Now – October 26th 2015

I used to do snapshot posts a while ago of what was on my mind and what I was working on. I read Shawn Blanc’s Now page, which refers to Derek Sivers Now page, so I’ll put mine up periodically. Link in the sidebar or these posts. I’ve added a category of Now so I can find them again.

Reading: (updates and archives here)
Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” (working through this in work with two people I’m mentoring)
Kate Fox “Watching the English, second edition” (a slow read)
Marcus Aurelis “Meditations” (feels like this is the source book for a lot of others I’ve read)

The To Read queue is getting unweildy, I might use Blinkist to knock some of these out if they’re available.

Knitting:
Second of two hats as a wedding present for a friend
Orange Feather and Fan scarf
Really need to finish the Jackeroo cardigan, it has POCKETS. So many pieces of women’s clothing are lacking a functional pocket.

Thinking about:
My 2015 NaNoWriMo novel plot, with AI and genetic algorithms, my 11th NaNoWriMo novel
A Core Curriculum I’m building (inspired from this Shawn Blanc post) using a Levenger Circa notebook
How to start and maintain a daily sketching habit
How to learn enough JavaScript to create a simple, deliberately broken website
How to run a team of 30 software QA people in 3 offices across 2 states without micro-managing them
Stoicism
Creativity

Workouts:
Strength and endurance training at the gym, definite improvements since June in lunges, wall-sits, planks and kettlebell swings (20lb weight)
Training for black belt in Chinese Kenpo at Tracy’s Karate, several black belt techniques still left to learn.

2014 round up

My 2014 resolutions were:

  1. I will not stab anyone in 2014 (just one more year…)
  2. Get my second degree brown belt and make a run at 1st degree.
  3. Finish book #2 and write book #3 for NaNoWriMo

I have not stabbed anyone this year, fulfilling my annual resolution. Punching anyone at the karate studio doesn’t count because we use control and we spar a lot.

Got my 2nd degree brown belt in June with a new instructor, and I’m in reviews for my 1st degree brown belt. The belt test after that is 1st degree black belt, when I can officially call myself a Shodan.

I wrote book #3 of my multiverse four-part series of novels (there’s a part #0 prequel), and wrote the ending scenes. The back end of book #2 remains undone, but writing book #3 gave me an idea how to deal with the monster.

By year end, I will have gifted 18 knitted things. I have worked on 25 projects this year, and finished almost all of them (2 cardigans outstanding right now but one is almost there, a pair of socks in progress).

I was promoted to Director of Quality Advocacy at work, and I have business cards to prove it. I’m running a team of 20 bad-ass diabolically creative software tamperers. I taught a 2-day workshop class solo on Agile software QA, and did a solo Lunch and Learn on Object Oriented Programming basics. Both are scary things off my 2015 work goals list. There’s another Lunch and Learn planned for January 7th, probably more Agile QA classes too.

We went to the NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously for the first time, travelling to San Francisco in November.It was great to meet people in person we’ve only emailed, and see my writerly tribe on their annual celebration.

It’s been a pretty good year.

Project explosion

I have a rule that there’s no crafting output during November until I’ve made my 2000 words for the day on the current novel. Since my 10th NaNoWriMo win, I have done all this:

Crafting output since NaNoWriMo.

  • Knit 2 hats (a Windschief and a modified Dustland)
  • Started knitting a third hat of my own design in green merino/possum yarn.
  • Knit a modified Dungarees cowl.
  • Knit 3 can cozies after gifting my work cozy to a friend.
  • Started knitting a pair of purple socks with birthday yarn from Paul.
  • Mailed out all the Christmas presents that need mailing.

I’m worth more than that

I’ve been in software quality assurance since 2005, and working as a quality engineer for the last year, which is an unusual skill set. For my current position I need to be able to program at a decent level in C# and Java, know HTML, CSS, SQL, git for software versioning, JavaScript and browser dev tools for debugging, and a host of other skills. I get paid well for this and I’m good at what I do.

By contrast, I’ve been knitting for upwards of thirty years. I’m experienced in all yarn weights from bulky to laceweight, cabling and lace knitting are favourite techniques, and I have a specialisation in knitting socks that actually fit people. I can also spin yarn, giving me a greater understanding of my materials to the extent I can identify some breeds of sheep by the feel of their fibre alone (Jacob, Wensleydale, and Gotland in particular). I’ve travelled to gatherings of fiber enthusiasts both in state and as far away as Maryland, and I can identify the most likely yarn shop to have what I need in minutes. I produce upwards of twenty finished projects a year.

So when someone says "Can you knit that for me?" or worse, "can you knit two of those by Christmas," I want to reply like this:

Sure, I can knit that for you. My hourly rate is $60/hr and that’s a minimum of 40 hours work, so it’ll be $2,400 for the labour, plus materials cost, plus an annoyance tax for you thinking my time is worth pennies per hour. Since it’s your first time, I’ll discount that to a mere $4,000 instead of the regular $8,000.

I’ll expect that $6,400 before I get started, and I’ll bill you later for the materials. Cash only. Have a nice day.

As a software quality engineer, people value what I do and I get paid accordingly. As a knitter, people greatly value what I do yet assume my work is worth a pittance way below minimum wage for the hours I spent. This is not going to fly with me.

Looking for the Holy Grail of cardigans

Looking back through my past knitted projects, there’s a few things I need in a cardigan that are not easy to find in combination:

  • Knit in pieces, then seamed, for project portability
  • Set-in sleeves look better on me than raglan ones
  • Worsted weight
  • Can be knit in less than the amount of yarn I have available
  • Pockets a definite plus

I have four sweater lots of yarn, two Vermont Organic Fiber Company O-Wool Classic (light blue and a mid green), some turquoise Rowan Calmer, and some Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in a plum jam colour. The last one is the only yarn I can easily get more of, the others are long discontinued.

The first one meeting all the criteria is Jackaroo, by Amy Herzog, which I’ll be starting this week. The others I’ve found are New Towne, Seamair, Grenadine, Golden Vintage, Larch, Basic Black, and Anne’s Cardigan.

Once I have this cardigan done, I want to do a sweater, either Afterlight or Custom Fit, both Amy Herzog designs.

Back and forwards: 2014 resolutions.

I knit thirteen hats this year. Wasn’t intending to make 2013 the year of the hat, but when you have a small amount of yarn, a hat is a good project. One of the hats was made with my first 3-ply handspun yarn, a deep red Falklands wool. I finished twenty-seven knitted things, though of that, several were multiples I counted in batches (nine coffee sleeves, three can sleeves, and five small bags while I was designing my Apothecary’s Pocket pattern).

This time last year I was in reviews for my 3rd degree brown belt in Chinese Kenpo karate. Now I’m reviewing for my 2nd degree brown, finally past a calf injury and dealing with elbow pain probably caused by spinning yarn.

My 2013 resolutions were:

I will not stab anyone in 2013.

Achieved, though under some strong temptations at times.

I will get my 3rd degree brown belt in Chinese Kenpo karate.

Got this on 18th January 2013.

I will lose 10 pounds and keep it off.

Not achieved, but I’m in a clothes size I feel comfortable about, I’m fit, my endurance is good, my sparring skills have improved, and I’m still flexible.

I will knit primarily from stashed (already bought) yarn.

Fourteen of the things I knit this year were from stashed yarn, which is just over half. My overall stash still fits comfortably in the one box I have assigned for it.

I will finish book #2 and write book #3 of my trilogy.

Umm, no. I wrote book #0, and that showed me how to finish book #2, which is still not done.

So, for next year:

  1. I will not stab anyone in 2014 (just one more year…)
  2. Get my second degree brown belt and make a run at 1st degree.
  3. Finish book #2 and write book #3 for NaNoWriMo

Crafting explosion

After a month of virtually no crafting, it seems to be Big Projects month. I finished a Little Waffles shawl/scarf with some handspun Organic Polwarth from Corgi Hill Farm. I’d spun a 3-ply sportweight and got 328yds that just kept on going. It got big when I blocked it.

Handspun shawl

Next project on the spinning wheel is 10oz of blue-purple Rambouillet, dyed by Corgi Hill Farm. My plan is to spin six bobbins, then ply up two 3-ply skeins that are hopefully even. Most of the way through the first bobbin and aiming for sportweight.

You’d think that a project described as "epic" and "a bit brutal" would put me off, but no. Hello Amortentia and your 603st beaded cast-on, got got past the ruffles and into the short rows so far and it wasn’t that painful. Who starts a ruffled shawl at the ruffle end and adds beads?

To take the edge off the mammoth cast-on, I have a sock project in progress, my Squishville Socks pattern for a friend.

Niobium Byzantine chain

There’s also a Byzantine bracelet in blue niobium I’ve been working on, it’ll be a double-wrap when it’s done and I’m two inches past the first full wrap. Niobium is heavier and a little stiffer than aluminium, the dark blue looks good.

A Flock of Hats

I’m not sure what the correct collective noun is for hats, but I seem to knit them in batches. Three of these four were destashing hats, made from yarn that I had before the start of the year.

Seaworthy Gansey hat.

Pattern: Seaworthy Gansey hat from Churchmouse Yarns and Tea

Yarn: String Theory Merino DK (I love this yarn)

Needles: US2 (2.75mm)

Duration: 6th March to 16th March

Second time using this yarn, and I still love it. The hat has an unusual pillbox construction and it’s knit on needles several sizes smaller than you would normally use for this weight of yarn, so the resulting hat is dense and windproof. And cute, did I mention cute? You can get the pattern free with a yarn purchase from Churchmouse, or just get the pattern like I did. I love the purl welts at the bottom and top of this, and the clever spiralling pattern on the sides.

Lapwing hat.

Pattern: Lapwing by Melissa Schaschwary

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Lightweight in Jade

Needles: US5 (3.75mm)

Duration: 25th February to 17th March

I don’t know how long I’ve had this yarn, but it must be several years. Lapwing is an interesting pattern, but this felt like it was moving so slowly I had to break off and do the Seaworthy Gansey hat to take the edge off. The hat has three layers at the brim, one of them ribbed, and it is purl-side out. I like the result, but I doubt I’d knit this one again.

Zumthor hat.

Pattern: Zumthor by Kirsten Johnstone

Yarn: Imperial Yarn Columbia in Black Cherry

Needles: US7 (4.5mm) and US8 (5mm)

Duration:19th March to 20th March

Zumthor is a reversible hat if you’re careful when you weave the ends in. This was my second project with Imperial Columbia yarn, and I still deeply dislike the yarn while loving how it turns out. There were 2 knots in the yarn early on where one ply had broken and was knotted back together, and a lot of vegetable matter in the yarn. Colour is gorgeous, the end result is great, but I just do not like working with the yarn. The top of the hat is nicely box-shaped.

Scalliwag hat.

Pattern: Scalliwag by Fiddle Knits

Yarn: madelinetosh tosh dk in Amber Trinket

Needles: US5 (3.75mm) and US7 (4.5mm)

Duration: 22nd March to 24th March

This hat is supposed to have a cabled brim, but several projects made that way mentioned it stretched out, so I did 1×1 ribbing instead. It’s an ingenious pattern, you make a hat slouch by cutting out the excess fabric at the back using short rows, and it fits really well. The decreases make a bold X on the back of the hat and I’m making another (with a hemmed rib brim) using some of my handspun.

One of the collective nouns for ducks or geese in flight is "a skein of ducks", but it’s a mess of iguanas, a whoop of gorillas, and a mischief of mice. And a scourge of mosquitoes, of course.

A parade of finished objects

It’s been a busy January so far. I’ve released a pattern for small drawstring bags, burned my hand with boiling water (making proper tea is a hazardous business) and I’m training for my third degree brown belt in Chinese Kenpo. And I’ve been knitting, there are some finished objects to show off.

Treacle Hedgerow socks.

Pattern: Hedgerow socks

Yarn: Dragonfly Fibers Djinni Sock in Sunshine Daydream

Needles: US1 (2.25mm)

Duration: 31st October 2012 to 18th November 2012

These were a surprise gift for Bella, who has never had handknit socks before. Hemmed top, Hedgerow pattern, and a fabulous colour on the yarn. It’s a merino cashmere nylon blend, and I can’t say it’s softer than a straight merino yarn, but I do appreciate the nylon in there. I love the look of hemmed-top socks and Hedgerow is a good pattern for non-solid yarn.

Tiled In Topper hat.

Pattern: Tiled In Topper

Yarn: Knit Picks Feleici and Palette

Needles: US2 (2.75mm) and US3 (3.25mm)

Duration: 28th October 2012 to 1st December 2012

I’m attempting to add stranded colourwork to my skillset and this was the first attempt in several years. And it worked! I was pleasantly surprised. Picked up a polystyrene head in a beauty supply store for $4 to block this and I’ve been wearing it on cold days. I made the hem longer and added a purl row at the turn point

Modified Boudica socks.

Pattern: Boudica socks

Yarn: Wool Candy Lollipop BFL Sock in Tikka Masala

Needles: US0 (2.25mm) and US1 (2.25mm)

Duration: 17th December 2012 to 9th January 2013

I’ve knit this pattern before and loved it, but this time I had to skip the cables up the side because they made my hand hurt. I replaced it with some 2×2 ribbing and went up a needle size for the horizontal braid because that part was too tight on the original sock, and it worked well. This was the pattern that introduced me to the rolled-top for socks, and I use that for all my BFL socks.

Projects in progress and stalled

If ever there was a year where I don’t complete NaNoWriMo it’s this one. Too much going on to have brain real-estate tied up with a novel. I may stage a dramatic comeback mid-month but it’s not looking very likely today. I’m sad because I have an eight year streak of NaNoWriMo wins. I’m still keeping my regional stats page though.

I have three knitting projects on my needles, which is more than I usually like:

Deco cardigan

Working my way up the single piece that makes up fronts and back, adding Deco pattern repeats as I go. The increase in needle size and pattern size seems to be working and I’m confident this will fit over a shirt comfortably. I also made it a bit longer and omitted the decrease/increase shaping. I’m not up to where I was before the Great Ripping Out of 2012, but I’m over halfway there and I still have five 200yd skeins of yarn to knit. The fabric feels good, the stitch definition is nice, I like this a lot. Planning to do the button band before the arms so I can get a better idea of fit. Might be done by year end but I’m not betting on it.

Tiled-In Topper hat

This is a simple stranded colourwork hat. Stranded knitting is something I’m not good at and it makes me very nervous. I’ve tried to make colourwork mittens before and they came out horribly loose, a different attempt came out so dense it had its own gravitational field. For the hat I’m using a self-striping red/purple sock yarn with cream for the accent colour. Stalled after the hem because I need a nice uninterrupted stretch to work on it and I’m not going to get that for a while.

Treacle Hedgerows socks

I’ve only finished one pair of socks this year and that was back in April, which is odd for me. The yarn has been sitting in my stash box since 2010 and it’s past time it earned its keep. Dragonfly Fibers Djinni sock is a thin merino cashmere nylon blend and the colour of this makes me think of looking into a tin of golden syrup. I’ve made the Hedgerow pattern before and liked it, but those socks were gifted. I deviated from the pattern early by putting a hemmed top on because it gets around my difficulties in making the cast-on edge loose enough to get over my heel. This is mostly mindless knitting to keep me occupied.