Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Vacations Rule!

First things first. I want to send thanks out to the anonymous reader who left a comment on my Mermaid Fingerless Gloves, Part 1 post. At the time you were getting ready to attack the thumb gusset one more time. Any news on how it worked out? I really hope you had success.

Thanks also to Curlytoot who left such a nice comment back in January about my program PaintKnits (Copywrite 2008). Yes, I did write the code. It's a crazy hobby that sometimes competes with my knitting. In this case at least it's complementing my fiber habit.

I was really surprised by the excitement PaintKnits caused at Camp Crow's Feet, with the Yarn Harlot herself even writing about it on her blog! (I feel totally famous! Thank you so much Stephanie! And thank you to Tina for your offer to help me with this project!) With all that enthusiasm for it, I know I'll have to find a way to get the thing out there. I've only started to think about it, since catch-up at home and work are still getting in the way.

My big concern with the program is that it's written for Excel, so there could be Microsoft issues with selling my toy. That's on top of the fact that anyone who wants to run it would have to invest in Microsoft Excel. As much as I deeply love Excel, it's not cheap and it's not for everyone. I think the answer is to rewrite the code for Open Office, which is open source code. Of course I have no idea yet how to write macros for Open Office or whether I'll be able to make it jump through flaming hoops the way my beloved Excel does for me, but o
n an initial look it does look doable.

I'll post my progress here for those who really are interested. Feel free to send encouraging words… Learning a new programming language is going to compete big time with my actual knitting!

Anyways, I've been missing from my blog and missing from knitting for some months. I think my resolutions overwhelmed me. Plus I've been stressing over whether I was physically ready to take on this trip to my favorite part of the world. My commitment had been made however, and it turned out that the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rocking Sock Club Camp was exactly what I needed.

Since the camp is held where I'd choose to vacation anyways, I went out a few days early and came home a couple of days late. I'm sure lots of campers are already posting camp details and photos, so I'll be different and just post a few pictures from my sightseeing adventures. (Glad you asked Linda!)

Here's Seattle. Well kept secret that the sun does shine!
Scary encounter with wildlife in Hoh Rain Forest.

Rialto Beach, my favorite beach in the whole world.

Cape Flattery, most northwestern point of contiguous states.

A yarn shop! The Artful Ewe in Port Gamble. What a wonderful surprise! And lovely yarn!! Wish I could take it all home... And yes, it is housed in an old firehouse.

The top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island.

Tulip Festival. Beautiful flowers, but cold snowy weather.

The Mukilteo Lighthouse, also a favorite.

The Olympic Sculpture Garden in Seattle. Breath-taking.

And I still didn't get to see everything I wanted to. Next year...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Can this Year be Different?

I've never been big on formal New Year's resolutions, but there's a part of me that can't resist the urge to effect change in my existence starting with the change over to a new year. This year I'm going to admit that there are definitely changes that need to be made and I will risk public failure by admitting them here. You can be witness to how well I do.

1. I want to pick up the fight again to improve my daily existence. Even though I feel much better than I did in the months following my stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma, I definitely do not feel good. The doctors I'm working with aren't interested in my current problems. (In their defense their area of concern is cancer. They're satisfied with my blood work and expect me to talk to someone else about my new problems.) I need to find a doctor who'll help me live a more comfortable life and I need to take better care of myself.

2. I need to pull myself together as far as the tasks that we must do to survive in this world. That means getting work done on the house as needed, taking care of nasty paperwork (flex spending forms and medical billing problems), finding someone to do my taxes professionally, and even making time to enjoy my social relationships. I haven't always been good at getting all of that done, but working through it while feeling unwell all the time has been a hike up Mt. Everest barefoot.

3. I want to enjoy more of the technology of the on-line knitting world. My Ravelry account languishes with the only visible proof of my existence being the list of blog entries. I haven't gotten things going with Flickr either, which has to precede Ravelry. Susan's help has allowed me to add the buttons that you see to the right, but I'd like to add more and would like to personalize the blog with a logo. I'd like to learn more about html and maybe even set up a website to play with, but that might really be setting sights too high.

4. In addition to growth in software competency, I know that I must replace and upgrade my computer. My ancient machine and Windows 98 just don't cut it anymore, plus I need to be able to do mechanical design work at home with my employer's new 3D CAD program. (Maybe I should resolve to do less work at home, but we won't even go there!) Anyways, I've already bought a new camera and am in the process of learning to use it. Can I be a techno-wizard by the end of '08? Doubtful, but I might be able to have more fun with tech tools.

That's a pretty intimidating set of goals for someone who doesn't do New Year's resolutions, isn't it? No guts, no glory.

Here's my new camera. I absolutely love it, by the way. It's a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55. It requires a little more interaction to get some of the weirder shots my Olympus would take easily, but it also takes some pictures that the Olympus refused to. Overall a very satisfactory trade-off.

I've got it snapped onto a Joby Gorillapod stand from Best Buy for these pictures. The Gorillapod's been a blast to play with as well. My Dad got this same camera for Christmas and says that the addition of the Gorillapod also helps him hold and steady the camera.

Check out the generous size of the LCD!
Here's where I have to admit that none of the pictures you see here come from this wonderful camera yet. My tried and true Olympus D-450 captured all those presented here. I still haven't figured out how to download the pics from my new FX55! (See item 4 above!)

My immediate knitting goals are fortunately much more modest; finish up my 2007 RSC socks and plan the most amazing sweater ever for my Fiesta Boomerang Surf yarn. Last night I finished the RSC Summer Socks except for blocking. (These require that the lace cuff be blocked, and yes, it is needed.) The right hand sock has its cuff blocked.

I also swatched one of the amazing color effects that my PaintKnits spreadsheet discovered. Here's the PaintKnits patterning.
Here's my swatch.
Pretty cool, huh? I still need to swatch and measure the other stitches I want to use in this project so I can model them too, but the design is firming up. I want to set up this sweater design so that the color effect that comes from the multi yarn serves as a design element, not just a random, fun, let's-see-what-happens afterthought.

My Knit Nest sofa continues to be inhabited by the C & G cardigan and Pyramids. I guess my resolutions should include finishing those up. Unfortunately neither one is inspiring enthusiasm right now, so they'll probably wait for a bit. This month the Rockin' Socks are on a roll!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Dreaming of Stashed Yarn

Happy New Year! I'm starting 2008 with a small victory! My stash has been containerized under the bed. Does this mean I'll dream woolly dreams? I hope so.

I used some extra cedar planking left over from lining the Pottery Barn coffee table cubes to cover the bottom of each under-bed box. Of course before they could be used the planks needed to be cut roughly to length, sanded, and damp-wiped clean. I hope that this pungent wood will be enough to protect my precious collection. Really I had wanted boxes that snapped tightly shut as well. Once I tried these boxes out at home I found that they snap fairly tight on the ends, but are pretty loose around the middle. I'm thinking about adding a section of cedar along each wall near the middle of the box, but haven't gotten back to that yet. If anyone out there has any experience or thoughts, please let me know. We must band together against the flying vermin!

Here's the first box, all set for stash.

Here's some stash.
And some more stash.

And more stash.
And yes, more stash.

Hey! I've got two boxes left. Think I'll head over to the Loopy Ewe site…

My red Lace Leaf Scarf is completely knit. The 13.75 pattern repeats that I was able to get from each skein by using smaller needles actually gave me the 48 inches of length that the pattern called for. Plus I finished the project with two skeins instead of three. That's a good thing when two is all you've got, and when the yarn is pretty seriously expensive! It took me a while to figure out why each side was supposed to be ended after row 12 of the 16 row pattern, but the intent became clear when I matched the ends up. Row 12 is the closest you can get to having the leaf edges blend into each other. (Don't you wish patterns would give us the reasons for these things? It would save pig-headed knitters like me from ripping back extra rows added in defiance of arbitrary sounding instructions! Or maybe I'm just part of a minority that's always asking "why?".)

This project's going to be finished soon and I really don't want to face getting all depressed about project selection again, so I've already decided that I'm going to catch up on my Rocking Sock Club kits. The latest and last kit takes me back to a trip that I remember fondly, so it may be the first up in spite of the knit cuff from the Summer sock that's hanging out on the sofa and the already wound Raven yarn from the Fall kit. While I'm catching up on those kits I'll be thinking about designing a sock in one of Cat Bordhi's new "Pathways".

Of course the Surf sweater isn't far from my mind either. I want to swatch a different stitch for edgings, maybe garter, and put it into PaintKnit to find the most interesting color pooling.

Here's the blocking update. Playing with Fire's blocked, as you can see. I ended up wet blocking after spending a few minutes trying to steam the ridges out of the vertical lines. Wet blocking worked really well, but did involve hauling on the sweater's edges pretty vigorously. The sweatshirt-like fit that I had planned morphed into a tunic fit by the time I was done. I'm not thrilled with what it does for my figure, but then again I should really be doing something myself for my figure!!
I also blocked the RSC Summer Sock cuff. Wasn't sure why the cuff must be blocked before continuing with the sock leg, but I think it has to do with determining the length for the ribbing that's to be hidden behind the cuff. When I knit the second sock I'll skip the blocking step, and then I'll find out the hard way why it's in there!
By the way, have any of you lost a special hand-made glove? Check out this wonderful website, onecoldhand, for lucky losers… glove losers that is, in the Philadelphia area. Isn't it nice to know that there's a little extra insurance against the tragedy of separation for hand-knit gloves? What a fabulous idea! They've even started a branch in NYC! Now my gloves will feel much safer going to the city.

I've waited too long to write and now have to stop myself so that something actually gets posted! Next time there should be more on the red scarf, RSC Socks, and maybe even the Surf Sweater. And next time is planned for soon!