Fancypants neck brace, a knitting pattern

knitted neck brace, ready to be stamped on a coin

The first neck brace scarf was so quick that I was inspired to make another one. Usually I’m all about elaborate crafts that involve at least a year of delayed gratification, which I think makes me very vulnerable to the finished-object high. More more more!

I probably could have stopped before adding the fuzzy ruffle thing, but I wanted to make it weird. My vision was jellyfishy, but unless jellyfishes have a European royal court I’m not sure that really comes through. More of a bizarro-Elizabethan neck brace.

Here’s a snapshot through a dirty mirror that shows the front, and also, incidentally, a quite accurate representation of my personal idea of what I look like.

knitted neck brace, dirty mirror, self image

The creature itself looks like this.

neck brace laid out

Some patterns for knitting one.

  • Knit a long triangle. The decreases don’t have to be evenly placed.
  • I used random-width welts to make the fabric firm enough to stand up. (Alternating stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch.)
  • The main piece used about 50g of worsted weight yarn (one thrifted ball), on 4.5mm needles.
  • The ruffle took a few yards of mohair-esque stuff (again, thrifted and unlabelled) on 5.5mm… could have used much fatter needles for an airier ruffle.
  • I tried it on to place the buttons (actually a long cufflink-thing made out of two pearl beads and some embroidery floss), and to mark the start and end of the ruffle.

knitted neck brace / hall of mirrors

Purple neck brace, a knitting pattern

heroic knitting moment

I made this neck warmer in one afternoon, with no counting. Hooray! It even ended up with half a Darth Vader collar that I like, and made a couple dents in my crafting stash. Time for heroic poses in the bathroom mirror.

I was remembering this tapered neckwarmer and this scarflink (scroll to Oct 27, 2002) while I knitted.

It looks like this on its own, if you want to make something similar.

knitted neck brace laid out

This pattern is such a non-pattern that I insist on writing it formally, because it is funny.


  • 100g (60m) of thick and thin wool
  • 12mm needles
  • 2 buttons and thread


CO 22 sts.

Work in garter stitch, decreasing one at each end of random rows (approximately every 4-6 rows), down to 2 sts. K2tog.

Pull yarn through remaining stitch and leave the tail hanging out as a fastener.

Weave in the cast on end.

Sew or tie the two buttons together to make a cuff-link type thing. Button it into the outside layer of the scarf and wrap the tail around it to fasten. (Move or flip the button at will.)

The end.

reversible buttons for a scarf

All the ingredients have stories. Past projects, hand-me-downs, gifts, inheritances. That feels good.

Paging… a doctor… of some kind…

Knitted doctor mask

I’ve been trying to figure out who to name this knitted doctor mask after. It seems like surely there is a doctor who presides over fashion with accidental political relevance, the way Dr. Freud presides over objects with accidental sexual inuendo. Perhaps I am confusing doctors with saints.

Galen, in a heroic effort to work with my vague doctor-related presentiments, suggested Dr. Lagerfeld as the patron doctor of fashion. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. No, he isn’t really a doctor.

Free knitting pattern: cozy doctor mask

The mask is worked in stockinette stitch with a narrow garter stitch border, with garter stitch ear straps attached afterwards. The mask has decreasing short rows to shape the chin, and increasing short rows to shape the nose. It’s surprisingly warm and cozy to wear!

  • Gauge: 4.25 sts and 6 rows per inch
  • Needles: 4.5mm (or size to obtain gauge)
  • Yarn: under 25g of worsted weight
  • Size: adult (one size)

Row 1 (RS): sl 1, P2, K to last 3 sts, P3.
Row 2 (WS): sl 1, P to end.

These two rows make up the pattern (stockinette bordered by a 3-stitch garter border).

Main mask

Beginning at bottom edge, CO 30 sts.
Row 1 (RS): sl 1 knitwise, P to end.
Row 2 (begin short row shaping): sl 1 knitwise, P to last 3 sts, wrap and turn.
Row 3: K to last 3 sts, wrap and turn.
Row 4: P to last 4 sts, wrap and turn.
Row 5: K to last 4 sts, wrap and turn.
Continue in this fashion until you have wrapped a total of 5 sts on each side.
Row 12: P across (working wraps together with sts).
Row 13 (RS): work in pattern, working wraps together with sts.
Continue working in pattern for 12 more rows, except m1 inside each border on rows 15 and 23
Row 26 (WS): sl 1, P to last 7 sts, wrap and turn.
Row 27: K to last 7 sts, wrap and turn.
Row 28: P to previous wrap, P wrap together with st, wrap and turn.
Row 29: K to previous wrap, K wrap together with st, wrap and turn.
Continue in this fashion (keeping in pattern), until you have wrapped 5 sts on each side (the last wraps will be on the 3rd sts from the edges).
Row 36 (WS): P across.
Row 37 (RS): sl 1, P across.
Row 38: sl 1, P across.
Row 39: BO all sts purlwise.


Pick up 3 sts at top of left edge of mask. Work in garter stitch until strap is long enough to fit around ear. BO all sts. Sew end of strap to bottom of left edge of mask.

Repeat on right side of mask.


Weave in ends.

Tips and notes

The mask is pretty warm, and I think it would be a great alternative to a scarf. A face-warmer, rather than a neck-warmer. The obvious accessory would be matching gloves (ready for surgery!).

I can’t stop obsessing about the timeliness of a mask. It’s a disguise, in an era of paranoia about privacy and spying. It’s a gag, in an era of paranoia about censorship and secrecy. It’s a veil— one level more retro than burlesque. It’s kitschy like ninjas or pirates. It’s a surrogate beard for the ladies, since hipster facial hair doesn’t seem to be going away.

Three favourite recent masks:

Justin Timberlake in a bandit mask

Harajuku cosplayer on Flickr

Santos hoodie by Anticon

My head is full of plans for masks made of lace, eyelets, stripes, and checkers. Or tweed, for business situations.

Ready the moisturizer

This sensory-deprivation floating tank sounds like something I could make at home, using my accidental stockpile of Epsom salts. (I tend to buy supplies, then come home and discover I’ve already bought some. Ask Galen about the quantities of cornmeal we amass before I remember to make polenta.)

Why have I never thought to make a super-floaty bath? Saturating a bath with 10 pounds of Epsom salts would be a good way to use up that part of my craft stash.

Having made several small projects without putting a noticeable dent in the stash, I’m remembering that my original intention with the stash manifesto was to make huge craft projects. Things you can only accomplish with ten pounds of origami paper, not small things here and there. Floating tank, several pints of Epsom salts… I think it counts.

Color This Book

Galen got me a present in Anacortes. Best present ever! I didn’t know I would be so excited about an indie colouring book, but it’s really blowing my mind. This is the first time I’ve done any colouring since I’ve been obsessed with colour schemes and combinations. Playing with colour schemes is a lot more fun when you’re starting from a picture of say, a pensive rhinoceros writing its memoirs, or a knitting squirrel!

I just mailed this one to my parents (for the fridge). It’s red and blue, and coming to getcha.

Monsters for Peace colouring page

Mini me

More photos from forgotten file directories. This is me, looking cute and androgynous in a bunny hat I knitted, in December 2002. I was 23. I look a lot younger— the soft (aka crap) focus probably helps. Everybody has baby skin in blurry photos.

I like this one, where I’m making a rabbit face.

Younger me, in a bunny hat

And this one, where I’m making a… stern rabbit face

Younger me, in a bunny hat

I taught myself to knit by inventing that hat, during a 40 hour bus ride to Winnipeg. I double-knit the ears on two straight needles, including the cables on the front and back. For any non-knitters reading this, that’s fucked up, that’s self-torture. When I think about how I learn, this is the project I think of: I don’t so much go for baby steps.

These photos are very funny to me— they might as well have been taken to document the dawn of the current era of me. I was about to be self-employed, living in the first apartment after deciding I only wanted to live in corner suites in Fairfield, addicted to knitting, and cultivating a potted jungle in my apartment. I stand by all those decisions! Way to go, stern bunny, for laying solid foundations.

Mossy scarf (with free knitting pattern)

Mossy scarf

Yikes! This classically headless blogger-photo was clearly taken in the fall. Hopefully last fall and not years ago! I found it during an expedition into one of the dustier corners of my hard drive.

It’s a scarf I made from some thrift store yarn.

I tried a few different stitch patterns before settling on this. The pattern made me happy immediately and I still think it really suits the yarn. It reminds me of Old Man’s Beard lichen in a big way.

Dropstitch garter is the True Destiny of skinny, gray-green, wool boucle. Who knew?

If you can’t work out the pattern from the photo, it goes like this (very easy and straightforward).

Mossy scarf

Gauge, needles, etc: whatever, it’s a scarf. Aim on the loose side.

CO 20 (or more)
Rows 1 and 2: K to end.
Row 3: K, wrapping yarn twice. Drop extra wraps on next row.
Repeat these three rows until scarf is desired length.

One 50g ball made a very, very long scarf. I wear it folded in half, wrapped twice around my neck and it still hangs to my waist.

Mossy scarf

Bride of the Unicorn necklace

Bride of the Unicorn necklace

I’m not sure whether all green and white jewellery would look bridal, or whether it has to involve tiny pearls and botanical clusters. This necklace ended up with an overpowering resemblance to a wreath of ivy and grapes. It is a hairband for a unicorn, or better yet a wedding bower for fairies. I can’t wear this. I am not bethrothed to a pegasus, and I feel it would give the wrong impression.

I started to get misgivings before I even finished making it— same method as yesterday’s necklace— but I was determined to keep up my stash-into-treasure momentum. I gave Bride of the Unicorn a couple of weeks and tried it with different outfits, but no dice.

I figure if I can find a big unicorn pendant to hang off one side of this, I might be able to bring it back from the edge of whimsy, back into territory controlled by the Empire of Irony. (Just thinking about the necklace is apparently enough to shift me into the conventions of epic fantasy. Thus begins the Age of The Reluctant Bride and her Pearly Necklace!)

Space Race: a necklace

My new necklace, plus some bananas

I’ve been getting the feeling that turning my entire crafting stash into finished objects is not really going to be about emptying my stash closet. Plunging into the bead portion of my inventory is making this even more clear: this endeavour is about generating masses and masses of treasure.

I suddenly have three necklaces to my name, and the stash has not gotten visibly smaller. It doesn’t take many beads to make a necklace, at least in the context of my 15 pound supply. Either I need to make a lot of necklaces, or I need to reconsider my decision not to make another beaded curtain.

This is copycat jewellery

I copied this necklace

The first necklace to come out of my stash is my attempt at copying something that caught my eye at the Starving Artist Bazaar. The original was fluorescent red and blue, which triggered my spider senses from afar.

I haven’t attempted to make jewellery since I was about 8 years old, so I’m still getting my inspiration really directly and obviously. I like to think of this in the spirit of sketching from masterpieces.

I’m excited to figure out how to make more things up out of my head, though. All those neck bones and cords to work with!

Basic ingredients and method

I used two units of stash:

  • a bag of about 50 pointy, purple, glass beads
  • a collection of 5 aqua blue, glass beads

Then I went and ruined it by buying more crafting supplies!

  • a length of black cord (used half)
  • a spool of silver wire, which has definitely settled into stash status
  • a set of clasps

It took about an hour to make this, mostly spent figuring out how jewelry works.

I settled on twisting the wire around a pencil to make a long spiral and threading beads onto that. Then I threaded the black cord into the spiral (easy), and pulled the wire at both ends to tighten it against the cord. I poked some of the beads around and made an extra loop to create that bump of blue, then clamped on the clasps.

I judge this a success

I’ve been wearing this a lot. The colours and the blue orbs remind me of retro visions of space. Space Race: a Necklace!

Focus on: Space Race necklace

How are we going to get all these bears back in?

Orca In The City

Victoria has a history, and I think a proud history, of shitty public art. Until recently, the scope of debate could be summed up as a war between abstract sculptures that annoy old people and hockey fans, and a teeming horde of orcas.

Orca murals, orca mosaics, orca sidewalk chalk, maybe an eagle or a salmon painted somewhere for good measure, but most prominently, a whole army of mass-produced, fiberglass Orcas In The City sculptures, each decorated by a different local artist.

Orcas In The City were bland and oppressive (seriously— the organizers put ‘Arts’ in quotations in their goal statement), but no one was supposed to complain about them because they were only temporary and they were auctioned for charity. Think of the children.

I flipped the bird on one of the more overtly branded Orcas at least once, but I regret never having ruined a tourist’s Orca family portrait by humping an exposed tail flipper or something. I have a lingering vendetta about the Orcas, with apologies to The Children.

Enter Spirit Bears

Spirit Bear featuring a funky neighbourhood scene

Suddenly, this spring, a new menace. Sir Bartholomew is not alone, and he’s even less distinguishable from the other Spirit Bears In The City than was the typical Orca In The City. A spirit bear is a white grizzly bear, if you’re not familiar with Pacific Northwest variations on junior high unicorn-and-kitten fetishes, and the decoration jobs seem to have been rationed out exclusively to the artists who made their Orca contributions look the most like the inside of a Starbucks. It’s wall to wall funky neighbourhood scenes. I know I’m biased towards neon red and blue as the official colours of 2006, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that yellow and purple should take a well-deserved break. Let yellow and purple recover from their hard work portraying free spirits and Italian snack foods.

Worst of all, the Spirit Bears have broken free of the tourist containment zone and have been popping up as far from the Inner Harbour as Island Blue printers. I yelled out loud when I spotted the specimen at Fort and Quadra.

What’s a concerned citizen to do? How are we going to get all these bears back in?

Toronto got saddled with Moose In The City, so apparently this ride doesn’t hit bottom until it has dipped deep into Canadiana cliché pap. This aggression must not stand! Besides writing to the organizers at the Lions Club and begging them to at least consider funny animals for future mass-blanding fundraisers (goats are a good standby), what is the fitting response?

Three different people have suggested blowing up the bears somehow, but I’m taken with this Knitta Please textile graffiti. I don’t have the time or the tendon health to knit any quantity of bear shrouds, but I think some sewn hoods secured with zip ties would do the trick. As much as the bears stimulate my gag reflex, I’m a non-destructive kind of person and I wouldn’t want to actually destroy someone’s art.

I favour a sign reading “Out of Order” as the finishing touch.