Monday, February 28, 2011

Knitpicks Chroma, redux

So, there were a couple more things I wanted to say about Knitpicks Chroma, now that I've used it some more.  Firstly, I stand by my assertion that this yarn would suck for socks.  It felts REALLY easily, probably because it is so fuzzy.  It is also a bit thick and thin.  While these are fabulous qualities in say a scarf, they are not so great for something you want to wear inside your shoes.  Well, not the felting part, but that's at least not a liability in most accessories.  It also shares something else with Noro - knots.  My first ball had two knots and a weird slubby place.  Only one of them joined two disparate colors, however, which puts this yarn ahead of Noro in that department.  Also, there's no hay in it, and it's much less expensive than Noro.  I'd use it again!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Power to the cables!

 I just got the book Power Cables by Lily Chin, and I have to say... if you like cables, and you have any desire whatsoever in you to design, you will probably like this book.  The great thing about it is it's not just a big collection of cable charts - although it has lots of those too - she takes the time to explain how you design cables.  Her charting system is pretty clever, too.  The way it's set up, it's very easy to use her charts for either knit or crochet, as all they show is the crossings.  You can fill in any (reasonable) number you want, and use any stitch you want, and get cables that look about like the picture.  In addition, it's a very visual charting method, which is nice.  In all honesty, traditional cable charts, to me, look nothing like the cables they produce.  These charts do.  As a designer, and as somebody who just really likes cables, I'm glad I picked this book up.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My not so secret secret

So, I suppose I should just tell everybody plain-like, even tho I've never particularly kept it a secret.  It's heresy on some accounts, for sure.  Elizabeth Zimmerman spins in her grave every time I pick up my needles.  But here it is: I knit left handed.

By that I don't mean "continental," although I do that to.  What I mean is, when I knit, my stitches move from my right needle to my left needle, rather than the other way around.  The technical term for this is "mirror knitting."  Now us left-handers get a lot of flack about how knitting is a "two handed activity" and we should just learn to knit the "normal" way, because if we don't we'll "never" be able to read patterns, at least not without making "major" modifications, in effect rewriting the pattern.  We should just knit the normal direction, continental, as that puts the yarn in the left hand and is therefor "left handed."

Can you tell where I disagree?  Look, I am perfectly capable of knitting in the right handed direction.  But it's awkward and slow and I make a lot of mistakes.  Plus, if you watch me closely, you'll notice that whichever direction I'm knitting, I'm not using both hands equally.  My right hand holds the yarn.  My left hand does just about everything else.  Most right handers you'll watch are the same way, except it's their right hand doing most/all of the work.

And never read patterns?  Have to make major modifications to make patterns work?  Puh-lease!  I knit patterns as written.  Yes, left handed.  Yes, and turn out a perfectly credible finished object.  Check my Ravelry project page if you don't believe me!  I make exactly one change to patterns: where a pattern says right, I read left, and vice versa.  Given that I've been doing that my entire life on EVERYTHING, it's pretty automatic.  The only difference when I follow a written pattern?  I produce a mirror image of what a rightie would, so my cables twist the other way and so on.  Not a big deal.  What about charts?  I LOVE charts.  I just read them the direction I knit, which is great, since English is read from left to right, as well.  Really, I don't know how righties manage charts... you have to read them BACKWARDS!  And no, this doesn't make my decreases lean the wrong way.  I do it like it is in the picture, and it turns out just like it would if a rightie were doing it.

And that whole "continental = left handed" thing?  I can tell you for a fact that it is not true.  See, the part of knitting that is hard, the part that takes fine motor skills and hand eye coordination, isn't tensioning or wrapping the yarn.  It's inserting the working needle into the stitch to be worked.  When I knit left handed, my left hand (with the working needle) spears the stitch.  When I knit right handed, I sort of use my left hand to impale the stitch on the working needle.  My right hand is kind of dumb.  You would not be far off if you imagined it as one of those articulated mannequin hands that artists use.  It holds the yarn and tries not to move too much.  When I knit left handed, this is continental.  If I try to put the yarn in my left hand (as so many misguided knitting teachers advise), my whole arm rebels.  I figure that my left hand is doing EVERYTHING ELSE, so tensioning the yarn is just the straw that breaks the camel's back.  Righty has to do something, right?

But you know what?  Everybody is different.  A lot of left handed folk are perfectly content and coordinated knitting right handed, either English or continental.  That's fine!  Everybody ought to knit in the manner that makes them most happy and comfortable.  So, misguided yet helpful righties of the world, please leave my left handedness alone.  Crocheting left handed isn't a big deal.  Knitting left handed shouldn't be either.  Even though Elizabeth Zimmerman hated it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hand problems and yarnish thoughts

So, my long time readers will know that I suffer occasionally from ulnar nerve pain.  Mine is primarily brought on by over use, but I know there are lots of yarn-wielders out there for whom hand pain is a constant in their crafting lives.  I have also found that the support braces and gloves available for hand pain are often unsatisfactory - many are too stiff, offer too little support, or support in the wrong places.  So I thought to myself, wouldn't it be great to be able to make my very own support glove that was tailor made to my hand problems?  And if I made it myself, I would be able to make it pretty, or at least not butt ugly (as ALL of the commercial options are).  Which of course led me to thinking about writing patterns (because everything leads there these days).  So I ask you, fellow yarners with hand problems: what do you want in a knit or crochet crafting support glove?  Is there a commercial glove that you use?  Why do you like it, and what would you change about it?  Please tell me!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Working at home and time management

Working from home is not a new thing for me.  I've been doing freelance editing and translation for home pretty much since I graduated, so incorporating design into my home work schedule hasn't been too big of a deal.  However, there are some issues with working from home that people who have never done it don't think of.  The main issue is time management.  People tend to assume that, since you are at home, you are going to watch the kids, clean the house, AND work a full day, all at once.  Because you are at home after all, doesn't that mean you take care of the home things?

I probably don't need to tell you that this is blatantly impossible.  Full time stay at home moms with no other job have a hard time finding enough hours in the day to take care of the kids and keep the house up, because those are HARD JOBS.  They are not things that automatically take care of themselves just because you happen to be at home.  And work at home jobs aren't either.  When I have an editing job, somebody has to watch the kids so I can work... just like if I was going in to the office.  Hours I spend writing up proposals, running tests, and making samples, likewise, are hours that I can't spend mopping or doing the dishes.

Why the office-working average doesn't understand this, I will never know, however when I first started this, I did get a lot of "since you are home anyway, could you..." "your house must be so clean since you work from home," and so on.  The assumption is that if you are home all day, you must not be working!  But you have to learn to set firm boundaries (no I cannot run errands for you I have to work!) and explain, occasionally, the realities of working from home.  Another useful skill is letting things like that roll off your back.  It doesn't matter what your neighbors think of your housekeeping!

The upside to all of this (and how we make it work) -- working from home is extremely flexible.  Because you have no commute, there's no wasted time driving.  Because you make your own schedule, you can take advantage of nap time and after the kids go to bed, and do most of your work then.  "But isn't that like working two jobs?!"  you may say.  Well, yes, it is.  But so is working at an office and having a family.  It's just a different method of managing your responsibilities.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Crochet socks, the finale

Ta-dah!  Finished socks!  In all honesty, I have some mixed feelings about them.  Some is from the nature of the sock, some from my execution, but all around, I'm fairly pleased with them.  They are very warm, mostly fit right, and look pretty.  In a nutshell, the things that were just me:
  • I should have used a slightly smaller hook.  Oops.
  • Despite careful measuring, I managed to make the cuff both slightly too big and shorter than I wanted.
  • I should have left a longer tail when I started - it would have made the seaming bit go much more smoothly.
  • This is actually something I did right... but crochet socks fit better with less negative ease than one would normally build into a knit sock.  Probably because the stitches are more textured, and while it is just as stretchy as my knit socks, the more you stretch any fabric the more the stitches start to feel like little pebbles in your shoe. 
The main not my fault issue with these socks is the texture of the sole.  They do not feel like knit socks!  It's rather like walking around on one of those foot massaging mats that used to be so popular.  Some people will love it, some people will hate it.  I have mixed feelings about it, and actually rather prefer them inside a shoe to just walking around in socks, and have a definitely preference for the single crochet portions (the heel and toe) over the crunch stitch portions.  Advantages?  They are extremely warm, much warmer than socks knit with similar yarn, and really not that much thicker (they are still perfectly comfortable in my sneakers).  They worked up very quickly, and that included a lot of seaming.  A crochet sock in the round would be even faster.  Crochet as usual has it for pretty but easy to do stitch patterns - I liked what the crunch stitch did with my variegated yarn, and it was pleasantly mindless.

So, in summary, I like my crochet socks.  I will probably wear them frequently.  But I haven't decided yet whether I want to do it again.  What I think I REALLY want is a way to make a sock with a knit sole but a crochet instep and cuff.  Which I will have to think really hard about.  Maybe my Ravelry-fu is lacking, but I can't find any such pattern.  Sigh.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knitpicks Chroma... I got the new yarn!

I have to be honest, I feel pretty special for actually getting  Chroma in my yarn support package.  The reason is I know several other designers who submitted proposals for Chroma that got something else, plus it is a BRAND NEW yarn line so they're probably swamped with requests for it, which leads me to believe that they're being choosy about who they actually give it to.  If you know for a fact that I'm mistaken, I suppose you can tell me, or you can just let me continue to feel special.

Anyway, Chroma is a single ply, 70% wool 30% nylon blend yarn.  It is self striping, with those long slow color transitions that are so popular right now.  Think Noro, but less rustic.  It is very soft, and so far has NO hay in it.  Maybe I'm the only one, but I find a lot of hay in Noro.  The colors are lovely and rich.  It comes in both fingering and worsted weights.  One thing I can say is even tho it's a wool nylon blend in fingering weight, I don't personally recommend it for socks.  Partially because it's my personal policy not to knit socks out of non-superwash wool, and partially because the fuzzy texture of Chroma, inside a shoe, sounds like felt and pill city to me.  It does make lovely accessories, however, and is very pleasant to work with.  It has a little bit of the thick and thin thing going, but not enough to mess with your gauge.  As with all self striping yarn, I particularly like it for things that have shaping with increases or decreases... I like how the stripes bend around the corners.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Learning to cable, and a cowl

New pattern available today!  My Touch of Spice Cowl is designed to be a perfect first crochet cables project - the pattern includes a photo tutorial on how to cable, tailored to the cowl pattern, which is perfect for practice.  And such elegant results!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Yup, I have been busy at that.

This week was Chinese New Year.  That means that my parents went to my dad's former coworker's Chinese New Year party, and since we live in the same state now, we got invited too.  It of course got out way too late for us to drive home (we live an hour away), so we had a slumber party at Grandma's house, followed by a day of waiting for it to stop snowing (it didn't).  Oh yeah, and my husband appears to have an ear infection.

I promise, fibery ramblings are forthcoming.  Just not right this second.  Because I'm tired now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crochet socks some more

Well, I decided I didn't like the sc ribbing after all, so I frogged and started over.  BOO.  The good news is I'm most of the way finished with the toe, and have to say that these are some ingenious socks.

They're really curly at this point, so I had to kind of pin them down to get a good picture.  But seriously, clever right?  That's the whole cuff, the top of the foot, and the first part of the bottom of the toe.  So the seams go up the sides of the foot then up the back of the cuff, where there's less pressure on them.  Neat!