Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not a Yarn Receptacle

Remember how at the end of June I blogged almost every day and then I stopped again?

Well, the contrast reminded me that I really enjoy blogging and that I have to start making it more of a priority.

Starting next week.

In the mean time, a vaguely knitting related post.

I've been working from home for a year now. It's fitting into our lives nicely and looks like it will be continuing for a while, which is good.

Because of this we decided it was time to finally get me a new, better desk. We'd had the desk we brought up with us for 10 years. It was older than that as we'd inherited it from the previous tenant at our last boarding school.

As you can see, it is a student computer desk and very much inadequate for our needs. We knew we'd have to replace it, but with the move, and the school year, and getting accustomed to a new place, it wasn't a priority.

New and Improved
But now comfort will be mine!

I will no longer be a nomad in the apartment moving from the kitchen island, to the dining room table, to the couch seeking a comfortable place to work.

Of course we bought me a new chair along with the new desk. The old chair was also 10 years old and was frozen at the height Hubby needs so my feet dangled when I sat in it.

It was a three day ordeal for Hubby to assemble the desk and hutch. There was a bit of foul language involved and mutterings about "Why can't assembled furniture be purchased?"

Oh, but it was all worth it. I feel so official now. I have to finish moving in (he finished it just before our trip to California in mid-July), but I'm already enjoying having it.

Not a Yarn Receptacle
You can see that rule has already been broken. That's my souvenir yarn from California on the desk waiting to be documented and added to my hoard.

You can also see my crocheted shawl has taken up residence on the chair back.

Really, if you don't expect the objects in my life to get covered in yarn (and dog hair) then you don't know me very well.

Samson also likes the new desk as there is more room for him to stretch out. Although he's a little too comfortable in this picture—there is no room for the chair!

Back in 2008 Hubby gave me a nice, large, Coach purse for my birthday. At the time I told myself I wouldn't put knitting in it. That vow lasted until May 2008 when I found it necessary to put a sock-in-progress in it.

Then last summer when we were discussing buying me a laptop since I'd be working from home Hubby asked, "Are you going to fill it with knitting stuff?" And I said Of course I will, but it is my job so I kind of have to.

We did not discuss yarn in relation to the new desk but, boy howdy, don't those cupboards at the top of the hutch look perfect for yarn storage?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

App Review: Yarn U

Ya'll know I have an iPhone, right?

And once you get an iPhone you get iPhone apps. I mean, that's the whole point, right? Why have a such a fancy phone just to make phone calls.

On the other hand I have not gone app crazy. I have a few select ones to make my life easier. Mainly ones that have turned my phone into a glorified, electronic notepad.

But if you had ever seen my appalling handwriting you'd understand the necessity of that.

You would think that I'd also load up my phone with knitting and yarn related apps (goodness knows Hubby has loaded his with wine apps), but you'd be wrong.

I have a few basic row counter apps, but I haven't pulled down any of the paid versions of those apps that are supposed to track your projects.

You know the ones (if you have a smart phone) where you can enter the yarn, needles, pattern info, and take a picture. Not only do I feel they are redundant to Ravelry and my blog, but I find typing all that info on the wee keyboard on the iPhone annoying. (I would want a version that I could enter the info on the laptop and download it to the iPhone, but still don't know that I'd actually use one like that.)

Yarn U
Which brings us to the Yarn U app. The Yarn U app is not a project tracker. It is a repository of yarn information and reviews.

At this time I will, in accordance with FCC regulations, point out I was given a free review copy by virtue of being the KFI social media manager. Happily, there are a lot of KFI yarns listed.

Most of the other heavy hitters are represented as well: Knit Picks, Blue Sky Alpaca, Debbie Bliss, Louisa Harding, Quince and Co. Although there are many yarns from each, none have their complete lines listed (yet?).

The iTunes page (which is where I stole the screen shot from for the image on this post) says there are currently 170 yarns listed, and I imagine she's still adding more.

There are reviews of varying lengths and depths on each yarn listed. Some are compilations of reviews/comments found a Ravelry (and say so in the entry), while others seem like they might be based on the author's own experience with the yarn.

The reviews also include "ball band" information such as content, suggested gauge, and yardage.

There are links to online purchasing options and, in some cases, pattern books so you can see projects, or free online patterns. (The entry for Louisa Harding Kashmir Baby links to my Basic Ribbed Fingerless Mitts pattern. squeee!)

There are also occasional random links. For instance, I was looking at the entry for Debbie Bliss Amalfi. When I clicked the Amalfi link I was taken to the wikipedia page for the Italian Alamlfi Coast. Uh?

You can also "favorite" a yarn, email the entry to a friend, and leave a comment for other people to see. You can navigate to the comments from the specific entry, but all comments are also collected in one area.

Browsing is done from the alphabetical list on the front page, which can be sorted by brand name, weight, or fiber.

The other main section is what is commonly referred to as "yarn pr0n." A mass of pretty pictures of balls and hanks of yarn, swatches, and completed projects. Some of the images are official company pictures from the pattern books and some are from private knitters. They all have copyright info in the corner.

The pictures, although very pretty, are a little iffy on usability.

The official company images list the name of the pattern and book where it can be found.

The private user images rely on how completely they fill out their Flickr description. When you click on a pretty sweater or gloves you could find anything from all the info you need to just the yarn to nothing at all. (Which makes me feel bad about my own sparse Flickr entries.)

Of course, this is not really the app's fault. And after the first such encounter you know what to expect.

You can sort the pictures by brand and weight. You can swipe through them, or let the slide show play. There is also a cloud option with wee thumbnails you can navigate through.

One Complaint
I've been playing since yesterday and I only have one main beef, which might say more about me than the app.

Some of the yarn reviews have a "pro and con" section. This is a nice feature as it gives quick and pointed information.

But I noticed that a consistent con was that the yarn is "expensive." In some cases that was the only con listed.

It turns out I have luxury taste in yarn (which is not a surprise) because most of the yarns I like and have used are flagged as "expensive."

That seems an arbitrary adjective to apply to a yarn, especially since not all yarns have a cost measurement applied to them. Where did this "expensive" tag come from? Comments on Ravelry? The author's experience and research? Is the ratio of cost to yardage considered?

Seems to me that the word "expensive" is too open to interpretation to be useful. One person might think yarn that is $5 a ball is expensive, while someone else might go has high as $10 or $20 a ball before flinching. And would that same $5 yarn person spend gobs of money on shoes without a second thought?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I have my limits, but yarn is the luxury item I choose to spend my disposable income on. I'll gripe about spending $60 on a fill-up for the car, but won't blink at dropping $60 on enough yarn to make a project.

My point is we all have our own priorities and without knowing the authors I can't place much value on the word "expensive" and feel it might prevent some people from trying a new yarn because they mistakenly believe it's out of their price range.

Instead of "expensive" I think the app should have a dollar sign scale. You know, like on other review sites and in Zagats. I think dollar signs would be a little less subjective.

And, in case you're wondering, yes, I did submit these observations to the author.

Now that I've told you more than you could ever want to know about this app, you might still be wondering why one would want it.

Well, aside from the pretty pictures, it could come in handy when yarn shopping.

Think about it, you're in a new yarn store where you aren't familiar with the staff so they don't know you're tastes and you want support for their recommendations. They have yarn you've heard of but never used, or maybe that you've never encountered at all. You can whip out your iPhone and see the reviews in Yarn U. (I would however, suggest you not check while the staff member is standing in front of you, that would be rude.)

Or you're at your own LYS where they do know your tastes, but all the staff is busy helping other customers. A quick glance at the app can inform your discussion when someone is available to chat.

Now I read through the comments on this app in iTunes. Most of them were positive, but I noticed a theme in the critical ones that pops up on any new yarn related app. "I can just get that info on Ravelry."

There is some substance to that comment, but it depends on your pain points. Have you tried to surf Ravelry on an iPhone? I have. It's not so easy. Also, you have to dig for the reveiws/comments on Ravelry while in the app they are the key feature.

And, here's the kicker, if you don't have internet access you can't get to Ravelry off your iPhone. Or it might be a killer slow connection. The app stores all the info on your phone. You can't follow the links, but the main review and all the user comments are available. I know this for a fact because I put my phone in airplane mode and tested it.

So there you have it, a useful and pretty little app. It appears she is continuing to add yarns and make improvements based on user feedback, so it should just get better as it goes along.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tiers and Gnashing of Teeth

Sweater test See what I did there?

Each section of entrelac is a tier, but it sounds like tears?

Never mind. If you have to explain it, it isn't funny.

Anyway. I haven't actually cried, but I have been frustrated and annoyed.

After finishing the base row I was flummoxed on how to proceed for the first oblong row. The magazine just blithely says to knit the first oblong row and decrease one stitch in each oblong. Well, I had a devil of a time figuring out which direction to go.

I finally pushed the stitched for the last base triangle down the left hand needle and crawled down its back for the first oblong. The first oblong was thus connected to the first base triangle worked. Not really sure at this point whether that means I reversed directions.

I do remember that it took me a couple tries to figure out. And, in case you're wondering, entrelac is not easy to pick out.

Six of 19
The next problem is that entrelac is tedious to work.

It's repetitious—pick up the stitches. Back and forth, back and forth. Pick up stitches, back and forth, back and forth.

But at the same time it enough attention that you can't knit on auto-pilot. Because you have to pick up and purl two together and repeat.

After two hours of knitting yesterday I manged to work six oblongs. I surveyed the remaining expanse of sweater and was filled with dread. Thirteen more oblongs on this row. Three more rounds of oblongs and then a round of triangles.

It's going to take forever.

And my hands were a little cramped.

Rapidly Loosing Interest
This all caused me to look critically at the sweater as I decided whether I wanted to forge ahead.
Entrelac yoke I decided that my technique wasn't good and there were sloppy, gappy parts where I didn't pick up stitches well. I thought it was blousing out where the entrelac started, but to be fair it didn't have the weight of the sweater or being on my arm to help it out.

I told myself that frogging back to the top of the green section wouldn't be so bad, despite all the work I'd already put in.

After all, knitting is supposed to be fun. If I wasn't having fun what was the point.

I discussed the matter with my walking buddy, Judy. Turns out she used to knit and crochet when she was younger. (I don't think she does anymore.) She in the "you come so far" camp, but agreed that if it was pissing me off I shouldn't carry on.

I decided to put it on scrap yarn to get a better look at it before doing anything rash.

Into Rotation
Of course I decided to run that test when I was at the library knitting group. I was fairly sure they'd all tell me it looked like hell and I should take it out.

You are not surprised to hear they didn't.

Noooo, they all said it looked awesome. However, none of them wanted to take over for me.

There was one voice of doubt at first about how there is a lot going on in the sweater anyway that it didn't need the entrelac, but once I pulled it on everyone loved it.

I explained how tedious it was to work. I pointed out the sloppy bits. I said I might run out of yarn.

They would not be dissuaded. They pointed out how far I'd come and how much it would suck to rip back. They pointed out that each round would go faster because of the ever decreasing stitch count.

Add to all this the fact that I made the tactical error of only bringing the sweater with me. I meant to grab my Cotton Spiral socks but forgot. So the whole time I was whining about the sweater I was also knitting on it.

I'd like to point out that for the hour or so I was there I only managed to work three oblongs.


Anyway. The consensus was that instead of focusing on the sweater I should put it into rotation. I should just have the goal of working two or three oblongs every day and eventually it will be done.

Really, it's the first day of July. It's not like I need to wear the sweater tomorrow. Plugging away at it might be the best solution.

It had better be worth it.