28 April 2007

Five for pentagons

The general rule on starting any centre out polygon is that you start with two stitches per polygon side, knit one round plain and then begin your increases. That's how I wrote them up and that's mostly how I actually knit them. I say mostly because whenever I knit in the round I usually add one extra stitch and knit it together with the first stitch to join the round.

The problem with the general method is that you end up with a bit of a hole that you later need to snug up and the size of the hole and the "snugging" factor can vary.

Another cheat I use is to start with a couple of rounds of icord to give a more secure start than the fiddly bit of trying to work with a small number of stitches at the outset. If the icord is the same yarn as your finished item you can end up with a bump that isn't quite what you had in mind witness the nipple flower. Sometimes you can make that work for you, but not always. I mean, it's great for a beret but not so hot for a sweater front.

So my latest thing is to start with the one stitch per side, knit into the front and back of each stitch (transferring the cast on stitches onto dps as you go) and then I knit one round knitting into the back of the increase stitch to reorient it correctly before starting my regular increases.

This gives me a very nice start without the nipple effect. The geometric pentagon below was worked on size 5 US needles with knit into front and back increases every third round.

26 April 2007

Logs, lulls and links

Most mornings when I check the activity logs for my web page, the majority of the hits are for the San Diego yarn shops or local knitting events/groups pages. That focus and the relatively small number of hits is not a big surprise and reflects both the whole reason for the web page (promoting knitting in San Diego) and my low to no profile on public knitting forums.

When the logs started showing more and more hits related to shadow/illusion knitting, I added a small free starter chart to make the search engine result more rewarding and meaningful.

My knitted wire torsos have occasionally turned up as avatars and links in very odd places. Sometimes the links are fleeting and other times the blog or forum becomes a regular and familiar entry.

I can also always count on some additional seasonal traffic when I'm pretty much the only game in town when searching for knitted dreidels.

When I first mirrored the polygon seminar, I was pretty active on the old kbth and other lists so although I saw spikes in activity, the web page itself was pretty active.

Since I'm less active on lists and forums those spikes are a bit more of a surprise especially when I haven't done anything to bring attention to myself, my web page or my blog.

From time to time the polygon pages get attention from either a knitting forum or a blogger and I see a little more activity there but when I ran the logs for the 25th, I was initially convinced that the number reflected a problem with the server and not a spike.

But no, the hits are all about being mentioned on the Knitlist and what is either a lemming must click response or a genuine hunger for additional knitting information and inspiration. I'm not making a judgement either way but I'm going to try to at least be inspired to blog a bit more and use the additional hits to promote another San Diego knitting event which is the upcoming Stitch n Pitch game at Petco park.

Local or visitor, baseball fan or not, if you're a knitter, crocheter, stitcher, hand spinner, or if you've always wanted to learn, mark your calendars for 22 July and be part of the action.

And if you're feeling competitive, crafty, and not pressed for time, check out craftzine.com's Stitch n Pitch design contest -- how about a shadow knit symbol of your team loyalty?

22 April 2007

Switching swirls and revisits

All of the swirl polygons in Mary Thomas and in my Positively Polygonal online seminar have the increases at the start of the polygons' sides. This makes the swirl clockwise (aka to the right).

Making the polygon swirl the other way really is as simple as putting the increases at the end of the polygons' sides. This lets you mirror your polygons for a less directional and more appealing look.

While the shift from start of sides to end of sides is a simple enough thing, the actual knitting can be a bit fiddly (meaning markers and rearranging stitches on the needles are important) especially if you're using the three needle and knit with a fourth I used in knitting heptagons.

My recent pentagon projects have me revisiting the number of stitches to cast on for each pentagon and how to work the first three rows. More on the starting changes and the fiddly knitting involved in switching the swirl direction when I've better light and more photogenic yarn on the needles.

When designing with polygons it is often helpful to draw things out to see the possibilities but don't trust the drawing completely. Knitting is one of those areas where often the math says one thing and the knitting says another.

In just fiddling about with a 12x12 square for a one day contest (and free admission) to the San Diego County Fair, I'm finding that a design I abandoned as impossible based on drawings is looking not only possible but very promising.

Other rethinking and regroup news means that my runagogo round 2 (still unrecorded) mileage is up to 51.5 miles which is well off the mark of where I'd hoped to be. Worse still, the events of the last few weeks had me backsliding a bit on diet too so I've had a bounce up that needs to be corrected before day job deadlines make the effort even more of a struggle.

21 April 2007

Climate Control?

One of the few actively on the needles that is not an intended for publication piece is a gorgeous mohair bit of fluff that has been pretty much kicking my knitting ass from the get go.

Artful yarns Broadway collection in the Unsinkable Molly Brown colourway just seemed so right for a certain someone in Cleveland who was a bit cool over the jewel tones of the still seeking a home moebius from December 2006.

I carefully calculated and and charted Milanese Lace for knitting in the round rather than flat as given in Barbara Walker's 2nd Treasury. After fits, starts, gnashing of teeth and plenty of tinking, by Stitches West I was about 1/3 of the way toward completion when something went wrong and the diagnosis eluded me.

Sadly, it is still in the same state. So what's with the climate control subject? Well, the stalled smoke ring in question is slated to snuggle the neck of a special Cleveland resident and it seems like every time I've had a significant Cleveland connection the Cleveland weather is in endless Winter mode.

Back in March, during an alum event, I joked with the CWRU contingent about how perhaps I could end the bad weather there by finishing this smoke ring, Magical thinking I know but how weird is it then when the Indians' home opener a month later is snowed out?

Oy, the guilt. But the smoke ring's still not growing. Sorry Cleveburg and tribe loyalists but the project is still in the bottom of the knitting bag.

On another baseball note, the first TNNA sponsored Stitch n Pitch for 2007 hasn't happened yet (6 May Arz Diamondbacks at home against the NY Mets or Cinci Reds against the Colorado Rockies). The details of the San Diego version are still in the works but let's just say that if you're goig to be here on 22 July think about marking your calendar and taking your needlearts out to the ball game with like minded crafters.

13 April 2007

Taxing times

A fundamental principle of good tax planning is to avoid paying as long as possible without incurring a penalty.

The idea is to not give the government an interest free loan of your hard earned cash but to let the cash work and grow for you during the same time frame.

If you receive a large tax refund, you've either failed to learn this valuable lesson or you just happened to be in the right state at the right time and got a refund based on a budget surplus.

In my experience, most people either don't grasp this concept or don't have the discipline to be able to set the money aside and be able to write a larger than comfy cheque to the government.

In recent years, I've become a bit less concerned about letting them have that interest free loan and I've pretty much let the front loaded withholding process define whether I receive a refund or write a cheque.

One of the reasons is that I don't have a large amount of self-employment income that I want to have on hand to let me make the purchases/investments I need to grow the business these days.

So I've become a bit lazy and my only real tax puzzlements are how it is that one year, without my doing anything, I owe California and another year I don't. I've just come to accept the idea that I probably won't know which way the money's going to flow until I sit down to crunch the numbers.

When my mother died I was a bit concerned about having extra taxable income arrive in a year when I'd already had a bracket bump as a result of a healthy profit sharing amount. Besides, I wasn't in any huge rush to file paperwork since to me that sort made it all much more real.

In late 2005, I finally stopped procrastinating and filed the paperwork so that the payout would happen in early 2006. On the first pass, the insurance/annuity company failed to with hold for California. I noticed the error and since I know how much fun the folks at the Franchise Tax Board can be, I contacted the company and after a bit of telephone hell, explained that they had messed up and that I would be bouncing it all back so they could do the with holding.

The correction took a couple of months and I'm pretty sure that I had no paperwork that would have clued me in that all was not well. That said, it was all happening about the same time I was a bit consumed with trying to save boy cat Maka's life.

2007 dawns and, per usual, I did a run at the numbers based on the original paperwork and a notation I had about the percentage that should have originally been withheld for California. My calculations showed that I'd owe so I was in no rush to file before the deadline.

When I assembled my paperwork and couldn't find anything beyond the initial paperwork and my notes, I contacted the company to ask for validation and copies of any missing paperwork.

I wasn't dead keen to put my head in that lion's mouth since last year's please make this right campaign was pretty much telephone hell.

But last year is nothing compared t this year's special experience. Not only was it telephone hell the end result was beyond anything I could imagine. When they went back to fix the original mistake they didn't fix it, they compounded it by not only backing out (read not paying) the original should have gone to the feds amount but also, for bonus pain points, calculating withholding due to both fed & state only on the income growth between the initial erroneous payout and the 2nd.

If your eyes are glazing over by now and you're trying to grasp just how bad this is on a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 25. Had it all been as I thought, I would have been comfortably within the fundamental principle of good tax planning (despite another bracket bump from profit sharing) for the feds and dice toss on the California side of the house. As it is might be okay with fed, but I'm not having warm fuzzies about California.

And, oh yeah, I'm in day job deadline mode.

06 April 2007

Sedentary Tendencies? Say it ain't so

A recent Knitter's Review poll asked readers whether they knit while taking walks.

Given my domain name, blog name and proclivity toward walkabout knitting, I was curious.

When I saw the actual poll I was a tad disturbed to see the choices and the associated number of votes.

The choices were
  • Absolutely not. It's logistically challenging, dangerous, and not all that appealing.
  • I could, but it doesn't appeal to me all that often.
  • Yes I do!
  • Not yet, but it's one of many knitting-related skills I hope to acquire.
Now, in order to view the results, you have to vote. So every time you check to see the results, you change them by voting which means the results are a bit skewed but I was shocked to see that when I last checked, the 1842 votes broke down with the vast majority either selecting the first two choices.

876 knitters (47.6% of 1842) voted that knitting and walking was logistically challenging, dangerous and not appealing.

Twaddle, I can knit lace while walking about 3mph and I'm a klutz.

558 knitters (30.3%) are capable of walking and knitting but don't.

That's nearly 80% voting for sedentary knitting. Yarn manufacturers rejoice! With that sort of attitude knitters will surely need to buy more yarn to cover their sedentary selves.

The number of walking knitters is a seriously paltry 8.5% or 156 knitters (and I know it is skewed high since I voted at least twice).

The wannabe walkabout knitters figures in at 13.5% or 252 knitters.

Compare this bit of polling to the folks participating in the mark our mileage challenge at Runagogo. My round 1 mileage was actually 155.5 miles not the 145-146 reported when I last updated. My round 2 totals are a bit lower than I'd like them to be but I'm gearing up and getting motivated.


02 April 2007

Sporadic Spinning

Last month when I walked to the Shepherdess and back before trekking down to The Bonita Knitting Store, the point of the exercise was to pay for the class I took on Saturday the 31st.

For a long time I've described myself as an ex-spinner. There are people who say that's impossible because spinning is addictive and once you start down that path you can never stop -- twaddle. I start, I stop, I start, stop and start again in somewhat random cycles.

The spin cycle had been dormant a very long time when, several years ago, I took a workshop on hand spinning -- more precisely finger spinning silk hankies. In that workshop I found that I could spin very fine silk but that finger spinning rally ripped up my fingers.

Shortly after I was seduced by a couple of beautiful spindles from New Mexico (Rod Stevens's Woodchuck Spindles). My actual spinning success was not so great. Sometimes I spun very fine and sometimes I just dropped and then I just dropped the effort.

But this time I have been Tylered and so this time the spin cycle may just take.

So what, you may ask is being Tylered? It's Margaret Tyler and there's a fairly good chance that if you learned to spin in San Diego County you may well have learned from Margaret. Her classes at Grossmont Adult School (like the knitting ones from Charlie Hada & Athena) are a wonderful bargain and a real delight if you can fit them into your schedule. I can't so I was quite happy to pay a bit more and spend the day in the classroom of the Shepherdess trying to get my spin on with a spindle.

The spindle, a bottom whorl (which just happens to weight 1.25 oz) was part of a spinning kit packaged up by the folks of Louet.

The other spindles in the picture are my two Woodchucks (the also 1.25oz Laurel and the support sans bowl). The stuff that looks like a tangled mass is actually my (and Auntie PITA aka Margie's) last effort at making yarn with the Laurel.

If you missed it, can't do the Grossmont bargain option, then listen up and take heart, Margaret's going to be part of the Shepherdess class line up and Louet spinning wheels will be in stock at the Shepherdess by the end of the week.

Central San Diego spinning sources -- see the Shepherdess and get inspired.

Saturday, I was a spinner, not a great spinner, but a spinner. By Sunday, not so much but I was inspired to haul out my small stash of roving and at least try to get a lead going on my Laurel. Today, I'm convinced that the cotton I've used for the lead needs more of its own twist to be really responsive but I'm back to spinning fairly fine yarn on my non-support. I can't quite decide whether I'm better drafting with my left or my right hand so I just alternate.

I'm not inspired enough to haul out the silk hankies and fire up the short support spindle and I'm a long way from being a walkabout spinner but I think I'll keep the spindles loaded and keep at least poking at it from time to time.

Shepherdess has, in recent years, been returning more and more to its initial fibre focus but it is still a formidable source for another dangerous hobby -- beading.

Worse still it is next door to Lost Cities which is where I spent quality time and legal tender on Saturday after class. Between Lost Cities, Shepherdess and Amonite I'm pretty locked into beading triangle.