Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm an idiot (part IV)

My inner perfectionist won  out (score one for maturity, I suppose), and I ripped back the tunic to the pre-shaping mark. I put my needle back in and began again for about 3 rows, and then I had a revelation. There were fewer stitches in the hips than there were in the bust. This discrepancy is supposed to be alleviated by the fact that you don't sew up the last 7 inches (pre or post garter band, I can only wonder... a pox on unclear patterns). Here's the thing, though. I don't mind some slits, but I would prefer that they weren't letting my sides swing freely in the breeze. I don't really like showing skin, especially that skin. I'm no where near self-conscious enough to properly monitor exposure levels.

So I tore the whole thing back to the beginning and added 4 stitches--an inch. I figure an extra 2 inches (1 per side) would even out the hip issue and give me some positive ease through the chest. Because I'm using a larger gauge, I've got a bit of "negative space" when the fabric stretches at all. That should be effectively alleviated now. I think the yarn will bloom a bit after a few washes and completely eliminate this, but I'd like to actually where the darn thing before then.

Anyhow, I trucked along, excited to work the entire chart, excited for a tunic that would fit perfectly, excited to actually not be at 0% any more.

And after I finished the first ball, I looked down. Something was off. More specifically, something was off center. 3 stitches off center, in fact.

You see, when I count, I count by 3's (or rather I count 3 as 1 and multiply by 3 at the end). It's a hold over from spending every New Year's week doing inventory at my folk's clinic. The pharmacy is the largest chore, and if you're going to count 1859 amoxicillin tablets and keep track of the numbers when someone walks up behind you and says, "47, 13, 8, 29..." you start to develop systems to keep track of numbers. I would use 5 stitches (easier head math), but it's harder to eyeball 5 at a time. Almost all stitches will move in groups of 3.

So when I counted the stitches I tacked on an extra 3 to the first stockinette panel during the set up row (I can't count to 6. hoo boy). 35 rows later, I caught the mistake.

I am my own worst enemy, of this I am certain.
I'm almost through the first diamond now.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vogue! *Shakes fist at sky in rage*

Now that I'm finished plunging tiny swatches into subzero baths (and now that the quarter is over), I can actually get some good ol' fashioned knitting done. It's a project I've wanted to do for a few years, but there's always been this nagging issue--the yarn I want to use will not knit to the appropriate gauge. It is otherwise perfect for the project: it has the right drape, the right color, the right stitch definition, and the perfect amount of character. It's just a little too dense.

Fortunately, my math cannot be conquered by mere issues of gauge, and so I finally bit the bullet, knit a proper swatch, properly blocked the proper swatch, measured, and went to town. Everything was going swimmingly. The math was working out surprisingly well. I had even figured out how to make the whole chart fit when I had 4/5 of the rows in the original (shorten the diamonds). It looked lovely. I should have known better.

After all, this was a Vogue Knitting pattern.
(specifically, #22 sleeveless tunic)

And we all know how the last thing I tried to knit from a Vogue pattern went.

 (Vogue, I love you, but test knit your patterns for the love of everything good and holy in this world.)

Do you know what really throws a wrench in my plans for perfect math? Failing to include all the measurements properly. What do I mean? Well, the center panel is 133 rows. 133 rows works out to exactly 18" in gauge, which just so happens to be the exact length of the sweater before the armpit. How convenient, how lovely, the chart is the perfect size.

Except it's not.
There's 12 rows of garter before you start that chart.
That's an extra inch and a half that's not included in any measurement or diagram, and when the pattern tells you to start waist shaping 8" from the beginning, it really means 8" from the beginning of the chart. As a result, my perfect plan was 2" off (due to the change in gauge), and I had to cut out the top triangle.
Now the top and bottom don't match...
I soldiered on, though. It didn't really look bad, after all, and the measurements were still perfect. Plus I had already committed hours to this piece and I don't like ripping back things that don't result directly from my own mistakes.

Well, now I'm 6 rows short of the finished measurement, which is also 7 inches from the end of the center panel chart. Everything was working out perfectly. The measurements matched the diagram.

And then I went back to the directions.
There's 7 rows of garter after this section. I have completed the diagram, and I still have an inch and half of knitting to do.

For the love of everything.
The tunic's waist is not going to be at my waist if I drop it an extra inch and half. Everything was contingent on these measurements. Why do they lie to meeeeeeeee...

So, I see 4 options.
1) Keep doing what I've been doing, and maybe it'll work out okay when it's all sewn up. (the old me. I'm a process knitter, right? I don't care about finished products. It's about the journey.)
2) Start the garter right now. (the paranoid me. She's currently screaming "You're going to wear this in public, right?")
3) Work 2 rows of garter and call it a day. 3 needle BO the top to make up for the difference. (the problem solver me. She doesn't really care about the pattern that much anyway)
4) Rip the whole stinking thing out and redo it to accommodate what I've learned. (the perfectionist me. Usually this one doesn't get to have its day in court, but she's been making some pretty good arguments lately)

3 and 4 look like the best options, but I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Subzero Fiber (Results and Discussion)

Fiber Cheat Sheet (by defining constituent--I is technically 75% tencel, but the bufallo is what sets it apart from D)
Figure 1--Swatches used in this experiment. Moving clockwise from 12, swatches are as follows: H, E, A, C, B, J, F, D, and I in the center. I didn't weave in the ends because I was concerned that it might change the character of the fabric under extreme temperatures. I also feel I may have missed an opportunity by not spelling something with the little swatches...

G (silicon) was dropped from the study. The manufacturer lists the brittle point at -62 C, and the polymer itself was difficult to work with and impractical for the end-game of this study (actually lashing things together).

Heat Transfer
Thermocouple data was nonparametric and therefore analyzed using a Kruskal-Wallis. Pairwise comparison was performed with a 2 sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov using Systat statistical software. Comparison of ranks yielded significant differences between groups (p <0.001) (Figure 1).

Figure 2--Rate of temperature change of thermocouple when the swatch was plunged 1 cm into LN. The lowest mean temperature change +/- SEM belongs to E, I and J. 
Table 1--A comparison of differences between groups. Column one displays the group in question and column two lists the groups which are statistically no different from column one (KS, alpha = 0.05) I apologize for how crappy this looks, but apparently if you try to make a table in Blogger, you have permanently committed to having that table RIGHT THERE for all eternity. There is no way to display this easily graphically, unfortunately, as there are 3 fewer groups than variables. It gets ugly fast.

Stress Test
No swatches ripped, tore, or became glass-like when completely submerged in LN. All fabrics were able to curl, stretch vertically and horizontally, and twist 180 degrees without breaking. Swatches A and B became far stiffer when submerged than at room temperature. H froze in shape on the 180 degree twist and maintained the shape post thaw. Because A, B, and E are the only synthetic polymer containing fibers in this experiment and because all 3 changed their behavior under LN, it is my opinion that synthetic fibers, regardless of composition, are inferior to natural fibers. Of the natural fibers, plant fibers retained the most flexibility and behaved as though they were submerged in a room temperature water bath.

In this experiment, I asked which fibers--both synthetic and natural--transfered the least heat while retaining their strength and flexibility in a LN environment. I found synthetics to be inferior to natural fibers in the stress test. The heat transfer experiment favored fibers with greater amounts of protein or synthetic makeups. Furthermore, animal and plant fibers were capable of drawing up LN using capillary action. Swatch J easily became completely saturated when only a small portion of the swatch was submerged. Because of this, I cannot recommend using plant or animal fibers for use between LN and non-LN conditions.Teflon, though, not ideal in terms of flexibility, would be best for this task. Cellulose and protein based fibers would be most useful completely submerged in or in close proximity to LN. They retain their strength and flexibility. Each fiber type has its strengths and weaknesses when placed in extreme conditions, and decisions regarding which fiber type to use where and when should be evaluated on an individual basis. There is no universal best fiber for use in LN, but experimental and technological design can and should exploit the strengths and weaknesses of each fiber's unique properties.

Limitations of this study

Because I was limited by available fibers and overhead costs, and because many fibers work best when spun particular ways, there is little uniformity among yarn weights. Ideally, all fibers would have been no denser than fingering weight. This discrepancy also made it difficult to determine the best method for working with the teflon and silicon (which did have a swatch knit), as those polymers were manufactered to an arbitrary appropriate thickness. However, given the consistent behavior of the fibers represented in multiple swatches, the discrepancy is most likely negligable. Any further research from this point should include fibers represented individually and in blends, spun to similar weights, and might include a wider variety of polymers.

I would like to thank Dr. Charles Herr and the CANBE lab, as well as the good people of for their wisdom and insight while designing this experiment. It's been a blast. 


And, without further ado, I present to you "lashing together two teflon containers, " featuring Buffalo Wool Company's "Moon Lite" and making use of my carefully honed 2nd grade level friendship bracelet skills. I ended up settling on the buffalo because it was only moderately absorptive when compared to other plant or animal fibers, and because of the strong tensile strength of the fiber. The rocking gold color doesn't hurt too much either. The other candidate was Kollage "Milky Whey," and that fiber was far more difficult to work with and potentially difficult to acquire if I ever required an additional hank.
Ends have since been woven in. This is one of the components to a larger contraption which we'll try it out for the first time this upcoming Saturday. I am giddy with anticipation.

Can we just pause for a moment and meditate on how undeniably gorgeous this yarn is? Because it is. Good gracious is this yarn beautiful.
When I presented my findings from this work to my boss, he was fascinated and as a result we've actually changed several protocols entirely to incorporate animal fibers. He doesn't think this experiment is "silly" any longer.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Subzero Fiber (Methods)

The experimental procedures are finished. Huge thanks to my boss (and CANBE) for not looking at me like a crazy person when I asked to do this. I have about ten gagillion data points to analyze and a bunch of variables to account for, but there was a clear early winner and it wasn't what anyone had guessed. So, without further ado...


I chose 10 different fiber types to use over the course of the experiment. 8 were selected initially, and 2 were added after pretesting revealed trends. Fibers were as follows: 98% Cotton 2% Elastic (Cascade "Fixation"); 70% Superwash Wool, 30% Nylon (Red Heart "Heart & Sole"); 100% Alpaca (Knitpicks "Alpaca Cloud"); 100% Tencel (Yarntopia Treastures "6/2 Egyptian Cotton Laceweight"); 100% Sugarcane (Arucania "Ruca Multy"); 55% Wool, 45% Silk (Fyberspates "Scrumptious Lace"); 100% Silicon (Rescue Tape); 100% PTFE (PTFE Thread Seal Tape Mil Spect-27730A), 25% Bufallo 75% Tencel (Buffalo Wool Company "Moon Lite"); 50% Soy Protein, 50% Milk Protein (Kollage "Milky Whey"). Ply number was recorded for each yarn.

Swatches knit on size 0 needles. The pattern used was as follows: long-tail CO 15 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 21 rows and traditional bind off. Natural fiber swatches were soaked briefly and blocked gently. Synthetic fibers were left unblockedA 10 nm T-type thermocouple (Copper and Constantan, Omega) was arc welded under Argon atmosphere into row 21 of each swatch.

Figure 1: The arc welder and a bowl full of Argon. Thermocouples use the junction between 2 metals to produce a charge. Temperature changes change the resistance between the metals, and thus change the overall charge at the junction. This change in charge can then be retranslated into temperature by a computer. or so I am told.
Figure 2: The swatch-electrode. You can almost see the tiny, tiny junction.  It's just above the BO edge. Constantan is a copper-nickle alloy. In terms of my relative frustration with each metal, copper is fragile and snaps if you breathe the wrong way. Constantan is sturdy but oxidizes far faster, so if you miss the weld, you're up a creek without a paddle. When you have the fine motor skills of a constant earthquake victim, each of these presents its own unique challenge.
Thermocouples readings were measured using Labview at 1000 data points per second.

Figure 3: Thermocouples are plugged in here. Our setup is capable of taking 20,000 measurements per second. When I work with tissue, I use all 20,000 but when you're measuring time in minutes instead of milliseconds, 20,000 readings will break excel (no. seriously. I have found the bottom of an excel spreadsheet. I was not a happy camper. I needed that data)
Heat transfer
Swatches were secured with 2 hemostats and the CO edge was plunged roughly 1 centimeter into liquid nitrogen. Temperature was measured until the thermocouple reported -196 C. 5 measurements were taken per swatch. Mean rates of change were compared across groups. Observational data was recorded for absorbancy and flexibility.
The super, technologically advanced styrofoam bucket that works better than anything you can purchase on the market today for keeping Liquid Nitrogen liquid. The yellow color in the bucket is the Nitrogen, which refracts the light differently from water, though both fluids are clear.
Figure 4: A wave form around -150 C. The computer is the limiting factor in our equipment. Our thermocouple unit can push 100,000 readings per second, but you've probably recognize good ol' Windows XP's desktop. If it ain't broke, don't fix it (but do write grants for better equipment.)

New swatches were secured between 2 hemostats and plunged completely into liquid nitrogen. Flexibility was evaluated on the following criteria: Horizontal stretch, vertical stretch, scrolling, 180 degree twist, breaks, and glass like nature. Observational data was also recorded for each swatch.

[You've probably noticed the distinct lack of polymers in this experiment. That has to do with 2 things. First, the tiny town I live in had hardly anything at the hardware store and this experiment is too time sensitive to allow for shipping (and we're poor; that's First.5; most of this yarn came from my personal stash). Second, the superwash sock yarn, which is 30% nylon, was remarkably stiffer than the other wool containing groups. Teflon would later confirm that I made a good call not pursuing the polymers. They are simply too stiff at low temperatures to do any real work.]

Next up: Results (Data analysis takes time... ugh)