October 31, 2016

Pumpkin Anthos

Ok I thought I was done making clothes for Anthos for a while, but turns out I had one more item to make; a halloween costume. Yeah I know, sewing a costume like this might have been a lot easier, just not for me.

First I had to come up with an idea. A ghost would have been easy but maybe I'll leave that for the future. Instead I thought it would be really cute to use his leaf as part of the costume and I decided to make him a pumpkin. But it's the wrong kind of leaf, I hear you say. Look I know, but it will be cute.

Besides, I wanted to try out onion peel yarn dying, which supposedly gives you a lovely pumpkin shade. Collecting peels makes you feel and look like a crazy person at the store. I usually just went to the brown and yellow onions and lifted them all out and stuffed a produce bag full of the papery skins that were there. After two trips I had plenty. I felt like I was stealing, so I did always put the bag of peels on the conveyor belt with my other items. Each time I would tell the cashier, no, I want that bag of garbage, please don't toss it, it's to dye yarn.

Getting the color out is easy, just simmer the skins in some water on the stove for about 30 minutes. Then remove the peels and add in your presoaked yarn. This time I wound my yarn into a large loop and tied it in two places. This loose wind and the presoak helped with even coloring immensely. I let the yarn simmer in the water for maybe 15 minutes and then took it out and let it dry.

Not quite the shockingly orange that most pumpkins are, but nonetheless still a very pleasant shade and what I would call pumpkin. Also it looked lovely with Anthos' skin and leaf tones.

Next I set about making the pumpkin suit. I figured I would be easiest to make an inside and an outside and then add stuffing between and use a little embroidery to get the segmented outside. So I just made two rectangles, one a little longer and taller than the other. Both had arm holes because I wanted Anthos' arms to stick out as I figured it would be funny.

I wasn't sure I had enough orange dyed yarn to make both the inside and outside however, so I made the both pieces from undyed yarn. Which was good since I used this first little skein to add the pumpkin embroidery at the end. Thinking back it might just be easier in all cases to make the outfit and then dye it, rather than guess at an amount of yarn and hope I have enough.

Once I had the two pieces made, I needed to dye them again. So I got a few more peels but I think I left it in too long, hard to tell wet... I let them dry, which helped the curling they had been doing, and then sewed around the armholes together so it would be lined up right. Then I sewed along the top and bottom.

Next I added some stuffing, less than I thought since I didn't want it to be too small to actually fit on him. I seamed the back and had a donut sort of shape that could slip over Anthos' head and into place. Finally, I used my first little skein of orange yarn to wind around the donut and segment it into more of pumpkin shape.

His arms sticking out really made it cute. So fat.

Something seemed missing though. So while wandering around a craft store I found a hank of green embroidery thread in the clearance bin for .58 cents and took it home and made him a pumpkin plant shaped leaf with a few curly tendrils to wear on his head. The leaf is from Amy's Crochet Patterns and I just tweaked the stem row to add a few long shoots of sc and slip stitches to get the long curly tendrils.

Of course we had to go take a picture with other mini pumpkins...

Happy Halloween!

Time to complete: body: 8 hours for crochet, dye, sewing and details
leaf: 30 min
Difficulty: Easy

October 24, 2016

Anthos' Striped Sweater

Of the three colors I dyed with Kool-aid, I still had the two reds made from Black Cherry and the mix with the leftover Blue Lemonade water. I really kind of liked the way they looked together on their skeins, so I thought a striped sweater might look really cool. Anthos' first sweater is a very simple and classic look, and I wanted to make a longer one anyway.
To get inspiration I googled striped sweater and saw the one above in black and white which would work nicely I thought for my two reds. Unlike the first sweater which was worked as a long rectangle and seamed, this one I would need to work in the round to get the horizontal striping right.

First I used the dark solid black cherry red to make a long strip (3dcs) for the bottom of the sweater, then seamed it up one side and started working along the long side in the round joining my rows at the end so that the stripes would also line up right.

I worked two alternating rows of each color in hdcs around for several stripes, each time putting it on him to where I liked the length of the bottom of the sweater to fall. Then I had the challenge of making arm holes while still working in the round and keeping the stripes in line. I decided to do this with a 10 chain space and skipping 3 stitches, then working the next rows onto the chain while slip stitching along the top to make sure the rows still lined up around the arm holes. I could have stopped and turned and worked the back and then gone back in and worked the center, but I knew that would mess with the color gradient that was happening on each of these skeins too.

After the arm holes were done, I was able to back to making complete round rows which worked out great. I did one more stripe and then did the rest of the top in the light red only, just like the inspiration sweater. Finally I went back to the arm holes and made super sort sleeves in the dark red to match the bottom trim.

You can sort of tell the rows apart but I guess the colors, though they looked really different wound, were actually almost too close to tell apart when worked. In any case I still can see the difference from the bottom to the top, so I still like the way it turned out.

I also super love the length on Anthos compared to the first one. And of course I still have plenty of both colors, so I might try to make a red-riding-hood-esque cape next time.
Not quite fall here yet... those leaves are dead from drought.
Time to complete: 8 hours
Difficulty: Easy+

October 17, 2016

Anthos' Shawl and Hood

Now that I have tiny colored skeins of yarn, I figured it would be fun to make a few more items for Anthos to wear. First up was that lovely blue.

As we noticed, it had sort of a nice gradient when I wound it on the bottle so I knew I wanted to make something that worked from top down so that the finished piece would also look nice. Lately I've been sort of obsessed with the knit and crochet clothing items made for Ears and Dears' dolls, especially the shell shawl, so I figured I would try my hand at making one.

Looking around Ravelry, I decided to go with the fantastically named Knock Knock Knock Penny shawl by Anke Spilker. Of course it would need a few modifications, but I really loved the look of it, so I set to work. Since this was going to be such a small shawl, I firstly halved the starting chain from 100 to 50. I know after my first sweater, that 50 is a good number for Anthos' circumference measurement. Im using the same 1.3mm hook as before and jumped straight in following rows 1-3 as written.
I'm going to go blind as well as get arthritis
After that I decided to make it more of a cape though by turning at the end of each row. Halving the pattern and adding the turn meant that my ends didnt always finish up right so I sort of made it up and tried to add a sc at the start and end of each row to give it a straight opening. I also made up a sort of cheat sheet chart for rows 5-10 so that I could get my mind around how it was written.
a rough chart
I worked the pattern though row 10 and stopped there as it was already plenty long enough for such a tiny body. I simply bound off and hid the ends and voila! A beautiful tiny shawl with the gradient intact.

ready for tea and garden parties
Time to complete: 6 hours
Difficulty: Easy

As I still had at least half of the blue dyed yarn left I wanted to make something else. For some reason I kept thinking a silly pixie hat with point would look really cute on Anthos, so I went back to Ravelry and picked the Pixie Bonnet by Shara Lambeth. This hat is so simple and easy to make, that I kind of want to make myself one now.
the flat piece gets seamed up the back, then you make the ties
Anyway, I followed the pattern exactly as written, just with my tiny hook and thread. I do think it came out a bit big, and I really want to make another that is much longer so it is more like a long hooded cape (maybe in the red) but for now it came out super cute. I did shorten the round ties but kept them long enough to be tied under the chin.

Time to complete: 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy

This area of the dye job doesn't really have the nice gradient as the first half and so somehow these two pieces don't really match each other in my opinion, but it is adorable to see all these little pieces become a wardrobe for Anthos.

It's a good thing I don't own other dolls or I would be making clothes left and right.
Next week's post is on what I did with the two other colors from my dye lots.

October 10, 2016

Kool-aid Dyeing

Last week you got to see Anthos' first tiny sweater, and I mentioned that I had a ton of yarn left and was thinking about dying it. Let's see how that turned out shall we?

There is a ton of good resources on the internet on methods on how to dye your yarn using Kool-aid packets, but I was not using the standard yarn, in weight, type or amount, which made most of them more of suggestions.
Starting yarn.
Let's review: I am using an extra fine, merino wool, lace weight yarn, and about 50 yards, maybe.

Most instructions call for using several packets, but I figured one packet would be more than enough dye for my small amount of yarn. So I got two flavors: Blue Raspberry Lemonade and Black Cherry, figuring they would be good strong colors. There are a ton of charts online for what colors you can get with what packets, but I didn't have a ton of options in my grocery store. I decided to try each color straight and then a third with a combo of the leftover water.
1. Wind yarn into loose ball. For me, this meant wrapping around two fingers to make a sort of donut of yarn. This greatly affected how the dye turned out, but there isn't really a good way to start a ball with such fine yarn. I should have been more careful about how I did it, perhaps next time I'll look up how to make one of those skein/hank shapes...
2. Wet yarn in water. Be careful not to manipulate it too much or it will felt into a giant knot.
3. Add to small pot with just enough water for it to float around in. For me this was about 2 inches.
4. Add packet of kool-aid and stir to mix into water.
happily simmering. 
5. Leave over a low heat (4) on stove. Occasionally flip over in water. I left the blue ball in the water for maybe 15 minutes. Black cherry maybe 10 minutes since it was so dark of a color. And the hybrid color for 8 minutes. I wanted to see if the length was really affecting the color.
looks really dark when wet, had no idea insides were still light
6. Remove yarn to cups to cool and set. I made little tin foil cups and set them in a bowl so they wouldn't run or dye anything I cared about accidentally. Forgot about them so they had about 3 hours of cooling time... probably more than needed.
7. I gave each ball a quick rinse and squeeze under cool water to make sure it wouldn't leak dye.
8. Wind yarn again onto something to dry fully. I thought about using cardboard strips but I figured it would just warp and crumble since the yarn was wet, so I used three glass bottles.
unravelling the ball revealed weak spots in color
I wound the black cherry and the hybrid color first. What I immediately saw is that the edges and outside took the color much better than the inside. So if I had wanted a real gradient, from the cream it was to the color, I should have been more careful to wind it like a true ball, but if I wanted a total solid, I should have made a larger more open and thin loop. I am doubtful that longer in the water would have helped with this as it just didn't seem to penetrate all the way to the core of the blue which I left in there the longest. Instead I got a sort of variegated gradient, which you can see best on the blue as I wound it carefully.
drying on the bottles, blue wrapped best from outside at the top to inside at the bottom
I really like the straight colors, as they are pretty vibrant. The mixed color is a bit dusty and I think the ratio of water was off, with much more cherry than blue. I still kind of like it though and am thinking about using it in combo with the straight cherry for stripes.

In any case I now have three new tiny balls of yarn to make new sweaters out of for Anthos, with still more of the neutral cream left over. For a few hours of work and $1 in kool-aid, this is the skein that just keeps on giving.

October 3, 2016

Anthos' Sweater

I know the subsection of people that make the up the audience for this post might be zero, but sometimes you just need to make something silly to get back into the swing of things.

You might remember that a while back I purchased a small mandrake root doll from The Beast Peddler on Etsy, named it Anthos, and gave them an Instagram. Following the Beast Peddler's tumblr has made me realize how many people have roots of their own and make cute clothes for them. I have no skill for sewing, even after sewing 50 patches on to my jacket, and just thinking about cutting and making tiny sleeves for arms that are a quarter of an inch long is giving me a headache. But I can crochet!

Jennings Street Yarns here in Fort Worth had a flash sale so of course I stopped by and bought a single skein of lace weight yarn. It is Sublime Lace and is extra fine merino wool in Tan. I can't seem to find it on their website or on WEBS (an online yarn store), but it is light and super soft and I love the natural color. I was thinking then that it might be fun to try to make a tiny sweater for Anthos, complete with collar and trim.

A photo posted by Anthos (@anthos_root) on

The yarn itself recommends a 3.25 mm hook but when I started working with it I felt that hook was way too large. I switched to a tiny steel 1.3mm hook. Keeping the yarn tension with such a thin yarn and small hook was the biggest challenge.

I first started out with a full cabled sweater idea but after getting a few rows in I couldn't tell if the cables were actually visible and standing out or not, and it was taking for ever. So I frogged it.

The second attempt went a bit better. The first one I had been working in the round after making a chain and connecting it, that meant that I kept having to put it on and off him after each row since Anthos' arms are not really to the side of their body like normal doll sweaters would be. This second time I worked the body as a long rectangle with the seam being at the back. This way I could add the arm holes in one row and then keep working. I seamed the long rectangle with slip stitches and then turned and worked two rows of single crochet along the top side to make the collar. After that I added a bottom ribbing trim with a row of single crochet for definition, followed by a row of double crochet. This was a good foundation to make the ribbing which was done with two rows of back and front post double crochet, alternating every two stitches.

For a first finished sweater it is a bit plain, but I still like it a lot. This whole sweater took a minuscule amount of yarn so I can for sure make more, and get a bit more ambitious. Perhaps I will make another full cabled or one with more pronounced ribbing and a bigger collar. In any case this was a lot of fun and since the yarn is such a neutral color, I can even do small dye batches to get more colors.
Anthos is pleased as punch.
For now, Anthos is ready for Fall... if it will ever come to Texas, that is.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time to Complete: 5 hours

September 26, 2016

Kubo's Monkey

If I had my life to do over again, I would have wanted someone to tell me that you could grow up and make things for a living at a movie studio called Laika.

I've been a fan from the start. Coraline brought me on board as I was already a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing, and I even made a yellow coat for the crochet little me so we could be her for Halloween. Then Paranorman came out and won us over with its sheer quantity of details, B movie horror, and humor. I even made a comic and several posts for their #WeirdWins contests, leading to me winning four stunning posters, which I still have framed in my home. Then Boxtrolls, which I will admit I did not love as much as the other two, but still had such warm and loving characters that I had to make my own Fish, complete with box.

When Kubo and the Two Strings was announced, several people said to me "Ang, it's like they made a movie just for you." I was so excited to see it when it finally came out this month. I knew I loved it from the first few moments as the mom crawled across the beach to her son, and I started crying right then. Some people say that Pixar is making fairy tales that grown ups can enjoy, but I feel like Laika has always taken it just one step further, like they are making fairy tales for grown ups instead, that kids can also enjoy. This other way around is somehow more powerful to me, and so much more moving.

Kubo and Monkey
It was only a matter of time, then, that I would make something from Kubo, and Monkey seemed the perfect choice. I don't want to spoil it if you haven't seen it, but I loved the combo of protective, sassy, and wise that she pulled off. The dynamic between Beetle and Monkey was a joy to watch both for Kubo and the audience.
naked monkey face
I made her head, body and legs from some basic Red Heart which yarn I had on hand. The face and ears were from a leftover dusty rose color acrylic I also had in my stash. The taupe brown  of her hands is the same is Vanna's Choice from the beak of my Graboid. Finally I went out and bought one skein of Lion Brand's Wool-Ease in White-Multi, which has a little bit of shiny blue and pink something running through it. I felt it was perfect for her fur, which seemed to shine in many of the scenes.
really wanted to get her chest right

third version monkey paws
After spending a few weeks making body parts and ripping them out again, I finally got some shapes I liked. Then I remembered that Monkey has a left and right hand, and left and right foot, and that I would need to tweak the patterns to get it right. Then came stuffing and assembly, which always takes a few tries to get it all positioned right on the body. After that I added a bit of embroidery to the feet and added a little pink paint to the paws and face.

a hairless monkey!
Finally it was time to add the fur. This part took forever when I did Lion and he only had fur on part of his head and body, not everywhere! I only got about half of her body done when I ran out and needed to go buy a second skein. I spent about 15 hours just pulling the "fur" through. Then it was time to give her a hair cut. This was crucial, and I did use shorter tufts than Lion so I would have less to trim, but she still needed shaping around the face along the arms, neck and back.

looks a bit like when she was poofed by birds
She is finally done after about a month of work. Working on this just makes me appreciate how the Laika makers took the time on every puppet, every detail, just for us to take in without notice. It's amazing. Now she just needs a sword unbreakable...

Difficulty: Intermediate/Hard
Time to complete: 15 hours body, 10 hours fur
Finished Size: 13 inches from head to butt when sitting

Yes, I did write up the pattern, but not sure how I feel about sharing it yet, plus I still need to transcribe it. If there is interest, I will probably share.

September 19, 2016

Totoro Tattoo Concepts v2

One of the most consistently popular blog posts I have done is the first Totoro Tattoo Concepts post, from back in 2013.

A good friend is looking to get another tattoo soon and I casually remarked that I really need to move on from wanting to having... She of course is super excited now, and so I started to revisit the original idea I had. When we left off I had narrowed the idea down to a Totoro and a gingko leaf. That's pretty basic I am coming to see. Not to mention my design is a bit flat.
the 2013 design
The new idea is in the same vein but just much more. A while back I splurged with christmas money on a Noritake Totoro bone china cup and saucer. I was kind of stunned to see the lovely colors, line work and realism of the floral art mixed with the totoros I love.
the Noritake Cup I bought
The more I thought about it, the more this art became the inspiration for what I want to get now. I want color, I want little details, delicate line work and color. It could easily include a gingko leaf instead of the flora they use. And I could also add a few other things, like a jonquil or maybe an aster flower to represent my hubby, soot sprites, and acorns to name a few. I started looking through all the different designs and thinking about where I might want it to be on my body. I decided on getting it like a high cuff right below the bend of my elbow on the inside. Then I printed out a lot of the designs I really liked and started tracing and composing a shape.

version 2.0, super rough sketch, obviously would need a real tattoo artist to give it the once over
It is important to say that nothing has really changed in terms of other's negative opinions that I know I will hear, nor with my crippling fear of needles. What has changed is that I realized if I keep telling myself "one day" I can keep pushing it off without ever growing past my fear. Now just need to get the art polished up and save up my pennies...

September 12, 2016

Sootsprite Toms ft. Totoro

I'm not much of a shopper for a girl. I pretty much wear the same shoes till they die. So when my sister told me about a Tom's Warehouse shoe sale that she attended in Houston I quickly took to Facebook to see if there was a similar one in Dallas. Lo and behold there was!

If you have never heard of Tom's shoes, I'm not sure where you have been living. I had one pair about 5 years ago, but as I tend to dislike closed shoes, I never replaced it when it wore out. However, on the last day of the Warehouse sale, which was held in Fair Park, in Dallas, all shoes go down to the low low price of $10 a pair. So of course I went and picked up four pairs.

I got a black sparkly pair for work, a blue jean colored one with white flowers for casual settings, a teal mosaic looking pair that goes with my extensive teal wardrobe, and a plain gray canvas pair.

That last gray pair I had plans for... totoro related plans. I have seen a lot of cute hand painted shoes lately and figured it would be no big deal to add a little decoration to them with a black marker. I stuffed the toes with paper towels and got out a Prismacolor fine/broad tipped black marker and just sort of free handed a bunch of soot sprites all over.

I did debate doing only soot sprites but I couldn't help adding a whole mess of them to one and then balancing that out on the other with a few totoros.

For $10, custom shoes are a lot of fun and I could totally see going and getting a ton of cheap pairs for a kid (or kid at heart's) birthday party or activity.

In any case, this was a lot of fun and an easy way to spend a few hours. For sure would love to do something more intricate and colorful next time, perhaps on a pair of white shoes.

Difficulty: Easy
Time to Complete: 4 hours