Summer Solstice Take Three

So, as I said before, I had lots of false starts before I found a project to do on the knitting machine. The following might be useful to knitters, so I’ll go into detail. Non-knitters may want to skip this post.

When I reorganised my stash by allocating most of the yarn previously for hand knitting to either weaving or machine knitting, most of it went into the weaving pile. Only seven batches of yarn were set aside for five machine knitting projects.

1. Legacy Lane 5ply Alpaca Merino – already machine knit into a unfinished project
2. Black Panda Woolbale and some olive and black handspun – a vest
3. John Q Cotton Crepe – a cardigan
4. Green-blue dyed Cleckheaton Country – was Summer Solstice but now considering Career Tracks
5. Black Bendy Luxury and Te Awa Wools Hunky Hank – a stripy jumper/cardy

Before we went to New Zealand I’d read through the Bond Sweater Machine manuel again to make sure I remembered right how it worked. Then I read through the patterns in the back and realised the machine could do things I hadn’t realised it could do. The pattern for the pullover was pretty frumpy – as a lot of machine knitting patterns are – so I wasn’t tempted to use it.

I figured I ought to start with something basic and easy. I’d bought a copy of Machine Knitting Monthly and there was a simple cardigan marked ‘easy’ in there that the John Q cotton would suit.

But when I went to try it, the instructions were full of references to tools and methods I’d never heard of. At least I got some gauge swatches done.

So I considered just using the instructions in the Bond manuel but adding waist shaping, and looked through The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns and One Thousand Sweaters – books that have basic patterns that can be adjusted. Nothing inspired me.

The next day I started drafting up a pattern for one of those rectangular jackets with two slits in the body for the sleeves – like this one. It’s a very simple idea and best done with a yarn that’ll make a fabric with drape.

As I was doing the math, I got to thinking about sideways knit garments and how the knitting machine might be wide enough that I can do the entire body on it in one go, instead of pieces that have to be sewn together later. Like the last project I’d been working on: Summer Solstice.

And I got to thinking about Summer Solstice and how I’d started it and abandoned it twice already, the first time because the yarn was unsuitable, the second because of RSI. I remembered how annoying it was to knit because the increase and decrease rows for the front and back of the yoke didn’t match up, making it like knitting two different garments at once. Which would be even more annoying on the machine. But did it have to be so?

I got out some graph paper and began mapping out the pattern and soon my suspicions were confirmed: there really was no good reason for the pattern to be that complicated. It was possible to move the increases and decreases so they happened on the same rows without changing the shape of the garment. So I prepped the machine and got to work.

One of the limitations of knitting machines is that when you put an increase or decrease in you have to move the stitches next to it across. The yoke and arm piece of Summer Solstice, knitted sideways from the back over the shoulder to the front, has rows of decreases down the shoulder and sleeves – the middle of the work – so for every row of shaping I have to shift the stitches left or right, one at a time.

It’s time-consuming and fiddly, but worth it. Most machine knitting patterns are boxy and frumpy because it’s quicker and easier to make garments with drop shoulders and no waist shaping. But I’m not in a hurry, I’m just trying to stop overusing my hands. It used to take me a month to six weeks to hand knit a jumper or cardigan, after all.

I suspect this hand-knit pattern adaption is what most machine knitters do, anyway. Which may be why Ravelry has no ‘machine knitting’ filter in the advanced pattern search page. With weaving and crochet I tend to have trouble following patterns and do better if I just ‘wing it’, and machine knitting may turn out to be the same.

Work In Progress

Remember how I threw four packets of seeds into the driveway garden bed a few months back? Well, very few plants grew (and I suspect some of them are weeds). A few weeks ago we were excited to see three sunflower plants growing vigorously. Two have since disappeared. One was broken at the base of the stem – I suspect one of us knocked it down with a car because it’s right where we reverse to turn ours around. The other… who knows?

But one is flowering:

Plenty more flowers to come:

Must remember that car reversing problem when it comes to doing a more permanent planting in that bed.

I’ve put a new project list up in the sidebar. I’m warping the loom half an hour at a time so I don’t strain my back.

And I’ve started a cardigan on the knitting machine:

I’ll have to do a post about how I came to choose the pattern. Lots of false starts.

Whenever I get the machine out and working, I always wonder why I don’t use it more often. The answer is that I did most of my knitting while watching tv in the evening, of course. The machine needs a table, can’t be moved easily once it’s set up, makes too much noise, and you have to look at what you’re doing.

And finally, here are some Slinky paws:

It’s flattering when a cat decides to sit on your lap even on a really hot day, isn’t it?

A Week in New Zealand

We just returned from a week away. Some writerly friends arrange a writing retreat each year, and this time it was held at the new home of one of the couples – a big property in New Zealand that they’re planning to turn into a retreat hosting business. I had already decided it was going to treat it as more of a holiday than time for writing before the RSI struck, because now that Paul is going to photography school we can only travel during school holidays. Also, we didn’t make it north of Auckland when we visited in 2008, so it seemed like a good opportunity to cover that end of the country.

Our hosts’ new home even has a waterfall:

The first day trip we did was to the Kauri forests. It’s almost impossible to convey a sense of scale in photos. They’re huge:

The second trip was to Cape Reigna, the furthest north you can get by road:

And stopped by Ninety Mile Beach on the way back:

Our third was to Russell and the Bay of Islands:

All these photos were taken on my iPhone, whereas Paul took a ‘serious’ camera’. I did a little sketching, first of our host’s house:

And then their dog, Buffy:

It was great to see this bunch of friends again. They live far from me, so I tend to only see them at conventions or the retreat. We’re all writers so there’s a fair bit of writerly discussion and debate with a good mix of opinions and interests to spice it up. Along with lots of stirring and laughs, and a fair bit of overeating.

The end of the retreat was pretty much the end of my time off. It’s been a strange ‘holiday’. A lot of what I’d like to have done was scuttled by RSI, and I suspect I’ll have a nagging feeling I wasted the break when I look back. With that in mind, I’m relieved I organised to spend some time away from home.

It’s a shame, but I really do need to get out of the house in order to have a proper break. I guess it’s a down side of working from home. I can’t help checking websites and Twitter, and unless you tell people you’re not going to be home on your holiday they’ll still contact you about work.

A week away from the computer, craft, housework, cooking, etc. seems to have given my right hand and wrist the rest it needed. It feels a lot better, though the true test will be when I get back to work on Monday. I have some changes to make to my book by the end of the month. If I get through that without the RSI flaring up, things will be looking promising for the future.

A Tangled Web

I’ve been reading a little and slowly getting the loom warped. Here’s the loom right now:

Since weaving doesn’t appear to aggravate the RSI, I’ve been trying to change my knitting urges to weaving ones. Or machine knitting ones. Last month I rearranged both my stash spreadsheet and Ravelry queue so that all but one project is for the loom or knitting machine.

Yesterday these arrived in the mail:

Five year’s worth of Handwoven magazines. That’s 25 issues now on my iPhone to get inspiration from.

Did I mention the trouble I had with my Handwoven subscription? A few months ago I decided to see if I could buy digital back issues of it and Interweave Knits. I was, and discovered I liked reading them on my iPhone. When you buy them individually you get pdf files, which are easily transferred to the phone.

They didn’t have a digital subscription, so I contacted them to say that if they did, I’d buy it. Not long after they emailed to say one was now available, though Zinio. This turned out to be an online digital magazine retailer. I had to sign up to it to buy the subscription, and download the Zinio program and app in order to view the issues.

Unfortunately, there was no option to specify which issue I wanted to start with, and the subscription started with one I’d already bought. I emailed to see if this could be corrected but got no reply. A notification email arrived to tell me when the next issue was available, but not the one after that. Then on the day before Christmas I had a bit of time free to weave, went to look through the issues I’d already received and found both had disappeared from my computer. I guessed that I’d have to download them again. I’d never got the app working, so they weren’t on my phone either, but I tried again with no success.

I figured my chances of sorting this out on the day before Christmas, when they didn’t even bother replying to the previous email, were pretty slim so I bought the issues again as individual pdfs from Interweave. Then I sent an email to Interweave telling them everything and asking if it was possible to get a refund. They emailed back to say I’d have to take it up with Zinio.

After mentioning (without naming names) this on Twitter a knitter I follow guessed which company it was and told me she’d had similar problems with another magazine. I figure I’ll chalk it up as a learning experience – don’t subscribe to a digital magazine if you don’t receive an actual file. Unless, of course, it’s the sort of magazine you read once and never need to go back to.

A New Hobby

Since I needed a new hobby that didn’t use my hands too much, I decided to restart something began yonks ago and now that my parents are in their 70s I ought to tackle again: my family tree.

My plan was to 1) collect the info I and other family members have and, 2) put it into a digital form and, c) see if I can fill the gaps and then, d) get some sort of book or booklets printed.

So I dug up my old folder of research, which turned out to be very old indeed, judging by the faxes of information in there about genealogy programs for the Amiga. I nagged some stuff out of my parents and found out who else in family has done research and contacted a few of them. After doing some research on genealogy programs for the Mac, I chose one that also had an iPhone app that it synched to, had a nice looking interface, and wasn’t too bound up with Ancestry.com: MacFamilyTree.

(I’m not avoiding Ancestry.com as such, I’m keeping my options open. It’s quite expensive and my research led to doubts about the veracity of information there thanks to people entering dodgy ‘hearsay’ entries as truth and that the site automatically lists all sources as itself.)

Then I got stuck into entering the information I had. Which turned out to be both more and less than I thought. I have a lot of names, but few documents or document reference numbers to verify the source of information or provide dates and places. One branch of the tree has been very well explored by a researcher on that side, for others I have conflicting and confusing information scrawled on a piece of paper.

There’s a James Watts on the well-explored branch, but it looks like he’s not the famous one. His wife is the daughter of William Turner, but a quick look at Wikipedia revealed that there are a lot of them, so I think it’s unlikely it’s the famous painter.

Entering details into the program does make my hand start to burn after a while, so I’ve been rationing the work. I’ve done a little exploring of the internet to see what archives can be searched. Looks like my impression that there’s a lot of information out there that can be searched for free is wrong. But I haven’t looked too deeply yet.

Books Read in 2011

I read 34 books in 2012, if you include re-reading my own books. I’m very happy with that, considering that I only read ten last year, and less before then. I’d have said I’m a long way off my pre-chronic fatigue days of a book a week, but perhaps it’s not as impossible as I thought.

So here’s the list of what I read, for posterity:

Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity (nf)
Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott
Souless, Gail Carriger
Broken Kingdoms, NK Jemesin
Eona, Alison Goodman
Future Found, Nicole Murphy (ms)
Debris, Jo Anderton (q)
Leviathan, Scott Westerfield
Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris
Mystification, Kaaron Warren
Changeless, Gail Carriger
Freakonomics (nf)
The Big Re-read of 2011 (6 books)
Blameless, Gail Carriger
Gunpowder (nf)
The Kingdom of Gods, NK Jemesin (q)
Heartless, Gail Carriger
Sassycat, Richard Harland
Power Unbound, Nicole Murphy
Gamer’s Challenge, George Ivanoff
Family Trade, Charles Stross
The Wallflower, Tomoko Hayakawa
You Suck, Christopher Moore
The Killing Moon, NK Jemesin
Wicked Plants, Amy Stewart
Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction (nf)
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World (nf)
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates, Martin Hopkinson

That’s 6 fantasy, 1 science fiction, 3 horror, 4 paranormal romance, 5 steampunk, 1 manga, and 8 non-fiction, and 6 of my own books. Though some of those cross genres. The Gail Carriger books could be classed as paranormal romance, but I read them as steampunk research. Family Trade is a very science fictiony sort of fantasy. Sassycat isn’t very scary because it’s a ghost story for kids. Debris has been marketed as science fiction, but tastes like fantasy to me.

Best books? Debris is amazing, and I love Nora Jemesin’s writing. Gail Carriger’s books are great if you want a funny, pacy read. Though the non-fictions books were all great, the little art theory one really stretched my mind.

I’ve started another list in the sidebar for this year. First fiction book I’ve finished is a rollicking science fiction tale and now I’m onto the last of the trilogy. Both from my prodigious To Read list.

Vested Interest

Remember this?

Yep, the vest I made from this dodgy op shop jacket with the straightjacket arms:

I’ve been slowly painting it:

Layer upon layer upon layer:

I’m 99% there I think. I’ll leave it for a while to see if I want to dab a bit more colour on somewhere. And I have to select some buttons, too. So it’s not completely finished, but close to it.

When I’m done, I’ll do the usual headless model shot.

Plans for 2012

Work Stuff:
Editing & proofing of the previous book
Get most of the next book written
Write short stories
Do another ten character sketches
Be a great guest of honour at the New Zealand convention
Get to more Aussie conventions

Non-work Stuff:
Kick RSI, or at least don’t let it get so bad I can’t write
Try portraiture
Read books in the to-read pile
Weave and use the knitting machine more
Survive the new garage build & old garage conversion

Happy New Year

Paul and I just spent a week away, heading to Adelaide via Mount Gambier and back again spending a night in Halls Gap. We saw the New Year in with friends holding a musicals themed costume party, me as Sarah from Labyrinth and Paul as the construction worker from the Village People movie.

2011 was the year I gave up on LJ and started writing LJish blog posts here as well as craft posts. I began the year over at LJ with this list of things to achieve:

Work Stuff:
Writing The Book
Going on tour
Finishing, polishing and editing The Book
Bringing together ideas, writing a proposal for and selling the next series
Writing more short stories

Non-work Stuff:
Honing my drawing/painting skills (start life drawing classes)
Continuing making things and learning new skills (craft and art)
Reading more (or listen to audio books when my back is too stuffed for reading)
Walking more
Spending less time sitting at the computer making my back worse

Wow. I actually did nearly everything. The only item I’m not sure I achieved was walking more. It’s not that I didn’t do any walking though.

So what else did I do in 2011?

* Finished watching all of the films in the ABC Top 100 Films list except for Wings of Desire, which I still haven’t been able to get hold of.

* Was transfixed by the QLD/NSW/VIC flood news footage.

* Used up most of my silk painting materials at a Craft Day.

* Had the paving finished off, which was effectively the last bit of the big renovations.

* A week or so later a picture rail fell down and our lounge flooded.

* Opened an exhibition, at which a chat with the curator of the gallery about “contemporary with a small ‘c’ versus contemporary with a big ‘C’” that sparked lots of thought about art and whether I really fit with the art group I was in.

* Tried Ethiopian cooking.

* Tried a few printing methods and decided it was waaay too messy.

* Rearranged the workroom and decided to call it ‘the studio’. (Name didn’t stick though.)

* Was transfixed by the Christchurch quake news footage.

* Saw Hawkwind with Paul (and liked the support band a lot).

* Culled my cd and dvd collection.

* Culled my to-read pile down to 130+ books.

* Got my stash down to ten kilos.

* Got all my unframed art framed, updated the gallery site and managed to sell some work.

* Was transfixed by the Japan tsunami news footage.

* Launched a friend’s book.

* Was ‘filler’ at Supernova. (As we writers are next to the Big Stars.)

* The neighbours arranged to replace the fence and ‘fix’ the retaining wall. Then a tree branch fell on the fence. And the garden bed started washing through the holes in the shonky wall repairs…

* Had to say a final goodbye to Peri Peri, my 19 year old feline companion of 16 years.

* Finished making the pattern for and sewed up two sets of robes for characters from my books, photographed friends wearing them and started doing character sketches.

* Signed up for The Sketchbook Project.

* Adopted Slinky.

* Decided I wouldn’t start a BA in fine art, which is just as well because…

* Got RSI and had to give up knitting.