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Last year after I discovered crochet and went nutso making stuff, I searched for an outlet for all of it, and came across swap-bot.
Swap-bot is an online service that organizes group swaps and a community of creative individuals. Swap-bot takes the hassle out of participating in group swaps by organizing all of the participant information and doing all of the partner assignments. On Swap-bot, you can host swaps, join swaps, and chat with other swappers from all over the world. Give it a try!
I made lots of stuff, and sent it off. Got lots of really cute stuff in return, a couple of less-than-cute things, but in general it was a good experience. I got a good rating, but eventually I just got bored with it and preferred making things for friends.
However, I did get something pretty amazing out of this: my crocheted starfish. I participated in the Octopus Amigurumi swap sponsored by Octopus Revolution. The idea was for everyone to start with a really basic pattern, and give it their own twist. The octopus I received was a super-cute Japanese geisha-octopus with little origami paper crane buddies. It was also stuffed so tightly, I don’t know how people do this and crochet the toys closed! I guess it might be the type of yarn because I always use natural fibers which stretch more than acrylic.
So the octopus I made was green, made with Cascades Pastaza llama yarn, and I designed a little starfish buddy for it.
Everyone who saw this loved it, and I was asked where I got the pattern and if I could make more. So this is what inspired me to make starfish in a whole bunch of colors and to make more octopi, but with longer legs.
Here’s a photo Karyn took of me selling my wares in my very first craft fair, ever! I sold about half of my “stock” that day at the Kid’s Trunk Show at the Workroom. You can now get your own starfish in one of 8 colors, at my etsy shop, thanks again to the Workroom and City of Craft for giving me my start!
(looking at this photo reminds me that I really should make more of the albino starfish!)
So when I first learned to crochet, I kinda went nuts. After the blue bunny and the happy poo, I realized I could basically crochet any shape I wanted, and started crocheting all kinds of things. My friend Chris asked me to make him a bearded cap like the one made by Vik Prjonsdottir.
The beard caps refer to a traditional cap called “lambshed-hood” which was used in Iceland by farmers who in heavy snowstorms had to walk long distances between their sheds and to the neigboring farms. The cap covered both head and neck and had only a small opening for the face.
The thing is that Chris is vegan, so he chooses not to buy wool (sorry Iceland sheep farmers!). I told him to find some appropriate animal-free yarn and I would make a bearded cap for him. Well, months passed and summer came and went, so I finally bought some brown 100% cotton yarn and got on with it! I created my own version of the bearded cap, and crocheted a separate cap & detachable beard with mustache. This way, Chris could use the hat all the time, and the beard only when he felt like putting some extra fun in his day, or some extra warmth on his face. The beard has a small mouth-hole and two buttons, and the hat has two buttonholes just above the ears. There is also a built-in mustache, but now that I look at it, maybe it should have been a little bit bigger!
One of the very first crochet projects I took on (just after the blue bunny) was making the happy poo. It is a very simple amigurumi and a great way to learn and practice crocheting in a spiral and increase/decrease.
***EDIT*** found this great tutorial with vids and everything, for those wanting to learn the basics for crocheting amigurumi.
Since I was just practicing, I used a green yarn. I think this would make it more of an unhappy poo 😦 On top of that, my dog found it one day and decided it would be a better chew toy than crochet model.
When my friend Damian heard that I had made a yarn poo, he asked for one. So, when his birthday came around earlier this year, I produced a much happier poo. I sewed some yarn through the center to pull the top of the dollop down and squish the body a bit, to look more realistic, and added some eyes, which are not realistic at all…
One of my favourite artists right now is Camilla Engman. She’s an illustrator, painter, photographer, and she crochets the cutest little animals characters.
Her wonderful characters, as well as cute little amigurumi, were the reason I picked up a crochet hook and asked my mom to teach me. So it was over the Christmas holidays in 2007 that I learned to crochet. We sat down with Stitch ‘Bitch nation’s The Happy Hooker and went through the instructions and I slowly (very slowly) twigged to this craft technique. For some reason I took to crochet a lot more than I had to knitting, which I am horrible at, and I really liked the fact that if you make a mistake you can simply pull out the stitches and start off wherever you want.
My first crochet project was the bunny bedfellow pattern designed by Camilla in the Happy Hooker book. Looking back, I think this was probably a bit of a difficult project to start with, because you crochet in a spiral and in back loops only for most of the pattern, which I found really confusing. I joke that I probably made the entire bunny 4 times or more if you counted how many times I took it apart!
Today with a bit of searching I found a tutorial on whip up written by Camilla herself, for making these cuddly creatures. I am comforted by her admission that “I’m not a very good crocheter, I’m good at undo, redo, undo and redo” – sounds like me!
So here’s my very first crochet project, under construction and then completed, held up by my friend Sarah.
My friend Heidi has an inordinate fondness for wiener dogs. I’ve made her one fun pillow with a wiener applique, and one amigurumi wiener buddy. In addition to the wieners she already had, she now considers her apartment “wiener infested.”
The pillow was made with some suiting fabric I got at a closing sale in a fabric shop on Spadina Ave, here in Toronto. I used a feather insert from Ikea. I drew the wiener shape in Illustrator, then printed it on 2-sided fusible interfacing. I loosely cut out the shape, then ironed it onto the teal printed cotton, then cut that fabric right on the outline of the wiener dog. This created a nice patch to iron onto the burgundy fabric. I zigzag stitched this in place with a teal embroidery thread, and sewed match button holes. I found that sewing the buttons on by hand was much more stable than doing it by machine, especially with this super slippery thread.
I crocheted the little dog based on a pattern I got on etsy, but I didn’t like the way the head looked or how it was attached to the body, so I kind of freestyle crocheted a head and body in one piece. I used really plush malabrigo yarn, but their skeins are a lot smaller than they look – especially for the price – so I had to use 2! (I think this is when I’m supposed to learn about skein weights and wraps-per-inch.) Amigurumi are usually crocheted with a much thinner yarn, but I like to improvise, and the colour of this yarn was too close to the real colour of Heidi’s favourite wiener colour that I couldn’t pass it up.
I enjoy contributing to Heidi’s wiener obsession, however I know she’d like to have a more grown-up look in her apartment so I’ll refrain from giving her any more (unless they are teeny-tiny?).