Happy Chinese New Year!

February 07, 2015

Did you know that 2015 is the Year of the Sheep?

Given the nature of our business, and the fact that I was born in the Year of the Sheep, I couldn't not choose a Chinese New Year theme for the store window this month. Growing up, Valentine's Day was more about my Father's birthday (and my brother's, which is the day after) than anything else, so all those hearts and flowers aren't the first thing I think of for February decorations (and as much as I love my Father, I'm not sure anyone outside of the family would understand the purpose behind a window full of antique motorcycles and Leonard Cohen doppelgangers).

I thought I'd take a moment to tell you a bit about the window decorations, in case you want to borrow a few ideas. The dragon pattern - like most of our window creations - is one I found on Ravelry. Its called "Charming Chinese Dragon", and is designed by Joan Rowe. This is an amazing pattern - well thought out, easy to follow, and very creative in terms of how it all goes together. Unlike some of the other toy patterns I've made, where you make all the pieces and then sew them together, this one has you pick up and knit the stitches that become the added-on bits - like the tail, and all the facial elements. This can get a little tricky, if you aren't used to it, but in the end its a much easier form of construction. At the end of the pattern, you simply sew the head to the neck, and the legs to four clearly marked points on the body. Compare this to having to sew together 12 separate pieces for each of 9 reindeer, and you'll quickly see what I mean!. I don't recommend this pattern for people who have never made a toy before, but if you've made a few toys, and are good at picking up stitches, its not very hard.

The other yarny elements in this month's window are what Pinterest has dubbed "yarn lanterns". These yarn-wrapped-balloons are fun to make, and easier than they look. They are, however, particularly messy... no matter how hard you try, you will splatter glue all over. The recipe I used called for equal parts of white glue, cornstarch, and hot water;by the second batch, I decided that unless you have very thick white glue, you're better off using about half to 1/3 as much water as glue. Heidi has a helpful tip about how to coat the yarn with the glue by way of milk carton or other similar container - I'll let you watch the video to see how it works, but it is definitely less messy to use this method. The one challenge I had was how to properly saturate the yarn without having it dripping with glue as it dries - not only does this make a bit of a mess where you're drying the balloons, but the collected glue creates a sort of 'skin' between the yarn wraps, which is hard to pick off without damaging the finished lantern. Maybe I just need more practice - the gold balloons, which I did several days after the red ones, seem to have turned out slightly better. Our biggest problem was releasing the balloon from the inside of the dried yarn - sometimes when you pop it, the balloon sticks to the yarn and deflates so slowly that it pulls the yarn with it - in the lanterns where the yarn wasn't stiff enough, it was hard to get them back into shape afterwards (a few of our red ones didn't even make it to the window because they became so bent out of shape). I'd be game to try these again, but I think I will wait for summer - at least then they can dry outside, and not take up so much room in the house!

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