Thursday, August 19, 2010

E-reader Mecca for Knitting!!

As a newbie to the e-reader/ebook/audiobook world, I had bought a Sony Touch locally, with a 30-day return policy in case I just didn't take to e-reading. Well, I did take to it, but with further research, as of yesterday I was going to take back the Sony and go with the Kindle. I didn't think much about the annotation feature that Sony has, but then yesterday I really started looking at that.

Whereupon the whole ball game took a turn.

I'm falling in L-O-V-E with the Sony Touch e-reader. While its screen needs the right lighting for optimal reading (a trade-offish fact of life with a "Touch" screen), what I've discovered is that the potential of the Sony Touch's note taking is phenomenally suited to me as a knitter!

It all started when I downloaded Berroco's free Nimbus pattern into it. Well, I don't know about other knitters but I've learned that before I even start knitting something, to go through the pattern and circle all the size-related instructions because... (yup, I have done that. Twice. It's a mistake I don't want to ever make again. I've learned to circle all size-related stitch instructions).

So here's what the Sony Touch Annotation features will let you do. From within the reader. On the pattern page itself.

NOTE: Screen looks way worse in photos than it is. Photographing my very clear, crisp Samsung TV screen does the same thing.

While at marking up the page, since I'm not yet used to the upper right corner "dog ear" icon signifying that Bookmark Notes exist for that page, I drew two big arrows pointing to the icon. In other words, you can circle text, write in margins, cross things out as you knit them... there's unlimited, endless flexibility. You can mark or write with your fingernail but a way more civilized stylus comes with it, and Sony placed it in a totally secure, very accessible slot.

Now, page 2 of this pattern was blank. What a perfect place for a sketch! So I drew a sketch on it.

But then I also wanted to try out the Bookmark Notes feature, and this time, use the keyboard. (Bookmarks can be brought forward by a soft tap on the dog-ear, then whooshed away again by a soft tap on the X box.)

You can also draw on the bookmark notes page. That or the keyboard, you have that choice.

So the usefulness of the entire annotation scope of this Sony Touch, to me, is fast becoming a dealmaker/dealbreaker thing. As a reader, not so much. As a knitter? Indispensible.

As for e-readers in general, I'm totally sold on them. You bring this one unit with you, and you have your pattern(s). You have your book(s). You have a stitch dictionary perhaps. This particular unit also reads Microsoft Word files, so what the hey, you might have a draft of something you want to keep working on. Have Touch/Stylus, will travel. Each brand of e-reader has a different amount of storage space built in. Sony has a respectable amount, but. BUT! It happens to also have two slots for SD cards. The normal camera type... up to 16 Gigs! I don't know how much the Duo Stick card can have, I didn't care at that point.

Finally, as some e-readers go, and the Sony Touch is one of them, if you want to listen to music or an audiobook while keeping any of those things on the screen? No problem. It's also an MP3 player. (And with 16G+ of storage space)... EGADS!

Kindle is coming out with a new generation, and there's no question its screen is going to be better. Its current model already is. But the more I've learned, the more I've found that I'm just a tad bugged by Amazon's proprietary format limitations. The one downside to this Sony Touch is that it's lacking in screen contrast definition, and the Touch Screen technology adds inherent glare. But hey, for me? As a knitter? For someone who wants to jot notes on things? The annotation/drawing potential that this thing has... it's just way too compelling. As for the screen issue, Sony makes an e-reader cover for it (opens like a book) that has a convenient, although not perfect, light built right into it. The Kindle has one of those also, but the Sony needs it in some lighting. I've learned to position it so there's no glare (a fiddly process currently, but I will get better at it) but it definitely helps the dull contrast issue.

So that's that. Whether I keep this one or return it and wait for Sony's new generation (which is rumored to have everything this does but improved screen contrast is hoped for), I don't yet know. I'll probably have to make up my mind before the new model comes out. But I'm definitely going with the Sony. The annotation feature (which had sounded so "pfffft, meh" to me as a book reader), is now a deal-making feature for me as a knitter. It's pretty much become a done deal.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dye Station Setup (requested)

Sarah over at Greener Shades Forum on Ravelry asked if I would post my dye station setup, probably not because there's anything ingeniuous about it (there isn't) but because it's so makeshift, but it works.

I’m having pretty good luck with where I keep gravitating to for dyeing. I’m using side-by-side washer/dryer as my “table” and I had a yoga matt type thing (bought at Barnes & Noble some years ago) and that is working out fantastically as a platform. I cut it to a manageable length (plus reserved a strip which I put on my kitchen counter when stovetop dyeing). What you see here is a length that covers my washer plus about a foot or so that spans over onto my dryer. If you put a couple of flexible (cheap) plastic cutting board mats (sticking out in the photo) to span the few inches between washer and dryer, the matt can spread across them so in case there's a spill, it won't drip down between them (horrors). Just be sure you remember where that gap is and not set a jar of dye stock right there. It is totally easy to blot up spills on the mat. It's rubberized so dye stock washes right off of it, and it’s wide enough so it exceeds the depth distance of the washer/dryer. And stiff enough so it'll stick out (again good insurance in case of a spill). Plus if any stock DOES happen to splash onto the washer/dryer control panels, it wipes off that surface really easily. So if you have a side-by-side setup, it works. If not, the yoga mat is thick enough so nothing would penetrate through it if using a kitchen counter (all precautions observed, of course).

As for other tools that seem to be working well for me, The Dollar Tree store had these remarkably handy “Sure Fresh Mini Storage” containers - 10 to a package that hold 50ml each for working containers as you go. Also great for storing leftover working stocks that are in small quantities. The square ones seem to seal best, but when they were out of those, I settled for the round ones. (Also great for stitch markers!)

I also am in love with the 30ml syringes for applying dyes for hand painting. The 60ml ones (largest shown) are too unweildly and the plunger doesn’t slide quite as easily for some reason. I find myself using the 24ml ones for best control. Also shown are 10-ml and then for fractions of dye stocks (like 2.75ml) the little 3ml. ones are perfect. These really give you some mean accuracy! These are very cheap at a farm supply store, ranging in price from $1.50 for the 60ml down to 19 cents for the little 3ml ones. I have at least 3 of all sizes so I don't have to interrupt my applications to rinse anything out.

Then I also use the back of a solid (no cut-outs) spatula I picked up at the Dollar Tree (stainless so it slips easily on fiber). This works great for patting, pushing dye into the fiber.

But that yoga mat was my "recycle of the year" -- it’s stiff enough to span across the two machines and not shift around like a plastic tablecloth does, it's thick enough so it isn't prone to developing holes anywhere, but it's totally foldable/rollable. The final thing I like about it is that it doesn't have much memory. If you fold or roll it up, it seems to unfold flat, not curling up on edges or fold lines creating uneven surfaces.

I left the photos at a larger size in case you want to click on one to get more of a closeup of those cute little storage containers. Dang, those were a great find.

Mon. Experiment

Logistics and setup/breakdown get really streamlined when you want to do maybe one of these a day and not spend much time at all. This time I was experimenting with the amount of resident acid pre-soak to leave in the fiber. I also wanted pretty deep DOS. I was prepared for mud because the amount of liquid by the time I was done syringing on my dye stocks at the intensity I wanted, GIVEN all that resident presoak already in the fiber -- well, all was fine unless you pressed on the fiber (at ALL) in which case, puddles. But having the fiber that wet sure does help in migration. There's a sweet spot balance in here somewhere. I just haven't yet found it. I have a feeling I'm heading toward moisture control right on the table as an integral part of what I'm after.

Anyway, THOUGH the turquoise doesn't come through that well in photo, this is, so far, one of my favorites because this combo has been in my head. Very simple, just a royal blue and turquoise with some color change blendings. I will do this again, except work with 2% stocks to bump up the DOS with less liquid required. Plus 2% stocks is only one more math calculation, but it sure would conserve on storage space required. I may be abandoning all those mixer/shaker containers and going to squat, short pint mason jars for stackabililty. Those mixer/shaker suckers are just too damned big.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Morning Trial

Just a quickie, took no time at all. I wanted to try just squeezing out the acid presoak water instead of the salad spinner - leave more moisture in it, maybe that would give more control over DOS. My new suspicion is that I'm being too anal about not having puddles, hence mud. I think that's on the right track. I may do a few other experiments, specifically to leave it wetter and wetter until I see where the mud point is, because I see a direct relationship between more water resident in the fiber and a certain type of more control. Anyway, here's today's.

And yes, I know, same general colors. I'm using up some diluted stocks I have leftover in small quantities. This is more about technique at this point than colorways. But why not try a little variation there too.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

More Space/Handpaint Dyeing Experiments

Okay, some's good, mo's bettah. Experiments, that is.

I wanted to try doing a couple of other colorways, and in the process, keep testing out blending techniques. AND balancing DOS against liquid volume, both of which have to be balanced against the degree of wetness I leave in the fiber before even a drop of working dye stock is added. This will definitely take a lot of experimentation so there's no way I'm working with 4-oz. top lengths at this point. I'm doing 1-oz. lengths. Unfortunately for display or organized storage, those need to be serpentined in thirds AND, of course, you braid them in thirds, so my braids will not have the same appearance of variety that a different length top would give (purely by where a same color falls in the braid).

Eventually I'll have enough of these done so that four or more 1-oz. braids that are compatible can be combined to actually make something with. But at this stage, I'm not caring what might go with what. I'm just after technique.

First, a colorway that's been in my head. This is NOT it! I'm after a depth that just isn't here and my sage green? It got totally compromised and my deep turquoise washed out because that color needs way more time to exhaust than any of the others. However, there's a story behind that called "Could this have become a fire in the microwave?" I need to do this experiment again, except I'll steam it stovetop this time, and for as long as it takes. What I'm after is very different, but hey, I still haven't seen a fiber I'd kick outta bed.

That sage green just totally wiped out. It doesn't come through in the photo at all, but that's only partly camera/lighting. It wiped out.

And back to that peach/coral/watermelon/strawberry color that I gave to Jenny after my spinning group's "Dye Day" a year ago, when I first laid my eyes on a jar of acid dye powder, knowing absolutely nothing (less than now though I can happily say). I absolutely will want to make more use of that color. Here's a stab at it (parts). The yellow was only mixed at 0.3% DOS but dang, I gotta go even lighter with that one, it mounts up!

So the quest goes onward!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My first space-dyed top

Wooo-hoooo! Another first, meaning that this was intentional, not happenstance out of a mason jar.

Okay, space dyed roving can look gorgeous braided. I fear it's not as pretty in reality as it is in a braid, but undeterminable until it's spun. In any event, this was my first experiment with hand painted (a/k/a space dyed) top. I first did a 2-oz. length of this, then wanted it lighter, so I did another 1-oz. length. Yeah, it's a tad lighter but not enough to where they wouldn't just end up about the same way if all dyed together. I used the same working stock formulae, just a lesser DOS concentration. It didn't make much difference, but at least I know more now than I did when I laid out the first 2-oz. length. Including how to braid a continuous piece. Except this isn't, it's two pieces, and not the right lengths for braiding, so I had to bulldog clip ends together for the braiding, then tuck them in.

So here it is. I only used 3 colors, counting on some cross-over blending. On the 3rd try (a 1-oz. length, different colors entirely), I started getting the hang of this to the extent of discovering some tricks. It won't take long I don't think, to be able to come up with some cool things AND some cool color transition blends. (This is actually a little trickier than I thought.)