Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday: Sprouts, Stories, Sewing.

Somehow, as I was wandering around the wilds of the Internet on Friday night, I stumbled on the idea of growing your own bean sprouts.  I have a weirdly vivid memory of my mom doing this when I was a kid, but only on one particular occasion---we were going to Pennsylvania to visit one of my mom's college friends, and we packed turkey-and-homegrown-sprouts sandwiches to eat on the drive.   I remember being really excited about the homegrown sprouts and then not actually liking them that much, hah.

Fast forward a bit, and I have come to loooove bean sprouts, but the nearest place here to buy them where they're consistently any good is an Asian grocery that's about forty minutes away, so I don't have them often.  I consulted google, was encouraged by someone linking to this tutorial with glowing praise, and went to pop some French lentils in a jar to soak for their initial twelve hour soak, feeling skeptical because the super-humid climate where I live tends to ruin cute little growing-stuff projects (see: Chia Pet, make-your-own-rock-candy kit). 

Lentils, however, are way tougher than a Chia Pet, because they're already sprouting!  I think they're adorable, and can't wait until they're eating-size.  And then I'm going to try chick peas, and adzuki beans, and maybe buy some alfalfa...

Maybe Sprout the Squid, seen presiding here over the Sprout Jar, has something to do with it.  He's like some kind of minor agricultural deity.

Speaking of deities (and what a strange beginning to a sentence that is...), I just finished the first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book this morning, and while it didn't grab me in the immediate OMG-magic-I'm-hooked way that, say, Harry Potter did, I enjoyed it.  Rick Riordan had some seriously clever and funny ways of combining the modern world with the Greek pantheon, and I can see why the series is popular.  I was crazy about Greek/Roman mythology as a kid, I took the pictured-above book (please tell me one of you other lovely blogosphere people remembers it) out of the library a billion times and absorbed the stories and ogled the beautiful illustrations.  I like knowing---the library had a bunch of paperback copies of the first book, and all of them were beautifully battered and dog-eared---that apparently the whole gods-and-goddesses thing is still appealing to kid-readers. 

I sort of want to save this next thing for FO Friday, but I don't think I have that kind of will power!

Meet Most Serene and Honorable Teatime Ninni, part of my very slow effort to improve my sewing skills.  I made her from this cute pattern/tutorial, as a trial run for one I'll be working on later this week for my first-ever Craftster swap. 

I even gave her a little pocket on the back (made with one of three beautiful teacup templates from Trish at genuine mudpie) to hold a teabag. 

I haven't made a fabric-plush for a while (and I haven't made many of them, period), and wow, are they more difficult to stuff than amigurumi!  It's harder to get the stuffing into the spaces (especially with a project that has tiny arms and ears like this one, granted), and it's so much less forgiving about lumps and stuff.  This will clearly take more practice, so this or other, future Ninni-monsters may turn up in giveaway form at some point...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sprout, Scotty, and a Preschool-esque Luminaria.

Meet Sprout the Squid, my not-an-octopus tentacle project for this week.  The pattern is available here on Craftster, and I knew I had to make him the second I saw the picture.  Much more sewing involved than one of the octopuses, but worth the effort for his sheer cuteness. 

I was thinking of adding sparkly pom-poms to the ends of his tentacles, for extra springtime celebratori-ness.  I still might.

Obligatory weird close-up.  I love this cartoony eye style on a cephalopod.  Weirdly enough, it was initially inspired by that Simpsons episode where the Mr. Sparkle logo is Homer's Japanese advertising doppelganger.
And here's Scotty the trilobite, who I feel semi-confident in saying is the world's only felted trilobite named after American  Idol contestant Scotty McCreery.  (He is so dubbed because I crocheted him while half-watching the finale of Idol.)  The lovely Contessa pointed me to this pattern, which I inverted a little---the body rib was supposed to be created with two front-post double crochets, but after several attempts, I decided to try a single back-post double crochet instead.  Success!  Scotty is just phase one in a bigger trilobite project that should be rolling out over the next couple weeks.

I'm so glad that I wasn't the only one who thought this luminaria idea was awesome.  And I can now vouch for the fact that the process works, and does not create dangerous ice shrapnel!  However.  I uh, may have gotten so excited about the ice part that I didn't think too hard about the actual pattern part, so my luminaria, rather than being emblazoned with elegant leaves or something, is just a hodgepodge of holes that we can pretend was supposed to be an abstract constellationscape all along

Next time, I'll draw the pattern onto the can before freezing it, duh.  It will have to be a simple pattern, though, because trying to punch the holes before the ice in the can breaks and melts is a race against the clock!  (But a fun one.  The nail punched through more easily than I thought it would, and with a little practice you can control the way you hit it and create differently sized holes!)  Another tip:  while the tutorial is all just wrap the can in a towel so it doesn't move as you work!, what works better is a second person to hold the can still for you. 

Before you go make one of your own (and link me to pictures if you do, I love the idea of lots of WIP Wednesday/FO Friday can-luminarias in the world!), go check out other people's projects at FO Friday and Fibers on Friday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Don't Panic! (Even if you've started way to many projects...)

No time for a lot of talking today, the weather's gorgeous and I have a date with (a) my freshly-dried laundry that needs to come off the line, and (b) a hammock, a towel, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I've been a fan of the books since a friend introduced me to them in middle school, and this is the first year I've remembered to celebrate Towel Day!

Off the hooks, but not assembled yet, some mysterious, not-my-usual-octopus tentacles...

I appear to be making a small, very simple shawl, which is slightly baffling as I don't think I'm a natural shawl-wearer.  I blame all of you with your amazing WIP/FO shawls, and my mom for randomly presenting me with the pattern.  To celebrate my bafflement about this enjoyable-to-make but dubiously useful object, I photographed it draped over a small watermelon. 

A small, extinct arthropod, freshly (and lightly---read as "my hands were tired") felted and drying on a sunny rock.  I just hope a bird doesn't come and carry him away to use for its nest.
Nestled amidst the frozen cherries (I can't wait until there are fresh cherries in the supermarket...), a previously-used-for-chick-peas can, which I'm hopefully going to make into a luminaria later.  Apparently you're supposed to fill them with water and freeze them so that when you punch the holes, the ice will keep the can from denting.  I'm thinking it's just going to create ice shrapnel, but I'm ready (and hoping) to be wrong.

Check out other people's projects at WIP Wednesday!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finished Food Friday

First, before I forget! I'm so glad that there's interest in a Dragon Crochetalong, and in a weird burst of good timing, the designer of the dragon pattern I used for Edgar has just rewritten said pattern, which you can find here on Ravelry.  I asked the pattern designer about hosting said crochetalong, and she seemed to like the idea (yay!), so I'll keep you guys posted as I mull over how to organize it.  Any thoughts about that are appreciated!  I'm thinking of creating a Ravelry group for it.
I can't lie to you.  I didn't crochet all of this stuff this week.  A lot of these things have been all crocheted for a while, and just waiting for me to feel like sewing or creating extra pieces to finish them.  I've always loved play food.  I had a lot as a kid, and I remember weirdly specific things about it---the seafoam green plastic basket it was stored in, the pieces of plastic toast that would change colour to look toasted or untoasted if you brushed them with hot or cold water...

And even now that I'm taller and can cook actual food, I still love the play stuff.  This felt s'mores set by neafus on Etsy completely blows my mind, and some of the stuff people do with polymer clay (e.g. these pizza earrings) is unreal!  So when I stumble on a cool crocheted food pattern, I can hardly resist.   I also can't resist some amateur photo styling, which I've had a ridiculous amount of fun with here.

The cute little thing pictured above is the only kind of rainbow cake I'll ever make, because while I concede that rainbow cakes are gorgeous, I'd rather have a chocolate cake without enough food colouring to dye several skeins of yarn.  Made from this adorable pattern over at genuine mudpie.  So tiny!  Mine's a bit wobbly-looking here because (a) my sewing skills need work, especially when I'm employing them while watching Friday Night Lights and (b) I got so excited about photographing the sprinkles I tossed on the plate that I forgot to try and get the best angle on the actual cake piece.  I think I'm going to have to make some colour variations on this one, it's such a fun idea and a super-quick thing to crochet. 

I loved this donut pattern the second I saw it, and being an avid Simpsons fan, I knew I had to make a classic Homer's-donut in pink icing with rainbow sprinkles.  And because I'm a little nuts, the sprinkles took uh, months to get done.  Mostly people use tubular glass beads for sprinkles, and those work fine, but I wanted something less shiny and more realistic.  I ended up making these out of Crayola Model Magic, which is juuuust supple enough when it dries that they could be pierced with a beading needle and sewn on.  They're not that supple, though, so I broke a few while sewing, and they're hard to colour so they're all weird on that front, but I'm pretty pleased with the whole thing.

I really liked the construction of the donut pattern, so naturally my next instinct was to make another one, but ridiculously small.  And in Halloween colours, because it's always time for Halloween.  The tininess sort of obscured the donut-hole on the icing, sadly.  I think soon I'll try a third, in an intermediate size.  And in chocolate, with white icing.
I think I started crocheting this pie slice in...March?  February?  I don't even remember.  The pattern was fast and fun, and then I was all oh, but this is a cherry pie, it needs a lattice crust!   Cue the months-long hiatus as I tried to avoid sewing on said lattice crust, which came out hilariously uneven.

Not cute-and-foody, but sort of food-related, I whipped up this little scrubbie out of plarn on Monday to send along as a thank-you gift to someone who bought a plarn octopus I made a while back.  Basic pattern idea from here.  I like the texture of this thing, I may have to make one for myself and see how it actually works as a dish-washing tool.

Not pictured: a felted-food project that isn't finished yet because it's not dry.  It's been super-humid here over the past few days.  Also not dry:  half of my load of laundry from yesterday.  Ugh.

This post is already getting very long and picturey, but in the spirit of sharing food stuff, have one picture and two non-picture-accompanied recommendations from my Week in Actual Edible Food, Not Made from Yarn.

A pretzel roll, a recipe I found at Cooking With My Kid and have been meaning to make for weeks.  I was a big fan of those frozen soft pretzels that you heat up in the toaster as a kid, and this is like the best version of those ever.  You get to boil them in a baking-soda-and-water solution before you bake them, which is fun (they float around like weird little dumpling boats, buffeted in a boiling water current!) and imbues them with this amazing essence-of-giant-pretzel taste.  Also: (1) these zucchini toasts (I did mine with "ricotta" made from tofu), which are an amazing combination of flavours and textures.  Just the lemon-pepper roasted zucchini on its own was heavenly. (2) this beet-barley soup, which I did without the beans and feta cheese.  I'm not usually big on vegan/vegetarian soups because I think the flavour tends to lack depth, but I gave this one a whirl anyway and it's delicious!  I used pearled barley, which I'd never had before, and it has a really wonderful texture.

As  you curse me for making you want a giant pretzel and a bowl of borscht, visit FO Friday and Fibers on Friday to see what everyone else is up to!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rex Dragon Day!

...When I saw that blogger was down this morning, that was seriously what went through my head:  no, not on Rex Manning Dragon day!  (It's been way too long since I've seen Empire Records.)

But now it's back, so without further ado, I am ridiculously pleased to introduce you all to Edgar.

I loved Edgar right from the moment his little snout started taking shape, and even doing his legs didn't dim my affection a bit.  I even got to try some quasi-blocking techniques on his row of spikes, which I wasn't sure would work since this is just cheap Red Heart Super Saver, but it actually did help them uncurl a bit.

He is so well constructed/balanced, oh my gosh.  Even though both sets of his legs are slightly asymmetrical, he stands perfectly.

He's even stable enough that you can just...pop him in a tree.  This pattern is fantastic, and I can't wait to make another one.  Actually, since there was a lot of  interest in the dragon (and thank you so much for the interest!  It's so, so cool to know that amazing people from all over the world, armed with yarn and computers, wanted to meet Edgar.) would any of you want to do a dragon crochetalong in June or July?  Have a glance at the pattern---the Ravelry page for the pattern is here, and the version of the pattern I used is here (on the Harry Potter website The Leaky Cauldron, weirdly enough) and let me know what you think.  I've never organized a crochetalong before, I'm envisioning like, a group-compiled playlist for the Leg-Making process... :D

I even got a movie from the library for Edgar and I to watch this weekend.  (I imagine that Edgar is wondering here what exactly I think I'm going to train him to do, as he's made of yarn...)
My other FOs this week are all needle-felting, affixed to crocheted-and-wet-felted bases, which is like magic!  You just...stab, and it sticks, like painting but fluffier!  I don't know that I'll ever have the patience to be really good at needle felting, but it's fun.  Except for the occasional stabbing my finger instead of the wool.

Tree, for a Swap-Bot swap...

...and the Mad Hatter's hat, also for Swap-Bot. 

And, because I can't seem to resist these crazy perturbed avians---there's something so awesome about the primary colours and simple shapes, I guess---Angry Bird, in pin form.  This is one of those things where I couldn't believe that it worked, like it jumped out of my head and onto the wool.  I kept thinking as I added each new colour and detail and this will be the part where I screw it up...  and it somehow never was.  I'm happy about this guy, happy enough that I listed him over at my Zibbet shop.

And finally, a finished object I wish I could present to you in smellovision:

Lilacs.  I'm crazy about them!  If I pass by a lilac bush as I walk, I stop and stick my nose in the flowers if they're low enough.  Heaven.

Check out more finished objects at FO Friday!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WIPs: What-Are-These-Things In Progress.

Since I'm hoping to unveil the dragon on Friday (...this may be a lost hope), I don't want to give too much away today, so here's a not-terribly-mysterious photo of a piece of it.  I worked this piece while watching The Simpsons the other night, which resulted in a lot of tiny bouts of frogging because I was snickering at Milhouse rather than counting my stitches, hah.

Still to go: three of four legs. :|

I think I'll keep it (not-terribly-) mysterious this week and not describe my other projects in very much detail, either.  This is going to be a sweet little yarny tidbit to be displayed on a plate, and while I loved working up the (tiny! I didn't even have to make it smaller! it was already perfectly small!) pattern, the sewing bits will probably cause it to hibernate for a little while.

I've done a bit of needle-felting recently, and most of it is already finished (!), mailed off to new homes, and will be appearing on Friday. But this one is still a WIP, shown here mid-stab. My iPod is in the background for research purposes here! Very important, evil-pig-slaying research.

And this week's springtime WIP-by-a-tree, a newborn maple leaf.  This is my favourite maple tree (but don't tell the trees I play favourites) on one of my usual walking routes.  It's a younger tree, so even someone as short as I am can cozy right up to its lower branches and enjoy the shade and prettiness.  I love how the baby leaves are the same sort of brand-new wrinkly as a butterfly's wings when it emerges from its cocoon.

WIP Wednesday at Tami's Amis:  all the cool kids are doing it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Post About a Different Kind of Yarn. (The Story Kind.)

I've been meaning to write this post for ages.  I get kind of intimidated blogging about books, for some reason.  So let's see if I can combine "blogging about books" with "blogging about crafts" and un-intimidate myself a little.

Back in 2007 (I know because the date is printed out on the bottom of the page...), spurred on by a Swap-Bot swap, I printed out some directions from this tutorial and made some tiny little handbound books.  It immediately felt like magic to me.  As someone who's loved books for as long as they can remember, actually making one---a real (-ish) one! with actual sewn binding!---was an amazing feeling.

I've always been a reader, and even as an adult I'm still crazy about books for non-adults.  I'd been reading mostly young adult books for a long time, but last summer I delved back into the younger-readers world by randomly picking up Ida B: . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan, and I was shocked by how honest it was, how amazing and relatable and difficult to read in places as it dealt with the rollercoaster emotions of childhood. 

I'd forgotten, I think, about that level of honesty in children's literature, and how well it works when the author is talented, the way a kids' book can remind me of how universal some emotions are---the pleasant ones and the less pleasant ones---and how they are and aren't different as a child or an adult. 

Here's something I said about the book just after I read it:
it captured the emotions of childhood and all their harshness and volatility so well that it was painful, just remembering that---how big everything seemed, how much it hurt, how easy it was to feel alone and misunderstood and become slavishly devoted to my own misery just to spite everything. and I think we like to forget that kids (not just teenagers, but kids) feel that way, so although my feelings about the book were mixed, I really appreciated that Ms. Hannigan went there and wrote honestly.
And I find myself want to keep talking about this stuff, to suss it out for myself and also share the love and wonder of these books, so this is me trying to learn to do that and be okay with putting it out in the world, I guess.

Since I've been rediscovering my love (oh, Ramona Quimby books, you will be good forever) and discovering new favourites in the kidlit world, I joined a children's books-themed group on Swap-Bot, and a swap that entailed creating a "found poem" from a kids' book and making your partner a gift based on the same book.

I compiled my poem from the amazing Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron (which is a sequel to the also-amazing The Higher Power of Lucky, and a third book is being released in August, yay!), another book with a lot of moments that were wince-inducing for me in how spot-on and unflattering they were about the nature of meanness and jealousy---but those moments are balanced out with sweetness; sharp, smart, amazing humor; and a great, quirky setting and cast of characters. 

The actual found poem I assembled is viewable over here, if you like that kind of thing, and the image above is a scan I did of the collage book cover before it got bound into the blank journal I sent my swap partner.  I need to do more papercrafting, but my workspace (read as: roughly a square foot of my dining room table) is unworkably crowded with other stuff right now.

This is a good thing about both reading and crocheting, as hobbies go---you don't need table space to do either!  I mostly read and crochet nestled into my bed, which is not the ideal place for collaging or, say, needle-felting.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Finished Objects and a Friend from the Order Isopoda.

First of all, here's Bitty Yoda, frolicking in the spring greenery.  He worked up really quickly, I think I got him all crocheted and sewed in just a couple hours, and then I made him (slightly wonky) eyes out of polymer clay.  At some point I hope to take him somewhere pleasantly swampy (where I think he'll feel more at home) for a better photoshoot. 

Mushrooms!  The third one has yet to be made, obviously, but I still have a little time before Mother's Day to finish (uh, and start) it.  This isn't a great shot, but I did the spots on the red one with a combination of regular embroidery and surface slip stitching, which is a technique I think I like and will be trying again.  The red mushroom was made from this pattern, and the teal from this one, which I modified both intentionally (I made it smaller) and unintentionally (I wasn't paying terribly close attention and did the bottom edge of the mushroom cap in a completely different way).  The teal one was devilish to get balanced---I've discovered why hey, free rocks! isn't a more popular stuffing idea. Rocks, unlike, say, plastic bean bag pellets, aren't uniformly sized or balanced, so just cramming them into a crocheted piece and expecting them to distribute themselves evenly, especially when working with something tall like this mushroom, doesn't work so well.  So it took a good half-hour of rock-and-stuffing arranging to get this thing to be freestanding, and it's still not the most stable creation in the world, but it stands!

I finished up my pattern-testing headband yesterday morning and had this cheetah model it for me.  The pattern for this one is available here on Ravelry.

And here's my Wrinkle in Time bookmark, for which I learned to embroider a chain stitch.  (I swear that I made the stitches here uneven on purpose, to represent the characters' wending journey in the book.)  I always think that I hate embroidering because I'm usually trying to do it onto crochet, which isn't the best surface for it, but embroidering on this felt (and the practice cloth I used before doing the bookmark) was really nice.  I see more of it in my future, I think.

I loved sharing some spring with you guys on Wednesday, and it made me really happy to hear that you all seemed to like having it shared, so here's another bit of springtime where I am.

A tiny little friend that Yoda and I met this morning.  Click the image to see him bigger and shinier.  The winter has been so long that I am now feeling fluffy and sentimental about pillbugs.  That's a little sad, maybe.

Actually, does anyone want to play a regional dialect quiz game?  What do you all call the kind of bug in the picture?  I'm from southern New York, and in my family we called them pillbugs, but I've also heard them referred to as "sowbugs" or "roly-polies."

Back on topic---check out other, probably non-buggy projects at FO Friday and Fibers on Friday. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WIP Wednesday - May the Fourth Be With You.

The dragon (I like to think that since this is a dragon-in-progress, I can refer to it as a DIP) is dragon-ing along.  It looked like a very strange hand grenade for a while, but then the tail began to take shape and all was well.  Still loving the pattern a lot.  The row of spikes (that would be the multicoloured blob behind the dragon body) were so much fun to work for some reason.  Sadly, I'm up to the legs, which are going to be less fun.

I have a convenient excuse to stall a little on the dragon legs, though, because first I have to finish some mushrooms for Mother's Day.  I took said mushrooms on a walk to the bay because they need to be weighted so they'll stand, and I figured hey, free rocks!  So now I have to experiment with combinations of rocks and polyfill until they're freestanding, which should be interesting.  I'm also hoping to play around with surface crochet to give the red mushroom some spots.  This tutorial looks promising.

I'm also doing another pattern test, this time for a multi-stranded headband that has interchangeable flower and bow add-ons.  I thought I'd just work up the bow to make sure it worked, photograph it, and frog it, but once I'd actually crocheted it up and put it together, its true adorableness won me over, which was a fun surprise.  I'm hoping to get this finished and photographed and report back to the pattern writer with my suggestions tomorrow. 

My favourite WIP at the moment, though, is spring.  Which is admittedly a WIP on a much larger scale than an amigurumi dragon, and I can't take any credit for its amazingness, but I'm so happy to watch it unfold.  Every day I wake up and there's more green around---the grass is coming back to life, the maple trees are putting out their first fragile and almost-dayglo leaves.  It's still been generally chilly here, but just having some colour back outside the windows is too wonderful for words.

Go see other people's springtime (or autumn, depending on the hemisphere) projects over at WIP Wednesday.

And I just remembered that today (with its "May the fourth..." pun) is Star Wars Day!  I may have to whip up a tiny crocheted Yoda to celebrate.  I was crrrrazy about Star Wars in middle school.  That was when they re-released the original trilogy in theatres in the "special edition" versions, and my mom took me to see them and I was in love.  With the whole universe of the movies, and uh, also with Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker,  I'll admit.