Crochet, knitting, astronomy & life in general.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Silly sleep mask

A few weeks ago, I made this sleep mask for my boyfriend based on Velvet Oblivion from Knitty, modifying it a bit so that it doesn't look so girly. (The boyfriend says it looks sort of like a fruity version of the mask those guys from Halo wear.) Instead of knitting a fluffy border around one layer of sleep mask, I knit two layers and put a piece of fabric between them to maximize the light blockage. Then, I crocheted the two pieces together and knit a strap in garter stitch. The result is a much more manly sleep mask.

Anyway, a little while ago, I asked the boyfriend if he'd model it for me so I could take a picture for my blog, and he refused, so I asked him to take a picture of me wearing it. The following hilarity ensued:

Apparently I can't keep a straight face when someone is taking a picture of me blindfolded.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Skulls on the brain

I'm not the most fashion-savvy person, but I have noticed that skulls are pretty prevalent these days. Three of the knitting books I own have toques with a skull and crossbones design, and one of my crochet books has a pattern for a skull applique, in fact, the same one I used for my off-the-shoulder top. Maybe it's the revival of interest in pirates (with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), or maybe skulls have a badass esthetic that everyone wants to get behind. At any rate, I've been seeing skulls everywhere... even on my wall...

Turns out it's just the reflection of our coffee table on the wall with a few strategically placed remote controls, but it was still pretty cool.

And for good measure, here's what happened to the skull applique from my sweater after I unravelled it (the sweater, not the applique):

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New yarn and a new project

I have to start by saying that it's absolutely gorgeous outside right now. The temperature is 25 degrees Celsius and there isn't a cloud in the sky. And of course, I'm cooped up in my office working on my research project which I have to defend in two weeks! I did spend about half an hour crocheting in front of the McLennan building, but I don't feel like that was enough.

Anyway, on to the real subject of this post: yarn! I recently found out that I was getting a scholarship from NSERC for next year, and to celebrate, I bought about $70 worth of yarn on WEBS. I got nine balls of Rowan Cotton 4 ply, which has since been discontinued so it was cheap, so I could make the Icelandic Turtle Neck from the Crochet Me book. The pattern calls for wool yarn, but I thought it would be a better summer top if I made it out of cotton. I also modified the turtle neck so that it's less long. Here's the yarn:

And here's a bit of swatching, and the beginning of the collar:

I really like working with this yarn so far. There's just something about cotton... the stitches are clean and defined, and the yarn seems tough and durable, while being soft and smooth. It's a lovely colour as well. I wasn't sure that I liked it when I first got it in the mail (and it's not like I had much choice when I bought it... it was that or bright orange. Yuck!), but it's been growing on me.

My second purchase was some sock yarn: Araucania Ranco Solid in the colourway called "Midnight". From the picture on the website, it looked sort of dark grey, but when it arrived, it looked more like black and navy blue, which is also pretty. I'm planning on using that to make some socks for the boyfriend: Treads from Son of Stitch 'n' Bitch.

Yesterday, which was also a gorgeous day, I found a yarn shop in Kensington Market called Lettuce Knit. I didn't get to spend much time there because the others in my party were bored (I'm surprised they let me indulge in my yarn addiction at all), so I'll have to check it out again one of these days. It looked a little pricey for my tastes, but perhaps I'll indulge in some luxury yarn at some point...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring has sprung!

I think it's pretty official now (and has been for a couple of weeks). We're on the verge of the warmest day of the year so far. It's supposed to go up to 21 degrees Celsius this afternoon! I'm tempted to pull out my flip-flops, but there are also thunderstorm warnings, so that might not be such a good idea. Anyway, in order to celebrate this occasion, here are some pictures of the beautiful flowers around campus!

There were daffodils.

And things just budding (I have no idea what it is, but it's pretty!)

And here's the lovely architecture of Trinity College.

And the pretty gardens in front of Trinity College.

And finally, a pretty budding tree flower (I wish I knew what these were called as well).

Hurray for spring!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Can tab experiments

As mentioned earlier, I got inspired by The Art of Can Tabistry, and have started collecting can tabs with the hopes that I'll someday have enough to make something awesome like a corset. I got inspired the other day to test out some can weaving patterns, and here are the results.

It doesn't look so hard, though when I get around to trying this for real, I'll likely have one row of tabs facing inward and the other facing outward so that there's no scratchy surfaces.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wheee! Twine!

My boyfriend needed to pick up some supplies at The Friendly Stranger, and I got him to buy me some extra-special Spirit Stream hemp twine!

I've got all sorts of amazing plans to make macrame necklaces and bracelets, and maybe even crochet some of it! The possibilities are endless!

Ooooh! The prettiness!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yum yum ice cream sandwiches

This photo has been kicking around Photobucket for a couple of weeks, so I figured, since everyone loves food porn, that I'd post it.

Those are ginger and vanilla ice cream sandwiches. My man made them with these cheapo ginger cookies we bought at the convenience store and the leftover vanilla ice cream from Pi Day. They have to be left in the freezer overnight so that the cookies absorb some of the moisture from the ice cream and soften up, and then they're delish-tastic!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This is an ex sweater!

It's sad and cathartic when you have to rip apart a sweater... and this weekend, I ripped apart two! There was the previously-mentioned off-the-shoulder top, but also that Candy Apple shrug (Lion Brand pattern, which you need an account for) I'd been working on forever. The former came apart depressingly easily, and for some reason, I thought it would be cool to see if I could wind it into a giant ball. So, folks, this is one crocheted sweater's worth of yarn, next to a pop can for size comparison. It's totally huge and unmanageable.

For the shrug, I separated it into a few balls of a manageable size, but it was much harder to rip apart because that yarn is so darn fuzzy. It feels nice to get rid of that though... I looked at myself in the mirror the last time I tried it on and I decided that I hated the style and how that yarn looked in single crochet using a 7mm hook. Anyway, good riddance. And now, I have all this fuzzy yarn in nice little balls instead of on that big roll...

Notice those can tabs in the background? I got inspired by this blog and will be attempting some can tabistry in the future.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy birthday, Savta!

Two days ago, on April 11th, my maternal grandmother (who I call Savta) turned 90 years old. She still has her marbles (for the most part), her mobility, and her teeth, a fact which she is very proud of. She's been living in a retirement home for about seven months now, mostly because she's almost entirely blind, and has become very forgetful. She knows that she has these problems, which is why I said she still has her marbles, but it's better that she be living in a retirement home than alone in her house. At any rate, she seems to be doing very well for someone her age.

For her birthday, my mother organized a party at the residence, and besides my parents, who drove all the way from Sherbrooke, QC, a whole bunch of her relatives showed up, many of whom I had never met. There was lots of food and a lovely cake, and I think Savta enjoyed herself a lot. My birthday present to her was a crocheted beret, which I made with some of that leftover pink yarn. I had shown her my Kitty hat, and she loved the colour (which looks much nicer in real life than in the picture). I have a feeling that she'll loose it soon and forget about it, but she seemed so happy when I gave it to her, so I guess it's worth it.

The dress she's wearing, she knit herself. She has knit countless sweaters, afghans, pillows, hats, and scarves, and only quit recently because she couldn't see well enough. She wasn't much for crochet, but her mother apparently would crochet these lovely lace doilies and couch covers (you know, the things that cover the arms and backs of couches), and I believe it's my great-grandmother's crochet hooks that I inherited. I feel like needle-crafts connect me to my female ancestors, especially since my mother also knits. It's like these crafts are something which transcend generations, and maybe this is one of the reasons why I enjoy knitting and crocheting so much.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A matter of scale

Whenever explaining astronomical ideas to a "lay-person", it seems that the most difficult concept to get across is the scale of things in the universe. It's challenging to understand just how vast our universe is, that it takes light over four years to get from our sun to the nearest star, that it would take light 2.5 million years to get from our galaxy to Andromeda, the nearest large galaxy.

And yet, I sometimes feel like even astronomers don't fully comprehend the scale of what we look at through our telescopes. This image is the Astronomy Picture of the Day from yesterday. I'm used to seeing pictures of these nebulosities up close, as taken with large telescopes, but even looking at the night sky through a telescope doesn't really convey how far they extend. I had no idea that these nebulae took up such a large portion of the sky. It's a pity that most of this structure is much too faint to see with the naked eye (especially in a Toronto sky where even the luminous Orion Nebula looks unimpressively faint through a 10" telescope).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The circular crochet hook

So I was reading Vashti Braha's blog from the beginning (I'm a little obsessive like that), and I had gotten to her entry entitled "Tools of Power". So she got some new crochet hooks... wait, circular crochet hooks? Whaaaaa? My mind was blown.

I'd heard of double-ended crochet hooks, though I had no idea what they were for. I guess I didn't really care that much... but circular crochet hooks? It's like a strange hybrid between circular knitting needles and crochet hooks (well, not "like", that's what it is). Circular knitting needles being my tool of choice in that craft, I had to find out more. After a little research, I found out that these needles are used for Tunisian crochet (check out some great video tutorials here) with two strands of yarn, usually of different colour.

You start off by chaining a few stitches and pulling up a loop through each chain while keeping it on the hook, just as you would for regular tunisian crochet. Then, instead of pulling the yarn back through all the loops, you move the loops down to the other crochet hook at the end of the wire and, using another colour, attach the yarn and start pulling the loops through on the opposite side. Here's a tutorial using a double-ended crochet hook, which is exactly the same idea. The end result is a two-sided fabric with more of one colour on one side than on the other, and without the curliness of regular tunisian crocheted fabric. The circular hooks are used for particularly long pieces of fabric, such as for afghans or blankets.

Neat! And just to prove that I'm not a total n00b when it comes to Tunisian crochet, you might recall my camera hoodie from this post, which I made using the tunisian knit stitch.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Life as a grad student

Being an astronomy grad student is pretty awesome. I get my own office, make my own hours, and study things I'm interested in. Here are a few of the perks of my life right now.

Every now and then we get to go out onto the balcony on the 15th floor

where we get this fantastic view of Toronto:

I have tiny fruit:

And Ganesh to destroy my obstacles:

And when our code is compiling, Greg and I have sword fights:

Though it's not always fun and games. Sometimes we actually do work! Here's Greg marking essays. He's really really enjoying himself:

And finally, here's something pretty to remind me (and anyone else living in Toronto) that spring is actually on its way. Even if it's been snowing for the past couple of days. These are some of the first flowers of spring in a garden near campus.

RIP Ugly Pink Sweater

One of the projects I briefly mentioned when I wrote that post about all that pink yarn was the first thing I ever tried to make with it, an off the shoulder pink sweater. I was so excited. It was my first big project and my first sweater. Unfortunately, it didn't work out so well. As I mentioned before, the front and back were different sizes and the whole thing was too loose. I would probably never wear this sweater in public.

Today, since I started to run out of yarn for my grandmother's birthday present (more on this later), I started frogging it. It was a bit of a cathartic experience. I suppose it's better to use that yarn for something that will get used instead of something that will lie in the bottom of my cupboard, but it still kind of hurts to see all that work disappear so quickly. *sigh*

Here's a pick of that ugly sweater (it doesn't look as bad as it was in this picture), so that I can always remember my mistakes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Un Ostie de bon Cozy! Free pattern

Because my man person was pining for la belle province, I made him a quebecois beer cozy. He said it was perfect. So for all you canadiens out there, here's the ostie de bon cozy!

Patons Astra in Electric Blue and White
4mm crochet hook
tapestry needle

ch - chain
sl st - slip stitch
sc - single crochet
hdc - half double crochet
dc - double crochet
tc - treble crochet
blo - back loop only
st - stitch
inc - in next chain
in#c - in next # chains


Cozy body:

With blue yarn, make an adjustable loop.
Rnd 1: 6 sc in ring
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each st around (12 sts)
Rnd 3: *2 sc in next st, sc in next st; rep from * around (18 sts)
Rnd 4: *2 sc in next st, sc in next 2 sts; rep from * around (24 sts)
Rnd 5: *2 sc in next st, sc in next 3 sts; rep from * around (30 sts)
Rnd 6: Working in blo, sc in each st around, change to white yarn without cutting blue yarn
Rnd 7-8: Sc in each st around, change back to blue yarn and cut white yarn
Rnd 9-23: Sc in each st around, change to white again without cutting blue yarn
Rnd 24-25: Sc in each st around, cut yarn and change back to blue
Rnd 26: Sc in each st around, cut blue yarn.

Fleur-de-lis applique:

With white yarn, ch 6, sc in 2nd ch from hook.
1st petal: Ch 7, sl st in 2nd ch from hook. Sc & hdc inc. Dc inc. 2 dc inc. Hdc & sc inc. Sl st inc. Sc inc of original chain.

2nd petal: Ch 9, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, sc inc, hdc inc, dc inc, tc inc, dc inc, sc inc, sl st inc. Sc inc of original chain.

3rd petal: Same as first petal, but twist right before the sc inc of original chain. Sc inc.

Bottom: Ch1, sl st in2c of the bottom of the chain, [sc, ch, dc, ch, sc] inc, sl st in2c. Cut yarn.


Sew the fleur-de-lis applique to the cozy body, making sure that it's between the two white lines. Sew in ends.