Thursday, January 20, 2011

Knit a llama llama, a drama llama

I've started a knit version of Coquena the llama and am using llama yarn, of course, progress toward an eventual fiber menagerie.  I measured my crochet gauge, which was 7 stitches and 7 rows to the inch. Then I knit the foot after finding TechKnitter's Disappearing loop method of casting on in the middle.  It is an excellent method. To avoid the time and effort knitting a gauge piece for gauge's sake and knitting it in the round I just planned to measure the gauge in the column of the lower leg. Turns out that using the same mm needle as the size crochet hook I'd used (and same yarn, but different color) also yielded 7 sts to the inch, but 9 rows to the inch instead of 7. To compensate for this I added 2 rows for each 7 rows which made the row count for the lower leg 22 instead of 17. (14 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 1; 2 for each block of 7 rows, 3 rows to finish off the original 17 in the pattern, plus one additional row because 3 is nearly half of 7 and I add 2 with every 7. I'm sure I have not accounted for that in a very clear way, but that's all that comes to mind in way of explanation at this time.)

Poor Frenchy, assembling her for a pic I see one arm
is incomplete and the other not stuffed!
Didn't notice this llama already named French Silk before I named my crocheted version. I based her color pattern on this llama with a painted coat. And then when the yarn arrived the combination reminded me of the chocolate pie with that name.

Unless I change my mind I'm planning to pattern the colors on the knit llama mostly after one called Macarena. She and a few others I saw in photos have very dramatic white faces with black eye patches and rust colored bodies. It's a very dramatic look I just have to attempt.

Poor French Silk, my unfinished crocheted llama llama.  She's in pieces. All Nearly all of her pieces are completed, but sewing together is often a place where I cast on something new instead.

Drama llama's leg is definitely coming out smaller so far.
I'm really excited about knitting a llama llama. I'd much rather knit anyway, and crochet, especially crocheting stuffed toy tight, is very hard on my hands. Also, whenever there are duplicate pieces to work I knit them simultaneously using a pair of circular needles. I cannot crochet two pieces of anything at the same time. It worries me that the duplicates might not match exactly and it just seems slower to do them one at a time.  Since this is a stuffed animal and not a garment I am very hopeful that the knit version will be simple to engineer and will very closely resemble the crochet original, only smaller, probably. I am a little concerned about the way that single crochet produces a much denser fabric than knitting. I don't think I'll be able to stuff a knit version nearly so tightly as a crocheted one.

Crossing my fingers! Well, figuratively crossing them; they're actually busy knitting or typing about the knitting.  Honestly, I kind of like the white ring around the ankle on the knit leg. What I was doing was putting in two knit rows with "waste yarn" to make it easy to remove the unaltered foot (without extra rows to compensate for the comparative shortness of knit stitches) and replace it with one reworked to a taller proportion. I'm kind of leaning toward not only leaving the white ring, but making all the other feet to match this one. It's a decision I'm going to postpone for a bit. I have not yet mastered or even attempted a knitted loop stitch. There's a pattern for it in a book I have. Besides that, the only other concern I had about knit construction was with starting in the middle of a tight circle. Presto! TechKnitter's disappearing loop method pops up. Thanks so much TK!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hat making party

Sunday I went to a Mardi Gras hat making party.  A group of seven friends are going to Mardi Gras. Besides having fun, their mission is to collect beads to recycle on local parade routes later in the year. Why not? Beads are expensive and they'd be buying them themselves otherwise.

On the Monday after Christmas Mic and I went to see Little Fockers and have dinner at Olive Garden. After that we shopped at Michaels craft store and found a selection of Christmas decorations on 70% clearance or so.  Mic saw some items in purple, gold, and green and thought it would be fun to decorate hats for the next Mardi Gras trip.

I made a sketch of the hat that I worked on. This is what it looks like, as best as I can remember and within the limits of what I can illustrate in markers without drawing everything out in great detail first.

ETA: there are two gold apples, one gold ball, three purple balls, several purple feathery shaped items, green glittered balls on green glittered wire, two gold beaded strands of round gold sequins, small purple balls on purple wire, a green ribbon band, and a green bird sitting on purple leaves and foliage. All of this is mostly wired and to a lesser extent hot glued to a straw colored cowboy hat. It may be missing some features in the real version, but this is mostly the gist of it. The drawing reminds me how out of practice I am in drawing lately. I suppose no illustration would have the impact and immediacy of the real thing.

I thought maybe that would add some perspective, but adding a drawn hat to a photo doesn't really bring it to life so much. Oh well!

ding DONG! Aarufff, Rruff, RrawFFFF!

A spooky glowing eye?

No!  The house finally has a working doorbell again and that was it (probably autofocus and no flash, but I'm not sure.) Every step installing it has had some complication or another, making it an enormous pain in the butt over several days. I'm most upset about the inaccurate description posted by the online retailer AND how one of their employees called to argue with me about it and insist my complaint was just a matter of semantics. Accommodating that one difference they dismiss is what set off an avalanche of problems. But I really don't have the energy to go through it step by step.

I am very pleased that it works. I like the size and the decorative detailing and the finish. I am especially enjoying that it lights up with an LED. The light is supposed to make it easier to find in the dark, but the porch light right above is illuminated all the time anyway. I appreciate it's unexpected usefulness as an indicator that the wires are properly connected.

And it certainly is a huge improvement over the old doorbell button, which had endured sloppy paint jobs and about 21 years of use. At first it was still operable even with the duct tape over the missing button section. I'd applied that because of the way the button on it had broken. I wanted to be sure no one would be at risk of cuts or shock from using the button, but needed to leave it in place while securing a replacement.

I'm certain, besides age, location and resulting positional abuse contributed to its demise. While sheltered from weather conditions by many feet in all directions, it had the misfortune of being mounted on a wall perpendicular to the door. I think most people pressing on it were doing so from the outside corner, rather than flat on the face of the button. Makes sense that it would snap the way it did. In the last year possibly five different people have drawn my attention to this doorbell button (pre-duct tape, with no broken parts), suggesting that it didn't work. I'd reach over from the door's threshold and press firmly on the face of the button and we'd both hear the doorbell chiming loudly a few feet behind me. I think the button in the new doorbell button has a better chance because the button part doesn't pop out and press in  to the same extent.  There's no outside corner to press on in a circle.

I really should do some touch up sanding and painting to really finish the installation. I even took out the matching paint when I started this project. But it's been so much extra trouble already and I am truly exhausted.  Unfortunately next time there's a problem, new wires are going to have to be fished through. Every bit of extra slack was used up in this fix (not my plan at all, just kept going that way) and I found that the insulation on the wires came off easily, seemingly without even touching it at all. And the smallest manipulations tended to snap the wire right off.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Praise for a great pattern

Must take a moment to do some bragging about Paola's greatness, especially with regard to communication and excellence in pattern writing and publishing.  I've emailed her twice to ask questions about patterns, once before and once after buying my patterns and both times she has responded to me kindly and especially quickly, within a few hours, I think.  I ordered my patterns on Christmas day and they were in my inbox within just a few hours. Accounting for the holiday I would not have been surprised if they'd been delayed a day or two; if I have a holiday it seems like everyone should!  I am very impressed by the clarity of the instructions, the abundance of project photos in progress and at different angles, and also the ease with which it is all conveyed.  The pdf may be 15 or 20 pages, but I feel the photos tell me a lot that words don't and at times they reveal details about placement and shaping and other concerns that are easily overlooked in other designers' patterns.  I don't think I'm explaining well.

Holy cow!  I just discovered that in the pattern I'm working there's a link to a video tutorial demonstrating how to make the loop stitch AND I think she is using a more movement economical way of rewrapping the yarn in the opposite direction.  Otherwise, it was easy enough to learn this stitch just following along with the photo tutorial in the pattern.

BTW, I have memorized the lyrics to the Llama llama duck song.  It amuses me for reasons I can't or shouldn't explain.  If I understand correctly, the "Not a llama" image displays an alpaca, which looks a lot like a llama, but doesn't have the llama's banana ears.  (You can see what I mean in the next post.  Wasn't planning on it, but occasionally my thoughts fall into linear arrangements.)  That's my conclusion because I've been browsing so very many llama photo rich websites to observe colors and patterns and plan future llama llama projects.  At some point I read that the ears were a major distinguishing feature.

How much more trouble can I get into?

Well the end of the last post unexpectedly segues into this one.  Something that won't happen often and I suppose I shouldn't care since the posts appear in a reverse chronology anyway.  Or rather it did, and then I was editing multiple posts at the same time and then taking out a section to make a post of it's own.  Now it actually works from top to bottom.  This kind of chaos sounds a lot more like me ;o).  I was mentioning a video tutorial and also my accomplishment of learning the lyrics to Llama llama duck.  Which means I am often humming it when I am not absentmindedly humming the theme song for one of Investigation Discovery's new shows.  I think it's the theme song... wouldn't know really, it's what they play in the background of the commercial for it.  But then I tend to hum random commercial tunes and theme songs without realizing it all the time anyway...

I stumbled into setting up a YouTube account without really wanting to.  All I wanted to do was give a good rating and favorable comments to a video I admired.  And Google bullied me into setting up yet another account.  I felt fairly discouraged about my inability to find any use for having a YouTube channel of my own.  But as I poked around a bit I started to realize that while I don't really plan to make videos myself at this time I should be able to use my channel to collect and organize videos I like and especially those video tutorials for knitting and crocheting that I might refer to over and over.  Like Cat Bordhi's Slim and Trim SSKs tutorial featuring her memorable hungry stitch method.

Did you get a look at the doorbell button ad in the upper right corner?  I find it fairly creepy and certainly suspicious that earlier in the evening I looked at doorbell buttons online, possibly for a few hours even.  While I probably won't choose that style I do find there's something enticing about a doorbell button labeled PRESS, just like that in capital letters and everything.  I'm sure there's a reason for the apropos nature of the ads and these circumstances are directly related.  I'd feel a little better with some sort of proof or acknowledgment of it though.  And maybe some guidelines so that all my browsing doesn't produce ads on my channel for everything.  Not that there's anything I'm browsing for that's out of bounds.  It's just too big brother, too mundane, and just not necessary.

I suppose it's fairly newsworthy that the doorbell button I need to replace (at left, in all it's painted over and dilapidated glory) lasted for about 21.5 years.  The manufacturer should be glowing with pride, especially since I've been reading that doorbell button life spans can be as short as 4-11 years.  Truly, I don't know how the push button plastic part of it managed to escape dry-rotting and shattering years ago, except that it is very well shaded and weather protected.  Even in it's duct-taped and sorry current state it does still work.  But it is time for a replacement.

This round one I copied and printed out at life size could be a contender, but it's a bit too yellowy goldy.  Who wants to snoop on this kind of news, really?!  Find me a lighted surface mount button that's clever, beautiful, and has a dark or coppery finish and we can call it even.

At least I have a lead on a local business where I might be able to see some stock in person.  I think if I'd signed up for a channel earlier then there would be ads for llamas instead ;o).

So that's all that's there is so far on my brand new channel.  I'm tempted to try making a video of using my Tilta Swift and ball winder to wind a center pull skein.  It really works remarkably well and just took a bit of practice to get consistently good results.  But to avoid colossal embarrassment I would have to do a lot of putting away of half finished projects that are cluttering up my work space.  It's nearly unbearable at times on it's own, just from the lost but around here somewhere supplies alone, but I only have so much energy and that's so much less that what I should have.  Besides that, there is nothing I can say about it that would convey such a terribly negative impression as allowing it to appear as the background in a video.  That makes two obstacles: reliable or certain means of capturing video and massive straightening to remove unsightly backdrop.  Maybe someday I'll get to it.  Would love to get everyone using a Tilta Swift - so clever, so economical, so many items you already have on hand that could be put to fabulous use.  And a video would be far more convincing than a sparse beginner slideshow.

There's nothing there to see really now, but when it really seems presentable I'll add a link.  Cheers!

Llama llama in progress

I've completed maybe half the work on my Coquena the Llama llama project having bought llama yarn in two colors and then buying more from additional online retailers after running out. Actually they all tended to have little stock in the colors I wanted.

Now they have nearly all arrived (except for a single hank of Mirasol Miski in Snowdrop #100 that Webs owes me). Miraculously, they all have matching dye lots across all sources - so far anyway.

Referring to the last image: the white starts after I used an entire skein of brown (Mississippi), coffee mug is just for size reference.  And the images show a much earlier than current stage of completion.

I'm calling my first llama llama French Silk since the yarn used (Mirasol Miski in Mississippi and Snowdrop and Elsebeth Lavold Baby Llama in Dark Brown) remind me of the chocolate on chocolate pie with the same name.

Ran into a bit of a snag missing or forgetting part of the instructions to make my coat loop stitches about 2" long.  Noticed it by the time I'd gotten to the tops of the legs where the directive is repeated to make 2" long stitches and emailed Paola to find out why the loops on the tops of the legs where 2".  She very kindly explained that they should be the same length as on the body and that the body instructions call for the same size loop.  I'm so glad I asked!  I'm going to redo the top of the one leg that had loops so far and make them match the loop size I used on the body.  French Silk has been more recently sheared than Coquena, that's all.

Was going to hold off posting until I got a few better pics representing current state of progress.  But that's going to make an even BIGGER, more tiring post by the time I'd get around to finishing it, so I've changed my mind (well, obviously!).

This would make more sense if I hadn't deleted references to struggling with trying to match the eye highlights and reworking over and over.  On my next try, which could be the 7th or 11th I'm going to use a single strand, although the right one I'm trying to match was done in a double strand.  Seems that with a single strand and maybe twice as many passes I'll have more control over how it turns out.  You can see what I mean about the longer leg loops anyway.