Scarf II: the sequel

Here’s what I did with my hands during Vericon.


I’m afraid you can’t see it very well, due to lack of an actual camera. It’s about 47 inches long and made of handspun purple and gray heathered wool (the pinkish purple yarn from my last post, in fact). The center design is a five-stranded braid made by alternating crossing the first and third strands on the left rightward below the second and fourth, and crossing the second and fourth rightward above the third and fifth. Hence the pattern repeat is much less complicated than it looks. The outer edges have a simple cable in three stitches. The scarf was quite quick to make, because the yarn is comparatively thick (about bulky weight, although of course not precisely so). The original pattern came from As before, it doesn’t belong to me, posting my results here is not for any commercial use, etc, and many thanks to its author.  Here’s a closer look.


Now, off to ship it to my aunt. The esteemed esqg and I will be posting about the embroidery project soon! We promise!

Pretty colors

Whilst I still have access to a digital camera, I may as well post pictures of some recent miscellany.

We found large quantities of wire hangers in the basement while cleaning up after a flood two weeks ago. So, given that one has to use up one’s scrap yarn somehow, the following resulted.cimg08394


Yarn is wound around a pair of hangers from both sides in the basic friendship bracelet stitch, as you probably already know. There are sixteen of them, counting the rather eyesmarting set of five.

Also, some  work on my new spinning wheel, which continues to be great fun. (The most recent batch is actually shows some improvement in evenness, but it’s in NY.) I have an upright wheel worked with both feet. Each color below represents between 2/3 and 3/4 of a pound of wool, spun into 2-ply yarn.


I continue to be delighted by how much faster the wheel is than my drop spindles – each color’s worth of yarn was finished in about an afternoon. Whee!

Wet-folding Origami

In my last (and first) post I said I’d try wet-folding, because some of these models seem to require either thinner or more malleable paper. So I decided that the African Elephant would be a good place to start, partly because the pattern (although tricky) doesn’t have very many folds overall (and doesn’t require any particularly precise folding), and partly because the instructions suggested it. So first I folded it in the usual way (i.e. with dry, normal paper):

Elephant (dry)

It worked, more or less. The hand-drawn instructions failed me when they tried to describe the fold for the tusks, but I made something up, which seemed to work. The model, however, only gives the general 3D shape of an elephant, requires a certain amount of paper-sculpting at the end, which is hard to do with normal paper.

So I took the advice of Wikipedia and wet both sides of a piece of paper using a damp kleenex, to ready it for wet-folding (using, of course, the same type and size of paper as before, albeit of a different color). As I tried to manipulate the paper I  noticed a couple of things:

  1. The paper I’ve been using has a grain–most of the fibers run in the same direction. If it’s wet equally on both sides it doesn’t wrinkle much out of the plane, but in the plane it expands different amounts along different axes when wet. So to start off, my paper wasn’t square. Like, really not square, with a difference of maybe a third of an inch (out of seven inches) between the two directions. But I was afraid it would dry out if I wasted time trying to trim it, so I just ignored it, and did all of my folds to within a 1/6 inch error. Good thing the pattern didn’t require much precision.
  2. The color on the paper is water-soluble. I could swear I ended up with almost as much color on the tissue I was using to wet the paper as on the paper itself.
  3. My (unvarnished) wooden table-top is much dirtier than I had thought. It turns out that wet paper picks up a lot of dirt. Of course, the more I tried to wipe off the dirt, the more color I lost…
  4. In this condition, I started folding the elephant, completely botching the folds leading up to the tusks, which in turn made even my makeshift tusk-fold impossible (I sort of skipped that part, just twisting the tusks into existence, which seemed to work, more or less). And I noticed some more things:

  5. Wet origami paper does hold creases (I’d been rather suspicious that it wouldn’t at all), but they become very hard to see after a while.
  6. The paper dries quite quickly. That is, too quickly to finish folding a (simple) elephant. And furthermore, re-dampening a semi-3D elephant with a wet kleenex is hard.

Anyway, here’s how it came out:

Elephant (wet)I suppose the non-crease folds tend to be somewhat smoother, and the model holds its shape better, but if I was hoping to use wet-folding to facilitate folding through thick sections in complex models, I am bound to be disappointed unless I can significantly improve my technique.

Conclusion:  Next time I should try using a spray bottle, a ruler and exacto knife, and a clean, non-absorbent hard surface, and maybe I’ll be able to make a better elephant.

This is what happens…

…when Caltech doesn’t give me any work for the first two weeks:


Of course, since I took that picture, several more models have been added to the collection. I’ve been going through the nicer-looking models on Most of the ones I’ve been doing are listed under ‘complex,’ with a few under ‘intermediate,’ but I can for the most part place them into categories as follows:

  1. Straightforward and elegant. Which is not to say easy to fold with little prior experience; it merely means that I could understand the instructions, didn’t run into any problems in the folding, etc. These tend to make nice, simple-looking, and furthermore, recognizable models the first time around. (This category includes the eagle, caterpillar-on-a-leaf, and chameleon near the front of the picture, and probably the shark, as well.)
  2. Hard, but elegant. Similar to the first category, but requires either a long period of staring at the diagrams from oblique angles in an attempt to make sense of them or else going to outside help, such as youtube videos of the folding process. Of course, this category depends on prior experience, but there are definitely some folds out there which just can’t be portrayed in a 2D diagram. (This category includes the dragon, pegasus, horse, and perhaps the wasp in the back, although that might fall under category 4, below)
  3. I’m stuck. Of course, anyday now these models might move to category 2, but as it is, these are the models I’ve tried and altogether failed to make. For instance, there’s a sea-turtle pattern that looks nice, but halfway through, having apparently understood all of the instructions hitherto, my model inexplicably no longer looks like the diagram (Sea turtle not pictured… maybe someday I’ll put up a picture of its current state… I think I threw away the blue crab.)
  4. Straightforward in theory, but impractical. That is, I understood what I was supposed to do, but couldn’t do it. You know how they say you can’t fold a piece of paper in half 7 times? This category includes all of those models which want you to make clean creases through 30 layers of paper (not as many as 2^6, but still impractical). (This would include such nigh-unrecognizable models as Dr. Octopus, an alien as from AVP, and the grasshopper, as well as an unrecognizable unfinished model on my desk, whose instructions started asking me to pull out almost non-existent flaps I couldn’t reach.) Many of these, though, might benefit from the art of wet-folding, which I have yet to try. I’ll post more when I get around to it.
  5. I suppose there’s also Technically Interesting but not particularly pretty, which includes the hedgehog and maybe the armadillo (and to some extent the shark, though it actually looks pretty nice if you squint at it). These tend to take a long time, but end up pretty angular and not so lifelike. On the other hand, if you need something to do with your hands while you talk to your friends, try folding 200 hedgehog spines (not on the hedgehog pictured here, but the more complicated model, which I foolishly gave away–so of course I had to make another. But I wasn’t foolish enough to make the complex version twice).

If people want, I can post pictures of individual models with little blurbs about what I did and didn’t like about them, the things I changed/ignored, etc.

Progress on the Gryphon Tapestry

(an explanatory supplement to esqg’s recent pictures)

I’ve been working on the top (the eagle part); esqg on the bottom (the lion part).  I’ve been working on the wings, and (in the pictures esqg posted yesterday) am just about to start working on the head. Esqg, meanwhile, has been navigating a dense assortment of legs and tails, and has just finished the tuft of hair at the tip of each tail.

By measurement, we’re about a third of the way done (we’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time this week weaving). On the other hand, progress in inches is  likely to start slowing rapidly: I’ve had it pretty easy so far but once I get to the head, things will start to get, well, if not hairy, than at least very, very feathery.

The pictures also show the evolution of the s-shaped crack in the middle of the tapestry, which appears to be developing more or less according to plan. The plan is eventually to cut the tapestry in half along that crack (so that esqg and I each get a tapestry to keep), and hem each side with ribbon. I’m confident that we’ll be able to do this, but I’m starting to worry about exactly how. Experience with the dragon tapestry has shown that it’s safe to take a tapestry out of its frame: that is, you can cut the knots on the outside of the frame, and the warp threads won’t rebound backwards into the tapestry anywhere near far enough to risk unravelling the edges. In principal, this should be similar–and even easier, since once the tapestry is out of its frame, the threads won’t even be under tension. On the other hand, I think I hadn’t quite realized how very little margin there’s going to be at the edges of the tapestry. It will presumably be necessary to assure ourselves that the threads on the edge of the crack are well and truly locked to their warp threads before cutting anything.


This summer my sister brought me a large skein of wool from the Aran Islands, and as I was much in need of a scarf, I decided that the sensible course was to cable the living daylights out of it. Here’s the result, which I finished in late December.scarf2

It was knit on size eight needles and a single double pointed needle for the cabling. The wool is approximately sport weight and slightly heathered; I estimate there were roughly seven hundred yards thereof.  It still smelled quite strongly and pleasingly of lanolin when I began to work with it. The pattern can be found here: (Note that this pattern is copyrighted to its originator. I am very grateful to him or her for posting it so that others could use it, and am only posting my results with it here so that my friends can see.) The completed scarf is quite thick and measures 52 inches by 7 inches. Each pattern repeat is about 3 inches long. Here is a closer look at the pattern.scarf4

As you can see, there are ten strands to the design; the six middle strands work their way once across the diagram in the course of two pattern repeats. The temporarily outermost strands of the six also twist around themselves. The scarf is knit such that all cables are worked on the even-numbered rows of the sixteen-row pattern; the odd numbered rows are simply knit or purled as appropriate. At the start, a pattern repeat took about two hours to complete, but familiarity with the design allowed me to whittle that down to ninety minutes by the end of the scarf.

And now onward to the next project…

Better tapestry pictures

We’ve been making progress! There isn’t much to say about it, except that I now have a proper digital camera so you can see the results.


I have now crocheted two versions of a Potholder Stitch Oven Mitt: one for me and my roommates, one for my father.  The website with the instructions seems to have been shut down!  So, the way I do it is with Sugar&Cream cotton yarn, because it’s good for high temperatures and it’s variegated.  I use a size G hook, but another size would be okay.

The tricky thing is how to do a potholder stitch.  You start with an ordinary chain for row 0; then, for the first row, you single-crochet only in the back loop of that row, leaving the front loops.  At the end of the row chain and turn, and then single-crochet through the back loop of the first row and the remaining (front) loops of row 0.  You’ve left the front loops of the first row alone, so for row 3 you use those loops along with the back loops of row 2.  The overall effect is a kind of crocheting that is twice as thick and the stitches on a given side all face the same direction.


0: Chain 21 stitches.  Turn. 
1: Sc (single-crochet) into back loop only of row 0, 19 stitches.  Chain 1.  Turn.
2: Sc (single-crochet) into back loop of row 1 together with front loop of row 0, 19 stitches.  Chain 1.  Turn.
3-30: Continue, until you have 15 rows visible on each side.

Thumb: Do only 5 stitches for row 31; chain 1, turn.  Continue for a total of 10 5-stitch rows.  Then to neaten up the top, pull a loop through *both* loops of the first stitch of row 40 and the back loop of the last of row 39; pull another loop as usual for the second stitch; yarn over and pull through all three loops.  So, in other words, crochet the first two stitches together but use up the front loop too for the first stitch because you won’t need it.  Do the next stitch as usual; then for the third, crochet the last two together, using up the front loop of the last.  Chain 1, turn.  Crochet the first two stitches together as before, and do the third one single-crochet through all three loops.  Knot the yarn, cut it.

Fingers: Go back to the other 14 stitches, and do as the thumb was.  I do it for 14 full stitches, making the thumb stick out slightly.  The original instructions have it just for 13, so the thumb can go straight up.  Anyway, do 20 rows for this (10 on each side) then decrease each row at beginning and end, so by 2 stitches and using up the extra loops, 3-4 times or until satisfied with the shape.  Finish.

Finally, you go and make another one, and sew them together on the edges except at the bottom.  I ended up crocheting them together along the edges and then turning it out, but that may not be the best way to do it.

Here’s a picture of the first one I did: