Friday, September 28, 2007

Knitting Geek

It was bound to get out eventually so I finally added it to my profile. Yes, I admit it. I'm an engineer. Mechanical by training. And I really like being a mechanical engineer. So that of course means that there's no escaping the fact that I'm a geek.

If you really love knitting you find that it interacts with all of the other important aspects of your life, whether it's wrapping itself around your loved ones or distilling inspiration from the other hobbies that excite you. In my case, my most recent knitting adventure has been to write a computer program to simulate the way a multi-colored yarn will flow onto a particular stitch pattern. (Geek!) I'm working on an Excel spreadsheet that takes information about a skein of multi, some pattern details, some gage information, and then paints a view of how the colors will lay out on the knitting.

Now that I'm doing it I'm sure I'm not the first. This is just the kind of tool that someone would need to create a self-patterning sock wool, but as far as I know, there's nothing on the market like it. (That's probably because no one would actually pay for it.) But it sure is fun to play with! My spreadsheet works, so now I'm writing in some features that will make it easy and fast to use. I'd like it to be able to paint-knit an entire sock, but that may be a dream.

This whole thing came from running my brain on "My Big Knitting Problem", mentioned in my last posting. I have purchased a big pile of Fiesta Boomerang in the color "Surf", but am really having trouble planning a project for it. My "Playing with Fire" sweater fair isle stitches a multi with itself, but that just didn't seem right for my Surf Sweater. I love the colors so much that I want to actually paint the sweater with them. It became obvious that I needed a tool to help me design.

Anyways, when I finish this program I will gladly share it with any other knitting "control freaks" who just have to know how a multi will act on a given group of stitches. There are plenty of knitters who live for the surprise and spontaneity of multi yarns, alternately cursing and raving about pooling and striping. I intend to bend these colors to my will. (Evil laughter echoes in the background…)

After such fiendish thoughts we need to take a happy sheep break, so here's some original art I purchased this weekend at the Long Island Apple Festival. The artist, Judy Lambros, belongs to the Peconic Ruggers Guild which apparently is open to new members. It all sounds wonderful, but too much for me right now. If anyone out there wants more info just leave me a comment that I can reply to. Getting back to the story of my sister's gloves: This past weekend I introduced Jo to ShibuiKnits "Midnight" wool, hoping like crazy that she'd love it for her Mermaid Fingerless Gloves. Oh well. Another dream shattered. She waffled between that and the Wollmeise "Gewitterhimmel" and didn't seem thrilled to pieces with either. I have been hugely leaning toward the ShibuiKnits, so I suppose I somewhat convinced her to go with that one. Mostly I was concerned that I might not have enough of the Wollmeise, and Germany's a long way off if I run out!

Anyways it's a done deal. I even started knitting this next pair of Mermaid Gloves last night. The ShibuiKnits is very pleasant to work with and I am liking the color more and more as I knit it up. Of course now I'm worrying because the shadings are pooling. I like that a lot, but will Jo? And will the right and left pool similarly? The stress never ends!!
I've dug in on the left glove first so that I can write up Mermaids Part 3 as soon as possible. The extra wait has been worth it. The creative break triggered an inspiration for solving one of the rotten problems with this mirrored thing. Soon, soon…

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Big Knitting Problem

What a wonderful weekend I just had!! Could anything be better than spending a couple of days staying over with your best knitting buddy and mentor?! Thanks to a wonderfully understanding boss I was able to take some hours off from work Friday and all of Monday to journey the 300+ miles that separates me from Su of WormSoup and her family.

We had a decadent weekend with lots of knitting, but actually both exercised an amazing restraint with respect to yarn purchases. Only one shop was visited (Finger Lakes Fibers in Watkins Glen), and Su got out with only 3 skeins. I on the other hand bonded with a skein of red Cascade 220 which insisted that, although it liked me a lot, would not leave the store without eight of it's buddies in red, black, and white. Basically enough for yet another sweater project.

The surprising news is that Red and his pals are all solid color yarns! In general I can't resist multi's. My stash overflows with every color of the rainbow, all inextricably combined by amazing artists into skeins of brain bending beauty. How could this be bad?

Here's my problem. I love to knit Fair Isle. Two colors, one on each hand. One single color each coming from two separate skeins. The kind of knitting project that is generally done in all solid colors. My stash and my project preference are completely at odds with each other! I've already tried one technique to resolve this situation, and that is to plan projects where a multi is Fair Isle'd with black. Notice I say "plan". Not one project has yet come to pass, but I sure have a lot of black yarn in my stash!

Right now I have a couple of ideas fermenting that might help my fabulous multi's find projects in spite of my love of Fair Isle. We'll see if they make it to reality and get some exposure here on FurrPurls.

Meanwhile the suspense builds in the saga of Jo and the Mermaid Gloves. She'll get to see the ShibuiKnits "Midnight" this weekend. (The following photo shows the earlier candidates plus three skeins of ShibuiKnits "Midnight", and also another new acquisition from the Loopy Ewe, Zen String Bambewe in "Sakura" pink. I wish the interesting sheen of that last showed up better in my picture.) Fingers and toes are crossed that "Midnight" will win her heart, getting me going again on Part 3 of my Mermaid Fingerless Glove instructions. I plan to start knitting these without waiting to finish the Comings & Goings cardigan although I'd dearly love to boot that project off my sofa! It's getting so close.

And the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival is getting close too! (October 20 and 21 in Rhinebeck NY). That upcoming event provided the strength to resist even larger wool purchases this past weekend, in spite of the excellent selection at Finger Lakes Fibers. Have to save up to buy as much yarn as we each can carry! Can't wait!

One last note… Congratulations to Su on her invitation to join Ravelry! By happy coincidence the invite actually arrived while I was visiting. I'm looking forward to hearing more about that adventure. There are still 14664 people ahead of me on the list, but I'm moving up!

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Looks like I jinxed myself by announcing that the wool selection for my sister's Mermaid Fingerless Gloves was all settled!

Maybe I'm expecting too much from a non-knitter. When I showed my sister the Wollmeise in Gewitterhimmel I expected "ooohs" and "aaahs", stroking and cuddling of the skein, a sudden inability to put it down. You know. The reaction you see from knitters all the time. She approved it and said it's "closer to what I wanted", but I didn't get that wool-lust response that we're all familiar with. So today I bought still more yarn for this project.

Did I need to? Was it an excuse? I really don't know. The Mermaid Gloves are beautiful, but they weren't the most fun project I've ever knit. It's not one of those stitch patterns where the slightest screw up is obvious in the next row. This pattern giggles away quietly at your expense while a fatal flaw gets buried rows and rows deep. All I'm saying is that if I'm to knit these again they need to be loved. Loving the yarn is a really good start.

I found this new candidate yarn when I was doing a quick cruise through Loopy Ewe's "What's New" list. Coincidently they just posted some new colors of Fiesta Boomerang. (At this point I need a lighted case where I can display all the skeins of this incredible wool that I've already bought. Is there any bonus for collecting every color?) Since I obviously had to buy this new potential yarn for Jo's gloves, I obviously had to expand my collection of Boomerang.

Now I'm waiting to see how this next yarn comes in. It's ShibuiKnits in the color Midnight. I've never played with ShibuiKnits before. Will it match the photo? Will it not? Will Jo finally ooh and aah over yarn? Maybe this wool will be the yarn of her dreams… But is it possible that some people don't dream about yarn? Scary thought.

While all of this procurement drama goes on in the background, here's Comings and Goings coming along nicely. I've even dug in on tucking all those ends visible from the inside-out sleeve.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Color Confusion

There may be a few knitters out there holding their breath to see what I found so terribly difficult about the left-hand Mermaid Glove, (design originated by Steph at Craftoholic). I truly promise that I will spill the details soon. I don't want to scare anyone, but I will tell you that I started to write it down and realized that I couldn't describe what I did! I actually need to make a couple of sketches. So hang in there, I really am working on it!

In the meantime color confusion has shuffled my knitting queue again. Well in this case it's resolution of confusion. Wollmeise in the color Gewitterhimmel has been officially approved for my sister's pair of Mermaid gloves, so those have jumped to the top of the list. I thought I would be ready to start them weeks ago using Cherry Tree Hill in Moody Blues, but when the wool arrived it was nothing like the picture. My sister vetoed and I went back to searching for just the right color.
These past few weeks have seen more than their share of inaccurate color communication. The picture above shows the two yarns I just mentioned all the way over to the right. If these guys looked like their website pictures, they'd be indistinguishable from each other! The other three had also kept their true colors hidden.

Named from the left, the three additional Wollmeise skeins are Veilchen, Poison Nr 5, and Krauterbeet. Su from WormSoup did the actual ordering to get these wonderful skeins all the way from Germany. When she posted their picture before shipping mine over to me, my heart sank. Lots of blues and greens, but none of the purples that have been calling to me lately. (See her picture on WormSoup.) Fortunately this was just another technical tease. When I opened the box here at home the purples had gotten back into the Krauterbeet and Veilchen. I still don't think they look much like the website pictures, but they look so much better in person! The Poison Nr 5 was also a very nice surprise, but not so well disguised.

Now I have to ask a question… Do you see the purple in Veilchen and Krauterbeet in my picture?! It's gone again, isn't it?! But the purple shows up in the sleeve of Comings and Goings in the background. What is this amazing dye that's been discovered by Wollmeise? If I painted myself in this particular shade of purple would I disappear from pictures? I can just imagine all the movie stars that will be walking around painted purple!

But getting back to knitting, the only conclusion I can draw from this experience is that buying yarn online is an adventure best taken on by the flexible and open minded!

A few more words on the Wollmeise, although please note that I haven't tried it out yet. If you're considering going through the extra effort to get your hands on this popular sock yarn, I'd say go for it, especially if you like knitting socks with very fine yarn. It's definitely a smaller gage than the Blue Moon Fibers fine sock yarn, probably closest to Lorna's Lace. And of course be prepared to be happily shocked by the brilliant hues.

It's interesting that both Lorna's Lace and Wollmeise offer exceptional color combinations, but they definitely represent the outlook of two completely different artists. Unfortunately, you'll probably have to meet the Wollmeise in person to understand. Certainly if you favor purple!

I'll probably be digging in on that Gewitterhimmel soon. I'm thinking that I'll knit the left glove first to make sure the instructions I've promised are accurate and truly represent the best ways to solve the various left glove design issues. (The first little monster was such a pain that I still can't believe I can't find some easier solutions!) But for the moment this next pair of Mermaids will have to wait while my fingers enjoy a bulky yarn break working on Comings and Goings.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy, Happy News!

I started this blog to share my knitting, but when you get news like this it's impossible to keep quiet about it. There are many "threads" to any life. Knitting is a happy, luxurious cashmere thread for me, but there's a knotty ugly strand which I also have to deal with. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in June of '06.

It's been a really rough road and included a stem cell transplant (SCT) this past May. When you go through an SCT you don't really know what it did for you until you go through testing 100 days later. Those results often show that the patient has to go through a second "tandem" transplant in order to get the disease under control. I was told that since my cancer didn't respond to treatments before the SCT and since my metrics were pretty nasty going in that I should really expect to need a tandem transplant.

So when I went to St. Vincents' Comprehensive Cancer Center in NYC this past Friday I was braced for the worst. I was working really hard to be tough and brave about facing the whole miserable experience again. Some events are scary just because they're a mystery. SCT holds little mystery for me now, but instead inspires well-earned dread.

That's the background for this joyful post. The good news is that my metrics are now wonderful! I've achieved "Complete Remission". The data was so good that I won't even have to go on maintenance chemo! "Hallelujah!" doesn't even begin to cover it!!

The truth about multiple myeloma is that currently there is no cure. Even though I have remission now, I've been assured that it will be back. Maybe sooner, maybe later. All sufferers hope to fight it long enough for a cure to be found… or at least until the next great drug comes along to knock it back. I've added a button to FurrPurls that will take you to the website for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation if you care to make a donation to fight this cancer, or even if you're just looking for more information. My friends and family have asked what organization they should give to and this is the one my doctors suggest. So instead of trying to remember the MMRF contact info, I've created another excuse to send people to my blog! (The truth comes out… I just want lots of visitors!)

My thanks for getting me to this joyous state go to the caring folks at St. Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Center and St. Vincent's Hospital, especially Dr. Jagannath, Dr. Mazumder, the St. Vincent's transplant nurses, and most especially to Dr. Vesole who was in charge of my care during the SCT. I'm so fortunate to live close enough to NYC to access their remarkable expertise. And thanks also go out to all of the friends, family, even acquaintances who worried and prayed for me. And of course "Thanks be to God!"

Anyways, thank you also for sharing my happy, but non-knitting news. Tune in next week, (or much sooner), when we return to our regularly scheduled knitting programming…