Completed Hand-Stitched Map from The Hobbit

“Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To find our long forgotten gold.

The pines were roraring on the height,
The winds were moaning in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The trees like torches blazed with light.”

I have finished hand-stitching the map Thorin carried with him in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. If you’re just now seeing my work on this project, you can catch up with the first post (my relationship with Tolkien’s books vs movies, and a deep love for a map), and the second post (a progress update). You can also see all of my work-in-progress photos on Instagram by searching the #HobbitMap tag.

I knew I was going to love embroidering this map. I didn’t know how much I would love doing it! I talked before about making decisions on which stitches and how many strands of thread to use at different times in order to create different line weights. There were also decisions about whether to follow the map as it appears inside my ancient copy of the book, or to follow the map seen in the Peter Jackson movies.

“Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast. Th. Th.”

My map wasn’t going to be a perfectly replica of either of those. After all, my first step had been to redraw the map so I could use my own drawing as my embroidery pattern. I ended up choosing elements from both in order to have a map I love best.  Red “ink” (thread) and the dragon from one, the shape of the mountain and other details from the other.

“Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s day will shine upon the keyhole. Th.”

I put off stitching the moon letters until almost the end because I wasn’t sure how to stitch them. Within the story, the runes can only be read under moonlight during a certain phase of the moon at a certain time of year. I could have bought glow-in-the-dark thread, but because of how the map will be framed and displayed I’m afraid that wouldn’t work as well as it sounds. I ended up using a single strand of white thread combined with a single strand of Krienik rainbow blending filament. It has a hint of sparkle to it up close, but you can’t really see that there’s anything there from a distance.

I intended to tea dye the piece when I finished stitching it to “age” the map. I asked David what he thought, and he said it looks fine to him just the way it is. I considered how much love and work has gone into it, and the things that could go wrong with dying it, and decided to let that part of the plan go.

It’s hard to map a world you’ve never visited. As I talked about before, I have been a bit of a Middle Earth tourist. I’ve stuck to the roads, though, and never wandered off into places where I could get lost. Working on this project, I found myself going places I didn’t know if I would make it back from or not… and I wouldn’t be the same if I did return.

I’ve had big conversations about little things, like why the group wasn’t better prepared for the giant spiders in Mirkwood. There was a warning about them right there on the map!

With the release of the Battle of the Five Armies movie, there has been a lot of discussion about viewing Thorin as a character with a mental illness. Whether the Arkenstone was cursed or not, “dragon sickness”, etc. I learned to view Thorin Oakenshield as a character with PTSD, and to explore how that changes the way a lot of things in the story look. I also got to read this wonderful argument for Thorin’s short beard being a sign of mourning.

I’m really looking forward to doing more dwarf-inspired work, and have loved discussing some of my ideas for portraits of dwarf ladies! Not just what they might look like, but why they might look those ways. How dwarf women might style their beards, or the possible cultural significance of certain jewelry. Tolkien’s dwarves have long been accepted as a boys club. We don’t see the women, so we don’t know anything about them (other than that they, too, have beards). Fandom never lets “the answers aren’t in the source material” be a roadblock with anything else.

The journey into the fandom has been worth making, and a friend explained it to me like this – A Hobbit fan is never late, nor early, but arrives precisely when they were meant to.



Happy Handmade and Geeky Links

It’s time for another week of Happy Handmade and Geeky Links picks! And thank all of you awesome people for making our We Are Stardust Hoop most viewed this week!

Happy Handmade Picks

ZomBunni Foo Foo Plush Set by Concocted Curios

Keep Calm and Sparkle On Print by Wilde Designs

Felt Rainbow Kitty by Sew Veehoo

Geeky Links Picks

Solar System Shirt by Krmbal

Mustache Soap Bars by Shabby Chic Soap Company

Harley Quinn Post Earrings by Scrawny Girl

Ipponbari Knitting Method and the Leisure Arts “Knook”

If you’ve been waiting for my thoughts on the Leisure Arts “Knook”, which I got to try thanks to a Christmas gift, then your wait has finally paid off! We’re going to look at the basics of how the Knook works, and then we’re going to talk about what “knooking” really is and why you might want to do it.

I can tell you right away what the Knook is NOT. I haven’t tried it before, even though it’s been out for at least a couple of years, because I made the mistake of thinking Leisure Arts was just kind of redesigning and rebranding Tunisian crochet. I wasn’t exactly alone in making that mistake, so I want to be clear on that from the start. This is NOT the same as Tunisian crochet!

You can get a Knook set for kids, which has two large plastic hooks, or the regular set with three smaller bamboo hooks.

The knitted dishcloth? That’s the traditional Grandmother’s Favorite Dishcloth, which I got the pattern for from Artful Homemaking.

You thread one of the cords that comes in the set through the hole at the end of one of the hooks. The set comes with a book to teach you the basics and give you a few beginner patterns to start with. Honestly, the biggest difference here in sets really is going to be the hooks. I have both sets so I have more hook sizes. The books aren’t identical, but they aren’t different enough to make any significant difference. Leisure Arts doesn’t offer much of a range of hook sizes (the hooks in the kits are it, as far as I know), but there are people making Knook Hooks and selling them on Etsy.

The books will teach you to cast on by crocheting a chain, then going back and pulling up a loop in each stitch of the chain. I have, however, seen someone cast on for using their Knook by using a casting on method for traditional knitting needles. Whichever you are more comfortable with is the way that’s right for you. At the end of every row, you’ll slide your loops off of your hook and onto the cord. The cord will hold your loops as you work  along the next row. The book isn’t very clear about whether you should insert your hook above or below the cord in each stitch. I’ve found it doesn’t affect the work at all, and it’s more comfortable for me to insert my hook below the cord.

You are doing actual knitting with this hook! It is not crochet that looks like knitting. You do not need patterns that are written for this method. I’ve seen a review that said patterns require modification, but that’s not true. What you do need to learn is how to make a knit stitch, how to make a purl stitch, how to do a yarn over increase, etc. Once you’ve learned the technique, though, you can use a pattern written for traditional knitting.

This is my finished knitted washcloth. I’ve found the soft cotton and the gentle “scrubby” texture of garter stitch are very gentle on my skin. This is really important if you have sensitive skin or psoriasis. I’ve been enjoying using the dishcloth pattern to knit some washcloths for myself.

But why not “just learn to knit”? Wow. I do not have a short answer for that.

Here’s the thing… this IS knitting. Leisure Arts didn’t invent this. They gave it a portmanteau name (knitting + hook = Knook) that they could copyright. In fact, you don’t need to buy the Leisure Arts set at all. As I mentioned, there are people making and selling the hooks for it on Etsy. There are also blogs and YouTube videos that will teach you how to make stiches, as well as how to take a crochet hook you already have and modify it for this. There’s a Ravelry group devoted to this method.

“Knooking” is actually the ipponbari knitting method. It was developed by an occupational therapist so patients with mobility issues in their hands could knit. The tool for it was introduced as the Super Miracle Needle, and I suspect it was developed from the locker hook. You are not crocheting when you do this. You are knitting.

I know crocheters. I know knitters. I know a handful of people who can both crochet and knit. Each side says their craft is easy to learn, easy to do. There are folks who kind of act as recruiters, telling people who are looking to learn one craft that they should learn the other instead, or at least in addition. There are also tons of people who can do one craft but just can’t get the hang of the other one, or who can’t get the hang of either. They are often scoffed at and told, “It’s easy! I don’t know why you can’t do it.”

“Easy” is a subjective thing. It is defined as, “requiring no great labor or effort” and “free from pain, discomfort, worry, or care”. What is easy for one person is not necessarily easy for another person. That’s okay. We’re focusing this year on Crafting Without Shame, and there’s something I want to tell you if crocheting, knitting, or both are really difficult for you.

It’s okay if it’s difficult for you. It doesn’t matter how many people insist to you that it’s “easy”, all that means is that it was easy for them and they have trouble imagining any experience other than their own. It took me a long time to learn that. It took me a long time to learn I’m not the only person who has tried hard to learn knitting with needles and just can’t make their hands do it. I’m not the only person who is comfortable with hand stitching but finds sewing machines intimidating and confusing. I am not broken because some of these things are difficult for me, and you aren’t either. You do not have to feel shame over not picking up on what others say is “easy”.

This hook might make knitting easier for you, though. You see, I get how to knit in my head. I understand what I’m supposed to do. My problem is forcing my hands to actually do it. Being told over and over how “easy” knitting is and watching myself completely fail at it over and over, even with help from knitters, made it emotionally painful for me. I thought I was too stupid to knit and couldn’t understand why. The truth is, it’s not about being stupid at all. It’s about my hands not being able to adjust to how you have to hold knitting when it’s done with needles.

With this method, I can knit while having the safety of a hooked end to help me pull my stitches through. I hold my working yarn the way I do for crochet, and the tension is much more like it is in crochet. I am not making crochet stitches. I am not producing crocheted cloth. I am knitting.

You can knit in the round with this method. You can also cable knit without an additional needle. The cord can be pulled on to hold the stitches for you while cable knitting. You can also combine crochet and knit stitches in a single piece to create fabric that would not be possible with traditional methods. Some Japanese knitters specialize in the ipponbari method for that reason. You don’t need a longer hook for larger projects, you just need a longer cord.

I’m happy with learning a knitting method that allows me to be both and knitter and crocheter. There have been many times I’ve seen a pattern for something I’d like to make and gone, “Oh. But it’s knitting.” Knitting isn’t better than crochet, and crochet isn’t better than knitting. They produce different fabrics, and sometimes one or the other is better for a specific project. I can now do both, as well as maybe looking into some of the things made by combining the two once I get really comfortable with it.

I’m not particulary pleased with how Leisure Arts marketed it, or how I’ve seen it recieved in some corners of the crafting community. I can understand some of the possible reasons for marketing it as they did. As I said before, they can’t claim the method… just the name “Knook”. Sure, they could have told us what it really is and not called it “knitting with a crochet hook”, but then we would have known we didn’t need to buy their product in order to learn how to do it. I’ve never been happy with how there’s a “knitting vs crochet” mindset that rivals the great “dwarves vs elves” feud. (Team Dwarf, for the record.) It’s really disappointing that some people learn how the Knook works and still see it as “not real knitting”. I made myself define it that way at first, before I learned about it being the ipponbari method, out of fear that knitters wouldn’t like it if I acted like this was legitimate knitting. That’s what I saw in several reviews and on blogs. But our friend Chelsea from Crafteroni & Cheese – who is an amazing traditional knitter and shares David’s love of double-pointed needles – told me it IS knitting, just a different method. It’s people like her I should surround myself with… the ones who just love creating, not marking their yarn territory.

Should you learn how to knit with this method? That depends. Do you find handling traditional knitting needles to be too difficult, but are at ease with how crochet work handles? Do you think your problems with knitting are more in the hands than in the head and are fine with learning new ways to make stitches? Do you think this looks interesting and would be interested in learning it so you can move on to the advanced work of combining knit and crochet? Do you think it would be really hilarious to learn how to knit with a hook after all the times you’ve heard non-crocheters say “crochet needle”?

If you answered “yes”, I think there’s a real possibility this might be well-suited to you. Giving it a try just because you want to is also perfectly valid. Your creative work does not have to be controlled by other people. Learn the methods that work for you. Knit with needles. Knit with a hook. Knit without shame.

Happy Handmade and Geeky Links

Starting this week, we’re going to be giving you six of our picks from linkups. We’re pulling from both Happy Handmade and Geeky Links now!

Happy Handmade Picks

Darkside of the Hallows T-Shirt by Gipson Wands

H is for Hugs Bears Nursery Print by Birthday Blocks

I Heart Heart Ten Pinback Button or Magnet by Little House of Crafting

Geeky Links Picks

Tesla Valentine Card by Krmbal

My Neighbor Totoro Brooch by Scrawny Girl

DIY Mario and Zelda Snowflake Patterns by The Nifty Nerd

Hobbit Map Update

I was going to save this post for later, but it’s perfect for a  WiP Wednesday! Ready to check in on the #HobbitMap progress? (You can check that tag on Instagram if you want to keep up with all the photo updates.)

In the first post I showed you my drawing of the map and the start of my stitching. I’ve now worked my way around the edge of the map, down the left side, and started to fill things in working from the outer edges toward the center.

I’m using different numbers of strands of thread and different stitches for variety in line weight. My chain stitches on the outermost edge look a little looser here than they really are. This is a very close close-up! And, as I always mention for those not familiar with doing hand embroidery, those blue lines will be washed out when the stitching is finished.

I don’t know why I love the corner spider web so much, but I do! There’s no real chance of me wanting to visit Mirkwood, though. I wouldn’t want to deal with the giant spiders… or elves. The map actually warned them about the spiders. Too bad Thorin was keeping such a tight hold on the map.

This probably looks like it’s being stitched here-there-everywhere style, but there is a method to the madness. After I finish the mountain I’ll finish the words underneath. Then I’ll do the arrow and words above the mountain, and then move on to the river.

I’m really enjoying doing this! It feels right to be hand stitching a dwarven map. Fantasy geeks know dwarves take such pride in handcrafted work. It is a personal project, so it won’t be going in our shop when I finish it. We’ll frame it and hang it in our home. I do have plans for some dwarf inspired work that will go in the shop, though. In spite of no dwarf women being active in the books and only Thorion’s sister Dis even being named, dwarf women have become pretty popular within the fandom. If you love dwarf ladies, I hope you’ll love what’s coming later this year!



January Vacation

A new year begins on Thursday… Happy 2015! We’ve decided the focus of Craftypodes in 2015 will be crafting without shame. We have plans for posts that we hope will encourage you to love your chosen crafts and yourself more in this next year. Our first step in crafting without shame, though, is to take some time off. Have no shame about needing to recharge and get things in order for the new year.

What does taking vacation time in January mean for us?

We will not be accepting custom orders in the month of January.

Our shop will stay open, and we will still be shipping any items purchased from it. We will also still be selling our patterns through Craftsy.

We have a list of planned projects to work on throughout the year. We will not be working on those during January.

We will be taking time to work on personal projects and experiment with new things. Work on the Thorin’s Map embroidery will continue, and we’re looking forward to posting an update on that project soon.

We’ll be taking some time to focus on health and physical needs for the new year, getting a good start on some of those goals.

Blogging will continue, but may be lighter during January.

You can still email or get in touch with us through social media.

Scaling back our work some in January should give us a good start on the year to follow, and we hope it’s a great year for you, too!

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