half-assed knit blog
half-assed knit blog
half-assed knit blog
February, 2008

Happy Venereal Disease!

(Oh come on, I can’t be the only one whose mind automatically goes there whenever someone writes “Happy VD!”)

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Valentines Day is completely off my radar, usually. It doesn’t make me happy and it doesn’t make me bitter either. In fact, its only real significance is that it’s the day before my very favourite holiday ever: Half-Price Chocolate Day.

But, well, there’s all these Valentines-related knitting projects on Ravelry and elsewhere and I got to thinking. When I’d been planning the Secret Nerd Scarf, I thought it would have been a good idea to get it out before Valentines Day (which obviously did not happen), because- well, I’m getting ahead of myself here. I’d better first explain exactly what it was.

I’m a huge puzzle nerd. One of the things that you quickly learn from puzzle-nerdity is that there are a whole bunch of ways to represent the alphabet. One of these ways is with binary numbers. I won’t get into a big explanation here of how different base systems work (I figure those who care will look it up themselves), but binary uses two digits, 0 and 1, to represent numbers, and 5 binary digits can represent numbers up to 32. Which means, 5 binary digits can represent the alphabet. (And yes, there are other ways to represent the alphabet in binary, but this is the simplest one.)

So, let’s say, the letter M… that’s the 13th letter in the alphabet, and the number 13 represented with 5 binary digits is 01101. And if you wanted to write a whole sentence in binary you’d keep doing the same thing for each letter.

Now, encoding something like “01101” into knitting is way easy and can be done in tons of different ways – with knits for 1s and purls for 0s, for example. When I first had the idea of a secret-binary-message knitting project I was going to do it with colourwork. But, bleh. And then I had the idea of doing it with cables, which would be more versatile and look better and be easy to knit and yay! And then I spotted that binary cable hat that did it first. Yeah, yeah, we know this already. But that’s what the Nerd Scarf was. And I scrapped it. OR DID I?

Yeah, so I changed my mind. The Valentines Day thing, see? How cute would it be to knit “I love you” or something equally sappy into a scarf, but in a completely non-obvious way that would be known only to you and perhaps the scarf’s recipient? Totally cute. I could call it “Secret Admirer”. But I couldn’t do it. First, there was the similar-hat issue. And second, well, there was no time to get it out before Valentines Day. And there was no time to get it out on Valentines Day either. But…

Well, first things first. Why was I so hung up on the hat? It wasn’t the first binary-related knitting pattern and it wouldn’t be the last. Hell, off the top of my head, there’s this other binary hat, and the binary scarf from Knitty (both of which I think are awesome, by the way. Me = neeeeerrrrrd). And I don’t think any of those copied each other, or that the binary cable hat person copied either of them. So what would it matter if I put out a similar scarf? Well, I think the issue was the implementation – it would have just been too similar. From my quick glance at the hat pattern, it looked like it used very simple cables, with a twist representing a 1 and a lack of twist representing a 0, and that was exactly the way I was going to do it, so even though the hat had nothing to do with encoding a message, it would still look very similar.

And then I thought, wait, why did I choose that specific implementation anyway? Well, because it was the easiest way to do it. That’s it. I was being a lazy-ass, basically, just like I always am. But it really wasn’t the best way to go. Because I was trying for something that, at first glance, would look like a regular old scarf, with no hint that it was concealing a message. And the twist/no-twist 1/0 encoding, while reasonably aesthetically pleasing, would clearly look like a deliberate pattern of some sort. It would be obvious that something was up.

There had to be a way to do it such that the message would be hidden, but still visible to those specifically trying to read it. I stared at cable patterns for a while, when something occurred to me. Something that should have been very, very obvious.

When you knit two cable twists with some stockinette in between them, it looks kind of like a circle or oval.

When you knit two cable twists with one or more extra cable twists in between them, it looks kind of like a vertical column.

There it was, clear as day – a way to visually represent the actual numbers 0 and 1 with cables. If done very carefully, it would look just like any old cable pattern to a casual observer, but be incredibly obvious to someone who knew they were looking for rows of binary numbers. And if done in a smallish size, different letters could be encoded by changing just one line in each cable repeat, the one with the extra twist that differentiates a circle from a column, so it wouldn’t be complicated to knit at all.

So I posted the cable pattern at the beginning of this entry. Did you see it then? Can you see it now?

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Or, to be completely obvious about it:

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I LOVE THIS. Can I say that? Hat be damned, I had to do something with this – and in fact, I’d now wandered so far from my original implementation that there was now no visual similarity to the hat. And that’s good enough for me. I’m okay with there being multiple binary cable patterns out there, I just didn’t want to put out anything that was so similar that people would think I’d copied it when that was damn well not the case. Whew. Okay.

The other problem. Time.

Did I mention that I thought of this idea on the afternoon of February 13th?

I could not possibly knit a scarf in a day. But… but… I could knit a swatch in a day. And obviously that’s exactly what I did. I’d normally be wary of posting a pattern that I haven’t knit, but in this case, the swatch-version was just fine. I used the same beginning, end, and edging for the swatch as for the scarf, so the only difference is that it’s 3 letters long instead of lots of letters long.

(The three letters? “LUV.” Yeah, laaaaame.)

So I spent yesterday evening writing up bits of the pattern, digging in the yarn bin for some cable-appropriate yarn and finding half a ball of Patons Classic Merino, speed-knitting the giant swatch, and just barely having enough time to squeeze in 3 letters’ worth of secret-message. Splashed some water on it and pinned it out to block overnight. Snapped a picture today and finished the pattern write-up. Ahhh! So apprehensive. From conception to published pattern in less than 24 hours? Is this a good idea?

I’m reminding myself that Bamboozled was a very quickly-thrown-together pattern (although not in a freaking day), and according to Ravelry it’s the most well-liked and highly-rated of all my patterns. And people seemed to get a kick out of my goat cable, which was designed in an evening. Maybe it’s better that I speed-design than angst incessantly and draw it out forever. Maaaaaybe.

I don’t know.

But happy Venereal Disease… er… Valentines Day to all! Here’s the Secret Admirer pattern!

Now I’m off to prepare for the epic Half-Price Chocolate Day celebrations.



Nipples, Nerds, & Neverending Needlecraft Narratives

I have successfully de-nippled the hatboob.

But, of course, OF COURSE, there’s a new problem.

Exhibit A: a completed hatboob, pre-blocking.

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Exhibit B: a completed hatboob, post-blocking.

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Yep. It ate my head.

So the de-nippled head-eating hatboob is going to be frogged, again, and the pattern tweaked, again, and I am really glad that this thing only takes a day to knit. And I know how to fix it. And this’ll be okay. So. That’s the hatboob status. I really like saying “hatboob”. Hatboob hatboob hatboob.

Facing less rosy times is the Secret Nerd Scarf.

See, I was browsing Ravelry today and spotted the Binary Cable Hat, the hat people have been making for Hat Attack, and guess what – it’s pretty much the same thing, conceptually, as what I was going to do. Well, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s similar enough that I’ve lost my zest for the scarf, and furthermore I don’t feel like having a bunch of knitters assume that I copied the idea and start accusing me. (There’s been a lot of that going around lately.)

I guess the good news is that now I have a couple of balls (heh heh) of Tweedy Silk to play with. And if I’d really wanted to make the scarf, surely I would have started by now. I hadn’t even bothered swatching.

I don’t have any plans for those two balls (heh heh) yet, but I have some other plans for new stuff. First, I have a lovely 250 yd skein of Colourmart heavy dk cashmere/silk which will become some sort of armwarmer type things that I will design myself.

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Second – well, there was a sale at Lettuce Knit a few weeks ago, and I went despite not being able to spend very much money. See, I knew that if I didn’t go, it would taunt me. It wasn’t that I wanted something in particular, it was that I’d be bothered by what I might have missed. What if there was some gorgeous yarn for dirt cheap and I didn’t get it because I didn’t go? What then?

Well, there wasn’t. There was plenty of gorgeous yarn that I totally couldn’t afford even at 30% off (Handmaiden Swiss Mountain Cashmere Silk, I’m looking at you). There was plenty of yarn that, surprisingly, I didn’t want. There was plenty of yarn that I would have wanted, had it been there.

Lettuce Knit is a strange little shop, in that I both love it and hate it. It carries a whole bunch of beautiful yarn lines that I covet, except that most of the time, either it’s stuff I can’t afford or it’s not in stock. I thought I’d be able to snag some Dream in Color worsted at the sale, but all the colours I wanted were out of stock. Maybe some Fleece Artist Peter Rabbit? Nope, unless I wanted it in fuchsia or electric blue or radioactive-vomit-green. Handmaiden Mini Maiden? Nope, out of stock completely. Aaaaah! Carrots dangled just out of my reach!

There’s another thing, too. When I was browsing the sale, not once did anyone in the store greet me or ask if I needed help. That doesn’t actually bother me, because I like being left alone to browse, but – what I noticed, is that some of the people shopping were clearly regulars there. And were clearly being treated very differently. Which, I realize, is what happens in small shops. You get to know your regular customers, they become your friends, and thus you treat them that way. I can’t fault anybody for that.

I mean, nobody was rude to me. If I asked for help, I got it. And I certainly won’t stop shopping there. It’s just – you know, I will never visit the shop often enough to become a regular, because it’s not local for me. And so I will always feel a little bit out of place there, as soon as a regular comes in and is greeted heartily while I lurk invisibly in the corner. This may be why I feel more comfortable shopping at Romni – it’s so big that it’s never obvious whether the other customers are regulars, and furthermore it feels like it’s perfectly okay not to be one.

Anyway. I was determined to buy something, anything, just because I dragged my ass all the way down there, and I was also determined that it not be another “WTF do I do with this?” single skein. And that’s when I saw this:

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Aha! I thought. That’s what I’ll buy! A sweater’s worth of that! Berroco Peruvia in Aquamarina. I could afford it, it was delicious and shiny and soft and fairly practical and TEAL, not red or black or coral – it was perfect.

Aaaaand there were only three skeins of it left. Needed at least five for a sweater, preferably six. So I optimistically bought the three skeins. No problem, I thought, I’ll just walk over to Romni and get a couple more, they carry Berroco stuff, maybe I’ll even luck out and get the same dyelot. Well. Not so much. I ended up pawing through their basket of Peruvia and then having this conversation:

Me: I’m looking for a colour of Berroco Peruvia that I don’t think you have.
Romni Guy: Uh-oh…

Heh.

So I turned to the intarwebs. Guess what – there are very few shops with reasonable shipping to Canada that carry Peruvia. Who knew? The only ones I could dig up were Webs and Jimmy Beans Wool, so I fired off emails to them asking if they had my dyelot. Which they didn’t. Of course. (But props to both shops for good customer service – they both checked and got back to me the same day.) So I’d have to hold my nose and order, and hope to get a dyelot that wasn’t too far off. But I thought, what with shipping and all, I’d better wait until I wanted something else from one of those shops. While a little voice in my head whined, I want a sweater. I want a sweater now. Where’s my yarn? Buy more yarn! Buy it now! Now! Now!

(It occurs to me that I have mentioned voices in my head very often on this blog, and I should probably reassure readers that I am not clinically insane. As far as I know.)

And just when I had resigned myself to disappointing the little voice, up pops a blog update from The Yarn and Fiber Company saying they’ve decided to start carrying some Berroco yarns, including Peruvia. Did I mention that they ship free to Canada? SCORE!

So I ordered. Asked them to send my dyelot if they had it, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up. Opened up my package to see this:

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OH COME ON. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. ALL RIGHT, WHO’S SCREWING WITH ME AND SCRATCHING OUT THE DYELOT NUMBER? STOP THAT NOW.

Harrumph.

But the rest of ‘em were properly dyelot-labeled. Same dyelot? Nope. Visibly identical to my dyelot? Yup. Sweet.

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So that’ll be a sweater. I have a sketch, but it’s a seeecret. (I don’t know why. I’m not submitting it for publication or anything. I guess I need a new seeecret now that the Nerd Scarf is dead.) In keeping with the current theme of my knitting, it will have a giant collar that may or may not eat my head. OM NOM NOM NOM.

(No, it will not have nipples. Pervert.)



Lies, Damned Lies, and… Cursed Yarn?

I have long known that gauge swatches are lying liars who lie.

What I didn’t know is that entire knitting projects also lie. Oh yes. You know how some people say you should knit a giant swatch, or even a small project to get an accurate gauge measurement? How about a whole scarf? Shouldn’t that be adequate? Well, shouldn’t it?

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See that scarf? That scarf is a lying liar who lies.

Actually, I’m a lying liar who lies too, because it’s technically more like three-quarters of a scarf. But my point still stands! That is a nice big giant sample of a stitch pattern. And what a lovely stitch pattern it is.

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It’s the White Night Scarf in Rowan Chunky Print, and it’s quite yummy. Except for the lying and the lies. See, what happened was that I grossly overestimated the amount of yarn needed for this scarf. So far I’ve fed it two of the four balls I bought, and if I bound off right now it would still be a decently long scarf. If I feed it all four balls, it will eat me.

So I thought, all right, I’ll make a matching hat. A cute little vintagey-looking hat in that same stitch pattern. And I’ve got a scarf-sized gauge swatch right here. Woooo! Measure measure measure, poke at calculator, scribble in sketchbook, ooookay we are casting on 84 stitches, apparently.

Hum. That seems like a lot for chunky yarn on size 15 needles. That can’t be right.

Trusssst me, whispers the scarf. Can I trust the scarf? It’s so pretty… so very pretty. But, no! I will be strong! I will cast on 72 stitches instead! I’msorryscarfIstillloveyou. You know, maybe you’re right, admits the scarf. Look how I stretch! 72 stitches is totally right for a hat.

LIES. FILTHY LIES. Unless by “hat”, it meant “giant tube top”, but no, not so much. All right, let’s frog and try this again. 60 stitches? Yeah, okay. And we need some ribbing at the edge, because the 72-stitch hat oh wait I mean tube top no no wait I mean LYING LIAR TUBE TOP PIECE OF LYING CRAP THAT LIES I HATE IT SO MUCH… er. Okay. I’m all better now. The 72-stitch… thing… was a little baggy and curly ’round the edges.

And we have hatness. No thanks to you, lying scarf.

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I’ll write up a pattern for it if I can get it to behave. Which it isn’t, at the moment. I finished up the top and it has a nipple. It’s a hatboob. With a nipple. “Usually only found deep in the rainforest, this is your chance to view the elusive Nippled Hatboob in captivity!” (Sigh.) But I’m not going to get into that now because there are other knits to yell at. Cursed knits.

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Oh, you know where I’m going with this.

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I joke about cursed yarn, but I’m starting to believe it’s a real thing. This yarn is all kinds of cursed. I have never had this kind of problem with a project before. There was the Lelah that ate my soul, but that was a simple sizing issue. There was the scarf of many froggings, but that was a “must find the perfect pattern” thing. There are tricky projects, and then there are cursed projects. There is no other explanation for this:

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… that might not be a good illustration of the problem. It’s just a yoke. Looking all sweet and innocent, the lying liar. So I’ll explain. It doesn’t fit. Again. But that’s not the problem, exactly. The last incarnation didn’t fit either, so I fixed the points of fuckery. Body was too small – let’s make it bigger. Sleeves were too big – let’s make them smaller. Simple.

I should have known better. I underestimated The Curse. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE CURSE.

I thought at first that I’d shrunk the sleeves down too much. A pain in the ass, sure, requiring a frogging, but straightforward enough to fix. But something else is wrong. It’s tight under the arms, and pulling all funny. It’s like the angle of the raglan line is off. I’m not sure. I could try a compound raglan instead. But it might be just another useless battle with The Curse.

Because I’ve knit a whole bunch of top down raglans, and never had this kind of problem. I’ve even knit one at about the same gauge. Standard raglans generally fit me fine. UNLESS THEY’RE CURSED. This sweater is going to find new and different ways to cock itself up until it claims my sanity. Already, just to add insult to injury, the collar has warped into some weird shape that would normally be fixed by blocking, but not this time. Not if The Curse gets its way.

Yep, I have to frog this thing again, I think.

Bad things come in threes, right?

I have a cursed yoke…
I have a nippled hatboob…
what’s coming for me next?