Even though the Tapestry crochet didn’t seem to work out well in the round for the Inky Ghost Hat, it works out magnificently with pixels and squares.

Here is result of an 8-bit Cheep-Cheep completed with this method:

Not bad, eh? It took me about almost 4 hours (or 6-7 episodes of Lost-however you want to count it) to complete. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard to do at all. The only problem is the back….

See what I mean. I finished this back in April. You see how far I’ve gotten with hiding the ends. It doesn’t seem as bad as it looks, but this is after I’ve worked on hiding the loose ends over several days time. Take what you see here and spread it over to the top and bottom left and that’s about what I started with. I couldn’t do it all in one sitting-I tried and wanted to scratch my eyes out after a while. To me, it’s like trying to read all of The Silmarillion in a day. It can be done, but who really wants to do it?

So as usual, there is always a down side to the easy stuff. If there was a way I could hide all of the ends with a yarn or cloth backing without the fear of the work unraveling, I would do it. But for now, it’s back to the basics.

A friend of mine asked me if I could do a cross stitch of an Emily the Strange picture for his girlfriend. And of course, my usual response is “Sure! – It shouldn’t be too hard to do.” I really need to stop saying that….

Anyway, here is the picture I was given to cross stitch:

And here is my cross stitch attempt: (Sorry it’s a little blurry…)

I think I need a little more practice…. U_U

Up until this summer, all of the hats we’ve made have been crafted with 100% acrylic yarn. Acrylic has some great things going for it; it’s inexpensive, it’s durable, it’s plentiful, it’s soft, it’s warm, it comes in every color of the rainbow (and quite a few not), and it has no dye lots. Why use anything else? Summer hats. Acrylics great for cold weather, cool weather and climate control, but damn uncomfortable in the heat. So we decided to try some other yarn, and settled on cotton as being our best bet.

Our two local options were Lily Sugar n’ Cream and some knock off Wal-Marx brand Peaches n’ Cream. The latter had only a couple of colors available if the Wal-Mart carried it at all, so Lily ahoy. By combing our local craft big box trinity, Micheal’s, Ben Franklin and Jo-Ann’s, we found we had access to about 20 or so solid color yarns to work with. We picked up a couple of skeins and set out to work.

First off, when you think of 100% cotton, you’re really thinking about cotton fabric or textiles; smooth, even and usually very comfortable. Cotton yarn feels very soft to the touch, but after it’s crocheted the resulting cloth feels like something close to terrycloth. It’s not an uncomfortable feel; just not as soft as acrylic and a fair trade for how much less insulating it is. The cotton hats are relatively comfortable in the summer sun, and would be a good choice for a crowded con.

Since we’re working with a new material, we did some interwebs recon. The cotton yarn is dyed, and according to the Lily website, machine washable and machine dry able. We made some swatches to try it out. Here’s the result:

The three top swatches were machine washed cold on gentle and machine dried as low as are dryer would go. The white swatch left us a nasty shock: the yarn was visibly pale green from the lime it absorbed from our well water. The orange and black swatches were fine out of the wash, but the orange swatch discolored irregularly in the dryer. Since we couldn’t trust the house water, we made a second white and orange swatch. The second row of swatches were hand washed in distilled water then air dryed. This worked out very well as you can see.

We left a hank of orange yarn at the bottom so you could see the contrast with an unworked piece.

I think the cotton yarn will work well, even if it costs more and is a little finicky. We’ll have to make a care guide to reflect that the piece need to be hand washed cold in distilled water and air dried out of the sun. I hesitate to think what hard water, water softener, briny water, city water or that god awful red clay silt I had to deal with in GA would do to the yarn. I guess it pays to do some research. Look for cotton yarn items in the store in the near future.

So I know we just posted our supplies entry two months ago, but that picture was taken around early October. Once we took started stockpiling for our MAGfest lot, it quickly overran the storage we had set aside for the yarn. Today we found another set of cubes on clearance at Target and doubled our effective storage area. This is the result:

For those who’re interested, the rightmost upper cube contains Lion Brand Suede yarn in about 6 colors, the rightmost middle cube contains Lion Brand Microspun yarn, and the rightmost bottom cube contains all our multicolor yarn. The other nine cubes are separated by color, but not by brand. The yarn across the top is all Carron One Pound. I’m hoping we don’t out grow this, because the only place left to expand is across my dresser.

You know how in the classic 8-bit Mega Man games you just keep dieing over and over till you learn the right patterns? Creating the Mega Man hat was eerily like that. We worked on and off trying to develop something that looked even close to good. Pattern books were consulted. The Internet was researched. We even had a sheep and an old crone ready to read it’s entrails. And what we found was that nothing was quite right. Nothing had the right feel. Were we doing this right? Here’s just two of our early attempts

Mega Man Prototype 1

As you can see, we started with a base beanie and then continued the yarn down the back to simulate the curvature of the helmet. The theory was sound, but the effect when placed on a real human head left much to be desired. We stopped the project at that point.

Mega Man Prototype 2

The second attempt tried for a different effect. Since the first had warped so badly on the sides of the helmet we tried for a tie down strap under the chin. This is also the first time we tried the side orbs which we modified slightly for the final design. The triangle in the front between the eyes tried to compensate for the lack of curvature around the face that you see in drawings of Mega Man’s helmet. This wasn’t quite what we looking for either.

Mega Man Final

So we started from scratch. We tried to capture the essence of Mega Man without recreating him perfectly. Judging from the number of them sold, I say people like it.

One of the fun part about crafts is that you have practically unlimited options. You can choose to work with a medium; bending it’s form to fit your concept. You can choose a medium or two that works best for a single concept and move to a different one for the next project. The trouble with changing mediums often is that unless you’re the reincarnation of a renaissance master with a large purse to boot, you’ll end up with only a minor master of the medium and spend a fortune on the professional tools that are needed to get the most out of a given material. So once you’ve decided to hunker down and try to get the most out of your medium, you’ll begin to try different techniques to get a better result or simply speed things up. Sometimes these experiments work out; sometimes they don’t. But if you can apply what you’ve learned from your mistake to a later project, it’s a lesson well learned.

We got the basic ghost hat design down on the first try, but decided to try something different so that the eyes would be in the same layer as the base hat. The Tapestry method of crochet allows you to run multiple threads of yarn together, bringing one to the front while dropping the others behind. Depending on the colors used and the tightness of the stitch, the threads running in the background can be nearly invisible. Or not.

This Inky hat done in “Country Blue” (which I will forever consider the color of siding for seaside cottages) doesn’t really cut it. The eyes have the same number of stitches as the pieces sewn onto the normal hat, but end up distorted and awkward.

Not only is the black and white yarn visible behind the blue in front of the hat, but due to the nature of Tapestry crochet, it follows all the way around the hat.

In addition to being ugly, this hat doesn’t stretch quite like the others; the threads behind limit the size the hat will stretch out to. Well, live and learn. There are some great Tapestry crochet works out there, but this isn’t one of them.

You’d be amazed at what you collect when you’re never sure what you’re making. Some colors see constant use; others were bought on a whim or a sale. Most have some planned use for the future. But the stock pile just keeps growing; we may need to expand.

© 2011 Shadows In The Nyte Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha