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.

Yes, I’ve Been Knitting, Too…

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually posted here. I’ve been in a knitting (and thus, blogging) funk. But this year I have decided to try to fix both of those things. But, none of my knitting of late has been making me, well, happy. And what’s the point of knitting if not for the zen and happiness of it?

So I’ve been struggling along for weeks, trying to find the perfect project. And then my husband said that he thought he should buy himself a Jayne Hat. To which, I said, “I can knit that!” And so I am. In all the years I’ve been knitting, he’s only affected a mild interest (to keep me happy) and has never asked me to make him anything. So, he finally asked for something, and I said I could do it. And I can, really… except this particular hat has been subject to much opinion and debate as to how it’s made. I am following this pattern, but am finding the analysis of the hat on this site to be most helpful.

Of course there is some debate about the actual color of the hat, because it is often seen in deep shadow. But I see it as a sort of pumpkin-orange and goldenrod, with brick red earflaps. With two strands held together and a combination of colors from the stash, and adding a couple of other shades with the help of a store credit from The Loopy Ewe, I think I will be good to go. What do you Firefly knitters think of my color choices?

five shades of orange and yellow yarn

Jayne Hat yarn

As you can also see, if you’re visiting this blog, I’ve done a bit of work here, too. I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to really focus on my photography skills, so I wanted a blog format that would allow me to easily build photo pages. And this one called out to me. I’ll be building my photo galleries over time, but you can check them out, here: Photo Galleries.

For tonight’s photo of the yarn I experimented with my flash. I generally hate flash photography because of the washed out colors and harsh shadows I usually get. But, since my whole house now is full of energy saving (but ugly as sin) fluorescent light bulbs, I figured I’d better start making friends with the flash. So for this photo I mounted the flash on the camera, but added a Gary Fong Universal Lightsphere diffuser, to cut down on the harsh shadows. Not bad, eh? And the yarn colors are accurate and vivid. Of course I am a bigger fan of natural light, but when none is available, this setup might just do.

As I was writing this post, my kids were behind me, laughing. And this is why:

Clyde the grey tabby peeking out from under a sheet

Clyde is hiding

Clyde had run under the chair where I had set up for photos, and got himself draped in the sheet I use for a backdrop. And stayed there, at least long enough for my daughter to snap a few kitty selfies. Never a dull moment around here, I’m tellin’ ya.

We’re expecting a boatload of snow tomorrow so I’m hoping that means lots of knitting. Stay tuned for Jayne Hat updates.

Three Terrible Days

I don’t ever talk about my job on the internet. Not because I have one of those super-secret jobs that I’m not allowed to talk about. It’s just that when I’m not at work, I want my internet to be all mine. I don’t want to have to be careful about what I think or what I say because I’ve linked myself to some job and I have a certain image to uphold. Once you tell the interwebs where you work, you never get a day off from being that person, the grunt who goes in to the office day in and day out, whose job is mostly ordinary, but forces you to have a certain image to uphold.

I like my job–or I don’t like it, depending on the day, and whether or not it’s budget season–about as much as the next person. I mostly like it because of the people I work with, and because I make a difference for the people I serve every day. They almost never thank me for this, but I don’t even mind, most of the time. Because I know I’ve made a difference, and most days? That’s enough for me.

But, in my career as a Federal employee, there have been Three Terrible Days. Three days that have shaken me to the very core, and made me question how, even in my mundane world, I could ever be safe.

April 19, 1995.

September 11, 2001.

September 16, 2013.

That day in 1995, I thought, was the worst. It was when some idiot with a God complex took it upon himself to teach us Feds some kind of lesson. On that day, 168 people lost their lives. Most were people like me, doing their mostly thankless jobs on an ordinary day. Eleven of them were my colleagues, and I still remember their names and faces.

Then, of course, was September 11, 2001. I have never been more afraid of anything than I was on that day. On that morning I was avoiding starting my mundane, thankless job by chatting with a friend over instant messenger while sipping my coffee. My office at the time was just across the Potomac River from the Pentagon, and though we were miles away from the disaster, the thick black smoke that roared into the otherwise cloudless sky screamed the rage of death and destruction. When trying to make it home that day, somehow my husband and I ended up gridlocked in the one place we wished we hadn’t been… right outside the Capitol. Not knowing whether that hallowed building would be next on the hit list was unsettling as we sat unmoving for nearly two hours–so close, in fact, that the sharpshooter who had his gun pointed in our general direction, I”m sure would have thought nothing of going right through us to get to the enemy… if it had come down to that. (Thankfully, of course, it didn’t.)

And now today. Today’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard was the terror next door. Based on what little I know of the (very secure) facility, the gunman was on a walkway several floors up that overlooked the cafeteria. And, he just started shooting. I don’t know if there was a reason or if it was a random act, but a couple of things struck me. My building’s dining room can be described as an atrium with a walkway above, from where one could look down and see early morning meetings taking place, coffee and a last-minute laugh being shared by two co-workers about to embark upon their mostly thankless day, or the inevitable runner who is late for that 8:30 meeting. What I could never imagine, looking down on those scenes, would be observing the very last seconds of someone’s life, frozen in time.

Today’s event did not impact me directly, except that as a precaution, we, their neighbors were put on lockdown for the day. This meant that every meeting I had scheduled was canceled, because inevitably a key player in each case was on the wrong side of the door. Being locked in, in a not-quite-business-as-usual state gives one a lot of time to think. And so I’ve been thinking a lot of all of the people who were just doing their jobs.. And I want to thank them.

It’s the least that they deserve.

Knitting for the Totally Obsessed

As if I don’t already have enough stuff on my needles, I had to cast on another thing:

Lots of stitches cast on to the knitting needles, among a pile of small balls of yarn

Mini Mania scarf

This is the beginnings of the Mini Mania scarf by Sarah Core. It is the answer to what to do with all of the little leftover bits of yarn, when you only have enough left for a row or two, and yet, you can’t bring yourself to throw it away. Even small amounts of yarn are good for something, right? Yeah, they are.

So I started casting on about a week ago. I do hate that part of any project, and tend to pick ones that start by only casting on a handful of stitches and growing from there. But if I were going to do this project, I wanted to do it BIG, so I cast on somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 stitches. I say “somewhere” because even with using a counting device I think I forgot to push the button a few times, so there may, in fact be MORE than 600 stitches.

Yes, I think I’ve lost my mind. And I am pretty sure this project will take years to complete. But it can be a “go-to” project when everything else I’m working on bores me. This would probably bore me, too, except I’ll be changing yarns every couple of rows. So, we shall see. I imagine only periodic photos of this bit of knitting insanity will appear, so don’t hold your breath waiting for them! At the same time, wish me luck. I would actually like to have this finished someday.

Starting is… hard.

I don’t know what it is with me and my knitting. I am the queen of false starts. I am wanting to make another gift shawl. Since I am working on my own Color Affection, I knew this time I wanted to do something different. So, I opted for Taygete, a shawl by Romi Hill. It features garter stripes, with which I have become oh-so-familiar, but they will be running vertically, from side to side, across the body of the shawl. Then the bottom has this little bit of lace for elegance, which I think is pretty and doesn’t look too challenging. We shall see how it goes.

Of course the first conundrum was choosing colors. I feel like I know the recipient pretty well, or as well as she lets anyone know her, but when it came to choosing colors, I had a really hard time. I actually like the sample that the designer created, but could not find those colors online. So, I started looking on Ravelry for examples, to see what others have made. There were some stunning examples, and then there were a few that just made me scratch my head and realize, of course, that color preference is in the eye of the beholder. I bought yarn colors a total of three times before finally settling on my choice.

Originally, I thought it would be this:

Two yarn balls, one dark green and one tan

Cascade Heritage Silk and Dream in Color Smooshy

This is actually a mash-up of yarns from my first two purchases. The top yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk and the bottom yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy. Originally I purchased the smooshy with an “amber” color that was actually more “mustard” than I wanted it to be, and the Cascade was purchased with a blue that was quite electric, rather than the deep blue-green I was hoping for. So, I took one color from one pile and one from the second, and it produced this:

small striped triangle of knitted fabric.

Green, really?

The only thing this made me feel was “yuck.” The green is called “Spruce,” but it must be a spruce tree photographed at twilight, because the yarn looks black in all but the very brightest light. I just wasn’t feeling it and could not imagine knitting the entire thing. So, I tried again:

two yarn balls, one medium blue and one medium brown

Madelinetosh Tosh Sock

This time with Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Worn Denim and Weathered Frame. I think I am finally happy with my color choice, but it is hard to imagine that this wonky, wee little triangle is ever going to be anything beautiful at all:

Taygete shawl beginnings

Taygete shawl beginnings

I was worried about the large loops along one side of the shawl, but I have re-read the pattern, and apparently they’re supposed to be there. Or, perhaps it is more correct to say that they happen, and I’m not supposed to worry. (I hear they’ll even come in handy in the lace section, when I have to pick up stitches.)

Then my next thing to ponder is this: which color should be the lace color, and which should be the contrast color? When I read the pattern initially, it said it took all of the yardage in the one color, so I made sure to get two balls of each because I am a loose knitter, and i haven’t for sure yet decided which color should be the lace section. Right now I’m leaning toward the blue, but I’ve heard a convincing argument for the other. Oh, well, it feels like the knitting is going a bit slow for this project so I probably have a while to decide. And maybe, since I have extra yarn, I’ll make it a wee bit bigger, too. Romi has given very clear instructions for that.

And with that, I’m putting needles down. It’s late, even for me. Goodnight!