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Polymorphism

There be dragons here! Well, ok, just the one really

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polymorphism

There be dragons here! Well, ok, just the one really

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After I'd finished the rhino, I was casting about for a next project. In short order I was looking through bat and dragon patterns with dayo, who collects both and had been chatting along while I worked on the last project. The idea of making something for a grown friend suited me - my first toy went to an adult, and though toddlers were a good catalyst for getting more involved in toy making, the idea of a more discerning recipient is a fun one.

One of the dragon patterns she found struck me as better than the rest. Interestingly, I had also seen it before, quite some time ago, and had mentally set it aside, deeming it really cool but beyond my skill level. On review, the former was still true but it seemed possible that I'd learned enough that it wouldn't be beyond me now. It was an exciting idea, and I knew I had someone who'd want it if I succeeded (I have no room for more stuff, no matter if it's cute or not). I decided to start it on the downlow, so that if it was too much for me I would be able to unravel it with no one the wiser.

To skip the process post and just see the progress pics,
view the gallery here.

The Process

Body

I forgot to take a picture of the body by itself, which is just as well, really, as it mostly just sat there and said, "Hi, I'm phallic." I didn't realize from the finished project photo just how much that would be the case. It was floppy, too. However, after I'd finished and stuffed the body, I was fully committed, and let the dragon out of the bag to dayo, who was pleased. I made no changes to the design of the body.

Scales
dragon

The scales made the dragon mildly less phallic. The only change to the scales, aside from using a different color, was that I modified the last one that's on the tip of the tail, as the differing gauges (note to non-crafters - gauge is the number of stitches per square inch) left a space that wasn't quite right for the smaller scales that were on the front and the back. I knew how it measured out because I didn't bind off on the scales, but attached the beginning of them at the head and adjusted the end to match the body exactly after it was mostly sewn on. I was pleased with myself for that.

Front and Back Legs
dragon

The legs have more shaping to them than any I have made on any project other than those I designed myself. I think the front legs are the weakest part of the design, but that is not meant as a harsh criticism - they are still good, better than the bear limbs I rejected, for example. I made no changes to them.

Ears
dragon

My only change to the ears was that I worked the second one into the back of the stitches, to give myself a left and a right.

Wings
dragon

No changes to the wings, other than doing them in the darker purple.

Eyes
dragon

I made rounded teal eyes (I have always liked how teal goes with various shades of purple) and made the pupils with vertical loops of black, with one horizontal loop around the middle to keep them bundled in the center.

Claws

The claws were simple enough that I didn't photograph them separately, but they are very evident in the finished project.

Then there was a dragon!
dragon

Did you need something?
dragon

Ready for flight!
dragon

The scale pic (not a pun)
dragon

'Sup?
dragon


What I Learned/Built On

I've reached a point where I have encountered most of the basic issues, and much of what I'll be doing going forward is improving skills I've already taught myself rather than discovering completely new information. I am sure there are plenty of new things for me to discover yet, though - I just think they will start to come fewer and farther between.

This pattern is a great example of the skill level I want to attain. The designer has applied common preexisting techiques quite creatively, and the design choices all hang together very neatly. There's a good deal of cleverness to it, which made it fun to follow.

  • The very beginning really struck me as clever:

    dragon

    The designer's solution to making a dragon muzzle was taking two starts of in-the-round, hooking them together and going around both of them. It's so simple, but I sure didn't think of it!

  • The neck was SO narrow. It was very hard to turn right side out (I crochet inside out until the end) and to get the stuffing into place. In future when I make something so narrow, I'll crochet right side out and stuff as I go.

  • I need to work on my stuffing. The polyfill shows through the stitches more than I like (you can see this in the chest area of this particular project, which admittedly was the most difficult to stuff yet), and I think I am packing in too much. Not sure how to avoid this and still get a firmly stuffed doll, though. Lining would miss the point (if there will be that much sewing, why not just sew? Plus I am no great shakes at sewing). I'm probably overestimating the need for firmness while I stuff... aaaaaaand the sex-toy echoes continue with this description, evidently.

  • I had some trouble grokking how the scales would work. I am still not 100% certain that I understand it. I did them right in spite of not fully getting how they worked, though, and I have found in several instances that techniques I don't understand initially come clear with repeated correct usages. "Do what I say and the answers will come to you in time" is sometimes a disastrous learning path, but at other times it is the best one, or maybe the only one. It's that Mr. Miagi school of teaching through guided ignorance, which is irritating because it is so entrenched in the teacher's superiority, but too effective to be rejected out of hand.

  • In spite of not immediately understanding the thought behind the scales, I figured that they would curl to one side just from looking at the first few. Once I sewed them on, I found out out I was right. I considered making a double row to sew together, but when I asked his opinion, nekouken figured the thickness would be far more unattractive than the pattern as is could possibly look. That sounded very likely to me, and sewing them together would have been a bitch, so I tried the pattern as written. It was not much of a risk - up until you have tied everything off and hidden all the ends, any stitches can be unravelled when you're working in regular worsted weight acrylic. The scales look just fine as they are, too, quite cute, so I am glad I didn't modify them. I am pleased that I knew it would happen, though. It tells me I have learned some things.

  • While making the ears, I noted that I have tension issues (note for non-crafters - tension in this context means the tightness with which stitches are made. Tension needs to be consistent for the fabric to be even, and tension also controls gauge. Gauge is not an issue for toymaking as long as the tension is consistent throughout. Being tense can definitely affect tension *chuckle*) when I work into the back of stitches - especially when working a small initial piece that is difficult to hold, which ALSO gives me tension issues. I struggled with the ears for this reason, as the small size of the piece really exhibited the inconsistent tension. I did get them to come out how I wanted them, but it took more work than I wished it to and is definitely a skill I will be practicing more.

  • I misread one part of the pattern. The ears had tails which I pulled into the body of the doll for greater stability while attaching them; the intent of the designer was that I sew them over the top to make brow ridges. I didn't realize until after I'd sewn in the ends and also done the eye embroidery; at that point I had no good way of undoing the ears, and I think I would have had to remove the eyes as well and remake all of it. I really liked how the eyes and ears came out so I opted not to do this. The only difference it makes is that mine looks less glowery than the original; I am perfectly ok with that. However, I need to exhibit more caution in reading complex patterns, because it's totally obvious that when I didn't comprehend that part of the pattern, I just glossed past it rather than stopping to figure it out - kind of like how you've "never seen" a word until you learn it, then it's everywhere. It was really there all the time, but your brain just classified it as "don't know, don't care" and blew past it without you even consciously taking note. It's a cool process to think about neurologically, but I try to prevent my brain from doing it in practice.

  • The wings were a triumph for me, because like the scales, they were straight across crochet, but with a more complicated pattern. I have been thwarted by this same issue before, so success was actually a bit heady for me. They are also the best exhibition yet of shaping through stitch size - if you note how the wings widen at the bottom, it's because there are three different stitches used: the single crochet stitch, which is the stitch used through the bulk of the pattern; the slip stitch, which gives less height than the sc stitch, and the half-double crochet, which gives more. This is the technique that was one reason I put the dragon on hold to make the bear, because that pattern used a less sophisticated version of the same technique.

  • I had a great deal of trouble attaching the wings at first - mine refused to be posed the way the designer had done, but insisted on drooping straight down. I didn't see how mine could be any heavier than hers, so I kept trying, and after two false starts, I figured out that the problem was that I needed to sew them to the body wing up rather than wing down. This was counterintuitive for me, and was not mentioned in the pattern. I don't know what I think of that, or what is the best way to handle the writeup of attaching parts to the main body - should every detail of the original technique be written, or should the designer let the follower make all the ancillary aesthetic choices independently? Is the best way perhaps something in between? Maybe at some point I will figure out how I think these things should be done, but I dunno yet.

  • Limb placement continues to be challenging. The legs have to be even in order for standing to be possible. On the other hand, there are plenty of people walking around on uneven legs, and I suppose the same would be true for dragons if I found any. There was some trial and error involved, but the finished result is close enough for jazz (you just stand in place and snap for jazz, right?).

  • The back legs are shaped like actual muscular-critter style legs. I like that the instructions allow for them to be poseable, but I don't like how very much they stick out from the body. I am trying to think how I could make a divot in the pattern so the legs could have a socket. I have a couple of ideas that I will test later.

  • My embroidery continues to improve. I was not able to duplicate the diamond pattern the designer used, but my rounded eyes actually pleased me at least as much as those would have, if not more. I was also very happy with how the claws came out, though that was fairly simple.

  • This guy was SO hard to photograph because he is so long! I spent a lot more time on the poses than previously.
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