October 2008 Archives

Now With More Crafts

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Well, I was wrong.

You'll now find articles and tutorials about various crafts (including but not limited to: knitting, crocheting, jewelry-making, sewing, 1:6 and 1:4 doll handicrafts, and 1:12 miniatures) on this site.

I've decided to merge them from their former home, since I wasn't updating either place nearly enough.  Maybe with just one site to keep track of, I'll be able to add to it more frequently.

Eventually, I hope to have different entry portals stressing the different parts of this site, so a knitter/crocheter need never see the sewing entries and someone interested in 1:12 miniatures won't be bothered with the entries about computer games.  This is a plan for the (far) future, so there'll still be some wading through to get to the content you're most interested in.

If, by some chance, you're interested in every topic posted here, contact me so we can be friends as we clearly have a lot in common.

Unfortunately, comments on the crafting articles were lost during the move.  I apologize to those wonderful people who'd offered their kudos, tips, and experiences.  I hope you'll not be afraid to comment going forward, as this is the permanent home of these articles.

The Hate Blanket

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The Hate Banket.JPGFor almost a year, my SO's bugged me to knit matching couch blankets using yarns he picked.  A year after we ordered the yarn for them (so we could get enough of the same dye lot), the first one is done.

Even though I consulted extensively with him before and during its production, he still thinks it's about 18" too short and 5" too narrow.  So we don't have enough yarn for the second one, even if it's exactly the same size as the first one.

I've been casually calling it the "Hate Blanket".  For some reason, this seems to upset him.

More on the second one when I can gird my loins enough to tackle it.  I'm sure that whatever I do, it won't be right.  There will be no third matching couch blanket.

The one thing these blankets have going for them is that they're considerably reducing the amount of yarn I have waiting to be made into stuff.  I'm not claiming these for my Stash Zero initiative since the yarn was specially purchased for this purpose, but I'm glad to see less yarn in my yarn-storage disaster area.

Okay, I do like the way the yarn banded in the body of the blanket.  I should have straightened it out more before I took the picture, but see above re: Hate Blanket.  Besides, I'll have another chance to take a good picture when I finish the (sigh) second one.
Hate Blanket Detail.JPG
The 100-needle bed that comes with the knitting machine is good for baby blankets, but not much more.  Over the years, I've added two Ultimate Sweater Machines (USMs) and a couple of extension beds (mostly for the spare needles) to my original Incredible Sweater Machine (ISM).  For this project, I use two USM beds joined together, filled in with spare needles where they meet, but it's much longer than I need.  You could do this project with an USM and 2 20-needle extension beds.

The Hate Blanket measures 40" by 64", including the 3" crocheted border.  Knitting the body of the blanket on the machine took me the better part of a day, most of it spent unknotting snarls on the needles.  This kind of yarn is a little too loopy and fluffy to get consistent machine-knitting results with it.  The border took about five evenings to crochet.

7 - 6 oz (170 g) skeins of Lion Brand Homespun yarn in Barley (381) -- Yarn A
3 - 2 1/2 oz (70 g) skeins of Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Wood (232) -- Yarn B
Incredible/Ultimate Sweater Machine (I/USM) with a 140-needle bed
I/USM accessories (weighted hem, carriage, optional row counter, etc.)
size K (6.5 mm) crochet hook
blunt yarn needle
stitch markers (optional)

  • Set up your I/USM according to its directions.
  • Cast on to 140 needles with Yarn A using your preferred method--don't forget the weighted hem.  (I use the closed loop method.)
  • Knit even using six skeins of Yarn A.  You'll get about 58-64 rows per skein.  Make sure to leave enough free yarn at the beginning and end of each skein to weave in securely later.
  • Cast off using your preferred method.  (I used the yarn needle and the x method.)
  • Weave in all ends.  (You can hide some of the ends by crocheting the border over them.)
With the crochet hook, join Yarn A to the edge of the knitted body.
Round 1 (rs): On long sides, 3 sc into every 4 knitted rows.  On short sides, sc into every stitch.  3 sc into each corner.  (Optional: put marker between first and second stitch of corner.)  Join with sl st. Turn.
Round 2 (ws): Crochet around edge, as in Round 1.  Join with a sl st, using Yarn B.  Turn.
Round 3-7: Crochet around edge, as in Round 1.
Round 8 (ws). Crochet around edge, as in Round 1.  Join with sl st, using Yarn A.  Turn.
Round 9-10: Crochet around edge, as in Round 1.
Round 11 (rs): Crochet around edge, as in Round 1.  Join with sl st, using Yarn A.  Don't turn.
Round 12 (rs): Crochet around edge, as in Round 1.  Don't turn.
Round 13 (rs): Crochet around edge, as in Round 1.  Bind off and weave in all ends.

The pattern above results in an edge which is 2 rows A, 6 rows B, 3 rows A, 2 rows B.

Alternatively, you could do 2 rows A, 6 rows B, 4 rows A, 3 rows B.  This would eliminate the double right side rows, but all rows using the new yarn will start on the right side for pretty joins.  It'll result in a slightly thicker edge.  I plan to do it this way on the next blanket like this I make.

The free pattern above is for your personal use only.


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I love PC game developer Tilted Mill.  Their games (most notably Children of the Nile: Immortal Cities) have amazing concepts, though the execution is often flawed in some way.  There's plenty of playable life in these games, though not as much as the concepts would suggest.  Tilted Mill is also very supportive of their games after release.  For instance, their SimCity: Civilizations was very broken out of the box, but they patched it for free until it almost resembled a game.  That title is the least successful of their games, possibly because it was entangled with the SimCity brand, so they didn't have full control over its direction.

On the heels of re-acquiring the rights to Children of the Nile (and releasing an expansion pack for it), they've released a new single-player RPG, Hinterland.  Unfortunately, the game was only available through Steam, something I'd avoided until then, but for Tilted Mill, I signed up.  At $20, Hinterland was a steal, especially because of who developed it.  Hinterland came out on September 30th and by October 10th, they'd already released the first free content pack.

In Hinterland, you play a noble who has to pacify a small region of the countryside and build a village.  The twist is that your citizens double as your party members (up to three + you).  If you take the farmer out to hunt monsters, he's not producing food.  The hammer-wielding smith in your party isn't back in the village making stuff.  Et cetera.

It's a very interesting concept, capably realized.  There's also a lot of room for expansion. 

First, the problems:
  • You can't scroll out.  This is the deal-breaker.  I'm used to a wider field of vision for these "run around and kill things" games.  Enemies shoot (magic and arrows) at you from off-screen.  You can't effectively play an archer, since you can't take advantage of the full range of your weapon.  I end up playing with the region map open so I can see where I'm going, but it takes up a lot of the screen and I often get hung up on scenery.  The lack of higher view levels makes the game even smaller that it needs to be: claustrophobic and sad.
  • No auto-attack for your main character.  Sometimes, in the heat of battle, it's hard to click on the enemies' attack spots, which seems pretty small.  I'm my character isn't walking or running, but is taking damage, it should automatically attack whatever's hurting it.  Some people don't like this.  I get it.  Let them turn it off.  Or let us turn it on.  I think more people would like this than wouldn't.  (Though, probably not from the subset of beta-testers and people who post on the forums.)
  • The town's borders are too close to the outermost buildings.  You can set your followers in town to defend it when the enemy raids.  (Though you have to click on each follower individually to do this.)  If you have high-enough level followers, armed and armored well enough, they can sometimes survive the raid without your main character (and party).  Besides the townspeople's AI not being too good, enemy spellcasters and archers can stand beyond the town limits and shoot into town.  Since the enemies are outside of the limits, the townspeople won't react as if it's a raid (by fighting or running away).  Instead, they'll stand there and get killed.  It's very, very annoying.
  • Followers' character cards overlap, hiding their class and/or level.  The buzz on the forums seems to indicate only people playing at the widescreen resolutions have this problem.  I play at 1920x1200.  'Nuff said.
Now, the awesomeness:
  • The concept.  Hinterland is a quick game, especially if you play a small map.  There's the rush of hiring your first followers (a couple at a time visit the town, more if you have a hostel) and the strategy of deciding who to take with you into the wilderness.  There's no campaign, no ongoing story, just this match.  I always play on Hardcore (permadeath for your main character, resulting in a loss) to up the stakes.
  • The humor.  Tilted Mill included some hilarity in the game.  For instance, the character portrait of the female goblin is just the male portrait with lipstick and a wig.  The game doesn't take itself too seriously and encourages you to follow suit.  Sure, you died to a bunch of dire wolves and there's no saved game.  Just fire it up and try your luck again.
  • Followers in town auto-equip.  This was included in the first patch.  The cynical part of me thinks Tilted Mill held it back so they could appear to respond quickly to player demand.  What probably happened is that they were working on it, but knew it would take another couple of weeks.  The game shipped a little late and they didn't want to delay it any more.  Either way, it's cool.  This was a necessary addition to the game and now all players will have it.
  • Tilted Mill's commitment to the game.  It's very clear from the forums that the developer is deeply invested in this game.  They've quickly corrected some issues (like early minimap troubles at widescreen resolutions) and offered players fixes and additions free of charge, only a couple of which seemed like they should have been included in the first release of the game (see above).  I believe they enjoy working on Hinterland and delighting and amazing us with more of it
I've had way more than $20 of fun out of this game and I look forward to future patches and expansions (including those that I'll pay for).  I hope the lack of scroll out isn't due to some basic property of the Torque engine, but is instead something that's relatively easy to fix.  If they do that, I'm with them for the duration.

In short, this is Tilted Mill's usual: fun and flawed.