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February 11, 2007
A dedicated follower of fashion

I'm sure I've said this before: I am fascinated both by how familiar my children are to me and by how unlike me they are. This is one of those things about one's offspring: at some moments you know exactly how they feel or remember having the exact same reaction to something or you see the same expression in the face of your spouse. And at times, even from their tiniest babyhood, they are just unknowable. Different. Themselves. And I suppose you spend a lifetime trying to sort that out.

I can't find the photo of me that I wanted to to juxtapose with this one, but in it, at about the same age, I am wearing dangerously plaid pants, my orange handknit sweater with applique ducky, and a red laplander style hat. You'll have to trust me that Ella and I do share a certain aesthetic.

Here's some schoolwork Ella recently brought home. They were supposed to make a book of things that rhyme with "ball".

That's how you spell "shawl" in kindergarten. But a brilliant choice -- I bet none of the other kids came up with that!

08:12 AM
Who sews? She sews.

After seeing Kay's Carrie over at Mason Dixon and Emma, I felt compelled to post a picture of my own young quilter. Here's Zoe late one evening perched next to the machine reading The Complete Family Sewing Bookwe inherited from my Aunt. Absolutely filled with newspaper clippings going back to the Seventies. Newspaper clippings on things like "Make your own ski pants".

Zoe's current quilt project involves red flannel, pandas and flowers to welcome her new cousin from China when she arrives.

They could start a club.

07:54 AM
February 6, 2007
knitting topology*

Or, How I spent my Friday evening.

Somehow (okay, I'm working on designing hats, so it's not exactly out of the blue), I got a bee in my bonnet the other day about hats.

Let me back up for a second and explain a bit about hats so that the non-knitters are with me on this. A hat is round. A hat is knit in what amounts to a very, very shallow spiral, so in some ways you can treat each round as a circle of stitches stacked on top of another creating a cylinder with a cone on top, but you can also treat the stitches as a single long line.

For this particular thought experiment, we will begin with a hat that has 100 stitches. It measures 20 inches around. So, there are 5 stitches per inch. Measuring vertically, there are 7 rows per inch. We have already knit a cylinder that is the appropriate height (6 inches or so) and are ready to shape the crown of the hat.

To shape the top of a hat you have to get rid of all the stitches over some number of rows that is at least as big as the radius of the hat. Since the hat measures 20 inches around, it's radius is 3.2 (2 pi r = C). So we need to decrease our 100 stitches over some number of rows greater than 22. 25 rows would give you a flat top like a pillbox hat. 200 rows would give us an absurdly long (maybe in a good way) floppy, pointed hat. Usually, decreases are done on some sort of regular schedule so you decrease (a decrease turns 2 stitches into 1 stitch)at 2 or 8 or 6 points in a single round every other round. Changing the number of decreases in the decrease row or changing the rate at which you repeat the decrease row (every row, every 12 rows, etc) changes the shape of the hat. That's pretty much all you need to know to design hats.

So my "bee" was this: What if, instead of decreasing in the usual way, I decreased on the 100th stitch, then the 99th, then the 98th and so on? What would it look like? I didn't have access to paper at the time so it took me longer to figure out (plus I was driving -- both good and bad for thinking). Later I asked Leo about it and also how could you make the line of decreases into a spiral? I figured I'd mark each decrease with a purl stitch or bead to mark it. What would happen if you start with 100 stitches, but do your first decrease at 110? 150? 60? What shapes would these hats have? What if you decreased every 100th stitch all the way up?

So we spent some of Friday evening discussing this problem. Leo fell to writing code while I pursued the empirical test. I have a pretty solid picture in my head now of what happens in these various cases, but I think it would be great to actually make some or at least do some computer modeling. Now you can all just sit there for a moment and either a) shake your heads at the fact that people exist that discuss such things at length, or b) smile quietly because my mate and I are so shockingly well suited to one another.

And now, the mathematicians among you can fall to work on hat design.

Yoav is to thank for "topology."

05:15 AM
February 5, 2007
what else?

My Q2 deadline for Knitting Patterns for Dummies is February 12. The end of Quarter 2 brings the end of pattern making. I'm on my last pattern chapter now, then I need to assemble my scrap art (rough drafts of all the illustrations used in the chapters) and send them all off. This is a big milestone for me. It's great seeing the book come together. There's still plenty to write, but with these two intensive quarters out of the way, the rest is just explaining my vision of the universe, and well, anyone who knows me knows I can do that at length. There's the "fear of sounding dorky" (is there a greek word for that?), but it's a different kettle of fish.

I am almost certain that as of last week, I have all the yarn I need and nearly all of it in the hands of the knitters in question. I've got several bits and pieces to knit yet myself, but of the hat here, scarf there variety that doesn't make me wake up in the middle of the night.

So in other news, I've been also scrambling to get fundraiser class projects done for my daughters' school. It seems like every school has a fundraising auction these days. The actual event reminds me too much of a high school prom to actually attend (I didn't attend my prom either), but it's easy to sucker me in to a massive art project. So Zoe's class has created a photo montage of the school through their eyes -- after they shot the photos I chopped 2-inch squares (don't worry, I bought a punch!) from over 400 photos and assembled them. A pretty cool effect in the end and a good balance of kid participation. I can now state with some conviction that it is very difficult to get a fourth grader to take a picture of something that is not pretty. However, you can really make a 10-year old boy's day if you tell him he can photograph the bathroom. I haven't photographed the photograph, but when I do, I'll post it.

For Ella's class, I had each of the kids fold and hand dye a dinner plate sized circle of fabric. On the advice of the Empress of Dirt a.k.a. Pioneer Woman with Cellphone, I also had the kids "sign" the quilt with their initials and decorations on smaller circles for the back. After prepping the fabric, I had them write with gel glue (just Elmer's) on the fabric. When it dried, it got dyed. When you wash, the glue comes out forming a fabulous batik-like resist. The kindergarteners enthusiasm for my two colors of gel glue (with sparkles!) got in the way of any sort of minimalist impulses for most, but they are really cool.

After that there was a lot of going around and around in circles with the zig-zag and a miraculously quick quilting job by my machine for hire. If you need something quilted, Al's your man.

06:21 PM