Friday, February 24, 2012

FMO* Friday!

*Finished Mostly-Owls Friday.

Featuring---now that she's safely in  her new home---Beth's owl, Sugar Plum!  The name and inspiration taken from her blog title, and I loooved putting together all the yarns---it's hard to see in this photo, but Sugar Plum has both a fluffy stripe and a sparkly stripe around her midriff.  Pictured with her are kittypuffs Prism and Concord, who I made for Beth's daughters.

Sugar Plum (the Inaugural Owl of 2012) was closely followed by Spangle, who I made for Stacey of FreshStitches when I found out my mom would be going to her talk/book signing at the Lion Brand store on Monday.  Spangle (named for the not-terribly-well-photographed sparkly novelty yarn in his wings, and the glittery polymer clay I used for his beak) is made with the Halloween-ish wool I dyed back in October, and he's my first wooly owl!  I gave him a little brush with a suede brush for extra fluffitude.  He's smaller than my usual owls, and I was pleased with how he turned out---which was good, because I really admire Stacey's designs and wanted to make her something of utmost cuteness.

And then it was Hogsmeade Weekend over at the Knitting and Crochet House Cup, which included all kinds of awesome prompts for quick projects to make.  One of them was even owl-themed, which actually helped spur Spangle into existence.  I also made a couple origami owls, which was fun---I haven't done any origami for yeeeears.  And then on Monday I was awake and itchy and stressing myself out pre-5 AM for no very good reason, so I gave up and turned on the lights and grabbed my hooks and typed "owl" into Ravelry's pattern search and ended up with Bowie the Insomnia Owl, made from this super-cute little pattern.

And then we had a cup of tea.

I also attempted to improve my nonexistent thread-crochet skills with this star bookmark...

And participated in a Kool-Aid dyealong, the results of which I was really pleased with.  I hadn't realized that you could just wrap your dye-saturated skein in plastic wrap to microwave it (rather than keeping it in the dye bath[s]), and that kept the colours much less muddy and made the whole process take less time, and, I think, cause less heat-fluffing on the yarn.  This is yarn I hadn't attempted dyeing previously (Jo-Ann Kashmira), and I really love the way it took the colour, and it has a more...I don't know, polished? Refined-looking? texture than Fishermen's Wool or Paton's Classic Wool, which are the yarns I've dyed before.  

As always, dyeing one mini-skein makes me need to dye mooooore.  Such an amazing and addictive process---and something I'd never have gotten into except for the wonders of FO Friday and Fibers on Friday. :D

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's Wednesday, So Here's Some Unfinished Stuff.

My first WIP this week has to remain a secret, as there's a slim chance the person it's for might see this.  But I took a sneaky photo.  This is a big, heavy, stripey project and while I've been ignoring it for a bit, I'm enjoying working on it more than I thought I would.

I'm also working on Lilac Cat 2.0, a commission that I should be more excited about than I am because commission work is intrinsically awesome and flattering.  Someone saw the first Lilac Cat at a craft fair and wanted one to give to a friend's daughter, and I was all OMG OKAY LOOK HERE I'LL DRAW A SKETCH OF THE CAT AND YOU TELL ME WHAT COLOURS YOU WANT FOR ALL THE DIFFERENT PIECES!  And then she asked me if I still had the exact yarns I'd used for the first one, which was semi-disappointing because I was hoping to do something new and different and totally custom in this little girl's Most Favourite Colour, or something.

And my favourite WIP of the moment, the Persephone shawl-to-be, a newly-released pattern with an informal crochetalong to go with over on Ravelry.  I'm doing this in Malabrigo sock in Persia, and from the minute I started it, I couldn't believe how well the colours were working up.  I've had so many weird experiences with skeins that look gorgeous but then just...don't work for anything I try to make with them, but I'm crazy about this thing already.  The way the greys show up reminds me of stones in a riverbed.  So far it has a 16" wingspan.

The pattern is great, it's only a two-row repeat and thus nice and easy to memorize and hook away on as you catch up with Revenge on Hulu at eight in the morning, but it doesn't look simple and boring at all.  One row has fans and V-stitches, the other has these adorable little picots.  It also has a really cool bleeding-heart-esque border row, for which I may have ordered some beautiful grey-taupe yarn that should be on its way to me at this very moment...

Go see what everyone else is hooking and non-hooking over at WIP Wednesday. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Goldfish, Tunisia, and a Query About Blocking.

My Objects of the Week! :D  I finished up the goldfish I started way back in January.  I decided that a rainbow mohawk of fins was in order.  The fins were interesting to attach---the pattern called for doing a line of surface slip stitch (once the fish body was already finished up) and then crocheting into it.

I also made a stack of Tunisian crochet dishcloths from this interesting pattern.  I had a hilarious false start wherein I invented a new stitch---Tunisian back post crochet!  Since I learned the Tunisian simple stitch about a year ago and hadn't done anything with it since, I forgot that you go through the two loops of the vertical bar created by the stitches, not in back of the whole thing as with posted crochet [with which I'm more familiar].  So I was really confused for a while as to why my dishcloth looked nothing like the others on Ravelry.  I may actually try the wrong-technique I was using again sometime, as it created a super plush fabric that might be good for hotpads and stuff.

I love the texture that Tunisian crochet creates, and this pattern was one of those "bet you can't eat make just one!" things.  I chained 10 (rather than the suggested 15) for the two bigger cloths, so I was able to do them on a standard crochet hook instead of a heavier, wrist-hurtier real Tunisian hook.  But I might brave said bigger hook and try a hat next.

The (almost) FO I'm most excited about this week isn't mine, however.

 My mom made an Ishbel!  It was (she says) the hardest thing she's ever knit, and she's never frogged so much in her life, and the most exciting part?  It's made from silk yarn that she spun and dyed herself.  I can't believe how light and amazing and beautiful this thing is, and it's even blocked yet.  Which brings me to my query---if any of you have experiences/advice/tutorials to share about blocking a silk lace shawl, I'd love to pass them along to her.  Neither of us has ever blocked anything before.  

I actually just started my own first Proper Shawl that will Need to Be Blocked (more on that if I have time on Wednesday), so I'll be back with more queryin' whenever that gets finished---mine is in wool sock yarn, so I imagine it will be a different process.  I'm nervous and excited in advance!

Linkin' up with FO Friday and Fibers on Friday, as per usual. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teaser Tuesday.

I realized sadly that this might be the closest I ever came to glimpsing the wonders of the world beyond England...I looked at the mummy then for what it truly was---an emissary from the world I would likely never know or taste or feel---and it nearly broke my heart.
---from Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury.

(Teaser Tuesday is a cool-lookin' reading blogthing hosted over at Should Be Reading.  You post a couple random sentences from your current read, this being mine.  I actually just finished it like, half an hour ago.)

I rushed to the library for this immediately after reading the author's first novel Shift, which was the first book in a long time (well. not counting short graphic novels.) that I just...sat and read in under twenty-four hours.  Sadly, Wrapped wasn't as engaging, although it was an enjoyable enough read. 

The teaser sentences that I chose were actually one of my favourite moments in the book, because I'm always interested in the way that historical fiction (this novel is set in Regency England) uses the lens of the time in which it's being written to look at the time it was written about.  In this case, the aspect of the Regency Era being looked at (and mourned) is the dearth of choices that came with being born a woman.  The sentences above are one of the better examples of this in the novel, a lot of the others got more heavy-handed, a little too influenced by the 21st century rather than the 19th.

So while I don't un-recommend Wrapped, I'd recommend Shift (which is set in the present) first.  And in the way of historical fiction for young readers ( you asked me about that...), when I think about books that represent the frustration and terror of being born female in a time when that meant you were destined to be  a Wife and Mother, never mind if you were interested in something else,  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly springs to mind immediately.  I would definitely count this novel among the best of everything I read last year.  It was evocative, thoughtful, and poignant.  The kind of novel that makes you want to write to the author.  Which I've been meaning to do for ages, but first I have to learn how to draw a vetch plant

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ocean Friends, Cozied-Up Tunes, New Skills.

So here's the bigger project that last week's fishie was a part of---a tentacle-and-friends scarf!  A homework assignment at the Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup on Ravelry for January was "craft something inspired by marine biology," and once I finished the scarf (my second one from this pattern, still an A+ tv-makin' project) and saw its tentacle-ish-ness, I knew I had to whip up some little marine amigurumi to add in.

The seahorse is from this excellent pattern,which has some adorable shaping, although the directions for the tail decreases are a bit wonky.  And rather than frog and fix, I decided to do something different and crocheted a chain with some wire in it, then wrapped the whole thing in the project's yarn (which is a baby/sport weight, I wasn't sure I'd like making an ami with it, but I did.), so now it has a longer and more authentically prehensile tail.  The eyes on this guy are temporary, as I was in a hurry and "embroider on little lines with yarn, then run down to the beach to photograph!" was the quickest fix I could think of.

And a tiny crab (that pattern is a Ravelry link), one of those amaaaazing little crochet patterns where you sit down with your hook and some yarn and like, ten minutes later, bam, something cute!  I think I'm coming around to working with cotton yarn, with each project I do in it, I like it a little more, especially the way it makes the single crochet stitches for amigurumi projects really pop.

And I made myself an mp3 player cozy in (mostly---I didn't do the black) hand-dyed wool!  I was impressed with how satisfactorily purple Wilton's purple icing dye was.  Purple can be a tricky one, especially to mix on your own.  (...One time in high school, a friend and I were trying to make Mardi Gras cupcakes with purple, yellow, and green icing, and we were all red food colouring + blue food colouring = PURPLE ICING!  It didn't.  It equalled omg zombie brain grey icing.  So I was happy to not end up with zombie brain grey yarn, since what I wanted was brightass Knight Bus purple.)

But my favourite FO this week is this scarf-for-Amineko, because I knitted it!  ...Sort of.  I used the Knook hooked crochet hook thingie in my right hand (baby steps) and a conventional knitting needle in my right---a hybrid process designed by my dear mum when I told her the Knook's "knit onto a piece of rattail cord" method seemed like cheating---to try and get used to the different motion of knitting without driving myself batty because how can I move the yarn without a hooked bit to hold it, which was a big part of what frustrated me when I tried to learn to knit a couple years ago.

I had so much fun making this wobbly, ugly, I am seven years old and learning to knit at Girl Scouts! thing.  Of course, it turns out that I was having fun because I was Doing It Wrong and now have to try and correct it, which is less fun. But I'm working on it.  I'm not sure if I'll ever love or be as comfortable with knitting the way I do crochet, but it's a start.  There's nothing in the world like learning something new, those moments when you start to feel more comfortable and understand and get into a rhythm. 

Also finished this week (just this morning, in fact, it was already a day overdue at the library):

Uncle Stevie's doorstop.  A weird book, with a clash between realistic and supernatural/sci-fi elements that sometimes felt jarring to me, but definitely gripping and interesting and with a few moments that really, really wowed me.  I got lost in this book for chunks of time in a way that I'd kind of forgotten was possible, which was nice.

Linking up, as usual, with the amazing circles of crafty people at Fibers on Friday and FO Friday---go see their work!  Their knitting is much, much better than mine, I promise. ;)