Saturday, July 28, 2007

Figure 2, in progress

I'm lucky to be occupied by a high number of custom Etsy orders at the moment, but the downside is that I don't have much time to work on other projects.

This is "figure 2" in progress - a fictive anatomy combining elements of cow, clam, and tardigrade. There is still a long way to go, but I plan on leaving the digestive tract plain to allow the osnaburg to show through, emphasizing the TUBE-i-ness of this organ system.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Security envelopes

I am wild for the subtle, printed patterns on the inside of certain envelopes. They're gorgeous, but rarely seen (except though a cellulose address-window, maybe), so it's fun to see what can be done with them by turning the envelope inside out.

A collection of paper butterflies on my wall...
and glassy "blue china" beads.From just two pre-used envelopes, I got almost 100 beads of various sizes. (If you're new to fine art of paper bead-making, there's a fantastic tutorial here) The triangles, which I rolled up around a spare piece of "music wire" I had lying around, were only about 0.5 - 1" wide by about 2" long, so it made for some very skinny beads. I ended up tearing off the last 1/4" of the skinny point since the frayed edge of the paper stayed glued down much better. I used a glue stick for the gluing, and then painted them with a high-gloss acrylic medium. This protects them against moisture, but also serves to make the colors pop a little more.

You can see what I did with these beads at Wardrobe Refashion.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Embroidered figures for fictive science textbook

The first in what I hope will become a series of fictive illustrations of non-existent science pseudo-knowledge. The Balearic really is a name given to a sea near Spain, but I just like the way it sounds, much in the same way that I love how French knots resemble (vaguely) some kind of mote-like krill or plankton, and how woven spider's web stitches look sort of like starfish. Empiricism be damned!

I plan to stretch this puppy over a firm backing as a means of mounting, but not before I add a brown "frame" of bias tape around the diagram, feeding from under the sides of the label.

Vague plans for the future include a detailed anatomy of whatever those predatory things are at the bottom of the food web and diagrams of their courtship habits, bee--honey-dance annotation style.

The Embroiderer's guild is a great resource for crazy new stitches, as is Sharon B's.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin, originally uploaded by naughton321.

Great photo here - thank you, Naughton...

I'd love to be able to capture some of these textures, but I'd really have to scale my work up in order to get the finer points in.

From Wikimedia

My first experiment with these textures proved this point.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Pattern for Baby Octopus (No. 5)

This mini-pattern is much shorter than most in the Wunderkammer, but will give you an idea of their format and style.

Using a G hook and worsted weight yarn, these take just a few minutes to make and measure in at around 2" long, legs fully extended. They look adorable squished into sample-size jam jars.

You could experiment with adding rows (try duplicating row 3, for example) to make the body longer, or by adding stitches in the early rows to make it wider. It's good to end up with 8 stitches in the last row, however, so that you can easily attach the correct number of legs.


When starting the double loop start, leave an extra long tail - we're going to turn it into a leg later!

1.............Double loop start with 6 stitches.
2.............Increase in every stitch (12 stitches total in this row)
3.............Single crochet in each stitch (12 stitches)
4.............Decrease in the 1st and 6th stitch of row 3 (10 stitches)
5.............Decrease in the 5th and 10th stitch of row 4 (8 stitches)

Slip stitch three times to smooth out the edge of the body.


(Note: the directions below assume you are making your chain stitches pretty loose. If you make them tight, or if you want the octopus to have longer legs, try increasing their length to 6 or 7 chain stitches)

With your hook still in the last slip stitch, chain 5, then tie off and trim the end. Tie an extra knot to secure.

Pull the "tail" from the double loop start to the inside of the body, if it isn't there already.

Insert your hook into a loop from an adjacent stitch on the last row of the body. Pull the "tail" through, and use it to chain 5. Again, tie off well, and trim.

Cut 3 segments of yarn about 2' long. Fold one in half. Insert your hook into the a stitch in the final row of the body, next to the last leg you made. Instead of using the top-most, outermost loop, use the one that is on the interior of the octopus, closer to you. The hook in this picture is being inserted into this interior loop.

Pull a short length of the doubled-up yarn through so that you have a loop, and feed the ends through that loop. You've now knotted the yarn to the body, and you should have 2 tails of equal length. Use these tails to make legs as described in the stitch the knot is made in as well as the adjacent stitch.

Repeat this with the other two lengths of yarn. You now have an eyeless octopus with 8 legs!


There are a variety of ways to make eyes, but I like to use the method that follows.

Cut two circles of felt about 4 mm in diameter. Sew a seed bead to the middle of each, and attach this, in turn, to the last row of the body of the octopus, at a spacing you find pleasing. If you sew only in the middle of the felt, the seed bead will give the appearance of being set deep within the felt.


© 2007 Jessica Polka

Please post a comment to let me know how your baby octopus turned out! If you feel it needs a legal guardian, you can find a full-sized octopus pattern in my Etsy shop.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sea grass lariats

From the stash of hand-dyed thread I'd made a few weeks ago, I've been making these strands of sea grass:
They're long enough to be worn as necklaces, tied loosely together in the front.

I'm not sure yet if they should be tagged as specimens, like the rest, but I guess it couldn't hurt.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Karl Blossfeldt

From wikimedia commons: Haarfarn (Maidenhair fern) from "Urformen der Kunst"(The original art)

This bad boy spent his entire career photographing plants at ginormous magnifications. You can see a huge collection (120 images!) here. Just click on "das werk" and then "unformen der kunst." Some of these things look like buildings, others like ironwork, and still others resemble, vaguely, people.

The tip off came from a wonderful Etsy seller, HummingbirdEyes, whose artful shop you can visit here. Take a look at her rad assemblage, "Evolution."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Barnacle quilt from yo-yos

This is just wonderful. Please visit Sara's blog to see more pictures of her piece.

She's used a neat little gizmo to make the yo-yos, but doing it entirely by hand actually seems to require only one line of stitches rather than two, which I can't argue with. I have a ton of odd-sized scraps lying around that I can't quite persuade myself to discard, so I may have found a suitable way to purge.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Please, go see this movie.

By a stroke of luck, I'll be moving to San Francisco next year, where the mayor has declared that it will become the first city in the US to provide universal health care. But we have a moral obligation as citizens to provide this basic human right to everyone nationwide.

HR 676 is a bill that would provide a public, universal, national health insurance program while keeping hospitals and clinics private. Get more information about it here, then sign up for the campaign to get it passed.