Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The State Of The Yarn

First, a quick comments round-up. Rachel, thank you for the cousin information. I've always been fuzzy on those distinctions. And thank you for Lilah's happy birthday wishes. We went to the aquarium for her birthday, and she loved the penguins and the pink and purple fish. Her penguin thing is a crackup. She's loved penguins since she was 5 or 6 months old. Thank you to everyone who was nice about my Branching Out and Fuzzy Feet. I was really pleased with both of them. I want to do more gift knitting this year, if I can fit it in.

Well, I updated my 2007 Finished Project list (to the left), and I was pretty appalled. Really???? That was it??? No sweaters and only eight items. Boy, motherhood has really slowed me down! We've been doing lots of cleaning and organizing while my mom is out visiting for two weeks (which is totally like having Mary Poppins over), and I decided to catalogue my stash and take a look at the projects I'd like to add to my to-do list. And maybe set a goal like, one FO a month at least! I want to knit socks for me, because I have only my Jaywalkers as far as hand-knit socks go, and I was suddenly bitten by the sock bug. I would like to expand my sock-knitting capabilities, as I have only done top-down, heel-flap socks on dpns. I am a newbie sock-knitter, though, and kind of a spaz about it, so I don't feel like I can modify patterns to suit my needs at this point. So when people say, "Oh, I did XYZ pattern, but I changed it to toe-up and magic loop and short-rowed the heel" I am in awe. I need a pattern to spell out what to do right now. Fortunately, there's my Christmas sock knitting book, and also knitty. I have some goodies to show you because I got a big box of yarn for Christmas.

Here is the Noro Silk Garden that Lilah picked out:

I have one skein and want to do something cool with it. No idea what, yet.

Christmas gifts:
Lorna's Laces in Happy Valley:

Malabrigo Worsted in Velvet Grapes:

Opal Cotton:

Lorna's Laces in Vera (I love this color):

(By the way, I started this post ages ago, and I'm only partly through my cataloguing. Not that I have a huge stash, but I had to unravel some UFOs and move things around.) I have so many good yarn pictures up that I think I'll wait to post my current project, socks on the Opal yarn. The yarn is nice, but I think I like Lorna's Laces better. I love the colors, though, like the ocean. I'm not all that thrilled with the dpns, which are still awkward to knit on. Turtlegirl helpfully pointed out that her Red Dwarf Sock pattern was on two circs and toe-up, both sock techniques I really want to try. I love the pattern, but all my sock yarn is fingering weight, and I have no sport weight. I have Interweave Knits' Favorite Socks book, and I'm starting with a top-down, heel flap sock since it's been a while for me and sock knitting. I like it quite a bit so far, despite the dpns.

Any ideas for the Malabrigo? The chunky would work perfectly for Cherie Amour, but I'm not sure about the worsted. It's 864 yards, and I adore the color.

Reading: I've been reading quite a bit. I'm trying to read What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire and having trouble getting into it. I may need to read something else first.
The Lightning Thief: I had such a great time reading this book. And I took one of my Christmas B&N gift cards and ordered 2&3 right away. And probably I'll be pre-ordering #4. This was such a fresh take on juvenile fantasy. And such a sneaky way to get kids interested in learning about Greek mythology. There are two ways to go with this sort of story; either put the hero into a magical world or bring the magic into this world. Harry Potter goes the first way, and the Percy Jackson books go the other. Matt asked what I was reading and I told him "post-Harry Potter juvenile fantasy." He laughed and asked if we were already at the post-Harry Potter age of literature. I guess I just think of juvenile fantasy written since Harry Potter became an unstoppable force as inevitably influenced by it (at least authors publishing new books, especially series--authors who were already writing don't really have this problem). And Riordan really could have pitched this to his publisher as "Harry Potter, but in New York and with Greek gods." But his writing is crisp and witty, Percy is an immensely likable hero with whom kids will love to identify (especially kids who tend to not like reading, those with dyslexia and ADHD, both of which Percy has as a result of being half-blood), and the book was just plain fun and action-packed to the hilt. He's charting Percy's hero journey, and the necessary archetypal elements make comparisons to Harry Potter inevitable. It didn't bother me, though, because Riordan's story is original and inventive, and the ways he finds to bring Greek gods into modern-day America are endlessly creative. I can't wait to read the next installment.

The Beasts of Clawstone Castle by Eva Ibbotson: Madlyn and Rollo go to spend the summer with distant relatives who live in Clawstone Castle, a crumbling money pit opened to the public to raise funds to preserve a herd of white cattle. The children audition ghosts to help bring in more visitors, but a terrible fate befalls the cattle, leading to their quest (together with the memorable collection of ghosts) to save them. Ibbotson has written several ghost stories with a twist. In the tradition of Dial-a-Ghost and The Great Ghost Rescue, the ghosts are good guys and the bad guys are very human. She has subtle anti-animal-cruelty and environmental messages in the text, but nothing preachy or extreme. Madlyn and Rollo are good kids who want to help out their great-aunt and great-uncle as well as the cattle. Ibbotson, as always, is very, very funny in a dry, witty way that I really enjoy. I would definitely recommend this, as well as her other books.

I read Died in the Wool and Knit Fast, Die Young by Mary Kruger. I thought these were fun mysteries, not the best, but enjoyable reads. I'd pick up #3 once it's in paperback, but I wouldn't rush out to buy the hardback. In Died in the Wool, Ari discovers the body of tightwad customer Edith Perry in her shop, and she sets out to help the police solve the murder. In the second, Ari is at a wool festival when she stumbles into the well-hated knitting magazine editor as she's dying (stabbed by a knitting needle). With yarn an important clue, Ari is in a better position than the police to find the culprit. Ari is likable enough and Josh, the cop in charge of the case, tries to keep her in the real world. I have a few gripes: there's almost no comic relief (except some extremely bad puns), in each book, there is a second murder that seems really unnecessary (almost as though Kruger got halfway through the first book and thought the death count was too low and so threw in another), and in each, Ari confronts the killer Jessica Fletcher-style. However, unlike a lot of cozy mysteries these days, the writing is very good, the book is well-edited, and I thought the character development was well-done. If you enjoy cozies and/or knitting, chances are you'll like these. I thought they were better written and the characters more fleshed out than in the Maggie Sefton knitting mysteries.

I also read The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood, the third Beatrix Potter mystery by Susan Wittig Albert. These have all been utterly charming. As a bonus, you could easily read these to kids, as there's no adult content of any kind. The first is The Tale of Hill Top Farm in case you're looking to start these. Talking animals, nosy villagers, charming children looking for fairies--if that sounds saccharine and cheesy to you, well, you might not like these. They're gentle tales that evoke Miss Potter's own charming tales for children, and the mysteries take a back seat to the intrigue of the village and of the animal communities. If you're looking for pulse-pounding suspense, this is not the mystery for you. But if spending a couple of hours in the company of a cast of charming characters, both human and otherwise, then light a fire in the fireplace, make some tea, and sit down with one of these novels.

Writing: Just notes, but I've been able to work in some plotting and ideas.

Cooking: Nothing special I can think of. Just the usual stuff. Maybe I'll come up with something good for you guys before my next post :)


Knittypants said...

Look at all your yarn goodies. I love the malabrigo, that color is gorgeous.

KnitPastis said...

I know you said you didn't really like that book "Died In The Wool" but you had me laughing outloud when I read she got stabbed by a knitting needle! That part is too funny.
Oh yes, Lornas Laces is an excellent choice for socks! I don't care for Opal myself. You chose some wonderful colors too. Even in the Malabrigo! It's totally yummy. I have yet to try it.
Hey, if it helps, I can't go by patterns either unless it is direction for my foot size. I have a smaller foot with high instep not the avg size. I love Charlene Schurch's book "Sensational Knitted Socks" the best! I also love the feel of my bamboo dpns though. You will figure out what you are comfortable with. Her book is for customizing a sock with her simple stitches.

String Bean said...

Oh My God, Lilah's picking out yarn!? Eeeee! A little knitter is born!

Brittany said...

I LOVE that Lorna's colourway! Used Vera for a pair of socks I did and they were gorgeous, if I do say so myself! ;)

Rachel said...

Well now if you're going to insist on being so damn literate and reading all the time, not to mention taking your child places like the aquarium, of course you're never going to get more knitting done! It's time to burn your library card and start neglecting your kid so you can crank out more hand-knit socks. It's about priorities, Allison.

You got lovely yarn for Christmas! No wonder you are feeling the urge to knit socks. And I think you'll quickly find that changing heel and toe types is easy, because it doesn't affect the pattern or the way the leg or foot is knit. You'll catch on in no time.

Marie said...

Happy New Year! Your Christmas gifts all look so scrumptious. Can't wait to see what you make with it all. :) I'm envious too...my fiance refuses to go the fiber route for presents for me. He think I already have enough yarn...sigh. At last he still gifts me books despite my four jam-packed bookshelves. :)

Stefaneener said...

Pretty yarn. Died in the Wool wasn't great -- I'd like to read the earlier one now.

When Lilah starts knitting, then you'll know things will have gotten interesting -- especially if she does it soon.

Leopold Blom is one of the three big characters in Joyce's Ulysses. It's his wife who ends it with "Yes yes yes yesyesyesyesyes."