An Inspiring Whimsical Scrapmetal Menagerie

The Swetsville Zoo  in Timnath, CO is actually a sculpture garden showcasing the wild imagination of Bill Swets. Filled with creatures made from metal scraps including parts from cars, tractors, and motorcycles, this “zoo” includes dinosaurs, birds, insects, reptiles, dragons, even people and flowers. The two things all Swets’ creations have in common: they are all made from recycled materials and they all make you smile.

The first thing I saw when we arrived should have told me what was in store. I’m not sure if you have to keep your dinosaurs under 5 mph or you drive under 5 mph because of the dinosaurs. Either way, I was in.

dinoSpeedLimit_web

There were LOTS of dinosaurs. This was one of my favorites (complete with a bird’s nest in its mouth):

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There were quite a few dragons as well.

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While I liked his ants and other smaller insects, his giant praying mantis was my favorite.

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I found his birds charming, too.

bird_web

rooster_web

Last but not least, here’s something that reminded me of the goblins from the movie Labyrinth (note the little driver in the mechanized monster’s open mouth):

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All the articles I found online talk about the looming demise of this unusual garden. Big box stores have been built right next door and there are plans for more development in the near future. But the Swetsville Zoo is still open (no entry fee! Donations welcome) for your enjoyment and I am hoping it will last. Get there while you can.

 

Saving Dinosaurs, One Sweater At A Time

The Dinosaur Foundation wants to bring back the fascinating animals that went extinct 65 million years ago due to unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. Impossible you say? Not really. We have a simple three step plan that will have us all neck deep in dinosaurs in no time.

We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Dinosaur Foundation, you’re nuts! Didn’t you see Jurassic Park? You DO NOT want to make dinosaurs from incomplete DNA!”

You’re right, we don’t. We want natural, organic, 100%-as-they-were-in-the-past dinosaurs, so we’re trying something a little different.

We’re knitting them sweaters.

df03_web

 

What’s the point?

To keep them warm, of course.

Every school kid knows that dinosaurs were wiped out when an asteroid hit the earth, filled the atmosphere with dust, and lowered the temperature around the world. If the dinosaurs had only had sweaters, they would have survived and would be with us here, today.

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So we’re busy knitting sweaters, while our physicist friends work on the time machine* we need to deliver them.

The Dinosaur Foundation’s Three Step Plan to Save the Dinosaurs:

1) Knit a bunch of sweaters. Really really big sweaters.
2) Invent a time machine.**
3) Take sweaters back to the dinosaurs before the asteroid hits.

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The Dinosaur Foundation is looking for dedicated knitters ready to take on this challenge. The good news: we’ll be using a time machine, so there’s really no deadline. Please let us know if you would like to help.

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*For those who think it’s impossible to build a time machine, scientists say it’s practically impossible, which means it’s at least a tiny little bit possible. We’re all optimists here at the Dinosaur Foundation. We believe that if we care enough, it can be done.
**For those who argue that we could just bring the dinosaurs back in a time machine without all this messing around with yarn: we don’t think so. We’ve agreed that building a time machine is practically impossible. A time machine that’s also big enough to transport dinosaurs? Not happening.

Tiny the T. Rex: Santa’s Not-So-Little Helper

When Aunt Rexie asked Tiny what she wanted for Christmas, Tiny said, “I want to be an elf and help Santa make toys.” Being a loving aunt, Rexie got out the yarn and needles and knit Tiny her very own Christmas elf outfit.

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While she’s much better at sleeves than she used to be, it still takes Aunt Rexie several tries to get them right. At least she’s learned to adapt on the fly. When she made a legging that was too short, she turned it into a hat.

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tRexElf_web

Tiny wishes you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and the gift of an aunt who knits.

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My favorite story about this project: I was at Jo-Anns buying some yarn and bells and the clerk asked me what I was going to make. I said “An elf outfit for a T. rex” and she gaped at me. She said, “That’s the cutest thing I’ve heard all day,” which made my day.

For those interested in the technical details: I used some acrylic and some wool yarns on size 2 needles. I keep thinking I’m going to be able to knit new designs first try, but this outfit took several attempts for nearly every part. Leggings and sleeves required multiple experiments before I got something that looked the way I wanted and also fit. The presents were particularly fiddly: I covered square wooden beads with scrap-booking paper, then tied them with metallic embroidery thread.

Knits For Your Favorite T-Rex

I’ve always been intrigued by dinosaurs. As a kid, my favorites were the Triceratops and Brontosaurus (now known as the Brachiosaurus), both herbivores. Maybe it’s because I’ve become a meat eater again, but I am suddenly drawn to the Tyrannosaurus rex. I have plenty of patterns for knitting dinosaurs, but thinking of the T-rex, I realized that what I’m really interested in is knitting for dinosaurs.

So I bought myself a T-rex and some yarn. Her name is Tiny.

Tiny the T-rex, playing with the yarn I bought for her sweater.
Tiny the T-rex, playing with the yarn I bought for her sweater.

While I’ve done plenty of knitting for critters in the last year or so, I wanted this to be different. As soon as I found Tiny, I was in love. She is so striking looking that I couldn’t settle on just one project. I decided to knit whatever I felt like, but instead of sewing things onto her, I would make every piece removable. That way I could change her clothes and knit as many things as I wanted to for her.

As I knitted, I imagined that Tiny had a loving aunt, one who was fairly new to knitting but enthusiastically making things for everyone in her family. She would start with scarves, graduate to hats, then branch out to mittens once she felt a little more confident.

Tiny shows off her hat, scarf, and mittens.
Tiny shows off her hat, scarf, and mittens.
Mom makes Tiny pose for a photo so they can show Aunt Rexie how much she loves her gifts.
Mom makes Tiny pose for a photo so they can show Aunt Rexie how much she loves her gifts.
Tyrannosaurs don't have thumbs, but everyone needs mittens. Especially when there's a comet in the forecast.
Tyrannosaurs don’t have thumbs, but everyone needs mittens. Especially when there’s a comet in the forecast.

The knitting bug is not easily fed, however, and it wouldn’t be long before Aunt Rexie would go for the Big Project and make her beloved niece a sweater like the one Velma wears on Scooby-Doo. (Tiny loves that show.) Aunt Rexie was understandably proud of herself for finishing it, even if the results weren’t quite what she expected.

Tiny loves her Velma sweater... mostly.
Tiny loves her Velma sweater… mostly.
"Thanks, Aunt Rexie!"
“Thanks, Aunt Rexie!”
Close up of the sweater (because I couldn't resist).
Close up of the sweater (because I couldn’t resist).

Aunt Rexie will keep knitting for Tiny, but it may be a while before she tackles another big project. She has to get her confidence back (and her niece’s measurements) before she tries again. In the meantime, she’ll knit some dish cloths to keep her hand in.

Technical notes for the curious: all of these pieces are my own invention, created using what I know about knitting for humans. Yarns are fingering weight or sock yarns knitted on size 0 needles. The sweater was particularly interesting to make, because the arm holes are horizontal instead vertical in order to accommodate Tiny’s forward reaching arms. It took a couple of tries to get things right, but the key is most definitely: 1) getting the gauge from a swatch and 2) careful measurement of the T-rex in order to design the pattern.

Dinosaurs From the Knit-aceous Period

My recent dragon fixation has shifted to dinosaurs. I’m not sure how I got the itch to combine dinosaurs and yarn, but I’m apparently not the only one. There are some amazing dinosaur patterns out there, in a full range of styles.

For fast and cute, you can’t beat these adorable crocheted baby brachiosaurs (free pattern) designed by Jana Whitley.

Baby Brachiosaurus designed by Jana Whitley
Baby Brachiosaurus designed by Jana Whitley

You can also knit a more complex and stylized stegosaurus (free pattern) designed by Tina Barrett.

stegasaurus

In fact, Deramores has a plethora of free dinosaur patterns for both knitters and crocheters, including the two I mentioned above. Definitely check out their other offerings, including with the exciting news that archeologists have discovered the first knitting dinosaur, the Derasaur. (They posted that on April 1. Do you think that means something?)

If you want a more practical dino, how about a hat? Free patterns are available for both crocheted (Danyel Pink)  and knitted (Kris Hanson) hats with dinosaur spikes on top.

Dinosaur Spikes crocheted cap designed by Danyel Pink
Dinosaur Spikes crocheted cap designed by Danyel Pink
Knit Dino Cap, designed by Kris Hanson
Knit Dino Cap, designed by Kris Hanson

Of all the dino knits I found, however, my favorite is Christine Grant’s Tracy Triceratops, which has the level of detail I love in an animal knitting project.

Tracy Triceratops, knit pattern by Christine Grant
Tracy Triceratops, knit pattern by Christine Grant

While I’m sharing fun dino-knits, I can’t pass up sharing Katie Bradley’s charming tortoise “cozies”. She knits these covers (or costumes, depending on how you look at it) for her many pet tortoises. She’s made them pumpkin covers, shark fins, and, of course, dinosaur spikes.

Katie Bradley's adorable Tortoise Cozies, dinosaur style
Katie Bradley’s adorable Tortoise Cozies, dinosaur style

To get the full fun of her creations, watch this short video of her pets modeling their cozies.

I’m not willing to tell you what exactly I am up to with my own dinosaur knitting project. So here’s a teaser picture to give you a hint.

Tyrannosaurus Rex + yarn = ???
Tyrannosaurus Rex + yarn = ???

Any dino-knits in your life? Feel free to share them here.