Sunday, April 28, 2013

KCBW Day 7: Looking Forward

Today, the last day of blogging in the 4th Knit and Crochet Blog Week, we are supposed to think about our craft, and how we hope to be expressing it, what we hope we will have learned and what goals we might reach by next year's exercise.

Frankly, the thought of all that is rather daunting. It took quite a bit out of me too keep up this week. True to my manatee nature, I tend to go with the flow. True, I plan individual patterns that catch my eye as they catch my eye. If they involve some new technique, I reckon I'll just learn how to do it when the time comes.

As I worked in the yard today, I thought about how rarely I take time to reflect on and enjoy my surroundings. And now's the time to do so, before the heat really sets in and the mosquitos arrive. So I sat in the front yard this evening, watching bees pollinate the lavender. Just this manatee and some humming bees -- no peacocks or monkeys seemed to be around. But perhaps one of the things I can take out of this exercise is to think about the other Houses and how I just might share some of their characteristics, too. Being well-rounded is an important part of success in any craft, I suppose.

I do plan to apply for the extra credit, and cast on for the sweater for my brother that I mentioned on day 2 -- just as soon as I get these socks finished. This has been fun. Thanks, Tony, for bringing it to my attention, and to Eskimimi for pulling it all together. It sure got me thinking about this thing I love to do.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

KCBW Day 6: Cool Tools

We're getting down to the wire with this week of daily posting, and I, for one, am glad. I'm exhausted! Today's assignment is to pick a "tool to covet." We're directed to pick just one, but I couldn't narrow things down easily. I don't really have any tools that I use daily, and I'm interested in all sorts of knitterly gadgets. I've posted about hooks and needles I inherited from my great-grandmother via my Aunt June, and a darning egg I found at Grandma Self's house -- so I do admire a well-loved bit of technology, no matter its age. But I've given it some thought and picked out a few things I'm using these days.

First off, I've mentioned it before, but I'm really enamored of the knitCompanion app for the iPad. It's made chart reading so much easier -- even if it's a bit hard on battery life. I really appreciate being able to follow multiple charts at once. There's a bit of a learning curve on this, but after you figure it out, it's not so bad. In the example in the image, I'm on the 19th row of Chart D of the socks I'm currently working on. I can flip from chart to chart and increment one row as I complete each one. It's kind of fun. Since I'm not constantly knitting charted projects, I can't really consider this indispensable, but it sure is handy!

This next picture shows a handful of tiny tools that I really like. On the bottom are my green size 1 (2.25mm) dpns, with a little elastic band with two rubber caps. This is perfect for keeping dpn projects on the needles while they're in a bag. Above that is a pink thingie that's pointed on one end, a crochet hook on the other -- perfect for picking up dropped sock stitches. Plus, it can double as a cable needle in a pinch. And finally, at the top, a teeny tiny pair of scissors given to me by my friend Melissa. I've never actually used them, come to think of it, but I really like looking at them. I think one might actually be able to sneak these on a plane.

Friday, April 26, 2013

KCBW Day 5: Anapestic Tetrameter

Today is a day to post otherwise,
For sharing one’s interests in some other guise.
Now, please don’t groan -- I could do much worse
than sharing my pathway to knitting in verse.

It started eight years ago, in late December
(don’t ask me the date, I can’t quite remember)
When a visiting friend forthwith pulled out her work
and caused me to pause with a slight inner smirk.

“How quaint, how cute,” I practically laughed,
“to practice a bygone superfluous craft.
“All that time, all that bother,” I thought, rather jaded.
“It’s so slow, so boring, and so complicated.”

But sitting and talking and watching her stitches,
the needletips moving in rises and pitches,
And seeing the yarn as it looped and it traveled,
my biases melted, or rather, unraveled.

There’s some magic there, I began to perceive,
when needles and hands work together to weave
a sweater, some socks or some other thing
where once there was only a long strand of string.

I thought back to childhood, my mom and my aunts
and my Granny, all sewing when they had the chance.
But when I showed interest, my mom would defer;
There had to be boy stuff I’d rather prefer.

But I always liked indoors and calmer vocations
And admired the skills of my female relations.
I didn’t enjoy all the rough and the tumble
(I have to pause now, tummy’s starting to rumble)...


And now I am back, wait, what, where was I?
Ah, complaining about what it’s like as a guy
to be “crafty.” Let us halt now this long inventory.
Enough of this whining -- get on with the story.

When my friend packed and left I mulled it around
And went to a chain craft store branch in my town.
I bought me some needles, aluminium, size 8.
Good choice for a starter? That’s up for debate.

I purchased some green yarn, worsted, acrylic,
(NOT a good choice due to harshness dactylic)
Finally, a manual, a book of instruction --
I got one by Stoller -- now on to production.

I read and I read and I tried to cast on
not realizing the need for finesse over brawn.
It took me two hours, sweating aplenty,
to manage a long-tail cast-on of just 20.

I mastered the knit, not so quickly the purl
My frustration was such that I wanted to hurl
the whole mess, but I stopped and I took a new tack
when I realized my problem -- I’d purled through the back.

My 20 did vary, some rows more, some rows less,
No semblance of tension -- a green yarny mess.
Quite some time later, I came to the end,
And binding it off, sent the thing to my friend.
With no advance warning, she was quite surprised.
Her friend Steven, a knitter, newly baptized!                             
And she couldn’t be blamed, to my mind, if she’d thought,
“I’ve created a monster! What have I wrought?”

But she’s kept the sad square, with its gaffes and its botches;
That beginner's attempt, that most abject of swatches.
A ragged token of crafty caprice,
To this day displayed upon her mantelpiece.

So I thank you, Janelle, for lighting the spark
That brought early interests back from the dark.
And for helping me learn, and for listening, too.
(Don’t worry, dear readers, this thing’s almost through)

A craft neat and simple, with variation untold,
An artform to wrap me and keep me from cold.
From this time and onward until life’s last thrill
I hope to be knitting, while sitting, still.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

KCBW Day 4: Color Review

Today's assignment is to consider my thoughts on color, and then take a look at the evidence.

I've probably already let the cat out of the bag when I discussed signing up with Team Manatee. I like deep, dark colors. Gray, brown and green are probably my favorites. I don't dislike other colors, really, it's just that these are the ones that draw me in. I like all their subtle shades, and how dark colors work well with heathering. I also like stitch patterns and cables using dark colors -- they may not pop as much, but I like that you might not see the detailing at first glance, and then it slowly appears. Simplicity rather than flash -- the way of the manatee.

In looking at past projects, this tends to bear out. I've made several sweaters for myself -- two are gray, one brown, one black, one dark blue. The stranded knitting vests I've made for myself have featured brown/green and dark blue. The three sweaters I've knit for Jeff -- all shades of brown.

But, I do see some flashes of color. And when I do want something a bit brighter, I gravitate toward red. Usually a darker red, but still red. It was one of my favorite colors growing up. And, it seems I've knit a lot of pink. Looks like I've totally caved to the Traditional Gender Color Industrial Complex. I'm pretty sure that's a thing.

And, lately, it looks like I've been taking a walk on the wild side and delving into the aqueous world of teals, turquoises and blue-greens. I guess I like these, too.

So, pretty much what I expected. You can head on over to Ravelry and take a look at my projects yourself if you want to see the whole palette.

One final thing about color -- I don't think I have a good sense of it. I don't have much confidence in my ability to match, contrast or combine colors in interesting ways. I get lucky a lot, I suppose. Lately, I've been following some of the Color Scout photos that Stephen West posts at Tumblr and shares via Twitter. He has such a great eye for color, and sees interesting combinations all around him, all the time. Seeing these photos has gotten me thinking about using my surroundings as inspiration. There's a wonderful world of color out there.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

KCBW Day 3: Infographic

Today's assignment for the 4th Knit & Crochet Blog Week is to create an infographic. I love infographics. I link to the Daily Infographic website from pages I'm responsible for at work. And I'm totally enamored of all those Edward Tufte books. Although, after you see this post, you'll be justified in wondering whether I read them very closely. With that in mind, behold, the Manatee of Steven's Ravelry Projects!

I had a lot of fun and learned a lot pulling this together -- even if it doesn't look as impressive as it did in my mind. This represents the number of projects I've started per year according to my entries in Ravelry. I couldn't squeeze in the numbers, but there should be 3 projects each on the nose (2005) and the tip of the tail (2013).  As you can see, I average in the low teens -- slow, steady and manatee-esque.

It turns out I've done right around 100 projects since I've started tracking them in Ravelry, so it was pretty easy to divide the manatee into hundredths. Tufte would point out that this graphic is a bit misleading, because it implies that the area of each shaded section has informational meaning, but really, you should just look at the horizontal distances between sections. Guilty as charged. It would have made more sense as a bar graph. But manatee graphs are way more interesting than bar graphs.

Here are a few details about how all this came about. I used a Google image search for manatee outline to find this graphic from the Save the Manatee Club. I also used some instructions I found online for pulling Ravelry projects data into an Excel spreadsheet. I was going to build a chart via Excel, but that didn't really go anywhere. I pulled the outline into Gimp and spent way to much time figuring out how to draw lines and shade things. Mostly, I used Gimp because I wanted to make the background transparent in GIF format. As you can see, I'm no graphics expert, but I did enjoy doing this!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

KCBW Day 2: Mascot Project

On day two of this exercise, I am to come up with a mascot project, one that epitomizes the house into which I've been sorted. The project I've chosen to represent manatee-ness is the Grettir yoked sweater designed by Jared Flood.

To me, this design fits into the manatee theme in several ways. First of all, one of the colorways in the sample photos (see right) is fairly gray-intensive, with Shelter colors like Sweatshirt, Soot and Cast Iron. Also, it's a mix of comfortable techniques that I've done before -- in-the-round seamless construction, stranded knitting, sleeves joined at the armpit -- there won't be too many surprises there. I'll be making the crewneck version.

It does have something new for me. I've never done a yoked sweater. I've done raglan-style construction, but never a sweater where the decreases for the pattern are evenly placed around a yoke. And, in another first, this will be the first adult sweater I've ever made for someone else.

I am planning to make it for my brother. I was talking to him yesterday, discussing his family's upcoming move to Germany for a few years. He's taking German language classes at his local community college, and really looking forward to being over there with his wife and kids. I don't get to talk to him enough, and I'm going to miss him while he's over there, although Jeff and I are planning a visit or two. My brother and I are as different as night and day personality-wise, and we've certainly had our clashes growing up, but he's one of the most centered and steady people I know. We share a lot of interests, like history and hiking and there's never any doubt that I can turn to him for anything. I want to make this for him to keep him warm while he's away.

While we were talking yesterday, I casually brought up jacket sizes so I know what size to make -- I'd guessed it already. Are manatees psychic? Probably.

Monday, April 22, 2013

KCBW Day 1: Manatees in the House!

Our first assignment for Knit and Crochet Blog Week 4 is to assign ourselves into houses ala entering classes of students at Hogwarts. Our choices are the Houses of Bee, Manatee, Monkey, or Peacock. Each house embodies different aspects of these animals' traits and personalities. Right away, I chose Manatee -- or, I suppose I should say, the Manatee chose me.

Since I was a kid, when asked what animal I'd like to be, I would always come up with some aquatic sea mammal -- otters, sea lions, seals, whales. I'm not sure why -- maybe it's the way they seem to fit so comfortably into the worlds they inhabit, yet not quite -- living their lives in water, but still needing that connection to the atmosphere. Manatees weren't really on the mind of this northwest coast boy then, but they do seem like a good fit. Then there's the gray. I love gray. The socks I'm working on now? Gray. The last pair of socks I made? Gray. The office cardigan I made last year? Gray.

How do I "knit like a manatee"? Even though I can knit rapidly, I'm fairly slow in my choosing of patterns and yarn. I've had things in my Ravelry queue for years that I still need to think about some more. I've spent years with some projects on hold, but I always get to them in time. Slow, steady persistence. I also think of manatees as being introverted. I like the calmness and steadiness that manatees portray. For proof, just check out the name of this blog.

And finally, when I think of manatees, I think about this bit that Jim Gaffigan did on Dr. Katz years ago. It always makes me laugh.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring Slump

In the Spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love -- and gardening, and generally being outdoors. Unfortunately this not-so-young man can't seem to turn his thoughts to knitting. It appears in my annual springtime knitting slump.

I hardly knit a stitch this week -- or last -- until this morning. I've been working on the somewhat complicated Spiegel socks, but I hit a mental block. I know I needed to think it through by walking away from it a bit. The problem revolved around stitch counts and the locations of some shaping. It seemed to work. The break let me look at this project with fresh eyes and I think I'm back on track.

This is unlike any pattern I've knit before. The heel flap is about half as long as most, and the heel is turned without shaping. It's quite square -- but then, so are my heels. There is no real gusset shaping, so it's almost like knitting a bent tube, keeping the same stitch circumference throughout. I'm really liking how the caduceus shape at the top splits and then twists across the instep toward the toes. I just need to remember to go in the opposite direction for the left sock.

As part of an effort to get out of my knitting (and blogging) doldrums, I'm planning on participating in Eskimimi's 4th Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. Each day, bloggers are given a theme to blog about. I found out about this via Tony at Bonito Club. It's a do-able challenge, and one that I hope shakes me up a bit. Start looking for posts on Monday.