Atmospheric noise and its utility for knittersPosted: September 25, 2008
My cousin J is having a baby in December. This is storming news. I’ve always loved and admired her very much so obviously the baby must have a very superior knitted something.
It was love.
It’s a pattern by and designed for yarn from The Natural Dye Studio, which is all absolutely beautiful. However from my point of view there were a couple of problems. Firstly the pattern didn’t say how much yarn in total was required and secondly how many different colours were used. The first was simply remedied – I asked to weigh the finished blanket and discovered it was 560g. But as to the second… it was obvious that a very large number of different colourways had been used, but with each 100g skein of alpaca/merino retailing for (a perfectly reasonable) £10.99 the cost of making something similar was rapidly going to become totally prohibitive.
Luckily I had to hand a top advisor (and “enabler”, aka pusher) in the shape of Pixeldiva and a compromise was reached. I purchased three skeins of the luscious alpaca/merino and made up the rest from my (extensive) collection of random balls of similar-weight yarn.
So I ended up with 12 different balls of yarn to make a blanket of 15×12=180 squares, each requiring two colours. The next challenge was distribute the different colours evenly across the grid. I know for certain that it’s definitely got to be worked out in advance (making it up as you go along is a recipe, or rather non-recipe, for disaster) and I also know that I’m not very good at keeping my pet colour combination preferences from dominating the mix.
Enter, tab left, RANDOM.ORG:
RANDOM.ORG offers true random numbers to anyone on the Internet. The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs. People use RANDOM.ORG for holding draws, lotteries and sweepstakes, to drive games and gambling sites, for scientific applications and for art and music.
Knitting comes under the “art” category of course.
The blanket is constructed in 12 strips of 15 squares each (which will be sewn together) giving a total of 180 squares requiring two colours/numbers each. I allocated a number between 1 and 12 to each of the yarn colours. What I needed was 180 random sets of two numbers between 1 and 12. So I went to the integer generator and asked for just that – set the total of numbers required to 360, set the integers to be used to any between 1 and 12 and ask for the output to be generated in two columns.
It’s like magic.
I had, of course, to tidy it up just a teeny weeny bit because I didn’t want to have squares with the same colour centre as border. Nor did I want two adjacent squares to have the same border colour. But it was the work of a few minutes to eliminate these results, generate a few more numbers to replace those removed, and then slip the whole lot into a 12×15 spreadsheet.
This makes me almost unbelievably happy. Firstly because I’m deeply sad geeky, secondly because it gives the knitting (which is very very simple) a level of interest to keep me motivated – finding out what each square is going to look like and how it relates to all the others as I go along.
There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to this otherwise very satisfying project. The first is the necessity to cart around 12 balls of wool at all times thus making the project less than totally portable. The second is the humungous number of ends which will need darning in. Six ends per square, 180 squares… that’s… that’s… 1080 ends! Greater love hath no woman than that she darn in any ends, never mind more than a thousand, for her friend.
Meanwhile in other knitting news there are two satisfied customers – Fresca loves her Jayne so much she’s prepared to risk sautéed brain disease by wearing it in 76 degrees of heat; 2ndSon loves his birthday socks so much he’s wearing them literally day and night and contracted extreme smelly feet disease. I’ve had to remove them by force to wash them.