Cheer to Science! And Beer. Dogfish Head Beer, that is.

I nearly forgot to blog about this amazing event my husband and I went to last month called, “Cheers to Science: A Drinkable Feast of Beer, Biotechnology and Archaeology” hosted at Mario Batali’s, “Eataly” in NYC. What an amazing event! If you’re into the science of beer making, it was worth  the hassle (and the coin) to go. The event was bilked as a a casual conversation between Sam Calagione and Professor Patrick McGovern about how they, together, developed Dogfish Head‘s “Ancient Ales” series of beer.

The event started out in their cooking demo room downstairs.

They gave us beer and cheese/chocolate pairings.

These were no 2 ounce pours, either.

Then we headed upstairs to the rooftop bar – yes! – and got a peek into the Dogfish Head brew room that they maintain at “Eataly.” By this time, most of the people at the event had moved on but a small, faithful bunch of us Dogfish groupies stayed on and I’m glad we did as we were given a sample of the wort of an Etruscan ale that’s not yet in production. What a treat! That’s Sam on the right doing the pour. And yes, it was delish!

Considering that we barely made it to the event because we nearly missed the train, it was such a treat to hang out on the rooftop bar with the retractable roof pulled back in full view of the Flatiron Building and just take in the good beer and company.

It was truly a memorable evening.


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Ravelympics 2012: US Olympic Committee DENIGRATES Crocheters & Knitters Alike

Stephen Colbert's Artificial Swedener & Ravelympics

Stephen Colbert’s Artificial Swedener & Ravelympics

The US Olympic Committee has gone and done it again. They’ve managed to stoke the fire of yet another marginalized group of people: crocheters and knitters. Apparently intentionally underfunding the Paralympics and their treatment of the Cowichan Tribes during the Vancouver Games wasn’t enough, but now they’ve focused their laser beam sites on Ravelry, a popular online forum that hosts the “Ravelympics,” a global viewing party for the Olympics. This time, however, they’re in way over their heads as crocheters and knitters are a global force to be reckoned with.

It all began when Gawker ran an article about a cease and desist letter that co-founders Casey and Jessica received from Brett Hirsch, a law clerk for the US Olympic Committee (USOC) seeking to end the use of the name “Ravelympics” as well as a host of patterns that are Olympic-themed. In the letter, it asks for several steps to be taken and states:

“The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them. For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career. Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes. The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The spirit of the Ravelympics, for those who aren’t familiar with them, is that crocheters and knitters compete against themselves to make the most amount of projects while watching the games. It’s main purpose is in support of the Olympic Games. It’s an international viewing party for the Games. It brings diverse groups of people together from all over the globe to share in a common interest: needle arts. Ravelry.com doesn’t collect any money for or profit from Ravelympics as does the USOC who receive millions of dollars from sponsors who license the trademark. So it smacks of elitism for the USOC on one hand to suggest that the Games “…encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony” but on the other hand act in direct accordance with those beliefs by issuing the following attack on crafters:

We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

Those are some harsh, unnecessary words. Denigrate? Really, USOC? Those comments insult literally millions of men and women who crochet and knit for pleasure or profit in every country around this world, those very same people who support the Olympics and the ideals it bestows. The carefully scripted word selection demeans the very act of making an afghan, a sock, a sweater, etc as denegrating the Olympics and all Olympians. I find that rather disingenuous considering one of the featured art installations for the 2012 Olympic Games in London are to be a trio of lions…you guessed it…created by needleworker Shauna Richardson. These gigantic crocheted lions took nearly 7 months a piece to create. That in and of itself is an Olympic feat that I’d like to see anyone from the USOC tackle. And so is knitting and crocheting for that matter. If you’ve ever had to work a quadruple treble crochet stitch I can attest that it’s like an ice skater doing a quadruple salchow.

But back to the point and for me it boils down to this: It’s one thing to want to protect trademarks and copyrights. I get that. And, I support that wholly. Copyright and trademark infringement is a concern that all businesses have to face daily. And if Ravelry, in their support of the Olympics, has mistakenly used the namesake without authorization or in compliance with the law, then they should change the name. I get it. I’m saddened by it, but I totally get it.

However, to throw a jab at needleworkers in the process, is uncalled for. Brett Hirsch, the law clerk who wrote the letter on behalf of the USOC, has ignited a firestorm from knitters and crocheters alike on Twitter (An aside: I find it not so surprising he penned this letter seeing how he is a former water polo player and might have a vested interest in athletics as a whole). But perhaps a little knowledge on his part in understanding that knitting was an Olympic sport before the USOC was even formed might put a different lens on the situation, an educational lens.

As of 11pm last night, needleworkers like myself have banded together to raise awareness for the Ravelympics by making it a trending topic on Twitter. It only took 45 minutes for the yarnies to “release the Kraken” on Brett and the entire USOC before it trended. The power of social media notwithstanding, I think an apology is in order. I believe the way to get it is to reach out to the tastemakers like Stephen Colbert who is, and I laugh while I say this, actively seeking to take over Sweden’s twitter account (they let one Swedish citizen a day do it) by promoting that he’s an “artificial Swedener.” Many knitters and crocheters have offered to make his socks, scarves, etc. if he takes up our cause and promotes it on his show. If anything, this whole debacle is certainly worth a good laugh on his show.

So, tweet @StephenAtHome, @USOlympic (NOT OlympicS), and @BAHirsch and include the #Ravelympics hashtag to join in on the fun as well as the wrath.

I think the next time the US Olympic Committee wants to marginalize another group, they ought to first research that group. There are many more of us than they think.

UPDATE: The no-apology came in. And then there was an addendum to the no-pology. I’ve recommended that they retract the original letter sent to Ravelry founders, Casey and Jessica. And if they’d like to get on the winning end of a good PR strategy, they’d take this as a learning opportunity and allow Ravelympics to continue and request that items made during the crocheting and knitting events be donated to the athletes. That’s how you win friends and influence people properly.


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Beer and Hook Jaunt into NYC: How to Spend a Perfect Afternoon in the City

I arrived home from work on Wednesday afternoon with contained excitement about the impending 4-day weekend coming up, wanting to do something with the time instead of wasting away sitting here at the computer. A jaunt into the city to partake in some beer and hooky delight with my husband and our friend, Steve, was at the top of the list of great ideas and soon a plan came together.

First stop: The Blind Tiger. Known for their killer tap list, I immediately pounced on the cask beer list (my favorite style of beer) and downed a Black Jack/Warrior Cask Ale by Left Hand Brewing Company.

UH-MAY-ZING. Amazing.

We pulled up a couple short stools next to the fireplace (which wasn’t on during this sunny, beautiful 80 degree day) and I pulled out my hook and got down to business. My beer was gone pretty quickly, as happens with cask conditioned beer, so I ordered a He’Brew Hop Manna IPA by Shmaltz Brewing Company. Another fine choice. I sat here sipping my beer enjoying the sunshine filtering in from the large propped open windows. Perfect day!

By then the bar started getting packed and I was happy to be hooking away in my quiet spot amongst all the merriment of a Friday afternoon. It was then that I began noticing lots of guys in uniform as though the entire naval fleet had let out in NYC.

The last beer I had before we headed out was a good ol’ standby beer: a Dogfish 90 Minute IPA. At this point, I’d been working out an idea for the side portion of handbag design and had finally figured it out when we decided it was time for something else to fill up our stomachs: pizza.

Next stop: Rattle N Hum. Another craft beer bar with an amazingly long list of bottles and taps. I settled on another cask style beer: Hop Head Red by Green Flash Brewing Co. I enjoyed long sips of it while I continued to work out my design, albeit in must less light and in a rowdy crowd of both Rangers and Devils fans who were tuned into the game on the many tv’s overhead. The bar was busy but not as packed as the last time I came here. I don’t recommend trying to do a lot of hooking in here if you have bad eyesight because it’s a pretty dark bar.

We left after one drink, knowing we had one more beer bar stop. A quick stop into another pizza place to lay down more base for this last stop and we were on the way.

Last stop: The Ginger Man. Another incredible bar that boasts a super long list of taps and bottles, I ordered a dessert beer: Chocolate Porter by Defiant Brewing Co. and one of their awesome cinnamon sugar pretzels that comes with yummy cream cheese. Both were gone rather quickly and by then, it was time to leave. So sad!

On the way to the train station, I snapped a few pictures of some buildings that just seemed so electric to me. It was like having a free light show at the end of the evening.

I’ve decided that a beer and yarn store crawl are next in order. I’m going to be spending some time mapping out some places to hit real soon.

Summer, here I come!


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Super Sidekick Kitty Helps Me Watercolor Paint

This kitty cracks me up. Her silliness is boundless. She continually does things that make myself and Mr. NexStitch laugh, smile, and otherwise forget the everyday stresses of life.

Case in Point: Last month I decided, after seeing a picture of some watercolor/pen&ink driftwood paintings in a book, that I’d paint some of the driftwood I expunged from the beach in Sandy Hook.

I set out my paints and things on the floor in my office and began my task.

Watercolor Paintin' with Kitty

At some point, kitty decided to get in on the action, assisting me in my brush selection.

Watercolor Paintin' with Kitty

Watercolor Paintin' with Kitty

Watercolor Paintin' with Kitty

Watercolor Paintin' with Kitty

It’s a miracle I was able to finish the piece.

Driftwood from Sandy Hook, NJ by Amie

"Driftwood from Sandy Hook, NJ" by Amie


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High-Def Crochet Tutorial Videos in the Making (Or, “How I Managed to Spend the Last Two Days of My Spring Break.”)

Crochet Tutorial Video Set-up

V-Day. It’s here. No, not Valentine’s Day all you lovers. Video Day. The day I finally start re-shooting all my crochet videos in high definition.

The Husband bought an HD camera several months ago and I thought it was high time these videos get a make-over. Or, perhaps a complete do-over.

Gear

Crochet Tutorial Video Set-up

1. Flood lights with a diffuser soft box on tripods. Two lights, in fact, each positioned on either side of the work table.

2. Bounce. It does exactly what it sounds like it does. It bounces light into the shadows so the back side of the frame doesn’t look like a dark abyss.

3. Sing it, baby. It’s the mic, carefully positioned so that it’s close enough to my mouth to not pick up room noise but far enough away that I don’t sound like I’m breathing heavily all over it.

4. The camera, positioned high up and facing directly down on top of me so as to get a flat-facing view of what I’m doing.

5. Mini DVD player. Super old school, too. Bought this thing for The Husband nearly a grand over 8 years ago. Oiy. And it never gets used for DVDs. It acts as a monitor and displays whatever the camera is seeing. When I’m taping, I look at the DVD player so I know what the audience will see. It’s a thing of beauty.

6. Half sheet of birch plywood stained to match the trim in my office (it’s a homemade mix of some popular stain colors) thrown on top of a standard, two-level folding table.

Crochet Tutorial Video Set-up

Oh, and the yarn. I tried to match the website colors as much as possible. And this time around, I wanted a yarn that was thicker and a little more rigid so it would hold its own shape in the camera. I just needed something that was easier to see and would play nicely. It’s just some Sugar ‘N Cream yarn.

Is this the part you hope I don’t break a leg? Wait, that doesn’t exactly apply. Don’t break a vocal chord?


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And the NEW Winners of “Custom Crocheted Sweaters” are…

Dora Ohrenstein's "Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit"

So, I searched high and low trying to get in contact with the first two winners of the giveaway, but could not get in contact with them. I really, really tried!  So the new winners are…

Rebecca J

who said, “I’ve made several sweaters for me and have had to either frog them or give them to someone else because they didn’t fit. I would love to learn how to crochet a properly fitting garment.”

and

Tina Rey

who said, “I am in the middle of making my first sweater vest right now, and i am having problems with the lapel area and attaching it to the vest body, my stitch count seems to be continuously off and this book is on my wishlist already so that hopefully the next sweater i make will work out much better in its construction! Thank you for the review of this and offering one up!”

Congrats to the new winners! I’ve sent you an email. Be sure to look out for it! And if I don’t hear from you soon, I just might have to pick new winners again.


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And the Winner of “Custom Crocheted Sweaters is…”

Dora Ohrenstein's "Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit"

Jenn McMillan!

Congrats Jenn! Your post to Pinterest won you the book. Please send me an email at blog[at]nexstitch.com and I will get your contact information over to the fine folks at Lark 

Ohhhhh, but I’m not done yet, folks.

Nope. Not done.

I have an extra copy of the book to give away. You heard that correctly. I have my own copy to give out.

Nezka Pfeifer!

Also, another Pinterest entry won it! Send me an email, too, and I’ll get it to you.

BIG thank you to EVERYONE on Pinterest, Twitter, and this here little blog for participating! I little birdie told me that Dora might be having her own contest on her site, so keep your eyes pealed on Crochet Insider for your next chance to win.

I didn’t comment on all your awesome posts while the contest was going on, but you had a lot of great things to say. It seems like the issue of fit is a major concern with crocheters alike in delving into their first garment. Dora’s book is a great place to start to get tips, tricks, and suggestions, so if you didn’t win, I recommend checking it out. It’s an awesome book.


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Review & Giveaway: “Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments That Really Fit” by Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein's "Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit"

ENTRIES FOR THE GIVEAWAY ARE NOW CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who participated! I enjoyed reading all your responses. A winner will be selected at random later on today. Good luck everyone!

REVIEW

Making crocheted sweaters can be a daunting challenge for a novice wanting to improve his or her skills. It’s risky business to spend lots of money on a pile of yarn in the hopes that it will transform into something wearable. Bonus points if you fall in love with it.

But what if you pour your heart into a garment and it doesn’t fit right? How do you determine where you went wrong and what you’d do differently the next time around so that you are more successful in your craft? Enter Dora Ohrenstein‘s latest book, “Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments That Really Fit.”

Floating Tee

Right from the get-go, Dora sets a comfortable tone with her readers in addressing the possible fears they might have in making garments which range from not knowing one’s own body measurements to picking the wrong type of yarn. Then she sets out on a systematic, well-scripted endeavor in replacing her readers fears with knowledge about garment construction, yarn choice, body measurements, fit, reading schematics, shaping, altering, and finishing. And she does all of this under the guise that you’re creating art from your craft, a sentiment that is carried throughout the book as each sweater is introduced.

The spirit of this book is about empowering crocheters to create sweaters that will become timeless pieces in their wardrobe by understanding their own body size, the measurements of their favorite sweater(s), and how to calculate changes in fit. Dora manages to achieve this without confusing the reader by giving many clear examples in a manner that’s both conversational and educational, and by explaining terms that might be unfamiliar which I find refreshing after having perused and even purchased other similar books. Like rungs on a ladder, I’m incredibly impressed with how she takes the reader from one established understanding of thought to another newer one further up the ladder, building on knowledge and thereby gaining the confidence of the reader; fear is overshadowed by fact.

Cream Puff

The best such case of this is in the section entitled, “Shaping and Alteration 101″ in which Dora outlays the logical steps one would take to make changes in either width or length using gauge. If it isn’t clear just how important or necessary it is to create a swatch from the gauge before beginning – and you know you’ve questioned the purpose of this little menial task – Dora illustrates through example how useful it can be in calculating the right fit for your garment (so do it!) And yes, you will see math in this book, but don’t be afraid because each calculation is backed up with very clear explanations which help demystify it all (and that’s coming from someone who isn’t very mathy).

And then there are the sweaters, which don’t disappoint.

Each garment introduced is an opportunity to learn something new and is packed with illustrations, stitch diagrams, and schematics (hurrah!). At the conclusion of the pattern, Dora explains the construction details as well as how to substitute yarn. But the real gem of each? It’s the “lessons” that accompany them. The reader is given a first-class seat behind the designing wheel of each pattern, beginning with the Floating Tee where Dora carefully lays out how to alter body and sleeve lengths in a dropped shoulder construction all the way to learning how to change length, waist and bust measurements in a round yoke, top-down sweater like Cream Puff. Even if you’re not a round yoke, sweater-wearing kind of person (like myself), I highly recommend you read each and every “lesson” to increase your knowledge in these areas.

Fiji Cardi

My absolute favorite pattern is Fiji Cardi. And I’m in love with Dora’s under-the-hood explanation of how to adjust the armhole and sleeve caps in this fitted sleeve sweater. I’m blown away by her attention to detail and willingness to guide the reader through each and every step in getting the best fit. She’s covered all the permutations in making adjustments to both and still turn out an altered sleeve that will fit the body portion; she doesn’t leave you hanging hoping it will turn out alright on its own, so much so that she’s dedicated two full pages to it.

Other favorites that I adore include Eleganza Raglan (a great weekend at the beach kind of sweater), Floating Tee (a perfect accompaniment to a lovely skirt for work) and Cream Puff (a comfy-looking, every day kind of sweater). Again, each is accompanied by a lesson or two in how to alter it and each is worth a read.

Honestly, who ever thought you could buy a book that is teeming with such a wealth of knowledge about tailoring crocheted garments to your body and include an abundance of fabulous, wearable patterns that incorporate detailed instructions on how to alter them? There hasn’t been a single book on the market that does that for me, until now. And if you haven’t checked out Dora’s first book, ”Creating Crochet Fabric: Experimenting with Hook, Yarn, and Stitch,” do so. It’s a great prequel to “Custom Crocheted Sweaters.”

Eleganza Raglan

BRAVO DORA!

And now it’s your turn. Lark Crafts, the publisher of “Custom Crocheted Sweaters” is allowing me to give away one book to one of my lucky readers.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Rules: To enter to win a copy of  ”Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments That Really Fit” by crochet designer Dora Ohrenstein, leave a comment on this post by midnight, EST. on Monday, April 2, 2012 telling me about your garment-making errors in the past and how this book might help you. One winner will be chosen on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 via random.org.

Extra ways to enter to win: Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter (include @NexStitch in your tweet so I see it!). Or, follow me on Pinterest and comment on or re-pin one of these sweaters that I’ve pinned to my board called, “Crochet/Knit Pretties.” These will count as a separate entries, giving you more of a chance to win because free stuff is cool, right?

P.S. Comment moderation is on (as always).


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Another Warm, Beautiful Winter Day in New Jersey

Winter? Warm? Oh yes, people. It’s been warm and it’s been lovely.

Sandy Hook, NJ on a glorious winter day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really lovely.

Uprooted tree on the beach in Sandy Hook, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like 70 degrees lovely.

Toppled trees in Sandy Hook, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a few hours to kill a couple weeks ago in between a long day at work, so the moment I could, I made a beeline straight for the beach. Sandy Hook, to be exact. It’s the home of Fort Hancock, a old Army artillery base which sits the northern most point on this large sand spit, and boasts beautiful views of the New York harbor.

It was so warm in fact on this day, that I watched one man windsurfing and another man jet skiing on the bayside of Sandy Hook, NJ. Two other guys were actually swimming and it wasn’t even the Ides of March!

Fort Hancock at the tip of Sandy Hook, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s also a great place to collect shells and driftwood, which was my goal of the afternoon.

Driftwood from Sandy Hook, NJ

Mussel Shells from Sandy Hook, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m hoping to make something for my office with my finds.


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A Shopping We Will Go.

Here are a few things I’ve been gathering here in the office once I’m ready to start decorating. I’ve been hung-up on what to do for a side table and shelves. I think I’ve gone round-robin on all the possibilities countless times.

I bought this on "The Foundry" website for $22. Not bad. It's actually a decent-sized vase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I picked out a table on Crate and Barrel that I like but I’m worried that it’s too dark and won’t stand out against the dark chair I have that’ll sit next to it. And I’ve been unusually indecisive about shelves. I’d prefer them to be floating shelves but I’m running into the same issue: if they’re too dark, it’s all going to look like a dark abyss in my office nook.

I bought this at Pier-1. While it wasn't on sale, I cashed in two gift cards I'd received for Christmas that I don't personally shop at. I exchanged those cards for a Pier-1 card at a discounted price, which saved me some money on this purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So until I get things squared away, I’m buying things that I see that are at a good price.

I got this frame on sale for $20. I thought that was a steal of a price. It's a rather large frame made with little shells. Love, love, love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could shop all day. I like a bargain.

Kitty likes to get in on the action too. She's sniffing some shells I bought. She was convinced I'd procured her something from the sea as a late night snack. Not a chance.

I wound up doing OK at TJMaxx. I found a bunch of shells, so much in fact that I had to restrain myself. I wound up leaving behind a driftwood mirror that I really wanted (and need to go back for).

If you’re into beach-themed stuff, check out my board on Pinterest.


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