Category Archives: crafts

Homemade for the Holidays

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It seems that every year the list of people I have to give gifts to grows longer, yet my gift budget stays the same.  And, every year, drunk on Thanksgiving decadence and holiday cheer, I come up with my brilliant plan to stretch the gift budget by making half of my gifts. Inevitably, I spend the next several weeks frantically researching blogs for inspiration, scouring craft stores for supplies, staying up all hours of the night cutting and gluing and sewing and beading while my projects slowly creep onto and take over all available surfaces of my house, driving my husband insane. I usually finish the season asking myself why I did all that and swearing to go retail next year. Of course, Thanksgiving rolls around again, and the cycle repeats itself. It’s like a Christmas curse.

This year, I thought I had finally broken the cycle. It was well past Thanksgiving, and while I had not purchased a single gift, I still had no crafty inclinations. On December 8, though, I was checking my Facebook updates when I was reminded that Hanukkah was starting and I now have four Jewish relatives. My sister-in-law shocked my very Catholic family last year when she announced that she and three of my brother’s and her four children were converting to Judaism. Last year was the first year they celebrated Hanukkah instead of Christmas, and while we’ve all learned a lot about Judaism since then, I somehow completely forgot to factor in Hanukkah when I thought about my gift-giving timeline this year.

Scrolling through all the Hanukkah posts, I saw one from a Jewish friend about “awesome and unexpected menorahs.”  There was an adorable felt menorah that just jumped out at me, teasing me with its perceived ease of fabrication.

A felt menorah (even kids can light it because there's no actual fire):

$60 on Etsy!

I ran to my scrap pile and found I had plenty of felt to work with. The process was fairly simple. I needed a half circle for each “candle,” so I used two different sized plates as my pattern and cut circles out of freezer paper to reinforce the felt. I then ironed the circles on to the felt and cut the felt the same size as the paper.

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Once I had four small circles and one large circle, I cut each circle in half.

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I then sewed a zigzag stitch along the edge of each semicircle. I sewed  a button in the center of the straight edge of each semicircle and finished by folding the circle into a cone and securing with adhesive hem tape.

I found the simplest way to make the flames was to first cut out the inner flame, baste it to the felt I was using for the outer flame, and then sew in the buttonholes. Once the buttonholes were sewn in, I cut out the larger flame shape.

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After a few hours, I had a menorah that, admittedly, is not as awesome as the original but not bad for what I had on hand. I love spontaneous projects. There’s just something extra magical about making something out of practically nothing.

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Of course, I learned the next day that this isn’t a kosher menorah, but it didn’t matter. I had once again been hit by the Christmas crafting curse. I’ll write more about my other gift projects if I ever get out from underneath them.

Space Man

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Remember that space man costume I started making for my son a few months ago? No? Well, my son thought I’d forgotten about it, too. He said this morning, “MOM, you’ve been working on my costume for YEARS! I wanted to wear it LAST Halloween!”  I know I’ve been a little slow on this project, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been that long (OK, I just looked at my post on it. It was mid-July, which is further back than I thought it was, but not as long as my son thinks it was.).

Anyway, I started working on it again a few weeks ago (on and off, admittedly), and it’s morphed a bit from what it was initially supposed to be. I learned about  electroluminescent (EL) wire  a few months ago, and I’ve been dying to try it out. It’s basically a lightweight, bendy wire that’s fairly cheap and a great way to light up a costume (think Tron). Well, every space suit can use some hi-tech-looking lights, so I thought this would be my perfect opportunity to try it out.

I ordered two nine-foot strands of EL wire in blue and green with controllers from a seller on eBay for $9.88 each including shipping.  They weren’t fancy but seemed to work fine once I installed two AA batteries in each one.

Attaching the wire was easy if somewhat time-consuming.  I made a black jumpsuit as the base to the costume, and I drew a design in white chalk on it where I wanted the EL wire to go. Once that was complete, it was just a matter of hand stitching the wire to the costume with transparent thread. I tied the thread off at every turn in the design.

I went into a bit of a panic when after hours of sewing in the green wire found that it no longer lit up. I started fidgeting with the wire and controller to see where the problem was when the EL wire just completely FELL OUT of the connector. Luckily, my husband who can be handy when he wants to be (or, in this case, coerced) was able to reattach the wire , and it seems to be working just fine now.

Not pretty, but fixed.

I debated whether to hide the controllers inside the suit, but I thought they’d look fine attached at the hips to look like weapons of some sort on a holster. The controllers came with a clip on the back, so I sewed one flat strip of elastic that the clip would hang on and another strip above and one below that strip that went around the outside of the control box.

I have to say, I think Cael is going to be the coolest trick-or-treater in town on Wednesday. I hope he thinks it was worth the wait.

Finn approved after careful inspection.

Look at that pose. He is SO going to be a cosplayer some day.

 

The suit looks even better in the dark/semi-dark, so I’ll have to see if I can get pictures of that posted soon.

Mary Marvel(ous)

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I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but even superheroes need a break every now and then. After finishing my Baroness costume, I was just costumed-out. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the whole process of making it, but after working on it every spare minute for a month and a half, I just needed some down time. So, I vegged out a bit, caught up on some shows (I’m still mourning the loss of Eureka), and read some books (I was a bit disappointed in the last volume of Gail Carriger’s Soulless series). After a few days, though, I remembered I had another costume to make for DragonCon, and time is running out! Luckily, in a moment of clarity, I chose a simple costume: Mary Marvel.

Of course, I say it was simple, but the costume required me to work with knits, and I hate working with knits. Knit patterns seem to always have vague instructions like, “stretch slightly while sewing,” so it ends up being trial and error until I get it just right. I was going to attempt drafting the pattern from scratch, but I decided to play it safe and found an easy pattern to work off of.  I used McCall’s M6612:

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Seriously, who thought this was an attractive pose?

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I’ve had some cotton jersey print lying around my fabric stash for years, so I decided to make a version from that to check out the fit.

My bonus dress!

I’ve got to say it may be one of my new favorite dresses. It was just so comfy! I made a few adjustments to the pattern, giving it a boat neck and cap sleeves.

For the costume version, I raised the neckline from the pattern and shortened the skirt (I think it’s actually a rule that comic book heroines have to show ample amounts of skin). I used some gold spandex for the trim and to make a Shazam symbol applique.

For the cape, I cut a large semi-circle out of white satin and a smaller one for the collar. The edges were trimmed with the same gold spandex from the dress. I used some gold chord to add the cross(?)/star(?)-shaped embellishments along one side of the cape. I ran out of chord after I finished the one side, and I’m not sure whether I’ll do the other. I guess I’ll see if I’m up to it one of these days. I used some gold buttons and the left-over gold braid from my Baroness costume for the closure.

Phew! I’m more or less done with my costumes, and I still have over a month left until DragonCon. Maybe I am a superhero after all.

My Boy

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When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I always assumed he’d look a lot like me. I’m Asian, after all, and from what I’d learned in biology, my dark genes should be dominant. When Cael arrived, though, he looked nothing like me. He had brown hair, deep-set hazel eyes, and pale skin. I got a lot of “wow, he looks a LOT like his dad” comments. Once, when I was with Cael without my husband, a random  lady on the elevator looked at us both and said, “he MUST look a lot like his dad.”  He even had my husband’s almost-perpetual scowl.

He does smile. Just not when you interrupt his superhero story time for a picture.

As he grew into his personality, he even started to act a lot like my husband. Right around age three, though, Cael and I discovered that we had a common passion: costumes.

Cael has a giant box full of costumes and even more boxes of props. While most of his toys are quickly forgotten hours after he receives them, the costumes are used regularly. When friends come over, he shares them, so we get a house full of superheroes, pirates, and ninjas. He’d wear a costume every day if I let him (and when he doesn’t have to go to school I do because it’s kind of adorable watching him run around town with a cape on. Hell, I wish I could sometimes).

Cael’s always had a very vivid imagination, so he could pretend a stick is a sword or a towel is a cape, but now he’s starting to get to the age where he can do some real construction (with a little help, of course). The other day, he came home from summer camp with armor and a shield he’d made out of cardboard, and I think I was as proud of him as the day he first said  “mama.”

Last week, he asked if we could make a costume for him like the drawing on one of his shirts.

After looking unsuccessfully for a helmet I could quickly modify, we decided to make one out of paper mache over a balloon for a mold. Cael was excited about tearing up the paper but got quickly turned off by the paste. He complained about his hands being dirty after a few minutes, and I finished covering the rest of the balloon myself. Unfortunately, we made our first attempt during a tropical storm.  It took days to dry, and when it was finally ready, there was a thick black layer of furry mold on it. This is our second attempt:

It dried without molding this time although it does have a slightly weird smell. Hopefully that’ll go away once I seal it and paint it.

And my own costumes haven’t fallen by the wayside completely. I went with ease and comfort for the second costume and decided on Mary Marvel. I made myself some gold boots by stripping and painting an old vinyl pair that had been sitting around so long the vinyl was flaking off. Cael even offered to help:

Kids are great for free labor! You kind of get what you pay for, though.

He got bored after five minutes.

I cut out the dress last night. I’ll post pictures of the finished boots and dress soon.