Motivational Monday – Don’t give up 

Okay it has been far too long since I wrote anything here. I have even missed more than one of my features that I thought would keep me writing regularly. To start with it wasn’t my fault (honest!) I had a brilliant Finished It Friday post with all the wonderful things I had created with my children over half term but WordPress would not upload any photos for me. So when Friday passed I thought I’d simply do an extended post on everything we got up to during half term but still photos wouldn’t load. Then “life” happened and I didn’t even realise until Thursday writing challenge Wednesday had been missed and before I knew it was Friday again. By which point I just could no longer be bothered. Bad times. 

But I’m here now, making a real effort as I’m still feeling very unenthusiastic about writing anything. Writing this feels laborious, tedious and pointless. It is the absolute last thing I want to do right now whilst which is why it is the one thing I am making myself do right now. Giving up is not what I really want to do, I have enjoyed what I’ve done so far. Honestly though, it’d just be so much easier to stop bothering and give up.

Not today though and that is thanks to waking up this morning and seeing that after 22years and 6 nominations Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar. All day I’ve been thinking about how not winning an Oscar before never made Leo give up on acting. How he’s never given up working on the kind of films he wants to make instead of ones that would bring easy money and that even amidst all his fame he hasn’t given up on issues that are important to him and uses his status to bring awareness to them. 

It may seem trivial but inspiration and motivation often stems from such things. Therefore today I have concluded that if Leo can keep all that going I can certainly keep writing. Having not written in almost 2weeks I will take motivation in whatever form it presents itself. Please feel free to share in the comments what keeps you from giving up, however big or small as it might just help me next time. 

Writing Challenge Wednesday – Brain Fart

A ‘Brain Fart’ is when you write out the first thing that comes into your head with no filter.

This week’s writing challenge is inspired by a page from Dan and Phil’s The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire. 

As a starting point I shall ask my 5 year old son for a starting word and I’ll time myself to write for 5minutes.

Get out of my head this not where you belong. Cheese is nice but only when it is melted, like on a pizza. I didn’t like pizza for ages even though i was a hug fan of teenage mutant ninja turtles and wanted to be one when i grew up. When exactly is it you become a grown up? Is there a check list of criteria or is it an age thing? Age is a funny thing, I was watching Cbeebies the other day where a tribe of people calculated their age by the number of times they had seen it rain there was one woman who was over 300! I quite like  Cbeebie probably more than I should as an adult like with Andy’s new prehistoric adventures I was more excited about the new series than either of my kids. Kids are great though, well mine are at least. Get off my foot. I hate my feet being touvhed, I am foot phobic, why do we even need feet. Thank goodness someone invented shoes and I am not forced to see people’s feet all the time. Baby feet are okay because they are actually small and cute, it’s big grown up feet that are awful. Flip flops are the worst invention ever, I know they keep your feet cool but at what cost! WHat cost. I like shoes, especially heels who invented the high heel, who looked at shoes and decided what it was missing was a great beig stick underneath, imagine the science and maths that went into vcalcuating how to accurately add a heel to a shoe so that they could be walked in without the wearer faceplanting on the ground everytime.

That was quite stressful but again like last weeks challenge I think it’s a good way to get started with writing. I feel like I need a better way to choose a challenge otherwise I’ll still be leaning to ones I favour or would like to do, something for me to think about before next week. I also feel like I need to get writing a bit more between this and finished it Friday. Inspiration has run a bit dry recently though. Ah well little and often is better than not at all. TTFN!

 

Finished it Friday – Jonathan Strange dolls

Last year on BBC One there was a superb mini-series about two English Magicians in Georgian England called Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (JSAMN). It was based upon the equally brilliant book of the same title by Susanna Clarke. I highly recommned both. Though the fandom for book and TV show may be small, it is fun, charming and dedicated. The JSAMN Society of Magicians is a tumblr blog dedicated to bringing the fandom together and celebrating the many creative talents there in. They have dedicated this month to crafts inspired by JSAMN so this week’s “Finished it Friday” is dedicated to the Jonathan Strange crochet dolls I have made.

In all instances the first thing I did was decide on which outfit I wanted Jonathan to be wearing. Never underestimate the value or importance of reference images. I then searched out a suitable pattern. For Gentleman!Jonathan I adapted the Princess & the pea doll pattern from Lynne Rowe’s Once Upon A Time in Crochet, ignoring the dress and instead visualising Jonathan’s outfit over the top. I also chose to use a bigger hook size in order to create a bigger doll.

When working through the pattern it was a case of breaking down each part of the outfit to work with the pattern given. No changes needed to the head and nose, I made ears from a different pattern featured in the book. The shoes needed to black instead of pink and without the band but a grey rectangle sewn on instead. Grey socks keeping the band that goes around the top of the socks to define division between the socks and trousers. The legs done in tan with a slight increase (1 or 2 stitches) to further define between leg and trousers. The blue coat was a seperate piece so where the body had the divide for making the dress skirt I changed to off white for the shirt. With the arms I changed to the same colour as the shirt after the decrease towards the wrist.

Having made jackets before for other dolls I worked on the basic shape of a jacket and arms, but then added two triangles to the bottom for the tails. I always make coats and jackets last, after the body has been stuffed and sewn together. This way I can use the completed doll as a model to make sure it fits. The arms of the coat need to be long enough to cover the arm but leave the hand showing and wide enough to go all the way round and be sewn up. Although making sure to not make them too tight otherwise it’s not possible to feed the hand through which is wider than the arm. The coat starts with a chain as long as you want it to be against the body. Then works as many rows as wanted in, double crochet, for half the front of the coat until it reaches the arm, from the bottom up, a few stitches need to missed and the rows continued until it fits under the arm. At this point at the end of the row (from the bottom up) the missing number of stitches need to added as a chain and then continued. At the middle point of the jacket, from the top to the bottom the last few stitches can be done as treble crochets to make it wider, then back to double crochet on the next row. From that point the second half of the coat mirrors what has already been done and when finishedjust needs to be sewn toether.

jonathans coat

At this point the only thing left to do was the hair. I hate doing doll hair with a passion. It is never easy, it is never simple and more often than not it creates an unfathomable mess that is impossible to completely clear up.Even worse with making Joanthan is that he has a head full of, truly beautiful and magnificent, curls.

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Jonathan’s beautiful locks blowing in the breeze.

Curly hair is an extra challenge and there is no definitive way to make it. After much deliberation I decided on crocheting a black cap, worked the same as the pattern for the head until it is a sutiable size to fit over it like a hat, then used double trebles to create the curls by making multiple of them in one stitch. Similar to how the popcorn/bobble stitch is done. I then sewed some of them into place for shape and volume. Et voila! Gentleman! Jonathan finished.

gentelman jonathan doll

For the other two dolls I used different dolls patterns but worked to the same principle. I chose not to crochet Mad!Jonathan’s cloack, preferring instead to sew it. When the doll was complete I laid it out and drew round it for the shape which I then cut out (leaving enough for a seam allowance around the edge) and tacked it together to make sure it fitted before sewing. Also Mad!Joanthan’s hair is quite unruly so I made it cutting multiple strands of yarn to the necessary length, sewed them into place and then unraveled most of it to create the frizz.

For Penninsular!Joanthan I decided to add some accessories in the form of his mirrored bowl and book. I created the bowl with cereal box card and then covered it in tinfoil. I crocheted a chain of brown yarn long enough to cross over the doll’s body to hold it in place like Jonathan does in the TV series. With the book I stapled some cut up sheets of paper together then double crocheted a piece long and wide enough to cover it then glued the pages inside. I also added a loop to the outside that was big enough to slip over the doll’s hand so it would look like he was holding it.

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And there you have it, an insight into my Jonathan doll making process. I hope it was at least interesting if not useful. Perhaps one time I will remember to actually write down what I do into a proper pattern.

Writing Challenge Wednesday – The Ray Bradbury Noun List Twist

I found this week’s writing challenge here on The Daily Post’s blog. It’s called the The Ray Badbury Noun List Twist and in essence it involves taking a list of random nouns and using them to create a piece of writing. I visited the random noun generator and got these nouns. Here goes! 

 “The local art society met in the first and third Wednesday of every month. This particular Wednesday was biting and wet, not the best conditions for a study on trees but Mr Larson was most insistent that even if they couldn’t manage any drawing the experience was still beneficial. So here Marlene was, feigning interest in the shape, structure and diffusion of light found in trees, her good humour decreasing to the tune of rain on her umbrella. 

Oh how she’s rather be in her Mam’s kitchen, with the warmth and smell of something delicious cooking in the oven. Her Mam’s cooking was the one thing Marlene missed most since she had moved away. Despite following the the same recipes exactly, nothing she did could quite replicate the taste of Mam’s food. She wondered whether the fact it was her Mam cooking was what made all the difference. Not a thought she managed to ponder on for long as a bang followed by shrill scream intruded. Mr Larson had been shot.”

That was actually quite a fun exercise and I can see how it could be useful to use in an instance of writer’s block. The trick is to not over think it and just see where your bought process goes between the words. Once you start writing it’s much easier to keep going than starting in the first place. Even if what you churn out is utter tosh sometimes just writing and getting into the flow is what you need. 

Libraries Day

Today is Libraries Day, I’m not sure if it’s a national or international thing. Either way it’s a perfect opportunity for me to have a little rave about how much I love public libraries. They are a simple, yet genius concept and wonderful places that should be used and enjoyed by everyone. 

My library love is firmly rooted in my childhood. Growing up in a small, rural village visiting the library in town was a very special event. We went about every 3 weeks, usually when the books were due back. I can remember walking in the door, through the small gate, past the returns desk and standing amidst seemingly endless bookcases that were at least twice as tall as I was. I drew an unparalleled sense of amazement and wonder from knowing there were more books than I could possibly imagine. Not only that but I could borrow any of them, for free! 

Indeed libraries have been a reliable constant in my life and as I’ve grown up I’ve realised they’re more than just a treasure trove of free books. The 2hours of PC access became invaluable when as a teenager there wasn’t broadband at home. Then there was the time an assignment at university called for some very specific local history that was only available on microfilm at the local library. When I’ve moved to new areas the library was there with not only books but also hobby groups and events that allowed me to develop new skills & meet new people. 

For me then, it was important that when I had children they too developed an appreciation for the library. Both of mine have been going to the library since they were a week old and have their own library cards. Today we returned a DVD borrowed for only a pound and collected some board books reserved via the library app. My eldest found some books to help with his school reading challenge and I took out more books than I could actually carry. 

I honestly believe libraries are a national treasure with something to offer everyone. Off the top of my head I know ours has, besides the normal sort of books you’d expect, e-books, online magazines, audio books, large print, access to certain archives and online content. It runs baby groups, kids activity clubs, bookstart iniatives, summer reading challenges, an art group, a knitting & crochet group, sessions for learning how to use tablets, smartphones and other gadgets. It hosts local councillor/mp surgeries, loans DVDs, has newspapers, local history, details for local charities, organisations and businesses. I highly suspect there’s even more on offer than all  that but that’s as much as I can remember. 

See, something for everyone and infinitely more than just books.

Finished It Friday – Dan & Phil DIY Funko Pops

Well after about 6 weeks work, I am very proud to present my 100% completed and finished DIY Funko Pops inspired by the popular YouTubers AmazingPhil & Danisnotonfire. I am so pleased with how they have turned out! It was a lot of trial and error effort which was frustrating to say the least, but it has been more than worth it.

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So here is the step by step process I went through in order to make them, hopefully it will be helpful for anyone wanting to make their own DIY Pops and interesting for anyone else who wants to know how I made them.

  1. First of all I decided that I wanted Dan & Phil Pops and bought the DIY blank Pops from here on amazon. Whilst I was waiting for them to arrive in the post I searched online for information on customising Pops. This post here helped me out with what materials I would need and this post was a useful insight into the process. I also searched online for a blank Funko image to have a go at creating different designs.

I used Photoshop to make these but Paint or other image software would be as good. You could even print them out and colour them in. Play around with different ideas before you start. It is much easier to change drawings than the actual Pops. Also take the time to think about how you will actually create the outfits. I decided against both these designs as I thought they’d be too fiddily to actually paint.

2. Once the Pops arrived the first thing to do was to remove the heads from the bodies. This is because they are far easier to paint when seperated. To do this I held them upside down in a bowl of boiled kettle water. You will need to hold them upside down otherwise they fall over.

Hold them like this for 3-5 minutes. When you go to pull the head off it should come away easily with minimal force. If you have to struggle or tug, soak them for longer otherwise you might do irrepairable damage. Once the head is removed leave it, and the body to completely dry out before proceeding.

3. Next was the fun part! Adding the hair. I lie, this was the least fun part. After lovingly sculpting the hair on both Pops and leaving them to dry overnight I returned to find it cracked. Cracks which broke beyond repair when I moved the figures.

I tried again, thinking the problem was that I had made the hair too thin and not used slip to join pieces together, so I strived to make thicker hair this time whilst using vast quantities of slip over the whole thing. Alas it still cracked and broke. Notably along where I had joined pieces together.

Hoping for third time lucky, I decided to this time endevour to make the hair out of one single piece of clay. Waste of time because it still cracked and broke.

At this point I was fed up and extrememly frustrated. So I decided to superglue the broken pieces together on the Pops head like a jigsaw and fill in the gaps with polyfiller. When that was dry I sanded it down and was ready for painting!

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I have since discovered that there is actually a polymer type air drying clay that is much more appropiate for this sort of thing, like FIMO and Sculpey. You can read about different types of clay here to decide which would be best for you.

4. When it came to painting I decided to start with Phil. I used these acrylic paints and already had some brushes, although I do wish I’d had an even smaller one. First I mixed the flesh colour. Make sure to mix plenty of this and paint all fleshy areas together otherwise the paint you mix will dry out and it’s damned near impossible to mix the exact same colour again.

I knew I wanted Phil to be wearing a t-shirt so I painted his arms and used masking tape to mark off where the sleeves were going to start to get a straighter line than I could have managed free hand. Then I painted his face and when it was dry moved on to the hair and eyes. I found the eyes very fiddly and decided to go with painting the circle outline first and then filling it in. It’s the sort of thing you cannot go steady enough with or take enough time over.

5. I eventually decided on Phil’s blue starry t-shirt, like he wears in PINOF7

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Phil and his blue starry t-shirt from amazingphilstyle.tumblr.com

On a strip of masking tape I drew some stars, carefully cut them out using my craft knife, stuck them over Phil’s torso and then painted around them with blue. Another fiddly bit that took time and patience. Once the blue paint was dry I removed the masking tape and filled in the stars with white paint.

When they were dry I added the red trim round the sleeves. It would have been too difficult to add it around the neck and wouldn’t have been seen once reassembled. After the top was finished I moved on to shoes and trousers. The when everything was completely dry, I left it 24hours, I superglued the head back on and voila! Phil Pop was all painted.

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6. After Phil was finished it was time to paint Dan. This time though I started with Dan’s body. This was a tricky one because as, anyone who is a fan of Dan knows, he is very much into his black aesthetic and very rarely wears anything that isn’t black. Then even when he does it’s often something with a complicated/intricate pattern that I could in no way replicate with paint. Despite that I knew if i just painted him all black he’d look like he was in some sort of weird onesie. Therefore to break it up I chose white shoes (which I have seen him wear before) and painted the jeans a very dark shade of grey instead of plain black, which I painted the jumper. It didn’t make as much of a difference as i’d hoped but it was still better than all black.

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I then went on to paint the flesh colour, hair and eyes as I had done with Phil. Looking at Dan once he was dry something just didn’t seem right, it didn’t feel Dan enough. So I decided to extend his sleeves to the knuckles, giving him his trademark “sweater paws” and added the design from his Attack on Titan jumper.

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Dan with his AOT jumper & Sweater Paws from danisnotonfirestyle.tumbr.com

I did this by cutting out a piece of paper about the size I wanted the image, measuring it, then printing the image that size. Then I stuck the image to the front of Dan’s jumper with some slightly watered down PVA. I was going to invest in some Modge Podge as it is essentially decoupaging that I did, but I was enlightened to the fact Modge Podge is just a branded watered down PVA glue.

7. At this point they were both finished, as in I had done all the painting, but they were by no means finished. Next up was to fix the Pops by giving them a coat of varnish to protect the paint from scratching and fading. The post I was referring to suggested “Acrylic Sealer” but when I went to Hobbycraft there was no such thing on the shelves. A very helpful member of staff directed me to an acrylic picture varnish spray which is the same sort of thing. It is a good idea to test the varnish first before spraying it over the Pops. I kept the piece of card I had used as a palette for the paint and tested it on that. I was checking to see if it yellowed the paint, bubbled or generally didn’t give the finish I wanted.

It is best to do this part outside where the is plenty of ventialtion and with some old paper/card down. However, make sure it isn’t a windy day. That is something I didn’t take into account and both the Pops flew across my garden damaging their paint. I was not happy. After a repaint and on a less windy day I tried again and left them to dry for 24hours safely inside.

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8. Once the Pops were 100% finished I moved on to the box. I was going for the complete Pop product and I know boxes are important to many collectors. There are many tutorials for creating custom boxes and I bought a template Photoshop file from Gunhound on Etsy. This came with a pop figure template which I used to make my Pops for the box and a box template. Designing the boxes was a process of trial and error until I ended up with designs I felt reflected Dan & Phil.

DAN BOX PREVIEWPHIL BOX PREVIEW

They each printed on an A3 sheet of paper and sadly didn’t line up exactly with the box. I think they are more suited to making a box from scratch rather than using over an existing box.

9. I took the boxes apart so as to be able cut off parts that showed past the printout. At this time I noticed the box showed through the paper and ideally I would have covered it in white paper or paint first but at this point I really couldn’t be bothered. So I just made sure it lined up and glued it down then put the box back together.

 

10. Last of all was to put the Pops back in the plastic bit so they could sit inside the box. Unfortunately because of the added hair they no longer fitted. My solution to this was to melt and stretch the plastic using my hairdryer. It worked a bit but not as much as I had hoped so I tried squashing the Pop in and then melting the plastic around it.

DO NOT DO THIS!!!

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Whilst I managed to remove Dan from his plastic okay, it ruined the paint on the side of Phil’s face. As a result he will always have to stay on display in his box so that it is not noticable, unless I am overcome with the desire to repaint him. Even then it was necessary to cut away some plastic from the top so as to be able to close the lid. Another trial and error process but eventually the lids closed.

And there you have it, simple really

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Hopefully I’ll be afforded the opportunity to meet Dan & Phil again in the future because I would love to get these signed.

Writing Challenge Wednesday 

Another new feature starting right here. Every Wednesday I hope to post a blog piece completing a writing challenge prompt I have found curtesy of Google. Today I am going with number 1 from aisforadelaide‘s 52 week writing challenge

Why start this challenge?

 Well part of having this blog is to exercise and improve my rusty writing skills therefore I see this challenge as training. As an opportunity to push myself, to write outside my comfort zone and  own ideas. On top of that with “Finished It Friday”I’ll have two regular weekly posts which should sustain me through any writer’s block and ensure I maintain this blog. I’m excited already.