Friday, January 29, 2016

Geek Knitting: U Mana Pattern

Hello everyone!

     You've seen me tweet about it and talk about it on stream, my past time outside of gaming is knitting. This year I'm going to be trying to knit as often as I can, as creatively as I can. There's nothing quite as motivational as wanting to challenge oneself creatively. Most of the nerd-ier things I'll be making will be for the stream, whether it be as giveaway prizes or thank you gifts.

     Because of my rather lacking knitting skills, most of the items I can make are based on the different stitches utilizing combinations of the knit and purl stitch. These combinations allow for many different textual differences. What I learned when making the "thank you" hats for the Extra Life donors in late December/early January is the method used to knit influences how the various stitch combinations appear. This must sound weird - it did to me as well. For those of you who do not knit, there are different methods called "flat" and "circular." This pertains to the kinds of needles used to make a project. "Flat" is what most people imagine when thinking of knitting. It utilizes two separate needles while the person makes interlocking loops and transfers them to the opposite needle. "Circular," also called "in the round," is when a person uses needles that are connected to one another. As you knit you transfer stitches to the opposite needle, but these needles are connected so it is essentially knitting in a loop. The type of stitch I'm best at knitting is the knit stitch, which isn't the nice smooth pattern most people think of: stockinette. Stockinette, when flat knitting, is done by alternating knit and purl rows/stitches. The expression "knit the knits and purl the purls" comes from this. However, when "knitting in the round," just knitting the knit stitch creates the same pattern. I can make beautiful things with the stitch I know how to do best. Let's just say I'm in love with my circular needles. Expect to see a lot of beanies in the stream's future.

Knit jargon aside...

     Do you all notice anything in that there picture? No? Well let me tell you! The beanie pictured has a blue mana symbol from Magic: the Gathering. Can't distinguish it? That's okay - the pattern is based on textural differences. Here's an imgur album with more pictures of the beanie. This is my first attempt at creating a pattern myself. Boy, oh boy, it is a headache!

Create a Pattern? Huh?

I used this image to "pixelize" the blue mana symbol, thank you Google search. Now, as you can see, the image is smooth and not broken up into "pixels." I started researching online different sites and programs that would "pixelize" the symbol for me. Creating things with perler beads is becoming ever more popular, there has to be some way to do it. I eventually found the application "Bead Forge." It is predominantly for creating perler bead designs, definitely fulfilling my purposes. I uploaded the image into the app, set up my parameters as being 40x40, and then out popped this.

Well that's a start, but it is't exactly a pattern. Being a visual learner, I decided to grid out the pattern I would be using to create the beanie. I don't have large enough graph paper to fit it on one page, so I decided to reformat a Google Spreadsheet.

     The biggest hurdle I had in creating the pattern is flipping the original image so when the beanie is completed, the "right" side of the project has the symbol facing the way it's supposed to be. Even looking at this aid for the pattern, it took some time to get used to it since I read from left to right but knit from right to left, if that makes any sense to you. When I knit a project in the round, I'm starting from the bottom and working my way up going from right to left, essentially spiraling upward clockwise. The next hurdle I had to overcome was figuring out if I needed to start my row decreases before or after the pattern is complete. In the final product, I decided to complete the pattern instead of figuring out how to accommodate the changes. That is beyond my knitting level. In the picture above the blacked out squares represented the row decreases. Ignore those...

After I finished the beanie, I realized a few changes for next time. I prefer the mana symbol to face the wrong side correctly. I feel it is more distinguishable this way. The whole point of my creating a textural pattern design is for subtle nerdom, so either way the symbol faces is fine.

The Pattern

Using US size 8 circular needles...

Cast on 84 stitches


Row 1: *knit 3, purl 3* repeat until end of row.
Repeat row 1 for another 15 rows
(Total of 16 rows of ribbing, roughly 2.5 inches)

Main Body

Row 1: Knit
Repeat for another 4 rows, totaling 5 rows of just knit stitch

Row 6: *knit 9, purl 9, knit 10* repeat to end of row
Row 7: *knit 7, purl 13, knit 8* repeat to end of row
Row 8: *knit 6, purl 15, knit 7* repeat to end of row
Row 9: *knit 5, purl 17, knit 6* repeat to end of row
Row 10: *knit 4, purl 19, knit 5* repeat to end of row
Row 11: repeat row 10
Row 12: *knit 3, purl 21, knit 4* repeat to end of row
Row 13: repeat row 12
Row 14: repeat row 12
Row 15: *knit 2, purl 4, knit 2, purl 17, knit3* repeat to end of row
Row 16: *knit 2, purl 4, knit 4, purl 16, knit 3* repeat to end of row
Row 17: repeat row 16
Row 18: repeat row 16
Row 20: *knit 3, purl 2, knit 3, purl 17, knit 3* repeat to end of row
Row 21: *knit 3, purl 3, knit 2, purl 17, knit 3* repeat to end of row
Row 22: *knit 3, purl 3, knit 1, purl 17, knit 4* repeat to end of row
Row 23: *knit 4, purl 20, knit 4* repeat to end of row
Row 24: *knit 5, purl 19, knit 4* repeat to end of row
Row 25: repeat row 24
Row 26: *knit 6, purl 17, knit 5*  repeat to end of row
Row 27: *knit 7, purl 16, knit 5* repeat to end of row
Row 28: *knit 8, purl 14, knit 6* repeat to end of row
Row 29: *knit 8, purl 13, knit 7* repeat to end of row
Row 30: *knit 9, purl 12, knit 7* repeat to end of row
Row 31: *knit 9, purl 11, knit 8* repeat to end of row
Row 32: *knit 10, purl 10, knit 8* repeat to end of row
Row 33: *knit 10, purl 9, knit 9* repeat to end of row
Row 34: *knit 11, purl 7, knit 10* repeat to end of row
Row 35: *knit 11, purl 6, knit 11* repeat to end of row
Row 36: repeat row 35
Row 37: *knit 11, purl 5, knit 12* repeat to end of row
Row 38: *knit 11, purl 4, knit 13* repeat to end of row
Row 39: *knit 11, purl 3, knit 14* repeat to end of row
Row 40: *knit 11, purl 2, knit 15* repeat to end of row
Row 41: *knit 11, purl 1, knit 16* repeat to end of row
Row 42: *knit 10, purl 1, knit 17*  repeat to end of row


Row 1: *knit 19, k2tog* repeat to end of row
Row 2: knit
Row 3: *knit 8, k2tog*  repeat to end of row
Row 4: knit
Row 5: *knit 7, k2tog* repeat to end of row
Row 6: knit
Row 7: *knit 6, k2tog* repeat to end of row
Row 8: knit
Row 9: *knit 5, k2tog* repeat to end of row 
Row 10: knit
Row 11: *knit 4, k2tog* repeat to end of row 
Row 12: knit
Row 13: *knit 3, k2tog* repeat to end of row 
Row 14: knit
Row 15: *knit 2, k2tog* repeat to end of row
Row 16: knit
Row 17: *knit 1, k2tog* repeat to end of row 
Row 18: knit

Finish the hat

If anyone feels I do not decreases properly, please let me know. I'm mostly self taught, so any advice is always appreciated.

I decided on the blue mana symbol as the first to test since it is the simplest. I enjoy the dimensions the symbol came out as since I essentially had one stitch represent a pixel. I'm looking forward to making a beanie of each mana symbol and then hopefully guilds. After completing a test run I plan on trying to make the beanies with a black base and then the representative mana color for the symbol. Definitely more geek knitting to look forward to. 

Happy knitting everyone!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The First Time...

Date: April 26, 2014
Event: Journey into Nyx Pre-Release
Location: Jackvonsille Game Center

     Rather than finding myself dressed in tattered clothing with pumpkin and mice at my feet, at midnight I found myself on an unknown plane surrounded by strangers speaking in tongues. I had been to Magic the Gathering events before; Ulric (one of my best friends) and I used to attend our small, local game store's Friday Night Magic events. When I say small... I mean SMALL! Looking back at my DCI history, we had attended the Born of the Gods pre-release...

... 7th out of a nine player event is quite disheartening when you only see the numbers. I wasn't the best or most competitive, but I loved that store. It was typical for there only to be 6 - 10 planeswalkers slinging spells. Ulric and I started going there earlier in 2013 for the occasional draft when we wanted to shake things up. Prior, I only had experience with a tabletop cube he and our buddy Matt had made from their extensive collection. Tabletop Magic with our small group of friends was the only thing I knew, especially since I am the baby planeswalker. I started playing in 2013. Matt and Ulric, on the other hand, have been playing for years. Matt is from Ossining, NY. On multiple occasions Matt's mentioned the competitive play group he had been a part of. Ulric has been playing since the start; we used to joke he's been playing Magic for almost as long as I have been alive! 

     As we continued to pop into Urban Anthropology, our trio grew to include Virgil, his brother Tristan, and Alex. The more frequently we played in sanctioned events, the more the guys wanted to up their competitive edge, the damn Spikes. Our motley bunch lived closer to Saint Augustine, where the Magic scene was and continues to be dying. Jacksonville, the metropolis that it is, has multiple game stores with better prize support and competition. We had heard through the grapevine that the Jacksonville Game Center offered a deal on FNM/Pre-release: do both and the next 10 FNM are free! Not only that but our entry fee includes pizza, soda, and product! Feed me. Please. Will work for food. (not joking - I have!) With the need for -at least in my case- food, competition, and prizes, we agreed to start carpooling to Jax Game Center events. 
So there I was. Scared. Nervous. New. Still oblivious to the competitive Magic community. I went from maybe 10 people competing to BAM! SIXTY!

Let's play a game... Where's EM?

*hyperventilating intensifies*

     Let's take a moment for some real talk, just so you can better understand the emotional, anxious wreck I had been for my first "large" competitive Magic event of a budding career. I had just turned 22. Instead of being self-confident with a sense of control and purpose in life, I was depressed, lost. discouraged.I had just withdrawn from college due to my IBS and depression. Aside from my Magic peeps, which I viewed more as Ulric's friends than mine, I was a recluse. In the past I have been taken advantage of, resulting in my propensity to avoid men and large, social gatherings. Don't get me wrong - I'm a social butterfly at heart, but I was still scared of people and the possibility of being hurt. Lo and behold I found myself in a "small" space with over 60 strangers. Mostly men. I was terrified of Ulric not being at my side. I didn't want to make friends or turn someone's flirtations into heartbreak. I just wanted to open packs, build a deck, and kick planeswalker ass!

Oh look... I DID!

     Now, remember I had only ever been to small events - never a midnight pre-release. I was only expecting a couple of rounds and heading home by 3am... Boy oh boy did I have a rude awakening! We were there until about 10am! Each round took a little over an hour. The group I had carpooled with had members that got into top 8... which at Jax Game Center it's common for those players to "play it out." I think around 4am I was ready to leave. The only thing that kept me going was my winning. The adrenaline! The exhilaration! The stupefied looks I'd get when I beat a stranger who thought I was a scrub! 

     Felt good. Real good. So my addiction to cardboard crack began. Since then our group has gone to every midnight pre-release. The small group that would carpool up from Saint Augustine became a "team." We called ourselves the "Auggie Bombers" since we'd show up and win. DROP THAT BOMB OHHHHHHHHHHH! Slowly but surely I came to know and love the other regulars. The Spikes I used to be afraid of? I'd approach them and ask for advice on home brews. Joke with everyone about Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Comics. All things nerd. I started to feel part of a community again. No matter what was troubling me in the real world, I could always turn to Magic.

     This weekend will be the first where I'm not with my fellow Auggie Bombers. Once again, I'll, find myself on a new plane having to interact with strangers. I won't be scared of them or in my abilities. I'll be reading up on strategy the night before to see if once again I can just show up and wreck decks. *cracks knuckles* I won't be hiding in the corner. The internet is a beautiful thing. Before I even arrive I know there'll be familiar faces. Once again, I will feel a part of a community.