Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Open Letter to Printer Ink Manufacturers

Dear HP, Epson, Canon, et. al.:

Why is it that I could buy a new printer for less than the cost to buy new ink? Even refills only require 2 visits to pay for a new machine. What resides in those small plastic shells that makes them so costly? They are, after all, pretty low-tech. The thinking comes from the printer, not the ink, so what's the deal?

When I download a pattern from Ravelry or Berroco or one of the many blogs, I eventually want to print it and take it along in my project bag. Naturally, the best patterns have many photos so the stitcher can see how the object should look if executed properly.

So you manufacturers, please make 2009 the year that printer ink prices fall, just as the price of a barrel of oil has finally dropped to an acceptable level.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Marching to the Beat of My Drummer

I am rarely one to knit or crochet a pattern that "everyone" is doing. At the same time, rarely does a pattern become an overnight sensation just because I made it. Now, though, thanks to Robyn Chachula's wonderful pattern, Austen Lace Muffler, I have become a trendsetter.

Thus far I have crocheted three versions of this pattern, and they have become so popular that I'll be teaching a project class this winter. People who don't yet crochet have expressed the desire to learn, just to make this collar. I'll gladly make this for anyone who asks and gives me yarn - it takes only 2 evenings of pleasurable stitching.

The blue one is Malabrigo Silky Merino, one of my favorite yarns. It is soft and weightless and wonderful in the hands. The yarn was leftover from Belle Epoque, one of my favorite sweater projects from last year.

The purple collar is Baby Twist from Alpaca with a Twist, and Incas Alpaca. Soft and warm and purple. The Baby Twist is leftover from the Not Wicked Stepmother Cardigan.

The pink muffler is an old stashed mohair/wool/acrylic blend. It itches, and it's pink, and will probably be a gift for someone who likes pink and can wear mohair.

Thanks Robyn, for another great pattern.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Science & Math & Knitting, Oh My!

An MIT professor just published a book in which she recounts the stories of her students about the moment when they first came to science in a personal, meaningful way. As I was listening to the story on NPR I remembered my flash of inspiration in 6th grade at Horace Mann Elementary School. We'd recently had the first ever Earth Day, and I caught the fervor.

Electricity was the concern then, and we were all about turning out lights as the only remedy available. Until, of course, my eleven-year-old brain hit the scene. "Mr. Miller, let's just reproduce the chemical reaction that produces light in fireflies, put it in a bulb, and we have electric-less light." Presto. Just give me my Nobel Prize now, thank you.

What? What do you mean, how do we get all that magnesium? Trigger the reaction continuously? Fiddle-de-dee, I came up with the idea. It's up to you (a non-specified you) to figure out how to implement the idea. Don't bother me with the details, I have more thinking to do.

Then I remembered that, in fact, I had a scientific moment three years earlier, in Social Studies class. Our books illustrated how factories could purify their exhaust smoke to help reduce pollution. My hand started waving in the air, "Mrs. Wakeland, couldn't you take the purified steam and run it underground to heat the streets? It would stop the need for salt trucks, and there wouldn't be any accidents."

She encouraged me to write up my proposition in a letter to the President (my first of many to the Nixon family), and Steve Wisely (where are you now Steve? You gave me a beautiful May Basket that year which I've never forgotten) drew the accompanying schematic.

Sadly my brilliant ideas remained just ideas, but I kept my interest in science, and even harbored the thought of becoming a geneticist and curing disease (well, that is, if I couldn't make it as an actress). And then I met higher mathematics.

I was pretty good with basic arithmetic. I always needed pen and paper, but I could usually figure out the answer. When, however, math started including letters as well as numbers, I couldn't make the leap. I suppose I could if I'd really tried, but I lost interest - I might need to know how many are left when you subtract 84 from 156, but who cares what equals X?

Math was math, science was science, and the twain didn't meet soon enough to make a difference. And real life applications didn't enter the equation at all (pun intended).

And then came knitting.

I first became aware of the math of knitting in the 1980s at The Knit & Needlepoint Shop. Charlotte could take any pattern, or photo, or idea, then take your measurements and gauge, and write out the directions in less than an hour. Her patterns always fit perfectly, and yardage was spot on. It was a sad day when the shop closed.

I had to do the math myself, and to my surprise, I found I could do it with reliable results. Sure, every once in a while I err, but mostly the math prevails. I still use pen and paper, and bejewelled calculator I inherited from my mother. If truth be told, I use the calculator even when I don't need to (I still remember my times tables), just for the pleasure of touching the sparkly jewels and remembering my mother trying to balance her checkbook!

I could make my own patterns, just like Charlotte. I designed a sweater for the Ravelry Knitting Olympics,

another for my not-at-all-wicked-stepmother,

a hat that requires you to do math, and countless modifications of other patterns (pun intended again).

Now that I'm undaunted by the math, maybe I'll go back to the task of saving the planet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Care-full Knitting

The Greater St. Louis Knitter's Guild has a popular charity knitting program - almost anything one could want to knit will find a good home thanks to the dedicated volunteers. Hats for newborns, kids and chemo patients, squares for rescued animals, and clothes and blankets for families in need, all come from the talented needles of the Guild membership. Generous people and businesses donate the yarn, so the members simply have to knit.

I participate by knitting baby/child hats, but I must confess, my reasons are not particularly lofty. I do it because I can, because it's quick, and because I can knit something I personally don't want to use. As I said, not very idealistic. But my sensibility has been raised by a comment from the Guild Vice President for Community (read charity knitting).

Our current VP, Pat, may have inherited the title of nicest woman (title was previously held my my maternal grandmother until her death a few years ago). I don't imagine Pat has ever had a catty thought or spoken a harsh word about anyone. Almost all her knitting these days is for children, and for charity. Last weekend she was agonizing over a row of decreases that didn't live up to her expectations. Everyone told her it looked fine (which it did) and that the recipient likely wouldn't even notice.

A while later she made a comment to me: Maybe a parent won't hit a child while wearing something I've knit - they might like it if someone compliments their child's appearance.


I haven't stopped thinking about that statement. I cast on a few more hats, and plan to do a few sweaters, not just because I can, but because maybe she's right.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tragedy at Target

Who knew that a plaintive "Sweetheart, I'm out of shampoo" could lead to such heartache?

With a light heart I dropped him off at work, and set out to shop at Target. I even remembered the gift card that I got during my last shopping trip because I bought 2 packages of Charmin. The sun was shining, and I didn't anticipate crowds. Then the world turned upside down.

I pulled up to the parking garage, but the gate was down. Horrors! One might say, "But rms, it's okay, since it's cold outside and the sun is shining, your car will stay warm by parking outside." One would be correct, of course, but one would be missing the point entirely. The real reason to go to this particular Target is to use the shopping cartscelator.

Even if I only purchase 1 item (not that I'm capable of purchasing only 1 item, anywhere) I would use a shopping cart for the sheer entertainment value of sending it on its way down the specially invented escalator. It just never gets old. Yet, today I didn't get to experience that joy, that thrill of seeing something so frivolous but so perfect, that childish excitement of witnessing something cool.

Dare I say, the shopper missed the target today?