Calcifer Plush

A few years ago, I started introducing one of my best friends, Suzi, to Miyazaki movies. She had seen Kiki’s Delivery Service, but only that one movie. We started with Howl’s Moving Castle and she fell in love with Calcifer, the fire demon who keeps the castle moving, among other things. As we worked our way through other movies and other cute Miyazaki characters, Calcifer remained Suzi’s favorite.

Calcifer

For Christmas this year, I almost got Suzi a plush Calcifer at a store in the mall, but the plush was spendy for what it was and I knew I could do better. I checked Ravelry for patterns and found this one by Sally Marshall. Now, I’m not so great with intarsia or at least not very confident in my skills, so buying the pattern and attempting this was a bit risky. But the project is small enough that it wouldn’t be frustrating if I failed and I figured I could probably cover up any mistakes with double stitching.

I also decided that angora would be perfect for this project. Calcifer would look a bit more fire-like if he was fuzzy and angora would help me with intarsia because it’s pretty sticky. I could have tried mohair, but angora is so much softer, IMO. Plymouth has the only 100% angora yarn in a suitable weight, but the range of colors didn’t include a suitable orange or yellow. The red would probably work though.

I ordered 1 skein of red and 2 skeins of white angora along with some Jacquard Acid dyes and waited by my mailbox (not really, but that’s what it felt like). When the yarn arrived, I wound both skeins of white into hanks on my niddy noddy for dying and started with orange, Jacquard color 606 Deep Orange. I tried to do the requisite math to reduce the dye recipe from 16 oz down to 10 g, but definitely overestimated. That turned out to be a good thing – the resulting color was almost neon, deeply saturated and almost more red than the commercially dyed red, which now looked pink in comparison.

Calcifer
Orange dyed yarn and commercially dyed red. Photo is not filtered or adjusted at all. 

I used some washed fleece to exhaust the dye bath, which I lated combed and used as stuffing for the plush. This is just one lock; I dyed close to a pound of washed fleece. I’m estimating; I didn’t actually weigh it out, just added more water to the dye pot and stuffed in what I could to sop up the dye. I did that with the other dye baths as well; eventually I’m going to use the wool to make some rolags that look like fire, so keep an eye out here for a post about that.

Calcifer
Washed fleece used to exhaust the orange dye bath

I proceeded to dye yellow yarn (Jaquard 602 Bright Yellow) and then thought I’d try overdyeing the commercial red with a red I had on hand – Jacquard 611 Vermillion. Vermillion ended up being much to dark and a bit too maroon to work for Calcifer. I ordered more yarn and more dye, Jaquard 618 Fired Red. A week or so later, I had dye success. Below is the full color range of angora I dyed.

Calcifer
Dyed Angora – left to right: Jacquard 602 Bright Yellow, 606 Deep Orange, 618 Fired Red, 611 Vermillion over commercially dyed red (the other base yarns were white)

By this time, I knew I wouldn’t have Calcifer done in time for Christmas, which is not a big deal; last year Suzi and I exchanged gifts in January.

The pattern is knit in flat pieces starting with a garter stitch base. Instead of knitting the front and back separately and seaming them to the base, I picked up stitches along the base and knit them attached that way.

Calcifer
Base and front/face of Calcifer

I didn’t think I would use the Vermillion-dyed yarn at all, but it ended up being perfect for the French knots that are Calcifer’s pupils. The intarsia was challenging and it’s not 100% perfect – some of the stitches are uneven, some are pulled too tight – but I used a needle to even some stitches out manually and double stitched others while weaving in the ends to cover up the glaring holes.

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Finished Calcifer front – isn’t he cute?
Calcifer
Finished back

I thought making the back look like the front but without the eyeballs, but I was anxious to finish him and I didn’t want more intarsia & noodling out the pattern to slow me down. Maybe I’ll make another where the back echoes the front colors.

Suzi and I met for milkshakes (our thing) last Friday and I gave her Calcifer, along with a Clapotis I made for her (it will always match her hair, which she colors frequently), so I feel like I can finally post about it without potentially spoiling the surprise. She’s thrilled! She says that he is “The softest fire I’ve ever touched!” Mission accomplished!

Ravelry project details, in case you’re curious.

Emergency Project: The Conclusion

This is one in a series of posts about an emergency (of my own making) project – here’s the post that started it allthe first update, the second update, the third update.

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Finished!

There it is in all it’s glory: the finished blanket, slightly squished to fit on the couch cushions. I have maybe 1/8th of each skein left. I wove in the last end late yesterday afternoon but could have easily finished it on Thursday if I had taken it on the trip, though I opted instead to take smaller projects. That’s 5 (4) days to make a baby blanket, somewhere between 30-40 hours. Granted, it’s a thick, heavy baby blanket, but a blanket nonetheless.

IMG_6299But I couldn’t let the color stand. I tossed the finished blanket in the washer and dashed off to JoAnn for some dye. I was planning on using one of the liquid Rit dyes but the colors just seemed blah. Tulip jumped on a marketing opportunity and has started to package some of their dyes in a yarn dying kit, sold in a display with undyed cotten yarn, but those colors and the colors in the mothership display (the individual dye rack) were too close to neon for me. I ended up bringing home 3 packets of Dylon dye, in 2 colors. Please note, I haven’t used these dyes before – last time I used Jacquard Acid Dye and I’ve done a bunch of natural dyeing and plenty of fabric makeovers with Rit, both liquid and powder.

The Dylon directions involve stirring the dye pot (with the thing you’re dyeing in it) occasionally for 10 minutes and then constantly for 45 minutes. I don’t have that kind of patience. Dylon, unlike acid dye, is set with table salt (Rit varies depending on the fiber you’re dyeing), so I weighed the appropriate amount of salt (12oz) and dumped it in my front loading washer. Then I carefully cut open all 3 dye packets at once and emptied them onto the salt mountain. Finally, I added the still-damp blanket, closed the door, and ran it on my washer’s Deep Steam cycle.

I immediately ran it through another wash cycle with detergent without opening the washer. At the end of that cycle, I opened it up to see the blanket artfully spread on the back of the washer drum:

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Blocking by washer

When I pulled it out, there was some yarn barf that I stupidly didn’t take a picture of – one of my bound off edges came undone somehow, I’m not sure what I did to cause it because the yarn tail was still securely woven in. I tossed the blanket in the dryer (and ran the washer empty to get rid of any remaining dye) and after the blanket dried, repaired the wonky edge. I tossed it back into the washer again, this time with some dark colored beach towels; I really don’t want the dye to leach onto my friend’s laundry. So, here’s the final blanket this morning:

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And a closeup:

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I like it much much more all blue. The uniform color makes the stitch pattern stand out while still being slightly variegated and interesting. Here’s a comparison shot of the finished blanket and the finished dyed blanket, almost matched up side by side:
Left: finished blanket before washing, dyeing, and drying. Right: after. Details on my blog soon/later today. #knittersofinstagram #knitting #knitdesign #knittersofig #yarndyeing #dylondye

I just got back from lunch with my friend; her doctor has tentatively scheduled a c-section on October 6 for her and her little boy. She looks beautiful but miserable because it’s so effing hot out – it’s 95ºF/35ºC but with humidity factored in it feels like 111º/44º. She has a 2 year old daughter and babysits her 1 year old twin nephews during the week and boy oh boy is she ready to have this baby.

Anyway, she really liked the blanket. I also gave her the Herringbone Rainbow BB Blanket because IMO the one I made this week is too thick & heavy for a baby blanket. So why did I make it? The last one that I made similar to this, Super Quick, my sister in-law loved – it worked really well for nap time to sort of weigh my nephew down so he wasn’t as restless as his older brother was. So I thought that out of 2 blankets, my friend would at least be able to use 1. She’s very happy with both blankets; her house is super cold and drafty in the winter – old windows – so they’ll be very useful. Hooray!

And now I hope to spend the afternoon catching up on blogs so I know what everyone’s been up to while I’ve been knitting all week.