Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Finished: Lord of the Rings PotHolders

This particular project gave me a small host of problems, which is part of the reason I have been lax in reporting on it. I was excited for the January 2015 Geek and Nerd Swap because the theme was Imaginary Worlds and I love those in my fantasy. I had gushed about Lord of the Rings in my introduction to the swap, and since I knew January was going to be a busy month I started pre-planning hat and fingerless mitt projects around LOTR cultures and places.

Then I received my partner assignment, and found that while she would love to visit Middle Earth, she was more interested in home furnishings than accessories. That derailed my planning, because as the observant will have picked up I primarily make accessories. My home d├ęcor projects are limited to the occasional afghan and those potholders I made for my mother. So it was back to the drawing board for me.

Furthermore, Middle Earth is awash in famous, well-known objects to imitate, but most of them are weapons or jewelry, and neither seemed suitable for a mother with small children. She had said that after a trip to Middle Earth she'd bring back "the joking and festive mood of the hobbits, the view of the World of the elves and the Magic of Gandalf".  I found myself thinking about Rose Gamgee, nee Cotton, and her children, listening to stories of faraway lands when Sam’s friends came to visit. I imagined a little hobbit lass admiring the symbols on their clothes and armor, and then trying to imitate them as she crafted with her mother. To fit that setting, I made potholders.
I decided to wing this pattern, drawing up charts for major Middle Earth symbols and then adding them to simple crocheted squares via two-color crochet. I wanted to crochet them as it would produce a thicker, non-flexible fabric that I thought would hold up in the kitchen better, and would be easier on my hands when using cotton yarn. I’d done two-color crochet before, and I thought that I would have fewer tension issues with crochet and the long sections of a single color that my charts would inevitably have. I worked up a gauge square, cooked up some charts (I could have easily made seven different charts), and was off.
While most of that plan was just fine, I hadn’t taken quite enough technical knowledge of crochet into account. For one, the front and the back of single crochet (American term) stitches are not identical, so that would show if working flat. Furthermore, crochet stitches don’t naturally line up on top of each other, which is kind of necessary to make Lord of the Rings-type crests easily readable . After a week of frustration, I spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon watching tutorials on two-color crochet, revamped my approach and started over. These potholders are worked in the round, with the color not in use stranded loosely on the inside of the potholder. Stitches are worked through the back loop only, to give them more flexibility to stack nicely. Once I had my method down, I made three potholders.

The yarn is Schachenmayr Catania, a soft sport weight cotton that I can find locally in more than a dozen colors.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't particularly splitty and held up to frogging fairly well.

I picked three designs to try and represent some of the major races of Middle Earth.  For the men, there is the tree of Gondor in white on a black field, crowned by seven stars.  The original tree of Gondor grew from a fruit that Isildur stole from Nimloth, the white tree of Numenor.  The tree that Aragorn planted at the beginning of his reign was Gondor's fourth.

It was surprisingly difficult to pick a symbol to represent the elves, as Tolkien designed several crests for the elves most prominent in history, but nothing for Lothlorien or Rivendel.  I picked the crest of Earendil, the father of Elrond and ancestor of the Numenorean kings.  His wife Elwing was the granddaughter of Beren and Luthien, and she inherited the Silmaril her parents claimed after their deaths.  Earendil and Elwing successfully took the Silmaril to Valinor and convinced the Valar to aid Middle Earth once more, and Earendil the Mariner with the Silmaril became a star.  I particularly like this story because it links together the major elements of all the ages of Middle Earth, from the trees to the Silmarils to the Rings, through the light Galadriel gives Frodo.

The dwarves were comparitively easy, as I opened my copy of Lord of the Rings to the picture of the doors of Moria and started sketching.  This potholder shows the crest of Durin, first father of the Dwarves and founder of Khazad-dum, their greatest kingdom.  The legend states that when resting by the Mirrormere, Durin saw his reflection crowned with stars, and so decided to build his kingdom there.  His emblem was a hammer on an anvil below a crown and the seven stars.  I worked it in yellow, for the gold that Gandalf called the dwarves' plaything, and white for the mithril they loved.

As I said, I could have made more charts, for Rohan and Gandalf and the hobbits.  Anyone interested in having them?  I am debating writing up the instructions and charts for these into a formal pattern.

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