Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Online Baby Showers

Sometime last May a member of the Ankh-Morpork Knitter's Guild at Ravelry proposed that we hold an online baby shower for a member of the guild who lives in Scotland & was expecting her first baby, after she discovered that baby showers are not the norm there. I threw my hat in because I love, love, love sending things around the world :)  The main part of the plan was for everyone to make 6"x6" squares, themed to Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, that the soon-to-be mom could sew into a baby afghan. If we wanted to send anything else, we could. The recipient, named Kickin' K at ravelry, had posted some colour & washability preferences, & was quite sweetly overwhelmed by everyone's enthusiasm.

I decided to make a "Buglit" square, which is a reference to an early word Commander of the Watch Sam Vime's son, Sam Jr., says (much to his mother's dismay :). I thought it was appropriate for a baby afghan square at least. I made the square from Knit Picks Swish superwash DK wool yarn that I dyed with procion dyes, & then duplicate-stitiched the buglit part from a chart I made. Unfortunately, I counted the stitches across to fit the words to the square, but forgot to count the rows, so it's a bit off centre. But you can read it!

I also wanted to make a couple hats, for "now" & "later", so I made an infant cap using my own pattern & Knit Picks comfy cotton fingering weight yarn. At the top of the picture is an omamori from Japan, this one particularly for safety in childbirth. They're very beautiful & carried my wishes for Kickin' K, mom to mom. She said later that she packed it in her hospital bag & all did go well for her during delivery... yay!

For the "later" hat, I used the Swish DK again, in multi-colours, to make an earflap hat of my own design. The pattern uses modified earflaps from the Andean Knitting book, with my own hat pattern on top. The little green guys are also from a chart from Andean Knitting, and although I suspect they're supposed to be hummingbirds, I called them swamp dragons, which are creatures from Pratchett's books.

For the actual baby shower they picked a weekend early in June, after Kickin' K went on leave from work, and she let folks know when she'd be online so we could "watch" her as she opened her presents & then posted pictures of the gifts online. I caught part of it & it was so much fun!! Her husband had the earflap hat perched on his head in the picture & it was so cute & funny! Everyone sent the most wonderful things, from all over the world- Australia, all over the US, Germany, Norway, the UK. There were sweaters, booties, & socks, & a plushie turtle & a hedgehog, almost all of it hand-made. And the squares were wonderful!

Not long after, we discovered another guild member was expecting her first child, so we decided to have a shower for her. Sofisan lives in Sweden, so I had the joy of putting together another international package :)
Since the gifts didn't have to be sent until early August, I purchased the omamori when I visited a shrine in the south of Japan in July. I made another Buglit square, this time better-centred on the square. I made another infant cap (she particularly requested things in green) & then the "later" hat is my idea of a "baby werewolf hat" with mitts to match (another of my own designs). This online shower has been on-going, with 2 installments so far, & the presents have been just as fun & creative. I just love seeing what everybody comes up with. Maybe that's why I'm enjoying ravelry so much! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ukitake Taichou

I have been a huge fan of the Bleach manga by Kubo Tite for 4 or 5 years. I find the story, characters, & artwork absolutely fascinating, & even when things stray into typical shounen (fighting) manga territory, Kubo always has a twist in the story that keeps my interest. I also watch the anime, & really enjoy the Japanese voice-acting, but the quality of most of the animation suffers terribly by comparison to the original artwork. However, watching the Bleach anime with Charlie & Brendan has been a lot of fun & a good way to share the story as a family, so I'm still a fan of the anime, although with reservations.

I've found a lot of inspiration for my Nerd Wars 2 projects from the Bleach manga (for team spirit points, my challenges had to be themed to a manga or comic series). Two of my summer projects were inspired by the character Orihime (the Orihime Scarf and the Tanabata Tawashi, which I made & posted from Japan) & two more were inspired by Ukitake Taichou, Captain Ukitake of the 13 Gotei Bantai (13 protection squads) of Soul Society. In June I made a shifuku, a bag to hold a tea cannister, for him. Yesterday I finished a 3-week project to make an amigurumi of Ukitake, which also completed my last 2 Nerd Wars 2 challenges & this month's team unity project. Whew!
 Ukitake Taichou is not a major character in the Bleach series, but Kubo does such a great job of fleshing-out even minor characters that he really comes to life for me. The 13 Gotei Bantai are the protectors of Souls Society, which in the Bleach universe, is where souls go after they die to await rebirth. There are predators that consume souls & interfere with the rebirth process, so the shinigami (literally "death gods", but usually translated as "soul reapers") of Soul Society protect the souls from predators & also help souls that have yet to pass on to Soul Society (& are stuck on earth) to cross over. The Taichou, or captains, lead the 13 squadrons & are the most powerful of all the shinigami. One of the things I find interesting about Kubo's vision of Soul Society is that, although there is a definite hierarchy, there is a lot of individualism among the different squadrons & individual shinigami. They all wear the same uniform, called shihakusho, but nearly all shinigami have individualistic embellishments, hair styles, & other distinguishing factors that make them all easy to tell apart (which is not common in manga, let me tell you! Sometimes you have a lot of trouble telling even main characters apart). All of the Taichou wear white haori coats with the number of their bantai emblazoned on the back over their shihakusho as a symbol of captaincy, but there are variations among the haori & how they're worn, from captain to captain. And you can often tell a lot about their personality by how shinigami wear their uniforms. Some of the things I like best about the character of Ukitake Taichou is that he balances being strong with being flexible. His character has suffered from tuberculosis for at least 1000 years (!) but he is recognised as a strong person & excellent fighter in spite of having this physical weakness. He runs his bantai as much like a family as a military squadron & his squad respects & adores him. He is very wise, but also can be silly sometimes. And above all, he is very kind. Oh, & very cool :D

So, I decided to make an amigurumi of Ukitake Taichou to complete the "Guilty Pleasures" & "Necessity is the Mother..." August challenges for NW2. For me, the pleasure is dreaming something up & then creating it pretty much as I see it in my mind's eye. I also was intrigued by the idea of knitting the traditional kimono & accoutrements. The other challenge involved making a tool relevant to your fandom, so part of making Ukitake involved making his katana (seen in the above picture), called "Sougyo no Kotowari" ("refusal of the twin fish"). But I'll start with the creation of the amigurumi...
I decided to crochet the body from KnitPicks Wool of the Andes sport weight wool yarn, using a size D crochet hook, because I wanted a firm fabric, but I didn't want the ami to be terribly large. I thought sport weight wool for the body would allow me to use fingering weight yarn for his kimono (or lace weight, if I had to really make things finer). I looked around in some of my amigurumi books to get an idea of how to start the head, but from there it was all my own creation. Although the head is oversized (like many anime-inspired dolls) I wanted the rest of the body to be in proportion, so I just kind of eyed things as I went along. I took only very sketchy notes because I didn't want to obsess over reproducibility. I really wanted to just create. I took notes on arms, feet, sandals so that the second one of the pair would match. When it came to his hands, I needed them to be able to hold his swords, so I divided the work in a mitten-like fashion & then sewed the little thumb to the rest of the hand. It ended-up working really well.

When I stuffed the body with polyfil I added a sodalite gemstone heart to his chest :) something I often do when creating amigurumi. I also decided to crochet his tabi socks right onto his legs, rather than fuss with separate socks, & I'm really glad I did because it gave me time to fuss with the sandals instead :D In the photo above you can see the body plus the hair, wound around an American manga version of Bleach, which turned out to be the exact size I needed to make his hair. I used about 1/3 a skein of KnitPicks Gloss lace weight yarn to make the hair. To make it into a wig, I measured over the top of head to get an idea of how wide it should be (I had already measured the length, adding some extra for styling purposes), then I machine-stitched it all (using a very short stitch) to a piece of paper, off-set because his part is on one side, not in the middle. The paper, perforated by the sewing machine needle, came apart easily & left me with the mass of hair ready to sew to the head with the same yarn as the hair. I styled it & then cut the front hair like Ukitake's. 
Then came the clothes (I felt funny putting the face on before he was clothed :). I decided to use KnitPicks Comfy (cotton/acrylic blend) fingering weight yarn for the kimono & hakama. I swatched it on a size 2 knitting needle & liked the fabric (~6.5 stitches/inch) so that's what I used. I decided to knit the clothes because crochet is bulkier & less drapey than knitted fabric. I also used a mix of traditional Japanese kimono making techniques & knitted shortcuts. In "reality" there are 2 layers of kimono worn, a white under-kimono (& actually, under that would be fundoshi underwear) & then the black over-kimono, but I realised that if I knitted all of the layers he'd look more like Santa Claus than a lean fighting guy :) So I suggested the white under-kimono by crocheting in white along the edges of the neckline & sleeves. I also suggested the kimono lapels with strategically placed decreases, rather than knitting on another piece like a kimono usually has. I made the kimono to fit the crocheted body by measuring, adding ease & using the swatched gauge to calculate it all.
Next came the hakama (trousers). Again, I had really wanted to make them with all the pleats that make them look so cool in real life, but that would have made them impossibly bulky, so I made decreases to the waistline instead.
I did add the traditional ties, with the black ones in front & white ones in back, wrapping around to the front (the white obi belt is a particular characteristic of the shihakusho worn by shinigami & not usually found on Japanese hakama). The decreases are actually openings in the side of the hakama, which is just how they're usually constructed. All of the kimono sleeves are also open at the under-arm which is traditional.
Next I made the waraji sandals, which are woven from plant materials in real life (kind of like a basket). I crocheted them from 10/2 pearl cotton with a size 6 steel hook, using manga depictions as a guide.
Then came the face. I was a bit worried about the face, but I drew a picture of what I was aiming for (an intense look, rather than cute, since he was going to be holding swords, for goodness sake!) & used fingering weight wool to get better detail. I used black & brown (his eyes are a lovely brown in the anime :) & the embroidering went very well. I like how it turned out.

Since I was waiting for the wool for his haori coat to come in the mail, I decided to make his katana next. This is another one of those parts of this project that I thought hard about before it all coalesced in my brain. In the Bleach story, all shinigami have special katana called zanpakutou, or soul swords. These zanpakutou look like normal Japanese katana, but they have particular powers that resonate with the inherent abilities of the shinigami. They allow the shinigami to become more powerful over time, if they train well & have a good relationship with their zanpakutou. Eventually shinigami learn to "release" their zanpakutou into more powerful forms, their shikai & bankai. The zanpakutou actually change shape with each release. Ukitake is one of the oldest of the shinigami taichou & his bankai has not been seen yet (he's so powerful in shikai he hasn't had to use it yet :). His zanpakutou is the only one in Soul Society to actually split in two when he releases his shikai (by reciting a poem: "Wave become my shield, Thunder become my sword!"). The two swords are connected in the middle by a long strap that has metal tags hanging from it. When in shikai, Ukitake can absorb attacks & then turn them back on his attacker. 
To make the zanpakutou, I used 10/2 pearl cotton & the size 6 steel hook again, plus 2 wooden skewers, some wire & jump rings, & some metal beads which were the closest thing I could find to the zanpakutou's metal tags in the Fire Mountain bead catalogue. I have yet to see a colour picture of Ukitake's zanpakutou in the manga, so I went with the colour scheme from the anime. The handles & strap are maroon, the parts below the jutte (prongy bits) are grey, & the rest of the katana & jutte are black with grey edging along the main katana. I crocheted the handle & grey areas in the round, to fit the skewers, then crocheted the rest of the length of the skewer in black, back & forth in rows, attaching it to the grey as I went, & then wrapped it around the rest of the skewer & crocheted it all together lengthwise with the grey. I did the jutte prongs similarly, but around wire, which I bent at the end & slipped into the crochet around the skewers, sewing them into place. The guards are in gold, crocheted in the round. The strap with its metal tags is attached to jump rings sewn to each katana by little wire fasteners that I made. I had to add the fasteners or he wouldn't ever be able to put the zanpakutou down :) These took all day to make & nearly burnt me out, all that tiny crochet work in the round. Whew. But I did it!
Last of all was the haori coat, symbol of being a captain in the 13 Gotei Bantai (& my team unity project for August). Haori are usually lined, & according to the Bleach character books, Ukitake's lining is a reddish brown colour (which is why I had to order yarn, since I didn't have the right colour on hand). I used KnitPicks Palette fingering weight wool yarn & size 1 needle (gauge ~7 stitches/inch) to make it. I wanted a finer fabric than the kimono because the lining would add bulk to the whole thing. As I was watching the Bleach anime for ideas I noticed that the haori were split in the back, which really gave me pause. Making the thing in one piece with the lining (which is the traditional way to make a haori coat) was going to be tricky enough without a split in the back... Luckily, when rereading the manga I saw that the haori are NOT split... big sigh of relief!!! As with the kimono, I measured the ami, added ease, did my calculations based on the swatched gauge, & cast-on. I used a crocheted provisional cast-on, knitted a few rows, then made purl turning row for the hem. Before I started the decreases for the fronts I added the black decoration that all the captain's haori have, using fair isle technique. I split the knitting at the underarms, knitted sides & back separately, then left everything at shoulders & neck on waste yarn to deal with later. I did the embroidery on the back next, before there were too many things hanging off of it (I like to leave long tails for sewing or grafting, so there were already many hangers-on). 
The back embroidery was much more difficult than the face, for some reason. The diamond shape has the kanji for the number 13 in it, because Ukitake is captain of the 13th squadron. Then I pulled-out the provisional cast-on & started knitting up in hazelnut, decreasing a total of 4 stitches at first to make it slightly smaller inside, & then mirroring the shaping of the outside of the coat. Then I kitchenered shoulders (4 of them!) & picked-up for sleeves (4 of them!) & did my best not to let this last bit of knitting do me in... I kitchenered the lining to the outside at the sleeves & neckline, & then sewed the rest together. The haori took 3 days to make. But it fits him, & it works!
So here he is with all of his accessories :) 
And put-together again. All-told, I spent 3 weeks making this amigurumi. It's one of the largest projects I've made in a long time. I am very pleased with how he turned out & feel very satisfied by the creative process of making him. For fellow ravelers, the project page is here. Thanks for reading all the way through this very intense project!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nerd Wars 2 Dissertation Finished, Gallery of Hats :D


 Back in June (before we went to Japan :) I posted about my big summer project, what they call a dissertation for Nerd Wars 2. My proposal was to make 14 hats, one for each week of Nerd Wars 2, to be donated to relief efforts for the survivors of the March, 2011 earthquake & tsunami in the Touhouku region of Japan. The deadline for my original proposal is August 31st & I'm happy to say that I posted the finished project today. Yay!

 Here's a gallery of the hats I made & some commentary on them:

Hat #1) Yotsuba& Hat. The green Fair Isle hat is themed to the “Yotsuba&” manga. The main character, Yotsuba, is a little girl with green hair who wears it in 4 ponytails, like a 4-leaf-clover (which is also reflected in her name, as Yotsuba means “4 leaves”). The design on the hat could be a 4-leaf clover, & it’s green like her hair. It’s made from Knitpicks Swish DK & my own pattern.
Hat #2) This the “Naruto & His Mom” hat. In chapter 498, “My Mom’s Red Hair”, of the Naruto manga we learn that Naruto’s mom was a redhead & that Naruto’s hair is yellow like his dad’s. This hat, made from KnitPick’s Bare DK superwash merino that I dyed with procion dyes, reflects the colours of their hair, & celebrates their reunion. The pattern is Lion Brand’s crochet earflap hat, & I used an I/9.5.50mm hook.
Hat #3) The Tsubasa Sempai hat, in honour of the character from the manga “Gakuen Alice”. This character is a friend & supporter of the main character, Sakura Mikan, & is most often shown wearing a fun & funky hat. His Alice is the power to manipulate people by using their shadow, & the colours of this hat have a strong light & shadow component as well. In the manga he’s often wearing an earflap hat. This hat was made from Knitpicks Bare superwash DK yarn that I dyed with procion dyes & the above-mentioned earflap hat pattern.
Hat #4) The Kobato hat, named for the title character of the Kobato manga series by CLAMP. Kobato is required to wear a hat at all times & the ones she wears are always very cute, often with flowers, bows, & lace. I designed an earflap hat around a motif from the wonderful book that is an hommage to Kobato’s cute hats. It’s made from Swish DK.
Hat #5) Cardcaptor Sakura Hat, from the manga of the same name, also by CLAMP. Sakura wears lot of hats to co-ordinate with the costumes she wears as she chases down the Clow cards to become the Master of the Clow. This knitted baby hat has a colour scheme that reminds me of Sakura plus a star motif on either side like the hat she’s wearing in the picture. It’s made from Serenity sock weight yarn, & the motif is from onion skin-dyed sock yarn, the pattern is my own design.
Hat #6) I’m calling this one the Ouran Cosplay Hat because it reminds me of the cosplay turbans from the manga Ouran Koko Hosutobu volume 13 (pictured below the hat). It’s the The Antelope Hat (a pattern from Ravelry), which I sized down a bit to make it child-size. It’s made from Woolease for easy care.
Hat #7) Nausicaa Hat. I present the hat inspired by the manga by Hayao Miyazaki himself, Nausicaa. It’s the Aviatrix hat (another Ravelry pattern) made from superwash, sport-weight wool that I dyed myself. Plus I added mittens to match.
Hat #8) Bear Hat. This hat (with little bear ears) is dedicated to the character Bear from the Gakuen Alice Manga. Bear was created by one of the students whose Alice allows him to animate stuffed animals using part of his own soul. Unfortunately, this ability also shortens the life the the user. Bear is first introduced as a recluse living all alone in a cabin in the woods, a violent & non-speaking creature who inspires fear in all of the students. Eventually, the main character of the series (Mikan) makes friends with Bear & learns that he’s violent because he feels terrible about his creator having given up part of his soul to create him. Bear becomes a sympathetic character & eventually makes friends.I made it from Woolease yarn & is my own design.
Hat #9) Shikamaru Hat. This hat was inspired by the character Shikamaru from Naruto. Shikamaru is a classmate of Naruto’s & is acknowledged by all to be a genius. He’s also incredibly lazy, just barely passing his classes instead of aceing them because he’s just too lazy to care. Almost all of the adult ninja in Naruto wear camoflage-type clothing (while the kids tend to wear more colourful clothing), but Shikamaru wears camo from the time you first meet him. This would have been a great baby hat for him :) This was made with Berroco Sox yarn & is also my own pattern.

Hat #10) This is the R2-D2 Hat. I designed it myself, & knitted it from Swish DK, using size 2 & 5 needles. It matches the R2-D2 Mittens (see below) that I made for a Nerd Wars 2 challenge. There is, indeed, a Star Wars comic :)
Hat #11) The Pikachu Hat! It’s crocheted from a book of Japanese Pokemon-themed patterns. Pikachu is a popular Pokemon & is featured in manga, anime, & video games. It’s made from Caron Sheep(ish) yarn.
Hat #12) The Pokeball Hat, from Ravelry. Another Pokemon-themed hat made from Caron Sheep(ish).
Hat #13) The Pu-reen Hat. This is the Pokemon called “Jigglypuff” in English (“pu-reen” means “pudding” :). Made from the Sheep(ish) from the Japanese Pokemon pattern book.
Hat #14) The Rang Hat. Rang is a mouse character from the Korean manwha “One Fine Day”. Rang is one of the cutest mousies ever created. I love this series! It’s made from Woolease yarn & is my own design.
Here are some nerdy statistics from my dissertation: 
* I used 7 different kinds of yarn to made these hats, in 3 different weights: worsted, DK, & fingering.
  • I used 11 different patterns, 7 of them from books or other sources, & 5 patterns were my own design. Half of the hats were from my own designs.
  • I used 25 different colours of yarn to make these hats :D
 And here are a few more projects that are going (or have gone) to the kids in Touhouku:

 The Twin Spica hat & mitts are already there, sent in June for one of the Nerd Wars 2 Round 1 challenges,

the Bunny mittens, made for another NW2R1 challenge,

The R2-D2 mittens, made for a NW2R2 challenge,

and the Frog Hat, made for a NW2R1 challenge.

I've also decided to make a pair of mittens for each hat, & so far 9 of the hats have mittens:
Which leaves me 6 more pairs of mittens (if you add the Frog Hat ones :).

And here's what I wrote when I posted the finished project, describing the process of making these hats:

I’m really glad that I was able to use lots of different techniques & yarns to make these hats because I never burnt out on hat-making & kept coming up with ideas for more. It was a lot of fun to theme them to different manga characters, especially since I don’t personally know the children who will receive these hats & so I could put happy thoughts of the characters into the hats as I made them :) Also, because I don’t know the children, I tried to keep in mind what kinds of things people in Japan enjoy or would like in the hats. One thing that’s really popular there (particularly with women & children) is anything that’s cute, so I made a lot of hats that are cute & that don’t require much explanation (for example, the R2-D2 hat, because Star Wars is pretty popular there &, of course, the Pokemon hats). Two of the hats were made while I was in Japan this summer & one of them even sparked a conversation with a lady on the train to Kamakura, which was fun. As of right now, I have made 9 pairs of mittens to match the hats. I will make 5 more pairs to add to the package before I send it, since I don’t feel right sending hats without mittens.
While we were visiting Japan we stayed with a friend who has spent the summer counselling earthquake survivors, many of whom who are suffering from PTSD & other anxiety disorders. She said that things there are still pretty bad because, even though they are working very hard to create new housing for all of the people in shelters, it’s not so easy to recreate livelihoods & fill the gaps left by missing family members. The earthquake & tsunami aftermath are also very much in the daily consciousness of the Japanese & we saw quite a few shows on tv while we were there that showed survivors as they struggle to put their lives back together. In Tokyo, every taxi we saw had a bumper sticker that said “Ganbarou Nihon” (“Do Your Best, Japan!”) & I found stickers at a temple that were being sold to fund relief efforts (& bought a few).
These little hats are not going to put make a huge difference, I know. But I hope that their cheerfulness & warmth will brighten the lives of the children who receive them & also the lives of the people who see the kids wearing the hats.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Presenting: The R2-D2 Hat

After making the R2-D2 mittens for one of this month's Nerd Wars 2 challenges, I decided to make a matching hat for my Nerd Wars 2 dissertation project & send them to Japan as well. So, I got the soy sauce dispenser out again, which I've been using as a model, & found some graph paper with smaller squares. I took the gauge from the mittens (5.5 stitches per inch with Knit Pick's Swish DK & size 5 needles) & decided to make the hat 104 stitches around. I charted half the hat, & decided to add some asymmetry by duplicate-stitch embroidering details, like the blue patch in the middle & the red patch at the bottom. Then I added crocheted accents as well.
The bottom is k2-p2 ribbing (on size 2 needles) for a turn-up cuff in the body colours of the little droid. And to explain the hat's model a bit better:
We used Brendan's C3P0 (dismembered) backpack, which needed a bit of support from Brendan :D
And here are the mittens, to complete the set. I learned a lot form making the mittens, so the hat went much more quickly. Charlie likes the hat best, which makes sense because I had more room to make it all really look like R2-D2. And that makes hat #10 finished & I'm over 75% done with the project! Now I'm working on a Pikachu baby hat- should be cute!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to Making stuff... :D

And back to Real Life... sigh. I'm still napping occasionally, but mostly my body is back in the NW US. My taste buds are still in Japan, though, which means that I'm hungry a lot of the time, because I haven't been buying anything substantial for any meal but dinner (because I'm feeding Charlie & Brendan then, too). I want Japanese food :(  I made miso soup yesterday, which has helped a lot. And I cooked some somen noodles for dinner & served them cold (floating in a bowl of ice water with nasturtiums :) with cold broth & agedashi tofu (deep fried tofu in a cold broth for summer), plus a side of fresh veggies. It was sooooo yummy! Charlie doesn't like cold noodles very much, but he said I could make it once this week & he'd survive- such a mensch! :D

Along with getting my body back in this hemisphere, this past week, I was also catching up big time with my July Nerd Wars 2 challenges. I was only able to make & post one challenge from Japan:
My little Tanabata star tawashis for the mythology challenge. They're hanging in the kitchen now, but I doubt I'll ever use them to clean dishes because they are so cute! I did make some little tawashi things, from the same book as the stars, that fit over a toothbrush to clean my tea strainers, & they work really well.

While I was in Japan I did get to make a few things for my Nerd Wars 2 dissertation (hats for kids in the Touhouko region of Japan). The picture at the top is the Bear Hat (& mittens to match), made in honour of the character of the same name from the manga "Gakuen Alice". I also made this hat:
named for the character Shikamaru from Naruto, plus matching mittens. I made mittens to match the Card Captor Sakura Hat, too while we were away. Yay! My dissertation is over halfway done, with 9 out of the 14 hats made, & I'm making mittens to match them all, so I'm feeling good about how this project is proceeding. The deadline is August 31st, so it's all good :)

So, as I mentioned, in and around shopping, doing laundry, remembering how to drive a car, etc. I have been planning & making projects for the rest of the July Nerd Wars challenges. First up, for the "Alternate Yarnality" challenge (make something out of a non-traditional yarn) I decided to see if I could hand spin dryer lint to make yarn. It was a natural, since I was doing a lot of laundry...
I knew I would have to use a support spindle if I wanted to succeed because dryer lint has, basically, no staple length (the length of the fiber is called the staple length), so it wouldn't support the weight of a drop spindle & would need huge amounts of twist to stay together. I tried a couple different support spindles, as you can see in the photo, & also used lint from two different loads, just for fun.
 The spindle that worked the best was one I made from a size 000 (or something- don't remember how many aughts...) knitting needle & 2 rose quartz beads for a whorl. I worked for about half an hour, making a huge, dusty mess in my lap, & after repeatedly adjusting my technique, I got 3 yards of yarn.
Which I steamed in the microwave after gently washing (gentle was the order of the day with this stuff). After it was dry, I was able to crochet it (gently):
I made a flower with a leaf, which you really can't see, but it makes the flower look odd. Oh, well. I succeeded at spinning & crocheting dryer lint!!

The next project was the scientific method one, & this month you had to actually do an experiment & document the results, plus end up with a finished object of some sort. The question I decided to test was if there's a difference in yarn usage between lace & regular stockinette knitting. As I thought about testing this, I decided that I didn't just want to make swatches of the different knitted fabrics, so I decided to make the swatches part of one project. In Japan I bought a cute bottle sock (to absorb condensation from your water bottle) shaped like a bunny, which works very well, so I decided to knit a bottle sock incorporating test swatches into the design.
Here's the bunny & my knitted bottle socks. I also need to relate my NW2 projects to my team (comics & manga) so I named it after on of the lace patterns (cloverleaf lace) & a manga ("Honey & Clover"), & made a little clover motif at the end of the drawstring. I used Knit Picks Comfy fingering weight yarn & size 0 circular needles & knitted it in the round like a sock. As an experiment, it was interesting but my swatches (the 3 coloured bands in the bottle sock) weren't really a big enough sample to draw good conclusions. Although the moderately-lacy bottom band used more yarn than the stockinette one, the much more lacy top band used almost exactly the same amount of yarn, even though they were both knit to exactly 2" (unstretched). I got a cute bottle sock out of it & could use this design to make others for gifts, if I wanted to, so I am ultimately pleased with this experiment.

Next up, the Giving Geeks challenge, called Puppy Love, which asked us to make something to enrich the life of an animal. I had hoped to make catnip toys for my mom's cats, Angel & Patches, but the catnip (sometimes used for herb tea)  had disappeared- I have no idea where it went. Luckily, I saw a neat pattern made by other folks for this challenge, the Kitty Pi cat bed, so I decided to make one of them instead.
I used various colours of Brown Sheep bulky wool yarn & size 11 circular needles, with an edging of eyelash yarn, & then felted for the first time in my agitator-less washer- something that had me crossing my fingers big time. I wasn't sure it would work, but I put a big towel, a pair of old (clean) sneakers, & 2 tennis balls in the washer with the kitty pi & after 3 full cycles it finally felted. Whew!! I photographed it with plushies because I'm massively allergic to cats :(  My mom was really pleased with it & she's called me twice since I gave it to her, to tell me how much the cats like it :D Yay!

Pause for breath...

Next, I needed to make something for a bad guy in my team's fandom, to answer the Team Spirit challenge. I chose Sesshoumaru from Inuyasha because I've just loved his character for years. He starts out as one of the major antagonists in the series, & I find him fascinating as a character. So I knitted him an omamori- remember omamori? If you followed our adventures in Japan you saw photos of omamori we'd purchased at temples & shrines all over Japan. For Sesshoumaru, I decided to make one with kanji characters for things I wish for him on one side, & then the traditional characters for "omamori" on the other side.
Here's our model of the man himself, with my wish side. The kanji, from top to bottom, are "tomo" (together), "yashashi" (kindness), & "kokoro" (heart).
Here's the "omamori" side next to a real omamori. I tried to mimic the decorative effect of the brocade as well as the kanji characters on both sides. I made it with lace weight Knit Picks Gloss yarn in colours to match his sash, & size 00 circular needles, using the Fair Isle technique (& charting the kanji & decorative edgings on graph paper) to get the colours patterning. The gauge turned out to be ~13 stitches per inch. I slip-stitch crocheted the tie & found a tutorial for the decorative knot on YouTube.
I showed it to Momo when we skyped this week & she said you can read the kanji just fine- whew!!

For my final July NW2 project, I had to do 2 (actually 3) different things. For the Nerd Culture challenge I had to pick another team's fandom, make a project, & then relate it back to my own team. Plus, for this month's Team Unity project, we decided to make things to cover digits & toes. Whew! Choosing the other fandom to honour wasn't hard- I do the Star Wars thing here & at ravelry (with my ravhandle) so I decided to make R2-D2 mittens:
I charted the designs from our R2-D2 soy sauce dispenser (of all things...) & then made the mittens identical to each other- which means that when they're worn, you see different sides together. I also found (in a bin in the basement) my Star Wars Marvel comics, purchased in July of 1977 when I was 19 years old :D to use as my team tie-in. Can't believe I not only still have them, but that I could find them...

I plan to send the mittens to Japan with my dissertation hats. This afternoon I charted an R2-D2 hat to match, which will be the 10th hat for my dissertation! I guess it was good to have so many things to distract me from the jet-lag & re-orientation. And the August challenges are just around the corner. I can't wait!!