February 24, 2009

Gauging success

There are already so many blogs about knitting, I hesitate to bring up the subject.

But while working on the Washington Square Vest from the Winter 2008 issue of Intervweave Knits, I ran into some difficulty with the lace edging. Googling brought me no solution, so I had to puzzle it out myself.

Comparing the lace pattern with some of those in Barbara G. Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns helped a bit. Other than that, it was a matter of experimentation to figure out in what way I was misreading the chart.

It was this: Row 4 calls for binding off 2 stitches and then knitting 4 stitches. But binding off 2 stitches is a three-stitch process. Knit two, slip the first stich over the second, knit another, slip the second stitch over the third. So I did this, then knit the four stitches, continued across the pattern, and wound up with a mess.

You see, the third stitch of the bind-off--the one that remains after you slip the second stitch over--counts as the first of the four knitted stitches.

Well, as we used to say in the old country, duh. Once I figured this out--by experimenting on my swatch--the lace fell neatly into shape.

So this reinforces what the knitting teachers and magazines and books always tell us. Don't skip the swatch.* In addition to ensuring you get proper gauge, it gives you an opportunity to practice the pattern stitch on something other than your garment. Had I leapt blindly into the garment without going through this learning and practicing stage first, I would have ripped out and started over again several times.

As it is, I used an entire ball of yarn just working the swatch, which is now almost long enough for a scarf, if it weren't so messy. But instead of ripping out, I can keep this mostly messy but partly correct sample in view while I work the vest. Now that I know what I am doing.

For the non-knitters, a swatch is a small sample of knitted fabric that helps knitters ensure they are getting the correct number of stitches and rows to the inch called for in the pattern. For those knitters (and I once was one) who resist swatching because it seems a waste of time and yarn: swatching not only prevents the ripping and reworking alluded to above, but it also helps prevent the phenomena of the sweater coming out too big or too small, despite your using the same needle and yarn as called for in the pattern.

February 21, 2009

Sorting out sound-alikes

When I see the same mistake three times in one week, I have to write something.

Since this set of homophones* is on almost every list of commonly confused words, I though everyone had learned it by now.

Unfortunately, it seems the only people who read those lists are grammar geeks who already know the correct usage. So I'm going to sound off anyway, in the hopes of reaching someone who is not a grammar geek.


I recently encountered two different versions of this mistake:

"He's a principle at the firm..."

and one of this:

"They need to learn this basic principal of business..."

Do you see the error? Each of these homophones is in the wrong sentence.

The correct versions:

"He's a principal..."
"…this basic principle..."

I wish I could give you some clever mnemonic, but honestly, sometimes you just need to look things up.

Principal: as an adjective, it means "first in importance." As a noun, it's "a person in charge." The term is used in finance to describe the amount of a loan (because first the lender gives you money, and then you pay it back).

Principle: The underlying assumptions of a system of thought.

Both words have additional meanings related to the ones given here. Both have the Latin root princeps (initiator), which accounts for the confusion.

Of course, homophonic errors are only noticeable in writing. But if one wishes to be seen as -- how can I put this nicely -- not careless in one's writing, one must know the difference.

Or at least find a proofreader who does.

*—Homophones (same sound) are words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings. Words that are pronounced the same and spelled the same, e.g. bear (carry) and bear (animal), are homonyms (same name). Words that are spelled the same but not pronounced the same, e.g. bow (of a ship) or bow (and arrow), are homographs (same writing).

February 13, 2009

Unless you live in a cave...

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson issued a press release today to remind citizens that although "the federal government recently delayed the deadline for the switch until June 12, some television stations plan to convert their broadcasting format on February 17, which had been the original deadline."

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but given the publicity the conversion has already received, I think anyone who isn't already aware of it does not own a television.