Category: Crafty

Essential Knot #2: The Bowline

Rope, and knots as an extension, is one of those utility arts that I think more people need to be more familiar with.  Learning to tie any of the important knots is not difficult, you just have to practice it for a bit (just like tying shoes).  If you’re already well versed in knots, then today I don’t have anything new for you.

There are any number of knots which I would call essential.  The trucker’s hitch (which I shared a while ago), the square knot, the fisherman’s knot, the slip knot, the half-hitch, and on and on.  Among these essential knots is a fairly simple, yet extremely useful, knot: The bowline.

The bowline is a quick and easy way to put a standing loop in a rope that won’t slip and can easily be unknotted when not under load.  You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t be) by how often knowing how to tie a bowline comes in handy around the house/yard.

While there are other ways to tie standing knots, some of which are more structurally sound or are more useful for doing loops in the bight, the bowline is the essential utility loop knot that everyone should know.  Becoming familiar with several of the bowline variants is also a good idea, but one step at a time.  Be warned: the bowline is a gateway knot to other, harder knots.  Like the bimini twist.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


Crocheted Hexagons

As a bit of a math geek, I love working with the less common shapes.  Specifically, when crocheting, I am not in favor of the granny square.

I avoid granny squares for two reasons.  First, I’m not really a fan of how they look.  Granny squares tend to feature fairly open stitches, and as I dislike open stitches in favor of more compact ones, I’m rather predisposed to dislike the granny square as a construction medium.  Granted, I’ve seen several blankets that use the granny square and use it well, it’s just not something I personally like to work with.

Your typical multi-colored granny square, care of Attic24.

Your typical multi-colored granny square, care of Attic24.

Even some of the cooler granny squares tend to be open, and I just don’t like openness in a stitch.  And the squares that are more compact tend to be done in rows, and those squares tend to look fairly awkward and combine poorly.

Second, they’re very square.  And while squares are typically good fodder for doing pixel art, the openness of the granny square tends to make it a sub-optimal pixel.  And, when you’re left with just a big multi-colored square that you can join to other multi-colored squares, the whole thing tends to feel somewhat generic.  If you search “granny square afghan” in Google, you’ll see that there are a lot of them.  Some of them are very well made with an eye for aesthetics, others not so much.

The nice thing about the granny square is that they are the perfect quick crochet project to get rid of that stash of yarn left-overs.  Indeed, a pile of small, left-over yarn balls can be transformed quickly into a useful component of that scrap afghan that many crocheters inevitably work on.

Now, enter the hexagon.  The crochet granny hexagon is the less-common answer to the square.  It boasts most of the good points of the granny square with almost none of the drawbacks that turn me away.

Crochet Hexagon care of Attic24

Crochet Hexagon care of Attic24

In comparison, the hexagon is far more dense, and it joins together in rows that are offset by half-width, which I find aesthetically pleasing. It reminds me of a blanket that my sister had when we were growing up. It was crocheted in hexagons using a very dense wool. It was thick, heavy, and very warm.

The crocheted hexagon is going in my pool of projects for getting rid of some of my spare yarn.  It would be nice to combine forces with TacoMa’am to make a blanket; however, our drastic difference in crochet tension makes that a highly unlikely and dubious prospect at best.  We’re both better off making our own scrap yarn blankets lest we end up with an afghan that only inspires visions of the homunculus.

In other news: progress on the mail-a-hug crawls inexorably forward.  I’m now finished up through my third full skein of yarn and about to start the fourth.  Currently the scarf is just a hair under 3 1/2 inches in width.  I hope I shall have enough left over to finish the two paw-ends of the scarf once I get to the desired width of 5 inches.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Work in Progress: Mail-a-Hug Scarf

One thing that I’ve been working on in the crochet world this winter is what I’m calling a “Mail-a-Hug Scarf.” The basic idea behind it is to design a scarf that incorporates bits of amigurumi in order to simulate a hug for a person you can’t hug in person. It’s a project that was born out of a comment by somebody about wanting to email somebody a hug… or something like that.

Anyway, the project has several goals:

1) Simplicity of design: The primary idea behind the scarf is to develop a generalized pattern and method so that a wide variety of people with different skill sets can produce these. In this respect, the general design will be emphasized over any specific pattern (though producing a template pattern is also part of the project).

2) Modularity of design: Making the design separable into component parts is a big part of succeeding in part 1. Specifically, the scarf will consist of three main parts: A base rectangular scarf, two paws, and an amigurumi head. By keeping these separated, it gives more latitude for mixing and matching separate patterns into the general construction.

3) Speed of design: Ideally, it would be nice if one of these scarves could be tossed together in as little as a month, so that a hug can be sent on somewhat short notice.

Basically, the construction will consist of a base rectangular scarf that’s around 5′ long and 5-6″ wide. From there, two paws or hands are designed to attach to either end of the scarf. Finally, an amigurumi or plush head is made to fit in the middle of the scarf. This may be ballasted with a small, external body to add more structure and keep the head from being too floppy.

By keeping the pattern generalized, substitutions can be readily made, such as using knitting or sewing to make the scarf instead of crochet.

So far, my first prototype has rather failed the third metric. I’ve been working on it since mid January and am not even halfway done. Most of the problem is that I picked a stitch that builds up very slowly, so the Mk 2 prototype will likely use an easier and faster building stitch. But, even though it’s kind of a failure, the first prototype looks rather nice.



The scarf is being made with chunky wool roving, which is very soft, really heavy, and quite warm. The whole thing is being crocheted length-wise using front-post half-double crochet, which gives it a look and bulk that I find very pleasing. However, in my next attempt I’m likely going to go with either a front-post double crochet or a front-post treble crochet, which should fill up much faster without significantly affecting the quality and look of the scarf.

I’ll do more updates on this as I get further along with the project.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

One of the more essential knots* for a body to learn is the Triple Fisherman’s Knot.  It’s a variant of the Double Fisherman’s Knot that adds a third pass to increase the stability and reliability of the join.  It also prevents a high-loading failure mode of some modern climbing ropes.  I typically tie the triple because it only takes a slight moment longer to do vs. the double, even if the triple isn’t really necessary for most needs.

Both knots are used to attach two cords together (used in fishing to attach leaders without using a swivel).  From a physics standpoint, the knots work by using the pressure of the knots against each other to tighten down the inward facing side of the knot, causing it to bite down on both the lines passing through the center of the knot, meanwhile the top of the knot is being pulled into the knot in the opposite direction, compacting the knot and clamping it down tighter.  This combined compression actions results in a secure join.

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Gingerbread Houses

One of those crafts that I enjoy looking at, and always plan to do “some day” is the construction of gingerbread houses.  The craft seems simple enough, which probably means it’s really difficult to pull off, but I’ve always wanted to try it.  The combination of frosting, cookie, candy, and more frosting to create a glorious and edible house?  Count me in.

And if you’re really into it you may end up doing something like this:


Now, I’m not a fan of Harry Potter, but that, right there, is awesome.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

One of the things that I’ve mentioned as bugging me here before is people in the craft world assuming that copyright gives them control over produced goods based on their patterns.  It’s a pet-peeve of mine because that’s not how copyright works, and it’s pretty petulant of an entitled feeling pattern author to assume that kind of control over you.

They typically look a lot like this:

You may keep a copy of the pattern for your own personal use but you may not sell or distribute it, or sell items made from this pattern.

That first bit about the pattern is entirely within the right of the author.  The pattern itself, that is to say the pictures, verbiage, and other content is indeed protected by copyright law and is entirely within the control of the original author to dictate its use.  The goods produced by that pattern is entirely outside of their control, as such an object is a good and not a piece of intellectual property.  Such a thing would be protected by patent law, but requires the author to go through the full patent process and establish novelty, which would be neigh impossible with a craft, especially one that’s been around for several centuries.

The only time copyright comes into play in these situations is when the object itself is subject to copyright law, such as in the case of producing an object based on a copyright character, like crocheting a Mickey Mouse for example.  In that case the produced good is subject to an entirely different copyright than the pattern: that which protects an artists right to fully expressed characters.  So if you’re putting together your very own plush Sonic the Hedgehog, you can’t sell it because that would infringe the copyright on the character.  It still would not infringe the pattern it was made from, however.

Granted, this has led to the little, fake trick that pattern authors think they can use to achieve character copyright.  By simply adding a unique name to their pattern there is the misunderstanding that this automatically grants character copyright protection.  In the real world, this doesn’t actually work since a copyright character is required to meet a certain level of unique establishment in order to be protected, and a name is far, far short of that requirement.  So naming your rather generic looking wooden toy car “Sammy the Car” doesn’t actually give it any protection under copyright law.

So, at the end of the day, feel free to fully ignore such claims of control when dealing with patterns relating to objects that are not themselves subject to copyright protection.  Authors have no basis to make claims of control over your produced work and have no way to legally enforce them upon you.  Granted they can still complain to online vendor sites (such as ETSY) and try to get their entitlement complex supported by under-informed employees of those companies, but that’s about the extent of what they can actually do.

However, one of my favorite knot tying gurus, TIAT (Tying it all Together; J.D. Lenzen) had this to say about using his patterns for commercial sale:

I am often asked whether it is okay to make and sell the designs I show here (week-to-week) and in my book.  The answer… is yes. Absolutely!

It is my intent that others use my designs as they wish, for profit, fundraising, or otherwise.  If you chose to mention or note “Designs by J.D. Lenzen”, I would appreciate this.

But please understand, in the end… it is your choice and not mandatory.

So don’t hesitate to start a business online, at your local flea market, or anywhere else you think paracord ties would be appreciated.

Just promise me one thing…

If your livelihood is improved to the point where you can afford to give back to your community, through tithing, gifts, or donation, please do.

Just think of paying it forward the gifts I gave to you.

That is the correct mindset for creating and distributing patterns, tutorials, and other guides, whether free or to sell.  No control of the end project is assumed, rather the author simply requests that you cite him as your source for the pattern and then pay it forward if you’re successful selling the products.  No petulant claims of ownership over your production, not fake strings attached to the use of his patterns, just a simple request for credit of the pattern and future charity in the face of success.

TIAT, I wish more of the online authors of patterns, tutorials, and guides were like you.  You, my good sir, are doing it right.

As such, here’s a free plug for TIAT’s most recent book: Paracord Fusion Ties, which I recently purchased myself.  If you like making decorative paracord bracelets and fobs, then this is a great resource of new knots and braids.  Even if you don’t want to buy the book, check out his YouTube channel which is chock full of awesome step-by-step tutorials, and consider subscribing.  He has 264 videos, so you could be there a while.

Also, check out his webpage: Fusionknots.  He’s got a huge gallery of his knots there that is worth taking a look at.  A very nice quick reference to many of his knotting projects.

-Confusion is a state of mine, or is it?

NOTE:  This is as US copyright law applies.  Some countries do have statutes that product reproduction, such as the UK, provided that the work in question meets the requirements to be considered a  unique artistic work, which many craft projects actually don’t qualify as.

Paracord “Survival” Bracelets

Survival bracelets have always been a bit of a sticking point with me. They’re neat, for sure, but the idea that they would really be extremely useful in an actual survival situation seems dubious to me. Most bracelets use around 10 feet of cordage to make, which is not really a lot when you find yourself in desperate need of cord. Honestly, my paracord water bottle holders, which use 100′ of cord, seem like they would be a better companion in a situation where you suddenly and desperately need cordage.

Either way, though, survival bracelets are neat despite their dubious utility.

Last Thursday my parents visited for an extended weekend (the primary reason I missed a lot of posts since last Wednesday) and my father brought a bunch of paracord knotting supplies with him. This included a few buckles and 100 feet of some nice camouflage paracord he found at a sporting goods store. So, on a few of the evenings after we were done with our daily project (something I’ll share next week after I get it finished up this weekend), we experimented a bit with the survival bracelets. Granted, my father was the only one of us who got all the way through making one, and I didn’t think to take a picture of it.

The on he put together was a two-color Solomon Bar bracelet using emerald green and his camouflage.

On my end of things, I played around with a Genoese zipper sinnet bracelet that turned out rather nice. Unfortunately, I used way too much cord in my attempt, so I unraveled the thing instead of completing the bracelet. I plan to go back and re-do it with a more appropriate amount of cordage. Since I’m making it for TacoMa’am, she’s understandably anxious for me to get cracking.

Once I actually get one completed, I’ll take pictures and throw them on the blog for you all.

-Confusion is a state of mind or is it.

Gearing up for more crochet

So, as the weather outside cools down, and I slowly get all the final yard-work done for the year, I’ve begun turning my mind back to all the crochet projects that are waiting for me.  And there are a lot of them.  Far too many, in fact.

I’ve got a commission from way back in January that I’ve barely got any progress on due to the early spring we had and warm weather all summer (when it’s warm it’s really hard to force oneself to crochet).

There’s going to be another gift exchange like last year that I’ll have to design and put together, so that’ll take quite a bit of time by itself.

Another gift is on my list that, while not complicated, will take several days to complete which I’ll need to have done in time to send out for Christmas.

Beyond that is yet another gift I’d like to finish by the end of the crochet season, but it’s less pressing.

And then there’s all the little projects for myself that I want to do… and a baby + 3yo to help wrangle.

All that isn’t even touching the stuff I’d like to do with paracord over the winter.

Well, if nothing else I should be able to get those first two done.  I’ll do my best to write up the pattern as I make it for that second one for posting here later.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

My father taught me a lot of things growing up, mostly against my will at the time because I was a young idiot who didn’t realize that someday I’d really wish I’d been paying more attention.  So it goes.

Anyway, one of the handiest things he taught me is a knot called the Trucker’s Hitch.  It’s an invaluable knot for anytime you want to tie something down and I use it pretty much every time I need to load long boards of wood into my tiny car (I tie down the wood and then tie down the trunk cause it’s all hanging out).

The trucker’s hitch is a good way to cinch something down when all you have is cord.  By utilizing a theoretical 3:1 mechanical advantage (in practice friction makes the advantage closer to 2:1) you can put more strain on the rope, thus applying greater holding force to whatever you’re tying down.

I was going to post my own instruction on how to tie this knot, but after looking around online I found that such an effort would be redundant.  So instead here’s a link!

Animated Knots’ Trucker’s Hitch

The big drawback of the trucker’s hitch is that it requires two tie-down points to work; and in a case where you don’t have any tie-downs, it’s of limited use.  That’s where my father’s variation comes into play.

Unfortunately I can’t find this variation anywhere. That makes the argument that I should make my own tutorial on how to do this variation because, from what the internet is telling me, it must not be all that common.  It’s really difficult to describe how it works and I can’t find any videos of this particular variation in action, but the basic idea is that instead of a fixed tie-down point, you put a loop at the end of the rope that normally would be tied off.  This loop can be used as your tie spot for the trucker’s hitch.  This gives the knot the benefit of being able to be tied around something rather than having two tie-down points.  If there is any interest, I’ll see about making a video or picture tutorial of this variation.

But then, maybe there isn’t much call for knot tying tutorials on a blog that’s supposed to be about geeking out.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

A visitor to my blog requested that I post a picture of the new-style car-seat strap I’d made in an earlier post, so while I certainly went back and did that, I figured a whole follow-up post is merited since I really didn’t do a very good job of describing the process.

So, I made another one and took pictures as I put it together:

What you’ll need:
3 sturdy rings*
1 length of sturdy rope or cord (between 3 and 6 feet long.  closer to 3 if doing a single loop, and closer to 6 if doing a double as shown here)

Oh no!

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