Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fluff and Stuff

A baby has been born to my dear friends on the other side of the continent and since I can't go see this new wee one (who the internet assures me is most adorable), I must make things for it.

I get to make stuffed animals (!)

The more little plush things I make, the more I enjoy it. There's a lot of freedom in a stuffed animal pattern--certainly there are a certain number of pieces in a certain shape, but they need to be assembled. That's when you get to make choices. Will it look more like a cartoon or the real animal? How and where should the limbs be attached (Does it have shoulders and hips?). What size should the eyes be?

I usually make these decisions the same way--Is this animal food for something else? If it is, the eyes go further back and to the side. I've found that herbivores just don't look right with eyes facing directly forwards. Rabbits look like dogs, sheep start looking like lions. I think it's one of those subconscious things where your brain is making decisions you're not aware of, but I could be wrong. The other biggie for me is the ears. If the animal is going to look "realistic" (for a knitted, stuffed thing) the ears get crimped and placed farther back and lower on the head. Almost no animals have aural cavities above their brow. If the animal is cartoonish, the ears sit much higher. They exist exclusively to enhance the cuteness.

Arms and legs are usually decided  in that order. Once the fore-limbs are attached, the legs usually need to go somewhere specific to make a cohesive piece. By that point, everything else usually falls into place.

So, without further ado, a slightly realistic armadillo and a very cartoonish kangaroo. 

 The armadillo is "Don the Dillo," a pattern which I cannot recommend to anyone as a first stuffed animal. It's pretty error riddled, which is okay since it's free, but could prove very frustrating to someone with no idea what they're doing. I did some shaping on the face to turn up the nose, crimped those ears and placed them lower so that they peak out of his shell like a real 'dillo, and moved his eyes to the side of his head. The original construction for this guy makes him look like Piglet from Winny the Pooh, which is pretty ironic considering I basically gave the kangaroo Pooh Bear's face.


This little guy is "King Aroo" sans crown and belly stripes. I don't feel like looking it up, but I'm pretty sure this pudgy kangaroo can't be a king because only female marsupials have pouches, since their ugly jellybean babies need to live there and nurse until they have things like eyes. and bones. Marsupials are weird.

(Weird marsupial factoid from your resident embryology graduate student: Marsupials fertilize multiple eggs at a time, but only have one joey at a time. They actually hold the other fertilized eggs in stasis just in case joey #1 dies [marsupials are crappy parents when it comes to caring for very young joeys]. If they lose joey #1, they can have joey #2 without needing to mate again by simply pulling that egg "out of the freezer" as it were. Awesome.)

But back to knitting. Because the kangaroo has the body of an ostrich egg, realism really wasn't ever on the table. I still follow my rule for eye placement. While Kangaroos are strictly herbivores, there isn't really anything to eat them, so they aren't too concerned with predators (especially since they can crane kick them across the Outback), therefore eyes go front. Ears are high and legs are silly.

So, that's what I've been working on. I'm a bit more than halfway through my pooling stole and I had the most terrible realization--what if hank #2 has a different stitch:color repeat ratio than hank #1. I may have to get creative in the very near future. More creative than usual. Hoo boy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Going for a swim

I'm such a sucker for new ideas. I'll make something I'm bound not to use or even really enjoy looking at if it's got some snazzy new technique I've never encountered before (case in point: the perpetual hoarfrost moebius). I love beautifully dyed yarn with lots of purdy colors, but I'm shy about purchasing it. There's a couple reasons for this: I don't really wear patterned anything, ever, so making something that is, by necessity, multicolored, is a bit daunting; also I never know how to appropriately show off the color changes in an aesthetically appealing way.

Then I encountered planned pooling. Let's break that down a little. Pooling occurs when variegated yarn ends up with a whole bunch of stitches in the same color over an area exceeding a row or two. It's literally a blotch of color caused by hitting the repeat length based on how the yarn was dyed just right, and it's usually undesirable. But... what if you did it on purpose? I mean, yarn is usually dyed in a hank and so each color is close to the same length over the total yardage.

The very concept gives me the giggles. The yarn is a Christmas present from the etsy shop Yarntopia treasures, which is filled with gloriously dyed bits of pretty. I decided to work a complete circle for every row, which meant 116-ish stitches (ish... you have to fudge sometimes to make sure things are lining up appropriately)

The pattern is Japanese feather and fan, a lovely little 10 stitch repeat that drags the fabric back and forth in zig-zags which will need to be blocked into those stubborn garter edges (the whole rest of the fabric is making a wave, and yet the garter edge is straight as a rail... sigh...). I don't know if I'll actually use the finished product, but I am madly in love with knitting this thing, as evidenced by my 2+ feet of shawl over the past few days. This thing is addictive. and mindless. and gorgeous. Hopefully I'll have enough yarn for 6 feet of pretty.