Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweater

Last Christmas the office where my husband works had an ugly Christmas sweater contest.   My husband was not part of that contest.  He expressed interest in doing it next year.  So I told him I would make an ugly Christmas sweater.  Let's face it, any excuse to buy more yarn is a good excuse to buy more yarn. 

I'm using the Sweater Wheel to generate a pattern - set-in sleeve, pullover.  I'm starting on the front of the sweater.  Not sure what I'll do on the back.  Do Christmas sweaters have to be decorated on both sides?  Is there an International Ugly Christmas Sweater Society that has promulgated the rules and regulations for ugly Christmas sweaters?  If not, can I start one?   Where do all the ugly Christmas sweaters come from?  Is there a prison in China where all the inmates are slaves to the production of ugly Christmas sweaters?   Who designs these hideous creations?   Is the compulsive designing of ugly Christmas sweaters a condition  that has its own DSM-IV-TR Code for Psychiatric Illness?  I may need to know that before I complete this project.  Are there dark forces now poised to unleash a legion of ugly Halloween sweaters?   --  I've already seen a few.

But I digress [whenever possible].

I'm going for a Christmas tree theme.  After starting off with a couple inches of ribbing, I made 8 blocks of different colors in two different sizes alternating.  These are going to be the presents under the tree.  Before it is over they will be dressed up with ribbons.  The tree is developing from a stack of trapezoids that are smaller as I go up the tree.  The lower edge of the trapezoid is adorned with the Three Flowers pattern to emulate strings of lights.  There is plenty of space left on each trapezoid to tack on ornaments that I plan to make later from my novelty yarn remnants stash.

This is a picture of what I've done so far:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lace Patterns That Don't Seem To Work Out Right

I had an email yesterday from someone who thought that the Coral stitch pattern had an error on Rows 2 and 6.  Specifically the writer indicated the following:


I think the problem is a matter of knowing how to read lace patterns. 

In lace patterns there are often ‘shared’ elements that have to split when the edge of the fabric is reached. Row 2 of Coral ends with a k2 INSTEAD of a k3. In row 2 of the chart you see three knit stitches in the center framed by an ssk on one side and a k2-tog on the other side – the center stitch of those three knit stitches is ‘shared’ between pattern repeats. At the edge of the fabric these three stitches --must be ‘split’ to maintain the symmetry of the fabric. That is done by adding the +1 stitch and then splitting it into a k2 on either edge of the fabric.  

Similarly, on Row 6 the sl 1-k2-tog-psso has to be split at the outer edge of the fabric. Again the +1 stitch allows the sl 1-k2-tog-psso to be split into a k2-tog at the beginning of the row and an ssk INSTEAD of the sl 1-k2-tog-psso in the last repeat.

The shared elements are more easy to identify when a pattern is charted. When knitting from a written lace pattern, you may often have to just accept the instructions that tell you how to force the ending at the fabric edge on the last repeat. Whenever I see a double decrease converted to a single decrease at the end of a lace pattern, I know the instructions are just telling me to work ‘half’ of the double decrease to keep the fabric even.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fishing and Knitting

I just returned home from Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg, Illinois. Very good show; the biggest and best I've been to and I've been attending for at least 6 years.

When I was packing last week, my husband asked me if I was taking half the house.
"I'm only taking my knitting hardware."
 Later it occurred to me how a woman might explain her collection of knitting gear to her husband: It's like fishing tackle.

 Both fishing hardware and knitting hardware are accumulated over a long time. Additions to both are made for special "catches." Every different type or location of fishing requires the acquisition of different tackle. That cane pole you started out with will not catch sea bass.

Likewise, different styles of knitting and different garments require different tools. Six-inch double point needles work well for socks but you probably need something more robust for a shawl.

Sometimes a fishing lure is purchased just because it looks kind of cool. There is a lot of eye candy in the hard-bait lure aisle at Bass Pro Shops. Or maybe you just like to collect new tools of the trade.

How many knitting tools have I purchased, not for an immediate need or a current plan, but just because of the "pretty bobble" factor. I have lots of stitch markers that are just fascinating to look at but, in any practical sense, I'm not likely to use them. They are my "bling-things." I sometimes buy needles just because they are different from any I already have. It's the collecting bug.

When you plan a fishing trip to some other state or region, there is a tendency to want to take too much tackle with you because you just never know what kind of fishing opportunity or location you may find. What will the fish be biting on this morning?

When I leave the house to drive several hours to Stitches Midwest I have an urge to take every last needle and knitting widget I've ever owned because I'm never 100% sure what I will need. In other words: Back up the truck!

The analogy between fishing and knitting could go on, like both take lots of patience. You get the idea.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to Get a Picture of a Knitting Swatch

I am camera illiterate and not likely to improve soon.  My husband is very good with a camera.  Unfortunately every time he sees me with a camera he assumes I want his help.  If I let him help, he starts barking advice at me and peppering me rapid-fire with a lot of terminology that does little to alleviate my confusion.  I need a better teacher.   

So -- how to get pictures of knitting swatches for my web site without making myself a target for my husband's hectoring?  Enter my cheap little HP printer scanner and a few items from the craft shop.  I use a 1.5" thick slab of Styrofoam and a thin sheet of black craft foam as a foundation for pinning out my swatches.  The Styrofoam came wrapped in a thin, clear shrink wrap of plastic.  I have never removed that plastic so that I never have little bits of Styrofoam rubbing off the slab.  I anchored the craft foam to the Styrofoam with four, t-top, blocking pins.  I used a straight-edge to score barely visible, 1" grid lines on the craft foam.  That grid helps when pinning a swatch out on the block.  I use the same blocking pins when mounting swatches on the block.  I have been using this method the six or seven years and I have only replace the Styrofoam slab once.

Once the swatch is mounted, I put the block, swatch side down on my scanner.  I run through the dialog boxes in the HP user interface.  I do a little manipulation of the scanned image in the HP environment.  Then I save it to a relatively high resolution .JPEG file.   This initial file still shows all my blocking pins.

Next I open the file in a photo editor.  My photo editor is Corel PaintShop Pro X4, however, there are many other photo editors applications that will allow for trimming and resizing an image. 

The first action I take is to correct the alignment of the image.  Although the grid lines on the craft foam help, I usually need to rotate the image a few degrees to the right or left. 

The second action I take is to crop out the best part of the image.  I copy this part out to a new .JPEG file.  This will be the view of the swatch that I put on the web site. 

The third step is to resize the image for the web.  I try to resize the image so that its size is less than 45 kilobytes (Kb).  It is important to keep the size of images on the web small.  Even 45 Kb is a bit risky.   But if there are not a lot of images on a page 45 Kb is probably within reason.  I save this reduced size image into my pictures directory.

Then for my last step I create an even more reduced size copy of the file.  This much reduced image is the thumbnail.  If you are familiar with my web site, I use a lot of these small images.  The thumbnail should be as small as is possible without making the little image a complete blur -- 4Kb is a good target for the thumbnail size, but you may have play with this to get a balance between size and visibility.  This small image make it reasonable to have many images on a page without making the page very slow to load.  I save this small image into my thumbs directory.

There are swatches that do not lend themselves to the scanner treatment.  Bobbles and over sized swatches don't go well on the scanner.  For those I put myself back on the mercies of my husband and his camera. 


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Knitting Abbreviations and Other Stuff

I have been reorganizing my on-line collection of knitting abbreviations and terms.  This has caused me to remember a time when I took a technical writing class.  I took the class only because it met a graduation requirement and it was a substitute for the more conventional English Writing class that most under graduates have to take.  I was ideologically at odds with all my high school English teachers, and even to this day I have not met an English teacher whom I considered entirely worthy of oxygen. 

I could tell some stories about my war with English teachers including an essay I wrote for an ultra-pacifist, gun-hating English teacher about the beauty of 12-gauge shotgun shells.  If you are an English teacher take comfort in the knowledge that I am actively trying to avoid you and, oh by the way, sucks to be you. 

At this point any English teacher will be fighting the urge to scrawl a great, red "F" on this blog and report me to the principal for . . . what?  As you can see, it was imperative that I sign up for the technical writing class to avoid the dreaded English teacher.  The technical writing class was taught by a Communication graduate student instead of someone from the English department, a slight improvement.

In the first class, the instructor presented the class with several examples of badly written instructions.  Lo and behold, she gave her worst marks to a crocheted doily pattern from a 1950's booklet.  She went on in detail about how incomprehensible it was.  And then to make her point, the little darling put it on my desk and ask me if I didn't agree.  I just started reading it off to her, not as the literal abbreviations on the page, but rather, in its long-hand, translated version.  Shut her up!  She didn't know my Mother owned a copy of the same booklet and I had already made the one she singled out for criticism.

This all occurred decades ago before computers were common place.  Since then I realize that crochet pattern was not an ordinary set of instructions.  It was more like a computer program.  In fact, syntactically, it was closer to a low-level programming language such as machine code or assembler language.  Knitting patterns for lace doilies are similar in construction to the crocheted doily patterns.  The patterns are the code and the knitter or crocheter is the computer central processing unit.

The technical writing class was not exactly enjoyable, but I probably enjoyed it more than the rest of the class.  I have a perverse affinity for tedious, mind-numbing, excessively linear processes.  And that explains why I would spend days trying to find a better database structure and web page interface to store my collection of knitting terms and abbreviations.  It will always be a work in progress with pauses. 

Meanwhile I am already penciling together some ideas for a better way to store and display my knitting symbols collection.  I'm trying to figure out something for knitting symbols that would be like Mendeleev's Periodic Table of Elements.  I don't think I can make anything that elegant.  Mendeleev had a distinct advantage because unlike knitting stitches, the elements were created by God, therefore Mendeleev's work has the strength of Natural Law to give it order. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paused the Goal

For the last several years one of my goals has been to work a new swatch every day and add its picture to the KnittingFool web site. There have been times when I fell off the goal, like last year when my Dad died. And this week when my daughter asked me to make a sweater for her; a particular sweater she saw at Knitter's Midwest last August. She remembered that it was announced during the runway fashion show that the pattern would be in the Knitter's 100th issue. So when that issue came recently she found the pattern for the Celebrate Tunic and wanted me to make it.

I ordered the yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash, from on Saturday 11/13/2010. They had almost all of the 11 rainbow colors; we found close substitutes for a couple colors. The yarn arrived the following Monday. I wasn't expecting it that fast. I worked my guage swatch Monday evening and started the front of the sweater that evening. It is now the following Sunday and I just finished the second sleeve -- all the knitting is done. I'm going to take a break for a couple days before I block and finish the sweater.

My daughter should have made the sweater because the pattern is so simple -- all garter stitch and simple shaping. But the yarn was a bit more expensive than what she is accustomed to working with, and she does not have a good completion record, so she was intimidated by it.

I understand how that is. I made my first sweater at about her age. I made it out of Red Heart wool in a varigated shade of olive greens. I had to use the varigated yarn because my Mom would not front the money to buy all the yarn at one time -- varigated yarn reduced the risk of having a mixed dye lot. My weekly allowance was enough to buy two skeins. It took about six weeks to get all the yarn, two skeins at a time. It was a great sweater, a pattern from a woman's magazine (McCall's or Good Housekeeping), long cardigan, simple 7 stitch cables all over (with the purl stitch down the middle) and set in pockets. Fairly challenging for a first time sweater but I was so determined to show my Mom that I was not a bad bet. She was a little easier about financing my early projects after that.

So for a week I have not added any swatch pictures to KnittingFool. I will try to catch it up a bit over the Thanksgiving weekend. Hope you understand.