Some of you have seen this already, either on TV or Facebook or soxanne's blog or Ravelry, but hey, watch it again! Make me feel famous good!
Ellen and I were interviewed on Wednesday for this piece, which aired on the Thursday 5 o'clock news on WCCO, channel 4 in the Twin Cities. Ellen is an awesome person whom I am proud to have met and even prouder to have helped.
As of yesterday her efforts had secured hats for all 100 heads in the Senate and a large portion of the House -- 42% of Congress in total. I certainly hope those Congresspeople take the sentiment to heart. Thanks to all the knitters who have jumped on this cause!
I thought I would share with you what I went through to get this photo:
I used my eBay light box because I wanted to get a good shot of it. As you all know, natural light is tough to come by in the winter, especially if you are like me and don't really get started on the day until about 4 pm when the light is already fading.
The first couple shots.
Notice how I forgot to use the background swoop inside the lightbox? But later, much later, I fixed that with the retouch tool in iPhoto.
#2 Son rags on me because, even if I remember to use the swoop, it is always creased and wrinkled. This time, though, my iron and ironing board were already out and mere inches away, so I decided to fix that.
However, the swoops are nylon and the nylon setting on my iron is too cool for steam. And I needed really steam to get these wrinkles out.
The iron is set on 2, even though the nylon setting is 1. From experience I have found that the labeling on the iron is conservative, and that I can iron things with it one setting hotter than the labeling would have me believe. With steam coming out of the soulplate holes I held the iron 1/4-inch above the fabric for a few seconds, then ironed it really fast. No problems.
Your results may vary.
Next, I thought that the yarn would show up best if I used the black swoop. After all, I had held it against every color under the sun to decide what yarn to contrast with it in the scarf I had originally planned, and charcoal was the best choice. So black should really make it pop, right?
Looks good, right?
This is just a sampling of the shots I took. In retrospect, I see that the contrast between the black background and the subtleties of color in the yarn made it hard for the camera to capture the latter. If you click on any of those you will see how washed out the yarn looks compared to the first photo. Perhaps I could have corrected it in iPhoto, but I didn't even try. While shooting I kept backing the halogen work light (the white triangle at the upper edge of the establishing photo of the light box) farther and farther away from the box, putting another layer of white fabric over the top of the box to filter the light, aiming the light at the ceiling, trying both the regular and the macro setting on the camera -- everything I could think of.
Eventually I decided to use one of the original shots and to blur the background. At least my swoops got ironed. And stored in such a way to keep them that way.
Many small projects are flying off the needles these days.
First was that headband for #2 Son's GF that turned out to be too narrow. I did some calculations, figured out a different edging, and decided that a cable worked in a panel of 14 stitches should be just about right. Paging through my Barbara Walker books, I came upon the perfect cable.
A closer look:
It fastens in the back with a button, a la Calorimetry.
I was inordinately clever with the button loop, if I do say so myself. As described in the post linked above, I had done a provisional cast on and worked until the length seemed right to begin the last bit, where the cable panel ends and the whole thing narrows down. I pulled out the provisional cast on and picked up those stitches (on the same circ, so for awhile I had both ends of the headband on the needle). I worked the narrowed end, improvising how to do it neatly and took a few notes so I could replicate it at the other end. When that was done, I tried it on my head and determined that it needed to be a bit longer. (My head is exactly the same sIze as GF. Isn't that special handy?) Another 20 minutes of knitting and the length was right. I followed my notes and decreased down to six stitches.
Next comes the inordinately clever part.
I put three of the stitches on a holder and made the button loop by working about an inch of i-cord on the other three stitches. Then I flattened the i-cord and kitchenered those three stitches to the first three stitches, thereby closing the loop. It turned out perfectly. Cat hairs added for verisimilitude; everything I knit includes animal hairs.
This is an awfully lot of blather about what is really a very small project, but since I designed it myself (and it turned out) I'm feeling rather proud.
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Next up was the second hat for Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads. It is 2x2 rib, almost identical to the first one except that it is deep slate blue instead of brown. No photo, just use your imagination. I finished it Friday night. Given the fireworks in Madison this past week, I think WHNHH is a very timely endeavor.
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After finishing the hat I knit on a sock for awhile. The Sunday a couple weeks ago before I went back to work I sort of panicked about how much the job would cut into my knitting time. Ack, less knitting time! What to do?
Clearly, the solution was to cast on for more projects: the headband, above; the hat just mentioned, the sock, and another little experiment that may or may not ever see the light of day.
Here is the sock in its present state of UFO-ness.
The sharp-eyed among you may notice that, while the toe of the sock has been reinforced with red reinforcing yarn, the half-done heel... has not.
I was working on this Friday night at Knit Night at the Yarnery in St. Paul, a delightful place to be and to which I was introduced a couple years ago by my friend soxanne. (We met at a Yarn Harlot event when her friend canceled because of bad weather and I ended up sitting next to her. We chatted and discovered that we both had blogs, and the rest, as they say, is history.) This is only the second time I have been able to attend Knit Night, but my work schedule this tax season -- which I have lain out in exquisite detail -- may permit me to attend at least one more time. I say, Yippee!
Anyway, I was knitting away on the sock whilst chatting and was congratulating myself on how well my short rows were working... and totally forgot about the reinforcing thread. I hope my short rows work as well the second time around...
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Last night I cast on for the second pair of felted slippers for my friend Colleen. It is a really fast pattern. I did the entire first slipper last evening, and I was in bed by 11:00.
Please excuse the shadow, bad photographer.
I should be able to finish the second one tonight, no problem. I'll see her on Wednesday morning; getting them felted and dried by then should be easy.
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The latest thing I cast on is this, which will be Citron when it grows up.
It will be a gift to our assistant librarian (sssh, if you read this, don't tell her -- she has no idea she will be getting it). The yarn is a skein of Misti Alpaca fingering weight I bought a couple years ago on our anniversary trip to the North Shore. Souvenir yarn, ya know? It took me several weeks of hard thought before I could give it up for this scarf. The color is absolutely perfect for her (she has red hair and wears a lot of browns), but I had previously decided that the yarn was going to be the bright color in this scarf for me, with charcoal for the contrast color. I had seen it (I think) on sophanne's blog and loved it. Really, though, it is better for the gift; I am not entirely sure I could wear a wool/alpaca scarf indoors without sweating to death. Plus, I have wanted to knit Citron ever since I first saw it. And I'm not the only one -- there are 6,102 projects in Ravelry!
Neil Gaiman's Journal One of my favorite people in the world. He lives in Wisconsin, you know, about 90 miles south of me. My friend Colleen's husband, a retired English teacher, had his son in his English classes.
Tuvalet Nerede? This is written by a husband and wife from Duluth, MN, who are currently on a one-year sabbatical. They packed up themselves and their 2 kids and moved to a tiny village in Cappadocia in Turkey. She is an English professor by trade and a hilarious and insightful and honest writer. We read each other's blogs but have never met (yet).
I Heart Germany Eurolush, aka Lushie to her blogverse friends, is an American expatriate who lives in a tiny village in Germany with her husband, two kids, and dog. She is currently obsessed with mushroom ornaments and perennially obsessed with German beer and pastries (although not simultaneously) and takes marvelous photograhs.
The Morning News A good source of news, including non-mainstream kinds of things.
As I mentioned before, I jumped into this project with both feet and all my needles. I knit one hat and plan to knit one more by next weekend. But I had several other hats hanging around in the "to be donated" basket, and what better use could they have?
I have worn several of them on occasion, but after a good soak in Eucalan -- which none of them had had before -- they are good as new. (There is one more hiding on the shelf below.)
There is still time for any of you to whip out a hat and let twinsetellen know to whom you plan to send it. As of today she has people signed up to send hats to 20% of Congress! That's a lot of hats and a lot of knitters!
Yesterday I drafted the letter that will accompany the hats I will send. It was cut and pasted together from Ellen's and Alison's examples.
February 22, 2011
Congress[wo]man The Honorable* Xxxxx Xxxxxxx Yada yada
Dear Congress[wo]man Senator / Representative* Xxxxxxxx:
I knit this hat for you; I live in xxx in Wisconsin District 7. Many of your colleagues will also be receiving hats from knitters of all political stripes and from all around the nation. We wanted to show you that we appreciate the work you do for those of us whom you serve in the House.
I knitted it as part of a campaign among knitters for Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads (more information at http://twinset.us/?page_id=3736). We are from many political backgrounds. We want those who engage in angry and even vicious public rhetoric to stop speaking for us in those ways. We want civility in Congress. We are choosing to give hours of our time silently to be able to give you a visible, tangible, heartfelt symbol of our desire for respecting and honoring one another within our government – and to thank you for doing your best.
Why a hat? Knit hats meet a simple need for warmth. They are an every day comfort. Everyone can use a good hat. Civil political discourse also meets a simple need – the need for our government to have the best information and insights from many viewpoints. It would be an everyday comfort to me and to many other Americans if the airwaves were free of hate-filled rhetoric, and it would help lead to good government. As I am sure you will agree, everyone can use good government.
Each stitch is individual. Each stitch depends on every other stitch within that hat being present for it to be able to do its job where it is of creating comfort and warmth. I wish you the best in your work and thank you for your service to us all.
P.S. If you are not able to use this hat yourself, please donate it to a worthy charity. There are many that help the homeless and underserved, and I would like to know that the hat is keeping someone warm.
* The Google showed me the proper way to address such a letter.
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It is melting here this weekend.
Do you know how hard it is to photograph a melting drop in the air? This is the best I got out of over 20 shots. I even investigated the "Continuous" mode on my new camera. It worked just like it was supposed to, but I still failed to capture the desired shot. You will have to settle for a drop almost ready to come off.
The temperature in Minneapolis was, I think, around zero or colder every morning of this, my first week back at work. Thanks, weather gods, for giving me such a memorable welcome.
Note: photo above is Lucy at the lake house, not in Minneapolis. The only difference is that the snow in Minneapolis is dirtier and piled higher.
Just to give you an idea of what sub-zero temperatures are like:
The inside of one's nose frosts up when one inhales;
When I get home after work I tend not to get really warm again until I am in bed under a couple comforters (the radiator in the bedroom has been turned off for a couple years and now the handle doesn't turn; I may need to employ Large Tools);
The digital read-out on my car radio changes v-e-r-y slowly, if at all, when I change radio stations;
On Thursday morning, the coldest one so far, the driver's window, which I had put down so I could see the outside rear-view mirror, would not go back up. I had to pull up on the button with one hand and pull the window itself with the other. I did NOT want to get onto the freeway with an open window.
Last night I came back home to Wisconsin; temperature on the only outdoor thermometer I saw was -3˚ F. For various reasons I had a lot of trouble warming up once I got home. Three comforters, two pairs of sweats including a hoodie with the hood UP, wool knee socks, a dog, and two cats... and I finally got warm. It was the second set of sweats and the hood that did it.
Today I am still in the sweats and wool socks and perfectly comfortable.
Look what the wind has done to the snow that piles up on the railing outside my office:
That black silhouette is En Esch glaring at me. Why are you messing around with that little box? Why are you not petting me?
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I came upon this video in praise of Minneapolis over at twentytwowords.com. #2 Son says he knows a couple people in the video -- the bicyclist and his girlfriend, of course.
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In knitting news, by request I made a headband for #2's GF. She picked out the pattern on Ravelry but asked that it be wider. I recommended Malabrigo worsted for purely selfish reasons -- I had never knit with it -- and she picked out a gorgeous teal color (called "Aguas" at the link). My efforts at widening the pattern were for naught. Take it away, Bubbles!
(Bubbles's head is significantly smaller than Alex's; when the headband is stretched a bit more, as it would be on Alex's head, the seed stitch edging lies down flat. So I tried again, this time with a wider cable and a different edge treatment. Perfect -- 3-1/2 inches wide, just like she asked for!
The cable is one from Barbara Walker. The edge is (on the right side) sl1, p1, k1, p1, k1, (cable panel) k1, p1, k2.
After I finish the cabled section I will pull out the provisional cast on and knit both ends at the same time, tapering them to a point. A button loop at the end of one, a button on the other. I'll give both headbands to her; if she doesn't want the narrower one I'll reclaim the yarn and dream about what to make from it and the rest of the skein.
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I finished the first hat for Warm Heads, Not Hot Heads last weekend. It can be worn with the brim flipped up or down, depending on the head size of the wearer.
I would like to add Google Analytics to this blog because I am a geek and a nerd and I like statistics. And because someone else whose blog I read -- sorry, no longer remember who it was -- mentioned that she uses Google Analytics and I want to be cool like her.
So I signed up and found the instructions and copied the code that has to be added to the blog... and got totally stumped. The TypePad Knowledge Base says to copy the UA number of my Google Analytics account onto my Blog Settings > Stats page, but I cannot find a Stats page. I copied it into the appropriately labeled box on the Settings > Add-Ons page, but that hasn't produced any stats.
Do any of youse guys with a TypePad blog use Google Analytics? Can you tell me in non-technical words of one syllable how to add it to mine?
Tomorrow I go back to work. Last year when I called my accounting firm to check on seasonal employment, as I have done almost every January since 1993, I was told in so many words that they had outsourced my job to India. Well, I don't know what is different this year but the partner I work for called me in January to see if I was interested in working this tax season. And I am. Presumably I will work until April 18, tax day. And yes, our office is exactly as depicted in the video above. But with fewer sparkles. And more computers. And caffeine.
For an entirely different take on that song, check out Tom Waits's version.
So what is that, you ask? I'll give you a hint: it's a flock of birds on Lake Superior in August.
Let's zoom in a little.
That is a flock of... loons.
Loons do not flock. Loons are territorial in the extreme. They are completely family-focused. Unless a lake is pretty good-sized, say larger than 500 acres, a pair of loons will take it over and drive off any other loons -- or geese or ducks -- that are looking for a nice little cottage with picket fence and a place for the kids to play. They will permit their own little feathered progeny hang around the home lake for their first summer but probably no longer.
"Look, guys, a mini shark fin! Oh, wait, that's just Virgil practicing the backstroke. Virgil, you stop that right now, you here? You almost gave me a heart attack with your shenanigans. Honestly, the young 'uns these days..."
Loons do, however, migrate. And according to Teh Google, they often form groups, aka, "flocks", to make the long journey south. And that is what we have here.
This site tracks the migrations of loons from two groups, one that nests in central Minnesota, and the other that nests in north central Wisconsin just south of Lake Superior. Certain of the birds have radio transmitters that enable the tracking.
(That swatch at upper right is something else. Please ignore.)
I followed the pattern exactly as written. If I had it to do over I would attempt to use more of the yarn and make the scarf as big as possible. As an inexperienced triangle knitter I did not feel like I could judge the amount of yarn required to finish from any given point, so I just followed the pattern.
(When I was in the library yesterday she told me that whenever she wears the scarf people want to know where she bought it and could they buy hers. She told me I could go into business making and selling them, and I reminded her of how I knit for friends and relatives and myself, not for 50¢ an hour. Non-knitters just don't get it.)
Next up, a pair of felted slippers for a friend. Bad blogger that I am, I neglected to get a photo of the actual felted FO. Here is the first one, unfelted, next to my size 9 clog; the recipient's feet are size 7.
Lopi is a scratchy, uncomfortable yarn, but it may be a good choice for slippers that will be worn with socks -- it seems like it will wear well. The slipper is really a scuff or mule. As I was knitting them it seemed to me that they were too wide for their length or too short for their width. After they went through my front-loader twice they looked sufficiently fulled. I attempted to stretch the soles so that they would fit. My friend tried them on and declared them perfect*.
I knew that this person had a birthday coming up in February and had decided that I would knit her a pair of felted clogs. I already had the pattern and yarn -- bright red KP Wool of the Andes for the top and black for the soles and trim. Then I ran into my friend earlier last week and she burst out, "I'm going to make myself felted slippers for my birthday!" To which I replied, "I was going to make you felted slippers for your birthday!" She thrust her bag with the yarn and pattern at me and said, "Well, then, you can make these!" Perfect!
*Update: I checked with said friend again yesterday and she admitted that they are a little short. I may be knitting her another pair.
The latest FO is a hat for me. Here is is, with and without flash.
Yarn: Bernat Lana (worsted, 100% wool; discontinued) with stripes of leftover bits of Noro Silk Garden and Plymouth Boku. Needles: KnitPicks Options, Zephyr tips, US#8. Pattern:Sixteen-Cable Hat, heavily modified. No cables; I just used the first and last couple inches of the pattern to create the general shape. Initially I followed the pattern but found that without the cables to pull it in, the hat hung halfway down my back. Slight exaggeration, but clearly I needed to frog back. After removing several inches (including all the decreasing and a 2-3" more) I decreased down again and found that it looked much better.