December Book Club: The Whale Rider

949039The copy I have of this book is a gift from one of my best friends, who purchased a used copy because he knows that I have a soft spot for books that have lived a life before coming into my possession.

It’s worth noting, before even diving into this review (see what I did there?), that the language used in this book is poetically descriptive and sets a beautiful landscape for our story. I love that each part of the book was separated by an update of the whales and what they were up to. It was a nice parallel between what was happening on shore.

The Whale Rider is a beautiful story that looks at the intersection of tradition and change. More specifically Ihimaera focuses on this idea that change does not mean the dying of tradition, but rather the strengthening of it for future generations. Kahu spends her days wanting to learn more about her culture, despite the idea that only men can carry on the tradition. When it comes time for the day to be saved, Men are called into action but are unable to make a difference on their own. Kahu, in her white dress and ribbons, finds herself knowing what to do and dives into the water to become a whale rider.

Kahu’s potential sacrifice marked a turning point for the “elders” of her tribe and the whales. As her Paka came to the realization that she was the leader he was looking for and the whale came to the realization that his original rider had moved on, Kahu risked her life to save both. Each, in turn, realizing how special the child is and how they had been living in the past.

I found myself becoming lost in this story and could hear the waves crash upon the shore. Though this was a quick read, I didn’t find myself longing for more story or more detail. The pacing of the tale and Ihimaera’s ability to put me into the story as if I was sitting in the room with the narrator, Kahu’s Uncle, listening to him tell me a story about his niece and why she is special.

It is unclear, at this time, if I will sacrifice the images I’ve created of the people I have experienced by watching the movie. A part of me fears that adaptation will miss some of the nuances that I have come to love.

For January’s book club, we’ll be stepping back into historical fiction with the Australian novel Picnic at Hanging RockWhile I don’t typically read a lot of historical fiction, I stumbled upon this title while looking for something to watch on Amazon Prime and was taken aback by the trailer. This book, I believe, will be the gothic horror that I was hoping to find in November’s book club.

791345It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.


Dyeing Experience with Smooth Rock Tripe

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It finally happened, I caught the natural dye bug. As I hike through the woods, I find myself wondering what color different things would bring to my yarn. Spending hours thumbing through beautifully illustrated natural dying books (Wild Color, The Modern Natural Dyer, and Harvesting Color, to name a few) piqued my interest, but it was not until my coworker started showing off her hand-dyed yarn that I started to become invested.

Fast forward almost a year, my coworker created a bath of Smooth Rock Tripe that she picked up while in Rhode Island and soaked for three months. The resulting dye bath looked very similar to grape juice, a dark rich purple, a color that our yarn sucked up happily and willingly.

This time around, I dyed three skeins: two of 100% wool (worsted weight) and one that began as a golden yellow. The color of the yarn post-bath and rinse is different from the dye color and the color of the yarn while in the bath. The smooth rock tripe created a cooper color when mixed with the golden yellow and a matte purple when allowed to sit on the 100% wool skeins — a very different color from the initial bath and my expectations. In other words, not exactly the look I was going for on the worsted yarn, but I’m still happy with the results.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of the cooper yarn. It will have to be used as an accent color or in a very small project. 440 yards of worsted weight is a good amount, however, I foresee at matching hat/mitten set in my future (or perhaps a wide woven scarf).

My coworker left behind some cooper water, which should create a green dye bath, and some dahlia water, which should create a yellow-orange color. I’m leaning towards dying over the worsted yarn to see if I can create a warmer color, or perhaps something with a bit of variegation. (If I end up dyeing over the worsted weight yarn, I’ll make sure to document what it looks like.)

All in all, I still feel the same way about dyeing (and spinning, when I think about it); I don’t have enough control of what I’m doing to provide me with the results I thought I was going to get. While this isn’t a bad thing and experimentation is fun, it would be nice to be in a place where I do have control and can plan out my projects.

October Book Club: A thousand splendid suns

Many of us read or listen to audiobooks while we craft, so I thought it would be interesting to dedicate the first post of each month to a book I’ve been reading and/or am about to start.

Back in August, I picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns from a take a book leave a book box when visiting my parents, but I didn’t really start reading it until the last couple of weeks. I feel the need to clarify something before getting into my discussion of the book: I picked up a hardcover copy of a book without a dust cover. In other words, I was drawn to the book because it had a beautiful gold mandala on it and when I flipped open to a random page, I was greeted by a beautiful poem that made my heart feel as though it was being squeezed. I read the first few chapters that day on the beach and then put it down in an attempt to finish reading the Hobbit, which I started reading back in June and am about halfway through (I swear I’ve been reading a page or two at a time, maybe it’s time to admit defeat).

A week ago, I picked the book back up again and started over. Before I knew it, I felt incredibly connected to Mariam and Laila. True, we are separated by pages and time, but you can’t help but become invested in Mariam and Laila as you read their stories. As you discover how they become connected with each other. As you root for their happiness and find yourself struggling to continue on reading because your eyes have teared up.

Here is the review that I left on good reads:


This a story of love and sacrifice, of not knowing what you had until it’s slipped between your fingers, of hope and faith and courage — all admits wars trying to tear everything apart. I feel as though I have become friends with the main characters, reading letters that they have written to me of their lives and that I have put down the last letter I’m going to receive from them.

This book made me cry, hold my breath, hope for better things and admire the strength of those going through all of the above in real life. This one is worth your time and your tears.

Please keep in mind this is a book that pulls at your heartstrings, I don’t recommend reading/listening while working on a complicated project. That being said, by the time I was reading the 4th chapter I was struggling to put the book down.

November’s book club will focus on The Clockmaker’s Daughter, by Kate Morton (see synopsis below). Feel free to read along with me, let’s start a virtual book club.


My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?


On finishing projects

Flax Light in Cascade Heritage, drying from being wet blocked

This has been my week of finishing projects, both my own and others. For starters, I finished my Camp Loopy project (about a week too late to get rewards for it, but what can you do). Despite missing the challenge deadline, I’m super proud of myself for completing an adult size fingering weight sweater in a little over a month. Sure there was no colorwork or cables, but that’s still over 1000 yards worth of knitting in five days over a month. This includes the number of days where no knitting happened. So basically, in a pitch, I could crank out a sweater faster than a month if I needed to (hopefully I never need to, see my post on deadlines)

Pattern and yarn used unknown

In addition to finishing my own sweater, I had the privilege of completing two additional sweaters. The first is a Kimoto style sweater that my coworker knit for her future niece or nephew.  While I’m not sure what the pattern is, it’s been a while since I’ve done any garter stitch seaming that required me to think about how the pieces fit together. My coworker will need to add a tie to the side of the sweater to keep it closed, but being able to hand her a sweater that took her hours to knit and me about an hour to seam up was satisfying. It’s one of the few moments where I’ve wondered if the process of knitting or the final product of knitting brings me the most joy.

Pattern and yarn unknown

Next up, I visited my Cioci (amazing crocheter) and picked up a sweater that she knit several years ago that had been sitting unfinished in her closet. This one required more work, as it was an adult sweater and I needed to knit the neckline after seaming the pieces together, but was also more mindless because of the bust and armhole shaping. I’m excited about my next drive down to visit my Cioci, it will be nice to set the sweater that we collaborated on into her hands. I love the idea that we worked together on something that will keep her warm, even if that means admitting that the acrylic yarn she chose is the opposite of what I would have chosen (does acrylic really keep one warm?), but I will acknowledge that I am biased towards natural fibers (and that there is a time and a place for synthetics, ie nylon to reinforce sock yarn).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of weaving in ends and don’t often choose sweaters that require seaming (although I think this is moreso because I hate purling). While I finished these two sweaters as favors, there has been something wonderful about putting together the pieces of someone else’s work. Weaving my own magic into their garments, if you will, while watching individual pieces transform into sweaters. I’m not saying that I’m going to start a side business of seaming garments for people, I’m just saying I would have a good time doing it.

And just in case you thought finishing three sweaters in less than a week wasn’t enough, I also finished a pair of fingerless mitts that I started before August’s Camp Loopy challenge. The pattern was heavily modified due to a serious game of yarn chicken. While there is nothing currently on my knitting needles, I do have an embroidery project going and plans to warp my loom to make a table runner. Or at least that’s what I tell myself I should be working on as I spend my suddenly large amount of “free” time on Ravelry looking for my next project or surrounding myself with my stash trying to decide which skein of sock yarn wants to be worked next (after all the holidays are rapidly approaching and I haven’t even created my knit list yet).


On handmade items should be used

It’s officially been over a year since I changed states and took the next step in my career, a term of time I have loosely been calling “the year of change”. In that time, a new job was started, a long-term relationship was ended, my first home was purchased, new friends were made, a new car was needed… the list goes on and on. Despite all these changes, and I’d like to think my life will continue to evolve, it feels like for the first time since moving out of my parents’ house I have roots. For the first time since starting the period of my life after college, I have a desire to engage with the community around me because I don’t want the community around me to be temporary. Not that I wasn’t engaged in my previous communities of course, the difference is I have more of an investment in the community that I now belong to.

During my first few weeks in this new place, actually more like the first month and a half, I stayed at an air bnb while waiting to close on my home. I cannot express my gratitude enough towards the family who took me in, as they have become some of my best friends. Perhaps it was because I spent so many nights in their little cabin, or because our personalities and values were so similar, but what started as a formal relationship quickly dissolved within the first week. Hours of card games have been played, miles of runs have been enjoyed, and thousands of conversations have taken place since the initial awkward hello.

Friendship Bracelet, originally gifted Summer 2018

I don’t remember the exact day that it happened, perhaps during my third week there, but one of the daughters made me a friendship bracelet and enthusiastically tied it to my wrist. Though the gesture was small, I didn’t realize at the time how much the bracelet would come to ground me through the changes of the last year. She didn’t mean to, but with the small handmade gift, she reminded me that I was never alone and that I had people rooting for me. Due to the bracelet’s construction, it has been with me every step of the way this past year because it was not designed to be taken off. This bracelet has been hiking, running, ice fishing. This bracelet survived mountain races and a half marathon. It has been with me through tears of frustration, enthusiasm, and laughter. Until the other morning, when it broke off. I sent the daughter a photo of the bracelet with a sad face and she promptly responded that it looks like it’s time for another one. At no point did she reflect on how I had ruined the gift that she made me because she knew that I had worn it every day when I could have cut it off. She knew I had worn it out of love.

Pattern: Red is Best by Jane Richmond

Over the years, I have made hundreds of hand-knit gifts. The more my knitting skills evolve the more I want to share my finished objects. I’ve made cabled sweaters for my sister and fancy socks for my mother. When my dad told me he wanted to spray his handmade hunting mits with something for hunting, I didn’t bat an eye. Despite this attitude, I still have people who are worried about ruining my hand knits. When I gave my sister’s SO a pair of convertible fingerless mitts, his first reaction was these are awesome! A feeling that quickly transformed into “I’m going to ruin these on the job”. So I told him the truth, I made these mitts for you to wear them. If they keep your hands warm on the job and your work wrecks them, then I’m happy that they kept your hands warm and I’m happy to make you another pair when you need one.

While I am flattered that people want to covet my hand made items, it makes me sad to think that the item will never be used. The point of the object was to give you something to keep you warm or to give you comfort, not to make you think I was testing you to see how long you could keep the item pristine. If you are someone who worries about people taking care of the items you make, take a moment to think about why you’d be upset if they wrecked the item.

Are you about to use cashmere on someone who is just going to through the garment into the dryer? Consider the care of your item and whether or not they’re realistic to expect the person you’re giving it to. While I have mixed feelings about superwash, superwash yarns are better than cashmere for baby blankets that need to be washed all the time.

Will the recipient of your gift appreciate the time and effort that went into their garment? The answer to this question can go either way for me. Sometimes I just want to see the person wear a complicated Octopus sweater, sometimes the sweater curse is real because in the middle of knitting said complicated sweater I realize they’re not worth it. Sometimes when the answer is no I opt to choose something else. Mostly, I think about whether or not the recipient would wear the item if they bought it from a store. In other words, if someone doesn’t usually wear shawls they’re not going to start just because you made them a beautiful lace one.

Pattern: Crazy Magic (classic cowl) by Susan Ashcroft

At the end of the day, hand knits are meant to be worn. They’re a physical token of love, a magical item to remind the recipient they were in your thoughts the entire you made it. Maybe not the times where you were cursing a row for not lining up or you were focused on learning a new skill, but definitely when you were worried about making the final product look good. To this day, my favorite cowl that was gifted to me by my aunt was made out of handspun that I gifted her! It’s something I wear with pride because we both contributed to the final product, can you imagine if I tucked it away never to be seen again? So much work and thought was put into this tiny garment, it would be a shame if was never able to carry out its destiny of keeping me warm.

Who deserves a hand-knit is probably more controversial than the idea that hand knits should be worn, but since the two go together I’ll end with this idea: those who deserve handmade items are the same people who need it, and there are so many reasons as to why someone may need it.