Saturday, September 29, 2007

Our Anniversary

We celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary with a mini yarn crawl followed by dinner in Printers Row.

We started in the South Loop at Knitwerks.

Recently written up in the Chicago Tribune, Proprietor Cherrl Harmon clearly has a passion for yarn. She has impeccable taste and it shows in her selection of yarn, colors and patterns. Meg bought some yarn for fingerless mittens.

Then we headed over to Loopy Yarns to pet the sock yarn. I found one of particular interest to pet.

I decided to take it home with me, actually. I love the tag. "Who says socks have to match?" Damn straight!

We then walked over to dinner at the Custom House and had a delicious, protein-filled meal. We ate a little too much food and stumbled back to our car.

Here our the balls of yarn pondering their upcoming transformation into mittens and socks. They have a nice view of the side yard, actually.

They were impressed with how quiet it is out here. And how bright the full moon gets out here. It actually woke me up the other night as it shone through the skylight.

Oh, right. I finished a pair of socks for me.

I can't find the other one. I'm sure it will turn up.

Sock Wars!

You only have until October 1st to sign up for Sock Wars. You are an "assassin" trying to "kill" your target by knitting him/her a pair of socks. Once you do this, you mail the socks to your target, effectively "killing" them. They mail you back the unfinished pair of socks they were working on for their target. The game continues as such until only one person is left.

Friday, September 28, 2007

It occurred to me....

... that in December, we're going to a wedding in San Francisco, and that I have four skeins of laceweight yarn in different colors and that maybe, just maybe, I could knit a shawl or a stole or something similar.
Will examine the depths of this insanity tonight and maybe, just maybe ... cast on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Weeky activities

Knitting (Lucy Neatby's Mermaid Socks - oddly addictive. Round and round you go.)

Go fig. This is how a computer might knit. Any guesses *what* a computer might knit?


The KnitML Project Plan

Like any project, there should be a project plan and milestones. And so as to not bore you with the details, I've introduced See the project plan to see what I've thought up. I'll let you know on this blog when we reach significant milestones with the project.

Right now, I'm hoping to be done with the initial work (i.e. "Milestone 1") by the end of October, possibly a bit sooner. Please let me know if you want to help out. The more people we get involved, the faster we can get something useful out there to knitters everywhere!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

While Meg Sleeps...

...I secretly work on KnitML. I've been putting a decent amount of work into what I'm calling the Engine. It is essentially a process modeler that keeps track of where I've cast on stitches, what needles they belong to, how many stitches I have to go in a row, which direction I'm knitting in, etc. This is all really important to get right, because the Engine will make sure that a set of KnitML directions can actually be followed. For example, the following instructions should not get past the engine:

Cast on 10 stitches. Row 1: K 11.

Of course this is a very contrived example, and no author in their right mind would ever make such a simple error. The power of this comes when you have a more complex row (for instance, one with lots of wraps and turns) and you want to be able to report out how many stitches you have on the needles when you're done with it. Instead of having to calculate it out yourself, you just ask the Engine to report out the number of stitches it has on its needles. (If this freaks you out, you could also make an assertion in the KnitML that you believe that there should be X number of stitches on the needle. Essentially your "test knitter" can validate that this number is what it's getting when following your directions.) The more instructions we can calculate, the fewer the errors we'll have showing up in patterns. And that is definitely a good thing.

I'm really striving to model the Engine as close to the actual knitting process as possible with a computer. The closer I can get, the more I will be able to let the Engine work for me.

The Britches were fine this evening, though I had to cut it short. While I had purchased a supplemental ball of Twilight for my Kai pullover, I didn't actually have it with me today. So I really was only able to knit two rounds of the collar before having to call it quits. Charlie was there. After weeks of me urging him to try his hand at some stranded knitting, he finally has started his first stranded project: a Norwegian sweater. I knew he was a strander at heart!

Leif, a fellow who hasn't been to Britches in a long time, showed up as well. He was knitting very cool-looking blanket on size 15 needles. Welcome back to the group, Leif!

Franklin didn't show. I suppose he was scared away by the prospect of me gifting him the etiquette book.

I very briefly explained KnitML to everyone. Leif thought it sounded like a cool idea. Charlie just shook his head and said, "You're going to be next Kaffe Fassett!" I certainly doubt it, but I do hope that my labors in the KnitML world do prove to be a service to the global knitting community. At least some day.

Monday, September 24, 2007

my least favorite English sentence tonight is ...

... "Work 37 stitches, join a second ball of yarn and bind off 29 stitches for neck."

Why? Because then I have two balls of yarn bouncing around and getting tangled and tempting Angus and making the knitting even less portable and, and, and ... grr.

Listen to me. I should go join the Chicago Complaints Choir. Maybe they'll give me a solo. I wonder how many people have complaints about their knitting.

Work on the Fool's Christmas present moves along (stop reading here, honey.) Except I have a nagging fear that I did something innovative with changing needle sizes somewhere and as it's been more than a year since I cast this thing on, I forgot. Or my gauge is all over the place. At least I've finished the front and back and am casting on for the sleeves. On the wrong needle, I think. Hell and damnation.
Look out, ladies, I'm going to be a lot of fun at knitting group tomorrow!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hmm, let's see....

FOOL: Hey, did you unroll all the toilet paper, or was it Angus?
ME: What?
FOOL: All the toilet paper is strewn all over.
ME: No. I think it was a cat.
FOOL: I think it was Angus.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Miriam's yarn

I have a friend, Miriam, who is a knitter and who, upon her mother-in-law's death, was the natural person in the family to receive the stash.
Her mother-in-law, who lived in Montreal, was a knitter ... no, a Knitter.
I never met her, but I've met her stash, and I can tell quite a few things about this woman by what she meant to knit during her lifetime, besides the fact that she was extremely ambitious or expected to live to 450.
She bought the good stuff - Noro, Jamieson's, Manos. She liked kits and she wasn't shy about knitting hard things, like Kaffe Fassett sweaters.
Her library had a lot of Alice Starmore hardcovers (be still, my beating heart; the Fool and I had to tell her son that he should call his father *that very minute* and not let him give those to Goodwill like he planned to. The family didn't know they sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay.)
She didn't seem to knit socks.
This stash takes up quite a bit of space. Miriam has a beautiful craft room with built-in wood shelves, and they are stuffed with her mother-in-law's yarn. There are more boxes she hasn't unpacked yet.
As much as such a stash is a windfall, a beautiful fibery treasure, it does mean that Miriam cannot, in good conscience, buy a single ball of yarn (unless it's sock yarn, which doesn't count and isn't represented in the stash.) I ran into her at Stitches Midwest, and she had one sweater pattern and some beaded stitch markers while everyone else was staggering around with giant sacks of yarn slung over their shoulders.
Whenever the Fool and I visit, she asks if we might need some yarn. Which we don't; we have a lot of yarn too. The last time we had brunch with them, she caught me eyeing some navy blue yarn with tweedy colorful flecks in it and now I have nine skeins (and a couple skeins of pink Noro that will make a good hat and mitten set for someone who likes pink and which I ended up with because I picked it up and said, 'wow, this is a nice pink.' Which is all it takes to get yarn from Miriam.)
I'm not sure what the blue yarn is, because it has no label on it, but it feels like Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran, although some other knitters have speculated that it might be Noro.
No matter. It's beautiful and the fabric is soft and has that little squeak that silk has. I'm knitting a slouchy sweatshirt-type sweater out of it - a really easy top-down Knitting Pure and Simple Pattern - with a couple amendments. I think I'll use linen stitch rather than seed stitch at the cuffs and hem, and I think I might not have enough yarn, so I'm going to put a stripe in across the chest and maybe the sleeves.
I'm not too far along yet; only about six inches or so, but it's a good sweater and the first one I've knit in this manner.
Here's a picture - it's not very exciting yet, but I'll be dividing for the sleeves soon, and whoo-ee, then we'll be cooking with gas!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


A few posts ago, I jokingly made reference to what I thought was a made-up language called KnitML. The geeks out there will probably know that this is short for Knitting Markup Language(or perhaps Knitting Modeling Language). On a whim I googled for KnitML and found that Laura Porter has already begun development on the concept. This quickly went from being a joke to being something that has been consuming most of my free time.

And why did Laura develop the first draft of KnitML?
Initially, I developed the basic schema as a way to teach myself XMLSchema. I work for a software house developing XML data structures and XSLT / XSL-FO stylesheets to style them with, and wanted to learn XMLSchema. Creating a small, trial schema concerning data I'm familiar with seemed a good way.

I have been knitting for about 14 months and have noticed over that time how similar knitting can be to programming. I also noticed how knitting patterns tend to be written using non-standard styles and abbreviations etc. So developing a standard markup for knitting patterns seemed like a logical idea.
Well, sure. Standardization is great and all of that, but this alone isn't going to push the buttons of most knitters. She doesn't point out (or possibly realize) the huge potential benefits that a comprehensive knitting metamodel can have. Like what, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

Assume for a minute that KnitML is a universally accepted standard. It would not be unreasonable to assume that many knitting patterns would, in addition to the printed version, be made available in KnitML, and that many types of knitting software would be written to interpret KnitML. Take these two points together and you have a whole lot of potential. Consider for a moment that from a KnitML pattern, software could be written that would:
  • Render a pattern in either written directions or a chart, depending entirely on your preference
  • Render a pattern in any language, using conventions familiar to that language and dialect
  • Automatically convert English measurements to metric
  • Size a pattern up or down to any size, not just the sizes that come with the pattern
  • Recalculate a pattern for your gauge rather than the one that came with the pattern
  • Explicitly write out highly annoying directions (e.g., "increase 34 stitches evenly over 171 stiches")
  • Alter the pattern using an easy-to-use graphical editor (or create new KnitML-based pattern from scratch)
  • Preview the result of the pattern with pretty graphics
  • Digitally sign the pattern to guarantee an author's authenticity
I'm sure there are more possibilities out there. The beauty of this is that all of this software could take in a KnitML pattern and produce an altered KnitML pattern. So you could run your pattern through any and all pieces of software that understood KnitML.

I've already tried getting in touch with Laura, but I haven't heard back from her. I don't know if the original effort has stalled, but I would definitely like to get this project going. I'm not waiting to hear back, though. I've already started developing the most comprehensive KnitML schema that I can using a basic sock pattern. Socks have a lot of combinations of strange repeats, short rows, areas of potential charting, etc. that makes them ideal for some comprehension. Hopefully we can get many people on board with this project so that we can make the schema truly comprehensive.

Once we settle on a schema, a prototype piece of software needs to be developed to demonstrate and popularize the standard. I've already thought about how a simple renderer would work if it were implemented with a state machine in Java. Getting good tooling out there is critical, as it would widely facilitate adoption by the masses.

Once people start realizing the benefits of KnitML, we can hopefully get the buy-in from independent pattern authors to publish their patterns in KnitML (as well as the traditional format.) From there, larger publishers would probably eventually feel pressure to make their patterns available in KnitML as well. And once that happens, you have an adopted standard. Ultimately the standard would move to a standards organization (such as the W3C).

They say you need to think big, after all.

UPDATE: KnitML now has its own website with an easy-to-remember name:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

And the Winners Are...

First, thank you all for the tremendous response to the jelly post. Who knew that so many people would want to so desperately get their hands on a jar of homemade grape jelly?

We thought it was rather pathetic imagining David in kilt hose with no jelly. After all, who would ever want to be in a position like that? And, of course, we have a soft spot in our hearts for Kim, the knitting, spinning contra dancer who hurt her foot and couldn't dance.

Sherrill's entry made us laugh quite a bit, so we're sending her a hand knit washcloth to clean up future preserving mishaps.

Franklin, we have a special gem of promotional publishing for you. As you are a self-described "disconsolate bachelor," we can think of no finer person to receive "The Freixenet Social Survival Guide," published by a Catalan winery that produces cheap sparkling wine. This handy guide provides five never-fail conversational starters, the rules for "Sardines," and a useful section on how to ditch a bad date (in case an attempt to abandon bachelorhood goes south.)

Katie, as one of Angus' biggest and most faithful fans, his Biting Royal Arseness would like to send you an autographed picture for your new apartment refrigerator.

If you've won something, please send your snail mail address to "jelly AT" (replace the AT with you-know-what), and we'll ship it right off.

I'm in!

MegD on Ravelry.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I do not like knowing the cats have secrets

Someone is a mouser.
The Fool heard a cat thumping around on the bedroom rug early the other morning, but didn't bother to wake up, because the cats are always thumping around in the bedroom at night.
When he woke up, there was a wee dead mouse on the rug - and no one's talking.
I'm slogging through a sock right now. Skipped knitting group this week for some reason that seemed sensible at the time, but probably wasn't.
I realized the other day, though, that maybe I ought to kick the holiday knitting into gear soon.

Perhaps some canned cat food will loosen tongues around the house ....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Often Does This Happen?

You're at work, and, through a series of e-mails, you end up starting a humor chain that manages to incorporate what you do at work with knitting. And you're not the only one laughing.

It all started off when I explained to my group about my availability tomorrow, that I would be driving to Indianapolis but would be available by cell phone.

Someone started off the e-mail chain with this (keep in mind they all know I knit):

Person A: "If while you are driving we call you on your cell phone, will that distract you from your knitting?"

Me: "Oh, I didn't tell you? I'm knitting the next [document that relates to work which is written in a geek language called UML]."

Person B: "Now, that is something I would like to see. Are there common UML knitting patterns?"

Me: "We use a language called KnitML. Every thing is a freeform diagram."1

Person C: "Hmm... looks like that standard is full of loop holes."

Me: "For KnitML 2.0 (currently in Pre-Candidate Fairly Strong Recommendation status at the W3C), they are planning on tightening up the loop holes by using smaller needles."1

Go me.

Winners of the 2007 Great Grape Jelly Competition will be posted soon, I promise.

1For those of you who are not tech savvy, I apologize. We all found it funny.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Adventures in sock knitting

Cat Bordhi is a lunatic. I bought her book on socks at Stitches Midwest. I'm enthralled. I want to quit my job and make Cat Bordhi's socks. All of them. Here's a little baby sock I made for practice. The increases are nowhere near where they usually go. That's the point of her book - you can put them all sorts of cool places.

Here's a big sock. Socks That Rock Highway 30. I love the linen stitch cuff. I would like to be a fly on Cat Bordhi's wall to see if everything else she does in her life comes out so interestingly. Does she wash her clothes in the dishwasher? Does she make breakfast cereal from pencil shavings? What next, Cat, what next?

(This sock got me so excited I forgot how long my foot is and made it an inch too short, so I have to rip out the toe and reknit it, but that's beside the point.)