Monday, February 28, 2011

{craft along} - Knitting Squares & Inspiration

Lets keep going with our Bright Garter Patches Throw. At this point the squares should be a bit easier to create. I do not have to look back at the videos anymore. If you are just joining us, we are not going at a quick pace, it will be very easy to catch up. Just look back at our first posting to get started: {craft along}. I have created four more squares, still with the same Sweet Pea yarn. I am not too worried about being perfect; I like for my projects to have character. Since this is a first try at knitting it will have character and will not be perfect! Just perfect enough for my one year old who won't notice any mis-stitches.

Here is my progress chart:
I look to Etsy, the most wonderful site for handmade items when I am in need of inspiration. Here is what we are loving with the same Sweet Pea color:

{photograph} : Feul by isis328

{fabric} : Heather Bailey - Pop Garden

{necklace} :Small Round Lime Bubble pendant by manmadedesigns

Thursday, February 24, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Get Clean

"I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean." -- Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

{read: short stories} You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

You Know When the Men are Gone, a book of short stories by Siobhan Fallon, shows what life is like for soldiers and families at Ford Hood, Texas. Full disclosure here: I don’t usually read short stories. I don’t like them. There isn’t enough space for the characters to develop, for plots to run their course, for me to connect with the story. I picked this up on the recommendation of Dave Mallmann from our lit fiction book group. Dave is also a buyer for indie bookstore Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon, Wis., and gets to read books ahead of their publishing dates. Thanks to his tip, I knew to read this as soon as it came out. To my pleasure, I found that Fallon, an army wife herself, has written a loosely connected book of stories that feel real.

While part of me felt like it was my patriotic duty to read this book (if men and women are going off to die for our country and their families are suffering innumerable hardships stateside during their multiple, increasingly frequent deployments, surely the least I can do is read a book of short stories about it), I found myself enjoying it. Characters from some stories are picked up in other stories later on, which gives a loose sense of connection throughout the book and creates a sense of the Fort Hood community. One of my favorite things was the endings: The stories aren’t all neatly tied up in little bows, and yet they don’t end mysteriously either, leaving you wondering what the hidden meaning is supposed to be. Some end messily, some end happily, some end sadly. The characters are believable and you see the tough choices that all of the members of the families face, whether they’re wives, soldiers, or children.

This is a quick read, and I’d definitely recommend it to short story lovers or anyone who wants to give the genre another try.

You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (Penguin Group, 2011)
My rating: Five stars

Monday, February 21, 2011

{craft along} - Knitting Squares

We are going to move forward with our Bright Garter Patches Throw. Now that you have learned to make the square, refer back and go through the process again. Each time I start a new square I need to review the casting on instructions. But, each time it is getting easier and faster. Here is a chart to keep track of which squares you are finished with. You can color in the chart with the corresponding colored squares that you have created. This week we will aim to have four done in total.

I have started with the Sweet Pea colored yarn. Here is my progress chart:

We have a long way to go, but the squares will go much faster once we get experienced creating them. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

{a thought for thursday} One Step at a Time

"E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

{read: fiction} -- Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

The hip trend in novels these days (Great House by Nicole Krauss, Day for Night by Frederick Reiken) seems to be to combine several seemingly unconnected stories into a novel and then--the reader hopes--bring them all together at the end in some unexpected way. If they don’t connect, it feels like false advertising. A novel is different than a book of short stories, even if they are loosely connected, as in You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (review to come on this one!).

In Await Your Reply, author Dan Chaon does this better than any others I’ve read recently. He manipulates time and character in three different stories while exploring the murky world of identity theft. I had a small inkling of where he might be going but was still surprised when I got there. I read the final pages three or four times to try to put all the pieces together, and I wanted to start again from the beginning to find all the clues I had missed the first time through.

The story starts with Ryan, who is being rushed to the hospital because his hand has been cut off. We also meet Lucy, a high school student running away with her history teacher, and Miles, who has been searching for years for his missing twin brother and keeps coming up just one step behind. The curiosity to see how these disparate stories connect kept me turning the pages as the suspense began to build.

If you’ve read Great House or Day for Night and come away wishing for a stronger connection among the various characters, if you felt as though you invested valuable time and energy trying to put the puzzle together only to find out that the pieces you’re working with came out of three different puzzle boxes even though they all had cows in them, you won’t be disappointed by Await Your Reply. Chaon delivers on the implicit promise to bring the narrative together and ends the book with a punch. Daniel Pink (bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind) called it “a brilliant book.” I agree.

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (Ballantine Books, 2009)
My rating: Five stars

Monday, February 14, 2011

{craft along} - Knit a blanket with us!

We are not starting small! What fun would that be. We are going all out and will create Lion Brand's Bright Garter Patches Throw. I wanted a project that I could take on the go, something that could be broken down into small allotments of time and something cute for my little one. This blanket is I don't have much experience knitting, but we can learn together. There are many great resources that I will share that will make this craft along a success! Lets get started.


• 9 balls of Vanna's Choice baby yarn
{your choice of colors, though the pattern choices are brilliant}
• Lion Brand Knitting Needles- Size 8
{I am using size 10.5 which seem to be working well}
• Large-Eye Blunt Needles
{We will not need these until the very end}

Step 1.
We are going to knit a lot of little squares - 81 to be exact. At the end of the project we will connect all of the squares to create the blanket. To create your first square we need to learn to cast on. You will cast on 13 stitches.

I will refer to Lion Brand's Learn to Knit instructions since we are using their pattern, and because they are very detailed. They use the knitting cast on, but there are a few other methods to cast on. You may need to watch the video a few times before you get it. I have to come back every time I start a new square, but take it slow and you will get it.

If you would like to try a different method, this is a great video that shows the "long-tail cast on." I used this method, but either method will work fine.

Make sure you cast on 13 stitches.

If you are unsure how to make a slip knot, check this video out:

Step 2. Work in Garter stitch (knit every row), until piece measures 3 in. (7.5 cm) from beginning. So use the Garter stitch, which I will show you here, until you have a square.

Lion Brand Yarn has great visual instructions for the Garter Stitch. Take your time with them, view the video a few times and pause when needed. Once you get the hang of it, these squares will take you no time at all.

This video shows the stitch from a different angle, which might be helpful.

Step 3. Finally, when you have knit enough rows to create a square you will need to cast off.

Lion Brand Yarn shows casting off as well. Make sure you take your time with this step. Soon you will have your first square created.

This week we will just concentrate on learning to knit. Create your first square with the directions provided. Different visuals work for different people. Check out the resources on YouTube. You may find a different video that you understand better. Next week we will get to work creating multiple squares for our blanket. Have fun!

Welcome to {th}ink!!

Welcome! {th}ink is a breath of fresh air to help you move beyond your usual work/family/life routines. We offer a fun, easy approach to craft projects that you can actually finish in your spare time, as well as candid reviews of a wide array of fiction, mysteries, and memoirs. Come {th}ink with us!

Erin Young
Hi! I'm Erin, and I'm the co-author of {th}ink. I will share my thoughts on the books I'm reading -- what's good, what's so-so, and what you shouldn't even waste time trying to read. When possible, I'll also include upcoming author appearances for books I review. I'm a magazine editor for a nonprofit educational association, and I spend my spare time reading, playing with our two mastiffs, volunteering at the Elmbrook Humane Society, and watching movies and football.

Alicia Markey
Hi! My name is Alicia and I am the co-author of {th}ink. I will run more of the crafty end of the blog. As a Graphic Designer, I spend most of my time on the computer. I enjoy crafting by hand, but have limited free time. Most of my time outside of work is spent with my adorable one year old, Aaron, and my husband, Shawn. We enjoy an active lifestyle and are always on the run. This blog will provide busy moms, or any busy individual some creative short projects. Well, the projects might not be small, but we will take our time creating them step by step! I hope you enjoy the journey.