Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20: A growler cozy, just because

My favourite kind of project is the one that involves making something just for the joy of figuring out how. It used to be a big part of my work as a craft editor, and now it's something I get to do just for fun.

I've got a friend who's as enthusiastic about brewing beer as I am about knitting. (Hi Andy!) Over Christmas, we got to comparing our hobbies, and as a result of that conversation I started thinking about beer cozies (and, of course, beer mitts). He countered with another idea: what about a growler cozy?

(This is where we pause for some context, in case you think I'm about to embark on knitting a sweater for an angry dog. This is a growler: 

A growler holds 1.89 litres of beer. They're usually available at microbreweries; they cost about $15, with a $3 or $4 bottle deposit. It's a pretty good deal, especially if you are a fan of delicious, delicious beer.)

So I Googled a bit and Ravel-ed a bit and didn't find much to inspire me. I thought a bit more, and then I discussed the idea with the wise ladies of the knitting circle, most of whom were a bit confused about why on earth I could possibly want to keep 1.89 litres of beer warm. 

(They've obviously never had to deal with having two growlers clinking around in the back seat on the way home from the brewery. But I digress.)

Anyway. So. Plain stockinette seemed a bit flimsy; growlers are heavy and plain stockinette just isn't up to the task. A felted cozy, on the other hand, would be just the ticket.

I picked up a couple skeins of Cascade 220, some 6.5 mm needles (they were like tree trunks; a full 4.25 mm bigger than my preferred needle size!) and duly made (and felted) a swatch. Who needs a gym membership when you have the option of standing over a sink of boiling water pummelling a scrap of knitting for an hour? Not this knitter.

At this point in the process, I was working with my swatch and a photo that Andy sent me of a growler with a construction measuring tape laid in front of it for scale... a couple quick measurements made on the fly using a ruler app. Easy, right? Right!

There followed some math. Rather a lot of math, actually, including some pi*r^2 action, which is some pretty serious business in my world, and extensive plotting of graduated increases.

 I'm pretty pleased with myself that my numbers even approached making sense. 

I started at the bottom, casting on 14 sts using Emily Ocker's circular cast-on (double-stranded yarn made for a super-sturdy knit, even pre-felting). Then I worked spiralling increase rows on alternate rows, continuing until the bottom reached 70 sts. A purl row indicates the bottom edge. To accommodate the shaping of the bottle, there is one final increase row an inch above the purl row, and a tapered double-decrease row (k2tog, SSK) an inch from the top. I finished things off with an i-cord bind-off: simple and clean.

The knitting was pretty straightforward and proceeded very quickly over a weekend at the yarn store, despite the fact that I took a break every 10 minutes to put it on my head. I got lots of compliments as it proceeded from pillbox hat to fez to floppy tuque. I'll happily spare you any photographic evidence of this part of the process.

At this point I toddled off to Mill St. Brewery to acquire a growler of my own for fitting and modelling purposes. You can see that it's practically dwarfed by the cozy, which was enormous pre-felting. I used every single inch of the red skein and about a third of the yellow.

If I thought that felting the swatch was hard work, I had another think coming. Using boiling water, lots of soap and even more elbow grease, it took almost two hours to felt the cozy to the point where it fit the bottle snugly. It could be a bit tighter at the top but I was reluctant to keep going – I didn't want to felt it too much and face the prospect of having to start all over again.

After an overnight on the radiator, it was ready for finishing. I needle-felted the end of the i-cord to the wrong side of the cozy to make a loop and then sewed on a toggle. The i-cord loop goes through the handle and loops around the toggle to hold everything in place.

Et voilĂ ! A felted growler cozy, a happy knitter and a happy brewer. What a satisfying project.

In case you'd like to make your own, here are the "pithy directions." (I like to think that Elizabeth Zimmermann, as the wife of a brewer, would be right on board with this project.) Please note that these directions are taken from my notes and haven't been tech-edited. You might choose to make your cozy shorter or narrower – feel free to improvise or adapt. Happy knitting!

Felted Growler Cozy – Pithy Directions
To ensure proper felting, make sure you use regular (not superwash) yarn that is 100% wool for this project.

MC: 1 skein Cascade 220 crimson (100 g/220 yds, colour 9404)
CC: 1 skein Cascade 220 gold (100 g/220 yds, colour 7827)
6.5 mm DPNs
6.5 mm 24” circular needle
Darning needle
1½” long toggle button (or other button)
Needle and thread to match

15 sts and 20 rows = 4” in St st* on 6.5 mm needles with yarn held double
*This is the gauge pre-felting. Gauge is not essential for this project.

Stitch glossary:
CO – cast on
K – Knit
kfb – knit front and back (increase)
k2tog – knit 2 together (right-leaning decrease)
P – purl
pm – place marker
psso – pass slipped stitch over
sl – slip
SSK – slip 2 sts as if to knit; insert left needle into front loop of both sts and k together through back loop (left-leaning decrease)

·      Working with MC and DPNs, with yarn held double, use Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast-On to CO 14 sts. PM to mark beginning of round.
·      Knit 1 round. Pull yarn tail tightly to close up hole.
·      Next round, set up increases and place additional markers as follows:
o   *K1, kfb, pm; repeat from * to end of round. (21 sts)
·      Next two rounds:
o   Knit, slipping markers as you come to them.
o   *K to 1 st before marker, kfb, sm; repeat from * to end of round. (28 sts)
·      Repeat last two rounds 6 more times – 70 sts on needles – switching to circular needle when necessary.
·      Purl 1 round.
·      Knit 5 rounds.
·      Final increase round:
o   *K9, kfb; repeat from * to end of round. (77 sts)
·      Next 35 rounds: K all sts.
o   To achieve stripe sequence shown:
-  K 10 rounds MC.
-  K 3 rounds CC.
-  K 2 rounds MC.
-  K 5 rounds CC.
-  K 2 rounds MC.
-  K 3 rounds CC.
-  K 10 rounds MC.
·      Decrease round:
o   *SSK, k7, k2tog; repeat from * to end of round. (63 sts)
·      K 4 rounds.

·      I-cord bind-off:
o   Using 1 DPN as working (right-hand) needle, CO 3 sts onto left-hand needle.
o   K 2, k2tog (knitting last CO st together with 1 st from circular needle).
o   Slip sts from right-hand needle to left-hand needle.
o   Repeat last two rows until all sts have been cast off and only 3 sts remain on needle.

·      I-cord tie:
o   Using two DPNs:
o   K1, k2tog.
o   Slide sts from one end of needle to the other.
o   Repeat last two rows until you have approx. 4” of I-cord.
o   Sl 1, psso; cut yarn (leaving 6” tail) and pull through.

·      Felting:
o   Using your preferred method of felting (by hand or machine), felt your knitted piece. (Fabric will shrink by approx. one third.)
o   Press out excess water and shape cozy by placing it on an empty growler and leaving to dry.

·      Finishing:
o   Sew or needle-felt end of i-cord into loop.
o   Using darning needle, sew in ends and trim.
o   With needle and thread, sew toggle button onto cozy approx. 1” from bottom of I-cord.

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