Friday, October 24, 2008

"Quack" pattern

In the last post, you got a dramatic introduction to these squeaking, felted ducks. Here's the pattern:

-- About 40 g (65-70 yds) of feltable worsted weight yarn.
For the yellow duck, I used Peace Fleece (70% wool/30% mohair) in 'chickie masla' for the body and a rust-colored Bartlett fisherman's yarn (100% wool) for the beak and feet.
For the mallard duck, I used Lamb's Pride Worsted (85% wool/ 15% mohair) in "Sandy Heather" for the body, unknown colorways or dark brown, white, and dark green for the neck and head, Peace Fleece as the beak, and the Bartlett for the feet.
-- Size 10 needles. Straight or circular for the body. Double-pointed or circular for the legs.
-- Darning needle
-- Stuffing for the body. Wool roving, recyled t-shirts, etc.
-- dog squeaker from the pet store (optional)

-- Knitting gauge: 14 stitches and 20 rows = 4"
-- Size before felting: 14.5" long and 5.5" wide when sewn together (11" wide unsewn)
-- Size after felting: 12" long and 4.75" wide

k = knit
p= purl
k2tog = knit the next two stitches together
kfb = knit in the front and back of the next stitch
ssk= individually slip the next two stitches knitwise, then knit them together
sl1 wyif = "slip 1 with yarn in front," which you'll do by bring the yarn to the front and slipping the next stitch purlwise
ch 3 = "chain 3;" I use this in the bind off for the webbed feet. You'll knit one stitch, slip it back to the left needle, knit it again, slip it back again, and knit it a third time. It leaves a little chain of 3 stitches on the right-hand needle.
bind1 = "bind one off;" when you have two stitches on the right needle, use the left needle to lift the first (right) stitch over the second (left) stitch. It will bind off that first stitch.

The duck is knit back and forth on two needles. You'll cast on at the tail, increase for the body, decrease for the neck, increase for the head, and then decrease for the beak. This will give you a flat, contoured piece that you seam together at the bottom, leaving a space for stuffing. You'll felt it, stuff it (including a dog squeaker if you want), and then use the cast on tail for seaming.

Cast on 5 stitches, leaving a tail of about 10" (this will be used for seaming)
Row 1 and all odd rows: purl across
Row 2: kfb 5 times (10 stitches)
Row 4: {kfb, k1} 5 times (15 stitches)
Row 6: {kfb, k2} 5 times (20 stitches)
Row 8: {kfb, k3} 5 times (25 stitches)
Row 10: {kfb, k4} 5 times (30 stitches)
Row 12: {kfb, k5} 5 times (35 stitches)
Row 14: {kfb, k6} 5 times (40 stitches)

Main Body
Knit in stockinette (knit the even rows, purl the odd rows) for Rows 15-33, or about 3.75"

Next, you'll decrease for the shoulder. If you're doing the Mallard version, change to a brown yarn half way through the decreases, around Row 40.

Row 34: {k2tog, k8} 4 times (36 stitches)
Row 36: {k2tog, k7} 4 times (32 stitches)
Row 38: {k2tog, k6} 4 times (28 stitches)
Row 40: {k2tog, k5} 4 times (24 stitches)
Row 42: {k2tog, k4} 4 times (20 stitches)
Row 44: {k2tog, k3} 4 times (16 stitches)

Knit in stockinette for Rows 45-55, or about 2.5". If you're doing the Mallard version, change to green yarn halfway through the neck, around Row 50. I also embellished it by duplicate stitching in white on Row 49 (you could knit a row of white instead, but I didn't think of it until too late).

Row 56: {kfb, k3} 4 times (20 stitches)
Row 58: {kfb, k4} 4 times (24 stitches)
Row 60: knit
Row 62: knit
Row 64: {k2tog, k4} 4 times (20 stitches)
Row 66: {k2tog, k3} 4 times (16 stitches)

Change to the beak color yarn (orange for a yellow duck, yellow for a mallard).
Row 68: k2, ssk, k2tog, k4, ssk, k2tog, k2 (12 stitches)
Row 70: knit
Row 72: k1, ssk, k2tog, k2, ssk, k2tog, k1 ( 8 stitches)
Row 74: ssk, k2tog, ssk, k2tog (4 stitches)
After Row 74, break the yarn and draw it through the remaining 4 stitches.

Next, you'll sew together the two edges of the duck. Turn it inside out, pull the two edges together, and seam it with a sturdy stitch. With the mallard, I sewed with the yarn ends so that each color section was seamed with matching yarn. Make sure you leave a few inches unsewn - I left a few in the middle of the body - so that you can turn it right side out and stuff it. You don't need to bother sewing in the ends. In fact, I like leaving long ends for the body, so that I have some felted yarn to sew up the opening.

Legs and Feet
The legs are a little tricky to explain but quick to knit. The basic idea is that for each foot you'll pick up six stitches in the middle of the body, knit an inch or so of I-cord (I did it with double-knitting), and then bind off decoratively for a webbed foot. You'll need two double-pointed needles or one circular needle for this.

Here are the detailed instructions: Turn the duck so that it's on its back with the head towards you. You'll start with the right leg. Pick a general spot about halfway lengthwise on the body and halfway widthwise between the seam and the right side. Pick up six stitches for the leg; three will be on one row, and three will be two rows further back. You can put all six stitches on one needle for I-cord if you want. Personally, I prefer double knitting for this many stitches. To do that, pick up the stitches with your left needle in the following order:

1 3 5
2 4 6

When you start knitting, you'll alternate knit and slip stitches as follows:
{k1, sl1 wyif} 3 times
On the first pass, you'll be knitting the front row and slipping the back row. When you turn your work and come back, you'll be knitting the back row and slipping the front row.

After completing about an inch or two of leg (I did 6 full rounds of knitting, but you might want more), you'll bind of with kind of a decorative picot that gives a webbed-foot look. Here's how I did it:
k1, {ch3, k1, bind1, k1, bind1}2 times, ch3, k1, bind1
Break the yarn and pull it through the remaining loop. Sew the yarn tail inside the leg to hide it. If you like, you can use the cast-on yarn tail to tack the leg down a little and secure it more the body.

Now, repeat for the left leg.

Felting and Finishing
You can hand-felt the duck in warm water, but it's much easier to toss it into the washing machine for a hot wash. It might need more than one cycle. When it's felted to your desired density, let it dry and then stuff it, including a replacement dog squeaker from the pet store if you want. Sew up the opening using the felted ends of yarn.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

lucky ducky

Wait .. what's that? ...

It's a duck!

And another one! How precious ...

OMG! The dog!!

Doggie says: Mwa Ha Ha!!

Oh man, I crack myself up. If you didn't figure it out by now, I made my dog some felted duck toys. They have dog sqeakers inside and everything! I'll put up a post with a pattern later today or tomorrow ....

Monday, October 13, 2008

Joshua Tree

En route to Mountain Man's fieldwork in California, we stopped for a day of climbing at Joshua Tree National Park. Between the insane shapes of the Joshua Trees and the drama of the granite jutting into sky, it's an amazing landscape to experience.

It was also quite chilly in the evening and early morning, so I was glad to have finished my latest Storm Cloud Shawlette on the drive there. The colors of this yarn -- Fleece Artist Somoko in 'Olive' - seemed to particularly resonate with this landscape, and it will forever remind me of my visit to Joshua Tree.

I may take a break from knitting my shawlettes, but then again, maybe not. I like having a project on the needles that I don't have to think about (by now, the pattern is completely ingrained in my mind!), and I like that I can use sock yarn this way. Also, the shawl is a lovely thing to snuggle around my neck on a chilly morning ...

or to drape across my shoulders. I find that it's much easier to wear a half-circle shawl this way than any of my stoles or triangular shawls.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Arizona Harvest

Autumn is the season that triggers the most beauty and memory for me. I think back to my childhood in Connecticut, where autumn meant soccer fields covered in fallen maple leaves, crisp mornings, fresh apple cider, pumpkin picking. I think back to my years in Vermont, where it meant frost on the garden, shorn corn fields, and brightly colored hills.

Now that I live in Phoenix, I'm adjusting to a very different sense of the season. We celebrate the coolness, but to us that means the first dips into the 80s (although today it's back up to 95). And we have our own version of fall colors, but it's the crimson of ripe prickly pear and the sunset hues of the Red Bird of Paradise, not the foliage of turning trees.

We also have our autumnal harvest. And in this post, I thought I'd share with you some of the foods that I've been "wildcrafting" and picking from right in my neighborhood. Some of the harvest comes from desert plants, like the prickly pear above, which I peeled and juiced for some very colorful drinks.

Some of it has a Mediterranean flavor, like these GORGEOUS olives. They've been sliced and soaked in water for a week, and then they'll go into a brine until they lose their bitterness.

Then there's the exotic sweetness of several Middle Eastern plants, such as dates, pomegranates, and carob pods. The carob trees are one of the most lovely shade trees in my neighborhood, and I think that most people don't even know that the pods are edible. Most people just seem to grow the pomegranates ornamentally as well.

The dates in particular have been intruiging to me. I've found four or five varieties growing in this neighborhood. Most of the palms are too tall for me to harvest, and I just pick up the dried dates from the ground (they're softened and extra delicious after a little soak in warm water and triple sec!). But there are a few trees that are still low, so you can see what they look like on the palm:

Our own yard will become fruitful in another couple of months when the pecans and citrus begin to ripen. And even more so in a few years, when our newly planted fruit trees -- meyer lemon, fig, persimmon, apricot, blood orange, apple -- begin to bear. In the meantime, what I've taken advantage of are the banana leaves. We trimmed quite a few in the course of this weekend's yardwork, and they impart a lovely, grassy flavor to baked Thai or South Indian dishes.

Also, we pruned a few of the craziest, weepiest branches off of our hackberry trees. Rather than tossing them out, I stripped off the leaves and wove a wild, freeform basket. I was very proud of my Mother Earthness, indeed!

By the way, I should mention that I'm not sneaking into peoples' yards to pick these things. I just take small samples from trees that hang over the street, or I ask the neighbors, or I pick from trees that are planted around office buildings and clearly ignored (e.g. they leave olives littering the sidewalk). It's been a real eye opener to see how many edibles are planted in this area, and especially to see how few of them are put to good use.

I hope you're enjoying your own harvest season, wherever you may be!