Sunday, May 31, 2009

Antepenultimate Toe

Recent experiments in the Evil Genius lab have caused me to contemplate sock toes. My "Go To" toe remains the Just Start Knitting toe, but it's less than ideal in some situations.

I recently encountered the Knitting Swede's Rounded Toe. This is a great method; because the increases aren't stacked on top of one another, it eliminates the visible band, producing a smoother fabric. Because the increase rate is faster than usual -- 8 increases in 3 rounds instead of 4 -- the resulting toe is shorter than most. If you have short toes, you might prefer that.

I wanted something a little longer, so borrowing the Knitting Swede's method of offsetting the increases, I started working from an earlier experiment that produces a toe-up version of the Francie sock. This is the result:

While working on this, I knew it wouldn't be the "Ultimate Toe." I was thinking of it as the "Penultimate Toe," but I still think it falls somewhat short of the mark. Here, then, are the instructions for the...


Turkish Cast-on 8. Knit 1.5 rounds (16 sts total).

Begin toe increases:
  1. k1, yo, k6, yo, k1; repeat for top of sock (20 sts total)
  2. k1, ktbl, k1, yo, k4, yo, k1, k-twist*, k1; repeat (24 sts total)
  3. k1, yo, k2, ktbl, k4, k-twist, k2, yo, k1; repeat (28 sts total)
  4. k1, ktbl, k1, yo, k8, yo, k1, k-twist, k1; repeat (32 sts total)
  5. k3, ktbl, k8, k-twist, k3; repeat (32 sts total)
Begin alternate increase rows.
  1. k1, yo, k14, yo, k1; repeat for top of sock (36 sts)
  2. [and all even rounds] knit, twisting the yarnovers as established
  3. k3, yo, k12, yo, k3; repeat (40 sts)
  4. k5, yo, k10, yo, k5; repeat (44 sts)
  5. k7. yo, k8, yo, k7; repeat (48 sts)
  6. k9, yo, k6, yo, k9; repeat (52 sts)
  7. k11, yo, k4, yo, k11; repeat (56 sts)
  8. k13, yo, k2, yo, k13; repeat (60 sts)
I wasn't quite up to my desired circumference at this point, so I continued adding increases to the sides of the sock, as the Knitting Swede does.
  1. k1, yo, k28, yo, k1 (64 sts)
  2. k3, yo, k26, yo, k3 (68 sts)

* k-twist: Slip next stitch knitwise onto the right needle, changing its mount. Slip the stitch back to the left needle purlwise; the front leg of the stitch now lies in back of the needle while the back leg of the stitch comes down the front of the needle. Knit the back leg like it's a normal stitch, which further twists it to the right.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I like ebooks. I was so blown-away by CLEVNET's pioneering work into this field, I helped get them an award for their innovation. It was revolutionary: sitting in my office 140 miles from Cleveland hours before the library opened, I could check out a book and download it to my PocketPC.

It was a joy to read books on my first PocketPC, the HP Jornada. When held in the palm of my right hand, it had a little rocker switch just below my middle finger which activated the page turn.

I did have some problems. There was a learning curve to set up all the necessary programs and get the content and digital license transferred to my device. And once on a trip when I changed timezones on my PDA, I was locked out of my book, even after I changed the time back.

My next PocketPC wasn't as ebook-friendly. The Compaq iPaq didn't have the nicely placed rocker switch, and my hand would cramp trying to hold the device so that my thumb could operate the little pad that changed pages. New formats were coming out, sparking more technical issues with installations and updates. It seemed like every time I checked out an ebook, I was starting from scratch, as if it were my first time. (This, by the way, is what I was referring to in a Columbus Dispatch story about ebooks -- the reporter quotes me saying "digital-content arms race," when what I said was "digital rights management arms race.")

Since then, most of my ebook battles have been with digital audiobooks. I long ago reached the conclusion that it is significantly easier to steal digital content than it is to borrow it legally, a fact that will always make it nearly impossible for public libraries to matter very much in the ebook world. And even though my library offers the de riguer access to an ebook collection, little of it works with my iPhone, and I end up using iTunes or the iPhone's Kindle App.

A month ago, I came home from a long, late day at work to discover an Amazon Kindle on pillow. The sweetest man in the world bought it for me with his income tax refund. I plugged it in, entered my Amazon i.d., and in seconds the book I was reading on my iPhone was synced to the Kindle (it even got me directly to the last page I'd been reading).

What do I think of it? I pretty much agree with everything Charles McGrath said in the NY Times this week. I love it, but it has some flaws. My three favorite things about the Kindle?
  1. I can buy a book (or just download a sample) at 10:30 p.m. when I'm settling into bed to read before sleeping.
  2. I can prop the Kindle on a cushion and read while knitting, turning pages with the push of a button.
  3. The Kindle, as others have pointed out, is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You just can't call it a bus

I'm having a hard time getting worked up over the California Supreme Court upholding Prop 8. I try to be sympathetic: there is a rejection here, a refusal to recognize the legitimacy of our love. But the whole "separate but equal" posturing just doesn't cut it with me.

The NY Times cites Loyola law professor Karl M. Manheim's argument that, by claiming the word "marriage" is only symbolic, the decision "is like telling black people that sitting in the back of the bus is not important as long as the front and the back of the bus arrive at the same time." No, it's like telling black people that they can sit anywhere on the large, motor vehicle public transport system; they just can't call it a bus.

May I remind my brothers and sisters in California that in Ohio we are not allowed on this metaphorical public transport at all. Not just buses, but anything that approximates "the design, qualities, significance or effect of" buses is barred to us. The long game must be to make sure that anyone can ride. And when that happens, people will tire of saying "large, motor vehicle public transportation system" and call it "bus" for simplicity.

I don't mean to minimize the blow to those for whom the "M" word means something beyond the sets of legal rights, but maybe those rights are more important than what we call them? Marriage schmarriage: let Mike make medical decisions for me and inherit my stuff.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sock Genius Fail

If I don't shape up, I'm going to be forced to relinquish my claim as the Evil Sock Genius. I keep knitting beautiful socks that don't fit human feet.

EXHIBIT A: These socks were to be a Mother's Day present. I called them "Enelram," a toe-up adaptation of Cookie A's Marlene socks. They seemed fantastic until I finished the first one and discovered that it was an inch too long in the foot -- or would be, if you could pull the tight thing on in the first place.

EXHIBIT B: Figuring the problem was with my heel strategy, I decided to suck it up and follow the pattern. It made no difference. Only with much tugging and swearing could these socks be pulled on.

The problem, of course, is gauge. The pattern clearly specifies 24 stitches to 4 inches. (I would argue, however, that "6 stitches per inch" is more clear). I didn't notice that these socks need thicker yarn and bigger needles than usual. In my defense, a 68-72 stitch circumference normally indicates the yarn and needles I was using.

EXHIBITS C-F: These are prototypes for a pattern I'm working on (more about this later). I have ripped back and reknit the heels repeatedly, trying 4 different heel strategies. During this process, I had to admit that my numbers for the Evil Genius Sock are just wrong. Maybe they work on a plain stockinette sock, but like Exhibit A above, with a patterned instep they produce a sock that is both too long and too tight across the arch and heel. The 4th attempt finally produced something acceptable, but even that falls short of perfect.

The Evil Sock Genius pattern will have to undergo some serious revision. But first, I need to figure out what I'm going to do for Mother's Day.