Finish-It-Summer Becomes Finish-It-Fall

When the Finish-It-Summer challenge started last May, I wrote my six projects on one side of an index card to help me keep track of them and stay focused. I listed the remaining projects on the WIP Mountain list on the other side of the index card. Finish-It-Summer was a great example of how a little focus goes a long way. The trouble is that I’m still longing to pick up a different project for a while. I haven’t given in yet. In fact, I can happily say that two of the three remaining Finish-It-Summer projects are now finished and ready to enjoy.

Current WIP Mountain Stats

Total WIPs: 12
Travel WIPs: 2
At-home WIPs: 6
Special WIPs: 4

I have two shawls that I’m extremely excited to share. The first is A Walk In Monet’s Garden, which was my road trip knitting when we went to Nebraska for the total solar eclipse in August. Once I started knitting it, I just couldn’t put it down. It was off the needles just a few weeks later.

There are so many amazing colors in this yarn, and I was mesmerized by each stitch and how the colors interacted with each other. I still have a decent partial skein of the Garden colorway that is sure to become something special.

The second shawl is the Serenity shawl, which I can wear proudly after a little over a year of knitting, struggling, un-knitting, and re-knitting. This was my first attempt at knitting lace. This project taught me the hard way that lifelines and stitch markers are absolute lifesavers. It also taught me the importance of putting down the knitting when you’re tired, preventing costly mistakes. The two yarns work really well together and I was able to use just about all of both skeins! I’m so happy with how the shawl turned out. It will be perfect for the chilly winter ahead.


The Serenity shawl is one of the two Finish-It-Summer projects I mentioned earlier. The second project is this golden retriever puppy I’ve been making for a co-worker. I modified the pattern for the head, ears, and neck when my first attempts didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped. I’m very happy with the results, and my co-worker loves him!

What’s Next?

I’m currently focusing on four main projects. The first is Red Roses Too, which is the last of my Finish-It-Summer projects. The second is a scarf for a friend’s cosplay. The last two are surprises that I’ll share on a later date.

The colder weather means it’s blanket season. I’ll be working on my long-overdue Around The Bases CAL occasionally all winter. It was designed for fingering-weight yarn, but I’m using worsted-weight instead. It’s already huge, so it will keep me warm as I work on it.

With Christmas approaching, I also need to finish assembling those cross-stitched ornaments that have been sitting in the to-be-assembled stack for what feels like forever at this point. It would be so nice to enjoy them on the tree this year.

I’m also preparing to attempt NaNoWriMo starting on November 1st. Normally, I start with no outline and make it up as I go. This time, I have the start of an outline to guide me. I’ve got a vague idea of the characters, an idea of the outline, and a bundle of writing prompts related to different lines in the story to keep me going. We’ll find out what happens soon!


(Un)successfully Stashbusting

What knitter doesn’t feel accomplished when they get the chance to do some stashbusting. I like to go one step farther. One of my favorite crafting traditions is running out of yarn before a project is finished. I especially enjoy running out of yarn that has long since been discontinued. This weekend, I celebrated this tradition once more.

One of the four projects I’ve been focusing on this month is still a secret project for the moment, but I can give you a couple hints. It’s a plushie that I’m making it with Bernat Pipsqueak.

I love working with this yarn for plushies and cuddly things. I first used it to make the Fading Waves blanket for a co-worker who welcomed a baby girl into the world in March 2016. That same spring, I decided to make Henrietta because the Vanilla Pipsqueak reminded me of chicken feathers. My cousin Lorri liked the design and asked me to make two more little chickens for some little ones in her life. Most recently, a co-worker asked me to make a ferret for a friend of hers this past winter.

The one downside to crocheting with this yarn is that its fluffiness makes it hard to see the stitches without help. My solution is to keep a paperclip around each stitch. Makes for slower stitching but far fewer opportunities for mistakes.

When I picked out the pattern for my current secret project, I estimated the amount of yarn I’d need because I couldn’t find a specific yardage. I thought the mostly full skein of Pipsqueak in my stash would be just enough for the project. Perfect opportunity for stashbusting, right? Then again, maybe not. I ran out of yarn with just nine rounds to go. Oh well!

Since this is such a great yarn for making plushies, I bought a few some extra skeins for the next time around. As luck would have it, I was even able to find the same dye lot despite buying the previous skein of Pipsqueak several months ago. Maybe I won’t be celebrating my favorite crafting tradition for quite some time.

Stay tuned for another WIP Mountain update in a week or two. I’m hoping to share several finished projects very soon!

So Many Books, So Little Time

This was a fantastic weekend! The Apple Days street market and used book sale were yesterday. This morning, the Faithful Ringers played special music for both services, and I took time to check out the ministry fair between services. All in all, a great weekend!

Except… I’m reminded that I have a serious problem.

That problem is that whenever there’s a book sale, or I’m at a convention that’s even remotely book-related that has an expo hall, or something similar, I will find books to buy and add them to my ever-growing to-read pile. I may read some of them, but it won’t be long until I get distracted while at the library and find another several books that I’d rather read first.

Of course, used book sales are fantastic for so many reasons, including:

  1. Finding great books that you might not have found at a regular bookstore.
  2. Giving used books a new home.
  3. Supporting the Friends of your local library, who volunteer, support library programming, and do all kinds of amazing things.
  4. Waiting in line with other awesome book lovers before the doors to the sale ever open!

Convention expo halls are equally wonderful because you get to support your favorite authors and a local bookstore. So this is really a good problem to have, except that I rarely manage to read the new set of books before I find myself at the next book sale. The to-read pile grows and feels more like clutter with each new book.

I’ve tried to force myself to reduce the to-read pile using the annual Goodreads reading challenge as motivation. This year, I challenged myself to read 100 books because that would have covered everything on my to-read pile as of January and accounted for any major distractions I knew I would have. I might have to scale back my goal next year. The fact is that the pace of reading an entire book every 3-4 days is not always practical, and the reminder that I’m several books behind schedule is just a little discouraging.

I started limiting myself at book sales a couple years ago because the to-read pile was already plenty tall. My goal is not to fill a grocery bag with books for the sake of a bargain. I want to pick out books that I’ll enjoy, or that I think a friend will enjoy. Quality over quantity.

This time around, I found:

Most of these books won’t stay on my shelves forever. I keep the ones that I’ll want to read again. I share everything else with friends or donate them back to the library for the next sale so someone else can enjoy them. The to-read pile will eventually shrink, but not very quickly.

To make up for adding to the clutter that is my to-read pile today, I spent a few hours this afternoon de-cluttering another part of my space. Makes me feel a little bit better about the situation and it needed to be done anyway.

The next used book sale isn’t until March. In theory, I have ample opportunity to read some of the books on the to-read pile and donate them in time for the spring sale. We’ll see what happens.

I’d love to hear what’s next on your to-read list. Please feel free to share!

Celebrating Finish-It-Summer

This summer, I participated in Twisted Loop Yarn Shop‘s Finish-It-Summer event. Participants could enter projects to finish or frog between May 15th and August 25th. We got to celebrate at an after-hours event at the store on the 25th. It was a ton of fun seeing and hearing about the projects everyone made.

I entered a total of 6 projects that I was hoping to finish. They are:

  1. Labyrinth Owl Hat
  2. It’s A Wonderful World
  3. The Pattern Your Way
  4. Golden Retriever Puppy
  5. Serenity
  6. Jingle Bells Baby Hat

I may have signed up for too many projects, but I’m incredibly happy with the progress I made on all six. The Labyrinth Owl Hat, The Pattern Your Way, and the Jingle Bells Baby Hat are all finished. I was also working on a second baby hat using the same pattern but different colors. I couldn’t count it because I cast it on after Finish-It-Summer had started. Still, I’m excited to say that both hats are now completed.

My remaining Finish-It-Summer projects are well on their way to being finished. They are still the main focus, along with a few more projects I’m making for friends. The Golden Retriever Puppy is halfway assembled. I have completed three increase repeats on It’s A Wonderful World. The Serenity shawl is even off the needles and waiting to be blocked.

The party wasn’t just about celebrating our crafting successes. We enjoyed a delicious fruit pizza, cookies, crackers and dip, and several types of tea provided by Kimberly of Steeped Tea. My favorite tea was the apple cider gingerbread matcha tea.

Jenni and the Twisted Loop team picked out some amazingly generous door prizes, including stunning yarns, lovely shawl pins, and a grand prize of a Twisted Loop gift card of undisclosed amount. We were all treated to Stitches In The City drawstring project bags by Della Q that feature the Minneapolis skyline. Inside the bags were mini-skein sets of Mountain Colors Perspectives Crazyfoot. The Paradise colorway in my bag is a beautiful range of sunset colors. The other wonderful door prizes I received include Anzula Meridian in the Rust colorway, Rowan Fine Art in the Tawny colorway, the Brunswick pattern by Mindy Wilkes, the Robin Scarf pattern by Lisa Richardson, and a lovely Foofaraw shawl stick by Lindsay Gates.

We also had the chance to check out some of the new yarns that had just arrived at the Twisted Loop. I found a beautiful skein of Gypsy Girl Creations Transitions in the Pharaoh colorway. It looks so similar to what the sky looked like during the recent total solar eclipse.

Huge thanks to Jenni and Twisted Loop Yarn Shop for hosting this fantastic event and celebration! Events like Finish-It-Summer are perfect for those of us who face long WIP lists. I’ve been daydreaming about what we might make with our amazing new yarns ever since. The only thing I know for sure is that the Anzula Meridian will make a lovely shawl that the shawl stick will complement perfectly. Can’t wait to see what we all make next!

The Great American Eclipse in Nebraska

My favorite branch of science is easily astronomy. I took every opportunity to spend time in my university’s observatory on public astronomy nights. I waited patiently to enroll in the Astronomy with Lab course and was a member of the Astronomy Club. I love learning the mythology surrounding the constellations, the effects that events like eclipses had on various cultures, the histories of each major discovery, and the people who made them. This is not to mention the amazing potential for future discoveries. Space. Is. Awesome.

So it should be no surprise that I was one of the many who hit the road in hopes of seeing the Great American Eclipse last week. Normally, we would have to travel across the world or take a cruise ship out to the middle of the ocean to see such an event. Quite the challenge, even for veteran eclipse chasers. A road trip much closer to home is far more ideal.

Planning Our Adventure

Traveling gnomes need eclipse glasses too! 🙂
The first thing my parents and I needed to decide was where to watch the eclipse. I thought about going down to Tennessee to see the NASCAR race in Bristol on Saturday night and then finding a good viewing spot the next day. Our closest options to home were Carbondale, IL and Lincoln, NE. We thought about attending the eclipse events in Carbondale, but decided it would be too much of a headache with SIU’s school year beginning around the same time. NASA would be hosting an event featuring Bill Nye just south of Lincoln in Beatrice, NE. It would have been awesome to attend the event, but we wouldn’t have had as much flexibility as we wanted. We decided to aim for Lincoln, NE. In case of cloudy weather, we also made a list of fun places we could visit as long as we were in the area.

I ordered a set of four eclipse glasses in early July, which seemed very last-minute at the time. Dad reserved a hotel room in Omaha, just outside of the path of totality, a few days later. We didn’t bother looking for hotels in Lincoln because we figured any hotels in the area would already have been sold out months ago. Our basic plan of attack would be to take a last look at the weather report over an early breakfast and drive to a town somewhere along the path of totality within a 1-2 hour drive. Worst-case, a parking lot would do. We wanted to meet up with Tia and her mom, so we planned to meet up for the eclipse on Monday.

I couldn’t resist decorating my pinhole viewer. It was a fun experiment, but it wasn’t ideal for viewing the eclipse.
In early August, we started researching other ways to watch the eclipse indirectly. I found a fun tutorial on making a pinhole viewer from a Pringles container. We also found instructions for making a Safe Solar Viewer, which Dad modified for the materials he had available. The second lens he needed didn’t arrive in the mail until we got back home late Monday night.

On The Road To Omaha

We are a family of early risers, so we packed a cooler with road trip snacks and enough picnic lunch options to last the whole trip, and began the 6-ish hour trek down to Omaha before 9am. We stopped at a park in Worthington, MN for a picnic with tuna salad and watermelon. This was a great chance to stretch our legs before the next leg of the journey. We arrived in Omaha around 3pm and settled in to our hotel room before driving into downtown Omaha to explore. We picked the Upstream Brewing Company, which was absolutely delicious. We especially enjoyed the pretzel bites appetizer.

I had started a new knitting project the night before. Long road trips are perfect for travel knitting! I made wonderful progress on A Walk Through Monet’s Garden by Tamara del Sonno. I had just finished the first two rows with the Path colorway when the sun set on Monday evening. Every stitch with the Garden colorway was an incredible new color experience!

Eclipse Day!

Thunderstorms rumbled across Omaha while we ate breakfast at the hotel and finished packing. The forecast for eclipse time still called for partly to mostly cloudy skies in the eastern half of the state. Tia and her mom were headed to Blue River State Recreation Area in Milford, NE, where their dogs would have room to roam. We headed out in the same direction. We would have an adventure despite the cloudy forecast, and we could always play NASA’s livestreams from one of our phones.

The rain had ended by the time we checked out of the hotel. We left Omaha a little behind schedule because we needed to stop for some forgotten supplies and, most importantly, a one-day state park permit. We hoped that we could avoid extra frustration when we got to the park in case there was a line to get passes at the park entrance. There was some heavy traffic in Omaha, in part because of the usual Monday morning rush hour. As we expected, traffic slowed to a crowded crawl on I-80, all the way from Omaha to Hwy. 77.


We lost all trace of a cell signal some time before we stumbled upon the state park. So much for being able to coordinate meeting up, but at least we’d have a good viewing spot. And if we couldn’t get a signal for the livestream, we would enjoy some much-needed time offline.

eclipse8There wasn’t an official-looking entrance to the state park. We were watching for something like the entrance to the MN Landscape Arboretum. Instead, we saw a sign with the words “Blue River” peeking over the bushes. We might have missed it if the GPS hadn’t asked us to turn half a mile earlier where there was no road. The park is essentially a single-lane gravel road that ends in a small round clearing surrounded by trees, all bordered by West Fork Big Blue River. We parked between two vehicles near the park entrance and met Mark and Deb, who live not too far from us in east central MN. It was great getting to know them while we watched the eclipse!

The park never did get very crowded. Only about 15-20 vehicles would join us, so there was plenty of room for everyone. We opened the back of Dad’s pickup, set up the lawn chairs and the safe solar viewer, and tested the eclipse glasses.

An early view of our surroundings.
Once we were settled in at our makeshift campsite, Mom and Dad walked along the muddy gravel path to check out the clearing. A vehicle drove past as they walked back to the truck, and they noticed two familiar faces. They came back to the truck and told me I might want to walk down the path myself. Sure enough, Tia and her mom were parked in the clearing. We all made it!

The remaining sunlight one minute before totality gave the telephone lines a silvery color instead of their usual dark gray look.
The skies were mostly sunny when we arrived at the park around 10:30. We heard the loud buzz of bugs in the trees and bushes. I had just learned how to take panoramas with the iPad a week earlier, so I took some time to practice as we walked around the park and took pictures of our view. Fields stretched out beyond the main road, which had very little traffic. One side of the sky was cloudy surrounding the sun, while clear blue sky fought through thinner clouds on the other side. When the clouds became overcast around 12:30, we set an alarm for a little before 1pm to mark when totality occurred. The temperatures began to drop. The bugs went silent.





The clouds cleared just in time for us to watch the last of the sun disappear behind the moon, ten minutes before totality. Through our eclipse glasses, we watched the orange crescent become a parenthesis, then a tiny line, then nothing. The colors of our surroundings shifted, becoming more golden and faded. The power lines along the main road turned silver-white. We saw two planes flying nose-to-tail just below the sun, which we think were part of NASA’s experiments to learn more about the sun’s corona.

Three minutes to totality!
Totality began at 1:01pm. Some people cheered, some oohed and aahed, some honked the horns on their cars. One person even crowed like a rooster. There had been storms developing to the south, and we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. The sky was a rich navy blue except for the pale golden sunset along the horizon. Venus shown to the right of the sun. The sun itself was nothing more than a light pinkish-orange corona covered by the dark blue of the moon.

Venus is barely visible near the middle. The sun is the brighter dot on the left.
We got to enjoy about 2 minutes and 18 seconds of totality. Every article we read said to put down the camera and enjoy the moment, but I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures before totality ended. I’m actually glad that there were some clouds in the sky so we could watch their colors shift, just like we would during a cloudy sunset.

Another view of the gravel path during totality.
After totality, we were back to warm weather and partly cloudy skies. The bugs started to buzz just as loudly as they had earlier in the day. A middle school student came over to ask us what we’d seen, adding our observations to her lab report for school.

Before long, it was time to pack up and make the long trek back north. We stuck to country roads for the first couple of hours in hopes of avoiding traffic, but it doesn’t really matter where you are between 5 and 6pm. You will find traffic one way or another. We drove through another wave of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. We stopped for a quick dinner back in Worthington and made it home by 11pm.

What’s Next

It almost goes without saying that we’ll be on the road again in 2024. Dad will be improving his solar viewer now that the missing second lens have arrived. We might also get involved with some of the experiments and help NASA collect data. I’d like to learn a lot more about outdoor photography and invest in some better equipment, too. A steady tripod with a guiding arm help me take smoother panoramas and prevent the extra shakiness that came with my eagerness to capture the moment. A proper camera and filters would only improve any pictures we’d take. We have a great start on our packing list, based on our experience this weekend. There are a few things we forgot, which always happens. The more we can plan ahead and the less we have to stop for supplies, the less stress we will have.

All in all, our adventure was worth every second. How amazing it is that for a few hours, millions of people across the country took time to look up and take in the wonders of the universe together. Events like this only fuel my excitement for astronomy and the stars. I hope this event will remind everyone to keep looking up.

August Has Arrived!

August’s arrival always makes us feel like summer has gone too fast. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Soon, we’ll get to enjoy wonderful cool fall weather like what we experienced earlier this week. There’s a special coziness about wearing snuggly sweaters and drinking a warm cup of hot cocoa!

Current WIP Mountain Stats

Total WIPs: 13
Travel WIPs: 3
At-home WIPs: 6
Special WIPs: 4

The original WIPs list is in the single digits! 9 to go! I can’t resist the temptation of my projects from the MN Yarn Shop Hop, but I’m doing my best to give equal attention to both sides of the project list.

Finished Projects

simplysoftshrug4_medium2I finished my Simply Soft Shrug back in mid-May and never got the chance to take a picture of it. I struggled to understand the pattern at first, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

It would be fun to get some nicer yarn and make it again. I might even change the stitch patterns on the sleeves. This one feels more like a test knit, but it’ll be nice to wear around the house when fall arrives!

We took a road trip to Wisconsin the weekend before Memorial Day to visit my brother and explore Madison and Baraboo as a family. It’s a 5-hour drive one way, so I brought the Labyrinth Owl Hat along as a nice travel-sized project. I thought it would be just challenging enough to keep my interest, and big enough to last through the whole weekend. I was definitely wrong about that! The hat was finished by the end of day 2 of our road trip, except for adding the buttons and making the pom-pom. Oops. 😅

This hat has a lot to offer, with its cabled owl design on the front and the moss stitch on the back. I couldn’t put it down! Luckily, The Sow’s Ear was close by, so we stopped in to explore. I got a beautiful skein of Malabrigo Sock yarn in the Reflecting Pool colorway and picked a new travel-sized project from my Ravelry library: Love In Every Stitch from Lila & Claudine’s.

The shawl pattern didn’t make total sense to me the first time around. I wanted it to match the stunning results I saw on the Ravelry pattern page, so I tweaked the instructions a little bit. Those modifications are listed on my project page. It’s a quick and easy knit, and I love that Braille is incorporated into the lace stripes. Imagine customizing this pattern with your own personal messages in Braille lace!

I just finished the shawl a couple weeks ago and love it. It drapes so nicely! The yarn is soft and light, and the teal color varies slightly, just enough to add interest. I used the last little bit of Malabrigo Sock to jazz up the pom-pom for the hat, so I officially finished both around the same time. They go pretty well together, don’t you think?

Most recently, I finished my cowl version of “The Pattern Your Way” by Lynn Kindem. Mom and I were doing our own mini-KAL of this pattern and we’ve really been enjoying the design. I made mine with Sun Valley Fibers MCN Fingering in the Red Velvet Lounge colorway. I love those beautiful bursts of cherry red and the diagonal bands of red orange!


Twisted Loop Yarn Shop‘s Finish-It-Summer continues until August 25th. I know I’ve taken on more than I can finish, so I’ll be happy with what progress I can make. I expect that I’ll have completed 4 of my 6 chosen projects by the event deadline, and that sounds like pretty good crafting progress to me.

In Other News

Finish-It-Summer takes priority at the moment. That said, I’ve got a small but growing set of projects in their final assembly stages. If I can just make time to sit down and put the finishing touches on, I’ll be able to share a couple more finished projects next time. That will allow me to significantly shrink the original WIP list.

I’m starting work on a commission for a friend’s cosplay. We’re still getting the details together, but I’m excited to start work on this fun pattern.

We’re going on a road trip in a couple weeks to catch the total solar eclipse. It’ll take several hours of driving one way to reach our destination, so I’ll be picking out an easy travel project from my Shop Hop stash to take along like I did back in May.

August is exhibit time in my neck of the woods. I’m taking two projects to the county fair later this week. Three more are in an employee art show through work. With any luck, I’ll be going to check out the exhibits at the state fair too.

There are a couple fun events coming up in August that I’m really looking forward to. Stay tuned for more details!

Feeling Anything But Serene

The Oxford Dictionary defines serenity as “the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” That’s how knitting usually makes crafters feel, right? But sometimes, that’s far from the truth.

Earlier this week, I picked my Serenity shawl back up after putting it away for a few months. Rachel Booker has designed a beautiful, easily customizable pattern! The trouble is that I’m not used to working with lace designs. I’ve learned the importance of lifelines and stitch markers the hard way.

I eagerly started this project last July after a trip to the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN. We visited Yarnology like we always do when we’re in town, and I found the perfect skein of Tosh Merino Light to pair with the skein of Alpaca Superlight that my friend Claire gave to me. I’m using the Tosh Merino Light for the stockinette sections and the Alpaca Superlight for the lace stripes.

The project went very well at first. I love how the two yarns work together! Then, I discovered a mistake in the first lace stripe a few rows back. A couple hours later, I had tinked enough to get back on the right track and started knitting fearlessly again.

The same problem happened with each of the next two lace stripes. I would get to the lace stripe and happily stitch away, only to discover that I don’t have enough stitches left at the end of the row and the lace design is now off-kilter. Time to unravel the row and hope I find my mistake. Usually, I knit while listening to a podcast or a TV show in the background. These lace sections would take so much concentration that I started knitting in absolute silence and still risk making a mistake.

I was so frustrated after correcting the last mistake that I set this project aside for a few months. I picked it up again in mid-May when Twisted Loop Yarn Shop announced their Finish-It-Summer event.

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a set of 20 stitches in the middle of the stripe that made the diamond design look more like a zig-zag design. I tried and failed to unravel and re-knit just that small section before ripping out the whole stripe.

I’ve finally learned my lesson. Before I start the first row of the lace stripe, I thread a contrasting yarn into the most recent row. This lifeline will save me from extra frustration if I make another major mistake. Then, I place a new stitch marker every three repeats during right-side rows of the lace stripe. I remove the markers on wrong-side rows and check my work for mistakes as I go. This strategy is working so far! I re-knit that latest lace stripe with no mistakes and am now working on the next stockinette section.

There’s still quite a bit of work to go on this shawl. I might not finish by the August 25th deadline, but I will be very happy with the progress that I’ve made. I’ll be wearing this shawl proudly when it is complete!