Monday, December 07, 2009

Adjunct Professor of Yarny Goodness

I used to think I wanted to be a college professor. I went to grad school. I also dropped out of grad school. Twice. I got a master's degree in one subject, and embarked on a serious attempt at dissertation research in another. I married one man with a Ph.D., our housemate is another, and both are college professors. So although I realized that my personality was unsuitable for the tenure track, I'm fairly experienced with the culture of academia.

Now that I'm designing with the intent of publication, I'm amused by the parallels between my work and academic life. At a recent coffee shop gathering, a friend asked me, "So what have you got going on these days?" Thinking of my upcoming submission deadlines, for which I'd done extensive knitting and crocheting but no proposal-writing, I said, "Well, you know how it's way more fun to do the research than to write the paper?" and everyone at the table, with one voice, said, "YES."

Something important that is missing from my life is a good graduate student. I would gladly teach knitting and crochet arcana and provide grant funding (i.e., yarn from my stash) in return for winding my skeins, testing my instructions, and (of course) knitting my second socks.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Barter for Garter

Recently, a relatively new friend-- someone whom I like very much, but haven't really had time to develop a strong emotional bond with-- asked me, "So what does it take to get a pair of handknit socks?" I actually don't knit for very many other people. My gift knitting is pretty much limited to my husband, some (but not all!) of my family of origin, my in-laws, and my band. Very rarely, I'll knit for an extremely close friend. The list of people for whom I will knit for free looks suspiciously like the list of people for whom I would donate a kidney.

I was thinking, though, that there is one way I would knit to order: in exchange for an equal amount of the recipient's time. If you're willing to labor at something you're good at for me, I'll do it for you. A pair of fine-gauge socks take about thirty hours, so start thinking. Here are a few ideas:

  • Like hanging out with cats? Take care of mine for a week, and I'll knit you a hat. There are seven of them (cats, not hats). If you'll come twice a day to supervise the one on a restricted diet and let the crazy outdoor-lover in and out, there's a matching scarf in it for you. House-sit and they'll be cashmere or silk.

  • Like landscape gardening? I've got at least a lace shawl's worth of that for you to do.

  • Like cabinet-making? There may be an entire intricately-cabled Aran pullover in your future. If you are an experienced kitchen or bath remodeler, we can talk fair isle.
  • Of course, if I simply don't like the pattern or the yarn you want knitted, all bets are off. So if you want a black acrylic cabled sweater, I don't care if we share DNA, exchange vows, or play rock 'n roll, you're still out of luck.

    Thursday, September 03, 2009

    A work injury

    See what happens when I knit other people's pattern's instead of working on my original designs? This is the front leg detail from Cookie A's "Stricken" sock pattern. I didn't have enough yarn to finish the toe, but a kind person from Ravelry sent me some. First, however, I need to rip and re-knit the foot due to a gauge anomaly. Again.

    However, I purled through the back loop too often and crossed too many twisted knits, and this happened.
    That's my tennis elbow support band. All right, no more twisted stitches for me for a while. Back to stockinette for the moment.

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    Minimum summer moment

    It's been quite a summer. I've been working almost entirely on designing and have two sock designs in submission, one in preparation for self-publishing for sale, and a fourth on the needles to self-publish for free download (you know you want it!). Whew. All that design work doesn't make for much blogging, as you can see, since most publications want you to keep your projects under wraps until the release date.

    I went to Knitter's Connection and spent two days of class with my awesome friend Peg and the inspiring Cat Bordhi. She liked the design work I brought with me, which made me deliriously happy and kicked off my designing frenzy. You'll see that sock one of these days. I can't tell you where and when, but you'll see it.

    castle fibers
    I was fairly restrained in shopping, but I did come home with yummy stuff from a new-to-me company, Castle Fibers. I wish I'd bought more. They have an etsy store but there's nothing like picking it out in person. Later I found out an amusing factoid: they are based in Rapid City, SD, which is the town where I was born.

    It took me two days of misery to get there, but I did eventually make it to Sock Summit in Portland. I had to rush straight from the airport to Amy Singer's "Making the Next Monkey" class, and still missed half of it, but Amy invited me to attend the first half of the other session to catch what I had missed (thanks Amy, you rock!). I'm feeling much better (or at least better-educated) about doing my own sock photo shoots for Knitty submissions now.

    I spent an incredible amount of time in the Sock Summit marketplace. (I swear it would have been cheaper if I'd gotten into more classes!) I met Casey and Mary-Heather in the marketplace, and did the fangirl routine (Yes, Casey,I'm the dork who gushed profusely about your beautiful programming). He gave me a Ravelry button! After embarrassing myself soundly, I didn't have the nerve to say hello to Cookie A. I didn't make it to Voodoo Doughnut (smelled the doughnuts, saw the line, kept walking) but I did have a root beer cupcake from Cupcake Jones. They have mocha almond fudge cupcakes today and I WANT ONE.

    Oh, uh, and I've been in the throes of moving to a different house. In my spare time. Riiiiight. I got my old house sufficiently (not entirely) emptied and fixed up to put on the market within SIX WEEKS of deciding to sell. It was a monumental, stress-inducing, sleep-depriving endeavor. Well, at least there's more room for yarn in the new place, even if there is an appalling lack of closet space.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    When I'm high, I can knit the future

    My husband the number theorist goes to conferences which are well-attended by people who do mathematics for the National Security Agency. Many of them will tell you they really enjoy their work, but they can never give any talks about it. That's how I feel about working on my sock design; I'm having a grand time, but it doesn't make for interesting blogging.

    When I say "grand time," it actually reminds me a lot of taking narcotics. I'm hyper, euphoric, insomniac, and just a little nauseous.

    I'm on my fourth iteration of the heel. The first time was like a rough draft, just to see how the pieces fit together. Then I did a whole bunch of high school algebra to figure out the numerical relationships between the stitches and rows of the various sections. I also demonstrated that there was only one degree of freedom, which means that it's okay to pick the number of inner ankle gusset increases to be anything I want, but then all the other numbers are determined by that one (no more free choice).

    While I was knitting up the Math on a Recycled Envelope, I tweaked the construction details, substituting kitchener stitch for a section of narrow short rows, which produced satisfactorily stretch and mysterious-looking ("How'd you do that?") heel, so now I'm just tweaking the fit.

    I have to knock off the tweaking pretty soon, though, because in seven days I'm leaving for Knitter's Connection! My friend Peg and I had some headaches with registration, but in the end, we are both taking two whole days of class with Cat Bordhi. It's important to me to have a finished sock with me, not a pile of sock ramen and a better idea.

    Oh, and because blogs should have photos, here's one of a famous number theorist. Does his shirt say "Kaffe Fassett influenced" to anyone but me?

    Monday, June 01, 2009

    Seventeen days and counting

    So it's immediately obvious that this is a useful tool for creating an unconventional sock architecture, right?

    sock aid

    I'd had a creative inspiration for sock architecture several months ago, but I never figured out quite how to work the heel. Last night while I was trying to fall asleep, I suddenly had an idea about how to go about solving the problem: mark up an actual sock! The house was dark and my husband was asleep already, but luckily there was a load of whites wrinkling in the dryer, so I fished out one of his white socks. Sadly, there wasn't one with an incipient hole, and I grudgingly admitted to myself that I ought not to draw all over a perfectly good one with a laundry marker. So I used double pointed needles to mark parallel lines to help me figure out where to place heel shaping elements. Then I stayed up way too late knitting on my prototype.

    I'm taking (hopefully-- still waiting for confirmation) a class with Cat Bordhi in seventeen days, and I'd love to have this prototype completed to take with me to show off. I can't post a photo of the WIP because that might interfere with submitting the design for publication, but I'll share a closeup of the yarn knitted up because it's Ooh Pretty. It's a Claudia Hand Painted Oops, which is a shame because I'd be tempted to buy more of it.

    sock sample

    Saturday, May 30, 2009

    The right tool for the job

    Okay. It's time to break down and spend the money on a pair of sock blockers for photography purposes. How do I know? Because I just took a photo of a sock with a cheese grater inside it.

    Sock for the Cure

    At least that photo turned out better than the one of a sock with the DVD remote control in it.

    If you like the waffle texture on the non-ribboned portion of the cuffs, it's ridiculously easy: Knit 3 rounds, then work (K1, P1) rib on the 4th. The original pattern called for seed stitch, but that sounded like way to much purling.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009

    Technical difficulties and things that are pink

    When I tried to photograph my latest stockinette sock, I ran into a problem. The pictures turned out fuzzy.

    miranda helps

    sock saddle

    I promise I've got the second sock on needles already. Casting it on immediately isn't a surefire cure for second sock syndrome, but at least it keeps me from using the right set of needles in some other project, stalling out the second sock indefinitely. In fact, there is a solo sock on my coffee table right now as a result of the last time I failed to segue directly to the second sock; I robbed the needles for the purple ankle socks instead.

    At least I've managed to cast on a non-stockinette sock. It's a charity project; I plan to donate the finished pair for the local Race for the Cure raffle in the fall.

    sock for the cure 2

    I'm using (by which I mean modifying) the Pink Ribbons: Breast Cancer Awareness Sock pattern by Lisa Lloyd, graciously distributed by her for free.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009


    I've been in a stockinette sock slump again lately. This time I was carved into that rut so deeply that I made four matching socks. They're all knit from one 100-gram ball of sock yarn (Opal Cotton).

    ankle socks 2-pack
    How did I know I had enough yarn left to knit a second pair of socks? I used my kitchen scale. I've got a good digital one that will measure in grams or ounces. When I finished the first pair, I popped the rest of the ball on the scale; since it still weighed 54 grams, I knew I had enough for a second pair. By the way, I would have run out of yarn if I hadn't made them fraternal quadruplets (they're not quite identical, since the subtle stripe pattern falls differently on each sock).

    A postal scale will also do nicely, and if you don't own a scale, all you have to do is stop by a post office with a self-serve scale in the lobby.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Six of Hearts

    I've finally managed to resuscitate my Great American Aran Afghan. In honor of Valentine's Day, may I present the recently-completed Barbara Selesnick square:

    Selesnick cropped

    This is supposed to be one of the five easiest squares. Well, sure, if you knit exactly according to the pattern. But when I tried that, it was going to come out ridiculously short; if I added a fourth vertical repeat at that gauge, it would have been too tall.

    I monkeyed around with several unsuccessful modifications, but in the end, I chose to add 4 rows of reverse stockinette to the center section before and after the heart motifs.

    Fidgety business: I worked the garter borders on 51 stitches instead of 55. I increased four stitches in the last row of the border, then increased another four stitches in the process of beginning the first hearts (two stitches at the base of each motif, bringing the stitch count to the expected 59 and successfully avoiding cable splay.

    By the way, here's Susan Rainey's interpretation of the Selesnick square with four pattern repeats.