February 4, 2012

Smaller Is Only Slightly Better

This is going to be an extremely short update. To mitigate the disaster that was my last dollbox, I made a second box that's smaller and hopefully simpler to maintain. It is roughly half as wide as the original, but a wee bit deeper. Dimensions are 10" by 10" by 6.5".


And as you can see, I've already started decorating. That's pink giftwrap serving as wallpaper for the second floor. It's probably just me and the limitations of my crafting skills, but the "wallpaper" was a pain in the butt to install. Or maybe there's a very important-but-obscure wallpapering technique somewhere that I missed.

I'm also trying to make better use of the "Less is More" furnishing philosophy, using pieces in moderation and resisting the urge to go for the Cramped And Crowded Furniture Store look. I'm not a formally-trained interior decorator, so I can't speak for how well my approach is working.


The good news is that by doubling up on the illustration board, I've managed to stabilize the second floor to minimize warping. So far the floor is still holding up well. I've since tested the double-layer theory by re-doing the second floor of my first dollbox accordingly, though I think it's safe to say that one should have fairly fewer problems when working with a smaller floor area.

In the meantime, it looks like the coming weeks are going to be full of me dividing my time between writing, knitting and working on doll home improvements.

One more week to Inkblot season!

I suspect this is going to become an annual thing for me from now on. All the writing workshops, books and software in the world probably aren't going to make the next J.D. Salinger (maybe not even the next J.K. Rowling), but it can't hurt to try, can it?

Sining Bodega presents Inkblot: The Essentials of Writing Fiction

For someone who has dreamed of being a writer for years, I have been (un)surprisingly abysmal at keeping it up. I consider it a good day whenever I "successfully" finish writing something I started, even if it's something silly like a poem or a blog entry. At the last writing workshop I attended, I managed to compose exactly one original piece, which is already an ill sign. I guess my mind tends to get distracted very easily, too easily even. This is nothing new, this even happens whenever I read books.

For all my failings at actual prose, however, I have developed something of a talent for making worlds up. Since settling on my life's calling back in fifth grade, I've fully devoted my energies to creating at least three full-scale fictional universes. That's not counting the times when I pick up on a single story idea and decide to play around with that thread in my head for days at a time.

My current long-term writing project has been on the backburner since my sophomore year in college, and I still suck at writing at least one proper (and by "proper" I mean "readable enough for submission to respected literary publications") vignette from that particular universe. My copious worldbuilding notes alone are probably two to three times more massive than any actual prose I've written for it. And then there's the issue of the volume of made-up words exclusive to the universe...

my Universe Bible, the eternal work-in-progress

The Classic Writer's Dilemma in all its permutations has been one I and my other writerly friends have discussed at length numerous times, and it still seems like none of us are getting any closer to becoming the next literary darling. But to very loosely quote one of my best buddies, the only way to go is Write. Up. Something. Ponies!

Am I human... or am I dancer?
One of my less-ridiculous-looking character concepts from this universe. Thank you, Hero Machine.

February 2, 2012

A Purse of Stories

Well, it's more like a brown paper bag of stories, really.


I'm still somewhat baffled as to how it happened, but it seems fairy tales are becoming in vogue again. One minute the director of Twilight was shooting her own Hotter and Sexier take on Little Red Riding Hood. The next thing I know, one of my oldest friends is ranting about how Once Upon A Time (not to be confused with Wansapanataym) is holding his interest less and less. Classic children's characters left and right are getting edgy makeovers worthy of comic book superheroines, while longtime Fables fans are finding more and more reasons to feel smug.

So where does the mystery paper bag come in?

February 1, 2012

Kids will ALWAYS fight over the top bunk.

It was inevitable, really. After expending so much time, energy and packing tape on building a more-or-less ideal cardboard dollhouse, the next logical step was for me to dabble in cardboard doll furniture.

The decision to "branch out" was borne from a very unique dilemma, one shaped like a whole mass of irregular Tetris rejects.

Leftover pieces of illustration board from my dollbox attempts

Because packrats industrious crafters are usually loathe to ever throw anything away, I figured I needed to try my hand at furniture. It would certainly save me some more money compared to if I were to commit to investing in Sylvanian Families furniture pieces all the way. Plain old tables, chairs and beds were too boring, however, which I why I decided to attempt building my first mini cardboard bunk beds.


Of course, mini-scaled cardboard bunk beds were hard to come by. So, I had to improvise my own bunk bed design. I took a cue from the dimensions of the Sylvanian Families bunk bed as my starting point, and from there I pretty much jumped right in and hoped for the best.

Today in Flickr groups: Little Boxes

Remember the last post I made about esoterically-themed Flickr groups? Turns out the eraser-collecting scene had gotten more insane than I ever imagined. The biggest tip-off for me came mostly when I started seeing them in real toy shops. For this we have the good people at Iwako to thank, because why rub out your pencil mistakes with nondescript gray slabs when you can do it with pieces of rubber shaped like hamsters?

I wasn't kidding.

Going back to the subject of Flickr groups, one of my favorite online pick-me-ups is the Little Treasures Flickr pool. I freely admitted that I am a bit of a Flickr lurker ages ago, but this is getting out of hand.

Little Treasures Flickr pool

While I have an unabashed appreciation for small toys in general, I have more of a love-hate relationship with the art of displaying/storing them. Much of my frustration may stem from printer's trays being awfully hard to find, but then I have yet to take up antiquing as a phase.

The Beginning Of The End

An even bigger issue for me is my perennial lack of storage space, which is not bound to get better anytime soon thanks to my fleeting passionate hobby complex and the law of conservation of mass. I might stand a slightly better chance of justifying this if I had actual photography skills, though it seems colorful objects and camera only occasionally get along whenever I'm working with them.

The End Of The Beginning Of The End
If you think this looks bad, wait until you see it now.

On the other hand, I guess my fiction-writing skills could use some exercise...

Sockbert

Say hello to Sockbert.

Hello, Sockbert

Made when I was perhaps little more than a wee weirdo-in-the-making, Sockbert was perhaps one of my very earliest (and creepiest) attempts at doll-making. Looking back, I feel like I should probably walk into a Doll Collectors Anonymous meeting and just admit that I have a doll problem.

Once, this problem reached the point that I was desperately looking for ways to get my doll fix. That meant figuring out how to make my own dolls, never mind that I was then too young and uncoordinated (read: stupid) for the task.

January 31, 2012

Fool's Dragon: A Free Knitting Pattern




Here we have Zeb the Dalmatian Dragon, one of my more surprising attempts at improvising my own  stuffed animal. For some reason I just felt like knitting my own winged hexaped lizard in honor of the Chinese Year of the Dragon (It only comes once every 12 years! It's extra-special!), not to mention the promise of a new season of Game of Thrones this coming April.

This is my first actual attempt at posting a knitting pattern, so please be gentle.




You will need:
1 skein of worsted or DK-weight yarn
3.5mm double-pointed knitting needles, or any needle size that will give you a tight fabric
toy stuffing
a yarn needle

Guide:
kf&b - knit front and back (see here)
m1 - make 1 (see here)
k2tog - knit 2 together (see here)
ssk - slip, slip, knit (see here)
wrap and turn - helps prevent holes in short-row shaping; see here

Zeb's little-known "Brontosaurus mode."

Pattern:
The body is worked in the round in one piece, from head to tail. The legs (worked in the round) and the wings (worked flat in garter stitch) are sewn on separately. The head and the breast are shaped with short rows; just imagine you're knitting an itty-bitty sock heel.

Feel free to add any other embellishments like eyes, spines, horns and frills to your dragon.

Head and neck

cast on 6, join in the round.

knit.

kf&b to end. (12 stitches)

knit.

*knit 3, kf&b* OR *knit 4, m1* 3 times. (15)

knit.

*knit 4, kf&b* OR *knit 5, m1* 3 times. (18)

knit 6, begin short row shaping [stay on current round. short rows are worked back and forth].

knit 6, wrap and turn.

purl 6, wrap and turn.

knit 4, wrap and turn.

purl 2, wrap and turn.

At the end of the succeeding 4 rows, pick up the wrap and knit it together with the last stitch.

knit 3, turn.

slip 1, purl 3, turn.

slip 1, knit 5, turn.

slip 1, purl 7, turn.

slip 1, knit 12. [You are now back to working in the round.]

knit 4, ssk, knit 6, k2tog, knit 4. (16)

knit 3, ssk, knit 6, k2tog, knit 3. (14)

knit 2, ssk, knit 6, k2tog, knit 2. (12)

knit 20 rounds. [Stuff head and neck as you go.]


Body

knit 4, m1, knit 4, m1, knit 4. (14)

knit.

knit 4, m1, knit 6, m1, knit 4. (16)

knit.

knit 4, m1, knit 8, m1, knit 4. (18)

knit.

knit 4, m1, knit 10, m1, knit 4. (20)

knit.

knit 4, m1, knit 12, m1, knit 4. (22)

knit.

knit 4, m1, knit 14, m1, knit 4. (24)

knit. 

knit 4, mark new beginning of round.


knit 16, begin short row shaping [stay on current round. short rows are worked back and forth].

knit 8, wrap and turn.

purl 8, wrap and turn.

knit 6, wrap and turn.

purl 4, wrap and turn.

At the end of the succeeding 4 rows, pick up the wrap and knit it together with the last stitch.

knit 5, turn.

slip 1, purl 5, turn.

slip 1, knit 7, turn.

slip 1, purl 9, turn.

slip 1, knit 8. [You are now back to working in the round.]

knit 20 rounds. [Stuff body as you go.]


Tail

ssk, knit 12, k2tog, ssk, knit 4, k2tog. (20)

ssk, knit 10, k2tog, ssk, knit 2, k2tog. (16)

ssk, knit 8, k2tog, knit 4. (14)

ssk, knit 6, k2tog, knit 4. (12)

knit 4 rounds.

ssk, knit 4, k2tog, knit 4. (10)

knit 4 rounds.

ssk, knit 2, k2tog, knit 4. (8)

knit 6 rounds.

knit 4, ssk, k2tog. (6)

knit 6 rounds.

ssk, k2tog, knit 2. (4)

knit 6 rounds. Cut yarn and draw tightly through last 4 stitches twice to bind off.


Legs (make 4)

cast on 6, leaving a long tail.

join in the round.

knit 9 rounds.

k2tog to end. (3)

Cut yarn and draw through stitches twice to bind off. Use tail from cast-on to sew legs to body.


Wings (make 2)


cast on 36.

knit 1 row.

*knit 10, k2tog* 3 times. (33)

knit 1 row.

*knit 9, k2tog* 3 times. (30)

knit 1 row.

*knit 8, k2tog* 3 times. (27)

knit 1 row.

*knit 7, k2tog* 3 times. (24)

knit 1 row.

*knit 6, k2tog* 3 times. (21)

knit 1 row.

*knit 5, k2tog* 3 times. (18)

knit 1 row.

*knit 4, k2tog* 3 times. (15)

knit 1 row.

*knit 3, k2tog* 3 times. (12)

knit 1 row.

*knit 2, k2tog* 3 times. (9)

knit 1 row.

*knit 1, k2tog* 3 times. (6)

bind off, leaving long tail for sewing wing to body.


Leave a comment in case you have a problem with the pattern or want to leave me hate mail on my own blog.

January 28, 2012

The Secret Lives of Clothespins

So yesterday was a bit of an uncharacteristically busy day, and hopefully I'll have more to blog about in the coming weeks. For now, here's an interesting discovery I made while researching one of my, erm, projects:


Worry Dolls. A bit of a peculiar name for what could tentatively be the next big grassroots fad to displace friendship bracelets. It turns out there's a Guatemalan custom wherein kids stick small dolls under their pillows at night, serving as a sort of lightning rod for all their worries. Is it weird of me to say they remind me of a cross between voodoo dolls and Hakuna Matata?

Of course, the real reason these things caught my eye was because their construction bears an uncanny resemblance to an arts & crafts kit I got at a store way back when I was in high school. They weren't marketed as Worry Dolls, but rather as some generic girl-friendly crafty project intended to engender creativity and sharing and all that crap. I believe they might have had some cutesy name like "Friendship Pocket Pals" or somesuch.

The good news is that thanks to the miraculous preservative properties of my notoriously cluttered desk, three of these managed to survive years of schoolwork, paper pileups, hoarding and seasonal insanity.


Yes, these are more or less the very same "dolls" I made out of that old kit. Similar use of embroidery floss, drawn-on faces, and even the exact same variety of wooden clothespins that for very specific reasons are not common here in the Philippines. I guess the biggest difference is that the Worry Dolls pattern used popsicle sticks for the arms, while the kit I got came with pipe cleaners. Incidentally, Doll 1 is nursing a long-broken arm from my preadolescent horseplay.


A neat but possibly irrelevant sidenote: The first two dolls were made straight out of the package, while the third was made possibly many months later during one of the off-days at home. I am still absolutely baffled as to how I managed to give Doll 3 picture-perfect Jessica Simpson hair.

I would have liked being able to make more crafty dolls like these. Now if only these kinds of wooden clothespins were easier to find here...

January 19, 2012

Stuff I Wasn't Expecting #63

The imaginary blog gremlins who have been following my cardboard mock-dollhouse project may be wondering whatever the heck happened with it. Well, wonder no more!


Producing this simple result was much trickier than I thought. Then again, the dimensions and building of the whole thing were pretty much done on the fly, with little more than a vast expanse of stiff board and whatever drafting supplies I could find in the house.

In the end, I'm still convinced I could've done better.


For one thing, I definitely did not anticipate this:

January 13, 2012

Your Music Break for the Day

BREAK UP!


Break up wit' yo' boyfriend!





You know how every now and then you get the spontaneous urge to play something funky?

I don't know what it is about this song, but it's become one of my go-to numbers. (Go behind the scenes here.)

Unboxing the Lalaloopsy Treehouse, Part 2 (Treehouse features)

We interrupt this review to bring you a special news bulletin: Mittens can control the weather! (Okay, not really.)

Now that that's out of the way, let me just state for the record that I am probably not the best at taking actual pictures of toys. Moving on to the Treehouse tour!

The Treehouse proper can be divided into two major parts: the "Bigger Tree" and the "Smaller Tree." The Bigger Tree carries the bulk of the playset's special features. Both trees can be connected by a bridge made of popsicle sticks and a yellow zip-line rope (more on those later).

As has been mentioned a bunch of times throughout this product's marketing, the playset is "double-sided" so to speak. All that really means, though, is that the "leafy" section of both trees is hollow enough to carry a couple of vaguely-defined platforms for the dolls to sit semi-comfortably on, not to mention hang a twee "walnut hammock" from. (The Smaller Tree has its own slightly smaller walnut hammock.)

The Bigger Tree's walnut hammock.
As you have probably already noticed, the walnuts aren't exactly well-designed for the dolls themselves to snuggle up in. We can therefore conclude that the hammocks fulfill one of two purposes:
  1. They're for the dolls' pets to sleep in.
  2. They're for hanging food in the trees to keep out of reach from bears.
One thing I like about this playset is that the door and window shutters really work. A minor detail, I know, but I take what I can get.


January 10, 2012

Unboxing the Lalaloopsy Treehouse, Part 1 (Box, Dolls, Accessories)

Last year, I "treated" myself by getting the fabled Mini Lalaloopsy Treehouse playset. Like any other self-respecting toy nerd (is there such a thing?), I do occasionally occupy myself with meticulous toy-unboxing photo shoots. And seeing as this was an extra-special purchase and this blog is no stranger to meandering anecdotes about treehouses, I felt this deserved at least some sort of proper documentation.

Because this post turned out a bit longer than I thought, Part 1 shall cover my initial impressions of the packaging, the dolls and the itty-bitty extras. The Treehouse itself (features and all) will be covered in Part 2.


Here we have the as-of-yet unopened Treehouse in all its shiny, plastic glory. I can't be alone in hating toys that look overly intimidating and expensive while still in-package. Then again, I guess this must partly explain the cult of mint-condition toy collectors.

January 7, 2012

Aaaaaaaand my estrogen levels just skyrocketed.

I'd rather not go into detail about the random turn of events that led me to this site, but it appears I have my own fairy name now!

Great. Now all I need to do is file this along with my porn star name, my pick-up artist name, my Time Lord name, my Zombieland name, my Game Grid name...

Find out your fairy names with The Fairy Name Generator!My fairy name is Oak Rainbowglitter
She brings good fortune.
She lives in forests of oak and lime trees.
She is only seen in the light of a shooting star.
She wears pretty autumnal leaf colours and has multicoloured wings like a butterfly.
Find out your fairy names with The Fairy Name Generator!

January 5, 2012

Today in Cardboard Dollhouses

Research! Yeah, that's it. I'm doing research.

If there's anything I've learned from the five ill-fated months I spent as an employee of the SEO persuasion, it's that looking for anything on Google these days has become yet another fresh hell brought to you by CAPITALISM! It's gotten to the point that just seeing the word "eHow" is enough to send me into a mild spasm. (In case you don't get my meaning, just Google "content farm." Wait, scratch that. Don't.)

The good news is that my search for half-decent cardboard building ideas has not been a fruitless one. While I did stumble on a bunch of fun homemade houses (plus this doozy of a project), I believe I may have finally found a solution to my "adding a second floor to a nondescript cardboard box built from scratch" dilemma.

Of course, looking back on these ideas now begs the question, "What the heck where you doing building a box from scratch when you could just alter a prefab one? Isn't your country, like, swimming in giant boxes? There was even a passing joke about it on a certain movie which shall not be named!"

Made in the Philippines, bee-yotches!

To put it as calmly and as non-meanderingly (is that even a real word?) as I can,  I guess I preferred the challenge of figuring out how to build a box that works to my specifications first. That and if I wanted to just decorate a box willy-nilly, I could've just used a flipping wooden shelf as my starting point (as this page has already reminded me).

Getting back on track with an actual build update, the dollbox remains unchanged.  However, I did get hold of some new raw material so I can resume construction. And I mean about 1,200 square inches of raw material.

Jumbo Illustration Board!

Unwieldy as heck, and baffling to cut and shape into a more manageable size. Because I'm nuts about my toys. Because I like a little creative freedom. And because I always have to do it the hard and stupid way first.

As a parting word, I shall give you a fairy house. Yet another reason I wish I knew how to build stuff with wood.

January 4, 2012

Things I Do Whenever I'm Online

In no particular order:

  • Check my email on Google and Yahoo!
  • Browse io9
  • Browse Jezebel
  • Browse Spot.ph
  • Browse the Tor blog
  • Lurk the New Media section in the TV Tropes forums (fora?)
  • Lurk io9's observation deck
  • Lurk the Minimate Multiverse

January 3, 2012

This packrat is also a cheapskate.

My unhealthy fixation with tiny objects continues. I was sick of having my Mini Lalaloopsy figures (I hesitate to call them dolls out loud) loiter like mooks out in the open, pets and furniture in tow. It was about time I got them a dollhouse.

Unfortunately, since I have absolutely zero chops for finding ideal miniature setpieces, I had to improvise. My choices were pretty much limited to affordable wooden toy shelves or... this.

The quasi-dollhouse, prototype one