Friday, August 4, 2017

FO: Melvin the Manatee

This project spawned from real life inspiration. My husband and I were walking our dog at night along the dock at my complex when I heard coughing in the water. It turned out to be porpoises, and they swam right up next to the dock under the street light so we could see them as they hunted for fish. It looked like a young one was being taught. I was so excited that I insisted on walking back down the dock to see where they went and possibly watch them again. We walked along staring at the water, and when were almost to the edge of my complex we saw a large dark mass swim into the light along the dock - a manatee! Even though I live on the water, it has been a long time since I was in the right place at the right time to see any wildlife like this. Then I was so excited about the manatee that I insisted we walk all the way back down the down again to watch him. I'm very glad we did because in between lighted areas we were able to see his outline from the bioluminescent algae that clung to him, so he was a glowing outline of a manatee swimming slowly down our dock. He stopped a few times where fresh water ran off our property and we got to watch him drink it up :) It was so neat. And I am a total nerd, but I was excited like a little kid. I had a lot of fun. Once the manatee swam past the span of the dock, I waved goodbye and walked home. My husband looked at me and said, "You're going to knit yourself a manatee now, aren't you?" I went inside and immediately pulled out the yarn and started knitting :)
This is Melvin (I also named the real manatee Melvin, so this is an homage). I've had the Manatee pattern by Rachel Borello Carroll of Yarnigans in my stash for a lont time, but this finally gave me cause to knit it up. I'm so glad I finally made this! The pattern was very well written and it was so quick to knit. I finished this in just a few hours over 2 days.
You start at the nose and you can actually see the manatee's mouth take shape without the stuffing. I was impressed by how good it looked so early in the pattern. Once you finish the pattern has you embroider nostrils and a mouth, but really that's just to amp up the cute factor as you can see what it is without this touch. I used 6 mm safety eyes a,d just white embroidery floss for the face.
The back spirals shut very quickly like a hat and I love the shaping lines he gets. Since I was working immediately and late at night, I grabbed the best gray worsted yarn in my stash - this is vintage Patons Canadiana I got at a thrift store and it really is a great yarn (I'll be sad when it's all gone, lol).
If we're being technical - the tail should be much bigger, wider, and more rounded, but this is designed more to be a cute representation than a realistic one. If I was going realistic I would have to add barnacles and a healed boat propeller gash to his back (unfortunately this is normal). The whole body is knit seamlessly, which definitely helped speed up the process.
It's a knitting thing, I'm sure, but I get great satisfaction looking at those perfect increase lines :) I tried to attach the flippers as smoothly as possible, so I used a duplicate stitch. The mouth and nostrils were embroidered with a chain stitch. Take your time on the embroidery! I lost count of how many times I had to pull it out and try again because I wasn't happy with the shapes.
So that's my little Melvin :) I'm tempted to make him a small water bottle too just to commemorate our experience, lol. He's a fun little addition to my sewing room, and I'm so glad I have this little memento about a simple but memorable evening.

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