Wednesday, January 31, 2007

When being prudent with money bites you in the bum....

During the month of December I was eyeing some beautiful pumpkin orange merino. Every time I went to the craft store I would pet it, thinking about how I could turn it into some sort of sweater, or a cabled scarf, or invent some sort of pumpkin hat. Unfortunately, as I was spending a lot of money on holiday presents and preparing to fly home for the new year, logic got the better of me as I told myself, "Wait until after winter break, until after the next paycheck comes."

Today was my first trip to the craft store since I've been back, only to find that the store was clearancing out most of their yarns, probably to make way for lighter spring yarns. Japan is very particular about only selling seasonally appropriate things- they have limited edition flavors of just about everything, from candy to cereal to noodles. So of course there was no beautiful pumpkin orange left. I did, however, pick up some lilac and dusty blue, in quantities to make a scarf and hopefully a sweater, respectively. I also obtained some curly pink novelty yarn that is just begging to be made into a poodle.

The blue and purple is Motohiro Premium Merino, 100% wool (and buttery soft!), the pink is the same brand as the green stuff in my last post (still can't tell if it's supposed to be Hands or Hans or what, it's written in katakana ha-n-zu), and the yarn in particular is called Lovely, 100% polyester.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I ♥ Armwear!

Ever since I made the Hurry Up Spring Armwarmers from Stitch n Bitch Nation, I've had a bit of a thing for armwarmers and fingerless gloves.

I'd post a pic of that first pair, but they're currently MIA somewhere in the house, so, um, I can't right now. I do have another pair I made though, using the same pattern but substituting the cable chart from these gloves.

They're made with Lion Brand Wool-Ease in some sort of "autumn" color. To put it bluntly, they're pretty ugly. The yarn looked much prettier on the skein, but when I knit it up, I wasn't crazy about how the colors turned out. I think that if each color had gone a bit longer, more like stripes, it would have had a nicer effect. Nevertheless, these unattractive armwarmers do keep me warm, and they're particularly nice to have at school, where there's usually only a heater in the staff room and not the classrooms.

I tried making a pair of Knitty's Fetching for myself out of some leftover yarn from a sweater I made last winter, but one of my friends really liked them, so I ended up giving them to her. I knit another pair as a present as well.

The blue ones are made from Olympus Alpaca Concerto, an alpaca/wool/acrylic blend.
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The pink ones are made from Daiso Soft Type Tweed, an acrylic/wool blend I bought at the 100 yen store (see, I told you there was some nice yarn there).
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I modified the pattern by using US size 7s instead of 6s, simply because that's what I had. To compensate, I worked it over 40 stitches instead of 45, and the thumb is 15 sts instead of 17.

Yesterday I started working on a pair of Knitty's
Knucks using a yarn called Applause, 100% polyester chenille, left over from a holiday present I knitted for a friend.

So far they've been a bit tedious, probably because the chenille is kind of a pain in the butt when it comes to picking up stitches and placing the fingers back on the needles. They're a bit bulky but very warm, and I think they'll also be great for unheated classrooms. That is, if I can get myself to finish them.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Child's Play

No, not the horror movies featuring that killer doll (which, incidentally, traumatized me so badly as a kid that I refused to go to a movie theater or video store from the ages of 8 to 13), but things for children to play with!

Back in college I spent a semester studying in Osaka, and I won the host family jackpot, living with one of the sweetest families you could ask for. Since I moved back to Japan, I visit them periodically. Last year during Spring Break they invited me to come up, so I whipped up some toys for my host nieces, ages 8 and 2:

The penguin is Knitty's Pasha, and the octopus is based on one my great grandma made me when I was little. Both are made out of yarn I picked up at the 100 yen store (the Japanese version of a dollar store). Everything except Pasha's beak and feet is 100% acrylic, the yellow yarn is a really soft wool/acrylic blend. Surprisingly, there are some very nice yarns to be had at the 100 yen store, I also have some great cotton/acrylic yarn they had for sale last summer.

I swear Pasha has eyes, they're just black on a black background, not very photogenic. I've made two of these penguins so far, and both times my beaks came out like in these photos, much wider than in the pattern pictures.

The funny thing about the octopus is that my host brother couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be. The Japanese concept of an octopus looks something like this:

so I guess it threw him off a bit, what with the smiley face and non-curly tentacles and all.

For those of you who want an octopus of your own, here's what you need:

-1 skein of yarn in the color of your choice, plus scraps for the face and, if desired, snazzy hat
-A wad of scrap fabric to stuff the head
-Scissors or other cutting implement of your choice
-A tape measure
-A crochet hook, if you want the aforementioned snazzy hat (I suppose you could knit or sew one too)

And here's what you do:

1. Cut 48 strands of yarn, each 24" in length.
2. Divide yarn into 4 bundles of 12 strands.
3. Arrange the bundles so they intersect in the middle, they'll look a bit like an asterisk or the spokes of a wheel.
4. Using the scrap fabric as a core, wrap yarn around it to make a form for the head.
5. When the head is the desired size, place it in the middle of the yarn "wheel" and gather the "spokes" around it. Wrap and tie a length of yarn underneath the head to secure it in place, letting the spokes dangle. Since they've been folded in half around the head, there will now be 8 legs.
6. Braid each of the legs and fasten them at the bottom with pieces of yarn.
7. Embroider a face, make a hat- embellish it however you want. Go nuts!

I hope that explanation makes sense. The photo might help give you an idea of what goes where, if my steps aren't clear.

I suppose an introduction's in order

Hi, my name is Marisa, and I'm a craftoholic.

All right, I admit, not the most creative opening line, but I have to start somewhere. I live in Japan and work for the Board of Education in a small town on the ocean, which happens to be famous for year-round mikan (a citrus fruit similar to tangerines or mandarin oranges) harvesting. In fact, our town slogan is "The Town Where You Can Pick Mikan All Year Long." See this photo of a manhole cover?

It has the town slogan on it. And a smiling mikan. We are serious about our citrus here.

At any rate, living in a small town wedged between the ocean and the mountains means that more often than not I have to find ways to amuse myself. Fortunately I've been a fan of crafting ever since I was little, and while some things are hard to come by down here (like a decent fabric selection), others are quite bountiful (like luscious yarn and gorgeous beads).

I decided to start a journal devoted exclusively to my creative pursuits so I would have a place to write about everything all at once. The way things are now, I post photos of my costumes here, comments on my knitting there, and currently have no outlet for my fledgling crochet and beaded pieces. This way, all the stories and photos from all my various hobbies can neatly be consolidated.

I'll probably be posting quite a bit at first to play "catch up" and collect a mess of FOs that are kicking around here.