February 25, 2015

2015 Witchsona Week

Bonus post today since I wanted to do an updated Witchsona on time for the week again. See last years post here.

Still a yarn witch. Perhaps a slightly more professional version since I now hand out business cards with my creations. Still have a magic ball of yarn and hook that changes size as needed. Upgraded those gems on the end of my hook to be able to stretch out from the end on a string for tunisian crochet. Still rocking my yarn cutter pendant. My dragon hat familiar is just as lively as ever, if a little annoyed I haven't given him the proper horns he needs. Got my pineapple shawl on today which you might have seen on my Instagram as the post on it doesn't go up for a month or so. Also threw my pup Gingko in there since she's my real life familiar and self portraits don't seem right without her.

It's super busy at work, so perhaps I will get around to coloring and cleaning this up next month, but at least I have my crochet to keep the stress from sending me into meltdowns.

February 23, 2015

Gray Totoro Hat

Since I had what felt like at least half a skein left of the gray and blue, and a little less of the white, I figured that would be enough yarn to get out one more Totoro Fair Isle hat. However it would have to be a different scene to use the colors that I had more of. So I decided to rework the chart for a nighttime scene since I had the most gray left. I chose to try to replicate the part of the movie where the totoros are in the top of the tree and are hooting through some strange musical instrument coconut thing.

I kept them together so they would be on the front of the hat again and added snowy white trees around them. The moon and stars are over head. I thought about leaving the moon out of the image and pretending the white pom on top would be the moon, but nah. Also thought about a half moon or crescent moon, but neither really looked right to me. I had to make the big one in blue, but thats ok. I tried to use the white and blue colors as moon-highlights on their fur. Not sure how it is going to turn out, but that is half the fun.

Since the last one is still pretty snug, I decided to use a J 6.00mm hook. I am hoping that this larger hook size and remembering to work loosely will make the hat fit much better.

I started with a foundation single crochet row of 72 stitches. Then did a second row of single crochet around, increasing up to 78 (11sc, inc around). That will help the brim I add later be a bit more snug and stretchy size in comparison to the hat body. Row three is the first row of the chart and the first rows of the waistcoat stitch.

After about 6 rows of pattern I tried the band on to find it fit nicely. I figured that was ok and much better than being too tight. This time it was also a lot easier to get into the center of the single crochet to make those waistcoat stitches, so I know the larger hook was doing what I had hoped.
Pattern came out great!
As before I used my arrow keys to keep my place on the chart and work along. I do think this time around went a bit faster as well, both because of the larger hook and knowing what I was doing.

I used the same decrease down for the top of the hat as the last one. Again adding a few more white "star" pips as I went along:
Row 23: *decrease, 11 stitches* (72)
Row 24: *decrease, 10 stitches* (66)
Row 25: *decrease, 9 stitches* (60)
Row 26: *decrease, 8 stitches* (54)
Row 27: *decrease, 7 stitches* (48)
Row 28: *decrease, 6 stitches* (42)
Row 29: *decrease, 5 stitches* (36)
Row 30: *decrease, 4 stitches* (30) - from here on I stayed in gray.
Row 31: *decrease, 3 stitches* (24)
Row 32: *decrease, 2 stitches* (18)
Row 33: *decrease, 1 stitches* (12)
Row 34: *decrease around * (6)

Once the design was done I went back and added two rows for the brim. The first took the 72 down to 66 stitches as I felt it was too loose, then I added one more row of single crochet around. To finish it off I added a pom like last time, but I used both the gray and the white to make a two color pom! 

Surprisingly, I still have bit of yarn in each of the colors left. I kind of doubt it enough to make another full hat in this waistcoat stitch, but probably would if I just did regular single crochet. Perhaps I'll make a striped hat with the rest. I hate to toss even a small bit of good yarn, but I hate to increase my stash too...

Difficulty: Intermediate if you have done this before, Hard if not.
Total time to complete: 14 hours!

February 16, 2015

This Little Piggie

Rounding out the posts on Christmas presents is this little piggie. The pattern is a free one from Lion Brand. Works up quick and easy. I used leftover yarn I had on hand. The light pink is Bernat Satin and the dark pink WithLove in Boysenberry.

There isn't much to say about this piece. It is a good base pattern to make just about any creature simply buy changing the colors and details. You don't need a lot of either color of yarn, so those leftover skeins can be put to good use.

I used 12mm eyes, as those are what my local store carry. After putting the eyes, tail, ears and snout on, it was pretty cute just as a pig-ball.
curly butt tail

Pig Ball Face
 I added the legs and this piggie was done.

Finished Cutie

Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy

February 9, 2015

Tiny Mr. Skeeses & an Elephant

In the continuing vein of the Mr. Skees Bears and chibi Mr. Skeesbear,
we now have tiny Mr. Skeeses.

Made these for this past Christmas for two students who graduate recently. I figured a disapproving teacher might be helpful for college. These are nicely palm sized and really great for lobbing at people while shouting "disapproving mr skees!"

I get a little silly when making these.

I used a basic head and body pattern and changed colors appropriately to make a head, shirt and pants. A pair of tiny arms and a pair of safety eyes completed the base.
Bases complete
The hair was kind of a shortcut (ha!). Normally you would sew each strand down over and over to make hair, but that is time consuming and I was making two of these. So instead I used a hook one size up from the one I used to make the doll to make a hair cap to cover the head. The last row of the hair cap was made up of different stitches to get a kind of hair line for around the face.

A little embroidery for eyebrows, a frowny mouth, collar and tie completed the details. Sewed the hair cap down and I was happy to call these finished.
Resistance is futile.
Time to complete: 5 hours for the pair
Difficulty: Easy

Making Christmas presents for certain kids and not their siblings (who also are friends of ours) is no bueno. This person had sent me a picture a while back of AllAboutAmi's Elephants, squeeing as to their cuteness. I saved the pattern down and figured I would make one for her eventually. Now seemed a good time.

After discreetly asking which color she preferred, pink or gray, I found an almost full skein of light gray which I believe is a Bernat Satin yarn. I know the pattern calls for a 2.75mm hook but as that seems absurdly small, especially for, if thin, worsted weight, I decided to go with a F/3.75mm hook instead.

The body is a bit difficult simply because most of the rows do not repeat around. I found it helpful to keep my cursor over where I was at in the row to make sure I did not skip any instructions or increases. It felt a little dangerous to cut the yarn and move on to the tab since I was running out of yarn at this point. Creating the leg chains was also a little odd, but once I got them done I could see how they would work.
Body bottom with leg chains and one leg done. You can see where the trunk goes and the tab.
Working on the first leg I realized that in order to follow her diagram I needed to work in the opposite direction that I had worked the body in. That meant that the legs had a slightly different texture to them than the body since it was the backside of the stitches that faced out now, but maybe that is something you can only see with a trained eye. I hope so. Finishing the other three legs and trunk was no problem after that.

The belly piece is a simple circle. I stuffed pretty full then sewed up around half of the belly to the back legs. I added a bit more stuffing and finished sewing around. This completed the body.

Instead of sewing fabric into the ears, I used a little light pink to make little ovals to add on. Those little ovals are actually just the first four rows of the ear pattern. I bound them off and sewed them on to the finished ears with gray, so that you wouldn't see the stitches.
so you can see the pink
from the side
 Once the ears and tail were attached he was done! So cute and fat.

Time to complete: 8 hours
Difficulty: Medium... making all the leg chains and working them up is a little challenging if you haven't done something like it before.

So there you go, quick and cute homemade Christmas presents!

February 2, 2015

Totoro Fair Isle

With all the bad Christmas sweaters around I thought maybe I could make one for myself. Perhaps it could be "nerdy" instead of "bad" though. I have ambitious plans to make a full tunic length sweater with a wide neck and sleeves, but as that is a bit daunting, I thought I might first do a proof-of-concept hat instead.

I decided I would use a basic single crochet beanie hat pattern. The width of a sc beanie hat is 66 stitches around at the widest part, so I knew how wide my design area could be. I assumed 20 rows of 66 stitches not counting the increase rows for the top of the hat. That gave me a field on which I could map out the pattern.

For this project I picked out three colors, a white a gray and a blue, all a bit dusty looking colors. All are Cascade 220 Heathers which is 100% Wool; the white is Aspen, the gray is Charcoal, and the blue is Sapphire.

I started working the hat following my design above in single crochet rounds, joining the rows at the end to the first and chaining up one to the next row. I figured I would start the waistcoat look once I got to row 12 after the increasing. The increasing made me realize that the shell pattern at the top was not laid out right. I decided to scrap the shell "clouds" and instead just try to get white pips of snow scattered around. Realizing that nothing would line up right on those rows meant that I also needed to move Totoro's ears down a row and remove some the higher-up snowflakes. I reworked the pattern as I went along and finished the hat up to row 11.

Once here I tried to start the waistcoat stitch for the knit look and realized two things. 1) The 5.00 mm hook I was using had a very wide return making completing a waistcoat stitch almost impossible and 2) that because I had started at the crown, the V's were actually upside down and instead would look like A's when worn. Since I was unhappy with both of these outcomes, I knew I had to start over.

Take 2: Learning what I had, I figured that attempt number 2 would need to start at the bottom and work up. I added two rows to the bottom of the design and left them solid white to create a foundation row and a starter single crochet row to work the waistcoat design into. I figured I might want to add a band to the hat, but I didn't want to create it and work the design only for the hat as a whole to be too long. So starting with a foundation single crochet row meant that I could come back later and add a brim if needed.

I also decided to start this second attempt with a new hook. I found an I (5.5mm) hook that had a nice pointy return to it and hoped that the larger size might also help create stretchier waistcoat fabric, since we learned from the Autumn Diamond Gloves that it does not have any give to it. After the foundation row, and base row of sc, I got about two rows into the pattern. It was a bit tricky working three yarns at once, and I needed to carry all of them along with me though the stretches of single color areas so to not have long strings crisscrossing inside the hat. I stopped once I had those rows done, to test the fit. It was very tight as I suspected it might be.
Take 2...
The reason 66 stitches is ok in single crochet is because that stitch has stretch to it. Like I said before, waistcoat stitch basically locks the stitch into place with no give to it. Part of me wanted to rip it out right now, before I got too far in and expand it to 72 stitches. But the other part that had already done this twice did not. I put it down, watched some tv and had dinner, and decided to start over.

Take 3: Expanding the pattern to 72 stitches... basically means adding one more expansion row to the top of a regular single crochet beanie hat. So I redid my pattern adding extra rows to both sides, also taking the opportunity to add more snow pips to break up some of the longer stretches of color.
Take 3
Got three rows into the design after the foundation rows and decided to try it on again. Not sure if because I had made it larger that I slipped into working tighter again, but 72 stitches did not feel any less vice-like on my skull.

Take 4: Expanded again to 78 stitches. I am starting to think that this is gonna be a bit of a slouchy hat. I also am starting to think that i need to stretch the design vertically a bit since the design is looking a lot wider than on my pattern chart. After redoing the chart, and getting 5 rows in... It fit!
Updated chart of the design. Removed the top since planning it is too complicated.
I could get about three rows done in an hour, so I did a few rows each night for a couple of weeks. Once I finished row 22, I cut off the gray, since I would no longer need it. Just as a note to myself, I don't think the four white pip clusters came out in the actual design like I wanted them to. Thought they would read as snowflakes, not sure they do.
Totoro and chibi totoro came out good. Trees and shu totoro... well ok I guess.
The rest of the rows are as follows:
Row 23: *decrease, 11 stitches* (72)
Row 24: *decrease, 10 stitches* (66)
Row 25: *decrease, 9 stitches* (60)
Row 26: *decrease, 8 stitches* (54)
Row 27: *decrease, 7 stitches* (48)
Row 28: *decrease, 6 stitches* (42)
Row 29: *decrease, 5 stitches* (36)
Row 30: *decrease, 4 stitches* (30)
Row 31: *decrease, 3 stitches* (24)
Row 32: *decrease, 2 stitches* (18)
Row 33: *decrease, 1 stitches* (12)
Row 34: *decrease around * (6)
Hat after closing, before brim and pom.
I added white pips of snow as I felt was needed as I went around. Usually right after the decrease and a few stitches along on each side. Once I reached row 31, I just let it be blue all the way. After that I felt the hat needed a brim to cover my ears and make it easier to wear. I used the left over white and went back to the brim. I decided to go long way around for 4 rows of single crochets with a 5.00 mm hook to keep the brim tight. Since I had more white left over, I thought it might be cute to add a pom to the top.
Just as an aside, I have probably half a skein of both gray and white left over, and less of the blue, so I will have to figure out another pattern to use the rest with!

As for if this is an actually viable way to make a sweater I might have to say that, no, it won't work. I would need to make flat pieces and sew them together; this waistcoat stitch only works in the round. Maybe I could make the sleeves this way, but since the body would not be doable, that wouldn't work. One of my next projects will be learning Tunisian crochet, which could be a solution... we shall see.

Difficulty: Hard
Time to compete: guessing about 40 hours

PS: Please do not sell this chart as your own or sell finished items on the internet. You can make and sell these locally, if you like. Please link back to this post if re-sharing online. And share pictures with me if you make one!