Wednesday, 28 April 2010

SOCK DRAGON! Part 4 - Neck and Head

Oooh, it's getting close guys. Socky is now a fully autonomous, fully stuffed and cutely manipulable object, only awaiting the attachment of facial features (more on them later) and possibly limbs. Here's where we left off: 40 stitches in the round, to make the final sock for the head.

Well first I had a go at extending his neck up a bit; I did about 3 inches, decreasing by 4 every few rows until I had... I can't honestly remember, but it was far too few for doing his head properly. If I'd started the head-heel then (which I did, before boyfriend pointed out it looked stupid and I ripped back) his poor head would have been teeny-tiny. I therefore had to increase again (which gave him a bit of a double chin, but what the hell) up to my eventual head-size which turned out to be 24. I then divided to do the heel, 12 on Needle 1 and 6 on Needles 2 and 3. I would recommend decreasing down to 24 much more gradually than I did, and not going in and out. 24 seems to be a good heady size.

Rather than 19 rows of heel-flap, I only did 10, which meant adding 5 picked-up stitches to each other needle. I then made the gusset as usual, decreasing back down to 24 from 30-something. If my instructions seem vague at this point, it's because they are; I was making it up as I went even more than usual during this bit! Following the sock tutorial, I then knitted in the round for another 3 1/2 inches or so until I had all the lovely snout I wanted.

I should mention that during all of this, Socky had been mostly stuffed. The stuffing I used was rather professional-looking polyester fluff at a fiver a bag from John Lewis. I got two, because you never know, but one was more than enough to do Socky's body. When I needed to 'graft' the 'toe,' or rather make the invisible seam in his nose, I stuffed his whole snout first, right up behind the live stitches.

To finish the snout, I (of course) did this. I won't pretend the last bit was easy; it's a fiddly bastard doing those invisible seams, but it certainly looks good when it's finished.

Now I had a big wiggly vaguely-dragonlike tube, with a head, he needed a face! I don't know about you, but when I was drawing my own dragons as a child (and not-so-child ;P) I always gave them big bat-wing ears with huge veins in them. Socky is not going to be any different. Here is the pattern I devised for making his ears (times 2, obviously.) You'll need the same crazy wool as for his body, some black (or other, what the hell) felt, and some gold or silver thread.

1. Cast on 6. Knit 6
2. Purl 6
3. Knit 1, increase by 1, knit to last stitch, increase by 1, knit 2
4. Purl 8
5. Repeat row 3
6. Purl 10
7. Repeat row 3
8. Purl 12
9. Knit 3. TURN THE WORK ALREADY. Purl 3. Turn, Knit 3. Turn, Purl 3. Turn, Knit 3. Turn, Purl 3. Turn, Knit 1, knit 2 together. Turn, Purl 2. Turn, knit 2 together and tie off last stitch by pulling it into a big loop, cutting tail-wool and passing tail through stitch. Pull tight, and leave long streamer if desired. Wish I had videoed that one. Such is life.
10. With the next sets of three stitches on the needle, you will now repeat 'row' 9 until there are 4 pointy bits of knitting coming off the main section and no more stitches. To do this you will need to pick up and start knitting again with the cut end of yarn, like we did for the Space Invaders' eyes (remember them? :D)

You should now have a knitted ear-shape. Draw round it with tailor's chalk onto your felt, cut out the felt shape. Embroider veins like a leaf into the felt shape with the shiny thread if you like. Then using the same thread, sew the felt onto the purlside of the knitty ear with all the ends (except for any streamers off the points that you want) tucked tidily inside. Make sure your felt is the right way round to fit on the knitting exactly, as all the points won't be exactly the same length if your yarn is anything like mine (and you have my tension issues.)

I'm mostly the way through this stage myself at the moment, and fretting about whether to give him legs. Some people say yes; some say no. I tried out a prototype with a bobble on the 'elbow,' but it was far too small and narrow-looking. I think several more goes will be needed before I feel confident enough to share a pattern with the world at large.

Next Time: More Face!

Monday, 5 April 2010

SOCK DRAGON! Part 3 - Tail and Neck

Yo! So, after telling you guys I'd stop when it became impractical to turn the heels on the tail, it then became impossible. So there are now 6 heels to the body section, before I reduced down to 16 stitches and started knitting on 2 needles again. I did about 10 rows of that, then down to 12, another 10 rows, and so on til I got to 4. That whole section will need to be sewn up along the sides, as it's not in the round, but it did leave a useful hole for stuffing his back half through :)

At the head end I did something rather cunning which I should probably illustrate. I orientated the knitting so that I could tell which was the back of Socky and which was his tummy, and found that the first tail-end from my casting-on was at one side of his tummy. I counted 10 stitches back from this point all along his tummy ('bottom' on the diagram) and picked-up-and-knit them so that there were 10 new stitches on needle 1. These stitches were in the same direction as the other tummy stitches, unlike most pick-up-and-knit, which made a nice neat join.
Now I counted up the left and right sides of his body, and saved another 10 stitches each on needles 2 and 3. I didn't pick up and knit these, yet, I just slipped one of the loops from the cast-on stitches onto the needle (which is awkward) so that I could identify and count them.
Now I had 10 stitches left, opposite the first heel I had made, and I slipped these onto needle 4 without knitting them.

Having identified the sides of the body, I could now begin to knit the neck piece! Starting with needle 1, I knit 10 and then picked-up-and-knit an extra stitch from the side-needle before turning the work so that I had 11 stitches. I was using a fifth needle for these rows, at the same gague, but in fact once the top 10 are defined I found it was also fine to take the side-needles out, use one of those as my working needle and just pick-up the likely-looking stitches.
Purling back across the 11, when I got to the end I picked-up-and-PURLED a stitch from the second side-needle to get 12. I found (because of where I put my working yarn to begin with) that I would pick up extra odd stitches on needle 3 (11, 13, 15, etc. up to 29) and even stitches on needle 2 (12, 14, 16 up to 30.)

Once I had knit all the side-stitches, I was left with 30 stitches on my working needle and the remaining 10 on the top needle; I'd created a big flap of chest! After dividing my 30 again between the DPNs, I picked-up-and-knit the last 10 stitches on needle 4 to start knitting in the round again to do the neck.

I'd also nearly run out of wool. I'll need to get at least another ball for his head I think to be sure, and some for his legs as well. Wings are apparently obligatory; they're probably going to involve a lot of black felt and pipe-cleaners! Socky has been mostly stuffed this weekend though and looks amazingly fat and wibbly, just how I imagined, so I'm satisfied at the moment!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

SOCK DRAGON! Part 2 - The Wiggling

So, yesterday I started on my sock dragon, and it's been not that long and he's already a foot long. Wow! The wool is so much fun, and the DPNs are easy to work with because it divides the knitting into nice chunks, so I've been going really fast. The downside is I'm definitely going to need more wool - I've used 2 1/2 balls out of my 4 already and he's only half-done.

I didn't bother to draw a pattern for Socky, because it would be too complicated, but I can and will talk you through the process I'm using. With the sock tutorial as a basis, I started by casting on 40 stitches and dividing them between my needles as suggested. I did about 4 inches of stocking stitch in the round, just to get used to using the needles - I wasn't going to compound my problems by trying to do ribbing, and it might have looked weird for his neck to have columns on it.

The above picture is Socky: The Vision, clumsily completed in MS Paint. Look the colours! shiny shiny! Because of how his body relates to his head, I had to start at his shoulders rather than his nose, so the 40 stitches formed the first section just above his front legs. When I got bored of going round and round and wanted to do the first wiggle, I followed the sock tutorial right up to the end of the 'gusset' section.

My formula for creating Socky's wiggles is as follows:
  • 'Ribbing' section; 20-ish rows of stocking stitch.
  • Heel flap 1, using 20 stitches.
  • Turn Heel 1.
  • Pick up 10 sts on each side of Heel 1 to begin Gusset 1, which when knitting is re-divided will have 16 sts per side.
  • Knit one round on these stitches, and then decrease according to tutorial on even rows until there are once more 10 sts per gusset-needle.
  • On the next round, instead of starting the next section of the tutorial, KNIT TWO TOGETHER. Then knit 9 sts, and then knit two together again. Count 9, knit 2 tog, count 9 and knit two together; knit any remaining sts. That's 4 decreases quite evenly spaced around the knitting.
  • You should now have 36 sts in total, and 18 on one needle, which will be opposite the turned heel you just did. On the next round, knit the 9 sts on the first needle, and then on the second needle, begin the SECOND HEEL FLAP opposite the first.
  • Heel 2 will begin with 18 sts. Your gussets will therefore have 15 sts each, decreasing down to 9 again. Once you have got to 9, go round once more putting in evenly-spaced k2togs every 8 sts. Knit the 8 sts on the first needle, and then begin HEEL 3 with 16 sts.
Keep going indefinitely! I am currently on Gusset 5, working up to Heel 6 which will have 10 sts to start with. I'm anticipating a point when it'll be too silly to actually turn the heel, and i'll just decrease his tail every 10 rows or so until it gets to a point. I'm not sure what point this will happen. Hopefully soon, given the wool situation.

I wanted to distinguish between Socky's spiky back and his voolnerable underbelly, so on every even heel I am using stocking stitch rather than the slip-one-knit-one recommended by the tutorial. The slip stitch makes ribs and changes the gague and tension completely, so it looks quite like a lizardy roughness, sort of.

The legs will be separate tubes, and for his head I will probably do a breastplate-piece on 2 needles which will develop into a proper sock-shape on 4 needles. Crossing that bridge when I come to it....