Tag Archives: Learning

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.

Sweater makes a U-turn

So, uh, I’m halfway down the arm of my Stitch Diva bodice and I notice the arm is flaring kinda dramatically even though I’m following the pattern, so I decide to try it on. And, uh … well.

The shoulders and bust had fit just fine the last time I tried it on, so I had continued with the lace band around the middle in a finer yarn. So far, so good. Right down to the bottom of the bra band, everything went wonderfully smoothly and fit like a dream. And then I had resumed with the Cash Iroha at the midriff and forged ahead.

Cash Iroha? Not the same as the silk yarn called for in the pattern. It’s thicker and stretchier and less drapey. All this went well for me around the shoulders and the tops of the arm, where I got a really beautiful and pucker-free fit, and now I’m at the part where the loose fabric is supposed to fall in an appealing wash of airy fabric around my arms and waist and it’s sort of … not.

Instead, the arms grow straight out from my elbows, and the body? Not so hot. I’m getting a nice tight fit around the ribs and then it sort of goes all stupid. It’s like a giant, baggy ruffle: think a sloppy parody of a 1910 Gibson Girl fashion plate, all corseted waist and giant leg-of-mutton lower silhouette. The thing angles out from my body in a gentle cone shape.

Stitch Diva bodice schematicI’m thinking part of the problem is probably not a popular one to complain about: not enough hourglass goin’ on in the pattern. I mean really, who wants to hear someone saying “Oooh, poor me, I can’t fit my giant breasts into a sweater that fits the rest of my torso”? But it’s my blog, my sweater and my bust, so I can do whatever the hell I want with them.

So: The top fits my (not small) bust pretty well (maybe a little on the small side) and the hip measurement has an extra seven inches. When I checked out the pattern schematic, I noticed that, duh, there’s no decreasing below the bust. It jumps right into the lace panel and then flares out at the waist, and that’s why everything literally goes all pear-shaped.

Simple BodiceThe model in the photo? Skinny. Not so much in the way of breasts. She’s got just enough to gently pull the sides of the V-neck wide enough to get a pleasant view of her sternum. That’s what I like. (Not shockingly, the model is built very much like the pattern designer, Stefanie Japel, whom I like and am not gonna dis. Even though I really, really want to right now.)

Now, on me, not so skinny with a dramatic swell of junk up front but less corresponding increase in the hips-and-waist department, that V-neck just ain’t enough. If I picked a size by waist and hip measurements instead of the bust and worked it as written, the edges of the V-neck would land only halfway between my armpits and my nipples. And while I pride myself on trashiness, I’m not the kind of trash who parades the girls around in sloppy skankwear. I like my skankwear classy.

I guess I should’ve realized the schematic would hold all the answers, but the pattern specifically said to pay attention to the bust measurement. It didn’t mention anything about judicious increasing to accommodate my inspiring dimensions. And while that’s forehead-slappingly obvious to everyone else, remember — it’s my first time making a sweater, and I genuinely forgot the scrawny sweetie in the photo isn’t built anything like me.

So … more reknitting. I get to rip out a foot of knitting and do a bunch of decreasing where the Cash Iroha resumes. I think I’ll have to decrease immediately to get a rib-hugging fit and work narrower darts a little later in the game. I’ve already halved the number of increases in the arms so I won’t end up with floppy wizard sleeves big enough to hide a familiar in. Right now the only pets I have that could stand in as familiars are two Siamese fighting fish, who probably wouldn’t be too happy with that situation.

2006 wrap-up: It was definitely a year, all right.

    Things I learned about crafting this year:

  • I learned to crochet. Then I learned about amigurumi and had a reason to crochet.

  • I learned that instead of making things for people, I can announce that I am making things for people and get an immediate rush of gratefulness and excitement from them and a big swell of “Aren’t I a great person for doing this?” sentiment for myself, not to mention days or even weeks of wearing the item myself once it’s done and raking in the praise from strangers. This is much more immediately rewarding than deciding to make something for someone, slaving away in secret and then seeing the recipient excited about it for all of five minutes before he or she takes it home, where I rarely or never see it.

  • I learned that I make cool things. This is a simple but incredibly powerful lesson. This weekend, a friend came up to me and said “So, I saw our friend Rico recently, and he was wearing these amazing gloves with skulls on them. He told me you made them. Now, I am not asking you to make me a pair, but can you teach me how to make them?” The gloves in question were ones Rico had requested — nay, demanded — after seeing the ones I made for my boyfriend. That means two people saw them and loved them. A third person saw the gloves I made for Justin and loved them and then stole them, and will go forever undetected because that happened in Sweden, which is very far away. Dang.

    So after months of people making a fuss over the things I make, and with the incredibly picky boyfriend saying “Um, wow. This is amazing” at a number of things I’ve made, it is finally starting to sink in: I make cool things. My dumb hobby actually impresses people.

  • Cool blog plug-ins rule. For reals. Beta-testing Eve’s Progress Bars plug-in was one of my favorite blogging experiences ever: getting to watch something cool go through different iterations so I could see it getting cooler. Wow. Hearts!

  • My mom is so proud and excited about my knitting that she thinks the skulls I keep knitting on things are clever and attractive, and not just weird.


I’m crocheting away like mad, showing an almost alarming level of dedication to that foofy pink bag I’ve decided to design. From scratch. As a first crochet project. For a pattern I’m going to write.

As I work, I also pause to add to the hectic, out-of-sequence scrawls filling several pages of a little notebook that at least half of the time I actually remember to tuck into my knitting bag. Those cryptic little notes will one day become a pattern.

Nerdy design geek that I am, I’m only a third of the way through the actual bag, and I’m already dreaming of the finished PDF. What will I use for accent colors?, I ask myself. How do I want to shoot the picture for it? And when I look actually look at the notebook to find out how on earth I did that one thing on the other piece that looks like that instead of this, I ask What the fuck is going on here?

There are a lot of scribbles and a lot of little circles with long lines rising from them, and there are things written next to the lines that I think are meant to clarify the mess beneath. They don’t do much about the omissions of little last-minute, “Uh … maybe this will work” adjustments and impromptu increases. (Corners, man. Corners are rough.)

There’s also the difficulty level. I was pretty sure that it’s a beginner pattern — straight lines, no increases, almost all back-and-forth rows — and then I got to the strap and thought “Hmm. Afghan stitch. That looks pretty cool.” It does, too, especially with a variegated yarn with short repeats. It’s such a narrow little strip of crochet that I don’t need the special hook for it, but does it still count as a beginner pattern if you have to learn a whole new kind of technique just to do it?

Not having ever made anything from a crochet pattern, I don’t actually know what a beginning pattern is. I haven’t found a beginner-level pattern that doesn’t make my eyes cross with boredom just looking at it, so making one is out of the question. And I must know what the skill level of the pattern is — how else do I design a really, really cute icon for it?

Update: To hell with Afghan stitch! Curled too much and wouldn’t behave. I may have come up with something cuter, though.