It’s time to start posting again!
For a lot of people, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’ve also heard the knitting equivalent, NaKniSweMo or National Knit a Sweater Month. Me? I’m not up to those challenges. They’re too rigid, too constrained. I need something more freeform, where someone says, “Hey, here’s something for you to do.” So, in the spirit of that, I am doing National Blog Post Month, or NaBloPoMo. I will write a blog post every day for the entire month of November. But that’s not all…
In addition to that, my friend Jax has made up a challenge of her own. We’re calling it the Generic November Knitting Challenge, or GeNoKniCha because it sounds silly. From her blog:
1. The goal of the challenge is to knit the most yards of yarn in November.
2. At least 1200 yards must be knit in November. Double-dipping between challenges is encouraged.
3. Yardage may be estimated from labeled yardage.
4. All WIPs that exist at 00:01 November 1st must either be finished or frogged by the end of the month. Previous knitting does not count towards your yardage. The penalty for not finishing is subtracting the finished yardage of the project from your yardage totals.
5. POIDH – Pics Or It Didn’t Happen. You can only add yardage if you document the finished object or the status of the WIP at or before 23:59 November 30.
She and I are in direct competition – we’re racing to see who can knit the most over the month. But we’re also opening it up to other people! So comment and let me know if you’d like to participate. We’re going to come up with categories for competitors, as well as an overall winner, and there will be prizes. (Do we know what those prizes will be? Of course not. We’re not professionals.)
I will be putting a yardage total at the bottom of my posts every day, as well as a picture (probably from my less-than-stellar webcam), to tally my progress. None today, of course, because it’s the first day of the challenge and I don’t have much done. I should really do that, now that I think about it, because if I beat Jax, she’s offered me her skein of Tosh Sock in Edison Bulb.
And I really want that yarn.
Hi, folks. So I’ve been kind of busy these last few days, but I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to:
- The Stephen West KAL started on Friday, and I’m already about forty percent of the way done with the first clue. It’s gorgeous and I picked great colors and I just love it. I am also going to post spoiler pictures, although I might put them under a link so that no one is spoiled if they don’t want to be.
- The Red Queen was fantastic. If you like Philippa Gregory (she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I know) and you’re interested in the Wars of the Roses, give the Cousins’ War books a shot. The Red Queen focuses on Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor, who felt that she was called by God to a specific purpose. There were some problems (I was disgruntled with the courtly-love scenario between her and Jasper Tudor, for instance), but overall it was an enjoyable read. I ended up feeling quite sympathetic to Margaret, which I would have thought impossible after reading the first book in the series, The White Queen.
- I also finished Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. It’s a book about punctuation! God, I love punctuation. Anyway, it’s a book more for reference than reading, but it’s a great one – it’s got examples of proper and improper usage, historical context, and Truss is a wonderfully witty writer (or as witty as you can get while writing about punctuation, anyway). It’s on my writing reference shelf and it will remain there for a long, long time.
- I just started Slaughterhouse-Five over the weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes. So far it’s very sad and also delightfully weird.
- I bought more books, including Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, collections of Dickinson and Frost poetry, a book titled How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I would like to read before the movie comes out. We’ll see how that goes.
- I also checked out books on physics, chemistry, Latin and Gaelic from the library. I’ve always wanted to attempt to learn Latin and Gaelic, and science… was hard to grasp in school, so I’m trying to brush up a little.
- I also checked out Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! at the same time. I read it in high school and thought it was wonderful and funny, even though (again) I wasn’t too keen on science. I’m going to reread it, and if I love it as much as I remember, I’m going to pick up a copy.
- I did A Day In My Life on Friday! It’s going to be a short video, and it won’t be horribly exciting but I had fun doing it. You’ll see me drink chai, buy books, and stare at my computer a lot.
- I also have a book-related survey that a friend wanted me to do, and I might make a video for that as well.
I think that’s all I wanted to say, and now I’m going to back to knitting. Seriously, guys. Stephen West. Ahhhhhhhh!
Hi again. This is going to be kind of a supplement to my last blog post, in which I talk about books and bookstores, and how they’re important. There is a lot of book-related ranting up ahead, and very little crafting discussion. You’ve been warned.
As a nerd, I myself am very, very fond of books. As the Doctor said, “Books! The best weapons in the world!” They could be anything, from my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (which is so large that I literally cannot get it off my shelf at the moment), to All Wound Up by the Yarn Harlot, to my Japanese textbook from last semester. I love all kinds of books, and lately, I’ve been doing far more buying and reading of books than I have knitting.
I feel like in the last couple of weeks, I’ve done a sort of mini-tour of the local bookstores. I kicked it off in a huge, amazing, mindblowing way – I went into downtown Detroit and went to John K. King Used Books. Now, for those who don’t know, let me give you a miniature history of the store: the building was a glove factory in the 1940s. John King bought it in the early 1980s and within a few years, he was using all four stories to house the books that were for sale, and the basement for books waiting for a place upstairs. Then a few years ago, he bought the smaller building behind the first one, and used that to house his office, his rare books, and even more books that would be for sale in the shop. Today, that store houses over a million books, and there are also two other branches of the store – one on the campus of Wayne State University across town, and one in Ferndale, a suburb about fifteen minutes north of the city.
I want to emphasize a point that I just made. The main store houses more than one. Million. Books. Even before I visited this place, I was geeking out. I probably hadn’t seen a million total books in my life up to that point, much less all in one place. But I took a trip out there to see what it was about, and oh. My. God.
It was amazing. The front room reminded me of a living room, sort of – there was a big wooden table in the middle of it, with a few chairs around it and stacks of books on top, and built-in cabinets all around with books on them, and bookshelves that were full to bursting, and stacks of books on the floor… when you walk into a bookstore and the books are all around you, even on the floor, spilling out toward you – you know you’ve found something really special.
But this place was amazing. There were high windows all along the walls on each floor, and they were all open because – get this – the place didn’t have central air or heating. I mean, that’s not exactly surprising, since the building’s at least seventy years old and it would cost a lot to do that, but still. Anyway, there were huge windows and an old creaky wood floor, and tons and tons of bookshelves. They had to be eight feet high, and there were so many of them! And to get to the next floor, you could either take the stairs, or you could take the old-school lift elevator, which you rode in with an employee. And even that was half-full with waist-high stacks of books. It was really an incredible place.
Another unique thing about it was the books themselves. A lot of them – and I mean a lot, like, the vast majority of them – were old. And not, like, published-in-2000 old. I’m talking, there were hundred-year-old copies of books just sitting on the shelves, waiting to go home with someone. Prior to this, I only owned one old book – this German hymnal that belonged to my great-grandma from the turn of the last century. But here were books from the Victorian era, just hanging out, waiting for someone to pick them up and page through them. And I did pick them up and page through them, although I have to admit, at first I kind of felt like I shouldn’t be. They were beautiful, and they were just sitting there! I couldn’t believe they were for us to, you know, pick up and hold and touch and take home.
I came away that day with some pretty good finds. I bought a book of Yeats poetry from the fifties, a copy of The Sun Also Rises that I’m pretty sure is from the forties but I can’t be sure, and a beautifully designed book of Tennyson’s poetry from — oh man, this still thrills me – 1881. It’s a hundred and thirty years old! And now it’s mine! It’s beautiful. I’ll put up pictures soon.
There were also these carts in the foyer of the shop that were marked Free Books, and I picked one up for no real reason – Writing From Observation. It’s a textbook from Wayne University in 1942. I originally thought I’d take it home because, aside from the discoloration, it’s in great shape and I wanted to use it as one of those secret books – the kind with the hole in the middle that you hide stuff in. But then I flipped through it, and it’s one of those critical reading books. You know, where they give you a passage to read and then questions to answer, like, “Discuss the themes of this passage and how they relate to the other pieces in this section”. And I’m thinking I might actually read through it, which makes me laugh.
Anyway, I also visited this place called Books Connection that’s a few minutes away from me. It’s a pretty generic used bookstore, but it’s a local place and the same three ladies always seem to be working there, so I thought I’d give it a shot. And I did find some things worth taking home – Slaughterhouse-Five, 1984, The Lovely Bones (speaking of which, I’ve been seeing a million copies of this book lately. Places like the library, used bookstores, everywhere. Why? I mean, I know it was popular when it first came out, but were there that many copies in circulation that I could get this one for a dollar?), and one a few people might not know titled Grass For His Pillow. It’s the second book in Lian Hearn’s Otori trilogy, and I really loved the first book, Across the Nightingale Floor, so I thought I would pick it up and give it a read. It takes place in a country that isn’t feudal Japan, even though it absolutely is, and it’s great and you should go learn more about it. (Click the link!)
I also visited Barnes and Noble twice in the past week, because they might be a huge corporation that overshadows the great independent and used book stores around town, but they’re really the only huge corporation that deals in books right now, so I might as well support them. Over the course of the two trips, I bought three John Green novels – An Abundance of Katherines with the new cover, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars – and considered buying one more, Looking for Alaska. (I did not buy this book, incidentally, because I have it on pretty good authority that something excellent is going to happen with Alaska very shortly, so I’m holding out for that.) I also found Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which is an incredible book and one that I really needed to buy, and Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen, which I just finished and will probably discuss next time.
The last brick-and-mortar store I’m going to mention is the Ferndale branch of John King. Take everything I told you about the huge palace that was the downtown store, downsize it, and take away most of the random stacks of books lying on the floor. Got it? That’s the Ferndale shop. I found some cool stuff there, too – a book on the clans and tartans of Scotland, a fiction book about the legend of Pope Joan, a collection of Bukowski poetry, and two amazing books that I need to share.
One is a book that will probably bore everyone except myself. It is a copy of Bullion’s Practical and Analytical English Grammar, revised edition, from… wait for it… 1877. It’s a hundred and thirty-five years old! It’s a book on grammar! It excites me so much! Incidentally, it strikes me that if I had no idea I was a nerd before, I am very aware of it now.
The other book is also very exciting and I think will have a little more widespread appeal. It was sitting on the New Arrivals cart, and I couldn’t not pick it up, especially when I saw what it was. It is a hardcover, UK, first edition of… Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! Seriously, guys, it’s such a pretty book, and it’s in beautiful condition. And you know how much they wanted for it? Ten bucks. I practically threw my money down. First edition of the UK version, man. I’m so excited to reread this book.
I’ve talked a lot about buying the books, which is something that excites me immensely, and I feel like I need to mention here that I have also been reading them. Lots of them. Not at the same rate that I’ve been acquiring them, not even close, but they are eventually getting into my hands and into my brain. Like, for the month of June, I’ve read – hold on, let me consult my reading journal (yes, I keep a reading journal; it is awesome and I can’t imagine why I didn’t start sooner) – eight books. Eight! In one month! That’s an average of three and three-quarter days per book!
But seriously, I read through all John Green’s books – Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and The Fault in Our Stars – as well as After Dark by Haruki Murakami, Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It should be noted that After Dark and Will Grayson, Will Grayson were each devoured in a single day… I had a lot of time on my hands, and they were quick reads. But the point is, I’ve been reading a lot. Lots more than I had up to that point, anyway.
And books are so cool, you guys! They’re just these stacks of paper with words on them, but they do so much. They teach us things, they tell us stories, and the good ones bring people and places and scenarios to life for us. They might make us laugh like Mogworld and An Abundance of Katherines primarily did, they might scare the pants off us like Fahrenheit 451, and they might just make us cry oceans of tears, like The Fault in Our Stars. (Seriously, I think John wants to harness the power of his readers’ sadness and take over the world with it. It was a beautiful book.)
You know, I want to bring up something serious for just a second, because while I love books, I have to say that up until, oh, last summer or so, I never really appreciated them as much as I could. I mean, I had so many other things to do! I knit, I watched TV, I spent way too much time online… and I was also a college student — and let’s face it, when you’re a college student, books are constantly at war with your wallet. At the time, I sided with the wallet.
But then Borders closed its doors. Now, I know that people predicted the demise of the brick-and-mortar bookstore years ago, but I think it was kind of a crushing blow when the company filed for bankruptcy last year. It reminded us that, like all good things, we need to appreciate and support bookstores in order for them to survive. And so I took that initiative, with an emphasis on locality – I wanted, and want, to support the independent bookstores that are around town. And one of those was Off the Beaten Path, which brought me to my crafting group! Sadly, the Path closed its doors a couple of months ago, but our group lives on and we continue to enjoy each other’s company.
But there are plenty of other bookstores here in my area that I want to help. I see it as a win-win situation, really – I give these places money, often less money than I would have originally guessed, and they give me books. They take the money and put it back into the business, I take the books and put the words into my brain. I don’t see any downsides to that.
The point I’m trying to get at here is that we don’t appreciate the things we have as much as we could. I mean, as crafters, we do more than most – a lot of our specialty shops are independent stores, rather than big box stores, and that helps our communities so much. But sometimes, we get so swept up in other things that we don’t think about this stuff. We think we have better things to do, so we shop at Amazon and eBay and Walmart, and the stores in our cities, as well as the owners and the communities at large, suffer for it. I know that sounds bleak, but we can change that. Instead of buying a book on Amazon, consider going out to a brick-and-mortar store. Consider ‘voting with your wallet’, as they say. Borders might be gone, but we can help the independents in our communities live on. They bring us more than we may realize.
Thanks for letting me get on my soapbox, guys. My next post will be significantly lighter.
(CAUTION: This post contains very little knitting talk, and a lot of book talk. Feel free to skip to the other bolded bit if you just want the knitting. tl;dr: Haven’t been knitting. Too busy reading. Things are in the works, though.)
So, you might’ve noticed that I sort of… haven’t been around for six weeks or so. That’s because I have… oh God, this is so hard for me to type.
I haven’t been knitting.
I KNOW! I KNOW! It sounds crazy, and really, it IS crazy. But I’ve been doing other things with myself lately. Mostly, it’s been book-related.
See, my first and greatest love has always been books. But knitting and books don’t really get along for me, for they both require my eyes and my hands.1 So I’ve always had to split my time between getting absorbed in my knitting and getting carried away with a book. Lately, the balance has shifted almost unfairly toward books. Mainly toward buying them, but also toward reading; I read eight books in June alone, and bought… quite a few more than eight. This is due to the awesomeness of a few things:
- A Barnes and Noble that is both very large and somewhat close to my house.
- The Internet, which not only brought me to PaperbackSwap (a place that, for the price of shipping, lets you trade books with other site members), but also to the Vlogbrothers and, from there, John Green. Seriously, anyone over the age of thirteen should pick up The Fault in Our Stars. If you don’t cry, you might be Voldemort.
- Used and/or discount bookstores. There’s one in Detroit called John King, and while I was there, I bought a book of Tennyson poetry from 1881. No joke.
So, yes, I’ve been immersed in books lately. I bought some at my local library,2 some at used bookstores like John King, some at big retail chains like Barnes and Noble, and I’ve gotten some through PaperbackSwap. But I’ve spent far more time reading them than I’ve spent money buying them.
Mostly (and this should come as no surprise, considering I mentioned his name up there a second ago), I worked my way through John Green’s books. That means that I read Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars… all in the span of about two weeks.3
The other books were sort of varied. I read After Dark, by Haruki Murakami – which is absolutely mindblowing and surreal – in about three hours,4 while at my little brother’s high school baseball game. It was the first book I’d read in months that wasn’t a pattern book, or possibly one written by the Yarn Harlot. So it was freeing, and quite nice to relax with something that didn’t discuss p2togs in detail.
I also read Mogworld, by Yahtzee Croshaw. Yahtzee is better known as the mind and voice behind Zero Punctuation, a weekly video review on The Escapist.5 Mogworld is a book practically tailor-made for me, because – spoiler alert – I am a complete nerd. The book takes place inside an online roleplaying game that’s being tested, and the point of view is from one of the non-playable characters in that game. I can’t spoil much, but if you know anything about video games, or if you like Yahtzee’s work online, it’s a great book to pick up. It wasn’t as fast as the others I read this month, but I enjoyed it immensely.
The last one is one that I just finished a few days ago, and it scared the pants off me. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. It’s a great book, it really is, but after all my fervent book-buying and reading and smelling,6 it’s completely terrifying. I urge anyone interested in science fiction or the future of books to read it. And then go show your home library some love.
(Knitting talk starts here. Woohoo!)
I have been doing some planning on the knitting front, though. Mostly, I’m pleased to announce that I’m doing the new Stephen West KAL! After being prodded a bit by Jax,7 I decided that I’m going to knit it, and that it’s going to be awesome. I have my colors already – Color A is Cascade Heritage in a charcoal grey, and Color B is… drumroll…
Wollmeise Twin in Sonne.
I. Am. So. Freaking. Excited. I have wanted to use my Wollmeise for a really long time, and it looks so good against the grey, and I just know it’s going to glow in a Stephen West pattern. Excitement!!
That’s really all the news on the knitting front, though. Hitchhiker continues to sit in the sock yarn bin, and I’ve knit a row here and a row there, but really, it’s not getting much bigger. Aestlight is going to get finished eventually, but… oh, I’m so embarrassed. I misplaced the pattern. The pattern for the shawl for a friend! The one that I’ve been working on since October! The one that should have been done ages ago! Sigh.
Hopefully, when I check in next week (I’m hoping to make this a semi-regular thing again, but we all know how good I am at following through on that), I’ll have more to talk about.
1This is where the e-reader and audiobook people interject, and I’m going to stop you right there – they’re both great ideas, but they’re not for me. I prefer the real, paper and ink, wonderful-smelling books.
2It’s a cool system – people donate books to the library, the copies in good shape get sold for extremely cheap, and the profits go to bettering the library. People donating get rid of books they don’t want, people buying get books they do want, and the library gets money. I see no problems with this.
I’ve been putting off writing a blog post because I’m working on a Super Secret Project (which is not at all secret, if you’ve been following me on Twitter), and I wanted that to be the next thing you saw from me. But then one week turned into two, and then three, and finally I figured I should stop procrastinating and put some words on a virtual page.
Things are… slow right now. I have a job where I’m on my feet for eight hours a day, four to five days a week, and the rest of the time I’ve got family obligations, social gatherings, and time where I want to do nothing but jam pizza rolls into my mouth and watch The Daily Show.
Because of this, my current projects are few. I started a pair of Veyla mitts, which are the only things actively on the needles right now. Once again, I’m utterly charmed. Ysolda Teague does good work, guys. If you haven’t picked up Whimsical Little Knits 2, I’m disappointed in you and you should go check it out on Ravelry. It’s my favorite of the WLK series. It has a hedgehog toy! And a squirrel-shaped pillow! And so many charming wearable things I can barely stand it!
Anyway, I will soon have two other projects on the needles: Hitchhiker and Pretty Thing. Hitchhiker looks like a fun, autopilot-y knit that I can’t wait to have on my shoulders, and I have just the yarn for it – Holiday Yarns FlockSock in Wicked, a green/dark grey self-striping yarn. I am excited and I think it will be awesome. And let’s face it – after my most recent knitting adventures, I need something mindless and fun.
Pretty Thing is not mindless, I don’t think, as it is lace. But it doesn’t look as taxing as the project I keep mentioning (which will be talked about in more detail soon, I promise). And it’s exactly what it says on the tin, too – it’s just a pretty thing. I’ve fantasized about making it with KnitPicks Imagination in Looking Glass, a yarn I’ve had in my stash for… a long time. Far too long to mention without it being embarrassing, really. But this pattern and this yarn were meant to be, and they have been since I stashed it. I’m so very excited to see how it will turn out.
One last pattern that I bought recently, and that I’m incredibly excited to see in person, is the Sheena Shawl. I’ve been looking for colorwork shawls since I finished my Daybreak (yes, yes, you’ll get pictures, put your torches and pitchforks down!), since apparently I am a Shawl Knitter these days. I love the look of this one – I believe I called it “a keffiyeh without the cultural appropriation” to a friend – and I think I’ll have fun knitting it. Picking yarn will require some stashdiving – I don’t know that I have yarn that I want to use for this just yet. But if I don’t, that just means I can go shopping later, right?
So, with that short little update done, here’s the plan: You will get two big, huge, awesome, action-packed* posts in the next short while. One will be the Super Secret Project that I mentioned up at the top of this post. The other will be a timeline post, detailing what I did with my hiatus and containing ALL THE PICTURES. Seriously, I have about a dozen FOs that need photographing. When that’s done, you’ll get a post.
Until then, there’s work to be done. And by work, I mean eating and knitting, of course.
Are you a knitter or a crocheter, or are you a bit of both? If you are monogamous in your yarn-based crafting, is it because you do not enjoy the other craft or have you simply never given yourself the push to learn it? Is it because the items that you best enjoy crafting are more suited to the needles or the hook? Do you plan on ever trying to take up and fully learn the other craft? If you are equally comfortable knitting as you are crocheting, how do you balance both crafts? Do you always have projects of each on the go, or do you go through periods of favouring one over the other? How did you come to learn and love your craft(s)?
I am primarily a knitter. This isn’t out of hatred for crochet or a particular incident; I have simply found that I enjoy knitting more, and I’m often less inspired to pick up a hook. I learned to crochet first – I did it for about a year before I finally got tired of longing for knitted objects and decided to try it myself. But knitting, I have found, scratches the creative itch far more than crochet did.
However, this is a good time to discuss one thing that I absolutely adore: amigurumi, or crocheted plushies. This is something that I think is far more suited to crochet, because crochet (in my opinion) makes a harder-wearing toy, and takes far less time and effort than knitting would. If I want to, for instance, make a Cthulhu toy for a friend, I’ll crochet it instead of knitting it.
But that’s about all I like to crochet, these days. It was a great gateway to knitting, and a perfect way to get me addicted to fiber, but I’m not crazy about it overall. I like knitting much, much more. Maybe it’s the look of it, or the way I can get much more mileage out of much less yarn. Whatever the case, I like crochet, but I love knitting. I really do.
Improving Your Skillset
How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how’s your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you’d like to have tried them by.
I think I am what you would call an “intermediate” knitter. In a way, I am comfortable with what I know – I can do most types of cables and lace, and I knit in the round more often than I knit flat. The skills I have would get me through most patterns that I would like to try.
But then again, there is a lot that I still don’t know. For example, with the exception of my Daybreak, I have never done colorwork. Those beautiful stranded mittens and intarsia socks are totally beyond me. Even worse, I’m intimidated by it. How will I keep the yarn from tangling? Will my floats be long enough? And oh, all those ends to weave in!
I would also love to try double knitting. The results I’ve seen are stunning, and while I know I need to get more comfortable with one-sided colorwork first, this is something I’d like to work up to. Who doesn’t love reversible things?
Entrelac is another that looks intimidating, but might be deceptively simple. I know short rows, so I should be able to pull it off, right? (I hope that’s right…)
And one last thing, the biggest, scariest thing I haven’t tried yet…
That’s right, I’m scared of sweaters. I know, I know! “They’re easy,” you say. “They’re not scary,” you say. “Stop glaring menacingly at me,” you say.
Well, you know what? They freak me out. They’re a huge time sink! My gauge is already so screwy that I don’t know how my project will turn out some days! And the yarn budget, oh goodness. I can’t even begin to talk about how expensive the yarn could be.
I must say, though, now that my fears are all written down in a neat little list, they don’t seem so scary. Maybe I’ll branch out sometime this year. Maybe I’ll try something new. Who knows? It might even be fun.