Thursday, May 31, 2007

Welcome to the Machine

Some folks have asked about my humble knitting machine, so I've taken a few pictures. There are more pictures here, and if you click on the pictures in this post you can read notes about the various parts of the machine.

Knitting Machine

This is a Bond Sweater Machine. (A very old one, I might add. I bought it probably ten years ago.) It's the simplest, most basic type of knitting machine, with only one bed and a manual carriage. The single-bed part means that it can only do knit-based stitches, no purling. This machine has a 30-needle expansion bed on it, which means it can knit up to 130 stitches at a time. It takes something like four feet of machine to create two feet of knitting, so yeah, it needs a lot of space.

Knitting Machine

Here's a picture of The Machine In Action. You can see here why the darn thing has to be so long, because the knitting needs to be under a lot of downward tension to make it hang from the working needles and not just pop off. The scarf in this picture is 70 stitches wide, a little more than half the total capacity of the machine. This is about 90 rows of knitting, and took about 10-15 minutes. When I get a good rhythm going, I can average an easy 10 rows a minute.

Knitting Machine

A look at the machine mid-row. I took the pictures on a color-change row so you could see how the new, yellow yarn is working into the old red yarn.

Knitting Machine

The nitty-gritty insides of the carriage. In this picture, the carriage is moving from left to right, and you can see how the ridges of the template are pushing the needles back and forth. As each needle moves forward, the old loop of yarn is pushed back over the latch, opening the latch and leaving the hook ready for the new yarn. As the needle is pushed back, it carries the new yarn, and the whole hook is pulled through the old loop, leaving the new loop of yarn resting in the hook ready for the next row.

Knitting Machine

A closer look at the knitting, and the latch construction on the needles.

Well, there it is, the knitting machine in all its glory. :)


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Adventures in Customer Service

Adventures in Customer Service, Part 1

'I'm sorry. That's not my lawn mower.'

As my fellow homeowners are no doubt aware, with spring comes the most vigorous time of lawn mowing. My neighbors all keep tidy lawns, and are very patient and uncomplaining when our lawn--as it often does--shows signs of scraggliness. This year, we were late with the first ritual lawn mowing, and when Albert did try to start up the lawn mower, engaging the blade resulting in a horrible screeching noise and clouds of white smoke. Sure enough, the blade belt was broken.

We called Bolen, the manufacturer of our mower, and they gave us the name of their local authorized repair shop. They came and picked up our mower. My husband taped a note to it explaining what the problem was and also asking them to install the mulch kit we'd never gotten around to putting on.

On Monday, I get a phone call from the repair shop. Our mower, the woman said, was ready. But they had three mowers that were all alike, and didn't know which one was ours. Based on the serial numbers, they could tell where each one was purchased, so she wanted to know where we'd bought ours (two years ago). Her attitude was that it was somehow my problem for not remembering off the top of my head which of the three local hardware stores (all of which we'd patronized) we'd bought the mower from, and not at all *their* problem for not having, say, stuck a tag on our mower when it arrived at their shop.

Luckily, Albert remembered where we'd bought it, and they said they would deliver it. Someone needed to be there, they said, to pay for the repairs. No problem, Albert said, How much is it? Once again, our fault for asking, not hers for not knowing, or being able to look it up and find out.

Finally, later that afternoon, the lawn mower repair person arrives. The doorbell rings, and I am ready with my checkbook. I'm still ignorant of the amount I need to pay, but what the heck. The man comes in, I sign the delivery slip, and ask how much. He says, "Nothing. It was under warranty."

Great! But as I start to hand the paperwork back, I remember the mulch kit, which was certainly not covered under any warranty. What about the mulch kit? I ask. He has no idea. I look at the second sheet of the paperwork, which details the repairs, and see words like "won't start," and "faulty switch."

"I don't think this is my tractor," I say, and step outside and walk around to look, for the first time, at the lawn mower on the back of the trailer (admittedly, this probably should have been my first step).

I can say this much: the mower they brought us was also green.

It's two weeks later. We've called a couple of times about our mower, and heard nothing. I suspect that we're going to have to go down there and pick it out of a lineup.

Adventures in Customer Service, Part 2

'What do you mean by

In my ongoing quest to organize my yarn, I decided that I needed some shelving for my closet. I went to Sam's, and picked out some nice sturdy metal shelves on wheels. I got the checkout slip for the shelves, picked up some other stuff I needed, and was passing the DVD section when I spotted the first season of Deadwood. I'd heard good things about it, and am a huge fan of Ian McShane, so I decided what the heck. All the DVD sets are locked down, so once again I got a checkout slip with a barcode in lieu of the actual item. I was a little concerned because, unlike many other slips, there was no title printed or written above the barcode, and I couldn't confirm that it was the correct slip for that DVD. Still, it was the only slip there, so I presumed I was okay.

I got the checkout, and a lady was doing pre-checkout, which means that your membership card is scanned, then all your items, so that when you get to the cashier all she has to do is scan your card and the total pops up, without any loading and unloading. Easy peasy.

When the woman scanned the Deadwood slip, I asked her if it was the correct slip for Deadwood. There was no title written on it, I explained, and I wanted to be sure I'd gotten the right one. "What do you mean, Deadwood?" she asked. I explained, again, that that was the name of the DVD I was trying to buy. She turned without answering and starting calling someone to fetch my shelves. Okay.

I get up to the cashier, and ask where I should go to pick up my shelves and DVD. She gives me an utterly blank look, and asks who pre-checked me. I look around, and the lady is gone, vanished, absent. The cashier asks me to wait near the food tables. No problem.

Very soon, a guy comes up clutching the my ill-fated slip. Which season do I want? he asks. I said I wasn't sure, I just wanted the Deadwood DVD. He explained that the barcodes didn't indicate seasons, and I said, Okay, no sweat, first season.

He returns a few minutes later with my shelves on a flatbed and the first season of The Sopranos.

Once more, I explain that I want Deadwood (which I have explained at least twice to each person I've encountered). He goes away again. Finally, he comes back and says that I'll have to show him, he has no idea what I'm looking for. I smile, say "Sure," and walk right up to the Deadwood DVD. He gets it for me, I say thanks, sorry it was so much trouble.

He says, "Just take the shelves on out and tell the girl at the door you need someone to help you."

Now, my understanding--based on him saying so--was that he was going to take the shelves out, but fine, whatever. It's only when I get back to the front door that I realize that it's impossible for me to pull both the flatbed and my own shopping cart with the rest of my stuff. So, I transfer everything to the flatbed, explain (twice) to the lady a the front door that I need someone to help me load up the shelves, and finally, finally, meet someone who gives a crap.

I parked the flatbed outside the door, and told the loading person that I'd be back in a minute with my van. When I started to back out, though, I almost ran him over because he'd followed me out. He helped me load the shelves. He helped me load my stuff. I apologized again for nearly running him over. He said no problem.

Bless you, shelf-loading guy.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Party Pictures!

Riley's 5th Birthday

For any interested parties, I've uploaded pictures from Riley's 5th birthday party. I just went ahead and uploaded files that are, theoretically, big enough to make prints from. The pictures are all in this set, here:

Riley's 5th Birthday

Or you can just click on the picture above.

If you would like to make a print, look at the right side of the individual photo page, in the "Additional Information" section. You'll see a link called "different sizes." Click on that link, and it will take you to a page where you can select from several size options.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Swatching, a Cautionary Tale

While I was taking pictures and uploading and making notes, I decided to take a photograph that vividly demonstrates the importance of washing one's swatches.

Brigid back and swatch

In the picture, the smaller piece is the aforementioned swatch, laid on top of the in-progress back of the sweater. As you can see, there's a dramatic difference between the washed swatch and the unwashed sweater piece, to the tune of 3 1/2 inches extra width. (Don't worry, I knew this before I cast on the sweater, and the in-progress piece will be the correct size post-blocking. I hope.)

Now, I will admit that I'm not the world's most diligent swatcher. There are, really, only so many times that one can swatch the same yarn on the same needles and come up with the same result before giving up swatching every single time. I'll also admit that I'm fairly lax about washing and blocking my swatches. If it's a yarn I've used before, a stitch I've used before, and a project where the fit is negotiable, I don't always wash and block. At least, I didn't used to.

This time, however, I knew that the numerous cables would play merry hell with gauge, and I was also going to have to re-tool the pattern to make it fit me. Alice Starmore notoriously includes excess ease in her patterns, but even her generous largest size wasn't big enough for me. So, I knew I needed a big swatch, and I knew it would have to be an accurate one.

I turned, therefore, to some advice from Elizabeth Zimmermann, from Knitting Without Tears. In it, she suggests making a "swatch hat" for complex cabled patterns, especially if one is creating one's own pattern combination. The idea is to knit a swatch half the circumference of the sweater, which generally falls into the range of a typical hat circumference. Not only do you get a very accurate swatch out of it, you get a matching hat for your sweater. So, after making yarn calculations, I ordered quite a bit of excess yarn and included an allowance of one skein just for swatching.

As I was working on the swatch pictured above, I was thinking only in terms of figuring my gauge across all those cables. I hadn't really thought about washing and blocking the swatch yet. Then I saw a sweater that a lady had knitted based on a washed and blocked swatch. It fit her beautifully...until she washed and blocked the full sweater. She had swatched the cables and blocked them, but the ribbing bloomed hideously on the final blocking, and the sweater no longer fit. So, when I finished my swatch, I washed it and laid it flat to dry. I didn't stretch or pin it, just laid it out, let it dry, and then gave it a couple of days to relax back into whatever shape it wanted.

It wanted, apparently, to be 3 1/2 inches wider.

I like a lot of ease in my clothes. But no so much that 7 extra inches, added on top of the generous ease I was already planning, would have made the finished product look like anything other than an intricately cabled tent. I dodged the bullet mostly by accident, and I'm just grateful that I decided to be diligent.


Photograph Upload

I've just finished a massive upload of photographs to Flickr. There are a lot of new pictures of Boo and my friends and family, but I've also put up just about every picture I've ever taken of my knitting.

Jinjifore's Photographs on Flickr

If you want to look at pictures of people and animals, you can visit the "People, Places and Things" collection, which you can also get to by clicking the icon to the right of my main page on Flickr.

If, on the other hand, you'd like to look at thrilling knitting pictures, visit the "Knitting" collection.

There are several subsets in each category that will, hopefully, be self-explanatory. I've also tried to tag the pictures with years and subjects. In the knitting pictures, the "Project Main Entry" tag is used for the picture that has the complete notes for that particular project.

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