Monday, March 5, 2012

post-vacation wrap

I was fortunate enough to be granted vacation time before going live taking new cases from new folks on my new product.  Given all of that, when I was allowed out of the office I refused to step foot near my computer.... possibly not my best choice, but definitely helpful.  I have almost bitten through my night-time mouth guard, which tells me that my stress levels are not great.

The last 10 days have been a combination of really fantastic results, and really horrible screw ups (mostly not mine, for a change).

The highlights then:
got to teach my shawl students the fine art of blocking.  They were rightfully happy and proud of their work.

have filled 1/2 of a notebook with sketches of different ideas that have been floating around my head.  I might even get to knitting some of them sometime.

finished a dk-weight pattern in the aran weight yarn we had.  It even looks well done.

got to spend some time with my parents

got to replace the terrible kitchen cart that crushes our bread every time we try for silverware (this one is a big improvement)

I know I still need to write up my review of 1.  the bamboo clicks needle set, and 2. gloves in a bottle.

I also need to find my camera to illustrate what happens to the needles I use.  I don't step on them, or drop them in standing water, or anything like that.  But I end up going through my circulars at a rate of about every 4-6 projects, and I have a spectacular example of what happens to the needles and why I am constantly replacing them.

To be fair, some of them do last longer.  I've just found that they wear out around the 6 week mark if I use them every day.

Anyway, sorry for disappearing.  I've got a bunch of things I'm trying to juggle into place, all of which are exciting... but I do need to focus on one or two instead of urging all of them to the finish line to get them done. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Revenge of the Sinuses

I often have a light 'cold' due to pollen and dander allergies.  Anyone who has more than one cat (check) and lives around green things (check) will occasionally come down with something that is uncomfortable but noncommunicable.

I am actually ill.  It's been a while since I was this ill, and it reminds me of how good I normally have it.

I won't be updating a lot, but I did want to stop by and let folks know I'm 1 not dead, 2 not knitting at the moment (don't want to transmit ick via lovingly knit garments), and 3 that I've got a surprisingly good product review to put up shortly for something I expected to feel ambivalent about.

Since I'm probably not making sense, I'll leave it there.

Stay warm, stay well, and happy knitting.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Noro Virus, who thought that name was a good idea?

So, this weekend I saw a friend that we haven't seen in months.  All was going well until he mentioned that he'd recently (the previous week) had the Noro Virus.

My thoughts went something like this:
Wait, this Noro Virus?

Jared Flood's Noro Striped Scarf. Photo & finished work also JF.
Stephen West's daybreak.  Photo & finished work also SW.
Hmm he's a dude, he wouldn't be thinking THIS Noro Virus would he?

Tina Whitmore's Lanesplitter Skirt.  Work and photo TW.
No, he meant THIS Norovirus:'s norovirus explanation.
Looks like someone is getting THESE PUPPIES for christmas this year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

where has all the elegance gone?

Ok, maybe I'm just in a horrible mood because I'm stuck training on a product that does the exact same thing as the previous product I supported... only with more overhead and less elegance and more bugs...

but today's Aran block is just really reaching me.

I am not the biggest fan of bobbles, since mostly I find them to be overdone.  When it looks like the block needs billy banding prior to going out in public, it's a bit off-putting.

This block uses overly complicated cabling (4/3/4) and aggressively ugly bobbles to ... use more yarn than all the previous blocks and still look unappealing.  So far, I've shown 4 people this block and gotten the same "yuck" response.  A couple of them asked me if I was sure I was up to doing cables, since these look so overdone and unprofessional.  I showed them the picture of the original block, and they agreed that this knitting 100% matches the designer's block.


Elegance.  It works in knitting, it works in software.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

17 down, 7 to go

Last week was a training week.  I was not able to post.  This week is also a training week, but not today. 

The Aran Afghan project:  I've knit 17 out of 24 of the squares, and will be working on this while listening to the instructor.  Once I understand the logic of a block I can carry on for the length needed without thinking about it or looking at my hands.  Understanding the logic in the designer's plan and being very practiced makes the knitting a simple mechanical pleasure instead of a major challenge.  There are 2 blocks that I know I will not be able to do this with, so I am going to save those for the weekend.

I finished a major repair job last week that I can't give too many details for.  Which is a real pity, because it was a fun and interesting challenge.  The repair involved steeking, sewing together in a stitch pattern, and then light felting to blend it into the rest of the finished work.  I can say I did the repair, but promised that the original knitter would never know that it happened so I can't show pictures or more details.  It has prompted the beginnings of a new class, though.  I'm working out how to teach folks how to do this, because frankly it was more of a challenge to figure out how I would do it than the doing ended up being.

The folks at the Spotted Sheep have asked if I would consider a fix-on-the-fly class as well.  I don't have a problem with that, as part of what I spend knit nights doing is showing knitters how to repair their knitting without ripping out.  It's a valuable thing to know how to do.  There are literally thousands of great instructions on the web, and I'm sure almost as many youtube videos.  But a lot of people learn better with hands-on.  So I'm considering swatches and presentation.

If nothing else, it's a fun exercise to write up a plan even if I don't end up being the one to teach things.

Also, I have a new stole that is on the needles.  I am not sure how I like the pattern, so once I get another 6 inches I will be putting up a progress shot and see if it's just me.

Anyway, I've got 12Gig downloads to unpack in preparation for tomorrow.  But I did want to make an appearance.

Friday, January 20, 2012

work stuff

So, the public announcement happened and I got moved at work. 

I'm finding that although I am excited about learning something new, I'm not as okay as I had thought I'd be.  My previous position was dealing with specific accounts and a particular set of products.  I've worked with them for a few years now, and I had to say good-bye to them this morning. 

I know I'm handing them off to a very technical engineer.  I know that they will be well cared for and that their environment is in good hands.  But we were a team, and I know them as individuals with real lives and families instead of just people who I talk with on the phone sometimes when things go wrong.

I will miss them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Wednesday

Wow, Wednesday already.

Saturday was my class, and it went very well.  All of the students made significant progress, and they are beginning to see the logic in the charts.  I got another secret project of which I cannot speak.  But there will be repair work in my future.

Sunday I spent with my brother.  We talked about all kinds of things, and just caught up.  It was good, but no knitting was done.

Monday, I worked and knit 4 more blocks in the Aran Afghan project.  Discovered that the pattern is 24 blocks and not 20.  It makes a difference.

Yesterday, I got reassigned at work.  No idea what this is going to turn into but at least the waiting is over.  And at least I'm still employed.

Tonight is knit night again, and I will be working with any of my students that turn up.  I might even work on some of my own knitting... but we'll see.

Tomorrow?  Hopefully pictures and a little more time.

happy knitting!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

There will come a day....

when I get pictures off of my camera.  But that day is not this day.  Nor likely tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday.  Fair warning.

Last night was knit night.  Two of my students came in to go over their work, which was pretty exciting.  One of them had already managed a flawless row of knitting, one of them managed her first flawless row of knitting while at knit night.  It was a fabulous moment for everyone present, and we all cheered!

Good times indeed!

Today's learn to knit class was cancelled due to snow.  It was a little disappointing because helping people become beginner knitters is a good time.  But being really New England, when invited to the shop I put on my boots (and knits) and tromped over.  I had a rollicking good time touching the new yarns and just hanging out with Bruce and Margaret. 

A lot of laughing and a lot of just good chatting.  I'm going to have to make them some bread or something.  Unfortunately, my bread looks pretty questionable.  But it does taste good, and I have gotten it down so it no longer resembles the burnt offering. 

Perhaps I should stick with knitting.

Yesterday was filled with stress and craziness up until knit night started.  At that point, things just kept looking up.  So I guess my universal truth is that a room filled with people that have sticks and string is a powerful antidote to anything that ails me.  Good to know.

Happy Knitting & Stay Warm (tho knitting helps with the warmth thing)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Challenges and Rewards and the 'aha' moment

Saturday was my first pass at teaching students to knit Haruni.  It has taught me some valuable lessons, and if the shop wants to run the class again I've got some ideas. 

The first thing, is class #1 is nothing but making a 4x4 swatch to confirm which students have had their knitting 'aha' moment and learning the provisional garter tab cast on.

(I'll explain the 'aha' moment shortly.)

The second thing is that using a worsted weight and size 9 US needles to demonstrate is not enough.  I should probably move up to bulky.  The swatch class should be able to do the rest without overwhelming students.

Finally, I have to say that the shining star in this class has been the youngest student.  When her parents signed her up for the class, they mentioned that she knew knit and purl but only as the mechanics of doing them.  She is a beginner. 

Knowing going into it that she wouldn't have that foundation of understanding her knitting (her 'aha' moment) to draw on... instead of just knowing the physical motions to make a knit and purl... I was okay with this.  I am not adverse to teaching people who don't understand why knit or why purl, as long as I know going into it that I'm going to need to teach at that level.

This student is 14 years old, and a little bit shy about asking questions in class.  I remember being 14 (it is vague, but I suspect I'm about that age mentally these days anyway) and am also okay with that.  I stayed for an extra 1/2 hour to walk her through a few rows and see if I couldn't help her on her way to her 'aha'.

She was amazing.  When I left, she was putting in her second row with beads.  She could identify which side of the lace should be knit, and which side should be purl between the garter borders.  I don't think she's had her 'aha' yet, but if she can do that much already it won't be too long.

About the 'aha' moment. 
I've come to the conclusion that a lot of people who nominally know how to knit are actually still beginners.  Again, this is not a bad thing, but it does cause some confusion when determining what level of understanding and knowledge people are at.

In my internal lexicon, beginners are the folks who know the physical actions to knit and how to purl.  Maybe they know a couple of cast on methods, maybe they  know a few other stitches, like k2tog or s1k1psso.  But the biggest defining thing here is that they do not understand why they are doing what they are doing. 

Understanding and being able to read knitting seem to go hand and hand together.  On some level to the beginner 'stockinette' means knit one side and purl the other, but it isn't automatically knit one side and purl the other without putting thought into it.  Ditto for garter (although it's knit all sides). 

So when you're doing a project that mixes and matches, these knitters have a stronger liklihood of getting lost simply because they don't understand why they are doing the motions they are doing and what those motions mean.  They do know enough to know when it looks wrong, but not how it got to that point or where the "one of these things is not like the other" part is.  When they look down at what their hands have produced, they can't identify what it is without some serious mental crunching.

Frankly, I love me some beginners.  That 'aha' moment when it clicks and they look at their knitting in their hands and understand the "WHY" is pure magic.  And if you thought your beginner knitter loved knitting before the 'aha' moment.... this is the point where it goes exponential.  The enormous world of knitting opens up to them, because they understand at least some of what they're seeing in a complex project.

Instead of saying 'I'm going to do a super hard lace/cable/colorwork project' they are excited about it because on the subconscious level they now recognize that this is (for instance) essentially stockinette with garter borders.  Anything in between those garter borders will only be a pattern slapped on the knit side with the return row being plain old purls between garter borders.  And that subconscious will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can do stockinette and garter, so only keeping track of a little extra patterning is not as intimidating.

So, that's all the news that's fit to print on the knitting front.  On the personal front, short stack lost his first baby tooth.  He's both a little proud and a little weirded out by the process. It's been a big weekend, and I need to shake down my camera to do another picture post sometime shortly.

Happy Knitting, and many 'aha' moments for all!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taking Care of Your Hair(y yarns)

So, I've spent the last hour looking for my camera.  This was going to be a post with pictures, but I've set the foolish thing someplace "safe" and don't remember what I am keeping it "safe" from anymore. But I digress...

As a lot of folk know, I have a great whack of hair.  It's about 3 feet long at this point, but I almost perpetually keep it up (preferably braided).  Every few years, I get it lopped off for locks of love or pique, whichever comes first.

My hair is stupidly fine.  Not quite newborn fine, but definitely first 6 months of life fine.  It tangles at the first hint of a breeze, and then locks together like mohair daring me to steek it into submission.  It also turns into tiny Shirley Temple pin-curls if I have it too short, so when I consider my hair, it is with grudging admiration (it's more stubborn than myself) and a great deal of ill humor.

However, thanks to the folks as Johnson and Johnson, I seem to be winning the (admittedly lopsided) war with my hair.  This stuff is divinely inspired.  There is also a generic version, but for what it does it's worth more to me than cashmere... so I don't mind spending a little for it.

The no more tangles spray is also fabulous for serious knots.  Again, mohair comes to mind.  But this applies also to angora or other fibers that tend to lock down with little encouragement.

When I get terrible frustrating tangles or knots in yarns containing hair, I've been using my no more tangles spray and embroidery needles to "encourage" the yarn not to felt to itself.  The worst part about knitting with one of the fluffy mohair yarns is that the fluff sets to itself better than concrete.  I can totally understand steeking mohair with no fear, having dropped a stitch in a sweater and not noticed until I bound the sucker off and came up one short for the k2 p2 .  I have worn this sweater for almost 3 years now, and the mohair locks together so well that the dropped stitch has never laddered. (In the interest of honesty, I *do* know where it is and have been watching it with interest to see what it will do.  I did not pull the sweater back 6 inches and fix it.)

Tonight is knit night, and I will be untangling some angora.  I am definitely bringing the teeny needle, and the detangling spray.

For the record, no more tangles also makes the Kauni yarns easier to bear when knitting them.  I find them awfully rough (remember, I have a love affair with alpaca), so making them less abrasive when I'm knitting them is like finding the bean in your new-years cake.

On a side note, that lovely pile of Aran-to-be is this Afghan.  I'll be dropping off the first 4 squares tonight at Knit Night.  On one hand, it's a really exciting project.  On the other hand, I find the bobble instructions a little aggressive.  I don't mind a nice bobble here and there, but being more used to the nuup I find the size of the bobbles required by this pattern a little over exuberant.  I am no fainting maid, but I keep having Red Dwarf flashbacks and contemplating gooseberries....  but you always do the first one exactly as written, even if the bobbles do make you feel faint.

Happy Knitting, and may your bobbles not be suggestive!