If you want to sing out, sing out, and if you want to be free, be free, cause there's a million ways to be, you know that there are.
--Cat Stevens

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Emily,

 As this blanket is a special gift for a special baby.  I have written this post as a letter to her.  For those of you interested in commentary and information on the blanket,  I have provided this in the captions.
Dear Emily 
Voila! My fantastic blanket is finally finished.  The blue yarn is random stash acrylic but the beige 
is my own handspun. They didn't play as well together as I had hopped.  (Read I accidentally felted the
 handspun when washing this).  And So I decided backing it in fleece would make it look nicer.I was right.
  It will be many years before you will understand this letter and probably several more before you can read it for yourself.  I hope that someday you do read it but even if you never see this letter there are things that I wanted to say to you that I think should be sent out into the universe.  I made this blanket for you.  I started long before you were born and I have missed your birth by a couple of months.   I have spent hundreds of hours crocheting and sewing this blanket because I love you.

Frogs are my favorite critters so I couldn't resit adding one.
  I know we have never met, and that we will probably only meet infrequently in the future due to the thousands of miles spread between us.  I love you anyways.  I love you because I love your mother, but more importantly I love you because you are you.  I love you because of the potential you represent and because every person in the world needs love.
The elephant is also made of some of my handspun.  I love the lion's mane!
 When I first made him I left his mane about two inches long. 
For the longest time I bounced back and forth between wanting
to trim and leaving it long.  I decided to trim it a bit.
     I decided to make you a blanket, because I love blankets. A special blankets is a talisman.  It tells you that your are loved, and it can keep you warm and make you feel safe on a bad day.  Someday when  you are older you should ask you mom about her special blanket from a grandma she barely knew.  I remember it was pink and silky and had beautiful animals sewn all over it and she loved it.  I know she slept with it well into her teenage years and I can only hope that you might love this blanket even half as much.

This blanket tells the story of Noah's ark, but
that's not the story I am going to tell you today.  Instead, I am going to tell you what each of the symbols on your blanket mean to me.  The boat and house represent a safe place for you to go when the world gets to be too much.  The giraffe represents your reach.  You can reach much further than you know.  Everything you do has the potential to change the world.  The lion is bravery, because you'll need it, kid.  It's jungle out there! 
The elephant is wisdom.  There is a folk saying that says that Elephants never forget anything.  Who knows if that's really true?  But I wanted to give as much wisdom as I had because I know things can be tough.  And the frog because everyone needs a little silliness.
I hope you remember that I love you, and if when you are older you ever need someone to talk to, even if I am a million miles away, I'd be happy to listen.
                                                                                          Aunt Amy

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tutorial: Garbage Can Monster

 One of the favorite characters of my childhood was Oscar the Grouch.  One day when visiting the store I saw a display of Garbage Candy and I knew I had to make a tiny Oscar.  It is quite simple and the same techniques could easily be used to make other tiny garbage can monsters.

1.  Gather Materials:

2. Wrap Yarn around foam ball.  If you find it difficult to keep the yarn from slipping of the ball you may use a dab of hot glue, but if you change directions every 4 or 5 wraps for the first few wraps the yarn should be well anchored.

 3. Put a layer of hot glue in the the tiny trash can and then fill in the extra space.  I used an extra foam ball and some wadded up eyelash yarn to fill the trash can.  The can should be filled almost to the brim so that the head is clearly visible.

4.  Place the head on top of the filling.  Glue it down and glue the lid to the head.
5.Marvel at the cuteness you have created.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I think I have WIPitis...

 I counted and including the two that are not pictured here today because Ididn't work on them this week I have seven WIPs. I frogged the brown ami I was working on last week and started this green blob.  It will hopefully become an aboleth.

I had become increasingly unhappy with the shaping on my blanket design and so I frogged and started again about a bajillion four times.  I am currently really really happy with the way the new shaping is so far and I am no ready to tons and tons of mathy things to figure out how much yarn etc. I will need to make my sample.  I wasn't sure what yarn I wanted so I bought 1 ball each of three different yarns to try--that was really fun!
Last week I only showed you the back of this because I wanted to keep it a secret a bit longer.  This is my second Noah's Ark blanket.  My first was a huge success so I decided to make one for my sister's new baby.  The beige yarn for the sky is a handspun yarn that I respun from my very earliest super bulky underspun attempts at spinning.  It is gorgeous and soft and adds great texture but ended up not playing well with the blue acrylic and so I decided it needed to be backed with fleece.  My sewing machine and I have and uneasy truce and sewing fleece to crochet nearly caused us to go to war, except for the courageous efforts of my husband who ended up doing about 80% of the sewing.  The only thing we have left is  to finish the top stitching.  It should be done for Friday and I hope I can get some better pics.
I spent too much money on yarn this summer and have been placed on a yarn diet until such time as my yarn shelves are empty ( or at least emptier).  So as penance I have begun to use up all the scraps of acrylic on a granny quilt.

 My husband has needed a new wallet for almost as long as we have been married(four years).  I decided upon the pattern Michael del Vecchio's Wallet about three years ago.  Two years ago I went to a LYS and bought the patterns recommended Berroco Suede.  A few month's ago I started the pattern in said yarn and learned that linen stitch in ribbon yarn is about as pleasant as repeatedly stabbing myself in the eye with a needle.  Finally I bought some cotton dishcloth yarn, sucked it up and finished the pieces.  Now if only  I could figure out how to put them together.

This has been another issue of Work in Progress Wednesday.  If you would like to see more amazing projects check out my link party page to see where the parties are happening.

Friday, August 23, 2013

From Fluff to stuff

I haven't finished anything for a few weeks but I still have many FO from my long blogging pause to show you.  Today is  my favorite FO ever.

It is Niemeyer by Iris Alessi.  It is also a project of first for me.  It is my first project made from my own handspun.  It is my first handspun that is/was relatively even.  It is the first yarn I ever dyed.  My first knitted shawl.  My first knitted lace.   So needless to say I am crazy proud of it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Secrets, deadlines and Wips

I had some major camera issues that prevented me from posting for a few weeks.  These have been solved due to the generosity of rav friends :D.  It is late and I am tired so I am going to keep this brief.  I think I have forgotten at least a couple of my WIPs but I guess you'll see them next week.

I am good at lots of things but there are few things that I am really terrible at  deadlines and secrets.  I can't finish anything to a deadline even one I give myself, and I couldn't keep a secret to save my life.  Secrets make me excited and when I excited I feel like there a million butterflies in my chest and if I don't tell someone they will explode.   I am telling you this because this week I have several secret projects that have failed deadlines to share.

Tiny Amigurumi that I am making up
as I go along
 I have a ton of projects started right now and I feel like they are all in the blackholes.  Most of them were supposed to be gifts for special events that have already occurred.  A couple are gifts for special events that will occur soon.  My sister had a baby July second and I am still working on a blanket for her baby.  Her older daughter just celebrated her 2nd birthday on the 8th and I am still working on a present for her.  I am also still working on a present for the same sister's birthday.
Back of a very special baby blanket that I am working on. 
Hopefully I will get it backed and  mailed soon so you can see it in all its awesomeness.
A special blanket project that I hope will become a self- published pattern soon

My sister's birthday present.  Can you guess what it will be?

And just because I don't have enough crazy in my life.  I started swatching Venus by Aoibhe Ni.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pattern Review: Hermione the Unicorn by Dawn Toussaint

Hermione the Unicorn is a free pattern by Dawn Toussaint.  It is available as a free Ravelry download and is a well
My Hermione is about 9 1/2
inches tall from hooves to horn
tip, compared to a recommended 
6 inches.
formatted PDF file.  When you open your pattern file the first thing you will see is a large blue rectangle containing a list of the techniques you will need know, and a list of the materials and equipment you will need to have to complete the pattern.  After that we jump right into the critical information.  As Hermione is a stuffed animal gauge is not critical and Ms. Toussaint has provided us with neither gauge nor a recommended yarn.  She does however suggest that  she used worsted weight yarn(150-200 yards of  color A, 20 yards for color b, and 10 yards for color ) and an f size hook.  I found this disconcerting as worsted weight yarn can vary much inside the class and most of the worsted weight yarn I have recommends using H, I, or J hooks.  Amigurumi are usually worked with hooks about 2 sizes smaller than is recommended for the yarn but I was worried that the f would be too small.  My unicorn is worked with KnitPicks Brava for the main color and a size H hook.
If you look closely you can see that the
muzzle is very shallow.  The little shaping
shown is formed by pressing the stuffing
into the desired shape.
Hermione is started by making all the auxiliary pieces first.  We make 2 arms, 2 legs, 2 ears and a horn.  The arms and legs are very similar, both start with color b in the spiral differing only in stitch count as the legs are slight larger.  After 7 rows we switch to main color and make the clever little scallop feature on the hooves before continuing for the length of the pattern.  The ears are simple an work up very quickly.  The horn is the only piece made in color C and I found the shaping to be a bit tricky.  After finishing the extremities we move on to the head and body.  The head and body are worked as one piece stuffing and joining the other pieces as you work so that by the time you are done crocheting you are also completely done assembling your animal.  All that is left is to embroider details and attach the mane.
I am sorry not to have better
pictures of the gaping holes
around the arms and legs but
 you can see above the right
 arm there some of the stitches
that I repaired.  I also wanted
 to note that Hermione is very
 floppy and doesn't sit well.  I
have tacked her arms and legs
 together for these photos to
 make her look better and
 be easier to pose.
My Hermione didn't go quite as smoothly as reading through the pattern suggested it might.  Despite excellent instructions and clear diagrams I had serious difficulties in attaching the limbs without leaving massive holes in my work.  I ended up having to duplicate stitch around the arms and legs to cover up said ugly gaping holes.  I am however certain my difficulties were due to user error and not a defect in the actual pattern.  Of greater concern to me was the lack of muzzle shaping in the head.  The head works up almost perfectly round and the muzzle is much to flat to look like a horse's face.  With great deal of stuffing and squeezing I was able to achieve a head shape with which I was reasonably satisfied, but had I known beforehand I would have added my own modifications to make a more horse-like muzzle. 
The mane was added using latch hooking techniques
 and is Nashua Handknits Sitar in the colorway gypsy
 wagon.  It has been brushed gently with a pet slicker
 brush to make it look fuzzier and sleeker.
Overall Hermione the Unicorn is an excellent pattern and I am certain to try other Dawn Toussaint patterns in the future.  Due my limited budget I often work free patterns, especially as a way to decide if I would like to purchase other patterns from the designer in the future.  I am grateful that Hermione was offered as a free pattern as I had a great deal of fun making her and now have a gorgeous unicorn sitting in my living room making me happy.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Everyday Magic

Some of you know that I have spent the last 9 months in a rather boring an intensive french class.  In many ways in was an amazing experience I met many people from all over the world who had moved here to build a better life for their families.  I made friends, learned a new language, and discovered more about the region.  In other ways it was boring, stressful, and downright unpleasant. From this experience I learned something--most things in life are just this way, and it is up to the experiencee to make a meaningful life out of the roller coaster ride.  One of the ways I coped with the unpleasantness of certain parts of the class was to knit or crochet obsessively (often during class ) so I have many finished objects to share with you but I will share a few at a time too keep it from being to overwhelming for both you and.
Hermione the Unicorn by Dawn Toussaint
When I was little  I used to say I wanted to be a dragon when I grew up.  I still do actually the difference is that I know it won't happen.  As much as I wish it were otherwise I have yet to see a dragon, pet a unicorn, or meet a wizard outside my imagination.  Sometimes I search for fairies in the wooded areas and although I have never found one I can't believe that they don't exist.  However dragons and fairies and unicorns are not really what I wanted to talk about.  I have realized that in my desire to find "real" magic in the world, I was missing something more important: everyday magic.

Side view to show off Mane.  

There is a spell of pure joy and peace that is found in learning to love what we already have.  This everyday magic can be found: in the quiet early mornings before everyone wakes, a stolen kiss, long talks with someone you love late at night, in joy of sport, or hidden moments with a ball of string and a couple of sticks.  The laugh of a small child is as a wizard's spell to sorrow, and the wonder of simple hot meal and warm bed can wipe away the weariness of a long day.  Finding the magic in the ordinary is every bit as much an art and science, as the magic  wizards in the fantasies I love practice. 
Finished in Mid-April.  Back view for the mane.
 For example, a few days ago I realized I had stopped listening to music.  I don't know why but I do know that for last few years music listening has been a fleeting occasional sort of thing that I did by accident.  As I child I listened to and made music every chance I got, and I couldn't imagine a world without music.  I have started making time to really listen to music again and you know what music is magic.  Music can spin straw into gold, mend broken hearts and allow a human to fly.  I hate cleaning but just yesterday evening I found myself in my kitchen cooking dinner and cleaning up while listening to music, and guess what I was having a blast!!!  Everything seemed to go by much more quickly.
My favorite new kind of string magic is spinning.  It amazes me that a stick with a little weight on it and a ball of fluff are all it takes to make beautiful yarn, and I am learning quickly, as is evidenced by my most recent creation.
Finished a couple weeks ago. 4ply from mixed wool roving.  About 200yds sock weight.  I am rather absurdly proud of it and have no idea what to do with it.
Last but not least I have finally gotten up the courage to really learn to draw.  I used to love to draw as a child, but was too busy to take art courses as an adolescent. Sometime on the way from then until now I convinced myself that I was no good at it anyway.  I have lately had many ideas and things I wished to draw and design and no way to express them adequately and I determined that it was time to learn to draw.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that although I still have much to learn I am much better at drawing than I thought.
Study in 3-D shapes and shading form a couple days ago.

See my tab on link parties to join me in looking at other great finished projects.