Crafting, Family

Sick Baby

Poor Bitmap has a cold, she’s been bringing them home from daycare on a regular basis. Which means that I’ve also had a cold pretty much nonstop for the last month. This one has hit her the hardest, she spent most of yesterday snoozing.

Bitmap and her dad


I did finally get around to making her a new hat. She outgrew her biggest one months ago, and I’ve been getting lots of dirty looks from nosy mothers who can’t believe I have her outside without a hat.

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The good news is that Bitmap is sleeping much better these days. She goes to bed at 9 and usually sleeps until about 5am, when she nurses and then goes back to sleep until 8. So I’m finally starting to get enough sleep to think straight. Which is good because I’ve picked up some more freelance WordPress dev work.

Aside from bringing home every germ on the planet, she’s really liking daycare. She’s pulling herself up to standing, and can walk around if she’s got something to lean on.

We still spend Mondays together, and maybe if it stops raining today we’ll go on a walk through the neighborhood. I can’t wait for spring.


Giant Nikkor Lens of Doom

When I was in high school I used my dad’s Nikon F camera a ton. It weighed approximately a million pounds and was twice my age but I loved the hell out of it. I was particularly proud of the fact that it was entirely mechanical and my dad had a huge collection of lenses for it (also completely mechanical; to this day I still find autofocus to be a little foreign).

Most of the lenses sat in the closet when I finally moved to a digital SLR, until a couple years ago when I got an adapter ring that lets you used the Nikon F-mount lenses on a Canon EOS body. Obviously none of the computerized features work, but the through-lens metering on my T4i does a pretty good job at exposing the shot. This weekend I pulled it out to use with my dad’s Nikkor 500m f/8 lens. It’s a short (for a 500) fat lens which we affectionately call “the Hubble  because it’s really best suited for taking pictures of the moon and other distant, slow-moving objects.

The church down the street (about 5 blocks away) fit that description well so I stuck the camera on a tripod and tested things out. I used the 2 second self-timer function on my camera so I wouldn’t jiggle the camera when pressing the shutter release. Because at 500mm even a tiny bit of jitter looks like a lot.

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It turns out the church is actually much too close to be able to do much shot composition. I had to back up about 15 feet from the window just to fit that much of it in the frame. What’s incredible to me is that you can see the individual bricks that make up the church. This church is far enough away that I can’t read the clock from my bedroom window. Turns out it’s wrong anyway.

Focusing the lens was a challenge. My camera has a “live preview” feature which lets you zoom in on sections of the frame, so I used the edge of the clock face to get things as sharp as I could (which isn’t very sharp with this lens).

The next day I took it to the zoo and got up close and personal with some of the animals.

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It’s not the most practical lens but it’s a lot of fun, and I’m glad to be able to use the older lenses in my dad’s collection. The flexible and super high ISOs of modern SLRs make the lens more useful now than it ever could have been with film.

Crafting, Family



Christmas is practically a week-long event in our family, and this year was no exception. It’s our first Christmas in our new house, and we were very excited to get a tree.

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Our first stop of Christmasfest 2012 was a Christmas Eve dinner at RevolvingDork’s grandmother’s. She moved into an “active seniors” community last year and I think the ~20 of us overwhelmed some of the other residents. Bitmap, who has been in a much better mood the last few weeks, charmed everyone.

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She also stole the spoon from the dining room. Bitmap is really into spoons lately. It’s been great – we went out to dinner and she entertained herself the entire time with a spoon and a couple packets of sweet ‘n’ low.

We went to mass at 8pm, and although Bitmap was in a good mood she was LOUD so we spent most of the service in what RD calls the “baby penalty box.” It’s a plexiglass-walled room off to the side with the audio from mass piped in. It had an attached bathroom with changing table. It’s like the Catholic church is used to babies or something.

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Christmas morning was pretty exciting, we got Bitmap two toys and some clothes. She was mostly excited just to rip the paper off the packages.

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She also got some baby rice crackers in her stocking.

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She’s not really sure how she feels about them, but she ate the whole thing.

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After breakfast we went to RD’s parents’ for Round 2, and his other grandparents’ for Round 3. By the end of the day Bitmap had at least quadrupled her toy collection. Although to be fair she didn’t have more than a dozen or so toys to begin with.

I knit gifts for a few people each year, and this year my husband and in-laws got knit items. My father-in-law got a pair of handknit socks and a bottle of scotch.

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My own parents came up to visit the day after Christmas, and somehow I managed to not get any photos of their visit despite (or perhaps as a result of) getting a new camera body from my dad. It’s been a wonderful, exhausting week.


Seven Holiday Knitting Ideas


It’s holiday gift knitting time! Picking patterns for holiday knitting is the most fun. I love holiday knitting because it gives me an excuse to try out patterns I wouldn’t normally make for myself. Sure, I may have spent Christmas morning blocking the sweater vest I made my sister-in-law, but the race to finish is part of the charm!

Here are seven great patterns / projects for holiday knitting. They’re fun to make, fun to get, and won’t take you until next Spring.

A close up of the rainbow that is Kauni EQPaintbox Scarf

This dramatic scarf only uses two different colorways! Effektgarn has a slow, subtle color shift that runs the length of the project. Knit Picks Chroma Fingering is a good option if Effektgarn is out of your budget.

The scarf is doubleknit, meaning it’s actually two fabrics knit back to back at the same time. It’s a great option if you’re ready to move on from plain stockinette stitch scarves.

Chadwick the Shakespearian Caterpillar

Can I tell you a secret? Babies have enough hats. I have a giant box of baby hats which Bitmap is steadily growing out of. Speaking of outgrowing things, the booties I knit her were too small for her about a week after birth. Toys, on the other hand, require no sizing!

This pattern is great because you can use up any odds n’ ends of yarn you may have lying around. It uses about 250 yards of any weight. Also it’s super cute.

Snowflake Fingerless Gloves

 Snowflake Fingerless Gloves

Color choices make this pattern easy to customize for the recipient. I knit it in just three colors, but pattern supports up to seven different colors (at once!). It also looks nice if you use one varigated or self-striping yarn and one solid color.

I used this pattern to teach myself fair isle. It’s nice because it’s worked in the round and there aren’t any crazy long floats across the back.

Entrelac Hat

Entrelac Cap

Entrelac is a knitting stitch that looks much more complicated than it is, and is a great use for varigated yarns. The hat in the picture was knit using just one ball of Chroma Worsted and a few yards of dark grey wool for the band.

Hats are great for gifting because the sizing is very forgiving. If you’re sick of scarves, try a hat!

Padraig Driving Cap

Finding interesting things to knit the men in your life can be really challenging. There are only so many ribbed beanies you can knit before you’re suffering from massive knitting boredom. Thankfully, driving caps are here to save you!

I can’t help but notice almost all the men on Ravelry wearing this hat have beards. So if you’ve got a bearded gentleman in your life, this hat is for him.

Gentlemens Socks 0Gentleman’s Sock with Lozenge Pattern

If a driving cap is still too adventurous for your XY friend, Lisa at Hidden River Yarns has an old standby: dark socks and a bottle of scotch. Socks are great holiday knitting because they’re small enough to fit in any project bag. If you’re worried about losing track of your double-points on the airplane, try the magic loop method. This pattern comes from Knitting Vintage Socks, which has a number of dad-safe patterns to try out.

 Monster Fish Coin Pocket

These are another great option for using up project leftovers. Knit up a bunch and chuck a whole school of them in the washing machine to felt. They’re meant to be coin purses, but there’s no reason you can’t hide whatever you like inside them.


I confess, I’m holding out on you all: I didn’t include any of the patterns I’m knitting for holiday gifts this year. As most of the recipients read my blog, I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. I’ll do a post-holiday round up of my Christmas knitting.

What are you knitting for loved ones this season?


Baby Sweater!

Fall has settled in nicely around us, and it’s time to make Bitmap some sweaters!

An exciting new Philadelphia yarn store opened up in my neighborhood. I’ve started haunting it with Bitmap during the day, the shopkeeper Lisa is very nice and lets us hang out and knit. I’m really stoked to have a local yarn store within walking distance and I hope they do well!

I picked up a skein of Lorna’s Laces and sat down at my knitting machine to make a sweater. This is the first time in a very, very long while that I’ve actually knit a garment on the machine instead of tinkering with it.

The sweater is knit in 5 pieces (back, left front, right front, and two sleeves) and then a folded hem is added to the front and collar. It took a week to make, although I didn’t work on it at all over the weekend. I think I could make another in a day or two.

A day by day log of my progress can be found on the sweater’s Ravelry page. I do still need to add buttons, and maybe embellish the front a bit, but in the mean time it will keep Bitmap nice and warm.

Crafting, Software

Computational Art with Processing

Snapshots of a project I’m working on currently in Processing. I wanted to create drooping clusters of non overlapping circles, kind of like a grape bunch.

Non overlapping circles generated in a tree-like hierarchy

A random number of smaller child circles are spawned from the parent circle, at random angles from the parent. The spawning function is run recursively until the circles are 20 pixels or less in diameter.

Colorful clusters of circles

Each circle cluster or bunch is randomly assigned a color. The colorspace is in HSV and the hues are limited to greens, blues, and purples. The value (brightness) of the color is dimmed 10% each for generation of circles.

Each time a circle is generated, it’s spawned somewhere on the lower half of it’s parent, and then rotated around the circle until it no longer overlaps with any other circles. If it makes it all the way around without founding a valid place to be, it’s deleted.

Sketchy clusters of circles

A Processing library called HandyRenderer gives everything a more sketchy look. But the clusters weren’t droopy enough. So I modified the script to send the circle rotating back the other way if it rises above the center point of its parent. If it reaches the other side without finding a spot, it’s deleted.

Now more droopy!

Now to start working on the “tree” that supports them.

I put together a slimmed down version (no sketchy rendering) for the web. You can play with it here if you’re so inclined.


Winning the Knitting Machine Lottery

I peek at the Craigslist listings for knitting machines from time to time, but don’t usually see much that strikes my fancy. Most of what’s available consists of overpriced Ultimate Sweater Machines (which are junk at any price). For buying and selling machines, the Ravelry sales group is much better.

Last week I came across a White Easy Knitter for $25. The White Easy Knitter is made by the same company that made my beloved 1602, and is the same pitch (5mm). The Easy Knitter is a low-end hobby machine, and considerably simpler than the 1602, but the parts and accessories are interchangable. For $25 I wasn’t expecting it to be in great shape, but since replacement needles are about $1 each on ebay I figured it would be a good source for spare needles.

You may remember that my 1602 did not come with a full bed cast-on-comb, and I’ve attempted to make my own. My homemade comb works OK, but not great, and I’ve been keeping my eye out for an affordable replacement without much luck. I have yet to see one for less than $100 once shipping is factored in.

White Easy Knitter tools

I’m happy to say that the $25 Easy Knitter came with both a full bed of 160 needles (all of which look to be in good shape) AND a full bed cast-on-comb. So that’s $260 in parts right there. The carriage for the Easy Knitter is sold as the intarsia carriage for the 1602, another $50+ part.  It also came with some weights and transfer tools which will work with the 1602. Most curiously and surprisingly, it came with an original copy of the 1602 manual. Most mysterious, since the 1602 manual really doesn’t apply to the Easy Knitter at all.

The condition of the Easy Knitter bed itself is OK. A few of the flow combs are broken, but that doesn’t really prevent it from being used. It’s a very simple machine compared to the 1602. I plan on stealing a few needles from it to replace some bent ones on the 1602, but will otherwise leave the Easy Knitter in tact. It’s considerably lighter and smaller than the 1602, and will come in handy if I ever get around to teaching another knitting machine class.

Overall I feel like I’ve won the knitting machine lottery, with a solid $300+ worth of parts and tools compatible with my 1602 for only $25.