Friday, May 27, 2011

The Evolution of Amigurumi - Thank Goodness!

Normally I'd leave the crochet snark to the experts over at What Not to Crochet (some of the content is 'not safe for work' so Google it if you want to take a look.), but this was an opportunity I couldn't resist. My mom was recently spring cleaning and gave me a couple of old magazines she came across that had crochet patterns in them, "I may want to try." This little gem comes from the Sept. - Oct. 1981 issue of Woman's Day magazine (retail price $1.89!). It's special edition dedicated to the wonders of the Granny Square.

Oh granny squares, is there anything you can't do? Well, based on this picture, it looks like you can't make children happy! I mean really, look at that little girl's face. I'm not sure if she's more sad about her granny square sweater, the fact that all her furniture appears to be made of granny squares or the heartbreaking news that her new toys are a creepy granny square based worm and a dog? Horse? Vote now in the comments section. What is that thing?

I'd like to know if the headline writer was being earnest or sarcastic with the claim, "Building blocks for happy tots!" I hope it was sarcasm that went over the heads of the editor and anyone else who had to proof this page before it went to print.

But enough about creepy children's toys. (Though I think it's worthwhile to look back on them so we can truly appreciate the wonderful amigurumi and crocheted toys that are being made by present day designers.) Right now I'm eagerly waiting for Amazon to deliver my copy of Ana Paula Rimoli's most recent pattern collection, Amigurumi Toy Box: Cute Crocheted Friends.

Now those are toys that could actually make a tot smile! This is Rimoli's third collection of toy patterns, all of which she tests on her own daughters before using. Her creations are always clever and the patterns are quite easy to follow. I did a full review of her first book Amigurumi World here. Although I didn't find the time to review the second one Amigurumi Two!: Crocheted Toys for Me and You and Baby Too when it came out, I did purchase it and it is an equally great collection.

Look at that, no granny squares in sight!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Doing the Impossible - Six Years Running

It's been nine years since the TV series Firefly came out and was abruptly cancelled. And it's been six years since Firefly fans began showing their appreciation for the series and creator Joss Whedon by hosting Can't Stop the Serenity screenings worldwide. Not only do the screenings allow fans to see the Firefly-inspired movie Serenity on the big screen, they also raise money for Joss Whedon's favourite charity, Equality Now.

To date the Can't Stop the Serenity screenings have raised $557,867.47 for the charity, which works to protect and promote the human rights of women around the world. At our local screening in Vancouver we raised approximately $3,550 for Equality Now and an additional $900 for the BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre Foundation last year. I was happy to help contribute to that total with my Firefly character cross stitches which were sold during the screening's silent auction.

I'm excited to be helping out again this year and have been working on my contributions for the past couple of weeks. I'm still using the same characters I designed last year, but I wanted to make sure that the pieces looked different. I felt that if I used the same layouts as last time then it would take away from the uniqueness of those prizes and I didn't want to do that.

The piece that you see in the top left-hand corner is the only one I made with all the characters, and it measures 8 X 8 inches. It was stitched on an a 16 count aida cloth, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. The characters take about 1-2 hours each to stitch so this was the most time-consuming piece. I ended up rewatching all of of Angel season 4 while making these cross stitches. Last year I think I was on a Buffy kick while stitching.

It took me a long time to decide what I would make for my second piece. I eventually decided to do another design with the "Leaf on the Wind" quote because it was the best selling of the smaller cross stitches I made last year. Wash seems to be the fan favorite, at least at our local screening, and I'm hoping that adding Zoe to the picture will make it extra appealing. This piece was stitched on the same aida cloth, but it's smaller, measuring 5 X 5 inches.

Finally, I wanted to find a way to use up some of the leftover scraps of cross stitch fabric that I had from other projects, so I came up with these Firefly minis. The hoops measure 2.5 inches in diameter and are made of rubber, although they look like wood from a distance. I made the pattern for Kaylee in her Shindig dress last year, but I had never stitched it. I was excited to give it a try and I'm really happy with how she turned out. You can't see it in the picture, but I used pearl Krenik blending filament on the pink and peach parts of the dress to make it sparkle.

Can't Stop the Serenity will take place Sat. June 25 in Vancouver this year. The two framed cross stitches I made will be available during the silent auction. The smaller pieces I'm going to be giving to our organizer to use however she sees fit, possibly as door prizes or in grab bags. You can keep tabs on news about the Vancouver screening here, or check out the official Can't Stop the Serenity site to find a screening near you.

Handmade Whedon and Firefly themed items are always popular sellers at the screenings, so if you have some time and you're feeling crafty, you may want to contact your local organizer about donating some pieces to help with the fundraising. And if you have the cross stitching bug, all of my Firefly characters are available under the My Free Patterns tab on the left side of the blog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bavarian Crochet Baby Blanket

I discovered Jenny King's Learn to Do Bavarian Crochet while I was browsing through crochet books on Amazon and couldn't resist giving it a try. The book is relatively inexpensive, which is a good thing, because all you're really getting here is one pattern. Then you get explanations of how to shape that pattern as a square, triangle, or rectangle and numerous pictures showing what it would look like made up into various items. The book does contain full patterns for shawls and blankets, but after the initial starting shape is made the further instructions really aren't necessary since they are exactly the same for all projects.

The pattern itself is easy to follow and I really like the textured look that you get in the finished piece. The lighting in our living room has kind of skewed the colours a bit, but I made this Bavarian crochet baby blanket using Bernat's Softee Baby in mint, white and soft lilac. You do a lot of 'crocheting around the post' in this piece and it helps to create a thicker baby blanket than you would normally get with the light weight Softee.

For my first experiment I was actually planning on an adult sized afghan using Vanna's Choice, but I was working with a size J hook and I found it was just bunching up too much because it was so thick. It didn't look good. I've now picked up an N hook so I may give that experiment another try sometime.

Looking around online I've also seen the Bavarian crochet described as the "yarn eater" pattern and I would say that's a fairly accurate description. My baby blanket is approximately a 5 X 5 foot square and I believe it took about 3 balls of each colour to complete. On the plus side, it's a wonderful pattern if you want to use up a lot of leftover yarn. It's also wonderfully repetitive. You work in rounds from the centre, similar to a granny square, and just repeat the same two rounds over and over again. After the first couple of colours the process becomes pretty intuitive, making it a great project to work on while I was watching TV or focussed on other things. From the beginning I also worked in the loose yarn ends as I went so that I wouldn't have the tedious job of hiding them all at the end, one of my least favourite parts of multi-colour projects.

Below you can see what the back of the Bavarian Crochet looks like. I thought it was interesting that it comes out very similar to the some of the daisy chain patterns I've seen in other crochet stitch books.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Last Cthulhus of 2010!

And we're back! Apologies for the extremely long delay in new posts here at Cthulhu Crochet and Cousins! A new job, a broken home computer and numerous other things have been keeping me away from the blog for far longer than I intended. During that time I've still been crafting so I'm hoping to get back on a regular posting schedule and show readers some of the things I've been working on.

Before I start posting my own creations though I want to show off some fantastic cthulhus that others have been making with my patterns. I know it's quite belated, but these are the last few cthulhu pics that I received from readers in 2010.

First up, in the top lefthand corner we have three wonderful cthulhus from Sophie. If you click the link you can see some larger pictures of each cthulhu and check out the wonderful details she's added to give them character.

Ruth is a frequent stitcher of my Tiny Cthulhu pattern, whose works I've shown on the blog before. She's now taken to creating what she calls a Cthulhu expansion pack, which includes cthulhu dressed as a Battlestar Galactica Cylon and this adorable little chef. He may be cute, but I'd hate to think what he'd serve me for dinner!

Above are two button eyed cthulhus created by Takanno, who stitched up a bunch of Tiny Cthulhus for to give to friends as Christmas presents.

I'm torn about this little blue guy, created by Eva and Mat. On the one hand, I think the eyes make him seem very sinister. On the other hand, I think the little legs make him seem too cute to ever contemplate anything sinister. He was created as a secret santa gift and I hope the recipient liked their surprise.

I'm always struck by what a difference the eyes can make on the appearance of an amigurumi pattern. Above Valentina has added eyelids around her safety eyes, while in the picture below Ohmie has stitched a cthulhu in nearly the same colour, without the eyelids. It really seems to change the tone of the cthulhus face and would be a great way to add character if you are making a whole family of these guys.

We now move on to look at a few cthulhus made using the Cuddly Cthulhu pattern. First up is this cuddly pudgy cthulhu that makm stitched as a Father's Day present.

Below are a terrific pair of cthulhus that Jennifer says were her kid's "favorite [Christmas] present this year!" Wow, cthulhus for kids, fathers, friends and secret santa gifts. Who knew cthulhu could be the present that's good for everyone and every occasion?

And we close out 2010's cthulhus with this cuddly blue cthulhu created by Carol. She mentioned that she's a long-time reader of Cthulhu Crochet and Cousins and finally found the time to make a cthulhu for herself. It looks like he'll be a great companion while she works on other crafty projects.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has posted a link to show how they've used my patterns, emailed me a jpg of their creations, or left a comment on the blog saying they enjoyed using my patterns. Even when I haven't had the time to post anything I've still been reading all the comments, checking the email account linked to the blog and trying to answer as many questions about the patterns as I can. It's really rewarding to see that people are still using and enjoying the free patterns that I've posted here.

So, as always, if you've made something using one of my free patterns, feel free to share the news by posting a picture link in the comments section for the pattern you used or sending me pictures at the email address you see in the top left corner of the blog.

Happy stitching everyone!