Flickr is misbehaving, so no vacation pictures yet. In the meantime, at least I can do a belated post about some fun Christmas knitting I did. I give you…

Name: Michael Phelps (rav project link)
Pattern: Loch Ness Monster by Hansi Singh (aka Hansigurumi)
Date started: December 15, 2008
Date finished: December 17, 2008
Yarn used: Caron Simply Soft Eco in 3 different colors: 0.5 skein 0017 Spring Moss, 0.25 skein 0002 Natural, and scraps of 0033 Charcoal
Needles used: US size 5 (3.75 mm) and US size 6 (4 mm)
Notes: I made Michael Phelps as a Christmas present for my little toddler cousin Emma. As it turns out, he didn’t wind up in her hands till this last weekend, and she was apparently a little grumpy from having just been woken up from a nap, so I don’t think she was too impressed with him at the time, but perhaps he’ll grow on her.

I included an explanation of how Michael Phelps lived a peaceful existence, training 10 hours a day in the chilly waters of Loch Ness, before he flew to California to be her friend.

Here he is with a skein of Felted Tweed for scale:

His tilty little head:

Hello! Who’s a cute little plesiosaur? You are! Yes you are!

He’s even personalized with her name:

As far as the technical aspects of this toy:

  • I apparently kind of suck at making a clean selvage, nice short rows, picking up stitches, and all the other skills required for this toy. I experimented with the selvage, but the left side selvage (RS facing) was never as nice as the right–always loose and sloppy, it seems, no matter what I did. I ended up knitting/purling the picked-up stitches through the back loop to try and close them up more, and I went back over the neck in the end with a new piece of MC yarn and a tapestry needle to try and close up gaps along the sloppy selvage.
  • I also worked one more row after picking up stitches for the opposite belly side, before grafting, to try and make the stitches more even.
  • I didn’t have any polyfill stuffing, so I stuffed him with cotton/ecospun roving and miscellaneous yarn scraps.
  • I used a US 5 needle for the belly–didn’t have my US 6 needle points handy. It probably would have been better to use US 5 needles for the whole body since the gauge was a little loose once the toy was stuffed.
  • Circular or straight needles should be used for the majority of the toy if knit as written, since most of it is knit flat; DPNs are really only good for the flippers and horns. The belly would be way too unwieldy if knit with DPNs.
  • I tied little knots for the eyes, satin stitched (?) back over them again a few times, tied again, cut the ends to about 2 inches and used a crochet hook to bury the ends inside the body of the monster.
  • Next time I would knit the tail in the round, subtracting 2 sts. I think it would be fine to knit in the round up until row 58 or so. Seaming the narrow part of the tail is really fiddly.
  • Next time I would also try using my favorite garter selvage. The stockinette biases a lot, and I think it might be due to the selvage. While it definitely gives Michael Phelps a very cute demeanor–like he’s saying “arooo?”, as someone else wrote in their notes about this pattern–it makes picking up the sts for the belly sort of difficult and looking very sloppy/holey on one side. Plus, I never really understood how to neatly pick up 3 sts for every 4 rows (i.e. every 2 chains in a chained selvage). How do you go back through twice–just through 1 leg of the stitch, every other st? (That is what I did for the fin stitches, though–used a crochet hook, picked up the sts then turned and picked them up again through just one leg of the st.)
  • The pattern doesn’t specify, but I knit the horns as i-cord instead of in the round–it’s the same thing when worked over this small number of sts, and much easier than turning the whole monster around and around.
  • Satin stitched with MC under chin because I made the white belly part go up too far relative to the horns.
  • I marked this pattern as “difficult” in my Ravelry notes because:
    • As mentioned, it’s hard to pick up the belly stitches nicely–selvages tend to gape and let polyfil ooze out
    • you have to be able to do a decent job of Kitchener stitch over LOTS of stitches
    • you have to mattress stitch a tiny piece of fabric (the tail) over lots of stitches
    • you have to have a bit of ingenuity when it comes to weaving in the ends invisibly
    • you have to be able to pick up and knit some tight and fiddly stitches for the flippers (and horns)

Overall: the toy came out very cute, I enjoyed the pattern, and I look forward to knitting more weird Hansigurumi creatures in the future, although next time I will try and figure out ahead of time if there are ways to minimize seaming and grafting.