Out of memory (not me this time)

posted in: Knitting, Publishing, Web/Tech | 6

We’ve used a number of methods to create the charts that go in the knitting books that Nomad Press has published so far.

For the revised edition of Knitting in the Old Way, we had access to Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ original ink drawings, and she was able to draw most of the new charts and sweaters that she wanted to add (there were a lot: twenty new ones after we thought we were all done!). So we scanned Priscilla’s drawings and then spent literally hundreds of hours tweaking them in Photoshop (mostly cleaning the scans and removing anomalies) so they’d reproduce beautifully. They did.

This photo’s taken of a printed book, in low light at night, with no flash, so it doesn’t do the chart justice, but you may be able to see the hand-drawn quality as well as the clarity.

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For Donna Druchunas’ Arctic Lace and her just-released Ethnic Knitting Discovery, Donna gave us the charts already set up in David Xenakis’ Knitter’s Font. We moved them from Word to InDesign and kept going. For Ethnic Knitting Discovery, we did move them out to Illustrator and converted them to outlines when we were nearly done with the book.

I wrote a post on that process!

We’ve been working on the charts for a revised edition of Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ Salish Indian Sweaters: A Pacific Northwest Tradition for several years. We thought we’d have been done (and the new book published) long ago. Not yet. The charts have been one big stumbling block.

The originals were no longer available. We scanned the charts as they were printed in the first edition, but discovered that the grid lines were irregularly crooked and there were a whole lot of other problems that would have been nearly impossible to fix.

Plus, of course, Priscilla had a pile of new designs to add. This is a random selection of the new stuff, some of which is traditional and some of which is Priscilla’s original designs, using her own images in Cowichan style (like the cat right in the middle).

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My office floor isn’t big enough to include all of the new chart sketches, even though I’ve set these out so they’re overlapped three deep in a few places. As I look at this snapshot, I don’t even see the biggest of the two new enormous eagles . . . the "smaller" one is at the middle of the left edge. . . .

If we used had scans from the originals to "build" the new charts, it would have been insanely tedious and time-consuming. Actually, we put quite a bit of energy into doing just that. We decided to scrap all the work we’d done and start over.

But first we needed to learn enough about how to use Illustrator to pull off an entirely different approach. (Building these charts in the Knitter’s Font would also have been prohibitively difficult.)

This past summer was, among other things, dedicated to adding just the right Illustrator skills to the Nomad Press repertoire. I took Jill Wolcott’s online course. And Cat Bordhi generously shared not only tips but a working template that I was able to modify (using stuff Jill taught me) to do the job.

Then I started putting together a reference file of the charts that I was completing. And this started to happen:

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That’s the computer screen re-drawing SOOOO SLOOOOOWWWLLLYYYY that I could stop and take a picture between when I moved the cursor and when it managed to give me a clear new image of the page.

If I moved the cursor too far, for whole minutes at a time (possibly until I forced the computer to power down), the pages might look like this:

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When this is what they were supposed to look like (this next image I got by exporting a PDF and converting it to a JPG to show the difference):

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And too often the monitor looked like this:

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Okay. What choice do I have?

After reducing the sizes of all files by eliminating any reference layers or other useful but nonessential data and changing the display characteristics without producing better results, the choice is "get more system memory."

 

So I tried this (new stuff is green, old stuff is black with silver clips):

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And this (the modules have swapped positions):

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And every other imaginable combination. Shifting modules, powering up, powering down, and so on took big chunks of three days, plus two sessions of live chat (Jon and Beckie) and four phone support calls, one to the computer manufacturer and three to the memory supplier (Jeff 1, Jeff 2, Enrique, and Jeff 1 again).

And we came to this:

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. . . although there is hope at the other end because this return merchandise authorization represents a swap for RAM
modules of the same description but different density (we can’t tell
the density of the originals because they’re encased in steel . . .
those silver clips hold it in place, and I’m not about to rip them
apart to look).

So it was nice that we could spend the rest of the day pretending computers haven’t been invented yet, but dogs have.

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Ah, Halloween!

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6 Responses

  1. Nothing more frustrating than dealing with computers some days. I have an OS re-install (and at the same time I’ll be upgrading my hard drive to a bigger one) in my future. The trouble is I can’t figure out when it is okay to be without my files and such for about three days. *sigh*

    Love your Halloween costumes!

  2. What fun costumes! I am still trying not to hyperventilate from reading about your charting/computer interface. Wow. You have the patience of…a longtime editor? šŸ™‚

    We had one trick or treater, and someone vandalized our picket fence. Ahh. Halloween.

  3. I only upgrade when I don’t have a book at a vulnerable stage, which is why my Adobe software just got to CS2 level a few weeks before CS3 was released.

    We actually had about a dozen trick-or-treaters . . . more than last year! It might have been the orange pumpkin on the porch light that encouraged them.

  4. I feel your pain. No matter how skilled we are as a geek, aren’t there times when we just want to turn to someone and say ‘Make it GO’? I hope you continue to tell the saga, I would love to know how you fixed things. No doubt you will receive a lot of ‘helpful’ advice.

  5. Am very fond of your ‘costumes’…you know they’ll be back in style.

  6. Oh, the woes of technology. I’m still cursing Windows Vista and I’ve had it since May or June. Ugh. So frustrating to expect a tool to do its job and be let down.

    Someday I’ll need to learn Illustrator. For now, InDesign is fascinating me at least, while I’m still relatively clueless about it.

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