Thursday, December 15, 2011

Copyright for the 21st Century

Readers of my blog know that I occasionally poke fun, or wickedly sharp needles, at some of the actions taken in the name copyright and trademark. For example, I went to purchase a circular knitting needle a few weeks ago, and noticed that underneath the KnitPicks logo, was the following statement:

The color purple is a trademark of Crafts Americana Group, Inc.

I sent this information off to TechDirt, inquiring how anyone could trademark a color, especially a color as ambiguous as "purple." A lively discussion ensued. A week or so later, someone else pointed out that Cadbury has also trademarked the color purple. Another lively discussion ensued. It doesn't matter whether the companies involved in this silliness were granted trademarks or even applied for them (no and yes), the point is, trademarking colors can be considered a form of restraint of trade, even if it only applies to a candy wrapper, which is apparently how the British Courts ruled for Cadbury.

As far as I know, there are only, what, six main colors, generally known as red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and violet. Let's throw black and white in there and make it eight colors. That means, if candy Company A trademarks red, and Company B trademarks orange, and so on, then Company I has no color they can make their candy wrapper. What do they do? Sell the stuff in a transparent wrapper? Then sure as I am typing here, someone will trademark see-through candy bar wrappers, and then Company J will have to sell their candy naked. Or spend millions of dollars and years in court arguing that Peach isn't Orange.

I could go on and on about the actual color, as KnitPicks needle cables are technically red-violet, not purple. Suppose I want to market knitting needles with lavender cables? Is this purple or pale violet? KnitPicks didn't limit their color trademark to knitting needles either, the way Cadbury did for candy bars. So purple yarn is a trademark violation? Is Barney the Purple Dinosaur going to present a legal hassle for his owner?

And if KnitPicks trademarked the color purple, should Alice Walker, the author of the book, The Color Purple, take legal action? Book titles cannot be copyrighted--there are only so many ways you can say Introduction to Biochemistry, and that's been through the courts. But what if she wants to take out a trademark on, say, purple toothpicks with that slogan engraved on them?

In sum, the entire grabby mentality that pervades business these days is disheartening, not to mention stifling. This is not to say that you shouldn't take appropriate measures to protect your intellectual property, but it seems that companies are spending most of their time and money litigating instead of innovating. And we all know what happens when laws become too stringent--people just ignore them. Or they stage a revolt.

So, when I turned my attention to the front matter of my book, having tired of investigating the spinability of cow hair, I took some volumes off the shelf and looked at their copyright pages. No, no, and more no. I am not going to wander those narrow little roads. Instead, I wrote my own copyright statement, which I hope will provide a broad avenue for everyone who might wish to take a stroll through my book. 

Human Copyright for the 21st Century

With the exception of a few pictures that are in the public domain, almost everything in this book is under copyright. When something is copyrighted, it means that it belongs to someone else. In this instance, unless specifically acknowledged otherwise, all the words and images are under copyright by me, the author. However, it’s my firm belief that information is meant to be shared, not bound by legal stricture. I really resent blanket copyright declarations that forbid the readers from using or reformatting the knowledge in any meaningful way. Thus, I’ve devised my very own copyright permission page that spells out what you, the reader, may do with the contents herein.

You may scan, print, copy, or otherwise convert the contents to other formats in any way you wish, as long as your purpose is entirely personal. You can, for example, make backup copies of the DVD; output the contents to your printer; transfer the DVD to your hard drive; or paint excerpts on the back of your pet gerbil. You need no permission from me to do so. These permissions do not extend to making copies of this work, or any substantial part thereof, for your friends. If you are wondering about the word “substantial,” and how it might apply to what you want to do, please contact me directly and we’ll discuss it.
You may share an excerpt for non-commercial purposes, for example, to help a friend; incorporate into a blog post; or contribute to a private group; without my express permission. Please do assign credit, however. The credit line should read: Photo/text/video courtesy of Susan Stevens, used with permission. In the cases where the photos or text are the property of someone else, you will need to contact them directly to arrange permissions. 

You may not share any part of this book for commercial purposes without permission and remuneration. This does not mean you many not share the information in the book. It does mean that, if you are teaching a class and printing copies of the contents, I expect some form of payment as well as credit, because in these instances, I am the teacher standing behind you as you instruct the class. A Starbuck gift card, an Amazon credit, or a small donation to Paypal is not too much to ask, considering the time that I’ve spent assembling this missive. Again, in the cases where the photos or text are the property of someone else, you will need to contact them directly to arrange terms. 

If you are an ongoing commercial enterprise, for example, a magazine, other arrangements will have to be made. In these cases, I expect fair payment commensurate with your other contributors.  Please pm my Ravelry name, fleegle, or email me at xxx to discuss terms and conditions. 

There are no reserved foreign rights. We are all of one world, thanks to the Internet. 

I have made arrangements for this book to be put into the public domain after my death for use by anyone and everyone under all circumstances. I refuse to sequester the information in the name of copyright when I am no longer around to benefit from it. 

Although this copyright page is copyrighted (see Department of Redundancy Department), I herein give express permission for it to be reused in any format by anyone who shares the same information philosophy I do. If you intend to use this page as an example of How Not to Write a Copyright Statement, the reprint and excerpt fee is One Million US Dollars. And I will pursue you legally if I find out about it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


At the beginning of the year, I promised you guys that I would write a book. After casting about for a subject, I finally decided to write about supported spindling--a topic that is often ignored or relegated to a footnote in most descriptions of hand spinning. It's coming along nicely. So far I have almost 200 text pages and suspect that after adding in all the images, the page count will balloon to 350 or so.

It will be first be published as an ebook PDF with embedded videos, all on a DVD. Those who wish printed copies will have to sign up for a subscription. It's a full-color book, and printing will be very expensive--about $30, plus the cost of the DVDs, shipping, and so on. A subscription with a down-payment will allow me to actually pay for the printing.

Right now, it looks like I will be finished with the text by the end of the year. Then it has to be tech-edited, copy-edited, laid out, proofed, and the videos created. I am aiming for publication somewhere between April and June.

In the meantime, I know that many readers don't spin, but half the book talks about various fibers. And so, here's is the first of several excerpts that I will be putting on this blog. All the images and spinning info have been removed here due to length considerations, but I hope you enjoy this brief tour of.....


According to me (it's my book, after all), A Green Object is one in which the entire process, from start to finish, involves methodology safe to living beings—plants or animals. Sustainability doesn't make something Eco-Friendly, as anyone who has lived—and died young—near a paper mill could tell you if they were still alive to give an opinion. Furthermore, biodegradablity does not make something Eco-Friendly. Some nerve gas agents degrade naturally after a few days, mammoth bones survive for thousands of years. Draw your own conclusions.

With that definition in mind, let’s take a tour of supposedly Eco-Friendly fibers.


Bamboo is frankly my least favorite fiber. Aside from its lack of elasticity, it has an unpleasant scritchy feeling while being spun that is reminiscent of squealing chalk-on-a-blackboard. It’s also an ecological disaster. Like most rayons, bamboo is a regenerated cellulosic fiber. The most common production method, called the Viscose Process, incorporates corrosive chemicals such as carbon disulfide, sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid. Aside from the direct effects on workers, successful disposal of these chemicals poses yet another set of knotty problems. And do think about the fact that most of this stuff is made in countries that have a less enlightened view of worker and environmental safety than we do. 

A second method, the Lyocell process, is touted as being more ecologically friendly. This process, which is also used to make Tencel®, uses N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide (NMMO) as a solvent to dissolve the bamboo cellulose into a viscose solution. This chemical is a hazardous irritant for skin contact and has some corrosive potential, as well. Inhalation is not a good idea either, as the chemical produces severe irritation of the respiratory tract. Repeated or prolonged exposure can damage organs. And so on.

Finally, there is actually an eco-friendly enzymatic process that produces a yarn known as bamboo linen. It involves crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and using natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mush that can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. This is essentially the same process used to produce linen from flax and other bast fibers. Very little bamboo linen is actually manufactured, because the process is very labor intensive and costly.

Bamboo is often touted as having antimicrobial properties. Untreated bamboo fabric actually doesn’t have any such effect, but inventing this feature makes for a good marketing. Go here to read all about it.

Given all these factors, why has bamboo become a standard addition to batts and tops? Well, it is shiny, and is thus considered a cheap substitute for silk. There is no substitute for silk, whose glorious properties I have already discussed.

Avoid it, and whine to battmeisters who toss the stuff into a perfect good batch of merino.

Soy Fiber

Those who know me well also know how much I dislike tofu—a squishy flavorless food with all the gustatory charm of wallpaper paste. I spent years avoiding it in Japan, and trust me, that’s like trying to avoid grits in North Georgia. Come to think of it, grits rate about the same in my culinary book.I do love soybeans themselves, though. Delicious! Adorable!

Soybean fiber is made from tofu manufacturing leftovers. Proteins are extracted from the residual oils, which is turned into a liquid goo, cooked, wet-spun, stabilized by acetylating, curled, thermoformed, and cut into three- to four-inch staple lengths. Several sites cheerfully describe the process this way: “the soy protein is liquefied then extruded into fiber in a chemical free process.”

Aside from having an abysmal understanding of punctuation, the person who wrote this clearly slept through high school chemistry; acetylation is a chemical process. A few of the non-chemicals used include acetic anhydride, acetic acid, and sulfuric acid, the same chemical-free chemicals that bamboo rayon manufacturers insist are Green!

We can skip over the acids, because everyone has a good idea of what these do to animate and inanimate objects, so let’s investigate acetic anhydride. According to the CDC’s NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, exposure to this stuff causes:

conjunctivitis, lacrimation (discharge of tears), corneal edema, opacity, photophobia (abnormal visual intolerance to light); nasal, pharyngeal irritation; cough, dyspnea (breathing difficulty), bronchitis; skin burns, vesiculation, and sensitization dermatitis

According to the eco-crap I found on various sites, it supposedly possesses the softness of cashmere, and has the moisture absorption of cotton with better diffusion, making it “comfortable and sanitary.” In actual fact, it looks, feels, and spins just like bamboo rayon with the same annoying scritchy texture.

Corn Fiber

Sigh. Another Green Fiber made from a non-chemical chemical process. This one was a toughie, because the vague description of the manufacturing process made it difficult to figure out how it’s really manufactured. The primary consumer fiber, Ingeo, is the trademark name for NatureWorks LLC's synthetic fiber made from corn.

The site has a really pretty biocycle diagram showing sunshine, corn plants, and some chemical marbles on sticks. Reading between the lines and referring to some rather esoteric organic chemistry websites (But Ha! I have a BS in Physical Chemistry), I tweezed out the following explanation: Corn fiber is a bioplastic spun from lactic acid generated by bacterial fermentation of corn sugars. That’s certainly sounds green.

Now we get to the good part: The lactic acid molecules link together to form rings called lactic monomers, which, in turn, open and link together to form long chains of polylactide polymers, which are then made into a plastic. Notice they don’t tell you how this part is actually performed.

Next, I chased down polylactides--polyesters derived from corn, sugarcane, and tapioca. Ah. Good old polyesters, which, among other things, use concentrated sulfuric acid or dry hydrogen chloride gas for the esterification process. BLAAAATTTT. Not Green.

Milk Fiber

The active ingredient of milk fiber is casein, a protein that’s been around since ancient times. It’s been found on various ancient Chinese and Egyptian artifacts and those who live in New England will be familiar with antiques coated in milk paint. Milk fiber was developed in the 1930’s and was used as a wool substitute during WWII. It’s basically casein that has been dissolved in an alkali bath, then processed in such a way that it can be blown out of spinnerets—plates with zillions of tiny holes—where the liquid casein then solidifies into fiber with the help of such friendly chemicals as strong acids and formaldehyde. 

After the war, the explosion of synthetics caused milk fiber to fall out of favor. Thanks to the Eco-Junk movement, it’s experiencing a minor renaissance. The newer process uses acrylonitrile, a human carcinogen, which is bound to the casein, to produce a non-carcinogenic fiber. Among other things, acrylonitrile is the primary ingredient of acrylic fiber, which will not, under any circumstances, be discussed further in this book.

In any case, those who point to milk fiber as green and eco-friendly should go take a good look at the eco-chemical properties of acrylonitrile and get back to me.
So, milk fiber is sort of like rayon, which we have already decided is liquefied plant goo shot through spinnerets. However, milk, being an animal product, produces a fiber that dyes like wool and spins something like silk.

Crab(Chitosan )

Another fiber touted as eco-friendly and antibacterial, chitosan is derived from shellfish carapaces and, oddly enough, mushrooms. According to various websites, chitosan has “scientifically proved biocompatibility,” and is “an absolutely safe material.”

Chitosan itself is not useful to spinners, but let’s look at Crabyon©, a blend of chitosan and viscose, which should tip you off immediately about the chemicals used to manufacture it. Refer to the Section on Bamboo for a complete rundown of viscose rayon.

I am so sorry to disappoint seafood fans, but I was unable to obtain a sample of this stuff. However, that won’t stop me from including it in this section. I remember handling a skein of it a few years ago and thought it felt like cotton with an odd squeaky texture.

I understand that people with shellfish allergies sometimes have a reaction to the yarn, which makes it not “absolutely safe.” I haven’t seen it around in a while, so perhaps the manufacturer rethought the concept.

On the bright side, chitosan might fight fat, supposedly by reducing lipid absorption, which means that if you manage to find crab fiber, you can eat it and lose weight if you decide you don’t like to spin it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Long Story

Semele is a terrific design for which I specially spun the yarn. I wanted the ends of the shawl to be dark blue, fading to white in the center, which is why the balls are wound the way they are. The lovely merino batts were made byLeilani Sue, and I bought the batts from her Etsy store, Heavenly Fiber. As you can see from the picture, I added plenty of Angelina for sparkle.

I heartily recommend the pattern, which had not a single error and left nothing to the imagination. It's worth knitting for the clever beginning leaf, from which the rest of the pattern flows without a hitch.

  I was so careful after spinning. I measured and weighed the skein twice to be absolutely sure that I had two identical halves. But clearly Harry put his legs on the scale when my back was turned, because when I got to the last three leaves, I ran out of yarn.

I frantically emailed Leilani Sue, who was in the process of moving and thus had everything neatly packed in boxes. I whimpered. I whined. I sniffled. And dear Leilani Sue unpacked some boxes and found what she thought was the right color. Um, it wasn't. So I sent her a little sample of the spun yarn, and she unpacked more boxes and finally found a precious ounce of the dark blue.

So, after a month of squirming in anticipation, the merino arrived and I spun it up. The next day, Semele was finished and I gleefully started pinning it out. And pinning it out. And pinning it out some more...

The length was my fault, because I kept knitting the center repeat until I had used up all the white, at which point the design faded back to blue. As I never bothered to measure it on the hoof, as it were, I got a long surprise when I blocked it.

 Well, it will certainly wrap around me a whole lot of times...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yarn Guides

 The very first sweater I ever made was a multi-colored Norwegian, at the tender age of eight years old. It still fits!

My mother ordered a kit from Norway, because in those long-ago days, yarn selection was limited, and the color range was even worse. Knitters of a certain age will recall, and not fondly, that odd brick red and the peculiar pea-soup green that were all the rage back in the Fifties...

I remember being entranced when the package arrived—what lovely shades of clear blue! The yarns were a somewhat harsh worsted weight and the directions copious—lots of diagrams, pictures, charts, arrows, and paragraphs of explanation. Too bad they were all in Norwegian. 
Fortunately, a neighboring couple hailed from the Old Country. I used to spend many afternoons in their kitchen appraising traditional Norwegian cookies (Delicious!) and avoiding traditional Norwegian Lutefisk (Not Delicious!). Made from dried whitefish and lye, Lutefisk has a repulsive gelatinous texture and an indescribable odor. The only substance that can approach Lutefisk is a dried Japanese fish called Aji, whose aroma is so, um, ghastly that as soon as I saw the depressing little flatfish being removed from the freezer where we lived in Japan, I slunk out to the bus stop and had dinner in town.

Anyway, my mother and I hiked down to the Jensens’ with the pattern and yarn, and Mrs. Jensen explained, partly in Norwegian with lots of gestures, how to make the sweater. Following the directions included learning Norwegian purling and knitting with one yarn in the right hand. I found it awkward and annoying, but persevered, and after a while, the sweater was finished and I had a working knowledge of knitting English-style. I never did figure out how to purl that way. 

Over the years, when confronted with multiple colors, I defaulted to the two-handed method. I still found it awkward and annoying, so a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to master the one-handed technique, that is, knitting with two colors in my left hand. 

I dutifully watched all the YouTube videos, and was amazed at how easy it looked. However, to my great annoyance, the actual trick of winding the yarns onto the fingers for tensioning was always performed at The Speed of Light, or the camera was focused on the knitting instead of the hands, or someone smeared Vaseline on the camera lens as soon as it moved over to record the tensioning trick.

NOTE: If a Two-Color-Left-Hand video knitter is reading this, please repost the video with a slo-mo of the tensioning step. Yeah! Thanks!

I spent a week tangling the yarn around various fingers. At one point, I somehow wrapped the yarns in such a way that I created one of those Chinese Finger Trap toy thingies. Harry snickered, Laptop rolled her eyes, Rambo flipped her ears, and I said things that cannot be written in this blog because it’s G-Rated and I am not supposed to know those words, anyway. Roy was out of the house, so I was at least spared his chortling.

After snipping the yarns off my fingers, I threw in the metaphorical towel and went hunting for The Knitting Accessory of Shame, purchased years ago and never actually used beyond a brief, and unsuccessful, trial period. I finally located the thing in a cigar box full of straws (don’t ask), placed it on the index finger of my left hand, and, after a few minutes of practice, discovered that it actually worked quite well. It’s liberating!

For comparison, I bought the KnitPicks version—it’s a plastic ring with dividers—lightweight and rather cleverly designed.

The trick to using these yarn guides is to practice with a single yarn first, before adding the second one. Each guide has a sweet spot on your finger—you’ll have to experiment and find the position that suits you best. For example, the metal guide’s picture always shows it sitting straight up, with the yarns coming off the top. For me, turning the rings so that they face front worked much better. I also found that putting the yarns on the floor was a great help—the slight gravitational pull prevented the yarns from tangling.

The KnitPick’s guide is very tight and the plastic edge a bit sharp. I’m probably going to give it a coating of nail polish to smooth it out and hope that using it loosens the band a little. People with large fingers may have to pre-stretch it on something—a wooden dowel, for example-- before it fits comfortably.

I realize that Real Knitters don’t use yarn guides and that yarn guides cannot be taken to S&B’s because everyone will laugh at you or give you that pitying, condescending look implying you also use training wheels on your bike and sometimes knit with acrylic. So, the answer is to take one-color knitting to the S&B and in the privacy of your home, create lovely Fair Isle, Scandinavian, Estonian, and Bohus colorwork with perfectly even tension at a speed only slightly slower than a single color.

Pink Sago Palm Bohus from

Friday, August 19, 2011

May Queen Mystery Shawl

A sweet knit from Tiziana, the May Queen started out as a mystery shawl from one of my favorite designers. The pattern is quite easy, so I thought I would experiment with my very own Firebird yarn and some colored bead sequences. Unfortunately, the #8 beads were really too small to show off my clever gradients and could hardly even be seen at normal viewing distance. But the beads were an adventure, and rather than writing about the perils of using ten different colors of teeny, tiny, round, bouncy, exuberant objects, I shameless quote kath1996's description (with her kind permission) of her own interaction with the little rascals. The experience closely mirror my own except that she used a single color, so you can multiply this scary scenario tenfold:

First you open the container with the beads, then you pick up the ten or so beads that always drop out of the container while you are trying to carefully open it…then you spill a small amount out into another dish or container so as not to have the whole container open in case the cats knock it over, then you hit the new dish of beads with your elbow and knock them all to the floor (where they roll under everything and cause you to grab a flashlight and crawl around with your nose almost dragging on the floor while you search every place for the blankity blank little suckers), then you get back on your feet, set the dish down with satisfaction, certain that you have every bead back in the dish, and tip over the original container scattering the beads everywhere. Now these beads can fly…so they make it into every room in your house (except for those ten over there that somehow managed to get through the window and are now outside). I would tell you not to worry about them, except that I can tell you for sure that you will be exactly ten beads short on the project…(and no matter how hard you look you will never find those beads again). At this point you could try the old tried-and-not-true method of vacuuming up the beads…but this only sounds good on paper…your vacuum will only further scatter the beads making it impossible to ever find them again. Ooooh, look over there, isn’t that the cat eating the beads? Yep…and she seems to be turning a bit blue….off to the vet.
Laptop is a little too finicky to eat beads, but that did not deter her from Getting In The Way from the beginning to the end of this shawl. I can't figure out the attraction--Firebird is odorless, the color is not red (which she finds attractive), and it doesn't resemble either a hamster or the ugly brown scarf thing she enjoys cuddling. I couldn't get her off my lap for the entire project, and, as you can see, once the project was completed, she claimed complete possession, beads and all.

Attempts to remove her were met with The Look:

And she followed up The Look with The Snooze:

A few hours later, I filled her food bowl--a guaranteed draw--and snapped a few Laptop-less photos:

Well, almost...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Batt Editing--Part 2

Readers of this blog probably know how much I love glitz, but many battmeisters eschew such additives for a variety of reasons. Anna of Corgi Hill decided against working with Angelina fiber after a bag of it exploded and left her, well, rather sparkly. Others feel that Firestar (trilobal nylon) and Angelina are scratchy. And some feel glittery yarn is somehow undignified.

Not me! I love to spin with glitz, I love to knit with glitz, and search out batts containing glitz, preferably in high concentrations. So it should come as no surprise that I figured out a simple way to add sparkle to batts that lack what I consider an essential ingredient.

If you paid attention to my first Batt Editing post, you might recall that I showed you how to split a batt into two layers. But if not, let me show you again.

Here we have a perfectly lovely example of a glitz-less batt from the immensely talented Zauberzeug :

I carefully peel the two layers apart...

...and sprinkle the bottom layer with Angelina:

Just flop the top layer back on the bottom layer:

And roll it back up:

Needless to say, you can use this technique to add anything you might want to spin--strands of silk, Firestar, exotic fibers of which you only have a tiny bit, or slices of pepperoni, and so on. 

On another note, I promised you some killer tomatoes, so I would be remiss if I didn't include a photo, taken several weeks ago. At that time, the plants were approaching 11 feet in height, and had outgrown our double stack of tomato cages by a wide margin.

Roy, who was an Eagle Scout and knows how to do things like assemble tripods, crafted several out of our very own bamboo and is seen in the above photo tying one of the plants, fondly named Terminator One, onto the supports. I should add that the plants are now over 14 feet tall, although we are training them down the supports, because we don't have a taller stepladder and would feel idiotic trying to harvest our crop by tossing rocks at the fruit.

Last year we planted four plants, three of which promptly died. The survivor barely attained a meter in height and spent the entire summer generating six puny tomatoes. This year, we figure to harvest about 200 pounds of fruit from the four plants that were really cute when we plopped them into the soil but now consume a cow a day and we'd better be on time with the feeding....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Knitting with the iPad

I mostly love my iPad, but I wish someone would write the perfect knitting app. The iTunes store has quite a large handful--counters, project managers, books--but none of them is The Killer Knitting App. Recently, a new program appeared that would seem, from reading the PR, to fulfill my KKA requirements. Errrgh. It was expensive and clumsy to use, and a regrettable expenditure. I won't mention the name, lest I generate hate mail or lawsuits, so instead of whining about The-App-That-May-Not Be-Named, I'm going to show you how to use a program called iAnnotate to work with knitting patterns on an iPad.

Basically, iAnnotate lets you download, read, annotate, organize, and send PDF files. I think it's more flexible for PDFs than GoodReader, but it's also twice the price--$10 vs. $5. GoodReader's advantage is its ability to read multiple formats, so it can handle Word and Excel docs, as well as PDFs. GoodReader's tool set isn't as robust as iAnnotate's, though, so I prefer the latter to the former.

First of all, let's go get a PDF. iAnnotate has a built-in web browser that let's you:

  • Convert a web page to a PDF and download it--useful for grabbing Knitty patterns
  • Get patterns from DropBox
  • Navigate to a PDF in your Ravelry library and download it directly
  • Download patterns directly from your Ravelry library via WebDav (a protocol that allows collaboration between users and websites for editing and managing documents and files)
In the image below, I've navigated, via iAnnotate's built-in browser, to Mawelucky's gorgeous Gail (aka Nightsongs) shawl (Free!) that's stored in my Ravelry PDF library.

I clicked on the download link...

...closed the browser, and opened the file via iAnnotate's File Organizer screen.

iAnnotate supports multiple tabs, and more importantly, let's you duplicate tabs, so let's play with these. Click on the tab and you'll see a little bar underneath that shows buttons for tab management--Close, Navigator, Share, Duplicate, and so on.

This pattern only has four pages and three charts, so I set up four tabs. The first tab is the intro text; the other three pages hold the charts. There were no surprises in the pattern's Stitch Key, so I didn't bother giving it a separate tab.

As you can see, there's a handy thumbnail panel on the left that can be collapsed when not needed. You can use the panel to whip through your document by page, bookmark, annotation, or outline, or use the toolbar buttons to navigate bookmarks and pages.

Given the name of the app. it's no surprise that there are lots of tools for annotation-- pen, highlighter, typewriter, stamps, notes, straight line, underline, strikethrough, photos, voice recording, and date stamp.You can easily customize your tools, for example, create a set of custom highlighters, import your own stamps (such as a signature), set a custom typewriter color and font, and convert an annotation into a stamp. The only thing missing is a rectangle; GoodReader has one and it's useful. Oh well.

One of the nicest features of iAnnotate is the configurable toolbars. the app has a rather overwhelming number of features, so I made a Knitting toolbar (shown at the bottom of the previous picture) that holds commands I use frequently: Note, Line, Stamp, Typewriter, Bookmark, and so on.You can easily drag and drop what you need into your toolbar, which can then be repositioned and resized as you see fit. You can have multiple toolbars on the page, for example, a set of navigation tools at the top and some highlighters on the bottom.

For some odd reason, you can only highlight text, not images. I like to use charts, so I made a highlighter line to pinpoint my place in the chart. I used the Line tool to draw a long line...

...then made it thicker and partially transparent.

You can make the annotation into a stamp if you like, but stamps can only be resized and rotated once in the library. Adjusting the highlight is easy--just tap and slide it to move it up and down.

You can also add a text annotation to the highlight drawing. Notice the annotation can stay open and pinned to a specific place on the page.

Similarly, you can highlight text, and add notes, sound recordings, or images as annotations. The latter is particularly useful if you need to refer to a knitted sample or suggested yarn.

Photos may also be emailed right from iAnnotate...

...or you can send the Photo to another program, such as DropBox.

There are several options for hopping around the PDF. I like the temporary Mark--it's a quick bookmark that holds only a single location. It's very useful for flipping back to a specific place, such as a text description, while you are studying a chart in another tab.

You can also set as many permanent bookmarks as you like, and these can be color-coded to indicate various sections of the pattern (or various testers):

I have Next/Previous Bookmark tools in my toolbar, but if there are a lot of them, open the side panel and tap the desired bookmark.

Your notes, annotations, and drawings may be sent along with the file via email--convenient for test knitters who need to send information back to the designer:

And if you're working on a KAL or test-driving a pattern, you can clip out a problem area of the PDF and send just that section:

As for stitch counters...well, there are a few things you can do to keep track:
  • You can double-click click out of iAnnotate and switch to your counter app in the bottom tray...ugly, but workable.
  • Use iAnnotate's Typewriter tool to type in numbers and the text editor to mark them in meaningful way.

  • Use one of the number stamps.

  • Mark repeats on your hand with an indelible marker.
  • Line up M&Ms in some predefined increment and eat one at the end of a row. 
Until Apple allows dual panes so we can have a counter in one window and the chart in another, we're stuck with workarounds (or buying the expensive App-That-May-Not Be-Named, which sort of works...don't get me started on that thing).

There are lots of other features in iAnnotate, not the least of which is the ability to rotate pages, add blank pages, and delete pages you don't need.

Printing from iAnnotate, like any other iPad app, depends on your accoutrements and pocketbook. There are any number of printing apps in the iTunes store--they run between $5 and $10. If you have an AirPrint-enabled printer (currently implemented on some HP printers), you can use that feature. Rather than invest money in a separate printing app, I just email the document to myself and print it from my laptop.

iAnnotate has a few silly quirks that I hope will be fixed in an update. You can only highlight text, and all knitting charts are images--the workaround is the Stamp--but it would be nice to be able to directly mark a stitch or row with a finger swipe. You can lock a page horizontally but not vertically. It's awfully easy to inadvertently tap the display and slide to another page. No biggie, but it would be helpful to be able to freeze the page.

 Next time: The Attack of The Killer Tomatoes, right here in fleegleland!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Batt Editing

Although Harry is perfect, the rest of the world generally needs a little tweaking to rival his flawless stature. It's rare that I spin a batt right out of the bag--I usually add or subtract something, especially if I have a specific project in mind.

Harry thought it might be instructional for me to show his faithful readers how I edit a batt. According to him, I don't have any faithful readers, which instigated a shouting match (MORONIC BIPEDHAIRY MIDGET OCTOPUS!, and so on). While we were hurling epithets at each other, Rambo kindly loaded the text and images into the blog and then proceeded to clean out the vegetable bin because nobody was paying any attention, and the lettuce was going to wilt soon, anyway.

Onwards to batts.
Let's take this lovely item from Lampyridae, euphoniously named Sarah Bejeweled. It's an eclectic mixture of  milk, bfl, silk, soy, merino, alpaca, and sari silk. but is very smooth, if a bit mussy. Notice the colors after the greens are kinda folded can't see them in this picture.

If you've ever fooled around with batts, you've probably discovered that most of them are layered, and it's easy to separate the layers by gently pulling them apart. The blue and purple are peeking out on the bottom layer in this image:

Here are two two layers, side by side.

Now to strip the batt into bite-sized pieces. I started on the left, coaxing each color transition into a little swathe.

I took a bit of the next color, pink, into the second strip, and a little more pink in the third one--mixing the colors this way makes for smoother transitions.

Sometimes, when pulling off a strip, the wrong color crawls over....

It's easy to just peel it off and put it back where it belongs.

Here's what the deconstructed batt looks like now.

The next step is to do a little drafting. Although the batt is smooth, it has a fair amount of fibery locks lying on the surface. When you try to spin it them in, the loose bits can fall down or become folded over, creating a snarl. If you're spinning thick yarn, this fluffiness isn't a big problem, but for fine spinning, it's better to try and incorporate the little rogues into the main wad of fiber. And because I will be spinning fairly fine on a supported spindle, I want to loosen up the fiber, as well. Both of these tasks are done simply by gently pulling sections of the strip like this:

And here's the first attenuated strip. Notice there's some white fiber that refused to play nicely with the rest of the strip. I just inserted a few twists to keep it from running away.

Here and there, I found some bits of fiber that didn't belong, as well as a few nepps that would simply make a blob while spinning. I just  picked them off.

And we're almost finished. Notice the adorable cat toy...Laptop couldn't be with us today, due to a prior engagement, but she left a clownfish proxy for Harry's faithful readers to admire.

The transitions looks pretty good, but  the sequence is a bit lacking in blues and purples. Dipping into my batt stash, I found colors that would work, and added a few extra strips.

To  keep everything neat and tidy, I rolled up the strips, one after the other, into a squooshy ball...

And put it into a plastic bag. It's ready to go.

On another note, I report that over the course of the last few months, the occupants of the fleegle household endured three eye operations and two root canals, thus triggering our favorite floating holiday: Celebrate Something Random Day. To commemorate such occasions, we always have a cake, decorated especially for the occasion being celebrated. And so I present to you the Infamous Fleegle Eyeball and Teeth Cake of 2011. It was delicious!

And before you ask, Nancy, it's from the Country Bakery on 75 between Ingles and White County Jail. :)