Breaking My Mid-Winter Blues

With our oldest child in kindergarten, we still haven’t gotten into the swing of planning-out trips to coincide with school breaks and it was only a week ago that I learned we have Mid-Winter Break this week (well, I’ve had a bit on my mind with my husband Alex and I fighting the crud-that-wouldn’t-end, or I guess it’s the flu, for weeks now).  With this crud stuff having knocked me down, along with a host of other issues, including an adrenal gland that’s down for the count, I have not been looking forward to this break—I mean, what to do with two kids who have nothing better to do than fight over the shopping cart at Whole Foods?  Although, I admit it’s damn sure nice not to have to wake up in the wee hours to play drill sargent to a sleepy six-year old so that we can hike the quarter-mile walk uphill in chilly torrential rain to catch the school bus every morning.  But when it comes to the showdown at Whole Foods today—there was screaming involved and it wasn’t I—even sleeping-in an hour doesn’t make it worth it.  However—

On the bright side, I had a great delivery arrive on my front doorstep during my darkest hour, and for a moment I heard the angels sing.  It was my very own copy of Ami Ami Dogs:  Seriously Cute Crochet by Mitsuki Hoshi fully and gloriously translated into English!  What a way to brighten my day.

Thank you, Harper Collins for getting on the ball and for catching-on to a trend and translating a Japanese craft book in its entirety and doing it justice, right down to the softcover and the great photos, just as Hello, My Name is Amineko was translated and published by Creative Publishing International in 2010.

Front cover flap.

Instructive photos.

Same pattern instructions and graphics.

Not sure if you want buy the book?  Visit Harper Collins web page for this book, click on “Extras” and download free instructions to make your very own mini-Welsh Corgi.

I’m looking forward to buying a translated copy of another of Mistuki Hoshi’s books Ami Ami Dogs 2:  More Seriously Cute Crochet set for release in August 2011, the Japanese version of which I’ve seen in Kinokuniya and it has even more cute dogs to crochet.




Hello My Name is Amineko (left), Amineko no iru Seikatsu (right)

The latest issue of Twist Collective came out this week and on page three I stopped short when I spotted an ad for a new book, Hello My Name is Amineko (ISBN: 9781589235717) by Nekoyama, a book published in English about crocheting amigurumi cats. Without hesitation I ordered a copy, for it is the same book as Amineko no iru Seikatsu (ISBN: 4391130122) which I bought in Tokyo in 2005, not knowing any Japanese, but enamored nonetheless by the pictures of the cutest crocheted cats. It was that book that completely blasted me into the modern age of crochet from the dark ages of the ’60s and ’70s when my grandmother would crochet toiletpaper roll covers in the guise of doll dresses (the doll would stand inside the roll and the dress would wrap around the roll) or brown, orange and white granny square vests that gave me chills every time I found one lovingly placed under the Christmas tree for me (sorry Nana!). In fact, I would hazard a guess that this little book from Japan was instrumental in really changing how a lot of people viewed crocheting toys. Within a few weeks of arriving home from my trip to Japan I was on my way to making my very own crocheted cats using the charts and photos in the book, despite the fact the much of the book remained a mystery to me due to my Japanese language deficiency.

My copy of Hello My Name is Amineko has arrived and now I know that the cat pattern has a name, Amineko. The softcover book is in essence the same as the Japanese version, but with more color photos and a little formatting change in the charts. It is such a treat to pour over it’s pages and finally know what all funny captions for the cats “in action” say and to have the English instructions for all the extras, like making a fish-shaped pillow or a dried cuttlefish pillow for amineko. Aside from the complete translation of the original edition, I am very pleased that the original photos haven’t been omitted or changed to “appeal” to readers not in Japan, such as myself, and like the original it is filled with photos. Throughout the book there are still photos of aminekos clustered around a cup of green tea on a tatami mat, playing with a sushi roll, divvying-up a satsuma orange, contemplating eating a bowl of miso soup, and getting hit by a futon beating tool. This is a great book to have both for the pattern and for its fun photos, and I think it would make a great gift to accompany the gift of an amineko, especially for kids because it is 104 pages of fun. Thank you, Nekoyama and Quayside Publishing Group for making this English version.

I might just have to break-out the old crochet hook again and make a couple amineko to celebrate.

Just Ducky

I finally finished crocheting a duck for my son, over a year after starting it.

Daisy is a personal copy of a plush toy that is officially licensed off of the Daisy book series by Jane Simmons, a sweet and very enjoyable series of children’s books, by the way.  Below are a couple of pictures I took of the real plush Daisy last year.

Copying Daisy came about when the preschool my son was attending incorporated the plush toy as part of a book bag that children could borrow and take home to read.  The Daisy book bag with plush toy was among the most popular with the kids.  My son really wanted his very own Daisy, and he cried about it.  Often.  Unfortunately, in searching the Internet, it seems that this specific plush toy is not readily available, so I thought I’d try my hand at making our own personal copy.  The real Daisy is very cute and trying to capture her character was not easy, especially for someone like me, who rarely crochets.

I wrote nothing down as I went about making Daisy, since I have no idea how to accurately document all of the shaping of a crocheted amigurumi.  There was so much crocheting and ripping-out of work.

I used mostly Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash and I sewed a little bag of plastic pellets to put inside the body to give her some heft.

Embroidered bullion knots were used to copy the curls found on top of the head of the original plush toy, which represent the curled feathers on Daisy’s head in the illustrations of the book series, and the eyes are embroidered French knots.

I copied every aspect of the original Daisy, right down to how the duck bill was sewn to the head, because it adds to the character of this well-designed plush toy.  The shaping of the head, though, was beyond my crocheting abilities, and I just could never quite get it to look more like the original.

I even constructed the legs and feet much like the original, and even sewed the legs to the body in the same manner so that they would have the same floppy movement.  Call me a die hard perfectionist, I guess.

The only thing I didn’t quite copy was the wings.  I just couldn’t figure-out how to crochet them as a direct copy, so I “winged-it” and designed something that would serve our Daisy well, although I did sew them to the body in the same manner as the original.

It was such a long, drawn-out affair, but it was all worth it.  Daisy was hatched without much fanfare and happily welcomed by its recipient.  I’m pleased with how she turned-out and, more importantly, so is my son.

So ends my duck tale.

We’ve been swined.

We’ve all completely recovered from our bout with H1N1,  a.k.a. the dreaded and much-hyped about Swine Flu. It passed among the four of us from Christmas through the first week of January.  It’s great to be back among the living. Whew!

On the knitting side, I took a break from knitting that first week of January.  In January 2009 my husband challenged me to stop knitting for a week, which I flat-out said I couldn’t do.  However, this January I decided that it just seemed like the right time to do it. It turned out to be a good thing to do, because I was able to do other things that are often procrastinated because of my knitting. My hands and arms needed a much-needed rest because I injured my right elbow gardening 14 months ago and knitting seems aggravate it. As luck would have it, Seattle Knitters Guild had a guest speaker come talk about injury from repetitive activities, and he taught us some helpful exercises.  After a week off from knitting, my elbow felt much better, so I think that knitting at a slower pace, doing hand exercises, and icing my elbow after knitting will help it heal.

With my vacation from knitting over, I have started Andrea’s Shawl by Kirsten Kapur, available at Knit Picks and Ravelry. I was going to knit Dipsy’s Cable-Lace Scarf, but at the last minute I saw Nadia’s version of Andrea’s Shawl and I was hooked.  By the way, if you don’t know Nadia, I recommend visiting her blog.  Nadia, who lives in Switzerland and whose blog is written in French, is a prolific knitter and mother to six young children, and you only need understand the language of knitting to enjoy her blog.

Working end of beginning lace border.

Unblocked lace border.

So for Andrea’s Shawl, I’m using Great Northern Mink Yarn (70% sheared mink, 30% cashmere) in purple and some old stashed alpaca (Michell & CIA Indiecita 3-ply alpaca) in brown.  I was intrigued by the concept of shearing mink rather than the alternative, and Great Northern Yarns states that the yarn comes from “Healthy, stress-free minks sheared once a year…” So I thought I’d give it a try, and it seems to be pretty nice stuff.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I’m crocheting a duck for my son.  It’s my pattern (really, no pattern at all) and is based on a plush toy duck called Daisy which my son fell in love with at the preschool he went to last year. This very cute plush duck named Daisy is from a series of books by Jane Simmons about a young duck named Daisy and all of her adventures. He really wants his own Daisy, which doesn’t looked like your average duck, and has begged me to make one. I’ve stalled a number of times but finally it’s coming along and he’s excited.

The body is almost done, and it looks more lumpy and bumpy, but I think he’ll like it.  He’s being very patient about it, but he’s watching the construction of Daisy closely, and whenever I pull the project out, he asks, “Is that my Daisy your making?”

Something Different

I’ve been looking at YouTube a lot lately, and there are some really fun and interesting things to be found there. For instance, I did a search for “knitting” and one of the results was “Knitting Portuguese Style”. Well I had to check that out, and it turned-out to be rather interesting. If you suffer from problems with your wrists, this alternative method of knitting might hold a solution. Unfortunately, the volume is inaudible and the picture is a bit fuzzy on this one, but you’ll be able to get the idea:

I might just have to try it, just for the fun of learning something different and a more efficient method (I knit Continental style). I’m such a geek!

This one has nothing to do with knitting method, but it’s a cute video about a day in the life of an amigurumi:

Which answers my question: “Amigurumi are fun to crochet, but then, what do you do with them afterwards?” Make a video!

Easter Greetings!

What a weekend!

It kicked-off with the rare event of dinner guests on Friday; we had lamb curry followed by pavlova for dessert. I’d never made pavlova before, but it was quite easy, much to my relief.

Dinner guests and pavlova and all the preparation was not enough to deter me from also trying another first: marshmallows.

The marshmallows also turned-out well; I’d tried it a few times over the years and mysteriously failed, mysterious since they’re so easy to make. Yum! Now that I’ve accomplished marshmallows, there’s probably no going back to the ones from the grocery store.

Saturday, we went to a birthday party at an ice rink.

Later that day was Family Dinner #1 at a Kokiri Korean Restaurant in Federal Way; very good.

Sunday, I dyed Easter eggs for the first time in about 20 years, followed by Family Dinner #2 at Mom’s house.

In preparation for Easter and recently re-surfaced after too many years in hiding, my crocheted bunny and duck. The patterns for these two I think appeared in an old issue of Family Circle magazine and I made them when I was about 14-years old. At the time, having never made crocheted animals before, I didn’t quite know what I was doing, so my technique wasn’t the best, but the end result worked. In my crafting lifetime, I can say that these patterns were the probably the first projects that jumped-out at me, urging me to run out and gather the supplies to make them. There is another animal from the same issue of Family Circle, a baby duck in a decorated crocheted egg, but I can’t find it and can’t I find the patterns, either. Also among the missing is a teddy bear I created based-on these patterns. I’ve spent weeks looking for the two missing animals, and I will have to surrender to the fact that they’ll probably show up when I’m looking for Christmas ornaments later this year.

A couple of years ago, I was hit with a similar urge while looking at a book of crocheted cats written in Japanese: Amineko no iru Seikatsu, ISBN 4391130122.

This is a sweet book, most of it consisting of fun color pictures of crocheted (amigurumi) cats in different real-life scenarios, like sleeping and eating.

Here are two amigurumi cats I’ve made from this book: