The importance of making monkeys

I have a habit of making monkeys, I must admit. There is a reason for this actually, I like to pretend it’s SCIENCE. It’s not, really – but I am experimenting.

I’ve only been making stuff for about a year or so, and as you’ve hopefully gathered by now I make stuff occasionally – not all the time, not every day. When I started it was with ‘amigurumi‘ as there was a lot of it about to draw inspiration from, and it didn’t seem too hard. I could crochet already, a little bit, and amigurumi are quick-ish to make and not massively complicated.

I don’t really know anyone else who crochets, or at least no one locally, so I’m investigating stuff myself – which yarns I like, what I like making, that kind of thing. I know I don’t want to make clothes – on the whole I don’t like crocheted clothes, so I’m experimenting with toys, different styles of toys and different yarn.

This monkey was the first:

I learnt a lot from making him. I learnt that I was pretty skilled at mis-reading patterns, that I wouldn’t be satisfied with limbs that were *completely rubbish*, but also that at some stage I have to admit I’ve done the best I can and move on.

I learnt that I – like many amigurmui makers – hate sewing on arms and legs, and that the placement of eyes and angle of a mouth can make or break things. This is the pattern – it’s free, and I love it. You’ll notice it looks nothing like my monkey. I did mention I was skilled at mis-reading patterns.

After that I thought maybe I should have a go at making up my own pattern. Yes, my wealth of crochet experience – the making of one thing – lead me to believe that would be a good plan. So I made one in a sock-monkey style:

He was made with the same yarn (cheap, only yarn available in monkey-colour at the local store). From him I learnt that I still need to work on my increases and decreases – his feet are very pointy, and really they should look more like his arms/hands.

I learnt that if you make things in this style, there’s only two limbs to sew on – result! He’s quite a nice size too, but I didn’t write anything down as I went along, so any new sock monkey has to be started from scratch.

I made two monkey gifts, both in the style of the first one. A green one, and a pink one. I learnt different things from them – but as you’ll see, they still look nothing at all like the ones in the pattern. I like that though – it’s good to put your own spin on things, intentional or otherwise. Surely its not healthy for the world to be full of monkey-clones?

Recently I found some crochet cotton, so of course I thought I should experiment with that. Applying scientific thinking (well, ish) I thought I should compare yarn for yarn, monkey for monkey. That’s where this chap came in:

Just like the original monkey, only smaller! I learnt it’s nice crocheting with cotton – and, rather amusingly, I learnt that if you actually follow the pattern for two minutes rather than assuming you know what you’re doing all the time, you end up with much nicer feet.

So of course I had to try and make a small sock-monkey-style fella, also in cotton, just to see what that was like. Which is where the previous Mr Frustration comes in.

I made him too big – and I knew it really early on. He was supposed to be small, a good companion to the one above – but I learnt that if you really don’t look at what you’re doing you end up with something too big, which is annoying.

BUT if you give him a face as you go, it makes you feel so guilty you end up finishing him anyway:

Poor chap. Actually, I learnt quite a bit from him. There’s a big difference between the feeling of the cotton and the wool. Cotton feels  more delicate even when it’s a similar size monkey – and looks so tightly packed. It’s much more dense and you can see every stitch.

There’s something about it that feels more ‘grown up’ – less of a toy for kids. He also a better shape than the first one. He’s got a much shorter body, and somehow has wider hips. Sadly I still didn’t get the feet right – but maybe I’ll fix it in the next monkey experiment.

I do like the ribbon for his scarf too. He needed something to cheer him up a bit, as the colour is a bit washed out. It couldn’t really be a wool scarf as the difference in thread would be too odd, and I didn’t have any other coloured cotton. As it happens, I think this suits him perfectly.

I’m not sure what monkey experimentation I’ll do next. I have a few ideas in mind, but I’m still planning.

Lace necklaces…

I’m a tatter. I tat. I do tatting. It’s nothing like tattooing. I’ll write more about it another time but for now, just think of it like ‘sturdy lace’. With this in mind, when I see lace-like things, I can’t help but use them as inspiration for future tatted projects. (You know, those kind of ‘future projects’ that may or may not come to fruition).

These are some things I’ve spotted recently:

This on Etsy, by eninaj, gold plated silver and leather.

This, by Henderson Dry Goods, laser cut wood

These, by andrea8779, laser cut leather

And finally, this actually IS lace, from cutiemus

All very nice. It’s interesting to see how much laser cutting is going on these days. Paper cutting seems to’ve boomed in popularity, and I’ve just spotted a few laser-cut-paper-cuts over on etsy. More on that another time.

Community Crochet

There’s something really wonderful about good, well thought out, ‘public art’. Not just art there for the public to look at – but for the public to get involved in. One of my tutors way back in foundation was involved in a lot of public art projects in Sussex and her enthusiasm was infectious. She’d talk about the excitement of the people she worked with, the late nights and very early mornings sourcing the strangest materials, the problems of getting the powers that be to agree, and the immense satisfaction and pride of the community when the project came together. It felt like something really exciting – a real team effort, which is often not the case with many other artistic endeavours.

I enjoyed the story behind this set of images, by installation artist Mandy Greer.

This project began with the creation of a 200+ foot fiber river, created in part through a series of over 30 community events all over Seattle during the spring of 2009. I taught anyone willing to learn how to crochet, with some contributing a few minutes of chain stitch and others sticking with me for a few hours.

The final project ended up with a performance:

Which yielded some great images – one comment on the set saying:

One of my favorites with the reflection. During the performance, people gasped when her hands and headdress went into the water…

Whether you love the final result of the work or not, I think the way the community got involved is wonderful.

Putting a brave face on Mr Frustration

This monkey is turning out bigger than he was supposed to be:

He’s made of cotton – which I decided I really like to crochet with, after making this cupcake. (The case is made of cotton, the cake itself is wool / acrylic)

I made this wee chap all in cotton to see what it was like:

And decided I really liked it, so started making a more socklike monkey – he was supposed to be little too… but for some reason, I wasn’t really concentrating, and he’s pretty much the same size as one I made in wool a while back.

For quite a while, I wasn’t sure if i was going to finish him, but actually, but he was just a tube shape at the time – now he has a face. How can you not finish something that has a face? Poor fella.

UFOs

I never used to understand how people could have UFOs knocking around the house. For the uninitiated, UFO means ‘unfinished object’. I thought, ‘well, if you’ve started it, why don’t you just finish it?’. Seemed a bit weird to have something on the go and then leave it for something else.

At the moment I have a scarf, a hook case and a monkey on the go.

The scarf was an easy project to do when I was away for a week in the summer. Something that didn’t need much concentration so if I was talking I wouldn’t need to keep stopping to work out where I was. It’s the Queen Anne’s Lace Scarf – and it’s easy to do. I paused half way as I couldn’t decide if I’d wear it as a real scarf – it’s quite narrow. I will finish it, just, you know, later. I did find an adapted version of the pattern on Ravelry, by ‘Crafty Knitter’. It’s spectacular:

When some time I’ll figure out how she adapted it.

The hook case is from a book I was given as a birthday present. Called Lacy Crochet it’s full of some lovely projects. I’ve enjoyed making the case so far, I just need to… you know, finish it. Also, it’ll need lining when it’s done, which means sewing, and I’m terrible at that…

The monkey, well, I always seem to be making monkeys – and I’ll talk about him in another post. In the meantime, I’m still thinking about what to make next. There’s a bag I’d like to make for me, a cute little acorn bag for a child, a banner for a kids room, and I want to learn Irish crochet. And make a throw. The problem with crafting occasionally is the time to do all the nice things you see along the way.

Lunchtime links

There’s something really great about looking at crafty links at lunchtime. Lunchtime *should* be about getting away from your computer for, well, an hour, but we all know it doesn’t always happen like that.

While I’m actually in the act of eating, even if I am at the computer, it’s nice to have a quick look at some things that aren’t work related. Today I came across Ann Wood’s blog – and more specifically, Chillingworth:

Isn’t he great?

There’s an interview with Ann over at Design* Sponge which I’ll have to check out later, as right now, it’s back to work.

Everyone’s got to start somewhere

And so, I shall start here.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine was talking about embroidery. She wanted to start a new hobby, didn’t fancy knitting or crochet, but did fancy sewing. A tattooed lady herself, she fancied needleworking a tattoo-style illustration.

I’m not a good needleworker. I have done some tapestry in the past, but I just don’t seem to have the patience for embroidery. It doesn’t mean I don’t like other people’s though…

I’ve already sent her the links now, but had I got round to starting this blog a wee bit sooner, these are some links I would’ve shared with both you and she simultaneously.

Subversive Crossstitch
Yup, you probably know this one already – great traditional-style charts filled with wonderful sentiments such as:

Shut your piehole

Sublime Stitching
Another new twist on an old craft, Sublime Stitching feels more ‘freehand’. Embroidering straight onto any kind of fabric (rather than cross-stitch fabric specifically), with a range of patterns from tattoos to 1950’s pin-ups

Making up your own subversive statements
This page is interesting – it’s pixel fonts – some of which are drawn to look like embroidery. You could buy a pixel font, and use it to create your own sampler pattern to work from….

Or of course, you could work in something like Photoshop, and draw out your own pattern, pixel-for-stitch.

Urban Crossstitch
Self-described as ‘street stitchers with style’, UC have a variety of kits based on Banksy Graffiti and iconic things like space invaders. There’s a touch of the ‘Subversive Crossstitch’ about them too…

Three dimensional embroidery
Flickr is always a good place to look for cool crafty stuff – and actually, I haven’t passed on this link to my friend as I’ve only just found it – but how cool is this, by Kristin Krause :

A day of the dead pillow, embroidered with thread and sequins.

I think the thing with starting up with a new craft, is – as Carina says – the chance to

And, more to the point, enjoy it. (I keep seeing lots of people demonstrating how speedily  they can do x/y/z craft – but for me, someone who crafts occasionally and just for the hell of it, it’s a real joy to be able to take my time.)


Phew. There. Done. My first post.