Friday, February 17, 2017

Fall & Winter Book Report

Somehow I thought I was really killing it with my reading list, but in looking back over the past 6 or so months, I've really not read all that many books. But still 8 is better than none and so here they are today, all lined up for you in a nice neat list! 

I've been really enjoying doing these little book reports seasonally (well, twice a year) and this year I've set a reading goal for one fiction and one non-fiction book per month. Hopefully those books will start showing up in these lists but if you'd like to see more you can follow along on Instagram (where I set up a handy hastag for the project of course!). 

let's start with the books from that list:

Talking as Fast As I Can // Lauren Grahame
Okay, so this was a fun read. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes Gilmore Girls stuff (both on the original series and the new Netflix episodes), and hearing more about Lauren's story and early days. One thing I did not like however was how she knocked knitting not once but TWICE. I mean... come on Lauren! More Americans knit that golf... get with it! 

Death on the Nile // Agatha Christie
Waldi and I listened to this audio book while in Scotland and it was a lot of fun. The story was engaging and I didn't figure out whodunit until the very end, which is always fun. Such a good memory from our trip. We're hoping to get a few more of her stories in audiobook form to listen to as well.

Longbourn // Jo Baker
I borrowed this from my mom over Christmas, who received it from my dad, who purchased it from Chatsworth house in England this summer (where the BBC Pride and Prejudice was filmed...) which is kind of fun. I'd heard mixed things about this one but I actually quite enjoyed most of it and thought it was a really interesting perspective on a beloved classic.

I Capture the Castle // Dodie Smith
Heard about this on the WSIRN podcast and ADORED it. Seriously. It was lovable and quirky and well written and perfectly British. Also, it's by the same woman who wrote 101 Dalmatians so that's pretty fun. (and it's listed as JK Rowling's favorite book so, you know, there's that...) Very glad I picked this up.

and here are a few other titles I managed to work my way through:

Knitlandia // Clara Parks
Loved this. I thought Clara's stories were a perfect tribute to this community and the fact that it did so well is also further proof that we knitters are presence out there not to be overlooked- this is where I first heard that stat about the golfers that I mentioned above. If you're going to read this, I would recommend listening to this interview after. It compliments the reading experience nicely.

I Am Malala // Malala Yousafzai
This was a book club pick and I thought it was moving and well told and inspiring. Malala is a force to be reckoned with and it was a very valuable experience to me to read a bit more of her story. I also learned a lot more about the recent history of this specific region in the world from hearing it told from her perspective. 

All the Bright Places // Jenifer Niven
I picked this up on a total whim and though I don't normally read much YA I must say I really enjoyed this. I thought it was a sensitive and nuanced handling of a difficult subject and it was honestly the type of story that made me want to write. It just felt like a book with weight and meaning to me- but I should definitely give a tear-jerker warning with this one!

Lady Crawford // Julie Cameron Grey
I'm almost finished with this lovely little book (pictured above) and I'm really enjoying jumping back into poetry again. I'm finding the poems to be unique and layered with meaning and often find that I have to pause after reading one and let it marinade for a few days before coming back to it again. If you're a fan of poetry I'd definitely recommend giving it a try! 

I'll be back at the end of the month to share a list of books I'm planning to get to over the next few months, but for now I wanna know- what have you been reading lately? 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

knitting in the background

Recently I've been a bit bogged down by my knitting. 

I've been working on some amazingly fun projects. I'm growing as a knitter and a designer and a maker. And while I am so thankful for every opportunity and for the time to let my creativity run wild, at the end of the day I was avoiding my knitting.

And so I cast on a shawl. I've never been much of a shawl knitter. Early in my knitting "career" I made a shawl that was all wrong for me. I chose the wrong yarn for the pattern and the wrong pattern for the knitting season I was in and the finished object was something I never wore. I therefore assumed that I wasn't a shawl knitter and moved on. 

But actually- something about these familiar stitches soothes me, the repetitive motion, the feel of wool & wood. The long stretches of stocking and garter stitch, the calm motion of knitting in the background of whatever else is going on; an early morning conversation with my hubby, a podcast and cuppa during nap time, or sitting on the floor next to C as he plays. 

I've come to realize that I need this- knitting in the background. To ground my day and keep me anchored amidst anxiety, exhaustion, homesickness... There is something healing about this simple craft, something comforting about the very act of creating a beautiful object from nothing but two sticks and some string. 

Just wanted to share these musings with you today. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

February's Quote

At the start of each month I pick a quote that applies to what I'm experiencing or focusing on at the time. You're more than welcome to join me on your own blog. If you do, please leave a link to your post so I can see the quote you choose!

"what's coming will come and we'll meet it when it does" 
-Hagrid (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

okay, so obviously Hagrid was talking about something very different than I am but I've been thinking about this quote recently in regards to raising a little one. Sometimes it feels like things are changing daily- I just get used to something being our routine and the next day it's totally different! It can be a challenge not to worry about the small things or to feel overwhelmed by the new challenges that present themselves along the way. But this quote has been reminding me to stay focused in the present moment and to deal with that first before borrowing from the next day's tasks. We'll deal with them when they come. 

(also, isn't JK Rowling just brilliant...?)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

yarn crushes: UK Edition

it's been much much too long since I did a yarn crush post (see here and here for previous posts) Recently I've been really into exploring yarns that are local to me here in Europe. I mean, I love Quince and Co as much as the next knitter and will continue to purchase from them for future projects, but while I'm living here, I thought it would be good to try knitting with yarn that comes from a little more close to home. 

I'm in central Germany, but I've decided to start with a list of yarns that are based out of the UK, since I've got them piling up in my stash currently. There will be a post on yarns from elsewhere in Europe (as well as one on Canadian yarn!) soon. But for now, I hope you discover something on this list that you'd be interested in trying too!

Blacker Yarns // Cornwall, England

I am a huge fan of all the yarn I've knit with and purchased from Blacker yarns- I used the Westcountry tweed to make my Moorland Mitts and loved it. And I've got two skeins of the Cornish Tin II (photo at the bottom of this post) sitting in my stash that I can't wait to turn into a lovely shawl.

Hedgehog Fibers // Ireland

So I actually purchased this at Valley Yarn in Surrey, while I was in Canada over Christmas. I've got one skein in the Unicorn colorway, which is lovely and speckled. I'm thinking I'll turn it into a pair of Mashed Potato socks, designed by The Wool Club but for now it's sitting happily atop my yarn basket, patiently waiting it's turn. 

New Lanark Double Knitting // Scotland

This was one of my Edinburgh purchases. I got two skeins in the copper green tweedy colorway, one for me and one for my mom. I think after much deliberation, we're going to make fingerless mitts. This is also the yarn that the Woodland Tales mittens call for, by the way. I'd love to order another skein at some point, maybe in a nice chocolate brown for that project.

West Yorkshire Spinners // Yorkshire, England

Total impulse buy, but I'm glad I went for it. I've got one skein of Blue Faced Leicester, undyed in it's natural neutral glory. I don't have an exact project in mind but I'm thinking maybe (more) mittens. What can I say, I just love mittens! 

Shilasdair yarns // Isle of Skye, Scotland

So, as I mentioned in this post, I've got two skeins of Shilasdair sock yarn dyed with marigold and onion skins. I'm not entirely sure what pattern I'm going to use for them, but I'm thinking something nice and cable-filled. I also picked up a skein of their luxury DK dyed with indigo and tansy (photo at top of post) that I turned into a simple stockingette hat for Waldi- I'm hoping to use the rest and make a matching little hat for C. Better get on that!

Black Isle Yarns // Scottish Highlands

This was a last minute edition to this list, but after swatching extensively with this yarn for my pattern for WOODS, I just had to add it in. It's honestly some of the nicest yarn I've ever worked with, even (dare I say it...) possibly THE nicest. Seriously. I like it that much. Stay tuned for more details of what it becomes! 

so there you have it! a lovely little list. as I've mentioned, stay tuned for more yarn-y related posts coming up soon but for now, I'd love to hear what yarn you've recently been working with and loving!

Friday, January 27, 2017

motherhood and creativity

Recently I've been completely overwhelmed by all the ideas swimming around in my head. I've got exciting plans and dreams and goals that I'm hoping to work towards. I could spend hours devoted to the projects I've dreamed up in my mind. 

I remember long, coffee-soaked, solitary creative mornings. Writing and knitting and scheming. I felt proud of the work that I did and I enjoyed the process of following my creative whims wherever they took me. 

But this is not the season for that. This is the season of playing on the floor, of long walks pushing the buggy, of holding a baby wide eyed with wonder up to the window to see the birds. 

Of course, there are moments of creativity snapped up here and there- nap times, and evenings, moments when papa takes over. But I always feel like this is borrowed time- snatched and stolen and frantically running out. I multitask a mile a minute in order to get to as many things as I can.

And that's not all that conducive to good work. 

And so. I've decided to arrange childcare. It's minimal- a few hours of babysitting a week, while I work away in the other room. It feels indulgent and sacred and glorious all at the same time. I know it will take me much longer to plod through that list of ideas than it would have previously, but like I said, this is not the season for that. 

my baby will be a baby for just this short amount of time and I don't want to miss that while trying to do ALL the things. But I'm also learning that it's more than okay to do some of them- it's good even. Important. This is the balance that I've found for me and my family- something that every mother (and really, every creative) has to figure out for herself. It looks different for everyone and that's okay- we're all doing our best and that is more than enough. 

So hopefully you'll see some big things from me in the next year. Watch this space.  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

recipe: my mom's oatmeal mix

It't interesting to me how things change here on the blog based on the seasons. Fall is full of craft & fiber art related posts, while I frantically work on ALL the projects. Winter tends to be filled with a lot of reflection & a little goal setting as the year turns. And Summer is just full of recipes. 

If I'm honest, the main reason I don't post many recipes throughout the cooler months of the year is basically because of one thing- by the time we sit down to eat dinner, there's no daylight left to get a good photo. I love Fall & Winter cooking and have of course, been doing plenty (as we do need to eat...) but I just don't have the energy for photographing meals in these oh-so-short days.

So until daylight savings rolls around again, here's a recipe for one of my favorite breakfasts: oatmeal. This is my mom's mix, that I've been enjoying these past few weeks. It's nice and simple, but adds a little extra something to that morning bowl of oats.

mix together:
1 cup of regular oats
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/4 large oats
2 tsp flax seeds
1 tsp bran

And that's all you have to do. I store mine in a large jar and keep it on a shelf in my kitchen along with a jar of granola, a few small jars of nuts & dried fruit for optional toppings and my favorite cereal bowls. 

You can cook this mix up however you prefer to cook your oatmeal (in milk or water) and serve it however you'd like. I like mine with a bit of brown sugar, or with grated apple and cinnamon. The perfect cozy breakfast for a cold winter weekday morning! 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

queue check

after having said in my last post that I've decided this year not to really set any goals, I did come up with one goal for my fiber pursuits: devote more time to them.

whether that means knitting more, or investing the time to really practice spindle spinning or even try my hand at dying yarn (all things I plan to do), my main focus this year is going to be on putting aside distractions and using whatever available time I can find on this craft that is so dear to my soul. 

going along with my guiding word for this year, I do hope that I will grow in my knowledge and skill level as I try new things, but my main focus is going to be on crafting because I love it.

so, what projects do I have planned? well, thanks to my recent trips to both Scotland and Vancouver, I've got a basket full of delicious yarn just waiting to be turned into special projects. here's what on the list:

Woods Design // Black Isle Yarns 

Back in the Fall, I submitted a design to the book WOODS, which is a pattern collection featuring natural yarns from Europe. I was so honored and a little surprised that my design has made it into the book! I'm going to be working with the incredible Black Isle Yarns (which are from Scotland, how perfect is that?!?) and I honestly can't wait to work more with this yarn.

Arctic Cowl // Drops Alpaca

I received the newest edition of Making magazine as a Christmas gift with my mom and was blown away with the lovely projects and patterns found in it's pages. I especially love how there's such a mix of projects. My sister fell in love with Carrie Hoge's Arctic Cowl and we picked out this yarn together while I was in Vancouver. The pattern calls for angora, but my sister is allergic to rabbits, so we figured alpaca would be a nice substitute. 

Heidie Shawl // Blacker Tin II

I first tried this pattern back in the Fall of 2015, but the yarn I picked was all wrong. It had been on my mind again recently, as a possibility for this very special yarn I bought in Edinburgh. When I visited Valley Yarn shop with a friend over Christmas, they had a version of this hanging in the window and that was it- I knew I had to cast on. So that's what I'll be starting next. 

Woodsy Hat // Brooklyn Tweed Loft

Over the holidays, I ordered a skein of BT Loft (pictured above) because I was curious to get my hands on it and see what it was like. I'm thinking the Woodsy hat from Manderines might be a nice choice for it. Melody's designs are always favorites and I like how only one skein (50g) are needed for this project.

Winding Way Socks // Ginger Twist Studio sock

It's been awhile since I've had a pair of socks on the needles and Spring is coming up! This is a beautiful design from Emily of Tin Can knits, inspired by Edinburgh's old town, which feels especially fitting as that's where I picked up this yarn. I've got no deadline for this project, so I'll probably wait a few months to cast on, but I'm excited to do so.

Lainey Cowl // Lion Brand Hudson's Bay

This is a fun last minute project that I've just recently added to the list. While in Michael's with my mom over Christmas (looking for items for my brother's wedding favors) we found this yarn- the color way is inspired by the classic Hudson's Bay blanket (the same blanket that also inspired this shawl). I love this pattern and I think having this cozy cowl to wear will remind me of home. 

Wild Feather mitts // New Lanark DK

This is also a pattern found in Making magazine that my mom and I fell in love with. I think we're both going to knit them up (using the same yarn, since I bought her some in Scotland as well) so maybe we'll have a little knit-along at some point?

okay, well there you have it: my knitting plans for the next few months (or longer- it'll probably take me awhile to make my way through this list). I'm so excited about each of these projects and to get the chance to work with these yarns! what projects do you have planned for this year? I'd love to hear what your working on, or planning to cast on!