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!!

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