I know you thought this blog was long abandoned. Indeed it has been on my mind a lot, but time is an endangered resource and I was forced to spend it on other things.
Yesterday I officially finished the rat race. It was of course bittersweet to leave my friends. It felt more like I was graduating, and they were not. I still plan to devote time to writing software applications, but now they will be what I want to write and not what my employer wants me to write.
What’s next? We are moving! Yes, we are moving 2700 miles away to the Blue Ridge mountains in western North Carolina. Why there? Lots of reasons. We adopted a home between Hendersonville and Brevard last July and we call it Bebbanburg. Here is a little taste of the reason why:
I plan to update this blog more frequently but the story of our move and new home has its own place: The Chronicles of Bebbanburg. Please follow our story there!
What else is new? I took the Olds College Master Weaver Level One class in Yadkinville, NC the last week in April. (Sadly, Yadkinville is 2.5 hours from Bebbanburg, but still much closer to it than Seattle). Once I get moved and have an appropriate loom set up and ready to go, my progress in the course, along with my weaving adventures, will be documented on another blog, Thrumbelina.
Everything else– knitting, life in general, spinning, pets, etc. will remain here.
it has been nearly two years since I posted on this blog, and as you may have noticed, I waved my magic wand and made all my prior posts private. In part, this was due to not wanting to be reminded of the unpleasantness of the events of 2012, in which the C word played a major role, in part because I could think of nothing to say, and in part because I was trying to hide from the world.
Truthfully, my thoughts have not been material and my material has been less then worthy of thought.
But lately, I have perked up and become interested in a variety of textile arts, mostly of the weaving ilk, that I thought I could blog about and if you want to read about it then we have what is commonly referred to as a mutually convenient situation.
As I sit here eating my dinner of half a flax-seed English muffin with organic peanut butter and local honey, accompanied by a glass of my favorite low-cost red wine of the year (H3 Merlot, 2011, a Columbia Valley wine produced in Washington State), I consider what to tell you first.
How about this: I am a grandmother! This to a sweet little girl born the first of June, given an Irish name loaded with more vowels than is legal in Scrabble. She abides in a land far far away in the regions of the maritime Carolinas, and I shall refer to her with such monikers as seem proper at the time, including but not limited to Sweetpea, Babydoll, Sugar and the like.
As a new Grannie, my current knitting project is all about Baby. It grows slowly in the form of many shades of pink, which I am informed is her favorite color. Indeed, from my own entrance into the world and up until and including the present, my own favorite color has been any shade of pink. I well remember my bedroom curtains and bedspread as a child with its three wide ruffles of successively deepening pink. I remember them mostly because they were cotton and I was the one who had to starch and iron them. (My baby half-sister hated them and as soon as I left for college she burned them and painted the bedroom blue.)
But I digress. The idea is that I am using the stitch pattern from The Rainey Sister’s Surrounded afghan, reducing it to a 3″ block, and knitting these in 3 shades of pink plus a pure white (the yarn is Dalegarn Baby Ull). These will then be arranged in nine-patch blocks so as to produce a traditional quilt arrangement called Sunshine and Shadow, thusly:
The knitted blocks look like this:
I have completed 7 of 9 for the first nine-patch, and am working on the last 2 simultaneously. So I am almost 1/16th done. Hopefully I will pick up speed and get it finished by September, when I plan to visit my magical wee girl descendant in the land of her birth
How many times have you heard someone say “there’s no such thing as the knitting police”? Well, I’m here to tell you that there IS such a thing. They are unpaid volunteers, heroes– brave creatures who risk their reputation as a “nice person” to tell you the truth about your knitting or to keep you out of trouble to begin with. You may not want them to work in your universe, but in mine they are essential citizens. They provide criticism or advice as warranted. They are the ones whose compliments you trust because you know they will tell you the truth. They warn you of bad design choices– sweaters that will make your Rubenesque curves look like charging hippopotami, armholes that emphasize your aging, sagging bustline, negative ease that you should have left behind in the ’80s.
If you aren’t aware of the Laws of Knitting, these enlightened enforcers will illuminate your path so that you can obey them in the future. They may write you a ticket for bad grafting, but at the same time teach you how to do it right or refer you to source of proper instruction. They may give you a warning for curling button bands; they may point out the egregious nature of the stockinette you produced while drinking the fifth rum and Coke (thought you’d gotten away with that, did you?). They may even have the nerve to tell you that you will have to rip something back fourteen inches to fix it. They are your friends.
Not everyone loves the knitting police, and these seek to deny their existence. Many there are who believe that in this cruel world only kind and positive things should be said. Instead of saying words to the effect that short sleeves make you look like a sumo wrestler they say “oh, I’ll bet you’ll love those short sleeves in the spring”. Rather than telling you that your neckline pickup is sloppy, they’ll suggest you wear a scarf over it to “pick up the color of your eyes”. Not quite as bad as offering you aloe vera for your burns as you blaze upon the stake, but along the same lines. In the very wise words of the song from Ishtar (sung endearingly off-key):
Telling the truth can be dangerous business.
Honest and popular don’t go hand in hand.
If you admit that you can play the accordion,
No one’ll hire you in a rock ‘n’ roll band.
Of course it is possible for our knitting police officers to cite offenders with tact and compassion. The ratio of compassion (the “eggshell factor”) should be inversely proportional to how well the officer knows the perpetrator. Practically strangers? Approach with caution, use tact and euphemisms; do not scare the knitter into defensiveness. “Maybe it’s just me, but is that cable crossed incorrectly near the bottom of the back… I could be wrong. In fact I probably am. Don’t worry about it, it’s probably just the light.” Longtime friend? Fire at will. “Your increases don’t match and you left out the right bust dart“. Plain and simple, straightforward and honest. If more knitting police would come out of hiding, knitters would (probably) be grateful. Think of the times when you’ve had spinach stuck in your teeth. Your companion lets you know; you are grateful. It’s the same kind of thing. Really.
The Knitting Police Academy does teach that habitual offenders should be left alone. If they do not have a proper appreciation for the Laws of Knitting and fail to show interest or aptitude for such, they should be kindly tolerated. Like the colorblind cartographer who doesn’t care if his socks match or not, these known knitting lawbreakers pose no threat to society.
One more thing: there is corruption among the Knitting Police. Outliers on the Force will be intentionally cruel and possibly not even well-meaning with their interpretation of knitting edicts. They might be open to bribes in the form of delicately hand-dyed qiviut or combed merino top, but they will never help your knitting skills, so you’d best buddy up to a KP officer who is honest and perhaps curmudgeonly.
Ok, lecture over. Here’s a photo of what my fingernails look like right now. Cool, huh?
My left hand is worse, so I’ve got surgical tape over the first two fingernails. The official name for this condition is “Onycholysis” (some websites report the condition as “painless”, and by this it is obvious they have never endured it) , so I guess I’m officially an Onychoholic. Although by the grace of god I was able to put down the bottle of Taxotere and conquer my addiction to chemotherapy once and for all, I am stuck with this hurty condition until the nails grow out. Until that happens, I’m doomed to knit only a row now and then, but I’ve got a cushy side job. I’m high in the ranks of the Knitting Police.
Time snowballs recklessly and refuses to slow down, hence my recent sojourn away from the blog. But life is good (knock on wood), very very good.
In August I accepted a job with Expedia as a data developer, and I love working there. The enticement to join up (aside from the compensation package) was the chance to learn noSQL technologies and to apply them. There’s always that fear that you will get a job and then your expectations will be unmet, but that fear was totally unfounded. I have added Java to my arsenal of programming languages, and am quickly catching on to Cassandra and MongoDB, to be followed shortly by Neo4J, Hadoop and CouchDB as well as some homegrown in-memory data stores. What fun!
The whole downtown Bellevue scene where Expedia is located is vibrant and alive, with everything within walking distance– except a yarn store. But that could be a good thing.
Besides my work-related technology ramp-ups, I’ve also begun working with Objective-C and IOS on my very first Mac– a Mac Book Air. The impetus behind this seeming madness was my iPad. I love my iPad and take it with me everywhere. I want to write some apps for it, ergo I needed a Mac. It’s like switching to stripes after a lifetime of wearing polka dots, but not in a bad way. Along the way I’ve also dipped my toes into Ruby, learned the Microsoft Entity Framework and Microsoft MVC. So I’m spreading the love around. I have to admit, though, that free professional grade open source software makes a whole lot of sense.
On the fiber front, I have completed and worn a couple of my Nihon Vogue sweaters, and when I have time I will post photos. Currently on the needles is a V-neck cardigan for my beloved.
In October we lost our sweet Thor to kidney failure. He was only three years old, and we miss him very much. Fearing that Loki would be lost without a feline companion, we adopted a gray tabby kitten who had been found in an attic, starving. How he got there and why will never be known, but the guys who lived there were allergic to cats. After keeping him for a month and trying to locate his owners, they finally posted an ad on Craigslist at just the right time. After an initial period of fighting with Loki, he has settled in well. We named him Stonewall for his fierceness in battle and his comedic way of plopping down on his back when we approach him.
The winter solstice is only one week away, and the days will begin to grow longer again. Life is good.
The other day I was sorting through my shelves of yarn thinking that I would categorize and inventory my stash, kits and works in progress. I came across my Hanne Falkenberg kits for DaCapo, Ballerina and Mermaid. Each of them is at some stage of completion, and I pondered what to do. I am no longer a size 6, and so the sizes I was knitting will not fit me if I continue, yet I hate the thought of ravelling all that work and starting over.
The first thing I did was go to the Summerfuglen website and peruse all of the Falkenberg designs. I fell in love with Donna and Cordelia, and after they were safely escorted into my shopping cart (oops) and out again, heading their way from Denmark to Seattle, I turned my attention back to DaCapo to see what I should do with it.
After establishing that I was knitting a size Small, and after arguing with myself as to whether this would still fit me (it won’t), I decided to check my gauge. I started this little jacket about ten years ago, and my knitting has changed since then. Back then I knit much more tightly; now I knit at a fairly typical gauge, usually achieving the gauge stated for a particular yarn on the specified needle. My angst at having to reknit this was somewhat mitigated when I realized that the finished portion was at a gauge of 32 stitches and 56 rows, compared to the pattern gauge of 25 stitches and 50 rows. Even if I was still a size 6, I would have had to reknit this to make it work out right.
So, I begin again. Da Capo means “from the head” in Italian, or more commonly translated “from the beginning” in music. This sweater has lived up to its name! It has now been put into the position of SOB-AWIP (Some brainer, ancient wip). It gets knit upon when I’m not up to twisted stitches but not quite brain dead enough for Taygete.
You’re probably tired of hearing that I’m taking the Nihon Vogue Level One course. Sometimes I am kind of tired of taking it, so you are in good company. I have learned so many great new things, become acquainted with even more talented knitters. However, there is much upon which one needs to keep focus, and therein lies the challenge for me.
All this is leading up to is that I wanted to find some way to save time when documenting my Nihon designs. The customarily acceptable way is to submit hand-drawn quarter-scale designs in a little book especially provided for this purpose. To aid in this endeavor, one is also provided with quarter-scale metric rulers and even cute little quarter-scale french curves! However, each drawing takes hours upon hours. Detail must be provided about the numbers of rows and centimeters between major points, how the decreases and increases and shoulder-shaping are to be accomplished, how the neckline is shaped… on and on.
As a computer-savvy person, I figured there had to be some way to do this in Adobe Illustrator, a tool I already own. To my immense and chagrined surprise, I found myself to be wrong. Certainly you can draw in Illustrator (duh) but there is no way to accurately represent your drawing to scale. For that, you either need a suspicious add-in for Illustrator provided by an unknown third party or you need CAD software. That’s right: architectural drafting software.
I’m a bit familiar with CAD because my darling Brian bought AutoCAD for his Mac to use for designing and specifying technical information about Project Stairway. Since he is only using this program for his personal use and doesn’t care about watermarks on the printed page proclaiming that this isn’t a “real” version, he was able to get it much less expensively than the asking price of just under $5000. The learning curve was tremendous– CAD has been around since before all those smart people with degrees in UI design came along. Brian is probably the smartest man I’ve ever known (all-around smarts, practical smarts– I may have known a couple of geniuses in the past who could only do one thing well). But even with Brian Brains, it took him a couple of weeks to be able to use the software to the extent needed. I will now take you on a side trip about Project Stairway (I’ll get back to knitting design after this little excursion).
Project Stairway began long, long ago in a time when Brian was redesigning and adding to his home and I was in some other life. By the time I met Brian, the stairs had existed for a few years, but he had not had the time to finish them. So this is how they looked when I first entered this home, up until a couple of days ago:
And after weeks of planning, calculating, ordering, staining, finishing and installing, this is the progress to far.
Aren’t they beautiful? Now that the treads and risers are in, he will turn to installing banisters and railings and newel posts, hence the blue painter tape, upon which is marked lines as a guide to where the wrought-iron banisters will go (he figured this out by using a laser thingie). Taking down the bulky walls that previously existed along the railing and at the top of the stairs has really opened up the area. As Brian put it, “a great big breeze of chi wafted over us” when the wall came down. (That was pretty tongue-in-cheek for Brian; he’s not a chi kind of guy, but still, he was right.)
Now, back to AutoCAD– I was thinking that I might create some tall tale of justification to spend $5000 for this software because of all the cool things Brian did with it. So I downloaded a free evaluation version for my PC. Exactly two hours later I had accomplished nothing except for reaching dangerously high levels of frustration and finding heaps of dust piling up around me, created by expletive bombs exploding every few seconds. I know AutoCAD is a good software, but if I don’t have time to draw my own $%*& quarter-scale drawings, I don’t have time to waste on learning it.
What was I to do? I Googled around again for some solution using Illustrator, and finally, in the dark corners of an ancient forum where other people (probably not knitters) had expressed similar frustration with lack of scale drawing, someone mentioned the magic words “Google Sketchup“. Despite the fact that this sounded like a flaky condiment, my ears perked right up. Sketchup has an evaluation copy available, and I was soon downloading it and watching tutorials. It seemed somewhat doubtful at first, because it’s really for creating mockups of buildings for Google Earth. But I am here to tell you that it is just the thing for creating scale drawings of garments. You can get it for free, but the not-free version includes things I need, like the ability to export to pdfs and things like that. There is a separate tool called Layout that you can use to annotate your drawings, print the scaled grid, etc. The learning curve for Sketchup was much easier than for AutoCAD, but it is not totally intuitive. There are some things I still need to use other tools (such as Fireworks) for, but for a little under 1/10th the cost of AutoCAD, Sketchup is a bargain. Here is an example of what I’ve done with Sketchup so far (click to enlarge):
So the bottom line is that if you need to create scale drawings of any kind, check out Sketchup. You might be glad!