Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Thoughtful Shawl Project: Shawl Six



Shawl Six: Brush Creek Shawl by Carina Spencer


It's time for another Thoughtful Shawl post!

Shawl six is this absolutely beautiful shawl by Carina Spencer that I knitted back in 2015.

This shawl is a definite keeper. It's made of two of my absolutely favourite yarns and I love the elegant, light lace of the design. 

The soft grey with flecks of pink, yellow and blue is Confetti on The Uncommon Thread's tough sock. I've been in love with this colourway for years now, and this is actually the second skein of it that I bought (I now have a third in my stash - waiting for the perfect project). The deep blueish grey at the top is Old Maiden Aunt's Selkie on her cashmere/merino/nylon base. This is another yarn that I've bought multiple times - I love the subtle colours and soft blending. Finally the third yarn is a ball of Lang Yarns Jawoll that I picked up from The Yarn Cake in Glasgow. 

I love this shawl, it's full of favourites and special memories and I know that I could never lose in from my collection.

The only problem I have is that it's a smidge on the small side - so it tends to be a Spring/Summer only shawl - but I think that a heavy block might open up the lace and add a little width. 

I'm going to give it a nice long soak and give it a big old stretch to ensure I give this little shawl the love and wear it deserves. 



What is the Thoughtful Shawl Project?

I saw a post by Jennie of tinypaperfoxes about her 39 shawls project, it sparked something inside of me.

Like Jennie, I have an absolute wealth of shawls, but wear the same ones regularly which means that I own unloved, neglected shawls, just like Jennie.

The Thoughtful Shawl Project is my journey to reassess and explore my shawl collection and decide whether to frog, donate or keep. 

You can read the whole post about the project here: The Thoughtful Shawl Project or you can browse the other blog posts about shawls here: Previous Thoughtful Shawl Project Posts.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Book Review: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red ShoesThe Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ruth Hogan's second novel has lost none of the charm and wit of her hugely popular debut The Keeper Of Lost Things.

This novel takes a slightly darker turn than her debut and is self-informed by the author's own battles with cancer. That's not to say this is a dark book, it's not. It deals with death, loss and grief with the wonderful wit, warmth and wonder first experienced in The Keeper Of Lost Things.

The story follows lead character Masha, and secondary character Alice. Both women are well fleshed out, with quirks and flaws that make them both real and endearing. I found myself both laughing and crying along with Masha, a complicated but deeply likeable woman dealing with the loss of her son.

What I liked the most about this book is that while there IS a romance, it's certainly secondary to the friendships and bonds that Masha and Alice have with other people in their life.

It's an extraordinary novel, full of gentle wisdom and joy even while following Masha and Alice through dark and troubling periods in their lives. There's such pleasure in watching Masha learn to live with her grief and blossom through the connections she makes.

Ruth Hogan is a skilled writer, and I think her personal experiences have really fed into this book. You can feel the heart and love and overall the hope.

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Friday, 1 June 2018

Book Review: Siena

Siena (The Forestfolk Series, #1)Siena by Zoe Blessing
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Zoe Blessing's debut of the Forestfolk series features a gorgeously imagined world populated with tribes and 'aberrations', people blessed with gifts out of the ordinary. Right from the beginning the story is a slow burner, but it never feels extraneous or meandering, instead it feels very much like the book is designed to world build in preparation for further books in the series. It also spends a large portion of time introducing the important characters in Siena's world, leaving each character well fleshed out and very real.

That's not to say that the story is aimless or boring, it has a strong thread throughout and I really enjoyed the pacing. Siena is an unusual main character for a fantasy novel, her strengths lay with gentleness, kindness and understanding rather than the sassy heroine or battleworn hero usually preferred by this genre. She was never written as being weak despite lacking physical strength.and I like that she was a multilayered character with more to offer than good swordskills and a sharp tongue.

My only criticism is that the book seemed perhaps pitched to a younger audience than most YA novels, and as such lacked a little depth. Relationships were formed almost instantly, battles were over quickly, Siena found a place easily. I would have preferred just a little more conflict and counterbalance to everything being so wholesome.

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Finished Object: Don the Golden Retriever

There hasn't really been much knitting news on this blog lately, and that's really not for a want of trying. I have a pile of tube socks mounting up that desperately need heels putting in, and every time I trawl Ravelry for a new and exciting sock or shawl pattern I can feel their judgemental glare.

So, while there is no finished object for knitting...there is a crochet object! To say I'm stunned is an understatement.  I think it might be time to add a crochet section to this blog! I'm both gobsmacked and proud of how I'm doing with my crochet lately.

Even just a year ago the thought of picking up a hook broke me out in a cold sweat. I couldn't even manage a straight chain stitch. My hands seemed too big, too clumsy and too...handy. But, never one to give up I decided to try again when my lovely friend Adam decided to try and pick up the hook.

He picked up a kit to make a bunny, and I browsed Toft's pattern selections. I settled on a bunny too and bought the pattern to make Emma the Bunny.

I'm digressing a lot, so let's just say Emma wasn't incredibly successful (I can't account for yarn for crochet the same way I can for knitting so she is sadly a headless rabbit). Adam gave up, and ended up sending the bunny kit to me so I could finish it for him.

But, something amazing did happen. Crochet clicked for me. It didn't seem overcomplicated or stressful anymore. Instead I found the process soothing and fun.

Fast forward a bit of time and I picked up the Toft advent calendar, the idea was to crochet a little bit of a mystery animal a day at a time in the run-up to Christmas.

This also wasn't the most successful endeavour, I found the loop stitch horrendously difficult as a beginner crochet wrangler. But I mustered the courage to flump my way through it somehow. But as a sidenote, never try and learn a tricky crochet stitch in the run-up to Christmas. It's horrible and stressful during an already stressful time. I think a million Quality Street were eaten and there may have been some whisky consumption to soothe my frayed nerves.

BUT, these struggles are why I'm so proud to show you my finished object. Please meet Don the Golden Retriever.


See his fluffy little chest? Those feathery legs? That magnificent swoopy tail? ALL loop stitch. To say I'm proud is an understatement.

Once again, the power of the click happened, and my struggles with Gloria the Christmas red panda paid off. I can now loop stitch without stuffing a million toffee pennies into my mouth between each loop. Toft yarn is absolutely gorgeous to work with, and I love the natural colour scheme. The pattern was also wonderful, and I can't wait to work on more puppies from Edward’s Menagerie: Dogs.

The only struggle I had with Don was sewing his face, I must have ripped out and sewn that nose 7 times (no exaggeration!), it was rough. So, I'd love to see a video from Toft covering facial features. Especially for the dogs where the face adds a lot of character to the animal.

But, here he is. Finished and making me glow with pride. Don!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Book Review: Every Day

Every Day (Every Day, #1)Every Day by David Levithan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

David Levithan's YA fantasy-romance is a difficult book to review for me. I chose to read it because the concept really interested to me. With the topic of gender identity and sexuality so high on everyone's radar currently it seemed like a timely read. And on the surface, it deals with the topic well - there's never any doubts in A's mind as to whether what they are doing is incorrect or wrong - they just act in a way that seems natural to them. I found that incredibly refreshing, and can imagine that this book would be useful to anyone feeling in flux with their gender or sexuality.

The moral of the story seems to be acceptance and love - no matter your gender or sexuality. However the strength of Every Day also seems to be it's failing. I have noted a number of reviews criticising how judgemental A is when they are discussing the bodies that they are inhabiting. I didn't have a problem with that, A is a teenage narrator and as such I would expect certain flaws in their developing personality, and a judgement nature is certainly common in many teens. However I feel like this book tried to tackle too many teen issues in one short book and as such we were handed important issues like depression, substance abuse, obesity and illegal immigration with no real depth behind them. I understand that A only had one day in each of the bodies, but I still feel like they were glossed over a little, leaving it more like a checklist of problems teens deal with rather than story-shaping. So, what could have been an important book for teens exploring gender identity became a little bloated with superficial views on serious issues.

And so we get to the root of why I find this book so problematic - as a light, romantic read it was adequate, good even. I really admire Levithan's unique and magical slant on topical issues, and I still think the concept is a good one, however I feel it could have been handled a little better. The times the book did cover the main issues it did so with sensitivity and warmth, but throwing in the other issues for A to deal with means the book lacked overall emotional depth for me.

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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Book Review: Lost For Words

Lost For WordsLost For Words by Stephanie Butland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stephanie Butland's charming Yorkshire-set romantic-mystery-drama manages to introduce a prickly protagonist, while still making her easy to emphasise with. Loveday Cardew is a difficult, isolated and sharp character, who should be hard to care about, but the strength of her interactions with always lovable Archie, gentlemanly magician Nathan and even the somewhat villainous Rob make it easy to see that there's something deeper in her than just the sharp edges. She's a bold and unusual choice for a main character, and I loved spending time with her.

I also really enjoyed how well Butland conjured up images of beautiful, historic York with it's independent cafes and dusty, but wonderful bookshops, and coastal Whitby with the salt-tang of the air and the hustle and bustle of tourists. As a Yorkshire woman it always makes my heart glad to see books set in my home county, and I'm especially proud of this one.

I found the story so engaging that I just couldn't put the book down and ended up reading it in two days. I found myself feeling the terror, worry and love along with Loveday as the story unfolded.

I can't wait to read more by Butland, and I hope it leaves me as breathless as Lost For Words did.

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Sunday, 22 April 2018

Book Review: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s MurderThe Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found Sarah J. Harris's unconventional mystery a little hard-work to begin with. I didn't slip in Jasper's mindset as much as I would have liked, however this could just be because his point of view is so unique and unusual. However as the story moved on, I found myself really absorbing the colours of Jasper's world, and trying to view things through his eyes. It's certainly an interesting perspective to write a book from, and I really appreciate the innovation.

I enjoyed the mystery unfolding from Jasper's perspective, where he is unable to recognise faces or follow expected social cues - it made me view the story in different ways to how I usually read fiction. I also really enjoyed the little moments where the reader could take the cues, or implied meanings but Jasper missed them.

However I found the last portion of the book a little bit hard to digest, I felt that Harris was trying to turn Bee Larkham into a tragic character that we should sympathise with and feel sorry for. But I don't think that her previous actions should be justified by her past. It felt like the book had spent a long period of time establishing Bee's character, only to try and change it drastically at the end, and it felt forced and rushed to me. Perhaps if there had been more of Bee's history interspersed throughout the rest of the book, it may feel more natural.

However on the whole, the character building was strong, and the addition of colours to characters really added a strong insight. On the whole The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder was a unique and enjoyable read, with a few flaws.

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