Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today is a sad day for me. There are times in life when you face your mortality. This is one of those days. You know that time is passing by and something dearly cherished is gone.

Today is the last day of the 2007 Tour de France. Another year has passed. I must wait another year, and be another year older, to enjoy the tour again.

I'm not a big sports fan, but every year I eagerly anticipate the start of the penultimate bike race. Tivo is set up to record the longest broadcast every day. I don't get to watch it each and every day, so I scream "LA LA LA LA LA" if anyone starts to talk about what happened on a stage I haven't watched yet. And then, when I do get to watch, I curl up on the couch with both corgis and any kind of knitting I want to do. And I sit. And watch. Sometimes for 6 hours at a time. Pure joy.

This year, I elected to forego some knitting time to spin and joined Tour de Fleece. I set two spinning goals. Well, really three. First, to make a dent in my large fiber stash that had been sitting idle for months. Second, to spin every day. Third, to finally learn how to do chained singles (commonly called Navajo plying). I prefer a 3-ply yarn for knitting and I'm still trying to figure out how to best use the lovely hand painted fibers out there. Chained singles may or may not be the best way, but before I can decide, I have to know how.

I didn't really participate. I had the best of intentions to spin every day, but I got a late start because I was stuck in Chicago after attending Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp. And then I skipped a couple of days to just knit on my Pi Shawl. But I rallyed at the end--just like Contador.

Here's the results:

Souza3PlyClose First we have some 3-ply BFL from dyed fiber purchased from Lisa Souza. I love these colors.

TulipSkein This is my first attempt at chain plying. I'm actually very pleased with this skein, although the photo looks a bit messy. This is Tulip from Spunky Eclectic's fiber club. Lovely fiber. When I showed it to the folks at the yarn store, they tried to figure out where I bought it. Even though they know I'm learning to spin, they didn't recognize it as my imperfect handspun. Always a good sign that I'm making progress!

To show a bit more's another entry from the fiber club, Forecast.

First, the predrafted puffs:

ForecastPuffs2 then the singles: ForecastSingles which leads to this:ForecastChainedDime

Forecast is a merino. I ended up with a bit over 250 yards from the 4 ounces. I'm getting much smoother with my navajo plying! Unlike many beginning spinners, I tend to underspin. My singles aren't particularly consistent, but I'm ok with that. I love the results and I'll enjoy knitting this. Just don't ask me what I'm going to knit. Socks would be the obvious choice, but I've got some other ideas in mind. I'm imagining a cardigan. A cardigan made with 4 or 5 different hand-dyed yarns pulled together with a single neutral anchor yarn, maybe black or taupe.

I think I'm getting a bit cocky with my spinning since my yarn is all turning out about the same weight. I think I could actually spin enough consistent yarn to make a sweater. And since it is close to 90 degrees, my thoughts obviously turn to wool sweaters (!?!)

During the tour, a new fiber arrived. Wanna see it?


Celebration--the latest arrival from the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club. This is shetland and I learned something very important about my knitting self. I love Shetland. I love knitting with Shetland. I love spinning Shetland. I'm about 1/4 of the way through the bobbin and it is going to be gorgeous. I instantly went back to Amy and ordered her Shetland sampler. (Umm...I guess ordering more fiber negates any progress I made in using up my fiber stash!)

You know, maybe I shouldn't think of the end of the Tour as sad. Maybe this new Shetland fiber is a sign. I should celebrate the passing of time. As time passes, I gain new skills and more wisdom. Yes, I get a few more gray hairs and lots more wrinkles. But each day is a new adventure and there is much yarn to knit before I'm done.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Structure is a GOOD Thing!

I went to school in southern California in the 60's and 70's. It was an era of experimentation and freedom. Being an intellectually gifted child, I was put in all those programs parents brag about these days. In these programs, the educators prided themselves on encouraging intellectual curiosity. Their approach was to avoid too much structure, let the child find their own way. They succeeded. I'm really good at research and creative pursuits. But I have an abnormal aversion to structure. I become a rebellious 3-year-old when anyone tries to enforce structure. Hmmm....

DH asked me the other day to do my laundry on Tuesdays so it doesn't get in the way of his laundry on Thursdays. Huh? You mean you do your laundry on a specific day of the week? How strange! I do my laundry when the spirit moves me--or I run out of clothes. (See, no structure.)

Lack of structure, however, doesn't lend itself to getting crap done. So, in the interest of actually doing something, we're going to set some goals and add some structure to this blog thing.

First: the goals. I'm going to blog 3 days a week for the month of August. There. Goal set.

Second: To add a bit of structure and alliteration, I'm going to use the following framework.

Technology Tuesday: On Tuesdays, I'll write about techniques, tools, or technology I use or have recently discovered in my knitting. Since I've only been knitting a few years, I suspect my discoveries may be old hat to experienced knitters, but it will be fun for me to look back on my blog entries and see my progress as a knitter. And really, this blog is for me anyway!

Thoughtful Thursday: On Thursday, I'll think about goals and planning and why I knit. This will be the day I'll go through my current WIP and decide which will continue and which will be set aside. I'll set up my goals for the next week. It could be a thoughtful meandering about ideas, it could be a straightforward report on progress. We'll talk about inspiration. We'll dream about stuff.

Spinning Saturday: On Saturday (or Sunday), let's look at spinning, and more specifically spinning something I actually want to knit with. This may be a simple post on what I've spun during the week. I'm a really new spinner, so this would be a great time to have some pics of what I'm spinning and what I learned, techniques that are or aren't working for me. I'm very interested in how to take advantage of beautiful hand-dyed rovings and we'll probably be exploring how color works in knitting.

Originally, I planned for each post to include progress reports and stash acquisition reports, but I think not. Instead, I think that fiber stash acquisition will be reported on Spinning Saturday. Tool acquisition will be on Technology Tuesday. Yarn for specific projects will be on Thoughtful Thursday--since that's the day we'll be talking about what projects are progressing and plans for future projects. Work In Process progress reports will almost always be included in the Thursday post, but if something momentous has happened, I'll include it in any day I want to. (Uh oh, that rebellious nature is sneaking out.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Na Craga--Done!

Impatient Na Craga
Originally uploaded by K2Karen
A finished UFO! The seaming I was so afraid of was trivial. The neck sucked. This alpaca just made the neck droop. In the spirit of Joyce Williams, I decided to make it work. I could have ripped it out and knit it tighter, but I decided to put a bit of elastic around the edge. It made a ruffle, but you know, I kind of like the ruffle.

I still have enough yarn to re-do the neck, but I think I'll just let this be. For a second sweater, it's not too bad.

OMG! I finally have a great excuse to upgrade my plain old 20gb iPod to a fancy, 80GB video iPod. The excuse? Knitting of course.

Oh sure, the 80GB gives me more space for the podcasts I love. But the video? What do I care about video? Just 2 word: Elizabeth Zimmermann. As we speak, I'm transferring my copy of the EZ Knitting Glossary onto my video iPod. Whenever I want to remember how to do a German twisted cast on, all I have to do is whip out my trusty iPod and watch Elizabeth or Meg show me how. This is a wonderful use of technology.

Now I'm a die-hard Zimmermaniac. During my week at camp, I learned something very important. Whenever I think I'm being clever with some technique, I'm not. EZ already tried it and discarded it for a better way. There's very little not on that glossary that I need to have in my toolbox. Cabling without a cable needle? Meg's got it covered. Kichener? It's there too. And I don't have to carry along any little books. Just my iPod. Of course, there are other technique DVDs out there: Lucy Neatby? Maybe the videos from

I'm loving this idea. I bet you are too. I'm sure someone out there is more skilled than I at working with DVD's and video transfer, but here's how I'm doing it.

First off, I'm using Handbrake on Windows XP. This is an open-source tool, so it is free for you to use. Once you install it, there is a nice link to a step-by-step document on converting your DVD's to your iPod. I don't think I need to duplicate it for you here. However, I do have a couple of tips specific to this project.

BitRate: The preset bit rate for iPod (1.33) sets the bit rate at 1000. At this bit rate, the whole Glossary video comes in at about 1.1 gigabyte. I lowered the bitrate to 512 to reduce the file size to about 650 megabytes (or 0.6 gigabytes). When I watched the two videos on my fancy big computer monitor, I could see some small differences in the quality. However, I doubt I'll notice it on the iPod. Knitter's choice.

Chapters: At first, I just encoded the whole video into one big file. Hmmm....not so useful when you want to see one technique for casting off. When I see it on my television, I can "pick" the chapter to go to. I don't see how I can do that on my iPod. So....always the clever girl...I used Handbrake to put each chapter in a separate file. There are about 75 chapters on the video. Right now, my naming convention is a bit stupid: EZChapter3, EZChapter65, etc. Once I get done encoding all the chapters, I'll go back and give them meaningful names: CablingWithoutNeedle, GermanTwistedCastOn, etc. I'll set up a playlist on my iPod for the EZ GLOSSARY and then have all the different techniques. Or I may group them as she does on the video: a playlist for Aran Techniques for example.

Time: This stuff takes forever to do. Hours and hours. The whole video took about 4 hours to process on my dual processor computer. So...set it up before you go to bed (I used the cool feature to Queue up each chapter, then selected Encode Queue) and then press go. In the morning, it should be all ready for you.

Battery: Video ipods really suck up battery life. I don't want to find myself stuck at the SnB without my handy reference. I have a thing in my car that charges my iPod, but I don't see myself running out to the car to figure out how to do channel island cast on. When I was stuck at the Chicago airport, I picked up a little iPod battery pack that lets me run my iPod on a AA battery. A single AA battery ran my plain old non-video iPod for about 2 hours. I have a stack of rechargeable AA lithium batteries from my original digital camera. We'll have to experiment and see how well these rechargeables work with the video iPod. There's lots of other power options, but this one was particularly small and lightweight--perfect for travelling or for my knitting bag.

Headphones: I bet you can use your video iPod without headphones to see a technique, but you'll probably want to listen too. And someone in the room will want to borrow your video. I promise that's going to happen. Since I don't think I want to share my ear buds (yuck!), I'm going to toss a cheap pair of headphones into my knitting bag--you know those free ones that came in the package with your first portable tape player?

Too much technology for you? Maybe. But you'll be green with envy when you see me at the SnB with all my techniques on video.