The Bog of Lost Scholars

March 19, 2011

Lessons from Cast-On Mania

Filed under: Crafts — castiron @ 12:01 am

There’s a group on Ravelry that does Cast-On Mania once or twice a year. The goal is to start one project every day for a month; the next couple months are spent working down the projects started. This year, I decided to participate.

Why would I do this when I’ve already got numerous projects in progress?

I was out of my mind.

Actually, given the number of projects I’ve bought yarn for but haven’t started, or that I’ve wanted to make for a while but haven’t gotten around to, Cast-on Mania was intended as a kick-start. Instead of putting them off and putting them off and putting them off, I’d start them and get them into my regular project rotation, so they’d at least be moving forward.

And in that, it’s succeeded. Sweaters and vests, toys and bags, socks and dishcloths that have been on my to-make-someday list are now on my work-in-progress list.

Sadly, they’ll be there for a long time. Adding 28 projects to my existing works-in-progress — well, it finally threw off the habit of working on projects as they turn up, because when I have ten projects come up on a weekday, it’s very hard to do even a row on each. However, I took a leaf from David Allen’s book and rescheduled the overdue ones, most with longer repeats. It’ll take longer to get them all done, but I’m getting back on track. (And honestly? Learning to spin has actually done more to hurt my knitting productivity than starting 28 more projects has; I’m spending more of my leisure time making yarn and less using it up.)

The biggest thing I learned from Cast-on Mania, though, wasn’t that I have the willpower to stick with it for a month, or that I’ve hit the limit of how many knitting projects I can reasonably keep going at one time. It’s that I have far too much yarn. I could’ve kept starting a project a day for at least two more weeks, and that’s not counting the multitude of sock yarn skeins. Needles and hooks were the limiting factor, not yarn.

I can see myself doing Cast-on Mania again someday, but not until I get my WIP quantity back into single digits.

January 9, 2011

2011 Craft Goals

Filed under: Crafts — castiron @ 8:44 pm

My craft goals for 2011:

1. Finish all the projects started before 2011 (except for sweaters/vests) in 2011:

  • Blue Curacao Shawl
  • CTH Peacock Socks
  • Hobby Horse
  • Katika
  • Garden Gate Socks
  • Bear Rug
  • Copper Penny Socks
  • Linen Bag
  • Loud Escher Socks
  • Shall We Dance Doily
  • Medallion Travel Bag
  • Spot Check Socks
  • Microsock

Exception: the Heere Be Dragone shawl (if I finish that, great, but since it takes so long to do a row, I’m not holding my breath on it).

2. Finish at least two sweaters/vests that I started before 2011 in 2011. My options:

  • Humphrey Vest
  • Al-Araaf Sweater
  • Sherwood
  • Japanese Vest
  • Portland Sweater
  • Arietta
  • Oblique
  • Flutter Cardigan
  • Neon Turkish Sweater
  • Lace Coverup
  • Aran sweater

(Oblique will almost certainly be done by the end of this month if I work on it at all. The other is likely to be Sherwood or one of the vests, though I might surprise myself with one of the others.)

3. Successfully complete the 52 Projects in 52 Weeks challenge in June and sign up for another year of it.

4. Start at least ten projects with stash I’ve had for more than two years.

5. When I buy new yarn, start the project it’s intended for within a month of purchase.

6. Make at least ten projects from patterns that have no Ravelry pattern photo (i.e. my Needlecraft for Today patterns), and take a good picture that can be used as the pattern photo.

7. Start a blanket to use up sock yarn scraps.

8. Start at least one project from my stash of wool that’s stored in the freezer; my husband would like more room for actual food.

9. Weave some towels from the gazillion cones of cotton yarn I’ve bought.

10. Go through the bins of yarn I got with my loom, and log everything I want to keep in my Ravelry stash.

11. Knit five pairs of plain socks.

12. Use all the remaining yarn from the Loopy Ewe orders that made me a Loopy Groupie.

13. Knit all the kid sweaters that I’ve bought yarn for (one in progress, three unstarted).

14. Reduce my knitting/crochet yarn stash so that it fits on my allotted yarn shelves (or at least is out of the closets).

15. Start working regularly on all the cross-stitch and sewing projects.

16. Keep practicing spinning.

January 1, 2011

A New Year’s Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 1:31 am

On New Year’s Eve, just before midnight, someone comes to every house.

Maybe it’s an angel, a messenger of God. Maybe it’s a brownie, or another one of the Fair Folk. Maybe it’s the old woman from countless tales who judges the young traveller. Maybe it’s a sentient being arising from radio waves. Maybe it’s the ghost of one of your ancestors — a woman who learned in a hard school and later became its teacher.

Whoever it is, someone comes to every house and inspects.

Under the chests and behind the television. In the drawers and in your hard drives. On the top shelf of the closet and in the bottom drawer of the desk. In that corner of the fridge where leftovers go to die. Over the toilet and in front of the stove.

That shelf in the utilities room that holds carpet left by the house’s previous owners and the eggshells from seventy-two baby lizards. That box in the closet that holds the present you forgot to give to one of your friends. That pile behind the sofa where your missing library book is. Someone looks at all of it.

Now, some people say that the visitor expects a perfect house before they’ll bestow their blessings on the next year. If the past year’s dirt is under the rug, or the past year’s dishes on the counter, or the past year’s laundry mildewing in the washing machine, or the past year’s bills sitting unpaid, then someone will bring you more dirt, more mess, more trouble.

But if someone sees a perfect house, everything in order, everything clean, everything incapable of improvement, why should someone bestow a blessing where it’s clearly not needed?

No, someone isn’t looking for perfection. Someone is looking for good.

The dishes are piled by the sink, but the guests are enjoying food and drink.

The bathroom tiles need scrubbing, but there is a full roll of toilet paper.

The files are full of old papers, but the shelves are full of beloved books.

The checking account is near empty, but it is balanced.

The laundry is piled up, but the baby creating the laundry is being rocked and sung to.

And someone looks at what has been done out of what could be done, and someone smiles, and someone leaves a blessing.

December 2, 2010

Switching to Ebooks

Filed under: Publishing and Writing,The Castiron Reading Journal — castiron @ 12:44 am

I’ve made the switch to ebooks — almost.

Recently I realized that I’m doing the majority of my fiction reading on my iPod Touch. I still have plenty of paper books, I still like paper books, and I still check out paper books from the library, but when it comes to actually making the time to read, I’m more likely to read on my Touch than I am to read the paper book. The Touch is always on me and easy to pull out when I have a few spare minutes. I can go immediately to where I left off; there’s no danger of a bookmark falling out, and because of the small screen size, there’s no hunting across two pages to find where I left off (a constant problem when I was trying to read Foote’s The Civil War, and one reason I’ve only finished the first volume). If I’m reading something huge, like The Lord of the Rings or The Count of Monte Cristo, that’s okay; the book still fits in my pocket and doesn’t weigh any more.

I knew I’d completed the switch when I read Bujold’s latest, Cryoburn, on the Touch. I’ve got the paper book as well; I only opened it once to look at the design and layout. Overall, I’m now an ebook reader…

…but I’m not yet an ebook buyer.

No, this is not a confession of piracy. All the ebooks on my Touch are legal copies. But most of them are free — Project Gutenberg downloads, fanfiction stories downloaded from Archive of Our Own, free sample books from various publishers, etc. I’ve bought a few Baen books and a few books from Fictionwise when it still had a good micropay program, but the total number of ebooks I’ve paid for might not hit two digits.

Why? Because when I buy a book, I want to own the book.

If I buy a book with DRM, what happens when I need to convert the book to a different format, or the DRM authorization server is shut down, or I switch to a new device and discover I’ve used up all the devices I was allowed to authorize the book on? I’ve lost the book, unless I want to break federal law and strip the DRM.

If I can’t own the ebook, then I don’t want to buy it. Baen’s books are great, because there’s no DRM and I can download different formats when I need to. But Baen only publishes a couple of the authors I really love to read.

I have a few hundred paper books that I want to get in ebook format someday. The books I love enough to keep in my house are mostly ones I love enough to pay twice for them, and some of them were bought used anyway, so this’d be a great chance to finally pay the author. But if the ebook comes with strings attached? I’m not that desperate to have it.

November 6, 2010

Craft Update: Why This Project Gets Buried

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 6:50 pm

Apropros of yesterday’s post, my projects in process and why they get buried under other projects.

  • Swan Dishcloth. Might actually be done by time this post goes up; this is a dishcloth project I started yesterday and am 80% done on.
  • Bear Rug. Crocheting with two strands of yarn, one that’s fuzzy and makes the fabric hard to see to crochet into, gets boring. My incentive to finish is that it’s a pattern with no photo in Ravelry, and I think my younger son will like it.
  • Regia Monet Mosaic Socks. So far, staying unburied. Pretty yarn, mindless knitting.
  • Al-Araaf Sweater. My tolerance for the p2tbl is low. A couple rows at a time seem to be about what I can handle.
  • Hexaflexagon. Great bus project, but I haven’t ridden the bus lately.
  • Sherwood. I’m not enthused by ribbing, and that’s pretty much what this sweater is — uneven ribbing at that, so I can’t go too mindless.
  • Copper Penny Socks. One pattern row annoys me a bit. It works fast, though, so when it’s on my radar I can get a couple pattern repeats at a sitting.
  • Sydney Spice Socks. Got buried by the Mosaic socks. Plain stockinette, gorgeous colors, over half finished. They just need some time on the front burner to be done.
  • Linen Bag. Takes some attention to keep up with where I am, though now that I’ve done a pattern repeat it’s easier to read my knitting.
  • Japanese Vest. Still figuring out what one pattern stitch is supposed to be. Knitting in one piece rather than back and two fronts, so a row is really long. But I like the yarn, and the pattern’s starting to move along faster.
  • Loud Escher Socks. Five rows of mindless ribbing that’s no big deal to do, followed by one row of cabling that’s tedious.
  • Portland Sweater. Relatively mindless knitting and purling. I’m finding I can get a three-row ridge done easily at a sitting, so it just needs to be on the front burner more often.
  • Annemor #8 Gloves. I hate stranded glove fingers. When I’m actually working on them and in the rythym, they move along well, but the coefficient of static friction is through the roof. Also, I made one of the fingers too narrow, so I’ll have to rip and redo.
  • Shall We Dance Doily. #30 cotton that twists on itself. Doily is nifty, and I’ll love it when it’s done; process is aggravating.
  • Medallion Travel Bag. Nifty but complicated. Not a mindless project.
  • Spot Check Socks. I don’t know why I’m finding these so tedious. But they’re past the halfway point, at least.
  • Arietta. Love the colors, enjoying the pattern; not sure why this one keeps getting buried now that it’s on the good part.
  • Oblique. Not getting buried too much. It’s 75% done, and if all goes well I’ll have it done to wear sometime this winter.
  • Heere Be Dragone. Complicated, and takes 20 minutes to knit a row. Gorgeous yarn and fascinating pattern, but not a speedy project.
  • Flutter Cardigan. I’m still debating whether to rip out the body and start over with fewer stitches. It’s huge, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s because I’m stretching the pattern too much or because it’s genuinely huge.
  • Microsock. Perle cotton on 6-0 needles. I’ll probably never use them again once this ornament’s done, but until then, it’s nifty.
  • Neon Turkish Sweater. When I work on it, it’s fun, but the prospect of several hundred ends to weave in is daunting.
  • Aran sweater. A self-designed project; I stall on it because I’m not sure what to do next.
  • Fair Isle Swatch Cap. The fact that this project hasn’t been thrown out is testimony to my determination, given that it got eaten by moths once. I do a row every couple months, and in time it’ll be done.
  • Cross-stitch pieces (pentacle, Fantasy Sampler, Ruby, dance apron, Flanders map). When I’ve only got a couple minutes, it’s easier to pick up a sock and knit than to pick up the cross-stitch, adjust the fabric tension, pull the thread color needed, start the thread, check where I am, park the thread and needle where it won’t rust on the fabric….
  • Weaving: I’ve got a warp that’s been ready to go on the loom for months; I haven’t had a solid block of time to put it on the loom. (Once it’s on the loom, the weaving will go fast; it’s just getting it there.)
  • Sewing: We’re not going to even think about it. If I can make progress on the yarny stuff, I’ll be satisfied.

Why Some Projects Get Buried

Filed under: Crafts — castiron @ 12:09 am

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee recently asked on her blog what makes you set aside and forget about a craft project you really like.

For me, it’s mostly the cumulative effects of newer and shinier projects.

Mind you, I’ll also set aside a project because it’s getting boring, or because I’ve hit a snag, or because while I really want the finished object I hate crocheting with #30 thread that tangles itself up every three stitches. (Yep, that’s a project that’s going to be finished in 2018.) And sometimes a project might be one I like, but it’s so complicated that it requires a stretch of uninterrupted time (see: Heere Be Dragone, which I actually hope to finish before 2018).

Most of the time, though, it’s just getting buried under other projects. Another project grabs my interest and attention, or I unearth an older project that now interests me again, or a project that I started as a quick project turns out to take longer than I’d thought, and the current project moves slowly to the bottom of the pile. Or I decide that some yarn sitting in stash is driving me up the wall, and I need to just start the project, adding to the UFO pressure but reducing the stash pressure. The result — the 20+ unfinished knitting and crochet projects, not to mention the other crafts that run the total even higher.

But so far, working on projects as they turn up on my to-do list seems to be helping with this. I only have to do a row every few days, or in some cases just a few stitches every few weeks. If it’s one I like, I’ll work on it more often; if it’s boring, it’s not that big deal to just knit a couple rows; if it’s crocheted with a tiny hook using #30 thread that is possessed by the ghost of a perverted topologist, I can still tolerate doing a few stitches. Nothing vanishes into the pile for too long. Ultimately, it’ll all be finished.

(Seven projects due this Sunday, though; we’ll see how that goes!)

October 7, 2010

Craft Update: Caught Up on Knitting

Filed under: Crafts,Dejunking and Organizing — castiron @ 11:13 pm

Being a mildly organizationally-obsessed person, I’ve got all my unfinished craft projects listed in Toodledo, set to remind me to do a few stitches or a row every so often. And then when I don’t get around to working on the project, as happens fairly often, I know about how long it’s been since I picked up that sweater or sock or hat.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve caught up on all my knitting projects.

Everything’s been worked on, even if it’s only a row or two. Newer items like the Japanese vest pattern, older ones like the Turkish sweater and the Fair Isle hat — it’s all been touched at least once. I have no overdue knitting tasks.

Now we’ll see how long I can keep up with this. Some days I only have one knitting project on my to-do list; others I have five, especially challenging when they’re the doozies. This Saturday, for example, five projects are showing up at once, and four of them are complicated ones that I have trouble getting the impetus to work on. But I’m finding I can talk myself into one row, or maybe two; one row means one step closer to done.

Still, it’s a nice feeling, knowing that all my knitting is current.

Now if I can just get there with the crochet and the sewing and the cross-stitch….

October 6, 2010

A Letter to My Nephews

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 1:05 am

Dear nephews:

At the time I’m writing this letter, several years in advance of when I’d want you to read it, the news is full of stories of young gay men who killed themselves after being bullied for months or years. Given the percentage of men who are gay, while it’s most likely that all of you are straight, there’s a significant chance that at least one of you is gay.

It’s not a choice. You don’t have a choice about who you’re physically attracted to (if you’re straight, did you decide that you’d be attracted to girls?). You do have a choice about whether to act on that attraction, but the attraction itself? All hormones, pheremones, and the way your brain’s wired.

So, if you’re straight, and one day a friend (or your brother, or your cousin) tells you that he’s gay, which of these is an appropriate response?

  • a. You beat him up.
  • b. You tell all your friends, and the group of you make his life a misery.
  • c1. You say “Thanks for trusting me with that. It’s totally cool with me”, continue to be his friend, and stand up for him when someone else tries to harass him for being gay — there’s nothing wrong with him, and those jerks shouldn’t treat him like there is.
  • c2. You say “Wow, that must be tough for you, trying to live a Christian life and dealing with that. Hey, let’s pray for each other! It’s hard for me to stay chaste with all these cute girls around, so you can pray for me and I’ll pray for you”, continue to be his friend, and speak up when someone else tries to harass him for being gay — we’re all sinners, and God commanded us to love and help one another.

Hint: the answer starts with c. (Which version depends on whether you’re a non-observant Jew or a conservative Christian; if you’ve left the religious path of your parents, variations in the same spirit are acceptable.)

If you’re gay or bisexual, I love you as you are. You are part of my family, and if you need a safe place to live for a couple years, call me. I expect you to conduct your sex life ethically and safely — wait until you’re an adult for serious sex, treat your partner(s) well, use the damn condoms, and get tested for diseases regularly; beyond that, what you do is none of my business.

If you’re straight, I love you as you are. You are part of my family, and the offer of safe space stands if you need it for reasons unrelated to your orientation. I expect you to conduct your own sex life ethically and safely: wait until you’re an adult for serious sex, treat your partner(s) well, don’t have vaginal intercourse unless you’re willing to become a father and have a lifelong relationship with your partner, use the damn condoms, and get tested for diseases regularly; beyond that, what you do is none of my business.

You’re good kids. Make me proud.

your aunt

P.S.: Dear younger son: In case of my death or incapacitation before you’re of an age for me to tell you this, the above all applies to you too, and will also apply to your older brother if he’s ever of mental capacity to understand it.

P.P.S.: Dear nephews by marriage: Yep, you too.

June 29, 2010

The Secondary Calendar

Filed under: Dejunking and Organizing — castiron @ 11:55 pm

One of David Allen’s recommendations in Getting Things Done is that you should only use your calendar for “hard landscape” tasks, tasks that must be done on that day — appointments, deadlines, etc. You shouldn’t put tasks you want to do today on your calendar; instead, you should keep them on your Next Action lists and choose from among them based on what your day is looking like.

This is great for someone who has a limited number of Next Actions and can easily decide what needs to be done in a given time and context. It’s not so great for someone who has 437 Next Actions, many of which can be done in a given context; that’s a recipe for choice paralysis, and can lead to wasting a chunk of time trying to decide what to do. It’s also not so great for someone who has a lot of tasks that ought to be done on regular intervals but don’t have to be — for example, the world won’t end if the toilet isn’t cleaned routinely, but it’s much pleasanter in the bathroom when it is cleaned regularly.

My solution: two calendars.

I use Google Calendar, backed up to my wall calendar, for my appointments and deadlines. And I use Toodledo’s calendar to assign dates when I might want to do a task, and to automatically assign the next date I want to do a routine task.

Those dates are entirely flexible; if a task shows up today that I can’t actually do today (or just really don’t want to do today), no problem; I’ll reschedule it, or just let it go to overdue. But when I’m too brain-fried to decide on something, I’ve got a narrowed-down list of things that I want to work on. And when I have more energy to choose tasks, I can look at the lists as a whole and say, “Actually, this task would be a better thing to work on right now, even though it’s scheduled for next week (or was tentatively scheduled for a month ago)”. A secondary calendar is a valuable tool for me.

June 21, 2010

Unfinished Project Guilt

Filed under: Crafts,Dejunking and Organizing — castiron @ 12:21 am

The Yarn Harlot recently posted wondering why she feels guilty about bailing on a project to knit something that’s more appealing. Predictably, many of the comments in response were along the lines of “Don’t feel guilty! Knitting is supposed to be fun! It’s the Puritan Work Ethic coming to harass you; just ignore it! You produce plenty of finished projects; you have nothing to feel bad about!”

All good points.

But sitting here surrounded by 20+ unfinished projects, I can tell you one reason why it’s legitimate to feel guilty about neglecting one to knit something else: the waste of money.

Yarn isn’t cheap. Even a few skeins of big-box craft store acrylic represents some money that could’ve been used for a lunch out; a sweater-quantity of luxury fiber could buy a week’s groceries; a large stash could represent enough money to rewire the house or take a nice vacation. Now, when the yarn’s still in skein form, the pleasure of petting it and imagining what projects you could make from it may well be worth what you paid for it. The process of turning that yarn into something nifty is another pleasure that’s well worth the cost; ditto the enjoyment of using or giving the finished item.

But when the project is sitting half-finished in a bag somewhere, it’s not doing any of those things. No dreams about what to make from the yarn, because a project’s already chosen and started; no fun of watching the project grow and feeling the yarn as you work, because you’re not working on it; no finished item to be proud of. If the project’s packed away somewhere, you don’t even have the pleasure of petting the yarn. It’s a waste of the money you spent on the yarn. You’d have been better off putting that money towards paying off debt or going out for a memorable meal…or buying yarn for a project that you actually would enjoy finishing.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress