FO Friday, and Happy WordPress Anniversary to me

Five years ago today I established this blog, or so WordPress says.  Has it really been that long?  I had no idea.  I moved over here from Vox, which at that time was a going-out-of-business blog platform and not a vibrant and flourishing news site.  So, yay, and happy WordPress anniversary to me.  As an anniversary gift, I present to you another blog entry.  :)

I finished a book and a scarf this week.

The book was Seveneves by Neal Stephenson: hard SF at its finest, but easily accessible for non-scientists and non-mathematicians like me.  The moon is destroyed and Earth is running out of time.  How will the human race survive this extinction event?  Read it and find out.  Even if you don’t care for science fiction itself, this is so well-written and moving, the humanity of the story might win you over.  Click the book cover to read the full non-spoilery review.

Chinook 8Now, the scarf. You saw this first on last week’s WIP Wednesday. Because I, um, have been avoiding sewing up the Tunisian Terror, this scarf-cum-shawlette got lots of attention.

PatternChinook Scarf by Ali Green.  Very well-written pattern, really easy to follow.

Yarn: Cozette by Knit One Crochet Two, 257 yards of a 275-yard skein.  Colorway: Sea Glass.

Needles: Addi Turbo Clicks with a short cable, US size 7.

Size:  64 inches wide, 14 inches deep

Chinook 12Satisfaction with end product:  I think it’s grand.  The scarf is ultra-lightweight because of the high silk content of the yarn, plus it has a lovely drape.  I love the knitted-in I-cord edging along the top, which made a sturdy and even straight edge to support the rest of the design. The icy color will coordinate well with many outfits.  It should make a nice transitional piece or year-round accessory.  It’s intended as a gift.  Now I just have to figure out who it belongs to.

Chinook 11Because I don’t know when to quit, here are a couple more photos.  As always, click any of the photos to see them full size.

Chinook 6Freshly Finished FridayThis blog entry is part of the Freshly Finished Friday round-up hosted by HardKnitLife.  Click that badge to see what other folks have finished this week and add your link to the list.  Also linked with Gracey’s Goodies, so check that out too.

Book review: A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

A Sudden LightA Sudden Light by Garth Stein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trevor Riddell is spending the summer with his father at his father’s family estate. Trevor would rather be elsewhere, but as part of a trial separation, Trevor’s father Jones insisted the boy come with him to rural Washington State rather than accompany his mother to England to be with her family. Jones’s purpose in visiting his estranged and ailing father Samuel is to get Samuel to sign over power of attorney so Jones and his sister Serena can sell off the major portion of the estate and recoup the family fortune. Samuel has good days and bad days: on his good days, he is adamantly opposed to selling off any portion of the Riddell lands; on his bad days, he is confused, insisting he hears and sees his deceased wife dancing in the ballroom, and writing cryptic messages on Post-it notes. And then Trevor begins hearing voices as well.

Part ghost story, part coming-of-age novel, part family saga, A Sudden Light is chock-full of all the gloomy gothic atmosphere one could possibly desire. And while it does get a bit draggy in the middle, it’s still a joy to read, with a dramatic denouement and a satisfying, if bittersweet, ending.

I didn’t realize this book was by the same author who wrote The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I hated, until I picked it up from the library. It’s a good thing I didn’t know that or I probably wouldn’t have read it, thus missing out on a real treat.  High fives all around. I won’t hesitate to pick up Mr. Stein’s next novel, so long as it’s not told from the point of view of an animal.

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Book review: Sometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite

Sometimes the WolfSometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had put this on a list of “must reads” and requested it from the library, but to save my life, I can’t remember why. The only thing I can think of is I must have read a highly favorable blurb somewhere from some person or on some website I respect. It’s probably a good thing I don’t remember because that respect would be diminished.

“As muscular and laconic as anything by Cormac McCarthy” says the cover blurb. I’ve only read one book by McCarthy (The Road) and I did not enjoy it. This should have been my warning when I picked it up.

My quibble is not with the story.  The story’s fine: A disgraced sheriff is released from prison to the custody of his adult son, now the deputy sheriff of the same small town, but the FBI agent who investigated his previous crime still doesn’t believe justice has been served; family drama ensues.  All the twists and turns are quite well done.

My quibble is with the writing itself, most especially with the constant incomplete sentences that make up the majority of the paragraphs. At times I found myself saying, out loud, “For crying out loud, just put a verb in there, would ya?” I also rewrote sentences in my head as I read them, adding punctuation here, joining clauses and making complete sentences there, so the paragraphs weren’t so choppy and disjointed. This is not “muscular and laconic”, this is lazy writing and turn-a-blind-eye editing.

Look, I’m all for authors developing their own style, and use of the occasional subordinate clause in place of a full sentence is fine for effect — emphasis being on “occasional” — but generally speaking, the conventions of sentence and paragraph structure must still apply, or else why bother?

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WIP Wednesday: The end of the Tunisian Terror is in sight

Remember the Tunisian Terror?  The blanket I started for my mother in April 2014?  I finished all the crocheting in April of this year and then started the embellishments.  Behold!  All the cross-stitching is done!

Mom's Tunisian 28

Here it is laid out in the order in which it will be assembled.  Now all that remains is the sewing together of the squares.  One row is sewn, eight rows remain to be sewn, and then comes stitching the rows to each other and putting a border on it.  Stitching the squares together doesn’t really take long: I can do one row in an evening of TV watching, but truthfully, I’m so sick of looking at this thing that the blanket is lucky if I even pick up one row in a week.

Aarons Baby 1 Chinook 1Also in progress, two new projects — first, a baby blanket, the tried-and-true giant granny square of many colors for a colleague who is expecting a boy.  All the leftover yarn from the Tunisian Terror is coming in handy for this one.  I have another colleague also expecting a baby, but gender is unknown at this point, so that blanket will wait a bit.  Also, I started another Christmas gift, the Chinook scarf, out of the drapy-est silk and cotton blend you ever felt, in a color called Sea Glass.

In book news, I just finished A Sudden Light by Garth Stein and started Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.  Review pending of the Garth Stein book but it will be a favorable one.  I’m less than 100 pages into the Stephenson and completely enthralled.

100_4341 (2)Bonus picture:  Here’s Phoebe, who keeps me company when I’m here in my craft room writing or winding yarn or planning projects or simply goofing around on Facebook.  She’s getting older these days and doesn’t have any teeth left, but she’s still a good dog.  Aren’t you, sweetie?  Of course you are.

This post is part of Stitch-Along Wednesday.  Click on that badge below to see what other folks have been up to this week.  Also, go check out Shadow’s Knit Knacks Link-up post and add your link at the bottom.

Stitch Along Wednesday

FO Friday: It’s a shawl!

Gingko Crescent 10PatternGingko Crescent Shawl by Jade Keaney (free pattern on Ravelry).  For Ravelry members, here’s the link to my project page.  Omigod, this pattern.  I had to completely rewrite it because when I knit it as written, the shawl came out with a camel’s hump that would never ever ever block out.  Even after rewriting it using top down short rows, it came out with a hump, but not nearly as bad as the original, so I let it go.  Gingko Crescent 3Here’s a thumbnail of the shawl after I rewrote the pattern, with the hump, before blocking. You can click the pic to see it larger. Humpback issues aside, the lace pattern is nicely charted and easy to follow.

Yarn:  Surf by Mondial.  298 yards.  As far as I can discover, this yarn is discontinued, so here are its vitals:  100% cotton, says it’s sport-weight, but personally, I think it’s fingering.  Plied construction.  Feels nice in the hands, and knit up with a lovely drape.  I wouldn’t mind having more of it if I could find it.

Gingko Crescent 11Needles:  Addi Click Turbo circulars in sizes 6, 7, and 8.  Size 6 for the actual knitting, size 7 for the very last row, and size 8 for the bind off.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Buying those Addi interchangeable needles was worth every single penny.

Satisfaction with end product:  I like it.  It’s pretty.  It’s intended as a gift, so I hope its recipient will like it too.  The pooling of the yarn was nicely distributed, giving it an impressionistic feel with the pastel colors.  And it’s a bit of a chameleon: the standout color varies depending on its surroundings, so the shawl may seem predominately yellow/orange in one view, but the blue and pink may be more obvious in the next.

Now, about this pattern.  The original called for casting on with a garter tab, then knitting in stockinette with increases until you reached a certain number of stitches, then beginning the lace pattern.  Sounds pretty standard, yes?  The problem is the increases were both poorly placed and insufficient to create a real crescent shape.  Instead, we got a pointed ovoid with a camel’s hump on one long edge and pretty lacy leaves on the other.  (I really should have taken a photo before frogging my initial effort.)  So here’s what I did to fix it:

Gingko Crescent 12Begin Pattern

CO 99. Knit 2 rows.

Row 3: K2, YO, K1, YO, [K2tog, YO] to last 4, K1, YO, K1, YO, K2. (103 stitches)

Row 4: K2, YO, P to last 2, YO, K2. (105 stitches)

Row 5: K2, YO, K1, YO, K to last 3, YO, K1, YO, K2. (109 stitches)

Row 6: K2, YO, P to last 2, YO, K2. (111 stitches)

Repeat Pattern Rows 5 & 6 twice. (123 stitches)

Begin short rows:

1. K2, YO, K1, YO, K to 10 before edge, wrap and turn
2. P to 12 before edge, W&T
3. K to 5 before gap, W&T
4. P to 5 before gap, W&T

Repeat short rows 3 and 4 until 12 stitches remain between wraps.

5. K to last 3, picking up wraps, YO, K1, YO, K2
6. K2, YO, P to last 2, picking up wraps, YO, K2. (129 stitches)

 Begin pattern again.  Repeat pattern rows 5 and 6 10 times. (189 stitches)

Gingko Crescent 7Begin second section of short rows:

1. K2, YO, K1, YO, K to 20 before edge, wrap and turn
2. P to 22 before edge, W&T
3. K to 10 before gap, W&T
4. P to 10 before gap, W&T

Repeat short rows 3 and 4 until 23 stitches remain between wraps.

5. K to last 3, picking up wraps, YO, K1, YO, K2
6. K2, YO, P to last 2, picking up wraps, YO, K2. (195 stitches)

 Begin pattern again.  Repeat pattern rows 5 and 6 once. (201 stitches)

Begin lace chart as written.

Gingko Crescent 8After allowing the shawl to relax after blocking, we have a better crescent shape, although still not perfect.  The cotton yarn just wouldn’t hold on to that straight edge.  I think a wool yarn would do better.  Overall, though, I’m pleased.  Truth time: this is the first time I’ve done such a major rewrite of a pattern.  If anyone else tries this, especially if you use a wool yarn, let me know how it turns out!

Freshly Finished FridayThis post is part of the Freshly Finished Friday round up. Click on the badge to see what other crafters have completed this week.

Home from Hilton Head, or three yarn stores in three days

100_4231

So I ran away to the beach for a few days with my dear friend Alice.  We left our respective spouses behind and had a nice girlie time, eating seafood, walking around Hilton Head Island shopping districts, and sitting on the beach.

HHI T-stormUnfortunately, we didn’t get as much “sitting on the beach” done as we would have liked because Mother Nature decided to visit Hilton Head in the form of a massive thunderstorm.  Shortly after that picture to the right was taken late Friday morning, thunder started cracking right over our heads and we decided it was in our best interests to get off the sand and out of harm’s way.

And what do you think two knitters do when they’re on vacation and thwarted from their planned vacation activities?  That’s right.  They look for yarn stores.

We had already hit one store on our way through Georgia.  A couple of weeks ago, we learned that Creative Yarns in Macon was going out of business and had marked the entire store down 40%.  Lotus Cashmere Aran Dark Teal 2 Lotus Cashmere Aran Ecru 1 Touch Me Turquoise 2We drove right through Macon on our way to the coast, so we pulled off the interstate and navigated by GPS to the store.  Everything was still 40% off and the store was still well-stocked; it didn’t seem picked over at all, which rather surprised us, given that this going-out-of-business sale had been going on since mid-July.  But we didn’t complain at the bounty, and found some gorgeous yarns at a great price. (100 yards of 100% cashmere in aran weight for $26?  Yes, please.  Plus Muench’s Touch Me in several fabulous colors, of which I purchased only one.  Color, that is.  Plus a Rowan pattern book I had been wanting for quite some time.  By the way, this sale is also available online.  I’m just sayin…)

Brisbane 2We found another yarn store on Hilton Head itself not too far from our hotel that, based on its name, we probably would have bypassed had someone we encountered in another store hadn’t told us it sold yarn.  That would be the Needlepoint Junction, which is indeed primarily a needlepoint supplier, but it had a small high-quality assortment of knitting yarns from which to choose.  Alice found a carry-along yarn she had needed, and I found a couple of skeins of a nice multi-color wool aran that will probably end up as hats, or maybe a shawlette.  We’ll see.   We did a bit of sitting and knitting while in Needlepoint Junction, waiting out the torrential downpour that prevented us from finding a place to have lunch.  Very pleasant and helpful staff.

Frayed Knot 2Saturday morning after we checked out of the hotel, we headed to Savannah and The Frayed Knot.  I had been there before (last year, when spouse and I took a brief trip for our anniversary), and I knew Alice would like it because…the yarn is organized by color.  As a matter of fact, that’s the first thing she said when she walked in: “OMG, it’s organized by color.  I love it!”

Jones St Sable 1We found a few things we liked, but we exercised a little restraint, especially since we had done major damage to the bank accounts throughout the last few days with food and new hats and food and dessert and macaroons and ice cream. I bought only one skein of a local yarn (Copper Corgi), which is likely destined for use with an Alana Dakos hat pattern.

And here’s the whole of the new yarn acquisitions below.

Vacation Stash 3I’m feeling just a tad guilty about spending so much.  But when I pick up the cashmere or the velour?  “Screw guilt,” say I.  Now to decide what pattern(s) are worthy of such loveliness.

Work In Progress Wednesday: Blocking It Out

Mondial SurfAfter experiencing cross-stitch burnout, I set aside the Tunisian Terror for a while to work on a shawl.  I had two skeins of this discontinued 100% cotton variegated “sport” weight that had been given to me a few years ago, and it had been whispering in my ear recently.  (I say “sport” in quotation marks because that’s the weight Ravelry gives for this yarn.  Personally, I think it’s fingering, and that’s the weight I filtered for when looking for a pattern.)

The pattern I settled on was the Gingko Crescent Shawl by Jade Keaney because I loved the lace edging.  The path for this shawl was rocky.  I knit it to completion, hated the result but still loved the lace edging, so I ripped it all out and rewrote the pattern, then knitted it again.  When I write up the finished object post, I’ll give you all the gory details.  For now, here’s a photo of it blocking.

Gingko Crescent 5I’ve taken the week off work and, by the time this post appears publicly, I will be on my way to Hilton Head Island.  A friend and I are leaving our respective spouses behind for a few days and running away to the beach!  We’re taking the convertible, our knitting (of course), our cameras, our bathing suits, and very little else.  According to The Weather Channel, thunderstorms are expected during the few days we’ll be there, so that should be entertaining.  Maybe I can capture some dramatic “lightning over the Atlantic” photos.  Or maybe we’ll just sit on the balcony of the hotel room and revel in the windswept ocean vista.  Regardless, it’s going to be a fun time, no matter the weather.

Stitch Along WednesdayThis post is part of Stitch Along Wednesdays hosted by Gracey’s Goodies.  Click that badge over there to visit Gracey’s blog and see who else is participating.  This is also part of the WIP Wednesday link roundup hosted by Shadow’s Knit KnacksClick here to check out other linked blogs and add your own!

Fallout

Rainbow Dishcloths
Photo Credit: Cathy Weeks, posted to her Flickr account

People who have known me for any length of time know that I unequivocally and wholeheartedly support marriage equality and equal rights (and have done for many years). And so I rejoiced and huzzah’d and cheered and had the biggest grin ever plastered on my face last Friday due to the Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land.

But along with the general rejoicing all over the social media and news sites I frequent, a peculiar and disturbing “my civil liberties have been infringed by SCOTUS” theme has emerged from some not wholly unexpected quarters.  Republican Presidential candidates, religious zealots, and conservative media dittoheads, as well as certain family members and a few friends — some long-term, some more recent — are spouting the fundamentalist party line that this decision means the next thing will be lawsuits to force ministers to gay-marry people, therefore Christianity itself is at risk, and we better gather up the womenfolk and chilluns because they’ll be coming for your guns and Bibles shortly.

What complete and utter bullshit.

News flash, folks.  The Obergefell v. Hodges decision affects your civil liberties not a whit.  Ministers are still perfectly free to not marry anyone who doesn’t meet their particular denomination’s dogmatic standards.  You are still perfectly free to believe whatever you like, worship however you like, and hold whatever opinions you wish. You are perfectly free to bemoan the “moral decay” you think you’re witnessing. You are perfectly free to rant and rave and quote obsolete and irrelevant Old Testament verses that support your views. And you are perfectly free to call for a Constitutional amendment to override a decision that you find abhorrent.

(Personally, I’d like to see a Constitutional amendment that overturns the Citizens United decision, but that’s a different rant. I wish us both good luck with that, by the way. This republic’s Constitution has been amended only 27 times in the 226 years since it was ratified, and the first ten of those amendments were done only two years after initial ratification, so essentially only 17 amendments have passed muster in over 200 years.)

However, what you are no longer free to do is discriminate against your LGBTQ brothers and sisters with respect to the legal protection of marriage. You don’t have to like it. That’s part of your freedom, as well.  But you have to understand that marriage has very little to do with religion, anyway.

*pause to insert earplugs to block the screams of outrage*

Yes, you heard me.  Marriage itself has nothing to do with religion.

Now I know a lot of people choose to get married in a religious ceremony, with prayer and talk of God and holy matrimony and so forth.  I did so myself;  it was lovely and moving and very special indeed.  But the religious service that constituted the saying of our vows has nothing to do with the facts of our marriage.  We could have just as easily walked down the hall to the office of the Justice of the Peace on the day we picked up our marriage license, had that fine worthy perform the ceremony, and been just as married.  Because what constitutes the fact of my marriage is this:  My husband and I went to the county courthouse, purchased a license, had a ceremony performed by an individual who certified on that license that he was authorized to perform marriage ceremonies. He then submitted that certified document back to the county for the marriage to be entered into county records as proof of the legally binding contract my husband and I entered into on that beautiful spring day many years ago.

Marriage in the United States is a legal contract, and thus it’s a civil matter, licensed, recorded, and sanctioned by the government.  The fact that many people celebrate their marriage vows with a religious ceremony is irrelevant. That means it’s also irrelevant if your religion says homosexuality is a sin, and therefore gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married.  Marriage is a civil matter, and what your religion says has no bearing on the right of consenting adults to marry.

But here’s another thing you have to understand.  Marriage equality is no threat to your church. Hordes of gay folk clad in rainbow-colored wedding garments aren’t going to storm your sanctuary, demand to be married at your altar, and file lawsuits if refused.  Your church’s clergy are protected under the First Amendment and can refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for anyone who is perceived as not meeting dogmatic or doctrinal standards.  For example, a Catholic priest may refuse to marry a divorced person because Catholic doctrine says divorce is a sin. An Orthodox rabbi may refuse to marry a Jewish person to a non-Jewish person because Judaism generally frowns upon interfaith marriages.  Heck, my own pastor very nearly refused to marry my husband and me because my husband is an atheist.

As mentioned above, though, you’re perfectly free to believe homosexuality is a sin, although I would ask you to take a look at a little research on the so-called “clobber verses” that people with those beliefs generally quote to back their position.

And, because I don’t want to stop loving my friends and family who buy into this “my religious freedoms are being attacked” nonsense, I had to “unfollow” a few people on social media in the last couple of days. They aren’t de-friended or blocked, just not followed for a while, until their hateful, spiteful, inaccurate, or ugly status updates die down.

Love wins. Sing glory hallelujah!

Two friends got a marriage license yesterday.

They have been together for decades.  They’ve owned houses together, ran a business together, participated in their community and held responsible and highly visible civic positions; they contribute to charity and take part in fundraisers for local organizations; they have been upstanding citizens of their small Southern city and the very definition of the committed, devoted couple for all to see.

Photo copyright: The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, 2015
Photo copyright: The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, 2015
But they couldn’t get married.

Then, yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided they could.  And they hotfooted it down to the courthouse and managed to be the first same sex couple issued a marriage license in Garland County, Arkansas.  Take a look at those faces in that photograph.  That’s pure joy.

Congratulations, Alan and Joe!  It’s been a long time coming.  I expect your upcoming nuptials will be nothing short of fabulous!

WIP Wednesday: Cross-stitching the Squares

12 down, 51 to go.

I finished crocheting all the squares of the Tunisian Terror on April 20, 2015 — one week shy of one year since starting the project.

63 squares in 21 colors.
63 squares in 21 colors.

The cross-stitching of the squares began immediately.  Thus far, 12 squares are completely finished with all embroidery and the weaving-in of ends; two more are partially done.

12 down, 51 to go.
12 down, 51 to go.

The cross-stitching moves quickly. The multi-colored designs make the plain squares lively, and solid color stitching anchors the multi-colored squares. I ran out of the black acrylic worsted yarn purchased for this project before finishing the crocheting but had some black acrylic worsted in stash which works just as well. There’s some slight difference in texture, but no one will notice it.

Stitch Along Wednesday

“Worsted” is a curious word.  Note to self: check origin as it relates to yarn.

In other news, rehearsal continues apace for Harvey.  We open a week from Friday.  Woo hoo!

This post is part of the Stitch-Along Wednesday round-up.  Click that badge over there to see what other folks are working on.