Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I almost didn't want to tell you about it. First, the colors are horrible, I know. I know. I was trying to use up some scraps. I'm trying not to let that "color" my opinion (see what I did there?). But the cables still aren't doing what I want them to. Let's go in for a closer look:
I don't want it to look like cabling, I want it to look like a woven basket. Here's the rub-I don't know if the cables are strained because 4 stitches are kind of a lot to exchange and expect the tension not to show, or if it's just my lousy two-color work. Since I was just making a small swatch, I had to use double pointed needles. Kids, don't try this at home. I did a horrible job maintaining the tension of my floats. If this was a Project Runway challenge, Tim Gunn would have come over to my station, put on his concerned face, and note that "There's a LOT going on here." Well I'm sorry Tim, when you've got five needles and two strands of yarn in play, it's hard to keep track of what the hell is going on. I think I need to make a bigger swatch, one were I can use circular needles and not pull the floats ridiculously tight half of the time. Or maybe I need a different strategy. Or both. Argh, this flies in the face of my swatch making sensibilities (i.e. I hate making them). And why is Luke Wilson all bloated and pushing AT&T? Why am I out of Diet Coke?? WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE SUCH A STRUGGLE??!
It's not all bad though, now that I think of it. On our way back to the office after lunch, we had to walk through the 'protest quad' - people schlepping everything from petitions to save endangered sea slime to seeking new members for their religion, the Church of Oprah Winfrey. But today, there was a girl with no agenda to push but chocolate cupcakes for 50 cents. I was in the "we don't want any" zone and almost passed it up. Best 50 cents I've spent in quite a while. I was a little worried that being Berkeley, they might be "special" cupcakes, but I figure, hey, it's just more bang for my half-buck.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
This particular cast-on is my bread and butter. Part of the stretchiness experiment is just to get me to branch out and try some other methods. It's a great one to teach to a first-time knitter, because it's almost the same as the knit stitch so you're killing two birds with one stone (although I don't know if I'd want to learn knitting from a bird killer. You should probably try to cut down on that).
The knitted cast on:
Start with a slip knot:
This is your first stitch.
I usually leave a good 6" tail on the non-working side of the knot for weaving in later.
It doesn't matter which way you put it on the needle.
Put the needle with the stitch on it in your left hand, and the other in your right hand. Keeping the yarn behind both needles, insert the needles in your right hand knitwise (from underneath, going upwards) into the loop, from the front to the back.
If 'front to back' doesn't make sense, just make sure the tip of the RH needle ends up behind the LH needle.
Take the working yarn in your right hand (it's still behind the needles, right?) and wrap it counter clock-wise around the LH needle, bringing it between the two needles:
Bring the tip of the RH needle down and back out the loop, catching the yarn you just wrapped around the RHN:
Creates a new loop on the RH needle.
Slip the new loop from the RH needle to the LH needle; LH needle goes from underneath upward through the loop on RH needle:
Now you have two stitches cast-on:
Repeat (excepting the slip-knot part, of course) until you have the amount of stitches you need.
Here's what it looks like on a ribbed swatch:
It's a bit messier than usual since I cast-on using a needle 3-sizes larger than the one I made the swatch with (to allow it to stretch farther). That is a drawback to this cast-on: it's not super stretchy, and the only way to compensate is to do it loosely. I don't trust myself to do it loosely with any kind of uniformity, so I just use needles 2-3 sizes larger what will be used for the body. I've reached at least one conclusion: I'm not going to be a hand model any time soon.
Monday, March 29, 2010
I'm sure this is not a new stitch--I'm excellent at reinventing the wheel. This wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I think it's still cool. There's a lot of tension on it that I'm pretty sure wouldn't be there if two colors were being used, but I need to make another infinite swatch to check it out. I was thinking of writing the pattern so it could be done in one color or two (i.e. and easy/more difficult version) but I think that they would have to be two completely different patterns if the tension is as different as I suspect it is.
What to do with this little gem I just made though? My first thought was a cup cozy. I could write up a quick little pattern for that! Damn it. If you don't have a Ravelry account, here's the gist via screenshot:
Like I said, reinventing the wheel (just published this month though, so closer than normal). Actually, my infinite swatch is a bit too small for your average cup of joe, and I think it makes a nifty bracelet:
Too dorky? I can't even tell anymore.I love little projects you can do with your scrap yarn, so maybe I'll write this as a pattern.
On a completely unrelated note, I've been noticing a correlation between a car's make and how closely they pass me when I'm cycling home from work. This particular route is in North Berkeley, which consists of winding roads going up a steep hill with virtually no shoulders. While on a conference call, I made a little graph to demonstrate:
OK, let's break it down. The square is, on average, where the brand falls on the "Curve of Courtesy" (patent pending). The bars represent the scatter from that average, for example, Buicks tend to pass anywhere with a 2 ft. to 4 ft. leeway.
Subaru - I may be a bit personally biased since I love my Soobie, but these folks are just nice. They tend to slow way down and pull completely into the other lane, and once I even got a courtesy "I'm here" beep on the horn.
Beater - Originally ranked beaters the same courtesy as Subarus, but my housemate pointed out that the reason they pass slowly may be because they're maxing out their speed up the hill as it is.
Honda - Not overly courteous, but I usually don't feel in any danger either.
Toyota - Similar to Honda. Slightly more dick-ish. May or may not be related to uncontrolled acceleration in Camrys or Priuses (Priusi?)
Volkswagen - These guys are all over the map. I have no idea whether they're going to give me a wide berth or mow me down. Slightly terrifying.
Buick - Tend to pass pretty closely. I attribute it to the fact that most Buicks are owned by old farts (sorry Mom and Dad--call 'em as I see 'em) and they probably notice me and my day-glo yellow vest at the last second and have to swerve around. I understand that you're looking for the nearest Country Kitchen Buffet, but try to keep your eyes on the road.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz - Now we're getting to the true assholes of the road. These are the people believe that only cars should be allowed on the roads, because safely passing a cyclist or pedestrian might make them 30 seconds late to the gala benefiting Beating Up the Homeless.
Two-seaters - How do I say this graciously? These guys have small penises. I know I should feel sorry for them for that, but I'm too busy peeing my pants out of fear.
Porsche - You may be wondering why Porsche is in the negative region; I'm pretty sure that these dudes would swerve to hit a cyclist rather than avoid one.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
This rambling might be going somewhere eventually. I made my first CO/BO stretchiness test swatch last night, and pondered what my experimental set-up should be. I could pull on all of them to what I felt was their maximum stretch, but when I tried measuring a couple of times on the same swatch, the results weren't consistent. That makes the test qualitative--I can tell by the feel how relatively stretchy I think it is, but I don't have solid numbers to back it up. I felt that this experiment could be at least semi-quantitative, so the idea of the moment is to hang a plumb-bob from the corner of the edge to be tested and measure the vertical stretch.
Now the current problem lies in scoring a plumb-bob. If I was back in WI, I'd stroll into the lab and borrow one. I don't know what I'm going to do when(if) I graduate; it's so nice to have all kinds of limited use tools at your beck and call for that one time you actually need them. How often do you need an Dremel or an acetylene torch (please don't answer if it's going be disturbing)? Here in Berkeley though, I'm working on simulations, which means strictly computer stuff. The simulations work is also sometimes referred to as 'modeling', which never fails to amuse. When I tell someone I'm "working on a modeling project", they invariably get a look on their face that says "modeling for the cover of Crackhead Weekly?" But the upshot is, no access to tools. There are two guys in the group that do experiments with actual stuff instead of playing computer make-believe. But, full disclosure: I'm embarrassed to ask to borrow a plumb-bob because I know they're nice dudes and would go to a lot of trouble to get me one if there wasn't one around, and then I would feel bad about the fact that it's not even close to being for work. I have a soul, it's just a small one.
I also have another idea for a hat that I'm itching to get started on. It's inspired by a North Face hat I've been seeing on the slopes for a couple of years now--I like the idea, but naturally I think that I can do it better. Here's the hat I keep seeing:
I always imagine someone haughtily saying, "The Nawwwwwrth Face" with a British accent.
My goal: add a cute brim, bring down the gauge by about half (meaning stitches half that size) and make the whole shebang two interlacing colors. I think doing it fair-isle-style will beef up the thickness nicely, accounting for the decrease in stitch size (which I'm assuming is why a chunky yarn was used, for thickness). I've been batting this idea around in my head for a loooong while, so I'm going to take the plunge tonight and get started (in parallel with my stretchiness experiments, of course). My only regret--we're just about out of hat-wearing weather. I'm trying to look at it as plenty of time to perfect a kick-ass pattern.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I chose prime rib stitch (brioche stitch) because of its elasticity and thickness. Also, I love beef, and who doesn't like a juicy prime rib? I decided to knit flat rather than in the round since prime rib naturally makes a nice selvage edge for finishing and after the set up round, the same round is repeated ad nauseum (for nice mindless knitting).
I determined my gauge by knitting a swatch in pattern and measuring it in its relaxed state. I converted that to neck circumference, with the idea being that it would lie relaxed next to the neck, but be able to stretch over the chin and mouth in case of snow flurries. I cast on with a much larger needle (size 8) and bound off with a size 11 in an attempt to ensure the edges didn't hinder the stretchiness. I held two strands Touch Yarn 4 ply to increase the thickness. One could also just use an 8 ply yarn, if one were so inclined.
I can write up a pattern if anyone is interested, but prime rib stitch is fairly simple:
CO even number of stitches
1st row (set up) +K1, YO, sl1 purlwise, rep from +
2nd row (and all subsequent rows) K1, +YO, sl1 purlwise, K2tog, rep from + until last rep end on sl1 purlwise
When you K2tog, you are knitting one stitch and one diagonal loop (created from the last row’s YOs) together. The upshot--you're knitting every other stitch, while simultaneously increasing a stitch (YO) and decreasing a stitch (K2tog). This is what gives it the nice thickness that I was looking for.
As far as functionality it was deemed good--warm, quick drying, clingy, though slightly less wind-resistant than a conventional ski gaiter--that is, after the struggle of getting it over one's head. Even casting on (CO) with a needle five sizes larger than the one I used, and binding off (BO) with one eight times larger, the ends were still the limiting factors on stretchiness.
"The knitted discomfort is here, and here, Doc."
Granted, the prime rib stitch gives you a fabric similar to that knitted with a needle twice it's size (due to all the stitch slipping), but even accounting for that, the CO was two sizes larger and BO 5 sizes larger at the least. The photo doesn't quite do it justice, but the edge is pretty messy by my standards. Using a larger needle may give it more room to stretch, but it's just going to keep getting uglier and uglier. I need a stretchier method. I've never been very creative in my COs and BOs--if the pattern recommends something, I'll do it, if not, I almost always use the "knitting-on" CO, and the "basic knit" BO. This problem has inspired me to do a (psuedo)scientific experiment on the relative stretchiness/appearance of COs and BOs when done on ribbing (K1, P1 is what I'm thinking). The plan: knit 5" x 5" swatches using 'complementary' COs and BOs, with the assumption that 5" of fabric in between them ensures that one will not limit the stretchiness of the other. I'll have to consider what the actual stretchiness test will be.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Photo taken moments before the crowd of screaming women jumped on him, insatiably turned on by his sexy hat.
Since it's a bit large for him, you can see some puckering at the top, sometimes referred to as a nipple. Or as a knipple (another portmanteau! Isn't it so wonderful how we have all these new made up words to save time???? Ouch I just popped another capillary in my eye) by the TECHknitter, whom in the previous link gives some good advice how to avoid this erotic region. Aside: LOVE the TECHknitter. I use his/her advice constantly.
So without further ado, here's the Cozy Cabled Hat. Click the link, and it should be download-able as a pdf through Ravelry. You don't have to have an account.
Please, try it out! Let me know if there are errors, you like it, you hate it, etc. If you're on Ravelry, you can check out the two that I have finished. Screen name: agcertain. I'm one of those boring people who is too afraid to choose a screen name other than a derivation of their actual name. Look, I got burned back when everyone was first getting email and I chose something that was a combination of a nickname and a sport I played, and it turned out to be very close to a euphemism for a sex act that I was unaware of. One letter away, in fact.
An update on my cheap-ass double-pointed needles: I received them, and am thoroughly enjoying them so far. They haven't punctured any of my vital organs, or mangled my hands (or more importantly, yarn) with splinters, and I love that they have the size laser etched onto the sides of each needle. I'm forever holding and weighing the feel of dpns, trying to make a guess what size they are. I do miss the slight coating that the Clover bamboo needles have--the yarn doesn't slide quite as well on these, nor the needles past each other. They may smooth out over time, though. However--the set of US 5 that I need to continue work on my sweater have disappeared as mysteriously as they came. More mysteriously even, since I think they came by UPS (a dark and clandestine organization for sure, but it's hard to stay covert with those big brown trucks). I know it was in the pack, I saw it, set it out to use, and now it's gone. So to conclude:
- sizes laser-etched on needles
- fairly smooth bamboo
- no coating
- intermittent invisibility
Thursday, March 18, 2010
OK, back from the interwebs. UCSB Sex Info was glad to assist, informing me that "[u]sing alternatives for relationship pronouns such as "boyfriend", "girlfriend", "husband" and "wife" helps create a gay-friendly atmosphere". I'm there! I'm not so sure that I buy their tagline though:
"A beautiful and accurate website about sex and relationships"
Really, I've never looked at any website and thought "Damn. That website is beautiful." Maybe they intend for the website only to be used by beautiful people. That's not a very ugly-friendly atmosphere, UCSB. I hope they don't trace my IP address.
A couple of the suggestions I can't imagine using--not because they're obscene, but because I'd throw up in my mouth if I ever heard them used without a large dose of irony:
Destiny: conveys an enduring, pre-ordained love.
Divine Complement: a perfect, destined match.
Heart's Inspiration: A romantic endearment for a loved one.
We are Entwined: Indicates a closely interwoven relationship.
Twin Soul: The ultimate soulmate whom you have been destiny-driven to find and join.
Those may be setting your expectations a tad high.
I don't think I need to tell you why this is hilarious:
Bang pong: A Klingon term of endearment which is useful only for die-hard Trekkies.
How about - Meine Liebe: Translates to "my love" in German. - because romantic love is the first thing everyone associates with Germany.
But the one I found most hilarious, and therefore the one I'm going to use is:
Copilot: Indicates a long-term relationship among equals. So let's try again.
My copilot and I are really interested in backcountry skiing. This refers to skiing outside of resorts, so no chairlifts. You have to hike and 'earn your turns' so to speak. Skiers sometimes refer to the sets of skis they have for various conditions as their 'quiver'. This sort of makes sense, the skis are long and skinny like arrows, but more recently I've started hearing people refers to multiple pairs of boots as a quiver. That would have to be one big-ass quiver if you're going to jam even two sets of boots in it. Seems impractical to me. But in that spirit, I plan to start a quiver of knitted items that I'll need for winter camping and backcountry activities. It's all about the warmth, baby. One of the things I plan on investing in is a hot-water bottle.
I was browsing the most recent issue of Knitty, which is Winter '09. I know, I'm usually behind the times (want to play with my Pogs later?). I came across the most wonderful combination I've seen in a while:
Dude, it's a hot-water bottle cover.
His name is Mr. Popper and he's an awesome combination of a penguin and warmth. LOVE.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
which would actually rate pretty low on the weirdness scale for the locale, because hell, it's Berkeley. Coming back from the little gal's room today, I decided to step outside for a stretch because it's gorgeous weather here right now (sorry Wisconsiners) and as the door closed behind me, it creaked a "me-yowwwl". I stared at it and realized I wasn't crazy, just stupid.
But what really stuck in my craw today (well, knitting-wise anyway, I'm sure there is lots of other stuff in my craw right now, like this or this) is some advice that I read on a how-to website that shall remain nameless. It had a paragraph about yarn selection, which boiled down to "choose the loudest/most bizarre colors you can find, so everybody will know it's home-made". Which is distasteful to me on two counts, one being that I lived through the '80s once and have no desire to bring back loud colors--
but more importantly, my overarching goal with knitting is to create something that is unique, but that no one will ever suspect is home-made. If a stranger (a non-knitter, because we can smell our own) ever said to me "Did you knit that yourself?" I would breathe in the sweet scent of failure. No matter how kind the tone, it would sound like this to me: [disdainful look, speaker wrinkles nose] "Did you knit [spat as though the word tastes bad] that yourself?" I want them to ask "From what expensive designer store did you acquire such an item??" but I'll settle for "Is that from Macy's?"
Monday, March 15, 2010
Nobody likes to make gauge swatches. It's a thankless chore, preventing you from getting to the fun stuff. But I'm getting ahead of myself. What is gauge?
knitting gauge (or tension): the number of stitches per inch (or cm) and number of rows per inch (or cm) in stockinette (unless the pattern indicates otherwise) stitch.
Easy, right? Almost every patten, whether it's a tiny baby bonnet or an extra-large cardigan, warns you to CHECK YOUR GAUGE. Even with the menacing ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, I still sometimes neglect to do it because I regard it as a PAIN IN THE ASS. If you're wondering how one checks their gauge, there's a nice (albeit sparse) how to here. The bottom line: if you have more stitches/rows per inch than indicated in the pattern, your extra-large cardigan could end up baby sized, and on the flip side you have less stitches/rows per inch, your baby bonnet could end up being your new hat. So you knit this worthless (I know, people do cutesy things with them sometimes, but the only cutesy thing I've ever done is throw them into a drawer with the promise that I'll look up some cutesy thing to use them for then never look at them again) little swatch to make sure you're going to come out with the correct sized piece. Too many stitches/rows per inch? Try larger needles. Too few stitches/rows? Smaller needles. It grants you a peace of mind to know you're not going to create a freakish sized garment (unless the pattern is horribly written, in which place you're screwed from the get-go. Sorry about that).
What I've never seen emphasized, though, is that it gives you an example of what the fabric is going to look and feel like. I realized this in the process of making my trial XL hat, once I switched to larger needles after the brim. The fabric was far too thin for a winter cap; I could see my fingers through the stitches when holding it. It was also boring as hell; the yarn color is 'oatmeal', and on my albino-toned/tow-headed friend it would probably just blend right in to his head. If I had only made a swatch...
Snore. The photo doesn't do it justice, but trust me, my fingers are showing through the fabric.
Deep breath, no worries. It only took five years of knitting for me to come to terms with the fact that taking apart any amount of work is better than forging onward if the item is the wrong size/full of obvious mistakes/ugly. That is why I'm currently in possession of a hideous dingy yellow-colored sweater-vest, and a lovely sweater that when worn is so tight and see-through as to be illegal in most southern states. So I ripped it apart. I have a lot of wonderful green NZ merino 4-ply yarn left over from making my husband a neck gaiter for skiing (perhaps a post on that later), so I decided to beef up the size and color by holding a strand of that with the worsted weight oatmeal yarn.
My first instinct? Start in on the pattern, of course! Argh, have we learned nothing? I went through all my usual rationalizations: surely this was going to make a good fabric, these colors are great together, it will be the right size, I can just tell. After some mental gymnastics, I was resolute--make the damn swatch already!
And it was lovely.
Maybe I'll actually look up some of those cutesy things to do with swatches this time...
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I also started working on my pattern layout. I like the column format best so far, although I'm not sure if having rows split onto multiple lines is confusing. They're certainly more aesthetically pleasing, so, there you go. I need to include at least one picture of the finished product, but I haven't actually taken any yet. I decided to go with a placeholder until such time when there is a competent human being around to snap a picture. ClipArt is soooo 1996, so I passed it over and went with the "Photos" folder, which turned out not to be my pictures (those are, oddly enough, in the "Pictures" folder), but stock photos included with my software. They ran the gamut from Inspirational:
to Meth Lab:
to Interracial Hand Holding:
That one just wasn't the right size (cue the "That's what she said" jokes....now).
More drug abuse:
Strangely, there were a lot more drug paraphernalia photos in addition to those seen here. I guess dealers are a target demographic for Microsoft Office?
I eventually settled on this one:
I think we can all relate.
Monday, March 8, 2010
"Graduate students are the worst people."
But I digress. I'm all about supporting my local yarn shop (LYS), but I'm away from my home base, working on a project in Berkeley, CA. Trying to drive/find parking here...takes patience, shall we say, so I resorted to searching Amazon.com. A close friend of mine works for Amazon, so I validate supporting the corporate giant by imagining that I'm supporting him personally. The first item Amazon suggested was this bad boy by Oriental Touch:
That's 14 sets of bamboo goodness for $25 right there. Now, one could conclude that for such a screaming deal, the needles must be gnarled twigs for someone's front lawn, or maybe just vessels for splinters to migrate into soft flesh. Always a sucker for a bargain, I'm going to find out! Oh, and I also ordered the circular needle that I need. The multi-pack double-pointed needle purchase could be classified in the same category as grabbing a Hershey bar and a Cosmo in the checkout line.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I'm an engineer. I love to know how things work, and the mechanics of knitting provide an endless source of fascination for me. My husband and I are children of winter and live to be outdoors, so there is never a lack of need for knitted items. We're usually in the snowy clime of WI, but our jobs make us somewhat of nomads for the time being.
I recently designed my first pattern--a simple cabled hat. It's a groundbreaking design that I'm sure no one has ever thought of before (kidding, hey, you gotta start somewhere). The impetus for starting the virtual logbook was to have a place to post the pattern where it can be found by anyone (not just on Ravelry, where you have to be a member, and if you are not signed up yet, go go go now and do it!). The issue now is sizing--I made one for myself, but I'm maybe a cantaloupe--and there are casabas, honeydews, and all different sizes of melons out there. Next step: make a watermelon sized (official size "gigantor") hat. I racked my brain through the people I know...bingo. My officemate back home. My suspicions were confirmed when he sent me his measurements, so I'm starting the test for my large size conversion tonight. Here's to hoping my math skills are as good as my sleeping skills.