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.

Lots to Update

Wow. So it’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged. Not much going on really, except that it’s summer, and that means there are kid activities and family events to attend and even a quick weekend away, though I would not exactly call it a vacation. More on that part later. But suffice it to say, that even if my blog has been neglected in recent weeks, my knitting has not.

I made a pact with myself earlier this summer to be sure to knit something, even if it is just a few stitches, every day. Most knitters out there are probably laughing at me for this, because I am sure most of you do knit every day, or at least more than I do, judging from the number of FO’s I’m always seeing on Ravelry. But for me, for whatever reason, I love to knit, but often go days at a time without doing it. And then I’m mad at myself for not making progress on my projects. And the truth is, I feel better when I knit, so why not make a bigger effort to do it?

I haven’t quite managed to knit every, every day, but I’m getting closer. I’ve even got several projects going that are all seeing some progress, including an alpaca tube scarf, dishcloths, and yes, my own Color Affection shawl. The shawl is what I want to give a peek of today, because I have finally started the short-row section, and thus have added the third color to the mix:

Color Affection Progress

Color Affection Progress

Sadly, the longer I work on this, the less I am liking the color combination. Which is silly, considering that I am all about purple and green in combination, in so many of my yarn choices right now. And I’m sure it will be great when it’s done and it’ll look like “me”–whatever that is. So I’m keeping at it. In fact, I made a lot of progress on it so far this weekend, because of a weekend road trip that had me in the car for many hours. Hence, my next topic.

Yarn Tourism

Last week my daughter attended Music Camp at University of North Carolina Greensboro. On Friday, which was the last day of camp, each group gave a concert, and I did not want to miss it. So, my in-laws took her down there, and went to visit their daughter in Cary for a few days, and then met my husband, son and me back in Greensboro at the end of the week. It meant driving seven hours on Thursday, attending dinner and the concert on Friday, and seven hours in the car again today.

So, faced with a few hours to kill in the late morning/early afternoon, which was too long to do nothing, but not long enough to do anything major, I whipped out my iPad because I remember someone on a podcast I used to listen to mentioning that there was at least one nice yarn shop in Greensboro. The first one to come up in my search was Gate City Yarns, so I called to make sure they were wheelchair friendly (they are! yay!) and off I went with my patient husband. I was not disappointed. The shop is situated on a bustling main street of the likes that I did not expect to find in Greensboro. It would seem that there is quite the artist community there. with galleries and fun cafes and shops all up and down the row. The shop itself is roomy and inviting, with a big antique bathtub full of yarn inside. The place sort of gave me the modern, industrial feel, but with an air of coziness. (The comfy sofa with afghans draped all over it added to that feeling.)

I’m the kind of person who buys yarn by sight and feel. That is, if it looks pretty, I’m attracted to it, and if it feels nice, even better. Plus there was the whole “souvenir factor” of buying yarn in a new shop in a strange city. So, I got these:

Rainbow silk and lavender and green sock yarn

Rainbow silk and lavender and green sock yarn

The one in front is Schaefer Yarn “Andrea” in the colorway “Hermione.” (I have always been attracted to rainbows, and this is, indeed, the softest rainbow I have ever encountered.) It is a silk lace weight, about 1090 yards… which sounds like a lot but can be used up quickly. So, as usual I have no idea what to make with it that will bring out the colors in just the right way. I’m open to suggestions… I’d love it if I could get the colors to pool in such a way to achieve a tie-dye look, rather than a mottled, varigated look, but I don’t want to have to think too much.

The other yarn is Frolicking Feet by Done Roving Yarn, in the lavender and sage colorway. (Green and purple? Yeah, I told you I’m obsessed.) I did just sign up for a sock class on Craftsy , so maybe this will be used for that.

Oh, and I even had a knitting related birthday gift! Well, to be fair my husband and I are past the point of surprising each other with gifts so I sent him a link about a month ago and said, “Click here, honey, in case you mgiht like to know what I want for my birthday this year:

Addi Turbo Clicks

Addi Turbo Clicks

Yep, I am now the proud owner of a set of Addi Turbo Click interchangeable needles. I bought one pair in advance to make sure I can operate them, and after fumbling a bit, I did figure it out. So, I asked for the set, and my husband was sweet enough to get them. Kinda makes turning 48 not so bad. Sometimes.

Well, this blog post has been a long one! Hopefully I will start posting again so I won’t have to catch up so much all at once. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! And do let me know your ideas for that rainbow yarn. I don’t want to let it linger in the stash, but I do want to do something that will do it justice.