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Hedgehogs!

The pattern: Fiber Trends #228, Huggable Hedgehogs

Yarn used in Hedgehog 2.0: Cascade 220 color 9401 (ecru and light gray tweed – body) and 8400 (charcoal gray – feet), Funny Lux Pelsgarn by SandnesGarn in color 1090 (i.e. fun fur from the discount bin – back).

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February 12, 2006: Stuffed Hedgehog: the killer app for short rows

On Friday, Yarn Harlot’s blog alerted me to the existence of the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival taking place in Tacoma. Saturday morning, I headed down there with Knitting Sensei to check out the fiber market (which was free, and open to the public, unlike the classes, which cost a great deal of money, and were all full at any rate).

Digression: it’s been unseasonably warm recently, and the infamous Tacoma Aroma was running high. Out-of-town knitters: it’s just Tacoma, I swear. The rest of our fair state smells MUCH better, promise!

There was a lot of fiber there, although the Unusual Fiber Award has to go to the Camel Booth. Nomad Yarns from Mongolia imports hand-spun mini-skeins of yarn, and each one’s band was hand-labelled with the name of the camel herder who had spun the yarn, as well as the herder’s home town in Mongolia. I was suprised at how soft it felt (I don’t think of camels as being very cuddly), but not particularly surprised by how expensive it was.

I was getting uncomfortable, and crowded, and a little bit unhappy and sensory-overloaded as we made a second circuit through the trade room. Also, I was keenly feeling my wallet, which, if my life was a cartoon, when I opened it, a little puff of dust and a moth would fly out. Why did the amazingly cool fiber market have to take place three days BEFORE payday? Why? WHYYY???? KHAAAAAAAAAANNNNNN!!!

Wait. What? Where was I? Oh. So we’re standing at this booth, longingly fingering some insanely expensive, and amazingly beautiful, yarn which I would probably never buy even if it was past payday, because $30 is too much to pay for one skein of yarn, people. I glanced over at Acorn Street Shop’s booth, and saw a winsome little face peering at me happily. A stuffed hedgehog face.

Words cannot explain how appealing this stuffed hedgehog was. I shuffled over and picked it up to examine it. I turned it over and felt it – fun fur on the back, a thick felted wool tummy, approximately the size and shape of a basketball, and filled with just the right amount of squishy stuffing. Its adorableness quotient was through the roof.

This is where I may possibly have crossed the line. I hugged it. Like, really hard. And for a length of time which may, from the outside, have come across as unseemly. The woman manning the booth drifted over and said something (I wasn’t really listening), and kind of had a look in her eye like maybe she thought I was a little bit insane, or possibly retarded, or maybe both.

I sheepishly put the hedgehog back, and saw that they were selling hedgehog kits. Everythng you need to make your own stuffed hedgehog, for the low low price of $30 plus tax. Err… okay… then I spotted the pattern, which they were selling solo. “How much?” I asked. “Five something something,” she said (again, I wasn’t really listening, I was still transfixed by the hedgehog).

I picked up the pattern and looked it over. Two sheets of paper, double-sided, densely filled with abbreviations. It looked insanely complicated. NASA complicated. Physics professor complicated. Sequencing the human genome complicated. You get the idea.

“Short rows,” I mumbled, reading the introductory paragraph. It dimly occurred to me that, never having even attempted a short row, this might not be the pattern for me. Frankly, I didn’t care how hard the pattern was. I did. Not. Care. However hard it was, I would do it. Whatever techniques it required, I would learn them. I had to have the hedgehog. I was smitten, there’s no better way to say it.

You’ll be hearing a lot about the hedgehog in the days and weeks to come. The pattern is from Fiber Trends, and having spent many hours working it later that night, it is the best pattern I have ever met. Pattern 228, Huggable Hedgehogs, available at a yarn store near you. Not for sale online, but trust me, the trip to the store will be worth it. Or, if you’re in the greater Seattle area (by which I mean Tacoma), stop by the Tacoma Sheraton and pick you up some hedgehog-y goodness, if you can get there Sunday before they close.

(Lest you think I have gone completely ’round the bend with Teh Cute, I think the pattern could definitely be adapted to produce an adorably squishy stuffed Cthulhu, which I will most likely attempt once I’ve had my fill of hedgehogseses.)

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February 13, 2006: Stuffed Hedgehog

Working the Fiber Trends stuffed hedgehog pattern is a treat. This pattern is so good that it taught me how to do short rows. The instructions are clear and concise, and arcane abbreviations (like “w&t”) are explained in detail at the beginning of the pattern.

I decided to start off by going through the entire pattern once with a test yarn. Sort of like a very complicated swatch. Now that I’m halfway through, I wish I had started off using a real hedgehog-colored yarn, because it’s actually turning out very nicely.

I had planned to throw away the first hedgehog I made, but he would actually be good enough to keep, if he wasn’t knit in that hideous blue yarn. It probably helps that the felting process will camoflauge any but the most egregious errors.

My favorite aspect of the pattern is that about every other line contains a checksum. These alternate between the number of stitches you should have on the needles, and whether the right side or wrong side is facing. This not only allows me to catch errors before they get out of hand, but is also very reassuring. I like the validation of knowing that yes, I have done it correctly. It’s an ego placebo, but don’t discount its effectiveness!

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February 15, 2006: Half a hedgehog is better than none

The swatch hedgehog is about half completed. I took advantage of a brief sunbreak to get some natural light pictures, since the dark blue yarn doesn’t show up well under indoor lighting.

Here’s a better view of the front. Keep in mind that he’s going to be felted, which means that he will get much shorter. His finished face will therefore be more cute, and less cow-like.

Next, a side view, which shows off some of the short-row shaping. If it helps you make visual sense of the picture, I have my hand inside his head.

This is probably my only chance to examine the shaping on the back, since the backs of subsequent hedgehogs will be knit with a row of fun fur as a carry-along. I’m glad I’m knitting this first one in plain yarn, so that I can see what’s happening.

I didn’t really mean to make a hedgehog in Seahawks colors. It just sort of worked out that way, since the blue and green happen to be the least appealing yarn colors in my stash, and I ran out of the blue last night.

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February 18, 2006: Testhog

The test hedgehog is complete! As you can see, it didn’t felt very well, because I knit it too tightly.

Here he is from the side, mugshot-style.

And here he is looking wistfully out at the big wide world.

The real one will be about three times larger, in hedgehog-y colors, with fun fur for the back.

Here’s an interesting question: if you had finally finished your testhog, would you be able to resist throwing it straight into the washer to felt it? Of course not!

But what if the pattern required you to block the testhog by packing it full of stuffing before it was dry, to set the shape correctly? And say you didn’t happen to have a bag of stuffing just sitting around your apartment? And you couldn’t go buy one, because it happened to be two in the morning?

Would you shrug, pick up your least favorite throw pillow (the one with the yellow and white stripes, from a brief and ill-advised foray into a French Provincial color theme), slice it open with a pair of scissors, tear out half the stuffing, and cram it into your testhog?

Oh good, me too! Glad to know I’m not the only one. (I never really liked that throw pillow, anyway.)

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March 6, 2006: Hedgehog 2.0, the beginning

Hedgehog 2.0 has begun! The front is knit in Cascade wool 220, color #9401 which I picked up at Acorn Street Shop here in Seattle.

I have to say, I love the Cascade 220 line of yarn, because it comes in like 20 different shades of gray. (How great is that?) I do kind of wish that you didn’t actually have to buy an entire 220 yards of it at a time, though. It seems like an awful lot to buy of any given color, but I’m sure I’ll find a use for it.

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March 31, 2006: Hedgehog 2.0 – complete!

Yea, even though I snapped at an innocent bystander for no good reason because I was trying to count AND knit with fun fur at the same time, Hedgehog 2.0 is finished!

I was very pleased to find small, matching, silvery-gray buttons in my giant button stash (eBay purchase, naturally) to use for his eyes and nose.

By the way, I always hear people carping about bad patterns – and I appreciate the warnings, I really do! I’ve done more than my share of carping, myself. But just to balance things out, karmically speaking, I want to give a special shout out to Fiber Trends’ pattern 228, Huggable Hedgehogs. That is the best pattern ever. So clear! So reassuring! So well-written! Best of all: only like 3 inches of seaming! Here’s how good the pattern is: it taught me how to do short-row shaping. (Now THAT’S a good pattern!)