Sunday, December 30, 2012

I didn't finish by Christmas, but I'll take 5 days late.

I finished Lyra 2.0 today. Well, actually I blocked her today (gendered pattern name = gendered finished object... it's a bad habit of mine) and spent 6 odd hours yesterday crocheting around that border.

Gosh, do I crochet like an idiot.
Every time I pick up one of my hooks I'm reminded just how bad I am at it... Maybe if I practiced, I'd get better, but I'm at the level where I suck at it enough to dislike it, which hampers the desire to practice. It's a vicious cycle, really.

I had to go out and buy more T-pins because I knew I had nowhere near enough to block the added corners. Turns out T-pins are priced by idiots--$3.50 for 35, or $4.99 for 40 pins. That's right. Those extra 5 pins are going to cost you $1.50. Needless to say, I purchased 70 T-pins, not 80. That's one of those little things that irks me for reasons which I can't fully articulate. It sits on my irksome shelf right alongside the medium peanut butter being significantly cheaper per ounce than any other size, regardless of brand, and when a name brand product costs less than store brand products. Why? How did this happen? I'm sure there's a mathematical reason for it... probably one relying on people being creatures of habit who don't read labels.

But enough of that. Pictures!

I think it'll fit this time. That's Lyra 1.0, and she
kisses the edges of my table ever so obnoxiously.

 It's a full 16 inches wider than Lyra 1.0. I'm really glad that I decided to make the square, but let me tell you, man oh man was that last ball nerve wracking. I decided to forgo row 180 due to my frayed nerves and premonitions, and was that ever a good decision. I'm pretty sure we were in single digit territory for remaining yards after that crochet border.

So there you have it. Herbert Niebling's Lyra. I have the heat cranked up in our house right now so that it will dry faster. (In the winter, I tend to keep the house at a warm 55 degrees, which is not conducive to anything drying. ever.) When my seester gets me pictures, I'll post pretty Christmas presents, but as I finished them far from my camera, I have no evidence of their completion. In the mean time, I'm thinking of playing with some planned pooling. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Be nice to secretaries... or really just be nice

It is one of my life mantras that secretaries have all the power, so you should always be extra-super nice to them. Think about it--they control all the office supplies, most of the keys, and all of the memorandums including the tone with which they are sent. A happy secretary is your greatest ally. An angry secretary is a force to be reckoned with.

I've found that this rule also applies to government workers--you know, the sort of people that deal with idiots day in and day out. They don't have the power in the same way secretaries do, but if you are genuinely kind to them, they let you get away with murder. Want tot' get through the TSA with that liquid in your luggage? Ask them how there days is. Say thank you when they hand it back to you, unsearched. (Being young, pretty, and having 2 X chromosomes helps this, but it's not everything.)

Going to the DOL? Have all your paperwork ready and smile pleasantly all the time. Suddenly your bill will be several hundred dollars less than it should be, and the nice lady behind the desk will apologize that it's as high as it is. Fees are all relative to mood. Some of them are unavoidable, but if you piss the staff off, they'll find extra things to charge you for.

Seriously, though, being nice to people will get you everywhere.

I've finished my knitted Christmas presents, and pictures will be posted after the holiday has passed. I am on row 155/180 on Lyra (25 more rows, people. 25.) I'm trying to be diligent about working on it, but it's pretty heavy and rows are running about an hour each. I'm also dreading the end of ball #4, because I'm not entirely sure my math is going to hold up to the real world. And I can't find any stores in the area which carry Navy blue crochet cotton...

I also started a door sealer... thing. It's a tube, which will be stuffed and then shoved against the door to keep the outside just that--outside. It's basically a 3 foot scarf. I'm doing fibonacci stripes (1-1-2-3-5) to keep things interesting. Hopefully I'll have it done by the end of the evening.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

*Fingers in my ears*

I should have been a spy.

Or a psychiatrist.
Or a spy psychiatrist (The 1st 3 letters of psychiatrist are an anagram for spy. Coincidence? Not anymore.)

I don't know how I manage it--if I just have a very trusting face, or if I'm a good listener, or if I'm just super nonthreatening, or what, but people bare there souls to me. Often. Deeply. For reasons which I do not clearly understand.

I don't mind being a confidant for my dear friends--not in the slightest. If they need a listening ear, I'm always willing to lend it.

But I can think of multiple instances in the past few years where perfect strangers have broken down and bawled to me. A woman on an airplane spent 2 hours explaining why she hated her career, how her boss was corrupt (as in take to court corrupt) and how she really just wanted to be a wedding florist. A man I hardly knew recounted his sexual encounters, clearly seeking advice of some sort. (that one was weird. Apparently you can have debilitating shame and still maintain bragging rights.)

And those are the strangers--I sort of understand that. It's like no strings attached therapy where you can vent to someone who can do nothing to make things worse. It's cathartic.

However, acquaintances have a tendency to do the exact same thing. People who are concerned with social appearances, people floating around my immediate circle,who have no way of knowing just how gossipy I am, do the same thing. I can, again, recall more than one occasion where people on both sides of an argument have independently pull me aside to talk things out. Awkward. I've had people pull me aside just so they could talk out major life tragedies (I didn't even know you had a sister... this is awkward...)

And now people who are in positions of authority over me are taking 3 hour chunks out of my day to tell me their woes. Often.

I just want to work. How do you tell people in charge of the next two years of your life that you really don't want to know anything else about their personal life... ever... please... for the love of everything good and holy in this world...

I should have been a spy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Distractions and other forms of monetary advancement

My plans to knit Lyra have been thrown off the rails several times now in rather quick succession. First, I had a mad desire to do some colorwork. I haven't done any stranded knitting in quite some time, which is a crying shame since I do enjoy it ever so much. Since Lyra rows were taking forever, I put it down for a little while and knit Flora, which is not a particularly well written pattern, but if you can ferret out what you should actually be doing (aka ignore the directions... sigh...) you can get a pretty nice product.

I knit mine on size 4 needles with some spare Knitpicks yarn I had lying around. The whole thing only took a couple of hours, even with the crochet (which takes me far longer than it ought to), and I was ready to dive back into Lyra.

Until Portlandia offered $10 a coffee cozy for 20 coffee cozies. My entire knitting schedule was derailed in favor of stash diving.

20 cozy cozies. I ship them tomorrow.
Lyra's on row 126/180.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Excel is a good thing. Just saying.

I am currently 122 rows into the 180 row Lyra tablecloth, and I spent rows 77 through 113 crossing my fingers (figuratively, of course. It is quite difficult to knit with crossed fingers) and hoping that I would have enough yarn. You see, when I made the circular version, I didn't take the best notes... okay, I took almost no notes, but I did mark the row where the yarn ball changed.

I just didn't write down the size skein I was using. Aunt Lydia's white crochet cotton comes in skein sizes ranging from "I think I'll make a doily for my potpourri bowl to rest upon daintily," to "Maybe a lace cozy for the Hummer would be nice." So while I know that I used 3-ish skeins, the yardage is absolutely up in the air.

I have 5 balls of blue crochet cotton of the "potpourri bowl" variety. I am working on size 3 needles instead of the recommended 1's or the 2's I used last time (it became clear in the first 20 rows that the finished product would not cover my table if I continued on with the recommended needles).  I have no compass to guide me through this maelstrom of "How much yarn do I NEEEEEEEEED?"

No compass but my math, that is (and Excel. I refuse to do some of this stuff by hand.) I didn't know how far one ball went, and with 90/180 rows making up less than a quarter of the total stitches, ending ball 1 at row 77 was a bad sign. The solution? Counting. Count all the stitches in every row of chart. Add the total number together and multiply by 2 (those WS rows will get you every time), then by 8 (because it's an octagon... sort of...). I got a number, and a big number at that. Then I counted from the top down to row 113. 2.8 balls, high end estimate, from row 113 to row 180. I say high end because I counted EVERYTHING as the same. A double yarn over doesn't take nearly as much yarn as 2 knit stitches--it's got no bottom--but screw it, it's the same. I picked row 113 because that is where you must choose what shape you shall make. It is the point of no return.

Somewhere along the line, I told myself that ball #2 would last until row 116. In retrospect, I have no idea where that number came from (no, seriously. I think I might have done some really terrible cross multiplication...), but since 116 is greater than 113 I decided to soldier on.

Ball #2 lasted through row 118.
3 balls remaining, with calculations asking for 2.8.
Math, don't fail me now.

I'm currently working my way through row 122, but as I'm nearing 50% of the work competed with >2/3 of the rows already knit, it's slow going from here on out. I had to pull out my 2nd pair of 3's because the stitches were crammed so tightly onto the single needle that they wouldn't slide. If something goes wrong with the yardage, I'm royally screwed. I don't think I could put a post hoc lifeline in this baby if my life depended on it.

No pictures of progress because it looks like a deflated jellyfish.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Patterns are dumb (or I am... either way, really)

Remember how I said I'd finish the hoarfrost shawl last time?

I do too.

I just... ran into something kind of higgity, and now I don't know what comes next. You see, when I started this thing the first time, I did a single repeat on the correct needles and thought, "This looks stupid. You can't even see the lace when the stitches have this much negative space." So I went down 2 needle sizes. I like the fabric I get from this significantly more than that first go-around.

Well, I told you I needed to get roughly 26 inches out of the first cone if I was going to have enough yarn to finish the project, and son of a gun, I got all 26 of those inches (weeee!). Then I did a count to see how many increases I had already completed and how many more I would need to do in the remaining 7 inches (33 inches before the decrease section). The answer was 7. Each repeat takes roughly 1.5 inches, on the low end of the estimate. That's 10.5 inches.

Remember the part where I went down 2 needle sizes?
Remember how that's supposed to make your stitches per inch greater, thereby making the number of rows worked to achieve a certain length increase?

So on reduced needles, well below gauge, I'm going to exceed the specified length requirements by more than 4 inches... What? I put it down for a while. I'm trying to decide if I should work 33 inches and just start the decreases at their rough starting point or if I should do all the increases and make a slightly larger cowl...

I... I don't even know. Maybe it just needs a time out.

In an effort to not knit the hoarfrost, I started my second Lyra on Saturday with yarn I got from a going-out-of-business sale (boo for the economy but yay for my wallet). I'm planning on making the square this time and using slightly larger needles to make sure it actually covers my table. It's pretty and blue, and I finished row 60/180 today, which means I'm about 1/3 done on paper and 1/1000 done on the actual knitting (heh. Really, that's closer to 20%, but those rows towards the end are going to be unceasingly long)

I want to have it done by Christmas (for no particular reason. I just want it done by then), so we'll see if I can set a deadline and keep it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Busy busy busy

I had a grant proposal due last week, which of course meant that I was doing nothing but staring at my computer screen all day only to scrap 30% of the week's labor in the last 10 hours prior to the deadline. It also meant that the only thing I wanted to be doing was not writing grant proposals.

So basically, anything else.

But I was a good girl.  I wrote my grant. I didn't knit. I didn't watch random things I found on the internet in spells of desperation. I worked hard and well. It is worth noting that when you go into developmental biology, no amount of Google safe search will save you from the results you get when looking for the average volume and density of a Zebrafish ejaculant (0.8 µL and 9.96 x 107 sperm/ µL, if you care, which you don't). It is a source of great irony that, for all the money libraries pour into research databases, Google's still your best bet for finding what you are looking for, scholarly or otherwise. For free.

So when the grant was turned in at 2 PM on Friday, the weekend was officially underway, and I went home and vegetated for the better part of several days, only taking breaks to do things like feed my husband and make sure we had clean clothing. Turns out those fall under the category of "not writing grant proposals."  I also pulled the Hoarfrost Moebius out of my drawer for the first time in a couple months.

I have to convince myself to work on this project whenever I look at it. I started out of curiosity months and months ago. I purchased steel wool yarn with my Christmas money because I had wanted to try it. I didn't even think I would like it. I just... wanted to.. Is that weird? Probably. Well, turns out that I don't really like it, but I don't really hate it either. It just feels so pointless. I'm sure someone, somewhere can do amazing stuff with this yarn (Amanda. I'm looking right at you. Right now.), but for me, it's just blah.

I did some quick calculations, and I think I need to get 26" of the 33" total length out of the first cone if I want to have enough yarn to finish (Fun fact, If you've knit half the rows on a triangle shawl, you're only 1/4 done in terms of stitches. Let that sink in). This is another reason I've let it languish in the drawer. I didn't think I had purchased enough yarn. Turns out this thing is really hard to eyeball, though, because son of a gun, somewhere along the line I knit 24" and I still have yarn on the cone.
I think I'll finish it this time around. There's no reason not to do so... other than crippling boredom and the siren song of my yarn drawers... But hey, if I can be a good girl and write a grant, I can be a good girl and finish my moebius.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The other self-striping cowl

I finished the other cowl this weekend. I even crocheted a little scalloped edge (which, let me tell you, is dedication, because crochet and I... well... we have a strained relationship dating back to well before I learned to knit. Let's just say we've never been friends. ever.)

The pattern is an odd combination of the infamous Noro striped scarf , the scarf to which I attribute Jared Flood's rise to (well deserved) fame, and the Carousel socks, which pique my interest in the oddest sort of way.  I suppose you could say that the ten stitch afghan is somehow involved as well... I don't know. Maybe there's enough divergence here for me to say, "Hey! Look at this unique thing that I made!", but I doubt it.

Anyhow, it turned out exactly like I thought it would, which is wonderful considering the "maybe I'll make something" level of planning involved. 2 remnants of Noro Kureyon and a smidgen of Arucania later, I have a cowl.

It's pretty darn adorable and a fair bit lighter than last weeks foray into neck coverings. I wore it around the house all day, which was a little silly, but the whole thing is sort of a little silly so I think that we were probably okay.

There you have it--a rainbow striped cowl, cute little ruffles, and a much more colorful winter on the horizon. I really should make some mittens that fit my hands properly.

Maybe it'll snow this year.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Sometimes simple tasks prove inordinately difficult and, let me tell you, photographing this darn thing was one such task. I took probably 20 blurry pictures before changing light settings, took 20 more blurry pictures, handed the camera to the husband who took 40 or so blurry pictures, and then we gave up as a team.

I think I may need to consider investing in a new camera at some point...

So the mixed-to-poor quality pictures that we managed to scrape together reflect 3 of 4 potential ways to wear the cowl-hat-cowl. There are variations within these themes, allowing for function over form or vice versa, (and now I'm mulling over the different Latin pronunciations for that and wiche wersa is particularly hilarious) but those are more incidental and what with the photography issues, you're never going to see them if you don't meet me in person.

The "light" side cowl

The "light" side hat

The "dark" side hat
The pattern is a sort of amalgamation of Nancy Merchant's (aka the Brioche guru) It take's two and someone else's Bertrand Louis, mostly borrowing shapes from both of them. The finished fabric is roughly a foot wide and a centimeter thick (mix those units!) and warm as the dickens. I'm not 100% sold on the self-striping yarn I used--it's a little "Hey! I'm changing colors now! See! I was a warm color, but now I'm cool! and now black! MAGENTA!" for my usual tastes, but I think it matches my teal coat well enough that I don't care.

I've got a different cowl that's been in time-out for the past couple of weeks that I should start working on again (We got into a tiff. It was best for both of us if we had some alone time). It's also an amalgam of 2 patterns, and uses self striping yarn.

Huh. Weird.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What little knitting I happen to be doing

So, grad school eats up an astonishing amount of time if you're doing it correctly. I'm starting to find a rhythm where I can get things done (aka don't work places that aren't my office, or don't go home until the work is finished), so hopefully I can settle back into some of my hobbies again. There was a good 2 week chunk of time where I stopped knitting because it was making me feel guilty and wasteful.

Fortunately, that didn't last too long.

So I started making a cowl... hat... cowl... It's complicated, but it'll make more sense when it's done. The gist of it is I saw a pattern for a fake-brioche stitch cowl-hat-cowl and thought, huh, I could do that but cooler... and then I wandered over to my yarn drawers. I had a plan. I had lots of yarn. I grabbed some of the left-overs from the grey cropped hoody of insanity, as well as this weird self-striping stuff I acquired a little over a year ago. It's called Calipso and it's very misleading. One moment you think it's got simple, predictable color repeats, and the next you realize just how wrong you were.

I'm about 75% through the cowl-hat-cowl and I think it's turning out lovely. I'm using a (couple of) brioche stitch(es) I learned from a sweet article from Vogue, and as a result, I think the front side and the back side are both equally appealing.

Brioche stitch is nifty that way--every row is worked twice, once with the light color and once with the dark color. The result is this double thick fabric with tons of give and a reversible nature. The down side is that it eats yarn like it's going out of style. The whole piece needs about 4 more cm of knitting and then some finishing, and then it will (hopefully) make a bit more sense. For now, I just ogle and pet it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Inefficient Bureaucracy

I'm back in school, and let me tell you, learning is a truly wonderful thing. Graduate school has the potential to be an even more wonderful experience than undergrad, as you and your fellow students are struggling together towards some Good which forces you to form new bonds, synthesize separate disciplines, and enter a sleep-deprived euphoric state. I love learning.

You know what I don't love?
Bureaucracy. (and spelling bureaucracy)

There have been numerous encounters with the monster lately (oh gosh) but my favorite example is my keys.

This past week, I have had to acquire keys to my office, my two labs, and the building key. It took 4 days. 4. And there are no "off" days in there. No weekends. Just 4 days of running from office to office, hoping that the people you need happen to be in today.

You see, in order to get your keys, you need to fill out an old, copy distorted form, which you get from the stock room.
-Since you need 4 keys, you will need to fill this form out 4 times.
-You can only get the form if the appropriate stock room employee is working when you show up.
-The form tells you that it is to be submitted in room X. Room X is labelled on exactly zero maps. 
-So you blindly search for room X, stumble upon it by sheer accident, and the man at the desk sends you to the bookstore to pay for your keys--you should have known to go there first. 
-You wait in line for 10 minutes until the bookstore cashier sends you to customer service. 
-You wait in line for 20 minutes and pay $25 per key and tromp back to room X. 
-You fill out the exact same form on a better sheet of paper. 4 times.
-The man at the desk staples receipts on to your first form and send you back to the stockroom
-The stockroom says that if you've paid, you can go to the "Access Control Office" and acquire your keys
-You go to Access Control and discover they are only open 9-12, T-Th. It is Monday afternoon.
-The following morning you tromp off to Access Control, only to be told that you need to fill out cards. All 4 of them.
-The stockroom employee must sign these cards, which are identical in content to both the pieces of paper you have already filled out, except for the required signature.
-The stockroom employee is in a safety meeting until forever.
-You catch him running by in a panic and tell him you'll leave them on his desk
-The next day you try to find him.
-Eventually this works, but he tells you that the cards are in your box
-Access control is now closed by the time you discover this.
-The following morning, you sit outside Access Control at 8:50 and twiddle your thumbs until the one employee arrives ten minutes late to his three hour shift.
-He spends 45 minutes making your 4 keys, even with the long line of people who have accumulated behind you because they weren't smart enough to show up early.

And now you have keys. Why so complicated? Well, they need to make sure they get them back at the end of the school year, or so they say. Except no one cares if you return your keys. There are 3 separate offices with paperwork and a return date, and not one of them checks to see if you've returned your keys. I met a graduate who still had lab keys from a year ago. It's like some sick way of bonding you to the darned things because you worked so hard to get them--you can't lose them, they're basically a part of your life story now.

Anyway, I have my keys. And I learned to arc weld thermocouples. Like I said, the learning part is awesome.

It's just the bureaucracy that makes you want to tear your hair out by the roots.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Scholastic Nightmare

In about a week I'm heading back to school to get my MS in biology. I applied shortly after graduating from college, took a year off to get used to married life, and submitted finalization paperwork earlier this spring. Or I thought I did.

This last month and a half has been nothing short of a nightmare. Apparently the university's website and affiliated websites (e-mail, registration, etc) only work in Internet Explorer. I haven't used IE since I installed Firefox the same day I purchased this computer. It's kind of a terrible program. So I did not fill out the necessary forms in IE. I filled them out in Firefox. A few weeks ago, I was turning in my stipend paperwork which does things like wave my tuition when I ran into a little hitch in the giggle.

I wasn't enrolled for the fall. sort of. I had all the necessary programs up and running. I had an e-mail, a student ID number, a stipend, but I wasn't slated to come in the fall because they never got my formal acceptance. This raised a lot of questions, the most important being, "Oh dear sweet me, does this mean that they didn't file my stipend paperwork back in April when it was due and so now I need to find $10,000 if I want to continue my education?" followed by, "Did I just make my husband's commute 20 minutes longer for no adequately explainable reason?"

Well, after running from office building to office building (nightmare--everyone in a college is on vacation in August. EVERYONE.) I ended up properly enrolled. Next, the man who may or may not be my adviser (it's impossible to say, since there aren't any secretaries to check. They're all on vacation, too. For now, let's just say I afflicted myself on him) called in a favor with the dean and made sure that I was okay on tuition and such. Then I was able to enroll in classes.

But they were all closed.

2 weeks ago I received an e-mail saying that I would have to be a full time student to get my stipend. So I scrounged around and dug up 7 credits. About 1 weeks ago a spot in mycology opened up. I enrolled. 12 credits. full time. good. (except for the mycology part--when you want to go in to molecular embryology, the study of molds really doesn't fall under your umbrella of specialization)

2 days ago, I received an e-mail from the department giving me my TA assignment. I checked my schedule to make sure all was right with the world. Surprise: it wasn't. I am currently triple-booked on Wednesday afternoons. I have to be 3 places at once, because the TBA seminar is now at the same time as mycology is at the same time as my TA assignment. Awesome. Way to go guys.

So I thought, well, I'll drop mycology if I can. What other classes are being offered? Oh. all their labs are also Wednesday afternoons. So what about a 400 level class--the grad program says I can take those. Oh. I have to take prerequisites like science 101 to be enrolled in those, but not the 500 level ones. My "adviser" said to look at some independent studies, so what about those? Oh. I have to fill out paperwork and know what I'm doing well in advance? Pardon me while I go tear out my hair.

So I'm going to go and grovel at someone's open office door. Hopefully they will be able to offer something resembling help and coherent advice.

At the beginning of the summer I joked about signing up for piano and voice lessons. Do you think the music department would mind?

Monday, September 10, 2012

In which I do something I haven't done in a while...

I love knitting, which comes as a tremendous, unprecedented shock to most of you.  This means that I usually have 2 or 3 projects germinating in the back of my mind at any given point, and only my restraint and good sense (okay, maybe just common sense) keeps me from casting on a seemingly infinite number of projects.

That being said, I have a tendency to make only a few, specific things--neck, torso, head, and hand coverings. I occasionally foray into the world of stuffed animals or socks, but rarely because that's not what I "want" to be knitting but rather something for someone I know who will appreciate the finished product. I'm not a selfish knitter and I'm aware that I would knit exactly 1 sock if I didn't have someone waiting for the finished pair.  There's a few projects which you will almost never see me make, and the rarest of those is the felted bag.

There are a couple of reasons for this. I made 2 purses while I was still in high school and I used them, but I recognize that they were, on the whole, very ugly. Felting is a weird process to begin with and modifying the process for our high efficiency washer was a bit daunting. That's not to say nothing was felted in that machine--my mother insisted on washing my Hemlock Ring Lapghan after I'd finished it because back then Eco-wool smelled exactly like a barnyard. I told her it would felt. She said she'd use cold water. I told her it would felt. She told me it wouldn't.

I was right.
Dang it.
The lace was still visible and the pattern was unharmed, so I still used it for quite a while with no real ill feelings over the whole debacle, but the blanket was a bit smaller than I might have hoped...

But I digress. I just haven't found a lot of purse patterns that I like. Most felted bags are be-decked and be-dazzled in various ways to make them more "eye-catching"... shiver.. Which is not to say that all of them are terrible, but rather that it is a sub-genre of knitting I tend to avoid for practical and aesthetic reasons.

There is however, one purse which has called to me for years--we're talking way back when I first started knitting--and I haven't tackled it because I am cheap and don't buy books of patterns--$20 is too much for a single pattern. Recently and much to my delight, Interweave has been releasing a slew of patterns from their older publications as bait for purchasing those books. I won't take the bait, but I'll take the free, well edited pdfs, thank you very much. And that's how I got my pattern.

I had a bunch of yarn still unpurposed after the business with Anhinga and I used every last yard of it (seriously. Those cable swatches? Gone. I needed them. That's why the top is a crinkly mess.) making the Formal Boot Bag, which took a day and a half to knit. The felting and finishing has taken a couple of days. I sew like an idiot, so making the lining took more than a single attempt. I didn't understand the handle installation and ended up having to manufacture alternate means of attaching them to the bag (Who makes rings that aren't meant to be opened? Me. and the handle manufacturer. Not a good combo. I like my solution but I still feel like an idiot for not reading the directions before I felted the sewn down handle tab...) But it's done and it looks amazing. I could not be more pleased. Even the extra front pocket seems perfectly functional.
There are supposed to be buttons along the front pocket as little accents. I stared at the buttons for 20 minutes and came up with exactly zero acceptable possibilities for that purpose. I may go back and try again, but when the only thing you can think of changing is a minor cosmetic accent, things are going well.
Look! Purple flannel lining! 
I'm playing around with some stash yarn for the time being. I have a bug in my brain and if I can pull off the cowl in my brain, things are going to be a lot more colorful this winter.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I win.

1.) It turns out that you can, in fact, pick out the individual burnt fibers with a tweezers and salvage a horrible situation. When I singed the vest, my husband could point to the spot. Now he can't find it and even if I point to it he says that it's not actually different. Victory.

2.) I thought I should share some swatches from the beginning of the vest design process. I knew that I wanted continuous cables over the corners, but I didn't know how many stitches needed to go into each wrap if the cable itself was going to be a 90 degree turn. (This is actually a lie. I did know. I was just pretending to not know in case I could magically get by doing less. This never works)

 So, the swatch on the bottom is my standard, straight cable which makes up the bulk of the border. The swatch on the top right is the corner cable without the slipped stitch border which I later deemed necessary to keep things clean. The swatch on the top left... well... it's a pentagon and it's also what happens when you are a lazy bum who doesn't follow her own knitting rules. The thing is hilariously ugly and unusable, and the cables make this odd sort of star at the short end that augments the hideous nature of the thing.

3.) This is the part where I shamelessly gloat. Look at this.

I need to block it some more, and the armpits are a little wonky (I think I can fix it with some well placed crocheting), but I love this thing. As soon as it's no longer the temperature of the sun in our town, I will wear this everywhere. As things stand, it was almost too warm to take pictures of the darn thing. I think for a first "person shaped" design project, I could not ask for a better end result. The in-betweeny idiocies, I could do without, but the end product is wonderful.

4.) Bonus mini-game: Try and find the scorch marks. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

I'm an idiot (part II)

You didn't think it was going to be a 2 parter, did you.
Neither did I.

I'm almost finished with my vest, probably. All signs point to yes. I divided for the shoulders yesterday and finished the front and back today. All that's left is the 13" of collar that stretch along the back of the neck.

I wanted to make sure that everything was hunky-dory, so I decided to steam block each panel and measure the whole garment before moving on to that final step. I still think this was a good idea.

I set up the ironing board, filled my iron, set it to "lots and lots o' steam," and let it heat up. I started gently blocking the band, trying to get the cable to roughly the appropriate width. But then I smelled something. Turns out the iron hadn't gotten the steam memo (or so it claims) and I had burnt a large swath of cable that would sit roughly over my belly button. Burnt it to a crispy, yellow-orange, which stood in sharp and unappealing contrast to the blue-purple-grey tone of this yarn. The color contrast was so stark that my husband could identify the problem area in low light with no prompting other than, "Do you see what I just did?!?"

Upon lifting the iron back to vertical, steam started to pour forth again (I swear to you it had been steaming before I used it the first time), so I blocked the rest of the garment, trying not to scream or cry or throw the iron across the room. I had ruined my vest. I was 13 inches--just 4ish repeats of cables away from going out and buying hook-and-eyes to close the sucker. 13 inches away from being terrified of my mathematical fallibility. And I burnt the dang thing with an IRON.

It's not like I could rip back to the section or cut out the bad yarn--I burnt rows upon rows upon rows (about 16, in fact) and I would need to throw away about half of a hank of yarn which I'm not sure I could replace. I put the cable stitches on some waste yarn and took the sucker to the sink, wetting the offending (offended?) section and agitating it a little to force the fibers into small clumps. I got my snippers and cut away the larger bits that weren't integrated into the fabric.

I am currently sitting with a damp vest in my lap, picking away at the fibers 1 stitch at a time with a pair of tweezers.  I think I can salvage this thing.

Oh please let me be able to salvage this thing...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm an idiot.

I'm trying to use the recovered yarn from Anhinga to design a vest. Got that? Yes? Good. I'm not sure how most people go about the process of creating a new torso covering, but my way involves lots and lots and lots of math. Also diagrams. I do about 3 hours of measuring and calculating whenever I'm changing something, quintuple checking my results so that I can get the fit I'm looking for, even if I'm just modifying an already existing pattern. (like, say, the grey sweater from the bowels of Hell.)  All that to say that I have a fairly good idea of what I'm doing when it comes to deciding how far to knit.

Unless I have an aneurysm. At that point all bets are off.

Allow me to explain: The cable border is 16 rows to a repeat, and repeats are roughly 3.25" in length. When I sat down to do my first half of the bottom border, I said to myself, "Well, we need 18 of these, so I'll knit 9 here and then do the corner chart."

Some of you have caught the error already. 18 repeats of the cable pattern, plus the corner charts which are roughly 5" each, means that the finished circumference of the lower band would be 68.5". That's 5' 8.5" of border. My hips are 41" around at the widest point, giving me more than 2 and a half feet of ease.

So what happened? Well, my notebook says to work the band half for roughly 18", not 18 repeats. The odd part is that my brain caught the mistake, even if it couldn't figure out what had gone wrong--I only worked 7 repeats instead of 9 in the right band, and 6 in the left. Even then, I didn't figure it out until I was blocking the finished bottom band, and the total measurement was close to 50". It's fixed now, but I'm nervous for the rest of this sweater if I can make such a painfully obvious mistake and not catch it for days.

I've picked up the body stitches and I'm working through my waist shaping. I'll let you know if the result is "person shaped."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Computers really aren't my thing...

I finished my Aeolian a few days ago, but I haven't had the time/energy/lighting to take good pictures. I love this shawl. It turned out just like I hoped it would.

So that's that.

I have also been planning a vest.  I wanted to design my own cables and I did, which makes me feel awesome and like a sucker for punishment because I do not own chart editing software. I usually just sketch stuff out on notebook or graph paper and call it a day, but I can't find my graph paper pad (and if that first picture of the shawl is any indication, I may never find it on my desk... yeesh, it's a disaster area in there) and the pattern for the corner exceeds the number of lines provided on standard notebook paper.  So I'm learning to use an open source vector art program, Inkscape, which I picked up a while ago.

I am a sucker for open source software, and there's a substantial part of  me that wants to convert my computer over to linux just because it's open source. There are other reasons, too, but my complete technological ineptitude prevents the switch. "Surely you must be exaggerating," you think, but I'm not. It's been one constant war with computers for the last 6 years. My first computer was the spawn of the devil, so I'm willing to place some of the blame on her--we fought tooth and nail with a mouse that would move around the screen and open programs on its own, a broken left click and no "c" key, the ability to only print my papers out so that they would fit on a 3"x5" card,and windows Vista. Once I replaced her with my a newer, less willfully evil model, I had about 4 months of smooth sailing before disaster struck.  During a single semester of college, I crashed my computer so badly that it had to go back to the manufacturer and lost all my hard drive data including my thesis, broke the second one (a loaner from a friend) so that it wouldn't boot up past the "this is a Dell" screen, and disabled a keyboard on a school computer while trying to get my thesis introduction finished.

But I digress. Now that the charts are finished, I've started the bottom cable band after substantial amounts of math. Hopefully this thing will work. It follows my basic tenants of "stuff I prefer to knit," which are as follows: 1) longer is better--we did the crop top in the 90's and it was widely established to be a stupid idea; 2) everyone looks better in princess seams; and 3) continuous cables and shaping make my heart happy.

That corner... 

Hopefully my hours of math aren't lying to me and I've got my stitch and row counts right the first time through.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Recovering Anhinga

I was staring at my pile 'o balls 'o reclaimed wool yesterday and I decided to knit up a swatch. The good news was I got my expected gauge. The bad news was it looked like absolute dirt. It's very difficult to knit an even, wonk-free fabric when your yarn looks like a pile of ramen noodles. So any attempt to reuse this yarn would need to be either 1) something that was supposed to look grungy/textured or 2) a process which started with a long yarn bath.

I hadn't actually relaxed recycled yarn before--I should have on my Leitmotif cardigan, but that yarn was on its last legs and probably couldn't have taken the stress, plus the example sweater had some textured goodness to it as well. Also I am lazy. This whole thing would have been considered a learning experience if I had bothered to look up any resources, but, like most things I do in life, I figured I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing and if it blew up in my face I could always go look up the right way later.

This life philosophy has had mixed results.

So I got out my umbrella swift and set to work de-caking my three largest balls of salvaged wool. The result was, unsurprisingly, a pile of ramen noodles.

I have a theory that someday, somewhere, someone is going to try to market something like this as a very fetching cowl.
Albeit one with the propensity to snag everything.
From there, I gave it a good, long soak in some cold water. Wool is a fickle mistress, and with the way this yarn looked after I had frogged it (all frizzy), I didn't want to risk felting it to itself. That being said, I'm willing to bet warm water would have been a faster soak.

Pictured: Ramen Noodles
After it was completely saturated, I threw it over a hanger, stuck it in the shower, and then weighted it with a hoodie.
Turns out that hanks with greater circumference dry faster and decrimp better.
After that, it was just a waiting game. We don't have very good airflow in our new apartment and it's been hot and humid lately, so the drying process took a while.
It looks like totally different yarn. I am pleased.
This morning I took them down. They look just lovely. They aren't completely de-crimped, but the yarn is significantly more relaxed and I think it will work up a lot better thank its untreated brethren (which will get a bath later).
Before and After
I call it a success.
I have heard in the past that a steamy shower is usually enough to decrimp yarn, but I'm pretty well sold on this method. Also, it's so hot here that the idea of intentionally taking a steaming hot shower is repulsive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome to the frog pond

About 2 years ago, I bought enough yarn to make a sweater, and then I pawed around the LYS until I found the perfect pattern. I turned up a Norah Gaughan's Anhinga, which intrigued me with its asymmetrical panel, nifty structure, and the way my brain couldn't help but read it as Angina.Well, it was a bad decision for several reasons, including yarn choice and the fact that it's designed for a woman completely devoid of mammary tissue. The sweater looked awful on me.

But I had sewn it all together, even blocked it, and thought that it just needed to "relax" a bit to make it work.      2 years later, well, nothing magically got better, and since I'm not really in to owning clothing that I don't wear it was time to hit the frog pond.

(a note of clarification: the frog pond is so named because when you deconstruct something knitted, you rip it out, and if you rip it, rip it, rip it, well, you're a frog. It's a bad pun)

And so the sweater has been reduced to 10 balls of various sizes. I should probably wind them into hanks and relax out their ramen noodle shape, but my motivation is slim to none at the moment. I think it's destined to become a vest. I have ideas for a design, but again with the motivation.

Other than picking out miles of seams and ripping back yarn that's felted into itself, I've been making my second Aeolian. I made my first one years and years ago, and I loved it. It's like a piece of knitted jewelry. And then I snagged 3 rows along the edge, effectively breaking the yarn in 3 separate, nupp and decrease related spots. The result was an unfixable nightmare, complete with weeping and gnashing of teeth (less weeping than gnashing, though). I was pawing through my stash and grabbed some black laceweight left over from my Crown Prince Square--there's quite a bit of it. And then I remembered all of my silver beads, and I thought, "well, I have all of the materials. I might as well start this thing."

I prestrung my beads (a matter of personal preference--I feel that prestrung beads can sit on top of the knitting, but beads added individually are inside the work, as they cover a single stitch entirely. Also I don't own a crochet hook that small, and the idea of manually adding 850 seed beads makes me want to cry.), rewound my skein so as to evenly distribute them (success), and set to work. The little skein looks like stars, which is my hope for the shawl as well. Word to the wise, don't center pull from a beaded skein. You are unprepared for the knots that will result.

While knitting this, I have apparently become anal retentive for the first time in my life. ever. Normally when I make a mistake, I just correct it as best I can on the next row and move on.

Not so much this time. I have ripped back 8 rows twice trying to get this thing perfect. I think it's because the yarn is black, making the contrast between right and wrong more obvious, but it might just be that I'm growing as a person and actually care about my finished product instead of the process of making it. (however extremely unlikely that may be.) The practical upshot of ripping back work is my new found skill--post-hoc lifeline installation.

I have 10 more rows and a bind-off, but given the mathematical nature of triangle shawls and their area, I think I'll be done with this somewhere inside of a month.

Thursday, August 16, 2012's been a while...

Moving has this nasty habit of making me not want to do anything ever again. I attribute this to having handled all of my belongings twice (packing and unpacking) in a short period of time. Also the manual labor. That never helps.

As a result, I haven't really been knitting lately. Well, not only as a result of the moving. I'm also learning all sorts of things about university bureaucracy or why you shouldn't digitize your enrollment without testing the page on every browser. The last thing a future grad student wants to hear 2 months before she sells her soul to your department is, "oh, you're not actually enrolled here." Especially when that jeopardizes things like her stipend and that whole waived tuition thing.

Fortunately, my adviser (or the man who is probably my adviser, but we can't check since all of office management is on vacation through early September) is a competent, understanding individual and can call in favors so that I can actually attend school during the fall and not force my husband to drive 20 more miles to work for no real reason.

All is right with the academic world now. probably. I hope.

Also, it's been unrelentingly, blazingly hot here, and we don't even own a box fan let alone AC, so that really puts a cramp on the wool business.

So when I have been knitting instead of office hopping, it's been one of two things. The first is the hoarfrost moebius, which I freely admit I am making only as an excuse to use steel wool yarn. I don't really like the look of what I've got so far, and I'm not sure I'll like the finished product, but darn it, I've got two cones of the stuff and it's not going to knit itself. The fabric is really quite unique, and I love the drape or perhaps absence of drape it creates. Structure. The word I'm looking for is structure.

The second knitting project was a stash buster effort to not knit the hoarfrost moebius, and it's the honey cowl. It's a pretty quick knit, even in the largest size, though that may also be due to the yarn. I am deeply, madly in love with Arucania's Aysen. I love the colors, I love the fabric knitted up, I love the feel, I love the ply. This yarn can do no wrong for me, and the long slips in the honeycomb pattern let the beautiful dye job sing.
I was about 40 yards short, so I did some quick math and reduced the width to 9.5". This was a very, very good decision. I also worked a sewn bind-off to match my cast-on. They two are juxtaposed closely enough that I wanted them to be casually indistinguishable from one another.
Also, it's really hard to take good pictures of yourself wearing a winter cowl when it's >90 degrees in your apartment.