What I’ve Made Wednesday

So, it’s been a while. I’ve been afb (away from blog. That’s a thing, right?). And one of the things I’ve been doing is, of course, making things. At the moment, the main focus is on making decorations for the ceremony and reception at mine and my Best Beloved’s wedding, so I’ve been working on some macrame garlands, and also lots of fabric garlands (made of upcycled fabric I’ve found in op shops, or leftovers from different projects).

I’m also knitting the bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids, and boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen, plus the most foofy and ridonkulous floral crown I possibly can for my flower girl- all of which has resulted in a pile of flowers and leaves which I hope will get much bigger.

And then there are the chandeliers. I found this tutorial on making a (non-lit) chandelier out of some hanging baskets and thought, why not?

You know, as you do.

It finally gives me an excuse to get a hot glue gun, and also- pretty! I was wondering what to do for crystals and then I remembered- our house had two big chandeliers stored in the basement. They’re not quite my style, but they’re covered in dangly crystals.  I already have a box full of them- and those are just the ones that fell off them when the Best Beloved was moving them.

Now I just have to buy myself my birthday gift- a hot glue gun. I know, a craft-loving gal who doesn’t own one? Insanity! It’s taken a while but I finally got fed up with reading about great projects that I wanted to try and sighing because I don’t have one. With the right hot glue gun, I can conquer the world! No really. Don’t mess with someone who’s operating a hot glue gun.

And when I’m Queen I can finally bedazzle All The Things. The future’s bright. The future’s COVERED IN RHINESTONES.

Ahem.

You might be wondering what on earth I’m going to do with all the decor when the wedding is over, and the answer is simple: it’s going up around the house. Because I’ve always wanted to live in a house that’s decorated like an old-fashioned barge, or a gypsy caravan. And now I can. This is what happens when I’m allowed to decorate things.

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, part 1: Steampunks, straight punks, retro queens

Ah, the internet. It’s a magical land of hope and wonder. Full of sweets and joy and joyness…no, wait, that’s candy mountain. Sorry, came over all Charlie the Unicorn for a minute there.

Anyway. If, like me, you like to make things for yourself but you don’t see anything in the average craft magazine or in most of the books at the library that suit you (or you see them and immediately want to deconstruct them or mess with them in some way), then trust me, there will be someone on the internet who makes things you’ll actually love as-is.

I wish I could say confidently “this will be the first instalment in a three part series!” but the truth is if I do that it’ll end up going all Douglas Adams with the trilogy of five. I don’t know how many of these there will be, but I do want to cover as many different groups and interests as I can- let me know in the comments what cultures you’re into, or what hobbies/pastimes you have, and I’ll go searching for some craft to match!

The aim of this series of posts, which will go up on Wednesdays, is to highlight some of the crafting awesomeness available to you. Starting with…

Punk

Obviously. For a start, how about knitting yourself some striped corset arm warmers, as designed by the Running Yarn?

I may have linked to this before but I don’t care. Customise a t-shirt into a punk rock masterpiece, no sewing required, by following Veronica Varlow’s instructions. Hells yes.

Have you ever heard of or seen the traditional embroideries featuring Sunbonnet Sue? Did they make you feel just a little queasy? Olde-worlde, but not in a fun way. Urban Threads have the antidote- meet Sinbonnet Sue! She comes in many flavours, but I like the original one the best.

By the way, I googled Sunbonnet Sue for an example. The link above is what I got. My first response was “holy hell, I don’t think the website has changed since it was launched”. But then I looked closer and I found this series of quilts featuring Sunbonnet Sue all about domestic violence. Now THAT is awesome. Also, can we talk about the fact that someone came up with Bad Bonnet Sue? Better believe I’ll be looking into Sunbonnet, Sinbonnet and Bad Bonnet Sues.

I’m digressing.

Steampunk

I love me some steampunk. It’s a little OTT, a lot fabulous, with a sharp edge (OK I may have been watching too much Project Runway.) It’s also hella expensive, a lot of the time. Making things yourself is a much better option, and to do it, look no further than Victorian clothing. With a little thought in how you go about it, you can easily mod these to be steampunk.

Truly Victorian is a fantastic option for steampunk sewing. I know because I’ve made several steampunk outfits using patterns from their site. Their revised bustle petticoat (designed so you can sit and stand without problems) is a fantastic base for so many looks- I’ve made it with a shorter front panel for a more female-airship-captain type of look. I’ve also got one made as-is. It involves a LOT of frill (I bought frill trim for it and it made life a lot easier, although expensive). They also sell a pre-made set of wires for the bustle on the site. This 1870 skirt pattern is a great one I’ve used over and over again. Be warned, though, Victorian/Steampunk clothes use a LOT of fabric. There are 5 metres in the skirts, and that’s the simpler skirts. One solution I’ve found that works really well is to buy saris on the cheap (check your local charity shops), or bedlinen. It’s worth it for the flounce!

You could also embellish them (or your everyday clothes) with even more steampunk flair with Urban Threads’ collection of steampunk embroidery patterns. Yes, I love Urban Threads. #sorrynotsorry. I’m a lot enamoured of the Apothescary collection, but that’s just me.

For knitters, I have a bit of a thing for The Jane Victoria’s glorious knitting patterns. Like the sewing, they take a lot of materials. You can use a sweater’s worth of yarn just in one of their hoods. But it’s worth it. Continuing the female-airship-captain thing, how about this Aviator tam? And then there’s this hooded mozzetta (no, I don’t know what a mozzetta is), can you even?

Retro queen

There are so many retro patterns out there. SO MANY. And especially with knitting patterns, a lot of them are free. Be warned, many will only come in one size, but if you’re willing to do the maths and resize them, the rewards are great. For example, I found out that this Bridge Jumper exists and now I need to make it to play Surrealist Poker in (AND crapscrabble). Or for something a bit more quick and dirty (because sometimes that’s just what you want), how about this turban? Or indeed this one?

Butterick, Simplicity and Vogue all have retro pattern lines, but edited to fit modern body shapes- one issue with some vintage patterns is that womens bodies have changed, along with our undergarments, and it can be hard to fit some vintage patterns on a modern woman. But you can also find some gorgeous retro patterns from smaller indie designers, and I love supporting small craft businesses doing their thing and doing it well. Wearing History patterns have some lovely designs- I lust after the Dahlia blouse and the Sunkissed Sweetheart set. Mrs Depew Vintage is also worth a look.

Don’t forget to let me know in the comments what subcultures you’d like to see crafting for!

What a cross made of boxes taught me about authenticity

When I was home for the Easter holidays from university, I helped out a couple of years with the Holy Week Club at my then-church. It was mostly the kids from the Sunday School, and some of their friends, coming for a couple of hours each morning to do some activities, give their parents a break. Oh and learn about Easter.

One of the crafts we did each year was a cross made out of cardboard boxes, painted with different images from the Easter story (by the children), and then displayed in the church for the services.

One year, a particular woman, the Verger of the church, was helping.

The children duly painted the cross. While it was drying, she said she didn’t think it looked very good. Some of the images were messy, she said. People might not know what they were.

The kids who painted them will know, I told her. And it looks like children made it. Because children made it.

When I arrived at church the next day, the cross looked very different to how it had when I had left the day before.

The Verger announced to me that she just couldn’t stand that the artworks weren’t how they were ‘supposed’ to look, and had ‘neatened them up’.

It was monstrous of her. The work was no longer the children’s’. It had lost the most important qualities that any art or craft can have- authenticity (by which I mean it’s an expression of the person who made it), and love.

I talk a lot about not worrying about perfection on this blog. Because it’s important. When a child makes or paints something, they do it with joy, and they don’t worry about getting it absolutely perfect (at least not until they’re older). No matter how it looks, that makes it worth displaying.

Some of you reading this, I know, are frantically finishing your Christmas crafts. Just remember, if you’ve put love- for the person you’re giving it to, for the act of making something- into what you’re making, it’ll be beautiful.

Links of joy: Awesome Christmas gift guide part 3: Sewing

Sewing gifts. Not only is it a great excuse to buy fabric way to use up stash, it’s reasonably fast, and you can make things that fit your giftee exactly.

For example, how about a set of pretty knickers? Or maybe more than one (they don’t use a lot of fabric). Or if your recipient’s tastes are a little less frou frou, how about following this underwear tutorial?

Bags are always a fun and fairly unisex option. The Perfect Pattern Parcel (which you guys know I love) is all bags right now. But I must confess to being rather in love with this Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy messenger bag. I mean hey, I’ve seen ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Aliens that look like Kirk from ‘Gilmore Girls’ could turn up and beam me onto their spaceship at any moment- I want to make sure I know where my towel is.

You could also go smaller and make some reusable ziploc-type bagsO for someone who likes to bring their lunch from home.

For kids, how about a snuggly cape with an adorable hood? Actually I also totally want to size that pattern up and make an adult one. You know, for science.

Or if you happen to know a kid (or lets face it, an adult) who loves them some Disney princesses, why not make yourself the Hero of Christmas by making them a super floofy tulle skirt?

Finally, for the hipster/big reader/gadget junkie/Apple fangirl in your life, there’s this tutorial on making perfectly-sized digital cosies.

You could even use Disney Princess fabric for that too. Just saying.

You’re welcome.

Craft is a feminist issue

embroidered uterus

Set of Anatomical Uterus napkins by Hey Paul Studios (at Etsy)

 

This week. Oh, this week.

We’ve had the continued harassment of women in gaming. The news that the so-called ‘Roast Busters’ are being let off with absolutely no charges laid. A “pick-up artist” who grabs women in choke holds and forces their faces up against his crotch being allowed to come and speak in Australia (too close for comfort- but then even on the other side of the world someone that disgusting would be too close for comfort).

It’s all made me angry. But the straw that broke the feminist camel’s back? A comment on a photo on Facebook. A friend of mine had put up a picture of his wife (who is expecting their baby) baking. And a misogynist acquaintance congratulated him on “doing it right”.

That got me. The idea that of all the things a woman can be, wife and mother are the only ones with real value, is one of many elements of patriarchy that I find distasteful. The pregnant wife in question is an intelligent woman in a demanding job. She’s got a lot of other accomplishments, and yet the only ones that seem to matter to Mr Sogynist and others like him are the ring on her finger and the baby in her belly.

I struggle a lot with these ideas, because as a crafter I worry I’m perpetuating a stereotype.  Crafts- at least sewing, knitting, crochet, cross-stitch and paper craft, are seen as ‘women’s stuff’ by a lot of people. I learned to do these things from the women in my family. I’ve met the odd guy who sews or knits etc, but they’re few and far between.

I love my textile crafts and scrapbooking. But I worry that I’m contributing to a tradition that both ring fences women and excludes men.

I can see how this same issue would put a lot of people- women AND men- off trying the kinds of crafts that I do. I wish it wouldn’t.

Because in the end, the only way we’re going to break these stereotypes down is by not letting them stop us doing what we love in a way that makes sense to us. Embroidered lady parts.  Knitted merkins. Making whatever the hell we want, because we want to, because it makes us happy and fuck anyone who doesn’t accept it. Molly Crabapple said in an article I saw today “I didn’t have a big break, I’ve just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn’t there any more”- doing our crafts, our way, regardless of gender- I think that’s how we start chipping away at the preconceived ideas about women and craft, and eventually, I hope, we’ll find that those ideas are so out-of-date as to seem ridiculous to everyone.

I think that’s the kind of crafting I can get down with.

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.

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: Craft and baking and sharks, oh my!

Happy Wednesday everyone. It’s been a good week for parcels this week- my copy of the latest Faerie Magazine, my Goddess Tarot deck (finally), what can I say? I like mail. 

Of course I’m still unpacking, slowly, but once I do I totally want to get my craft on properly- I’d love to try screen printing with an embroidery hoop. And make a few of these speech bubble hair pins for people. 

Instructions on making a Red Velvet Shark cake? I think I know what I’ll be serving when I watch Sharknado 2… I love that the subtitle for the sequel is simply ‘the second one’ (also Kelly Osbourne is in it? WHUT?)

I love me some unicorns but even I’m not sure about this plant pot

 

 

Links of Joy: Witchbaby edition

The Magic Touch by David Blackwell (available under Creative Commons licence at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilestreetlife/5946319814/in/photolist-a4srHq-A1Q6c-4v2z6X-5Ja7rc-5KPeEc-9momvJ-kgEBNR-m8k7FP-f9sRmZ-9GroU2-drkeaz-4KZiVR-a7XvQ-8BnfeW-byfVsq-fp9VRx-6Jw3Pm-pnLtD-4C4T8f-fcnqee-6qKPtC-7iP9BW-fYGQ7h-5VuYC7-6gL5wV-e76NmE-51yLAe-a2hwox-6LVo3u-5EecKe-ar4qrC-aixxLe-7fpQSs-4pcs2B-eaqgL9-nhaRLE-5HLjAc-6darwk-bfSPEX-caJLSJ-eKkEpX-bTEYTK-kcSfsz-dEwiP7-bHTo3c-kZr69P-7CFr5m-7sw5Qi-5z4sxh-bCE8sX)

The Magic Touch by David Blackwell (available under Creative Commons licence at Flickr- http://bit.ly/1jU1gBP)

‘Witchbabies’ is the name that folks in the Parlour use to greet the group, and I love it, because Francesca Lia Block– I only came to the Weetzie Bat books 3 or so years ago, along with the rest of her writing, but there’s just something about the dreamlike quality of the way she writes that resonates with me. I especially enjoyed ‘Necklace of Kisses’ (a sequel to the Dangerous Angels series, set a few years later), though I haven’t yet managed to read ‘Pink Smog’ (a prequel). Did you know there’s now a Dangerous Angels t-shirt? Definitely on my list once I’ve bought furniture for my new room.

Speaking of t-shirts, this one of Artax made me want to go curl up in a ball and weep. I remember the first time I saw the scene in the despair swamp in ‘Neverending Story’ and how upset I was. But having experienced depression, it actually rings pretty true now.

With the Parlour (yes, I know, a bit of a theme for the week), I’ve been looking at tarot decks on Etsy- always dangerous. I love the TaRat deck from Bluedogrose, though I can’t put my finger on why, I just like it. I also like her Blue Dog Rose tarot using pets and domestic animals- the Hierophant is a goldfish! And death, appropriately enough, is a cat (anyone who has lived with cats will tell you this is accurate).

I’d forgotten about the fun and shenanigans of the AntiCraft until my bonus Friday Five from last week, but how can you not love an online craft magazine that had plushie gamer dice patterns and an entire issue devoted to bacon? (I made Baconhenge once. It was delicious.

Obviously with a new room come new decor ideas. I plan to get more seriously into those once I have the furniture, but obviously knitting inspiration is not to be controlled and I have a bit of a thing for throws. This magickal throw from Erssie Major is a lot of fun, but I don’t think I’d make it for me. I do know someone I could make it for though…because what I need, clearly, is another project. Yep.

Have you found anything fun on your internet wanderings? Link to it in the comments!