craft, Doll, Uncategorized

Like Grandma

A friend checked in on how I was doing yesterday.


I haven’t knit for at least eight years. In fact I’d cleaned out my knitting yarn stash a few years back (keeping all my needles and supplies, just letting go of the odd yarn) in a Kon-Mari spree.

My stash was a reasonable size because I knit small things….and my friend (above) knew  my knitting history in Japan as he is the happy owner of my knitted Yoda.


I figured out how to knit in the round with multiple double pointed needles and started making my own creatures. For some I took detailed notes that I still have in a notebook, although with years of not knitting it at first reads like the diary of a madwoman.

Nope, no patterns. Those just flowed from my brains through my fingers. I seem to like multiple heads and solitary eyes.

Yet I never thought I’d knit doll clothing. It’s silly to say that now. No one who knows me and my crafts would think that I’d have a weird block about knitting doll clothing..but I did.

Knitted Doll Clothing? That’s a grandma thing. That’s, specifically, a Grandma Leah thing.
Grandma Leah knit doll clothing for my Barbies. The dresses were nice, the sweaters were maddening (Barbies hands would catch in the sleeves and they had the tiniest of buttons) and the underwear ungainly. She also watched bowling, called the dog Stink Ass and could sigh and complain in a passive aggressive manner that will never be forgotten.

My Grandmothers were two very different women.

Grandma Christine was educated and strong-willed, able to extricate herself from tough situations and start out on her own power and brains and find the skills to do whatever it was she needed to do to survive and raise two kids…time and time again in her life. She could also sew anything.

Grandma Leah was never in charge of her own destiny and I have no idea if she could read much beyond patterns and catalogues. Life sort of happened to her and existing family helped her. That’s how she came to live with my father and step-mother when I was young. But…she could knit and crochet. She could sit down, follow a pattern, and make a thing. The thing wasn’t usually artful but it was executed with precision… Her sense of color, texture, and grace was lacking: cheap acrylic yarns, the worst colors, bulky scratchy things. Things she made served a purpose…often that purpose was to be sold at a craft meet so she could make some money.
I have her knitting and crochet supplies now. I even have three oddly written pages someone sent her explaining how to make an infamous pair of slipper booties. EVERY family member got these booties. She was always crocheting these booties. They were warm and ugly.

Someday I will have to make sense the notes I have of hers… if only to make my father and step-mother a pair of booties each…out of the worst acrylic yarn colors I can find. You know, for family traditions to be remembered. I’m not tackling it just yet because it’s crochet, which makes far less sense to me than knitting. I can do it but it’s never become an automatic skill I can easily freestyle in.

How did I get to knitting a sweater?

I made my Monomono doll a pair of pajama bottoms and thought…”She needs a comfy sweater for bad days.”…I guess it is time to knit for a doll.

I found a Blythe sweater pattern on Knitty and picked up a substitute yarn, figuring I had all the supplies at home. I looked at some black yarn and thought “No, your home lounging sweater isn’t your out-and-about sweater. It’s the odd one that is more about comfort than looks. It’s how you hug yourself when no one is there.

Then, once home, I learned I didn’t have a pair of size zero needles.

You don’t understand how shocking that was…. THIS is my needle collection.


I had everything BUT. And I mean EVERYTHING. That baggies is full of 4-5 double sided needles from 1-7. There’s a whole ROLL of hooks under that baggie you can’t even see. I have at LEAST 3 of each size of single sided needles.

I figured out the gauge and managed to knit up the sweater on size 1 needles. A gauge swatch being slightly off on large projects means HUGE difference but for a tiny project? not so much.

I knit for a day, relearning what knitting abbreviations mean, and had a doll sweater.


Your new favorite synthpop band.


Your new favorite Golden Girls remake.

I think she needs a pair of bunny slippers, or skull slippers, or bunny skull slippers next.

craft, sewing, Uncategorized

Back in action. No Bobbin!

I haven’t posted a bit because I’ve been on a restorative vacation to my hometown in America (Madison, WI).

Now I’m back in Japan, my first morning back in my apartment, waiting for my luggage to be delivered.

Nothing was lost but it’s never fun to lug a giant suitcase on the trains. That’s why there are delivery services to take your luggage to the airport before you leave and to send it home after you arrive. As usual I took one suitcase there and have returned with a full suitcase and duffle bag. There be new bras that fit, dresses, fabric, crafting items and…my new sewing machine.

Well, it’s nowhere near new and I grew up with it.


Meet the Singer Sewhandy model 20-10! It’s been my mother’s since childhood.

The original Singer 20’s were made in the 1912 and often traveled with sewing machine salemen working door to door. They’d give any young girl in the house the toy version to play with as they tried to make a sale of the full-sized machine to mom. Then, if the full sized didn’t sell, they’d be understanding but regretfully inform mom that they’d have to be taking the toy-sized machine back with them too. Usually moms would be willing to pay a few bucks to keep their child happy and the salesman would earn a few dollars for his time.

Over the years the body changed slightly, to encase some of the moving parts, but the mechanics stayed the same. Singer 20’s made after 1926 also had number stamped onto the machine parts to make it easier to thread the parts in the right order.


NOT A TOY! My mom still has this box somewhere but we couldn’t find it on this trip.

I, of course, quickly took to fixing it up. I figured that if I could get it to work it’d be interesting to sew some doll clothes with it.

I set to work at the kitchen table and took it all apart to clean and polish.


Much better.

It still had the original instruction booklet (which I have since copied) so I was able to figure out if any parts were missing.


It’s only missing a thumbscrew for the adjustable seam guide. I guess I’ll be the weirdo in the DIY store carrying around a small sewing machine to find a good replacement.

This machine takes smaller needles but you CAN still order size 24×1 for it. Done.

I clamped it to the table and tried it out!

Now, I know that’s not a great quality image. But maybe you noticed…There’s no bobbin? It’s just using one single thread to create a stitch? What magic is this?

Here’s a better video of the magic. The mechanism can be seen working at the 1:00 minute mark.

My first tests had the tension a little tight but I’ll have more time to futz with it here in Japan. It’s going to take a lot of trial and error to figure out tension AND setting stitch length.

I’m back in Japan. I only teach dance for the next few weeks. Craft TIME!


craft, Doll, Uncategorized

Meet Monomono

According to an Amazon review I found quoted many places:

Monomono is my all time favorite Dal doll. Although in theory I think she has too much orange on her face, in real life she is absolutely beautiful. She has beautiful brown and gold eyechips. She also has a fake fur wig, which is not to everyone’s taste. She looks wonderful rewigged in shades of brown. The “Monkey King” theme of her stock outfit, complete with cloud skateboard, is clever and amusing. She wears a checked underwear set underneath. Dal dolls are articulated, and their eyes move from side to side with a lever. Unfortunately, she is the Dal most prone to breaking her feet (especially her left foot). Don’t let that keep you from buying this beauty, however.

Monomono is one of the first three Dal dolls ever produced. She is not for small children.

Monomono is the doll I’d intended to buy online from DollyTeria but bought my eyelid-less Pullip by mistake.

I visited DollyTerria on Sunday my way to see a friend of mine for a craft session. We both had projects/commissions we’d been putting off so we planned to meet, craft, and get to know each other better.

Monomono’s damage:

Someone attempted to give this little monkey-god elf ears.

There’s a tutorial here but whoever made these ears didn’t color the two-part Apoxie clay itself, instead choosing to paint the clay after roughly sculpting. This made my job easier as there were three layers of color for me to gauge the difference between paint/sculpting medium/original ears.

Monomono comes with every part of her “stock” except her golden staff and her belt sash. Her eyes had been changed but nothing else seemed amiss.

I opened her head so I could file at her ears with files/diamond files, and sandpaper without putting her face at risk. The apoxie was softer than the plastic but sanding and checking took a few hours.

You should be able to see the dry cover paint, the light blue apoxie, and the light plastic color starting to show in the inner fold of an ear.

Ear unveiled!!

I like the reddish gold colors in the face so I’m keeping it as is.

I thought I’d keep the eye chips the reddish color but knew I needed to clean them as there seemed to be some brown gunk around the edges.

But when I opened them up the eyes turned out to be fake stuffed animal eyes with the inserting pole cut short and, um, a flat surface built up with tape that had aged and discolored. When I removed the tape some of the red iris came out with it…new eyechip time!

And the eye sockets were nasty and needed much scrubbing.

I had extra eye chips, when I fixed Art Gallery Dal I bought a set of two colors. Dark purple chips were sanded on the edges and inserted into the eye gimicks.

I then took off the Monkey King costume to try on a used Ricca-chan dress I’d also picked up at DollyTerria

Remember that odd fact in the review about Monomono’s left foot coming off?

Well then! She has her underclothes but…Yup. One foot. I guess I’ll be picking up a Dal-sized Obitz body in Akihabara soon.

As for the wig…this is a fake-fur wig. I’ll totally be making a pattern from it to try my hand at making my own. At first I hated it. Then I looked online at Monomono photos and it grew on me. It started to feel more like messy bed-hair and less like fur…and I started to grasp Monomono’s personality.

It reminded me of this childhood photo of myself, one I use to prove I’ve never been able to wake-up morning-ready.

To understand how I write and talk we need a quick side-adventure. Much of my word-use and humor comes from my parents. They divorced when I was 3 years-old but both raised me with joint custody and kept on good terms with each other. Here they are both adding their comments to this picture the last time I posted it on Facebook.

Suffice to say I think I’ll be playing around with the fur wig for a bit. I’m thinking of making her a sleepy morning doll…or a doll who wears her disheveled mornings until lunchtime…and sometimes refuses to get out of her monkey outfit…like me.

I’ll be opening her head again to give her new lashes and to install her on a two foot body later.

I did recently see a steam-punk Dal someone had fixed with a prosthetic leg. If my skills were higher I’d think of giving her a cute similar leg.

craft, Mary Frances sewing


Who Benefits from all of this doll clothing?

Ralph Waldo does.


Meet Ralph Waldo Le Mutt, I’ve known him since I was in elementary school.

He’s not named after that Ralph Waldo. He’s named after a real-life dog named after that Ralph Waldo. 

Ralph, the real-life dog, was as dumb as the rocks he sometimes ate. He was a golden lab owned by Marsha, a friend of the family who boarded in my mother’s basement for a few years of my childhood. He had the run of our basement, backyard, and kitchen. Everything beyond that belonged to our two cats, Martha and Cindy the Cat who outlived all.


Year one of Cindy, who spent 23 years outliving all other pets.

Ralph Waldo Le Mutt (the stuffed dog ) joined our family shortly after Martha  and real-life-dog Ralph moved out, probably around the time I took over the basement room..3rd grade? 4th grade?

In a time when Pound Puppies (the stuffed animals, prior to the cartoons) became popular, Ralph was a found puppy.


Pound Puppies

My mother and I would, in the summer, spend a week in northern Wisconsin in a rented cabin near a lake in Mercer, Wisconsin. Nothing fancy, as I remember, just a large room containing a kitchen/dining table/two beds and additional room with a bathroom…and maybe a cupboard of extra supplies.

Mercer is HOME OF THE LOONS, those B&W low-riding ducks who sound like a haunting.


Loon Statue in Mercer

For that week we’d swim, row or canoe, and relax. Maybe we’d drive to see a movie in my mom’s tiny blue Chevrolette or go to a camp-site to make a campfire.

Ralph was found, forgotten and muddy, at such a camp-site. We brought him back to the cabin, washed him, and he’s been mine ever since.

An elementary school friend of mine, Katy T I think, had the female version of Ralph (it had the same Le Mutt tag) and they would play together. Hers was fluffy while mine was always soft but matted in the way that certain stuffed animals never quite recover from being washed.

I think Ralph came with me to college. I think he moved with me to Virginia after college and then back to my hometown when I returned to live with my mom and figure things out.

He didn’t move with me to Japan 16 years ago but he’s here now.. and he has a polar fleece Mary Frances styled bathrobe made.

Ralph Waldo came to Japan in May of 2011.

You see, I live slightly North East of Tokyo. I was affected, though not nearly as badly as others*, by the March 11th 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima Nuclear Power aftermath that went with it. It was a traumatic time, for a while I was in my apartment, alone..then in Tokyo with my friend Jo and her son, then in Nagoya with friends, a cat, and a ticket for a three day vacation in Taiwan I’d purchased a month before…then in the boonies of Taiwan with a friend for much longer than those 3 days.

I had not returned to America during any of this.

By April 2011 I was back in my apartment, back to work, checking soil and water information. By mid-April my area’s status as being an anomaly “hot-spot” where ash had affected the topsoil was known and water had iffy days. And my mother had tickets to come see me. To see for herself that I was relatively ok and my location was relatively ok and to see me because. Because.

Note: I am an only child.

Her friends constantly asked her why “She let me stay here”…as if I’m not the stubborn daughter of stubborn parents and controlling WHERE I lived was feasable.

It was a rough trip for both of us. We were both brittle and confused, broken and scared.We get along very well but one breakfast we both managed to say things that left us both in tears. We’re both adept with words and painfully so when we’re feeling hurt…we can cut deep and quickly…so we cried and apologized and recovered.

The trip is mentioned because my mom had no idea what to bring. What do you get the daughter whose circumstances have shaken you to the core and kept you awake for months?

You bring her Ralph. Because you don’t know what else to bring.

Things are better now.

Last March my mom visited. We went down to Kamakura and spent one day going up and down the mountain at Enoshima Island. That morning we’d left out hotel without breakfast and found ourselves at the base of the island mountain hungry and with few options of where we could eat.

We ended up at a Hello Kitty cafe. Each table had a giant Kitty-Chan to sit with. Some women came in small groups, some women came solo and sat with Kitty, and we followed.

ruth and kitty

Mom and Kitty Chan

The following morning, back at my apartment, I awoke and found Ralph seated at my small kitchen table. Mom had set him there to make up for the lack of a GIANT KITTY-CHAN lest I experience a sense of loss.