Saturday, March 24, 2012

thoughts on: A Single Shard

A Single ShardA Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

I read A Single Shard when it was first published, and chose it as one of our road trip reads for my husband and daughter.  They liked it as much as my son and I had when we first read it.  Set in a small pottery-making village in 12th century Korea, the story was inspired by the masterpiece of Korean pottery, the Thousand Crane Vase.  Linda Sue Park uses a rich background of culture and tradition for what is a simple coming of age story.  There are no surprises here, but none are needed.  Gently told, our hero grows up like most do - without fanfare, realizing he has arrived only after the fact.  We see his heroism in his resiliency and strength of character, his honesty and his love for others.  Those are traits too seldom celebrated, but so much a part of our daily lives.  It was a pleasure to listen to a story where a battle is won not over supernatural foes, but over greed and apathy.

thoughts on: Notes from a Small Island

Notes from a Small IslandNotes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

We started listening to this on our road trip, but had to abandon it.

Funny, yes, but the language in it is not family friendly. Such a shame! It would be just as funny without the four letter words.

thoughts on: Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost GiantsOdd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

We listened to this on a road trip, and it was perfect for all of us.  It assumes no knowledge of Norse myths, and is a completely new story - not a retelling of an existing myth (at least, to the best of my limited knowledge) - so it is enjoyable whether you've ever heard a Norse myth or not.  If you have, there are subtle allusions to the myths which add to the feel of Gaiman's story being one of them: Odin's only having one eye, Loki taking animal form, Freyja being the object of the giants' desires.

A simple coming of age story, this short novel has left me wanting to read more by Gaiman.  I'd not read any of his books before, but I'd seen episodes of Dr. Who he's written.  I'm already looking forward to listening to another of his children's books on our drive home, and maybe checking out an adult work after our trip is over.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Adding a giraffe to my safari

Ione and Belisarius have a new friend:  Gwendolyn.  I named her for Wallace's yarn shop owning love interest in Wallace and Gromit:  A Close Shave.   It has nothing to do with giraffes, but the name suits her.

Gwendolyn, like Ione, is from Susan B. Anderson's Itty Bitty Toys.  (She is far from itty-bitty, though, standing, if she could stand, almost two feet tall.)  The patterns are so well written, and adorable, that I bought the book after checking it out the third time from the library.  I plan to make a few more of the toys in it, but right now, it is on loan to a friend.

I made a few modifications to the giraffe pattern, and, now that I am done, I wish I'd made one more.

I doubled the length of the neck, and made it slightly thicker so it would not flop over with the additional length.  Then I had to make the snout longer to stay in proportion with the neck.  All easy adjustments.  The pattern as written, in my opinion, has a too short neck.  It makes a giraffe that looks more like a baby, but even baby giraffe's have long necks.  

I also added more spots.  Lots more spots.  The pattern only placed spots on the back.  None on the front, none on the neck.  If Gwendolyn didn't have such an elegantly long neck, it would not need spots, but her neck looked too bare without them.  And her belly looked too bare beneath her spotted neck.  So lots more spots were made.

I used almost a full skein of yarn making all those spots and the mane.  (Vanna's Choice.  It had exactly the yellow and orange I wanted.  The yellow is Duckie from the baby line; the orange is Terracotta.  I used two yellow, one orange.)

The spots are the one thing I wish I had done differently.  I do not like the texture of them.  They are knit separately, then sewn on.  After finishing her, I saw a project on Ravelry where the spots had been knit into the body, with more of a natural giraffe pattern.  I love the way that looks - so much neater and smoother than the applied dots.  I wish I'd thought of that for Gwendolyn.  If I ever make another giraffe, I will knit the body and neck with stranded colour work. 

The other modification I made was the mane.  Susan B. Anderson's giraffe had a row of adorable pom-poms for a man.  The tail and antlers were also topped with pom-poms.  I suck at making pom-poms.  They never look even, and trimming them makes them worse.  Then, too, pom-poms pull apart easily, and babies play with my toys.  So pom-poms were out.

I saw a crocheted loopy mane on Ravelry, and decided to do that.  This was a challenge for me because I've never crocheted anything before.  I watched a few youtube videos to learn how to crochet.  The first thing I learned was that my fingers have been knitting so long that they are resistant to holding the yarn a new way.  It was ridiculous how many times I had to start over.  In the end, I gave up on holding the yarn like the youtube lady, and decided that if the mane wasn't coming apart, it was good enough.

The mane is my favorite part of Gwendolyn!  When I make a lion (which, I will, because what is a safari without a lion?), I will make it a loopy mane, too, but longer loops.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sewing and struggling

Sewing is a challenge to me.  Even seemingly simple things, like this bib, are fraught with difficulties.  This bib is the bapron from craftinessisnotoptional, which is not linking correctly, sorry.  It looked simple enough, and it probably is.  For other people.

I thought the hardest thing would be making all those yards of bias tape.  Nope.  It was getting all that bias tape sewn in place.  I've done quilt bindings, where one side is sewn by hand, and not had any problem with it.  This, however, is sewn in place all at once (and should be - these bibs would take hours and hours to hand sew the binding).  I could not get it lined up perfectly so that every stitch went through both layers, without stitching too far away from the edge.

I made five bibs, and the fifth was no easier than the first.  By then, however, I'd decided to just stitch over the bias twice anyway, so it does look better than the others. 

Some I am keeping for when babies visit me, and others I am giving away.  Although they are far from perfect, they are bibs.  By definition, they are going to get food plastered all over them.   They are good enough for that.

The last photo shows the front and back, which is flannel.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A different sort of TV kniting

I know I've mentioned before that I watch Doctor Who.  Four out of five of my family members are fans.  The fifth lives out of state, so we cannot easily share our enthusiasm for the Doctor.  We do mention it to him, and various other relatives, but none of them have watched it yet.  I know if/when they do, they will become fans.  (Note to my sister:  it would probably scare the little one, but I think my godchild would like it.)

Some of us are bigger fans than others.  Some of us may even slip into super geeky fandom, making ourselves tote bags featuring the Tardis and angels and daleks and things. 

Or knitting hats based on characters in the show. 

Ack!  As soon as I saw this pattern, I knew I would knit it.  It is a replica of the hat that Wilf wore in the End of Time episodes. Wilf!!  I love Wilf.  Donna has been my favorite companion, and Wilf is the grandpa everyone would want.  I just loved him. And I love my husband, so that obviously meant he needed a Wilf hat.

When I found this red yarn (Ella Rae, Amity) at Tuesday Morning on, well, Tuesday Morning, I was set.  And it was knit.  My husband didn't really think he needed a new hat, but he is such a good sport, that he accepted it anyway. 
I had him wear it like Wilf did, high on his head, but here is a last shot to show you that it really could cover his ears.  The pattern, Wilf's hat, was free on Ravelry.  The designer, Patti S, created it based on screen shots of Wilf.  I am appreciative of that.  I don't think I have that kind of skill.  However, the cable chart was rather off.  I could see what she meant, and it was not difficult to knit, but I would not recommend it for a first project with cables. 

Now that I've finished it, and see it on my husband, I wish I had made a few more changes.  I think it would be better if the cables started lower, instead of having such long ribbing.  Then you wouldn't need to fold it as precisely. 

Or I wouldn't, as I wore this hat a bit today.  My husband shares nicely as well as indulging my geekiness and looking good in handknits.

I thought you might want to see Wilf, too, so here he is:

Finding the right hat

I do most of my knitting while watching tv, so I enjoy patterns that do not require me to carefully read instructions or look back and forth at charts.  This hat, which I've now knit twice, is the perfect tv project.  It is a free pattern, Odessa by Grumperina, available on Ravelry.

I love the way it looks on my daughter.  I told her she could keep it if she wants it, but I don't know if she will.  She doesn't wear hats very often, and already has a couple cute ones that she loves. 

Often people tell me that they do not look good in hats.  I do not think this is ever true.  It's just a matter of finding the right hat for your face, hair, and personality.  Maybe hats are not your style; you wouldn't wear them on a daily basis.  However, when it is cold, your mother was right:  you should wear a hat.  So find a style that you know suits you.

Photographing my daughter in the different chemo caps, I really see how even minor variations make a big difference.
This second hat is not so different in shape, but I don't think the green color flatters my girl.  I've knit this one in light blue, and she looked cute in it, but not as good as she looks in the blue Odessa.  So if you see a hat you like, try it on and don't like it, don't give up on hats too quickly.  Try different shapes, different colors, different weights of yarn. 

I would like next winter to see lots of people wearing hats.  The past few years,it seems everyone has been scarf crazed, but bare headed.  I'd like to see hats make a comeback.

This pattern is not quite as perfectly tv-friendly.  I have to read the directions for that lace bit.  It is also free, available on Ravelry:  lace edged women's hat by Julie Hentz.

Both were knit from Sirdar's Silky Look, which is a discontinued yarn that was given to me last summer.  (Thanks, Ma'am!  Your mom and grandmother's yarn is going to good use!)