Yarn yarn yarn yarn yarn

It is amazing how inspiring new yarn is. I went back up to 55th St to buy myself some nice quality tea after having a terrible day involving getting very, very lost, and was seduced back into Acorn Street Shop by the call of squishy, plush skeins and beautiful, inspiring finished objects to pet. I shouldn’t be allowed out on my own when there are yarn stores around, honestly.

But the damage has been done! I have new yarn.

It isn’t really special yarn, I’ll give you that. No mohair or baby alpaca or silk laceweight for me, just some good solid Plymouth Encore in Gold and Red.

plymouth encore goldplymouth encore red

They don’t even have interesting color names like Drunk Fuschia or River Periwinkles or something. (Do those yarns exist? Tell me if they do. I will buy them.) OH WELL, I say, because I am inspired.

About half a year ago-ish I worked out a pattern for a rockfish of the genus Sebastes, and then settled on making it specifically Sebastes nigrocinctus, commonly known as the tiger rockfish. Sebastes means august or venerable, and nigrocinctus is a combination of niger (dark) and cinctus (belt), referring to its dark stripes. They come in an array of bold colors, and I consider them one of the most striking fish in the Puget Sound. I got stymied because I couldn’t find appropriate colors.

What colors are tiger rockfish? I will show you.

This first fellow is a pretty average color for a tiger; almost-black red stripes, lighter orange body color. Look at his grumpy lips. This is the one I still haven’t found an exact color match for; that particular shade of pinkish-yellowish-orange is a tough one to match in yarn. But it’s okay, because…

another rockfish

Copyright Jeff Whitlock 2008. From The Online Zoo.

…they also come in this sweet strawberry-ice-cream pink, with paler red stripes. This one is a perfect match for Berroco Vintage in colorway Fondant. This one doesn’t seem to be as common as the orange, perhaps because the paler color makes it more difficult for them to survive past the younger stages of life. I recreated one of these, but was unsatisfied because despite being pretty, they really aren’t very common or representative of tiger rockfish.

And then, if strawberry and apricot weren’t sufficient for you, they also come in this violent shade of…carrot? Maybe even more orange than that. This is peak Orange Fish, and basically only Red Heart Super Saver will do for this particularly neon shade. I have yarn for this puppy, but I have received some feedback that they do not look like real fish when they are this color, so I am hesitant on actually making a rockfish out of these colors. Also, like the pink ones, they are less common. I’ll do it once I’ve finished the less extreme ones, probably.

Finally, we have the one that matches the colors that so inspired me. He’s a nice shade of orangey-gold, and if my picture of the Plymouth Encore isn’t quite this shade, I assure you it is camera error. His stripes are definitely much brighter than the Encore red, but I’m okay with that because I know that darker stripes are natural and common for rockfish, and was just having trouble finding an accurate body color to match my reds to.

Tigers max at about 24″ and 115 years. My rockfish prototype is 12″ and 1 year old, and I am excited to get back to him. Velociraptor is on hold again. Designing from scratch is hard when you’re still trying to figure out college and only getting about six hours of sleep a night.

Lookit my fishie.

original rockfish prototype

Acorn Street Shop

Image

Well, Sunday I moved into the University of Washington dorms, and Monday I decided to take advantage of the free day before class started. I Googled Seattle yarn shops, found the closest one, and made the trek to 55th Street to find Acorn Street Shop. (There were a few more stops inbetween, involving getting incredibly lost and circling the dorm for about 45 minutes and a long conversation with a librarian, but I got there, readers, I got there.) It’s about two miles there and back from my dorm, so not a short walk, but a very beautiful one that, after the steep curve that is Pend Oreille Road, is mostly flat.

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Acorn Street Shop is an absolutely lovely place with friendly staff who are willing to let you fondle, try on, and explore to your heart’s content. They have a fantastic selection of yarn from bulky to fingering (unlike some local yarn stores I have gone to which eschew bulky altogether…for some reason), and a plethora of beautiful patterns. I purchased one myself, called Diamond Lattice Scarf, by Aixa Heller. I have a ton of scarves, and I don’t particularly have the wardrobe to match this one, but it’s such a great stitch pattern that I couldn’t resist. I have a few ideas for personal pattern modifications that’ll make this one fantastic for me.

As an aside, while I was there, a UPS man came in to deliver a box of yarn. Once he left, one of the staff mentioned to her coworker a joke about how she batted for the other team usually, but an exception could be made for him. I happen to bat for both teams, so I am always happy to find a place where I feel cozy not just as a crocheter but as an LGBT individual.

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I also got this fun trinket, which helps you keep track of rows! The beads slide easily up and down the cord but not so easily they go all over the place and mess up your count. These are by Jodi Herb. I’d link you to her website, but unfortunately, it seems to be down right now. You’ll just have to come to Seattle if you want to get your own. Acorn Street Shop is on 2818 NE 55th Street!

Then, since I had a little time, I crossed the street to a shop called Queen Mary’s Tea Emporium. And I found a Little Free Library shaped like a phone box!

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I love these things. Back at home they mostly look like little houses, so this one charmed me to death. No books I was interested in, but there was a call for people to add more, so maybe if I acquire any books I don’t need during my college years I’ll pop back and add some.

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The tea shop itself was fantastic; just as gaudy as you’d expect from a shop called Queen Mary, with 80-some varieties of tea that they mix on site and a great many teapots ranging from fancy to adorable. I was especially taken by a strawberry peach rooibos blend they had, but I let it go for now. When I’m moved into my permanent dorm, Hansee Hall, for the fall quarter, I’ll have more room for tea things, and I will come back for that rooibos.

 

Wings! Specifically, dinosaurs

Feathered wings are among the most beautiful and captivating things in nature, and also among the most complex and difficult things to capture artistically. To aid in the quest to represent wings in fiber, I think it is important to understand the form and purpose of the parts of the wing.

There are about ten million different subjects we could talk about in relation to wings: non-flight uses for bird feathers and wings, the morphology (wing shape) between different birds to achieve different flight patterns, evolution of wings, the names and places of all the feathers, the function and chemistry of wing oils, the muscular and skeletal anatomy, the homology or synapomorphy between wings and human arms…etcetera etcetera etcetera. (Those links should take you to decent starting points, just in case any of those topics sounded particularly interesting to you. Except the synapomorphy links, three of which are actual scientific papers.)

Obviously, that’s too much for any one article (which is why I linked fifteen), so I’m narrowing my focus. I’ve been trying to design a Velociraptor, so we’re going to talk specifically about 1) the fossil evidence for dinosaur wings, because for some reason it’s still a debate and I relish the fact that there is really good evidence for fluffy dinos, and 2) what uses dinosaurs had for wings.

Velociraptor by ChrisMasna on deviantART. The coloring here is speculative, but the feather reconstruction is not.

Velociraptor was part of a family of dinosaurs called Dromaeosauridae, the members of which are referred to as dromaeosaurs. They are characterized by their body type–bipedal, with smaller arms, long tails, graceful necks, and probable covering of feathers. Many dromaeosaurs are known only from skulls or from incomplete skeletons, lacking evidence of feathers or even any particular kind of skin altogether. However, Velociraptor is known from almost complete skeletons.

hartman-velociraptor

Skeletal by Scott Hartman; above, the known parts of the skeleton, and below, the inferred complete reconstruction.

The specific skeletal evidence of feathers on Velociraptor? Quill knobs on the ulna (one of the two paired bones on the lower arm).

F1.large

A is a Velociraptor ulna; B is the closeup of the red box in A. C through F are comparative shots of what modern day turkey quill knobs look like. From Turner et. al. 2007.

Quill knobs are small bumps or marks on the bones of a bird. They exist because flight feathers often need to be attached more strongly than other feathers, due to the stress they endure. The absence of quill knobs doesn’t mean there were no feathers; flamingos lack quill knobs, but are still feathered. However, quill knobs are a direct indication of highly developed feathers such that modern birds have today. Other dromaeosaur species like the large, recently-discovered Dakotaraptor also had quill knobs, suggesting it was a trait shared among most dromaeosaurs (DePalma et. al., 2015).

Closely related species have been found with halos of feathers around their bones, showing where their feathers existed in life. I find these fossils a particularly haunting picture of these past animals, and one of the most interesting is Microraptor. A basal (belonging to a base; “less” evolved) dromaeosaur, Microraptor and animals like it are what the rest of the dromaeosaur family evolved from (Xu et. al., 2003).

Microraptor_gui_holotype

The Microraptor holotype, or definitive identifying fossil. From Hone et. al. 2010.

You can see a tail fan, wings on both front arms, and curiously enough, wings on the back legs. The feathers are marked out on the rock like they were burned there; in fact, they were well-preserved enough that scientists were able to collect melanosomes (organelles responsible for pigment in animals) and discover that Microraptor was black, with iridescent feathers like a raven (Li et. al. 2012).

Honestly, these kinds of discoveries are why I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was tiny. I remember dinosaur books when I was six or seven saying “We have no way of knowing what colors dinosaurs might have been!” and now here we are, and it turns out we can know. Sinosauropteryx and Anchiornis have also had significant amounts of their colors mapped by science, and this diagram by tumblr user albertonykus shows pretty well the other fragments of fossil dinosaurs we have colors from.

Microraptor was using its wings to fly, but despite being relatively small Velociraptor was too heavy to get off the ground. Plus, even huge predators like Yutyrannus (an arctic relative of Tyrannosaurus) had feathers. What were they using their wings for if not flight?

Feathers on their own are useful for display and heat regulation, but wings themselves seem specialized especially for aerodynamics. They are, of course, but that’s not the only thing they can be used for, just like our feet are specialized for walking but can also be used to deliver a mean kick.

There are three main theories that I know of: wing-assisted incline running, stability flapping/wings as balancers, and wings as weapons.

Wing-assisted incline running is the use of a flapping motion of the wings as the animal runs to create extra momentum and allow it to run up near-vertical slopes. This is employed by many modern birds, most notably the chukar partridge. Hatchlings of many other modern species who are not fully capable of powered flight yet use the technique, and interestingly enough, even adults capable of powered flight will preferentially use wing-assisted incline running to get to refuge (Dial 2003). Though of course no dromaeosaur has ever been documented doing any running, since they’re all dead, it fits neatly with locomotive analyses of dromaeosaurs as fast and agile predators. Using their wings to run up inclines, they could achieve even greater feats of agility, and even climb trees to catch prey or avoid larger predators.

http://emilywilloughby.com/gallery/paleoart/deinonychus-prey-restraint

Deinonychus on top of prey, using stability flapping to keep its balance. By Emily Willoughby.

Stability flapping is a theory based on the hunting abilities of dromaeosaurs. A key feature of the famous dromaeosaur species is the terrifying sickle claw on their feet, which would have been used to kill prey. Like modern predatory raptors, the dinosaur would then have used its feet to hold down its prey while it fed or finished the kill. Since its feet would be locked into a struggling animal, it couldn’t use them to keep its balance, so it would use its rigid, fanned tail and wings to stay upright (Fowler et. al. 2011). Alternatively, wings could be used as stabilizers while running, as this fascinating article about ostriches suggests.

The final theory, wings as weapons, is pretty much what it says on the tin. Many, many modern birds maintain spurs, claws, and clubs on their wings to increase their potential as weapons, and this ancient ibis had thickened forearm and hand bones so that it could swing its wing as a club. As a precursor to aggression, wings can also be used as a display to make the animal appear bigger.

And finally, we get to what I did with all this information.

wing

It’s late and all the lighting in my house is terrible.

This was a basic chevron pattern that I continued for a few rows, alternating FLO and BLO so that there would be extra loops on one side of the chevrons. Then I chained up the side and started making feathers in the unworked loops. Each long feather (remiges) is  (ch6, sk 1st ch, sc in next ch, sc in each ch st, sl st in next sc) and the middle feathers (coverts) start with a ch4.

It’s really scrunched up but I’m pleased with the look so far. I just need to adjust the chevron stitch (you’re really supposed to have at least one full W shape with the pattern I used, so stopping halfway made it do some funny things on the return rows) and where the feathers go so they lay more naturally. And then I need to mirror the entire thing to make the left wing… but for sure, I’m having fun.

I love dinosaurs.

Citations

DePalma, R. A., Burnham, D. A., Martin, L. D., Larson, P. L., & Bakker, R. T. (2015, October 30). The first giant raptor (Theropoda: Dromaeosauridae) from the Hell Creek Formation. Paleontological Contributions PC. doi:10.17161/pc.1808.18764

Dial, K. P. (2003, January 17). Wing-Assisted Incline Running and the Evolution of Flight. Science, 299(5605), 402-404. doi:10.1126/science.1078237

Fowler, D. W., Freedman, E. A., Scannella, J. B., & Kambic, R. E. (2011, December 14). The Predatory Ecology of Deinonychus and the Origin of Flapping in Birds.PLoS ONE, 6(12). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028964

Hone, D. W., Tischlinger, H., Xu, X., & Zhang, F. (2010, February 15). The Extent of the Preserved Feathers on the Four-Winged Dinosaur Microraptor gui under Ultraviolet Light. PLoS ONE, 5(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009223

Li, Q., Gao, K., Meng, Q., Clarke, J. A., Shawkey, M. D., D’alba, L., . . . Vinther, J. (2012, March 08). Reconstruction of Microraptor and the Evolution of Iridescent Plumage. Science, 335(6073), 1215-1219. doi:10.1126/science.1213780

Turner, A. H., Makovicky, P. J., & Norell, M. A. (2007, September 21). Feather Quill Knobs in the Dinosaur Velociraptor. Science,317(5845), 1721-1721.
doi:10.1126/science.1145076

Xu, X., Zhou, Z., Wang, X., Kuang, X., Zhang, F., & Du, X. (2003, January 23). Four-winged dinosaurs from China. Nature, 421(6921), 335-340. doi:10.1038/nature01342

 

Pyukumuku: Free Crochet Pattern

I’m pretty sure the newest Pokémon game (coming out November 18th!) was made for me. Pokémon Sun and Moon is set in a region based off of Hawaii, and is filled to the brim with new and incredible aquatic Pokémon. This cutie, Pyukumuku, is the Sea Cucumber Pokémon! Its name is apparently a combination of “puke”, “mucus”, and “cuke”, which I find utterly charming. Since no pattern for Pyukumuku seems to exist yet, I made one myself. Since this pattern doesn’t make use of safety eyes, it’s great for even the littlest Pokémon trainer.

Supplies
Partial skein (60-70 yards) of black worsted weight yarn
Scraps (20-30 yards) each of white and pink worsted weight yarn
5mm/H crochet hook
Tapestry needle
White embroidery thread
Fiberfill or stuffing of your choice
Stitch marker

Body (make 1 in black)
If you are having difficulty with the beginning of the body, refer to Mohumohu’s oval tutorial here. The bobble stitch I used is based off of this one, but I only use three partial double crochets (4 loops on hook total) for a smaller eye.
1. ch 4, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next ch, 3sc in last ch. Rotate foundation chain to work in back loops. Sc in next ch, 2 sc in last ch sp. (8)
2. Inc, sc, inc 3, sc, inc 2. (14)
3. inc, sc 2, (inc, sc)x3, sc, (inc, sc)x2 (20)
4. inc, sc 3, (inc, sc 2)x3, sc, (inc, sc 2)x2 (26)
5. inc, sc 4, (inc, sc 3)x3, sc, (inc, sc 3)x2 (32)
6. sc 11, bs in pink, sc 16 in black, bs in pink, sc 3 in black. (32)
7-18. sc around (32)
Stuff firmly. Continue to add stuffing as you decrease.
19. dec, sc 4, (dec, sc 3)x3, sc, (dec, sc 3)x2 (26)
20. dec, sc 3, (dec, sc 2)x3, sc, (dec, sc 2)x2 (20)
21. dec, sc 2, (dec, sc)x3, sc, (dec, sc)x2 (14)
22. dec, sc, dec 3, sc, dec 2 (8)
23. dec 4 (4)
Finish off. Thread yarn through remaining stitches and pull shut.

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“Tail”* (make 3 in white)
1. MR 6
2. inc around (12)
3. sc around (12)
4. dec around, slst (6)
Tuck starting end in, stuff firmly, and finish off.

Small Spikes (make 4 in pink)
1. MR 4
2. inc around (8)
3. sc around (8)
4. sc around, sl st (8)
Finish off, stuff firmly.

Large Spikes (make 2 in pink)
1. MR 4
2. inc around (8)
3-4. sc around (8)
5. (inc, sc)x4 (12)
6. sc around, slst (12)
Finish off, stuff firmly.

Assembly
Embroider Pyukumuku’s “mouth” between its eyes with your white yarn or embroidery thread. Sew the white bits on the other end. Sew the spikes on Pyukumuku’s back as the pictures show, angling them to your liking. Congratulations! Wild Pyukumuku was caught!

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Fascinatingly, Pyukumuku’s ability is Innards Out, where it ejects white, sticky strands to deal damage to the enemy. Real sea cucumbers grow these strands at the base of their respiratory system, near the anus (which is the organ through which sea cucumbers absorb oxygen), and when threatened eject them from the anus to distract or entangle the predator. New tubules grow back within a few weeks. So yes: Pyukumuku’s face is actually an anus.  As for the fluffy “tails”?

*They are likely feeding tentacles, which are fluffy, (usually) white appendages that the cucumber uses to scrape up algae and other tasty morsels from the sea floor. I love it when Pokémon takes inspiration from real-world biology.

If you have any questions about the pattern, feel free to contact me by commenting or emailing me at quillen@seafarersyarn.com.

College quilt!

I’m moving in to my dorm this Sunday (but there will still be a Sunday post, because of the magic of WordPress queueing) and my mum just finished what will be the crowning glory of the room. Last year she said she’d make me a quilt for college, so I designed a goldfish design made up of hexagon motifs, we picked out fabric together, and a year later, here we are. I know this is a yarn blog, but yarn people are well-able to appreciate other textile arts.

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I had to stand on the kitchen counter to get this picture.

The goldfish is based off of butterfly-tail goldfish. My favorite breed is actually the ranchu, because they are precious egg fish, but butterfly tails are so striking from above that I had to choose them.

Closeup of some of the different fabrics used here:

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I wish you could really see the detail of my mother’s quilting; the water is done in waves, the ripples have bubbles in them, the leaves have veins, the fish has diamond scales… but my phone camera is only decent, not magical.

I’m so happy. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Now off to pack the rest of my things for college…

Tiny things

I’ve been on a bit of a tiny thing kick. I can’t help it, they make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

poliwag1 tinybun1

The first one is a Pokémon. Its name is Poliwag, a bastardization of “pollywog”, since the Pokémon itself is conceptually based off of Costa Rican glass frog tadpoles (sixth on this marvelous list of transparent animals; warning for visuals of internal organs, since despite all of these animals being alive and well, you can see right through them). The pattern is from Ravelry right here. I used cotton thread and a 2mm hook to make him tiny and adorable.

The second is Rachel Carroll’s Dutch Rabbit, done with sock yarn and 2.25mm needles with seed bead eyes. Quarter for size reference! The breed features some of the most aesthetically pleasing rabbits out there, in my opinion.

This is just a quick post. I’ve been swatching for my Velociraptor, trying to work out the most difficult parts: the wings. Next week we’re going to have a saunter through the dinosaur wing, including why a flightless hunter like Velociraptor would have had wings or feathers at all, and how I intend to represent them in crochet.

One more pic of the bunny for luck.

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I published a pattern

Dear readers, my deepest apologies for missing two Sundays in a row. It turns out getting your wisdom teeth out and then having family in from out of state is an excellent way to get everything derailed.

Things that have happened in my absence:

1: My little sister won second place for her age group at the state-level golf championship! Everyone is extremely proud of her. Next year she’ll do even better.

2: I popped into the knitting group at the local yarn shop and had a go at swatching for Hexagons in Zitron Pro Natura. These will be my first ever socks. I was informed that this was extremely ambitious of me, but the actual techniques used for the socks (knit, purl, ssk, k2tog, use of dpns, picking stitches up) are all things I’ve done before. I’m making them for my mother for Christmas, since she’s a quilter who works entirely with hexagon motifs. They’re sort of her signature. I also frogged a couple of knit projects that were not going anywhere.

However, I am sick up to the neck of knitting at the moment, and have put socks and other knitting notions away for the moment. Sometimes I need a good knit as a break, but crochet is my one true love, which I was reminded of when I picked up a 2mm and some cotton thread to have a go at crochet lace. The hook just feels right in my hand the way needles don’t. Still:

3. Doing any crocheting on my planned Velociraptor will have to wait for a bit; I intended to get more done on it before things got so busy, but that didn’t happen. First I was stuck in bed and then Sister’s championship and family happened, and now I have two weeks before I move into my college dorm, so things must be squared away before I do any more serious designing.

4. After making a doily for a palate cleanser, I started work on an older pattern: a semi-realistic Triceratops I designed for a friend who was having twins. The crochet has been finished for a while. I just needed to photograph it and finish the PDF files, but now it is done! It is done! You can find it here on Ravelry. There are more pictures on my project page here, as I don’t like to picspam.IMG_20150825_191046063_TOP
This is my first published pattern. My family and I are going to have a celebratory dinner, and then it’s right back to working on more patterns and more designs (and hopefully ironing out the legalities of getting licensed as an official business). The future is so exciting.