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And so we meet again, Sewing, my old nemesis!  But be warned, this time you cannot prevent me from creating something beautiful from woven fabric, no matter how vilely you struggle!

A while ago I started to suspect that at least some of my sewing misadventures were due, not to my incompetence, but to the imperfection of the free patterns I was using (of course, no pattern can take the blame for my ability to break sewing machines just by looking at them).  For whatever reason, I don’t feel like this is a problem where knitting patterns are concerned – I’ve encountered a few disappointments that were barely worth the zero dollars I paid for them, to be sure, but I’ve known way more patterns that were actually excellent.  Maybe it’s because, especially since the Ravelry-, Etsy-, and Patternfish-supported boom in indie designers, a lot of people who design for yarn think of free patterns as a fantastic advertising tool that lets people try out your design skills and style of pattern writing before they shell out for your pay patterns.  Maybe it’s just because I understand how knitted fabric works in a way I don’t understand woven fabric, so I am both able to evaluate a free pattern before I start knitting it and nix any real stinkers, and also capable of adjusting it as I go if I think something’s not working.  Either way, it was a bit of a revelation to find that, yes, I may have been shooting myself in the foot by sticking only to free sewing patterns (at least for dolls – I think there are some great patterns and recipes out there for people clothes that don’t cost anything, like Tally’s recent tutorials on making a dress from a t-shirt and making a hood for a Halloween costume over at I Could Make That).

See, I had this great idea for a Halloween costume for Rada & Posy.  But it required a dress.  And yeah, I could knit a Box-Opening Day Dress in a suitable colour, but I did that last year!  And anyway, I really wanted more of a Mori Girl feel for this outfit, a feel which is supported by woven-fabric garments.  And I looked around at some of the free patterns I have bookmarked, and the best choice was something I’ve sewn before with so-so results.  So I started looking at pay patterns and ended up on the Gracefaery site.  I shelled out for Seasons For Seola, which is actually designed for the DollsTown Elf body, but comes much closer to the measurements of the DT 7year body than most garments designed for minis (I had been looking at Adams-Harris as well, but all the dresses that looked right were only available for slim mature minis and I knew they would be tough to adjust for my chunky immature girl).  Anyway, it took me two arduous days (torturous, even, when it came to sewing the pleats along the bottom, because, remember, I’m doing this all by hand) but I came up with this amazing piece of work.  Sure, it’s imperfect, but I am in no way embarrassed to show it, unlike many of my other sewing escapades.

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Like I said, there are a few issues (mostly at least kind of hidden) because I did some of the adjustments by guesswork rather than by measurement.  If & when I sew up other patterns from the collection, I will definitely be pulling out my tape measure.  But so many things went really well – the way the neckline and sleeves were made in particular really awed me; they turned out so neat and tidy!

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There’s at least one more piece coming (if you’re following along at home, this is the Spring pattern from the Seasons set, so I have a pinafore to make; I am also planning to make up an apron, and if I have time I may put together a petticoat as well) as well as one or more props, but even if I had to take her to the local Halloween meetup just as she is I’d be super proud of myself.  Have to get that fancy wig out and give the bangs a trim, though, because as cute as she is in this wig my vision for the costume includes cascading ringlets.  Ooh, I’m so excited!

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A new look for Rada

So, DollsTown Seola was/is pretty much my grail doll.  I was fortunate enough to be able to get her early on, and I adore her (as is evidenced by the fact that my “Rada” set on Flickr is twice the size of most of my other dolls’ sets), but one thing is a constant challenge: her wig.

For starters, the DollsTown minis have unusually large heads (8.25″ to most dolls of that height’s 7.5″ or so).  I find that this means wigs designed for minis in the 7-8″ range are so tight as to slip off her head easily, and often look “gappy” at the temples where there aren’t many wefts of hair once the elastic cap is stretched to the utmost…but on the other hand, wigs for 8-9″ doll heads are a bit loose and often just have way too much hair.  So while most of my dolls have had about 2 wigs, Rada has now owned 6.  The other problem is that she insists on having curly hair, or at least wavy, and curly wigs are a nightmare to keep from getting tangled and fuzzy.  So I exist in this constant state of feeling like her hair really doesn’t meet the standard set by the rest of her!

However, I think this has just changed!  Wigs 5 & 6 arrived recently from a group order from LeekeWorld.  I’d heard about Leeke wigs, that they were great quality, and I could see from the website that they had an excellent range of styles.  Having actually beheld the wigs in person now I will vouch that they are superb.

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This is going to be Rada’s everyday wig.  It’s straighter than I would normally go, but I feel like it works.  This is a 7-8 wig, and although it’s a tad tight, it doesn’t suffer from the gappiness at the temples that makes Rada look like she’s balding (at age 7!) when she wears, for example, her Luts Kid Delf wig.  No, Leeke don’t skimp on the hair they attach!

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The neon yellow elastics have to go, obviously, but I think the little braids are adorable!

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The second wig I haven’t had a chance to photograph yet (and may not for a little while).  It’s a size 8-9 wig, so there is quite a lot of hair for my wee darling, but it’s meant to be a short cut on a 60cm doll, so I feel like it works.  The big problem is that the bangs are WAAAAY too long (which is why you won’t see it until I or my hair-cutting sister have a chance to trim the thing).  It’s curly, a huge spill of ringlets, and it will live safely tucked away in its wig net, individually wrapped in a little plastic bag, hidden in my wig box, in the hopes that when I pull it out for meetups or special photoshoots it will look as good as the day I received it.  If you’re curious, it’s this one on the Leeke website.

Hey, bonus, in this picture you can really see the lovely shawl I whipped up from leftover alpaca (the same local stuff as her winter coat) using the star chart from Laminaria!

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Voting is over, the winners have been announced (no, I was not among them, not even close), and I’m finally at liberty to post what I’ve been crafting this month, that’s been taking all my energy!  I’m really proud of all the things I made, even though they obviously didn’t please the crowd as much as they pleased me (I was tied for about 34th place out of 37 or 38 different scores, with I think 54 entrants who completed all three challenges…yeah…congrats to everyone who made top 25 anyway!).  I foresee them making plenty of further appearances in my doll photography.

The Wicked Sweet Triathlon had three events.  The first, Risqué Business, was to make an outfit for a doll out of nothing but 2 pairs of women’s underwear.  I think this was the challenge in which my (lack of) photography skills hurt me the most – there were some entries where the garments looked less interestingly designed (okay, I’m biased) and less well-executed (and that’s a little more objective position) than mine that still got quite a few more votes, presumably in part because the photos were better.  I have improved a lot, even compared to looking back at my photography from Japan (2008-9), but under pressure I still have trouble.  But then that’s part of why I started this blog, to learn and grow.

My outfit was made from a couple of pairs of drapey hipster undies (hipster cut, not hipster type person) with light, nearly see-through material that I thought would drape really well on Suzuha.  Turns out even very light material gets a bit stiff on 1/6 scale bodies…but I think you can still get the flowy sort of style I was trying for.  The outfit was inspired by Mori Girl fashion, although the colours are very bright for a Mori outfit, which should strictly speaking be made up of neutrals, faded pastels, and low-saturation darker tones.  But I was working with what I had…unfortunately, Mori Girl Panties are not the sort of thing one can pick up on the cheap at Zellers, heh.

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Originally, I was going to crochet a sun hat to go with this outfit, but it wasn’t working and it wasn’t working and I was running out of time…but crocheting flowers worked just dandy, hence the sakura-inspired headdress.

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Every part of the outfit features some sort of braid.  This was sadly the best picture I had of the trousers…see what I mean by my photography being a major handicap?

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The dress is designed to be worn with her wings, although I didn’t end up bringing them out for the photoshoot.  I am very into this kind of “racerback” style of dress right now – I have been wearing the one I own all summer!  Braided fabric is really interesting.  For this outfit I also learned how to do a four-strand braid, which was pretty interesting.

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Then came part 2: Shadowcasters!  The challenge was to make a doll-scale light source and photograph it both in action generally and then with your doll casting a shadow using your light source’s light.  I wanted to make one of those shadow lamps that kids have, with aquariums and stuff on them…somehow a carousel seemed like the right thing for Rada.  I basically built a lantern out of vellum paper and cardstock to go around a dollar store emergency puck light, decorated it with some glitter glue, and dropped it on top of a couple of tea tins posing as a bedside table.  On the whole, I think it turned out awesome…but that’s just when I look at the photos, and not when I think about how much time I spent fighting with the damn lid, which is completely unsecured and loved to pop off just as I was about to snap a picture.  ARGH.

I had a tonne of fun setting up this photo shoot!  I got to bring out all of Rada’s toys (and there are getting to be a lot of them…!) and I set up the corner shelf which formerly supported our Christmas tree to look a little like a child’s bedroom.  I imagined that Rada was home sick with the ‘flu, and Vasya had bought Yukata!Bunny to make her feel better.  Rada, feeling a little less tired today, is introducing Yukata!Bunny to her other toys, but she’s still got the chills, which is why she’s wrapped up in a snuggly blanket (knit from SophiaRowan’s handspun that I won back in the days of the ResinCast podcast).

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Later (and for the shadowcasting shot), she’s staying up past bedtime drawing by the light of her merry-go-round.

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In these photos, you might also notice how upright Rada is able to get and stay…just want to give a shout out to the lovely Linzabeth, who recently sueded and wired my bratty baby (that’s her in the “wiring the legs” photo!  I feel famous!).  Rada now stands like a fucking rock and can hold some awesome poses…the only thing I didn’t anticipate is that since she’s been wired she’s a lot harder to dress, since I can’t bonelessly fold her arms in on themselves as I used to.  Who knew?  So happy with Linzabeth’s services, though, and she’s so sweet that she even fixed the chip in Rada’s eye makeup and fixed/improved my terrible blushing job (not that anyone but me will ever see it, regardless).

The third and final event of the triathlon was my favourite, both in terms of my own entry and in terms of what everyone came up with.  The challenge of The Doppelgänger was to create a “double” of your doll and photograph them together.  Any material.  Any craft.  If you are a member of DoA I highly recommend wandering over to the Anniversary subforum to have a look at the entries; they are amazing.

I actually set out to make an amigurumi doppelganger.  I was going to needle-felt ball joints along the lines of the plushies Tally makes, but I didn’t have time to consult her on how her joints work and as I started stuffing the limbs I realised that I’d been using too big a crochet hook for the yarn meaning that the fabric was gappy and showed the stuffing.  I’m also just not very good at stuffing things evenly, and what with the needle-felted balls and then the unevenly applied stuffing everything looked horribly lumpy and misshapen.  So I said “the heck with this!” tossed it in the bottom of my craft basket, and started on a totally new tack: needle felting the whole thing!  I made the joints with jewelry findings as I was finding that thread was just too flexible and let the limbs fall out of their joints a little.

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I need you to know that I broke all two of my felting needles right at the end of the project, at a time when there was absolutely no way I could get to the store and pick up more before the deadline to submit photos.  You can imagine me sitting there with the 1.25cm broken-off point of one needle trying my hardest to get the doppelgänger’s hair attached to his head with pretty mediocre results…in the end, I got out to take photos and his hair started flying away and I had to stick it on with the sticky-tack I’d brought out to help Posy stand up!  But hair notwithstanding, I’m super proud of how he turned out.  My concept was that he’s a skinwalker type creature, hence the red-white outside that’s meant to be reminiscent of raw meat or anatomical drawings of musculature.  Here’s the photo I submitted for the contest, with text.  He actually does stand on his own if you get him balanced just right, but there was a tiny breeze the day I was taking pictures so I had to improvise with the landscape.

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And if you want to see a larger version you can click through on the original photo here.

So that’s what I’ve been up to all August.  I had a lot of fun, but it’s been great to get back to my regular knitting projects as well.  My test knit of Ur-Bun is hopping along, and I’m hoping to be able to release the pattern sometime this month or next.  Also, isn’t it time for a Rhodion update?  My water lilies are now 8 repeats long (out of a total of 26 repeats of the main pattern, 13 for each side, and then the border).  Nearly a quarter of the way through!  And I’ve amazingly managed to complete two of those repeats THIS WEEKEND!

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Doesn’t look like that much, does it? 8 repeats? This little crumpled thing?

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But it’s going to be unbelievable when it’s done!

Phew.  Well that was an update and a half!  No more secret projects for a while; they’re too challenging to catch up on!

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Arithmetic

I just started swatching and calculating for the larger sizes of Ur-Bun, hoping to release the full pattern in the fall.  I’m starting by test-knitting the slim mini size, calculating standard mini and large sizes from measurements.  I had calculated gauge in the new yarn/needle combination I’m using, taken all the pertinent measurements, and calculated the raglan increases…then I went to slot the measurements into my Pages file alongside the MiniGem pattern and realised two things:

1. despite using different yarn and needles, my gauge was exactly the same.  Yay!  I’m a consistently-tensioned knitter!  But also what the heck?!?  How does that even work?

2. something was obviously off with my calculations, since I’d come out with instructions to cast on exactly 2 stitches more than I had done for the MiniGem size.  Yes, something was seriously wrong, wrong enough to warrant a high-pitched “WHAT?!?” that apparently upset G, who thought maybe my computer had caught fire or some other non-knitting-related mishap.  Nope, I just couldn’t believe my numbers.

So I had to test it out.  Yes, Ur-Bun for MiniGem can be worn by MiniFee.  Obviously my numbers do in fact need tweaking, as it’s very tight, but, well, I wasn’t totally crazy!

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Doesn’t Edik look smashing in pink, though?

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It’s been a productive week!  I released a pattern, made a tutorial, finished Sample No. 2 of the pattern (with variations!), had time to knit up a doll-size version of the ever-so-delightful Woodland Hoodlet from Tiny Owl Knits, and still had time to be going “uhh, what am I going to knit next?” yesterday evening!

I celebrated the summer solstice first by getting up at 3:30 AM, so as to be at a local park by 4, to welcome the sun with song on the longest day of the year.  My family has been doing this for something over 10 years now – we’re not religious, but since we celebrate Christmas in a fairly Christian manner, it seems only right to balance with the celebration of a good old Pagan holiday.  After we sing up the sun, it’s back to my mother’s house for waffles and bacon, yum!  And then, what to do with the rest of the day?  Take advantage of the sunshine for a photoshoot in the garden, of course!

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Enjoy the rest under the jump!

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I just released my second pattern this month!  It’s another free download through Ravelry, available here.  If you are having trouble with picking up stitches, do view the photo tutorial I made, and please don’t be shy about commenting if it’s still confusing.  No new photos yet, but I’m working on the standard Mini sample, so look for another photo shoot soon!

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Lace-spiration

Tumblr is totally inspiring me!  When I saw this dress, I wanted to knit something similar for Suzuha, and today I had a chance to photograph it!  I’ll be releasing the pattern (sized for MiniGem/Barbie, Slim Mini, and Standard Mini) later this week.  Like my Box-Opening-Day Dress, it’s a simple, customisable pattern…with pizazz!

The tee is my own design as well; locally dyed laceweight that I bought for a shawl and have been hanging on to the leftovers ever since.  Didn’t keep very good notes on the top, though it’s a pretty simple top-down raglan.  Next time, maybe.

The bench is a garage sale find that my sister gave me!  It needs a bit of love – I think I will get some clay to build up the legs a little so it fits Suzuha better, and I will probably sew a better cushion for it – but it’s so cute!

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More under the cut.

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Bernard is live!

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Bernard, a turtleneck for 70cm guys, is now live!  Click through to download it as a free PDF from my Ravelry store!  Happy knitting – hope to see those FOs soon!

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So, that commission for a friend?  That I’m going to write up a pattern for?  Finished, blocked, and “photographed” this morning!  I say “photographed” because none of my dolls are remotely in the same size category as the Dollshe men (the doll this is for is an older version of these guys, so he looks a bit different, but the same height and style).  My closest in height, Vasilisa (who’s off limits anyway as she’s visiting my sister to have some pants fitted), is a mere 57cm tall.  Dollshe dolls are 70cm.  Add to that that they’re freakishly skinny for their height, and…there really is no parallel.  But I hate photographing garments lying flat on the windowsill.  They are meant to be filled out, three-dimensional.  So I asked Edik if he would give me a hand.

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Melon Head

Here’s a baby hat I finished a little while ago, modeled by Vasilisa, whose head is almost 10″ in circumference.  The hat, which is meant to fit a newborn, is only slightly too large for her.  Crazy!

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Also, I just started a Tumblr blog over here, if you’re into that kind of thing.  I’m not really sure where I’m going to go with it…maybe progress photos, inspiration…I’m excited to explore a new medium, find some new communities, and have some new fun!  Not much there yet, but there will be!

(To tell the absolute truth, this post is largely to check out the RSS feed to Tumblr that I tried to set up…hope it’s working correctly!  If you prefer Tumblr, you can follow me there and not worry about missing out on new posts!)

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