Sunday, November 29, 2009

FO & Crochet Killer App

In my other life, the tech world, we talk about the concept of a killer app. It's usually used in the context of being the one thing that convinces you to use a particular piece of hardware. In the context of video gaming, we used to say that Halo was the killer app for Xbox - it wasn't available for any other gaming machine (at the time), and it was so good you just had to get yourself an Xbox.

I recently found my Crochet Killer App: the thing that convinced me to seriously take up crochet. You know, like following a pattern and everything...

The Metropolitan Headphones (scroll down) from Brooklyn Tweed's pattern book.

Big old retro headphones - (a.k.a. "cans") in wooly form.

I think I look suitably ridiculous in them, no?

Crochet is terrific for structured fabrics, and using two different sizes of crochet hooks you get a nicely formed earcup. They're hollow in the original design - to put over your headphones! Since I use earbuds, and my ears get very cold, I'm thinking of lining them with fleece for extra warmth.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Friends in Kenosha, WI Have Been Improving Things Again

I'm not a user of sock blockers. I have feet for that, after all. My usual (foolproof and pragmatic if slightly odd) method for blocking socks is to get them wet, roll them in a towel to wring them out, put them on, take them off, and then hang them to dry.

I struggle more with drying them than I do with blocking them. I often handwash my handknit socks - not entirely necessary, but it's not a huge hassle and it it's worth it to me if they last longer. And then I have to hang them up to dry.

The thicker ones take ages to dry.

(Gratuitous damp sock story: last October, we flew to the UK for a weekend to surprise one of my brothers brother for his 50th birthday. I finished a pair of Socks that Rocks socks moments before we left home, so I wore them on the plane. I washed them on the Saturday morning, and on the Monday morning, as I was dragging myself out of bed for an early flight, I realized they were still pretty damp. Lots of frantic toweling, and a spin in the dryer, and they were still damp when I needed to leave. Naturally, they were the only clean socks I had, so I put them on anyway and headed out. By the time I got to the departure lounge, they were mostly dry, and to finish them off I took them off in the ladies' loo and spent a few minutes with them under the hand-dryer. I am quite certain that stranger things have been dried under the hand-dryers in the toilets at Heathrow - I didn't get a single funny look. Anyway, no trench foot, no pneumonia, and the best-blocked socks ever.)

My brilliant friends at Signature Needles have solved my sock-drying problem with their new sock blocker/sock drying rack. Love it! Socks dry in record time, and they are elegantly out of the way on my shower rack - and if they are dripping, it all drips nicely into the tub. The rack also hangs over a doorknob or a corner of my laundry rack.

Brilliant and beautiful - they've done it again.

(All I need now is a travel version... )

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reader Mail: On Signature Straight Needles

Lisa read my post on the Signature dpns and asks about their straight needles.

I have one set - I'm not much of a straight needle knitter myself, I find them too long. It sounds silly, but they get caught in my bracelet.

I do have a single pair of the 7 inch needles in the 4.5mm size - the size I used most often for demonstrations in my classes. I'm teaching a fixing mistakes class this week, for example, and I have a couple of swatches I like to have on needles.

There is a major difference between the straights and the dpns - and that's the bodies of the needles. The straight needles have very slick bodies; the dpns are slightly grooved so that your knitting stays in place.

You can also get different points with the straights - Stiletto, Blunt or Middy. I'm a Stiletto girl all the way, but I can definitely see the value of blunt needles for fuzzy or splitty yarns. You also have a choice of decorative ends, which I think is a lovely touch.

Again, colour coded by size, which is not to be underestimated. (In my Fixing Mistakes class, one of the confessions I hear quite regularly is about knitting with mismatched needles...)

Again, they are an investment, and might not be for everyone - but they are tremendous, tremendous tools.

The yarn, BTW, is the amazingly soft, warm and delicious bamboo blend sock yarn from Bijou Basin. Am noodling on a scarf/lace idea for it and I have been swatching. I do love the Signature needles for lace because the famous Stiletto points are unbelievably good for all that decreasing.

(I'm not being paid to advertise these products, I promise. I'm just a fan!)

On Display...

A few weeks ago, Megan at Lettuce Knit got a funny phone call. From a certain High-End Department Store on Bloor Street in Toronto. They needed a scarf. A red scarf. For their holiday store display. Specifically, they needed 58 feet of red scarf.

Megan found the heaviest red yarn she could locate - Cascade Magnum - and I did some math.

58 feet was going to take 15 skeins.

The wrinkle was that this High-End Department Store needed it within a week.

Calls were made. Knitters were gathered. DVDs were rented. 15mm needles were distributed.

Me, I did about one and half skeins' worth.

I went to visit it last weekend, this scarf. Looks rather chic, no? It's in three sections, spread around this rather amazing display on the second floor.

This will be the only time in my life that any of my work will be on display at High-End Department Store, and I'm going to enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Gifting/Thinking About Christmas

I finished the gift project the other day... looks pretty good, I think.

N. is modeling it very reluctantly.

A labour of love indeed. It wasn't a giant project, and so it wasn't a huge burden, and I'm happy to have done it.

Lots of good comments and discussions around the "Labours of Love" post. One knitter says that she's entirely happy to knit for someone who doesn't ask - since it's a genuine, from-the-heart gift. Makes sense to me!

I am considering knitting one gift for Christmas this year. Just a small thing, but I think it will be appreciated. Or will at least get a laugh.

Speaking of Christmas, have developed a mild obsession with this....

Yes, it's tacky Christmas sock yarn with glitter in it. And I needs me some.

My lame attempt at rationalizing it goes like this... I'm always knitting socks in public, and usually have one on the go when I'm teaching - and wouldn't it be fun it if were seasonal!

Yeah, that's it.

Might have to make a special pilgrimage to Mary Maxim to get me a ball.

Yes, that's right. It's tacky Christmas sock yarn with glitter in it MADE BY MARY MAXIM.

I am so ashamed...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flat 'at

I look sorta drunk, but for a variety of reasons, that's actually the right look for the hat.

Morgan, as published on Knitty. It's a feat of engineering, that hat. Very clever pattern. Not an easy go - there isn't a single section of autopilot knitting - every single row/round has to be counted, with increases and decreases and short rows.

But absolutely, 100% worth it.

My new favourite drinking hat.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Price No Object/Labours of Love

Every knitter I know has been asked at least once... "Will you knit a hat/sweater/scarf/pair of socks for me?"

All knitters, when asked this question, hold their breath for the inevitable next bit... "I'll pay."

I recently had a very nice email from someone in Australia - probably found me through a google search - asking if I could help him find someone to knit him socks. Socks like his grandmother used to make. "Price not really an object."

I tweeted about this, and got some amusing responses. Yup, we'll all been there.

Most sensible knitters simply provide a rough estimate of the number of hours required to knit such a thing, and the conversation stops dead. Some knitters I know quote a (seemingly) outrageous amount - $1000! - to much the same effect.

But you know, $1000 isn't far off for a sweater.

An average pair of socks, by the average knitter, in average sock yarn takes on the order of 10-15 hours. Multiply that by a reasonable hourly rate - $15 an hour, let's say - and that's $150 to $225 in knitting time. Then add yarn - $25 for something nice.

$175-$250 for a pair of socks.

A sweater can be 40 hours knitting. That's $600 for the time. And then a sweater's worth of yarn is $100 or more. So we're at $700. Then factor in things like opportunity cost (Christmas is coming and by making this sweater for you I'm sacrificing key gift-making hours), cost of needles you have to buy, and the coffee and chocolate you'll need to push through a deadline project - and all of a sudden $1000 doesn't look insane.

I don't begrudge a non-knitter asking the question. It's reasonable enough. After all, it wouldn't occur to someone that knitting could be so slow. You can see the incredulous look on the faces of the muggles... WHAT? This is a sensible use of time?

At this point, I usually just smile and remark that it's a labour of love.

All that having been said, many of my friends and students know that I'm currently knitting a scarf for someone to give as a gift to someone else. The person who asked me to knit it likely hasn't the faintest idea how much work is going into it - and in this case, that's ok. I love both of them (the requestor and the giftee) and it means a lot to me to do it.

(You know who you are - damn right you're taking me out for a meal, though ;-) )

Sunday, November 08, 2009

On Pairs of Socks - Or Not

Of late, I've been noodling on the concept of a pair of socks.

Most pairs of socks are two of the same. That is, the two are exactly the same.

But when I look at my sock drawer, I have almost as many pairs of "unmatched" socks as I do matched. That is, socks that differ in some way...

there's Regia Nation Colour socks of course....

And then there's a pair each of Noro Kureyon socks and Silk Garden socks - neither of which is precisely the same.

The Kureyon socks on the left are more identifiably a pair - colour #185; the ones on the right are less obviously related, but I promise they are - colour #245.

Up next is the Zauberball I bought at Sock Summit...

which has even longer lengths of colour than the Noro yarns - looks at Lisa's as an example. Can't wait to see how different they work out to be!

This shouldn't come as a surprise - I do have a history of this, even with patternwork on my socks... the Signature socks differ, as do the Midnight Sky socks.

All of which is to say that I think I've landed on my theme for 2010 sock knitting - odd ones!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Vampire Socks Update

To paraphrase, "I may be sock knitting's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it."

I'm very much enjoying the knit-stalking, following all the active projects on Ravelry. Loving all of them, some great choices of colours. There's a green Vulcan boyfriend variant (Rav link). And I loved Grace's picture of her William The Bloody (a.k.a. Spike socks).

It captured precisely what I was aiming for.

This is all the thanks a designer wants... to have knitters amused and happy with my pattern.

Knit on!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Conference Knitting/On Deadlines

I've met some great new knit friends of late, through Ravelry thanks to the pattern, and in various shops.

Had a great time on Monday with two intrepid shoppers, visitors to our city. They had flown into town for a conference and needed some conference knitting. The shop was their first stop, before even registering.

They wanted something to knit while they were in session - something that was interesting, but not so difficult that they couldn't pay attention. And they were looking for something Canadian, as a souvenir. (That means it doesn't come out of the yarn budget, you see. It comes out of the travel budget. Made perfect sense to me.)

For B., we settled on some Fleece Artist silk for a Clapotis.

A. confessed somewhat sheepishly that she didn't actually need a new project. She had one in her bag. She did need buttons, though. You see, A., had a completed sweater back in her bag, a bunch of yarn and pattern, and a deadline. She is presenting on Friday and plans to wear the sweater. "And if it's not done, I'll be standing up there in my bra."

I wish her godspeed!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Miss November

Almost exactly a year ago, Miko and Melinda arrived at my apartment with a camera and their senses of humour turned up to 11.

This is what resulted...

Yes, I am Miss November in The Purple Purl Naked Knitters for Charity calendar... proceeds went to Princess Margaret Hospital.

Knitters everywhere are looking at my cheerful mug this morning... I think today I shall wear the socks I was knitting in the picture.