Monday, December 31, 2012

Linguistics, accuracy, utility and common courtesy.

I went to see The Hobbit today, and I was going to write about that, but it would only have been what I liked or didn't from a fanperson perspective. Instead, here are some of my opinions on grammar!

I am a bit of a nerd for grammar. In fifth and sixth year I spent a long time considering studying linguistics. My Leaving Cert Spanish teacher once told me that it was clear from my translations and essays that I had a very good grasp of English grammar, which transferred well in understanding the underlying principles. (Thanks, I speak it like a native!) I taught myself Latin for the Junior Cert because I wanted to understand the roots of words and a more rigid set of grammar rules. I will correct my own grammar in conversation rather than hope people don't notice, because it will irk me to leave it incorrect.

In a complete non-contradiction, there are few things that will make me negatively and immediately judge someone's entire character as hearing or seeing them correct someone else's grammar, in real life or online.

To get the exceptions out of the way: You might be a teacher, they might be learning a language and have asked you for pointers*, they might be learning a first language, they might have asked you to proofread a document. If there are others, I can't think of them at this time.

There's a line by Feynman in What Do You Care What Other People Think? that I can't find by skimming through it. He explains that in school he was a poor speller, and that it frustrated him that his teachers cared so much. If it was clear which word he was trying to use, why did it matter whether there were a few letters missing or rearranged? The lesson here isn't that, if you have a good grasp of grammar or are good at spelling, you are smarter than Richard Feynman. It's that Richard Feynman didn't have time for pedanticism where it wasn't needed, and was an uncommonly intelligent man, and these two facts had nothing to do with each other.

Convention is a very handy thing, but the meaning can usually be guessed from context (there/their, you're/your), and if someone is speaking to you casually, or chatting online, or posting in a forum, the aim is surely to communicate, not write eloquent and elegant prose, or even full words. If you halt a conversation because, and to discuss the fact that, someone has offended your sense of aesthetics, you are a terrible conversationalist. People launch into histrionics like "That hurt my eyes to read" or personal attacks like "It's hard to take you seriously when you can't even run a spell-check [in this online discussion in which many people are posting balderdash as truth because they can't be bothered to check Google]" as though they hold the intellectual high-ground. As I said, regardless of what's technically correct (the best kind of correct), the degree to which someone's spelling error or use of txt spk bothers you is down to your own sense of aesthetics, and is no more high-minded than "Can you believe she thinks that top with that skirt?" Language is for communication, and clothes are for not being naked, and bad language and ugly clothes work just fine to those ends.

It seems particularly snobbish to jump down someone's throat for a mistake in English, which is an absolute mongrel language. (Fun grammar fact! When English was being standardised, the pluralisation of 'child' fell through some crack in the system and became a double plural.)

As I said, I am a sap for eloquence, which usually includes good grammar. By all means, correct your own grammar! Let your eye twitch when someone wants to talk about "there expereince"! But say anything about it (barring the caveats above), and you are being flat-out obnoxious.

* I find it really difficult to correct someone's grammar even when they've asked me to. I worked in a language school last Summer, and when I was chatting with the Spanish kids I found it difficult to fight the impulse to speak Spanish so that we could actually have a conversation, or to correct even the most enthusiastic students, even though they were paying to improve their grammar. It's just so abrasive in every other context!

Monday, December 24, 2012

FOs: Christmas knitting edition!

I have finished all my Christmas knitting! I even had time to knit an extra scarf today for a family friend.

This hat was commissioned as a tribute to a hat my friend's boyfriend lost.  The only requirement was that it have a stripe of a highlighter-esque shade of green at the bottom.

It looks more yellow here than it does in real life, but it's reasonably garish anyway. I used Rico Essentials Merino Aran for the black, and some James C. Brett Supreme Baby DK for the green stripes. U have a lot of almost-neon green yarn to use up.

I had intended to make this scarf for my brother, but the stitch was coming out quite lacy for me. I'm a little disappointed, as I think it's a really beautiful pattern, but instead I knit rib 2x2 rib scarf, using the Fibonacci sequence for the striping.  It's knit with Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky.

I didn't want to carry the yarn up the side in case it was obvious, so I cut the yarn at the end of each stripe, and joined a new strand for each new one, and sewed in all the resulting yarn tails, because clearly I hate myself.

 This isn't a great photo of me or of the scarf, but look at the tree!

Another commission! I went to visit my brother and a friend in England two weeks ago, and I thought I would get a respectable chunk of them finished on the four-hour train journey between them, but I accidently read my book for about three hours of it. I queued this pattern (Ravelry page here) a while ago, and had been looking for occasion to make it. A friend asked me to make a pair of teal fingerless gloves for her mother for Christmas, so I got to use it! It's a bit strangely written, but easy to follow, and I think they're beautiful. The pattern suggested using 4mm needles, but with my tension that would have resulted in them being far too loose, so I used 2.75mm. They don't have a lot of give in them as a result - they take a little wiggling to get into - but they're very cosy. I have another pair in pink blocking on the windowsill to give to my sister tomorrow.

My aunt asked me to make a scarf to match a pair of Willow Tweed gloves she gave to her daughter-in-law a few weeks ago. I couldn't get the same yarn, but I used the same stitch pattern and I'm happy enough with how it came out. 

I can't help taking it personally when people complain that Christmas is materialistic and shallow. I'm definitely guilty of buying a lot of materials in the run-up to Christmas, and then I spend hours of time planning and working and staying up until three in the morning knitting complicated patterns on tiny needles because I want to create something for my loved ones which will make them happy. There's no reason I can't do this any other time of the year, but Christmas is a time at which it's acceptable to make grand gestures without making people feel uncomfortable, and for me, being given something which someone has put hours of work into is a pretty grand gesture, even if it's work they enjoy. As for shallow, bet the people making that complaint don't even create. So.

That pet peeve aside, I find Christmas to be a very lovely and fuzzy time of year, and I hope anyone reading this has a great one.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Free pattern: Santa's Chocolate Orange Tree Decoration

To give credit where it's due, I had this idea after seeing a snowman's head knitted around  a Terry's Orange a few weeks ago. When I went looking for it again my Google-fu failed me, I was all set to write my own pattern when I realised that a Santa hat is more re-usable as a decoration than a hollow knitted snowman's head.


I made these little Santa hats that sit snugly on a Terry's Chocolate Orange to give to people who fall in the awkward realm or present getting where I should give them something, but nothing too formal or personal. This is informal with a personal touch, and they can hang the hat up after the chocolate is gone :)

You will need:

Red DK yarn
White DK yarn
2.75mm circular or double-pointed needles
Darning needle
One Terry’s Chocolate Orange

The pattern can be found here.


Friday, November 30, 2012

FO Friday: It's been a while!

I've been doing a lot of knitting for craft fairs and Christmas commissions, but by the time I get home there's not enough light to take decent photos.

I found time to knock out a hat for myself though!

The pattern is from my recollection of this one, which has sadly disappeared, and it's knit with Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. I knit it as-written the first time, but it came out far too big. I ripped the whole thing out straight away, knocked fourteen stitches off the cast-on, made it shorter, and ended up with something I'm far happier with. I don't mind repeating things - it's a trait which makes me suited for a career in science, hopefully - but if I leave redoing something for too long it becomes a looming gargantuan task that I can't possibly tackle.

Every other hat I've made has ended up frogged, gifted or sold, but I have a good feeling about this one! If nothing else, I can pretend that I look like Link for as long as it's cold.

My aunt asked for a few neckwarmers and scarves to give as Christmas presents.

I really like how the green one turned out. It's knit with Studio Donegal Soft Merino, which, incidentally, can be bought by the kilo.


I got around to making a physical Christmas knitting list, because I do love me a list, and between commissions and "You know that [item] You made X? Could you make me one of those for Christmas?"s it's a little bit longer than I'd like it to be.

But since taking that photo I've finished the last entry - it's blocking on my floor now, so I couldn't take photos - so I'm pretty much half-way there.

My sister didn't believe that the first entry was 'circle scarf', so I had to show her how I write the individual letters in 'circle' in order to convince her. I wasn't just practising at the top of the page. Over the Summer I worked with some teachers with beautiful hand-writing, and resolved to improve mine, but apparently it hasn't taken.

I won tickets to the RDS National Crafts and Design Fair this Thursday through May Fly, so I'm very much looking forward to that. Can't argue with free! :)

I also posted some pictures of my craft-fair knitting here!

Friday, November 9, 2012

FO Friday: Moone Boy hat, owl gloves, and a scarf

My favourite part of working for free is that they don't expect me to come in if there's nothing to do. I had a day off on Tuesday, so I got a commission started and finished while watching David Attenborough documentaries. A girl in the year below me in my department had asked me to make a hat for her boyfriend like the one the kid in Moone Boy wears. I couldn't find a pattern, so I kept this picture open to peer at and worked away. (Image is from this page.)

The bobble may be too big. It was hard to get no glare off it.

I used Katia Big Merino on 6mm needles for this. I could have made a more accurate hat with slightly finer yarn, but that wouldn't have been as warm, and also, ain't no-one got time for that much fair isle.

Sure it's a nice Christmassy hat, if nothing else. I haven't given it to her yet, so hopefully they both like it!

I can also post my last October birthday knit, since it's been unwrapped! I made a pair of Owlings gloves for a friend who's inexplicably enthusiastic about owls. I really like the subtlety of the pattern. (When I made it it was still free - given the reasons listed for it now being charged for, I'm not sure if I should donate. It was beautiful and I got use out of it!)

I knit these with Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton, as their person is vegan. (I need to stop getting close enough to people with wool aversions that they merited knitted gifts.) It took less than one skein to make the pair, and I knit them larger than the pattern recommended to fit man-hands.

A close-up of the owls. Hey, remember when there was sunshine and vegetation could grow?

I made this neckwarmer yesterday during my downtime at work and when I got home, to sell at a craft fair at the end of this month. I made my first trip to The Constant Knitter on Monday - one of them women recognised me by the scarf I was wearing, as we'd had a conversation about the yarn at the Knitting and Stitching Show the day before! - and bough a skein of King Cole Riot because I liked the colours and wanted to see how it knits and I'll hopefully be selling it at the end of the month anyway and it doesn't count as part of a stash and DON'T LOOK AT ME.

I'm getting a bit wary of how much Christmas knitting I have left to do, but it'll be grand so it will.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I had a productive weekend!

I graduated, and got to wear a wizard's robe all morning!  So now I'm a real zoologist!


I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show in the RDS! My brother was visiting and I had to catch up with friends who were back in Dublin for the weekend, so I was pleasantly strapped for time, but I've missed it every other year and was determined to go. I got there less than an hour and half before it was due to finish up (I thought I had another half hour!), so I had to zoom around and didn't see everything as well as I would have liked to. Didn't leave empty-handed though!

I don't know what the two fabrics on top will become - they both feel a bit lightweight for a skirt - but one of the stalls had a bag made out of the atlas material which looked gorgeous, so one of them will be earmarked for that eventually. This is why samples are a good  marketing strategy - I wouldn't have looked twice at that pattern if I saw it in a book. The pattern and fabrics were both from Fabrics Galore, I think. The yarn is from some very nice British men, the name of whose shop I can't remember. It's 100% silk, and a warmer turquoise than the photo shows up. I have a rule about not buying yarn unless I have a specific project in mind, but I might never see that make and shop again, and I graduated, I deserve a treat! (See also: "But it's on sale, this might be my last chance to get it," "But I sold a lot at a craft fair, I should get some nice yarn for myself", "But it's my first pay-cheque from this job, I should get something decadent," "But I just got my results," "But I just finished exams," and when I say I don't know how I have so much yarn, feel free to call me a liar.)

I finished the first of my sister's Christmas gloves! I'm using the Amy gloves pattern, knit with some Louisa Harding Ondine I bought on sale. It's probably slightly too heavy a yarn, but I had already bought it with a view to making her gloves for Christmas when she asked if I would make her a pair of gloves like these for Christmas, and it is too perfect not to use for her present. I wouldn't be concerned about the weight of the yarn only I don't know whether she wanted the gloves to have the same pattern, or be similarly snug. I made mine quite snug so that I can wear them to knit without my needles snagging, but I have child-hands, and she has normal-sized hands, so it seems like gloves which are small on me would be impractical on her. I'm worried they'll grow with blocking, but the yarn is 100% cotton, so hopefully I'll be able to shrink them in a hot wash if needs be.

I've signed up to sell at a Christmas craft fair in college (I didn't quite get around to leaving, I'm volunteering in a lab in the college where I did my undergraduate degree, though it's a different department at least) at the end of this month. After these gloves, the only Christmas knits I have left to make are toys, and they are a bit too finicky to knit on public transport or on lunch breaks, so I should have time to build up a solid stock. Now that Hallowe'en is over, I don't feel bad about feeling pre-emptively Christmassy anymore.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Christmas hats!

I've made Christmas hats and even managed to dispense a few of them! I'm organised but the gifts aren't taking up space in my room. It's the best of all worlds.

My dad lost his hat on the DART, so I made this as an early Christmas present. I used this pattern (Ravelry pattern page here), and I think it's lovely - simple without being plain. However, a few project notes said that it was turning out small and a bit pointy, so I made a few modifications which I found to be quite useful.

I used 5.5mm needles and bulky yarn, rather than aran. I think aran would have been a bit bare for the weather we're having. As was, I used just shy of two skeins of Mirasol Kutama, and I'm very happy with the fit and ease.
I added an extra eight rows at the start, immediately aftert he brim - seven of the ‘normal’ ribbing, and one cable row, cabling back. So from the pattern, I knit this part: 
“Work 6 (7) rows of P2 (3), k3, p2 (3), k9 Repeat from * to * to end of round. 
P2 (3), k3, p2 (3), k3, CL Repeat from * to * to end of round.” 
immediately after the brim as well as before the crown, creating three cabled crossovers altogether.
Following each of the first three decrease rows, I knit two rows working each stitch as it presented, rather than one, to stop the crown from becoming pointed.
To give a rough reference for size, as I knit it, this hat is a perfect fit on my dad (a 6’ man) and a pretty good, if slightly less snug, fit on me (a 5’6” girl).
These modifications are also available on my Ravelry project page.

This one was actually an October birthday hat rather than a Christmas hat. I really like how it turned out though! I've found most hats don't suit me since I cut my hair short, but I like how this one sits. I say "Maybe I'll make one for myself" pretty often, but I've bought yarn for this, so I'm a step further than I usually make it.

I discovered in searching for this pattern that the blog it's posted on no longer exists. PROBLEM. I think I'll remember it though. The Ravelry page is here, dála an scéil.

I knit this hat with Spud and Chloe Sweater that I found in a bargain bin. It was all one colour, so I thought it was just that one they were off-loading, but when I went back it was all of the shelves. It's a real shame, it's very soft and warm and not bulky and awkward. Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

As we can see, I have a weirdly-shaped head, a further argument against me wearing hats.

I had already made this hat as a Christmas present for a friend when she asked if she could commission a hat, so I just posted this to her. Because two hats would be decadent.

Pattern page here, Ravelry page here. I used a bulky yarn to make it warmer, and because I'd had a hankering to try out Debbie Bliss Winter Garden. I knit the extra pattern repeat because I thought the pattern photos looked a bit short, but apparently it's a bit long on my friend.

Pre-blocking, in the picture above, it only just covered my ears, so I was worried about the fit, but apparently I just have a large head, or hold others to unrealistic body standards.

This is the fourth time I've made this hat (twice for myself, but both versions have been repurposed), so I'm getting good value for the eighty cents or so that it cost me. This is for my brother's girlfriend, whose name is also Jen! When she visits she sleeps in the room beside mine, and we never know which of us is being called, and it's mildly entertaining. I've found it to be a bit small before, so I knit it on 5.5mm needles, and I'm happier with the resulting fit. I used Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky, but I think I could have gone for a super-bulky yarn - it looks a bit too lacy and gappy to weather a serious Winter. Pretty, though! (Sorry for the blurriness of the last photo, but I think it shows it off reasonably well if you pretend it's in focus.)

I'm currently re-knitting the llama hat, having given the original up for lost. My brother also lost the triangle scarf I made for him, so I have to make another one when I get a chance. Need to start something new soon!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pattern: Starfleet logo chart

This is the pattern I used for my Starfleet gloves a few weeks ago (or glove, I guess, since the other one was the X-Men logo).  I used chunky yarn knit tight, because I wanted the gloves to be snug, but as long as your gauge has the right proportions it should work out.

The PDF with the pattern chart can be found here.

This is how it turned out on the gloves, but it can be plugged into hats or scarves too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How-to: Rush-job scarecrow mask

Are you stuck for a Hallowe'en costume? Can you sew a button?* I've got you covered!  The photos are poorly-lit webcam quality, but you're running out of time, you can't afford to be fussy here.

Requires sack-like-cloth, twine, sheer black material, cheap brown and black eyeshadow or other make-up, scissors, darning needle.

1. Find some sack-cloth, or one of those reusable Bags For Life that looks sort of like sack-cloth.

Did you find one? You're doing so well!

2. Sew it to a more rounded shape that fits your head. Stitches can be long and loopy and messy - it'll just add to the effect. I think having the seam on the outside looks better, but you can turn it seam facing in if you prefer.

3.  Mark where you want the eyeholes to be, then cut eyeholes. Adjust as necessary so you can sort of see.

Really, if you do it yourself you'll probably need to adjust the size and positioning.

4.  Cut a slit for the mouth, and sew it up roughly and loosely with twine.

5.  Turn the mask inside out, and sew sheer black material over the eye-holes. (The edges of the black material will not be visible from the outside.) Again, stitches can be rough and messy.

Wrong side out...

Right side out...

Two dead soulless eyes!

Pro-tip: sheer tights are only sheer when they're being worn and stretched out. You will not be able to see though them in a dimly-lit room.

5.  Rub brown and black eyeshadow, or whatever you're using, onto the outside of the cloth. Check in advance that you have not bought sparkly eye-shadow (oops).  Rub the cloth against itself so it smudges and doesn't looks neat and symmetrical.

8.  Yay, you made a scarecrow mask! Wear with pride!


On realising I couldn't see, I did this with liquid eye-liner so that I could take off the mask without being entirely boring.

My costume! I borrowed my uncle's gardening trousers and wore an oversized men's top from Penneys. Ideally I would have had straw sticking out of the ends of the sleeves, top and mask, but it is pretty hard to find straw in Dublin.

*You know, I have no time for people over ten who can't sew a button (while possessing the physical propensity to sew a button, and having grown up in a house where buttons needed to be sewn). That's not being able to sew, that's a very basic life skill. It's like reaching adulthood without being able to make toast, having grown up in a house with a toaster.