Tuesday Reviews-Day: Crochet Animal Rugs

Tuesday Revews-Day

This is a sponsored post. I was provided a copy of the book for purpose of review. All opinions are my own and any mistakes are mine, too. Amazon affiliate links may be included.

I first learned to crochet when I was 7 or 8 years old while visiting family on the holidays. But all my grandmother taught me were granny squares. It wasn’t until I taught myself to knit almost 20 years later that crochet patterns started making sense.

Lately I’ve been splitting my time between knit and crochet projects, so when I was offered a copy of Crochet Animal Rugs  by Ira Rott for review, I was very interested. Even more so when I saw there was a monkey set included in the patterns!

I had so much fun working on the monkey rug and companion pillow. They kept my hands busy during Hurricane Michael and the three day power outage afterwards as well as while watching over Todd after his gall bladder removal the following week (October was a busy month for us). And thanks to the yarn-bombing project a couple years back I had almost all of the materials I needed to complete both the rug and the pillow in my craft stash (I didn’t have the right size hook, so I ordered a set that had L, M, and N hooks).

The patterns in the book are clearly written, well-illustrated, and quite fun, to boot! Because the rugs use three strands of yarn at a time, the individual pieces work up pretty quickly, so they definitely give you that instant gratification feeling that I love about crochet in general.

The pillow pattern only uses one strand of yarn and, yes, the base shape is slightly tedious to construct, but even that’s not so bad. I’m the girl who detests garter stitch in knitting because it’s so incredibly boring, so 25 rounds of single crochet isn’t going to get rave reviews from me, but the end result is worth it. I love the ruffle on the monkey pillow and the big and small bows were so fun and quick to crochet that I may need to make some to wear!

Of course, if the rugs and pillows (each animal set also comes with a third project–toy bags, security blankets, a stool cover, and a placemat, for example) are adorable in their normal scale, how much cuter would they be miniaturized?!

That would be very, in case there was any doubt! For the mini version of the panda rug, I used a single strand of lace-weight and sock yarns and 1/2.75mm steel hook. For the pillow I dropped down to crochet thread (No. 10) and a size 7/1.65mm steel hook. This scaled the finished projects down to roughly 1:3 scale, making it perfectly proportioned to 18″ dolls.

Not that this stops my 12″ dolls from enjoying the rug and pillow. The rug just takes up more floor space and the pillow becomes a big cushion–I don’t hear her complaining!

Working through these patterns I picked up some new skills (like popcorn stitch and crab stitch) as well as discovered useful gems in the form of the bows and even the star element from the panda–I can just see those stars worked up in metallic thread as ornaments (or even thin-gauge metal itself).

Sure, the projects in this book are intended for the joy of kids, but I’m a big kid at heart and I look forward to finding just the right spot for the monkey rug and pillow in my own home. I’ll also be set for any upcoming baby showers on the horizon!

What Else I’ve Been Up To

In The Studio

After several months under wraps (hah!) I can finally reveal my secret knitting project:

I pinch! But softly...

I pinch! But only softly…

My friend Alison is expecting her first baby soon and has created a nautical nursery for the little one to come. I don’t usually knit things like blankets (the monotony does not appeal), but baby-sized is different, right? It’s the Anchor and Hearts blanket pattern from Judy’s Knitting Page and was a great project for car trips, Friday night knitting, and keeping my mind and hands busy in waiting rooms. Big Red, there, is The Deadliest Crab courtesy of Knitty.com designer Amber Allison. He was an absolute joy to work up and I was a little sorry to see him go! I hear he was a big hit with the father to be, as well!

In less-secretive project news, I created a dolly diorama inspired by various My Froggy Stuff videos. Seriously, the things she makes out of paperboard, glue, and office paper are really impressive. This diorama is 28″x14″ and more details and in-progress pictures can be found over on the Helmar blog.

Landscaping for dolls is so much easier (and cheaper) than landscaping for myself!

Landscaping for dolls is so much easier (and cheaper) than landscaping for myself!

Check out her Secret Garden and Water Fountain tutorials to be amazed and inspired!

It was with a heavy heart that I said farewell to the Gauche Alchemy team this month. After three years it seemed a good time to bow out and make room for some fresh faces over there, but I’ll miss the behind the scenes hi-jinks and being in the know about what’s coming next.

Walking towards what's next!

Walking towards what’s next!

The Love My Fabrics team also came to a close in May at the choice of the company owner, and my last projects over there were a quilted hot air balloon wall hanging and the outfits you see the dolls wearing, above. I hope the fabrics are still available on etsy as they really are great for sewing for dolls with!

Up Up and Away!

Up Up and Away!

Finally, I was interviewed over on Paint is Thicker Than Water yesterday. Last fall I contributed to the Monster Chores coloring book collaboration, and Jennyann is kind enough to shine the spotlight on each of the contributors over the course of this year. It was a fun project to work on (the monsters are doing the opposite of the chores they are assigned) and you can sign up for Jennyann’s mailing list to receive a copy (though I think the link for that may be down at the moment–she’s in the process of shifting some things around on her site). As part of the interview I also shared some images of commissions I’ve completed over the last little while, some that have yet to make it to my portfolio site just yet, so that was fun to share, too.

Custom holiday card illustration a friend ordered last year.

Like this custom holiday card illustration a friend ordered last year.

Well, now that I’m down to only 1 design team and the store’s not going to be taking up all my time, whatever will I do?

Like I ever have to worry about running out of projects!

Star Trek and Sewing: March 2015

In The Studio

My binge watch for March ended up being Star Trek, the Original Series. I’ve tried watching it in the past but just couldn’t get into it, finally chalking it up to the very heavy “space Western” vibe of the first season. Strangely enough, I really enjoyed Firefly, though, so it’s not like space-Westerns are all bad.. But something about TOS just wasn’t doing it for me.

But! With the passing of Leonard Nemoy, it seemed fitting to give the series another go. I’d made it through a big part of season 1, so this binge was mostly seasons 2 and 3. Season 2 was pretty awesome, so now I’m really glad to have watched it. Season 3? Todd kept asking ‘did you get to the space hippies?’ every time he’d pass my office door. So much that I wondered if it was one of those episodes I just listened too and never looked up during.

Nope. He assured me I wouldn’t be able to miss it, and he was right.

Direct link for the feed readers: Star Trek: The Way to Eden, Main Jam in Lounge

Dude, that’s trippy.

And the series finale? Seeing Kirk have an absolute hissy fit on the bridge was a bit of a treat. Though, in my head, I keep hearing him scream ‘respect my authority’ a la Cartman, which just makes it even more funny.

I’m still a Next Gen fan, but at least I can make that statement fully informed.

What was I doing while Kirk, Spock, and McCoy duked their way through the galaxies? Mostly Sewing.

Since this was the first month we had fabric in hand, I had two Love My Fabrics projects go live:


jvanderbeek_lovemyfabrics_botanicgarden_fabricbasket_fabriceggs_easterdecorFull write-ups and links to their patterns are available on the Love My Fabrics blog: Eggs, Basket I also have a pair of doll outfits going up on Tuesday, using the same fabric set (Botanic Garden, available in a fat quarter pack on etsy)

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

For Helmar, this month’s assignment fell due just before Todd’s birthday, so I used it as a kick in the pants to actually make his birthday card instead of buy it. That we’re both in accounting makes the card make more sense.

jvanderbeek_helmar_numbersbirthday_cardI also have a cute little decoupaged bunny hanging going up today!


Finally, over on Gauche Alchemy, the March challenge was to use a quote in our work, and I used the “keep moving forward” quote from the end of Meet the Robinsons for mine. I also learned how to make animated gifs so I could show a (somewhat rapid-fire) time-lapse progress of the canvas I made for the challenge. I think I’ll slow the frame rate down a bit next time.


I also have a secret knitting project in the works and, of course, have been busily “crafting” the business plan for The Crafty Branch. It’s not done yet (bother!) but it’s really coming along and I feel really good about what I do have put together so far. April’s gonna be a big month!



Project Share: Victorian Memo Frame for Helmar

In The Studio


Hey, guys! Today I have a new, fun, and fairly quick project up over on the Helmar Design Team blog. Apparently my interest in Victoriana has not yet waned, and probably won’t for a while, so the fussy, frilly-ness of this project is mainly due to that. But, you know, it’s kinda fun to do fussy and frilly every now and then.


Also, if you didn’t see it earlier this month, my February Gauche Alchemy project was a very texture-heavy red canvas for the love/hate-themed challenge (and you might recognize the hearts from the last Helmar project). There’s still some time to create your own project and submit it for the February challenge. Remember, anything goes as long as it’s inspired by this month’s challenge board!

February Challenge Inspiration

February Challenge Inspiration

Finally, here’s that doll sweater I mentioned in the last post. This is the first “right” prototype of the pattern. I’ve since made it a second time in a longer, oversized-cardigan style and I’ve got a third one on the needles even longer as as coat.

Tessa modeling her winter-appropriate "bookish" look.

Tessa modeling her winter-appropriate “bookish” look.

Did I mention I bought more dolls? There were some unbeatable deals on Amazon a few months ago and I got a total case of itchy spending finger and picked up two girls for less than one would normally cost (Tezca and Lipoca). Then I found a Yeolume (Pullip’s daughter from the future, serious, the “storyline” of these dolls is rather amusing) in Tuesday Morning, and finally brought home a Byul (Dal’s best friend); again from Amazon, again at a great deal. She’s the one who needs a bit of work due to a broken arm and her replacement body arrived ahead of schedule so she’ll be in the dolly O.R. before too long.

It’s the little things, folks, that make us smile, right?

I Play With Dolls

Just for Fun

Not that that’s anything new to those of you who’ve been around a while.

But it bears stating, flat-out and without shame or censure. Why? Because some people think that collecting dolls and figures (much less playing with them as an adult) infantalises us.Of course, the same person who wrote that article previously penned one in favor of playing with Lego blocks as a platform for information. While clearly the author of both articles has proven himself to be a hypocrite, it does make you wonder what makes one set of plastic parts worthy and others, not.

Not a damn thing.

If it makes you happy and doesn’t a) hurt anyone else or b) impede your ability to meet your commitments (like getting to work, paying your bills, or caring for your family) I don’t think it matters one iota how you like to spend your time. So, you know, to each their own. And the aforementioned author could stand a little bit of perspective.

But anyway!

I actually participated in a photo challenge for the last 6 weeks that centered around one of my newest dolls: a Dal from the Pullip family of dolls by Jun-Planning/Groove. I purchased her because she came in a monkey suit (based on the story of the Monkey King, her style name is “Monomono”) so of course she was the correct first choice but she’s proven to be quite fun to dress up in different looks. Each week of Dalicious (held on the Dolly Market forum) had a theme and we had a week to submit our picture. The winners of the challenge will be announced later today, but I definitely don’t expect to be among that number. I was happy enough to make it through all 6 weeks (we started with just over 30 entrants and ended with just under 20).

Kasia will cast a spell on you!

Kasia will cast a spell on you!

The first round’s theme was Magic and I felt pretty good about my entry. Eagle-eyed readers might recognize the background as my Cabinet of Curiosities from a Gauche Alchemy project which happened to just be the perfect size. Kasia (my doll) is hunched over a cauldron (a 3-footed salsa pot) fitted with a bubbler from my Halloween decoration stash to create the lights and mist.

I don't know what treasure Kasia thought she'd find in this pile of bricks...

I don’t know what treasure Kasia thought she’d find in this pile of bricks…

The second round was Adventure, so I went with the somewhat predictable (but reliable) Indiana Jones tribute. I spent a bit of time each night creating her entire outfit (except the shoes, those I ordered from PullipStyle). I was especially proud of being able to rig her in a somewhat realistic climbing pose without using anything more than the crocheted hemp rope anchored around a brick (out of frame) and around her waist (hidden by the overshirt).

Playing at being a grown-up this week.

Playing at being a grown-up this week (officially Dal is only 14).

Week 3, Vintage, was when time started to get away from me a bit. Still, I managed to pull out a pretty decent picture (I think) and at least I was the only one that went the wine-vintage route. The background is a picture I took of Cobb Lane in Birmingham, AL, many years ago but it came in quite handy for this shoot. The dress is a Barbie outfit cinched in at the back for a better fit.

We missed the mark with this one, I fully admit.

We missed the mark with this one, I fully admit.

Mythology–the theme for week 4–should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately I was under a time crunch and had way too many ideas and way too little time to do any of them justice. I decided to punt with a Birth of Venus-ish shot, but didn’t want to deal with arranging all that hair into a suitably demur shot, so I sewed a pretty little sheath dress for her (with plenty of pearl details) and that’s about all I can really claim went right. But I got a picture in on time and made it through to the next round.

Kitchen fun is better with friends!

Kitchen fun is better with friends!

It was at this point–Week 5, Cooking–I was able to rally quite a bit and pull out the various kitchen playsets I’d begun collecting last year but never used. I also gave Kasia a friend to interact with in the photo (an Ai doll, Matricaria, made by the same company but of a different line), which I think helped. That mini-mixer is an old clock that I think I got right after high school but have been carrying around all this time–sometimes I’m really glad of my magpie-like hoarding tendencies. (Repainting the oh-so-pink props is on my to-do list; even I have a limit!)

What was that noise?!

What was that noise?!

Ending as it did just after Halloween, it’s no surprise that the final challenge theme was haunted. A combination of our spooky “mirror” decoration and some moody lighting produced what I think is a suitably haunted look. Reflection photos always look a little impressive, even with the fun-house appearance of this one.

Despite my mid-contest slump, I really enjoyed participating in Dalicious and look forward to some more informal challenges that are coming up. Staging and photographing the dolls is a common pastime among the collectors (at least those that de-box and play with their dolls–collectors vary in their stance on that) and one I plan to continue. And it’s good practice for non-doll photography, too: the skills of composition, lighting, and post-production (which is minimal in the above photos) are just as important with small scenes as they are big ones, and a convincing miniatures portrayal is something worth striving for.