January 29, 2009

Dotee Dad USB

I was stumped, again, as to what to get my Dad for his Birthday.

Since I've been doing felt-work for swaps on swap-bot, I decided to make my Dad a dotee of himself. I couldn't find any letter beads to spell out "Dad" for the tail, but I found thought this tiny USB would do the trick - and make it functional, too! I put some family photos on the drive, too :)

As usual, I started out by sketching a crude design for the dotee:

When it came to making the dotee, I couldn't decide what to use as a background material for the area around the head - so I decided to dispense the background altogether. I stitched the shirt first, which was fun & it's 'open' at the neckline, that is to say you could place a small note or something inside the shirt. The pocket is also 'functional'.

The face was the hardest - it required so many fiddly little pieces of felt & much hand sewing too. The mouth and eyes/glasses were the last things to be added, and I'm still not entirely satisfied with them. I tried a few different things for each.

On the back, I cheekily added a thinning area of hair! I like that and other details - the monobrow, the "salt and pepper" speckly beard, the chest hairs, etc. I stuffed it with the fill from the inside of a pillow (but I had to keep stuffing in the head to a minimum so that the face didn't baloon out of shape. Since I stuffed the body first, the result was that the body is super puffy and the head rather flat!) which made the bottom button stick out. I used thin black ribboin for the hanger and added a few wooden beads to the USB hanger. The body is 4" tall and 1.75" wide. The hanger is 1.25" and the tail is a whopping 2.5".

I pretty much spent all day making this - it was very fiddly. I don't know if it'll ever leave the house, but in any case the USB screws off and can be carried by itself (though you won't lose it with that dotee attached!)

January 27, 2009

Incoming: itty bitty dotee

Meet Leonard! Isn't he adorable? He's the very first dotee I've received! I love the beading on his front. His body is made of fluoro green felt (front and back) & his face is made of white felt with french knot eyes.

He came travelling with me to a music festival & his face is a little grubby now, but still super cute :)

January 23, 2009

Another tiny dotee

After completing my last itty bitty dotees, I had an itching to do another one. There's something fun about working in miniature! Plus, I had a small piece of linen with a small bullion rose on it from when I was first learning the stitch which I wasn't sure what to do with.

This time I had no pattern, I just winged it. I played around a bit, using fly stitch for the eyes instead of all backstitch, and making a pointed bottom.

I had trouble working out how to differentiate the face from the body, as the colours don't contrast enough (although their textures do). I played around with surrounding it with beads, but they were too bulky for such a small dollface, and took too much attention away from the rose. I settled for some simple pink backstitching, which I could have achieved using blanket stitch, come to think of it :)

This was not for a swap, but was sent out to a swap-bot member who has severe health issues. There is a small heart dangling at the bottom of the dotee, which is a symbol other swap-botters have been using to show their support for her.

(I love the peachy colour of the back!)

Quote cards and postcrossing

I've been sending out so many letters and postcards recently that I rather wonder what the man at the local Post Office thinks of it all. I seem to be in there every day buying a stamp or two.

The two postcards above are ones that I sent to somebody from postcrossing. She mentioned on her profile that she likes all things Alice in Wonderland. The first postcard I sent her was a photo I took of some black and white stencil art.

When I came across the two postcards above, which are actually old advertisements for an exhibition at the State Library of Tasmania, I decided to send them on too. I like "finding a home" for things which I keep because I like them, but just sit in a box somewhere.

I bought some peel-n-stick postcard backs from the only aussie supplier I could find. They do the job, but they really are stickers and so offer very little support to flimsy photos & are thin enough to see through when placed over ads or other writing on a postcard. I'm still playing around with different ideas... one that works quite well is just collecting 'free' postcards with little advertising on the back and simply gluing your photo over the top :)

Another batch of postcards I send out recently Quotecard Postcard swap on swap-bot. It is a monthly swap.

I've been jotting down bits and pieces from books into a small exercise book as I read. So I went through (from the beginning) and chose the first three that I thought suited the three recipients based on their profile. Here's what I ended up sending out:

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.

Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting, who can annoy himself about the future?

-- From "Travels with a donkey in the Cevennes" by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1879.
Rachel is unlike any woman he's ever had before. To begin with, she's a respectable woman, his first; and respectability in a woman, as he's now discovered, complicates things considerably.

-- From "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood
Mary said I might be very young, and as ignorant as an egg, but I was bright as a new penny, and the difference between stupid and ignorant was that ignorant could learn.

-- From "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood

Incoming: vegan recipes

I received a handful of swaps recently, including this one. I loved the envelope - a splash of colour amongst a bunch of white ones.

When I opened it, and saw the colour of the recipe cards, I knew what was inside. I have been following Communikate's blog: founders objects. She is documenting a month's worth of swapping activities there, and had featured these cards.

They're so cute & the recipes look so yummy that I've scanned them in for your perusal. They are
  1. The best chocolate cupcake recipe yet
  2. African groundnut stew
  3. Seitan / wheat meat
Click-through to read :)

January 20, 2009

Flower person ATC

I must admit, I was a little stumped for this ATC. I took it as a challenge to myself - that's what I like about Swap-bot: other people think of the ideas, then you have a deadline to do them by. It's what makes the difference, for me, between thinking "oh, I'd like to do that one day" to "you need to do this now, and make it good because it's going out to somebody!"

Anyway, the swap stipulated the following:
The idea here is to use a flower, be it stamped, prima type, paper etc etc, and put a face in the middle and give it a body and have a beautiful little flower person.
I had some lovely flower stickers I wanted to use, but was a little bit apprehensive about the body.

In the end, I traced a baby picture from a book I picked up at Abbey's bookshop: Anatomy and Drawing, by Victor Perard.

Ideally I'll be drawing my own figures, but I'm not quite ready yet. So I traced the picture in pencil, and then went over it in a felt-tip pen. I wasn't sure how I was going to colour it - it didn't look right in b&w. Then I remembered how at school we'd make old-looking "parchment" by rubbing a wet teabag on paper.

So I wet a teabag in a small amount of hot water, squeezed most of the water out, and dabbed the picture with it. It made the felt ink run a little, which I liked - otherwise I could have done the pen outline afterwards. For good measure, I dipped my finger into the instant coffee jar and dotted them around the wet picture, which left little brown spots. To stop the paper curling, I placed it between 2 sheets of paper and left it to dry under a heavy book.

I recently picked up some blank ATC cards at Eckersley's Art & Craft store, which has made life much easier. For my last ATC, I used some cardstock I had lying around, but my cutting was a little wonky. Anyway, I used some green scrapbooking papers for the background, and... voilà! Not exactly Ann Geddes, but still!

January 19, 2009

Itty bitty dotee fever

In my last post, I mentioned that I was having to redo my doll for the Itty Bitty Dotee Swap on Swap-Bot due to fraying.

Well.... it's complete! Behold the complete wheat dotee! You'll notice that the hair changed completely from the original sketch - I still haven't worked out how to do yarn hair! I think the bullion ringlets are cute though, even though she now looks like she is called Helga and should be serving beers part of Oktoberfest! I managed to salvage the face off the first dotee, only redoing the french knots (one was loose)

The wheat is a little off-center, and the bottom a bit crooked - but it doesn't really matter!

Complete, Helga measures 4"... she has a 2" long torso (1 1/4" wide) and the hanger & tail measure about 1" each. I decided that that was not itty bitty enough! I'm sure my swap partner wouldn't mind, but I'm sending her an even ittier bittier one too anyway. It was so much fun to make!

I stuck with the nature theme again. Meet Lady Dotee Bug!

She's made entirely of felt (the ladybug is from a novelty printed felt square) and is truly tiny! She was much quicker to sew up, and I used blanket stitch around the edges. And she has french knot cheeks!

So just how much smaller is she?

She's about 2 1/4" tall in total. Her torso is just under 1 1/2" long (3/4" wide), her hanger is 1/2" long and her tail is just over 1/4" long.

Unless you count the pseudo-dotee pig, these are my first dotees! :)

So what's next? Not a dotee! For my next swap I have to make a flower-person ATC... we'll see how that goes!

January 18, 2009

Bullion Stitch & Itty bitty dotee

Whilst browsing dotees on flickr, I came across one that had cute little lips. The creator mentioned that she'd simply used french knots. Having never done any (I'd only dabbled in cross stitch before), I was happy to come across a video tutorial on the Needle'nThread website. It was more helpful than some of the diagrams I have seen, like this one in one of my books:

I began looking at more of Mary's video tutorials and stumbled across the bullion knot tutorial.

I immediately went and found some linen remnants I had stashed away from a dress I made, and a big hoop I used for cheap screen printing. The only embroidery thread I had was blue, so I kind of free-styled some different stitched: french knots, bullion stitches, fly stitch and a little satin stitch.

The results weren't exactly stellar, but more importantly it was fun!

Next, I went to Lincraft and bought a whole lot of different coloured DMC embroidery threads & a smaller hoop as it was quite awkward working on the large one. I used another patch of linen (note the different look of the fabric - it's the same linen, just the other side) and stitched a little bullion rose bud. It's not perfect, but it was fun and it rather cute (I used two fly stitches for the stem & leaves).

One of the reasons I'm mentioning these stitches, is that I'm participating in the Itty Bitty Dotee Swap on Swap-Bot and wanted to incorporate a little hand embroidery into it.

I was inspired by the beautiful insects and plants on Mary's Breath of Spring Embroidery Project. I initially wanted to embroider a butterfly, but I had beautiful shades of yellow thread and decided to start with something a little simpler. I liked the look of the wheat ears featured on an ecclesiastical piece in disrepair, which were done in satin stitch. I found a tutorial on Satin stitch, and jumped right into the project.

I stitched a single ear of wheat (after all the mini dotee is only about 2" tall!!) and was fairly happy with how it turned out. I practiced a little first, and decided to use a single strand of thread. I combined this with a strand of gold metallic thread for the long straight tips & the stem.

After cutting out the little face, I used backstitch to put on the closed eyes, and I tried out the bullion knot lips. While it's cute, I think they may be a little too big for such a small face!

Next, I cut out the shape of the doll so that I could get sew the face on in the right position. This is where I made a big mistake - I hadn't considered the dangers of fraying, which was quite an oversight! I've been doing a fair amount of felt crafting recently, and it didn't even cross my mind. Disaster struck when I began stitching the hair. I used a big needle, because I used several strands of yellow thread and one gold all at once. The fringe went OK, but making the bullion stitch ringlets put a lot of strain on the material, and it frayed awfully. You can see in the photo that there is only one ringlet on the right, and the fraying that has occurred above it.

Not to be disheartened, I packed my little embroidery basket with the correct threads and materials, and on the 3.5 hour bus ride up to Sydney on Friday, I stitched another one.

Overall, I think the ear came out better the second time round. I was more consistent with the "direction" of my stitches (although they are nothing like in the original), and the hairy tips were better spaced apart. Unfortunately my attempt at graciously curving the stalk simply made it look like I couldn't stitch straight!

I still have to finish her off, and I think I'll leave cutting out the fabric to the very end. Also, I'll sew the two pieces of material together using a reinforced stitch on my sewing machine because both pieces are prone to fraying. I'll post a picture when she's done!

I still have a long way to go with Satin stitch, but am glad to have opportunities to practice in small projects like dotees.

Old Canberran postcard

I won't be discussing every postcard I send out, but I particularly like this one. I've been stashing postcards for a long time now, and am loving being able to send them out to others. This one is old - I think I may have gotten it from my parents.

You can tell its age by several things. First of all, the telephone number on the back is (062) 88-3508 now there have been several phone changes since then. The 6-digit phone number became a 7-digit one, and then an 8-digit one. (I remember this last transition as a child). So that phone number would probably be (02) 6288-3508 nowadays. Also, the style of the postcard. Nowadays, a lot of available aussie postcards seem to be Steve Parish or Murray views ones, and there are lots of fancy fonts, fading effects, etc. No-one proudly proclaims to have taken a "colour photograph" anymore or bother to name small ferries in photos.

So in brief, I love the ridged edge, the colours, the RED BOLD ITALIC title, and the little message in the stamp-box: "I LIKE TO BE SEEN - please don't send me in an envelope".

January 17, 2009

Recipe swaps: vegan & scavenger

Two recent swaps I sent off were mmmmm Favorite Recipes - Vegan and Recipe scavenger hunt on swap-bot. As a vegan-leaning vegetarian, I was all too happy to share some of my tried & true vegan recipes, and to receive some other people's in return. The scavenger hunt was also fun, and required each participant to choose recipes from ten of the following fifteen categories:
  1. uses leftovers
  2. contains no meat
  3. is for a soup
  4. is for a dessert
  5. contains corn
  6. was found in a magazine
  7. you've never tried
  8. is your favorite recipe
  9. can be made in a crock pot or slow cooker
  10. is for an appetizer
  11. contains cheese
  12. is for bread or muffins
  13. contains fruit
  14. is for a dip
  15. is really bad for you-but tastes soooo good
I sent only veggie recipes (and my swap partner for the scavenger hunt is also kindly sending me only veggie ones), including the following yummy soup from The Canberra Cook, which is great for winter:

Roast Tomato and Red Lentil Soup


  • 1kg tomatoes.
  • 1 litre good vegetable stock
  • 180g red lentils
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or just a teaspoon works)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • salt, pepper
  1. Halve the tomatoes, arrange in a single layer on a deep sided baking dish, roast in a moderate (160C) oven for 40 minutes. They should be well done, but not dried.
  2. Gently fry the onion & garlic in the oil until onion is golden. Add the lentils (washed & picked over as needed), stock, tomatoes and oregano. Also add any juices from the bottom of the tomato baking dish. You can slip the skins off the tomatoes at this point if you so desire.
  3. Simmer until lentils are done - these are the type that go to mush, not the whole ones. Run through a blender to get a smoothish texture. Thin down with water or more veggie stock to your desired consistency, and add salt and pepper to taste.

The format was sender's choice, and my partners didn't specify whether they wanted cards or sheets or anything, so I ended up printing on to letter-sized paper (by that I mean I printed on A4 and tried to trim it down to letter dimensions...! See this wiki article for more on North American vs the International standard!)

For one thing, I don't know what a standard recipe card size is, and also my recipes were quite long, and there were many of them. Still, I got out some coloured paper and decorated them best I could. Aside from the tomatoes, I also made some more vegetables.... including eggplant, carrot, lemon, peas and spinach amongst others!

It was fun! So much fun, in fact, that I got carried away and decided to make a tomato magnet too... here it is!

It is slightly raised & filled with pillow material. It was the first time I had used blanket stitch, and it works well to seal the edges of flat felt objects! :) The magnetic strip was adhesive but I found that I also had to stitch it on to really stick (luckily it is thin, and the needle pierces it easily).

In the meantime, I need to improve my photography & digital editing skills somewhat!

January 12, 2009

AU&NZ Complete Book of Handicrafts

I was down in Tasmania for the Christmas holidays, visiting family in Hobart. While I was there, I dropped into the Salvos on Elizabeth St. (I love love love browsing through charity shops) and picked up the Australia and New Zealand Complete Book of Handicrafts for au$5.

I love the kitsch cover & gaudy burnt orange background. I love the "Quality&Value" sticker on the front, awarded by the book's own publisher. This second Impression is from 1977, and I especially love the very 70s photos, with big hairstyles & crochet bikinis,

and kids wearing full-knit ensembles & adults wearing crochet ones.

But at the end of the day, I bought it because it has large simple drawings explaining the basics of a range of crafts I've been wanting to learn / brush up on:

It goes over all the basics of:
  1. Knitting
  2. Crochet
  3. Sewing
  4. Dyecraft
  5. Batik
  6. Spinning&weaving
  7. Rugmaking
  8. Patchwork
  9. Embroidery
  10. Machine embroidery
  11. Tapestry
  12. Macramé
  13. Leathercraft
  14. Gifts & Bazaar items
  15. Soft furnishings
I'm most interested in the chapters on crochet, embroidery & patchwork, but macramé looks interesting, as do the chapters on making sofa covers & curtains. I love that there are lots of b&w and colour illustrations... I find some of the projects to be positively unappealing, and others to be surprisingly beautiful. Perhaps I'll share some more photos as I work my way through the book.

I'll leave you with the opening line of the Introduction to ponder over...
Every woman has latent creative talent living within her.

January 7, 2009

One-Day Swap

I made this ATC for the One-Day Swap at swap-bot.

The original sketch was for a dotee doll, but I didn't have enough nice fabrics to pull it off. However, after spreading all of my craft supplies out all over the floor to take stock of my supplies (they're all still scattered about, ahem), I decided that I had enough appropriate paper scraps to give an ATC a go.

ATCs are a concept that, like dotees, I had not come across before joining swap-bot. So this is my very first ATC. I'm still not comfortable with my drawing skills, preferring to do simple collage-type things for now.

You can't really tell from the scanned image, but the ATC is layered:
  • The red hat-band & dress are made from corrugated red cardboard
  • The hat itself is made from textured black cardboard. The brim stands out, because I stuck a piece of felt under it.
  • The "button" is a "flat" wooden bead
  • The face is made of felt, with embroidered eyes & mouth.
  • The fringe is also made from felt, but the hair that hangs down is braided embroidery thread (they move around freely)
  • The shawl's fringe is green Yarn
  • The shawl and hills are made from some scrapbooking paper & the sky was cut out of an advertising catalogue
I love all the different textures & recycling all the scraps of paper & material I have been hoarding for what feels like an eternity!

January 6, 2009

Four Australian postcrossing postcards sent

I've just sent my first set of postcrossing postcards... I especially like the two top ones. There are a whole series of postcards with stamps on them ("First Day of Issue") which cost AU$1.50 each including worldwide delivery... a pretty good deal considering stamps cost AU$1.35 anyway!

The top left card is from 1920, and the other black & white Surf Life Saving card is undated. The two bottom cards are fairly typical shop-bought ones. The kookaburras on the left can be seen (or rather heard) in the outskirts of cities. I love their call. The landmarks on the right are nice, but don't feature the A.C.T.

January 3, 2009

Glucksschwein swap

I made this pig for the Glucksschwein swap at swap-bot.

I made it from Runo's pattern, making it half-size. The colouring is inspired from a black and white potbellied pig.

I saw that my swap partner also likes Dotees. Having only just discovered them myself, and after looking through many galleries of them on Flickr, I decided to make my first one.

My housemate liked the pig toy I made, although it became known as the "cow-pig". I sketched a "cow-pig" dotee design and am happy with how it turned out!

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