April 25, 2016

Iorek's Armor

So last week I made a polar bear named Iorek as in the armored polar bear from the Golden Compass. As it would be fun and challenging to make actual armor for him out of crochet, I went for it.

I debated using felt and sewing together the armor, but that is a bit cheating I feel. The plan was to make armor plating using the crocodile stitch and free form shapes and squares all sewn together. I picked out a mottled brown that I think is Vanna's Choice in Barley that I had on hand.
The first thing I did was make two sets of two scales, vertically for the shoulder pads, as this was a pretty easy thing to make. I used this good reference by Crochet Chiq for the vertical chains of scales.

collar piece, shoulder scales, triangle scale chest and half circle chest piece
For the front I worked a triangle shape of scales, starting at the point then making a row of 2 and a row of three on top. I used just the first few rows of Bonita Patterns's Triangle shawl pattern that I purchased and used a while back to get how to make this. I then made a super large half circle shape that spanned the area across his chest to affix the triangle scales to.

For the back I did a longer set of 5 vertical for the spine sort of armor.  For the back I also made two half circle shapes for the shoulder plates and one more half circle which I then lengthened to go under the spine plates.
front side assembly with shoulders
After all these bits were made I needed something to affix them all to, to hang off his shoulders right. So I did a simple circle of three rounds of single crochet like a large collar and started assembling the armor by sewing it onto the collar.
backside assembly with shoulder plates, back plate and spine
After that I thought he needed a helmet. This was a bit tricky since I wanted his ears to stick out. Sure I could have just made a helmet and sewn the ears on, but no. So I started with a small circle and then just sort of eyeballed out a widening wedge for the back of the helmet. Then I left a few stitches free on each side and worked front side panels of about the same length as the back. Then I added a small ridge on the front with a picot to give that little triangle point in the center of the eyes. After that I made a single crocodile scale to add to the helmet.
Flat helmet piece and its single scale
I used the tails from the sides to sew up the helmet leaving openings for the ears to poke out of and sewed the scale on to the front.

Once the armor was all assembled I realized that I made it sort of samurai-ish... I wanted it to be a but cooler though so I used a bit of leftover super thin Madtosh gold to add swirl filigree to the flat front armor, the back shoulder plates and on the back of the helmet. To keep his armor nice and snug, I threaded a piece of yarn between the shoulder pads and the chest piece like a shoelace and tied it under his arms.


feet and bear butt
Overall the armor probably took another 3-4 hours to make, and one more for the filagree.
He's just so dang cute, fierce and cuddly.

April 18, 2016

Iorek the Polar Bear

As I mentioned before, for my birthday a friend gifted me some yarn from her stash. I actually love to see what yarn others have collected, as it is a sign of their own tastes.

Two of the four skeins she gave me are Araucania brand yarn in Nature Cotton in white. The yarn of course has since been discontinued, but it is a really nice cotton yarn that is super soft. It is classified as bulky, but as bulky yarns have become super popular lately, that classification is not really super helpful anymore as anything from a little thicker than worsted to something the thickness of rope can fall into the bulky category. It is somewhat smooth, but has a hand spun look to it with variations in thickness. Those variations are really disparate, being super thin at some times and puffy at others. Made for an interesting time while working up the rounds, and I am hoping he ends up looking a bit rough... more bear like I guess.
some bits thin, some pretty loose
For some reason I looked at it and thought polar bear and set out to find a pattern for one I liked.
I decided to go with Leopold, the Polar bear by Amourfou. I just really liked his bowling pin shape, super cute ears, and off center nose. The pattern does not specify how much yarn he takes to make, but I'm just going to go for it and hope I have enough. Also, I decided to make mine a little larger than hers, since she used worsted and a 3mm hook and I am going to go with my bulky yarn and a I/5.5mm hook.

I started with the body to see how the yarn would look in a large area and see how it worked up. It was a bit tricky and the shape isn't as perfect as it would be if the yarn was a consistent thickness, but I thought it looked pretty good. Some places where it thinned, there is a larger gap in the fabric than there might otherwise be, but yeah, cute.

Since the body is still open once you complete the legs I was able to then make the snout, stuff the body, sew it on, and place the safety eyes, making sure that it was centered to the legs. I like the way the legs are finished, with a disk and sc around, as it lets him stand a bit easier on his own, but I think I might have made them a bit longer so they are more pronounced. As it is, they kind of blend into his bowling ball shape, but that's part of what makes him so cute.

he has legs there at the bottom, hard to tell though.
The arms were a cinch and I set them a bit low just like shown. Love how cute it makes him.

I worked up a simple scarf with some leftover blue acrylic yarn. I gave it a tiny bit of texture with two ribs, and then added a fringe at each end. Once I actually got it around his neck, I realized it was pretty short to do any cool ties or anything, so I just knotted it for the photos. If you are wanting to make one and do cool scarf knots, I would recommend making it doubly long and perhaps use baby weight yarn and a 4mm hook.

Double Ribbed Scarf (for toys) (with 5mm hook, worsted weight acrylic yarn)
Chain 100+1 to turn,
R1. Work 100 sc along length, ch 1 and turn.
R2. Work 100 slip stitch along, ch 1 and turn.
R3. same as r1
R4. same as r2
R5. same as r1, bind off
Cut small strips and loop through ends to make fringe.

Personally, I felt that just making a polar bear was pretty boring. So my sister in law had a good idea: make it an armored polar bear! Hence his name, Iorek, named after the armored bear in the book the Golden Compass. Next week I'll show you his armor.

Iorek took about 6 hours to make, stuff and assemble. Scarf another hour and a half.
Size: About 10" tall
Difficulty: Easy

April 11, 2016

2016 Fiber Fest

2015 was the first time I attended Fiber Fest at the Irving Convention Center. With the closing of one of my favorite local yarn stores, Madtosh Crafts, I was hankering to browse some beautiful yarns.

Before I went on Saturday, I took some time to look through my Evernote crochet folder, Ravelry, my own notes, and Etsy, for some ideas of what to work on next.

After the success of my Granite Cape sweater, I've gained some confidence and am still wanting to work on a more fitted sweater. I shortlisted two that I've had in my notes for a while now:
The only trick here is finding that much yarn in the same dye lot at once. Usually most stores recommend ordering it directly from the maker. So really I needed to browse to see what I liked for these. As I would want to modify the Aruna quite a bit (to make it longer), I was leaning towards working on the Araucaria one first.

All kind of yarn and people at the show. If I had a dollar for every not standard hair color...
As I figured, I didn't actually get any yarn for a sweater...most of the yarn there is hand dyed and I did not feel like spending close to $400 in yarn for a sweater I may or may not like. Got some really good advice on perhaps using just say three skeins of some hand made yarn for the detail edging and doing the main body in a commercial yarn though.

It was good to get to talk to professionals who also understand my limitations and budget. And I really loved her yarns and colors. Next year perhaps I'll be a bit more bold.

Wandering the vendor hall, it was so hard not to just buy all the Madtosh yarn in my favorite colorway, Mandala, but as I had no project in mind, I moved on...

large area to just sit and knit in the middle of the hall
I've also really wanted to make something gigantic...like a huge plushie of some kind. Again, that would require quite a bit of yarn. Not sure why, but I keep coming back to this giant sleepy cat thing by Nekoyama named Amari-san. Apparently he's a large version of a smaller cat toy named Amineko by the same designer. Based on the finished projects (I was especially looking at MrsDanvers' as it was so nicely photographed) it looked like I would need about 900 yards if I wanted to use a worsted of some kind. Unfortunately, Miss Babs Yarn wasn't there this year, from which I had planned to get a few of her giant skeins for this cat.

In the end I did get some yarn, but for another project altogether. I've been wanting to make this Juliette Shawl for a while, and so kept my eye out for a set of ombre yarns in a color I liked. I found it in this set of yarn called Teal Deer by Vice Yarns. I also went out on a limb and got a small bag of clear silver beads. I am going to try to add a few beads to the last couple of rows just to give it a little shine! Keep an eye out for a post on this shawl in the future.

Last but not least, you might have noticed a little silver item in that picture as well. It is a shawl pin made of white bronze and cast from a piece of grape vine from a brand called Jül Designs. I love how organic the shape was and I had to have it. Figure it will look lovely on my pineapple shawl and anything else I use it with.

Till next year!

April 4, 2016

Scarves for a Good Cause

The DFW Fiber Fest, a local yarn/knitter/crocheter convention that was this weekend which I also attended last year, chose Knit Your Bit as their charity program this year to provide scarves to our local veterans groups. It was developed in 2006 by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and provides Veterans across the country with scarves. The Museum has sample patterns on its website if you need some ideas, or you can choose any appropriate pattern you like to knit or crochet. Pretty sure they accept them all year round if you feel like making and sending some over.
As the Museum asks you to include your Name, City, State, and care instructions with each scarf so I made up some little tags. I printed mine off on cardstock I had lying around and punched holes and tied them on to the finished scarves. Fiber fest also as some for download if you don't want to make your own tags.

V For Victory
I picked out two free patterns to try. First up: V for Victory which I worked up in I Love This Yarn in Dark Olive. First off, of course, I started with a foundation double crochet row of 23 stitches rather than the chain and work into method. Once you have the foundation rows done, you start working the V. The pattern however just assumes you know where and how to skip, as well as where to place the dcs in the center of the V shape in order to end up with the right look across the rows. I can see how a novice would find this very confusing. For example, row 12 should really read: ch 2 (counts as first dc), dc in next, 4dc in chain space, 11dc across, 4dc in chain space, 2dc, which equals 23 dc across.

Then you just work a ton of rows for length, then do the V rows again, but backwards, followed by the end rows and done! I used up about half of the skein for the first, so I made a second with the V only on one end. That second one ended up being a bit short, even for a scarf, so I turned it into a cowl by seaming up the end. Each scarf was totally easy, aside from the assumptions, and took about 3 hours each.

After finishing the Proud to be one, I whipped up one more V for Victory scarf in the rest of the blue skein, as I wasn't sure if they really wanted cowls and I wanted to make sure I donating three scarves. Ya know, after looking at the one in blue I can't help but think that I could make a bunch for our school... for the Vikings!

Proud to Be
As I also had red, white and blue on hand the second pattern I tried was the Proud to Be scarf. I did not have a full skein of white to use, but I figured I had enough to make one of the white blocks with an S on it (from USA). My plan then was to make one set of the letter blocks and then make the rest of the scarf in solid red, since that's what I have the most of.

Since this scarf is worked in sc it takes a lot longer to work up. I got into the 10th row and had maybe 2 inches of scarf done, but the front post double crochet worked into the second row down is a cool way to get dense raised areas. It's like making cables, but without the open area behind that normally occurs; very cool, but super time consuming.

Once I got the three blocks of USA completed, I decided to be done with the letters. I switched over to double crochet and worked a row of white, then blue then finished out the rest of the scarf in red, making it as long as the skein lasted. Time to complete: 8 hours

While doing these projects, I am starting to realize that it is not so much the materials that I am donating, but the time, which is far more valuable and meaningful.