Friday, July 31, 2015

Can't. Stop. Making. Books.

It's a beautiful day here. Not a cloud in the sky, a mild 82 degrees. As part of my effort to live healthier, I biked to my parents' place this morning and had breakfast with them. I ordered oatmeal, even though pancakes were on special. Did I mention the wind is gusting up to 25 miles per hour? As a result, the ride home was on the slow side.

I've become slightly obsessed with making books. Here are just a few of the covers I've put together in the last week:
I love all the beautiful paper out there, and this is the best use I've found yet for it. These are all papers that I've brought home from various trips to Berkeley. Some of them have been waiting for the right project for years. My favorite paper is this one by the talented Geninne Zlatkis:
Before I went to Berkeley, I made the book below, using a page from an old atlas, and in Berkeley, I found the perfect little pouch to carry my book, a pencil, and some markers:
Have you noticed the blue mug that is showing up in a lot of my blog photos? Joni has one just like it that I've envied for years. When we found this one in an art gallery that features local artists, I just had to bring it home. It's the closest I can get to having coffee with her every morning!

I am glad to hear that I'm not boring my dear readers with socks because I have quite a few more to go! And I am liking All the Light We Cannot See a little more than I was earlier this week. It is kind of long and slow-moving.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's All About the Socks

I hope I'm not boring anyone with socks. I have this crazy idea of trying to knit socks for all the men in my family. The problem is that I find men's socks, well, dull. The men in my family are pretty conservative when it comes to clothing, so I'm trying to accommodate:
These are lovely socks. The blues and grays are lovely. And I can't say enough about the pattern: Blueberry Waffle Socks. I'm sure I'll use it again -- hopefully on more exciting colors. Still,  I'd rather be knitting bright colors or lace socks!

As for reading, it's kind of embarrassing. I'm reading the book that everyone seems to be raving about: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr but I'm not in love with it, at least not as of page 165. It tells the fictional story of a blind girl and a Nazi intelligence officer who end up in the same small town in France during World War II. I'm hoping that I'll fall in love any page now.

However, I haven't been reading or knitting as much as I'd like because I've been working. And, no, teachers don't get paid to work in the summer. It's just that the workload has grown so much that I feel like I'll be better off for getting a head start. Besides, working at home with classical music on isn't that bad!

I'm joining Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On. and Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stitching on Sunday

So, it's time to get back to stitching around this blog!
I've been embroidering a little bit at a time. I found this pale peach shirt at Goodwill, and it is the perfect canvas to try out one-color embroidering. This is the first section, and I like the way it's coming out so far.

My travel socks are pretty amazing -- thanks to dyer Jaala Spiro at Knit Circus.
I knit the first sock from the outside and started the second from the middle. I think I'm going to keep these for myself. I think they will look amazing in Birkenstocks. Besides, I'm not sure I know anyone else who would be seen in public with such crazy fun socks!

I biked for the first time since my shoulder injury (3 or 4 weeks ago) this weekend. I did a short ride yesterday, then ventured out for a 14-mile ride with a friend today. I was really dragging on the way home, but shortly after I got home it became clear that I have the stomach flu! So glad that I'm not too out of shape. Now I'm off to make some toast!

Hope your weekend was good.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Farewell Berkeley

It only took 13 hours of travel yesterday, but I am back at home, treasuring the memories of my trip. Berkeley isn't really a tourist destination, but it's a fun place to visit friends or family.

The houses are gorgeous, especially if you like stucco:
The desert plants are exotic -- at least to this Midwesterner's eyes:
It's no surprise that there is a "Bird of Paradise" in a place that is like paradise:
You can't help but smile at Chokie, who enjoys nothing more than carrying around an old shoe:
And, of course, there is my dear friend. Yes, we know it is dorky to dress alike at our age -- and we don't care one wit!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gradients Like You've Never Seen

I'm into my last few days in Berkeley, and starting to feel sad about leaving. I am not sad about the knitting project I brought. My Knit Circus sock is so much fun to knit:
I've done quite a bit of reading. I finished I Am Forbidden, which I wrote about last week and found it interesting through the end. I also finished this:
This Dark Road to Mercy is a literary thriller and very gripping. It tells the story of a father, who has given up his legal rights to his two daughters, who kidnaps them after their mother dies. The story is told from multiple points of view and is very tightly plotted. I think it's quite good. I will caution that there are a few instances of disturbing violence. I kind of skimmed over them.

A few night ago, we went to hear Michael Pollan speak and I ended up buying Cooked, his latest book. He is best known for a book entitled The Omnivore's Dilemma, which takes a serious look at what he calls our "industrial food complex." He's a great speaker, relaxed and witty and erudite. And the bookstore was packed to the gills with fans; I would have had to wait for hours to get my book signed.

Cooked grew out of Pollan's realization that as Americans spend less time cooking, they have grown fatter and sicker. He points out that many people spend more time watching cooking TV shows than they do cooking, which is pretty strange when you think about it. It's kind of a long book, but he's a good writer so I'm hoping to get through it.

Linking up with Keep Calm Craft On and Yarn Along.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Heart the Bay Area

You won't see Fisherman's Wharf here. I come here too often to play tourist! Joni and I went to San Francisco to see an exhibit about Amy Winehouse. Unfortunately I had failed to notice that it doesn't open until the 23rd!
So we did some museums and had lunch in Yerba Buena Park. It's right in the middle of the citiy and the views are gorgeous.
I am a bit of a hick. I am awed by big cities.
We also went to Lake Merritt in Oakland, where we saw this yellow-crowned night-heron:
and watched pelicans fish.
We found the BEST spice store in Oakland, near the lake: Oaktown Spice Shop. We bought a handful of spices and salts, but were especially excited about the Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Sea Salt.
Oh, I can't forget to mention that we had Ghiradelli chocolate sundaes for lunch one day. When In San Francisco ....
That's my beloved friend, Joni. We met at summer camp in Wisconsin the summer for high school and have been BFFs ever since -- even though we have never lived in the same state!

I'll leave you with this very bizarre business we happened upon in Oakland:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Vacation Knitting and Reading

I woke up to something shocking in Berkeley, California. I looked out the window and there was no fog! You cannot miss the effects of the drought here, although I do, strangely miss the morning fog.

I've been visiting Berkeley since 1977, when my friend Joni moved from the Chicago area to Berkeley, so it feels like my vacation home. I am used to gazing through the fog while I drink my morning coffee.

I had a long day of travel so I knew I needed good knitting. I chose to knit plain socks with this amazing yarn from Knit Circus, which is a Madison dyer.
Some of you may have seen the Knit Circus magazine or its later incarnation as a Web-zine. Former KC editor Jaala Spiro has taken up dying and she is truly amazing! Her self-striping and gradient yarns are beautiful and unique (as you can see). You can learn more here.

And this is the book took for my travel reading. I found it at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., earlier this summer. It is about a Jewish woman who is orphaned during the Holocaust and raised in the Satmar tradition, which is a very strict Hasidic sect.
It turned out to be a good choice. I read about half of it on the plane yesterday. The writing is beautiful, and the story keeps you  interested. It explores the role of women and of orthodox religion and how the two can become complicated. It is also a fascinating glimpse into life inside this very strict group.

Coming soon: Pictures of a very pretty sock-in-progess and the Bay Area.

I'm checking in with Keep Calm Craft On and Yarn Along.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stitching of a Different Kind

I took a class Saturday at Bare Knuckle Arts, the studio run by a former colleague. It is the third class I've taken there, and they have all been fabulous.

I have wanted to learn how to do Coptic book binding for ages. I've tried to teach myself from books, but I just couldn't figure it out. The name comes from the fact that this type of binding was used by Coptic Christians in Egypt as far back as the second century AD.

Our teacher, Kerri Cushman, who hails all the way from Virginia, had the covers premade for us so we could dive right into the binding process. She made the whole process easy as pie. My first attempt is downright presentable.
Isn't this cool?

Most of the work is in the set up: making the covers and the inside pages, and poking all the holes (and making sure they line up). Once you start the Coptic binding, you can relax and enjoy it. You just fall into a rhythm -- but don't fall too hard or you'll make mistakes. (As me how I know!)

The last thing I need is one more craft, but as an inveterate writing and sketcher, I'm telling myself that bookbinding isn't really a NEW craft, but rather an expansion upon the ones I already do.

I wanted to make more books as soon as I got home, but I've stuck to my schedule of cleaning up my craft room and organizing photos. My parents passed along a ton of photos in May, and I am happy to say that they are now all organized by date in photo boxes. Not a very exciting Sunday but a pretty productive one.

I hope your weekend was good.

Friday, July 10, 2015


My Swirl Yoke Sweater was coming along so beautifully. I grafted the 7 underarm stitches without a hitch. Then I tried to close the "sloppy stitches" at either end of the grafted stitches. Even following Meg's directions, you can see how awkward my attempt is.
 Here it is in all its close-up ugliness.
Clearly this is something I need to work on. I think a big part of my problem is that I don't fully understand the way the stitches are supposed to come together. Some people learn to "read" their knitting faster than others, and I'm not one of the fast ones. Lucky me, I have a second arm to practice on.

And then I have another error to report. In her gracious way, Meg pointed out that in my journaling from camp, I mixed up SSK with CDD. Here is how she explained the latter to me:

The cdd (centered double-decread\se): slip 2 tog k'wise, k1, p2sso

Barbara Walker's original ssk: slip 1 k'wise, slip 1 k'wise, insert L needle and k2tog

Dee Barrington's variation of ssk: slip 1 k'wise, slip 1 p'wise, insert L needle and k2tog.
Hopefully you  can learn from my mistakes!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Camp Knitting and Reading

The child's Swirl Yoke Sweater was optional homework for camp. I'm so glad that I started it at home because I really needed help at camp! I would have given up on my own.
I knit up to the armholes at home. The sleeves knit up quickly at camp, but I could not figure out how to get them onto the circular needle without help. The swirl pattern confused me, too, but a camper helped me with that.

Then there is the Pelerine shawl. This is something I would never have appreciated if I had not gone to camp. Pictures simply don't do it justice. Nor can a photo convey the lofty loveliness of unspun Icelandic yarn.
Yes, it is scratchy stuff, but this shawl will be perfect for winter, when it won't touch my skin. I love the history of this yarn: The Vikings brought these sheep to Iceland about 1100 A.D. and the sheep lineage has been kept pure. When you knit with this yarn, you are using the same fiber that the Vikings did! How cool is that?

Unspun Icelandic is carded, but not spun. Instead, it is peeled into strips and wound into "plates." The tables of plates for sale at camp were downright delicious! It is a bit fragile, but you can spit-felt it back together quite easily, which makes colors changes a snap -- and eliminates tails that must be woven in later.

John Green's Paper Towns was my bedtime reading at camp.
I wanted to read it before the movie comes out. You may recognize Green as the author of the best-selling book (and movie), The Fault in Our Stars. Like Stars, Paper Towns is well-written with witty dialogue and a well-planned plot. It mulls over some pretty heavy philosophy, too (in a good way).  It wasn't quite as good as Stars, but if you want more John Green, pick up this one.

I'm joining up with Keep Calm Craft On and Yarn Along. See you there!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Knitting Camp: Part II

Here she is, the lady who makes Knitting Camp so special, Meg Swansen:
And, yes, this is my handwriting:

And it couldn't happen without Amy Detjen, she who loves purple:
Here Amy is helping some campers master steeking. I had decided long ago that I would never steek, but Meg and Amy make it look perfectly do-able. So, maybe I'll change my mind.

This is what our classroom at the Holiday Inn in Marshfield looked like. (Aside: The hotel did a great job hosting us. The spaces were lovely and the food was delicious!) If you look closely, you can see Meg teaching up front.
Of course, I was knitting away, and I'll share that tomorrow for Keep Calm and Craft On.