Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How To Avoid Studying Japanese

Rather than be productive at work today (I only taught one class), I've been amusing myself on the internets. Here are some of my favorites from the day:

Seriously, I was crying with laughter (contained, mostly silent laughter) in the teachers' room. Then there were these:

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

And I can't stop! Aaaaaaaahhh!

Friday, November 21, 2008



Here are the pics for the lovely finished Diakeito Fetching for Robin. I think they turned out quite nice. I didn't screw up very much (you might notice the slight difference in length here - difference in tension? an extra row somewhere? I have no idea), and they look very sweet. The yarn is nice, not itchy, feminine and pretty without being obnoxiously so. They are quite tiny, though - here they are shown on Katie, a five-foot-tall Asian, and they fit nicely. Since Robin is a five-foot-tall Texan, I'm still assuming all will be well. Then the question remains, will she actually wear them?

FO Details:
Name: Christmas Gloves, pair #2 for Robin in LA
Pattern: Fetching, by Cheryl Niamath
Finished Measurements: Whoops, forgot to measure - will go back and edit this later...
Yarn: Diakeito Dia Tasmanian Merino Lame in color #604, a slightly lavendar pink with sparkly bits in it. A bit splitty and much finer than the label claims, but lovely. I still have a bunch left in the first skein, maybe even another glove's worth.
Needles: Clover Bamboo DPNs in size 5 in US size 5.
Pattern mods: The now-standard extra cable twist at the end, two extra stitches on each side of thumb which get decreased in the next row, and I didn't bother with the funky extra-stitch cast-off. I just did a regular bind off.
Number of Times Frogged: It's been a while now, but I think just the one thumb, once. It's a dang miracle.
Knitting in Public: None, weird. These gloves were clearly flukes.

Last night was all about the frogging. First I ripped out the "swatch" for the Diamond and Smocked, because once I got into the pattern stitches I had clearly cast on a completely random number of stitches, and I immediately got completely confused. So I ripped all of that right back out, and then sat down and figured out how many stitches to cast on for a proper swatch, which will then give me an idea of how many stitches I will want to cast on for the blanket. It will also be good to do an actual swatch so I can figure out how the heck to do that funky wrap around thing in the tenth row.

I really do like this Vittoria yarn so far. It's surprisingly soft and a nice color. Regardless of whether it's just so nice in comparison to the Nebraska Hat yarn that is ripping up my cuticles or whether I've talked myself into liking it because I couldn't find anything else, it's fun to work with. But now we'll have to see all about the how much and how's it look with the full pattern and can I even do this pattern. I've already gotten screwed up on which row I'm on and how many stitches are even on the needles and will I be decreasing at any point? There's no key for the w.r. n and w.o.p. listed on the pattern, but I read in someone's blog that it's just a fancy way of saying yarn over, which makes sense but when will I decrease? It might help if I'd actually read the pattern all the way through...

And then I brought the Nebraska Hat over to Jon's to work on while watching the UK Office. It was finally long enough to actually try on, and since Katie was already modeling the gloves for me, I had her try on the hat, too. And while it fit, it just looked too stretched. I didn't like it. Bleah.

Thus, the Nebraska Hat got frogged, and I cast on 100 stitches, like a real knitter. The slight difference in needle size is obviously not enough to make up for a 10% reduction in width. Dolt. This time I will also make an effort to carry up the different colors properly rather than letting them hang out with their wangs out.

Oh, Christmas knitting, how will I ever complete thee?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Updates in Knitting and My Bladder

You know, I spend waaaaaaay too much time on the internet. Mostly when I am at junior high, but also in general.

I guess I should have left the blog entry I did yesterday until today, because I've basically had nothing to do. Oh, there's still plenty I could and probably should be doing, but that's not what I've been doing. Instead, I've been surfing the net, checking on all the knitting blogs I discovered from reading the Yarn Harlot's post the other day where she was talking about the Noro Striped Scarf. I clicked on all those people she listed as having done it and then bookmarked those pages to check out later, which was today. And then I ended up adding most of them to my following list. My following list is now ridiculous. I mean, I didn't add all of them - bad grammar or writing immediately got the boot, and ones that looked to be too much about random stuff and not enough about knitting didn't get added here, although I may still check up on a few because I also read a few blogs that are actually about something other than knitting (mostly belonging to friends) - but all in all I added approximately one metric ton of blogs to my reading list.

On the one hand, this is fine, because not everyone updates every day, and I do have a fair amount of free time, especially when I am at junior high and have no classes, such as today. It's interesting to read the personal internet diaries of strangers, if creepy from a certain perspective. It gives me more blogs to comment on, so that eventually, someone might actually read this blog. Not that I'm ready for this blog to be read by hordes of strangers just yet, but one or two might be nice. Also, the huge number of hours I've spent goofing off on the internet in the past year has improved my typing, gotten me familiar with a number of aspects of this whole Web 2.0 thing of which I previously knew nothing about, and killed loads of time I would have otherwise spent doing nothing.

On the other hand, this internet obsession is bizarre and destructive. Starting next August, I will have to rejoin the real world. No more spending hours on end reading about other people's knitting projects, looking at pictures and playing word games on Facebook, obsessively adding yarns to my Ravelry stash, reading article after article on Cracked, obsessively listing books and comparing libraries on Library Thing, or getting caught up on four years worth of web comics. I am melting my brain with all of this useless stuff.

On the last hand, at the same time as I won't be doing all of that, I won't be listening to other people talking about me in a foreign language right in front of me. I keep hearing my name amidst a bunch of Japanese words I don't understand off to my left. It's driving me crazy.

Right, so, I'm adding the box that lists my other web obsessions, in case you get as bored as I do (if you're reading this, you really must do).

Last night I worked on the Nebraska Hat some more, but started getting bored already. This might have something to do with the fact that it was so cold in my apartment that my fingers hurt, and knitting was difficult. I decided to finally cast on for the Diamond and Smocked Blanket for Reidy, to give myself a bit of a break. After going to two more yarn stores this weekend and not finding anything that seemed like a better choice than the yarn I'd already bought, I figured it was time to plunge on in. I looked at the pattern and prepared to cast on to the foot-long size 6 needles I used for the Christmas Head Thing, then took a closer look at the pattern and realized that this blanket was supposed to be three feet wide. Um, whoops. So...out came the 24" size 6 circular. Not great, but better. So I cast on the 137 stitches the pattern calls for, then thought about three feet wide. Not very wide, really, for an adult and/or three cats - Reidy has said this is for her/her cats, and since I'm matching this to her living room, I assume it will stay on the couch and possibly be a lap blanket. I just hope she realizes it's not going to be an afghan, because I do not have that in me right now.

I remembered seeing something in someone else's notes on Ravelry for this blanket where they mentioned casting on an additional number of stitches for an extra column. I looked it up and saw that purlygirly had added 38 stitches. I thought, hmm, I should add two columns. That's a total of 213 stitches, then. I looked at the remaining tail of my cast-on - no way. Then I thought, do I really want to take all of these off and then cast on another 213? Um, no. Then I hit on the brilliant idea of a swatch. Of course! That's what I'm supposed to do anyway! So I cast on 48 stitches (enough for a column and a five stitch on each side border, theoretically), and started the seed stitch.

Seed stitch, it turns out, is a pain in my ass. But I was pleasantly surprised with the acrylic and mysterious Vittoria. It's quite soft, or at least much better than the almost-as-cheap acrylic I'm using for the Nebraska Hat. So we'll see how all this turns out.

Also, while I was in the second yarn shop for the weekend, not finding anything I'd rather use for the Diamond and Smocked, I felt really guilty about having been in this yarn shop numerous times and not purchased anything. I decided I needed to buy some yarn to assuage this guilt. Yes, I agree that this was a pretty flimsy excuse to buy more yarn, since even though I am a foreigner who stands out pretty dramatically in Yatsushiro, it's unlikely that they have a log in this store to keep track of my purchase-less visits. It's Japan, though, so who knows? In any case, I bought two small skeins of fingering weight wool, black and teal, that I'm going to use for wrist-bands, possibly to cover the tattoo I'm thinking of getting sometime before I leave this country. I thought the yarns were the same, but obviously I didn't look closely enough, since the kanji are clearly different. I couldn't find either yarn on Ravelry, and even when I had my Japanese teacher translate the labels for me and I found one of the same brand and name, it has different length and weight. Should I add these to the Ravelry database? I'm not sure I have a good enough grasp of the yarns themselves to attempt it. I wouldn't want to mislead anyone, or get it wrong, or whatever vague worries I have about trying something and having it not be perfect. Maybe if the label were in English...

Dammit, now I gotta go pee again. Drinking gallons of hot green tea is a decent solution to the cold, but the frequent trips to the icebox squat toilet are a significant down side.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'll Just Finish This Before the Hypothermia Kicks In...

Finished the Christmas Head Thing and Robin's Fetching, and started Stu's Nebraska Hat!

The head thing is nice enough, but huge. Here it is being modeled by Brenda. I like the pattern and all, even with my wonky tension, but it's just so big I'm not sure if it's a practical wear. Was that just the yarn and needles? I felt like the yarn was thin enough, but maybe no. Now I'm wondering about making one for Emily. Maybe I should do something else for her. Anyway, FO details:

Name: Christmas Head Thing, #1 for Sheila in DC
Pattern: Bamboozled, by Random Cyn
Finished measurements: 15 1/2" long in body, 33 1/2" long with the twisted cord ties. 3 3/4" wide at its widest point, 1 1/2" wide at the narrow ends. See? Almost four inches across the top of your heaad? Doesn't that seem excessive?
Yarn: Patons Decor in New Lilac, the remnants of a scarf. Definitely less than 100 yards, as the pattern promised.
Needles: Size 6 bamboo needles I got for ¥100 (just under $1 US, yo!) at the new crafty store in Jusco. They're more than 12" long, which was silly for this project but will come in handy later, I'm sure.
Pattern mods: None, for once. I mean, yeah, I screwed up the pattern and didn't y/o properly for half of it, but that doesn't count.
Number of times frogged: Only once for real, when I took out a couple of inches after doing the pattern a little too incorrectly, and then once where I undid just one row. Sweet!
Knitting in Public: Not really, just the car on the way to Costco.

Robin's gloves look pretty good. I just need to get Katie to model them for me and you'll get a good picture. I'll save the FO info for that.

The hat is easy-peasy. I started it last night while I ate dinner and watched a terrible movie: Cyborg Soldier. I got the DVD for free, along with a DVD for a Steven Seagal movie, by commenting on the Great White Snark's blog. The Seagal movie, KillSwitch, was so incredibly terrible it wasn't even funny. No, I mean, I didn't even enjoy making fun of it because it was so bad and had the most mind-boggingly terrible ending I've seen in ages. Cyborg Soldier was a cinematic gem in comparison. Anyway, already more than an inch on the hat and it's pretty relaxing. I thought I had knit this pattern before but it turns out not, because I don't have the right needle size and the one I did was 2x2 rib, where this is 4x2x2x2. The pattern calls for a 4mm size, 40 cm long circulat, and I'm using a 16" size 8, because that's what I have. So I only cast on 90 stitches instead of a hundred, and when I get a bit more length I'll try it on.

And oh my God is it freezing in my apartment right now. My fingers are going numb and I swear I feel a draft against my ear, the only other part of me that isn't covered in fleece or knit blanket. Oh, for some insulation! Why, Japan, why don't you have any insulation in your houses? Maybe I could stuff some of the acrylic cotton from the Stripey Zo around the windows...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Abusing myself = no knitting.

Once again, a busy weekend with very little knitting. How on earth am I going to get these gifts done?

On Saturday I did actually get something done on the headband while in the car on the way to Costco. Living in backwoods Japan means that a few of what I consider the staples of Western food are missing. Cheese, for instance, and proper hot dogs or pasta sauce. One can technically buy both of those things at any old grocery store in Yatsushiro, but they taste nothing like what I think they should taste like. The cheese is that plastic-y sandwich slice stuff (but not as good), the hot dogs all taste like frozen breakfast sausages (as if nobody ever realized that meats with the same shape might have different tastes), and the pasta sauce seems to all be missing important ingredients such as garlic, basil, and oregano. Enter Costco, which is just like the Costco at home except it carries futons instead of beds, has entirely too much J-pop in the music section, and has gigantic raw prawns with their heads and legs attached in the seafood section. It has plenty of proper cheese, hot dogs, and pasta sauce, although this time around they didn't have the mega-sized Prego I bought last time, so I had to settle for something that cost more yen for less sauce, and isn't even as good. In any case, it takes about two hours to get there, and I can't drive (no car, expired int'l license), so I got a fair amount of Sheila's headband done in the car, and I only got a little teasing for it. There were a few moments when Elissa's driving gave me visions of stabbing myself through the eyeball with the needles, but it was fine.

As for the headband itself, I'm just not sure. It's a very nice pattern, and I have finally gotten the hang of it, but my tension is clearly off. I've been following the chart, and the whole thing is a somewhat complicated set of knits, purls, slips, yarn overs, k2ts, ssks, etc., all one right after the other. It makes for a cool headband, by there seems to be a vast difference between the tension of my knit stitches and my purl stitches, usually not so obvious in stockinette or regular cabling where there is enough space for things to work themselves out in between pattern changes. But this pattern has me switching things up every two or three stitches, or less, so the whole thing looks sloppy as hell. This is the first time I've ever done ssk, too, and now I finally understand it. I've seen it in patterns before without knowing what it meant, and I kept wondering how just slipping something is supposed to decrease anything. I looked it up in my trusty Knitting Answer Book, though, and a small dim lightbulb went off. Duh. But it turns out that I was still screwing things up for a while, anyway - the pattern calls for alternating a yarn over, k2t with a ssk, yarn over on every right side row, so that you get a pattern of alternating holes, like this:


I'd show you an actual picture, but I haven't taken one yet. The only reason I have the one above is that I hurriedly snapped one this morning before I came to work, knowing it was the only time I'd get a chance to blog for the next undeterminate number of days. You can see that the lighting is all wacked out, because the blue pillow is purple and the lilac headband looks pink (the sun was barely over the mountains and the light was lovely and orange and turned my colors weird).

Anyway (geez, distracted much?), this means that you have to wrap the yarn one way on one row (because you will be knitting next) and the other way on the other row (because you will be purling next). Then on the wrong side row, you're supposed to be purling the y/o stitches, except I was purling wrong on one kind of y/o, so my holes didn't appear on that row, giving me this for the first few inches of the piece:


Because I am a dolt. I figured it out and started doing it the correct way, then decided that no one would notice the messed up part because there's more of a pattern to the whole thing anyway, as you'll see when I can post proper (that word keeps coming up today) pictures. THEN I managed to do this a few inches later:


And that I could not handle. I had finally gotten the hang of the pattern, wasn't looking at the chart, and guess what else I was doing? Watching a movie, of course. Friday night Katie and I watched Atonement (such a great movie, one of the best book adaptations I've ever seen) and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (goofy but entertaining), and so naturally I screwed up my knitting. Spent the first part of the car knitting on ripping back to that and fixing it. Then I had left the key to the chart at home so wasn't sure how to start the decreases and had to stop, and the whole damn trip took about four hours longer than it needed to because we had to go into the city and that was clearly a mistake.

Now I'm almost done, already started the decreases and everything. I'd like to finish tonight, but I can't promise that because I will be here at school late again with the final practice for the prefectural English recitation concert (thank god! I can't take any more "Iz zat ze Maori lawnguage?" "or "My name is Janet Blaun" [should be Brown] - I love these kids dearly, but I seriously can't take it anymore), and then I should really get to the gym. Yeah, suck. But I did the 3,333 steps (why, you ask? what an excellent question. I don't know) on Sunday, an all-day, completely exhausting excursion that is the other reason I didn't knit more this weekend, and my legs are still so incredibly stiff that getting down my extremely steep stairs first thing in the morning is torture. But hey! I climbed a mountain completely via staircase. In November. When I haven't worked out in oh, forever. Dolt.

Robin's Fetching is still sitting thumbless in a corner, but I bought the yarn for Aashima's Fetching and Reidy's Diamond and Smocked blanket, I think. I'm not sure about the yarn for the blanket - I got ten skeins for ¥500, and it's 100% acrylic, not even in the Ravelry database. Clearly not high-quality stuff, but she has said that this blanket is for her cats. And she wants either bright royal blue or sour apple green (to match her living room, apparently - !!!), and this yarn fits the blue bill. Still, I think she deserves something nicer, so the jury is still out. Maybe I'll do the acrylic blanket for the kitties in a different pattern, and do the Diamond and Smocked in something nicer. Yeah, in all my spare time. Of which I used to have plenty, as I recall, before the Winter Term ALT Busywork kicked in. Sigh.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Bit of My Old Life, Preparing for the New

I had a very busy weekend, and so did very little knitting.  This is a preview of next year, I'm sort of hoping, because what I was busy with was mostly Graduate School Applications.  I'm only sort of hoping this is a preview because, while I obviously hope to get into the grad school of my choice, I also hope, futilely I'm sure, to still have time to knit once I start.

There was also a Halloween party on Saturday, 
where I was able to re-indulge in another geek craft - special effects make-up.  And oh my God have I lost it.  I mean, yes, I have only the smallest fraction of my old make-up kit with which to work, and not all the proper materials or tools, but still.  It's been a year and a half since I've done any professional make-up, and it shows.  But I gave myself 
a bullet hole and stab wounds that didn't look bad, despite the extremely obvious lack of liquid blood (whoops), and made some bruises on one friend's face that weren't terrible.  The zombie make-up I did for another friend was only "eh", though.  Fine for a Halloween party in backwoods Japan where it's going to be pretty dark the whole time anyway, but not great.  Other make-up artists would not have been impressed.  But, well, I'm done with all of that, and while I shouldn't let all the old skills I paid so dearly to acquire fade away, who really cares?  Sorry for the terrible pictures, btw, but I didn't get around to taking any until it was dark.  And then I was kind of, um, drunk.

Then the rest of the weekend was Graduate School Applications with a few rows here and there while I waited for something to upload or download or print out or whatever.  Last week I managed to do most of the first glove for Robin in the Daikeito yarn.  It's practically a lace weight, even though Ravelry says it's a sport, so I went down to the 5 DPSs, and it was very small.  I worried it wouldn't fit, so held off doing the thumb until I could have my tiny neighbor Katie (about Robin's size) try it on.  She tried it on on Tuesday night, praising the yarn (maybe I'll change her intended gift now) the whole time, and it fit just fine.  She's a non-knitter, and once again a non-knitter expressed confusion at the lack of fingers on the glove.  But she did live in Canada, so I guess she's entitled to want fingers on her gloves.  Robin, however, lives in Los Angeles, so I think it will be fine.  And it does look nice.  I tried to do the thumb that night, but I let myself experiment with picking up more stitches and decreasing in funny places and it looked terrible, so I frogged the thumb and put the glove aside.
While I was waiting for Katie to get back from Kyoto to try on the glove, I cast on the head band thing for Sheila.  This is my first time knitting from a chart like this, and I'm not gonna lie, it was a pain in the butt at first.  It's still a pain in the butt, actually, because I prefer to take my glasses off when I knit, and that means I have to keep stopping, picking up the chart, and holding it up to my nose to see what the hell I'm supposed to be doing.  Breaks the rhythm somewhat.  But if I put on my glasses to knit I will eventually get a headache.  So bummer.  And I first cast on the variegated Patons Decor for the headband, because I want to use it, and it's pretty, and I only have one skein of the stupid stuff.  About twenty rows in, however, I realized that it was completely wrong for this pattern.  I mean, there's all this complicated (to me) pretty stitching, and this nice cabling, and it got completely lost in this dark variegated Thing.  So I frogged it, and started last night in the Patons Decor leftover from a scarf I did ages ago (that I hate - it's stockinette and rolls like anything and is dull and sits in a drawer upstairs, likely to be donated to the second-hand shop when I leave).  I have two partial skeins, the Lilac and the Sage Green.  I started this second attempt in the Lilac, which looks nice, but I have no idea if I'll have enough yarn.  Naturally, I couldn't be bothered with a gauge swatch and how would you do that for this pattern, anyway?  So here's hoping, and I'll do the second head band, for Emily, in the green.  Also, I think the yarn is just a wee bit thick for this needle size - it looks fine, but knitting with it is kind of awkward, and also since I only have size 6s in DPNs, the needles are very short.  Maybe for the next one I'll switch up to the 7s I have somewhere.

Huh, just occured to me - if I run out yarn, I could always unwind the scarf upstairs, right?  Hmm, Idea!

Yeah, I was watching Hot Fuzz the other day while recovering from Graduate School Applications.

Oh, and I just can't help saying how very extremely freakin' happy I am about the results of the Presidential election.  So very, very happy.  Things can change, people, they really can!  Yippee!  Okay, I'm done.