So, this is a super amazing photo of the knitted jewelry I wore to get married in July.

Go, ye, and hire Cathy and David so you, too, can have professional photographers take pictures of your knitted FOs. And your cute partner, too.

Congrats to Kenya A. from Utah, who is a beginning knitter looking to challenge herself with a state-of-the-art project.

It was, not unsurprisingly, a difficult task to pick the winner. All of the comments had me either laughing, “aw”ing or just plain in awe of people’s plans for the bag, but Kenya’s stuck out. This bag has a pioneer spirit, and so does Kenya, who’s willing to try out a complex project even though she’s new to the whole knitting thing.

Kenya says:

I’m thinking I would like to do something out of the ordinary in cuteness with the kit. Like maybe make the LEDs into lightning bugs. I am really, really excited to work with this kit.

Good luck!

So, first, let’s get the most important part out of the way.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s what my Horrible Sister* calls a “dolphin squeal of joy,” and it is what I did when a certain someone at the awesomest online knitting destination (that would be Knitty) sent me an email that I’d gotten a project accepted to Knitty’s Spring 2010 issue.

The project?

A bag that knows your knitting project as well as you do. The Know-It-All Knitting Bag actually has a computer chip built into it in the form of an Arduino LilyPad. The LilyPad connects to a push button and 10 LED lights–each one a stitch in a knitting-chart grid. I’ve done all the coding for you, so it’s just a matter of plugging the LilyPad into a computer and syncing it, much like you would an iPod or cell phone. For the full pattern and instructions, go visit Knitty.com and then come back to hapagirl.com for the custom-code and row-counter generator.

See The Know-It-All Knitting Bag in action!

Of course, the bag itself isn’t the whole story. It never is, at least for a good historian (which I am hopefully becoming). Context makes the object, after all, and in this case, I mean that quite literally.

I spent the summer and fall of 2009 cramming the last 100 years worth of scholarship on medieval history into my head en route to a 3-hour oral exam aimed at a PhD in Medieval History.** It turns out that when you empty your head of 6 months of reading in 3 hours, some equally complex problem-solving challenge has to fill the void, or you’ll go crazy. So in the two weeks after my qualifying exams, my fevered brain made a connection between a past computational textiles workshop I did with Dr. Kylie Peppler at Indiana University and a future Knitty deadline. In a timely stroke of serendipity, this Knitty submission was exactly what I needed to wean my brain slowly off of the academic adrenaline high I’d been on for six months.

All of that extra energy that suddenly had no academic outlet went into scheming. About the functionality of light-based chart patterns, about the possibility of row counting, about the conductivity of puffy paint. And so, I knitted and felted and learned about electronic circuits and programming (badly) in C. And screwed up. Quite a bit.

Felted Baguette Bag

The first felting attempt not so much in proportion, no?

It may very well have been the screwing up that really helped in the post-exam decompression phase. It was refreshing to know that I could screw up as many times as I wanted to without any significant consequences (Knitty deadline notwithstanding). The stress of connecting that much scholarship and keeping it ready for instant recall actually created the environment necessary to pull such a broad variety of untested skills and unfamiliar components into what ultimately (after all of the problem solving was done) is a very simple project.

The Know-It-All Bag felted grid and LEDs

I wanted every single element of this bag to be entirely functional. The pins in the bottom right of the LilyPad don’t control any components, so they’re not sewn down with thread, conductive or otherwise.

And yes, it really is simple. This was my first time working with needle felting, electronic circuits, computational textiles, and C programming. The instructions are really detailed, but the level of competency required for each skill is very low. That means a low barrier to entry for any knitter who wants to try a whole bunch of new stuff and still produce a really spectacular Finished Object.

The Know-It-All Knitting Bag is (like the Arsenal gloves after it) a very collaborative effort. I had help working through the project at each step, so props must be given where props are due. Inspirational thanks to Kylie A. Peppler from Indiana University’s Learning Sciences program, Leah Buechley from MIT Media Lab’s High-Low Tech Group, and their teams for holding the computational workshop that started this project. The workshop and Arduino LilyPad materials for the prototype bag were funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Kylie A. Peppler (NSF-0855886). Particular thanks are due to Joshua Danish for helping solve several of the engineering and design obstacles that helped make the Know-It-All Knitting Bag a practical possibility for any knitter instead of a specialty toy for a few select geeks. If Joshua provided the geeky perspective, The Best Knitting Group Ever provided the knitterly perspective, helping me translate electronics-speak into language knitters can understand. Finally, Nathan at Sparkfun put together a special kit for Knitty readers that contains all of the components necessary to make the bag and then provided two kits as give-away prizes (one here, one at Knitty, we’ll keep you posted).


*I’m “Terrible,” she’s “Horrible,” and Mom is “No-Good” thanks to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

**No, I don’t have the PhD yet. Qualifying exams first, then a dissertation proposal (also done), and then the dissertation and earning of degree (so very, very far from being done).

Lots of people in pedagogical scholarship talk about the benefits of collaborative learning for students in traditional classrooms(see section A5 in this list). But does it hold true for knitting?

Behold!

Gunner Gloves

The gloves themselves weren’t collaborative, but the decorative accent (in this case, the Arsenal FC logo) was as collaborative as it gets.

Initially, the plan was a combination of fair-isle and intarsia knitting to make these awesome goalie gloves for a die-hard Arsenal fan. That was clearly a bad plan, but I’m a knitter and I was so focused on how to do the logo and finger tracing with knitting that I overlooked the obvious: needle felting. It took a non-knitter to tell me that needle felting was a much better choice.

He even needle-felted one of the logos himself! (C’est très adorable, a man with a needle felting tool, no?)

Needle Felting

And a close-up of the logo for good measure.

Gunner Logo Closeup

Ultimately, a time crunch got in the way of the finger tracings, but that’s probably a good thing because that would have taken a f**k-long time and I have little patience for such things anyway.

Now let’s just hope the damn things fit. Making gloves on spec for an absentee friend sans proper measurements is a scary proposition.
____________________________________________________________

Edit, March 11, 2010: The gloves fit! They fit!

(or How I Avoided Intarsia At All Costs)

There have long been links between smell and memory (a link which explains my long-standing aversion to Jaegermeister). My most recent knitting project has convinced me that my musical drive trumps smell any day when it comes to memory and recall.

To wit: I have had “Linus and Lucy” stuck in my head all week. I will likewise probably always move my hands in funny ghostly-knitting motions whenever I hear “Linus and Lucy” from now on. Because of this….

Charlie Browniest Sweater

Commissioned to appropriately clothe a still-gestating bald-headed kid, this seamless raglan baby cardigan served another purpose in my knitting repertoire: how to avoid intarsia for basic colorwork shapes. Because there was no way in hell I was going to carry multiple strands for these stripes. So I did short rows instead, using increases and decreases in the black stripe to keep the fabric basically flat.

Charlie Browniest Closeup

There’s still a little bit of puckering going on. If I were to do this again (and I might in colors that don’t evoke Charlie Brown in quite so dramatic a way), I’d probably increase one extra stitch on either side of the increase and decrease lines within the black stripe.

Still, it’s awfully cute. And jazzy.

Right, so all of my writing mojo has been going here instead of, well, here. However, the last week has brought a few fun knitting-related things, two of them in print as of now.

First, an icy, snowy, wintery-blue sock designed for Three Irish Girls with snowflakes arching up and around the ankle. The Spiraling Snow Socks were really quite challenging. I wanted a spiral that swooped gracefully around the ankle bone, but I didn’t want to sacrifice a longer cuff either, and this design accomplished both. Let me also briefly mention how much I covet an entire sweater’s worth of the Kell’s Sport, which is oh-so-squishy and lovely. (Though this would, of course, require me to knit an entire sweater in sport weight, and, well….)

Second, a sweater that uses two totally different yarns to create texture, designed for Yahaira Ferreira’s Pure Knits book. It’s been almost 2 years since I designed this, and it was really satisfying to see the final product surrounded by so many beautiful patterns bound together into a single theme. I will be knitting the men’s herringbone hat-and-scarf set in this book in the next 3.5 seconds, and it will be mine, all mine!

Next up? More academic writing, and some secret knitting that makes me want to stalk the product pages at Amazon until the link is live and I can finally post.

The knitting has, in chemgrrl’s words, been of the ovary-exploding type. One of my bestestest friends in the whole wide world gifted us with a new variety of baby: the kind I like.

To celebrate, Baby K, Ma L and Pa G got these:

Baby Booties

Look, ma, NO PINK!

Of course, these tiny little booties (and an accompanying pair which I did not photograph) do not 3 months of knitting make…. No, indeed. There has also been knitting of other kinds. Which I can’t share. Yet. Instead, I offer up the second-best home-brew dye job in the world!

Dye Job

Urban camouflage. Invisible or not? You decide.

Really, “second best” is something worth saying with pride. Maybe third- or fourth- best, even, given the company at the TBKGE’s Second Annual Dyeing Party. Allbuttonedup has the best. Srsly. Haven’t seen photos yet, but I can guarantee that it was spectacular in person, and there were several other very pretty fibery things including a cotton-candy spectactular that Sara did (though the fleece on which the cotton-candy was unleashed unfortunately felted in the process).

Who is apparently not so random after all.

When last we checked in with our intrepid knitter–that would be me–she was…. Wait, hang on, I can’t talk about myself in the third person. I am not Bob Dole, nor am I Kanye, so, let’s reboot this post.

When last I presented a work-in-progress on this blog, I was trying to randomize one part of my life–the socks–in order to derandomize some other parts (schoolwork, etc., with the “etc.” part being the parts that I don’t talk about much but think about quite a bit). The Randomized Socks are clearly now complete.

Randomized Socks

Random! (or not.)

Of course, the Randomized Socks are red, and therefore nigh-on impossible to actually photograph with any degree of accuracy, especially with my little Canon. (I opted not to pull out the big giant Canon because it’s heavy and kinda hard to aim at my feet while staying still enough to get a non-fuzzy photo.) Thus, even the photo of the socks is a little random, at best.

Nevertheless, these socks are not random enough. I put them on and they look as though they’re the most planned cables in the world. Which is the problem I had with them initially, but I thought we’d gotten past that (we being “me and my many personalities, one of which is a multiple personality”). Clearly not.

So, the question is: did the under-randomization of the socks result in an over-randomization of the other stuff?

Decidedly, yes.

But in a good way.

That’ll teach me to question entropy.

I guess it’s been one of those weeks. You know, a week where everyone seems to have exactly the same week?

Blogless Norma and I have been splitting the sleep allotment of a single person–and apparently, the same kind of obsessive behavior when it comes to combining coding and academic research–but that doesn’t really photograph well.

What does tend to photograph well is a confluence of knitting. Chemgrrl has been working on a scrum-diddly-umscious pair of orange Sock-Hop knee socks for a few weeks, perhaps as long as I’ve been working on a much more boring pair of navy knee socks knit of Karabella Margrite (or something like it in sport weight, can’t remember, details TBA). She’s just been more diligent about documenting her work.

No longer. No longer will these socks be hidden in the shadows of my procrastination, subject to the injustices of my slackerdom.

Knee Socks

But where’s the other sock?

The only thing I’m worried about is whether or not I have enough yarn to make it just one more inch in pattern before I start ribbing, which should allow the socks to cover my ridiculously large lower-leg area.

Like chemgrrl, I had to do some in-pattern increases to get the poor socks to fit. Unlike her, I’ll probably release a pattern at some point.

Knee Sock Calf Increases

Look at how planned that looks…. Not at all as though I winged it. Wung it?

And, like chemgrrl, I hope someday to name these after someone in my knitting group, because it’s The Best Knitting Group Ever ™.

In high school, my physics teacher called it thermoGoddammits, not thermodynamics. And for good reason, because any isolated system will tend to become more disorderly over time, even with intervention. And if constant vigilance doesn’t have an effect, well, then that seems to me like a perfectly good reason to swear.

Swearing also takes work. Effort. Involvement. And I have enough work-effort-involvement elsewhere in life right now, what with conferences, teaching, writing, researching and begging for cash to fund the aforementioned conferences, teaching, writing and researching. It takes lots of work–and swearing–to keep the isolated system I like to call “My Life” from spiraling completely into chaos, so I thought I’d try something different.

I thought perhaps if I let entropy do its work on one part of the isolated system, as embodied by my current pair of WIP socks, I might be able to keep the rest of the system under control.

Randomly Ribbed Sock Toes

Random! Disordered! Unplanned cables! Whee!

This has turned out to be harder than I expected. Either I’m not random enough, or it really does take planned effort to make something look effortless. I’m not sure how to interpret this turn of events. If it takes effort to make something *look* as though it’s descending into an unplanned spiral of madly placed cables, does that mean I can just leave well enough alone in the rest of the “My Life” system and things will fall neatly and nicely into place?

If so, the stupid second law of thermoGoddammits has it all wrong.