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!
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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!
 
Now is the time to reveal what I’ve been working on for the past few months:
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Little penguin ornaments.  Unfortunately, like a few of my projects, I didn’t get a better photo than this one, but he does look cute here on his way to the post office!  I made 8 of these little guys, taking breaks from larger projects.  They were made using sock yarn and size 2 needles.  They came out nicely, but it wasn’t the most elegant pattern, and I certainly was glad to make the last one.  The pattern came from Knitpicks, and in the same pattern book is a pattern for knitted popcorn to string up for Christmas tree decoration.  But I’m trying to forget that one.  The phrase “make 90” at the beginning of the directions sounds like a warning to stay away and protect my sanity to me.
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This little guy is the Zozo alien from Knitty.  I made him for a little cousin of mine who is still small enough to not get button eyes on her toys.  Similar to the penguins, I like how he came out, but there was so much I-chord involved.  I had planned to make another one, but went with a different project instead.  Call it craft attention deficit, but once I’ve done a project, especially a fiddly one like this, doing a second, third, etc, becomes pretty onerous.  Making two socks or two sleeves can be quite enough of a challenge, I didn't need to spend another week making short little I-chords.
Intarsia knitting before and after weaving in the ends.
Thus, enter the gorilla baby beanie from the mad monkey knitter on Etsy.  I made a few alterations in the pattern, so that I had a happy monkey instead.  I also started this project on an airplane, a miscalculation, as you can perhaps see.  With my lap full of little bobbins of yarn I felt like I needed to explain to the little old lady next to me that I actually did know what I was doing.  I was so proud of how clean the back ended up coming out that I immediately took pictures, and then I forgot to take pictures of the finished hat.  But I think you can get an idea of how it looks from looking at this pristine back.  :)
Here is the mobius shawl that I made for my mother-in-law.  I'm modeling it in the photo above, because I never got a chance to get a photo of her in it.  I had never knit a mobius before, and it was certainly cool.  A mobius strip is a loop of paper, or knitting, or what have you, that has been twisted once so that it has a continuous outer edge.  It is knit working from the center out, knitting both edges at the same time.  As you can see, when it is on the needles it is a big mess, but during the cast off, it is super rewarding to see it become an un-wadded up piece of fabric.  I think it is a great shawl alternative because there is no way it can fall off your shoulders.  It is knit with bulky yarn, so it is very warm and cozy.
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That tiny sock from the last post was intended as an IOU for my dad.  I thought for sure that I wasn't going to have time to complete a full pair of socks for him, so I made that little one.  When we came home from Thanksgiving, it seems that one of the cats made off with the tiny sock, and they still aren't saying where they put it.  By the time I had finished all my projects, it turned out I still had a week, so I was able to whip these up, thank goodness!  I had bought the yarn on a whim during a trip to Switzerland, when I discovered they sold yarn in the department store.  I just couldn't resist. Yarn in a department store, how novel.  It was even on sale and came with a matching spool of thinner yarn for reinforcing the toe and heel.  In order to not completely hide the pattern, I knit the socks in stockinette, which I always worry will be too loose, so I did do some ribbing under the arch as an experiment that I hope made them fit a little more snuggly.  Because they were for my dad though, I won't ever know if the ribbing is a good idea or not because he just tells me they are great.  :)
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I think it was at the beginning of the year, I'm not sure, but at some point my brother-in-law started running barefooted and wearing Vibram Five Fingers "toe shoes".  I saw him at the end of May and decided that what this kid needed were some toe socks, or toe slippers.  I measured his feet and got started on the first sock, got down to the toe area, and then froze.  I had measured his toes already, but I just wasn't confident about my measurements.  As luck would have it, my husband and I got a chance to visit with his family again on Labor Day, and I was able to finish the toes on one sock.  I started the next one, but I knew I couldn't just hold it up to the first sock, and I was going blind trying to count and compare the rows.  Then, hurrah, we saw each other again at the beginning of December, and I was able to finish the toes for the second foot.  I used this really cool Riga latex product to make the no skid bottom, because they are slippers after all.  That worked great and I would totally recommend the product to anybody, much better than puff paint.  
Finally, a felted purse for my mom.  This purse was really quite quick and easy.  It was lots and lots of stockinette, and then, a row where you picked up the backs of the first row of a color and knit them with the current row, creating the pleat.  I ordered the pattern from knitpicks.  My only complaint is that they didn't quite calculate the yardage correctly, so that I ran out of the colors in the bottom sections, the grey and the cranberry, before it was time to switch to the next color.  It was pretty nerve wracking to have the suspense of not knowing if you were going to be able to finish with the right color or not.  Hidden under the pleats are some rogue lines of black and mismatched purple.  But all's well that ends well.  I made the lining out of some purple batik fabric and put a magnetic closure into it.  This was my first foray into felting, but it went well and I'm thinking of working on a felted vest for my father-in-law for next Christmas.  
Well, that's all.  Christmas was lovely.  I got a special gift from my mother-in-law, who secretly has been learning to knit and made me a ruffly scarf!  I got to see my little cousin wearing the owl sweater that I made for him.  I got a pair of Addi Click interchangeable needles, which have already proven to be quite useful as I sit swatching away on new projects and needing to change up and down needle sizes.  Also my husband has promised to buy a kit for me to make the Dale of Norway Polar Bear sweater!  2011 is shaping up pretty well so far!
 
NOTE: There is a lot of technical crochet talk in this post, but there is also a pretty clear description of my creative process of A to Z, so maybe you will find that interesting, you non-crocheters. Also, an N hook is 9mm in diameter, and almost as big as my pinkie finger, whereas the hooks I normally use are 1.4mm in diameter.  

Meet the Toast Blanket.  This blanket has been a long time in progress labor of love.  Here is its story.
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Once upon a time, I made the daffodil blanket.  It is crochet, out of acrylic Red Heart.  Each flower was made, trumpet first and then petals, and then sewn onto the hexagon.  I had the pleasure of making it for a friend with vision whom, when I showed her the pattern in a book and lamented that I would never get to make it because no one I knew would ever be cool enough to want it, rose to the occasion.
This blanket, crocheted in 2006, is related to the toast blanket in a round-about way, and demonstrates my dedication to structural crochet on a massive scale.
My friend Crystal and I were discussing the as yet unrealized "Under the Sea" blanket that I’m plotting at the behest Katie, the recipient of the Daffodil Blanket.  Crystal proposed a breakfast blanket, with the same basic form as the Daffodil Blanket, in which each hexagon was a plate of breakfast.  I thought the idea sounded interesting but too time consuming.  I did not, however, veto it completely because I do happen to have a pattern book of crocheted food.  When I mentioned this to Katie (a visionary), she suggested that instead of a bunch of little meals, the concept should be one giant piece of toast with a giant fried egg, and two giant strips of bacon.  She said she would harness my grandma skills and suggested that I make this as a surprise for Crystal.  Basically tell me to make someone a surprise and I’m hooked.  All I had to go on was this proposal drawing.
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There is Katie in the background of her lovely sketch.
I didn’t even really consider it at the time, but this project turned out to be a big challenge in terms of scale.  I started with the egg white.  I found a pattern on the lion brand yarn website for the Kew Gardens Afghan and whipped up a circle in no time flat.  I knew I wanted to make the toast a ripple blanket.  A quick on-line search turned up many different versions of the ripple pattern and I selected one that was a little softer in the ripple, not quite so pointed.  Unfortunately, this was long enough ago that I’ve lost that link, but there really are lots.  I did free form increases at the top of the afghan to try to mimic the rounded top of a piece of toast.  Then I went around the thing for about six rows with dark brown, doing front post crochet stitches every 6 or so stitches to give it a little bit of stiffness.  The scale became a problem because every reference piece of crocheted toast that I looked at (and there are more than you would think) was designed to be actual toast size or smaller.  After I had finished the toast, I layed out the nearly completed white...
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and I was sooo disappointed!  In the upper left part of the white you can see where I was trying to make the shape of the white more amorphous.  It was just failing on so many levels.  Add to that the fact that even though I had bought two skeins of white Red Heart, just the same at the same time, of course they were different!  You can see in the photo, it looks like they are differing thicknesses or something.  So annoying!  (And this is not the first time this has happened Red Heart, I mean dye lots are one thing, but thickness lots?)  I started work on the yolk, just trying to push on with the project.  At this point, it was early November, and I knew I wanted to deliver the gift during my Thanksgiving sojourn home.  I had slated a whole weekend to spend with the blanket.  I knew, at that point, that I just had to go with my heart.  I took the whole white apart and remade it as a doily.  This had always been an idea floating around in the back of my mind, but in the interests of verisimilitude, I had packed it to the back.  Perhaps it was all the delicious posts that have been turning up recently of beautiful knit doilies on big needles with worsted yarn.  (Here is one of my favorite patterns from Brooklyn Tweed.)  Anyway, I stuck with what I know, my great love being thread crochet, and dug out The Ultimate Doily Book (because I am the kind of person who sees titles like that in the store and says “oh, well, if it is ultimate, is my library really complete without it?”)  I worked up a large copy of “Summer Nights” with my trust N hook and worsted white, and then I sewed that puppy to the blanket at every point I could.  I did this all, by the way, while watching hilarious melodramas with titles like A Rage to Live and By Loved Possessed.  I’ll tell you there is nothing like trying to see through the tears you are shedding for the tragedy of a life poorly lived by Suzanne Pleshette so you can make sure you are not sewing your blanket to the carpet.
Anyway, I digress and this post is getting way too long.  I will just say that the bacon was worked length wise, with the trusty N and three colors of worsted.  I did one row of straight single crochets and then started doing little increase patterns, 2 single crochets, 2 half double crochets, 2 double crochets, 2 half triple crochets, 3 triples, and then back down again.  That way the work would bubble a little bit like bacon.  And then the last row of fat was just an old fashioned ruffle.  They were pretty quick and I could do one in the time it takes for Robert Redford to get cornered in the town dump in The Chase.  I sewed them down just like I did the doily.  A lot of thought went into their placement and curvature, and I owe a debt to my patient husband, who understands that the curve of a giant piece of bacon matters, it matters a lot.
I made a pillow insert for the yolk, just some yellow fabric and fiber fill, and then crocheted a circle to go around it, increasing and then decreasing to surround the pillow.  The yolk snaps on, because it is a removable pillow.  That’s right, get right out of town, a removable pillow!
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Check out that yolk, wandering where it pleases.
Well, that is everything about the blanket.  Oh, except that Crystal had the best reaction ever!
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It seems like everything I'm working on of late is for Christmas, or for people I will see at Thanksgiving, or people I will see the first weekend of December, and because I'm blessed with many wonderful friends, all the recipients are also blog readers.   Which means that I could post photos of close ups of knitted fabric, but how can I when I'm knitting any time I'm not sleeping or eating? 
All that said, I am doing a small post today.  This is only a part of a gift, so the mystery will be maintained. 
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That's what I've got to show for weeks of silence.  On the up side, I totally made the pattern up based on a fairly consumate knowledge of sock structure.  I even picked up a stitch at the gusset edge to keep it from gapping.  I used size 00 needles and sock yarn.  The decreases for the toe aren't ideal, but since no tiny foot is actually going into this sock, I'm going to let them stand. 
Additional trivia, the yarn that makes up the main body of the sock is the yarn from mosaic hat that I finished back in 2009.  And the ball is still biggern than a soft ball!  That yarn is going to last forever, I'm pretty sure. 
 
This blog has been very yarn-centric for quite some time, but it does say "three types of needles" in my description of the site, and so sewing needles deserve their rightful place as well.  
This weekend was my weekend to work on my Halloween costume.  With a few friends, this year, we are going to be Godzilligan's Island.  The inspiration is fairly simple, taken from Inherent Vice, the newest Thomas Pynchon novel.  I haven't read it, so I don't know the context, but the phrase was enough to sell me.
Now, I am the kind of person who owns a Ginger dress, but I think we all know who the funnest person to be in Godzilligan's Island is:
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Through some lucky fluke, I found a children's dinosaur costume at Goodwill.  Because of my lack of height, I was able to put the thing on, however, it was not "ideal."  I recently got to spend time with a participant in Godzilligan's Island who owns a serger (a nifty machine that sews and cuts at the same time, giving a nice finished edge).  We serged off the legs, turning the bottom into a tails's coat.  This seems like a natural choice to me.  If you don't think so, just think about it for a minute, and I think you will come around.  
Today I put in some time working on the face.  The original dinosaur face looked like this:
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It is pretty fierce for a children's costume, but it isn't Godzilla.  Using the left over fabric from the legs, I constructed what I thought were the salient parts of Godzilla's face: more prominent brows, ridges on the head, closer together nostrils, lips, and, of course, big old teeth and a lower jaw.  Here it is pinned: 
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He looks a little like Mick Jagger or some too much plastic surgery housewife to me here.  Here it is with all the sewing complete:
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I am most pleased about the new eye lids.  Also the head ridges, although they are a little hard to see in this photo.  They really give him a much meaner look.  I still have to work out the back spikes.  I'm not sure what material I could make them out of that would also not be annoying in regard to sitting in a car, being in a crowd, etc.  I think they are important though, for being recognizable as Godzilla.  
 
The setting:  for Labor Day weekend, (I know, a million years ago), my husband and I went to visit his parents in New Hampshire on Little Sunapee Lake.  Little Sunapee Lake is right next to Pleasant Lake, and the aptly named Pleasant Lake is very nice to drive around.  While driving, we noticed a little sign for Skyeview Alpacas.  With an eye toward maybe getting some fiber and ogling some alpaca, we set up a time to stop by with the owner Sue King. 
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  When we got there, she let us right into the pen and handed food pellets all around.  We stood in the pen with the young males, who for the most part were still a little shy.  They had just had their haircuts in March, so they weren’t as bushy as a lot of alpaca are in photos, but they were super cute, and their lack of hair allowed us to really appreciate how silly their necks are.  Once they figured out we had food, there were a few smart guys who became friendlier.  Sue said each season she names the newborns in a particular rubric.  The season all these fellows had been born, it was Musicals.  We learned that our particular new best buddies were Oklahoma and Brigadoon.  I can’t remember who as whom now, so I’m not going to try to identify the photos.  Needless to say, you can imagine how charming it all was to have a bunch of sweet soft animals with silly names eating out of your hand.  
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  Sue also had angora bunnies.  She said that was how she started.  First she got the bunnies, then she started spinning, then she got the alpaca.  She took one of the bunnies out of his cage and let me pet him, but I didn’t get any photos of their accommodations because bunny hutches aren't actually the most gorgeous places, espcially when the residents shed really long hair that gets all over everything.  I can, however, easily imagine a pleasant world in which I had an angora bunny that I brushed every day and followed while it hopped around the yard.  (More easily, anyway, than a world where my two alpaca pull me to work in a little wagon.  I would never imagine anything of the kind, how could you think such a thing?)  Thebunnies are big and silly and very soft.  I’ve always been a little skeptical of rabbits because they don’t make any noise, but I think, if it was a “working” rabbit, it would be a nice pet.
After the animal tour, Sue showed us into her home where she has a little store set up, selling lovely sweaters and blankets and yarns, all alpaca.  It was very pleasant just to go around touching everything.  My in-laws bought quite a bit, and we got the yarn for that baby hat from a few posts back.  In the end, Sue threw in a full unwashed fleece that is a very pretty medium reddish brown color.  I don’t have a photo right now, but it is a little dirty looking still, so maybe that is for the best.  Once I get my act together and process it, I’ll take plenty of photos. 
UPDATE: I forgot the mention the most facinating thing that Sue told us, which is, that after being domesticated for 4,000 years, alpaca don't have top front teeth anymore!  They just don't need it, I guess, which made feeding them from our hands a lot less scary because there was no chance of getting bitten!
 
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Well, here I am, doing what could be a Wonder Woman pose.  Finished item after finished item.  But really, this onslaugt is mearly a hint to the sad state of affairs many of these projects have been languishing in for months.  I can't even recall when I finished this puppy, but it had to have been at least May, if not earlier.  
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How to tell the story of the sweater without telling the story of the yarn?  The yarn, a beautiful Alpaca/Silk blend from Blue Sky Alpaca, was purchased last November!  A wonderful lady I've known almost all my life wanted to take me yarn shopping when I was home for Thanksgiving last year.  I excitedly selected a pattern and we found this stuff to make it.  My original plan was to make this bobble lace skirt.  I'm enough of a knitting newbie to brush aside the idea that a knit skirt might not be a good idea vis a vie opacity.  As I worked on the bobble lace, and my how I worked, I watched my visions of a cute warm skirt dwindle, and every time I googled photos of the skirt to see how other people's work had turned out to gain motivation, I just saw a lot of underpants through skirts!  
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As the yarn and pattern sat sadly inactive, the Summer issue of Interweave Knits showed up, and in it, this Lace Saddle Tee for which I had the perfect yarn!  It was meant to be, and then it turned out that the pattern was really neat.  The sleaves are knit using short rows, and the designer included in the pattern the yarn over method for creating short rows, instead of the wrap method, and this has totally been a revalation for me for my toy knitting, so, double bonus!  
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Anyway, I actually wore it to work today, my first time ever wearing something I made out of the house.  It is soft and fits, and is perfect for a slightly cool day like today when worn over a long sleeved t-shirt.  
 
I have been finishing things like there is no tomorrow.  Really.  Because it feels like Christmas is tomorrow and I haven't even started my Christmas knitting.  Not that I have a whole lot.  I think I have actually been fairly reasonable this year.  And it is only October. 
Anyway, I've been trying to finish off some long standing projects as a way of procrastinating.  I've decided not to start any new projects just yet, despite the inviting whispers coming from one of my new knitted lace doilies books.  And before you even murmur "Who needs a doily, you've made tons you aren't doing anything with" I would say that doilies seem like a good road to getting comfortable with a technique, and if I'm ever going to knit the lace shawl of my dreams (which I will only wear in my dreams) then I should get comfortable with the technique. 
Okay, well, enough with the suspense, the Plum sweater is basically finished.  I realized looking back that the first time I posted about it was in February, so, as a reminder for everyone, here is a photo from the original instruction pamphlet:
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And here is my nearly finished product:
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This poor thing was sitting in a tote bag for months, front and back finished, sleeves finished, just waiting for me to get over my anxiety of side seams.  Well I did.  And also this was my first experience with steam blocking, which, as far as I could tell from my research, amounts to ironing the sweater from the back.  
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The torso of the sweater may be a little short to wear with jeans, but it works great with a high waisted skirt.  I'm sure that is what it was planned for.  Judging by the model, I don't think that she wore dungarees unless she was out on the farm or something.  If you look closely at the first photo, you can see the pearlescent snaps along the right shoulder.  Those were quite a pain, and I'm still not totally sure that they will stay.  Perhaps it was the thick knitting, or maybe the lack of special snap applying pliers, but somehow they just don't want to stay.  
The reason I say almost finished is because the original pattern called for "Parapads, the ready made shoulder pad."  I had thought I could get by without shoulder pads, but I think, now, that they would actually add something to the garment so I'm going to have to get some.  I'm putting it off though, because it has been boiling here temperature wise, and I don't really care to wear a fair isle double thick wool sweater right now.
And finally, another little knit co-worker gift as part of what my husband is calling the office beautification project, some happy little fuchsia flowers:
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Really, I seriously have perhaps 5 posts saved up.  What am I doing with them?  Why haven't I posted them?  I couldn't tell you.  Well, here is one:
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The scale is a little hard to gauge, but this is a little baby hat for a newborn.  It would roughly fit a grapefruit, maybe a small cantaloupe.  A dear friend of my mother-in-laws is having a baby and so my mother-in-law asked me to make this for her.  We visited an alpaca farm (!I know, next post I promise will have details about this!) and we got this yarn there.  It is so super soft and will be super warm for this little Fall baby in New England.  Also, that pompom on top is 100% alpaca and is certainly the softest pompom I've ever made. 
The whole operation only took about two nights, with a third night for adding those faces and making the pompom.  The pattern is a free download on ravelry.com if you are a member, which is free, so if you need a quick baby hat, check it out!
 
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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
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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.