June 27, 2006

It saved my life!

Well, perhaps I'm being slightly hyperbolic there. But I sure was grateful. Last time I was in Champaign, I made a stop at their most excellent yarn shop and bought some stuff. Among other things, two skeins of laceweight yarn. As they were balling it for me, we chatted about my recent forays into lace knitting, and they asked what would turn out to be an extremely prophetic question:

"You know about lifelines, right?"

I hadn't. The principle is very simple: at the end of a section, after an all-knit row, thread a needle with actual sewing thread (thin!), and run it through all the stitches, right next to the needle itself. I immediately understood how it would work and why it would be helpful: if you make a mistake and need to rip back, it'd be a helluva lot easier to find one continuous row if it's held in place by that thread. (Something that would have been nice to know, though obvious in retrospect: when threading through the loops, skip the stitch markers!)

So there I was, sitting listening to the Daily Show and knitting away, when I noticed that not only was there an error—which might be recovered with very careful ripping even without a lifeline—but the error was that I'd dropped a stitch in the last row and it had laddered down several rows. All the way to the lifeline, in fact, six rows back. And as luck would have it, the dropped stitch was the middle of a pattern repeat, adjacent to a bunch of yarnovers, which then laddered their way back up; essentially there was a big hole six rows high and eight stitches wide. BUT! But, it was tidily locked in place by the lifeline! I was able to isolate the pattern repeat, pull just those stitches off the circular needle, rip it down to the lifeline, and knit it back up. Easy as pie. I think the error will still be slightly visible in the final work if you know what to look for, but obviously not the huge unmanageable hold it would otherwise have been. It could easily have laddered all the way back to the start, and I would have had to just rip out the entire thing.

Thanks, Needleworks!

"I do enjoy myself a good crap out-beating." --Paul Hebble

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October 24, 2005

Long weekend

My weekend started last Friday, with a party in honour of a few of our new faculty at Heather Hoffmann's house. It was the best sort of party: most of the time, most of the people were standing around the kitchen, talking. And the hosts were nanobrewers, with one beer on tap that had espresso in it. Fantastic.

Saturday, I meant to get up at ten, actually made it up and showered and dressed by noon, and had an hour to do tidying and cleaning for guests. One of whom showed up early, but whatever. I have had people over before, but those were explicitly in an "I haven't moved in yet" mode; this was the first time I had people over to a moved-in house. It went pretty well; Chris and Christopher and I played a few rounds of Rumis before moving on to Lunar Rails, a crayon rail game that ended up lasting nearly seven hours (the box said 3-4, but they lie a little and we were just learning the game). Chris won, I lost, a good time was had by all. Definitely an experience to be repeated.

Sunday, then, started out uneventful (although at coffee-and-donuts one of the parishioners was celebrating her hundredth birthday), but after the community chorus rehearsal I bustled over to the knitting club, where they had a guest speaker. Someone's friend's mom, I think, but she's a weaver. She brought a table loom, which was pretty cool; easy to understand when you watch it, and in particular, easy to understand how to get from your "basic weave" (over, under, over, under) to more complex designs. The best part was her computer program, which lets her assign warp threads to harnesses, optionally assign harnesses to treadles, and then lay out a treadle pattern and see how the weave would look. For someone who can pick up the notation fast (e.g. me), this permits a much faster demonstration of the relationship between thread, harness, treadle, and pattern than would be available from actually doing it. She also had some very interesting and impossible-seeming woven scarves; mind-blowing. I was so sad that I had to leave a few minutes early to go teach ballroom.

That went well, too, of course; it was the last team class before our competition Saturday (!), and I ran it as a mock comp, going through each dance in turn, doing a four or five minute practice period and then clearing the floor, making them walk on with their partner and dancing as if in competition for the 90-second window of time they'd have. Hopefully, this got them a little more comfortable with the format. We'll see Saturday, I guess. :)

Of course, all of this stuff meant that I didn't get very much grading done. Alas. That's what I should be doing right now, I suppose. Ah, procrastination, what would I do without you?

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." --James Nicoll

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August 10, 2005

Sailors were known...

Apparently, "sailors were known to knit their own windproof sweaters for long voyages." I know this because no less than 93 webpages, many of them news sites reporting on the "craze" of men knitting, use that exact sentence. What the heck? I just want to find a description of how to knit sweaters to be windproof, and I get all these assertions that sailors used to knit windproof sweaters. All of which use that exact phrasing---if I google for 'sailors "windproof sweaters"' I only get one more hit (referring to the same phenomenon). Indeed, there are only 26 hits for "windproof sweaters" that aren't about these amazing knitting sailors, and most of these seem to be selling them.

Now I'm kind of wondering if it's even true. If it were, I'd expect dozens of hits for patterns and knit technique pages about the traditional styling and so forth, or at least a page that actually backs up the idea, rather than just making the totally formulaic assertion. But the entirety of the internet doesn't seem to be coming up with much, which gives me pause. Does anyone know anything about this? Were the knittinge sailors of olde invented out of whole cloth for this "whoa, people with XY chromosomes can knit too!" thing that the media has been so fascinated with the last year or so?

"I began to despise mathematics when I sensed that I was getting only part of the story, a dull, literal-minded version of what in fact was a great mystery, and I wonder if children don't begin to reject both poetry and religion for similar reasons, because the way both are taught takes the life out of them." --Kathleen Norris

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July 11, 2005


I just broke my first knitting needle ever; and for all that people carp about how easy it is to break wooden 0s and 1s while knitting, this was not an active needle---I had just made the mistake of standing them up in the side of the basket, and then I didn't see it when I went to reach into the basket. :P

"In my experience, God's pretty two-faced when it comes to micromanagement. I mean, one minute God'll be all, "Jonathan, I'm making you team-leader on this one," but then whenever I try to accomplish anything God's all like, "I'm going to make a few revisions or this will never fly with Marketing," and next thing I know I'm playing minesweeper all day and God's smiting half my department." --Jonathan Prykop

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June 29, 2005

News from the front

For the last week I've been at the ACL conference, going to lots of talks and learning about stuff and seeing people I haven't seen since last year (or longer). I'm really psyched about getting back into things, and I hope I can sustain that and get some work done.

But today was the first day of workshops, the post-season if you will, and the conference is winding down. At lunch, I took a nap and then drove out to a nice little local yarn shop---Flying Sheep Yarns---which I'd been planning to do anyway but really needed to do since I unexpectedly finished the pair of socks I was working on. (My knitting speed has definitely increased in the last year; I was only about 2/3 done with one sock of the pair at the start of the conference, so I was knitting on the order of 4000 stitches a day, or---given that I was probably only knitting for four or five hours per day---a bit less than a thousand stitches an hour. Whew! Anyway, I bought some sockweight alpaca-wool blend in off-white and green that will make a nice pair of socks (not for in-meeting knitting; I'll have to pattern these to make them beautiful), and two skeins of a cotton-wool-nylon blend that I'm a little leery of but seems to be comfortable so far.

I went back to the workshops and continued drifting from one to the other, seeing a number of good talks and yet another one by a guy redoing exactly what I'd done without even citing me. After the last one, a bunch of us decided to walk over to the south campus for dinner, which we had at what was basically a sandwich shop, where we all ordered different varieties of reuben. The sandwichista nearly cut his finger off at one point, which was a bit exciting, but fortunately he turned out to be ok and after bandaging up his hand and putting on a fresh pair of gloves, he went back to making our various sandwiches.

After sitting around and chatting for a while, Eric, who grew up in Ann Arbor, suggested checking out a gaming store nearby. After some joking comments about how dangerous that was, we went to the little sidewalk mall it was in and discovered it was in a closeout sale, all stock must go, closing by the end of June---i.e. tomorrow. Uh oh. Going inside, we saw that most of their stock was already gone, which was a relief, but there was quite enough left in little piles labelled "20% off" and "40% off" and "60% off" to, um, keep us there for a while. Among five of us, I believe we purchased nine games and about fifty assorted dice, although there may have also been some five-cent Magic cards in the mix. I, of course, unconstrained by airline luggage regulations, was able to buy more than most, and after trying to decide which of four games to get, I just got all four of them: New England, Lunar Rails, Meridian, and Rumis.

We then came back to the dorm, and after sitting around in my-and-Sharon's room talking about what we'd go to tomorrow, we went downstairs to the lounge and played Rumis, a relatively new and really cool 3D block game that everyone in the world needs to go play right now.

And now, I'm going to bed. :)

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January 18, 2005

Woolen fun

I haven't posted a knitting update in ages!

Late last fall I worked out how to do gloves, and used up some of my great Don-blue alpaca yarn I got at Christmas '03. (These I nearly managed to felt on the first day, when I had to do a lot of shoveling; by not taking them off in the car on the way home to Palatine, I saved them from their shrunken fate and simultaneously blocked them into the shape of hands on a steering wheel. But anyway.) Using the exact same pattern at a marginally smaller gauge, I made a pair for my sister out of the brown and cream alpaca yarn I'd used for her hat last year. She seemed to like the present.

Also during December I worked out how to do slip-stitch colour work, and did up a magenta-and-off-white hat for my mom. It actually turned out too long, as in, longer than I meant it to be (getting into her eyes); but better that way, because she wanted to turn up the edge into a brim anyhow. So that one was a success as well. :)

At some point I started a new pair of socks, heavier than any I've done before---the yarn is just shy of worsted weight, and I'm knitting them on some plastic flexible 2s I picked up at the Barrington yarn shop. Not an exceptional pattern; the main feature is a really tall heel flap, because I hypothesise that this will make it hold the heel better. We'll see.

I actually ran out the first ball of yarn on the first sock well shy of the ball of the foot. I threaded the last bit of yarn through and started the second sock with the new ball; I knew there was more in the second ball (which was fresh) than there had been in the first (which I'd already done some swatching and small projects from), so I suspect I'll have enough in the end, but in case I don't, I want to finish both socks the same way. If that involves switching to another colour for the toe, no biggie, but the switch will happen at the same place on each. :)

Just yesterday I got the second sock to the same place as the first one, and now I got a chance to play with one of my new Christmas presents: a really nice kitchen scale, that measures to the half-gram or the .02-oz. Sock #1: 54g. Sock #2: 59g including four needles. Remaining yarn: 41.5g. So, now I know I have enough yarn for about 1/3 more sock, which should finish them off. As I get closer to the end, I can weigh in again---if I get down to 20g left in the ball, then I stop where I am and work the other sock. Fabulous!

Last week I did a little one-off piece designed to hang prettily from a doorknob, with little jingle bells tied on the end, to bell-train my dog. I used some hunter and celery green yarn left over from the last of the wedding afghans, and a Celtic knot pattern from the awesome book Michelle gave me for Christmas. I've been meaning for days to take a picture of it to send her, so if she reads this before I get to that, events are going to seem a bit out of order. ;)

And I guess the big news is that after weeks of madly swatching (over a yard of it, in the end) various patterns and techniques, and planning on index cards, and putting it off, I finally cast on 168 stitches in cable cast on and started in on my diamond-themed sweater. Check back in in a month or two and it should be done.

"If I could get an A in a class where the tests required me to learn all about potlatch blankets, I could handle anything, no matter how boring. The next time I accidentally get stuck in Lincoln Center sitting through all 18 hours of Wagner's Ring Cycle, I could thank my studies of the Kwakiutl for making it seem pleasant by comparison." --Joel Spolsky

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October 30, 2004

Lazy day

I haven't left the house today except to walk the dog.

I feel kinda bad, because the Knox County Dems were running a bunch of last-weekend-before-the-election stuff, and I was going to go help them out. But it's so hard to get myself motivated on that, when the fed elections are all pretty well set---Evans in the 17th, Obama in Illinois, and Kerry for IL's electoral votes. And the local ones, which are just as important and on which I could have even more influence, I can't bring myself to care about. *sigh*

Instead, I slept until noon and spent the rest of the day doing laundry, cleaning, and typing in a couple of knitting patterns. Now I'm going to sit here and watch three hours of animation. Time well spent. :)

"Wait, vegans won't eat honey!?!? I mean, for goodness sake, they're bees. There are trees that are higher on the evolutionary scale than bees." --Jonathan Prykop

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August 20, 2004

Not recommended

If you're knitting, I do not recommend cutting things so close that you run out of one of your colours. And if you do, I definitely don't recommend cannibalising the starting border for extra yarn in that colour. If you do anyway, I don't recommend it having been a cable cast-on, which does not simply pull out (in the fashion of ripping back rows), but must be unthreaded. If, having ignored all my advice, you have ripped out the cable cast-on (which admittedly has a lot more than one row of yarn tied up in there), and you decide to knit off the beginning and onto the end, I don't recommend any part of the first rows having been ribbed, as this does not pull out backwards. (Only garter and stockinette will rip out from the bottom. Didn't know that, did you? Neither did I.)

So, anyway, I have this really cool topological knot sitting on my couch right now. I'll let you know how it turns out.

"It's all just hot air. The only folks who see [Nader] as a threat are the useless Democrats who bring nothing to the table but their non-Republican status. Everyone else just cracks jokes and moves on." --Jonathan Prykop

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July 06, 2004

Yarn shop!

Today I taught Kathy how to drive stick. We drove over to the parking lot at St Thomas, and she practiced starting and stopping, and eventually, shifting into second. After about a half hour of this, I pronounced her ready to drive and told her to drive to Barrington. That went pretty well until the very end, when she stalled repeatedly on the railroad tracks, but that was just her getting flustered. The real destination was, of course, a yarn shop on east Station Street.

Gene Ann's of Barrington is a pretty well-appointed yarn shop (not quite in the league of Sakonnet Purls or Needleworks, but good nonetheless), and the proprietor certainly knows her stuff. I ended up spending a ridiculous amount of money there, mostly on yarn. Oddly enough, the most expensive yarn wasn't the all-wool skeins, but the acrylic-cotton-wool mix that I got talked into. Had I realised its cost, I might not have been; the prices weren't marked and I just assumed that the acrylic would make it cheaper. Ah well, live and learn. We'll see if the cotton and wool are enough to mitigate the unpleasantness of working with the acrylic. I also picked up some sock-length Brittany wooden double-pointed needles, one set each of 0s and 1s, which have been discontinued. I decided to try a set of "Pry-Flex" dpns, which are super-flexible plastic needles, which do come in sock-length needles but only down to size 2.

Finally, I got a great book of pattern patterns; that is, not patterns for whole garments, but patterns for little repeated patches. Ribs, slip-stitching, cabling; the simple stuff is in there, but quite a bit of more complicated stuff, too. Once I'm back in Galesburg, I need to start putting together a book of swatches of these, both for practice and to actually be able to see them. (The pictures are good, but of course, they're just pictures.)

"We have to fight the terrorists as if there were no rules and preserve our open society as if there were no terrorists." --Thomas Friedman

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March 12, 2004

Knitting pictures

I've updated the knitting pictures; they now include pictures of the diagonal socks, the jumper, the slipper socks, and the recently-completed winter hat. See my knitting page. That's still not even everything, but it's progress. ;)

"Why did that plane crash? My understanding is that the investigation is ongoing, but the gist of the current theory can be described as "pilot death." --Michael Kimmitt

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February 28, 2004


I finished the hat! I took pictures, and I'll post them eventually. In the meantime you can look at the pattern.

I also finished listening to The Altman Code, a spy thriller of the sort that makes excellent books-on-tape. ;)

"Like broccoli pizza, gay marriage isn't for everyone, but that's no reason to keep it off the menu." --Steve Chapman

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February 22, 2004

Knit webpage update

I finally got around to updating my page of knitting projects. It's not done per se, it'll never be done, but there's a lot more up there.

I also put together a derived blog, that'll just include the entries related to various knitting projects, on the off chance that someone who doesn't know me might want to filter out the other stuff. No special name, just the knitting edition of this one. ;)

"The belief that humanity gets more depraved with each succeeding generation is a source of comfort to parents and children alike, but neither history nor literature supports it." --Miss Manners

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February 12, 2004

By popular demand...

I've been meaning to post these for a while. Those of you following my knitting career may wish to see pictures of my knitting. Not a complete gallery, but the sweater's there at least.

"Miss Manners believes that young ladies should appear modest and deferential to adults. It sets them a good example." --Miss Manners

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February 01, 2004

My sweater

Wa-hoo! I just bound off, wove in, and otherwise finished up the sweater I've been working on, on and off, for over two months now. It fits (snug but comfortable), and boy howdy is it ever warm. I'll wash it in the tub tomorrow and I should be able to wear it by the middle of next week. Wooooo!

"Christian symbol? I thought this was the Celtic death god of the wood!" --Terry Landry

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December 18, 2003


I sit here and knit and watch TV. It's quite a routine, and quite far from where I was just four months ago, when I watched exactly one hour of TV a week (West Wing). I found myself flipping channels earlier; the Game Show Network has a nifty one called "Lingo", which is essentially Word Mastermind with a tiny admixture of Bingo for a random element. Today one of the teams was a guy who knits and a girl who plays croquet. In commenting on this, the host (is that Chuck Woolery?) commented that his son knits too. I'm telling you, it's the new thing.

Props to fellow CS prof Chris Andrews, whose pickup truck came to my ResQ on picking up my new coffeetable (and who then helped lug it up to my apartment). It came in a box---I asked at least three or four times whether it was fully assembled, with answers ranging from "yes" to "almost", but it totally wasn't. In fact, the pieces didn't even fit together all that well, and from a standpoint of assembly it was incredibly poorly designed: the instructions say to put it together upside down, but the shelf only has real supports when it's right-side-up. And you can't just assemble the top to the legs and then flip it over, because once the legs are screwed in the shelf won't fit right. It required a hammer to get the shelf to fit right.

Done now, though. Really cool. I have pictures, which I may post at some point. For now, back to wondering how my gauge changed so much between sock #1 and sock #2, and how I can compensate.

"Making sure that kids have health insurance is the right thing. Pissing away time in a quixotic quest for ideological purity is not." --Michael Kimmitt

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November 22, 2003


There's an awesome yarn shop here in Champaign! Ooh, I should back up. Yesterday, I mentioned on the notesfiles that I was thinking about coming down to Champaign-Urbana for the weekend, if anything was happening; Kim pushed just the right button by offering to make a sushi run. So I drove down last night.

Before I left, I checked on the net to see if there were any yarn shops in Champaign, hoping to make use of the trip to stock up. Sure enough, there was, although it was originally an embroidery shop that added yarn and knitting stuff just a couple of years ago, so I didn't have great hopes. But it's awesome! Just the yarn portion alone is one of the larger yarn shops I've seen. And there were, like, eight people sitting around knitting and chatting while I was there, encouraging me to sit down and knit with them. They're there every Saturday, from open to close! (UPDATE: a link to their site.)

No sleeping in for me when I visit Champaign in the future---I'll get up and head over to the yarn shop for the morning. :)

"DECAF!? Are you trying to kill me??" --Cecilia, Piled Higher and Deeper

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June 21, 2003

I finished the socks!

I finished the socks! Pictures forthcoming.

"I started to cry as I sat down with a gigantic piece of meat, a schnitzel, which is like a fried continent. I mean it, I pulled my hat off my head and started to cry. *This is what it is all about.* If getting drunk at eleven in the afternoon and eating a huge piece of meat is wrong, then *I don't want to be right.*" --Tycho

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June 07, 2003

Work update

Well, I've gotten some coding done, and started a bunch of experiment runs, so I can't say I've been totally slacking.

But I also just wrote a page on my various knitting projects. I should really be writing my thesis....

"I knew if I was willing to sell out the rights of a whole group of Americans to get reelected, then I'd wasted my time in politics." --Howard Dean

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May 02, 2003

Afternoon in Tiverton

I spent this afternoon in Tiverton, RI, at the best yarn shop ever. Theresa showed me around the place and gave me a practicum on yarn weights, needle sizes, materials, and patterns. I bought a pattern book, two sets of double-ended needles, and enough yarn for three projects, which I'm just itching to get started on.

In other news, those of you in the area may be interested to know that the Brown Renaissance Singers (of which I am a member) is putting on our end-of-semester show next week. We're scheduled to perform at 8pm on Wednesday, in the Annmary Brown Memorial---aka the Crypt---over on Brown Street next to Health Services. Show's about a half hour, free, and followed by refreshments (also free).

"I should emphasize that just because our Irish friends start their summer earlier does not mean Ireland gets warmer earlier. The cruel truth is that it never gets warm in Ireland, which has one of the most dismal climates on earth." --Cecil Adams

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March 30, 2003

Learning to knit

Theresa taught me how to knit today! Also we watched Dave, which remains a great movie.

"I've figured it out. Here in Rhode Island, people are catching all the Rs people are dropping up in Boston. They're all up there pahking their cah, and the Rs migrate down here so my landlord calls me Thereser." --Theresa Ross

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October 31, 2002


Got almost nothing done on the costume yesterday, due to getting bogged down with Brown Comp stuff that probably wasn't my job but needed to get done. Anyway, I just finished the shirt. One piece down, two to go.

"There are a lot of dead people in history." --Claudia Arno

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October 26, 2002

Memo to self

Memo to self: When sewing, never ever forget to lower the foot of the sewing machine. Even if the fabric being sewn is very thick so that it pretty much meets the foot when it's raised. And, y'know, makes it easy to forget to lower the foot....

What happens is that the bobbin part of the sewing machine action gets very confused, and while the top of the sewing looks fine, the underside is a mess of big loops of thread, and the thread gets wrapped around the bobbin spindle, and the bobbin actually pops out of its holder, and your fabric manages to get connected to the sewing machine by about ten or twenty tangled threads, which you have to cut and extract. And then you have to pull out all the seams you just sewed, so you can do them right. Ugh.

"Still, the most detailed reports of the battle [of the Alamo] come from Mexican soldiers. It turns out that the stirring stories of heroic deeds so cherished by Texans were arrived at mostly by that creative process we call "making it up," the basis of much American history." --Cecil Adams

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August 17, 2002

New crafts project

Ok, new crafts project: a penrose quilt. In my copious free time, of course.

"Mr. Bush is very much from the business wing of the Republican Party while Mr. Ashcroft is more typical of social-issue Republicans who sit in the front pew of the church on Sunday." --Neil A. Lewis, NYT

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