March 2003 Archives

Calm After the Storm

This week has been a wrenching week for me at work. The decisions have been made and the words have been said. My group is now "lighter" by three people. I'm a relatively new manager where I work -- I was promoted into the position of "Project Manger" for software development in September and I inherited a group of people. My group had its issues. What group doesn't? But that doesn't make belt tightening processes any easier. I feel good that I was able to preserve the positions of several people (which, of course, they will never know) but awful about the ones that I lost. Fortunately, on this round I was not asked to let anyone go directly (I didn't hire any of them originally, so I was spared that trauma), but it was just about the hardest thing I have ever done to tell one of my guys about the new terms of his employment, and to lead a small meeting on Friday to explain what was going on to everyone.

My dad used to joke when I was little that I was "management". And because he was an engineer (all the men in my family are engineers), I always new it wasn't entirely a complement. But on the other hand, I can't help myself. I love to organize, plan, and work with people to get a job done. Getting a PhD is almost more about learning how to plan a project and lead a group of people than it is about just doing science. I grew into my position where I am and when we are not going through this kind of crisis, I love what I do. Let me tell you -- this is the hardest job I have ever loved. I've been so excited watching my group pull together and watching some of the more reticent people participate. Making milestones and delivering good stuff is a complete rush for me. So this was a big blow to me. Not from an ego perspective, but from the perspective of watching a growing happiness be shattered. I spent most of the week sort of bleeding on the inside, knowing what was coming and not having any power to stop it. I worked hard to get the best possible arrangements for my group members, and hopefully they will never know that. And I am more committed than ever to seeing that they get to do what they are good at, and making sure we never have to go through this again.

So if you work and you have a manager you like, think a few good thoughts in their direction.

On a more positive note, I''ve decided to start reviewing the growing collection of knitting books on my shelf. I've added a new link over in my side bar to Knitting Book Reviews. There's only one review so far for Jaeger Handknits Natural Fleece JB14 but now that I have all my html templates and things in order (I love Dreamweaver! -- I have an old version, ut is still takes some of the pain out of dealing with HTML) I should be able to get them out much faster. I believe my next review will probably be one of my Alice Starmore books, but if you see anything on the list that you are curious about, let me know and I'll do that one next. I also have a collection of individual patterns that I will probably review as well, so stay tuned!

Okay... time to get back to my "Flappable Handbag". I got a second wind to work on it last night while going through the blogring and now I think I might be able to get it finished over the weekend!

Flappable Handbag Before...

Yesterday was a good knitting day -- I finshed another to-be-felted object -- my Flappable Handbag from an excellent Wool You Order pattern. Here's the before shot:

This thing is just huge! But I did like working with the Cascade 220. You can't tell from the picture, but the yarn is actually a lovely tweedy blue green.

I can't wait to see how it felts! After all necessary showers are completed, into the washer it goes!

Flappable Handbag Timecourse

I am returning to my scientific roots to give you the results of my felting project -- I took pictures at 5 minute intervals so that I could demonstrate felting "kinetics". Yup. Once a geek always a geek.

This post is very picture heavy. I apologize in advance to anyone with a slow connection. I also apologize for taking the pictures with the bag on a dark green towel. I would have used lighter, but the bag turned the water in my washer nice dark blue, so I didn't want to risk any of my light colored towels (which are all pretty good) and I didn't want water getting all over everywhere. I used the hanger (my bag retrieval device) for comparison.

5 Minutes
10 Minutes
15 Minutes
20 Minutes
25 Minutes
Fabric Detail

Enormous to finished in ~25 minutes. Pretty amazing. Felting is just one of those things that blows me away. I'm definitely pleased with the results but I am wondering if any of the felting experts in the audience can offer me a suggestion for smoothing out the flap of the bag. As you can see in the second-to-last picture, the shape of the flap leaves a little to be desired. I think its a little wider than it needs to be so I am not sure that stretching it is the solution. Would steaming help me? For those of you who steam, do you use a steamer or can you get away with an iron? I'm tempted to use the iron a little bit with a damp towel between the iron and the flap.

I think this yarn felts fabulously! I included a detail of the felted fabric in the last photo so that the gorgeous green and blues are more obvious. As Rob guessed on my TagBoard, it is Cascade 4009. I've now felted BrownSheep, Noro and Cascade and I think the Cascade is my favorite -- not too fuzzy and definitely a wonderful felted texture.

If I were to do this pattern again, I would do the handle as an I-cord instead of 8 stitches mattress stitched together. I might also be tempted to make the strap a little longer. But otherwise, this was a great pattern -- easy to follow and fun to see come together.

Before I close (and try to figure out what I am going to work on next) I want to put up some photos of the other thing I finished today... my first Opal sock!

This sock turned out a little bigger than I anticipated. It fits okay on top, but is a quite a bit too big for me in the foot. You may also have noticed something a little strange going on at the's an up close look at that toe:

It's almost as if I started the toe decreases with a new ball of Opal with a different pattern but the same colors. The color intervals are quite regular. It almost looks like the Tiger pattern. Is such strangeness common for Opal? I think I will have to see for how long this stretch of oddness goes. Hopefully not for too much longer, or this poor sock won't have a mate. Looking at the exterior of the skein, it looks like it gets back to normal sometime. I will investigate further after I finish this post.

Because I do not want to rip out all the work in this sock to make it fit me, I think I will make the second the same size and give them to my wonderful father (I hope that's okay, Emma! I promise to find another skein of Brazil for myself!). Unlike my husband (who refuses to wear anything striped or multicolored on his feet) my dad is open to colorful things (he actually told me that I could make him a sweater out of the same color Silk Garden I made for myself), and will love the warm socks. He's made so many beautiful things for me (he makes beautiful handcrafted hardwood furniture) that it will be a real pleasure to give him something warm and wonderful back.

My Day Job

In case any of you want proof that I do have a day job -- and that I am actually accomplishing something at it -- I cordially invite you all to come take a look at Integrated Genomics, Inc. most recent release to the public:

Yep, just like diet beverages and low calorie food, we have a streamlined and simplified version of our main bioinformatics platform. In it, you can find 7 genomes of bacteria that we have either sequenced or annotated (or both) with public funding. We've already made the data available in a flat file ASCII format, but we thought it would be a lot more "biologist-friendly" to release the data in browsable form. This project coming together (and coming together on time was the bright light for me in an otherwise strained week. It also turned out to be a great group building thing, since many people pitched in to do the things that needed to get done. We still have a little bit to finish off (I get to write the press release tomorrow) , but otherwise, it is mission accomplished! To celebrate I am actually going to do something that I don't do very often -- cook. There'll be chocolate chip cookies all around for my Wednesday meetings. And to anyone who wants to understand any of the jargon I've used here, let me know. I love talking shop.

In case anyone was worried, I did find another stretch of the right pattern in my Opal, and I cast on the second sock. Tonight I am going to follow all the excellent advice I got and steam my handbag flap into an acceptable shape. Now I am going to have to come up with another felting project. I'm really into this idea of making a felted backpack. I keep wandering by ThreadBear to look at their Wool You Order patterns. I'm trying to decide between this one and this one and this one. And I've also been virtually touching the Koigu, trying to decide which colorway I want to do Marylin, The Knitting Curmudgeon's wonderful Crusoe sock pattern in. Its really so hard to control my yarn buying habits when there are so many fun things out there to do!

Designing Impulses

The felted bags have really gotten me thinking lately. After finishing my "Flappable Handbag", I realized I was a little disappointed because I couldn't use the bag in my "everyday" life. Everyday life for me means toting a laptop around and my handbag, while roomy and sturdy is not roomy enough or sturdy enough to handle the dimensions or the mass of a ~5-8 lb laptop. (Yes, someday I hope for a Mac G4 PowerBook, but until that time I have to live with more conventional laptop proportions). So what's a girl to do?

Design her own, I think.

So the scan above is the result of my brainstorming. The idea here is a partitioned bag with a flap (have to protect the electronics from the elements) secured by a button or clasp. One of the partitions would hold the laptop, and that partition could be made more snug with a little strap (that I think would have to be attached to some velcro). The back of the bag would have an area like you find on many purses that could hold a few sheets of paper for easy access. The strap needs to be relatively wide and flat -- I don't think an I-cord would be the right solution, but I would like to hear people's opinions. To give it some visual interest, I think it would be a neat to have contrasting stripes about 1/3 of the way down the bag.

I think, after seeing Julie's Constant Companion bag that was done with a double thickness of Cascade 220, that I have found something that would add to the sturdiness category. I did John's hat with Lamb's Pride Bulky, which is probably thick enough without using double, but has a little more halo than I would like for this bag.My only remaining concern is static. So I might have to line the portion of the bag that contains the laptop with some nice cotton.

Now all I have got to do is take the left over Cascade 220 I have from the handbag (almost a whole skein) and start swatching and felting so I can get some idea of how big this thing needs to be in order to get to the proportions I need. I think I have a few good ideas about creating the inner partion, but I am going to play with that as part of the felting expedition before I say anything more about it.

Opinions and helpful comments are very welcome -- tonight I spend some time Googling to find out more detailed information and good guidelines for felting.

Life in Minuature, Part 1

So yesterday I was trying to figure out how to test some of my ideas without knitting up something huge and then ripping it out. And then it occured to me that I could test out some of my ideas by constructing the bag in miniature! I figured if nothing else, I'll have something cute that I can put in my purse or give to my mother, who makes dolls and is always looking for doll accessories. Since I had so much Cascade 220 left over from my Flappable Handbag, I figured I could use that. I'm only using a single strand for the first test bag.

Here's a few shots of my current progress:

The top picture is the base of the bag with the center flap that will be the divider. It's upside-down. The second picture is from the side, now that I have started knitting the sides up from the bottom and the third picture is from the top down.

You will notice that I am using my dreaded double pointed needles. I do seriously dislike DPs, but my enthusiasm for this little bag overcame my distaste for DPs. I figured it also might be a good opportunity to get more comfortable with them. I think felting projects are great places to teach myself new things because errors just disappear into the felted fabric. I practiced "English Method" knitting on my Flappable Handbad in preparation for two handed color knitting.

Today I have taken a vacation day to work on my masters thesis project, but I am going to reward myself for good coding behavior with a few rounds on my little bag every now and again. So I'll be posting more pictures over the course of the day to show progress. Hopefully later on tonight I'll get the chance to do some felting!

Proof of Concept

Well, I managed to meet my two goals today -- I converted NFAs to DFAs for my masters project and I felted a little prototype bag. I guess I succeeded in being a multi-disciplinary geek today. Since even I don't want to look at any more Java code, I'll only post the pictures from my little felting expedition.

These are a few images before I attached the handle and the cover flap:

It's essentially square cornered at this point. I 've done only a little decreasing at the top of the sides where the strap will be. The bottom photo gives you a look at the divider (along with some of my origami boxes).

This is a detail of the side where I've "attached the internal partition to the external fabric. And finally, the finished unfelted product with strap (in garter stitch) and flap:

Before felting, the height of the bag was approximately 4" and the bottom was a 5" x 4" rectangle. The strap was 12" long and the flap was about 5-1/2" from where it started. Here's the finished product hanging from my swift: I think I used about 1/3 of the skein of leftover Cascade.

The bottom photo shows the felted partition. I'm pretty pleased with the way the partition turned out. I was worried it might distort the fabric, but it didn't seem to at all. However, next time I might make it a few stitches narrower than the base of the bag so that it will hold a flat position on the inside. I'll probably also make sure that the flap is a few stitches wider. Not a perfect project, but defiitely a good experiment. It holds two decks of playing cards comfortably. Not sure what I am going to do with it yet. It may end up in my knitting bag holding small but important things (like Altoids sours and tape measures and darning needles). It would certainly make a cute addition to a small female person's accessory collection!

Final dimensions: bottom rectangle 4" x 2.5", height 2.5", strap length 11", flap 4"

*YAWN* Now I think it's time to hit the sack... my 9:30 meeting downtown with my professor is going to seem awfully early!

Experimental Results


One of the things you learn as a bench scientist (usually sooner rather than later) is that most experiments don't turn out quite the way you planned them. Over the weekend, I decided that I would do a little felting test. I wanted to see how certain stitches behaved with regards to size when felting and I wanted to see if it was possible to see special stitch patterns (such as cables or ribbing) after felting. I wanted to see how Cascade Quattro (Color #9434) felted. Finally, I wanted to see what thickness felting would two strands of yarn would get me, and if I would get any interesting color patterns if I felted two different strands of yarn together So before I took off with Julie on a little yarn store expedition, I started knitting up this batch of swatches using my Cascade 220, Aporto.

The top left and middle left swatches are two strands, one done in stockinette and the other in garter. There is one strand of Aporto and one strand of Quattro 9434. The bottom left swatch is the garter sticch swatch. The top middle swatch and the bottom middle swatch are 1/.2 garter stich and 1/2 K3P3 rib and 1/2 stockinette stitch, 1/2 K3P3 rib, respectively. The top right swatch is the Quattro by itself, with two knitted cables (in opposite directions), each of which is 6 stitches wide and separated by 4 stitches. The bottom right is just stockinette.

Here's a close up of the two stranded combined before and after felting:

I knew the combo was ugly together before I started and it didn't look any better after felting -- kind or reminded me of carpet padding. I also discovered that knitting too tightly does seem to hamper the felting process, as neither the stockinette or garter version of the two stranded stuff seemed to felt fully, even though there were slightly more than 3 full washer cycles on this felting process.

Here's a close up of the Quattro 9434 before and after felting:

For me, this was yarn that looked better on the skein than it did knitted up. I wanted to like it more, but was disappointed. I knew it wouldn't show the cables very well (I just wanted to see what would happen to the cables after I felted them. The answer... you see some slight bumps and the felted fabric elongates over the area where the purl stitches are. I think maybe if my cables were wider, the experiment would have been more successful. I didn't much like the colors in the felted fabric, either. I'm not showing more than a closeup, because there isn't much more to see. John described the colors as "a little too 70's".

The 1/2 garter/stockinette and 1/2 ribbing swatches were also pretty much a failure -- no stitch definition. They both had more curvature in the edge where the ribbing was, but there are easier ways to get a curved edge. So this experiment was pretty much a failure too.

Talk about reminding me of some of my bad-old days in the lab as a newbie grad student!

But the plain stockinette and garter stich pieces did give me shrinkage information... and here it is, in case it would be useful for you:

Garter stitch swatch, 1 strand, size 11 needles. 3.5 st/inch, 6 rows/inch.
Starting Dimensions: 5" w x 4-1/2" h Final dimensions: 3-1/2" w x 2-1/4" h

Stockinette stitch swatch, 1 strand, size 11 needles, 3.5 st/inch, 4.5 rows/inch.
Starting Dimensions: 4" w x 5-1/8" h Final dimensions: 3" w x 3" h

Conclusions: both stiches shrink more vertically (on a percentage of starting size) basis than horizontally. I got about 20-25% shrinkage in width for both stitch types. In height, the garter stitch felted down to 50% the original while the stockinette lost about 40% of its height.

So now I have to spend some time thinking about where to go next. I think it's time for me to start taking a good look at some more felted bag patterns for construction and thickening.

My knitting expedition with Julie was much more interesting. We checked out Wool & Company and Fine Line Creative Arts Center, both in in St. Charles, IL (note: this qualifies as being at almost the far edge of the universe for me...deepest, darkest suburbia. But St. Charles is kind of a cute place, even if they were celebrating St. Patrick's day with a parade on March 7th...)

Wool & Company is a wonderful little store. I wish they were closer to Chicago. Lots and lots of great yarn! I got to see Noro Shinano for the first time (and decided that it's a little drab for me), found some beautiful Koigu for socks (one color way in greens and yellows seemed to me like it would make a perfect pair for my dad... he has a John Deere tractor that it would go smashingly with, and one colorway in oranges, greens, browns and reds that I think could become a pair of Crusoe socks, and got to see a lot of the Cascade 220 Quattro. They also stocked AddiTurbos, so I picked up a pair of US1s and and a pair of US 0's for socks on 2 circs. This store was also populated by friendly staff. If you're out in the direction of St. Charles, it's definitely worth dropping in.

Fine Line was a little harder to find. But if you need Jo Sharp yarn or anything from Rowan or weaving and dying supplies, this is your place. I didn't buy anything here, but it was nice to see all the Summer Tweed colors up close and personal. They also carried a lot of Colinette, which I just love touching and admiring.

I had hoped to start the Crusoe socks this weekend, but discovered that while my rows/inch are correct, my stitches/inch is off (too many stitches/inch). So I will have to postpone those socks until I order some size 2 Addis. I started a pair of Regia socks for myself, instead, using some Ringel Color that I bought off eBay. I figured since I ripped out all of St. Kilda today, it was okay to start on another project. St. Kilda will come back, but probably not until late summer or fall when I start to think about warm winter sweaters. This sweater was for John, but with Spring just around the corner, I would rather just let the yarn relax and put this one on the back burner in favor a lighter sweater (maybe in All Seasons Cotton, Calmer or Wool Cotton from Rowan).

Knitting for Guys

So I don't have much new knitting progress to show -- I'll save the Regia socks until I have at least one of them done. Instead, I thought I would share one of the things that makes me love where I work.

John and I have had a lot of conversations about "what men like" when it comes to knititng. I have been informed in no uncertain terms that he will not accept any garment with stripes. This includes socks. Socks can only be from a very narrow range of colors: dark blue, black, dark green, maybe brown, maybe deep maroon colors (but only on rare occasions). When I knit up a little test swatch of the lovely grey Opal that Emma sent me (specifically for his extremely picky self) and asked if he would wear socks out of it, figuring it would be impossible to go wrong with a grey sock, I got the answer "probably". "Probably?" I said, "I'm not sure I want to spend a lot of time knitting you socks that you'll "probably" wear." He just shrugs and smiles. And I know that I will make him the socks and he will probably love them, but I am a little unnerved that after 4 years of marriage I still can't figure out what color socks he likes.

I didn't do much better with the sweater conversation. He's willing to widen out the color range a little bit, but more than one color in a garment is out. Too much patterning is out. It can't be itchy or too fuzzy. At one point I read him a post from Kristi's blog and he just nodded smugly. Because now I had proof that he was not unusual in his tastes.

So lately I have been asking all the men I know about their color preferences and whether or not they would wear striped socks. My brother surprised me by telling me he would wear striped socks if they colors weren't too wild. He'd even put up with a striped sweater (but he lives in Houston and I can't see knitting him a sweater...). My father loves colorful things. He'd wear a man's version of my Silk Garden Sweater and wouldn 't have a problem with any kind of socks. Well, okay, he'd probably draw the line at pink... but I really can't imagine knitting him pink socks.

Now, work is a more interesting place to ask this question because there are more European men than Americans. In particular, I have a number of Greek and Russian guys and I was curious about what their viewpoint might be. Picture, if you will, me standing in a cubicle with another manager and a software developer discussing knitted socks and acceptable sweater colors. I learned, some interesting things. For instance, apparently you can always tell American tourists in Greece because they wear extremely bright colors that don't always go together. However, both of them wouldn't mind a sweater out of my Silk Garden, and one of them had a yellow sweater that he really likes. For socks, they leaned towards black and blue, but they would probably be willing to try tasteful patterns.

But the funny part of this conversation came one the other manager looked at me and said, "You know, there is one guy here who always has great socks! All different colors, neat patterns..." and then he gets up and goes over to the guy and we all have a look at his socks to prove his point. How many of you get to do a random sock inspection at work -- and have everyone be good natured about it?

So I'm taking a poll... if you're a guy, what are your color preferences? Are stripes okay? If you like to knit for a particular guy, what restrictions has he placed on wearable projects? Stripes? Inquiring minds want to know.

And now I am back to my sock project... a sock that John wouldn't wear even if it was freezing cold outside, his shoes were wet and it was from the only clean pair of socks left in his sock drawer!

Little Bag Pattern Available

For anyone who is interested, I have written up the pattern for the little felted bag and added it to my Free Patterns Index (yes, it's still a pretty small list right now).

Let me know if you have any questions or comments -- I'm happy to answer them. Suggestions for improvements in the construction or instructions are also welcome!

Regia Ringel Color 5042

My sole knitting accomplishment of the week (no pun intended) is my first sock using Regia. I picked this yarn up off eBay mostly because the striping pattern and the odd color combination really struck me. This sock was definitely a "therapy sock" this week as the Roller Coaster that is my work environment spawned another dramatic week. Something about rows and rows of pleasantly patterned stockinette is comforting for me.

Here's the whole sock:

and here's an up close shot of the pattern and the colors:

The whole sock picture was taken with flash, the detail picture without. Not sure why I like these totally funky colors. And my favorite color in the mix is the orange, which I usually won't touch with a 10-foot pole. I definitely want to find more of this yarn pattern (in a different color).

I'm hoping to cast on its partner today, but probably won't get very far since I need to spend most of the day working on my masters thesis. Ugh... I should have known better than to get myself in a position where I had to write another one of these...

As an aside, if you are looking for an interesting read about tech startup companies and the experience of owning/working in one, I highly recommend, Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure, by Jerry Kaplan, which describes the rise and fall of GO, a company that tried to create a forerunner to palm/tablet PCs. Another great read is The Billion Dollar Molecule by Barry Werth. This book details the creation of Vertex Pharmeceuticals, a company that is still here today.

I Do Not Normally Do These Things...

But the results from this one sort of surprised me:

You're a Sapphire. You seem to be unreachable, but
deep inside, you are really a nice and warm
person. You are elegant and get along well with
people once you know them.

What Jewel Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Pretty close to home -- at least I think so. Well, maybe except for the elegant part.

We had a stunning weather day here in Chicago today -- practically tank top weather. Got me thinking about what I am going to do with the 10 skeins of Summer Tweed I have in Powder.

We took a trip down to Navy Pier today to take in the Garden Show. I didn't get a lot of garden ideas, but I did see a woman wearing a sweater that I really want to copy... it had a lovely shape and was made from a beautiful ribbon style yarn. Maybe something like Tagliatelli from Colinette. So I've been thinking about how to make this very form fitted sweater for Spring/Summer.

I even did some knitting today -- I got to the heal flap on my second Regia sock. It would be so wonderful to have these finished and be able to wear them this week! And for anyone who was worried... I did get the introduction to my master's thesis written yesterday. Tomorrow I'll move on to the main body of the document.


Haloscan seems to be down...can't even bring up their main website. This means that my page takes ages to load trying to find Haloscan before it times out. I love my comments, but I don't love painful load times. When Haloscan seems more stable, I'll bring the comments back. It's hard to complain about free, but this is beginning to make me a little crazy since it seems to happen almost every weekend now.

I also did a little updating of my archive format. For those of you using Blogger, and would like to have a different format for your Archive links, but are not Javascript experts (I definitely fall into this category), check out the following site:

Phil Ringalda's Blogger Archive Script Generator

I don't normally advocate Javascript, but it's really the only way to get away from Blogger's formatting.

The Knit Stitch

It's raining in Chi-town this morning. It's really nice that it is warm enough for precipitation not to turn into snow. I suspect we're not completely out of the woods yet, but I am really in need of Spring.

Yesterday my copy of Sally Melville's, The Knit Stitch arrived from Knit Picks. I spent the whole evening pouring over it instead of working on the next chapter of my thesis. Her instructional pictures really are good enough to learn something from and her patterns make me want to get something else started. I can imagine doing a number of projects from this book.

What made me most pleased was that I got to the last pattern in the book -- a pullover sweater that I looked at and knew it would appeal to John:

It's hard to make out the details in the picture (which I blatantly stole from KnitPicks because I am too lazy to scan it myself.) The collar and the very simple pattern stitch are the appeal. What made me even happier was showing it to John and having him raise an eyebrow and say, "Yeah, I'd definitely wear that."

Can you believe it? I finally got the right vibe.

With Spring coming, I'd like to make this sweater in a lighter weight yarn. Does anyone have any experience with Austermann Rubino or Schaffhauser Eviva? They're both at Elann and would give me the opportunity to give him a nice sweater at a reasonable price. I'm leaning toward the Rubino because I think it might be like Rowan Wool Cotton, which John loves.

Mostly Elann

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Yesterday I made my first purchase from Elann -- 13 Skeins of Austermann Rubino in white -- way more than I should need, but it was so affordable, that I decided to make sure I had a little extra. I can always turn it into a nice winter scarf. I really can't get over the fact that I will get a man-sized sweater for less than $40. I think even John, who is a bargain hunter extraordinaire, was impressed.

Since I had not registered with them before, I was also pleasantly surprised to find out something else about Elann that I don't remember seeing on the blogs -- for every $500 you spend with them, you get $50 back. Not bad. Of course, with their prices, it will take me some time to get to $500, but it definitely makes me want to come back!

It is an odd time for me right now. On one hand, I am feeling very tired and lethargic because of some stressful things going on at work, so even my simple sock projects are not progressing. On the other hand, I find my creative side clawing to get out... I've been sketching sweater designs. I have one in my head and on paper that is really just a matter of finding some wonderful ribbon yarn to swatch with and then taking some measurements and going forward. I'm thinking Tagliatelli or Giotto... but need to wait a while before I do any purchasing.

So please pardon the lower than average content as I deal with other things.

Fraternal Twins

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Woo hoo! I finished my first pair of socks for myself using Regia 5042. They are definitely fraternal, but with this yarn, it is easier to identify that the yarn is the same than the pattern is different.

Regia 5042 Socks

Of course, the real test of a good pair of socks is how they look on the right pair of feet:

Regia 5042 Socks

After I took the picture I just couldn't take them off. They feel so soft and nice on the inside -- nicer even than I thought they would. I bet you can all guess which pair of socks I will be wearing tomorrow! I like the way they go with my jeans -- the blue comes out very well with them. I think I am definitely going to have to go in search of some more of this pattern in a different colorway... maybe 5047 and 5048.

Now I have to decide which socks to cast on next... the names next to the Koigu are my made up names to give some description to the colorway. I am currently leaning towards the Koigu, just because I really haven't knit much with it yet. Opinions anyone?

  • Grey Opal (for John)
  • Koigu PPPM p514 "John Deere" (for Dad)
  • Koigu PPPM p201 "Chocolate, Raspberry, Blueberry, Vanilla Sundae" (for Mom)
  • Koigu PPPM p500 "Ripe Vine Tomatoes" (for me, in Crusoe pattern)
  • Brown/Grey/Black/White Jacquard Regia (for John?)
  • Black Colored Stripes Regia (for me)

I'll close my post tonight with a picture of my Beezle-Weasel doing what I should really do very soon (although not in a shoebox) since I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow learning how to make stitch markers with Julie. He looks so cute you might forget for a moment that he is a bamboo knitting needle terrorist who will actually drag them out of mostly sealed containers.

Beezle napping in his favorite box

Sweater Swatches and Stitch Markers

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Tales of speedy Elann delivery times were impressively demonstrated when my Rubino arrived on Saturday morning:

13 Skeins of White Rubino

13 skeins of soft, white Austermann Rubino. It reminds me a great deall of Rowan Wool Cotton. Elann describes it as being of "Worsted Weight", but it seems a little finer than that. Of course, I couldn't resist pulling out a ball and swatching it up for John's sweater. In this case, it turned out to be a good thing that I did.

White Rubino Swatches

This picture gives you both a glimpse of my knitting journal and the two swatches I did for the sweater. I did the swatch using the stitch pattern for the sweater. The swatch on the left is done on US 8s (bamboo), the swatch on the right is done on US 6's (Swallow Casein -- as an aside, I found that the yarn was very "grabby" on these needles, I liked the bamboo feel better). Since it was John's sweater, after I did the first one, I handed him the swatch and asked his opinion. "Too open for a white sweater" was the response, "I'll have to wear a T shirt under it." Now, the first swatch was definitely smaller than recommended gauge, but even I didn't think that it would be good to go up a needle size.

Since I liked the stitch and the sweater pattern, I decided to go down to the smaller needles (incidentally, the size needle recommended on the ball). I figured that since I wasn't getting guage with the bigger needles, I was going to have to alter the pattern anyway, so what could it hurt to go down a little more?. The swatch done on 6's met with much more approval from the intended wearer. It had just one small drawback: it's exactly 1/2 the area of the original swatch. So I made a quick "trip" (sometimes I love to shop on line) back to Elann and ordered 5 more skeins -- I made this estimate based on the pattern's estimates, increase in area and the free patterns for the yarn that Elann sent along. That gives me ~2500 yards to work with (900 g!).

I managed to get all this accomplished before taking my trip out to see Julie to make stitch markers. Julie let me dig around in her wonderful collection of beads and then showed me how to play with pliers to achieve the desired results. Believe it or not, these little fellas were all made by me:

Stitch Markers

Julie is a wonderful teacher of plier arts! By the time I set off for home, I felt like I actually knew a little bit about what I was doing with the tools. The hardest part is wrapping the tail of the loop around the wire and trimming it so that it won't snag knitting. I initially wanted to make a bunch of different markers, but fell in love with the little bears and decided that I wanted to make a collection of matching markers with them. The markers in the picture are shown haning from a US 7 needle, and they could easily swing from an 8 or a 9. For anyone who is interested in a source of beads, much of Julie's stash came from Caravan Beads in Chicago.

And The Winner Is...

Okay, I know I am late for the Academy Award thing, but I finally did decide on what pair of socks to start next.

Koigu PPPM p201

This is the colorway I described as berry sundae in my previous post. Here's what it looks like cast on:

Koigu PPPM p201 Cast On

This is interesting yarn, because you would think from looking at it that the reds would stand out. Instead, it's the browns, as you can see from the little progress I have made on the cuff of the first sock (below). I am a little disappointed. The brown is nice and all, but the reds and blues are what hold my personal interest. However, I'll reserve my complete judgement until I get past the ribbing.

Koigu PPPM p201 Sock Cuff

I would have had pictures of this up earlier, but I cast the thing on about 4 times before I was happy with it. You see, I cast on very tightly. I learned a good trick from Julie for a looser edge: doing a long-tail cast-on over two needles of about the same size as the needle you plan to work on. This was the cast on I used for the 3 other paris of socks I did or still have on needles. But Sally Mellville's The Knit Stitch turned me on to the crochet cast-on. The swatches I tried with it had a lovely, much looser edge. So I decided it would also be good to try with my socks.

I cast on the first time: much too loose, sock would have been big enough for an NFL linebacker
I cast on the second time: too tight. I might have been able to get it on, but not comfortably
I cast on the thrid time: just right on one side, too tight on the other

So I went back to what Julie taught me and it was "just right". I do like the crochet cast-on, but I think it works better for me on larger needles. I'm looking forward to testing it out again when I start John's sweater. Probably I will have to re-swatch for that project again. I did a little test using the Swallow Casein needles and they really have a high drag coefficient with the Rubino -- almost like the yarn is sticking to the needle. I have a feeling I'll be fighting them the whole project, and I am not up to fighting my needles for the entirety of a man-sized sweater.

This is not a knitting related post. If you're looking for knitting, scroll down. This is a science geek related post.

I was browsing through our journal collection at work when I came across something that struck me as really amusing:

Singles in Science

Now you might think that I am making a not so nice jab at my unmarried counterparts looking for partners. I'm not. Really. I actually met my wonderful, awesome, incredible husband through a now defunct web-personals site (at least in the incarnation that I posted to it on): So I really have no problem with people finding people through the web! In fact, I know several friends who found themselves the software engineer of their dreams this way. No, what amused me most about this is "Singles In Science" nestled in between "Brain Histology" and instrumentation ads in the (mostly) biological news journal The Scientist. It just seems so out of place to me, and that's what made if seem so funny. One stop shopping for HPLC purified oligonucleotides, pre-owned lab equipment and spouses!

The link to Science Connection does work (click on the image to take a look for yourself).

The Man Sweater Commences

I was promising myself that I would not start another project. Really I was. And then I found a lovely sweater pattern in Sally Melville's The Knit Stitch that John liked at first glance. And then I discovered that Elann had very nice prices on Austermann Rubino - a merino/acrylic blend that has a delicate look, but I think will hold up to being worn my favorite guy.

Only once I got the yarn, I discovered that in spite of it being considered "Worsted" weight by Elann, it's probably closer to a DK weight, which meant that my first guage swatch was a little too airy for the husband (even I agreed with this assessment). So I went down a few needle sizes (to 4.0 mm) and this time the fabric knit up to a better density. Well, I knit up my second swatch on my Swallow Caseins. Nice looking fabric buy way too much drag. Apparently Rubino and casein don't interact very well. So after casting on once with the Swallows and getting very annoyed very quickly with the drag issue I ripped and decided to try another pair of needles.

Since I had a 4.0 mm AddiTurbo conveniently at hand, I decided to try out the Addi. I was worried that the metal surface would over-compensate for my drag problem and give me a much looser than desired fabric, but actually, I got the exact same gauge as I did with the Swallows. Go figure. The Addis are much nicer to work with and the Rubino moves very nicely over them, so it was definitely worth the time re-swatching.

One of the neat things about this sweater is that it is a top down pattern. So I am starting with the neck and working towards the bottom. For those of us who cast on tightly, this can be something of a scary proposition. Sally, however, has a nice solution -- the crochet cast-on. For pictures of this cast on, take a look at pp. 74-75 in The Knit Stitch or check out this site. You'll have to scroll about 1/2-way down for the method and pictures. I really like this cast-on method -- it comes out nice and loose and it does provide a very nice looking edge that looks like a cast-off edge. Here's a close-up of the cast on edge from the sweater:

I just love how smooth this cast-on edge looks, and how nice and loose it is. It does take a little more time to cast-on than a long-tail cast-on, but not too much more time. It also has the extra benefit of not needing to figure out how much yarn you need for the long-tail. You just make a slip knot and cast on until you have enoug stitches, leaving whatever length tail you want. Probably the hardest thing about this cast on is making sure that you keep your tension and spacing even, otherwise you end up with areas with different tensions on the edge, which doesn't make for a very nice way to start a garment. I don't have the pictures, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Here's the collar, with stitch number adjusted to take into account my gauge (6 st/inch instead of 4 st/inch):

This is the perfect height collar for John, who hates things binding around his neck. The next thing to come will be figuring out the shoulder shaping. It shouldn't be too hard, but since this is one of the first times that I will have had to totally alter a pattern to do what I want with it, I am hoping that I won't miss something critical and be forced to frog back to the beginning. I think I am definitely going to put a life-line in at the base of the collar, just in case. If everything works out, I'll post my pattern modifications for anyone who might like to do this sweater in a finer gauge yarn.

I'm feeling especially motivated to work on this sweater because John has spent most of the weekend working on getting a webserver set up for me so that I can move my website to a place of unlimited disk space. It will also give me a chance to play with MovableType (which now supports PostgresSQL!)... a girl can never have too many fun computer software toys! I especially like that Moveable Type is written in Perl -- which is my current language of most expressiveness.