A Tree Change is A-Comin’

Have you seen the ‘make-under’ dolls that have become so popular of late?  This is where a preloved doll, like a Bratz doll, is given a ‘make-under’ and completely transformed in to a dolly with a more natural appearance.  The enormous eyes and lips are gone, the crazy hair and skimpy clothing replaced by something more down to earth.  More appropriate.  More accessible.  And more fun!

A group of Tree Change Doll kids ready to play outside. Picture courtesy of Tree Change Dolls on Facebook

The first I’d heard of a make-under doll was in February this year via this YouTube video.  Sonia Singh is a Tasmanian mum and artist who has been making under dolls she’s found at local tip shops for her own daughter.  Her process involves completely removing all traces of the heavy, stylized, makeup and hand painting a new face on each doll.  Sonia and her mum, Sylvia, then hand sew and hand knit new, more modest and age appropriate play outfits for each doll, and even make new shoes to replace the stripper heels the original Bratz dolls sport.  The end result is a completely refurbished, hand-styled doll that children say feels more like a friend, someone they might actually know in real life, dolls that are more friendly and fun to play with.

I can see what they mean.  The before and after pictures reveal a marked difference between the impossibly proportioned Barbies and trashy Bratz dolls, and the more natural Tree Change Dolls that Sonia creates.  Here is a recent example of Sonia’s work.

Picture from Tree Change Dolls facebook page.

Bindi – July’s charity doll. Picture from TreeChangeDolls.com

Sonia Singh and one of her Tree Change Dolls. Image from Tree Change Dolls on Facebook

I love this idea on so many levels.  First, there is the whole recycling piece.  Turning someone else’s trash in to treasure and preventing the unwanted dolls from becoming landfill.  Love that!

And then there is Sonia’s philosophy of taking dolls with hyper-sexualised features (ugh, truly truly awful) and transforming them in to what looks pretty close to being a kid you might actually know, all while providing an alternative, slightly feminist, certainly positive message to young girls.

And you know what else I love?  Sonia makes of point of not editing perceived ‘flaws’ that children might naturally have, like freckles, bushy eyebrows and buck teeth but adds them in to create personality.  Love that, too.

People just can’t get enough of these dolls.  Back in February Sonia’s original story was quickly picked up by social media and all of a sudden she become quite the viral sensation.  Her dolls, which she sells through her Etsy shop, are just about impossible to come by as they all sell out in a matter of minutes after every listing.  Clearly, Sonia has struck upon an underserved niche in the toy market and, no doubt, could make fists full of money by licensing with Mattel.  But instead of holding on greedily to her great idea Sonia has created a number of How-To videos to encourage regular peeps like you and me to have a go at upcycling old unwanted dollies ourselves.  How amazing is that?

So, of course, I had to give it a try 🙂

Here is the strumpet, Jazzmyn, I picked up at a local op-shop.  She was $2.50.  Not as whorey as I was hoping to find, quite honestly, but still.

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And after a bit of tinkering, here she is now.

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I think she turned out pretty well for a first try.  My kids love her.  And it was a lot of fun to make her some new clothes, boots and some chicken friends 🙂  She reminds me a lot of a little girl I volunteered with in my youngest’s kindergarten class, Daniza.  Now, who would you want your 6 year old to play with: Jazzmyn with her sassy mouth and stripper heels, or Daniza and her cute chickens?

Another thing I like about Sonia is that each month she puts one of her dolls up for auction on Ebay with some of the proceeds benefiting a different charity.  Bindi, the dolly at the top of this story, was auctioned off this month for just over AUD1000 with proceeds to go to The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.  Ah.May.Zing.

I love everything about this.  The social responsibility piece.  The recycling.  The positive body image message for young girls.  The entrepreneurial spirit of a mum from Tassie!  Love.  Love.  Love.  Don’t you?

Poppies Poppies Everywhere – ANZAC Day 2015

The 5000 Poppies Project is Complete!

You may remember I crocheted a red poppy in memory of my Great Grandfather, to donate to the 5000 Poppies Project for the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC Day landings in WWI.  I blogged about it here.

Poppy for ANZAC Day

Poppy for ANZAC Day

My little poppy winged its way to Melbourne months ago and was incorporated into the art piece known as 5000 Poppies, now installed at Melbourne’s Federation Square.   When the organisers originally started this project 2 years ago they were hoping to collect 5000 Poppies to display, thinking that was a super ambitious number.  Guess how many poppies it takes to produce a result like this?

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5000 Poppies at Federation Square, Melbourne

By the end they had received over 250,000 (!!) handmade poppies created by over 30,000 individuals from all over the world!  An extraordinary example of community organising that has beautifully found the sweet spot between the emotional, remembering the fallen and those who have served – and the practical, that knitting and crocheting poppies is easy enough for just about anyone to do so participation was easy and high.  It turns out that 250,000 handmade poppies creates over 800 square metres (that’s over 8600 sq ft, for those who still use the old money) of poppies!  A true ‘Field of Poppies’, which was, after all, the actual point of the exercise.  Many have dedications attached to them.  I wish I had thought to do that.

I particularly love this amazing sculpture created by a local, Melbournian metal fabrication plant, Uniweld Engineering, under the direction of artist Adrian Egglestone: entitled GRATITUDE.  Stunning.

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: Gratitude

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

I don’t know why but I can’t get the video feed to link right now.  To see some video footage to get a true appreciation of the scale click here for link to SBS News’ footage.  And here for some newspaper coverage.

5000 Poppies will be on display in Federation Square, Melbourne, from Thursday April 23 – Sunday April 26 after which it is starting a national tour around the country.

So glad I could participate in such an extraordinary event.

Happy ANZAC Day.

Lest we forget.

Proliferate Poppies – from 5000 to 200,000!

Check this out!  This is the 5000 Poppies Project I crocheted the poppy for a few months ago and told you all about. You can read about it on my blog post here.  It seems that there has been much media coverage of late and so much interest and I am just so thrilled to hear that the 5000 Poppies Project has received this kind of support!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation.  It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation. It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

Such a lovely idea and remembrance for those that served.  I can’t wait to see the final installation this ANZAC Day.  And I have to say, it does feel good to be involved in a home-grown, very Aussie, community project from so far away.  Feeling quite patriotic, actually (humming … Once a jolly swagman/Camped by a billabong …).

If any of my Aussie readers happen to see the finished project would you please take a pic and post it for me?  I know the display will start in Melbourne on ANZAC Day (April 25 for those unfamiliar) but as I understand it the plan is to travel around the country to display the finished piece all over during the 100th anniversary year (this year).  So it may well come by your neighbourhood sometime.  Keep a look out for my little poppy I made in honour of my Great Grandfather, Pvt Edgar Gibbons!

Anzac Day 2015: Melbourne handmade poppies project exceeds expectations, hopes to collect 200,000 flowers

Updated about 10 hours ago

Two Melbourne artists behind a project to create 5,000 handcrafted poppies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings say they expect to finish with about one kilometre’s worth of flowers.

Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight started the project in June 2013, and thanks to other volunteers, their 5,000 poppy target was shattered and they are now on track to reach 200,000.

Margaret Knight told ABC News Breakfast the project was initially a way for the two women to commemorate their fathers’ war service.

“We were into commemorative art and we decided to do what we call a ‘yarn bombing’ around the battalion tree [for the battalion] that Lynn’s father fought in, and on the walk to the shrine,” Ms Knight said.

“And my father was a British soldier [so] that’s where it all started.”

Lynn Berry said the idea quickly snowballed.

“Everybody was asking, you know … do you mind if I knit a couple, my mother would like to knit a couple, my aunt works at a retirement village and the retirement village ladies would like to knit a couple,” Ms Berry said.

Ms Berry said the project had now collected about 170,000 knitted, felted and crafted poppies.

“And we’re expecting by the end of it to have somewhere in excess of 200,000,” she said.

“It’ll be about one kilometre of poppies by the time we’re finished.”

The poppies will be assembled onto nets and placed around Melbourne as fields of poppies.

She said the finished product will be beautiful, because no two poppies are exactly the same.

“Well, many of them follow the same pattern, but everybody puts their own slant on them,” Ms Berry said.

“We get tatted and knitted [ones] and just the most glorious creations.”

Ms Knight said the project was also initiating plenty of conversations among families.

“I think it’s encouraged people to have a look into their family history of service,” she said.

The poppies will go on display at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Anzac Day.

Hermione’s Everyday Socks

What Are You Knitting?

This week, I finished my Hermione’s Everyday Socks and I love them!  Here’s the Ravelry link to my project.Herminone's Everyday Socks done Hermione's Everyday Socks @Not completely certain why they are so washed out in the pictures – crappy camera phone, I’m sure.  I love this yarn, Nooch Fiber Midtown Sock in Leda and the Swan.  It is so super squishy and soft and is such a lovely sourvenir of when I was in NYC.

Nooch Fiber Midtown Sock in Leda and the Swan colourway

Nooch Fiber Midtown Sock in Leda and the Swan colourway

I was nervous about the strong variegation in the yarn but this pattern, Herminone’s Everyday Socks by Erica Lueda, a free Rav download- yay! – has been perfect with this yarn.  The sock fits really well and I particularly love the toe shaping on this project.  Sometimes the toes look kinda pointy and a little odd, although they always look fine on the foot, but this toe looked like a proper toe without pointy weirdness.  Would absolutely recommend as an easy, travel-worthy, pattern that works particularly well with heavily variegated yarn.  Will absolutely make this again.

And can I take a moment here to thank all the amazing pattern designers who are kind enough to produce amazing patterns, like this one, and make them available for free online? I just love the Ravelry community and especially love that there are so many generous people willing to share their talents with the rest of us.  One day I hope to be able to contribute more in my own way.

On to the next project.  Have started my next pair of socks already using Cephalapod Yarns’ Skinny Bugga! in Vampire Squid colourway.  Love that name, Cephalapod Yarns in Vampire Squid.  Is it wrong to buy a yarn because of its name?  Wouldn’t have quite the same … je ne sais quoi… if it were called Grey and Red #3.  Fabulous marketing, guys!

Cephalapod Yarns Skinny Bugga! in Vampire Squid colourway.

Cephalapod Yarns Skinny Bugga! in Vampire Squid colourway.

vampire squid ball

Vampire Squid in the ball

Anyway, it is simply the most luxurious sock yarn to knit with, smooth and soft and easy to work.  Perfect.  But now I am sad as, while researching this post and wanting to post a link to their site, I’ve just realised that Cephalapod Yarns closed down late last year.  I had no idea!  I wonder what happened…?  Will have to pay more attention and particularly enjoy this make now that Cephalapod is no more and I won’t be able to get more of this divine yarn 😦

Am using a new-to-me pattern called Harvest Dew by Rose Hiver.  The wonderful, generous, folk on Raverly recommended it as being particularly awesome when using, again, heavily variegated yarn as the slipped stitch helps to break up the flashing.  I think these socks are going to be amazing.

Rose Hiver's Harvest Dew.  Fabulous!

Rose Hiver’s Harvest Dew. Fabulous!

So much fun to have a new project!  Are you knitting socks, too?  What are you working on?

What to Do with Heavily Variegated Yarn?

What are You Knitting?

I bought this fabulous hand-dyed yarn when I was in New York for my birthday back in June.  Quite the lovely souvenir.  I had researched yarn stores before I’d gone and had been led towards Knitty City in the Upper West Side (208 W 79th).  I love their tagline: Delicious Yarn Without the Calories.  It is the most fabulous store!  Small (of course, it is NYC after all) but jammed to the rafters with the most divine yarn everywhere.  I particularly took a shine to this fabulous colourway from Nooch Fiber.

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Leda and the Swan, Nooch Fiber in the skein

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And wound into a ball. Looks so different, right? It is at this stage I start to get nervous about how it will knit up.

Squishy, Superwash Merino with Nylon.  Fabulous!  I especially love that the designers hand dye their yarn in their tiny New York apartment kitchen sink – truly, a unique New York City souvenir for sure!  The other part of their story is that they are inspired by the amazing art found all over the city.  In this case, this colourway is entitled ‘Leda and The Swan’ (Cy Twombly) as the colours are inspired by those used in the painting of the same name.  It is housed in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and looks like this:

Leda and the Swan by Cy Twombly, MoMA, New York

Leda and the Swan by Cy Twombly, MoMA, New York

There was also an amazing colourway called ‘Starry Night’ (Vincent Van Gogh).  It won’t surprise you to hear that it had the most amazing shades of deep blue, indigo and and yellow.  Just gorgeous!

Now, what to make?  Well, with just one skein of sock yarn, socks were the obvious answer but I was nervous about the strong variegation and wasn’t certain how it would knit up.  I truly have absolutely no vision and can’t imagine at all from a sample what it might look like as a finished piece. Ugh!  Something with texture but not too much.  I knew a lace pattern would likely get lost in the striation and yet plain knitting is just so tedious.  I needed a nice balance.  Nothing I had on hand was really suitable.

A little research on Ravelry (such an amazing site) revealed all sorts of options but this pattern, Hermione’s Everyday Socks, came highly recommended and seemed to fit the bill.  And so far so good!  I do feel the colours are a little jarring together and closer to Clown Barf than I would normally be comfortable with but I find it grows on you after a while and now I kinda like it.  A parent at swimming commented that the colours reminded him of a flashback to the 70s.  I don’t know whether to be complemented or insulted.

The colours are more vibrant in reality, closer to those shown in the first pic with the yarn still wound in the skein. They looked kinda washed out here.

The colours are more vibrant in reality, closer to those shown in the first pic with the yarn still wound in the skein. They looked kinda washed out here.

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Close up of stitch definition. Still blurry though – sorry.

What do you think of the colours, too much? Do you have favourite patterns you love that are great for breaking up flashing or Clown Barf-y yarn?

Knitting for 100 Years: An Update

Socks for Centenary

I’m so thrilled!  The Socks for Centenary socks are finished!  And they are awesome.  Here they are being modeled by my lovely hubby.

WWI soldier socks look good even 100 years later

WWI soldier socks look good even 100 years later

He liked them so much he’s asked for a pair of his own WWI socks!  They must be good. Obviously knitters 100 years ago had a working knowledge of how socks are made as I found some of the language kinda hard to follow (Oh, you mean the gusset?  OK, now I’m good).  Still, after a couple of readings it made sense and I have to say, they did work out well.  Just a little faith was all that was needed.

They fit!

They fit!

Once on they felt so warm and cosy!  I can completely understand why soldiers at the front lines valued their homemade socks so much.  They really are that fabulous.  And I can certainly appreciate how vital they would have been when it came to keeping weary feet warm and dry. All in all, a really fabulous project that not only better connected me to my own family history, but also commemorated the amazing women left at home who supported their men so far away and will also help some modern day weary folk who are in need through the winter months.  Just a whole bunch of awesome.  Yay! Have you thought to knit some Socks for Centenary?  I would love to see what you’ve done!  Post a link to your project and let’s see ’em!

A Laundry Do-Over – Using White Vinegar in the Wash

UPDATE: You might remember this old hand knitted blanket I found squashed in a plastic case all the way in the back of a closet.  It had been knitted by my husband’s grandmother about 30 years ago and I don’t think it had seen the light of day since then.  It was really quite dirty and uncared for but with a little cleaning it had been resurrected.  Or so I thought.

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Hubby’s Grandmother’s blanket freshly washed after a 30 year absence. Looks good but smells … ugh!

I’d used a fab product called Eucalan on it and, you know, the Eucalan was great for softening and cleaning the blanket but it came out of the washer with a very over-powering floral fragrance.  It didn’t smell of the Eucalan which has a light eucalyptus scent.  It smelled of flowery, chemically, dryer sheets and those floral airfresh refills and … I dunno what else.  It was too much.  Really.  To the point of being awful, actually, and I couldn’t stand to have it near us much less try to snuggle under it 😦  In our home we don’t use air fresheners, dryer sheets, Febreeze-type products.  I feel that clean doesn’t smell of anything and if there is some ‘freshener’ wafting in the air it is likely be trying to hide some nasty, odiferous, yuckiness lurking underneath.  Now, I know some folk just love those fresheners and that’s just peachy but I.Don’t.Like.It!  Hubby said that the blanket always smelled like that and that he was completely taken back to when he was a little boy when I brought the blanket out and he smelled it again.  Huh.  Maybe the years in the plastic had super charged the smell?  Well, either way, it couldn’t smell like that and stay in my house.  Bleck.

So I washed it again but this time I added some plain white vinegar to the wash cycle.  White vinegar is a great product to use in the laundry.  When added to the final rinse cycle white vinegar will act as a natural fabric softener and will help combat lint and remove static cling.  When added to the wash water is will strip out any leftover manufacturing chemicals from new clothes, particularly important when washing new baby clothes.  Vinegar will also bleach out stains and freshen up whites and can be used to clean the machine itself of any soap scum and grime.  Amazing right? WikiHow has some nice instructions on the quantities to use here.

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Just regular white vinegar from the grocery store. Easy.

So I wondered if it might work to remove the overpowering fragrance of the blanket.  I added a good slosh to the wash cycle, threw the blanket in and crossed my fingers.  And you know, it worked!  The smell was definitely much reduced…. but …. still more noticeable than I’d like.  Gah!!  What to do?  I was running out of non-toxic ideas.

I knew that the sun can really help strip offensive odours and stains from things like cloth diapers and I wondered if it might help me with my current dilemma. I laid the still damp blanket outside in the sunniest part of the garden for a few hours to see what would happen.  Eureka!  Success!  When I brought it inside the remaining smell was all but gone and the blanket was soft and squishy and cosy again.

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Like a phoenix from the ashes the blanket has been resurrected – huzzah!

Here it is all folded and lovely and ready to be turned in to the roof of a fort, or the base of a battleship, or just to snuggle under by the fire on cold winter nights.  Love it!  Yay!