Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reason #5803 to hate this stupid town

You know what I need? I need a partner-in-crime for my knitting/designing.

One of the things I've always liked about my science work is that there are always people to bounce ideas off of, to work through different scenarios, to egg me on to try out whatever silly thoughts happened to appear in my head, to weigh up pros and cons of various courses of action.

Unfortunately, at the moment, knitting/designing is very much something I'm doing alone, which is too bad.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy lunar new year!

You know, since I moved out of my parents', I don't do much for Chinese new year. I don't bother with the traditional foods, and I certainly am too lazy for the ritual end of year cleaning and stuff. So I always start the year with a vague feeling of guilt.

Next year, if we have the money, I think we'll go home for the holiday. That way, I can feel like I'm celebrating it, but not actually have to do anything! Ha. Genius.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh, the geekery!

I don't think it's possible to be too geeky with the knitting, do you?

Can you guess what they are? These were made for a friend, who will use them for training and education purposes. With children, even!

DNA helix
Yarn: various bits of leftover aran-ish weight yarn
Needles: 3.5mm dpns
Pattern: Kimberly Chapman's ingenious Baby's First DNA Model

Notes: Well, what can I say, it's a DNA double helix model. The twist is knit right into the backbones, which is awesome. I did ignore the directions for making the base pairs. Putting the whole thing together required more than the standard number of hands, but I eventually managed it. It's a great pattern, and, as I said, ingenious.

Yarn: some leftover Rowan Pure Wool and DB Cathay (I think)
Needles: 3.0mm dpns
Pattern: just two circularly-knit tubes

Notes: This was pretty easy to make. I chose random numbers of rounds for each stripe, stuffed it as I went along, and stopped when I got sick of changing colours. I used Techknitting's jogless stripes method, which works very well. There're a few bits where I wasn't careful about carrying the non-used colour up and a few loose places where you can see a bit of the stuffing (if only I could have found dark-coloured stuffing), but on the whole, pretty good.

The other thing about the chromosome is:

It un-snaps at the link! My friend wanted to be able to talk about crossovers and be able to show a bit of how it happens, so I made the chromosome "openable" to show separation in meiosis. (Or, at least that's what I remember from AP Biology.) It's just a normal snap button closure. If I had more energy, I could have made a few chromosomes, with bits or lengths that unsnapped or un-velcroed that could be exchanged, but you know, there's only so much I'm willing to do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yay me.

...doing little self-congratulatory happy dance...

So that second gripe in the last post about a design not working out? Today I took a good hard look at the pattern I wanted to use. I tiled the repeats together in Excel (well, Open's Office's Calc) so that I could see the whole pattern easily, then thought, well, hell, there's no need to follow Ms Walker's every last stitch, is there? So I took stock of what features I really wanted, took away those that, though nice, were not necessary, made the whole repeat smaller, simplified it, pared it down, and I've now got two possibilities charted out. Both will allow for *much* easier size grading, and are easier to understand and knit, to boot.

...does more dancing...

(Cat's now looking at me strangely.)

Of course, the proof will be in the, swatching, but one of the possibilities will work.

Friday, January 16, 2009


The Anti-Funk cowl did its job, and right after I finished it, I went through my (mental and actual) list of knitting things to do and started attacking those tasks that need to be done before the fun part of knitting them starts. But I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster the universe is out to get me. Below, my list of gripes:

1. After many hours of searching through Ravelry, and taking into account the suggestions made by you guys about what to do with that skein of Misti Alpaca variegated laceweight, I found something I thought might work: the Fiddlesticks Peacock Feathers Shawl. It's written as a triangular shawl, but a couple of people on Ravelry have converted it to a rectangular stole. I also saw a few versions made in some subtly variegated yarn (including one from the Harlot herself) that make me think it might just work with my Misti Alpaca. Great! So I set about trying to buy this pattern. First, because I'm all about the instant gratification, I look for a PDF version of this thing. Nope. Only comes in actual paper form (I know! WTF?!). Fine, okay, accept that, move on to UK vendors of the pattern, but find none that take PayPal (my knitting fund is in PayPal form). Of course I could just use a credit card, but now it's layers and layers of inconvenience piled on top of one another, you know?

2. I had a design that I'd thought out, swatched and sketched. All that remained was to scan the swatch and sketch, and write up the design proposal. Great, I did all that while on my Anti-Funk high. While trying to decide where to submit it, I started in on the fun part of knitting myself a version. While working out the math for my size, I realize it will never scale up well. While I can fudge numbers a little and and move a few stitches around to knit my size, the large pattern repeat means that sizes would have to go up by huge increments. Alternatively, I can put in partial repeats, but the pattern is already quite complicated and I'm not sure I can work out how to shift everything around and line everything up properly for seven sizes. And still have a readable pattern, anyway. So, although I've started knitting one for me, this design has to be shifted to the back burner until I can figure out what to do, if anything. It may just be a lost cause.

3. I set forth to work on my only new year's resolution of doing more colourwork. I have something in mind I want to try and went to look up appropriate yarns- a 4-ply or fingering weight yarn, with lots and lots of colour options. I found a few: Brown Sheep Nature Spun, Dale of Norway Baby Ull, Jamieson's 2-ply, Jamieson and Smith 2-ply, a few others. I went looking for places that will sell me colour cards. But I can't find anything! They must sell colour cards of these yarns- does anyone know where I can order some? Or colour cards for similar yarns?

4. From knitting the design in gripe #2, my hand hurts. Lots. I think I'm knitting too tightly, or those k3tog are causing my hand to cramp. It will annoy me no end if it gets so bad that I can't knit, so I'm rationing myself to a few rows a day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Anti-Funk

This, my friends, is the Anti-Funk. What?, you're saying, it looks like a garter rectangle. And that's what it is- well, actually, it's a garter loop. It's called the Anti-Funk for two reasons. One is that, other than the yarn, there is absolutely nothing special or interesting or funky about this project at all. The second is that it was knit in an attempt to get me out of a knitting funk I'm in. Prior to this, I hadn't knit anything since I finished Ephelant a week or so ago. I kept looking at my list of projects to swatch for, but nothing seemed to work. My design ideas were either stupid or impossible to execute. I didn't have any good yarn/pattern matches for other things I wanted to knit. My fingers were itching to knit, but I didn't even feel up to swatching. So, enter the Anti-Funk cowl.

The Anti-Funk
Yarn: 80% Alpaca/20% silk sock yarn, hand-dyed by Jenny Cook, from the Wool & Willow shop in Hay-on-Wye, 70-80g
Needles: 3.0mm Addi Turbo lace
Pattern: uh, it's a garter stitch rectangle?

I'd been wanting a close-fitting, warm cowl ever since my unsatisfactory experience with the Flared Lace Smokering. I was spurred on by the fact that it's been freezing over here. I looked through all the great cowl patterns on Ravelry, but, honestly, I didn't want to swatch- I just wanted to get knitting. (Haven't had that experience for a while!) Partially for this reason, I didn't knit this in the round- my brain wasn't even going to stretch to calculating how many stitches to cast on, plus I had no clue what circumference I wanted it to be. The other reason I didn't knit this in the round was that I fancied the garter ridges going vertically when the object is worn. I don't know why.

So, using the crochet provisional cast-on, I cast on until it looked as "tall" as I wanted, and just started knitting. As I knit, I reflected on garter stitch. I'd chosen it because I didn't want to have to count rows; even the two-row repeat of seed stitch was too taxing. And I remembered a while ago thinking that some variegated yarns look really good in plain garter. Lucky for me, this was one of them.

Like many new knitters, I started off knitting garter swatches. Also like many other new knitters, I was eager to go on to stockinette, and didn't like the bumpiness of the garter rows. I didn't like reverse stockinette for the same reason. As I knit more and more, though, I'm starting to appreciate them- I love the way these simple stitches perk up plain stockinette when used together, and I love the way they so easily add textural interest. I even like the edges: flat, even, beautifully finished.

As I knit my garter rectangle, I also realized how difficult it is to knit a good-looking, even garter fabric.

You think stockinette shows up flaws like uneven tension? Next time you notice rowing out or loose or uneven stitches in your stockinette fabric, flip it over and see how much more these flaws shop up in the reverse stockinette purl bumps! I really had to keep my attention on the knitting- it certainly didn't turn out to be as mindless a knit as I'd thought. Part of this ball of yarn had been used to swatch something before, and I'd unravelled it and wound it back up. As a consequence, the beginning of my garter rectange, with the previously-used yarn, was terribly unattractive. The kinks in the yarn meant the garter rows were sometimes interrupted by loose or tight stitches, every one of which showed up to mock me. In the end, I had to cut off the length knit with the previously-used yarn.

When I knit the rectangle to as long as I wanted the circumference of my cowl to be (45cm, apparently), I made sure the beginning and ending rows on the "right side" were purl rows, then grafted the two ends together. (Normal grafting makes a knit row on the "public" side of the knitting, so for a garter object, you'd want to make this knit row between two purl rows.) I grafted a bit too tightly, actually, but it's not noticeable enough to annoy me.

All in all, I think it may have done its job. I have a warm cowl, and I can face my stitch dictionaries once again to think about swatching for some designs.

Some words about this yarn: Yum. Summer sorbet colours in cloud soft alpaca/silk. I have another skein of this, and will have to think of something worth its specialness.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A present

As I've noted before, I'm quite a selfish knitter. But every once in a while, even I am moved to knit for other people. In this case, because one of my oldest friends -we've known each other since we were 12- has gone and gotten herself knocked up. Because I adore her and her husband and am deliriously happy that they are deliriously happy, I presented them with Ephalent:

Yarn: Sirdar Supersoft Toddler Aran, from Pandora in Guildford, less than half of one ball of the main colour
Needles: 4.0mm dpns
Pattern: Ysolda Teague's Elijah, of course

Notes: Great pattern, knit in the round, stuffed as you knit, with extremities picked up and knit, so no seaming. The pattern's very well written, and easy to follow. The only real problem I had with the knitting was that it's hard to get the eyes large enough using French knot embroidery. I guess I could have gone out and bought really chunky yarn just for that, but that seemed to be going a bit far.

Because I've never made toys before, I had a hard time figuring out how much stuffing to use. I also had to figure out how to stuff so that it wasn't too lumpy. I think it turned out alright, though.

Instead of the DK weight yarn specified in the pattern, I used an Aran weight. Actually, I had also made one in DK weight, but wanted a bigger toy for this gift. Obviously, I also used a constrasting colour for the ears and the feet/hand pads.

Other than those, the other modifications I made were to do things in a slightly different order. After knitting the head, I put on the eyes, and knit the ears before doing the body. From making the first, smaller toy, I knew it was a pain in the ass to be doing the ears at the end, when you've got turn the whole body, with legs and arms around at each row.

It's just so cute that I could hardly bear to send it off, but it's now in California, waiting for the birth of its new owner.

Friday, January 09, 2009


So, after accepting that my house will never live up to unrealistic expectations, it is time to look even closer to, so to speak.

Anti-resolution 2: I will accept that, no matter how old I am or how much money I make, I will always look like a sloppily-dressed student. As I get older, I'll simply be seen as a sloppily-dressed mature student. See, in my head, I have style, I have flair, I have personality, I don't just look like everyone else on the high street. In reality, I'm in ratty, one-size-too-big, slightly dumpy clothes, haven't had a hair cut in two years, and don't own any make-up. (Incidentally, this is why I hate pictures of myself- it interferes with the perfect me I have in my head. Cognitive dissonance- ouch.)

What I envy is the sheer “put together-ness” that some people achieve with their appearance. Everything fits, and is the correct length and proportions, and shows that the wearer has some personality. Especially around certain London neighbourhoods, I look around and wail to myself, Why not me?! I'm cool! I'm -still, relatively- young! I know what looks good!

But no. In real life, I prioritize comfort. I hate anything tight or binding. Given a pair of trousers, in my size, that fit and look good, and a pair one size up that is much more comfortable, but looks slouchy and slobby, I'll always go for the latter. I'm too lazy to accessorize: I wear scarves because it's cold out, and then I choose for warmth; I wear a belt only for the few pairs of jeans that are slightly too loose, and the fact that I have to get out the -yes, the- belt frequently means I can't be bothered with those few pairs of jeans; I haven't worn any earrings other than plain silver studs for years.

Now, wanting to dress better is not in itself a bad thing. The bad thing for me is that it means I buy clothes that I think I should wear, and so that beautiful silk camisole will just sit in the closet, un-touched, because I'll always grab the nice, comfy shirt next to it.

So. I will stop wasting my time, money and energy. I will cease comparing myself against some made-up picture in my head. I will Let It Go.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy 2009, everybody!

So the blogosphere is of course filled with new year resolutions and "in an earlier episode"-type summaries of 2008.

I will go without the recap of last year (whadya mean, learn from my mistakes?), but I will talk about a resolution (knitting-related), and a couple of anti-resolutions (not knitting-related).

The resolution is easy: I'll do more colourwork. It's one area of knitting in which I've been lax about learning.

The anti-resolutions may take a bit of explaining. You know how people resolve that they'll diet, or save money, or cook more? They try to get themselves to make good changes to their lifestyles (or what somebody, somewhere, thinks are good changes).

Well, in this year, as I really dig deeper into my 30s, I would like to accept certain aspects of my lifestyle, and resolve to stop myself from thinking that I've fallen short of some ideal that is only in my head, or in the heads of others whom I don't care about. That is, I will resolve not to change certain things.

Anti-resolution 1: I will accept that my home will never look like it comes from the pages of property porn catalogues. Or, more pointedly, I will accept that I am a bad housekeeper. The place in which I live, be it a teeny flat or a large house, shared space or not, will always be cluttered. There will always seem to be "stuff" everywhere. Every horizontal surface will be covered in several layers of detritus. There is no point buying flowers for my home, because they will simply be lost amongst the random crap- you'd never notice them.

(Now, don't get me wrong- I'm messy, but I'm not dirty, if you see the difference. I don't leave moldy plates of food in the bedroom or anything. Although the bathroom could be cleaned more.)

I have seen pictures of people's homes, or visited friends' places, and wail to myself, How?! You can see the floor! Look at this nicely mis-matched furniture! Look at the table that you can eat at! Look at the little tchotchkes they've displayed from their travels and how it doesn't just look like a pile of random Christmas cracker toys they've inexplicably put on their bookshelf! How?! Why not me?!

Well. I will no longer beat myself up over this. I will not be a better person if I had a neater home. I will not automatically be a happier person if I had nicer furniture. I will therefore, Let It Go.

Next up, anti-resolution 2.