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.
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 just didn’t want to pin this onto the end of the sock post because I think it is good enough to stand alone. Step with me into the Way-Back Machine for a moment...
At times in my life, I have made many sock monkeys. When I first learned, at a workshop in college, I made monkeys out of a compulsion. They are easy to make, and they develop their own personalities. I made a heap of full sized monkeys and then tried to give them away. It is the problem of any craft, what to do with it when you are finished.
For a few years, I was making and selling my little monkeys at the sadly now defunct Bare Hands Gallery. I made them with baby socks and each monkey had little button eyes, and some other piece of flair, a little parrot button or a bell or something. It is exhausting, however, to make 30 little objects creatively without knowing who they are for.
On the other hand, it is really fun to make one object creatively knowing exactly who it is for.
This sock monkey is for my dad. I shot for a rough verisimilitude in the face, and though professionally my dad plays the violin, in his spare time he has been pursuing the mandolin. This little monkey owns my best attempt at a knitted mandolin.
As you may be aware, most fabrics are either knitted or woven, and even commercially produced socks are knitted, just on the tiny needles of a machine. This was my first time making a monkey coming from a more knitterly perspective, and as I sewed the pieces together, I found my hands attempting to graft the tiny stitches instead of just sewing them together. The result might be neater, but not by much, and it probably isn’t worth the eye strain!
I’ve got blog posts, oh have I got blog posts, all stored away in my head, photos hanging out in my email in-box. And here is one for you now!
Dissected wool frogs!
Long ago, way back in June 2010, my husband showed me a fun post on Web Urbanist with items they deemed to be “Knitty Gritty,” items outside of the traditional purview of knitting. I absolutely loved Crafty Hedgehog’s Knitting in Biology 101. As you might be able to tell from my little knitted animals, I love any pattern that shoots for realistic knitting. My mom, who has friends in every walk of life imaginable, has two lovely lady scientist friends who were both well deserving of knitted dissected frogs. I actually finished both frogs around Thanksgiving, and used that trip home to deliver them. We ordered real dissection trays from a science supply company. I’m very pleased with the results!
I know, I know, what do I do, just sit around making Amigurumi animals all day/night? Yes, yes, that is exactly what I do/would like to be doing. Well, here is the fiddler crab, one of those patterns I mentioned in the last post that aren’t in Hansi Singh’s book, quite tragically, but are for sale on her Ravelry page, quite fantastically.
I modeled my crab on this photo of a real fiddler crab. Turns out there are a lot of fiddler crabs out there with a lot of pizzazz, so actually it was a little bit of a challenge finding one in colors that still looked convincingly natural in yarn.
Of course, like the mantis, he came out WAY TOO BIG. I mean, as it was, I did this guy on size 2s, and he still came out like some kind of hulking beast. But who wants to do a toy pattern for the first time in sock yarn? Even I shutter to think of some weird aspect of a pattern I haven’t even dreamed of that would be impossible somehow to do tiny, or to do with dpns instead of circular needles, or something. And so I will be fated to make all these toys normal sized at least once.
When I had made a few legs I could see which way the wind was blowing, and as a pretext for checking out a new yarn store (The Swift Stitch in Santa Cruz) I got some blue and white and red lace weight alpaca. I looked for tinier needles than I have, but those don’t seem to have hit the general commercial market (imagine that!) I thought I could use the 000 needles, but you know what, they are too large (I say this with glee tinged with dread), and so I’ve ordered 0000, 00000, and 000000 needles. I’m pretty excited, and also concerned. If I start typing the blog in tiny sized font, someone should come help me. The next question would be which critter should really be the first to be the tiniest of all? The seahorse is a long time favorite pattern, and I’m always trying to make life-sized seahorse (more on that later). However, in general I’m worried about bending these tiny needles making toys, but even a bent needle knits straight, right? Isn’t that a Zen koan or something?
So much to write about! I know it has been ages since my last post, and actually I've been quite busy. Oldest projects come first I guess.
Here is a photo of a sweater I made for my mom. A very sweet friend chose to de-stash and gave me the proceeds. This fuchsia mohair was just screaming my mom's name, so I dug around a little and found this pattern. I have to say I was surprised how hard it was to find a reasonable mohair pattern. I mean, I know all the arguments against it, it can be scratchy, and too warm, and sheds, but come on. This was the only modern pattern I could find for worsted weight mohair. All other patterns are either from the 80s or the 60s, and in either case most closely resemble ottoman covers. Like I said, I get why mohair isn’t popular any more, but I also don’t get it. This was truly a weekend long project, knit on size 11 needles. It went so quickly, and after blocking, it has a very nice drape. It has been reported to me that it was a success on its maiden outing.
Next are some more little mice. These little mice, commissioned by my mom for a gift, are the country mouse and the city mouse. I used the same pattern I've been using from Fuzzy Mitten and then used guess work to create some little clothes for them. The country mouse wears a little hooded cape. I did try to make an apron for her first, but these little mouse bodies are not really set up for clothes that cover the waist down. The city mouse wears a little fancy hat.
I'm going to crow about the flower on her hat for a second. It was done with sewing thread and a 0.75mm crochet hook. I'm quite proud of it. The city mouse also wears a string of glass beads. These little mice represent my favorite type of project, riffing on an established pattern by making changes in yarn and embellishment.
Next on the agenda for sharing are some repair jobs I did. Both projects were completed for the same friend about five years ago when I was still pretty inexperienced. I recently took them back to fix them after being unable to withstand the guilt of turning out lousy product any longer. As I tell everyone, my projects are guaranteed. If they fall apart, send them back. I’ll fix them or make something else.
First, pictured above are the ill effects of whip stitching a granny square blanket together that was made from soft acrylic yarn. The effects are quite ill. The poor thing was washed once or twice and went all to pieces.
Now here is my repair job. I took the whole blanket apart and single crocheted the squares together using a yellow that was pretty close to the original yellow. I think it looks better than before and I kind of want my own now.
The second "repair" was blocking this poor scarf. This is really my first successful knitted garment. I chose the pattern and the boarder pattern from a book of 500 (or some such number) knitting patterns. I didn't know doodly-squat about blocking when I made this poor scarf though, and as a result, for the last few years it has existed as a kind of thick neck sock, all rolled up upon itself.
The blocking was really pleasant because I got to see the lace pattern open up. Due to the fact that the pattern is knit all the way to the edges though, I'm afraid it will always roll up a little, but it is much improved. The yarn is a cotton silk blend and was lovely to handle again.
Here is a quilt update photo. I’ve gotten a little farther than this, but not by much.
And finally, here is one of my kitties reminding me that if it is crocheted, no matter how small it is, it will be sat upon and kneaded by one cat or another. How could I have forgotten that?