I spent yesterday up in Oakland with my friend Amynta while our guys were on a fishing trip. I did about 1 inch on my wedding gift blanket and provided moral and technical support to my friend while she finished a Hansi Singh octopus that I helped her start on a Yosemite camping trip in 2010. Hansi's patterns are challenging, but so worthwhile. I credit them with bringing my own knitting skills along much faster than I think they would have otherwise progressed. They use every shaping and grafting technique in the book, and at the end you have a lovely little toy.
I won't post pictures of the wedding gift blanket, maybe some close ups in a little while, but here's a picture of what it looked like when I took it apart the first time. Perfect may be the enemy of the good, but I can't knit what I don't enjoy, as should surely be apparent from yesterday's post.
I'm posting this picture to emphasize that I take every project apart at least once. I'm just going to have to learn to celebrate that fact, cause it's reality.
Whenever anyone tells me "Hey, I like your blog," I feel compelled to say: "I don't post enough! But I just like crafting more than I like writing about it." As a result, a lot of projects never make it onto the blog because they were finished so long ago that by the time I get it together to write a post, I'm onto something totally new. But I've done a lot of projects recently that I like, so I'm just going to overwhelm you with a big smorgasbord of finished projects. Dig in!
Here is the finished Under the Sea blanket. Though I am pleased, and my friend who received it is pleased, it somehow never lived up to my elaborate conception, (which was much more sculpture than blanket). All of the items button on with toggle buttons, and so they can be re-arranged and moved around.
More socks for my mom. They are both from patterns that you've seen here before and that just work particularly well. I liked the Sidewinders pattern so much, that I knew I wanted to make a pair for my mom. I used some Felici self striping yarn and it ended up coming out so perfectly! The last pair of Skew socks got rave reviews for fit, so I thought I would make another pair. This time around I used an acrylic blend so that they won't be quite so warm as wool. A summer sock.
More socks! This time socks for my husband, who, you may have noticed, doesn't get a lot of stuff. The items in the cue for him are long and varied and he is very patient about it, so I got the lead out and actually finished something for him. These were designed by the witty little knitter, and the pattern is here. I was worried about tightness in the ankles, so I did the all of the white accents on the leg in duplicate stitch. I hadn't really ever given a lot of though to the technique of duplicate stitch, but thankfully and serendipitously, smartygirl at the filmcraft blog posted a link to a Watermelish tutorial on duplicate stitch which was awesome! And everything came out much neater than my original attempt.
Tiny seahorse is finished! I put it off for so long because I was worried I wouldn't be able to pick up the stitches for the belly. I hadn't even considered how absurdly small the back fin would be. So tiny! This is, once again, a Hansi Singh pattern. I didn't have to change the pattern at all, just used smaller needles and yarn. People's main reaction has been, "how do you make it so tiny," and my only answer is "tiny needles." The stick supporting the seahorse in this photo is actually one of the needles used to knit it. They are size 0/6 and I got them from BagLady, where I also got 0/4 and 0/5. They don't sell 0/8, thank goodness, or I would probably be blind.
And I know I'm kind of burying the lead here, but ta-da! Tiny chameleon. He was inspired by a little guy you may have seen in the news a little while ago:
One new chameleon was found on Nosy Hara, an islet off the coast of Madagascar. Named Brookesia micra, it is the smallest of the four species. Juveniles are small enough to stand on the head of a match.
Well, I didn't quite get it that small, but pretty close! Also, chameleons are incredibly fun to look at! When ever I'm doing a project where I'm trying to match something in nature, I do a lot of image searches first, and that was how I learned the super fun fact that baby chameleons ride around on their mom's faces. So, then, of course, I knew what I had to do.
Both mom and baby are Hansi Singh patterns. The mom was knit with sock weight yarn and using 0/4 needles. The hardest part by far was the tail, but it wasn't impossible. The legs are knit separately, but the head and eyes are knit with picked up stitches. There are wires inside the legs so that they are positionable.
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.
A variety of explanations have been postulated over the years to account for sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. These may be categorised as: misidentifications of common animals; misidentifications of inanimate objects or effects; reinterpretations of traditional Scottish folklore; hoaxes; and exotic species of large animals. -Wikipedia.org
This little buddy was knit with 00 needles and two colors of variegated sock yarn. His body is stuffed, but his flippers are not, and his head stays up on its own, no pipe cleaners or wires, so he is even baby safe, though he is not intended for a baby. The little horns are my favorite part.
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?
Here is another version of the mantis from Amigurumi Knits, which is absolutely my favorite toy pattern book. I could not believe how big that first mantis came out. It is just way too big. Also, I used pipe cleaners in the legs, and they are not strong enough to hold up the mantis body. You set it on the table and it collapses, you pick it up and it throws its head back, and it’s grabbing legs in the air, as if to say, “Party!” This little fellow is a vast improvement. As I look at him now sitting on the table, he looks alert and ready to spring. (Perhaps that isn’t what most people look for in a toy, but I like my inanimate objects to have a little personality.)
I used plastic covered steal wire in the legs, so they are much stronger and more ridged. Also that thin wire was almost too thick for the skinny legs, but it just fit. The other alteration I made was to work the last row of the eye with the main body color, giving the mantis pupils. I’ve included here a photo of the second eye under construction. It just looks so creepy, mantis eye surgery.
To make this mantis I used 000 needles and sock yarn. The brown is some yarn that I had left over from the snail socks from the first post on this blog. The green is some lovely variegated yarn I bought in a department store called Coop in Switzerland. It was sort of one of those “yarn in a department store, how novel, I must buy some” moments, but I’m so glad I did. It came out so buggy, and I always forget that I don’t have a problem with variegated yarn in stockinette stitch. I truly hate it, say, in the ribs of a sock leg, where it comes out so messy, but it looks very pretty here. Though I did end up bending one of my 000 needles during some tight knitting, I’m so pleased with this guy and he makes me want to make all of the Amigurumi animals on a small scale.
Also, a little side note. I had first discovered the designer of this pattern, Hansi Singh on etsy.com. She published a book of patterns last year, but many great patterns, including my favorite, the sea horse, were not in the book. After the publication of the book, her etsy store closed, and I often felt very sad about it. I love her patterns and want everyone to own them, but also, I hadn’t bought them all! Well, it turns out that she still has all her patterns for sale on Ravelry.com, a fiber arts social networking site. So, sheeps be praised, you can still get the patterns. I find that almost as pleasing as this mantis.