Friday, March 27, 2015

Knitting: Onward shawl.

I love the end result, but I have to admit I'm relieved that this shawl is finally done. :)

This is my Onward shawl, and I've been working on it forever. Okay, so maybe it was just a month and a half. There wasn't a problem with the's well written, and like I said, I really, really love the finished shawl.

But here's the thing: I'm not an intuitive knitter. Unless I've knitted something multiple times or it's just a very simple pattern, I'm not good at figuring out what should be happening. I've read lots of people say that this pattern was easy to memorize. There are four main stitch sections that are repeated a certain number of times, and while two of those sections were easy for me to remember, the other two weren't, so I had to keep track by the pattern. Also, by the time you're nearing the end, the rows are getting pretty long and time-consuming, so it seemed slow going.

Plus there's this weird phenomenon with big, worsted weight shawls like this...the shawl is bunched up on your needles, and you know it's growing because you're using up more yarn and it's getting heavier, but you can't stretch it out and see your progress. Of course there's a magical moment when you're binding off and realize just how big the shawl is, but it's sort of disheartening during the actual knitting. :)

I used KnitPicks' Wool of the Andes worsted in the Cobblestone Heather colorway. It's a nice, dark-without-being-too-dark gray. I've knitted with a lot of WOTA, and it's not the softest yarn, but this particular batch felt especially coarse. (And I don't consider myself sensitive to wool at all!) I was happy to find that it softened up quite a bit after soaking, though. Also, in my experience, this yarn grows after soaking (my Lady Marple sweater unexpectedly gained three inches in length), which I was grateful for this time because it meant the shawl turned out even larger than I expected. (I can't remember the exact measurements, but it was about 3 inches longer than the pattern said and about 8-9 inches wider.)

(I don't think I've mentioned this before, but when I knit with WOTA, spit splicing is my best friend. It sounds grosser than it is...I don't actually use spit. I just run a little water from the sink into my hand, ha. Anyway, I hate weaving in ends, and splicing different balls of yarn together solves that. I used seven or eight balls of yarn in this shawl and only had to weave in two ends! WOTA is a fuzzier, loosely spun yarn, so I've found that the joins are basically invisible and they hold up.)

So, enough about the process and on to the finished item: have I mentioned that I love it? :) It's dense and huge and cozy and I love the texture of the stitch pattern. I know I'll get a lot of use out of it! After I knitted my Lark Rise shawl, I wondered how much I would actually use it. I ended up wearing that one around the house nearly every day over the past three winters. It's very pilled and slightly ragged-looking now, which is why I decided to knit a new shawl. Though I don't think this one will be designated a "house shawl" for quite a while yet! :) Even if I don't wear it out in the traditional way, I can still wrap it around my shoulders and neck. Next winter, that is. It seems I finished this shawl just in time for spring...

Ravelry project page.

P.S. I made my shirt, too. It's a Renfrew t-shirt I never blogged about that I sewed last Halloween. Just the long-sleeved version made from some gray and navy striped rayon/poly blend from Hobby Lobby.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

An Uncertain Choice.

Despite the fact that I read a lot of Christian historical fiction, Jody Hedlund's books weren't on my radar until a couple of years ago, when I won a copy of her book Unending Devotion. I ended up loving that book as well as her next book, Rebellious Heart.

An Uncertain Choice is the first in a new series, which is set during medieval times and is aimed at a YA audience (her previous books are for adults).

First of all, let me say that I didn't love this book, but I did enjoy it. The characters were likable and I liked the camaraderie between the three knights. The setting wasn't described in great detail, but you still have a clear feeling of when the story takes place. A lot of action happens at the very end: a suspenseful conclusion to a slower paced story.

The first thing I noticed when I got the book was how small it was...I thought it would be a lot thicker. I hadn't looked at the page count beforehand, so I expected it to be more in line with her adult books, which average at least a hundred pages longer than this one. I'm not saying that shorter books can't be impactful, but I do think this story (and the characters) would have benefited from being fleshed out more.

In my opinion, this book feels weaker than Jody Hedlund's other books. I can't help but think that's because it's marketed at teens, but honestly, I don't think that all of the wonderful things about her previous books had to be sacrificed just to appeal to a younger audience! The plot is very predictable and moves quite slowly. I don't think there's ever really any doubt as to who the "bad guy" is. Most of the books I read involve some sort of romance, and I consider myself someone who can appreciate that in a story. But the majority of this book is just Lady Rosemarie being pursued by the three knights, and it becomes repetitive at times. The other books I've read by Hedlund had lots of suspenseful moments and exciting parts that kept my attention and made it difficult to put the book down. I also found the writing to be a bit lacking. It was awkward at times and the dialogue didn't feel very natural.

Honestly, I think my expectations were just too high for An Uncertain Choice, and I was disappointed. I feel like if this was my first Jody Hedlund book, I would have enjoyed it more. But as it is, I kept comparing it to her previous books, which have richer plots, more developed characters, and a very enjoyable writing style. I will read the rest of this series, but I hope the books will continue to improve and recapture the amazingness of Hedlund's previous books, despite being written for a younger audience!

*Note: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.*

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: Anne of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery. This will be the last of the Anne series for me, for now anyway! I know there are a couple more books that are technically considered Anne books, but this is the last one I own. I'll probably buy and read Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside sometime later this year, but there are some other series I want to read or reread first.

Knitting: Are you tired of seeing these socks yet? Ha. This should be the last Yarn Along post they're featured in, since I'm on the foot of the second sock and plan on finishing these in the next couple of days.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Knitting: mountain meadow mitts.

This is the first completed knitting project I've shared in over a month! I feel like I've been working on the same projects for weeks now, but I'm finally finishing them all. :)

I bought this yarn at the fiber festival last year, and I changed my mind several times about what it should be. I finally decided on fingerless gloves. (The colorway is called Mountain Meadow, hence the name.) I'm a little sad that I didn't knit it into socks, because I think it would have made really pretty socks. But it was 100% Merino and while it was really tightly spun, I was still worried it would be too prone to holes without any nylon.

I used this pattern. I made a few small changes to the thumb, and I also went down to size 2 needles for the entire mitt. I've learned that I don't really like slouchy wrist-warmers. It worked out...they're the tiniest bit loose at the wrist but everywhere else they fit perfectly. You can't tell from the pictures, but they come up my arm about 6.5" from my wrist, so they're plenty long enough (and I didn't even make them as long as the pattern called for).

These are definitely among the brightest knitted items I've ever made. :) It's a bit out of my comfort zone, but I love them! The colors are most accurate in the pictures where they're not on my hands.

Ravelry project page.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sewing: double pointed needles case.

I've been wanting to have a better system for organizing my knitting needles. I mostly only use circulars (even for knitting flat) and DPNs now. I have a lot of vintage metal straight needles that I keep in a big jar, mostly for decoration because I rarely use those anymore. (Metal needles make my hands ache, so I stick with bamboo or just wooden ones.) I also keep my fixed circulars in a small, wide jar...they're mostly 16" ones for hats and such. My interchangeable circulars set is currently still in the plastic case it came in, but that's next on my sewing list. :)

And now, after a lot of figuring and measuring and planning (it's ironic how often you have to use math, which I've always hated, in knitting and sewing), my double pointed needles are neatly organized!

This is another of my "special fabrics." It's from Sarah Watson's Indian Summer line. I also own a bit of this coordinating print (which is probably one of my favorite fabrics ever), and I had planned on using them together. But I decided to save that one for something that will get used more often, like a smaller project bag or maybe a new notions bag. Anyway, I love the feathers and mushrooms on this fabric, and the colors are really nice, too. (Since I had several favorite fabrics that I wanted to use, I realized that my set of knitting accessories wasn't going to match. But it worked out that most of them coordinate together because they have the same colors: navy blue, turquoise, light coral, etc.)

For all the planning I did, I feel like this case took a lot of improvising. I was going to use some more of the teal linen (like this lining) for the inside, but I didn't have a piece that was big enough. I found some of this gray-blue broadcloth in my stash that nearly matched the gray in the outer fabric, and it ended up looking nicer than I expected. When I started to cut out the bottom piece for the pockets, I realized that what I had left over wasn't wide I had to stick in a little piece of that turquoise polka dots in the center. I started out topstitching everything with turquoise thread and then unexpectedly ran out, so the outside is topstitched with gray thread. Then I didn't have any good elastic for the closure, so I used part of a hair tie that was almost broken on one end.

I lined it with batting and a layer of fusible interfacing. I used the interfacing because I wanted it to be sturdier and more like a case than a needle roll, but it probably wasn't necessary. The whole thing is a little too bulky, and with how it's folded up the interfacing gets wrinkly.

Anyway, it's not perfect but I'm happy with it! It holds all of my bamboo DPNs from size 1 to 15, and it's nice to have them all in one place.

(In case you're wondering, this is the set of bamboo needles that I own, in the 7" length. They're not the best, but they're what I could afford. I bought them last year and I've used a lot of the sizes, and I've found that from about size 4 or 5 up, they hold up nicely. The points aren't super sharp, but they work for me, and none of mine have had rough edges. The sizes 1, 2, and 3 bend too easily. Before I bought the complete set, I already owned Clover bamboo needles in sizes 2 and 3, which I still always use for socks. After many pairs of socks, the Clover ones are only slightly warped, but the cheap ones have noticeably bent after just one project. So I recommend this set of needles, but just know that if you do a lot of sock knitting, you're going to also need to purchase nicer needles for that. For heavier socks, sweater sleeves, etc., these needles are a good deal.)