A Harsh Taskmaster

I have come to the realization that I have way too many works in progress.  Not because I have too many things on the needles, but because they are all items with deadlines.  There's my wedding shawl test, the sample sweater I need to finish for an indie dyer, and assorted gifts and swappy goodness.  There is just too much of it and I need to get something done.  So why is it, now that I have had this realization that I am instead working on these?

V Junkie socks in Cakewalk Yarns' Footsie.  I just can't stop!  I think it's the yarn.  This is my first skein of Cakewalk and I am already mentally winding the second for my next pair.  Things are progressing to such a point that Mister Irish Bear has decided to step in and intervene.

If you need me I will be on the couch knitting this sweater until he will let me ransom my socks back.
For other WIPs, check Tami's Amis


Thoughts on The Hunger Games from a Resident of District 12

Ok, so I'm clearly not actually a resident of District 12.  I'm not that delusional.  But I did grow up in the area in which it was filmed, a fact that made my viewing of the film a little different from that of your average movie-goer.  There are always times when you read a book or watch a film that you can identify with the location.  Oh hey, they're in the woods.  I grew up in the woods.  Cool.  But something is always off.  The trees are all wrong, the climate is different, or the birds are like nothing you are used to seeing.  As a child with an active imagination who spent more time in the woods reading books and climbing trees than interacting with social peers, I experienced this a lot.  But this film was completely different.

(Photo copyright Lionsgate)
This was my home.  And if there was an apocalyptic event, I have no doubt that the small towns of rural NC, already struggling financially, could very well turn out this way.  We are not miners, but the people of our region spent many generations in factories, often from an age much younger than that which is legal.  In the early part of the 19th century, social reform activists put our area on the list of places to visit as they documented the need for child labor regulations.  The unused buildings that were repurposed for the film were one time employers for many and for me a reflection of how our local economy has struggled.

The landscape used for both District 12 and the arena is one that is deeply familiar to me.  Those mountains are ones that I have climbed.  Those forests are identical to ones that I have explored.  At one point later in the film there is a brief shot of a lake.  I audibly gasped upon seeing it because I knew it as one I had played in as a child.

The movie itself is wonderful.  It sticks to the books for the most part and departs only in places that make for a better film.  The story progresses in ways that are both heartbreaking and realistic, because the motivations of the characters, while not always clear, are the motivations of real people, not that of abstract illustrations.  I did spend a fair amount of time with silent tears, which is not a common experience for me.  But seeing it set in a place that I know, that I love, and that until this point was fairly obscure made the experience that much more poignant.  The people of District 12 are not unlike my own friends and neighbors and even the vaguest possibility that this could happen makes the thematic warnings of The Hunger Games that much more meaningful.


FO: The Great Cowl KAL

Well it has been 49 days since the start of this project and here is what I have to show for it

I think it is safe to say that I have enough cowls now.

This challenge has been a lot of fun, and a little stressful.  Turns out I am seriously competitive and hate knitting stockinette on a deadline.  I also have issues knitting really warm fabric in the heat.  But I still enjoyed it.  All of the yarn came out of my stash with the exception of the superbulky pink, which was a destash-gift from a friend.  That one will actually end up in the gift pile because there is no way I'll get good use out of that cowl in our tiny North Carolina winter.

Major thanks to Liz Abinante for designing and coordinating this insanity for the enjoyment of us all.  Waking up at the crack of dawn to download the pattern and knit my fingers off was quite the experience.  I am over cowls for now, but I know I will appreciate them when the temperature drops below 80 and I'm pulling out sweaters rather than tank tops.


Parapluie and Soap

If you a part of Club Dragonfly and have not received your first shipment, look away.  If you are not but desperately wish that you were and the sight of yarnie goodness will make you fall into a jealous rage that will result in a blood bath to rival that of a one hour 50% off cashmere sale, look away.  Otherwise, if you don't mind self-indulgent, bragging prose and pretty pictures, read on.

I have never been a part of a yarn club before.  They are always too hard to break in to and cost way too much up front.  I don't generally like yarn all from one distributor because I don't have a lot of money to spend on yarn in general, and what if the pattern and colors were just awful.  I am sure I'm not the only one who has heard the horror stories.  A promising yarn club that tries out new and horrifying new colors that are supposed to be use in a design that probably sprouted from the brain of a meth-addict with the interior decorating sense of a land-fill.  Hoarders meets one of Aria Montgomery's outfits.  This was not one of those clubs.  For starters, two of my favorite designers are working on this project, one of whom designed for the club last year. A design I bought and knit up as soon as it became available.  Plus, Dragonfly Fibers has some really amazing yarn.  And to top it all off, there is the option for a bi-monthly invoice rather than a large up-front payment.  Win, win, win!

And dude, this is definitely a win.  The yarn is a brand new base that I am really excited to work with -- 80/10/10 merino nylon cashmere.  Yum!  The color, called Parapluie, is totally spring, with bright splashes of neon over more subdued pastel-y shades of grey, pink, and green.  The pattern by Kate of Katydid Knitwear is really pretty too, though I have to admit, I was shaking my head at the irony that it is yet another cowl.  It is lovely, and I'm sure I shall knit it, but I am so over cowls right now (see tomorrow's FO post -- not to mention it is HOT here!)

I could not be more pleased with this first shipment.  The extra goody is a bar of really nice soap that immediately went into the shower.  I have to admit, part of the reason I joined the club was the same as why I joined the Cowl KAL and am participating in swaps -- the fun and excitement gives a real community atmosphere.  The Dragonfly Fibers board is now one of the first ones I check in the morning, and the enthusiasm for this package is catching.


Storming Spring

Today is the first day of spring, which of course we are greeting with severe thunderstorms, hail, and "one lightening strike every second."  No, seriously, that's what the weather alert said.  Why it is currently bright and sunny outside I really don't know.  But the days are getting longer which means that I am getting more runs in after work

You think I'm going to show you a picture of me all red and tired from running?  Ha!  Here's another pretty tree photo.

I am noticing an increase in my endurance which I credit to the zumba classes I have started taking.  It is nice to have another workout that does not end with me hunched over crying in pain because I've reactivated my neck strain.  I am sleeping better too.  Actual sleep!  Is this what life is like outside of school?

I hope to have actual knitting updates soon.  I am currently stalled out on a lot of my WIPs because they are all deadline knits.  Remind me not to take on so many projects next time, eh?


The Start of Something New

Since I have finished school and am not going to be a student for the foreseeable future, I have started looking into alternative ways to get the fix I always had from classes and the structure of my education.  I have joined the Y (I take zumba now.  Three classes in I love it but find myself becoming very competitive which is funny when I don't know the routines yet so I'm tripping over myself), I have a steady influx of books to my kindle thanks to the library, and now I find myself dying to expand my fiber abilities.  Because I'm currently knitting several items on a deadline, this is not to come in the form of a new project any time soon.  Instead, I spent about an hour today watching youtube tutorials and playing with this.

So far I've learned that I prefer drafting with my right hand while turning the spindle with my left.  And that I know more creative expletives than I thought.

This is as far as I got before the fiber snapped.  What you don't see is the pile of discarded leaders on the floor next to me.  It took forever but I loved it.  I have definitely been bitten by the spinning bug.  The only problem is that I have no idea what to do once the yarn is on the spindle.  I know the concept of plying, but no one has ever explained how all of this works on a spindle.  I guess it's back to youtube.


Inevitable Spring

Today my brain finally got in gear and realized that it is indeed time for spring.  The sun is shining, the birds are waking me up far too early, and things are starting to bloom.

And I'm not the only one taking notice.  While I was out on my run today I noticed a lot more families playing in the yard, couples out for walks, and even high school basket ball players dribbling along the trail.  It is like the entire world is outside saying "ok, spring, come and get us" -- which I can only take to mean that we will soon be blasted with some more cold weather.

It is not just my sudden desire to wear shorts that indicates a change in my mentality (really, I want to wear shorts now, this can only be because I spent half my day outside at work),  I am also seeing a change in my knitting fantasies.  I'm suddenly all about the bright colored sock yarns and laceweight sweater patterns.  The new Knitty came out today and I found myself drooling over the creative ankle socks and short sleeved colorwork pullover.  I haven't even started on the new Cowl KAL pattern and the Rocky Coast Cardi has gone to sit in WIPurgatory while I work on more appealing projects like Lady Sybil's Wish.

This photo is a few days old -- the lighting here is rather dim, though that will change soon with daylight savings -- but it gives you a clear idea.  I'm knitting the My Wish shawl out of my very special skein of Roman Hills' Sybil yarn and another special skein of blindingly blue sock yarn that Chris gave me for Christmas (It is the only yarn he has bought for me without any direction.  By his account he walked into a yarn shop and told the woman that he was there to buy his fiancee a present and all he knew was that she loved sock yarn and bright colors.  Paws off ladies, he's mine!)  The color combination is just so perfect and really captures what I love about this time of year.

Hopefully I'll remember this in a few days when I am complaining about shaving my legs and the bugs and how I never get to wear my knitting.  Maybe.  I'm a whiner so probably not.


We Three Socks

One of the downfalls of blogging about my works in progress is that I have to own up to some of my bad habits.  I could have sworn that when it came to my knitting I didn't really have any bad habits.  Particularly any as common as second sock syndrome.  Me, an average knitter with normal proclivities?  Never.

But it's time to pull my deep dark secret out of the project bags.  I can't seem to finish a pair of socks.  Well, I can, but it's not all that often.  I average about every second or third pair unfinished.  I didn't think the problem was so bad.  There was a Cookie A sock -- Kristi -- which got me through our struggles over the summer, but the heavy chart reading made it very difficult to convince myself to start the next sock.

Then there are my Weasley Is Our King, using the Weasley Rib pattern and a lovely skein of Miss Babs that my brother gave me for my birthday.  But I got bored and decided that I needed to try something different.

Most recently there are my V Junkie socks (seriously, is everyone knitting this?  I know it's awesome but the hipster in me almost did not let me knit them).  I love them and am so proud of how I modified the toe construction to keep the pattern but make them fit my foot.  However, I have other things to knit with my sock needles and so these too are back on the shelf.

So here it is.  I have another small gauge project I have to do, but then I have decided that I will finish at least two pairs of these socks before I start another.  I must.  I'm out of project bags.  And needles.

Of course I could just buy new bags and needles and continue the insanity.  That's a viable solution.


Return to the Sisterhood, No Need For Pants

If you plan to read this book, please do before reading on as I could not find a way to write about it without spoiling.

I think I have mentioned before just how awesome library for Kindle is.  It has significantly increased my reading because I can easily read on my lunch break and it eliminates the short thick paperbacks that have been my reading medium for years which are great but not conducive to knitting.  Last week I was browsing the "new additions" section of the website and happened upon Sisterhood Everlasting, the new installment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares.  As a devoted fan of both the books and the movies I was floored.  How could there be a new book I didn't know about?

I curled up with my kindle and started reading.  The book begins ten years after the last one left off and is set in all of the seasons except for summer.  It took all of four pages for me to really get back into this world.  I felt like the book was respecting the fact that the readers had grown up.  The last one was published the week I finished my first year of college, putting the girls just after their freshman year.  Now, five years later, I am living out on my own and so is the sisterhood.

But Brashares takes this happy return and turns it completely on its head.  The first sign that something was wrong was that Tibby (my favorite character and the one I self-identified with) was absent.  None of the chapters were told from her point of view even though all of the girls were scattered.  And then the floor drops out from under the reader -- Tibby dies (I told you there'd be spoilers).  I started crying.  Not great wracking sobs, but just tears streaming down my face as I tried to read.  And I was absolutely furious.  I hated Brashares.  How could she do this to me?   How could she kill someone who had been there for me during all of my self-indulgent high school no-one-understands-me days?

You don't think it could get any worse and then it does.  For the majority of the book the remaining girls must deal with the fact that it appears Tibby took her own life.  And that's where the magic of this story lies. It's not in the final resolution that brings about a bitter-sweet happy ending.  It's in the reality of the struggle.  Something Brashares has done well in these books is bring a reflection of the hell that is being a teenage girl to life through her characters.  They may be very privileged white girls (seriously, who else can just run off to Greece to deal with their problems), but they experience everything that haunts the lives of her readers.

I spent the majority of the book silently crying while I read.  I struggled right along with Lena, Carmen, and Bee as they tried to put the pieces back together.  But it was also refreshing when I was done.  The story was well-written and I could not have asked for a better return, even though I hated the journey.  My only request is that this please be the end of the story.  I don't think I can return to any more heartbreak for the lives of these three.  As is a popular saying these days, this book gave me so many feelings!  It reminded my why I should throw a more "serious" read into my rotation and reminded me why I stick to sci-fi and fantasy for the most part.  Some things hit way too close to home to be able to stay objective.

If you did read this review and are on the fence about the book, I encourage you to give it a try.  Where the original four retain some sort of light heartedness for at least one character, this one loses all humor and takes a much more serious turn, something I think was done out of respect for the emotional maturity of the original fans.


For Love of Downton

It seems you can't go anywhere without hearing about Downton Abbey.  Seriously.  It's all anyone ever talks about.  And, much to my dismay, I have become one of those people.  I love the show, I love the characters, I love the crazy overlapping storylines, and I love love love the costumes.  I swore that it would not be my thing, but I was wrong.  So wrong in fact that I have signed up to participate in the Downton Abbey swap hosted by Maria of the Subway Knits podcast.  I happened to check twitter while walking in to work at the same time she opened sign ups and snagged a spot before I had even seen the second season.

Last week, this love devolved into the only place any of my fandoms can truly end up -- yarn.  It is a widely known fact that Roman Hills dyes Downton Abbey themed yarn.  And it sells out pretty darn fast.  It was one of those things that looks pretty and makes me smile, but surely I would never buy it.  Wrong.  Last week I managed to hit an update after work and picked up not only the Sybil yarn for myself, but also a skein of the Mary yarn for Andrea (if I'm going to do something, I'm going to enable at least one person to join me).  All things can be justified by coupon codes.

I love my Sybil yarn already.  It is absolutely lovely and the colors are clearly inspired by Lady Sybil's modern pants outfit from season one.

Clearly this skein is too special to knit mere socks, so I have matched it up with another skein from my stash to knit a test of the pattern I am planning to use for my wedding shawl.  I have some other projects to work on first, but I can't wait to cast on.