June 2004 Archives

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Can A Girl Ever Have Enough Stripey Socks?

I worked on the second sock of this pair during most of my trip to San Francisco (I'll talk more about my trip to the west coast tomorrow, when I can take some better daylight pictures of the goodies I brought back -- we got in after midnight last night and I had an 8:30 phone conference this morning). Almost everywhere I went someone told me "those colors are so neat". Indeed, I am quite taken with the colors as well, even though none of these colors are really in my normal clothing color palette.

Recently I bought a book that I absolutely love -- colorWorks: the crafter's guide to color by Deb Menz (published by Interweave Press). I bought the book because I've been trying to understand more about color and about putting colors together. I like this book for several reasons. One, Deb Menz has a very pleasant, encouraging style that makes you want to get out there and play with color. Two, there are samples of color work in a variety of different craft media so that in addition to color, you can also see how reflectivity and texture affect the overall composition. Three, the explanations are informative and interesting without being pedantic. I'm trying to absorb and think about things as I proceed, so I am slowly but surely working my way through the book, but what I've learned so far has definitely helped me appreciate why the colors in these socks have so much appeal.

To explain, you first need to see a color wheel (I like this link because it allows you to play with tinting and shading as well as just showing you what goes where. For a more conventional picture with some additional discussion about color theory, click here). Color wheels are based on the principle that there are three primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and that all other colors are composed of blends of those three. Thus, if you thing of the color weel as a clock, blue might be at 12, yellow at 4 and red at 8. All the shades between blue and red, for instance, are blends of the two colors, with the spectrum being more red near the red "pole" and more blue near the blue "pole".

There are a variety of ways to come up with harmonious color combinations, and most of them are dependent on where colors are located relative to each other on the color wheel, (the depth of color also plays a role -- and colors arranged by color depth are referred to as "keys"). Color sets that go together are called "harmonies". Complementary colors sit opposite each other on the wheel. None of these colors are quite opposites. However, there is a something called a "split complementary harmony" which is a harmony that includes colors from three hue families. In this case, the orange, purply blue and blue, form such a harmony (in this case, the lighter blue falls in the blue role, but the shade of the blue has been modified by tinting the blue with white).

But what about the green? So far, I haven't been able to find a good explanation for why that green seems to work so well. Perhaps it is because, with the blue and orange, it is three quarters of a square tetrad harmony? (two pairs of opposites such that each color is equi-distant from the next) I am not sure. It is something that I will have to continue to explore as I read her book and as I go off and experiment with color on my own.

Deb Menz advocates playing with color and using these theories as jumping off points for exploration. The book comes with a color wheel and a set of cards to help isolate the colors from the different harmonies as wheel as a group of cards that explore tint and shading. The book provides the tools to test the theories and encourages the reader to experiment and get comfortable with thinking about color and the different components that make a color what it is. Which adds to the feeling that color is an interactive, not just spectator, sport.

Watch out future sweaters...

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North of Golden Gate Bridge

The trip to San Francisco was quite an adventure. Like all adventures, there are good parts and bad parts. Fortunately for me, I got the bad parts out of the way at the beginning.

I've done a reasonable amount of air travel in my day. I'm not a high flying frequent flier, but I'm used to airplanes and air travel out of O'Hare. And this trip started the way it was supposed to. I got to the airport around 9:30 am on Friday and was all ready for my 11 am flight across the country. We boarded on schedule and I was happily anticipating an afternoon of swatching and fibery goodness while John finished up his conference obligations.

But this was not to be.

Before take off, the pilot let us know that there was going to be a little delay while they checked to make sure that a particular maintenance item had been taken care of. We waited a bit as this was attended to, and then we got the all clear and headed on our way. So far so good.

About 30 minutes into the flight, I was yawning and thinking about taking a nap when the pilot announced that the equipment that maintained the cabin pressure had failed or was failing (apparently this was what they had been concerned about at the airport, and had been told was taken care of) and we would be turning back for Chicago. If there's anything that makes you wake up quickly its your pilot telling you that something is wrong with your airplane.

Now, before I go on, I should remind you of a couple of facts about this flight. 1) it was a very full long distance flight bound to SF from Chicago with a lot of jet fuel 2) you can't land an airplane carrying too much fuel without a serious emergency (which apparently we didn't have -- even though the reason we turned back was because the O2 masks were about to drop), and 3) only 1/2 an hour our from Chicago, we hadn't burned very much fuel at all.

So you can guess what comes next. We flew back towards Chicago and the pilot came on again to tell us that we were going to have to circle Rockford until we had burned off enough fuel to land. We flew in circles around Rockford for an hour. I think I saw the same power plant go by the window five or six times. And then we landed at O'hare again at about 1:30 pm. The time we were supposed to have arrived in San Francisco. Sigh. So much for a nice afternoon in San Francisco.

To give American some credit, they did have things taken care of, and we were off the ground again by 3 pm. It was a very deja vu feeling since we left from the same gate both times. The passengers deserve a lot of credit, too. With the exception of 2 people, everyone else was well behaved (although there were a lot of people taking advantage of the bar next to the departure gate). I got a little bit of a chuckle out of the pilot as he came over the intercom "Just in case anyone is concerned, this is not the same aircraft...".

Fortunately, the second trip out went without a hitch. But the moral of this story? It's bad karma not to go with your hometown airline. I shoulda been on United...

John and I stayed in "Grand Hyatt" downtown in the center of the shopping district. The good karma part of the trip is that I was staying just three blocks away from Art Fibers.

Art Fibers, I have to say, was worth a trip to SF all on its own. It's its own very special place. The folks in the shop were friendly and helpful and the fiber was a treat to touch and work with. One of the nicest things about this place is the little sitting area and the free swatching balls. Like a yarn? Grab it, swatch it and then you can get help from the staff putting together a custom designed sweater. If I lived in San Francisco, I would be in this place more than I should be. The yarn isn't cheap, but you do get bigger discounts, the more you buy.

I wanted to try a couple different yarns, so I decided that I would try for a trio of summer tops. Here's the yarn I came up with:

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Yarn So Good You Could Eat It: From Left to Right, Chai, Biscotti and Mousse

I set out on this mission with a goal towards making some things that I could wear in the office. So the colors that you see are a little more subtle than I would normally pick. But not quite as subtle as they appear in the picture.

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Chai in Color #16

Chai is a handpainted 100% Tussah Silk yarn. Hopefully as I start working with it, I will be able to capture it's true colors better. It really leans towards a deep charcoaly grey, garnety purples and reds, deep ocean blues and teals. It is a buttery soft yarn that you just have to feel to believe and that has a special sheen that I usually associate with mohair. The yarn comes 165 yards to 50 g and knits up at roughly 22 stitches/28 rows per 4" on a 4 mm needle. It has a lovely uneven texture that makes the fabric airy without being too revealing. This is destined to become a little top with short cap sleeves, a V neckline and a bit of a frill at waist.

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Biscotti in Color 5B

Biscotti is 100% nylon. Neither photo captures it's colors very well. The group shot is a little dark, the up close shot is a little light. It is a dark yarn that appears almost black until you get up close to it and realize that it has blue, green and brown undertones. I am hoping to make a simple sleeveless shell with a ballet neckline out of what I bought -- perhaps trimmed with some of the Phildar Reliefs (a yarn with a similar texture) that I got from Becky a while back. This yarn comes 83 yards to 50 grams and knits up at 14 stitches/24 rows to 4" on US 10.5 needles. It's a soft yarn that knits up into a interesting textured fabric (much like the Tai that I knit with last summer).

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Mousse in Color #3

But perhaps my favorite purchase is the Mousse. Mousse is a boucle ribbon yarn that appears to be the younger cousin of Rowan's Cotton Braid. It's a 20/30/50% Linen/Cotton/Nylon blend. There are a whopping 193 yards per 50 gram skein. The recommended gauge is 22s/33r to 4" on 5.0 mm needles, but I liked the tighter gauge that I got on 4.0 mm needles, so I will be doing a fun summery tank top with a lace edging on the smaller needles.

I'm likely to start with the Mousse. I just can't stop touching it, and I think it will be the most practical for the summer. The top is going to be K2Tog YO lace up to the waistline, after which it will be solid. It's going to have a scoop neck and wide shoulder "straps" so that it will be work friendly.

After my trip to Art Fibers, we did a good bit of meeting with friends, eating, shopping and bonding with big trees. In spired by all the wonderful chocolatey goodness I've seen on Mariko's blog, I couldn't resist bringing these home with me:

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Chocolates from RichArt

I think they are almost too pretty to eat -- but I will make the ultimate sacrifice since the "instructions" tell me that they are at their best up to a month after purchase. This batch is full of nutty fillings -- hazelnut, praline, etc. You can find out more about these decadent little French goodies here.

The trip back from SF to Chicago was uneventful and calm. We got in around midnight Monday night and between work and school and programming I've been on my toes since my return. My needles have been conspicuously silent since I have a lot to do before I leave for San Diego on Sunday to soak up some sun while John attends a geek meeting.

My Palm programming project is due next Tuesday, and I hope to have it all but completed before I get on the plane to San Diego. I'm going to be skipping KIP tomorrow night in hopes of getting some good progress made (it's hard to program and socialize at the same time). I wish a good time to everyone else, though, and will definitely be there for the next meeting on the 17th.

P.S. I'd love to hear about "must see" or "must eat" things in San Diego. I'm going to be there from Sunday to Thursday afternoon and should have a lot of free time.

Pot Pourri

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Since this could be my last post until I get back from San Diego on Thursday of next week (I hope to post to my blog because our hotel is supposed to have broadband, but you just never know), I have a lot more to talk about than usual. First off, take a look at what was waiting on my doorstep when we got back from San Francisco:

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Enigma from Emma

This is a little sampling of Colinette's new "Enigma" yarn plus the pattern book that supports it. Emma sent me two skeins to play with. One (on the left) in "Popsicle" and the other in "Florentina". If it's not clear from this shot how absolutely beautifully this yarn takes the dyes, here's a little closeup that I hope is more convincing:

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Popsicle and Florentina Enigma

Wonderful stuff, I think! Now I just have to decide what project I want to take on with it. Thank you, Emma for providing the perfect homecoming!

I also decided to try to get some better pictures of the yarn that I bought from ArtFibers. While I was there, I got to swatch the stuff, so tonight I took some snaps of the swatches that I think are much better in terms of both color and knitted texture. Gotta love that Ott lamp!

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Chai, Biscotti and Mousse Swatches

The Chai and Mousse swatches are all stockinette, but the bottom couple of rows on the Biscotti swatch are garter stitch. I swatched the Mousse on 5.0, 4.5 and 4.0 mm needles and really like the 4.0 mm the best. It's not easy to tell, but the Mouse swatch is actually divided in third with the smallest needle on top and the largest on the bottom. I wasn't able to get a much better shot of the stitch definition in the Mousse. Believe it or not, there was a shop model that used Mousse and had lovely cables in it. It's a very versitile yarn, even if individual stitch definition doesn't resolve very well.

Finally, I've been working on a few more features for the my Palm OS program. Here's a few screenies of the filtering and sorting features that I added.

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Needle Records Sorted by Size, Length and Category

Here's a shot of the front screen of the program. The "Show" filter lets you choose whether you want to see all the needles listed or just the ones that are in use or not being used. In this example, the needles are sorted by US needle size, followed by length and category.

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Configuring the Display and Sort Options

This screen is reached by clicking on the "Configure" button on the bottom right corner of the main screen. You can decide whether you would prefer to have local or metric sizes displayed in the main list and also select a sorting option for the needle records. All the sort orders that I have configured can be seen in the list in the picture. Are there any that I am missing?

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Sorted by Category, Size, Length and Maker

This is the main screen again, and the list is re-sorted by the selection I made on the configure screen. Pretty nifty if I do say so myself! (As an aside, your most recent sorting selection is saved so that when you come back you see the same thing you left). One thing I've been debating is trying to display the sort order between the two buttons on the bottom of the screen. Do you think it's necessary?

I've really only got one more feature left that I want to implement: editable selections for the manufacturer and composition fields so that the user can customize their own lists for each option. I'm playing with that now. I don't know whether it will be ready in time for my project due date, but it will most definitely be a part of the program I share with everyone.

Well that's just about it! Right now I'm trying to figure out what knitting is going to come with me to San Diego. I'm leaning towards Audrey and the Biscotti top (which I started tonight when I needed a little break from programming), with one of my sock projects as "backup".

If I can't post again until next Friday, I wish everyone a good weekend and a great week!

P.S. to whomever was asking me about how I get my screen shots for Palm (I'm really sorry, but I seem to have misplaced your email -- if you email me again I'll send you more detailed information). The screen shots come from the Palm OS Emulator that I use to run and debug the software. The emulator, and the rest of the software development environment) is available to anyone who signs up with PalmSource as a developer.

San Diego

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I was hoping to have a few pictures to show, but between the rather slow internet connection at the hotel and the reticence of my CompactFlash reader, I am photoless.

Today we spent the better part of the day strolling around the decks of the USS Midway -- an aircraft carrier decommissioned in 1992 that had entered the US Naval service in 1945. This was actually the first day that the ship was open to the public for touring, so we felt pretty lucky. There were television news crews wandering around all over the place. For me, it was most interesting from the perspectives of what technology it had and what technology it was lacking. There was definitely very little high technology around, except when it came to the planes that were once shot of the decks. Most of the complicated stuff was maintained and manipulated by well trained humans. Perhaps the most impressive computer of all is still the human brain.

Also entertaining was watching my husband walk around and scope out all the different bits of technology and machinery. If you could look through our photos you would be impressed by the number of pictures of airplane wheel assemblies, large pipes and large pieces of metal working equipment. I couldn't help but think that my Dad would have loved to be there with us.

But probably the best part was the older veterans who were populating the carrier, both as visitors and as guides. There were many good stories and it was really neat to hear guys who had actually crewed the ship talk about the role they played there.

Apparently it was also quite an amazing effort to get this carrier ready for viewing. If you want to know more, they have website.

I've done just a little knitting (I'm working on a simple Eros scarf for a friend who lives in LA and needs a little pick-me-up) and I spent most of the evening working on my Needle tracking program. A number of people have asked if I will be making an announcement when it is ready. I definitely will be! I will also have a place on my website where you can go to download it. It's about 85% of the way there now, so hopefully by the end of this week or early next week I'll have something to share.

Back from San Diego

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You can take my lack of posting as an indication that I had a great time in San Diego. I just didn't have time to sit down in front of the internet very much. Of course, who wants to sit down when the world outside your window looks like this:

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A Room with a View: The View from the Sheraton San Diego at the Marina

From our hotel room on the 11th floor we could survey all of San Diego and the lovely harbor around us. It's difficult to tell, but on the right side of the picture is a naval base. The big grey thing that you see is an aircraft carrier, (I think it is the USS Nimitz, but I am not exactly remembering the ship number). While we were there, there were a total of four carriers in port, if you include the USS Midway, a decommisioned carrier that is now performing museum service duty. Also docked (briefly) while we were there were the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Carl Vinson (which we had seen before when we took a trip to Seattle). Although we didn't see her, apparently the USS Ronald Reagan was due in soon, as well, as a result of some big training exercise that is scheduled to occur. To give some sense of the scale of these boats, here's a picture that John took of me in front of the Midway (which is about 200 feet shorter than the current Nimitz class carriers).

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USS Midway in San Diego

(John took a lot of other pictures, but I will spare you all the photos of planes and gun turrets and landing gear, which, while cool, probably are more interesting for John than for anyone else.)

We learned an interesting fact about the carriers while we were touring the Midway on Monday. Apparently, ever since the attack on Pearl Harbor, there is some kind of military rule that states that there will never be more than three carriers docked in any one port. However, due to some significant training exercise that is happening soon, there could be a lot more than three of them in the area. One morning, I got to see the USS Abraham Lincoln heading out to sea. All I can say is "Wow".

Actually, the seeing the Midway (which is on the left side of the picture near the cruise ship) and getting a chance to meet some of the veterans who served in various branches of the US military did make me stop and think for a while. Many people have given up a great deal to protect this country and her allies. While I may not always agree with the reasons, I do have a deep respect for those who choose to serve.

But we didn't come to San Diego to see the Midway, we came for the QualComm BREW 2004 Developer's Conference. Well, "we" is not, perhaps, the right word. John came for the conference, I came for the weather and the chance to see a good friend. BREW is the OS platform that QualComm has created so that you can run applications on your cell phone.

It's not that difficult from the Palm OS, so I was kind of interested in finding out more, but the conference was completely booked. They were pretty serious about checking IDs so I figured there would be no chance that I could sneak in and hear about some of the cool geeky things going on. But one of the people from John's company got sick and couldn't come to the conference, so John's manager transferred his registration to me. How cool is that? (At least if you are a geek girl like me?) I actually got to go to a few interesting sessions, and to the big party, which featured the B52s. Now, as both geek girl and child of the 80's this was about as cool as it could get. I never thought I would be dancing to live by the artist "Private Idaho" and "Rock Lobster". You can bet I'll be tagging along next year when this conference happens again.

On Wednesday, I got to go to the famous San Diego Zoo with a good friend and her beautiful five year old son. There's nothing quite like tromping around a great zoo with an enthusiastic child. We saw Pandas and Hippos and Elephants and all sorts of other interesting wildlife. But I never got out my camera once -- I was too busy soaking it all in to remember.

Did I do any knitting? Not much. I did finish a scarf for the friend I went to the zoo with. She's been going through a rough spot, lately, and I wanted to make her something special.

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Red Eros Scarf

I know I swore that I would never make another one of these scarves because EROS makes me crazy, but I just thought the red would be perfect -- and I had just learned a little trick to make the knitting easier. You can find the pattern here. It's a very easy scarf, and I've yet to make one that didn't make it's recipient happy. Here's a closeup of the ruffly edge of the scarf:

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Eros Scarf Detail

What's the trick? Well, make the garter stitch happen by purling the whole scarf. It goes a lot faster (even though you're purling) because its much more difficult to split the yarn with your needle coming at the loops purlwise. This scarf is also where I learned to make the worlds easiest ruffle -- cast on twice as many stitches as you want for the body of the scarf, knit as many rows as you want the ruffle to be, then K2Tog all the way across the row.

Textured Tank Top

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One of my purchases while I was in San Francisco was a bit of ArtFibers Biscotti with which to make a tank top that could cross over from worktime to playtime. I've been getting a lot more serious lately about picking out yarns and designs that can go to work. Because, let's face it, if it can't go to work, it's not going to have very many days of possible wear. And who wants to make something wonderful and then leave it in the closet?

With that in mind, when I went to ArtFibers I tried to select yarns and colors -- as well as designs and shapes -- that could do double duty. I loved the texture of the Biscotti, and chose a dark colorway. It looks almost black at first, until you get close up, and see the greens, browns and blues.

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Click the Pic For a Close-Up of the Biscotti Texture

This is the back of the top. It's a shaped top that pinches in a little bit at the waist. The "hem" of the top will fall just at hip level. The top will have a shallow ballet neck line (similar to the neckline of the Phil'Onde sweater I just completed) with "shoulder straps" and shallow armholes that are undergarment friendly. Because the texture and color are complex, the garment and construction are simple. The only details are an inch or so of garter-stitch at the hemline and a little bit of ribbing around the neckline to give it a little extra structure.

Biscotti is a quick knit yarn -- this project is on US size 10.5 needles -- and I'm already half-way done with the front. I could have myself a nice new top by my trip to Ann Arbor this coming weekend for Father's Day if everything works out.

P.S. to anyone who has sent me email in the last week or so... I am way way way behind on my email correspondance. I'm hoping to work my way through my inbox this week...

Biscotti Top Front

Well, I think it's fair to say that summer has arrived here in Chicago. Those who were here last week would probably tell me that it's been here a while. I mark the start of summer by the first day on which I think we should turn on the air conditioner. We're perilously close to that day today. Though it does seem to be cooling off enough tonight for us to hold off for another day.

One good thing about this weather, it is very inspirational for adding tank tops to my wardrobe. Sometimes I forget how quickly projects without sleeves work themselves up.

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Biscotti Tank Top Front

Here's the finished front of the Biscotti top. I think I am going to like the neckline. There's also going to be an inch wide neckband, which will add a little more girth to those shoulder straps. I'm working on the neckband right now, which may mean that I get the armholes and final seeming done tomorrow.

And then what will I start? Another tank top of course! The big question is going to be which one? I have some lovely Phil Ruban that I've been looking forward to knitting with, some pretty shiny ribbon from Tess Designer Yarns and the ArtFibers Mousse that came back with me from San Francisco. Right now the Phil Ruban is calling my name the most loudly. After the Biscotti top, I think it is going to be time for something bright and happy!

One Side Seam from Victory

I would post a picture, but it wouldn't look much different from last night, except now there is a neckline and armhole edging on the Biscotti top. Biscotti isn't a problem to knit with, but the nubby bits make it a little less pleasant to finish with. Normally I would just be going crazy trying to get the second side seam sewn up so that I could try on my new garment, but one side seam proved enough for me today. I'll tackle the second one tomorrow.

Now, you might be asking why I would be so foolish as to decide to do my seaming with the Biscotti instead of another yarn. Well. I did think about it for quite some time. And the problem I kept running into was that the fabric the Biscotti knits up into has a very open breezy texture. Any yarn that I use to seam is going to show up. So the best way to keep my seaming yarn invisible was simply to fight my way through seaming with the Biscott.

And, to be fair, my effort, so far, has paid off. Because of the all-over-the-place texture of the Biscotti it's almost impossible to tell where the seam is. I'd take a picture, but dark yarn at night is dark yarn at night, and no amount of fancy photography will make it any more interesting. Hopefully tomorrow will bring full victory!

And if you haven't taken a look recently, there's been a lot of interesting stuff going on over in the Audrey blog!

Finished Biscotti

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Finished Biscotti Top

I rushed home from work today to finish the last seam on my Biscotti top so I would have enough light to take an outdoor shot. This picture actually does capture the top quite well in terms of color. I took some detail shots of the neckline, sleeves and my lovely side seams, but they weren't particularly enlightening. You'll just have to trust me when I tell you that the collar is an inch of K1P1 rib and the armhole finishing is about a half inch of the same, and that you can hardly tell that the top wasn't knit in the round.

So what about an action shot? Well, there was enough light for the pictures I took, but not enough light to fully change and and get pictures of the top. So I'll have to wait to do the official photo shoot tomorrow. But when I did try it on, it got a thumbs up from the hubster (I also discovered that I'll always have to remember to wear a dark colored bra underneath). The top definitely looks like it was perfectly matched to my shape. Which it was. Score one for the friendly helpful folks at ArtFibers in San Francisco who put the pattern together for me.

I definitely think I'll be tackling the Phil Ruban top next... as soon as I figure out how to translate this lovely pattern that I have. Kinda sad when I can't even figure out what pattern stitch I need to use in order to do a gauge swatch! Maybe it's time to invest in that book that helps translate knitting abbreviations...

Biscotti Top Round Up

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I realized after I posted yesterday that I didn't really give this project a proper completion party. So now that I have a few shots of me in the top, I think it's time to put together a more impressive send off.

Before I get to the pictures, let me state the particulars: the yarn for this top is ArtFibers Biscotti in the "Shadowbox" colorway -- a mix of black, blue, green and brown. This yarn is referred to as "bead chain" and is 100% Nylong/Microfiber. At close to recommended gauge, it knits up into a lovely drapey fabric. I should mention that all of the yarns that ArtFibers sells are custom made and dyed for them. And when you buy from ArtFibers, they will help you custom design a garment meant to be perfect for you. This top was designed after I swatched in the store and worked with one of the wonderful friendly store employees. Before I left the store, I was told that they offer the same services to their online buyers -- you just have to give them measurements and guidlines for the shaping and style. And they are happy to mail out samples so that you can swatch in the comfort of your own home. So you don't have to go to San Francisco to get personalized attention and a custom garment!*

From a picture taking perspective, it was probably unfortunate that I chose such a dark colorway, so you'll have to use your imagination as far as the texture and color details are concerned. But I hope these shots will give a good sense of the fit and shape of the garment.

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Front
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Side
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Back

I'm pretty much in love with this yarn and this top. The fabric is soft and drapey and the top is comfortable and a little sexy without being dramatically revealing. To test out the "go to work" aspects of the top, I did, in fact, wear it to work. The top and I both had a great day. I haven't noticed any adverse gravitational effects, nor did it snag easily. And all my woven in ends stayed in place too, in spite of the fact that Biscotti is a tad slippery.

One question came up in my comments yesterday -- why didn't I do this top in the round? The answer is: structure. Since I didn't know this yarn very well, I was concerned that knitting the garment in the round would leave it without any good structural side seams and the garment would bag or lose its shape. (In addition to the side seams, the neckline and armhole ribbing also do a very nice job of adding structure). A second reason was that I knit my swatch flat and I would have had to re-swatch for an in the round project. And finally, I wanted a portable project. This project was easier to schlep around in pieces than it would have been all in one piece, and it was nice to have the seams to tuck some ends into.

What did I learn?

  • Seams can be a good thing.
  • Knitting collars and armhole edging flat has some advantages. For one, it kept my tension looser and that meant that I was able to get the top over my head. No unpleasant ripping!
  • Dynamic texture hides all manner of ills, and in particular, makes seams almost invisible. Especially in a dark fabric.
  • This yarn is no fun to seam with, but it's worth the payoff if you do, since the color and texture match perfectly (of course).
  • Biscotti will snag if you catch it on things like ragged fingernails or other things with jagged edges. You do have to be a little careful when knitting with it. It's tough stuff though. Don't expect to break a strand of this stuff without scissors.
  • This top is going to be a nice wardrobe addition. It's dressy enough for work, but not so dressy that it can't go out and play a little bit. And it goes ever so well with my favorite black pearl pendant!

I was going to add "don't be afraid to try texture" but at this point, that's a lesson I've long since learned and taken. I love yarns with their own special texture. Yarns where even "simple stockinette" looks neat because the yarn adds it's own extra dimension.

I had a great time at our KIP tonight. So nice to be done with school and able to take time to go do some more knitting things. Most of what I did was swatch. I really like the Phil Ruban, but I think I am going to have to try to get another skein... as much as I might like to, I don't think I am going to be able to squeeze myself into a top that is 32 inches around. I'm thinking I might add a stripe of a contrasting color to the top I want to make. Now I'm just going to have to find another skein of the stuff somewhere... Hmmm...


*And for anyone who is interested, these patterns are created with the help of a neat program called Knitware Design. I got to see the program in action and I was pretty impressed. The schematics the software creates are really great! I'm a sucker for great schematics, and I'll likely be buying a copy soon, myself. And there's even a demo that you can download if you want to check it out.

Sheepy Souveneirs

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Thank you for all the compliments on my Biscotti top. It is definitely one of those projects that I am truly and completely happy with. I got to wear it again this weekend when we took my Dad out to dinner to celebrate Father's Day. The Biscotti top really does have all the elements I wanted it to have: it can go to work, but it's a little sexy; it can go out, but it can still be subtle; it has texture, but the texture isn't over the top. And the shaping is perfect. There's definitely something to be said for a pattern designed for the individual who is going to wear the garment.

We had a number of missions to take care of while we were in Ann Arbor. Most involved shopping for something (for instance, making sure that my mother got her very late Mother's Day present, a set of Denise needles that she can take on the airplane when she wings off to Hawaii for her 40th anniversary). One of our shopping trips took us to a lovely nursery full of wonderful annuals, perennials and other good plants -- even some pretty extraordinary bonsai trees. I was able to avoid most purchasing opportunities (except for one day lilly destined for a big pot on my deck) until I found this:

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Very Silly, Very Delightful Sheepy Whirligig

Sometimes, a girl just gotta get something silly in her life. What could be more silly than a metal sheep whirligig? Since I can't have a real sheep in the back yard, I thought this guy might be a good alternative.

(The trip to the nursery also involved the purchase of a gorgeous magnolia tree for Mom and Dad's yard, but that's a multi-picture story that will take more time than I have tonight to put together. Stay tuned.)

I also figured out what top project I wanted to tackle next -- the brightly colored tank top made out of the incredible microfiber ribbon that I bought from Tess' Designer Yarns at MSW. Winding this stuff into a ball was a little bit of a challenge, given it's eel-like slipperiness, but they put very helpful directions on the ball band to help you get going. I didn't think there was much more to learn about ball winding, but now I do know something handy -- turn your swift 90 degrees from it's normal angle when working with slippery yarns and wind by hand as tightly as you can and then stick the ball into a nice safe plastic sandwich bag.

I haven't had a lot of good swatching luck lately. The pattern recommends US size 6 needles (4.0 mm) to get gauge. I ended up on US size 9 (5.5 mm, I think). The good thing about this yarn though, after ripping out my swatch 3 times, it still looked fresh and happy in my final swatch. Which you can see below:

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Tess Microfiber Ribbon Yarn Swatch -- Click the Picture to See the "wrong" side of the swatch

The main pattern stitch is mostly reverse stockinette. If you click the image, you can also see the stockinette side, which I think is quite neat as well. Sometimes hand dyed stuff just doesn't give you nice intervals, even when the colors look lovely together. This stuff (the Confetti colorway) is just as lovely knit up as it is in the hank -- and it smells good as well! I'd love to know what they use to wash this stuff after dying it.

Family Trees

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Today I am going to deviat from the usual knitting content to share the activities of last Saturday afternoon. John and I travelled to Ann Arbor to do two things: celebrate Father's Day with my dad and plant a tree.

Some day I will finish my "100 things about me list". One of the 100 things will be this little tidbit: John and I share the same wedding anniversary as my parents. It wasn't really planned that way. Back when we were planning our wedding we found a hall that we absolutely had to have. They had two Saturdays open for the whole year when we got there: Saturday August 22nd and Saturday October 31st. We didn't really want a Halloween wedding. It seems cool at first, but orange and black really weren't my first choice of colors. But August 22nd was my parents wedding anniversary. And it didn't seem right to take their day.

But as it turned out, Mom and Dad didn't have any problems sharing their day. John and I were married on their 34th wedding anniversary. And dad likes it because he never forgets the date. We've had several fun anniversary celebrations together, but this year, since it's their 40th anniversary, and they are taking a special trip to Hawaii, we decided to celebrate a little early and share in the purchase of an "anniversary tree".

John and I love trees, but our postage stamp sized yard is more or less dominated by the little Japanese maple that we bought. My parents, on the other hand, have 10 fabulous acres. Plenty of room for trees. Since we were going to plant on Father's Day, I invited my brother to get in on our little project. He and his wife were married a year ago at the end of May. So whatever tree we picked would represent 47 years of marriage. How cool is that?

What did we pick? Well, she won't show her stripes in an obvious way until next spring, but the newest denizen of my parent's domain is a Saucer Magnolia:

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Pink Saucer Magnolia Waiting for Her Forever Home

All the rain that we've had here in the midwest this spring has made my parents backyard so lush it's almost hard to tell there's a tree there. But "Maggie" is an 8 foot tall and very lovely speciment of her species. Once we got her unloaded, it was time to break ground. Dad got out one of his favorite new toys: the backhoe attachment for his John Deere tractor:

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Breaking Ground

Of course, it's really not possible for an engineer, no matter how much of a computer guy he is, to resist heavy machinery and digging holes. So after a quick lesson on the controls, John got involved in the digging too.

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John Prepares for a New Career in Construction

After they got the hole dug and got some nice new top soil to line the bottom of the hole, it was time to move Maggie to her new home. I bet you never knew how versitile a piece of equipment a tractor was!

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Maggie's Big Move

After a quick trip across the back yard, John and Dad and Ufer (the dog) got the tree all settled in.

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Maggie Settles In

Apparently one very loud any happy pheasant has decided that this tree was planted for him and is now coming out to crow underneath it. Seems like Mother Nature is happy with our planting adventure.

Just in case you were wondering what I was doing while all this hole digging and tree moving was going on, I was getting started on this:

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Confetti Tank

Yep, you knew if you waited long enough I would post some actual knitting content. Here's the bottom of the back of the microfiber ribbon tank, which I have taken to calling the "Confetti Tank" after the name of the colorway of the ribbon.

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Tank Top Stitch Pattern Detail

The colors are pooling a bit -- that red definitely likes to be with the blue -- but there's enough drift that I don't think it's going to be too bad. The picture shows the one repeat that I got in between the tree and dinner.

Why, you might ask, is that all I have to show since I had all of Sunday and a car-ride home? Well, another project managed to slip into my fingers and I just couldn't put it down. But I'll be back to this project soon. I think it will be perfect for the trip to San Antonio we have planned over the 4th of July weekend. I think the colors will go just smashingly with the fireworks!

Two Tops at One Time

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My dear friend Julie (the divine Ms. BoogaJ, RingMom extraordinaire) can walk through almost any yarn store and without even looking find herself petting something wonderful with alpaca in it. I can do the same thing with silk. If a yarn has silk in it or is a silk blend, you can be sure that I will be drawn to it. Silk, I think, has most of the luminosity of mohair without all the scratchiness.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise then, when I purchased the Chai yarn from ArtFibers when I visited San Francisco. Chai is 100% Tussah Silk and very soft to the touch. The yarn itself has a handspun quality with thick and thin areas, and that gives the knitted fabric a little bit of a rustic textured quality. The texture, combined with the wonderful sheen of silk, provides a lot of spice for the standard stockinette routine.

I didn't plan to start the Chai top project in Ann Arbor because I had decided that the top would probably turn out a little too warm for summer (silk is also an excellent insulator for it's weight). I just wanted to show the yarn to Mom. But somewhere between working on the Confetti Tank Top and showing off my Chai stash acquisition I decided that I would "just cast on to see". And after I cast on, I just couldn't stop knitting. This stuff just makes my hands happy.

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Chai Top: The Back

The design idea for this top is a little different than for the Biscotti top, although the same principle rule applied: it had to be able to go to work. Because I was in the mood to try out a series of different neckline styles, I envisioned this top to have a modest V-neck, little cap sleeves and a bit of a ruffle/frill at the bottom to add a feminine touch. The back is mostly bland except for the ruffle (that bit of aggressively red-orange yarn at the base of the piece is an invisible cast on that will be removed when I pick up stitches for the ruffle).

The color looks a little bit drab in this picture. Like the Biscotti, this Chai colorway (#16) is more subtle than brazen. It has deep mauves and sages and gunmetal blues that look mostly grey or grey/green until you get up closer to the fabric. The bright sunlight makes the colors look kind of muddy and rusty.

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Chai #16 Swatch

I know I already posted a swatch shot, but I couldn't resist a photo coming from a much bigger piece that makes the texture stand out a bit. Chai's thick and thin qualities mean that when it knits up the fabric has irregular ripples and little islands that bubble out of the fabric.

Tonight was devoted to picking up stitches and working on the frill. The total number of stitches at the base is doubled for the ruffle, so I've been feeling like I'm "knitting in place" and getting nowhere, but I only have a few rows to go. I'm modifying the frill design a bit -- there's supposed to be another doubling of stitches (to almost 400) that I have decided not to do, mostly because I am not sure having that much fabric at my hips will be all that flattering. And also because I have a little creeping bit of "enough yarn" paranoia.

Not sure if I'll take a break from this and go back to the ribbon tank after the back is done. I'm just sort of letting my fingers lead me where I want to go lately. But it's a good bet that they'll be interested in wandering over more Chai.

The Frill's the Thrill

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Try saying that 10 times fast!

I didn't get so much knitting done today. John and I headed off to SuperComm and spent a great deal of time looking at what is going to be the latest and greatest in networking and communications technology. It isn't my field per se, but I am always entertained by a good trade show. And when you have the Likes of Lucent, Intel, Cisco and IBM in a conference center, there are bound to be a few entertaining things. And a nice company by the name of Juniper Networks had some pretty decent canvas bags as conference trophies (I just love marketing swag), so I have a new, if geeky, knitting tote in addition to getting to explore wireless networking technology for my office and exploring the latest in cool cellular phones.

I had a little time before we took off today to finish up the last several rows of the frill on my Chai top. The original design for this frill was supposed to double the number of stitches at the base, knit some rows, and then double the stitch count again. I decided that the second increase would make for a little too much frill, and just opted to keep knitting straight. Here's the result:

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Chai Frill

Yes, yes -- anything can look halfway decent when lying down. How does it look when gravity is exerting force on the ruffle?

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Ruffles Have Ripples

Not too bad, but still a little stiffer than I think a flouncy ruffle should be. I kind of like the eyelet effect that resulted from the YF, K1 that was used to do the increasing. There'll be a whole lotta blocking going on once I get this little number ready to seam. ArtFibers recommends taking an iron to the Chai fabric to increase drape and shininess. I'll probably definitely be doing that, otherwise I think that ruffle is going to be a little stiff.

I'll probably be casting on for the front tonight. Since I've now entered yarn paranoia mode, I want to make sure that I get this knit up fast enough to get another ball in the same dye lot if I'm a little under what was anticipated. Probably I should just relax, but I can't think of anything worse (from a knitting perspective) than being just a little bit short of finishing a garment in an exotic yarn. Invisible cast-on number 2, here I come!

My Father's Daughter

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I have to admit a small felony today -- I stole the title for today's post from Emma, who, in a recent post, was remembering her father's passing. I hope she won't mind, as I do mean it in a very serious and respectful way, in spite of the main subject of this post.

I am the daugher of an engineer. In fact, I am surrounded by them -- my father, husband, brother and brother-in-law are all in different flavors of the profession (automotive, computational, chemical and mechanical). For those of you not blessed with an engineer in your family, let me just say that engineers are born, not made. It's in the DNA to want to do what they do. They grow up knowing that eventually their compulsive need to push every button, twist every knob and flip every switch will lead them to a dorm room with a large number of math and physics books in a program where there is a 5:1 ratio of guys to girls and where there is a very good chance that they will be in school for five years and still not get to take any electives. And it doesn't bother them at all. So what happens when you cross an engineer with an English/drama major? Well, you get a biologist with a penchant for computers. And mechanical toys.

My dad has his tractor (and I must admit that it is very fun to drive it around a bit) and since I have taken up knitting again, I have developed a significant curiosity about knitting machines (I also have an unnatural affection for Palm devices and expensive laptops, but that's a subject for another time). Now, I didn't want anything complicated or expensive to start out with. Just because I like hand-knitting, I figured, didn't guarantee that I would like knitting with a machine. Or that I would want to maintain a machine. So I figured I needed to acquire a machine in a manner that wouldn't cost me very much if I decided that I hated it.

Enter the 40% off coupon at JoAnn's and the Bond Universal Sweater Machine.

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How Could You Not Want Something that was "Seen on TV"?

Hmmm... What could be inside this mysterious box?

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Parts and Yummy Acrylic Test Yarn

Interesting metal pieces and another mysterious box of goodies.

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Lots of Little Things for My Cats to Run Off With

Now, this leads me to a way for you to be able to tell that I am not a real engineer, in spite of my genetics. You'll notice that this machine comes with a handy dandy video tape with instructions you can watch. So far so good. But someone's house is just a little too high tech to actually have a VCR that is plugged in and usable. Now, I could have gone downstairs, tried to figure out where our VCR is and tried to get it plugged in and working. A real engineer, in fact, would not have been able to go to sleep at night knowing that they had been thwarted by outdated technology. Instead, I pulled out the tape, and waited for John to get home. "Do you know how I could watch this?"

My dad would tell you that this behaviour demonstrates clearly what I really am -- the antithesis of all that is engineering orientied -- management. (This is a long running joke in my family...so don't take it as an offense. Besides, in real life I actually am in management...)

Hopefully over the weekend I will convince my engineer to reinstate an ancient piece of equipment. In the meantime, I will probably go pull all the pieces out and sit behind my husband in our office and make interesting noises. Because if there is one thing an engineer can't resist it's a new machine.

(If anyone has any experience with this machine and would like to share it, I would love to hear any tips and tricks!)

Palm Program Update

I'm afraid this weekend has been more about work than it has been about knitting. It started out well, on Friday, with a trip to watch the Cubs and Sox battle it out at US Cellular Field (the Cubs won, 6 to 4) with perfect weather, but by Saturday morning, reality had prevailed and I realized that work and not crafting was going to be the major weekend goal.

However, I did get some good news -- I got a good grade and nice comments from the professor on my Palm application for tracking knitting needles. While it is still missing two features (the ability to add your own knitting needle manufacturers and knitting needle composition types), the rest of the software is in place. Would anyone like to volunteer to do a little beta testing? I need 2-5 generous people willing to put my program in its current state through its paces. This is what you need to have or be willing to do:

  • A Palm device running O.S. 3.5 or greater (it may work on older devices, but I haven't tested it on anything but O.S. 3.5). It doesn't matter if you have a color device or a black and white device.
  • When you find a bug, you must document it -- I can't fix what I don't know about. In other words, you have to describe the bug in as much detail as possible and tell me exactly how you made it happen and if it was repeatable.
  • Be critical. Tell me what you like and don't like. Software only gets better when the developer knows what the user can't stand.

Just a warning for those volunteering -- please don't plan to enter your whole 3000 knitting needle database into the application at this time. A lot of things may change and then all your hard work might go to waste. Also, I haven't put any "help" information into the application yet so you have to be willing to poke and click and see what things do (this is partly intentional so I can find out how intuitive the application is). Also, this program is definitely beta software, so be sure to back up your device before installing.

I'm hoping to get back to this program the week after the 4th of July and I want to try to get it in it's first real release by the beginning of August.

To volunteer, please send me an email -- the link is in my side bar.

Note: I now have enough volunteers! Thanks to everyone who offered or would have offered. I'll keep everyone posted on how it goes!

Light Reading and Sheepy Humor

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Can you believe that I am going on two straight picture free days? I have been making a little progress on my Chai top -- hopefully after I post here, I'll be able to bind off the ruffle on the front piece, then I'll be on to a little blocking and assembly adventure before I deal with the sleeve caps.

One thing I treated myself to over the weekend was a copy of the latest SpinOff. I really should just subscribe to this magazine, because for the past year or so I've found it to be a lot more informative and interesting than the knitting focused magazines that I buy. I think I have avoided the subscription committment so far because of the title. I don't think of myself as a spinner (a wanna learn to spinner, perhaps) and thus in some odd way I don't have the creds to subscribe.

I'm not sure why I like this magazine better than some of the others I've picked up. I think because it doesn't have to feature as many projects, it can feature ones with better quality overall. And I enjoy the focus on different kinds of fibers, how they are processed and what their natural behaviors are. And generally speaking, they have good technical articles (at least good enough to teach me something).

What did I like this month?

Well, the reason that I bought the mag was the article from the woman who taught my knitted doll making class last year. She didn't say much that she didn't say in class, but I think her dolls are wonderful. I do wish they'd put some of the pictures in of her knitted fish. I was so impressed with them when I saw them in person. They were clever and fun and artistic all at the same time.

Also of significant interest to me was the short article on lucetting. I have my lovely lucet, but haven't had such a good time getting started with it. The article on lucetting, combined with the article on Bosnian crochet, went a long way towards helping me understand why I might be fighting my own thread or yarn. And now I need to go out and find out exactly what Z and S twists are....

And if you're into felting/fulling, there's a lovely little pattern for knitted containers. They had an earlier issue that featured fulled bowls created by knitting with roving.

And speaking of roving.... click this link to see the pre-cursor to roving roving in a very unusual way. (Link found by my hubster who just loves poke some humor into my fibery ways). Happy Tuedsay!

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