Tag Archive | crafts

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… 😉

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DIY Doll Tree Swing

Bonjour, mes amis! C’est moi, Ellowyne Wilde.

It’s a sad time to be me these days. Not only did I (and my dolly peeps) get booted from our cozy home in Laurie’s dining room and crammed into a cold-hearted cabinet (because of a move to another town that ended up not happening!)…

…but we learned a few months ago that as of the end of 2016, Robert Tonner wouldn’t be making any more dolls from the Wilde Imagination line for our lovely collectors. Gasp and cry! No more new Ellowyne or Prudence dolls for Laurie—unless they come by way of her mother as she downsizes. I suppose Laurie has enough of us to keep her occupied, but it’s the principle of the thing. I was just coming into my glory days. You should see what kind of amazing pics people share about me and my Wilde friends on FB, Twitter, and Instagram!

Because Laurie’s somewhat listless right now (a writer without a manuscript to sink her teeth into is like a waitress without customers; a teacher without students; a pastor without a congregation; a doll without her cozy home—er…), I’ve taken it upon myself to present her latest craft. It was a simple feat, really. Just a matter of finding some time to implement it, which she accomplished yesterday as she worked through that day’s Bible study lesson.

(Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God—so good!)

Ahem.

Here it is:

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A tree swing.

Didn’t I tell you it was simple?

If you’d like to make one for your dolls (okay, fine, your children’s dolls (we both know the truth ;))), keep reading for how she did it. If you don’t care to make one…scroll down a few pics for a brief slideshow near the end.

To make this swing, cut to size any piece of scrap wood, MDF board, particle board, etc., that you have on hand (this one is 3″ x 6.25″, scaled for a 16″ doll), and drill four holes near the corners:

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Prime the board and then paint it/decorate it any way you like. Laurie used Valspar paint in Fresh Cotton, followed by Mod Podge to glue some scrapbook paper overtop, purposely tearing the edges:

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Once it’s dry, take jute twine–or any kind of cord or rope–and lace it through the holes so it looks like this:

Or! You can insert the twine through the top and tie a knot at each hole under the swing. Because Laurie needed to get this onto a large branch, she tied knots over the branch:

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And voilà! A tree swing fit for a doll.

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This should help take our minds off our troubling times for a bit, don’t you think?

Or…maybe I spoke too soon? It looks like Pru is about to get some unwelcome company.

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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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When words fail…use your hands!

I’ve been doing a lot of research and menial rewriting over the last couple of months. Researching agents, tweaking the first 10-50 pages of my manuscript, writing query letters, tweaking query letters, more researching… I hadn’t had much time left over for actual writing—you know, the kind that gets a writer’s butt into the chair and keeps it there—so two weeks ago, I decided to take a break from the research and querying and work on “downsizing” one of my almost-completed manuscripts. It’s 150,000 words, with some scenes that still need to be fleshed out. Ideally, the word count should be around 90,000. That’s a lot of chopping.

I started my attack by hacking off the first few chapters and jumping right into the sixth. Great. Except I cut out pertinent information and character development I now need to squeeze into my new beginning chapters without them sounding like “info dump.” Not so great. Or rather, not so easy. Suffice it to say, by the end of the week I was drowning under old mindsets and negative thinking and had to yank my head out of the water so I could take a breather. And give myself permission not to write for a few days.

Perfect time, then, to make curtains for the living room and finish an American Girl backdrop.

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After

After

 

I knew changing the curtains from those drab brown ones could only be a good thing, but I wasn’t prepared for how much a simple piece of hemmed fabric could breathe fresh air into a stale room! Needless to say, I bought more of the same fabric so I can attack the bedroom curtains during my next writing funk.

As for the backdrop…

American Girl backdrop

American Girl backdrop

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…I’ve been wanting to work on it for a while, but writing has won out week after week until now. Good thing, too, since my kids get out of school in a week and a half and I wanted this finished by then so they could spend summer days playing with the backdrops as well as their doll furniture!

Some of you might remember my first attempt at an AG-scaled backdrop: IMG_1278

Ever since then, I’ve been playing with ways to make the backdrops easier to maneuver and have come up with this for now:

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A simple 2”x4” piece of wood with grooves cut into it via Hubby’s table saw, into which slide two 2’x2’ halves of a MDF board. Having smaller boards to work with made the decorating go much easier and faster.

To make the wood paneling, I cut strips of balsa wood, glued them in place, then primed and painted the area.

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I then primed the area behind the “wall paper” (because fabric on white backing is brighter than on a brown MDF board) and used Mod Podge to glue the fabric to the board. Mod Podge worked much better than the adhesive spray I used last time. After letting the glue dry, I painted two coats of Mod Podge over the fabric, sanding after each coat had dried. Lastly, for my lip edge, I glued pieces of trim (found at Lowe’s) that I had first primed and painted.IMG_3132

All in all, the steps themselves are easy; the time it takes to cut, prime, paint two to three coats, Mod Podge, and glue, on the other hand, can sometimes be hard to find.

My next big project? Moving my soon-to-be middle schooler out of the bedroom she shares with her younger sister into her own room. A room currently dubbed the office/guest room; a room of clutter and one long, shallow, ill-functioning closet. I aim to have this accomplished before the new school year begins in late August.

Gulp. Wish me luck!

(Up for a laugh? Keep scrolling…)

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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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A Taste of Spring

Bonjour, mes amis! C’est moi, Ellowyne Wilde, back for another post now that spring break is over–for Laurie’s daughters are once again at school and quiet reigns here at the house. While February and March teased Montanans with unusually mild temperatures, April seems to have decided at least one month must come in like a lion and it might as well be her. Yet while out-of-doors still reflects the winter—sans the snow because New England confiscated it all—we dolls on the Front Porch enjoy spring-like views.

Yes, Laurie finally managed to get to a larger craft store in Missoula a few weeks ago and brought us back…well, just this:

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This is all we get? Sigh.

 

In times past, she’s spoiled us with lots more goodies to enjoy, but apparently the store was running low on dolly-sized items. Nonetheless, this sprig of flowers is all we really needed to complete our spring project: a topiary tree!

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Wink Wink

Laurie spruced up our pot, using Mod Podge to affix scrapbook paper to the pot’s exterior and then brushing another two coats of Mod Podge over the paper to harden it and give it a glossier look. We dolls don’t go anywhere near glue for obvious reasons (plus, one never knows what ideas it might put in Mistletoe’s head), which is why Laurie also had to attach the flowers to our tree.

 

 

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Topiary pulled apart

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About to use Mod Podge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But once the glue dried, it was our turn to do some work…and that ended up being relatively easy (especially since we can divide and conquer jobs between sixteen dolls).

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Within minutes, we had the tree planted and set “just so” on our porch.

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I say the topiary looks fab. Prudence says it looks lonely. Laurie says she’ll keep her eye out for more foliage.

I won’t hold my breath.

What do you think of our tree? Are any other dolls out there decorating for spring? I’d love to see some pics!

Crafty Cushion

Bonjour, tout le monde! Ellowyne Wilde here with another dolly update. It almost didn’t happen this week, I’ll have you know. Laurie has been hogging the laptop in an attempt to finish the first draft of her Christmas novel (apparently the rest of the Christmas décor around here isn’t coming down until she’s accomplished that!)—but she’s no match against 16 dolls. We’ve got 256 inches to her 66; that’s a decent amount of leverage to wrestle away one little laptop.

And while Laurie’s family might have to suffer through the first half of February with green garland and reindeer figurines, we dolls in our corner of the house begin to welcome spring. I know, I know—seems odd here in Montana, but temperatures have been unusually warm these past few weeks. We just can’t help ourselves. So to pay tribute to Spring’s inevitable arrival, here is our latest accomplishment: a seat cushion boasting the lush, cheery colors of the lush, cheery season (at least, it’s lush in other parts of the country).

Now, in certain social circles, Laurie may try to take credit for making the cushion, but the following pictures show the truth of the matter, wouldn’t you agree?

Here, Ping Lei wraps batting around the foam.

Here, Ping Lei wraps batting around the foam.

And here, Prudence and Lizette work at cutting the fabric to the specific measurements.

And here, Prudence and Lizette work at cutting the fabric to the specific measurements.

Mistletoe and Tori had the job of pinning the fabric around the inner cushion, but we have since learned that leaving these two alone together produces a slew of mischief:

Girls, put those "swords" away before you poke out a glass eye!

Girls, put those “swords” away before you poke out a glass eye!

Step away from the thread, Mistletoe, and nobody gets hurt… 

 

 

Following this tutorial, Ping Lei, Mistletoe and I tried sewing the pieces together, along with the piping–something I had not attempted before this project–but the rubber feed dog fell apart halfway through. I suppose it was just a matter of time, since the machine dates back to the 1970’s (how good will I look in forty years?!). To tell you the truth, I really didn’t mind waiting the week for the metal replacement to come in the mail because of what you can’t see in the picture above the sewing machine: a deer head presides over the living room. An animal hanging on the wall, no matter how dead, can be rather intimidating for a doll. I couldn’t sew fast enough, despite Mistletoe’s attempt to slow me down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After sewing a Velcro closure along the back, we at last have our new cushion. Makes the bench look all the more inviting, n’est pas?

Before...

Before…

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And after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re welcome to sit for a spell, but don’t be offended if we can’t join you right away. It seems one of our party has gone missing (or hiding, depending on who you ask) and the rest of us must go in search of her.

I can’t imagine where Mistletoe has disappeared to…can you?

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