2020 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I passed the test! Come see...

Yay!   I broke through my funk last weekend and finished the test crochet of the Sail Scarf I've been working on this month.  I had been calling it a sail shawl, but it's much too small to be a shawl - I think even for the tiniest person.  This is a long sail-shaped triangle that can be styled in any number of ways.  Here are just a few I came up with:

Except for loosely tied (above), it will probably require a pin to keep it on as it's so fly-away light. 

The yarn I used is Loops & Threads Woolike (fingering weight) in the colors Denim Blue and Charcoal. If I were to do this again, I'd reverse the order of the colors.  The widest end of the scarf is the most prominent, and I would have preferred to have that be blue now that I see it finished.  But there are all sorts of ways to wear it to get the blue to show so I'm happy enough.

I've heard some mixed reviews on Loops & Thread worsted weight acrylic, but there seems to be a fairly universal appreciation for this fingering weight acrylic yarn.  It is soft and easy to handle.  My favorite way to use it is to double it and make a squishier and loftier fabric - I've made a number of thicker winter scarves with it, but I wouldn't hesitate to use it again on a lightweight scarf or lacy summer shawl.  My only complaint about this yarn is that I wish it came in cleverer colors, but even more than that I wish it came in heathers.   If they expanded their colors and/or made this in heathered colors I'd be over the moon in love with it. As is, I can't recommend it enough.  In my opinion...anyone who has uses for a fingering weight acrylic yarn needs to at least sample this.

To my knowledge Woolike is only available at Michaels and unfortunately they never seem have it in stock on-line, and when they do they require it be purchased in bundles of three.  So, if you want to try it out, visit your local Michael's store.  It costs 2.99 for a 3.5 oz skein of 678 yards!  Seriously...I don't know how they make money on this yarn.  Use a 40% off coupon and it's almost embarrassing how inexpensive this yarn is.

Well, enough of my going on and on about Woolike yarn.  While I have permission to post pictures, I'm thinking I can't really share any other details about the shawl.  Hopefully the pattern will be posted to Ravelry soon.  I will link to it then. 

Now, if no one minds me indulging...I couldn't seem to stop taking pictures:

Can you tell how happy I am to be done with this?!?  And I'm actually pretty pleased with the scarf.  Can't ask for any more than that!

Check out the weekly progress of other YOPers on Ravelry.  Seeing what the other Year of Projects participants are up to is a great way to start a new week!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yarn Along With My Test Crochet Sail Shawl...

Yay!   Only three more rows and I'm blocking this baby!   I hit the wall over the weekend - not wanting to touch this thing, but after much gnashing of teeth and just sitting myself down to finish it I got over my slump.   Weaving in all the ends yesterday helped greatly, too.  There is little that is more demotivating to me than to know I have to weave in all the dangly ends when I'm finally finished crocheting something.  I'd been reluctant to weave them in earlier because of the concern that a problem in the pattern would be revealed.  But trusting I was finally past that likelihood I weaved them in with abandon yesterday!

This is just a peek of the nearly finished Sail Shawl.   I'll be blocking it today and by Sunday I'll plan to post a picture in my weekly Year of Projects post. 

I'm reading I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.  I was intrigued by the positive reviews, but about 50 pages in I was ready to give up.  This is a YA fiction, so I shouldn't have been surprised that the voice of the book is an angsty 19 year-old male.   I don't do teenage angst anymore.  Certainly not fictional teenage angst.  It's also written in an English voice - as in UK (or actually, I guess, Australian) vernacular.  This kept throwing me when odd sounding expressions were used because I didn't realize it took place in Australia (I've read this online, I haven't come across this in the book - so far).  Maybe if you've read Zusak before you'd have a clue about that.  But I hadn't and I didn't.   When I finally caught on and embraced that the location was somewhere in some UK-like English (now I know Australian-English) speaking place, the voice of the young person it was written in made complete sense and it didn't irritate me anymore.  I'm tempted to go back and read the beginning with this new perspective.  But I'm not going to.  Like my shawl, ultimately I want to be finished and move onto something new.

But I'm happy to say by the time I turned the 100th page I was hooked.  Well, actually, it was something like the 55th page I'd turned, but...well...that doesn't sound as...I don't know...dramatic?  By page 100 of the story, not only am I okay with the voice, I'm even accepting the angst.  And now I'm wanting to finish the book and see how the mystery resolves.  I can't say, yet, how much I'll recommend the book, but it feels so much better to be wanting to pick it up to finish it as opposed to entertaining the thought of flinging it across the room in irritated exasperation.

'Till next week's Yarn Along...check out what other yarn lovers are making and reading by clicking the Yarn Along button below. 


Monday, August 24, 2015

I give up...

I ain't got nuthin'.

Actually, I'm still trying to finish the test crochet I showed progress on last week, but as I'm nearing the end of that, I'm sort of burning out.  As the pattern has emerged I'm realizing I'm not thrilled with the color sequence I decided to work this scarf in, but I'm committed to finishing it as is. 

And I so want to be done with it.  I wanted to be done yesterday, but it was our wedding anniversary (35th to be exact) and well...except for a few rows I just wasn't in the mood to crochet a scarf I'm sort of feeling burned out on.

Please nobody tell on me (not that I expect that to be much of a temptation to anyone), but I actually spent my weekend mostly playing hooky from crocheting by cleaning.  It wasn't my intention.  It's just that feeling a little less than enthusiastic about the crocheting, house cleaning (specifically window cleaning) sounded like more fun...   Well, that, and it was our anniversary weekend.  So other than cleaning, we had church on Sunday morning and then a very nice anniversary dinner out.  And then we vegged.  It was a great weekend!

And now, here it is - Monday.  And it feels like it's a paid (though not-paid) work day, I feel like I need to get back to this scarf.  I started out loving test crocheting this scarf.  Really, I was excited once it got going.  And I still think it's a pretty scarf.   And I'm not exactly not loving test crocheting it, but I have discovered yet again that once I've committed myself to something I inevitably lose some interest in it.  What's up with this?  Is it a character flaw?  Or is this a normal thing for most people?  Those are rhetorical questions and only those who know exactly what I'm talking about are given permission to answer.  IOW, I don't want to hear from those who never have a problem keeping their enthusiasm over a commitment.  Your perky pleasure at barreling through a project will be wasted on me in this frame of mind.

This "character flaw" is one of the reasons I don't join things like book clubs.  Or reading challenges.  It's why I'm cautious about joining a CAL, and why I'm extremely reluctant to crochet on commission.  I'll be all excited about doing the thing, but at some point I'll see the other pretty things I want to make, or another book I want to read, and suddenly I'm less than emotivated to finish the thing I HAVE to do.


So that's where I'm at.  I'm finally giving up on the idea of posting a "see how productive I've been" sort of post for this week's YOP.   And I'm just laying myself out there.  This is part of the process, afterall, right?  Coming to grips with the highs and lows of making wonderful things.

And you know... Actually, getting this out will probably be just the thing I need to get my test crochet mojo back.  I'll probably knock that thing out later today and get it blocked tomorrow.  Then again, now that I've written that, I've possibly jinxed myself.  But saying I've jinxed myself might help me to feel like I can sneak and finishing this thing - like on the sly 'cause no one will actually expect me to finish it quickly now.  But now that I've admitted that...   Oh good grief.

What's wrong with me?!? 

Don't answer that.  If you followed my train of thought above, I love you!  You get me!  You know there's nothing (deeply) wrong with me.  I'm just owning it.  And if you're completely honest, you probably feel a little relieved that I'm admitting it.

If you don't follow my train of thought or understand my plight, well...I love you anyway.  For sticking with me all the way to here.  You're a good Joe (or Josephine, as the shoe more likely fits).

While I trust you to keep my secret, I do know I've likely doomed my chances at any of you reading this ever taking me up on testing your upcoming designs.  It's okay, really.  If you find me asking on Ravelry or elsewhere to test your design feel free to remind me of this post.  I may beg and cry and plead, but I will totally understand if you take a pass on me. 

In the meantime...it's back to my test crocheting.   Actually, no.  No.  That's not right.   I'm going to continue playing hooky (said she as she sneakily picked up her crochet hook).    Grrr....Now that they're on to me I might as well as go read a book! 

Smiley Faces 

Doo dee doo dee doo...  Now where did I put that test crochet project?



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Feeling So Exposed....

After noticing on Ginny Sheller's Small Things blog that Ginny recommends Bryan Peterson's book Understanding Exposure, and having loved Ginny's pictures since I first discovered her blog, I decided to look into this book.  Fortunately, my library has a copy so I can check it out and see how helpful it might be before deciding to buy it.  

It just came in over the weekend, so this evening I opened it up to see what I can learn about picture taking.  Understanding my camera and taking better pictures are two of my goals on my Year of Projects list, so this is a perfect post this week.


Peterson starts off explaining in a very cursory fashion the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (sensitivity to light).  He calls these the "photographic triangle".   It will take a whole lot more practice, and continued reading to truly understand how these three things work together, but within the first few pages of Understanding Exposure, Peterson helped me take better pictures by paying attention to these three things. And I'm pretty pumped about it.

The time I began taking the pictures below was around 8:00 p.m.  It was not dark outside, but the pictures were taken in the shade (as he directed) and the ambient light was diminishing by the minute.  I was limited in my subject matter, but hopefully I'll be able to show and explain what I did to get the different shots. None of the pictures have been edited except, perhaps for some minor cropping.  The camera that I'm using is a 6 year-old Nikon D5000.

The first thing Peterson has you do is turn your camera on Manual and set your aperture to f/5.6 and change the shutter speed so that the light meter indicates a "correct exposure".  Here I had to consult the camera's owner's manual and even then it took some playing around to figure out exactly which buttons and dials made these changes and, even then, I was still guessing on how to read the exposure meter.  I will say...the owner's manual is not for the uninitiated.  A facility with the language of cameras is necessary to fully understand what the manual tries to explain, but I was able to make a bit of headway.

With my new and limited knowledge of which button to push and which dial to turn I headed out to my zinnia patch - just outside my dining room doors.

Aside from this not being perfectly focused, this picture doesn't look too bad:

The aperture is f/5.6 and I have no idea what the shutter speed is.   One thing at a time...

After turning the shutter speed dial until the exposure meter rested on 0, I got this picture:

Whoa!  Much better!   

I may be easy to entertain, but this got exciting pretty quickly.  I don't pretend to fully understand what I'm doing, but by purposefully selecting the aperture setting, and selecting a shutter speed that the exposure meter indicated would get a better picture...I got a better picture!   I'm a bit embarrassed to be admitting that this is the first time I've done this with any intentionality, but... well...there you have it.

And then I played around with another flower a bit.  Again, I'm just changing the shutter speed with each one.  This first one is taken with the exposure meter set on 0 (again, I think this is supposed to be the "correct exposure"):

Not bad, but thinking this was a little too light and bright, I changed the shutter speed and took another.  And then did that again several times.  Seeing the brightness level going darker and then lighter again, I can tell I wasn't being methodical about this experiment.  I can't tell for sure when I went up or down in shutter speed on which pictures, but the important thing to me (at the moment) is that I learned that I can affect this change. Pretty instantly.  Peterson says this is empowering. And he's right!  Let's see what I got:
While the changes in the above four pictures didn't result in dramatic differences, I will say I prefer any of them to the first one.  It's great to know that I can change the brightness of a picture so easily by changing the shutter speed. Again, almost instantly.
The other thing Peterson touches on very early is how to change the aperture setting so that there is a wider range of focus in the picture being taken.  This has always mystified me.  I confess (again)... I still do not understand the how or why behind this, but getting a picture where everything is equally focused appears to be as simple as changing the aperture.  By shrinking the aperture, more of the picture comes into focus.  Understanding that will be for another day.  Seeing and believing it, though happened tonight.
Here's what I'm talking about...     This is how pictures of mine normally turn out:
The items that are closest are in focus.  Everything else is blurry by comparison.
But by changing the aperture (making it smaller),  more comes into focus:
Perhaps not perfectly focused, but all the flowers (in the foreground as well as in the back) are pretty equally focused.
This is so exciting!  With such simple and small changes I can already see how I will be able to improve my picture taking.   I don't know that I'll post to this degree about future learning experiences with my camera (or maybe I will - who knows?), but I do look forward to (hopefully) posting continually improving pictures here.

And before I close this post, I will leave a progress picture of my test crochet project.  It was about 9:00 p.m. and with no lamps on in the room, I opened a shade to get what little ambient light there might be left in the sky.  By using my new found knowledge of aperture settings and shutter speeds I got a pretty decent picture (with accurate colors, no less):
I called the husband up to see what I took.  He looked at the scarf sitting in very little light on the table beside the window.  And then he looked at the picture on the camera.  And he asked with awe in his voice, "How did you do that?" 
And that just might have been the most satisfying thing of all.   

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Yarn Along...

I really enjoy Ginny's weekly Yarn Along - where yarn-lovers are invited to share a single picture of what they're creating and reading.  I enjoy the Yarn Along posts almost as much as I enjoy crocheting and reading

I'm flying right along on a test crochet project.  It's going to be an asymmetrical wrap-around shawl in the shape of a sail.   I'm doing mine in lace-weight Woolike (in the colors, Denim and Charcoal).  This yarn is so soft and easy to work with, and well...for such an inexpensive yarn it's just amazing.  And you can buy it at Michaels - the only place you can buy it, I believe.

Having finished Orphan Train (which I highly recommend - for its historical account as well as its captivating story), I decided I needed something that will lift my spirits and make me laugh.  The Secret's in the Sauce is the 1st installment of the 2nd series of the Potluck Club books.  Five (or is it 6 or 7? -  I can't remember how many...someone's always being added to the story) Christian ladies gather weekly for a potluck and entertain the reader with their antics, their struggles and their triumphs.  Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson hit upon a great recipe (pun totally intended) for a series of on-going stories with the Potluck Club.  With this second series, the club has decided to try its hand at a catering business. Given their track record, I suspect it's going to be a success.

Please feel free to leave a comment below.  I love knowing who stopped by.  Extra credit awarded to anyone who spots the mistake (the thing that shouldn't be) in the picture above.   And tell me true - did you see it before I mentioned it?  I didn't notice until it was too late.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Testing. Testing. 1...2...3... (Testing a crochet project this week)

Very spontaneously last week I volunteered to be a test crocheter for a pretty and unique scarf that hasn't yet gone public.  Actually several of us on Ravelry pestered encouraged the creator of the scarf to write the pattern and offered ourselves as testers, and she took us up on it!  I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was excited to do this thing.  (Once the pattern goes public I will identify the designer - and provide a link to how you can get the pattern if you're interested.)

So... the designer began transferring her personal notes into a pattern for public consumption and then shared it with us.  And thus began the testing process.

I'm enjoying doing this - honored, actually.  But it is work.  Of course, there are starts and stops and head scratchings and communications about what we're confused about, possibly a little mind-reading on everyone's parts, ripping out on the crocheters' parts, edits and re-edits on the designer's part...and eventually, the hope is that we've helped the designer refine a pattern into something that anyone can read and will love making.  No small feat.  But a rewarding one.

And it makes me appreciate something I had taken completely for granted before now - how a knitted or crocheted item grows from an idea to something you and I can easily create.  I'm still mystified and in awe over how a person actual goes from conceiving a crochet (or knit) item to writing a pattern - that, frankly, looks like something akin to short-hand instructions for how to attach a severed limb....

Ch 2. 1 hdc in first hdc – inc made. *1 hdc in back loop of next hdc. 1 hdc in front loop of next hdc. Rep from * to last 2 sts. 1 hdc in back loop of next hdc. 2 hdc in top of turning ch – inc made. Turn.  (This, by the way, is not from the test pattern I'm working on).

And that's easy crocheting.  I am just happy to be able to understand crochet code, and am content for now to be a tester. A cog in the design wheel, so to speak.

The picture below shows all the further I've gotten, but this has taken about 2 1/2 hours (over the course of the weekend).  I'm doing this shawl in a lace-weight yarn, and it's going to be hours more before I'm done.

At the moment, I'm at a standstill until I hear back from the designer - I think I've found a mistake.  Not a mistake in the design, but a mistake in the written pattern.  While I want nothing more than to get back to crocheting it, I can't deny there's a bit of satisfaction in feeling like I've uncovered something very important.  Not the secret to world peace, or anything like that, I know... but something that will make both the designer happy and any future crocheters of this pattern happy.  I feel like a partner, in some sense, in a private backstage world that had previously been a complete mystery to me.  After all, it's the little, private and unseen things that make the world go 'round, don'tcha know?

Over the weekend whenever there were stops in the test-crocheting, and frankly, I needed a break from studying and deciphering the first draft of the written scarf pattern, I turned to some simple dishcloth crocheting.  I played around with my remnants of cotton yarn and produced these fun cloths:

Aaaahhh...   A little happy instant gratification for the tired crochet soul.

Looking forward to now seeing what other YOP5ers are up to this week.  I hear we have some new YOPers!  Yippee!

If the link above does not work for you, it's because you're either not a Ravelry member, or not signed in.  If you'd like to get a taste for what other YOPers (my term, that they may just be rolling their eyes over - lol), click on the names of the posters in the comments below.  Chances are, they are part of the 2015-16 Year or Projects Blogging challenge, too.  If you like what you see, feel free to join us!

And whether or not you're a part of YOP5 or a member of Ravelry, please leave a comment below yourself!   I love seeing that you came by, and being able to explore your blog in return.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Yarn Along...

Reading and crocheting...two of my favorite things.  I'm enjoying the simple pattern of this Crescent Shawl

Unfortunately, though, I have an uncomfortable feeling I need to frog it and start over. As is, it's going to be too small and I'm not seeing that my attempts at increasing its size are helping significantly.    So...like a good crocheter I decided to make a swatch.  Nevermind that I should have done that before beginning to crochet.  Details, details...  I'm doing it now and that's the important thing.  Live and learn.  Always learning...

This swatch of 16 stitches across and 12 rows high is supposed to be 3 inches square.  Well, it's neither 3 inches wide, nor square, so no wonder my shawl is turning out small.  I'm planning on starting over with a larger hook and making the beginning row longer.  I've never made a crescent shawl before so this is a bit of an experiment, but I've crocheted enough of this one that I have a pretty good feeling that these modifications will work. I have nothing to lose, anyway, and I will post here when I've made progress on my do-over attempt. 

I'm just about finished with Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.  This historical fiction tells the story of one of America's strange social experiments.  From 1853 - into the 1920's children on the east coast who had been orphaned or otherwise abandoned were loaded onto trains to travel hundreds of miles to the Midwest - perhaps further - where they were placed with families whose only qualifications to take these children were that they showed up and filled out the paperwork.  While some children's lives were most assuredly saved through this endeavor, many children were undoubtedly abused and suffered greatly - on top of whatever traumas that had left them homeless to begin with.

In this book you will see the experience through the eyes of young Niamh, a girl who, within 2 years of landing in America from Ireland, lost her family and everything she held dear, and without ceremony was boarded onto a train headed for Minnesota.  There is good and bad in the pages of this story, and one is reminded how strong the human spirit can be.  It is a captivating read and one I recommend.

Check out Ginny's Small Things Yarn Along to see what other yarnies are making and reading.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Crescent Lace Shawl

Early this spring I bought my first copy of Love of Crochet Magazine.  I enjoyed browsing through it, but nothing in particular struck my fancy - until I took a closer look at the Crescent Lace Shawl pattern last week.  I've been wanting to make a shawl, but am not in the mood to make a heavy one.  The suggested yarn for this is Knit Picks Curio cotton thread (which looks lovely, and is priced very reasonably), but I decided to go looking in my stash to see what I might already have that ought to work.


I found this nice shade of lavender in Loops & Threads Woolike in my stash.   And I should have enough.  This is an acrylic thread that is sooooft.  I've doubled it to make scarves and they are almost luxuriously soft.

I really need to enlarge this pattern, but I'm wondering if I should have begun doing so before now.   I'm at row 19 now and the pattern makes 50 rows before the lace trim.    I'm not opposed to ripping it back, but if I don't need to...well, I'd love that.

Anyone have a thought about when to begin enlarging?  Should I have begun it before now?  Or ought I be able to begin increasing this shawl gradually at this point?  It's also likely that I'll make this longer than 50 rows.   I'm thinking I'll possibly do somewhere between 60-70 rows.   I've checked some other projects made of this pattern and I think I'll like it better a tad longer than the pattern is likely to make it.  Any thoughts about widening and lengthening are welcome since I will be winging this.

I've finished crocheting the Starling Bag.  Yippee!  And I picked out this fabric for the lining:

My momentum has slowed down for the time being, but I'll be sure to post a picture when I get this bag finished.  Posting this pic keeps me accountable in some fashion.

We're supposed to get another shower tonight (which is oddly comforting - it's almost strange when we have a day without rain here in Indiana this summer).  And then it looks like some beautiful temps later in the week.  The thought of which has me looking forward to doing some weeding and seeing if I can't bring some love and assistance to the pretty, if pitiful few, flowers I have in my back yard.

Happy August!