Sunday, January 29, 2012

Optical Illusion Cubes

Ok, ok I know it's been waaaay too long since I last posted.  But, once you see what I've got for you I hope you'll forgive that.  It's finally done!!  From time to time you'll probably hear me talk about 'demon spawn' projects.  This is one of those.  I had to do a crazy number of test pieces before I could come up with a satisfactory look.  We're talking weeks of work, which annoyed me to no end.  I prefer it when my ideas work the way I think they should the first time.  Ha!  You would think I would have learned by now that my projects seldom work out that way.  A glutton for punishment, that's what I am.  I would have to be, it's another piece work project.  Infernal stuff, why does it have to look so nice? 

One of my best so far, I think.  Working on this scarf has really gotten me thinking about ways to transform well known optical illusions into something unique and wearable.  The tricky bit is how much effort it takes to keep control of the multiple yarn colors.  I enjoy color work but I suspect the reason people haven't made a bunch of stuff like this is that the level of color work needed is vast and therefore annoying.  I agree, it is massively annoying.  But, if you can survive it, the end product is worth it.  Perhaps somewhere along the line I'll create a better way to handle the multiple strands so they get less tangled without having to keep cutting the yarn.  For that, though, I suspect if it could be done someone would have done it already.  But you never know, I've got a method for color work in double crochet that I've never seen or heard of anyone else using.  Granted, that doesn't mean much as I'm sure there are tons of things I've never heard of out there.  It doesn't change the usefulness of the method, though.  Don't worry, I'll share.  I've not used that particular method in a while but I'm sure I'll come up with something that uses it.  (-:

A few things to know, this is another like the Tim scarf; a little patience and a handful of stitch markers go a long way.  This is not a mile a minute project.  It takes some serious time to make each motif.  I was averaging one motif in 20 minutes.  Did I mention it's only a 4 round motif?  This beast takes some serious concentration.  If you aren't sure you're dedicated or patient enough to make the full scarf you could easily re-purpose the motifs for things like coasters, ornaments, or a small wall hanging.  If you try the coaster route you may want to add a solid color round for edging and to make it a little bigger.  Unlike the Tim scarf though, the truly masochistic crafter could, if they wanted, make this one into an afghan (it won't work with the spiral motifs from Tim; pentagons don't work for a flat piece without extra bits).  I am seriously considering doing just that but I'm not sure I could make that many of these motifs without losing what's left of my mind.   But doesn't it look neat?

The other important thing to keep in mind with this pattern is how you handle the multiple colors of yarn.  To save you the trouble of trying it, I took a picture of what the back of the work looks like if you carry the yarn along as you go versus the front and back of a piece worked with the colors being broken off as you go.

Motif with carried yarn.  It looks disappointing to me, wouldn't you agree?

There really is no comparison.  You can carry the colors, but your scarf will not be truly reversible.  But enough of my rambling, I know you're all eagerly awaiting the pattern.

Optical Illusion Cubes Scarf

Vanna's choice in three colors, about 105 yards each (that's a bit less than a full ball).  I used White (A), Blue (B), and Purple (C)
J hook
6 stitch markers (this project is like the Tim scarf, stitch markers are really super necessary)

Each motif should measure about 3 inches across.

You need to know how to change colors of yarn for this.  The color work is a bit of a pain, what with breaking the yarn repeatedly and weaving the multitude of ends, but makes it look really nice and keeps it fully reversible. See the pictures above for reference.

Break the yarn after each color change and don't carry the tail forward under the next color.  You'll weave the ends back into the same color so there is no cross contamination in any of the sections.  This will keep the scarf fully reversible.

A few notes before you begin.  Use stitch markers.  I really can't stress that enough.  You have to really watch this one to make sure that it doesn't start to curl up on you as it gets larger and the multicolor thing makes it surprisingly hard to track where you are.  Make sure 3 of your markers are directly over color changes and that the other 3 are evenly spaced between them.  If they aren't lined up correctly the illusion won't work.  Should you find that your markers are off, adjust the increase points accordingly to make sure they line up correctly.  Also, be aware of the pattern when you weave in ends.  Pulling the yarn through too tightly will change the shape of the motif and spoil the illusion.  You may also see small gaps where the color changes happen.  You can minimize the appearance of gaps when you weave in the ends by taking the tail through where the stitches were formed.

Optical Cube Pattern
Make 33

With A ch2,
Round 1: Work 2 sc in the first chain, change to B and work 2 sc, change to C and work 2 sc
Round 2: Continuing in C work 1 sc in the first A sc (you will see the chain from the previous row, skip it and work only in the sc sts), change to A, ch 1, PM in the ch 1, sc in same space(increase made).  Sc, ch1, PM in ch 1, sc in the next st (increase made).  Sc in the first B sc, change to B, ch 1, PM in ch 1, sc in same space (increase made).  Sc, ch1, PM in ch 1, sc in the next st (increase made). Sc in the first C sc, change to C, ch 1, PM in ch1, sc in same space (increase made).  Sc, ch1, PM in ch 1, sc in the next st (increase made).  Join with a slst to the final color C st and break the yarn.  You'll have a total of 6 increase points with two sts between them. Move the markers up each row as you make the increases.

Before moving on to the next step I highly recommend that you weave in ends.  It will help maintain the shape of the piece and prevent gaps in the work. 

Round 3:  Join B to the center increase in color C of round 2 (shown above).  Ch 1, sc in the join and sc to  the first marker (2 sc).  Sc, ch1, sc in the marked st.  Work in sc to the next increase point (should be the center increase of color A). 1 sc in the marked st, change to C, ch 1, sc also in the marked st.  Sc to the next marker.  Sc, ch 1, sc in the marked st.  Work in sc to the next increase point (center increase of color B).  1 sc in the marked st, change to A, ch 1, sc in the marked st.  Sc to the next marker.  Sc, ch 1, sc, in the marked st.  Continue sc in A to where B was joined.  1 sc in the same st as the join, then slst  color A to the first sc of color B.  Break yarn.
Round 4:  Repeat round 3, with 4 sts between markers, and weave in ends.


Set the motifs out in the pattern shown below.  Sew them together using purple on blue/purple and purple/white seams and use blue on the blue/white seams.  Be mindful of the points when you sew, making sure the pieces meet as squarely as possible.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I had hoped to be able to post the really epic pattern that I've been working on by today.  Unfortunately, it seems to be taking far longer than I anticipated to complete.  This is a bit of a problem because I've been trying to post things more regularly.  Never fear, for I have another somewhat pattern to share today. But first, some cute.

Not a scene often seen in this house.  Both of my beasties not only being friendly to each other but being cuddly as well.  Normally there's fighting over who gets which spot of lap or just fighting because that's what sisters do.  Having had our cute, we can move to more important matters.  Scrubbies!

Behold!  The great and mighty Scrubbie!!
They may not look like much, but I LOVE Scrubbies!  They are quite possibly the best kitchen invention ever and the home made ones have one serious advantage.  They can go through the wash.  Anything that touches dishes in my kitchen has to be food or washable.  Period.  Sponges are horrible and you won't find any in my house.  I hate sponges as much as I love Scrubbies.  I hate sponges because I'm a microbiologist.  **Danger!  Science Rant Ahead!**  While sponges get the cleaning done, they themselves get dirty so fast it should make your head spin.  The trouble is that sponges hold water and bacteria love water.  Your sponge starts to become a living organism as soon as it gets wet and not just on the outer edges.  They grow bugs all the way through.  Any food bits left on the sponge and any of the food juice that goes into the sponge will become a bacterial breeding ground.  Rinsing isn't enough either.  Bacteria are tiny, they don't need a whole lot to live and spread.  Your damp sponge sitting out for an hour is enough for it to be filled with microorganisms.  You can wash sponges; a nice, long soak in bleach will kill damn near anything as will a go through the dishwasher, but most people just rinse and reuse.  No, antimicrobial dish soap won't help, the bugs just get resistant to it but that's a different rant.  **OK, I'm done now**  Consequently something that works like a sponge that is super easy to clean is fantastic.

This is part of what makes the Scrubbie so great.  These little beasts are fully washable and dryable AND will work on plastics and nonstick without scratching, as long as you don't go overboard with the scrubbing.  I'm sure it's possible to scratch things if you try hard enough, though I haven't managed it, but as with anything you will want to test this for yourself.  Just because my things haven't scratched doesn't mean yours won't and I would feel dreadful if anything happened to someone's nice pans on my account.  I've used mine on dried on potato soup mess and on fruit with equal ease.  Doesn't damage the fruit, scrapes the starchy ick off my stock pot.  Have I convinced you that these things are awesome yet?

You may be asking how something made from yarn can scrub more than the average washcloth.  The secret to scrubbie success is that it isn't just yarn.  Only using yarn will make that average washcloth.  But, if you add some tulle (devil fabric, I know, but it's easier to deal with in this form) with the yarn you get something that works damn near as well as those little green scouring pads that leave green grit in your sink and won't scrape your hands like other scouring pads.

There are a number of patterns around for these, but I don't think one more will harm anything.    I'm also cheap and lazy, so I saved the tag ends of yarn from making pot holders and used them up.  So in a way, this is a 'bonus' project.  (-:

You need:
Small bits of cotton yarn
size 8 needles

Cut the tulle into 1 inch strips.  You don't have to be overly exact on this step, just make sure you aren't dealing with a huge strip.  Then you have two choices.  Tie the tulle strips together, end to end, and roll them into a ball or work with one strip at a time, tying the strips together when necessary.  I prefer the latter because there isn't a tulle ball for the cats to get into.  You now have tulle 'yarn' to use as your second strand.

Tulle strip

All that remains is to cast on, I did about 16 sts for a 4 1/2 inch wide Scrubbie, and work in garter until the piece is 3 inches high.  It helps if you have the tulle sandwich over the cotton yarn, it makes for a better Scrubbie later on.

You'll want to hold the yarn rather loose because the tulle is scratchy on fingers when you get started.  Keeping a death grip tension will not do pleasant things to your hands.  Also, once you start making a Scrubbie you don't really want to stop and rip it out.  The tulle grabs onto itself and is very obstinate about coming un-knitted.  And there you have it.  Everything you need to make a fantabulous Scrubbie to aid in your battle against the never-ending line of dishes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cat Mats

With cold weather truly being upon us, though it hasn't really snowed yet in my corner of the universe, I thought I would take a minute to show off a little project idea that I came up with for keeping my wee beasties happy.  My girls don't like cold any more than I do, especially Cassandra.  I suspect she actually may like cold even less than I do as she tends to start burrowing under blankets and covers well before I feel the need to add blankets.  Of course, I may feel warmer longer simply because a cat's body temp runs at something like 103 degrees which makes them great people warmers.  Anyone with animals knows that it is generally very easy to tell where their furry friend likes to spend the day.  Those without animals may wonder how we can so precisely target the favorite snuggle spot.  Simple.  You just look for the patch of shed fur marring whatever surface it's on.  It's especially easy if you use the fact that light colored cats gravitate to dark colored areas and dark colored cats do the reverse.  In winter it is generally even easier since cats also love to lounge on heating vents.  It was a combination of knowing where my girls like to spend their time and me wanting my blankets back that caused this particular project to happen.  I used to roll up blankets near vents for them but that had the huge drawback of me not being able to use those blankets.  Enter the Cat Mat.

This is my somewhat surly princess, Cass, deigning to model the Cat Mat for me. 

She does like it, she's just grouchy and doesn't much care for being photographed.

The Cat Mat relies on a few feline laws.  1) All your warm spaces are belong to us, and 2) If it is crocheted cats will claim it in preference to any other material in the house.  I'm not sure why crocheted things get this dubious honor and I've always found it a bit surprising that knitted things don't get the same attention.  The girls love to fur up my sweaters, but they always pick a crochet blanket over a knit top despite the inconvenience to me when I have to extract the cat and remove the fur.  Knitware is still the second choice, unless an unwary guest has left a coat somewhere within reach, so I suspect it's something to do with the warmth retention of the fabrics.

Anyway, here we have the Cat Mat.  It's pretty ordinary, just a crocheted rectangle.

What makes this more than just a rectangle is what I built it to do.  When I lift up the Cat Mat, you can see that it is directly on top of one of my vents.

Ordinarily, this isn't something that I would do.  Blocking vents can do bad things, but in this case the vent is not fully blocked.  I used the double stitch pattern to make sure that the fabric was full of holes and that makes a Cat Mat act more like a diffuser.  Air can still pass through it, but it warms the Mat up at the same time.  Thus the cats have a nice, cozy place to nap and I have a floor cover of sorts which is easily removed and washed whenever the fur build up gets too high.  Everybody wins!

To make your own Cat Mats use a nice, fat crochet hook, preferably an N hook or larger and work with double yarn throughout.  The pictured Cat Mat was made with an I Love This Yarn hombre and a Susan Bates M hook (because it is, in fact, bigger than my Boye N hook.  Don't ask me why, I don't know.) Then chain out however many sts you need to be a good size for your cat and go to town with the double stitch, you can find the stitch pattern here, and work until the finished size fits your cat.  They also make great carrier liners.  No more awkward blankets to have to keep track of and untangle the animal from at the vet.  A nice, soft Cat Mat can be made to the size of your carrier.  Mine seem to prefer the mat to the towels I used to use.  I can only imagine that the Cat Mat is a lot more comfortable.

Moving right along, I thought I would share my sweater in progress with you.

I know it doesn't look like much now, but the plan is for it to be similar to a dolman top with a ballet neck and a cinched waist.  I'm working top-down and the needles are at the beginning of the cinch waist pattern.  With luck I'll have the thing done in time to enter it in that Vanna's choice contest.  I've been trying to turn stuff out for that but I keep getting distracted. )-:

I've also been feverishly brainstorming for Halloween decorations.  I've got so many wonderful ideas!  I'm doing my best not to go on about them more than a line or two here and there, but it's so hard!  We'll see how long I can hold off.  I'd like to at least be in February first.  Not being a fan of Valentine's Day, I'll probably go extra bonkers with Halloween plans around then just to protect myself from all the pink.  On the off chance that any of you are as nuts for Halloween as I am, you can check out my Halloween board on Pinterest here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Get Knotted Scarf

Sorry I've been such a non-posting bum lately.  I got distracted by a bunch of little things.  I had intended to get this up on Monday, but I couldn't find my scarf to photograph it.  So I figured I'd do it Tuesday, but then My Favorite Year was playing on TCM and I pretty much ignored everything in the glee of being able to see the super awesome movie.  Then it was Wednesday, and I had a lab meeting at work which kept me late.  Thursday is knitting day and by the time I get home I'm so hungry I can't think of anything but food and Grey's Anatomy.  I know what you're thinking; excuses, excuses.  You'd be right.  But, better late than never...kinda...maybe...please?

Forging ahead, remember how I told you that I was busy making patterns, though I didn't get around to posting anything, over the holidays?  Well, this is one of those.  You see, I am incapable of just sitting and I'm not very good at just sitting and chatting or just sitting and watching a movie.  Consequently, I drag my giant craft bag of awesomeness around with me when traveling. (Plus if I don't have yarn to play with I get really twitchy.)  Then, whenever I had a moment I could go to town on some random project.  Since I had no specific projects in mind I got to create.  However, family time also means getting to help out with a bunch of really random stuff so I needed to make things that were easy enough that I wouldn't lose my place since I might not have time to put a marker in or write down where I stopped.  Sitting in the kitchen learning how to make bread I recalled a pattern I had done work on quite a while ago.  It hadn't worked out the way I would have hoped and I just kinda forgot about it.  It was, however, perfect for working on between doing things.  I could make as many pieces as I wanted and assemble them however worked out.  Before you start thinking I've come up with another dreaded piece worked scarf, let me assure you that this one requires no sewing whatever.  You knot the thing together so it's great for easy assembly.  And, since it is knotted together, the scarf is incredibly versatile.  All you have to do is make a pile of loops, then add or remove however many you need to make the thing do what you want!  (Yes, I picked the name for this one on purpose and yes, I do know what it means.  I'm actually pretty good at British English.)  Enjoy!

Get Knotted Scarf

Caron Simply Soft, in at least 2 colors, about 70 yards total
F hook

Loop gauge:
pinched in half (as shown) a loop is about 4 3/4 inches (12 1/2 cm) long

Loop pattern, I made 9 blue and 9 yellow
Ch 40, join in loop making sure not to twist the chain.
1 sc in each ch around, join and break off.

Thread loops through each other as shown.

Now for the other confession.... it isn't just all the other stuff that went on this week that has kept me away from my blog.  I'm pretty sure you've all figured out that I'm nuts so this next shouldn't surprise you.  As we're a bit into 2012, I feel it's time to start planning out Halloween again.  No, I'm not going to start bombarding you with Halloween crafting updates.  That's for summer time-ish.  The only reason I'm even bringing it up is because I try to keep my posts in line with what I'm actually doing (it doesn't always work, but hey, at least I try) and I've gotten a little (understatement of the year) obsessed about Halloween this week.  I also realized that some of the stuff I want to make is going to take some serious forethought.  I learned a lot from making Corpsy.  He took a seriously long time to make so it's imperative that I get an idea for what I want to do now so that I can plan out when I'm going to make my props for this year.  Also, there are a number of huge advantages to starting preliminary plans now.  Like when my stuff doesn't work (stupid eyes) I actually have a solid piece of time to come up with replacements.  It also lets me take advantage of things like extreme weather.  If I had planned like this last year I could have had Corpsy done in like a week.  With the heat wave we had last year, yeesh, every layer on Corpsy would have dried in a couple hours and been well set by the next day.  I want to try paper mache clay this year and I know it takes a while to dry well, so being able to use the weather to help that along would be much of good.

The other big change is that I'm actually talking about what I want to do in advance.  Normally I keep things relatively quiet unless I found something really cool.  Since I've started this whole blogging thing, though, I don't think that's going to work.  I get much too excited about my props and they take a lot of time away from yarn crafting.  Once I start the formal planning and construction, probably in April and July respectively, my pattern output is going to drop.  It's just going to happen.  But, by spreading out my prop planning and construction I'm hoping that I won't get so far into Halloween that I totally lose track of my yarn crafts.  Not having to rush the Halloween related posts should actually make it easier for me to get patterns up from summer on.  With any kind of luck I'll have most of my construction done well in advance and then I can spend more time coming up with some truly epic patterns.  The other benefit is actually for all you wonderful people that read my blog.  If I create something that you think you might like to try, you *should* have time to do so.  I suppose there's something extra in it for me too, come to think of it.  I'm always up for suggestions and ideas.  The internet is a big place and I'm bound to miss some interesting stuff.  If you come across anything interesting or that might be helpful, by all means let me know!

On to the spoiler, as it were.  This year I think what I want to do is a mad scientist theme.  I'm going to have to re-purpose a lot of my decs for it, but I think it will work.  At the moment my thought is to have some manner of 'parts storage' in the bathroom.  Kinda go with the slasher film shtick; organs on ice in the tub, blood on the walls, bloody towels, dissection kit, that kind of thing.  Then have the 'main lab' in the dining room with labware (beakers, flasks, etc), lab tools (like my microscope.  It's nothing fancy, came in a science kit my parents got me when I was little, but it does work) and some form of monster assembly.  I'll have to change some of how I do food, though.  You can't have a convincing 'monster on the slab' scenario next to a box of kitty litter, it just wouldn't look right.  Consequently we're probably looking at big changes to the menu also.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Joy of Plastic Canvas

Oh, holiday aftermath, how much work you create!  I'm finally starting to get my new stuffs put away.  We go for useful stocking stuffers in my family which typically means kitchen reorganization time for me.  You would think that I could just trade out new for old.  Ha!  That would mean things stayed where they were supposed to.  But, since the kitchen needs it anyway, I figured I may as well get on with the reorganizing.  The first thing I encountered was my favorite drawer in it's usual state of chaos.  This particular drawer holds my most frequently used small tools.  Stuff like measuring cups and spoons, can openers, and veggie peelers live there.  And, like most things in my house, it has gotten progressively more and more out of hand as time goes on.  This is what happens when you wage continual battles with entropy.  Entropy always wins.  It's that "they care, we don't, they win" thing that Douglas Adams went on about.  Also, I'm lazy and have never put any manner of drawer organizer in my favorite drawer.  Stuff just slides about.  It makes entropy happy but makes finding anything harder than it should be. 

This is the sort of problem that I like.  The solution is a simple one which I have used many times and it will make everything much neater with the added bonus of being not at all time consuming to accomplish.  I could, of course, go out and buy some drawer organizers.  This would work and I might have done something like that too, except for one little thing.  I have a glut of plastic canvas.  I got a giant box of it with my grandmothers crafting effects and I've been finding interesting uses for it ever since.  I did all my bathroom drawer organization with plastic canvas and I've used to to contain things in my sock drawer.  Then there's my dishwasher pellet container.  I'm quite proud of that one, actually.  I started using Finish tablets in my dishwasher when Cascade turned against me (Cascade is crap now, btw.  If you're wondering why your stuff suddenly got all cloudy with a weird film, there's your answer).  The box the Finish pellets come in is inconveniently big and cardboard so leaving it under the sink is iffy at best.  My disposal has turned against me before and soaked everything underneath it and, despite it having been fixed, I no longer trust it.  Next problem is that the pellets are small so I couldn't just put them in my storage thingy without them falling through the bars.  So I made a little insert for the storage thingy and it holds my dish pellets where I can get at them easily.

I have no idea why I love my little soap pellet holder so much, but I do.  Isn't it grand?  Back to the drawer though.  Some quick measurements and I'm off! It doesn't take much to do which is why I like it so much.  Plus it costs me nothing but time and not much of that. 

 This is the mess I was starting with.  Everything everywhere.  I took out everything, wiped the drawer, and then put the things I wanted in that drawer back in their relative positions.

Once the bits were laid out I could make a sketch of what I was going for with measurements so I could be sure the end result would fit.

Then it was on to building.  Mark, cut, assemble.

Once I got each bin made, I laid them out and sewed them together for extra stability.

Once everything was together I could put it in the drawer and set to filling it up.  Not everything wound up going where I expected it to, but the overall plan held together well enough.

And this is why I firmly believe that there very few storage issues that can't be solved with some manner of crafting.  Plastic canvas can do some pretty amazing things.  For instance, I needed something washer-like when I rehung my pet net.  The cup hooks I had installed the net with pulled out of the wall and they're too skinny and short for me to try wall anchors with them.  So, I found some nice long screws and built a 'washer' that I could use to keep the pet net from falling off the end of the screw.  Voila!  Instant solution.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Laurels Mini Scarf

I've got a fun one for you today.  The Laurels scarf looks awesome and is super easy to make.  It's one of the things I made over the holidays.  Amazing what you can do between rounds of dish washing, isn't it?  Of course, I ever so cleverly neglected to photograph the first one I made which I, equally cleverly, left with mom since she liked it.  So I got to set about making a second one, hence why it's only now getting posted.  Go me.  On the plus side, I now know that you can make at least 2 of these scarves from one ball of yarn.

Making the scarf has kinda set back one of my other projects though.  Not that it's going all that quickly anyway.  I'm working on a top-down sweater top, which I'm really hoping will turn out as awesome as it is in my head.  I've only done two top-downs so far, my Margaret top and a purple one.  The purple one is almost interesting, but definitely good for a first go.  This new one goes in a different direction though.  It's still in the raglan style but it has more of a ballet neck to it and will be shaped more like a dolman top with more defined sleeves and a cinched waist.  Should be pretty if all my math worked out.  It's taking a while to do, though, even with my Addi's (I got clicks for Christmas, squee!). I got to put the sleeves on holders today.  Anywho, today is my birthday and TCM ever so kindly decided to play Gaslight for me so I'm going to leave you with pictures and the pattern and call it good.  (-:

Laurels Mini Scarf

About 90 yards of I Love This Yarn
I Hook


The final stitch in each row is made in the turning chain of the previous row.  Each row increases by two sts, one on the end and one in the center.
Row 1:  2sc in 2nd ch from hook, ch1, turn.
Row 2: Sc, 2sc, sc, ch 1, turn.
Row 3: Sc twice, 2 sc, sc twice, ch 1, turn.
Row 4: Sc three times, 2 sc, sc three times, ch1.
Row 5: 2 sc in last sc of previous row, ch 1.
Repeat rows 2-5 until scarf measures 60 inches.  End on a row 4, break off.

Below you see a step by step of rows 5, 2, 3, and 4 in that order.  I've included this largely because of how row 3 looks.  It will appear that the leaf is going to face the wrong direction but, as you can see, once you go on to row 4 the leaf looks the way it's supposed to.