Other Crafts

I can see clearly now, Lorraine is gone…

I have a confession: I knew this blog turned the big 1-3 this year (how am I the parent of a teenager, however digital?), but got myself confused about the actual date, and thought for one brief, shining moment that this was its champagne birthday. It was not. For anyone hoping to witness that milestone, you’re stuck with me for another eight years.

As soon as I realized my error, I scrapped my foolish plan of turning on the oven in the ridiculously oppressive prairie heat just to make some sort of elaborate birthday cake. Instead, I thought I’d share some of the irreverent fun (“Not that much fun.” – Ed.) that I try to bring to the proverbial table.

For the uninitiated, a “mondegreen” is a misheard lyric. For example, the title of this post: Johnny Nash actually sang that he could see clearly now because the rain [was] gone. With my love for wordplay, it’s probably not surprising that I find these misinterpretations amusing, and have been known to deliberately sing the wrong words to songs even when I know better.

Although I’m not really a crafts-with-paper type, I had had the idea to create a series of Artist Trading Cards featuring various mondegreens, and I finally made it happen. I started by cutting cardstock into 2.5″ x 3.5″ pieces, then used some origami paper cut to size for my backgrounds. After that, I just had to type out my lyrics and find appropriate images. Because I wanted whoever wound up receiving these to know just what the heck I was getting at, I also wrote the correct lyric (plus title/artist) on the back of each card.

“You know how bad girls get.” – The Police, Don’t Stand So Close to Me
“Hold me closer, tiny dancer.” – Elton John, Tiny Dancer
“‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” – Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze
“Breaking rocks in the hot sun.” – The Bobby Fuller Four, I Fought the Law
“Sont des mots qui vont trΓ¨s bien ensemble, trΓ¨s bien ensemble.” – The Beatles, Michelle

There we have it: art (or “art”) for art’s sake. I had no real plan for these, but I’ve sent a couple of them off to crafty pals who hopefully enjoy a side of pop culture with their papercraft.

Thanks for looking – and for sticking with me the last 13 years! πŸ™‚

General Sewing

Protect ya neck (or at least your clothes)

Oh, goodness. This was originally meant to be a Christmas present, but time got away from me and rushing to finish it – especially when I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted to do the edges – would have harshed my holiday mellow. Instead, I took my time, and have something nice to show for it. (Before you ask: no, I’m not quite that much of a slacker. I finished this in early February, so I’m really only a slacker about posting it, not sewing it.)

Although my local fabric store had had other fabrics from the same collection, I had to source the apron panel online. And, OK, some of the other fabrics too, because you just never know.

This is not a picture of my panel, but of an identical one, because I apparently lacked the foresight to photograph it before merrily cutting into it.

See that black with white lettering at the very bottom? It’s actually a rectangle with several lines of type. Per the instructions, one is supposed to cut them into strips to use as neck and waist ties, but I snorted at their adorable shortness and instead bought some double-fold bias tape. Etsy now thinks I love bias tape, and won’t stop recommending it to me.

I shouldn’t knock the bias tape – it provided a beautiful finish when I used it all along the edges and held the front of the apron to the lining admirably. Using a straight stitch, no matter how slowly I went, seemed to be an exercise in futility as both sides didn’t seem to catch and I’d have to go over them. Switching to a zig-zag stitch solved this and let me edge the entire thing with a minimum of frustration (but still lots of pinning).

Once I finished edging the apron, I cut two generous lengths from what was left of the bias tape to use as waist ties, and worked with what was left after that for the neck loop – I think I had about 10 cm left after all that. I zig-zagged the raw edges of the tape for all my ties and loops before attaching them to keep them strong.

Oh, remember that extra fabric I bought “just because”? It made a perfect backing for this. Ooh, matchy!

So instead of a Christmas gift, it became a totally-unexpected Lunar New Year gift (because there’s a cow on it, which is kind of like an ox, maybe? The recipient is a city boy, so I’m not too worried).

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

Other Crafts

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Actually, in this case, you don’t need to! There’s a handy pull string to reduce your smashing by 100%.

I had seen these mini pinatas ages ago on the dearly departed Craftster, and saved the tutorial for myself despite being an asocial and unromantic weirdo. I managed to find the original tutorial using the Wayback Machine, but also took my own step-by-step pictures in case that ever ceases to be.

To start with, you’ll need to cut out two hearts from cardstock or posterboard. Mine are just a hair over 8″ across because I was using letter-sized cardstock, but you’re limited only by your imagination and raw materials. You’ll also need a “side strip/strips” whose width will dictate how deep your pinata is (and how much you can stuff inside it). I cut three 2.5″ wide x 11″ long strips from another sheet of cardstock, but only wound up using two of them.

Once I taped my two strips together, I could start attaching them to my first heart. I ran pieces of masking tape along one edge of my new double-long strip and then starting curving it along the edge of my heart and taping it down. Your edge will – nay, should – be shorter than the full circumference of your heart; that gap is where you’ll add your candy.

Here’s one spot where I deviated from the original tutorial: while I only had one heart attached to the edge, I poked a couple of holes in the edge and added a hanging loop, in case the recipient wants to display it.

Once I was satisfied a) with the size of my candy door, and b) that my hanging loop was secure and I wouldn’t need to access the inside of the pinata, I added my second heart and secured it to my edge with even more masking tape.

Now the raison d’Γͺtre: add your candy. If you want this to be hung/displayed for a while, you may want to be mindful of the weight of whatever you’re putting in.

Remember when I said I wouldn’t need to access the inside of the pinata anymore? I lied, kind of. Once the candy is in, you can cover the opening with a folded-up piece of tissue paper, but to add a pull string you’ll need to affix that to the inside of the pinata above the opening, then tape it to the underside of the tissue. It’s a bit fiddly, and if I do one of these again I might attach it before I add my second heart, just to save fumbling around after. Make that pull string good and long so that your recipient has something to grab onto!

And now…you get to decorate! This was less annoying than I thought it would be. The girl who wrote the original tutorial used shredder scissors to fringe her tissue paper, but I did it old-school with normal scissors, and managed to not completely cramp up my hand.

I decided to go for a quasi-ombrΓ© look, and overlapped rows of tissue to keep it looking full and fluffy.

Once I got the heart faces done, I cut short pieces of my fringed tissue to do the sides. I used your garden-variety glue stick for this, and it was shockingly neat: no gluey residue, and practically zero dry time.

Finally seeing the light of day! Once my tissue-papering was done, I made a little instructional tag for my pull string, just in case there were any doubts as to what to do.

This didn’t take me too long, overall – a couple of episodes of Lolita Podcast – but just long enough to serve as a good reason to not be polyamourous.

Thanks for looking…happy Valentine’s Day!

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.

Happy New Year! (Can I still say that now…?) I hope everyone had a nice – and safe! – holiday season.

After my Christmas making, I got a few days’ rest before starting in on this project. My friend Jeanette has a birthday coming up later this month, and has been a Legend of Zelda fan forever. I’ve never played a single one of the games, but the franchise is 35 years old this year. Crazy, isn’t it? In any case, it’s certainly iconic, irrespective of my own gaming proclivities.

I found this pattern as pixel art on Pinterest, and knew I had found the perfect little stitch.

He started to take shape pretty quickly. Can you see where I missed a couple stitches in his hair?

Better lighting, but still with that weird negative space in his bangs.

Hair (and everything else) complete, and framed up. That 3″ hoop turned out to be the perfect size.

When I first found the pattern, it showed his pants as white/grey, which was not how I remembered them. A pretty-much-identical pixel art pattern showed his pants as black, which looked more correct to me, but I wasn’t quite sure.

Folks, there are entire wikis devoted to Link’s outfit across various games. Sometimes his pants are brown; sometimes they’re white/grey; sometimes he wears none at all, his modesty protected only by his long tunic. Never are they black, but this seemed like a good place to start a trend.

I mailed this out last weekend, so if our respective postal systems have managed to work out the backlog of Christmas gifts clogging the works, she should have this before the big day actually arrives.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing

On the fourth day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: some fun, patterned PPE!

(If you had asked me back when I started this blog whether I’d ever use the term “PPE” here, I probably wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. Oh, the times we live in…)

My friend Jeanette is considered an essential worker, and although I would sincerely hope her employer provides her with suitable equipment when she has to be around people, I wanted to do something fun for her. A writer, she loves all things vintage-typewriter, and when I saw this fabric at Marshalls this summer, I had to pick up a third of a metre – just enough for a mask or two.

They have the coolest fabrics there, honestly (that’s where my background came from, too). Earlier in the summer, I found this beautiful zodiac fabric and made my mom an Aquarius mask, and then found Leo and Scorpio for my dad and for Mr. Gummi Bear when I found the typewriter key fabric.

The original Aquarius mask (not pictured) wasn’t long for this world. On about her third or fourth time wearing it out, she bent and re-bent the nose wire so vigorously that it broke. This is probably also a cautionary tale about using dollar-store pipe cleaners as nose wires, but what do you have to do to it to break it so quickly? She also complained about the thin elastic I used for ear loops cutting into her ears; the fact that she requested that elastic specifically was irrelevant. Could I replace the wire and elastic? I thought about the amount of unpicking required, and decided it was easier to make her a new one. And hey, if she was getting a new one for Christmas, so were the others.

I used a sturdier wire in all three of them, and the elastic is this super-soft and springy, rounded stuff I found on Etsy. Just let them try and complain about sore ears!

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a scarf for the pep rally!

Even though my friend Ricky* defected to Toronto 15+ years ago, and I see him once a year if I’m lucky, I still try to find the perfect Christmas gift to send every year. In this case, “perfect” translates loosely to “not totally impersonal, not ridiculously expensive, and not a bear to ship in terms of either packaging logistics or postage costs”. I don’t ask for much, do I?

A couple of years ago, I put together a Batman starter kit (mini Bat Signal plus some socks, soap, and mints all featuring the caped crusader’s likeness), and last year it was a box of local goodies that he wouldn’t be able to get in the Big Smoke. With everything that’s been going on this year, I opted for something nostalgic to remind him of those carefree high school days. *pause for laughter* Or at least something in our school colours.

I’ve actually made this scarf twice before, but this was my first time making it according to the original instructions and not trying to shoehorn in an extra colour. Based on a tutorial from the dearly departed Craftster, the premise is simple: choose two colours of fleece (A and B); cut eighteen 4″ by 6″ rectangles and four 6″ squares out of colour A; cut twenty 4″ by 6″ rectangles out of colour B; use nine, two, and ten of each kind of cutout to form each side of the scarf and then sew the two sides together for double-layer warmth.

I sincerely thought that cutting out all those rectangles was the most annoying/time-consuming part of this (admittedly simple) project – and then I remembered that every time you sew two of them together, you have to tie off the thread ends at both ends of the seam. Every time. For 2+10+9-1 seams per side.

To be fair, tying off the thread ends isn’t difficult or as prone to causing hand cramps as marathon fleece-cutting, but it’s the start-and-stop (especially if you leave them all until the end) that makes them a pain. By the time I was doing the second side of my scarf, I got smart, and tied my threads while I was on a conference call – it kept my hands busy, but wasn’t so distracting that I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on.

I think this should ward off the Toronto chill, no?

There was a time when I would have wrapped that scarf all around my model’s head to preserve anonymity or else digitally alter the photo up to and including decapitation; but darned if a co-ordinating mask doesn’t do the trick.

And sure, the scarf is nice and wouldn’t look out of place at the homecoming game (assuming we had a football team, which we did not), but it needed a little something extra to really complete the theme.

Perfect, right? It had the blue-and-gold scheme, and we both spent four years with the same English teacher who spent those years drilling into our heads such gems as the eight (nine? Ten? Google seems to be very divided on this) parts of speech. I think all of my grammatical neuroses can be traced back to that classroom.

In some miracle of modern postal service, his parcel arrived with a week to spare before Christmas, and I hope he’ll be able to get some use out of both, lockdown or no.

Thanks for looking….go Sabres!! πŸ™‚

*Not his real name, but a nickname given by that same English teacher.

craftmas, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a flock of sheep for the tree!

Back in the days of Craftster (RIP), I participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap a couple of times. Basically, you’d create three or six ornaments – usually similar if not actual clones of one another – and be partnered up with three or six people to swap one for one. It was really kind of lovely because you could get your ornaments made well ahead of time and then just wait for your partners’ information. Craftster’s successor, Lettucecraft, is still in its infancy and the swap process has been a little different, and there was no SSOS this year.

Being me, I had already found a pattern I had wanted to use, and wound up making a few anyway.

I added some miniature 1:12 (I think?) lights that weren’t called for in the pattern, but took these from just being sheep to actually being Christmas sheep, and therein lies the difference.

These were really simple to make! My first one came to life during a conference call that required nothing from me apart from confirming my presence during roll call and answering the icebreaker question, and I completed the next two over a few evening phone calls with friends.

When I started making these, I couldn’t decide whether their overall vibe was “Fleece Navidad” or “Baaaaa Humbug”, but my “focus group” overwhelmingly preferred the former.

I call them a flock of sheep at the top of this post, but pity the poor collie who has to herd them: they wound up with (or are in the process of making their way to) friends in three different countries.

If the SSOS ever comes back, I might have to revisit these little guys. Love ’em!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Creepy? Nah. Kooky? Sure!

It’s no secret that I love Satsuma Street design, like this one and this one. This year, I bought Mister Cat after ogling it for what feels like ages. On Etsy, you can buy either the PDF pattern or the kit; I bought the kit from 123Stitch since I already had an order going.

What I liked:

  • it’s a Halloween cat, duh
  • her designs are always so colourful and fun
  • the kit came with black perforated paper, so I didn’t have to buy a whole package of it

What I didn’t like:

  • the black perforated paper was a bit of a pain to see (like black aida cloth, so no surprise there)
  • I ran short of three – count ’em, three – colours of the threads included. I am not a novice stitcher who has no idea how to get the most out of her materials, and I didn’t have to unpick and waste any thread, so WTH, people? One, I might understand, but three?

And because I’m a masochistic weirdo, I documented my progress in a series of photographs and turned them into a stop-motion video:

I’m pretty happy with how he came out, despite my issues with the kit. I might have to leave him out year-round just to enjoy him.

Thanks for looking – Happy Halloween! πŸ™‚

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

The Mandala(?) Effect

Did you know that Darth Vader never uttered the words “Luke, I am your father”? And that Humphrey Bogart’s Rick didn’t actually tell the piano player to “Play it again, Sam”? If you’re swearing up and down right now that those are the right lines, darn it – and maybe you also remember reading Berenstein Bears books as a kid – you’re likely experiencing the Mandela Effect. It’s a psychological phenomenon in which large numbers of people share the same false memory, and so named after the false memory many people share of Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s (he didn’t, as you might have suspected). This article provides some great examples – as a psych major, I love how weirdly fallible the human memory is.

What does any of that have to do with this project? Nothing, really, except for a common misspelling of near-homophones. Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary. A mandala is a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.

Guess which one I recently stitched up for the Hoopless Hoopla swap on Lettucecraft?

My partner mentioned she’d like something featuring blue, pink, and/or gold, and had listed mandalas as one of her themes, and it felt like a perfect dovetailing of aesthetics. When I set about searching for a design, I inadvertently saved the same one twice, which I took as a sign that it was the one.

I don’t know who designed this, but isn’t it gorgeous? When I looked at it, my eye automatically divided it into three sections, and I decided an ombre effect would suit it perfectly.

I used DMC shades 3843, 3845, and 3846, the latter of which used a huuuuuge amount because I neglected to account for the fact that each successive “ring” would be so much larger than the last. I had enough, but boy, was I kicking myself for picking a design with such an intricate outer circle.

(And honestly, despite my griping, it’s not that big: only five inches across.)

Some gold seed beads added a touch of elegance and brought the design up to the next level. I agonized over the beads longer than I should have, and tried about ten different iterations of seed beads vs. E beads vs. both, but in the end decided to keep them small and subtle.

I was pleased with how this came out and hoped that my partner would like it, too (spoiler alert: she did). But I positively squealed at the cuteness of what she sent me:

Isn’t that lovely? I love the elegance of blackwork, and those tiny pops of red in the flowers positively make this.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

From the vault: A Lively Tune

This past Thursday, I happened to find myself on someone else’s blog (also hosted by WordPress) and I saw a notification alert in the upper right-hand side of my screen. When I clicked on it, a message popped up congratulating me on my 12-year anniversary of running this blog. Well, then. The date didn’t even occur to me in the days leading up to it, and I didn’t (and don’t) have some sort of special anniversary post planned.

Instead, submitted for your approval, I have two long-finished, never-posted projects.

First up: A Lively Tune by Louise Gregoire Originals. This one j-u-u-ust got framed this winter (pre-quarantining).

The eagle-eyed among you will notice this was actually completed back in 2016 – that’s how long it took for a frame to be decided on – but I started it probably 15 years earlier. It was one of those projects that kept getting put aside because something else took priority. When I studied Ukrainian in university, we watched a National Film Board production called “Teach Me to Dance” (Navche meni tantsjuvate), and every time I picked this up to work on it, that was what crossed my mind and not the actual name of the design. The boy with his wind instrument (surely not a clarinet) seems secondary to the two who are dancing.

Finding a frame took ages. When it was finally decided that yes, this should be framed, it was discovered that a standard 8″ x 10″ was going to be a fraction too small, and cut off some of the background. But lo, Michaels had an 8 1/2″ x 11″ frame that let everything show without a ton of extra blank space.

My mom decided that it needed to go in the hallway, across from another Ukrainian-themed piece I stitched.

This one is a bit *cough*a lot*cough* older: a sampler featuring the Ukrainian alphabet. I designed it myself to hang in my grandfather’s room in the seniors’ home, modifying a Roman alphabet I found in a design book, and adding a few little bits of traditional design for interest. We used to have to recite that in class, and while it’s one thing to be four or five and reciting your A-B-C’s in kindergarten, it’s quite another to be 19 and stumbling over your ah-beh-veh’s. In any case, after he passed away, we got it back, and it’s now hanging in my parents’ hallway.

(Fun fact: the “soft sign” – the very last character, at the far right of the bottom row – doesn’t actually have a capital version. It’s not a letter per se, but a way to modify sounds the other letters make. I’m not really sure why I gave it its own capital. Symmetry, probably.)

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚