Friday Five- Five tips for crafting while travelling

Inspired by regular trips up to Auckland and back, including one coming up in, oh, a few hours, I thought I’d share this. Reading books on a flight is all very well, and I still make sure I always have a book with me- owning a Kindle is very useful in that regard, it means I never have to suffer that awkward moment of getting delayed, finishing what you’re reading and not having anything else to read. But for the most part, I like to spend time on a plane and waiting to board crafting.

Of course, knitting on a plane isn’t always easy, as the Yarn Harlot can attest. But in New Zealand, at least, people seem to be all good with my on-plane crafting. Last time I flew, in fact, when I got out a mini-skein to wind it the woman sitting next to me got terribly excited about the colours, and we ended up talking about quilting for a good part of the flight. But here are a few things I recommend if you’re worried:

1: Pick your craft-and tools- carefully.

Crochet, cross stitch (with a lower-count Aida, say about 12-14 count and thus a less sharp needle), or embroidery are all good choices for on-plane crafting. If you, like me, have the overwhelming urge to knit, I recommend wooden or other non-metal needles if you can. They are much less likely to cause issues at security (though there are posts out there on how to get metal needles through).

2: Keep it simple

This is not the time for something complicated. You may be only half way through the row of stitches when suddenly it’s time to board, or to put things away because you’re landing. Think you’ll be able to remember where you were? Yeah.

3: Keep it small

It’s also not a good idea to make this the time you work on that giant blanket- UNLESS said blanket is made up of itty bitty squares (or in my case hexipuffs). Consider how much space you need to work on the project comfortably and then compare that with how much space you’ll actually have on the plane, especially if you’re on a full flight and have to keep your elbows tucked in. Small projects are best. They also don’t take up so much room in your bag, leaving more space for clothes or souvenirs or what-have-you.

If you’re in business or first class, of course, then this doesn’t apply. Work on a project any size you like! Though if I was in first class I’d be taking full advantage of those flat beds…

4: Photocopy your pattern if it’s in a book.

Do you really want the extra weight, or to have to deal with flipping around pages when you’re in mid-air? I thought not.

5: Be prepared to talk about your project.

Because people will ask you what you’re making. And tell you that they craft, or that someone in their family used to. At least 9 times out of 10. Mostly, these conversations will be pleasant and interested, especially if you’re working on something colourful (sock yarn, in particular, seems to draw in non-knitters just as much as it does knitters). But also be aware that it may not always be pleasant. A lot of non-crafters just don’t get why you would spend time on something like that. Well, let them think what they want, and don’t worry about what they think. Just be ready for the comments, and ready to ignore them. One of the great things about crafting is getting something tangible out of what might otherwise be time spent just zoning out in front of the TV (which does have benefits from time to time). And you’re not crafting for them, you’re crafting for you.

Happy flying! What are your tips for travel crafting? I’d love to see your project recommendations, or hear your stories about your experiences.

Tues-torial: Creating your own colourwork or cross-stitch charts

Or, why loving computer games can make you a badass crafter.

If, like me, you have a habit of procrastinating by searching seemingly random and unconnected sets of things on Etsy, you’ve probably seen your fair share of patterns for creating images with fabric, whether it’s colourwork motifs or cross stitch designs. They’re everywhere!

And here’s the thing…they’re actually easy to design. Yes, even if you’re just a beginner. You just need a computer, a printer, some coloured pens, and a bit of patience.

The reason loving computer games can lead to badass crafting can be summed up in one word: PIXELS. Those little squares of colour that make up images on computer screens or in video games? They use the same principle that you’re about to to design your own images. If you’re not feeling confident, start with picking a favourite old school video game character (or buy a pre-done pattern so you can see the idea at work) to recreate.

First, we’re going to work out what size squares to use for your graph paper.

If you’re doing a cross-stitch, this is a simple process- you just need to know the count of your Aida cloth (available at most any craft store). The number on the packet (usually between 7 and 22, mostly an even number) is the number of ‘squares’ per linear inch- this is the number of crosses you will stitch per inch through the teeny holes in the Aida cloth. Go to this cross-stitch graph paper generator and pick the right number from the drop down that says ‘grid size’. Pick your paper size, click and save the paper to your computer, then print out a few sheets (to allow for messing about and mistakes).

If you’re knitting it’s a little bit more involved, and I’m about to use two words that make most knitters recoil in horror: gauge swatch. OK, if you’re English those words probably don’t make you recoil in horror, but these two mean the same thing and will do the same thing: tension square. But see, it’s actually a good thing! You get to check your gauge and get ready to chart out your design AT THE SAME TIME. See? It’s like killing two birds with one stone (how exactly are you supposed to do that, anyway? Do you just use a really big stone?…) Anyway- knit up your little square- at least 4 inches by 4 inches, ideally bigger. Measure carefully and get the number of rows and stitches per inch.

Then plug those numbers into this knitting graph paper pattern generator, click create and voila! Your own printable graph paper with squares the same size as your stitches.

Why does that matter? Simple- get the number wrong on cross stitch and your picture will end up much bigger (or smaller) than you intended on the cloth you’re using. Get it wrong with knitting and it can end up a completely different shape to what you intended (ask me how I know *coughcoughweirdshapedmapofnewzealandcoughcough*).

Now you’ve got the paper, it’s time to create the image- this is the easy bit. Take your coloured pens (or pen, depending on how many colours you’re planning on using), and fill in the squares to fit the picture. For example:

 Star chart

Yes, I know the star in Super Mario doesn’t give you an extra life. I hadn’t had quite enough tea when I drew this one (this is why you print multiple sheets of graph paper, people!)

When you’re finished, you’re ready to start stitching! Each square you’ve filled in with pen represents a colourwork stitch if knitting, or a cross in your cross stitch.

I wish you much badassery in your stitching.

And now to leave you with a little link candy, here are a few fun patterns from Etsy you could just download if doing all the above seems like way too much work: Perhaps a starter Pokemon set? Or some Super Mario power-ups. But I have to say my personal favourites are The Ghost Pirate LeChuck and Swordfighting insults from Monkey Island! I mean c’mon, MONKEY ISLAND!

Have you ever designed your own patterns? How did you find it? What are your tips? Let me know in the comments!

Links of Joy- Cures for SAD

 

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Listening: Slice of Heaven playlist at Grooveshark

I’ve been listening to a lot of Kiwi music this week, thanks to the Best Beloved telling me a particular song reminded him of me. Yes, I’m a huge sap. I got turned on to Grooveshark last year by my flatmate Jenni, and I love being able to make up random playlists to suit my mood. This week saw me compiling a bunch of Kiwi songs, leading out from that one song from the Best Beloved- so in the words of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’- share and enjoy!

Reading: Green Wedding Shoes

I admit, I have something of a weakness for wedding blogs. I mean, if you’re going to gawk at beautiful dresses that are way out of your price range, why not? Thinking outside the box they can be very inspiring in terms of home decor and craft projects- every bride and her hamster seems to be adding ‘handmade touches’ to their weddings these days, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. I’ll admit, too, to something of a weakness for hipsterish craft magazines. Green Wedding Shoes scratches both these itches. ‘Bohemian Nautical Wedding Inspiration‘ perhaps? Or you could DIY a Spring Flower Crown (you know, while waiting for the barista to prepare your obscure coffee order using a contraption that looks more like a cross between a Heath Robinson drawing and a still for making moonshine for a speakeasy than a coffee machine). I question how Game of Thrones this Game of Thrones wedding inspiration is (also, um, red wedding dress? Red Wedding dress? Er…). But I won’t deny, this site is full of beautiful things and fun ideas, and I’m very much enjoying mooching through it.

Giving: Did you know there’s a Humble Bundle for sewing patterns? It’s called the Perfect Pattern Parcel– pay what you want for a little bundle of indie patterns. Yes, I may have squeed when I found that out. The current parcel is available for about the next 3 days, and includes a bombshell swimsuit, so it was an instabuy for me (pin-up patterns are my crafting Kryptonite). And all proceeds go to providing supplies for teachers in low-decile schools/schools in poor areas where they don’t have ready access to a lot of the equipment and advantages that schools in ‘better’ areas do. As my maternal Grandfather was a science teacher at an inner city school, I know he’d approve of the cause. And I definitely approve of a bundle of fresh sewing patterns! (The Humble Ebook Bundle if you haven’t heard of it is also a great way to discover new authors while giving to charity. Win win!)

And your random procrastination hijinks:

Mega Anime Avatar creator– because if you’re going to procrastinate on the internet, why not do it by creating a picture of yourself as an anime character? And then your Best Beloved. And then your flatmates. And then your other friends. And then your LARP characters. Obviously I am just speculating here. Ahem.

I want all of the things from Sugar and Vice designs. All of them. But I’m especially in love with the Speech Bubble Brooch (because I am a sap and want to immortalise a text from the Best Beloved), and also this teapot ring. And can we just talk for a moment about this Ahoy necklace

Of course, the other way to immortalise a favourite phrase or text is with an art print. You can do just that, for free, at Recite.

Finally, I’ve been having a bit of a Japanese cooking moment this week (two lots of don buri, yummers!), and in my internet research into good recipes stumbled across the Bebe Love Okazu blog. Yummy Japanese home cooking? Sign me up.

Monsterful Monday- is it Friday yet?

I realised I haven’t explained why I call these posts ‘Monsterful Monday’. Monsterful is an obscure word I learned from a Buzzfeed list of archaic words we should bring back. I also like the word ‘curmuring’- it means the noises your body makes when you’re digesting (you know, those sounds that seem like they would be hunger but are actually the opposite)- yes, there’s a word for it! Anyway, ‘monsterful’ means wonderful, terrific, good stuff- and it seemed like a great thing to call a weekly gratitude list.

Conquering the FOMO

At least a little. If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym it stands for Fear Of Missing Out. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was very small. Mum and Dad still remember a trip to the local pier when I was about 3 or 4, where I got to go on all the rides, and as I came away said “but we didn’t get any candy floss!”. As an adult, it’s still something I struggle with but it’s a long story and a slow process. One of the reasons it’s unhealthy is a tendency to ignore what my body/mind are telling me they need, in order to push myself to go to events. This weekend there were three LARP events- an in-character feast (think of it as live-action fanfic), a session of ‘The World That Is’ a fantastic post-apocalyptic campaign I’m in that runs a 4 hour session every few months, and a day-game (again 4 hours) for the same campaign the fanfic was for. I was intending to go to all three, but threw my back sitting on the hard floor at the World That Is session (that’s what happens when your character’s brother has been injected with a high concentration of a drug, is recovering and you’ve had to move away from the med bay with the chairs because someone has a bomb fused into their belly and they’ve cleared the area…to say a lot happens at these games is an understatement).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided that what I really wanted to do on Sunday was rest up, so that’s what I did. An older version of me would have gone to the day game anyway, worrying that if I didn’t I would miss out on something important or be excluded.

I still nosed into the paper my flatmate Blair was reading at brunch, so I’m not perfect, but it’s getting better, and for that I’m very grateful.

Rude knitting

I have a couple of friends with birthdays coming up who have a hearty appreciation of filth, and it’s a great opportunity to break out the knitting projects which make it fun to answer the question ‘ooh, what are you making?’. Actually, I always enjoy answering that question, but when the answer is ‘a ball gag’, well, it’s food for my rebellious side. And yes, I really did knit one (just need to seam it). If you’re curious about this kind of project, there are two books I’d highly recommend- ‘Naughty Needles’ by Nikol Lohr, and ‘DomiKnitRix’ by Jennifer Stafford (seriously, how can you not love a title like that?). You can also (I have discovered) search Ravelry’s pattern database for Mature Content. Don’t ask me how I found that out.

Awesome friends

I’m very blessed to have many wonderful people in my life. This week, a special mention for my friend Sophie who runs The World That Is. I was hideously disorganised about letting her know I was attending, and giving her a character update, but she was very patient and kind as always, and even gave me some personal plot in the game (which I wasn’t expecting).

Mercury Retrograde

An attack of deja vu at the weekend signalled the start of the month of Mercury bats foggy-communication technology weirdness. But it’s also a chance to reflect, work on things from the past that need letting go of, revisit and reassess. I’m working a lot on forgiveness and letting go of negative charges towards others at the moment, and Mercury Retrograde energy supports that- at least from what I’ve read. I am very much a newbie at this stuff, but I’ve found Mystic Medusa in particular to be very helpful and informative. Anything that helps is something to be grateful for! And so far my computer hasn’t gotten fried (though a colleague has had to restart her computer three times this morning).

Special mentions

Yet more serendipity supporting my bid to downsize (this week it was a work colleague offering to take old towels for the Cats Protection League- not only was I able to divest stuff, but it’s going to care for animals in need of love!), writing inspiration, texts from friends keeping me cheerful, experimental cooking (yes, again- this week it was Mac and Cheese burritos), meditation, and best of all, looking forward to a visit from the Best Beloved this weekend (hence the title of this post).

Tues-torial: Thrifty sewing

Something which comes up frequently in my conversations with sewers-to-be or aspiring crafters is cost. Obviously, in an ideal world, I would be writing this from a velvet-upholstered chaise longue, or possibly one of these, surrounded by bolts of silk crepe and rockabilly/geek fabric from Spoonflower (and not even the basic combed cotton either).  Even without those things,  I do, however, do pretty well for fabrics. Maybe they’re not designer, but I’ve been very proud of some of the things I’ve created. Today, I’d like to start sharing some of what I’ve learned about sourcing good sewing fabric for a good price. All you need is a little willingness to think outside the box (or in the case of thrift stores, the rack).

You may already be aware that most charity/thrift/op shops have a basket somewhere in the store full of remnants of fabric. Admittedly, a lot of it is weird late-80s bright coloured geometrics (or maybe that’s just New Zealand), and I’m not saying you can’t make some fun garments from the crazy prints, but if that’s not your thing you can still strike gold.

But it’s not the only place in the store you’ll find great fabric. In fact, it’s usually right next to my other big source of sewing material- the bedlinen section.  Flat sheets are one of my favourite sources of fabric, especially as I sew a fair few costumes that require a lot of fabric- and there’s a lot of fabric in your average sheet. I’ve made everything from Victorian skirts to medieval gowns, all from bedsheets:

Victorian skirt made of bed sheet Medieval dress made from bedsheets

 

If you like prints, rather than plain (and I share that, I have a big weakness for awesome print fabric as you’ll see in some of my project posts), don’t discount duvet covers. They come in a wide array of lovely and unusual prints, and it’s possible to have a lot of fun with them. For example, this dress used to be a Superman duvet cover:

ASASuperman Dress

If you can get the shape of a garment in your head (reading the pattern and getting your head around the pattern pieces is the big key here), you can have a lot of fun getting a big design to fit the shape.

Ebay (and if you’re in New Zealand, it’s equivalent TradeMe) can also be a great source of fabric- the prices run the gamut from a dollar or two to super fancy expensive, but as with physical rummaging at a thrift store, if you’re willing to put the scrolling work in, the reward is finding some great fabric at good prices.

Of course it’s not just about the fabric- most op-shops will have a bunch of vintage notions, and this can be a great way to stock up on unusual/vintage buttons and embellishments, embroidery thread and the more basic stuff- hooks and eyes, presser-studs and zips are all things I’ve picked up this way, and had no problems using. There’s one exception when it comes to thrifting notions and that’s sewing thread- thread can age, and old thread is much more likely to break, and break quickly- not what you want when sewing. But other than that, the thrift store is your oyster when it comes to fabric.

How about you? Where would you recommend looking for thrifty sewing gold? What great finds have you hit on, and what did you do with them? Let me know in the comments!