If I came to your nuptials in the last 2 years, you got a hand-knit pillow inspired by nature as a wedding gift.
Pillows are underrated knit gifts. They’re nice for the knitter, because they knit up quicker than a garment, use up stash yarn with ease, and require no sizing other than a gauge that will work with your choice of pillow form. And they’re nice for the recipient, because they can be personalized and heartfelt while still being functional.
I had this beautiful pattern in my Ravelry queue for 5 years, just waiting for the right project! I love the intertwined cables— so fitting a gift for two people growing together.
I made this for J + K’s wedding, which took place at a Northern California winery and was just as green and beautiful. But the actual inspiration for the pillow was a road trip through Oregon this summer, with plenty of passenger seat time to work though all those cables. Despite the wildfire smoke, we saw lush greens everywhere.
I have found that the best backing to a knit pillow is a repurposed sweater! This one was a green sweater tank in a matching shade. I pinned and cut two pieces to over on the reverse side, making it easy to slip it off the pillow form and wash it.
It’s a little tricky to sew through both pieces on my sewing machine, but the results are worth it.
Bonus knit! J+K also requested quilt squares from guests for a wedding quilt, so of course I incorporated some knitting there too! My square was inspired by a summer afternoon of cherry picking that we had all recently enjoyed.
When I heard that A+M were getting married in Joshua Tree National Park, I knew what was going on their pillow! Only trouble was, no such pattern existed! Cactus, sure, but no Joshua trees. I hadn’t been to the high desert for years, and couldn’t even remember if I’d seen one, so I looked at photos for inspiration to start. I eventually got to see the real thing! They were just as weird and majestic as I imagined—even more so at twilight.
I originally sketched a Joshua tree with many branches, but I had to scale it back to three for simplicity’s sake. I opted to keep the tree to one side, giving me room to add their initials and the year. If you make a pillow like this, take the time to sketch it out on a grid, to get an idea of the layout!
Intarsia knitting worked best for this kind of colorwork, although I also did some stranding between the branched and the letters & numbers. I know that many knitters shy away from colorwork, but pillows are a perfect test project! It doesn’t have to stretch over a body or a head, so you can practice getting the right tension. Here’s the front and back of the complete piece.
After pouring over too many stitch dictionaries, I decided the easiest way to approximate the long pointy leaves was to do a crochet chain embroidery stitch on top of the completed work. That way, I could control the angle and give the tree a three-dimensional look. I followed a simple video tutorial (here) since crochet is not my forte.
And of course, I used a gray sweater as a backing. This time, I chose a cardigan, so I could incorporate the buttons for easy removal.
I am quite happy with the way this pillow turned out. The muted color palate captured the feel high desert, and it matched A + M’s home decor!
Just before leaving for Los Angeles to visit the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood, I decided I needed a DIY top appropriate for the 100+ degree F weather of LA in July. Luckily (felix felicitously?), I found this great Deathly Hallows cutout tank tutorial on YouTube. I made my lines extra sharp by using an X-Acto Knife instead of scissors, but either will work. Just swish and flick!
You can still kind of see the chalk lines here. They faded eventually, but I’m probably going to get more chalk on it, seeing as how this is a great top for the rock climbing gym.
See that high stepping move? Definitely the (hor)crux of the boulder problem. 🙂
House Colors Headband -Gryffindor version
The other item I wore that weekend was a headband, in lieu of a house scarf. Even though the Sorting Hat has placed me in Ravenclaw (and my cat too!), I figured that Gryffindor colors were the way to go here. I drew inspiration from the scarf pattern seen in the 4th Harry Potter Movie. But what I’m most proud of is the fact that I made this on the car ride down from Northern California! I actually finished it in the dark!
It’s a little wonky because of that, and the fact that I had no pattern, and the fact that I forgot scissors and cut the back threads with a pocket knife, but I’m sure Dobby would still wear it.
I mostly wore this headband when I went on rides, but once again, I forsee using it quite a bit for rock climbing:
Perhaps it will help me be braver when bouldering! At any rate, I know Dumbledore would approve of this knitting pattern. Need proof? Here it is, book 6:
By the way, this the first Harry Potter themes knitting I’ve done—that would be the Lion Cat Toy from a post in 2012.
This year, my focus is on fun, kick a$$, and easy DIY costumes for ladies. Every October, there are news stories about how store bought Halloween costumes for women (and increasingly girls) are pretty much all “Sexy Fill-in-the-Blank.” No problem if that’s what you’re looking for—but now it’s basically the only option out there. On the other hand, every year there are news stories about the amazing DIY costume ideas out there—which are fantastic, but often take a lot of time and/or money to make. This blog post covers the middle ground! So without further ado, here are 6 costume ideas in three categories.
The Ghost of Amelia Earheart
In keeping with the creepy-versions-of-historical-women theme of several previous costumes, this was my Halloween costume last year. Famous female pilot Amelia Earheart was the first woman aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She disappeared without a trace while flying across the Pacific Ocean in 1937. She still haunts people’s imaginations—which is why she makes a perfect ghost.
Most of this costume consisted of clothing I already had—a button-up white blouse, gray scarf, tan pants, brown boots and a brown faux leather jacket. The two items I had to purchase were the aviator hat and the googles. I got both online for relatively cheap—both were found on ebay for about $10. (Apologies for the blurry mirror photo).
Since I wore this costume to two different parties, so I had some time to work on the ghost makeup. The first time I did it very subtle, as in the close up above—white powder on my face, light gray eyeshadow around my eyes, and black lipstick. But the next time, I went for a more ghoulish, undead look.
Here I used black and dark gray eyeshadow and black eyeliner around my eyes, with the light gray eyeshadow on my cheeks. It was a much more dramatic look, kind of like an easier version of the grayscale makeup I’ve seen people do. I like this version better.
This was easily my favorite photo from the party. And the costume was a hit!
If you don’t mind skipping ahead one holiday, you too can be a Pilgrim. I realize that pilgrim women wore bonnets and dresses, but I really wanted to wear the buckle hat, so I did.
This costume does require a little bit of sewing. But you only need a small amount of white fabric (felt for the least sewing) and an old shoe lace. You can make a quick collar pattern by folding your felt in half (if it’s fabric, make sure there are two layers of it, then fold in half), then finding a shirt or dress with a neckline that fits you well and folding that in half too. Trace the line of the neck and extend the shoulder line as far as you would like it (the longer the line, the bigger the collar). Then trace a one-quarter circle from the shoulder line to the fabric fold. There’s a good tutorial here.
If you used felt, just sew the shoulder seams together, cut the shoelace in half, and sew it to the corners of the collar at the neck. If you used doubled over fabric, bear with me, I’m bad at sewing descriptions and I did this a year ago. Basically you’ll have four pieces of fabric, you need to sew them into two facings. Sew the shoulder seams for each pair together so that you have two complete collars facings. Put them right sides together and sew those collars together around the edges, except for the inner curved neckline. Turn right side in and press. Turn neckline hem about 1/2 inch in and press. Top stitch together, leaving 1/2 inch open spaces at the corners, then thread the shoelace in one opening and out the other.
Now for the hat and shoes! You’ll need construction paper (or large pieces of foam sheet paper), an X-acto knife or scissors, and tape. I used a wide brimmed black felt hat to start. I cut two rectangles of black construction paper and taped them together at an angle and placed that over the top to make it look more like a Pilgrim’s hat. I then cut a rectangle out of yellow foam paper, cut a smaller rectangle out of the center, and taped it to the hat as a buckle.
Make two more buckles and tape them to some black shoes (Mary Janes work well). I paired all of this with some simple clothing I already had—white tights, white socks, knee length black shorts and a black long sleeve t-shirt.
Don’t forget to make a hand turkey! Mine is crossing a busy street, as the local turkeys are wont to do.
I already blogged about our live action Oregon Trail game, but the prairie girl outfit is another good historical costume! Your Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-loving-inner-ten-year-old will be proud of you for making your own bonnet.
I am a total sucker for the cheesy wonderfulness that is Doctor Who, as you probably know from previous posts. But a realistic costume for his fellow time traveling troublemaker River Song was not in the cards for me—her original parachute style dress is outrageously expensive now. So this is my version.
First, the dress. I really wanted to make one that looked like hers, but my sewing skills are not that advanced. Instead I found one in a similar color with the same zipper style neckline on ebay for about $12. It took some searching and it’s a bit loose on me, but you know. I like to think my hair makes up for it.
Now of course, the most important DIY part of this costume is my sonic screwdriver. This is my own original pattern for a sonic screwdriver chapstick holder, which you can find right here! Alternately, you could also just hold a banana like I did in the first photo (and for any fans who point out she wore a different dress when she had the banana…this is probably not the cosplay website you were looking for). Or you could buy or make your very own TARDIS journal—there’s a great tutorial for making one here.
The only other accessories you really need are some brown boots, black tights (not pictured because it’s still like 80 degrees here), and a wide studded belt. I faked it here with the two brown belts put together. A brown gun holster would also be a nice touch.
Any other Stark Trek TNG fans out there? Casual viewers may not know this character, but I always had a soft spot for Ensign Ro Laren. I’ll admit, I threw this costume together last minute because I discovered I still had the uniform top in my costume box. I’ve had it since I was like 12! (I’m not sure whether to be slightly proud or slightly embarrassed by this). It doesn’t quite fit as well as it used to, but it works.
I had some fun making her Bajoran earpiece for this costume. I used a broken necklace, a regular pierced earring and a clip on earring to recreate it. I also made a pip for the collar of my uniform using a thumb tack and an earring backing, just as I did when I was 12. I didn’t get too elaborate with the Bajoran nose—I just used eyeshadow in two different shades of brown to create the illusion of creases.
Truth: I was not quite ready to take photos of myself outside in this, so excuse the blurry mirror photo. This is just to show the rest of the outfit (black leggings, black boots). If I’d had more time I would have straightened my hair and tried to find a red headband. At least there are some stars in the background!
additional costume ideas:
If you can knit the Hunger Games Cowl fast enough, you could be Katnis Everdeen! Bonus: it would be a warm and cozy costume.
Sometimes, I like to attempt non-humanoid costumes. I was particularly pleased with this interpretation of the human heart. Since veins and arteries are often depicted in blues and reds in anatomical drawings, I went with that theme. I painted dots in blue eyeshadow and red lipstick on my forehead, with an earring of each color. Then I found some children’s tights in a discount bin at Target in blue and red. I cut off the feet and stuck one arm in each, tying them together behind my back to form a sort of shrug. It stayed put surprisingly well.
Recognize the top? It’s was my Valentine’s Day party Free Fall Tank. It’s a quick pattern that you could totally finish before Oct. 31. I thought it worked well for the heart costume too. The red belt and the black tutu…well, that was more to make it more costume-y for the party. But check out the tights!
These were the tights that actually inspired the whole costume. Ebay tights are the best.
You should know that I served lots of donuts dressed like this. I doubt anyone knew what it was supposed to be, but I knew what it was. In my heart.
As I promised that some of these costumes would be very easy, this final idea is one that I executed in about 30 minutes. Technically this was for an ugly sweater party around Christmas time, but it works just as well for the October holiday.
Remember the foam sheets I mentioned for the Pilgrim costume? I got a bag of odd sized ones from the dollar store, and cut them into squares. I used all the green ones to create a Christmas tree with a brown one for a stump, then found some sparkly ones in different colors to be the gifts below. I used duct tape to adhere them to an old sweater and wore it with my brightest red pants.
You could always go as a grumpy Christmas elf too.
I think leggings can be a great inspiration for abstract costumes. If I had a chance, I would probably pair these paint splatter leggings I have with an actual paint splattered top.
this plus this
I hope these costumes inspire some epic Halloween 2014 creations of your own!
I’ve let almost all of June go by without a post! It’s been a busy month of researching and writing, traveling and celebrating. I have knit two little gifts for friends that I’ve been meaning to share—both are cotton, quick to knit up, and personalized, which for me are the best things to make in these warmer months.
However, I have not been taking the best notes on my knitting, nor have I been taking good photos of my work! With apologies for the quality, here’s what I’ve been making.
Couples chalk bags
Recently, some very cool friends of mine got married. As it happens, they had also recently gotten into rock climbing, but they did not yet have chalk bags. So I used some of the rudimentary designs from my chalk bag pattern Beta (ravelry) to make them some matching chalk bags in this bulky cotton yarn from my stash. Because the yarn was so thick, they knit up super quick—I made them the day before the wedding! I took that blurry photo above just before heading to the ceremony.
Here they are in action! I think I would probably make the drawstrings shorter if I had it to do over again—I meant for them to be tied in bows, but the yarn is a bit too bulky, it doesn’t work as well as it does for the original pattern. I didn’t keep track of the number of stitches or rows here because I was in a hurry, but I did do a gauge swatch so I could figure out how to make these bags close to the dimensions of the original pattern.
It’s hard to get a non-blurry action shot of gym climbing, but you get the idea. I used the smallest size needle that would work with this yarn so that they could be used without a lining. I think unlined knit chalk bags work best with a tight gauge and a chalk ball inside as opposed to loose chalk. And of course, couples chalk bags work best when you’re climbing together. ;c)
I have a musician friend who is having a birthday this week, and when I knew I would get a chance to visit him shortly beforehand, I decided to knit him something. One of the most unusual things about his music is that he wrote and can perform a song on guitar where he plays using his hands and his feet:
I decided that his knit gift should include some colorwork with both a foot and a musical note—a footnote if you will. This piece is my own design and yet again I put it together rather quickly (hence the funky spacing). I’m actually quite pleased with how the color contrast came out. I’m also somewhat proud of my creative combination of instarsia and stranded colorwork knitting, which you can see on the reverse side:
I didn’t write down the pattern for this knitted cloth, but I didn’t invent this pattern out of thin air either. I looked at a charts of footprints (here) and music notes (here) for inspiration. But in the end, I made my own version that deviated from the other patterns that inspired me. Like a guitar song played with feet, this bit of knitting ended up being rather unique.