maandag 21 april 2014

Wool - The Silo Saga

Hey folks! Up for a new book (a trilogy actually)?! I warn you: this one's addictive and you will probably close your eyes at night way later than you planned to.

Let's travel into the future. Fifty, maybe hundred years from now...maybe even later. Try to imagine a silo, a húge silo. Not only huge in diameter, but also in height...or actually depth.
Depth, you ask? Yes, because this silo sits under the ground. Only half of the top floor rises above the ground, all other 133 floors are buried deep in the earth. Stairs spiral down through the center of the silo, all the way from the top floor to the very bottom. It's the main transport system for the inhabitants of the the silo; the people use it to travel from their apartment floors to the floors where they work. Think of schools, nursery departments, an IT-section, food-growing floors and the mechanical area at the bottom of the silo. There's an endless traffic between all these parts of the silo, but the inhabiting colony never leaves the thing itself. They can't, because the air outside is toxic. Five minutes in this poisonous atmosphere and they'd choke to death.

Got the image? This is the setting of 'Wool', the first part of the 'Silo Saga', written by Hugh Howey.

I've only read this first part so far, but I'm very enthusiastic and couldn't keep my excitement to myself. The book obviously falls in the 'sci-fi' category, but it's not like the story is completely impossible. Who knows what kind of dystopian world the human race will eventually inhabit in the future? Some of the concepts used in this book are obviously based on events that did truly happen in history. The fact that the humans in this story themselves are very real and easy to emphasize with, displaying recognizable thoughts, feelings and behavior makes it all the more believable.

Silo Saga's author Hugh Howey probably never expected his star to rise so fast. It all began in 2011, when mister Howey wrote a novella (that now forms the first part of Wool) which he independently published through's Kindle Direct Publishing system. It was conceived unexpectedly well by the Amazon reviewers, who begged him to continue the story. So, even though 'part 1' was originally just meant as a short standalone story, parts 2-5 followed, together forming the Wool-omnibus that is now published as the first book of the Silo Saga trilogy.

Mister Howey himself...

Since the appearance of the first part of the Silo Saga, the popularity of the series has only grown. I remember seeing 'Wool' in an advertorial on my Kindle, those ones that appear on your screen when you turn it off. The short description caught my attention, and I put my Kindle back on to find out more about it. Normally I'm not such a model customer, perfectly responding to every ad that I'm being served up (yikes!), but I never regretted doing so this time. Hugh could count a new member to his ever growing fan base. I'm often sceptic when it comes to things that are just way too popular (too many people jumping the bandwagon just because it's the next big thing, no matter its quality), but the Silo Saga's popularity is well-deserved, if you ask me. 

At times, it remembered me a bit of the Hunger Games. If you liked that series, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy these books too! Both stories take place in post-apocalyptical worlds, where suppression, lies and control are an important part of life without many people realizing it. In both series, the main characters start to ask questions, something that is actually being tried to prevent from happening. Still, you can't help yourself starting to wonder about these same questions too: where is this silo? How did the outside atmosphere become toxic? Who built the silo's anyway? And, why are things the way they are and do all inhabitants seem to accept it that way? Topics like group-mentality, controlling techniques and questioning authority are some of the very interesting themes I came across in Wool. And even though these are quite serious subjects, the book is incredibly easy to read. 

The characters are well developed, I became particularly fond of the protagonist: Juliette. Her tough behavior, analytical mind and heart full of questions and understandable emotions are quite easy to relate too. I like the fact that the author didn't come up with too many persons and story lines, something that seems to be the case with many books and series these days. Don't get me wrong, I definitely value and respect the work and craftsmanship that are required to create stories with complex interrelations and connections (in time and person)... But well, sometimes we just want to crawl under our blankets with a good and exciting book, without having to think too hard or browse back all the time, right? 

Almost every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, which makes in pretty hard to put the book down when you really have to go to sleep ;) Hugh manages to make you sense the suffocating atmosphere of the silo like you are actually there yourself, to get dizzy from the endlessly spiraling chairs, to feel the tension among the people rising, slowly but surely escalating... I can't wait to start on Shift and Dust, the next two parts of the trilogy! And the fun doesn't stop there: film rights to the series were sold to 20th Century Fox. If (and when) a movie will be made isn't sure yet, but it definitely would not surprise me. Where The Hunger Games were originally meant as young-adult books, the Silo Saga might attract a larger audience due to its older main characters. Hugh already proposed Lost-actress Evangeline Lilly on his website to play Juliette's role. Perfect casting, if you ask me!

Well, I think that's enough rambling about the Silo Saga. Go grab your own copy and just start reading it yourself. I challenge you: try to sleep in on time ;).

donderdag 10 april 2014

Blythe reroot tutorial - part 2: the lock-loop method

In my previous tutorial we ended with a scalp that is ready to be rerooted. If you followed the instructions, your scalp has a whole bunch of little holes and optionally a thatchline. For darker reroots, you might have decided to dye your scalp...and now you're ready for the real work!

Here's a picture of the final result, a little teaser to get you going ;)

The first thing you'll need, is a batch of mohair, alpaca or saran/nylon. The hair you see on the pictures in this tutorial is huacaya alpaca. I think I'll write another blogpost about the different hair possibilities for Blythe reroots later (I actually started typing it down here, but there's so much to tell about this topic that it's probably better to spend a whole post on it). 

How much hair you need depends a bit on the type of hair, but with 2 oz you will definitely have enough. 
Some other things to keep at hand when working on your reroot are a cup or bowl of water and a comb. The next step is to start dividing the hair into small plugs!

Plugs, you say...and how thick should they be? Well, I tried to picture this for you together with the crochet needle you'll be using to root the plugs as a reference. The crochet needle was already mentioned in part 1 of the tutorial; I use a 1.00 mm. However, a 1.25 or 0.75 will work as well, whatever your prefer or have at hand. Just keep in mind that the picture below shows a 1.00 mm crochet needle, so you will get a correct idea of the size. 

The plug you see on the left is way too thin, it will slip too easily through the holes, for example when you comb your Blythe's hair. The plug in the middle is too thick, you will have trouble pulling it through the hole of the scalp, half of it will slip off the crochet needle and things will become a mess on the inside of the scalp. The plug on the right side has a good thickness, that's what you should be aiming for. Of course this is also a matter of personal taste and preference, I've seen reroots with thicker plugs than I'm used to work with. Some people go for less holes in the scalp in combination with thick plugs. This will naturally result in the same amount of hair, but also in an increased risk of seeing the scalp through the final hairs...something I just like to avoid. But less holes and thicker plugs are a quicker method, so if you're not very patient, it might be the way to go for you! 

Usually I draw quite a bunch of plugs from my batch of hair before I start to root them. I never draw áll of them beforehand though, I tend to get a bit bored after a while so I like to switch between the plug-drawing and the rooting every now and then. This is totally up to you though. You can draw all the plugs first (count the holes!) or even do completely the opposite: draw one plug, root it, draw the next plug, etc.

I like to dip my fingers into a bowl of water when forming the plugs. The water will make the hairs stick together so your workspace won't get too messy with loose hairs everywhere ;)

Next I will try to explain the rooting process. We're making a lock-loop method, so first thing you need to do is fold the plug in half. Now punch your crochet needle through the centre hole in the scalp (punch from the inside, see 1), and hook the folded plug around your crochet needle (2). Now pull the plug gently through the hole (3). 

Allow the loop to go through at least one centimeter, especially when you're a beginner. Let it stay loosely around your crochet needle, which you'll have to punch into the second hole now (4). Repeat steps 2 and 3, you will end up with something that looks like picture 5. Now draw that second loop thróugh the first one (which will be easier when you pulled it trough at least one centimeter or more, this gives you enough space and will prevent a mess). Again, pull it through at least one centimeter (6). Now you can pull on the first strand from the outside, tightening it on the inside around the second loop. 

When you repeat those steps, a little spiral of tightened loops will start to form!
You can imagine that when your plugs are too thin, it's quite easy to accidentally pull them out while combing the hair, especially when knots have formed over time. On the other hand, thicker loops won't result in such a neat spiral.

Now, about the thatch. If you decided to make a thatch, it doesn't really matter if it's a middle thatch or a side thatch. There are several options: you can treat the thatch as a different, separate rerooting pathway or you can include it as a kind of 'sideway' in your spiral pathway used on the rest of the scalp. 

When you treat it as a separate pathway, you can create it before or after the main spiral. I prefer doing it before, because I find the thatch a bit more difficult/tricky to work on and I like a bit of clean working-space for that part. When the main spiral is already done, the fondling with the scalp while working on the thatch might make a mess of the already rooted plugs, on the inside as well as on the outside. If you're working with mohair, there's also a risk of felting!

The other option is to just start in the middle of the scalp, work the first few rounds of your spiral until you meet the first holes of the thatch, and then root the thatch as a 'sideway'. There are four lines to follow: first toward the edge of the scalp, back towards the middle, to the edge again and then eventually back to the centre, where you can pick up your main spiral again. With this method, you won't have too many plugs rooted on your scalp already when starting on the thatch, so you don't need to worry too much about messing things up. 

In the thatch lines, the holes are much closer to each other than on the rest of the spiral. You don't want to see any 'skin' showing through the finished thatch! You can use the exact same rerooting method as described above for the spiral. Be careful though when pulling plugs through these holes, if you're too aggressive tears may form (2 or more holes becoming one big longitudinal hole)! You might even decide on creating a separate bunch of slightly thinner plugs for the thatch line. 

Mistakes happen, don't panic if you do something wrong. Be gentle on yourself when it's your first lock-loop reroot, it's quite a challenge to get a neat spiral and your final result might not look at all like those perfect ones you've seen on Flickr or elsewhere. Practice makes perfect, and by the way...nobody will see the inside once the scalp is attached on your girl! What doés matter though, is that the plugs are well secured. I admit that I use a tiny drop of glue every now and then, when I notice one plug is a bit slippery for example. 

What also might happen, is that one plug is accidentally pulled out while combing the hair (I recommend combing the hair thoroughly before putting it back on your doll, íf there are plugs at risk of being pulled through, it's easier to repair them when you can still reach the inside of the scalp!).
When one plug is accidentally pulled out, first thing you want to prevent from happening is that the previous plug will also pull through (which happens easily, because it's no longer secured), and the next, and the's a bit like a crocheted chain actually! This is also why you want to make sure (véry sure!) that all plugs are in place and secure when you reattach the scalp to your Blythe's head.

Now you ended up with a gap in your rooted row of plugs. Like I already said earlier: don't panic and stay calm (I remember my own first reroots, and the frustration and 'almost-throwing-the-scalp-through-the-room' that came with them ;)). Grab the loop of the previous plug, pull your crochet needle through that loop and through the scalp, and pull a new plug through, just like you can see on pictures 4-6. Now there are 2 things you can do:

  • Glue the loose loop very tightly to the scalp. This is not a very secure method, as you can imagine. You can try to make a knot in that loop (but make sure that the previous loop is still firmly around it, some extra glue might help here!) to make it safer. 
  • Try to repair the original rerooted row. This method is a bit trickier...but it's definitely doable if you have some patience and fine motor skills (which you will probably have anyway, people without these traits won't start a reroot :P). After you've pulled through a new plug (picture 6), hold only one end of the folded plug on the outside of the scalp and pull the other half completely through. Glide your crochet needle under the first loop after the gap (actually, under the two 'legs' of this loop, between the first two holes). Hook the plug hanging inside the scalp behind your crochet needle, and pull it through under these two 'legs'. Now, pinch your crochet needle through the hole again (the hole from the plug you're repairing), only this time from the outside to the inside. Hook the loose plug behind your crochet needle again, and pull it through the hole to the outer side of the scalp. Now, you've repaired the row :) I hope my explanation makes sense!

Above you can see the finished reroot! The most outer row exists of many holes with less space in between them, just like the thatch. The same principles count here: be careful not to create tears, and maybe use slightly thinner plugs. Because I used Huacaya alpaca for this reroot, it's a bit fuzzy here and there...but it's secure and full. Oh, before I forget...what to do when you've rooted your last hole?! Well, you just make a knot in your last plug (like I suggested when repairing a gap), make sure the previous loop is tightly around it and add a drop of glue for extra security. 

After you've made sure all plugs are secure and in place, maybe added a couple more drops of glue at some points (or even a complete layer of glue, if you want to go for 100% security!), you're ready to glue the scalp back on your girl. This can be a daunting task, you might have seen these pics of girls with a bunch of elastics around their head (these pictures look more like they belong in a horror movie, if you ask!). That's one way to go, but through the years I found out that I like to work with very quick drying superglue. I work my way around the scalp in about 4 or 5 steps: every time I put some glue on a couple of cm's on the scalp's edge, put it on the place I want (on the upper edge of the faceplates and over the dome), hold it there for some seconds and voila! It sticks like nothing else! Then I go on to the next couple of cm's, until I've worked all my way through. Be careful though, sometimes the scalp is just a little bit larger in diameter than your Blythe's head, and you might want to divide the extra space evenly over the back side of your Blythe's head (under the hair), instead of ending up with a big 'lump' in the last cm.

The last thing that we haven't done yet, is create a neat thatch. To do this, put al the hairs away in a tight ponytail, except for the middle two of the (four) thatch lines. Now, grab your crochet needle one more time, to create a pretty little zig-zag system. Start at the edge of the scalp: pick up the first plug on the left row, and pull it to the right. Now pick up the first plug on the right row, and pull it to the left. Pick up the second plug of the left row, and pull it to the right, etc. Repeating this alternating pattern until the end of the thatch will result in a miniature zigzag that won't show any scalp between the middle two thatch lines.

I hope this tutorial provided you with the information you were looking for! Don't hesitate to comment or ask me questions, I'm here to share what I know. I can always edit the tutorial if you think some information is missing or wrong. 

Like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to give some information about the several hair possibilities (like mohair, saran, alpaca, etc.), but I ended up writing down so much stuff that I decided it'd be better to spend a whole blogpost on that topic. So stay tuned if that's something else you're interested in ;)

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