#MeMadeMay 2016

Last year I was late to discover the hashtagged movement to wear something from one's own hands every day in May. This year I am giving it a go – although I am not posting daily pix on Instagram. Many of these projects have already put in appearances there, although they have not yet gotten a full blog treatment here. So I'll annotate this accounting of what I've worn so far, and plan on details in other posts:

May 1 - Cowichan-style vest – because we were in the mountains for the weekend and it was crazy cold! 

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May 2 - Endless Summer Tunic & Alabama Chanin bolero – because the next day the weather completely changed! 
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May 3 - That same AC bolero over fave dress with matching visible mending 
May 4 - ditto because some days I am dressed in workout wear for half the time

May 5 - Tempest cardi (Ann Weaver design for Knitty, made in 2009)
May 6 - Alabama Chanin Verd T & matching long skirt (my latest achievement!)
May 7 - Stopover sweater – because I'll follow Ann & Kay to the moon, and the Saturday of Maryland Sheep & Wool was right chilly

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May 8 - Threadless-recycled Alabama Chanin skirt & Doodler shawl
May 9 - Smooch Rowan tank & Threadless AC skirt (reversed so the other side was in front)
May 10 - Smooch again with jeans & Unleaving shawl – I knit this tank in 2003 when it was an early bloggers' knit along
May 11 - Tiered cotton skirt – an oldie dating from Little B's preschool days
May 12 - Verd T & pink linen pants I sewed at VisArts one night with coworkers
May 13 - Workout wear all day, which was bound to happen
May 14 -  Alabama Chanin orange recycled-T tank
May 15 -  Triple S shawl 
May 16 - Charlotte's Web Shawl, the Koigu classic I knit in 2005

May 17 - Sockapolooza socks knit by someone else; remember Sockapalooza? I think I participated in at least two of those trades.

May 18 - Rooibos vest and Volt shawl

May 19 - workout wear again, alas

May 20 - My firstest AC Bloomers skirt of thrifted blue and purple Ts

May 21 - Volt shawl

May 22 - Beloved Chicknits Twist cardi, in May! 

May 23 - Triple S Koigu shawl

May 24 - Another Chicknits: Cece shrug

May 25 - Rowan Elspeth shrug, in Calmer like the one above

May 26 - Endless Summer Tunic

May 27 - Sonya Philip Dress No. 1

May 28 - this is a doozy: a silk dress I sewed c. 1991!

May 29 - Dress No. 1 again

May 30 - Violets by the River shawl

May 31 - AC long skirt

What a fun month! Will look forward to doing this again next spring. 

 


I read some books in 2015

I've been meaning to note via Goodreads the dozen or so volumes I completed in the last calendar year. Not that the record there will go away, but this is sort of a more accessible archive. (In some cases I have longer mini-reviews there, but I'm not going to cut and paste.) I love novels and see that almost no non-fiction made the list. I do consume a lot of long-form pieces online; I'll have to look into a way to track that as well. And I read books along with my girls, either before them or at their recommendation.

I'm going to post these chronologically, with a comment or two.

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I read this at the audio urging of NPR's Barrie Hardymon on my fave podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. Set about the same time as Downton Abbey, this book shows working-class life in London, quite the contrast. I sped through its thrilling ride during the Christmas-to-New Year's holidays, and I loved it.  

  • Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

I received this graphic memoir for Christmas (I think), and as an adult who's lost both her parents, I was especially moved. Of course I've always been a Chast fan, given the family New Yorker subscription that kept me from missing a cartoon. 

This YA novel was younger daughter's Christmas gift, at the recommendation of the NYTimes Book Review. We both loved its Superstorm-Sandy-influenced story, and its autistic protagonist.

  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Read this because both girls were into the Percy Jackson series. For me, one was enough, but I enjoyed revisiting the mythology and seeing Riordan's contemporary update.

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  • Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

OMG, this book cracked me up ~ and I think it would've done so even had I not spent four post-grad years in an English department!

Pop Culture Happy Hour strikes again, with a read-along of this light and entertaining novel. Even though it's set in the 1960s, for some reason I kept picturing Adele. Maybe she can star in the film adaptation!

  • Splinters of Light by Rachael Herron

This author is a personal friend, thanks to this here blogging world: we both started knitting blogs way back in the aughts before Ravelry. I've enjoyed watching her publishing success, first with her Cypress Hollow romance series, and now with a pair of seriously moving novels (the first is Pack Up the Moon). This is a gorgeous familial love story, interestingly worked around early-onset Alzheimer's.

I was getting ahead of the movie version on this one, having done the same for The Fault in Our Stars. Good YA read; Green's a master. 

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  • The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday

Like a lot of my reads, this came from the New Releases shelf at my local library branch, and did not disappoint. But it's complex to explain, because there is a memoir within the novel. 

  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

This YA novel is on my older daughter's shelf and I think I read it before she did. Author Meg is local to Richmond and I enjoyed her window into another world.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I've heard a variety of opinions on this award-winner, and I get the comments that it's a bit facile, but I truly enjoyed Doerr's tiny chapters full of luscious language.

  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Plucked this off the shelf at Target when I needed a paperback vacation read. I liked it; I lived those 1970s as a teen. I valued the insights into life as a Chinese-American.


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  • Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles by Bert Ashe

Another book by a friend; Bert and I attended grad school together two decades ago. This is a remarkable hybrid of memoir, social history and cultural commentary. I learned so much!  

  • Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash

This library find made someone's "Best of 2015" list, but I cannot recall whose. I loved it because I have spent a lot of time in those North Carolina mountains, and the novel successfully incorporates one character's poetic musings.  

I've finished two books so far this year, and am currently working on the first of Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, and the new Elizabeth Strout! 


Alabama Chanin Verd T

[Ooops, there went another three months!] As I was last writing, after warming up with several recycled-T garments, I was ready in summer to spring for an honest-to-God DIY kit straight from the Florence HQ. This would be the perfect project to tote on family vacation and work on in the months when wooly knitting is too darned hot to handle. Fortunately, Alabama Chanin often offers discounts, and I think I used one such opportunity to purchase the Verd Unisex Shirt, which I ordered in a long-sleeved unisex small because I wasn't sure whether to get a women's small or medium. I chose the nude color called Ballet for the bottom layer on the reverse-appliqué front, and replaced the kit's variegated brown embroidery floss with both light pink and variegated gray-to-black.

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And when I couldn't decide which one to stitch around the golden leaves, I ended up using both: the pink for leaves that were whole intact, and the gray for leaves that left the field at the neck and sleeves. 

Because I had the AC women's T pattern at hand, I overlaid it on the cut body pieces and added just a bit of waist shaping. I also stitched and trimmed all of the large leaf motifs that didn't have any small leaves stenciled atop them; in the example that was not the case, but I wanted more of the lighter color to show. (The wall at my local library branch was a nice match, as are the pair of linen pants I made a few years ago.)

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Putting in the sleeves was not difficult – I like the method of holding the sleeve and side seam to be stitched as one. I trimmed the length of the sleeves, actually a bit more than I wish I had. But the finished garment is such a dream to wear! I'm not sure I can put on that scratchy blue wrap skirt now that I have the PJ-comfort quality of the organic jersey to compare. I've worn the finished T so often that I decided it needs a matching skirt, now under construction ~

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One Day in May

Ed_4421.JPGI'm not talking about six months ago ~ I'm talking about six years and six months ago, when I met Natalie Chanin in 2009. Why did I not blog about the encounter then? Who the heck knows? I've certainly spent countless hours poring over her books since, but it wasn't until the publication of the fourth volume, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, that I finally threaded my needle, "loved my thread," and took the plunge.  

I started with my "practice" skirt, made from an assembly of thrifted Ts. Some even had printing on them, so I kept the Bloomers stencil motif below anywhere I'd cut and reveal. Applied craft-store fabric paint with a brush (as this was before I watched Natalie's Craftsy video that suggests using a makeup sponge). Used too skinny fold-over elastic I bought to make hair ties for my girls. Navy thread. Outside knots. I was so hooked – and proud – that I bought shoes to match! 

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That was in late spring this year. Over the next few months, I attacked the stack of Threadless Ts I'd konmari'd from my towering collection, and started giving them the Frankenshirt treatment. This gave me a chance to try different stretchy binding stitches, piping, and a fitting adjustment between the two. Both are shorter than the fitted-top pattern suggests, but I had to work with what my recycled materials offered. 

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Finally it was time to try out one of the new patterns from the book, conveniently available on a CD I took to the FedEx for large format printing – not that I couldn't have pieced together four rectangles that comprise the wrap skirt, but I went for the Magdalena stencil, too. With a design plan in mind, I cut my own stencil of just a portion of the large design. Have X-acto, will travel (especially since I have a few quilter's cutting mats, too). Still working with recycled Ts (these were three for a dollar, all from some family reunion), the wrap skirt provided my lesson in negative reverse appliqué, the technique where, rather than cutting away a portion that's been stitched around, you cut away everything except what's been stenciled and stitched. This time I applied the paint with a spray bottle, having mixed brown and white to achieve some kind of beige.

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Now, here's the thing about Alabama Chanin sizing and my body: my hip measurement falls solidly in the Medium camp, while my waist edges toward what they call Large in a range from XS to XXL. No worries with the stretchy swing skirt, but I cut the wrap with a grading between the two. And when I tried on my masterpiece, the thing was too darn big. Lucky for my friend Deb, who's about eight inches taller than I am, and proportionally larger!

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Back to the drawing board – er, cutting table – I went. As I didn't want Deb to be my twin, I used straight brown paint, and finally daubed it on with a sponge. I had to go back to my last scraps of reunion Ts, so the hidden flap reveals some of the original screen printing. I cut this one a couple inches shorter, too. I love how the outside knots on both skirts feel botanical. After a pair of these, though, I doubt another is in my future any time soon!

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OK: that's three skirts and two tanks, not to mention the "boa" that happened while I was working on the first skirt. I was quite ready for a softer hand after those scratchy blue Gildan Ts, and there were still some Threadless Ts to work with; they're a better quality of cotton to begin with, as well as having been loved for several years. So I made another swing skirt, slightly shorter (again accommodating the T-shirt length), using their existing designs for a few reverse-appliqué elements on two panels and stenciling one Bloomer repeat on each of the others. Four shirts total, one of them also used for binding a tank. I love the results and tend to wear it with two seams in front & back rather than at the sides – I choose which design to feature depending on mood or top.

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After all of these practice garments, I decided I was ready for some real AC organic cotton. Next post!   

 
 


Welcome Back, Knitter - year 2

This is the second installment of a two-year catch-up on the knitting side of what I've been up to while absent from this blog ~ 

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Mess o'Mitts

This time last year I was in the throes of knitting a series of fingerless mittens for friends. I finished each of three pairs in about three weeks, coincidentally using US3s. The first two pairs used the same pattern and the same yarn: Nalu Mitts by Leila Raabe [Rav link] and Rowan Tapestry – a discontinued wool-soy single. The splitty factor of that yarn led me to modify the pattern on the second pair, keeping the twisted-rib faux-cable columns moving in a straight line rather than waves. 

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The third pair I knit in a silk-alpaca yarn as a valentine for a BFF who loves hearts. She was in the midst of some marital heartbreak, so I knitted her some handy love. I used the Semplice Mitts pattern, free from KnitPicks, and added the purled heart motif using a chart I found on Craft Passion. After I completed the first/left mitt, I decided to put two hearts on the right hand.

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That's a Wrap

A funny thing happened when my fave LYS The Yarn Lounge closed its doors. My friend Frances and I stopped by to grab some last skeins and encountered a Californian who was visiting her son and daughter-in-law. Not only was she a most lovely woman, she was wearing an incredible cashmere wrap of ingenious short-row construction, which she kindly spread on the table for us to examine. She couldn't instantly recall the pattern source, but she thought it was free and listed on Ravelry, and she offered to email us the deets upon her return to the West Coast. A few weeks later she kept her word and sent the link to Misti Alpaca's Ruffle Cape in Garter

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I cast on 84 stitches instead of 72 to make it a little longer overall, and the Muench Bergamo knitted-ribbon yarn turned out to be perfect for this project. Keeping the ends from unraveling was a bit tricky, and I had to stitch some of them down in the finishing, but it's kept me super cozy on recent fall mornings in a chilly old house. I'm glad I never knitted that Salt Peanuts cardi from Spring 2004 Interweave Knits

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I made one more wrap last winter: Deborah Frank's Swerve, also featuring short rows. Brooks Farm Acero (left over from this cardigan) and Fleece Artist Suri Blue. I donated it to our middle-school auction, where it was purchased by a good friend. 

And I reckon this cashmere cowl counts as a wrap. It's the Infinitude Scarf by Jeni Chase, made in two skeins of the Jade Sapphire cashmere the pattern calls for. Yet again I used Revelry to find the perfect pattern for my yarn. 

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My Favorite Pattern

If favorites are measured by repetition, memorization, variation – well, the Stay-On Baby Booties from Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas's Knitting for Baby must be mine. According to my Ravelry project page, I've knit at least 30 pairs. Definitely have that thing memorized! And I'm pretty sure my earliest recipients are teenagers now. During Wee C's 2013-14 school year, three of her teachers delivered their first-borns, followed closely by the librarian in fall of 2014 – that's four sets right there, and a friend of Little B got a second brother in that same stretch. In August my cousin and his wife began their family with boy-girl twins; I left this pair o'pairs in Florida when we visited them for spring break. 

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Still to come: KALs, WIPs, and Alabama Chanin – and other non-stitching topics! 

 

Welcome Back, Knitter – year 1

Taking a cue from my friends Ann & Kay over at Mason-Dixon Knitting, I'm returning from blog hiatus. Honestly, I don't really know what happened. Life, I guess. I've got no better excuse for a two-year lapse, but I know I want to resume regular posting, have a blogmo instead of a NaNoWriMo. To begin, let's return to our roots as a knitting blog. Plenty of FOs to report from the last 24 months, so I'm going to divide them into two posts. 

Lots of gift knitting over this stretch; about half of the projects went to others. Nice to look back and see that. First, Wee C needed a birthday gift for a pal whose party she'd missed due to illness – giving me a flexible knitting window. We picked Gina House's Amanda hat for Isis, knit in Malabrigo, and then I made one for C as well in blue Manos (along with a pair of mitts).

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For her Christmas gift I completed this Stephen West Spectra for my goddaughter, in a BMFA Socks That Rock colorway from their first sock club, paired with some Kitchen Sink Dyeworks semi-solid. I became a WestKnits fan after my the mystery KAL that gave me my Rockefeller shawl, one of my most interesting knits. And I'm pretty sure that I will begin his latest this month. 

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Next I knit some basic socks at Little B's request; a year later I ripped out the toes and made them longer. Another winter request came from my friend Kim, for whom I knit some fingerless mitts with more leftover Manos that had languished in my stash. Their free pattern came from Blue Sky Alpacas.

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And there were blankets, another thing to credit (or blame) those Mason-Dixon gals for – not that the classic Round or Pinwheel Baby Blanket is their doing, but once I had the yarn from first the (c.2006) Mitered Squares and then the Buncha Squares, what else would I knit for baby Ty, son of Little B's Mandarin teacher? This was my third baby pinwheel, and I highly recommend it for using up leftovers. I knit it in less than a month – meanwhile, the log-cabin blanket for C took me six summers! Kay called her Courthouse Steps version “Blue, Orange, Green, Green, Green, White, White, White, White”; mine is Red, Green, Green, Blue, Blue, Green, Green, White, White.” Only the last pairs of greens (sage) and whites (natural) are the same across all the squares. My squares are about 12”; I made 16 of them, joined with three-needle bind-off, and finished with a red i-cord "binding." 

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Finally, I finished the cardigan of 2014 about a year after I began. I rarely manage to complete a sweater in a season, but I never mind having one done in spring and ready to wear in fall. And obviously I am not a monogamous knitter! I wrote this post when I started what came to be known as Top Secret Jack, from the name of the Miss Babs color way. Pockets! I don't think I'd ever knit them before, nor attached i-cord that functions as a buttonhole band. After a bit of searching I realized that the four ceramic buttons I had bought at Maryland Sheep & Wool to match the yarn (when I though it would become a different sweater) were made by KokoNoelle. I found them on Etsy, but with no additional stock available. Determined to make the buttons work, I started their placement at the fullest point and spaced down to waist ribbing. I rarely button any cardigan, but this functions fine when I do. Really proud of this one. I also became determined to use every inch of the luscious Yowza, so I knit a slouchy Wurm hat to match – not that I wear them together. The last 30 yards became a cup cozy, pictured with the remnant strand on top!  

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Book brief: The Lacuna

LacunaLike all the women in post-war America, I fell in love with Mexamerican author Harrison Shepherd, to whom Barbara Kingsolver gives some mighty writing chops in this 2009 novel. Frida & Diego, Trotsky, and stenographer Violet Brown have their own lovely orbits around Shepherd. Rich and immersive, effectively interweaving true historical events with these fictional characters, the novel presents real and fabricated newspaper accounts to enhance the central character's many personal journals. (Not entirely unlike what Marisha Pessl did with new media in her latest, the last read I blogged.) I learned more than I remember having previously known about American history, especially the HUAC action of the Cold War era. And as a native Tar Heel, I love that Harrison landed in Asheville when he returned stateside. With its surprises and subtleties, in hindsight I wish I had read this saga straight through rather than putting it down when I reached a section break to take my own break with one or two other novels. I feel disloyal to Harrison and Mrs. Brown! 
 

Superlatives: Character I'd most like to hang with: Arthur Gold. Character I'd most like to hear more from: Violet Brown. Most honest character: Harrison Shepherd. Most caricatured character: Tom Cuddy. Most throwaway character: none. 

From the publisher:

With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist – and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.