Knitting Olympic Podium

February 28, 2006

If you were wondering how it all wrapped up and love to laugh, go see the Yarn Harlot. (Something about being told to wear my medal to the grocery store still has me laughing while reading work email and standing in line in the cafeteria.) Since very few will make it down a hundred comments to mine, I thought I'd repeat it here:

Thank you, thank you to:

-Stephanie, for not realizing how big your knitting tribe was, and for giving us all a reason to be inspired and join in.
-The wonderful support team, for backing her up when she realized what she'd started.
-Everyone who knit. I have had more fun explaining what I'm up to, and having people send me articles, and hearing them explain the scale of this whole thing in baffled/awed tones to their friends. This was neat. Rock on, blogging knitters.

And the gold medal is lovely. :-)

Posted by: susan at February 28, 2006 03:19 PM

Here's to fun challenges, the knitting community, and the summer olympics in aught eight.

Olympics: Closing Ceremonies

February 26, 2006

The sides are kitchenered, the ends are woven in, and the whole thing is laid out in all its Olympic glory for a wet-blocking to tone down that wicked curl. :-)

Finished specs were:
Pattern: My variation on the Cascading Diamonds Scarf from Knitting with Beads
Yarn: 3.5 skeins of Tahki's Cotton Classic, Color 3424 (Red)
Beads: Size six. 1.75 vials of light pink, nearly 4 vials of dark pink, and 3.5 vials of red.
Finished dimensions: 62" by 7"
Total days: Sixteen.

Whew! And thanks to the wonderful Yarn Harlot for providing the online knitting world with such a great challenge. I've loved reading about what people chose and the progress they made, seeing the teams form, and being involved with something so large and *cool*. This has been so fun -- my knitting is rarely so directed and purposeful, and I was delighted at how quickly it all went when I made it an evening priority.

Olympics: Day Fifteen

Here's the progress heading into the final day:

The scarf is definitely long enough at this point (woah! crazy!) but I'm still knitting so that the diamond pattern matches up when the two sides are joined. I still have 8/11 of a diamond and 2/3 of an in-between-section, plus kitchenering the two sides together, weaving in ends, and blocking. I definitely think that I will finish, barring unexpected catastrophe. (commence knocking on wood.) :-) I noticed a slight problem (aka mistake... oops.) in the knitting an hour ago -- since I forgot to add the top diamond on the edge beading of side one, it is about four stitches narrower than side two. Luckily, I noticed it early enough that I have time to decrease unobtrusively at the edges before the join.

After watching movies last night, I've decided that the TV was slowing me down, so today I've read The Da Vinci Code and the first part of Harry Potter #6 as background, which has been lovely. Nothing like a good book.

I can't wait to be done. This has *not* been a boring experience in the least, but I am looking forward to seaming the cable sweater, and knitting wrist cuffs for my very cold office at work... I'm been maintaining focus, but I'm looking forward to both the achievement and the freedom of being done!

PS. I take back all of yesterday's comments about my suspicions regarding Kevin as the reluctant support team. He bought groceries and made dinner, all without even reading the blog. I stand completely corrected. :-)

Olympics: Day Thirteen

February 24, 2006

What *is* it about speaking too soon? No sooner had I written my "barring disasters" line than I got a very tight knot in the yarn when I tried to string the beads. I worked on in for about 45 minutes, then gave up and went to bed. When I showed up for knitting on Wednesday, Janell was deeply impressed at what a mess I was making, and Diana tried to rescue me from myself by telling me to just cut the yarn and restring the beads. She even gave me a threaded needle to use in place of the wax. Bullheadedness ultimately won out, though, and I was able to unwork the knot (after only a half hour) and continue knitting without breaking the yarn. Since I was in the middle of the beginning bead trim, it would have been so obvious if I had tried to weave in ends on a single stitch-wide line of knitting.

Here's the progress after watching the women's short program and free skate:

The hope is that I can almost finish this ball tonight, so that I can reassess the length. I'm also blocking side one tonight. Then, hopefully, I can finish knitting tomorrow and block side two tomorrow night, in time to be grafted on Sunday.

I can't believe that I have a shot of finishing!

ps. Does anyone remember the cute, cute little kids in Lillehammer who skated around in their fuzzy costumes and collected flowers, then presented them to the skaters? I was describing them to an entranced Kevin (haha), and told him to Google for pictures. Brainwashed by Microsoft, he used MSN instead. He didn't find any photos, but no matter how he structured the query, Yarn Harlot came up first.

pps. Clearly counting is not my strong suite. I knew that we had sixteen days for the Olympics, and I knew that we started on a Friday, but somehow I *really* believed that tomorrow was the final day. So, you can imagine my glee when I realized that I actually had two more days left to knit! What a gift!

ppps. For those who didn't confuse the end date and need a relaxing image, here are the clownfish, whose biggest worry is whether the person taking pictures will decide to feed them. (She did. They looked so pathetically hungry. Clownfish are the golden retrievers of the sea.)

Unfortunately, I am not so pampered. :-P While I haven't quizzed him on it, I can guess Kevin's reaction to my request that he become my beck-and-call knitting support team for the remainder of the weekend.

Olympics: Day Eleven

February 22, 2006

Barring a nasty accident where the yarn somehow snaps, all of the beads are finally strung! Laying out and stringing the second side took about four hours last night. I didn't manage to knit a stitch (or post progress, for that matter) since I've been trying to get to bed earlier and it was already past midnight by the time I finished. I made the mistake of starting to lay out the beads in the living room, so I was stuck watching ice dancing rather than the skiing and ice skating and snow cross that was saved on Kevin's Media Center. You can imagine my disappointment when I realized that moving many, many 100s of carefully laid out beads was impossible. How dumb. I loved the Russians' music and thought they were fun to watch, but I like the jumps and lifts of pairs skating better. Though I did have to laugh at the announcers when they were doubtfully eyeing the girl from the third place pair -- the top half of her costume, for those who didn't watch, was two white pasties with fringe. Apparently the rules dictate that the costumes must be athletic in nature, while still embodying the spirit of the dance and music, and the announcers thought that this was crossing the line a bit.

After the ice dancing was the team ski jumping. I never realized how technical ski jumping is -- I guess I just thought that not that many people would be attracted to hurling themselves off of one of these jumps and so maybe it was just luck? I guess I didn't think it through, but even if I had I didn't realize what a smart sport it is. And I love the team aspect of it. When I used to swim in high school, one of the most exciting parts of meets would be when you'd be on a relay team and someone would "pop a swim" and all of a sudden push the team into the lead. As a middle of the pack swimmer, I always loved the idea that if it was you this time, you'd get out of the pool with a completely different perception of yourself. Such potential. Last night, there were a bunch of people jumping who had the shortest jumps on their teams going in and then jumped so well out of nowhere. It made me so proud of to watch them go from the weak link to the person who opened doors for the team -- very cool.

Olympics: Days Six Through Ten Roundup

February 20, 2006

Hmm, it didn't take long for the daily Olympics status updates to go by the wayside, did it?

I have vague excuses: new job tuckered-out-ness, went swimming for the first time in two years (wow, I remember myself being speedier than I am now! A basic 2000 in 45 minutes never used to be this hard!), read Memoirs of a Geisha, Who's Teaching Your Children, and started the Mists of Avalon, and watched way too much Grey's Anatomy...

The tulips finally stopped being pretty, so I don't have them to jazz up the knitting anymore. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture for Day Six, since I spent way more time talking and eating than knitting at Eastside Stitchers on Wednesday night. After a bit of (real) Olympics and six episodes of Grey's Anatomy on Thursday night, I had this progress to show, as measured against some of the day's mail:

I had to use my cell phone to combat the rolling enough to take a picture. I'm worried that blocking may not be enough to subdue it.

Days Eight and Nine also didn't manage to end with progress pictures, so instead, I'll show you two pictures of plants:

On the left is the strawberry plant that I was afraid had died -- and now it's flowering! I'm pretty sure the flower won't turn to fruit because I don't see how it would be polinated (that *is* necessary, right? I'm a little weak on my indoor botany...), but I'm so happy with all of the leaves and the new bloom. This plant has been making me laugh because it's so desperate for light that all of the leaves are plastered flat against the window glass. I finally turned the pot this morning in the hopes that it will straighten itself out a bit. The plant on the right was the demo crocus that I bought for Kevin. For a smart kid, he has some major gaps in his world view, which include not being to able to ID Canadian geese and most spring flowers. We sorted out the geese thing a few years ago, but the crocus issue has been an ongoing problem, so I finally broke down and bought a nearly-flowering plant from the hardware store the other day. (Then, when I decided it wasn't thriving as an indoor plant today, I took it out to the back porch and realized that one of my planters had crocus leaves budding in it!! I planted a bunch of very ill looking bulbs last summer, after trying to force them out of season, just in case they'd turn themselves around. Now it looks like they're not only still alive, but they've spread. I can't wait until they bloom and I can see what color they are!)

And then, tonight I *almost* finished the second ball of the Olympics Scarf! I was planning to do this scarf with four balls, but after two, here's the length compared to my plenty-long Branching Out, which I'm reblocking:

Woah. Looks like three balls will be perfect after all, which means that I may still be able to finish in time for a gold medal! (If I still had two balls left to knit at this point, the Olympic "dream" would be more of a delusion...) Knit on!

Olympics: Day Five

February 15, 2006

Here we are on day five, and I am desperately close to finishing ball one of four:

(What *will* I use for props when the tulips finally give up the ghost?)

I strung enough beads for eight diamonds, which has proved to be way too many. This realization should make things move a lot faster on the second side of the scarf, since I won't have to pause every few rows to move the beads out of the way. At knitting tomorrow, I'll transfer three or so diamond's worth over for ball two, which shouldn't be as onerous.

I stopped using paired M1 increases on the final diamond in favour of knitting on both sides of the stitch, and I'm much happier with the result. My early diamonds were a little bit skewed to the side. I never thought I'd see the day when M1 wasn't the magic fix!

And now, again, I cut short for bed. Too much Olympics-watching for the girl who is now expected to be at work by 8:30 am (eek! What happened to 10ish?).

Olympics: Day Four

February 14, 2006

We just got back from the weekly Brown dinner (this week's theme was the seasonally apt "Aphrodisiacs" -- fun) and it's very late, so I'll just quickly flash today's progress:

Wow, huh?! I'm very happily surprised so far with the amount I've been able to knit each day -- I thought my knitting speed was a lost cause. The fact that this is nearly all stockinette certainly helps, but given that the simplicity means that I can watch the Olympics without issue, I'm very happy with the pattern choice.

Olympics: Day Three

February 12, 2006

This is a bit more like it, progress-wise:

I seem to have forgotten three beads and the entire top center section while I was stringing (oops), but since I'm adopting a loose, serendipity-driven attitude towards this scarf, it's okay. I think that the beads will lie flatter once I block the yarn, especially since cotton is so malleable. I'm very happy so far with the pattern shaping around the beads. I did add a two stitch purl every other row on the edges, to try to prevent them from rolling as much as they would if I stuck with stockinette straight through. It seems like a wild oversight by the pattern. So far, the two stitches are rolling under, but the rest is staying flat, which I can definitely live with. I am also adding a sprinkling of beaded diamonds up the length of the scarf for a bit more visual interest -- I finished the first one tonight.

In other news, tomorrow's the first day of my new job! :-) I'd write more, but I ought to get to bed...

Olympics: Day Two

I made a bit of progress yesterday, but didn't actually start knitting until well after dinner. Instead, I made progress on two projects so that I could get them folded up and out of the way before my job starts tomorrow. First, I finished redoing the sleeves of my purple cable sweater and wet-blocked it:

I know a lot of people don't like wet-blocking wool, but I needed to widen the cable sections, so it seemed like the best option. In general, I find wet-blocking much more effective than spritzing or steaming.

Then, I finished up the sky squares of the quilt:

I'm pleased with the way they came out, but I'm not completely sewing it up yet. I think I may end up adding another row of sky squares underneath the two pure blue ones. It would be a mix of the light blues used in the blue and yellow squares plus two or three of the medium blues. I think it may make the transition work better. I'm waiting until I have more of the quilt done, though, to decide if it would work proportionally.

And finally, here's the scarf progress:

Right now it looks a little bit Vegas, but I think that once I'm past the beads it will look more subtle. I'm pretty sure it's just having *all* beads that's making it so gaudy/brilliant. It looks better in daylight than it did last night.


Olympics: Day One

February 11, 2006

The Olympics have begun! I didn't watch the opening ceremonies, due to general busyness, but Ginger, Jessie and Kevin came over for a movie night, which meant I had a (captive) audience while I was stringing beads! They look remarkably cheerful, given the circumstances:

I ran the yarn through somewhat melted wax in the morning, so by the evening it made a reasonably hard "needle" of the end of the skein. I doubted the wax would work, so I also tried using nail polish. The nail polish made a hard point, but it didn't compact the yarn the way the wax did, so it was too big to get through the beads. The wax worked perfectly. Lesson learned.

With the needle, I was able to go row by row though the beads I had laid out. Laying them out and stringing them took nearly three hours and about four vials of beads, with a break in the middle for the movie.

I cast on and knit two rows (that's 36 stitches total, for those counting), then decided to call it a night. The total status is that I have one end and two diamonds worth of beads strung, all four skeins of yarn wound into balls, and 36 stitches completed. I'll need to pick up the knitting pace. Since the progress isn't particularly stunning on its own, I took the for-the-record photo with my gorgeous tulips from my afternoon jaunt over to Pike Place Market.

Oooh. :-)

Today's progress

February 08, 2006

A quick post before I head off to knitting... I spent most of the afternoon working on my quilt. The strips have been decorating the bedroom since the summer (which, if you consider it, was actually quite a while ago -- how time flies, especially for interrupted craft projects). For those who no longer recall, here are links back to my inspiration and fabric, my self-designed pattern, and some early progress. I've spent the day listening to NPR and working on quilt squares. I've made it completely through the yellow -- my first color to cross off! These "squares" are actually longer than they are wide, because I'll be cutting them in half to seam to blue squares. I just have to make four long blue squares and then I'll be done with the sky.

I happened to finish just as the light outside was turning pink, so I took the camera up the hill for a quick sunset photo. It's not going down until 5:30! Progress!


Vacation knitting

February 07, 2006

Last night, I finished the second front for the cabled sweater, which means that with the exception of the collar, all of the knitting should have been done. However, there were a few nagging details that needed to be addressed. First, the original pattern called for four buttons. Despite lengthening the body by nearly double the original pattern, I still kept the four button design. However, my math was way off when I decided how far apart to space them. (Assuming that I even did math to begin with? I don't remember, I may have just more or less estimated where they should go, which would explain a lot.) Rather than reknit, I just pulled back the three stitches involved by about eighty rows, then used a crochet hook to redo them correctly. The whole process took about an hour, and untangling the mohair to rip the stitches down accounted for at least half of that. I was surprised how easy it was to rework them. I usually have trouble ripping down adjacent stitches because it's hard to make the tension even on the redo. I think the fact that it's 1x1 ribbing helped a lot.

Here's a during (left) and after (right):

Clearly this isn't blocked yet. Isn't it amazing how much yarn the three stitches consume? When stretched out, it was nearly two inches. It seemed amazing that it all got used up again when I crocheted it back up.

Then, this morning, I reveled in the first of four days of unemployment before my new job starts (yay, vacation!) by going back and taking a look at the sleeves. They've always looked to be slightly different sizes, and sure enough, I had missed a paired increase at the elbows and omitted about 15 rows before the sleeve cap. Must have mentally wandered off there, huh? So now my "finished" sleeves look like this:

Luckily it's all easy quick stockinette, so with the bulky yarn I should be done knitting (again) by tonight barring further mishaps. :-)

DIY Sump and Refugium update

February 04, 2006

(Apologies to the knitters: this is all fishtank plumbing. I squeezed it into one post, but it's *long*. So if you're looking for sweater updates – it's nearly done! – or even pretty fish pictures, don't bother reading. Come back tomorrow. :-) )

After several false starts and misdirections over the last many months, we're finally getting very close to a sump and refugium for the main tank. We originally wanted multipurpose one tank in the bottom of the double tank stand for both purposes. We had a second 55 gallon tank, but it turned out to be too tall for the stand (argh!), so we sold it and the original wood stand to eastside-stitcher-Amanda and Brian, who, I'm happy to see, have put it to great use (love the cat...). Since we needed a tank that would be shorter, but still fit the footprint of the 55g, we decided to split the sump and refugium (technically ideal) and use a 40-Long for the refugium. We finally found one that didn't need to be back-ordered, and for the last two weeks, I've been installing baffles for water flow control and a custom-made sandbox for a 6-8" deep sand bed. It will also hold macro algae for nutrient removal. The refugium will, ideally, make our tank healthier since we'll have a greater volume of water and an increase in natural filtration. Also (appealing to us since we've had three week+ vacations in the last four months), it will be more self-sustaining when we're away, especially from an evaporation standpoint.

My "vision" for the refugium was to have a compartment on the left that would house the return pump, a compartment on the right that would receive input water from the sump and contain a thermometer, and a large center compartment that would hold the deep sand bed and macro algae. I delineated the right and left compartments with hanging baffles (13" tall plexiglass panels fastened to the top of the tank by drilling, and secured at the sides using silicone. Then, I constructed a sand box by making notches at the corners of two more 13" high plexiglass plates, and connecting them via four long inch-wide plexiglass strips with notches at the ends:

Once this structure was assembled, I could silicone the end plates to the tank walls as well. I was afraid that just baffles without the supports wouldn't give the structure enough strength to hold the sand in place. It's not completely sand-proof at the bottom (there's about 1/8" gap), but so far seems to be holding the 4" bed well, and as long as we keep the pumps more than two inches away (which they will be, by design), it doesn't appear that we'll have problems with erosion.

I've been working for the last few days to fill it with salt water and (so far) two 30 lb bags of sand. We're using "select" sized aragonite substrate (one up from "sugar" size). As usual, I seem to have "won" the job of washing the stupid stuff a bucket at a time. For those who have never had the pleasure, the sand that comes in bags in fish stores is also full of dust, clay, and assorted detritus that makes it extremely milky when you add water. The only way to get rid of the cloudiness is to wash it (preferably before adding it to the tank, but otherwise via endless sand vacuuming). We learned this the hard way last summer after dumping a bag into our second tank and then waiting four futile weeks for the cloudiness to subside, before the fish store told us to start vacuuming. Each bag contains about 4 partial buckets of sand, which in turn take at least 10 rinses, leaning over swishing around the stuff underneath the tap in the tub. Once the water runs clear, it can be added to the sand in the tank. After two hours of work on Sunday, I have nearly an inch of sand bed, and I made it through another three or so inches on Tuesday night. Needless to say, there's a lot of work left, and we've run out of the sand we had on hand, so there will need to be a fishstore trip for two more bags.

The second part of the setup is the new sump, which is a box that holds the protein skimmer. I designed a very small plexiglass sump that would sit on a table next to the tank and be a way-station on the path down to the refugium. Tap Plastics cut the plexiglass for me, but refused to assemble it due to liability (I shouldn't have mentioned the phrase "fish tank" – argh again!), so last weekend found me in the kitchen getting weepy off cement fumes while assembling the following:

The glue is magical: it's liquid and goes everywhere, so you apply it using a bottle mounted with a hypodermic needle, then you wait five minutes while it chemically bonds the two pieces of plexiglass. Shockingly, given that I was using phonebooks and old calculus textbooks as my supports, it's all at right angles and looks, if not professional, then at least like it will hold water. Unfortunately, I got a bit ahead of myself in installing the middle partition, since once it was in, there was no way to install the "out" bulkhead. So, in classic two steps forward, one back fashion, Wednesday night found me taking a hammer to the lovely panel, installing the bulkhead, and re-glueing the center partition. It's not as pretty as it was, but should (fingers crossed) still be functional and strong. (Such a pity, really, that glued plexiglass isn't as easy to undo as knitting... at least hammering is satisfying and I didn't completely shatter it.)

My plan for the sump is drawn below. The only thing we plan to house in it is our skimmer (a wonderful EuroReef ES5-2, powered by a cheap Rio pump.

If all goes according to plan, this design will not flood the place if the pump and overflow box aren't perfectly in sync. Our current solution of this, bred out of desperation after so much travel recently, was to overfill the sump and tank, set up a drip to combat evaporation, and know that even if the power went out, the water would end up in the tub and not all over the floor.

Ideally, I will make it to home depot for the last PVC part and two more feet of flexible tubing tomorrow morning, and can get the old sump deconstructed before people start showing up at 2 for the Superbowl. (eek) And then ultimately -- hopefully in the next week or so -- we will add our extra live rock (about 15 lbs, currently residing in the quarantine tank), add some live sand (filled with worms and tiny starfish) from the top tank, and plant some algae. Once that is all taken care of, then we'll be looking for a new little yellow tang, or possibly a lawnmower blenny (aka, according to Kevin, the "Homer Simpson fish").