An Ode to Winter

A young woman and her dog running through a field covered in three feet of snow.

Where July brought cool rainy weather, August as stomped in with tons of mosquitos, high humidity and a heat wave. As I sit on our deck appreciating its screens, I can’t help but remember that winter was a few months ago and will return before I know it.

Winter, where my husband and I will bicker about how warm to set the thermostat and how many layers are acceptable inside (I stand by you shouldn’t need to wear shorts in your own house! Grab a sweater!). Where we will try to be patient as we wait for enough snow to go cross country skiing and snow shoeing. When the hiking trails will have less people on them and when hitting a trail without a good pair of microspikes leads to turning around and a disappointed dog.

Yes, the heat is high and the humidity sticky. Yes, we’ve made a game out of who can kill the most mosquitos while taking the dog for a walk. Yes, part of planning a hike means hitting the trail by 6:30 am and the thought of using our outdoor firepit is slightly laughable.

True, we long for the days that we can pull out our wool sweaters and curl up together under blankets. But to summer’s credit, when those days come we find ourselves longing for long summer nights and listening for the peepers to make their annual appearance. We laugh about the days when we were sweating as we rub a little warmth into our hands and try to remember what it felt like to struggle to walk down the street without melting.

So as I sit on my porch enjoying yet another freeze pop, I appreciate the feeling of being warm while remembering what it’s like to be cold. Knowing that before I know it, I won’t be able to sit out here and will be remembering what it’s like to be too hot.

A young woman and her dog playing in a field covered in three feet of snow.

Ode To Winter by: Matthew Holloway

Ode, ode to the winter
What music plays to sonnet
While a world drifts to sleep
Leaves curl and flowers bow
Birds take flight to a further place
A touch of frost creeps in
Stealing the landscape of its colour
Soon all shall be held motionless

In the still of a winters season
Now in all its changing
The beauty and perfection of life
Is left open to be witnessed
Savoured by the eye of an artist
To feed the soul, nourish the heart
This melancholy season
This changing landscape
What beauty it reveals
In an ode to the winter

Combo #12 Harlow Hat

A hat knit in brioche stitch with black stitches set against a rainbow striped background

Brioche is one of those stitches in knitting that you either love or hate, there doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between. It’s squishy and one of the few ways to add vertical stripes, but also takes you double the amount of time to knit one row (because for every one row of normal knitting you need two rows of brioche). There’s also more loops to keep track of and a high level of patience required if you drop a stitch. Still, I find myself reaching for brioche projects when I want a project where I need to pay attention, but not too much attention. Where I want the wearer to be able to reverse the garment depending on their mood and when I want to provide the wearer a little bit of extra warmth.

Direct contrast of the extra warmth tends to be the woven scarves that I make. They breathe more against the skin due to my habit of creating airier fabric in favor of less bulk. So while this Harlow Hat by Andrea Mowry is meant to keep the wearer’s ears a little warmer, the matching scarf is meant to be more of an accent piece.

A hat knit in brioche stitch with rainbow stripes against a black background

I liked knitting Harlow, the hat knit up relatively fast for brioche being knit on a size US 3 and it was the first time in a long time I’ve done brioche decreases. The only modification made while knitting (besides using only one needle size) was skipping the tubular cast on in favor of the long tail cast on. This doesn’t make a huge difference beyond being a little less stretchy and only incorporating the black color.

Curious about what it’s like to knit brioche? I highly recommend giving the Harlow Hat a try! Really, while the final hat is gorgeous, it was so much fun to make that I was a little bummed when it came to bind off. Andrea Mowry added details to the pattern that outline what to do and she’s created video tutorials to help get you started.

A hat scarf set from one package of Wonderland Yarn’s Combo kits? With a plethora of colors to choose from? I probably do need to decide if everyone is getting a set for the holidays this year, or at least start planning my holiday crafting. Does December sneak up on anyone else?

Easy Throw Pillows

Though out the past year, my husband and I have been working hard to make our house feel like a home. This translates into hours of wallpaper pulling and plaster repair, as well as painting, flooring and general house up keep. We have started filling rooms with plants and our photo, as well as thought carefully about how to make the best use out of every room.

One thing that has come of this is the slow creation of built in furniture (he made me a countertop bar for crafting and other activities) and upcycling thrifted finds to add personal touches. My most recent project was to create throw pillows for a guest room we converted into a quiet room, they add a beautiful pop of color and allowed me to practice working with invisible zippers (spoiler alert: I still suck at them).

Multi colored striped throw pillow

Supplies to make ONE pillow:

  • 22×22 Pillow insert
  • 20in invisible zipper
  • 1/2 yard of of fabric or 2 fat quarters
  • Sewing machine (recommended)

Instructions:

  1. Cut the fabric into 2 20×20 squares
  2. Attach the invisible zipper to both pieces of fabric, leave the zipper slightly unzipped
  3. Sew the remaining three sides right sides together
  4. Turn the pillow case inside out
  5. Stuff the pillow case with the pillow insert
  6. Enjoy!

August Book Club: Sourdough

Cover art for Sourdough by Robin Sloan

This book was so fun and there were several points in the story that I had to remind myself that it’s a fictional story and not a biography (like when the starter took over everything). Lois is a relatable character, taking a job because she is good at it and then working hard because that’s the culture in addition to her nature. Her feelings of burnout were real, right down to the idea that eating a special diet would solve all her problems.

While reading Sourdough, I was left with feelings of yes that’s true (we totally are the children of Hogwarts) and awe at the amount of work that went into feeding the starter (like plants, you have to pay attention to its needs). What I wasn’t left with was a lot to say when the story was over. Would I recommend this book to a friend? Absolutely, it was an enjoyable read. Is it a book that has inspired a lot of discussion beyond the initial “you should read this”? Not really, it’s about a girl trying to find herself and discovering that she can along the way.

That aside, I’ve identified a couple things that we can (and probably should) discuss here. For starters, Lois brings a robotic arm to a farm to table food share and works throughout the book to teach the arm how to preform human functions. The idea that a robotic arm is learning how to crack an egg at a farmers market is both comical and interesting. On the one hand, you have an environment where people are interested in a more analog environment, one where the idea of hand crafted/organic is valued. On the other hand, the novelty of the robotic arm helping bake Sourdough is unique and exciting. This blending of future technology with craftsmanship is similar to the idea of selling machine made socks at a craft fair. True, it’s hard to handknit enough pairs of socks to sell in a booth (for context it takes me about 16 hours per pair), but can you really compare handknit socks to socks cranked out (literally) on a machine? And if the quality is similar enough, how much do we, should we, care?

The other piece of Sourdough that I’m sure no one will be surprised that I’m pointing out is the love story between Lois and her email pen-pal. I didn’t pick up on it until the end because I thought they were just becoming really good friends. Did the romance need to be there? Could she still have gone abroad if she wasn’t taking a risk on love? I’m not sure the story needed it, and in the end it felt a little forced.

September’s book will be The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung and was discovered while falling down the Goodreads Fantasy suggestion rabbit hole. This book won the first ever Mark Lawrence Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and is promised to have some morally grey characters, let’s check it out together!

Cover art for The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids by Michael McClung.

Amra Thetys lives by two simple rulesโ€”take care of business, and never let it get personal. Thieves don’t last long in Lucernis otherwise. But when a fellow rogue and good friend is butchered on the street in a deal gone wrong, she turns her back on burglary and goes after something more precious than treasure: Revenge.

Revenge, however, might be hard to come by. A nightmare assortment of enemies, including an immortal assassin and a mad sorcerer, believe Amra is in possession of The Blade That Whispers Hateโ€”the legendary, powerful artifact her friend was murdered forโ€”and they’ll do anything to take it from her. Trouble is, Amra hasn’t got the least clue where the Blade might be.

She needs to find the Blade, and soon, or she’ll be joining her colleague in a cold grave instead of avenging his death. Time is running out for the small, scarred thief.

(Unofficial) Camp Loopy 2021: July Challenge

Camp Loopy July Challenge: This month we are celebrating stripes โ€“ like the stripes of the big top tent! You can do stripes of color, stripes of sections of stitches, stripes of beads, etc. Just so your project has stripes of some sort going on. (see some examples below). The July project must use 600 or more yards, single knit.

https://blog.theloopyewe.com

As a general rule, I’m not a stripes person. This may be because there was a time in my childhood where everything I owned was striped, after all I felt the same way about floral patterns for a long time as well. This isn’t to say that nothing in my closet is striped, there are several “go-to” pieces that do in fact meet the striped description. Mostly, this is to say that generally speaking I don’t enjoy knitting stripes. So when you consider the July camp challenge and what design elements are most likely missing from my queue, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that I struggled to make this one work.

After pouring over patterns on Ravelry and seriously considering a baby blanket pattern (or 3), I decided that the best thing to do was to let go of the official constraints of the challenge and focus solely on the stripes piece. This decision was made when I realized that the pattern I needed to knit I a) already had the yarn for and b) wasn’t going to hit the 600 yard limit. On the one hand, this meant that I won’t qualify for the rewards piece of the challenge. On the other hand, I’d get a head start on my holiday knitting.

In the end, I opted to knit Little Sock Arms by Stephanie Lotven in a size 2T. The sweater is knit using two different fingering weight yarns (or colors), utilizing a skein of stripped yarn to make the sleeves fancy. You work the body of the sweater in the round bottom up until the arm pit and then divide for front and back before eventually using a three needle bind-off to reconnect the front pieces to the back. The sleeve stitches are then picked up and then worked in a top down manner.

This was the simple project that my hands needed to work this month and I’m happy with the way that it turned out. For the body of the sweater, I used Knit Picks stroll in Duchess Heather which was chosen because it matched Knit Picks Felici Fingering Weight in Countess. Countess, used for the sleeves, was chosen first.

While I know that children don’t really need waist shaping in the same way that women’s sweater’s do, I feel like the body of this sweater is boxier/looser than the arms of the sweater. Maybe it’s “simply” the measurements of little bodies? That being said, I’m comforted by all of the little ones wearing their sweaters and looking cute on Ravelry. All in all, I would probably knit this one again.

Purple sweater with multi-colored purple stripes on the sleeves.
iswimlikeafish’s Little Sock Arms