May 28, 2006

Socks, Squid, and non-sequiturs

First, let me give a big ol' shout out to the Squid and wish him a happy first birthday! There was party and cake and tons of gifties for the big boy. And for a moment, all was right with the world.

One of my gifts to the little man are a pair of socks that just happen to match a pair of my own. Crazy, eh? These are from my first batch of Kool-Aid dyed yarn (discussed here), and since he was a part of that I figured he deserved a pair.

Of course, so do I. So I have another new pair of socks. (Does this give me one or two credits for 200Sox?) I love how the striping came out on these socks, and the colors are just - POW! Yes, I did purposefully try to match the socks, but if you look closely I'm a little off. (Yes. Off my rocker.) Like by half a round or so. But I'm still happy about 'em, so Weeee!

Another gift that I made for the Squid-kid is a Mr. Dangly, except this clone appears to be French. Go figure.

And sometime (last weekend) between my first Kool-Aid dyed socks and the Squid's momentous event, more yarn was Kool-Aid dyed. This time in greens and blues, but yes - self-striping again (I hope).

Posted by Nanc at 11:20 AM | Comments (7)

May 24, 2006


So, I haven't put up the next silk screen article yet, mainly out of sloth and laziness. Of course, there has been another pet project that's been taking up most of my free time. I just finished it, and Nanc suggested that I share.

I will warn you that it's not for the faint-of-heart. So, gird your loins, then come on in and get a look at my new Theremin.

For some reason last fall, while reading MAKE, I decided that I really wanted to build a theremin and I dutifully added it to my Christmas wish list. Nanc found out what it was, which caused my chances of actually getting it to dwindle.

Most likely against her better judgment, I did end up getting a Theremax kit under the tree. Due to the constraints of life, the parts sat in a box for a few months. I started working on it a couple hours a week this month, and now it's finished. w00t!

There were probably a few hundred components to put together, and I did really take my time and was very careful. I should mention the kit was great, and the documentation with it was superb.

At this point, I should probably tell you why I didn't think Nanc would get it for me. It makes noise. In fact, that's really the purpose. The theremin is an electronic musical instrument that you play without actually touching. There are two antennas - one controls the pitch, and the other controls the volume. As you move your hands in proximity to these antennas, you can control the sounds that come out of the box. As usual, Wikipedia has a much better description. At the hands of a talented ermm... thereminist, the music can be haunting, ethereal, and beautiful. The sound cannot adequately be described in mere words.

Theremins had a brief surge of popularity, but for the most part have been relegated to science fiction and horror-type uses. Once you recognize the sound, you will probably come up with any number of times that you've heard it played, such as in the Star Trek theme song or in the film Ed Wood.

I've logged about two hours playing, so my abilities are somewhat limited. I would describe my playing thus far more along the lines of painful, noisy, and not at all pleasant. But you gotta start somewhere, I suppose. I can tell you that it's awfully tricky to play an instrument with no set fingerings or tuning!

A couple of blessedly short videos of my dubious talents are below. I've also included Samuel Hoffman playing one on a TV show in the 1950s. Enjoy!

A dramatic recreation of the sound effects in Pole Position on the Atari 2600

Random Noises

Samuel Hoffman plays the Theremin

Posted by Matty at 06:55 PM | Comments (7)

May 23, 2006

Moto Loco

'Member back when I took the motorcycle safety course and passed? Well, since then I've taken the test and got my license. Wo0t!

So this means - watch the roads parking lots, folks! I may be haulin' ass riding in circles near you!

My friend ngJill (ng=new girl) lent me her motorcycle, Prunella, to practice on. Ain't she sweet? She borrowed her honey's motorcycle, and we made an event of it.

It started with me gearing up. And I mean full-on gear - all, but the chaps! And for the cyclists out there (um... Rachel and Jason), here's the details:

  • Boots: Rev'it in Freestyle
  • Gloves: N2 in yellow
  • Jacket: Power-Trip San Jose in the white/silver combination ('cause black is too dern hot in TX!)
  • Helmet: Scorpion EXO-700 Raider in yellow
  • and finally, what you really wanted to know about.. Ears: Awesome Ears in the tiger variety (tail not included)

Okay, so ngJill and I head out from her house to a close and unused parking lot for some much needed practice. I have a little trouble getting started from a full stop, but this is why I'm practicing first instead tooling off down the road.

In the parking lot, she has me practice my circles; Uncle Ergo Pants - turns. In some of these pictures you see those actions shots of me turning and turning... and turning.. over and over again! But it's all good.

Eventually, out of sheer boredom I'm sure, ngJill joins me and we play a rousing relatively mild game of follow-the-leader. She leads; I follow... on our bikes. And it all goes well until...

um... let's just say that I learned an important and expensive lesson. On a motorcycle, where you LOOK is where you'll go. Look through the turn? You'll go through the turn. Look to the right? You'll go towards the right. Look at the curb? Yep. Curb.

We're all alright now. Everything is good. No major injuries (i.e., bones, blood, or brain matter). And the motorcycle, Prunella, comes out of the shop today.

And yes. There will be more practicing in empty parking lots. A lot more.

Posted by Nanc at 10:36 AM | Comments (6)

May 22, 2006

My lateness is so embarassing

Not only do I have a belated 'Thank you' to offer up, but hidden deep in the dark recesses of my shame is an even more belated (belated-er?) 'Thanks'. And really, it's all getting a little cluttered in my psyche so I'm thanking them all in one fell swoop.

Prepare to be swooped!

First, and the most recent, I'd like to thank Chawne for the awesome Boiled Lobster Socks for SockapalOOOza! These socks are fantastic. They're knit with Koigu Kersti in the Corded Rib pattern. (But I'll let Chawne tell you all about their construction here.)

I received these socks just before I flew out for the MSWF, and in fact I packed them along with every pair of hand knit socks I have. (Which really isn't that many... yet.) I wore them on my trip home and boy- did they keep my feet cozy!

Included in the box was some chocolate (YUM!), great sock yarn (reminds me of tigers - RAWR!), and a fun post card from her part of town. In fact, she did me the favor of circling the chuck of trees that represent her home along the river, which I thought was awesome! (And I swear that my stalking days are over.... now it's just nights. Ha! Ha! Ha!)

And just so y'all know - in an effort of full disclosure, my SockapalOOOza pal was Julia in Germany. And she seems excited to have finally gotten her socks!

Okay... [deep breath]... now for my so-belated-it-hurts 'Thank you'.

Back in... well, 2005, I participated in the Secret Pal 5 adventure. I spoiled (IMHO) my pal and was spoiled myself by a stranger. Reveal time came around and I received a wonderful and very thoughtful (and handmade) package from Mim. Yes! THAT Mim/Miriam!

There were so many wonderful goodies, and Mim had a bit of a crush on Vannakin, so I planned out this wonderful photo-log. But time and laziness crushed that project... until now!

So thank you, Mim. All those gifts were/are wonderful (some, like the jams, have already been consumed)! And I hope you enjoy this belated story of adventure, excitement, and love.

Posted by Nanc at 10:18 AM | Comments (4)

May 10, 2006

Came. Saw. Conquered.

And I've got the ball cap to prove it!

Chris, Petra (aka Good Girl Purl), and I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this past weekend. We had a hoot, many laughs, and lots of wool. Come check it out!

The girls and I and our socks flew EARLY Friday morning. And despite the hour and the turbulence, we were giddy as... well, giddy things when we landed. Like Chris said, it wasn't until we were at BWI that we weren't sure we'd actually make it.

During the flights, though, the sock knitting came out in force! Here, I'm knitting on my Kool-Aid dyed Knit Picks yarn, which was striping fabulously. In fact, better than I ever could expect! Petra is working on some Socks That Rock (STR) in Tigers Eye (and they are awesome). As you can see, Petra and I are nearly at the same place on our socks - just started. Chris was working down the foot of her Trekking sock - and those colors are wonderful! It looks nothing like the skein. Crazy.

As soon as we landed in Baltimore, we headed down to the Inner Harbor for some grub (Cheesecake Factory) and sightseeing (aquarium). However, since none of us really slept the night before and "woke" at 3:30am, once we had put food in our bellies we were overcome with exhaustion and headed to our home away from home - my brother's house.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early... and warm already! So we headed out to the festival. My brother might have mocked us and thought us crazy for going to a 'sheep festival', but he would have a lot of other folks to mock as well, for the crowds were amazing! There was a huge line of traffic into the fairgrounds. (And let me tell you - knitters are polite... to other knitters.)

As soon as we got in, we joined the 'thundering hordes' (in the words of Ina) and rioted at The Fold's booth. Toni might have been a little overwhelmed by the quickness of which she sold out of 800 skeins (90 minutes) of STR, but how could she be anything but happy?

Without knowing it, we apparently followed the hordes to the Koigu mill ends booth and looted what we could get our grubby lil' paws on (and then paid by the gram). After all that hustle and bustle, we needed a break and went down to watch the sheep dogs strut their stuff. It was quite amazing to see - they're so intelligent!

We headed back into the masses for some food: potatoes and, er... lamb gyros. It might be bad, but I think the baaaa'ing from the show ring next to us gave the food a "fresher" taste.

Once our batteries were recharged, we headed down for the Knit Bloggers' meet up on the grassy knoll. (Do other folks not from Dallas cringe at the use of "grassy knoll"?) And may I simply say... OH MY LANDS! There were easily over 100 knit bloggers gathered on the lawn. And I know that some didn't make it.

It was so overwhelming, in fact, that the three of us were a bit gob smacked. We sat together and knit, mostly watching all the interactions around us. Occasionally, we'd lean in and mumble some knit blogger's name that we caught a glimpse of.

I brought some blog cards and Knit Revolution buttons that I made the night before we left. All of the buttons were handed out that day and a good portion of my cards. So some one, some where may now be looking in their knitting bag wondering what that scrap of paper is for. Hopefully, they're not looking for something to wrap their used gum in.

We did meet a lot of great knit bloggers, some of which I had read their site and some who were new to me and now I'm happily lurking about. Especially nice is Teri, who hung out a little longer when the crowds were starting to disperse, and took a great picture of the three of us. So I totally stole it from her site. (Ok, really I asked permission first.)

Can you imagine? The three of us knit bloggers all with perfectly good digital cameras, heck- we even had extra batteries just in case, and for three full days no pictures of each other. I think we might have failed in some way. We did get plenty of pictures of sheep, llamas, alpacas, and angora bunnies.

Once we came out of our self-induced comas, we headed over to the merchandise booth (WOW!) and to Brooks Farm. There's a bit of beef with the Brooks Farm folks. See, they're only 30 miles or so from where we live in TX, but you can only buy their yarns at festivals. (Note: they *just* started selling online, too.) But they don't want us showing up on their door step, even with cash in hand.

But their yarns are lovely, soft, and vibrant. So for all our belly aching, we were more than happy to buy some up right there, right then.

We took our leave after this, having bought more than expected and in a state of shock over it all. We had dinner with Chris' (and now our) friend, Kim, and then headed home for some shut eye.

Sunday was quite a bit cooler, but still sunny and beautiful. But the crowds and the atmosphere was much different. This worked to our advantage, as the quest for Sunday was to relax, enjoy, and pet some sheep. The Sheep-to-Shawl contest was amazing.

This also gave Chris a moment to catch her breath and remember that she wanted to check out the Karakul sheep. She's got heritage in that breed, and learned some exciting things about her family. Hopefully, she'll post that story soon. (Hint, hint)

We met up with a couple knit bloggers on Sunday, too, but it was much less pressure. We paled around with Kathy for a bit before meeting Erica to finish up the festival.

And Erica must be a good luck charm. Because despite tooling around the fair and the Main Hall what seemed like a few hundred times, it wasn't until we were walking through on our last pass (just before they all closed up) that we spotted Morehouse Farm. Oh, their merino lace yarn is so incredibly yummy. And yes. I did say the L word. (Er,... lace.)

So we left the fairgrounds, full of yarns and kettle corn. (YUM - why didn't some one tell me about this delicious treat before?) We headed home, and then back to TX in the morning.

We got a treat on the last leg of our journey: our captain was retiring and this was his last flight. He had family and friends on board, and all the passengers received champagne to toast him. There were sentimental speeches and much cheering. And upon landing into Love Field, two fire trucks met us at the gate for the celebratory "washing" of the plane. (The two truck make arcs of water for the pilot to drive through.) Thanks, Captain Jeff, for the great flight. It was a heck of a return for us, too.

Posted by Nanc at 01:01 PM | Comments (9)

May 09, 2006


I band-wagoned (this can be used as a verb, yes?) and joined the Dye-O-Rama swap. As part of this and to help my pal figure a good color and scheme for me, I've got a meme for y'all. No, you don't HAVE to read it. No one's forcing you, right?

Questions specific to this swap:

  • Your favorite colors? I hate to be difficult or indecisive, but really I can like most every color in the right circumstance. I'm drawn to vivid and rich hues, but softer, cooler colors make for a nice break. Typically the baby-doll pastels don't thrill me, though. And I dislike the combinations of red & green and red, white, & blue. (Aren't I a horrible person!)
  • Preferred yarn weight (Fingering, Sport, DK, maybe even Worsted)? Fingering or sport, please, for socks.
  • Do you prefer solid or multicolored yarn? Either multicolored or varying shades of the same color (tone-on-tone) makes me happy.
  • If your buddy is able to do so, would you like a variegated, self-striping, or self-patterning yarn? Yes, please. I'm tickled to watch the colors change while knitting up a sock. I believe it makes me knit faster.
  • Would you be interested in a wool blend sock yarn (nylon, tencel, silk, acrylic, alpaca, etc.)? That would be kewl, but I'm also good with the 100% wool for socks.
  • Imagine the perfect colorway. What would you name it? Wow, um, this question kind of stumped me. A bunch of crazy names came spilling from my head, but they all sounded ludicris written down or said outloud. Perhaps I'm not cut out for marketing.
  • What was the biggest appeal to you for joining this dye-along? I had just dyed my first yarn and had so much fun that I was happy for any excuse to make more.

General yarn/fiber questions:

  • Have you dyed yarn/fiber before? Yes, once but I'm preparing for my second event soon.
  • If so, what’s your favorite dye and method? I've only tried Kool-Aid dying so far. I enjoyed it and had good results, so I think I'll stick with it for now. (At least until I graduate to the next level.)
  • Do you spin? No
  • Have you knit socks before? Ha, ha, ha - Have I... socks? Oh, boy. Have I ever! Okay, really its only been a short time, but it doesn't seem like I knit anything else. And I'm still totally enjoying it!
  • Do you use sock yarn for just socks or in other patterns too? Typically just socks, but I have plans for other items like wrist warmers, small electronic cozies, and clothes for my Blythe.
  • What are some of your favorite yarns? Socks That Rock, Koigu, Brooks Farm, and Morehouse Merino top the list, but that could be because I just got back from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and gobbled up as much of those as I could! I'm also a big fan of Trekking, Manos del Urguay, Cherry Tree Hill, and any soft, pretty fiber!
  • What yarn do you totally covet? See the above list. If it's soft and pretty, I'm lusting for it.
  • Favorite patterns? I just finished the Pomatomus socks and enjoyed that greatly.
  • Any pattern you would love to make if money and time were no object? I would love to try my hand at fair isle; really intricate and beautiful fair isle.
  • Favorite kind of needles (brand, materials, straights or circs, etc)? I like my Addi Turbos for knitting a sock on one circ, but still go back to my bamboo dpns. I guess I alternate between those two, mainly.
  • If you were a specific kind of yarn, which brand and kind of yarn would you be? Right now, I think I would be a good, soft wool in varigated colors, something like Brooks Farm or Cascade, but I would lust after the bright, shiny wool blends.

Nothing to do with knitting/yarn/fiber in any way but seemed kinda fun:

  • Do you have a favorite candy or mail-able snack? I like me some chocolate, but its not typically mail-able in the TX heat.
  • What’s your favorite animal? Dragonfly
  • Do you have pets? What are their species/names/ages? We have four (gasp!) cats and fish. The cats are Dil (12yrs), Marie Puss-puss (11yrs), Mrs. Slocombe (10yrs), and Walter (9mo, and the only boy cat).
  • If you were a color what color would you be? Tropical vacation blue (like the water when you can't believe that is THAT BLUE!).
  • Describe your favorite shirt (yours or someone else’s).. I'm a T-shirt kind of gal, and we've been silk screening lately. So one of those gems, prolly my 'Knit Revolution' one.
  • What is your most inspiring image, flower, or object in nature? Close up of a single flower or plant: beautiful, delicate, intricate, and intelligent all in one commonly overlooked item. It's amazing to me that it takes an image to show us what is right in front of us.
  • Tell me the best quote you’ve ever heard or read. Um, I'm not so good on the quotes.
  • Do you have a wishlist? Yes, on Amazon.
  • Anything else you’d like to share with the group today? That I'm really not as lame as this meme makes me out to be. Or at least I hope not.
Posted by Nanc at 09:59 AM | Comments (4)

May 07, 2006

Silk Screen Printing Part 1: Making a screen

This set of articles has been in the works for a while. I finally put together the graphics so we could publish it. Nanc and I are craft ninjas, and I have always wanted to do screen printing, but I had no idea how to even start.

I knew that it was expensive (truth: not so much) and messy (truth: the mess is manageable).

You can buy a screen printing kit from an art supply store for about $60. You can make a much sturdier screen yourself for much less, leaving extra money for t-shirts and ink.

I built a bunch of screens and we had friends over for a screen printing crafturday, so I needed a cheaper way to do things than buying eight screen printing kits.

Disclaimer: I had no idea what I was doing when I built these, though I assure you that they work well. My only beef is that I wish that I had made the screens in a variety of sizes, so that I would have larger and smaller screens for specific tasks. If your are a silk screen expert and want to add your bits, feel free to add a comment.

Ingredient list

Here’s what you want to buy from Home Depot or similar:

  • Bag of 0.125” window spline – grippy rubber tubing normally used for attaching window screens
  • Splining tool-looks like a pizza cutter with two wheels for putting the spline into place
  • Wood ~60” of 1 x 2- If you build your screen to the specs in this article, you will need about 5 feet of 1 x 2. The type of wood is totally based on your budget, I chose Poplar.
  • #8 1” Wood screws (stainless steel)

Total cost: about 15 bucks. Of course if you’re making a lot of screens, a number of these items (such as the spline, splining tool and screws) will last for making many screens.

Making a bunch of screens at once also reduces your cost per screen. When I made all the screens, my cost per screen was about six dollars.

Another important ingredient is the screen itself. I was able to hit the fabric store and pick up some polyester that worked pretty well. I’ve also bought screen printing fabric online from which is only marginally more expensive, and is definitely preferred. I was able to get a much cleaner print from the “real” screen material.

Here’s a list of extra stuff that I used in the construction.These materials were hanging around the house:

  • Router with a 1/8” bit
  • Table saw, circular saw, or some other way to precisely cut wood
  • Drill (with some drill bits, and screwdriver bits)
  • Sandpaper or sander
  • Polyurethane
  • Wood glue
  • Thumbtacks
  • Clamps

Construction notes

Construction is pretty simple, and you should be able to get the gist from the pictures. Here are a couple of notes that might help.

First I cut the pieces down to size. Then I routed out the 1/8” x 1/4" channel in about half of the wood using multiple passes on the router. I made sure that the channel was routed exactly in the middle of the wood. Also, remember that some of the pieces will also need some additional small segments routed so that the channel will go all around the screen.

Next, construct each of the sides by gluing and clamping the pieces together, then adding the screws. Make sure to drill pilot holes first to avoid splitting the wood. Countersinking the screws will make everything easier on you later.

The amount of wood and screws used in this may seem like overkill, but you want the frame to be really solid. Stretching a screen puts the frame under a great deal of pressure, and you don’t want it to warp. Hopefully, your screen will last you for several years of use.

After putting it together, take the extra time to sand it and seal it. This will ensure that your screen lasts longer and will also make it much easier to work with.

Stretching the screen

Once your screen is complete, it’s time to stretch the fabric. First, use thumbtacks to pin the fabric to the screen (not too tight), and cut the fabric out, allowing a couple of extra inches on each side.

Then work the spline in with the splining tool, wedging the spline and the screen into the channel that you routed out. Sometimes it helps to use a screwdriver or other blunt tool to seat the spline in the corners. Once you’re done, remove any thumbtacks that are still remaining and trim the excess screen.

You are ready to print.

Posted by Matty at 11:41 AM | Comments (7)

May 02, 2006

HellOOO, Pomatomus

Phew! I finally got them done, and just in the nick of time. I knit up half the foot, the toe, and sealed it all with a Kitchener stitch late last night!

Please say 'Hello' to my leetle sock friends...

Hippo-potato-tomato-potatamous socks!

Of course, they are anything BUT little! The pattern makes some loonngg legs. And no hurt feelings towards my sock pal, but those are some looonnnggg feet. Together, they make loooonnnnggggggg socks! (At least in my not-so-humble opinion and my short sock history.) In total and unstretched, they are over 50cm/20 inches. Yowza!

But they were fun. And they were easy to knit. They knit up really kind of fast. The yarn and the pattern were both great to work with. So much so, that I'm thinking about a pair for myself. (But less leg-pattern repeats and a shorter foot.)

Here's the details:

  • Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in Life's A Beach color way
  • Pattern: Pomatomus from - thanks, Cookie for a great pattern!
  • Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo double-point needles in both 2.75mm (US#2) and 2.25mm (US#1)
  • Notes: I used the size US#2 needles for most of the sock, as called for in the pattern, but I found that I didn't like the stockinette fabric on the 2's. So I used size US#1s for the stockinette on the foot and toe. I guess I'm a loose knitter (not to mention my virtues!). I also worked the last half of the toe as every decrease row for a broader (less-pointy) toe. In all actuality, I did this because otherwise I would have made them too long.

My hope is that these socks will fit my pal perfectly (nice 'n snug), and she'll love the colors. But isn't that the same hope that we all share?

I washed/soaked the socks this morning, and am blocking/drying them now. Um... I sure hope my sock pal isn't allergic to Walters (or kittens, or cuteness). He kind of snuck up there.

Posted by Nanc at 11:24 AM | Comments (13)