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Random bits of my life

Archive for January, 2011

Puncetto Valsesiano: Part 7 – Open Squares

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 31, 2011

I’m trying something a bit different. I’ve been so busy with work and other projects that I’ve been neglecting the Puncetto tutorials. Since I’m taking a course in Flash, I decided to try using its vector drawing tools and animation to replace the multiple photographs/drawings that have accompanied the earlier tutorials. Since this is a Flash .fla converted to .mov and uploaded to YouTube, I can’t add controls so that you stop/start the video, other than the ones that YouTube uses, so I recommend that you get used to pausing/playing the video. Otherwise it runs through very quickly. If you find it too fast, I can try to slow down the frame rate in the future.

At this point I won’t be making cosmetic changes. It’s done with frame-by-frame animation, by drawing the figure, erasing a bit at a time, and then reversing the frames (a mere 450 frames!). The tail-knot animation was also done frame by frame because shape tweening doesn’t do knots very well.

I will, of course, continue to include written instructions so that these can be saved and printed out. Since this is an experiment, I would appreciate feedback!

Open Squares

This is not an easy motif but it’s a natural progression from the earlier Squares and Bars tutorial. These little squares are usually worked in groups of four or nine squares. The basic principle is the same. You create the open squares and then finish with the knots  around the outside edge. In older patterns you often find these made by the dozen and inserted into a design, tipped on one corner like a diamond. I should tell you that making even squares is tricky because the first knots slide around on the thread. That’s why I included step 4, where you anchor the tail of the thread by tying it down, to keep the knot (#3) from sliding all over the place.

Here’s a drawing of what a finished 4-square unit looks like:

Puncetto Valsesiano: Open Squares


Note: The working order of squares is bottom left, bottom right, top left, and top right.

  1. Make the first knot on the thread tail so that it forms a square. (If you are a beginner, you might find it easier to form the square by shaping it around a narrow pencil.)
  2. Make 3 knots on the loop you just formed, so that you are working up the right side of the bottom left square.
  3. Make another knot on the thread tail to form the bottom right square.
  4. At this point you will find that the 2 knots on the tail slide around a lot. You will find it much easier to work the rest of the motif if you anchor the thread tail by threading it into a needle and working a knot in the corner. That’s the squiggly tail animation you see at this point.
  5. Make 3 knots on the loop you just formed, so that you are working up the right side of the bottom right square.
  6. Working from right to left, make 3 knots on the top of the bottom right square, then 3 knots on the top of the bottom left square.
  7. Make a knot on the third (middle) loop of the previous row, so that it forms the top left square.
  8. Make 3 knots on the loop you just formed, so that you are working up the right side of the top left square.
  9. Make another knot on the last loop of the row below, so that it forms the top right square.
  10. Make 3 knots on the loop you just formed, so that you are working up the right side of the top right square.
  11. Working from right to left, make 3 knots on the top of the top right square, then 3 knots on the top of the top left square.
  12. Working from top to bottom, make 3 knots in each square.
  13. Working from right to left (you will be holding the motif upside-down), make three knots in each square.

Posted in Crafts, Puncetto Valsesiano, tutorial, videos | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

How to Photograph Translucent Fruit

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 24, 2011

Kiwi Fruit

I was surprised by the number of comments this kiwi fruit photo received, so I decided to blog about how I did it.

This was my first attempt at photographing a thin slice of fruit with a light source behind it. Here’s a photo of the set-up I used since I don’t own a light-box. I bent a table lamp so that it pointed upwards and I placed it on a chair. That’s the light source. I placed a pane of glass on the edge of the table with something heavy to anchor it. (I used the sliding panel from the glass box that holds the oil lights that I light for Shabbat; in the old days, the wicks used to splutter and occasionally a cup would crack, so the glass box prevents fires and oil damage.)

A sheet of printer paper was placed on top of the glass and underneath a very thin slice of fruit. Next time I plan to use tracing paper because it will let more light through and probably has less texture.

One last thing — I’m quite short, so I had to stand on a low stool to take the photo. The camera was handheld (I don’t have a tripod with a tilting column). Focal length was 135mm with an ordinary telephoto lens (Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS), not a macro lens. For such a long lens, it can focus fairly close, so I use it for these macro-like shots.

Homemade Lightbox

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Two Short Flash Animations

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 23, 2011

I just figured out how to upload a couple Flash animations. I’ve been dabbling in Flash since 2004, although I really haven’t done much with it until recently, when I got more into ActionScript 3.0 programming.

At work, I’m taking a Flash course for beginners. I’m not enjoying it very much, partly because I’m overqualified and partly because my Hebrew is not very good (the instructor is very knowledgeable but he mumbles and talks very fast). This first animation is a 7-second one that I put together when we were learning how to animate gradiants. On the other hand, because I normally work with boxes, lines, and rather boring animations (but a lot of programming to show different screens), drawing animations from scratch is new for me.

This second video is a short animation I made to illustrate a talk I gave to our technical writing group at work. I spoke about the history of Flash, while moving through the animation with the spacebar. Later I added a very simple control console (just a shiny Play button) and published it as an Adobe AIR application. I gave a demo on that to a larger group of technical writers to show how self-installing tools could be designed with Flash.

This animation was done very quickly, in about 2 hours. If I had had more time, I would have liked to have had the big Adobe fish swallowing the little Macromedia fish, but there wasn’t time to animate their mouths.

Posted in videos | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Thing-a-Day, 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 21, 2011

Today is the last day to sign up for Thing-a-Day, 2011. Thing-a-Day is a communal blog where participants post something they make (could be just about anything — cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, inventing, drawing, writing) every day during the month of February. I heard about the registration date a couple days ago, so I joined just in time.

I did Thing-a-Day in 2008. It was sometimes a hectic experience, especially with so few hours at the end of Shabbat, to try to make something (easier to take a photo!), but it was a valuable experience. I had the opportunity to try lots of new techniques. Because it was something new each day, every project had to be very small and easy to complete. At the time I was also taking my one and only photography course, although I didn’t learn very much from it. The Hebrew was difficult for me and the teacher was, I think, a bit burned out from teaching the same course year after year, so it turned into a once-a-month trek to pretty sites to take photos. I didn’t have a DSLR in those days. All my photos for Thing 2008 were taken with a Canon S5. (Link to my Thing-a-Day 2008 photo set)

I spun my home-grown, naturally coloured brown cotton and wove it into a small bag:

Thing 20-3. Cotton spun on tahkli

Made beaded flowers:

Thing 10. Beaded Flowers

My first and only Romanian point lace motif:

Thing 25. My first Romanian Point lace motif

First and only Teneriffe medallion:

Thing 26. My first Teneriffe medallion

Only quilling experiment:

Thing 14. Quilled picture

I got up to go to the bathroom at 3 a.m. on Feb. 21 and ended up photographing an entire lunar eclipse (photo set here):

7. Eclipse - 4:46 am

I printed some of my better photos and mounted them in a small photo book (these two photos were taken with a cheap pocket camera while on vacation in Tel Aviv the summer before):

Thing 9. Photobook

Crocheted pastrami on rye:

Thing 11. Crocheted Pastrami on Rye

And pizza:

Thing 4. Crocheted pizza slice

Made paper bead earrings:

Thing 13. Paper Bead Earrings

Photographed snow in Jerusalem:

Thing 19. Snow in Jerusalem

Tatted a tiny motif:

Thing 7. Wee tatted doily

I’m not sure I’ll get as much done this year, since I’m still recovering from foot surgery, but I thought it would give me a boot out of the winter doldrums!

Posted in Crafts, photography | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Floss Storage

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 20, 2011


OK, I over-estimated the capacity of this floss storage box, which just arrived from Nordic Needle. I finally decided to organize the floss for the Lady with Unicorn project and there’s no way 130 colours/bobbins will fit. (I already store the blended threads in a bag system. These bobbins are to replace my sandwich bags full of skeins. It just takes too long to fish out the right colours when I’m refilling the bags with the blended threads.)

Lady with Unicorn: Sense of Hearing

But all is not lost! My bead findings box has compartments the same size. Moral of story: Before you pay an arm and a leg buying a floss bobbin storage box, check the local places. These boxes probably come from the same factories in China and are in standard sizes. Live and learn!

One thing I don’t regret is purchasing DMC floss number stickers. They really speed up the job of labeling.

Posted in Crafts, embroidery | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

A Closer Look at Peppercorns

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 10, 2011


I don’t have a macro lens. I used my cheap, white-box, made-in-China, no-name extension tubes. Because there’s no electronic connection between the body and the lens, the focus is manual and you’re kind of stuck with the aperture (= very shallow depth of field) unless you use a workaround. (I blogged about the aperture workaround in another posting, Setting Aperture with Macro Extension Tubes.)

If you don’t mind spending a lot more money, you can get Kenko extension tubes. I didn’t have the cash at the time, so I bought a really cheap set that, at the time, was only available from Now I see that they’re also available in the US, so here they are: the $12 Fotodiox Canon extension tubes (you can get them with a Nikon mount).

So if you want to try macros but are still saving up for a decent lens, extension tubes are a cheap thrill. Don’t expect the same performance as the more expensive tubes, though. There are no electronic connections in these tubes (hence, no autofocus or aperture control), they feel cheap, and you need to fit them carefully to your lens and body. They do join securely but you have to make sure that they’re fully coupled before you put your camera on the tripod or you may see your favourite lens in pieces on the floor. There are absolutely no instructions. The tubes come in three lengths with a body mount ring and a lens mount ring.

I also wanted to pass on a couple tips if you’re using extension rings. Use a good table-top tripod. I have a $29 Slik Mini Pro V. It will hold a camera with a long lens, as long as you point the lens over one of the legs so that it doesn’t topple over.

The second tip is, if your camera has a live preview function (i.e., if your DSLR can be set to show a preview of the shot on the LED screen and zoom in), use it for the manual focus. My eyesight isn’t reliable enough to focus this finely, so I find the zoom very useful. Even if you never use your live preview, look in your manual to see whether your camera has this feature, and give it a try the next time you’re faced with a fiddly manual focusing job.

I set up this shot by pouring a teaspoon of peppercorns onto a white ceramic plate and lighting it with a fluorescent desk lamp. My aging Canon Rebel XSi (450D) with a Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens was set up about 2 feet from the subject. ISO 100, 2 second self-timer.

Getting this shot was easier than I expected and a lot of fun.

Posted in Food, photography | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Project 365, 2010

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 5, 2011

Project 365 2010

I haven’t posted for quite a while. My blogging got derailed by my return to work, physiotherapy for my foot, and visits by husband’s relatives from abroad. Some of my month mosaics weren’t generated until just a few days ago!

In 2009, I managed to post 352/365 photos. I must have thought it was a positive experience, over all, because I’m starting another Project 365 for 2011.

Things that I liked about Project 365:

  • My general technique improved. I could see where I got better at low-light photos, building interiors, street photography, portraits, and so on.
  • At the end of the year I had a tangible record of what I’d done in photography (my first two paid  jobs, my first attempts at portraiture, a solar eclipse, sunrise over Amman, Jupiter’s moons).
  • My photos were also a record of places I’d been, craft projects I finshed, and new techniques.
  • I went to events that normally I would never have gone, like a local dog show, simply because it was a new place to take photos.
  • I had an excuse to carry a camera everywhere.
  • I am deeply grateful to two of my officemates, Yinnon and Masha, for providing me with so much photographic material — pet spiders, interesting manicures, hats, cooking demos, and a wedding. They were more than willing to let me photograph them at any time.

Things I didn’t like about Project 365:

  • I felt under pressure to take photos even when I was hospitalized, tired, or sick.
  • There were way many “OMG what am I going to photograph tonight?!?!” photos. For some reason I have a really hard time getting inspired to photograph things after Shabbat because it’s dark, I’m tired, and there’s plenty of work to be done getting the house back in order.
  • Too many flowers. Nothing wrong with that if you like flowers but I think I took too many flower photos. Same for sun flares. Three in July was a bit much.
  • I looked like a weirdo carrying a camera everywhere (the flip side of #5 above). When a co-worker asked why, I told him, “Because black goes with everything.”
  • It probably shortened the life of my camera and lenses (camera body repair for autofocus in May and dead kit lens that lost its autofocus in September) but so what — the only people with pristine cameras are those who never take photos. Equipment is there to be used.

Things I’m going to try to do differently for Project 365 in 2011:

  • Get a new tripod. I still haven’t replaced my crappy, lightweight tripod, which is a real liability when I have to do low-light shots with long exposures, astro-photography, or portraits. I have my eye on a mid-level Manfrotto in Tel Aviv. I could order it over the Web. I really should do so instead of moaning about my lack of a good tripod.
  • Plan more carefully for those difficult times, like after Shabbat. Sure, I still have to make the effort to set up a light or a subject or whatever, but if I had a plan I think the photo would be a lot easier to take. I did make a list of inspirations at the beginning of the year, sort of a “fall back” list in case I couldn’t think of anything to photograph, but I lost the list.
  • Don’t have surgery. Honestly, taking photos during my 6 weeks of sick leave was not a lot of fun. If you think a DSLR is hard to lug around, try doing it on crutches.
  • Consider getting a compact camera for those times when a DSLR just isn’t a good thing to lug around. (There are times when I would consider selling my first-born, my only son whom I love, for a Canon S95, except that he’s a polite, pleasant boy and worth way more than a camera. Maybe I could trade him for a few L-class lenses. Hmmm…..)

To sum it up, Project 365 is a real challenge but it’s worth it. I posted lots of crappy photos. Among them, I think there are a few decent shots that I probably wouldn’t have captured if I hadn’t been shlepping that camera everywhere.

Here’s a link to my Project365 set:

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

2010 WordPress Summary

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 2, 2011

This summary is sent automatically by WordPress and you can choose to post it to the blog. So here it is!

Hope to post some real content soon, folks!  I’ve been busy since I returned to work.

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 40,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 153 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 271 posts. There were 4 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 258kb.

The busiest day of the year was February 1st with 627 views. The most popular post that day was Locked Out & Modeling the Orenburg Shawl.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for puncetto valsesiano, free lensing, freelensing, puncetto, and bobbin lace.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Locked Out & Modeling the Orenburg Shawl February 2010


Periodic Table Sweater August 2009


Irish Crochet Leaf – We Got Ridges! October 2009


Puncetto Valsesiano, Part 1 – Introduction July 2010


Miniature Bobbin Lace Tablecloth and Pattern January 2010

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