Sunday, January 28, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.--Pablo Picasso

Knowing what you want to do and getting there are two different struggles entirely.

With a houseful of fiber, there's plenty that I want to do with it. Ideas run rampant. But the discipline to take an idea to fruition. Ah, therein lies the rub.

Look Out, Kid. It's Something You Did. God Knows When, But You're Doing It Again

The past week was spent finishing one project and reworking another design idea. Quite a fruitful few days, all in all.
The redo of the Leaves of Grass socks is now over. Charted. Directions almost formatted. This picture is not the final--I just shoved them on my feet this morning in lieu of dragging Corinne out of her room to be my foot model. Good thing I shaved my legs the other day.

It's funny how even redoing a design that dates back to 1997 was a struggle. Other than the Wallaby, I have never knitted anything twice. And the Wallaby only because both Ian and Liz loved it when they were little and kept asking for it as they grew.

So, remember this from last year?

This was the Diamusee that I had been fooling around with, trying to get this design to work.

It just didn't. Nohow.
But since I never let anything go to waste, last weekend I took the existing chart, refined it considerably, and came up with this:
Not a great picture, granted. And since this was the design prove-out, I took some KnitPicks sock yarn, this tweedy stuff, and knit the sample sock from that. Of course, the pattern doesn't show up that well, but I wasn't concerned with that.

The entire sock consists of 8-stitch repeats, every single motif. The challenge was to make it flow properly when dividing for the heel and to make sure that the sock's leg could be shortened (you can leave the first motif out) and lengthened/shortened in the instep (only shorter motifs used there). With only one small adjustment to the chart I had redrawn, the whole thing worked perfectly.

The final sock yarn, Regia Stretch, is ideal for this kind of Guernsey-esque design.

When I design something, it's because I'm searching my skull for something that I know I want to knit but that either doesn't exist or does exist, but isn't quite the thing.

This sock is really a sampler of raised stitches. And I like change in my knitting, lots of it, otherwise I get bored. By next week, the first sock will be done so there will be a picture.

The Doltdrums of Winter
You know, this time of year brings out the KnitDweebs in droves, probably because what else is there to do but knit? Yeah, maybe ski and skate but winter arrived late in some parts of the lower 48.

Now, will someone please tell me why there is now a plethora of fingerless mitt-knitting taking over, wherein every KnitDweeb has jumped on the bandwagon and is unfinishing gloves?

Sorry, the only use I can find for these is if you work on a computer in a cold office. I liked the ones in the last IK--those I could see making for work because inevitably I've always worked in chilly buildings. And as a dear friend of mine, who knows who he is but shall go nameless this time, says they're good for organists playing in drafty churches.

But fingerless mitts from Noro Kureyon? (And why do people refer to Kureyon as Noro? Noro is the brand as well as the name of the artist who creates the colorways, if you didn't know.)

I'd just as soon make fingerless mitts from a Hefty garbage bag. Probably would be more practical. Besides the fact that Kureyon pills like a bitch, it's not exactly a material I would choose for handgear.

And WTF happened to ponchos? That bandwagon seems to have lost its wheels, thank God.
Please. Don't even ask me to predict what the next lemmings craze will be. Knitted silk parachutes with which to jump off the cliff? I can dig it.

More Me

It would appear that I will be telecommuting from now on. This is a very good thing. So it will give me the opportunity to write the blog entries more frequently, I hope. Not that I would ever neglect my work. Sorry, gang, but that does come first. Gotta pay the bills.

Nevertheless, telecommuting also means a certain degree of isolation that has to be addressed. So I guess I will be getting my fat ass out to the gym finally.

About time. Because the M&Ms and Diet Coke snack has to go. It's a rare and handy combination but one that increases the adipose tissue, not to mention the avoirdupois. You know what I mean.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
When I take action, I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It's going to be decisive.--George W. Bush, Warlord and NASCAR Aficionado

Here's a new contest. Name the date and time that we invade Iran. Tomorrow doesn't count. Try next Tuesday.

If you're correct, you could win an all-expenses paid luxury trip to Teheran for your son or daughter. Or even yourself, if you're under 35. Bypass Baghdad, get out your M-16 and have a blast.

You Go, Hip Trendy Chic Hot Bitchn Knttr Grrrrrllllll with the Bling-Bling
Many heartfelt kudos to Lisa Myers for writing about the dumbing-down of knitting books on her blog. Read it. This, from a yarn shop owner who knows what's going on and is unafraid to state publicly that she will not buy any more idiotic EZ, Quick, Last-Minute knitting tomes.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've ranted about this since the beginning. But Lisa is in the business, with clout that I don't have. I subscribe completely to her thinking that sending out the message in a Hello Kitty manner via ridiculous knitting books that knitting is HARD is so wrong. It's as fucking hard as you make it. Oh dear, all those bothersome numbers. Come on, aren't we all past this?

Evidently not. But on a positive note, there have been a few solidly serious knitting books published this year. So perhaps the tide turns. It remains to be seen.

Blogging Chutzpah
So I'm reading the latest issue of Yarn Market News, and lo! There is an article therein about bloggers who write negative, meanspirited things about yarn companies, designers and yarn shops. And how to stem the hemorrhaging if you're one of the latter.

While it's true that a lot of nonsense abounds in the knitting world, particularly the Knitting R Me attitude that I wrote about in the last post, there has been very valuable insights published by bloggers regarding the yarn industry. The article was a bit defensive, no surprise considering it's published by your friends at Vogue Knitting. And the industry should be concerned because if they're putting out garbage, they're going to get hammered on some of the knitting blogs, this one for sure.

My attitude, as you know if you read what I write, is that if a yarn is crap, I'm gonna tell you. If a designer strikes a diva pose, I'm going to write about it. If a magazine is badly off-track, I'll state my opinion. These are all public entities and as such, open themselves up to criticism. As I do myself, writing this blog.

Anyone who puts their product out for public consumption has to deal with the negative. It's not all "We lurve yoooooouuu."

Meanspirited? Perhaps some bloggers are. I've certainly been accused of it. However, my ultimate interest is not destroying someone personally but improving the product, be it yarn, customer service, writing, what have you. If I get a bit acerbic, that's because sometimes you have to hit people on the head with a large rock to make your point.

And it's always interesting to me that those who call me meanspirited forget all the positive things I've said about different yarns, designers, yarn shops, and magazines.

Obligatory Knitting Shit
Not much to write about, nor are there any pictures worth showing. I've been busy at work, busy writing some non-work pieces, busy finishing up stuff left on needles and writing up the patterns for Fredda's Knitting Vault. (Yes, Fredda! They are forthcoming. Please don't die of shock before we get together again.)

I did buy Knit Visualization. And it's even better than I had hoped. So out comes the Barbara Walker volumes, and I practiced charting patterns that I may use in the future. The Arwen hoodie is on hold until I finish a few other things on my list. Like warping that frigging loom. Cleaning up the Loom Room. All that good stuff. There will be pictures next week when I get to the point where I won't bore you with the same-old same-old.

Commercial Curmudge
Lately I've been wondering why I don't make any money from the hours that I spend writing this blog. So in the coming weeks, you will see some advertising, probably Google's AdSense at the least.

I've always wanted to stay away from this but the truth is, every year I pay for my domain and hosting. Not to mention my web stats and a few other related items. So it's time to make this hobby pay a bit of chump change. Shit, everyone else does it. I'm certainly not beneath making a few extra bucks.

You may have noticed that I've finished with the sidebar. I have not done much on redesigning the blog but that's going to happen over the course of the next month or so. It's time. I may not be able to use the Blogger tools for templates because I have my own domain and it seems that in the past, you could not use the new template utility if you published to an .ftp site. We'll see.

Anyway, I really have to clean. I don't feel like it but there are dust bunnies the size of my cat under the bed, I'm sure. What a rare and handy way to spend the rest of Saturday. I need a maid. Or a butler. Perhaps Jeeves. Or maybe just a sexy man. Heh.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant.--Stephen Colbert

Ignorance is no excuse--Marilyn Roberts

In the Knitting Multiverse, shit happens in a very public way, thanks to the Internet. I'm talking about the Blue Moon Fiber Arts banking fiasco. And if you're looking for specifics, lots of people have been writing about the whole mess.

Briefly, Blue Moon, a women-owned and operated business that sells beautiful yarn and does a sock-of-the-month deal that looks really nice, had its ability to accept credit cards negated by its bank for no particular reason other than the bank seemed to think that selling yarn wasn't a creditable business. Purchasers were refunded their money, even though they didn't want their orders canceled.

However, once again, the KnitDweebs have come out in droves to defend the sacred craft of knitting, rather than to discern what the real issue is: Women in business have to deal with gross discrimination. If you think knitting is being attacked, grow up and get over it. Who cares how nonknitters view knitting?

Don't knit socks and send them to Blue Moon or the bank or to whomever in protest. That's ludicrous and accomplishes nothing. Better to support Blue Moon by buying from them and paying for your purchase with a check that, yes, you have to put into an envelope and mail. With a stamp.

Charting a Course
In lieu of a blog entry, for the past two weeks, I've been charting up design ideas and playing around with some new concepts, in particular that Christmas Fair Isle pattern that I've had in my head. I use Knitting Software's Stitch Motif Maker (SMM) primarily, but I've found that it falls sadly short of my needs lately. So off I went to check out two other charting programs, Cochenille's Stitch Painter (SP), which I once owned when I had a Mac G4 and Knit Foundry's Knit Visualizer (KV), which Ted put me onto.

So, how do they all compare? Well, I broke down each program into color capability, general symbol capability, stitch symbol capability, value-added features and drawbacks. As far as user friendliness is concerned, I tested the Windows version of each, so you have the usual menus. If you are familiar with simple paint programs, you will have no problem navigating. Here's what I discovered.

Common denominators
All three programs allow you to configure a grid size. All three work on a palette system, which means you choose your color/stitch symbol from a window that displays available options. All three allow you to save or export your chart into a format other than the one the program generates.

Custom Color Capability
  • SMM--Basic colors are the default. The palette's custom colors are limited to a very small area.

  • SP--Default palette contains both solid and patterned colors, along with selected symbols. You can customize the colors.

  • KV--no color capability at this time; however, Knit Foundry will be releasing an upgrade soon that will include color.

Symbol Capability

  • SMM offers palettes of both knitting and unspecific symbols that can be used together with a color or alone. Using a symbol with a color is a two-step process that tends to be a bit time-consuming and clumsy.

  • SP--Palette can be customized with a large variety of symbols, including those used for beadwork, crochet, embroidery and other fiber crafts.

  • KV--Here is where this program shines. An extraordinary palette of knitting stitches, particularly a large assortment of cables that can be placed with one click. I could not display the extent of the palette's selections in one screenshot.

Value-Added Features

  • SMM doesn't have much. Arguably, its best extra feature is its ability to export to Paint, a program that comes with Windows.

  • SP has a range of extra features, which include a stencil function, handy for creating and copying large motifs, an importation feature that allows you to grid a photograph (more for needlepointers and machine knitters than for hand knitters), a palette merge function, color blending, Design-A-Knit export, and a bunch more that are fairly complex for the average user. Unfortunately, SP's demo is so limited that I can't show you a screenshot of these features. Why this is, I don't know, because all they needed to do was disable the Save As and Print functions to keep the program from being active, thus letting potential buyers really sample what they have. Stupid.

  • KV has something so unique that it's mindblowing: The Parser. What this feature does is allow the user to create a chart from typed directions. Whoa! Take a look at this:

You enter the text--the program allows you to select flat or cirular knitting and the number of stitches per row (great for those lace patterns where stitches disappear and reappear). Then you click the Add Row #X and...

Somehow I think I managed to reverse the symbols but you get the idea. And then, the final coup de grace is you get this when you print out:

Took me two screenshots to fit this all it. In the Preview Window, you will see not only the chart but the legend AND your written directions. You can then either export to .png (Portable Network Graphic) format, which is superior to .jpg, copy the whole thing to your clipboard, view the Print Preview or just print it.

SMM's palette can be clumsy to use and it's a bit limited. The cable symbols are a pain in the ass to use. Custom color selection is difficult, given the tiny area on the palette. Adding and deleting rows/stitches is a bit tiresome. The copy function is weird. In general, SMM has too many steps to accomplish a number of functions that should only take one click.

SP is almost too complex, in a way. The manual is a nightmare--this coming from a technical writer. They'll sell you "Cheat Sheets" that should be superfluous if the manual were better. And SP also relies on specialty plug-ins that must be purchased separately, like the Full Color Import module. Feh.

KV's biggest problem, and one that they are fixing (because I asked, since I wouldn't buy it unless it had color selection), is that of color capability. In order for this program to be truly useful to the knitter, it has to have that, no question.

The Final Word
No program can be all things to all people. So based on my little bit of research, I would say that if you need something easy to use that will create very basic, simple charts for your own use, Stitch Motif Maker is just right. If you're a power user and you do multiple fiber crafts, then SP is fine--they offer a Standard (color only, no symbols) and Gold version of the software, so you can dumb it down if you wish. Knit Visualization, with the addition of color functionality, is a professional-grade knitter's charting program. The high-quality graphics, the ease of charting and the incredible stitch symbol palette, along with the parsing, make this my choice.

SMM has good online help within the program. They also have a very good, readable manual in .pdf format, available if you click that link or downloadable from their site.

As mentioned before, SP's manual is too much and too confusing for the average user. And not downloadable from the site for free. Just some hints and tips.

KV's manual is exceptional. Clearly written by a software technical writer who is a knitter. You can download the manual and read it for yourself.

Read the manuals, visit the sites and see what you think. Doing this will help you make an informed decision as a consumer. Yes, there are other options--you can use Excel. I did a mini-tutorial on this last year. But if you want to do some serious charting, check out these applications.

And here are your costs:

Stitch Motif Maker V.3: USD$89.95
Stitch Painter Standard: USD$85.00
Stitch Painter Gold: USD$165.00
Knit Visualization: USD$135.00

So pick yer poison.

The Knitting Curmudgeon Circa. 1996
Gee, I didn't think anyone remembered the old KC web site that I ran from 1996 to around 2000 off of AOL's member site. Sarkamo was correct in the last entry's comments--I guess I've been doing this for more than five years now, with a brief two-year absence.

The old KC site was not a blog. Indeed, blogging didn't exist. Rather, it was a collection of my snarkiness in essay form, along with a free pattern. Back then, you coded your web pages so it wasn't something that I updated often. However, when I started blogging, some of my old readers found me again and that was very gratifying.

The Knitting Curmudgeon came into existence after a particularly heated flame-o-rama on the Knit List, wherein I did an Anti-Martha Stewart bit and got singed. But even then, there were KL readers who got my sense of humor and were supportive. I came up with the title because I had just given Jimmy the book with curmudgeon quotes, since he certainly was at least as curmudgeonly as I. I read the book and then realized that perhaps I fit the bill.

So yes, the Knitting Curmudgeon has been an entity since late 1996. And it's all mine. I take pride in being a pioneer in snottiness.

That does it for a rare and handy Saturday. The day's a-wasting and there's knitting (and laundry) to be done. And some spinning, too. Haven't done that in a while.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day

New Year's Day - Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.--Mark Twain

I don't do resolutions. And this past week, I paved my own road to hell with a good intention and got sandbagged by an asshole.

So you won't see any RAOKs (random acts of kindness, for those who don't know) or resolutions here. I'm not in the mood.

However, my friend Pat did send me this over the Christmas holidays and suggested I share it with you:

I think I saw this book on Amazon a while back.

Almost Good
Ma got Knitter's last week and I happened to see it while at her house. Not bad. With addition of Kaffe and Brandon designs, I felt it was worth buying. At least the puke factor has decreased for this issue. Perhaps DragonBoy was suffering from pinkeye or some other opthalmic disorder because the color choices were actually something that animals other than dogs could appreciate.

Having been a magazine editor, I know that the last issue of the year is the one where you've got to publish your U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership, Management & Circulation. This must be done by law, and if you look in the back of any magazine that has subscribers, you'll find it tucked away in the b/w ads. So every year, I check the Knitter's v. IK statements. IK's statement is on page 130 of the Winter issue, Knitter's is on page 113. These statements give you the breakdown of the magazine distribution--how many copies were sent to subscribers, how many were given away, that kind of thing.

In other words, you can get a pretty good idea of who sells more. Guess who the winner is? Of course. Interweave Knits. Every bit a far superior publication, hands down. And the proof is in their circ numbers.

I would suggest that while IK's ad revenues seem to have gone up, based on the number of ads, Knitter's has gone down. However, the X-men probably make a good deal of their dough on Stitches. I'm betting that attendance to Stitches East, the largest of the three, has gone down in the past few years. I sure know plenty of people on the East Coast who can't be bothered anymore. Rhinebeck and MD Sheep and Wool are becoming the venues of choice.

More Gravy Than Grave
Bah! Humbug. Since I have no husband to give me a Christmas present, I sometimes buy something for myself. This year I wasn't going to give myself anything but a week before Christmas I broke down and bought the KnitPicks Options interchangeable needle kit. With one caveat, I think this is an exceptional buy and definitely worth getting.

The needle points are sharp, the joins perfect, the cables are great. The needles do not come unscrewed from the cable. I've already knit a good chunk of the Arwen cardi left front with them and been quite pleased.

However, KnitPicks needs to make a 16" cable. Why they didn't is beyond me. If they want this to be a truly useful kit, they need to make this available. After all, you can buy a 60" cable separately, so why not a 16"? Pretty dumb.

The other thing I bought a couple of weeks ago was a skein of Black Bunny Fibers laceweight--Red Light.

As Carol says, Red Light as in "District." Uh huh. Goes up on my dedicated BBF shelf for future knitting but I will be working it sometime this year, in lace, probably a scarf.

I love Carol's stuff. After seeing all the hand-dyed yarns in NYC, I'd still rather buy hers. And she's just put up a ton of stuff, so get there now--it goes fast, I'm telling ya.

Thanks, Iron Sausage
To Johnny Hargreaves, my former boyfriend and always dear friend, for calling me on New Year's Eve to chat for a while. John knows this isn't always a great time of year for me and although we no longer live together, he's still very much my beloved, thoughtful friend. A good guy.

Some Boring New Year's Thoughts
So, gang, another year bit the dust. I think 2007 will be the year of the Wedding Ring Shawl for me, for one. And I will be concentrating on writing, per usual. And perhaps make a few more garments for myself. And maybe a possible new grandchild, who knows? I can see myself designing baby sweaters for the next branch of the KC family tree. I never really plan ahead as to what I'm going to knit, especially not at the beginning of the year. Vague projects dance through my brain but in the long run, it's what grabs me at a particular moment that gets made.

And I swear to God, I'm going to get some weaving done. Because that rare and handy expensive loom is sitting gathering dust. Not good.

Happy 2007 to you all. And thanks for reading.