Author: Kris (page 1 of 1698)

Fixing your knitting mistakes

One of the hardest skills for new knitters to master is recognising and fixing errors. If you catch something quickly, you may be able to just un-knit (or “tink“) the last few stitches and fix it. But if you spot it a few rows later and you can’t face the thought of tinking all those stitches, you’ve really only got a few options: you can pull the needle out and rip several rows, but then you’ve got to pick all the live stitches back up. This can take a while, and depending on how thick/thin and fuzzy/smooth your yarn is it can be a real chore. (If you’re knitting anything complicated like lace where you have a high change of screwing something up, it’s highly recommended to put in lifelines every so often.) The other commonly used option is the nuclear one – ripping out the whole project and starting over. If you’re near the beginning, this may well be the fastest method.

But there is another way. Let me illustrate.

I spent a big chunk of hours yesterday working on a baby sweater. The body is stocking stitch, and then the top half has a pattern with columns of cables and garter stitch motifs. Here’s the photo I took at the end of the day:

Knitted baby sweater

When I was looking at the photo, I suddenly realised I’d screwed up one row of the pattern. Can you spot the mistake? Here I’ve isolated the two diamond motifs, outlined by the yellow and red stitch markers:

Even if you’re not a knitter, you can probably spot that they don’t match. I’ve somehow missed 4 purl stitches right through the middle of the motif on the right, which include the points at either side of the diamond.

The error occurred like 8 rows back, and while this yarn (Morris & Sons Empire 8ply in Aquamarine) would be relatively easy to pick up if I frogged those rows, reknitting the motifs would be a pain… and I’d be just as likely* to make a mistake again. So I decided instead to use the surgical method of dropping just the columns of stitches with the missing purls to correct them.

I don’t think this technique has a pithy name like tinking or frogging, but it’s often called “laddering down”. To illustrate, I’ve fixed 3 out of the 4 missing purls already and this photo shows me ready to correct the last one, the missing point of the diamond on the left. I’ve highlighted it in yellow. That knit stitch (looks like a V) should be a purl (looks like a horizontal bump). I’ve also shuffled my stitches around so that the column of stitches with the error is at the end of my left needle.

Screwed up diamond motif with highlight

Now it’s time to drop that stitch and allow it to “ladder down” to the spot of the error. (It’s called laddering because each row you undo leaves a horizontal bar.) This wool likes to stick to itself, so I encouraged it where needed with the use of a spare needle.

Laddering down the column of stitches

And here it is, down to the spot of the error. I’ve caught the live stitch that needs to be fixed with a crochet hook.

The spot of the error

Now it’s just a matter of changing this knit to a purl, and then working my way back up the ladder again. For each stitch, you pull the lowest rung of the ladder through the current live stitch. For knits, you go in from the front and pull the ladder through from the back. For purls, you come in through the back and pull the ladder through from the front. You can use spare needles for this, but a crochet hook makes it really fast. (The photo below looks like I’m about to knit the stitch, but rest assured I moved the hook around to purl instead.)

Fixing each stitch

Here it is halfway along, showing the corrected purl and then the column of knit stitches above:

Corrected stitches

I made a short video showing the last couple stitches:

And here’s the completed motif after the repairs:

Repaired motif

The only tricky bits are making sure you don’t drop down too many rows, and ensuring you don’t skip any rungs of the ladder on your way back up. I’ve even used this method to fix miscrossed cables! (Just drop down all the cable stitches, catch the live stitches on a spare needle, rearrange them correctly for the cross, and then ladder each one back up.) This technique can result in some wonky tension either side of the repaired column of stitches, but I find that a couple tugs on the work will fix it (and it’ll resolve itself during blocking anyway).

Much faster than tinking or frogging!

* The reason I made the mistake is that the damn pattern is an older one and it’s written out row-by-row without a chart. A chart would have taken up way less space and allow me to visually check for errors must easier. 😠 But this is something I’ve ranted about in the past

Volatile Quartets

From Metafilter I discovered this long retrospective on the Breeders and consequently went down a rabbit hole reading about the lineage from Throwing Muses to the Pixies to the Breeders and then Belly. I was a latecomer to these groups, getting first into the Breeders thanks to Last Splash and then moving on to Belly. I can remember driving home with my sister after high school tennis practice, belting out Belly’s King along to my car’s crappy cassette player…

The Breeders in Big Sur

A lovely little video of the Breeders performing some of my favorite songs – mostly acoustically – among the redwoods in Big Sur.

Still can’t believe I sold them craft supplies 14 years ago without realising who they were. 😂

Coffee Machine Maintenance ☕

If you have a coffee machine, you probably want to watch this video, even if you think you already know how to do the required maintenance.

In totally unrelated news, Rodd has spent the last hour cleaning his coffee machine. 😜

FIRE, and the next chapter…

After six years at Amazon, it’s finally time to move on and try out early retirement.

As a few folks have guessed, we’ve been proponents of the FIRE movement for a long time now. I am not in a position to give anyone else financial advice and your circumstances are certainly unique to you, but here are some of the resources we used along the way. (Note: where possible I’ve given you a referral link as we both get a benefit.)

  • Get Rich Slowly – JD Roth has written a lot of excellent posts and articles about personal finance. One that I found really helpful was on the Balanced Money Formula, and we’ve been using the Needs/Wants/Savings categories for our spending since 2013. We’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, but it’s a good high-level framework to get you going.
  • Mr. Money Mustache – A more fun (and sweary!) look at financial independence, this blog has given us a lot of ideas and inspiration over the years.
  • J L Collins – Pretty much the godfather of the FIRE movement. He gave a talk at Google one year that Rodd found really helpful, and his site has a lot of useful resources.
  • Reddit – Rodd’s recommendations in particular are r/Bogleheads, r/ChubbyFIRE, r/EuropeFIRE, r/ExpatFIRE, r/fiaustralia, and r/financialindependence. He notes: “r/ChubbyFIRE is for people targeting a particular range of retirement spending. There’s FatFIRE for the >$10M crowd (“Is NetJets worth it, or should I just fly first class?”). Also LeanFIRE for people happy to eat rice and beans for life if it means not working.”
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB) – I’ve written about this budgeting app in the past, and we’ve been using it for 10 years now. It’s mostly geared towards people getting out of debt (using the envelope system), but it also has really good tracking and reporting tools. It has both Android and iOS apps, and you can have separate budgets in other currencies (which we made use of in Germany). In some countries it can pull in your bank transactions automatically, but Aussie banks aren’t supported so we manually put them in every week.
  • Sharesight – We use this online portfolio manager to track all our different investments. Rodd says it’s particularly useful when it comes time to prep our tax returns.
  • Google Drive – Before we landed on YNAB, we had a shared spreadsheet that broke down our income, spending (Needs and Wants), and savings every month. This means we have our spending data all the way back to 2010. We also have a spreadsheet that covers all of our different accounts and investments. (Rodd doesn’t like how Sharesight handles cash/savings accounts, so he prefers to consolidate them here.) We also have a shared folder where we put all our payslips and tax-related docs every year.

A lot of retirement planning is based on your income. We realised quickly that that’s silly; we needed to set our goals on what we wanted to spend. By tracking our spending over time, we had a pretty good idea of what we needed each month. Then we could work out a target that made sense, and put all our efforts into hitting that. Our Google spreadsheet had a graph that tracked our net worth vs. that goal, and it gave me such satisfaction to see the little line marching up every month. Both of us were lucky enough to receive stock from our employers, which we sold as soon as it vested and put into low-fee mutual funds and other long-term investments (spread across US, EU, and AU to reduce risk).

A graph showing our net worth vs. retirement goal

In truth that red line is a little bit of a lie, because we hadn’t accounted for lifestyle inflation and a few other things. It was a good motivational symbol though. It became clear a couple years ago that we had the option to stop work if we wanted to, and in 2022 Rodd opted for it. He’s been out for nearly two years and is really happy. He managed our move back to Australia, got a part-time job leading craft beer tours, organised the renovation, and has managed the household and our lives to free me up to focus just on work. I’m a bit more anxious, so I kept going to pad things out a bit more and cover the cost of our renovation. By the beginning of this year, I was starting to feel really tired and ready to stop. I love my team and my job, but the pandemic really prompted me to think about what’s important. My values have changed. I want to slow down; to focus on my creative pursuits; and to get healthy. So a few months back I told my manager that I was done, and the time to say goodbye finally arrived.

I am not naive enough to think this is possible for everyone. It involved a huge amount of luck and privilege. While we both needed loans for college, we graduated at a time before tuition costs skyrocketed. We are extremely fortunate to have landed in our particular careers at this particular time in history. Between us we had 40+ years in the tech industry, nearly half of it at some of the biggest companies in the world. We were also incredibly lucky to buy a house for a decent price in a neighbourhood where we don’t need to have a car. We don’t have kids, and we live in a country with strong national healthcare. We haven’t had to deal with relationship breakdown or serious illness. And despite me saying “we” throughout this post, most of the long-term investment efforts have been managed by Rodd. I’m incredibly lucky to have a partner that is interested and capable of navigating this stuff. Obviously we can’t know what will happen in the future, and I’m not ruling out getting a job again at some point. But right now I’m excited to have our time be our own, and to enjoy life for a while. I’m looking forwad to catching up with friends, and to moving back into our house once it’s finished. We’re also exploring options for volunteering, to start to pay it forwards for others.

And of course… expect a lot more blogging! I can’t wait to get back to it. ❤️

The trough of AI disillusionment

Oh man, I really loved this post from Ludicity: “I Will Fucking Piledrive You If You Mention AI Again.” (Language warning, obviously.) I’ve had a lot of conversations on that theme over the past six months, though obviously with less threads of violence. 😂

Links that amused me today

She’s everything. He’s just a monkey.

You didn’t think I forgot about the Oscars, did you? With one week to go, I’m happy to announce the fifteenth (semi-)annual Web-Goddess Oscar Contest has officially launched! 🎉

Time to put on Dua Lipa so you can dance the night away with Barbie and Ken…

This year you get two monkeys, each of which have two outfits. Barbie has her iconic pink gingham outfit from the start of the movie, as well as her Venice Beach rollerblading kit. Ken has his rollerblading kit too, as well as his Mojo Dojo outfit complete with custom fanny pack and fringed vest. And if you’re going to do a patriarchy, of course you need a fur.

Mojo Dojo Ken with fur

Contest results: Congrats to Shilpa Anand, who got 12/13 predictions correct and tied with 3 other people for the top spot. It then went to the In Memoriam tiebreaker, where Shilpa managed to guess the EXACT number – 51. CONGRATULATIONS SHILPA!

More monkey construction info: The monkeys each have blue button eyes and (lots of) yarn hair. For the rollerblading outfits, why yes, that is the exact psychedelic neon print from their movie outfits, thank you for noticing! I found it on Spoonflower and had a fat quarter printed, which was more than enough. For the neon pink and yellow fabric, I bought some cheap high-vis shirts at Kmart and cut them up. Ken’s vest is made of fake leather from an old handbag, and his mohair coat is a Kmart cushion that I disassembled.

Web-Goddess Oscar Contest Sock Monkey History

Twenty-one years ago (😱), I thought it would be fun to run a contest and give away a sock monkey. I then kept that up for 10 years running, and you can see the history of my creations below. These days I only do it when the inspiration strikes…

2022 – Spider-Monkeys
2021 – Schitt’s Creek Sock Monkeys
2019 – Freddie Monkcury
2013 – The Avenger Monkeys
2012 – The Monkey with the Dragon Tattoo
2011 – Black Swan and White Swan ballerina monkeys
2010 – Sparkly Emo Vampire Sockmonkey playset
2009 – Batman and Joker monkeys
2008 – Striking Writer Monkey
2007 – Trio of Dream Monkeys
2006 – Gay Sock Monkey Cowboys
2005 – Soctopus
2004 – Plain sock monkey
2003 – Oscar the Sock Monkey

Chambray Shorts

Trigg ShortsI had such fun making Rodd’s Trigg Shorts for New Year’s Eve that I decided to make another pair. I’ve had this chambray in my stash for a few years, thinking it might make a nice pair of shorts. And guess what? It does!

I asked the Snook if I needed to make any size adjustments, and the only thing he asked for was a slightly bigger waistband when fully stretched out (like when he’s pulling them on). Consequently I made the same size as before – size D – but this time I extended the waistband piece by about an inch. (So I added around 2″ in total.) I still cut my elastic the same length, which meant that I just needed to stretch it a bit more when sewing. As you can see, you can’t really tell at all but it makes it a little stretchier. The only other change I made was to use machine-sewn buttonholes for the waist tie, rather than metal eyelets.

Trigg Shorts

I decided to get a little whimsical with the pocket bags and used some red polka dot from my stash. Cute, huh?


GlowStitch LEDs

I’ve had some fun combining LEDs with textiles before, most notably with my Canva Three Commas Cushion and my light-up CampJS beanie. Both of them required laborious hand-sewing though, so I was very excited to see Steph’s newest project – GlowStitch LEDs. These use conductive tape rather than thread, and can therefore be machine sewn. AMAZING! I’ve backed the crowdfunding campaign, and I can’t wait to get them and have a play. I especially liked Steph’s project log where she talks about all the decisions along the way, the mistakes she made, and the lessons she’s learned. Very cool…