Friday, 8 August 2014


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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

June Knitting

OK, so admittedly this post is a little late. I'm actually closer to posting July's projects! But, I've been without internet access for two weeks - which for a blogger, online shop owner and general Netflix junkie like me - is HORRIBLE.

But, let's not dwell too much on that, and we can focus instead on some lovely, scrummy knitting.

Tyrian was my main project - I really feel like I invested a lot of time, love and beading into it. In fact, I've spoken about it so much on the blog you're probably sick of seeing it! So I'll keep it brief and tell you I loved knitting it, I hated blocking it, but I ADORE the finished project.

I completed the Stormborn socks - sometimes when knitting socks for my husband I really curse the fact that he is so tall - therefore has GIANT-BIG feet.  I'm still in love with the Spiceman pattern, and knitting it in yarn that I dyed myself made me so happy. I love how subtle the turquoise, green and blue blending is, and how the yellowy-gold is a nice bright pop.

I've been aware of the Leftie pattern for a while - and always found it quite similar to the Firebird that I knitting as part of the Ravellenic Games last year. Since I'm a fan of big shawls, I always preferred the Firebird. But then at Yarndale I saw a woman knitting a Leftie, and it was so beautiful in real life I just couldn't resist adding the pattern to my queue. I'm making it in a soft grey that I dyed, with the beautiful 18 colour rainbow from Fab Funky Fibres.

I suffered a bit of a knitting funk recently and just needed a small, quick, fun project to jerk me out of it. Biology 101 had been in my queue for a REALLY long time - as an animal scientist and knitter, how could I resist it?? The knitting was a breeze and then I had the most fun needle felting all the internal organs.  It felt somewhat sadistic stabbing frog livers and lungs with needles - but I am really happy with the result.

Stoney Brook Top really caught my eye when Holla Knits released it. I couldn't stop imagining it in a beautiful hot, summery pink. I decided to cast off my fears of garment knitting and got stuck in. I got horrifically stuck - but I was given some really indepth advice by a lovely, kind knitter on Ravelry. I have also stalled a bit recently as I need to block the top portion of the top, but it's been really stormy and wet here. Blocking inside is impossible for me, as I have an adventurous ginger cat who likes to eat pins.

Finally the Birding Cape. I can't tell you how much I LOVE this pattern. I also really love the yarn. And the combination - swoon. It was such a lovely knit, and I couldn't stop running the yarn through my fingers. It's Rowan Creative Focus Worsted that I snapped up in Hobbycraft when it was reduced to a really low price.  Not only do I love the texture, loftiness and softness of the yarn, but the colour is just gorgeous. I'm a huge purple fan - and this is the perfect purple to me.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Kelp Forest

A while ago I heard about a collection of knitting patterns inspired by the Harry Potter books - The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits. Being both a fan of the books/films and knowing that the patterns would have a slightly magical slant to them - I needed a copy!

It took me a while to track one down - but when I finally did, I was really pleased. The magazine was full to bursting with beautiful patterns - and to my eye, none so beautiful as Susannah IC's Mermaid's Song shawl.

I don't actually have much lace yarn in my collection, but I had a beautiful, soft 100% merino from Rosie's Moments in a lovely, earthy, mossy green which reminded me a bit of kelp.  I also had some Miyuki magatama beads in a white/grey mix, that reminded me of little raindrops that I bought during a previous bead binge. The perfect combination! I couldn't resist casting on.

You begin by knitting the cable, lace and beaded trim - which although it's slightly fiddly isn't hard to memorise. Or, it isn't if you don't try and watch The Vampire Diaries while doing it. In the end I was incredibly grateful for the fact I had remembered to put lifelines in my knitting after each repeat, because I think I pulled out my work 6 or 7 times. After the trim - I found the main body just flew by - and I pretty soon had an FO.

My only problem is blocking. I have steam blocked it a little to open up the stitches. But it needs blocking within an inch of it's life I think, and I just don't have the space to do that. It's perfectly wearable as a little shoulder shawlette. But, ideally I'd love to give it a nice, firm block to really enhance it's beauty.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Bumper Shop Update!

The shop has been updated with four 100% BFL aran, two BFL/Nylon sock and two North Ronaldsay lace weight skeins.

The lace weight is a new base for me - and is 100% British heritage wool. North Ronaldsay wool is pretty rare - but is a lovely strong, sturdy lace perfect for lace shawls. Both of the colourways are Robot Unicorn Attack II-themed. Veil of Wrath is a lovely goth blend of purple, lilac and deep black, while Celestial Resonator is a blended mix of blues and purples. Both are inspired by unicorn body parts from the game, so I guess a little morbid gothness is right!

I've also restocked Team Rainbow - which seems to sell within the same day every time I restock! It's one of my favourite colourways, I love how the white space blends with the bright colours and I love that it's showing Team Rainbow pride!

Cotton Candy is a new colourway for me - and is inspired by a 1980's My Little Pony. It feels odd to be using the American word rather than candy floss, but I'm going with the My Little Pony name! This is shaping up to be one of my favourite colorways - both to dye and the finished product.

It's also available in 100% BFL aran.

I've also added a pretty special skein - based on a myth about Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Rumours are flying about that it was designed to be played alongside The Wizard of Oz. I'm not sure how true the rumours are - but it made a pretty unusual yarn - Dark Side of the Rainbow!

Finally, I've added a couple of semi-solid colours. Both are inspired by myth and legend - which seems only right considering I am the CRYPTOzoologist!

Firstly there's Gorgeia - inspired by the Greek legend about the origin of coral.

And finally there's Kelpie, inspired by the Celtic myth about tiny little water spirits.

All are currently available in the shop!

Behind The Business: White Space

As a new dyer, the first thing you are told in class is to avoid white patches - don't tie your skeins too tight, make sure the dye covers both sides of the skein, rub the colour in etc. But why should we be so cautious to cover up the white? I mean, it's not exactly white - it's more a lovely creamy, milky natural colour. And I, for one, think it's far too beautiful to cover up.

Some of my most popular colourways - such as Team Rainbow - utilise the white space to counterbalance the WOWBRIGHT of the rainbow colours, whereas others, such as Cotton Candy use it to facilitate a blend between the two main colours.

It can be difficult to retain the natural colour - as dye can run, but if you are careful with exhausting the dye bath and with how to wrap the skein before heating then it should be fine.

I love seeing natural wool colour shine through, and it's wonderful to see the colours that different wools are. Wool is beautiful, and I don't see why it can't be just as desirable as the bright colours that dye can achieve!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Final Fantasy & Robot Unicorn Attack II Colourways

The shop has been updated to include a pair of 100% British BFL Aran-weight skeins.

The first is called Carbuncle, named after Final Fantasy 8's adorable little green pixie pal who you can summon to protect your party. He's such a cute little scamp I couldn't not dye a colourway inspired by him. And as it turns out, it looks beautiful - the blue and turquoise meld perfectly, while the red adds a pretty cool pop.

The second skein is inspired by the insidious Team Inferno from Robot Unicorn Attack II. My husband (who is in Team Inferno), pointed out that I have a Team Rainbow it's only fair I include a Team Inferno. I'm torn up upside, although I bleed rainbow for my team, this skein is PRETTY. It's a blend of fiery colours inspired by hellfire and smouldering coals.

The BFL base takes colour beautifully, and just glows in the sunlight, and I'm proud to be supporting the British wool trade. These skeins (and all of the yarn I sell) were spun in my home county, which just fills me with pride.

Artist in the Limelight

This week I'm featured over at the lovely Katrina Sophia's blog as her Artist in the Limelight.

I'm chatting about yarn inspiration, British wool, David Lynch and weird knitwear.

You can view the interview here:

Thank you so much for having me Katrina!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

FO Friday

Yes, I know. I'm a day late! But since the Tyrian shawl was finished yesterday, it still counts - right?

I can't rave about this shawl enough. I spoke about my problems with my previous Game of Thrones KAL that I was doing with Karen, so I was thrilled to find the almost Tyrion, Tyrian. It seemed like fate.

I heartily recommended the pattern to Karen, as I've made a Sister Joan by the designer Sivia Harding before, and I loved both the process and the finished object. Sivia just seems to make lace knitting seem a breeze. Tyrian is not a lace shawl for the faint-hearted though, there are no real rest rows, and the lace is double sided, and of course the beading slows things down a bit. But it's actually not so complicated to memorise and read, and it is definitely worth the while. I found the whole process really relaxing and almost meditative in the measured knitting.

The lace design is just beautiful, and so cleverly done. As for the yarn and beads - I think the earthy tones of the Malabrigo sock and the gold beads I used work perfectly together. It's a very forest shawl, but gleams in the sunshine.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Final Fantasy & Elder Scrolls Colourways

I love video games. I could easily waste full days exploring fantasy worlds, and fighting strange beasts. SO, with that in mind, I wanted to dye some yarn inspired by two of my absolute favourite games to exist - Final Fantasy (specifically 8) and the Elder Scrolls (specifically Oblivion). So, without further ado, here they are!

Brothers is inspired by the Guardian Forces from Final Fantasy VIII, and is dyed purple, red-pink and brown. Brothers is a surprisingly cute pair of Minotaurs, who team up together to play badass Stone, Paper, Scissors. I loved the quest to fight and get them - and it seemed only right to make a nice earthy, purply-red colourway inspired by them.

Tonberry is inspired by the Guardian Forces from Final Fantasy VIII, and is dyed yellow, green and brown.
So, Tonberrys are adorable. Right. Even when they are shambling towards you, brandishing a chef knife ready to stab you in the belly. But, wait. Look at the cute little turtle-face and sad little eyes. Awww.

Shiva is inspired by the Guardian Forces from Final Fantasy VIII, and is dyed yellow, turquoise, yellow, white and purple. Shiva was always my favourite summon in Final Fantasy - and I loved the progression of her throughout the games. I wanted to make an icy, but still colourful approximation of her colours.

Harcane Grove is inspired by The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and is dyed blue, green and brown. Harcane Grove is a beautiful, quiet grove in Oblivion. Quiet except the for brutal Minotaurs and bloodthirsty unicorn that is. But how could I not make a yarn based on a place with a unicorn??

All of the above yarns are also on my brand new base. It's a lovely, soft, plump BFL Aran - perfect for making hats, gloves, shawls - anything you want really. Currently all are in stock in my shop. 

In addition to this I also trialled a new type of base - Jacob DK. It is GORGEOUS. I'm completely in love, it's so squishy and lofty. 

There's just one skein of it in my shop at the moment - but there will be more added soon. For now - here's the one, special skein.

Moon Sugar is inspired by The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and is dyed pink, grey and white.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Behind the Business: Inspiration

Following on from my post about the dyeing process, I thought I would talk about some of my inspirations for colourways today.

One of the things that always bothered me in the past with buying yarn is...let's be honest here, some of the names are bad. Really bad. I've seen innumerable skeins of purples of varying shades called 'Lavender' and swathes of blue skeins simply named 'Ocean'. Which is fine, but it's not a name you remember is it?

My process starts with an inspiration and a name, and then I choose the colours that match up to the inspiration. I love to dye this way, it not only let's me choose unusual colour combinations that I know will complement each other but it gives me a clear goal. Plus, it gives me the chance to loose some of the geekdom onto the world. Final Fantasy-themed yarn? Check. Studio Ghibli-themed yarn? Check. Robot Unicorn Attack II-themed yarn. CHECK!

 So, let's look at a couple of my colourways and what inspired them.

One of the very first yarns I dyed is called Princess Skylark.

It's a blend of turquoisey greens, purples and pink - and is actually based on my favourite childhood toy. Back in the day, I was obsessed with My Little Pony. I had so many I was actually featured in the official magazine - cool, I know. My absolute favourite of these ponies was Princess Skylark.

Forest Spirit is a blend of red, turquoise, white and brown.

It's inspired by the Studio Ghibli animation Princess Mononoke. The film features a deer god, who guards the forest. I like to take my inspiration from lesser characters in films, games and books, rather than focusing immediately on the main characters. So, rather than chose Ashitaka or San - I turned my attentions to the beautifully coloured forest god.

The first line of yarns I introduced into my shop were Robot Unicorn Attack 2-themed. Among them is Celestial Resonator.

This is actually one of my kettle-dyed yarns and is a blend of different pinks, blues and purples inspired by a customisable unicorn from the RUA 2 game.

And finally, one of the latest yarns up in the shop is Ifrit.

Ifrit is a blend of fiery colours, reds, yellows, oranges and peach all inspired by the summon from the Final Fantasy series. I used the FF8 incarnation, because it's my favourite of the series. And that's saying something because I LOVE all Final Fantasy games. Except FFX-2, that one was bad. Very bad.

So, you probably see a lot of my colourways are inspired by, rather than a carbon copy of. I hope you found this interesting!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Kickstarter Update

I'm so excited to tell you, I reached my Kickstarter goal! In fact, I not only achieved funding - I overachieved, which means I am currently sitting at around 112% funded. This is great news for someone who forgot to factor in shipping prices for the rewards....duh.

I'm so incredibly grateful for every retweet, supportive message and backer that words can't really express it. I am constantly humbled by how kind people can be. I'm also proud, the success of my campaign has reinforced my belief that I am good at what I do, and there is a market for my product. It's also a huge boost to your self-confidence when people believe in you.

There are still ten days left of my campaign and I would be so thankful for continuing pledges - additional financial support would see me able to buy more base yarn - potentially using rare British breed sheep, or more luxurious blends such as merino, cashmere and nylon. No money will be wasted and I appreciate every single penny. Much more than I can tell you.

In addition to this if you pledge £25+ you are eligible to claim a yarn reward - which will be a Kickstarter campaign only limited edition colourway. And I promise you, it's a beauty!

You can pledge here:

Friday, 6 June 2014

Behind the Business: The Dyeing Process

I thought it might be fun to share my method of dyeing with you today. There are a number of different ways to dye yarn - kettle dyeing, immersion baths, dip-dyeing and hand-painting. I like to hand paint my skeins - I find it gives me more control over the dyeing process, and means that if I want to replicate a skein I can do so easily. I adore kettle dyed yarn, and do occasionally use this method (such as The Great Forest and Celestial Resonator). However, you don't really have much control over where the dye goes in kettle dyeing, and you can only really use colours that blend well together.

So, to begin with I use white acrylic to tie my yarn together - this stops it from becoming noodle soup during the dyeing process. I find white acrylic best as it doesn't absorb the dye, and the colour doesn't run. It's also important to not tie the loops too tight, or you will be left with white patches in your colour.

Once the yarn is tied, I soak it in room temperature water, with a cup of vinegar. This cleans up any dirt or grease, allowing the yarn to be more absorbent to the dye. The vinegar also helps the yarn take the dye, and can soften up rough bases.

After about an hour I take the yarn from the vinegar bath, make sure I squeeze out all of the water, and lay each damp skein separately on cling film.

Then I mix up the dyes that I want to use - you can use almost anything to dye yarn with. In the past I've used Kool Aid, vegetables and Wilton's food dye. Next I apply the dye like I am painting. Adding the colours individually and blending as I go. I find it's best to use light colours first, and then add the dark colours - this means if you spill any drops of light dye then you can cover them with the darker colours.

Once the yarn is completely covered in dye - I wrap it in cling film. I do this by adding another layer on top of the yarn and then rolling the yarn inside it, so the colours are all completely isolated. This is one of the most important steps for me, because I love dyeing yarn with natural tones mixed in. If you don't isolate the different colours, then they can run during the heating process and discolour your yarn.

Then you pop the wrapped up yarn into a microwaveable tub.  I also find it useful to have a container with two sections (rather than just a plain old tub) because this means I can separate out the dark and light colours. I microwave the yarn in two minute intervals - so microwave for 2 minutes, stand for 2, microwave for 2, stand for two etc. until the excess water runs clear.

I let the yarn stand for around 10 minutes - then carefully unwrap it (watch out for the steam, it's boiling hot!). I then let it cool completely. Next the yarn gets soaked in a cold water bath, with wool wash such as Soak or Eucalan. This helps to ensure colourfastness, and also makes the yarn smell nice!

The final step is to hang the yarn out in the sunshine, and let it dry!

Monday, 2 June 2014

May Knitting

May wasn't the greatest month for knitting project - I was ill for a big chunk of it, and dyeing took up a bit portion of my time. But, I did start and finish some projects. So here's what I was working on.

I couldn't resist knitting the Undersized Unicorn from Rebecca Danger's 50 Yards of Fun book. What unicorn girl could resist?

I had some lovely sparkly Louisa Harding Mila yarn leftover which was just perfect, because everyone knows real unicorns sparkle.

The Mila was leftover from TinyOwlKnits' Moonbeam Duster , because like every unicorn, I just wanted to sparkle! I'm really enjoying making the duster, the waistcoat part was done in a jiffy so now I'm just working on the fringe. It's mad, bright and colourful and I LOVE it.

I also couldn't resist knitting Hilary Smith Callis' beautiful Itineris shawl - the stripes just really called to me. I'd been looking for the perfect project for my The Uncommon Thread Confetti yarn which had a pretty short yardage for sock weight. So, stripes seemed like the perfect solution. I paired it with the lovely and spangley Bigger on the Inside by KnittingGoddess.

I couldn't stop knitting this shawl. It was just the perfect pattern to get really stuck into and the construction is so clever and unusual. It kept the striping from being a bit monotonous to knit. Plus, it's really squishy and warm - the perfect Spring shawl.

I finished my 2014 May socks in Countess Ablaze's amazing This Ain't A Scene sock yarn. I really like how one is a little darker than the other. Brothers rather than twins! The sock pattern wasn't so great and neither was my knitting to be perfectly honest. It's ended up with ladders up the sides - bah!

I also replaced my Game of Thrones disastrous KAL with Sivia Harding's gorgeous Tyrian. I' m knitting this in the most beautiful earth-toned Malabrigo sock. It's actually a bit of a joke at my local yarn store about how much I love Malabrigo. I just can't help it, the colours are always amazing and the yarn is so, SO soft.

I'm using gold beads, which seem to blend well with the yarn without fading into the background. I am hoping than in sunshine they will get a lovely glow. I can't wait to see Karen's interpretation of this shawl.

Finally - I have begun my June socks using my The Cryptozoologist Stormborn yarn. I REALLY love knitting with it. I'm using Yarnissima's Spiceman pattern, which is without a doubt my favourite sock pattern.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Power of People

Starting up your own business is a scary, exciting and costly thing to do. And it always helps when you have moral support and of course financial. At your first steps, having someone believe in you enough to invest in your business, and in you, is a wonderful, uplifting, confidence-boosting thing.

So, I'm absolutely thrilled to tell you that recently I started a Kickstarter campaign.

I believe in my business, I believe in myself. But, I also know that I am a recent graduate and soon-to-be jobseeker who has severe chronic fatigue. And unfortunately that has financial restrictions added to it. The sad part of being a grown-up is that rent, bills and food are pretty important to me - so as a start-up business my initial capital is quickly running out. However, I want to keep dyeing. I believe that a well-stocked shop is a necessity for any online business. And I have so many ideas bursting out of my head, that it would be a shame if I was halted in my tracks due to a lack of funds.

I have made some sales, and have started to recoup my initial investment, however there is still a little way to go. Which is why I turned to Kickstarter,

I know I could do great things with yarn dyeing, and that fact that people believe in me enough to invest is magnificent and will allow me to expand and continue growing my fledgling business.

I am so thankful for every single backer, both for the financial investment and the belief in me. I hope I live up to your, and my own, expectations.

If you would like to explore my Kickstarter project, you can find it here:

Shop Update

The shop was updated today, with three new colourways and a returning one that sold out within minutes the first time I listed it! 

Unfortunately the light was not as bright and beautiful as during my last update so the pictures really don't do the yarn justice. I'm hoping for a glorious sunny day tomorrow so I can take some fresh pictures and use them instead, but it seemed more important to keep my promise to update.

So, without further ado, here are the yarns!

Team Rainbow is just what it sounds like! A rainbow of colours with some white mixed in. This is inspired by the Adult Swim game Robot Unicorn Attack II, and represents my team alliance. Team Rainbow forever, Team Inferno NEVER! 

Stormborn was inspired by Dany from Game of Thrones. I originally dyed two skeins for a GoT themed knitalong I was joining, but the pattern was a bit of a no-no for me (see my last post!), so I have kept one skein and have added the other to my shop. It's a lovely subtle blend of blue, turquoise and gold. 

Celestial Resonator is a lovely soft, blended mix of purples and blues and is also inspired by Robot Unicorn Attack II. I'm trying very hard to keep this yarn from slipping into my personal stash! 

Twilight is a mixture of pinks and purples and is inspired by a 1980's My Little Pony toy. I was a bit of a collector back in the day (and who am I!). This is part of a set, which includes a beautiful project bag, made by the wonderful and talented Karen.

So, that's the update. I also have some very exciting news to share, but that deserves a post of its very own. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Game of Groans

A few weeks ago, my newest knitting buddy (and all round best pal) Karen pointed out a pattern on Ravelry that really interested me. The pattern was a Game of Thrones knitalong aiming to make a Daenerys-themed shawl. Now as a big fan of shawls, Dany, Game of Thrones and knitalongs the pattern really jumped out at me. We decided to make the pattern together, and I even dyed myself some yarn to go with the pattern. I chose gold, blue and turquoise, the colours that predominantly make me think of Dany - plus I'm not a huge fan of hot colours so wanted to avoid the fiery themed yarn the KAL chose.

The KAL started well enough. I adored how my yarn was knitting up, and the pattern was starting to look like beautiful dragon scales. I whizzed through clue 1 and eagerly awaited clue 2.

However, this is when it all started to go wrong. Clue 2 was incredibly confusingly written, and I had to rip out and reknit several times, each time ending up with extra stitches all over the place. It was becoming a chore to knit, and I decided that enough was enough and frogged the entire shawl.

I was a bit dubious when clue 3 was corrected three times in a short succession, but carried on trying to make clue 2 work. But when knitting becomes hard work rather than pleasurable it's time to reconsider.

I guess the problem with mystery knitalongs is that you don't know where the designer is taking the pattern so it's tough to make any adjustments, and of course the pattern is so new there hasn't been chance to iron out the errors.

So, I've picked myself up, felt sad about the loss of the shawl - because despite all of the issues it was a beautiful shawl. I know I will find the perfect project to replace this pattern and use my lovely themed yarn.

New Beginnings

It's always hard to know how to begin a new blog, should you introduce yourself, or just jump straight into content? The world of blogging can be sticky with etiquette at times.

I'm not going to do a huge introduction, if you want to know a little bit more about me then I suggest the about me page, or visiting my lifestyle blog nekomentsu.  However I do want to discuss the reason I have decided to move the majority of my blogging over to The Cryptozoologist. 

To begin with, nekomentsu was, and is, primarily a lifestyle blog. When you are suffering from a severe chronic condition you begin to discover that there is not that much to your life at all, especially not if you want to blog about it. I found that whenever I tried to talk about my life it turned into an endless dribble of "I stayed in today" "today I stayed in my house" "today I was at home". And let's be fair, nobody wants to read about how I sat for 4 hours watching Rupaul's Drag Race and eating almonds. I'm not depressed about my situation, I'm dealing with it. I need the time at home to heal, and while it might be boring at time, it's what my body needs right now. So this means I can't share pictures of exciting adventures, things I've bought or jumbled thoughts on politics and news.

In fact, most of what I have shared on nekomentsu recently has been pictures of cake, cats and knitting. Which to be honest, to me means I am living a pretty fabulous life right now. But certainly not lifestyle blogworthy.

The reason I have made this step now, is that I have started my own business. I have been dyeing and selling yarn. I wanted to open this blog not just as a place to share my knitting patterns, projects and ideas, but as a business resource so that I can share the day-to-day running of a kitchen enterprise, show you pretty pictures of yarn and silly pictures of my cats. Because, with me, there are always silly pictures of cats. 

So, I'll hope that you follow me in my journey. And I hope I continue to keep you entertained. I have never taken a single follower for granted and I constantly appreciate your comments and support.


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