Monday, August 27, 2012

FO: Triangle scarf hates particle scarf

This (Ravelry page here) is a very speedy scarf! I made it the other day because I had bought the yarn at the start of the Summer with this scarf in mind, and my house was really cold that day. It's useful to have earmarked for a last minute present.

The pattern details didn't say what weight of yarn to use, so I used some Noro Kama I bought on sale. If Noro yarns were a person I would have a creepy obsessive crush on them. SO PRETTY.

My scarf came out a little smaller than the one in the pattern photos looks to be, so perhaps I guessed wrongly about the weight. It makes for a nice, non-bulky neckwarmer though. I might go back and make something a bit more suited to bundling up. Possibly this one!

I have a problem taking photos of scarves where if I take a photo myself, I look haughty, but if I ask someone else to take it, I feel I should smile, but then my face usually looks wonky, and I don't want to ask them to take another because that feels narcissistic. This was an attempt at a neutral expression. I blame Irish face. IT IS PART OF WHO I AM OKAY.


I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday! I'm fully conscious that I'm a sham of a person for not having seen it for so long. Spoiler-free thoughts:
1. omg omg omg omg
2. Batman makes Michael Caine cry, and yet we are still expected to root for him. This requires too great suspension of disbelief. Why would anyone like anyone who makes Michael Caine cry?
3. I am not really clear on why Bane's voice was so British. Especially when he hailed from "a very ancient part of the world" (and in the Knightfall comics the prison he grew up in was in South America).
4. omg omg omg omg

It also has me thinking things about villains and costumes which I may eventually right about. I do love a good villain.


I bought yarn for almost all my October birthdays today! After that I can start on Christmas presents. This year everything will be different. This year I will be organised.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

There is a grandeur in this view of life

This post has been sitting in my drafts for about three weeks, so it will probably go on a different tack than I imagined when I started.

Short version of this post:

I really, really like science. Like, really.

Long version:

When I was young, I wanted to be an artist, or a scientist, or an aid worker.  Of my vague career plans, the only one I knew the name for was 'artist', but the three played roughly equal roles in my imagined futures.

A few weeks ago I finished my degree in zoology, and while I still haven't given up the idea of doing a health science conversion course and running off and helping people (I'm only twenty-two! I have time to do a million things yet!), the idea of being an artist of any description has fallen by the wayside.  The main factors that tipped my hand at the time of making my choices for the CAO were "I probably won't get an A1 in Art, waa," and "Working on a portfolio for art college puts me at risk of not geting A1s in other subjects, waa."

It wasn't just that I wasn't good - that's a matter of work - but I didn't think I could shine. Worse, I didn't think I could contribute. I like to feel I'm leaving things better than they were before - it stems from a combination of helpfulness and insecurity. I didn't think - I still don't think - myself capable of creating something that would change people's hearts and minds and make them see something wonderful in the world.

At the same time, I spent fifth and sixth year falling in love with biology and physics.* I had always read books about nature as a kid, and genetics when I got a bit older, but this gave me more of a grounding in everything. My physics teacher was fantastic, but my biology teacher wasn't anything of the sort, and even that didn't do anything to stifle the thrill of knowing that this was how stuff worked. The fact that we could know these things was so quietly spectacular. If I became a good artist, I could help people see things a different way, but if I became a scientist, I could help people to see things that were there regardless of my part in it. Science only asks for your eyes.

The deciding factor in choosing to study science was that I could be helpful without having to interact directly with the people I'd be helping, because I was seventeen and neurotic and convinced that I would be awkward and people would throw things at me. Being crippingly insecure has worked out pretty well in the long-term though! Reading about what other people have discovered is wonderful, but doing my own research, even if it was my little final year project, is something else.

There are a handful of pieces of art that have made me ache inside. During my degree I got that feeling at least once a day. Both learning how things work and learning how people discovered that makes me happy in a simple, profound way. The first time I saw cells stained with DAPI under a fluorescence microscope was breath-taking. (DAPI is a nuclear stain, used for cells counts. It didn't tell me anything other than that there were cells there, which I knew to begin with. Didn't make it any less beautiful. We had to discover cells, and then microscopy, and then fluorophores, to get there!) My supervisor, who was showing me how to use the fluorescence microscope, was more concerned with the fact that the organelles I was staining for hadn't appeared on the other stains, but I was enraptured.

One of my favourite things about science is that it is not a body of work. It is an approach to the world, and it can be wrong, and that's not just fine, it's vital. All new art movements are a reaction against what's come before, but science builds on itself, discards what doesn't work and improves on what it can. I'm excited to start contributing to that. Even if every path I follow turns out to be a dead-end, I've eliminated one possibility and saved someone else time in working it out.

I'm not sure how I feel about tattoos of text - they can look well, but there's something a but too bald about them for me - but if someone demanded I get any phrase tattooed on my face, it would be "There is a grandeur in this view of life." That is probably one of my favourite combinations of words. Darwin wrote it about evolution, which I think is one of the most elegant theories proposed, and a great example of the simplicity of science - look at the world around you and see what you can make of it. I think this phrase also rings just as true if you take "this view of life" as being "the scientific method" - try to strip yourself of preconceptions, and based on what you can prove to be true, see what you can ascertain about the world. If it's true, it will be true whether or not you discover it, and whether or not it's believed. It won't need the right kind of eyes, and that's pretty wonderful. If I can uncover something new and true, and show it to people who wouldn't have known it otherwise, that will make me happy.

* I didn't take chemistry for Leaving Cert, and having done two years of it in college, it still doesn't hold the same place in my heart. I don't know why. It's missing some wonder.

Monday, August 20, 2012

FO: Willow Tweed gloves

I've been working my way through the Louisa Harding Willow Tweed I bought before Christmas. It's perfect for gloves and mittens - not bulky, but warm, and they look really elegant with lace patterns. I've been plugging patterns from my stitchionary into my own glove pattern and seeing how they turn out - I'm not making these for anything in particular, so it's no loss to rip them out if they don't suit.  I have a run of birthdays in October, so really I should be starting on those, or Christmas presents (this year I will be organised, this year will be the year), but that will mean buying more yarn, so I'm saving it for a big yarn-shopping day.

I made these gloves in a reversible layette stitch...

... which actually look quite different inside-out, so perhaps they are not so reversible, or I didn't follow the pattern correctly. I like the look of the pattern both ways, but for the gloves I prefer the lacier, right-side-out look.

Another pair in grass stitch. The yarn is a lovely soft spring green, which doesn't quite come out in the pictures, and I think it suits this stitch very well.

I was in the mood for cables, but by the time I had finished the thumb I realised that one of them was going to be wrapped around the side of the hand, so I've ripped out to the cuff since I took the photos this evening. After ripping out I decided that this yarn looks too beautiful in lace not to use it for that - cables suit chunky yarn as well, so I can sate myself with a bulkier project next.


In an ongoing attempt to clear my room, I have made a pile of all the books that have been sitting on my shelves, unread, for years (distinct from my To Read pile, which throughout my degree has been growing on the set of shelves I use for college notes). When I read them they can either go back on the shelf, or go to a charity shop. For the last few weeks I've been reading fantasy written for an age slightly younger than I was when I received it, because if I gave away a present without reading it I would feel like a terrible ungrateful brat. It's put me in the mood for fantasy though, so I'm going to treat myself to House of Leaves (shelf-pile) and H.P. Lovecraft (To Read pile) once I've worked through them (and the biographies of Hitler and Stalin, which I bought in a fit of history interest and then didn't read because I just didn't want to be that sad about the world). Having the luxury of reading books I don't really want to so I can get to the ones I do is a strange and wonderful one. Maybe I should never go back to academia.

Monday, August 6, 2012

FO: What immortal hand or eye/ could frame thy fearful symmetry?

I have been rubbish at posting things lately!  I've had quite little time to craft due to unexpectedly getting a job (good at the best of times, but I'm starting an unpaid internship in September, so double-yay!). I'm also trying to purge my room of clutter, so my commute-crafting has mainly been crocheting squares for the Henry Bear Blanketeers. The bag of yarn I won't use is nearly empty, the bag of squares is nearly full, everyone's a winner!

So the completion of my secret project is exciting not just because it's amazing and I've wanted to make it since I first laid eyes on the pattern, oh wow, but also because it's the first big project I've finished in quite a while, and that's a nice fuzzy feeling.

Which is fitting, because Hobbes is also fuzzy.

This pattern (available here) is honestly just the best. It combines the joy of crafting with the unadulterated childish delight that was Calvin and Hobbes. I'm pretty sure that strip is the reason that a part of me will always want to be a child growing up in rural North America.

Another reason this pattern is wonderful is that I learned new techniques! I usually learn techniques by picking a project that incorporates them, so it's nice to have it go the other way around. Intarsia in the round is the biggest new skill I took away from this project (though I sometimes substituted my own sloppy version, as you can see on the right of his face), and the pattern also uses loop stitch, and toe-up cast on.  None of them were daunting, but I wouldn't have gone out of my way to learn then just 'cause.

ALSO, if you are knitting stripes in the round, you should move in one stitch each time you start a new stripe for a more seamless jog. Never knew that, though it makes a lot of sense. (And, of course, I forgot to do it for the tail, because I'm just not that bright.)

I didn't follow the pattern exactly, though that was partly accidental. I was knitting four rows of orange rather than five in the torso stripes, so knit one less orange and black repeat so that he wouldn't look too long.  I also knit seven stripes on the tail rather than nine, as it was starting to look a little bit long as it was.

I used James C. Brett Kool Kotton for the orange. I got about four skeins in a bargain bin, and only used about half of one. I don't know if it's a weirdly specific phase, but I really like working with cotton at the moment, so I have to decide something worthy of the other skeins.  the black and white are Cygnet DK acrylic. I used 3mm needles as I didn't want to hold the yarn double, as the pattern suggest, so he might be a little short, but I'm delighted with how he turned out regardless.

Last night I was happy with having finished, but a little disappointed that it looked different to the pattern photos. It took me longer than I care to admit to put my finger on what was missing.

Not even joking. I wish I were.

I also posted some pictures on Twitter of him working up! (I can't use 'tweeted' as an internet-related verb yet. I'm a grumpy old man.)