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Obsession Thursday: Helping

Today’s blog comes to you from a rather famous guest. We are in awe of how she uses her influence for the powers of good, and we wanted to help. No one can say it better than she can, so take it away, Stephanie!


This morning I got up early – so early it was still dark, and I made coffee, and while it was brewing, I put on my biking stuff – including the incredibly flattering and esteem boosting spandex. Then I came downstairs again, and sat in the dawning light, eating peanut butter toast and waiting for the text from Jen that would tell me she was at the trailhead. When she got there, I went outside, got on my bike, and as I pushed off down the street to meet her, I marvelled that I was doing it.  I’m training for the Bike Rally again, and I have a secret to tell you.

verychipper 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here at the beginning of our ride this morning. 50km before work. What you can’t see is how cold we are. We were attempting supernatural chipperness as an antidote. It helps.

At the end of the Rally last year, I was going to take a year off. Last year was… hard. I don’t know any other way to describe it. The rain, the overwhelming training schedule, my knees – they were really hurting. I think I have a grip on the problem now, but last year? The ends of the rides were all punctuated with ice packs. Also, the issue of the (*&%$%##ing squirrel EATING MY SEAT right before the rally, and having to ride the whole thing on a new one? I’d rather not discuss the impact on my nether-regions, and instead tell you that that year was… hard.  I had a very, very low night about mid-way through the rally, when I cried (by myself, like a grownup) and wondered why the hell I do this to myself, and thought that maybe I would have a break this year. That feeling was still there when we pulled into Montreal. It was amazing to have done it, I was so proud of everything, but I was done. Just… for a while. I imagined all the ways that I could still support this cause without involving my free time, summer vacation, weekends and crotch.  I hadn’t figured out how to tell anyone. Joe knew though, and he said everyone would understand. I thought he was right too.

Then, something happened. PWA was forced to cut some staff and services. The Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, and we’d failed to sustain them, and the people who use them. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. In fact, the ridership raised more money per rider last year than ever before – there there were fewer riders though, compared to years past, and even though the fundraising efforts were heroic, it wasn’t enough.  This moved me more than I can tell you. This tangible evidence that the Rally is so fundamental, so immediate to the ability of PWA to help people… it just struck me that the choices that I made mattered, and they mattered that day, and something snapped.

I did three important things that day.  I decided to ride again. I decided to accept the position I was offered on the Steering Committee. (Without a word of a lie, I was going to turn it down.) And… I decided to do everything in my power to change the outcome for this year, to try as hard as I could to raise as much as I could.  So, I didn’t quit. I had sort of a bad feeling in my tummy, but I didn’t quit.

Those decisions have had, shall we say… “impact”.  I have the added responsibilities of Steering Committee. I help make decisions that shape the Rally, and make things possible. I go to a lot of meetings. I send a lot of emails, and once again, my summer is going to evaporate into a blur of training rides and Rally stuff, and I’ll probably be away when my new niece of nephew comes – and while I have some feelings about that,  I don’t regret my choice. I feel like it’s important, and I am so, so very lucky to have this time to give. (My arse disagrees, but we are in negotiations.)

rainagain 2015-05-13 (1)

Jen and I are seen here this morning, having lost a little of that chipperness as the rain started, and we became both wet and cold.

So, to make a long story even longer. This summer I will ride my bike more than 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal, in The Friends for Life Bike Rally.  This year, we have a little family team, as always.  Ken, long-time rider, blog starter, and the person who roped me into this in the first place. Pato, the most decent 23 year old man alive (he will very much appreciate me saying “man” instead of “boy”)  and Jen – mum, student, employee, wonderful riding partner,  and all four of us… knitters. (Well, in the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that Pato *can* knit, but he doesn’t often. He’s 23. With maturity, will come reason.)  My daughters aren’t joining us this year, because they have work/school schedules that simply cannot allow for the 12 weekend/1 week off work commitments that are the Rally.  (It’s not small potatoes. It eats your vacation.) Look for their influence in other places. They’re still in it.

thatdamnhill 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here being handed our arses by a monster hill we couldn’t get up. If you live in Toronto, know that it was Pottery Road. It’s the beginning of training – we couldn’t make it all the way up. We’ll see how we do in a few weeks. It was brutal.

 

Once again, I’m asking for your help. Our commitment means nothing without you.  (I am stopping just short of calling you the wind beneath our wings, thank goodness, although that was a near thing. I deleted it.)  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do some things the same way, and some things differently. What stays the same? Karmic Balancing gifts. Once a week (or so) between now and the rally, I’ll chose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*  What’s different? Who sends their name along.

This year I want it to be all about the Karma. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little team

Me

Ken

Pato

Jen

Then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.  What’s new? Not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, please send in your email. Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can contribute a gift. There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did.

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are? Ken, Pato, Jen and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. You have no idea what they’re made of.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier for myself this year. It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions. I’ll keep track.) Thank you!


Okay, Knitty readers. Can you help in some way? 

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Test is on NOW! (ETA: 7:40pm — test is over)

TEST TIME! Everyone + their budgie, please click the link below. The follow links around for a while within the site:

http://beta.knitty.com

Pretend it’s new-issue day!

Update at 7:07 pm: Please follow me here: http://twitter.com/knittydotcom — I’m posting updates as we have them. This is all good…the fact that it choked is just information. Our SysAdmin is going to tweak things so it won’t do that, but it may be a bit of a process to get there. Your help is appreciated!

Update at 7:40 pm: TEST IS NOW OVER! THANK YOU!

We learned a lot from the problems you all experienced, and so SysAdmin Chris will be doing some adjusting and tweaking and we’ll run another test shortly — probably this weekend.

Thank you for taking time out of your evening to help us make the new server everything we all want it to be! You’re all awesome!

#knittyservertest

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Obsession Thursday: A man.

No, this is not a dating post. In fact, it could be a genderless post entirely, but I thought that title might catch your eye.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

Knitty has a new man. His name is Christopher, and he is going to rock our world. He’s our new System Administrator. He lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and children and he is a knitter. And he’s come to make Knitty behave better, in a server sense.

He and I have been talking via email and Skype, working to move Knitty to a more suitable server. Not a more expensive one. It turns out we had something twice as expensive as we need, and it still let you all down on launch days. (You know how you have to wait your turn to get in to see a new issue? For hours? Days? That bugs me too.)

So in order to make sure the new server we’ve chosen will do what we want it to, we need your help. It’s easy. Tonight at 7pm eastern time (same time zone as New York City), we’re asking you to come back here and click on the big link that you’ll find on this page. That will take you to what looks like the existing Knitty site, but it’s actually the new server which has a clone of the site. We want as many of  you as possible to try to hit it at the same time to see if it can take the pressure. Click on the main link. Then click around. Look at pages, follow links within the magazine. We’re trying to get thousands and thousands of clicks all at the same time, like we would on a launch day. Click for a while, read some articles, look at patterns. The more pressure we can put on the server for this test, the better.

We won’t need bug reports. Christopher is awesome at looking at the logs to see what happens, and we’ll both be sitting by our computers, watching this whole thing go down. We will monitor any feedback you have on Twitter with the hashtag #knittyservertest. If you want to follow what’s happening from our perspective, I’m at @knittydotcom

We love you guys, and getting us to a server that can finally handle our traffic properly is the first step in being ready for the future. Please spread the word about the test and set an alarm…come back at 7pm tonight and click!

PS The link will be posted here on the Knittyblog, on Twitter and also on our Facebook page. Remember: Going to the existing Knitty site won’t help the test. Please use the special link which I’ll make big and huge and very noticeable.

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Obsession Thursday: Peeping into someone else’s world, legally

Periscope. Voyeurism made legit.

Periscope. Voyeurism made legit.

Anyone who knows me knows I like shiny new toys, even if they’re virtual ones.

I heard about Periscope a few weeks ago and jumped on the bandwagon soon after. Unlike Vine, an app that lets you record 6-second videos that play on a loop (and are strangely mesmerizing), Periscope lets you see whatever the microcaster (rather than broadcaster) wants you to see. Their face or what they’re looking at. Someone tying their shoes? Baking bread. Or, like the guy I watched last week, shaving. Which was really fun, believe it or not. This is much better than an Instagram of my french toast, I promise. And if you’re lucky, you might catch the hypnotic stream from a guy in Japan who makes Edo Sudare — bamboo blinds (and other related things) as he works. I’m sure we’ll see more crafters using this platform soon.

As you microcast, everyone watching can hear you, but you can only read the messages viewers leave. Which can be scarce, or a crazy non-stop stream of chatter. The one-way audio makes sense…it would be aural cacophony otherwise! If you like what you’re watching, you tap the screen and leave a heart. Or a few hundred. And of course, like LIKEs, hearts are what the microcasters are after.

Yup, I’ve microcasted as well. (What a silly word, but it amuses me.) A few times, walking around craft environments like The Purple Purl or the City of Craft show. And a few times from my bed. Totally g-rated, I promise. While bedcasting™, I chatted with someone a few miles away from me, and a nice fellow in Buenos Aires.  These microcasts aren’t always saved for viewing later by anyone who wants to see…but they can be. So you have to catch the show while it’s happening.

It’s kind of addictive. Follow me under the username “knittydotcom”, should you be so inclined. And if you ever catch one of my microcasts, please do say hi! I’ve already met quite a few knitters through this silly thing!

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Obsession Thursday: Freaking out over 3D printing

I am, without question, an early adopter. But I’m also a skeptic. So I’m not the earliest adopter. I need to see how something makes sense to me before I want it. Twitter, Instagram, even the Internet. I knew about them for at least a year before I joined in.

3D printing is another of these amazing things that is just starting to make sense to me, and of course the gateway drug was bling.

I’d been following NervousSystem for years, but didn’t realize they’d come up with software that allowed you to design your own ring or bracelet.  If you’re like me, you’re lost in this brilliant toy already and have stopped reading. Just clicking on that last link allows for some mesmerizing time wasting.

Voro Ring No. 1

Voro Ring No. 1

But what if you want to wear something you’ve created? Do you trust your skills to make something wearable? I imagined making something so bulky I wouldn’t be able to close my fingers. So I went looking, and found Shapeways.

This is the Voro Ring No. 1 by 90grad@gmx.ch. Who clearly knows what she or he is doing. It’s a rendering of what it might look like in stainless steel, and it’s priced at a ridiculous $19. How could I not order it? It was an affordable gamble. Since I know what 3D printing looks like in plastic, I wanted to see how a metal object would come out.

They’re printing designs in stainless and even silver and gold. How is that EVEN POSSIBLE?

My in-the-flesh 3D-printed Voro Ring No 1.

My in-the-flesh 3D-printed Voro Ring No 1.

A few weeks later, my ring arrived at my doorstep. I am fascinated!

Yes, it’s a little yellower than I expected. But it’s solid and strong (I tried to crush it…it won’t crush). It’s rough and it’s super light. And it’s really comfortable to wear.

And it was spewed out of a printer. Does that not make your head explode?

Well, not exactly spewed. The printer emits a thin layer of metal powder in the shape of the design, and then a laser fuses it. Another layer of powder, and then the laser again. Eventually, the design is complete.

Here’s a video of the process, sort of. They’re not showing much. Is that on purpose? Dunno.

I wonder if it’s the bronze they infuse (like they show in the video) that’s made my ring slightly yellow. Dunno.

I do know that I love this thing and may have it plated in something shiny — otherwise, it looks like heavily tarnished sterling silver. Mostly, I’m just really impressed that this exists.

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Obsession Thursday: Conquering slipperyness

Who puts a window INSIDE a shower? Well, it's mine and I'm gonna keep it clean, dangit.

Who puts a window INSIDE a shower? Well, it’s mine and I’m gonna keep it clean, dangit.

You may think this post is about knitting. It is not. It is about sticking things to a tiled surface.

Said tiled surface, in this case, is the wall of my shower. And everyone knows you knit happier when you’re clean. Whatever. Work with me here, people.

So I have a completely tiled shower with a big inset window. And everyone in the building puts their shampoos and stuff on that window ledge. I don’t like. It’s messy and unsightly and a breeding ground for mold.

Instead, I wanted to hang up my shower-stuff rack. Maybe it could hang from the shower head, but I don’t find that logical. Don’t want to reach through a stream of water to get at my stuff. The opposite wall is where it belongs. But with a fully tiled wall — HOW?

Stupid stupid stupid things. Great when they work. But they often don't.

Stupid stupid stupid things. Great when they work. But they often don’t.

Attempt 1 (and 2 and 3): Command hooks. Prepped the surface properly, let it cure for a few days and was thrilled to see it work, for 6 months. Then it failed at 3 am. CRASH BOOM BANG.

Unimpressed.

Prepped attempts 2 and 3 properly as well (including cleaning the wall fully and letting the hook tape set for more than 48 hours before putting weight on the hook). Same thing. Command hooks, you have betrayed me one time too many. You are dead to me.

Then I remembered something I’d seen on a recent shopping trip. A ridiculously over-engineered bit of brilliance. Look at this thing:

Meet Immeln. Which, as far as can tell, means absolutely nothing in Swedish but seems to have its etymological roots in the word for "fog". Which is kind of appropriate. This is another really long caption, isn't it?

Meet Immeln. Which, as far as can tell, means absolutely nothing in Swedish but seems to have its etymological roots in the word for “fog”. Which is kind of appropriate.
This is another really long caption, isn’t it?

What you have here is Immeln, a line of suction-cup-based hooks by IKEA. What you can’t see is that it works like this:

1. Unscrew the white knob thingy in the front.

2. You will have 3 pieces. A suction cup with a big metal washer and screw in the center, the long white plastic hooky thing and the front white knob thingy that you screwed off in the first place.

3. Clean the surface. (Duh.)

4. Press the suction cup thingy on the wall. Pressy pressy pressy all around the edge of the suction cup thingy to fully adhere it. It’s already a little sticky, too.

5. Cover with the long white plastic hooky thing.

6. Screw the white knob thingy back on. Tightly.

What’s happening? Is that as you screw the thing together, the suction cup is being activated big time as its center is pulled away from the wall. But the outside stays stuckified.

It’s genius. And it’s working.

There’s a whole line of Immeln bathroom stuff, with attached baskets, mirrors and towel rods — but the hooky part they’re currently selling looks very little like the pictures on the IKEA website. I think they’ve done some redesign of the over-designed thingy into its current state, which is fine with me. I’ll gladly pay $9.99CDN for two hooks that actually, really work (that was the price I paid yesterday — not sure why the website is outdated. How very un-IKEA of them!).

Anyway, back to my triumphant success. Wanna see?

Ta-daaaa! Yes, now  you can see my bath products. I don't think that's a huge invasion of privacy. It's not like there's a bottle of Joe's Anti-Foot-and-Mouth disease cream on there or nuthing.

Ta-daaaa! Yes, now you can see my bath products. I don’t think that’s a huge invasion of privacy. It’s not like there’s a bottle of Joe’s Anti-Foot-and-Mouth-Disease body wash on there or nuthing.

Signed,
Your clean and non-frustrated Editor.

P.S. Jillian says I don’t have to write such long blog posts. I keep trying. I’m not doing very well at the brevity part yet.

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Obsession Thursday: passing it on

An occasional friend died last year — someone I knew because she was friends with my close friend. I really liked her but we never saw each other much just because…life, you know? Except the one time she wrote me out of the blue and asked to stay in my guest room.

Her favorite musician, Greg Brown, was coming to my town. I’d never heard of him. She came, stayed with me, took me to the concert. I got to enjoy her giddiness at seeing her favorite musician up close, and really enjoyed the concert. I’ve been listening to his music ever since.

Now when one of his songs comes on my iPod, I think of D and wish she were still here. And thank her silently for passing on her love of this man’s music to me.

Here’s my favorite song of his:

And now D has shared him with you, too.

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Obsession Thursday: There is no substitute for intelligent, human copy editing and proofreading

A quick glance at this lazily worded headline might alarm my fellow geeks

A quick glance at this lazily worded headline might alarm my fellow geeks

As a recovering proofreader and editor (20 years in the advertising business), the hairs on the back of my neck go way up when I see something like the news headline at left that I spotted this morning.

No, Doctor Who didn’t survive Ebola. He didn’t get it. Keep reading. But our internet-trained brains scan text for key phrases, and when we see “hero” a few words later, it only serves to extend the period of confusion.

It’s actually a simple news story. But a little more attention to the headline probably was warranted.

When services like Grammarly claim to be “automated proofreaders”, I want to wave my hands in the air and flail about like a deranged muppet.  There is no such thing. We all know how fallible spellcheck is without a human to watch over it and choose which changes to allow. Nothing yet invented can replicate the skill of a properly trained (and caffeinated) proofreader or copy editor. See, Grammarly recently published a scathing (ha) critique of the lame writing in that 50 Shades novel based on the “errors” its service found. I’m sure you’ve seen it all over the place. Except what they wrote is wrong. This thoughtful rebuttal by a mystery writer explains why. If you can’t trust the article, not sure how you can trust the service.

Proofreaders and Copy Editors are often first against the wall when the revolution comes. (They’re the first to be laid off when the budget is cut or money suddenly becomes tight because so many companies see them as a luxury.) It’s a crime against language. If we don’t defend our words, who will?

Note: I don’t claim that Knitty is error free. We do our best, but we don’t have a dedicated proofreader. That’s why I’m so glad we’re online…we can fix typos after a launch without requiring new film, a new press run and a huge loss of revenue. 20 years of stress over typos that went to print was enough for me. We do our best, and we fix the rest.

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Obsession Thursday: DIY surf spray and body oil mist

When I went from short and flippy hair to past my chin and wavy, I started to need surf spray to make the hairstyle work. Stuff costs $20 a bottle and is MAGIC. You know how your hair is after you come out of the ocean? (Not a lake…has to be salt water.) This stuff does that, but is better for your hair and cheaper than airfare.

Enough ingredients to make countless bottles of Surf Spray and Body Oil Mist

Enough ingredients to make countless bottles of Surf Spray and Body Oil Mist

Guess what? All the ingredients to make many, many, MANY bottles of this stuff costs about the same as one bottle of the name-brand stuff. I’ve made and used up several batches and it always works. Spritz it into damp hair, scrunch and when it’s dry, finger combing gives me the wavy hair I always wanted.

I started out with some of the recipes on this page, and tweaked. This is about what I do now.

Amy’s magic hair scrunch spray:

  • 1/2 cup warmed distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon Epsom salts
  • 1 teaspoon hair gel
  • ½ tablespoon leave-in hair conditioner
  • 4-5 drops of coconut oil or Argan oil

Warm water helps dissolve the rest of the ingredients. I use less water than other recipes recommend, because the water is just there to carry the rest. It just slows down the drying time of your hair so why add more than you need? Choose your conditioner carefully — it seems to be most fragranced of everything and if you’re fussy about smells, that’s where you can control it best.

Next up, winter skin crawlies. All body oil mists I found had some kind of fragrance and they all have preservatives I didn’t want. Plus $$$. So now I make my own based on this recipe, and it’s amazing. It has no scent by choice — check out the recipe link above if you want to fragrance it.

Unscented body oil mist:

  • ¼ cup distilled or filtered water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vegetable glycerine
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • 4-5 drops Vitamin E oil

I spray this on my arms, back and legs after every shower and I no longer want to rip my skin off.

I got most of the supplies at my local drugstore. You don’t need to buy huge amounts. It lasts a long time, and takes up just a little space in my closet until it’s time to make a new batch.

 

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A big anniversary!

Isn’t it funny how time passes online? We launched in 2002, and just 3 years later, the immensely clever Tina Newton (one of my favorite people) launched her Rockin’ Sock Club with her company, Blue Moon Fiber Arts. Tina is the woman that invented Socks that Rock. The yarn that has caused more hours-long lineups at Maryland and Rhinebeck than (possibly) any other. It’s pretty gorgeous stuff.

Holy cow, look at all the cool stuff you get!

Holy cow, look at all the cool stuff you get! And that doesn’t even include the yarn!

So yeah, back to the anniversary thing. 10 years. TEN YEARS, people! This is huge. To celebrate, the 10th Anniversary Rockin’ Sock Club is going all out this year! Members get a kit every other month, and you can read all about what’s in that magical package here. One of the things that caught my eye was the special bag Tina has commissioned from Queen Bee Creations — it’s an optional add-on to the Club, and as someone who is a proud bag ho™, there’s no way I’d miss out on that.

Here’s something I really liked reading on the site about the club — this note on the FAQ page. “Note: Before purchasing, please take a minute to consider very carefully about whether or not a Sock Club that chooses the yarn, pattern, and color is right for you. We promise to challenge your color boundaries and expand your sock knitting horizons.

I love how beautifully honest this is. Be prepared to relinquish control and wonderful things will find their way to your mailbox every two months. It sounds pretty good to me.

To find out more about the Rockin’ Sock Club and sign up for the special 10th Anniversary edition, visit the Blue Moon Fiber Arts website.

Editor’s note: We’re not being paid to write this blog post, and we’re not getting free kits, either. We just love Tina and what she’s created at Blue Moon, and want to share the news about her Club with our readers. That’s one of the cool things about running your own magazine. We get to do stuff like this for good people who make good products.

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