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.

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