Category Archives: Techniques and Tutorials

Cool techniques and tutorials I’ve found and/or written.

PSA

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Every knitter, spinner, artist, crocheter, office worker, whatever, anyone at risk for carpal tunnel or other strains in the wrist area:


Do these fucking exercises or I will be very mad at you.
Hand health is so important guys.

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Writing Process

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So I was discussing with Mroo and Dangland the other day and decided that I should just make a big blog post on what my general workflow for writing is. I’ve gotten kind of big on writing longer short stories lately for some reason (closer to novellas really), and right now I’m in the lull between one wrapping up and beginning to draft the next. So. Let’s workflow!

Most of my process is adapted from the Snowflake Drafting method and One Pass Revision method. You can use any writing implement of choice, though I’m partial to Scrivener with it’s layout options.

1. First, an idea. I usually aim to have a 1 sentence summary and then 1 paragraph summary that I can work with. I prefer the one sentence summary to be pretty cut and dried. For Enough, the one sentence was “Loki escapes capture and goes half-mad on the road to recovery.” The one paragraph just expands that, detailing the conflicts that will arise and a final sentence of how it resolves.

2. Character development. Each character gets the following treatment:

Summary: One line explaining the character

Motivation: The abstract thing driving them, usually an emotion

Goal: The physical thing they want

Conflict: What’s stopping them

Epiphany: What lets them break through (and I do allow for this to be another character’s actions depending)

1 paragraph synopsis: The character’s progression through the story.

I do this for every major character, villain (if there is one), and usually strong supporting characters who may not be the main characters.

3. Next, I expand that 1 paragraph into a page. Each paragraph is basically covering one of the sentences from before.

4. I then take every MAJOR character (and not always the villain, if they won’t feature heavily) and write the same 1 page summary, only entirely from their perspective. This usually shows me things that the other characters won’t see, gives me more ideas on how they interact and think about the other characters, and so on.

5. I then write a four page summary of the entire plot–1 page for opening and ending, 1 page per conflict. This usually takes me roughly an hour or two to sort through, and let’s me see how the story is going to move, flow, whose doing what where, and who gets focus in each area. This is a really great way to know what’s going on at all times and keeps down on the extraneous.

6. This step is probably the least fun, but the one that keeps my stories very tight, and any additions that happen and aren’t in this step are usually necessary and grow from writing the story. I create a table and take my four page summary and write down what each and every scene will be, from one to the next. I group ones that go together well as chapters, and number them so that I can quickly and easily move them around. This lets me see the logic of the story, know what I’m doing, and generally be prepared for any changes. This makes it so later I will have a much easier time in the revision process.

7. I finally start writing. Since I use Scrivener, I move over to my Story folder and create my first index card. Each index card for each chapter will have a rough run down of what scenes are in it so I don’t have to constantly look at my scene list. I’ll usually add document notes with any potential changes I’d like to make once I finish the first draft of a chapter (for instance, the latest story I wrote I was thinking about adding a scene but couldn’t decide if I wanted to. I noted it, and when revising later determined the scene to be unnecessary).

8. Once I finish the first draft, I usually send it off to Dangland, who reads through it. He’s usually reading each chapter just as they finish, and I basically use him to make sure that the plot is interesting and my basic scenes are not out of left field or unnecessary. He also makes sure my characterization doesn’t go off track. He does a lot, he just doesn’t know he does. 🙂

9. Once anything gets changed after Dangland reads it (this will usually be massive cutting of scenes if it happens at all (it rarely does, for which I thank step 6)), I will start in with the one pass revision method. I tear into things, fix temporal warps, figure out tenses and flow. I make sure that I have the entire story as one big document, that way I can verify things work between chapters. My readers (at least the ones that are starting from when I post the first chapter) may not necessarily appreciate this, but anyone who see it in complete form will. Since my works are usually not nearly as long as a novel, I usually don’t feel like I have as much tearing apart to do (I’ve written novels and revising them is oh my god horrible).

10. I send the revised story over to Mroo. She will read through it, commenting on grammatical errors, awkward phrasing, and generally things she particularly enjoys or notices to be slightly off.

11. I make at least one more pass, incorporating changes suggested by Mroo. At this point I’m only tweaking phrases or tiny details. After a third pass, I will not make any further tweaks. You have to stop some time, and that third is usually when I’m reviewing a chapter before uploading it online.

12. sweet sweet victory. I’ll give myself a day or two to chill out, gestate over any new ideas, and be a bum.

 

And there you go! Hope you found it interesting. If you’d like to see a story completed with this method, well, I don’t think my WordPress readers are gonna dig on the Avengers fic I just finished; the next story is still Avengers related, but it’s alternate universe and can stand apart from any knowledge of the movie/comics, so I’ll mention when it’s done going up.

Spinning Along–Short Draw on a Wheel

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I was doing a fair bit of spinning because STRESS, and decided I should bother to make another video for you all. It shows off how I prefer to do short-draw on a wheel, and don’t mind my stuffy nose. Sorry bout that, I didn’t realize I sounded so bad until after I watched the video.

The LP (let’s play) I mention can be found over here. The Void is one of my personal favourite video games, and this is a pretty excellent LP of it as well. CannibalK9 did a wonderful job of showcasing and bringing up a lot of points–the game is very thoughtful and thought-provoking (or at least it wants to induce thought and conversation), and after a few playthroughs of my own sometimes I just want to watch it without needing to do so myself.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the video!

Lolita Skirt Design–Part Three

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Aka kolmanda osa but I figured that no one else here would get estonian and it isn’t quite as ubiquitous as Part Troi but then I suppose if we get technical that isn’t really correct for French either.

WHATEVER.

What this post is about is the putting together process for the skirt that you’ve been watching me design. This, for me, is both the easiest and the longest part of the whole process. Maybe it’s because I don’t count all the time I spend not actively trying to draw a design down.

This is also where I get to press the most stuff, and I just adore pressing. 🙂 If you need something pressed and live nearby hit me up and I’ll do it for free or a free lunch or something. You know.

Anyway. When we last left I had shown you (roughly) how to figure out what parts are going to need how much fabric. The really beginning designer friendly thing about lolita is how so much of it is just rectangles and putting those rectangles together. It’s very hard to feel daunted by a skirt–it’s the details that always worry me now.

So, here’s the order I went in–first, I pressed everything. Yes. I had left that fabric laying around for a few weeks and it was rumply. Don’t look at me like that.

No, I did not press the chiffon. It is synthetic chiffon and I didn’t want to break my new ironing board in with melted plastic on it.

Instead, I went ahead and hemmed what would be the lower edge for each of the tiers–I knew the sides and top would be sewn down onto the base panel.

If you have it, make liberal use of fray check or don’t cut your chiffon till literally the last moment. It frays. I went with a baby doll style hem on these.

Which works well enough for my purposes.

With that done, I set the chiffon aside for a few, switched my needle back to a size 11 instead of a size 9.

The next big thing for me was hemming my skirt ahead of time. I prefer to hem each piece seperately if I’m not doing lace or ruffle hems. This is primarily because I’ve yet to do a blindstitch hem by machine <em>or</em> hand that I like and I’m terrible at this whole sewing thing in general. So I marked about an inch up and then did a .25″ baby doll hem on the ‘bottom’ of each of my skirt panels.

(I know you can’t see it well in that photo, but I swear there’s a silver marked line there to demonstrate)

Next step, press and then sew.

I don’t know where I got that stick thinger but it’s the best thing I’ve done for my hands in a while.

Now, you might think you should attach the chiffon now. You really shouldn’t. This is the part where you make the pintucks that are at the bottom of the skirt. This makes it so all your pieces will line up better and everyone is the same length. I guess you could just cut the chiffon panels smaller or some such, but that would be planning and I have no brook with that. (haha get it if you know my real name that should make you laugh. maybe?)

Mark all of your pin tucks on all of your fabric ahead of time. I went with three spaced .5″ apart, but if I did it again I’d either add another 2 pintucks (for a total of 5) or space them 1″ apart. Either way, mark em.

(look you can see my hem)

Mark on the RIGHT SIDE of your fabric. You have no idea how many places I had to look to confirm that. My sewing books all used fabric that is the same on both sides in the photos and didn’t specify. How annoying, right?

Pintucks marked, start doing em. There’s gonna be a lot of this:

Maybe this is the reason why I adore them so much?

NOW that that’s done, put the chiffon on the two panels.

Then trim your edges up a bit if you want:

I clearly did. Then attach–I use french seams for this project.

Does that look nice? Make sure you attach everyone in the right order. You do not want to get to this point and realize you attached a short panel on each side of a chiffon panel. The center panel needs to go in the <em>center</em>. I actually didn’t screw this up.

Next step: finish making the skirt? With all the pieces attached, and seams pressed, have your waistband pieces all lined up and ready:

I swear I had some 3/8″ elastic for the half-elastic waistband. Two pieces, both 12″ long, just like my design plans said. I ended up going with a 3″ wide strip for the waistband, and I’m glad I did. I like wiggle room when I make waistbands.

If you missed it, you can find the half-elastic waistband tutorial I did here on egl. Then just finish pressing, and voila!

Skirt!

Lolita Skirt Design–Part 2

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So you’ve got the general idea of what it is you’re going to make. In this case, it’s that skirt I drew last time that I settled on to emphasis the pretty print that I have.

I had great big plans for this post but I realized all I had wasn’t super necessary. (Ok, so I lost all the pictures I had taken why do you ask?)

What I like to do is draw (not-to-scale) images of what each piece will be and how many I need. This lets me figure out cloth requirements and the best way to cut my fabric.

Much of this is going to be based on personal style choices and measurements, but here’s some guidelines:

You’re going to need at least two large rectangles–one for front and one for back. You can divide these up however works best for you. The width I usually go with is however wide my fabric I have is (usually around 42 inches due to where I buy my fabric). The length is usually from where I want the skirt to sit (usually waist) to my knee or just above. If I plan on pintucks, I try to add length based off my pintucks. In this case, I picked 28″ since I usually do 25″ skirts so that I’d have wiggle room for my pintucks. If you look at the top row of the picture above, you’ll see those top three are all front-skirt related; the next row has the back panel.

Include any special fabric needs. If you are going to have chiffon strips (as my skirt does), then note that, and note how much each will need. In this case, I noted 7″ (the width of the panel it would go on) by 10″ (to allow for some overlap of the tiers).

Draw a layout of how you’re going to cut. Even if it’s just squares, it gives you an idea of how much space and fabric will take, and let you see if doing it on a fold will work or not. It also allows you plan if you have a weird cut, like my remnant chiffon.

Generally, if you were to have ruffles, quadruple (4x) your width for the skirt and use that for the length of the strip you need. If it doesn’t go all the way around (for example, stops at a front panel), then reduce accordingly. Usually a front panel means you should only triple (3x) and so forth.

A little planning and laying out now will save you a lot of trouble later. It also lets you check if you’ve forgotten what some of the pieces are for what they could be for. Note your measurements for each piece, and try to note how many you’ll need.

Go ahead and plan out your waistband. Figure out what type of closure you’ll use. My preferred ‘closure’ on a skirt is some type of elastic waistband. In this case I went with a half-elastic waistband–you can find the tutorial over at this egl post . For dresses with sleeves I like an invisible zipper in back; JSKs I like both back shirring and zippers under the arm. It’s really a matter of what you like and how you want to incorporate it.

Cut all of your pieces in advance. I like to press my fabric prior to cutting, and then press the pieces afterwards. Try to keep them laid flat so they don’t rewrinkle if you’re not going to get to them for a bit.

Next time, I’ll go through the process of putting the skirt together, but this was the big bit! Designing really just comes down to picking something you like and then figuring out what pieces it needs and how much material they will call for. Skirts are pretty easy since they’re just rectangles put together in new and interesting ways. 🙂 Part three really is just a tutorial on how I put my skirts together.

On stranded knitting

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So I just finished a pair of socks in four days. Can anyone remember the last time I did that? I certainly can’t. Pretty exciting.

I actually did these socks because I wanted to have something two colour to work on instead of just plain socks, and then decided to use them as a sampler to compare the differences in which colour is held in which hand. (I don’t know if this would apply were I knitting with them both in one hand.)

These are the Sweden socks from Knitted Socks around the World (I love that book. So much colourwork, so much style. Excellent excellent book, if you like elegant and classic stranded knitting.) One sock was knit with the purple in left hand, one with the purple in right. I’m usually a right handed knitter.

Can you tell?

See, if you look at that photo, you should notice the sock on the left has less definition and looks overall a little more stringy than the one on the right. This is because it’s pretty important that your background colour be carried in your more dominant hand; your dominant hand is more familiar with knitting and tension, and so will usually have a tighter tension than the non-dominant one. The foreground/design colour should be in that hand instead, so that it fills up and allows the lines to look less pixelated.

Even just looking at them on my feet kind of bugs me, but I’m not going to forget which one is meant to go in which hand anymore.

See, I needed a refresher before I started to knit on the Phoenix cardigan again (!!!), what with not wanting the same mistake again. And it’s served me well–the tiny bit of a design I can see is looking much smoother even prior to blocking.

Also, these have the cutest little picot edge. The way the sock is made (provisional cast on, toe after everything else, picot sewn down) meant that I had absolutely nothing besides blocking to do when I finished a sock. Everything had already been secured while I was working on it, or by the steps that I had to do. I love a sock that is actually done when I’m done.

The short row heels (now that I finally figured out that woman’s version) are actually really nice, and I probably will also do short rows the way she shows them in the book.

All in all, lovely socks and a lovely reminder of the importance of what colour is in which hand.

Also, to explain why I needed yet more edge yarn, and thus why I made that video:

I’m on row 13 now. (I haven’t marked row 12, it was a purlback, and I didn’t have enough yarn or the chart nearby when I finished it to go onto row 13). Row 13 of the top chart. There’s another 16 rows for the bottom chart.

I spun up 50 yards of white fluffy yarn, thinking surely that would be enough to edge my shawl.

WELP. Back to the spinning wheel. That’s the butterfly I start all hand wound balls with–maybe a yard. I’ve finished the bobbin I was on in the video, and hopefully will get the second done today. I really want this shawl 😦

A Sample of Long draw

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I’m still working on the next post of the skirt design series–I’ve got all the photos taken, I just haven’t quite had the time to get them up. Instead, needing a bit more yarn for my shawl I’ve nearly finished, I made a little video.

Like I say in the video, I made it because I wanted to show off how the bobbin stops when winding on with a scotch tension wheel. I don’t think that bit really went too well–which is funny, because just before and after the video it did it fine and clearly!

The second half is basically showing off how long draw works and doing joins. Maybe I’ll do a few proper tutorial videos on spinning at some point.