Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Little Darlings' Seaside Sun Dresses

Every summer I pine for the seaside, the ocean, warm sandy beaches, the sound of nature as it rolls up to shore.  And, every summer, since I can last recall, I've been land locked in Auburn.  Why is it so difficult for someone in California to go to the beach?  Well, first of all, most beaches aren't dog friendly, and we have a "no dog left behind" policy in my home.  Its a full day's drive as well, just to get there.  Then you have to think about the cost of a hotel in California after you find one that might take dogs with a huge pet deposit.  Marin County is generally dog friendly, but when you're with someone who would rather ride his bicycle than hang out on a beach, logistics get tough.  So once again, I live my beach fantasies and memories through creating for my dolls.  Remember Alice By the Sea?  That was England, of course, but perhaps this endeavor was  targeted for somewhere like Nantucket Island.

For three solid months now, I've been knitting every day.  And, trust me, I'm ready to take a break from it.  But as I mentioned before, my goal, what I really want to do with knitting, is my own thing.  Make up my own patterns.  Take existing ones and make them unique, OOAK.  After working with some of these Etsy patterns, I've discovered that some are quite similar, just using different gauges of yarn, hence, less or more stitches.  For an experienced knitter, making something up, like I do with sewing and designing of my own patterns, is a cinch.  Well, not quite, for me and my sewing because each piece is unique - but, in general, I've found that expert knitters can knit anything they put their mind to without the aid of a pattern.  I know this because I just asked my friend, Olga, to knit my girls bathing suits, and she had one made, exactly as I wanted, in a day or two.  These knitters simply know what they're doing.  I don't.  But, I'm trying. 

After failing at knitting well, those two light green and yellow summer dresses, I decided that what might be better, is using that pattern for the bodice, and attaching the skirt from another.  A skirt with just stockinette stitches.  And, also using the Lion's Brand Baby Soft yarn I'd become familiar with using.  I knew I'd have to lessen the stitches across, maybe, as well as the rows, or something like that, and the only way to figure this out was to try.  I also wanted floppy brimmed sun hats to match the dresses.  In the tri-photo illustration, you'll see the bodice I used (minus the bulky cable stitches at the waist), the skirt portion from another pattern, and the hat, which I'd omit that awful star-stitch from. 

First of all, the bodice is made exactly the same way on both patterns, there are just more stitches required on the bottom photo's pattern because you use a thinner yarn.  I just didn't feel I was quite ready to work with so many stitches and such thin yarn on an even smaller knitting needle.  And, I wanted to see if I could do it.

With Irene's pattern (the dress at the bottom), she simply tells you to K1, M1, to the end between the button bands while increasing for the skirt.  Well that didn't quite work out with the "3" yarn I was using.  How do I know this?  Because the sea foam green dress, which I'd made first, was done by reducing the number of "make ones" in the skirt.  However, I didn't write down how many "make ones" I had done, so when I went to make the ocean blue dress, I made them all way across and this was way too many.  You need to do this on the first three rows of the skirt to get the fullness, volume.  SO!  While the sea foam dress came out exactly the way I wanted, the ocean blue dress had to be made twice.  Yes, indeed.  I also had lost track of my rows on the blue dress, so it was not only too big, it was too long.  I didn't fuss.  I didn't weep or beat the wall, I simply made it again and really studied the rows on first dress. 

One of the tricks I tried, was pinning the button holes together and matching up the stitched rows to see what I'd done the first time.  What I learned was, even if you're just experimenting, write it all down.  It may just come out good the first try.  And, then there's the old "Where's Waldo" of the patterns.  This one surfaced on Irene's pattern with no row 44.  Seriously!  I guess she got carried away typing out even and odd numbers for her purl and knit rows.

When it came time to the hats, I'd already tried to make one without the star-stitch while experimenting, or "making wash cloths" with the yellow and green dresses that didn't come out well.  Those were supposed to get these hats.  So basically, only two rows of finished cable stitches were needed at the hat band row.  I like hats.  They don't have a lot of stitches per row.  Honestly, I thought of sharing my rewritten pattern for anyone who wished to make this dress the way I did, but I fudged here and there, and its just not publishable material.  In looking at them again, I might have done better by omitting a couple of the bodice rows to shorten it.  Next time.  If there is a next time. 

To embellish these dresses, I used a few of Cindy's masterpiece porcelain painted buttons.  I still can't get over the extraordinary work she does.  I'd purchased two tiny lighthouses, some sea shells, and sea critters - a crab, happy sea turtle, a star fish, and a lovely seagull.  I spent two hours arranging and rearranging these tiny buttons on the front of the dresses, but was never satisfied.  There was no "pop" to the arrangements.  So I turned the dresses around, which was shown as an option, and finished the dresses with abalone shell buttons.  They looked really great on the dolls as a front side, button down dress, but I was determined to use the buttons.  So I flipped the dresses back over and tried again for an hour or so.  The best arrangement was not to have a lighthouse on each dress, but to make one dress "lighthouse" themed, and the other "sea critter" themed. 

Oh, and I guess you've noticed those tiny knitted mermaids!  The dresses became a sea canvas to display them.  They're the "pop" in these outfits displayed.  The were custom made by an artist from Etsy.  I really enjoyed working with her.  I love mermaids.  So now Polina and Athena can play with their mermaid dolls on the island sands in their sea froth dresses. 

The question is, What do I think of the outfits?  Am I satisfied?  No.  Just to be honest, No.  Did I knit well?  Yes.  I should be knitting well by now.  Did I achieve what I set out to do?  Yes.  So why am I not thrilled?  Because they simply don't "pop".  They are not the whimsical, colorful joys of knit I've been used to buying from the experts that do this for Little Darlings.  Am I too hard on myself after only three months?  Yes.  You bet.  I'm having difficulty bringing my vision to life through this difficult to learn skill.  I want my work to be as thrilling to me as the amigurumi the dolls hold.  I'll keep at it.  I do find it intriguing and challenging, and you can do it outdoors when the temperature isn't 100 degrees outside. 

I've been watching this amazing Youtube video of this woman creating French knots and bullion roses in yarn, on these incredibly detailed socks she made.  I really want to try this.  Maybe if I can get the skill down in something heavier than embroidery floss, I can eventually do it with embroidery floss!  I've also been watching Youtube videos of embroidering on knitting.  The ones I've seen follow the stockinette stitch, so you're making V's on V's in a pattern to create a motif.  Learning the roses sounds a bit more up my alley.  Right now.  But, the V motifs would look cool on winter sweaters. 

In the meantime, and there is always a "meantime", I'm going to make something new for Mary Lennox.  I still haven't made all her paper doll outfits, and I need a break from knitting.  I'll keep with it just to stay fresh, but I could become a very dull person if I don't diversify a bit.  Besides, its getting way too hot to enjoy doing anything on the patio past 10 or 11am.

Below are a number of photos to enjoy.  I hope as the actual days of spring come to a close, and summer hits the calendar later this month, you'll find yourself enjoying some lazy days as well as "on the road" ones taking you to happy vacation spots.  Maybe something seaside!


A well purled back side - private side.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Little Darling Loves Raggedy Ann

This has been the strangest year.  So many upsets, yes.  But, the weather's been pretty out of kilter, too.  Last week saw a winter storm passing through, which dumped a foot of snow in the Sierras.  In some ways the rain, which is still with us, has kept things green longer. And, I shouldn't complain since its been a great excuse to stay indoors and work on stuff.  But, wait, not really.  The two weeks prior had been mild and sunny and guess where I was?  Feet up, legs stretched out on the patio lounge, with my knitting in my lap.  This is one of the very best things about knitting - if you don't have to do it in front of Youtubes - you can do it anywhere.

I know this "knitting thing" is quite a departure from my normal posts, but I did take up needle felting and stuck with that for a time too, until I got comfortable with it.  And, I am getting more comfortable with knitting, sort of.  At least my shoulders aren't hunched up anymore, and I'm not fussing at myself when I miss a stitch or finish something and don't like the way it turned out.  I'd probably be pretty slow at learning calligraphy, too, but there's a lot that the brain has to process for procedures to become second nature.  That's the thing with the brain.  It learns something and allows us to carry on with whatever we're doing and not give it a second thought.  Like learning to ride a bike.  Or rolling your r's properly when speaking a new language.  Like knowing that robin is a robin simply by glancing at it.  And, trust me.  I know the difference between purl stitch and knit stitch and when something doesn't look correct right away now!  And, I can unknit pretty successfully, too.  Unless its trying to unknit a K2tog (knit two together).  Haven't figured that one out yet and there's no Youtube for it. WHY???  And, pssssst!  I'm getting faster at this.

While awaiting the arrival of my second Little Darling, I decided to make them coordinating outfits for summer.  This was going to be IT.  I was ready.  I'd gotten through the practice outfits and my confidence was high.  What I had in mind was using Irene's "Summer Dress" pattern and using the Lion's Brand Baby Soft yarn she recommends.  The "real deal".  Irene is one of the Etsy pattern makers for Little Darling, and her patterns are well written.  Sort of.  But, I'll get to that later.   I went for soft springtime colors in light yellow and green.  I was also going to be creative and make a hat from one of her other patterns to go with the dresses.  AND, I was going to skip that awful star-stitch and knit in a hat band where the brim meets the crown.  You have to start somewhere when you're as adventurous as I am. 

I'm learning!  I'm teaching myself how to do this.  I have to exercise greater patience with myself than I normally do.  So I've been a busy "patient" bee.  This is all I've been doing.  Knitting every single day.  So what happened here?  Why did I have to abandon the summer dresses? 

First of all they are way too short (for my tastes).  I fussed over adding crochet lace to the underside of the hems, but there were enough problems with these two outfits that I had to chalk them up as practice.  The first one I made was the dress with the yellow bodice.  The skirt turned out great on it, but the bodice had problems being too loosely knit.  I figured I'd have to make it over again, but I was going to move onto the green bodice dress first and see how it went.  The green bodice turned out great and I have no idea what happened to the yellow skirt.  Frustrating, yes, but there you go.  Its all good practice.  Not quite ready to call it a "good learning experience", I tried the hat.  Obviously using a cable stitch instead of the star-stitch didn't work.  But, I learned.  Next time, I will begin the stockinette stitch sooner.  The problem with knitting is that you have to make the whole doggone thing to figure out what to do and what not to do.  That's why you have to be fast and sure.

So I set that mess aside and began one of the other projects I had in mind.  First of all, I've been purchasing these incredible, beautifully made porcelain buttons from Cindy Webb on Etsy.  Using porcelain slip, she sculpts little buttons, then hand paints them with the many kiln firings required.  She's amazing.  I love her work so much that I could simply collect it for the fun of it.  And, I'd purchased a set of Raggedy Ann face buttons.  Its been a very long time since I've thought about Raggedy Ann, and Gruelle's beloved stories.  Had to use these buttons!  So I went back to the first pattern I knitted, the tunic, and mixed it up with a hat from another of Irene's patterns.  The bucket hat was actually featured with the summer dress pattern I'd abandoned.  And, of course, I was using the Lion's Brand yarn.

One of the areas I've had difficulty, and I don't know why, is when doing increases for the skirt at the hem of the bodice.  I hope this annoyance goes away in time, but I've come up with a strategy for possible mistakes and having to redo that portion.  To keep the stitches, or loops on the needle, fresh and easy to recover, I thread a piece of yarn on a large eye needle, through the bottom of the stitch against the knitting needle.  Its like a place marker.  If the skirt portion is looking sad or not coming out well, I simply pull out all the stitches to the place marker yarn, and put the needle back on the stitches.  Also, if by chance a stitch is not seated right (twisted), I take it off the needle, insert the awl and turn the awl to the right which twists the yarn and place it back on the needle.      
The colors of tangerine and aqua were selected after Johnny Gruelle's brightly colored illustrations.  I have actually taken to photographing what I've done in stages for my own records.  I need to know what worked and what didn't.  Also if the pieces get tossed, and many do, I want a record of having done them.
The tunics were going well.  They should.  After you go through the pattern a few times, you could know it by heart almost.  I've been sticking with Irene's patterns because I understand what she's asking us to do.  I was looking forward to making the little bucket hat as it was something new to try, and I like making hats.  I just like making hats, no matter what I'm making them from.  And, the hard part was over.  Both tunics were made and I could see the light at end of the tunnel.

So I'm knitting along happily and wondering when the pattern is going to call for the contrast color for the stripe.  No instructions.  Seriously folks?  She photographs the hat with a yellow stripe on it and doesn't include the instructions to do this!  So I wrote to her letting her know about this, and that was five days ago, and I still haven't heard from her.  Here's my thoughts on the matter.  Pattern makers like to find out how clever you are and if you're actually using their patterns and paying attention.  Its the Where's Waldo of their patterns.  (This is why I don't like using other people's patterns.  I cannot stress enough how this annoys me.)  So I just added a contrast stripe where I was just to see how it would turn out knowing full well I'd have to make the hat all over again.  The mock up.  I know a lot of pattern makers have an expert test their patterns, but this is not the best way for assurance.  An expert might simply "understand" what is required, follow through, and not think the omission is a big deal.  Give the pattern to an A type novice.  Like me.  I'll find every error imaginable.  It isn't a criticism.  You want your patterns to be the best and the easiest to follow.  That makes big sales!

So I started a new bucket hat in the aqua.  Now I was really going for the creativity.  I wanted the hat band look.  I had a mock up and I know how to count rows, and I know what the stitches look like, so I gambled on where the hat band should go, used my place marker threading just in case it didn't go correctly and proceeded.  It worked out.  Yay!  And, I went on to reknit the tangerine hat.  See?  Now I'm having fun with this.  The purpose is to make up my own versions.  Not have copies of the originals.

I purchased this stretch lycra in Raggedy Ann red and white stripes and made some capri length leggings.  Stockings would have overwhelmed the look and I was stretching the colors a bit just doing this.  But, I had a vision.  The Raggedy Ann face button would have red hair around it, so that would tie in the red of the striped capris. 

For the buttons in the back, I chose purple.  I'd been trying to figure out what kinds of shoes the girls would wear with the outfit, and I wanted a completely updated, contemporary look.  Purple tennis shoes worked.  They worked with the colors of the outfit, and they look funky and fun.  So purple buttons to match the tennis shoes.  They needed socks.  Striped socks would be too much.  I considered trying to make the little cuffs that the Russian ladies make that substitute for socks, but I've a feeling they create them in the round, and I don't know how to do that yet.  I shuffled through all my knit fabric and ended up in my own lingerie drawer to cut up a pair of gray tights.  Gray mutes the colors.  It provides a nice and soft break in the bright colors and keeps them (the socks), from standing out, attracting the eye.

The only thing left to do was sew on the button and embroider red yarn around the face for Raggedy Ann's hair.  Earlier I picked up a yarn that was part of an amigurumi project.  The word amigurumi is formed from two Japanese words.  "Ami" describes knit or crochet, and "Nuigurumi" means stuffed doll.  (I was watching a Youtube on beginning a crochet amigurumi and really want to try this - later.)  Using my awl and the red yarn, I made loops and stitches around the face.  I cut out the first mess I'd made then did it again.  Bangs were not doable as they would not hang down in front of a porcelain round, and I wasn't gluing them down, that would have been a disaster, so I made smaller loops around the forehead.

I'm happy with the way this set turned out.  My new doll had arrived and we were good to go!  Like Cindy's buttons, I've been purchasing amigurumi from various Asian and European artists.  One of them made me a set of Yellow Lab puppies for my dolls and she did a fabulous job.  Baby Dover puppies.  I'm not ready for one, but there's no reason my girls should be denied their own. 

I want to thank Geri Uribe for my beautiful new doll Kira, and for Polina, who I've had since last October.  I'm very pleased with these two little models and will continue to make twin sets for them.  I began a needle felted Camel with the Wrinkled Knees yesterday for one of them to hold, and the other might get the Lonely Horse from the same story.  This gives me a break, seats me back in my studio (among my dolls), which I cleaned up as well, and just might inspire me back to the sewing machine.  At least I have two knitted outfits now that I can display and be happy with. "Mission accomplished, Phelps."


Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Crash Course in Knitting - I'm a Knitter, Not a Quitter!

Most of us have a story to share about knitting.  Usually it begins with, "Oh my grandmother used to knit!", or "I learned to knit in Home Ec when I was twelve, and made a scarf."  Maybe the story sounds more like, "Oh you poor thing!  I tried to knit and made a scarf, and that was it!", or "Gosh, I wish I could knit, but I'm all thumbs!"  And, there's a recent one I heard, "My mother left all this yarn and tons of needles when she died, and I know I should try to knit and do something with all of it, but..."  Almost everyone has a story of knitting.  Mine is one that sounds more like, "Spaghetti and scewers!", but as you know, I always have a long tale to tell.

Shortly after Dover died, I was on my computer when I noticed the spring schedule of classes at The Tin Thimble, where I took my one needle felting class.  Mourning the loss of my sweet boy, I had a knee jerk reaction and thought, "Why not try this Learning to Knit class, and provide myself a focus while I work through the grief?"  What possibly could I have been thinking?!

Well, to be honest, I've been purchasing these adorable outfits for my Little Darling doll, from these phenomenal, expert knitters from Russia.  I've spent more money and have had more doggone fun with her and these gorgeous outfits than with any doll I've had in awhile.  No work.  Just buy and dress them.  But, really, if you're a Little Darling collector, you know what I'm talking about.  So I thought, let's see what it is they do to create these outfits.

The first class was on March 6th, and for an hour and a half, the teacher educated her two students on wool.  Where it came from, how to wash or not wash it, what sheep it was shorn from and on and on.  Finally we came to the part where we held our big needles and learned how to cast on stitches and make a knit stitch.  This wasn't too hard, but my memory is weak.  It was hard.  Jabbing this pointy skewer under this yarn loop and doing something weird in the back of the needle like a Boy Scout knot.  We were to take this information home and practice it.  In a week we'd learn to purl.  This was even worse.  It was like learning to walk all over again.  This time you had to make sure the yarn strand was in front, skewer the loop from in front, top to bottom, and do another Boy Scout thing.  If you got good at this, you could make a whole row and alternate the knits and the purls making a "fabric" called "stockinette".  The teacher kept telling us, "All you need to know is knit and purl!"  I knew this not to be true.  You had to learn to read a pattern, learn techniques with these two stitches to create looks other than the stockinette, AND learn what to do when you made a mistake.  I would make plenty.

The teacher wanted us to make washcloths.  Does this sound like something I'd be interested in?  Maybe if I were making them for a doll or teeny tiny ones for a doll house kitchen.  To me it sounded like an utter waste of time.  If I couldn't learn by trying to actually make something - practical application - phooey!  She was well aware of what I wanted to do.  Make doll clothing.  Still she insisted I make washcloths and I didn't.  I went on Etsy and bought a pattern that looked like something I could get through.   It was a tunic and hat.  How hard could that be anyway if all you needed was to know "knit" and "purl"?  Very hard. 

First of all, I kept adding stitches where they shouldn't be.  Dropped a few, too.  We would cast on 25 stitches and go back and forth, finishing one row on one needle, then do the other stitch to that row on the opposite side.  Of course if you did only knit stitches back and forth, you'd get what they call the garter stitch.  None of this was making any sense, but I don't follow patterns very well, and we all know that.  This truly won't work if you're going to knit unless you are SO good and talented, that you can make up anything as you go along.  Which is what I've been doing for years.  Making things up as I went along.  So I really had to concentrate, do a tiny bit, check my work, check off a row on the pattern, repeat.  None of this was working, and there were no more classes.  I was told you could go on Youtube and learn what you needed to.  Brilliant.  But, I bugged my teacher so much on email that she suggested I meet with her the second Saturday after I started learning to knit.  I shared the pattern with her beforehand so she could help me when we got together. 

She showed up that Saturday with a completed little tunic and said, "We're going to do this together."  Relief!  I'd have help every step of the way.  But I only got six or eight rows done after two hours, and watched as she fixed my mistakes.  This was turning into torture.  I needed to be able to fix my own mistakes.  Why couldn't I get this??  I made notations all over the pattern pages.  She tried to teach me how to read the pattern.  Nothing was making sense because it was too much information all at once.  Of course, later I would discover that there's this thing called gauge and needle size and having to make swatches to test all this to make sure you were getting for instance, six stitches to the inch, and if you wanted to use a different yarn, you needed a different needle size, and then you'd have to recalculate the whole pattern. 

The "why" was very important to me.  Why are we making so many stitches then changing them?  Why are we moving stitches from one needle to the other?  "This is the sleeve.", she'd tell me.  Oh.  And, now what do we do?  Do you just keep working this then get a surprise when you finish?  I actually thought you made a buttonhole by stretching the yarn and shoving a button through it.  And, so it went.

As it turned out, I spent so much time on Youtube learning how to unknit, or "tink", and "frog", which is pulling out everything and trying to get the needle back on the stitches, that I literally learned "the beginnings of knitting" in front of my computer.  I'd get just so far, then make a mistake, have to figure out where the mistake happened, then learn how to fix it, and on an on it went.  Sometimes I'd just cut the yarn off and start all over again.  It was agony.  I did this for three solid weeks and cried bitterly to my friends.  But, I wasn't going to let knitting get the better of me. I'd spent all this time trying already.  I didn't want to be a failure.  I didn't want to have made a poor decision to begin learning to knit, and have wasted my time.   I felt like I was punishing myself for losing Dover to cancer.  Seriously.  I was not in a good place.  But, I persevered, and when I got this ruffly skirt done on this tunic, I felt a small sense of accomplishment.  The hat was a breeze.  Maybe not a breeze, but it sure did come together a lot more quickly without dealing with sleeves and combinations that produced a fancy effect.  By the time I finished this set, I'd already purchased another pattern off Etsy by the same seller.  Let's try something else.
In the meantime, I'd been invited by my former teacher to join their knitting group on Tuesday nights.  She indicated they all helped each other, but it looked like I was the only one asking questions as all these women were pros.  Still, there was a good energy and it felt nice to be included.  Knitting has been intimidating, but these ladies are so laid back that I felt some hope.  And, I'm still meeting with them on Tuesday nights.  Its fun! 

This pinky-coral tunic and hat were going to end up in the trash.  The back placket was a mess.  This is not something I would make my doll suffer wearing.  Not when she's been wearing the best of the best.   And, I had an entire skein of aqua from the contrast color.  So I started the little dress and sun hat. 

Again we casted on the 33 stitches for the neckline.  Things were beginning to make a bit more sense.  Same pattern maker, same kinds of instructions, got through the sleeves.  Oops. What's this star stitch?  This was a "technique" where you purl three stitches together, do a yarn over (had to learn that, too, plus make one left and make on right, M1L, M1R), then purl the whole chunk of stitches together and yank it off the needle.  For those of you who knit out there, I'll bet you've guessed what one of my problems was.  I was knitting too tightly.  Okay, so I was tense.  And, I was struggling, but knitting tightly only makes matters worse.  The concept of loopy, or sloppy looking loops that will not look that way once you do the next row was very foreign to me and still is.  But, I am trying to loosen them up.  The star stitch made that happen.  

I was confused about how to make one, so dropped into Auburn Needleworks where this angel of a woman, Karen, sat patiently with me and showed me how to make them.  She and I worked the bodice row together, while she did her best to loosen my stitches so that we could actually purl three together.  It was like trying to tear off a piece of beef jerky with no teeth.  All the while on Tuesday nights, my former teacher would tell me, "Wash cloths!  Make wash cloths!"  I still don't see how making wash cloths is going to teach you all that I've been learning in how to actually make a doll dress from a pattern.  And, purchase the correct size yarn and needles to make it.  (I think I can do this on my own now, but still ask for assistance.)   Karen hoped I'd come back and knit with them, and I will, but I wanted to come back and show her that her efforts in teaching me the star stitch weren't in vain. 

So I went home and the next day, and after a series of stockinette stitches, got down to the stars.  Remember, these pieces were practice pieces, so I wasn't expecting greatness.  And, I was so careful following the pattern and marking off on the pattern after I'd finish a row.  Well, I finished the dress, and the stars at the hem were done backwards.  I didn't cry.  I didn't quit, but I did try to think of how I could undo this all to get back up to the place where I could redo them.  It took me SIX hours to redo this.  I finally just pulled out the needles and started pulling out the stitches. then something weird happened.  The working yarn strand was attached at one end and in the middle.  Now what?  At this point, I could have reknit the entire dress in the six hours it took to try and fix the problem.  I really was ready to call it quits, so I pulled the other needle out, and the remaining stitches on it, and guess what?  It was a complete row I could begin again on!  Whoa!  I counted the "v" stitches down in several places and it all checked out, so I continued.

Then I came to the row needing the star stitches at the hem.  I didn't want to make the same mistake twice, so I did a test piece to prove my theory that they needed to be done on the purl side.  Yes.  It worked.  And guess what?  There was definitely an error made in writing that pattern.  She also called for five buttons, but only gave you instructions for three buttonholes.  I guess you could stretch out the knitted yarn and shove a button through it after all.  Well, let's put it this way.  You have to have a sense of humor and an adventurous spirit to try this stuff - knitting.  I'm a knitter, not a quitter.

I've been looking at a lot patterns and buying skeins of yarn for future outfits.  The pdf patterns don't cost but $5, but there sure is no consistency in how they are written.  You almost have to get the know the person and what they're trying to convey, ask you what to do, before beginning.

I discovered that there are patterns for knitting tiny toys!  However, you need to be able to work four needles and sometimes a fifth in making these as some are done "in the round".  So, no.  You don't only need to just know just knit and purl.  I knew this going into it, and have since gotten a fairly good idea how very vast the world of knitting is.   And, that there are sellers on Etsy who have made these tiny animals and toys to sell, in both knitting and crocheting!  Yay!  I don't have to learn this right away!  I can just purchase these cute little things for my doll to hold while wearing her beautifully knitted outfits made by the pros.   I do want to try the toys, but I think I'll try it in crochet first when that time comes.  One needle.  I know I'd enjoy this if I ever tried it and could follow the patterns and actually make something. 

So I got through the second pattern.  Again, the hat was the easier piece to make.  I finished this yesterday, and this is what I've been doing daily since March the 6th.  There is a pattern for a little summer dress that I'm going to try next.  I also found this fabulous button maker and have been planning two outfits around the buttons.  The buttons are that fabulous.  I also bought another Little Darling, my second.  She'll be ready to come home in May sometime.  The plan is to make twin outfits with alternating colors.

I realize I'm going to make mistakes.  I'm going to have problems.  I'll probably have to make a dress as a mock up to understand the pattern first, before I do a second one that will hopefully be a keeper.  Knitting is a focus, a meditation of sorts, but you sure do have to be on top of it.  I can't wait to show Karen the completed outfit with the stars she showed me how to make.  She was so kind and patient.  How better to thank someone for their time than showing them that it was worth it?

Its funny, but all these knitters in town seem to only make human sized things.  They get a kick out of seeing the doll clothes.  They want to know about dolls and ask.  So maybe I do have something to offer these experts.  I haven't been so intimidated and humbled by learning something since the class I took in Intro to Algebra.  My mind works in its own way.  I'm teaching my brain to make connections differently now.  You can't just look at something and reproduce it without some kind of pattern or understanding in knitting.  At least not yet.  I don't want to become an expert knitter.  I just want to be able to make something cute, something I'll be proud to display on my doll.  I'm already thinking of how I can alter patterns to get a look that's to my liking, making it my own. 

So yes, I did a crash course in learning to knit, and that was okay.  And, I never want to hear the word washcloth again ;)) 

Summer has already arrived in Auburn.  The long cold and rainy season is past.  Its time to look forward.  Wish me luck with my knitting!  (Its actually kind of addicting.)


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lady Greensleeves

"Alas my love you do me wrong, to cast me off so discourteously!"  It was not until I was putting the finishing touches on this doll's medieval costuming that I began considering who she was.  So very unlike me, but then the lovely ballad Greensleeves came to mind, and I could not get the tune out of my head.  And so is born, my version of Lady Greensleeves.

If anyone has looked up the lyrics on an engine search, or speculated about the myth that Henry VIII wrote it for Ann Boleyn, you well know  this is only a myth.  The lyrics to this ballad were penned long before the tune was written in 1580.  The melody, written for the lute, and has become a well recorded song by many artists over the years, and has also been sung to other poems throughout the centuries.  What is lasting, is a tale of unrequited love for a beautiful woman who could not love a man who gave her the moon and stars.  Lady Greensleeves.

Several artists throughout time have been haunted by this melody inspiring them to paint the likes of Lady Greensleeves.  One among them, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (see below).  Enchanting women, all, and each mesmerizes the viewer and seems to tell a story of quiet longing and promised passion. 

Lady Greensleeves is quite a departure from my normal costuming, but I was inspired enough to give dressing Tonner fashion dolls a try after purchasing, at great cost, several historical costumes from a Russian artist.  Unfamiliar with creating patterns for this body type, I decided to "cheat" and try one by an Ebay seller.  Even after I'd done that, I was very reluctant to give it a try as I felt I betraying my growth in creativity.  At least I could do a mock up.  No harm in that, right?  So I cut out the pattern, gave it a whirl on some quality green cotton velveteen, and had a good laugh at my efforts.  You do know that the reason I make my own patterns is because I can't read directions, and often the patterns just don't fit.  You'd think the hood on Dashenka's coat would have chased me off, but I persevered.  And, when I tried the gown on the doll I bought for my medieval project. it came to just below her knees.  Seriously!  What on earth was I thinking?

Well, there were these weird pattern pieces that seemed to have no use or place and I thought they might be for a shawl or cloak or something.  After my medieval "mini" disaster, I discovered what was meant by "attach bb to bb before cutting"!  But, of course this was written on the tops of the weird pattern pieces and the hems of the real ones.  Nothing in the written directions described this.  You just had to know how to read the actual paper pattern.  So I had a good laugh at myself, considered it a true mock up, and carried on.  

Lady Greensleeves's gown is made from a beautiful cotton velveteen that I've had on hand for a few years.  It is lined with gold silk dupioni and the front panel has an overlay of delicate gold netting - as are the sleeve caps.  Figuring out how to line this gown the way I line all my garments, would be a challenge to say the least.  The pattern lining only lined the upper part of the dress and that would leave a rather messy hem, even chunky.  The belled sleeves that fall from the elbow are lined with this gold silk as well.  I didn't like the designer's sleeves, so I softened them by making them more narrow.  I had to "make this my own" you understand.  Playing with this would also give me a chance to work with this 16" feminine body type. 

And, here's a another lark!  I only started researching medieval costuming after I was well into making the final gown.  I was looking for medieval head wear and jewelry ides and discovered so very many different styles from this time period.  It gave me ideas that I've stashed away in a Pinterest gallery, and I want to stay with this awhile.  After I got the hang of it, dressing this doll, I started thinking of what I could do next, and better, on my own.

Lady Greensleeves wears a wimple beneath the hat I designed for her.  I guess I haven't made a little hat in awhile and remember that I do enjoy making them.  In my research, I found so many images of wimples, long and short.  Sometimes they were called veils, and perhaps the term "wimple" only described scarves wrapped tightly around the head.  Not sure.  I was making this up, designing as I went along, and found some wonderful images of women wearing them beneath their hats or crowns.  Was it for style or modesty that these were worn?  I will find out in time. 

Her hat was modeled off of one designed by Franklin Mint for their Guinevere doll.  Again, I made it "my own" by doing it a bit differently.  The crown of it is the velvet of the gown, and the sides are the gold silk with the same netting overlay.  Vintage French metallic trim was added, as well as a band of flat braid.  I have spent HOURS, literally, looking at trims on Etsy for future projects and have some gorgeous ones coming in the mail.  The gown is trimmed with a vintage French metallic trim I bought sometime last year or so ago.  Its nice to have trims like this on hand.  These vintage metallic trims must be sewn on by hand.  The French ones are the best.  To me.
Then of course, we needed her jewels and belt.  So back to Pinterest I went.  I looked at pages and pages of medieval jewelry, alternating my search for more trimmings as well as beads.  I could get lost on Pinterest for hours, and have.  Etsy, too. 

 Not being a jeweler or metal smith, I took an afternoon and drove up to Grass Valley to see what Beads Galore might have.  I looked at everything.  I mean everything!  $135 and two and a half hours later, I drove home and started designing the choker she's wearing.  I found a similar necklace on Pinterest and knew this to be the one.  It had to work with the scoop neckline of the gown.  I made a pair of earrings for her and finally the requisite cross on a long chain.

Her belt was the last thing I added and pushed to get that done.  I was going to do one of ribbon falling from the medallion, but the trim for this did not show up in the mail today, and I really wanted to finish this and move on.  Women did wear chain linked belts, so why not try one?  This lovely chain is more delicate than the kind I would have normally used for this purpose, but it was one of yesterday's purchases and I think it works well.  Lady Greensleeves is wearing a pair of green brocade mules that will never be seen, and I did not make, so I've omitted a photo.  For future medieval and renaissance costumes, Facets Boutique, owned by Marcia Friend, has lovely satin mules for these Tonner dolls.

Today is the spring equinox and Lady Greensleeves is walking the grounds of an enchanting medieval castle like that of Scotney Castle in Kent.  Welcome spring, my friends!