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Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘crafting’

Yet another crafting project (part one)

Some more cross-stitch

Attentive regular readers might remember that in the lead-up to Yuletide, our office held a Christmas Craftalong, in which everyone who was interested got together in a remote meeting and did the same small cross-stitch kit together. After I’d finished it, I said:

Will I go on to do more cross-stitch? Well, it was a fun way to spend a few evenings. Maybe if I can find some more kits that aren’t irredeemably twee, I might do.

It didn’t take me long, really, before I was on the internet searching for cross-stitch kits or just patterns that I’d be happy to put up on the wall when finished. However, a few weeks later, everything has arrived and I’ve been able to make a start.

The start of some more cross-stitch

I won’t say what it is for now, although you’re welcome to try and guess. The design, when it arrived, suddenly looked much bigger than it did on-screen, so this might take me a little bit longer to finish than the Christmas robin did.

Just like clockwork (part one)

Time for a building project

Back in the mists of time on Boxing Day, I posted a clue as to what one of my Christmas presents was. A model tram from UGears, which I have been slowly assembling since.

It’s been a fun project, but I’m not completely sure it lives up to the promise on their website that “no glue, special expertise, tools or equipment are required”. With a fair wind and if everything goes well, then maybe. When I opened the box, the kit consisted of:

  • Various laser-cut plywood sheets.
  • Two rubber bands.
  • A small square of fine sandpaper.
  • A number of cocktail sticks, individually wrapped.
  • A glossy and comprehensive instruction book.

The instruction book is very good and very clear, with each step being shown as a 3D-rendered diagram. However, it starts off listing the extra pieces of equipment you need which aren’t supplied:

  • Candle wax, to lubricate the moving parts.
  • A knife, to cut some of the cocktail sticks to length.

With those to hand, you start off by assembling various gear shafts. Each of these assemblies consists of the gears themselves, four wooden wedges that are inserted through the gear centres, and a cocktail stick that has to be squeezed through a small hole left right in the middle where the four wedges meet.

The first gear shafts

These are the first ones in the instructions; gears, but also the main “wheels” that the tram sits on. The instructions say the cocktail stick should be inserted symmetrically, with the same length protruding from each end, so it’s very helpful to have a small steel rule to assist with doing it by eye. If the “axle” isn’t symmetrical, a measuring tool is included in the kit to indicate how much the stick should project from one end.

Inserting the cocktail sticks was the first big hurdle. Making the kit in the advised way—assemble the wedges into the gears then slide the cocktail stick down the middle—is very hard to do without accidentally blunting the sharp points at the ends. Unless you’re dealing with one of the gear shafts which needs one or both ends trimming short, this is a problem, because it’s very easy to blunt the sticks to the extent they won’t work any more. I found for most it was easier to assemble the shafts in a slightly different order: take one gear, insert the wedge pieces and the cocktail stick into that gear alone, then squeeze the wedges together at the other end and slide the other gear over the wedges’ clip-shaped ends.

The tolerances of the cocktail sticks don’t help, either. Some parts require sticks to be inserted into holes in the plywood parts, and these are all supposedly a push fit. What quickly became clear is that the cocktail sticks are made to rather looser tolerances than the laser-cut parts: some sticks will be a reasonable push-fit in the holes, and some will have no chance of going in. With these parts, I ended up picking which stick I was going to use, then opening out the hole with a broach to fit. If I went a bit too far and made it a sliding fit, I used a little dab of Resin W to glue the stick in place.

The parts for a pawl

You can see this under way with these parts for the pawl which holds the “rubber band shaft” tight after it’s been wound. You can also see that here I’m reusing a cocktail stick whose end I have already wrecked, in a position where it will be trimmed off short. As the lowest of the three holes in each pawl piece is rather close to the edge, I found one of the narrower sticks in the kit for that position, so it wouldn’t need opening out at all. You can clearly see the different widths of the supplied cocktail sticks, and on the right-hand pawl piece you can see how much I’ve had to open out the uppermost hole, compared to the unmodified bottom hole, in order for the fat stick at the top to be a push fit into it. Using a broach for this, it’s easy to roughly remember how much of the broach’s cutting length is needed to get the hole to around the right width before you start testing for fit.

Assembled pawl awaiting trimming

Once the parts were pushed onto the sticks, the ends of two could be trimmed off, leaving a single shaft for it to pivot on.

Completed pawl

Building all the various gears and related parts took quite a few hours, so it was rather pleasing how easily the main framework of the tram fitted together, and how straightforward it was to slip the ends of each shaft into their appropriate hole in the frames. It was rather pleasing, too, to find how well the initial gear chain rotated. It links the wheels together, and also includes a shaft which seems to be in there purely to make a clicking noise.

You might notice that the pawl from the previous photos hasn’t been fitted to the main assembly yet. That comes later, and was a little bit more fiddly. We’ll come on to that another time.

To be continued.

Christmas craftalong (again)

In which the shocking news is that I have finished a craft project

The other day I mentioned a Christmas social event at the office: an organised crafting event for any colleagues who were interested to do a small cross-stitch kit together. Amazingly, in just over a week, I’ve managed to finish it. I would say that’s a personal record at finishing some sort of craft project for me, but it’s rare enough for me to complete one at all.

Christmas robin

Personally I think it’s a bit scrappy; I can see lots of uneven and slightly wonky stitching, whole patches where the threads are making strange knots insted of neat crosses.

Moreover, if you compare this to the previous “in progress” picture, you can see I did get annoyed enough to go back and redo an entire section. Misunderstanding the instructions and the nature of the thread, when I started I started off stitching the red breast with only a single thread, not doubling the thread up as I was supposed to—my excuse is that each of the “single threads” are actually spun from two threads twisted together. Unpicking all the red also involved accidentally unpicking some of the orange too, so if you know where to look you can see a few places where stuff has been redone a few times.

Will I go on to do more cross-stitch? Well, it was a fun way to spend a few evenings. Maybe if I can find some more kits that aren’t irredeemably twee, I might do.

Christmas craftalong

Or, Yule enjoy some sewing

The other day I mentioned losing the Office Party and gaining various remote seasonal events instead. For example: someone thought it would be a nice idea to all have a seasonal crafting session together. Everyone who volunteered an interest was sent a small-but-festive cross-stitch kit, and then we spent a lunchtime getting together on a video call to sit and stitch for an hour, whilst the organiser explained how to get started and the rest of us found various ways to make mistakes.

Festive crafting

Full marks if you can spot everything I’ve got wrong so far. This represents quite a bit more than one hour’s work, because I’ve spent a while working on it since. You never know, I might even get it finished before Christmas.

Stuffed

In which a craft project stays delayed

As time goes on, the list of creative projects I’m working on to some extent doesn’t get any shorter. If anything it grows, inspired by events such as the Zine Symposium and so on. Of course, the more things I start, the slower everything goes.

The “crochet bomb” mentioned in that list, in particular, has been stuck for a while now; partly from a supplies problem. It’s essentially a black crocheted ball, a bit like a cartoon bomb. It’s going to have to be stuffed, at some point, to retain shape; and the texture of the crochet is the origin of the problem. I do like the texture, but it’ll be open enough to show the stuffing, and the white polyester we have in the cupboard just isn’t going to look right. It wouldn’t take dye, either. I’ve looked around for black stuffing, but haven’t managed to spot any in the shops, possibly because it’s too dark and was hiding. Until I work out a way around the problem, the crochet bomb is going to have to stay unfinished.

Taking Notes

In which we list other things I am working on

Incidentally, one reason I’ve been missing the target of posting here every day recently is that I have been non-blogging about something else. Non-blogging, in the sense of a private diary; but about a specific topic, rather than vague everyday-life ramblings. In a few months, it will hopefully get published, either here or on paper; but I can’t say anything until at least the summer, and hopefully longer. But if you’re writing something like a diary, it’s best to do it as the events occur, while they’re still fresh in your mind; and it’s been soaking up the spare words in my head.

Last week I mentioned that we felt inspired to finish off our current artcraft projects. It got me thinking just how many creative projects I’m working on at the moment, that are at least vaguely concrete but haven’t been finished. There is:

  • A crochet bomb
  • A binary scarf
  • Two model railway wagons
  • A website that, as yet, is secret
  • The aforementioned diary-blog-zine-thing that is also currently secret
  • Something vague for the London Zine Symposium, heading towards us more rapidly than I care to think
  • K’s sister’s wedding album, which we definitely should have done more of by now

That’s 7 or 8 things, depending on how you count. Plus there are many other ideas which haven’t yet made it outside my head, and vague concepts such as “a photographic portfolio on the theme of disused hotels,” or “a model railway incorporating the Ostrich pub”. Really, though, I should complete some of the started-projects before embarking on anything else.

Lawyers

In which we wonder about fancraft

The BBC has a history of having heavy-handed lawyers on the payroll, so it wasn’t surprising when they threatened to sue a website featuring Doctor Who knitting patterns. I’m old enough to remember the Teletubbies,* and the way the BBC responded to websites that poked fun at them: send in the lawyers. What’s the most important thing about Doctor Who, after all? Inspiring kids to be amazed at things, and look at the world in a different way? Hiding behind the sofa? No, silly, the important thing is to generate lots and lots of merchandising money for BBC Commercial. Where would we be if everyone started knitting things for their children instead of going down the shops? If you start spending time and care on things like that, when are you going to find the time to watch more TV? What’s going to happen to all those traditional Chinese peasant plastic-mould farms? And never mind that, what on earth do you think you’re doing to the economy, going out and making things instead of buying them? Where do you think you are, Cuba?

Seriously: I’m sometimes in two minds about fan-created stuff, largely because of the effect fan fiction has on me. It makes me want to run away and scream, partly because of the smug little disclaimers that fanfic writers always seem to put at the top of their stories. “These characters aren’t mine, I’m only borrowing them.” Did you ask, first?

Fan art, though – which includes fan crafting, in this case – is a different matter. It does, to my mind, at least, imply a lot more creativity than most fanfic. But I can’t draw a rational line between the two, or explain why one seems acceptable to me when the other doesn’t. Maybe that in most cases fan art seems to add something to a world, where fan fiction seems to take it away. That, though, isn’t something you can exactly quantify. And it’s not an excuse that would go down well with a lawyer, either.

* I was just the right age to appreciate them when they appeared – about 19 or so.