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My name is Terri, and I'm a maker, a security researcher, an open source developer, a knitter and crocheter, a musician, a reader, a writer, a teacher, a baker, a naturalist, a photographer, and I actually do have a PhD in horribleness, as long as we can all agree that web security is kind of horrible.

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May 14, 2015

Yarn of the Month Club review, April 2015

This is my third yarn of the month club envelope, which is significant because I only paid for 3 months up-front and promised myself I’d make a decision thereafter. Only two samples once again, but I liked them!

The samples for April 2015:
Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

Pattern: Spring Showers Hood

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

This is a cute little pattern that I’m tempted to make just to see if I’d use it. I’m not much for cowls, but I like hats, so maybe? No author given, no reference to it in ravelry, so I guess it’s just a YOTM special.

Tenzing

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

Tenzing
“This is a great blend. The merino gives it bounce and the yak adds just a little haze.”
6.25 sts/inch on US 3-4
85% Merino Wool 15% Yak
153 yds Color: 13

I love this yarn. Soft but shows off the stitch pattern nicely. I’ve definitely pet yak-blend yarns before, since J has a particular fondness for Blue Moon Fiber Arts’ YAKSI Fingering in Tardis Blue, but I hadn’t knit anything with yak in it myself. This was definitely a treat!

Look at it, even before it was blocked:
Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I liked this stitch motif for the swatch, which makes a nice zigzaggy cable across the top of each rib. It’s nice and stretchy, but a little more solid than a regular rib because of the teensy zig-zag cables. I may have to find a way to use this in a pattern!

And here it is blocked:
Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015
Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I wouldn’t mind picking up some more of this, and I’m definitely interested in trying some more yak blends now, even if they are pricey!

Azalea

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

Azalea
“Soft and strong cotton”
5.5 sts/inch on US 6
100% Printed Cotton
262 yds Color: 207 Monet

This is a really nice soft cotton. Not fuzzy the way the yak yarn is, but easy to bend and knit. It tends to unwind a bit; the loose twist that helps with the softness doesn’t do you favours in the “staying together” department, but I think the balance in that tradeoff was ok.

What I don’t like about this yarn is the way the colourway looks when it’s knit up. It looks ok in the ball. Interesting, at least. But put it together into a stitch pattern and it seriously makes this look like a grimy paint rag:

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015
Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I’m not a huge fan of the “bluebell rib” swatch pattern provided, as it once again looks like a bunch of nostrils to me, and I think I probably should have flipped my yarn overs so that both holes worked out to be the same size, but I decided to just run with it rather than re-knit.

I don’t think this colourway does any favours the bluebell rib, unless you figure providing camouflage so you can’t see stacks of noses in photo is good. It’s a bit easier to see the shapes in person than in the blocked photos below, but it’s still not great.

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015
Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I think I actually like the reverse side better in this case! But I did enjoy the yarn even if I think the colourway is too much and the stitch pattern is too nasal. I would consider buying this in another colour if I had a project that could use a soft cotton.

Conclusion

Even though there were only two samples this month, these two were both really fun yarns to try out and they weren’t very much like other yarns I already have, so I’m pretty pleased! I definitely feel like I got more bang for my buck than last month.

So in the end, I’ve decided to continue the subscription. It’s $9.25/month for a fun little surprise in the mail, and I’m not having trouble making sure I knit the samples every month at least so far. I was worried these might pile up with all the travel I do, but in practice I really like having quick knit projects when I want a break from my bigger works in progress, or as a palette cleanser while I decide what to work on next. It’s actually kind of changed my attitude towards swatching, too, since I can just add my other swatches into the pile I’m building up from yarn of the month samples.

All my samples are going to make one *very* strange blanket, though.

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

by Dr. Terri at May 14, 2015 04:00 PM

May 05, 2015

Summer Sweater for S (Bell-sleeved version of The Cherry Variations)

One of my personal goals for 2015 was to try knitting an adult-sized sweater. And I’m happy to say that I’ve managed it, although I admit I cheated a bit in making it for my sister rather than for myself, as she’s a few sizes smaller than I am.

S's Cotton Sweater

[Summer Sweater for S on Ravelry]

The Yarn

The yarn is KnitPicks Billow, which I picked up because my sister prefers things without animal fibers so that they won’t be bad for her boyfriend, who is allergic. It’s soft yarn and lovely feeling, but it’s a bit weird to work with because it has variable thickness. After a few test swatches, I decided it would be nicest in a simple stockinette that showcased the homespun feel of the yarn, since the other things I tried seemed to be fighting it.

The pattern

This is based off The Cherry Variations [ravelry link], a most excellent free pattern from Knitty’s Spring 2003 edition. (I didn’t even know how to knit back then!)

However, if you go look at that pattern, you’ll notice mine’s a fair bit different from the original…

Untitled

So what happened?

1. Stripes. These are simple, 8 rows wide, 3 colours.

2. I decided to add some sleeves. I actually didn’t plan to do this, but when it got done the sleeveless version I decided it would be nicer with some sleeves. So I picked up stitches around the arm opening and did them seamless-style. I think there were 35 stitches the way I picked ’em up. I knit the sleeves straight at the top, with stripes to match the body. (My stripes are 8 rows wide.)

When I got down to a bit before wrist length, I decided belled sleeves would be hilarious in this yarn because of the way it drapes. To do this, I divided the stitches into 3 (it wasn’t quite even but close), placed markers (since I was using 2 circulars at this point) and increased at the stitch markers every 3rd row, approximately, for the last two stripes (so last 16 rows).

I cast off using some ludicrously stretchy bind-off from this page comparing bind-off methods. I think it was Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off.

S's Cotton Sweater

3. The thing you might not notice immediately is that I decided to add a crochet border along the neckline. I found that the sweater as was tended to be a little too off-the-shoulder on me, and since my sister has much less wide shoulders, I figured that would be annoying and would eventually stretch it out to the point of uselessness. So I looked up stabilizing methods online and settled on a simple single crochet.

S's Cotton Sweater

I didn’t think to take a picture of myself wearing it, so no modeled shot. It would have just looked ill-fitted anyhow, as the shaping around the bust line was made with my sister’s approximate measurements in mind, so it was quite tight on my rib cage, let alone my bust.

I don’t know how much she likes it, but it does fit, at least!

20150323-IMG_7200.jpg

I kind of fell in love with the yarn as I was knitting it, and I like the pattern enough that I’m strongly considering making one for myself, even though it’s cotton and not exactly the most suitable for the Pacific Northwest’s soggy weather!

by Dr. Terri at May 05, 2015 04:00 PM

April 07, 2015

Yarn of the Month Club review, March 2015

Well, no one’s come after me for spilling the secrets of the Yarn of the Month Club, so I guess it’s time to post another review. This is for March, so I guess I’m not surprised that there’s some green yarn.

Here’s the two samples:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

With this came a Beanie Cap pattern and instructions for two squares using the yarn.

Pattern: Beanie Cap

No author given for this, probably because it’s too simple to claim ownership of it. It’s a basic toque with a k2p2 ribbed edge and stockinette body, a nice staple to have in one’s collection but probably not something I’ll be knitting up immediately.

Here’s the yarn in their baggies, so you have the names:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

Let’s talk about the white one first…

Moments

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

Moments
“Fun and funky fur”
7 sts/in on US 5
100% Polyester
98 yds Color 471 or 470

This is a pretty typical fur/eyelash yarn. I’ve done enough variants of fluffy yarn that I’m pretty comfortable with it, and it was nice that this wasn’t of the sort that sheds. I’d be kind of disappointed in getting this since it wasn’t exactly a new fiber experience for me, but I did learn something due to the swatch pattern:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

The swatch has every 4th row as a sl1 p3 pattern, and it *really* tightens up the piece (which is otherwise garter stitch). That’s a good technique to know if I ever do a scarf out of an eyelash yarn again!

The swatch pattern leaves faint lines across the piece. I couldn’t seem to get them to show up in my photos, since the light characteristics of the yarn mean I’d have had to be more selective about my lighting, but you can feel them under the fuzz and I kind of like the effect.

Rübezahl

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

Rübezahl
“Soft and superwash – a workhorse of a yarn”
4.25 sts/inch on US 7
20% Wool and 80% Acrylic
447 yds Color 57 or 73

This is a wool/acrylic blend that didn’t really work for me. It’s got too much acrylic to block very well, and the “leaf” pattern of the swatch suffers for it, although it does result in the back looking especially like nostrils to me:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

(Sorry about the excessively small depth of field; I forgot to switch camera settings)

Frankly, I think it does better as a nostril pattern than it does as a leaf, with them all running together like that, but it’s an old standard, I guess.

Pattern aside, I’m not sure what niche the Rübezahl yarn fills: it’s got too much wool to be useful for folks who can’t handle animal fibers, and too much acrylic for you to experience the greater flexibility in a wool fiber. I guess at least it has nice stitch definition, and it seems like it might be warm and hard-wearing for stuff like slippers?

I am, however, very pleased that I remembered how to do an umlaut on my mac, so there’s that. 😉

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

Here’s the finished piece being held down by pins for blocking, but frankly it rebounded back to look almost like it did unblocked.

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

And here’s both of them so you can see it unblocked:
Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

You can also see there that the white swatch is really not square. Oh well, it’s going to be hilarious when I put these squares together in a blanket because of the density, so why not the shape as well?

Conclusion

I’m not going to lie, with only two samples and one of them pretty meh, I’m not very impressed with this month’s offerings. But I still enjoyed knitting up the samples for the purpose of trying new stitch patterns, and I learned a useful thing about making eyelash yarn knit up more densely, something that I think will be useful for scarves and hats in the future.

If this had been my first sample, I’d probably be on the verge of giving up, but since I enjoyed the first one, I’m willing to be optimistic. I only bought a 3-month subscription, so after next month I’ll have to decide if I want to renew!

by Dr. Terri at April 07, 2015 04:30 PM

March 02, 2015

Hello Kitty Amigurumi (“Bring me the head of Hello Kitty!”)

Hello Kitty Crochet is a book I have coveted since I knew it existed, in part due to nostalgia as I remember getting little cute Japanese things on occasion as a kid, but also because it just looked like a fantastic set of amigurumi crochet patterns with lots of details and cute photos.

Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi…
Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi Patterns for Sanrio Friends
by Mei Li Lee

J’s parents were sweet enough to get me a copy for my birthday. So of course, the thing to do is to make the titular character and send her back with a thank you note! I have no idea what they’re ever going to do with a little Hello Kitty, but what has one ever done with Hello Kitty other than admire her, really?

I finished her head pretty quickly, then got side-tracked by something else so there was just this severed head lying around the house for a week:
Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Eventually, though, she got some more body parts:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

The strange one there is the bow. I am quite sure that there’s an error in the book, because they have you doing 4 sc and then 3 sc in one, which would give you a total of 7 sc across… but then the next line says you should turn and do 9 sc plus another 3-in-one. Does not compute, Hello Kitty. Through looking at the pictures and some online research my best guess is that you’re not supposed to turn your work front to back but rather make an oval by crocheting around the other side of the original chain, so that’s what I wound up doing.

Here’s a picture where you can see it better:
Hello Kitty Amigurumi

And here’s one so you can see that she does indeed have a tail:
Hello Kitty Amigurumi

What you can’t see is that she has washers in her butt to make her a bit weighted and not top heavy. I debated putting a rare earth magnet in there too, but I couldn’t really think when that would be useful, so I went with just the washers.

To fill out the post, here’s some photos with a Hello Kitty Makeup box I got when it was on sale at Sephora:
Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Very kawaii, indeed. I’d originally intended to felt her, but once I got her features on I didn’t want to mess them up. Maybe next time!

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

If you don’t know how big that box is, it might be hard to tell how big she is. Here’s a shot with a ruler, although the one I have with the ruler up and down didn’t turn out so well, so you’ll have to guesstimate from the one where it’s beside her. She’s a little under 3in high.
Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Aside from the issue with the bow, I found the directions pretty clear. They’d be suitable for a crochet/amigurumi beginner if you’re eager to try her out. I can’t wait to try some of the other patterns in the collection!

by Dr. Terri at March 02, 2015 05:30 PM

February 27, 2015

Blue starry math pony (using @valleyviolet’s pattern!)

Ever since I saw Valleyviolet’s Pony Pattern collections, I’ve wanted to make one. I finally bought the collection in order to make the Pink Fluffy Unicorn mascot for Quelab (who is apparently MIA right now, likely stolen by the same person who vandalized the room sign; much sadness. She was a lot of work!), but I didn’t want to jump right into fighting with fun fur, and I’m fortunate enough to know a little girl of around the right age to enjoy a pony, so…

Custom my little pony for V

I went with blue and stars not out of any particular reason other than I liked the way the two fabrics looked together. The recipient’s young and lives far away from me, so I don’t know much about her preferences yet! However, I *do* know that her mom’s a mathematician and that her dad would like me to be a science role model for her. So the pony came with a book:

Custom my little pony for V

The book, as you can’t quite see in that photo, is “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős.” I was super excited when I first heard of it, as it’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a rather famous mathematician. One of the things he did was travel the world, collaborating with mathematicans all over the place. Mathematicians sometimes talk about their Erdős Number, which indicates degrees of collaborators on your published papers leading back to the man himself. (I published a paper with someone who’s number is 2, so mine is 3, a number worthy of bragging about at math parties!). My Calculus prof, an excellent storyteller, used to tell us tales of Erdős at the end of class sometime, and I was totally enchanted to hear more of them through the book. And the art works a lot of careful math and real people into the story, which is amazing. I also love that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that he was a man who couldn’t do his own laundry but helped do so much math that people were willing to welcome him into their homes.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life…
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
by Deborah Heiligman, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve got a kid in your life who could use a gift!

It’s also a kind of funny pairing with this pony, as some folk have this theory that one of the My Little Ponies with somewhat similar colouring also really likes math. Not an intentional joke on my part, but I’ll take it!

So back to the pony construction…

Much like how representations of humans can have an uncanny valley effect if things are close but a little off, my experience is that this is a pattern that can go kind of horribly wrong if you don’t pay attention to the details. I originally sewed her head on in a weird way and was totally disappointed with the end result. I wasn’t even going to give it to V, it was so awful. I didn’t even take pictures (which is a shame in hindsight because the comparison was so striking). But after ruminating a while, I tried again, and with her nose tipped up just so, she got the curious look I was hoping for.

Custom my little pony for V

Valleyviolet’s instructions are very detailed and clear, and there’s a lot of work put into the shaping that really shows in the final product. There’s also just a lot of thought put into the instructions. I’ve actually never worked with a pattern that was so careful about explaining things, and I’ve got to say the patterns are worth every penny as a result. You can can buy her pony patterns here, and I promise you can make much more polished ponies than I did!

Custom my little pony for V

I think when I do my next one, I’ll have to be a bit more careful about marking the notches and just generally careful about the stitching. I also need to invest in some heavier weighting for her legs since, as you can see, she doesn’t quite keep all four feet on the floor sometimes. (This was right after she came out of my suitcase from my flight to Ottawa, though, so I can’t blame her for looking a bit disheveled!)

Custom my little pony for V

I don’t know how much the recipient cared for the pony, and to be honest she’s a bit young for the book yet, so I didn’t win any gift giving awards here, but it was fun to do and I really loved the pattern.

I think I’m going to try out the shoulder pony pattern next, once I find some suitable beanbag filling!

by Dr. Terri at February 27, 2015 05:30 PM

February 23, 2015

Yarn of the Month Club review, February 2015

This month, I joined a yarn subscription club that No One Talks About on the Internet. So of course, I’m going to talk about it on the internet. I hope I’m not breaking some unspoken rule by telling you about it. Oh heck, who am I kidding? I’ll probably be pleased if I broke some rule. Knowledge for all!

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

First, though, let’s back up to how I wound up joining this club. I’ve been intrigued for a while by the idea of yarn subscriptions.

On the plus side:
+ Surprise yarn!
+ Trying new things!
+ Learning about new dyers and mills and whatever!
+ Getting some patterns to inspire me!
+ And having enough yarn to complete the projects!

But on the down side:
– Most of the boxes are moderately expensive. Around $40/month is pretty normal, and you can pay much more.
– … so if you hate what you get, you’re going feel like you’ve wasted a lot of money
– I don’t think I actually use 2+ skeins of yarn every month, so it’s going to start to pile up

Some pricing:
Knitcrate has 6 subscription types, ranging from $22.50 for 5 minis/month to $65/month for indie yarns. Likely subscription for me would have been $55 for an intermediate/advanced box.
Yarnbox: $35.95/month, more for the luxe version (presumably)
There are lots of others, but those were the two that came up the most.

In the course of doing some research about options, I encountered Yarn of the Month, which sends out little teensy yarn samples instead of full skeins. Because it’s only a taste of yarn rather than a full meal, it rings in as a $9.25/month subscription (less if you get a few months at once). That hits that sweet spot on subscription boxes for me, where it’s easy to write off a bad month and won’t result in rapidly growing pile of stuff in my life. I’d miss out on some of the advantages, in exchange I’d basically wipe out all the disadvantages I listed, and instead miss out on extras that fancier boxes throw in. (That’s actually kind of a shame because I haven’t been knitting long enough to acquire a lot of the small tools that show up as extras!)

What finally pushed me to the decision brink was the assertion that you’d be able to do little 5 inch swatches from your teeny yarn balls, and put them together to have a blanket at the end of the year. So it wouldn’t even be a pile of craft clutter when I was done admiring them, and I’d be motivated to actually *use* the yarn. Awesome!

The problem is, I couldn’t find pictures of the yarn, the swatches, or even many people talking about this club. It was a giant social media void. I could find pictures for yarnbox, pictures for knitcrate, pictures for random yarn of the month clubs on etsy… but only a few forum stale threads for Yarn of the Month.

What to do? I contemplated for a bit, then figured I could afford to try it out and see what happened. But in the interest of helping others, I was darned well going to post some pictures when (if?) I actually got a shipment!

So here’s a review. Hopefully the lack of posts about the yarn is a lack of social media marketing rather than a sign that I have paid money into some sort of mysterious yarn cult that will be upset at this breach of unspoken social etiquette.

First, let me show you the yarn again on a different background to give you a sense of colour:
Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

I guess February was kind of red themed for valentine’s day.

Not pictured: the February Socks pattern from Birgitte Zeuner and instructions for 3 square swatches. Frankly, they’re printed on thin US letter paper and just not that attractive as a photography subject after being mooshed through the mail. Totally legible, but I might have invested in stiffer paper if I were running YOTM.

February Socks by Birgitte Zeuner

The February Socks pattern looks cute enough. I would have liked better pictures, but obviously I can find them on Ravelry so that works out.

Unfortunately, having just finished my first pair of adult socks, I’m not actually that excited about starting another one, so I think this is getting shelved indefinitely. I’m going to have to find a binder I can put these in! Maybe I’ll find a friend who’s super excited about this and I can pass it on, though.

Angora Lace

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Angora Lace
“Luxurious with a delicate bloom”
6.5 sts/inch on US 2
50% Merino Superwash 20% Angora 30% Nylon
462 yds Color: 102

This is soft and lovely in the ball as one would expect for Angora, and quite pleasant to knit with. It’s not fluffy and doesn’t seem to shed (ask me about my experience knitting pure angora bunny fur sometime) but instead just results in beautifully soft yarn. It’s tightly wound enough that it doesn’t split on those little size 2 needles, and it held up to some unknitting as I tried to end my swatch as close to the end of the ball as possible and mis-calculated.

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

It’s not the easiest thing to photograph since it is subtly fluffy and catches the light a lot, but that’s only annoying for the purposes of this post and not in general. (Actually, I’d totally be into anti-photography yarn… I should work on that with some retroreflective stuff.)

The swatch pattern provided uses double-wrapped knitting stitches, a technique I hadn’t tried but a video tutorial wasn’t too hard to find. I actually usually prefer non-video tutorials, but this one is short and clear. You put the needle through as if to knit then wrap the yarn twice instead of once around and knit those, leaving two loops on. then when you come across it in the next few rows, you don’t bother trying to keep those doubled but instead slip stitch through them, leaving you with one longer stitch floating over the fabric.

Here’s one regular vs one weirdly processed photo to show you the floating stitches:
Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

The finished piece is super soft and pretty light. I suspect it’d be pretty warm, but it’s hard to tell with just a swatch!

Saki Bamboo

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Saki Bamboo
“Soft and yummy with great stitch definition”
7 sts/inch on US 0
50% Merino Superwash 25% Nylon 25% Rayon from Bamboo
230 yds Color: 203

This one feels great in the ball, all silky smooth, but I found it actually a bit odd to work with. While I’m knitting it, it has that sort of squeaky/roughish feel that I associate with some acrylics, even though the finished piece feels nice.

I was so pleased when I figured out the swatch pattern:
Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

I’m thinking that I might see if I can incorporate this into the hem of a baby sweater in the near future. I’m not sure I’d buy this yarn, though. It wasn’t hard to work with and it does as promised have great stitch definition, but with so many yarns in the world “feels a little weird to knit” is enough to drop it off my personal to-buy list. I’ve never knit with bamboo before so I don’t know if that’s a function of the fiber or if I just didn’t love this particular blend, but I suspect the latter so maybe I’ll try some other bamboo blends out.

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

And finally here is is, blocking on my chair, so you can see the repeats better:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

The finished, blocked piece is smooth and very light, so it might be a great for summer knits. To be honest, I like the stitch pattern best when it’s a single row, but the swatch was still fun to do!

Saki Silk

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Saki Silk
“Beautiful, subtle sheen and drape”
7 sts/inch on US 2
55% Fine Merino 25% Nylon 20% Silk
440 yds Color: 305

Silk blend yarn is one of my favourite treats for myself. I’m not sure that the stitch pattern really showed off the drape at all, though:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

It’s kind of a bumpy rib pattern with twisted stitches. It’s quite dense and doesn’t drape at all! What’s neat about this pattern is that it’s very reversible and feels completely different on both sides.

The bumpy rib side:
Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Much smoother back:
Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

The smooth side is where this yarn really appeals, since it’s got that little bit of silky slippery-ness.

I would strongly consider using this to replace ribbing on worn items like sweaters and mitts, since I like the look of the one side and the feel of the other.

The one thing that this pattern does show off is the yarn’s stitch definition:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Overall, I liked working with this yarn a fair bit: it’s soft, easy to work with, doesn’t snag too much, and the results are reasonably striking. I do wish I had a way to see if I actually like the drape, but I enjoyed the swatch pattern so much that it’s hard to really mind.


So in conclusion…

Do I still want a fancier, more expensive, larger yarn subscription?

Heck yeah, they sound lovely. But while I can afford more, this seems like a good balance of price and quantity for me. I think I’ll aim to spend money in my local yarn stores (there are so many here!) rather than risking it on a larger subscription at the moment.

Am I happy with this month’s box?

Heck yeah! I *loved* making the swatches. I’d never done any of those stitch patterns before, and I’m glad to add to my repertoire. And I’m glad to have tried all the yarns, although I’m not sure I’d run out and buy more of any of them unless I had a specific project in mind. But I really like having samples of them all so I can tell if they *would* fit a given project.

by Dr. Terri at February 23, 2015 05:30 PM

February 16, 2015

February 2015 Knit-a-long: week 1 and 2

A local designer (PDXKnitterati) started advertising her February Knit-a-long (KAL) and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s an excuse to try out one of her lovely patterns, to take more pictures for sharing (I definitely need more practice photographing my knitting projects to best effect) and there are even prizes, which is fun. This one came at just the right time for me, since those rainbow socks (see previous post) had been almost ready to come off the needles and I needed a push to get them done.

I’ve never tried a KAL before, although I guess I did have a mutual “create as many crocheted angry birds as possible before PAX East” pact with my friend M one year, which I guess is sort of similar, maybe?

Feb 1st, I gathered up my ingredients… The pattern I’m using comes out of the Knitpicks “under 100″ (as in under 100g of yarn).

February 2015 KAL prep

The yarn is Knitpicks Gloss fingerling in the Kennai colourway. (Two 50g hanks, you see?)

February 2015 KAL prep

I had 3 bead options, all of which I liked. At a suggestion, I tried a swatch with them all to see which ones worked best for me:

February 2015 KAL

The silver and gold were clearly better than the blue/greens (which barely showed up) but what really decided me was thinking of ferns and what the fruiting bodies look like:

Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from  A Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador Vascular Plants

Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from A Digital Flora
of Newfoundland and Labrador
Vascular Plants

The pattern beads are designed to go in the center, but I liked the idea of brown to remind me of real ferns anyhow. Perhaps someday I’ll work on some fern lace with pairs of beads, though!

Here’s what it looks like in the shawl:
February 2015 KAL

After a few false starts and times where I had to rip back to where I went wrong, I finally made it through a few repeats of the pattern. Here’s how far I was near the end of the first week:

February 2015 KAL

I guess I must have been tired since I blocked it upside-down. Thankfully, that doesn’t matter!

Now that we’re at the end of week 2, I’ve gotten much further! Here’s one to show the current length.
February 2015 KAL (Week 2)

I was actually the lucky recipient of the week 1 prize, which was a pair of bead aids. This has made it way easier to put on the beads, as previously I was using a teensy crochet hook that didn’t quite grab all the yarn, so sometimes it would take me 2 (or more!) tries to get the bead on. The bead aids are much easier to get right, so that’s helped a lot. Here’s a wingpsan-y view to show the beads and the detail of that blocked tip while it’s rightside up!

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)

And finally, here’s a photo with real live ferns!
February 2015 KAL (Week 2)

Those last photos were taken along the Columbia River Gorge, since we have an out-of-town friend visiting and since she’s a photographer and it’s been a gorgeous weekend, we’ve been trying to hit some prime photo spots. So to round this out, here’s a picture of the famous Multnomah Falls:

Multnomah Falls

It’s a bit of a unusual photo because the falls are usually photographed vertically to show off how tall they are. I was showing off my new very wide lens to my boyfriend, which is why I took this one, but I kind of like it because it’s not a shot you see that much! (Sadly, I didn’t get it perfectly horizontal, so clearly I’ll have to try this again another day…)

Want more KAL photos? I have an album for them which has a few that I didn’t put here. More waterfalls will probably show up in my flickr photostream shortly as I process the weekend’s photos.

by Dr. Terri at February 16, 2015 05:56 AM

February 09, 2015

Making my own yarn swift

A yarn swift is something that holds a hank of yarn so you can wind it into a ball or skein. Here’s a useful link on the typical ways to package yarn, in case you’re not familiar.

Yarn swift

When I was mostly buying relatively inexpensive yarn at the craft store for amigurumi, I’d get it in skein form and be ready to go. Which is awesome! But those ultra-washable bright coloured acrylics that I enjoy for crochet don’t work as well for some of the fancier knitting patterns and colour work I want to do now — it really helps to have some forgiving natural fiber that can be wetted and reshaped to look just so.

(Yarn snobs here might give me a hard time over the synthetic yarns, but they still have a place in my repertoire!)

So the end result is that I get a lot more yarn in “hank” form, and while I find winding balls to be pretty relaxing, I don’t love trying to wrap the yarn around my knees and keep it from getting tangled as I do it.

February 2015 KAL

Thankfully, the internet knows how to make a yarn swift. I modified this a bit, because I didn’t care as much about portability and I wanted something a bit smoother with some real ball bearings in there, so when John and I were wandering around the hardware store finding parts, he came up with the idea of using a Lazy Susan bearing.

This one was a joint effort between me and John, with him doing a lot of the heavy work and me doing more of the detailing. I feel a bit silly about this, as I’d intended to do it myself, but he’s got much steadier hands and greater strength so it’s probably safer to have him to it. He did teach me to use the router, though, which is one of the few pieces of woodworking equipment we own that I’d never used!

Routing!

But mostly I took photos and measured and turned things over to John for drilling or cutting:
Measure twice...John at the drill press

I also cleaned the garage workspace, vacuumed, and at least tried to keep him company. I also did some sanding and hand filing for things that didn’t quite match up. As you may have noticed in that earlier picture, neither of us is super precise at the routing.
Doesn't quite fitThe base

I asked John to round the ends so they wouldn’t catch on the yarn, and he did a lovely job, then I stained the whole thing up, let it dry, and reassembled it… only to find that the pegs for holding the yarn no longer fit in the holes due to expansion. Oops. A bit of drilling later, though, and we got it up and running.

Stained pieces:
Stained yarn swift piecesStained yarn swift pieces

First test with yarn!
Yarn SwiftYarn swift with wool!

You might recognize the stain as the same one I used on Puppy K-9, as this is the only stain we own.

Here’s the final product:
XOXO

I’m pretty happy with it! I wish I’d looked for a smaller bearing than the lazy Susan as I found out that it’s possible to fit a yarn tail into the bearings where it gets all slimy from the lubricant. But that’s what the store had, and it does make this a pretty solid device. And I only got the yarn tail caught once out of the 5 balls I’ve done on it so far, so it’s reasonably avoidable if you know you need to wind up the tail on a pole.

I do like how it looks so fancy all stained up. I was worried that I’d find it too bulky and be sad I hadn’t gone with the collapsible version, but I’m actually kind of tempted to try sticking it to the wall with that 3m wall hook stuff and seeing if I can use it as functional art!

by Dr. Terri at February 09, 2015 07:46 AM

February 02, 2015

Rainbow Socks

When I started knitting, I promised myself I wouldn’t bother making socks. It’s just too much work for something that wears right out, I told myself. But gradually, I’ve started to notice that sock patterns have a lot of technique in them that I wanted to learn, and they’re much smaller and more manageable than a sweater.

So here’s my first adult-sized socks:

Rainbow Socks

The pattern is “ballet socks” from Melissa Morgan-Oakes’ book “Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks” (yes, I bought a sock book in a sale). I wanted to get some more complex cable practice, learn how to turn a heel, and make use of the lovely chroma yarn.

Rainbow Sock

It was slow to start and I kind of put these away in September when I started a big Christmas project (which I’ll show when I organize the photos!)

But I’m almost done. I was going to cast off a bit back, but the colour lengths aren’t *exactly* identical in the two balls of yarn and I knew it would drive me nuts if one side hit the green and the other hadn’t, so I’m doing another repeat so they’ll both be in green.

Rainbow Socks

The plan is to finish them tonight so I can start the next project today. But it’ll be dark by the time I finish, so you get pictures now. :)

by Dr. Terri at February 02, 2015 12:54 AM

January 26, 2015

Pastasaurus and friends

Continuing in my quest to process more photos, I’ve started aiming to do the Active Assignment Weekly challenges on Flickr. I think some of my favourite photos came from doing their challenges, but I hadn’t participated in a long time.

Here’s this week’s, the Pastasaurus:
Pastasaurus

He normally lives on our microwave so he’s ready whenever pasta needs stirring!

And here’s some from last week, the robots that make our neutral-toned rental less boring:

Robot blast off!  +100Robot light switch

I also uploaded some older photos from the Flock and Fiber festival, as part of my campaign to get old photos processed, but frankly I wasn’t that thrilled with them. Still, I got to experiment with some processing tricks I wanted to try, so that was cool!

by Dr. Terri at January 26, 2015 03:41 AM

January 08, 2015

Candy Cane Cupcakes (to tempt those with new year’s resolutions)

Ah, January, the month where one can buy a big box of candy canes in the grocery store for 44 cents. It’s also the month where everyone’s made new years resolutions and don’t want cupcakes. I’m guessing some of my coworkers aren’t going to be impressed with me tomorrow when I bring these in…

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Instructions

My plan for this was “make chocolate cupcakes, dip in candy canes, take to work” but here’s a more descriptive version in case you don’t, say, have a favourite chocolate cupcake recipe.

1. Make chocolate cupcakes

Candy Cane Cupcakes

I use the following “wacky cake” recipe:

Dry ingredients:
1.5 C flour
1 C sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda

Wet ingredients:
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp vinegar
1/3 C oil
1 C warm water

Preheat oven to 350F
Mix the dry ingredients (and get rid of any lumps in the cocoa).
Add wet ingredients and stir well.
Spoon into baking cups. (around 1/2 to 2/3 full)
For mini cupcakes, cook 10 min. For normal sized ones, cook around 18 mins, or until a toothpick inserted can be removed cleanly.

Note that I actually make mini and normal sized cupcakes in the same batch. In this case, just pull the tray out of the oven after 10 minutes and grab the little ones off (the silicon liners make it possible for me to do this bare handed, but your mileage may vary), then put the rest back in once you’re done. This may make the tops of the big ones look a bit less than perfect (as you can see in the back of the picture above), but it doesn’t matter since you’ll be covering them anyhow.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Make vanilla icing

I don’t use a recipe for this exactly, but…

Spoonful of butter
Splash of vanilla
Then add alternating icing sugar and milk until you have enough icing. You don’t actually want that much for this, as the extra candy on the side will make them pretty sweet.

My cake is actually vegan, so if you wanted to replace this with some sort of vegan icing, you could change this up. I suspect a water-icing sugar glaze would be enough to keep the candy canes on if you were so inclined.

Crush up some candy canes

We used wax paper and a rubber mallet for this. (When I lived in Canada, I’d use a small milk bag instead of wax paper, ’cause those things are stronger, but alas, this part of America does not have milk that comes in bags.)

Candy Cane Cupcakes

John helped with the unwrapping and crushing duties!

Put the icing on the cupcakes then roll the rim of the iced cupcake in the crushed candy canes

You could, of course, dip them and cover them entirely, but they’re already pretty sweet and crunchy so I figured less is more here.

Candy Cane CupcakesCandy Cane CupcakesCandy Cane Cupcakes

Garnish with tiny chunks of fudge

I had some leftover fudge so we used that as a final garnish for maximal abuse of new year’s resolutions.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

And finally…

Enjoy!

Here’s a few extra photos I took in aid of this week’s AAW assignment, which is to use foreground/background to tell a story about two (or more) items, one in focus and one blurred. I thought the rubber mallet we used for crushing candy canes was kind of a funny contrast with the finished cupcakes.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Candy Cane Cupcakes

by Dr. Terri at January 08, 2015 08:30 AM

December 07, 2014

Puppy K-9

So, remember a while ago I posted about a work in progress? She’s still a work in progress, but while I don’t have full setup for her internal hardware, her chassis did indeed get “finished” in time for ABQ Maker Faire, so here’s a picture of her on my table:

DSC_6776.JPG

This picture care of the fine folk at Quelab. I’ve kind of forgotten who actually took the picture. You can tell it wasn’t me because that’s my elbow in there!

You know how people joke that building ikea furniture together as a couple is the ultimate test of your relationship? Try designing steampunk robots together! With a deadline looming! I think we did most of this in around 2 weeks, although we had batted the idea around for a while.

The germ of the idea was my fault. I wanted a puppy k-9 who would be less hassle to travel with than John’s full-sized k-9 replica, which weighs over a hundred pounds when you include the 3 pelican cases needed to ship him. And I wanted her to be steampunk, because it would break us away from being show-accurate and make her amusingly photogenic. Her job, by and large, is to convince people to come talk to us, although we have some other functional plans for her too! However, it’s a long path from idea to finished project, and I have to say that John did the bulk of the execution while I handled the details — he got the c&c machine to cut out dog panels and engineered it so I could have the wing doors I wanted without compromising structural integrity, while I convinced the c&c to cut out a modified minnowboard logo for the resin inlay, and figured out the hinges and staining. I admit, we might have done some arguing, but we worked her out!

I am quite pleased with the details we managed to get in. I insisted she have ears and a tail because John’s larger k-9 replica still doesn’t have those details. Her tail is a functional USB wireless antenna, and John even inserted a proper usb port into her butt so it’s detachable when she gets packed for travel or so you can plug something else in easily while leaving the case closed. Her ears gave us a different kind of trouble, and we were running out of time until I started digging through the recycling bin and found a pair of 7-up bottle bottoms which I painted gold.

The computer on top there is the Minnowboard MAX, which will serve as Puppy’s brains. We didn’t get it mounted inside until after the show, and you can see the nice laser-cut mounting plate (again care of Quelab; thanks Morgan!) in front of her (it’s the smokey grey piece with all the holes). That’s all inside now, with a whole lot of hardware attached.

More pictures to come eventually, but since she’s gotten side-tracked by xmas present projects, it might be a while before we get back to her!

by Dr. Terri at December 07, 2014 11:54 PM

October 21, 2014

Buttons!

Buttons buttons, rah rah rah

The first time I got to use a button machine, I was a kid. It was at the Ex (a fair with livestock, music, and a midway, not unlike state fairs in the US only with fewer deep-fried things), and I was kind of astounded by this giant button press because I’d never really thought about how a button was put together, let alone that this might be done by a human-powered machine.

Fast forward, years later, and one day it just occurs to me that as an adult with some income (not much; I was still a student) there was absolutely no reason I couldn’t just buy a button machine and make silly one-off buttons whenever I wanted.

Buttons! (Push button; receive bacon)

I’ve used them for costumes, for befriending random people off the internet who like snarky kitten commentary, for hanging out at abq maker faire and helping people make their own, and for anything else that might amuse me.

Since I sometimes bring the whole machine with me to places like quelab or abq mini maker faire, I often get asked about where I got it and how much it costs, so I figured I’d make myself a post that contained all the info so I can find it easily. This is that post!

The button machine

Here’s what my personal machine looks like:

The button machine

I have a 1.5 inch button machine. It has a visible “top” area of around 1.37 inches, with a bit more visible space wrapping around the edge of the button. The circles I cut are 1.87 inches wide.

Although I realize this listing won’t stay live forever, here’s a current listing equivalent package I bought. It’s the Tecre model 150 1.5inch button machine with 1000 button blanks, and as of this writing it costs $264 (although I think it might have been a bit less when I got it).

For when that link no longer works: The vendor is called “button boy” and goes by the username “politicsstinks” on ebay. Here’s a link to the ButtonBoy ebay store. The latest stuff I bought from them also recommended the ButtonBoy etsy store.

It’s a small machine although very heavy, but I did a lot of research and the Tecre machine seemed to be the best type of machine for my needs: It’s physically easy to use, hard to damage, reasonably well designed so that with a bit of adult supervision kids can make their own buttons. I went with the 1.5 inch size because it was large enough to have reasonably legible text or enough space to colour, but small enough to be cuter and easy to fit on a bag strap.

If I were to buy a second machine I’d probably go with the 1″ because I’d love to try the magnetic jewelery stuff they have now, but I expect I’d still want my 1.5 inch because visible text is important a lot of the time!

Recommended Accessories

Button punch

My number one recommendation is that if you’re going to do any larger runs of buttons, it’s worth investing in one of the button hole punches. Especially if you’re letting people colour their own buttons, it’s annoying to colour a teensy piece of paper, so I find it’s more pleasant to punch things out on the spot after the colouring is done rather than cutting the circles in advance. The punch is also great for using magazines or wrapping paper, like I did for these Christmas buttons (although I didn’t have the punch at the time so these were done by tracing circles with the mylar and cutting them out with scissors):

Christmas Buttons

Alternatives:

Scissors work just fine. Invest in a comfortable pair rather than doing like my sister and I did on our first big button run where we gave ourselves bruises cutting out 200 buttons by hand, though.

I do *not* recommend trying to use a a cheaper adjustable circular cutter from the craft store. I have one, and there’s a couple of problems with it:

1. The center has a point, which makes a teensy but noticeable hole in your design. I can feel this through the mylar cover on the finished button and it annoys me. I stuck a piece of rubber on it to compensate, but that just makes it more finicky.

2. It’s very hard to line up the design nicely (at least compared to a hole punch or scissors)

Basically, it turned out to be more annoying than drawing circles and cutting them out with scissors. The punch, however, is way better.

Some folk at my former hackerspace have pointed out that a cricut machine would be excellent for this, and probably the laser cutter would work as well. Both of these are a lot more expensive than a punch, but if you’ve got them, why not? The only downside is that neither is as convenient for on-the-fly button making using magazines or quite as convenient for maker faire purposes.

Paper Guillotine

If you’re printing 8.5×11 sheets of buttons to cut out, you may also want to invest in a paper guillotine. This is handy if you want to hand out smaller segments for kids to colour, and great if you’re using a button punch that can’t punch holes in the middle of a piece of paper.

Again, scissors work just as well, but when you’re spending all day making buttons, little things that make life easier like that are worth it. So once again, I recommend it if you find you’re doing a lot of buttons, but it’s not needed for small runs.

Inkscape

I’ve found inkscape to be the most consistently good tool for making buttons because it’s so easy to whip up a template (1.85in circle with inner 1.375in circle) and import things into it. It lets you do things like fit text to a path, trace bitmaps so they can be converted to fewer, easier to read colours, etc. It’s fast for duplicating buttons and laying them out as a sheet for printing, too. And it’s free software that runs on linux, mac, and windows, all of which I occasionally use to make buttons. http://inkscape.org/

Really, any drawing program will do, but I think Inkscape is particularly nice for letting you set sizes and fix alignments quickly and easily, so although I’m also reasonably capable a few other art tools (I use photoshop, for example, to do photography work), Inkscape is my tool of choice for buttons.

DSC_6775.JPG

Non-button things!

If you look through the Tecre catalog, you’ll notice that depending on the size of machine you have, you can make a few things that aren’t buttons. Not all of them are available for my size of machine; for example, some of the larger machines can be used for small hand mirrors and some of the smaller machines can be used for jewelery-buttons.

I’ve thus far tried the flat-backed magnets (the magnet goes inside the button) and the smaller split-ring keychains. Unfortunately, neither came with instructions so here’s some notes on what did and didn’t work for me:

Flat-backed Magnet instructions

The way the button machine works, you crimp the top half together, then you crimp the top onto the bottom. In the case of these magnet blanks, the magnet part goes with the bottom half (because the machine doesn’t have space for it in the top half die). It’s a nice strong magnet… which unfortunately means that it can pull the top half down if you’re too slow when you flip the machine around and crimp it the second time, and if it gets pulled out of alignment you get a messed up button. I messed up two before I figured out what was going on, and since then it’s been pretty easy to avoid the problem, but hopefully I can save someone else some annoyance.

I don’t know if this is true with other magnet backs, which may have less strong magnets, but if you’re having trouble it’s worth trying to go faster and see if it helps!

I am *very* pleased with the feel of the flat-backed magnets. They’re smooth and strangely pleasant to hold in a way that I was not expecting.

Short split key-ring instructions

In this case, the bottom half of the blank has a small hole in one side. You crimp the top and bottom together, then insert the keychain clip into this hole (note to self: take some pictures of this later).

Things to note:
1. The instructions I found online implied that you had to be super careful about how much you crimp. It seems like the version I have is pretty well designed to avoid this problem, because the bottom half has a slightly raised edge over where the hole is, and clamping the machine all the way down does not seem to squash the hole, so don’t be *too* nervous about getting it right.

2. While the clip can be inserted either way, if you insert it so the sticking up part of the clip faces the front of the bottom, the piece sits more flat relative to the back of the button.

All in all, I found the magnets harder than expected and the keychains easier.

Button jars, overflowing

Conclusion

When I bought the button machine, I really wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, but it’s turned out to be even more fun than I hoped. The highlight was probably that first big giveaway my sister and I did at the Cute With Chris show. When we walked down to the front to give out buttons before the show started, people actually cheered for us! And then we went around talking to each person at the show while they chose their designs, which was pretty neat.

But there’s been lots of fun stuff since then. In the past year alone, I’ve made buttons for open source projects (real and most desirable), given out slightly subversive buttons at defcon, made silly buttons for one-off jokes and IRC bots, watched literally hundreds of kids and adults make buttons with my machine, even wound up making some blank ones to serve as a temporary whiteboard-style expression-changing doll face for a friend’s guerrilla photography and crafting project!

It’s a bit of a weird hobby, but each button is so cheap that it’s one you can share with a lot of people! (At the current rate of blanks, each button costs me under 10 cents) And as someone who always enjoyed getting free stuff, it’s fun to be on the side of designing and giving! :)

by Dr. Terri at October 21, 2014 05:00 PM

September 17, 2014

Winking Microview

With my travel and work schedules, I haven’t had time to hack my original MicroView, but the replacement ones arrived while I was out at ABQ Mini Maker Faire! So of course, I had to try *something* now that I can actually flash things to it.

Here’s my current very simple program: a smile with a wink!

microview_wink

Although it’s probably better with video

And of course, it’s more fun if you can also check out the code so I dumped it into my git repository. Here it is in case you’re not feeling like clicking through:

/* 
 * microview_wink: a simple winking face animation for the MicroView
 * 
 * Created by: Terri Oda 
 * Sept 16, 2014
 */

#include 

void setup() {
  uView.begin();		// start MicroView
  uView.clear(PAGE);		// clear page
  uView.print("Hi Terri!");	// say hi
  uView.display();
  delay(1000);
}

void loop () {
  //drawFace();
  winkFaceAnimation();
}

void drawFace() { 
  uView.clear(PAGE);
  
  drawEyes();
  drawNose();
  drawMouth();    

  uView.display();        // display current page buffer
}

void drawEyes() {
  uView.circle(20, 15, 5);
  uView.circle(45, 15, 5);
}

void drawNose() {
  uView.line(30, 22, 35, 32);
  uView.line(35, 32, 31, 32);
}

void drawMouth() {
  uView.line(20, 40, 25, 45);
  uView.line(25, 45, 40, 45);
  uView.line(40, 45, 45, 40);
}

void winkFaceAnimation() {
  for (int i = 0; i  7; i++) {
    uView.clear(PAGE);
    
    // animate one eye for the wink
    switch (i) {
      case 0: 
      case 6:
        uView.circle(45, 15, 5);
        break;
      case 1:
      case 5: 
        uView.rect(40, 12, 10, 5);
        break;
      case 2:
      case 4:
        uView.rect(40, 14, 10, 2);
        break;
      case 3: 
        uView.line(40, 15, 50, 15);
        break;
    }

    // draw the static parts of the face
    uView.circle(20, 15, 5);    
    drawNose();
    drawMouth();
    
    // display and wait for the next frame to start
    uView.display();
    delay(500);
  }  
}

The MicroView was pretty easy to get up and running since this machine was already set up for arduino programming, I just had to remember to switch from the Adafruit Flora (what I'd been coding for last) to the Microview ( / the Arduino Uno). I'm pretty pleased with my first run, and even though I am reminded that animation frame drawing is not my favourite activity, I'm happy to have written some code for it, even if it's absurdly simple.

I'm still planning on continuing with the necklace plan for the first of these, so I'm going to work on a few more animations while I decide how I'm going to handle power, shaping, and whether I'm going to want any sensors in the final pendant. My current plan is that I'll create a backpiece that I can embed a battery into (probably 3d printed?), and I think I'd like to stick an accelerometer in there so it can be more interactive. But my plans may change as I fiddle with it!

by Dr. Terri at September 17, 2014 07:10 AM

September 09, 2014

Project for Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire

In that way that we have, John and I are working together on a last-minute project for our next event, the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire. I’m too tired to write a whole lot of text, so I took some photos instead. With no explanation, can you tell what is starting to take shape in our house?

20140909-IMG_4790.jpg20140909-IMG_4792.jpg20140909-IMG_4798.jpg
20140909-IMG_4799.jpg20140909-IMG_4800.jpg20140909-IMG_4806.jpg20140909-IMG_4809.jpg
20140909-IMG_4810.jpg20140909-IMG_4812.jpg
20140909-IMG_4813.jpg20140909-IMG_4816.jpg

by Dr. Terri at September 09, 2014 04:30 PM

August 27, 2014

Experiments in Starry Sky Photography

I’m not much of a night photographer for a variety of reasons, such as “wandering around in dark, isolated places with expensive gear and when you are a smallish woman is not recommended” and “I never carry my tripod because it’s awkward and extra weight” but thankfully I have friends who mitigate the first and cars that mitigate the second, so then it all works out.

My photographer excursion to Crater Lake is one of those rare times it worked out. We had a “wait, it’s too nice to go to bed” bit of folly, given that our plan was to get up at 4am to catch the sunrise. Alas, the lake was in cloud at sunrise, so those photos never happened, but the night ones totally did.

Here they are before editing:
The view from our Our

This was 30s exposure at ISO 3200, which is still rather noisy for my tastes, even with some post-processing to clean it up a bit. I think in future I might have to try cranking that down a fair bit.

Below is my first attempt at processing the photos base on what I knew to do off the top of my head. They’re not bad, but as I said, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to practice night photography, and that includes processing as well as the physical taking of photos. You can definitely see some more colour and definition even in the small versions I’ve put here so you can see them all at once:

The view from our Our

So I read through a night photography tutorial and these are the images that resulted:

Our

The view from our

The first one’s maybe not that different from my own attempt, but the second one really pops, no? I guess I need to spend more time reading photo processing tutorials. Processing has been my weak point in terms of just getting it done, but it’s pretty impressive to see how much more I got out of that last image with a little help, I think.

[Note: I somehow failed to schedule this post when I was written, so that’s why you’re getting it so late after the photos were uploaded, in case anyone who follows my flickr stream was wondering, but I doubt anyone actually pays that much attention.]

by Dr. Terri at August 27, 2014 04:00 PM

August 25, 2014

The WTF necklace

This one barely counts as a maker-y thing, in that all I really did was string some letters onto a faux-leather strap, but I think it’s hilarious and needed to be shared:

Necklace with the letters WTF on it.

WTF Necklace

Actually, this was much harder than it should have been. The necklace strap came pre-assembled and had to be disassembled so I could thread the letters on, which normally wouldn’t be too hard but I can’t find the relevant jewelry pliers so I wound up using these round ones which were totally unsuited. And then once I got it off, it turns out the darned letters have holes that aren’t quite big enough to easily thread the pleather through (or equally, the pleather was a bit too sticky for the length of threading required), so then I had to MacGyver this threading implement with a piece of wire that had been originally used to hold the bead in the package. My original plan of wrapping the wire around the pleather didn’t work because the wire was too thick, and then I wound up accidentally stripping half the wire inside the bead when I tried, and finally I had to find a needle and poke a hole in the end of the pleather and convince the wire to get into this much smaller hole so that I could hook it around and finally get the darned beads on the strap.

So, um, yeah. Totally easy, of course!

I can’t really take credit for the idea exactly: I saw a gal at defcon with a beautiful monogrammed purse that said WTF all classy-like (in as much as one can) and then beads were on sale when I went in to get stuff at the craft store and I was going to get my initials (which are funny enough in and of themselves) but then I decided I needed this too, because I am such a classy individual.

The instagram-clone filters prove it:

Necklace with the letters WTF on it.

WTF Necklace

The thing that bugs me about this is that the holes in the beads aren’t exactly at the same height, so my necklace has a kerning problem. Can you see it? I really can, but I suppose I don’t actually have to look at my own necklace all day, and everyone at work is much too polite to stare randomly at someone else’s chest, so I figure it’s only the font geeks who’ll catch it.

by Dr. Terri at August 25, 2014 04:00 PM

August 21, 2014

MicroView: the bad, the good, and the awesome

I backed this cute little thing on kickstarter called the Microview, which is basically a teensy arduino with an oled display attached. It was too adorable to pass up: I’ve wanted a little programmable necklace for a while, and this meant that project would be really easy to build.

My MicroView (Adorable Arduino with OLED display)

My MicroView (Adorable Arduino with OLED display)

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the MicroView and it finally came today. So I popped open the instructions page and the first thing I see is a big apology. Uh oh…

So I check my email and sure enough, there’s an email about a big problem. Short version: they sent out a whole pile of units without bootloaders, so it runs the demo but won’t run any new code. Both of my MicroViews, it seems, are in the affected batches. More details here:

https://www.sparkfun.com/news/1575
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1516846343/microview-chip-sized-arduino-with-built-in-oled-di/posts/959475

So that’s disappointing, but they’re shipping out replacement units, and I suppose I can wait a bit longer to play. It’s not like I don’t have other toys to play with.

But here’s the super awesome news: it’s possible to dissect the unit and fix it!

So… with a bit of hacking, and assuming I don’t break anything, I may have double the number of MicroViews by the time this is done, and I’ll have had an excuse to dissect my new toys.

I’ve never been so pleased about receiving a defective product. :)

In the meantime, I guess I can play the tutorial game:

MicroView running the tutorial

MicroView running the tutorial “game”: Connect a jumper between pins 5 and 8

by Dr. Terri at August 21, 2014 07:17 AM

August 19, 2014

Book review: Stormdancer

I haven't really kept up on reviewing much of anything lately, even though I still read lots of books and try makeup and stuff, but life is busy and I'm pretty sure I'm less likely to regret missed reviews than I will other things, so I don't feel that guilty.

That said, here's a book review:

Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) by Jay…
Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One)
by Jay Kristoff

It was a snippet describing this book as "Japanese Steampunk" that made me curious enough to request this from the library. I'd personally describe it more as "feudal Japanese dystopia" than steampunk, but I seem to have a penchant dystopian young adult stuff, so that works out ok for me. There are some robot-suits and flying machines so it fits the bill if you're looking for steampunk rooted in something other than victorian England culture. Frankly, it's worth a read just for that cultural quirk, although the technical-cultural aspects are barely touched upon in this volume.

Stormdance is mostly the tale of Yukiko, daughter of the famed "Black Fox" -- a hunter whom the shogun has sent on what seems a fool's errand: he is to find and bring back a "thunder tiger" (griffon) in a land that is so polluted and poisoned that there are barely any animals left. As Yukiko accompanies the hunters on their quest, the way she sees her father, other people, and the world winds up irrevocably changed, and she soon finds herself on a quest of her own...

I admit, I found this one a bit hard to get into: it starts with lengthy descriptions and more Japanese-style pacing than I'm used to in my young adult novels, and I found having to learn terminology sent me on enough tangential trips to the glossary that I had trouble immersing myself. But once I did, it's a great story with a few great characters and a fascinating world.

comment count unavailable comments

August 19, 2014 04:53 AM

June 23, 2014

Three generations of women, one hat

Here’s a project that’s been sitting in my queue of things-to-post for a while!

Cabled Hat

This is a hat I made for my grandmother. It was a post-Christmas present, a project that I brought up so I’d have something to do over the holidays.

Pattern

The pattern is the Cup of Tea Cabled Touque by Jessica Dekker. It’s a pretty neat little pattern with a bunch of different types of cables. You can see the cables in slightly more detail here:

Cable Knit Hat

Incidentally, SLR selfies are silly, as you can see.

I adjusted the pattern to add a crocheted faux-fur edging, in part because I thought it would look cute, and in part because I’d made my grandmother a scarf with the same yarn and thought they’d make a pretty matching set that way. I believe my pattern for that went something like this:

0: Take finished hat brim and fluffy eyelash yarn, sc around picking up stitches as you go.
1: triple-crochet around to make something very fluffy.
2: wrap the crocheted brim up on the front of the hat, and single crochet around pausing every few stichtes to crochet through the hat so that the brim will stay up.

Cable Knit Hat and with fluffy crochet edging

More Photos

So you’ve seen me wearing the hat… what about the other two generations of women?

Here’s my mom, who graciously agreed to pose since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to convince my grandmother to do so:
Cable Knit Hat and with fluffy crochet edging

And my grandmother, who was kind enough to pose with the hat and scarf:
Cable Knit Hat and Scarf

She loves the colour purple, and it certainly complements her nicely! I kind of wish I’d inherited or learned her apparently innate sense of colour and style; she often finds these beautiful jewel-toned jackets and things that are amazing.

And here’s one more photo:
Cable Knit Hat and Scarf

I’m not great with flash photography, but I like how the flash picked up the shininess of the scarf!

While I may not have my grandmother’s sense of style, one thing we do have in common is a penchant for altering existing patterns and creating new ones. She used to make so many stuffed animals for me, including ones based on characters in shows that I loved as a kid (Muffy the mouse!). I grew up wearing winter tuques and scarves she crocheted for us grandkids every winter to match the snowsuit we fit into that year, so it’s been fun to return the favour with knitted gifts myself!

by Dr. Terri at June 23, 2014 05:00 PM

June 19, 2014

Butterfly Baby Sweater (simplified top-down one piece cardigan for self-striping sock yarn)

Remember my post about pictures of knitting in sunlight? I think it’s about time I post a few finished photos to go with that, isn’t it?

The project was a baby sweater, again for baby V, who probably qualifies as a toddler now that she’s, well, toddling!

Pretty Purple Baby Cardigan

My pattern is based off Eyelet Baby Cardigan pattern from Looking Glass Knits.

Which was in turn based off this baby cardigan pattern from DROPS Design

I’d originally intended to just do the Eyelet Baby Cardigan pattern as written, but I thought it was too busy to have the eyelets with the self-striping yarn, and then on top of that I found the way the pattern was written had me doing too much math as I knit which broke my flow of creating. I must have knit and unknit this 3 times before I gave up and just wrote out my own pattern:

Pattern

Size: 9 months
Gauge: 8 st = 1 inch

inc – k front and back?

In my case, that was knitpicks felici and size 3 needles.

Yarn:

Main colour: One ball of knitpicks felici (sock yarn). If I’d had more, though, I would have used one-and-a-bit-more.
Edging colour: some fluffy baby yarn that I’ve long since lost the label for. It is probably sport weight, not sock yarn weight.

0: CO 84 st.
1-3: k across (garter stitch)
4: make buttonhole (k2, yo, k2tog), k to end
5-8: k across (garter stitch)
9: k4, p to last 4 stitches, then k4
(We’ll do this for all odd rows, really)
10: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [92]
eg: k4 (border), k3, inc (k10, inc) * 7, k3, k4 (border)
12: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [100]
eg: k4 (border), k4, inc (k11, inc) * 7, k3, k4 (border)
14: k, increasing by SEVEN spaced evenly [107]
eg: k4, k1, inc (k15, inc) * 6, k1, k4
** In original, pattern row was here **
(See “additional lace details” below if you want to know my embellishments)
16: k
**
18: buttonhole, increasing by SIXTEEN spaced evenly [123]
eg: (k2, yo, k2tog), k5, inc (k6, inc) * 15, k4, k4
20: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [131]
eg: k4, k1, inc, (k16, inc) * 7, k2, k4
22: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [139]
eg: k4, k2, inc, (k17, inc) * 7, k2, k4
24: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [147]
eg: k4, k3, inc (k18, inc) *7, k2 k4
26: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [155]
eg: k4, k4, inc (k19, inc) * 7, k2, k4
**
28: k
30: k
32: buttonhole (k2, yo, k2tog), k
***
34:k increasing by SIXTEEN spaced evenly [171]
eg k4, k6, inc, (k9, inc) * 15, k6, k4
36: k4, k increasing by SIXTEEN spaced evenly [187]
eg k4, k7, inc, (k10, inc) * 15, k6, k4
38: k4, k increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [195]
eg k4, k2, inc, (k25, inc) * 7 , k2, k4
40: k4, k increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [203]
eg k4, k3, inc, (k26, inc) * 7 , k2, k4
42: k4, k increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [211]
eg k4, k4, inc, (k27, inc) * 7 , k2, k4
**
44: k
**
46: buttonhole, k increasing by TWENTY FOUR spaced evenly [235]
eg (k2, yo, k2tog), k10, inc, (k8, inc) * 23 , k9, k4
48: k4, k increasing by NINE spaced evenly [244]
eg k4, k1, inc, (k28, inc) * 8, k2, k4
50: k4, k increasing by NINE spaced evenly [253]
eg k4, k2, inc, (k29, inc) * 8, k2, k4

Buttonholes: continue every 14 rows (at 60, 74, 88, 102…)

Divide stitches for arms:
Row 52: k39, slip 51 st to holder, k 73 [back], slip 51 st to holder, k39.

Work body (151 st):

Work in stockinette until… well, in my case it was until I was almost out of yarn, but in theory the original pattern said 10″.

Work edging:

Swap to edging yarn. In my case, this was a white baby yarn that was actually a bit thicker than the sock yarn used for the main body.

Work feather and fan as per original pattern, repeating this three times:
Row 1: knit.
Row 2: k4, p to last 4 stitches, k4.
Row 3: k5, (yo, k1) three times, (k2tog 6 times), *(yo, k1) six times, (k2tog 6 times); rep from * until last 7 stitches, (yo, k1) three times, k4.
Row 4: knit.

Work two rows of garter stitch and bind off.

Work sleeves:

Pretty Purple Baby Cardigan: sleeve detail

Put 51 arm stitches on a needle.

Knit in stockinette until desired length is reach. I wanted short sleeves, so that was 4 rows for me. Note that this will make intentionally wide sleeves. I hear dressing babies is hard.

Swap to edging colour, and add an eyelet edging to suggest the lace of the feather and fan in the bottom:

1 (RS): k all the way across
2-3: k across
4: repeat (p2tog, yo)
5-7: k across
bind off

Additional lace details

And one final photo:
Pretty Purple Baby Cardigan

As you can see, I actually didn’t use the most basic pattern. I added in lace details in the sections marked with ** above.

In the two one-row sections (rows 18, 44), this was

repeat: (k2 tog, y0)

And in the larger section, I used the following pattern, with appropriate padding to make it line up nicely (i.e. a few extra k stitches at beginning/end).

28: repeat (k1, yo, sl1 k1 psso, k3, k2tog, yo)
30: repeat (k2, yo, sl1 k1 psso, k1, k2tog, yo, k1)
32: repeat (k3, yo, sl1, k2tog, psso, yo k2)

(purl on the odd rows as per rest of pattern).

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the lace details were necessary on this particular self-striping yarn, but they do look cute enough.

Wrap-up

This one actually lasted for a couple of wearings, helped along no doubt by the fact that I chose colours that matched better with baby V’s existing wardrobe. (A lesson learned about trying for subversively non-pink clothes in the past… alas!) I even managed to see her wearing it when I was in town after PyCon!

I used one ball of felici because that’s what I had (I’d bought it when she was much tinier!) but I probably could have used a little bit more so it wouldn’t be so short. Even with the fluffier, larger lace edging, it was still a bit short. Not so bad since it wound up being a spring sweater, but not ideal!

by Dr. Terri at June 19, 2014 05:00 PM

June 16, 2014

Sheep Hat

Another baby gift! This one I made just because I thought the pattern was adorable:

Sheep Hat

My picture isn’t great, but…
1. Little sheep feet in the grass!
2. Adorable sheepy texture!
3. 3-D sheep head!
4. Perky sheep ears!

And my favourite:
5. Puffy little tail!

Sheep Hat

Pattern

This one came from a book called 60 Quick Baby Knits put out to show the glory of Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash. Alas, I didn’t have any on hand, so I used Caron Simply Soft. I don’t really recommend acrylic for this project since it made the stranded colourwork for the feet a bit harder to do. However, I like the yarn for amigurumi (it’s cheap, soft, washable, comes in many colours, and can withstand babies), so that’s why I have it on hand.

60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties,…
60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More in Cascade…
by Sixth&Spring Books

Ravelry Pattern Link:
Sheep Hat by Renee Lorion

by Dr. Terri at June 16, 2014 05:00 PM

June 12, 2014

“Best” baby sock?

This is a baby gift that got photographed and then I forgot to blog about it once the gift was received.

Unfortunately, I’ve also forgotten the pattern!

I think it was called “best baby sock” and touted how it was the one that would stay on the most determined of babies. I don’t suppose that rings a bell?

To be honest, I think those little ankles might be a bit squished in these. I had fun making them, but I don’t know if they ever got worn!

Most amusingly, searching for “best baby sock” on Ravelry somehow turned up a pineapple lace bikini. What?

by Dr. Terri at June 12, 2014 05:00 PM

June 09, 2014

Pi Baby Sweater

My first degree is in mathematics, so MathSoc wound up being the focus of my university social life and an important sanity outlet valve for the duration of my undergrad. A couple of the lovely friends I met through Mathsoc announced they were expecting a child, and I knew immediately what I wanted to send to the shower. I mean, these are the friends who mounted their framed diplomas at right angles to each other due to mis-adjusted frames and laughed when we made mathy jokes about it looking perfectly normal.

Since math nerd baby clothes aren’t exactly the sort of thing one picks up at toys-r-us, I spent a lot of time at PyCon knitting up a gift. After not too long, the theme of I was making started to get obvious to the people around me…

Pi baby sweater (half complete front)

I found the idea of knitting a pi sweater at pycon pretty funny. Alas, since PyCon was later this year, it was not also pi day!

Here’s the sweater front and the back design viewed together before it was finished in case your imagination hasn’t already done the rest:

Pi Baby Sweater (front and back viewed together)

The pattern for the sweater comes from a book called Style Your Own Kids’ Knits by Kate Buller, which gives you basic sweater patterns in a variety of sizes with a huge number of options. I used her font for the numbers on the bottom and my own hand-drawn pi symbol for the chest motif.

Style Your Own Kids' Knits: Simply…
Style Your Own Kids’ Knits: Simply Choose a Pattern and Select a…
by Kate Buller

I also made up a simple ribbing variation for the hem and cuffs that went something like this:

1-3: k stockinette with purl facing RS
4-6: 2×2 rib (k2, p2 on RS; p2, k2 on WS)
1-3: k stockinette with purl facing RS

I’m not going to write out all of the sweater instructions in here since I imagine the author would rather you buy her book if you want more details about sleeve variations and edgings and whatnot, but I do want to provide my charts for the front and back in case any other math nerds need a baby sweater!

Back chart:
Pi Baby Sweater: back chart

And unblocked back piece:
Pi Baby Sweater

Front chart:
Pi Baby Sweater: front chart

And unblocked front piece:
Pi Baby Sweater: front, unblocked

Note that it’s all rumply because it hasn’t been blocked. While the mercerized cotton I chose was lovely to knit with and had great bright colours, it does look a bit lumpy in part due to my lack of experience with stranded knitting and in part due to the lack of blocking to set the stitches straighter.

I don’t have post-blocking pictures because I actually didn’t do the blocking, because I ran out of time before my flight home and I left the sweater in Ottawa with my sister so that she could bring it to the baby shower. She (apparently with some instructional help from my grandmother) did the blocking and sewed the buttons on, and was kind enough to send me a picture of the mom-to-be holding the finished sweater:

M-with-babysweater

I amused myself greatly with this project, and I hope it’ll amuse my math friends and their new baby.

Obligatory Circular Ravelry link

Link to My Pi Baby Sweater pattern on Ravelry, in case you want to queue it up there. (Of course, it just links back here…).

by Dr. Terri at June 09, 2014 03:20 PM

May 31, 2014

You can leave academia, but you can't get the academic spam out of your inbox

When I used to do research on spam, I wound up spending a lot of time listening to people's little pet theories. One that came up plenty was "oh, I just never post my email address on the internet" which is fine enough as a strategy depending on what you do, but is rather infeasible for academics who want to publish, as custom says we've got to put our email addresses on the paper. This leads to a lot of really awesome contacts with other researchers around the world, but sometimes it leads to stuff like the email I got today:


Dear Terri,

As stated by the Carleton University's electronic repository, you authored the work entitled "Simple Security Policy for the Web" in the framework of your postgraduate degree.

We are currently planning publications in this subject field, and we would be glad to know whether you would be interested in publishing the above mentioned work with us.

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a member of an international publishing group, which has almost 10 years of experience in the publication of high-quality research works from well-known institutions across the globe.

Besides producing printed scientific books, we also market them actively through more than 80,000 booksellers.

Kindly confirm your interest in receiving more detailed information in this respect.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.


Best regards,
Sarah Lynch
Acquisition Editor

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a trademark of OmniScriptum
GmbH & Co. KG

Heinrich-Böcking-Str. 6-8, 66121, Saarbrücken, Germany
s.lynch(at)lap-publishing.com / www. lap-publishing .com

Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10356
Identification Number (Verkehrsnummer): 13955
Partner with unlimited liability: VDM Management GmbH
Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRB 18918
Managing director: Thorsten Ohm (CEO)


Well, I guess it's better than the many mispelled emails I get offering to let me buy a degree (I am *so* not the target audience for that, thanks), and at least it's not incredibly crappy conference spam. In fact, I'd never heard of this before, so I did a bit of searching.

Let's just post a few of the summaries from that search:

From wikipedia:
The Australian Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) explicitly excludes the books by VDM Verlag and Lambert Academic Publishing from ...


From the well-titled Lambert Academic Publishing (or How Not to Publish Your Thesis):
Lambert Academic Publishing (LAP) is an imprint of Verlag Dr Muller (VDM), a publisher infamous for selling cobbled-together "books" made ...


And most amusingly, the reason I've included the phrase "academic spam" in the title:
I was contacted today by a representative of Lambert Academic Publishing requesting that I change the title of my blog post "Academic Spam", ...


So yeah, no. My thesis is already published, thanks, and Simple Security Policy for the Web is freely available on the web for probably obvious reasons. I never did convert the darned thing to html, though, which is mildly unfortunate in context!

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May 31, 2014 05:19 AM

PlanetPlanet vs iPython Notebook [RESOLVED: see below]

Short version:

I'd like some help figuring out why RSS feeds that include iPython notebook contents (or more specifically, the CSS from iPython notebooks) are showing up as really messed up in the PythonPython blog aggregator. See the Python summer of code aggregator and search for a MNE-Python post to see an example of what's going wrong.

Bigger context:

One of the things we ask of Python's Google Summer of Code students is regular blog posts. This is a way of encouraging them to be public about their discoveries and share their process and thoughts with the wider Python community. It's also very helpful to me as an org admin, since it makes it easier for me to share and promote the students' work. It also helps me keep track of everyone's projects without burning myself out trying to keep up with a huge number of mailing lists for each "sub-org" under the Python umbrella. Python sponsors not only students to work on the language itself, but also for projects that make heavy use of Python. In 2014, we have around 20 sub-orgs, so that's a lot of mailing lists!

One of the tools I use is PythonPython, software often used for making free software "planets" or blog aggregators. It's easy to use and run, and while it's old, it doesn't require me to install and run an entire larger framework which I would then have to keep up to date. It's basically making a static page using a shell script run by a cron job. From a security perspective, all I have to worry about is that my students will post something terrible that then gets aggregated, but I'd have to worry about that no matter what blogroll software I used.

But for some reason, this year we've had some problems with some feeds, and it *looks* like the problem is specifically that PlanetPlanet can't handle iPython notebook formatted stuff in a blog post. This is pretty awkward, as iPython notebook is an awesome tool that I think we should be encouraging students to use for experimenting in Python, and it really irks me that it's not working. It looks like Chrome and Firefox parse the feed reasonably, which makes me think that somehow PlanetPlanet is the thing that's losing a <style> tag somewhere. The blogs in question seem to be on blogger, so it's also possible that it's google that's munging the stylesheet in a way that planetplanet doesn't parse.

I don't suppose this bug sounds familiar to anyone? I did some quick googling, but unfortunately the terms are all sufficiently popular when used together that I didn't find any reference to this bug. I was hoping for a quick fix from someone else, but I don't mind hacking PlanetPlanet myself if that's what it takes.

Anyone got a suggestion of where to start on a fix?

Edit: Just because I saw someone linking this on twitter, I'll update in the main post: tried Mary's suggestion of Planet Venus (see comments below) out on Monday and it seems to have done the trick, so hurrah!

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May 31, 2014 03:53 AM