May 25, 2015

V-neck Tunisian Vest

Since I still had a lot of questions left unanswered from my first attempt at tunisian crochet, I decided it might be a good idea to invest in a class. Recently I joined Craftsy, and they have a pretty wide selection of online classes, one of which was for learning how to make a Custom-Fit Tunisian Vest. I enrolled when it was on sale for half price!

I really liked the class and it help me with a lot of things:
- learning to increase and decrease in tunisian
- learning about ease
- learning to bind off in tunisian
- learning to read and alter patterns to fit ME!

The class was really helpful in understanding the break down of the construction of garments and taking measurements to see how it would fit. The video format means I can go back and watch it over and over.

You make a gauge swatch and then an armhole swatch before you start working to make sure you are hitting your correct measurements. After that you get into working the actual v-neck sweater.

I bought 6 skeins of Plymouth Yarns Encore Tweed in a blue called "Wedgewood White" to use for this project.

With only good things to say about the class, I expect now you want pictures of the finished vest... Well after working on the gauge swatch, I still could not figure out why my fabric was curling so very badly, and the width of the swatch was way off since I was making these giant loose chains like told to do. This is a type of crochet that clearly needs a lot more practice than half a scarf before diving into a vest.

In any case, I have decided not to make the vest and am looking for patterns to use the yarn. It is both a bummer and a new milestone for me. Something to reach for in the future, but not something that will help me make a totoro sweater any time soon, as is my ongoing desire.

I have hope that a new stitch, the "split single crochet", might be a new solution to knit-look crochet garb. Live and Learn, right?

May 18, 2015

Black Hooded Cowl

I really liked the look of Repeat Crafter Me's Hooded Cowl when I saw it online. Figured I could save the pattern and add some ears to it and make one for myself sometime. Instead I got to test the pattern out in all black, since my hubby asked for a hooded cowl. Must resist the urge to put black bear ears on it...

Unfortunately, the Joann was all out of the yarn she used, so I went with a close alternative in Bernat Softee Chunky in black. I really like how this feels and it has a nice subtle texture to it. Her pattern calls for an I 5.5 mm hook, but the yarn calls for an L 8.00mm hook. I kind of split the difference and went with J 6.00mm hook. My hubby is kind of a big guy, so using the larger hook would help make his XXL version of this hood.

Instead of 42, as her adult size calls for, I went with 52 starting chains. That would give me 50 hdc fro the first row. That equates to a few extra inches of length to the hood. After the second row I was up to 75 hdc which seemed plenty large. I then did 20 rows of the 75 to get the hood nice and deep for his larger head.

Ending at a corner, I chained two and started working around the base, creating a new row of hdc along the edge. For the "scarf" part I chained out 42 instead of 20 to make sure that it would leave room and wrap nicely. I used the 2 of 42 to turn and hdc 40 back across the chain. Once you complete the chain part, you are back to working around the base of the hood.
Hood part completed. Note the different direction of the scarf part.
NOTE: It is super important to make sure your scarf part is perpendicular to the hood part. I learned that the hard way and had to rip out almost two hours of work on a nearly completed scarf part, which was actually just making the hood deeper as opposed to being a scarf.
Cool buttons.
For this XXL size I ended up using 4 skeins of yarn. The chunky yarn and chain space button holes require some seriously large buttons. I found ones at Joann that I liked by LaMode in black, that were kind of rough and non standard shape (1 3/8th inches, 34 mm); a bit Flintstone-y. They had large eyes as well to make sewing it on easier. I used black worsted weight yarn to sew the buttons in place on the cowl.

Finished, with pen for size comparison.

The thickness of this yarn makes for a really warm cowl and hood. I am debating adding another button farther back and up a bit, to allow for a warmer and tighter fit of the scarf across the face. For now, I know that I have "measurably improved the quality of my [husbands] life". (- his words)

Time to complete: 6-8 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate in construction, Easy in stitches.

May 11, 2015

Saranya Cowl

Got my hair cut and re-dyed. My hairdresser loves me because I always show up every few months and want something new and different. Always blue color now-a-days, but as my hair gets longer I have the itch to cut it off... both literally and figuratively.

This time we buzzed the bottom half of my head all the way around, just about to the top of my ears. We left all the length on top, but trimmed the dead ends of course. So now I've got this mop on the top that I can style left or right, or part down the center to look like a short pixie, swoop back for a pompadour or swoop front for some crazy bangs action. Super fun.

Unfortunately, I got this haircut right as it was super cold in February in Texas for once. Not wanting to cover my new do with a hat, I whipped up a cowl real quick to pull up over my ears. In Michael's I found a fantastic super chunky yarn called Opus by Loops & Threads. The color was also right up my alley, "Bermuda" has shades of blue and teal, a little green, brown and dark blue. At $3.99 a skein with only 42 yards, I couldn't go crazy with a big cowl, but I found a pattern that would work great.

The Saranya Cowl by Amy Lou Stein can be found for free on Ravelry or her blog. It had all the qualities I was looking for: under 100 yards, super chunky yarn, close fitting to the neck and head, pretty looking.

Turns out this pattern is also a gem to work up. Took about 2.5 hours to complete this project. Perfect for a beginner or last minute gift it is thick and warm and stretchy. I actually used an unmarked hook that I suspect is 12mm. That meant that my stitches were going to be much smaller than hers so I did 35 chains for 35 stitches around in each row. I also did one extra row in the center.

The final project came out at 9 inches tall by 10 inches wide. It has a good amount of stretch to it and can be scrunched up under my chin or pulled up tall over my ears. I can also kind of wear it as a slouch hat, but that might be a little strange.
Warm and comfy.
In any case it is perfect for keeping my neck warm without being too bulky or hard to wear with coats. And the colors are radiant and match my hair, which is important.

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: 2.5 hours

May 4, 2015

Fish the Boxtroll

I kept seeing links popping up in Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook to a Heritage Auction of a ton of Laika props. Since I am broke and could not afford anything in the auction, but still wanted a ton of stuff, I did the next best thing and made something.
(WARNING: Very long post. Scroll to the bottom for finished pics if you don't care.)

I decided to make Fish from the Boxtrolls. His overall shape did not look too complicated to try to replicate in amigurumi. Though it is not my super favorite Laika film, Fish is one of the more charming boxtrolls and is very lovable. Plus, I already have a little me from Coraline.  I found a dusty green yarn and a darker green for accents and set to work writing the pattern as I went along.

I started with the head and just sort of roughed out a shape that I thought would work. I was using the high quality images from the auction itself to reference for the shapes of everything.
Head with nose, ears, eye dark and mouth embroidery.
Head & Body in main color green (numbers at the ends are stitch counts)
Notes: The head and body are worked as one piece. I do a lot of strategic increasing and decreasing to try to get the shoulders then a tuck-in through the chest area and then moving the increases to the front to make a belly bulge that tapers down into hips and finally a seat.
1: mc 6
2: sc 6 around
3: inc, 6sc  [7]
4: inc, 7sc  [8]
5: (inc,sc)  [12]
6: sc 12 around
7: (inc, 2sc)* repeat around   [16]
8-9: sc 16 around two rows
10: sc 13, 3dc popcorn in next one, 2 sc  [16] (makes the nose)
11: (inc, 3sc)* repeat around  [20]
12: {inc, 4sc)* repeat around  [24]
13-14: sc 24 around two rows
15: 5sc, ch 4, turn, sc, hdc, 3 dc in one to make 1st ear, slip stitch to same stitch, sc10 around, repeat ear, sc 9  [24]
16: sc around including one sc in the base of each ear [26]
17: 5sc, dec, 8sc, dec, 9sc  [24] (decreases should be under each ear)
18-21: sc24 around four rows
22: back loops only, dec, 5 sc, (in both loops: inc, sc, inc, sc, inc) in back loops again: 8sc, 2 dec  [24]       (the back loops make a line under the chin separating the shape of the head from the body)
23-26: sc 24 around four rows
27: 5sc, 2dec, 6sc, 2dec, 5sc  [20]
28: sc 20 around
29: 2inc, 16sc, 2inc  [24]
30: sc, inc, 20sc, ins, sc  [26]
31-35: sc 26 around five rows
36: dec, 6sc, inc, 10sc, inc, 4sc, dec  [26] (good idea to stuff here)
37-40: sc26 around four rows
41: (dec, sc3)* repeat around, sc in last stitch  [21]
42: (dec, sc3)* repeat around, sc in last stitch  [17]
43: (dec, sc2)* repeat around, sc in last stitch  [13] (stuff more here)
44: (dec, sc)* repeat around, sc in last stitch  [9]
45: dec around to close
Finishing embroidery in dark green: mouth, chest/nipples, over belly arch, belly button, shoulder blades, butt
Head and body with most embroidery. Butt was a little off center here, I redid it after legs went on.
I then decided to make up a shape for all that darkness around the eyes of the dark green. That way I could sew it on and not have to paint it.
Eye Dark in dark green
1: ch 6
2: 3sc in first, 3sc, 3sc in end, 3sc down other side of chain, slst to first
3: ch 1, 2slst, 2hdc in one, 2hdc, 2hdc in one, 2slst
bind off leaving tail, sew to face centered over nose

Legs make 2, in main green
Note: These are made from the foot up. I did try making a foot with popcorn stitches for toes, but they did not look accurate to the model, hence embroidering them on when done.
1: mc 6
2: inc each  [12]
3: (sc, inc)* around  [18]
4-5: sc 18 around two rows
6: dec, sc 7, dec, sc7  [16]
7: 16 sc around
8: dec, sc 6, dec sc 6  [14]
9: sc 14 around
10: dec, sc 5, dec, sc 5  [12]
11: sc 12 around
12: dec, sc 4, dec sc 4  [10]
13: sc 10 around
14: sc 5, popcorn 3dc in one stitch, sc 4  [10] (popcorn makes the knee)
15: sc 10 around (stuff)
16: dec, sc 3, dec, sc 3  [8]
17-21: sc 8 around 5 rows
leave tail to sew to body, stuff, embroider toes
Legs and first arm made. You can see how long the arms are, just like the movie!
Arms & Hands in main color, make 2
Note: these are worked from the shoulder down to the fingers. You will make three fingers and then add the thumb separately and sew in place. Stuffing the upper arms is tough but can be done with a chopstick-like stuffing device and patience. Stuff the fingers and forearm as you go along.
1: chain 6, connect to first to make loop (leave long tail end to sew to body with later)
2-16: sc 6 around fifteen rows (makes full upper arm)
17: inc, inc, sc 4  [8]  (makes elbow)
18-22: sc 8 around five rows
23:  inc, sc 7 around  [9]
24-26: sc 9 around three rows
27: inc, sc 8 around  [10]
28: sc 10 around
29: (inc, sc)* repeat around  [15]
30-31: sc 15 around two rows (stuff forearm here if haven't yet)
Now starting to make three fingers. Stuff before closing them off!
Index: sc 1, sc in last 5 stitches bridging the gap. First finger is 6 sc around. Do 18 sc around for length, stuff, then dec around to close. Cut yarn and hide tail.
Middle: 8sc around. Attach yarn in next open stitch by index finger. Sc in three, skip to three on opposite side right next to index finger. Do 3 sc in those, and 2 sc in the edge of the index finger to make 8. Do 24 sc around for length, stuff and then dec around to close. Again cut and hide tails. 
Pinky: 6sc around again. Should have 4 open stitches left. Attach in one right next to middle finger, do 4 sc around and two in the edge of the middle finger. Do 18 sc around for length, stuff and dec around to close. Bind off and hide tails. 

Thumb in main color, make 2
1: mc 3
2: inc around to 6
3-6: 6sc around
Bind off, leave tail, stuff, sew to hand at appropriate place.
So dang cute once those eyes are on.
Finishing Details
Sew thumbs to arms. Sew arms to area at shoulder. Sew legs to bottom of body toward the font so he can sit or stand. Do all embroidery of details if haven't yet. I made eyes out of orange felt and black pupils with black felt. Adhere to dark green eye background with Fabri-Tac glue (can be whatever you have on hand but that glue is especially great for fabric and yarn). I also added a little hair to the top of his head by looping and fraying a few strands of yarn.
Adding the pink shading.
Paint pink acrylic or fabric paint onto the ear, nose, elbow, fingers, knees, etc for highlights based on model. Can also paint on gray and dirt tones if desired, but I didn't. I love Nerdigurumi's video tutorial on this
All painted. Don't forget the butt. :)
I wrapped the legs with a brown flecked yarn to get the bandaged look.

Fish the Boxtroll is finished, but naked!

Now to make him a box... I measured him up and cut open a large cereal box and patterned a flat box on it and cut it out. After realizing the cereal box was not large enough to make fish's box, I taped it up anyway, missing some parts, to try it on him. His hands are so large that I had a really tough time getting it on him and had to cut slits in the sides to get it to work. Also the box made him a lot less cuddly.

With my paper box a failure I decided to get some felt and try to make him a box that way. It meant that I would have to embroider the design on the front with actual thread, not to mention sew... neither of which I have much experience with. I got a heavy stiff brown felt for the box itself, a dusty green for the fish design, and a tan for the paper label the fish design is on.

I used my paper template and cut out all the pieces: four sides, two with arm holes, the top with head opening, the seat with leg holes, and the flappy lid that hangs off the back. I cut out a rough rectangle for the label, and used a blue pen to sketch out the fish on the green. I have this cheap set of thread in a 10 colors and used what I had to backstitch the fish onto the label, using the thread to draw on the eye, fins and gills. I went back over with a second light tan to give the fish some more highlights. I also used it to help define the little bit of text I drew on with pen.

After the front was finished, I started sewing the pieces together. I used a backstitch to attach the head hole top to the long sides as I liked the line it created on both sides. However once that was done I realize I was in danger of using up all my thread. So from then on I did a simple sewing stitch and it held up fine. I did tweak the panels a bit once they were coming together to make it fit a bit more snugly.

I am a little bummed with the arm holes, as I think they are too large, but his hands wouldn't fit through anything smaller. Once I had a few pieces on, I added the base at the seat with the foot holes to start closing up the box.

As I got to the back I realized that with the amount of detail I put into his body, that it would be a shame if I sewed him into the box with no way to get it off. So I left one long side open as well as one short side at the base of his butt. I added tabs to the inside and then added snaps so that it could open and close. It will probably be a little difficult to get him out, but it should at least be possible this way.
Two snaps to be added to both the base and the long side tabs.
Anyway, now he's really done and not naked. I also think that this box actually looks a lot nicer on him than a cardboard one would. Plus he's cuddly even in his box now.

Time to complete naked troll: 10 hours
Time to complete felt box: 4 hours
Difficulty: Advanced for sure.