Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of DOOM

There’s a sort of unofficial mascot on the indigodragonfly forum called the Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of Doom (CCMZSOD). The concept was the result of a sort of mind-meld between Maget and indigodragonfly. Apparently they were planning on naming a new colorway “Zombie Squirrel” or something similar and then Maget mentioned something about mutant zombie squirrels of doom which were not only evil, but cute and cuddly, so the colorway name ended up being “Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of Doom” and Maget got the inaugural skein! Then she knitted some Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrels of Doom and sent them on adventures around the world. After that we all just sort of ran with it…

For the last Ravellenic Games Heather of Joey’s House drew a CCMZSOD for the indigodragonfly team to use as our Ravatars.

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I used this drawing as inspiration for needle felting a CCMZSOD to give to Maget!

First I started roughing out some shapes that could be used to build the squirrel. After only an hour I had the basic outlines for the body, head, and hindquarters started.

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Then I attached the hindquarters to the body, made a tail, and started to add some shape to the head. The basic head shape in the illustration is sort of triangular so I started to add some corners to the top of the head where the ears would go. After adding the corner for the first ear I stopped and thought, “What if the other ear is missing? It is a mutant zombie squirrel after all…” I decided to leave the head misshapen and see how it would play out.

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My initial attempt at the tail was too small so I added a lot more bulk to it before I attached it to the body. Then I started felting brown wool on top to smooth out the shapes and lay down a nice base color to build on. As I started coloring the head I decided the missing ear could actually be turned into a more gruesome exposed brain, so I left that spot black in preparation for that. Once I had the base coloring down I started shaping the hind legs out of the dark brown wool.

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I attached the legs and arms, but the squirrel still wouldn’t sit up at this point. Luckily, I learned from my experience in felting Ducky that it was way too early to worry about it. The head could drastically affect the balance, so if it was still unstable after the head was attached I could work on adding some more bulk to the base of the tail to make it sit up straight. I also learned from Ducky that for fine details like faces it is really helpful to be able to manipulate the head freely, so I should wait until I was finished with the detail work before I attached the head.

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At this point I was ready to start adding detail and I made a breakthrough! I had recently visited my local yarn store Canvas Works and discovered that they had some needle felting supplies there! One of the things they had was a pack of needles that came in multiple sizes. Until I saw those I had never even considered that different sized needles might exist for needle felting, but in hindsight it makes perfect sense – use the larger needles for building larger shapes, then switch to medium-sized needles for the smaller shapes and contouring, and use the smallest needles for the fine detail work.

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I put the smallest needle to the test for creating the exposed brain. First I covered the hole in a nice deep bloody red and then I mixed a bit of pink wool with some tan wool to create a brainy color. I spun the brain colored wool between my fingers to create a thin snake-like cord and started folding it back and forth across the red wool as I felted it into place with the small needle. It worked great! I was able to create some really tight curves by taking advantage of the precision of that small gauge needle!

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I also started experimenting with some color blending to create a suitably mutant-zombie-esque look for the squirrel. I had a multi-colored blend of purples, blues, and reds that looked great when lightly layered on top of the dark brown base color. I also was able to create a nice rotted look by blending dark green with the dark brown. For the belly color I  blended some orange wool with a lighter brown wool. Then I added a neck so I would have something to attach to the head to later.

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I finished the brains and made an ear for the other side of the head. At this point I held the head on top of the neck to see how it looked and realized the tail was still too small. I tried to make the tip of the tail taller and fatter to balance out the size of the head.

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Once the tail size was corrected I went back to focusing on the head. I added the eye and started working on the teeth. With the small gauge needle I was able to create some very fine black lines to draw the teeth!

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Considering a large portion of the squirrel’s skull was missing, I figured the eye socket was probably unstable so the right eye would be missing. Initially I had intended to have both eyes and just have them be different sizes, but in the end logic dictated that I should stick to the illustration. I put on the nose, re-colored the tip of the tail and attached the head.

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The squirrel still wouldn’t sit up so I did end up having to bulk up the base of the tail so it wouldn’t keep falling backward. I made a few final finishing touches including moving the ear (I had initially put it too far back), and smoothing out some of the joins.

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I could have called it done at this point, but I had one more dreadful thought that kept nagging at me – what happened to that other eyeball? I decided the squirrel still had it with him, so I took some red embroidery thread to represent the bloody muscles and nerves and tied a length of white wool around the middle. I tied it several times, front and back, until it had formed a rough ball shape around the middle of the thread. Then I folded the thread in half, wrapped the remaining wool around the end and started felting a ball around the thread.

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Once the eyeball was large enough I added a black pupil to the end. Then I loosely braided the strands of the embroidery thread together and threaded them onto a needle so I could attach them to the hand. Once it had been threaded through the top of the hand I made a knot so it couldn’t be pulled back through, then I fed the ends back through the hand so they stuck out the bottom. I cut each strand of the embroidery thread irregularly so it looked like it had been ripped from the head. With that, the Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of Doom was finished!

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It’s so horrific it’s adorable!

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Multiple WIPs Are Cracked and a Confession

Let’s start with the confession just so we can get it out of the way and hopefully you’ll have forgotten about it by the end of this post. Today’s photo prompt was “guilty pleasure.” I could have thought of some BS guilty pleasure to show everyone, but I was just too lazy for lies. I actually photographed something that makes me feel a little bit dirty every time I do it.  So, since that’s what I used for my Instagram photo I guess I have to fess up here on the blog too.

I’m a rubbernecker. There are all kinds of rubberneckers, the most well-known being those who gawk at car-accidents, but I’m a very specific breed of rubbernecker. I LOVE reading drama on the Ravelry forums. People behave badly on the internet all the time, and Ravelry is no exception, so when a throwdown starts in a thread I want to read every juicy second of it. It’s like watching a slap-fight on Jerry Springer. I’m not alone in this. There’s a whole group dedicated to locating drama and poking fun at the sheer spectacle of it, so I took a photo of the group page on my computer screen for the Instagram challenge. I’m not going to link them here for your own good. If you really want to find them you can look them up on Ravelry yourself and then figure out a way to live with your shame.

Staging: This is probably the weirdest photo I’ve ever taken…I just pointed the camera at my computer screen. I did expand the screen so all my bookmarks aren’t visible and zoomed in to the group header so it was easier to see what was going on, but that’s it for staging. Just point and shoot.

Instagram edits: cropped, tilt-shift horizontally, Sierra filter and border

Computer edits: cropped and enhanced

kind of edited with iPhoto

kind of edited with iPhoto

I only did the computer edit for the sake of continuity. There was really nothing to edit. I have no idea what to do with a picture of a computer screen. That being said, I like the Instagram better. The filter and the tilt-shift added some interest to it.

On to the WIPs!

I did some more work on the yarnbombing this week. I have quite a few fragments made at this point and yesterday I started piecing some of them together. Here are just four pieces pinned together and two more fragments waiting to find their neighbors. See how they’re kind of like a puzzle? That’s basically how freeform works.

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Ducky is also inching closer and closer to completion! I finished coloring the upper jaw.

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Then I attached the upper jaw to the head and started using some of the pre-felted pieces to form the cheeks.

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Before I attached the cheeks I decided to work on the nose. I decided to just start slapping random colors on at this point to stretch the wool supply. As long as I use light colors or other shades of green it should all be pretty easy to cover. I put the basic shape of the nose together and then needed to add a bit more around the edge. Once I attached the middle of a long piece of felt to the front of the nose it looked like Ducky had a moustache, so I decided that was the perfect time to pause for a picture.

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Then I attached the cheek shapes and started filling in some of the gaps with green.

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Ducky almost has a face!

My indigodragonfly Obsession: The Greatest Love of All

Regular readers of this blog will recognize the name indigodragonfly. If I’m posting about something I’ve knitted, 9 times out of 10 it’s out of indigodragonfly yarn. If you’re a careful reader of this blog and read the captions on my photos you’ll know that part of the appeal is the creative and often hilarious colorway names. Names like “Zen and the Art of Clown Disposal,” “Pastor of Muppets,”and “A Thin Line Between Love and Batteries” are enough to keep me interested. It’s not enough to keep me knitting though – THAT requires much more than just side-splitting creativity with names.

The yarn is a dream to knit with. ALL of it is. I have knit with 13 different bases from this dyer and they have all instantly become my new favorite yarn. It’s a little awkward having that many favorites, but I’ve learned to deal with it. There are 16 more bases in my stash that I haven’t tried yet, so that problem is only going to get worse.

They dye the most amazing colors too. Seriously, I have a TON of hand-dyed yarn in my stash, but the most complex, deep, knit-friendly, can-always-count-on-it-not-to-pool-unexpectedly yarn is always indigodragonfly. And the range of colors is marvelous! They manage to make me like colors that I thought I hated, and any time I’ve been dreaming up a project that needs more than one color they always seem to have the perfect combination in their dyepots. It’s almost creepy how they do that. It’s like they’re psychic.

It’s not just the names and the fact that the yarn itself is like crack for your hands and eyes, it’s the dyers themselves too. Kim and Ron are wonderful people! I want to support them as much as possible. Besides just the general awesomeness that radiates from them, they also have THE BEST customer service I have encountered in the indie hand-dyer business. I’ve bought direct from eight other indie hand-dyers online, and it’s not that the others have been terrible (though a couple of them have), but ordering from indigodragonfly is so much more fun. When things (rarely) go awry, they are really good about communicating with the customers and letting us know what’s going on and when things can be expected to be fixed. They are the standard by which I measure all other businesses.

As a result of all that, any time I have needed yarn for a project my first thought has always been indigodragonfly. Any time I wanted a particular color I knew exactly which one would fit the bill, and it is always an indigodragonfly color. It’s only been two years since I stumbled upon their booth at the Sock Summit, but since then pretty much all of my disposable income has been spent on indigodragonfly yarn.

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This is my entire indigodragonfly stash. Isn’t it beautiful? Let’s marvel at it from several different angles.

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Are you done marveling? Yeah, me neither. Go ahead and finish reading this post anyway, I promise the pictures will still be there when you scroll up again.

“That’s a LOT of yarn,” some of you might be saying. “That’s WAY TOO MUCH yarn,” more of you might be declaring. I can assure you, it’s not nearly enough. This yarn is addictive. You can’t just knit one skein. I can’t even manage to knit one skein at a time. Look at all the indigodragonfly WIPs I have going right now.

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That’s two shawls, a pair of mittens, a cowl, a hat (now finished), and a bunch of hexipuffs.

“Wow, that’s FIVE WIPs!” some of you might be gasping. “Wow, that’s five WIPs,” some of you may be scoffing while glancing over at your own WIP mountain comprising 20+ projects. To both of you I say, “I KNOW.” ‘Cause either way you slice it, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re in the “that’s not enough WIPs” camp I can assure you, the only reason there are so few WIPs is because I tend to finish my indigodragonfly projects as quickly as possible. If you’re in the “that’s way too many WIPs” camp, you’re about to think I’m a robot programmed to knit 24/7. Here are all of my indigodragonfly FOs:

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That’s 8 shawls (one of them is even crocheted!), 4 cowls, 2 hats, 2 pairs of fingerless mitts, 1 pair of gloves, 1 pair of socks, and a headphone whale. Not pictured are the pair of fingerless mitts that were stolen last year and a shawl I gave away to an ailing family member. Usually I only give away my indigodragonfly FOs to people I see every day so I can still pull out the knits and pet them when they aren’t looking, but that one was a special case.

So, just to reiterate, that’s 21 FOs in only two years! Or another way to look at it is 35 skeins in two years. At that rate, I only have enough indigodragonfly yarn left to last me four years! We’re not talking SABLE here (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy), this is actually a pretty modest collection based on my indigodragonfly consumption rate. And from what I’ve seen on Ravelry, I’m not even that rabid of a customer. There are others with indigodragonfly stashes that surpass mine, and they seem to knit from it at approximately the same rate.

The reason I’m showing you all of this is so you can understand the sheer volume of skeins Kim and Ron must have to dye in order to keep up with their voracious customers. Now imagine doing all of that dyeing without a studio. For the past four years, that’s what they’ve been doing. All of that dyeing has been accomplished in their kitchen – you know, the kind that was built to make food for a couple of people. It’s getting uncomfortable. They would like to eat sometimes, and maybe walk through their living room without having to play Mission Impossible as they navigate over, under, and around all the yarn that has taken over their house.

They need a studio. Their sanity, and the sanity of all of those who depend on their crack – I mean yarn – supply depends on it. To that end, they have begun an Indiegogo campaign!

indigodragonfly Indiegogo

They have AMAZING perks too, like a project bag (if it’s anything like their club project bags, I can tell you they’re awesome!), yarn in an exclusive thank-you-for-helping-us-build-our-studio colorway, and membership in a brand new fiber club! I’m not even a spinner yet and I’m drooling over the prospect of a fiber club.

These perks are so amazing that I’m sort of dying on the inside because I can’t have any. You see, all of that glorious stash was acquired back when I was employed. Now I only have 69 cents in my bank account and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’m not just sad because I can’t get in on the fiber club (oh god, there’s a fiber club), I’m more upset that I can’t help them reach their goal. They’re so close! Maybe some of you can help them out for me? If you don’t knit or don’t particularly care for the perks I know someone you could send them to *nudge, wink*. And if you enjoy reading this blog, you may want to consider helping them out so that I can continue writing, ’cause if the indigodragonfly supply dries up it would end me. 

Minions, assemble! I need you, indigodragonfly needs you, THE WORLD needs you!

Level Up Your Knitting: The Yarn List

As I plug away on the needle felting (update on that tomorrow) I’m starting to miss my yarn. The needle felting is fun, I swear! It’s just that I have all these pretty skeins hanging out in my room begging for attention.

To get my knitting fix without actually knitting I’ve been leafing through The Knitter’s Life List by Gwen W. Steege. It’s a great book full of information, inspiration, and of course LISTS. I love lists, but especially these lists, which read like a skills menu in a knitting RPG. (Is there a knitting RPG? If there is I am SO IN!)

Each chapter covers a particular area of knitting interest, like sweater, hats, bags, know-how, etc. The first chapter is all about yarn. Since I’ve had yarn on the brain I decided to review the lists in that chapter to see what I’ve done and pick out a few things I’m really excited to get started on.

Here’s some of the knitting achievements I’ve unlocked:

  • I’ve attended a Clara Parkes lecture. She’s a fabulous speaker and can make subjects as dry as ply and twist seem fascinating.
  • Use multiple, closely related colors in a project:
  • Knit something for myself with special yarn that you just love to touch – That’s like, every knitting project ever. I actually have a hard time giving away my knits because the yarns I use are so precious to me.
  • Dig through your stash and examine yarns with different plies – I did that after reading Clara Parke’s The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and tagged all of my stash entries on Ravelry accordingly. I haven’t really kept up with tagging new stash as I acquire it though.
  • Knit with a silk-Merino blend: my Toorie hat used a 50/50 Silk-Merino blend and was luscious to knit with!

Toorie - pom pom side

  • Knit with angora: I have knit with it, but I didn’t really do it justice. I still need to frog this so I make something more wearable out of it.

Angora Scarflet

There are lots of things on the list that I haven’t done yet, but here are a few that I can’t wait to get started on!

  • Knit with qiviut: I splurged at the Sock Summit and treated myself to this tiny ball of 100% qiviut! I plan to make a Madeira Lace Scarf out of it.
  • Knit with cashmere: I’ve used it in lots of blends, but I have one precious skein of 100% cashmere that I will making into Wood Elves Gloves.
  • Knit with alpaca: I’m actually surprised I haven’t knit with this yet, but I do have four skeins in contrasting colors that I will use to knit Andrea’s Shawl.
  • Knit with orange: It’s one of the colors that I rarely (or never) use, but I have a very orange yarn that is destined to be a pair of socks – Baldersquash.
  • Pink is another color I don’t work with often, but I finally found a pink that I’m sort of obsessed with. This one will be a Gunn au lait hat.
  • Knit with solids: I’m so devoted to hand-dyed yarns that I sometimes forget that commercially dyed solid-colored yarns even exist. And in my stash, no less! Here are a couple I have plans for – The first will become a Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, the second will become an Aeolian Shawl, and the last will be used for an Amelia Earhart Aviator Cap.
Novita Charlie Mohair (I'll just be using the gray)

Novita Charlie Mohair (I’ll just be using the gray)

What’s on your must-knit yarn list?

Podcast Roundup

As a crafter, my hands and my eyes are frequently occupied. If I want entertainment while I work, it has to be consumed with my ears. Sometimes this takes the form of re-watching old shows on Netflix that I really don’t have to pay attention to. Sometimes I listen to music. If I’m craving something more in-depth though, I listen to podcasts.

I’m sort of new to podcasts. I didn’t really know what they were until about a year ago, and then it took me a while to really get on board with the idea. Now I’m sold. They’re awesome. Well, okay, I’m making that statement based on very little information so far, but I’m pretty sure it’ll hold up under scrutiny.

So far I have only listened to two podcasts, but I started both from the very beginning so I’ve had quite a bit of material to listen to.

For my knitting fix I listen to Cast On with Brenda Dayne. It’s a truly captivating podcast about knitting…but also about much more than knitting. It wasn’t until I was half-way through the archives that I realized it’s classified as “philosophy” and that sounds about right. It’s Brenda Dayne laying out her philosophy of art, knitting, life, the universe, and everything. It’s sort of like a really long artist’s statement, but without a single hint of pretension. Listening to Cast On makes me feel like what I do means something.

You don’t have to start listening from the beginning like I did, but if you do it’s almost like listening to a modern history of knitting. The podcast started in 2005, when Ravelry was just an idea, and SO MUCH has happened in the knitting world since then. Brenda captured it all, as it happened. It’s really cool to listen to the story of how our knitting culture became what it is today and to know that this podcast was part of that.

For my drama/horror/story fix I listen to We’re Alive. It’s a zombie story. I like zombies. Well,  actually I’m terrified of zombies, but I sort of like my stories with a side of terror, so I like zombie stories. It’s not top-notch writing, but it’s entertaining. The only thing it’s really missing for me is more character development, but it’s got plenty of action going on to keep it interesting. What really makes this podcast stand out for me is how it’s done…it’s not like an audiobook. There isn’t one person reading from a book and maybe doing some different voices for each character. It has a full cast of characters acting out the parts, with lots of sound effects to add to the story! It’s sort of like an old-timey radio drama produced with modern technology.

These two podcasts have been all I needed to entertain me while my eyes and hands were occupied. Until now. Last night I ran out of podcasts. The last podcast from Cast On was in April, and there’s no telling when there will be another. Brenda travels a lot to teach and such and I know she had a new series planned, but she’s a perfectionist so it may be a bit before she feels it’s ready to be released to the world. I can relate. We’re Alive will start its final season on August 26th, so it will be here soon, but it’s not here NOW.

I have to find something else to listen to.

For starters I’m going to check out Welcome to Night Vale. A Welcome to Night Vale fandom has appeared seemingly out of nowhere on Tumblr. Several of my friends on Facebook (who have very good taste in entertainment) have been mentioning it in their statuses. A LOT. One of them even started a Night Vale ask blog on Tumblr. One thing I’ve learned about the internet, is that if something has a fandom it is probably worth checking out. People don’t get that excited about something if it’s absolute crap.

I listened to the first podcast last night and it was…weird. But the best kind of weird. It was all surrealist-absurdist-eldritch-horror-ish, which are all adjectives that I LOVE. I suspect I will be joining this fandom soon.

All of these podcasts are going in my sidebar of useful links, because I certainly find them useful for my workflow.

The Welcome to Night Vale podcasts are only about 20 min. each though, so I’m looking for more recommendations. What do you listen to while you work?

A Study in Scraps

I never throw away scrap yarn. Never. Just can’t bring myself to do it. If it’s more than a few inches long I save it – that’s room enough for several stitches at least! I do abhor the thought of hanging on to useless objects though, so I try to find ways to use up those scraps.

So far my strategy has been hexipuffs. I’ve been collecting hexipuffs for a future Beekeeper’s Quilt for almost two years now. Every time I knit something and have a partial skein leftover I knit a hexipuff or two out of it. I acquired a vast array of miniskeins for the express purpose of hexipuffing them. It’s been very satisfying, and has gone a long way towards using up my leftover yarn.

gratuitous puff shot

gratuitous puff shot

However, it hasn’t gone far enough. Each puff takes about 12 yds of yarn to complete. That’s great! But what about lengths of yarn that aren’t quite 12 yds? What do I do with those? Every miniskein I use to knit a hexipuff is longer than 12 yds, but frustratingly not quite 24 yds long. That means I can get a single hexipuff out of each miniskein, and be left with anywhere from 5-10 yds leftover – not an insignificant amount of scrap yarn. I also don’t want to have my finished blanket dominated by a single color, so when I have a partial skein leftover from a project I only knit one or two hexipuffs out of it, even if there is enough left to make 10.

I used to give these leftover bits of yarn to my sister, who would add them to her ever-growing Frankenscarf. It’s just a plain stockinette scarf that she continually and chaotically adds to whenever she comes across some string. She knits it without any regard to gauge, yarn weight, color choice, or stripe size. It’s kind of awesome. Not my aesthetic, but awesome. It is, however, over 23 feet long now, so I don’t think she needs any more of my scraps.

What should I do with them then?

Have you ever seen City of Ember? If you haven’t, you should. It’s a great little sci-fi/fantasy aimed at children, but not so twee that it’s painful for an adult to watch. I loved the story and the adventure of it, but there was another thing that made my crafty heart skip a beat – the costumes! The setting is an underground city that has been isolated for 200 years, so everything in their world is pieced together from recycled bits of long-defunct objects. The clothing is no different. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I still remember being mesmerized by Lina Mayfleet‘s sweaters. They looked like they were knit or woven from threads pulled from a million other fabrics.

pic from Your Props

I loved that concept and thought that it would be a great way to use up leftovers. Maybe on a smaller scale though.

Enter A Study in Scraps: Sock #1. I was updating my queue on Ravelry and came across this gem and had an “a-ha” moment. The pattern photos show how the socks would look with only two different yarns, but I plan to take the “scraps” part of the title VERY seriously. I figure I could come up with two somewhat similar socks if I knit them 2-at-a-time and cut each scrap in half so I can split them up for the two feet. Will they have a lot of ends to weave in? YES. Will it be worth it? Probably.

I gathered up all of my scraps and stuck them in a box with a clear plastic top (another object I had kept, thinking I’d eventually find a use for). Based on my previous sock projects, I should need about 100 g of yarn for a pair of socks. I have 64 g so far, mostly from leftover miniskeins that hadn’t found their way into my sister’s scarf. I can’t wait until I have enough scraps to make these socks. Clearly I need to knit faster.

A Study in Scraps

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Knitting Without a Safety Net

I’m living on the edge with this week’s WIP – for the first time ever I am knitting socks without a gauge swatch! They’re not for me, they’re for my boyfriend, who was so pleased with his first pair of handknit socks that he requested another.

I let him pick out the yarn, which many female knitters might cringe at because their male counterparts have a tendency to choose the most boring of colors. I wasn’t worried though. My man is braver than most. He picked this skein.

indigodragonfly Merino Nylon Sock - Roadkill: The Slower Red

indigodragonfly Merino Nylon Sock – Roadkill: The Slower Red

Definitely not boring! In fact, its origins are quite manly. The colorway was inspired by this picture of Joey’s garage in which he fixes up motorcycles and such.

Joey’s Garage – photo by Heather Sebastian

With the yarn decided, all I needed to do was figured out what pattern to use. I decided I would use this project to learn a new technique – knitting two socks at a time. It sounded like sorcery to me, but I love the idea of having both socks match exactly without worrying about my gauge changing between the first sock and the second or that I forgot to write down any modifications I made so I could repeat them.

Since I would be using a new technique I wanted to find a fairly simple pattern, but with highly variegated yarn like that having a little texture in the fabric helps break it up a bit and prevent it from looking like a hot mess.

After quite a bit of browsing I settled on Hermione’s Everyday Socks which uses a few well-placed purls to add some texture to the pattern. All I had to do was size the socks to fit my boyfriend’s feet!

Here’s where I descended into chaos…I cast on for the socks right away without knitting a gauge swatch. Why? Well, since I was trying a new technique I wanted to try it out with a realistic road-test. I figured the cuffs could sort of be my gauge swatch. If they ended up too big or too small I could just frog it and start over, having gained some two-at-a-time knitting experience in the process. I just grabbed some 2.25mm circulars (a pretty standard sock-sized needle) and went for it!

Micah's Everyday Socks CO

Knitting two-at-a-time was pretty awkward for the first 10 rows or so, but once there was a bit of fabric to guide me it was surprisingly easy! It’s really just a form of Magic Looping, the only difference is needing to keep track of two balls of yarn and making sure you knit things in a certain order.

Once I finished the cuff I had boyfriend try them on. They fit!

Micah's Everyday Socks start of leg

I proceeded to the leg. Once I finished the leg I had boyfriend try them on again. They fit his leg!

Micah's Everyday Socks - partway through leg

Then I had him try the leg portion on over his foot since the leg and the foot of the sock are supposed to have the same number of stitches. That was the first sign of trouble – it was too loose for his foot. If I pulled it tight enough to fit his foot the same way his first pair of socks did I would have to lose about 12 sts. That sounds like a lot to me and I don’t remember having that much trouble figuring out how to get his socks to fit the first time, so now I’m starting to worry that the I might have screwed myself over by not having a gauge swatch.

Micah's Everyday Socks - gusset picked up

I already finished the heel and did the gusset decreases up until the point where there are the same number of foot stitches as there were leg stitches. Based on the measurements I made I should continue the gusset decreases until there 12 less foot stitches than leg stitches. My gut is telling me that’s too tight. I think I’m going to put a lifeline in before I continue.

 

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Pool Party

First let’s start this post with a mini muggle vocabulary lesson. In knitting, “pooling” has absolutely nothing to do with water. Pooling is what happens when you’re knitting with a yarn that has many different colors in it and the same colors start stacking on top of one another making a “pool” of a single color. Usually it’s a complete surprise when this happens. It’s basically a freak of math. Depending on how the rest of the colors are interacting and what the knitter’s intention for the project were this could end up looking either really cool or really crappy.

I have been experimenting with taming this freak of math and pooling my projects intentionally. I learned how to do this by taking a class called “Planned Pooling” taught by Gladys We (wenat on Ravelry – check out her projects page for tons of beautiful examples of planned pooling). Basically it involves laying out your skein of multi-colored yarn, figuring out the length of the color repeats, and then adjusting your knitting gauge until those color repeats stack on top of one another!

I had the perfect yarn to start with – bright colors, easily distinguishable, with decent sized color lengths, and nerdy to boot.

First I made a cowl with a simple seed stitch.

IMG_1091

 

IMG_1088

Then I tried playing with the pooling a bit by making a ribbed hat and accentuating the yellow parts with cables. Pardon the crappy selfie, I haven’t had a chance to do any glamour shots yet.

IMG_2988

 

The class actually focused more on trying to keep vertical pooling, but I’ve been loving the swirls!

For my next trick, I wanted to see if I could make a smaller circumference project – how about fingerless mitts? That would come with the extra difficulty of having to repeat the process twice in order to get a set.

I decided on a simple 1×1 rib, but added a bit of interest by knitting through the back loop for all the knits – that just makes the ridges look more dramatic. For the thumb opening I thought I could just make a buttonhole and call it good. Unfortunately the buttonhole turned out looking a bit messy. On the side where it was started there’s a weirdly loose strand stretched across the thumb opening.

IMG_3060

 

The other side looks fine though.

IMG_3061

 

I’ve never really had an occasion to make a buttonhole before, so I’m not sure if there’s something wrong with my technique, or if I was just following some crappy instructions for a buttonhole. In any case, I’m going to have to figure out how to clean that up. Maybe a crocheted edge around the thumb opening? I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it. Other than that, the first mitt looks pretty good.

IMG_3065

 

I’m not 100% sold on pairing that stitch pattern with this yarn. I was happier with the painterly quality of the seed stitch and the exaggeration of the cabling on the hat. The ribbing does make it VERY stretchy though, to the point where this could truly be considered a one-size-fits all project. That mitt fit my boyfriend’s man hands, my mother’s miniature hands, and everything in between!

Starting a second mitt to match it was a bit challenging. It took four tries before I could get the cast on to pool even remotely like the first one did. Even several inches into the knitting, one of the yellow swirls is looking way more chaotic than the other and I can’t seem to correct it. Oh well, I guess they’ll just have to be fraternal twins.

Pooled Mitt WIP Mitt the Second

 

I have learned one thing from this experiment though – I don’t like trying to match pairs when I’m pooling. I’m better off sticking with single item projects from now on. My blood pressure will thank me for it.

 

The League of Extraordinary Knitters

There’s been some very interesting chatter going on in the Designers group on Ravelry. It started off with someone asking if there were any active professional organizations for designers. There was once – the Association of Knitwear Designers – but it doesn’t exist anymore. The conversation that followed was fascinating. For those of you with Ravelry access and any interest in the knitting industry I would strongly encourage you to read the whole thread. Yes, all 17 (and counting) pages of it. I promise it will be worth your time. If you really want a quick and dirty peek at what’s happening there was a great summary in post 187 on page 8 that you could start with.

For those of you who don’t have Ravelry access, I will attempt to summarize/paraphrase/comment on the conversation and provide some context wherever I can. There isn’t an easy way to provide annotations on WordPress and I don’t want to call out particular people into the more public space of my blog by quoting them, so wherever I’m paraphrasing a particular post I will provide a link to it. If you don’t have Ravelry and see a link at the end of a sentence or paragraph, that just means it’s not my original thought, ok? I also feel the need to repeat that as always in this blog, and especially in this conversation, the word “knit” and all of its derivatives should be understood to include crochet as well. This is not a knit-specific conversation at all!

Here goes.

There is a need for some sort of professional organization/union/guild/thingy in the knitwear design industry. Why? Well, there are many problems that an organization like that could help address.

Fair Compensation

Designers earn peanuts compared to other creative professions. This is especially apparent in the traditional publishing world where magazines pay the same rate for designs today as they did in the 1980s. Publishers also tend to want to retain all rights to the designs, not allowing the designer to profit from their own work beyond the initial submission (post 15). Add to this the problem that there is no public resource to tell us what “fair pay” would be in this industry. No one wants to publicize what they are paid for their work for fear of appearing “unprofessional,” or worse – retribution from publishers (post 34). This is not just a paranoid fantasy either. A Cooperative Press author is working on a book right now that is described as “like Writer’s Market, but for fiber people.” Unfortunately there has been some trouble getting responses from publishers about even the simplest information (post 70). It appears publishers are resistant to allow any sort of discussion of their practices, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they secretly blacklisted any designers who openly discuss their experiences. Thankfully it is now relatively easy to self-publish knitting patterns, though that comes with its own pitfalls.

Isolation/Mentorship

Many people talked about feeling isolated in their profession. As a designer you don’t really have an office you can go to and be able to talk about work problems with your peers. For the most part you have to find people to talk to online. It can be difficult to form a trusting relationship with other designers online when you’re starting your contacts list from scratch. It would be nice to have an organization of peers to voice professional concerns with.

It would also be great to have some sort of mentorship program to help fledgling designers learn the ropes of the business – apparently that was one of the most successful aspects of the now defunct Association of Knitwear Designers that many would like to see repeated. You see, there isn’t any formal training for designing knitting patterns. You could get a degree in fashion design, but that barely scratches the surface of the body of knowledge required for knitwear design. Fashion school can teach you how to make a nice-looking garment, but the rest of it – learning how to hand-knit the garment and being able to communicate the instructions for repeating the process in the highly technical language of knitting – is pretty much self-taught (post 174). Usually the job of a designer doesn’t end there. Once you’ve made a pattern you still have to photograph the sample, apply some graphic design skills to make a pleasing layout for the pattern, then you have to figure out a way to sell it, either by pitching it to a publisher or by publishing it on your own. Some of those things can be hired out, but most designers perform some or all of those steps on their own. And we haven’t even gotten into the nitty-gritty of running a business like marketing and bookkeeping. The point is, knitwear designers utilize A LOT of skills in their work, and not all of those are skills that can be gained through schooling. I would kill to have a mentor who had been working in this business for a while guide me through some of the hurdles that I know are coming in my future career path, and help point out some of the potholes that I haven’t seen yet.

Quality Control/Professionalism

Then there’s the problem of free patterns clogging up the market. I mean, there isn’t anything wrong with having free patterns available and I think they’re a very valuable resource for newer knitters and a great way for designers to get some exposure, but there are just SO MANY of them. It can make it difficult to get the consumers to understand why they should pay for a pattern when they can just find another one for free. As was pointed out in the thread if we change pricing to better reflect what it costs to produce a pattern, you tend to get a lot of pushback from a knitters who have come to expect cheap or free patterns. Some will question whether your work is worth paying for (post 18). Well the short answer is “YES”. The long answer is “probably, as long as a well written pattern.”

Currently, the standards of both free and paid patterns are all over the place (post 95). Another thing that a professional organization could help with is to ensure certain standards of quality are met. That way you could be sure that any patterns from designers who are members of said organization are clearly written, tech edited, test knitted, professionally photographed, etc. (post 30). Why should knitters care about standards of quality in knitting patterns? Well, lets consider exactly what kind of service designers are providing.

For knitters, a knitting pattern is a form of entertainment. A well written error-free pattern with clear photographs provides more entertainment that a poorly written pattern full of mistakes and crappy photos. Many serious knitters are willing to pay for a more entertaining knitting experience. To put this into perspective, there are more knitters than there are golfers. Sure, there are free courses that golfers can use, but the paid courses are more challenging and more fun, so any serious golfer is going to be willing to shell out some cash in order to fully enjoy their sport (post 100). The same should be true for knitters.

Right now knitters really don’t have a reliable way if telling if patterns are well-written and error-free before they download them and start trying to work through it. If there was a professional organization of designers and the patterns produced by those designers were identified in some way, then at least knitters would know exactly what standard of work to expect before they invest their time and money into a project!

Legal Aid

This is not the first time the idea of a designers’ union has circulated, but usually it seems to come up during discussions about copyright. As always, I really do not want to get into copyright debate here, but one thing is certain: There is A LOT of misinformation circulating about the subject and there seems to be very little case law out there to clarify things. The reason for that is probably because copyright disputes in the knitting industry rarely seem to go to court, probably due to a lack of funds to hire lawyers. A professional organization might be able to provide two things to help out here:

  1. They might be able to contact some REAL copyright lawyers and find out some actual FACTS about copyright laws and how they apply within the knitting industry. Hopefully once armed with these facts there could be some sort of awareness campaign to spread this factual information around instead of just letting a bunch of armchair lawyers start flame wars all over the internet like they have been for years (post 420).
  2. Perhaps there could be some sort of legal aid fund so if a copyright dispute (or any other legal dispute really) comes up with one of the members they’ll actually have the ability to fight back instead of just having to grit their teeth and take it if they can’t afford a lawyer.

At this point those of you who have some knowledge of the knitting industry may be yelling at the computer screen “But what about The National Needle Arts Association (TNNA for short)? That’s a really big organization that helps shape the entire needle arts industry! Doesn’t that organization help designers with this stuff?” Apparently not. Many of the posters in the thread are members of TNNA and chimed in to detail how TNNA really doesn’t serve the interests of designers. In fact, it was stated that when TNNA reps are faced with issues raised by designers they tend to either ignore them or get really defensive (post 19). I don’t personally have any knowledge about TNNA’s responsiveness to designers’ concerns, but knowing that a member of the Board of Directors didn’t see a problem with hijacking someone else’s pattern to use for his own profit, this assessment is not exactly surprising. It seems their main purpose is to serve wholesalers, and designers really aren’t a big player in that arena.

Lastly, all this talk about a designers’ organizations is fantastic, but there are similar needs in some of the other knitting professions, such as tech editors, test knitters, and sample knitters (post 304). Since these professions all work directly with and are dependent on the patronage of designers it makes some sense for them to have some sort of representation in whatever happens, but until things get organized it’s hard to tell exactly where they would fit in.

That’s a long list of some very complex problems, and even if a professional organization does manifest it is likely not going to be able to address all of them. It’s possible that more than one organization would be needed, or maybe some of these things could be solved without the help of a guild/union/thingamabob.

ACTION!

Lest you think the whole thread was just a big whine-fest, let me get to the best part! As a result of this discussion, there are some plans coming together to address these problems!

For starters, there was a suggestion that starting up a designers’ conference could be very useful. That way designers could congregate, voice their concerns, and start plotting further action (post 19). Shannon Okey has some expertise in this area and seemed pretty willing to explore the idea of using her resources to start an “alternative trade show” for designers (post 37). Many people also suggested that a Google+ hangout would be a great way to hash out some of these ideas. This is where I start feeling a bit tech inadequate – I really don’t know what Google+ is. I mean, I’ve heard of it in passing, but I have no what it does or how it works or anything. I guess I should look into that, ’cause apparently it’s a tool that people are actually using to communicate with one another. There are probably quite a few other social media sites I should learn to get more comfortable with using too (tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, I’m looking at you).

Rohn Strong reported that he has been in contact with a labor attorney and is working towards starting an international knitwear designers union (post 49). The “international” part of that is especially important because the knitting industry is VERY international. Just check out some of the more popular designers on Ravelry and look at where they live. Designers are everywhere.

Amy Shelton is working on an anonymous Industry Compensation Survey and is collecting ideas for the types of questions to ask in this thread.

There are efforts in the works on a couple of fronts to help clear up some of the contradictory or just plain ridiculous information floating around about copyright laws as they apply to knitting patterns. Shannon Okey is working on arranging a conference call with an art/crafts copyright lawyer (post 148), and Amy Shelton has a private Facebook group compiling a list questions to ask a copyright lawyer (post 162).

There are currently two threads up in the Designers group organizing meetups at this summer’s TNNA trade show in Columbus: a general thread, and Sunday lunch thread. I can’t guarantee that a designer’s union/guild/thingy would be a topic of conversation at these gatherings, but it certainly wouldn’t be out-of-place. I wouldn’t be surprised if these ideas gain some serious momentum immediately following the TNNA trade show!

None of this is going to be easy, but just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It’s not like things like this have never been done before. Other creative professionals such as actors, writers, and graphic designers have been able to affect change in their industries through unions or other types of organizations, so why shouldn’t knitwear designers do the same (post 169)?

So, things are happening. A League of Extraordinary Knitters is assembling. Change is coming.

 

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Video Killed the Yarn Star

This week’s WIP is brought to you by a curious Raveler who had a question about my Color Affection. Before I start a new project I try to do some digging in other Ravelers’ project notes to see if there are any modifications that people have made to the pattern to make it easier, or prettier, or whatever. I did that before starting my Color Affection and found a couple of tips very helpful. I included these tips in my notes on the Ravelry project page not just for myself, but so other Ravelers could benefit from them as well. The best tip I found came from the Yarn Harlot – The increases in the pattern tend to make the edge rather tight and might make blocking a bit difficult. To counteract that you can add some extra stretch into the edge by adding a yarn over after the first two stitches and then dropping the yarn over on the next row.

Earlier this week someone sent me a message thanking me for my detailed notes and asked me a question about something I had not recorded – when I switch colors, how do I deal with the unused yarn until it’s time to knit with it again?

There are basically two options:

  1. Cut the yarn for each stripe and weave in the ends later – that’s what I did for my first striped project and edge with all the cut yarn ended up really stiff and bulky with all the ends woven in essentially doubling the yarn weight on that side.
  2. Carry the unused yarn through the project so you can just pick it up when it’s time to knit with it again. But how?

For my Color Affection I tried just twisting the different strands of yarn together at the end of each color so the unused strands wouldn’t hang loose along the side. That worked decently, but I had a hard time making sure I wasn’t twisting too tight or too many times and thus negating all the extra stretch I added in with the yarn overs. Also, because I would sometimes end up twisting the yarn too much, the edge looked a bit sloppy. All that twisting was visible on the top edge. It got better with blocking and is less visible now, but I still know it’s there.

There is one other way of carrying yarn that I know of that will fix that problem. You can catch the other strands of yarn behind the work by twisting the unused strands around the working strand after you knit the first stitch of the row. This was the suggestion I tried to give to the curious Raveler, but I was having a hard time putting it into words. It had been a while since I had used that technique and was difficult to visualize without having the work in front of me. That’s where this week’s WIP comes in!

I had been planning on starting another Color Affection, so what better time to start than when it could be of some help to someone else! I started a swatch to test out the yarn carrying technique with the stripe sequence in the pattern, then I made a video showing how I carry the yarn along the back and how to add extra stretch along the edge with the yarn overs. I present to you my very first instructional video:

Now, making a video is awfully close to public speaking, which is in the top three of my list of Things That Scare the Crap Out of Me right behind spiders and zombies. Thanks to my nerves, there are a few mistakes in the video like the most awkward knitting flip ever filmed and me completely forgetting to mention WHY you would need extra stretch along the edge of an already stretchy garter stitch project (the increases make it tighter, but since this is a swatch I didn’t do any increases and the extra stretch is overkill for a flat project). Maybe someday I’ll re-record this when I’ve gotten more suave in front of the camera.

Anyway, this method of carrying the yarn seems to be very effective for Color Affection. There’s still a risk of pulling the unused strands too tight, so after I pull on the strands to make sure there isn’t a huge loop hanging off the edge I tug on the edge of the knitting to ensure I haven’t pulled too tight. The twists are barely visible on the front and should be practically invisible once blocked and it looks nice and tidy on the back!

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

Now that we have the pattern modifications taken care of, I can tell you about my WIP.

It all started with this picture of the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

I would love to attribute this to a source, but it was posted on a forum in Ravelry without a link and it's all over the internet, so...no idea where this originally came from. Most important to know: NOT MINE.

I would love to attribute this to a source, but it was posted on a forum in Ravelry without a link and it’s all over the internet, so…no idea where this originally came from. Most important to know: NOT MINE.

This photo just begged to be turned into a stripey knit. I had my favorite dyer (say it with me) indigodragonfly custom dye a set of MCN Lace skeins for me to match the photo.

From left to right: Don't You Have an Elsewhere to Be? (Cordelia), Ooo...Shiny, Yo Chillin'

From left to right: Don’t You Have an Elsewhere to Be? (Cordelia), Ooo…Shiny, Yo Chillin’

Perfect match, right? Now I just need to figure out what order they will go in. The pattern starts with a section of one color, then adds stripes with a second color, later a third color is added, and finishes with a border of the third color.

There are 6 possible combinations, and I am going to swatch them all to see what looks the best. I’m halfway there.

Blue, gray, purple

Blue, gray, purple

Blue, purple, gray

Blue, purple, gray

Purple, gray, blue

Purple, gray, blue

So far I’m leaning towards the last combination, but I will reserve final judgement until I have finished all of the swatches.