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Handmade Doll Beds

I’ve mentioned before how creative and talented my relatives are, but sometimes they really out-do themselves. My cousin, Mark (the one with the great old pool table and who built my new porch railings) made the coolest gift for my 8-year old niece, and I asked him to write a guest post about what’s got to be the girliest woodworking project he’s ever done. Be sure to check out Mark’s blog, too: http://www.blackbearjournal.blogspot.com/

THE DOLL BED MADE FOR TWO

by Mark Hendrickson

I believe it may have been last Thanksgiving that my God daughter Reese approached me, with her dad, and asked if I might be able to build her a doll bed sometime. With Christmas just a few weeks away, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

The project began with Reese providing me with the height of one of her dolls so I knew how long to make the bed. She actually has two special dolls — Kit and Ruthie — so it was not to be a single bed but a bunk-style doll bed.

photo 3

What little girl wouldn’t love to have this for her American Girl dolls?

As I planned the project, I thought that the bed should be convertible. That is, the beds could be stacked in typical bunk-bed fashion, or, one half could be lifted from the other and they could be placed side by side.

I looked online to get a few ideas and then drew plans for the corner posts, head- and footboards, bed frames and the simple cleats glued to each post to enable the top bed to set securely on the bottom. When stacked, the beds are 19″ high, 23″ long and 16.5″ wide.

photo 2

Here you can see how the beds stack – and the adorable details Mary added that match the bedding beneath the comforters.

The beds are made of solid pine. The typical pine you buy is ¾” thick, much too bulky for a doll bed. So one of the first steps was to plane down these boards to ½” thickness which seemed to be a better size. I cut and assembled them and then completed the purple painting of all surfaces. [Paula’s note: A master of understatement, Mark makes the process sound a lot simpler than it was!]

In addition, my wife Mary and I enjoy projects where we can combine our skills: mine in the furniture-making arena and hers in the artistic touches once the construction and painting is completed. Mary then stepped in and added the wonderful painted highlights that you can see in the images.

I think Reese loves the bunk beds as much, if not more, than Kit and Ruthie!

I think Reese loves the bunk beds as much, if not more, than Kit and Ruthie!

Paula’s note: As cool as the beds look in photos, they’re even more impressive up close. On Christmas we were all inspecting the work and every little detail Mark & Mary put into making Reese one of the best gifts she’ll ever receive.

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Who crochets when it’s 100 degrees?

Call me crazy, but I started a major crochet project in the middle of a heatwave.

Yes, I still have the pool table pocket nets to work on, but they’re wool. Wool is hot to work with, so the pocket nets are reserved for slightly cooler days. When the mercury soars into the triple digits I want to work with cooler things like cotton or bamboo yarns.

In the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to make a cotton bedspread. I knew I didn’t want a traditional “granny square” motif, so I dug through an old stitchery book and found a versatile hexagonal motif that had a bit of motion to it – it was labeled “Paddle Wheel” but I call it a Spinning Hex, since it sort of looks like it’s turning.

Aside from using cotton, another cool thing (pun intended) about crocheted motifs is that you can usually make them as large or small as you like. Mine are small but not tiny at 5″ from point to point or 4.25″ from edge to edge. That means no bulky fabric piling up on your lap while you work.

Right now this project is all about using up scrap yarn. I haven’t figured out how many individual blocks I’ll need for the bedspread yet, but I’ll probably need to throw in some additional colors before I’m ready to start piecing things together.

To give you an idea of how the hexagons will fit together, I set some out:

That’s okay, but I want a lighter, airier look for summer, so the plan is to alternate the random colored blocks with white blocks. I don’t have any white blocks made yet, and am still toying with different arrangements. Ideally, I’d like a little more white space between the colors, but this might help show the feel I’m going for:

Now it’s getting hard to look at the hexagon tiles on the bathroom floor without mentally plotting out where I want the colors to go.

Perhaps the best thing about this bedspread is that cotton yarn is cheap. You can usually find in on sale for $1.25 or less per 120-yard skein, and each skein probably makes 5-10 blocks. (I haven’t yet used a full skein of any one color, so that’s a guess.)

What are some of your favorite ways to turn leftover materials into something new?

How I Celebrated National Craft Month

I previously alluded to a knitting project I started before learning this was National Crochet Month. Luckily March was also National Craft Month. With no further ado, here it is:

It might look familiar to family, friends and anyone who’s visited my Ravelry page (not sure if the link will work for non-members or not). In the past four years I’ve made about six different versions of my Super Long & Funky Stocking Cap. This one is the longest yet, coming in at 73″ (including tassel). The colors? Peacock, Winter White, Lemongrass and Royal Purple. (In the photos, the Lemongrass looks more lemony than it does in person.)

Each hat is unique, not just in terms of color but by design. Call it my version of Fair Isle Knitting. I’ve never done any official Fair Isle knitting, so any classic Fair Isle patterns you may spot in this hat are purely coincidental.

The truth is I get bored using the same motifs over and over so I pretty much improvise my way through each hat, knowing how many decreases it takes to taper down to the point, and roughly where they need to be to reach the desired length. Sometimes I play with stitch patterns as well as color, but for this hat I used a simple knit stitch (because the hat is worked in the round the result is a smooth stockinette). One friend asked me to work some fun fur into a hat, and it looked pretty cool.

Also cool? The inside:

Even non-knitters might guess from the photo above that this technique is called stranding, where two or more colors of yarn are worked continuously throughout the project. Stranding is often confused with intarsia, where each color is worked from its own bobbin, like your favorite Argyle sweater. Easiest way to tell the difference is to look on the reverse side. Intarsia won’t have lots of strands.

I’d never designed anything more than a scarf before I made my first Super Long & Funky Hats. I used special knitter’s graph paper to chart different motifs and even did math (gasp!) to figure out the decreases for those first two hats. Now I just figure it out as I go along. That’s the fun of making these hats. The only thing I know when I cast on is what colors that particular hat will be.

This was my big Craft Month project. What did you make?

Face Off with Inspiration

Anyone else addicted to Syfy’s reality competition show, Face Off? (Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen this week’s episode yet.)

The contestants’ interpersonal dramas don’t interest me; their extreme level of creativity does.

Love them or hate them, the competitors are all highly skilled artists taking on incredible challenges with next to no time for second guessing their choices. With each challenge they have to dream up wild designs on the spot and get right to work sculpting, molding and painting everything needed to turn gorgeous models into monsters, aliens or whatever that week’s assignment may be. Their inventiveness is astounding.

Last night’s episode was a lesson in making the most with what you have. When the ears broke off the molded mask of Ian’s bat-like creation — the cowl piece tore as well — he turned those flaws into battle wounds, adding layers of character to the creature and impressing the judges in the process. The pressure was on, too, considering one of the judges was the man whose designs the contestants were bringing to life.

Ian's Bat Lady

Photo courtesy NBC Universal, Inc.

When the judge/designer said Ian’s design improved on the original, it was pretty clear who the winner of the Alien Interpreters episode would be.

Watching true artists tackle creative challenges by using their own inventiveness and problem solving skills is both fun and inspiring. I can hardly wait for next week.

Are you watching Face Off, too?

If not, it’s well worth a look. Watch previous episodes at the link above, then tune in Wednesdays at 10:00 ET/ 9:00 CT on Syfy.

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