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.