Way back in April, during Knit and Crochet Blog Week, I wrote about the challenge my friend Alice had issued: to make her very own Avatars of They, “they” being They Might Be Giants and “avatars” being, well, The Avatars.
So, one fine Saturday in late May, Alice and I went yarn shopping. We put the top down on the convertible, plugged Imagine Dragons into the CD player, and set the GPS to take us to Lovin’Knit Yarn Studio in Marietta.
So, here we are, starting from Clarkston on the east side of Atlanta. Where we need to go is on the northwest side. Sprint GPS sends us south (?) on I-285 and then west on I-20. Okay, not necessarily out of the ordinary, because I know some major construction is happening on the 285 loop north of Atlanta, and I have the GPS set to avoid traffic. I figure we’ll catch I-75 in the downtown area and… wait, there goes the exit for 75. Hmm. Okay, traffic’s often backed up on 75 as well. Maybe we’re catching 285 north on the other side of the metro area… wait, there goes the exit for 285! Where on earth is GPS taking us? But, you know, it’s a beautiful day, it’s barely 10 AM and we’ve got nothing but time, so what the heck, right? Let’s allow the adventure to continue. Never know what we might find!
I stopped and filled the car with gasoline because I was under a quarter tank, bought a bottle of water, and got back on the interstate. Alice tweets, “This is turning into an epic road trip!” And then we’re past Douglasville — which means Marietta and any way I know to get to Marietta is way to the northeast behind us — and we’re taking an exit out in the middle of the country somewhere and GPS wants us to keep going west? No, no, no. There’s no way this can be right. This is not where we are supposed to be. So I pull over and look at the phone.
Somehow Sprint GPS thought Lovin’Knit in Marietta (which, I swear on my mother’s life, is what I typed) was actually some other store (the name of which I don’t recall right now) in Villa Rica.
Classic example of the GIGO concept. As sophisticated as they may be in and of themselves, electronics are truly only as smart as their operators.
Aaaaand, let’s leave it on that note, ‘mmm kay?
Reset GPS, get back on I-20 going east this time, and look! GPS tells us to take 285 north. We take 285 north and follow the rest of the directions right to the front door of our preferred yarn store.
We encountered much success at the yarn store, finding exactly what we needed colorwise. Alice bought one skein each of Cascade 200 Handpaints in colorway Green Mix, Ella Rae Lace Merino Chunky in colorway Orange Fire, Hikoo by Skacel Simpliworsted in colorway Bluebell, Berroco Weekend in colorway Clothesline, and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in colorway Bark. Each of these yarns (with the exception of the Cascade 220) was new to me: not only did I get to challenge myself by making a project based on a photograph, but I’d get to sample some luscious new yarn while doing so! Win!
Nor did I escape the yarn store with my bank account unscathed. As we were walking out the door, a book caught my eye. Botanical Knits by Alana Dakos. The cover sweater stopped me in my tracks and, when I paged through the display copy to see the rest of the designs, I knew I had to make every one of them. It’s seldom every single design in an entire pattern book strikes such a resonance in my soul; usually, if I like four or five out of a dozen or so, it’s worth the money to buy the book. I loved these so much that, when I got home that afternoon, I looked up its companion volume, Coastal Knits, and promptly ordered that as well.
Also that evening, I began work on the Green Avatar. I kept the Kindle by my side with the Avatar pic displayed for referral purposes, cast on 44 stitches using size 8 DPNs and the Cascade 220, and started knitting away. About two inches of two-by-two ribbing, then straight stockinette all the way up, switching to the orange Lace Merino Chunky and then back again to add the stripes. When I got up to where the mouth should go, I put 20 stitches on a stitch holder, worked the round, added 20 provisional stitches above the stitch holder using the backwards loop cast-on over a length of scrap yarn, and kept going until it was time to decrease for the head. Back to the orange Lace Merino Chunky again, decreasing as if this were the toe of a sock, finishing off with Kitchener stitch.
Now for the mouth. Easier ways to make a sock puppet mouth must exist, but I was working without a pattern, so this whole thing was an experiment. Using the Cascade 220, I picked up the stitches from the stitch holder first and added a chin of sorts by knitting rows with wraps and turns until I had eight or ten stitches left, then changed to the Lace Merino Chunky and knitted until I picked up all those wraps and again had 20 stitches. Back on the stitch holder they went. Same method with the upper stitches: picked up the provisional cast on, knitted with wraps and turns to create an upper lip, switched to orange, picked up the wraps. Kitchener stitched the inside of the mouth together. It didn’t turn out badly, but it wasn’t nearly as neat as I liked, plus there were some pretty big holes. A quick whipstitch around the edge of the mouth with the green Cascade made it look much better. And so, by Sunday evening, except for eyes and stuffing, Green Avatar was done. Blue Avatar had just about the same process but took a little bit longer: started knitting the following Saturday, finished knitting the following Monday or Tuesday.
As is often the case with my “finished” projects, the Avatars sat eyeless and stuffingless for a couple of weeks. Finally, their sightless visages caused me enough guilt that I went to Hancock Fabrics in Decatur to buy buttons for eyes and a piece of remnant muslin to make tiny pillows with which to stuff their heads. Said buttoning and stuffing was completed Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, I emailed Alice: “I have your puppets. If you ever want to see them again, bring a bar of chocolate to [our office building] lobby at 10 AM.” “I have a meeting at 10,” she responded, “but I’m free before or after. I’ve never negotiated with a kidnapper before: is this allowed?” “Never been a kidnapper before,” I sent back. “11 is okay. But no police, or the puppets get it.”
She came alone, with a Twix bar. And I gave her the puppets.