Monsterful Monday: Gratefully brought to you by the letter ‘B’

Brooches!

If you follow my Instagram you’ll know I’ve started taking mostly-daily outfit photos. It’s made me a lot more conscious of what I wear, and that’s led to me wearing jewellery a lot more often than I used to. A lot of that is brooches- I have so much fun basing outfits off them, or working out which one will go best. Yes, it’s shallow. But it makes me feel good about how I look which in turn is a boost for my self-esteem. Definitely something to be grateful for.

Also, if you like fun and whimsical costume jewellery, I can’t recommend Vintage Pip highly enough.

Boxes!

With the big move, I’m packing again, as is the Best Beloved. I’m so thankful to the multiple friends who offered boxes when I put out the call- it’s making life a LOT easier. Now if I can just work out how to get the big wooden box on wheels I’m giving away out of my room…

Butterick!

A package of (awesome) birthday gifts from Mum and Dad arrived last week, including Butterick Retro 4790. It’s known as a ‘walk-away’ dress and meant to be quite a quick make. Having read some reviews online I know that the pattern as-is needs alterations to make it really shine, and thankfully Edelweiss Patterns have good detailed instructions on how to achieve it, including a four-week sew along.  The only problem? There’s no way I can start a new sewing project before I move house. That would be insane. *eyes fabric stash*. Utterly insane… Also I need to pick out just the right combination of fabrics, because the examples I’ve seen online made of two different complimentary (or fabulously contrasting) fabrics are badass.

Buzzfeed!

I am getting so many ideas for the new house from their DIY section. My Pinterest has exploded as a result. This is a good thing, especially the moving and storage ideas.

Badass rock n roll

OMG ALICE COOPER. Motley Crue may have been a disappointment on Saturday night when the Best Beloved and I plus another friend went to their gig at Vector Arena, but Alice Cooper, who was their support act, was everything I hoped he would be- and I’m always grateful when that happens. At 67, he’s still absolutely killing it live, and I really hope he’ll come back to NZ as a headline act because I would be all about tickets to that. Favourite moment was when he walked on stage in a bloodied lab coat for ‘Feed My Frankenstein’- his pose and expression was the epitome of “That’s RIGHT, it’s me, and this is going to be awesome”.  And huge props to him for a) having a female guitarist in his lineup and b) not actually commenting on her gender, or her looks, or anything like that, just letting her be fantastic and also on equal footing with the men.

The little things:

Oxytocin, snuggling, successful gift-giving, fun presents, Offbeat Home, things with strawberries on them, creme brulee ice cream at midnight, having milk in the office (try not having any for your tea when you’re British), yummy Italian food (Covo on Fort Street in Auckland), the sense of accomplishment that follows getting something packed and ready to go, late-autumn sunshine, helpful friends, and the prospect of EUROVISION.

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!

 

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!

Time to rock the craft- presenting 15 in 2015

It’s the new year.

It’s probably crazy.

It’s definitely a lot of work.

But I’m not waiting around any longer to be a badass crafter. I’ve been spending a lot of time crafting in the break, and the more I do it, the more positive I feel. I want this to be a year when I achieve something really  spectacular. So it’s time to challenge myself- and if you want, you’re welcome to join me. I therefore present to you:

15 in 2015 logo

What’s that when it’s at home?

It’s simple. I am going to try to take on, and complete, 15 big craft projects in 2015. Some of them are ones that have been started, and are even a fair way along, but are sitting around unfinished. Well, it’s time to actually get them f***ing well DONE and being used and enjoyed. Some of them are for me, some are for other people. All of them require a significant amount of work- some of them because they are big pieces I’ll be using a machine for, some of them because they will need a lot of handstitching, and some include new techniques for me, or ones I want to master.

But the main constant is this: these aren’t things that can be whipped up in a couple of hours (though hopefully I’ll be able to fit a few of those in too. Like I said, probably crazy).

My 15 in 2015:

1) The First T-Shirt Quilt (which has been languishing unfinished for THREE YEARS)

2) The Ladygarden Quilt

3) The Second T-Shirt Quilt

4) The Second Ever Wedding Quilt

5) The Flamingo Dress (seriously, I’ve taken the fabric and pattern with me at least three times intending to start it, and it’s still not done. And I’ve had the fabric for over a year.)

6) A Parfait.

7) An Oolong (bias cut- in other words, asking for trouble…)

8) The Beekeepers Quilt (which I started FOUR YEARS AGO and still haven’t finished- I’ve made 266 hexipuffs out of the 365 I want to make)

9) Mystic Roses shawl (I’ve said this will be the year I master lace knitting. I meant it.)

10: 5 x Misheard Song Lyrics cross stitches (and creating and selling the patterns for them)

11: The Cryptozoology Quilt (incorporating these dot-to-dot embroidery pieces)

12: The Perfect Christmas Jumper (not necessarily for Christmas, but it’s in thin yarn and small needles)

13: The Wheel of the Year quilt (using these embroidery designs from Urban Threads)

14: The Travelling Blanket (languishing since my parents last came out to visit 2 years ago)

15: My first Zine (no I’m not telling you the topic…yet)

This is big, people. This is the most adventurous craft challenge I think I’ve ever set myself and I have no idea if I’ll do it. But I wanted to be accountable, so I’ll be updating you on how the projects are going each week.

How about you? Do you feel like joining me? It doesn’t have to be projects this big, it can be things that feel a little bit big to you. This project feels big to me, it’ll definitely stretch me and require me to be disciplined about making time to craft each and every day. And that has GOT to be a good thing for a punk rock crafter.

I dare you to give it a try with me. Let me know your 15 in the comments, and we can cheer each other on!

Environmentally friendly gift wrapping- three ways

Hopefully by this point in December you have most of your Christmas gifting sorted. Or at least some time off before Christmas to finish it all (like me).

Of course, you can’t have a present without wrapping.

Well, actually, you can. You totally can. I would say the number one best way to avoid using unnecessary and landfill-bound paper or cardboard is simply to hide the gift and tell the recipient (as I often do) “Close your eyes and hold out your hands”.

By the way, don’t use this to prank them if you expect to be able to use this line for holidays or birthdays. Just saying.

2) Sew reusable gift bags.

My friend and former flatmate has done this the past few years and I cannot even with how well they work. She matches fabrics with peoples’ tastes, so the wrapping is always as popular as the gift. And they’re reusable. I have several she’s made me over the years, and they make fantastic project bags. They’re also almost laughably simple to make. Though if you WANT to get all fancy then there are many other tutorials around out there. Also you probably have way more time on your hands than I do.

3) Furoshiki.

Don’t want to sew, or don’t own a machine, or just plain don’t know how? You can still give a gift beautifully wrapped in fabric.

Well, you can if you can tie a knot. C’mon, that’s basic life skills right there. You can tie your shoelaces, right? Good. Anyway.

Furoshiki is a Japanese technique for wrapping things in fabric. You can find a basic tutorial on the Liberty website– and no, you do not have to use Liberty print tana lawn fabric. I’ve used bandanas from the $2 store, fat quarters of quilting fabric (go to a craft store, they’ll know what you mean). But if you want to have a play with different techniques (or you’re wrapping something that isn’t rectangular, such as a wine bottle), you can find a whole bunch of different tutorials on the Furoshiki website.

And if you get paper-wrapped presents, please, please recycle the paper. And as much of the packaging as you can. And if you’re buying presents, take along a reusable shopping bag, and try and minimise the packaging. Every little helps.

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.

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!

Monsterful Monday

Yep, it’s that time of the week again. I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Mine involved the Best Beloved, breakfast in bed, not being booted out of bed for getting crumbs everywhere (those last two may be connected), delicious Italian food and karaoke in good company, many snuggles and finally seeing the Footrot Flats movie. I feel a little bit more Kiwi just being able to say it. Also it gives an interesting new spin on some Dave Dobbyn songs I love. I also ran into someone I first met 8 years ago- as in before I had officially moved to New Zealand, and it turns out we actually also ran into one another last year at a convention- it’s a very small world. All things to be grateful for, but here are some other highlights:

Casting!

We’ve started casting for a big LARP I’m helping run, and it’s one of my favourite parts of writing and running a game. I enjoy working out what characters to offer people, and then seeing which ones they take. It’s often quite surprising which ones people choose- more often than not it’s not the one we would expect. But it all builds up to the moment of seeing everyone walk into the room as their character, which is such a fun thing to see. I’m also putting together the cast list for another game I’m running at the same convention (apparently I don’t learn). I’m always grateful that people are excited about games I run, and casting is when that starts in earnest.

Using up the stash

I have quite a bit of yarn left that didn’t sell at the Social Wool Fair, and I’ve been browsing Ravelry for inspiration to use it up- and it has delivered! I’m quite keen to adapt Lee Meredith’s Krewe cowl into a blanket pattern, using up a whole bunch of my worsted/aran weight. I’m also going through my fabric stash, and coming up with plans for the fabrics I want to keep. I’ve got some navy polka dot fabric which I think is begging to become a Jorna Dress (though I plan to lengthen the skirt to just below the knee for that retro feel).

Hotting up on the job front

The destashing and decluttering is going on with a will again, as I’ve had a few nibbles on the job hunt in Auckland. I don’t want to say any more than that, but with the move becoming more likely to be in the near future, I want to get rid of as much as I can before it’s time to start packing.

Dinobots!

On Friday the Best Beloved and I went to ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’. It was exactly as big, loud, and over the top as I expected. As we’re both children of the 80s (well, technically I’m a child of the 70s but all my memories are of the 80s) of course we were excited to see some of the toys of our childhoods coming back, and seeing it together meant we could relax and just get on with enjoying the movie because we both knew the other person was as unironically thrilled by the prospect of a giant robot smackdown as we were. He was looking forward to seeing Hound brought to big-screen life, and for me it was the Dinobots. While I was a little disappointed that Grimlock didn’t talk (because what are the Dinobots without pronouncements starting “Me Grimlock”?), they were still epic and cool in the way that only robotic dinosaurs (or robots, or giant monsters) can be. What can I say? It’s a bit of my childhood. And they still make the proper transforming noise. These are things that matter when you grew up with something.

And the little things:

A lovely thank-you card, Wellington Library’s awesome selection, delicious cheese, exploring, crumpets, cups of tea, hexipuffs, a warm bed, and missing some of the really bad weather by being indoors.

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

Friday Five: Five great places to get a retro sewing/knitting fix

Subversive Lesbian Anarchic Knitterseriously, how can you not love a site with a name like that? And she has some utterly beautiful vintage knitting patterns available, for free, on her site.

Mrs Depew Vintage has patterns from a range of eras, all downloadable and print-at-homeable. While there are quite a few for ‘intermediate’ sewers, the styles are just beautiful, and a good way to learn some new skills. At least I think so.

If you want to go REALLY retro (or you have a thing for Steampunk), then Truly Victorian is the place for you. I’ve made several of their patterns- they take a LOT of fabric but the results are gorgeous. If you’re serious about the Victorian look (at least the womenswear) the bustle petticoat is a must. And if you have a thing for trim, Victorian is the era for you. Basically it’s Step One: add trims until you think there’s probably too much and too many, Step Two: add more trim, Step Three: Fabulousness. See how I give you an excuse to buy more trim? Or maybe to use a bunch of the trims you already have lying around- if you’re the sort of person who HAS trims lying around. I don’t assume- I read a craft magazine once that presented a project for “your stash of gorgeous vintage silk handkerchieves.” Who has a stash of vintage silk handkerchieves? (If you do, then yay for you. It’s nice to have a stash of something.)

For a little knitting snack, how about this gorgeous polka dot ascot and beret from ZilRedLoh? Haven’t you always, when someone asks “what are you knitting?” wanted to be able to answer “an ascot”? Of course, it’s also fun to be able to answer “a ball gag”. I know this from experience. But it’s not so retro-chic.

And finally, for an easy way to retro-ify your outfit (admittedly this won’t work if you’re wearing a onesie, or a tracksuit, but it would probably work on jeans and a striped top, for example), here’s a tutorial for making a retro turban out of an old t-shirt. Retro AND waste-not-want-not upcycly goodness. I’m planning on making one of these very soon, and accessorising with a fabulous brooch or maybe some feathers. Or both. Because why not get all Norma Desmond with it? Exactly.

Friday Five: Five ways to stay warm this winter (Southern hemisphere ftw!)

It’s freaking cold. I do not approve. I read a lot of blogs and content from you lucky Northern Hemisphere peeps about summer and stuff to do when it’s warm and getting outside. It’s great, and come November you’d better believe I’ll be putting those ideas into practice, but right now the idea of frolicking outside is, much of the time, for crazy people. It’s cold, it’s dark, I do not want to get out of bed in the morning because as soon as I put a part of a limb outside my duvet-and-all-the-blankets cocoon, I am reminded that the rest of the world is not as warm as my bed. At work, lots of people are bringing in hot water bottles and one woman even has an electric blanket draped over her chair (to be fair, it’s yet another bad thing at my work that the heating is currently buggered). So to stay positive, and to get a bit Southern Hemisphere Represent (yo) up in here, I give you five great things to do to stay warm.

Hot water bottle

An oldie, but a goodie- especially as it’s an excellent excuse to make yourself a funky hot water bottle cover. “No, that’s definitely MY hottie, look, it’s got up to look like a penguin. Or if waterfowl aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d prefer a Hot Water TARDIS? Or how about a simple beginner’s cozy?

Thermals!

From flanelette bed sheets to merino leggings, thermals are all kinds of awesome. I only discovered them after moving to New Zealand- winter sheets, in particular, were a revelation being used as I was to freezing in cotton sheets until they warmed up. Best of all, they allow me to continue to wear some of my favourite dresses throughout the year, meaning I can have a smaller wardrobe of clothes (very useful when you’re trying to declutter).

A muff

So toasty warm, so vintage, the muff- also known as a smitten- is a super-elegant way to keep your hands warm…and if you’re a giant sap you can also use it to hold hands with your beloved when you’re out and about. I have a purple faux fur one, and it always adds a little vintage super-spy strut to my step when I wear it. If you’re in Wellington and sew, I’d highly recommend the Dreamstress School of Sewing- and this winter the lovely Leimomi is running a Make a Muff class. Or you could always knit/crochet one like this Tiny Violet Hand Puff from Tiny Owl Knits (can you even? Gorgeous). Or you could just find one from Etsy. I mean, this winter wonderland one is rather over the top, but how about something like this 1940s/50s style one– wear it with a vintage dress and imagine you’re an extra in White Christmas. Of course, that pin-up style isn’t everyone’s thing, which brings me on to the other kind of muff (no, not that kind of muff):

Ear muffs!

A couple of years back, I was part of a team for the 48 hour film festival, taking on the role of props chinchilla (this is what happens when I mishear what someone says). While out grabbing things for the film, a friend and I stumbled upon sets of furry earmuffs. On a whim, we bought them. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we made that day. There was already a chill in the air, but after 3 or 4 hours outside in a nature reserve, we were seriously freezing- the earmuffs proved to be an absolute life saver. And there are so many different styles! From Nordic embroidered ones to Hayao Miyazaki-inspired soot sprite ear muffs,  to full on Katamari Damacy ones, there’s bound to be a pair out there to suit you. 

Snuggling

Well obviously. What can I say? The Best Beloved is visiting this weekend, and I plan to take full advantage of it (it helps that he runs hot). If you’re in a relationship (or even if you have a friend who is as cold this winter as you are), snuggles are the best and winter is an excellent excuse for them. Not that you need an excuse.

What about you? What are you favourite ways to stay warm?