Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ebook Lemonade

Last week, the UK-based Publishers Association announced guidelines for ebook lending, including a requirement that libraries can only provide ebooks to patrons who are physically at a library branch. My friend Laura tweeted, "I think Overdrive can kiss more than half of its library business goodbye after this." I agree. On top of all the other crap we have to put up with to offer Overdrive-managed ebooks to library patrons, this further restriction would be too much.

But then I began to think: this idea could be workable. I could accept those terms--patrons can only download a library's ebooks if they came to the library --if some of the other requirements were lifted:
  1. No waiting. If the library owns the ebook, it is available when you come in to download it, no matter how many other people have also downloaded it.

  2. No DRM, or a loan period so long that DRM doesn't really matter. I'd say at least 6 months; a year would be better.

  3. Costs must be reasonable. Libraries should expect to pay more for ebook distribution rights than they would for a single copy of a hardback book, but costs should be in line with libraries' current expenses. (I think I'll explore what this means in a future post).
If the only barrier to the service is that you have to go to the library, I could accept that, because we could find interesting ways to make that work. Oz knows that we could be doing a better job with download customer service; face-to-face help in the library would be a fantastic improvement. We could explore partnerships in the community to provide E-branches in coffee shops, airports, or other WiFi hotspots. We could develop Ebook Kiosks for malls, community colleges, parks, etc.

We've already given up so much in our pathetic attempts to be at the ebook table. I see some potential here to win back some power.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wash's Sweater Revisited -- The Body

When I was first trying to make Wash's Sweater, I would watch the scenes where the sweater appeared over and over, freezing the picture and trying to count the stitches. I worked hard to make my pattern come as close as possible to replicating the original costume piece.

That's one of the reasons why my pattern doesn't have good sizing notes, saying only, "For alternate sizes, add or subtract stitches from the sweater's Double Moss Stitch panels. Body and sleeves can be knit longer or shorter as desired."

As I said in the last post, for my Fisherman's Wool version I need to add 46 stitches to the circumference of the sweater. I put purl stitches on either side of the cable charts, and then dumped the rest of the stitches into the double moss panels. Ultimately, to make the double moss look like I wanted, I added a couple more stitches, bringing my total up to 232.

So in the last round of ribbing, I distributed 24 increases around the sweater, then started working the body pattern like this:
Work Double Moss Stitch over 62 sts; p1; work Rope Cable (Chart A) over the next 10 sts; p2; work Serenity Cable (Chart B) over the next 28 sts; p2; repeat Rope Cable over the next 10 sts; p1. Repeat to complete round.

And this is where I am now, 10 inches past the ribbing, working up the body. I'm not really very happy with it. The decorative cable panel is just too narrow, and too much of the sweater is now the double moss filler. I'll need more repeats of the cable in order to reach the correct length.

I'm convinced that the sweater needs to be made on a bulkier yarn than Fisherman's Wool -- maybe something like Cascade's Eco Wool, which is the second most popular choice for the sweater on Ravelry. But I started out trying to make the sweater work for people who wanted to use the thinner yarn. I think my next step is to try revising the cable.

Rather than completely frog my work, I gave it to knittingbrow, who might make it into a vest.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Wash's Sweater Revisited -- Gauge

In 2008, I recreated a sweater worn by the character Wash in two episodes of the TV series Firefly, and then worked out patterns so that other knitters could make their own. My prototype used a bulky handspun yarn, so my patterns called for a similar heavy worsted wool. But yarn like that is not easy to find, and I noticed many knitters were using a finer yarn, like Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool, to make their sweaters.

But Fisherman's Wool doesn't make a good fabric at the gauge my pattern called for -- it's too loose and open. So when I recently decided I wanted to make another of these, I thought I'd try the popular choice, and suggest some ways to revise the pattern for thinner yarns. (Also, I want to suss out a way to work the sleeves and chest together seamlessly).

So the first step is gauge. My original pattern called for 16 stitches to 4 inches in stockinette fabric, or 15 stitches to 4 inches of double moss stitch. I swatched the Fisherman's Wool on both size 7 and size 8 needles, which gave me 20 and 19 stitches per inch respectively in stockinette. After washing the swatch, I preferred the look of the fabric from the 8's.

I wanted this sweater to be 45 inches around at the chest, and at 4.75 stitches per inch, that's 214 stitches. Back in 2008, I calculated that I need to add about 16 stitches to make up for the cables. So my "key" number for the sweater is 230. I cast on 90% (208 stitches), and began knitting the 1x1 twisted rib that makes up the bottom of this sweater.

After 3 inches of ribbing, it was time to increase up to my key number for the body of the sweater. But before doing that, I would need to figure out where I was going to put the additional 46 stitches, because my original pattern is 184 stitches around, and this sweater would need to be 230. My solution is coming up in the next post.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Genius Footprint -- The Heel

Just as during the gusset section when we had to plan to make all the gusset increases within a certain distance, for the heel we have to bring our sock to a close in the remaining inches of the foot. This takes some creativity, and again, rounds per inch is your friend.
I've knit 7.5 inches of my 10 inch foot, so I need to finish the heel in 2.5 inches. At 13 rounds per inch, I've got a little over 32 rows to complete the foot, to reduce my 98 stitches down to about 24 (which I can graft together or join in 3 needle bind-off). I could decrease at 4 points every other round. I could consult Personal Footprints, where Bordhi devotes 7 pages to mapping out different rates of decreasing at 6 points. But I thought I'd try a reverse Hat Heel, decreasing at 8 points every 4th round 8 times until my sock is the right length, then quickly decreasing on alternate rounds to close up the hole.

Here is a pic of the bottom of my sock so far -- a closed tube that is the same length as my foot, with increases that follow the shape of my toes and an arch expansion targeted to my size. On the reverse of the tube, I've marked stitches where I will open up the sock to knit the ankle and calf.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Genius Footprint -- Mark the Leg

Using science (that is, gauge and actual measurements of your foot), we've knit to our measurements and should be near the center of the ankle when we've completed the gusset increases. If you want, you can check this using the method Bordhi outlines in Personal Footprints: draw a line down the middle of your leg, try on your sock, and see if it reaches. You might need to add a few rows to make up for foot expansion. Now it's time to mark where your leg will be.

(You might have figured out that the point of this series was to explore whether I could successfully make socks like those in Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters, but without everything I dislike about those socks: the round toe, the "footprint" that doesn't adapt well to different gauges, and especially the annoying trial-and-error process. But the steps that deal with opening up the leg are the parts that I really, really like about the book.)

Sock patterns are usually written with the assumption that people's ankles are about the same circumference as the ball of their foot. For most of my family, it's pretty close, but here is where you can customize. The base of my ankle is just a bit bigger around than the base of my foot, so I'm going to plan for 72 stitches in circumference rather than the 68 stitches I had at the ball.

So what I do now is run a lifeline through the stitches where I will later put the leg of the sock. If my ankle will be 72 stitches, then I need to run a lifeline through 36 stitches, centered on the top. Following Bordhi's instructions, I knit another round, marking a stitch that I will later cut and unravel for the leg opening. Then I knit the next round and run another lifeline through the 36 stitches above my first life line.

I experimented with a more familiar method -- knitting my leg stitches with a bit of waste yarn, which I later removed to knit the leg -- but the end result isn't as nice. And in this instance, I recommend following Bordhi's instructions exactly. If you can't get your hands on a copy of Personal Footprints, you can get the general idea from the Houdini Sock pattern and from Bordhi's YouTube videos.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Genius Footprint -- The Gusset Increases

In New Pathways for Sock Knitters, Cat Bordhi demonstrated that gusset increases can be located anywhere you want on the sock -- top, bottom, sides; neatly stacked on top of each other or randomly spaced. Where do they work best on your foot? I'm still experimenting, but I think my increases work better on the top...

...or the sides.

My theory is that if the increases follow the lines where my foot gets bigger, then the stitches won't be distorted by the changing shape of my foot -- they'll flow in more or less straight lines from the toe to the heel.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Genius Footprint -- The Plan

The Genius Footprint is based on measurements and gauge. The toe is your gauge swatch; now you need these key measurements:
  • Circumference around the ball of the foot
  • Circumference at the widest part of the foot: around the heel and instep (see picture at right for illustration)
  • Length of foot (Best way: put a ruler on the floor, extending out from a wall; stand on the ruler, back of the heel pressed against the wall)
  • Length from the tip of the longest toe to the center of the ankle (see this blog post for advice).
We've already calculated how the sock will fit around the ball of the foot: gauge x circumference x 88% for negative ease. Now calculate how many stitches the sock will need to be at its widest. My foot is 9 inches at the ball, 13 at the heel/instep, or 68 stitches at the ball and 98 at the widest point. I will need to increase 30 stitches over the gusset section.
Gusset sections begin about halfway along the foot. My foot is 10 inches long, so I will start my gussets when the sock is about 5 inches. I can safely continue knitting for a few inches, give myself some more fabric so I can accurately check row gauge. My sock is 13 rows (or rounds) per inch, so I'll want to start my gussets near round 65.
The increases need to be completed before the center of the ankle. For me, that's at 7.5 inches, or round 98. Isn't that handy? I'll need to make 30 gusset increases, and I've got just over 30 rows to do it.
I can knit plain up to row 68, and ponder what I want to do with the gusset section.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Genius Footprint -- The Toe

The Genius Footprint begins with an anatomically correct toe.
[Gauge = 8.5 stitches per inch]
Turkish Cast-On
  • Hold your circular needle so that both ends are together, pointed to the right.
  • Pull the bottom needle to the right, so your top needle is held together with the bottom cord.
  • Start your yarn in back of the needles, leaving a 12" tail hanging.
  • Wrap the yarn over toward you, down across the front and up the back of the needles.
  • Wrap until you have 7 loops.
Rounded Toe
  • Knit across the stitches on the "top" needle. Be sure to keep your stitches snug on the "bottom" needle.
  • Hold working yarn and tail together, and work 1 round. (This doubles the number of loops on each side -- 14 per side, 28 total.)
  • Drop the tail, and knit one round, working one stitch in each loop.
Begin to think of the first 14 stitches as the sole (bottom) of the foot, and the other 14 stitches as the instep (top).

Toe Increases
  • Knit 2, YO, knit until 2 stitches remain of sole stitches, YO, knit 2. Repeat for the instep.
  • Knit round, working the first yarnover on each side through the back loop, and the second yarnover as k-twist*.
Repeat these two rounds until you have 48 stitches, 24 stitches per side (or until your sock is about an inch long). Then continue knitting but stop increasing on one of the ends. For example:

Left Foot
  • Knit until 2 stitches remain of sole stitches, YO, knit 2. On instep side, knit 2, YO, knit to end of round.
  • Knit round, working the yarnover at the end of the sole stitches as k-twist, and the yarnover at the beginning of the instep stitches through the back loop.
Right Foot
  • Knit 2, YO, knit to end of sole stitches. On instep, knit until 2 stitches remain, YO, knit 2.
  • Knit round, working the yarnover at the beginning of the round through the back loop, and the yarnover at the end of the round as k-twist.
Repeat until your sock is desired circumference. For me, that's 68 stitches. For you, it's gauge x circumference around ball of foot x negative ease. (8.5 spi x 9 inch ball x 88% negative ease = 67.32, or 68 stitches).

* 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, March 13, 2010

I Used to Be a Folklorist

Progress cleaning the basement has been slow. I bought 5 cheap bookcases, and while I was setting them up, I discovered that mildew had flourished beneath a stack of board games. That took me a while to clean up, but the smell and stains are gone.

The biggest purge I've made so far is my folklore stuff. I took my books to the Friends of the Library, keeping only my heavily annotated copy of More Man Than You'll Ever Be. I looked through all of my graduate school notebooks and tossed everything except papers and journals. And then there was this box:

This box was what was left from previous grad school purges.

It contained the course packets I made my students buy for the composition and the folklore classes I taught. There were some of the articles that I'd copied for my general exams and my dissertation research, and the floppy disks with my data. It even had the tape recorder and cassettes I used for my Masters thesis and for my very first fieldwork project: an interview with my office mate Tom Burns (now director of the Perkins Observatory), who told me the story of the Denney Hall Elevator Ghost.
A professor was in his office on the 5th floor of Denney Hall one night, waiting for a student who never showed up for her appointment. He walked down to the 4th floor for a cup of coffee before going home, and just as he pushed the down button for the elevator, he heard screams from the floor above. When the elevator arrived, he pushed the button for the first floor and left the building. The next day, the body of his student was discovered in front of the professor's office. The professor was wracked with remorse, retired immediately, and died a few months later, a broken man. But ever since, when you're on the 4th floor of Denney Hall and you summon the elevator, the elevator always goes up to the 5th floor before opening on the 4th.
Tom is a great story teller, and his version was much better than mine, with an actual appearance of the ghost in the elevator to tell his own story to a grad student.

It wasn't as hard to toss all this as I thought it might be. For all of grad school, I was Mr. Folklore (or "Captain Folklore," I told people, "like a superhero, with a cape and tights.") It was harder getting over the lingering sense of failure after I'd abandoned my dissertation and my academic career. But I'm happy where I've ended up, and I don't feel much guilt and shame over that "road not taken." (Besides, occasionally Rose asks me a question about folklore and the Internet, and I get to feel smart, and convince myself that I could have succeeded on the tenure track, I just chose not to).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

CleanQuest 2010: Return to the Basement

Two years ago, I took a week of vacation to do some serious cleaning in the house, a practice I mean to repeat annually as long as it doesn't do permanent damage to Mike's love for me. But this year's cleaning sabbatical was preempted by my mom's knee replacement surgery: I needed to spend that week helping to keep her spirits up and doing what I could to speed her recovery.

I thought there would be no cleaning this year, as things are too busy at work to take off much more time right now. But then Wednesday night, we heard a scary sound of electricity arcing and a loud "zap." The circuit that carries our dishwasher and refrigerator had fried. I began to realize that things were about to get very bad in our basement.

Access to the circuit box was impeded by a large shelving structure made up of long boards held up by two ladders (something like this, but less neat). I knew I needed to get it out of the way so workers could fix the circuit. With the ladders down, this is what our basement looks like.

Please don't put us on Hoarders.

I'm going to make it better, and this blog will help. I'm not a compulsive hoarder; I keep things because they mean something to me, remind me of pieces of my life and identity that I can't bear to toss away and forget. I think my best strategy for getting the basement under control is to blog about the things I find. If I take a picture and tell the story, the enchantments that tie these things to my life will be lifted. Rather than throwing away pieces of myself, I will celebrate and preserve them here...before tossing them in the dumpster.

It will be solipsistic, I'm sure, but you know, the blog is called "A Glimpse at Don." I think I'll enjoy it. Hopefully you won't find it intolerable.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Dark Side

I'm learning to spin. It's WonderMike's fault. He just looked so cool, so happy, standing there at Sock Summit, roving draped around his neck, making beautiful yarn. It wasn't a chore; it was an enjoyable pasttime, something to do with his hands while he chatted and laughed with passers-by.

I've actively resisted spinning. Yes, the spindles were pretty. Yes, the handspun was beautiful. But no, I didn't need to do it myself. I am perfectly happy letting others raise the sheep, sheer the wool, clean it, dye it, spin it. I like being further up this food chain: buying the yarn and knitting it into something nice.

But stupid WonderMike had to open the door, and Abby Franquemont slipped in, with her engaging and witty Ravelry persona and her terrific Intro to Spinning video on YouTube. Her simple explanation -- spinning is just pulling apart fiber and twisting it so it holds together; use a stick to hold the yarn and make things go faster -- was irresistible to me. And her book! Oh my god, her book. I love a funny, smart woman talking to me about the physics of yarn. And she blew my mind by pointing out that spindles are responsible for nearly all human textile production up until about 400 years ago.

So a week ago, I took a class.

I'm not very good, but I don't expect to be. Abby (and others) argue that learning to spin involves developing muscle memory, and that if I keep practicing a little each day, I'll get it in about a month or two.

The result so far:

That's what became of the roving I got in class. Now I'm getting serious with some dyed combed top that I bought at a local store.

So I'll give it a couple months, working at it every day. If it doesn't click by spring, I'll drop it. And if it does click, I'll probably still drop it: I like to knit things, not make yarn. I'm not interested in owning a wheel. (If I'm buying equipment, I'd rather it was a circular sock machine).

But meanwhile, I think I'm learning a lot about yarn. And I've got an excuse now to look at the spindles at the wool festivals.