A Use for Unwearable Handknit Socks: Cable Kitty

One of the down sides to making things by hand is that sometimes it doesn’t go the way you planned. I like to knit socks, but even though I have made so many pairs that I have the pattern memorized, not every pair is a success. Sometimes the yarn is a bad choice, or the size isn’t quite right. As a result, I have a bag of handknit socks that I don’t wear but haven’t been able to throw away.

Imagine my delight when I came across the book Stray Sock Sewing: Making One of A Kind Creatures From Socks. Here was a book with patterns turning socks into totally adorable little critters. I was stoked.

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Unfortunately, while the book title implies you will be using cast-off socks to make your new friends, the results are much better if you buy new socks for these projects. Socks that have been worn are stretched in places so that the stuffed shapes you make are warped. Brand-new baby socks seem to work best — tiny weave and tiny feet make for the sweetest tiny critters. Also, you can choose the coloring of the sock to enhance the appearance of your finished creature.

Making these toys out of socks knit by hand with colorful yarns? Not really what the author had in mind.

I refused to be daunted. I was not about to buy socks for my project. My goal was to find a way to use the socks I already had. So I dug through my bag and decided to make a cat from pair of rainbow socks that I didn’t wear because they hurt my feet (the yarn was too thick and hard).

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It worked in the end. Granted, my kitty is not the sweet, tiny, Japanese-style creation that this book promotes. Instead, it’s big and chunky. But I love it.

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Because I was already in recycling mode, I was inspired to give the cat a necklace that is actually a bracelet I made but never wore. The birds on the necklace seemed exactly the sort of thing this happy little kitty would wear and by dumb luck, it fit.

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Best of all, this little cat has a job. The cable that runs from my laptop to my monitor on my standing desk has a tiny connection and a heavy dongle. I was afraid the strain on the plug would damage the computer, the cable, or both. But my recycled sock kitty is the perfect size to hold up the cable, and she loves her job.

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You can tell she loves her job. She’s smiling!

What do you do with unused knitting projects?

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.

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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.

Unexpected Fiber Finds While On Vacation

I recently went on a road trip through the Midwest with some good friends. Our itinerary included national parks, museums, and gardens and included a lot of unexpected stops when something caught our eye from the road. When asked what I wanted to see on and do on the trip, I didn’t have much in the way of ideas. I expected there would be lots of great scenery and that I would get to do some birdwatching and maybe even some sketching.

What I didn’t expect was to trip over cool spinning and knitting stuff along the way.

I’m not talking about supply stores. The only shopping we did was at gift stores and to buy groceries. I’m talking about finding fiber-related things in the places we happened to go.

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in Kansas City, MO turned out to have world-class miniatures on display, more than we could see in the hour and a half we had before the museum closed. We are not talking doll house furniture played with by children (although they have some of that as well), but miniatures made by artisans and admired by avid collectors.

I was in awe of the size (tiny!) and detail (exquisite!) of the furniture, glassware, ceramics, and woven rugs on display. Then I came to the hand knit clothing and it blew my mind. Cable-knit sweaters? Color-work sweaters?! and only two inches high?!? Look at the pictures, and you’ll understand my amazement.

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Some intrepid knitters must have used wires to make these

 

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This tiny gem fits in the palm of your hand.

I also found a tiny spinning wheel. I wonder if it works?

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If you look in the reflection at the top, you can see my fingers. It gives you and idea of just how small this spinning wheel is.

I should have expected to see fiber art at the T/M museum; I just wasn’t thinking. But I also came across a yarn bomb project in the last place you would imagine: The Mammoth Site museum in Hot Springs, SD. While it’s not as elaborate as a traditional yarn-bombing project can be, I loved the idea of a yarn project that anyone could be part of.

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A truly wooly mammoth.

It never occurred to me to include fiber art as part of my vacation plans, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. I enjoyed these finds all the more because I wasn’t expecting them.

Have you come across fiber projects where you least expected them? What were they and where did you find them?

Knitting Hack: Using Pens As Needles

I spent a week in Las Vegas to help my sister sell her amazing glass work at Glass Craft and Bead Expo. Knowing that we would need things to keep us entertained between customers, Cleo brought some yarn made from sari scraps for me to play with, and play I did.

I had a knitting project with me (of course). Socks (double of course). Unfortunately, the size 1 needles I had with me were much too small for knitting strips of fabric. I could have waited until the end of the our work day, found a yarn store, and bought some fat needles. But as soon as I had this unusual yarn in my hands, I wanted to know what it would look like knit up. So I dug some pens out of my purse and used them as needles.

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Humble Bic pens doing the work of giants.

It worked much better than I imagined. I had to push the fabric on and off the pens with my fingers, applying more pressure than you would with regular needles. The pen tips were easy to slide into the stitches and I only got a little ink on my hand in the process.

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Minimal pen marks. I was surprised.

While the pens weren’t ideal tools, they did work. I knit up all the yarn we had to make a narrow, multi-colored scarf.

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The finished scarf
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Cleo models the final product

The biggest down side: both pens gave their lives to make this scarf.

I knew I was killing them early on. I tried to make a note with one and it wouldn’t write. That’s when I saw the ink all globbed in the bottom and knew something was wrong.

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As far as I can tell, repeatedly flexing the pens broke the inner tubes. Fortunately, the ink didn’t leak out of the pen proper.

I was pleased that my knitting hack worked as well as it did. In fact, I’m thinking I should try using pencils next.

Have you tried doing needlework with non-traditional tools? Did it work?

T. Rex Easter Bunny

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Putting the Eeeeeee! in Easter

Aunt Rexie got surprised by how early Easter is this year. Her plans to knit Tiny a bunny suit were curtailed until all Tiny got was a set of ears. Fortunately, Tiny is a forgiving girl (despite that toothy grin). She loves her bunny hat and wishes everyone a happy Easter and lovely spring.

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Technical notes: Spud and Chloë fine sock wool on size 1 double-pointed needles. It took a few tries to get the ears in the right place. Even then, Tiny is the scariest bunny I’ve ever seen (even scarier than Monty Python’s killer rabbit).

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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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.

Back-to-School Knits for Your T-Rex

September is here, and little tyrannosaurs are heading back to school. Despite the mixed results she got when she knit Tiny a sweater, Aunt Rexie launched right into another big project. Her needles have been knitting faster than a velociraptor.

The first day of school! Tiny poses in her new outfit for Mom (who always has her camera handy).
The first day of school! Tiny poses in her new outfit for Mom (who is always ready with her camera).

Determined to send Tiny back to school in style, Aunt Rexie knit her leg warmers, a ruffled skirt, and a hair bow, all in pink, to match Tiny’s new lunchbox.

Tiny loves Hello Kitty.
Tiny loves Hello Kitty.

Aunt Rexie made great choices. Tiny loves pink. And bows. And ruffles. (Just because you look tough doesn’t mean you have to dress that way.)

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Aunt Rexie isn’t done. She’s been talking to Tiny about Halloween to see if she can help provide her with a costume this year. I’ll be sure to post pictures once I have them.

Technical notes: Once again, these knits are all my crazy idea. Knit on size 0 needles with fingering weight yarn, I developed the patterns through trial and error. The skirt in particular gave me trouble. For some reason, I kept casting on too many stitches and the waistband didn’t fit. Leg warmers that slide on over those big clawed feet were also tricky. The only easy thing was the bow. I made the lunchbox from cardboard, paper, and ribbon. Once I had her dressed I couldn’t send her to school without one.