Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I've come to regard the crochet hook not just as a fiber arts tool, but as one of life's most basic gadgets. It's not in the same league as the lever, the wheel, and the inclined plane, but it's just the thing for retrieving small objects from or through tight places. I've fished a ring out of a sink drain and finagled a broken key end out of a lock.
Last night, in a motel in southern Iowa, I had to have my spouse use a tiny steel crochet hook to remove a cylindrical foam earplug I had jammed too far into my ear. If you can top that for unusual crochet hook applications, please leave a comment and tell me about it!
Friday, October 26, 2012
Five days ago, I liberated it. It was so beautiful that I thought I'd give it one more try before giving it away. As of this morning, I've completed 30 repeats, more than half the border.
So, what happened?!
In short, I've got better tools and more experience.
The crochet hook I was using before was too small for the job, so tiny that that the silk thread didn't really fit in the notch, hence the shredding. The one I'm using now is twice as big (1.0 mm instead of .50 mm), yet still fits through nearly every one of the size 8 beads.
Even having the beads on a "bead mat" (in my case, a clean dinner napkin) instead of in a bowl or a tin keeps them from rolling around while loading the crochet hook. And since I've had more beading practice since then, I can pick up several at a time instead of having to load each bead on the hook individually.
I often tell my students that there's not really any such thing as a project that's too hard, but sometimes a project is too soon. Maybe I should try listening to myself occasionally.
Monday, October 15, 2012
The problem with day tripping, though, is that at the end of the day, you have to drive home, so somebody has to forgo the wine at dinner. There's nowhere to grab an afternoon nap, and you always get tired before you've done all the things you want to do. So this year for my spouse's fall break, we booked a couple of nights in a hotel right off the town square. (Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a Diary of my Vacation post.)
Another of my favorite trees was, unsurprisingly, sponsored by a local yarn store, Yarns Unlimited. I wish I had a 360-degree draggable panorama to show you all the charming knitted and crocheted sea creatures!
In A Yarn Basket (all sock yarn, except for the shawl pin. Let's pretend to be surprised). I've recently learned from Twitter that souvenir yarn doesn't count as stash. ;)
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
I actually block WIPs all the time. This has become easier since I bought some very long cables for my laminated wood interchangeables; I can just replace the needle tips with the plastic endcaps, and the cables function as flexible blocking wires. (Compared to knitting, blocking crochet in progress is so easy it feels like cheating: just replace the hook with a plastic coilless pin-style marker.)
Here are a few of the reasons I'm frequently pinning something out just before bed:
And sometimes, I have more than one project going at a time. (I know, you're shocked!) Usually one of them is The Thing I Am Currently in Love With, and another is The Thing I Need to Get Done. Sometimes the only way I can force myself to stop working on the first is by blocking it in the morning. That way, I only have to be virtuous for the thirty seconds it takes to shove the object of enchantment into the sink; then for the rest of the day, I'll have to work on the object of drudgery until my beloved dries.
(Or, uh, cast on something else entirely...)
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
(Yes, Mom, I made a shawl with your name on it. You don't have to call me and hint.)
Here's my favorite way to store all those fabulous shawls. It's part of the elfa brand modular closet system sold by The Container Store. This piece is actually marketed as a pants rack, but I have a lot more shawls than pants. There are little clear rubber rings on each metal bar that help keep the shawls from sliding off.
As you can see, this rack is full. And what you can't see is that there are more shawls folded on the shelf above the rack. It's definitely time to order a second rack. Pants are overrated, anyhow.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
In many academic fields, when one is starting to investigate a research topic, the literature survey is an essential stage. It involves hunting down journal papers related to the topic, reading or skimming them for important results, and studying any potentially-useful techniques the author has developed. A researcher who doesn't do this thoroughly risks the frustration of having a paper rejected because her results were already published by someone else, or because a known technique would make her results trivial. Basically, you have to become really familiar with what's been done before in order to confidently contribute something valuable and original.
For the last several weeks, I've been doing something similar with knitted shawls.
I got it in my head that I'd like to design some knitted shawls and shawlettes, but I've made (read: finished) surprisingly few of them, notably Haruni, Traveling Woman, and Sunbird. I'd already done a good job of filling my Ravelry favorites with interesting candidates, but I hadn't studied how they were constructed, or how the stitch patterns interacted.
Late last week, I finished Melissa Lemmons' Fountain of Diamonds. (I'm not going to branch off into a pattern review, but I will say that I knit this pattern exactly as written, right down to the placement of stitch markers.)
The three-triangular-panel construction gives better front converage than the common triangle or semi-circular shapes, yet doesn't overpower a short person like a long triangle can.
I also tried a beading method I hadn't previously used, at least not with success (there's an Evenstar shawl shoved in a bag in my nightstand, with only the beaded edging unworked). Be warned: the Clover steel crochet hooks with the comfy handles are sized much differently than the Susan Bates hooks. The Clover size 13/14 I had on hand was .50 mm, compared to the .75 mm Bates size 14. Beading went a lot better once I got the correct-size hook for my size 8 beads.
So if anybody asks, it's not recreational knitting, it's a literature survey.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Well, yes and no.
I started the second sock of a pair as soon as we left town, because second socks (usually) require no decisions. But I forgot to bring my design notes, so I had to figure stuff out by looking at Sock One. The first time I cast on, after 6-8 rounds I realized I'd started with the wrong number of stitches. On the second try, I got a little farther before noticing my gauge didn't look right. Sure enough, it was looser than Sock One. So I double-checked my needles and I had brought the wrong size needles: 2.5mm instead of 2.25mm.
Needleworks, but I did get a pair of 2.25mm circulars. Unfortunately, the only metal ones they had in stock in that size were Susan Bates Quicksilvers. I don't mind them for larger-gauge projects (in fact I rather like the finish), but for socks, they were a misery. They have nice sharp points (excellent for lace and twisted stitches), but look closely at the cable join; that little smooshed place is wider than the rest of the needle, so tightly-knit sock stitches do not want to slide over it. After a while I got frustrated and took a nap.
EVP Coffee, with my friend Jamie McCanless, Madison resident, cool dude, and tech editor to the stars. Jamie's too interesting company for me to set up the instep without my notes while we talked, so I knit a lot of stitches, but only in a "they're all wrong, but it's okay, I'm a process knitter" sort of way. (Guess I should have taken a photo of those completely random traveling twisted stitches before I ripped them out, huh?)
And two weeks later, I'm ready to turn the heel. Um, yay?
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
The reason for this trip was that my spouse was giving two talks at MathFest 2012 and I went along. As a recovering mathematician, I often get to see old friends at math conferences. For example, we had lunch with D. Jacob "Jake" Wildstrom, crocheter, combinatorist, and coauthor of Making Mathematics with Needlework. Jake was kind enough to share an order with me of the finest cheese curds in Wisconsin, to save me from eating them all myself.
Lakeside Street Coffeehouse, which shares a building with Lakeside Fibers. I would have stayed longer, but a heavy lunch was making me drowsy (remember those cheese curds?). I also went to Late Night Knitting at The Sow's Ear in nearby Verona, WI, which may be the Knit Night to end all Knit Nights. I talked to a lot of great, interesting people at both shops and, of course, did a little souvenir shopping.
One of my spouse's talks was about graph theory and blackwork embroidery, and I helped out by drawing some of the diagrams for his slides. Here are the slides for the whole talk; the illustrations with a fabric background are mine.
Now that I'm home, I've got some knitting technical illustrations to draw ASAP. I'll show you a sample of my illustration style and answer a frequent question about Skew at the same time. The original wording for the lifted increases is confusing. So here's a hopefully-clearer restatement, with a picture.
LLinc: use the left needle to pick up the aqua strand in the direction of the arrow; knit in the back of this strand.
RLinc: use the right needle to pick up the purple strand in the direction of the arrow; transfer it to the left needle and knit it (in the front).
If you're having trouble remembering whether to knit in the front or the back, the key idea is that they are intended to be untwisted. (Of course, if you want them to be twisted, by all means. It's your knitting.)
By the way, MathFest is scheduled to be in Portland in 2014. I'm desperately hoping it will coincide again with Sock Summit, like it did in 2009.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
By the way, this is an absolutely terrific yarn. It's got three plies (and you know how I love a round yarn!), comes in an extensive color selection, and is put up in 50 g hanks so you can buy only what you need. And in spite of the name, they're not entirely solid-colored; there's just the tiniest bit of variation to add interest.
See, we live on a seven-acre plot, six acres of which is wooded. And I've declared war on some invasive species that have moved into it. Just for example, we have large canopies of Japanese honeysuckle vines on top of thirty-plus years of thorny old blackberry canes. For the last few months, I've been hacking down Bad Plants and piling them up to burn. Earlier this year, I had a glorious time setting fire to a giant stickery pile of brush in my driveway.
Oddly enough, the Honeysuckle Wars have turned out to be related to knitting. The large-motion, non-repetitive upper body exercise has been really good for preventing the return of my knitting-related shoulder pain. (Disclaimer: this is my personal experience only and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult a doctor before reading this blog.) And the fresh air, the improvement of the view out the windows from my workspace, and the satisfaction of doing something good for the ecology have all been great for my mental health.
And no, of course it isn't the only project I'm packing. Don't be silly. Time to wind some yarn.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
My mother-in-law, in fact, is a knitter. She's not a rabid one, but she works on interesting projects and likes to learn new things, and she has wonderful taste. She's been fascinated by my knitting socks on two circs, and this time I handed her one in progress to knit on for herself, which she did with great success. Turns out we even have similar gauges!
I took having company as a justified opportunity to knit a stockinette sock. I was going to show it to you because the yarn was knitting up in a particularly interesting way, but it'll have to wait. I had to rip it back from the beginning of the heel flap to the end of the toe last night, because I failed to count before beginning the straight section of the foot. Likewise, we went to hang some new curtains in the process of fluffing our house before company arrived, and I discovered I had only ordered half as many as I should have. (I do know what order the natural numbers come in, I swear!)
Monday, July 16, 2012
It took me a while to figure out where to put it (no, I didn't clamp it to the back seat armrest in my Subaru). It has much nicer clamps than my old Royal, so I wasn't worried about marring the surface of a good table; but most of the tables in the house have either a very shallow lip extending over a vertical panel, or a routed edge. And of course there has to be somewhere nearby to mount a swift. The kitchen island countertop worked great, but my family assured me that I couldn't leave it set up there.
Unfortunately, my swift doesn't work nearly as well. The screw that holds the clamp below the umbrella to the vertical post is wooden, including the screw threads, and some of the threads broke off. So it doesn't hold very well, and the umbrella has a nasty tendency to collapse mid-winding if I encounter a resistant spot. And of course, once a skein falls off the first time, it tends to have a lot of resistant spots.
By the way, speaking of using the right tool for the job: if you need to give your long-haired cat a lion cut, don't use your husband's beard trimmer. Just sayin.'
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Since I didn't drive on the way over, and the dealership insisted on making me wait while they washed my new used car (in spite of it being already cleaner than any car I'd driven in at least ten years), I also came home with this:
So what's so great about these yarns? The thing they all have in common is that they all have three or more plies, which makes them "round." With fingering weight yarns, there are a lot of round choices, but lace yarns are frequently two-ply. Sometimes the structure of two-ply yarn obscures the structure of the crochet stitch. This can be a good thing with very simple stitch patterns, but if I'm going to the trouble of designing complex new edgings (which I am), I jolly well want every detail to show up.
Monday, July 02, 2012
Meanwhile, I've spent the last year or so concentratedly acquiring useful skills for self-publishing. I've been fortunate to work with some of the very best publishers in the business, but what can I say, I'm a control freak. And I've discovered I really enjoy typography, graphic design, and layout.
I've attended two of Cat Bordhi's Visionary Authors retreats now, and yup, I've got a book project in the works. But since I plan to do my own book design and layout, I've been learning Adobe InDesign by developing a new single-pattern template. (You can see some of the design elements in my refreshed blog template, as well.) So here's what you can expect in the short term:
I injured my shoulder from repetitive strain pretty badly late last fall, and couldn't knit for several months, but I could crochet. So you can expect quite a few more crocheted shawl patterns in the coming months. And after an ergonomic consultation with Carson Demers and weeks of physical therapy, I'm happy to report I also have two new sock patterns prototyped.
Oh, and by the way, I discovered I haven't been receiving your comment notifications in a long time. My ISP got bought out by another ISP, and they changed my email address, and the comment notifications have been going to the former, now defunct address. So I promise I haven't been ignoring you.
But right now, there is something very important I must go look at on the internet.