Rainy Days and Tuesdays …

Sorry, I couldn’t resist “paraphrasing” that Carpenter’s classic.  We’ve had some crazy weather in Phoenix these past few days.  The usual monsoonal flow got a boost from a downgraded hurricane and created some major rainy conditions here.  Luckily, in my area, the flooding wasn’t too severe – I know that some of Phoenix’s flooding made the US national news.  That’s a pretty major feat for a place where there’s generally very little weather to speak of (other than dry and sunny.)  The rains seem to have subsided, but they’ve left bleak, cloudy skies in their wake, which is a bit of a mood-killer.  Right now I’m trying to keep myself smiling by working on this week’s new free pattern.  It’s going to be a very cool one – if I don’t say so myself 😀 .  Make sure to be here on Friday to check it out!

Another thing that makes me smile is that I finally got the BC Rich-style guitar toys listed on Etsy today!  Click the picture to check them out!

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They join the other guitar toys already in my shop:

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In other news, several of my free patterns from this blog have been featured on AllFreeKnitting!  So, I’d like to say “welcome” to those of you who are visiting me from there!  If you haven’t been to that site, by all means go check it out!  There are tons of free patterns there, for all kinds of items.  You can also click over to my featured patterns and rate them if you like:

Geckos

Backpack Charms

Music Notes

Pacman Playset

Thanks for stopping by!

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Another Knitted Guitar and Some Shop News!

I added another knitted guitar to the collection this weekend with a BC Rich Warlock model, upon a suggestion from a friend.

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White is always the easiest color to do an initial design in, particularly if you know that design is going to be a hassle. 🙂  I think this particular guitar is going to be a “toy only” item (i.e. no pattern release planned) because you’ll probably curse my name if you try to knit it yourself.  I was cursing my own name, and I’d have a heck of a time explaining exactly what I did!  Watch for the toy in the Etsy shop soon – in some more edgy colors!

In other news, I finally got back to the second “Land and Air” vehicle pattern set I was working on.  Today is photo tutorial picture-taking day!  Since we’re very close to its release, I’m going to share some teaser pictures of what the set includes:

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The “Land” component is a locomotive, and the “Air” component is a WWII-era p51 Mustang fighter aircraft!  I love both of these models and I think your family will, too!  Look for the pattern on Ravelry and the toys on Etsy later this week!

Have a great day!

The Start of a Collection!

I’ve got guitars on the mind!  It’s sort of funny because I’ve never played electric guitar and I only have extremely rudimentary acoustic guitar skills – that I haven’t exercised in over 10 years.  As usual, though, I’m fascinated by shapes.  Just as I’m not an expert in cars or planes but still love to look at them and ponder their construction, guitars and instruments are the same way.  So, I’ve been trying to turn some of those fascinating designs into soft toys.  On Monday, I shared my rendition of the Gibson Flying V.  Today, I’m sharing my version of the Gibson Explorer:

explorer guitar done3

Let me tell you, this one wasn’t a walk in the park!  All those points and angles going off in different directions proved to be a challenge.  This was the third version after a lot of math, redesigning and general pulling out of hair – lucky I’ve got lots of it 🙂  It’s not quite a perfect match for the Explorer – it’s much more stout, but I was trying to keep it in line with the size of my Flying V.  I love it anyway – and I guess the fact that it’s not really an Explorer means that I get to give it some cool model name!  My mind is blank right now however, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment!

As with the Flying V, this guitar is about a foot tall.

explorer guitar done4

I’ve had a request from a friend to work on a bass guitar, so that’s probably where I’ll go next!  Stay tuned!

Have a great day!

A Rockin’ Start to the Week!

I’m usually pretty easily distracted.  When something comes up that inspires me, or an idea materializes out of the creative mess that is my brain, sometimes I just have to follow it for fear that the inspiration and excitement will be too ethereal to hold on to for any length of time.  That happened this weekend when I started thinking about music and found myself with the desire to knit a guitar.  So, I toyed around a bit with some design ideas.  I knew I wanted to do some sort of fancy-shaped, edgy electric guitar, so my first thought was the famous Gibson Flying V.  My initial attempt was good, but not great:

flying v guitar

The neck was too floppy, the shaping not quite right, and I didn’t really like the way the strings were done.  Since I try to make toys that kids of all ages can play with, I didn’t want to simply make the strings in one long piece for fear that it might be a strangulation hazard for very young children, so I tried doing smaller straight stitches, but they looked too disjointed.  So, I went back to the drawing board and made everything a bit smaller to solve the problem of the floppy neck and embroidered the strings with one long strand, addressing the strangulation hazard by locking them in place with a few tiny stitches along the length of the strings.  That did the trick, and the second version came out thoroughly rockin’!

knitted flying v guitar

It’s about 12 inches tall, so definitely not a full-sized guitar but still fun to look at!  The best part about it is that I can go all Pete Townshend with it and have absolutely no worries!  I’ve started working on some other guitar designs, since electric guitars come in so many awesome shapes.  I’m hoping to have a collection of patterns for the Flying V and other guitars in the near future, and the toys themselves will definitely be available on Etsy soon!  Of course, I also need to get back to the task-at-hand of writing up and photographing the patterns for the next vehicle set!  Like I said, I’m easily distracted!

Have a great Monday!

Perseid Meteor Shower!

I love stargazing, and one of the great treats for any stargazer is a meteor shower.  Peaking late tonight and early tomorrow morning, the Perseids are one of the most reliable meteor showers, and they occur at a time of year when the weather is generally most conducive to sitting outside and watching.  Unfortunately, in my neck of the woods in Phoenix, Arizona, it looks like we’re going to have a cloudy, rainy night for the show this year.  In any event, a nearly full waning gibbous moon would make watching difficult, because the bright moonlight drowns out much of the show.  However, I thought I’d share some stories from my experiences of Perseids past!

Living in the heart of Phoenix, now the 6th largest city in the United States, automatically makes it difficult to view meteor showers here.  The pervasive city lights drown out nearly everything.  Luckily, much of Arizona is less developed, so one doesn’t have to travel too far to find dark skies.  The earliest Perseid shower I recall was probably when I was 10 or 11 years old – my parents packed us all into the car after sunset and we drove up the Interstate 17 freeway to the Carefree Highway turnoff.  Although now that area is very built-up, in those days (about 25 years ago) that was the middle of nowhere.  I remember there being many other cars stopped out there, all with the same intentions of viewing the meteor shower.  This was also the first time I ever saw the Milky Way Galaxy, splayed across the sky.  I don’t actually recall seeing any meteors that night, but I’ve since learned that the best time to view meteor showers is actually in the hours before dawn, when the radiant is highest in the sky, not just after sunset.

My family used to take trips up to Flagstaff in the summer.  Flagstaff is a city in northern Arizona, approximately 150 miles from Phoenix.  It is renowned for its dark skies, and in fact, Lowell Observatory, where researchers first discovered Pluto in 1930, is located there.  In spite of the impressive dark skies within the city, we would often awake early in the morning and head out on the highway in search of an even darker turn-off.  One highway exit that we pulled off at seemed perfectly dark and we turned our eyes skyward only to be absolutely startled by a noisy, bright freight train chugging by, mere feet away from us.  After the disruption of the train, everything quieted down and we were able to view a few meteors.  But we weren’t really prepared with the proper comforts for our excursion and left after only 30 or 45 minutes of viewing.  That’s another thing that I’ve since learned – make sure you’re comfortable for a meteor shower!  Bring chairs, blankets if necessary, food and drinks … all of these will make you want to sit out there longer and thus have a better chance of seeing more meteors.

In recent years, I’ve gone on Perseid-watching trips with a friend of mine.  We used to work the graveyard shift together, and since the Perseids peak occurs in the slower summer months, we were able to wrap up our work early and head out on the highway.  I’d pack hot cocoa and a picnic breakfast and we’d leave Phoenix and drive about 50 miles north out of town, pull off the highway, take out a couple of camp chairs and blankets and settle in for a few hours of viewing!  It was always very exciting – and our preparation and patience allowed us to see some great fireballs!  When the bluish fingers of dawn started rising in the East, we would get back in the car and head back toward Phoenix, stopping at the Sunset Point rest area for a breakfast picnic, often with homemade bagels, lox and cream cheese, and, of course, the hot cocoa!  Wrapped in our blankets (it’s chilly up there in the early morning hours, even in August) we’d watch the sun come up and drown out the last of the meteors.  It was always such a fun and memorable experience – and time spent with a good friend is always rewarding.  I’m not a skilled astronomical photographer, so I don’t have meteor pictures, but I’ll share some picnic pictures from years past!

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2012 Perseids – That’s me standing in the darkness, a blanket about my shoulders, trying to catch the last few visible meteors before the sunrise.
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2013 Perseids – Picnic time at Sunset Point!
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2013 Perseids – We had cinnamon rolls at our picnic, too!
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2013 Perseids – Sunrise at Sunset Point Rest Area.

I encourage you to create your own memorable meteor shower excursions with your families!  If weather permits in your area, and you’re in the northern hemisphere, give a shot at viewing this phenomenal natural show – it’s a great opportunity to spend time with your kids and teach them about the wonders of space – even if you just step out into your own backyard!

If you’re new to stargazing, Space.com is a great resource for learning more about the Perseid Meteor Shower, as well as other news and information about space science and events!

The Monday Report!

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend – and I hope you made it through the weekend without too many real ice cream sandwiches winding up in your bellies!  Thank you to everyone for the wonderful response to that pattern, as well!

The lovely ladies at SimplyNotable were kind enough to do a feature interview with me on their blog!  Check it out at http://www.simplynotable.com/2014/featured-designer-drfrankknits/ ! You can learn a little more about me and my process of designing toys … and make sure to check out the rest of the SimplyNotable blog as well!  It’s a wonderful place for inspiration and lots of creative ideas!

I’m working on designing the next vehicle pattern set in the Land and Air Series.  As usual, I like to keep these things a bit under wraps, but I will say that the “Land” portion of this set is super cute, and a different type of vehicle than those you’ve seen from me before.  I hope to have this pattern set available by the end of this week or early next week.  The finished toys will also be available on Etsy.

I’m very excited about this week’s free pattern offering – I hope the week flies by so I can share it with you sooner!  No hints, of course, but it has become one of my personal favorite designs!  Of course, I suppose I say that about everything – but that’s OK.  I find there’s no need to pick a single “favorite” toy!  There’s room in my heart for lots of favorites!  I hope you feel the same way!  Be sure to stop back on Friday to get this newest free pattern!

Since I don’t like to give away too many details on projects I’m working on, my posts during the week tend to be more about me as a person and my experiences outside of making toys – so there’s a lot more here than just Friday patterns!  I like to tell stories, I like to learn and discover and then impart that knowledge to other people, and I like to be a little silly.  If you just like a good read, try following me for more than just Fridays!

Thanks again for reading!  Have a great Monday!

Free Pattern Fridays – Knitted Ice Cream Sandwiches!

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To quote Monty Python’s Flying Circus:  “And now for something completely different!”

After a few weeks of vehicle patterns, I thought you might like a bit of a change!  August 2nd was National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, so I thought I’d celebrate that ever-so-important holiday by knitting ice cream sandwiches!  Of course, simple ice cream sandwiches just aren’t quirky enough for me, so I knew I had to do something crazy with them.  In addition to toys, I also like to make useful pieces of decoration for around the house, so my first idea when I thought about ice cream sandwiches was napkin rings.  What?  That wasn’t your first thought, too?  Seriously – when I thought about ice cream sandwiches, I thought about ice cream socials, kids’ parties, family sundae nights – and how I could turn these toys into something you could use at those types of parties.  Simply thread a rolled or folded up napkin through the opening between the filling and the cookie and you’ve got a unique, festive adornment that the kids will love … and I think the adults in attendance will love it, too!  Make the filling in the color or colors of your favorite ice cream and, if you’re feeling generous, let your party attendees take them home as a favor.  If you use a washable acrylic yarn, you can simply throw them into a pillowcase and machine wash them if they get dirty – which is pretty likely to happen at an ice cream party!  When you’re not using them as table décor, you can stack them up on a counter for a whimsical piece of kitchen art.  The kids could also use them as a cute addition to their tea party or other fake food playsets.  I was also thinking that little girls might like wearing them in their hair as a sort-of barette.  I can’t test this theory as I have enough hair for 3 people and it would never fit in the slot on this toy – but if you do try it, leave a comment and let me know!

Please note that if you’re using these as napkin rings, they work best with a thinner, smaller napkin.  I don’t have any cloth napkins, so I used bandanas for my photos.  Not that there’s anything wrong with using a bandana as a napkin – they’re very multi-functional items!  The napkin rings work well with paper napkins, too.

When knitted with worsted weight yarn and US Size 6 dpns, the toys measure about 2.5 inches long.

Ice Cream Sandwich Toys/Napkin “Rings”

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by Ilana Marks

Materials:

-Small amounts of worsted weight Cream and Brown yarns

-One Set US Size 6 Double Pointed Needles (dpns)

-Small amount of Polyester Fiberfill stuffing

-Tapestry Needle

Ice Cream Filling

Using Cream yarn and leaving a tail for seaming, cast on 16 stitches onto 3 dpns and join to knit in the round.

Rnd 1-18: Knit 18 rounds.

-Evenly distribute the 16 stitches onto two dpns (8 stitches per needle.)  Cut the Cream yarn, leaving a tail for seaming.  The tail will be coming off the rightmost stitch on the back needle.

-Seam the two sets of stitches using Kitchener Stitch.

-Stuff the ice cream filling piece through the open cast-on edge, then use the cast-on tail to seam the opening with Mattress stitch.

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-Weave in the ends.

Cookies (Make 2)

Using Brown yarn and leaving a long tail for seaming, cast on 16 stitches onto 3 dpns and join to knit in the round.

Rnd 1-3: Knit 3 rounds.

Rnd 4: k1, p2, k2, p2, k9

Rnd 5-6: Knit 2 rounds.

Rnd 7: k3, p2, k11

Rnd 8-9: Knit 2 rounds.

Rnd 10-15: Repeat Rnds 4-9 one more time.

Rnd 16: Repeat Rnd 4 once more.

Rnd 17-19: Knit 3 rounds.

-Cut the yarn, leaving a tail for seaming.  Distribute the stitches evenly onto 2 dpns (8 stitches per needle) with the tail coming off the rightmost stitch on the back needle.

-Seam the two sets of stitches together using Kitchener stitch.

-Seam the open cast-on edge using mattress stitch.  No need to stuff the cookie.

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-Make a second cookie in the same way.  Do not weave in the ends just yet.

Attaching the Cookies to the Ice Cream

Top Cookie

-Place a cookie piece on top of the ice cream filling.  The long edges of the cookie should line up with the long edges of the filling and the purl bumps should be facing outward.

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-Using one of the tails, attach the cookie to the ice cream with several short vertical stitches, going through the cookie and into the ice cream.  Make these stitches evenly around the length and width of the cookie to attach it securely to the filing.  Don’t pull the yarn too tight as you stitch or you will create divots in the cookie.  When you’re satisfied that the cookie is well-attached, weave in the ends.  (Alternately, you could mattress stitch around all the edges of the cookie, but I find that method makes it look a little too much like one piece.  Random vertical stitches through the center of the piece keep the edges free to make it look more like an actual ice cream sandwich.)

Bottom Cookie

-Place the other cookie piece on the opposite side of the filling piece, again with the purl bumps facing outward.  Thread one of the tails into a tapestry needle and stitch only the short edge of the cookie to the short edge of the filling using mattress stitch.

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-Repeat to attach the other side of the bottom cookie.

-This will leave a gap between the bottom cookie and the filling that you can put your fingers through.

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-Weave in the ends.  Make sure you don’t weave any ends through the unattached portion of the bottom cookie – rather weave them into the filling along the edges of the piece and weave through just the filling several more times before cutting short.

-If you want to use these as simply a play food toy, you can stitch the bottom cookie snugly to the filling as you did for the top cookie.

ice cream sandwiches5ice cream sandwiches4

Ice Cream Sandwich Neapolitan Variation:

ice cream sandwiches3

To make a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich, cast on the filling section with a light brown yarn, knit 6 rounds of brown, then switch to cream and knit 6 more rounds.  Finally, switch to pink and knit a final 6 rounds.  Proceed to finish as for the vanilla ice cream filling.  You can minimize the “jog” between the color changes by knitting one round with the new color, then slipping the first stitch of the next round and proceeding to knit around as before.

There are lots of other variations possible.  Try working the filling in a light green yarn then making numerous short stitches of black over the surface to make a “mint chip” filling.  If you’re having a party with a certain color-scheme, try embroidering “sprinkles” of those colors over the vanilla filling.  Use your imagination!  Be warned, though – these little toys may cause some very strong cravings!  I had to go out and pick up a package of the real thing …. I justified my purchase by saying I needed them for the photo shoot.  Justify your purchase however you want! 😀


I’m working on developing the 2nd edition of the Land and Air Pattern Sets that I introduced last week – I hope to have that available by the end of next week.  Also don’t forget that I have more for-sale patterns now available as Ravelry purchases for those of you looking for more fun stuff to knit! (http://www.ravelry.com/designers/ilana-r-marks )  Also, many of my patterns and exclusive toys are available on Etsy as well. (http://drfrankknits.etsy.com )

Thank you for stopping by – I hope you enjoyed this week’s pattern!  If you have any suggestions for future Free Pattern Friday items, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment on this blog or messaging me on Ravelry or Etsy!  I’d love to hear from you!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Adventures in Knitting Pattern Design