I’m baaaaaack(-ish)

November 17, 2010

I needed a place to post my Yarn Diet 2010-2011 plan, since I keep my other online spaces fairly fiber-free and I’d lose it on Ravelry.

I was inspired by Emilee’s resolutions here and the fact that all five cats can now comfortably nest in my stash. It’s big enough that I can’t even tell you how much I have, just that it’s starting to make me nervous that five cats can nest in it.

Now, my biggest concern was setting a time frame for this – a year seems to be a pretty common goal, but I break into a cold sweat at the thought of it. So for now the main goal is May 16, 2011, six months from the last day I bought yarn (yesterday). However, if I get through the holiday season (defined as from now to January 6, 2011) without a fiber-y falldown, I’ll treat myself to a single skein of something good.

A few exceptions, of course:

1. Yarn for commissions. This is kind of a gimme – I make the money back when the commission is complete.

2. Yarn to complete my Couverture blanket squares. I was originally aiming for 80 squares, which gives me a 56″x70″ blankie – not bad. But now I have visions of a queen-size dancing in my head.

3. Yarn for future OWLs for the HPKCHC on Ravelry. I’m thinking that this isn’t such a big thing, but might get more important in April.

4. Two free passes – but neither can be used before January 6th.


The Pitfalls of Stashbusting

July 8, 2009

Stash – tr.v. To hide or store away in a secret place. n. 1. A secret place where something is hidden or stored away. 2. Something, such as money or an illegal drug, that has been hidden or stored.

If any of you know knitters (or are knitters), you probably know how easily one could replace “illegal drug” with “yarn” in the above definition.

Some knitters don’t have a yarn stash; they buy yarn for a project or two, knit it up, then buy yarn for the next project. If they have any stash, it’s those finicky little leftover ends of skeins they didn’t use up.

But many knitters do have a stash, a cache of yarn they keep to inspire, to pet, or just because their hands move at a slower rate that that of the projects being added to their wishlist.

Many probably come upon their current stash status through honest yarn lust, by buying yarn for the next two (or three or twenty) projects, or being unable to resist anything discounted more than 40%.

However, I have the feeling that there are at least a few knitters whose stash snuck up on them – I have a bag of acrylic yarn of unknown origin, as well as some odd skeins from my mom’s friend’s stepmother’s former stash and have pretty much no intention of using them for anything besides playing with the cats.

For almost as soon as a knitter realizes that their stash qualifies as, well, Stash, they begin to to think of “stashbusting”.

Stashbusting is a noble goal – it’s less expensive than buying new yarn for a project, frees up space…and I am very bad at it.

Case in point: At the end of this past semester, I bought a skein of yarn that I really loved and did not need. I had no purpose in mind for it, just a vague impression of “hat”. But I was determined that this skein would not vanish into the stash, that I would make use of it and soon.

So I knit a hat. The Ganomy Hat, by Elizabeth Zimmerman from her book, A Knitter’s Almanac. A good hat with neat shaping that completely covers the ears, a common hat lack.

I was left with a smallish ball of yarn and this is where my failure always begins. The amount of yarn looked much too small to make anything useful with, but I hauled out my postal scale and weighed it. A few calculations later, I made a horrifying discovery.

The hat had only used of half the yarn!

With some quick thinking, I used the scale to divide the remaining yarn into two smaller, equal balls. Surely there was not enough to make a pair of mittens, but maybe if I mixed it with something?

Alas, I had no good brown or blue yarn that matched. So (and this is the horrifying bit) I bought more yarn to match.

And I knit myself a pair of mittens.

Truly, a nice pair of mittens. Mitered Mittens, also by Elizabeth Zimmerman, from the same book. Not too fond of the thumb, though.

However, there was still some yarn left from the original skein. So, with a heavy heart, I weighed it.

A quarter of the yarn remained.

I’m looking up cowl and scarf patterns as I write this.

n.

  1. A secret place where something is hidden or stored.
  2. Something, such as money or an illegal drug, that has been hidden or stored.

Inkubook

June 29, 2009

Way back in March I stumbled upon a site called Inkubook, which was set up so that the user could create their own photo book. I immediately hit upon the idea of creating a book about my time in Japan and started uploading photos.

I was very impressed with the site software. You select which type of book you were putting together and are presented with a certain number of layouts and themed backgrounds to use in your project, though I later discovered that you could access all of the available backgrounds and layouts if you so desired.

It took almost three months, working on and off with varying amounts of intensity to get all of the photos I wanted arranged correctly, to add captions and fill in some of the blank space around the photos with excerpts from my journal.

As far as I could see, they were only three drawbacks: No built-in spellcheck, which for me meant getting my very willing dad to proofread (no easy task considering the amount of Japanese place names). The software could occasionally take forever to load and while finishing up on my new netbook I almost developed eyestrain. Finally, the software required a certain quality of image to guarantee a good product, which was fine for my own photos, but a little more problematic when it came to using friends’ photos for events I had no photographic record of. The images looked fine onscreen, but  I had a few nervous moments imagining how they could ruin the final product.

I finished up last week and the book arrived today.

You have to select the size you want before you start, since that affects the photo layouts. This is the 8.5×8.5 size, currently only available in softcover. For sixty-five pages of material, it ran me 23.95 plus about ten dollars flat shipping for the two copies I ordered.

If you want hardcover, the three larger sizes, 8.5×11 portrait, 8.5×11 landscape, and 11×11 square are are all available, with prices varying by page number. You can fill up to 120 pages.

I am very happy with quality of the paper and the photo printing job. My pictures are huge and bright and crisp, and the ones that were of a lower quality still aren’t too bad. They certainly don’t take away from the overall quality.

While there were plenty of cutesy, scrapbook style backgrounds available, they were so European-themed that I went with black matte backgrounds for almost every page. I was trying to fit in as many pictures as possible, so most of the time I stuck with the layouts of the sort visible on the right and put the captions in the back of the book. In some cases, however, I had the slightly more panoramic pictures stand alone on a page with their own caption right there.

In some cases, I used a really nice picture to fill the whole page or picked a color from the palette available to fill in the background. These are the pages I’m really proud of – I almost never get prints bigger than 4×6 and it was awesome to see these huge, high-quality prints of my pictures of the Golden Pavilion.

In some cases, there was enough space on the page that I could include a journal entry from the same day. My journal and Mauri in Japan turned out to be indispensable for adding dates to all of the pictures. This book wouldn’t be nearly as accurate as it is without them.

At the end of the book, I put in a dramatis personae, listing everyone in the book and giving the page numbers for each picture they appear in. There are also captions for every picture that appeared on a page that didn’t have its own caption box.

This was probably my biggest mistake – I spent so much time in the program double-checking that the page numbers were correct and the captions were accurate that I neglected to think about how the page numbers would be printed.

There are no page numbers in my book. The captions are not quite useless, since the go page-by-page in order, but it should be fun to see how easy it is to look up a picture of a person. *sigh*

Overall, I am extremely happy with the book and if this seems like one huge plug for Inkubook, well it kind of is.

Final tip – they send out coupons fairly often, so keep an eye on them if you’re close to finishing the book. I ended up using a 30% off coupon they sent me in a panic after I didn’t work on my book for more than a month, afraid that I had abandoned it permanently.


What I Have Learned While Studying for the MCAT

May 17, 2009

1. I know more Latin than I think I do. Anything with -ase attached to it means that it breaks up whatever is attached to the front. In other words, maltase breaks up maltose, a sugar. You can tell it’s a sugar because it ends in -ose. Lactase –> lactose. Sucrase –> sucrose. And so forth.

2. My Biology professor taught us nothing useful about animals or the human body. That’s right – I’m going into the MCAT with a ninth grade biology understanding of the human body. Fungi? Forget it.

3. I still hate the Kreb’s Cycle.

4. College organic chemistry courses are there to prepare you to become chemists. Doctors are not chemists. MCAT organic chemistry is baby organic chemistry. I believe that the requirement made by most medical schools that applicants have at least two semesters of organic chemistry has two purposes:

– To make sure the applicants know some of the chemistry that is not taught in the first two semesters, in general chemistry.

– To weed out the weak-willed from the herd.

5. The math required for the MCAT does not rise above ninth grade basics. This is amusing because the physics required for the MCAT is all calculus based.

6. I am not as worried about the Verbal Reasoning section as I should be.


Drive-by Posting

April 26, 2009

I think I’ve qualified for missionary status.


March FOs and Sundry

March 15, 2009

*sidles sheepishly on screen*

Hi.

Been awhile, huh?

1. Things that have been accomplished so far in the month March, specifically, things that are fiber-related.

First up is something I started near the end of February, in an attempt to deal with some of the random cotton scraps littering my Minnesota mini-stash.

This neat pattern is the NunuYaya Washcloth by Jess Marks-Gale, available here for free. After I finished two of these I had the awful idea of wet-blocking them…out on our porch, where it was readily dipping below 0 degrees at night. This is the result – a star frozen solid enough to use as a shuriken.

Here’s one being propped up by the other. I don’t know exactly what yarn this is – some sort of cotton worsted from the knitting club’s grab bag.

Near the beginning of March, I went a little beret crazy. I started the River Tam, by Jessamyn Leib, as a stash-buster. I wanted to use a skein of Classic Elite Yarns Alpaca Sox that I’ve had for at least two years and I knew I didn’t want to make socks. The stash-busting was a failure – I still have enough for another hat – but I think the project was an success.

The pattern is free, and written for sport weight yarn, so I adjusted by casting on 122 stitches instead of 86. The hat is extremely versatile, you can shape it in a variety of ways, such as the beret above, or my personal favorite, below:

I loved this hat so much that I did something unusual (for me) – I knit it again, less than three days later:

The yarn for this hat has a story. Two weeks ago, I attended a class at The Yarnery, my LYS, as I had been asked if I could volunteer my experience with Japanese in a class on knitting from Japanese patterns. As a thank you, I received the ever-coveted yarn store gift certificate. I managed not to spend it that night, but my strength only held out till the following Friday knit-night. A skein which I’d had my eye on for awhile suddenly became irresistible – one of Misti International’s Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Chunky in the colorway ‘Foxtail.’

I loved everything about it – the weight, the softness, every single color…I spent the ride home on the bus petting it while my friends whispered worriedly. I spent about 3 hours looking for a beret pattern, before giving in and casting on another River Tam, this time with only 58 stitches. It took less than a day, considering the yarn weight, and I’ve worn it every day since that the weather has allowed.

2. Yesterday was Pi Day, March 14, also known as 3/14, the first three digits in pi. A groups of friends came over and one of them used his crazy from-scratch cooking skills to whip up a lemon tart and an odd apple pie. I don’t have a picture of the apple one, but the lemon tart couldn’t be missed.

Yes, that is a pi symbol made of crust in the center.

3. I’ve been playing around with a site called Inkubook. It’s intended for people who want an actual book filled with their own pictures and captions. The prices are pretty reasonable, so I’m putting one together with my photos from Japan. I’ll post when I’m done and have received it, since hopefully it will measure up to the quality I’m picturing in my head.

4. My mother and I spent two weeks chiding each other since she was convinced I hadn’t put a photo of Charlie on the blog, knitting, and I was convinced that I had. Well, she was right. I had posted my picture of Charlie knitting…in a private entry that only I could see.

So here it is:


Ice Skating

February 26, 2009

Just a few photos from ice skating this past Sunday. A lot more people were supposed to show up, but there was such a long gap between the the planning stage and the execution that most forgot and it turned into a housemates-only activity.

Lisa plays hockey, but I haven’t skated since they closed the rink in Tucson and Charlie was a little vague on his experience. His skating was a little vague as well, but he managed to stay upright for the most part.

Sorry Charlie, it was you with your eyes closed or me with a rather unflattering look on my face.

The rink was pretty nice and just right up the street from the house. They have an hour and a half of open skate between al the kids running around for hockey practice. There was also a rather high (and adorable) proportion of fathers with teeny-tiny daughters, teaching them how to skate, as well as a mix of novice to experienced skaters. Just like the roller skating rink back in Tucson, the experienced skaters seemed to be for nothing except to intimidate everyone else by skating just a little too closely.

Luckily, this rink had something I hadn’t seen before – rink guards, there to help you up when you fell, offer skating advice, and keep the sheep in line for the most part.