Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tennish, anyone?

20081022 typecast

Temporal note: "today" and "tonight" actually mean "yesterday" and "last night" since I post-dated this blog post. So not really now, but then.

Related photos:

The setup at home:
NaNoWriMo: the home front

The wife's typer this year:
Old School Typing Machine

Monday, October 20, 2008

Couldn't be prouder, or, my son vs. the Pod People

Young author at work My novel ideas are starting to shape up: for the first time, I did a very sketchy outline of the story in order, to see what holes I have to fill in. Last night, I pulled out Gomez and engaged in a little hole-filling. Thanks to a active topic on the Portable Typewriters group Gomez now sports four new rubber spacers/bushings/whatever, which lift his innards ever-so-slightly from the case. With a 99-cent package of sink washers and about ten minutes with a screwdriver, Gomez's return lever no longer drags into his ribbon cover, and the carriage slides smoothly and near-silently, where before it was dragging a bit on the tab stops. I'm deeply indebted to the collective genius of that list.

Anyhow, Gomez and I were working our way through some index cards, when my son walked by and asked how the story was going. I explained the details of NaNo -- start November 1st, quantity over quality -- and out of the blue, he asked for his typewriter back. After the brief flurry of interest, it was getting buried underneath the detritus of a pre-teen's life, so I had put it back up on the shelf for safekeeping. Now he wanted it back, he had a story in mind, and he wanted to write it down.

I'm not sure if any of you are exposed to pre-teen boys on a regular basis, but let me clue you in on two key observations about their behavior:

1) They do not like to write. In fact, merely suggesting that they spend ten minutes doing their English homework will usually result in thirty minutes of complaining, sighing, and severe my-parents-are-such-dorks eye-rolling.

2) They do not like failure. Especially making typos that cannot be obliterated easily, before anyone sees it.

Without acting too much like a kid at Christmas, I brought down his machine, set him up on a TV tray with my new typing pad, fed in the paper, and said the Typewriter Brigade mantra: "Typos don't count, mistakes don't count, it's the first draft, and no one will read it but you."

That was apparently the magic spell. Gomez and I sat down on the floor while he was working, providing a little aural and moral support, my wife moving off to the kitchen with the laptop so as not to disturb the resident authors. Neither of us wanted to break the moment: our son, writing... willingly! Forty-five minutes later, we had to tear him away to get ready for bed. He let his mom and I read the beginning of his story: four lines agonizingly crafted, but actually quite good. This morning before school he spent time feeding the paper back in, queuing up the machine to the same point in the page so "I can start right after school."

I couldn't be prouder. And I'm going to check his room for pods from outer space... just in case.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It all comes out in the wash

Typing pad project: the raw materials

One week of work, and only one extra trip to the store for another skein, and the typing pad project is nearly done. I've just pulled it out of the wash, sodden brown murky mess that it is, and am well-pleased with the results. Unfolded, the piece was about five and a half feet long, with the random gaps and goofs that say "this was a project done in a hurry." It all comes out in the wash though: the row that I randomly reversed stitches, the rough edges, the strange gappy oversized overall yuck of the raw piece is now square, damp, and smooth. I could probably shrink it a bit more, but I'm considering tossing it into the dryer to get it from the completely-dripping stage to the merely-damp stage. Pictures of the completed work to come once it's dry enough to play with Gomez, but you can get a glimpse of the "before" piece and its accoutrements perched on a TV tray this morning, before its date with the Kenmore. I was skeptical at first that the finished product would be as good as it is. Just goes to show what a little attention, friction, and a good soak can do for your first draft.

Update: after drying 12 hours later:

Typing pad project: after felting

Thursday, October 9, 2008

You can't be serious

20081009 typecast

My God is the SM-9 a nice machine. My fingers have a post-coital smile. Using this Dell keyboard afterwards is like a cold, wet washcloth to the face after that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Warp-speed procrastination

Am I the last person on Earth to notice Google Reader? I keep toying with a "blogroll" section so I can keep an eye out for new posts on everyone's space, or obsessively reload Strikethru since she's on top of finding new type-blogs. Thanks to Reader, I just subscribe to 'em. It's incredibly cool, and now makes me look like ever more the cyber-stalker.

Lots of good discussions going on about NaNoWriMo and maintaining the balance between writing fast and writing well. Again, hoping for the latter, but only worrying about the former this year.

Halfway through the typing pad project. I tried for a casual-posed shot showing the work-in-progress along side the Skyriter, but the fabric totally dwarfs that poor machine. It looked like it was being swallowed by a giant brown poo. Will try for a more flattering "before" photo before I run it through the wash. Only 130 rows to go...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

DIY Typing Pad

(The craft-averse should look away now, perhaps at Olivander's relaunched photo gallery. Feel free to pretend that I'm saying something pithy and observational about the unfortunate collapse of typewriter beauty and the rise of the featureless smooth laptop.)

How to Knit a Typing Pad (I hope)

You need:

* the ability to knit, or pay someone who can
* needles of sufficient size
* a quantity of feltable wool
* a means for felting said wool
* old towels or jeans
* mild washing soap (soak flakes, or a wool wash like Eucalan)
* time, time, time (optional)

This is my first go at making a felted or "fulled" piece. I'm well-versed in the school of "knit a large rectangle" since I have made numerous baby blankets for co-workers' showers, including doubles for the two pairs of twins. I wanted to make this project felted, since the original style was done that way, and felting nicely covers up knitting mistakes, which I fully expect to make. My lovely wife has knit a number of felted items, so any advice related to the actual mechanics of felting is hers, just channeled through me.

Needles and wool:

For my pad, I'm using Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool in brown, mainly because it's cheap for the yardage and being brown, it will hide the stray hairs of my large black dog, which are absolutely everywhere. Needle size recommended is a U.S. 9, and for felted items you want the stiches to be loose and open, so go up a couple of sizes. I'm using U.S. 11 for mine, though I could go for bigger.


You must, must, must swatch here. I figured out that I wanted to make a 15" x 15" pad, because that's about the size of an SM9 case, plus a little fudge factor. With felting, it's easy to make a project go smaller, so plan bigger. Knit up a small swatch (mine was 16 sts x 18 rows), write down your stitches and rows, and measure it carefully. You'll need this later.


Supposedly the best way to do this is in a top-loading washing machine, since you really want the agitation cycle. Of course, we swapped ours out some time ago for a water-sipping front-loader, but it still works, just with more time. Take your swatch and toss it into a mesh bag or old pillowcase, taking care to close the opening securely (rubber band it shut.) Include some old towels in the load, or jeans that you don't mind shrinking, or in our case, the cheapo jean jacket that was a quarter at Goodwill and is now "the felting jacket."

Run the machine on its hottest wash cycle and coldest rinse, and wait. You want to catch the machine before it gets into a high spin, because "if it folds over when the machine is spinning, you're screwed." The heat and friction will conspire to give your little swatch a wicked beating, and make the fibers rub together and shrink. Mine took two wash cycles before I couldn't see light through the piece (my highly scientific test) and I thought it looked good. Lay flat on a towel and roll up to dry.

Math time:

Sorry. With your pre-felting swatch measurements at hand, measure the width and length of your new, teeny felted swatch. Figure out how many stitches-per-felted-inch and rows-per-felted-inch you knitted. Multiply these ratios by your target measurements to figure out how many stitches you'll be casting on, and how many rows you'll be knitting. These will be big, upsetting numbers. It's OK.

Pictures of real pads show them to be thick, so I'm planning on actually knitting mine twice as long, folding it over, and sewing the edges together before felting, so I'm doing:

CO 72 sts
K in sts 249 rows

This thing will look like a freaking blanket when I'm done, but that's OK! There will be a lot of shrinking in the wash. And exact measurements are not required: I just rounded up a bit. I can always felt it smaller, or just chop off the edges with a rotary cutter if it's really way crazy too big.

For the real wash, include the soap flakes/wool wash, mostly to keep everything from stinking of wet sheep. Check your project often, since it's easy to get the whole thing too small if you just left it go.

And that's the plan. If nothing else, this should keep my hands busy until November. Stay tuned for the occasional update.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Snippets of news

A couple of things of interest today:

Just when you thought it was time to put away the banners and bunting, the Typewriter Day celebration continues! Despite events both unfortunate (a few drop-outs) and fortunate (a wedding and a major move -- both for the same person) I believe all of the T.D. packets are still accounted for, with one making the cross-country trek as I type this, hopefully to arrive on Western shores... soonish. Everyone think positive thoughts for the postal service and pray for mild headwinds.

After a bit of technical hysterics, the site is up and going again, and hopefully for the duration. All Typewriter Brigade members and supporters are encouraged to join up and become one with the collective. There is no escape.

Realizing that my participation in the T.B. may upset a few denizens of my house (read: everyone) while I'm banging out my nightly 1,667 after bedtime, I'm going to make a felt typing pad to act as a cushy barrier between the bottom of the chosen machine(s) and the writing surface of choice. Watch this space for thrilling updates of the knitting variety.

Finally, typecaster "Desert Loon" has posted pictures of his new daughter, and I have to say that she may be the third most beautiful little girl on the planet (after my own two, natch.) Click on over and get your awwww on.