Random Ravelings

Thoughts on knitting, yarn, writing, and life, as the mood strikes me.

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Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Recent Reading

Two books, one by a long-time favorite author, the other by a writer-friend.

The Margarets, by Sheri S. Tepper. Her long awaited "next" book, after The Companions, though not a sequel. This novel concerns a future Earth, massively over-populated and ecologically barren, and a number of other starfaring races, some of which like the Earthians and are inclined to help them, others of which would like to see humans permanently removed from the universe. The problem is, if the humans can't reduce their population and start rebuilding the earth's ecosystem, they will be wiped out (the full reasons are more complicated -- read the book!). Anyway, the main character is Margaret Bain and six other people who also once were Margaret Bain, but whose histories split off at a key point in her past. The solution will be for one person to walk seven roads which are one road. Tepper handles the multiple narrators well and the story moves along smoothly to its almost inevitable conclusion. If you liked Tepper's earlier work, then you will find this book to be along similar lines: an interesting story, interesting characters, a situation that turns out to be rather different than it first appears. Tepper does have an agenda, as she does in most of her books, but I think she manages to present her views without overwhelming the story or getting excessively preachy. I enjoyed this book.

Mother Feral's Love, by Lawrence Barker. Barker, a long-time friend, is primarily a horror writer, and while this book would likely be considered fantasy, there are still some hints of his horror roots in it. For example, his almost loving description of a particularly gruesome execution of a street criminal, still makes me cringe a bit just thinking about it. However, such details aside, this novel takes an outsider character, a "Feral" (sort of hybrid between human and flesh eating ghul) and makes her the lead in what is basically an amateur detective story. Evrandal must find out who really killed the alchemist so she can save her daughter from a short, unpleasant life in the mines. The daughter is being raised by a healer friend who has been arrested for the murder of said alchemist. The trouble is, no one really wants to talk to Evrandal and very few people are inclined to help her, leaving her to take desparate measures in her quest. The world is a bleak one, a city in the desert, surrounded by mountains full of howling ghuls. The technology level is very low, artificially low, as it turns out, and Evrandal ends up caught up in the middle of political manuevaring between city law enforcement, the city shrine, and the heretics. Through sheer determination, she manages to pull off a minor miracle, freeing both her friend and her daughter, but at a price. If you're ready for something different in the way of fantasy, with a true outsider as the main character, you might give this one a try; but if you're at all squeamish, don't say I didn't warn you. Just take a look at Barker's earlier books, if you don't believe me. (Previous books: Renfield and I'll Take My Stand, neither of which are for the squeamish.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I've been slowly landscaping my yard, a little bit each year. Over the last few years, I've been planting daylilies, those wonderful, hardy perennials. They're easy to grow, hard to kill, and keep coming back year after year. Here's a few of the flowers I've been enjoying this year.

This one is called "Persian Market".

And this one is "Orange Vols".

I'm fortunate in living within easy driving distance of Oakes Daylilies and was able to attend their annual Daylily Festival last weekend. They have a lovely display garden open to the public, plants for sale, a free daylily plant for every guest and so forth. A few pictures will suffice.

Here is portion of the display gardens. It was a gorgeous, sunny day.

Here's "Good Impressions",

"Ruffled Ruby",

and "Lady Georgia". These are just a few examples of the many varieties grown here.

I wasn't planning to buy many more daylilies this year, having only limited areas that actually get enough sun to grow them. But, I succumbed, and came home with four new plants -- one free and three that I bought. I planted the new ones over the weekend, two in my main daylily bed, the other two in really big pots which will eventually be moved to just outside the gate in my front fence -- a nice sunny spot. Nothing much to see of those, yet.

In closing, here's one more image from the Oakes display garden,

"Mauna Loa", a personal favorite.


I've been knitting socks lately. Actually, I've been knitting socks for several years, but in the last two months or so, I've finished three pairs and am in the middle of the fourth. So, what's going on?

Well, I finally decided to try toe-up socks. And bamboo double pointed needles. And something just clicked. So to speak.

I bought the bamboo needles because I was getting ready to attend a conference in Spearfish, South Dakota in the beginning of June, which was going to require traveling by plane, with a couple of lengthy layovers between flights. Knitting is a great way to pass the time, but I didn't want to try and get a set of size 0 metal double-points past the security screeners. While knitting needles are usually being allowed these days, I figured metal double-points, sharp, pointy needles that might really be able to do some damage, just might get someone's attention. Hence, the switch to bamboo needles. I bought a couple of set of Clover bamboo needles in size 0 and size 2 (my LYS didn't have any size 1's that day).

I also was interested in doing something different in sock knitting, something other than my standard top-down, mostly stockinette, mostly striped yarns, socks. So, I looked through my books, mostly the Charlene Schurch sock book (Sensational Knitted Socks), and also the article by Ann Budd in the latest Interweave Knits magazine ("Working Socks from the Toe Up", Summer 2007, p24). The Schurch book includes a variety of toes and heels and stitch patterns for the sock itself, a treasure trove of material I'm still working with. The Ann Budd article described a toe that I realized was essentially the same as the toe I usually work from the cuff down, though worked from the toe up of course, and that was it.

A day or two before the trip, I cast on for the toe up socks and started the first one. Between a long layover at the Minneapolis/St Paul airport on the way out, knitting through a couple of plenary sessions during the conference and some down time in the evenings, I finished one sock and started the second, then was able to work on the second during another really long layover in Minneapolis, and finished the second sock less than two weeks after starting the first one. That may be a new record for me. The first pair of toe-up socks are here.

The yarn is by Opal, in a color called "Lollipop", out of my stash, not sure when I bought it.

Then I started the second pair while on a short trip to Cherokee, North Carolina with some friends. Also toe-up, with the same toe, but where I'd used a short-row heel in the first pair, I tried the "forethought" heel from Charlene Schurch's book in the second pair, and then used Wendy's feather and fan pattern on the ankle. Finished those in less than two weeks, promptly breaking the previous record for finishing a single pair of socks.

Yarn is by Regia, also out of my stash.

Then, last week, I started another pair. Same toe, but I wanted to try out one of the ribbing patterns from Schurch's book. I had one false start (tried another toe, didn't care for it, came out too wide), and have the first sock of that pair almost done. Yarn is KnitPicks "Essentials" in burgundy. No pictures yet.

I really like the bamboo needles. While I worried at first about breaking the needles, that hasn't happened (yet). They're noticably lighter than my usually Inox metal needles, which makes them easier to knit with. They're also not quite as slick and that combined with the lighter weight means the needles don't tend to slide out of the stitches quite as easily. While they don't seem to be quite as pointy, I was still able to execute all of the necessary K2Tog (knit 2 together) and other increases and decreases.

And what I like about the toe-up socks, is that you can really try them on as you're knitting. Also, I feel like I have more control over the fit, and it's much easier to do a loose bind-off than a loose cast-on, thus eliminating the problems of a tight cast-on round at the top of the cuff.

So, consider me a convert. Woohoo!