Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Knitting a Two-Faced God

After knitting lots of amigurumi and other baby stuff (like this super cute pumpkin hat) from bright, cheerful, but somewhat boring cotton yarn, I felt it was high time for a handspun / art yarn project. I've had my eyes on Ianus for years now, a pattern inspired by the Roman two-faced god. As I am always reluctant to spin huge amounts of yarn for myself, it took me a while to actually start the project. It also took me a while to decide on colours, but I am very happy with my choices so far (though I think silvery-grey silk would have been even better for the middle part, but I didn't have any and chose black viscose instead).

First, let me show you the yarns. It's always a challenge to aim for a certain thickness and yardage, as I have no way of measuring while spinning, and fibres behave differently - so I am very proud about these results. They are not exact, but very close.

From left to right: Ocean Ianus (440 m, 110 g), Night Ianus (133 m, 70 g), and Storm Ianus (455 m, 120g). Ocean and Storm Ianus are quite plain, that is to say without add-ins, but with some nice highlights and sparkle (silver and black) and contain mostly merino wool.
Night Ianus is pure viscose with added thread, beads and sequins - lots and lots of them! It took me ages to spin this quite small amount because of all the add-ins. I spaced them about 5-15 cm apart, had to restring several times because I used so many beads and sequins, and was actually a bit frustrated it took so long - but it was so worth the time and effort! I love how it's turned out.

I started knitting right after the first two yarns were finished, and I love how the subtle highlights in the first yarn turned out so far. The amount of sparkle is also perfect, but doesn't really show in the photos, except for the one huge blob ;-) The rest is much more subtle, visible only when light hits it at the right angle, and it's beautiful!

After using a row counter app for a while, I decided to make a row counter from beads and wire which also functions as a stitch marker - this way I don't need the phone and it's also quicker. I put it at the beginning of the round and it can count up to six rows, as the pattern is made up of sets of three and later six rows.

I've made quite some progress already, and after finishing the last yarn I took a photo showing the already knitted part together with the other yarns in the right order. I'm so excited and so looking forward to seeing how they will look when I actually knit them up!

The colours are a bit off, the blue part is actually a blueish, deep teal, but my camera always has problems with teals and turquoises...

I also made a project bag because this project will take me a while and kind of deserves its own bag ;-) Also, you can never have enough project bags! (By the way: if you're interested, there are still a few project bags in the shop, and they come together with matching sets of stitch markers - a wonderful addition to my yarns!)

As always when knitting with handspun / art yarn, I realize how much fun it is. The highlights, sparkles and add-ins turn up more or less unexpectedly, it's exciting and interesting to knit, never boring, and the texture looks and feels wonderful! I am very happy I finally took the time to spin these yarns, and I am very grateful the pattern is now available separately, as you had to buy the yarns called for with it at first. Many thanks to crocodile for the wonderful pattern!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Yarns from the Old Kingdom

My latest two art yarn creations come with another book / audio book recommendation. I've been listening to Tim Curry reading the first three books of the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix, which I liked a lot. Tim Curry did a fantastic job, I especially enjoyed his voice acting for a creature called Mogget, but more on that later.

As with the books by Tamora Pierce I recently wrote about, these books are actually for a younger audience, and they feature young people on the verge of adulthood, their coming of age, and lots of adventures. What I love most about them are once again the female protagonists, their male supporters / fellow protagonists, and the not so stereotypical gender roles. And again, there is not only a token woman / token female warrior who is the exception to the rule, but there are several different women who fight, rule, go on adventures, have powers, show courage and so on. Girls are mentioned in passing to have been trained in sword fighting or hunting, so it seems to be common, which is still rare in fantasy.
The books are about a family of so-called Abhorsens, a kind of reverse necromancers: it's their job to make sure the dead stay dead, and to send the undead back into Death. Death is a kind of landscape for the Abhorsen, they can walk in Death, fight the undead or the evil necromancers there, and do so with the use of seven bells: Ranna, the Sleeper. Mosrael, the Waker. Kibeth, the Walker. Dyrim, the Speaker. Belgaer, the Thinker. Saraneth, the Binder. And Astarael, the Weeper.
The books are set in a parallel universe, the Old Kingdom being a place where magic is very much real and alive, and sharing a direct border with an alternate early 20th century England. The first book is about Sabriel:


Sabriel, daughter of the Abhorsen and herself the Abhorsen in waiting, is informed that her father is trapped in Death and needs to be saved. She sets out with the Abhorsen's sword and seven bells, starting in "our" world and crossing the wall to the Old Kingdom. She faces many dangers and has to fight for her life and the life of others, is joined by new friends and allies, and learns to fly a so called Paperwing - a kind of magic plane made from laminated paper (and magic). To use magic she can use so-called charter marks, which can be drawn or whistled, which is why I put musical note charms in the yarn. I also added a sword, seven bells which tinkle ever so softly, a key (which is the symbol of the Abhorsens), a cat (more on that in a minute), skulls, and a crown (can't tell you about that without spoilers). The yarn itself is mostly blue, with some black and white, as the traditional colours of the Abhorsens are blue and silver, and the Abhorsens all seem to have very black hair.


When Sabriel arrives at the house of the Abhorsens, she is greeted by a creature which usually takes the form of an arrogant cat. He is called Mogget, and he is lazy, sneering, likes fish, can be dangerous, and it's not really clear where his loyalties lie. Very interesting, and very well performed by Tim Curry - and he appears in the other books of the series, too, which made me very happy. And now you know why I put a cat charm in the Sabriel art yarn.
Mogget appears as a white cat with a read leather collar, with a miniature bell on it. So you can see immediately how I chose colours and add-ins for this yarn - I used red silk because leather wouldn't be flexible enough, and I put in more than one bell because of aesthetical reasons.

These yarns are not yet in the shop, but I hope to list them soon. In the meantime, check out the books ;-) The first is Sabriel, the second Lirael, and the third is Abhorsen. There is also a prequel (Clariel) which I can't tell you too much about, as I am still in the middle of it. I wondered whether it would be any good as the blurb seemed a little disappointing after the other three books, but it's very good so far!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Creatures from the Sea (and a Dalek)

Oh, it's been ages since I wrote the last post... I've been very busy working freelance for a market research firm who needed me for several overlapping projects at once, so there was absolutely no time for spinning. It has been quite a stressful time, but it was also very empowering because I realized I could indeed cope with that amount of work and stress, and because my work was much appreciated. So, yay! :-)

I spent my free time knitting and crocheting, as it really helped me to calm down and relax. I will become something like an aunt in October ("something like" because we're not related exactly, I'm talking about a kind of family by choice) and I started knitting lots of amigurumi. It all started with a Kraken, then I made a Seahorse, and I stuck with ocean creatures and made a rainbow jellyfish mobile and some narwhales. Oh, and I also made some jellyfish poi for myself, and I knit a scarf for my sister in law and started a scarf for my dad. I don't want to overload this post, so I'll show you the amigurumi today and might post the scarves some other time - if you're curious you can look on my Ravelry project page before then ;-)

The Fiercely Cute Kraken

When a family with two kids visited us in March, they brought rattling, crocheted octopus toys. I asked my friends whether I should make one for their child in progress, and when I did I even put a rattling device in, too. There is no pattern for this Kraken, as I made it up as I went.

The Seahorse Friend

 I had the pattern for this seahorse in my Ravelry favourites for months, and now I finally got around to making one! It was a fun knit, though a little fiddly at the beginning and end, and I learned new things. I love how I can do so with each new knitting pattern.

The Jellyfish Mobile

A full rainbow of cute jellyfish! For the photo I hung them from a simple stick from the garden, but I want to buy a circlet thing to hang them from. I wanted to use a specific pattern, but it was no longer available when I decided to buy it, and then someone sent me a link to a YouTube video on Twitter from which I took some basics - and then I made the rest up, and did some variations. If I find the time I might write up a pattern, but if I do, it will take a while.

The Narwhales 

I looked for more ocean creatures on Ravelry and found this cute pattern. I made two because I didn't have yarn in the colour of choice when I started, but I desperately wanted to try the pattern. For the second one, I decided on smaller needles, and here I also did the wings from the pattern, which I chose not to make for the first one. Again, it was fun to knit, again a little fiddly (the wings took ages! But it got better after the first two feathers), and again I learned a lot.

I also meant to show you a Dalek I made ages ago, but then forgot all about it - it's not from the ocean, but it has the right colour to fit in this post ;-) So here it is!

The Blue Dalek

Easier than I thought! I improvised with the attachments, the rest is from this pattern. This is not for the baby, of course, but I gave it to my sister in law who is a huge Doctor Who fan.

I also worked on some new yarns for the past few days, and will continue to do so until the next market research project. I often post work in progress photos on Facebook and sometimes Twitter, so if you're curious you're very welcome to follow! :-)
I will probably show some of the new yarns here on the blog, too. Especially the ones which come with a book recommendation - stay tuned! :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kyprioth Art Yarn - Inspired by Fantasy Novels by Tamora Pierce

I love listening to audio books while spinning. I used to watch TV series, but I always miss something when I'm concentrating on the yarn, so I can only watch things I already know or have to accept that some things will escape me. After finishing the Gentlemen Bastards series (which I wrote about here) I returned to books I enjoyed reading years back - the Alanna the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. These books are for teenagers, strictly speaking, but I love them and will read them or listen to them over and over! I decided to stay with the author and listen to some of the books I hadn't read before, among them the Trickster's series. As always, new yarn ideas formed in my head, but first let me tell you a little about Tamora Pierce's books and why I love them so much. Photos of the yarn and spinning process will follow below!

The books feature strong female protagonists, on the verge of coming of age. They are diverse, they have believable flaws and problems one can relate to, they have their special skills and strengths, they often have to fight hard for their right to do what they want (something many of us can relate to, too), and they are essentially feminist. There are also many more (different!) female characters in the books, all with their own strengths, and all complex characters - not the single, simple token woman we find in many other fantasy books. There are non binary and gay people (in the Beka Cooper series), the books are sex positive without being in your face, they cover racism (up to a point) and sexism. And the stories are interesting (and sometimes really enthralling) and well written.

I wish I had had these books when I was a teenager! I could have identified so much better with Alanna or Beka Cooper than with the protagonists from so many other books. I only got to know them when I was in my twenties, when I met Twisted and she recommended them - thank you, over and over! ❤️‍
Alanna is still my favourite, and I warmly recommend the series to anyone who doesn't mind it's meant for teenagers (hello, Harry Potter fans! ;-)) and to people who need a gift for a fantasy loving teenager.

But now for the yarn! As I said, I was listening to the Trickster series (the books are Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen), which is about Alanna's daughter Alianne who is captured by pirates, shipped off to the so called Copper Isles as a slave and tries to find her way home. She meets the Trickster, the god of the Raka people of the Copper Isles, who are people of colour enslaved by the white-skinned Luarin and their gods. Alianne, who is called Aly throughout the books, makes a bargain with the Trickster to keep the children of a certain family safe until the winter and he promises to return her to her home after that. I really don't want to reveal too much, so let me just say there is a greater scheme and cunning plans, lots of witty dialogues, and many strong female characters (also interesting and diverse male ones).

The yarn I spun was inspired by the Trickster god Kyprioth and the Copper Isles. It fits in my corroding copper yarn experiments (like this one and that one), is also reminscent of the ocean aroung the Copper Isles, and features beautiful copper spirals, handmade by myself of course. And now for the photos!

 Handmade wire spirals, hammered flat and later spun in.

I chose blueish teal for the ocean and resembling corroding copper, and coppery rusty red, and lots of copper sparkle for the fibre blend, and faceted glass beads to match. 

 I didn't thread the spirals onto the sewing thread with the beads, but chose another method instead, fixating them with a kind of knot to make them more secure.

Finished! :-) I have to admit, being in my favourite colours, this one is hard to part from. My camera had slight problems with the teals, as always, but I edited the photos and they look right on my monitor. I love the colour contrast, and the add-ins and sparkle!

I hope to list this yarn very soon - maybe later today, or tomorrow. Thank you for being patient and reading this very long thing! :-)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rainbow Yarns

I've been making rainbow yarns! The first one was a custom order for someone who wanted an Over the Rainbow art yarn with lots of sparkle and some bird charms and beads, to make into a wall hanging for her grandson.

As I was working on the custom order, someone else asked me whether I've ever spun a rainbow coil / beehive art yarn, like the Tentacles one. When I thought about it I couldn't really understand why I'd never done that, or, in fact, why I never spun any rainbow yarns at all. I did think about it now and then, but somehow I never got around to actually doing it. So, when I forgot to put the sparkles in the batt for the requested rainbow yarn, I ended up with another batt and I did turn it into a beautiful coiled art yarn. I love the in progress photos, with all the rainbow fibres, and want to show you:

 This was the second batt, which became the first yarn (the one with the birds), with lots of glitter.

 This was also taken while preparing to spin the custom yarn - I made four rainbow repeats and layed out the fibres accordingly.

This is the second yarn, with lots of coils (though without sparkle), which I spun in rainbow order from red to purple and then back from purple to red.

 And the finished yarn. I really need to take better photos, but there wasn't time yet. I really love this, and I am very in love with coils and beehives at the moment (not for the first time) :-)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Marvel Heroes in Middle Earth?

It's been quiet around here and the shop, at least it seemed that way - but behind the scenes there was a lot going on! I had a lot of custom orders which made me very happy, especially as my customer let me be creative and make all the choices. Also, she picked themes I like myself ;-) In this case, it was some Marvel Superheroes as well as some characters from Tolkien's Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

(Clicking on the picture should show a larger version)

Starting with the top left corner, we have: Ringwraith, Spring Spirit (the only one which doesn't fit the themes, as it was a previously spun and reserved yarn), Galadriel, Thorin Oakenshield, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Galadriel's Temptation, Loki (second version, I spun one before), Captain America, and Gandalf the White.

I'm in love with all of them, but I think my favourite is Thorin Oakenshield. I used different naturally-colours fibres instead of the ususal dyed merino, and the texture is different from my usual yarns. The spun-in wool locks add to that, and I like the add-ins I used - sword charms, and square beads which I think work well as a representation for armor.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two-Faced Sorceress

The knitting frenzy is still going on and I finished something else - the Sorceress hood I already mentioned. Is is worked in two flat pieces which are sewn together in the end. The pattern was easy to follow, but I must have made a mistake at some point because I ended up with two identical pieces instead of them mirroring each other. I wondered whether to frog part of the second half, but I had no idea where I had made a mistake (and thus, how to fix it), and I didn't feel like unravelling so much work. So I was very frustrated until my husband suggested for me to finish the thing and call it Twoface. Somehow that made it better and I decided to go with it.

As I'm writing this I suddenly think I know where I must have made the mistake (I must have increased for the hood part on the wrong side), but now it's done and finished, and I like it. I think it's not even visible in this photo, but the rib pattern on one side differs a little from the one on the other side. Well, it's still a beautiful piece :-)

In other news, my days have been busy with writing several job applications, some of which are more important to me, and much more difficult to write than others. There hasn't been much time for spinning and tending the shop, but I hope I will be able to offer some new yarns next week. Until then, please wish me luck with my applications, there are two fantastic, interesting jobs I'd love to get (well, one of them, anyway).


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