Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cherub Costumes

Shortly before Halloween, we found instructions on how to sew eyes all over a t-shirt using reverse applique. Matt was entranced. Hmm, what kind of costumes could we make that would be covered with eyes? Cherubim, of course!

Actually, during most of the design process we thought we were making seraphim, because we relied on the description of seraphim in To Say Nothing of the Dog as "full of eyes round about." It wasn't until we did some fact-checking that we realized cherubim are the ones with all the eyes (Ezekiel 10:12, Revelations 4:8). Think of Proginoskes in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door.

By and large, people didn't know what we were. When we told them, they either widened their eyes in sudden understanding, or narrowed them in confusion (imagining putti, no doubt).

For the eyes, Matt used Lumiere metallic fabric paint on white cotton woven fabric. He made both left and right eyes and eyes looking in different directions. We chose cat eyes because they look cool, and I associate them with dragons, which I associate with cherubim because Charles Wallace at first thought Proginoskes was a drive of dragons.

Using slightly contrasting thread helps define the edges of the eye. You can choose how open you want each eye to be by cutting more or less fabric out of the shirt.

Note that if you are going to sew eyes into long sleeves, you will need a free arm sewing machine. We had to make a last-minute dash to a friend's house to sew in the sleeve eyes.

Matt made the wings from 1" thick upholstery foam. We found some excellent fabric on the remnants table (it's a sheer of unknown fiber content) -- I love how the colors suggest smoke and fire. Matt used spray glue to attach the fabric around the foam wings and then cut feathers along the edge.

We thought that if we attached the wings directly to the shirts they might flop around and distort the shirts, so Matt made rings with elastic shoulder loops that we could attach the wings to. Matt added a sternum strap to hold his wings on more securely.

The rings are made of pipe insulation. A length of garden hose is inserted to connect the two ends, and silicone adhesive keeps the foam from sliding or twisting on the hose.

We sewed the wings onto each ring by hand. We looped the thread around the ring and sewed all the way through the foam. The wings easily got knocked in or out a little, but didn't move off the arc they were sewn to.

On my costume, I added a few small wings made of a double layer of fabric without a foam insert. I hand-sewed these directly to the shirt.

Using removable wings had the added advantage that we could take them off when the dance floor became too crowded.

The costume worked well for dancing -- it was resilient and durable without being too menacing to others or too cumbersome for us.

We wore berets decorated with pinked fabric feathers, which led several people to conclude that we were French or beatnik cherubim. Mais oui! Beat poets would approve of "Holy, holy, holy" as a poetic device, if not for its content.

We also had plenty of help from Nadia "I'm-not-a-cat-but-I-play-one-on-TV."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Prize-Winning Poetry

Matt recently won a poetry-writing contest on Bent Objects with a sonnet about underpants. If you are not familiar with Bent Objects, go visit - it's one of our favorites. (In general, it has nothing to do with underpants). I had two hours before Matt got home from work to create a cake to celebrate his achievement. This is what I came up with:

Red devil cake from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts with white frosting and licorice whip accents. The basic concept is sound and ridiculously easy. Bake a circular cake, cut it in half and layer it. Frost with white icing. The execution was not up to my usual standards given the time constraints. If I were to do it again, I would make a whiter, more spreadable frosting (and enough of it!), probably a whipped cream or a cream cheese frosting. I would also freeze the cake for a bit, so that frosting the cut side wouldn't be such a crumby experience. If I were going whole hog, I would apply a crumb coat (thin layer of frosting to trap the crumbs) to the cut side and then put more frosting over it.

Matt's success has gone to his head, and he has decided to embark on a project to write a sonnet a week. Go see his first effort in that project on his new blog, Sonnetized for Your Reflection. It is very funny.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Crocheted Edgings

After the previous questions, it turns out the answer was painfully obvious, and not one of the ones I'd thought of - crocheted edging.

Still, I tested the idea of crocheted "boning" and it actually was somewhat helpful. It was also virtually invisble on the right side. The idea is that the tightly crocheted bones act to pull the edge back toward the wrong side. I had to pull the yarn fairly tight and it probably would have worked better in a less elastic yarn (I'm using Elann Esprit, a cotton/elastic yarn). The downside is that you would probably have to crochet the bones quite close together to be enough help. The pictures below show the boning after I'd applied the crocheted edge, so you can't see how much it helped, but you can at least see what it looks like.

Right side (to the right of the crochet hook). Yeah, that's the point, there's nothing to see.

Wrong side

Next I tried some crocheted edgings. I did one row of single crochet and then worked back in backward single crochet, or crab stitch. The picture below shows several different variations. None of the stitches look like the illustrations in the book because the yarn is so stretchy, but a couple turned out quite nice. And I think they'll be enough, in conjunction with a few ribs, to tame the roll.

Variation 1a, on the far left side, is crab stitch worked too loosely and looking like glup
Variation 1b, to the right of that, is crab stitch worked fairly tightly; I love how it looks, but it is not very stretchy

Variation 2, as suggested by Vogue Knitting, is crab stitch, chain one, and then skip a stitch of the edging, crab stitch, etc.; this would probably look good in other yarns, but not this one

Variation 3 is crab stitch, chain one and crab stitch into the very next edging stitch; this is a little softer, stretchier and wider than plain crab stitch; it gives the piece a bit more flair at the edge

I haven't decided between variations 1b and 3.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Baby Kimono (and Serape)

The genesis of these projects was an invitation to a tie dye party. I don't much care to wear tie dye, but I'd been itching to try dying yarn. Tie dyes don't work on animal fibers, so I skeined up some Sugar 'n Cream cotton (making a 40-foot skein is non-trivial, by the way), and we came home with this.

Well, that's not quite true. Actually, we came home with this:

And this:

Everyone has some small superpower, and mine is undoing tangles and knots. But even I was sorely tested and started imagining more Gordian methods. Matt died the blue yarn very intensely and didn't tie the skein very thoroughly, so rinsing took a long time and pretty much dismantled the skein.

And here's what we ended up with:

My "serape" isn't quite done. It's in garter stitch and follows the Heartbreakingly Cute Baby Kimono pattern in Mason Dixon Knitting. Matt's kimono is in stockinette (which I think looks much better and makes the yarn go farther). It takes the kimono aspect seriously by making squared off sleeves (so much easier to seam). Only problem is that it still bleeds blue, so will be next to impossible to wash without staining itself.

Here's a closeup of the sleeves for comparison.

I stopped 9 stitches short of the cuff on my seam because I didn't see how else I could get my hand in to pull a baby's hand through. I guess you could call it a design element.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Striped Felted Slippers

When I started knitting again last year, I was resorting to 20-year old stash, and had the '80s colors to prove it. I decided to make my mom some felted slippers from Robin Smith's Felted Slippers pattern on Angel Hair Yarn. Fortunately, my feet are the same size as Mom's. She loves the slippers - says they fit well and are just the right warmth. I did induce her to add some dots of squishy fabric paint to the bottom so they wouldn't be too slippery on her wood floors.

I didn't take a picture of the swatch before felting, but here are the slippers themselves - the athletic sock colors had me worried. Fortunately, as you can see from the first picture, the migration of the black during felting mellowed the colors out a lot.

I was tempted to do the slippers in reverse stockinette, because the back of the swatch looked so interesting after felting.

As is often the case, the white didn't felt quite as well as the other colors, but it wasn't a problem since it was only an accent.

Pattern: Felted Slippers by Robin Smith at Angel Hair Yarn
Size: women's 8 1/2 (10" long after felting)
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky in Onyx (M5), Creme (M10), and Antique Mauve (M85); Reynolds Lopi (I think) in teal; used about 110 yards total
Needles: size 11
Gauge: before felting, 2.9 stitches per inch and 4 rows per inch; after felting, stitch gauge shrank to 89% of original and row gauge to 77% (not obsessive at all, nope)
Felting: in my top-loader it took 3 1/2 washes plus a rinse and spin

  • stripes! although another time I don't think I would do single rows of such a high contrast color as the white - I prefer the effect of solid bands of colors to a row of Vs

  • cast on fewer stitches than instructed to have a lower heel and increased just before where the top got sewed together

Calculating size (the math squeamish should skip this):

  • My foot is 10" long. Dividing by 77% yields 13" pre-felted length. At 4 rows per inch, that's 52 rows.

  • My ankle is 8.5". Ten inches seemed like a reasonable foot opening. Dividing by 77% yields 13" pre-felted. Divide by 2, since half of opening is formed by each side of the fabric. 6.5" at 4 rows per inch is 26 rows.

  • Although the pattern suggests that 32 stitches would be a good final width, that didn't seem quite wide enough to me. 34 stitches at 2.9 stitches per inch is 11.7". Multiplying by 89% for felting yields 10.4" which seemed about right for my 8.5" mid-foot circumference.

Cast on 28 stitches. Knit in stockinette stitch as follows. (Note: do not carry the yarn from stripe to stripe on the first 26 rows, as those edges will be exposed.)
Rows 1-2: mauve
Row 3: black
4-5: white
6-8: teal
9-12: black
13: white
14-16: black
17-19: teal
20-23: black
24: white
25: white (increase 1 near each end; 30 st)
26-27: teal (increase 1 near each end in both rows; 34 st)
28: black (now it's okay to start carrying your colors, but it's probably better not to, as the sewing up looks better if each stripe is done in its own color)
29: white
30-31: teal
32-35: black
36-38: teal
39-41: black
42: white
43: teal
44-45: black
46: white
47: black
48: mauve; start of toe shaping [k2,k2tog] across row
49: mauve; purl
50: mauve; [kl,k2tog] across row
51: mauve; purl
52: mauve; [k2tog] across row
Thread yarn through remaining stitches and pull tight

Here's what it looks like at this point.


  • Fold the cast-on edge, and sew up the heel seam. Here's what it looks like.

  • Seam from row 27-52. Pattern suggests whipstitch for top of slipper, which is what I did. Since it will be felted, it doesn't need to be beautiful, but I do wish I had changed the color of the sewing-up yarn with each stripe. The black that I used ended up showing just a little bit.

  • Weave in ends and ends and ends.

  • Felt using the same method and timing you used on your swatch.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

La Luna es Una Flor Linda

Talk about high pressure photography. Next total lunar eclipse isn't for three years. After a quick consult with dad the photographer and a wide array of exposures (1/25 to 10 seconds), we came up with something decent, although not until the eclipse was just going out of total. I think the white dot on the left is Saturn. Click the picture for a larger image.

And yes, I know the moon isn't technically a beautiful flower, but Matt taught me to love See and Say It In Spanish more for the cadence than the meaning. Besides, it's at least as good as green cheese or rabbit making mochi.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Garterlac Dischloth

A more mundane finished object than the Shetland Triangle, and less well executed (if you click on the picture, you can see I got a little creative in the upper right-hand corner), but pleasing nonetheless. It makes an excellent facecloth.

Pattern: Criminy Jickets' Garterlac Dischloth
Yarn: Lily Sugar 'n Cream, Country Side Ombre (color 02235); nearly all of one skein; the color in the picture is fairly accurate
Needles: size 7 (probably) Denise; I seem to knit more loosely on the plastic Denise than on metal needles, which is more comfortable when using cotton
Gauge: who cares, it's a washcloth!
Size: about 9 inches square; this is larger than the pattern because I decided to add an extra repeat
Comments: I couldn't honestly tell you if the "creativity" in my facecloth was my fault or a pattern error. I tend to follow the directions meticulously until I think I know what's going on, and then ignore them, in faith that the knitting will tell me what to do. If you are new to entrelac I highly recommend that you pay more attention to his pictorial tutorial than I did. (And how on earth did he get his sides so straight? I even blocked, and this was the best I could get.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shetland Triangle

There has been lots of knitting since last July, but no blogging due to Adoption Related Trauma or ART (not the same as art). I hope to post more soon and yes, we're still looking.

This is my first lace project of any size, after cutting my teeth on Branching Out. It makes an excellent beginner piece. I had to tink a lot until my hands got the rhythm, but after that it was smooth sailing without being boring (until the end). I used Silky Wool because I wanted a slightly larger shawl. At first I thought the color was very elegant and restrained. About 2/3 of the way through, I was sick and tired of the baggy brown thing. Now that it's finished and blocked, I'm back with elegant and restrained.

Pattern: Shetland Triangle by Evelyn Clark from Wrap Style; lace pattern is Fir Cone
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Oatmeal (color 41); used 2 skeins (at 190 yards each), plus about 30 yards of a third skein
Needles: size 7 Addi Lace Turbos, 32" (the lace needles were a nice luxury, but not essential) ; bound off with size 8 needle, using lace bindoff
Gauge: 20 st x 26 rows in stockinette
Blocked size: about 60 inch wingspan, and 26 or so inches long

I'm including a before-blocking shot because I think the ripples are so cool. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

I didn't quite think through the blocking process. After soaking the shawl and squeezing it out, I took it to the blocking board and found it was t00 big to block. The bed wasn't an option because it was nearly bed time. So I scratched my head and came up with this - propped the board up and draped the shawl over either side. The back side of the board is not nearly as easy to stick pins in, but it served the purpose.