Monday, July 8, 2013

Geek stuff

Well, the Star Trek con was fun, but I don't think we will do another one of those types of cons. It's way more fun when you can enjoy multiple titles that you love in one place (not to mention this one was crazy overpriced!) I've been in massive panic rush mode prepping for San Diego Comic Con, and we've been on about 1 trip a week for the last month.

No joke:

May 31 - Star Trek
June 15 - family birthday/fathers day stuff
June 22 - visit the lake
June 29 - Mackinac island
July 3 - Munising (upper peninsula) for 5 days for the 4th of July. That looks way crazier all written out.

In between I've been trying to get the hang of my new job and working on costumes AND the house. Also, a scary few days occurred where Goji (our first kitty) needed surgery to remove a tumor in his mouth. Luckily it was benign, but giving a cat pain killers was a new one!

We finally got our garden boxes installed and growing:

The fireworks in Munising were amazing as always. 

I made a whole new costume in one weekend. I know, I'm insane. But my new job had the annual company picnic and it was superhero themed! How could I not use it as an opportunity to become Captain America for a day? Also I won $50 to Target, so there's that. 

This is what I usually look like these days in the evening:

And I will soon be sharing the completion of the Zelda and Link costumes. I am still tweaking them, but we have already worn them once! We did a trial run at the Motor City Comic Con and I'm glad we did. It exposed some weaknesses. In the meantime, here's a sneak peak of new progress:

I've got to go get to work again, but it sure has been exciting around here!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our trip to the Chicago Star Trek convention is coming up...

Forgive me a dork moment (it's my birthday, you don't have a choice), but how cool is this? I've always had trouble keeping track of all the different versions.
Star Trek Costume Guide

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

So, I hear it's May now?

Life is such a beautiful, wonderful, crazy thing. Like the old adage, 'April showers bring May flowers', one day you're plugging along, kinda bored but hanging in there with the day-to-day of it all, and then you realize that so many plans you've been working on really ARE coming together. Here's what we've got going this month:

1. We have had four different groups over this week. Barbecuing and croquet for the win!
2. We have installed 2 new pathways in the backyard (no more walking through dirt between the deck and patio!) and planted a dozen new perennials and herbs.
3. This Saturday we are running the Detroit Color Me Rad color run.
4. Sunday is Mothers Day and our annual family pictures.
5. My boss quit and moved across the country (sad face)
6. We saw Iron Man 3 at an advanced screening - before it came out in theaters!
7. Motor City Comic Con in 2 weeks.
8. The opening of lake season and getting the water toys in over Memorial Day.
9. We're headed to a Star Trek Convention in Chicago at the end of the month.

Oh, and I am taking the next step in my career and starting a new job on Monday.

I hope you've got as many flowers blooming as I do!

Ps - I have also been making steady progress on the costumes, and will post an update on those soon.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Knock, Knock...

As I was running up and down the stairs this week doing laundry, I noticed something odd in the hallway.

It appears that somebody has moved into my house.

When I knocked nobody answered, so I opened the door (that was rude, I know)... I wonder where it goes!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SDCC Costume: Zelda Part 4 - Belt/Tabard

Progress has been continuing on the most detail-ridden costume I've ever undertaken. I recently completed (it's a relative term right?) the belt and tabard pieces that hang in front of the skirt. It felt funny making this huge piece to cover the skirt... that I'd been painstakingly detailing for what felt like a lifetime (she says as if THAT step was totally done).

I created the belt with craft foam and chain, following the same process as the shoulder armor

 As before, this step was very messy...

...But it came together pretty easily.

I used a main center gem that I pulled off a clearance necklace from Old Navy. I got the whole necklace for 99 cents - cheaper than buying individual fake gems that size! I then sealed and painted the foam (covering the gem in painter's tape to protect it), added another crystal to the center and built the belt using chain and jewelry rings:

There are also blue cabochons in each of the teardrops, but I don't have a picture with those on yet since I had to order them special. This completes the belt portion, except for adding some paint aging to it, which I'll do a bit later.

Up next is the tabard. I was nervous about this part as it's quite detailed and front-and-center on the costume. After sketching the pattern out on tracing paper (like I did with the skirt embellishments) I was ready to get moving.

I used a mix of different colors of canvas, felt, and the same fake leathers as the skirt. The canvas kept everything nice and stiff which I liked. I had to dye the blue canvas to an ombre from blue to purple. This part went pretty well, which is good because I don't dye things that often so I was nervous. I then had to very carefully mark where to cut the canvas out so that the seam would fit perfectly behind the silver leather detailing and attach it to the green backdrop.

Then I set about cutting out the silver detailing - the most time consuming and messy part of this entire process:
Needless to say I had to keep the cats out of the room for this part. Also I apparently do most of my work directly on the floor.

The fake leather was applied with a strong adhesive, and I was pretty pleased with the result. After adding a bit more detailing in felt I lined the back with more green canvas and called it 'done':

It's difficult to photograph because of the reflection, and as I mentioned I still have to age the belt which is what will really make it look real. Overall I'm satisfied but there are a couple little oops spots that irritate me. My husband thinks I'm insane, but *I* know they are there.

Slowly but surely, it's coming together!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Quickie Quilt

So I've been having some issues with depression lately and getting bogged down both creatively, and in the use of my free time. So this past weekend I thought one way that might help me to break out of my funk would be to run out a quick and dirty project, both to recharge my batteries and drain-o the creative constipation I've been having (lovely visual yes?)

Seeing as it was St. Patrick's day, I thought - why not make an Irish Chain quilt?

Why not indeed.

It's a simple pattern that I'd done a variant of once before, so I scooped up my pile of coupons and snagged some quilting cotton at Joanns for a weekend of 'personal time' with my sewing machine (wow, 2 slightly disturbing visuals in one post - I'm on a roll!).

An Irish chain is a basic criss-cross design, and for this one I spiced it up by using 2 different colors in the background instead of one. I started with the idea that I wanted the color orange in this quilt. It's one of my favorite colors and I hadn't used it (in quantity) in any quilt to date. After falling for the perfect orange, I thought it would be cool to use fabric with circular patterns in it for each color. I like my fabrics in quilts to follow a 'theme'. All floral, all stripes, etc because I feel like it makes for a more cohesive design. After finding a teal-y blue and a white with copper metallic circles on it (how much more perfect could THAT find get???). I was set to go. You can see my selections on the right.

So in approximately 24 hours I made this:

I apologize for the bad pictures. I really need a good camera - these (like everything else) were taken on my phone. Also, obligatory 'kitty helped me' photo on the right!

The borders stumped me for a bit, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, especially since I didn't have miles of extra fabric. This top in the end used nearly every scrap of the 8.5 yards I had. I want to see if I can find the blue somewhere else so I can bind it in that color.

Before binding it will have to be quilted, but that will come later. I haven't settled on a pattern for the quilting yet and it's time to get back to other projects.

That said, it sure was nice to clear my head on this project!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DIY: Garden Boxes

For several years now I've had a project I wanted to take on, but I was always afraid to 'get my hands dirty' or that it wouldn't work out. Well this year I've had enough! I'm going to try my hand at growing some of my own produce.

These instructions call for cedar fencing - each plank runs for only around $2, and cedar is better for garden boxes because it is resistant to rot and doesn't contain the chemicals that standard lumber often does which could get into your produce.

Supplies (for one 3'x6' box)
  • 6' Cedar Fence planks (x6)
  • 2"x2" (x2)
  • 1.5" screws
  • tape measure
  • power drill
  • power saw
  • safety goggles
How-To Build a Raised Garden Bed from Cedar Fencing.

If your fence planks have the corners of one side tapered like mine did, start by sawing off the the tapered end so both ends are square (wearing your safety goggles of course).

Then measure cut 2 of your cedar planks in half.

Then saw your 2"x2"s into 18" pieces - now we're ready to assemble!

1. Lay out 2 of the 2"x2" sections - one beneath each end of a cedar plank and screw in place as shown with 2 screws on each end.

2. Butt a second plank to the first and screw together as well.

3. Measure and mark the center point of your wall, screw a 3rd 2"x2" section here (this post ads extra strength on the long sides of your box). Put this wall aside and repeat steps 1-3 for the other long side.

4. Stand your long sides up, lining up one of half-planks you cut earlier on the end. Screw in place - watch out you don't hit the other screws holding the long planks on.

5. Repeat step 4 on the other side, closing all sides of the box.

6. Add the second short plank to each side - you've completed your box!

You will see there is still 6" of the 2"x2" posts sticking out of the box - this side of the box goes on the ground, with the posts sunk into the earth (you will need to dig a hole for each one). These little posts offer extra stability for the box and help hold it in place.

Now all we need is to fill the box! I'll discuss the plans I have for that next time. For now, check out the boxes I made! They are still upside down - the ground was just a little frozen yet to start digging.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life and Kitties

So costuming isn't the only thing we've been up to lately. We've been INCREDIBLY busy. And  I know what you're thinking - so what else is new, right?

I know, but here's a little update on just details in general.

Since I'm done with school I kind of have my evenings back again. So I've been costuming like a crazy person, but I also often end up working some in the evenings too. I know I shouldn't (work-life balance and all of that) so I'm trying to change that. I've also been up to my parent's a few times, and we've had some friends over for a few different things which has been a lot of fun. But really the busy one right now is Brian.

He's student teaching right now, getting ready to graduate from school (FINALLY). And it's going incredibly well, but he's completely exhausted. He also is taking 1 last class that he needed AND still working at Lowe's part time. So his school/work days are usually 12-14 hours long and he almost never gets a full day off. It has been rough for him, but also for both of us because we spend almost no time together right now. The good news is that if all goes to plan he'll be done in 2 months! Then hopefully he can find a job before too long and we can stop all this 'working nights' nonsense.

So I spend a lot of my evenings at home with the kitties right now. Ah yes, the kitties. I mentioned we added to our little family in the form of a new kitten. And he's a pill. Seriously.

Odin is very sweet, and loving and snuggly - but he does his best to drive us and Goji up the wall. When he's not wrestling with Goji he's trying to get up on the table and other places he's not supposed to go. We tried putting tape on the table, but he's too smart and just waited for us to remove the tape a few days later and then he was right back up there. Goji's taking the disturbance like a champ (a really noisy, growly champ). He's getting more relaxed around the little fuzzball and slowly returning to his normal behaviors, so he'll only get better as Odin grows out of kittenhood I think.

They definitely are extremely entertaining, and seem to enjoy eachother's company. Sometimes.

What? We weren't doing anything...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

SDCC Costume: Zelda Part 3 - Embellishment

So, to keep up with the progress I've been making on the costume, I'll keep up with making progress documenting it.

One of the biggest concerns for me when designing how this dress would work was how to create the details on the skirt. In the game documentation and concept art, there are hints of some type of complex embroidery (or something) above the trim at the hem, but there's no clear way of telling what it really is or how it's constructed. So I looked to see what other costumers had done, and that didn't really give me any answers. So I decided this was one of those places where I could make it my own and interpret it in a way that I would find cool.

I opted for applique. First I figured out what the shape of the pattern was, and how big it should be by sketching it out.

Then I figured out how I would break up that pattern into individual pieces and what material would go where, and cut those 'patterns' out of tracing paper. For the material, I opted for a mix of metallic and white leathers (fake). I liked the texture, and the fact that they won't fray makes my life easier.

Materials and a charcoal yarn for 'trim'
Pieces cut out!

Then, after measuring where on the skirt they should go I spent 2 evenings placing all the pieces with adhesive. I wasn't sure at this point how I wanted to add in the additional detail. I started with using the charcoal yarn I bought as a trim... but I hated it. And the act of experimenting with it destroyed the pattern I'd done it on as it marred the (extremely fickle) pleather.

I tried stitching it on by machine, by hand, gluing it... no matter what I did it looked 'crafty' and distracted from the material. It also made the appliques appear harsh and stuck on instead of flowing with the skirt.

It had to go. Unfortunately the only way to fix it? Completely replacing that panel of the underdress - fun right? I did that fairly quickly but I spent most of that time cursing anyway.

Then I opted to add the criss-cross detail by actually removing slivers from the gold pieces, and added detail will be done with little silver and gold rhinestones. I'll add those at the very end after I get ALL of these appliques on. There are additional scroll-work portions that connect the individual shapes all the way around (but I of course needed to get these main pieces attached first so I could guarantee that my measurements are right and all the pieces are exactly equidistant).

That's where I am with the embellishments  so far (don't worry, there's a pic at the bottom).


Along with working on the tricky stuff above I opted to finish the additional piece to go with my pauldrons. Now that I knew for sure where the neckline of the dress would be, I could measure to make sure this piece was the right size sat in the proper place.

 The crystals took forever to find. I ended up finding the perfect ones on ebay from a chandelier supplier for only a few dollars (I got 10)!

I made the 'metal' parts out of foam, fabric, glue, spray rubber and paint in the same fashion as the shoulder pieces. Everything was attached using a mix of metal rings and felt. I glued felt loops inside where they would not be seen where I could attach the metal rings. Since glued felt is so strong, I was confident this method would be tough without wearing out the foam (so far so good).

I still have more stones and crystals to add on the shoulder pieces, but I still have to find the right ones. For the time being, I was excited to try it on and see how it fit...

It fits great! I'm so happy, the addition of the new piece in the front makes the armor sit perfectly and it requires next to no adjustment while wearing to stay on and centered.

This is getting exciting, but I'm not sure what piece I should accomplish next...

Monday, February 18, 2013

SDCC Costume: Zelda Part 2 - The Dress

So I'm finally ready to start recapping the progress I've been making on the latest costume (the one with the armor I started last summer). As I mentioned I had to put it aside while I finished up school, but now I'm back at it and after a slow start while I adjusted to my non-academic schedule, progress has been happening!

I decided before continuing on the armor, I should probably make the base dress. Since that is the foundation for everything, it would be helpful to make sure that my proportions for everything else were on target.

 Here is a reference picture again of what the completed costume looks like.

Instead of reinventing the wheel I opted to start from a pattern. I usually drape everything on my dress form, but the shape of the dress is so straightforward I figured it wasn't worth the time. 

After shopping around for fabric I opted for a poly satin  in a wonderful purple tone, and a pearly-white crinkled satin for the underdress. I really liked the depth the slightly crinkled texture gave to it, especially when contrasted with the smooth purple on top.

I started with pattern M6027 from Maccall's. The pattern itself is for a knee-length dress, so all I changed was the length, I added an additional 2+ feet to the bottom of each pattern piece to create the underdress:

Sorry for the bad picture.

This part came out very easily, fit like a dream, and made me excited. It's lined with simple cotton muslin for structure (and to keep it from being see-through) with a zip-up back that will be hidden under the corset lacing of the purple overdress.

The next part was the purple overdress. I opted to use the same pattern as I used for the underdress, and this ended up being a mistake - a very annoying one, for 2 reasons.
  1. The front is supposed to be in 2 pieces with darts instead of 4 full pieces.
  2. There's a lot of flare in the skirt, which made it nearly impossible to get it to lay flat.
Of course, I didn't notice these things until I had it all sewn together and lined. I opted ignore the dart problem (you can't hardly tell anyway) and to cut the center-front out and then fiddle with the rippling problem the flare caused in the skirt... then I cut too much away out of the center. crap.

All pinned together with the pauldrons set on top. (I was having fun with my hair this day).

Usually I would have redone it, but that would have required more fabric (meaning more $$$) and I thought I could salvage the piece. I finally was able to tweak the seams enough to both bring in the center front, and fix the rippling in back enough to call it 'acceptable'.

I whip stitched the necklines of the under and overdresses together, then stitched binding tape around the hem by hand, and pinned it back to be stitched to the lining. The tape also offered additional structure to that edge:

 So that's where the dress stands. Still a ton to do including hemming, adding lacing holes and TONS of decorating, but the base is ready to go.

Up next: skirt embellishments! This update will be written very shortly as I had a few days of insane progress this week.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

We built a deck

So I've been hinting at a big project for probably 6 months now and then I never actually talked about it. It's the biggest project we've done on the house to date and took place at the start of last summer - completing just before our trip to San Diego.

We built a deck on the house. This is a huge deal because previously the only way to get to our really nice yard was by going through the garage and climbing over my car. Now, we have a slider door off the dining room and a nice big deck space about 6 feet off the ground with stairs down to the original patio... nothing major :)

After lots of back and forth with the contractor - for several months - on what we wanted and then waiting for him to have an open slot in the schedule when it wasn't raining to come do it they got the bulk of it built in 4 days and then had to do another day of adjustments after the inspection. After that we had to paint and stain everything ourselves. And when I say we, I mean 95% me. I probably spent about 40 hours over the course of several days painting the railing and staining the deck and handrail. Brian helped stain the pillars and crossbeams underneath, and just as temperatures were hitting the triple digits we finished!

That was just a few weeks before the big Comic Con trip, we were hoping to enjoy the deck, but we had a ton to do to get ready and it was also turning into the hottest summer on record. At 10pm it was still nearly too hot to be outside.

Two nights before we left we had our first big party, it was mostly indoors but at night we enjoyed the new space to the fullest. Even after one of our idiot friends jumped off it and broke his foot... After that the space only got sporadic use for the rest of the year. The temperatures stayed pretty high and then before we knew it we were both back in school just trying to keep afloat. Hopefully this summer will be different - both not as hot, and without homework!

And now - pictures! We love how it turned out, and it's incredibly comfortable. Our yard is really starting to come together.

In progress - this used to be a window!

Day 2 - getting exciting!

The painting/staining was the worst part, this was my  view for days...

 We added a string of lights on a timer around the railing - it makes for great ambiance!

Now we have a great dining set up there (you can see it in the 'lights' picture above) with the grill, and the patio is reserved for the fire pit and lounge chairs. Looking at these pictures, I can't wait for spring!

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's a new year and I'm back!

So yeah, wow... it's been a while huh?

That last semester took a lot more out of me than I expected. I took 3 classes, and from August 30th - December 12 I don't think I even surfaced for air. All's well that ends well though, I have officially finished grad school! I knew it would be rough, but it's probably for the best that I didn't know quite how true that would be.

In the crazed rush to the finish line I missed out on a lot. I missed football season, reunions with friends, our 2nd anniversary was a blur, Christmas shopping with my mother in law and basically Christmas too - I'm just now starting to feel normal again. I get excited about things again. I want to go on walks and make my crafts again. Brian and I even took off to Chicago last weekend on a whim! It's been wonderful really...

Title: Proof it Actually Happened

All that said, it's safe to say that I didn't really get anywhere with the new costumes over the last few months. I'm just now getting back into it, so I'll post a progress update soon. I don't have much time to accomplish these!

Oh, one more thing has happened.... meet Odin.

Goji is less than pleased.