Friday, April 27, 2007

Odds and ends and comments on comments.

There've been some good questions and comments the last couple days that deserve some followup.

One was a question on blocking socks and ribbing and other really stretchy things, and was there any point in it? My first thought is, I wish people would quit using the term 'block' when what they're really doing is 'wash some knitwear and lay it flat to dry'. It's not YOUR fault, it's the fault of all these books and designers. They're always going on about blocking your knitting, and really, unless you're doing lace or something else specialized, it's really an uncomplicated wash. So in other words, there's no point in blocking most things and I don't bother. Just wash and lay flat. (Remember, washing wool is like setting your hair. Not laying it out when you dry it is a lot like going to bed with your hair wet. Not. Pretty.) I'm not wild about sock blockers - those two dimensional foot-forms that people put washed socks on to dry - mostly because they put ridges in the top and bottom of the sock, and stress the fibers along thosse ridges. But to each their own. You like sock blockers, use sock blockers.

As for superwash wool and how it gets that way, well, it's usually considered 'proprietary information', meaning industrial secrets. Each wool mill has their own methods, I suspect, but they're all variations on the glue or burn. Both processes are PROBABLY done in the form of some kind of chemical bath that's part of the dye process. I'm guessing, but it's the only way I can come up with that's cost effective. Incidentally, if your superwash feels sorta stiff or crunchy, it was probably glued; if it's loose and slippery, it was probably burned. But as always there are variations on that.

Thank you all for your concern over my blood pressure; I'm back on my medication, having confirmed that a weird problem I was having IS caused by the medication. Namely, the BP meds make my asthma worse. Very freaky (though most BP medications mess with vascular tissue, and your lungs ARE vascular tissue, so now that I think about it, it's not THAT weird), but definitely confirmed. My asthma was better, and within four days of re-starting the medication, I'm up all night coughing up a lung. So I get to ask the doc for something different. Whee.

I hadn't realized that charts created such strong feelings, but I shouldn't be surprised. I think the prefrence between written out directions and charts hinges on that old right brain/left brain deal. I see it manifested in all kinds of other directional-type things - written directions vs. schematics or maps - so it stands to reason people would have the same prefrences in knitting. (In fact, once I hit on that idea, I realized that I prefer pictures/maps/schematics for EVERYTHING, not just my knitting.) I'm trying to think of a way to do a chart tutorial for left-brain people, but I'm not making much headway. (Headway. Get it? I Crack myself up.) I'll do something about reading charts soon, though.

If anyone wants to think about it and then drop me a line, let me know if you see a sort of general theme to your own directions prefrences -- do you prefer all charts (not just knitting) or all words? Anyone? I'm particularly interested in those who prefer written-out knitting directions and how they prefer other kinds of directions like how to get somewhere or how to put together something. I appreciate any and all input on this one.

I appreciate the suggestions for Knitty articles, ALWAYS, but unfortunately Knitty articles already exist on chart reading and blocking and yarn substitution. Theresa, of Techniques by Theresa, has covered them. (In fact, her tech articles are the reason I don't usually submit truly tech articles to Knitty -- no need to re-invent the wheel or step on toes.) However, I AM considering a 'charts for left-brain people' article, if I can come up with something truly helpful. Guess who gets to be my test audience?? (And just for the record, I like left-brain people. They keep the right-brain folks like me from starving while we think Great Thoughts.)

What am I reading?? THIS:

It starts in prehistory and ends at the Tang Dynasty, an era of history I'm sad to say I know very little about. (Damn Ohio public schools and their bias about western civilization.) I'm enjoying it immensely and am staggered to find amazing art from very early periods that looks NOTHING like what I think of when someone says "Chinese Art." Anyway, I want to knit ten million sweaters, kimono, and jackets based on what I'm finding in this book. It's a Barnes and Noble publication, so you can only find it at their book stores, or here.

The end is in sight for the Steeked Jacket. (Fear not, I am taking photos.) The closer I get to the end of anything, the faster I knit and the more enthusiastic I get about the project. So I may actually manage an FO for April. No swooning.

Now if you'll excuse me, my child seems to be stuck in a box. Hahaha.


Regenia said...

I might be mid-brained. I prefer things verbally in outline form. You know: A.1.a.I. Most of my friends are English and Communications people and I've been told I prefer things this way because I have a very scientific vocabulary and don't understand flowery language. This is the point when I normally pull out every applicable term I've learned from Word-a-Day. Anyway, just thought I'd throw out a third option.

Cynthia said...

First, I would like to say that I really appreciate your article, "Color To Dye For" in Knitty. I too have young children. I am planning on dyeing yarn for the first time soon (when I find some time) and your article will be my guide.

Second, your article led me to your blog of which, I thoroughly enjoy. It is very informative and for a novice knitter like myself, your blog has become one of my favorite knitting blogs. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge. Furthermore, I enjoy your blog because you too, are a knitting mother of a small child and we know how challenging it is to find time to knit.

Last, I am a chart person (I put so many things onto Excel spreadsheets at work. I can just see things better that way). However, I enjoy good instructions, expecially ones which supplement charts. Also, when it comes to instructions, having visited many knitting blogs and looking at people's patterns, I have noticed that sometimes things aren't explained thoroughly and/or they are written for intermediate knitters (and beyond) and I have to do research on how to do the techniques in order to interpret/follow the patterns. I hope that this feedback is in the realm of what you are looking for.

Lynne said...

For the most part, I'm a map/schematic type person, who thinks the directions for assembling IKEA furniture are among the most brilliant on the planet. Oddly, though, I prefer written out instructions for knitting. This may well be simply because that's how I learned, and I've not done any knitting in the past 10 years, which is when the charts really became common. It took me about 3.5 nano-secs to learn and appreciate and LOVE the Japanese crochet charting, so I suspect that it will be the same with the knitting charts, when I get there again. I just recently took up knitting again, and have completed 1 (one) hat, and am casting on later today for my first pair of socks in my new knitting persona.

Amy Lane said...

You know, I taught myself to knit and crochet, and now that I think about it, it took BOTH illustrations and words...

But then part of my general anomalous nature is that my right brain and left brain work pretty synchronously... Seriously--I need both...if I look at a chart, I find myself chanting the directions to make it verbal...if I look at verbal directions, I find myself closing my eyes and visualizing to understand it...


Donna Lee said...

I definitely prefer written directions, charts make me cross eyed. I guess I prefer written road directions to maps, too. By the way, be careful when you wash the Baby's clothes with the stickers. I washed some sticker infested clothes once and lived to regret it. Somehow the adhesive stayed on the cloth....

Louiz said...

My textile love during my teens was tapestry (and a tiny bit of cross stitch) so charts hold no fears for me (after you've made one of Alice Starmore's celtic tapestries (where the charts from that celtic book she didn't use in the knitware book she did were used), with 50 colours and each stitch a different one to the one next to it there is no fear so long as you don't lose the key!) but I can use either - if you want someone to translate chart to text drop me a line.

Anonymous said...

hi --

i haven't done enough stitch patterns to have an opinion, but i do have a question about dyeing:

i have 5 skeins of white worsted that are at least 25 years old (can you say 'packrat"?) and i want to experiment with egg-dye on them.

however, they are marked "mothproofed," and i have no clue whether that would affect their ability to take up the dye. do you know whether it's a potential problem?


ellen in indy

michellenyc said...

maybe if you tell the left brained folks that it's like binary code - except instead of 0 and 1 the is O and / and all the others?

charts ARE all written out - they are just written out in a different language! left brain people like software coding, right? so - they should think of charts like that maybe

Bells said...

I was thinking about the chart issue just recently.

Obviously, for the steeked jacket, a chart is the only way to go for the colourwork so I cope with that just fine, probably because there's no way to really do colourwork from written instructions - can you imagine it, one black, two white, three black - ok that might not be so ridiculous.....a chart would save a lot of writing.

But when i was working on the monkey socks it was the first time I really had a choice between written instructions or a chart. Both were provided. I tried the chart but my eyes just went funny. I simply couldn't make my eyes focus on where i was up to.

So I went back to the words and have made several monkey socks happily from written instructions. It feels somehow safer.

That said, I'm following a chart now for the Mariah jacket and it's ok - but really it's just a couple of cables every few rows. It's not a complex chart.

And I just read Amy's comment and have to say, her approach is what I do, I just hadn't thought of it that way til I saw it written down.

Anonymous said...

I haven't done much work with charts, but I am enjoying it more every time I do it. I like charts when using different colors, but like words when using one color.

I hate maps and need words when driving.

I also call myself directionally challenged. I have no idea where north or south are and get lost all of the time.

When you post the pictures of the steeked jacket can you also show the inside? I am doing my first multi colored item and the back looks yucky. Lucky for me its a pillow so no one but me will see it.

I missed who won the contest, can you add that to your blog?


Julie said...


I'll draw a name this weekend.

Knit*Six said...

I used to like having all my knitting patterns written out in words--same thing for driving directions and other instructions. But that's gradually changing. I think part of that is my work with an Information Architect, part may be due to my husband's evolving role in newspapers (from content to design/graphics), and part is probably just my love for visual arts (doing and looking at). As for knitting, I liked words until I used my first EASY chart. It seemed complicated (crochet charts still freak me out), until the pattern emerged, and suddenly it all made sense. I'm not averse to patterns that have both, but now when I see a words-only pattern I'm always disappointed.

B said...

I like charts and written out patterns. For me, it depends on the pattern. I think I lean more towards charts for colorwork and written out words for lace. When I took a test for my strongest learning skill, it was very strong verbal/listening. So maybe people should record patterns and then people can listen to them. If I'm stuck on a pattern, I always have to bring it in to the LYS, so someone can tell me how to do it--knitting on dpns, how to knit socks, etc., next up intarsia. Then I'm fine, but I have a hard time teaching myself anything from books.
Just outta curiousity, did your daughter fall in the toybox? My son did that the other day and his little legs were sticking out the top.

B said...

I am commenting twice in a row, sorry, but I was wondering if you could make a tutorial on how to get the idea of a pattern in your head onto paper. I have tons of ideas, but making them go with math involved and stuff is intimidating. There must be other people like that, too, right?

Dana said...

It depends on the project. For lace or cable work where there really isn't a repeat (i.e. Nora Gaughan Shell Tank), I prefer charts and using my magnet board. I like to have the key on the same page for reference. If it's not there already, I make a copy, shrink it, and tape it to the same page as the chart. For items that are 4-8 stitch repeats over the course of several rows, I like verbage using the acronyms because after one repeat, I usually have it memorized. Good question!

CoffeeLady said...

I haven't read blogs in a few days and see that there still isn't a dull moment at your house! A broken toe? Ouch! And still struggling with meds... Yikes! I do hope things get better in that area. Baby's still cute! :-)
Knitting instructions: I find that "American" written instructions are too detailed, even with charts. I think it makes the instructions more complicated and confusing. European instructions have the opposite problem, sometimes not enough details (these assume you've knit similar projects before and know what to do next). I'd prefer something in between with emphasis on charts.
Thanks for the WD40 suggestion! (I still have residue from my last sticky pads!).

Malin said...

I definitely prefer charts, both for colour patterns and for lace, because I can see what the piece is supposed to look like and what stitches should be on the rows below. Still I think it is a good thing to have both charts and written directions, at least for beginners. I used the written directions to learn how to read the chart on my first lace project not so long ago. But now if there is a chart I don't bother with the written stuff, I loose my way among the words too easily.

Soo said...

Personally I go for the overkill method - particularly for directions. Give me a map and a list of landmarks and I am far less likely to get lost!

In terms of knitting, I haven't tried charts yet as I grew up with written instructions so they don't take much effort, but charts do look fun so I'm sure it's only a matter of time...