Archive for February, 2013

Hedgehogs

I’ve already got the hedgehogs all over this blog, but I haven’t done a post about them yet. They were one of the earliest projects I ever knit that are more complicated than a scarf. The pattern is a Fiber Trends pattern, you can find it here, and they call them Huggable Hedgehogs. And huggable they definitely are! Also quite fun to make. They are knitted out of wool yarn and then felted, and they’re the project that got me really into felting for a while.

In general the pattern is pretty simple, but I learned a lot by making it because it has lots of little things that are common in knitting but not something you learn right away. First was the idea of knitting just a few stitches for extra rows and then binding them off, which is how the arms and legs are made. For the arms you also have to cast on extra stitches in the middle of the piece which I hadn’t even heard of before, but turns out that comes up in patterns a lot.

Next I learned about picking up stitches, which was harder than I expected. In the pattern you first knit the front of the hedgehog, including the arms and legs, and then pick up stitches on the limbs to create paws and finally pick up stitches all the way around the piece to  use to knit the back of the hedgehog. I figured that to pick up stitches you just find whatever loops along the edge you can and knit those, and that’s what I did with a few of the hedgehogs, but that often leaves you with weird holes and is more difficult than it seems. I finally did look it up in a book and it turns out there’s a specific part of the stitches that you’re supposed to pick up. Trying to find the right part of the stitch to pick up actually got me a lot more familiar with the anatomy of the individual stitches, which is a useful thing to know.

My fingers poking through the enlarged holes I get when I pick up stitches

    My fingers poking through the enlarged holes I get when I pick up stitches

Picking up stitches on the arms and legs makes it easy to put on contrasting colored "paws"

Picking up stitches on the arms and legs makes it easy to put on contrasting colored “paws”

 

And then there are short-rows. Pretty much the whole back of the hedgehog is done using short-rows, which are, basically, where you turn the piece in the middle of a row and go back and forth, never quite getting to either edge of the row. I had made a couple of hedgehogs before I was really comfortable enough working the pattern to pay much attention to the structure of the knitting that was being created. But once I started noticing the structure of the knitting I was incredibly impressed at the genius of the shaping! At that point I hadn’t heard of short-row shaping and thought the pattern writer was quite brilliant. As I have learned more about knitting in general I have begun to understand that short-row shaping is not something that was just created for this pattern, but I’m still quite impressed as I don’t know that I could write a pattern using short-rows. It’s just so intriguing how you essentially create a flap of stitches that have been worked more and then you gradually bring in stitches from either side to seamlessly integrate the flap back in, thereby forcing the piece to form a sort of cup shape, brilliant!

That curve to the back is formed by the short-row shaping, so cool!

That curve to the back is formed by the short-row shaping, so cool!

 

Now that I’ve had my geeky knitting moment, back to the hedgehogs . Once you’ve got the whole thing knitted you have this floppy weird looking creature that kinda looks like a hedgehog, but looks more like roadkill. And then you felt it! I felt mine in the washing machine (though when I went off to college I discovered that front-loading washer do not work for felting) because it’s much easier that way, and I like to go the lazy route whenever possible. Because the back of the hedgehog is knitted by working the wool yarn and an acrylic eyelash yarn together, you get the fuzzy bits to stick up out of what seems to be a solid felt back, it works pretty well. And as the wool has felted it usually has shrunk at least a little and the shape of the hedgehog firms up and suddenly it doesn’t look like roadkill anymore.

 

The pattern calls for stuffing the piece and then sewing the bottom closed once it’s felted but, due to a kind of random mis-communication, I prefer to leave the bottom open and use them to store plastic grocery bags. It’s a bit funny how that came about. My mom is the one who bought the pattern for me, after she had seen the samples displayed at a yarn store when she was on a trip. She gave me the pattern and told me that they were used for storing plastic grocery bags, and I thought that was a neat idea and had no reason not to believe her, so when I reached the end part of the pattern where it explains felting and finishing the hedgehog I didn’t keep reading because I knew how to felt them and how to sew button eyes on so I figured I was good. Then, after making five or six of them, I finally decided to read the finishing directions and discovered it actually says to stuff the hedgehog and sew it closed and gives directions on doing a little hand felting to hide the seam. At that point I figured it was kind of stupid to change how I made them since they work so well and are quite popular as grocery bag holders, so I’ve never actually finished them like the pattern says. I asked my mom and she has no idea where she got the idea that they are for storing plastic bags, but figures someone at the store must have said something about it or maybe said they had stuffed theirs with plastic bags and she just assumed. So, happy accident!

 

The hedgehogs also made me realize that you don’t have to follow the patterns exactly. For the first one I made I tried to use real hedgehog colors but they didn’t have real good colors for hedgehogs at the yarn store I went to, so it turned out a kind of weird orange. Then my mom pointed out that there’s no reason it has to be real hedgehog colors, so I started branching out. That year for Christmas I made hedgehogs for lots of my extended family, customizing the colors to try and match their kitchens or their favorite colors, which is why there’s such a variety. I even made one that is supposed to be a Santa hedgehog for my uncle who always dresses up as Santa Clause at Christmas. And I made one that is the colors of my boyfriend’s college, and one that I tried to make cactus colors for my grandparents who live in Arizona. Trying to find all the different colors in eyelash yarn led me to discover the huge range of them that are out there. There are some that seems nice and fuzzy on the ball but when you spread it out the poor hedgehog looks almost bald, and some are quite scratchy, but then there’s my favorite stuff which is very thick and very soft, that’s what I used on the red one and the one that has a blue body and green fuzz. Sadly, I don’t remember the brand of that yarn, but when I went back to the same yarn shop where I got that stuff they said they think the company quit making it, which is a shame. So now I hoard the remnants I still have of the two yarns and periodically pet them.

 

I haven’t made any new hedgehogs in quite a while, but I think I may start making them again. I was reminded last week by one of my cousins that I didn’t make them for everybody in the family, as I used to say, by which she of course meant herself. So I might make more for the family members I missed before, and I’ve still got some yarn for ones I had intended to make but never did, guess it’s time to get working on all my unfinished projects!

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Grandma’s Scarf and Hedgehog

My grandmother on my father’s side passed away a couple weeks ago. It’s the kind of thing that adds a lot of chaos to life, both by complicating daily life with time out of town and away from work, and with all the emotional grief and difficulty that comes with losing a loved one. What I’m trying to say is, sorry I’ve been gone a while, but I had a good reason.

 

This post is about a couple of old projects that I recently came across again because I had given them to my grandma and saw them again when we were packing up her things. First is a hedgehog I made for her.

blue

 

This little guy is one of a whole series of hedgehogs I made for several members of my family. I just realized I haven’t done a full post about the hedgehogs yet, I’ll have to do that as it was a fun and interesting project to make, and I will probably make more. Basically, the hedgehogs are first knitted and then felted, with novelty yarn used along with the wool yarn to make the “spines” on the back. She liked her little hedgehog and I think she would pet him sometimes cause the hair on the top of his head was always smoothed down, made him look a bit squished, but that’s okay.

Second is a scarf I made for her.

I’m pretty sure this is the first full project I made that had cables, I’m not counting the swatches I did while learning to  knit cables, though I made a cabled scarf for my aunt at pretty much the same time. Most of the info I have about it is from memory, which is rather vague, and what I could tell from my pictures and a short examination of the piece itself. I’m pretty sure it’s just three basic 6-wide braid cables. What that means is that while knitting, three stitches are transferred to a cable needle and left to hang alternately in front of and behind the work (the direction the cable slants is based on whether the stitches are in front of or behind the work) and the next three stitches are knitted. Then the stitches that were separated are knitted, which means that the first group and the second group have switched places. It’s called a 6-wide cable because while you’re only moving three stitches at a time, the whole maneuver takes six stitches total.

 

I can’t remember which project I gave her first, but she liked them both so much she had them both displayed in her room, even after she moved to a new place. She always kept the scarf wrapped around the hedgehog (like in the picture below) and sitting somewhere she could see them. I always loved that about her, she was very definite about supporting me and loving anything I made.

IMG_2938

 

Grandma loved that I knit. She was actually the person who taught me to knit the first two times, of course neither of those times stuck, but when it did stick she just loved to see me knit. She would always say I reminded her of her mother because I was always knitting and never just sitting, and her mother used to do the same. I left the scarf with her, I think she’d like that and I don’t think I’d ever be able to bring myself to do anything else with it. I kept the hedgehog though, he’s one of my favorites of the hedgehogs and a good reminder of her. And as hard as it is, losing her has inspired me more to keep knitting, it’s a tribute to her in a way and a constant connection to her memory, and isn’t that such a big part of crafting, connecting with our past? And creating a future as well, which is what I’m trying to focus on, moving on to the next adventure, like Grandma always did.

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