Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ringneck Snake Bracelet

Ringneck snake bracelet

UPDATE: I figured out another way to do the eyes today, May 20, 2017. See the end for details.

Ringneck Snake with seed bead eyes
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.

Here's the details on the new eyes with seed beads. After knitting the 4 black rows for the head run the working yarn through the live stitches with a yarn needle but slip them onto 2 needles instead of pulling it up. Sew to seed beads together with sewing thread and knot it. Leave two long tails to work with.

Seed beads sewn together with black thread
 Now back to the nose. The outside needles here are the 4 live stitches on the outside. The leftmost loop on the bottom two needles are the working yarn that's threaded through the live loops. The middle needle shows where you're going to poke those two seed beads. Cram them in there under those two loops of yarn. Only the outside of them will stick out, most of the beads are inside the head. The two loops of yarn will fall into the depression between the beads. Sew them there with the tails of the thread. Then run the thread back to the yellow ring so you can use it to sew the tail to the head.
Two outside needles hold live stitches.
Middle needle through loops of the row below to
show where the beads/eyes go.
Now finish the nose by taking out the needles and pulling up the last four stitches with the working yarn that should be threaded through them already. Work the tail back to the ring neck with a yarn needle. I split the plies and tied a knot back there for extra security. Finally sew the neck to the tail with the sewing thread to hide the beginning/end of the ring. Tie it good and run the tails into the cord. Done! It's a bit bulgy in the eyeballs, but it's passably cute. Also hard to photograph. I would try taking better photos with softer light but I already mailed it to somebody.

I'm thinking about doing another one with a duplicate stitched yellow belly.

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.