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Sunday, February 27, 2011

I love staying at hostels when I travel

Once again my family is staying at a hostel. We only stay where we can have a private room, but I love being able to talk with people, and having lots of shared public space, a kitchen, wifi, etc. As sometimes happens, when I wake up a few hours before the rest of the family, I can leave the room and go somewhere else without disturbing anyone. My 6 year old usually makes friends and talks to the other travelers. It's been a very nice experience for us, and generally affordable and convenient too.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

PE-1 Backup Battery

Thanks to Lois Stevens, I've got some pictures of what the backup battery inside a PE-1 looks like.

It looks like this is a rechargable NiCad battery made by SANYO, of the type that was used as a backup battery on computer motherboards in the early PC years (1980's). Unfortunately, NiCads need to be recharged from time to time to keep their function. Most PE-1 units that have sat on a shelf for years at a time are likely to have dead batteries inside them.

What does this mean for the average user? First, the backup battery is not required to store patterns on a pattern card. Each pattern card has its own little battery inside it (CR2016 in mine), and so as long as that battery is still working, you can read mylars and keep them on the card.

The backup battery allows you to turn off your knitting machine electronics (which power the PE-1) and retain the working files you are using. Without a working backup battery, you will need to reconstruct those working files if you interrupt your work. That may or may not be enough of a hassle that you want to replace your battery.

If you do want to replace it, it looks like it is fairly readily available. The number you are looking for is N-50SB3, which is 3 N-50SB cells in series with some wire lead connectors. A German supplier who ships through Amazon-UK states that this is no longer being made, but offers a different technology (Nickel metal-hydride, NiMH) as an alternative. Lois found this US source. So it looks like this is a part that is available. Note that these links are from Feb 2011, so you may need to do a current search if you are reading this at a later date. It also looks like these batteries come with the wire tabs ready to put into the circuit board, so it should be a fairly straightforward job for someone with the right tools and skills1 to remove the old one and put in the new one.

My PE-1 is still almost new, and from what I can tell I will need to break a sticker to get into the unit. So I am not planning to replace the battery before I sell it.

1 According to DH who is an electronics hobbyist, you need to use a soldering iron and solder that are designed for work on electronics. Electronics solder uses rosin flux; the solder used for stained glass and plumbing uses an acid flux that will damage the board. Also, larger soldering irons are too hot and will also damage circuit boards. So even if you have a soldering iron around for other purposes, you need to take care.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PE-1 Pattern Extender (SOLD)


This is a PE-1, designed to connect with a Silver-Reed electronic knitting machine.

It connects to a port on the knitting machine. This is my SK580, which has the equivalent of an EC-1 built into the machine. Newer machines with an EC-1 ought to have a similar port, likely on the EC-1.

Here is the port exposed, with the cap off. Note that there is a little finger that keys the connection between the cable and the plug. There's an arrow on the plug which, on my machine, needs to point up.

Here is the PE-1, with the cable connecting it to the knitting machine. Because it draws its power from the knitting machine, it will work internationally, as long as your electronic KM works. The pattern card inserts into the side of the PE-1. You can see it there now.

Here is the "mylar" sheet that feeds into the EC-1 slot and is read by the knitting machine. When the PE-1 is in use, you push the "READ" button, and it will drive the mylar reader. It will read the pattern into memory, and store it on the pattern card (shown to the right of the PE-1). The pattern card takes a simple button style battery, of the type that goes in a watch. It is easily replaced.

Once the pattern(s) are in the pattern card, you can use it to knit. You can also use the PE-1 to piece together patterns that are wider than the 60 stitches on a mylar sheet. I have instructions for this in the book called "Operations Manual" that came with my SK580. If you lack instructions, I can copy them.

I've seen one of these for sale for $300 USD. I'm asking $200 plus actual shipping costs, but I'm open to offers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Using MindManager to Organize my Work

Over the last 8 years or so I've developed a system of managing my work that works for me. I use a piece of software called MindManager, which builds on psychological understanding of how humans organize ideas. I find that it really works as a tool for brain dumping. And I also use it to track my workload. They have academic pricing, but it does cost real money. Still, I find it is an absolutely invaluable to for managing both my work and my anxiety about my work. Probably the anxiety even more than the work, if I am honest.

For each year, I make a MindManager map that looks like this:

I'm only showing the top levels of each branch (which MindManager will do automatically) to protect my privacy, and because you'll fill it with your own stuff anyway. I have hyperlinks for each month that will pull up the MindManager map for that month. Here's an example:

Finally, each week is also hyperlinked to its own map, so I can track at a weekly level:

I use the daily items for two purposes. One is that it shows me my meetings and deadlines. But the other is that I am using it to get a better handle on how long it actually takes me to get things done, so that I allow for that in my future planning. It also helps me to concretely answer the question "where did the time go".

There is also a natural tendency to do an end-of-week and beginning-of-week review as I open or set up the Map for that week, also at the end of the month, and at year end.

I also have project-specific mindmaps that show me things like research design, links to research tools, track collaborators and conference presentations and publications that are tied to a particular project. I sometimes use it to display hierarchical representations of complex analyses so I can see patterns at multiple levels.

I get no kickbacks for this, I just like the software. A lot.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Sweater Design (Post2)

Here are some swatches for the sweater/jacket I am thinking of making. The yarn is a two strand yarn made up of a near-roving single with some kind of a tape. It's at the upper limit of my SK155 bulky machine's ability - I need to knit it at T9. I like the reverse side, and I'm trying to work out what to do for edging.

On the left I've got a folded band, with a 1x1 tuck pattern at the bottom. I like it, but it's not sturdy enough for the garment, and it's also hard on the machine. This is just too bulky a yarn to pull that off. I left 2 needles out of work (2 because it's a 1x1 tuck pattern on a punch card, so I couldn't just leave one out of work) at the fold line - that could either be latched up, or left as is.

I also thought of using a contrasting yarn - the black sample. But I think it's too contrasty for what I want.

What I think I will go with is the circular knit edge above. It's stretchy, and it's just a little tighter than the reverse-stocking stitch. I did it by setting up for a 1x1 rib, casting on, then doing circular knitting for a bunch of rows. At the end of that, I transfered the stitches from the ribber onto the knitting machine and started knitting. This particular swatch had some 1x1 rib in it before I switched to circular knitting - I won't do that in the garment itself.

I think I'll try making some bands with the ribber as well, probably knit-as-I-go, because the seaming on this yarn is going to be prohibitively bulky.

Next plan is to look at how to get some shaping into the garment. I've got some transfer tools that will work on the bulky - I might use some vertical darts in the interior of the garment, as well as some short rows for the bust. Shaping should be inobtrusive to not interfere with the texture of the reverse stocking stitch. I want that to predominate, and not introduce a lot of distracting lines with shaping.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Design ideas for a sweater coat

I'm thinking about design ideas for a sweater coat using a tuck stitch pattern I found to do on my bulky knitting machine (SK155). It's got a fairly strong vertical line and a bit of a herringbone texture to it that I think will make it a good fabric. I'm going to make the first draft in a cheap acrylic black yarn, with a princess line design, belted closure and a shawl collar. I figure it will end mid thigh, and have some flare to it.

Unfortunately theres a broken part on my ribber. I've ordered a new one, but it's coming from the states, so theres a border to clear. Once the part is here it should be fairly straightforward to replace the part and use the ribber.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How hard can it be?

I'm amazed at how difficult I'm finding it to learn about which brother knitting machine will use which cable to talk to which piece of computer software. It's all rather difficult to sort through. Similarly, it was very difficult to figure out what I needed when I bought design a knit. I'm really grateful for ravelry as a forum to learn these things.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Shims, Ball Winders and Quality of Life

So, I was cruising Youtube and came across a great post talking about using a dismembered clothespeg to shim a toilet paper roll onto a ball winder.

Lacking clothespegs, I instead riffled DH's collection of popsicle sticks. I put the sticks inside the TP roll, to wedge the roll in place so it doesn't fly off while I am turning the winder. It works great. And now I can move a lot of balled yarn into cakes/cones, and get knitting!