Saturday, August 21, 2010

Doctor Who Scarf: Really, it's done...

...and has been for quite a while if I want to be honest about it. Or rather, the knitting is. I reached the goal of 12', as predicted, sometime last Sunday, but between rainy days, lost camera, and the practical difficulty of laying out such a thing to photograph in my apartment and fitting it in one frame, it's been a long time getting it photographed in this state. I added a little more on, as well, but now I'm confronted with many a knitter's worst nightmare: weaving in approximately a billion ends. Give or take a few million.

For the uninitiated, weaving in ends is the process of taking the yarn ends hanging off of a project and looping them back through the stitches, which both makes the work look cleaner and, depending on how the thing's constructed, further ensures it will not unravel. They usually turn up every time you start or stop a new yarn. When working in the same color, there are ways to avoid it, but with stripes, there's no hope, so I have two ends to weave in for each stripe on the scarf. At this magnitude, a billion is only a slight exaggeration.

This is one of the greatest difficulties of "finishing" a project; it's why if you look at projects on Ravelry (a knit/crochet project sharing site), you will find any number of in progress pieces that hang at 95%, or even 100% nearly indefinitely, without their creator declaring them complete. It's weaving in the damn ends.

When it's for me, I don't mind having strings hanging off unless they put the piece at risk for unraveling, so it's become sort of a trademark of knitted things I make for myself. Plus, in a way, it complements the trend of wearing things, especially baseball hats, with the tags hanging off of them. It shows people where it came from. They both also have the feature in common of making you look a little silly. Looking silly, as evidenced by the themes of the last post, is clearly among my major concerns: I am concerned about not looking silly enough.

So I've done what a great history of fiber artists have done and started another project rather than do the finish work on the first one. I won't tell you what the other project is, because I want it to be a surprise for Mlle. Commissioner, but it involves a large quantity of bobbles and has had other parts reknit several times because the shaping wasn't quite right.

Slowly, I am working through the woven in stripe ends. On the other end of that, I get to make tassels, which I'm rather looking forward to doing. It appears that my estimation of two weeks will be about spot on for this project, even if that's a self-fulfilling time frame. Evidence of the school year creeps up more and more, starting to reclaim my brain from the free-roaming pastures of summer. It can't shut me in the barn yet, though. I will stampede the grass of summer yet!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Doctor Who Scarf Day 4: 88.5" and Waiting for the Other Shoe

As of sometime last night, the scarf is more than halfway done! Thursday is Knitting Night, so it's not unexpected that it was productive time, though not as productive as it could have been, since I forgot one of my needles and needed to wait for someone else to show up with a spare #8. Quite productively, I spent this waiting time doodling on the little whiteboard that lives in my bag for tutoring and stacking as much of my stuff on my head as I could.

I have a longstanding belief that most things are worth trying on as a hat. Here is a partial list of things that I have worn as a hat:
  • colander
  • CD spindle cover
  • CD spindle
  • skeins of yarn
  • corn husks
  • dictionaries and other untold numbers of books of varying sorts
  • egg carton
  • watermelon with a pineapple topper
  • tinfoil (one has to try it at least once)
  • trash can
  • cat
  • flower pot (with and without flower)
  • flip flop
  • bread box
  • white board
  • and a cast of thousands...

I suppose I'm happy to think of myself as someone who wears many hats, but this wasn't exactly what I meant. Maybe I've been preparing myself for a varied life since a very young age by trying on any hat I could find. Even the ones that aren't really hats.

The other exciting thing about knitting last night was that one of the older members brought me the argyle sock pattern that she used to knit from years and years ago, which I've been digitizing over a large portion of today, and will be making available for free once it's all sorted out. It also includes patterns for plaid and block patterned socks and an argyle tie pattern. More about those soon. For now, back to Doctor Who-ville!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doctor Who Scarf Day 2: 50" and a Cup of Tea

Because the yarn didn't arrive until rather late on Monday, and because there was other important preliminary work to be done before actually starting (i.e. rerolling skeins, tweaking gauge, and, apparently, making spreadsheets), yesterday was the first real chance to take her out on the road and see what she can really do. It seems that my baseline estimate of a foot per day really is a baseline, because I knit a yard on Tuesday.

I'm just going to take a moment to imagine a knitted yard. Not the measurement, but yard as in green space adjacent to a building. With knitted shrubs and knitted flowers and a knitted barbecue. Possibly, knitted croquet or badminton. This is making me think that there isn't quite enough knitted animation around - it's interestingly close to Lego in its ever-extending pixellation of the world, possibly at a higher resolution. Imagine the games: Knitted Batman, Knitted Rock Band, Knitted Indiana Jones, Knitted Star Wars. Then again, I guess Little Big World, with its stitchling protagonist, wasn't actually all that far off. I'll stick with my visualization of a diorama and think through how I could follow through on knitted animation. If Blu can make the walls and streets come alive with animated graffiti, there has to be some direction here for me. (That was mostly an excuse to link that amazing piece).
Here's a couple of short n' sweet knitting-related animations:
If I continued at this rate, I'd be done in another three days. Do I think that's what will actually happen? Probably not. I suspect that I could reasonably up my pace estimate to two feet per day, though, which sets me done sometime on Sunday. Still, being 35% done with the project two days in is a pretty good deal

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Doctor Who Scarf Day 1: 14" and Ballin'

The yarn is out of the bag and there is no stuffing it back in.There was a box waiting when the dog and I got home from our afternoon walk yesterday about 5:30, packed tightly with the 16 skeins of yarn for this project.

I've forgotten how hard it can be for me to sit still with a project. Incidentally, this was one thing that really made me pick up knitting again in college—having the busywork for my hands during long classes kept me from mentally wandering off and climbing the walls. With my hands busy, I could actually focus on the discussion. As I pointed out to the few professors who objected, even while knitting I still participated more than most. Other professors were curious, though my favorite response came from my senior year film prof. Early on in the semester, I whipped out the sock I was knitting at the time. At the end of the class, he came over, and I was gearing up to defend my handwork when he asked a question I had never gotten: "So, what pattern are you using?" He continued, "I have a really great sock recipe I can bring in for you if you're interested." Not to be sexist, but I wasn't expecting the first professor to talk shop with me about fibercraft to be a dude. I'm still impressed by men who knit. In his case, he had learned while living in Germany, where as I understand, there is less of a gender stigma around knitting.

Anecdotes aside, when the tables are turned and knitting becomes the sole focus, especially endless garter stitch as this scarf is, I get antsy in a similar way. A short ways in I found myself making a spreadsheet doing statistical analysis on the layout of colors in the original scarf. For instance, did you know that there's a pretty consistent inverse relationship between the number of stripes of a given color and the average size of those stripes? Or that the average stripe is about 20 rows (~3¼ "), but that the standard deviation is almost equal to the median row count of 14? Also, here's a helpful chart of color distribution in the original Season 12 scarf.

But then I realized I was seriously considering trying to come up with a numerical correlation between saturation and overall presence of a given color and realized I should probably stop before I crawled up the crack in a slide rule. Also, I couldn't knit while I was typing.

In my fidgeting, I also rerolled one skein of each color on my ball winder because the skeins I got did not appear to be center-pull friendly.

Fidgeting aside, I still pulled 14" yesterday, which is on target with my minimum goal of at least a foot each day, so I would declare Day 1 successful. Now, to keep it up.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Warmup Excercises

This has been a fruitful summer. I've been dyeing out here in the heat, from cool blues and cooled-down reds and browns to a sunset-inspired set and even an attempt at Noro-style long-striping patterns. In fact, it's the "seconds" from this that I felt I could play with that led into a cabled hat with earflaps, for which I'm writing a pattern currently.

The hat, however, is merely a warmup for the next thing I've signed up for: a commission for a For those not familiar with this bit of pop geekery, Doctor Who, which first aired on the BBC in 1963, is not only the longest running sci-fi show on TV, but, even accounting for a major hiatus, from the early 80s to the mid-naughts, it has run for over 30 seasons, making it one of the longest running non-news shows of any genre. There have been, to date, 11 actors who have played the time-traveling Dr. Who, each of whom develops a particular take on the character. Dr. Who scarf. Tom Baker, as the fourth iteration of the Doctor, quite notably wore a series of exceedingly long striped, knit scarves. The longest of these measured in at nearly 20 ft. Even the shortest of them was nearly 14 ft long.

So, I'm making one of these. And it needs to be done by the beginning of the school year, or I don't know when it will actually get finished. A friend from my knitting group worked on his for well over a year, and, since he moved away before it was done, I'm not sure if he ever finished it. I realize that Though there is rigorous documentation of how to make an exact replica at a website dedicated to this subject, Commissioner Shalinor is looking for a somewhat more interpretive version with some change in color, with more of a focus on greens than browns, and is looking for a scarf that is only 12-14 ft. long.

Initial swatches suggest that at the designated width of about 8", I knit at a rate of about an inch every 5 minutes, which means about a foot each hour. I figure that I can pull this out in two weeks without any kind of grueling heroics, as much as you can have them with a knitting project (holidays and other gift-worthy celebrations aside of course—then comes the blood, sweat and tears). Still, it's anticipating a rate of completion that is unlike anything I would expect during the school year, so I will be documenting its progress here.

The yarn (which I ordered for a variety of reasons) should get here sometime today. Up until then, it's a race of seeing how much pattern-writing I can get done before then. My warmup project worked too well: originally my challenge was just to finish a hat.