Sunday, February 25, 2007

What Did We Do Before Blogging?

What started me off on this tack was discovering an old Knitter's magazine among my groaning shelves of craft books. Now and again you hit lucky and find a few of these in thrift stores in the States; this was one I must have bought on Sanibel Island years ago and somehow forgot about. Another one I got there was a great issue with some early Lavold designs in it, to which I refer constantly.

But one thing about this issue from Spring 1995, twelve years ago, struck me as I leafed through it again. Not a single web address. Not a single email. Hundreds of lovely colourful advertisements, dozens of articles, features, suggestions, query letters - but nowhere that wonderful link which enables us to check instantly, send an answer, order some yarn, see the colour better, download a pattern, make a new friend, sign up for a camp or a class, discover a whole new way of trying a pattern or stitch.

In that spring of 1995 I had returned to academia, actually to the hallowed halls of Oxford. A fairly demanding job I'd been doing (getting independence back for an exceptionally small English county which had lost it and been absorbed into a neighbour twenty years earlier) had been successfully completed (cheers outside the House of Lords at midnight). I'd been thanked and paid off. And I decided to have a really really self-indulgent treat and sign up for a Masters in Local History at Oxford. (Yes, it does take quite a lot of the readies to sign up for anything at Oxford, not to mention rather respectable previous references. But it was worth it. Oh boy was it worth it. Wandering down Broad Street dressed in charity shop rejects, with your arms full of books knowing their authors were probably living a few streets away, it was heaven.)

The point however is that at Oxford they were just about getting into the Internet in a big way. The world's best young brains were working things out and then being headhunted to Silicon Valley or New York. But before they left they gave us lectures on how to use this new medium in our studies.

It was all very very new to me and I didn't understand the half of it back then (having a brilliant scientific mind doesn't always mean you can convey your ideas to a class of mature students, as I've discovered), but one thing excited me a lot. 'You'll be able to visit libraries without having to travel,' they said. And downloaded (very slowly, this was 1995) a picture of an incredibly rare medieval text in the Vatican library to prove it. Now this, I thought, is a good idea. Of course I then discovered that you couldn't actually open the books and see spiders scuttling away into the darkness, and was disappointed, but I was hooked all the same.

Now if you've come to the Net fully-fledged so to speak, and have always known you could look up lists or or products in different countries at the click of a mouse, then you mightn't realise just what a leap that was. Heavens above, when I wanted a special text in my earlier student days (always assuming I was able to find out that such a text existed), I had to order it through Inter Library Loan which could take up to a year and usually did. Now - but you know what it's like now. The world is your oyster, but an awful lot easier to open that the said bivalve.

And what goes for academic study goes tenfold for knitting, doesn't it! Sitting here this morning with the sun shining (briefly) outside and the daffodils blowing in West Cork, I can check colourways at Fleece Artist, yarn outlets in San Diego, the weather up in Lapland (Lene, hope you are feeling better, I've had that bug too and it is taking forever to go), top-down sweater patterns at Mary Maxim (well I could if her page wasn't down right now), besides getting advice on toe-up socks and downloading a new shawl design. Later on I'll be listing the spring cotton and linen yarns on eBay and seeing who wants them. With pictures. And I'm telling you all this on my weblog. The friends I've made across the world in the past seven or eight months. Who have all shown me their own pictures and the things they've made.

A whole new world. And it would be a bit hard to go back now, wouldn't it? Can you imagine trying to manage without being able to order, check, see, confirm, get ideas, chat, show? Those of us in Europe probably wouldn't even know about Knitter's, much less IK. I know I've said it before, but we are in the midst of a new technological revolution which will change the world - is changing it - even more than the invention of the steam engine and the Spinning Jenny. And it has made so much difference to the knitting world, hasn't it? I know it has made seismic changes in mine and made so much more creativity possible.

I don't know how long it was after that Spring 1995 issue that Knitter's began to move into the Internet world. It would be fun to check. If you have all yours in date order, you might look it up.

The Celtic Vest moves slowly onward. For some reason the fronts are giving me much more trouble than the back. It has something to do with the patterning in orderly rows and the increasing/decreasing at irregular intervals. I've had to frog back several times (although the gripping Ireland/England rugby match yesterday, played for the first time ever in historic Croke Park, might have had a lot to do with some of those errors) and am sick to death of it by now.

Here it is so far: the back, one front, and about a quarter of the second front. (Hey, Dez, Angeluna, tried your hints of photographing red against charcoal grey, and it worked!)

But just to show that an image only tells half the tale, here is the full picture uncropped:

Muffy was fascinated by the vest and says she wants to make one just like it. In green maybe. Don't know myself if she'll be up to the Lavold motifs, but it would be a mistake to prevent her trying, wouldn't it? You never know what a dog can do when she's really keen.

It gets tiring working on the same project on and on, doesn't it? I know several of you feel exactly the same. If it weren't for Angeluna hounding me on relentlessly - which reminds me -

Oh Ange-l-u-u-n-a, would you be a sweetheart and just nip out and see if it's stopped raining? Thanks pet. I'd go myself, but I'm at a tricky stage on the computer...

Now, QUICK! Gather round the rest of you before she gets back. She won't be long. Look at this.

This is a swatch for the Berroco Tierra in my hand-dyed cashmere/silk. Isn't it gorgeous?

Actually it's half of the front cast on already. I reasoned that since each pattern repeat is 18 sts and you work one pattern before casting on the next 18, I might as well keep going on the swatch and make use of it. It is delectable. You do have to use a cable needle for the twist, though, as it's 5 sts over 5, which is a bit too many to just slip off the needles and twist free. Hate using cable needles. They take up so much time.

Whoops, she's back. Eyes front.

Had a nasty shock the other day - a yarn customer emailed to say that the stuff I'd sent was underweight and under yardage. Horrified and of course sent off more right away, but HOW did that happen? I always wind on a few more grams every time I make up a skein, to make sure they get full weight and then some. Rushed out and bought another scales, digital this time, to double check against my trusty mechanical one, and have done some hard thinking on the yardage question. Now this is another issue I've raised here before, and you've given me some useful hints, but can anyone tell me how to measure the yardage in a skein exactly? I suppose I could leave the yardage off entirely, but I think it's very useful to know it, as otherwise you can't assess how much you need for a particular pattern. I looked out my lovely niddy noddy that I bought on Quadra Island last autumn, and found that one wrap all around measures 2m exactly. I'll try counting as I skein (as long as the dogs don't distract me and I lose count half way through a huge skein of laceweight). Other suggestions very much welcomed. I feel like a guilty criminal, misleading innocent customers!

In fact I'm worried about even listing any on eBay tonight. But I have some lovely cotton/linen blends that are so right for spring that I really want people to have them. Dilemma.

So worried was I about the yarn shortfall that I took Sophie down to Killarney woods yesterday afternoon to relax the brain (mine, not hers - she doesn't have that problem).

It's still pretty brown there, as you can see, but the mossy trees were beautiful

and every rock had its rich coverlet of moss and ivy and tiny plants.

Nature is always a beautiful healer. Came back determined to do better. Now I shall skein up some of those gorgeous linen/cottons and just to show I'm determined, I'll take that seductive denim cotton slub and skein that up for eBay too. That way I can't start a new project in it!


LaurieM said...

I've been involved with computers since before the internet. I wrote stories with a group of friends using a BBS, or Bulletin Board System. One person had their computer set up to accept phone calls. We'd take turns calling and leaving our stories behind. Then then next person would call, read, and write their part of the story. It was a lot of fun and also, where I met my husband.

But it was about three years ago, that I discovered knitting on the internet through the Yarn Harlot's blog. My knit universe exploded! These days, I say to the kids "Give me a turn on the computer, I want get on the Knitter-net."

LaurieM said...

Oh, and when was that BBS system going? 20 years ago.

LornaJay said...

I was just starting out as a student in '95 too - and Glasgow was the first Uni to give every single student an email and login. Slow, but good!

Now, about the yardage and weight. Commercial yarns give their wieght etc. at a specific humidity - you may be weighing in damp Ireland and she may be checking in dry Nevada for instance, when it will be lighter due to less moisture in the yarn.

I'd be surprised if the yardage was out, but the weight will definitely vary based on atmospheric conditions.

Anonymous said...

Patternworks sells a yarn meter.
Others may carry it, too.

Yes, I often say "my friend in West Cork said the other day..." Seems like we sat down over a cuppa, doesn't it? And here I am, in South Louisiana, and you in lovely Ireland.

Anonymous said...

what really saddens me is that the people who most need the net probably have less access or ability to use it.I try to persuade M.I.L it is just what she needs so we can e:mail Barbados but she is terrified of it .I could not go on at the moment without dear Tescos dropping off all those groceries .
As for opening up a world of yarn that can be frustrating when I can't afford something really scrummy but then I have never coveted anything like I have yarn. I have also noticed a fairly horrible level of snobbery on the net but that exists in the real World so why not the net?
I have also been supported by wonderful people as far away as Tulsa and to me that is very far .As a child we holidayed in Bognor and as an adult I have never had much more money. I don't really mind because I hate travel and am a lazy devil so I can live vicariously through other's travels. In fact as long as I can see textiles I want to be right here on my seat .
Do tell which county that was , losing names like Durham to what is such a shame . I am amazed we are still Berkshire sometimes.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Celtic vest - beautiful photographed on the charcoal grey! I have been neglecting mine to work on Green Gables summer top!
I will certainly check out ebay, as I really want some of that denim cotton slub.
Beautiful photos of the wood! So soothing and I love moss!
Who does not have a web site in the business world these days!

Dez Crawford said...

Several people I know have a yardage meter from Patternworks and I have yet to hear anything bad about it. I use my niddy noddy, though.

If I were you I would measure out the yarn and give an approximate weight, rather than the other way 'round. Humidity and other factors can affect weight, such as consistency of yarn thickness, and even the dye.

100 meters of undyed wool will weigh slightly less than 100 meters of dyed wool in the exact same wool; in fact, different colors can have different weights in the exact same yardage.

I started with a local bulletin board set up for me by a friend in the local computer club in 1990. Black screen. Green letters. Messages only. But this was enormously helpful in sharing information in the animal welfare and wildlife conservation communities at the time, especially for those of us long since out of school but who still needed academic contacts for research in our line of work.

Charity said...

The Celtic Vest is looking wonderful, and you're so close! Hang in there, think how lovely it will be soon to wear it. :0)

I love the tip about photographing red on charcoal, I'll definitely give that a try.

rho said...

here you go - check out this site about half way down

you can see how to set up a fishing line counter to measure yarn and you can do it a whole lot cheaper than $50 I think a line counter runs about $15 or so - and you are handy and can do the rest yourself.... now to go back to searching for my iron - need to iron some clothes to go out to dinner and can't find it - we had it on our trip.... wonder if we left it somewhere along the entire EAST COAST ... may be going wrinkly ....

rho said...

oops don't try that link didn't give the whole thing -- anyway it is the patternworks one that you would see in their picture - but you could still make it for tons less....

pacalaga said...

I often laugh at myself when I'm trying to reach my husband and try his office, home, cell numbers and email. I think I would have gone nuts trying to contact him before all those things were available. Then I remember that, back then, I didn't expect anyone to be reachable 24/7. It's a blessing and a curse, this wired world we live in.

Anonymous said...

What kind of person weighs and measures yardage of yarn they just bought? I couldn't imagine being so suspicious! Of course you should in no way feel like a criminal - there was no intent to decieve on your part. But the whole incident tells you quite a bit about that particular person - the mind boggles! Lovely, lovely vest, and the Tierra is starting out beautifully!

Marianne said...

Loving that moss covering the trees and rocks, so lovely.
Yep, the little gadget that measures fishing line is the very same gadget on the yarn meter....I believe it might even be a bit under $15.00.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, another layer of Jo revealed, and an intriguing one at that.

My yarn measuring is pretty low tech, but also pretty accurate. Take a piece of cardboard or an object which measures 18" long, one full wrap is 36"...a yard (alternately 9" and 2 full wraps). Make about 10 full wraps, take it off and weigh that bit, then weigh the whole and extrapolate. And the humidity would play a part on the weight, but yardage would be accurate.

Actually, the person weighing and measuring her yarn is doing exactly as she should to prepare a project. I have a friend who always takes a tiny folding scale with her to yarn shops. She will weigh each skein of a certain yarn she is buying and take only the heaviest skeins. She has found up to a 20% difference from the stated weight. That could make you come up short before you finished a project. I weigh sock yarns since I have large feet and must carefully calculate in order to be sure I can complete a pair from a skein. Usually, you will find the skeins just a smidge short on weight, but I find my STR that says on the label it is 5.5 oz, usually weighs in at 6.1. Gotta love that. The day I get one that is really 5.5, I won't be able to complete the socks.

What a trick, Jo. I didn't have to go outdoors to check the rain as the sun is pouring in my windows, so I saw that amethyst swatch (and absolutely loved it). That is my downfall. When bored with a project, I will break down and knit "just a swatch", and won't be able to put it down until it has reached the same unfinished state as the one before, when I will be unable to resist knitting up still another lovely fiber. Would you like to see my UFO stack? Almost as impressive as my sock yarn stash.

Now, set that gorgeous swatch somewhere in front of you, pick up that red CV, and finish the tiny little bit that is left, telling yourself the minute it is finished, you can dive into Tierra. CV will be stunning on you. You will wear it a lot. People will stop to admire you. It is the perfect MISSIONARY VEST to wear on your quests to convert the unbelievers.

Oh, your photos are always so beautiful. I swear I can smell the mossiness of it all. And I just love the dogs. Muffy wanting to knit again, Sophie enjoying the great outdoors. And what was little Tasha doing? Curled up in front of the gypsy stove? Speaking of which, is it working now?

Tan said...

All the yarn I buy locally is underweight, because we live in a desert. Any moisture naturally in the yarn is gone by the time it's spent a week in Utah, Nevada, Colorado, etc.

Who's to say whether your customer's measuring system was any better than yours? Maybe her measurement was off.

Anonymous said...

I am sure everyone in the business World who can afford it has the internet alas not everyone is in business that could use the help. June at "Colourspun" yarns once told me she listed a yarn as 15 metres and had a complaint that it wasn't enough ..what can you do if you can't recognise what 15 metres looks like?Some people will complain about anything .

Artis-Anne said...

I too was involved with computers before the internet , in fact I taught basic computer skills like Word Perfect to students at college. I still have my work sheets, sad I know but a bit of nostalgia :); Amazing how we have moved on in some ways & yet through the medium of the internet more people now are taking up the 'old' skills of knitting & spinning etc.
Celtic vest is coming on lovely.
Re your weight yardage query I really don't have an answer but like you I use my niddy -noddy but I guess that would be totally impractical for larger amounts. I guess the only thing you can say that its an approx yardage. I am sorry you have been so stressed out about this & hope the walk helped to relax you :)

gail said...

I love your comments and musings about the computer/digital age. I've been working on a masters degree in library science for the past four years and the changes from when I started and now are amazing. I love computers, the internet, digital libraries. But, finding reliable information is sometimes a challenge (not in the knitting land, however) I also love your red celtic vest--yet another item on my to do list, in purple.

Ms. Knitingale said...

I was having that very thought just the other day, Jo. It seems so amazing to literally have the world at my fingertips. I have a terrible fear of getting lost, so used to really struggle to go places I'd never been. It's so amazing now to just whip over to mapquest, print up the directions, and head out the door.
Oh, and the yarn? I love my yarn meter, but I'll caution you that it doesn't love mohair. Not one bit.

Fiberjoy said...

Perched upon the mossy rock,
Winter filtered sunlight warms the body.
As the scents of leaves, earth, and trees seep in easing stress.
The quiet wood swaddles and soothes the soul.

Rising to follow the white dog home, a sudden cold dampness at the seat of my britches. All was not as cozy as perceived.

Anonymous said...

In 1995 I was just starting work in inter-library loans LOL!

You should try the service again - the internet has revolutionised it. I've worked on and run a lot of projects that have made resource sharing for libraries and their institutions a whole lot better and fast.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the internet has changed our lives. I have especially enjoyed how my knitting skills have improved. Seeing other peoples projects and how they worked through them and met their challenages gave me courage to try more difficult projects that I wouldn't have tried otherwise.

Thank you for the the pictures of the woods - they were wonderful!

Tracy said...

When I first took a research methodology course in graduate school in 1988, my professor amazed us with stories about the flood of information that was heading our way. It sounded like so much science fiction to me--after all, I was a historian in training, much more comfortable with deciphering handwritten manuscripts that with ideas of digitized information. Although there were many barriers to information back then, one thing we could all look forward to was a trip or two to interesting new places in order to visit archives and repositories in search of elusive historical content. Now that I've left academia, I often wonder what it must be like for today's new students, with so much at their fingertips. Does the internet make their work easier or more quickly executed? Or are they overwhelmed with too much information? It's a whole new world, isn't it?

Gelsomina (Jill) Lucchesi said...

If you do come to San Diego, you should join us at our Saturday KnitTogether!

The best LYS are:
The Black Sheep
Common Threads
Knitting by the Beach
Knitting in LaJolla
Bonita Knitting

But, they are scattered about so a car is necessary. A car is pretty necessary in SD anyway.

I don't think I've seen cones of yarn, except maybe at Border Leather Company... they sell leather, but they sell even more yarn IMO. They're in South Bay; a little old Mexican lady runs the shop. It's not the most asthetically pleasing place, but they have tons and tons of high quality yarn.

Let me know if/when you're coming! I'd be happy to chauffeur you around to knitting stores!
:-) Jill (Gelsomina)

Holly said...

And being occasionally willing to admit to my age, I started with a Digital PDP1 back in the 60s at university, went on email in 1986 and ran a BBS in Fidonet starting in 1991. Joining the KNITLIST in 1994-5 expanded my world and gave me friends liternally on all continents.

Techonology is change. The moral value is in how we use it and what we make of it. For me the communications are balanced with it being easy to buy too much yarn.

The Celtic Vest is wonderful. I knit it once out of handspun, almost finishing it before taking a 15 month break in hot and sunny places that you don't want to go where knitting wool would have been insane. When I came home, the m*ths had snacked. It went out in the trash. Perhaps I should come up with the energy to tackle it again.


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