Saturday, February 1, 2014

Smaug and the desolation of my crocheting skills

A note for the uninitiated: Smaug is the dragon in J.R.R. Tolkien's book, The Hobbit. Anyone who has spent a good amount of time with my husband, Andrew, knows of his love for all things Tolkien.  So, when I came across Christine Nast's amigurumi pattern for Smaug, the fearsome dragon who terrorizes Middle Earth and lays on top of his treasure under a mountain for a ridiculously long time, Andrew's eyes lit up and he begged me to crochet it for him.

This is NOT a hard pattern.  It is adequately-written, and if you follow all of the instructions you can even add LED lights for the dragon's eyes (yeah, I skipped that part).  But for several reasons, this pattern and I had a rough go.

Problem #1: I am such a tight crocheter that when I followed the pattern for the wings, they ended up all curly and wouldn't lie flat.  So, I crocheted 4 wings and slipstitched two layers together to make two double-thick wings.

Problem #2: Andrew had a fairly specific picture of Smaug in his mind, so he helped me come up with the design for Smaug's neck frill.  Unfortunately, I am not that great a crochet designer, so it took me several attempts to actually crochet something that looked like what Andrew was describing.

Problem #3: For some reason, I had trouble with the pattern's instructions for a forked tail (which the pattern author had based on the image of Smaug that Tolkien painted in his watercolor entitled "Conversations with Smaug"). So, I freehanded this forked tail.

Problem #4: By far the biggest issue I had was that the belly coloring (which is done by switching back and forth between the body color and the belly color as you crochet the body) is not symmetrical.  That caused me to have a really hard time sewing the legs and the wings on because I could NOT get them placed properly.  Symmetrical detailing is an issue that all amigurumi crocheters have, and this pattern was giving me fits.  ANYWAY, I ended up completely unraveling (or "frogging") the entire body and tail, re-doing it in one color, and free-handing a separate belly piece to be sewed on later.

Problem #5: I am a bad surface crocheter (crocheting on the surface of an already-crocheted piece); in this case, I was trying to crochet the pink sparkly spine onto Smaug after he was already stuffed.  The pattern called for you to add the spine before he was stuffed, but for reasons I can't even begin to get into, I needed to stuff this poor dragon before I could add the spine.  Getting the spine right took two attempts and it was pretty hard on my hands.

Enough complaining.

On to my favorite detail!  Smaug lays on top of his treasure for so long that some of it becomes fused to his belly and chest, acting as armor, making it hard for the dwarves to kill him.  I wasn't satisfied with just crocheting the belly piece out of metallic yarn (my first idea), so I ended up spending about 3 1/2 hours sewing individual metallic beads on the belly panel to simulate his treasure "shield".

Sooooo, there's supposed to be one bare area on his chest that a dwarf aims for to finally kill this mean old dragon with an arrow.  Unfortunately, the metallic beads kind of blend in with the metallic yarn I used, so you can't see the bare spot all that well in these pictures.  It's more obvious in person (especially when you run your fingers over the area).  Oh well. Live and learn.

At any rate, Smaug is FINISHED and Andrew loves him.  Maybe when the sun decides to shine again, I'll take this dragon outside and try to get a good shot of him laying on some treasure (maybe Sonia's plastic gold doubloons?).  I don't think I'll attempt this pattern again any time soon (especially because I idiotically did not take notes on my freehanded items), but I'm happy with this result.

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