineteen sixty five. (That’s, Norwegian Independence Day too.)

That makes Blanca 51 years old. She’s still running well, though you can’t wind bobbins on her anymore. However, in her old age she’s become a bit, well, crotchety.

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She’s a bit fussy with her tension. Especially the bobbin tension. I’ve learned it’s better to haul out the screw driver and my dedicated fabric scraps and get it all set up each time I start a new project after putting her away for a bit.

I’ve gotten quite good at getting the thread to that sweet spot. Not too tight, not too loose. All it takes is a little fiddling and she’s good to go.IMG_1244

This is really her only fault, and I wouldn’t trade her for  brand new machine with dozens of stitches.

However, when I heard that new machines have self-tensioning bobbins, it was all I could to do to keep from swooning.

Maybe, someday, Blanca will need a friend.

Book Review: False Hearts

26883105-_uy200_Title: False Hearts

Author: Laura Lam

Year Published: 2016

Category: Science fiction, thriller

*No Spoilers*

 

 


If you’ve been following my book reviews series since the beginning you may remember that I’ve already reviewed another of Laura Lam’s books; Pantomime. The book was just released and I jumped on a chance to read another of her works.

False hearts is the thrilling story of ex-conjoined twins Taema and Tila. The girls escaped the cult in which they were born when their shared heart begins to fail. They emerge into the futuristic city of San Fransisco.

They create new lives for themselves and they flourish, until ten years later when Tila stumbles into Taema’s apartment covered in blood. She is arrested and accused of the first civilian murder in many years.

Lam’s writing style draws you into the story line quickly. She creates two separate characters in Taema and Tila, despite the temptation to meld them together as almost one character. She also splits the narrative between Taema and Tila, giving them both a chance to tell their stories from both the past and present, as they have become intertwined in a deadly snarl.

I rate it: 4/5

Goodreads says: 4.04/5 (that’s specific)

Amazon says: 4.8/5

Warnings:

foul language, violence, drug use, needles, sex (non-explicit)

Back Under Control

A little bit ago I wrote a post about my Rugged Ripples Afghan, and how it seemed to have somehow gotten out of control (As far as knitting goes, anyway). I did manage, upon reaching the end of the first row I did after realizing there was a problem, to  gauge what the issue was. There were about four or five extra stitches.

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I placed a stitch marker at the end of the pattern so that I would know where to start when I turned the work. Then I double crocheted plain until the last two stitches. Then, I did a double crochet two together.  I turned the work and worked even until I hit the stitch marker and then started the pattern.

I repeated this until there were no  more stitches on the other side of the stitch marker. I know that it has left a visible lump, but, with the amount of work that it takes to do one row, I wasn’t going to unravel back to it.

IMG_0427 copy The messed up rows are kind of visible when you look at the blanket, but it isn’t going to be a big issue when you have ten feet of blanket to look at. I’ve put it aside for a bit now that I’ve got it fixed. I’m waiting to accumulated enough yarn that I can do a lot at once.

 

Summer Sockin’

Memorial Day Weekend is known to most throughout the US as the unofficial start to summer. This is true for my family as well. We have been going camping on this weekend since I was probably about eight. We decided this year, rather than just take a jaunt up to our local campground, we’d branch out a bit.

We wandered all the way to Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia. It was a truly beautiful area. The river embraces the side of the campground, and there’s wildlife everywhere (seriously, I saw a weasel for the first time, too bad I was too slow with my camera.)

I, of course, took a sock with me (A vanilla cuff-down sock in Patons Kroy Sock Yarn ‘Brown Marl’ ) and I did my best to knit my way through the weekend, despite the presence of two wonderfully rambunctious little girls.

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The first night it rained nearly as  soon as we got to the campground.

The next morning more than made up for the rain in sunniness. We spent lots of time down at the river, and some of us (not the sock or the toddler or the preschooler) even went tubing. I rounded out the night with sitting nearish the campfire (too hot) and knitting while rereading Dante’s Inferno. I figured it was best to revisit the source material for my novel since it’s been a year since I’ve read it.

Sunday morning I knitted a bit while the chef and her sous chef made me ‘pizza’. The pepperoni was great, and the cheese with blueberries was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. Around noon, we headed up to the overlook and the sock got a chance to bask in the sun.

As you may have noticed by my pictorial timeline, the knitting was rather slow. Mainly because it was too hot. Too hot for even sock knitting, I never thought I’d see the day.

Strawberries Added for Stability

I’m one of those people who perpetually is putting holes in their jeans. Rather than throwing them out and constantly buying new jeans, I’ve been trying my hand at mending. I usually find a  fabric that’s pretty and patch the hole with that, if there is a large one. I sometimes just sew it back together if it’s a small rip, but I like being able to add to my jeans in this way.

When a hole ripped in in one of my favorite pairs of jeans, I knew I could save them. I finally got around to pulling out the needle and thread the other day. In the beginning they looked like this.IMG_0009

It had originally been just a small rip that I had sewn shut using a matching thread. Then, a hole started to rip around the seam. I would need to unpick the original seam to open up both of the holes.

IMG_0022 copyOnce I got both holes opened up I had to decide what fabric to use to patch it. I was torn between some blue calico-like fabric and some white strawberry-dotted scraps. I ended up choosing the strawberry fabric since there was less of it left and I could possible use the blue for a small project later on down the road. (A DPN cozy maybe?)

Now that I had the fabric choice sorted I just had to gather the rest of my materials. I generally use thread in a color close to that of the fabric(doubled over for strength), and a square of fabric. This time I added my mini three inch embroidery hoop so that it would make the hand-sewing easier.

IMG_0013
IMG_0075The first step was to sew around the hole using a small back stitch. I cleared away any loose threads before beginning as well.

I decided, as I was working, that since the fabric below the hole seemed rather thin, I’d add some embroidered strawberries to add more points of connection to the fabric below.

IMG_0077My embroidery skills aren’t that great so I wasn’t sure how well they would turn out. I originally thought I would do one large one but I ended up five small ones because  I just couldn’t  make the larger ones look even remotely close to right.

I love my new pants and it’s amazing what you can do with an hour here or there and some scraps of fabric.

This Has Gotten Away From Me

After I finished  my super secret project (pictures coming soon). I found my needles relatively empty, so I grabbed their equally lovely fraternal twin; my hook! I pulled out my Rugged Ripples Afghan (By Stephanie Gage). I was partway through working a row of light green. I went up and back with rather quickly, and as I hooked my way along, I could clearly tell (even though I am but a novice hooker) that something was terribly wrong.

So, I did what I had to do. I unrolled it. Now, you might be wondering why I keep it rolled up all of the time. I have always done that because it’s rather… huge. Anyway, I unrolled it and took a good look at it. Sure enough, the ripple pattern was starting to get all wonky. Rather than unravel all 226 inches of work (I measured, it’s 113 inches each way), I decided to mark out every stitch repeat using clothespins and rubber bands and a random twist tie since my split ring stitch markers have a tendency to pop open at the slightest suggestion.

IMG_8878Of course, as soon as I laid the blanket out on the living room floor, it attracted its biggest fan. Persephone. She just loves it. Of course, she’s fond of all of the soft things that come off of my hook or needles, but there’s just something about this blanket…

She haughtily surveyed me as I worked, counting out every twelve stitches. As I said before, I marked them, mostly using clothespins. Well, about halfway through it was just too much for her to bear, and she had to attack.

It quickly became a photo shoot of the elegant huntress, and that is why I don’t have any pictures of what I discovered to be the problem. I had added about six stitches that weren’t needed and they were throwing off the ripple pattern every second row. I’m planning to very carefully decrease them away. It’ll create gradual lump along the edge, but hopefully, when I add a border it won’t be to noticeable, and besides, with over 17,025 square inches of blanket (yes I just did the math), I don’t think it’ll be that noticeable.

All I can leave you with, is this last picture of the mighty predator, and the request for crocheting mojo, and finding worsted weight yarn scraps mojo.

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A Pile of Rocks

It was Monday or Tuesday or so when I decided it was high time to get my seeds into the ground. I had been home from college for at least 72 hours, after all. I dug out the seed packets I had bought myself to celebrate reaching 50,000 words in my novel back at the beginning of March.

I’m surprised I held out as long as I did. As soon as the seed isles pop up in Walmart and Lowe’s they begin their annual springtime siren call. I have to go browse, even just for five minutes, every time we end up there. And since it’s the only grocery store (Walmart, that is, not Lowe’s) within a half hour of my college we end up there a lot (unfortunately, but I digress).

Back to the garden. I headed out into what I lovingly call our ‘Maximum Security Prison’ (I should have taken a picture of it, shouldn’t I?), our garden. Long story short, my mom went a little crazy with the chicken wire to protect our berry bushes.

I got down on my hands and knees and spent a few hours tilling a  little corner with a trowel for my radishes and carrots. (The Tomato seedlings I’m nursing won’t be going in the ground for another 2 weeks)

After getting the veggies in the ground I started planting my dye plants.IMG_8832 I first planted some Marigold seeds by the path past our (tiny) grape arbor and wood stove, then, on the other side of the path I planted  some Calendula (also, apparently known as ‘Pot Marigold’) next to our porch. I have never planted Calendula and was intrigued by the shape of the seeds. Something to remember, perhaps for a book idea, later on down the road?

 

Anyway, by the time I was done all I had to show for it were knees and hands that looked like these and a pile of rocks (dirty foot for scale).

I can’t wait to see, though, the fruits of my labors begin to break through the soil. The first should be the radishes in a few days or so.

Advanced-Intermediate

I’ve been knitting since sixth or seventh grade, that’s, let’s  see… seven or eight years. (Really?) I would describe myself as an advanced-intermediate knitter.  I  can handle pretty much anything the average knitting pattern can throw at me.

So, when I decided that I was going to knit my mom the BLT Shawl (By Cheri McEwen) for Mother’s Day I figured it would be a breeze.  Sure, it’s been a while since I knit lace (since, Thunderstorm) but its nothing I can’t handle right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Well, nothing was wring with the pattern itself or the instructions. They were clear and the result is lovely. For whatever reason, my brain did not want to remember or understand the first lace motif. It’s simple, but it just didn’t connect.

IMG_8815The lace had knocked me back on my arse, simple enough. It was slightly startling, to struggle with my knitting. I had figured that I was at the point where knitting was something I had a firm grasp upon. Rather like a well trained horse or experienced musician’s grasp of the scales.

After a few false starts and some mild cursing I got it down and the knitting has flowed since (which is a good thing, since Mother’s day in the US is Sunday, May eighth).

It’s given me something to think about, showing my knitting some respect. I’m not as smart as I thought I was, or at least, there’s a lot more knowledge than I realized. I’m glad this pretty little pattern decided to give me a kick in the pants, because I needed one. Knitting is a give and take relationship with a infinite well of knowledge to explore and respect.