Calcifer Plush

A few years ago, I started introducing one of my best friends, Suzi, to Miyazaki movies. She had seen Kiki’s Delivery Service, but only that one movie. We started with Howl’s Moving Castle and she fell in love with Calcifer, the fire demon who keeps the castle moving, among other things. As we worked our way through other movies and other cute Miyazaki characters, Calcifer remained Suzi’s favorite.

Calcifer

For Christmas this year, I almost got Suzi a plush Calcifer at a store in the mall, but the plush was spendy for what it was and I knew I could do better. I checked Ravelry for patterns and found this one by Sally Marshall. Now, I’m not so great with intarsia or at least not very confident in my skills, so buying the pattern and attempting this was a bit risky. But the project is small enough that it wouldn’t be frustrating if I failed and I figured I could probably cover up any mistakes with double stitching.

I also decided that angora would be perfect for this project. Calcifer would look a bit more fire-like if he was fuzzy and angora would help me with intarsia because it’s pretty sticky. I could have tried mohair, but angora is so much softer, IMO. Plymouth has the only 100% angora yarn in a suitable weight, but the range of colors didn’t include a suitable orange or yellow. The red would probably work though.

I ordered 1 skein of red and 2 skeins of white angora along with some Jacquard Acid dyes and waited by my mailbox (not really, but that’s what it felt like). When the yarn arrived, I wound both skeins of white into hanks on my niddy noddy for dying and started with orange, Jacquard color 606 Deep Orange. I tried to do the requisite math to reduce the dye recipe from 16 oz down to 10 g, but definitely overestimated. That turned out to be a good thing – the resulting color was almost neon, deeply saturated and almost more red than the commercially dyed red, which now looked pink in comparison.

Calcifer
Orange dyed yarn and commercially dyed red. Photo is not filtered or adjusted at all. 

I used some washed fleece to exhaust the dye bath, which I lated combed and used as stuffing for the plush. This is just one lock; I dyed close to a pound of washed fleece. I’m estimating; I didn’t actually weigh it out, just added more water to the dye pot and stuffed in what I could to sop up the dye. I did that with the other dye baths as well; eventually I’m going to use the wool to make some rolags that look like fire, so keep an eye out here for a post about that.

Calcifer
Washed fleece used to exhaust the orange dye bath

I proceeded to dye yellow yarn (Jaquard 602 Bright Yellow) and then thought I’d try overdyeing the commercial red with a red I had on hand – Jacquard 611 Vermillion. Vermillion ended up being much to dark and a bit too maroon to work for Calcifer. I ordered more yarn and more dye, Jaquard 618 Fired Red. A week or so later, I had dye success. Below is the full color range of angora I dyed.

Calcifer
Dyed Angora – left to right: Jacquard 602 Bright Yellow, 606 Deep Orange, 618 Fired Red, 611 Vermillion over commercially dyed red (the other base yarns were white)

By this time, I knew I wouldn’t have Calcifer done in time for Christmas, which is not a big deal; last year Suzi and I exchanged gifts in January.

The pattern is knit in flat pieces starting with a garter stitch base. Instead of knitting the front and back separately and seaming them to the base, I picked up stitches along the base and knit them attached that way.

Calcifer
Base and front/face of Calcifer

I didn’t think I would use the Vermillion-dyed yarn at all, but it ended up being perfect for the French knots that are Calcifer’s pupils. The intarsia was challenging and it’s not 100% perfect – some of the stitches are uneven, some are pulled too tight – but I used a needle to even some stitches out manually and double stitched others while weaving in the ends to cover up the glaring holes.

Calcifer
Finished Calcifer front – isn’t he cute?
Calcifer
Finished back

I thought making the back look like the front but without the eyeballs, but I was anxious to finish him and I didn’t want more intarsia & noodling out the pattern to slow me down. Maybe I’ll make another where the back echoes the front colors.

Suzi and I met for milkshakes (our thing) last Friday and I gave her Calcifer, along with a Clapotis I made for her (it will always match her hair, which she colors frequently), so I feel like I can finally post about it without potentially spoiling the surprise. She’s thrilled! She says that he is “The softest fire I’ve ever touched!” Mission accomplished!

Ravelry project details, in case you’re curious.

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Happy New Year! 2018 Goals

Happy New Year! don’t know exactly what’s coming down the pike in 2018 – it’ll be a surprise for us all – but I hope it’s good or that, at least, we can find the good in it.

I tend to not set annual goals; instead I set small goals as needed through the year. However, thanks to a windfall, I want to knit more fair isle and stranded color work in 2018.

The windfall came about through my good friend Lisa (rabbitsmile on Ravelry), who has a friend facing not being able to knit anymore. Initially the friend carefully went through her stash, sending Lisa only the things she knew she could use,  but I think as this friend-of-a-friend went through her stash (and her tools and her library) she got overwhelmed. She mailed Lisa a box of books (think of the expense!) that included books that Lisa already had, so she offered them to me. Meg Swanson, Alice Starmore, two books from Jamiesons on Fair Isle, and more – the beginnings of a solid Fair Isle library. This friend also boxed up her remaining stash – 5 or 6 big boxes – and sent it to Lisa, including bits and bobs and unfinished projects that Lisa now feels compelled to finish. So Lisa has offered, encouraged, and begged me to come shop this stash because she’s overwhelmed by it all. So in doing more Fair Isle, I’ll have fun (I love stranded knitting – knitting it is addictive) but also help out a friend and honor a knitter who can’t knit anymore.

First up, I hope, is this sweater, the Turka Ocean designed by Natela Astakhova/Natela Datura (her business name? maiden name? I’m not sure). I wish I could figure out how to get an image from Instagram to display properly, but I’ve never gotten it to work, even with my own account, so you’ll just have to click through to see how gorgeous it is. Anyway, Natela is in Moscow and her site is primarily in Russian. She only has 2 designs available for purchase on Ravelry; the rest of her designs – she designed some really gorgeous colorwork sweaters – are available in Russian from her site. I just realized the email from her with the download link went into my Spam folder but that I have it – Happy New Year to me! I know what I’ll be reading as soon as I finish this post!

I do have other goals, but they are short-term goals for the month of January, not annual goals. I’m starting #spin15aday today, which is (I think?) an annual thing, but I’m starting out with the hope/expectation that I can spin for 15 minutes every day in the month of January. I still have lots of fiber that I bought leading up to Spinzilla that I really want to spin, and I dyed some of my own hand-prepared fleece during my end of year quiet time that I’m excited to use to make rolags.

I’m also starting the #wespinyarn challenge run by Three Waters Farm and @knittingsarah on Instagram. It’s a series of prompts, one for each day in January. I hope to become more aware of the spinning community on Instagram and meet some new people.

Last, for January, is a writing challenge run by Nadia of Cottage Notebook, who I also met on Instagram. I haven’t decided yet how much of my writing from this I’ll be sharing here, but I realized during my silent end of the year period that I do need to write, that if I don’t write I’m wasting one of my talents, and that I don’t necessarily have to have some end game goal in mind (like this blog or a contest or being published) for it to be meaningful: it means something to me and that has to be enough.

I really do hope 2018 is a good year for you all. Thank you for all your comments and encouragement in 2017; I hope you’ll stick around and that we can find out way through the next year on some fibery adventures (and maybe some more personal stuff too) together. ❤

 

2017: The Year in Review

Hi friends! It’s been a while. After Spinzilla my will to blog – or do anything with any regularity – kind of disappeared. After some reflection, I don’t think my posts are working as well for me as they once were, though I may change my mind about that and go back to the schedule I set last February, which I was pretty consistent with until October/November.

Looking over my posts from last year, I entirely forgot that I did National Poetry Writing Month in April. Though I started a few days late, I made those days up in May so I’m patting myself on the back for that accomplishment. I was going to submit some of them to a contest run by Narrative Magazine, but then never actually got around to it. Maybe in 2018 I’ll do something with them.

As far as knitting projects go, I finished:

  • 3 hats, including a pussy hat
  • 2 sweaters (A Bohus sweater kit & a cabled sweater – I’ve been wearing one or the other daily now that the weather is cold)
  • A sleeveless summer top (which I wore all summer long)
  • 3 pairs of mitts or mittens (2 pairs for a friend’s baby, 1 for Lola the kitten)
  • 1 scarf for Lola (every kitten needs a scarf, right?)
  • 4 shawls, one of which was a commission
  • 1 blanket square for knittingthestash’s Knit Together Project
  • 1 blanket for the Welcome Blanket Project
  • 6 hearts for Hearts for Cville
  • 1 Calcifer

As for spinning:

  • I participated in Tour de Fleece, which was interrupted by getting the commission for a Wonder Woman shawl.
  • I participated in Spinzilla for the first time.
  • I had 12 spinning projects. I could calculate length spun, but that’s a bit too much effort.
  • I spun some of the fleece from Shenandoah 2011.
  • I have 2 FOs from one spinning project (a hat and Lola’s scarf).
  • I used singles from another project to embroider an explosion or fireworks (which is an explosion, but I’m getting nit picky, I suppose).

And embroidery:

  • I finished 2 pieces.
  • I saved leftover spun singles for more project.
  • I have a potential future commission based on one project, The View From Mt. Peg.

Miscellaneous Accomplishments:

  • I published one new pattern, available for free on Ravelry, This Is My Heart.
  • I consistently went to my Wednesday knitting meet-up and went several times to a new-to-me meet-up at Finch Knitting + Sewing Studio.
  • I blogged relatively consistently from February – October.
  • I continued to keep my toe in the tech writing waters by editing presentations, project plans, business communications, and other miscellaneous project documents on demand.

In personal news:

I feel like I had my best year mood-wise in a long time. I took all my meds, saw my therapist about once every 2 months or so, psychiatrist quarterly. I also made an appointment for & went to a checkup with my GP. (However, I should have made an appointment later in the year because my BP started creeping up despite meds. Next year.)

I kept my family alive, again. So far my record for this is A+, 100%.

  • Ethan graduated from high school and started college at JMU. The transition was difficult because of some drama that exploded in August, but he has adjusted and is doing well.
  • Brandon started his sophomore year at WVU and, since really breaking up with his girlfriend who goes to VA Tech, is finally settling in and making more friends and doing what college kids do (party, but not too much). He barely passed Calculous 2, but is now done with Calc forever.
  • Henry finished 7th grade, went with Ethan on a big trip to S. Korea on their own for 2 weeks, and when he came home, his voice dropped – his hormones have come in. He’s grown at least 3″ and his feet are now bigger than mine. He’s in 8th grade, made Honor Roll, and is on the leadership team at tae kwon do, which means he’s helping to teach classes and has cleanup duties.
  • My husband is a contractor; he was commuting to Denver during the week, flying home every weekend. That particular contract ended at the end of June and he’s been looking for a new one since then. He’s an IT Consultant with a lot of experience in telecommunications and the healthcare industry – here he is on Linked In if you’re curious/interested. He has a lot of irons in the fire, but none of them have led to his next gig. Hopefully next month something will turn up!
  • We lost Moose, our retriever mix that was a rescue that we rescued from Florida. And we gained Lola, a black polydactyl kitten born in early September. She has an extra toe on all 4 feet and has brought a lot of positive energy to the house.
  • We rearranged our family room, which involved some construction, but it has opened the room up and given us more floor space. Sitting on the couch gives you a view out the windows now instead of walls, which I love.
  • Edited on 1/1/18 to add that I started tae kwon do in February and just earned my light blue belt, which is halfway through the belts to get to black belt.

If all goes as planned, I’ll post tomorrow with some goals and plans for 2018.

 

 

 

 

The Week October 23-29

Last week:

  • Walk instead of going back to bed after I finish my morning coffee. Done for today – I took Lil for a walk on the W&OD trail (a rail trail) that runs through my neighborhood and all the way into DC.
    Done. Lil and I have walked every day since last Monday. Somedays have just been around the block, and twice so long that I broke her and had to carry her part of the way back; I won’t do that this week, I’ve promised her.
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Lil, broken (resting) on the W&OD
  • Go to TKD twice.
    I went thrice!
  • Carry on knitting  (S)urge, the new shawl and read The Essex Serpent while doing it.
    Done. I finished The Essex Serpent (5 stars, would read again) and started Brazzaville Beach.
  • Start a new embroidery or new spinning project.
    Started, made progress, and ruined. But I have a similar, better idea for the next one.
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Almost done! But that netting …
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Ruined! I should have made my peace with the netting. 
  • Write a post about Spinzilla.
    Nope. But I did change the poem on my refrigerator to e. e. cummings [hist whist].

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And, unexpectedly, I found the perfect kitten while browsing Petfinder, which replaced my Twitter feed for a while. I convinced my husband, with some wise words from my 13 year old who said “Dad, just give in; you can’t win an argument with Mom!” and I filled out the adoption application for this guy, who’s current name is Spider.

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Double paws, black fluffy coat, and a blep? I’m in love!

This week:

  • Carry on with walking every day, but not so much that I break Lil and have to carry her.
  • Go to TKD twice.
  • Carry on knitting  (S)urge, the new shawl and read Brazzaville Beach while doing it.
  • Start another new embroidery project using lessons learned from the scissor catastrophe.
  • Spinzilla. I’m going to write about it as soon as I post this.
  • Spider-kitten: wait patiently. My contact at the rescue is out of town until Wednesday.
  • Saturday we’re going to Morgantown for my oldest’s birthday. I think there will be hiking and cake. And lots of car knitting.

The Week October 16-22

So last week I flaked out on everything and spent a good part of the week in bed, either reading (I finished a bad steampunk novel and started The Essex Serpent) or sleeping. Spinzilla was fun but, as usual, I went all-in and by Saturday was ready for it to be over. My hip flexors hurt from sitting and spinning so much and I fought with the last braid I spun late Saturday and Sunday. I’ll definitely do it again, but with better and strategic planning, now that I know what to expect.

I also happen to be in between creative projects; I’m knitting a shawl, but I’m not over the moon excited about it, and I’m not embroidering anything right now. I also have started to doubt my validity and long term plan, which I’ve managed to do in record time. Am I really an artist? Is that something I can really spend the rest of my time doing? Or am I just another person with needles and knitting patterns? I just need to do some more soul searching and long term planning, or, you know, actually execute my long term plan.

I saw my therapist on Friday and she noticed that my affect is pretty flat, so seasonal changes in the light might already be affecting me. I may need a medication adjustment, which annoys me because I didn’t need one last year, so why should I need one this year? I’m even taking vitamins this year to help keep things under control. I wish there was a blood test or something similar that I could take – just like my husband testing his blood sugar level – to determine exactly what I need instead of this touchy feely stabbing in the dark stuff.

On to planning!

The week before last week:

  • SPINZILLA!
    It was fun, despite me having no sense of pace or self-control. I’ll definitely do it again and recommend it!

This week:

  • Walk instead of going back to bed after I finish my morning coffee. Done for today – I took Lil for a walk on the W&OD trail (a rail trail) that runs through my neighborhood and all the way into DC.
  • Go to TKD twice.
  • Carry on knitting  (S)urge, the new shawl and read The Essex Serpent while doing it.
  • Start a new embroidery or new spinning project.
  • Write a post about Spinzilla.

 

The Week October 2-8

Last week:

  • Take fancy final project photos of Inamara, which involves getting Mr. Q & his photog skills.
    Ugh – I still need to do this.
  • Carry on with (S)urge, the new shawl.
    Making progress!
  • Spin, whether it’s handpainted or some of the fleece from my stash.
    I started and finished spinning fleece from my stash. All the details on it are here, but I spun 378 yards of a 3 ply sport-ish weight yarn, with a 2 ply and singles left over. I couldn’t wait for Spinzilla.
  • Ruminate further on a new embroidery project or, you know, actually start one.
    I ruminated and cleaned up my project basket, but didn’t start anything new.

This week:

I’m taking precious time away from the wheel to take care of some non-spinning stuff and then it’s back to the grindstone! What’s Spinzilla, you ask? All the details are here, but it’s basically a week-long spin-a-thon. (Hey! That rhymes!) I’m almost 2/3 of the way through my first braid of fiber and actually considering drinking some coffee so I can stay up later and spin more! (That’s probably a bad idea and I don’t think I’ll do it, but the thought is there!) Have a great week!

The Week September 25 – October 1

Last week:

  • Take fancy final project photos of Inamara, which involves getting Mr. Q & his photog skills. Use his camera this time, not my phone.
    I talked to him about it but we never got around to it.
  • Continue working on the new blanket.
    Finished. I started and restarted (twice) a shawl, and finally found a pattern that I like and started that over twice, going forward with different yarn.
  • Continue spinning the braid of Pigeon Roof Studios fiber.
    Finished.
  • Start a new embroidery project.
    Nope. I’m still stuck on the last one, but I have some ideas of what to do next.
  • Hopefully hear back from my friend and decide what to do with The View From Mt. Peg.
    Nope. She’s a high school English teacher in Hawaii, so that may explain why she’s not online much.
  • Saturday: meet Becky & her daughter Mia at Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. From there, go to friend gathering in Martinsburg, WV. Sunday is free, so maybe I can get Ky to go to the Leesburg Fine Arts Festival (day 2) to poke around and maybe make some connections in this local artist world I’m trying to be more active in.
    We went, we saw, I bought stuff – spinning fiber and vintage buttons; I’m ready for Spinzilla. And I also had a really good afternoon catching up with Leticia & her littles. I slept on Sunday, pretty much during prime Fine Arts Festival time so we didn’t go.

 

SVFF Goodies
My favorite bump of fiber from SVFF; BFL, llama, seacell. I absolutely love this color combination!
  • Some sad news: Moose, our 12 year old big black dog, hasn’t been doing well and so we have an appointment on Thursday to ease his pain and help him across the Rainbow Bridge. It went as well as could be expected. The in-home vet was very compassionate, Moosie went out without any pain and with a dog bone in his mouth, very fitting for a guy who could never eat enough. We miss him but are all glad he’s not in pain anymore.
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Moose, the goofy noble beast

I also carded some fleece from my stash, so I have a batt ready to spin. Now if I could just find where I noted the breed …

This week:

  • Take fancy final project photos of Inamara, which involves getting Mr. Q & his photog skills.
  • Carry on with (S)urge, the new shawl.
  • Spin, whether it’s handpainted or some of the fleece from my stash.
  • Ruminate further on a new embroidery project or, you know, actually start one.