Friday, December 22, 2006

Last minute gift

It's not quite finished yet-can you see the pin sticking out of the bottom? More to follow. Stop. Hope all is well. Stop. Happy Holidays. Full stop.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dabbling in color work

Ah, the irony. A sheep picture knit in cotton. I'm such a hipster. The chart looked easy enough, and I even got to combine stranded knitting with intarsia (explanation of techniques below). It seemed ridiculous to assign each leg its own skein, so I tried stranding at the bottom and then intarsia at the top. I was being pretty sloppy: I made two color changes in the wrong place, I didn't follow all the instructions about when you twist and when you don't, the fabric is twice as thick where the legs are, and I haven't woven in the ends because I can't find my tapestry needles. But. As an experiment in color work, I consider this a success because
  1. I used both methods,
  2. I used scrap yarn (conveniently pre-wrapped in tiny leftover size skeins),
  3. I am not intimidated, and
  4. I have the seed of an idea for an intarsia project.
Furthermore, I abandoned my usual Combined knitting and very carefully knit the "proper" way that everyone else was taught the first time around, and I didn't get confused.

*In stranded knitting you carry two yarns at all times, and the wrong side of the fabric has horizontal stripes of un-knit yarn. Fair Isle sweaters are made by stranding. Intarsia assigns each block of color a tiny skein, so you knit with one skein until a color change, twist it once around the next skein to attach it, and then drop the old skein to knit with the new skein.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Oscar the Scrappy.

This plant was a Secret Santa present two years ago, and I think he has survived long enough to deserve a name. I think I will name him Oscar. I was amazed when he bloomed again last winter, and then somehow managed to survive a very ill-advised attempt at repotting this summer. Perhaps not ill-advised, as the roots had become pot-bound, but it was definitely a poorly executed rescue. In the aftermath of the re-potting I stuck this lil' guy outside so he could get more sun, and I think the scarring on that out-of-focus leaf is from the time spent outdoors. When Oscar is feeling under the weather (i.e., unwatered) he doesn't change color, but all of the leaves start feeling very thin and pliable. A few times I have been completely neglectful, and at first a leaf or two falls off. Then if I don't notice in time an entire stalk will fall off from the base, which is the most disturbing plant disaster I have ever encountered. Maybe it isn't clear in the picture, but the resemblance to hands is really intense. Once they're detatched the long stalks resemble severed limbs. Oscar may not be as pristine and full of blooms as when I received him, but he certainly makes up for it by being scrappy. Maybe now that he has a name I'll be more consistent in my caretaking.

So far there is only the one flower, but there are plenty of buds waiting in the wings. They're all pretty miniscule, though, so I'm not sure they're going to flower at all. The single gigantic bud finally opened up yesterday. Isn't that stamen an amazing color of pink?
Today I frogged not only one but two knitting projects. Character building stuff. I'm excited to have found these free charts, however. Not because I want to knit a German Shepard or some candy corn, mind you, but because they have a link to blank knitting charts along the top. (On the other hand, I admit to liking the sock sheep quite a bit.)

I've been reading the archives of See Eunny Knit, and her explanation of un-venting simple cables (as well as Ariel Barton's 2004 Knitty article about why charts are your friends) have made the idea of using a chart much less intimidating. Since the brief mention a few weeks ago I've been plodding along on a grey scarf, and keeping track of each row was becoming a hassle. I think starting over with the pattern set from the beginning should help immensely.

Bucket O' Brains

Isn't that amazingly gross looking? Apparently no one has used this ink in a while. The crust on top was more than half an inch thick. Gross! There's another tub of red ink, but it's a little darker than what I wanted. This is the title page with the darker red:
And here's my arrangement, both the black and two-colored version.
I'm quite pleased with how it came out. The quote at the bottom seems kind of hard to read in the first picture. This is what it says:

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not,
at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it
with every weapon of community stupidity.

Robertson Davies

Cynical, yes, but think about all the things people refuse to believe in: global warming, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. etc.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New addition to the bookshelf

As soon as the library withdraws some books I'm going to make these bookends permanent-style. I'm going to try cutting a stack of books in half so they take up less room, but this is a good make-shift way to keep everything upright. Oh, what's that I see tucked in the middle?
I'm in love with this paper. The Guild only had two sheets of it, which was enough to bind 8 out of the 12 copies, but I have other paper at home that I can use for the rest. It was really annoying when I discovered that the second sheet had a tear in it that I couldn't possibly avoid, but at least I was able to hide it in the back. Even if I'd noticed in the store I probably would have bought them, because nothing else struck me in quite the same way (i.e., enough to rationalize paying for it).
In addition to binding these, I printed my two color piece today. As always, I wasn't expecting it to take quite as long as it did, but I'm completely done working in the studio for the semester.
Coming soon: Bucket O' Brains!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Illustration Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It

New game! Favorite object this week:
I misplaced my keys this weekend, which makes life frustrating. Public safety called my room and left a message, as indicated on the note. I've been bad at checking messages left on my room phone, so I still haven't heard exactly what the message said. I had a hunch that the keys had been turned in, though, so I stopped by to look in the Lost and Found. Reunited at last!


Sometimes looming deadlines help me start working.
And sometimes I make rubber stamps instead.
In my defense, there is no way that I would have accomplished anything at the studio in the short amount of time I spent on this, and as soon as I finished I started doing work.
I am not entirely pleased with how the penguin came out, but at least now I have a better idea of what kind of images would be appropriate. I'm taking as my model a still life of onions that was carved and stamped on the cover of a hand-bound recipe book. I wish I could remember where I saw the picture of it, I was drawn to it at the time.

A repreive.

Today has been one big, long sigh of relief. All of my assignments for today were finished on time. My Stats group assembled our poster without a hitch (it's gorgeous, I tell you, gorgeous. You have never seen so many beautiful right angles). Our personal projects in my typography class are no longer due the last day of class, and instead they are due at the end of reading period. And we are no longer on a deadline to finish the book.

We'll still be finishing the project, or at least, everyone who is continuing for the second semester will keep working on the project. I'm glad that the day of reckoning arrived; we were starting to make a lot of errors because we were rushing. My personal mistake happened just yesterday, when I told Barry that everything was set to go before I actually checked to see if it lined up in the middle. He printed 18 pages before he noticed and fixed the problem. That was really embarrassing to find out this morning.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Look what came in the mail! Mo was a sweetie and got these earrings from sulu design. They're just the right length for me. I liked these beads since Susan first posted about them (aren't those pictures luscious?), but the first pair using these beads seemed a little too long for my face. I was so glad when these popped up on etsy!

Notice something strange about this picture? That's right, I'm wearing my hair down.

I spent some time in the studio this morning getting a page ready for printing. I didn't expect it to take as long as it did (when do I ever?), but there were quite a few mistakes that needed to be corrected and a few lines needed to be rejustified.

When we were initially setting the story we tried to use machine cast spacing as much as possible, but we cut our own half point spacing from long strips of copper. In my first few proofs this morning, the lines of type didn't sit straight on the page. Sections of letters would tilt off at funny angles. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. It turns out that the coppers had been cut too tall, so they pushed outwards on the leading above and below, which gave the letters room to wiggle.

This morning Barry found a major typo-in a page that's already been printed. The time pressure has me worried. I think that as of this morning we had 6 pages printed. We're supposed to hand in our bound books a week from today. This could be interesting.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Paper cuts

It's amazing how long it takes to cut paper.

I went to the studio on Wednesday intending to finish printing my setting of Wislawa Szymborska's poem "First Love". Because the poem is a little longer than the assignment specified, I have to make a fairly large French fold*. This means that each piece of Zerkall paper will only give me two French folds, but they each end up being gigantic. In most cases Barry advocates using as much paper as possible but he agreed that the text would be completely dwarfed by the margins. As he put it, they would be "overly generous."

So instead of zippity quick cutting my paper, I had to enter into decision making mode. Decision making mode entails creating physical mock ups of all the options. Somehow it took an entire hour and a half to finish all the cuts I had to make, and I even was late to class. At least I'll be able to start printing right away the next time I go in.

*A French fold is the same thing you make when you print out a card from the computer and fold it twice.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

First pages printed

I love terse, handwritten messages. During high school my choir director wrote a sign that said:

Piano movers,
Leave piano in office.
(arrow to the right)
Leave bill on desk.

Patrick T____

A few days later I asked if the piano had been delivered. He inquired as to how I knew there was a piano coming (apparently he forgot about leaving a sign out). It hadn't come yet, but once it did arrive I got to keep the note. It's on my wall at home and I think it's the funniest thing I own. Part of the reason I like it so much is that it never occurred to me that a job existed which was entirely devoted to moving pianos. Don't you think that's great? I should ask Barry about keeping this sign once the term is over.

Barry finished dividing the type into pages before class, so today we started printing. About time! We have two identical machines that we're using for this project. When I pulled the proof on Tuesday it was on the small hand-cranked machine,

but now we're using monsters!

The first machine had furniture set up the other day, so David started right in correcting all the missing letters.

Arielle was my printing buddy today, and he made a diagram so we could duplicate the furniture exactly. Arielle has awesome handwriting, by the way. It's neat but it has character. It reminds me of Danny Gregory's handwriting, although that could just be because they both label everything. I love drawings with labels and notes.

We spent about two and a half hours in preparation, and then in the last thirty minutes of class we printed out our stack of pages. We printed pages 16 and 17, which will be in the exact middle of the book. I took a short video on Mo's camera while we were printing, so I'll be exploring the best way to get that online. This picture looks grainy (at least on my screen) but if you click on it you can see the type clearly and read part of the story.

After we finished we put our completed pages in the drawer for the project. I'm terrified that a pair will come in to print and they won't realize that they should start with paper that's already been printed on one side. As we finish printing each set of pages we're marking the dummy, but it would be easy for a group to forget about checking the opposite side.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"So, what do you collect?"

Before Thanksgiving Mo and I walked down to Webs to buy yarn for the plane, and on the way back we stopped in a small shop, Memory Lane Antiques. I saw an orange Fiestaware creamer which I adored, mostly because of the contrast between the orange Le Creuset type color outside with the plain white inside and along the rim. I resisted temptation, mostly because it looked like it needed a thorough cleaning, but I kept thinking about it. Walking home, knitting on the plane, I kept worrying that someone else would visit the store and recognize the intrinsic awesomeness of the miniature orange pitcher. I even checked on ebay to see if I could find a suitable replacement, just in case, but none of the creamers looked half as interesting, and with shipping they would have cost twice as much. It was more than a week after Thanksgiving before I got back to the store.

Success! The shopkeeper asked if I collected anything, and he seemed to think it was really strange that I came back just because I liked the colors so much.

In the typography studio we're excruciatingly close to printing everything. Every section but one was completely finished at the beginning of class, and we started dividing up into pages. The entire book will be 32 pages long, and the text should take up about 23 pages with 25 lines per page. Actually, I shouldn't say that we divided everything up into pages; I spent the entire class helping finish up that last section. Having twice underestimated how long it would take me to finish my own part, I had to help once I realized how many hours of typesetting remained for the unfinished section. We finished up a sizable chunk of it, and setting the rest should take less than 2 hours.

Barry said he would be coming in every morning until we finish, so I'm planning on going in tomorrow. I'm hoping that I'll be able to use one of the presses to finish up an earlier project.

In other news, it just so happens that my house has an iron in the closet. How great is that? The ironing board cover is beyond sketchy, but a pillowcase or two can fix that. Now I have access to pretty much everything it takes to make a quilt. Dangerous.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Setting justified type

Every year the chapel has a Vespers service the first weekend of Advent. They have two services because so many people from the community come to the services that they can't all fit in the space at once. There's something really amazing about singing Christmas carols for (and with) a thousand people. It's also easy to blow out your voice; towards the end I'm always feeling a bit raspy.

Somehow in all the craziness of this weekend I managed to get to the typography studio and completely finish setting my section of the story. Here's a quick tour through setting type.

The first step is to fit as many words in the line as possible (or necessary) without any space between them. This line is the end of a paragraph, so I don't have to figure out how to distribute the leftover space. You can see I've put two points of space between each word and then driven the line out-filled it up so all of the letters are tightly packed in.

If the line had been in the middle of a paragraph, after putting even spacing between each word I would still have a little bit of wiggle room. I'd start by putting little slivers of space between combinations of straight letters, for example -d b-, -d h-, or on both sides of an I. After filling those spaces I would move to straight-curved combinations (such as -d e-) and then to all the remaining combinations of curved letters.

You can see above that the composing stick isn't long enough to set long sections of text at one go. This is a good thing; the lead starts getting heavy very quickly towards the end of a 3 hour long class. Once the composing stick is full, we tie the forme off (Old English, not a misspelling) with twine to keep letters from falling over. The next time I have a photographic assistant with me I'll get some pictures of the process. For now I can show you a finished product.

After I finished setting my section, I made a first proof with the type still tied off in smaller chunks. I've made my corrections as I've untied each section, and now I'm ready to do a second proof.

You can see at the bottom where we ran out of letters. The black rectangles are the bottoms of pieces of type; we replaced missing t's with r's, and missing e's with c's, since they are about the same width.

Can you find the line where I got lucky? One day when I came in a few t's had appeared in the case I was working on, but it clearly wasn't enough. The foundry did send us letters we were short on, but that wasn't enough either. The sections at the beginning and the end all have the right letters, but since I'm right in the middle I'll have to wait until they've finished printing and can start distributing type.

Tomorrow (if everyone is finished) we'll start laying out pages. So far I've been too self conscious to take pictures during class, but tomorrow should be very different from anything we've done before. I may just have to risk it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Disaster strikes again!

In the past few days the typography studio has run into some trouble. The t's were the firs o go, and the e's wr clos bhind. The fw h's and o's won' las for long. W ar running ou of lowrcas lrs. Yiks.

So far we have dealt with the problem by substituting letters. A lowercase r, for example, is about the same width as a lowercase t. We've been setting the r's upside down, with the bottom facing up, so we can find them later. It would have been easier to deal with the problem if one person were setting the entire story, start to finish, or if everyone were done (or nearly done) with their section. At this point, however, there are huge sections of the story for which the line breaks haven't been determined. We don't even know how many pages long the story will be. If we knew any of this information, we'd be able to figure out which pages will be printed from the same sheet, print those pages, and then redistribute the type.

As Barry said, we gambled and lost. Or rahr, gambld and ls.

At first Barry didn't notice that the letters were running out. He was sitting at his desk when I told him, and he clutched at his chest suddenly. That's never a good sign. Then this morning he came into the studio with a brand new, half empty box of Tums.

Fortunately for our project (and Barry's health), the typecaster is overnighting us enough letters to finish the story. I think Barry was reluctant to ask for favors, but there really was no other way we could deal with the problem.

We'll still be working against the clock: the semester ends December 14th, and nobody wants to spend finals period in the studio. In the next few days I'll try to take a few pictures of setting type, but I can't make any promises.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fresh eggs

It was a full house for Thanksgiving, with 18 adults, one 3 year old, and a set of 7 month old twins, so most of us slept at one of the local bed and breakfasts. The couple whose house we stayed at kept six chickens, and the fresh eggs were put to good use. I'll be honest and tell you that I couldn't taste a difference without having a normal egg for comparison, but they were quite tasty. On Saturday my mom and I went to help collect eggs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Last post about the sweater. I swear.

Poor little Z. was overheating when I finally got her into the sweater. In addition to wearing a shirt and sweater underneath, she had to deal with a fire in the fireplace, so I don't blame her for feeling all floppy.

It's unraveling a bit, but this is my first swatch ever:

Awww. We've come a long way, baby. I'm a bit frustrated with the extra yarn. I found four untouched skeins I had forgotten about lurking in my knitting, and two of them are even in the same color. Pink, if you must know. I know this could have something to do with using Rowan instead of Debbie Bliss, but it still makes me suspicious. I wouldn't care as much if I hadn't unraveled my final swatch because I was afraid I would run out of pink. Oh well.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sweater finished!

It took two nights of late night assembly, but the sweater has been finished, wrapped, and gifted. Monday night I attached one of the arms and sewed the seam along the arm. Tuesday night I realized I should have used mattress stitch, and taking out that seam was definitely the best decision I made while making this sweater.

I love paper, but I have a really hard time wrapping presents. I think this came out rather well, though.

This is the sweater hiding in my carry on luggage.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Out of the stash...

I've had an idea for a scarf pattern kicking around for a while. I decided that knitting up a prototype would be a good reward for sewing in the million and a half ends on Z's sweater. For a variety of reasons (1. being tired of knitting in cotton, 2. not wanting to knit in the gross feeling yarn of unknown-but-scratchy composition I used for this, and 3. looking for any excuse to use my new Addi Turbos) I decided to knit up this sock yarn:

We will ignore the ridiculousness of using a sock yarn to start this prototype when my vision is to eventually knit up this scarf in a bulky grey color, and instead focus on my personal journey regarding variegated yarn.

Call me unimaginative, but I have a hard time visualizing exactly what the stripe pattern will look like on a sock, especially when the colors are all mixed together like on the skein above. Additionally, having never seen a full sized hand-knit sock in person, I know that I undervalue the beauty of variegated yarn. I love looking at pictures of socks people have made, but I know it's not the same as seeing it in person.

My attitude when starting the mini-prototype was strictly business: stitch counts, angles, number of rows between repeats. Suddenly I looked down and realized that the gradual fade between colors was interesting, and that they were lining up nicely across the width of the swatch.

It's amazing! And you know what the best part is? No ends. When you're done with this puppy, you're done. I have been transformed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tree warming party

I started (and finished) this scarf in August, which is no time to be dragging around wool items. Now that it has returned to being properly cold again, I have an action shot of the finished product. This tree looked a bit too chilly:

I haven't blocked the scarf, but I'm not sure that it's something I want to do. I'll admit that I was impressed with the before and after shots on Lauren's blog knitting @ lunch, and the purl bee recently put up a handy blocking tutorial, so we'll see how long this resolve lasts. I'm sure the experience would be good for me, eat your vegetables, put on sunscreen, etc. etc.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Gigantic Mums!

Don't these last two look like they're from Sesame Street?

There's also a room overflowing with normal sized mums, but by now they're fairly wilted and sad looking. It's surprising how much flowers will be past their prime in less than a week.

This is Mo hard at work pinching back mums over the summer:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The collar

I have a new love.

In normal circumstances, I am not one to add my voice to the chorus of product promotions. I stopped scrapbooking when it began to feel all about acquiring the newest paper or the most innovative cutting device. However, everything I have ever heard about Addi Turbo needles is true. I will spare you the many, many details and instead give you two short points:

1. The needles are quiet enough that I can knit in a group setting without feeling like a jerk.

2. My gauge is much more consistent than on the needles with which I started the sweater. I had to concentrate on my tension in order to get the ribbing along the bottom, and you can see that there are still some random wonky stitches. The collar isn't exactly perfect, but it is much better and it didn't require my attention. In fact, I think most of the weird stitches happened after I noticed how much better the Turbo needles were and I got afraid of messing things up.

I'm glad to have discovered this brand early on. I haven't had too much experience on different types of needles, but it turns out that I do, in fact, have a favorite.