Archives for posts with tag: ravelry

WOW. I found this Ravelry thread linked from a post by the Magpie Knitter (via a Facebook post by Knitting Kninja)–the original post was 4 hours ago, and there are already about 750 posts/30 pages in the thread. 

The General Counsel of the United States Olympic Committee sent a cease and desist to Ravelry about the use of the word “Ravelympics,” and also this: “The patterns and projects featuring the Olympic Symbol on Ravelry.com’s website are not licensed and therefore unauthorized.  The USOC respectfully asks that all such patterns and projects be removed from your site.” (The Ravelympics is an annual event that’s been going on since 2008, in which knitters watch the Olympics while working on particularly challenging projects.)

It includes this passage:

“The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.  For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career.  Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes.  The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States.  Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect.  We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

Unbelievably humorless. Also incredibly insulting to knitters. And what about that whole “culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony” thing? If they want to go after each of the individuals who have put up unlicensed Olympics-themed patterns for sale because of trademark infringement, that’s one thing, but it just seems ridiculous and mean-spirited to go after the “Ravelympics” phrase with justification about how the individual knitters/crocheters’ goals and personal achievements are so laughable and paltry that just associating them with the Olympics is a grave insult, the equivalent of spitting in the face of an Olympic athlete. 

As an aside, while anybody can knit and not anybody can be an Olympic athlete, I am pretty sure some of the knitters participating have spent more time knitting than any of the Olympians have training for the Olympics. 

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I got kind of annoyed with the Freakonomics guys when Superfreakonomics came out, but nevertheless, their New York Times blog usually makes for a pretty interesting read. Yesterday more than ever: they posted a letter from a young Ravelry user named Sarah Johnson about the difficulty ratings on Ravelry and whether there is “an elitist oligarchy in the underworld of knitters.”

Johnson took a look at some data from the site and asked the questions:

  • Why, on a site that contains 205,069 patterns, are less than 100 patterns user-rated as “difficult?”
  • Why are 90.3 percent of the patterns rated for quality on Ravelry considered by users to be very good or excellent?
  • Possible answer #1: Most patterns on Rav are, in fact, good and easy
  • Possible answer #2: Rav data is largely made up of input from “master craftsmen,” and their subjective considerations of relative ease and difficulty are artificially skewing the ratings on Ravelry to make patterns that are objectively more difficult appear much less so.

This in itself was sort of an interesting question, but to me, it’s more about flaws or inherent biases in the data based on the ratings collection system. Some good points brought up in the article’s comments, where the issue was discussed in much greater detail:

  • People who don’t make a pattern (by adding it to their notebook as a project) cannot rate it.
  • Most people won’t choose to even attempt to make a pattern they perceive to be out of their skill level. (When I first started knitting, I remember obsessively perusing the Knitty archives for anything rated “mellow” or “tangy,” as I perceived “piquant” to be something far above and beyond my abilities.) Due to this self-selection, anything with a rating has already been pre-filtered as apparently appropriate for the knitter’s skill level.
  • People usually don’t rate patterns until they’ve finished their project, so if something is too hard and gets abandoned, usually it won’t get a rating at all. If you’ve managed to finish a project, then most people would think to themselves that by definition, it couldn’t have been that hard.
  • There’s no lower limit on the number of reviewers needed for something to show up in the difficulty rankings, so the majority of projects rated “10” in difficulty have been rated that way by a single person.

If you’re really interested in finding the truly difficult patterns on Ravelry, it’s probably more productive to look at this discussion about the “brain surgery” of knitting.

I was more interested in trying to tease out what it actually means for a knitting (or crochet) pattern to be “difficult.”

As Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says in Knitting Rules, in response to those who say, “I couldn’t knit, I’m not smart enough”: “Knitting, all knitting–every single item–is made up of two stitches, knit and purl.” In the end, this is essentially a question of following directions someone has written down for you, using well-documented, physically undemanding techniques that are easily broken down to their atomic level–knits and purls. (I’m not thinking about designing and writing knitting patterns, which involve a different skillset and a different set of difficulties.)

I took a quick look on Wikipedia, and while I’m sure there’s a lot more relevant stuff out there that I just didn’t manage to find, what I did find was this breakdown of “characteristics of difficult problems,” which doesn’t seem to apply to what we call “a difficult pattern”: it applies to problems, and the solutions thereto, which is not exactly what we’re dealing with when looking at knitting patterns. Nothing really needs to be “solved,” unless a pattern is particularly poorly written, or you’re actually designing it. Patterns are essentially instructional texts: the ideal, if you’re a designer (and not Elizabeth Zimmermann), is for someone to be able to just pick up your pattern and knit it all the way through without running into any doubts or confusion, in “blind follower” mode.

So, rather than spending a lot of time researching existing literature about this topic, I thought about things–not just from the knitting realm, but throughout my life–that I’ve found difficult recently, and tried to figure out what I could take away from them that would apply:

  • I checked out a book of John Ashbery poems from the library and tried to understand it. I’m finding this pretty tough going. This might be a problem of not having the proper background or training to understand what techniques he’s using, what he’s alluding to, and what he’s trying to achieve; or maybe an issue of short attention span.
  • In rock climbing, short routes that you boulder (climb without ropes) are usually referred to “problems” and they are indeed often difficult for me to complete, but usually for purely physical reasons: the limitations of my own body–flexibility, strength, balance, fear, stamina.
  • In my non-knitting life, I’m a project manager, and certain projects I work on seem more difficult than others. The projects that seem most difficult to me involve either a great deal of complexity–many details, resources, files, and requirements that need to be managed simultaneously–or, more often, projects that involve a custom process, where I don’t have a good mental map of the road I’ll need to follow to complete the job, or the issues that are likely to come up and how to solve them.
  • I cannot, for the life of me, play the drums in Rock Band. I nearly always get booed offstage by those cruel, cruel virtual fans. This is a difficulty of physical coordination (if the damn drum pedal wasn’t involved, I’d do better, I think, but two hands and one foot is more than I can handle at once) and also mentally processing a lot of information at high speed, in a time-dependent environment.
  • I’m taking an Italian conversation class right now, and my instructor keeps telling me I need to jump in there more, interrupt people, talk over other people when I have a point to make, i.e. act more Italian (i.e., rude). Even though I’m pretty sure nobody would take this personally, I find it very difficult, from my social conditioning, to just jump in and keep talking over someone else until they shut up.
  • I make pie crust from scratch pretty often. Sometimes it comes out well, sometimes it doesn’t. I think a large part of the difficulty in making a good crust is that there are variations in the ingredients (how much the flour is packed down, the amount of water added, how cold the butter is), the measurements, the oven temperature, how much the dough is handled, how well the butter is distributed, how thin the crust is rolled out… a lot of factors and variations, many of which are impossible for me to measure accurately in the moment as I’m making the pie. And what do I do if I accidentally add too much water? I can’t really un-add it after the fact.

So, all that in mind, I played around with bubbl.us (which is a really fun site, by the way) to make a mind map of how I think difficulty breaks down. You’ll see a few entries that aren’t knitting-related, so I haven’t gone into them in detail, but I wanted to at least mention them since they cover some of the difficult areas I listed above. Click to enlarge to a readable size, and start at the yellow “What is DIFFICULTY?” in the middle.

Disclaimer: there’s probably going to be a fair amount of overlap in these categories, and I’ve put this all together in one big verbal diarrhea marathon session, having read the article and 2 pages of comments, but none of the discussions on Ravelry about it yet, so maybe I haven’t thought through everything super carefully, but hey, this is a hobby, not a term paper:

WHAT IS DIFFICULTY?

Knitting difficulty mind map

The high-level categories I broke this down into are:

1) Difficulty in understanding instructions–essentially, user error or designer error (or maybe not “error,” but the inherent difficulty of describing certain techniques or presenting certain types of information without taking up 20 pages). Many of the patterns rated “10” for difficulty were rated by 1 person, and this undoubtedly reflects a lack of experience, or understanding of the rating system, more than anything terribly difficult about, say, this felted purse or this cabled hat. (Maybe that’s just me being a presumptuous elitist oligarch?)

2) Difficulty in achieving desired results–Let’s put it this way. I think there’s nothing inherently difficult about knitting a top-down raglan sweater. Knit knit knit, follow directions–increase a bit, put some stitches on waste yarn, knit knit knit. Eventually, if you can follow directions, you have a sweater. However, there are plenty of difficult things about knitting a top-down raglan sweater that actually fits you, whether it’s making the sweater too loose or too tight, the sleeves too long or short or different lengths, the neck too tight or way too huge, or some unholy combination of the above. This is mostly unrelated to knitting patterns, but I do think it’s something that often leads to people saying a project was hard. I’ve broken this down into:

  • Fit–Fit and Gauge both overlap the category I’ve labeled Mental Difficulty, as the issue of “difficulty” here is that for a sweater to fit right and look flattering, you need to customize the instructions to suit your own specific requirements, which forces you to enter the realm of design–measuring yourself, measuring your work, doing a lot of math.
  • Gauge
  • Irrevocability of actions–sorry for the unwieldy title, I couldn’t think of anything better. Basically, how hard is it to go back and fix something if it’s wrong? This is the cause of a lot of difficulty in non-knitting fields (and in fact I should have broken out “time constraints” separately), but one of the things that I like about knitting is that this factor often doesn’t enter into the craft at all. In my examples above, think of playing drums in Rock Band: once I’ve hit the wrong drum, I can’t go back and fix it, and it matters a lot if I play the drums super slow when I’m not supposed to. Unlike knitting, where I can knit as fast or as slow as I want, and if I do something wrong, I can usually tink back and fix it. There are, however, a few areas where this plays a role in knitting. Steeking is the most obvious: if you take the scissors to your colorwork sweater and then find out you screwed up, there’s no going back. Felting is another one (though it usually covers a multitude of sins)–you can’t take the extra water out of your pie crust, you can’t unfelt your felted purse. And I’ve also listed “difficulty of correcting previous errors” here: if you get to the end and see that you accidentally purled where you should have knit ten rows below, in a plain stockinette sweater, you can drop that stitch and fix it with a crochet hook, but only the insane will attempt this in their Niebling lace. Even Nancy Marchant finds it hard to correct errors in brioche stitch.
  • Unsuitable materials (also listed under Physical Difficulty)–If you use sari silk, don’t be surprised if it’s nearly impossible to make, say, a ribbed hat that will stay on your head.

3) Social difficulty–while this is a cause of so, so many difficulties in life, maybe the vast majority of them, for the most part, it’s not relevant to knitting pattern difficulty (or only tangentially so, e.g., anxiety about asking for help when you don’t understand) so I haven’t gone into any kind of detail about this. Perhaps one issue to note here is the phenomenon in rock climbing of “sandbagging” when rating the difficulty of climbing routes: giving a climb an easier score than it deserves. I think of knitting as being a non-competitive activity, but at least one commenter on the article mentioned the possible shame factor of rating something “easy” as difficult for them–“nobody likes to be thought a fool”–leading to lots of patterns being rated easier than they should be.

4) Physical difficulty–again, in life in general, issues related to physical limitations are far more common than in the world of knitting (in my list above: rock climbing, playing drums, making pie crust), but this is definitely one of the important factors in determining knitting pattern difficulty.

  • Unsuitable materials, again: Typical conversation with beginning knitter: “This is so hard, this hurts my hands!” “What yarn are you using?” “Lion Brand Homespun.” Well, of course it hurts your hands. I found my You Bastard Scarf very, very difficult–not because of the scarf itself, which was mistake rib (just knits and purls) but because of the Camissimo yarn, which was basically a dressed-up version of inflexible, snaggy Homespun for yarn snobs.
  • Difficulty of execution–Some stitches are just physically harder than others to execute, no ifs, ands, or buts. Anything involving purling 5 stitches together through the back loop, or cabling 12 over 12 stitches, for instance. Seafoam stitch is one of the easiest lacy-looking stitches there is (being just fancied-up garter stitch) but I actually find it kind of hard to work for purely physical reasons, because the extra wraps always get stuck on my needles and wind up being hard to push along.
  • Being “fiddly”–I guess this overlaps a bit with “difficulty of execution” but doesn’t necessarily have to do with just the execution of the stitch pattern–the notes I made on this item were: “limited space, opposing forces (small-scale knitting in the round, picking up stitches, twined knitting constantly twisting, intarsia with a million bobbins)”

5) Mental difficulty–this one’s the biggie when it comes to this craft, and I would argue that the biggest item under “mental difficulty” is actually:

  • Novelty. Pretty much everything is hard when you’re doing it for the first time. This relates to my example about difficult, custom-process work projects above–when you lack a mental toolkit to draw from, when you haven’t practiced something and have no muscle memory, internalized background information or recognition of common patterns, every single step becomes a struggle or a source of doubt; there’s none of the mental coasting you can do when you’re doing a familiar and well-understood task.
    • When you’ve knit 10,000 plain stockinette stitches, you don’t have to think about them anymore. I’m sure the same is true of making 10,000 entrelac squares. I find entrelac a somewhat difficult technique, but not because any of its component parts are actually difficult for me. I just haven’t done it often enough to immediately understand, when I’m looking at my work, “oh, here’s where I pick up X stitches along the edge of Y rectangle”–so I need to refer back to the pattern often, or stop and think about what I’m doing, it’s not TV knitting for me. But there’s nothing hard about knitting, purling, picking up stitches, or decreasing, just about understanding what’s going on without consciously having to think about it at every stage.
    • I get emails every so often from people who have bought Prickle and are freaking out about the moebius cast-on or the sideways knit edging. These things can be very difficult the first time you do them, when you’re still trying to figure out what exactly is going on, but once you get used to them, there’s nothing especially difficult involved.
    • I read stories sometimes of people who say “I’ve been knitting for 25 years but all I can do is knit,” and they mean it–no purling, garter stitch only. This is a little blasphemous, sorry, but to quote Gracie Allen, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” We almost all put down periods in all kinds of areas of our lives where there should be commas, including deciding that everything you’ve learned to date (knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing…) is OK, but drawing an arbitrary dividing line of difficulty when it comes to steeking Fair Isle, moebius knitting, charted lace, or two-color brioche, or what have you. I firmly believe nothing in following knitting patterns is that hard in the end, it just requires you to build up your mental toolkit to handle it without so much conscious effort.
  • Calculations/customization–again, this typically falls outside the scope of a knitting pattern itself, except for some that are built like worksheets rather than for “blind followers,” but there is certainly far more mental effort involved and far more risk of error once you stray from following a pattern and into designer territory
  • Creative leaps–see the entry above. You shouldn’t have to do this unless you’re working from a spectacularly poorly written pattern, or making a lot of modifications. I did make an arrow to “background knowledge”–as a broad base of background knowledge is often a required input for successful creative leaps or lateral thinking, and feats of recall are often what makes work in other arenas “hard”. Based purely on watching a bunch of House M.D., I imagine that this is part of what makes a doctor’s job difficult, drawing on a large amount of observation and stored background information to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan. In a similar, if less important, vein, I spent a bit of time yesterday for work troubleshooting a corrupted file and trying to figure out how to repair it with the tools we had on hand, under certain time/budget constraints. Or see my John Ashbery problem from my examples above. A lot of “difficult problems” we need to solve in everyday life fall into this category, but not, typically, in knitting.
  • Ambiguity of next required step–Part of the mental toolkit you build up when something goes from being novel to being well-known and understood is the ability to figure out the next step. This (like many of these entries) should probably go back to poor pattern writing as well. The other thing is that, when you get into instructions like “knit into the back of the stitch 2 rows below,” it can be really hard to figure out where, exactly, that is instruction is referring to: alles klar with the stitches on the needle, but there’s a lot of confusion with terminology when it comes to the rest of the knitted fabric. Crocheters will probably disagree with me here, but one thing I find difficult about crochet as compared to knitting is that you can’t just look at the next loop queued up on your needle: you need to figure out where in the existing fabric to stick your hook and which parts of the stitch to put the hook into, and (being an inexperienced crocheter) I usually get that wrong. Commas and periods.
  • Attention required–along with novelty, this is a huge factor in difficulty ratings. Like with Physical Difficulty, there are certain patterns where you just have to pay a lot of attention, no way around it. There are different types of attention, though:
    • Difficulty in reading your knitting: (and in catching mistakes quickly, as they happen, and reassuring yourself that you’re on the right track without having to backtrack and count…) I remember remarking at TBKGE after knitting my Hemlock Ring that I was having some issues with keeping track of my work. Kalani said something to the effect of “I’ve never heard anyone call Feather and Fan ‘hard’ before” and–well, it’s an extraordinarily easy pattern to memorize and to physically execute, and it only requires thought in one out of every 4 rounds or so, but the issue I was having with it was that it was hard to read, and I was constantly paranoid that I’d let my mind wander and gotten the whole pattern shifted off kilter by a few stitches over hundreds of stitches. This is the same thing that makes people eschew colorwork worked flat: it’s hard to see what’s going on from the back of the work, and floats get in the way.
    • Complexity: Even if there are thousands of stitches on your needles, you only knit one stitch at a time: how complex can it be? The issue with complexity in knitting, I think, is when there are multiple simultaneous instructions or requirements to keep track of: the infamous “at the same time…” that has sent so many knitters into the depths of despair is one of them; how about “decrease while maintaining st pattern” (also requiring on-the-fly calculations), or Bohus knitting, requiring you to work with more than two colors and a mixture of knits and purls? Part of this is an issue of pattern writing and the constraints of space and readability in knitting patterns: you’ll often see people solving the complexity problem by rewriting or re-charting their size of a sweater to spell out all the instructions line by line, so they don’t have to remember to do something every four rows at the same time as they’re doing something else every fifteen rows. If a sweater pattern has eight sizes, it’s not feasible for the designer to write everything out line by line in this fashion for every size, but the knitter can do it as an aide-memoire for their one size to reduce complexity. There are patterns that require a lot of modular pieces to be assembled and I suppose that might fall into this category as well.
    • Size/scope: patterns for large items with thousands of stitches or patterns that may be smaller but very dense or non-repetitive both require a great deal of attention: stamina, in either a lengthy, sustained concentration, or an intensely focused concentration that does not allow for breaks in attention. For example, there’s this distinction between “lacy knitting” and “knitted lace”–the former employing plain rows every other row or round, where the work is only knitted, without any patterning stitches in play, and hence offering the knitter a chance to rest and recharge without constant concentration. I haven’t tried a Niebling yet, or pictorial lace like the Heere be Dragone shawl, but my guess is that it’s this question of scope that makes them difficult. I can read a chart, I can knit lace, but can I do it for hundreds of rows and thousands of stitches without losing my place or messing up? An analogy that came to mind for me was proofreading a language you speak, like English, versus a language you don’t, like, for me, Hindi (at work it comes up occasionally that I’ll need to verify if text has been pasted in accurately or if it’s been misplaced, characters dropped, etc.). In English or another Latin-alphabet language, my eye can scan over the page at the word level with a reasonable level of accuracy, whereas in an unfamiliar language like Hindi I have to go character-by-character, with a much greater visual focus and heightened attention.

Phew! (Speaking of sustained attention, I hope you’re still with me…) With all that in mind, let’s look at a few examples of “difficult” patterns:

  • Morrigan, by Jenna Wilson: a fine-gauge twisted stitch pullover. In theory, if you’re following the directions, there’s nothing hugely different about this than this same designer’s chemo cap Shedir (warning, PDF link): the differences are chiefly in scope and the problems of achieving proper gauge and fit in a form-fitting sweater versus a hat.
  • Katherine Howard, by Jade Starmore: scope and fit are obviously issues again here, but in addition we run into novelty and complexity. It looks like there are 3 or 4 colors used per row in some rows (can’t tell if those little bobble things are knit in or embroidered afterwards), and… I’m not sure exactly what’s going on with the colorwork and texture, but I think it’s maybe intarsia with cables and short rows? A lot of crap going on simultaneously that you don’t see every day, in any case. I don’t find the end product an especially attractive sweater, I’m sorry to say, but it is certainly extremely technically impressive.
  • Drifting Pleats, by Lynne Barr: this is just a scarf on a stockinette ribbed base [corrected 2011-03-03], so issues of gauge, fit, complexity, and scope don’t really enter into it: I think the issues here are with novelty and possibly also physical difficulty (keeping the needles holding the pleat stitches organized and out of your way). I don’t know of any other patterns that use this pleating technique, so it’s going to be a completely new experience for most people trying it, leading to missteps and confusion about what is being explained–but looking at the notes in Ravelry, most people said that it wasn’t hard after it “clicked,” and the scarf’s overall difficulty rating is not as high as you might otherwise expect.
  • Forest Path Stole, by Faina M. Letoutchaia: entrelac plus multiple different lace patterns (many with shifting stitch counts)–to me, I’d have issues with the novelty of this combination of pattern techniques and tracking my progress: until I got used to the pattern I’d be afraid of picking up the wrong stitches since this can (to me) be confusing and ambiguous in entrelac, and it would be hard to tell until the next long row if you’d screwed it up. Not to mention that lace can be confusing in and of itself, and it’s easy to accidentally drop or add stitches. You are, however, working the same little lace squares over and over again rather than one long row of repeats of the lace pattern, so I’d think it would be easier to at least check at the end of each square if you’d done it right. But if you mess up the entrelac, it’s also very hard to go back and fix problems in a pattern like this.
  • Geometric Star, by Kaffe Fassett. From Kaffe’s “Glorious Acid Freakout” collection. This is a problem of complexity all the way–I have no idea how many colors are being used per row but I’m sure it’s more than one and fairly sure it’s less than fifty. Since it’s a sweater, I’d normally say there’s a gauge/fit issue here as well, but frankly, if you’re wearing a one-size-fits-all, chunky-weight, tragic-kaleidoscope-accident colorwork sweater I don’t think you care all that much about how good it looks on you in the end.

OK. Phew. 4500 words later, I think I’m going to call it good and go 1) read what everyone else in the Ravoblogotwittersphere is saying about this topic and 2) maybe do a little bit of actual knitting instead of just blabbing about it. What are your thoughts on all this? Have I overlooked something massive, or am I ignorant of some huge body of literature already existing on this topic? What makes a pattern difficult for you?  What do you think about the NYT blog post and Ms. Johnson’s interpretations of that data?

(Oh and one last thing: I ran across this gorgeous peacock feather scarf, Fremont Street, when I was doing pattern research for this post–sadly, it seems to be rated difficult because there are a lot of errors in the pattern, so I probably won’t bother knitting it until they release corrections, but I think it is beautiful. I didn’t want to discuss it as a “difficult pattern,” but thought I’d point it out in case anyone else wants to give it a go despite the reported pattern issues.)

–corrected 2011-03-03: Lynne Barr wrote to me that Drifting Pleats is on a ribbed base, not stockinette. Oops, sorry, Lynne!

As knottygnome points out, if you want to help, the best thing you can do with your money is donate it directly to a charity, in the spirit of the Harlot’s Knitters Without Borders project.

I’ve donated some money to the Red Cross via their Text to Help campaign, just because it was convenient (no digging around for my credit card!) although I’ve read that they don’t have the greatest CharityNavigator score, and other charities that have been long established in Haiti might be able to put the money to better use. But it was easy as pie–text “HAITI” to 90999, send back a response to the returning text to confirm your donation, one more response to say whether you want to be added to their mailing list thing (no thanks!) and done, the $10 donation will be added to my phone bill at the end of the month.

I also sent a larger donation to Partners In Health on my mom’s recommendation. This is the organization founded by Paul Farmer, who was profiled in Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains.

My stepmother recommended donating to the What If? Foundation, which has been active in Haiti since 2000: “This is a group I’ve contributed to for years and absolutely trust. It was started by a lone individual, a woman named Margaret Trost who lives around here, and she has done amazing work in getting people fed daily meals, using local people to help serve and prepare food. I like donating to organizations that are “on the ground” and this one definitely qualifies.”

As the Yarn Harlot notes, it’s helpful to these charities if you designate your donation as “undirected” rather than specifying that it must be used for Haitian earthquake relief: “Money given to a specific fund can only be used for that area and making sure your donation is undirected helps them a lot. It lets them keep serving other crises that continue to happen while the world watches Haiti, and more importantly, it allows them to be first responders.”

However, while sending money directly is all well and good, I do think a little carrot every now and then doesn’t go amiss. My (perhaps cynical or ungenerous?) feeling is that if you feel like you’re getting something for your money, you’ll probably be willing to give more, total, in the end.

So if you’re interested in a little something beyond sheer altruism, I thought I would mention a few crafty fundraising efforts I’ve noticed around and about:

Aside from those patterns from my queue, I also found a bunch of other lovely patterns I’m considering:

  • I also added my patterns Metheglin (two-color cowl with floating hexagons) and The Windflower Scarf (lengthwise, reversible anemone stitch scarf) to the Help for Haiti list, and will be donating 75% of January sales from these patterns to Doctors Without Borders. I won’t come anywhere near Ysolda’s total, but it’s a drop in the bucket, at least, in addition to the personal donations I have already made or was planning to make.
  • Check out this Etsy site called Craft Hope, where sellers have donated a variety of goods at a variety of price points–100% of sales going to Doctors Without Borders.
  • There are auctions going on on Ravelry’s Completely Pointless and Arbitrary Group and spinoff CPaAG Swap group–KnittyK8 moderates the latter and says they’ve raised over $16,000 in the last week!
  • Knitting Fever is doing matching donations, up to $50,000, for every dollar raised for Doctors Without Borders through Wool and Company, with 15 downloadable patterns as thank-you gifts.
  • Have you seen any other noteworthy craft-for-good efforts around the blogosphere? Any other hidden treasures in the Help for Haiti patterns that deserve more attention? Thoughts on worthy and effective charities to support?

    *thanks to dclulu for pointing out that I had accidentally originally phrased this to imply that all those patterns were Ysolda’s. I have edited the post to fix this.

    First of all, machine washing and drying Rusted Root worked beautifully! The sleeve puff has more or less vanished, and it sprang a big hole under one arm that I had to fix with yarn unraveled from my gauge swatch, but the fabric tightened and evened up wonderfully and the sweater still fits. Judging from the half-inch of red lint stuck on my lint trap, I think it preemptively removed a lot of potential pilliness/shedding from the fabric as well. I’ll have a bit more info later; I’d like to do some post-washing measurements so I can give teh Intarwebs information about how much Cotlin shrinks in the wash.

    Other stuff:

    Last Monday, Rahul and our friend Charlie went gathering mushrooms in the woods. They got lost for about 6 hours, but finally came back with a pile of huge morels that we sauteed in plenty of butter and ate for dinner. (We are all still alive, so I’m pretty confident we correctly identified them.) They were really delicious, even if they look kind of scary and greasy in this photo.

    Over the weekend, Rahul and I decided to go looking for morels again. It was a fruitless search as far as the mushrooms were concerned, but I did see some beautiful tulip tree blossoms lying in the leaves:

    and I found a box turtle:

    –both enthralling and exotic temperate-climate treasures for a native Californian! Look at that grumpy turtle face! We don’t really see such things in the wild on the West Coast, though we do have lots of salamanders and live oaks in our forests, which I’m sure would be exotic for a Hoosier born and bred. It was great, though, very spring-green and picturesque. Unfortunately, I got awful allergies and later found a tick in my bed. (Ew!)

    That was Saturday. On Sunday, we went out and took some photos for my new pattern, the Windflower Scarf.

    The green and brown one is Patons SWS in Natural Earth (I love how it worked out with the self-striping yarn!) and the purple one is Manos Silk Blend in Violets. The pattern is reversible, and very simple and relaxing to knit, mostly garter stitch with a few patterned rows thrown in every now and then. Isn’t the stitch pattern pretty? I might also adapt it into a cowl pattern with a bit of leftover Malabrigo so I can see how it works up in a semisolid yarn.

    Next up in my knitting queue: some Malabrigo Lace in Cadmium, a very bright golden-YELLOW!, selected by my best friend as the color she’d like for a shawl to wear at her wedding this summer.

    The celadon backdrop is one of Rahul’s paintings (not sure if it’s in progress still or if that’s going to be it, Mark Rothko-style). I have a strict deadline for this shawl, mid-July, so wish me luck–if my original design goes to hell, I’ll probably have to make her a last-minute Swallowtail Shawl or something.

    Oh! And before I forget, another “OMG Ravelry is soooo great” story. Friday night, after work, Rahul and I went for a bike ride around town so we could enjoy the glorious spring weather. We stopped by the chemistry building to say hi to chemgrrl, but I didn’t know where exactly her office was, so we were unsuccessful. We rode up to the north side of campus, and I finally saw the beaver who lives in the hedgerow alongside the train tracks; along the way, we passed Nicole, who was out jogging. On the way back down, we passed her again and stopped to talk for a while. It seemed like a good evening to sit outside and have a drink, so we split a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc at the Runcible Spoon, and spotted Saibh and her husband on their way out of the restaurant. It was a nice evening. I went home and found the Ravelry Friday Night Open Mic #1 thread, in which Ravelry users around the world called up and left messages (transcribed by an automatic transcription service). I was thrilled to hear exotic accents and see the mess the voice recognition system had made of some messages… “I’m addicted to Ravelry!”->”I’m addictive to robbery” was one of my favorites. So I left my own message about how cool it was that I’d randomly run into two different Ravelry friends while we were out and about on a Friday night in Bloomington, and in the same thread, saw a shout-out from hapagirl, yet another Ravelry friend from Bloomington (or Bounington, rather, as the transcription would have it.) I felt like I was in a TV commercial about how Ravelry Brings People Together–running into friends, hearing these little “hello!” messages from all over the world, it was great.

    Plus, I had a lovely breakfast this morning at the Uptown Cafe with some of my knitting group (Leigh, Nicole, Kalani, blogless Norma: hi guys!) with only a little bit of knitting involved, but a lot of delicious cottage cheese pancakes. These days, since I work from home and I’m naturally a night owl, there is very little that will induce me to get up at 7 AM. A meeting for work, a plane to catch, or, apparently, pancakes with friends at the Uptown.

    I’m leading a knitalong for the Prismatic Scarf over in the malabrigo junkies group on Ravelry! Linda from Yarnzilla is helping me lead the KAL (neither of us really has any idea what this will entail, honestly, but I’m excited anyway). This is part of Malabrigo March, in which the Malabrigo Nation will apparently attempt to propel Malabrigo up the yarn popularity rankings in Ravelry during the month of March. There will be prizes awarded for most Malabrigo projects cast on, most creative photo involving Malabrigo, best use of color, etc. It’s sort of insane. I really wasn’t kidding when I said this yarn had a cult following.

    Anyway, if you’ve been thinking of casting on for something in Malabrigo, apparently now’s the time. The group is giving away nice stuff, like Addi lace needles, Malabrigo sock yarn, and handmade project bags.

    • KAL thread here. Come on in and sign up!
    • Print or download the pattern here. (It’s available as a free Ravelry PDF download)
    • The malabrigo junkies group is here.
    • Malabrigo’s website is here.
    • People on the malabrigo junkies board have asked where to buy Malabrigo, and here are the responses people have given, along with their notes (I can only personally vouch for a couple of these vendors):
      • WEBS (volume discount works out to $9.60 a skein if you buy at least 5)
      • Jimmy Bean’s ($10.50 a skein)
      • Fabulous Yarn (“It worked out to $8.60 per skein before shipping to order 7. To do that I had to sign up for their knitlist thing, and then they have some automatic discounts. Shipping using the cheapest method worked out to an additional $5.40.” Someone else said it worked out as low as $8.06 a skein)
      • Yarnzilla ($11.95 a skein, large color selection, volume discount, they carry Silky Merino)
      • Discount Yarn Sale (good price, but you have to order an entire bag at a time)
      • Yarn Country ($10.75 a skein)
      • WhitKnits (this is the last place I ordered from–all yarns on sale through tomorrow)
      • Needle Nook (they carry worsted, silky, chunky, laceweight; phone orders only)
      • And additional vendors listed as buying options on Ravelry: Tangle, knot another hat, Make 1 Yarns, and Valley Yarn

    I’ve been laid out flat by the flu for the last half a week or so, with the result that I ended up missing nearly all the things I had been looking forward to this weekend… knitting night (I was going to wear the beard hat!), working at the business school, drinks and fresh-baked cookies with friends, the farmer’s market, dinner at the new Ethiopian restaurant with a friend I haven’t seen in months, a Prince party (does my sunflower beret count as raspberry-colored?), and an ice cream-themed birthday party. No, instead, I spent my whole damn weekend lying in bed, all achy and coughing and feverish. I’m still not feeling well, but at least the hacking cough is nearly gone.

    The weekend did have a few upsides.

    I got to watch parts of various movies–I got bored of Flicka, and my DVD player refused to cooperate with more than 15 minutes of Winged Migration, but I managed to make it through Cat Ballou, and that was fun. I saw the Oscars. I liked the part about the Batsuit.  Helen Mirren looked stunning, just like last year. And I’ve sort of met Glen Hansard (the guy who won the Oscar for Best Song). He’s a friend of a friend, so I made it into his company after a concert–but if I remember correctly, there was just about a minute of quick chatter between the two of them before he had to dash off somewhere, and I never actually got introduced. In any case, it was definitely interesting seeing someone I know (if not directly, at least within a degree) win an Oscar on TV.

    I was determined to make it out to the new yarn shop, In a Yarn Basket. Bloomington Ravelers have been waiting with bated breath and much discussion for it to open for months, since I spotted the Under Construction sign while dropping off a package at UPS in the same strip mall. So perhaps ill-advisedly (since this short trip wiped me out for the rest of the evening) after I dropped Rahul off at his band practice on Saturday, I decided to go down to the yarn shop.

    I looked through the window. People were inside, peacefully browsing. I tried to open the door–and it was locked. I looked at my watch: 3:30. I rattled the door again. The woman came and opened it and said “We’re closed. We close at 4 on Saturdays.”

    “But it’s only 3:30.” I showed her my watch.

    She looked up at the wall. “It’s 4:20.”

    My watch had stopped and in my feverish, cough syrup-addled state, I had no idea!

    I looked in anguish at the people inside and she took pity on me and said I could come in if I didn’t take long. True to my word, I took a quick walk around the store. I took note of the price of Cascade 220 as a benchmark ($6.60, and they have tons of colors, and superwash). Then I picked up a hank of Cascade Eco Wool, one of my favorites, and nearly dropped it. $7.50 a skein. For 478 yards! The normal selling price is $15, and it’s a bargain at that price, since it’s soft, sturdy, fairly heavy weight (though I’d call it aran, not chunky as the label suggests) and I haven’t run into a single knot so far in any of the 3 478-yard skeins of it I’ve wound.

    I checked a few skeins, just to be sure the price gun hadn’t misfired. They all said $7.50. So I picked up a couple of skeins in white and bought them. (I should have bought more–but I was trying to restrain myself, thinking I could always come back and get more.) I remarked on what a great price it was at the register, and to my surprise they didn’t look at it and immediately say “Oh, this is a mistake!” They just smiled and said “Yes, isn’t it great!”

    But then, wouldn’t you know it, it was too good to be true. Someone else on Ravelry went in the next day and bought some and found them repricing all the skeins. They had made a mistake. They sold her the skeins she’d picked out at the cheaper price anyway, so I don’t feel too bad about holding onto the ones I bought, but alas–the permanent price of $7.50 for local Eco Wool was not to be. (Deep sigh…) At least the store has a different selection from Yarns Unlimited, and they seem to be very reasonably priced, so I look forward to going back to browse when I’m less sick and have more time. Oh, and they were giving away reusable fabric shopping bags rather than disposable plastic. I don’t know if that’s a permanent thing or not, but I appreciated it.

    Since I didn’t have things like an appetite or mobility in the outside world to distract me, I also spent the weekend working on some creative projects. I got my Ravelry PDF pattern downloads working, sorta. You can download from each individual pattern page, but for some reason my store keeps saying “no PDF uploaded” when I know that’s untrue. I’ll give it a few days and try again. It’s exciting seeing people download my work–not like there’s any huge number of them, but still. Cool! I’ll add Ravelry download links to the individual pattern pages. The PDFs should print out nicely, no sidebar or comments or other browsery nonsense, and I’ve deleted most pictures from the pattern pages to make a nice copy to work from.

    I also got back to work on rewriting a shawl pattern I’ve been working on for months. I think I finally have it right now–it’s a good thing I sat on it for a while, because some glaring charting errors jumped out at me when I picked it up again and started working. It’s kind of amazing how much work lies in the divide between your own scribbled notes and a product that can be used and understood by other people.

    I slaved away, too, at a pattern for a little sock yarn baby sweater and a test-knit of the smallest size, only to run into various annoying pitfalls, first numerous problems having to do with getting the length right, since the front border repeats are rather long compared to the total length of the sweater, and then, as I was nearing the raglan decreases at the top, running out of sleeve stitches to decrease. AAGH! I have test knitters for the other sizes waiting for me, so I can’t let the frustration stop me, but trying to resize a sweater while your head is fogged up with germs and generic cold medicine is seriously difficult.

    Here are some pictures of the prototype of the baby sweater I’m working on. I’m calling it the Botany Baby Sweater (rav link), and hoping it will be a nice sock yarn stashbuster. This version, knit at light speed in Brown Sheep Wildfoote in Mistletoe for a baby that’s due any day now, was subject to numerous terrible math errors and last-minute fudging,  and I was hoping that the new version I was working on over the weekend would be immune to the same problems. Alas, it had its own, different set of problems.

    I feel like the usual 8-sts-every-other-round ratio of increase/decrease for raglan shoulders doesn’t really seem to work when it comes to babies, because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, they are apparently very squat, fat creatures. So if you want to go from a reasonable body and sleeves size to a reasonable neck size, and you decrease 8 sts every other round, it seems to me that you will end up with an extremely long and ill-fitting raglan.

    Of course, this is all still a theory, since my stupid nearly-finished test knit is sitting on the dining room table looking even squattier than I had planned for, and the baby raglan patterns I’ve seen always seem to follow that same rate of increase/decrease, so it’s possible there just may be some kind of underlying fundamental problem in my calculations. Will report back later. But not tonight–I think tonight I might need to take a break, rest my brain, and work on something relaxing that won’t stand such a high chance of being ripped back after 20 hours of work.

    My old friend Detergent Baby is modeling. I really need to find a more photogenic model.

    The sweater’s cute, at least, isn’t it? But like I mentioned, it’s annoying trying to get all the leaves to match up with the desired lengths in the different sizes. I’m working up my new sample in Colinette Jitterbug in Velvet Leaf, and if one thing kept me going nonstop on this sweater all weekend, it was the absolutely stunning look of the Jitterbug. I love the color and the softness and the bounce of it.  The body of the sweater is knit in reverse stockinette stitch and the sleeves in stockinette, and I just love the effect of the semi-solid yarn in reverse stockinette. (Plus, it hides the slight unevenness of my reverse stockinette better than the solid Wildfoote.)

    The strange thing about the Jitterbug is that, like alexandrite, or maybe like Gwen the two-face in Seinfeld, it seems to look completely different in different types of light. In incandescent light, it seems like sort of an ugly, muddy brown, but in natural sunlight, it takes on a beautiful, rich, dark green color, tinged with gold.
    My thought, by the way, with the Eco Wool was to make a Botany sweater sized up for adults, with pockets–but I’m really getting ahead of myself. Maybe once the pattern is in the hands of my test knitters and I’ve successfully finished at least the newborn-sized version.

    So also over the weekend, I was horrified and kind of depressed to read this story about Virgin Mobile using random Flickr photos licensed under Creative Commons in their Australian ad campaign without contacting the photographers or the people pictured in the photos for permission. It made me all sad and paranoid to read people’s comments saying that a lot of people thought the 15-year-old girl in the linked story didn’t have a legal leg to stand on because the photographer (her camp counselor) had put up the photo under a Creative Commons attribution license, meaning Virgin Mobile could use it to promote their products without paying a red cent, and (according to some commenters) Australian law doesn’t require a model release for normal, everyday people who are neither celebrities nor professional models. Even if they’re not legally obligated to obtain a release or inform the photographer, it seems like the courteous, ethical thing to do–and it seems like they should have at least paid what they would have for normal stock photos. I mean, they’re Virgin, it’s not like they can’t afford it! I don’t want to watermark my photos, and it annoys me mightily when people disable right-click on their webpages out of fear of other people stealing their content, but sometimes I wonder if they have the right idea. I mean, there really are worse things to worry about, but it sucks to think of a multinational corporation grabbing your photos off Flickr and using them for their billboard ad campaigns without your explicit consent or knowledge. Especially since some of them are considerably more derogatory/defamatory than the “dump your pen friend” one.

    Ravelry’s blog feed feature has been acting up (at least for me) and lately I’ve been getting new blog posts dumped into the feed in big chunks every couple of days–so it seems like everything’s quiet, then suddenly I have a huge list of blog posts to wade through. I’ll have to spend some time going back through everything I’ve missed because of the hiccups.

    Sonny and Shear is having a 25% off sale! Use the coupon code “oneyear” and you can get your fix of Dream in Color, Lorna’s Laces, Schaefer, and all kinds of other goodies.

    What did I get? Dream in Color Smooshy, in Dusky Aurora, something I’ve been admiring for ages. Less than $18, including shipping. It made me feel better, miraculously. Really. (If not less feverish, at least less crabby.)

    They have some other cool programs going on–a stashbusting program that gives you a 10% coupon for every 2 lbs. of yarn you use up (send them your ballbands); free shipping over $40; first-class (aka cheap!) shipping in addition to just Priority Mail flat rate; and a frequent buyer program ($25 for every 200 points).

    Oh yeah (she says casually) and you can get bonus points if people click through links to them on your site–so if you feel like going shopping (or just window shopping!) it would be awesome if you clicked through here.

    The other thing I think I’ll be spending some money on is donating to the Barack Obama campaign. The Knitters for Barack Obama group on Ravelry has a raffle going: one entry for every $5 donation to his campaign, and prizes include a hand-knit afghan, hand-dyed cashmere, Sea Silk, a custom-dyed Fleece Artist Lady of the Lake kit, a collection of Marnie McLean’s patterns including her adorable Erte cloche, Black Bunny hand-dyed roving… the list goes on, with 18 prizes so far. I’m not sure I want to get into any political discussions here, but just thought I would bring this to your attention if you’re interested.

    I’ll leave you with the quote of the day from my iGoogle page–it made me laugh:

    “Dance like it hurts,
    Love like you need money,
    Work when people are watching.”

    –Scott Adams

    I made two more pairs of felted clogs while I was at Rahul’s parents’ house over Christmas–one pair for me and one pair for Rahul. The pattern is fast and easy, and the double-stranded yarn makes it a great way to stashbust.

    Pattern: Fiber Trends Felted Clogs AC-33 (the old version).

    Size: I made the Men’s Medium (to fit shoe size 10.5) and the Women’s Small (to fit shoe size 6.5)

    Yarn used: I used Lamb’s Pride Worsted this time, bought for a song (40% off) from a LYS moving sale in Cleveland. It made a warm, cozy, but hairy fabric, and felted faster and more completely than the Lopi I used last time.

    • Men’s clogs: M-68 Pine Tree, exactly 2 skeins; M-151 Chocolate Souffle, about 1.25 skeins.
    • Women’s clogs: M-77 Blue Magic, a bit less than 1 skein, M-76 Misty Blue (actually gray, to my eye), about 1.25 skeins.

    Needles used: US size 13/9.0 mm Denise circulars

    Started: Men’s: 12/22. Women’s: 12/23

    Finished: Men’s: 12/25. Women’s: 12/25. Both pairs felted 12/26. The felt was so dense, they both took about 4 or 5 days to dry!

    Mods: I used the instructions for a higher heel for both pairs. I knit the women’s pair with a bumper, but was running short on yarn for the men’s pair, so I knit a modified bumper–knit the two soles together using a double strand, then bound off with a single strand on the next round.

    The most significant modification I made was leaving rows 3 and 5 out of the sole instructions for the women’s pair to try and get a narrower fit. I left the instructions for the upper alone. They’re a bit too narrow this way; I think the fit would have been perfect if I had left out just one of the plain rows. The clogs fit, but I feel like the bumper has been co-opted as part of the sole width, when the main part of the sole should cover the foot completely, with the bumper extending a bit around the outer perimeter of the clog.

    Notes: Very useful and comfortable. However, I would still like to caulk the soles of these to make them nonstick. Our house is mostly carpet, so it doesn’t matter for the most part, but I’d hate to slip on the kitchen linoleum.

    So–Ravelry just gets cooler and cooler. I was browsing around on Ravelry today–I already knew about the needle/hook chart that lets you print a PDF chart listing the sizes of knitting needles and crochet hooks you own–but then I found the following information in the Help wiki:

    “Ravelry also gives you the ability to text message for your needle size. Hey needle inventory users – if you are on a US mobile network, you can text Ravelry and ask it what needles you have.

    Text Message 41411 and send the message “ravelry [user name] needle [size]”. You will receive a text message reply with your information.”

    So cool!