Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #18

My week in pictures

It’s been a slow week 😐

Odds and Sods

  • I’ve been re-listening to some old Acquisitions Inq D&D podcasts this week. The stuff when Wil Wheaton guests is comedy gold.
  • In related news I may have purchased myself some dice from Q-workshop’s Valentine offer 😳
  • Progress on Anna Karenina is slow. It’s looking like I’ll need a really short read in March.

Upcoming

This next week appears hellish: back to the nursery routine, family visiting, a trip to the GP, and the prospect of several hours without power while our fuse board gets changed, all while parenting solo. On the bright side, my copy of Laine #4 will be arriving this week, and the first instalment from Ysolda’s Shawl Club is due to be sent out, so if I make it to the weekend I can reward myself by retreating to a duvet cocoon with my goodies. 😁

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down. 

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Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds and (Week)ends #17

I’ve skipped this update for the past couple of weeks, and my only excuse is that the Technician is now in that silly season where all concept of a working week goes out the window and I never know what day it is.

Startitis, and a Few Things I’ve Finished

I’ve been suffering from startitis all through January and into February. My ideal is to have three WIPs at any one time: the travel project (small enough to knit while out and about), the tv knitting (a bigger project in stocking stitch or a memorable pattern repeat), and something a little tricky (any project that demands I keep a close eye on the pattern and have minimal distractions). Somehow I’ve had 5 WIPs for most of the past month, and it’s started to feel a little pressuring.

I decided to concentrate on Threipmuir (since I want to wear it), but stopped between stages to complete smaller projects like my Blacker PodKAL legwarmers and my Wool Exploration swatch – using little victories to motivate me for all that stocking stitch in fingering weight yarn. This weekend I’m knitting a little on my Dave socks while I work on finishing and blocking the pile of finished objects I already have.

The next step is to review my queue of planned projects, and prioritise, by deciding which are things I need in my wardrobe and really want to knit. I think the Lanes cardigan from Laine #1 is pretty high up on both counts. But that will need to wait until I’ve finished another of my current WIPs.

Putting Pen to Paper

I’ve been struggling to regain my writing mojo over the past few months (not helped by the distractions of illness, study, Christmas…). I have my projects set up in Scrivener so that I can sync them to the app on my phone via Dropbox. In theory, this means I can jot down notes, get some writing done while out and about, or revise earlier work, when I have the time – all very efficient since I don’t have a desk/study space at the moment. In practice, I find a blank screen far more paralysing than a blank page, so it just hasn’t been working. With that in mind I’ve accepted that I capture my thoughts quicker working with pen and paper, and that I will need to type up what I’m working on – which meant convincing myself that it’s an opportunity for another revision, rather than a dull chore that’s slowing me down – and bought a couple of packs of exercise books. My plan was to write 350 words a day this year, so hopefully this will get me back on track. I’ll let you know how it goes.

From the Mailbag

It’s been all about the knitting technique books this week, but I also picked up some yarn in the Countess’ sale as the Technician has requested his own hi-vis hat.

Odds and Sods

  • Most of my February knitting time has been to Audible accompaniment – Andrew Roberts’ Napoleon the Great. I don’t consider myself a fan of military history, but I’ve been gripped by the retelling of his battles; even knowing the outcome of Austerlitz, or the retreat from Moscow, it made for tense listening.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was one of my favourite games of 2012. It doesn’t have the emotional pull of a Dragon Age, because interaction with NPCs is minimal, but the size of the world and depth of the lore is impressive. It’s also a good one for playing in small doses, which I’m currently doing.
  • The Tiny Tyrant has had me watching Trolls. It’s not as awful as I thought it would be; I may have purchased a song from the soundtrack. 😳

Upcoming

Half-term week means I will mostly be entertaining the Tiny Tyrant, with knitting, gaming, and anything else squished into the few hours between her bedtime and mine. We do get to go to the library though.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Books · Reading Challenge

Read the Year: January

“New Beginnings”

North and South: I chose Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel about the Industrial north for my first read. Margaret Hale and her family move from the rural south to Milton, a fictional town of cotton mills and nouveau riche mill owners. Gaskell uses these outsiders to show how completely divorced the lives of owners and employees are, and put forward the notion that the owners have a responsibility to the men they employ. Add in a Pride-and-Prejudice-esque love story, and a sub-plot with a mutineer family member to add complications, and this is a cracking read. While there is perhaps a touch more moralising than a modern reader may want, Gaskell is a keen observer of humanity, and sketches her characters with sympathy and honesty, allowing us to laugh at their foibles without despising them.

Related Books

Hard Times: Dickens’ Industrial novel suffered a little in comparison by being read immediately after North and South. I tend to roll my eyes when people start praising Dickens, because I don’t rate his writing ability very highly. His characters are rarely more than stereotypes, and his taste for melodrama is tedious. But his novels are very readable, and this one was no exception. Dickens focusses on the effect of environmental pressures on the formation of the individual, and in some ways the novel is a plea for the importance of leisure, entertainment, fictions, and imagination for a fulfilling life.

I also began both Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley and Jenny Uglow’s biography of Elizabeth Gaskell. I found both hard work (though the biography is interesting), and will probably set them aside until I’ve finished my February challenge book.

Other Reading

Fiction

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children: I picked up this trilogy on a 3 for 2 offer and read it over the course of a weekend. The first novel has a Gothic feel, with its claustrophobic island setting, and uncertainty over what is real. The subsequent books have a more action feel to them and lose something as a result. The time travel and magical aspects expose plot holes if closely examined, and the ‘found photos’ are overused after the first novel, but this is a fun, readable series for those times when you need an undemanding read.

Non-Fiction

Dyeing to Spin & Knit: Colour is my primary draw when buying yarn, and I’ve been wanting to learn a little more about the processes used by independent dyers, and how these interact with the fibres being dyed. Felicia Lo’s book includes an overview of colour theory, instructions on different dyeing methods, and even advice on how to work with dyed spinning fibre and yarn to achieve different colour effects. It’s a great primer, and will be a valuable resource should I decide to try my hand at dyeing.

Running Total

Books read: 8

Currently reading: 5

Upcoming

Read the Year invites me to “get stuck into a story of obsessive love” in February, so I’m thinking it’s time to read Anna Karenina.

Knitting · Year of Socks

2018 – Year of Socks: January

One of my knitting goals for 2017 was to knit my first pair of socks. As the year wore on, and the gift knitting began, it became increasingly unlikely that I’d succeed. So I began plotting to focus on socks in 2018: I prepared for my ‘Year of Socks’ by collecting patterns, sock yarn, and smaller sizes of needle. As it turns out, I did sneak in a pair of socks: my Christmas Eve cast on was a pair of slipper socks, made using Alafoss Lettlopi. It was a quick knit, but very satisfying, and definitely whet my appetite for more socks.

The plan was to cast on much earlier in the month, but I when realised that the first Neighbo(u)rhood Sheep Society parcel would be a sock pattern and yarn, I decided to wait and see whether it was something I thought I could tackle. It’s beautiful yarn, which I wound into balls and swatched with, but a couple of reads of the pattern, Blairdenon, convinced me that I didn’t have the required skills just yet.

Instead, I’ve decided to start with something simple: Rachel Coopey’s Dave socks, knit in 2 colours of her Socks Yeah! yarn, using an afterthought heel. Afterthought heels are covered in both A Year of Techniques, and Sock Anatomy (a Christmas gift) so I feel confident that I have plenty of reference material if I do get stuck.

I’ve only just snuck the cast-on into January, so most of the actual knitting will happen next month. I hope to have a finished object to show you in February’s update, and to be working on my next pair.

Socks Away!

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #16

Blue Monday Lasted All Week

I know. It’s a marketing gimmick. But it seemed appropriate as we spent the first part of the week being ill, and then the boiler stopped working. Also it snowed. A lot.

Neighbo(u)rhood Sheep Society 2018

On Saturday I had the chance to go into Edinburgh to collect my first NSS parcel from Ginger Twist Studio. Continuing the theme of the week, I managed to slip on the ice, mix-up the opening times and arrive early, and then all my homeward transport was delayed. On the bright side I got to sample the great coffee, and bacon rolls, at the Happy Bean Café, and my parcel was totally worth the journey. The first instalment is a skein of a New Leaf Yarns blend of alpaca, bfl, and Lincoln longwool, dyed a gorgeous blue-gray toned purple, intended for Clare Devine’s Blairdenon sock pattern. I’ve yet to decide whether I cast on right away, or try a simpler sock pattern before attempting Blairdenon with this precious skein.

Odds and Sods

  • While out and about on Saturday I picked up the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy on a 3 for 2 offer. I’ll spare you the saga of acquiring them – nothing has gone smoothly this week – but will say that they’re very readable. I’ve finished the trilogy already.
  • I may have given in to the Blue Monday feeling and made a few purchases from Countess Ablaze’s Absolute B*llocks update. I should be able to show you the results of my trip to 1993 next week.
  • I succumbed to peer pressure and did my Year of Colour on instagram. It’s a lot more neutral than I anticipated:

Upcoming

This looks set to be a fairly normal week, which probably means it will be anything but. Sigh.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds and (Week)ends #15

I’m feeling exhausted today as I’ve been parenting solo on a busy, busy week, so this post will be short and sweet, and probably not proofread.

#KB100DECK

It’s always a little daunting to go to an event on your own, so I’m pleased to report I had a really great time. It was nice to meet some local knitters, there were great info sessions with Blacker Yarns (a lot of discussion around the ethics of wool), and New Leaf Yarns (their origin story, and a meet-and-greet with their range of yarns), prizes, cake, a chance to buy yarn, and lots of coffee and knitting. I’d cast on my Blacker PodKAL project (Stephen West’s Dustland Legwarmers in the Splosh colourway of Brushwork) on the bus, and by the time I got home I had 2/3 of a legwarmer. Not bad. I couldn’t resist a skein of New Leaf Yarns Alpaca/BFL/Teeswater blend, and then couldn’t resist casting on a Rattan shawl. I think my other WIPs are going to languish a bit this week. All in all, a fun day, and a real privilege to be able to celebrate 100 episodes of KnitBritish with Louise.

From the Mailbag

It was pretentious book week:

Odds and Sods

  • The Tyrant Tyrant referred to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as “the statue shop with lots of stairs” and I giggle every time I think about it (obvs I’m very proud that she’s asked to go there again).
  • I’ve been made to watch a lot of Trollhunters this week. It’s good enough that I may have to rewatch it in my own time.
  • I’m reading Shirley, and it is doing nothing to dispel my feeling that Charlotte was the dullest and most overrated of the Brontës.

Upcoming

I have a tutorial next weekend, so I need to get my head down and study. I expect to make good progress with my Rattan shawl, and may feel the need to talk to you about socks. I make no promises.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #14

No ‘Turner in January’ For Me

I was hoping to talk a bit about the annual Turner exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland, but the bus was running early today, and for once I was running to time, not absurdly early, so I missed it. January is shaping up to get busy from this next week, so I doubt I’ll get to the exhibition now, but I definitely recommend taking the opportunity to see some of Turner’s lesser known, and beautifully preserved, works if you can get into Edinburgh. Take a look at the National Galleries website for more info and to learn about the bequest that made it all possible.

WIPs and FOs

Q2 Good Intentions: I’m knitting a row or two each day just to keep it in hand, and expect to do a longer burst once I finish my other sweater.

Threipmuir: I’ve been knitting this while watching TV and, inevitably, made a mistake. Except that I can’t figure out where – I’ve knitted the round correctly, but I’m a stitch short. I don’t seem to have dropped one in this round, so I wonder if I’ve missed an increase on the previous round. I’ve set it aside til TT starts back at nursery so that I can examine it in daylight, and without interruption. I have almost finished the colourwork, after which it’ll be a much quicker knit, so I’m not too frustrated over losing a couple of days.

One for the Books: Time off from Threipmuir means that I’m finishing my Strickplaner cover today. It’s been a fascinating little masterclass in using decreases and increases to create structure, and I’ll be excited to see it in use.

From the Mailbag

I’ve had a few parcels of yarn this week (some one-off colours from Old Maiden Aunt, and some more yarn in Easyknits toxic-spill colourway for an idea that’s brewing), and some final Christmas books that I need to fit in around my Reading Challenge.

Odds and Sods

  • I stayed up far too late last night watching series 2 of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. It was a little easier to figure out the ending this time, though I’m not sure if that’s down to my familiarity with the storytelling of the show, or the fact that it’s a linear story this time.
  • I just tried Taylor’s of Harrogate Rare Blossom Ethiopia coffee and it’s delicious. Also Fairtrade certified.
  • I’ve managed to get back to my 06:00 morning starts, having abandoned them at the height of the plague month because my body needed all the sleep. Pleased to say it didn’t feel like a struggle to get back into the habit.

Upcoming

The Tiny Tyrant goes back to nursery this week, so I will need to allow for her being exhausted. This is also the week when I need to ease back into my study routine. On Saturday it’s the KnitBritish 100th episode ‘drink; eat; chat; knit’ or #KB100DECK for which I am very excited, and the Blacker PodKAL cast on is the same day, so I expect to start at least one new knit this week.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Books · Reading Challenge

A New Challenge

My past reading challenges have mainly served to instil good habits: to read more new books rather than re-reading old ones, and to make the effort to seek out varied voices. So far, so successful. However, as I reached the end of 2017, I realised that because my challenge had been unstructured – deliberately, so that I wasn’t bound to a list of ‘diverse reads’ curated by someone else, and had to do some work myself – it had become a source of stress. In hindsight I should have set the goal of reading a few books a month toward my challenge, and trusted that, as I discovered new authors, the actual number read would exceed my target.

When I began thinking about 2018, I knew that I wanted to read far more Victorian novels (my enduring love) than I’d managed to fit into 2017. I toyed with the the idea of a year of reading Victorian women: the novels I’d yet to tackle by the more famous authors, and a chance to unearth some of the lesser known (though popular in their time) authors. I was also quite taken with the idea of picking a theme, and reading around it: a novel or two and some secondary reading, but at the leisurely pace an English degree never quite allows.

I was still mulling over how to meld my two ideas when the New Year arrived, and I began Gaskell’s North and South anyway, confident that it would fit whatever challenge I ended up with. Then: serendipity. I noticed Penguin’s Read The Year challenge on Instagram, and January’s prompt fit North and South perfectly. I realised that many of the other prompts would work with Victorian authors, or allow me to read other Classics on my TBR lists. I had found a structure, and from the one book that fit the prompt I could devise secondary reading where interested. Or not, if I decided that the book was a dud.

I’ve begun plotting what I’ll read for the remaining prompts, drawing where I can on books I already own or know I can source from the library. I then plan to write a short review of each book, and some information on my other reading around it, for the blog each month – mostly in the interests of accountability.

I’ve also set myself a goal on Goodreads again this year. I was pleased to beat my target of 104 (2 books a week) last year, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I think I’ve found my level at just over 100 books a year, and circumstances won’t be different enough to warrant stretching myself in 2018.

So there you have my plan. Do let me know if you’re doing Penguin’s Read The Year Challenge (or any others) as it would be interesting to compare notes on what we hope to read.

Expect the first update at the end of the month.

Knitting

Good Intentions Club Q2

My good intentions knit for Quarter 2 of this challenge uses some of the oldest yarn in my stash. This Wendy Merino DK in the Spice colourway was originally intended for a different sweater, back in 2013, which I’ve since fallen out of love with. I still like the colour, and, since sweater quantities of yarn take up a lot of space, I wanted to make use of this.

The pattern, Tiptoe by Louisa Harding, was on sale, and probably bought to push my order total into free postage territory. I like the sleeveless style, but have been put off by the fact that it’s worked flat and requires seaming. When I realised that it would be a decent match for the Wendy Merino, I sat and spent some time figuring out how I would knit it in the round. Luckily, it’s a simple lace repeat, separated by stocking stitch panels, and the shaping works in the round. At the armholes I’ll separate and work the sweater according to the original pattern. I may look at options to bind off the shoulder seams that avoid sewing though.

I’ve cast on, knit the garter edging, and set up the lace pattern. I know I’m terrible at keeping count for lace, so I’ve gone a bit crazy with the stitch markers. I’d already cast on the Threipmuir sweater from the pattern I was gifted in the KnitBritish Small Gestures swap, so I’m expecting to work on this at a more leisurely pace than the Q1 knit. I do have 3 months after all. 😄

Polymath Enthusiasms · Reading Challenge

Odds & (Week)ends #13

As you’ve probably guessed, I succumbed to illness, and deadlines, and Christmas craziness, and let the blogging lapse. I decided I’d finish off the year with a little look back at some of the things I’ve enjoyed.

Knitting

I’m proud of having pushed myself to learn new techniques in 2017, and very aware that I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from some clear and expert patterns.

Clockwise from top left: Studies in Ice (Beatrice Perron Dahlen), accessories from The Simple Collection (Tin Can Knits), Selfoss slippers (Anne Curry), Bousta Beanie (Gudrun Johnston for Shetland Wool Week), Hitchhiker (Martina Behm), Cirro (Woolly Wormhead).

Books, Books, Books

I’ve read 127 books in 2017, though I’m speed-reading Sapiens (because it’s due back in a couple of days) so I might just sneak another in.

I think Goodreads were a little premature with their roundup.

According to Audible, I also accumulated a respectable number of minutes on audiobooks in 2017:

I have no idea what the deal is with Thursdays.

Total minutes are likely to go up in 2018, as the KnitBritish podcast is going monthly, and I’m all caught up on past episodes, so will have more time for audiobooks.

So far as the Reading Challenge goes, I read a total of 56 diverse books – which works out at slightly more than 1 book by a BAME/female/LGBT/non-Western author (or some combination of those categories) a week. This was just short of 50% of the total number of books I read, and covered both fiction and non-fiction. Particular highlights were Roshani Chokshi’s folklore-inspired Fantasy novels, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series (which I need to finish in 2018), David Olusoga’s Black and British, and the fabulous Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

A little taste of the books I’ve read, loved, borrowed, hated, purchased, and loaned out this year.

Out and About

It would be easy to focus on how much time I spent being ill this year, but I also got to do some fun things, read some great books, play fun games, and drink a lot of coffee.

Six of the nine experiences pictured involved leaving the house 👍

Odds and Sods

  • I made it to the cinema for the first time in 3 years to see Thor: Ragnarok. I’m now counting down the days til I can download it, and then watch it over and over til I explode from laughing.
  • I finally got the sewing machine out and made some new floor cushion covers. It took 2 hours to sew 8 seams, and I had to fight the machine the whole way. Fun times.
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was my favourite show this year, and I’m torn between excitement for the new series in Jan, and disappointment that it’s supposedly the last one.

Upcoming

I have big knitting plans for 2018: a year of socks, garment knitting, the Good Intentions Club, and the Darning Masterclass at EYF. I’m also signed up to a couple of different yarn and pattern clubs. My 2017 Reading Challenge was good, but a little vague, so I’m simplifying things for 2018 (details to follow), in the hope of also demolishing my ever-increasing TBR pile. All of which I expect to share with you on here.

Take care, and I’ll see you on the other side.