Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Class at Loop & Leaf in Santa Barbara

 I am happy to announce that I'll be teaching my All Day Toddler Fair Isle Hat class at Loop & Leaf in Santa Barbara, CA, on Wednesday Feb. 1, 2012.  Celeste hosted a signing for Fearless Fair Isle Knitting at her lovely shop last February, and I am delighted to be going back.
The class hours haven't been settled yet- I'll announce when the time is firm. In the meantime, I'm excited to ride the Amtrak along the beautiful SoCal Ocean Coast again.

Astute readers will deduce that this means I'll be in SoCal  barely two weeks after going to Asheville, NC for the Friends and Fiberworks Winter Retreat (classes are now fully listed and open for registration). I lead a really interesting life, y'all.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Playing with Fire

Okay, so the Kindle Fire does not have a text-to-speech function despite this e-mail, which I got from Amazon Customer Support:
But all is not lost. First of all, a great many people are not happy about the lack of TTS, and they've complained to Amazon about it. Second of all, there's money to be made in selling a TTS app, which means that someone will come up with a reasonable substitute for a built in TTS function soon. Third of all, there are many compensations for not being able to have the droning computer voice read Tarzan books to me.

As a new Kindle Fire owner, I get a month of free Amazon Prime, which means not only free shipping on actual hold-in-your-hand books, and even deeper discounts than usual, but lots, and I do mean LOTS, of streaming video, that I can watch whenever I want, including every X-Files episode, several seasons of The Twilight Zone, most of Star Trek, and lots of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (do we sense the drift of my TV watching taste?). I can also watch many many movies for free, and many others for less than it would cost to rent them from a brick and mortar store. Though I'd never been tempted by Amazon Prime before this, I have a feeling that I will shell out the $79 per year from now on. Smooth move, Amazon.

So, I can watch TV and movies as I exercise, which helps to make up for not having TTS. But, I can also listen to books as well.

Back when my Zune was fully functional and Microsoft thought it was going to push the iPod out of the #1 position, I used to subscribe to podcasts and the RSS feeds would transfer directly to the Zune. I listened to many books via Librivox that way. Their vast library of recorded books (all done by volunteers, and all in the public domain) kept me happy for a long time as I sweated away. And they're keeping me happy again.

So, just in case you have a Fire, and you don't know know how to use it to listen to these audio books, here's what I did (and if there is a way to subscribe to podcasts directly, I haven't found one- if such there be, please let me know).

#1. Go to Librivox and select the book you want to hear. This morning, I selected Book #3 in the John Carter of Mars series, The Warlord of Mars.
#2. Somewhere on your computer, make a file folder with the name of the book. It doesn't matter where you have the folder, just so you can find it again when you need it.

#3. In Librivox, click on the book listing. Below the RSS information, will be a listing of the MP3 files of the book, arranged by chapter.

#4. I have no idea what an ogg vorbis file is, but it doesn't matter because we don't need that link. I also don't know what the difference is between the two MP3 file types- I chose the 64kbps for my downloads, just because. Anyway, click on the Chapter 1 64kbps link, and this window will open:
#5. The audio file will begin to download and play immediately. If you want to listen, go ahead, otherwise you can click pause. Right click anywhere on the black portion (not on the audio indicator), and click Save As.

#6. Find the folder with the book title, and save the chapter file there.

#7. Repeat with all of the chapter files of the book.

#8. If you cannot connect your Kindle Fire to your computer, go to Step #10  If you can connect your Kindle Fire to your computer for a direct transfer (sideload) of the book, do so now. When the Kindle shows up on your Computer as a device, click to open it.

#9. Find the file folder with the saved MP3 chapters on your computer, drag and drop the whole book folder (you don't have to do the chapters individually) to the Music folder of your Kindle. The transfer will be made. To listen to your book, just open the Music App, find the Book Title (the Kindle will treat it like a CD), open it, choose the chapter you want to listen to (the Kindle treats the chapter files as individual songs), and listen.

#10. If you cannot connect your Kindle Fire to your computer for direct transfers, then go to your Amazon Account, and click on Manage Your Kindle, and then under Other Digital Content, click on Manage your MP3 files. Follow the instructions for uploading the book chapter files to the Cloud (you might have to download a Cloud app first). This takes awhile (30 minutes the first time I did it, before I figured out how to make a direct transfer).

#11. Open the Music App on your Fire, and find the files stored on the Cloud, and download them to your device. Open the chapter you want to listen to, and enjoy!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Had we but known yesterday...

I happen to love turkey, but even so, Aunt Mary is spot on.
Small warning- here be a couple of naughty words... beware if such things cause you distress.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Burroughed in

I finished Tarzan the Terrible, which was, I think the eighth Tarzan book I've read (listened to) in a row.
 In a series of rip-roaring adventures, this was the rip-roaringest of all. Tarzan takes on the entire German Army, makes peace among warring peoples (and it's not an accident that one tribe is black and the other white), first becomes D'Artagnan and then Jesus, finds Jane, reunites with Jack (or, as he's known here, Korak the Killer- never Boy), and then finally rides off into the sunset on the back of a triceratops. Yep, there are dinosaurs.

There are something like fifteen more books in the Tarzan series, and as much fun as I've had with Lord Greystoke and his handsome invincibility, I thought I'd take a break from the jungle, and head to Mars.
Or, as Burroughs hilariously calls it, Barsoom. If it was odd that I had not read any Tarzan books before entering my dotage, it's even weirder that I missed out on the John Carter books, since I spent much of my youth gobbling up science fiction. But though I knew of John Carter (and the beautiful Red Martian Princess, Dejah Thoris)(and as a side note: the Kindle text to speech reader thinks that the inhabitants of the fourth planet are Marshy-ans), A Princess of Mars was my first exposure to yet another handsome, honorable, strong, invincible hero.

There are many similarities between John Carter and John Greystoke (all women want them, all men want to be them, all societies, except for the most Evil of the Evil, respect and admire, nay worship, them), but there are also some major differences. John Carter is American, or at least he pretends to be American, living in Virginia and Arizona right after the Civil War, though we find out fairly soon that John Carter does not remember his birth, nor does he remember any of his first thirty or so years, though he can remember several hundred years after that. We're not given any explanation for his amnesia or longevity, though I have some sneaking suspicions.

John Carter also is not quite as naive when it comes to women- when he sees one he wants (the beautiful Dejah Thoris catches his eye), he goes after her, and of course, wins her heart.

Burroughs' Barsoom follows what was then the prevailing thought about Mars: that the canals did hold water, that there could have been civilizations of intelligent beings there, and that it was a dying planet. John Carter finds himself on Mars (no explanation is given for that either), smack in the middle of giant green, multi-armed nasty types, and from that moment, it's one battle after another (much like a certain Jungle Dude).

This first-person tale confused me a bit though- it's more sloppily plotted, there are even more coincidences than in Tarzan (which overflowed with them), powers and skills are mentioned briefly and then forgotten until they save the day (one in particular had me yelling at the Kindle Reader, as though it was his fault, poor thing). In general, the book just wasn't as good as any of the Tarzan Tales, though I understood better when I learned that A Princess of Mars was Burrough's first novel.

Still, it was entertaining, and I've moved on to The Gods of Mars... which John Carter in a dress and a goofy blond wig and tiara, hanging off the side of an airship while a strange being points a pistol at him, is not the silliest thing happening. Good times.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friends and Fiberworks Winter Retreat- My Class Schedule

I mentioned a few days ago, that I'll be heading back to Asheville, NC, in January, to teach workshops at the Friends and Fiberworks Winter Retreat, which will be held January 13-15, plus I'll be staying a couple of extra days to teach *hangover* classes (no, it's not what you think... I always drink sensibly).
The class schedule has now been posted, and registration is open. Click on the Classes link on the main Retreat page, and then on Knitting. Scroll down to find my class listings (sorry for all the third person references). I hope to see some of you at any (or all) of these:

Friday January 13, 10:am-4:00pm: All Day Fair Isle- Knit a Toddler Size Hat.
Discover, or improve, your Fair Isle skills by knitting a toddler-size Nordic-Style Snowflake hat in this all-day workshop with author, knitter, and designer Kathleen Taylor. This workshop will cover chart-reading (including decreases worked from the chart) and yarn wrangling, as you work on a two-color hat (don’t let the pictures fool you- you’ll only be using one solid color yarn, and one self-striping yarn).

Friday January 13, 5:00pm-7:00pm: Writing Patterns for Publication
Learn tricks and tips for writing up your original pattern for publication, from 30-year pattern-writing veteran, blogger Kathleen Taylor, author of six mysteries, five knitting books, over 500 magazine articles, and many other original sewing and knitting patterns. Whether you plan to submit your design to a magazine, or will publish and sell it yourself, you need to know about pattern format, photography, pattern testing, copyright information, and contacting editors and publishers.

Saturday January 14, 10:00am-4:00pm: Mitered Square Cuffs
Learn to knit easy and beautiful mitered squares. In this class, students will learn the basics of mitered square knitting, and then make cuffs for mittens or socks, with self-striping, worsted weight yarns. 

Saturday January 14, 4:00pm-6:00pm- Little Tips and Knitting Tricks
Spend two hours with author and designer Kathleen Taylor, learning fun techniques that will make your knitting easier: a Substitute for the SSK that is faster and simpler, Knitting Back Backwards (for heels and bobbles), adding beads as you knit, using wire, fixing cable and Fair Isle mistakes, and other time-saving tips. 

Sunday January 15, 12:pm-6:00pm- EEK! A Steek!
Fear Not! You can cut your knitting without fear (or wine, though wine is nice). In this workshop, we will take a pre-knit tube and turn it into a doll sweater, learning techniques that can be used on any project that requires steeks. It’s fun! Really! And not scary at all! I promise.

Monday January 16, 10:00am-2:00pm: Design Your Own Fair Isle Hat
Expand on your Fair Isle skills, and design your own Toddler- Size Fair Isle hat in this half-day workshop with author, knitter, and designer Kathleen Taylor. We’ll discuss color choices, design elements, and motif repeats. We’ll do specific designing exercises, and then combine those motifs to design original Fair Isle hats. 

Monday January 16, 4:00pm-8:00pm: Design Your Own Fair Isle Christmas Stocking
Expand on your Fair Isle skills, and design your own Christmas Stocking in this half-day workshop with author, knitter, and designer Kathleen Taylor. We’ll discuss color choices, design elements, and motif repeats. We’ll do specific designing exercises, and then combine those motifs to design an original Fair Isle Christmas Stocking.

Tuesday January 17, 10:00am-4:00pm: All Day Nordic Christmas Stocking
In this all-day workshop, students will learn yarn wrangling techniques, chart reading, etc. Students will begin work on a 14” long, toe-up, stranded Christmas Stocking, with an afterthought heel.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ah, the changing of the seasons...

Actually, I think we had a lot of snow, and very cold temps by this time last year, so truly this year, we've had a really long fall.

On the other hand, that first morning when the Weather Guy says that the temps are below zero (that's F for our Celsius Friends), you do a little shiver anyway, even if you're in your nice, warm house.
 FWIW, when I stepped outside to snap these shots (with my phone- the iPhone camera is an amazing thing), I took a sniff, and my nose said that it was above zero.
We didn't get quite as much snow yesterday as they predicted- around 4". And temps are supposed to be in the 40's by Thursday, so I don't think this will last. But we can't kid ourselves- Winter is here.

It's here, and it'll be here for a long time. Good thing it's also beautiful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's here!!!

After a bit of a snafu with delivery yesterday (Amazon tracking said it was at my local post office, but the folks there weren't inclined to let me have it until this morning), my Kindle Fire is here!

And it's pretty cool, though so far, I can't find a text-to-speech function (something I was specifically promised by a customer support person- I can produce the e-mail). If it's really not part of the Fire package, I can probably get Librivox podcasts, and Audible, and my guess is that there is some sort of Droid text-to-speech thingy. But after clicking all of the setting buttons and icons, I just don't think there's one on the Fire (and if there is, I will be very glad for someone to point me in the right direction). 

On the other hand, I really can watch TV and movies on the Fire (with Amazon Prime, 3 months free for Fire purchasers and $79 a year afterwards) (oops- correction, only one month free Amazon Prime). Many brand new TV episodes are available, and lots of old shows (I could start at the beginning of X-Files and work my way through the whole arc, which I just might do. My Mulder Crush knows no limits). I will likely continue the Prime when the freebie runs out, just because it's nice to have that stuff available. 

The apps are also fun- I can do Facebook and blog and e-mail, and everything else online fairly easily, though the keyboard isn't wonderful (I'll get used to it, but I doubt I'll be tapping out long missives). I have to start over with Angry Birds and Stupid Zombies because my iPhone scores won't transfer to the Droid platform. The larger screen is great, and the graphics are fantastic. The color is very good, and the screen isn't too glare-y (it could be, in the bright sunlight, but in the house, it's just fine). Kids books are beautiful and sharp, and I waited for the Fire to arrive before buying the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook-  the pictures and recipes are very easy to see and read. 

There is much to the device that I have not yet been able to explore, which will keep me busy for a long time.

I'm not bothered by the lack of 3G. My current Kindle has it, but I've never connected except with wireless (I can't read in a car, it gives me an instant headache, and I can't connect in flight, and airports have wireless, so it's not really an issue). The lower battery life isn't fun, but I have to charge my phone every night too, so plugging in another device is not exactly a chore.

All in all, I am happy, though I will find a way to have text to speech, even if it means that I have to buy the cheapest new, stripped down Kindle just for that (I promised my current one to The Grands and I won't go back on that promise).

Friday, November 18, 2011

On the Road Again...

... well not today, but in January. I've been invited to teach classes at the Friends and Fiberworks Winter Retreat in Asheville, NC!

 Astute blog readers will remember that I was just in Asheville, not even a month ago. Those readers will also remember how much I gush about the area, every time I visit. I am thrilled to be going back. I will be teaching workshops all three of the retreat days, but not all of the classes have been posted yet. I'll announce the full schedule as soon as it's up (and you can click on the classes link to see what else is being offered- as always, I wish I could take some classes too). So far, I'll be teaching the All-Day Toddler Fair Isle Hat class on Friday Jan. 13, and the Mitered Square Cuff, and the Little Tips and Tricks class on Saturday Jan. 14. I imagine the rest of the schedule will be posted today (and I'll announce the schedule here). Registration is open for the listed classes.

And speaking of teaching classes in Asheville (or more specifically, Fletcher), Connie travels from Florida to attend SAFF every year, and she's taken several of my classes. This year, she took the Fair Isle Design class. This is the hat she designed and knit after going back home. I love it when students continue using the techniques learned in my classes. Thanks for sharing this adorable at with us, Connie!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Tab- Beauty Contest Fashion Show Dolls

I don't have any information on this set- the scans were shared by a friend. But I'd put it at the early/mid-40's.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Before I dive in. Again.

Well, it's time to start work on MG Fantasy V4.0. The editors who saw the manuscript universally loved it, but they also each had exactly the same complaint: they wanted more. So I'm back at it- adding material, which, odd as it might sound, is a lot harder than cutting.

But before I buckle down for the afternoon, I thought you'd like to see these:
 I took this shot a couple of days ago,
 and then finished the pair the next evening.
 And then I cast on another pair- I'm not out of variegated leftover yarns, but I am a bit limited in the yarns that I'm using on these socks because they have to be machine washable and dryable (and no matter what the labels say, some superwash yarns do felt, so I'm only using yarns that I know absolutely will hold up to vigorous wear and laundering). That said, I really like the combo of these solids with the blue and gold. Rather bold, don't you think? (And in case you wonder- the coral really is leftover yarn- I needed about 10 yds from that ball for another project, so it technically meets the requirements for Leftover Socks).
And my good friend LouAnn, one of the many wonderful people I've met at SAFF over the years, sent me this package of yarn, just because. LouAnn, aka Winter Mountain Fibers in Tennessee, has a wonderful color sense. The larger skein is 1,100 yds of fingering weight wool, perfect for a shawl. The green and yellow is sock yarn. Thank you thank you thank you LouAnn- your friendship means everything to me!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Finished and Unfinished, a Commercial Success, and a Return Trip

I met with my knitting group yesterday- as always, it was wonderful to see everyone. After the meeting, I ran errands, and then met Frog Girl for a Gramma Girl supper. We drove back home in the dark and spotted several deer in the ditch. Live deer. Live deer ready to jump out in front of the car. Luckily, none did.

 In addition to the hat and mittens from earlier this week, I had another FO to show off yesterday. Someone very dear to me said wistfully that a plain cream handspun hat would be lovely. It is a measure of how dear that person is, that I actually knit a plain cream hat for her (for Christmas- she has to wait). It turned out beautifully, but man, it was boring to knit.

Side Note; I like how my new scanner picks up stitch definition and color, but the scanner bed squooshes things- the hat isn't *ruffly* at the top, it just looks that way in the scan.
I'm down to using non-self-patterning leftover yarns for socks now (not that I don't have lots of self-patterning yarns in the stash, but none of them, at the moment, are left over). I love how these colors came together. This pair will be for Ladybug Girl, and the upside is that if she outgrows them (all of the girls have Magically Expanding Feet), she can give them back to me, since they fit me now. (Ignore the gray hair that just happened to be on the scanner bed...)

On a totally different subject- that Subaru commercial where the ex-couple spot each other at some sort of reunion, but yet do not speak to each other, bugs the hell out of me. But the background song has been in my head forever. I finally Googled it yesterday (typing: Subaru commercial song into the window) and found this:

This is now my new favorite song. You want proof? I bought it on iTunes yesterday before heading to Aberdeen, and I listened to it on steady repeat for 43 miles, and I didn't think about that stupid reunion ex-couple even once. 

Can someone who is musically knowledgeable tell me what that kind of rhythm is called (where the main beat seems to be a bit behind the rest of the song).  

And finally, I am happy to announce that I'll be teaching again at the Michigan Fiber Festival! The 2012 festival is August 18-19, and workshops run from August 15-19. I'll be teaching classes Aug 15-17. I'll announce the roster and times when registration is open. I'm thrilled to be invited back!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday Tab- Cathy does something French

My grasp of French isn't even rudimentary, but I'm pretty sure I can figure out what most of the captions say on this set.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I finished the handspun hat and mittens:
 I'm extremely pleased with how well the mittens match each other, and how they match the striping on the hat. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that the thumb of the first mitten was a little... shall we say... pale... in this earlier picture.

When I finished the pair and saw that the other thumb had far more visible red flecks, I remedied the situation in a way that will not surprise those who have taken my Little Tips and Tricks Workshop: I dug out my trusty red Sharpie, and I colored the thumb a bit. No, I'm not kidding.

You wouldn't have known that if I hadn't told you, right? Well, not only do I believe in Full Disclosure, I'm not in the least ashamed. Sharpies have saved many a project, and it's a tip that I pass along happily in my classes.
This yarn was spun thick 'n thin on purpose, and that texture shows up beautifully in these pieces.
As I was snapping away, I remembered that I'd spun a previous bump of the same self-striping roving as sock yarn. I tucked the finished socks away in the Big Tub 'O Knitted Things and forgot about them. Luckily, they hadn't found a home yet so I was able to get a shot of all the pieces together. The colors are much more subtle in the socks, but you can still see the progression.
 Amazing the difference that yarn size makes.
It was a little panic-ful here toward the end. The above is all the yarn I had left- maybe 4 yards (with no more of this roving to spin). Happily, I knitted really really fast, and I finished the last mitten before the yarn ran out. That trick, unfortunately, isn't part of my workshop, since it doesn't always work...