Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dollhouse Furniture and Bendy Dolls

Dollhouse furniture is definitely a learning process... Mr. River insisted on making things out of wood, so it's a lot of cutting... figuring out how things would lock together, trying to make tables and chairs not wobble, etc. After a week spent of looking online for "dollhouse furniture plans" and not coming up with much that *we* could make... Mr River took to lined paper and drew out the designs. And wow is he good at it! He made the bed and chair in a "locking" design so that the pieces go together a bit like a puzzle. They're very sturdy this way without the need for nails :) 

Mr. River made the table and chairs. We found the small wooden cups and barrels and bucket at Michael's in the unfinished wood section. The pies I made out of bottlecaps using this blog for the idea. The blueberry pie is straight from the tutorial. The cherry pie, though, I just cut small circles from red felt and then used brown felt as the pie crust and I think it looks much better than the foam + cardstock. also, I didn't bother drawing around the pie crust before cutting strips, I just cut strips, wove on top, and then trimmed after it was all dry.

My favorite is easily the rocking horse :)

I made the girls "bendy dolls" as the dolls for the dollhouse. I used the size of the dolls that Elves and Angels sell for the dollhouse, which are a 1/12 scale dollhouse. So a 5-6" doll.

For Blue's birthday, I got a book on making fairies - and they're extremely straightforward and easy to make. Bendy dolls are the same idea. I looked at a few blogs to learn how to thread-wrap the pipe cleaners for a cleaner look. The Enchanted Tree has a really awesome tutorial.  A few lessons I learned on Bendy Dolls though...

  1. I took two pipe cleaners and twisted them together for extra strength for the adults. For the kids, I used the "star" shape design of the Forest Fairy Crafts book, which already doubles up the pipe cleaner. 
  2. Use a bit of tacky glue on hands/feet to keep the thread from unraveling.
  3. The hair is tricky. If you loop it through the pipe cleaner like The Enchanted Tree does, just plan on fitting the clothes on the body from the foot up or with a big enough neck hole to fit over the head. I wasted several nights trying to figure out how to put the head on after I got the doll dressed, which is impossible if the hair is on and it's impossible to get the hair on after everything is "fitted" with head on the thread-wrapped body.
  4. I found clothes patterns to be extremely annoying. Rather than trying to print and use any clothes pattern as a template, I found it far easier to just cut a large rectangle with a neckhole, put it over the doll, then trim to size. If you want an applique on the dress or shirt, just figure out essentially where it will be after trimming (i.e. in the smack middle of your rectangle), and applique it before sewing up the clothes. 
  5. For pants, I used the Forest Fairy craft idea of a rectangle with leg slits and the felt is wrapped around the leg with thread. I tried sewing nice little pants, and the bendy-ness of the legs was significantly impaired because the pants didn't have much movement to them. Thread-wrapped felt pants move in any direction you want. Also, using a rectangle that is mounted over the head/shoulders for pants makes it so you dont' have to worry about them falling down :)
  6. I first tried to sew on felt shoes - the little boy is the only one with felt shoes. After that painstaking process, I realized I could just thread-wrap the feet with shoe-colored thread. I feel a bit silly about the hour spent on those felt shoes now :)
  7. The Forest Fairy Craft book recommends putting a coating of like modge podge on the head before drawing the eyes. This is true - permanent marker will bleed if you don't have a base coating of something on the head. We discovered it was true on the sugar/flour cannisters :) Paint probably won't matter like permanent marker does.
  8. I couldn't get boys' hair to work quite right, so they just got hats. Size 3 thread with a D hook if you know how to crochet :) 
  9. The baby is just a wooden peg that I first thread-wrapped, then wrapped in felt that I stitched together as a "swaddling blanket." The hat is crocheted.
For the boys' hat - work in the round. This is a super informal workup of what I did:
Rnd 1. 4sc in magic ring (4)
Rnd 2. *Sc in each stitch* around (4)
Rnd 3. *sc, inc* around (6)
Rnd 4+. Continue *sc, inc* around until the hat will fit on the head, then just sc until length desired. You want it to fit snug. 

Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas :))

We had such a wonderful Christmas this year! We have quite a slew of annual traditions that we've built over the past few years. We saw the Snow World at SeaWorld back in November. We watched the Bay of Lights boat parade at SeaPort Village here in San Diego. We went to Christmas Card Lane up in Rancho Penasquitos with Blue's friend. We saw the Living Nativity at the local church, and Blue was an angel this year! For decorations, we added a crochet and felt fireplace to our crafty wall - which I will hopefully one day get the pattern written up. We made ornaments, baked cookies, had way too much sugar, hung up our lights, and sang a ton of Christmas songs.

Mr. River had to work on Christmas day this year, but we did get to have a nice, quiet dinner together on Christmas Eve since they gave him the 24th off. Truthfully, he would rather have Christmas Eve off than Christmas since he does get to spend Christmas morning with us before going to work. 

This Christmas, we aimed to do more handmade items to give to the girls. First, we have been trying to minimize the quantity of toys that the girls have and focus on quality instead. Blue is four now, and it's easy to see that a quality, open-ended toy can invite and sustain years of play.  It grows with them and becomes more cherished as the adventures grow. We've also been trying to declutter, a lot. When Blue was a baby and toddler, she was our only kid so it was easy and tempting to want to add more toys whenever we found something that looked fun or was decently priced. And since I shop at a consignment store mostly, it was easy to buy since items rarely cost more than $5.  But as Blue got older and we added Baby Bear to our family... soon we just had so much stuff.  And although the girls played with pretty much everything, the open ended toys definitely saw a lot more play. Things like miniature animals, dolls, role-play items (kitchen, dress-up), blocks, art supplies.  We decluttered at least half of the girls' items and it actually enhanced their play since they now had more room to do it. 

So now when we add toys... it's a lot of hemming and hawwing over whether it'll add enough in fun to be worth the amount of space it takes up.  

On another level, we are deeply uncomfortable with the materialist, toss-away path of us as a culture, and we as adults are definitely not innocent of our role in it but are trying to get better. 

One thing that has definitely helped is that our girls don't really "want" much. If you ask Blue what she wants, she'll likely surprise you with a very simple answer - like "I don't know." If you pry, she may say "paint" or "a leash for my dog." Without cable/TV networks, the girls aren't exposed to commercials or product pushing. They don't really know what's out there unless we are in a store, at which point Blue transforms into a normal four year old and wants one of everything. But as soon as we say bye to the toy aisle, thoughts and wants of the toys leave her mind. So that makes it easy :)

So all of this led to Christmas and our desire for more handmade. Our original plan was for Mr. River to build the girls a Waldorf-inspired playstand, where they could play house, host a market, use it as a fort, whatever! But as Christmas drew near and I grew possessive over the "real estate" of our apartment that I so painstakingly cleared over the last year.. we realized the playstand wouldn't happen this year. Maybe when we have a house or at least more room we can look at it again. So then the plan was for a dress-up tower that would also function as a puppet theater, and I would make the girls a stuffed animal and quilt each. I already have the fabric, so it was just a matter of making amends with my sewing machine - which has been banished to the closet for the past three years.

Me and the sewing machine are still not speaking. 

So the quilts didn't happen.

And then Blue asked Santa for a little house for her little people. So our energies shifted to thoughts of dollhouses and what we could make. Mr. River became quite realistic and admitted he would not be able to finish a dollhouse in time for Christmas, so I searched online for one that looked open-ended, large enough for multiple kids to play, and was well made. I came across the Maine Natural Dollhouse from Elves and Angels and was immediately in love. I really loved the size of it, that the first floor was easily visible and accessible even when it was on the ground, the natural wood and lack of "assignment" of rooms, the design, the open-ness of it to all sides, and that it was handmade in a family-owned woodshop in Maine. More hemming and hawwing over the price of it, but eventually we decided to get it as the big gift to both girls.

I am so so so so glad we did! The quality and craftsmanship is just astounding on this and we know it will easily last through our girls' children. The size is perfect - all FOUR of us can sit around it and play. And I love the design! I was originally looking at a three story "treehouse" kind of design, but realized after looking at other pictures that you can't really see the first floor in most dollhouses.... unless they're on a table or you're laying on the floor. This one is perfectly designed. 

So that was the girls' big gift. And Mr. River and I have spent quite a bit of time making the dolls and furniture for it

I made the girls their stuffed animals - Blue got a purple dog (using Little Owl's Hut's pattern) that she said she wanted for Christmas over the summer (and then forgot she asked for it haha). Baby Bear got a blue unicorn (using Dawn Touissant's pattern), which she isn't quite sure what to make of it. The pressing question we all don't know the answer to: do unicorns say "neigh"?

Mr. River made the girls a wooden puzzle each, which they love!

I made them each  a pirate map for their stocking.

And the nonhandmade items they got: Baby Bear got a piggy bank (Blue got one for Christmas when she was 2). Blue got a Barbie that someone at Mr. River passed down to her. For their stockings: they each got a Melissa and Doug puzzle. Baby Bear got a Jellycat Cow that we actually bought for her *last* year but forgot to give her haha!!  She immediately squished it upon seeing it. And Blue got a kid's Timex watch so she can learn to tell time (she really wants to learn).  They also each got a new set of watercolors.

They also got the HoneyBee Game and the super cute movie Prep & Landing as their Christmas Eve gifts.

The adults' gifts weren't quite as exciting but things we definitely love! The girls got me a "kitty" calendar that they picked out, Mr. River got me a new pillow, and we got him a Survival Strap bracelet

Pirate/Fairy maps, yarrrr!

Blue is a huge fan of drawing up maps for our adventures.  There are no treasure chests on her map, oh no. Our goal is to get across all of the obstacles she puts in our way -  from stinky rivers to ogre dens or crocodile piles.  The maps come with us and she consults them regularly to make sure we are on track to... whatever our adventure may be.

So for Christmas, the girls got maps in their stockings. I was torn between having this be a craft project to work on with Blue, allowing her to create a more permanent map, or offering one as a surprise gift. I wound up making these on my own but will definitely be making some more with her :) After deciding I would make them more permanent maps, I looked around online and found a ton of great suggestions on how to go about it!  People have made all sorts of cool pirate maps - from brown paper grocery bags that to paper to cotton or canvas. 

Here is what we did:

Canvas material. I just used an old Trader Joe's reusable grocery bag that I cut up
5 tea bags
Permanent marker
Paints - either fabric or acrylic. I used both.

Step 1. Cut up the canvas material to be whatever size/shape you want. Since I used an old grocery bag, I handwashed it with a bit of dishsoap.

Step 2.  Bring some water to a boil, add the tea bags and canvas. Let it boil for about 5 minutes. I didn't measure the water, but you essentially want enough water that will cover the canvas in the pot without diluting the tea too much. I used 5 oolong teabags because I wanted a bit of a darker tea stain (and we apparently don't have black tea)

Step 3.  Remove pot from stove and carefully pour out the tea water, fill pot with cold water so the canvas cools off. Once the canvas is cool, run it under cold water until the water runs clear

Step 4. If the canvas isn't already squished, squish it up a bit :) Then lay it out flat to dry (don't smooth it)

Step 5. Once the canvas is dry, use the permanent marker to draw your map.

Step 6. Using fabric or acrylic paints, paint in where you want details. I watered my acrylic paints down a bit so that lines were still visible. I wanted to use watercolors for a more watery look but am not sure how they'd come out on the canvas

Step 7. Let dry :)

The edges of my canvas aren't finished or seamed or anything else except for the edges that already existed on the bag. They're unraveling a bit. I think that adds to the charm, but if they unravel too much I may just put a bit of fray stop spray or glue on it. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Grey Slouchy Hat

Well I seem to just kind of pop in randomly after long breaks :)

I recently had someone ask me to make a grey slouchy hat for her son. After searching around for a slouchy hat (which I hadn't ever made), I wound up creating one that was motivated by elements from several I saw. The ribbed look and increases were inspired from Jen2291's "Basic Guy Hat" and the switching of hook sizes idea was from the Super Slouch Hat . It makes a beautiful drape that I wasn't quite getting from using just one hook size.

So here is what I cobbled together. I've made this twice, but haven't had it tested. So if you find problems please let me know :)

ETA: Thank you Jen for helping find the error with the child size!
Errata: The child size should start with 10 hdc in the magic ring, and the adult size starts with 12. This allows both hats to have the same increases and the right spacing of post stitches for the main body of the hat. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused!

M hook
K hook
H or I hook. I made the hat with an H hook and it fit a 19.5-21" head with room to stretch more. But, two others have said the H hook made the hat come out a bit small. So an I hook may work better.
Worsted weight yarn. A yarn like Vanna’s Choice or KnitPicks Brava provides a nice drape

4" = 15 sts (5 fpdc and 10 hdc) x 10 rows

FPDC: front post double crochet
HDC: half double crochet
BLO: back loop only
FLO: front loop only
Sts: stitches
Sl st: slip stitch

Note: For each “join” - use a slip stitch to join to the first stitch of the round.
Note: For the first stitch of the round, work into the same stitch that you chained out of. Initial chain of each round does not count as a stitch.

Child (adult is in R1 parentheses and the second stitch count at the end)
Using an M hook:
R1. 10 (12 hdc if making adult size) hdc in magic ring and pull close. Join. (10, 12)
R2. Ch. 2, *fpdc, hdc in BLO of same stitch (so working behind the fpdc)* around. Join. (20, 24)
R3. Ch 2. *fpdc into fpdc below, hdc in BLO of next 2 sts* around. Join. (30, 36)
R4. Ch 2. *fpdc into fpdc below, hdc in BLO of next 3 sts* around. Join. (40, 48)
R5. Ch2. *fpdc into fpdc below, hdc in BLO of next 4 sts* around. Join. (50, 60). 
R6. Ch2. *fpdc into fpdc below, hdc in BLO of next 5 sts* around. Join. (60, 72)

Switch to K hook
R7: Ch2. *fpdc into fpdc or stitch below, hdc in BLO of next 2st* around. Join. (60, 72)
R8-9. Ch2. *fpdc into fpdc below, hdc in BLO of next 2 st* around. Join (60, 72)

Switch to H or I hook
R10. Repeat R8 until hat measures 8” for Child hat or 9" for Adult hat. 

NOTE: The sl st rounds will “tighten up” the hat. If the hat is already the fit desired, then work the slip stitch arounds *loosely.* If you need the hat to tighten up a bit more, then work them normal.
R1: Sc in each st around. Join. (60, 72)
R2. Sl St in FLO of each st around. Join. (60, 72)
R3. Working in the unused back loops of R2: hdc in each st around. Join. (60, 72)
R4. Working in the loop in the *back* of the stitch (so pull the stitch forward and look behind it, there will be a loop that makes up the back of the hdc you'll be working into), hdc in each st. Join. (60, 72)
R5-6. Repeat round 4.
R7: Working in the loop in the *back* of the stitch, sl st in each st around. Join (60, 72)

Fasten off and weave in ends.