WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Ducky Progress Report

You know, when I posted this morning I forgot that the sun rising means that it’s tomorrow. Or today. Whatever, the point is, it hadn’t hit me yet that today is in fact WEDNESDAY and not still Tuesday. Let’s have a Ducky progress report!

When we left off, I was coloring Ducky’s spine. I stopped bothering to update you on it because it took approximately eleventy-billion years to finish it. It would have been easier to cover the little spine bumps if I had made them in the dark green instead of black, but at the time I was worried about running out of dark green wool. In retrospect I would have had plenty of wool to work with. Covering all those bumps with green while maintaining their shape is HARD. Even as I continued outlining the rest of the dark green area and filling it in I kept coming back to the spine bumps and finding areas that still had black peeking through.

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Finally after I finished coloring the body things started to get interesting! I began building Ducky’s lower jaw. Partway through this process I realized I had sort of unconsciously been building it anatomically. I started with the bone structure of the jaw.

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Then I started connecting it together with tendons and muscle.

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Next I made the tongue and started on the skin.

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Until finally I had a complete lower jaw!

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At this point I had to pause and consider how I should proceed. I had two options that I could see; build the rest of the head on the lower jaw and attach it to the neck when I’m done, or attach the lower jaw to the neck now and build the rest of the head from there. If I built the head first and attached it to the body later I would have more freedom to manipulate the head as I add in more detail, but I might have trouble making a solid bond with the neck and I would run the risk of screwing up the proportions. If I attach the lower jaw to the body now and build the rest of head while attached to the body the head was sure to be attached to the neck in the most stable way possible and it would be easier to maintain the correct proportions, but it may be harder to get the level of detail needed if I have to fight with the whole body rather than just a small head.

I decided the risk of having a disproportioned head that wouldn’t stay up was too much to bear, so I attached the lower jaw to the neck and started building up the back of the head.

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For the base of the head I had used a core of white wool because it’s so much easier to layer color onto than the black wool. I started running low on the white wool though, so for the crown of the head I decided to use some of the leftover dark green wool as the core. I also started filling a few of the gaps with some previously felted bits of white wool.

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For the upper jaw I went back to using the black wool as the base because for this section I knew I would have to layer on the final colors pretty thick anyway.

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So there you have it! I’ve set the other felting projects aside for now because Ducky is coming together pretty quickly now that the body is finished!

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WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Quick Ducky Update

I’m gonna make this quick, ’cause I’m sick and my brain doesn’t like forming sentences when I’m ill. I’ve been coloring Ducky’s body, and it’s going well. So well that I’ve been focusing mainly on Ducky since the last time I checked in. Prepare for pic spam.

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WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Against All Odds

This has been one of those weeks. It seems like the universe has just been conspiring against me and throwing all kinds of drama my way in an attempt to disrupt my workflow – family drama, tech drama, hell, even the electricity has been giving me attitude. Despite all of that, somehow progress has been made.

The monster has a face!

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Now I just need to add his horns and a tail! I may even consider giving him arms.

I worked on Ducky’s back ridges some more.

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Once I finished with that I breathed a sigh of relief because Ducky’s body is finally the shape I want it to be! Now I’m working on coloring. I concentrated on the tail first, so this is what it looked like after adding the light green on one side.

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Then I added the light green to the other side of the tail and started filling in the hip area.

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Not nearly as productive as I wanted to be this week, but there’s only so much I can do in the face of total chaos. At least the lights are on again.

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: MacGyver Edition

This post contains spoilers for the leethal Adventure Knit-a-long, so if you’re still having fun with your own choose-your-own adventure mystery you may want to look away. (And if you haven’t gotten the pattern yet, now’s your chance to get it before the price raises next week when she’ll be updating the format and adding charts! You’ll get the updated files even if you pay now.)

Ready?

Onward.

So I finished knitting this hat and was ready to block it. It’s supposed to be a slouchy hat, so it’s longer than your average hat. That is, longer than my actual head. The pattern used a bit of stranded knitting too, so it would NEED blocking – stranded knitting tends to pull in the fabric a lot and needs to be blocked so you can see all the stitches you painstakingly knitted. Once I started soaking the hat I realized two things:

1) I haven’t actually knit very many hats before, and the ones I have made didn’t really need much blocking. I just gave them a quick soak and laid them flat or draped them over something.

2) The few hats I have made weren’t nearly this slouchy, so this truly is new blocking territory for me.

The instructions said to smooth the hat around something slightly smaller than your head like a balloon or a foam head. So something vaguely head-shaped. Okay.

I went on a hunt for head-shaped things in the house. I didn’t have any balloons, so that was out. I did have a few head models, but only one of them is even remotely close to my head size. Unfortunately, the hat is way too long to block on the head! The bottom of it just dangled around the neck. Armed with a tape measure, I looked for other options.

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I discovered a trash can in my room that I’ve been using to hold the parts for my light box is exactly the same circumference as my head at the bottom! It starts to flare out at the middle though, so I couldn’t block the hat just on the trash can or the edge would turn out way too loose. I looked for something that could add some height to the trash can. There was a foam ball that was way too small, but it added enough height to make the hat fit on the trash can.

When I put the hat on the foam ball/trash can contraption it still seemed too floppy at the top and I was worried there wouldn’t be enough stretching to even out the stranded knitting. I kept looking. Finally, I came across a decorative pot of my mother’s. It was the right shape, the right size, and by turning it upside down the opening at the top sat really well on the convex bottom of the trash can. The wavy top of the trash can made the whole thing unstable though, so I covered the head model in a towel and put that inside the trash can to stabilize it.

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There! That works, right?

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Once again, my blocking style is make-it-up-as-I-go-along. Whatever works I guess. Now I just need to pick out a button…

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: I’m Back!

Hopefully anyway…

I didn’t post last week. Blame Comcast. Somehow they made the internet stop working with their “service upgrade.” Last week was mostly spent trying to get my internet back. That attempt was marginally successful. It’s back, but it seems to be unstable. I basically am just going to have to cross my fingers and hope that all this typing I’m doing doesn’t magically disappear the second I hit “save” because that is the exact moment my wireless connection decides it has better things to do.

Let’s check in with the felting! I’ve fallen a bit behind on the photo editing queue, so what I’m about to show you isn’t 100% up to date, but I’ll catch up.

After bending the knees, I attached the legs to the Kodama.

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Then I gave it a butt!

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After that, I gave the head a face and attached the arms. I seem to have forgotten to take a picture of that step though…sorry. Then all I had to do was make a short neck and attach the head at a quizzical angle and it was done! Finished photos will have to come later though, they’re still being edited.

All together, the Kodama only took about 7 hours to make!

 

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Felting Progress

Let’s check in with the needle felting projects…

Ducky - upper body started on styrofoam ball

Ducky‘s body shape is nearly complete! I started covering a styrofoam ball with black felt to use for the upper body, but once I added it to the lower body I realized I had way overshot the scale and it was too big for the legs. I tore the upper body off and will be refining the front end of the oval shape of the lower body until it looks more like the upper body.

I have no idea if that paragraph made any sense.

Moving on.

The Kodama is coming along nicely! As promised, here are some process pictures…

Kudama prepping nut 3

I started off with a noisy nutshell.

Kudama - nut in head

Then I encased it in wool.

Kudama - stone

Then I had an epiphany! If I could just find something heavier than the head, I should be able to weigh down the body enough so that the head could rattle instead of the body! I found a stone that weighs several grams more than the head.

Kudama - arms and legs started

I encased the stone in wool and started forming the arms and legs.

Kudama hands and knees

Then I bent the legs to form knees and I added hands to the arms.

Oh, and last week I finished a set of Poke-dryer-balls for my sister’s friend.

Pokeball set

That’s all the felting I’ve got for now, stay tuned for more!

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: Felt ALL THE THINGS!

I’m now juggling three needle felting projects!

Ducky shaping leg attachment

 

Ducky now has her legs attached! More shaping is needed for it to look right, but she’s starting to come together!

Pokeball 1

 

I have finished the first Pokeball for my sister’s friend and it didn’t explode in the dryer!

Ultraball - start

I’ve started on a Ultraball for the next one. These are super quick to make too, which is nice!

I also started some prep-work for a Kodama from Princess Mononoke. One of the features of these creatures is their rattling heads, so I thought I would try to reproduce that aspect. My sister had the idea of using a nutshell to get that distinctive wooden sound of the rattling. She cut a hazelnut in half and we spent a while trying to figure out what we could put inside to shell to reproduce the right sound. We settled on a lead fishing weight and a bead.

Kudama prepping nut 1

 

I glued the shell shut with some Krazy glue, but there was a bit of a gap on one side where the shell chipped when it was being cut open.

Kudama prepping nut 2

 

I was a little afraid that wool would end up creeping in through the crack during the felting process and dampening the sound, so I used some hot glue to bridge the gap.

Kudama prepping nut 3

 

Now it’s ready to encase in felt! Sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to put the nut in the head because that would make it really top-heavy. It’ll have to go in the body instead.

 

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.

 

FO Friday: The Shawl That Refused To Be Photographed

Enough with the WIP-shaming! How about a finished object?

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This shawl began about a year ago. The second I saw this pattern I fell in love. For some reason the first color I imagined it in was a light dusty purple. Luckily I knew of a dyer who did an excellent light dusty purple. Wanna guess who? Yep, indigodragonfly (I’m telling you, I’m obsessed). I believe it was fairly recently that she had come out with a new colorway called “A Thin Line Between Love and Batteries.” It fit my vision for this shawl perfectly. I had also recently acquired a skein of Polwarth Silk as one of the club shipments and fell in love with that base the second I cast on with it.

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I bought the pattern, shopped for beads, ordered a custom dyed skein of Batteries on Polwarth and cast on as soon as humanly possible. About three months later it was finished. Blocked and everything. Then it took me about nine months to get a decent photo of it. Those beads just REFUSED to be photographed!

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The shawl was way too big for my light box, which is where beads really tend to shine in my photography. I needed a decent outdoor photo shoot, but I ran into problems attempting to do this in my own backyard for the following reasons:

  • Our backyard (and front yard) are hideous. We just really couldn’t care less about gardening here, and all of the grass has long since been replaced by pavers. Everywhere you turn the background of the photo would be marred with broken down fences, abandoned ladders, neglected bushes, brown fir needles EVERYWHERE, and depending on the time of year, 7 foot tall weeds (or what we call our “apathy garden”.)
  • I simultaneously live in a suburb and a forest. There’s a giant hill in town (some might call it a small mountain, but around here we know better) that has a great viewpoint at the top. From there you can look down at much of the city, including my neighborhood. In theory you could spot my house from that hill, but in practice when you look down on the suburbs from that hilltop all you see is a forest. If it weren’t for the roads peeking through the canopy you’d hardly be able to tell that there are probably about 6,000 people living under those trees. So, if the aim of outdoor photography is to take advantage of sunlight, then I’m just screwed.
  • Even if there was enough light, most of the time I wouldn’t know it anyway. I’m naturally a night owl so most days I don’t even see the sun. I’m usually asleep during the day.
  • I was having trouble figuring out where on earth I would put the shawl to photograph it…lay it out on the ground on top of a sheet? Hang it up on one of the ugly fences and try to catch it in the 30 seconds the sun illuminates the fence every day?
  • I’m not very fond of the outdoors. I try to limit my exposure as much as possible. I sunburn really fast, bugs love to eat me and my immune system loves to overreact to them, SPIDERS LIVE OUTSIDE and that’s just not OK, it’s usually either too hot or too cold for my taste, it rains a lot and I don’t enjoy being wet, and there are other people out there. (Hi, my name is Nicole and I have social anxiety).

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I tried setting up Sven (my mannequin) in my room and having him model the shawl there, but the lighting was just all wrong. The color looked flat, the picture had very little definition and the beads were completely invisible. I tried setting Sven up outside, but again, lighting. See above for problems. It almost could have worked if Sven weren’t so white so I could manipulate the photograph more in editing, but alas Sven is superwhite (that will soon change).

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Finally, one day on the way home from a family gathering we drove past the perfect location. It was a small field full of flowers in a rare sunny spot only a few blocks from my house! The next sunny day I trekked down there (got a minor burn on my face due to using expired sunscreen, rolled my ankle on the way there, and had to wade through a sea of school children and their parents, but I digress) and did a fabulous photo shoot for several different projects including the Shawl That Refused To Be Photographed!

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Now that you have the full story, I’ll take a page from Domestic Diva and summarize the project:

Pattern: Enamored, by Laura Aylor

Yarn: indigodragonfly Polwarth Silk in A Thin Line Between Love and Batteries

Project Name: Enamored with my Batteries (yes, I went there)

Changes made to pattern: None. I made the triangle version of the shawl rather than the rectangular wrap version.

Did I learn anything new?: Yes! At one point I screwed up in the pattern and didn’t notice it until many rows later. Instead of ripping back to fix it I tried “surgery” for the very first time. I dropped the 3 stitches involved, corrected the weird stitch mistake, then wove the 3 stitches all the way back up. I had to do it twice because I got the stitch slant wrong the first time (and I’m not totally convinced I got it right the second time, but at least it blends better) and it was a tight fit since I knitted the next 6 rows missing a stitch, but I fixed it!

I’m really happy with this shawl! It’s the perfect color and the fabric feels great. The adjective that always comes to mind with this particular yarn is “smooshy”…I really can’t think of a better word for it, but that’s what it is. Smooshy.

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