HPKCHC: Spring Break at Hogwarts

Saturday, April 4, 2009

HPKCHC: Summary

That's the combined output of three months at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup. My individual output, I should say; the Quidditch basket came together quite nicely, though my teammates had to suffer through some badly written, untested patterns from me.

During March, I focused on finishing two big projects. First, DADA:

FO: Vigilante cardi

The Vigilante cardi, which taught me the value of Constant Vigilance. Somewhat shockingly, it's only my second finished sweater. It is a vast improvement over the first (which was so bad I wore it once or twice, couldn't overcome the shame, and destroyed all evidence of its existence). Somewhere in those five or six sweaters I cast on in the middle, I became a much better knitter.

FO: Vigilante card

It's not fully blocked yet, so it will probably change appearance slightly. For the amount of trouble this sweater gave me, I'm pretty pleased with it. Something funky is going on with the armscye, which is sort of inflexible and a little too tight, but on the whole, this is a wearable sweater that fits well, is reasonably flattering, and will not need to be buried at midnight under a new moon. I was so thrilled when I finished it, I sat in the coffee shop with my fists in the air, basking in my knitterly glory. I think the guys talking Star Wars in the corner were a little freaked out.

The other big FO is, of course, the Huepow's Garden shawl:


I just don't have words for how happy this shawl makes me. It's a bit itchy, but I don't care. It's not as big as I thought it would be, and I still don't care. It doesn't have the second row of beads I was planning, I didn't block in the texture in the blue stripes the way I wanted, some of the darned-in ends are more visible than I'd like: don't care, don't care, don't care. I love this shawl. This is one of those projects that makes me feel like a genius. Seriously, look at those beads:

Huepow: stitch and beading detail

I can't get enough of them. This shawl has been very good for my self-esteem.

HPKCHC isn't quite over; the teachers are still totting up the points. The last time I looked, Ravenclaw was ahead of Slytherin by three measly points, so we're all biting our nails up in Ravenclaw Tower. But whatever the outcome is, I'm feeling really good about my participation in the game these past three months. I finished quite a few projects, accomplished some real feats of fiber manipulation, and had fun doing it together with people I like.

It's stupid o'clock

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Do you know where your T-pins are?

Huepow's Garden Shawl: Blocking

If alien anthropologists were to study my fiber habits, they would no doubt conclude that blocking could only be accomplished after stupid o'clock, usually while extremely hungry. I seem unable to block things at a reasonable hour. Sadly, alien anthropologists, there is no benefit to blocking things this late, no magical power in pinning things out by moonlight. It's just that once I finish a million-mile-long bind off, I tend to underestimate the amount of work that goes into blocking.

Huepow's Garden Shawl: Blocking

You'd think I'd learn. Even with the blocking wires, which have speeded things up considerably, I can easily take two hours to get a shawl pinned out, and most of that time is spent bent like a frog sticking pins into the carpet while my knees and back scream for mercy. But the thing is, once you get going, you can't just stop and come back another day. The wool is getting dryer every minute. There's no time to waste.

So here I am again, physically tired, very hungry, quite tired, but unable to sleep, because I'm on a blocking high. And this shawl wasn't even lace.

I think I will go eat something.

This is my city

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I took a walk.

I took my camera.

This is what my camera saw.



Fingerle Lumber

Fingerle Lumber

Fingerle Lumber

Near Main and Packard

Leopold Bros.

Fourth and Washington parking structure

Google is in this building, too

One of these things is not like the other

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Let's play a little game, shall we?

One half of this sleeve was knit at my local stitch and bitch. One half was knitted at home, parked on the couch watching TV.

Vigilante cardi: The SnB effect

Any guesses which is which?

This sleeve, by the way, was taken from my hands to show a new knitter an example of stockinette stitch. The one doing the demonstrated said, "See how this is smoother?" and then charitably added, "Of course, this hasn't been blocked yet." Obviously not. I don't know how much blocking can remedy that sort of knitting. And it was a dry meetup, too.

The cardigan that once had it in for me has decided to trade its orneryness in for the most powerful demotivator: monotony. After the lace pattern on the body combined with the shaping, the sleeve is really pretty boring. I now have this much sweater done:

WIP: Vigilante cardi: quick progress

...and it looks like I'm on track to finish well within my deadline of the end of the month.

More challenging is going to be the Huepow's Garden shawl. Last time you saw it, it looked like this:

A little more progress

And now it looks like this:

WIP: Huepow's Garden shawl: slow progress

This is the hardest thing about knitting triangle shawls from the center neck out. You start with rows that are four stitches wide and sail gaily along as the rows get wider and wider. Then you get to a point where you are pretty comfortable with the row length, which for me is at about half the finished width, and realize it's just going to keep growing. But by the magic of geometry, when you reach half the finished width... you're only a quarter of the way done knitting. You're feeling maxed out on the rows, and you have to do what you did three more times.

And then, of course, you have the pleasure of casting off something like two thousand stitches, being very, very careful to do it loosely enough that it will stretch during blocking, because heaven help you if you have to unpick those two thousand cast off stitches to redo them. It's enough to drive a woman to the bottle, but apparently that also has a detrimental effect on the average knitter's ability to execute a simple bindoff with accuracy (although the tension might no longer be an issue).

Right now, I am about two third of the way done with this shawl, and I can only knit a row or two at a time without feeling ready to burst into tears, eat a lot of chocolate, or throw the shawl into the street to be dragged away for nesting material by squirrels and raccoons. So far, only the promise I made to show it off at my LYS has stopped me. But will this one be done by the end of March? ...I might have to cheat and bind off early, if I care about my sanity or the health of my liver.

Definite signs of progress

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

After the great swatch disaster of last post, in which I was cruelly deceived by a malicious tension square, I set aside the cotton stuff and took refuge in wool.

And I just kept knitting and knitting and knitting.

A little more progress

In keeping with the theme of geeky knits, this is a video-game-inspired shawl. Not as obvious as the Ood, but perhaps even more dorky. The inspiration came from this guy:

...who also goes around looking like this:

That, of course, is Huepow. Klonoa's best buddy, masquerades as a Wind Spirit, prince of the Moon Kingdom (that's where the colors come from). Even in his humanoid form, he does a fair bit of floating. That gave me some trouble, because the HPKCHC assignment I'm making the shawl for requires the depiction of the magical creature's tracks, and what kind of tracks does a floaty wind spirit leave?

Well, I'll tell you.

Beaded ones.

WIP: The wind spirit's tracks on the garden path

Instead of prestringing beads- because that's just annoying- I added the beads as I knit, pulling each stitch through the bead with a #12 steel crochet hook. (And if you're wondering how big a #12 steel crochet hook is, just imagine how many angels could dance on the head of a pin... and cut that number in half. That's how many fit on the head of a #12 steel crochet hook.)

Beads: closeup

After my first successful go at beaded knitting, I was feeling pretty confident in my abilities. That swatch had played tricks, sure, but I am a college graduate, and I'm pretty sure my yarn is not. I could outsmart this thing.

Having played by the rules of swatching and been mercilessly beaten at the gauge game, I threw away everything I ever learned about swatches, picked a needle size that sounded good, and cast on the number of stitches for the size smaller than I wanted. In a logical world, in which the normal rules of swatching applied, this would have given me a piece of knitting either three or fifty inches wide. Instead?

WIP: Vigilante cardi

22.5" on the freaking dot.

Now all I need is for someone to reassure me that this:

Unwanted holes

...will be resolved with a good steam blocking.

Lies, damn lies, and swatches

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I have been lied to. I have been let down. Betrayed. Mislead. Scammed by a piece of string.

I know it's not all that unusual for a swatch to lie, but boy, this was a whopper, a BFL, a lie of truly epic proportions.

I'm attempting to knit a DROPS cardigan in DK-weight cotton, but I have to say at this point, it's not going well. It starts like this:

I swatch. I measure. My gauge is too small. I block, just in case. I measure. Still too small. Okay, I rip out the swatch.

I go up a needle size. I swatch. I measure. I block again, just in case. This time, the gauge is perfect.

I cast on 118 stitches, which should give me a 22.5"-wide piece of knitting.

It doesn't.

I work a few rows, measure, and stare blankly at my tape measure. I finger-block the knitting experimentally. I am four inches in to this sweater, and the 22.5" back? It is 26" wide. And that's before I attempt to stretch it. Remember, this sweater is cotton, which means it's supposed to have negative ease.

Four inches over 26 inches is quite a change, so I go down two needle sizes and start over. I would have declared it beer o'clock, except that my SnB meets in a decidedly dry coffee shop. Instead, I chugged a hot chocolate and cast on 118 stitches again.

I knit to the beginning of the lace section and stop to take a measurement, because now I am wise to the cotton's wily ways. This proves to be a valuable moment of clarity, as the 22.5" back now measures 24" precisely.

At this point, I feel I ought to offer an apology to the other patrons of the shop, as my remarks about the sweater became a bit heated. My engineer buddy and I did some quick math- in a moment of stunningly clear foresight, I had brought a calculator along in my knitting bag- and I realized that there was no way on earth I was going to get gauge with this yarn. I would be knitting on pins before I got the required gauge.

I needed to reduce the number of stitches.

At this point, having been working on this confounded sweater for approximately five hours, with a small break to crash the sale at the LYS, I decided I was done. Really done. To console myself, I attempted to begin a simple triangle shawl, could not figure out how many stitches to cast on, could not figure out where to place the decreases, ripped it all off the needles, and called it a night.

An arithmetic analysis of my knitting tonight would show that I achieved the impossible: a negative stitch velocity. I knit continuously through tonight's SnB, and at the end of the night I had less knitting to show for it than I came in with.

I think I may cry.

HPKCHC: February Wrap-Up

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February went fast. I suppose that shouldn't come as much of a surprise, since it's the shortest month of the year, but it gets me every year.

On the knitting front, progress was somewhat slow. I accomplished three knit projects for HPKCHC, but nothing nearly as monumental as last month's stash cleanup project. Still, I can add this little guy to my list of achievements:

Mah hive brain, let me show u it

He's an Ood, and I'm enormously proud of him because I knit the whole thing without referring to any kind of pattern at all. That little brain is even crochet, and I figured the whole thing out on my own. It turns out that if you understand how to knit a garment to fit a part of the human body, you also have a pretty good idea of how to knit something that looks like that part of the body. Go figure.

I feel the need to address one point of last month's HPKCHC accomplishments: the 12-month plan. Now, I knew full well that I was never going to follow that plan. I am just not that kind of knitter. I get distracted. I am unfaithful. There's a reason I never posted that plan here, and that reason is that I only ever half-heartedly (maybe only quarter-heartedly) intended to follow it.

With that disclaimer, I think I can feel pretty good that I even picked up something off the list at all: those pink cable socks that I was going to knit while I was in North Dakota. I did in fact start them while there, but size 0 needles and splitty Tofutsies got old after a while. This month I did actually pull them out of hibernation, finish up those blasted cables on the ankle, and turn the second heel. Currently, these socks are the purse socks, and they are roughly mid-gusset. That is much more progress than I made on them in the last several months, so I'm giving myself a (small) pat on the back.

As far as HPKCHC goes, the secret project will remain secret from the blog for the time being, as will the song I wrote for History of Magic, because I'm totally embarrassed to be one of those people who writes filk and then posts it on the internet. Also, mine is nowhere near as cool or funny as Tom Smith's, so if you want to listen to filk from an Ann Arborite, go listen to his.

I don't know what next month will bring, knitting-wise. I'm hoping to do some knitting to sell on Etsy, as a small financial experiment, and I have a commission to finish up. But I won't know what the HPKCHC assignments will be until the month actually begins, so I've lined up a few interesting things in my Ravelry queue, just in case they happen to fit the assignments... stay tuned.

Denominations for beginners

Friday, February 20, 2009

The diversity of American Christianity can be confusing even to people on the inside, but today the masthead quote at the Boar's Head Tavern provides a useful illustration of the differences.

“… Besides, the Word is the principal part of baptism. If in an emergency there’s no water at hand, it doesn’t matter whether water or beer is used.” - Martin Luther

The major demarcations in American Protestantism can, I think, pretty much be summed up my their reactions to this quote.

Liberal Mainliners: You know, that's a good point.

Emergent/emerging: Our next baptism will be performed with a pint of Guinness.

Baptists: Where will we get enough beer to fill the baptistery?

Southern Baptists: Beer?!?

DADA: Pimp my Bible

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It just struck me how appropriate this particular project is for a class called Defense Against the Dark Arts. Bible accessories vs. Dark Arts. Nice.

The February assignment for DADA was:

Expecto Patronem: Make something having to do with your patronus. Extra points for explanations of what your patronus is, and why.

I was a bit slow to figure out what my Patronus would be. Last month's Charms assignment also had to do with Patronuses (Patroni? Sounds like a really tasty pasta), but I never made it past the association with purple. For this month, though, I wanted to work on developing the idea of my Patronus a little bit, since this assignment focused more on the Patronus itself, rather than its effects.

I went back to a name I'd been given previously. There's a whole story about fire names, rooted in the tradition of summer camp, and it feels a little silly to talk about it outside the circle, as it were. Essentially a fire name is a descriptive name that represents something about your character.

I was given the fire name "Unyielding Granite", which I have since decided is something like calling once-Cardinal Ratzinger the "papal bulldog" (only a bit more Protestant). I like having conversations about religion and matters of doctrine, but I'm also pretty unmovable on the things I'm convinced of. Luther said- reportedly- "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders," and I'm of much the same mind.

So I got to thinking about what animal might best represent this aspect of my nature, and I arrived at the obvious answer: the Ox.

Well, it was obvious to me.

I have other associations with the Ox, too: I was born in the year of the Ox according to the Chinese zodiac. Also, the ox, in the Bible, is associated with those who teach the Bible- fitting, I think, for someone who wants to work in Bible translation.

Having settled on the identity of my Patronus, I took a longer time trying to figure out what project I could possibly knit to tie in all those meanings. The ox is not the animal most likely to be represented in knitted form. Cue inspiration number one: The oxo cable.

I knew that the project had to be small, because I wanted to knit it from the leftovers from last month's Charms project, which was two-thirds of a skein or less. And it had to look good in purple.

Finally, two weeks into the planning stage, I put together the meaning of my Patronus with its function, worked out the sum, and found its form: Bible accessories! (Is there anything more Sunday-school-Protestant than Bible accessories?)

Introducing the Purple Patronus Pen Pocket:

FO: Purple Patronus Pen Pocket

...modeled by the lovely ESV Journaling Bible (the best investment I ever made. Seriously. Dead useful). I had been keeping a pen tucked under the elastic strap that holds the book closed, but it kept falling off or poking me or flipping around at inconvenient times. I think the pocket will be much less likely to cause injury. (Plus it looks prettier. ^.^)

The PPPP is the latest upgrade in a series I'm making to this Bible. The very first thing I did was make more bookmark ribbons, because one bookmark isn't very useful at all. Next up, I think, will be adding a little accordion file-ish pocket for the scrap paper notes that are currently sitting free inside the front cover and fall out the instant they get a chance. We'll see.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

I've spent a fair amount of time marvelling at the Yarn Harlot's way of knitting, which she calls "Irish Cottage knitting", though the rest of the world seems to know it as "lever action knitting" or, more picturesquely, "armpit knitting" (or "crotch knitting"). It's a variant on English knitting that keeps the right needle stationary, and though I don't fully understand how it's worked, that's probably because no one has ever been able to slow down an armpit knitter enough to see what they're doing.

She's fast. Really fast. But then I stopped to consider how fast I knit, in terms of stitches per minute, and I found that I wasn't that much slower. If I'm concentrating, I can whip them off the needle at about that speed. (Stopping to scoot the stitches along the needle every ten stitches or so is what slows me up.)

So why does my knitting look so slow and hers look so fast? I think it's because she uses such big motions to work the stitches. It's counter-intuitive- you'd think that to go faster, you'd want to minimize motion. So I thought about this a little bit.

The Harlot and I knit at about the same speed, stitch per stitch. The difference is that she can keep it up for a long, long time, whereas I get tired easily. It turns out that it's the little motions- like the small motions I use when knitting Continental- that cause repetitive stress injuries. By knitting with those large, sweeping motions, her hands are getting less tired.

So now I'm weighing the costs and benefits of switching knitting techniques again. I know that I'm running up against the grass-is-greener principle here, but really, what can it hurt? If I try it and don't like it, I can switch back. All I have to lose is a few hours of feeling clumsy and uncomfortable at something I'm pretty good at. It's just a matter of steeling myself to survive those hours, which sounds silly, but feeling like a total beginner again is rather stressful. The question is, is it more stressful than having to lay off knitting and ice my arm for the days after Christmas?