Sunday, November 06, 2016


[ In Esperanto ]

This post is admittedly horribly late. But it's been bouncing around in my skull for a while, so I thought I might get it out there.

In the interests of encouraging on of my co-workers, who is Muslim, I observed Ramadan with him. By "observed", I mean that I fasted during the day, and I knit some hats for refugees as a part of the charity aspect. No visits to the mosque or any other activities. But I came away with some impressions:

  1. Not having food sucks.
  2. When you don't have food, all you think about is food. It is tremendously difficult to be productive.
  3. I still cannot imagine what it would be like to not only go without food, but to do it without the certain knowledge that as soon as the sun goes down, you can eat. So, given that it's difficult to be productive when you do know you're going to eat, I can only surmise that it would be even more difficult to be productive if you didn't know when you'd be getting your next meal.
  4. Multiply this by 1000 when you're worrying about a family.

Lack of regular access to food is, therefore, a barrier to success -- both physically and mentally. It's a form of oppression. And if you have to spend all your time acquiring food and the materials to cook food, how could you have the time to teach your children anything else, or do something to dig yourself out of that metaphorical hole?

Observing the fast opened a tiny, tiny window into the world of hunger. For me, it's a tiny window because there are no barriers whatsoever to me or my beloved family eating whenever we want to. There is a much broader and more awful landscape to this issue. I don't think the solution is necessarily "throw money/food at people". I think it's important that everyone be self-sufficient. But there are small steps that can be taken:

  1. The search for and use of resources in order to prepare food in a healthy manner is a trial all of its own. I am very interested in the Integrated Cooking Method as a means to reduce the waste of time and material in order to heat up food and/or water to safe temperatures. In particular, devices like the Water Pasteurization Indicator (WaPI) are important for ensuring that water is Pasteurized (rendered free from biological contamination). This is critical not only in areas with inadequate water sanitation facilities, but for preparing for widespread disasters that affect the clean water supply.
  2. I love charities like Heifer International, because they offer not only stuff (in the form of live-/agricultural/aquacultural-stock), and not only the education needed for sustainable farming, but also require the pledge to pass on that knowledge and the first offspring to someone else in the community.

Food's important. You can't function without proper nutrition and hydration. You can't succeed without being able to function. You can't pull yourself out of a bad situation if you can't succeed. It's always more complex than this -- there are many, many, many barriers to success -- but food and water is pretty basic. Not eating or drinking during the daylight hours for a whole month was a simple, but powerful, reminder.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Little Knitting Dictionary

In the group thread "Trikadovortoj esperante" at Ravelry, user "kvarko" posted a link to the PDF version of the second edition of the book "Kudra kaj Trika Terminaro" ("A Collection of Sewing and Knitting Terms", by M. and V. Verda. Using this, I made a little dictionary of knitting-related words. I added some words, which I've marked in orange. If you know of or want to propose other words, please comment!

[ Eo - En ]

English Esperanto
abbreviation mallongigo
alpaca alpako
ball (of yarn or thread) bulo
ball of yarn, yarn ball lanbulo
to ball (yarn) buligi
to bind off detriki
to block formigi
cable kablo
to cable kabli
cake of yarn, yarn cake lankuko
to cake (yarn) kukigi
cashmire kaŝmiro
to cast on surtriki
circular needles trikiloj cirklaj
cotton kotono
Double Knit (DK) worsted wool (weight of yarn) duobla lanfadeno
fabric ŝtofo
fingering weight fingrumopeza
garter stitch krurzona trikaĵo
gauge (stitch count) gaŭĝo
gauge (size of needle) kalibro
gauge tool (for determining needle size) kalibrilo
to graft (invisible stitch) grefti
k rek
kapok kapoko
knit rekta (rek)
knit together kuntriku rekte (kr)
knit two together (k2tog) kuntriku rekte 2 (kr2)
knitting needles trikiloj
ktog kt
k2tog kr2
lace punto
laceweight puntopeza
m (make/add a stitch) ald
m1r ald1a
m1fb ald1akm
m1l ald1m
make (add a stitch) aldonu (ald)
make one front and back aldonu unu antaŭe kaj malantaŭe (ald1akm)
make one left aldonu unu malantaŭen (ald1m)
make one right aldonu unu antaŭen (ald1a)
make one through right shoulder (of previous row's stitch) aldonu unu en dekstran ŝultron (ald1ds)
make one through left shoulder (of previous row's stitch) aldonu unu en maldekstran ŝultron (ald1ms)
materials bezonaĵoj
mohair mohajro
nylon nilono
p inv
pattern modelo
pattern specimena recepto
p2tog ki2
-ply -fadena
ptog kti
purl inversa (inv)
purl two together (p2tog) kuntriku inverse 2 (ki2)
purl together kuntriku inverse (ki)
ribbing, knit one purl one (k1p1) kolonoj, unumaŝaj
ribbing, knit two purl two (k2p2) kolonoj, dumaŝaj
ribbing, rib stitches kolonoj
round rondo
row linio
seed stitch sema trikaĵo
silk silko
skein fasko
skein of yarn lanfasko
skein of yarn lanringo
stitch (st) maŝo (mŝ)
sl gl
sl1wyif gl1kla
sl1wyib gl1klm
slip glitu
slip with yarn in front (slwyif) glitu kun lanfado antaŭe (glkla)
slip with yarn in back (slwyib) glitu kun lanfado malantaŭe (glklm)
stitch (st) maŝo (mŝ)
stockinette stitch ŝtrumpeta trikaĵo

to thread
Triple Knit (Aran) worsted wool triobla lanfadeno
wool lano
worsted wool, yarn lanfadeno
yarn over ĉirkaŭturnu (ct)
yarn over twice ĉirkaŭturnu 2 (ct2)
yo ĉt
yo2 ĉt2

Also, please feel free to take this list of words and translate them to your own national (if you're not an Esperanto speaker from birth) language!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mystery Knit-a-Long

[ In Esperanto ]

For those of you active in the knitting world, you probably know all about the Mystery Knit-a-Long.  It's the companion to the standard knit-a-long, which is a project or pattern shared online that people in different locations knit over a shared span of time, sharing their progress with one another as they go.  There are online fabric arts stores (such as Jimmy Beans Wool) that cater to this, setting up project kits for sale that are usually linked to some master project page, often at Ravelry (an online fabric arts community).

The Mystery Knit-a-Long is a special breed of KAL (of course there is an acronym) in which the pattern is released in parts ("clues") over a period of time.

Lots and lots of spoilers
I just completed my first KAL, which happened to be an MKAL, yesterday.  It's called "Queen of Thorns" and is a Game of Thrones-themed MKAL paying homage to that prickly old lady, Olenna Tyrell of the House of Highgarden.

Being a big Game of Thrones fan, that's what caught my attention (sucker!), so I ponied up the $42 bucks for the yarn set, bought the $3.50 pattern introduction, and jumped right in.

As mentioned before, I'm an intermediate knitter (but a beginner when it comes to lace), so parts of the project were challenging to me.  But it was lots of fun nonetheless, and also frustrating when I'd make mistakes and have to rip back to a known spot to start over.  Knitting this sort of thing is a duel-edged sword: it's really good for my mental health in that I don't dare concentrate on anything else while I'm doing it or I'll mess up (keeps me from thinking about work) but is really bad for being around the family because they want attention and I can't provide it if I'm knitting.  So I have to learn to balance.

Anyway, I've learned some things from the MKAL that I think are worth mentioning, both from the perspective of a participant and as advice to a designer from a newbie's point of view:

  • QoT Color Block
    Picking colors is challenging, because the whole point of the MKAL is to be an M - that is, you don't know exactly what you are doing or how it's going to turn out.  For this project, I went with the designer's choice.  I think in retrospect that had I known what the final pattern was going to be, I would have adjusted colors (in particular, I would have picked a pale grey or white color for the "rosebuds" section of the shawl).  For the designer, I'd recommend putting a color block into the pattern.  This allows the prospective knitter to get a rough sense of the color progression & proportion, without giving away the actual pattern, and will help those of us who want to a) choose another of your suggested color sets or b) go entirely off the rails and do our own thing.
  • You need blocking wires for lace.  Blocking is a process in which you soak your project and dry it until it's lightly wet or damp, then pin or wire it into the final intended shape; when it's dry, it holds that shape.  Or is supposed to: I'm still, as of this writing, struggling with the picot edging and making it thorny like I see the other (much more skilled) participants doing.  Having wires, especially flexible wires, would be helpful, especially for that (or any lacy) edging and I'd like to see that as a suggested item.
  • Non-standard instructions make the pattern fun.  There were actually parts of the pattern that were (sorry, Marinade) a little boring -- there was a whole section of garter stitch, for example.  It got interesting when the designer included instructions for something she termed "Make Cluster", which was unusual and new and interesting.  But it was particularly challenging because the instructions were all written -- it became clear, fairly quickly, that a lot of the participants were having problems with this, so a number of descriptions were posted, but not all of them were actually what the designer intended, so she ended up making a video of the technique herself.  I had actually watched one of those other people's videos, so my rosebuds aren't what she intended, but I was too far along in the process by the time I realized this, so I just kept doing what I was doing (and it turned out all right).  Two lessons learned from this:
    • For me: read, and follow, the "knitting help" forum thread for the clue, before actually starting.  Even if I think I know what I'm doing.
    • For the designer: pictures, pictures, pictures.  Any time you do something non-standard (i.e., not a stitch that's available on any of the standard knitting help sites, such as Lion's Brand Yarn), show pictures.  It's not too hard to manipulate a photo so that it will print nicely, and I will help any MKAL designer with that stuff -- though you have to be patient with me, because I am busy "IRL" and it cuts down on my free time.  But if you don't have a photo-editor of your own or aren't that conversant in it, hit me up.

Block me!
So, with all that said, I highly encourage you to get involved in one of these.  It can be pricey, but it is fun, and always interesting when you're waiting around for that next clue, and you get something nice that you've hand-made at the end of it.  How cool is that?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wolf Headdress - Finished!

The Headdress
[In Esperanto]

Well, it's done.   I'm going to increase my estimation of its difficulty to "intermediate - challenging" or perhaps "expert" based on how hard it was to piece together.

Then again, it could simply have been because I just really, really, really wanted to get it done and didn't take the time to be very careful when doing the final construction.

One ear is pretty mangled - that's the one I burned.  I think I put it on with a slight twist; also, I don't think that I filled them enough.  Recommendation on the ears: fill them very full.

Eyes: I went with sew-in plastic eyes.  If I could do it again, I'd make the eyes entirely out of felt.  It'd safer for smaller children, and these eyes came out of the wolf's head three times after I'd sewn everything up.  I ended up sewing them directly to the white felt backing, which isn't as secure as I'd have liked.  If they come out again, I'm going to rip them out and embroider on fully felt eyes.

One other thing I did differently: the plaits.  Instead of braiding three 12" strands and then sewing them into the bottom of the falls, I ran two 24" strands through the bottom of the falls and then did a four-strand braid (link to T.J. Potter's site, which is how I learned how to do it).  It takes more yarn, but I had a lot left over (the falls only took one skein of boucle).

The hardest part was the fact that the head is not a standard stuffed animal head.  No, it's sitting on a hat, which is convex inside the wolf's head.  I didn't have a form with which to work; instead, I put it on the impatient girl-child and worked as quickly as I could.  Recommendation: have a head form to which you can pin this thing when you're doing the final stuffing and construction.  I didn't use pins to hold it together -- I tried, but because it was a floppy bunch of cloth, the pins didn't work very well.  With a head form, I could have pinned it without too much trouble.

So, I'm thinking that I would like to do another one of these -- a Yinepu (Anubis) head out of black yarn, with Hawai'ian eyelash lei yarn for the insides of the ears (so they're fuzzy), or a Set head out of shades of red.  But I won't contemplate it without a head form!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Louise Walker's Wolf Headdress

Louise Walker's Wolf Headdress
link: Ravelry page
[ In Esperanto ]

At the request of the Next Generation, I've been working on this project from Louise Walker's book, Faux Taxidermy Knits.

You've got the book in hand.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)
The work is rated "intermediate", and I think that between the Fair Isle multi-color knitting and the final construction, that's about right.

The book contains some typos, or what I think are probably typos:
  1. Materials list: calls for a set of US 11 (8mm) straight needles.  In the "Boucle Falls" section, the instructions call for you to knit using US 10 (7mm) needles.  I did it with the US 10 needles and that's what I'd recommend.
  2. "Top Wolf Piece", row 56: it should be "p20b, k5b, p24a, k5b, p20b."
  3. "Boucle Falls": after you've obtained 6.5 inches of knitting, you're instructed to knit 22 stitches and put the remaining 23 on a stitch holder.  This is the new row 1, but then you're given instructions for rows 2, 4, and 5.  There is no row 3.  I recommend that you simply knit all stitches for row 3.
  4. Then, in the next section of "Boucle Falls", it tells you to knit the other section, referencing rows 1 through 4.  Then it tells you to repeat rows 4 and 5.  Repeat rows 3 and 4 instead.  Knit until the entire piece measures 16" (not 8" as instructed) -- in essence, so that the second fall is the same length as the first.
  5. "Front Ears", row 4: it should be "p7a, p4c, p7a".
Hat Base / Bottom of Snout
In the "hat base" section, round 4 tells you to "place 20 sts onto scrap yarn, k1, p1 across the remaining 6 sts."  Then on the next row, you're supposed to "[knit] over the scrap yarn."  This part confused me greatly.  I think that it would be a lot easier if you did it like this.

First, don't place 20 stitches onto scrap yarn.  Knit 20 stitches using the scrap yarn and make sure it's a contrasting color and texture.  Leave a long tail and don't tie it.  On the next row, k1, p1 using the original yarn all the way through.  Finish the hat base pattern.
Knitting using scrap yarn

Knitting over the scrap yarn
Now for the "Bottom of Snout" part, what you're going to do is pick up the stitches on either side of the scrap yarn.  Louise recommends using US 6 needles to do this, because it's easier, and I'd recommend it too.  You'll end up with 20 stitches on either needle, and they'll be slightly offset: if you've got the top of the hat facing away from you, the top needle will have the left-hand-most stitch (look at the picture on page 46 to see what I'm talking about).
Stiches picked up
So now you can pull out the scrap yarn and you'll have a big hole in the hat as per the picture on page 46. 

The gap
Turn the piece around so that the top of it is facing you and follow the instructions (put the right-hand-most stitch that's on what is now the bottom needle onto the top needle and then purl it and the next stitch on the top needle together).  You'll end up with this:

Gap purled together
And you can continue with the rest of the pattern as indicated.

Lessons Learned
The biggest issue for me (as a high-level beginner) besides the hat base/bottom-of-snout situation was the Fair Isle knitting.  I used the yarns for which the pattern called, which were Rowen yarns - mostly an Alpaca cotton mix, but also a Boucle yarn that was British sheep wool.  Side note: the Alpaca yarn is amazing.  Soooooo soft.  I don't usually work with high-end yarns like this.  It was expensive, but worth it.

At any rate, the yarn likes to cling to itself.  So the primary thing I learned was that when it came time to twist the yarns behind the work, that I needed to stretch out the work flat on the working needle and make sure I twisted very loosely.  The first piece I made was the hat/underjaw, and because I didn't twist loosely, the jaw ended up being puckered.  I was able to smooth it out with blocking, as I did with the ear that ended up being smaller than the other ear (but be careful with that iron: I ended up burning the one ear a little).

I haven't made up the final headdress, including the stuffing, yet.  I'll finish up this adventure with another blog post, provided that it turns out to be educational, which I am absolutely sure it will, because I've only ever knitted one other stuffed item (a bear) and it was terrible. Onward!

Sunday, April 10, 2016



Okay, so it's been a while again.  The problem with blog posts is that they take a long time to do properly, and I just don't have the time.  But I've got a little while on a day off to talk about something I don't think I've talked about here: knitting.

It's fun.  It's not too terribly hard and yet is complex enough (depending on what you do) that you're always learning something.  And a lot of the time, it requires intense concentration.

I like this, because when I'm intensely concentrating on something, it means that I am not thinking about work.

In Esperanto green, of course!
If you hadn't heard about it, there was a terrific campaign, "25 000 Tuques", to knit hats for Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada in winter.  I can only imagine what it would be like coming from Syria and stepping off of the plane in Quebec in winter.  What a shock!

Generally speaking, this campaign was organized around local groups who'd knit and then take hats to drop-off points, but as you can imagine, there were a lot of international knitters, so there was an address to which people (like me) or groups not in Quebec could mail hats.  It got crazy; the lady in charge, Danielle Létourneau, had to go to the post office every day to clear out all of the boxes.  I sent eleven hats.  It would have been twelve, but the Next Generation wanted one of them, which will come in handy if we ever leave Hawai'i.

The campaign's closed out now for the season (the first group of refugees finished arriving in March), but if you're interested, check out the website above (or the Facebook page).

Cable-knitted Easter Egg
Next project: Easter.  I saw a Facebook link about Arne and Carlos, who are two fantastic textile designers in Scandinavia. They posted a blog post (complete with embedded YouTube tutorial) on how to knit easter eggs.  I love this idea: I (and eventually we) could knit one or two each year and eventually have a basket full.  Instead of a standard row-by-row description of what to do, they posted a chart, which I liked a lot.  It involves Fair Isle knitting, which requires some gentleness, so my first egg turned out pretty puckered (in short, you're switching between colors, and to keep the yarn from drooping or catching in the back, you occasionally twist the yarns together, but if you do it too tightly, it puckers the cloth.  I knitted a couple of those, then thought, "hey, I just did a cabled hat for 25000 Tuques, what if I did a cabled egg?" and ended up adapting their chart to make a pattern to knit a cabled egg for my husband as an Easter gift.

Well, next up: I bought Louise Walker's book Faux Taxidermy Knits because, of course, how could I resist a book with "taxidermy" and "knit" in the titled?  As expected, the Next Generation paged through the book and immediately requested a wolf headdress, which is one of the intermediate patterns.  "Well," thought I.  "I'm probably an intermediate knitter by now."  Well, I'm not, but I'll blog about that separately, because Ravelry doesn't have a blog function, and I've got a lot to write about this pattern and what I've learned from it.  Onward!