July 21, 2014

Hill Country Weavers

For a little change of pace I am going to review a yarn store today. Well maybe review is not the right word, perhaps praise would work better.

In DFW, if you want yarn you go to Joanne Fabrics, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. If you want good yarn I hear there is a small place in Fort Worth that is good, but I have no idea where it is or what it's called.

Doing a search of Austin for "yarn" on Google and you get the same sort of results, but put in Knitting and that is a different matter. This is the second time I have been to Austin, and I walked up and down South Congress Street for days and did not see this gem sitting there plain as day. Well perhaps because it looks like a house, or perhaps because I was on the opposite side of the street, I did not see it until the second day of my trip.

Hill Country Weavers
1701 South Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

Entering the home, as clearly it once was, you are faced with the staggering good smells of yarn and wood. And your eyes immediately have to adjust to the COLORS.

The Entry.
They don't mess around in here. You had better know what you want: color, thickness, purpose, amount, fiber content, etc. I had two upcoming projects in mind so I got out of the store spending under $100, but with no plan or focus I could have bought everything.

Each room of the home is full, floor to ceiling with bins and boxes and cubbies of whatever you could want. Prices seem to range from the low end of about $8 a skein (though I bought some on sale for 6.25) to $50 a skein, or more.
Part of a room.
You can see not only is there yarn, but samples of nearly everything worked up for you to see and feel how it will look or hang, unlike the tiny squares in "craft stores". They also had an entire wall of threads, I assume for quilting or embroidery.

Each room had chairs and some of the women seemed to just be hanging out as much as shopping. One lady sat chatting and knitting near the register, it was both odd and perfect. The staff is very knowledgeable. Even though I knew what I wanted, I did not have a clue on how to find it, except to look at everything. Once I had, I asked to be sure I located all my options.
Another room.
They also had a wall of needles, hooks and all kinds of yarn crafts needs. Cute project bags and carrying cases, fancy stitch markers, etc. It's like a candy store. In the back room there is a corner with markdowns and sale items. They also had a building next door which said Outlet, so I can only assume there is even more, but I had to leave before I spent anything else...
Yet another room.
In one room I sat while my purchase was balled for me. The skeins on the shelf are not really friendly to working from, so they have a machine which will ball the yarn for you... that does mean that you cannot return it then, but why would I and that saves me a lot of work later on. While I waited I looked through their collection of books. I must say that this store does cater more towards knitting folks in that regard, but their range of crochet books was very good, just less large than knit. Also their signs on the porch say knitting, spinning and weaving... :(  As a "hooker" I felt only a little saddened to be left out.

So, what did I buy? And for what?
What I got.
Well I am still in the middle of a project at the moment, a tunic sweater, but these yarns are for the two projects after...

The dark blue, purple, gray, green yarn is Madeline Tosh, Tosh DK in "Stargazing", 100% superwash merino wool. A dk weight is similar to a worsted weight. It can be machine washed, but has to air dry. It is dyed in Texas and made in South Africa. I plan to use it to make Otachi. This yarn was the most expensive of the three I got, but the colors were too perfect for what I had in mind for his color scheme to not get.

The middle blue, single skein, is Nature Spun, worsted weight wool in "Fanciful Blue". It is made by the Brown Sheep Company in Nebraska. I plan to use this for the glow spots on Otachi, but I might use the lightest one I got if I have leftovers... I got this one because it was in the sale bin, close to the color I wanted and $3. And I can always make a little headband or something with it, if I don't use it for my kaiju.

The lightest blue is Berroco Weekend DK. The color for this yarn is 2982 or "Coast". It is 75% Acrylic 25% Peruvian Cotton, and can also be machine washed but air dryed. That was important to me because this yarn is for this Lion Brand Open Air Shrug pattern. Note: you might need a Lion Brand login to see/download this pattern. This yarn was very reasonable at the 6.50 a skein, and of much better quality and feel, in my opinion, than say a Red Heart or Vanna's Choice, and for something that I am going to wear and have on my skin, I want it to feel good. They had a sweater made up from it that really sold me on how it would look and wear.

So basically this place is heaven. Tips for a visit:
1. Have a Budget.
2. Have a Pattern/Plan/List.
3. Ask for help.
4. Be inspired.

July 16, 2014

Kitties in Wuv

New commission for a pair of star-crossed kitties. This is the kind of thing YOU could have made, if you drop me a line with an idea.

For this set I am going back to the same pattern I used for the Jumping Monkeys and the Mr. Skees Bears. The pattern is originally from Pica Pau, whom I follow on Facebook. I love her work and the simple style of everything she makes. The basic body shape of the Jaques the monkey pattern, bought back in November of 2011, is easily customizable. A lot of her other animals look similar and I am thinking about making my ACNL Mayor from this pattern... She has an Etsy shop but has nothing in it... I look forward to the day I can buy more patterns.

Anyway. We worked on the outfits, design and yarn color scheme of the pair together in my work shed. I had a lot of left over yarn skeins and this was a great left over project. I didn't have to purchase any new yarn!
I made the Girl Kitty a little shorter in the legs and arms than boy kitty, so he would be a little taller. I used a light pink to embroider the mouth and nose on both, and a large set of (18mm) black safety eyes.
Faces. Boy smile is a bit smaller.
For the girl, her skirt was attached at the color change between dress top and her bloomers. The skirt is sc in a gradual increase from the waist, to make the lace edges I did a sc, skipped a sc, chained 2, and sc in next stitch, around to make loops, next row is 5 double crochet in the chain space, chain 1, 1dc in next chain space, chain 1, 5 double crochet in next, repeating around. It made a kind of open-work lace to help show the cute bloomers underneath.
Left is body with color change for bloomers, Right has skirt attached.
For the ears, I made two small triangles, one in the pink for the inside of the ear, one gray/white and used a sc around the edges to join them together. When I sewed them on, I turned them so that the tip (row 6) of both ears faced the center of the head which made them look a bit taller.

Ear: (make 4, two in inside ear color, 2 in outside ear color)
1. chain 10, sc in 2nd from hook and across (9)
2. decrease, sc 5, decrease (7)
3. decrease, sc 3, decrease (5)
4. decrease, sc, decrease (3)
5. decrease, sc (2)
6. decrease 2 and leave tail to sc to other ear piece.
Ears from side and front.
The girls arms we wanted to have a cap sleeve with a little ruffle. The arm ruffles were made by doing a back loop only color change between the purple and the gray, to leave the front loops open to add the lace scallops on at the edge when done.

Short-Arm Short-Sleeve pattern:
1. in clothes color, chain 5 and slip stitch to first to form a loop
2. 2 sc in each stitch (10)
3-5. sc around (10)
6. switch to skin color, sc 10 around in back loops only.
7-12. sc around (do an additional 4 rounds here if making normal length arms and legs)
13. *sc in one, 2 sc in next*, * repeat around (15)
14. sc in each (15)
15. sc, popcorn stitch^, 13 sc
16. sc in each (15)
17. *sc in one, decrease*, *repeat (10)
18. decrease around (5), bind off
^ popcorn stitch: 4 double crochet in the same stitch, remove hook, insert into top of first dc, pick up dropped loop and pull through, extra chain to secure and for next rows sc)
Note: Stuffing the arm through the 5 chain opening is hard, when I did this again for the boy I just chained 10 and started there.
Finished arm for girl.
She also asked for a pansy flower like from Animal Crossing... I didn't have a pattern so I made one up, which came out really well. In the center light purple I did MC6 sc. Then switched to the dark purple for the inside petals, each petal made across 2 of the 6 stitches. One petal is made by chain 2, 2dc in first stitch, 2dc in second stitch, chain 2 and slip stitch to base. Repeat around 3 times for 3 petals. At the end of that row I switched to white, I chained 2 and did a sc in the top of each dc, and then did another chain 2 down the other side and secured it with a slip stitch in the same place as the purple. Did that for all the petals and left a few long tails to sew it in place.
Pansy flower.
The boy kitty had a lot less little details. Shirt and pants. Vest. At some point we will find a way to add some glasses, but for now they were left off. He was made full size to the pattern where as on the girl I left off about 4 rows on each part.
Boy Kitty.
For the boy's arms I did 16 rows of 10sc around, and then back looped and color changed into the hand shape. I also re-worked the vest pattern from the Skees-bears for boy kitty. Last time the back didn't fit quite right and bulged out the in the back center, hence skipping one stitch in the middle of the row of treble crochet. Still was a little large at the shoulders, since he doesn't have any, but fit better. Last time the button functioned since it was small but this time it was too large. So here it is decoration and on the back side there is a clear snap to keep the vest closed.

Row 1. Chain 36, turn and sc in second chain from hook and back across 35 sc
2-4. Chain 1 for turning, sc 35 across
5. Chain 1, dec, dec, sc 27, dec, dec
6. Chain 1, dec, dec, sc 23, dec, dec
7. Chain 1, dec, dec, sc 1, chain 4, skip two stitches, treble crochet next 6, skip one sc, treble crochet next 6, chain 4, skip two stitches, sc, dec, dec
8. Chain 1, slip stitch in top of two decreases and up the chain space, sc across the top of the 12 treble crochet, slip stitch down the other chain space and across two decreases.
Bind off, Hide ends.
Sew button to one side.

Herb & Petunia. 
Both kitties took about 30 hours total. It goes by fast with a simple pattern and color changes. I had a really good time making these and once again can't stop smiling at the result.
Just FYI, Herb is 15 inches tall from his feet to ears, Petunia is 13 inches.

PS... perhaps their owners will rename them, but I had to call them something...

July 9, 2014

Harold the Tiger

I received a new commission from a friend, for his father who loves a certain comic... Found this pattern for Harold the Tiger by Lottie's Creations on Etsy. If you do a search on Google you can of course find some free ones, but we liked the look of this one best and the price was right.

Yarn used: Red Heart Soft in Tangerrina, Black, and White.
Hook size H8/5.00mm

I used a thicker yarn and larger hook, than called for, to make a slightly larger toy than the one the pattern showed as reference since I wanted it to be huggable.
Head and Body
I only made a few small changes to the pattern: First, I made the ears one row longer so that I could stuff and sew them a little easier. Second, around the tummy piece I did a row of single crochet around the outside ,since I dislike the ragged ends formed by turing rows (see the picture below).
Left is the turning rows. Right is with the edging.
Overall this pattern was really simple and easy to follow. I really liked the link they included to Needle Noodles blog for a less noticeable color change. I used the first technique. Perhaps because I am left handed I needed to turn my work inside out when done to get the pretty side on the outside of the piece. I also kept the yarn going when working the stripes on the arms, legs, body and tail, which meant no constant trimming of ends, as it was all inside the pieces.
Muzzle, Arms, Legs and Tail.
I can't help but think maybe there is a better way to do the muzzle. I thought maybe the muzzle would form a kind of mustache shape for cheeks or something, but it didn't. It formed a kind of long oval tube, but perhaps just a flat oval might work better. I had a lot of trouble sewing it into place and stuffing behind it.

Nose and eyes are felt attached with Fabri-Tac glue. It was my first time to use that glue and it is awesome and dries super fast, so you better know where you want it to go, but so much better than Tacky Glue for felt to yarn. The mouth is a simply embroidery with yarn.
Ready for adventure!
Time to completion: 12 hours. Color changing is a little time consuming and sewing it all together once again was hard for me. I hope I can get better at that, but I had to replace the ears twice...
Difficulty: Advanced easy...
Verdict: Very very cute and huggable.
Size: Ears to Butt 11in, to Tail End 15in

Update: I made a second Harold for someone else from the same skeins from this project and still had yarn left over. So, if you have leftover colors on hand including a good amount of orange, you can probably finish him with no problems.

Update 2: You can see images of the second and third Harolds here!

Update 3: I made a fourth... This time from all Red Heart Super Saver in Black, White and Carrot and a 5.00mm hook. With those yarns, he was the largest by far, sitting from his butt to ears at 15 inches tall!
Left is the second one made, Right is the fourth.