Back to Beastie

Wow… It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I can’t believe it’s May already! And there have certainly been several times over the past few months when I thought “Hey, I should really do a blog post!” but there just always seemed to be about ten other things that needed to be done first.

Beasties at Work - CrawCrafts Beasties

On top of that, I really had to bounce back after 2021. 2021 was tough. I know that 2020 was no picnic for many people, especially those working in the creative and arts industries, but I was fortunate that the first lot of extended lockdowns paired quite nicely with my love of sitting down and making stuff with my hands. So I stayed home, crafted my way through the worst of it, and kept up with my knitting students as best I could via Zoom.

When things started to open up again though, it got tricky. It felt like the rules were always changing – I’d reopen for group classes one week, only to have to cut back to seeing people individually the next. Smaller groups and a lack of market opportunities meant that earning a living became a lot more difficult than it had been, and I found myself taking on every single project and promotional opportunity I could to try to keep things going. And finally, the yarn shop where I had been teaching closed. Yeouch! What a mess!

Upcoming Update Alert! CrawCrafts Beasties
(An old photo, but the mood is about right.)

So, the last few months have really been about tidying up and getting things back to some sort of order. That meant wrapping up any outstanding Beastie commissions…

… Setting up a new website for my knitting classes so that people can find me easily…

(You can check it out for yourself, here)

…And becoming my own yarn store!

I’ve also started knitting Aran pieces for an up-and-coming Irish knitwear designer… Because, you know, I’m not spending enough time knitting these days already.

And all this time away from blogging has one big upside – I have SO MANY Beasties to share with you all! So I’ll be diving into that in the next post, in two weeks’ time. In the meantime, you can keep up with the yarnier side of things on my new knitting blog. From now on, I’ll be alternating posts here with posts on the new website, so if wool, knitting and all that good stuff floats your boat, be sure to add the Knit With Helen blog to your Reader!

So, enough about me… What have you been up to since we last spoke? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

How to Slay a Dragon

Dragon Slayer Beastie by CrawCrafts Beasties
Sometimes, projects take longer to come together than you expect. And sometimes they take a lot longer. I thought Beasties with dogs were my big crafting leap forward this year, but that was before I met Dragon Slayer Beastie! I first did the sketches for this commission back in April…
Dragon Slayer Beastie Sketches y CrawCrafts Beasties
…and back then I thought sketching up the dragon in the first place would be the hardest part!

Dragon Slayer Beastie was requested by a Beastie enthusiast who already has quite a family of little woolly monsters at home. They had attracted the attention of her young neighbour, and when the offer of a birthday Beastie was made, she decided (without any hesitation, apparently) that she’d like a Dragon Slayer Beastie, complete with dragon. As you can see from the sketch, the dragon had to have a golden body, and a silver head and wings. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Could be tricky, but I can probably manage it!”
I figured that seeing a few Shrek and Harry Potter films, plus my current enthusiasm for Game of Thrones, combined with more than a couple of years of experience in sewing my own critters from scratch, would all be ample preparation for the crafting challenges ahead.

You can probably tell where this is going.

It started out normally enough… Making the Beastie herself was a breeze!
Dragon Slayer Beastie, by CrawCrafts Beasties
As you can see, she’s ready to face down any dragon who dares to cross her path! She’s got a chain-mail top, and she’s armed with a lethal felt sword. Over her shoulder is a quiver of deadly felt arrows, to be used for long-range dragon-slaying missions…
Dragon Slayer Beastie's Quiver and Arrows, by CrawCrafts Beasties
So she had her outfit, and her weapons (in a range of suitably ladylike colours) were complete…
Dragon Slayer Beastie's Weapons, by CrawCrafts Beasties
…But where’s the dragon?

Uh-oh. Still stuck in what was proving to be a troublesome prototyping stage.
Rejected Dragon Body Templates - CrawCrafts Beasties

You see, the nature of the beast meant that I had to step out of my cosy felty comfort zone and use different, unfamiliar materials. And it was only when I started sewing pieces together that I found out how completely different and unfamiliar they were! Fortunately, I had the good sense to reject the gold and silver lycra I had originally planned to use – when I subjected them to the all-important stretchiness test in the shop, they proved themselves to be more suited to making eye-popping party clothes than dragons. If I’d gone with my first instinct, it’s more than likely that this post would be coming to you from within the padded walls of my nearest mental health facility.

So, I went for some less temperamental satin fabrics instead… but even these proved a far cry from the wholesome, homely materials I normally use. First of all, I had to allow for fraying – something you never have to deal with when you use felt! Another of their less charming characteristics is that they show up every little detail, meaning that any slight variations between component pieces are magnified tenfold. Even doing a “rough work” dragon with some leftover calico I had at home didn’t prepare me for making the real thing… Satin fabrics, I have discovered, are designed to drape elegantly, not hold in stuffing. If you’ve ever seen someone wearing a satin dress that was a size too small, you might have an idea of what I was up against. In my quest to tame this dragon, I took on lumpy body parts, misbehaving limbs that stood out at unnatural angles from their joints, twisted tails and floppy spines. I cut, trimmed and rejected heaps of templates…
More Rejected Dragon Templates - CrawCrafts Beasties
…Made a few false starts…
Test Run Dragons - CrawCrafts Beasties
…But at last (and we’re talking absolute eleventh hour, down to the wire, seconds-to-spare-before-the-deadline here) I managed to wrangle the various bits into something vaguely dragon-shaped. Here he is snacking on the remains of his vanquished predecessors.
A Beastie Dragon is Born - CrawCrafts Beasties
And here he is doing his nicest smile for the camera.
Beastie Dragon, by CrawCrafts Beasties
I’d be the first to admit that he’s not perfect. But it’s a long time since I’ve had a craft project flummox me so completely… Every spare moment I had (and some less spare moments… sorry, workplace!) was spent trying to figure out what was going wrong with the templates, or how I could force the wilful satin to do my bidding. The end result may not accurately reflect the late nights, early mornings, miles of unpicked and restitched seams and lungfuls of inhaled satin dust (seriously, that stuff gets EVERYWHERE) that went into making it, but as a learning experience it was hard to beat. I know I have a long way to go before I can claim to be anything other than a paddler in the vast ocean of sewing skills, but I figure that’s a great excuse to go back and perfect some of the basics with simple, fun projects. So, if you have any favourite sewing patterns that would be good practice, I’d love to hear from you! Please share them in the comments… especially if they’re for little critters! I’ll be sure to post the results on the BeastieBlog as I go 🙂

As for Dragon Slayer Beastie and her dragon… the last I saw of them, they were heading off into the sunset to find their new home!
Dragon Slayer Beastie Leaves Home! CrawCrafts Beasties