Friday, October 30, 2009

Dia de los Muertos!

Happy Halloween and Feliz Dia de los Muertos to everyone! There are lots of reasons these holidays are among my favorites, but do you really need a reason to love a holiday centered around playing dress-up and eating candy!? True, Dia de los Muertos isn't quite like that, but nosotros Americanos get the best of both, que no?

There are lots of Dia de los Muertos Festivities in NYC this year (as, I'm assuming, there are every year), not to mention the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village and general mayhem that will undoubtedly ensue (and I use 'mayhem' in the most endearing of ways--Witch's Honor!), so I decided it would be fun to make myself a Dia de los Muertos-style Mexican Sugar Skull Tote to carry the sundries that I'll need with me for these celebrations.

I thought it would be fun to use Calavera (one of my Living Dead Dolls, pictured in the first photo) as the inspiration for my tote, though the project sort of led itself after a while, as creative projects are wont to do. I started with a plain white canvas tote bag, some black kraft felt, & some Aleene's Tacky Glue, then went stash-mining for other bits that could be used for decoration.

I sketched out the 'framework' of my design on the totebag (it didn't erase very cleanly, and you can see it if you look closely; I probably should have used fabric chalk), then traced stencils for the felt bits onto some paper. After using these to cut the eyes, nose, and forehead medallion out of black felt, I glued them into place, then began gluing yarn in place for the features, and embellished with silver-lined glass seed beads. Don't the red ones look like pomegranate seeds? Mmmmmmm, pomegranate....!

This was definitely a very last-minute project, as I just thought of it today, and I wouldn't really have time to work on it again before these holidays start. If I were to make another, though, I think it would be a good opportunity to give couching a go, and it's definitely a good start for some actual beading. I understand that using glue is rather persona non grata in the beading world; hopefully my naivete will save my future reputation in this case!

Aside from the out-and-out radness of being a fun crafty project, I liked this one because I was able to do it for so cheaply! The yarn is Red Heart Sport yarn that I bought on clearance as a dewy-eyed newbie--before I realised I don't like knitting with acrylic yarn--and it's been sitting in my stash since. I inherited the seed beads from a friend who was cleaning out some of her craft stash. I initially had another use for them, but that project has fallen by the wayside, so they were more than available for this one.

In all, the only purchases I made specifically for this project were the blank tote bag ($3.99) and the kraft felt ($0.30 per sheet--I bought two, but ultimately used only one). Really, there are only so many ways to have hours of fun for less than $5.oo, and I just discovered another!

Now there's just one question on Calaverita's mind: Trick? Or treat?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Natural

The Splendor Boys are on a roll! It's exciting to have so much in the way of new knitting projects and patterns to show you, and it's really exciting to think about what we have in store. I can gleefully assure you that there are more than hats on the way, and more than a few things that are as exciting to knit as they are to look at!

Pattern: The Natural -- a Splendor Knitting pattern by Homero Luna
Yarn: Jamieson's Shetland Heather in Charcoal
Needles: Addi Turbo Circulars in Size US7

This hat combines basic cabling and great yarn for a look that is classic, wearable, and satisfying to knit. It's pretty much a natural progression from your first hat to something a little more challenging, but not so much so that it's completely overwhelming. The Shetland wool--much heralded for its durability by Knitting Demigod Elizabeth Zimmerman--is definitely sturdy, though it softens considerably into "I could wear this on my head" comfort with a gentle wash. I personally really enjoy heathered yarns for the way they add visual texture and interest while still being 'calm' enough to not overwhelm or obscure a cable or lace pattern. You can pretty much bank on seeing more use of heathered yarn from this knit-whit. But back to the hat...

As mentioned above, this hat was envisioned as a transition between basic stockinette or ribbed patterns and cabling, and it uses one of the simplest cable patterns around. There are actually three 'versions' of the cable used (all explained in the pattern notes), as the decreases are done 'in pattern' and the cabled sections become narrower in the crown shaping.

I enjoy knitting in the round to the extent that I don't knit flat unless there really is no other way to accomplish what I want by knitting in the round--obsessive a bit, I know. The good news, though, is that hats are perfect for round knitting. I'm also an avid proponent of Magick Loop knitting, so naturally the sample shown was knit with that method. Some early versions of this hat were knit on double-pointed needles, though, and the cable pattern repeats over eight sections, so it could easily be divided over some DPN's, if that's your preferred method of round knitting.

This version is, naturally, written to cover my rather-large head (and my super-thick curly hair. I'm not bragging, I promise; it's kind of a pain to deal with, but I digress...), though the ribbing and cabling make it comfortable for a range of head sizes. The un-stretched circumference is approximately 14", and it fits my 24" head, so it will comfortably conform to any size in between. The pattern also includes an option and instructions to make the hat a bit shorter--which is a consideration for smaller head circumferences. In short, this hat will most definitely fit you--and look great!!!

You can download the pattern PDF for The Natural free from the Splendor Knitting Ravelry Store, or by clicking the download button below. As always, you don't need to be a Ravelry member to download here, from our blog.

Happy knitting, everyone, and stay tuned for more good stuff coming soon!

UPDATE 11.12.2009: We've posted a revised version of the pattern. The updated pattern includes some clarification on the cable repeats and we fixed a bit of errata in the crown shaping section. When you download now, your document name should be "Splendor Knitting THE NATURAL V2.1"; this is the updated copy.

UPDATE 12.29.2009: Les explications sont aussi disponibles en fran├žais. Merci beaucoup a Marina Orry pour faire et oufrir cette traduction sur son blog!

EDIT: Visit for more knitting patterns by Homero Luna.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Props for Splendor & Updates

Hello to all of you out there in the blog-o-verse! The past few weeks have been serendipitous and exciting and BAM! Here I am to tell you about it!

Firstly, Splendor has gotten a couple of mentions in other blogs. Here we are featured with several other fun knits in Discovery Channel's Nerdabout NY blog. The post is about DIY Knitted Halloween costumes, so they shared our Swine Flu Masque and the Viking Toque I knitted for my friend Corey.

More recently, we got some English luv when Simply Knitting--a UK-based knitting magazine--shared a review of our blog. It's mildly amusing that they have Davitron and I both living in NYC, but I understand that it's not really clearly stated anywhere that this isn't the case. Just to clarify: Davitron lives in Portland, Oregon (a.k.a. 'PDX'), which is where all the knitting began. Well, not all the knitting, but the knitting related to Splendor, anyway.

Finally, we wanted to give you an update on Peppermint Patrick. We've been considering varied options for making this pattern available, and are pleased to announce it will be available as a kit soon! Stay tuned for more details on this, and other Splendor patterns slated for release soon.

Yay knitting!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

32,000 & Then Some

Some of my favorite crafty moments are when I get to use a technique in a way other than the way it's typically used. This one isn't really earth-shattering--it will, decidedly, not rock the knitting world--but it was enjoyable, shows the benefits of the techniques used, and it's probably not the way projects like these are typically executed.

Pattern: Gryffindor House Scarf by Lauren Kent (also published in Charmed Knits, edited by Alison Hansel)
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Red (color #2413) and Gold (color #7827)
Needles: Addi Turbo Circulars in size US7

It's true, I already have such a scarf--it was my first "real" knitting project, and it does its duty by being easily recognisable as a Gryffindor House Scarf, but I just needed a new one. See, when I knit that first scarf, I wasn't used to wearing scarves, so I didn't yet realise what makes a good, wearable, comfortable scarf. My first one is a cotton/angora blend, chosen mostly because it was the only yarn the shop had that came in both the colors I needed. After wearing the cotton scarf for a couple of seasons, I've come to realise that cotton is heavy (relatively speaking) & not very warm (yay wool!), ergo I obviously needed the same scarf, but in a wooly variety!

I like the wide-striped version because I think of it as the 'original' version. Truly, it is; even before the movies, etc, this is the style used in the art for the books and other fan paraphernalia. Nerdy, I know, but what can you do? Knit a new wool scarf, that's what! Conveniently enough, I needed a project to work on while I watched Lost (which I had never watched before and decided to view from the very beginning this summer), and few things are more perfect for something like this than stockinette in the round. I mean, really, isn't that the definition of "mindless knitting"?

a close-up view of the Magick Cast-On edge

The 'unconventional parts of this project are really only the beginning and end. I used Judy's Magick Cast-On for the beginning, and then grafted the end closed. It might seem superfluous to make such an effort for the beginning and end of a scarf that will have tassels on it (yet to be added), but sometimes 'can' most definitely means 'should'! Besides that, it really was good practice for these techniques, and gives me an opportunity to show how great they are at doing what they are meant to do, which is to make a seam all but disappear. You can see in the pictures that my grafting technique (at the time) could use a wee bit of practice, but this will likely resolve itself with a nice, gentle wash anyway.

a view of the Cast-On edge (r) and the grafted "finished" end (l)

I had every intention of making this according to pattern other than not using long-tail cast-on and the usual bind-off method (I'm sure you can appreciate how difficult that was for me), but decided to knit 21 stripes, rather than the recommended 19. The curious, and slightly bored, part of my brain that wonders about such things decided to calculate how many stitches this would represent, and the answer was 32,340 (=70 sts x 22 rounds of each color per stripe x 21 stripes). Ultimately, though, I decided I wanted an even longer scarf, and didn't stop knitting until I had completed 23 stripes. Oops.

Until next time, friends, remember: Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus

busted! my fancy fake light-box setup is really
a chair next to the kitchen window!