Friday, August 11, 2006

The Way Life Should Be

Last month, for the extended 4th of July weekend, Ron and I went camping in Ogunquit Maine. This was the 3rd or 4th time we've stayed at Dixon's Campground on Rte. 1 in Ogunquit, and hopefully won't be the last. Being outdoors in the city means having cement, pavement, or bricks underfoot at all times, skipping gingerly aside to barely avoid maniacal cabdrivers, and being aurally accosted by sirens, horns, whistles, bangs, and other assorted sounds of ARRRGGGHHH!

Camping, however, is the most relaxing activity I could imagine to get away from it all. Being outdoors while camping means having grass, dirt, or sand underfoot at all times, skipping gingerly aside to barely avoid an errant tree branch on a hiking trail, and being aurally serenaded by birds chirping, chipmunks rustling in the leaves, crickets chirping at night, and other assorted sounds of aahhhhh.

After setting up the tent, lighting the campfire, and hanging the tarp in case of rain, there's nothing to do but sit and relax. The perfect time to whip out the knitti... Oh No!!! I forgot to pack my knitting!

Faced with five days of sitting around a campsite with no knitting, I realized I was in desparate need of needles and yarn. (BTW - did those words just come out of me - "in desparate need of needles and yarn"?!?!?) Luckily, I spotted a really quaint yarn shop just a couple of miles back on Rte. 1. The Yarn Sellar is a cute little shop which on that day had a very nice lady named Patsy behind the register. If in southern coastal Maine, do stop by - Patsy is the nicest lady, very helpful, and there's a discount on your purchase if you provide your e-mail address for the newsletter.

Back at the campsite, armed with my new Brittany birch needles (sz. 10 1/2) and bulky weight Lamb's Pride yarn in red and blue, I set about making a few can cozies in the spirit of the 4th. Basic, quick objects that gave a feeling of accomplishment without too much thinking. I was on vacation, after all, so a complicated project just wouldn't have worked for me. Solid... striped... by the time I was done, there were 5. Three were given away (2 to Ron, and 1to Drew), and two are pictured here.

This of course was just a footnote in the evolution of the perfect can cozy. I switched to working in the round on these fantastic birch dpn's, and for ease removed the bottom. They turned out to be more like can wraps than can cozies.

Between the previous cozy post and this one, I've made it my mission to come up with the perfect can cozy. I have since devised a pattern that works. Perfectly. I was thinking of sharing it with you, but now I'm starting to think Knitty submission... which means no prior publication - not even on a blog. What to do...what to do...

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Heeeeee's Baaaaaack!!!

Hey Folks, I'm really sorry to have been away for so long. Almost four months! Wow! Where did the time go?

Summer crept up and hit me squarely in the forehead, leaving no time to blog and no desire to be cooped up inside in front of a pc.

I have been knitting a bit (a very little bit), and plan on sharing a few things with you over the coming weeks.

Upcoming blogs are going to address a wonderful little yarn shop on the coast of Maine, the new, improved, and perfected can cozy, the Scottie Original tag as cited at the end of the last post, and "The List".

However, I needed to put up a current post so I could draw your attention to the freshly added button on the right - you see it there? - the black and white one linked to the
Boston Knit Out & Crochet Too 2006 website? I'm hoping I'm one of the first 25 bloggers to e-mail a link in, so I can win a door prize. Please, please please. (However, it's just my luck that I'll be #26...ain't it always the way?)

Anyway hoping your summer is going along as fantastically as mine, and wish me luck on the door prize. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Let the Music Play!

I know, I know, I've been away for a while - but I'm back!

I've been working on a few projects lately. First a sage green and ivory Tychus hat for Geah, then a pair of fingerless Irish hiking gloves for me, and in the middle of all that, I had a request for an iPod cover from RonDog.

This post will cover the cover, and I'll get to the other items later.

The request for the cover came with a couple of caveats: dark grey in color, no openings inside (which would have allowed for using the iPod while it was in the cover), and a flap that comes down over the front. He described what he wanted as an "iPod sock with a front flap".

Of course, I interpreted that to mean I could add some fun details if I wanted to, as long as it met that criteria. Which I did.

I had a skein of Bingo yarn (German merino, worsted) left over from a hat I had done, and it was the perfect dark grey for the project. I knitted the body of the cover in the round on sz. 6 dpn's, in reverse stockinette, with a knit stitch ridge up each corner. I made a mini-buttonhole at the center of the beginning of the flap so the headphones could be plugged in while the iPod was in the cover, cast off the stitches around the front, and continued on with the flap (putting 3 sts. of seed stitch on each side of the flap to prevent curling). I added a buttonhole towards the end, and finished up with three rows of seed stitch to finish off the flap.

I picked up stitches across the front of the body towards the bottom, and reverse stockinette knitted a pocket for the headphones, making sure to end it with three rows of seed stitch. I then seamed both sides of the pocket.

I left a 1 1/2" opening on the bottom of the body so the USB cable could be plugged in without removing the iPod by just seaming the corners of the bottom, leaving the middle open.

I did attach a really cool button, though. It's bronze, and looks like a cross between a star and a shell - two of the things Ron collects and prominently displays in his home. One accidental benefit of the button placement is that it sits right over the play/pause button, so if the iPod is being used while in the cover, just press the big bronze button to pause or play.
















Voila! - an custom iPod cover is born.

These pictures don't do it justice, but alas, those are the limitations of a cameraphone. It really is much nicer than it appears in the pics. In the first image, it looks a bit messy, but that pic was taken when the cover was empty - the iPod fills it out and squares it off. Also, in the tall image, the iPod is pushed up a bit so you can see it - normally it's hidden inside. The horizontal one is taken "fully loaded" and closed - the bump in height is caused by the headphones tucked into the pocket.

By the way, please ignore the Scottie Original tag which appears so prominently in the 2nd pic - the explanation for that will be in a future post - one that I'm really looking forward to writing.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Hogwarts

Last fall, I was able to secure three tickets to the opening night showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. One ticket for Kristen (whose birthday party I referenced in the last post), one for her Mom (and my friend) Jen, and one for me. Thoroughly excited to see the movie on opening night, boy oh boy was I crestfallen when I had to go into work and couldn't attend the movie. I did end up seeing it later, but on a much less magical evening.

Fast forward to last week. The DVD of the movie was released on Tuesday. A few weeks prior to the release, I had pre-ordered it on Amazon. As soon as I received it (Woo-Hoo!), Jen and I made plans to watch it with Kristen on Saturday. So, this past Saturday afternoon, I travelled all the way to the historic city of Quincy, MA to watch the movie. I know I'm making it sound like an epic journey, but Quincy is only a 15 minute drive. Being an urban and carless gent, however, I rarely leave the city proper - and Quincy is the BURBS!

I brought along another friend, and we decided against all sense of propriety to purchase our beverages in cans. Jen and I are definately glass container people, but we inexplicably bought a 30-pack of Budweiser cans for the three of us to share, which would still leave some for Jen to enjoy later.

As I said, if I'm drinking beer, it's a Bud-in-a-bottle all the way. One of the main reasons is that it takes me a little while to polish one off, and cans go warm far too quickly. When I was half-way done my first can, it occurred to me to ask Jen if she had any cozies. She didn't. [For the uninitiated, cozies are also called Beer Huggers, Huggies, Can Coolers, Coolies, Insulated Kozies, Koozies, Can Holders or Koolies - those can holders which are usually made of foam to put your beer in to keep it cold.]

Since we were just sitting around, hanging out, listening to Jen's wonderfully eclectic music selections and saving the movie for later, my hands were idle. Jen, being a knitter, has needles and yarn hanging around. You know where this is going, right? I decided to make my own cozy.

I had seen one or two patterns floating around the internet, but I knew with a bit of luck and a little intuition, I could come up with a quick design on my own. The following is a fun little saunter into the world of trial-and-error knitting, and shows the evolution of tweaking a design until the perfect object is created.

In the picture, the bottom right cozy is the first attempt. Although it succeeds in fitting around a can and thus performs it's job, there were three flaws which needed to be fixed: (1) I hadn't cast on enough stitches, and the cozy stretched out far too much for my liking - you can actually see the laddering effect. (2) The bottom was rounded and made the can a bit unstable when put down. (3) I hadn't knit enough rows before decreasing, which left the cozy just a wee bit short.

On the second iteration, I added two stitches to the cast on so it would fit around the can without as much stretch. I knitted two additional rows before the decrease to make the cozy the right height. Then, I borrowed from the hemmed-edge hat design, and put a single purl row across the knitted side of the stockinette before reducing for the bottom, giving it a sharp bottom edge and more stability when in use. However, the flaw this time was that I reduced too quickly, and the bottom was slightly smaller than I would have liked. This is evident in the lower left cozy in the picture.

Finally, by the time I made the third, all of the kinks had been worked out, and a perfect cozy was produced, as can be seen in the green cozy on the top of the pyramid.

The whole process took less than two hours (with a couple of breaks between cozies), and each cozy was almost as quick to make as drinking a beer. When we finally settled in to watch Harry, the three adults had beers that were as cozy as we were on Jen's two funky-delic paisley half-moon couches. Funny - NOW we were ready to go to Hogwarts.

You too can replicate the fine afternoon I spent this past Saturday if you follow these simple directions:

[editor's note: Since double-pointed needles weren't available, I had to use straights, so a seam is required. If you use double-pointeds, you won't have to do a seam.]

Scottie Original Quick-as-a-Beer Cozy
size 11 needles
two strands of worsted-weight yarn held together throughout (for durability, etc. Red Heart Super Saver is perfect for this project)
cast on 19 stitches (you want a stretchy cast on - I used the knit on cast on)
work in stockinette (knit the first row, purl the second, knit the third, etc.) for 12 rows.
purl the next two rows
K1, *K2tog, K1*, repeat from * to * across row
purl the next row
K1, *K2tog, K1*, repeat from * to * across row
P1 then P2tog across row
break yarn, leaving a 12" tail
thread the tail through a tapestry needle, draw it through the remaining five stitches on the knitting needle, and then use it to sew up the seam
weave in the ends
slip cozy over a cold Bud can, sit back, and relax with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I'm just hoping Jen doesn't invite me over to make cozies when there'll be a dozen people in attendance!

I'll keep you posted.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Ta-Da!

A lot has happ
ened since Friday afternoon. A LOT!

First, within an hour of posting the last blog update, Jen called me on my cell phone - just to make sure she could reach me quickly. Turns out it was her daughter Kristen's birthday party I was to be attending on Saturday (Happy 11th Birthday, Kristen!). Well, to be correct, the party that I thought was on Saturday. She quickly informed me it was on SUNDAY afternoon. Profusely thanking her, I immediately notified Marcello that Sunday's brunch had to be postponed. Plans changed; crisis over.

As soon as I caught my breath, I realized that I had all day Saturday free, leaving plenty of time to go for the gold. Which I did with a vengeance. I quickly finished up the blue and grey Tychus, gaining a silver medal.

With plenty of Saturday night left, I cast on and completed 2/3 of the final two-toned blue ribbed-edge on the right in the pic. Of course, it was Saturday night, so off I went to join friends at my local watering hole for a few relaxing beverages, confident in the knowledge that I may just get it done by the time the flame went out.

Sunday morning dawned, and since I woke up at 8:00, I had plenty of time to complete the final 1/3 of the final hat, and practically jumped for joy at 10:30 a.m. when I WON THE GOLD!! Woo-Hoo!! (cue Olympic theme song...)

Just for the record, here they are in all their Olympic glory - all eight hats, divided into the browns and the blues:
















It was a big job, but now that it's done, I feel so much better that eight homeless veterans will have a little comfort from this freezing New England cold. Excellent idea, Beth - thanks for the challenge.

Now I just have to whip up a hat for Geah, one for Nadja, and one for Matt.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Down to the Wire

The good news:
I've qualified for at least a bronze medal!
The bad news:
The Closing Ceremonies are set for Sunday, and I'm busy throughout the weekend.


Two nights ago, I finished the green camouflage Tychus on the left, and last night I finished hat #6 (the blue and grey striped hemmed-edge hat on the right).

Editor's note: Sorry about the quality of the pic, but I was a bit harried this morning, and had to do a mad dash picture on the phone without regard to quality.

After qualifying for the bronze, I did start a new Tychus in navy and grey, and got about a quarter of it done before bedtime. However, I'm not sure I'll get three hours to spare before the torch goes out. A silver would be nice, and a gold would be wonderful, but I'm just not sure it's going to happen.

Tonight, I'm getting together with the Friday-night-after-work-crowd, Saturday morning I have to go shopping for a birthday party later on that afternoon, and Sunday I'm meeting a friend for brunch at noontime. I might get the required seven to eight hours of knitting in if I get up early tomorrow and Sunday, and also go right home and knit Sunday afternoon after stuffing my face with hash browns and mimosas, but I'm not too hopeful.

I can, however, take advantage of the time difference and get the few hours extra after the real flame has been extinguished but not yet aired on American tv, though, can't I? I did have to wait to cast on until the Opening Ceremonies took place on tv, so the time difference between the actual torch lighting and the tv airing was there at the beginning. I think I'm just going to have to claim the make-up lag at the end.

Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a bumpy weekend!

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Knitting Olympics Update

Well, here we are just a few short days until the Knitting Olympics are over, and I have some less-than-ideal news to report.


I only have 4 hats ready for donation. Two modified
Tychus hats from knitty.com, one stockinette striped in navy and denim, and one 3x3 rib in brown and black.



In my own defense, however, I had to make an emergency hat for Kirk last night, so I have knitted 5 hats since opening ceremonies [only one of them isn't available for donation, so I can't add it to my total]. Lame excuse? Yeah, I thought so, too. This is the Knitting Olympics after all, and just like in baseball, there's no crying in the Olympics (except, of course, when standing with a gold medal swinging around your neck, listening to the uplifting, emotional strains of "The Star Spangled Banner").


If the goal was eight hats, that means producing 8 would have been a gold medal, 7 a silver, and 6 a bronze, right? So as it stands right now, I still have a chance to catch up a bit and at least qualify for a bronze. That would be one medal more than Bode Miller, though. Poor guy - everyone had such high hopes for him 11 days back. As of this morning, he still does have one chance left - let's all give a resounding "Go Bode!" Ready? 1...2...3...Go Bode!

As I am sure you can see in the pic, I did end up buying two skeins of camouflage yarn - one the traditional green/brown/black and one in desert tan/brown/grey. You can see the desert camouflage Tychus in the pic, and at this very moment, I have on the needles a quarter of a Tychus, in the green-based camouflage. This green one is really coming out great - I definately see myself making another after all of this cutthroat competition is over.


Wish me luck for the rest of the week, OK? Minimum of 2 to go, still aiming for 4...

I'll keep you posted.