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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond: Tutorial!

Infinity scarves are awesome, right? On average, a good infinity scarf can cost between 15-40 dollars.  Depending on the materials and where you look they can cost even more.  Some of them cost over $300 dollars!  If you don't believe me, check out the Diane von Furstenberg website and don't forget to catch your chin before it hits the desk.  Infinity scarfs are incredible, versatile little accessories.  Of course, they cost a lot of money.  They must be hard to make.

Well, there's a trick in there.  They actually aren't hard to make.  To me, the real value of the infinity scarf is in the materials that comprises it.  Since it's so simple, I figured it out on my own.  To be sure, my mom and I both had been looking for an easy project to get rid of scraps.  Every sewer LOVES to get rid of scraps.
Like many sewers, I like good knit fabric with rich colors and simple, but bold patterns.  It's great for making tops, arm warmers, and the like.  However, I locate my best materials in the remnant room.  All coiled up, a remnant of fabric can look like much more than it is.  And when you get it home, it's stained, there was a glitch in the pattern, or it's torn in an odd place.  So, in effect, you've got a nice knit fabric that will either lead to a very long game of sewing table Tetris or a big pile of disappointingly large scraps.
 I don't sew that much and I have a ridiculous stash already.  I needed to make use of my scraps and pieces of fabric that are just big enough to get you into trouble.  Turning it into a collection of infinity scarves was the best solution. 
Here are the steps I followed to turn my fabric into something worth while.

Step 1: Cut and Measure
You need to decide how long and how wide you want your scarf.  The trick I used to determine a regular length for my scarves follows the rules of necklace length.  There are 6 main necklace lengths.
Borrowed from Jewellerygem.com

When applied to an infinity scarf it can change the way you wear it and increase its versatility.  I chose to have my Infinity Scarves fall at about 40- 45 inches.  There were two reasons I chose this length.  1.  It gives you enough room to loop it around a few times and use it as a cowl if it gets blustery.  2. It's a common fabric width, enabling you to reduce raveling as you handle the ends of it because the very end of the fabric is actually the selvage.
I made my scarf widths between 8 and 12 inches.  Some of the materials I used were on the thick side and it wouldn't be a good idea to make the scarves wider because the end result would probably accidentally choke someone.  Save the wider scarf widths for thinner materials. 

Step 2: Stitch, Turn, Stitch
This is the easy part.  Fold the fabric lengthwise, with the 'good side' facing inward.  Stitch one seam down the cut ends of the fabric.  I used a serger because the fabric I used were fuzzy and needed to be contained. 
Next, Turn the scarf right side out, so your seam allowance isn't visible.
Finally, pin the seams together so you can start sewing the two ends of the scarf together without twisting it up.  Sew the ends together so that the seam allowances will be inside the scarf.  Since your scarf currently forms a little cylinder, you can't just sew straight across or sew it completely closed.  Leave about 2 inches open.

Step 3: Blind stitch
Finally, I close up my infinity scarf by blind stitching that hole closed.  It doesn't take long, about 5 minutes including needle threading time.  Once it's done, you've got a nice infinity scarf to go flouncing around in.  Easy huh?

 For those of you who are more kinetically inclined, check out this gal's sweet youtube video.

I was surprised how much her tutorial matched my method.   I am glad I found it though.

Finally!  My next post will include my infinity scarf creations!  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond!: Scarves

You've all gotten the memo, seen the trend, heard the buzz...  Get it?  Buzz? 

Courtesy of Samm Bennett's Flickr
Yes that's Buzz Lightyear wearing a scarf.  Even he knows that scarves are the in thing right now.  They have scarves for all seasons: thick, thin, sheer, opaque, bandana styled, ascots, regular old scarf scarves and even Infinity Scarves.   No.  Not scarves times infinity, but a specific style of scarf that forms a continuous loop. 
The Infinity Scarf is a versatile fashion accessory that can comes in a variety of widths, lengths, colors and materials.  You can do just about anything with an infinity scarf.  It's continuous loop design keeps it from slipping from your neck and enables you to adapt it to suit your needs.  You can wear it as a cowl, layer it around your neck like a regular scarf, loop it over your head like an opera length necklace, cross tie it around your body to make a comfy beach top and even use it to tie up small children.

Courtesy of Pinterest
 Simply by changing up your accessories and how you position the scarf, your infinity scarf could act as other garments you wear regularly.  Belts, vests, cardigans, shawls.  You name it. 

Check out this video where SecretLifeOfaBioNerd shows us how to wear a wide infinity scarf 21 different ways.  


The other great thing about infinity scarves is that they are so, SO easy to make on your own.  
With that said, I'll conclude this post by announcing that I will be posting a brief infinity scarf tutorial in a day or two and that I MAY run a contest.   Keep your eyes and ears open!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pay It Forward

Pay it Forward was a trend that I was curious about, but didn't understand.  I'd seen the words pop up on Etsy, Deviantart, and a few other craft and art hubs.  Sadly, with increased laziness and humanity's increasing inability to articulate itself (despite most entertainment and social networking leaning towards text-based formats), the best explanation of what 'Pay It Forward' was and meant was something like this, "Well, you know.  Pay it forward.  Like you pay it forward."

I asked several different people who were running 'Pay It Forward' advertisements and promotions on their blogs, art hubs, and Etsy stores.  The answer was always something like, "Well, you know.  Pay it forward."  That's not an explanation!  That's a tease.  You've disappointed me again, humanity.  Why do I keep trusting you to do better?? 

So, I sort of shoved that curiosity to the side and focused on other things.  Since no one knew what Pay It Forward was, perhaps it was not important for me to know either.  That is, until one fine literary lady posted a Pay It Forward comment on her Facebook.  My reaction: Another chance to ask what the HECK this means!  Yes!
So, I asked Ann what does 'Pay It Forward' mean.  Being a former English teacher, she was happy to tell me.  It's like a chain letter, but instead of forcing people to repost some annoying message in their status for fear of non-existent reprisal, you substitute the gloom and doom for a good deed.  The theory is, that if it's handled CORRECTLY there's a recurring wave of good deeds and wonderful surprises that eventually works its way around the world.  Ann's Pay It Forward was geared towards crafting.  Golly Gee Willikers Batman!  That sounds great! 
OMG!  For real?
I joined in on her pay it forward...and immediately ran into problems.  Apparently, some people equate 'Pay it Forward' with 'Freebies' and are opportunistic scavengers who will not only assert, insist, and berate you until they get their free thing, but they will also belittle it and refuse to 'pay it forward' themselves.  You know who you are. 


What I learned from this whole thing was heartwarming (I think that was the point of it, actually).  By sticking yourself out there and becoming someone's beautiful surprise, you not only enable them to be someone else's surprise, but you boost their self-esteem and motivate them to try and learn something new themselves.  I have not delivered all of my Pay It Forward gifts, but the few that I have sent off to their new homes were met with glee and almost immediately a chain began to form.

My gift of yarn became mittens for someone who's always losing theirs, and the money that would have been spent on mittens was spent on supplies to make greeting cards, one those greeting cards was written in and given to an old woman, that old woman got up and made someone some cookies, those cookies were eaten at someone's craft party, the craft party spawned all manner of creations and it continues from there.  One, long, heartwarming chain of good deeds.  I hope that it continues beyond what I can trace and maybe, it will get to someone who really, REALLY needs an unexpected gift. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Should Be Watching: My Little Pony

Here's a little something for you cosplayers, make-up artists and aspiring airbrush artists.  It's also something that was initially geared towards little girls, but unexpectedly acquired a vast male following.  I've been told that I'm very 'Imaginative and whimsical' (Sorta makes me feel like a unicorn or something).
I'm an ALICORN!! 
 So that means I can watch whatever I want. You already know where this is going don't you?  Don't judge me.  I like ponies and unicorns and all that business.  I'm allowed.

In case you haven’t heard about the phenomenon that My Little Pony has become, you need to get on board.  Really.


Origins:
The animation is a remake of an old show used by Hasbro as a marketing driver for Pony dolls.  I remember that cartoon.  It was a TERRIBLE show.  I'll pretend that I don’t know why Hasbro needed the show to market the dolls.  I never watched it with any real interest, but I had a ton of the merchandise.  And it was MAGICAL.  Why?  Because I was 6.  
This go-round Hasbro hasn't revived the show in order to revive an old toy line.  They revived it due to special interest of one Lauren Faust.  More on her later.  

Characters:
My Little Pony features 6 main characters, each of them representing one of the traits necessary for a successful friendship: Honesty, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Loyalty and MAGIC!  ...Because, why not?
Left to Right: Pinkie Pie (Party girl), Rainbow Dash (Daredevil), Rarity (Fashionista/Seamstress), Twilight Sparkle (Bookworm), Apple Jack (Farmer), and Flutter Shy (Animal Lover)
The cast of characters has a repertoire of quirks, personality flaws, and a lot of consistency.  Some people think that's a problem and have said that the characters are fairly simplistic.  But really, what makes any successful show successful?  A dynamic cast of characters with consistent habits, well-defined personalities, and quirks written together in a way that keeps you engaged.  My little pony has all of that and then some.  

What I like about it:
First of all, it was created by Lauren Faust.  That is, the woman responsible for essentially, all the good cartoons in the ninties... Whether she did the animation, the writing or helped her husband on the side, Faust was involved in tons of projects from Kids Next Door, to Power Puff Girls, and Dexter's Laboratory.  There's more, but I can't list them all.  The point is, that Lauren Faust remembered how crappy the little girl cartoons were when she was growing up.  Girl's cartoons have always been shallow, needlessly fluffy, and not at all engaging.  Even little girls fall asleep on them.  I know.  I was one.  
Faust fought for years to make My Little Pony happen.  She wanted to make a cartoon for girls.  The networks turned her down, claiming that there was no money in making little girl cartoons... until... this show.  Which has had remarkable success in all age groups and genders.  Think about that for a minute.  A show from a genre of shows normally written off as crap has bridged age and gender gaps.  Why?  Because it's actually GOOD.  
Aside from the well defined characters, slick flash animation and engaging stories, I love that My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, has an actual mythos.  It doesn't just have its own world mythos, but it incorporates mythology from a variety civilizations.   To name a few of them: Egyptian, African, Greek, Roman, and Medieval mythologies are all present.  And the show doesn't go half-steam by just tossing in a few critters, either.  
The mythology behind them is built into the episodes and the show's mythos themselves.  For example, the dragons eat jewels like traditional medieval dragons.  The phoenix and cockatrice legends each have an entire episode devoted to them- with continuity in following episodes.  The image of the zebra, traditionally used in African Lore to mark a great magician, priest, or witch doctor is presented in the form of Zecora, a zebra, who acts as those very things in the show.  
These displays of mind-boggling attention to detail along with the compelling stories and nods to fan interests posted on the net are part of what I love most about this show.  It shows that, yes, a cartoon for girls can be a cartoon for all ages and genders AND that you can give fans more of what they want by paying attention and intelligently incorporating their ideas into your storyline.  The bronies don't lie.
You can find My Little Pony, friendship is Magic on a number of platforms: on The Hub Channel on Cable and Sattelite, on Netflix, on Youtube, and on DVD.  Take your pick.  You should be watching My Little Pony.  And if you aren't...


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Heaven's to Betsey!

Do you like Betsey Johnson?  She used to design patterns for the Vogue Pattern company.  Now her name's featured on a line of ultra-bright, eclectic and glam-heavy high-end fashion including fragrances, jewelry and clothing.  Her fashion line always features the hottest colors of the season in some really interesting designs.
Photo Courtesy of davidlpm021 on Ebay
Courtesy of Google search
Courtesy of Google Search


Since I like eclectic jewelry and eye-catching statement pieces, I've always admired the construction and designs of many of her collections.  Working at Carson's jewelry counter over the holidays gave me a first hand look at Betsey's stuff.  I got to handle what I, previously, could only ogle online.  Unlike most costume jewelry, Betsey's stuff is well-made, durable and features high-quality materials for extended wearing.
Photo Courtesy of ebay

The only thing that stopped me from buying any of her costume jewelry was the price tag.  On average, a pair of 'simple' (really, Betsey Johnson has no concept of simple in her jewelry designs) earrings would cost $35-40 dollars. Can you say, sticker shock?   A little problematic if you're on a tight budget.  Little did I know, I could find the discontinued styles online at discounted prices on eBay.   A $60 bracelet, can be acquired for a sixth of the price thanks to stores clearing out leftover stock. 
But even better is the ability to Do It Yourself.  There were elements to all of Betsey Johnson's pieces that I enjoyed, but also plenty that I despised.  There is such a thing as 'too much of a good thing'.

Case in point
With the abundance of quirky jewelry making elements, I can make my OWN Betsey Johnson style jewelry.  And so I went on a hunt for elements I could use to make my own Betsey Earrings.  After a little work and a lot of tweaking, I got it to work for me.

Simple Pink Polka Dots
Black and White Polka Dots
Gray Plaid with Bows

Pink Plaid with Bows
I started small because I just wanted to try it out, but I'm fairly certain that I will experiment with adding more elements to my jewelry works in the future.  It was an enlightening experience.  Now I'm looking to expose some of my necklaces to the same treatment...but I'm sure I'll need to purchase more stuff...a lot more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christmas Hat

Working retail over the holidays kept me busy and tired, so I didn't go to many parties.  Let's face it, you're not going to be raising the roof with your girls if your feet hurt so bad you start thinking it might be better to live as an amputee.  No parties for me.
Knowing that I couldn't attend the Christmas shindigs or even stay in my own house to watch old Christmas movies really stung, so I was determined to make Christmas Eve fun for me- by making a hat.  An ostentatious, LED lit marvel of amateur hat-making science. 

This baby.

Let me start by first saying this: I had no idea what I was doing.  This hat is something made purely on a whim, with no prior experience besides making hair clips.  It also, very quickly, became an experiment to see how much stuff I could cram onto one small oval piece of felt without breaking my neck or having it fall off my head.  Despite this, I think it came out nicely.
I had no pattern to help in making this so I sort of followed my own mind.  It was actually fairly simple to make once I had assembled all the materials.  I'll include pictures of the less common ones.

Materials:
Two sheets of craft felt
 Two Hair extension combs
Hair Extension Combs: Photo From Human Hair Extension Manufacturer.com
Beads   (Any will do)
Hem Tape
Garland
I used something similar to this
 LED tea light
Christmas Trimmings
Scissors
Wire

Instructions:
1.  Cut the felt into ovals.  They will be your hat base.
2.  Mark where you want to place the combs (it's important that they're opposite one another otherwise it will fall off your head)  Hand sew them to one of the felt ovals.
3.  Assemble your Christmas Trimmings (I got most of mine from the dollar store).  Determine the basic layout you want them in before sewing or gluing them down.
4.  Hand sew or glue (E6000 for the win!) your Christmas Trimmings to the other oval of felt. I wanted a light on my hat so I had to cut a hole so that I could reach the switch.  I also wired a little golden Christmas tree light cover to it so the naked LED bulb wasn't showing. 
5. Hand sew the two felt ovals to one another, making sure the combs and decorations aren't sandwiched between the felt layers.
6. Measure the perimeter of the felt ovals, and cut the wire to that length plus 2 inches.  Twist the ends of the wire over it to secure them so they don't poke you in the head, then shape it to fit in your felt ovals.
7. Hand sew one side of the hem tape to one side of your felt oval.  Fold the hem tape to the other side of the felt oval, tuck the wire in the fold, begin sewing the other side of the hem tape to your hat base, keeping the wire oval inside the pocket formed by the hem tape.  Complete a full circuit around your hat, knot the thread, tuck the end into a hidden spot under the hat and wear. 


It's just that easy.  Why don't you try it?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Club Holiday Party

(This is totally late, but don't say anything.)
One of my favorite things about the holidays are the parties.  Unfortunately for me, I ended up working retail again this holiday season and thus missed out on a lot of them.  But there was one I refused to miss.  My sewing club's holiday party/luncheon.  They only have three big luncheons each year.  One's in December, the second is the Fashion Show, and the third is in the Spring, just before we have summer break.  If you miss one, you miss all the fun!
And all the Turtle icecream cake.
Every year, the luncheon is located in one of the premier restaurants around the city of Chicago.  Alahambra, The culinary school of Chicago, and many many others.  The food is always great and the people even better.
This year, we had a new events coordinator and she organized some fun games and activities for us to participate in whilst chatting with other crafty ladies.  I was more than a little excited.  Especially for the White Elephant game.  That one's always a big hit at my friends' holiday parties because it invites people to alarm or pleasantly surprise people with random crap that they picked out of the back of their closet or the bargain bin at a store.
White Elephant is a chance to get closer to the people you call friend with a series of hearty WTF moments and then, if you see that someone's gotten something you'd prefer to have, you can trade!  It's everything that was great about lunchtime in grammar school.  Mysterious items from a mysterious benefactor, then trading for your preferred stock.  Everyone has fun.

To date the wildest random white elephant gifts I've seen have been:
A picture of someone else's kid
Tangled Christmas Lights
An Actual White Elephant statue
Prank Candy (It tasted like spoiled fish)
Harry Potter Bertie Botts Beans
A coat from a Thrift store- that turned out to have a $50 bill hiding in the lining of the pockets
A pickle
Soap that looked and smelled exactly like an Oreo (You know what happened with that one, don't you?)
A board game called 'What The F***'
A silver necklace featuring a ...well, it was a pendant... but let's say, I'm glad I didn't get that one.  But we had a lot of fun laugh with the poor embarrassed soul who did get it.

Well the day of the club's luncheon, one of the ladies decided that the white elephant should function more like...a weird grab bag and everyone should come up and explain why they gave what they gave.  It really threw off the groove for White Elephant.  Instead of being primarily silly and fun, it became awkward and uncomfortable.
Most people had taken about as much time in picking their gift as they do picking their fingerprints.  For me, the event became downright painful when the person who picked my little basket of embellishments, ribbon, faux leather, and lace blatantly yelled that she didn't want any more 'junk' in her house.  It almost made me wish I hadn't participated.  Thankfully, there was a silver lining.  When it was my turn to pick a gift, I ended up one of the cutest random gifts of all.  You know, because I like stuff that looks like other stuff.

Wow!  A giant spool of yarn!

NOPE!  It's a Linen scented candle

What a cute little hat!

Wait!  The bottom looks like sushi rolls!  It's not a hat at all!

My White Elephant pick came from Rhonda Buss who, apparently, is another person who appreciates the trend of having stuff that looks like other stuff.  I got a candle that looks like a giant spool of thread, has a great fresh scent and when the wax is all burned out, I can use it to tuck my pins and needles in.  The little hat, that looks alarmingly like a little hat I was eyeballing in the store the other day, is actually a pin cushion.  You can flip it over so that it looks like a box of sushi with a bow on the side.  I loved my gift.

Maybe next year, we can play a different holiday game that makes everyone as happy as I was by the end. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

You Should Be Watching: Ruby Gloom

From left to right: Ruby, Iris, Frank and Len, Boo Boo, Poe, Skullboy, Misery, Scaredy Bat, Doom Kitty, Mr. Buns the sock rabbit.
I like to have my 'You Should Be Watching" posts geared towards something few people have heard about but most people will love, including cartoon series and crazy reality shows.  Last time I pulled out RuPaul's Drag Race, so I feel, to continue the whimsy, we should have a cartoon.  Today's feature is none other than Ruby Gloom, a little known animated series from the far reaches of Canada.  It caught my eye on Netflix while I was in a horrible slump and after watching all 40 episodes, it's time for me to toss this one out so my readers can see the bright side of the dark side.

 
Origins:
Initially, Ruby Gloom was created to help market a line of clothing, toys, jewelry and accessories for goth kids and teens.  Typically, shows created for this purpose don't last very long, but Ruby Gloom aired for a full three seasons before Nelvana's writers ran out of steam.  It even won Best Animated series in 2007.  So why haven't you heard of it?  It didn't get much publicity in 2010 on Cartoon Network because it was aired in the early mornings, when no one's awake but parents taking small children to daycare.

Characters:
Ruby Gloom features a cast of characters unlike any I've seen.  You have Iris, a daredevil cyclops, Frank and Len, Frankenstein inspired conjoined twins, Poe, a poetry reading crow, Boo Boo, a ghost that prefers to play pranks, Skullboy, a skeleton kid trying to find his true calling, Misery, a banshee with the worst luck imaginable, Scaredy Bat, a bat with a Hindi accent who is literally afraid of everything, even himself, Doom Kitty, a cat that communicates via charades and violin chords, and Ruby, who I think might be a witch given her unusual sewing and crafting skills.  Each of the characters represents a different aspect of human nature and flaws and in each episode they learn a new lesson in tolerance, perseverance and personal growth.
Hi, There!
 
What I like about it:
This show features slick flash animation and uses vectors to ensure that each frame with your favorite character has the right proportions every time.  This is a plus for people who might want to adapt different scenes into wallpapers for their computers, phones or tablets.  It also makes it possible to recognize who's in a frame even if their tiny tiny.  The joy of vectors.  I also love the smooth animation that using flash with skeletons allows.  Call it a personal preference to the other flash shows they have on the air at the moment.
I also love the characters.  They start out pretty mono-faceted, (it's common in a kid's show) but as the series continues, they develop more depth and become more inspiring.  Even though the characters all live in a gloomy mansion in the place where the sun never shines, with a town full of spooky, deformed and hateful people with their own pre-concieved notions of what others ought to be doing, and their own catastrophic character flaws, they always roll with the punches.  They learn from their mistakes, try new things, and where they fail, they pick themselves back up again- especially Misery.  Even though her luck's so terrible that she has perpetual tear tracks down her face and regularly gets struck by lightning, she still maintains a positive mode of thinking despite her dry demeanor.
She can still smile this big!
Since Ruby Gloom DVDs are about as easy to find as a freckle of diamond dust in a pile of powdered sugar, I recommend you watch it on Netflix.  It's the only place, right now, that has the entire series available for viewers.  And, since it's a great series and an awesome, uplifting show, you really shouldn't pass it up.

You should be watching, Ruby Gloom.