Monday, October 23, 2017


I am generally not a crocheter.  I sometimes will use a chain stitch for edging a sweater or shawl or starting a provisional cast-on in knitting, but that's about it.  Once in a blue moon I get bit by the "amigurumi" bug and feel compelled to make a crocheted, cute effigy of some living thing. The problem is that I basically have to re-learn how to crochet every time.  So I don't endeavor to do it very often. It's a vicious cycle, I know.

I even bought a kit from Barnes & Noble fairly recently to make cacti amigurumi.  They're super cute.  But I haven't gotten around to doing any of those yet.  The kit includes enough yarn to make 2 different ones (out of 12 fully patterned ones that are included in the book in the kit).


But about a week ago, I stumbled on a pattern for an amigurumi octopus that I thought would make the perfect gift for a friend.  Most amigurumi are done as crochet and, naturally, this one was too.  I did a first attempt with some dk/worsted yarn I had laying around.  I found this unwieldy and that it produced a pretty small result.  Many might say, "But isn't this the point of amigurumi?  That mundane, full-sized things are transformed into miniature, squishy chotchkies crammed with adorability?"  Perhaps.  Though, Wikipedia states that there is no rule about size.

Therefore, I decided to go my own route and make it a giant octopus, using some leftover Rowan Big Wool Yarn.  Maybe I'm embarking on my own niche market? :-)  Rowan Big Wool is a luscious, all-wool confection that is soft and lofty and knit on size 15 needles.  Well, I didn't have a crochet hook quite that big, so I used the biggest I could find in my arsenal: K, which is equivalent to a 10.5 knitting needle.  All-in-all, it worked out well. (I would obtain an L or M hook if I were to make another of these with similar gauge yarn). I used probably about 1.5 balls, maybe a little less.

Him's grumpy!

It's hard to gauge the size of this guy from the photos, but just his head part is about 4.5 inches tall and the tendrils are about 13 inches, unstretched. So, yeah, he's pretty big. Here are some more photos:

It wouldn't be me if I didn't make some kind of alteration to a pattern, right?  So, aside from the very large size, I also did the octopus tendrils very differently than the pattern's instructions.  Ok. So when I think octopus I picture something like this:

I.e., something with impossibly unique, undulating, curling tendrils.  If you check the pattern, well, the tendrils were more like dense, stubby cones, which I,  a) didn't like and b) could not for the life of me figure out how to do.  So I searched around for something else and ended up improvising and combining a few ideas I saw to come up with legs that look like this:

I'm quite happy with the way the legs turned out.  I think they capture the spirit of an aquatic animal very well.  Here's what I did for each leg (caveat: I’m not a very experienced crocheter, so I hope my instructions make sense):
Make chain of 42 stitches.
Single crochet back (but only through the back loop), starting with second stitch from the hook.
Make one DC increase, DC, repeat for 26 stitches. Slip stitch. Bind-off.
Repeat for all 8 legs.

Another thing I did differently was to close up the bottom.  I really had to.  Because of its size, it would not have been a good idea to leave it open with all the stuffing coming out.  I improvised this too.  Turned out looking clean, which is all I could ask for.

Hey, I'm getting pretty good at this crochet thing, right?

Lastly, I wanted to accentuate the eyes, so I asked a fellow Raveler what she did and she told me just to make a simple cast-on chain as the ring around each eye and attach them separately.  This was so easy and it turned out great!  It adds to the realistic grumpy-ness of the octopus, I think.

Lastly, if I every made another of these---which I might because I found it extremely enjoyable and satisfying---I would crochet maybe two more rounds at the bottom of the head (where the legs are attached) before I attach the legs.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Snag Free My Ass and Other Random Musings On Stitch Markers

This was going to be a short post but truncating my experiences to just a couple paragraphs proved impossible so strap in, here we go....

So as most of you know, I am a knitter.  I've been knitting for something like 13 years as of this posting.

To make my knitting life easier and more enjoyable, I'm always on the hunt for unique notions, needles, or other accessories designed with the knitter in mind.

One such notion that most knitters (even beginners) will find themselves using constantly are stitch markers.  For non-crafty-types: these are things that slip onto your needles between stitches so that you can keep better track of your knitting. From the simplest of patterns to the most complex, stitch markers are ubiquitous in knitting.  For example, if you need to make a decrease in your knitting on the 11th row after the 36th stitch, then purl 15 stitches before continuing in your pattern (don't ask me what cockamamie pattern THAT is....), you would use a stitch marker at those points in your knitting so that you're not counting all the time, and/or trying to keep track of all of this is your head.  Stitch markers are especially useful when knitting in the round, where you knit a seamless tube.  This is used for hats, socks, sweaters, etc.  Even if you are not knitting anything other than a plain stockinette tube (say, for a sock), a stitch marker is the most efficient way to tell when one round ends and another begins.

So that was Stitch Markers 101.  Nice, right?

Many years ago, I purchased some stitch markers from a store on Etsy called HideandSheep.  They made markers with a proprietary design, which they called "needle huggers" (see below).  I am not exaggerating when I say that these were the greatest stitch markers ever created by human hands. Notice how I say "were." Yeah. For some reason, HideandSheep stopped making them. I wish I knew the reason; because I want to keep sending them letters, begging them to start making them again.  But I don't want to bug them if, say, the person who made them died and they can never replicate the process again.  That is a heartbreaking scenario, which I don't want to entertain further.

Notice how they are not only compact and "needle hugging," but also completely dangle free (no crap hanging loosely), thereby being SNAG FREE.  This is extremely important to anyone who works with fiber---maybe even the most important factor to look for in stitch markers.  There's nothing worse than pulling and snagging your lovely knitted project with a 2-dollar stitch marker.

These markers are small, non-obstructing, had no pointy bits, no spring rings, nothing dangling. They are simple, elegant --- sublime in form and function and do absolutely 100% what they promise.  They were also incredibly affordable (something like $4-$5 for a set of 6). They came in 3 sizes: small, for sock or lace knitting, medium for the dk/worsted range, and large for bulky plus.  The ease with which these markers slip on and off the needles while knitting is unparalleled, no matter if it is a larger marker on a size 11 needles or a tiny one on a size 1.5.

I loved these stitch markers so much that I even bought several sets and gave them out as little gifts to all my knitting buddies.

Anyway, bottom line, I've been on the hunt for something similar to these blessed "needle hugger" stitch markers for the last several years.

Well I found a shop on Etsy (Twiceshearedsheep) that had similar designs---not exactly, but similar.

These have a "mobius" connection from one side of the bead to the other, meaning the wire twists in the opposite direction between the holes. My hesitation to try them has left me hanging once again.  The shop that sold these close facsimiles now no longer makes them anymore either.  RAGE.  Why did I hesitate?  Primarily because they were like $18 or something close to that.

Today I poked around again because I am starting to lose the original "needle hugger" ones from HideandSheep. :-(  Over the years they have had a way of disappearing into oblivion, despite my best efforts to keep them all in little, labeled cases like the treasures they are.  I searched for "dangle-free snag-free stitch markers."

OMG I found a shop with something very similar! Under $5!  I rejoiced!

Oh...wait.  They're in France and won't ship to the US.

Rich Evans: National treasure

I finally found a shop that makes a similar stitch marker, they're in Ohio.  HeidiandLana. Who are offering these for $9:

Seems a tad high-priced for 5 stitch markers, but whatever.  At least they are true to their advertising. I added these to my cart.

Then there are these from thecrimsonorchid:

Hmmm...not bad!

I'm popping a set into my cart as well. $8 and $5.50 shipping from Canada to the US.  This shop also has A LOT to choose from in the stitch-marker area!

These are genuine amethyst and they're $15 for 10.  That's not bad at all.  And you can choose from 4 sizes.

Me likey.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "Uh, just try something else and stop whining!" Yes, there are several other options for stitch markers, which work reasonably well enough but are still not as ideal as those needle huggers for one reason or another.  Sometimes they don't slip well between the needles, sometimes they don't work well for a particular size needle, sometimes they break...the list goes on.

One such example are these plastic, locking stitch markers, which are featured pretty much everywhere nowadays.  The plus is that they are super cheap.  You can often buy a bag of 100 for like $8.  They are really colorful, which is nice when you need to use several in a project a different points.

My problem with the above is that they come in one size, which works great for needles between sizes 7-10.  They don't fit on the needles beyond size 10, and they are too floppy and get in the way when using them for projects on smaller needles. (Don't even think about it for socks....) They also break often.  I've been through more than a few of these.  So it stands to reason that you'll go through a bag of 100 quicker than you thought you would.

Another fairly decent option are the soft-wire stitch markers.  I sometimes have an issue with these being called "dangle-free." Technically, there is not a separate ring attaching the "bead" to the wire, so they qualify as dangle-free.  But often the overall size of the bead is obnoxiously large. I have purchased a couple of these over the years.  They are also relatively inexpensive and seem to be made to accommodate more needle sizes. The one pictured below is, obviously, for a fairly large needle.

My complaint with these is that even with the better size-range, they are not the easiest to get your needles into to slip them from needle to needle.  Unless you're using a large size on a small needle, or very sharp needle points, I find I struggle with these.  And if you use a large size on a small needle then you create the other problem of them being unwieldy and in the way of your knitting. Another issue is that people like to put all kinds of crap on the wires for "aesthetic" reasons.  As I mentioned, unless the beads are perfectly smooth and fairly small, it defeats the purpose of having a snag-free wire if you have pointy and/or large, heavy chotchkies coming off them. The ones above are not guilty of this.  But these ARE guilty AF:

And so are these, mostly because they weigh a TON.  Those are ceramic cats.  Super adorable, but difficult to manage on one's needles (ask me how I know):

Cute, yes.  Practical? No.
 And these:

And also these:

If the leaves somehow don't snag you,
those crimped metal pieces at the bottom will!

Another type of marker that meets the "dangle-free and snag-free" requirements are the shaped rings or just plain rings (sometimes with one bead on them).  I have not tried the shaped ones, but am considering it.  They are inexpensive and don't take up a lot of space. I like their minimalist qualities too: simple and lightweight. Plus the shaped ones have irregular openings, which makes getting your needles in them a lot easier than just plain rings.  I have used plain rings before and I do not like using them. The rubber ones, in particular, are just terrible.  They catch on the needles and your knitting.  They don't slip on and off easily.  And sometimes when you actually can get them to move off your needles, they come springing off, kamikaze style.

Plain rings:
The evil rubber ones.  EEEEEVIIIIIL!

Or with beads:

Shaped rings:

 Rounded edges!  Niiiice! 

So because I am insane, and it's already taken me four friggin' days to write this post, I decided to go down the rabbit hole a bit more and searched Etsy just for "Snag-free stitch markers." This search produced eleventy billion results, which indicated to me that people who make and sell stitch markers do not actually know what "snag free" means, but they know it's highly desirable by knitters and crocheters. (Same deal with anything called "Victorian." You've been warned.)  I think what qualifies these as "snag-free" is that the ring that goes on the needles is seamless, unlike a spring ring or a jump ring.

                Spring ring

Jump rings

Other than that, all bets are off.  This is such flawed thinking.  Do they not realize (or care) that the crap that hangs off the rings ALSO causes snags? In fact, for me, it's the primary cause of snags? Of course not.

So I bring you this cavalcade of disasters that specifically claim to be "snag-free:"

La Tour D'Eiffel
Ooh la la!  Not ugly, but also definitely not snag free. They're metal too, so they might not be terribly light-weight either. C
Designed by Pointy "Stabs" McSquarebottoms.

Stupid Parliament
Ok, listen. I'm going to get right to it: SNAG FREE MY ASS.  First of all, yes, the owls are smooth so no snagging there.  However, they are ceramic, which means these are also probably heavy as shit. But look at the connectors on either set.  Those are SPRING RINGS on the top row and JUMP RINGS on the bottom row.  You are violating literally the ONLY rule that seems to apply to stitch markers being deemed snag-free. D

Choose your own snag adventure: spring ring or jump ring?

The Great Snagging Cicada of Australia

"Set of 10 snag free stitch markers Green speckled agate"   $9.89

Should actually read: "Set of 9 snag-free markers and one giant fucking bug that will snag everything it comes in contact with.  Good luck getting a project even out of your knitting bag with this asshole attached to it!"  

I am going to give these a solid B.  Aside from the crazy-ass cicada charm, this is a set of 9 pretty-decent markers for about $10.  That's not too bad.  But they are in Australia, so the shipping is like $7 to the US.  So...yay?  

You've SOCK To Be Kidding Me?

These are supposed to be for socks.  SOCKS.  Can you imagine flipping these stupid things on your DPNs or circulars while trying to knit socks?  COME ON.  At least they're on actual non-snagging rings and they appear to be lightweight (if ginormous).  C

Effigy to Stabbing

Here is one of the worst offenders I saw.

O_o I'll take EXTRA snag with my markers, THX
Um...where do I begin? How about the $30 price tag? I'm guessing the absurd price is because the big O rings are sterling silver.  So you're paying $6 for each marker because of that? Why would anyone need or even want that?  It's certainly not enough quantity of sterling silver to even come close to $30.  Ridiculous!  Ok, put that aside.  Fine. 

They have not one but TWO dangles---one of which literally has four points sticking out of it. (I assume these are effigies of balls of yarn with 2 needles stuck into it in cross-hare fashion with the ends coming out, which, by the way, no knitter I've ever known has jammed their needles into a ball of yarn in this way. Ever.) The other is a faceted crystal, attached by a looped pin that comes in through the bottom.  News flash, Etsy shop, these markers are the snaggiest snaggers that ever snagged.  D-.

Psychedelic Snags

Luxury Knitters Gift Flower Snag Free Stitch Markers & 3.5inch Stitch Holder set of 4 Progress Friend Christmas Present for Yarn Addict Wool


"Set of 4 beautiful enamelled floral Knitters Stitch Markers and matching 3.5 inch Stitch Holder The gorgeous flowers are 3D with a tactile curve. This is the only set and when they are gone they're gone

The ring on each stitch marker itself is smooth non snag and has an inner dimension of 9mm to fit needles up to approx 7mm.

The 3.5 inch flower decorated stitch holder can be used to store your markers or pinned to your work in progress bag so that they are always on hand when you need them

The Charms are beautifully enamelled and all in coordinating shades of blue purple red and pink. The exact charms may vary slightly from those pictured

Handmade by me here in the wilds of Yorkshire with dreams of WIP

More sets to come so do check back frequently. You can find all my knitting stitch markers and holders here

I love these markers because they will not snag your yarn and will not open up like flimsy split rings can - you literally need 2 pairs of pliers to open them up but they are still lightweight and suitable even for lace weight yarn

Would make a very special gift for a knitter or for yourself

Set of 4 stitch markers and stitch holder come in a sheer organza bag ready for gift giving."

Lack of punctuation also noted...

$18? 3D? Blue? Dafuq is WIP?
Full disclosure, I seriously had to look at the pictures and read the description like a dozen times to understand that I wasn't looking at 5 stitch markers. That red one all the way to the left is permanently attached to the pin.  No lie, it took me an embarrassingly long time to process this. Also? If this person seriously thinks these gargantuan flowers can be used with a lace project, then he/she needs to have a CAT scan. And handmade? Really? You put 4 charms on a big safety pin and called it macaroni. I sincerely doubt you designed, cast, and enameled the metal flowers personally.

From the same shop:

Gothic Skeleton Stitch Markers Hanged Man Set 4 Snag Free Knit spin weave crochet 2 inch Stitch Holder fun Gift for goth knitter spinner


Oh great, Halloween-themed stitch markers. 

SIGH. TANGENT ALERT!  Those of you who know me also know that I absolutely hate Halloween.  I think it's a stupid "holiday." I do not understand the appeal of Halloween to anyone over the age of like 12. I abhor the revelry in horror, the macabre, the repulsive, or the terrifying. I hate horror movies and gore in general.  Why do people celebrate this?  Every year it starts earlier and earlier.  Warehouse-sized stores are outfitted seemingly overnight dedicated to this absurdity.  Can't the human race think of any more-satisfying pursuits than dressing up like Jason Vorhees and jamming 47 mini Kit-Kat bars in their gobs every October 31?  I weep for humanity....

Oh and these are, indeed, a horror show of the snaggiest proportions. F.

Anchors A-weigh!

"This set of 5 anchor stitch markers is silver plated and will fit needles up to 6.5mm/US 10.5. Split ring markers minimise snagging and enhance your knitting. They also make an ideal gift for your knitting friends."

F for, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Not much more to say here.  But if it isn't obvious by now: over-sized, heavy, metal, pointy charms are 180 degrees from what a stitch marker needs to be truly functional. It's hard to say how big these actually are, exactly.  The rings will fit up to 6.5 mm.  I just put a ruler up to the screen and noticed that the dangling part is about 3.75 x the size of the hole opening. So a little over 24mm, which is nearly an inch long.  That's...really flippin' big.  Add the demonically-pointed anchor tips and you have a recipe for disaster.
And how, precisely, do these enhance my knitting?


To quote Amy Winehouse:  What kind of fuckery is this?  These fail on every level: not using anything even close to a snag-free ring, dangly bits --- in metal, and the dangles comprise points galore.  Yet, the listing says "snag free" right in the title.  I am snagging my knitting just LOOKING at these abominations.
But...the rings aren' the points...and the edges...
and the tape measure is just...and the FUCKING SCISSORS....

I'm spent.  I stopped on page 8 of the 112 pages of results because my heart and brain could not take the assault anymore.  What's the takeaway here?

Know what you want.  Be specific in what you are looking for and you will find it.  As frustrating as it was to only find one or two shops that made a stitch marker that came 90% of the way to what I wanted, it was better than combing thorough 112 pages of mostly crap.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

More True Millennial Stories

Me: Have you met our new faculty?
Millennial: I think so?  Maybe?
Me: He's really nice. You'd probably remember him if you did.  Very tan, longish wavy hair, looks a lot like Roger Daltrey.
Millennial: ...I don't know who that is.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

True Millennial Stories

Millennial:  Headed to the shore house this weekend with Jason, Nick, Lindsey, and Logan
Millennial's Mom:  Lindsey. Um. That's a girl, isn't it? Are you bringing girls to the shore house when I'm not there?!
Millennial:  Mom....
Millennial's Mom:  Isn't Lindsey typically a girl's name?
Me:  Well there's Lindsey Buckingham....
Millennial: Who the hell is Lindsey Buckingham?

Bitch, please.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sally Melville Has Redeemed Herself!

I remember having a crochet doll that my grandmother made me when I was like 4 or so. It was my most favorite toy ever. It was as simply constructed as possible with a bright pink front and purple back, black hair, and buttons for eyes. It was soft (filled with old scraps of fabric from things like pillowcases and cotton tee shirts) and cuddly and I took it to bed with me every night. There just wasn't anything as charming and comforting as this out there when I was little. Think scary, dumb, plastic heads. Nowadays, I'm sure there are similar "soft" options that can be purchased. But nothing is quite as endearing as a hand-knitted toy.

So thank you, Sally Melville.  This totally makes up for that frustrating poncho pattern!