Chunky Little Manatee

Many people don’t know that manatees are closely related to elephants. In fact, if you look closely at a manatee’s flipper, you’ll see the remnants of nails and toes that resemble an elephant’s foot. Under an x-ray, they even look like human hands. Pretty cool.

myfwc.comManatee flipper under x-ray

Here in Brevard County, we are fortunate enough to see Florida manatees fairly often in the Indian River Lagoon (brackish water), and in nearshore coastal waters by way of going in and out of local man-made ship inlets.

They are also known as “sea cows” because they move slowly, but they are VERY powerful. I’ve gotten knocked off my paddleboard more than a few times by a manatee. Hey, they didn’t want ME on their lawn….I don’t blame ’em.

I still love manatees, and they’re a good indicator of the health of the Lagoon system, which is obviously very sick and toxic currently, heading into a state of eutrophication sadly.

So I wanted to share some of of this fun info with you, plus a pattern I made up to make your own little chunky manatee Amigurumi toy! It helps to know basic single crochet in the round for this pattern. Add a loop of heavy thread on top to turn it into an ornament for the holidays. Manatee Tree. Freakin’ cool.

Chunky Little Manatee Pattern (PDF file)

Stuffing the body of the manatee

Sewing the tail closed

Making the flippers

Fluke view

Front view

Manatees are cute, so they might get people’s attention.

I’d love to see this

Big Blue Button Amigurumi

Jellyfish are often misunderstood creatures in Florida, especially since they often hurt surfers with stings that range from annoying to scream worthy.

I’ve had my fill for a lifetime, believe me.

In actuality, many of these “jellyfish” are groups of polyps clinging together, drifting with the ocean’s currents. These type are known as Chondrophores, which include the Man O’ War, a particularly famous critter that gives humans a painful sting. However, there are other types of unique Chondrophores here in Florida that don’t pack quite the wallop.

Blue Button

Blue Buttons are part of this group, and can be found in Florida quite often. They are small (usually only 1-2 inches in diameter), but they are beautiful to look at. So, I decided to make a jumbo, huggable version out of yarn. Just because, of course.

Below I’ve shown a bit of my process in pictures for those into amigurumi:

I used three basic blues with a 3.5 mm hook

Making a circle for one side, starting to change color to make stripe

Using a half- color change technique

Top half done- I made it a bit taller

Bottom half

Two halves complete

Each tentacle is from 5-8 inches

Lots o’ tentacles

Pulling each tentacle into the half

Knotted inside and ends trimmed

Placing eyes

Stuffing and sewing shut

Top side

Surprise underneath!!

So happy together

At da beach….

With the oxygen levels dropping in the ocean as sea temperatures rise, expect to see more jellyfish (and colonies). They serve as a canary in the coal mine, if you will.

At least the signs of our stupidity will look pretty….

Keep overthinkin’ it

The Problem with Single Use Plastic

Unfortunately, I end up snagging some form of plastic trash from the water or off of the beach just about every time I go for a surf. In fact, last week, I pulled an empty bottle of bleach completely labeled in Spanish that was covered in barnacles. I wonder how far that may have travelled. If there was a note inside, the bleach ate it up.

My good friend Scrappy Yoga works with

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This is just a trashy issue, no matter what party you’re in

environmental groups and surfers trying to eliminate single use plastics from the chain. They just had a Press Conference in Santa Cruz, California, and it is one of those issues we can all get behind:

SURFERS AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS URGE CALIFORNIA LEADERS TO REDUCE SINGLE-USE PLASTIC POLLUTION

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I get this filled for only a buck

Being a Southern Girl, I am a rabid Diet Coke drinker, but I use a large reusable Big Gulp container with a reusable straw. Not only is it MUCH cheaper to get a refill at a convenience store, I never have to worry about throwing away straws or cups EVER. Most fast food places let me use this too, I just pay for the large drink, and fill ‘er up. There’s really no excuse, kids. And now I’ve got a place for all my Gnar stickers that no longer fit on the surf mobile. More surf cred??? Schweet.

On an old blog post, I made some surfboard art out of bits of plastic I found all over the beach,

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Shades of eternity

mostly around Cape Canaveral, even up into the Canaveral National Seashore unfortunately. Just that little project alone reminded me that just because I put that little plastic straw or fork in the wastebasket, doesn’t mean it evaporates into thin air…

 

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Or a cockroach 

Surfer’s Jewelry Tray Pattern

It’s been super mega frosty here in Florida lately. The water has been extra cold this season, hovering right around 60 degrees F, which is right at my tolerance level limit in a 4/3 wetsuit. I’ve surfed in 55 degree water before, and it felt like tiny needles on my hands when I paddled. More motivation for me to NOT wipeout. I lasted for a whole TWO waves before I needed to bathe in some hot soup.

In winter, I have to remember to take all of my jewelry off, including my wedding ring. Cold water will cause you to lose a priceless ring faster than you can say “Shark!” Ask a few surfers- they’ll have stories. Not going to embarrass anyone in particular, but I did learn to take my jewelry off from hearing their stories. And around here, the littoral drift means you’re probably not getting it back.

So I wouldn’t forget where I left my stuff when I get back home from surfing, I made a simple little jewelry tray with some waxed Linhasita cord and some simple crochet techniques. This little basket could also be done in fine hemp, but it won’t shape and hold up as well as the waxed cord will.

Here’s the pattern I came up with if you’re so inclined….

Surfer’s Jewelry Tray Pattern

Made in continuous rounds. I crochet tightly, so I used a 2.0 mm hook for this project with the Linhasita, but you may want to size up or down, depending on how “nautical” looking you want it. The firmer crochet in a tan/sand gives it a fisherman’s basket look. To me.

This is also a good reference for using this type of pattern: Crochet Abbreviations

1st Rnd: 10 sc in Magic Ring (10 st)

2nd Rnd: Make 2 sc in first sc from 1st rnd, place a marker in the first sc in this rnd. Make 2 sc in next sc in rnd, and in every sc around. (20 st)

3rd Rnd: Make 1 sc in the first sc (place marker), 2 sc in the next sc. Repeat this pattern until the end of the rnd. (30 st)

4th Rnd: Make 1 sc in each of the first 2 sc (place marker in first sc), then 2 sc in the third sc. Repeat this pattern until the end of the rnd. (40 st)

5th Rnd: Make 1 sc in each of the first 3 sc (place marker in first sc), then 2 sc in the fourth sc. Repeat this pattern until the end of the rnd. (50 st)

6th Rnd: Make 1 sc in each of the first 4 sc (place marker in first sc), then 2 sc in the fifth sc. Repeat this pattern until the end of the rnd. (60 st)

7th Rnd: Make 1 sc in each of the first 5 sc (place marker in first sc), then 2 sc in the sixth sc. Repeat this pattern until the end of the rnd. (70 st)

8th Rnd: Make 1 sc in each of the first 6 sc (place marker in first sc), then 2 sc in the seventh sc. Repeat this pattern until the end of the rnd. (80 st)

Now, here we’ll start making the sides of the Tray. I’ll crochet just a hair more loosely on the sides, allowing some stretch.

9th Rnd: Make 1 sc in FLO of first sc. Repeat this for the entire rnd. (80 st)

This round makes the base for the side.

10th-14th Rnds: Make 1 sc in BLO of first sc. Repeat this for the entire rnd. (80 st)

Bind off, weave in ends.

Shape the tray, hand pressing the bottom flat and hand shaping the sides outward.

Starfish Accent

I riffed off of the original motif pattern which can be found at this website, or you can check out my other Motif post.

I used a bit of fishing line to sew the motif onto the tray, like it’s going up the side.

Ready to use! I put my 4Oceans bracelet in the pic. If you buy a bracelet, they claim they pull 1 pound of trash out of the ocean.

WHOA…..what if MY pound they pulled contained 100 surfers’ lost wedding rings? I want in on that action, so I bought one of these bracelets. Just waiting for a call when I win my pound of trash.

What? That’s not how it works?

Anti-Shark Attack Hack

Just to preface this, if you are in between a juicy bait ball and a starved shark, a well timed punch between the shark’s eyes is the best defense. 

Having said that, there are a lot of gimmicks out there claiming to prevent a shark from attacking in the first place. A lot of pricey gimmicks, of course.

They spent A LOT of money, yo

 
There are SharkBanz, shark deterrent wetsuits, and shark repellent stickers to cover the bottom of your surfboard. While I’m not exactly impressed with the small neodymium magnets that so many surfers have been buying for $50+, I’ll actually admit that there may be something to the notion of a shark’s avoidance of poisonous sea snakes. At least enough for the shark to take avoidance measures over prey. Somewhat.
A shark’s vision isn’t the sharpest, so high contrast objects get the most attention- they’re easier to discern. Sea snakes are very poisonous to sharks, and have distinctively high contrast (black and white striped). 

Typical sea snake, unloved by sharks….

 

Since objects are usually spotted by a shark from below, rather deep in the water column, I figured the best place to put my “sea snake” would be within the back 1/3 area of my surfboard on the bottom. This area is usually somewhat parallel with the ocean floor whether I’m sitting, paddling, or surfing on my board, so it would be the prime location. If a shark looks upward, the “snake” would be visible from below. Or so the theory goes.
I used plain bright white and black duct tape for this project. This combo ensures optimal contrast, especially when waters can become murky at times.

I placed my duct tape supplies about where I was going to tape across

I put the white duct tape down first, then the little black cut strips of tape on top

Look at that shark SWIM AWAY! Wow!

I dig it with the Core Surf octopus sticker! Extra scary to any shark!

 

Hey, I don’t warranty ANY of this, yo. If you honestly want to believe any of these gimmicks are going to work 100% of the time, well….bless your heart….

He’s buying it

Pearl Knotting

As a crafter who likes ocean related stuff, I’ve always been drawn to the natural look of pearls. It’s got to be the “Little Mermaid” fantasy, with the mermaid chick sporting her shimmering green tail, shell pink bra, and always present choker of pearls.

You’ll never unsee this


Pearls are the only gemstone created by an animal, usually a type of oyster (saltwater pearls) or mussel (freshwater pearls). On the Mohs’ Hardness Scale, the pearl rates about 3.5 (can be scratched with a coin), so it’s fairly soft in comparison to other gems. Because of this, pearls are most commonly used in necklaces, as opposed to rings or bracelets, which must be able to endure harsher wear.

For many beaders like myself, freshwater pearls can be affordable to use in projects. They make nice, beachy looking jewelry as well. Cultured freshwater pearls tend to be a little more misshapen since they are almost entirely made up of nacre with a very small starter seed at its’ center. Cultured saltwater pearls, however, tend to be a thinner, more uniform veneer of nacre over a much larger starter seed inserted into the bivalve. The Wikipedia on cultured freshwater pearls is very interesting, and worth a read.

I used dyed cultured freshwater pearls in this necklace

I’ve been pearl knotting for years, and it’s a nice skill to learn, albeit very tricky. Pearls strung on silk need to be restrung about every decade (depending on wear), so knowing how to CAREFULLY string and knot delicate pearls can be a nice side gig. Here’s a great tutorial on the proper way to restring and knot pearls well. Pearls are usually knotted to prevent them from rubbing against each other and losing their luster. With knotting, it’s practice, practice, practice. Because of the soft nature of pearls, you have to become a patient knotter….and unknotter. It can feel a little surgical at times.

Tip: Knotting using thicker cord and big, cheap plastic beads at first will help you get a feel for how everything should lay and look before you try it on tiny, delicate pearls!
Personally, I like to use nylon cord for stringing and knotting instead of silk (unless I’m restoring a piece) because it’s far more durable and has less stretch over time. You can buy small cards of nylon or silk with needles already attached, which means you don’t need to double your thread. Bonus. There’s also a few knotting tools which help greatly as well.

By mixing colors, and spacing the pearl grouping an inch apart, it made the necklace more beachy, and less stuffy

 
Handmade cultured freshwater pearl necklaces can be wearable and casual enough for everyday if you design them with a few things in mind:

  • Use pearls with irregular shapes for an organic look.
  • Avoid using all white pearls unless you’re channeling Donna Reed.
  • The greater spacing between pearls, the more casual the piece appears.
  • Combine multiple sizes and colors of pearls to avoid a standardized appearance.
  • Use contrasting or coordinating color knotting cord to accentuate the pearls.

Tree ornament

Try out your hand at this skill and get your inner Mermaid on….

I’m in it for the Dinglehoppers

Sea Sluggin’ it out

imageimageSo I’ve been obsessed with Sea Slugs, Hares, and various Nudibranches lately. They are beautiful creatures, and come in many varieties.

 

A few weeks ago, I talked a little about Sea Hares, and I mentioned the Sea Slug Forum. This is a really cool site, and I’ve been learning a lot from it. They are related to snails, but their shell has pretty much disappeared into a thin shell plate on the inside. I’ve snagged a few neato diagrams from the site to show how the Sea Hare folds over the shell “remnant”.

Essentially, a lot of them look like a little folded taco with antennae if you’ve been looking at them too long. I thought this might be a crazy project with a bit of leftover polymer clay. So, I had a bit of fun.

I got all my polymer clay stuff together, like my silicone mats, blades, texture tools, and even some antibacterial gel (gets the polymer clay color right off your hands and cleans everything up!).

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Next, I rolled out some wild, swirled clay I had leftover, and flattened it to about 1/4″ thick or less. I cut these into little squares with the corners cutoff.

Like I said before, they’re little tacos, so I’m going to make them that way by choosing a couple of squares with a nice pattern, and folding them into hollow tacos. We don’t want to put additional polymer clay inside, because that will take forever to bake all the way through, and you’ll probably burn the outside.

To give my Sea Hares a little cred, I used a ball point tool to create little undulations, making little parapodia. I added antennae (kind of creative license on that one), and added spots with other color polymer clay dots.

Finally, since I thought these would be fun as earrings, I poked a hole in the top of their foot….

I made made an even bigger version with some more scrap clay I had.

This was a mix of FIMO Soft and Sculpey Primo, so I baked these at 220 F for an hour, and that was probably a bit much.

I let these cool, and got out my paint pens to put some detail on the critters. I painted more dots, outlined them, added eyes, etc. Then I sealed each piece with sealant glaze in glossy. I used Sculpey’s Glaze.

When I was finished painting and sealing,  I needed to add jump rings and earring hooks to each of the little sea slugs using jewelry pliers.

Sea slug of my dreams…..image