Glory days part 2: 5 things from the past that should stay there

So two weeks ago (oops, Webstock), I talked about the idea that some people in the retro/ vintage community express of wishing they were back in the past. Nostalgia is big news. We’ve all done it- looked back to a different time and thought it was better than now, for whatever reason. With all the problems that still exist today, it’s an easy escapist move to imagine that once upon a time, things were better. But I think that while there are things about the past that were positive, being thankful for the time that we’re in now is also important. Here, then, are 5 things that really belong in the past.

Gender stereotypes

They didn’t just happen in the 40s and 50s, though the stereotype of the 50s housewife is still there. Feminism has brought us some of the way, but we’ve a long way to go if we really want to put this in the past. The expectation that women should be the ones staying at home with the kids, that the man must be the main wage-earner for the family, pink for girls and blue for boys…those ideas are still here, people. And they’re archaic. They belong in the past. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it until we really have dismantled patriarchal society and built on a foundation of equality: the patriarchy hurts men, too. It says they can’t- and shouldn’t- be the main caregivers for their children. It says there are rules about division of labour in heterosexual relationships and says that it’s weak to be in a relationship with someone of the same gender. Of course it hurts women, ignoring the contribution we make or valuing it less than the equivalent contribution from a man, less even than a lower contribution from a man.

It needs to be a thing of the past.

Medicine

A lot of us today wouldn’t be alive if this was the 50s, or the 40s. Even the 90s. Medical research has brought us a long way forward, and it keeps improving our chances of surviving things that would have killed us in the past, like measles (anti-vaxxers, I’m looking at you).

No social security

I don’t care what the right wing would have you believe about the poor- I’m here to tell you that putting money into giving people a living wage, or giving them benefits so they can live, is a good thing. Most people want to be working, and helping their families. Most people want to contribute to society. Scaling back benefits prevents them from doing so. It prevents them from giving their children all they need- and in the case of many of the right wing, it then blames them for not being able to properly care for their children. It’s not on. But for all the flaws in social services and welfare today, it’s better than the past, when if you were out of a job, you had no income and that was it. You couldn’t get help from the government.

No internet

If you wanted to find something out, it was a lot harder in the past. If you wanted to keep in touch with someone on the other side of the world, it took a lot longer, was way more expensive, and you certainly couldn’t just video chat with them whenever you felt like it. The internet is a wonderful thing. Would you *really* want to go back to a time when it didn’t exist?

Culture

No, I’m not saying music or art or anything else belongs in the past, but my Goddess, think how many amazing bands have been around since the 40s. Go back to the 50s and there’s no Beatles, no Metallica, no Runaways (I may be listening to Cherry Bomb right now), no Rolling Stones. I’d say there were no boy bands but I’d be lying- but there wouldn’t be the ones *you* listened to and pinned up on your walls.

Think about artists- no Andy Warhol, no Molly Crabapple, no proliferation of wonderful graphic artists on DeviantArt and places like it.

Books? You want me to list all the amazing authors who hadn’t published anything in the 50s? There are way too many to mention. But Diana Wynne Jones. Neil Gaiman. Jim Butcher. Emily St-John Mandel. SARK.

And don’t even get me started on movies.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this is, yes, there are things to love in the past. But we have it pretty great, and if we work at it, it’ll keep getting better. Lets not focus our energy on wishing ourselves back in time, lets make now an amazing time to live in.

Craft projects for freaks and geeks: planeteers! Recycle with crafts

Lets face it, every little helps. I’m not saying crafting can save the world, but reusing and recycling things is definitely a good thing, and there are lots of ways to do that with a few craft skills.

Lets start with t-shirts. Most of us have a bunch of them we don’t wear. There are t-shirt quilts of course, but what do you do with the leftovers?

How about a t-shirt shag rug? You can make one with a t-shirt as the base, or go fancy and get some of the mesh used in latch hook rugs as the backing. Either way, fluffy and squishy for your feet!

I’m pretty sure I’ve  said this before, but it’s super-easy to turn a t-shirt into a tote bag, too- great for the shirts that are just too big (or small).

Plastic bags are everywhere- if, like me, you have a bunch of them that aren’t going anywhere, turn them into something awesome.

You could make a basket, or go a step further, and crochet a bunch of reduction rows and you’d end up with a cushion! You can also add a soda can into the mix and make a cute little basket/storage tub (please, please, wear gloves and goggles if you do this- metal is sharp, guys!).

This plastic bag bag doesn’t need any knitting or sewing at all!

Then there are the food packets we throw away all the time. Juice boxes are just prime for turning into awesome bags (or wallets- just have a look, there are a bunch of things to do with them! Get pineapple juice pouches and you’d be very in. Apparently everything at the moment is about pineapples. I’m as confused as you are.

And, finally, for those like me who have a huge weakness for crisps (chips to you if you’re not British), how about an apron made of crisp packets? (I don’t think it even really needs the backing fabric, if you overlap the packets and sew both horizontal and vertical lines). I like the multicoloured look, but you could show your passionate love of one flavour, like salt and vinegar, or prawn cocktail.

Shut up, they’re delicious.

Monsterful Monday: #choosemust, bicycle bears and a birthday

Webstock

Er. Ma. Gerd. Webstock 2015 was everything I hoped and much more. They put up the talks from each year for free online after the convention, and when they do that for 2015 you can be sure I’ll link y’all to Elle Luna‘s inspiring and beautiful talk on ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’. The talk was born from an article she wrote on the subject, which she has since turned into a book (which I have pre-ordered, something I almost never do, because I’m so excited to read it).

I got to meet her at the after party (after 2 days of keeping an eye out for her and failing) and she was super-lovely and I went all dorky but she didn’t seem to mind.

Other highlights included Matt Patterson talking about customer service, Des Traynor- “using software is the new smoking a cigarette, the minute we go anywhere we’re taking a drag” (so true), Harper Reed and his amazing suit, Shelley Bernstein- who made me really want to go see the Brooklyn Museum if and when I go to New York (and hopefully don’t get ill with a temperature this time), Janet Crawford on gender inequality, Frank Chimero (building a site against the intentions of the internet leads to a Bicycle Bear website- “yeah, OK, the bear can ride a bicycle, and that’s kind of cool, but also cruel- just let the bear do bear stuff, man!”) There were some very interesting points raised about technology making decisions for us, about our relationship to the internet, about privacy, about the power and danger of the web. Every talk was fascinating and I’ll be saving up to make sure I can go next year.

My rockstar moment of the weekend was being retweeted by Cory Doctorow. Who also told a friend of mine he liked his cape.

Someone told one of my colleagues that they wanted to lick my Molly Crabapple tattoo, which was a lot weird. Someone else told me that the same tattoo reminded them of Delirium of the Endless, which was not weird at all and very cool. That same person also said I was “looking very punk rock- a lot more punk rock than when you left Wellington”.

Outside of the talks, the food was delicious, the icecream dangerously yum, the drinks free-flowing, and seeing/meeting other web folks was great. And I’m so grateful that this event that I’ve been looking forward to for ages was as good as I hoped it would be.

The Pride Parade

The Best Beloved and I hit Ponsonby Road on Saturday night to enjoy the Auckland Pride Parade, which was colourful and fabulous and I swear there was a guy dressed up as a heavily-bedazzled Hydra soldier. Seriously, there was a silver octopus on his hat. There were drag queens on swings, actual flames, some glitter (there could have been more glitter) fantastic costumes, and we got to wave enthusiastically at friends in the parade. Also I got to wear my flamingo dress (which is finished- photos and a blog post coming soon) and it wasn’t out of place.

Birthday fun

It was the Best Beloved’s birthday at the weekend, and I’m grateful for any excuse to spoil him. We spent part of it at a LARP, where I was cast as the Big Bad- it’s my first time playing the iconic villain of a campaign game, I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses (though we all know how it’ll most likely end- dramatic death scene ftw!). The rest was spent doing very little except snuggling, reading, and eating tasty food. All good ways to spend a day, and all things to be thankful for.

The little things:

Starting to go through the links and book suggestions from Webstock, flights going smoothly, my year planner, useful convention swag, hot chips, butter chicken, butter naan, mental white space, photobooth photos, knitting, being with a man who says “go for it” when I want to drink the sauce from my starter at a restaurant, working out how to style outfits, bright ideas, supportive friends, not having to get up quite so early in the morning (at least sometimes).

How about you? What are you grateful for this week? Let me know in the comments.

 

Craft projects for freaks and geeks, part 4: Zap! Pow! Comic book fans

Lets face it, there’s something about comic books. Or graphic novels (not always the same thing). We all love a good hero. Some of us love a bad hero. Some of us just like watching Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston shirtless. What? Just saying. Hell, Kim Boekbinder even wrote a song about it as part of the Infinite Minute. Whether you have walls of pristine first editions still in the plastic sleeves, or just happen to love a good Marvel movie, there are plenty of crafts out there to celebrate your love of all things graphic and speech-bubbly.

Let’s start with something simple. If you have comic books you’re willing to chop up, and some Mod Podge, you can make everything from comic book coasters to comic book shoes. The wonders of decoupage! (Oh, and you can also make your own Mod Podge.)

How about a cross stitch all about the awesomeness of superheroines? Wee Little Stitches has you covered. Or if that seems like too much work (or like it’ll take too long because you want to make a gift for the comic book nerd in your life), how about a mini Batman cross stitch?

Another little simple idea- Avengers friendship bracelets. Make them yourself or buy some at the other end of the link.

If you’re a crocheter, you could make yourself a spiderman afghan, for super-spidey-sense-snuggling.

You could also make your very own Baby Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy, totally relevant here) thanks to Twinkie Chan. Or you could go to Mashable and make an actual dancing Baby Groot.

I’m not gonna lie, this DIY jet pack made with plastic drink bottles and felt is for kids, but I would totally make myself one and pretend to be the Rocketeer. Or you could add some wings and suddenly you’re in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

I’d totally make myself one of these Batmobiles too, but it’d be way too small for me. But such a clever idea for giving an old toy car a new lease of life!

So tell me, which of these tickles your fancy? Have you found a great comic book-inspired project you want to share, or made one? Let me know in the comments!

Monsterful Monday: Violins and tiki dresses

I got the Best Beloved tickets to Lindsey Stirling for his birthday, and this Saturday along we duly went. It was the first time she’s done a show in New Zealand, and my goodness she did not disappoint.

I’m grateful, obviously, for having been there for a romper-stomper of a show, but in particular for what she had to say towards the end of the gig. She talked about how she’d suffered from depression which came from hiding who she was and the things that made her unique- it really resonated with me, as did her telling us that “the reasons I’m successful are the reasons I was told I would never succeed”- very reassuring words to hear for those of us trying to do something new, and follow our passions and dreams. In case you’ve never heard any of her music (mostly wonderful violin instrumentals), here’s her song about not hiding any more and being herself.

15 in 2015

I am about 10 minutes of handsewing away from completing the Flamingo Dress. Finally! I decided to get all fancy with the straps and make them cross over, and I’m pleased with how it’s turned out. It feels great to be chipping away at this big challenge, and I’m feeling pretty confident about getting it all done.

Rockapalooza

Because one concert wasn’t enough for us, the Best Beloved and I also went to the free rock music in the park gig on Saturday. It was pretty damn great sitting in the shade watching Black River Drive, The Feelers and Devilskin. Not so sure about the guy in the mankini… O_O I think my favourite act of the afternoon was the Feelers- Pressure Man always reminds me of ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ and tapdancing Kirsten Dunst, and they also did a terrific cover of ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads.

Webstock

It’s this week and I can’t wait! I’m excited about the talks, taking copious notes, meeting awesome people, and of course the free ice cream. Not to mention the Webstock schwag. Who doesn’t love free schwag and listening to Cory Doctorow?

The little things

Ideas, free awesome training videos from Marie Forleo (hell yes I’m going for a scholarship), snuggling, good reading, handsewing with silk thread, flamingos, late night post-concert hilarity with friends, Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, naps, Kim Boekbinder.

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

Glory days part 1: 5 awesome things about the 40s and 50s

I’m definitely a retro lover, as you’ve probably already realised. History interests and excites me, and I have made love for a lot of things about the past.

A lot of things. But not all the things.

Recently I got myself a couple of issues of a vintage and retro magazine called Glory Days. It’s a very good read. But I have a problem with the title, and with the attitude that’s so frequently expressed of “[historical era of choice] is amazing, I wish I was back there!”

Do you? Do you really?

Yes, there are wonderful things about past times. But there are also plenty of things that make me *very* glad I live now, not then. Today, I wanted to look at the good things. Next time, we’ll look at the bad.

The Good:

1) Make do and mend. 

Clothes have gotten much cheaper over the years, but only financially. The cost to underpaid workers in other countries, to child labourers, to people living in de facto slavery, is very high. They pay with their lives.

When clothes were more expensive, and fabric harder to come by, people took better care of their clothes. You didn’t just throw things out if they got a hole. You mended them. You made them last.

I’m not a fan of disposable fashion, because it encourages corporations who believe that people are disposable. Less clothes, better cared for and made ethically- it’s pretty straightforward. It doesn’t just benefit the people making them. It benefits us. More space in the wardrobe. More money in the bank because we’re not spending it all on things we don’t need, that won’t last. But it requires us ALL to learn how to make do and mend.

It also gives you a reason to save up a bit more money, and buy investment pieces- clothes you know you’ll be wearing for a long time to come.

2) Actual, useful skills taught in school.

Cooking. Sewing. Mental arithmetic (not going through your maths class with a calculator permanently attached to your hand). Even PE (Phys Ed, for US readers) is on its way out. Now admittedly, cooking and sewing were girls’ subjects (and we’ll come on to that issue in part 2), but teaching young people how to cook proper meals, how to mend (see above) their clothes, and make their OWN clothes, how to do the maths they will use all the time as an adult (because we all have to manage money)- these are things that would stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

3) No credit cards.

Yes, I know, I know. Credit cards have their place. If you are in a position to pay them off in full every month, and stay within the limits of what you can pay for, they’re great. But for my grandparents, if you couldn’t afford something, you didn’t buy it until you could. Or you just didn’t buy it at all. Now, you buy it on your credit card and the bank (or the credit card company) gets rich. This idea that we have a right to have things immediately, that we shouldn’t wait, is dangerous. There are many, many people drowning in credit card and other debt, because of it. What’s wrong with waiting and saving up? The payoff after the anticipation, of finally having the thing you were after, is pretty great.

4) The fashion.

I mean come ON. Clothes designed for women with curves. Underwear designed to make the clothes look amazing. Elegance. Fun. HATS.

5) Readily available yarn and fabric.

It used to be a lot easier to get materials to craft. Wool shops were all over the place. Most big department stores had a fabric department. A big one. As a kid, I remember going into John Lewis with my Mum, and walking through the ground floor, which was almost entirely fabric shop. Nowadays there are only a few chains (only one chain store in New Zealand sells fabric) that sell craft supplies and a few other shops in cities, or in larger towns if you’re lucky, and if you know where to look.

And what crafter wouldn’t want to be able to get their craft on more easily?

Join me next time for a breakdown of some of the stuff that should stay buried.

Craft projects for freaks and geeks: Tabletop!

Let me tell you a little secret about tabletop- it’s great for crafting. Whether it’s a board game or a roleplaying game, you’d be surprised the amount of stitching time it gives you. Let the other players argue about numbers or stats or what they’re going to do next (though you have my permission to call them out for being dicks if they start talking about what you’re going to do next, or think you need their advice just because you happen to have a vagina)- it just means more crafting time. And here, for the tabletop fans out there, are some gaming-related things you could be making while you play!

Someone had to make this Settlers of Catan-themed cross stitch. Hur hur hur. Maybe if you make it for the people who keep making that joke they’ll stop making it. Maybe.

Another good thing to have- and super easy to sew- dice bags! Or you could always knit one, if that’s more your speed. (See how I didn’t make an ‘if that’s your bag’ joke? I’m growing as a person.)

There are a bunch of tutorials on making dice towers out there- if you don’t know, the idea of a dice tower is you drop the dice in the top and it rolls them for you. Here’s an example:

And finally, why not go one step further, and make your own GIANT PLUSHIE DICE? Come on, admit it, it would make game night way more fun. And also more cuddly!

 

Gratituesday: Good golly Miss Molly

My arm is bruised, and itchy, and AWESOME. This is why:

Photos by Alex Heart at Blue Lotus Tattoo.

Photos by Alex Heart at Blue Lotus Tattoo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a great time (yes really) getting the tattoo and my tattooist for this piece, Alex Heart at Blue Lotus Tattoo in Albany, is just fantastic. She committed to the insane linework on the piece because as she said, the detail on it is what makes it special. I agree. It makes me so happy every time I look at it. I’m so grateful both to Alex for taking it on, and to the amazing Molly Crabapple for giving me permission to have one of her artworks tattooed (and being so very cheerful and friendly about it).

Long weekend

This weekend (as anyone out watching the Kiwis at various stages of the Five Levels of Drinking will also know) was Waitangi Day here in NZ. I took a couple of extra days off to give myself a five day weekend, and did…well, whatever I wanted. I got a good amount of work done on my Flamingo Dress for the 15 in 2015 challenge, finished hemming a pair of trousers that have been sitting around unfinished for over a year, watched some good TV (and some bad TV), had brunch with friends, and relaxed. Taking a break is always something to be grateful for, taking one that didn’t get filled up with chores goes double.

Of course, that just means my room is in desperate need of a tidy but…sewing!

One year

I’ve been with the Best Beloved for a year now, and I’m grateful for him every single day. We celebrated by going to see Kingsman: The Secret Service because what could be more romantic than watching Colin Firth kill a whole bunch of people. It’s a very funny movie, I recommend it. It’s also nice to see Mark Strong not having to play the bad guy for once.

The little things:

Lush Ultra Balm and Dream Cream, tea tree oil, Miss Victory Violet, hand stitching with silk thread (I find it satisfying, but then I’m weird), figuring out how a pattern fits together, Gretchen Hirsch, the library (who have so many awesome sewing books), snuggles, staying off Facebook, tea, Burger Fuel (and Burger Fuel vouchers), Caro Emerald.

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

Craft projects for freaks and geeks, part 2: goth-a-palooza

Guys.

GUYS.

You have no idea how much stuff you can make if you’re into anything remotely goth. This post has got you covered whether you’re a full-on, two-hundred-shades-of-black, bats-and-coffins goth, a lover of horror movies, or you just happen to like to be able to give answers like “an amigurumi vampire” when asked the inevitable question “what are you making?”.

Bats!

Lets start with simple and fun: na na na na na na na na BAT SHOES.

And while we’re at it, how about making a drawstring batpack (see what they did there?) to go with the shoes?

If that’s not enough bats for you, then you could always make yourself a bat chandelier. And if THAT’s not enough bats for you, then I’ll be suggesting you eat this garlic over here and stay away from my neck.

Skulls!

Lets start with a couple of awesome knits- this skull lace shawl (it really does look like a swarm of lost souls!), and this set of intarsia arm warmers (I love the snowflake-to-skull design) from the Anti Craft.

If you prefer a hook to needles, you can always crochet some skulls. Either flat ones (which you could sew on things for some memento-mori applique action, or how about a glorious (and rather alarming) 3d skull?

Then there’s the option of recycling a bunch of white buttons on the back of a jacket in a skull design.

If all that looks too much like hard work, here’s another awesome deconstructed no-sew t-shirt tutorial to give you a tee with, you’ve guessed it, a skull design.

Undead goodies

Let’s see now… this I <3 Zombies chart could be turned into a scarf, or a cross stitch, or you could do the thing with perler beads. Never let it be said I don’t give you options!

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could just go ahead and make yourself a coffin to add to your home decor, and pretend you’re in ‘What We Do in the Shadows’. Note: If you do this, I totally want to see photos. Like, immediately.

And I wasn’t actually joking about the amigurumi vampire.

If you make any of these projects, I’d love to see the finished results!

 

 

 

Monsterful Monday: Porcupines, zombies and cabbage

Starting with the adorableness that is a porcupine eating a pumpkin. I got shown this at Girl’s Night at the weekend and it pretty much made me melt from the cuteness. I mean, Teddy Bear the porcupine actually sounds like he’s making ‘om nom nom’ noises. I’m always grateful for things that make me smile, and this definitely did.

The Walking Dead

I’m late to the ‘Walking Dead’ party, but started watching Season 1 recently and so far, I’m really liking it. It’s got some clever twists and storytelling, interesting characters, and I particularly like how the zombies aren’t the only problem for the survivors. The inter-relationships are complex, human, fraught. The characters are rounded, people aren’t always what you’d expect, good days come at a price, and nobody is safe. Just like ‘Attack the Block‘ (which if you haven’t seen, you should), you don’t get the sense that someone being a child is any protection for them. I think that makes it a stronger, more real-seeming show. Yes, the special effects are truly disgusting- I get through watching the horrible bits by trying to work out how they achieved particular effects. And I’m always grateful for a good story to get into while I craft.

Tanuki’s Cave

I caught up with my friend Jenni and her lovely partner Anna, which as well as being lots of fun was a good excuse to finally eat at Tanuki’s Cave. Jenni has talked about the glory that is their food for years and my goodness, I was not disappointed. The raw cabbage and mayonnaise starter is one of those things you wouldn’t think would be delicious, and yet we ate all of it with great enthusiasm. And don’t even get me started on the shrimp and bacon yakitori skewers. Ho. Ly. Bejeesus. It makes me hungry just thinking about them. So I’m grateful for delicious food, but mainly it was so good to hang out with Jenni and Anna and catch up. There are some friends where it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you last talked, you can just pick back up. Jenni is one of those people, and I’m very grateful to have her in my life.

Plotting

There’s a long weekend coming up (even longer as I took some extra leave either side of it- 5 day weekend, y’all) and that means planning my crafts. I’m hoping to get one of my 15 in 2015- the Flamingo Dress- either finished or well on the way to being done. Which would be terrific because then I can actually wear it. The flamingo fabric has been sitting waiting to be turned into a glorious outfit for far too long. Because I can’t get enough kitsch print fabric, not now, not ever. I’m also getting my next tattoo started, can’t wait!

The little things

Snuggles (always), making progress on crafting, Galavant, retro clothes, new red lipstick, Agent Carter, homemade hummus, bbq cassava chips, serendipitous discovery of props, sleep, Etsy, the Best Beloved (also always).

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