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spider silk shawl

Not long ago, I read about the seemingly lost art of spinning gossamer–yarn plied from spider silk–in Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s wonderful book, “The Intentional Spinner”. Then, the other day, Brady Muller, chef at our neighbour Ciboulette CafĂ©, sent me a link to an article in the New York Times about an astonishing textile currently on display at New York’s Museum of Natural History: an 11-foot cloth woven from the silk of the golden orb spider of Madagascar. This is a contemporary textile, the brainchild of a British textile historian and an American fashion designer. It is breathtakingly beautiful, strong and priceless. What an inspiration to spinners–or should I say, aspiring spiders!

When it’s a worm.

If you’ve already had a look at the Ecology Action Centre’s ‘species wish list‘ for the Stitchin’ Fish display, you might have noticed an interesting phenomenon: the description of odd, mysterious deep-sea creatures by naming them after more familiar things. Examples include the glass sponge, bubblegum coral, and the barndoor skate.

The sea mouse isn’t on the wish list, but I remembered it as an organism that I found intriguing back in my days as an undergraduate biology student. Even though it is cute like a furry mouse (right?), it’s a segmented worm in the class known as a polychaetes (also called bristle worms). It does have a lovely Latin name though: Aphrodite aculeata, inspired by the ancient Greek goddess of love.

The underside of a sea mouse gives more of a clue to its true identity:

Apparently sea mice have been found in North Atlantic waters off of Newfoundand, so it’s quite possible that they could exist here on the Scotian Shelf too. That was enough for us to decide to include one in our seafloor recreation. Morgan saw the images and pounced like a cat on the opportunity to crochet a sea mouse.

I think she did a fantastic job … even the belly looks like the real thing.

Not only did Morgan whip this up in the course of the evening, she also wrote up the pattern when she was finished. Thanks Morgan!

Sea Mouse: a crochet pattern

Materials

Eyelash-style yarn for the back

Smooth worsted weight yarn in a contrasting colour

5mm/H crochet hook

Polyfill for stuffing

Instructions:

With underbelly yarn, ch16.

1 dc in 4th chain from hook; 2 dc in each ch to end, working 3 dc in last ch; ch 3.

Beginning second side, work 2 dc in each ch to end; ch3, turn.

Working second side again, work 2 dc in each dc to end. Finish off.

Working with two strands of eyelash yarn held together, join to end of underbelly and ch 3.

2 dc tog in each dc to end.

1 dc into sides of end sts and end of fdn ch, turning corners to work second side.

Repeat on second side.

Work one more dec row on first side and finish, leaving a long tail.

Sew up spine with yarn tail, stuffing sea mouse with polyfill.

Cathy is merriment
Mimi is starlings
Morgan is pomoboho
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