Knitting Video (Podcast): Episode the First

I didn’t realise until today that another week has flown by! So it was time to try recording a video about my knitting; this was all new territory to me, so I followed the structure most of the knitting podcasts I watch seem to use, and I’m sure I’ll be tweaking things in future. But everyone must begin at the beginning, and here’s mine.

As I mentioned in the video, I won’t be typing up detailed podcast notes, mainly because it would be duplicating what’s already easily available via my Ravelry account. I adore Ravelry; it’s a marvel of cross-referenced databases and hive mind knowledge and fiber-y goodness. I make extensive use of the notes features on most of my projects, and always record yarn/needle size/etc, so just visit my projects page or stash page to get the specifics of anything.

In the future, I’ll plan ahead and have nice photographs of all of the projects and yarn I discuss, that I will include in this post. For today though, it’s now after sunset, so I can’t do anything about that now. Actually, this will be a good incentive to remember to pull out my camera to record my knitting as it happens, instead of just relying on the vagaries of the iphone camera and instagram editing!

I will work on improving my lighting situation. My apartment is actually full of natural light all day, thanks to a wall of windows; however that wall is perpendicular to my computer, so I have to close the blinds in order to not appear in silhouette when recording in front of it and then turn on a nearby lamp to compensate. I’ll see if there’s a simple way to move my computer around so that I face the windows instead, but considering said computer is a 23″ iMac, it might not be possible. I suppose I could switch the bulb in the lamp from the warm yellow I enjoy in the evenings to a daylight bulb for more true colours; I’ll try that for next time at least.

Please feel free to leave any feedback or suggestions for future videos!  I’m recording these to share with you, not simply to hear myself talk, so I’m happy to make changes. I’m a detail oriented knitter who loves tweaking and modifying and planning, and loves hearing about others doing such things, but I’m not sure is such an interest is common. Do let me know where you’d like me to land on the specific to general continuum when discussing projects; believe it or not I trod the middle path when talking about my finished sweater, for instance!

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Bookish Video: Library Sale Treasures

My chronic illnesses have  precluded me from much typing, or indeed thinking, this past week or so, hence my silence. However, I’ve been pondering using videos as well as written posts, so I thought I’d begin now with a bookish one!

150918_untitled_11Yesterday I was lucky enough to go to a marvelous library used book sale (for those who don’t know, libraries here in the US accept donations of books year-round, and once a year have a big sale of both those donated books and any books that will no longer be in circulation, run by volunteers) with Debi and Rich. We had great fun, and I ended up bringing home thirty-one books! They make satisfying stacks, as you can see in the photo.

I talk about them a bit more in the video below:

And here are two close ups of each stack, so that if any of the books caught your attention in the video, you can get the title and author to investigate further. I’ve kept them as large files, so you can click to enlarge. My apologies for not being able to type out a list for you; if for some reason you can’t view the photo, just leave a comment and I’ll reply with the specifics.

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Let me know if you’d enjoy watching videos in which I talk more in-depth (but still spoiler free or including warnings) about books I’ve been reading lately; it’s much easier for me to simply talk to my computer than type, so I’d be able to discuss more books using this format. Next week I plan to record a knitting-focused video, but the week after that I’ll be back to bookish content. I can either mainly discuss library books, like I used to do, or try out more ‘review style’ videos, depending on what interests you more.

The Library of Imagined Books

Her uncle [is] in his room of imagined books. Everything smells of books: an odor of forgotten memories. This is the library of imagined books, her uncle says, because he never reads any of them. Still, he’s collected them from friends’ basements and attics, garage sales and widows’ dens, all over Culver City, West Hollywood, Pasadena, Laurel Canyon, picking books for their heft and their leather-belted covers. The actual pages don’t matter.

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photo credit

passage from Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

The Tenth Annual R(est) I(n) P(eace) Reading Challenge

Back when blogging about books was a new idea, Carl created two marvelous challenges, that have become part of the internal calendar of many readers, including myself. The fall one is named the R.I.P. Challenge and is devoted to reading darker books, as you might have gathered.

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Participants spend September and October reading books (or now watching television or movies…essentially any story medium!) that fall into the mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, or supernatural genres. Since I happen to love these types of books anyway, I always look forward to joining in the fun.

This year, I’m a bit tardy in signing up, but I have in fact already read the four books required for the Peril the First challenge. What can I say? I got carried away in my enthusiasm! Here they are:

I have no plans to stop at just these four however! The Estella Society (this year’s hosts) is running a read along of Lauren Owen’s The Quick, so I began that last night.  I’ve now realised I’ve begun a week early, but this way I’ll have it finished and can read others participants’ thoughts without worrying about spoilers.

I also thought it’d be interesting to do a mini-theme within the larger challenge and have gathered together four books about Salem; three about the eighteenth century witch trials (two nonfiction, one novel) and one set in contemporary Salem, written by a current resident, and featuring an unreliable narrator with a gift for seeing the future.

I might also throw in a Nathaniel Hawthorne reread for good measure.

I do have hazy thoughts about more books I’ll be reading over the next two months, but as they’re not yet specific, and as my hands are sore today, this will do as a beginning. Tell me: what are you favourite books that would apply to this challenge? I always love adding to my reading wishlist. Knowing how many marvelous new books and authors are out there, waiting patiently for me to stumble across them, gives me a little thrill of pleasure.

Elephants Remember Socks

I took up knitting in 2013 in part because I’d fallen in love with store-bought wool socks, and I wanted to be able to make my own. I made my first pair that spring, and as my mother’s birthday was in June, I thought I’d knit her a pair as a present; this has become a new tradition.

When I began knitting, I quickly discovered Ravelry and stumbled across Rose Hiver’s Like Water for Elephants sock pattern, which was then free. My mother has loved elephants for as long as I can remember, and I dreamed of the day when I’d be skilled enough to make her a pair of socks from the pattern. With two years of knitting under my belt, I felt ready for the challenge when her birthday came around this year, and I downloaded the pattern.150907_untitled_11 7.51.27 PM

To my dismay, I discovered it was for a seventy-two stitch sock, which at a typical 8-9 stitches per inch gauge would result in something far too big for my mother’s feet, which fit into size 5 or 5 1/2 shoes. The pattern is so meticulous, and on such a grand scale, that there was simply no way to remove the dozen or so stitches I’d need to, so instead I bought a 000 needle and resolved to keep my tension as firm as possible. Since I am a naturally loose knitter who uses size 0 needles to obtain eight stitches to the inch, and since I’m one of those rare knitters whose stranded colourwork gauge doesn’t turn out much tighter than my regular one, these socks required conscious attention and tense hands for each round.150907_untitled_10 7.51.27 PM

The other challenge for me was in the yarn choice; my mother is wool-sensitive, and lives in Texas, so when I knit for her I have to find alternative fibers. I used Hikoo CoBaSi for her last birthday socks, which manages to be an enjoyably bouncy yarn despite its lack of wool content, and has some beautiful colours; this time I used the natural cream shade as well as a vivid turquoise named curacao. The yarn’s bounciness contributed to my tensioning concerns, and I could only hope that blocking would smooth out colourwork like it does in wool yarns. Luckily, blocking had a wonderful effect; I took these photos when I’d blocked the first sock (whose elephants face left) but not the second and you can see the difference.

With all of that, I feel a sense of triumph in reporting that, knit at twelve stitches to the inch, they fit perfectly, and I expect they will wear like iron. The fabric almost feels more woven than knit, but a longer heel flap and generous gusset, along with the yarn’s elastic content, gives just enough give to pull them on and off. Aside from the stress on my hands involved in such firm tensioning, I loved knitting these; I always find colourwork addictive and there’s nothing like waiting for an elephant to emerge to convince you to do ‘just one more round’! Rose Hiver’s attention to detail is stunning, and the end result seems fit to grace a Mughal court, with the intricacies and curving lines. I opted to make elephants on the foot of the sock as well as the leg, which is easily done by substituting the charts. Since my gauge was so much smaller, the socks ended up shorter as well as more narrow; luckily my mother prefers short socks but I did end up adding a few rounds before the toe decreases to get the necessary foot length. The pattern tells you where to do this.150907_untitled_6 7.54.10 PM

Best of all, my mother is in love with them! In fact, she marvelled at them, which is just the reaction I was hoping for. There aren’t many people for whom I would knit at twelves stitches to the inch, especially in a plant fiber yarn; in fact, I wouldn’t even do it for myself. But my mother is a wonder; she’s filled my life with love and support and done her best to make all of my dreams come true. She is one of the most generous people I have ever met, and has that even more rare ability to give without attaching any strings at all; not once has she ever implied I, or any other of her recipients, owe her anything for the time, money, and attention she’s lavished upon us. Being able to give her something in return, even something as small as a pair of socks, is more than worth the struggle I had to make to achieve a tight enough gauge. Each tiny stitch was made with love, and I hope she carries that love with her whenever she wears these tiny elephants and all of their attendant finery.150907_untitled_9

The technical details are available on my Ravelry project page, as well as nicer photos from my Instagram account. I finished the second sock yesterday and was quite impatient to write about them here, but I forgot to take photos until the light was already past its prettiest. I’m also still learning a new processing software and couldn’t manage to fix these. So apologies for the substandard shots; clearly I need to learn a bit more about photographing knitwear! These are much more impressive in person. Luckily my mother’s coming to visit me next month, so I’ll be able to photograph them on the feet they were knit for.

There are Always Two Sides

I’ve heard it said that there are always two sides to a story: There’s the official history, the version that’s set into the page, then filed away in the archives where it waits for when the librarian comes to retrieve the facts to footnote some learned paper or discourse. Then there’s the way an individual remembers the event; that version sits like an old woman on a lonely porch, creaking back and forth in her wicker rocker as she waits for a visitor.

I think there’s a third version as well: that of the feral child, escaping from between the lines, from between how it’s said the story went and how it truly took place.

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photo credit

passage from “A Tempest in Her Eyes” by Charles de Lint

All in a Golden Afternoon

I am fortunate enough to have a little patch of woods within easy reach of my urban apartment.
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t’s not terribly large, but it is full of tall trees and mossy logs, which is all that it takes to make my soul feel at home. It also offers various seasonal delights, and with its current quiet, dappled shade, it has even begun to convince me that summer can be beautiful. The light is so green at the moment, filtered as it is through an exuberant canopy of leaves, and the chipmunks and robins have become terribly busy, so that rustlings and scurryings accompany me around every corner. Making time for daily visits feels like a spiritual exercise.
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For all that the woods are magical, though, I’ve found it challenging to capture that magic in photographs. I’m instinctively drawn photograph details and still lifes; landscapes feel so broad and unfocused by comparison. The woods usually repeat the same colour throughout the frame too, and so many trees and branches create a mess of lines that’s difficult to bring a sense of order to. I have a little wide angle lens now though; I also know that the verdant summer moments are almost gone. So yesterday, I timed my walk for the golden hour, and brought along my camera to chase that light.
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Of course, I couldn’t resist photographing a few details as well, like this spider’s web in the old roots of a now-toppled tree.
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Or the fading purple flowers on the edge of the woods, that just last week were in full bloom, but are now tired and ready for summer’s end.
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Or the single fern frond growing above its group of companions, all clustered together like some kind of fern island amongst the leaf littered forest floor.
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But I tried record the trees and the woods in a general sense as well, as shown in the first photograph of the post and this one, taken as the light was about to move on.
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After I had turned for home, I happened to catch a chipmunk out of the corner of my eye. Usually, the chipmunks simply blend in too well to the leaf litter or tree trunks they’re sitting on to make strong photographs. But this one might as well have posed for its portrait, it was so obliging! Of course, as soon as I snapped this shot, it ran off again; I was so relieved when I got home and discovered the focus was good.
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The light was so delicious, and I loved the challenge of trying to view the woods through a lens instead of my eyes, but I must admit that the song from Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland kept running irreverently through my head the whole time!

Have you ever tried to photograph a place you loved or capture the spirit of a landscape? I’d love to hear about your experiences and advice. I’m planning to continue photo walks in the woods, with a special emphasis on wider angle and landscape perspectives; next time I visit the library, I think I’ll plan some time with photography books as well.

September is for Beginnings

The year is full of auspicious moments to begin new projects.

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Here in my home in the north eastern U.S., with my European cultural legacy, January first stands for a societal fresh start. Springtime to be in rhythm with the natural world. Perhaps a birthday for a more personal milestone. And then there is early autumn, with its back to school traditions that reflect the agricultural cycle, whose heaviest harvesting occurs in late summer. I always loved school, especially how those first few days of the semester felt heavy with any number of possible futures, and possible future selves, before the days had settled into a routine. So, this September first, I have donned a fresh new outfit, ignored the fluttering butterflies in my stomach, and written on the first page of this (virtual) notebook.

I hope that come next September, the pages will be full of a record of the interests, surprises, joys, and struggles that even a quiet life contains. I cannot yet promise exactly what form this notebook will take, but I am sure it will include photographs, knitting and other textile arts, questions on how to live a good life, everyday delights like a newly discovered favourite television show or the perfect sandwich, and, more than anything else, books. I have been bookish for as long as I can remember; it shapes everything about me.

I love how the internet encourages kindred spirits to find one another, hence why this is a virtual notebook, instead of a private one. Welcome to this space. I hope you’ll leave comments and tell me about your own spaces, so that I can return the visit.