Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Name that sheep!

So my mom got me this adorable stuffed sheep at a rummage sale recently, and gave it to me today. Isn’t he cute?

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But I need help naming him! So, any ideas? Let me know in a comment, and I’ll let you all know what I decide.

Also, while we were still at my parents’ house, the sheep got a quilt top thrown over him like a blanket and it was adorable. Somehow it sparked the idea of dressing him in different outfits and taking pictures of him in the backyard in different seasons. Then I got home to take the first picture, and we decided to take an adventure, so here are the highlights from that!

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The first investigations into our grass, he seemed less impressed than one would expect from a sheep.

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He decided to see if the bird feeder had tastier food, but discovered he is not a fan of sunflower seed shells. Incidentally, I’m not either!

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Then he got into a tree to try for some leaves, and it went so well that he tried to go higher.

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Getting out of the tree was a bit uncomfortable for him though, face first at the ground is not an ideal climbing position. I don’t think the giraffes need to worry about sheep eating all their leaves any time soon.

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Then we got back up on the deck to go back inside, and he discovered Andy’s “living salad bowl” and that seemed to go over quite well.

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Don’t tell Andy! Does he look a bit sheepish here? (I couldn’t resist the pun!)

The adventures may continue, and he may start getting accessories, it all depends on how long my silliness holds out. Now, what to call him?

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Christmas Artist Trading Cards

I am participating in an artist trading card (ATC) exchange. Its 6 cards every other month, and the theme for the December exchange is Christmas! Who ever could have guessed that theme? 🙂 The cards need to be 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ and can be made using any technique, and this time around I went with embroidery. I don’t know exactly how/why I decided to do hedgehogs, they’re not especially Christmas-y, but that’s what I did. Well, there is one rabbit too, but it’s mostly hedgehogs (I’ll explain the rabbit later).

Digging through my mom’s fabric stash, I found two fabrics that I liked for the background on the cards so I decided to make 3 cards on each fabric. I cut out strips from each piece that were wide enough for the long side of the card (I think the original strips were 5 inches wide but I don’t remember exactly) and long enough to fit three cards, with seam allowance, on each strip. And then I went to town. This was the first time I free-hand stitched things that needed to be a certain shape, rather than just a pattern along a seam, and I’m pretty happy with how it went. The hardest part was figuring out 6 different designs to do (they could have all been the same or just re-used several, but I wanted to make them all different) and still make the hedgehogs look Christmas-y. That’s where the bunny comes in. After the first hedgehog I was thinking I could do a couple different little animals, and thought a rabbit and a squirrel would work quite nicely. So I was thinking I could do one rabbit, one squirrel, and and one hedgehog with Santa hats on and then the same but with reindeer antlers and a red nose. I only had to get about halfway through the rabbit to decide that it was a much more complex shape than the hedgehog and I really didn’t want to do such a complex shape 4 more times. So I went back to just hedgehogs.

Once I got the embroidery done, I needed to finish the edges and put a back on the cards. My mom was quite helpful in that, as she usually is, and I’m happy with how they turned out.

The exchange is happening at the December Designing Quilters meeting which my mom and I will miss because we’re going to be in Hawaii (so excited!) so we have to send our cards along with someone else. Because of that, my mom made a cute little bag to put the cards in.

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I’ll be getting 6 cards back from other people and I’ll be sure to post pictures of those when I get them!

Needle Felted Cat Tutorial

Back on Day 5 of KaCBW I posted this tutorial in just pictures. If you have some practice needle felting, I think that’s probably all you really need, but if it’s your first or second, maybe even third or fourth, project, it was possibly a bit confusing. So I’m going to give you the tutorial again here, but with words included this time. Before I start the tutorial though, a little background about it. I actually wrote it to be instructions for a beginner needle felting kit made by the lovely Lisa at Flickertail Fibers. We talked about it a bit and went with a cat as a good beginning project because it gives you a few different color options, even if you want to stay realistic and not go crazy with neon pinks or something, and it has several different shapes. I tried to make it a simple piece to make, but something a bit more complicated than just a round ball. The point is to give a person who is new to needle felting some direction on creating different shapes, like the long round tube-like shapes of the cat legs or the irregular shape of the body, and how to combine simple shapes to create the complex shape of the animal. I also like the cat design because it gives the opportunity for the person to play with adding different colors. I’m pretty much copy and pasting the original in here, with minor changes, so you will notice that it is written with the assumption that you’ve never needle felted before. Without any further ado, the tutorial!

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Begin with an oblong piece of roving approximately 1 and a half times the size you want your cat’s body to be. Begin felting the roving by poking it with the felting needle. It is not necessary to poke especially hard or fast, go at your own pace and be careful not to poke yourself.

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Poke/felt the roving until it holds its shape and has shrunk slightly, but not so much that it feels solid if squeezed

Now you want to flatten out the bottom end, at a bit of an angle. Either end can be the bottom, it’s your choice, so that the cat will sit nicely. The body of your cat is ready to go!

Next, you will make the legs. The legs are formed by creating little “snakes” of roving, this is easiest done by rolling it between the palms of your hands like with clay, and then felting these evenly all the way around. Be sure to compare the length of the legs to the body, so that they aren’t too long or too short. Every cat needs paws, so we’ll make those next. Start with a small ball of roving, just slightly bigger than you want the finished paw, and felt it just enough for it to hold its shape. Then felt the ball onto the bottom of the leg, this should flatten the ball out a little. If the shape doesn’t look right to you, you can always poke the roving more in one spot to shrink that spot down a little.

Attach the legs to the body one at a time by holding the leg where you want it to be and poking through the top of the leg and into the body. The more you poke the more firmly the leg will be attached. Don’t be concerned if this creates a dent where the legs attach, we will smooth this out at the end.

The head and ears are all formed in the same manner as the pieces you have just made. For the head begin with a ball of roving and poke it until it holds its shape, being careful to keep it round by poking evenly all around. The ears should be triangular, which can be a more tricky shape to make. It can be useful to poke from the sides, rather than just the front and back, in order to achieve a triangular shape. The ears are attached to the head in a similar way to how the legs were attached to the body. However, this time you will need to felt downwards through the bottom of the ear and into the head, this is easiest done at a bit of an angle.

To make it easier to attach the head to the body, you will want to make a small flat circle of roving, and then felt only the center part of that circle onto the bottom of the head, on the side where the head will attach to the body. Then you can use the outside edges of this extra roving to felt to the top of the body. You will also want to felt both down through the bottom of the head into the body, and up through the body into the head, in order to make sure the head is well attached to the body.

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The round head doesn’t look very cat-like, so let’s add a muzzle. Start with a small ball of roving, felted enough to hold its shape. Attach the ball to the center of the bottom half of the face, the ball will probably flatten out a bit in the process, this is okay. Then use more roving, small bits at a time, to smooth out the difference between the top of the ball and the rest of the face, don’t make them even, just make it a nice, smooth slope. This is the most difficult part of the whole project, so take your time and pay attention.

Your cat is almost done, but it needs a tail! Make the tail in the same way you made the legs. Start with a “snake” of roving and felt it all around until you have a long thin piece. Then you can attach it either curled around the cat’s body, or sticking up off the back. To make the tail stick up, attach it just like the legs, hold the tail in place and felt through the bottom of the tail and into the body until the tail is secure. To wrap the tail around the body you will want to hold the tail in place, and felt through the tail into the body all along the length of the tail.

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All that’s left is to add the details; this is where your own artistry comes in. The eyes were made with little balls of black roving felted right onto the face, and the nose is an even smaller piece of roving felted onto the face in a triangle shape. If you want to add a mouth, I would suggest twisting a long thin piece of roving between your fingers before felting it onto the face; this will make it easier to get a line. I thought the face looked good without a mouth, but you can make your cat however you like!

I also added some spots on the cat’s body. This can be done by laying a thin bit of roving over the body and poking straight through it into the body. Everywhere you poke will begin to stick the new roving to the body, so make sure you have the roving where you want it.

Once you have all the details in place, you can go back and do a bit more poking all over to smooth out any rough spots or funny dents. I also like to do this because it tightens everything down and makes the whole piece a little bit sturdier. Congratulations, you have finished your needle felted cat!

 

And just for you guys, here are a few extra pictures of the finished cat!

 

And that’s the cat tutorial! Generally I’m happy to have you share my writing in any way you would like, as long as I am credited, but I ask that you please don’t reproduce this tutorial, in whole or in part, because I did write it for use by Flickertail Fibers. But feel free to use the tutorial to needle felt a cat of your own!

KaCBW Day Five: Something a Bit Different

Today’s post is in a different format than usual.

50 posts

Stupid program I used to create the graphic didn’t tell me they’d put their name *all over* my entire picture, grumble grumble

KaCBW Day 4: Colour Review

The prompt for today: “What are your favourite colours for knitted or crocheted projects. Have a think about what colours you seem to favour when yarn shopping and crafting.” I think I tend toward two different sets of colors when I’m just buying yarn because it’s pretty and when I’m making a project. (I think I’ll leave needle felting out of consideration for this one cause the colors I use in needle felting tend to be based on the colors of objects in the real world, not my own choices.) When I’m just buying yarn because it’s pretty, which is most of my stash, I think I tend to go with mostly blues and greens, and the occasional bright red or yellow, if it jumps out at me. Blue is the color I wear most, so I think that affects my yarn buying because there’s always that rationalizing voice in the back of my head saying something like I could make a hat out of this, or this would be great for that mitten pattern I found on Ravelry. Not that the theoretical projects get made very often.

So now I’m supposed to go look at my stash and see if I was right! *five minutes later* Ha! Just as I thought, mostly blues, although a surprising number of oranges, and lots of random single or pairs of balls of a big range of colors. There are especially a lot of partial balls of various jewel tones from the Hedgehogs.

Now in colors for projects, I think there’s a much bigger variation. Very few of my projects are clothing items, and of those even fewer are for myself, so I can be more adventurous and indulge my love of color. I really do enjoy bright colors, and will gladly put together a set of colors that make your eyes water but I think looks good, but I prefer not to call attention to myself so I don’t wear many bright colors. That just means I have to use all the bright colors in non-clothing items! Now let’s take a look at some of my projects and see if I’m right.

I’d say there’s a pretty good range of color there. The bright colors are mostly in the hedgehogs I guess, maybe that’s why I like them so much, but there’s even lots of colors in my first quilt! Yay for lifelong consistency!

So there you are, my color preferences, and a nice little review of my projects in the bargain.

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week

I discovered on one of the blogs I follow that it is Knitting and Crochet Blog week, where there is a theme/prompt for a post for each day this week, and I’ve decided to participate. You can find the details over at Eskemimi Makes, if you’re interested, or just read my posts this week and enjoy!

 

Today I am supposed to choose a house for the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, and explain my crafting style/outlook and why I chose that house. The choices are:

The House of Bee: Bees are busy and industrious, but can flit from one interesting project to the next as bright and shiny things capture their interest.

The House of Manatee: Manatees are gentle, calm and cuddly. Relaxed and unflashy they represent the comfort and soft side of knitting and crochet.

The House of Monkey: Intelligent and with a fun loving side, Monkeys like to be challenged with every project presenting them with something new and interesting.

The House of Peacock: Peacocks take something good and make it brilliant. Buttons, embellishments and a bit of sparkle prove that perfection lies in the details – like a Peacock’s Tail.

I had a hard time choosing between the House of the Bee, because I do tend to jump around between projects, and the house of the Monkey, because I love a challenge. But I decided on the House of the Monkey.

I went with the House of the Monkey because my favorite part of all the crafting I do is trying new things and giving myself challenges. I figure that’s actually why I jump between projects so much, one challenge gets boring, or easy because I’ve gotten good, and I move on to the next. I think that’s why I tend to do so many different crafting techniques as well; I get intrigued by the challenge and the newness and get excited to try it. But of course I refuse to admit that the only reason I’m trying something is because it’s new so I purposely get deep into it and stick with it, and inevitably discover more challenges in it. Of course sometimes I want easy and familiar so I start a simple project, but those are the projects that rarely get finished, or that take me years to finish.

Stick around all week for some fun, silly, and informative posts.

So how about you? What’s your crafting style?

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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