Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Rainbow Unicorn Woobie for My Baby Boy

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child (who am I kidding, this started before I knew I was pregnant) I started queueing tons of baby patterns for my little WIP.  I made Lucky a woobie Zebra.  I wanted to make something on a similar theme, so when I saw the Unicorn Woobie in the Woobie Pattern Collection Series 2 I knew that this was going to be a winner for my second child.  It didn't matter the sex, boys can like unicorns, too!  I wanted to make it rainbow so I am counting back from previous woobies to divide the main blanket section into equal stripes.

In August I finished a Monkey Woobie for the first born to Lucky's godmother.  I wanted the woobie unicorn to be the first thing I started for my little WIP (besides the pregnancy announcement) but I didn't really feel like making a second woobie immediately after finishing one.  Therefore I decided to cast on some of the embellishments and then proceed with the woobie itself.

I used shine sport in Serrano (red - 6 g, 13 yards), Clementine (orange - 11 g, 24 yards), Dandelion (Yellow - 17 g, 38 yards), Macaw (green - 18 g, 40 yards), French Blue (blue - 22 g, 49 yards), Iris (purple - 24 g, 53 yards), Cosmopolitan (pink - 2 g, 4.4 yards) and white (83 g, 183 yards) and size 3 (3.25 mm) knitting needles.  All weights are rounded to the nearest gram.  To see the complete before and after weights check out the Ravelry project page.

Planning the Stripes
I kept detailed notes on all of the woobies, but in particular the Monkey Woobie since I just completed this project the day before starting the unicorn.  (I'm exactly 20 weeks behind Blue Harvest's Mama.)  In the monkey there were 52 Brown rounds + 3 cream rounds between the double picot edge and the closure for the head meaning that there are 55 main blanket rounds.  I can do stripes of 9 rows in Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and then 10 rows in Red.  I'll switch back to white for the head before I criss-cross the stitches to secure the head bottom.

Notes from Construction
  • I decided to start with the smallest parts for this Woobie.  This way I can really work on the finishing details when I complete the head of the unicorn.
  • White Ball 1 weighs 50.6 g
  • I cast on with the long tail cast on.  The next round is Round #1.  AHHHH I haven't made this mistake in so long!  I'm 9 sts away from the total and I'm out of my tail.  Grrrr time to rip out and start over.
  • As with the other woobies, I do my decreases differently than is written in the pattern.  Slip the first stitch of the round, knit until 2 sts before marker and make a cdd.  The first slipped stitch becomes part of the last cdd.  
  • I finished white ball 1 in the middle of round 15.  White ball 2 weighs 51.2 g.
  • On Round 22 I switched to purple (purple round 1, ball weighs 50.9 g) and folded over the hem.  Now the project will start picking up speed!  Not only am I starting stripes of 9 rounds each, but the rounds will get smaller and smaller.
  • The extra decreases started in the middle of the orange stripe.  I started the additional deceases as follows: S1, K 15, CDD, K14, CDD around.  
  • When I hit 28 stitches, I knit one more round in red before switching to the additional "next round" decreases in white.  My math for the striping was spot on!  Everything went according to plan!
  • As I finished up the woobie I'm super excited that I've already knit the little bits and pieces so I can focus on finishing my fabulous unicorn woobie.  

Unlike the other stripped woobies (zebra and tiger), this woobie has a bunch of loose ends to weave in.  I'm missing the whole carry the ends up with you as you go thing.  I wove in all of the loose ends before tackling the finishing of the woobie face.

I'm glad that I have my woobie zebra on hand to compare to.  The face is a little different but this will help me figure out the placement of the ears at least.  It was a lot easier to place ears evenly when I could sew them along a stripe.  This is going to be a bit more difficult.

The ears were much easier to secure on than I remembered.  I tacked the inside edge of the ears to some stitches a little further away so they would stand upright like a horse versus falling down a bit more like a cow.  (Now I sort of want to make a cow woobie.  There isn't a pattern in the collections from what I've seen but I think you could add some spots and turn one of these horses into a cow pretty easily.)

Horn first or eyes first?  The pattern has you do the face first but I decided to start with the horn so I can decide where the eye placement will work the best.  I'm more confident in my whip stitching then I am in my embroidery skills.  I'm really proud with how well the embroidery came out.  I think that having the horn in place actually did help me find the right stitches to embroider around.

For the Zebra's mane, I used 3 strands at a time and applied them in 3 rows of 7 deep.  For the unicorn, 6 deep will be perfect so I can do a rainbow mane.  For each fringe I cut two 6" colored pieces and one 6" white piece.  I started with red and then worked my way towards the back of the head in the rainbow configuration.

Cutting fringe pieces is much more fun when you are making a rainbow!  I knew exactly how many pieces I wanted and so the cutting went super fast.

I started the first row way too far back and needed to move up again so it started immediately after the horn.  Other than that the fringe application was very straight forward.  Once again, I felt confident with the placement due to the position of the horn.

Someone needs a haircut!  

I'm in love with my little unicorn!  If I were to do it again I might make the mane solid, but I think that the white through the whole mane holds it together.  I'm 21 weeks (almost 22) the day I finished this woobie and I'm so happy to have something for my new little boy that will be HIS and not just a hand-me-down.  I am excited to reuse many of the hats and vests that I made Lucky, but I want to make sure that Boogaloo gets some things that were made specifically for him, too.

Lucky was at school when I finished up the woobie so he hasn't really seen it yet.  I'm wondering if he is going to run off with both of them.  At just shy of 2 years old, we're not sure if Lucky understands what being a big brother means (although he knows that Indy is HIS big brother), but we're optimistic.

Now that this project is done I have to sit down and take a real and hard look at my queue.  What can I finish by Christmas/Chanukkah?  What baby items can I realistically hope to finish before my delivery?  This pregnancy is making my "to do ASAP" queue much longer than it was before!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dinosaur Nursery Chalkboards

I loved the whale chalkboard I made for Lucky's nursery, and I knew that if I ever had a second child I'd want to do something similar with a different theme.  Well we're expecting our next child and before even finding out the sex of the child I knew that I wanted to have a dinosaur themed nursery.

We chose paint in purple, Campground (green) and Dark Grey for the chalkboard.  The vision is to have a Brontosaurus body on the lowest (green) chalk board and then have the neck go through the purple with the head on the top (gray) board.  The shade of gray is the same one that we used on Lucky's whale, so there is some cohesion on the project.

I couldn't remember what size canvas I used for Lucky's version, but thankfully I had the blog post so I was able to look back at the pictures to discover we used 9x12 canvases.  (See!  The reasons to document everything in my "lab notebook" are really helpful when you want to reproduce something!)

This green is going to need more than one coat.  The Orange and Black from the Halloween display were much thicker after the first coat!  

Funny enough, I'm working on this dino decor exactly one year after I made Lucky's whale chalkboard.  While working on this post I got a Timehop of me painting the backgrounds of the original chalkboards.  I had no idea 1 year ago I'd have such an important WIP on the way!  I'm really hoping that the purple and dark gray are darker than this green, after the second coat it is still super streaky.

It took 3-4 coats of each of the colors to get even coats.  It felt like this took forever because I was running up and down stairs on different days to try to get this completed.  Finally I was able to add the chalkboard paint coats, the first vertical and the second horizontal.  Once this dries I'll be ready to start attempting my dinosaur design!

I know that I want to draw a Brontosaurus (there are other names for this type of creature, some may be more accurate for this sauropod, but this is the one that comes to mind the fastest.)  I want the head on the top panel, the neck extending in the middle and the body on the first.  I just have to figure out how I'm going to line up the silhouette.  This vision of the dinosaur print was the whole inspiration for the dinosaur nursery, an inspiration I had upon finishing up Lucky's whale print.

Chalk can wipe off, right?  How hard can that be?  Well I had a chalkboard for Lucky's first birthday and the chalk pen didn't wipe off as easily as I would have hoped.  Something about the alcohol in it makes it stick more.  I decided to attempt the first outline in real chalk so that I could have an easier time erasing if needed.

Unfortunately I accidentally deleted the first sketch of the dinosaur off of my camera so I can't share it with you, but the normal chalk stick wiped off really easily so I could get the shape I wanted.  The tail took me a few tries, but the head and legs only took one correction.

With these canvas chalkboards, you really do want a chalk pen to do any substantial drawing or writing.  You can't use enough pressure with a chalk stick to make a dark line, let alone fill it in!  I could have extended my brontosaurus head higher up on the purple board but I didn't want the neck to become even more comical than it is.  There is no way this tiny tail could balance that neck!  To help fill out the space I added a sun since this baby boogaloo is my sunshine boy.

Isn't she cute?  I am so happy that I was able to create the vision that I had in my head.  This was much harder than the whale chalkboard because for that project I had something to work from, this image started out in my brain.  I may do some design work, but I wouldn't consider myself an artist so this is quite an accomplishment for me.

I really liked how the hanging ribbon turned out from the Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet! canvas, so I purchased some 5/8" ribbon and cut two 1.5 yard strips and glued them to the back of the canvas with elmer's glue.

Since we're working on hanging things up (finally) in Lucky's room, too, I also added some fun polkadot ribbon to the Whale chalkboards.  This will be MUCH easier to hang up and we won't have to use tick tack to keep it on the walls like before.  

I can't wait to keep working on little Boogaloo's nursery!  Please let me know if you have any fun Dinosaur Nursery ideas!  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I couldn't get enough of snow dyeing!

The first time I tried to snow dye yarn (last February), I had so much fun that I couldn't stop.  Before I knew it I had created THREE additional snow dyeing videos.  I even filmed some of them in tandem since the snow took so long to melt.  Today I'm going to show some behind the scenes thoughts on snow dyeing roving with food coloring.  I chose Wilton's Violet because I was hoping that with the melting action we would get some color breaking.

Some tips before you begin:  Make sure things are cold before you start so you don't shock the fibers, I presoaked my wool in the fridge so it would cool down.  I also cooled down the dye solution so I would not immediately melt the snow upon dye application

The first technique I did (snow dyeing with Kool Aid) would work with ice dyeing, but this wouldn't work as well with ice.  You could get some really cool patterns I suppose pouring liquid dye on top of ice, but by gently applying the liquid to snow, it will take some time to soak through onto the fibers.

The snow was MUCH denser this time.  How could this be if it were from the same snow?  I collected the snow last night and put it in my back hallway overnight which keeps stuff frozen, but it must have been just at 33 or 34 degrees so some melted a bit to make it dense heavy snow, versus fluffy powder.  I put an entire bucket on the two hanks of fiber where I only did a fraction of a bucket last time.  This will take all day to melt!  I hope I don't need to shower later today...

What could go wrong?
  • The fiber could be felted because it was shocked from the cold
  • Not enough vinegar in the fiber, color added but won't absorb, rinses out after setting
  • The dye itself is too pale to show up on the grey fiber
  • I heat the yarn too soon, shocking hte fibers and felting it.  

But ooo, I'm getting excited about being able to do an over dyeing video if this doesn't turn out the way I want.  How exciting!   At 2.5 hours I peaked and I see a litlte pink on one corner of fiber.  Is this hope?  I hope it penetrates!

While waiting for the snow roving to finish up, I started feeling pessamistic about the amount of color that would be depsoited in the roving, and decided that I wanted to take advantgae of the fresh snow and dye some more roving, this time with KoolAid.  I know how well that workd with the first bit of yarn, so I will set up some roving with KoolAid (and some silk hankies with KoolAid) to dye overnight.  (Stay tuned, I'll provide some behind the scenes throughts from these dyeing experiments by the end of the year!)

I started filming at 8:40 AM and the snow had just barely melted by the time I was ready to head to bed that evening. (The bathroom was the coldest room in my old apartment, but still... brrrr!)

When breaking Wilton's violet with snow, I kept saying in the video that this is happening differently than when dyeing in solution, that the blue moves more and the pink less.  This is actually happening the same.  The blue is moving faster than the pink, what is different is that the blue would strike the fiber first.  There was a potential for there to be fewer blue areas on the fiber and the pink to be more spread out, but we actually see pretty even blue/pink distribution over the finished fiber.

This grey is a lot lighter than my overdyeing charcoal grey experiment, but it is still hard to see if any color absorbed.   That definitely took some red hues, right?

I nuked the fiber in the microwave for 3 min in 1 min intervals until hot to the touch.  Then I let it cool down overnight (just because I wanted to go to bed.  It has been a LOOONG day of dyeing!)

What, no picture of the final product?  Watch the video to see where we ended up!  What would I do differently next time? I'd try to use fresher snow. This snow was wet and heavy and therefore took FOREVER to melt.

I took advantage of the massive snow storms in February to try some snow dyeing. We know that we can break Wilton's Violet food coloring into the teal and fuchsia colors through dip dyeing and hand painting, but what happens if we let the dye diffuse through snow before it hits the fiber?

Video Contents (Skip ahead to the part you need!)
[0:00] Introduction & Materials required for Snow Dyeing Wool Fiber
[0:50] Presoaking the fiber in cool water/vinegar solution
[2:13] Mixing the Wilton's Violet Food coloring Solution to apply to the snow
[7:04] Covering the pre-soaked wool fiber with snow
[13:07] Adding dye to the snow
[16:22] 15 min post dye 
[17:27] 50 min post dye
[17:54] 2 h post dye
[18:15] 4 h post dye
[19:15] 5 h post dye - close up
[20:05] 5 h 40 min post dye - is any blue sticking?
[21:41] 7 h post dye
[22:20] 10 h post dye - transferring to plate
[25:23] Microwaving the fiber to set the dye with heat (3 min on high total)
[26:03] Washing the fiber (the moment of truth! Will the color come out?)
[28:11] Reveal of the dry, died roving and conclusions

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sheet Music Flowers

When do you do when your best friend requests a Beatles themed baby shower?  Well you look and try to come up with a bunch of fun Beatles crafts!  When I was looking for music inspired decorations I saw someone who had made origami out of sheet music and knew that I wanted to try to do this myself.  I found some instructions for Easy Origami Kusudama Flower plus a video and decided to give this a try.

I printed out a bunch of Beatles sheet music.  I searched in google images for high resolution files (at least 2 MP) and those were a bit stronger. Ideally I wanted songs with lyrics on them so they could be identifiable (each flower would have 5 different songs), but ended up with maybe 16 distinct pieces of sheet music.  Some of the songs were repeats, but they were visually different so I let them count.

I followed the following instructions (the formatting of the page is a little wacky, scroll down and you can see the step by step images) or watch the following video when I wanted to make sure I was doing things die.

Before I got started, I needed to create my sheet music squares.  Since the first origami step was to fold the paper in half on the diagonal with the color side out, this is how I folded the paper to cut a strip off of my squares.

I don't think I've worked with rubber cement since I was in elementary school.  I remember that we would paint our desks, rub it off and make "bouncy balls" out of what was left... boy were we smart.

The folds, right before gluing
The cement is much goopier than I had remembered, and I was bummed to see that my brush started out split and stiff.  However since precision wasn't essential here I easily was able to assemble petals into collections of 5 for my flowers.

I'm sure glad that rubber cement dries quickly!  To assemble the flower itself I would glue two petals together, and then connect two pairs and a single to make the 5-petal flower.

What is sticking out the bottom of my flower?  Why that is a chopstick. I wanted to turn these flowers into centerpieces for the baby shower, so I needed a way to incorporate them into a vase.  While the 5 petals were still recently assembled (i.e. the glue was still wet) I dipped the chopstick tip into rubber cement and stuck it through the bottom of the flower.  It required that I hold onto the flower for a little bit so things would dry correctly, but I think my prototypes turned out really nicely.

When my goal became 16 flowers, I created an assembly line.  I created a pdf of 16 different songs, so I cut these down to squares, folded the petals and then assembled the flowers in batches so I could try to avoid having identical song pages in each flower.

Not that it think anyone will be looking at these flowers too closely.  I doubt anyone would notice a mistake unless they spent time trying to match the flower to the song.  I cut holes in an upside down box to hold the flowers up so they wouldn't get crushed between my crafting time and the shower itself.  

Sheet Music Flowers look amazing in all colors!

Stay tuned to see how the baby shower itself came together.  I'm pretty proud of what we were able to do for a lucky new mama-to-be!  (Happy Anniversary!!)