Friday, September 24, 2010

YAY! 1,500 page views to our little blog!

We started our blog on August 9, 2010. A lot of time & effort has gone into letting people know we are here & inviting people to share in our fun. It is very satisfying that we've already been visited 1,500 times in this brief time! Thanks for stopping in! It may not sound like very many, but we've been reassured by those who know about such things that this is very good progress for such a short time online!

It is generally slow progress to get a blog going. No one knows about your blog. No one knows you are writing a blog. A bunch of people don't follow blogs. A bunch of people don't even know what a "blog" is! Even for those who do know what a blog is, that follow a blog or two, know that you are writing a blog... and care... the beginning stages of developing a blog tend to not be particularly exciting... or abundant. Which leads one right back to the "generally slow progress" observation with which we began.

"Blog" is basically a contraction form of "web log"... a kind of public diary written online. In its earliest incarnations, a blog was primarily a personal online journal, frequently created to help long-distance friends and family stay in touch in a more personal and fun way. They generally included lots of photos of the grandkids and nieces and nephews and happenings of you and your family's excursions and hobbies and such. These photos were accompanied by (hopefully) pithy and amusing notations telling the story details of said photos.

The thing about blogs – in their infancy – that made them better than phone calls and regular emails were that they were supposed to be updated frequently and were intended for the general public, or at least to be shared with as much of a specific public as one chose to share ones blog. The format included a series of posts, restricted to a single page presented in reverse-chronological order... newest post first.

All blogs are intended to represent and reflect the personality and key interests of the blogger. As such, although there will tend to be a distinct overall flavor to any given blog, there are no guarantees that you won't come across a post of philosophical observation, or social issue commentary, or personal screed of some other sort from time to time that may feel a bit "off topic." So brace yourself. Blog posts, (particularly our blog posts), may be liberally peppered with links to related topics and references elsewhere on the web.

The problem for bloggers, generally, is that, unlike email that the blogger would send to people with whom they chose to communicate, the blogger must find ways to entice others to voluntarily submit themselves to the ramblings and cogent diatribes on subjects of interest to the blogger. This means, first of all, the blogger must consider the content and presentation of content by way of presenting something of interest to people outside the skin of the blogger. Additionally, said blogger must bother to post something with sufficient frequency that anyone interested in following them will not be repeatedly disappointed with stale content, interesting or otherwise.

Blogs have grown up in many ways and now you'll find blogs by businesses & other enterprises, governmental & political blogs, social blogs, instructional blogs... and there are still those who maintain a blog to stay in touch with friends and family. We have direct links to blogs we find specifically interesting, relative to the kinds of things we talk about here, under the "Roving Elsewhere..." sidebar on the right side of every page. We would not hesitate to recommend them for your consideration.

Our blog is intended to create a sense of friendship, to provide a measure of social interaction, offer instruction & support along the way, hopefully give one a giggle from time to time, and to share a little of ourselves in ways we hope our readers will find entertaining and worthy of checking in on a regular basis. We first chose to start a blog to share crafting information that we find on the internet and/or create ourselves.

So, expect to find, in descending order, the following kinds of info on our blog most often: knitting related information; crochet related information; other fiber related information such as spinning, felting, fingerloop braiding, etc; other crafting ideas and how-tos; our gardening exploits and resources we've discovered. You will also find occasional stories about our pets and other critters, home decorating discussions, and posts about beading and painting and sewing and cooking/food... almost anything related to home & family. As we are both just beginning to venture into design to one degree or another, we will be offering pattern designs... some free, some for purchase.

You may follow us a number of different ways:
  • Obviously, the first way is to simply come here to our blog page via a bookmark in your browser(s) of choice.
  • If you have an iGoogle account, add a GoogleReader gadget to your iGoogle homepage or add our blog address, <>, to your GoogleReader. You'll find our new posts there as soon as they are posted.
  • If you are on Facebook, consider adding the "NetworkedBlogs" app and follow us via Facebook. You can also click on the link to NetworkedBlogs via the "FB Trackers" in our right sidebar. This is a great way to follow the blogs of other friends on Facebook as well.
  • We have a Roving StarPoints fan page on Facebook. We'd love to have you friend us as a fan there which will ensure you get a note when a new blog post has gone up. You can quickly get to our fan page by clicking on the Facebook sidebar icon under "RSP FB Page" on the right side of every page.
  • If you have an Amazon Kindle, you can subscribe to our blog which will be automatically downloaded to your Kindle when we blog a new post. If you don't have a Kindle device, but would like one, (Elianastar highly recommends Kindle), we'd love for you to link to Amazon via our Book~Shop and consider purchasing one from us. If you purchase one via our Book~Shop link, we will receive a small referral fee from Amazon, for which we would be profoundly grateful!
  • If you don't have a Kindle but would like to subscribe to our blog, you can download a free Kindle App for your Windows PC or Macintosh computer, Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry or Android phone. We have a direct link to learn more and download one or more of these apps in the right sidebar. We receive a pittance for your subscription on Amazon, but these days, every little bit is profoundly appreciated. 
  • If you are a member of Ravelry, feel free to friend Elianastar's Profile where you will find a direct link to our blog in the upper right of the page, and links to specific posts at the bottom left.
There may be other ways, of which we are as yet unaware. We keep our eyes open for as many different avenues to make accessing our blog as easy as possible. If you know of other ways of which we might be interested to link to our blog, please let us know.

In the meantime, we truly appreciate the time and attention you give to our blog and particularly appreciate hearing your thoughts and comments. Please don't hesitate to let us know you stopped by. If you have thoughts or ideas about topics you'd like to see us write about or comment upon, we would be particularly interested to receive your suggestions!

With our appreciation,
Roving StarPoints

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 2010 UFOs, WIPs, & DIP...

Alphabet soup. It has been a difficult year for me, personally, and I find that I am feeling overwhelmed by all the things I've started, all the things I've wanted to start but couldn't see my way clear, and a number of designs I'm either working on or have in mind yet.

Which has created my alphabet soup: UnFinished Objects (UFO), Works In Progress (WIP), and Designs In Progress (DIP). My only good news in this would be that all three of these are the same things! That makes things just a bit less overwhelming. The other good news is, most of the projects are very, very, close to being completed. At which point, I'll begin the process of getting the patterns written up so they can be tested and checked by a tech editor, etc.

I have a great project that is at the top of my list to finish... but I can't even give you a hint what it will be. Sorry, but it's just such a great idea I want to keep it "under wraps" for now. Well... at least, to me it is a great idea. Even if no one else likes it, I can't wait to finish up the design and pattern so I can submit it for consideration to Knit Picks Independent Designer Program. If it should not be accepted, I'll make it available for sale via this blog and Ravelry.

I've got a pair of short-finger gloves in which the core of the pattern is done. I've only got to knit up the fingers in the first glove and make sure the "mirror directions" for the other glove is right and knit that one up. Then I'll be able to finish writing up the pattern and begin the process of prepping necessary before unleashing a pattern on the world.

I've finished the foundational design on a pair of child legwarmers and my granddaughter is getting a little impatient for me to knit the second leg so she can wear them to school soon. I've resigned myself to the reality that the prototype pair will have to be reknit again for submission cuz there is no way a five year old will wait for the rest of the process to be complete for grandma's end plan.

I've got a cowl that I've made a number of for my own use and as gifts for the past several years, but I'd like to write it up into a pattern because I think lots of other people will enjoy the process of making it as well as using it. I've not made a decision on the best Knit Picks yarn to use for the design. I've used Lion Brand Homespun in previous incarnations, but I'm anxious to "upgrade" the design from an acrylic-based yarn and translate the design from a bulky yarn to something lighter. I've made the design in the past in both crochet and knit, and will eventually make the knit and crochet design available using Lion Brand Homespun because it is such a great, fast, project for gifts and I rarely wear any of them without a compliment before I'm back home.

I've also already purchased the yarn for a felted bag pattern to design and write up. It is gorgeous in my head! I'm still toying with the best way to design the "picture in my head" into an actual project others will like to make too.

And I've not even mentioned the other projects I have in mind for myself that will probably become patterns too. One thing I'm learning about designing projects for others to make... it is a lot more time consuming than just making something for myself! I tend to knit and crochet the way I cook: a recipe is just the place to begin. I may or may not use all the ingredients in the recipe, and I may or may not use any in the amounts prescribed. There is an excellent chance I'll bring my own sense of flavor to the finished product. Which means, unless I take careful notes as I go, I won't be able to recreate exactly the same thing myself and neither will anyone else. Which isn't a problem if it is not my goal to create a new recipe, just something to eat. Designing a pattern for someone else to recreate, requires a lot more attention to detail and thought about how to word the directions so a stranger will comprehend accurately what they need to do to get the same results. Whew! That's not nearly as easy as you think when you aren't really thinking about it. 

I wanted to start Wendy Knits Shetland Pi Shawl KAL, but another swarm of migraines and feeling guilty about the other unfinished projects have pushed that back. I've got the yarn and had already decided to make a Pi shawl of some sort, so that is still on the agenda. Perhaps, if there are a sufficient number of followers when I get to a place to start it, we can do it together. I hope to start it before the end of the year, but I probably need to be realistic that holiday knitting is just around the corner and I may not be able to start it as soon as I'd like.

I also want to start knitting socks before the end of the year. I've purchased yarn to make a few pair for my BearMan and this is primarily why I want to learn to make socks. I've got a bunch of sock yarn that I've been collecting, a little here, a little there, for almost three years. I also have designs on attending the Sock Summit in Portland, OR in 2011... so I best get to knitting! I want to have the basics down well enough that I can "pick the brains" of anyone willing to teach me their secrets and show me their tricks.

Basically, this has been a confessional. I'm hoping this will motivate me further to stay on task, wrap up all these projects, and get them in the queue towards completion and publication.

Please feel free to mitigate any of my consternation about my failure to be further along on my projects by sharing your own frustrations about yours. Heeheehee. "Misery loves company," right?

Joy in the journey,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Series ~ Why Swatch?... Dimension, Part One

The reason most often given to "swatch" is so that one can assure themselves they will "obtain gauge" with the yarn and size needles or hook prescribed for a given project. If you are new to knitting or crochet projects... and for far too many who are not... this exercise seems like a complete waste of time, not unlike washing dishes and making beds. In other words, if it gets done, great... if it doesn't, oh well. But, the truth is, swatching... done properly... serves many useful purposes, and as bizarre as it sounds, saving time, is actually one of the best. Swatch. Odd word isn't it? In the arena of "tmi" (too much information), the word can be traced back to 1512, meaning to "countercheck a tally," and later from 1612 it came to mean "a tally attached to cloth sent to be dyed." But, by 1647, it was simplified to mean "a sample piece of cloth." So, a swatch is intended to be a characteristic prototype of the fabric you will create with this size tool and this weight and texture of yarn. For the crocheter or knitter, this specimen is most frequently referred to as a "gauge swatch." This is where the time saving comes in. You create a sample fabric of sufficient size to accurately measure how many stitches per inch you will get, which directly translates into the final measurements of your project. It is the "accurate" part that is most important. If your swatch is too small, relative to your needle or hook size and the thickness of your yarn - particularly - you will not obtain an accurate measurement of stitches per inch... gauge. You create a sample swatch so that you can accurately gauge what your finished dimensions will be. Depending upon what your project is, the gauge part of making a swatch may be more or less critical. In terms of size, if you aren't making one thing that has to fit another thing in a specific way, one might be inclined to think a swatch isn't all that important. If one is making a washcloth or scarf or baby blanket, for example, there probably won't be a major problem... in terms of size... if your gauge swatch is off a couple of stitch counts one direction or the other. It isn't going to matter all that much if the finished project is larger or smaller so long as it is not dramatically so. Not "getting gauge" for these projects will matter in one of three ways more than any other:
  • you will either not have a sufficient amount of yarn to make the project the same size as your pattern dictates, or,
  • you will have yarn left over in an amount you didn't expect; (there is no such thing as "too much yarn," by the way), and,
  • your fabric will be more "stiff" or less "stiff," (have a different "hand" or "drape"), than it was designed to have; "hand" = the tactile feel of, texture; "drape" = manner of hang, flow, loose folds
You determine your gauge by creating your swatch then measuring off one to four inches from the center of the fabric, and carefully counting off (tally) the number of stitches... and portion of a stitch, fractions matter... that you have within your marked off section. Some suggest that three different sections of your swatch be marked off, measured, and then average the total of the three sections for the most accurate gauge measurement. (Add all three counts together; divide total by three.) This may be the only way to get an accurate gauge measurement with some yarns and some stitch patterns. Later in the series, we'll look specifically at the process of checking gauge with a swatch. In the beginning, I'll be focusing more on the theory involved in swatching. This number of stitches per inch is the "gauge" listed in your pattern and usually on your yarn label. Sometimes you will see it referred to as your "tension." These are not exactly the same thing but you will frequently see them used as interchangeable terms. "Tension," however, also relates to how tightly or loosely you work your stitches and although this can have a significant impact on your stitch per inch count, it is only one aspect of your gauge. The material your knitting needles or crochet hook are made of, and the yarn you are using with that material, also affect your gauge. For example, using the same yarn with slick metal needles or hook can render a looser gauge than the same yarn with wood or plastic tools that provide more resistance to your stitches. How comfortable you are, and how confident you feel, also affects the tension of your stitches and therefore, your gauge. If you are calm and not rushed, you may tend to work more loosely than you might when you are stressed and in a hurry. Some people who have been crafting for a long time have told me they try to assess their state of mind before sitting down to work, check their gauge after working on a project for a while, and once they've calmed themselves with the project, will have to change to a smaller or larger needle or hook because their gauge has changed too much. Particularly when working on a garment, this change in tension can affect the finished size of the project and the way it fits. If this description fits you, take that into account when you pick up your project. Do you have stories to share about not doing a gauge swatch... and wishing later you'd taken the time? What about a story where doing a gauge swatch caused you to realize there was no way this particular yarn would ever give you the results you expected for this project, based solely on the fabric characteristics you saw in the swatch? Is your gauge usually pretty close using the same size needles or hook recommended in a pattern? Or do you generally have to go up or down one or more sizes to obtain the same gauge? Do you find you get a different gauge depending on the material your hook or needles are made from? And/or, do you find the fiber your yarn is made of affects your gauge? Are there any other factors that you have become aware consistently affect your gauge that you could share? It might just solve a mystery another reader has been puzzled by. Next episode, we'll continue the issue of Dimension relative to gauge swatches. We'll also talk about ways your swatch can change after you've done the bind off... Joy in the journey! Elianastar
Additional comments may be found at the Knit Picks Community Etymology: swatch:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Swatch Series - Introduction

Feelings about swatching tends to be a rather polar topic... if you know what it is at all. The goal for this series is to define and explain what a "swatch" is and all the ways it can make your yarn crafting better... and more fun. Yes. I said, FUN. Most think of swatching as a chore to be avoided at all costs. It "wastes" time and yarn," the naysayers proclaim. Even though few things are less true, some make adamant declarations that it is better left undone and you'll be just fine if you give this advice a pass. It is my intention to encourage you to consider an opposing opinion. Some have learned just how valuable swatches are... even when they aren't actually working on a project. (huh?) It is my goal to place you firmly into this category by the end of this series. Set your misgivings, (or disdain), about swatching aside and give me an open-minded hearing? At least consider the varied uses for swatching and try some of them, sooner rather than later? After the Swatching Series is complete, we'll explore other ways to play with yarn and needles and test out new stitch patterns. Whether you prefer to knit or crochet, swatching is an important part of the creative process. Done properly and completely, it can save time and material... not to mention frustration and grief. This is just a teaser of things to come. I'm not entirely certain just yet how many segments this series will have, as my goal is to keep each segment to a reasonable length, but it appears right now that there will be at least four in the core series. To assist in making this series as useful as possible, I'd love feedback regarding the following questions: What are your feelings about knitting or crocheting swatches? Do you usually make gauge swatches before beginning a project? What issues have you had because you did or did not swatch before starting a project? Are there other uses for swatches that you've discovered? What case would you make against swatching before beginning a new project? Do you have any other thoughts or misgivings about swatching? Can you make a good case for swatching? Do you have any "I should have swatched first" stories you'd like to share? Joy in the journey! Elianastar
Additional comments viewable @ "To swatch or not to swatch..." at the Knit Picks Community, or @ "To swatch or not to swatch..." at the Knit Picks Lovers Group on Ravelry if you are a member of Ravelry. (Both are free Communities)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

But who is Adesinacat?

::sneaks in the backdoor, trying to not be seen:: Yes, Virginia, there is another person who contributes to this blog. I am a busy mom and it is hard to find the time to sit down and blog about my knitting. I will try to post every now and again, and get photos up. Gotta love life. A little about myself: As you will see, I have two names in my user name. The other one, Constance Wyatt, is my SCA name. What is the SCA? The SCA, or Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. is "an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our "Known World" consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.” In other words, I am a geek. You know the song White & Nerdy by Weird Al? Yeah, not that bad, but there are days where it is a bit too close to home. What I do in the SCA is mostly heraldry. Think "family crests" which really, there is no such thing. You can inherit arms from your parents, but unless you are the Queen of England or some such status, your arms are completely your own. So, please, don't pay for those "family crests" stuff you see unless it is for a Scottish clan. As far as I am concerned, those are just scams unless they trace your genealogy at the same time, showing you the paperwork that proves that you are related to that person, and even still, that doesn't mean that you own those arms and... See? I told you I was a geek. I am mostly what we call a voice herald. See, there were no PA systems back then, so they counted on people trained in being loud. I am just one of those people. I have a pin (well I had a pin; keep losing it) that says "I left my inside voice at home." Most people tell me I don't have an inside voice. I do. I just don't use it very often. Anyways, if you would like to see my geek blog, you'll find it Here. Back to knitting. I am just starting to knit again. I tried knitting years ago and loved it, but couldn't find anything or anyone that could show me that I was twisting my stitches, how to decrease and other such stuff that you need to know to make something more than scarves in garter or stockinette stitch. This was way before YouTube or Ravelry. Also, the cost for yarn was out of my price range. Also before Knit Picks. Yes, there was acrylic yarn, but acrylic yarn makes me itch. Even the really, really, soft stuff. I know this cause I got two very soft, acrylic sweaters for christmas one year. I remember sitting in my second class in high school and itching so bad, I had to call my mom to please bring me another top cause I was going crazy. I have to wear a shirt under the stuff. Now, I have a ton of places to turn for help. Including my mom who took knitting up again after I quit. I say that she started back up cause of me, but she denies it. ;-) She is the reason though that I started again. While waiting for her to pick out what knitting books she wanted at a local book store, I picked up the books she was getting and started to drool of the pretties in the book and kept stating something along the lines of "mommy, please knit this for me and I will love you always," (big cute eyes were added too I think.) After I think the fifth (or was that thousandth) one just that day, she told me that I need to start knitting again cause there was no way she could make all the stuff I wanted her to make for me. I had been saying no cause money is still an issue so getting yarn is still an issue. I also wanted to keep to more "period arts," (yes, that is my nose in the air), so that I can do them at SCA events. But wait. Knitted socks are period. And so are hats? And sleeves? And bags? Well what the hell am I waiting for! I guess those old hand-me-down knitting needles will not go to waste after all. And my mom is a yarn whore, junky, addict, collector and was willing to share some of her "and remind me why I bought this(?)" yarn. Yes, mostly acrylic, but I wasn't going to wear some of the stuff I made. I have made a few things. A bag, some scarves, a pair of fingerless gloves, but mostly small stuff. I like mobile projects. Stuff I can grab and put in my, on the small side, purse. I have a bunch of stuff I want to make. Now just the time to sit and make them. AdesinaCat (on Ravelry. What? You don't have a Ravelry account? It's FREE!) Note: I have am not the best writer, and am a horrible speller. Yes, I do know the difference between then and than, but that doesn't mean I always remember. If you see bad spelling, please just ignore it and giggle. I'll bet Elianastar will try to make some corrections for me. (yes... she did.) :-)