Monday, August 15, 2016

Beachton Wind and Sun Hat

I made up a new hat the summer of 2016. I wanted a shape like a Panama hat with open work on the sides to make it summery. This is what I came up with.
Size Small in Lily Sugar'n Cream Light Blue and Hot Green
I worked on this pattern as a spreadsheet in Numbers. I converted the whole thing to a PDF and uploaded it to Ravelry where you can buy now for $5. If that link doesn't work try going to the pattern on Ravelry directly.
Size Small in Hushabye white and sage
This is the first pattern I've published. I recognize that I'm violating the scientific method by trying every new idea I have all at once instead of testing them one at a time against a control.
  • Full row-by-row pattern written out as a checklist
  • Duplicate entire pattern three times for different sizes
  • Complete test fit patterns for just part of the design in three sizes
  • Over an hour of video instruction for not only how, but why, I made the hat this way
  • Links with time stamp to take you straight to the relevant part of the video tutorial embedded in the row-by-row pattern
  • Precise weight of yarn used in the prototypes
  • Video includes making mistakes and then fixing them


Regarding yarn

I tested this hat in two kinds of yarn, Lily Sugar'n Cream, which comes in all kinds of colors, and Baby Bee Hushabye, which comes in Angel, Naked, Baby Sage and not a lot else. (I bought up all the Apricot Jam they had when it was discontinued and I'm making a really cute dumbo octopus out of it.) Both of these are machine washable yarns. I have not yet washed one of these hats in the machine with the nylon cable in place.

I weigh my yarn before and after projects with a 3 decimal place electronic scale that is good for up to 500 g. I put this information in the pattern in case you have some partial balls of yarn left and you want to know if it's enough. A partial skein of Lily Sugar'n Cream will do the bottom of the brim but you need MORE THAN A FULL SKEIN for the main color of the hat. (If you have the regular 70g skeins of this yarn.) If you are buying yarn for a two color hat you need to get 3 skeins, 1 skein of contrast color and 2 of main color. 2 skeins is enough if you do it all one color.

In the Hushabye 50/50 cotton/acrylic blend you need one skein of each color. You could do the child size and adult small with one skein all one color. The size large requires almost a whole skein for just the main color so it would not be enough for a one color hat.

I tested the child size with the contrast color of the brim in a different yarn, a black microfiber. This did NOT work well. The top and bottom of the brim really have to be the same kind of yarn or it just doesn't come out exactly even. I also did the lace part of that one with US 10 needles and it just looked sloppy. That's why I went down to US 9 on the white and green hat.

That Fancy Brim

The brim of this hat is held out with nylon weed trimmer line. You can buy a wide variety of colors and sizes at Home Depot and in the Garden Center at Walmart. The orange color from Walmart has a strange dusty quality I don't like so I have been using the smoother .095" line from Home Depot. I have yet to find a white version. It's all outrageous colors. It doesn't show through the hat though. If you know somebody with a weed trimmer ask them to give you about two arm lengths of whatever they've got and you'll have more than enough.

The size large hat brim is so heavy the nylon line drooped. I redid that one with a stainless steel cable leftover from a curtain installation. It's the IKEA Dignitet curtain wire and it is outstanding. They give you a lot extra. You could hang your curtains and make several hats with the leftover wire.

I've used aluminum floral wire in hats and that works too. But you have to be careful not to bend it out of shape. This springy stuff is a lot more forgiving.

For the drawstring in the hat I used a shoelace in the white hat. I couldn't match the color of the other ones with a shoelace so I braided some of the yarn to make a drawstring.

My dad gave me a bag full of cord locks because he bought a bunch of them from China for some project. I looked on Amazon and found a lot of different kinds. But if you want just one email me and I'll send you one in the mail. I can throw in some nylon line too if you need it.

I got my clear heat shrink tubing from Parts Express.  I did the white hat with the ends of the cable butted together inside a stirring straw and then heat shrink over it. Since I finished my last hat I discovered Capri Sun straws at the family beach week. Capri Sun straws fit snuggly over .095"line (which is marked 1.65mm but that's a mistake. 0.095" is 2.413 mm) round trimmer line. The .080" (2mm) is small enough to double it over itself in the 1/8" heat shrink.

Round trimmer line from Walmart and a Capri Sun straw

Round trimmer line from Home Depot, Capri Sun straw, plus heat shrink tubing, no heat applied
I wonder if the heavier line, a Capri Sun straw cut down to 2", and 1/8" heat shrink over that would be even better than the overlapped green line I used in the 100% cotton hat in blue and green.

YouTube 

Here are some video links with time stamps for critical parts of the pattern. I can imagine a scenario where somebody prints out the pages for the size they are working or maybe their computer won't open the links from the PDF. I tested that my ipad will open the YouTube links in the PDF from iBooks on my iPad but I confess I only test print the first 3 pages of this. I'm seriously anti-paper.

Part 1
Pattern starts with a loose cast on in the main color yarn
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=2m19s
Arranging the markers for increases
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=7m24s
The lifted increase
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=8m33s
Change to main color
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=9m15s
New marker spacing
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=11m46s
Working decreases
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=13m08s
What to do when decreases get to end of round marker
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=9m15s
Pick up the cast on stitches
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=18m16s
Three needle join
https://youtu.be/ZZSEGOejvRg?t=19m57s

Part 2
Decreasing for sideband
https://youtu.be/cMDoHtKjsxA?t=1m10s
Joining the draw string tube
https://youtu.be/cMDoHtKjsxA?t=1m10s
Turn the work to leave a buttonhole for drawstring
https://youtu.be/cMDoHtKjsxA?t=1m48s
Purl back
Pick ups for joining draw string tube
K2tog from 2 needles
Starting the lace side band 6:52
https://youtu.be/cMDoHtKjsxA?t=6m52s

Part 3
Joining a new ball of yarn
https://youtu.be/PFaf-v1ohOo?t=45s
Joining the tube
https://youtu.be/PFaf-v1ohOo?t=4m2s
Placing markers for decreases
https://youtu.be/PFaf-v1ohOo?t=6m
Decrease round
https://youtu.be/PFaf-v1ohOo?t=6m46s
Going to DPNs
https://youtu.be/PFaf-v1ohOo?t=8m8s
Prepare for kitchener close
https://youtu.be/PFaf-v1ohOo?t=10m31s

Part 4
Starts with washing and blocking and goes into reinforcing line and drawstring. Didn't break out time stamps as this is all sort of making it up as you go along.
https://youtu.be/1fujY52G3LM


This lace pattern I used is based on the Lily of the Valley video by Pleasant Seas. I modified it for exactly two vertical repeats so there aren’t any unconnected branches at the top and bottom. Refer to the original if you would like a repeating version of that neat lace pattern.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Can I knit spider silk? (Trigger Warning: Photo of Giant Spider)

A Golden Orb Weaver spider set up house right outside my knitting lab. When I saw her there with her two diminutive male companions suspended in mid air, a nearly invisible web of golden threads connecting between a tree and the ground I thought, "Oooo! I wonder if I can knit with that?" So I went inside and got a toilet paper roll and started winding the web onto the roll. I combined several strands together with my fingers when possible, like spinning wool into yarn, but some of what I collected was single strand fibers.

Then I went inside and got my smallest knitting needles, size 1 aluminum ones. I cast on with a single strand. It stuck tight to the needle and I couldn't move it.

I peeled it off and rolled it into a ball and started again with Addi Lace nickel plated brass needles, the slickest needle I own. The smallest I had was a US size 4, 3.5 mm. I got a thick piece of fiber that I'd made from rolling together the middle of the web and I cast on 15 stitches. I knit a few rows on those needles. It worked pretty good. Then I tried some size 2 bamboo needles. Those were nice because they were so light. The silk tried to stick if I tried to push it along the needle with my finger, but if I tugged it along by grabbing the fabric underneath it was possible.



In conclusion, yes, I can knit spider silk. It is amazingly strong and fine and very hard to see. My LED Ott Light was key. Joining the fibers together is a dream. Just hold a new piece side by side with what is coming out of the work and roll it gently between your fingers. I doubled it back and forth on itself sometimes to try to make it big enough to see.

I'm most proud of myself for seeing I'd dropped a stitch and then I was able to pick it up back up through three rows.

Binding off was a disaster. I should have spun up some thicker fiber to do the bind off. I did a decrease bind off with a single strand and it just wadded up on me.

It is very sticky. I stretched the final piece of fabric to 1" x 1.5" on a piece of foam core with pins. When I pulled out the pins it stayed there.

This isn't really useful at all. If I am ever stranded on a desert island I will look for some wild cotton plants to spin together with spider silk to bulk it up before I try to knit myself new clothes.

It does remind me of some yellow kevlar arm protectors I have. I wonder if they made the kevlar yellow on purpose to look like this spider silk?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sewing with Magnets: Matching Game Experiment

Back at Easter one of my new-mother cousins asked me if I could make a soft toy rattle. She showed me one somebody gave her. It's the Leka Rattle from IKEA and you get 2 for $2.99. I really can't compete with that in a handmade item. It's a little cat with a face embroidered on both sides. The simple cat shape is sewn with right sides together. Then it is turned and stuffed with polyester filling and a rattle insert. It gave me the idea to buy fabric printed with animals that I could sew back-to-back in a similar way.

This turns out to be harder than it sounds. I showed some of my early prototypes to my aunt who is a retired kindergarten teacher. She suggested I use the big piece of printed fabric and the individual toys together as a learning tool. Make a mat with velcro dots to stick the matching animals in place. Interesting. I kept thinking about that while I waited for rattle inserts and a new sewing machine foot pedal to come in the mail.

Finding 1: A rare earth magnet will hold up a toy by the steel balls in a high quality rattle insert.

I ordered 10 rattle inserts from CRS Crafts to play with them. (They are very good. Much louder than the tiny rattles I got in a pack of 50 for $6 from Amazon. They aren't even worth a link.) When they got here I noticed how heavy they were from the steel balls inside. I tested what happened if I put them next to a magnet. It had incredible holding power. The magnet would stick through several layers of fabric. This made me go looking through my magnet stash. I had a package of 12 small rare earth magnets with a hole in them. Perfect for sewing. It could eliminate the velcro that would ruin the look of the face of the thing.

This is not working
Finally I felt like trying the whole idea. I put it off for a long time because I knew it was going to be hard to precisely cut out and sew those complex shapes when the fabric is printed with the animals practically overlapping. It doesn't give enough extra fabric to work with.

Finally I realized I can just make a rectangle and have parts of animals at the edges. I think I have a mental disability where I am bothered by representational art that is partially obscured in presentation. Apparently normal people don't care even a little bit!

Still thinking of the original rattle idea I carefully cut out, matched, and sewed some lizards face to face, turned them and stuffed them with little rattles. I just don't like the imprecise nature of this process. There's no quality control. I'm not interested in manufacturing this. I don't know how IKEA does that Leka rattle, but I'd be interested to find out. I think if you were decorating with a fabric like this and had some left over you should definitely use any extra fabric for this kind of thing in a one-off project. I'm giving this idea away for free! But be sure the finished item isn't a choking hazard. If it will fit in a toilet paper roll don't give it to an infant. My lizard experiment fails this test.

These are just OK.
But I still wanted to try my idea of putting magnets in a sewn fabric configuration to match the picture. I hit on the idea of ironing the lizards onto freezer paper to just cut them out and leave them unfinished. This turns out to work really well. Far, FAR easier than sewing them and turning them to eliminate the raw edge. I could proceed with the project.
Prepare the quilt sandwich

I cut out a long rectangle of the lizard fabric and sewed the ends together to make a tube. I rolled it around until I found a group of lizards I liked for the front. This made my seam on one side in the back. Then I got a piece of quilt batting and cut it to fit inside the tube so the top and bottom could be sewn in. The sides are just loose inside the tube. I sewed the top together on the sewing machine and turned it right side out.

Finding 2: You can sew a rare earth ring magnet with a nickel and steel needle.

I was originally worried that it would be frustrating to sew a rare earth magnet with a nickel and steel needle. The needle did pop over to the magnet but it was no problem to push it along through the fabric. This is good data.

I sewed the magnets to the BACK of the batting. The batting and fabric between the magnet and the matching lizard reduces the pull force enough to not be frightening or dangerous. Also my idea was that this whole thing could stick to a steel thing like a file cabinet or refrigerator and stay put even while somebody was messing around with the removable parts.

My method was to hold the fabric sandwich flat and lined up first. Then I stuck a needle through the place on the lizard I wanted a magnet and through the batting. Then I pulled the thread all the way through the fabric and moved it out of the way and sewed the magnet only to the batting. I tied the tail of the thread to the working thread on the inside.
Magnet sewn to the BACK of the batting, the side against the seam.
After I got all the magnets sewn on I put two more in the top corners so it would look nice stuck on the refrigerator.

(Note on the magnets I used: I got these from Harbor Freight over a year ago. They're only about 1/4" diameter. They don't have the ones with holes on the website currently. Home Depot has some 3/8" ones that are slightly bigger than this that would work. It might be good to have the extra holding power if you add layers by laminating the cards. But I expect the bigger the magnet the more difficult they will be to sew.)

After all the magnets were sewn inside I turned the raw edges along the bottom into the sandwich and sewed the bottom closed.

Next I prepared all the lizards for matching. I found two sheets of freezer paper ironed on made them nice and stiff. I cut them out after the paper was on. Then I held them over the correct lizard on the finished mat with a zinc coated washer between a third piece of freezer paper and the lizard to line it up right. Then I ironed it together.

This is probably not really durable but it worked for the experiment. I tried packing tape first but ironing freezer paper was easier. This is just a proof of concept, for a real working version safe for children the small lizard cards would need to be laminated. The minimum safe size for coins for infants is 1 3/4" diameter. So don't do this if you have a baby that can get hold of any of these parts.
Freezer paper ironed onto fabric helps raw edges not fray
I could have stopped there but I was unsure if the magnets would stay lined up under the right lizard. I decided to sew around all the lizards that had magnets sewn behind them. This is the first time I've ever done machine quilting. I used a long stitch length and pulled the thread to the back and knotted it wherever I started and stopped. 

Finding 3: You can machine sew a fabric sandwich with magnets inside on an enameled steel sewing machine.

I was curious if the magnets would make it stick to the sewing machine so hard it would be impossible to guide the project. It took a little extra tugging to get it to feed properly. But with my new electronic foot pedal with an actual slow speed it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Also the little outline around the lizards that are part of the game is a helpful clue that there are a few whole lizards out of bounds. (I didn't have enough magnets to do all the repeats.)
Here it is on my storage cabinet (neƩ refrigerator) in my lab
Match the lizards!
I've only had one chance to user test this invention. My mother stopped by. I pulled off all the lizards and asked her to put them back. After she left I found she'd put two in the wrong place. I'm not sure if this means it is an actual challenge or if it is just not that interesting. More user testing is required.

My questions about sewing with magnets have been answered though. I'm going back to knitting. Perhaps my experience will serve as a starting point for somebody to make something better. For a decoration for grown-up geeks with the right fabric this could be a good little project. For something for kids it needs a lot of changes. I like the matte fabric finish of it the way it is now.



Friday, June 10, 2016

Repurposing: Knitting Needle Holder from a Mac Mini

My media computer broke last Friday. It was a 2007 era Mac Mini core2 duo with 4 GB of memory. It worked great to play video on my TV. Then in the middle of playing Stargate SG1 from an external hard drive it just went off. No power. Rats. A while ago my brother asked me what he should do with the old Mac Mini his kids used when they were little. I said to give it to me next time he came to visit. I emailed him to see if he still had it. He did. He said he'd mail it to me. It arrived yesterday. I tested my mini with his power supply, just in case. No luck. Apparently not the power supply. I took both computers apart and cleaned out a disturbing amount of dust. I reseated the connector of the wireless card that came loose in shipping and tested it on my TV again. I'm all set to knit in bed while I watch movies and TV shows from my hard drive. I tried everything I could think of to fix the broken one. I ended up taking it completely apart, setting aside the hard drive and bagging up the electronics.
I can't fix you
Now what to do with the good looking case? It would be a cute purse, but it's a little heavy. I decided to make a knitting needle holder. Would also work for kitchen utensils. Here's how I did it:

First disassemble the bottom plate of the computer all the way down to plastic. To get the connectors off the back panel pry the shielding back and pull on it really hard until the plastic dots fly off. Wear glasses.

Next get out a Dremel tool and a cutting wheel. I do this stuff outside because I don't like the mess and burned plastic smell in my lab.

Bare bottom/back panel. Power switch can stay on
This is the part to cut off
I clamped mine in a bench vise in a gap in
the latching ears
Here's the rough cut
There are little metal tabs backing up the plastic between the connectors. I just cut the plastic and left the tabs. Then in the cleaning-up step I cut off all the small ones. I left the big piece of metal surround from the video connector so they can be part of the dividers I'm going to add. Clean up the cut with the flat side of the Dremel cut off wheel. Be sure to wear safety glasses. My whole bit flew out of the chuck and bounced off my hat. It didn't break the wheel though, so I picked it up off the ground, tightened it back in the chuck, and finished the job.

Then I brought it inside and washed off all the plastic dust. I finished smoothing all the edges with a foam nail file.

Foam nail file is good for plastic
I have some closed cell foam scraps left over from redoing the roof vents in my lab so I used that to trim out the inside of the enclosure. One of those gardening knee pads might be a good source for foam if you don't have a stash.

Cut dividers long enough to stick out the top
I cut some dividers 1 7/8" wide (by trial and error. Too small doesn't work.) They are long enough to stick out the opening. I cut more rectangles to go between the bottom end of the divider to hold them in the right spacing and to give the needle tips some nice foam to rest on. Then I pushed the bottom onto the top. Line up the metal tabs left behind with the foam so they push into it.

Cut excess off with scissors
I cut the extra off with scissors. Then I poked the edges down into the enclosure.
It works with my 8 1/2" straight needles. 6" DPNs are a little too short for it.
Ended up using it for loose needles
I decided I liked the Mini for my loose needles. I got those long aluminum needles for doing tubular cast ons. I don't use them that much. They are so long they tended to tip over the lucite cup I was keeping them in. This is better.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Picot Edge Hat Brim Hack

I have a blue openwork cotton summer bucket hat that I made last year that I don't wear because it's too floppy. I recently made a summer scarf in the same yarn so I really want to wear this hat now. I got my hands on some nylon monofilament weedeater line in a complementary color and I think I can finally fix this hat. (I also have red but it didn't work with a blue and lavender hat.)
Slip the end of the monofilament under the purl loop in the gaps
Run the end through the picot edge joins
Repeat all the way around for a quick and tidy reinforcement
Once the monofilament line is in the edge you can play with the shape. If you push the ends together to really stretch the fabric you can get an interesting look with the sides flipped up. I wanted a more bucket shape so I let it relax a bit and cut the ends to length there. 
Push cable with a lot of tension to get sides to flip up like a Panama hat
Relax tension for plain bucket hat shape
I borrowed a heat gun so I could try joining hat brim wire with heat shrink tubing instead of using tape. I'm going to give it 3 out of 5 stars as a technique. I would like to try again with a stiff reinforcement inside the heat shrink, like a cocktail straw. I will get one next time I go to town. What coffee shop has plastic stirrers instead of wooden sticks?
Heat gun greatness
It's ok, but it flexes too much at the join. 
Color matched heat shrink would be even better. I'm on a mission to find clear nylon monofilament. I don't know why weedeater users need all these colors that aren't white.  Meanwhile, Parts Express has a lot of heat shrink assortments in multicolors. I should order some. When I ordered this package I didn't know I needed colors. I got it for an LED project. The 1/8" size works for the monofilament I have. Oh look, Parts Express has a 4' piece of clear 1/8" heat shrink for under $2. That's going in my shopping cart.

You can also get heat shrink with an adhesive in it. But it only comes in black. If the hat itself is stopping the cord from pulling apart I think it should be ok without the adhesive inside. I remember having a sample of heat shrink connector jackets with adhesive back in the day when I was an electronics engineer. It's kind of like the soft plastic is lined with a film of low temp hot glue. I wonder if you put a drop of hot glue on the ends of the monofilament before you slid the heat shrink in place if it would work as an adhesive? I don't think it would reflow with the low shrink temperature of the tubing. The clear tubing shrinks at 100°C or 212°F. That's boiling. So you could theoretically dip this in a pot of boiling water to shrink it. Good to know. I may have to try that.

Low temp hot glue melts at 120°C (248°F). The clear heat shrink is rated to 300°C (572°F) for short periods of time even though it will already be as small as it's going to get. So if you had enough hands you could keep heating the join and push the ends together to reflow hot glue between the the ends of the monofilament.

You could even try hot glue and a cocktail straw if you didn't have any heat shrink tubing. You would have to be really fast though. It would be best if you had a helper to hold the glue gun while you pushed it all together.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Easter Egg Sheep Tutorial

I've been working on Easter toys. I came across this idea for sheep by Wendy Phillips. You can dress them up. I made one according to her pattern. I used sequins for eyes. I gave a knitting lesson last week and my client bought this sheep for her granddaughter. She requested an extra pink and purple coat for it that I whipped up on the spot and didn't get a photo.

All-knit sheep with removable coat
Selling my first prototype encouraged me to make some more sheep, but the more I made the less I liked the design. It was hard to get it consistent. The legs kept coming out uneven and they weren't very sturdy. It was really hard to get the eyes to show up and look friendly. Nobody wants a menacing sheep with beady eyes.

I decided to sew the body out of some black polyester fleece to solve the first problem. If it was made of fleece I could put a wire in the legs to make it stand up better. I did a few that still had the knit heads. If you like that kind use Wendy Phillips' instructions in the link above.

Fleece body, knit head with bead eyes.
Those are cute, but the eyes were bothering me. I used black beads and white thread. It was hard to get them to not just disappear into the black yarn. I also had an idea I would like to have a container for the toys, a little kit with all their accessories. I headed to the craft store. I picked up some white fleece, more white yarn, and some 3"x2" plastic easter eggs. (BTW, why do these smell so horrible?! I had to open them up and put them outside in the sun for a day to outgas before I could have them in the lab with me.)

I looked at all the stuff in the craft store for something I could use to copy the eyes of Shaun the Sheep, a character all over my Google image searches for sheep to use as references. Prey animals like sheep typically have eyes on the sides of their head. But Aardman Animation throws this convention to the wind with almost all characters in Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, etc have characters with highly improbable eyeballs that actually touch each other on the front of their face. I thought I should give up copying real sheep and go for that derpy look. While I was looking at beads and tiny pom poms at the craft store I realized I already had what I needed to make them, scraps of white craft foam leftover from hat brims and a hole punch.

Hole punched Aardman Eyes
Tips for making Aardman Eyes with craft foam and a hole punch: Punch halfway then rotate the foam and line up the punch with the marks and punch some more. Flip over the foam and line up that mark with the punch and finally punch all the way through.

I colored the black part of the eye with the only black pen on my desk. Sharpie might be better if you've got one.

The size of the eyes made by my hole punch determined the scale of the head and body.

The sheep I'd already made fit inside the eggs pretty good. I made some sheep in white fleece, refining the pattern a bit more. Here's the pattern I finally came up with for a sheep that fits in a 2"x3" egg. I did them on graph paper so after I made one I could easily modify the next one by one or two grid squares until I got all the proportions right. Also you can do similar changes to make sibling sheep that are all a little different. This is standard engineering paper with 1" squares divided into 10ths. (You may be surprised that I didn't do this drafting with Sketch-up or something based on my last essay claiming I think in computer. If I only need a single copy of something it's not worth dealing the printer.)

Egg Size body, top.

Egg Size body, bottom

Head, top. Cut slits for the ears on the lines.
The bottom part sews into the opening underneath
so the ears poke out higher on the head
than the seam line.
Head, bottom

It takes less than an 8" square of fleece to make this. A piece of wool felt they sell by the sheet would probably work too. You could even stuff it with wool roving for a sheep made out of sheep.

I cut out the paper pattern with paper scissors then cut out the pieces in polyester fleece with cloth scissors. You need sharp scissors to get the corners to cut accurately. I used a sharpening steel on my scissors, sort of cutting in reverse, pushing the scissors open with the steel with light pressure. Then I closed the scissors fast to remove the burr I just made. They worked better. It's a quick fix.

Polyester fleece has a thick enough cross section I butt the edges up and whip stitched it. I used mattress stitch on the legs.

Notes on hand sewing: My black thread was Coats & Clark's Mercerized Cotton size 50. It was the best. The 100% polyester Dual Duty All Purpose white thread I used tangled like crazy. I found I had to cut lengths under 20", not enough to finish one side of the sheep. But it was better to start a new thread 3/4 along rather than deal with the knots.

When both sides of the sheep are sewn into a sort of cylinder, reinforc the legs. I have some aluminum armature wire that's about 3mm in diameter. I used that. They sell 12 gauge aluminum wire in the craft store in the floral section. That's finer than my wire but I think it would be better. You could make the legs one grid square thinner and have more sheeplike legs. I wouldn't use wire much finer than that though or it could poke through and be dangerous.

Cut the wire 2 1/2" long for a sheep to fit in 2"x3" egg. If it's a little longer, that's fine, the bent part can fall anywhere inside the cylinder. 2 1/2" falls pretty close to the bottom of a sheep with legs 9 grid squares long. I sanded the ends of my wire with an 80 grit nail file. I did this over the wastepaper basket then washed the wire and my hands.


Bend the legs into U shapes and insert them into the leg openings.


Now fill the body cavity. I used polyester fiberfill because I had some. But there's no reason to buy it special. I tested one sheep with cut up bits of scrap fleece. Works great. I used black fleece scraps to fill the black knitted heads on purpose because white fiberfill would show through the knit stitches and look gross. For fleece this is not an issue.

Sew the ends of the body by stitching across the diameter of the opening like cutting a pizza. It should be pretty easy to get it all pulled into a nice round shape.

Now make the head. Sew the top and bottom halves with the sides butted together. I did the eyes after I'd done one side so the thread was already there ready to go. For white sheep I brought the thread up through the white of the eye and then over the edge back into the fleece. I did two stitches each in the middle to secure the eyes together then did another 4 or so stitches evenly around the eye. For black sheep with black thread I sewed an x in the black part of the eye.

Sew up the other side after the eyes are done. My sheep's eyes almost never came out straight but I found it just makes the sheep look quizzical. Don't sweat it. Stuff the head and then close the ends. The nose end I sewed the middle together first. Then I poked the corners in with a knitting needle to make nostrils. I ran the needle and thread back and forth to secure them. Sew the back of the head closed in a circle and attach to the body. The bottom is one grid square shorter than the top on purpose to roll the nose over a bit.

I made a sort of neck on one sheep by pinching up part of the body and sewing through it in a bunch of places until it stayed poking up. Then I sewed on the head. You can't really tell I went to the trouble once the sheep is wearing clothes.



Now you've made a sheep you get to make it some outfits! I did seed stitch coats in white acrylic baby yarn. 15 stitches on 5 needles is a good starting place. I made them long enough to drape over the sheep like a saddle blanket and cast off. I sewed up the cast off edge with the tail and then sewed the other edge together with the cast on tail just a few stitches so it will go over the sheep's head. Turn it inside out and put it on your sheep.

I've also done them with about the same number of stitches in stocking stitch and then instead of casting off I threaded the working yarn on a needle and pulled it through the live stitches to make the back end. Then I sewed the head opening with the cast on tail. Both methods work fine. You can make horizontal or vertical stripes depending on your method. The link at the top to all-knit sheep has some ideas.

I made scarves for my sheep to match the Easter eggs. In DK yarn with size 2 needles you can do a 5 stitch icord scarf. If you want a striped one hold the other color yarn behind the working yarn as you start a new row to keep it running up the inside of the cord. No reason to cut the yarn between stripes.

For worsted weight yarn I made a crochet chain with knots at the end and a tassle of the unraveled yarn.





I did make a realistic Shaun looking sheep, the black one in the in-progess photos above. He doesn't fit in an egg. His coat is cream colored yarn and it's got a tail, a topknot, and it's sewn all the way on. I'll do another blog entry for how to make Shaun. I'm going to try making another one with feet instead of just stumpy legs.

P.S. I thought of lots of sheep puns to use in this post, but I decided it was baaaaneath me.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Knitting with an iPad: Numbers Template

I am a digital native. This may seem surprising since I was born in 1967. But I am the child of an electrical engineer who was an early adopter. Since he was buying computers early and often there was always some lesser machine rolling off the bottom of the stack for me. In 1983 I was the only kid in my high school with a computer. I was the copy editor of my high school yearbook. When all the other high schools were typing their copy on triplicate forms with typewriters, I figured out how to feed the forms through my daisy wheel printer and wrote the whole yearbook in a word processor.

This is to say I think in computer. When I want to take notes I reach for my iPad or phone. It never even occurs to me to reach for a pencil and paper. When I started knitting I kept notes in the aptly named Notes app. (Notes is especially good since the iOS 9 update because you can take pictures right in the middle of your note taking.) When I realized I was obsessed with knitting I started researching databases. I loved Filemaker Pro when I was an engineering consultant. The power of a database is compelling to me. I wanted the ability to design records with different kinds of data fields. But Filemaker Pro is way too expensive for me. I ended up buying an iPad app called Boximize. (It doesn't have a counterpoint for the Mac, which is a drawback. It also deletes everything you just typed into it if you callously go to another app. It's like the olden days when you had to actually hit Save. Only there is no Save in the app. You have to back out of what you're doing with Done. I keep thinking they'll fix their autosave in a future update.) I will discuss Boximize as a knitting app in another post.

What I want to talk about today is Numbers, the spreadsheet that comes standard on all iPads and Macs. While a database is what I need for all the assorted information about each design, like the yarn and needles I used, final size and weight, photos of critical parts of the process to refer to later, a spreadsheet is what I want for the actual pattern. Especially a spreadsheet on iCloud that syncs automatically between my computer and my iPad.

I often download a PDF of a pattern online, select all the text, and paste it into Numbers. Then I edit it into row-by-row instructions. I may duplicate the pattern into multiple sheets and delete the stitch count for all but one size. Once I have all this organized on my computer I can go anywhere with my knitting and use my iPad as a checklist. I can add notes on a row-by-row basis in the spreadsheet on my iPad. If I use the same pattern again I add a column and make a separate set of notes for the next time I make it. Then eventually I may duplicate it to a new sheet, change the version number and revise the whole pattern if I come up with a better way of doing it. You can do all this directly on your iPad but it's kind of frustrating. I clicked all around on it and couldn't figure out how to save a file as a template. But you can do it on your Mac and save it to the iPad to use it.

Here is my standard Numbers template for a knitting pattern, as seen in a screen shot of my iPad.


Here's how to create this knitting pattern template for Numbers on your Mac.

  1. Open Numbers by clicking the bar graph in the Dock or find it in the Applications Folder in Finder.
  2. File: NewChoose a Template should come up. I started with Basic Checklist. Click that choice and then Choose in the bottom right of the box.
  3. Change the default words. I changed CHECKLIST to NAME, and the Checklist in the tab I changed to Version. Double click on the word to highlight it and type over it
  4. I changed Date to Instructions and Task to Notes
  5. I duplicated the checklist column because I kept forgetting if I checked it before or after knitting the row. If I have a box to check for both I know where I am when I pick it up again. If they are both checked I stopped at the end of the row. To duplicate a column select the letter at the top. Copy it (command C), select the C column and right click (two finger tap on track pad, control click for one button mouse) Select Add Column Before. Paste into the new column.
  6. Select Column D now and add another column before it for the stitch count.
  7. Resize your columns. You can select all of them and hover over the line between letters until the cursor has two arrows sticking out. Double click. This makes them all very small. Now stretch out Instructions and Notes to fill the window the way you like it. Select the column and hover over the line to get the cursor to change to two arrows. Click and drag to size.
  8. Add more rows to your spreadsheet by grabbing the = at the bottom and dragging it down.
  9. Now you can save this as a template to use next time. From the File menu select Save as Template. You'll get a dialog box asking Create a custom Numbers template? You can add this spreadsheet to the Template Chooser, or save it to your computer. Select Add to Template Chooser. (The Template Chooser is what you saw when you created a New File. A thumbnail of the spreadsheet you just created will appear in a box with a place for you to type a name for it. I named mine Knitting Pattern. If you right click it you can rename it or delete it.)
How to get this on your iPad? Save the file as Knitting Pattern. Open Numbers on your iPad. (If it's not there go download it from the App Store.) When you see the list of spreadsheets you'll see your Knitting Pattern file. Select it. You'll get a dialog box asking Add to Template Chooser? You'll be able to use this template to create new Numbers spreadsheets. Click Add. Now your creation is available on your iPad too.

Now when you go to File: New you can select My Templates and see your empty pattern. Or just scroll down and it's at the end of all the stock ones. If you download a PDF of a knitting pattern or see one on a blog you'd like to try you can select the text, copy it, go to your new file made with your template, select the top cell in the Instructions column, and paste. Try it with the numbered list above. It will put each paragraph in a cell of the spreadsheet. Now you can make your own notes for each step, delete sizes you aren't using, type the stitch count into its own column, and more. Whenever a pattern says Rows (17-28) or something like that I carefully expand that to the right number of rows to check off.

For patterns on double pointed needles I often add columns to keep track of how many stitches are on each needle. Or if I have a hat with a lot of markers I'll track stitches between markers in another column. If I am designing a hat and want to see if the number of stitches are going to come out I use formulas to calculate the stitch count for me. Spreadsheets are so handy!

Here's an example of a spreadsheet I worked on today while I was making a duck. This is an example of how sloppy you can be if you want. Just because it's a spreadsheet doesn't mean you have to make it feel like work. I am not really OCD about the checkboxes or stitch count when I'm making it up as I go. Precise row counts and stitch counts are more important when I'm doing a second of something, like a foot, to be sure they match. (Feet go from row 80 to 113, not seen in this example.) I try to jot down just enough that if I like how it turns out I can do it again, filling out the instructions to be more clear. The duck was way too hard. I'm not going to try to make this into a reproducible pattern. 


Also that yarn from the fabric store had such a strong smell it gave me a migraine for the two days it took me to make this duck. You'd think I would learn.