A Magical Adventure For You

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I knit a Totoro for my friend Amanda’s birthday! He came out so perfect and wonderful that I had serious trouble letting him out of my house. The pattern is a little complicated to obtain: the Ravelry listing is for a Norwegian pattern. One is directed to contact Ravelry user “edingburg11” for the English translation, but this is a typo; in fact the user who has translated it is edinburg11. She’s very gracious and relatively speedy about emailing you the pattern once you get in touch with her, but it might take her a day or two to get back to you, so make sure to get in touch with her in advance if you’re knitting Totoro on a deadline!

The pattern is pretty well-done and easy to use, though I used the disappearing loop cast-on for the belly since I thought that looked a lot neater than what the pattern suggested. I’m particularly pleased with the way the face came out — I crocheted tiny flat circles for the eyes, and then used french knots for the pupils, and the rest of the face embroidery worked out pretty well.

still haven’t taken pictures of my Morticia shawl, but I swear those are coming soon, as well as pictures of my current in-progress sweater! Till next time!

Zeldaphant

IMG_5688We photographed a new shawl today, but looking at the pictures in my camera I remembered that I never blogged about this little guy, who I finished knitting a few weeks ago. So the shawl post will come later in the week; for now: Zeldaphant!

I call him that because I knit him for my friends’ little girl’s first birthday, and said little girl is named Zelda. The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda, and it’s as good as everybody says it is. It’s one of the most popular toy patterns on Ravelry, and while I don’t have a huge amount of experience with knitting toys, I’d definitely say this was the clearest, most sensible, least annoying pattern for a toy I’ve knit so far. The key to getting the trunk to curl for me was to stuff the whole head pretty densely, because you need the trunk to be very densely stuffed so you can pose it, and if the head isn’t packed very tightly then the trunk stuffing will migrate into the head.

The yarn I used was Caron Simply Soft from my stash — it’s the softest, cuddliest acrylic I’ve found so far, and since this is a gift for a one-year-old I wanted it to be as thoroughly machine-washable as possible. I figure if Zelda likes it, this toy is likely to be both dragged through dirt AND chewed on, and ain’t no mama of a one-year-old got time to lovingly handwash her toys. Like many Ravelers, I decided to make the feet in a contrasting color. And I am INSANELY PROUD of how pretty my embroidered french-knot eyes came out. Check it:

IMG_5687I actually suck at embroidery; my secret weapon was this tutorial. It’s steps 5 and 6 that really set this apart from other french-knot instructions on the internet; pushing the knot down to the fabric before pushing the needle through is the key to making it not come out crappy.

I’ve been meaning to do more WIP-blogging — I feel like a lot of finished objects (like this one) crop up on this blog without you having even seen them on the needles. I also think that more WIP blogging will allow me to talk a little more about knitting as a process, and to share some of my techniques and approaches in more detail. I’m eventually going to try to do more WIP-only posts, but I actually have a backlog of FOs to show you at the moment, because the start of the school year has crowded out most other things in my life for the past few weeks. In addition to this guy and the shawl I’m going to show you later this week, I have another finished shawl that I’m going to put on the blocking board today!

About two weeks ago, I took this picture of my WIPs and recently-finished-but-unblocked pieces. They’re arranged in chronological order of start date, oldest at the left. I call it “Red Shift”:

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It’s kind of amazing: all summer all I wanted to knit was blues, and then sometime in September red seems to have taken over my brain. The yarn on the right is a sweater quantity of Madelinetosh Sport in the Tart colorway that I picked up at Imagiknit in San Francisco on a weekend I was up there recently. I felt like it was a stroke of brilliance on my part to buy a sweater’s worth of Madelinetosh in person, because the skeins are so variable and there are no dye lots. Imagiknit is maybe my favorite LYS in the universe, and it manifested its wonderfulness in the salesperson who went in the back and got all 20ish skeins of Tart that they had in stock, and went through them carefully with me helping me to pick a matched set.

At this point everything on the blue side of this photo is finished, except for the color-block garter-stitch blanket in the middle there (which is going to take about a thousand years), and you’ll see the other projects soon. All the red is still underway, but it’s all been temporarily shelved in favor of two more urgent projects that are neither blue nor red:

IMG_5751They photograph poorly when they’re unblocked like this, because the ribbed gussets make them curl up all weirdly, but these are the Cusp socks that I started as a mini-KAL with my friend Lisa back in April. We knit on them for a few weeks and then stopped, because she’d made some mistakes and had to start over and wasn’t feeling up to actually doing that, which I understood. Then we decided to pick them up again in September and try to finish them in time for the October mystery KAL we both wanted to do, and we both failed at that goal — but as you can see, I’ve come pretty darn close. I figure I can probably finish these at some point in October if I finish any of the mystery KAL clues early.

That KAL is the Boo Knits “Morticia” Halloween Mystery KAL. Boo Knits is the author of Rainshine, which I knit recently, as well as many other dramatic, interesting shawl patterns, so I decided I trusted her to come up with something worthy of Morticia Addams. I also decided to go whole-hog with the “goth” theme:

IMG_5755(I don’t want to show you an in-progress pic in case any of you are doing the KAL and might have the “mystery” spoiled.) It looks kinda blue or purple here, but that yarn is in fact black — Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Lace in the “Shadow” colorway. I really like the “Raven Clan” colorways, and thought long and hard about getting a blue-black or a green-black, but ultimately decided to go for a true black so I could wear it with red and blue equally well. The beads are 6mm Miyuki cube beads from Fusion Beads, which I had a lovely experience with & which doesn’t have minimum order sizes, unlike some other online bead vendors. This KAL is still in its first week — it’s not too late to join me!

Sax Fiend

Meet the Sax Fiend. Pat bugged me for months to make a small monster to function as a sax mute, since our band is somewhat prone to generating noise complaints, and finally a few weeks ago I did. He is crocheted out of some random bulky-weight acrylic from my stash (probably Lion Brand?) that I chose mostly because it was thick so I could bang this guy out quickly. I didn’t follow a pattern; I just made sure his bulbous bottom was the right size to fit in the bell of the sax and otherwise made him up as I went along. The body is crocheted (since I find it’s much easier to freehand three-dimensional shapes in crochet), but the arms are I-cord, knitted at a fairly tight gauge so they would stick out rather than flop down. For the flippers/hands I just knit the I-cord back-and-forth for a a few rows, increasing a bit at the bottom and decreasing at the top. The mouth and fangs came out pretty well, given how badly I suck at embroidery. The thing about embroidery is that it’s basically sewing (which I’m bad at) plus drawing (which I’m really bad at).  So I try not to do it very often.

The eyes are from my, uh, stash of eyes. I seriously have a bag of about 60 pairs of stuffed animal eyes in various colors and sizes in my craft bureau. Hey, you never know.

Otherwise, I’ve been sort of wildly promiscuous with my knitting; I’ve been picking up and putting down projects as it pleases me and therefore have been making slow progress on all of them. But I’ve finished one sleeve of my Lady Gray shrug, as you can see here. I love the way this yarn (Alchemy Juniper) & pattern go together; in the main body of the shrug the colors are all mixed up, but I also like how they look here in the cuff where they’re a little more predictably stripey. I had a little bit of trouble conceptualizing how the cuff was supposed to be picked up and knitted, and the designer was quick to respond to my query and very helpful!

My Aestlight shawl stalled out two weeks ago when I decided that knitting the edging was annoying. I had to turn the work every 10 stitches or so, and the pattern was a little too complicated to memorize, so I had to look down every 15 seconds or so — which made it pretty bad TV knitting. But a few days ago I sucked it up and started working on this again, and I should finish it up tonight. So in a few days it should be blocked and ready to show you! (And FYI Gudrun is having a 20% off sale until October 17th, so this is a good time to grab this pattern if you’d been thinking about it!)

Here’s something you haven’t seen before — this is the Citron shawlette from Knitty that everybody and their mother was knitting this past winter. The yarn is Hedgehog Fibres Silk/Merino Lace in the “Pilgrim” colorway. I thought about making something fancier with this yarn, but the fact that I had 700 yards of it was a little awkward — too little for a wrap, too much for a scarf, and I really wasn’t in the mood for another triangular shawl. But then I saw that some Ravelers had done the math recently for expanding the Citron larger than the original pattern, and I realized that 700 yards would be just about perfect for a slightly larger & therefore more versatile version of the original pattern. (These charts are on the Ravelry page for the design, if you’re curious.)

So that’s three in-progress projects, and I of course also have my Buncha Squares blanket lurking in the background. Just yesterday I started another small project that I’ll show you when it’s a little farther along, and I have plans to start a large wrap project, and I’m thinking about doing the Through The Loops mystery sock for “Socktober.” And on top of all that, I’m itching to knit another sweater now that fall is approaching. It’s almost as though my knitting is conspiring to distract me from something… like, oh, say, my dissertation?

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus

Now, I am a lover of movies that are so bad that they’re good. But Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, which really exists, is so bad that it’s just plain bad. It does feature an octopus so huge and badass that it slaps a plane out of the sky with its tentacles by reaching up out of the sea, but the only thing worse than the writing is the way the crappy actors deliver their crappy lines, and the CGI budget must have been miniscule because they use the same shots of the octopus and shark over and over again. Deep Blue Sea, however, is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. At least, one of mankind’s greatest achievements available for $4.99 in the bargain bin at your local Blockbuster. It features Samuel L. Jackson getting bitten in half and L.L. Cool J tearfully reciting his secret omelet recipe into a video camera as his legacy to mankind minutes before the giant superintelligent shark busts through the door of his (flooded) kitchen. You want to see this movie.

Anyway, I finished my octopus on time, but I waited a few days to post about it in case the mother of the young recipient reads this blog. When I was doing the photo session, Pat suggested that I have some kind of oceanic background, so I grabbed my trusty Deep Blue Sea DVD and I’m pretty pleased with how this picture came out. The woman is fleeing the shark, but she’s seeing my octopus and going “uh oh…”.

Here’s a shot from earlier in the photosession:

The pattern is Octopus by Hansi Singh, who seems to be the reigning goddess of amigurumi knits. Since the toy is for a small child, I didn’t put the pipecleaners in the tentacles that would have allowed them to be all curly, but I may make another one with tentacle-curliness for our apartment. What you can’t see very well in the picture is that the red bottom is actually sparkly; I knit it with a strand of red Cascade 220 and a strand of red Lion Brand Glitterspun held together. The pattern is definitely a pain in the ass, but since it’s small it’s totally possible to finish in a day or two. The actual knitting took me about a movie and a half (Warner Herzog’s Heart of Glass and Public Enemy starring James Cagney — I don’t only watch trash, I swear) plus two episodes of M*A*S*H on DVD. The finishing took half of Public Enemy and one episode each of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. So there you go. One thing to note is that the finishing encompasses like 1/3 of the total time that it takes to make this thing. Which is kind of crazy.

I also have a progress picture of my Freeform Crochet-along piece to show you — here it is after three weeks of instructions have been followed:

Note the ugliest shamrock-in-a-horseshoe ever down there in the bottom right corner (upside-down). That part aside, I’m pretty happy with it. I decided to take it with me on my spring break trip back to NJ, which does limit my yarn choices — I brought five or six balls of yarn in the colors I’d already been using. You may notice that I added a pansy on top of that godawful spiral in the middle; this makes me very happy.

So the octopus worked out fine, but that other bad-knitting-decision that I keep alluding to is so much of a disaster that I still can’t show it to you. I knit blissfully away on it on the plane on St. Patrick’s Day after a round of beer pong, a drink in the airport bar, and a drink on the plane, and I messed it up so badly that I had to rip the whole thing out and start over. Oops. But in a few days I’ll have made enough progress again that I should have enough to show you. That is, assuming I don’t throw the whole thing out the window and decide to make something sane.

Freeform Week 2

Here is my freeform-crochet-along piece after two weeks of daily instructions have been followed — I haven’t worked today’s yet! I’m pretty ridiculously pleased with it. I keep threatening that I’m going to hang it on the wall when I’m done, and Pat keeps looking concerned. If you have a Ravelry account, I highly recommend that you go to the pattern page to check out other people’s interpretations of the instructions — it’s really remarkable how different each piece is!

I know that I promised I would regale you with tales of my two recent bad-knitting-decisions, but I only have a photo of one of them so far:

What you are looking at, my friends, is tentacles. Eight tentacles, to be exact. What makes knitting this octopus such a profoundly bad idea is that I have exactly two more days in which to finish the whole damn thing, because I want to finish it and get it in the mail before I leave for spring break. Of course, ideally I’ll also finish grading all my students’ final exams before then, too. So, you know, hopefully in two days you will be seeing completed octopus pictures here. Either that or I will have had a nervous breakdown. See you on the flipside!