The Crafty Nerd’s Workspace: At The Office

Like many people nowadays, I spend a LOT of time at the office.  More of my waking hours are spent at the little desk I’m parked at right now than anywhere else – and being the crafty nerd I am, of course I decorated my cube to make it feel a little bit more like home.  Take a peek into my working world, and see what I surround myself with 40 hours a week!

Central Command!

Central command!

This is where I spend the most time: in front of these monitors (and the laptop that’s barely off screen.)  I’ve got my big Fluttershy to one side, my little Twilight Sparkle to the other, and assorted other goodies as well to brighten up the space – like mini-Mia and some ponies.  Another favorite piece of my cube is the Star Trek 50th Anniversary calendar – every day has another interesting tidbit of Star Trek knowledge to absorb!

Bunny! Rawr.

Bunny! Rawr.

To my right, I’ve got my unwieldy jade tree, complete with tiny Monty Python bunny.  He’s somewhat of a mascot for myself and my co-worker, and sometimes he travels around the office to nibble on random computer monitors and desk chairs.

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My Funko Pop collection, led by everyone’s favorite Klingon…

Over on my left, I’ve got my collection of Funko Pop figurines.  I’ve got a rather random assortment of them, ranging from My Little Ponies to Star Trek, and I love them all.  I’ve also got a Toothless coin bank perched on top of my extra computer – he tends to get a lot of attention, as everyone seems to love Toothless.  And we can’t forget my little bit of motivation from Captain Picard, stuck to the side of the second computer…

"You'll have to get through me first."

“You’ll have to get through me first.”

And a little bit of fun – I’ve got a tiny cut-out of Steve hanging on my makeshift cubicle wall. Not many people have noticed him yet, but he gives me the giggles whenever I catch sight of him.

Stay tuned – tomorrow, I’ll be showing off my home office!  It looks wildly different from the last time I posted about it

Classy Crafting and the Ugly Blanket

I apologize for the goofy picture, Siobhain!

I apologize for the goofy picture, Siobhain!

First off, I’ll say this: I miss my classy crafting buddy, Siobhain.  She graduated last May – but before that, whenever we were in class together, she’d knit and I’d crochet.  And it was awesome.  It made classes a little easier to pay attention in, and crafting together was better than awkwardly crocheting in the back corner of the room, like I do in Public Library Management nowadays.  (I still proudly crochet in the front of the room for Metadata, though, as the professor for that class only remembers me because I used to do yarn-craft-stuff at the front of the room with Siobhain!) I’m the only one still doing any sort of yarn craft in my classes – unless I try to encourage people to craft with me, I guess.  And that’s if they’re even interested in doing yarn stuff.  I get a little bit of a social crafting fix when I crochet with Ellie on rainy Thursdays instead of going for our weekly walk, though, so that’s good!  And this May, I’ll be graduating too, and then I won’t need a classy crafting buddy because I won’t be crafting in class! (Unless I go for the Specialist in Library/Info Science degree…)

But yes, classy crafting is in full force.  And this semester, so far, I have made a pretty blanket (which lives at my desk), and I’m working on a delicate shawl to go with my wedding dress and the focus of my post today, an ugly blanket.

An ugly blanket, but oh so soft!

An ugly blanket, but oh so soft!

This blanket came about due to having a huge mess of Mighty Stitch yarn at home left over from the corner-to-corner blankets I made for Ross and myself – it’s so soft, and I love working with it, but the mess that’s left is an odd arrangement of blues and greens with some purple, gray, pink, and white thrown in.  So, the only thing I can think of to do with all that yarn is to use two strands of it together and make a thick, snuggly, small, and ugly blanket.  It’s actually a rather sentimental ugly blanket, considering it’s a combination of the yarn I used for both mine and Ross’s blankets, and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy, figuratively as well as literally, to work on it.

I haven’t done much work with two strands of yarn before – it’s a little trickier to work with, that’s for certain, but it results in a really unique look.  One of my classmates in Metadata, Samantha, said that Ugly Blanket kind of resembles some of those woven rugs you might see in specialty shops, and I think she’s right.  It doesn’t really stop it from being somewhat homely-looking, though – some of these colors don’t quite go together well, heheh.

I’ve never actually worked on a blanket in class before.  I figure at some point, it’ll get unwieldy, and I won’t be able to cart it along with me anymore. Until I get to that point, however, I’m gonna load it into Mia (or into my backpack, which I shall take on Mini-Mia, my new bike!), and drag it to Metadata and Public Library Management every week this semester, and keep adding onto this semester’s big classy crafting project: the ugly blanket.

Crafting for a Cause

As I’m sure many of you have heard last week, David Bowie passed away – his music had a profound impact on my life, and was the soundtrack to my early college years.  When Ross shared the news last week, I thought he was kidding, to be honest – but my Facebook feed said otherwise.  I spent the rest of the morning trying not to burst into tears while I got ready for work.  As I went through my day, I saw the reactions of my friends on social media, and wished there was something I could do to help them, and to help myself feel better.  We were all hurting.

And then I saw this tweet from my friend Josie:

I have graphic design skills.  And I wanted to do something creative as an outlet for my Bowie-related feels.  So I responded to Josie’s tweet, and together, we took her idea and turned it into a button.  She told me she had an idea for a button with the lightning bolt from Bowie’s makeup from the Aladdin Sane cover, behind the letters RIP – and that the spaces in the R and P were Bowie’s eyes.  I took that idea, and turned it into the following design:

bowie_eyes

Josie thought it was great, and so I shrunk it down into a button-sized graphic, which she printed and turned into buttons with her button making machine.

button

Josie came up with the idea to make more of these buttons, and sell them on Etsy to raise money for the New York Theater Workshop, which is currently running Lazarus, a musical written by David Bowie, as well as to raise money for cancer research – and I thought it was a great idea, so she’s selling the buttons we’ve made.  If you want to pick up one of your own, you can get one from Josie’s Etsy store for $3.

Josie’s got a little something to share about the process, too:

Anyone who knows me knows I love buttons. I have a bag covered in them and am planning a button-covered dress to debut at New York Comic Con (or an earlier event, if I complete it before then). I got a button-making machine for my birthday, but had not yet designed or created any of my own pins by the time David Bowie died a few days later.
I’m not ashamed to say I was devastated by the death of my idol, and creating this button with Beth gave me an outlet to do something with my grief. Even if nothing comes of it, even if I only sell a few, turning my grief into something proactive and positive helped me to heal. I hope it did the same for her.
-Josie

And it did help me heal. Together we ended up crafting for a cause, with my design skills and her button maker.  Making the design felt like a good creative outlet for my feelings, and helped me process them in a productive way, and it helped Josie as well.

David Bowie Rest in Peace button – $3.00, Etsy

Evolving Collections

And no, I’m not talking about Pokemon here, heheh.

One of the things I’ve noticed as an emphatic collector of things that relate to my most loved fandoms is that my collections tend to evolve, especially the longer I end up in the fandom.  When I’m building my collection, I tend to buy anything and everything relating to my favorite show or game.  Sailor Moon hairbrushes?  Sure, I’ll buy six!  Twilight Sparkle toothbrush holder?  This would be amazing in my bathroom!  Princess Peach change purse?  Doubt I’ll ever use it, but Princess Peach stuff is so freaking rare that I’ll buy anything I see with her face on it!  Toothless coin bank?  You’re coming home with me, buddy.  Anything with a scooter on it?  I MUST HAVE IT.  And so on.

But after a while, I get overwhelmed with the largeness of my collection.  At one point, I must have had about fifty little brushable My Little Ponies.  And my Sailor Moon collection, back in its heyday, was absolutely ridiculous.  I had such silly things like a Sailor Moon birthday party set – cups, plates, etcetera – still in its original packaging.  And six Sailor Moon hair brushes.  I’ve got a couple pictures below of the Sailor Moon collection, circa 2005, along with other assorted anime goodies – forgive the quality, the photos were taken on a digital camera that was old in 2005…

I also used to own a Princess Toadstool cookie jar.  (Oh, the stories I could tell about wanting that silly cookie jar, and my excitement when I finally got it…)

The Princess Toadstool cookie jar, with me in my first foray into costume-making, circa 1997.

And don’t even get me started on the My Little Pony collection…

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Spoiler-Free Review! Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

starwars

It’s the movie everyone’s been talking about all over the internet the past few weeks: the new Star Wars movie.  After the mess that was the prequel trilogy, I know a lot of us Star Wars fans (myself included) were wondering what J. J. Abrams would do with the series.  Would he ruin it or change it beyond recognition, like the Star Trek films?  (Don’t even get me started on the Star Trek films by J. J. Abrams – I like them, but… yeah.  Don’t get me started.)  Would he fill it up with lens-flares?  Would it be more of the unpleasantness that was the prequel trilogy?

I’ll admit, I was nervous about seeing this movie.  I’ve seen the prequels.  I’ve watched Episode I too many times to count, mostly because it was the first movie at the drive-in every freaking week during the summer of 1999.  I didn’t see Episode II and III more than once, though, because they were mediocre.  They felt weird, compared to the original trilogy.  I was worried that The Force Awakens would be more of what happened in the prequels.

However, I was pleasantly surprised.  Very pleasantly surprised.

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Crafty New Year Resolutions

ponyparty

Happy New Year, everyone!  I’ve got a good feeling about 2016 – I think it’s gonna be a great year. And I want to make sure it’s great, too.  I’m not normally the type to make resolutions, but I think it feels right for this year – so here’s The Crafty Nerd’s Resolutions for 2016!

The Resolutions…

  • Post at least one new blog post a week.  Even if it means spending a bunch of time wracking my brain to put together new ideas for blog posts.  I’m creative.  I’ll figure out something to write about!
  • Actually talk about my craft projects regularly.  Did you guys know I crocheted three blankets between August and Christmas?  Three blankets. I think I’m about ready to swear off crocheting for a while.  But you guys haven’t heard about that because I haven’t really been talking about my craft projects!  Which is sad, considering the blog I write.
  • Make at least one new costume for convention-wearing.  I’m pretty sure the regular Indiana convention-going crowd recognizes my tutu-and-little-blue-jacket Pinkie Pie costume (and is probably bored with it by now) – so for this year’s conventions, I’m going to make at least one new costume.  Will it be Grand Galloping Gala Pinkie Pie?  Will it be Captain Janeway?  Who knows!
  • Keep up with my tasks and to-dos with Habitica. For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember HabitRPG, the website that turns keeping up with your habits into a game.  Well, the crew over there changed the site’s name to Habitica, and things are looking pretty awesome!  A new mobile app was just released, and it looks really slick – and of course the same old “complete tasks, fight monsters, and level up” gameplay is there.  (If you’re on Habitica and want to join a guild for crafty challenges and friendly chatter, check out the Crafty Nerds guild!)
  • Experiment with a new type of craft project. There’s gotta be something out there I haven’t tried yet.  I’ve just barely dipped my toes into the Tunisian crochet pool, and could try making a blanket or a scarf with a fancy design… And there’s way more out there to experiment with, and even more crafts that I haven’t done since I was a kid, like making a latch-hook rug!  (Although given the massive amount of little yarn pieces that ended up exploding all over my room when I was a kid, maybe latch-hooking isn’t the best craft idea…)
  • Organize my craft room! You don’t even want to see my craft room right now.  It looks like Jo-Ann Fabrics and KnitPicks exploded in there.  There might be a bed in there somewhere, too, and a ton of ponies.  So, massive organization is in order.

That’s my crafty plan for next year!  I hope all of you have a wonderful and crafty 2016! :)

10 More Free Nerdy Cross-Stitch Patterns!

Last year, I did a collection of free cross-stitch patterns – and everyone loved it!  I think that’s one of the most viewed posts on the blog.  So, as a holiday treat, I’m going to share ten more awesomely nerdy cross-stitch patterns that are completely free!  Simply click on the image for your desired pattern, and it’ll take you to the pattern’s website.

TARDIS Quote Pattern

tardispattern

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Books to Keep Warm With this Winter

Well, the weather here in Bloomington isn’t exactly super wintry, but it definitely is a bit rainy here – and one of my favorite things to do when it’s rainy and wet out, aside from crafting, is reading – as I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now. :) And since most of us are probably enjoying some much needed time off, how about picking up one of these books to keep warm with while enjoying the holidays?  I’ve read all of these, and they definitely rank as some of my favorites.

The Finishing School Series, by Gail Carriger

D1Q5RERz1OS._SL250_If you’re interested in steampunk, you might want to read the Finishing School series by one of my most favorite authors, Gail Carriger.  The entire series is out now, with the last book only having been released in November.  Follow the adventures of Sophronia Temminick as she enters into a finishing school that’s not quite what she’s initially expecting… There are plenty of exciting adventures in the series to keep you reading for hours!  I’m currently re-reading my way through the series.

The Finishing School Series on Amazon

 

The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson

explosionistIf you’re an alternate history fan, or interested in a good murder mystery, give The Explosionist a read.  Set just before World War II, in Scotland, the story follows a sixteen year old girl named Sophie who ends up pulled into an investigation of the sudden death of a spiritual medium that had a strange message for her…  The book was a little odd at points, but it was definitely a page turner, and I’d recommend it for a good afternoon read.

The Explosionist on Amazon

 

 

 

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

notwHow on earth have I not recommended this book on my blog yet?  This book pulled me out of a depressive funk years ago, where I hadn’t read a single in an entire year (!!) – I tore through this in a week.  This is part one of a three-book series, following the story of Kvothe, a magician and musician with quite a storied past.  I’m not sure how much I can say about this without giving away too much of the plot, so all I will say about this book is that you won’t be able to put it down – everyone I’ve talked to who’s read it has said the same thing.

The Name of the Wind on Amazon

 

 

Written in Red, by Anne Bishop

writteninredAnne Bishop is an author whose books I’ve been enjoying for years – her first books were very good, and as she’s written more and more, her stories and writing style just keep getting better.  I’ve mentioned The Others series on my blog before, and Written in Red is the first book in the series. It focuses on Meg, a young woman who can tell the future when her skin is cut, and her escape from her handlers that ends with her seeking safety in the Lakeside Courtyard.  However, that’s only the beginning of the story – trouble ends up following her to the Courtyard…  For those of you who like fantasy novels and supernatural creatures, such as shapeshifters, this book (and the series it’s part of) will definitely catch your attention.

Written in Red on Amazon

 

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

fortuneFortune’s Pawn was the first of many books read in Gail Carriger’s book group – it’s a sci-fi story set mainly in outer space, focusing on the story of Devi, a mercenary, as she takes up a new position on an allegedly cursed trade ship, the Glorious Fool.  Along with Devi, you’ll meet an interesting cast of characters, including the strong and attractive Rupert, the daydreamy Nova, and Ren, who proves to be quite a mystery.  If you like Firefly, Star Wars, or other space dramas, you’ll enjoy Fortune’s Pawn.

Fortune’s Pawn on Amazon

The Crafty Nerd Revisits Final Fantasy VII

cnffvii

With all the hype surrounding the remake of Final Fantasy VII floating around the internet lately, and with the lack of classes for the next couple of weeks, I figured now was the best time to get re-acquainted with one of the most applauded and well-loved RPGs around.  (It also didn’t hurt that FFVII was on sale for $3.60 on Amazon/Steam on Black Friday, either…)  For those of you who haven’t ever played the game before, there are some spoilers in here, so be forewarned.

Some backstory…

Now, I’ve got a long history with this game.  A long and ridiculous history.  It goes way back to 1998, after the game first came out – I wanted to play it, really badly, but my mother didn’t think we needed a PlayStation in addition to our slew of Nintendo consoles.  So, I borrowed a friend’s player’s guide and read through it.  I read through the freaking instruction manual for the game a billion times.  I’d listen to the neighbor kid tell me his progress in the game as he worked his way through it, living vicariously through him.  And when I finally made it to college, and got a job, I bought the PC version of Final Fantasy VII.  And man, was it buggy, and playing it on a keyboard was rough, but I loved it.  I soaked up all the fan fiction and fan art I could.  Somewhere in my ancient stash of MP3 backup CDs, there’s a disc full of FFVII music I downloaded from Napster way back in the day.  That game was my life.

After classes ramped up, I ended up putting the game aside – and if I remember right, I ended up loaning it to a friend, never to be seen again.  Fast forward to when I managed to acquire a PS1 of my very own – I bought a used copy, and played it religiously until midway through Disc 2, I think, where my copy had a scratch and simply refused to go any further than a cutscene somewhere in Cosmo Canyon of Red XIII howling at the moon.  Some years later, my friend Patty gave me her copy of FFVII and the player’s guide, and made me very happy.  And I played the heck out of that, from the beginning, because I lost the memory card that my original save game was on.

And then I somehow lost the copy Patty gave me.  I have no idea HOW.  I still have the player’s guide that went with it.  I even have the memory card my save file is on, just in case I actually find the game again.  I’m still miffed about its disappearance. Why couldn’t I lose Final Fantasy VIII?  That game was far more infuriating to play, with its weird junction system.  Anyhow.  Fast forward again, to when Bryan buys a PS3.  I find out I can get FFVII from the PlayStation store, and of course I buy it, and play through the beginning of the game a FOURTH time.  Then I bought a PS Vita, Bryan and I split, and I had to start FFVII again.  A fifth time.  (At least the version I bought from the PS Store worked on both the PS3 and the Vita!)

Then, of course, I sold my PS Vita because I never actually used it for much aside from the occasional “oh maybe I should play Final Fantasy something-or-other”.  So, Black Friday this year rolls around, and I figure, why not?  I’m gonna buy a fifth copy of FFVII on Amazon/Steam.  Because I can, and because I am DETERMINED to beat the game.  Even though I know how it ends, because my friend Tyler spoiled it all for me back in 1998.  So I did, and I even found the dongle that allows you to hook up a PlayStation 1/2 controller to a computer through USB.  Success!

Glad I hung onto that Player's Guide...

Glad I hung onto that Player’s Guide…

Playing the Game

Now that I’ve got the game again, and I’ve made it through roughly 8 hours of the game, I’ve noticed quite a few things about this PC release.  First off, there’s been some tweaking to the character models – the polygons look nice and smooth now.  Which makes for a HUGE contrast when compared to the backgrounds and static objects in the game, which look incredibly pixelated.  My first couple hours in this replay were spent playing in front of a 28 inch monitor hooked up to my Surface, and my first thoughts were “wow, this game has not aged well, graphically.”

Super smooth characters, super pixelly background...

Super smooth characters, super pixelly background at high resolutions…

Another observation I had: I don’t know if the characters always looked like this, or if this is just due to playing an old game on an HD computer monitor, but whoa, do the characters eyes look WEIRD.

The pixelated eyes on the smooth polygon characters is... kinda unsettling.

The pixelated eyes on the smooth polygon characters is… kinda unsettling on an HD monitor.

They’re incredibly pixelated, compared to the typical gameplay character models.  And it’s weird.  Did they always look like that, or is it just emphasized because they smoothed the heck out of the character models?  I have no idea.  I’ll say this for sure – the game looks far better on smaller screens, like the Surface Pro – you don’t notice the super-pixelation or the weirdness with the eyes on the character models all that much.

Awkward shot of everyone's favorite super-villain, Sephiroth!

Awkward shot of everyone’s favorite super-villain, Sephiroth!

The battle character models look a bit better than they used to, which is nice!  The polygon smoothing and extra sprucing up worked out well in this department.  They’re good looking, better than 1997 standards.  I actually kinda like going into battles, especially with newly acquired characters, to see how spiffy their models are looking.

Aww, it's a family portrait... *snerk*

Aww, it’s a family portrait… *snerk*

One thing that hasn’t changed at all are the quality of the cutscenes.  Which were absolutely fantastic for 1997, and are a little grainy now but still hold the storytelling impact they previously did.  I spent last night holding my controller tightly as Cloud talked about his past with Sephiroth, and even after playing through Kalm Town for the third time, I still find the story as immersive and gripping as I did the first time I played it.

One thing I’m not quite too sure about is Square Enix’s implementation of the Character Booster – it’s helpful, yeah, but it’s not quite what I was expecting.  When I read about it, it seemed like it was meant to max out all your character’s stats – and their level, too – to 9999, therefore making it easy to push through the game for the story if that’s all you care about.  What it does in reality is boost the HP/MP of the characters currently in your party to their max levels (around 9999 HP/999 MP, but it’s different for each character), and maxes your gil out to 4999999999 or some other absurdly high amount.  And don’t get me wrong, that’s helpful, but it’s not what I was anticipating – and it means I’m still stuck level grinding so I can actually do damage to enemies.  Plus, I have to remember to go back and tweak the Character Boost stuff every time I get a new party member – I just picked up Red XIII, and he’s only got 450 HP, compared to Barret’s 9900, so back to the Square Enix website I must go to boost my stats…

I’m looking forward to finally beating the game, though.  Sure, I’m only 8 hours in, but I’ll get there eventually.  Especially considering the motivation I’ve got for finishing – having the whole story under my belt before the FFVII Remake comes out.  And who knows, maybe this’ll rekindle my inner gamer.  After all, Final Fantasy VI is being released on Steam this afternoon…

Triangle Shawl Pattern (based on the ever-popular Corner to Corner blanket)

A friend of mine (hi Ellie!) just got started crocheting, and asked me for a shawl pattern that was relatively simple for a beginner.  I’ve been cranking out Corner to Corner blankets like nobody’s business for the past couple of months, and Ellie and I both figure that half of a Corner to Corner blanket would make a pretty awesome shawl.  However, the pattern for the Corner to Corner blanket is written rather complicatedly, despite it being a simple pattern to work. So, here comes The Crafty Nerd’s first ever crochet pattern – even if it’s just a simplified writing of an existing pattern!  And, of course, I’m including pictures.

To start:

  • Chain six.
  • In the fourth chain away from the hook, make one double crochet.
  • Double crochet in remaining two chains.  You will have a little square at this point.
20151215_173618

Gah, my crocheting task lamp is way too bright for the whites in this yarn

First row:

  • ​​chain six, turn the work over to start the next row
  • in the fourth chain from hook, make one double crochet
  • double crochet in remaining two chains – this will result in two squares next to each other. We’ll be joining these two squares together with a slip stitch in the next step.

    20151215_173756

    Two awkward little squares

  • In the chain space at the end of the first row, make a slip stitch, and then make a chain of three.  It’ll look like the following picture:

    20151215_173817

    Squares, joined!

  • In the chain space, make three double crochets.  You’ll end up with something that looks like a little heart.  That’s it for this row!
20151215_173840

Our first full row!

All the rest of the rows:

  1. Chain six, turn the work over to start the next row.
  2. In the fourth chain from the hook, make a double crochet.
  3. Double crochet in remaining two chains.

    Here’s the steps you’ll repeat until you get to the end of the row.

  4. In 3-chain space, make one slip stitch, then make a chain of three.
  5. In the same 3-chain space, make three double crochets.
  6. Move to the next 3-chain space, start from step 4 again.
  7. Repeat until the end of the row.  Once you get to the end of the row, start from step 1 in this section.

Here’s what you’ll come up with after one repeat…

20151215_174825

…and after lots and lots and lots of repeats.  (Granted, this is an entirely different project, but still the same corner-to-corner pattern!)

20151215_174900

Once you get to the desired size, just fasten off your last stitch and you’re done!

If you learn better by watching, check out this video by Stitchinstacy on YouTube!  She walks you through the process of doing the corner-to-corner stitch, but in more detail than the pictures I’ve got here.

If you work through this pattern and have questions, let me know in the comments!  Or if there’s something that needs better explanation, let me know.  I’ll happily rework this until it’s easy enough to understand for crocheters of all ages!  (And if anyone wants me to break down the other half the blanket pattern… let me know!)