Thursday, March 22, 2012

How The Instarsia Technique Royally Kicked My Tuckus

Hullo, Readers!

Well, I have to admit that my ego is slightly deflated with the lack of response to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cushions...although I did receive TWO, (count 'em), TWO marriage proposals after I showed them off in person.

Lack of page views and comments aside, I am still immensely proud of the fact that I actually FINISHED (well, almost) this project, much less learn the ridiculous technique required to even begin to fathom such a thing as pixelated ninja turtles in knit form.

I wanted to create something for my older brudder, that technological genius who loves all things to do with 80's nostalgia, for his birthday. I googled "ninja turtles pattern" to see if there was a knitting pattern for sale on Etsy or something, and I came up with this:

My neighbor started to bang on the wall because I was squeeing so loud. Image found here:
 Not only was I immediately struck with a feeling of "HOLY CRAP THAT IS AWESOME", but I also was brought back to some fond childhood memories. My brother had this game when we were growing up (I remember this, because he would fly into an 8-year-old fit if he caught my sister or me playing on it), and after our mother gave us some serious lessons in the way of SHARING, we would occupy most of our Saturday afternoons trying to beat that God-awful water level.

WHY WERE THE PLANTS ELECTRIC??????? Image found here:

We never did beat the game. I think my dad made it to the Technodrome once, but I'm not sure.

My first gut reaction was to cross-stitch something, which would have taken up less time, energy and heartache...but what product manager/pyrotechnic/aging nerd wants a cross-stitched tea towel for his birthday? I was gonna make something that I KNEW my brother would when his sweet fiance mentioned that they were seriously lacking in living room decor, I KNEW what I needed to do.

I was gonna face the fire breathing dragon that has plagued knitters everywhere...that terrifying, TERRIFYING technique...the dreaded INSTARSIA. And knit some mother effing CUSHIONS.

I learned the instarsia technique from another one of my all time favorite knitting resources, "Stitch-N-Bitch Superstar Knitting" by Debbie Stoller.

Instarsia, like many other knitting techniques, is something that I have a lot of difficulty describing. It's like trying to describe how to whistle, snap fingers, or rolling "r's". Just not something that I'm able to put into words. So forgive me, Readers, if this blog entry makes absolutely no sense.

Essentially, in instarsia, you knit your project as if it were a big jigsaw puzzle, with each different "block" of color making one jigsaw "piece". For each "piece" of your project, you have a bobbin (a small, winded amount of yarn) that you just pick up, knit, and drop when finished. I had at least 4-5 bobbins of yarn going a time for this project, so there were times that I felt I required a binary brain.

The cushions, as I have them now, are actually the result of three separate attempts.

My first attempt at creating the martial-art mastering reptiles was nothing short of a disaster, mostly because, in my haste to begin such an awesome project, I had tried to "cut corners" and thus found myself committing several color work transgressions. For one, I didn't keep my different yarns separated as nicely as I could have. I had one big ball of purple yarn, one big ball of grey yarn, and a skein of green and a skein of black, etc etc. As some of the more experienced knitters out there reading this blog (who I know for a fact are either cringing or shaking their heads) undoubtedly foresaw, my project became a tangled, puckery, mangled mess covered with dropped stitches. After losing my patience more than once and throwing my project across the room, I conceded defeat and frogged it. (for those of you not in the know, to "frog" something in knitting lingo means to completely unravel it and start over).

My second attempt at the turtles was preceded with some more careful study of the instarsia technique.This time, I made several "bobbins" of yarn, and knit with these itty bitty balls of yarn piece by piece...if that makes any sense at all for you non-knitters out there (who I am sure are the majority of folks who read my blog).
The second incarnation of the teenage mutant ninja pillows was a failure simply because it was too big to make in one piece, even while using circular needles (knitting needles that are attached with a long cord, making it possible to knit something big like a blanket). This is not because I couldn't fit the project on my circular needles (my set of ciculars for a size 7 is QUITE large), but because my ADHD plagued brain could not possibly keep track of all the different colors, bobbins, stitches, and whatnot without having a nervous breakdown.

And so, I started with attempt number three. And it went quite well just knitting the heroes in a half shell one at a time.

I have to admit, that even after mastering the technique, I did cut a few corners, as you can see with Mr. Raphael:

See all those long strands of yarn? In true instarsia, those wouldn't be there, as I would have a SEPARATE bobbin of green/red/grey/black yarn for EVERY piece of green/red/grey/black that is required by the pattern. After a while, I started to lose my patience, so I went ahead and carried the yarn across. Even though I did cheat a little bit, the project still ended up looking great.

After knitting and blocking all four, I got out my old buddy who I haven't used in years. Readers, meet Dumpy.

Yes, I have named my sewing machine Dumpy. I have a habit of anthropomorphizing things. Don't judge.

I named my sewing machine Dumpy not because she's fat, (she's quite happy with herself, actually), but because the day I had triumphantly brought her home from the Sears home department after saving up my money from my summer job, my then boyfriend dumped me. And thus, she was named.

I went out and got some black cotton fabric, some poly-fil stuffing, and put those pillows together. After a brief consultation with the birthday boy, we decided on sewing the pillows together for a segmented mega cushion, which is where I am at now with the ninja turtles. Since I was a bit hasty and filled/stuffed the pillows before asking my brobro what he preferred, I'm sewing them together by hand, which is taking a while but should be finished in a couple of days.

After these guys are COMPLETELY finished, I'm going to be focusing on finishing some projects that I've started A YEAR AGO at least. The draft dodger/caterpillar is finally about 2/3 done, and the space invaders throw is near completion as well. After those two things are finished, I'm going to turn my attention to creating an Etsy store. I'm super excited, readers, about all of the possibilities!

Chiao, Readers! <3

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