Octopus Amigurumi

Amigurumi Projects, For Science!

Just in time for the holidays, it’s… an octopus. Merry Octopusmas?

Octopus 2

I had scrap yarn left over from making these cozy legwarmers and decided to play around and come up with a new pattern. I’ve made octopi before but all the patterns I could find online were chibi… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Octopus 4

What you’ll need:

  • worsted weight yarn in whatever colour you want your octopus to be (Caron Simply Soft in Pagoda used here)
  • contrasting colour for suction cups, if you want to make suction cups (I used scrap pink fuzzy yarn of mysterious provenance)
  • size F/3.75mm crochet hook
  • 15 mm safety eyes
  • yarn needle

The octopus is made in 2 pieces: top and bottom, which are sandwiched together with stuffing in the middle. The top and bottom of the legs don’t match perfectly: this is deliberate and makes them want to curl.

Abbreviations: stitches used are single crochet (sc), increase (inc), invisible decrease (invdec), slip stitch (sl st), chain (ch), and half double crochet (hdc).

First make the top, starting with the head, working in the round:

  • 1) sc x 6 in magic ring (6)
  • 2) inc x 6 (12)
  • 3) (inc, sc) x 6 (18)
  • 4) (inc, sc x 2) x 6 (24)
  • 5) (inc, sc x 3) x 6 (30)
  • 6) (inc, sc x 4) x 6 (36)
  • 7-11) sc around x 5 rounds (36)
  • 12) (invdec, sc x 4) x 6 (30)
  • 13) sc around x 1 round (30)
  • 14) (invdec, sc x 3) x 6 (24)
  • 15-16) sc around x 2 rounds (24)
  • 17) sc x 8, hdc x 8, sc x 8 (24)
    • these steps make the head angled instead of straight on
  • 18) sc x 6, hdc x 12, sc x 6 (24)
  • 19) sc x 4, hdc x 16, sl st x 4 (24)
  • 20-22) sl st x 4, hdc x 16, sl st x 4 for 3 rounds (24)
  • 23) sl st x 4, hdc x 16, sc x 4 (24)
  • 24) (sc x 2, inc) x 8 (32)
    • these steps make the tops of the 8 legs rounded
  • 25) (sc x 2, inc x 2) x 8 (48)
  • 26) (sc x 4, inc x 2) x 8 (64)
  • 27) (sc x 6, inc x 2) x 8 (80)
  • 28) (sc x 8, inc x 2) x 8 (96)

You have a head with a fluttery border. Now make legs, one at a time, working back and forth instead of in the round:

  • sc x 6 (aligns you to start the first leg) then…
  • ***sc x12
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 11
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 10
  • ch 1, turn, sc x10 for 2 rows
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 9
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 9
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 8
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 8
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 7
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 7
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 6
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 6 for 3 rows
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 5
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 5
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 4
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 4
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 3
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 3 for 7 rows
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 2
  • ch 1, turn, sc x2
  • turn (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 1, FO and leave tail***

Octopus 1 leg


To make 7 more legs, flip your octopus over. Start with a sl st on the left side of previous leg (on underside), then repeat the leg pattern above from *** to ***. The top half is done.

Octopus new leg

Now start a new piece and make the bottom half, starting with the centre, working in the round:

  • 1) 6 sc in magic ring (optional: use a contrasting colour for this round to make a mouth)
  • 2) change to your regular colour, (inc) x 6 (12)
  • 3) (inc, sc) x 6 (18)
  • 4) (inc, sc x 2) x 6 (24)
  • 5) (inc, sc x 3) x 6 (30)
  • 6) (inc, sc x 4) x 6 (36)
  • 7) (inc, sc x 5) x 6 (42)
  • 8) (inc, sc x 6) x 6 (48)
  • 9) (inc, sc x 7) x 6 (54)

Octopus bottom

You’ll have a hexagon with a mouth in the middle. Make the bottom of the first leg:

  • inc, sc x 6, inc along edge of bottom piece
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 8 (8) for 3 rows
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 7 (7)
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 7 (7)
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 6 (6)
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 6 (6)
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 5 (5))
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 5 (5)
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 4 (4)
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 4 (4)
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 3 (3)
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 3 (3) for 7 rows
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 2 (2)
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 2 (2) for 5 rows
  • turn, (don’t ch, skip 1st sc), sc x 1 (1)
  • ch 1, turn, sc x 1 (1) for 3 rows, FO and leave tail

Repeat this 7 more times around until you have 8 leg-bottoms.

You now have 2 pieces:

Octopus pieces

Attach the safety eyes. If you’re making suction cups, sew them to the bottom of the legs before you sew the octopus together. Suction cups are just 6 sc in a magic ring for the most proximal (then 5 sc, 4 sc, 3 sc for smaller ones), and french knots for the tiniest ones at the ends. Here’s a video tutorial for french knots if you’d like one.

Now all you need to do is sew the 2 pieces together, stuffing as you go. I’d suggest attaching the tips of the legs together first and working your way in (it’s easier to stuff that way).

Making Games from Scratch

For Science!, Gamer Crafts

And now for something completely different: making your own video games! You might play my game and think: “Hmmm, this just looks like someone spent a few hours goofing around”, and you’d be right. I had quite a bit of fun playing with Scratch and making a simple, functional game. It’s a great place to start making games if you want to get your toes wet.

Click the picture to play (in a new window: WordPress doesn’t accept embeds from Scratch).

Scratch in space 1

Scratch in space 2

I don’t own Portal, Space Core, or Companion Cubes but I hope Valve doesn’t mind me using them for my homework project.

Here’s my sister’s game Zombie in Space: she drew all the sprites, even the braaaaaains! I love that we both independently decided to make space games :)

Zombie in space Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 3.17.46 PM

I’m starting to upgrade my programming skills, which haven’t developed much since I used to make my name bounce around the Commodore 64 in rainbow colours. Ah, those were the days. If you’re so inclined, try out Scratch and make a game too: it’s an intuitive interface and easy to play with, even with no prior programming experience.

Go to the Scratch home page and make a free account to get started…

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 5.15.57 PM

You’ll notice that instead of typing code, Scratch lets you drag and drop puzzle pieces together to make commands.  The graphical interface is intuitive and relatively easy to figure out.

Pick a background, pick a sprite, and add some commands to tell your sprite how to behave.  There are plenty of tutorials online, but you can also get pretty far just by goofing around.  “If space bar pressed, move 10 steps” means that if you press the space bar, your sprite moves 10 steps.  Nothing cryptic, and no syntax to worry about.  Best of all, it’s free and runs in your browser window!

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 5.33.28 PM

Happy game making :)


Large Hadron Collider Quilt

For Science!, Sewing Projects

My winter project is done!  Inspired by the textile art of Kate Findlay, and using the Compact Muon Solenoid as my muse, I’ve finally finished the Large Hadron Collider quilt.  It’s 130 cm (about 53 inches) squared.  It’s hard to tell from the photographs, but the silver fabric is sparkly and the silver thread is metallic and shiny.  Yes, I’m a magpie with opposable thumbs.

Large Hadron Collider quilt close up

Embroidered on the back is a wee Carl Sagan quote that I thought was fitting:

Large Hadron Collider quilt Carl Sagan quote

Making a quilt is simple: just create a design, pick out some nice fabrics, and voila!  Five months later, you’ve spent a heck of a lot of time making a fancy blanket.  Of course, said blanket is also a nerdy piece of art, so if making a Large Hadron Collider quilt wins in your hedonic calculus, here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Sanity check

Are you sure you want to do this?  Quilt-making, like cross stitch, requires a significant amount of time and patience.  It really did take me five months from inception to completion, although I only worked on it from time to time, and it’s only my third quilt (the Portal companion cube quilt was my second).  If you’d like to dip a toe without all the commitment of a full-size quilted blanket, try a pillow or a small wall hanging first.

Step 2: Make a design

You know the saying “measure twice, cut once?”  Do that.  No, really.  Few things are more frustrating than realizing you made a measurement mistake and having to re-do a whole lot of sewing.  I started with a few sheets of sketching newsprint and drew out exactly what I wanted the quilt to look like.  This is also a great excuse to get out your old geometry set.

LHC quilt in progress 1

LHC quilt in progress 2Now that you have your paper pattern, you can cut out the pieces, and add a seam margin (1/4″ used here) to make your final pattern.

Step 3: Pick your fabrics

I’d recommend against spending a lot on fabric if you’re new to quilting.  For the record, everything used here was $3-$5/m on sale at Fabricland.  Recycled fabric works well too.

LHC quilt in progress 3

Step 4: Try out a small piece of your pattern

If you have a repeating element, start by cutting just enough fabric to make one.  I tried out a few iterations before I found the colour combination I liked best.

LHC quilt in progress 4

Step 5: Go crazy and cut all the pieces

This can be done while doing other things, like watching reruns of Storage Wars.

LHC quilt in progress 5

Step 6: Sew everything together

Start with each section (each repeating unit), then sew the sections together.  I used patchwork and applique, machine and hand sewing.  The more you can do by machine, the less time it will take.

LHC quilt in progress 6

Step 7: Make the back

Once you have something that resembles the front of a blanket, cut a piece of same-sized fabric for the back.  Place your front and back right-sides together, and sew three of the four edges together.  Now sew most of the fourth edge together, leaving a hole at least as big as your arm.

Step 8: Add quilt batting

Cut a piece of quilt batting the same size as your quilt.  Optional: use some washable fabric glue to tack down the batting so it doesn’t migrate all over the place when you turn it inside out.

LHC quilt in progress 7

Step 9: Turn the whole thing inside out

Turn the whole thing inside out, using the hole you left in Step 7.  Even if you used fabric glue, your batting probably still bunched up and migrated all over the place.  Stick your arm in the hole and skootch the batting all the way to the edges, and smooth it down.

Step 10: Quilting time

Unless you are part of a quilting circle (in which case: cool!), I’d recommend doing all the quilting by machine to save time.  Start by pinning all the edges, making sure the quilt batting hasn’t migrated again.  Sew around the edges until you get to the hole you left.

LHC quilt in progress 8Now, close the hole by hand.  I used a running subcuticular stitch to make it invisible.  I’m sure there’s a non-medical name for this stitch that sounds less creepy, but if you google it you’ll get the idea.

LHC quilt in progress 9

Once all the edges are done, quilt the rest of the blanket until you’re happy with it.  I only quilted along the major lines (so far, anyway), but you could certainly make it more like a traditional quilt.

I should mention that metallic thread, although eye-catching and shiny, is a real nuisance to work with.  It made a nice accent but I wouldn’t use it for anything structural since it has a tendency to snap.

Science FTW… if you make one too I’d be happy to post a pic or link on the blog :D

White Blood Cell (Leukocyte) Amigurumi

Amigurumi Projects, For Science!

More science-inspired amigurumi!  This little white blood cell plushie can be crocheted up very quickly and is darned cute IMHO.  It’s about 10cm tall, about the same size as the red blood cell pattern I posted earlier.

You’ll need:

  • white or off-white yarn (worsted weight shown here)
  • size F/3.75 mm crochet hook
  • safety eyes (15 mm here)

Stitches used are single crochet (sc), increase (inc), and invisible decrease (invdec).

Body (sphere):

  • 1) 6 sc in magic ring (6)
  • 2) inc x 6 (12)
  • 3) *sc, inc* x 6 (18)
  • 4) *sc x 2, inc* x 6 (24)
  • 5) *sc x 3, inc* x 6 (30)
  • 6) *sc x 4, inc* x 6 (36)
  • 7) *sc x 5, inc* x 6 (42)
  • 8-15) sc around for 8 rounds (42)
  • 16) *sc x 5, invdec* x 6 (36)
  • 17) *sc x 4, invdec* x 6 (30)
  • 18) *sc x 3, invdec* x 6 (24)… add safety eyes
  • 19) *sc x 2, invdec* x 6 (12)
  • 20) invdec around until hole can be covered by flap, FO and weave in tail

Bumps (okay, they’re not really bumps, but they look that way):

  • 1) 4 sc in magic ring (4)
  • 2) inc x 4 (8), sl st, FO and leave tail to sew to body

Make as many bumps as you like and sew them on (actual WBCs have many more, and they’re smaller, but this is a chibi version).


San Francisco is Geek Paradise

For Science!, Random Musings

I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco, and finally got the chance a few weeks ago.  Between the aquarium, Exploratorium, Academy of Sciences, and other science-themed museums and attractions, I feel as though I could have spent a month there and still not run out of things to do.  One of the highlights of my trip, though, was a visit to a place called Noisebridge.

That’s a hacked payphone at the entrance – you have to enter a code to be let in – it reminded me of old Get Smart episodes :)  They’re a non-profit educational collective – aka hackerspace – offering sessions on everything from vegan cooking to zinemaking to Raspberry Pi, or just space to work on projects where no one will look suspiciously at your giant robot.

Once a week they host Circuit Hacking Mondays, where noobs like myself can learn new skills and try their hand at, well, circuit hacking.  It’s free to go, and they have kits and parts you can buy (at cost) if you’d like.  I wanted to learn how to solder safely, so I put together a little RGB LED light kit that slowly changes colours.  If I build a little lampshade to go around it I’ll have a trippy mood light:

So if you live in the San Francisco area, or are there for a visit, be sure to check out Noisebridge!  In the meanwhile, I’m still working my way through the Make:Electronics book, trying to come up with an interesting art/electronics project to sink my teeth into.  Now if only I could get my hands on some conductive thread…

Star Baby Blanket (Crochet)

For Science!

Okay… baby blankets aren’t all that geeky, but I made this one for a friend of mine’s little peanut.  Stars, outer space, babies: what’s not to love?

There are quite a few free crochet blanket patterns online, but most of them look like the sort of thing your grandmother would make, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I wanted something more modern, and found this pattern at the Bernat website. It’s free but you have to log in.

So if you know any adorable little future astronauts, I’d highly recommend this pattern.  It was easy to make and worked up quickly, and you can continue the pattern for as many rounds as you like to make a large or small blanket.


For another crochet blanket in a more modern style, here’s a Streamwave blanket I made for my baby nephew in Da Bears colours. Free pattern here on Ravelry.Streamwave blanket in Bears colours

Crocheted Hyperbolic Plane (scarf)

For Science!, Geek Fashion

Do you love math?  Live in a cold climate?  If so, may I suggest crocheting yourself a hyperbolic plane, which is conveniently also wearable as a scarf.  It’s a lovely representation of hyperbolic geometry, with the added bonus of being a simple and easy project.  I was searching for nerdy scarf patterns when I came across the Crochet Coral Reef project: start with a chain and increase every nth stitch to obtain any number of interesting shapes.  Er… no pun intended.

Here’s what the result looks like with bulky weight alpaca blend yarn, a size K/6.5 mm crochet hook, and an increase every 4th stitch.  I’m not sure I’m totally happy with the scarf, as I made it too long and it’s rather heavy.  I may frog the whole thing and start over with a larger hook, but in the meanwhile I have something to keep me warm and toasty until spring comes back.


Or, with your leftover yarn and a size H/5 mm crochet hook, sc x 6 in a magic ring and increase every stitch to make a hyperbolic pseudosphere…

Hyperbolic pseudosphere crochet

Red Blood Cell Amigurumi

Amigurumi Projects, For Science!

Amazing what you can get done while procrastinating, isn’t it?  That’s my justification, anyway.  Here’s a very simple pattern to crochet an erythrocyte (red blood cell), but if you leave out the middle piece the same pattern could be used for any toroid shape.  Like a donut, or .  Just sayin’.

Outer ring:

  1. ch 12
  2. sc x 3 (1st in ‘tail’ of chain to close the circle), hdc x 5, sc x 4 (12)
  3. sc x 3, then continue around hdc x 5, sc x 7 in each round until ring can be closed

This may take more than or fewer than 32 rounds depending on your yarn and hook size (worsted weight yarn and 3.75 mm hook used here, for a finished size of 8cm/3″). Stuff and sew closed, affixing safety eyes (15mm here) if goofy-looking RBC is desired.

Center disc:

  1. 6 sc in magic ring (6)
  2. inc x 6 (12)
  3. inc x 6 in 1st 6 sc (more if needed depending on size of donut hole)

Sew in place. LOL a bit. Then check out this video of Party Rock Anthem and contemplate using the pattern to make an ‘O’.