Friday, March 14, 2014

Pysanky Day!

Pysanky Day is Sunday, March 23rd.  If you're in Chicago, join us at Pumping Station: One for a day of fun and eggs and art.  If not, stay tuned for pictures and maybe even a video.  :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Journey Into 3-D Notebook - Hats!

So I've been playing with knitting from the top down.  I started a sweater and have been wrestling with it (which I'll share later), but for now I want to share my newest creation:  a hat!

My first hat was almost a decade ago.  A friend asked me to make a hat for her friend.  I did so.  It was large enough to fit her, her friend, AND me - and not just our heads.  It was not, shall we say, a success.

Since then, I've successfully mastered all kinds of things in knitting:  sweaters, sleeves, socks, lace, design...  So why not hats?

I asked myself that and then gave it a shot.

This one is fun because the increases are one-off from each other so that they swirl around the head.  I did the crown with a merino wool, then the sides with an alpaca and mohair blend that's fuzzy and whisper-soft.

I even like how it looks on me.

And you can see it from the back.

I want to try making another hat that's a little smaller, so it stays tighter on the head. In fact, I started one, but that's a post for another day! :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stashbusting - The Ugli Bag

This picture is a bit yellow, and the middle of the bag is beige and not lemon.  But behold, my friends, the Ugli Bag.

The top is super soft, fuzzy furry overdye with a thick central filament of a bulky yarn.  I didn't have much of it, so I couldn't at first figure out what to make; then I decided on a gift bag.

Then I ran out.  What to do?

The beige stripe is the leftover marino and alpaca blend that I used for a lovely scarf wrap that I'll feature in an upcoming article.

Then I ran out of that.  Uh-oh.

Enter the blue.

Hrrrh?  The bag is a mixture of browns, pumpkins, and beige.  blue?  BLUE?

Well, orange's complement is blue, and so it's a natural choice.

Sort of.

Then it hit me - do the strap in blue, too.  The prior picture shows the top of the strap so you can see the texture.  This one shows the bag.

I didn't realize, though, when I put in a 2-stitch edging of garter stitch that I would cause the strap to fold in on itself.  It worked to my benefit, actually, because instead of being ultra wide, the strap is now just the right width and the double-thickness means it will be stronger.

You can get a better idea of how obnoxious the blue is next to the orange, though, in this shot.  It's not quite as neon blue as in the image, but it's somewhere between muted and neon (how's that for precise?).

I'm going to line the bag with muslin to give it some strength and I'll show pictures once that's all done.

Knit on!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday Showcase: Elizabeth Brooks Answers the Question

Elizabeth Brooks is amazing.  She's talented.  She's a writer and an editor and a darn fine human being.  And when I asked her, do you craft, she laughed.


Here then, is Elizabeth Brooks and "Sampler Platter."  Enjoy!

Sampler Platter

So Noony put out a call, asking for blog posts about all kinds of things, including crafts.

Do I craft?

Oh, do I! I'm not actually that good at any of them, though, mind you, because I take a rather "sampler platter" approach to all kinds of crafts: I get interested in something, and I get deeply invested in it for a while... usually just long enough to learn the basics and assure myself that yep, I can do that... and then I lose interest and move on to something else.

I've done latchhook and needlepoint and embroidery. I've made my own clothes (both everyday -- which were mostly miserable failures -- and some fantasy/sci-fi garb for cons). I spent most of grad school making a counted cross-stitch piece involving a dragon on a castle in a lake that was huge and gorgeous and by the time I was done, I never wanted to see another cross-stitch pattern again in my life. (To this day, I haven't seen a pattern that's made me want to pick it back up again.) I've been an on-again, off-again amateur photographer since my parents gave me my first camera at the age of ten, and of course, with all those photographs, I got into scrapbooking for a good while, too.

There are tons of other crafts that I've toyed with, but never quite gotten fully into: cake decorating, jewelry-making, and assorted flavors of ethnic cooking, to name only a few.

But yarncraft, oh my goodness, yes. I learned to crochet when I was 13, more or less shamed into it by my great-aunt, who made gorgeous pieces despite being blind. I learned to do little bits, then dropped it for a decade, only to pick it back up after that cross-stitch overload I mentioned. I'm terrible at maintaining a gauge, though, so I mostly made things like afghans, where that's not quite as important. I made about four afghans (they make fantastic gifts when you're fresh out of school and poor), then transitioned to crocheting thread instead of yarn. I made a whole slew of lace-covered Christmas ornaments [photo at left] and some breadbasket cloths before dropping it again. After that, I decided I needed to teach myself how to knit, so I did -- I made a scarf and a couple of Christmas stockings, but I found it lots slower than crochet, and then I had my first kid and my free time went away, and I put all the yarn away.

But my kids are older now, and just a few months ago, the (unintentionally) combined efforts of several friends and acquaintances got me hooked (hah! I love puns!) on making amigurumi (crocheted toys, essentially).

I love that they're generally small and easy to make -- my favorite pattern is a palm-sized octopus that I can whip out in about an hour and a half, but I've made dozens and dozens of different things in the last three or four months. I started with food, then made flowers. Then it was Easter time, so I made a bunch of eggs and bunnies.

I'm an enormous geek who's just gotten into a Doctor Who obsession, so I made a bunny with a fez and bow tie. Then I made a couple of Daleks in wacky colors, and a weeping angel.

Then I found a little chibi-Cthulhu pattern (did I mention I was a geek?). And after I made one for myself, a friend of mine made some crack to me about Cthulhu porn ("Cockthulhu: The Throbbing Tentacles of Pulsing Purple Passion") and just to punish him for putting that image in my brain, I made him a chibi-Cthulhu with penises instead of tentacles. (No photo for that. You're welcome.)

Just about the time I was finishing that up, my friend Lynn showed me this picture of some adorable Elder Gods.

It rather lit a spark in my brain, and now I'm trying to make all of them, though since I'm working without patterns (except for the Cthulhu, of course, since he was already done), it's a bit slower-going. I've got Hastur done, and Nyarlathotep, and Yog-Sothoth. I'm doing Shub-Niggurath now, though it's slow going because working in black yarn is hell on my eyes. I'm saving Dagon for last, because he'll be the easiest, actually. But here's a picture of my Little Horrors family so far:

...Yeah, I'm not quite right in the head. I know. But just for enduring my wrongness, I'm offering up a contest! Leave a comment, and in 1 week?, one random commenter will be drawn to receive an octopus in a color of their choice! (NB: you need to be willing to send us a private message with a working mailing address that can receive a smallish package.)

And if you ask really nicely, I just might include a top hat for him.

* * *

Masquerading by day as an uptight corporate cog, Elizabeth spends her nights concocting gleefully smutty stories. She writes erotic romances for a wide span of worlds, genres, and orientations, and is also a senior editor for Torquere Press. When she's not writing or editing, she loves a wide range of generally nerdy hobbies, including reading, photography, tabletop games, geeky yarncraft, and silly smartphone games. You can find her online at her blog or on Facebook.

Elizabeth's latest release is Foxfur, available from Torquere Press on November 13.


Pleasure-slave Cheng takes no particular note of the red-haired woman when she purchases his services. But the morning after her departure, Cheng is taken into custody by the Emperor's own guards and brought before one of the rare and terrifying Chained Mages. Already frightened and confused, things go from bad to worse for Cheng when the mage reveals the demonic nature of the red-haired woman. Now not only Cheng's life, but the lives of everyone around him, depend on their finding the fox-demon as soon as possible.

As a Chained Mage, Jin is at best feared, and at worst, despised. But he can't allow his personal feelings to interfere with his mission, not even when his admiration for the slave deepens. In fact, Jin's love may result in a disaster. The fox-demon has placed a spell in Cheng, a spell designed to turn his sexual energy to a murderous ends, endangering himself and everyone around him. And worst of all, they're not the only hunters on the fox-demon's trail!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stashbusting - The Purple Purse

From some leftover purple overdye comes this little confection of a purse.  I had to laugh, though:  I showed it to someone at weaving class today and the first thing they said was, it's cute, but it's not big enough.  What would you use it for?  When I said it's a gift bag, they said they weren't that organized.

Organized?  It doesn't take any organization at all to use up our stash in these little bags or other small projects.  Quite the contrary, actually.  If we use it up, then we don't need to organize or store it - and if it's a gift bag, we can give it away and get it out of our house, and make somebody really happy in the process.  A win-win, in my book!

I figured out one thing, though.  I used the Woven Stitch from Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.  If you're a knitter, get this book and the other three in the collection as you can.  They're a treasure trove.

But I digress.  So, Woven Stitch.  It calls for a K1 before the repeat begins on Row 2, and a K1 at the end of the repeat on Row 4.  I wasn't thinking, and knitted the bag on 3 needles in the round like a sock.  I did each pattern repeat distinctly, one on each needle, not thinking that when I took it off the needles it would be a tube.  In the front left of the image above, immediately to the left of the handle, there's a vertical stripe of stockinette (stocking) stitch going up the purse in the midst of the Woven Stitch; it's echoed on the other side as well.  I actually like the effect but had a "derp" moment when I took it off the needles and realized my mistake.

If you're reading that and trying to figure out why it's a mistake, consider this:  even though you're knitting on three needles, you're knitting in the round.  You don't need the edge stitches to keep the integrity of the design the way you do in back-and-forth flat knitting.  I should have just omitted those extra knit stitches on either side of the design and then you'd never be able to tell where I began and ended the row repeats (which, since I was knitting in a circle, were rounds and not rows).  Clear as mud?  Good.

Here's a bigger picture so you can see what I'm talking about and use my thumb for scale - it really is a cute little bag.  But, honestly, I would use it for keys and cell phone if I was going out for the evening somewhere casual but where I didn't want to drag my planner and ubiquitous backpack.

The woven stitch when knit flat has a curl to it, so I decided to do a seed stitch for the handle instead so I didn't have to worry about edge stitches to keep it flat.

Here's a detail of the handle and a look inside the maw of the bag.  Rowr!

One more stash down; a lot more to go.