Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book here; fish for sale

Physical copies of the book I wrote arrived recently and they look pretty shiny! Too bad I can never remember this title.

Feeling derpy for missing black Friday, I also went on a huge Etsy listing blitz - you can now find all of the original samples I made for the book for sale there. And I think I broke my personal record for # of items in the shop...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Inspirational Moustache

I just received a few sample copies of an adorable book celebrating mustaches. It features one of the crochet patterns I wrote, the rest of which are available through Etsy. The format is small, the content is diverse, and I can recommend it even if you think you have been suffering from mustache fatigue. Thank you Ziggy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Finally done

Most of my crocheting (and now, knitting) time for the past 9 months or so has been spent working on a collection of patterns for sea creatures. It's finally done - just communicated the few last edits to these proofs to the publishing company - and the release date is evidently set for January 17, 2012. The format is 8.5" x 8.5", softcover (that actually stays open nicely) with nice glossy photos. You can preorder it on amazon, which is what finally makes it seem real to me now!
The book follows the form of other titles from St. Martin's Griffin, which I really like - there are big gorgeous full bleed "selector" spreads in the front of the book that cross reference the patterns. And, at the end, there are nice examples of how to assemble the random stuff you made into larger projects.

The wonderful editors at Quarto who put this together did a fantastic job making my scribblings presentable, and every crochet pattern has a chart. I didn't appreciate the utility of those until now, especially for patterns that double back on themselves (like this octopus).

I actually wrote close to 100 patterns for the book, but some of them were cut due to lack of popular interest (diatoms! algae etc). Since those are dearest to my own heart, I will definitely be finding a way to make them available to my fellow dorks out there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tardigrade pattern

 Tardigrades are so crispy! Nonbelievers, observe this beautiful comic by Alex Chitty.

Obviously I have been wanting to crochet these for a long time, but only recently got around to it, encouraged by a request from a great lab from my undergrad alma mater that uses them as a model organism. Here's a pattern so you can do it too.

I had a great time working on these articulated body segments, but they can definitely be optimized. I want to try inserting some rounds of thick craft foam or thin cardboard at the boundaries of each segment, and possibly tether the whole thing together internally, nose to tail, so that the segments remain compressed together. If you try it, let me know how it works!

I'm going to use abbreviations here - I always though they were weird and annoying, but I was forced to learn to use them for a project and now I am hooked on phonics. 'Sc' means to make a single crochet in the next stitch, and along those lines '2sc' means to increase. 'dec' means to make a decrease over the next two stitches using single crochet unless otherwise specified. Brackets denote parts of the pattern that will be repeated, '2x' (twice) or '3x' (three times) and so on.

You will need:
  • Worsted weight yarn (pretty sure this is Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Lemongrass)
  • Size G hook (my standard for a nice tight gauge)
  • Yarn needle
  • 2 safety eyes
  • Needle and thread to match the yarn
  • Felt for the claws
  • Stuffing or fabric scraps to use as such
You'll use the following techniques:
  • Slip ring
  • Chain
  • Single crochet
  • Increase
  • Decrease
  • Importantly, to make the tardigrade look like it has a hard cuticle, you really need to work only in the back loops and then switch to working in only the front loops to form the hard edges at the boundaries of each segment. See this sculptural crochet primer I wrote for a demonstration of this technique.
  • Note that this is worked in a spiral like amigurumi.
 Actual pattern now.

 Body (make 1)
Round # / Instructions / (stitches in that round)
  1. Make a slip ring. This forms the mouth of the tardigrade.
  2. Sc 6 in this ring (6) Remember, always work in the back loops only unless specified.
  3. [sc, 2sc] 3x (9)
  4. [2sc, sc, sc] (12)
  5. sc all (12)
  6. [2sc, sc] 6x (18)
  7. [sc, sc, 2sc] 6x (24)
  8. sc all (24)
  9. sc all (24)
  10. [dec] 12x in front loops (12) You are almost done with the first segment, so stuff it now and add the safety eyes.
  11. [sc, dec] 4x (8)
  12. 2sc all (16)
  13. 2sc all (32)
  14. sc all in front loops (32)
  15. sc all (32)
  16. sc all (32)
  17. sc all (32)
  18. sc all (32)
  19. sc all (32)
  20. dec 16x in front loops (16) Stuff this segment.
  21. dec 8x (8) Repeat rows 12-21 once more.
  22. 2sc all (16)
  23. 2sc all (32)
  24. sc all in front loops (32)
  25. [sc 6x, dec] 4x (28)
  26. [dec, sc 5x] 4x (24)
  27. [sc 4x, dec] 4x (20)
  28. [dec, sc 3x] 4x (16)
  29. [sc 2x, dec] 4x (12) Stuff this segment.
  30. dec 6x (6)
  31. make two decreases over 3 stitches each, and then finish off.
Legs (make 8) 
Round # / Instructions / (stitches in that round)
  1. Make a chain of 8 stitches (8)
  2. sc all (8)
  3. sc all (8)
  4. sc all (8)
  5. make one slip stitch and then finish off, leaving a long tail you will use to sew the leg to the body.
Making up

Cut 8 pieces of felt that end in claws, sized so that you can tuck them into the openings of the legs. Using the needle and thread, sew them in place, and then use the yarn needle to sew the legs to the body.

 THE END. Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chromosomes for Schmancy

I've been a long time (and long distance) admirer of Schmancy, a wonderful art/toy store in Seattle, and I'm delighted to be represented there now, even with this small initial offering. In keeping with the Schmancy's fantastic playful spirit I stuck some eyes on these chromosomes (which each have a unique banding pattern and a back loop for hanging). In store only!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


A quick note to say that after a long period of neglect (the result of a potent cocktail of travel, experimental demands, and personal upheaval), the Etsy shop is finally back online. More patterns and posts will follow in the coming days!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I'm sure this is old news to everyone else, but today I learned that I don't even need to try to remember to buy pipe cleaners; twist ties work fine as armatures.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Crocheted radiolarians

1-2" in diameter, made with crochet thread stiffened with craft glue. The hardest part was finding appropriate stuffing material, but a shredded plastic bag works perfectly.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Narwhal pattern

I originally designed this guy for a larger project I'm working on, but something about the finished product made me want to share it here instead. Instructions (with chart!) are below.
Finished size: about 6" with tusk.
You'll need a size G hook, worsted weight yarn in two or three colors (not very much!) and a yarn needle for attaching the fins and eyes.

The first step is to make the tusk. It's basically a short "spiral staircase" friendship bracelet. Make the first knot small so that the end of the tusk is somewhat pointed. Continue the tusk for 2", then finish off with a really big knot - you'll need it to be large to prevent the tusk from slipping out of the body.

  1. Make a magic ring start with 6 stitches, tightening it around the tusk, and slip in the first stitch.
  2. Increase in every stitch (now you have 12 stitches)
  3. Single crochet in every stitch (12 stitches)
  4. Single crochet in every stitch (12)
  5. Increase in the next stitch, then single crochet. Repeat this process 6 times (18 stitches in this row)
  6. Single crochet in every stitch (18)
  7. Single crochet in every stitch (18)
  8. Decrease over the next two stitches, then single crochet in the next 7 stitches. Repeat. (16)
  9. Single crochet in the next 4 stitches, then decrease. Single crochet in the next 6 stitches, then decrease. Finally, single crochet in the last two stitches (14)
  10. Decrease, then single crochet 6. Decrease again, then single crochet 4. (12)
  11. Single crochet 10. Decrease. (11)
  12. Single crochet 4, decrease, single crochet 5 (10)
  13. Single crochet 5, decrease, single crochet 2 (9)
  14. Single crochet 1, decrease, single crochet 6 (8)
  15. Single crochet 4, decrease, single crochet 2 (7)
  16. Single crochet 2, decrease, single crochet 3 (6)
  17. Decrease, single crochet 4 (5)
  18. Single crochet 3, decrease. (4)
  19. Finish off.
Fins (make 4!)
  1. Chain 6
  2. Double crochet in 4th from hook (the third chain stitch you made)
  3. Single crochet
  4. Slip
  5. Finish off, leaving a tail of yarn to use to sew onto the body.
Now attach the fins to the body with your yarn needle. Sew the long edge of the fin to the body for the side fins, and the short end toward the body for the tail. Add eyes by making french knots or other embroidery stitches using a contrasting color.

Let me know how it turns out!

Creative Commons License
Narwhal crochet pattern by jpolka.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Old school

In the effort to make crocheted renditions of diatoms and radiolarians, I've been trying to teach myself some crochet lacework techniques.

You know who really had these down (in 1884)? Therese de Dillmont. You can download her fantastic Encyclopedia or Needlework for free from the always-awesome Project Gutenburg (it looks great on a Kindle). The crochet chapter is just one small part, and it's brimming with awesome illustrations and mind-bogglingly intense patterns.

Figure 485 of 890 (not joking) from Therese de Dillmont's Encyclopedia of Needlwork. She calls it "CROCHET CHAIR-BACK" but I think it should be called "NOOB GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN"
The best part about this book is the stitch notation. The names of stitches we are now familiar with (slip, single, treble, etc) used to belong to other stitches, and guess what: the old system makes a lot more sense. It acknowledges the modularity inherent in crochet, and as a result makes reading patterns much less of a headache. I'd be interested to find out why this system was abandoned...