Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend!! Wrappup! (now with 200% more parentheses)

Want to know what fun excitement I got up to this weekend? FUN FUN FUN!!

I went to see a documentary about a font. Oh yes, a font. Not just any typeface, mind you, but Helvetica himself (I assign maleness to Helvetica. It just seems like a he to me.)

It was actually quite interesting and unexpectedly funny. The movie is lots of interviews with graphic designers, interspersed with shots of public graphic design and the ubiquity and history of Helvetica. I'd recommend it if you're even vaguely interested in graphic design. The way a typeface can manipulate and suggest and connote fascinates me.

The rest of the weekend? There is an (GRRR, SLOWLY) ever-growing pile of silk lace, yes, with beads. I worry constantly that it's striping in an ugly way. I am too far and too close to deadline to rip back. K the love monkey says the striping makes it more interesting. I live in dread.

How big is it? I've made it through all of Murder on the Orient Express and have started Island of Dr. Moreau. On tape, since I have yet to master lace charts + knitting + reading at the same time. My literature choices? Um, they consist of "whatever looks good on the Recorded Books shelves in the library." I was never fond of mysteries much, but I figured I should break out of my current sci-fi/fantasy rut and old stuff is always fun because everything wasn't clichéed yet. The Agatha Christie was great, I'm going to have to borrow more of her stuff. The H.G. Wells is appropriately creeping me out and he's always good for a great plot and climax. It's weird, because I can't watch suspenseful horror movies at all. Not. At. All.

Also! I made myself go out and mow the lawn on Saturday. Not just me either, by Sunday we had a RARE 3-adjacent neighbors mowed-lawn extravaganza! Except I was lazy and didn't edge ours, so we're the only ones with messy edges, somewhat spoiling the effect.

I hate taking care of grass. I like to walk on it, but that's about it. I dream of ripping the sucker out and putting in drought-tolerant, low-upkeep perennials, and I'd have done so if I weren't lazy and the neighbor kids didn't weren't avid ballplayers. Our front yard is center outfield. My parents, on the other hand, would kill for this lawn. They live in New Mexico, where they continue to mostly deny they live in the middle of a desert. They finally exchanged their front, sloped lawn for a "kitty litter lawn" (rock & cacti) a few years ago. The back lawn they carefully water and complain bitterly about the water bills, and that Kentucky bluegrass slowly roasts from the lack of humidity. Me, I'm just so glad when the lawn here dies down for the summer. And it really does die, we tried to keep it alive by watering it 3x a week last summer so it'd look nice for the visitors, but it still died, just in a awful pimpley patchy way.

Where is K in all of this, the darling husband? K has been working, in the vernacular of our peculiar profession, a Death March for the last few months. I'm getting mighty damn tired of the 60+ hour workweeks. He didn't get any day off this last week, worked the whole weekend. Grump.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Haloscan comments

I finally got Haloscan commenting to work. (tip: you have to upgrade your template. I guessed this, but I thought I'd have to restore all the links--turns out it transfers over. I do have to restore the formatting, though. Bah). However, it's 86ed all the old comments, I'm very sorry. I've got an archive of everything but I have to figure a way around the generic template so that haloscan works only from this day forward, so I can restore the old commentary. Hmph.

(Probably easier just to get around to switching to Wordpress and import the sucker.)
There you go. I need to go to bed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

And now for something completely different

This is my current commuter project. The one I ripped out the entire foot the other day. I took 8 more stitches off the gusset and it's now pleasantly tighter.

The pattern's my own, just a combination of a ribbing and a Barbara Walker pattern (it's easy, just a right twist every other row). Looks like little knots but it doesn't feel like it. I didn't feel much like doing a regular rib. There's calf shaping at the top, via an extra purl in each of those purl troughs.

The yarn's Trekking XXL that I bought from Weaving Works in Seattle more than a year ago. It's marled yarn, a mixture of mostly browns and greys with other subtle flashes of color, and it reminds me of beachcombing on the Oregon coast, with all the surprises of jaspar and agate in among the granite. I love marled yarn. Nobody seems to make it except handspinners, Trekking, Mellenweit, and Noro. Oh, I think there was a Cascade cotton that got discontinued last year? It's almost enough to suck me into handspinning. ALMOST. Not going there.

So Angry

I read today that the Texas state legislature has voted against instituting a statewide vaccination of teenage girls against certain strains of cervical cancer, using the vaccine Gardasil which has proved effective against several varieties of the virus.

I'm not going to comment on that. When it comes to a politically mandated vaccination, there's often more sides to the argument than just public health. I don't necessarily agree, but I don't know enough to have a studied opinion. However, it's this quotation that has me shaking I'm so angry. All excerpts are from the New York Times article.

"There was no public testimony — why we were jumping so fast into a vaccine that was not for a true communicable disease," said Senator Glenn Hegar Jr., a Republican representing a district just west of Houston...

I would like to know just what the FUCK do you think a communicable disease is, then? Somehow you must live in a little universe where women don't die from cervical cancer, contracted from their partners? Last time I checked the dictionary (5 seconds ago), communicable meant that an infection can be transmitted from one person to another. 400 women die each year in Texas from cervical cancer (ref: also the NY Times article)

I love this one, too:

"We did not want to be the first in offering young girls for the experiment to see if this vaccine is effective or not," said Representative Dennis H. Bonnen, a Republican from Angleton, who sponsored the ban in the House.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other health authorities, describe Gardasil as safe and effective when given as approved to girls ages 9 to 26 in three shots over eight months.

Why do people believe the lies and filth pouring out of these people's mouths? This isn't an experiment. The experiment's already been done. It's called clinical trials. Perhaps you have heard of them?

And this isn't about girls, either: the vaccine is only available to women less than 26 years of age, and is effective over a lifetime. So these men wish to control these women's sexual behavior for their entire lives, by holding a death sentence punishment over their heads.

Let's cut to the chase here. Some people opposing this vaccine would rather a woman dies a horrible death by cancer than have sex. With anyone. Even her husband. Who, I don't know, is of course ALWAYS FAITHFUL because no one ever gets divorces for adultery in Texas. Or gets raped. All this because of the possibility that a woman might have multiple sexual partners of her own choosing.

I cannot express in words how repellent it is to me that people would rather cause pain and suffering rather than prevent it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yo, Yo! (happily drunken)

Tonight we walked over to the local and had a couple pints of their new IPA and it's truly fantastic (as are most of their short runs). Too bad that they usually sell out of the seasonals within a couple days. And I am happily drunken and not pretty much caring about crap right now except the purring cat on my lap. Oops, kitty has Places to Go and Things to Do so she is gone (as have I, but I don't care. So I'm staying put. As mentioned before).

It's one of those lovely Spring nights where it's finally amazingly clear and there was a gorgeous crescent moon and Venus hovering near. The kind of moon where you can see the rest of the moon because the crescent is so brilliant. It's the sort of night where you think of how lucky you are to see this night and how much you'll treasure it, because of its perfect clear brilliancy (except cold. Because sunny==cold for most of the winter here, so it's a rare Spring day that it's both warm and clear. Usually clear means->no clouds to hold in heat, so happy 50 degree temps)

I have to rip out all of my progress, several thousand stiches (sob), on the Cheshire Cat stole, because I cannot add. 130 + 10 + 3 does not equal 133, at least in any base that I know of. SHIT. Oh well. It's official RIPPIT day, as I also pulled out the current commuter sock back to the last gusset decrease row today. It took me 6 stops to rip that all out and ball it up, and I barely finished reinserting the DPNS onto the row-o-choice by the time I had to get off the train. More colorful expletives. However, I figure if I'm going to make handknit socks for myself, they should damn well fit like I want them to. Else why bother? Also a learning note: if the foot feels too loose just after the heel, it's not going to get any better working the foot farther. Bah. Ah well, it's just the commuter project. There's a reason I don't bother to track how long it takes to complete those.

I drown'ed myself in retail therapy today at Let it Bead today (I KNOW. YES, THE NAME), because I had something for beading part of the silk lace stole (oh, the abject consumptionist embarassment) but nothing that really FIT the edges. So I spent an hour suckered in by Czech glass, aquamarine, labrodorite, and quartz. I couldn't decide (ha, what ELSE is new) and so went with several. And then was wracked by indecision in the later afternoon, thinking all of my choices were too heavy. Perhaps I will hit the other 2 fine bead shops wihtin 5 miles of my house. um, embarassment of riches? Spending too much cash on little sparkly things?

And La, I do apologize, because I know you've got the jones for Dyeing and I've got some supply for you (hey, can't let a fellow Knit-From-Your-Stasher break her commitment: less of my stash might mean more of hers but only temporarily; it's all good) but I've been superlame about packaging things up. I will try mightily to get my crap together tomorrow. After the marathon ripping today, it's the least I can do.

I'll leave you with a pic of my babies:

In another month or so, they'll be 6 feet high. Fresh snap peas are what makes life worth living.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sucker for attention

Thank you all so much for your complements on Faina. I hadn't posted the pictures because, well, I went outside, took a billion pictures of Faina, worn and unworn, and once I uploaded them I didn't like any of them. So I tried again, with the same results. I went ahead and posted them anyway. I need a model on demand.

Thanks to La for the Knit-A-Long! I wait with heady anticipation of seeing other finished Fainas (HINT HINT).


I knit like a madwoman on Saturday (Sunday involved GRASS and ITS EXCESSIVE LENGTH and HOW IT INVADES EVERYTHING, as well as other catch-up-on-the-yardwork stuff), as I have been doing all other free nights, since I need to be finished with a certain lace stole sample by the end of April for my first (hopefully) to-be-published pattern (does this make me a lace professional then? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA).

And here's the LOOK AT ME!!!!!!!!! part that the title warned you about. Purlescence has posted up pictures of the winners & runners-up, so if you'd like a peek at my stole swatch, you can look at part of my entry. I was idiotic enough to choose to knit this in laceweight silk. Shoot me now.

Has anyone ever messed with beads and lace? I'm thinking of beading the center of each inner motif, but I'm worried that the bead edges will be too sharp and cut the silk thread. I once made my Mom a beaded necklace using fishing line, and it later fell apart because the beads cut the line. Has anyone else ran into this problem? Is lace loose enough that it won't matter?

Also, is adding beads to this a Bad Idea (tm)? As I'm working this I'm consumed with worry that I'm making a lace Folly, in the sense of it's more interesting to design than beautiful to wear. It sure was fun coming up with the story. Alice while in Wonderland tries to recite her school poems and they come out all wrong, yet still obeying the same meter and rhyme. I wanted to make a stole that looks like you screwed it up by forgetting some decreases or increases somewhere, yet it's still following symmetrical rules. A pattern that has been transformed unexpectedly into another. I didn't realize until the end of the swatch it reminded me of cats: tails swishing, cheshire grins, cats' eyes. Ha.

Hmmm, I probably should just thread a beed onto a fake stitch and worry at it and see if it breaks. Argh, I do NOT have time for more swatches.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Faina, I just met a girl named Faina

Are you all humming West Side Story now? Then my job here is finished.

Faina's Scarf

Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Royal Alpaca, color 707, Patina, which I overdyed grass green. 288 yards/100g per skein, 2 skeins. I had 22g left over - about 60 yards.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo circulars, 3.5 mm (US 4)

Pattern: Faina's Scarf, available from Fiber Trends. Knit as part of the Faina Scarf-along!

Mofications: None besides my modified SSKs (explained below).

Notes about the yarn:
This stuff is fantastically, rub-your-cheek-against-it soft. I admit, had a gift certificate and splurged. I'm a little embarassed about the cost but this yarn is awfully nice stuff. Wen worked a project with it and thought it was softer than the cashmere she was using for a differnt project.

The alpaca's got a gorgeous drape to it. However, there's this one incongruous thing: as soft as it is to touch, it's just a little bit scratchy on my neck. Stupid neck. Enh, not scratchy enough that I care. I did manage to fluff it up a bit during the dyeing process, perhaps that's the cause.

The patina color was more brown than I was expecting, so I overdyed the yarn with an emerald green mix (1/2 primary yellow, 1/2 primary blue), hoping I would get mostly vibrant green toned down a bit by the brownish base color. I used Jacquard Acid Dyes purchased from Dharma Trading Co. I'm very pleased with the final color. In the pictures you can see some subtle shading, which is what I get when I try to dye wool yarn a solid color but I like the very small variegation.

For some inexplicable reason it's very hard to capture the color as I see it. Even natural light and neutral background doesn't do it. On the other hand, the yarn looks different even to me in different lights (I LOVE colors that do that), so I shouldn't be too hard on the camera. This blocking picture isn't soooo far off:

This yarn doesn't take a lot of frogging. After 3 ripped out beginnings, my cast-on was looking a little tired. The yarn didn't seem spun particularly tightly (who'd do that to gorgeous, drapey alpaca, anyway.)

Notes about the needles:
I used the same size needle as recommended. I probably could've gone down a size (or 2) but I liked the fabric produced with the 3.5 mm. I prefer bamboo or wood for lace; they are grabbier than metal, I naturally knit lace loosely, and I like to have more purchase on all those YOs and passovers. Bamboo also gives me a bit better control over stitch shape. I use circs almost entirely because I'm a big klutz and if I can drop a needle somewhere inconvenient, I will.

Notes about the pattern:
Very nice, well written, and not too difficult. I didn't run across any errors. At first, it seems as if a many-row-repeat (was it 100?) would be hell, but this one is very predictable. Not that I was able to memorize it, but I didn't have to watch the chart for every stitch after I finished the first body repeat. It's also very clear when you've made a mistake and forgotten a yarn over, and slightly less clear but still obvious when you've done a decrease wrong (or forgotten one). The stitch count stays constant each row during the body. I found the best preventative for errors was to stop and admire frequently.

I did modify the SSKs. I ripped out the beginning several times, once because my left-facing decreases (the SSKs) looked very sloppy. Instead of:
slip-as-if-to-knit, slip-as-if-to-knit, transfer both back to the left needle then knit them together through the back loop, I did:
slip-as-if-to-purl, slip-as-if-to-knit, transfer both back to the left needle then knit them together through the back loop.
I got this idea from the book Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets, Expanded from the Editors of Threads. For some reason, this straightened out my leftware decreases. They're not perfect, but they're not sloppy-looking either.

Old SSKs

New S(p)SKs

I've never slipped every stitch of every row before for a selvedge, and I found with this lace I had to be EXTREMELY loose in slipping the first stitch or the edging was far too tight. This was especially true for the beginning and end of the scarf, where the stitch count is increasing and decreasing, respectively. I ripped out the beginning a couple times because I was not allowing enough give on the edges.

I wove the ends in because my Russian joins look like crap with plied yarn. The yarn is fuzzy enough to grip itself firmly, and the ends are hidden either along the cast-on edge, cast-off edge, or in the seed stitch border and don't show at all. I was unhappy about how crappy my cast-on looked, so I used the weaving-in-the-ends opportunity to make it look a little better. The fringe also helps hide some of it.

Fringing! This was my first fringed scarf and I actually enjoyed it, despite the fringe boredom I've heard of. I made my fringe groups 3 strands each, about 21" length before folding in half. I chose to do fewer fringes than the picture, but did 4 instead of 3 fringes across the bottom (I learned this from quilting: if you try to divide something into 2 equal parts, it's very obvious if the middle line is even slightly off. Dividing an area into 3 instead of 2 makes the lines dividing the sections much less noticeable).

I fringed every 4th stitch up the sides, and I specifically did not tighten any of the knots until I had the fringe exactly how I wanted it. Then I tied the lower knots so that I liked them, then trimmed each grouping to approximately the same length from the scarf. Can you tell I'm anal-retentive about my fringe? It's like a Rorschach blot test, except I don't know what it says about my personality that I Enjoy the Fringe.

Blocking: I don't have blocking wires, so I used the thread-crochet-cotton-up-each-side method to get a mostly-crisp edge. Blocking helped to orthogonalize the wonky stockinette stitches, although it did nothing for my decreases. Alpaca doesn't have any give like wool does, so it's easy to get messy stockinette.

Also: wet alpaca smells BAD. I don't care how royal it is. Yes, I did a full, submerged-in-water wet block.

All in all, a fun knit! It went much faster after that first body repeat, once I realized the logical progressions of the pattern. Me and my glamorous Faina! (y'all can just ignore the head. Also, when did I turn blond?)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I've been (mentally) away, but for no good reason. Let's just say that every time I felt like writing, it just sounded hideous and whiny and boring. Not as if I've let that stop me before, but I didn't see the point. My raging narcissism was retrenched against the crushing self-doubt and didn't emerge from the trenches until lately. It's still got a sniper trained on it, so I don't know how lucid I'm going to be.

Damn, that makes THREE fire trucks I've seen today. Sorry, quick aside there.

The sky is doing what I call a Simpsons sky, with picture perfect soft blue shading to pale green on the horizon and big puffy cumulus clouds picking up the beginning yellows of the sunset. I bet Mt. Hood looks all regal and is starting to pink up. And Mt. St. Helens probably still looks flat.

For distraction, here are my neices:

NYC neice (two months shy of 2 years)
Talking, walking, and biting the heads off of chocolate bunnies. She has the most fabulous hair. I'm envious as I didn't have such cute baby hair. Her daddy and my love monkey both had those gorgeous blonde curls as babies, too.

Utah neice (two months shy of 1 year)
Just getting her teeth in and crawling everywhere. My brother says she took her first steps on Sunday.

Yo, I know, pictures of other peoples' relatives are the most boring ever. Tough.

We saw Utah girl at Christmas and she's changed so much even since then. We're thinking of going out to see NYC girl and her 'rents in late May or June. I hear it's kind of nice that time of year and we only ever visited once, 5 years ago (for the nuptials, so not a lot of sightseeing time).


I've just gotten so wrapped up in myself lately that I can't even seem to manage a fucking normal conversation with anyone anymore. I'm terrified of talking to people. When did THAT happen? And for this last month I've been not coping well. A cookie a day makes the depression go away (for a couple minutes). I'm not a binger nor an overeater. I've just got a raging sweettooth that I haven't had the willpower to control lately. Or I should say chocolatetooth.

And winetooth. My lovely alcohol. Although I have come to the conclusion that I get my hangovers early. I just can't marathon drink. Any more than a couple or three hours and I feel like death, although I'm fine in the morning.

Even the Red Cross rejected me. Not enough iron; I failed the hemocrit at 1% lower than the cutoff. We've rescheduled for this Saturday and I'm taking iron supplements and hopefully those little red blood cells have been reproducing. It's not unusual, I've been turned away before.

By the way, the R.C. called (I was JUST past the 2 month deadline) because their blood supply for certain types is at extremely low levels. It's not Christmas, neither has there been a national disaster nor anyone I know is dying, and I know not everyone is able to donate (K the Love Monkey himself passes out) but please consider blood donation right now if you meet the criteria. Your blood could make a real, concrete difference in someone else's life.