How to Crochet a Miniature Captain Ahab From Moby Dick

Courtesy Quirk Books
Courtesy Quirk Books

Cindy Wang, a crochet wiz who runs a blog called The Geeky Hooker, is an expert in amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting miniature, stuffed characters. She creates patterns for crocheted versions of everything from familiar superheroes and television characters to the cats of Neko Atsume.

Her new book, Literary Yarns: Crochet Projects Inspired by Classic Books, is a how-to guide for crafty book nerds. It features instructions on how to make 22 crocheted characters from 16 classic works of literature, including Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Animal Farm.

Get a sneak preview of the book by testing your crochet skills on Captain Ahab of Moby Dick. You’ll need some basic materials and a working knowledge of crochet stitches—this pattern uses single crochet (sc), double crochet (dc), chain (ch), decrease (dec), and slip stitches (sl st), with the number of total stitches for each line indicated in {curly brackets}.

For instructions on how to make more characters, Literary Yarns is $11 on Amazon. If you're a beginner and want to get started following crochet patterns for the first time, Wang recommends the tutorials on PlanetJune.

CAPTAIN AHAB

Materials:

  • Tapestry needle
  • Fiberfill

For Ahab:

  • Size E crochet hook
  • Worsted weight yarn in silver gray, cream, black, brown, and light blue
  • 6-mm black plastic safety eyes
  • Creamy embroidery floss and embroidery needle
  • Disposable chopstick
  • Knife or heavy-duty scissors
  • optional
  • Straight pins
  • 4 ½ “ X 2 ” piece of black felt
  • Black thread and sewing needle

Notes: Work in continuous rounds unless otherwise specified.

HEAD

Round 1: Starting with silver-gray yarn, sc 5 in magic ring. {5}
Round 2: [Sc 2 in one stitch] 5 times. {10}
Round 3: [Sc 2 in one stitch] 10 times. {20}
Round 4: [Sc 3, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {25}
Round 5: [Sc 4, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {30}
Round 6: [Sc 9, sc 2 in next stitch] 3 times, changing to cream yarn in the last stitch. {33}
Rounds 7–9: Sc 14, changing to silver-gray yarn, sc 19, changing to cream yarn. {14 cream + 19 silver-gray = 33}
Round 10: Sc 9, dec 1, sc 3, changing to silver-gray yarn. Sc 6, dec 1, sc 9, dec 1, changing to cream yarn. {13 cream + 17 silver-gray = 30}
Round 11: [Sc 4, dec 1] twice, sc 1, changing to silver-gray yarn. Sc 3, dec 1, [sc 4, dec 1] twice, changing to cream yarn in the last stitch. {11 cream + 14 silver-gray = 25}
Round 12: [Sc 3, dec 1] twice, sc 1, changing to silver-gray yarn. Sc 2, dec 1, [sc 3, dec 1] twice, changing to cream yarn in the last stitch. {9 cream + 11 silver-gray = 20}
Round 13: [Sc 2, dec 1] twice, sc 1, changing to silver-gray yarn. Sc 1, dec 1, [sc 2, dec 1] twice. {7 cream + 8 silver-gray = 15}

Fasten off and tuck in the end. Attach eyes between rows 8 and 9 (two rows below the hairline), approximately 6 stitches apart.

Using overlapping straight stitches of silver-gray yarn and a tapestry needle, sew on two angry eyebrows. The man’s got a lifelong grudge; he’s going to be perpetually mad! Using cream embroidery floss, sew a scar onto his face.

BEARD AND SIDEBURNS

Captain Ahab’s beard and sideburns will be made in one continuous piece.

Using silver-gray yarn, ch 21, then crochet the following:

Row 1: Starting in the 2nd ch from the hook, sc 6, dc 8, sc 6. {20} Fasten off and leave a tail for sewing.

To sew the beard and sideburns onto Ahab’s face, line up the foundation chain of the piece with the sides of his face and the second-to-last row of the head. Sew only along the foundation chain side to attach the beard, and sew down both the foundation chain side and the crocheted side to attach the sideburns. Stuff head firmly with fiberfill.

HAT

Round 1: With black yarn, sc 5 in magic ring. {5}
Round 2: [Sc 2 in one stitch] 5 times. {10}
Round 3: [Sc 1, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {15}
Round 4: [Sc 2, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {20}
Round 5: [Sc 3, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {25}
Round 6: [Sc 4, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {30}
Round 7: [Sc 5, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {35}
Round 8: [Sc 6, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {40}
Round 9: Sc 40. {40}
Round 10: [Sc 6, dec 1] 5 times. {35}
Round 11: In front loops only: Sc 2, dc 10, sc 2, sl st and fasten off.

If you want to sew his hat to his head, leave a tail and sew in place.

Otherwise, cut the yarn and weave in the end.

BODY

Note: Captain Ahab’s peg leg is held in place only by tension. If you wish to make an Ahab that can be handled and played with, instead of solely for display, crochet a Basic Body as on page 11, changing from brown to light blue at the end of round 8.

Work from bottom up.

Round 1: Starting with brown yarn, sc 5 in magic ring. {5}
Round 2: [Sc 2 in one stitch] 5 times. {10}
Round 3: [Sc 1, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {15}
Round 4: [Sc 2, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {20}
Round 5: [Sc 3, sc 2 in next stitch] 5 times. {25}
Round 6: In back loops only, sc 25, changing to light-blue yarn. {25}
Rounds 7–9: Sc 25. {25}
Round 10: [Sc 3, dec 1] 5 times. {20}
Round 11: [Sc 2, dec 1] 5 times. {15}

Fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing.

LEG

Round 1: Starting with black yarn, sc in magic ring. {6}
Round 2: [Sc 2 in one stitch] 6 times. {12}
Round 3: In back loops only, sc 12, changing to brown yarn in the last stitch. {12}
Round 4: Sc 12. {12}

Fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing. Sew the leg onto one half of the bottom of the body. When you have sewn halfway around the leg, fill it with either fiberfill or poly pellets, and then complete sewing.

PEG LEG

Using a knife or scissors, carefully cut an approximately 1 1/2 -inch piece from the tip of the chopstick. Insert the piece into the bottom of the body from the inside out, positioning it opposite his leg.

Stuff the body firmly with fiberfill, or fill with poly pellets first and then top off with fiberfill. Stuff carefully around the chopstick. Using a whipstitch, sew the head onto the body, being mindful of the placement of the legs.

TRENCH COAT

On the long edge of the felt, fold down 1/2 inch to form a collar for the coat. Wrap collar around Ahab’s neck, pin the coat in place with straight pins, and sew the fold to his neck with a sewing needle and black thread.

Excerpted from Literary Yarns: Crochet Projects Inspired by Classic Books by Cindy Wang. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

10 Delicious Facts About McDonald's Shamrock Shake

McDonald's
McDonald's

Many people overdo it with the drinking on St. Patrick's Day, but it's not always Guinness or Jameson that gets them into trouble. Sometimes it's the Shamrock Shake, McDonald's uniquely green and often elusive seasonal treat. Here’s the skinny on the 660-calorie indulgence.

1. The Shamrock Shake wasn't originally known as The Shamrock Shake.

The original name of the cult classic milkshake was slightly less alliterative. It was called the St. Patrick’s Day Green Milkshake. Catchy, no?

2. The Shamrock Shake is a charitable endeavor.

What does the Shamrock Shake have to do with the Ronald McDonald House and the Philadelphia Eagles? Everything, according to the fast food giant. When Eagles tight end Fred Hill’s daughter was being treated for leukemia in 1974, Fred and his wife spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and noticed many other emotionally depleted families doing the same. He thought it would be healthier for families if they had a place to call home while their children were being treated, so he used his football connections to get in touch with a local advertising agency that did work for Mickey D’s. They agreed to give profits from the Shamrock Shake toward a home near the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, which ended up becoming the first-ever Ronald McDonald House.

3. Uncle O'Grimacey used to be the Shamrock Shake's ambassador.

Back in the early ‘80s, a fairly offensive character named Uncle O’Grimacey was used to promote the seasonal shake.

4. No McDonald's restaurant is required to offer the Shamrock Shake.

In 2012, it was announced that, for the first time, the Shamrock Shake would be available in all McDonald's nationwide—but not all restaurants have to carry them. Regional managers decide whether their stores will carry the shakes each year.

5. Jimmy Fallon once depleted a New York City restaurant's entire Shamrock Shake supply.

If you’re a New Yorker and you didn’t get a much-craved Shamrock Shake in 2011, it’s probably Jimmy Fallon’s fault. When he caught wind that a Union Square Mickey D's had the elusive dessert, he totally cleaned them out—purchasing more than 100 shakes for his audience. New Yorkers were not pleased with Fallon.

6. The Shamrock Shake got an ice cream offshoot (that didn't fare so well).

Despite the smashing success of the shake, the Shamrock Sundae was a dismal failure. Introduced in 1980, it was discontinued after just a year. Apparently people prefer their unnaturally green desserts in shake form as opposed to scoop form. Though this year, they're trying again: in honor of the Shamrock Shake's 50th anniversary, McDonald's is also introducing an Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.

7. There have been many super-sized versions of the Shamrock Shake.

For a few years, a giant shake was poured into the Chicago River to help contribute to the green hue it’s dyed every year. A donation was also made to the Ronald McDonald House.

8. The McDonald's app will help you track down a Shamrock Shake.

Are you one of those unfortunate souls who has to hunt the shake down every year? McDonald's official app can help. In 2020, for the first time in three years, the Shamrock Shake will be offered at all McDonald's locations. If you're not sure of the nearest one near you, the McDonald's app has a full directory to help.

9. You can make your own Shamrock Shake at home.

If you still can’t find a shake, you have one other option: make your own.

10. In 2017, McDonald's engineered a special Shamrock Shake straw.

In 2017, McDonald's unveiled an amazing innovation for Shamrock Shake lovers: the STRAW. Short for Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal, the STRAW was designed by real engineers at the aerospace and robotics engineering firms JACE and NK Labs—specifically with the Shamrock Shake in mind. What sets the device apart from conventional straws is the sharp bend in its shape and the three, eye-shaped holes in addition to the opening at the bottom end. The extra holes are positioned in a way that allows drinkers to take a sip of a new layered version of the frosty treat that’s equal parts top mint layer and bottom chocolate layer.

Why Are CVS Receipts So Incredibly Long?

cyano66/iStock via Getty Images
cyano66/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve ever conducted business at one of the nearly 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations in the United States and count yourself among one of the estimated 62 million members of the store's ExtraCare discount incentive program, you’ve probably been handed a receipt that is more scroll than slip. These transactional documents, which have been known to literally be several feet of thermal paper long and full of merchandise coupons, are often wadded or folded up like a bath towel and handed off to the consumer.

Is this an environmentally mindful practice? And do these coupons really keep people coming back for more?

CVS has stated that the lengthy receipts are intended to demonstrate the value of being an ExtraCare member by offering ExtraCare Rewards, typically a dollar or percentage amount off of a single item or purchase. Some of the receipt's oversized real estate is also taken up by a solicitation to participate in a satisfaction survey. (Though it’s not likely that one of the questions is about the length of the receipt.)

A woman is pictured holding up a CVS receipt
stephen boisvert, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Simply put, the chain wants to vividly illustrate the benefits of being an ExtraCare member, which also helps the company by allowing them to track your purchase history. The idea is that the Russian novel-length receipt will excite consumers who feel as though a surplus of savings are being delivered right into their hands.

The problem is that the coupons are often quick to expire or can sometimes exclude sale items, registering disappointment when a returning customer presents a slip for $2 off a bar of soap.

You can, of course, opt out of receiving a paper receipt through your ExtraCare account online or via the app, though the process requires a few steps to complete. The coupons will then be sent digitally via your smartphone. Since introducing that paperless option in 2016, the company claims it has saved 3 billion inches of paper that would otherwise have been squeezed into a ball and stuffed into your glove compartment.

Alternately, you can always use it to replace a broken window blind.

Which brings us to the other and possibly most important motivation for those long receipts: Social media engagement. The more people express dismay at those long receipts, the more exposure CVS receives. Considering their 2018 merger with health insurance giant Aetna cost more than $70 billion, some free publicity could come in handy.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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