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Tinsel Doll Part I

First, let me give a shout-out to those of you who have recently chosen to follow my blog. Welcome! I’m so glad to have you join us. As you can see from the title of this blog, my posts are scattered between my passion for writing, knitting, creating paraphernalia for my 16” fashion dolls, and sharing whatever God happens to lay on my heart on any given week. So whichever kind of post drew you to follow me, rest assured there will be more like it.

But maybe not today. 😉

Today, I’m sharing my latest knitting adventure. Most of you know my debut novel, Tinsel in a Tangle, is releasing in October through Clean Reads. It will initially be available in digital form, so while I scratch my head trying to figure out ways to have a launch party and promote my book without having something physical to hold or hand out, I’m dutifully working on some mini-helpers that should bring a smile to some faces—and maybe a sale on Amazon. (Hey, I have to be optimistic, right? Hoping the act of writing it out will help cement it in my brain.) 😛

Everyone, please meet Niklas, Santa’s cocky grandson who has become skilled over the years in the art of exasperating Tinsel.

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The pattern I used for the body comes from Knitted Pirates, Princesses, Witches, Wizards & Fairies, by Annette Hefford. While Annette recommends using Light Worsted, or 4-ply, yarn and US size 3 needles for most of the work, her dolls end up being 18” tall, and I didn’t want mine that big. I also wanted to use Palette yarn from Knitpicks.com, as they offer a huge range of colors, but it’s only 2-ply yarn, so I decreased the size of my needles to US size 1. The feet are knitted first, then set aside. The legs are knitted separately, then joined at the crotch area to continue up through the torso and head.

Out of all the pieces to this doll, the hands were the hardest to knit and sew, but they went fast–and they weren’t the most difficult things I’ve had to knit (my Ravenna satchel was far more cantankerous). Still, I wouldn’t recommend this project to a beginner knitter.

The hair is actually a wig, knitted separately using a double-loop stitch. I will admit my hands ached after the first few rows. You can see from the picture below how much bigger the wig looks compared to the head, and I was worried I had done something wrong, though I couldn’t have told you what. But once you run a gathering stitch around the edge and pull it snug to the head…it works beautifully! (Cut the loops for straight, wild hair, or keep the loops for a “curly” effect.)

Stuffing the legs and arms was quite the feat, as well, given how small an opening I was working with. I had to use the eraser-end of a pencil to stuff the filling, and at times I rolled the limbs as though rolling play-dough into a snake.

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The opening at the top of the arm…

And it took me so long to finally sit down and write this post, that I can actually introduce you to an almost-completed Tinsel:

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To keep her legs from looking too chunky, and knowing I wanted her to “wear” stockings, I decided to knit her legs as just that: stockings. I also knitted her legs, body, and arms in-the-round, using the Magic Loop Method, rather than knitting them flat and having to sew up the seams afterward. You can see the difference here in their arms:

Later today, I hope to embroider Tinsel’s face, and this weekend, I hope to start on (complete?) her wig.

What about their clothes, you ask? Ah, yes, well, that’s where Part II comes in. Once I complete both dolls, then I get to move on to knitting their shirts, shoes, lederhosen, dirndl, and, of course, their coats, hats and mittens. Because living as far north as they do, winter gear is kind of a necessity. 😉

Tinsel à la Phone Case

Last week I shared some of the things I worked on this summer when I had limited writing time. But I saved the best for last. Well, best in my opinion. 😉

If you’ve followed me for a while (or know me in person), then you’ve come to realize I love Christmas. Which is part of the reason I want to stay in my Christmas manuscript rather than emerge and hop into something new. (I’ll get there, don’t worry.) And because I’m kinda smitten with my elf, Tinsel (as creator-created kind of way, thankyouverymuch), I’ve been wanting to bring her to “life” in phone carrier form. 🙂

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Traditional dirndl

Now, Tinsel wears a dirndl, a traditional dress worn in Austria, Bavaria, and South Tyrol, so first I drew out how that might translate on a knitted/felted phone carrier, and then I knitted it in bright colors (it was summer at the time, go figure) to make sure it would actually come out looking right.

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No, it’s not a headless doll. 😉

My girls say it looks like Disney’s Rapunzel—which got me thinking of ways I could knit carriers to reflect Disney princesses, but that’s a feat for another season.

Knowing I had the design as close as I was going to get it over a set of 18 stitches and 45 rows, I got right to work on Tinsel. Just kidding. I didn’t start on her until last month, since I was busy with all those other projects.

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Tinsel before needle-felting.

And because there’s a team of Scottish-accented reindeer that play a significant role in my story, they had to be reflected in my phone carrier somehow, right? So here’s my token reindeer:

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And here they are pieced together.

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After needle-felting and sewing.

Though neither of these characters took long to knit, I think it took me almost as long to sew on all the different pieces of the reindeer as it took me to knit them. And sewing the apron string around Tinsel’s torso was not an easy task. Nevertheless, they were fun to make, and since I have lots more yarn…well, a red dirndl-clad elf is calling my name.

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Though Writing Ebbs, the Creative Waters Keep Flowing

I didn’t get a lot of new writing done this summer. With the lack of a schedule, the kids being home for summer break, a family vacation, and the fact I wanted to focus more on querying agents when I did get time to write, fresh words just didn’t make it on the page.

But I stayed creative.

Few words are making it to the computer screen even now that school has started and vacations are over. I’m still querying, but I’m plum dried up and uninspired right now to delve into a new world/new manuscript. Honestly, I’d rather roam around the streets in my imaginary Christmas town, peeking in windows on the lookout for a sequel, but I don’t have enough of a plot to get started. Yet. (Yet–right, Lord?)

Again, however, I’m staying creative.

I’ve come to realize that when my writing well has run dry, the other inventive parts of me flare to life to fill in the void until my well is full again. So…here’s what I’ve been up to over the last few months.

First, I finished some projects that had carried over from the summer of ’15.

Alas, though the tunic top fits great, it doesn’t look great on me. Not my first knitting #fail, and I can always either sell this or reclaim the yarn for a different project, but it’s extremely frustrating to have spent all that time knitting something I won’t wear. :/ The market bag is huge—cuz that’s how I intended it to be—but I keep forgetting I need to sew a liner to the underside of the handle to give it more strength. So…I have yet to use it. #fail again—but only for the time being. 😉

But here’s a #success…

From this:

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As usual, I got too project-happy and forgot to take a pic before taking off the trim pieces!

To this:

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This project had been in the mental plans for at least two years, and last summer I ripped off (gently) the trim pieces and painted inside the cupboards…and then got lost in the plot of my Christmas story and progress careened to a halt. Because who can think about refinishing furniture when there’s a world of characters shouting in your head?

Once I found the fabric I wanted to use for the drawer fronts, I went on a hunt for new drawer pulls. The brass ones I found at Lowe’s, and the two funky ones I found at an Anthropologie store in MA. (And yes, it meant I had to fill in old holes and drill new ones, but the end result was well worth the effort.)

The trim pieces bordering the fabric I cut to size from 8’ trim lengths I bought at Lowe’s. Again. And I might as well say here that the paint I used is Valspar, sold at…yep, Lowe’s. (Love that store.)

After priming the surface, I then painted on three coats of the Valspar paint. I probably would have gotten away with only two coats if my mind hadn’t gone on vacation, because I forgot about my little sponge paint roller I use for furniture and was using a brush, instead. And that doesn’t coat as well as a roller. Thankfully, my mind returned in time for the third coat.

I’ll confess that on my first coat, I did try a DIY chalk paint recipe I found on someone’s blog via Pinterest, which called for some Plaster of Paris. I don’t know how that stuff worked for the woman who claims to have used it successfully, but I should have known things wouldn’t go well when I read on the plaster box that it begins to harden within ten minutes after one adds the water. Say what? But the chalk paint recipe calls for water! Um…don’t use Plaster of Paris if you try a DIY recipe. Thankfully my faux pas isn’t too noticeable. Just don’t get too close!

I’m going to try this chalk paint recipe next time (on a smaller piece of furniture). I’ll let you know how it goes. As for the fabric, I did the same thing here that I do for my doll backdrops: Mod Podge! One coat to glue it to the drawer front, let it dry, then two coats on top to give it durability. I usually sand in between the last two coats.

But my favorite project…the one I finished last week…

I’ll show you next time. 😉

(Hint: it relates to my Christmas story and involves knitting.)

Until then, stay creative in whatever venue God has given you a passion for.

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It’s a Knit World After All…

This summer my family and I are headed to Walt Disney World in Florida. In honor of Mickey Mouse, I thought I would knit and felt a phone case in his colors. I sent a picture of it to my niece before I’d completely finished knitting it and she liked it so much, I decided to give it to her when completed.

Original phone case for Brooke

Original phone case for Brooke

Which meant I had to knit and felt another one for me. 😉

By the time I finished the first Mickey, I had the idea of knitting floppy legs and attaching them to the bottom of the case. When I shared this idea with Hubby, he suggested I knit arms, too. Hmm. More knitting and sewing than I wanted to do, but in hindsight the appendages knit up extremely fast in i-cord. It wasn’t until I had felted my Mickey that I realized something: I forgot to make him with his yellow shoes!

Barefoot Mickey

Barefoot Mickey

So…when my mom mentioned she’d like a Mickey, too, I figured three time’s a charm and added those yellow shoes.

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Mickey–complete with shoes!

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Embroidered on the left; needle-felted on the right.

Other than the shoes (and the fact I made hers to fit an iPhone 4 verses mine that fits an iPhone 5), the one difference between my mom’s Mickey and mine are the black lines on the white gloves. I needle-felted mine after the felting process in the washing machine. With hers, I embroidered the lines into the gloves before tossing the case into the washing machine. I think I like the needle-felted lines better (sorry, Mom), but I did try to even out the lines on my mom’s phone case as best as I could by bracketing the black lines with white yarn. Live and learn, right?

 

Compare and contrast: pre-felted on the left; post-felted on the right.

Compare and contrast: pre-felted on the left; post-felted on the right.

In the process of needle-felting the buttons.

In the process of needle-felting the buttons.

 

Here’s another phone case I made for a friend who loves yellow and loves Tweety Bird (and it just so happened I had a lot of yellow yarn left over from another project).

Tweety Bird

Tweety Bird

Lastly, here are two cases I made just for the fun of trying new things.

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Both of these cases have eyelets instead of knitted i-cord to hold the chain, but you’ll notice with the Paris case that the eyelets didn’t grab onto the felted wool like they should have.

The eyelet popped out.

The eyelet popped out.

I anticipate the same thing will happen to the dragon case with the passing of time and use. Because of this, I’m contemplating making a fabric top edge for these two cases, in which the eyelets should hold and do their job. 😉 I have another reason for sewing a fabric edge on the Paris case, as well. In order to get the vertical stripes, I knit the case sideways—but my calculations were off, so it came out too long in the end. Thus, I had to cut off the top inch or so. That shouldn’t pose a problem…but one never knows, so a sewn edge will keep it from fraying or tearing or whatever felted yarn might do.

Now that I’ve mastered this size phone case, I guess it’s on to figuring out the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus…uh, after I make a case for my daughter’s iPad mini, of course.

But first, Disney World awaits…

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First, second, and third.

Ravenna Satchel: A Review

It was my father-in-law’s last year going on the annual Germaine family fishing trip near Cape Cod. Since my hubby hadn’t been back for the trip in probably a decade and my girls had never gone period, it served to reason we would return this year to make some lasting memories, especially for all the grandkids/cousins. (We certainly don’t choose New England over Montana for the fishing!) 😉

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(On a side note, I stayed with my folks while Hubby pulled 24/7 Daddy Duty during the four-day fishing weekend.)

In prepping for this trip, I was eager to utilize the Ravenna satchel for the first time since I finished making it. With the trip now behind us, here is what I found for any interested parties out there:

IMG_2488First of all, this is a big bag! Had I to do it over again (give me a few years and I just might!), I would have put the bag through one more cycle in the washing machine to bind the fibers tighter and shrink the size a little more. That said, I was still able to tuck this beauty beneath the seat in front of me on all the planes we flew (we always have layovers and one of the two planes is usually pretty small: just two seats on either side of the aisle). So for all its girth, it was still “small enough.”

Secondly, the handle construction is not conducive for heavy-lifting. The handles themselves are strong, but where they attach to the bag is not. If you choose to attach the handles to rings and the rings to the bag, please make sure to sew through a piece of fabric on the inside of the bag when attaching the rings. Had I not done this, the rings might have ripped right off my bag. :O As it was, I “snuck” my heavy items, like my books, into one of my girls’ carry-on suitcases and left the lighter items, like my knitting and some snacks, for the satchel. I did slip my MacBook inside, as well. 🙂 Had I to do this part over again…well, I would have changed the construction of the bag itself.

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Make the loops horizontal and the straps running vertical

There is a great method out there for binding off the top edge of a bag called the knit-cord bind off. Working this bind off three times (which will require you to pick up the stitches you just bound off) creates an extremely durable top border through which straps will not break (the straps would break before the edge ever would). It does mean the handles would slip through holes just beneath this bound off edge instead of being sewn to the side of the bag, which changes the bag’s overall appearance…but increases its strength. Another idea is something along the lines of the picture at the right. If you make the loops horizontal and have the straps running up and down and around the bottom of the bag, you would have one strong travel bag at your service. It would take some pre-mediation before knitting the bag to figure out where you would place the loops for the straps and the straps themselves would interrupt the bag’s pattern, but the end result might be worth it.

So really, aside from the handles, this bag worked great. I would recommend it as a challenging knitting/felting project—provided you don’t try to watch TV or a movie at the same time!—but I would highly suggest figuring out ahead of time how you want to handle the, uh, handles. 😉 And if anyone has another suggestion for working those handles, I would love it if you left a comment below!

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Laptop bag…er, sleeve

IMG_2804My MacBook’s back. I got it back that same evening after I sent it off in the morning with my hubby to the authorized service provider. Guess what was wrong with it?

Nothing.

[Insert sheepish grin]

If I had applied my iPhone knowledge to my MacBook and forced a shutdown by simply holding down the power button for several seconds, I might have saved myself a rant. But in my frustration and disappointment and a little panic, I forgot I could do that (I’m sure there’s a another lesson in there for me). I only remembered I could put it to sleep with a quick press of that power button, but a full “shut down” required a click under the apple symbol—and I couldn’t click at the moment. So what was the first thing the technician at the store did? Forced a shut down by depressing the power button for several seconds. And when he turned it back on…voilà! Bye-bye glitch, hello working trackpad.

Next time I’ll know better.

And when your MacBook trackpad doesn’t “click,” you’ll remember my embarrassing oversight and know how to fix it without the panic. 🙂

Ahem. Moving on…

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As I mentioned in my last post, I was excited at the thought of having an excuse to knit and felt a new laptop bag—a sleeve, I believe, is the technical term for what I made. I had a lot of yarn left over from my Ravenna Satchel, colors that continued to speak to me and worked well together, so I decided to use up my stash for this new sleeve. Because I use Wool of the Andes yarn from KnitPicks.com for most of my felting projects, I have a go-to formula that serves me well when I’m trying to figure out a project’s dimensions before felting to ensure it shrinks to the correct dimensions after felting.

IMG_2795For any interested knitters/felters out there, here is what works for me: Using Wool of the Andes worsted weight yarn on size 10 needles, I have found that 30 stitches and 23 rows (plus the cast on and bind off) equals 7″ x 4 1/4″ before felting and 5 3/4″ x 3″ after felting twice in a top-loading washing. Knowing those dimensions, I calculated I’d need to cast on 115 stitches and knit for 106 rows to create a simple fold-over laptop sleeve for the 13” MacBook. Normally I would have knit in the round, then bound off half the stitches and continued knitting the flap back and forth, but I wanted to knit stripes, so I worked it flat (allowing me to deal with just one color at a time) and then pinned it together on either side at the 90th stitch mark and closed the sides with a single crochet stitch. I then carried that crochet stitch around all edges save for along the bottom. I meant to take a before and after picture to show the size difference, but as usual, I got over zealous to felt it and forgot all about the picture until it was too late. One of these days I’ll remember to take it slow.IMG_2935

Simple project, right? Well…yes and no. As you can see in the above pictures, my MacBook has a fun decal on its cover and I found out on the first try that the pointy edges of the decal snag on every felted fiber as it slides in and out of the laptop sleeve. If I left it like that, the decal would be peeling off in no time. Can’t have that, can we, Miss Perfectionist?

No, I can’t.

IMG_2936Thus I quickly cut and sewed an inside lining and attached it to the sleeve along the top edge. Of course, it was only after I sewed it in that I remembered I had first wanted to needle-felt a flowered vine or some such in the thick green stripe. Sigh. This is why I’m not a professional.

Thank goodness, then, that functionality doesn’t hinge on one’s professional status.

Do I hear an “Amen”? 😉

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Finish the Ravenna Satchel: check!

I’m sure some of you might be wondering if I’m ever going to follow-up with a post about the felted bag I had worked on over the summer. Well…I finished it! Yay!

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After I completed the needle-felting process a few months ago, the bag sat in a corner of my bedroom as life sped up around it. At one point, I sewed the zipper along the top edge. On another day, I added the feet to the bottom of the bag. And then I had to sew the handle rings to the outside of the bag. This part—the handles and how they’re attached—is where I will probably change things when/if I make another one of these bags. To offer a woman such a nice big bag (and it is big!) with such spacious real estate inside just begging to be filled and utilized…and yet to construct it with a weak handle system…well, a bag is only as good as the strength of its handles, right?IMG_2369

In order to give the handles more stability, I sewed through a square piece of fabric on the inside of the bag while sewing the rings to the outside of the bag. That way, when the bag is hanging off my shoulder or dangling from my hands, the weight is not just pulling my felted yarn, but also the piece of fabric (now hidden by the inside liner). It’s amazing the difference that created—because, yes, I attached the first ring without the fabric and my eyes bulged when I saw how it would pull on the sides of the bag!

Here and there throughout the autumn months, I worked on the inside lining of the bag—cutting the fabric, cutting the interfacing (the iron-on kind), cutting the MDF board (for the bottom of the bag), sewing everything together… Mind you, I had no pattern to follow, for a lot of the extra online information one could have found on this bag six years ago is no longer available, so I had to make up my own based on how I knew the bag itself was constructed. In the end, the liner’s girth was an inch or so wider than the interior of the bag—but with a little folding and the help of a curved upholstery needle, I was able to tack the sides of the lining to the bag in four different places with a running stitch from top to bottom. I finished that, along with my little zipper pull, during my daughters’ Christmas break.

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Thus, for the past few weeks, I’ve had only the handles to complete. To make those, however (strips of suede cloth wrapped around cotton belting) I needed my sewing machine—which lay under a mound of stuffed snowmen. Last weekend I finally unearthed the machine and joyfully made my two straight-sewn lines (yep, that’s all I needed it for). The incredibly difficult part came after I slid the belting inside the suede cloth sheath—I needed to hand-sew it around the handle rings.

Sigh. It helps to have the right tools when doing a specific task.IMG_2479

Somehow I managed to sew one side of a handle around the first ring with your run-of-the-mill sewing needle—and also managed not to injure my fingers in the process. Try as I might, however, I could not get that needle to go through the belting and suede cloth for the second ring. So off to Joann’s I went the next day to buy a needle specifically made for working with leather. After that, the sewing went easier. Easier, but not necessarily easy. My middle finger suffered a nice puncture wound from that needle (anyone seen the tip of a leather needle? It’s huge compared to the teeny-tiny points of your average sewing needle!), but thank the Lord for Neosporin. That stuff is amazing at numbing the pain!

And so it was this past Friday, with a fresh Band-Aid swathing my finger and just minutes to spare before having to pick up my girls from school this past Friday, that I finished a project begun around the time school had let out for summer vacation in 2014. 🙂

In time I might embroider my initials on the back of the bag...

In time I might embroider my initials on the back of the bag…

I’m hoping the bag will be able to come with me when we travel this upcoming summer…since that’s why I set out to make it in the first place. I say “hope,” though, because the thing is bigger than I anticipated and we’ll be traveling by airplane, so I have to wonder: will the flight attendants let me take it into the cabin of the plane?

Because after all the work I’ve put into it, it sure as heck isn’t going into the belly of the plane!