Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts, Tweaks & Alterations

Sonic Screwdriver Chapstick Holder!

My blog reached 10,000 views today! To celebrate, I’m sharing details about my most recent finished object—the 10th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, which I have conveniently modified to serve as a chapstick holder!

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(Yeah, that’s right, because making a TARRIS pillow was not enough whovian knitting for me…)

This project is a modification of a modification of an original pattern for a Doctor Who sonic screwdriver. That pattern was for the sonic used by the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith), which is different in shape and size. I found this modification from user Cordetta on ravelry that changed the colors and some of the shape to be more like that of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant), which is what I wanted. I have to give a lot of props to her mod for helping me out! But I had to modify it even further to make it shorter and tighter to fit two chapsticks with just a little room on the ends.

To be honest, when I finished this project it was late and I did not record every single detail of my knitting. But I wrote down enough to tell you approximately how I did it.

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10th Doctor’s Sonic Chapstick Holder

materials:
-size 3 double pointed needles (set of 4), yarn needle.
-worsted weight yarn in black, dark gray, light gray, and blue
Cast on 9 sts in black, divide over three needles, and join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist stitches.
Rnds 1-2: k all sts
Rnds 3-5: p all sts
Rnds 6-10: p all sts
Rnds 11-12: k 1 grey, p 2 black*
Change to dark gray
Rnd 13: k all sts
Rnd 14: k1, m1, k to end of rnd (10sts)
Rnd 15: k all sts
Rnd 16: k5, m1, k to end of rnd (11sts)
Rnd 17: k all sts
Rnd 18: k9, m1, k to end of rnd (12sts)
Rnd 19: k all sts
Rnd 20: k2, m1, k to end of rnd (13sts)
Rnd 21: k all sts
Rnd 22: k7, m1, k to end of rnd (14sts)
Change to light gray
Rnd 23-35: k all sts
Rnd 36: k1, k2tog, k 2, k2tog repeat to end of rnd (11sts)
Rnd 37: k2, k2tog, k5, k2tog, k to end of rnd (10sts) 
Change to dark gray
Rnd 38: k all sts
Rnds 39-44: k1, p1, repeat to end of round
Rnd 45: p all sts*
Change to blue
Rnd 46: k all sts
Rnds 47-49: p all sts
Rnd 50: k3, k2tog, k3, k2tog (8 sts)
Cast off loosely.
With blue yarn and yarn needle, stitch a straight line lengthwise up the light gray section.
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*if you haven’t done colorwork before, consider skipping these two rounds and going straight to the gray section, it’s kind of annoying to do. If you chose to do it (I promise, it looks cool!), be careful to move the black yarn to the inside of the work at the end of the last round.

**at this point, if you want to weave any of the ends into the inside of the tube, do it now! It will be too tight to turn it inside out after the final section.

As always, remember that my gauge is looser than most—use your own tube of lip balm as a guide. The way I made mine, both ends are open but they are tighter than the middle section, so the chapstick naturally remains inside until I push it out. I’m sure there are ways you could make a closure at the top or bottom, but I found I didn’t need it.

The sonic screwdriver chapstick holder—it doesn’t work on wood or deadbolts, but it does work on dry lips!

Nerdy Knits & Crafts

Three blue knits…including a TARDIS pillow!

I’ve been working on two big knitting projects and one small one in the last few months. It just so happens that all of them were gifts, and all of them were blue. Now that they are all completed, I can share them with you!

A different kind of blue box: the TARDIS pillow!

Time And Relative Dimension In Space

I started watching Doctor Who at the beginning of November and I got totally into it (yes I realize I’m a little late to the party). My brother is also a fan and when I was home for Thanksgiving, he suggested I could knit him something Whovian for Christmas. I showed him the myriad of free patterns on ravelry and he chose this one by Rebecca Norton, a tiny tardis print. Interestingly, the only project on ravelry was the original, so I was going into uncharted (ha!) territory. But as the pattern says…Allons-y!

just a little blue box

This was one of the funnest swatches to knit. If you aren’t familiar with colorwork, this is not a bad pattern to learn on. The pattern was pretty easy to remember after a while, and even when I messed up the window placement on one row and didn’t notice it till the end, it was easily fixed with duplicate stitches to get the proper colors. The pillow uses the intarsia technique for each TARDIS, so I had a short bobbin of blue yarn for each. However, after knitting one side of the pillow, I realized I was going to run out of white yarn. It was stash yarn and I had no idea what it was or where it came from. So I improvised…

bigger on the OTHER side!

And came up with this pattern for the reverse side. I didn’t get too detailed here—no public notice, no “police box” lettering—but I think it came out really well for a TARDIS pattern I wrote on the fly! I used  garter stitch to create the illusion of doors, and each grouping of six windows only used a small bobbin of white yarn. I would write up the pattern but I didn’t save all my notes on it, but I did write down what I could remember on my ravelry project page. If you try to do it and it doesn’t work out,  trust me, there are like six million patterns on ravelry for some version of the TARDIS if you want it.

(EDIT: If you want another blue Doctor Who knit, check out my Tenth-Doctor’s-Sonic-Screwdriver-as-Chapstick-Holder knitting project!)

Baby blues: Newborn booties!

tiny feats for tiny feets

My cousin and his wife had a baby in December, and so over Christmas break I decided to whip up some of my favorite baby booties in the newborn size. Baby items are great because they knit up so quick. I also like making them in colors other than the traditional pastels. Previously, I have made them in a bright purple tweed:

Lelly's booties!

The booties are constructed with short row shaping, so they are knit on straight needles. In the past I sewed them up so that only garter stitch was showing, but this time I decided that having the stockinette part on the outside actually gave it a better shape.

no pastel colors allowed

I highly recommend this pattern, but I should point out that I have always modified the increases to be “knit front and back” because I’m more used to that. I don’t think it changes the pattern, just putting that out there.

Socktober blues: Magic loop toe-up socks!2013-11-24 13.58.18

Way back in October, I started making socks for my friend’s November birthday. I had this really cool sock yarn, the self striping kind, and I was eager to use it. And I also wanted to knit these socks at the same time. So I decided to learn the magic loop method for small diameter circular knitting.

Ever year I try to do a new knitting technique—it’s a slow learning process but it works. I could probably devote a whole post to what I learned and didn’t learn doing magic loop. First of all, you should NOT do what I did, which was 1) switch patterns more than once when I was part way through, so I was constantly readjusting. I initially started out using the free Knit Picks pattern  Two at once, toe up socks but I quickly discovered that it was going to be tough to follow for someone who was new to magic loop. Another thing you should NOT do is 2) connect several interchangeable needles to get the long circular needle needed for this technique, because the metal connecting piece will be a constant pain when you have to slide it through a bunch of stitches. Bite the bullet and buy the exact size circular needles you need.

harder than it looks

What I DO recommend you do if you are learning this technique is watch videos on how to do magic loop. My favorites were from KnitFreedom— Liat Gat’s 2-at-a-time toe-up socks video series. I’m sure it would be best if you were using her pattern, but I found them helpful regardless, especially the videos for casting on and the first increase round. I also suggest practicing magic loop with larger needles and yarn than you’d use for socks, because starting the toe is a bit challenging at first. Ok, a lot challenging.

socks in the sink

I wish I took photos at the start, because it would show you what looked like some pretty bad laddering at the sides that ended up being ok in the end. The Knit Picks pattern has an afterthought heel, and KnitFreedom’s pattern has a fleegle heel, but I wanted I heel I was familiar with, so I did short row heels using the technique described by HeidBears in part 1 and part 2 on her blog. Not a video, but I have done short row heels before and the illustrations were all I needed to translate it to magic loop socks.

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After blocking, you could still see the ladders on the sides of the socks (especially at the heel) and the loose part of the toe where I almost made the socks too big when I switched patterns (thankfully my friend has the same size feet as me and I tried them on and discovered the problem early). BUT despite all the problems and irregularities, I am really proud of these socks. The blue stripes are so cool! And most importantly, their recipient was happy with them.2013-11-24 13.58.02

Costumes, Historical Knits & Crafts, Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts

DIY Halloween costume ideas

It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means: COSTUMES!

If I had my way, every party would be a dress up party. Because when I was a little kid, every birthday party WAS a dress up party, with a theme, and with costumes. Occasionally I have continued this tradition, as I did this year with a reprisal of my Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party:

2nd grade Alice
2nd grade Alice
21st grade Alice
21st grade Alice

Now that it’s October and more people are looking at my Halloween costume post from last year, I figured it was time for another round of crafty costume ideas. Lucky for you, I’ve done my fair share of costuming in the last year! This time I’ve organized them into individual and group costume categories for you. But I realized they could just as easily be categorized as “weird takes on famous individuals” and “characters from well known novels.” Enjoy!

(edit: There’s now a 2014 DIY Halloween costumes post as well!)

INDIVIDUAL COSTUMES

Historical Women With a Twist: Radioactive Marie Curie and Ballerina Annie Oakley

So I’m a fan of DIY historical costumes, especially for women. Whether it’s one of these bizarre vintage costumes from days of yore, or one of these awesome new interpretations from Take Back Halloween, I’m all for it. The latter website makes a great point that the vast majority of store bought women’s Halloween costumes fall into the “Sexy ______” category, limiting your options. But if you make a costume yourself, it can be whatever you want it to be.

And for me, that means adding a twist to famous historical figures. Like being a glow-in-the dark version of physicist Marie Curie for Halloween last year.

Marie Curie

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Marie Curie was a Nobel Prize winning scientist who did groundbreaking research on radioactivity at the turn of the century. Her papers are still radioactive and she literally described seeing the tubes of radioactive material glow in the dark. Which meant I got to get all kinds of creative with my costume. First, I found this awesome black dress at a thrift store. I have no idea what it was in its past life, but the poofy sleeves and the full skirt were perfect for the time period. Next, I bought an attachable white lace collar on ebay and sewed it to the neckline of the dress. The clothing part was complete.

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I actually wore this costume on two separate nights, and I did the make up and accessories a little different for each. The key was to make as much of me glow in the dark as possible. First, I needed my own test tube—I picked one up from a campus resale store, used glow-in-the-dark paint on the inside of it, and labeled it “radium.” For the rest of me, I used glow stick necklaces, glow in the dark face paint and green glow-in-the-dark nail polish. My recommendation is to get the nail polish at the drugstore if possible and the makeup from a Halloween store—the Halloween store version of the nail polish that came with the makeup in a kit was so clumpy it was unusable.

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Seen here with Melisandre from Game of Thrones (see below for more of those costumes!), you can see that I had a thick line of makeup near my forehead. The make up has to be thick to show up, so I ended up just outlining the circle of my face instead of pasting it all over. I also recommend you have someone help you if you want a design on your body using the paint.

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My dress had a dramatic open back so I had friends do designs there. The first night I went for a skeleton-like rib design and the second night I had the brilliant idea of using the radioactive symbol! It’s quite tricky to photograph these things, but we tried:

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IMG_1870I had so much fun in this costume, especially when I found a blacklight!

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Annie Oakley

Making the Marie Curie costume for Halloween inspired me the next time I was invited to a costumed dance party several months later. I had far less time to make this one happen, but I wanted to keep with my theme. I l also needed something I could dance in this time. So I came up with Ballerina Annie Oakley.

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Annie Oakley was a famous sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the late nineteenth century. But I wasn’t about to bring a real firearm to a party. So I did the next best thing: I found me some gun tights.

ballerina annie oakley 3

You can get these on ebay for about $5. They totally made the outfit. And since they were tights, I figured, why not wear a tutu? So I borrowed this black leotard and tutu combo from a friend, who found it at a clothing swap. I already had the cowboy boots and the bandana, so all that remained to get was a hat and a western shirt.

ballerina annie oakley

Both the hat and the shirt came from the thrift store, but believe it or not the shirt required a fair amount of alteration. It was the best one they had (it even had snaps instead of buttons!) but it was a size or two bigger than me. So I took it in on the sides and a little in the seams and then tied it above the tutu to get the fit I wanted. It was worth it! And surprisingly I still wear the shirt quite a bit. Perhaps I’m a cowgirl at heart after all.

Lady David Bowie

Sometimes, the clothes simply make the costume. Other times, it’s all about the makeup. Especially when you are invited to a David Bowie themed birthday party. I present to you two female David Bowies.

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This is David Bowie circa 1973, where we recreated the lightning bolt makeup from the Aladdin Sane album cover. You can buy Halloween makeup, but I used bright pink lipstick, dark teal eyeshadow, and black eyeliner. It stayed put really well, but be forewarned that your face may have some residual pink the next day! Not included but recommended: leather jacket and a bad ass expression.

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This is David Bowie circa 1972 as Ziggy Stardust. The key to this look was a really good cream eyeshadow in gold, which I used for the circle as well as my lips. For my eyes I used the reddest blush I could find and some black eyeliner. There was no way I was going to be able to recreate any of Bowie’s amazing clothing from this era, but I did find a gold leggings/shrug set at a thrift store and a gold sparkly top that matched it.

GROUP COSTUMES 

Game of Thrones

If you have a group of people who all want to do the same theme for Halloween, there are tons of great things you can DIY. Earlier this year, my friends and I did a team bike event that required having a group theme and costumes to go with it. We decided to be Team of Thrones.

team of thrones

From left to right: A wilding woman, Tyrion Lannister, Asha (Yara) Greyjoy, a Stark bannerman (with banner), Arya Stark, Khal Drogo, Danerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Viserys Targaryen, Ygritte, and the Three Eyed Crow.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock/north of the wall this year, you’ve probably heard of the HBO show Game of Thrones, a TV show based on the epic fantasy novels of the Song of Ice and Fire series  by George R. R. Martin. The best part about this show is that there are so many characters that you can get as obscure and outlandish as you want with your character and costume.

We obviously made some adaptations to be able to ride bikes on a rather hot spring day, but I think there were some rather creative costume elements here. To name just a few examples: the crow has little messages tied to her legs, Tyrion has little half shoes strapped to his knees, and Viserys covered her bike helmet with that giant golden crown.

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I went as Asha Greyjoy (Yara in the TV series), Theon’s sister. I already had the black top, shorts and boots, all from thrift stores. I also happened to own a studded belt, sailing ship earrings and an octopus necklace…don’t ask me why on the last one but it worked beautifully. The little dirk knife and shield came from the dollar store, and I taped the Greyjoy sigil and motto, “We Do Not Sow” to the front of the shield. Also recommended: putting on the hardened face of a ironborn sea captain. (Showing off the forearm scar you got as a child helps too.)

Gatsby Girls

Not up for fantasy novels? How about celebrating the Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby with some roaring 20s costumes?

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There’s plenty of inspiration in the new movie adaptation, but there’s actually quite a range of outfits that work for this era. All of the above dresses came from thrift stores, from the light pink drop waist dress with lace (it originally had long sleeves that she removed with a seam ripper) to the bright pink sequin flapper dress.

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Accessories really help make these costumes work: among these four costumes we’ve got gloves, long beaded necklaces, hats, sequined headbands, feathers, flowers and even a cigarette holder (oh and the gun tights yet again!). Equally important is hair! You can’t really see it here but we’ve used two hair tutorials to get the styles of the 1920s, one that shows you how to fake a bob hairstyle if you have long hair and one that shows you how to create finger waves, which is a bit more challenging and works best with hair that already has a curl to it:

Photo on 10-5-13 at 4.26 PMPhoto on 10-5-13 at 4.26 PM #2

I tried to do the finger waves on myself, and I didn’t quite achieve the full look. I would really recommend that you have a friend who is good with hair do this on you. The nice thing is that both hair styles don’t require much in the way of equipment—for the fake bob you need a clip, a pony tail holder and some bobby pins. For the finger waves, you need gel, a comb, and bobby pins. That’s it! Combine with 1920s style make up, especially the “cupid’s bow” lips, for the full look.

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Alice in Wonderland

Last but not least, we have the Mad Hatters Tea Party!

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Let’s start with Alice. I made this a low key costume since I knew I’d want to be comfortable all night. I used this strapless blue and white dress because it was a hot June evening, and paired it with these thigh high stockings that had card suits on them I got from a former roommate. The black Mary Jane shoes, red rose ring, and bow hair clip are things I’ve had forever, but they added a nice touch. I wanted to make a black bow out of ribbon, but I ran out of time.

I did, however, make the apron. To be honest, I didn’t use a pattern—I just tried on the dress, measured where I wanted the apron to come to, and used those measurements. The most similar free tutorial I’ve seen for how to make one like it is here. I used plain white muslin and a wide white ribbon instead of fabric to save time. I decided it should have rounded edges to match the top of my dress, and I think the effect worked nicely.

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If you’re willing to take it a step further with face paint and/or prosthetics, you can go this route. The Dormouse combined mouse ears and a tail with Halloween makeup crayons to recreate the mouse face. The Cheshire Cat sewed his ears onto a hat, and used pink and purple face face paint for the stripes, but also attached some pretty awesome prosthetics.

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Seen here with the Queen of Hearts, you can tell that this is a much more advanced costume project. But doable if you are adventurous! There’s actually two prosthetics, a cat nose and a grin, that he attached. He used spirit gum to attach the latex prosthetic to his face and liquid latex to blend the seam—you can get an idea for how to actually do this from this prosthetic nose tutorial. The effect, as you can see, is pretty remarkable.

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And that’s all my costumes from the last year! I hope these can inspire you to come up with your own clever ideas—if they do, I’d love to see the results!

Activity Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Tweaks & Alterations

creative destruction: re-inventing t-shirts with scissors, paint, and thread

This summer, I took four old t-shirts and transformed them with stencils, cut outs, or both. I even altered the basic structure of two of them to get the fit I wanted. And thanks to my lovely friend, I now have pictures of myself wearing them. So if you want a DIY run down of how to cut, slash, and paint your way to a unique T, read on. (Bonus: Battlestar Galactica references ahead!)

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Stencils

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Let’s start with the least destructive activity—paint. If you read my post on nerdy crafts, you’ll notice I’m not new to stenciling. On that post I linked to the tutorial on stencilry that I use, but I’ll give you the short version here.

One of the easiest ways to make a clean stencil is to use the freezer paper method. First, pick a stencil image—in this case “So Say We All,” the “amen” of the Battlestar Galactica universe, in an appropriate font. Be sure to read the tutorial section on islands and bridges to make sure your image will work as a stencil—as you can see above, I had to add back in the “islands” in the middle of the “O” and “A” to keep the letters looking correct. Buy freezer paper, cut it to the size of paper your printer will accept, and print your stencil onto the non glossy side (some wrangling with the printer may be required). Cut out the stencil with an X-acto knife, and then with a dry iron, iron it directly onto the shirt.

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For the painting part, mix your preferred color of acrylic paint with fabric medium according to the directions on the bottle, then paint onto the stencil with a sponge or a brush. Make sure to put something between the layers of the shirt so the paint doesn’t soak through (and not cardboard, because I’ve notice the paint will stick to it—I used my X-Acto knife cutting pad). Let dry completely before removing the stencil, then follow the fabric medium directions for heat setting and washing the shirt so that the stencil will be permanent and clean.

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The process is somewhat similar if you have a permanent stencil, like this plastic alphabet one I used to make the phrase “Nothing But the Rain”—yet another BSG reference (its the phrase said by Starbuck to Captain Adama). The only difference here is being careful about getting paint everywhere when you move the stencil—I decided I didn’t care about the mess because I liked the splattered look, but you can decide for yourself.

The last option is to just trace simple shapes directly onto the stencil paper and then cut those out—that’s the easiest option, and it’s what I did on my pink shirt when I wanted to use up the last of the paint I mixed. I did a pattern of triangles to match the cut outs on the back of the shirt.

Cut Outs

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I had a strong urge to do something “destructive” to a few of the shirts I had. This pink shirt, for example, which my friend promptly dubbed the pink triangle (i thought she was referencing the Weezer song but she was not!). This shirt had been abandoned in my laundry room lost and found box for months, so it became the first guinea pig for my cut out and stenciling experiments.

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I don’t have any in-progress shots for the cut outs, but here’s what I did. First I looked at some photos and tutorials online for some inspiration—this listicle of cut outs has some great images, and photos # 5, 21 and 22 intrigued me.  I decided to do a simplified version of the triangle cut outs from photo # 22. That one unfortunately had no tutorial, so I decided to make a triangle template, trace it onto the shirt with chalk, and then cut it out with scissors. I did the stencils later with the same template.

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This mostly worked, but it was tricky to get the triangles all the same size and shape with scissors. So when I tried it on another t-shirt, I used my X-Acto knife to cut them out. Much easier! I think it works especially well for straight lines.

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I love the way that you can play with the placement of cut outs—for example, you can place them to reveal another shirt underneath and play with the contrast of colors and patterns. I think someday I’d like to attempt one of these two designs, especially the tree one.

Fit Alterations

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One of the most basic DIY t-shirt projects is also the one that requires the most patience and skill (and a sewing machine)—changing the fit and cut of a shirt. The above tank top used to be a men’s size medium crew neck tee that I found in a free pile.  The green shirt below that I stenciled on was a boy’s size large crew neck t-shirt, also from a free pile. There are many tutorials out there for doing this, but I am going to show you the easier way I know.

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First, you need to start with a  clean t-shirt that is larger than you want it to be ( in this case, green shirt).  Your’e also going to need a smaller t-shirt that fits you well that will act as a template (here it’s the blue shirt).  Both need to be true t-shirts—those made from the kind of material that doesn’t unravel if you leave raw cut edges, and that’s important. It’s also a good idea that they have about the same amount of elasticity—if one is super stretchy and the other has no stretch, the end result may be a poor fit.

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Iron out any wrinkles and lay the larger shirt on a flat surface, then place the template shirt on top of it (remove cat if necessary). Line up the top seams and trace the outline of the template shirt on top.

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Pin the fabric together at the chalk edges and sew along that line using a matching color thread. After sewing, try it on once to be sure it’s not too tight, then trim the excess fabric off, and shorten the sleeves if necessary.

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If the front and back necks are different, you now need to cut out the neck. You can either eyeball it or place the template shirt inside the other shirt and use pins to trace it by feel.

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Cut out the neckline with some good sharp scissors.

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…and try on the finished product!

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Making the tank top was even easier—the front and the back of the shirt had identical necklines, and I cut out the sleeves entirely. I first used this technique years ago making my very first re-fit, cut up, stenciled tank top, which you can see below. The stencil was an homage to my very first pair of lefty scissors, which I’ve had since I was a kid and still own. That’s right—I’ve been cutting it up Lefty style since first grade.

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Let me know if you use any of these techniques to (de)construct your own t-shirts! I’d love to see the results.

Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts

Procrastiknits! Quick knitting projects to keep or gift

After my last post, you may have the impression that I am a big-intense-project kind of knitter. It’s actually the opposite! In the great debate of process knitter vs. product knitter, I often fall into the latter category. I like to have a regular supply of finished objects. And when I am slogging through a long-term-commitment pattern (like a sweater), I have to have a small project (or two) on the side just so I can finish something.

I’ve collected eight knitting projects that I have completed in the last three months, all of which take a minimum amount of yarn and less-than-average amount of time to complete. Some of them follow a specific pattern, some of them are my modifications of other patterns, and a few of them are my own original work.  I wasn’t the best at getting quality photos of everything, but you can at least get the gist of how they look. Enjoy.

Washcloths, dishtowels, pot holders

In a category that could alternately be called “small square things knit with cotton,” I made the following Christmas gifts.

Adventure Time washcloth

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For my brother, I made an Adventure Time washcloth of Finn (I was going to do Jake too, but I used up all my yellow yarn on the potholder…) I used this fingerless mitts pattern as a starting point, but obviously I changed many things. I used size 3 needles and both ribbing and garter stitch for the edging. I knit from both ends of the white yarn so that there would be no stranding on the reverse side. I honestly didn’t write down the number of stitches I cast on, it was probably 32 or 36. I had to improvise with Finn’s face, not having a skin color, but I think it still worked ok! I knit the entire thing while my mom and grandma were wrapping presents, so it went pretty quick.

Cylon dishcloth

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Clean your toaster with a toaster! For my friend Sarah, who introduced me to Battlestar Galactica, I made this Cylon dishcloth.  I love it, even though it came out a little squished because I went too small on the needles (size 2—I knit so loose usually). I followed this cylon potholder pattern but when it became clear that my gauge was too small, I added a new detail to the top. It’s hard to see, but if you look you can just make out the word FRACK. And then of course, I couldn’t resist cutting off the top corners (wish I’d thought of this at the bottom corners!) and adding some duplicate stitch in a reddish yarn to get that eerie Centurion look. These details meant that this took a bit longer than the washcloth, but because of the small size it was still a pretty quick knit.

bright yellow potholder

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This was a gift for my grandma, and while in appearance it is the most simple, it actually took about the same amount of time as the others. I noticed that my grandmother preferred hand knitted and crocheted potholders above all other kinds, but that they were getting worn out and too thin. I used this pattern for mitered hot pads because it was double the thickness. It basically requires knitting a tube on circular needles, stitching up the top in one direction and stitching up the bottom in a perpendicular direction. Worked great for me!

Kitty toys

Pinky and the Brain

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Ok, I’ve already posted about the first pirate mouse I made for my own kitty, which is pictured above on the right. But I’ve made three more as gifts, so I’m going to show you what variations on the orignal pattern I have come up with. The first is the “improved” pirate mouse on the left, which has fully pink ears, a pink tail, and is stuffed with a sock as opposed to batting. The weight of the sock is better and doesn’t bounce too much. I think it looks like the “pinky” to my original “brain” version above. Sewing the little bits on is by far the most time consuming part of the whole thing. Here are the other variants:

blue fuzzy

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I wanted to see what the pattern would look like with a super fuzzy yarn for the body and a contrasting yarn for everything else. The answer is this little guy, who reminds me of nothing so much as a muppet mouse. This mouse went to Leah, who is notoriously picky with her kitty toys, but she seems to have taken to it quite well:

Gryffindor lion mouse

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I made this one as a gift for a couchsurfing host during a research trip. She had two adorable cats, brothers, named Harry and Neville. I decided that as a thank you gift I would make her a Harry Potter pirate mouse in the gryffindor colors of scarlet and gold. (Don’t ask why I had this yarn with me on a trip, I just did!) I also added a mane and a shaggy tail end by adding some crochet loops, using more or less this technique. I forgot to add a nose or whiskers but it didn’t bother Mr. Potter one bit:

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Wrist things

[both of the following are my original patterns, so please respect this and do not use them for profit or republish them without my written permission!]

knitted bangle bracelet

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I’m sure there are many tutorials for making this kind of bracelet out there, but as since this bracelet was just for me, I decided to wing it. I love the results. I used a plastic ring that originally held a scarf on a rack at a store, if that makes sense…I just swatched until I figured out how many stitches it would take to cover the bracelet without being too tight or too lose, knitted for the appropriate length, and stitched it onto the ring. I used kitchener stitch to connect the two ends together, but since I chose a color changing yarn, the seam is still obvious (see smaller photo). I love how this shows off a tiny leftover remnant of an amazing yarn so well.

Madonna Mountain wristcuff

wrist band

This is more of a true pattern that I came up with over Christmas. It’s a small version of the Madonna Mountain located in San Luis Obispo, complete with the big white “M” on the face. I made this for my friend Phil specifically, because he has a clothing company in that town and makes t-shirts with unique line drawings of the local scenery. 

I wish I had written down the details for this pattern! I came up with it while playing board games with my family, and it just kind of flowed. I believe I cast on 32 stitches in green, and then after the ribbing I started decreasing the green on one stitch per side, and adding the dark blue at the same rate, knitting from both sides of the dark blue yarn so as not to have stranding in the back. Then I did the mountain in duplicate stitch using white yarn. I originally intended this to be a drink cozy, but he immediately wanted it to be a wrist cuff and I was not about to argue with a guy who sells apparel for a living.

Hat and collar

the ugly urchin

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I named this hat poorly because I ended up liking it way more than I thought I would. I used the urchin hat pattern from Knitty with size 9 needles. I wanted a new hat for myself that was quick and easy and could use up some crappy thickish acrylic yarn I had lying around. Much to my surprise, this short row hat looked lovely even in this kind of yarn. I recommend plenty of stitch markers for the short rows, because not losing track of where you are is key for these kinds of patterns. The shape of this hat is a bit hard to capture in photos, but it is beret like without being too much of a beret if that makes sense. I wear it a lot when my hair isn’t quite dry, as in the picture below.

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not quite blue collar

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The aquamarine yarn from my custom sweater is back again! Since I had leftovers, I went looking for a way to use them up and found this lovely peter pan collar pattern. This was probably the fastest project of the whole bunch!

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My only real modification was more of an accident, which you can kind of see above: my button for the back is off center. I made the collar the same length of the pattern one at first, but I decided that I needed it to be a bit longer. Laziness won out and I only extended one side. It doesn’t show from the front, however. I have another collar in a different color as well, but since that is one gift I haven’t given yet, I’m not going to post it yet so it can remain a surprise for the recipient.

 

 

 

Costumes, Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts

More craft, less witch: Halloween costumes and creations!

It’s almost Halloween—aka the I-get-to-make-a-new-costume holiday! Dressing up has been fun for pretty much as long as I can remember…

Yes, that’s me as Rainbow Brite, a homemade costume! More about those below.

Anyway, in the last week I have been stumbling across some creepily good Halloween crafts on the internets and

drawing inspiration from my previous Halloween creations as I come up with a costume for this year. Have a look!

 

Bats! Spider webs! Ghosts!

I don’t usually do Halloween crafts, but when I found this bat pattern I had decided I wanted to make it. It’s quick, it uses up cheap yarn, and it makes me giggle when I look at my window.

I think they look best from a distance, but here they are next to another bit of seasonal decor (i.e. my door stop).

If I had even more time I would probably be making a few other items. The first is this spiderweb scarf. I don’t do much crochet, but with this video tutorial  I think I could remind myself how to wield a hook. But what I’d really love to try is just about any pattern out of a ghost-inspired knitting book I heard about on this blog post (really like that blog btw).  It’s called Ghosts: historiographies, cultural manifestations, and the knits they’ve inspired. First of all, how could I not love a knitting book with “historiographies” in the title? Also, the patterns look really lovely, especially Calavera Catrina. The weather has just turned chilly here and a spooky bonnet would be really nice right about now.

Costume Creations!

But of course, what I’m most excited about are costumes!

I realized that when I posted about the top ten nerdiest craft I’d made, three of them were actually Halloween costumes: Ash Ketchum gloves, Bjork’s swan dress, and Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon Drogon:

Guess what? Those are not the only homemade Halloween costume photos I have. And since I love looking at the costumes other people make, I’m going to share a few of mine with you, along with their pros and cons about things like how comfortable it was to wear and whether or not others recognized what I was. For your convenience I’ve also divided them up between costumes I planned and costumes I put together at the last minute. Hope you get some ideas!

Costumes I made in advance 

If you have at least a week or two and you are willing to put in some effort, you too can make bizarre homemade costumes!

1. A Carrot

Pros: Orange top and skirt were easy to sew—Just two tubes with elastic at the top. Repurposed a hula skirt from an older costume, so I didn’t have to buy anything for the carrot top part.

Cons: No one knew what I was! Ok, granted, the green top didn’t stand up all carrot top like, but still. One guy thought I was asparagus. Also, I was with Edward Scissors hands at the time, which is admittedly an even more awesome costume to look at (I didn’t make that one, but I did do his makeup). Weight of the green “hair” became uncomfortable after a while.

Unrelated downside—I was sick that year, and so the only thing in my cup was saltwater to gargle. I don’t like missing an opportunity to dress up.

2. Holly Golightly 

Pros:  People recognized my costume right away (well, at least “Breakfast at Tiffany’s!”). Worked great with my hair when it was long enough to put up. Already owned the black dress (thanks concert band!) and the costume jewelry (thanks grandma!). Very comfortable to wear.

Cons: Not many! I suppose you may want to nix the cigarette holder if you’re dressing up around kids. Since I don’t smoke I had to borrow a cigarette to get the above photo.

3. Patti Mayonnaise 

Pros:  No sewing required! I found the blue shirt and some pink sweats at the thrift store, cut the pink sweats into circles, and used a steam iron and double sided fusible webbing to stick them to the shirt. Nice and warm to walk around in. Also works as a couples or group costume if you have a Doug Funnie, Skeeter Valentine, etc! (Not included—woodland fairy friend or dude who photobombs you pictures)

Cons: Only a few—wigs are not usually cheap (this was a man’s wig which was somewhat less expensive) and I could not truly mimic her orange skin tone. The dots were a bit stiff. And I suppose you need to watched Nickelodeon in the 90s to know the show Doug. Still one of my favorites!

4. Gadget Hackwrench

Pros: I got to wear a purple jumpsuit, a wig, mouse ears AND goggles! From my face you can tell it was a fun get up to wear. I got a purple sheet and the sewing patterns from the thrift store, and the goggles from the clearance aisle at the end of summer (yes sometimes I start planning my costume early).

Cons: Fewer people recognized my Gadget costume as being from  Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers  (I didn’t think about the fact that the show was not on TV for that long). And many things to wear=more things to buy. I wanted to make more of the things like my ears but I ran out of time because of the sewing (see work in progress shot). Sewing was tricky because I combined two patterns (sleeveless jumpsuit + collared blouse) and then I altered that further to make the legs slim, etc. Final result: I could not lift my arms above my head without giving myself an extreme wedgie. So not exactly the most comfortable costume!

Costumes that I put together at the last minute

If you have a day (or maybe just a few hours) to figure out a good costume, you can still come up with something interesting-ish.

1. Cheshire Cat

Pros: Yet again all I had to sew was a shirt and tube top—you can sew fabric into tubes very quickly! In this case I was going to an Alice in Wonderland themed party and remembered that I had some fabric that looked like the Cheshire Cat’s stripes. Too bad you can’t see the tail here! Ears are made from origami paper. Pictured with the Queen of Hearts.

Cons: Besides the fact that I only have terrible photos of me with my eyes half closed, the only real downside was that I was cold. But I am usually cold.

2. A sad hipster

Pros: Our friends got such a kick out of this! At the time I owned the black wig and had a roommate whose accessories were perfect in that oh-so-emo kind of way, so nothing was bought or altered, just repurposed. Of course, sad hipster boy is wearing girls clothes too…the tighter the better.

Cons: No one else besides our friends knew we were dressed up for Halloween…everyone else just thought we were a real hipster couple. Now that should really make you cry.

3. Gender Bender

Pros: Don’t normally dress as a man? If so, you may be surprised to find you probably have everything you need minus an accessory or two (the tie was mine but the pipe was not). Can be super comfy.

Cons: Don’t normally dress as a woman? Good luck finding a dress than fits, putting on nylons without ripping them, applying  makeup, and/or walking in heels. If you can do all this and be comfortable, you must let me know how!

4. Princess Peach

Pros: You know how brides say you can totally wear that bridesmaid dress again, but you totally can’t because it always looks like a bridesmaid dress? This is one instance where I did figure out how to wear it again—at a Ninetendo costume party. Crown and necklace are made out of construction paper.

Cons: No cons! It was the perfect last minute costume for the party.

Botanical Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts, Tweaks & Alterations

Olympics knitting: ferns, leaves, and a pirate mouse

I have been watching the 2012 London Summer Olympics most nights these past two weeks, and despite the annoyances of the NBC selective and delayed broadcasts, it’s been pretty riveting. It’s also been a good time to get a crap ton knitting done.

Some people do this officially—on Ravelry  there’s the “Ravellenic Games” group, knitters who start and finish complete projects during the Olympics. It has over 12,000 members. I do my knitting a lot more haphazardly and unofficially, but I do get some stitches done. Let me to show you.

Fern Lace Socks (50% done)

 

These were flying off my (admittedly tiny) needles in June and July. I’m using the Custom Toe Up Sock Generator from knitty because if there’s one thing I have learned about knitting, it’s this—when fit counts, use maths. Lots of maths. If you don’t want to do the calculations, there’s even a toe up sock pattern generator that will do it for you. All you have to do is input your foot measurements, needle size, and stitches per inch. The result of a customized pattern is a really well fit sock:

And yes, I know, I have ridiculously high arches—I have dancer feet. Anyway, the trouble with this pattern actually came when I tried to add a fern lace stitch to the top part. After about five attempts I realized two things—the pattern was really confusing, and it almost certainly contained errors. It was from a 1970s booklet after all. So I looked around and found this alternative fern lace pattern that happened to be for a sock of the exact same number of stitches as my custom pattern. It’s not as cool looking as the original one but it is straightforward and error free:

 

Leafy Scarf (30% done)

This tapered scarf is called Saroyan. It’s a really excellent pattern so far—quite adaptable, simple but pretty, and an unusual shape for a scarf. I did not intend to start yet another knitting project, but I found that the lace socks were too difficult to knit while talking to anyone. Since I do work on my projects at knitting groups, I need to have something I can knit while I interact with humans. The only part where I really have to pay attention is the edge of leaves. I have a thing for leaves.

Pirate Mouse Cat Toy (100% done)

As if these two patterns weren’t enough, yesterday I had the urge to knit a cat toy. And so I did. An awesome one:

This is Captain Cat Battler, a pirate mouse cat toy. I do not know what possessed me, but when I saw it, I had to make it. It’s a quick project to knit, though sewing it up takes a little bit more time. The pattern writers have exactly the sense of humor you’d expect from people who like pirates and cats. The pattern is free, but it was designed for the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, an animal rescue charity in London, and you can donate your knitted mouse (or your pounds sterling) to help their cats. The only change I made was to add an I-Cord tail (the original tail was just a strand of yarn…which I figured would be destroyed instantly).

I loved this pattern. But what did the resident cat, Josephine, think of it? Let’s see…

I’d say they’re pretty much best friends now. Yarrr.

 

 

 

Costumes, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Tweaks & Alterations

Top ten nerdiest crafts that I have made

Two nights ago I finished my custom fit raglan sweater! Ok, so I still have to weave in the ends and steam block it, but basically it is done. It’s definitely the best fitting article of knitting I’ve made so far—pics to come! Now, of course, I’m trying to pick a new craft project. Crafts are how I unwind after doing work, so although it is counterintuitive, I need them more when I’m busy than when I’m not.

In looking back over what crafts I’ve already made, I began to notice a pattern—I love to craft nerdy things! That’s right—if you’d find it on Geekcrafts, I’d probably want to make it.  Fantasy, sci fi, video games, tech, or obscure pop culture, apparently I’ve dabbled in it all, either in crafts for myself or for someone I know. I have enough that I can actually make a list of my top ten favorites. So here they are, in order from “aww, how dorky is that” to “LOL I can’t believe you actually made that.”

10. Pokemon’s Ash Ketchum gloves

The only reason that these are number ten is because, by themselves, fingerless two toned green gloves can look pretty normal. But if you add a certain red and white hat…

Then suddenly, you gotta catch ’em all.

I made these for Keith’s Halloween costume the other year (nerdy costumes I’ve made could be a whole post by themselves). I bought the slightly stretchy dark green fabric from JoAnn’s and used light green felt and black velcro from my sewing stash.

Improviser that I am, I didn’t look at any glove patterns. If I had, I’m pretty sure I would have discovered that its easier to make a separate thumb piece rather than putting in darts in a whole piece. Oh well. I thought the velcro cuff part was a clever way of using the felt in a way that require it to stretch over the hand.

9. Apple logo iPod cozy

This was one of my first successes knitting with a chart—and it was a chart of the iconic apple logo. As you may be able to tell by the iPod in the picture, I made this a number of years ago—one of my early geek knits! I wanted to take a better photo but alas, I don’t know where this cozy ended up. It was the perferct size for the older iPods. You can see the button hole at the top of the photo—on the back I added a retro green fabric covered button. I didn’t use a pattern for the cozy, but I did check my gauge to make sure it would fit. Knit on straight size 1 needles I believe. Pretty sure I learned kitchener stitch (video link) to sew up the sides.  So many memories!

8. Bjork’s swan dress

Out of all the costumes I’ve made, this replica of Icelandic singer Bjork’s 2001 Oscars dress is the one I am most proud of.

Perhaps it’s not typical nerdery, but let me tell you, it’s usually a pop culture junky who is the first to figure out who I am at a party (since Bjork wore it over a decade ago, it seems to have fallen away from public memory somewhat). I have now worn it on at least three separate occasions—the photo above was the most recent, at a Rock Star costume party (with bonus Pikachu in the background!) Below are some previous Halloween photos:

I made this audacious avian outfit from a $10 thrift store dress. I suppose it might have been a wedding dress, though I suspect it was a quinceanera dress. It was strapless and had seven tiered layers of white tulle. Seven! I chopped off the bottom ones and used that along with polyfill, black foam, orange cotton and a black button to fashion the swan top. Finally, I sewed a pale colored camisole that matched my skin tone to the top.

My mom helped a lot on this one—there were so many layers to sew through!

7. Game of Thrones house sigil coasters

My newest strain of crafting nerdery has been influence by all things George R.R. Martin —in this case, the HBO series Game of Thones.

This Christmas I made my brother coasters depicting the sigils and official house words. I used this awesome craftster tutorial to learn how to use the paint pen on ceramic surfaces—heat set them and the paint won’t wash off! Plain white tiles with felt feet on the bottom make nice coasters that don’t scratch tables.  I only made two because my paint pen was running out. If you’re an architecture nerd, you may like the Frank Lloyd Wright designs I did on coasters for my mom even more.

6. LOL Cat baby blanket

If you thought I would bypass internet meme geekiness, think again!

This is one of my favorite modifcations. I used the free pattern for a bunny blanket buddy, but I shortened the ears. Then I used a crochet hook to write “O HAI” on the front, in a true, I can has cheezburger style. I wish I’d know about duplicate stitch then, because I think it would have lined up better for the words, but on the whole I’m pleased with the results. I did this as part of a craft swap, so to go along with the blanket, I made magnetic poetry with the kind of words you see in lolcat images using my printer, thin magnetic strips, and laminated cat photos for refrigerator meme action.

5. NES Controller stencil shirt

I love me some old school video games. And so does my brother. Which I why I made him this shirt.

Every so often I get the urge to learn a new craft, and this was one of them. I used the excellent tutorial from stencilry to learn how to mix acrylic paint with fabric medium use it on a disposable freezer paper stencil. Like the coasters, you can heat set the paint so it is washable. I’m pretty sure I downloaded the Nintendo controller image from the same website’s gallery of stencils, but I don’t know what folder it was in so if you want it you’ll have to hunt around. The hardest part of this was doing those red A and B buttons—getting the red paint to fill in those circles evenly was challenge. But then again, so was sharing a Nintendo with my brother back in the 90s! I still have it, by the way, and it works.

4.Drogon the Dragon Game of Thrones scarf

Another Song of Ice and Fire craft!  This one is wearable, but you do so at your own risk.

(Spolier alert if you haven’t read the books or watched the series!)

Drogon is one of Daenery’s three dragons.  In the books it says that when he was little, he perched on Dany’s shoulder. So of course for my Halloween costume, I had to knit a dragon scarf. What a pain in the neck (pun intended). I used this dragon scarf pattern because it was free, even though many ravelry reviewers said it was fiddly. They were right—you knit all the pieces separately and then sew them together. Ugh. And, since my scarf was black, it was really tricky to see where to sew. Also, all the cool patterning on Drogon’s back gets lost in all that black. However, I am proud of some parts. I used a drop spindle to ply two different color red yarns together to get the exact shade I wanted for his mouth. Also, I had Keith cut the eyes and teeth out of felt for me. The original dragon eyes and mouth look dopey, but this little guy is positively scary. It’s great if you are Daenerys, but if you are a regular person wearing Drogon, I’d keep an eye on him.

3. Flight of the Conchords stencil shirt

This t-shirt makes it into the top three because not only is it from song by the kings of  nerd-dom,  New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords—it’s a shirt that is only featured in the music video version of their song “Business Time.” You won’t get the reference from a different version of the song. And even then, you only notice it if you look closely about halfway through the song (I’ve cued the link above to the correct moment. I guess I should add a NSFW warning if you chose to watch it past the 2 minute mark, even though they blurred  things out…)

I made this t-shirt at the same time that I made the NES controller stencil. It was a birthday/Christmas gift for my friend Ali. I even made sure to get the font as close as possible to the original, which is a nice touch. And of course, it’s a baggy gray shirt just like the one in the video. The only thing I didn’t do was put a stain on it like the lyrics described (you can only take these things so far). As I recall, she thought it was pretty sweet.

2. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin book safe

Yet another George R.R. Martin craft? Oh yes it is!

                            

This was a graduation gift for Keith, and it was really two gifts in one. First of course, was the craft you see above: a hollowed out book dressed up to look like the latest from the Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. In order to get a large enough hard cover book to make it realistic, I went to the thrift store and bought a Tom Clancy novel when their books were on sale (it was about 50 cents). Then I hollowed out the inside using this tutorial as a guide. It wasn’t too bad, but it did take a while with my wimpy exacto knife. I printed out a copy of the cover for A Dance with Dragons on some printer paper to make the dust jacket—it fit rather well if I do say so myself.

The second part of the gift you can see from the folded paper inside the hollow book—a receipt for the order of the real A Dance With Dragons book. When he graduated, the book was not due out for another month or so. I thought this was a clever way to present a tangible gift when the actual gift happened to be on pre-order.

1. “Bake it So” aka the Star Trek TNG oven mitt

Of all the geeky crafts I’ve made, this one takes the cake—and it literally could pull said cake out of a hot oven.

This oven mitt is a pun on Capitan Jean-Luc Picard’s famous phrase “Make it So” from Star Trek: The Next Generation (now streaming on Netflix, fyi). I was a kid when that show was on the air and I totally loved it. When I re-watched some episodes with some friends many years later, we decide that if Captain Picard ever had any kitchen accessories, they would have to say “bake it so” on them. So of course, I had to make an oven mitt with the phrase.

The mitt is exactly what it looks like—dark blue letters cut from scrap material, zig zag stitched onto the front of a light blue oven mitt. I remember that I had to rip the seam of that oven mit from the bottom up to the thumb in order to get it to fit over the arm of the sewing machine. If I had it to do over I would have probably added interfacing to the letters to keep them from fraying or getting out of shape. But overall, I am really proud of my extremely nerdy accessory.

And that’s the end of the nerdy craft list—now, on to find some new geeky projects!