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January 30, 2009

Yipes! Stripes!

(with apologies to both Fruit Stripe gum and Biscuits and Jam)

Schondy and I were out walking the dog a couple weeks ago and there was a woman also out walking. We got stopped at an intersection, where I noticed the scarf she was wearing. It was fascinating - it started out with just flat stripes on the ends, done in several colors, and then gradually switched so it was these really deep zigzag chevrons. So as soon as I got home, I started poking around online to see if I could find a pattern for something like that.

A couple hours and many, many fruitless searches later, I gave up. But in my searching, I ran across some other websites I'd seen before, including Biscuits and Jam, where you can select a set of colors and stripe widths and then get back a randomly generated list of colors. This comes in really handy for those of us who knit and need some inspiration on how wide to make stripes.

Well, I poked at it for a little while, but discovered there were a few little things I wanted it to do that it just wouldn't do. I tried cracking her website open to get at the code (I assume it's a woman, but I suppose I really don't know), but decided I just didn't feel right stealing her hard work, and thought that I could write something that would do what I wanted without using someone else's work.

So, I wrote my own. Presenting: The Peanut Gallery's very own Random Stripe Generator. I suppose if you're not a knitter or otherwise crafty person, this holds very little interest for you. But for me? I could sit there, hitting "Randomize All" all day and not get bored. And if you find one you really like - a color combo that just really works for you and you'd like to share it - grab the color list and email it to me. If you suggest a name for the color set, I'll put it in the dropdown so you (and everyone else) can get back to it.

Oh, and in case you were wondering - yes, the header really does regenerate randomly every time you load the page. :-) Because I could.

January 29, 2009

The Knitwit Papers, Chapter XX: Pleated Tea Cozy #1

Date Begun: 08/14/2008
Date Completed: 08/29/2008
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Autumn Red and Lemonade
Needles: US7 DPN (metal)
US8 DPN (metal)
Source: Grannie's Traditional Tea Cozy from teabythesea
The Story:
Believe it or not, there are knitted things for which their patterns are famous. Some of the tiny details vary, but the idea is the same. In this case, the pattern is known as a pleated tea cozy and no one's quite sure when or where it originated, but the consensus is that it's at least 50 years old (probably much more). Most of the folks on Ravelry who have made one did so because they remember the one their mother/grandmother had and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I don't remember anyone ever having one of these - probably because there's not much call for hot tea in the South.
So why did I make a vintage tea cozy if not for nostalgic reasons? Honestly, it was because I couldn't figure out how it worked by looking at pictures and I needed to make one to see how it was done. I had run across a picture of one... somewhere... and thought it was fascinating. So I made one.
In retrospect, perhaps red and yellow were not the best choices for colors, given that we have a lavender tea pot and a green tea pot, but I honestly wasn't really planning on keeping it. Since this was my first try, it has some issues and I think I could do a better job if I tried again. So if anyone's interested in a tea cozy, I'd be happy to take another stab at it.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, it really does keep your tea hotter for longer. Because of the way it's knit, it has lots and lots of air pockets trapped between multiple layers of yarn. The design works better for English tea pots (the spout is usually lower) than for Japanese tea pots, but now that I know what I'm doing, I bet I could modify it a bit to fit a Japanese tea pot better.

January 25, 2009

Economy++

Oh, Internets. We did a thing yesterday. It was an expensive thing, but it sure made us smile. We bought two (yes, two!!) new cars. And we officially became THOSE people. Schondy and I are now the proud owners of a shiny pair of Mini Coopers. We never thought it would happen, and certainly didn't set out yesterday to do this, but, well, there it is.

So. Schondy has his cute little commuter car for driving over the hill. It's a 2009 Mini Cooper S in Pure Silver with a black cloth checkerboard interior. When he took possession of it, it had 3 miles on the odometer. :-) It has built-in Bluetooth so he can talk on the phone without taking his hands off the wheel, voice dialing (still need to set that up), a built in iPod connector, automatic air conditioner, windshield wipers, headlights and rearview mirror, and (reportedly) gets 32 miles to the gallon.

I have a cute little commuter car, too, but mine can also haul groceries and carry passengers in the back seat comfortably thanks to the additional suicide door on the passenger side. I have a 2009 Mini Cooper Clubman S in Hot Chocolate with Hot Chocolate leather interior. When I took possession of it, it had 8 miles on the odometer. And I have all the same features he does, PLUS 9 more inches of length. and half an inch of headroom. Completely by accident, I also managed to match my car to my dog. :-)

The funny thing is that until a week ago, we both swore we would never even consider Minis. I had ridden in one once a couple years ago and thought it felt like two chairs strapped to the inside of a tin can hurtling down the freeway. Schondy thought they were just goofy little hatchbacks with no power and even less personality. All that changed a week ago, when we were out walking the dog and discussing cars. He had been toying with the idea of getting a Prius and I was thinking about getting a Toyota Matrix. He was really concerned about gas mileage and I really wanted something that was small and sporty, but also would hold people and groceries when necessary. I made an offhand comment: "have you considered a Mini?" and we decided that maybe we should swing by the dealership since it was on our walking route.

So we did. And we sat in a couple of the cars and both said, "hm. Perhaps things have changed and maybe we should come back minus Lulu to see how these things drive."

So we did. We traded in our old cars (a 2001 Limited Edition PT Cruiser in Inferno Red and a 2001 Saturn L200 in Navy Blue) for next-to-nothing, BUT we managed to milk the failing economy a bit so that we don't exactly feel cheated on that score. Funny things happen when you walk into a car dealership and tell the salesman you want... two of them. (We'll take two - they're small) Suddenly, they agreed to waive the dealer markup. And knock off an additional $500 from each. And throw in some floor mats. And pay for half of Schondy's bonnet stripes. And give us free theft insurance. And 80% off of Appearance Insurance (yes, there is such a thing). And 8 hours later, we drove off the lot with two shiny new cars.

We have a lot of configuration to do, but it was time for both of us to upgrade and it just worked out nicely that we both fell in love with the same type of car.

January 16, 2009

The Knitwit Papers, Chapter XIX: Hope's Fingerless Gloves

Date Begun: 07/27/2008
Date Completed: 08/02/2008
Yarn: Moda Dea Cartwheel in Bronzeberry
Needles: US8 DPN (metal)
Source: My own pattern - Hope's Fingerless Gloves
The Story:
Hey, Imler? You were totally right - as Schondy told you in the comments, there is, in fact, exactly the community you thought there must be. And I'm a card-carrying member. :-)

Turns out I'm not as odd as you might think for this knitting thing. Turns out there are thousands (potentially millions) of us in the world - normal, young, happy people who use knitting as a way to unwind, relax and make something useful in the process. And there is an online community for us, too. It's called Ravelry and it's probably the website I visit most often. The best part about Ravelry (and I HIGHLY recommend that if you're a knitter or a crocheter, you should join Ravelry) is that you can search for patterns, for yarn or for projects using a particular combination of yarn and needles on a particular pattern. It means you're not just guessing what might happen if you knit a sweater out of dog hair. There's probably someone else who's already tried it and can tell you what might happen. I spend stupid amounts of time at this website.

Within Ravelry, there are hundreds of different sub-groups of people. You're welcome to join any group that strikes your fancy, so if you're interested in chatting with people about dachshunds or chocolate or the phases of the moon or you're really crazy about knitting cabled things or... well, just about anything, there's probably a group out there. One of my favorite groups that I'm a member of (I've joined 35 of them) is the Caffeine Addicts. This particular group has a "swap" every few months, where everyone gets the name and home address of one other member and then we send little packages of goodies to each other. It's cheesy, I know, but it's a great way to get new and interesting coffee, yarn and knitting toys that you never thought of before.

ANYwho. A few months ago, one of these "Yarn and Coffee Swaps" happened and the instructions were to send along some coffee or tea (on account of tea having caffeine, too) from an interesting source, some stitch markers and a handmade item of some sort. It's common, when doing a swap, to "stalk" your partner to figure out some personal things about them in addition to whatever standard questions are asked in the questionnaire (name, address, what is your favorite color, what kind of coffee do you like). My partner had a dog, lived in a part of the country where it gets cold and seemed to be my age or younger. So I made up this pattern based on some previous projects I'd done (notably the fingerless gloves I originally made for Schondy) and used the cabling skills I got from another project that I'm working on.

And this is the result. I love, love, love the yarn, but have been completely unable to find it since I got the two skeins for this project (though I haven't given up hope just yet - eBay to the rescue). It comes in beautiful colors and it was absolutely perfect for what I was going for. If making them again, I might omit the portion of the cable that goes across the palm. I wrote up the directions partly for me, but partly for the girl who received the gift. She asked me to write up the pattern because other people saw the ones I made and asked for some of their own. So as soon as I have the pattern in a form that's readable by people other than me, I plan to post it here.

You can also see the stitch markers I made to include in the gift. She said she really liked ocean/earth colors and that was my interpretation of what she might like.

Update March 3, 2009: I posted my pattern to Ravelry and people liked it! Hooray for me!

January 14, 2009

The Knitwit Papers, Chapter XVIII: Bamboo Baby Hat

Date Begun: 06/13/08
Date Completed: 06/14/2008
Yarn: Bernat Bamboo Natural Blends in Linen and Corn
Needles: US6 Circular (metal)
Source: Elf Hats - Tea Cozy Crown from Charmed Knits
The Story:
Honestly, not much of a story here. There are mucho babies coming. This hat was cute. I wanted something really quick and really soft. Thus, baby hat. Yes, it's really made out of 100% bamboo. It's really, really soft and I plan to make more of them.

I wish there was more to say, here, because, well, it's a blog and blogs are so you can say stuff. But there it is. Bamboo baby hat.

The Knitwit Papers, Chapter XVII: My So-called Ribbon Scarf

Date Begun: 05/02/08
Date Completed: 06/08/2008
Yarn: Tess' Designer Yarns Microfiber Ribbon in Blue
Needles: US6 Circular (metal)
Source: My So-Called Scarf from Imagiknit
The Story:
Let me start by saying that I H-A-T-E these pictures. They don't show the scarf off very well and I look terrible. I really need to take new pictures, but... I suppose I'm lazy. Anyway. This was one of those projects that I felt like I had to do not because I wanted to, but because I needed to use this yarn that was so expensive and pretty, but basically unusable for any kind of "reasonable" project.

I bought the yarn at Stitches a couple years ago kind of on a whim. It was very, very pretty and so very soft to touch. I absolutely fell in love with it and bought two skeins, thinking I'd figure out some amazing thing to make with it. Cut to a year later, when I still hadn't figured it out. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that this stuff is CRAZY slippery. Yes, it's really soft, but when you pick it up, it just slides through your fingers. And I knit on metal needles almost exclusively, so I knew this was going to be a very long adventure in hand cramps as I tried to keep the yarn on the needles.

Faced with this gorgeous, expensive, slippery yarn and no idea what to make, I hit the internet, hoping for inspiration, and found the "My So-Called Scarf". It looked like it would be good for showing off the color and drape of the yarn without being overly complicated or fiddly for this stuff that was going to be hard to work with no matter what. And I'm reasonably pleased with the result. The scarf has a tendency to sag under its own weight and I'm sure that with extended wear, it will eventually start to fray at the ends, but it's really soft and has a great feel. Sadly, it only used half the yarn, so I have another whole skein that needs to be worked.

Anyone else have any great ideas for what to do with it? I'm tapped...


January 13, 2009

The Knitwit Papers, Chapter XVI: Baby Blanket 1

Okay, a quick note. I've been sitting on the posts for my knitting projects for a very long time now. It's not that I haven't been knitting - I have. But a large percentage of my projects have been gifts for the various women in my life who are expecting babies. But I have to tell you - the backlog has gotten a little out of hand. I counted it up and realized I had something like 13 projects that had not been posted and my list is just getting longer.

So in the interest of preserving my sanity, I'm going to just post everything. If you are currently pregnant and you see a baby gift posted here, it might be for you. It might not (at last count there were something like 10 of you and while I love you all, I simply don't have enough time or hands to make one of everything for every baby). If you see something listed that you like that I don't end up giving to you, please, by all means, let me know! I'll make you one! Happy to do so! The ones listed here are already spoken for, but I'm forever looking for willing recipients of my projects and I love knowing what people would like ahead of time, before I spent the days/weeks/months to make something.

So without further ado, let the flood begin! I hope to post ~1 of these a day for the next couple weeks. We'll see how far I get.

Date Begun: 10/14/2007
Date Completed: 02/04/2008
Yarn: Lion Brand Pound of Love in White
Needles: US10 Circular (metal)
Source: My own pattern - The Baby Shimizu Blanket
The Story:
This is a blanket I designed kind of organically. I started out thinking I wanted something with an interesting border and then kind of a personalized something-or-other in the middle. I liked the idea of a basketweave, so I just kind of cast on with that much of a plan and went plowing along for as long as it made sense. I wish I could say I had some sort of larger plan in mind, but I really didn't.

I put the center thing in as a basketweave block with a border around it, and decided it needed a nice border around the whole blanket to even it out. When it was all finished, it had a couple problems that I was trying to deal with - namely, the edges curled due to the stockinette stitch and the basketweave is beautiful from the front and U-G-L-Y from the back. So I decided to line the whole thing with some very soft baby flannel. I was also thinking the flannel would help make it a bit warmer since the yarn is acrylic and that isn't exactly known for its warmth. Given that the babies that are coming are all being born to mothers who are a little older (NOT old, just not 19, either), I was looking to make the whole thing a bit more sophisticated and thought a green backing would elevate it a little.

So before i attached the back to the knitted top, I used my handy-dandy embroidery machine to tag it with my personal knitting logo, done in some nursery-friendly colors. Adding the backing certainly flattened out the edges a little, but the more important function of covering the back of the basketweave was definitely a good move. Then I went over the whole thing, tie-quilting it with white yarn. You can't really see it well in the pictures, but it's a great detail that I think is absolutely adorable.

The good news is that this one was very quick and the final product encompasses everything I think a baby blanket should be - warm, cute, machine-washable and definitely made with a lot of love. :-)

Update March 3, 2009: I posted my pattern to Ravelry and people liked it! Hooray for me!

Holy Cow! I totally forgot!

Okay, so this morning, I was poking through my email and reading websites and generally checking in on the world and I happened across this little gem from The Fail Blog:

First of all, DON'T PANIC. No, I was not on either of those planes. I have not been injured or anything like that. But it did remind me of a little event that happened as Schondy and I were coming home from Mexico. I can't believe I forgot about this! It was crazy!

I know I said the trip home was totally smooth, but that was because I totally forgot about the thing that happened when we landed in Memphis. We were on this tiny little plane. It held, like, 45 people. It was teensy. Why is this important? Well, the wings on teensy little planes, when they land, are really close to the ground. I mean, when you're on a 777, the wings are, like, 7 feet off the ground. They go right over the people, the cars, the baggage carts and anything else that might be in its path.

So we were on this teensy plane, and I just happened to be watching out the window as we pulled into the gate. Since I'm used to being on the bigger planes, I was thinking the wings were way high off the ground like usual, and as we pulled in the gate and the baggage handlers were standing right there with their baggage cart, I didn't really think about it... Until we started getting closer to the people and they started moving out of the way of the wing and I realized the baggage cart was... not getting out of the way of the wing. The baggage cart was pushed up against a concrete barrier and couldn't be moved.

So the plane hit the baggage cart. The last 2 feet of the wing slid right in to the open side of the baggage cart, pushing the cart hard up against the concrete barrier, shaking the entire plane and completely surprising the baggage handlers who were standing RIGHT THERE! The pilot came on the speaker and told us we were just a foot or two shy of the ramp and that they'd have things sorted soon. I guessed that was... probably not true, because since I had the window seat, I had a great angle on the happenings.

I watched as the baggage handlers brought over their manager. And then that manager brought over his manager. And then that manager brought over the pilot. And the pilot brought over his manager and... well, you get the idea. They all poked at the damage (not major, but certainly not something you WANT happening to the leading edge of a wing), scratched their heads and generally stared at each other. At some point, they realized that perhaps this was not a good reason to keep the plane's passengers captive and they let us off the plane, ending our ogling of their shame.

So we were not hurt, we were never in any danger, and no one else was hurt or in any danger, though the baggage handlers may have been in danger of losing their jobs. And I'm reasonably sure that plane didn't fly anymore that day. It probably still isn't flying 2 weeks later. I wish I had a picture of the crazy, but you'll just have to imagine what it looked like. Oops.

January 10, 2009

Check Us Out!

Check out the pretty pictures!


Sometimes the randomest pictures on the whole trip are some of the best. We weren't too tired or too sick or squinting into the sun or anything, so this picture is probably one of my favorites. If we could cut out the silly mariachi man, I'm sure it would be even better. :-)


Later in the same day, we did a dune buggy tour of Progreso to some Mayan ruins, where the tour guides grabbed this shot of the two of us with my brother. They, of course, wanted a stupid amount of money for the picture, but I loved it, so I went ahead and got it. The original is a little blurry from the cheap printing, but I like it anyway.


We got a great group shot of the entire family, but Schondy and I wanted some pictures of just the two of us because things have changed a bit since our last formal cruise photos. So here's the one of both of us. The photographer was quite a character, but you have to admit that he did a beautiful job, no matter how nutty he was.


I made sure to tell the photographer to back up enough to get the shoes.


Well, internets, what do you think? Do I look better?... Why, yes, I AM fishing for compliments. I think I've earned them. :-)
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