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November 20, 2004
Ideal Storage?

I was seized this week by the need to fix up our workroom/craftroom/office. I realized that I spent many hours in this room, yet it was somehow undone. It's the catchall room of the house -- it contains our desk, computer, files, etc.; two large bookcases; the "craft table" where anything messy happens and where the kids do their stuff. It has one 3 x 5 closet which is meant to hold all the crafty stuff. Which means a lot of stuff. I sorted through the stuff and tossed what was obsolete, crated up the stuff that wasn't being used right now for the garage, so we're pared down, but there are a lot of varied things that need to keep neat.

I got an inexpensive rag rug, some bright yellow curtains, and hung some pictures. I exiled Mr. Pink (the sewing machine) and his cabinet to the garage (I haven't sewn enough to merit two machines). And tidied up the yarns. It's much more pleasant now, particularly when it's dark out.

But storage -- I cleaned out the closet and tried to analyze what sort of storage I need. I have several shoe box sized clear plastic bins that house all the girls' art project stuff -- one for markers, one for clay, one for popsicle sticks, one for collage bits, etc. They stay stacked up in one corner of the closet floor and it's easy enough to pull out the one you need. We've used this system for a couple of years and it works.

One thing that I haven't figured out: how to store paper so you can get the kind you want quickly, put unused sheets back easily, and doesn't take up a lot of space. We've got plain computer paper, fancy computer paper, scratch paper, cardstock, construction paper, drawing papers... Stacked in boxes in a drawer means that you've got to take everything out to get what you need. I think about some sort of vertical stacker, but I don't know how tidy it would stay. Maybe something more like a magazine rack?

I'm down to one bin of yarn in the house, but here's the thing: I paw through it every day. It's all little balls of various yarns I use when I'm designing. Different fibers, different colors. And if I'm not careful I end up with a mess. How should I store it so I can see what I've got and get to it without digging? A drawer seems hardly better than a bin without scores of dividers -- do I use wine box dividers cut to fit? What about hanging shoe organizers? I've got a closet rod they could hang on.

How do you store your stuff?

06:24 AM
Yo, K2tog!

Here's Zoe modeling her pink Lion Brand something-or-other Poncho. We still haven't fringed it. This is really just two halves of a giant dishrag. Dead easy to knit except for the tree stumps I was knitting it on (#13's, I think).

Finally getting into the big ponchomania, I've cast on a shawl for me. I got too good of a deal to pass up -- 11 skeins for $50! -- on some Colinette Mercury and, after noodling around for a while, realized it would work great on a YO K2tog type shawl. And I've been enjoying knitting it -- until yesterday. Somewhere in schlepping it around and thinking I was going to knit a bit at the park or ice cream shop with the kids, I dropped a stitch and didn't notice. And the yarn is slippery. So it dropped a few rows. Now, in garter or stockinette, I can "see" how to pull the dropped stitch up and get it lined up properly. With the yarnover rows, I have NO clue. I wasn't even sure if I could properly run a "safety line" and let it rip. So I ripped it out row by row to fix the error. And in the process dropped MORE stitches. Ended last night with all the errors resolved but having lost a good deal of my progress. Ah well. It's process that counts, right?

06:08 AM
November 16, 2004
knitting math

ages ago, i did a couple of posts on math for knitters. i've been meaning to do more, but have been busy with other things. now it's time for another installment.

i was working up another design in my collection for Curious Creek. #11 for anyone counting. if you wonder why i'm not posting, that's one of the reasons. 11 designs since late summer. more than half of them have been knit (only a couple by me!) and i'm still very excited about them. it's weird to hand off the production end of a project (i.e. not knit it), but it definitely frees me up to do more.

so anyway, i am working on a basic men's sweater pattern and after the design is done i need to figure out how much yarn it's going to take (in five sizes). how? i could guess, based on past experience. i could consult one of those charts that gives you a ballpark for certain sizes for certain weight yarns. if i were knitting it for myself that would be fine, but this pattern will be in the hands of other people. other people who don't want to buy two more skeins of yarn than they need, or worse, find themself a skein short of small-batch hand-dyed yarn!

the way i do it is this: since i have already swatched and know what my stitches per inch and row are supposed to be, i cast on EXACTLY 4 inches worth of stitches. say the gauge is 4.5 sts per inch, i cast on 18 sts. and i knit in the appropriate stitch pattern for exactly 4 inches. (you could do some other number of exact inches, but the larger it is, the more accurate your result will be.) don't bother to bind off. make a knot at each end of the yarn right where the swatch stops and starts.

then, Unravel your swatch. Measure the length of the yarn accurately, without pulling it too tight. I have a mark on my table one yard from the edge, so I just hold the yarn from edge to mark and keep track of the number. Measure it a few times until you are confident you've got it right.

write the number down and label it. seems like you'll remember, but you might not, or ages from now, you might decide to design something in the same yarn and the same stitch pattern and you'll be very glad you have something that says, "Serengeti Half Linen Stitch on #5's: 16 square inches = 17.6 yards -- 1.1 yd = 1 inch square".

let me back up and explain that last bit: my whole 4 x 4 inch swatch unraveled and measured knot to knot was 17.6 yards long. (you can work in yards, meters or inches, as long as you are consistent.) i know that that length of yarn made 16 square inches of fabric (4 inches x 4 inches equal 16 square inches). if i divide my result by 16 then (17.6 yds/16 square inches) i get my yarn use per square inch -- 1.1 yds per square inch. cool.

now i need to make my sketch of the sweater:

this sweater has very little shaping. I am ignoring the bit cut out of the front for the collar. This sweater has a crew neck and the amount lost isn't substantial enough to bother with. And this gives me a little extra cushion on yarn needs.

If your garment has more shaping, you can draw lines a little straighter than they are in real life, but it's better to be generous than stingy. You want an accurate sketch of your sweater, but you also want shapes that are as regular as possible. Squares, rectangles, circles, etc.

Now that I've got my sketch and my numbers I am ready to do the math. You will recall from the dark ages of your education that the area of a rectangle is equal to its length times its width. We already used this formula above with our swatch. Looking at the sketch, you can see that the body is a rectangle. That's easy then: 25 x 20 = 500 square inches.

But what about the sleeve? Not a rectangle.

We could just sketch it accurately on graph paper and count up all the little squares (and with irregularly shaped items, you might have to do some of that), but that's tedious.

If you look at it again, you can see that the center portion of the sleeve IS a rectangle and we know it's measurements -- cuff width and sleeve length. So that's 10 x 22. 220 square inches, but what about the extra bits on the side? They are two triangles. The length we know (sleeve length = 22), but what's the width? We know that the top of the sleeve measures 20 inches. And we took 10 away with our center rectangle. 20 - 10 = 10, but there are two triangles. 10/2 = 5. Each triangle is 5 inches wide and 22 inches long.

And if you put them together they make another rectangle, 5 inches wide and 22 inches long. So the "wings" of the sleeve add another 110 square inches (5 x 22 = 110). The formula for the area of a right triangle is length x width divided by 2, but since we have 2 exactly the same, the rectangle is less work.

So, the body piece is 500 inches square, the sleeve has two parts, one 220 square inches and one 110 square inches. This is only half the sweater though! There's also a front and a second sleeve. One of the biggest hurdles in this whole process is making sure that you have all your body parts properly accounted for. Adding it up then we've got (500 + 220 + 110)x2 = 1660. Our sweater has 1660 square inches.

Going back up to our unraveled swatch (and the numbers we wrote down), we will remember that we used 1.1 yards of yarn per square inch. 1660 x 1.1 = 1826 yards. The yarn that I am using has 123 yards per skein, so 1826/123 = 14.846. So I will need 15 skeins of yarn. If you are being generous in your measurements and rounding, you can be fairly confident. It's never a bad idea to add 10% for error. 14.846 x 110% = 16.33. or at least an extra skein. Better too many than too few.

05:59 AM
November 9, 2004
dress up

here are shots of the girls on halloween. halloween, maybe because it was on sunday, i suppose, lasted for a good week and involved lots of costumes. caterpillar, empress, some sort of wraith, leopard, clown, princess, lamb... the weather was lovely for halloween weekend -- no floods, no fire. now i'm wondering when the statute of limitations runs out on the candy.

and in a swift rebound, we are gearing up for zoe's birthday party this weekend. her actual birthday is on thanksgiving this year, so this weekend was best for the party. we're going tidepooling at the beach, so give that little weather pixie stern warnings if she starts taking out her umbrella!

06:04 AM