Edited to add: Thank you for your kind comments! I did design it, the whole thing. The photo is of a scarf I made for my cousin last year and never posted, I think. The cover font is the free "Alex Brush" font, which is what my website designer and I settled on last year when we made the Knitphisticate website. The beachglass blur effect behind the title is inspired by iOS 7, although I have yet to use the effect in any of my own apps. ;) (The blurring in the photo outside of the title bar is just from using a short depth of field when the photo was taken.)
Friends, as of about 6:30 last night, my apps have been submitted to Apple for review. Someday soon I'll post about (the highlights of) the long journey from the fateful day in late January when I decided to download Xcode to the point of finally submitting my binary.
But not today. Today, I'm going to talk about the idea.
It was a very simple idea.
Like many people, I am in the habit of making lists on paper - today's to do list, grocery lists, simple things like that - because it is fast and easy and I can cross things off when I finish them.
And crossing things off feels good.
It also looks good, in that it is really easy to tell at a glance what is done and what is still left to do.
But good old-fashioned paper and pencil mean I'm re-writing lots of the same things over and over again, and wandering around with dog-eared lint-collecting sticky notes.
Thinking there must be a solution to this problem, I looked through a bunch of apps but none of them were quite right. The grocery-list-specific apps often require you to pick from pre-installed items (tedious) to make your list. They also tend to have a lot of extra stuff cluttering up the screen. Like cute graphics, or places to enter the price of every banana you've ever bought (I do not care). 'To do' apps let you type your own thing, but are often more complex than I need or want. And pretty much all of them mark something "done" by putting a boring little checkmark over in the left margin. Or whisking your item off to a "completed" area.
I wanted to cross things off and revel in the satisfaction of having accomplished something.
And then I thought to myself, This idea is pretty simple. And people keep saying programming for iOS* isn't too hard. And you took, what? 5?... 6?... 10(?) courses in Computer Science. Why not try writing it yourself?
*(that's the operating system that runs iPhone, iPod, and iPad)
As Mr. Right said last night, after sipping a celebratory beer and staring into space for a few moments, "Yeah, this has really taken something out of us." (He'd already said, "Congratulations!" and "I'm really proud of you!" before pouring the beer.)
And as I kept saying, with a kind of manic wide-eyed grin, "I can't believe I actually did it!" and, "That was SO HARD!!!"
And that, my friends, is (I think) the reason this "simple" app did not yet exist. Because it SEEMS simple, but isn't.
There are infinite perfectly nice apps you can build with Apple's extensive provided code modules (difficult enough, I might add, for the total beginner), kind of like there are infinite perfectly nice constructions you can build with the extensive variety of manufactured Lego bricks. But then there are some things that Lego bricks just won't do and you're going to have to get out the hack saw or the blow torch or, as a last resort, build a mold and pour your own plastic.
And if you've only kind of dabbled in Legos previously and really haven't much handled a hack saw or a blow torch, nor ever tried molding your own plastic... it's going to be REALLY hard. And messy.
The truth is, it's often NOT simple to make any app SEEM simple to the user. I worked really hard to make this one as intuitive as possible. So, you can just tap the screen and start typing. Hit "Next" where "Enter" usually is on the keyboard and start typing the next item. That kind of thing - the kind of thing I'm pretty sure you would not notice without me telling you.
But, enough rambling for today. As a reward for all your patience with me, YOU, my dear loyal readers, are the first to see the official description of Cross It Off! and some screen shots. You can't buy it yet, but I really really hope you will be able to within a week or two (it's going to be $0.99, but if that's too much for you, there's also a free version, and I'll be running a contest once it's released with a free download as a prize! Woo hoo! 99 cent prizes!).
Ultimately, don't worry, you will DEFINITELY be hearing from me as soon as it goes up for sale.
(And if, instead, I come back to you in a few days or weeks and tell you my app has been rejected due to an unknown crash that I cannot for the life of me find the source of or some other painful calamity, please say nice comforting things to me.)
Left to right: A sectioned list (you don't have to use sections, though, if you don't want to), a list in editing mode (for deleting and rearranging items, you can edit the text from the normal screen), the screen for deleting and rearranging whole sections, and the main menu list of all your lists (you can edit the titles by tapping on them, view the list itself by touching the blue arrow).
Also, that icon at the top? That's mine. I designed it. With Illustrator. It was hard. I love it. (Mr. Right suggested the pencil concept, to be fair, and kept reminding me to put in a shadow, which I kept forgetting.)
And the icons across the bottom in the second screen shot? (I know they're hard to see at this size.) Those are mine, too. And I think I'll be writing about them here later this week.
If you've ever been bashing your head against the wall trying to print a design evenly spaced in the four quadrants of a standard sized paper, I can tell you that your problem has something to do with built-in printer margins.
At first I thought I'd have to go find out what the standard margins are, do some math, go through some painful trial and error to see if my layout was properly compensating...
But it turns out you can just go to the amazing Avery website and download one of their (free) postcard templates. The one that matches your needs. I used the Postcard - wide, 4 per sheet template and it worked like a charm.
Except make sure you save the template on its own once and then as a different file name when you've added your designs, because you might need to go back to the empty template later.
For instance, my first two cards printed perfectly (on my printer, at least - someone please test and tell me it works for you, too!) and then I figured I'd just replace the big front snowflakes and re-save. It all looked fine, but when it printed, the info on the back of the card was printing off the page. I have no idea why, but from my limited computer programming experience, I can tell you there is a reason, but it is not likely a reasonable reason.
Anyway, my advice is: start with a fresh template every time.
But you don't need to know any of that to print my snowflake word art thank you's; all you have to do is:
As I think probably goes without saying, these cards are free to print for personal use (please retain the web address, etc. on the back of the card). You can't print and sell them, nor extract the snowflake designs for other purposes!
Thanks for all your enthusiasm about these yesterday. I really appreciate it. :)
I am not the sort of person who usually pines for software, but I have pined for Adobe Illustrator for well over 5 years. Imagine how excited I was when Mr. Right gave it to me for Christmas!
And then he took the kids away for a few hours so I could get through some video tutorials, which got me off to an excellent start.
But this excellent is just not quite excellent enough. Because I really want this to be a download you guys can print yourselves and make one cut down the middle of two sheets of paper and get four notecards, but right now...
Right now the alignment is just off enough to be ick. I've googled and fussed and googled and futzed and I now at least have some concept of some things that will probably get me on the right track eventually, but not tonight. Can I just say again how much I hate printers?
So... uh... if you haven't done your Christmas thank you's (did you catch that each snowflake is formed from the words "Thank you"?) and you think you'd like to use mine (this download will be free), be assured I'm working on it... and until then, you have an excellent excuse to procrastinate further.
If you've already done all your thank you's, don't tell me.
Whether this one is a good one or not is another question, but the final GIMP adventure for the year was this joint project (Mr. Right had a major hand in the design process) for my genomics-studying brother-in-law:
We had it printed on a t-shirt at Printfection (the blog address isn't part of the design!) and I do think he likes it. He actually thought we'd found it ready-made somewhere, but... there are some genomics t-shirts on the Internet, there just wasn't this one. Not until now!
You can get your very own Gnome Brand Jeans t-shirt at the brand-new What There's Time For Design shop on Printfection! Eventually, there will be others - perhaps with a slightly wider appeal. :)
That's it for the homemade Christmas gifts! Other wonderful people got good stuff, too, but not homemade (for various reasons, which I think they understand).
This project is very close to my heart and it's the one I've been most excited to share, partly because look! I designed more fabric! and partly because I don't think I've ever given my mother-in-law a really great present before and this one? This one was really great.
First, I have to say, I would never have thought to give anyone an apron as a present. Never. Way too much chance of a scene like that one in Father of the Bride when the fiance gives his future wife a blender and she spends the rest of the evening in tears and almost calls off the wedding, you know? So, when DiDi commented on the circus apron that she would love to have one from that pattern... a whole new field of possibilities opened up.
I mulled it over and mulled it over and remembered a Martha Stewart idea from years and years ago where you printed a family recipe onto fabric and slapped it on a store-bought apron as a pocket. That idea swam around in my head and met up with mentions I'd seen of Spoonflower, where you can design your own fabric to print by the yard, and some design ideas started forming and my dear brother-in-law scrounged up recipes for me and I started fighting with GIMP and eventually, at long last, DiDi got two perfect aprons.
Clam chowder is a Christmas Eve tradition from her childhood. When Mr. Right and I got married, DiDi made us a family recipe binder and one of the pages was a copy of the scribbled ingredient list and very basic instructions, along with a note saying in part, "I remember calling Mom and writing this down one long-ago holiday."
I drew a parsley leaf, a carrot slice, and a celery slice and played around with them in GIMP, coming up with design elements I liked, and then at the last minute Mr. Right and I agreed it really needed some clams, so I added those too. The recipe was originally on white paper, but changing it to a matching green was pretty simple in GIMP (once I figured a few basic things out) and unified the whole thing nicely.
I'm not sure if she guessed there was another one coming - Pickled Peaches, another favorite Christmas tradition, and this one in her mother's handwriting, which was what I was looking for all along (thanks, Bro!).
The "Apple Cider" fabric design was really for this all along. Cloves and cinnamon sticks and a bright canned-peach-colored background (the apple cider version is a more muted background).
Thanks for the inspiration, DiDi. I'm so glad you asked for an apron!
I've put the main fabrics up for sale on Spoonflower, should you like some for yourself!
I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with a gift Shmoogie and Mr. LearningTheJoyOfGivingPants could "make" for each other. I happened across a description of Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Ganomy Hat", which has mitered decreases running up at the ears so that triangular semi-flaps push down to keep the ears warm, and that idea inspired this construction for a hat sewn out of felted sweaters. (Now that I've actually seen a picture of the knitted hat, this one doesn't bear much resemblance, but I thought you might be curious to know where the idea came from.)
This is a very quick project, especially if you already have a felted sweater on hand (wash a 100% wool sweater on hot and, if that wasn't enough, tumble dry with heat). I've made two of them now (one for each of the kids) so this pattern has had exactly one round of editing. Therefore, please keep a light heart in using it! Constructive comments are most welcome. Perhaps I will be able to refine it in the future and offer it with a full size range for a small fee.
You will need:
A note about fit: The materials you use will affect the fit quite a bit. The "small" size here made up in one layer of commercial boiled wool and one layer of felted sweater fits Shmoogie (14 months) well, but snug. In some ways, I would prefer it come down a bit further beyond her ears. You can add a half-inch at the "bottom" edges of the pattern pieces if you want to make it a little bigger. The same size "small" made up in two layers of felted sweater, which has a lot more stretch than the boiled wool, is the fit Mr. LearningTheJoyOfGivingPants prefers for himself. I made a size "medium" that I thought would be good for him, but he didn't (and I'm only offering the size "small" for now). I will say that the change in head size from an infant to an adult is much less than the change in size of the rest of the body. And that most of that change (I think this is accurate) happens in the first year of life. That is, Shmoogie's head is not so much smaller than her brother's (he's almost 4).
And what part of this did the kids help with, you're probably wondering? Mr. LearningTheJoyOfGivingPants helped with the decoration of Shmoogie's - we talked about the alternating color pattern, figuring out which color was next, and I placed the needle in the fabric and he pushed it through and then pulled the thread through (for some of them - realistically, I did most of them). He also LOVES cutting the thread at the end. I think I'll manage to get Shmoogie to pull the thread through once or twice (at 14 months, she doesn't know the difference, but I want to be able to honestly tell her brother that she helped). Use a tapestry needle and embroidery floss and knot the thread onto the needle so it doesn't get pulled out every stitch if you're working with a young child.
Last year, Mr. TalkyPants kept secrets very well. We even told him Shmoogie's (real) name before she was born and he didn't say it to anyone until an hour after she was born and Aunt Doula asked him what his baby sister's name was. Boy, was she shocked to discover he'd known the secret all along!
This year, he actually understands the concept of a secret and promises solemnly that he will not tell, but as soon as he came home with Mr. Right and a secret present for me and one for Shmoogie and I asked, "What did you get for Shmoogie?" he blurted out, "A scarf!" Which I would know (even without the look of dismay on Mr. Right's face) was actually for me.
As you might guess, Mr. Right is big on presents being complete surprises. My family? Not so much. My mom asks me what I want, I send one or two ideas, and then - since isn't the cat already out of the bag? - she typically does away with even the figleaf of potential surprise by updating me daily, "Your graphics pad hasn't gotten here quite yet, but they say it's been shipped," "It came! I'm going to wrap it tomorrow," "I'm getting out the wrapping paper right now, hopefully I'll get it in the mail by the end of the week," and etc. until actually there is HUGE suspense because SERIOUSLY, WILL IT GET HERE IN TIME??? (Probably not, but did you know that it used to be traditional to exchange gifts on Epiphany, rather than Christmas, to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem with gifts for Jesus? See, it's not procrastination, it's *education*.)
Point is, I try hard to keep Mr. Right's gifts secret, but it's not something I'm really very good at. My best idea this year was for warm mittens, which was first given away somewhat by my measuring and tracing his hand last week. And then trying the first one on about a hundred times in progress to check the fit. Not to mention, I was so keen on seeing how they'd work out that I totally gave up on not knitting in front of him. He'd been so good about keeping his eyes closed during fittings, though, I figured he'd just have to not look at me. For most of the day. I tried to help out by knitting with my back turned to him, but he didn't seem to like that.
Ok, so then I finally finished one mitten on Sunday and I was really really pleased with myself.
(back of hand)
I tried it on him one more time and then pretty much bullied him into spoiling the surprise completely, forcing him to admire it while I explained every last detail.
See, they're flip-top, so you can, say, buckle children into their carseats without having to pull them off completely.
And I got better at the tubular cast-off, isn't it nice and smooth?
And the thumb has it's own little top so you can use your touch-screen phone.
And isn't the color manly? How about the seed stitch? And the ribbing on the thumb?
And check out that applied i-cord that forms the edge of the flip-top! Note that it ties into a snazzy manly knot over there at the side of the hand! Do you recognize which knot that is?
He did! The bowline! (pronounced like bowlin'). A knot he loves... a knot which gets stronger the more it's pulled on... hopefully the kind of knot which you (figuratively) tie on your wedding day. He's given at least one wedding toast to such effect and I have always wanted to work a bowline into a present for him somehow. It works quite well here because the bowline forms a loop, which serves as the pick up point for the flip-top all the way around. It was fun figuring out how to knit the i-cord just the right length and attached an unattached in just the right places to be able to tie the knot at the end.
Anyway, I'm really really proud of myself on this one (I'll be even prouder if I finish the second one by Christmas and it matches). I mean, how often do you find a handknit that's romantic AND manly? (Am I kidding myself? It is manly, right?)
I should have made the cuff a smidge longer. And the whole thing may be a tad large in circumference (that's my hand in the pictures, though, so don't judge from that), but it's an awesome prototype, if I can just continue to toot my own horn for another sentence or two (did I mention that the ladies at the yarn shop were *very* impressed with this mitten?)...
New Year's Resolution: Write this (and the coordinating women's pattern that is so far only an idea) up in actual multiple sizes like a real pattern - er, AS a real pattern - and offer it for sale before Christmas next year. I think a his and her's set of bowline mittens would make a lovely winter wedding gift. Right? Any knitting readers here? I'd be including detailed/illustrated directions for the tubular cast-on and -off, the applied i-cord, and the bowline knot, as well as the main flip-top and the (slightly different technique) thumb flip-top. I think it will be awesome.
OK, so enough about me and my knitting ego. The 'truth' part of this post is about the tree. And the Christmas card. My international mail recipients have already gotten the card, but I haven't heard from anyone at home, so I'm still trying not to spoil the surprise, but I think I need to post the very last panel, because the truth is...
...the picture isn't true. We always do the cartoon in the week after Thanksgiving, which is way before we get a tree. But the last panel is always some sort of Christmas decorating scene and this year I figured we'd probably do like last year, buy a tree a half-mile down the hill and let Mr. Right carry the thing all the way home and up the three flights of stairs. I might or might not (probably not) be carrying a wreath during the whole thing, but carrying a wreath looks festive, so.
Then, Mr. Right became completely committed to the idea of a HUGE tree, which became clear to me when he brought home the German-engineered and German-made "V8" Christmas tree stand, which proclaimed proudly to be suitable for even "the biggest" trees (there was plenty of fine print about that inside, but our tree is quite sturdily mounted, no worries). And then I scoped out the trees and got prices and remembered to ask at the last minute, is there delivery service?
O, ja! Zehn Euro! Ten Euro is so much less than I was expecting for delivering a 12 foot tree (which, yes, MarMar, cost significantly more than 10 Euro itself) up three flights of stairs that I assumed I'd misheard. Really, only 15 Euro? I asked ("fifteen" sounds a whole lot like "ten" in German). No, no! TEN Euro! Up to the third story!
You'd better believe we had it delivered (after some confusion about when we wanted it - we were expecting to give a time for that day, but they were expecting us to give a *date* and then have to argue with us because obviously we would want it delivered Christmas Eve - the cherub Jesus-child is supposed to deliver a glorious surprise decorated tree on Christmas Eve exactly, so the Austrians are apparently upset to have to hide a 12 foot tree for a day...). We should have tipped the delivery guy, but we'd given every last scrap of our cash for the tree itself. We'll get back there with a tip eventually, I think. (For the record, it was a two-man job getting it up all those stairs and Mr. Right was one of them.)
Anyway, sorry about the artistic license/inaccurate prognostication in the Christmas card. And would you buy that knitting pattern?
The cold that I really thought was on its way out yesterday turns out to have just been mustering for a gleeful sneak attack run down the back of my throat. Which I discovered when I finally lay down last night and started coughing. And now I sound like one of those wooden things you buy at the nature store for your kids to make a noise like a frog. I'm not sure if actual frogs really sound like that. But I do.
Unfortunately, I have been seized in the past few days with a powerful design urge (this time to design fabric which Spoonflower will print for me) that is turning out to be much more challenging than I feel it should be (which only increases the power of the design urge, but I keep having to tear myself away to do boring things like eat... and feed the children... and vacuum for the children DiDi arriving tomorrow). I've drawn the shapes I want to use in pencil and scanned them into the computer (sorry, no previews, secret for the moment). I've downloaded and installed GIMP, a free image editing program. And I figured I'd just open up GIMP, import my little images, feel my way around the menus, click and drag a bit here, cut and paste a bit there... and voila! simple fun colorized image to upload to Spoonflower.
Holy frick, did I underestimate that!!!!! It turns out that GIMP really is a "good" image editor, by which I think must generally be meant "powerful", translation of which appears to be "extremely complicated". There was some befuddlement involved simply in opening my scanned images (they opened and yet were nowhere to be seen). And then, I kid you not, even once I found them (hiding off past the edges of the window) I couldn't do anything with them at all. I kept trying to drag them around the screen and sometimes they would drag and sometimes they wouldn't and sometimes they would drag and vanish.
Trial and error got me a few random painful steps of the way there (I think I managed to resize something vaguely as intended and rotate something which I intended to rotate and I think it even spun sort of the way I wanted it to) and then I started looking for some help online. It took less than an hour before I gave in and started just reading the user manual.
I hate reading user manuals.
After several hours spread out over two days reading the darn manual, I had enough of a clue to do most of what I wanted (and a bunch of things I didn't want, and was still a little unclear on how to do some of the things I did want). I even got it all pretty much exactly how I wanted it and uploaded it and looked at the preview in Spoonflower (which will turn your little design into an all-over pattern for the fabric, which will look perfect and seamless and just like you intended if you've designed it right) and it was totally awesome.
Except that it was like 1/4 the size I wanted it to be and Spoonflower wouldn't let me make it bigger. Because the resolution wasn't high enough, an issue which the manual somehow failed to cover.
I've made more incremental progress this morning, but while I will feel a mad rush of victory! when it's all done (and it *will* be), it's all making me feel rather dumb. And, you know, I was once a computer programmer. And I took a lot of art classes. Somehow I thought the intersection of those fields would have less of a learning curve for me.