Cthulhu Dice Bag a.k.a. Project Pincushion

My friend Peter had a birthday last week, and in honour of this occasion (and the fact that he loves the works of H.P. Lovecraft) I decided to knit him a Cthulhu Dice Bag, pattern by A.A. Leavitt-Reynolds.

This was called “Project Pincushion” as to finish it in time I had to knit in the presence of the intended recipient, who naturally asked what I was knitting. My inspired answer was as follows: “Erm… a really small cushion… for sticking pins in… A pincushion! Yes, that’s what I’m making.” *facepalm*

I decided to be unoriginal and stick to the black and luminous green colour scheme, using 100% acrylic DK yarn and 4mm needles (straight and circular). The first stage is to knit a moss stitch square for the base. I cast on 18 stitches instead of 15 to get a squarer bag – the pattern later asks you to pick up 70 stitches, and 70/4 = 17.5. Therefore I felt that a stitch count of 18-17-18-17 would make a slightly more regular bag than 15-20-15-20.

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The above photo shows my first attempt at picking up stitches off the completed square. I did manage to use just a knitting needle to begin with, but I switched to using a crochet hook later on.

Then I knit a few rows before starting the stranded knitting chart (also known as fair isle, but I’m calling it stranded knitting here as the pattern definitely is NOT fair isle in the slightest). This was my first attempt at stranded knitting, and I was a bit nervous after reading lots of dire warnings about keeping the floats loose. As one tutorial said to always pick up the next colour from underneath the current colour, I ended up knitting the live yarn continental style whilst holding the non-live (dead?!) yarn out of the way in my right hand. This is also first time I’ve attempted to knit continental style as well – there’s a lot of firsts in this project! I got into the habit of it after a while, using this tutorial to learn how to wrap yarns over long stretches. After a while, Cthulhu began to emerge from the depths…

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Constantly swapping between the two yarns resulted in a tangled mess as they wrapped around each other. I had to untangle this every half round or so, easy enough as it just involved suspending the project from the tangle and watching it unspin.

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Eventually it was finished and I knit a 16″ long piece of I-Cord to finish it off. The pattern asks for 20″, but as I used DK yarn throughout instead of aran weight, the shorter length was more than enough. So here is the finished bag inside out showing the floats:

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Right side out:

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All that was left was to fill it with some dice and give it to the birthday boy! Fortunately, the people at Q workshop do a good line in H.P. Lovecraft themed dice.

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It went down well with Peter, so I’m counting that as a success! Some of the Cthulhus look a little deranged (there’s one which is a bit lopsided, and another with massive black eyes) but Cthulhu is a monstrous Elder God the mere thought of whom can send people insane, so I reckon a bit of deranged-ness is quite appropriate. Not so easy to shrug off is the I-Cord. I did it in a hurry and there were some random half-loops sticking out the sides. I’m not sure if that’s where I’ve split the yarn, or where I wasn’t knitting tightly enough. The pattern also called for a crochet edging which I didn’t have time to do. I’m telling myself it would have been OTT to have crochet edging as well though…

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Greenleaf Baby Hat

As previously mentioned, I made a hat to go with the sprout blanket. I chose the Greenleaf Baby Hat pattern by Evelyn Uyemura due to the leaf motif. The parents told me that they have lots of hats but most of them are too large so, using the same yarn as the blanket, I followed the instructions at the end of the pattern for the smaller size using a 4mm needle.

I don’t own any 4mm double pointed needles, and only have one 4mm circular needle, so I used the magic loop method to knit in the round with that one circular.

In the end, it looked something like this:

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It’s a very pretty hat and I managed to finish it in a weekend which is a record. Unfortunately, it was a bit too small after all that! So last week I made a Hat Mk II, casting on with 8 more stitches but still using 4mm needles and trying to “knit loose”. This time it was a success, confirmed to me with (extremely cute!) visual evidence of baby in said hat. Yay!

So this counts as several first for me: First time knitting in the round, first time using the magic loop, and first time making I-cord! The only problem I found with the magic loop method was that the the first stitch you make on each “half” pulls the last stitch of the previous “half” tighter around the cable, so it’s no longer the same size as your needles. On Hat Mk I this left two slightly odd looking columns of stitches (one for each half), but I think it was better for Hat Mk II.

IMechE Railway Challenge

So one reason for my lack of posts recently was due to the IMechE Railway Challenge, held at the Stapleford Miniature Railway. The challenge is to build a 10 1/4″ gauge locomotive capable of pulling a 600kg load, and they’re scored based on the ride quality, traction power and regenerative energy capability. It’s based on Formula Student, but aimed at creating interest in the railways once again, rather than cars which have a lot of enthusiasts already.

One of my colleagues at work wanted to enter as an independent team, and my friend Phil, myself and the lovely Rob (my boyfriend) said we’d help him out a bit. Unfortunately, a lot of the helping out happened over the last 5 weeks. Seeing as the Challenge itself was four days ago, and the build started in earnest about 3 weeks before then, needless to say the first time our locomotive was fully assembled was at the challenge site. Also, due to the complete lack of testing (what with it not existing until the day before), we didn’t do very well and came 4th (out of 4).

On the positive side, we did build a locomotive which moved under its own power (and stopped under its own power using “active braking”, although there was no parking brake or indeed friction brakes at all). We did this in a VERY short time, using freely available hand tools, and spent under £2000. Don’t believe me? Have some video evidence:

Morning Star moves! This was about 5 minutes before we were due to compete, and Rob had just spent a frantic couple of hours replacing and rejigging the electronics after they got burnt out during testing. The sharp rattling sound near the end is the chain falling off the drivegear – our suspension is far too soft so the gap between the two sprockets can (and did) decrease, resulting in a lost chain. However, a week before our suspension was far too hard, and they would not have let us compete. Swings and roundabouts.

Fifteen minutes after the video was taken (the judges needed some extra time to set things up) we attempted to compete, and the electronics blew up after pulling the 600kg load 10 metres. Still, it’s better than the 1 metre we managed the previous day. As I maintain, it is a 1000% improvement!

Anyway, life got put on hold on the run up to the Challenge. Rob and I are just starting to get things back on track as the house is a tip, and the garden has become a jungle! I dread going back out there to tackle the weeds and the lawn. :(

Growth of an Allium

*must post must post must post*

Ok, have a few photos showing the growth of a type of Allium (Purple Sensation) I planted as a bulb last autumn:

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The swizzle-y leaf protruding in from the left is from a Honey Lily. If I do a follow-up “growth” post, it’ll be on that. :)

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Currently all the purple petals have fallen off and all the leaves have died back, leaving behind these explosion shaped seed heads on 2-3 foot high stalks. Pretty damn cool! Seeing as these have survived, I’m planning to plant some different allium varieties this Autumn as well.

Next post, if I’ve persuaded my friend to upload the videos, I’ll show you what’s been distracting me from the blog over the past month or so. Otherwise, it’s a toss up between the honey lily and the baby hat.