Knitting machines, owlie bags and Nokia themes.

First, I'd like to apologise to anyone whose comment has been deleted - I've had some fun with spam recently but the new field in the comment section seems to have sorted that out now, so comment away! :)

A few years ago I picked up a bag at a jumble sale. It was a garish green and pink monstrosity that clashed with every item of clothing in the known universe, but I'm pretty sure I've used that bag more than any other I own. Colours notwithstanding, it is the perfect size and shape for me - a messenger bag small enough not to get in the way, but large enough to fit books and my little netbook inside, with cute elasticated pockets at the side which are the perfect size for a phone or a pot of bubble mixture. Folks, I love that bag more than I will ever love a woman, but the damn thing's falling apart. The fabric is disintegrating like so many broken dreams. What's a crafter to do in that situation? Why, make a new one, of course!

So here's my prototype version of The Comfy Bag. I made a rough pattern by tracing around the original (which I can't bear to disassemble) and put it together with pillowcase fabric, then lugged it around Sheffield for a week by way of product testing. It needs some tweaking, and I need to learn how to use a sewing machine properly, but I think I'm well on the way to resurrecting and (dare I say it?) improving my old favourite.

More stuff, my new knitting machine and some web design on the inside...

The pattern on the fabric (which apparently a friend of mine had as bed sheets when she was younger - small world!) reminded me of feathers - or more accurately, the way I used to draw feathers in primary school, so I embroidered a couple of owls on the front, which apparently look more like blind penguins, since I neglected to give them eyes. Nonetheless, they are adorable.

Other things I have been working on recently are the website of O-Tech, (Oroboros Technologies), a computer and amplifier repair service in Sheffield which is run by an extremely skilled (not to mention squishy) man called John. The website's still a work in progress but it's not bad, eh? I've also updated the main page of, in a blue fashion.

The other thing I've been looking into, which is a bit more obscure, is making themes for Nokia phones (mainly because I happen to have a Nokia phone and just am that sort of person). There's a program you can use for it, called Carbide.ui, which is all very well and good but a) it's quite clunky and annoying to use and b) it's Windows-only, and I use Ubuntu Linux.

Thing is, the themes are quite simple really. They're just zipped folders of images with a file describing where in the theme they're used. So all I need to do is make some images and edit the descriptor xml file to tell the phone where to use them. The problem is, there isn't a good way of finding all the things you could possibly change in a theme without using the program. So I booted up my mum's computer and used the program to make template files so I don't have to again. More complex explanation (skip to the knitting machine if you don't care!):

If you take a theme file, example.nth, rename it to and open it with an unzipping tool, inside it are image files, sound files and either theme.xml or theme_descriptor.xml. To create your own theme, download the xml examples I have uploaded (see a theme on your phone first to see which it uses), open it up in a text editor, change the hex codes for the colours in the files, change the names of the image files to your image files, and the names of sound files to your sound files. Make a zip file containing all the images, sounds and the xml file, then rename the zip file from to themename.nth. Then try it out on your phone and see how it looks.

Download: theme.xml - theme_descriptor.xml - and for more information check out my post on the nokia forums.

Brace yourself for awesomeness:

How did this incredibly neat if un-cast-off piece of stocking stitch come into being? I hear you cry. Oh yes I do.

Ladies and gentlemen, through some wonderful people of my aquaintance, I have come into possession of a, wait for it, knitting, wait for it, MACHINE. That's right, a knitting machine. A machine that knits. This is extremely exciting, because I am, as we all know, a massive geek, and anything that brings knitting that little closer towards being programming is pretty much the best thing ever. That said, it's an entirely analogue machine - no electrics at all, but it speeds up knitting like lightening and uses combs which are, like, practically punch cards. I'll post more about it when I've worked out how to use it more effectively - that is, learnt how to cast off and other exciting things. Glee!


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