Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Today I've been knitting on a stuffed dog I'm designing.

Can you guess what his name might be when he's done?

To see more WIPs, head on over to Tami's Amis. And that's day 7 of NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Tomorrow I promise to return to my regularly scheduled knitting content - no more politics. Tonight I'm celebrating.

And that's day 6 of NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Observing

In yesterday's post I mentioned I'm the Benton County Coordinator for the Democratic Party of Oregon's Protect the Vote program. My day today started when I was awoken by the phone at 7:15am. The volunteer who was scheduled for 8am to noon today had just arrived at the courthouse where our election office is located and realized he'd forgotten the letter he was supposed to have with him saying he was the designated Democratic observer. He lives in Philomath, one town over from Corvallis, and wouldn't have time to drive home to get his letter. Luckily I had an extra at home. So I threw on yesterday's clothes and drove the 10 minutes to the courthouse to give him the copy. In heavy fog with no coffee in my system. Not an ideal start to the day. But I got there, handed the letter to him, and headed back home to start up my coffee maker.

Benton County Courthouse, built in 1868

I was the scheduled observing volunteer for this afternoon, so around 11:30 I headed back down to the courthouse and signed in for my shift. It's interesting to see how they process the ballots in a vote-by-mail election.

The first step is sorting. The ballots, still in their sealed envelopes, are sorted into mail trays by precinct. Each precinct can have different candidates and thus a different ballot style.

The next step is signature verification. The election worker sits at a computer and scans the bar code on the ballot. The corresponding signature from the voter's registration card pops up on the screen. The worker compares the two signatures. If there's any doubt, they can click on "full image" and get a display that shows all the registration signatures on file for that voter, so if you've reregistered because you've moved or changed party affiliation, they can see how your signature has evolved over time. They also see the signatures of any other voters in the household. This helps them detect cases where a husband and wife sign each other's ballots, maybe by mistake. If the worker judges the signature to be valid, the ballot is marked accepted and moves on. If not, the voter is contacted to come in and resolve the problem.

Then ballots move on to the processing station. Ballots are processed by teams of three workers. The first worker removes the secrecy envelope from the outer signed envelope. After this point there is nothing to identify the ballot as belonging to a particular voter, maintaining the secrecy of the ballot. The second worker removes the ballot from the secrecy envelope. The third worker unfolds the ballot and inspects it for stray marks that might confuse the counting machine or votes that aren't complete enough for the counting machine to see. If there are marks to be removed or more completely filled in, the third worker consults with the second worker and only if they agree are alterations made to the ballot. These workers must have different political party affiliations to prevent collusion in favor of any candidate or measure.

Then the stacks of ballots go on to the counting room. Today was the first day ballots were counted. The ballots are fed through the optical scanners and counted. This is done by teams of two workers, again with differing political affiliation. They had some problems with the feeder mechanisms early today and had a rep from the machine company out to fine tune the feeders. Things seemed to go more smoothly after that.

If the machine detects two votes for the same office (an overvote), it rejects the ballot.  The two workers then inspect the ballot. If they agree the voter's intent to vote for a particular candidate is clear, they use white tape or a stamp to amend the ballot so the machine can read it. If the voter deliberately voted for two candidates, or their intent can't be determined, the ballot is set aside to be counted later with the overvote rejection mode turned off. Thus all the votes for other races on that ballot will still be counted.

The machines are set in "no report" mode, so no one knows what the counts are. Only after the 8pm deadline tomorrow will the report button be pushed, generating the election results. This "precounting" allows Benton County to release results ten or fifteen minutes after the 8pm deadline that will include most of the ballots. Only ballots that come in late tomorrow will remain to be counted later in the evening. Unless it's a really close race, by 8:15pm, we know who won in Benton County.

Of course, if it's close it can be days before we know for sure. In Oregon a ballot is valid if it's placed in any ballot box anywhere in the state by 8pm Tuesday. Someone who lives in Corvallis but is up in Portland this week might put their ballot in a box there tomorrow evening. It can take a few days for all the ballots to find their way from the county they were deposited to the county that needs to count them. It happened a few years ago that the Corvallis mayoral race was so close that we had to wait for all those ballots to arrive before we knew who our next mayor was to be.

It was interesting to observe all this going on this afternoon, but it was a little dull too. Benton County Elections has a camera system with a video camera in each room. I sat at a desk in the hallway watching a computer monitor with the camera feeds displayed. I could display the screen divided into 9 sections (6 cameras were in operation), or expand one to see more detail. By 2pm or so they had processed all the ballots from the weekend and sent the processing table workers home. They continued with signature verification of ballots that came in this afternoon and with the counting, since that only started today and was a bit behind because of the feeder problems. Most of the afternoon I had the counting room on full screen. I sat and knit and watched them feed ballots into the machines.

Hey, we got to actual knitting content on my knitting blog. What was I knitting? I'm starting a new version of the fingerless mitts I showed on FO Friday. I thought a nice variation to include in the pattern would be for longer cuffs. I started another set, this time from Knitted Wit Feather Weight 100% Rambouillet in the Thistle colorway. It's a gorgeous bright purple. I'll post pictures soon.

And there's day 5 of NaBloPoMo. Come back tomorrow to see if I make it through day 6. And if you're a US citizen, make sure you vote (if you haven't already).

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Getting out the vote

This is really a knitting blog so I don't want to get too political. It is that time in the US though - just a few more days until we pick our next president. Whatever your political views, make sure you get out and vote.

Today I went knocking on doors for the Obama campaign. It was a beautiful, sunny fall day.

A lot of our trees here in Oregon are evergreen, some of the others have lost their leaves already. Others are beautiful colors.

It was a nice day for a walk around town.

This was my first time canvassing this fall. From May to October a friend and I did voter registration at the Corvallis Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday.

The band isn't with us, they just set up next to us. After the registration deadline passed on October 16, it felt nice to take a bit of a break from politics.

Plus I'm the Benton County Coordinator for the Democratic Party of Oregon Protect the Vote program, so I had to recruit and train volunteers to watch our elections office handle the ballots as they come in. Last Monday I got to watch the pre-election certification of the machines that count the ballots. Benton County ballots are the "fill in the dot" type and they use optical scanners to count the ballots.

Today I knocked on 38 doors, most of whom weren't home. I talked to 12 voters and collected two ballots. Here in Oregon we do entirely vote-by-mail, so everyone received their ballot in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Ballots can be mailed back or put in any of the ballot boxes around town. Postmarks don't count so it's too late to mail them now - they need to be put in a ballot box.

I dropped mine in the box at the public library on Friday and it already shows as received. Anyone in Oregon can check if their ballot has been received at A lot of other people have also already voted. Benton County elections currently shows:

Ballots Accepted - 25,025
Eligible Voters -  52,147

When knocking on doors, we can accept ballots from voters. While the campaign sets up canvassers with ballot receipts, I still can't imagine giving my ballot to some stranger who knocks on my door. But people do it all the time. I was very careful with the two ballots entrusted to me and put them in the ballot box on 5th Street by the police station.

It was a rewarding afternoon, but I'm beat. The area I was in is near campus (Oregon State University) so there are quite a few student apartments. I swear, almost all the doors in my turf were on the second or third floor. I climbed a lot of stairs today!

And there's day four of NaBloMoPo. Will I make it through day 5? Come back tomorrow to find out!

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Feegle Gloves

So here it is, only the third day of NaBloPoMo, and I was pretty much at a loss what to write about today.

 Was I doomed to fail this early out of the gate? 

Then I realized that there was an upside to not having blogged most of the summer. I have a lot of completed projects that I haven't written about yet. 

One of those projects is my Feegle gloves.

These are a basic glove knit out of some self-patterning Opal sock yarn that has been in my stash forever. They used about half the 100g skein. Someday I'll have to think up something to do with the other half.

They're 2x2 ribbing for the cuff with the rest just stockinette. I gave the right hand a flip-top thumb and index finger so I can use my iPod while wearing them.

I call them my Feegle gloves because I was looking for a Discworld tie-in to enter them in a Nerd Wars challenge. The Feegles (full name the Nac Mac Feegles) are small leprechaun-like creatures who like to drink and steal sheep. They are covered in tattoos, making their skin look blue. Hence my blue gloves became Feegle gloves.

The particular challenge was Tips of the Trade - we were supposed to craft something that showed off a tip we had. My two tips were:

Tip One: When working on doublepoint needles, it’s easy to get inconsistent tension where you switch from one needle to the next. To avoid this, when I reach the end of a needle, I always knit two stitches from the next needle onto the one I’ve been knitting on, before starting the new needle. If I’m doing a pattern like socks that gives instructions from the start of the 3 or 4 needles, I just place markers to indicate the start of each “needle” for pattern purposes.

Tip Two: When making gloves it’s hard to avoid little holes at the bottom of the fingers where you pick up stitches. If you’re a perfectionist like me, this will bug you, even though no one else will notice. To minimize holes, when picking up the first stitch of the three, I pick up the first cast-on stitch and the stitch to the right in the row beneath and knit the two together. On the last stitch of the three, I pick up the third cast-on stitch and the stitch to the left in the row beneath and knit the two together. This makes the holes practically invisible.

Phew, made it through day 3 of NaBloPoMo. Come back tomorrow to see how long I can last...

Friday, November 2, 2012

FO Friday: Fingerless Mitts

I've been working on these fingerless mitts for a while. I should have had them done to enter in round 1 of this tournament of Nerd Wars. But this is where they were at the end of the round at 9pm Oct. 28 (midnight EDT).

One mitt done, just a cuff on the second one. And no ends woven in. I did finally finish them this week.

There's a second one, honest, but it's hard to take a picture of both your hands :^)

I'm pretty happy with how these came out. They're knit from Shibui Sock 100% superwash merino in the Periwinkle colorway. I'm in the process of writing up the pattern, so it'll be available soon. I haven't thought of a name yet. Any ideas?

If you're near Corvallis, Oregon, I'll be teaching a class on twisted stitches using these as the project on Sunday November 11 at my LYS, Stash.

I had one more FO earlier today, but I didn't photograph it. I filled out my ballot and dropped it in the library ballot box this afternoon. Now I can proudly where my "I already voted for Obama" button all weekend. Monday afternoon I'll be the Democratic volunteer election observer at the courthouse, so maybe I'll even see my own ballot processed.

There, I made it two days into NaBloPoMo.

If you want to see more finished objects, check out Tami's Amis blog

And don't forget to come back tomorrow and see if I can post three days in a row...


Thursday, November 1, 2012


Which is short for National Blog Posting Month. The idea is to post every day during the month of November. I stumbled on it last night and for some silly reason decided to sign up.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

I've been pretty bad about posting in the last few months. Maybe this will get me to actually post regularly? At least it sounds easier than NaNoWriMo (write a novel in a month? you wouldn't want to read it if I did) or even NaNoSweMo (knitting a sweater in a month sounds more doable than a novel, especially if you use bulky yarn, but still....)

So what have I been up to lately that I haven't blogged about? Two weeks ago I released a new pattern, the Transit of Venus hat.

 This is a slouchy hat done using mosaic colorwork using a heavy worsted or aran weight yarn.


This sample was made using Imperial Ranch Columbia in the Teal Heather and Natural colors.

The name of the hat comes from the first version I made last June for a Nerd War challenge to make something inspired by June's transit of Venus.

The boxes represent the sun with rays emanating outwards. The dot in the middle is Venus transiting across the sun.

This first hat was made using Lion Brand Fishermen's wool in brown and natural and was a donation to Cephalopod Yarns' Afghan for Afghans charity drive.

Transit of Venus is a quick knit and would make a fun holiday gift!

Come back tomorrow to see how long I can stick to blogging every day....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Barn Sale and Dye Party

Last week I coordinated the Benton County Democrats' booth at the County Fair. It was fun and successful, but a lot of work. Tuesday booth setup took from 10am until 8pm. Then Wednesday through Saturday was the fair. I had to run in and out to get set up in the mornings, get more water cups, get more button making supplies, pick up the cash at night, and so on. It was a lot of work, and to top it off, Saturday hit 102 degrees. I was in need of some yarn therapy.

Blue Moon Fiber Arts to the rescue. They're located in Scappoose, about two and a half hours from where I live in Corvallis, Oregon, and this past weekend was the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Barn Sale and Dye Party.  My friend Amy and I drove up there Sunday morning. We only got slightly lost once, when we somehow got off Hwy 30, but once we were close it was very well marked.

We drove up their lovely driveway.

And there was the barn with storage pods in front.

Blue Moon is located in a lovely spot and it was a gorgeous sunny day. Warm, but not Saturday's 100+ degrees.

Never mind the view, inside the barn there was YARN!!!

And more yarn!

So much yarn my vision started to blur.

Everywhere you looked more yarn.

Yarn by the handful (that's Amy).

We were momentarily distracted by the pretties, but we came here

Blue Moon had their base yarns and fibers available for purchase bare and many colors of dyes to choose among.

Amy picked some merino/silk roving while I chose 2 skeins of the BFL sport (Blue Faced Leicester). They soaked your choice while you wandered among the yarn (the BFL sport required an extra step of washing to remove the oil in it).

Then they set you up on one of the steel dye tables.

And you had at it. I dyed my first skein teal, shading from darker to lighter, while Amy dyed her roving. We were both too busy dying to get pictures of each other at work. But when I moved on to my second skein, Amy was finished and she got some action shots.

This is the scary part, that lovely creamy skein of yarn. What if my first squirt of dye is all wrong and ruins it?

But I worked up my courage and started. This skein was going to be magenta at the ends, shading to purple in the middle, so I started with magenta dye at each end.

In between additions of dye, I'd wrap it in the plastic and moosh the excess dye in toward the center of the skein.

I had to stop and admire my work sometimes.

The purple came from adding blue dye to the magenta dye. I used a paper towel scrap to test the color.

Okay, that might be the official mad-scientist-at-work photo.

Wrapping it again to moosh the dye towards the center. Almost done.

Once the yarn was all dyed and securely wrapped in plastic, it went into the steam bath and cooked for 20 minutes or half an hour.

Amy and I sat in the shade behind the barn and had lunch while our fiber and yarn cooked. There was also an indigo bath in the back. Yarns were soaked in a mordant solution first. Some people were dying bare yarn with indigo while others were overdying already-dyed yarn.

After soaking, the yarn got dipped in the indigo bath.

Most of the Blue Moon helpers had hands like that - they didn't bother with gloves like I had, they just got blue hands.

Sometimes she'd dip the yarn several times to get the desired darkness. Then the skeins were hung on the fence to dry.

By the time Amy and I had finished our lunch, our yarn and fiber had come out of the steam bath and cooled.

Then it was packed in plastic carrier bags.

Tired but happy, it was time for us to head home.

 When I got home I rinsed my yarn and nervously hung it to dry. Would it dry as lovely as I was anticipating?

Ooh, I like it. It's really a little more teal, a little less blue than those photos.

I'm pretty happy with how the magenta/purple came out.

I think they go nicely together.  I might try to do some colorwork with these.

Amy emailed me a photo of her roving drying and I think it came out lovely.

I can't wait to see the yarn she spins out of this. 

As well the yarn I dyed, I might have gone a bit over-budget buying some lovely sale items.

I just love Blue Moon's BFL sport yarn, it's such a wonderful soft, sproingy yarn, and they had some mill ends cheap ($10 for ~660 yds of yummy yarn?!?). I got two, one golden:

 and one purple:

They also had Socks That Rock mill ends, and at $12 a piece, I couldn't resist.

Those two are destined to become a two-color shawl, as are the the ones below.

I'm not sure what this one will be, but I just loved the cheerful, summery green.

Then there were the free bins. Seriously, Blue Moon knows how to throw a party. Everything set up for dying, lots of discounted yarns. And freebies?!? Yup!

There was a bin of Kid Mo, a 90% mohair, 10% nylon discontinued yarn. Free for the taking. I got two colorways. Three 200 yd skeins of Highway 30:

And four skeins of Pisgah:

There were some boxes of notecards and Sock Summit paraphenalia too. I got a couple of Sock Summit notions boxes, a lanyard/name tag holder, some lovely yarn notecards, and a fun sticker.

I feel like it was Christmas in August. What a fun day and what a haul! Thank you, Tina and everyone at Blue Moon Fiber Arts. I had a fantastic time and will be keeping an eye on your blog to see when you do this again. Everyone else, if you ever get the chance to go to a Blue Moon Barn Sale, go. It might even be worth flying to Portland if you're not lucky enough to live in Oregon.