Category Archives: Uncategorized

Movin’ on up

I just moved last week about five miles north within Oakland, from a down-at-heel industrial area stocked with artists and poor families barricaded behind six-foot iron fences to a suburban neighborhood filled with flowers and neat old cars. It’s quite a change, I tell ya. I’ve gone from zero corner bars to five (one’s even a piano bar!) and I’m down the street from a beautiful old theater, and a mile and a half from the Parkway, a second-run theater with beer and pizza and couches! This feels a lot like the neighborhood where I grew up, but better. It’s friendly and safe in a way that triggers all my white guilt for liking it so much. And none of it smells like piss!

I’ve also gone from having no neighborhood yarn stores to two — Piedmont Yarn and Apparel and Article Pract are within two miles of the new place.

Then again, I’m not sure how much yarn I need, since my yarn and fabric stash took up two medium-sized, three-cubic-foot moving boxes, and my clothes only took up four, and maybe a third of my closet will go to storing stash. It may not sound like a lot, but for a wannabe minimalist, it’s hard to justify. At least it’s nowhere near as bad as my t-shirt problem: 60 and counting, and three more just showed up today. Yikes.

Good lord, knitting a pattern as written?

I’ve finished my Simple Knitted Bodice and, other than being completely alarmed at how fat I seem to have gotten since I cast on (WTF, desk job? WTF, buying unhealthy lunches downtown every day? How could you do this to me?!) I’m very pleased with it. The fit’s great, which it had better be after I abandoned the pattern as written to custom-fit the damn thing to my spreading body. I think there are a couple of loose ends of yarn still dangling inside the thing, but they don’t poke out too often, so I’ll wait until I’m having a Type-A, caffeine-induced OCD kind of evening to take care of them.

In the meantime, I’m making Coachella. It’s a relief to be following a pattern mostly as written, though I’m doing a slipped-stitch pinstripe instead of plain stockinette and I’ve tweaked the armholes a little to fit better. As I posted in the comments of the author’s blog:

As I’ve been working on it, I’ve been thinking about the initial blogland squawking about wearing it with a bra and I think I might’ve cracked it. When I first saw the pattern, I thought “No way could I wear that! I have to wear a bra!” and it wasn’t until I read through it that I realized it was meant to be worn with a halter bra.

The thing is, a halter or convertible bra for a D cup is significantly bigger than one for an A or B cup. The strap around the back can be close to 2″ wide, and the cups extend much further to the side, almost in the armpit. A D-cup halter bra needs way more armhole and middle-back coverage. Mine would be sticking out all over in a Coachella as written.

Knowing that, I’m moving the bottoms of the armholes up, closer to the armpit, which should solve that problem for me. It’s an easy fix, and I’m stoked! Yay!

It’s got bust shaping, too, so I’m stoked all over. Though I’m knitting it in 100 percent cotton, which really, really shows off the stitches, and any imperfections you make along the way. I’m not making any errors, but I sure as hell am paying attention to how I weave in ends, and I have a feeling I’ll be unpicking a couple of those weaves and redoing them.

I’m also keeping a close eve on the rolled hem, since as a rule I hate rolled hems and this one’s rolling into itself in a thick sausagey curl that I don’t like at all. I have a feeling blocking will take care of it, but in case it doesn’t, I’m constantly poking at it, trying to guess how much work it would be to crochet it in place. I’m probably doing the bottom hem in ribbing, to keep that from rolling, since I’m probably not crazy enough to unpick a cast-on edge and reknit it … though I’m not ruling that out completely. It’s a bunch of extra work either way, but I’ve given up on talking myself out of my pathological disgust for things like rolled hems, cilantro and instant miso soup, and if this one doesn’t convince me, it’s history.

Next up: The Nieuwmarkt Pullover. I’ll do it as a zippered cardigan, since the fickle San Francisco weather doesn’t lend itself to big wool sweaters that you can’t adjust. I’m also toying with the idea of doing it as a hoodie, because damn I love hoodies, and they’re one of the only exemptions from my decluttering, “don’t have ten of everything” rules. (The others are neckties, skulls, and art. Though since I now have twice as much art as wall space, I might have to ban new art, especially since I’m moving this month to a room half the size of my current one. Sheesh.)

Sweater as avoidance

I’m still working on the simple knitted bodice. I reknitted the bottom and overshot the mark by a few inches, realized I needed to make the front a little longer, figured out that even knitting the seed-stitch hem on needles two sizes smaller still didn’t keep it from flipping, and ripped back several inches. And if I redo that hem, I have to redo the sleeve hems to match, which is fine because they were a little too short anyway. And one stitch just below the lace panel came loose (eek! dang things are so slippery) and worked itself back a couple rows. Yee-freakin’-haw.

On the plus side, I have plenty of extra yarn and the thing is this freakin’ close to fitting like a dream. And, even better, it’s this close to DONE.

Overall, I’m remarkably cheerful about it. That’s because I’m probably stalling. I’ve still got a stack of patterns, but thanks to a computer crash I don’t have that copy of InDesign anymore on my work computer, and it doesn’t look like I get to replace it. So sorting that out and getting the patterns all proofed seems way less pleasant than several inches of seed stitch on size 3 needles.

Urgh.

A largely parenthetical post

Mike just dropped off the copy of son of Stitch ‘n’ Bitch that I won from a Y Knit contest. And it’s signed by Debbie Stoller!

I’m not sure what my favorite part of the whole exercise was: meeting another Internet knitter (I *heart* all of them), meeting a knitting podcaster (I’m a podcasting early adopter, so it’s always been a little glamorous to me), realizing how extremely local he is (we’re both Easy Bay residents), reading Mike’s Moo card that was tucked into it (man, I love those things) or entering the book into my Ravelry library.

Sweet! I love it when the Internet crosses over into real life. It’s a little awkward in the dating world, but freakin’ great when it comes to hobbies.

Graph
A corner of the chart for Torque, which has been eating my life.

Anyway, in usual me fashion, I’m being eaten alive by one of my designs, which I’ve named “Torque.” (And no, I don’t give a damn that there’s already a knitted “Torque” out there; I like the name, and it’s not like anyone could confuse my fingerless gloves with a split-neck pullover. I mean, I guess they could, but if they did they’d have far greater problems than how much yarn to buy, y’know?)

I have a habit of making patterns way more complicated for myself than they need to be, in the hopes of making the knitting process a little more graceful for the end user. The end result may look effortless, but they sure as hell aren’t that way to make, and even knitting it can do pleasantly weird things to your head (as a certain early adopter of my Double Dutch hat can attest). I had a feeling, though, that there was a way to get the thumb gusset on Torque to flow properly in a reasonably easy way, and all it took was a month of frustration and determination to come up with something. And now I’ve got to figure out how to do it all over again … backward. With cables on every other row.

I’ve been knitting bits of this one every night for a week, and stealing time at work to try to puzzle it out. Unfortunately, the first thumb gusset was one of those solutions that comes rippling out of my fingers in such an effortless, intuitive wave that I’m convinced I’m a total genius by the time it’s done. When it came time to do the other one, though, I got the mental version of the blue screen of death. My spatial skills are getting better as I grow older, but staring at my transcription and trying to visualize the mirror image of whatever contorted logic I was playing with gave my brain that horrible blank gray feeling just behind my forehead, in the same place that feels funny when I cross my eyes.

Fortunately, graph paper can solve pretty much any problem, from mapping things (all the straight lines are right there on the page!) to relationship problems (stuff enough graph paper into the other person’s mouth, and you’ll no longer have to put up with their crap) to world hunger (which’ll work as soon as humans learn how to digest cellulose). I charted and charted until I had a good, solid understanding of how the shaping worked and how to mirror it. It took about three evenings of drawing, doodling, erasing, reknitting and cursing to get it right. It also helped that I was all fired up about what is possibly the best notebook ever: Mead #09000, a composition book with half-graph-paper, half-ruled pages that looks like it floated right out of 1966.

My goal is to have the pattern in beta by Tuesday so I can get a couple copies to some test knitters at my stitch ‘n’ bitch. I can’t wait, because I’m really excited about the photography and layout work for it, and then selling the pattern through Ravelry. Also, I’d, um, like to have my life back.

Put that in a box and stamp it

Yesterday I sent a project kit for my Double Dutch hat to Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed. You know what that means?

CallaIt means I’m FAMOUS!

Har. Actually, what it means is that the pattern’s really, really done.

As soon as I finished the first Double Dutch hat, I wished I could get one to Flood, because it seemed like something he’d like. He taps into the things I love about knitting — tradition, invention, love for quality materials, subdued but rich color and texture, and freakin’ great photos. In a world swamped with painfully twee knitting, I found a voice that sounded a little like my own, except that I use loads of exclamation points. (Hey, I’m working on it.) Hearing voices kinda like mine reminded me I do have my own voice.

And it isn’t a long stretch from finding my own voice to using it. I’ve got a bunch of patterns in various stages of completion, I’ve signed up to sell patterns on Ravelry and I’ve stopped doing the “aww, shucks” routine quite so hard when someone compliments something I do — not just with knitting, either.

Tucking the yarn into a priority mail box with the pattern and a quick handwritten note felt like really finishing something. I’m learning how to extend my reach, y’know? Now I’m not going back.

Now if only I could learn how not to sound like a raging fangirl when I e-mail my idols.

Double Dutch is live!

Yay! My “Double Dutch” hat is officially for sale, announced today on the Bella Knitting blog. Yay!

I gotta say, the pattern support for this is nuts. There’s a video walkthrough, a bunch of photos, careful explanations — the directions are so clear that when I was reading over the final product, I found myself wishing I’d had the instructions while I was inventing the dang thing. I would’ve spared myself a lot of trouble, I can tell you.

Me + brooklyntweed = 4ever

Good lord, I may be in danger of finishing a pattern exactly as written. It’s Jared Flood‘s Koolhaas, and it’s basically perfect. It’s striking, easy to memorize, and seems to show sign of the same deep-seated and thorough logic that I strive for in my own patterns.

I gotta wonder, though — was it easy for him to figure out? Or did he spend a week banging his head on the table trying to figure out the way to decrease the top of the hat in a way that looks so effortless?

Photo: A few rows of a hat
Casting on for Koolhaas

It’s knitted in “Basque” from Artfibers, which is discontinued. (The bastards! Now I will have to go to their store on my lunch break and find a new favorite. There goes even more money.) It’s a fantastic yarn, but I’ve really liked seeing the ones on Ravelry worked in a smooth yarn. Mad props to Flood!

Anyway, because I’m either efficient or totally lazy, here’s my way of doing the crossed stitches without using a cable needle or dropping stitches off the needle:

1/1 LC: Knit the second st on needle through back loop without dropping it off the left-hand needle, then k first st through back loop. Drop both stitches off left-hand needle.

1/1 RPC: With yarn to back of work, put the needle tip between the first and second sts on the left-hand needle. Insert the needle into the second stitch as if to knit through the back loop. Knit second st through back loop without dropping it. Bring yarn to front, then purl first st. Drop both sts from left-hand needle.

1/1 LPC: Skipping the first st on the left needle, yf and then insert the tip of the right needle into the purl st from left to right through the back leg of the purl st (yes, this is sometimes tricky) and purl without dropping the st. K the first st through the back loop and drop both stitches off the needle.

After each of these, when you drop the crossed stitches off the needle, tug them a bit to adjust the tightness. They all work, though the last one is sometimes more difficult than a traditional cable without a cable needle.

Hands: They are much better when they actually work

Since I have carpal tunnel — and have had it since I was about 20 — using a mouse for 40 hours a week like I do is incredibly hard on my hands. On days like yesterday, I’ll walk out of work with a mild ache almost reaching my elbows. At the gym, I dry my hair under one of those hand dryers that’s mounted at about eye level, because holding a hair dryer above shoulder level for more than a minute makes my hands go so numb that I start dropping things.

So knitting … not so much, some days.

But I got a Wacom tablet, a pressure-sensitive tablet with a stylus that works, basically, like a pen. I am using a pen to control my computer! It’s almost like magic! Right now I’m still adapting to the scrolling, which is weird but getting better, and the clicking. I tap it to click, click one button to right-click, and click the other side of the button and drag to scroll around a window. This is sometimes confusing, obviously, but I am very forgiving of gadget-related difficulties because any frustration is usually drowned out by my brain going “YAAAAY! Awesome new toy!”

Anyway, I’m hoping this thing will make my hands feel less like stiff, aching claws at the end of the week. That would make me much more likely to fish my knitting out of my bag and work on it when I have free time, instead of fruitlessly trying to find the combination of hand-stretches, grip exercises and knuckle-cracking that will magically make my hands supple and dexterous again.

Scrum: Two sleeves and a hat are better than 1.75 sleeves and a dream

Dang! The all-around enthusiasm level around Sucka SC is dangerously high. The knitting continues apace, I’m competing in the NorCal Grilled Cheese Invitational tomorrow in two categories, and I’m helping to establish a West Coast chapter of the Corduroy Appreciation Club and setting up an inaugural meeting on Nov. 11 (a date, 11|11, that looks like corduroy).

I like to think all this energy comes from working out lately at the gym right around the corner from my stellar new job, but a lot of the blame may lie with the steady stream of Diet Coke and chocolate-covered espresso beans I’ve been consuming while I work on a big chunk of the company Web site.

I’ve only been on the job for a few weeks, but the biggest skill I’ve had to learn is project management. Basically, my boss replaced the company that had been maintaining the Web site with … well … me. We’re using a project tracker based on, as we discovered a bit after using it, scrum. It’s a style of project management influenced by rugby, with small teams, quick reactions and staggering amounts of communication. It’s intense, just like pretty much anything based on rugby is gonna be.

As I dive in, I’m starting to shed a lot of my bad habits. Procrastination, inaccurate deadlines, no idea of my progress, slacking — no time! Getting in the door on time is still an issue, since I can’t seem to drag my ass into work before 10 or 11 this week, but I cleared the late start with my boss so I can come in late and stay late, getting a solid two hours (or four, if I stay until 9 or 10 like I have been lately) at the end of the day where I can work without going to a meeting or having anyone IMing me, e-mailing me or showing up at my desk to ask me questions.

It’s working. I’m starting to get a clearer idea of how long things take to finish, how much work actually goes into something, how to revise expectations to fit my workload, and how long I can work on something before staring at it starts to drive me nuts. It also trashes the idea of arbitrary deadlines: instead of deciding how long something will take, you start doing it, and it’s done when it’s done. If you clear other work out of the way, it’s done faster. If there’s more going on, it slows down. End of story.

I’m seeing the payoff in my knitting now. The Simple Knitted Bodice now has two sleeves. It also, after a bit more work, has two sleeves of the same length. The next chunk of work — the next sprint, in scrum terms — is the torso below the lace band in the middle. It has been officially set aside until I can knock out another Molly — a smaller, faster project that will make me feel less like I’m plugging away at the sweater that will not end. Overall progress has slowed down, but my knitting rate is undimished.

Plus, it’s a pleasure to knit Molly again. I think it’s my favorite of my hat patterns. The Noro “Silk Garden” is so pretty that strangers on BART compliment it all the time when I knit on the ride home, and this pattern sets it off just right. The brioche rib is also soothing, simple, and goes along incredibly quickly. Noticing that nudges my confidence upward a little, too: none of the other two-color brioche-rib patterns, especially ones knitted in the round, can say the same. Working on this simple but striking hat makes me proud.

And, thanks to the hypnotic effect of my brioche rib technique, a little less nuts.