"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Conclusion--"Get It Together"

*I began learning to machine sew when I was in the fourth grade. I took lessons after school at the Girl's Club. Years before that, my grandmother taught me to sew by hand. Having those skills has helped me immensely, but I really hate to sew.*

It's my intent to use felt for the characters' eyes, but I can't find my felt stash that was so handy just a few days ago, so I opt to embroider the eyes rather than waste time searching anywhere and everywhere for my bundle of scrap felt. I choose to use yarn for the assembly process instead of the recommended traditional sewing thread because I like the homespun look that yarn stitching gives to a piece. I suppose I'm something of a purist; I believe a handmade item should look professional, but still handmade. I'm also afraid the kids will tear apart the finished dolls if I use thread.

I sit down at about 8:00 a.m. and begin assembly. Being the organizationally challenged person that I am, I bounce from part to part and put together pieces willy-nilly. Although I really begin to lose steam by 10:00, I'm dead set on finishing at least the two Toads before my nephews get home from school at 2:30.

I catch a second wind as the dolls begin to take shape. I begin to zone out and start composing this commentary in my mind as I work. All in all the assembly is fairly easy but very time consuming. I'm able to finish both Toads and assemble most of Toadette by 2:25, just in time to stage the pieces for the boys so they see them immediately when they walk into the house.

My back aches; my hands hurt; and I really need to have lunch (chef's salad). The squeals of delight and hugs make the pain worth it, but I vow never to do a marathon sewing session like that again.

The following morning, I start right after breakfast and finish Toadette for my niece. She's more interested in her teddy bear. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

The best thing about the assembly experience is that I now know how the pieces fit and, if I ever decide to make this pattern again, I have devised a plan that will cut down on the hand sewing immensely. It has also given me a better understanding of amigurumi patterns so I can confidently move on to other projects of this type.

What would I change? That's easy. I've learned to be more trusting of the pattern/designer. Looking at the finished pieces, I can see how the larger cap would have worked, but I would still need to adjust the last row to fit it properly to the head. I think I may have overstuffed the cap a bit because it's a little too tall. I'll chalk it all up to experience and move on.

*One last plug: You can find the pattern for Toad and Toadette along with a bunch of other great patterns by Linda Potts (WolfDreamer) on her blog http://wolfdreamer-oth.blogspot.com/2009/08/toad-and-toadette.html.*

Monday, June 7, 2010

Part Three--"Sum of the Parts"

*Just a reminder: The pattern I'm referencing is by Linda Potts, aka WolfDreamer, and may be found at http://wolfdreamer-oth.blogspot.com/2009/08/toad-and-toadette.html. While you're there, take a few minutes to check out her blog; she's got some great patterns for free and for sale. (I bought Darwin the Dinosaur a few months ago.)*

I decide to take a couple of days away from the body in an effort to save my sanity. In that time, I'm able to finish all of the smaller pieces. The only glitch I encounter is that the spots for Toad/Toadette's hat are a bit larger than I would like. That's an easy fix: instead of using half double crochet for the second round, I use single crochet. This maintains the integrity of the design while shrinking the finished product by just a hair.

The instructions are so easy to follow that while I crochet I'm able to catch up on the many episodes of "V" that I've missed. I sit at the table in front of my laptop and toggle between HULU and WolfDreamer's blog. (Did I mention one of the reasons I crochet so much is to keep me from snacking in front of the TV?) The only part I find difficult is the arm. The arms are so little that I need to pay close attention to what I'm doing. LOL...That's what "pause" is for!

I check my parts list to make sure I haven't missed anything and let out a heavy sigh as I turn to the dreaded task of crocheting the body. In one last ditch effort to procrastinate, I pull all the pieces I've made and "dry fit" Toadette. That's when the light bulb turns on in my brain! The body is supposed to have a "bubble butt!" If it didn't then the body would be top heavy once the vest is added. There's nothing wrong with my piece...YAY! Well, okay, I did figure out that I had accidentally skipped a row in the instructions, but that won't be a problem since I already took apart the first body I made. Now that I've found the reason for the deformity, I've got the motivation to finish crocheting.

I don't recommend this to anyone, but I put off stuffing any of my pieces until they are all finished. The spheres for Toadette's braids really should get stuffed as I crochet, but stuffing the finished product through the small hole at the top is not really as difficult as it may sound. Anyhow, the stuffed pieces look great and I can now focus on final assembly.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Part Two--"Body Building"

The next step is to crochet the body. This is probably the most important part of the doll because if the body is off, the whole thing will look funny. The pattern is simple enough and I follow it to the letter (or so I think).

You guessed it; it looks odd. I can't really tell as I'm working the lower half, but something is wrong. I keep stitching to the end because I know I can't readjust the pattern to suit my needs unless I see it fully done. Finished, my piece looks like it has "secretary spread." It has a bubble butt and a tiny neck.

I head back to the computer in an effort to determine whether the problem is me or a flaw in the pattern. As I read the comments posted on WolfDreamer's page, I find a blogger in France who has made the pattern and posted pictures of the finished product in her own blog. Sure enough, her Toad is perfect...Great.

My frustration level has reached a high. I know myself very well. If I push myself to keep going I'll only become more frustrated and eventually abandon the project altogether. I choose to walk away for a while. Perhaps I'll move on to the arms and feet before I return to finish the body.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Part One--"Heads Up"

*For the sake of privacy I will not be using the kids' names. I've always called them my nephews and niece, but they're not blood relatives; they're my best friend's kids. My older nephew will be eight next month; his younger brother is five; and my niece is eighteen months old. They're terrific kids, but they have those times when they can be a real handful, just like any other children their ages.*

As my younger nephew watches over my shoulder, I do a web search for a free Yoshi crochet pattern. I have no luck finding Yoshi, but I find a great blog by WolfDreamer (http://wolfdreamer-oth.blogspot.com/). She's posted some terrific video game-based patterns. My nephew is so excited to see the picture of Toad and Toadette that he asks if I will make them. I give him a definite maybe. When his brother gets home from school, the two boys talk me into making them: Toad with red spots on his hat for the younger nephew, Toad with yellow spots for the older nephew, and Toadette for my niece. I promise I'll buy the yarn as soon as it goes on sale. Little do I know we'll have to wait a month for a sale on Lily Sugar 'n Cream at Michael's. I chose cotton yarn because I've been using it quite a bit lately and I like the texture.

Okay, yarn acquired...time to begin. Step one is to crochet the faces (remember I'm making three at once, so I'm working assembly line style). Done...no problem...faces look great, just like the picture. It's time for step two: make the caps. As I crochet the first one, the shape looks great, but as I reach the half way point, I begin to wonder about the size. It looks awfully large to me, but I decide to finish it and then assess. I figure the worst that can happen is I'll have to remake it.

Sure enough, the finished cap is too large. It's so big, in fact, that the head fits inside the cap. Even with all my years of sewing experience, I know I can't attach the head to the cap and make it look good as it is. I try a quick fix first: crochet one more decrease row to shrink the size of the opening. The opening is now the right size, but the cap is too out of proportion to look right. I carefully examine the picture of the finished project and I can tell there's no mistake in the pattern. I figure my stitches must be too loose so I begin again with a hook one size smaller.

Yeah, okay, no... The cap is a bit better (smaller) this time, but it's just not going to work. I go back to the drawing board. Using the original pattern as a guide, I rewrite it so the proportions are the same but the finished product will be smaller overall.

Victory! This time it's perfect and I'm able to bang out the other two without any problems.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Labor of Love, an Exercise in Frustration

My mother taught me to crochet when I was eight years old. I'm quite good at it. So long as I stay away from projects that require me to check my gauge, I'm just fine. I simply do not have the patience to make and check test swatches, but I'm going off my intended topic...

For a few years I've been slowly collecting patterns for "plushies." I've made one, a stuffed mouse cat toy for a friend's "baby." It was simple and came out looking great. Over the past couple of months, thanks to the influence of my dear nephews, ages five and seven, my pattern collection has grown immensely. Finally, the boys have convinced me to begin a project that's a bit more complicated. I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog, so I figured now is the time. I'd like to invite you to join me as I document my progress with this pattern that's captured my heart (and tested my patience).

The pattern is free and was created by WolfDreamer. You'll find it here: http://wolfdreamer-oth.blogspot.com/2009/08/toad-and-toadette.html