The Sharon Show (all 7 feet of it)

The Sharon Show was a mystery knit a long for a very long square shawl, easy knitting combined with some light hearted cat themed entertainment. I don’t actually love the long wraps, but I’d never tried a Casapinka pattern and I liked the pitch of $7 worth of entertainment.

Part of clue 1 with my original choice of colours.

It didn’t start off so well: my needles were too rough and the yarn colours weren’t thrilling me. The needles are the short ones from Knit Picks, which I love, but the finish on them wears off and the layered wood sometimes wears down at different rates. I temporarily fixed them with nail polish (the theory works but I think I’d like to sand and refinish them properly), and in the end I invested in some new tips from Chiaogoo. I love the Chiaogoo metal-core cables, and had recently learned that they made a shorter bamboo tip (4inch to knitpicks 3ish). It’s a bit pointy. I can knit with it but I have a toddler who launches himself into my lap, so the blunter can be a serious safety improvement! Still, these worked out well and hopefully I won’t have to replace/refinish them every few years.

Swatching new colours in place.

My colour B just didn’t look good to me: the contrast was fine but I didn’t like it, and as a result I was finding any excuse not to knit it. So out it went, and I was a clue and a half behind.

Clue 1

After that it went a lot better, though!

Clue 2

Not all of the drinks appealed to me (when your body hates both alcohol and fizzy drinks, sometimes by the time you’re done substituting you don’t have much of a mix) but I really enjoyed The Floofy Tail enough to make a few variations.

The Floofy Tail cocktail

What I really enjoyed later in the game was going off script, sometimes with the help of pictures people had posted in the forums.

This shawl and I made it though the wildfires, several books, and several other projects as I needed a break from it.

I started getting worried about how long it was getting and started shortening things up and wondering if I should skip the last clue. But I’d come so far! I took out some repeats and kept going.

Honestly, it was too much shawl for me, and though I enjoyed it, I was seriously wondering why I hadn’t committed that time to a much more useful sweater. Especially when it blocked out to 7 feet long and I thought “oh no, I’m never going to be able to wear this.”

But then I put it on and it fits perfectly!

And not *just* on my kids toy car. 😉

I’m going to need a selfie stick to show you those ends, though. 😉

Overall: very fun and what I was hoping for from the pattern. But I’m also very glad to be done, and next time a pattern tells me it’s going to be 5 feet long in the “small” size, I’m going to seriously consider doing a sweater instead!

August works in progress

I started the month planning to do a gnome mystery knit (because I’d never tried one) and The Sharon Show (because the pitch of $7 for cat themed entertainment appealed to me).

Gnicki the gnome sits on this month’s Fantastic Strangelings book pick. The name of the pattern is “Nice to Gnome You”

I did manage to finish the gnome, and it was such a delightful little thing that I’ll probably sign up for the next. The pattern was clever and even in something relatively small, had a few new techniques to try. (The slip-stitch cables in the beard, and the knit-on-purl-bumps applied hoodie/bunnyhug pocket.)

First start to my The Sharon Show wrap, with lighter yarn for colour B.

The Sharon Show did not go as well. I didn’t love my yarn choices, so I wound up casting something else while I was deciding if I even wanted to do it. Enter the Heliotrope hat.

Heliotrope hat with a mistake many rows back

And then I found a mistake many rows back and nearly put that project in timeout too. In the end, with some encouragement, I ripped back the brioche and kept going. Emboldened by that, I also ripped out the shawl and was so much happier with it that I made a token attempt to catch up.

Clue 1 of The Sharon Show with dark yarn in colour B.

But then I went on vacation this week, and it reminded me that I hadn’t really been doing the Socks on Vacay knit a long this year. So I abandoned the shawl again to cast on a sock and even took it to the beach so I could pretend for a few pictures that this was a normal kind of vacation (and not an exhausting week of strong-willed toddler parenting).

Sock at the beach.

I finished the sock last night, and I haven’t even mentioned the spinning I’ve been doing!

Finished Sundae Sock, with increasing/decreasing stripes
Finished skein of green/tealish yarn, a spin during the “intermission” between the two (!) Tour de Fleeces this summer. One for the original dates, one for the new dates for the Tour de France that inspires the event.

I’m still a full clue behind on the shawl and haven’t finished the brioche, and I didn’t finish my second “intermission” spin before the Tour started today, but… It doesn’t matter. I’m loving the shawl pattern now. $7 *was* a good price for cat-based entertainment. The pattern is simple but the drink suggestions and catty section names make it fun. The brioche will keep giving me a break when I need something different. And the spin will just continue through to be my first skein of Tour de Fleece 2.0.

Rainbow spinning in progress.

I think I’m even going to cast on another sock. My vacation may be drawing to a close, but I’ve got enough time to finish the second before labour day for socks on vacay! And then maybe I’ll finally get back to my very long delayed Geek Sock, which has been quietly happening as a tiny purse project on my self-care walks and other times I wanted something small.

Also happening this month was a tiny sewing project because my kid wanted a doggy bone he could carry around in his mouth.

Stuffed Doggy bone, and some duplo toys

And I also finished Half the Knit Sky, which deserves its own post but I’m just going to post a finished object here in case it’s a while before I do that.

Half the Knit Sky shawl, showcasing a lovely Fierce Fibers gradient.

And also Hazelwood, which was mostly done much earlier but I had a big fight with my sewing machine and had to order more yarn. It also deserves a full post, but for now, here’s just a finished photo!

Hazelwood sweater with pockets! The Dread Pirate toddler’s fluffy head is just visible at the bottom of the frame, and the full picture has him hamming it up (but we’re giving him the gift of some internet privacy, so the photo is cropped)

I’ve been feeling unsettled a lot this month, and I think I’m knitting in a slightly unsettled way as a result. But in a world where we’re not going to solve a pandemic or US politics or racism any time soon, I guess I have been finding it reassuring to finish knit/spin/sew stuff even if I’m not doing it the way I normally would and instead flitting from thing to thing. The unsettled knitting, at least, is a thing that I think will pass.

2020 fiber goals mid-year check in

Time for a little reflection on how my 2020 fiber goals are going!

1 Whittle down the WIPs and Query the Queue.

This has been really successful! I finished up my Poca sweater that had been languishing for two years, the Cascadial Wrap that had been in there nearly as long (no blog post yet because it was finished in a tough week), and it’s kept momentum on things like the Craftvent shawl and Geek Socks that ran into snags and could easily have ended up abandoned.

Poca sweater
Cascadial Wrap

The queue part hasn’t gone as fast as the WIPs, but I did get the Geek Socks from deep queue and honestly I feel like looking more often has helped me know and plan.

2. A Bit of Brioche.

Success! I took PDX Knitterati’s brioche course and made a lovely headband:

Petite Brioche

But I’d still like to get some next steps patterns in. I’ve got some yarn ready to go, but once it got hot here I didn’t feel like knitting brioche so much. (But sweaters were fine? Brains are weird.). I don’t see any point in fighting it so I’m going to resume briocheing once it cools off. I’m excited about what I’ve got planned next!

3. Top to Toes

Success! I did my first Geek Sock and used the top-down pattern in the Made BySarahS Mystery Sock Knit a Long. And it turns out I like top-down just fine. I did have to learn some new measurements for the afterthought heel, but I know those now so I’m good to go.

Geek Sock

To be honest, learning that afterthought heel has left me dreaming of owning a sock knitting machine and churning out tubes and tubes and tubes. They’re so expensive that it’s hard to justify just for fun, though!

Made BySarahS mkal socks

But back on the top-down topic, I’m probably going to make a few more top down socks this year and going forwards. And I won’t try to steer away from top down patterns due to my lack of experience, which I tried not to do but was probably totally doing. To be honest, most of my sock patterns came from a single designer, so just knitting other people’s patterns was a bit out of my comfort zone! I have learned that her rounder toe is still my favourite for my foot, but I know how to adapt toes and practiced it now so that’s not a barrier any more.

I’m hoping to join the next BySarahS Mystery which I’m guessing will include a top-down pattern! But I’ve got a few other beautiful things in mind… Once I finally finish the second Geek Sock.

4. Some Smaller Shawls

This is the goal that I thought would be easiest, and it’s the one that’s gone by the wayside! It’s a casualty of the pandemic: I’ve been using working from home as an excuse to focus on bigger projects that I would normally have trouble finishing. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and I may let this goal go by the wayside this year as I adapt.

But small projects still still nice for me to have on backyard toddler adventures (especially when sweaters get too big for my toddler adventure shoulder bags). So I’m thinking maybe I’ll just downgrade it to *one* shawl and pull something out of my queue to make it happen. I’ll definitely wear whatever I make!

Other

I listed a few more things at the end of my 2020 fiber goals post that I wanted to quick mention because although they hadn’t made my top 4, I actually did them!

  • Embroiderymy first finish of 2020 was actually embroidery, and I did some tiny necklaces and started another sampler since.
  • Spinning — I did Tour de Fleece (blog post later)
  • Sweater — I did Poca and am nearly done a Hazelwood sweater
  • Dyeing — I turned food colouring dye into a family art project and we had a lot of fun with it. I’m hoping to do more, but I’ll need more undyed yarn.
Spinning and Hazelwood sweater

So… The year is going really well, from a crafting perspective. Don’t ask me about politics or my sleep patterns, though! Still, it’s nice to see how much I’ve accomplished against this one metric. Hurrah!

Made BySarahS Mystery Sock Knit a Long

As I’ve mentioned before, I love advent Calendars but not so much the fact that they happen in December. But by chance I heard about the Made BySarahS MSKAL in time to join in for a nice May mystery (This post was written at the end of May right after I finished, but it’s been queued for a few weeks.)

All the packages!

This mkal was even more fun than I’d hoped, because it turned out I’d also accidentally joined a mostly Rhode Island-area knitting group full of lovely people. My own Saturday knit group has been out of commission since the pandemic, and I don’t even have contact info for most of them to set up an online thing. I hadn’t realized how nice it would be to have a regular group again, even if I was a weird odd one out on the other coast.

The pattern was a simple cuff down sock (look, another check mark on my 2020 fiber bucket list!) with stripes so there was an excuse to have yarn every other day. The socks matched the beautiful succulent/cactus project bag.

The non yarn days had a variety of teas, sweets, stitch markers… the usual small stuff you can fit in a yarn related advent. The Dread Pirate helped me open some packages and shared some sweets and shook a lot of yarn. One big treat for me: the kitchener stitch keychain, which is definitely a useful tool and one I’d coveted but hadn’t bought for myself.

This kit was exactly what I needed as I was starting to get my feet under me again: Cute little packages, a friendly community, and a simple project that I’ll definitely wear. I’m so glad I did it, and glad I managed to go to many of the happy hour calls even though I didn’t know everyone. It was really lovely.

I’m already intrigued by this hint about the next kit. August!

Bit of Brioche

In this year’s fiber goals, I decided I wanted to give brioche another go. So when one of my favourite designers mentioned that she’d be doing a course via Zoom, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. So I signed up for PDXKnitterari’s course on May 2nd as soon as I could make sure my husband was good to be on toddler duty then.

Zoom is an interesting tool for this. I really liked the “debugging” part in this format: normally a teacher will bend over the work with a student to fix things and the rest of the class works on their own pieces, but because we were all sharing video, we could *all* see what the problem looked like and watch as Michele figured it out. This was super helpful to me for later, because there was so much more for my brain to latch onto since I’d watched and tried to guess myself as we did the class. And it’s always fun to watch a master at work.

I really appreciated the bit of advice that it looks like of like a mess for the first few rows. I definitely would have assumed I screwed something up and probably ripped it back a few times without that hint!

This was also a much better experience for me than my previous foray into online fiber learning because I set aside time during the day instead of trying to fit in a video in my toddler-free evening. That’s on me as much as the format, but it’s good to get a sense of how much of a difference it makes.

And, of course, it helps to have a great instructor who’d put a lot of detail into the pattern *and* had videos for us to watch later if we got stuck. I didn’t need them for the brioche for this piece, but I really appreciated the one on the Russian bind off.

Of course, now that I’ve gotten a little taste, I’m already trying to figure out what brioche thing to make next! And maybe what class to take next?

Romi Mystery 2020

Pattern: Romi Mystery Shawl 2020 by Romi Hill

Yarn: Floating by A Verb for Keeping Warm

I did Romi’s mystery for the Rose City Yarn Crawl last year and though I was a bit sad about my overall crawl experience enjoyed the pattern so much that I did her own regular yearly MKAL right after. I decided to do this year’s before it was clear that I’d be doing it from quarantine.

I splurged on the recommended yarn this year. It’s spendy and I have trouble justifying that without actually touching the yarn, but I wanted to try it *and* just as I was trying to talk myself out of it I came to the part of the book Vanishing Fleece which talks about the dye process and I guess I kind of wanted to be part of that story? (The book is about yarn production, specifically in America, and what we might do to save what’s left of the industry here. But it specifically includes A Verb for Keeping Warm.)

I love the complexity and beauty of Romi’s patterns, and in that respect this did not disappoint. But as I said, I didn’t know I was going to be doing this in quarantine with a toddler who is incredibly mum-centric. I pulled the stitches off more than once dropping my knitting to deal with toddler emergencies. This has two sided lace! This was not easy to fix! And it was hard to keep up with the knitalong pace, especially since I was still struggling to run a global mentoring program, do my day job, and provide my own child care trading back and forth with my husband to make it work. (Things have settled now, but there were a few rough months and some of the worst days happened while I was working on this shawl.)

That said, this was hard but tractable. I was up to the challenge of fixing the dropped stitches, and I mostly stayed on schedule. It was deeply satisfying to finish. But I was also very glad to finish and move to something easier!

The finished piece is just perfect. I am so glad I splurged on the yarn; it really does feel like it’s floating on my shoulders, and it’s got this lovely alpaca halo that makes it warm and perfect for spring (Recall: Oregon winter feels like spring to Ontarian me, so this will get a lot of use in my wardrobe). I kind of want a whole lacey cardigan made out of Floating now.

Finished Shawl

Patio Stones pattern preview

My yarn subscription for this year is the Made Here Yarn Club 2020 from Sincere Sheep, which was a splurge but one I could afford and one that focuses on local makers. Pretty cool!

I decided to make up my own pattern (after getting partway through a lovely hat and realizing I wasn’t feeling it). I haven’t written the whole thing up yet, but I have a chart and some basic instructions. So… here’s a little preview. But I promise I’ll be making something finished eventually!

Patio Stones (pattern preview)

This asymmetric triangle shawl was made with 300 yards of Sincere Sheet Covet (dk weight) and a US-5 needle. It would probably be just as lovely (and not quite as heavyweight) with ~400 yards of fingering on whatever needle size you prefer.

Setup:

co 4 stitches

RS: kfb, k to last 3 stitches, k2tog, k

WS: k2, p to last stitch, kfb (increases 1 stitch)

repeat until you have 15 stitches, ending on a WS row

Main Body:

Follow chart 1. Blue section is repeated, but for first run it will be repeated 0 times.

Note that the chart starts from the bottom, I just haven’t flipped the numbers over yet because this is a preview and not a completed pattern yet. The pink stitches can be replaced with k1, k2tog if you prefer. If you know how to cable without a cable needle for these little 1 over 1 cables, do that. It’s so much easier.

Cast off:

When you’re close to your desired size (or running out of yarn) repeat the eyelet section (rows 5-3 on the chart above) and then bind off.

I know, I know, it’s got some work to go before it’s ready for publishing, but it’s been sitting in my drafts for weeks and I wanted to put it out there in case my toddler poured coffee on my computer before I got it finished!

Trying out some video courses

Since a few e-learning craft sites were offering free stuff to help amuse people during quarantine, I decided to try a couple of courses on Bluprint and Knit Stars. This is mostly notes for myself in case I decide to subscribe to either of these later.

What did I take?

  • Bluprint: Spinning Dyed Fibers with Felicia Lo
  • Bluprint: Drafting from Woolen to Worsted
  • Knit Stars: Meghan Fernandes’ Finishing Workshop
  • Knit Stars: Beata Jezek of Hedgehog Fibres on Colour
  • Knit Stars: Meet the Alpacas

I had the run of all possible courses on Bluprint so I focused on spinning, where I think I have a lot to learn, and I’ve been practicing a few times a week so I’m not too out of shape to apply the knowledge. Knit Stars it was just whatever they’d chosen to run on a week when I had a bit of time.

Content

All of the videos I watched were a real step up in video quality from my usual free youtube stuff. Good focus, editing, colour, lighting, sets. The production quality was really lovely.

The courses were well designed. There were obvious spaces for practice, and especially in the spinning the instructors explained things in multiple ways with different visual aids. Lots of best practices in evidence.

Obviously the courses that I selected myself were more relevant to what I actually wanted to learn. And while that’s definitely true right now because of the way Bluprint offered everything free at once while Knit Stars offered specific courses per week, it’s also true generally because Bluprint you choose each course or subscribe for access to all of them (streamed only?) while Knit Stars has them bundled into seasons.

I learned something new from every single one I took, though! And it was pretty cool to have something more like an instructor led experience even in the middle of social distancing. I’d *rather* take a class when I can, but… I could do this at random hours without taking away time from my toddler. And that’s pretty neat even if I wasn’t in the middle of a global pandemic.

Platform technology

Bluprint was, I think, severely overloaded by the free trial. I had to load videos multiple times before they’d play, the interface was so slow that I resorted to editing the url to go to the next video. It was frustrating. Plus, their video player only had a tiny play/pause button in one corner, which is particularly annoying when you’re watching and spinning at the same time and may have fiber in one hand! I don’t know if the downrezed videos were a load issue or settings or what, but they definitely were bad enough to be noticeable and make it hard to see what the spinning instructors were talking about.

Bluprint also constantly touts their “platform” which I guess is kind of comments/forum with the instructor expecting to participate regularly for a live experience. I’d mostly known about this because they screwed up a bunch of notifications and upset a lot of instructors (back when they were Craftsy, I think?), which made the constant exhortations that one should share photos on the platform seem kind of sad. (Especially since these courses were likely recorded before the technical snafu.) I didn’t use it because I didn’t have enough time for that, but I guess it’s a neat idea?

Knit Stars has nice big next/previous buttons that actually work, fewer loading problems, and didn’t tend to downgrade the resolution as badly, but it was a bit hard to tell because I wasn’t looking for the same tiny details in those courses.

I think Knit Stars also does live stuff when the courses are on, but again, I didn’t have time for that so I didn’t investigate if any of that was a thing for the older recordings.

Conclusions

I liked all the courses I took and learned a few new things from each one! I’m particularly excited about practicing the spinning techniques and had to go out and buy more fiber.

I disliked the Bluprint technical blips a lot, enough that if all else were equal I’d check Knit Stars first for any courses. But the Bluprint selection and lower pricing really does makes it appealing despite the tech problems. And honestly, next time wouldn’t be in the free trial period so it’s possible that a lot of the site’s sluggishness wouldn’t be an issue any more.

But will there be a next time? Probably not any time soon. Honestly, finding time for videos in my day was kind of a pain right now: I’ve got full time childcare for an active toddler, a full time job, and a pretty busy volunteer job (that will quiet down in a few weeks, at least). It worked out well on days where I’d set aside time to do something like dye my hair and had to sit still for 20 minutes or so. It worked less well when I was feeling cooped up and instead used my every-other-evening toddler-free hour for a walk. And even learning spinning while doing my complicated lace mkal wasn’t great. But it was cool to do courses without having to travel or coordinate schedules with my husband, so “not soon” is not a polite “never” in this case. I’m not sure when life might change to make this work, but I can definitely see that it could eventually. If I loved video learning it might be a sweeter deal, but it’s not my preferred learning method even with better production quality.

Overall, I’m really glad I tried it out but I think maybe this isn’t the best pandemic activity for me!

Poca sweater (finally!)

Poca sweater, unblocked

I started this sweater for the knit along when it was first released in August 2018. It wasn’t my oldest unfinished object (that’s likely the crocheted bobble baby blanket I was making for no particular reason in 2011 or so) but it’s probably the oldest I intended to finish!

Pattern: Poca by Laura Nelkin

Yarn: KnitPicks City Tweed in Orca

I forget what got me off track for the knit a long. Travel or it got too big to carry easily, likely. Thankfully, neither of those is a problem in pandemic-land.

It’s an unusual sideways construction, but one I’d done before on the red Baby Novus sweater for the Dread Pirate so I knew what to expect. It’s very well written; the hardest part was remembering what size I was making when I picked it back up most of the way through the second half. You then knit the halves together (see photo above) then close the sleeves and sides

The yarn is KnitPicks City Tweed, bought originally with another sweater in mind, but I figured it was better to use it and buy more if I ever wanted to make the original plan. This is the third adult sized sweater I’ve ever made (and the first was for my sister, who’s barely adult sized), so chances are not good that I’d ever go back to the original plan!

That said, the pandemic has made sweater knitting easier to fit into my day because I don’t have to lug it around (previously, most of my knitting time was at work during lunch or the odd dial-in meeting). So I’m super tempted to cast on another one soon. I’ve got 3 or maybe 4 different sweater quantities earmarked for future sweaters, so it’s only a matter of some winding… But I also don’t want to get off track in my current mkal and who knows if the urge will have passed by the time this clue is done? It’s certainly getting hot enough here that sweaters seem a bit overkill once the sun comes out.

Anyhow, this sweater is great and I love it. I haven’t even blocked it yet because I keep wearing it every morning! So there might be a few more glamour shots to come when I do that and put a clasp on the front. But just like I wanted to wear it right away, I didn’t want to wait too long to write about it!

Craftvent 2019

I like advent boxes, even though it’s a busy time of year and normally I’m traveling so they’re not really convenient. Jimmy Beans Wool makes one they call Craftvent and I enjoyed it in 2017. In 2018 I bought it to save for later but then I got a lot of great travel opportunities and it’s still unopened (Maybe it’ll be a quarantine project for April?). But I finished the 2019 one only a few months late!

Craftvent 2019, days 1-9

This year’s kit came in little magnetic metal tins, which is brilliant and more reusable than previous ones which came in giant cardboard boxes.

Craftvent 2019, days 10-18

As usual, the tins either contain yarn, a notion, or a small treat. A larger namaste snap project bag and their “smart stix” needles were also included not in a tin. Loved the bag, though you have to be careful not to get the snaps caught on the lace.

Craftvent 2019 days 19-24

They’ve made a big effort to have more yarn than in the last box I did. It’s still not a good value in pure retail cost of the stuff, but you’re paying for the experience and packing here is significant, so I feel that’s reasonable.

Start of shawl, not the original colour.

Since I was busy and opened the first many boxes before starting to knit, I spent time contemplating the colours and decided to sub in some more purples in place of the teals that came with the kit. It makes for a less striking shawl, but one that I was pretty sure would fit better with my wardrobe. I used one of my minis from Yarn Indulgences for the first colour.

Craftvent progress shot

Many people on the associated Facebook group hated the main colour, a fluffy mohair style yarn (Fyberspates Cumulus). I love it in the final piece: it’s light and warm and lovely. But it combined with the metal needles left me with sore hands. Part of why this was months late was the multiple breaks I had to take from knitting at all because it was hurting me. It got better after I switched to my preferred short wooden needles, but it didn’t entirely stop. I’ve got some of the yarn left, but I think I’ll have to try holding it double with something if I want to use it

Mostly finished Craftvent draped on back of chair.

The “wrap” is a weird shape. It uses short rows so that it’s long, thin on one end and wide on the other. Kind of like a scarf with one really flared end? It sounds odd but it’s pretty wearable!

Full shawl stretched out for blocking
So wide!

Overall, despite the literal pain involved, I really like this shawl. It’s so light and yet so warm, it’s interesting, and with my colour alterations it goes with many of the things I wear. It wasn’t quite the experience I was expecting with the breaks in between, but I used the time to work on my embroidery skills and that was pretty fun.

Me wearing the finished Craftvent wrap

Will I do Craftvent again? Maybe. I’ve finally got enough notions to kit out a few bags so it might be better to do a yarn-only option. Or maybe Must Stash Yarn will do another advent sock-along, which is much more manageable for me at that time of year. But I had a good time this year, even if it wasn’t mostly in December!

Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL 2020

I decided to take part in the Rose City Yarn Crawl mystery-knit-a-long (MKAL) again this year!

I’ve had mixed results with the patterns, so now I wait until I’ve seen clue 1 and sometimes 2 before I join in, which means I can make more educated yarn choices. This pattern is from Marie Greene of OliveKnits, who I’d heard of from her 4 Day Sweater KAL, but I’d never knit any of her patterns myself so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Clue 1 + hippo friend

The first clue had some mosaic and a lot of people were having contrast issues, so I dug into deep stash for yarn that I’d bought with colourwork in mind.

End of clue 1

Yarn: Knit Picks Chroma in white and “Prism” This is an old ball from before they started mirroring all their colours, which is a decision I don’t really understand because wow these older yarns were stunning.

Clue 2

I really love the colours but am only so-so on the yarn because it’s single ply, a bit variable in thickness, and completely not durable. I wish someone would make a plied short gradient like this that didn’t pill so much! It wouldn’t be easy to do with this yarn, though; the colour is spun right in with the gradient made by adjusting the mix of yarns. It’s really quite neat to see the fiber mix change if you look closely at it.

Clue 3 in progress

In clue 3 I had to go off pattern because I would have ended up with a yellow-white colourwork section and I didn’t like the look. So I added a bunch more rows of moss stitch (not my fave!) and extended out that mosaic chart. I’ve been fiddling with my own mosaic designs which haven’t gotten finished but have taught me a lot about the technique so extending a chart was no big deal.

Clue 3 complete

I debated chopping out some stripes but I liked them too much.

Clue 4 beginning

Then I extended the lace section too.

Clue 4

It left a bigger “border” in the lace but in practice it doesn’t bother me. However, come clue 5, I decided to chop out a bunch of the stockinette so that I could go back to the mosaic chart as written and end on the correct number of stitches.

Clue 5: the final clue!

This left me with a very close to symmetrical shawl. I read a bunch of people’s posts on the Ravelry forums and debated for a while about adding more on, but in the end I settled on a picot bind off (cast on 2, bind off 8, so you wound up with multiples of 6 to match stitch count).

Wash!

I actually did wash a swatch so I wasn’t worried about colour bleeding! (Though I’d have been surprised if it were a problem with a KnitPicks yarn.)

Finished rcycmkal2020 being worn!

I really loved this one, mostly because I chose such perfect colours. I’m very much looking forwards to wearing it on the crawl — I like to think that I’ve got one of the most recognizable versions of this year’s MKAL!

And if anyone knows of anyone doing shorter repeat gradients like this on other yarns, please let me know! I’d definitely like to try some others.

Symphony Shawl – my 2020 year long project

Symphony Shawl kit yarns

Sweet Georgia Yarns made this lovely set of yarns as a holiday kit, and I loved it so much I bought two: one for me and one for my friend M as a Christmas present. It has 15 yarns, so I figured I’d do it as if it were a monthly yarn subscription, and maybe double up a few months. But as it turns out, the pattern has 12 sections if you count the setup one, so I haven’t even had to divide it up myself!

January set up

January’s up was teensy tiny but since I had advent projects still on the needles and the Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL to start, that wasn’t a problem.

The yarn feels like a standard sock yarn to me. Did you know that there’s only a handful of yarn wholesalers in the US so most of our indie-dyed stuff uses the same bases even if they give them different names? Sweet Georgia is based in Canada so they may have some other options, but I bet not *that* many. It’s a solid base, and after my overdose on single ply I’m very glad to have a more durable sock yarn. And those colours! Saturated jewel tone tonals. Beautiful.

February lace section

I debated doing the colours backwards just to be different but decided I liked it too much to mess with the order. I’m barely started — that’s only one extra-mini down, 14 to go — but it’s already interesting and fitting nicely in as a shorter break between projects.

I had been planning to go subscription-less this year, but at the very end of the year I decided to try one that seemed particularly interesting. I’ll write about it soon!

Mudra Necklace and Loquita Necklace

My mom hates shopping and gives me birthday money, and I’ve tried to make a habit of actually buying myself things in December and January as presents. And lately, most of what I covet is yarn, so…

These two kits are from Laura Nelkin, whose kits I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Mudra

Mudra necklace in colour stone

This was very similar to the Fetish cuff I did this summer, and in a good way! I wasn’t sure if the neutral colour was the right choice, but it’s lovely and very wearable. It’s a very easy kit with a simple beading pattern, yet very satisfying.

Loquita

Loquita Necklace in blue

The Loquita Necklace was harder than the Mudra one, but it’s so carefully explained that it was complicated but not really confusing. The clasp isn’t great at staying closed on me so I have been tucking the hook into the knitting instead of the eye so that there’s a bit more friction there. I love the yarn, but if you look up close it’s a surprising choice: it’s got long alpaca hairs that stick out and make the stitch definition a bit less clear.

Loquita Necklace blocking

It feels so soft and blocks perfectly, though, so I guess that’s worth a few stray hairs.

Both kits come with floss loops for stringing beads, and Loquita also came with floss for placing beads during knitting but I’ll admit that I used my Bead Aid for the Loquita stitches because it was nicer than the floss. I do love the tin that Loquita came in: it’s a bit bigger than the one I use now and I think a bit harder for my toddler to open as a result, so it’s probably going to see a bunch of use in the future!

It was really nice to have some quick projects to fit in now that the Rose City Yarn Crawl MKAL has started so I’ve often got a little gap at the end of a clue where I need a bit more to do before the next one is released.

Overall, fun kits that are nicely put together, and beautiful finished pieces. Plus I’ve got a new beading tin now! Happy birthday to me!

First finishes for 2020: winter embroidery and walking into winter socks!

Two finishes to share!

Kiriki winter embroidery kit

First off, surprisingly, isn’t knitting! I started and finished this Kiriki Press embroidery kit in 2020 after I got back from Ottawa. This one was a lot faster than the spring one because there was no time-consuming satin stitch. I’m still having fun learning new stitches and also giving my hands a break. I’ve got one more sampler, but I’m finally feeling confident enough to try some of my more free-form embroidery panels. I’ve been collecting some from the Fireside textiles kickstarter for ages now and I’m so excited to start them!

Walking into Winter socks, in A Very Hobbit Christmas colourway

Second, my advent socks! These clever colours are from Must Stash Yarn which is kind of the worst because they drop new colours every Tuesday and you usually have only a few days to buy them before they sell out. It’s… Much too addictive. They do matching pairs which is nice because I’ve lately been enjoying having half skeins in my little purse, and this way I don’t have to break out the scales. And it’s cute if they match, but I’m weirdly more excited about not having to split the yarn cakes myself!

Yarn cakes

Anyhow, the Hobbit Christmas colours are 24 stripes and if I’d been doing it right I’d have been doing a few per day every day before Christmas to get them done in time. I aimed for only one sock, because who needs deadlines, and finished that one on time!

Sock #1, complete!

The yarn does most of the work for you and the pattern, “Walking into Winter” by Sivia Harding, does the rest with an alternating knit/purl per stripe, and some cute garland-stylings at the top. I love the photography in this one.

Yarn on the go

The one thing I might change if I do this pattern again is the toe. My toes are definitely not that pointy! Socks are stretchy so it’s no big deal when I wear them but hey, what’s the fun in slow fashion if you can’t custom fit stuff?

Up next: I’m still working on my other advent project, the Craftvent project from Jimmy Beans. I had to swap out the needles because the full sized metal ones that came with the kit were giving me wrist twinges, but swapping to my favorite short wood seems to have eased my ergonomic problem and I knit on and off today while taking my turns with a very sick toddler. (Don’t worry, his fever seems to have broken now, but we watched a lot of tv today.)

I’ve also got a necklace as a purse project. But it’s nearly done! I don’t have another small project on the go and I’ve been debating what’s next: cast on a small shawl or top down sock for my 2020 fiber goals, or size up my purse and go to town on a few more works in progress that got too big for the small one? Or start my new year-long project and do the first colour? I’ve been loving going through my queue and making plans.

2020 fiber goals

I never really loved new year’s resolutions until I started making them related to fiber. I think it’s because my fiber goals are more like little yearly bucket lists. So here’s this year’s set!

1. Whittle down the WIPs and Query the Queue.

I’ve got a few works in progress that have been languishing, like the Flickering Light shawl I started in New Zealand. Cleaning up my queue also unearthed some neat things I even have yarn for that haven’t been cast on yet. I don’t plan on avoiding spontaneous “I saw this and have to make it right now!” moments entirely, just making sure I do a more regular look through the things I saw and loved and seeing which ones still grab my fancy.

2. A Bit of Brioche.

I know how to do brioche, but the only project I’ve ever done is the cowl I made while my father was dying. That makes it sound like A Thing but I don’t think I’ve got big emotions tied up in it, I just haven’t made time. So this is the year, I hope. I’ve got a few patterns queued up and we’ll see if it grabs me more this time around.

3. Top to Toes

I usually do socks toe up, one at a time, magic loop. I’ve tried two at a time: it’s fine but it’s so much easier to fit a half skein in my current little purse. I’ve tried dpns: I actually love them but I drop them a lot. I’ve tried flexi-tips: love them but they’re still too easy for a toddler to tug (and I’m not quite committed enough to replace all my dpns yet anyhow). But I’ve never tried top-down. Now that I’m making socks for my mom, my usual “but I like trying them on!” isn’t even a good excuse, so it’s time to try it out. Maybe I’ll love it! I even bought a beautiful top down book to inspire me (though I’ve also got that queue…)

4. Some Smaller Shawls

The shawls that see the most wear in my wardrobe are the smallest ones: my fern shawlette and my little fucshia one. So let’s try to make sure I put a bit of focus on the single-skein size this year. They don’t have to be actually one skein, but around 400 yards of fingering weight seems to be about the right size when I’m searching my queue. I’m always tempted by these beautiful giant wraps but I only wear them a few months a year in Portland.

It was really hard to choose 4 goals this year: I want to try my other embroidery sampler I wouldn’t mind getting back into a regular spinning habit and try tour de fleece again. I still want another sweater for me. I want to learn some dyeing skills… But I chose those 4 because I think they’re ones that benefit from me looking back at this list a few times and not forgetting this year.

Happy new year!

2019 fiber goals: how did I do?

My 2019 goals:

  1. Learn steeking.
  2. Document better.
  3. Finish another sweater.
  4. Play with mini skeins.

So how did that go?

1. I did the steeking!

2. I blogged a couple of times every month all year, and I’ve made sure to put photos into Ravelry. So not only is it better than last year, but it’s what I consider a perfectly reasonable amount of documenting for now. I used to aim for weekly, but with a toddler who’s learning new stuff daily, I’m happy to de-prioritize my blog. Once or twice a month plus photos and ravelry is plenty.

3. Sweaters are hard to finish, especially with extra travel this year. They’re too big for the way I pack to travel, and we went to Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Bulgaria. Plus some smaller trips to Seattle and Cleveland. So I cheated with a toddler sweater. To be fair, he needed a new one more than I did. I’ll try to keep working on mine in the new year, and I have plans (and yarn!) for the next.

4. I definitely played with mini skeins, including finishing my Tosh shawl, Oregon sky, an unfinished design project, my Lucky Star, and my unfinished advent shawl. But I only used one from my yarn subscription. Mostly I took photos. I did buy both Knitted Wit collections that make use of minis so I’ve got lots of ways to use them now.

So, I could do better on sweaters, and I should use my yarn subscriptions more. I’ve decided to accept that no matter how much I love these subscriptions, it’s a yarn collection and photo project, not a knitting thing. I have very few photo projects right now, so that’s not even a bad thing for a subscription to be, just a different one.

But I managed to sort of accomplish all the goals even if not in the way I expected when I set them, so I’m going to call it a successful year. Stay tuned for 2020 goals tomorrow!

Toddler Sweater!

While I was sick over Thanksgiving, I suddenly thought it would be a good idea to knit a toddler sweater. I had a grand idea of doing it in a weekend, which wasn’t very likely, but a fun thing to try. It might have been doable if not for the toddler himself!

Yarn: Bumblebirch worsted in Paprika

The yarn is glorious. Thank you past me for indulging — this was probably bought on yarn crawl with some vague idea of future toddler in mind, but I think it’s maybe the last batch I have prepared so I guess it’s shopping spree time again this year?

Pattern: Antler by Tincanknits

This is the 2-4 year size, and it’s a bit long on him but considering that he keeps saying his “tummy hurts” when his clothes ride up and he gets a cold back, a little length is good. Plus maybe it’ll last to the 4 year mark?

Close up of the Antler cables.

Like all the the Tincanknits patterns, this is well-written and easy to follow. This one is bottom up and seamless (well, if you don’t count the underarms!) I didn’t get it done in the one long weekend, but it only took another couple of days later in the month to finish it up.


The Dread Pirate toddler in question is very pleased with his new sweater, since he likes cardigans. (And his previous ones are all pullovers — even with wide necks he’s suspicious that his head might not fit.)

We haven’t tried to get much of a photo shoot going (too much more fun stuff to do over the holidays!) but here he is in the Ottawa airport trying to reach his favourite airport feature, the courtesy telephone.

Homemade Play dough (with no cream of tartar)

Tried a new way to keep my toddler entertained on a holiday weekend: we made play dough together!

1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
(Mix these and set aside)

(In a glass 1C measure)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Fill rest of cup with water to 3/4 cup mark
(Microwave to hot: 1 min or so)

(Mix with flour/salt)
Food colouring if desired
1 tablespoon oil
(Stir more, let cool. Don’t add flour until it’s mostly done cooling, even though you’re gonna think it needs it)

Adapted from https://stayathomeeducator.com/absolutely-perfect-no-cook-scented-play-dough-recipe-without-cream-tartar/ but made shorter so I don’t have to try to scroll through a giant blog post while my toddler is helping next time. He’s getting better at measuring and stirring!

The most expensive part of this, without cream of tartar, is the lemon juice, but I had some old stuff on hand so it wasn’t a big deal. I might try vinegar to see if that is a good substitute next time, because we have more of that on hand.

In threes: finished, wips, upcoming projects

Recently finished:

– Woollywormhead’s 2019 mystery hat. It’s blocking right this moment.

– my Lucky Star shawl (blocked, photographed today, but not worn yet!)

– Mom’s Christmas sock #1

Works in progress:

– Mom’s sock #2 (cast on this afternoon)

– Cascadial Wrap (maybe 3/4 done? More? Abandoned again for travel last month, poor thing)

– crochet advent calendar (still going very slowly, by design. I’m planning to do maybe one or two more, just enough to cover our current tiny tree.)

Coming up soon:

– an advent for 2019 has arrived! I haven’t decided if I’m waiting for the 1st or not, but I’m leaning towards the December start.

– maybe that toddler sweater before we go to Ottawa? I’m thinking Antler by Tin Can Knits but it will depend on what yarn I have.

– maybe pulling out my own sweater that’s been hibernating since last year?

My gift knitting this year is just the one pair of socks, unless I suddenly think of something neat (and small) to do, so I’m nicely on track to be able to start that advent calendar. Finishing a toddler sweater might be too ambitious, though.

Whakairo Shawl

This was a particularly satisfying pattern to knit. It starts out so small and that first chart seemed daunting. It’s well written, but there was just So Much Going On that I needed to concentrate and I despaired of ever finishing with a toddler around.

But once I made it through the first chart, and there wasn’t some new thing appearing at the edge ask the time, I started to find my rhythm.

Rhythm, breast pump… I amuse myself.

And it just felt so natural that it seemed weird that I’d been thinking of this as a terribly technical pattern. Surely it was just obvious?

The pattern is Aroha Knits’ Whakairo Cowl done with the shawl variant. It’s really worth reading the pattern description about how it’s meant to minic Maori wood carving.

I can’t remember how many repeats I did of that 3rd chart, but it was enough that I had it memorized and didn’t even look at it by the end. Kind of amazing.

The yarn is Kupenda in colour “free range” by Fierce Fibers. It’s a super soft alpaca/silk/cashmere blend that is slippery and a little fluffy and oh so soft. I was worried about the stitch definition because of the halo but I really didn’t need to be. Even if it wasn’t a luxury yarn, this is the most luxurious gradient I’ve ever used. The colours are so saturated, the colour change is so perfect, and the yarn has been re-straightened so unlike most gradients it’s not in that “just unknit from the blank” stage.

I already bought more. (And got a personal delivery to my desk at work, but that’s another story!)

It very much needed blocking. It was a toddler-sized shawl when it came off the needles! I liked the tight lace with all those twisted stitches, but you could tell it would open up.

Even blocked, it’s not quite the right shape for the way I like to wear a triangle shawl: it’s really designed as a buttoned cowl. But that was easily solved with a shawl pin.

I’m super happy with the way this one turned out. It’s a very technical shawl but mathematically predictable and just feels satisfying to me. Plus, that yarn! This will see a lot of wear… As soon as I’m not worried about getting hair dye on it if it rains, anyhow! (Not pictured here, but my hair is dark blue/purple/pink now.)

Maybe unicorn dreams pretty darned quick?

My final socks on vacay socks were started on the way back from Ottawa in August and finally finished after my hand recovered!

Yarn: “maybe unicorn dreams?” From Knitted Wit. It didn’t have a colour written on the tag and I thought the guess sounded like a hugo nominated short story so that’s what I’m calling the yarn.

I’ve come up with a few ideas for the title, but the most ridiculous is the sci fi jaunt where little girls are given robot unicorns as educational toys that grow with the kid up to becoming self driving car alternatives that can have software secretly marketed to parents as a virgin-detecting chastity belt for teens. Inevitably, the teens find out about this horrific invasion of privacy because of course the company is machine learning on the girls’ potential sexual behaviours and being generally gross in that way of tech companies. And then, the/ unicorn hacking society is born.

… I have a lot of time to think about parenting ethics and infosec while my kid’s falling asleep, ok?

Pattern: Pee Dee Queue by Shannon Squire. I wanted to do this with the cute pattern on the back, but it proved too tight so I followed the alternate instructions to do the stretchier back instead.

The first photo was with a tiny stuffed dog, so the last one is with a giant one!

Incidentally, my dog obsessed toddler is really benefitting from the fact that Tiny Terri also loved dogs, so every time we visit my family we bring a few more mor home with us. Woof!

Spring embroidery break

I strained my hand/wrist/arm at the end of socks on vacay (it wasn’t *just* knitting but the short needle setup I was trying didn’t help), so I took a two week break and tried some different crafts while I waited for my body to recover.

Embroidery has been popular in knitting circles. (even punch embroidery, which I haven’t done since I was… 11 maybe?) When my local knitting store was closing down their bricks and mortar location I picked up a couple of Kiriki sampler kits on sale. This one is spring and I also got winter. (And I might have to go order Summer now…)

It’s definitely a hello world style kit, meaning it’s clearly got training wheels intended to help you get started. The kit itself doesn’t have printed instructions, but they’re all on the website.

I’ve done a bit of embroidery for amigurumi and the odd Christmas ornament so it’s not a completely new skill for me, but this was definitely way outside of my skill set. I’m pretty pleased with the results, though! I expect I could get pretty comfortable with this if I practiced.

I wondered early on what I would even do with embroidery skills, but this is actually cute enough that I might try to find a way to display it. It’s clearly meant for a 6inch display hoop, but I kind of like it on a smaller one that doesn’t show the how-to parts. This 3inch is still a bit too big, but I might find something eventually.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this! I’ve got a few more free-form kits from Fireside Textiles‘ Patreon but I’m going to at least tackle the other sampler I have first.

And speaking of amigurumi and Christmas ornaments… I also did exactly that as my second project:

As the photo says, this was part of last year’s Little Box of Crochet advent calendar. I didn’t get very far in it, but that was expected because eh, life. Hoping to get a bit further this year!

Both of those served as a nice break where I used different muscles. I spent a few days on calls to Japan and needed something to keep myself awake while listening in, but with knitting out I needed to try to branch out. Although I was not exactly thrilled when it took two weeks to recover, it’s better than that time in high school where I didn’t rest enough and had sore wrists on and off for 9 months!

But even if I’m not on a knitting break any more, you can expect me to do some more embroidery and crochet coming up this fall. It was fun!

And yes, in case you were wondering, I do realize the title of this post is a bit punny.

Fruit fly socks for my retired biochemist mom

I bought this yarn because the name, “time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana” reminded me of my biochemist parents, and then my mom asked for socks so away we went.

It was also socks on vacay time still! And Mom’s birthday was coming up!

Yarn: Knitted Wit “time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana” in honour of biochemist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard.

Pattern: Shannon Squire’s Sundae Socks. I sized up one more step than the pattern is written for, since Mom asked for them to be roomy. And apparently I got it right, since she’s requested another pair!

CVE Binary Tool 0.3.0

My work open source project had its second public release! Python folk can get it via pip install cve-bin-tool or by going to https://github.com/intel/cve-bin-tool/releases/tag/0.3.0

I don’t really talk about work much here, but one of the things I’ve been doing is a little helper tool called the CVE Binary Tool. It scans your code for a select number of common open source components and warns you if any of them are out of date and have known security issues (also known as CVEs, which stands for Common Vulnerability and Exposure and is basically a numbering system for publicly known security problems). Probably most people who read my blog don’t need this tool, but if you write software that ships binaries or if you like to hack software binaries, it’s a simple but informative thing to have in your toolbox. There are more comprehensive tools in this space, but they’re usually fairly expensive and fairly slow, so a free and relatively fast one has a nice niche.

The biggest new thing I’m excited about in CVE Binary Tool 0.3.0 is that it now includes Windows support, which was provided by my Google Summer of Code Student Ziao Wang. He’s been working with us for the summer and just wrapped up his time on Monday, so I was really happy we were able to get this release out before he finished his term! He’s also done some parallelization work that should make parts of this release faster, as well as other bugfixes and enhancements.

There’s also some other great stuff in there: new checkers, new usage modes, and a number of bug fixes and improvements.

Amusingly, given that I’ve been fairly involved in the Python community for so long, this was actually the first time I’ve pushed the “go” button on a release to PyPI all by myself. I like to think this is just a sign of my incredibly amazing collaborative skill, but I still had a laugh at myself when I had to read all the docs to make sure I was doing it right!

Electric Eel Wheel Nano

I got a neat new toy:

This is a teensy little electric spinning wheel! (Crayon for scale.) It’s called the Electric Eel Wheel Nano and I got in on the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

I’m still a relatively inexperienced spinner, so I was worried this might be a ridiculous thing to buy, but it’s tiny, can be powered off usb, and is quiet, so I’m hoping it’ll be the start to me taking my spinning places (mostly, I’m thinking Saturday knit group or my work knitting group). It took a while to get used to it (it’s definitely a lot more awkward to control speed with a knob when I’m used to using my feet) but I was soon managing a reasonable single:

I then promptly played with it so long that I tired out my hand and had to take a few days break before it was back to normal. I usually spin with a timer so I guess I’d better stay in that habit!

It’s very different than my big manual wheel, but with a lot less learning curve than the drop spindle. I’ll have to do some more practice to make sure my hand can handle it (and that I don’t need to change my ergonomic setup) but I’m looking forwards to getting a nice carrying case and taking this spinning show on the road, since knit group is one of my few toddler-free crafting blocks.

Said toddler, of course, was very upset that this toy wasn’t for him! He loves my big wheel too (i have to flip the band off when it’s not in use so he can treadle without messing with my work in progress!) but I think it’ll be a while before he has the coordination to try spinning out for real, even if this means he won’t be limited by tiny toddler legs!

#socksonvacay2019: Mama/baby Dread Pirate socks!

Shannon Squire and Knitted Wit have my favourite summer knit-a-long: Socks on Vacay. My first pair of socks took me around two years to finish, but I liked wearing them, so I foolishly joined in last year and knit 3 socks in time, and I guess I’m a sock knitter now?

So here’s a few photos of my first 4 (!) socks for this year.

Yarn is the Talk Like a Pirate Day themed “Yarrrrn!” (From last year’s sassy holidays collection). I saved this for a whole year!

Pattern is Shannon Squire’s Short Attention Span. It doesn’t actually go down to toddler size, so I improvised those a bit to scale them down.

My baby Dread Pirate (who is also so named thanks to Talk Like A Pirate Day) was utterly pleased with the socks, which was rather a surprise to me since it was hot and I didn’t think he’d want to wear them even for photos. But I think after he watched me knit them, he was pleasantly surprised to find out they were for him!

I’ve got two more socks finished but no pictures yet, so I’m definitely beating last year’s record!

Hibisco Necklace

Although I was terribly restrained in buying kits from Laura Nelkin, I did pick up two (plus her perfect little beading tin) so here’s the second!

This is called Hibisco, and it’s another beaded jewelry kit. I’m not normally a fan of pre-strung beads for bigger knits, but they’re not too annoying for a smaller kit and I do love the way they float in the fabric.

I should have gotten a circular, but I didn’t have any in size 2.75mm or whatever this was, so I made do. I may have to expand my small needle collection in the future, though!

Blocking was a challenge. A helpful person on the forum suggested a paper plate to get the curve consistent, which proved hard with the ruffles.

I’m super happy with the way it turned out! And it’s proved toddler-resistant, so unlike my more delicate chains, I can wear this at home! Yay!

I’ve already earmarked the next kits I want, but I’m going to try and hold off until I’m finished a few of my works in progress. They’re getting a bit out of control again!

Fetish cuff/necklace

Ah, the 7th month, where resolutions start to really go off the rails! I’ve been decent at recording my projects on Instagram (though I did miss photographing a gift I made) and have gotten better at updating Ravelry, but this blog hasn’t seen a post yet this month and we’re almost at the end!So here’s a quick project I did on vacation: Fetish cuff by Laura Nelkin.The kit comes with everything you need (and then some), and the ring and clasp hardware is particularly nice.It was a surprisingly easy kit to do, given how complicated it looks! Probably ambitious beginner level, and there are instructional videos that walk you through it. (Though the focus is a bit out of whack, the explanations are good.)It took me probably a couple of hours to do with toddler interference. And it’s resilient enough to handle some toddler exploration once it was put together!It’s designed to be worn two ways. I expected to mostly wear it as a necklace, but I actually like it better as a cuff!I found these kits when I was looking at subscriptions that happen less than monthly, and I’m sorely tempted to subscribe, but I’m still unburrying myself from my unfinished Jimmy Beans kit, so I think I’ll stick to treating myself when there’s one I really like up on etsy.

Oregon Sky Shawl / #glowupknittedwit Kit

Knitted Wit did this neat collab with a pile of awesome designers It started with yarn…

Yarn: Glow Up Knitted Wit kit (with main colour Oregon Sky)

There’s a lot of great patterns in the collection, but I particularly loved this one.

Pattern: Oregon Sky by Michele Bernstein (Pdxknitterati)

I took it to Albuquerque for the mini Maker Faire. (see how it matches the rainy Oregon departure!)

I found the perfect project bag:

I took it to Cleveland for Pycon and it was literally bound off in the sky on the way home:

This is a great pattern for travel: visually stunning and a great conversation starter, yet with short and easily memorized lace sections so I could pick it up and knit while watching the toddler, attending conference talks, or pretty much whenever. I think I told more people the name of this pattern than anything I’ve ever knit!

I had some fun taking finished photos…

I’m not sure why, but my toddler particularly likes this one, so while i was taking photos he gestured that i needed to throw it on a tree then grabbed it and ran away giggling …

And before I’d even processed those photos, I was lucky enough to catch a rainbow and get photos with it!

How amazing is that?

Great shawl, great yarn, and my only regret is that it might be a while before I try the other patterns in the collection!

Video of my Python Security Tools talk at PyCon 2019

I’m hoping to put together a post with all the text of my talk and slides in a non-video format (because I like having my talks in non-talk format!), but in the meantime, enjoy the video of the talk I gave at PyCon this year!

The talk is on Python Security Tools, because I found at work that we didn’t have good training on how to secure Python, and when I went to fix that, I found out that even Google searches for “how do I secure python?” weren’t telling people the things I think they should know about securing their python code.  So clearly there’s a need!

Abstract:

While high-level security concepts may transcend languages, each language has its own sets of tools and edge cases that are worth knowing. Python is one of many popular languages that is rarely the focus in security training, but that doesn’t mean python code is automatically secure (no matter what the internet tells you). Learn why people who say “pylint will help you with security” aren’t doing you any favours, how to use Bandit for security-focused linting and talk about other options for static analysis. Take a deeper look at why scanning for publicly known vulnerabilities is complicated, and how to use Pyup Safety to make it easier. We’ll also explore some language myths and best practices

On a personal note, speaking at PyCon is something I’ve wanted to do since my first PyCon back in Santa Clara in 2012, so I was super excited to get accepted this year!

Prickly Pear Soldering kit – my first pcb

Although this blog is heavy on the soft and squishy fiber arts, I also worked on something a little less flexible: a printed circuit board!

Now, this isn’t entirely a new venture for me.  My husband and I have always built things together, but as he get into pcb design during his last job, I got involved too.  (We aren’t the sort of couple that does *everything* together, but we have a lot of overlap in interests!)

For most of these ventures, I’ve been an ideas and art person: For example, you can see my ideas+art in the Battle Bunnies, the Cloud Sun internet weather station, and the “Red or green?” Chile Pepper.

But because the software used to make circuit boards is expensive and annoying to learn, I’ve previously left executing that part of things up to J.  (For those of you not familiar with how this works, that means he’s been doing 90% of the work, easily.)

But there’s free software called KiCAD that does what I need, so finally this year, I learned it and built a thing!  This is my Prickly Pear Soldering Kit:

 

These are the kits we donated to the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire this year!  When we lived in Albuquerque, I developed a real fondness for the prickly pear — both because it was so unlike any plant I’d grown up with, and also because it’s delicious.  (I spent many of my weekends as a teen wandering the woods as part of the Macoun Field Naturalist club, and I will always a great fondness for discovering new plants and also eating them.)  So knowing that a simple soldering kit often starts with big LEDs, I thought “what if they were prickly pear fruit?”  Okay, sure, prickly pear doesn’t normally glow, but given New Mexico’s nuclear history, it seemed funny enough.

As far as soldering kits go, this is pretty simple.  Two LEDs, a battery older, and a switch to solder, then add a magnet so you can wear it or stick it on the fridge.  The switch is my favourite part, because I think it was my mom who once complained that these sorts of things never had switches and if you have kids and they have to take the batteries out, they are quickly lost forever. Coin cells are cheaper than they were when I was a kid, but kids haven’t changed *that* much, so I spent the extra 36 cents on a switch.  This is fairly expensive for what it is, but still cheap enough to make the kids reasonably priced, since even though we donate the parts the maker faire prices them based on the actual hardware costs in case we can’t always afford to donate when they need to restock.

Prototype, v1.0: I forgot the spines, and had to hot-wire the switch because they hadn’t arrived.  But it worked!

Version 1.1: added silkscreen spines (one day I’ll make them shiny), moved stuff around to make sure I could fit the pcbway logo on there (They’ve donated pcbs to the maker faire for several years running, including this new kit).  Alas, the switch footprint wasn’t perfect so you have to snip off the “hold it steady” side bits to make it fit easily. 

Lessons learned: order your parts before prototype 1!  And also, the footprint library isn’t quite as good as I want it to be (or my understanding of how it works isn’t as good as I want it to be).  Definitely this is something I’ll improve for myself over time!

Lessons still to learn: I had to get some help to make the board shaped the way I wanted it to, but I got it very close on my own, just off in scale, so I think I can solve this problem when I’m not racing towards a manufacturing deadline. 

Anyhow, I’m pretty pleased with how it came out.  The prickly pear design is open hardware (although I haven’t registered it as such yet, it’s licensed that way), so if you want to make your own, go to!

J notes that since we sold a decent number of these at the maker faire (more than I’d expected for such a basic kit!) I’m technically a professional pcb designer now, which is hilarious even if it’s just a technicality.  Still, I look forwards to building more things now that I’m over the first big hump of learning!