Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for August, 2017

Knitting Code

Friday, August 18th, 2017

 

Recently I have been writing and editing a lot of knitting patterns.  I am always doing this anyway but this year there is Knit Camp and also we have had the busiest year of teaching ever, and because I over-cater, there are usually 2 – 4 patterns for each new event.  So this year I have so far designed 18 new things not counting Christmas which I have not started yet.  This is paltry stuff compared to the output of a Proper Designer with a Proper Yarn House – but I do not have the software to generate patterns and if I did, I would not use it.

Anyway, Dr Donna is pattern checking my Knit Camp designs and we are almost done with them.  However, there is one pattern that has a lot of ‘tech’ content and so we’ve been very focused on that.  *I write the pattern.  Kath and I and sometimes someone else knits the pattern.  We find the bugs, I re-write the pattern, rep from * to about 2 months later…then they go to Donna.  Donna edits them with pink notes.  She corrects my errors, she checks all the data, she re-measures and re-states tension, and she suggests style/wording edits to make it more accessible to the knitter.   As with many things, there are often several ways to express the same line of a pattern.  They all add up to the same outcome, assuming the maths is right.  So for example, you may get a line expressed with the use of * to end, or * to *; or it can be written in full; or you can have ( ) with a number after to give you the number of repeats.

Add to this our shorthand.  Tbl, k2tog, psso, skpsso, sl1, k1, psso, tog, M1, B1, rep, cont, RS, inc(s) C6B, TL, MB  and so on, with the punctuation and * and ( ) etc that goes with it.  As a new knitter (stretches hands back through the mists of time) I used to ask Old Knitters: why, oh wise one, do we have all this CODE?  why can they not be written in English?  And the wise one would say:  just look it up and shut up.  Fair enough.

This week Kath and I have been wrangling a Knit Camp pattern.  So there is Donna’s pink edit, then my blue edit with highlights and insertions to query points, plus hand-written calculations and notes in the margins.

Code

This sheaf of documents was on the table when Mark came in, bearing tea.  He looked at the notes.  He doesn’t touch them because he knows that there be dragons in these pages but he went as far as putting on his glasses and peering. And he said:

Mark:  Knitters would have made incredible code makers – or code breakers, like at Bletchley Park.

Me:  They would.

Mark (looking in some bewilderment at the many hues of type, the squiggles and the abbreviations):  I mean, this looks like a code.

Me:  Well, it is sort of.  There are lots of words in there but it is a stream of code that will equal a shawl, for example, when put into practice.

Mark:  I imagine the CIA would think it was dodgy…

Me:  Ummm…(think but do not say:  I bet lots of the CIA operatives are awesome knitters!)

Mark (warming to his theme):  They would assume it was a code within a code!  Cleverly hidden coding concealed in a knitting pattern!

Me:

Mark:  A plan to invade somewhere!

Me:

Mark:  A knitting army!

Me (putting down pen and rubbing eyes):  Where would we invade?

Mark:  Oh, I don’t know (desperate but brief mental search follows) – say, Japan!

Me:  Japan?

Mark:  OK not Japan.  Israel!

Me:  Surely, Sherlock, we’d be more likely to invade a country with a known excellence for goats, lamas and alpacas?

Mark:  Why?

Me:  Well, the knitting army would need supplies of fine fibres.  What is the point of knitters invading a fibre desert?

Mark: Ah. OK.  Peru…?

Me:  Peru is a peaceful land (I think).  So ‘invade’ is not really the right word.  Maybe ‘visit’ would be better.  ‘Visit’ and ‘go shopping’.

Mark (pointing at a long string of pink, blue and black ‘writing’ on a page):  Does this say:  the invasion is on tonight!  Prepare and meet at dawn!’

Me (reaching for the pattern):  Yes.  Impressive skills.

Mark:  What does it say?

Me (after short struggle with wish to make up some sorcery):  It says – and I am just going to copy and paste this now for you, dear reader as it will be quicker for us both:  Row 32 (WS): With B, P1, yrn, *p2, (B1, p1) to last st before next M, p1, SM, rep from * once more, p2, (B1, p1) to last 2 sts, p1, yrn, p1. (105 sts)

Mark:

Me (sensing his disappointment):  OR, in other words:  we strike at dawn! Operation Thumb Gusset is GO GO GO!

This satisfies him and he leaves.

Knitters would never form an army but if they did ‘organise’ it’d be for peace. It is sad that knitters do not run the world. Peace.

Winter is Coming…

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Zig Zag scarf 4

Without wishing the summer away, I have completed the design and knitting (almost) for the Christmas Gifts events in September.  These are the days that kick off the autumn term – and I can’t wait to get back to the workshops!  Having the summer ‘off’ enables me to focus on some other designing, notably this year finishing off the last two designs for Knit Camp and the Christmas Gift events in early September.

The concept for this teach is to produce some fairly easy (but not boring), and economical accessories – so none use more than three balls of wool, and none will take an average knitter who also has a job or a busy life, more than a week of evening knitting to complete.  For example, Kathryn can knit the hat pattern in one night; I can do it in two-point-five nights.  Kathryn can knit a pair of the mittens in two evenings; I can knit a pair in four evenings.

 

Zig Zag hat mink close up

This year I have taken one stitch – a zig-zag rib that looks like a little cable, but is not – and used it in both flat and round knits.  There are hats – womans (beaded) and mans; a split scarf; and a pair of mitts with a beaded peplum detail. I am really happy with the finished items and I will definitely be making some myself as gifts this Christmas.

Zig Zag hats collection

I love this concept, because for one thing it frees up the Christmas at Court Cottage events and allows me to just focus on festive decorations.  Also, mid-late November is possibly too late for you to make a few hats, scarves or mitts.  But early September is plenty of time.

The courses are both full but I have three names on a waiting list so if you are interested, let me know – we may be able to set up an extra date.

Zig Zag hats male edge

Another knit that would make a great gift-knit is my Brioche in the round cowl, which I am teaching again in Devon at Spin-a-Yarn (fully booked but I am trying to fit in an extra date or two) and also on 4 November, at the Totnes  ‘Stitchfest’ – more details on this will follow soon. I can accept up to twelve bookings for the Totnes gig, so contact the organisers if you fancy a place.  This is the same event that I taught here, but slightly abbreviated.

In the meantime, here is the split scarf for the September events, which I love and it makes me feel all Judy Garland in ‘Meet Me in St Louis’.

Zig Zag scarf 3

 

Allotment Up-Date: should I stay or should I go now?

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

I am well into year two of Project Allotment. This year has been much better than last in many ways.  First, almost no digging. Second, I have learned a lot and it shows in terms of how I plan things and how well they turn out.  Third, I have just about managed to keep the brassica cage free of cabbage white fly with the use of diatomaceous earth.  This is an organic dusting powder.  It is a faff to apply it and it isn’t 100% successful but it has made a big difference.  Last year, by now, the cage was infested, but this year they are just beginning to be obvious – so I have re-applied the DE.

I have maintained an organic approach – no pellets, no poison.  I do lose a bit of stuff here and there but I think it is worth it.

There have been failures.  The potatoes were poor.  Not worth the effort.  The carrots were also poor in terms of germination.  And I planted the squash way too close together so it is very crowded.

On the other hand, the kale and cabbage are 90% better, and I have had (and am continuing to have) amazing bean crops, good courgettes and interesting and delicious new squash types.

So, it seems a bit counter-intuitive to tell you, dear reader, that I am thinking of giving the plot up.  Not in October 2017, probably, which is renewal time.  But maybe at some point in the following year.  I have not decided for definite but I have it in my mind.  There are pros and cons.  As I am powered by lists, here is my pros/cons for giving up the allotment list:

Pros:

  • I find it incredibly time hungry, as it is very labour intensive and in spring and summer I do go to the plot at least 3 times a week, often more.
  • It is not inconvenient as it is only 1/2 mile away but that is an issue when pushing a loaded wheel barrow, or riding an over-loaded bike.
  • It is basically still trying to be a pasture field and so despite the efforts of the previous plot holder before he gave up a year or so before I got it, and mine, if you turn your back for more than 3 days, the bind-weed and other invasive, pernicious weeds just move back in and bring all their mates.
  • Someone has taken some of my Japanese squash – which are big and heavy, and some of the black French beans. These are not things birds could or would take.  That was upsetting. It won’t be anyone on the allotments or our local badgers who do steal fruit and sweetcorn.  But the field is not secure at all so I guess it is inevitable, sometimes. Jo has also had fruit taken and last year someone had his brassica cage vandalised.
  • It has really set off my always lurking OCD nerve. I can’t just cut the grass, for example.  I have to cut the grass and then edge the whole plot and then pick up all the clippings and then hoe it neat – this is just the edges.  I wish I could be more relaxed but I can’t.  So, it’s a bit obsessive. Obsessions are, basically, my one weakness.
  • I am very allergic to a lot and an increasing number of things and many of these are down the allotment.  I am bitten by all the insects despite my spraying myself with jungle strength insect repellent, and I react very badly to these bites, both at the site of the sting or bite and also all over. I am allergic to soil on my bare skin, so I have to garden in gloves – but I am also allergic to most gloves so I have to line the gloves with cotton gloves, soaked in E45.  Despite this, my hands are in an awful state.  (I think I am also becoming allergic to some animal fibres but anyway…). My new allergy is to the plants themselves especially courgettes and squash leaves, raspberry leaves and runner bean leaves.  Spiders bite me whenever I go into the cage even if I wear long sleeves and trousers, and then I get blisters.  To be honest, it is just miserable to be so allergic to my allotment.  The garden can, of course, set off reactions but rarely so extreme.
  • The garden is suffering neglect.
  • I worry about it if I have to miss a few days and kind of dread the return to what I know will be a lot of hard effort.
  • I am often very tired.
  • I have learned a lot and some of this could be translated into my garden here.

Cons:

  • I actually love my allotment and I am very proud of it. I know I would miss it terribly. It is often a place of great happiness and peace for me.
  • After all that work (and this is not a response I am proud of) I can’t bear someone else to just walk onto the plot and take it on.  Is the answer to let it go to pot for a few months and then quit, I hear you murmur?  Frankly that thought is unworthy of you and I am disappointed, I shall pretend you didn’t suggest it.
  • I have invested in some equipment but mainly the cage which I think I can bring home.
  • Related, I have a plan (very provisional) to turn part of my garden here into a mini-allotment. It is at the thinking stage only but I do believe it may have merit.  There will be a lot of work associated with this initially and some cost, but still, it would be a realistic alternative.
  • We love the food I grow.  I have not thrown money at my allotment and not really bought much at all, so it really is a thrift project for me which has given us so much produce that you just can’t buy anyway.
  • I might be able to go down to a half-plot. But you see, the OCD nerve would kick in then, if the partner plot-holder left his/her plot (joined onto my MY plot) in a state.
  • I am not a sociable person in any way but I have slowly and quietly made some very nice ‘acquaintances’ down there. But on the whole it is just me there and I like that.
  • Whilst it is very hard work, it is really away from it all as there is no internet coverage and very poor phone signal. So, audio books are marvellous for allotmenting.

What do you think I ought to do? Give it up, or keep it?  You are wise, advise me.