Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ringneck Snake Bracelet

Ringneck snake bracelet
I got an icord mill recently after reading about them on TECHknitting. I quickly found out that the most efficient way to use that thing is to go ahead and use up a whole skein of yarn once you get started. I had some DK weight mercerized cotton that rubbed black dye off on everything. So I decided to just turn the whole thing into cord. Then I washed the cord and made it stop bleeding. Now I can use it for stuff. I made drawstrings, eye glasses keepers, and then this cute little thing. It's stretchy enough to pull over your hand. Here's how I made it.

Cut off a length of pre-made icord
Start with a length of black icord from mill. I just held it up to my wrist and guessed how long to make it, allowing for overlap and unraveling.
Cut a length long enough to pull yarn out of both ends to rework the tail and head end and still have enough to reach around a wrist. Mine was 8” after unraveling.

Unravel about 19" of yarn on each end.
Place live stitches on small DPNs. 
Start with the tail end. Pick out the cut yarn. unravel 19” of yarn. Put live stitches on needles (size 2 DPNS). Knitting as icord decrease to 3 stitches with k2tog on middle stitches. Knit a bit, then decrease to two stitches and knit a few more rounds. Pull yarn end through 2 stitches left.

On other end rip back similarly and put the live stitches on needles. With some bright yellow yarn knit a single round. Tie ends together on back of the needle and pull tails into the tube with a yarn needle. Icord knit the black yarn 4 more rows. Thread the tail on a needle and pull yarn through all 4 stitches. Sew the yarn tail into the bottom of the head to make it more head-shaped. 
With a sewing needle and black thread sew black sequins on the sides for eyes. (I tried beads but it looked too bug-eyed.)
Thread yarn tail at the tail end down an inch and sew tail to body just below neck ring to make into a bracelet. On the second one I made I didn't have any yarn tail left so I sewed it with the black thread from sewing on the sequin eyes.  I sewed the bottom of the neck to the tail to cover up the color jog in the yellow yarn.

Ring Neck
I'm not calling this a realistic knit snake because Ringneck Snakes also have a bright colored ventral side. This is black all the way around. Still, I kind of like it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Realistic Knit Reptile: Bobtail Skink

My second Australian reptile pattern is a bobtail skink. This is Ashleigh Wolfe's second study animal. (See Perth's Urban Reptile Ecology for more info) Ashleigh tells me these slow moving reptiles are the Australian equivalent of the tortoises that live in my yard, basking in the sun and observing the world going by without really getting up to much. People in Perth love them.

But tortoises do not lend themselves to knitting. Bobtails are begging to be imagined in bulky yarn. Here's a video of a large number of Bobtails taken from a property to be released back into the wild.
I had the perfect yarn in my stash, Hometown USA Little Rock Granite. It calls for a 9 mm needle, US size 13, and is rated as a 6 Super Bulky Yarn. If anybody finds an Australian equivalent let me know so I can update the blog and pattern.

*** Update ****
I heard from a Raveler in Perth that this exact yarn is available at Spotlight. Huzzah!

I also tried an albino version in Los Angeles Tan and an orange striped one in Portsmouth Pumpkin.

This toy is actually cuter in the hand than in photos. The body is just stockinette knit back and forth the same as the snake patterns. It's kind of resiliently squishy but also bendy, and it stays where you put it if you want to give it a pose.

This is a fast knitting project that only takes a few hours and half a skein of yarn. It does take double pointed needles though. The body starts out knit like icord and the head is worked in the round. It has a fleece pillow inside like the snake scarves. I tried many ways of doing the legs. The real ones have such tiny legs. I couldn't really make them come out that small in this same yarn. So I just allowed for them to be bigger. I made them like icord then finished the toes with a crochet hook. It was hard to describe in words how to do it so I decided to do a video of the whole thing. Since the whole project can be completed so quickly I didn't split the video into parts.

Here's the PDF for download.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dugite Bags' Groove

When I was deciding what yarn to use to make the Dugite I realized that dark brown yarn would look great with leather accessories like shoes, bags, and belts. I remembered a gorgeous brown leather bag I have and thought I would use it in the photo shoot of the Dugite. Then I started playing around and ended up with this music video for Bags' Groove by Miles Davis. "Bags" was vibraphonist Milt Johnson's nickname (wikipedia).

Realistic Knit Snakes: Dugite

After putting photos of the Oak Snake Scarf on Twitter I was challenged to knit some Australian reptiles. Ashleigh Wolfe is studying two urban animals, Dugites, a common elapid snake, and Bobtails, a slow-moving skink. Check out her Facebook page, Perth's Urban Reptile Ecology, for photos and videos of these reptiles. This post is about the Dugite. Elapidae is the family of venomous snakes that includes cobras and sea snakes. Dugites are a serious snake not to be trifled with, but humans are not their prey animal. They eat mostly other reptiles and mice. I hope having a scarf that looks like one will be useful to Ashley as she studies not only the snakes' behavior but the reactions people have to them. We both understand there are ophidiophobes who can't even handle photos of snakes. I'm going to include some photos of Dugites in this post, but all the way at the end so you will have plenty of warning before you scroll all the way down to them. First will be only knit snakes. Perhaps the photos of knit snakes will help acclimatize you so the real photos won't trigger irrational fear. (Any snake-fearing people who scroll all the way down, let me know if that works so I can start marketing knit snakes to psychiatrists.)

The minute I saw a picture of a Bobtail I knew I could knit that. That will be my next blog post. I thought I could also do a Dugite similar to the white oak snake. I made the tail longer and narrower and the head and neck have a different shape.

Here's a link to the Dugite pattern on Ravelry. The brown stocking cap in these photos is also my design. I'll be writing up that pattern next month.

The oak snake is knit on size 8 needles but to get the long fine tail of the Dugite I started with a size 3 needle and went up a needle size every few inches until I got to size 8 to knit the bulk of the snake. I tried to make the icord style tail section 18% of the body length just like a real Dugite. But I made the whole thing longer than the average 1.5 m Dugite so it would make a good scarf. It's over 2 meters long (7 feet).

Compare the Dugite and the White Oak Snake side by side
The Dugite's head is similar in width to the neck.
The Dugite pattern doesn't decrease as much for the neck. It also has fewer increase rows. The neck is knit on smaller needles than the body to mimic the smaller scales in the neck of the snake. The head scales are much larger though so I went immediately from size 6 to size 8 to knit the head.

The Dugite head has four stitches on the sides instead of just two for the White Oak Snake.
This makes it a thicker head versus the rather flat head of a White Oak Snake
The Dugite has 10 mm topaz glass eyes. The White Oak Snake has 9 mm plastic safety eyes.
Both snakes have grafted noses.

The knitting needles through the fabric show where the icord knitting ends
The tail of the White Oak Snake is knit all on size 8 needles with just 3 inches of icord at the end. The Dugite has a 12 inch long icord tail starting with 2 stitches on size 3 needles working up to 7 stitches on size 6 needles 
The body of the snake is not stuffed. The heads have fleece pillows inside to hold the stuffing.
At the end of knitting the head I grafted the last stitches together.
I used a third needle keep the tension the same for the graft.
After all the knitting was done I did the finishing work on the head of the Dugite. I was trying to make it as much like a Dugite as I could.

I traced the knit head onto some black fleece.
I folded it over at the nose and didn't cut that part.

I sewed up the sides. This is exactly the size of the knitting flattened out.
The fleece is stretchy so it will expand with stuffing.
I put the pillow into the head and stuffed it and figured out where to place the eyes

I ordered the eyes for the Dugite online from CR's Crafts. They are 10 mm medium topaz glass eyes, pre-looped. They're $2.46 for a pair.
Here's a pair of 8mm eyes in the same style
After finding the right spot for the eyes I ended up pulling the stuffing out of the head so I could get the wire loops through the inner fabric. I sewed the black fleece around the wires before I ran heavy duty thread between the eyes to hold them the right distance apart. This part is admittedly tricky. The safety eyes are a lot easier.

After stuffing the head again the fabric failed to stick out above the eyes like I wanted. I had photos I was trying to match (see the end). I decided to add a sort of leather patch between the fleece and the knit to hold the knit fabric out to make the kind of snake eyebrows a Dugite has. I had some leather from a jacket I had in high school. I kid you not, I have been carrying this leather around for 30 years in my sewing box. 

Head shaped leather patch held over stuffed knitted head.
I actually ended up making this again with folded over bits at the sides sewn down to make it extra stiff over the eyes. I forgot to take another photo. I don't feel like pulling it out again. Although I will suggest to Ashley that she pull it out before she washes the scarf.
There's a leather patch inserted into the head to hold out the eyebrows.
Here's a PDF of the pattern to download. After that are some more photos and the real snake photos

This brown hat is superwash merino wool and nylon sock yarn.
I've already shot a video of how to make it. I'll write up the pattern soon.

Those eyes look so real.
Photos of real snakes coming up. Stop scrolling down if you don't want to see the real thing.

Compare those eyes. Nailed it. (Photo by Ashleigh Wolfe)
This view was really useful for getting the head and neck shape right. (Photo by Ashleigh Wolfe)
This coloration would be achievable if I had a spinning wheel and a variety of wool colors. (Photo by Ashleigh Wolfe)
This dark brown color is what I was going for. This one gets lighter at the front too,
but I just had to give up on trying to achieve that. This snake has a GPS transmitter on its tail.
(Photo by Ashleigh Wolfe)
Notice how carefully Ashleigh and her colleagues handle Dugites in the lab.
They take lots of precautions. A real Dugite is not a fashion accessory. (Photo by Ashleigh Wolfe)
But a knit Dugite scarf goes great with a nice brown handbag.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Realistic Knit Snakes: Oak Snake

Warning, there will be pictures of snakes in this post. If you don't want to see snakes, don't scroll down. I'll try to pad the top of the post with text so you they don't show up straight away. I am not afraid of photos of snakes but I understand that a lot of people are. As long as you all are being so polite as to not make me smell your fabric softeners I will not make you look at my snakes.

I've been on a snake knitting kick lately. I decided to publish the pattern for this one for free to test out how that works. I've embedded a PDF at the bottom of this post. I'll put it on Ravelry too.

About a year ago I saw some cheap acrylic yarn that reminded me a lot of the color of an oak snake, Pantherophis spiloides. The species in general is known as the gray rat snake. I think it's really pretty snake. I did a little research and found that the name White Oak Snake refers to the very light colored ones like I see. These are specifically found in the Florida panhandle. The species doesn't look like that everywhere. But in my woods an oak snake looks so much like a branch out of an oak tree I purposefully never put my foot down on sticks when I'm walking in the woods.

Lion Brand Heartland yarn in color Grand Canyon
OK, hopefully that puts the snake pictures below the fold, so to speak. I moved most of my photos to an external hard drive to make room on my computer so I don't have a photo of an oak snake handy. But I have some videos of them on Vimeo. Here's what an oak snake looks like. This one is puffing himself up to look big.

Swell Oak Snake from Barbara Tomlinson on Vimeo.

(If you want to see more oak snake videos I have several more: Oak Snake MovesOak Snake Breathes, and Oak Snake Climbs. They really are common around my house. I like them.)

Oak snakes get pretty long. Wikipedia says the record is seven feet long. I wanted to make my snake as big as that so it could be a scarf or something. I didn't try to do the complicated color pattern. I just used the yarn that's beige and gray.

I started out casting on just a few stitches and knitting them like icord. I gradually increased until I liked the tail. Then I started knitting back and forth in stockinette so the fabric rolls on the sides and makes the snake shape. I started this project for my mindless knitting to take to the beach with me this summer.

Last week Hurricane Hermine came straight at me. After I got all prepared for anything in my yard to become a projectile I went in my house with all the stuff I thought I'd need to finish making this snake, put NASA TV on my iPad to follow along with the spacewalk that was proceeding with no regard to looming hurricanes, and finished my snake. That's why the following photos aren't my usual bright Ott light lab photos. I miraculously got it done before my power went out at 11:45 pm. I decided Hermine is actually a pretty good name for a snake since snake scientists are called herpetologists.

The bulk of Hermine is about five feet of 29 stitches knit back and forth in straight stockinette, knit one side, purl the back. From five feet to seven I decreased down again because oak snakes have a neck kind of section before their distinct head. Then I started knitting in the round to do the head. I used increases, short rows, and decreases to shape the head. I did a kitchener graft to close the front of the head.

Then I cut two pieces of a beige fleece blanket and sewed them together to make an inner head pillow.
Just a piece of a cheap fleece blanket. I think I got it at Walgreens on a work trip.
Cut two pieces of fleece 
Whip stitched the edge, nothing fancy, no turning needed as fleece doesn't fray
Insert the eyes about 6 stitches back on the sides of the head.
I used a chopstick to open up a hole. Push the washers on the eyes
After the eyes are in, before stuffing with polyfill.
I inserted two safety eyes through the knitting and the fleece then stuffed the pillow tightly until I couldn't feel the stems of the eyes anymore. I sewed up the back of the pillow and admired my work!

The flexible construction of the snake lets you see the pillow inside the head.

It could be a scarf 
The underside is not realistic because it's knit flat and allowed to roll.
It actually reminds me of what you get if you skin a snake.

Here's a full PDF of the pattern you can pop out and download. Email me if you want a Numbers spreadsheet checklist.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Beachton Cotton Cloche

Beachton Cotton Cloche with Pointed Purse Stitch Summer Scarf
Another summer hat! This is my favorite indoor hat. I've been wearing a lilac version of this hat all summer. I get aura migraines if bright light shines in my eyes so I like to wear a brimmed hat at all times. This hat is loose yet secure. It keeps my hair out of my face but doesn't give me that feeling of having a ghost hat after I take it off. I can even wear it driving the car with the windows down and it doesn't blow off my head.

Here's the Ravelry entry for this pattern. Buy now for $5. I did a full three part video explaining every step of how to make the hat. If you buy the pattern you get time stamped links in the PDF to go right to the relevant part of the video. I'll also email you a Numbers file if you want to open the pattern on your iPad and use the checkboxes.

I created a 3 part video playlist on my YouTube channel, beachton123.

My mother thinks this hat would be a good chemo cap. I did some rather tragic experiments on my own hair with clippers this summer and I was embarrassed to go grocery shopping without wearing this hat, so my mother is probably right. Here's how it looks on my mannequin without a wig. I recommend the size small for this situation.
Size small on mannequin without wig. Circumference of head is 21 1/2"
I do not know a lot about losing your hair, but I do know a bit about cosplay wigs and fake bangs. I tested the hat with a few bangs I bought on Amazon to see if you can clip the bangs to the hat instead of to your hair (in the event you didn't have any hair.) You can!

Here's the size small hat and some dark and light bangs I tested
This is a wig clip I sewed to my white bangs when the original one broke in shipping. Just slip the end tines of the comb through some purl bumps on the inside of the hat.
If you clip the fringe in upside down like this it still looks cute and you don't have that itchy netting against your scalp.
I got both bangs on Amazon. The black ones are from Weixinbuy, for $2.93. They only come in black and brown. They ship direct from China and take a few weeks to arrive. The white ones are from MapofBeauty for $4.99, also a long wait to come from China. Those ones come in all the party colors, like pink and green and blue. I ordered some they call beige. They exactly match my own hair where I bleached it too much. They arrived after I already took photos.

If the clip breaks in the mail (they come in an unpadded plastic envelope) you can get replacements at Sally Beauty. I sewed one of my extra wig clips onto a knit flower. My cousin reports her first grader will come home with the flower still where she put it that morning. The clip is too hard to operate for the little girl. Apparently this is a desirable situation from the mother's point of view.

Short hair or no hair, nobody knows from behind
White bangs blend in well around the ear
Black bangs right side up held on with friction of the hat
Size small cotton cloche with bangs clipped into the hat upside down
The size medium hat fits best on my mannequin with the wig on it. (22 1/2" with wig) I made the brim a bit bigger too in the size medium. The pattern has notations for where you can add and subtract rows to adjust the size. The top stretches to fit even my 23" mannequin. It's mostly the length you need to adjust for a larger head.

The top part of this hat isn't that hard but the short rows to make the extended front brim are tricky. I could not find complete instructions for working back and forth in short rows in the round. Lots of explanations of what to do on the knit side but nothing about picking up the wraps on the purl side. I figured it out by myself. Then I figured I better make a video since I hadn't found one that describes it to my satisfaction.

I learned short rows from YouTube last year. I watched videos on regular wrap and turn, German short rows and Japanese short rows. (Eunny Jang illustrates 4 kinds of short rows in this video including two ways to do Japanese short rows.) I worked a few patterns with short rows like Purl Soho's Bandana Cowl and figured out how to do it reliably and even taught myself to knit backwards to keep from turning my work. I made those short row intensive pieces with alpaca yarn though. When I'm knitting cotton I turn the work so I can keep my gauge consistently tight.

My pattern is written for my own personal short row technique which is a hybrid of German and Japanese short rows that I totally made up. Instead of working the wrap with the next stitch after turning the work I knit it with the last stitch in the short row. I don't try to bridge the hole between the short row and the next stitch, instead I make the last stitch in the short row a lot tighter by working it the second time together with the yarn it was knit with before. This is a hybrid of how German short rows work with the marker part of Japanese short rows.  My video illustrates what I mean in the pattern. The abbreviation I use is j-wrp-t for Japanese wrap and turn, but what it means is work the stitch, slip it back to the left needle, place a marker on the working yarn, then turn the work. It isn't really the same order Eunny Jang does things in her video, and picking up the yarn is totally different. I call the yarn on the marker "the wrap" even though I never wrapped it around anything.

My big breakthrough in short rows has to do with the direction of the right needle. The first problem is how to orient the wrap on the left needle, second is how to enter the two stitches with the right needle. Orient the wrap the same as the next stitch. For my technique the working legs (the side of the loop facing right) are both in the front on the knit side and in the back on the purl side. Knit side is easy. k2tog the usual way. On the purl side you have to get the needle in the real stitch first, then the wrap. This means purling two together through the back, going in the stitch first, then the wrap. Once I worked out that whichever stitch the right needle enters first comes out on top I was home free. Now I can stop knitting, turn and go back the other way and know what to do when I get back there again in any situation!

(If you don't know about wrap and turn in garter stitch where you don't even have to pick up the wraps at all you are missing the best short row experience ever. Try Purl Soho's Garter Ear Flap Hat.)

Here are more photos of the finished hat in size medium.

I start with a Turkish cast on to get that top to be sort of oval.
It's a 10 wedge increase done with lifted increases for maximum scalp coverage.

For details on the nylon trimmer line I used in the hem of the hat refer to the blog entry for the Wind and Sun Hat. It's the same idea, but a little easier to implement because you knit the hem around the hoop instead of inserting it after the hat is all done.

Here are the YouTube links to skip to the relevant parts of the instructions.
ime Stamps for Cotton Cloche

Part 1 Hat Crown
Turkish cast on
first increase row
second increase row onto 3 needles
skip to the end of the row
counting the straight knit rounds after last increase round
try on for size
increase for the brim of the hat

Part 2 Short Rows

place markers for short rows and brim increases
start knitting short rows
increase for center front, make one right
make one left
Japanese wrap and turn
Japanese wrap and turn on purl side
second increase round
pick up wrap, knit side
after pick up wrap to next j-wrp-t
picking up the wrap on the purl side
next-to-the-last short row
last short row
what to do with that last purl wrp-t

Part 3 Finishing the Hat

measuring for the cable hoop
making the cable hoop
how to knit the cable into the hat
joining on more yarn