Category: Crafting

Four crafts to try this summer

With the warmer temperatures arriving here in Bloomington, I’ve been looking for crafts to do that don’t involve me being buried under a pile of yarn — and I’m sure a number of you folks out there reading this are too. Or, you might just be looking for some new crafts to try out, to add some variety to your crafting life! So, based on a blog post suggestion from my friend Katherine, I’ve come up with a couple of fun summer crafts to try out. Some of these might not be new to you, but you might end up finding some new techniques to try out for some of these crafts!

Make a hand-carved wood sign

This idea I got from Kasi while we were camping together at a festival recently. A bunch of us were crafting around the fire, mostly knitting, and we joked that we should call ourselves the Crafter Circle — and that prompted Kasi to try her hand at making a sign for us, using wood carving tools to carve the letters out of the sign.

Almost done – just needs some paint for the word “crafter”!

It’s a work in progress, as you can see, but it’s looking pretty awesome so far – especially for this being Kasi’s first time doing wood carving!

To get started with something like this, you’ll need wood carving tools (which you can get at craft stores like Michaels or Jo-Ann’s), a blank wood sign, some paint or wood stain (depending on how you want to finish it), and a pencil to sketch out your design with. Check out this tutorial on DoItYourself.com for a quick guide on how to get started.

Dye your own yarn

I’ve been wanting to dye my own yarn forever, and this summer, I think I’ll finally get the chance.

Look at all these lovely colors! (Image from Fiber Arts Bootcamp.)

For me, this would definitely be an outdoor craft, since I know I’ll end up making a mess — I mean, come on, every time I try to dye my hair at home, it looks like someone got murdered in my bathroom, what with all the red hair dye that ends up everywhere. This guide from Darn Good Yarn should help you get started with dying your own yarn at home.

Make a crochet mandala

Crochet mandalas seem to be all the rage today — and with it being too hot to do much yarn work with anything bigger than a sock, making a mandala might help keep your hands busy with without you overheating in the process. Lucy from Attic24 has made some lovely mandalas in hoops, as you can see in the following picture.

Mandalas made by Lucy of Attic24.

You can also make some non-hooped mandalas of varying levels of intricacy – check out this post on The Crochet Crowd for some free mandala patterns. Lucy also has a tutorial on how to make hooped mandalas on her blog.

Tie-dye all sorts of things

Okay, so I already mentioned dying yarn, but tie-dying is a little bit different… plus, tie-dying is a craft that I’m definitely not new to. I used to work as a camp counselor during the summers when I was in high school and college, and more often than not, I’d lead the tie-dying evening activities. In the process, I learned you can tie-dye just about anything — shirts, socks, pants, bandannas, pillow cases, bed sheets… if it’s made out of cotton fabric, you can tie-dye it.

Photo of a rainbow-colored tie-dye t-shirt.
T-shirts are just the beginning!

There are lots of ways to tie-dye things, and many different dyes and processes you can use. At summer camp we’d use Rit dyes, but they tended to fade pretty quickly if the garment was worn often, so I’d suggest stronger dyes if you want something that will last. Jo-Ann’s has an awesome tie-dye t-shirt technique guide that’ll help you get started, if you want to have some fun with tie-dying your clothes (and bedding, and random quilt fabric, and other miscellaneous items).

These are just a handful of fun crafts you could try out this summer — if you’ve got suggestions of your own, share them in the comments!

Getting back into sewing

I’m pretty sure you folks all know I love to sew.  I’ve rambled about it a number of times on the blog.  Unfortunately, I haven’t really done much of it lately — largely because I don’t really have space to permanently set up my sewing machine.  It’s kind of a pain in the butt to set my sewing space up in the kitchen, sew for a few hours, and then take it all back down because we need to eat.  And unless I want to try to sew standing up, with the sewing machine perched on my giant dresser, there’s not really space to set it up in my craft room.

Not pictured: the messy bed with the cat sprawled on top of it, or the huge dresser covered in a mess of craft supplies.

Eventually I’ll have the space, since I’m planning on getting rid of the giant dresser (which takes up nearly an entire wall) and getting a much more reasonably sized one from Ikea at some point, and rearranging the furniture that’s left.  However, that’s going to involve some help from friends and a trip up to Fishers to get a new dresser, and a number of other things that I can’t quite get done right away.

In the meantime, I figured out a space where I can semi-permanently set up my sewing machine!  You’ll probably laugh, but hey, it’s working out pretty well for me.

My tiny sewing studio, complete with Super Mario trash can, motorcycle, and ugly garage floor. (I never said this was a glamorous studio!)

Yes, I’ve set up my sewing machine in the garage, of all places. Sure, it smells a little bit like motorcycle fumes when it gets warm in there, but I don’t mind it.  I have both my sewing machine and my ironing board set up at the same time, and can switch between them easily — which is wonderful.  When I try to set everything up in the kitchen, inevitably I end up tripping over something or knocking something over.  I used to flop the ironing board on top of the washer and dryer, but since Ross and I got new ones last year with rounded tops, I can’t quite iron in the laundry room anymore.

It’s actually not so bad, sewing in the garage.  Sure, it doesn’t look glamorous at all, but since when do all craft rooms have to be shiny and pretty and Instagram-worthy?  And I have the added benefit of being able to enjoy lots of fresh air, since I can just open up the garage door and practically be sewing outside.

Lapis: “can I help? 😀 “

Plus, that means I can sew with New Lapis! Who I’ll probably ramble about in more detail at a later date.  After all, she is The Crafty Nerdmobile!  (And once a month, she’s Lappy the LARPmobile too.)

Anyway, I’ve managed to put my sewing studio to good use so far — I’ve started work on a disappearing 9-patch quilt, and I’m to the part where I can start sewing the completed squares together.

The start of the disappearing 9-patch square — this is before I chopped it all up.

I’m really impressed with how these squares are coming out, on most of them the seams are lining up perfectly.  I learned some new quilting techniques (or, more accurately, ironing techniques) that really helped with this.  I didn’t know until recently that when you’re working with quilt squares, you shouldn’t iron them like you’d typically iron a shirt or other sewing projects.  Instead, you just flop the iron down on the seam you want to press flat and let gravity do the work.  I’ve been setting the iron on the seam for a few seconds, then lifting it and setting it further down, and it’s working out really well for me.

And here’s the square after! Doesn’t it look fantastic?

I think once I’m finished with this quilt, I might actually get working on the Sailor Moon quilt again – which also might end up being a disappearing 9-patch as well.  This pattern is fun, and ends up looking really nice when it’s done.  Not sure what I’ll do with either of these quilts when they’re finished, as I’m starting to run out of places to put them, but I’ll figure it out eventually.

I missed sewing.

How to make your dragon a shawl: part 1

Recently, I finally got brave enough to try making the Wingspan Shawl – while I’ve been knitting for… gosh, nearly 25 years, I’ve never really been confident in my skills beyond the the garter stitch until recently.  Now that I’ve made a number of pair of socks, though, I figured I could finally tackle the Wingspan Shawl.  I’ve been wanting to try it for years, and so I decided to try my hand at it with some yarn I picked up at a trunk show recently.  (It’s Blackberry Brambles by Oink Pigments, for those curious!)

Shawl that somewhat resembles a dragon wing, in shades of cream, pink, blue, and green.
Doesn’t this look lovely?

Once I got into the swing of things, I found out I really love working this pattern – it’s just interesting enough to keep me from getting bored, but simple enough that I can work it while watching TV.  I chugged through quite a bit of this wingspan shawl, but then encountered a problem: I ran out of yarn.

Toothless the Dragon from How To Train Your Dragon, with a grumpy look on his face.
“… are you telling me we’re out of yarn?”

While I was working on the Blackberry Brambles wingspan, though, I had an idea: I could make a Toothless-inspired wingspan shawl, with most of the shawl being black and the last two panels being red, like Toothless’s tail.

Toothless the Dragon from How To Train Your Dragon, showing his red prostetic tail fins.
Yeah, it’s his tail and not his wing (like the shawl’s name), but hey, it works, right?

So while I waited for my next skein of Blackberry Brambles to get here from Oink Pigments, I went to Jo-Ann’s and snagged some red and black yarn and whipped up this awesome little shawlette:

Plush Toothless the Dragon, sitting on the floor next to a shawl that resembles a dragon's wing.
It turned out really well, I think! I might be biased, though.

It’s not quite finished, yet – I want to add the dragon insignia that’s on Toothless’s tail fin, but that’ll involve another trip out to the craft store for some felt.  Once I’ve got that added, I’ll share the finished product with you all, as well as the template I create for the dragon insignia and instructions for how to add it to your own wingspan shawl!

The crochet-a-long, two-ish months later

Well, the Woodland Blanket crochet-a-long I posted about a little while ago came to a close a few weeks ago.  How’s my blanket looking, you ask?

Blanket in multiple colors draped over a basket.
It’s definitely a blanket!

Well, even though the crochet-a-long wrapped up recently, I’m still 11 or 12 stripes away from finishing the blanket.  I managed to keep up with the rest of the group pretty well for the first month or so, and then my ADHD caught up with me and my brain said “hey, let’s find something else to work on, we’ve worked on this blanket for like a month straight, so let’s do something new and exciting!”

So I started a pair of socks.

Beginning of a knitted sock, roughly three inches long.
This sock is much further along now, I’ve rounded the heel at this point!

And then I dug out a cardigan that I’d started a few years ago and hadn’t finished yet.

Close-up of crochet stitchwork that's part of a cardigan.
It still looks like an amorphous blob at this point, but the stitch pattern is pretty.

And then I decided to go back to another pair of socks I was working on and do some work on those.

Two socks, one still being knitted, only completed up to the heel of the sock.
This pair is actually pretty close to being finished!

And then I felt guilty about not working on the blanket and went back to working on that for a little bit, but then got distracted by socks again.  I know I’ll finish that blanket soon – I keep telling myself that I’ll finish it after I finish the socks with the zigzag pattern, that I won’t start any more projects until I get some others finished.  Will I actually be able to stick to that, though? Who knows.

Anyhow, I’ll post about the blanket when I get it finished, I promise.  And I will get that finished.  I’m determined.

Five more free nerdy cross-stitch patterns

Everybody loves free things, and especially free cross-stitch patterns!  So, here, have another collection of nerdy free cross-stitch patterns.

Rick and Morty Big Heads

Preview of Rick and Morty Big Heads cross-stitch pattern

Because everyone loves Rick and Morty, here’s a pattern of our favorite dysfunctional interdimensional travelers.

Home Is Where My Butt Is

Cross-stitch pattern with a cat on a couch, with the caption Home is where my butt is.

Oh, Pusheen.  So cute and sassy.

Navi in a Bottle

Cross-stitch pattern of a little fairy in a bottle, with the text Hey Listen.
Because sometimes, you just want to cram Navi in a bottle.

Bowie Cross-Stitch Pattern

Cross stitch pattern of David Bowie, with the lightning bolt on his face from Aladdin Sane.
A little bit of Bowie is always good.

Totoro Bookmark Cross-Stitch Pattern

Image of a cross-stitch bookmark featuring Totoro.

I’ll let you all in on a little secret… I actually still haven’t seen My Neighbor Totoro yet.  I know, it’s shocking!

Five awesome nerdy DIY projects

Stuck home on a rainy weekend with nothing to do?  Looking for something fun to make for your home office or living room?  Check out this roundup of five awesome nerdy do-it-yourself projects to help make your home a little extra nerdy.

DIY D20 Lamp from Our Nerdy Home


This incredibly easy IKEA lamp hack would make an awesome addition to your office, game room, or anyplace else that needs a little extra light.  And with the materials costing less than $25, this is a relatively inexpensive project!  (Which is always good, so you can save some money for more games, right?)  🙂

Don’t Panic Towel Messenger Bag from Nerd By Night

Alright, this is something I’m probably going to have to make for hauling around Gen Con goodies.  I think this is quite possibly the nerdiest bag I’ve ever seen – and I need it in my life.  I mean, come on, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy themed bagmade from a towel.  And for the cost of a towel, you can be a hoopy frood with a towel bag of your very own.

Light Up and Talking PotatOS from Portal 2, by codename-3c

Looking for something a little more complicated to make?  Why not try your hand at this talking PotatOS from Portal 2?  (Note: there are spoilers for Portal 2 in the instructions for this project, so keep that in mind if you haven’t played it yet!)  I’m half tempted to try making this for Ross.

Geek Welcome Mats from Our Nerd Home

Our Nerd Home has a lot of awesome DIY projects on their site – and this is another awesome project of theirs!  These geeky welcome mats look relatively simple to make, and you could easily do all sorts of designs with this technique!  (I’m imagining Rainbow Dash’s cutie mark as one idea for a welcome mat…)

DIY Comic Book Lamp from A Girl and A Glue Gun


I like this comic book lamp project. It looks like it’d be a lot of fun to do with not just old comic books, but all sorts of nerdy artwork – and you could easily just make a new lampshade for an existing lamp, or snag a lamp from a thrift store that needs a little bit of TLC!

Hopefully these five project ideas might spark your DIY side and give you some ideas for fun stuff to make the next time you’re bored and looking for something creative to do!  I know I’ve got some ideas, that’s for sure.

The Crafty Nerd tries a crochet-a-long

Did you folks know I’ve never, ever done a crochet-a-long before?  Ever?

Well, that changed at the beginning of January – and I’m having a lot of fun with it.  For those curious, I’m taking part in the Woodland Blanket Crochet-a-Long, led by Lucy of Attic24.  Kasi suggested we do the crochet-a-long together, and so we bought the yarn in December and waited.

This bag of yarn taunted me for weeks.

And on January 5th, the Woodland Blanket crochet-a-long started!  And I did a first for me – I made a gauge swatch before jumping headlong into a blanket.

And it was exactly the size it needed to be!

I was ridiculously excited that the gauge swatch turned out exactly as it should – and I jumped right in after that, and crocheted until my wrist hurt.  It’s been a while since I crocheted anything, what with my recent obsession with sock making, hah, and my wrist was out of practice.

Steve’s been really enjoying me crocheting, too.  A warm human, sitting still for hours while making a thing to snuggle under? Count him in.

I think he’s already claimed the blanket as his own.

And I’ll admit, instead of writing blog posts, I’ve been crocheting furiously and hanging out around the Facebook group for the crochet-a-long.  There are so many pretty blankets being showed off there, and I love seeing all the different ways people are working with the colors and following their own path through the crochet-a-long.  It’s almost addicting, working on the blanket and looking at others’ blankets as they’re in progress.  The pattern for this blanket has a nice rhythm to it, and the colors we’ve all been working with the past few weeks are delightfully warm and have really brightened up the recent string of snow days I’ve had.

The best thing to do on a snow day: crochet and drink chai.

I’ll post about the blanket again closer to when it’s finished, so I don’t end up overwhelming everyone with blanket posts like I’ve been doing on Instagram.  It’s been a great project to unwind with when I get home from work.  Especially on days like today, when I had one of the least pleasant commutes home ever – I’m so tempted to hibernate until all the snow melts.  Driving in snow is scary.  Crocheting is not.

 

The trials and tribulations of quilt pattern making

Goodness, quilt pattern making is hard.  I never realized just how hard until I started work on the Sailor Moon quilt.

First off, trying to figure out how much fabric I needed for this quilt has been… an adventure, to say the least.  I started off with very uneven amounts of old Sailor Moon fabric, and thought to myself, “okay, I’ll try out making a pattern where the main squares have a moon pattern in them, and then alternate them with 9-block squares!”  I roughed out a pattern based on 12-inch quilt squares, made up of 9 pieces, and figured I’d at least have enough Sailor Moon fabric to make that pattern work.

Side note: holy crap the Livescribe pen makes it super easy to share random notes like this

It was a great idea, and I was super excited – however, I’d actually ordered the fabric I was going to use for the quilt before I actually built the pattern.  Which was not the smartest idea I’ve ever had.  However, I cut my existing fabric into squares while I waited for the fat quarters I’d ordered from Spoonflower to come, and did some research to figure out how many 4.5 inch squares I could get out of a fat quarter.  Turns out, you can theoretically get sixteen 4.5 inch squares from a fat quarter!

If the fat quarter is appropriately sized, anyway.

For those of you who’ve never ordered from Spoonflower before, they custom print your chosen design on whatever fabric you choose at the time you order it.  Which is pretty darn cool, I think – but with the fat quarters, they’re not exactly a standard size – and on top of that, the printing was a little off, size-wise, resulting in some quilt squares that have a white border on one edge.  (I’m sure it’ll be hidden when I start piecing things together, but still, it’s annoying.)

Either I really suck at cutting, or something was off at the Spoonflower printers when I got that fabric printed…

I did, however, make a quilt pattern.  And I think it’ll look pretty cool, once made – but I’m not even sure I want to make it with this fabric, given all the ridiculousness with different amounts of different fabric patterns and all. I might end up doing the disappearing 9-patch pattern I’ve seen around the internet, though – I’ve been wanting to try it for a while, and with a couple solid fat quarters, I should easily be able to make it.  What I will do with that pattern, instead, is polish it up into a nice PDF and possibly post it here for people to test out, if I’ve got any followers who are nerdy quilters who’d want to beta test a pattern for me…

And you know what’s really sad?  I finally got the solid colored fat quarters I needed to help break up the crazy patterns, and I still haven’t cut them up yet.  I’ve had them for a few weeks now and haven’t touched them.  Maybe when I’m on vacation, I’ll finally tackle this quilt in earnest…

The Crafty Nerd gets her nerdy crafting on, finally (and rambles a lot in the process)

Or at least I will be, once Spoonflower ships out my latest fabric order.

So, there’s a bit of a story behind this latest crafting endeavor.  Maybe two stories, actually, that converge into one – but they both focus on my favorite anime ever, Sailor Moon.  The first story is from about… gosh, ten years ago.  (It really doesn’t feel like that long ago!)  A close friend of mine, Katie, bought me some Sailor Moon fabric for my birthday – at least I think it was for my birthday, it’s been so long ago that I’m not entirely sure.  I ended up using some of it for craft projects, a little of it for some Gamma Sigma Sigma shirts (yes, I was in a sorority, but not your typical one!), and then stashed the rest away because I couldn’t think of a good project to use it in, and I didn’t want to use it all up.

Fast forward about ten years, and look what’s still lingering in my fabric stash…

These are the oldest pieces of fabric I’ve got right now – I’ve managed to hang onto them through a LOT of life changes!

Now, recently I’ve had a resurgence of Sailor Moon fangirling – mostly because I got hit with the best idea for a Halloween costume ever.  I remembered seeing a Sailor Moon costume at my local costume shop about a year and a half ago, and while I didn’t have the chance to look at it too much when I’d seen it, I figured if it was a decent costume I’d snag it and maybe make some modifications to it after Halloween to make it fit for cosplaying.  Shortly before Halloween, I went over to Campus Costumes to go seek out that Sailor Moon costume – it was a long shot, as it’d been a while since I’d seen it, but maybe I’d be lucky, right?

Well, after a half hour of searching, one of the store clerks asked what I was looking for, and I told him.  And he said “Well, we’ve got one in rentals – I don’t think they ever sold very well, so we only hung onto one.  I bet if you ask the owner, she’ll sell it to you, though.”  And he walked me over to the rental costumes, and there it was – a store-bought Sailor Moon costume that actually looked halfway decent.  I brought it to the counter, trying to suppress the squeeing of my inner 17-year-old (who tried and was marginally successful at making her own Sailor Moon costume), and politely asked if I could maybe buy the costume.  I’d been looking for it forever, I told her, and I’ve been a huge Sailor Moon fan since forever, and I’ll totally pay the $60 price tag on the front, if you’ll please sell it to me.  I’ll admit, I probably got rambly.

She took one look at the costume, said “eh, I can probably order another one… For $60, it’s yours.”

And I walked out the door with a Sailor Moon costume that actually looked GOOD.

Then I had another dilemma: the wig.  There was no way in hell I’d be able to get a cheap store-bought wig to look remotely close to Sailor Moon’s trademark odango.  I flailed around with the cheap yellow wig I’d bought for about a half hour, unsuccessfully trying to get it into pigtails or even just some buns, when it hit me: I knew someone who might have a Sailor Moon wig I could borrow.  And they lived right across the street.

Yes, I asked my neighbor if they still had a Sailor Moon wig, and if so, could I borrow it.  And the answer to both questions was yes.  (I have some of the best neighbors ever, I swear.  I’m not even going to get into the fangirl flailiness that happened when I went across the street and saw all the Sailor Moon posters hung up at my neighbor’s house, haha.)

So I totally dressed up as Sailor Moon this Halloween, and loved every second of it.

I couldn’t stop squeeing whenever I walked past a mirror and caught sight of myself, haha.

So that finally brings me to this nerdy craft project I’m going to start, which will probably be the first of many Sailor Moon themed craft projects I’ll be working on until convention season starts next year.  You all know I’ve been obsessed with making quilts since the beginning of the year, and when I came across that little stash of old Sailor Moon fabric I’d been hanging onto, it hit me: I should make it into a quilt.  And with the help of some awesome artists on Spoonflower who made some delightful Sailor Moon themed fabric, and a handy sale on fat quarters, my Sailor Moon quilt will be a reality.  (Once I get the fabric, anyway.)

My first challenge will be to make a pattern that’ll work well with the fabric I’ve got – I’ve never actually designed a quilt before, but it shouldn’t be hard.  (The hard part’ll probably be putting it all together correctly!)  I might just design a couple of squares that I can then put together to make the quilt, or find some existing patterns that I could take parts from and reuse as I need to.  I’m actually really excited about having a nerdy project to work on – it’s been entirely too long since I made a nerdy craft project.  The closest I’ve come recently is making a pair of socks with some yarn that’s Twilight Sparkle colored, but that almost feels like it doesn’t count, because it’s socks…

I’ll be posting pictures and rambling about my progress on the quilt from time to time – hopefully it’ll encourage me to start posting regularly again, too.

Gen Con 50: The Events

Gen Con is usually packed full of all sorts of awesome events, and Gen Con 50 was no different.  I only ended up going to a couple of events this year – I might have done more if we had a hotel, but I didn’t want to end up overwhelming myself, so I went event-lite.  (And even then, I ended up skipping two events because I was exhausted, bleh.)  The ones I did get to go to were fantastic, though – I did some crafting, some book signings, and got to introduce Ross and J to my favorite Gen Con event ever…

An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss

Yes, I started out my Gen Con with some Pat Rothfuss. Did you expect anything different?

Of course the first event of Gen Con 50 that I went to was An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss.  It was a great way to start out the con – two hours with one of my favorite authors!  I brought Ross and J along – Ross has heard me ramble on about Pat and how awesome he is, both as an author and in general, and while J’s a fan of Pat’s (in fact, that’s how we met – J saw my talent pipes while we were at an academic conference together, and said “hey, are those talent pipes?” and I got all flaily and excited), he’d never actually been to An Evening With Patrick Rothfuss before.  So we all went, and oh, it was even better than when I went in 2013.  We all filled up a ballroom this time – the 2013 event only had 200 people, but this year there were 1200 seats with a line of people waiting outside!  It was super exciting, and Ross and J and I couldn’t wait for Pat to get on stage.

Even Ross was excited, and he’d only read The Princess and Mr. Whiffle and the Thing Beneath The Bed, hahaha.

It was run similarly to the 2013 session, with him giving us the option of having a session we could record, where he’d be less candid about things and a little more censored, or we could put our phones and cameras away and we’d all get to pretty much hang out with Pat.  I don’t think anyone raised their hands when he asked if we wanted to record the session, hah.  Pat broke the session up into a couple of different chunks – he’d answer questions from the audience, with mix of notecards with people’s questions and people asking out loud, and he also read us both of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle books.  (If you haven’t read them, you definitely should – but don’t let your kids read them until you’ve seen what’s in them, haha.)  While answering questions, Pat rambled on about great things – mental health, raising kids, silly random things, and life in general.  I especially appreciated his discussion on mental health – as someone who deals with anxiety, depression, and ADHD, it’s good to hear one of my favorite authors publicly encouraging people to go to therapy – even if they don’t really think they need it.  Having someone to talk to about life and all that goes on in it, someone who’s not currently connected to everything you’re experiencing and can provide an outside perspective, is pretty much essential to keeping yourself emotionally in good shape.  I love that Pat cares about us all enough to tell us “go to therapy!”

Things weren’t all seriousness, though.  He told us some adorable stories about his kids, and even sang to us in the process!  He sang a couple of songs, very briefly, from the Rankin Bass version of The Hobbit, which was great. (And reminded me that I really need to see that version of The Hobbit.  I’ve got it on DVD somewhere…)  The questions from the audience were great, and the more amusing ones that stuck out in my mind included “Can I go to dinner with you?”, “Could you have Lin-Manuel Miranda call my wife?”, and “If you had to choose between breaking both your legs and eating 10,000 Go-Gurts, which would you choose?” J asked a question that made me giggle – “If you were to cast a live action version of Slow Regard of Silent Things, who would you cast for the inanimate objects?”  Pat initially responded with Nathan Fillion, which got us all cheering, then he thought about it, realized we were cheering because we all love Nathan Fillion, and changed his mind to Keanu Reeves, which was actually way funnier, hah.  (Oh, Keanu Reeves and your uninspired acting…)  Much like the 2013 event, the evening ended with all of us singing together – which was delightful.  I’m really glad I managed to get tickets to this event.

Featherweight Armor for Costuming

I got to learn about making costume armor from Agent Peggy Carter and her friend, haha.

This was a great workshop, put on by the fine folks at …And Sewing is Half The Battle!  I learned so much about new materials for making cosplay props and armor, and new ways to use materials I’ve worked with before, like craft foam.  And I picked up some techniques to make things look their best, and also learned how to be safe while working with some slightly more hazardous materials.  I even got the chance to work with some Worbla, which I’d never used before!  I also found out I probably need to add a heat gun to my crafting arsenal.

Bracers in progress!

The folks at …And Sewing is Half the Battle did a fantastic job with the workshop, and were really thorough – they showed all sorts of materials to work with, talked about the pros and cons of each, and detailed any safety measures you might need to take when working with certain materials.  I hope Gen Con gives them a bigger room next year – this one definitely needs more space for everyone to work in, especially when we’re trying to use heat guns, haha. It was overall an awesome session – and it’s given me lots of ideas for next year’s costumes!

Brandon Sanderson book signing

I did not actually get to take a photo of Brandon Sanderson, so here’s one from the internet.

I only recently got into Sanderson’s books, and have been reading them pretty much since May – I tore through all six books of Mistborn, and then the two books of The Stormlight Archives.  (I’m now very eagerly awaiting the third Stormlight Archives book!)  His books are pretty darn awesome, and his writing style pulls you into the story and just won’t let go.  When I found out he was going to be at Gen Con, I knew I’d have to get a book of his signed – so I grabbed a hardcover copy of Mistborn: The Final Empire and on Saturday, I made my way over to his book signing.  I had lots of fun geeking out with other fans in line, especially over the end of Words of Radiance (don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything!).  It’s always fun to talk to people who share common interests with you!  When it was my turn to get my book signed, Sanderson was incredibly friendly, and he even commented on my Denna costume, from Pat Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, with all of her names on a name tag, haha.  He told me to tell Pat Rothfuss that he doesn’t have to worry about releasing the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicles anytime soon, as he’s got a 3rd book in a fantasy series coming out this year so Pat can take his time, which made me giggle.  I really like how friendly Sanderson is – he was very approachable, and really warm and welcoming!  I’ll definitely get more of his books signed if he comes back to Gen Con next year.  (Which I’m pretty sure he will.)

Harry Potter Ornament Painting

This was a nice, relaxing event.  I’m really glad I signed up to do this.  I got to sit and paint for a little while, and chat with other Harry Potter fans, which was lots of fun!

Ornaments before painting.

These are some really nice ornaments – they’re made out of clay, and were fun to paint, albeit a little fiddly in some spots.  My painting job was… less than stellar in some spots, hah.

Here they are, freshly covered in Mod Podge!

Pat Rothfuss Book Signing

This turned out to be such an epic event for me that I’m going to make it into its own post. So stay tuned.

In short, I had loads of fun at all the events I went to this year – and I’m seriously pondering hosting some sort of crafting event next year…

The return of Startitis

Well, to be completely honest, it probably never left in the first place.

Ah, here we are again, making lists of unfinished projects…

As part of me trying to get some craft projects actually finished instead of lurking around my craft room or piled in the closet, I made a list of what I know I’ve started and haven’t finished yet.  And I gave myself an ultimatum: no spending money on craft supplies until I finish a good chunk of these projects.

Yes, that’s right – The Crafty Nerd isn’t going to buy craft supplies.  It’s scary, right?

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Speed crafting: the 3-hour tabard

Sometimes, you just have to spend three hours of your evening helping a friend out with some speed crafting.

In this case, my friend J (who runs the Kishar LARP I’m part of) was feeling a little panicked by the fact that he’s got a Game of Thrones LARP to go to this weekend, and didn’t have time to make a tabard to go over his leather armor to match his house’s colors.  With all the other things he had to tackle before Saturday, what was he to do?

Enter the Crafty Nerd and her trusty sewing machine! I volunteered to put my new Janome sewing machine to work and see if I could possibly crank out a tabard for him before Saturday.

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LARP costuming: a different type of cosplay

You might have noticed from my post in March that I started LARPing recently, and oh how fun it is – it’s like Gen Con meets summer camp! It really is.  There were two big things that were a little intimidating to me as I got started, though: costuming and fighting.

Fighting is something I can probably get better at with practice, but costuming?  Most of the costumes I have in my closet are either My Little Pony, steampunk, or renaissance faire appropriate – and Kishar has an Asian/Arabian Nights mix of costuming and setting  – how do I get myself costumed for this?  And how do I get myself costumed in a way that everyone’s not going to look at me with pity because I’m a newbie who has no idea what she’s doing?  I’m so used to just regular cosplay – I’ve got a character that I can then make a costume for, whether it’s an existing outfit that a character’s established as something they wear, or something inspired by a character (like Pinkie Pie – she doesn’t often wear clothes, heh.)  Starting from scratch was intimidating as all heck.

I ended up tackling this in a couple of steps, once I got over being so overwhelmed by the daunting prospect of not only creating a character, but costuming one too.

The first thing I did: asked for help.  Lots of it.  J and Kasi were extremely helpful in determining what would make good costume pieces, but then again, since they run the game, they know what’s good for costuming!

Next: I cruised Amazon, Etsy, and other places to find things that I might not be able to make on my own, like elf ears.  There’s a lot of places out there where you can buy LARP gear – and again, I asked J and Kasi for suggestions on where to shop, so I made sure I was getting quality stuff.

After that: I dug through my existing costuming to see what would work.  The results: a fair bit of my costuming was easily repurposable for my character’s costume.  Even stuff I didn’t initially think would be good, like some of my steampunk stuff (the little bag I showed off in this post about my steampunk gear works crazily well!) and a lovely bag my mom-in-law bought me for my birthday, ended up being pulled in as costuming bits.

Lastly: I made some stuff. (I mean, come on, I’m The Crafty Nerd, after all!) like my spell packet bag (which is ugly but functional) and my overdress bits (unsure what to call them, but we’ll stick with overdress).  And as I went through all that, I started to come up with a fair idea of what I wanted to wear.

When figuring out my costume, I had a couple of criteria for what I’d be wearing:

  • one: it had to look good.  I didn’t want to be the one awkwardly dressed noob at my first game.
  • two: it had to be somewhat comfortable. I’d be wearing this for hours, likely, while walking through the forest.
  • three: I had to be able to run in it.  No ifs, ands or buts. I knew I was gonna have to run from monsters at some point

With those three things in mind, and a giant list of ideas added to my Amazon Wishlist, I ended up emerging with two costumes – one of which I wore to my first game!

I’m the one with the SUPER OBVIOUS elf ears, borrowed for the game. I now have a pair of more subtle ones, aheheh.

I ended up deciding on two main costume styles: one with a dress, one with pants.

  • The dress outfit:
    • The dress, obviously: I chose this because it was light, flowy, and would probably make it so I don’t overheat while playing outdoors.  Plus, it was easy to alter to make it shorter, so I wasn’t tripping over it – I ended up taking off the bottom tier of the dress, because I’m short.
    • Corset vest: wanted some sort of corset, but wasn’t sure I’d want one that was super-sturdily boned – turns out this one is a little long for me, but I was able to get some corsets from Kasi that work that I can also wear with this dress!
    • Overdress bits: I made these myself, they’re the black pieces in the photo above that look like they’re extending from the corset.  I thought it’d make a nice touch to a fantasy costume – and it’s a work in progress, as I might add some embellishments to it such as embroidery.
    • Leggings under the dress: gotta keep my legs covered, because poison ivy/ticks/brambles are no fun.  These were a pair I’ve had hanging around for years.
    • Boots: My good ol’ scooter boots.  They handle tromping around in the forest pretty well.
  • The pants outfit:
    • Harem pants: oh lord these are comfy.  They haven’t made it out to an official game yet, but I bet these’ll be fantastic for running in.  And they’re light, too, so I won’t overheat in them.
    • Scarf:  this can be used as a belt, or a wrap, or to keep one’s hair back – the uses are endless!  love how versatile this is.
    • Corset:  planning on using one of the corsets I got from Kasi.
    • Shirt: I have a couple options here: a peasant shirt I made myself, or a peasant shirt I got from Kasi, or I could even use a tanktop if I wanted!
    • Kimono top: light, breezy, and setting-appropriate.  I can wear the scarf as a belt over it, or wear it loose over a costume.

So there you go!  For someone who’s never really done a LARP before, once I figured out how to get started, it was really easy to try and find costume pieces that were readily available, so I’ve got something to wear while I try and craft my own stuff from scratch!  Hopefully this will help out other new LARP players as you get geared up for your first game!

The quilt self-portrait

I recently finished my second quilt.  It’s nothing super fancy – I ordered a sampler pack of 10-inch squares of the Luna Sol sampler from Connecting Threads, cut them all in half, and stitched triangles together until I had a quilt.  Hand-quilting sounded like an amazing idea when I first finished it, and while I was absolutely tired of this quilt by the time I got to adding the binding, I am pretty happy with the hand quilting.

The quilt-in-progress – before I added the batting. And when I realized I stitched one row together with the triangles in the wrong direction.

This quilt is not without its faults.  As you can see in the picture, I stitched one row in the wrong direction – and didn’t realize it until I’d finally pieced the sucker out and laid it out for this picture.  I almost gave up on the darn thing then, to be honest, but then I took a closer look at that picture, and plotted out how I’d hand stitch things.  I ended up going with a sort-of lightning bolt arrangement of geometric shapes for the quilting.  It still looks a little awkward, but hey, I made it a beautiful sort of awkward.

Shortly after starting the hand quilting, I found another issue in the quilt – two squares weren’t exactly stitched together, and were coming apart in one corner.

It was at this point where I said “screw it, this quilt is already imperfect, I’m just going to stitch the hole closed and carry on, maybe patch over it when I’m done.”  And I did the patch you see above, and then went on about my quilting.

But the more I worked on this quilt, the more I saw it as something of a self-portrait.  It was imperfect, just like me.  It’s got some rough patches and parts that were hastily fixed.  It’s got some awkward bits.  But in the end?  It turned out beautiful.

The finished quilt, held up by Ross.

It’s a perfectly-sized little lap quilt, and I absolutely love how soft the fabric is.  Plus, the little bunnies are adorable.  (One of my nicknames is Beth-bun, so that may have highly influenced the choice of fabric, heh.)  Despite all the hiccups in making it, I love how it turned out.  And it really is a self portrait, in quilt form.  Awkward, not quite perfect, but wonderful all the same.

And good at snuggling cats.

Wait, you can do WHAT with washi tape?

I’ve only got a short post for you all this week, what with being wrapped up in work, and homework, and crafting (I’m sewing a quilt, you guys!  It’s kind of lopsided but it’s a quilt!) and all.  However, I wanted to share something that I discovered while looking up ways to keep your seams straight while sewing.

Yes, that is a quick-and-dirty fabric guide made with WASHI TAPE, of all things.

Why the heck didn’t I think of this before?!  It’s resulted in a much better visual measuring guide than just trying to line up the edge of my fabric with the edge of the presser foot.

And of course I get that figured out when I’m 90% done with the quilt top.  Of course.

Anyhow, figured I’d share this with everyone, especially those of you who machine sew – washi tape really can be used for everything! 😀