August 30, 2012

Sleepy Owl

I got a letter in the mail inviting me to a baby shower for one of my relatives in Houston. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it that weekend. Hopefully my little crochet owl will make up for it.

She is having a girl and has chosen colors of cream, lilac and sage for the nursery. They also have had one wall painted with a countryside mural. With that in mind, I set about looking through my patterns for something cute. I was also looking for something quick since I need to have it arrive on time and so I decided against most of the patterns in my Evernote folder. Of course, the very last one in the folder... perfect.

This pattern is not really a pattern per se, but rather a set of "here is what I did, kind of". It requires basic crochet skills, knowing how to achieve a circle in crochet, as well as decision making skills. Just the kind of off-the-cuff pattern I was looking for! These Owlets are meant to be pretty small, but I wanted to make it bigger, so just following the patterns same loose guidelines, I made one that came out at around 7 inches wide by 7 inches tall by 6 inches deep or so.

Finished Owlet.
After knowing what colors they had picked for the babies room, it was much easier to pick out yarn. I chose a variegated purple, pink, blue, cream and yellow yarn to do the body in. I had hoped it might look like random blotches of color when done, but I picked the perfect number of stitches in a row to make the colors line up from row to row. So the body has kind of a tye dye effect going on. I then found a lilac yarn in a huge bag of yarn I was given. And after that I found the perfect sage green color in another bag for a project I have abandoned. I also took a dark purple for embroidering details. So with the right color pallet lined up, I set to work.

Backside, you can see the head point start and the tail.
Since this pattern is so simple, it took about 3 hours to make. Longest parts were the details, of course. The body is a simple bowl shape; a circle base with the same number of stitches up to the top. You have to kind of eyeball where to stop. I did do a little decreasing unlike the pattern to make the butt a little fatter than the head. Then you just stuff and stitch up the top and add a few more stitches at the corners to make them stand like ears. Starting a little behind the head seam, you crochet into the body and then decrease every row to get the pointed shape. I thought about using buttons for eyes, but I always want to make these friendly for small kids to actually use, so I just crocheted some circles in white, added a border of the sage, and then embroidered sleepy eyes and eyelashes.

I tacked down a good amount of the nose point so it wouldn't come up. You can see the feet, too.
Since this one was larger than the ones from the pattern, I decided it could have a little more detail. So I kind of made up a pattern for some clawed feet and a tail for the backside. I stopped there, fearing that too much more detail (like wings and little sleepy Zzzz's) might be too much. Overall pretty cute I think. :)

August 28, 2012

30 Day Monster Girl Challenge, Day 1

Lately my webcomics, though wonderful, are not inspiring me to doodle. Or rather, they are funnier than I feel like I can match. So instead I have taken to simply inserting myself in their worlds with my doodles... Guess it isn't bad, but its not the best either. So we will leave off the comics again for now.

Here is the list I found (here) on the internet for a 30 Day monster drawing challenge. From what I have read it seems like the list was originally to draw monsters of each theme, but then someone somewhere said they should all be girls. And I liked that thought.

Day One is Harpy.
Harpy appeals to me because I have already been drawing kenku bird people. I then had the thought that each monster should be doing something girly that might be difficult for that particular species to do... So harpies have big taloned feet. Might be difficult for them to do their toenails. :)

I spent a lot of time doodling and trying to figure out the harpy before I put her in place. Decided she should have kind of a weird half shaved mohawk hair-do.

First doodles. Trying to get frustration on the face and a pose.
Maybe making the harpy younger would help? Nope.
Took me a lot of time and I got frustrated. These were from last week. Today I thought, lets take another stab at it, and came up with something I liked enough to share.

Sitting in a tree, painting her toenails, back to the half mohawk thingy. She wears a kimono top with the sleeves cut off, black capris. Kinda a hip young mall hopping harpy. I guess.

August 22, 2012

Baby Dalek

UPDATE: A second Dalek in white has been requested by my brother. Might have to do something a bit different since they are two toned: white with bronze dots. Stay tuned.

So another friend of mine is pregnant, go figure, and I have yet another something to make. These friends are big into Dr. Who so I thought it would be pretty funny to do something from the show in crochet. Thought about the Tardis but I thought that might be a bit obvious. Then I remembered that a long time ago I had found a Dalek pattern and saved it. Perfect.

This is the picture of a Dalek that I was working from.
It took a bit of work deciphering the blurry screen shot I originally took of the instructions. And only after I was done did I bother to look for a PDF or something. Of course I found one after a bit of digging.
The finished crochet Dalek.
This is another example of how crochet patterns can be deceiving. I thought this Dalek was going to be huge with the plunger and arms being the size of doll arms or something. Alas no. Tall yes, but arms were very floppy and thin. And once again, here is an example of having to be able to understand crochet and what is meant rather than written. At round 18 I realized I had 63 stitches where according to the count in the pattern I ought to have 54. I then spent the next 10 minutes re reading that last four rows of pattern and realized that rows 15-16 were to blame. They had written:
15-16: hdc in 6, 2 hdc in next, repeat. (48 stitches)
So I did that increase for both rows. Only later to realize that row 15 alone creates 48 and after 16 I then had 56... Leading into two rows later having the 63 instead of 54... What so what it really should have said was row 15, do the increase, row 16, one hdc in each to maintain count of 48.
So of course I had to rip out four rows of work to get it to match the stitch count. 

Eyelights, Face-gun thing, Arms

Bottom was a separate piece. The black helped reinforce the seam.
  The yarn color I used was called Toast. A nice and kind of shiny brown without being too sparkly. I then used some of the leftover silver sparkle from the elephant to make the eye light things on the head and some sort of attachment for the left arm. I used a little black and a double crochet to make the plunger arm part. I also added black embroidering for the vents and panels on the body as well as to make a bottom lip to help it sit upright. Overall, this pattern took about 10 hours, but only because of all the undoing and redoing and the extra embroidery.
Don't exterminate my dog!

Now the baby Dalek is ready to exterminate anything that might try to harm its new human master.

August 20, 2012

Hat Redo

One of the dangers of finding crochet patterns online for free is that even though there is a standard for writing said patterns, everyone seems to find there own way to do things. They will leave out steps that seem obvious. Or start every single row with the same steps rather than just saying, hey, start every row with this step. If the crocheter is left handed, then the pattern will be inside out if you do it right handed without knowing. Personally, that one always gets me because even though I am left handed in all other things, I am right handed for crocheting purposes.

One of the things I most dislike are patterns that do not have a stitch count at the end of each row. In the case of this hat I was working on, I got all the way through the entire pattern, all the way to the end, before I realized that something was really really wrong. The hat, which should have fit an adult, would have had trouble fitting on a 6 year old. And yes, I tested the gauge* before I started. The problem it seemed, after showing the hat and pattern to a few others was that in row 3 I only created 6 spaces rather than 9. That was due to the pattern saying "repeat 6 times" and me assuming that that three stitches I had already done, was included in that count.

This one is wrong. Kinda hard to tell though.
It is frustrating to have to rip something that took you hours, apart. And since the error was in row 3 (of 21) there was no other way to fix it, but start over. It has sat in a bag for almost a year now, mocking me. I only got around to redoing it because I had promised it as a Christmas present to my mom last year. Sorry Mom.
The new correct top side.

Underside and brim.
The pattern is called Blueberry Beret and is actually a super fast pattern to make. Took me me about 5 hours. One of the reasons it is so fast is that you never have to stop the yarn except to switch to a new skein halfway through. It is also an easy one to remember the row instructions. And since it has lots of chain spaces it is not a lot of work to get around the hat. The longest part was making the brim.

I used a variegated yarn in blue brown khaki and cream so that it would match a lot of my moms winter coats. I then added a shiny snowflake looking pin to the brim, instead of the suggested button, to give it a little bling.

*For the new to crochet: A gauge is a small square that you create before starting the pattern. You use the yarn and hook suggested to create the stitches in the pattern that will be used. Once the square is complete it should measure out to a given dimension. This ensures that the item you are making will be the right size. It allows you to quickly see what changes to your hook need to be made, if due to your yarn being bulkier or your stitches being tight, it is not the right size.

August 17, 2012

Lunch without Coworkers

I have remarked on my job status before, on working from home and the lack of coworkers. But there is never a time where I miss them more than at lunchtime. Since we have moved to a new place, I have been in search of new restaurants where I can get my favorite foods, that my husband doesn't like, that is. Last week and this week it was: Where to find good Chicken Tikka Masala. That's an indian curry, tomato, delicious dish with chunks of chicken in it. Often served with rice or naan.

Found and tried two places within about 10-15 minutes of home.

First: India Cafe on 377

Cafe was light and bright, modern decor. Full mostly of table and one small stand in the center to place and pick up your order. No fountain drinks. Food arrived promptly and there was a spicy smell in the air that made my eyes sting a bit. A good sign if you like it spicy. Tikka Masala is often less spicy than most of the food commonly thought of as Indian which is in part why I like it. I'm not too big on spicy things, I do not like jalapenos, but I do like this dish. A lot! So I was not really surprised to see that the masala that came out was more red in color than I am used to. Suggesting either more spiciness, more curry or more tomato. The chicken was a little strange since it was in tiny pieces. The "Chicken Tikka" part refers to a different dish where chicken is on sticks and grilled, the "Masala" part is the creamy sauce that they then put the chicken tikka into. So the tiny pieces suggested it was not chicken tikka per se. The presentation was very nice though. The naan was wrapped in foil to keep it warm, and the rice was elegantly plated with a small vegetable salad on the side. That salad was deceiving, it was by far the spiciest thing I have tasted in a while. Rice was OK. Naan was standard. Masala was... well you guessed it. Spicy, but also some how not as flavorful as I have had in the past. Less creamy, less velvety. Much more tomatoey and watery. I took half to go. All in all, it was ok, but not the best I have ever had. And seeing as the next place I tried is closer, I will not be returning.

Second: Sana Indian Restaurant and Grocery

This is the standard hole in the wall shop. In a strip mall, and clearly at one time much smaller. They have expanded their grocery to the next door space and now have a larger eating area. Again no fountain drinks, but a lot of coolers with many options. Also they have coolers with Kulfi (indian ice creams), which I will have to try next time. Again there is a small bar at the back where you place your order. A simple menu, no lunch vs. dinner pricing or anything like that. I again ordered Chicken Tikka Masala since it is my fave. Came with rice or naan, but an extra naan is only $1. Cheaper than the last place for the meal by almost half. The naan was huge and satisfying. The masala was warm with large chunks of chicken that you could see the places where the skewer ran through. Rich and creamy and just a little spicy. Very very good!! I ate it all. I will be back.


This brings me to my point about lunch and coworkers though... Being a girl, a young girl, going to lunch alone is weird enough when you go to McD's, but when you drive into a somewhat empty parking lot and go into a place with a culture clearly not the one you are from, you get some looks. The clientele of both stores seemed to be people who knew the owners or are at least part of that community. Both places seemed to be family run.

It's not to say that it is so strange that I won't go, but it's a bit like going where you are not sure you are wanted. Or the same feeling that you get when going to a comic book store as a girl.

August 15, 2012

On Elephants and Completing Crochet

So my little Socktopus left such an impression on the family it went to, that when that family needed crochet assistance, they turned to me. I can only say that I feel really really honored for that position. I was asked to complete a baby blanket that was left unfinished when the new babies' grandmother passed. It was a shell stitch blanket in a soft variegated yarn. I could tell that a lot of love and time had already been put into this blanket.

The whole thing was a little miraculous, especially given that this blanket was started before they even knew that their new baby was going to be a girl... and this yarn is decidedly girly. Finishing it was easy, but it was complicated by trying to crochet through teary eyes.


I also wanted to give this new girl her own crochet toy, just like her brother got the Socktopus. I asked what they would like and they told me that her room was going to have giraffes and elephants and that kind of a look. I then hunted around for an elephant crochet pattern that I liked. I tried this Floppy Elephant pattern first, but after getting most of the way through the head I decided that I wanted something a little bit larger than the size it was shaping up to be.

Not finding anything free that I liked I turned to Etsy, where I have found good patterns before. I decided to purchase and use Ami Amour's pattern E is for Elephant. Working on this pattern has been a joy since it is so clearly written. I really love the long legs and trunk that I think will be perfect for little hands to grab on. This pattern took me about 6 hours all told to make. That is fast!!

Body parts all laid out. Tail and toes off to the sides.

Put together, from the back.
The yarn is Loops and Threads Impeccable Glitter in Silver. I liked the softer light gray and felt that the little bit of light shine made it look girly without it being pink. I also think it adds to the idea that it is a sleepy elephant... for some reason. I added a little flower to make it more girly, in the same yarn that the baby blanket is made of. I also left off the tusks since I am pretty sure that only boy elephants get tusks. I also decided to make the eyes sleepy and closed to be a little similar to the Socktopus.

August 10, 2012

Slowly getting back to comics

So, I have finally set up my new office to be in somewhat working order. It's a great space and all for me! I am contemplating doing the 30 Day Monster Girl Challenge, but I won't start that just yet.

In the mean time here is a warmup for me, going back to cataloging and doing fan doodles for the webcomics I read. Picking up where I left off...

Cat Versus Human by Yasmine. Basically just a comic about cats and the effects they have on ladies, life and relationships. Super cute and minimal look. I live for the rare strips she does about dogs. I can generally appreciate all the cat humor as well, since I do love cats, I just literally cannot live with them. Some of my favorites: This one and this one.

Was going to do a full fledged doodle, sketched out some ideas and realized that a two week hiatus was extremely detrimental to any skills I might have been building. So, instead here are caricatures of me, my husband and puppy inspired by Cat Versus Human.