Yarning with Mad Martha: Dumpling Cats

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Cheerio my dears! It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it, since we last sat down for a yarn so I am making up for that dearth of craft-related natter with a charming crochet book.  Dumpling Cats: Crochet and Collect Them All! by Sarah Sloyer is a book of amigurumi patterns based on that popular app and game, Neko Atsume, or Kitty Collector for the non Japanese-speakers.  We received a copy from Dover Publications via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Waffles is a relaxed feline who loves to read, and Cheeks just can’t get enough to eat. These fun-loving characters are just two of the 25 dumpling-shaped crochet cats in this whimsical collection. The cuddly crochet critters were inspired by the Pokémon™-like craze Neko Atsume, a game that enables you to attract cats to your backyard and “collect” them. Each little dumpling has a name and personality points that add up to big fun!

You don’t have to be an expert to crochet and collect these adorable kitties — the patterns are suitable for crocheters of all skill levels. Easy-to-follow instructions are accompanied by full-color photos and simple drawings. The directions explain every stage, from ears to tail, and some of the patterns include accessories and costume items. Plus, there are bonus patterns for a cat bed, food bowls, and more!

dumpling cats

As craft and pattern books go, this one is quite high spec.  The patterns are clearly set out with extra pictures showing how to assemble the pieces, which is always helpful for those who like to see things step by step.  Between the 25 kitty patterns are “bonus” patterns for accessories such as bowls and beds so crafters can provide a bit of comfort for their crocheted kitties.  I jumped in with the pattern for Dusty, who is pictured on the left of the cover, but since the mini-fleshlings prefer Pokemon at the moment, I modified the ears and tail to make an Eevee instead.

The beauty of this book is that it is perfect for beginner amigurumists, because the patterns are simple to follow and result in a small plush that can be created in only a few hours.  More importantly though, from an experienced crocheter’s perspective, the patterns are basic enough that they provide a variety of good base shapes that can be modified, if you have the skills, thereby opening up a whole range of creatures that could be made.  I’m already planning a Pikachu mod based on one of the plumper shapes.

Apart from the uses that I can see this having in terms of creating new spin-offs using these patterns, the book didn’t entirely work for me because I prefer working with larger sized plushies.  The small plushies produced here, that fit into the palm of your hand, aren’t as forgiving when it comes to little mistakes that can be made here and there while following the pattern.  Again though, the small sized pieces mean that a finished piece that looks pretty much like the picture is achievable for those new to the craft.

I can see myself coming back to this book to gain inspiration from the adorably squishy body shapes of the dumpling cats and I would definitely recommend it to beginners and more experienced amigurumists alike.

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

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Yarning with Mad Martha about Bless This Mother-Effing Home

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Cheerio my dears!  If you’ve ever thought that your dwelling could do with a bit more decor proclaiming shocking swear words and snarky sentiment then today’s book is one that you don’t want to miss!  Bless This Mother-Effing Home: Sweet Stitches for Snarky Bitches by Katie Kutthroat (not her real name, methinks?) is the perfect crafty tome for those who would love to adorn their home with traditional cross-stitch designs, yet lack the skill, time or desire to create such things themselves.  We received a copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The combination of sugar and spice is irresistible in this adorable and appalling collection of cross stitch. Laugh out loud fun through crafting is found in these biting yet precious patterns.

Katie Kutthroat’s warped and witty cross stitch has taken the internet by storm and has been featured on TV shows like HBO’s Girls. Cute but snarky, each cross stitch pattern featured in Bless This Mother-effing Home evokes laughter and irony. Perforated pages allow for readers to hang up or share favorite entries, spreading the cross stitched love.

bless-this-mother-effing-home

I, my friends, am not proficient at cross-stitch, bless my little fabric heart.

I would like to be.

I have dabbled in pre-printed long stitch kits with some success.  But painstakingly threading those tiny little crosses into a delightful pattern is something that I have not yet developed the patience to indulge in.

I do, however, love the look of cross-stitch, and this book is a little ray of genius sunshine for all of those out there, who, like me, like the design appeal of cross-stitch but can’t do it themselves, or don’t have an aunt, grandmother, (insert distant relation here) who can whip up a piece for them.

It took me a little while to twig to the brilliant formatting feature of this book, so I’m going to leave it to the end to draw out the excitement and talk about the designs instead.

If you are a fan of traditional cross-stitch samplers, look away now.  In fact, you should probably shut your eyes and never open them toward this title again, because there is no sugary-sweet sentiment here.  Nope, this book features antagonistic, sarcastic and downright anti-social slogans rendered in beautiful, folksy detail.  From the mild and amusing “Go to Hell”, to the thought-provoking “Deflowered not devalued” to the eyebrow-raising “I have a raging heart on”, there is something for all tastes in this collection, unless of course you don’t appreciate sweary personal attacks.  I nearly had to reach for my smelling salts after seeing “Shut your whore mouth” but I am an old-fashioned kind of gal.

Cheekiness levels aside, I did mention that this book has one genius feature, and here it is:

The pages are perforated.

This means that you don’t need to have any cross-stitch talent whatsoever and you can still display these delightful designs in your very own home!  Just carefully tear out the design that takes your fancy, pop it in a frame and ta-da! Everyone will think that you are the instigator of a new snarky take on traditional folk art!

Some of the designs in this book won’t be to everyone’s taste, due to levels of sweariness and general antagonism, but there are lots of benign, funny designs in here too, that won’t cause your mother to rage or your grandparents to disinherit.  If you are hankering after some modern cross-stitch art to hang in your home but lack the ability to bring your dream to fruition, let Bless This Mother-Effing Home do the dirty work for you.

Adios until we meet again,

Mad Martha

Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway – and some Creepy Crochet Monsters!

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I’m excited to be participating in the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway hosted by Laughing Vixen Lounge!  This is a different sort of hop from the usual ones in which I participate, so make sure you have a good gander at the information below before you enter.  There are two awesomely generous prize packs and locks of fun spooky activities to indulge in leading up to the big, scary night.  Enjoy!  Don’t forget to check out Mad Martha’s review (below) of Creepy Crawly Crochet by Megan Kreiner, which we received for review from the publisher via Netgalley.  It’s chock-full of delightfully detailed spine-chilling cuties to crochet before Halloween!

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and the nights are getting spookier. Yes, it’s time for tricks and treats, goblins and ghouls, chills and thrills and huge amounts of sugary sweets. But at the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog it’s also time for the 5th annual Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway. Join Laughing Vixen Lounge and our bewitching co-hosts The Kids Did It, The Mommy Island, Herding Cats and Burning Soup, The Hopping Bloggers, Mama Smith’s Reviews and Women and Their Pretties for a spooktacular Halloween event.

Enter to win a $250 Prize Pack filled with goodies from 10 wickedly fabulous shops. All shops are offering Gift Cards or your choice of item(s) so there will be something for everyone. Many of the shops have items perfect for any book lover along with lots of unique, handcrafted and custom designs to choose from.

Visit the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog daily during the giveaway for the Halloween Movie Marathon. Test your movie knowledge with the Guess the Movie Game. Then try to solve the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt, if you dare! Each event will get you daily entries in the giveaway plus a special giveaway for the Scavenger Hunt. Find full details for these events HERE.

Yarning with Mad Martha about…Creepy Crawly Crochet by Megan Kreiner

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Well my dears, I think we have a new Halloween favourite here on the Shelf!  If you are a fan of crochet (and we know there are more than a few of you!), you would have to look far and wide to find a collection of more detailed patterns for a selection of your favourite monsters.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

They’re creepy but they’re cute and cuddly, too! Inspired by classic literature, film, and folklore, these 17 crochet monsters will delight everyone with a taste for old-fashioned thrillers and modern tales of horror. Detailed instructions include assembly diagrams for ease of construction along with full-color photos. The patterns are suitable for beginners, but advanced crocheters will find them irresistible as well.

These fetching fiends include Boo Boo the Voodoo Doll; Jack, the Headless Horseman, and his horse, Nightmare; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Carl of the Dead and Daisy, his Zombie Dog; and other sinister characters. In addition to their value as handmade keepsake treasures, these characters also make great gifts for fans of horror and science fiction.

creepy-crawly-crochet

Alas, I haven’t found time to make any of these scary shelf-mates yet, but I am just itching to get cracking on the Zombie Dog pattern for starters.  This is a remarkably well thought out pattern book.  Since I’ve been blogging about craft books in my Yarning series, I’ve been able to get a handle on what makes a craft book actually usable and what doesn’t, and this book has a number of features that set it apart as a book that you will actually USE to create the finished product.  

The finished products here look like they’ve been made from patterns that have been thoroughly tested, with all the kinks ironed out.  While this may mean that, at first glance, you might think “I couldn’t make that!!”, the thoroughness with which the patterns and instructions are set out means you can be confident that you won’t be left flailing about trying to figure out what goes where and how to get from (Round) A to (Round) B.  Kreiner has used a whole range of unusual needlecraft techniques that add plenty of character to her..characters and the patterns include illustrated diagrams showing how to create the features on the characters’ faces and bodies, so that readers can authentically replicate the finished product, rather than just get an approximation.  

There is plenty of variety in terms of types of creepy critters, from the undead to the never-alive to creatures from literature and folklore.  I loved the chubby-bellied werewolf and Frankenstein’s monster, but the Zombie Dog was my absolute favourite of the lot.  I couldn’t go past his withered skin and bony ribcage and think he’d make a great little guardian for anyone who is looking for a quirky desk companion.

I have to say that I think most of the patterns in this book are more suited to experienced amigurumi crafters, due to the wide range of techniques required, as well as the fact that many of the patterns require more technique than just crocheting a couple of different body shapes and stitching them together.  The Headless Horseman uses magnets, for example, to allow his head to come on and off as the user pleases, and while these are enormously handy skills to learn, they may put beginner crafters off a little.  The up-side of this is that the end product will actually look professional and reflect the level of skill that went into making it, so if you are game to give these a try, you will have something to really show off at the end.

I would heartily recommend this to those experienced in the art of crocheting amigurumi plushies who like to dabble in the dark side…mwahahahahahaaaaa!

So what’s your favourite Halloweenish book or movie?  Tell us in the comments!

You can start by entering the Rafflecopter widget below. To experience all the games, movies, shop features, giveaway info and all around awesome fun make sure to stop by the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog HERE.

The giveaway runs October 18th – November 1st and is open worldwide to anyone 18+. 1 winner will win the Prize Pack and 1 winner will win the Scavenger Hunt Prize Pack. Laughing Vixen Lounge is responsible for all giveaway details. Click HERE for full details.

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Until next time,

Bruce (and Martha)

Yarning with Mad Martha about…Graphic Novel “Light” (+ a free crochet pattern!)

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I am beyond delighted to be with you today, to yarn about an uplifting, adventure-filled, delightful wordless graphic novel with a protagonist that you will just want to render in crochet.  Luckily for you, I have done just that and will share my pattern with you so you can do the same – bliss!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We received a copy of Light by Rob Cham from the publisher via Netgalley for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

This wordless comic book follows the exploits of a backpack-toting adventurer in a quest to find a mysterious treasure. Framed in black, the illustrations offer delightful bursts of color and are sure to entertain readers of any age.

light

Wordless picture books, or wordless graphic novels, can be a tricky subgenre to connect with.  Sometimes the reading experience is profound or hugely memorable, while other times you can get to the end of the book and think, “What on earth was that about?!”  I am pleased to report that Light sits neatly in the former camp, slowly revealing a story of altered goals and shifting perspectives told through a cast of silent, yet original and quirky characters.

The protagonist is the small white hominid on the cover, who we meet as he (she?) is preparing for some sort of quest.  It’s not immediately clear what the quest is about or why our friend is embarking upon it, but the early stages of it seem fraught with danger and risk.  Armed with only a backpack, map and ineffective-looking sword, our hero sets off through a craggy, inhospitable landscape.  As the story continues, and our friend meets a startling array of creatures, from huge dragon-like beasts, to formless giants to a particularly spindly guru (of sorts), he (she?) makes a friend, and more than a few enemies.

And of course, it’s one thing to make it safely to your goal, but quite another – as any Hobbit will tell you – to get back home in one piece.  It is during the second half of the book that the story takes some unexpected turns and the result is a heartwarming (but not corny) and uplifting ending.

The dark background on which the monochrome illustrations sit slowly gives way to brighter bursts of colour as the story continues and by the end of the book, the pages are replete with bright, almost neon flares that reflect the atmosphere of the adventure.  If you are curious as to the illustrative style of the book you can visit the author/illustrator’s website and have a look at some of the page spreads. 

I couldn’t read this book and not have a go at creating a little version of Light’s intrepid, and open-minded hero, and here’s what I came up with:

light-1 light-2 light-3

The little guy is pictured here with his backpack, trusty sword and a red gem (which is one of the objects of his quest).  I’m pretty happy with the way he turned out and he has already started exploring the shelf and investigating the other occupants!

If you are uninterested in crochet patterns, you can stop reading now – otherwise, read on for a free pattern to crochet your own little Light dude and his backpack.

Yours in yarn (and unexpected adventure!),

Mad Martha

Free Crochet Pattern inspired by “Light” by Rob Cham

This pattern will allow you to recreate the figure and backpack from the images above and is suitable for beginners with a basic knowledge of amigurumi skills.  The pattern is written using US crochet terms.

You will need:

Yarn (I used acrylic) in white, dark brown and a small amount of black for the eyes.

4 mm hook

Yarn needle

Scissors

Stitch marker

Head:

Using white yarn and 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

  1. Sc 6 in the ring.
  2. 2sc in each sc (12)
  3. *sc in next sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (18)
  4. * sc in next 2 sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (24)
  5. sc in each sc around (24).
  6. sc in each sc around (24)
  7. sc in each sc around (24)
  8. sc in the next 12 sc; *sc in the next sc, 2sc in the next sc* in the next 12 sc (30)
  9. sc in each sc around (30)
  10. sc in the next 12 sc; *sc in the next sc, 2sc in the next sc* in the next 18 sc (39)
  11. sc in each sc around (39)
  12. sc in the next 12 sc; *sc in the next sc, sc2tog in the next 2 sc* in the next 27 sc (30)
  13. sc in each sc around (30)
  14. sc in the next 12 sc; *sc in the next sc, sc2tog in the next 2 sc* in the next 18 sc (24)
  15. sc in each sc around (24)
  16. * sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog in next sc* x 6 (18)
  17. *sc in next sc, sc2tog in next sc* x 6 (12)
  18. Turn head right side out and stuff.  Continue by making sc2tog x6 (6)
  19. FO leaving a long tail.  Thread a yarn needle onto the tail, weave the tail in between the final six sc, pull tight and FO again.

Eyes:

Using black yarn, thread the yarn through a yarn needle and make a knot at the end of the tail.  Insert the needle at the base of the head (where you fastened off from stitching the hole closed) and bring the needle out on one side of the face at about round 7 (just before the face bows outward).  Make a single, straight stitch to form one eye.  Bring the yarn needle out on the same round, a few single crochets from the first eye.  Make another single, straight stitch to form the second eye.  Bring the needle out at the base of the head, FO and hide the tail of yarn inside the head.

Body and legs/feet:

Using white yarn and 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

1.Sc 6 in the ring.

2. 2sc in each sc (12)

3. *sc in next sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (18)

4. * sc in next 2 sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (24)

5 – 14: For the next 10 rounds, sc in each sc around (24)

15.  Begin the first leg by making one sc in the next 8 sc.  Skip the remaining 16 sc in the round and sc into the first sc you made in this round.   Place a stitch marker in this sc.

16 – 18. sc in each of the eight sc you have just made, for three rounds.

19.  Begin shaping the feet.  Sc in the next 3 sc, 2sc in the next 4 sc, sc in the last sc (12)

20.  sc in the next 4 sc, sc2tog in the next 4 sc, sc in the next sc (8)

21.  Sc2tog x 4 (4)

22. FO leaving a tail.  Thread the yarn needle onto the tail of yarn and whip stitch the opening on the bottom of the foot closed.  FO and hide the remaining yarn by threading it inside the leg.

23.  Begin the second leg by counting 4 sc from where the first leg attaches to the body.  Attach the yarn in the next sc with a slip stitch, and sc in the next 8 sc. (8)

24.  Repeat the process from round 16 to round 22 to create the second leg.

25.  Stuff the body through the opening at the bottom, using a crochet hook or other small poking device to ensure the stuffing fills out the feet.  Stitch the remaining single crochets at the bottom of the body closed, FO and weave in the tail of yarn.

Arms (Make 2)

Using white yarn and a 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

  1. sc 6 in the ring.
  2. *sc in the next 2 sc, 2sc in the next sc* x 2 (8)
  3. sc in each sc around (8)
  4. *sc in the next 2 sc, sc2tog in the next 2 sc* x 2 (6)
  5.  Sc in each sc (6)
  6. Repeat round 5 five times.
  7. FO, leaving a long tail for attaching to the body.
  8. Stuff

Backpack

Using brown yarn and a 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

  1. Sc 6 in the ring.
  2. 2sc in each sc (12)
  3. *sc in next sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (18)
  4. * sc in next 2 sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (24)
  5. sc in each sc (24)
  6. Repeat round 5 four times.
  7. Begin working on the flap.  Sc in the next 10 sc. (10)
  8. Ch 1, turn, sc in each sc (10)
  9. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc in the next 6 sc, sc2tog (8)
  10. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc in the next 4 sc, sc2tog, (6)
  11. Ch 1, turn, sc in each sc (6)
  12. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc in the next 2 sc, sc2tog (4)
  13. Ch 1, turn, sc in each sc (4)
  14. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog twice (2)
  15. Ch 5, and sc in the next sc to make a closing loop for the backpack.
  16. Ch 1, turn, sc in each sc around the top of the backpack.  FO, weave in the ends and turn right side out.

Straps (make 2)

Attach yarn in the sc next to where the flap joins the open top of the backpack.  Chain 5, FO and using a yarn needle, attach the free end of the chain to the bottom of the backpack.

Sew a french knot on the front of the backpack big enough for the closing loop to fit around.  Now you’re dude can open and close his pack!

Attaching the bits and pieces:

Sew the head to the body, lining up the back of the head with the back of the body.  This ensures that the dude’s bulbous nose sticks out a bit more in the front.  Attach the arms on either side, close to where the head is joined.  Slip the backpack straps over the arms and you have an adventurer!

This pattern is provided for free.  Please don’t steal it and use it as your own.  You are welcome to make as many adventurer dudes as you like to keep or give as gifts.

 

 

Yarning with Mad Martha about…Crochet Taxidermy!

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Tally-ho, fellow craft-lovers!  Today’s book is one for those who love crochet, animal parts and ironic home interior trends.  We received a copy of Crochet Taxidermy: 30 Quirky Animal Projects, From Mouse to Moose by Taylor Hart, with great excitement from the publisher via Netgalley.  Unfortunately, time got away from me and despite the best intentions I was unable to actually complete any of the projects in this compendium.  I have had a good old pore over it though and have formed some firm opinions, so here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Crochet Taxidermy puts a new twist on amigurumi, the popular Japanese method of creating considerably cute stuffed animals with oversized heads. In this delightful collection, heads of animals from farm and forest, sea and safari come to life with irresistible details like the drowsy eye (for the shy deer and sleepy octopus) and fuzzy yarn (for the skittery skunk’s stripe and lazy lion’s mane). Step-by-step instructions and adorable photos guide you through these 30 easy crochet patterns. Most require just one skein of yarn, so they’re affordable and quick to crochet!

crochet taxidermy

If you are a crafter with a basic understanding of amigurumi techniques – crocheting in the round, completing a magic circle, attaching limbs etc – this would be a fantastic pick for extending those skills in a way that allows for guilt-free construction of what are, essentially, plushies.  Being an avid maker of amigurumi, I know the internal conflict that arises from wanting desperately to make another cute little plushy, but feeling the guilt of not having an immediate purpose or recipient in mind for said toy.  Attaching the completed product to your wall is a perfect solution!

The book provides a diverse range of cute critters to display around the interior of your abode (or work cubicle!), with projects ranging from the quick and adorable mouse, chicken, owl and cuttlefish designs, to the more substantial moose, cow and hippo. Animals are divided into habitat categories, so if you have a particular decorating theme in mind, you can draw on a whole wall-full of inspiration.  Similarly, the patterns for related animals seem to use standard shapes, so once you have mastered one animal, completing others of its ilk should be a doddle.

I had two main issues of contention with this title though.  The first is that, as a more experienced amigurumi maker, the animals didn’t quite have the quirky facial character I was hoping for.  This is simply an issue of preference however, so I can’t really hold that against the designer.  The second issue however, which can be noticed upon close inspection of the completed photographs of the projects, is one that poked at the frayed nerves of the perfectionist in me.  One of the key features of amigurumi is the use of small, tightly woven stitches, but in the project photos the stuffing is clearly showing on a number of the animals, which means that the stitches are larger than they probably should be – or alternately, that the pieces are too tightly stuffed, stretching the fabric too widely.  This could be related to the fact that some of the projects are quite large and designed to be completed quickly, but it seemed like something that should have been ironed out before the final patterns were made up, to give the finished product a more professional look.

If you are at the beginning of your amigurumi journey though, or someone who needs a watertight excuse to make more cute, quirky plushies, this book really does have everything you need to achieve a successful and jolly faux-taxidermy look for your home.

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

Yarning with Mad Martha: My First Knitting Book…

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A hearty hello to you all!  Today I’m breaking new ground and taking on the world of knitting (eep!) with My First Knitting Book Easy to Follow Instructions and More Than 15 Projects by Hildegarde Duezo and translated by Marina Orry.  I requested the book from the publisher via Netgalley, working under the assumption that if I were to take up knitting using a book, working from a book aimed at children should be the best place to start.  Surely the instructions therein would be far easier to follow than those in a book aimed at adults?  Well, just wait and see!  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

If you want to learn to knit, you only need a ball of yarn, knitting needles, some patience — and this book! It’s the ideal introduction to knitting, with easy-to-follow, full-color instructions for more than fifteen projects. Clear, step-by-step explanations of basic techniques make this guide great for beginners of all ages, especially those wishing to create handmade gifts.

An introduction explains the how-to of knitting, from holding the needles and yarn to casting on, basic stitches, and finishing touches. Patterns start out as simple as can be and gradually become more challenging, although by no means difficult. Readers can advance from bracelets, hair ornaments, and pocketbooks to scarves and hats, in addition to a charming variety of household decorations.

my first knitting book

Although the blurb mentions that “some patience” is needed, I would have to say, after having a crack at this book, that “infinite patience” is needed to get started when learning to knit from scratch.  My early frustrations may have had something to do with the fact that I expected (completely reasonably, I might add) to master the basic stitches in about ten minutes and be moving on to completing the projects.  Needless to say, this didn’t quite pan out as I had planned.

Beginning at the beginning (which, according to Julie Andrews, is a very good place to start) I followed the pictures and brief, step-by-step instructions and attempted to cast on.  After about twenty minutes, countless re-starts, a temper boiling over and my brain repeating on loop “this would be so much easier if there were a HOOK on the end of these needles”, I managed to cast on about thirty stitches, thusly:

knit cast on

Being about ready to throw in the towel at this point, and covered in sweat from my brow, I summoned every ounce of fortitude I possess and pressed on to the basic knit stitch.  I didn’t find this quite so difficult as casting on (although thoughts of “why on earth are these loonies using two straight sticks when they could have put a HOOK on the end?!” persisted), and eventually got up a bit of a rhythm.  I did drop a few stitches here and there while attempting to slip the stitch off the end of the needles, but soldiered on because the book gave no indication of what to do in such a situation and I had no clue how to fix it.   Having completed a row of knit stitch, I moved on to purl stitch, which didn’t seem quite so difficult after the trials of casting on and knit stitch, leaving me with this epic piece of needlework:

knit finished rows

You can see from the unevenness of the rows that something has clearly gone a bit wrong here, and at this point I thought the book could have done with a “troubleshooting” section.  As completing these three rows took me just over an hour, my interest in learning to knit diminished quickly, and I wondered how likely it would be for a young person to want to keep going at this point if they didn’t have a helpful, knit-knowledgeable adult around to assist and motivate.

The book provides instruction in a number of other stitches, as well as important things like increasing and decreasing, casting off and seaming pieces together.  The instructions are accompanied by colour illustrations, but I couldn’t help thinking that actual photographs might have been more helpful, either as a replacement for the illustrations or used alongside them.  I have found, when working crochet patterns from blog tutorials, that seeing actual photos of the work in progress is remarkably helpful.

The projects seem basic enough – there is a cute little coin purse, a keyring, some egg-cosies and keen-looking bracelets, amongst others – but again, if you are starting from scratch, gaining enough practice in the basics in order to start working on a project seems like a long path to walk.

I have put aside my desire to learn to knit for the moment after reading this book, given that I can achieve the same, or better, results more quickly with crochet and Tunisian crochet techniques in everything except for socks.  If I were to pick this book up again to continue my brief knitting journey, I would make sure it was supported by a helpful, knowledgeable fleshling to assist with troubleshooting, or failing that, a whole slew of Youtube videos.

But enough about me – what about you?  Have you ever tried to pick up a skill like this from a book? How did you fare?

Cheerio my dears,

Mad Martha

Yarning with Mad Martha about Nobody Likes a Goblin (+ a free crochet pattern!)

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yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

Cheerio my dears!  Today is a red-letter day because not only do I have a wonderful picture book and pattern for you, I can also reveal that today’s book – Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke – is a Top Book of 2016 Pick!  The perfect choice for little (and large!) dungeon-crawlers everywhere, this gorgeous picture book turns RPG adventuring on its head and presents events from the point of view of the supposed villain.

Bruce's Pick

After having seen the tome on Netgalley and writhing in agony because it was offered by First Second Books, who don’t accept review requests from outside the U.S., we spotted it in PanMacmillan Australia’s catalogue and were THRILLED to be lucky enough to receive a copy.  Honestly, you should have seen Bruce leaping and twirling when the book turned up on the shelf!  I won’t keep you in any more suspense however – here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Goblin, a cheerful little homebody, lives in a cosy, rat-infested dungeon, with his only friend, Skeleton. Every day, Goblin and Skeleton play with the treasure in their dungeon. But one day, a gang of “heroic” adventurers bursts in. These marauders trash the place, steal all the treasure, and make off with Skeleton—leaving Goblin all alone!

It’s up to Goblin to save the day. But first he’s going to have to leave the dungeon and find out how the rest of the world feels about goblins.

nobody likes a goblin.jpg

I cannot praise this book highly enough.  Putting aside the charming and fun illustrations for the moment, the text of this book is incredibly sympathetic to Goblin’s plight, as his home is rudely invaded by adventurous “heroes” and the little introvert must take to the big wide hostile world for the sake of those he values.  My favourite part of the tale is when, after rescuing his friends from the hands of the adventurers, Goblin and his stalwart mate Skeleton are pictured quietly sitting together in the mouth of a cave, “awaiting their doom” while angry, pitch-fork wielding townsfolk amass above.

There’s something really touching about Goblin and the bonds of friendship he forms by the end of the tale.  For young readers who enjoy the RPG gaming world that encompasses the tropes that are reversed here, this will be a wonderfully affirming story that will provide a link between their reading and screen-based worlds.  It has already become a firm favourite amongst the mini-fleshlings in this dwelling, with the youngest (two and three-quarter years old) often calling out for “Nobody don’t like a goblin” as the preferred bedtime story.

We unanimously voted this a Top Book of 2016 pick and we think that Goblin and his friends will fill that special place of all memorable characters from childhood reading experiences.  For that reason, my dears, allow me to provide you with a free pattern to make your very own amigurumi crochet Goblin, so you can oppose anti-goblin sentiments while creating a cuddly little friend !  Read on for the pattern.

goblin and bruce 1_Fotor

We are also submitting this book for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out our progress toward that challenge here.

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

goblin and book 2_Fotor

Free Crochet Pattern – Goblin

This pattern is a bit fiddly, so is probably best suited to those with some experience of amigurumi.  The pattern is written using US crochet terms.

You will need:

Yarn (I used acrylic) in brown, blue, green, white, black, yellow.

4 mm hook

2.5 mm hook

Yarn needle

Scissors

Head/helmet:

Using brown yarn and 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

  1. Sc 6 in the ring.
  2. 2sc in each sc (12)
  3. *sc in next sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (18)
  4. * sc in next 2 sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (24)
  5. sc in each sc around (24).  Switch to green yarn.
  6. sc in each sc around (24)
  7. sc in each sc around (24)
  8. *sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog* x 6 (18). Begin stuffing head.
  9. *sc in next sc, sc2tog* x 6 (12)
  10. *sc in next sc, sc2tog* x 4 (8)
  11. sc2tog x 4 (4).  Sl st in next st, snip yarn and thread yarn tail through last four sc.  Pull tight and fasten off.

Helmet guard

Using brown yarn and 4mm hook, chain 20.  Slip stitch in the first chain to form a ring.

  1. sc in the next 10 ch, dc in the next 10 ch, sl st to the first sc
  2. Ch 2, turn, dc in next 10 stitches
  3. Ch 2, turn, hdc in next 3 stitches, dc in next 4 stitches, hdc in next 3 stitches.

Fasten off, leaving a long tail, and stitch to the bottom rim of the helmet, with the longer section at the back of the head.

Horns (make 2)

Using white yarn and a 2.5 mm hook, chain 6.

  1. Sc in 2nd chain from the hook and in each chain (5)
  2. Ch 1, turn, sc in each sc (5)
  3. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc, sc2tog (3)
  4. Ch 1, turn, sc in each stitch (3)
  5. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc (2)
  6. Ch 1, turn, sc in each stitch (2)
  7. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sl st to FO.

Whip stitch the two sides of the triangle together and sew onto either side of the helmet.

Eyes (make 2)

Using white yarn and a 2.5 mm hook, make a magic ring.

  1. Sc 6 in the ring.  Sl st to the first sc to close.

FO, embroider a black pupil in the centre and sew to face, slightly overlapping the rim of the helmet.

Jaw

Using green yarn and a 2.5mm hook, chain 13.

  1. sc in second chain from the hook and in each stitch across (12)
  2. Ch 1, turn, sl st in the next 3 sc, dc in next sc, sc in the next sc, sl st in the next sc, dc in the next sc, sl st in the next 3sc.

Fasten off leaving a long tail.  Attach to the bottom of the head, and using brown yarn, embroider along the top of the lip.

Nose 

Using green yarn and a 2.5mm hook, ch 4.

  1. sc in 2nd chain from the hook and in each chain (3)
  2. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc (2)
  3. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog (1)

Fasten off and whip stitch two sides of the triangle together to form the nose.  Attach to face.

Body/Legs

Using brown yarn and a 4mm hook, complete pattern for the head up to and including round 4.

1-5. Sc in each sc around (24)

6. Switch to blue yarn.  Sc in each sc around (24)

7. Sc in next 12 sc, skip next 12 sc, sl st in the 1st sc (12)

8-10. Sc in next 12 sc (12)

Change to brown yarn.

11. Sc in next 12 sc (12)

12. sc in next 5 sc, 2sc in next 3 sc, sc in next 5sc (20)

13. Sc in the next 8 sts, dc in the next 4 sts, sc in the next 8 sc (20)

Stuff leg and body.  FO, Cut yarn and whip stitch bottom of leg closed to form boot.

Attach blue yarn in the first remaining sc on the body and repeat pattern from row 11 to form second leg/boot.

Arms (make 2)

Using blue yarn and a 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

1.Sc 6 in the ring

2-4. Sc in each st (6)

5. Switch to brown yarn. Sc in each st (6)

6-7.  Sc in each sc (6)

Stuff the arm, squeeze the opening shut and sl st across the opening.  Ch 3 picot 5 times to form fingers.  FO and attach to body.

Shoulder guards (make 2)

Using blue yarn and a 4mm hook, chain 7.

  1. Sc in 2nd chain from the hook and in each ch across (6)
  2. Ch 2, turn, hdc in each st across (6)
  3. Ch 1, turn, sc, dc in the next 4 sts, sc (6)

Fasten off and attach to the top of the arm.

Belt/Armour

Using brown yarn and a 2.5 mm hook, chain 30 and sl st with the first chain to form a ring.

  1. Ch 1, sc in each chain (30)
  2. Fur stitch (long) in the next 5 st, sc in the next 5sc, fur stitch in the next 5 st, sc in the next 5 sts, fur stitch in the next 5 sts, sl st to first st. (30)

FO, leaving a long tail.  Snip the loops of the fur stitch and sew the belt to the tummy over the join where the blue yarn changes to brown.Make sure the fur stitch sections are at the front and back, not the sides.  For the shoulder strap, chain the required length (to fit from belt, over shoulder, to belt at the back), ch 1, sc in each chain, then FO and sew shoulder strap into place.

Crown

Using yellow yarn and a 2.5mm hook, chain 30 and sl st into the first chain to form a ring.

  1. Sc in each chain (30)
  2. *Ch 5 picot (sl st, ch 5 and sl st in the same stitch), sc in the next 3 sc* repeat to end.  Sl st in final st.

FO, weave in end.

goblin and book 1_Fotor