I recently had to call a doctor’s office about some scheduling. According to their voicemail introduction, patients are forbidden to leave messages during the following times: on weekends, on holidays, after 4 pm, and while the office is closed for lunch. Which makes me wonder: what exactly do they suppose an answering machine is for?
Way back in 2019, I decided to buy myself a birthday present, and ordered a crochet blanket kit: Janie Crow’s beautiful “Persian Tiles” pattern, in the “Eastern Jewels” colourway. After 2.5 years of on-and-off work (mostly off), I finally finished a night or two ago. Here it is:
I’ve made some variations on the pattern. If you look up other Eastern Jewels blankets, you’ll see that there is no black in the original. I wanted to really separate the tiles in a way that highlighted their colours, going for a stained glass effect — which I think I’ve achieved! To do this I made all of the square and octagonal motifs as written, and then added a row of single crochet in black around all of their edges. This also made it very easy to do a no-show join, as I simply whip-stitched the pieces together with the same black yarn.
The other variation had to do with the triangles. The pattern calls for sixteen of them: twelve between the octagons on the outer edges, and four on each corner. I decided to omit the corner triangles entirely. For the inner group, instead of following the pattern and making coloured ones (to look like the square tiles, halved) I just made granny triangles, again in black. Because of my chosen stained glass aesthetic, I didn’t want it to look like any “panes” were incomplete.
The border is a simple one. Once the blanket was all sewn together, I did a row of single crochet all the way around, followed by two rows of moss stitch. After that, I did two rows of loops (chain five, skip a stitch, anchor with a single crochet stitch, repeat) and… that was that! I toyed with the idea of adding a third row of loops, but decided I’d rather be done. It will be very easy to add on later if I decide I really want it.
The blanket was made with Stylecraft Special DK yarn in twelve colours (storm blue, pistachio, tomato, spice, violet, duck egg, mustard, sage, fondant, vintage peach, buttermilk, black) and one ball of Stylecraft Life DK in fuschia. This made for a lot of ends to weave in. Like… a lot lot. Over 500 if I’ve totted it up correctly! Weaving all the ends may have taken more time than crocheting the squares; it definitely took more time than the assembly and border. Good thing I don’t mind doing the ends (and that the results were worth it).
All in all, this was an enjoyable project. I’m glad to have done it, and I’m really, really glad it’s done.
Big list last month. Let’s jump right to it:
- Vinyl Cafe Turns the Page (Stuart McLean)
- Tangerine: Poems at 94 (Tangerine Bell)
- Rattle #75
- Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome)
- A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking (T. Kingfisher)
- Nurk (Ursula Vernon)
- Madness, Rack, and Honey (Mary Ruefle)
- When It Happens to You (Molly Ringwald)
- Shadow Divers (Robert Kurson)
- Rattle #70
- Little Town in the Ozarks (Roger Lea McBride)
April is (inter)national poetry month, so I deliberately went heavier on that than I usually do, reading one full-length collection of poems (Tangerine), two issues of Rattle (my all-time favourite poetry journal), and one collection of essays about poetry (Madness, Rack, and Honey). Surprisingly, I hadn’t actually read any poetry yet this year — too busy mainlining Brandon Sanderson novels — so it was really refreshing to dive back in. I especially enjoyed Mary Ruefle’s essays, which were beautiful and strange. It would also be greatly remiss of me not to mention that Tangerine Bell is my grandmother! She published Tangerine: Poems at 94, her first major collection of poems a few years ago. Tangerine is still alive, but she lives very far away and communication is getting more and more difficult as she ages, so it’s really meaningful to me to have this collection of her thoughts, words, and voice. (PS. buy her book)
T. Kingfisher is the pen-name of Ursula Vernon, who writes sweet children’s fantasy under her own name, and weird grown-up fantasy under the Kingfisher moniker. Nurk is subtitled “The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew” and is pretty much what it says on the tin. It was a quick read, and I think my kids would really enjoy it. A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking starts with one of my favourite openers, namely a dead body somewhere it’s not supposed to be — in this case, on the floor of the bakery owned by Mona’s aunt. Mona is a magicker, though only in a small way as her magic only works on dough. But with someone hunting down the city’s magickers, and the Duchess’s army and chief wizard away, Mona soon finds herself called to greater deeds than she ever believed possible. This one felt like a standalone but I hope that Kingfisher/Vernon takes us back to Mona’s world again sometime.
I read Shadow Divers for the first time about six or seven years ago, I think, so this one was a re-read for me. It follows the story of Captain Bill Nagle and his crew of deep-sea wreck divers, who discovered a mystery U-Boat wreck off the New Jersey coast in 1991, far from where any known U-Boats were supposed to be. Kurson chronicles the discovery, the divers, and their deadly six-year journey to finally identify the “U-Who” and the men who served upon it. Even though I remembered the rough outlines, it was still absolutely gripping. See also: the men of U-869; “Everest at the Bottom of the Sea” (this is about diving the Andrea Doria but the ethos is the same).
I enjoyed Molly Ringwald’s (yes, that Molly Ringwald’s) novel-in-stories When It Happens to You. I would say that the plot was that of a fairly typical unraveling-family story, but the structure — telling it as a series of interconnected short stories — worked very well and added a lot of the experience.
Vinyl Cafe Turns the Page was a standard Vinyl Cafe offering: amusing and tender as always. And Three Men in a Boat remains a perpetual re-read, and one of the funniest books I know. (See also: this post from… 2009, wow.)
[This post has been rescued from my drafts folder, where it has been languishing since late 2018. Please rest assured that Perpetua has since sorted out traffic lights.]
To the fruit flies in my bathroom:
Seriously, what is the deal? What are you even living on? Do you know that I have bananas in the kitchen?
Dear Maryland drivers,
If you look closely, on the left-hand side of your steering wheel you will find a lever that is in easy reaching-distance while you drive. Flicking that lever up will cause a light to blink on the right-hand side of your car. Flicking that lever down will cause a light to blink on the left-hand side of your car. These blinking lights serve to notify other drivers of your intent to change lanes, turn, or otherwise move your vehicle in a non-forward direction. I know I’m going out on a limb here, but you might find them useful.
Think about giving it a shot,
My darling daughter,
I love your passion for the world around you! I feel as if it would be remiss of me, however, if I didn’t point out that screaming will not change the fact that red means stop and green means go, however much you wish it were the other way around. It is one of life’s great tragedies that we cannot change reality simply by feeling at it. I am sure we will continue to unpack this truth as you grow. In the meantime, please just watch some Daniel Tiger until you feel better.
Your doting Mama
To the lady on our street who walks her cat every morning:
I just want to say that I admire your gumption. You go, girl! Walk that cat!
Your admiring neighbour
With impeccable timing, I’ve finished this woolen car blanket for Perpetua just as the weather here is finally getting consistently warm. Ah, well, that’s the way it goes sometimes…
About a year ago, a neighbour of my mother’s gave her a box of yarn to pass on to me. Inside were about a dozen skeins of “Lamb’s Pride” yarn from Brown Sheep Yarn in Nebraska. It’s an 85% wool 15% mohair blend, so very warm and very heavy (Lamb’s Pride comes in multiple weights but my skeins are Bulky). I wasn’t sure what to do with it for a long time; it’s a lot heavier than I would personally use for a garment and I only had about 500 yards of each colour. According to what I could find on ravelry, a lot of people use this yarn for felting.
But as we moved into fall and winter it struck me that it would be perfect for small lap-robe blankets that the kids could use in the van in the winter. Our old girl can take some time to really warm up and since you’re not supposed to use winter coats in cat seats things can get pretty chilly! (We do lay their winter coats on top of the buckles, don’t worry.) Perpetua is the one who is most bothered by the cold, so I decided to start with hers. And then I put it away halfway through because I was bored. I recently pulled it out and finished it in like two evenings, but least it will be ready for this winter. I’ve got some nice green and dark blue to make blankets for Tertia and Anselm as well.
This blanket was done in moss stitch with a K (6.5mm) hook.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do
Forgive them, they know not what they do
Today you will be with me in Paradise
You will be with me today
Behold your son, behold your mother, behold your son…
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why have you forsaken me?
I thirst, I thirst…
It is finished, it is finished…
Father, into your hands, into your hands
I commend my spirit
I made a thing. After twenty years of crocheting, my first knitting project is complete. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it… but I learned some things (including how to fix at least some of my mistakes) and ended up with an actual finished project, so that’s something.
Anyway, this is a pair of fingerless gloves, made with some leftover Mary Maxim Starlette Sparkle yarn from when I made our tree skirt. It was a pretty good yarn for a first project: not too splitty, not fuzzy, and a cheap acrylic to keep the stakes nice and low. The gold tinsel-y strands did give me occasional trouble when they didn’t want to stay with the rest of the yarn, but on the whole it was manageable.
The gloves were each knit as a panel, and then folded and seamed together. In the photo above, the first one I made is on the left and the second is on the right; I can definitely see some improvement between them even though I accidentally added a row or two to the second one. Counting is hard, guys. (It still ended up slightly smaller as my tension evened out a bit.)
This project taught me the long-tail cast-on, knitting and purling, garter stitch, stockinette stitch, ribbing, binding off, and three different techniques for seaming. Binding off, by the way, makes me feel like a wizard. It also taught me that 36 live stitches is a whole other thing compared to crochet’s one and it’s frustratingly easy to lose stitches off your needles. Errors on my part meant I also learned how to decrease after accidentally increasing, tink (knit backwards to go back in a row), pick up a dropped stitch from a few rows up, and get all of the stitches back on my needles after having to rip out several rows (nightmare). Phew.
Did I enjoy it? Yes and no. I hit a lot of the frustrating phases of learning a new skill, when you can follow instructions but don’t yet understand the “why” behind them, or when you know you’re making mistakes but don’t necessarily know how to fix or avoid them. Crochet is very relaxing to me; knitting definitely is not. I can see that it likely will be some day, if I’m willing to put in the work now. To be honest, I’m still deciding whether I want to do that, at least at this particular phase of my life. (But also to be honest, I daydreamed up an easy scarf pattern and got out some yarn to try it with, so clearly my brain is engaged with knitting even if my feelings aren’t.) I need to keep reminding myself that I’ve been crocheting for two decades and knitting for, like, six hours, so of course it’s going to be a very different experience. And that’s ok.
And if knitting doesn’t work out, well, I guess there’s always hand modeling.
March books! As you can see, I’m still on my Brandon Sanderson kick, albeit not so overwhelmingly this month. Here’s the full list:
- The Flight (Dan Hampton)
- Warbreaker (Brandon Sanderson)
- And It Was Good (Madeleine L’Engle)
- Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry)
- Twelve Angry Men (Richard Rose)
- Elantris (Brandon Sanderson)
The Flight was a library discard book I picked up at my local branch, and it chronicles Charles Lindbergh’s world-changing solo flight across the Atlantic. Although there is some necessary biography mixed in, the book’s focus really is an hourly play-by-play of his 33.5-hour flight. Dan Hampton is also an aviator, which made his narrative rich in technical details, although I found his prose somewhat clunky. It was a slow read, but I now know a bunch of facts about aviation in the 1920s, which is not the worst thing in the world.
Warbreaker is an early standalone novel in Brandon Sanderson’s cosmere, set on a planet that uses a magic system based around Breath (with a capital B) and colour. A tense peace exists between neighbouring nations Idris and Hallandren, and Idrian Princess Vivenna has been training her whole life for a treaty-negotiated marriage to Suseron, the Hallandren God-King. At the last moment, however, her sister Siri is sent in her place. Vivenna is determined to rescue her hapless sister, but soon enough both women find out that nothing they’ve assumed about Hallandren is as it seems. (Fun fact: Warbreaker was written two years before Apple’s virtual assistant was released, so the name “Siri” is purely coincidental — but if you read the book with Google’s ebook reader, it changes her name throughout to “Google Assistant,” with predictably hilarious results.)
And It Was Good is one of L’Engle’s nonfiction offerings, this one a long meditation on the first chapters of Genesis, from creation to Abraham. It’s a bit of a meandering text, sprinkled throughout with both memoir and short fiction as she works to relate these Biblical stories to her own life, and to imagine some of the stories that scripture doesn’t give us (what did Eve feel when she birthed Cain?). L’Engle is ultimately building a universalist case for salvation, which I don’t think is true and correct, but I appreciate her willingness to engage with the texts and to challenge some of my own assumptions.
And It Was Good actually sent me to Jayber Crow. I’ve read some of Berry’s poetry, but this was the first time I’d read any of his fiction. The novel is written in the form of a memoir by the eponymous Jayber Crow, the barber in Berry’s fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. It’s much more than Jayber’s life story, really, making up a long elegy for a way of small town American life that began to pass away in the 1950s-70s with the advent of large-scale commercial farming and the construction of the highways and superhighways that suddenly connected small enclaves like Port William to the outside world, for both good and ill. The prose is beautiful (no surprise) and, as with this passage that L’Engle quoted, often indicting:
One Saturday evening, while Troy was waiting his turn in the chair, the subject was started and Troy said — it was about the third thing said — “They ought to round up every one of them sons of bitches and put them right in front of the damned communists, and then whoever killed who, it would be all to the good.”
There was a little pause after that. Nobody wanted to try to top it. I thought of Athey’s reply to Hiram Hench.
It was hard to do, but I quit cutting hair and looked at Troy. I said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”
Troy jerked his head up and widened his eyes at me. “Where did you get that crap?”
I said, “Jesus Christ.”
And Troy said, “Oh.”
It would have been a great moment in the history of Christianity, except that I did not love Troy.
I’ve heard many times that the 1957 film 12 Angry Men was an incredible movie about a jury trial, but I wanted to read the stage play before I watched it. So I did. It’s a quick read, and a great play. The movie is also available for free on vimeo — at least until whoever owns MGM these days notices and takes it down.
Elantris was my other BrandoSando book in March, also concerning a treaty wedding — except when Princess Sarene arrives in Arelon to marry Prince Raoden, she finds out that he has died. Except Raoden hasn’t died — he’s been hidden, cast into the lost city of Elantris, after being taken by the shaod… which is sort of like being turned into a zombie? Except living. Mostly. While Raoden works to survive in Elantris and figure out what has happened to the shaod — which, until ten years ago, deified instead of zombified — Sarene must figure out how to prevent a holy war against her adopted nation, led by the grim Derethi priest Hrathen. This was Sanderson’s first published novel, and it shows. It’s not a bad book, I enjoyed it, but it’s full of bewildering fantasy names, many of which sound nearly the same as each other, and doesn’t have the tight plotting or polished prose of later books. Still worth a read, but if you’re starting Sanderson, I wouldn’t start with this one.
When I was about nine or ten years old, I learned to knit. A lady from our church came over one afternoon, and while I don’t remember if it was the point of the visit or just sort of happened, she taught me the garter stitch with a pair of straight needles and some bright yellow yarn. I worked on my little swatch and got it an inch or two long. That week I took it to school to knit during recess, and even at a track meet, slowly but diligently working my needles.
At some point one of my friends pointed out that my knitting didn’t seem to be getting any bigger. She was right! What could have happened? As it turns out, I had forgotten the crucial “yarn over” part of the stitch, and so all I was doing was passing my little swatch back and forth, back and forth between the needles. Without noticing. For days. So I put the yarn and needles away, and that was that.
Some years later my mom taught me to crochet, which went much better, and I largely forgot about ever wanting or learning to knit. I’ve been crocheting for twenty years, and while I’ve made occasional half-hearted stabs at knitting over the years — just because it seems like something I should be able to do — it never really clicked. I’ve made some lumpy swatches, most of which rapidly increased in width for reasons that were unfathomable to me. Ugh, knitting. Whatever. One hook good, two sticks bad, moving on.
Except here’s the thing. I want to make socks. And crocheted socks? Crocheted socks are awful. If you want to make good socks, socks you’d actually want to wear… well, you have to learn how to knit and that’s all there is to it. And so here I am, starting over once more. Somewhat to my surprise, I’m really enjoying it. I’m definitely making mistakes! There’s a mini-row of garter stitch in my stockinette section from when I spaced out and started knitting instead of purling. And I dropped a stitch and didn’t notice for four rows, then had to figure out how to get it back up where it needed to be. But overall, it’s making sense. How fun is that?
^ This up here is how I’m learning. I signed up for a premium Craftsy membership (PSA: never pay full price; there is almost always a facebook ad running that will give you a year for like $2) and enrolled in Susan B. Anderson’s wee baby beginner course. Now, to be honest, Craftsy is a bit of a hot mess. You can’t save courses as favourites if you’re using the desktop site, you can’t download materials if you’re using the app, your accounts don’t sync across platforms, and their search function leaves a lot to be desired. But this course is fantastic. Susan’s explanations are so clear, and I love that we jump right in and learn the stitches by making projects: first a pair of fingerless mitts, then a chunky cowl, then a striped hat with colour changes.
Am I ready for socks? No, not by a long shot. But you know, I think I’m going to be ready. And if you’ll excuse me, I have some knitting to do.