Thursday, November 07, 2013

I'm not the boss of you

Here's something that's been bugging me for a long time. If comparative study of multiple toe-up cast on methods doesn't keep you awake at night, you can probably wander off and happily go on about your life.

When I write a toe-up sock pattern, here's the easiest/briefest way to start the instructions:

"Using Judy's Magic Cast On (JMCO), CO 24 sts. Knit 12 sts (half the sts). Rnd 1: ..."

But as much as I love JMCO, you don't have to use that particular method, and I don't want to imply that you must. But if you use the Turkish (aka Middle Eastern, or just Eastern) or Figure 8 methods, at least with most versions of the instructions for those two methods, you don't get the row of visible stitches between the needles that JMCO produces. So I'd prefer to write something like this:

"Using the invisible toe-up cast on method of your choice, CO 24 sts. If using Turkish or Figure 8 method, knit 1 rnd; if using JMCO, knit 12 sts (half the sts)."

Except... some instructions for Turkish or Figure 8, particularly the Turkish include knitting the stitches a second time, which does put an extra row of stitches between the needles like JMCO. So unless I were to provide or cite specific instructions for each method in every pattern, in order to guarantee the same structural results with all cast on methods, we need these starting instructions:

"Using the invisible toe-up cast on method of your choice, CO 24 sts. Knit until you have one row of sts visible between your needles before beginning Rnd 1."

Remember, too, in addition to having taken forever to think about this, I've had varying degrees of creative control when I've worked with other publishers. So you can probably just substitute that wording into any toe-up sock pattern of mine that's ever been published, and feel unoppressed.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


So, you know how you when you owe a friend an email, or a call, or maybe even an old school letter, and you have every intention of answering them, but they're so important to you that you don't do it right away because you want to make it really good? But then some time goes by, so then the pressure to be really good is even higher, so you put it off even longer. And this whole cycle repeats and builds like a pressure cooker canning jam until so much stuff has happened that you feel like you owe them a novel, or at least a holidays letter with nice photos, maybe even digital scrapbook pages and and and...

Um. Hi.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No flange, not safe

(Trust me, you'll be just as happy that this post has no photos.)

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

Too soon

A month ago I was planning to find a new home for this WIP. I was convinced that there was no way I would ever finish the beaded border. It's Susan Pandorf's Evenstar pattern, which calls for 56 repeats of a 20-row knitted-on border chart, and each repeat uses 50 beads. I worked on it for several miserable days in February 2011 (admittedly, I was recovering from a very bad case of bronchitis, which didn't help). I repeatedly dropped beads, dropped stitches, and shredded the yarn, accomplished a little more than 3 repeats, and stuffed the whole thing in a bag in The Closet of Despair™.

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.

I knit the entire body of the shawl on Addi Turbos-- not the Lace Addis, either, but the regular ones, with their fairly short, rounded tips. Now I've got Red Lace ChiaoGoos (which I'm not sure even existed in February 2011). Not only do they make working the decreases easier (how did I ever slog through all those twisted double decreases in the body without them?), but those pointy points really make transferring the stitch back to the needle from the crochet hook simple.

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

Fall tree-peeping, knitter-style

I only live about an hour and a half's drive from Bloomington, Indiana. It's an easy day trip. It's a wonderful "real" college town (as opposed to an ordinary town which happens to have a college in it), with great shopping, dining, entertainment, and an attractive campus. If I could live anywhere in Indiana, it'd be Bloomington.

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.)

As we approached the hotel, I was supposed to be navigating, but I got distracted by the fabulous lace-covered tree at right. In fact, the downtown Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District (BEAD) was full of tree sweaters! A little Googling turned up the reason: it's a fundraising project for domestic violence victims. You can see all the trees and read about the Knitting to Heal project here.

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!

Oh, and here's the obligatory photo of my yarny souvenir shopping from Yarns Unlimited and 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. ;)