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Vexing Design

Anatomy of the Flag

MD Flag banners

Vexilogical note: The Maryland flag is the (heraldrically correct) fusion of two English family banners.  The banners themselves date to pre-colonial times, and Maryland’s original Governor (George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore) had the rights to use both.  The Calvert was used by Maryland since it became a state, and confederate sympathizers adopted the Crossland banner during the civil war.

The current flag, which includes both, was first adopted by Maryland veterans from both side, as a gesture of reconciliation.

Calvert Chart

Well, I think the charting is done now.  As you can see, I ended up going with gray grid lines (because otherwise the black was lost), and both thicker and darker indices every five stitches.

Since the chart is 37 38 stitches across, and the socks are 84 stitches around, there is a border between the front and back repeat of the chart.  At first I thought I’d just stripe the two colors, which was way too busy.  The next thought was to use just one color for the field.  This would be doable for the Calvert, but Crossland would be totally lost.  So now I’m going to play with one color, textured background.

Only had to frog back four and a half rounds this time…  For those who are keeping count, the frogging part was done with much less sighing and invection than the graphic design part.

Thoroughly Vexed

Well, the tomato hat seems to be a success (hopefully I’ll get a picture of the child wearing it), and the tomato heels turned beautifully. Back to sock design.

I’d forgotten what my graphics arts ‘process’ is. Apparently it involves a lot of sighing and gibbering, and telling the computer to do what I want it to do. No, seriously, I have to send my family out of the room so they don’t keep asking if I’m all right, and suggesting that I have a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

I ended up downloading a macro for GIMP which let me put a grid over an image.  I layered it upon each of the banners, then copied grid sized squares from the underlying image, and pasting them to make a more pixilated image.  Exported the whole thing to .png file, imported it into a spreadsheet to add numbering… and it just occurs to me that I need to add heavier lines to mark off every fifth space (for ease of use).  Yeah, it’s enough trouble to fiddle with that I should really consider making it available for purchase when done.  Fortunately, Open Office exports to .pdf, so I could do the whole thing as a Ravelry download (fiddly charts and all).

Unfortunately, I miscalculated the number of stitches in the flag chart.  I had noted it as 37, but it works out to 38, so there should be 84 stitches in a round rather than 82 (given decisions I’d made earlier).  This is actually a *much* better number to design with, especially when it comes to the Sweet Tomato heel, but it left my actual socks a couple of stitches off.  Easy enough to fix, and the final pattern will be much friendlier.

No pictures this time, but I think I’m more or less on track.

In other news, I’m thinking of entering the Carina shawl in the Howard County fair.  Need to decide pretty soon, since the deadline is the end of July!

Tomato Season

Well, I’m beginning to build momentum on the Maryland State Flag socks.  I had to rip out the toes and start from scratch, because I used too few stitches the first time.  I’ve been trying to document everything (because if these turn out as great as I think they will, I might try to sell the pattern on Ravelry).

I’ve finally gotten to the point of turning the heel.  Because I never can make myself do the same thing twice, I’m using Cat Bohrdi’s Sweet Tomato Heel this time.  It’s actually pretty intuitive once you’ve got it going.

Unlike my try at short row heels on the After Summer Merrily socks, this technique isn’t too ‘visible’, even on the wrong side.

Tomato Heel

See?  A nice, even, minimal line of teeny-tiny holes.  Yay!

I wasn’t too sure about memorizing how to close the short row turns, but it’s pretty easy once you remember that there is one of those ‘gaps’ to be closed on each side between the first (instep) and second (heel) needles.  So you woogie the stitch before the gap when you start out, close all the gaps until the first needle, knit the instep, then woogie the stitch after the gap until you’ve worked to the middle of the sole needle, then knit around twice and go for the next wedge.  Simple enough.

I think I’m going to need a break once the heels are turned, just to get my charts straightened out and my head pulled together.  Fortunately, my daughter has asked me to knit a baby hat for her boss’s son’s first birthday.  She has an internship at the University of Delaware’s farm, and has her heart set on a cute tomato hat.

I’m torn between going for the cutest one I can find and something more botanically correct.  In either case I can’t imagine it will be more than a couple of days interlude.

Blog Contests and Giveaways

I didn’t win the Harrisville Design yarn giveaway.  No new giveaways this time around.

While walking in my neighborhood a couple of days ago, I spotted a very large bird, scavenging something off of the closely cropped lawn.

I immediately pulled out my iPhone and began taking pictures. I would snap one, take a few steps forward, and then take the next.

At some point, the bird began to become nervous at my approach. He picked up his meal and dragged it a few steps away, but he (or she) never flew off. In the end it worked out very well for me, because he ended up dragging the rabbit carcass out of the shadow.

I got very close indeed.

I’m pretty sure this is a Black Vulture.  They are evidently common birds (though I haven’t seen many around), and their habitat is expanding.  I’m not much of a bird watcher, but it’s nice to document one now and then.

Childsafe 4th

childsafe_4th_mediumWe had a lovely Fourth of July out at my in-law’s homestead.  They have a delightful little place with chickens and horses and my almost two year old niece.  Unfortunately neither horses nor two year olds mix well with fireworks.  Fortunately, cheezombie (on Ravelry) has a yarn version of firecrackers and sparklers.  I made a few from odds and ends of (mostly) acrylic, and they were very much appreciated.

 

 

Lacy Goodness

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My begonia shawl is done, in all its frilly wonder.  I managed to finish it just in time to get points in this round of Nerd Wars.

In case you don’t recall, this was the yarn I got from Bohemia Fibers, custom dyed to match the colors of the Mystic Mountain portion of the Carina Nebula.

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OK, it lacks the orchid tones, but the green/orange thing works well, and I like the way the pattern swirls.  Not too busy after all, but we’ll see how much I actually wear it now that it’s done.

I’ll be knitting the Maryland Flag socks for a while.  I had to rip out the toes (started with too few stitches for his feet) and have finished the increases (he has long toes!) I’ll be doing circular stockinette for a while, the aim is to wait until I’ve at least reached the heel turn before I start a second WIP, but if I get really bored I might start something before then.

Blog Contests

Didn’t win the $25 of Quince and Co from Design Diary, and there’s no word yet about the sweaters worth of watershed from the Harrisville Design blog.   No new contests this time.

Not Like That

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In case you haven’t heard, the National Zoo will be closing the Invertebrate Exhibit tomorrow.  It’s almost certainly a ‘done deal’, although you can sign the petition at Change.org to express your concerns (I did).

What the News Has Been Saying

The announcement was made Tuesday (though someone said Monday).  Animals will be found other homes, either in other parts of the zoo (such as the rainforest exhibit) or at other institutions. No animals will be harmed.  The five animal keepers who are employed at the house will be assigned to other parts of the zoo (which is understaffed).  There will eventually (probably) be a biodiversity exhibit and many of these exhibits will be restored then.

shrimp

I get that the hall needed to be revamped, and that the $5 million cost of renovation will instead go to making other exhibits more humane.  I get that there are hard choices that had to be made, and that I would probably be distressed by any choices that they made.  I just really, really wanted to take one last trip there to say “Goodbye”, which I did on Thursday (18 June).

 

So I Went to Say Goodbye

As always, the exhibit was full of visitors and FONZ volunteers.  Many of the visitors, like us, had come for one last goodbye.  Some seemed unaware that the exhibit was closing, which is not surprising, as there had been a total and complete news blackout about it up until the announcement.  I can understand that.  The Zoo, and the Smithsonian, must have anticipated that people would be irate, would attempt to organize and protest, and I’m sure they just wanted to avoid an uproar.  The decision can’t have been easy, and anything they chose to cut would have been controversial.  I’m sure they just wanted to be able to concentrate on what would be best for the animals.

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While I was there I spoke to several of the volunteers, and I learned something which, rather than allowing me a sense of closure and acceptance, really changed the focus of my discontent.

What the News Has Not Been Saying

The story the volunteers told was not touched upon in the news coverage.  The thing is, the staff, and the volunteers, were told about the closure just barely before the news media.  They were told on Monday that the exhibit would be closed on Sunday.   Certainly, there had been rumors, and speculation, for months.  There was no training session for new volunteers when one would normally have been expected.  The giant octopus, who had lived for an exceptionally long time after she laid eggs, was not replaced once she passed.  There were plenty of signs and hints, but no official word.

clams

The Smithsonian press release (linked above) does say that permanent employees will be reassigned.  There is mention of what happens to researchers or volunteers. I, personally, find this unconscionable and undefendable behavior from some of the few institutions which have maintained my trust for years.

comb jelliesIt’s very hard for me to find myself being this critical of the Smithsonian.  It’s even harder for my Mother, who has been a Smithsonian supporter for as long as I can remember, she’s already decided not to renew her  FONZ membership, and is considering letting her Smithsonian Associate membership expire as well.

Obviously, this is an emotional issue for me, and I’m probably rambling. I feel betrayed.  I trust that the zoo is honestly trying to do the best it can for the animals it cares for, but I cannot say that I trust that they are making the same effort for the individual humans they employ, or who help out of the goodness of their heart.  It just seems to me that they were so afraid of the public outcry which closing any exhibit would bring, they rushed to make it a fait accompli, and betrayed their own people in the process.

I want to see the Smithsonian treating it’s people better, even if it means they take a public relations hit in doing so.  I think they made the calculation that by rushing this through so fast, the population as a whole would just blink and move on without really seeing it.

cuttlefish

 

I’m afraid they’re right.

I’ve got a start on the Maryland State Flag socks.  It really took me longer than I expected to get them started.  I dithered back and forth before deciding on the Turkish cast on rather than Judy’s Magic version, and I chose the Knit Better Socks version of asymmetric toes.  Then I was worried about knitting inside out from the beginning (and just continuing to do so when I get to the stranded portion of the legs).  Long and short of it, I have a start, but haven’t even completed the toe increases yet.

My goal is to have the heel turn done by the middle of July, then finish the socks by the end of August.  Nerd Wars determined the pacing, but it seems about right.

socks in progress

Shown here with the white toe inverted, and the black toe as it is being knit…

Of course, while I was dithering about  exactly how to work the socks I kept gong with the Begonia shawl.  I’m on row 84 (out of 91), and although I’m definitely on the ‘long row’ portion of the shawl it doesn’t feel like a terrible slog.   The border is busy, but I don’t think the variegation is ugly here.

Begonia Shawl.

I’m really surprised at how much yarn is left over.

Blog Contests

I won the grand prize in the  Inner Child Crochet 9 year celebration giveaway, 9 free patterns!  So far I’ve downloaded the Sweet Little Horse, the Azalea hat, the Shooting Starf, and the Scarlet Macaw Hand Puppet.  I have five more patterns to choose!  Waffling between several of the wonderful options.

Didn’t win the stitch dictionary from Miso Crafty or Sweatshop of Love,  or the gradient kit from Mountain Colors Yarn.

I entered the Harrisville Design Blog’s contest to win a sweater’s worth of WATERshed yarn.

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