Friday, June 23, 2017

Grady the Traveling Tardigrade

Tardigrade under an optical microscope
I posted a photo of the wire frame poseable nudibranch on Twitter and immediately got a request to make a poseable tardigrade. Since I like knitting as close to realism as possible I based mine on an optical microscope image. Most tardigrade art is based on scanning electron microscope images which make them look much more solid than they really are. They are really quite see-through. You can distinguish their last meal inside them, usually algae. So I set out to make a blobby, clear, 8 legged creature with wires inside. How'd I do?

The client asked for a taridgrade he could wrap around a martini glass

I started the project by wrapping the plarn around a stitch marker onto DPNs. The head is knit in the round.

The client also asked that the tardigrade be durable so he could take it on adventures

OK, that's the beauty shots out of the way. Here's how I made this thing.

It bothered me a bit to make what amounts to a skeleton inside an invertebrate, but I gotta do what I gotta do. First I made a sort of fleece covering by sewing two layers together like so.
 Next I cut into one layer in the center so I could get inside.

Then I put in a wire  backbone running through 4 wires making up the legs. I put beads on the ends to stop the wires poking through the fabric and to aid sewing up.

Here's the back of the inner body with all the wires in place.

 I sewed the wire to the fabric through the beads

I stuffed the body part with polyfill and sewed it up
 Here's the rather blobby and not impressive tardigrade innards

I cut another piece of fleece and shaped it into a head by adding some padding and sewed it down the back so the wire wouldn't be so pronounced. I didn't take separate pics of this step.

Next I needed a cuticle. Tardigrades actually have an outer skin that they shed as they grow. When they shed their cuticle they leave their eggs inside it. (Citation)

I stacked up a couple of plastic produce bags and cut across them to make rings. I interlocked the rings to make a long chain I could knit
 I knit by eye, holding the knitting up to the body to tell what I was doing

After I had the cuticle knit all the way I sewed it on. Notice I put some algae "inside" the tardigrade first by sewing some bright green merino wool and retroreflective thread onto the body. Also notice I sewed some glass bead eyes to the head.

That was it except for the sewing up! I used nylon monofilament thread to sew it up. It was pretty hard on my eyeballs because it's practically invisible.

Finally I finished up by making the toenails out of some stretchy clear tubing that is meant for making toy pony bead jewelry. I cut it at an angle and then sewed it to the ends of the legs.


After I finished knitting pussyhats for the Woman's March I had a lot of hot pink yarn leftover. There's some hot pink sea creatures so I thought I'd knit one. I present the lowly nudibranch. Doesn't bother with camouflage because they taste terrible. Make fish puke. They eat tunicates and integrate some chemical from them into their flesh.

Here's the first nudibranch I knit. I finished it while I was watching the Okeanos Explorer live feed. That's the ship in the background retrieving the Seirios camera sled.

Hot pink nudibranch
When I put this picture on twitter I was promptly asked if I could knit this exact nudibranch in this photo by David Doubilet, the famous underwater photographer. These nudibranchs are 6 centimeters long so he took a white box down to the reef and posed them like this.
 I said I could do it.
Unlike Doubilet I do not have a DSLR camera and brilliant lighting
She wanted high quality merino wool yarn. I ordered it special from Webs. I am allergic to lanolin but I can knit superwash. I used Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in Dark Teal for the body and a combination of laceweight and roving in neon green for the stripes. I changed my mind on the orange and went with laceweight baby alpaca and silk blend. I started with a Turkish cast on from the gills to the rhinophores and knit it in the round. I had to frog it several times trying to work out how to make the tail so pointy. I finally came up with a good way. I may write it up and make a video. I need to make another one first. Here's more photos of this first one.

I had a lot of this beautiful yarn left over so I decided to try a hat inspired by the nudibranch. It came out too small for the client who wanted the nudibranch and I forgot to cast on with the blue and then switch to green so the stitches wouldn't show through the 3 needle pickup. And I had my camera settings messed up when I photographed it. 

At the last minute when I was about ready to ship the nudibranch I decided it needed a piece of coral to pose on. I used two shades of cream in dishcloth cotton. It was hard knitting but it came out ok.

I ordered more yarn to try the nudibranch again. First I had another go at the hat. This one is better. I'm still not happy with the lace I made up for the gills. I like it ending with a plain graft. I am hoping to do some more tests and write up a pattern for this nudibranch beanie for this Fall. I'd love to have feedback from people who live where it's cold enough to wear a wool hat.

Nudibranch beanie prototype 2, no gills, slouchy

I made the edge of the hat intentionally loose to mimic the flare on the nudibranch

I think the looser edge will make it more comfortable over the ears

The contrast edge can be folded up for a tighter fit and triple thickness over the ears

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Build an Ice Giant

OK, not many people got my sense of humor in I AM BECOME DEATH. Here's a more mellow take on that planetary pattern.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I am become Death, destroyer of worlds

The outside of the geode looked like an asteroid or a moon so I decided to try to knit Mimas. I did a complicated random increase pattern with purl stitches for the craters, then I flipped it inside out and grafted the edges. I put in a bean bag to represent the odd core that Mimas has, evidenced by orbital anomalies.

Mimas has a sewn fleece bean bag core

I got help from Twitter.
— James Tuttle Keane (@jtuttlekeane) June 2, 2017

People on Twitter thought my Mimas looked like the Death Star so I thought I'd make a planet for it to destroy. Uranus as photographed back in the '80s is a simple blue disk. Easy to make, easy to unravel. Here's the pattern I made up for it. It starts out like a geode but I added some extra blank rows in between.

This took 12.78 grams of Loren Patik 100% acrylic yarn.

When I stuffed the ball I wanted it to have all the layers of the ice giant Uranus.
From Wikipedia
The Outer Atmosphere is the blue yarn. The Atmosphere is the polyfill. The Mantle is the bean bag filling. For the core I used a ceramic polishing ball I found on the ground at a defunct silica mine.

After I finished knitting I put some monofilament line through the stitches to hold them until I was ready to unravel it. To finish the ball run the tail through the last stitches and tie it off. 

Knit balls are pretty fun to throw around. I may make Uranus again.

Mimas was difficult though. Grafting the middle together is too hard. The Uranus method is easier.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Amethyst Geode

From the outside a geode is just a rock
The other day a friend texted me that he just walked past a store at the mall that must be my idea of hell. They sell geodes and incense and the sinus-inflaming smell fills the whole corridor on the way to the movie theater. My reply was "I can knit a geode."  I had seen one on so I knew it could be done. Jessica Goddard also studied physics and seems to have the same philosophy of knitting that I do. We approach it like science, technical problems to be solved. If it turns out artistic that's just a bonus.

But inside a geode is sparkly crystals

*Update June 4, 2017. I made more videos*
This is an iMovie Trailer for regular people to enjoy

This is the tutorial which is over an hour long and details all the trial and error aspects of this project. It's not a precision job with a gauge to meet and it will come out perfect. You have to have a bit of finesse to get it right.

Part 1, Outside

Part 2, Inside

I will update the pattern and make a better PDF later. I have some other stuff I have to do first.

The ODDknits pattern is good and has an illustration for how to join the edges. You can try my version if you like a balanced lifted increase better than a kfb. Also I worked my inner layer with worsted weight.

Here's a link to the PDF of my Numbers spreadsheet and here it is embedded.

I had some Berrocco Captiva yarn in the steel color leftover from a vest. It's a cotton/acrylic string wrapped with a shiny polyester tape. It has a shine and heaviness to it that I thought was very rocky. I recommend it for a geode. I have no particular recommendations for the other yarn. I just used what I had, Loren Patik in two colors of gray and some 100% lint, I mean cotton, from the craft store in a hot orchid color. Here's the whole What You Need set up. I used three different sizes of DPNs, 8 (5 mm), 4 (3.5 mm), and 2 (2.75 mm). Also two sizes of sewing needle, one for yarn and one that fit through the beads. (I just got these Inox DPNs on eBay and I am a big fan already.)

The basic premise is to knit a hemisphere, then knit two rings and sew them together. Then there are two more hemispheres.

Outer hemisphere and two rings to be sewn together

When joined tightly the three layers of the edge give it a lot of body

Thread the yarn needle under all there Vs of the bind off edges
The outer hemisphere is knit with a 6 wedge increase. The two layers of the edge are each 6 stitches smaller in circumference. I knit them all on the same size needles but with different yarn.

The inner hemisphere I knit by test. I guessed it would need two less decrease rows than the outside done in heavier yarn on twice as big needles. I had to finish it and test it to see I had 10 stitches too many. Then I frogged back to the right number of stitches and worked straight rows up to the edge again. I had to frog the bind off a second time because it was too tight. I went up 2 needle sizes and the bind off was perfect. This is a trial and error situation. Embrace it.

I included some bean bag filling between the layers of the geode. 
I sewed the inner layer into the geode first to see what it felt like. Jessica of ODDknits sewed her two inner layers together first then joined them.
The knitted beads look like unicorn vomit
I had to straight wing it on the beaded section. I couldn't fit the beads I had onto any of my yarn. I had to thread them on polyester sewing thread and knit that. I did it all by feel and then just tried to finish with a number of beads that would match up with the stitches on the inner ring. Embroidery thread might have been easier to knit.

This geode really blew up on Twitter this afternoon. @KimLincolnMusic suggested I should make another one so they could zip together. That's brilliant. Zipper would really need to go in place of that outside piece of edge knitting. I may have to do two more halves. The first one took me two days so a whole one could be a week long project. I may be able to use magnets and reuse this first half. I'll update when I work it out.

*Update June 4, 2017*

I did make the zippered geode and you can see it in the video in Part 1. I am still working on some other stuff to go with it. It needs a dragon or turtle or something to hatch out of it.

I also started knitting the moon Mimas with the leftover yarn. If it comes out I will include both of these in the updated PDF of the geode pattern.