Tag Archive | crafts

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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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!

Finally…A Front Porch!

Before I hand things over to Ellowyne, I just want to thank the Lord for helping me complete this project that’s been two years in the making. I’ve prayed over this porch every step of the way—from prayers that I wouldn’t fudge on the detailed painting to prayers that I would make the correct cuts to prayers that I could drill straight holes, etc.—and I just have to point out the obvious: God answered every prayer.

He gave me steady hands when I used the drill—especially during the more stressful moments when I had to attach the brace for the swing, when I attached the railings to the posts, and when I fastened the roof to the back wall. He gave me strength and judgment several times when I had to wrestle with the roof and a free-standing wall (not yet attached to the base and propped up only by a child’s chair) to insure they would mount properly with the porch posts before I could begin securing things together. And considering I had never attempted such a project before, it was only through God downloading His creativity into me via insights, epiphanies, and good advice from my hubby and my dad that allowed all the different pieces of this porch to actually fit together in the end! So, THANK YOU, LORD, for being present in the details.

(And thanks to Mike Harrison for letting me use his drill press, without which I couldn’t have created my railings!)

Ellowyne? Do you have anything to add?

Well, of course I do! Let’s not forget all the help we dolls gave you at the end, there! I’ve got pictures documenting it all. See for yourself:

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Here we are at the beginning, having a little pow-wow before getting down to the nitty-gritty.

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Here we are, anchoring the back wall to the porch floor and reattaching the lanterns.

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Prudence and Spring fit the porch posts and railings into the floor.

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Here we are enjoying a job well done and celebrating the fact we now have more square footage in which to stretch—and play and chat and vent and…you get the picture.

Some interesting tidbits you might like to know about this porch’s development:

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The swing cushions inhabit what otherwise would hold birdseed.

Laurie’s oldest daughter initially came up with the idea for a porch when Laurie was pondering future diorama possibilities (this was before my shelves in the dining room were even in the lineup). Laurie then told her mother in MA about the idea, her mother later shared the idea with Laurie’s aunt in TN during a visit, and you know what Aunt Fran said? “Every porch needs a swing.” So she bought a cedar swing originally intended to hold birdseed, fashioned cushions for the swing, and sent it on to Laurie in MT. More than a year later, that swing finally has a home. 🙂

Laurie knew she eventually wanted lanterns to flank the front door, but they had to be the correct scale, so naturally the prevalent three-inch lanterns she could find just about anywhere wouldn’t do. At last she scored after this past Christmas season when she found on clearance a set of twelve plastic lanterns fitted with a string of Christmas lights. The easy part was in popping off the lanterns from the mini light bulbs. The hard part was figuring out how she wanted to attach the lanterns to the back wall and how she could make them light up—because we dolls need functioning lanterns, after all! In the end, she used cup hooks screwed into the wall, black chain links, some black wire, and mini, battery-operated party lights that she can change out when the batteries die (or change the batteries—whichever one is a cheaper fix!).

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Lantern with mini party light

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Working lanterns!

The railings are made from trim bought at the hardware store and lots of spindles ordered online from a craft supply store. Using Mike’s drill press, Laurie drilled holes into the flat side of the trim and, after painting all required pieces, she glued the spindles into the holes. The railings were later attached to the posts (originally stair balusters) via small nails used as pegs for precision fit and strength. Strength, you ask? Well, you see how Mistletoe and Tori treat the railings!

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Two things Laurie had to keep in mind when creating this porch:

  1. It had to involve affordable materials so her hubby’s eyes wouldn’t bulge when he read the credit card statements.
  2. Even once she put it together, the porch had to be able to come apart—just in case. So the big pieces like the roof, back wall, and floor are only attached to each other by screws, and the railing system fits into holes in the floor and holes in the roof braces. No glue.
To show you the scale, here's Laurie standing beside the porch.

To show you the scale, here’s Laurie standing beside the porch, which measures 2 ft tall, 4 ft wide, and 16 inches deep.

All in all, we dolls are as pleased as inanimate objects can be over the completion of our front porch! As you can see, we didn’t waste time decorating for autumn…

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…since in a few days we’ll be bringing out the Christmas decorations (yeah, we do that early in this household!). I’m thinking strings of Christmas lights around the railings…a wreath on the door…and maybe we can wedge a Christmas tree over there in the corner! What do you say, Laurie? Think you can find us a twenty-two-inch Christmas tree?

Oh, and I wanted to discuss with you some plans for a possible back porch, now that you know how to go about making these structures. A balcony might be nice down the road, too—

Laurie?

Laurie?

Um, girls…I need some smelling salts over here!

We’ve been shuttered!

“So what have you been up to today?” my mom asked during our late Saturday afternoon phone call last week.

I smiled. “I finished making the shutters for my house.”

Pause. Then, “For your house…or Ellowyne’s?”

Touché, Mom.

Considering the plethora of doll-sized work I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks, her question didn’t surprise me. In fact, the clarification of whose shutters I had made was on the tip of my tongue when she voiced her confusion.

Rest assured, Ello’s front porch will have shutters—but the ones I completed are for my human-sized house.

A little back-story here. Though Kreh and I have lived out west for more than twelve years now (!), we were both born and raised in New England, and there are things back east we still enjoy—the fall foliage being one of them. 😉 Shutters flanking house windows are another. I felt that very strongly with my recent visit back “home,” where the majority of houses—even those newly built—have shutters. Out here in my corner of Montana, the majority of homes do not have shutters. When Kreh and I go for a drive, while he is on the lookout for wildlife, I am on the lookout for cute houses—and nine times out of ten, the houses I consider cute are those adorned with shutters.

For me, a house without shutters is like an actress at the Oscars without any bling. Something’s missing.

Naturally, then, when Kreh and I bought our current house, one of the things we wanted to do was add shutters.

Something's definitely missing...

Something’s missing…

That was almost six years ago!

But it all came together so quickly and easily, I’m flabbergasted as to why we didn’t do this during year one!

I built the shutters out of cedar picket fence boards, cutting them to size and angling the corners at the top where applicable. When all the pieces were cut and knowing I was going to screw in the horizontal pieces from the back, I drew lines on the garage floor using a right-angle ruler and my children’s chalk to indicate where to place the horizontal slats and where to place the vertical pieces so things would look even and uniform from the front when all was said and done. Cedar is soft wood, which means no pre-drilling for the screws, so while my girls played inside with their American Girl dolls, I put together seven pairs of shutters.

Cut the boards...

Cut the boards…

Assemble the boards...

Assemble the boards…

That evening, Kreh and I laid out planks of wood in the backyard, upon which I set down all the shutters and for three and a half hours the next Sunday afternoon/early evening, I stained both sides of fourteen shutters.

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Stain the boards…

And Kreh went hunting.

(I’m teasing him with that last comment. In truth, he felt a little guilty leaving me to do all the staining, but I urged him to go hunt. We all need time for our passions, otherwise we get cranky. And Kreh blessed our family that night with a bull elk for our freezer, so it was a win-win all around!)

Thanks, honey!

Thanks, honey!

Between Kreh’s success hunting, open house at the girls’ school, and our other “extra-curricular activities” during the week, it was late Friday evening before we finally attached the shutters to the house—and fully dark by the time we finished. I could hardly wait for the next morning to see fruit of our labor!

 

Before...

Before…

After…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before...

Before…

After...

After…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close up...

Close up…

Another view...

Another view…

So our dream of shutters took five years longer than anticipated to see realization, but it was well worth the wait. I might not have a green thumb, and landscaping is not one of my strengths, but with the help of my hubby’s power tools and the abilities God has given me, I’m grateful to be able to bring a bit of charm to our little Montana home.

A Teaser

IMG_1790Hello, everyone! Ellowyne Wilde here. I’m back (finally!) with a quick update on how Laurie is coming along on my front porch. She’s allowed me to reveal a few snippets, assuring me she will have the whole thing completed by the end of September. Okay, so she didn’t promise. I believe the word she used was “hope.” But I have to hand it to her; she’s done more work on the porch in the last couple of weeks than she has in the last six months!

Here is the latest piece completed: the porch roof.

All 816 square inches of it!

Finished roof...

Finished roof…

 

 

 

 

After calculating how many shingles she would need to make and how much wood that would entail, Laurie went about using her hubby’s table saw to cut up a 4’ x 2’ MDF board. She had finished just over half the number of shingles when she began to corral them all into a plastic bag. Well, the bag became heavier…and heavier…and heavier…

Note to self: MDF is too heavy to use for shingles when a doll’s front porch is being constructed by a non-professional.

Sigh.

So, Laurie moved on to balsa wood and ordered several sheets of it from an online company. They arrived a few days after she left for vacation this summer. We dolls would have had a work party while she was gone and helped her cut some shingles…except we worried about knicking our plastic and vinyl bodies with the X-acto knife. Thankfully it didn’t take her but a few days to cut the 322 shingles all by herself (8 sheets of 36” x 6” balsa wood sheets, in case you wanted to know!).

During the gluing stage...

During the gluing stage…

Then came the gluing. You guessed it—she used Power Grip glue. And then came the staining, for which she used a cherry finish, along with a 1” foam brush for the shingles and a narrow craft bristle brush for all the tiny spaces in between.

And now that it’s done…we wait.

Because there are several things Laurie needs to finish before she can put all the pieces together. Like attaching the door to the doorjamb on the back wall, for instance.

I watched her working on it yesterday. She didn’t look too happy. Apparently once she screwed the hinges into the door…the door doesn’t fit into the opening anymore! So now she has to take a chisel to the doorjamb.

She had better take care of my wall!

She had better take care of my wall!

Given that the back wall is already finished, she had better not deface my wall with a chisel gone awry!

Ahem.

You know, I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t have hired a real carpenter in the first place—two years ago when this project first took root in that woman’s brain. At the very latest, we dolls probably could have had a completed porch by this time last year!

Of course, then Laurie wouldn’t have had all the fun in making it herself. (She doesn’t like me to remind her of the frustration involved!)

Weighing the options...

Weighing the options…

 

 

 

 

Hmm…weighing the options. Profressional…non-professional. Happy Laurie…disappointed Laurie…

Ooo, wait! Laurie has some carpenter friends, doesn’t she? Surely they’d be willing to lend a hand to a gal in need!

 

 

Yoo-hoo! Mr. Schwaubauer! I could really use your help on something…!

Too busy?

Okay. Um, Mr. Harrison, you interested?

Not into doll-scaled details?

Sigh.

Maybe I should seek out Ty Pennington. Think he’s doing anything important these days?

Anybody know of a reputable carpenter?

Anybody know of a reputable carpenter?

Have bag. Will travel. Almost.

Illustration of a cartoon style about summer and beach holidayser time vector

I’m on vacation for the next few weeks. When you think of the word “vacation,” what first springs to mind? Maybe relaxation. A time to unwind. A yummy drink in one hand and a good book in the other. Or maybe it means going to new places, seeing new sights, doing something different and fun each day. For my family, it means heading back to New England to visit friends and relatives. And for me specifically…it means not having to worry about what we’re having for dinner, because I don’t have to cook it! 🙂 It also means time to knit (since one can socialize and knit at the same time).

What is doesn’t mean is time to write–hence why it’s been just over two weeks since my last post.

Nevertheless, today I’m squirreling away here and there in order to share my progress on the one thing I’ve been able to work on this past week: my Ravenna Satchel.

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Last row of intarsia panel complete!

Roughly a week after I published the last post about the satchel, I finished the intarsia panel—yay! As the end came in sight and the number of color changes I had to make began to dwindle, the knitting process naturally sped up and it became a breeze to finish one row after another in one sitting.

And oh, the smile that lit my face when I knit that last stitch!

Then I saw the loose ends.

Yikes!

Yikes!

I can’t say my smile entirely disappeared. After knitting intarsia for so long, I found it rewarding to do something different. It took me a few blocks of time, but one by one those loose ends got weaved in. Once I fixed some random holes left by unwrapped stitches, I turned my attention to knitting the back of the bag.

In the original pattern, the back is solid black—a bit of a letdown, given the rest of the bag is so beautifully patterned with flowers and such—but I had long ago decided I’d carry the blue background all the way around and ordered yarn accordingly, buying more skeins of Clarity (light blue) and less of Currant (deep red).

Apparently I did not have my fill of intarsia, for I had knit no more than a few rows into the humdrum straight-stitch back panel when I decided to design a couple of flowers and possible leaves to liven things up a bit. Common Sense returned in time to [redirect] my grandiose plans into a more manageable one: one flower and one leaf. That kept me happily knitting for another couple of mornings, until I finished the specified number of rows and joined everything together again to knit the upper section of the bag in the round. That went quick and just before leaving for vacation, I had completed everything but the bind-off edge.

Finished bag just before felting...

Finished bag just before felting…

So I sacrificed a critical couple of pounds in my suitcase and took the satchel-in-progress with me.

I felted it within the first few days of arriving in New England. During the knitting process, I had been concerned about possible puckering in the areas behind which I chose to carry yarn; however, I’m pleased to report that puckering did not occur. Some of the darker colors did bleed a tiny bit, but it’s nothing the needle-felting can’t hide.

After felting. No, the picture is not out of focus--that's the blurry effect of the stitches.

After felting. No, the picture is not out of focus–that’s the blurry effect of the stitches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which is really what my fingers have been busy with this week.

Following the pattern instructions and taking needle in hand, I outlined each flower and leaf twice with the corresponding yarn and now I’m currently outlining the outline twice with my background color. (Long car rides and evening chats afford great opportunities to stab away at strands of yarn.) As you can see from the flower and leaf I knit on the back panel, it’s the process of needle-felting with the background color that really makes the pattern pop. Once I finish the outlines, I’ll fix any last troublesome areas by needle-felting over it with the correct color.

After needle-felting...

After needle-felting…

And when I’m done with that…uh, no, I won’t be finished. There’s a zipper to add and handles to make, feet to apply…and a search for the perfect fabric to line the inside that will make me smile every time I open my bag.

I suppose those details will have to wait until after my vacation. In the meantime, I can once again look people in the eye while I socialize. 😉

Time to…Play?

Hello, my cyber-space friends. It’s me: Ellowyne Wilde of the Germaine clan, back with some news that’s thrilling enough to keep me happy for more than a few minutes! Yours Truly is now officially in charge of all future Doll Drama posts. Eeee!

I'm excited--can't you tell?

I’m excited–can’t you tell?

Today, I’d like to highlight one of Laurie’s latest projects: an American Girl backdrop. (If I didn’t have three floors of my own and a porch on the way, I might be a little jealous.) From what I understand, these AG dolls—and other dolls of similar size—are quite popular among young girls right now, and I, for one, am very thankful for that…otherwise I might not have half the furniture I currently enjoy in my own not-so-humble abode!

Anyway, it seems Laurie had so much fun making my backdrops that she got it in her head to make some more, except this time on a slightly larger scale for the AG dolls. Heaven only knows what she’s going to do with them all, but that’s her problem, not mine. Just as long as she leaves my corner of the dining room out of it…IMG_1051

So here are the “bones” of her first backdrop: a 2’ x 4’ MDF board (1/8” thick) bought at Home Depot. This picture shows it cut in half then duck-taped together again with an inch-wide “spine,” as well as a cutout for the door. The cutout will later become the actual door.

The next step requires some fun fabric that would look great as wallpaper and spray adhesive glue. Laurie used Elmer’s CraftBond. Cut the fabric so it overlaps the MDF board by an inch or two, protect the area in which you are going to use the adhesive spray, then glue the fabric to the board one section at a time. She did this step too fast the first time and the fabric didn’t stick, so make sure to spray slowly up and down and work the fabric along a few inches at a time, smoothing it out as you go. Because her board was 48” and her fabric only 44”, she used the door frame as a natural break in the two pieces of fabric and lined up the pattern accordingly.IMG_1248 After that, it’s ModPodge time. Two coats of ModPodge, sanding after each coat. This gives the fabric durability and makes it feel less like cotton fibers. 😉 Once that’s dry, carefully flip the backdrop over and ModPodge the ends of the fabric to the back of the board.

 

 

Next stop: the doorframe. Laurie used 1-inch wide trim from Lowe’s as the frame and chiseled out the areas in which the hinges could nestle so the trim would lay flush against the “wall.”IMG_1246 Next she stained the wood and then glued the hinges into place.

Time to make the donuts…er, the door! Using the cutout as her base, she first measured and cut strips of Balsa wood for the detailed work then stained everything the same color as the frame (I know it doesn’t look the same, but it is; case of different types of wood). Afterward, she glued the Balsa wood to the door base, taking care to hide the hinges beneath the right-hand strip of wood.

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The door pre-assembly…

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The door after assembly…

What kind of glue did she use for the wood, you ask? Her go-to glue, of course: Loctite Power Grab, which holds fast and dries clear.

Lastly, she glued on the doorknob—found in the scrapbooking department at her local craft store!! Perfect size, isn’t it? If scrapbooking places are hard to come by in your area, Home Depot has a great selection of small cabinet hardware you could use for a doorknob. (It worked for my front porch, but shhh—I’m not supposed to tell you that yet!)

Isn't this fantastic?!

Isn’t this fantastic?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, look...it's Caroline!

Oh, look…it’s Caroline!

Make yourself right at home, dear...but I get my desk back after this post!

Make yourself right at home, dear…but I get my desk back after this post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that the hard work is done, let the glue set for 24 hours…and you’re ready to play! I, uh, mean, your kids are ready to play. Naturally, I don’t mean you. (Not to worry—your secret is safe with me…)

Hey, Laurie, guess what…

You're not the only grown-up who plays with dolls!

You’re not the only grown-up who plays with dolls!