Monday, June 15, 2015

Hearing Colors

No, I haven't suddenly developed synesthesia. Just a wacky idea.

I may have mentioned some time ago that I bought a knitting machine. I bought a machine that works with bulkier yarns, with the idea of being able to use handspun on it, and also to use it for prayer shawls for our church - since I am currently the only person creating them, I have to hope that not too many are needed at once otherwise. Using a knitting machine for them is much, much faster. I also figure I can pray just as effectively for someone while sliding a carriage back and forth as I can while hand knitting.

So, I got a Studio SK155 in the door - and became fascinated with it. I've spent quite some time swatching on it, I bought a second machine with a ribber, kept the ribber, refurbished the second machine and sold it again for the cost of the machine+ribber - so I essentially got the ribber attachment for free. I've knit a sweater and a prayer shawl on it.

One of the interesting things about a knitting machine is how the needles are accounted for - from a zero in the middle. Hmm, says my brain to I, middle 0.

That reminds me of something....

Middle C. On this.

And thus was begun a wacky, crazy idea.

What if I could translate music into knitting patterns? A visual representation?


Well, that SK155 has a twelve-stitch pattern repeat capability with the use of punch cards, which is fine for a lot of things, but most music pieces are more than twelve notes. Clearly this will require something different.

In the 1980s and early 1990s knitting machines went electronic. Some of the manufacturers started adding computerized "brains" for stitch patterning, and also the capability of creating one's own stitch patterns and inputting them. These capabilities are tremendously primitive by modern standards, but they did the job. They also required a port on the machine for input. Of course this port is unique to these machines. Why would it be standardized? That's just too easy.

Some enterprising people have done a little hacking here and there and created cabling that will go USB to knitting machine port, and software  to allow one to program patterns on a modern computer and then input them to the knitting machine via the cable. Many people are using it for intarsia or for "picture knitting." Knitted portraits of the family isn't really my gig, but who says it couldn't be an abstract? It could also be used for lacework, for example. And you can program for the entire needle bed, which is 200 needles wide. So I could translate a music score into a pattern, or I could basically knit the score, or...let's just say I have a lot of ideas about this.

Great! I need another machine! Only thing is, these are in increasing demand, they are no longer manufactured, and some models are actually going for more on the secondary market now than they retailed for 25 years ago.

Ya gotta love Craigslist.

I came across an ad for a likely machine on CL posted by a woman who lived on northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The ad had been out there for some time - probably because of the relatively limited local population and the difficulty and expense of getting to her if one wasn't already on the island. So I contacted her and asked if we could meet somewhere in the middle.

Turns out she was about to move to Surrey, BC, which is only about 15 miles over the border. So a couple weeks later I took a little road trip to Canada, and came home with all of this stuff for about 20% of its market value:

Yes, I know. It looks like a bunch of junk. But in reality, it's a computerized knitting machine with just about every accessory they ever made for it, most of it in good, though rather dirty, condition. The machine itself turns on and appears to have its brains intact. And I got it over the border without incident, though the wannabe Secret Service dude with the mirrored RayBans at the US border was about the most unpleasant individual I've ever dealt with, barking orders at me and then practically throwing my passport at me while growling "goodbye." They must take classes in rudeness.

This week I will be tearing the knitter down and cleaning it, and also refurbishing it where needed.

The next thing will be programming testing (is the brain really intact?), and then if that goes well - can I get it to talk to my Mac?

In the meanwhile, we attended a matinee performance of the Seattle Symphony yesterday - and in addition to listening to the music I found myself contemplating colors, stitch patterns, yarns, and textures to go with Brahms' Symphony No. 1. (Moss green, kind of rustic, with blues and browns laid in.)

Stay tuned for updates. Let's hope this thing works.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday Wanderings: October 15, 2014

Here's what's new at the zoo:

I started a project with some amazing yarn from a tactile perspective - it's 70% Merino, 20% cashmere and 10% nylon (it is a sock yarn, after all!). This was the third monthly installment of a three-part yarn club from Simply Socks Yarn Company and I have to say all three have been nice - but this one takes the cake. That cashmere is yummy. I am not completely certain of the colors on me, but I'm willing to give it a try. I know I can pull the green off, but the gold? Hmm. 

I'm knitting a shawl (the pattern calls it a "shawlette" - a term my father found rather funny) called Pendulum, a rather simple pattern, to show off the yarn itself. And, it's my first foray into short rows. I try to assign myself projects that give me something new to learn - I may end up with an odd assortment of items, but I'm learning in the process which is part of the goal.

(photo clickable to embiggen)

Fiber Fusion NW is this coming weekend, I've set a budget for shopping, and I can almost bet I'm going to blow it. Aagh! This from the woman who has 90+ items (yarns and fibers) in her stash, and those are just the ones I've logged into Ravelry. Hopefully I can at least keep myself from buying something just like something I already have - I do seem to buy the same colors over and over.

Lacemakers of Puget Sound are having their lace day on October 25, from 1 - 4 at the Kent Commons. I am not a member, but I'm thinking about it, and Joe is out of town that weekend so I may wander down and see what's up. Rumor has it that the speaker at the event is good, and she is speaking on Elizabethan costuming which I think would be fascinating. I have two bobbin lace pillows - the type for making lace, not pillows with lace decoration! - which have seen basically no use in umpteen years (just like all the other equipment around here!) and I'm thinking of dusting them off and giving it a shot. Unlike some people I have no grand ambitions in this direction, but it'd be nice to be able to make my own edgings for reenactment garments, for example. Those of you who know me well know that I am not a "lacy" person by nature, so I'm not sure how much use I'd make of handmade lace in my everyday wardrobe.

What's new in your zoo?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Wanderings: October 1, 2014

A few bits of fluff about what's been going on around here:

1. I am a couple feet into the "project" on the rigid heddle loom. I say "project" because, well, it's not really meant to be anything, just a learning experience. And that it has been. I've already made so many mistakes that I sometimes think I should just yank it off and start something else. The only thing that stops me is wondering how many other mistakes I can get over with while weaving away on this non-project project. If you know what I mean.

Please Don't Look at This Picture
2. I've gotten pretty involved with Knitted Knockers. I have helped facilitate connections between the organization and the NwRSA, both my local chapter of the spinning guild as well as the guild board. I've gotten room for KK to have an informational table at the NwRSA St. Distaff's Day gathering on January 3, 2015, which will potentially give them exposure to some 300 or so knitters - exposure I understand they greatly need as they are in need of knitters to contribute to keep up with demand. I've met people from businesses and other guilds who are working on this cause. And in between all of my glad-handing and smooth talking, and emailing and phone calling, I've actually managed to knit a knocker. (That phrasing makes me laugh every single time. I know. I'm easily amused.)

3. My fringe twister is here, and It Is So Cool. I know it looks vaguely like some sort of medieval torture instrument, but it is a lifesaver for me, Ms. Chronic Tendonitis which I am afraid is trending toward arthritis. This leads to...

4. My third prayer shawl for the Consoling Grace Ministry at our church will be done as soon as - you guessed it - I put the fringe on it. Which I need to do before next Tuesday, when the reboot meeting for the ministry will occur. I am very curious to see how this goes and what it ends up being, and I have hope for it being a meaningful and helpful thing to those in our parish who've lost a loved one.

5. We (I say "we," but it's mostly been Joe) are nearly done with finishing the top of the island that serves as a stand-up work table. I am anxious for "us" to get this done, as the room is pretty much unusable while it's in process, and I'm beginning to get a little twitch in my left eyelid when I go in there to try to retrieve something. I think I vaguely fear that, the room having just come out of almost 16 years of chaos, entropy will strike yet again and I'll lose all my progress. Did I say anything about logic applying here? No, I didn't think so.

And that's a brief cross-section of my life right now. Stay tuned for more! I can hear it coming already!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Growing Pains

Yesterday, when I picked up my knitting, my husband said, "Oh - are you going to be working on your swearing again?"

What? You mean I swear at the project every time I pick it up? Evidently so. And, really, it's not that hard; I just make mistakes.


I make mistakes because I'm learning. I have a fair amount of theoretical knowledge about knitting, but little practical experience - my life before retirement was such that I had virtually no time to gain that experience. So I'm making up for it now by pushing myself a little. I have in mind a series of projects for the future to specifically develop that experience.

And apparently, um, I'm "improving" my vocabulary in the process. Maybe I need to learn more swear words in other languages as part of my self-education. I know a few in German, French and Spanish. Perhaps it's time to branch out beyond the Indo-European languages. Oh wait - Joe taught me a few in Korean too.

And the experience factor goes beyond knitting too, of course. The other day while recovering from the stomach bug we seem to be sharing around here, I felt enough better that I was a bit bored, so I decided to warp the rigid heddle loom I bought in April and haven't yet used. Fortunately RH looms are pretty simple, so the warping process only takes about an hour, because the next day I realized that I had warped it backwards. Completely unuseable. So I had to partially disassemble the loom and reverse what I had done. At least that was possible and I didn't have to just undo an hour's worth of work.

It looks innocent enough, doesn't it?

Somewhat in my defense, it's hard to tell one end of this loom from the other, unlike any shaft loom I've ever used. I've now employed some blue tape and a Sharpie to fix that little issue. And when I posted what I'd done and how dumb I felt on the rigid heddle loom Facebook group, I was a bit comforted by just how many people had done the exact same thing. (I particularly enjoyed the comment from a man, an experienced weaver, who said he did it in front of a group while doing a demo, and then turned it into a demo of how to fix it. "Um, I meant to do that. Yes. Yes, I did.")

If you care to follow along, I'm documenting my various projects under my profile on Ravelry, here. (You may need to sign up for Ravelry to view that, if you don't belong.)

Though I haven't yet found the section there where one can document the expansion of one's vocabulary.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Coming together

So what's new? A fair amount, actually.

I've been working hard getting everything back into place. (Or at least into some place or other.) Even with having disposed of probably a third of what was in the room before, there is still a lot of stuff to sort out. And, frankly, more that will probably go. (No probably about it - there's more to go for sure.)

I am super pleased with how the room storage is working out, though. The combination of dressers and shelves is working very well so far. I want to get some bins that fit into the shelves to hold smaller stuff, and to create a neater appearance. This means another trip to IKEA, which is almost an hour away, so I've been putting it off until I have a little more time. Hopefully soon.

(click on photos to embiggen)

Gee, do you think perhaps I'm not tall enough to reach the top? What's the clue?
I also made the decision to store all of the animal – based fibers in sealed bins. As pretty as I think it would be to have all the yarns and fibers artfully arranged on the shelves, in effect this is like setting out a buffet for wool moths. Having dealt with them once in the past, I never want to go through that again! It'd be quicker to just set (lots of ) dollar bills on fire and avoid the cleanup hassle!

I spent a morning cataloging all of my fiber and putting it in numbered bins. I will do the same with the yarn. That means the shelves will be a bit more bare, but I won't end up having to throw things away either. As a side effect, my tools and supplies will be more organized than they've been in the over 20 years I've been doing this.

All those bins on the left? They'll be gone. Someday.
"Sealed bins" means "store in the garage" which is, um, kind of full of stuff plus two cars. So we began sorting through the garage the other day. I love scope creep, don't you? It needs to be done though - we've lived here over 15 years and the accumulation of stuff is kind of frightening, actually.

Joe hung the TV a few days ago, and I am working on a way to deal with the cords. We didn't want to have to punch into the wall and pull wire, but I don't like the look of the dangling wires either.

The iMac I bought has been here for just over a week and we're getting to know each other pretty well. I managed to get my Roland keyboard hooked in and serving as a MIDI input with the Mac, and have been playing around with Garage Band - nothing serious but it's fun to play with the different patches. Not to mention that it's nice to not worry about Joe having to hear me practice the piano - I am so out of practice it's embarrassing! He says he doesn't mind - but I do!

In fiber project-related news, I began spinning for the Tour de Fleece with the Hansen miniSpinner team - all in good fun, actually, and I'm not getting as much done as I'd like, though I'll be done with the second half of this soon, perhaps today. I also cast on a shawl yesterday - hopefully I'll finish this one. Loooong stretches of stockinette but I think it will be pretty in the end.

Stay tuned for further adventures...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Some Assembly Required

Progress! At last!

Monday, a friend who is in the carpet business laid the new carpeting. Yesterday, two nice men from IKEA came with half a ton (literally) of furniture in boxes, carried it all upstairs, and assembled and placed it in the room.

Things are looking a little different now.

(click on photos to embiggen)

Just as a reminder - before:

And (drumroll please), after:

(I know the loom is facing backward; that's temporary.)

For the curious, the furniture consists of two HEMNES 8-drawer dressers with KALLAX 4x4 shelf units on top; a HEMNES desk; and a STENSTORP kitchen island for a worktable. (The white bookcases were purchased long ago.)The plan is to put the island on glides so it can be moved around the room as needed, and in fact I suspect it will spend some time up against the wall by the door when not in use.  I chose the kitchen island so that it's the right height for working while standing, and it also has room for two barstools for seating and two strong metal shelves for storage. I still have to sand and oil the butcher-block top, which may not be as necessary as if it were to be used in a kitchen but I'd like to keep it in good shape.

Of course, there is still all the stuff to move back in and organize, and work areas to get ready - some assembly is, indeed, still required. This is the current state of the guest room:

See the patch of blue in the upper right, to the right of the big box? That's the guest bed, which we tore down and upended to pack the room with All My Stuff. I'll be working on emptying everything back out and installing it all in the other room, but for now I'm enjoying the pristine look of my studio. That room has never looked so good in all the years we've lived here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Getting there, and - getting there

This last weekend, I attended NwRSA's Conference 2014, held in Salem, OR at Willamette University. This conference has been held annually since 1985, and has evolved from a big spin-in to add two full days of workshops as well.

(click on photos to embiggen)

The Hatfield Fountain - of course I liked it, it has birds! 
Mill Stream
Willamette U is a beautiful campus, complete with a stream running through it with resident ducks and several beautiful common areas. The academic buildings are mostly newer. The dorm I was in? Not so much; it appears to date from the late 1800s and is about as perfect as a human would be at the age of 120 - uneven creaky floors, questionable electricity and plumbing (and the electricity clearly added after the fact), no elevator or AC. My punishment for asking for an individual room was to have that room on the top floor with two double flights of stairs as access - not a big deal until I tell you my thought process for packing was "I'm not getting on a plane, I can take whatever I want!" The stained glass over the front door was lovely though, and the carved banisters on those stairs were too.

One thing I learned: I am too old for communal showers. For sure.

The conference itself was a fun experience. I have been to similar gatherings in the (rather distant!) past, and always enjoyed them - this was a bit smaller than I had anticipated, with somewhere around 135 registered attendees (I am told that is unusually small). The benefit to me was that I got to know almost everyone at least by sight by the end of the weekend. There were likewise fewer vendors, which was probably good for my bank account - especially since I have a different event coming up in just three weeks! I did pick up some books I'd had on my wish list for a while, one of which is out of print and a bit hard to locate - Deb Menz's Color in Spinning. Bonus time: it's double autographed!

And honestly, most of what I learned is that I know more than I think I do. More than once I found myself explaining to someone else what to do, or helping to adjust a wheel to accommodate whatever was being worked on. The classes I took were good (working with mohair, art yarn creation, knitting with unspun silk), but not as much of a stretch for me technically as I had thought they might be - which was nice actually, because I could focus on the product and not worry about being able to do the process once it was explained.

Art yarn - building blocks, and...

Art yarn constructed!

Knitting with unspun silk - a rather painstaking process...

On Saturday there was a luncheon and fashion show, with some amazing work displayed. Maybe someday I'll have something worthy of showing!

And I think the funnest part was the spin-in - the gym was full of people with wheels working on projects, with lots of visiting.

All in all a great time, despite the fact there was a big accident the morning we were driving down so my four-hour trip to Salem took 6 1/2 hours to get there - ugh. Very glad I went, as I somehow agreed to be on the committee hosting next year's conference, which will be May 28 - 31, 2015 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Keep an eye on the guild website for details coming soon. And as a side note - even if  you don't attend many meetings, if you're in the area (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana) and interested in fiber arts, guild membership is a good resource for information and pretty inexpensive at $25/year. (How's that for a little advertising?)

Speaking of getting there - while I was gone, Joe emptied the studio in preparation for new carpet which is due to be installed late this week! I am excited, though when he brought up replacing the carpet I was apprehensive at the amount of work involved to clear the room out. God bless him, he took that on for me. Once the carpet is installed, I can commence Ikeacizing, and then move back in - the end is in sight!

Joe dodging the camera

I had forgotten how big this room is!

It actually echoes in here now!