And this is why you don’t mess with crafters before Christmas

It’s not, in fact, because we have pointy objects with us pretty much all the time, along with tiny scissors- because really, we’d have to really hulk out in rage to be able to make most knitting needles break through your skin, and the sewing needles, hey, we NEED those.

No, the real reason not to mess with crafters is this: we will make you presents.

And if you’re not careful, those presents will have hidden stuff.

I’m certain I’m not the only person who has accidentally sewn a vagina onto a plushie. That’s the sort of thing that could happen to anyone.

But here’s the thing…

What we do by accident…we can do on purpose.

I’m actually working on a quilt where most of the fabrics were chosen because they were so very yonic (the opposite of phallic- see? This post is educational.). Now I know how to sew an accidental ladygarden onto a plushie, don’t think  I won’t do it deliberately and insist it’s just a heart shape. It’s not a heart shape. 

That beautiful knitted horse hat? Not designed for what you think. WE know that. We’ll also make sure we get photos of you wearing it.

I guess what I’m saying is, be nice to your crafter. Say thank you. If we’ve made you clothes, wear the clothes (or put the baby in the clothes and take a photo). Use the thing, or display the thing. Tell people about the thing when we’re around.

If the fear of possible yonic teddybears isn’t enough, consider this: Crafting takes time. It takes effort. We could be spending that time on making something for ourselves but instead, we’re making it for you. Even at minimum wage, that represents a lot of value. As Brenda Dayne once pointed out in the Cast On podcast, “that’s a $400 sweater you’re wearing”.

Consider this a Public Service Announcement in the run-up to Christmas. Be kind. If you see us working on something, ask us about it. Say how cool it is, or how it’s coming along nicely. If you can’t think of anything nice to say try “well, that’s something.”

And also: When considering what to buy us for the holiday season, you may think we have enough craft supplies because we’re already surrounded by fabric and yarn and thread and what have you. But you would be wrong.  Craft stores. They exist. They do gift vouchers. We like gift vouchers. They let us buy more craft supplies. Which we totally need. Just saying.

Links of Joy: Awesome Christmas Gift Guide- cross stitch

“Ellen.”

“Yes?”

“ELLEN.”

“What?”

“It’s not even HALLOWEEN yet!”

You’re very observant. But if you’re planning on making things to give people, you really need to get started pretty soon unless you’re MUCH faster than me. Me, I started stitching Christmas gifts last week, because I know what I’m like.

And by ‘I know what I’m like’ what I mean is I’m much lazier about these things than I should be until it’s probably too late to finish everything I planned. Last time I had a big project to finish (making a wedding quilt for two very dear friends of mine), I started 9 months beforehand and I STILL didn’t get it finished until a couple of weeks ahead of the wedding.

Anyway, just to give you some ideas, here are some cross-stitches you could consider making. Cross stitch! It’s not difficult, you can make a bunch of them from one piece of Aida cloth, and you still get to go shopping- for awesome frames.

Also I resisted the temptation to link you to a bunch of beard-themed cross-stitches even though they’ve been calling to me. If you saw the Best Beloved you’d understand.

But I digress.

First, here’s one for that friend you know would be sitting in the jail cell next to you saying “that was awesome! Lets do it again.”

And one for your family (if they’re anything like, well, most families)- I’m considering making this for my Best Beloved’s Dad.

For the friend who is a liability if left alone with a credit card and Book Depository. Which is most of the people I know.

For the pre-teen in your life. Or maybe that’s just me. Who couldn’t do with a reminder to channel someone fierce in their lives?

Or perhaps you’re the sort of person who likes to give Christmassy Christmas gifts (or know someone who loves to receive them)?

How about this rather awesome festive pattern. Or there’s this DEFINITELY Christmas-themed one if you’re making something for, well, any geek man I’ve ever met and most of the girls.

Finally, this isn’t a pattern but I very much like the sentiment. What can I say? I’m a romantic at heart.

You can, of course, get a bunch more ideas on my Cross Stitch Shenanigans Pinterest board, if you’re so inclined.

What are you planning to make for Christmas? Let me know in the comments. And I’d love to see what you make if you use one of the patterns here or on the Pinterest. Show off your mad crafting skills!

Gratitude-sday: Warning, contains sap

A day late because it was Labour Weekend here in NZ, which meant time AFK.

(Speaking of AFK, you should totally consider backing their Kickstarter to make a webseries. First gratitude point- seeing the pilot of the show at Armageddon over the weekend. You can watch the trailer here. It even includes a small cameo by the Best Beloved, who’s an extra in the pilot. SO proud.)

Crafting 

We had a crafternoon on Monday at my place organised by my flatmate, and it was lovely. We were all, I think, exhausted from the weekend so just sitting quietly making stuff was a good change of pace. One Christmas gift is well under way, which is good because I have more to make. Going to need a few frames for gifts this year, but that’s all I’m telling you.

Helpful friends

I was volunteering on a stand at Armageddon promoting LARP at the weekend, including managing the stand on Friday. Due to an omnishambles of circumstances the people who were supposed to be helping with setup didn’t appear, so I was, and am, extremely grateful to the two friends who, at the last minute, volunteered their time both setting up the stand and enticing punters on Friday night. Couldn’t have done it without Team S.L.A.S.H (Super-Lastminute-Armageddon-Standrunning-Heroes)!

The Best Beloved

Yes, I know, he comes up every week. But this week he gets his own section, because once again he proved me wrong when I thought I couldn’t love him more. I warned you this post contained sap, didn’t I? He’s one of the biggest blessings in my life, and one I plan on holding on to.

The little things:

Steampunk Gentleman Rainbow Dash (HOW are there no photos of this most glorious of Cosplays?), Hustle Butter, Treat lip balm, Macarons 101 (yes, I’m going to try and bake them, and yes, it’s probably insane), and crazy shoes.

How about you?

 

Oracle Posts, 1: Art

Oracle card entitled 'art'

Silkscreen by Molly Crabapple. Card by me.

Art. It’s today’s card from the Blogging Oracle deck (see, told you I’d use it), and it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

All art forms are also crafts.

A sketch artist practices putting pencil, pen, charcoal to paper, making the lines in just the right way to create something beautiful (like Molly Crabapple’s gorgeous piece above). A painter does the same with whatever type of paint they use, and learns the different brush strokes. A sculptor has to learn the practical process of making casts, or of carving.

On Saturday, I lay on a massage table while my tattoo artist used a very specific craft, with specialised tools, that is damned hard to learn, to create art on my body that will be there for the rest of my life.

There are techniques, there are skills, mastery of which can take years of practice. You keep chipping away at it, keep trying. Again. And again.

Where art meets practical techniques, you have a craft.

Ah, but what about art for art’s sake? Art and craft are different! Crafts have a practical purpose. Art can simply be there to be beautiful!

Maybe *you* don’t think that. But there are plenty of people who do.

And yet…and yet… some of the most captivating artists- Toulouse Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, Molly Crabapple- create art with a purpose. Political posters. Advertising posters. It’s still utterly beautiful.

And embroidery, when our grandma’s learned how to do it, allowed ordinary women to turn ordinary items- clothing, handkerchiefs, pillowcases- into works of art.

Just because something is practical doesn’t mean it can’t also be beautiful.

And there are plenty of crafters who create things just to make beauty- to make art with their hands.

The most important thing that art and craft share is that they are both about putting beauty into the world. Craft is a way to create lovely things where the techniques (just like any art) are simple to begin, but with levels of high mastery that you can reach by practicing.

When you manage to get a lace pattern to work, or when your cross stitch looks like it’s supposed to or that dress you made yourself fits like a dream- you will feel like a fucking jedi ninja wizard.

But it’s not complicated to get started, and to create beauty. The real art comes when you wade in– and stick at it.

 

 

Links of Joy- Sewmageddon

This week is a sewing inspiration kind of a week. When I’m stressed, even thinking about crafting helps me chill out. The excitement and ideas take over for a bit and release some of the pressure.

Usually, I’m quite careful about exactly what I buy. I’m terrible for leaving things in online shopping carts for-freaking-ever before I buy them.

To anyone who’s seen the number of parcels that generally arrive for me in a given week I can only say…no really. I’m actually restrained.

But then I signed up for the sneak peek of Colette’s new pattern Dahlia, and when I saw it it was an insta-buy. The sleeved version is a perfect dress for looking elegant and covering my big new tattoo at work, it looks straightforward to make, and best of all it’s currently on sale at 15% off.

I got the PDF download but there’s also a lovely paper pattern available. If vintage-y dresses are your thing you should also look at Colette’s sale page, which right now has some of the paper patterns for their other dresses on sale at a substantial discount. How can you say no to gorgeousness like this?

Then I discovered the Make This Look section of Sew Weekly. Ermagerd- it takes dresses from online stores and finds patterns to allow you to make something similar. I’ve been eyeing up the Soda Fountain Dress from Modcloth since I discovered the site (before I had to unsubscribe from their e-mails because they were making me want ALL THE THINGS), so I was especially excited to see that I could make something very like it– but to fit me properly around the bust! In really beautiful fabric (no, probably not that mustard yellow, it would look good on some people but not me). Or if you add a contrasting sash, you have the Hepcat dress. LOVE.

Of course, both the above patterns involve sleeves, so this tutorial from Cowbutt Crunchies Cosplay on how to sew sleeves without wanting to murder people would probably come in handy.

I’ll leave you with a couple of fun things:

For those of you going all Halloween up in here, how about five different ways to make a Morticia skirt, because who doesn’t want to do an Addams Family costume at least once?

Or you could go as Zombie Bridesmaid Pippa Middleton, because why not? Hey, it would scare me.

What projects are you working on at the moment? Have you found any patterns you’re longing to sew? Let me know in the comments!

Make your own Blogging Oracle Deck

DSC_0022

Or any other kind of oracle deck you’d like, really. If you want to create a deck that really speaks to you, that you really connect with, what better way than making your own?

That’s the thought that led me to creating my own deck, and this tutorial. Now, a disclaimer- this tutorial is so you can create a deck for your own personal use. If you were intending to make something to sell, please please PLEASE make sure you have permission to reproduce any images you use that you didn’t create yourself. Don’t be that guy.

You will need:

Index cards- you can get them at most stationery stores)- the kind you’d use to revise for exams are perfect.

Coloured pens, watercolour paints, pencils, glue, glitter, or anything along these art-supply type lines that you fancy. If you’re taking (or have taken) Gala Darling’s Radical Self Love Bible School, or if you love scrapbooking and paper crafts, you likely have a bunch. But don’t let me stop you grabbing some more, in whatever colours and styles you love.

(Hint- you could use this tutorial to make your own Radical Self Love Oracle Deck! Imagine taking some of Gala’s Radical Self Love prompts and turning them into oracle cards to guide and inspire you…Hmm… I feel another project coming on. )

Words! For my blogging oracle deck, I wrote down a long list of words that are inspiring to me, as well as topics I like to write about, and a few blogcademy-specific words (since it was my scholarship application). I ended up with a list of 50 words, which probably sounds like a lot but remember, a normal tarot deck has 78. You’re making a deck of cards here. Coming up with the words was easier than you’d think- once you get a few, you should find the ideas start firing and you can’t get them down fast enough. But if not, why not ask friends for inspiration, or look at, say, fun words on Pinterest, to give you some fresh input?

Or, you could just use my list. It’s available on the Freebies page for you to download as a PDF. Don’t say I never give you anything!

Photographs. This is where things get even more fun. Once you’ve got your list of words, it’s time to go through photos and find ones that express each of the words. When I worked on this I mainly used photos of me, or ones I had taken, as these were the ones I felt most connected to. It’s a great excuse to get some of your favourite snapshots off the computer and onto paper, even if you just print them out on paper (as I did). You could also use an image search, or Flickr, there are all kinds of possibilities.

The most important rule here is that you choose images that speak to you, that make your heart bounce.

Assemble your photos and print them out, reasonable small so they’ll fit on the cards.

Once you have your photos, words, and materials, it’s time to play!

Making the cards:

SO super simple.

Take one of your index cards.

Pick a word from your list, and find the picture you have to match it.

Cut out the picture and glue it to the card.

Write the word on the card somewhere, however you like. You could illuminate it, write it in a comic-book speech bubble, or in large friendly letters covered in glitter, however you want!

Now you have the picture and the word on the card, and yes, you could just leave it like that…OR you could go to town decorating the card. I gave each of my cards a sparkly frame, coloured around some of the pictures with watercolour pencil, decorated others with drawings- this is where you can let your creativity run riot.

Yes, if you make as many as me this could take a while, but it’s a fun, simple process and a good exercise of your imaginative and artistic muscles.

And when you’re done, you have a beautiful, very personal deck of cards to inspire your blog posts. Pull one- or more- at random and see what comes up, then use the words to guide your next blog post. Or just to guide you if you’re making a different kind of deck.

And don’t forget to let me know how you get on…photos, or it didn’t happen. Just saying.

Monsterful Monday: There’s no place like home

I’m back from a lovely weekend away getting inked and seeing people. It was lovely going through wedding magazines with one of my BFFs, eating very large cooked breakfasts (and having the excuse of “I’m about to get a tattoo”, at least on one day), catching up with folks and enjoying their reactions to my flamingo hair. But it was also lovely coming home to Auckland, being met by the Best Beloved and going off to have fish and chips by the seaside.

Chupa Chups

Turn out to be a magical pain-reducing elixir! No really. I was given one part-way through my tattoo session, which did make me feel rather like I was a well-behaved child at the doctor’s BUT OMG people, when you have something like that to distract you it does make a difference to the pain. I’m starting to understand why people take their iPods along when they get inked. But that seems a bit cut-off-from-things to me, after all you book in with an artist because you like them, and surely it’s a chance for a chat? I was grateful for the lolly, grateful that it was a cola flavoured one (my favourite), and grateful for the effect it had.

Hash browns

Do I even need to explain this one? Hash. Browns. She who is tired of fried shredded potato is tired of LIFE.

Time to myself

In the midst of the catching up with folks and being sociable, I really value getting time alone to recharge my batteries. This weekend I got it by going to watch ‘The Maze Runner’ after my tattoo session- distracting yourself with a movie is a great way to make sure you don’t worry at the wrapping until enough time has passed. Pretty good movie, and I always have time for Thomas Brodie Sangster- I’d like to read the book to see how it compares. Though as a feminist I was frustrated about it being all boys except for the one girl- why couldn’t the author make it a community of boys and girls? Would that have changed it so much?

Crafting inspiration

I am, of course, trying to avoid catching startitis (you don’t get immune to it once you’ve had it, let me tell you), but there’s a craft get-together coming up that I’m excited about, and new projects are always fun. Mainly because you haven’t reached the ‘dear God will this never END’ part of them.

Tomorrow!

Because tomorrow I share the Oracle Deck tutorial with you, and I’m so thrilled to be doing so.

The Little Things

Sinamay hat bases (and ideas about them), sleeping in your own bed, Hustle Butter, delicious smelling and tasting lip balm, being finally able to nap in an upright airline seat, great books (‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St John Mandel and ‘Lets Pretend This Never Happened’ by Jenny Lawson), loose-fitting clothing (because of the tattoo), new juicer (now I can at least attempt to make tasty green juice), dry socks, awesome art, Instagram, new embroidery floss and Aida cloth, getting excited for Christmas.

What about you? What’s floating your boat this week?

Monsterful Monday: Starring Gibby the Gibbon

We had a bake-off at work on Friday, after I suggested the idea. My pink leopard print cake got a bit smooshed but apparently tasted exactly like a Strawberry Rocky Road icecream, and I’m determined to practice and get the spots right next time (which means 4 more eggs and better piping, I suspect). If you want to have a go, you can find instructions for creating a leopard-print-on-the-inside cake at the Sweet Dreams website.

I didn’t win any prizes, but I DID win the weekly hosting of Gibby the Gibbon, the office plushie, along with Lorraine the office manager who actually did most of the work. So Gibby is living on her desk for most of the week but he was on mine for a bit so I could take a photo:

Gibby the Gibbon

Meet Gibby!

Yes, I know, he’s a leetle extra fuzzy. I’m still getting the hang of holding the camera still for Pro HDR photos. Where this is going is that I’m very grateful to be working in a team of people who are so friendly, and having any kind of effort appreciated is a wonderful thing which I absolutely don’t take for granted. I’m especially thankful for Jamjar, who is also a blogger and tells me about things like the blogging meetup I went to on Tuesday, where this happened:

Blogger Meetup

 

We’re typing, we’re typing!

Meetup 2

 

You should totes go check out Jamjar’s blog, too.  The meetup was so helpful, I got some good feedback and came away feeling inspired to rock this out.  Always something to be thankful for!

I’ve got my next tattoo appointment booked this Saturday with Nursey No Mercy and I can’t wait, so thankful to have things to anticipate. Bring on the pain! I’m also rather surprised and grateful about how OK my parents are with the idea. Them not supporting it wouldn’t have changed my plans but I’ve found it difficult in the past to share things with them because of the lack of support. So even though I don’t *need* it, I’m thankful to have it.

I’m still thankful for my pink hair, which according to the Best Beloved’s Mum makes me look like Strawberry Shortcake. I’ll take it!

I’d like to be able to tell you about the Christmas crafts I have lined up. I’d *like* to, but a) I haven’t fully decided on all of them and b) the Best Beloved reads this blog and one of them is for him.

Darn, now he knows I’m making him something. And yes, I know October is quite early to be thinking about Christmas crafts, but by the time they start playing carols in the supermarket, it’s way too late to get started on anything. Unless you’re a LOT faster than me at knitting. OR WHATEVER CRAFT I AM USING TO MAKE THE PRESENTS. Ha! Now I have you guessing, don’t I?

Finally, this Thursday on the blog I’ll be sharing a craft project with you that I’ve been working on for a while, which I think is very special and which I’m so excited to show you. I’ll even be sharing how you can make one, too! It’s magical, it’s very personal, and it’s very punk rock (by which I mean straightforward, no messing about, reach into your heart and bring out awesomeness). I hope you love it as much as I do!

How about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Why being punk rock will save your life, or at least your crafting

It started young. I got 8/10 on a spelling test and had to practice the mistakes. I got 87% on a maths exam (my worst subject), “what did you get wrong?”. There were the parents evenings where all I got to hear were the ways my teachers thought I could improve, the incorrectly answered questions in quizzes and trivial pursuit which I am never, even to this day, allowed to forget. All of it piling up into one thing: perfectionism.

Let me tell you, my lovelies, perfectionism will kill you. Maybe not physically, but there’s another thing that goes hand in hand with it.

Fear.

If you can’t get it absolutely perfect everyone will judge you (says your perfectionism). Better not to try it at all if you can’t get it right (says your fear).

If you listen to those voices, you’ll never try anything, no matter how badly you want to. Wanting to do something plus those voices ends up with statements like “oh, I’m so envious of people who can do that, I could never do it.”

Stop right there. Yes, you can. And this is where a punk rock attitude will save you.

Fuck the fear. Fuck perfect. As my heroine Veronica Varlow would say, just rock that mother out.

You want to knit? Pick up the needles and give it a go. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Yes, you’re almost certainly going to make mistakes. And that’s OK.

Just tell yourself ‘this is totally punk rock’. It’s not a perfect scarf, it’s a punk rock scarf. The stitch count probably changes from row to row, and there are probably more than a few dropped stitches. It’s “distressed”. It’s channelling Vivienne Westwood- seriously, look in any fashion magazine and just see what people will pay for things covered in those artful ‘mistakes’.

But most of all, darlings, stop worrying about it! If you want to do it, do it, and make the mistakes because that’s how you learn. When you learn how not to make those mistakes you can try new things and make all new sets of mistakes.

I know very well that my sewing, my knitting, my paper craft, are far from perfect. But they’re good enough. Getting OK with that is so important, not just because it means you’re more willing to try things that interest you, but also for your mental health.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you you can’t do something, especially when it comes to craft. If you’re willing to give it a go, and you’re willing to practice and make a lot of gloriously mistake-ridden things, you can, and you will, do it.

So do it. Be punk rock- just fucking do it. And just see the amazing possibilities that unfold for you.

Confession time in the comments- what do you really want to try? If you could break through that fear and perfectionism, and just do something, what would it be? Tell me…and you might just find yourself being pointed to things that will help. Go on…don’t be afraid. Share it here!

Mid-week joy: Did someone say Halloween?

It’s that time of year again.

Skeleton rave

 

It used to freak me out as a kid but now I like the excuse to dress up (when I get it). And more importantly, the excuse to craft! Now admittedly, if you look up Halloween crafts on Pinterest, you’re going to get a lot of paper plate spiders and such- actually, those particular paper plate spiders are rather cool, they look suitably freaky and jiggly.

However, there are plenty of other options for spooktacular (yeah I went there, deal with it) awesomeness, none of which are complicated to achieve. For example, you could use Alli Woods Frederick’s gorgeous Halloween printables– print on card, cover in glitter and hang up for some atmospheric bling. Actually I’d gladly have the ‘magic’ banner up all year round.

If you’re someone who crafts with yarn (or wants to), and if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, then this is the perfect time to break out the wool. Perhaps with this lovely Halloween fair isle black cats hat, or a knitted pumpkin? C’mon, you knew this post would have a pumpkin in it *somewhere*.

If you have a party to go to, and want an interesting costume, why not combine the Cheats Regency Costume guide from Wellington Historical Society with a sword- preferably a fake Katana, maybe a bit of fake blood- and voila! You have zombie-hunter Elizabeth Bennett. Yes, I know ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ was a while ago but it’s still a great costume.

Or if you don’t feel like making something yourself, but you don’t mind a bit of blood and pain and also like adorable vampire kitties (and really, isn’t that all of us?), you could always take the last spot for getting a Kawaii Halloween tattoo from Keely Rutherford at the Jolie Rouge Halloween Flash Day. If I was in London I would totally be doing that. Show your love of Halloween year round! Or of vampires. Or cats. Vampire cats!

I’ll leave you with a video which made me feel rather sorry for the poor dog. He’s just trying to be friendly! Watching grown men run away freaked out IS kind of hilarious though…

Are you celebrating Halloween? If so, how? What’s the best costume you ever came up with for a party? Let me know in the comments!