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Some Halloween Fun…

IMG_2116After I created my snowman phone carrier a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think about what I could make for the interim period between the warm, summer days that we’ve left behind here in MT and the Christmas season that–aside from me–no one wants to be reminded of quite yet. 😉 I browsed through Pinterest for autumn ideas, and when I found some fun pumpkin faces, the lightbulb went on in my brain. Jack-o-lantern! I couldn’t start knitting right away, however, as I didn’t have any orange wool yarn, and none of the craft stores nearby offer that color, so I went to my go-to online store for most of my knitting needs, KnitPicks, then waited for my order to arrive.

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Finished product.

I was going to make this carrier with a pocket, like the snowman, but I knit the body of the carrier before I realized I was supposed to knit the black eyes and nose at the same time, so it ended up having a zippered compartment instead (I knit the body first, top to bottom, then work back up just over halfway for a pocket, or all the way back to the top for the zippered compartment). His spiraled “hair,” if you will, is actually crocheted, a bit of a leap for me, considering I previously only knew how to do a chain stitch. I found this amazing video on YouTube, however, that made creating the spirals easy-peasy–even for me, who’s not adept at holding the hook and yarn properly (yes, it’s that different from knitting!). But after such a well-done tutorial, I’m tempted to dip more than my toe into the waters of crochet… 😉

I hope your October is going well. We’ve already had snow here in MT, although this week the temps are supposed to be a little warmer, a little more seasonal. Just a quick reminder that my giveaway is going on for a couple more days over at StoryTellerSquad, so if you want a chance to win a signed, paperback book of Tinsel in a Tangle, simply head over there and leave a comment below my post. I’ll announce the winner on that site on Oct 19th. 🙂 Blessings!

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A Little Knit of This and a Little Knit of That

But first, an update!

I can now share two more contest results with you: I didn’t win. 😛

After I have a chance to read over my entry for the Guideposts’ short story contest and retweak some things (cuz that’s what writers love to do—tweak, tweak, and more tweak), I’ll share it here. A part of me was disappointed I wasn’t chosen, but in reality, learning more about how to write short stories doesn’t hugely interest me. I was open to the idea, if God had wanted me to go in that direction, but at the moment, it seems He’s good with me plodding along on my novel-length WIP (work-in-progress). So plod-along I shall go.

The second contest was for my book, Tinsel in a Tangle. It was an international contest with no cap on the copyright date, so who knows how many entries I was up against, but some tears were definitely shed when I learned I didn’t make the cut. That said, I’m happy to report the results didn’t plunge me into a depression. They didn’t make me question my ability to write or even if I should be writing–two things that might have happened as little as six months ago. I’d like to think this means I’m growing. Growing in self-confidence, growing out of self-doubt, growing in my relationship with and understanding of God. He’s slowly helping me to grasp on a deeper level that though a part of me craves validation from the writing community as an author, the amount I receive—whether a lot or a little—will never be enough for my human nature. Just gaining that bit of insight is extremely freeing, odd as that may sound. It allows me to mentally unclasp my fingers from the world, turn on my heel, and cling, instead, to God. It’s His validation that only matters in the end, and He’s already given it many times in both big and little ways. It’s time to rest in that assurance, absorb it, own it, so that on days when life and the enemy try to strip me of confidence, try to push me back into the waters of doubt…they won’t succeed for long.

Okay, on to what you really came to see. Pictures! 😉

img_e1081.jpgI had mentioned a few months ago I wanted to try a smaller version of the Ravenna Satchel by Marta McCall. But this time, rather than using her flower pattern, I transferred this picture I found on Pinterest to graph paper and used it as a template. Knitting the template into reality, however, became quite the frustrating mess at times, as I had to deal with so many different colors and make sure not to tangle all the strands at the back. Several rows found me switching between colors as many as fifteen times, which sloooows down the knitting process. I also changed how the handles would connect to the bag. In a sense, they don’t connect, except as an anchor point in four places near the top. Instead, they travel around, behind, and under the bag, to give it support without pulling on the felted yarn itself. (Going under would have been so helpful on my original bag, considering how much I load it up when traveling. :)) The one thing I wish I’d done differently on this second bag was to cover the straps with fabric, as I’d done on the original one. But I plan to felt some flowers (a first for me) and attach them over the few anchor stitches, so maybe that will offset the lackluster look of the straps.

img_6203Two years ago, I had knit a Tinsel carrier for my iPhone 5. Since then, my phone went kaput thanks to a software update, and I now have an iPhone 6. Which is too big for Tinsel. 😦 In making a new carrier last year, I had used fabric for the skirt instead of felting the whole thing, thinking it might look better.

It didn’t.

IMG_2081So this summer, I knit another one, but instead of a reindeer, the girl is holding a wreath. These patterns are found in Sue Stratford’s Mini Christmas Knits, though I changed the size of the inside wire frame because I needed it larger than the one the pattern calls for.

But as I was scrolling through Pinterest pics for the Christmas tree idea on the skirt, I came across some of the cutest snowmen faces…and another idea was born.

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Close-up of the wreath.

IMG_2116So, here’s my snowman carrier. 🙂 By far the quickest one I’ve knit & felted to date. I was going to sew a string of tiny Christmas lights between his hands, but it looked too cluttered against his buttons, so I decided less was more in his case (er, pun not intended).

And there you have it. The visible results of a summer in which I got less writing done than expected. But now that the kids are back in school, I hope it’s a while before I share more knitting projects…because that means I’m writing more.

How about you? Were you able to accomplish all your summer projects this year? Technically, autumn hasn’t started yet, so you still have time to wraps things up before the colder weather blows in. Way more time, if you’re like my older sister who lives in Florida. 😉

Have a great week and stay creative!

 

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A Little Bit of Knit

As I write this, my daughters and I are visiting relatives in MA during my girls’ Montana spring break. We’re nearing the final few days, and I’m trying not to blink.

Whenever I go on a trip (heck, sometimes when Hubby just drives us to church), one of my must-haves is some kind of knitting project. Something simple that doesn’t require too much attention, so I can use that attention for socializing. 😉 This time, I’m working on re-knitting my daughter’s blanket that she’s had since her first year of life. She actually has two identical blankets, but I unraveled her favorite one (full of holes and stretched stitches and looking like it would fall apart in the next wash) so I could knit it into something sturdy again. Four rows are constantly repeated throughout the blanket’s length. Boring to knit when I’m home alone, but a perfect no-brainer for when I need to concentrate on something—or someone—else. 😀

Friends of ours are expecting twin girls in late May/early June. They already have a two-year-old son (who’s going to make an awesome big brother), so back in February, I found this pattern on Ravelry.com and knit up a trio of bunnies for the children.

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They were quick to make, and I love how it didn’t involve a lot of sewing. You knit the legs, arms, ears, and tail first, stuff the pieces, then perform a three-needle decrease (closing the top row but not binding off), and keep the remaining stitches live on extra needles.

 

When you start working on the body from the bottom up, you incorporate those limbs and such as you go via more three-needle decreases, so that once you’ve closed the hole at the top of the head after stuffing it (the safety eyes are attached before stuffing), there’s just the nose to embroider and loose ends to sew/weave in. A fast, cute project to make, either as a gift for someone else or to grace a little nook in your own house. 😉

My eighth grader received her first smartphone this past Christmas, and since its measurements were nothing like her “dumb” phone, I needed (okay, really wanted) to make her a new phone carrier. She loves blue and eventually wants ombré walls in her bedroom, so I thought an ombré carrier might be a fun place to start. She loved the zipper feature on her old carrier, thus her new one couldn’t be without. The blossoms and branches were needle-felted after the carrier was felted in the washing machine.

 

I confess I was enamored with the result, and since most of my iPhone 5 carriers don’t fit my iPhone 6S (I was forced to make the switch this past summer when an update ruined my 5—snarl, grr), I figured it was a good excuse to knit a new carrier for me. One of these days, I’d like to change what I use for a handle, but for now, the chain is a quick, efficient, and reliable option.

 

IMG_2365Remember this travel bag I made the other year? I’m itching to make another one—smaller with different colors and a different flowered pattern. I found the flowered pic below on Pinterest and spent a good hour or more translating it onto graph paper. I had only knitted about seven or eight rows into it, however, when I remembered something very important about the knit stitch: it’s wider than it is tall…but I had used normal graph paper (i.e.: equilateral squares). If I continued knitting, my flowers would turn out looking squashed!

Sigh. So, I ordered knitting graph paper from Amazon, and while I waited for its delivery, I ripped back the intarsia rows. Not an easy feat when you’re dealing with different colored yarns twisted together (so there are no holes in the end product) and knotted at the beginning and end of a color. That was not a fun hour. At. All.

After transferring the pattern onto the knitting graph paper, I was ready to begin again—but my schedule wouldn’t allow it, as I had too many errands to run and packing for this trip to do. And because it would have been too much of a hassle to bring it with me to MA (myriad skeins of yarn requiring too much of my attention when I’m supposed to be visiting with people), I left it at home. Ah, well. Something to look forward to when I return, I suppose.

I pray the rapid approach of April finds you starting to thaw out from a frigid winter and able to enjoy some more pleasant days (although I heard MT got dumped with more snow yesterday). Any spring projects of your own you want to tackle soon? I’ve got a painting project up my sleeve (furniture, not canvas!), but it needs a string of warm days so I can work on it outside. Sounds that will have to wait a little bit longer… 😉

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.