What I See…

I spend a lot of time browsing sites that offer yarn and knitting related stuff. Last week I was looking at stitch markers, mostly, but I couldn’t help myself and I peeked at some yarn. Then I saw these two colors, and they called to me right away:

Three balls of yarn in two colorways, that go from bright yellow, to orange, to purples

Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock

When put together, these two colorways said “sunset”to me. I am picturing a circular shawl with some sort of sunburst motif in the center, and who knows what else?

Of course, I am knee-deep in a whole other project right now, so it will be a while. But, that way, I’ll have time to think it through.

Can you see it?

Knit Companion: My New Best Friend

You know how when something comes along that totally changes how you do things, in a way that’s so extraordinary, you wonder how you ever functioned without it before? I’ve had very few of those moments in my knitting life, but I can name them while counting off on one hand: circular needles, magic loop, Ravelry, and now–Knit Companion.

Knit Companion Logo

Knit Companion Logo

Knit Companion is an app for iPad or iPhone. I actually downloaded the free version upon first getting my iPad last year but didn’t play with it much, as it didn’t seem all that exciting. But then a couple of months ago I saw a friend at knit group using the paid version of the app, and it was so amazing I purchased it on the spot. (The full version is $15.99, but not only is it worth the cost of the app, to me, as an avid knitter, it is worth the cost of the iPad itself. And that is saying something.)

But what does it do. you ask? For me, the answer is nothing short of, “it makes the impossible, possible.” Knit Companion allows the user to take a knitting pattern, that is often a jumble of words, special instructions, charts and legends, and lets us deconstruct it and put it back together, in a way that makes sense for the user.

Knit Companion Chart and Key

Knit Companion Chart and Key

For me, the coolest features became apparent when I saw what the app can do with knitting charts. The app allows you to set up the chart so that it knows how many rows and stitches you have, and with clever counters, and markers, and highlighters, it makes it easy to know exactly where you are in your pattern. See how in the image at the right, one row is highlighted? When you’re done with that row, click the up arrow (shown in the image) and the next row is automatically highlighted. Also, in this example image, you can see that the chart key is easily accessible in a separate window that you can show or hide, so it is always right there with the chart. (In most paper patterns, the chart might be on one page, and the key near the back, which causes for a lot of page turning, and for me at least, frustration.)

In addition to the row highlighter, there are vertical lines that can be placed by the user along the chart, that would serve the function of stitch markers in knitting. The vertical lines can be set to a number of different colors. In the pattern I’m currently working, there are a number of cables across the row, and a couple of different types of cables, requiring different actions. I have marked off each section of the chart or type of cable with a differently colored vertical line, and then in my actual knitting, I placed similarly colored stitch markers. Now, it’s easy for me to look at my chart, and look at my knitting, and glance at the stitch markers, to know EXACTLY where I am.

When I say this is a big deal for me, I am not saying it lightly. If you know me you know that I have cerebral palsy (or even if you don’t know me, now you do know) and this causes all sorts of issues with voluntary movements. In my case, my eye muscles are also severely affected, and they don’t allow me to see across straight lines or keep an accurate count of chart squares without getting lost. So, knitted charts have always been a no-go for me. Which, sadly, leaves me out of being able to do a lot of the complex lace or cable patterns that are out there, because they are charted and don’t have worded instructions to go along with them. This is especially sad for me because of all of the techniques there are in knitting, cables are my most favorite. So, I’ve been limited with regard to which patterns I can see and use.

Until now, that is. Because, now? I finally feel like with the assistance of my iPad and Knit Companion, I finally, REALLY, can knit anything.

Want to take a peek at what I’m knitting? Here ya’ go:

cabled knitting in progress

cabled knitting in progress

I can’t say too much about the project or the pattern. Suffice it to say that it’s big, it’ll take forever, and I’ll be lucky to finish before the intended recipient has children of his or her own. Oh, and I’m a glutton for punishment. On some rows, there are 40 cable crosses across the row. For me, that’s a lot! But I’m getting it done!

Knit Companion has many, many more features than I’ve been able to describe here. If you’d like to learn more, visit their website: https://www.knitcompanion.com/. They even offer webinars and live trainings at knit shops across the country. Not only that, but they have an active Ravelry group that is enormously helpful, and, I have found the developer to be more than willing to help solve an issue. I can’t say enough good things about this product. Except to say that there’s no way I would have ever attempted my super-secret-mega-cable-y project before now.

if you have an iPad and you’re a knitter, you need this app. If you don’t have an iPad, and you’re a knitter, you need an iPad and this app.

I’m knitting much happier now.

(All images and screenshots relating to the Knit Companion App are used herein with the express permission of Sally Holt. Thanks, Sally!)

Just Jayne ‘n’ Me

I don’t really have a lot to say tonight, but my camera’s been put away since Saturday and I had the urge to dig it out. With no people, or animals, nearby for shooting at this hour, it’s just the yarn and me. So here is a progress photo of the Jayne Hat:

 closeup of yellow and orange knitted hat in progress.

Jayne hat in progress

Exciting, huh? I knew you’d think so. :)

Truthfully I am not a huge fan of orange, or yellow. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know what my favorite color is. But I’m liking the way the yarns are combining to create a richness of bright color that doesn’t feel too “crayon-y.” Am I making sense?

Only about 10 rounds to go, then on to the earflaps. I know most knitters could probably finish up in an evening, but I’m shooting for the weekend. Wish me luck.

I’ve Seen the Light!

I’m going to geek out a little in this post.

If you know me, you know I love my camera almost as much as I love knitting and yarn. I’m always striving to take better pictures. I am not a photographer, nor will I ever be, though very rarely my photos do get used in the context of my day job. I like it when opportunities to be creative present themselves.

There is a problem, though, in that I have always hated working with flash. When possible I prefer natural light, or nice, bright indoor light. However, in today’s energy-conscious world, fluorescent lighting is the norm, which, if you take pictures, you know, is the definition of UG-ly.

I never use my camera’s built-in flash. About three years ago my husband very generously gave me a Speedlite for my birthday, which was a huge improvement. But, I still hated the harsh shadows often produced. So right away I started looking for ways to get the benefits of using flash while at the same time, softening the effect. I can’t remember how it was that I stumbled upon the Gary Fong Lightsphere, but it made a huge difference for me.

The only problem was, the thing was bulky, a little hard to get on and off quickly, and its rigid form took up too much space in my camera bag.

Then I discovered the Lightsphere Collapsible. It folds down into a nice, flat shape and doesn’t demand too much of my gear bag. It’s a lot easier to take on and off, and it produces such a wonderful light that is not too harsh and produces wonderful color, something that my energy-saving, but ugly-as-sin light fixtures can no longer do. Want proof?

Photo of orange yarn taken without flash

Photo of orange yarn taken without flash

The above photo was taken in my dining room, which is fairly brightly lit with a nice, off-white ceiling. The colors in this image are soft, but a little muddy, and kind of all run together. Not bad, and certainly better than i would have gotten with plain flash. But then, look:

Photo of orange yarn taken with flash

Photo of orange yarn taken with flash

This photo was taken with the Collapsible Lightsphere in place. Yes I can see a slight shadow, but it’s not harsh at all. And best of all, guess what? The photo is showing you the actual colors of my yarn. Not too bad, eh? I think after all my years of using flash only begrudgingly, I am finally starting to make peace with it. I’ve even gone so far as to realize that natural light isn’t always best, and there are situations where having nice, soft light from the flash will really improve the photo.

I love it when my love for yarn and my love of photography converge. Look for lots more bright, happy project photos from me.

That’s my husband’s Jayne Hat in progress. It’ll be done in time for this spring’s round of nerd conventions.