Boy it has been hot here.
Especially to someone from Norway.
Good thing he grew his beard to a modest length.
Gnothing on Earth could compell me to knit a gnome gpenis.
Yay! I wrote a pattern for the little laptop that the octopus is holding in the last post. You can download it on Ravelry, or here, or, there is a link on the sidebar. Make one! Tell your friends to make one! Fill the world with tiny laptops. It is a 2-3 hour project and good fun for everyone, octopuses and lovers of cute things alike.
I'm pretty much a sucker for an awesome pattern. I mean, I'm sure that is the case for most knitters. I horde yarn for a polar bear sweater I will make some day, I buy and then later get rid of scads of pattern books. (No, I don't really get rid of them, keeping them for inspiration is a totally valid rationalization.) Upon seeing a truly amazing pattern, I will probably buy the yarn that day and start it that night. I also love a new way to do something that I've done before.
Enter this amazing octopus:
Don't you love the eyes! You knit his head with slits and then push the eyes in afterwards, so for a while you have a blind zombie octopus in your house! Also, as you can see, the eyes make a really great hand puppet. This may be my low key Halloween costume, two of these babies sewn onto some kind of finger sleeve, I haven't decided.
It turns out that I was the first person to finish this pattern on Ravelry and the designer Max Alexander has asked if he can post one of my photos on his blog. Max has got it down with the eyes. To me, his pieces have a great cartoon quality, almost like they are drawn. I really like this bee.
Because I am, and love to be, a machine for cranking out yarn versions of friend's inside jokes, this guy has a few accessories, including a baked potato from Anna Hrachovec's Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi.
and a laptop. I'm very proud of the laptop.
I designed it myself, and this weekend I'm going to write out the pattern, because there are no tiny laptop patterns floating around the internet that I could find and now, knowing that, well, this situation cannot persist.
Happily, another family I know had a baby, and so he is now the recipient of my new favorite baby item:
Knowing this little baby was a boy, I decided to add some little blue stripes. I like how they look like soccer socks a little. I did the Interlock bindoff this time, so the tops don't roll when not filled with a fat little leg, but they are just as stretchy as the correctly named Stretchy bindoff that I used on the last pair.
I would love to say that I've been knitting up a storm instead of posting here, but that isn't quite the case. I've also been baking pies and cleaning the living room and watching TV. In the midst of a few un-ending UFOs, my passion has been flagging a little.
Which isn't to say of course that I haven't finished anything since July when I last posted. August was actually a productive month, knitting wise. It just didn't definitely feel that way. Though I could question the health of it, what I love is to have a project going that I think about all the time. Something I plan out aspects of during down time at work and can't wait to get home to. How I felt about the sideways socks and my tiny hermit crab.
But I also think I will find that project somewhere in my massive horde of projects waiting to be started. Last weekend I made it though the left and right front of a sweater and part of the way up the back before I lost oomph over concerns about the tightness of the arm holes and running out of yarn. Is it better to know you don't have enough yarn to finish a project, or to always think you might not have enough yarn to finish a project? If you know the answer to this puzzle, please let me know in the comments.
Alright, enough musing and down to brass tacks. What exactly have I been up to since July? Well...
Atomic Fireball Socks for my Father-in-law
Lots of cables for large men's feet. They took me quite a while, but they have a lot of small touches that I like. The heel is the extra long, good for men's socks, Fleegle's short-row heel. It used up more yarn than I think a heel flap heel would have, but I also think a well fitting heel is half the battle in good sock fit. I used the Interlock Bindoff, which I really like a lot. It is possibly the most ridiculous and complicated sewn bindoff, but the results are fantastic, very stretchy, but also attractive.
Java Socks for my Dad
These were my first two-at-a-time socks. Though of course each row takes twice as long, it is wonderful to cast off and be totally finished with a project. The second sock is always the bane of my existence. Very much like sleeves, my brain just doesn't want to do the same thing it just did, AGAIN. I like the Java pattern because it is so stretchy. The sad truth is that the more ornate a handmade sock is, the more it is like a tiny wool foot blanket, no give, no stretch, very thick. So, though I love them, I think I am finished with Fair Isle socks because they just don't work for 80% of feet.
These photos really don't do it the color or the dimensions justice. I blocked in haste and didn't think to snap a photo then, and these are pre-blocking. The blanket ended up double bed sized, but that may only be because a double bed is the largest surface in my home that I have to block on. The color is more of a natural cream. It took FOREVER, but the result is beautiful and well worth it for a wedding gift.
Baby Wonton Wrapper
I made this for the arrival of my brand new little 1st cousin once removed. She is beautiful and lovely. I knew she was coming, but I didn't know her gender. I figured yellow and teal would be good bright gender neutral colors. The blanket is 100% cotton. The main yellow part is Lion Brand, and then I had to delve into fancy yarn store territory for the teal because it would seem that there are no good true mass-market teals commercially available. This baby's birth was conveniently timed during a trip East, and so I had a chance, the night before going to see her, to whip up some little coral colored star embellishments. I didn't invent this star pattern. Actually I scoured the internet for a free star pattern, only to discover that the best one, and I mean, really, the best crocheted stars in all history and time, would cost me $4.95. I hemmed and hawed for a day, and finally my husband agreed to split the cost with me so that I could stop agonizing. They are totally worth it. The blanket has a little triangle sewn onto the front of one of the corners to act as a baby hood. I love the texture of seed stitch, so I alternated squares of that with squares of straight knitting. The boarder is a broken rib, so it doesn't shrink up but still has the texture of a rib. Also, a baby blanket takes a lot less time than a wedding blanket with cables!
Pre-stars and pre-weaving in the ends. Also, the colors that an overcast sky affords the photographer. Trust me, the teal is awesome.
Baby Duck Booties
Tucked inside the blanket are some booties that I finished within a month of finding out about the pregnancy, but that I haven't posted, just to cover my gifts are supposed to be surprises bases. The pattern is a field trip into the mind of a master knitter and I loved making them, and actually plan to make another pair very soon for a friend's baby.
Well, thanks for making it through the poorly lit photos and the rambling prose. Though it gets hot here before it gets cool, I think Fall always brings good knitting.
I think that everyone crafts for different reasons. While I love giving gifts, I am all about process. I am incredibly pleased by pieces of a sweater laid out on a bed. I love socks in progress, as though they are falling out of the circle that my needles create. Charts and graphs sing a siren's songs to me. Their black and white symbols demand to be recreated in color. My first real craft was cross-stitch. I
think that this was not by chance, because I asked to be taught many crafts over the years. Cross-stitch, though I could never say it is my favorite, is a sort of guilty pleasure now. After all, cross-stitch is so non-essential. It only makes things better, never practical.
The Original Pattern
When moving offices not too long ago, a co-worker and I found an opened, but unused, cross-stitch kit in the bottom of a file drawer. How tragic, my secret mind thought, and so I took it home to sew and personalize. The fact that the text on the cross-stitch made little sense was only a bonus. The other aspect of cross-stitch being so decorative is that it is almost always saccharine. Wise words become pablum when stitched in little x's on even weave fabric. Only, that isn't quite what I mean. Wise words are still wise, but serious and well meaning tripe are stripped bare and revealed to be nothing more than greeting card sentiment. However, when that powerful force of banality is harnessed, I think the results can be quite charming. One of my favorite artists, Steotch, creates samplers of pop-cultural idioms. The surprise is the joke, because no one expects much out of cross-stitch. Not that I did anything revolutionary, but I altered this little picture of a sleeping kitten so that it also included a silly, boastful phrase about the Reserves department in the library.
The Finished Product
And just to document my process, I took pictures after completing the stitching for each color. Cross-stitch looks so mechanized and pixilated to me, that laying down the colors, almost like a printing process, seems like a natural step.
A slightly larger partner in crime to my smaller mantis from a few months ago. A co-worker saw my little mantis, and the large one from longer ago (both have made it to work somehow, on different desks). She asked if I might make one for her daughter who had a spring birthday and is also graduating from high school, and, more importantly, had been working on a final art project, a watercolor of a mantis. I had been itching for the chance to make another mini-mantis/work any Hansi pattern small, with no real justification for doing so, and I liked the serendipity of the whole thing.
When I was at Stitches South in April, I made a special point of visiting the Miss Babs booth. I had gotten overwhelmed there at Stitches West and wanted another crack at it. Not only did I purchase many beautiful skeins of yarn for socks that you will hopefully see here before too long, but I was also able to get two little half balls of sock yarn for the mantis. The beautiful depth of the Miss Babs yarn makes you never want to buy machine dyed yarn again, until you remember how much it costs. For the special toy though, I think it is totally worth it. And this guy is special from the tops of his antennae down to the tips of his tarsi.
This is actually what it looks like while it is being knit, too cool not to share.
The other lovely thing about this Miss Babs yarn is that they use very poetic names. Sometimes I resent poetic naming on yarns because I feel like I'm just being tricked into yearning for a yarn that isn't available, that I don't really need* because of some deep emotional attachment to some movie. The yarns for this project though, are so thoroughly beautiful, and I had to buy the yarn for a project, so the names are just icing on the cake: Violets in the Grass and Ghost Ship. Beautiful and evocative.
*as though there is such a thing, but I can still aspire to be practical.
Check out that nifty Ghost Ship abdomen!
Because this yarn is a little fuller than the yarn I used to make the tiny mantis, I went up a needle size to 00 needles. I also made sure to amend my earlier mistake and not trim off the tops of the wires inside the legs. This time I left them long and bent them so they fitted nicely into the body. The result was a much more stable mantis who can actually stand with his abdomen off the ground completely if he so chooses.
Well, I had fun making the mantis, and I thought that was that. I feel pretty strongly that I can't take money for making something from a pattern that I didn't design, so I just said don't worry about it, and my co-worker was very appreciative. And then she and her daughter spoiled me rotten. I got two beautiful cards, one with a charming paper cut, and one of them hand painted by the recipient herself of a little parrot, a gift certificate to a local yarn store, and the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, which really match the mantis quite well. I love trading a craft for a craft, and I certainly don't mind working for flowers when the project itself was intriguing anyway.
I've got several finished projects now that I need to post about, but I thought these were so neat, they needed a post all to themselves
I made these socks for a friend with whom bees figure prominently into our friendship. I got the yarn ages ago, but I hadn't found a pattern that worked well with the yarn. Pooling is the ugly and unwanted phenomenon where big blobs of one color in a variegated yarn plop themselves down in what otherwise is a pleasing random arrangement of the colors. On socks this usually results in a pretty random sock and then one giant zig zag, thin-thick stripe of brown or something. I'm not sure of the scientific support of this theory, but pooling usually happens with the ugliest color in the yarn. Anyway, this yellow and black yarn was pooling badly with every pattern I tried. Then I tried this pattern! I guess the yarn still pools, but it pools evenly, creating the illusion of stripes or just more organic forms.
The socks are worked long ways, from cuff to toe. The pattern is a few years old, and lots of folks on-line have already worked it, but it is new to me, and I'm excited about it. The elegance, the simplicity, I'm going to stop gushing now. I took some photos at different stages of the process and I will leave you with those:
Half a sock. You first work decreases to make the heel shape, and then increases to make the toe shape.
As you increase and decrease on the sides of the toe, the little toe pocket forms by itself.
The whole sock finished. All that's left is to sew up the back with an invisible seam. I'd like to think it looks like a tiny tiger skin at this stage.
Once again I've been working on gifts, and so I haven't been posting. I still have to figure out a way around that. But at least one gift has been presented, so here are the Sweet Alice Socks:
They were worked using the Sweetheart Socks pattern on Knitty, and inspired by a lovely color combination I saw on Ravelry. That person did their socks in a deep red, but I thought I would just soften it a little by using this old barn pinkish color for a more feminine heel and toe. Mostly worked by knitting stitches together and making new stitches instead of real cables, and also worked in worsted weight yarn, they worked up quickly and are super thick and warm. This was the first time that I worked an afterthought heel, so it was a fun technical experiment. The afterthought is that you work a piece of waste yarn where you want the heel to go, and then once the sock is complete you take out the waste yarn, pick up the stitches, and knit the heel. The only negative is that you can't try the sock on while you are making it, but since most of my recipients live far from me, that isn't really a problem.
I saw this pattern while on a break at work and could hardly wait to get home to knit it! It is designed by Cheezombie it is it wonderfully elegant. The whole pattern is worked from tail to ball in one piece, with the flippers sewn on later. This kind of subtle simple shaping makes me feel more confident about designing my own toys. I made this guy with 000 needles and sock yarn, and then upped it to 0 needles and heavier yarn for the ball. I think I will make another one and try making the ball even bigger to balance the proportions, maybe I'm even ambitious enough to make it look like a real beach ball. It is hard to tell from the photo, but this guy is palm sized, as is everyone else in this post.
This is a belated posting, but I love this little guy, and he deserves to be seen. He is designed by Jessica Polka. A little prawn pin, he was commissioned by a friend. The yarn makes it I think, a pretty hand spun fingerling weight. The color is ideal, but also, the woolyness of the yarn emphasizes the home made quality of the project which sends the essential awesomeness through the roof. The eyes are small black beads. The antenna are a flattened out spiral binding from a report that was being thrown away at work. The first draft of this project was stolen by my cats, but I'm glad because this version came out so much better. I sewed a pin back on him, and apparently he is much envied in his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Another commissioned piece, a Trilobite broach. Again, 000 needles and lace weight yarn. He came out great, and even though they are so simple, I really like the antennae. Also, I'm still loving this yarn. There is enough of it that I think I will be making toys out of it for the next few years. It is still the yarn from the mosaic hat!