/crafty christmas club!


In an attempt to get a handmade present to everyone on my Christmas list this year, I've already started making presents. Although I'm keeping busy, sharing these treasures here (on this blog) would be mighty risky. I'm a big fan of preserving surprises! Anyway, Tilly over at Tilly and the Buttons had an amazing idea. Bloggers talking  about crafting Christmas presents sharing ideas in a beautiful, special wonderland known as the:

So, if you're out of ideas (or haven't started thinking about Christmas yet, is is only October) take a peek at the CCC. If you've got a few ideas, then you should probably join in on the fun! (The button is in my sidebar)

Lastly, if you think you may get a Christmas present from me, don't click on the button! You like surprises too!

/pumpkin how-to


mmmm I LOVE to carve pumpkins! The thing is, if you're actually making a lantern-like cut-into-the-pumpkin sort of jack-o-lantern, the logistics of having bits and pieces stay attached to one another and not cave in can get to be a little much. I tried doing some surface carving with my lino-cut set a few years ago and it worked like a charm! This method is really pretty easy, and you can choose pretty much any image you'd like. Two years ago I did Pete Doherty, and last year it was Edward Scissorhands (I forgot to take a photo of that one. How is that even possible?). This year, I decided on Count von Count from Sesame Street!

Here's how do do it, if anyone should like to know:

Find your image. Paste it into a program where it can be blown up, and make it an appropriate size for your squash. You can either print it out, or as I did, trace it straight onto a piece of paper off of the computer screen, mimicking a lightbox. Shade in the areas that will stay pumpkin-coloured, or whichever way makes sense in your brain. Remember it's a negative-positive situation- only two tones, orange & light orange.

Open and scrape out your pumpkin! You could really skip this part because the inside of the pumpkin won't be exposed, but I love the squishy-ness and roasting the seeds! I separate the seeds directly into a strainer and rinse right away so the guts don't dry onto them.

Cut around your design, leaving a margin and tape it onto your pumpkin on the flattest side. Make little folds so it shapes around the pumpkin nicely. Transfer the design using a tracing wheel (sewing supplies always seem to come in handy in other areas of my life), along with any pointy object you find around the house for the intricate areas.

Now, take the largest scooping blade in your linocut set, and  scoop away! Reference your tracing or drawing on the positive/negative space.

Use smaller blades for intricate areas, and the flat blade to smooth out the ridges created by the scooping attachments. Keep on tweaking until you love it!

I think the Count is a little more friendly looking than 'ol Pete.

/ad candy


This came in the mail and made me laugh. It's a flier for some Bernina dealer in a neighboring city. Apparently, selling $12,000 embroidery machines is a rough business nowadays; they had to bring in the big guns. (ha.)
I mean really, I doubt this guy knows the first thing about ironing. Look how he's crumpling the fabric! I'd rather iron my own shirt, thank you.

/autumnal shrug


I've actually finished the project I surmised I would! It is warm and soft and amazingly drapey. Since I'm wearing it in Autumn and will take every chance I get to employ the word "Autumnal", it is henceforth the Autumnal Shrug.

I started using the Acorn Shrug pattern on the Lion Brand site, but switched it around a bit. I didn't want it to be super big (it was definitely swallowing the model whole), but to still keep the drape factor. I also wanted to put in some stripes.

Can't really call it 'altering', because the pattern in itself wasn't really complicated at all. Just a giant rectangle folded in half and sides stitched together, leaving armholes. I simply did the lazy crocheter's version. First, I decided that I'd have to switch around the way it was folded because of the way I wanted the stripes to lay. Then I changed pretty much all of its dimensions. The official Acorn Shrug folded measured 38"x21". Mine was 32"x13" (32"x26" before folding & seaming), and was much less engulfing.

 I used Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Bamboo Ewe yarn in mercury and geranium (stripes). 55% viscose from bamboo/45% wool. Unfortunately, this blend isn't more eco-friendly than other inexpensive craft store yarns, but the bamboo does allow it to have much a nicer hand than most other synthetic/wool blends. Don't be fooled by the sustainability of "bamboo" because it's a quickly renewing resource, it's still a chemically processed viscose fiber! (read this article for more) In the end, me being poor and the $3.99/skein sale still made for a good match despite the questionable fiber content.

 My face shows just how much I like this front-pinned-together look. Not very. I was actually facing the sun, but the expression manages to tell all. I just wish those seams would disappear, but like the way the stripes are circular and match up.

On a totally different note, I caught Nigel either mid-bark or mid-pant. Haha, he's so furry! I am off right now to take him to get a haircut; his hair is starting to grow over his eyes! oops.

/diversions from failure


So, the dress I'd planned to have done a few days ago (from the last post) is a no go. In fact, it has annoyed me so much that I've decided to put it away in my buried plastic box and when it is meant to be found again, I'll take a deep breath and finish it. I know it's fixable (a pretty easy fix), but it will be shunned. Too many distractions.

distraction #1: My new shoes came! Very Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, a little moonwalking MJ (next: sparkly white ankle socks, obviously). I love love LOVE them, even though they're a little different than I expected. More crinkled, and a bit lighter than pictured. Good thing I'm a huge fan of gray and the slouchy/polished look. I've never bought Matt Bernson shoes before, but they seem to be really well-made & comfy! I've already started to buy awesome socks to wear with these, but I think a Happy Socks spree will be in order in the near future.

distraction #2: Making a shrug. This one is quite distracting, because I'm almost done! Need to FINISH! It's definitely the largest crochet project I've ever made (by mass), but I do like following more involved patterns that are more instantly gratifying, eg. hats, amigurumi & slippers. Those are cheaper too. This pattern does let me totally space out and focus my brain on something else though, which is nice. My preference is
my favorite podcast, Stuff You Should Know. Chuck and Josh are kind of awesome. They'll teach you a thing or two about Voodoo, roller derby, crime scene clean-up and much more. With their help, I'm actually getting this thing done in a timely manner!

distraction #3: I should be getting a bunch of fabric in the mail soon! Printing patterns, altering patterns, making muslins and all that gobbledygook is so time consuming! All planned garments will be good for fall & winter only so I know I better scoot.

/dress by thursday


This month, I gave in and decided to participate in Grograin's Dress by Friday. (See button below for the true name, it's just weird for me to use the f-word in reference to a modern daytime dress. Although it technically works, I suppose I've simply taken too much costume history.) Anyway, I've always found sew-alongs where everyone goes off of the same pattern a little weird. I mean, it's fun seeing tons of sliiiiiight variations on the same pattern! Right?

Yeah, not really. Not as fun as you'd think.
BUT, I feel like Burdastyle's Gail has the potential to be different.

It seems that there's a lot more room for variation & beauty in this one than some other dresses. The yoke is suggested as a lace or sheer, but really a host of dressy fabrics would do. I'm using a cotton/silk sateen for the yoke. BurdaStyle originally used guipure lace, which is always really beautiful. The more formal & flowy fabric suggestions also give me a slight confidence that there won't be any dowdy mid-weight cottons camouflaged in cutsey prints.

I was thinking of adding a waistband, but realized that it would make me look weird and saggy, much like what happened with my prairie dress. If you've got a decent sized chest, this relaxed top/cinched-in at your natural waist look is terrifying in a dress. Much better on little wispy girls. I'm altering the neckline and adding ties, so I'll be counting on them as the focal point. Probably a little more dramatic than in my drawing.

Left: purple poly lining. Center: black cotton/silk sateen. Right: blue & purple silk/cotton lawn.

Black and blue. TOGETHER. What insanity!

I'm hoping to be done by the end of today. Suppose it will still have been done 'by Friday', eh? Totally counts.

/absolutely mad


So, I just finished the most recent episode of Mad Men, and no- I'm not here to post 36 screencaps of great (but over-blogged) costumes. I just found these awesome Mad Med inspired Barbies! They might not be garden-fresh news, but are still marked "new" on FAO Schwarz's website, so I can't be all that late to the party. I love their faces! Just like my mom's old Barbies I used to play with.

Betty. The bubble skirt looks odd to me, even though it was popular in the 50's & 60's. Her hair is kind of amazing though.

Joan is perfect, right down to her signature pen necklace (which I've been meaning to order for at least a year now...oops). Maybe could have used some brighter pumps & a bag with more character, but I'm no doll designer.

One question: Where's Peggy?! She's way more deserving of a Barbie than Betty (Betty.....meh), but at $80 each I probably won't be getting one anyway. Unless it's Joan for Christmas. That sounds reasonable.

On another note, my sweatshirt dress design was chosen as one of the top 50 in the Project Runway/Rowenta Remake Challenge! If you feel so compelled and are a BurdaStyle member, I would love your vote - mine is #44. Any way it goes, I hope they do more contests in the future. It really compelled me to get something done fast and be creative!

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