Monday, November 30, 2015

Lacing Up

Do you find yourself sometimes drawn to garments and accessories laden with giant, gaping holes?

Me too.

My first-attempt lace-like scarf start. 

Ok, maybe the holes are not giant and gaping. Let's try stable and intentional.

Lace knitting is a beautiful technique that incorporates wonderfully patterned yarn overs in order to create a light and airy knitted piece. I like the delicate feel and appearance of the technique, but further, I am interested in the pattern architecture.

In my initial days of knitting, I was intrigued by lace. However, many seasoned crafters let me know in that nice "it's-something-to-look-forward-to" gentle let-down type of language that I should become more comfortable with the motion of knits and purls before I attempt something complex, like lace.

With a few months of knitting under my belt, I was ready to take on a bit of a fiber challenge.

"Why not?" I thought, "Why not try something tricky?"

After sweeping Ravelry for a few hours, "That's so pretty!" became "Wow. That looks really tough." and eventually, I settled on "Alright - no. Nope. Not skilled enough yet." However, I was still enticed by the look of the hole-y (not holy, Blessed Yarn is something different) knits, so I dug some older yarn out of my stash and tried to figure out how to make the look I wanted. I found the solution in the number four.

Knits galore in groups of four.

Even numbers are friendly to knit with, especially when working with yarn-overs and knit-togethers. A knitter can create patterns, as shown in the lace-like knit above, without losing stitches. To make this scarf, I casted on twenty-four stitches. This number was really important for the whole project, for a different number would create chaos in the pattern. I learned this the hard way, through observation of lots of mistakes.

This scarf requires twenty-four stitches on the needle for the entire pattern.

For a few days, this project took over my life (only a slight exaggeration). While knitting, I would have to stop mid-conversation and count my stitches over and over again, only to become more distracted when I got to the end of the needles and -- oops! only twenty-three stitches there. Quite frankly, this pattern took a long time to craft and I'm not sure how valuable it it, for the scarf does not quite have that super-holy and delicate look I was going for. Perhaps I will try to knit lace with one of the "too tough" patterns I passed before.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Becoming a Cowl-girl

Function > Form

My bike rides home from work are getting darker and colder. I'm reluctant to admit that the beautiful and comfortabley worn-in garter stitch scarf I have been wearing is not doing the job. It is too short to wrap completely around my neck enough times. The chilly air always seems to find its way to that space between the end of my helmet and the beginning of the jacket.

It's become clear that I can solve these types of problems by simply making the solutions.

A few weeks ago, I accepted my scarf's weakness and decided to knit a cowl. A cowl functions like a scarf but is knitted in the round. I searched through Ravelry and landed on a drop-stitch cowl pattern, designed by Abi Gregorio. I picked this pattern in part because it called for size 15 needles and chunky yarn, which is a winning combination for thicker knits. I could visualize how the cowl would work so nicely for a two-wheeled commuter (like me!). In addition, the design incorporates an intentional dropped stitch - an interesting feature that was initially a challenge for me to visualize.


To make the pattern work for me, I chose to knit the top more tightly that the bottom. Although this intentional change subtly throws the symmetry across the x axis, the tighter stitches encourage the cowl to stay closer to my body near the top of the design. I also knitted a shorter cowl than pictured in the original design because the function of the cowl did not require the (approximate) ten more rows in the round.

For this piece, I used a Malabrigo Rasta super-sized wool, which is easily one of the most beautiful materials I have ever worked with.

The completed drop-stitch cowl.

This is the first time I have deviated from a pattern. I perceive these small changes as progress in my knitting ability. It was fun to make a cowl, but even more enjoyable to customize the piece. Here, the vision of the completed piece informed the process of making.

Cowl-girl Up

I do love a great knitted scarf, but I may have to admit that the cowl has knitted up my heart. For starters, a cowl is easy to wear. Further, the practice of knitting in the round enables the knitter to create three-dimensional pieces.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stitchy Statistics

It seems like every week, Kate is posting some cool new thing she found people doing that combines knitting with math, science, or computer science. Well, now it's my turn with sewing (but... I still have Kate to thank for bringing this to my attention in the first place :)!

Nausicaa Distribution is an Etsy shop that sells handcrafted statistical and mathematical gifts. Some of them are simply cute statistical logos and images that they print on t-shirts, like "Chisquareatops."

Others, like zippered pouches or drink cozies, have pi or equations embroidered on them.
Euler's Identity zippered pouch, found on Nausicaa Distribution's Etsy shop here.
They also sell cross-stitch kits and patterns so you can make your own mathy crafts.
Shapiro Wilk test of normality cross-stitch pattern

But perhaps most fun of all are the statistical distribution plushies! They range (range! See what I did there?) from the normal distribution, to chi-squared, to things I've never even heard of before like Erlang and Cauchy distributions. Just look at these cute little guys!
Nausicaa Distribution's Etsy shop: custom plushies
As far as I can tell, the plushies are sewn to be as accurate to the shape of these statistical distributions as possible, and include embroidered details of not only cute faces, but also variations in the distributions and/or standard deviation locations. It's a fun way to emphasize the inherent beauty in mathematical patterns, as well as the connection between textile crafts and math. The shop's owners, Nicole and Shannon, both have Masters degrees in Statistics. As Nicole describes it, "I have always enjoyed sewing and crafting, so opening an uber-nerd Etsy store seemed to be the perfect adventure." Hooray for nerdy crafting!
Evil Poisson Distribution! Mwahahaha!

You can find Nausicaa Distributions on Etsy, Twitter, Facebook, and BlogSpot!