Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall in the New York Botanical Gardens: A Hive Fall Creative Challenge Entry

My entry to the fall creative challenge has been a long time in coming because I was playing a waiting game, for the colors of fall to really and truly arrive here in New York City. At the time when I first planned this entry, about a month ago, no one had submitted any photography entries that I had seen. Now that some people have, I can't help but feel that maybe I should have gone ahead and done a doll, but what the hey, there are only five days left, and I haven't really got time to do anything new. :)

On Saturday, I went to the New York Botanical Gardens (one of my favorite places in the world) with the goal of trying to capture some of the wonder of the fall with my lens. I was particularly interested in fall colors, where ever I could find them. The resulting set on Flickr has 125 photos, which you can see here: New York Botanical Gardens, 10/23/2010. For the purpose of this submission, here are the shots I think turned out best...I know there are a lot, but I'm pretty happy with the set as a whole - it's nice to be reminded that when I set out to take good pictures, I can succeed. :)

If you would be interested in prints of any of these images, please contact me at Etsy account or by e-mail at unforth@yahoo.com. :)

All in all? A very nice day - the best of fall, really. ;)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Developing the Body for a Male Amigurumi Doll (Tom Seaver, Part 1)

Earlier this month I advertised that I was taking commissions on Facebook, and I got two requests. One was for Alot, which I made over the weekend and blogged about yesterday, and the other was from my dad, who requested a doll of his favorite baseball player, the Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. After brief discussion, he and I decided that I would make it for him as a Christmas gift instead of as a commission. Despite the amount of time I've got to do this one, I really felt like making it anyway, for a simple reason: the core of this doll would be a simple male body, which would have lots of uses, some related to upcoming holidays (for example, I could make a santa claus! or a Frankenstein! or a pilgrim) so I planned out a body, and here it is!

I'm very happy with it, it looks pretty much exactly how I imagined it in my head. My only concern is that the head might be a little too small. My mom thinks it is. What do ya'll think, are my proportions off? If so, how?

By tomorrow, I hope to have his hat and shirt done I've started both already, but I had to pause on the hat because it will be crocheted directly onto the head, whereas the shirt will be removable. And then he'll be finished! (no pants!) ;)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This Weekend, I Crocheted Alot!

Some of you who have been reading my blog for a bit now may remember that in September, I wrote about alot. For those who weren't with me then, I really like alot - which is originally the work of Hyperbole and a Half, and you can read more about it by reading the post there about how the Alot is better than you at everything. My first post about alot was prompted because a friend of mine had shared on FB that she'd found a link to pictures of someone who had crocheted alot. My friend was sad, because she wanted one alot, but she doesn't know how to crochet! That's where I came in - I told her that I could definitely crochet alot, and that in fact I would do so before the end of October. And I've kept my word. This weekend, I finished crocheting alot!

I'm very happy with this, I like it alot! I sure hope the friend who commissioned it will like it to - this post will be the first time that she gets to see it!

Consider this a friendly reminder, folks: I do commissions! All you have to do is ask! This is a great time to order your commissions for the holidays! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blub Blub the Amigurumi Fish, Mark 2!

As I mentioned in the first post introducing Blub Blub, I wanted to complete a second version with an alternative pattern. I've now done so! Here he is, stripped!

From a crafting stand point, I probably shouldn't admit that this is the first time I've ever made one of my patterns twice, and I'm glad I did. I did end up making modifications to the original, mostly to make it look the way that I wanted it to look in the first place. They were all minor changes, but I think they helped a lot, and clearly I've got to acknowledge that I'll have to remake all the rest at least once, also, and possibly update them. Another advantage of remaking it was that I got to see how long it took me to make when I wasn't worrying about patterning it, which is essential if I'm going to try to "mass produce" for sales purposes. In this case, it took about 4 and a half hours - a fish in solid colors would have gone faster, though. Based on this, I have a question/poll for folks reading this:

How much do you think would be a reasonable amount for me to charge for Blub Blub the Amigurumi Fish (striped) - based on what you think it's worth, NOT considering the investment of my time/materials?
1: $20 or less
2: $21 - $30
3: $31 - $40
4: $40 or more

Next steps? Well, now I write up the entire pattern, edit it with my moms help, go over to Ravelry to find someone to test it (also will be a first for me!) and then...up on Etsy! I'm going to charge $2.50 for this pattern! :)

Reintroducing Myself: Curiously Crafted Creations!

Based on the positive feedback of everyone I asked, and a quick check on Google to make sure that no one else had used the name, I've officially change the name of my store from "Cards and Crochet by Unforth" to "Curiously Crafted Creations!"

Join me at my blog, Facebook, and Etsy! My twitter hasn't changed. :)

Curiously Crafted Creations: the crochet, photography, cross stitch, and what not by Claire Houck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Introducing Blub Blub the Amigurumi Fish

Last night, instead of getting done some things that I needed to do, I got completely absorbed in designing and making a new amigurumi. Allow me to introduce the fish Blub Blub!

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I think I'd like to make some variations that are smaller. Anyway, now I just have to make a second one, and then get it tested, and then...published! (this will be the first pattern that I actually have thoroughly tested, but I think that the time has come. :) )

Monday, October 18, 2010

Idea for a New Name: Looking for Feedback!

Well, I had a very busy weekend. I drove out to Con on the Cob, a gaming convention held in Hudson, OH, just outside Akron (a 7 - 8 hours drive for me). I had a great time, and won't dwell on the details in this post, only to say that while there I met Kelly and Joe, two very nice, super helpful crafters who make one of a kind dolls and related artwork and sell as Jellykoe. We ended up talking a bunch and I got to ask someone "in the know" a lot of the questions I've had. Also, the dolls - WonkyDolls - are awesome, so check them out. But more on that some other time.

I've been pondering a name change. The rules were that I wanted the new name to be three words and to have them all start with "C." I didn't want one of them to be my name if I could avoid it. The challenge is that I don't only sell one thing - I want to have the freedom to sell my amigurumi, photography, cross stitch, or anything else I end up feeling like making, without having to change the name again. After letting this percolate for about a month, I've finally got three I like. What do ya'll think of:

"Curiously Crafted Creations"

I rather like it, but if I get a lot of negative feedback, it's back to the drawing board - if you LIKE it, please let me know; if you DON'T like it, it'd be helpful if you could give me some idea what about it you don't like, so I can focus on that area. Thanks, everyone!

Monday, October 11, 2010

For the Love of Art

I'm super busy, but I didn't want to neglect the blogging entirely, so I thought I'd write a quick post about another one of the things near and dear to my heart.

Yesterday, I got to go to NYC Comic Con for all of three hours, which was the only way it ended up fitting in to my schedule. It was huge and there was tons to see and do, but I only had a few things I hoped to accomplish. One was to buy a book a friend asked me to pick up for, but the other two related to art. See, I collect fantasy art; I've probably spent right around $10,000 on original fantasy art over the past 6 years or so (most of it on one painting that I'm still paying for, but more on that later.) I had to pick up a commission (which I wasn't able to, dammit) and the other was to hang out with Echo Chernik, an awesome artist whose stuff I love.

So, in honor of the nice day I spent doing these things, I thought I'd give a quick tour of some of my art and favorite artists. :)

I've already mentioned Echo Chernik, who does wonderful art-nouveau inspired artwork. My favorites are her two rocket girls:

Because her works are digitally colored, originals are a challenge, but I've got limited edition canvas prints of these two, and I bought a concept sketch of each one, also.

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law is the artist who first inspired me to collect art. Her stuff is beautiful. Sketches by her were the first originals I ever bought, and I try to get at least one of her pieces each year. My favorite (that I own...) is this one:

Until pretty recently, the most expensive piece I had bought was by Wayne Reynolds. Wayne does awesome oil and acrylic paintings of fantasy-type things. A few years ago, I saw one of his that I LOVED while I was at a convention, but I simply didn't have the money. The following year, I decided that if he still had that piece, I would figure out a way to buy it. He did, and I did:

I've never bought anything big and fancy by Doug Kovas, but I buy something small every year cause I dig his style, and he's a nice guy to boot. No scans of any of the ones I own on his webpage, unfortunately, but here's one I've thought about getting:

Then there's Andy Hopp. He's a really awesome guy with a different and interesting art style. I love his illustrationso f the periodic table of elements, but sadly I can't find any scans! I want to buy the sheet that includes iridium, it's got dinosaurs getting hit by a meteorite...

I could talk about a lot more artists (I knew I'd immediately think of at least one I shouldn't have omitted, Laura Pellick, in this case...). I always buy my art at conventions, which means that I always buy directly from the artists, so I get to speak to them and to know them, and I really like so many of them, that it's kinda hard to pick! But I'm out of time, and I've saved my most awesome owned piece of art for last.

In 2009, at Gencon, I saw the work of Omar Rayyan for the first time. Hanging in his booth, he had a painting that I immediately fell in complete love with. I asked him how much it was, and he told me it was $5,000. I asked about down payments and payment plans. We talked it over, and I knew I had to wait, but he told me that if I wanted it, I should get in touch before November, when he would next be showing it at a show. I pondered it, and tried to scrape together the $1,000 down payment, but I wasn't able to. Despite that, I outreached to him and his wife Sheila (who is also a fine artist, same link as Omar) and asked if I could give a smaller down payment, and they let me start with just $200. I've been paying them $200 a month ever since then (plus some extra out of my Christmas money), and in less than a year, it will be mine! When I saw them again at Gencon this year, Omar told me that someone asked about buying the painting at the convention in November, so I really did only barely get it, and I'm so glad, cause I love it so much:

My favorite fine artist is Rembrandt, and I love this painting so much, I think, because it really is like a high-speed collision between Rembrandt and the fantasy art I love to collect and hang all over my walls. :)

I'm sure I'll be doing more posts about fine art in the future, but that's all for now. At some point, I'll also be adding some links to pages for my favorite artists to the side bar of this blog.

In other news: it's been a month since I started this blog. Wow.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cross Stitch Pattern Drafting Attempt 1: Perspective Squares

Without going in to depressing detail, I had a rough day yesterday. Very jetlagged, car broke down, failed to pick my grandfather up from the airport as a result, got an unexpected and imminent work deadline, generally felt I've got too much on my plate to do in too little time. HOWEVER. I'm not ABOUT to let that stop me from finding some time to get in some crafting! :) After me and the sad car limped home (I'll take it to the shop tomorrow...) I ate some dinner and mustered up the energy to get a little done. First, I made a few small in-roads on the Stash organization - picked which costume to make, put all the other cloth away (it all fit in to the existing cloth bin, yay!). Then, I went through the cross stitch, pulled out some things I don't think I'll ever make (and a double), and discovered that I DID have graph paper! This was essential, and prompted a YAY! And it prompted a short start on my aforementioned mosaic cross stitch pattern making!

SO! Brief history: I have attempted to make cross stitch patterns before. When I was in college, I briefly thought, "if I really want to make a living through crafts, this might be a way!" but my determined belief that I have no artistic talent (though flagrantly untrue) undermined this effort, and I stalled out pretty quickly (as the book of graph paper I found yesterday attests). I actually found both my past efforts at design while I was going through the craft bins, but that's a post for not now, cause I've got very little time.

Anyway. I had decided while I was away on a very modest, pretty easy first project, to get my feet wet, see if I liked it, and just give it a try. Based on this image:

I thought I'd try my hand at doing a book mark based on the perspective squares. It seemed pretty easy...

...and attempting it, I think it IS pretty easy. I was a little leery of it when I was working on it, but I think it's just about right, actually. To do this, I just drafted a little mini-version of the pattern - to see if it worked before committing to the entire design:

Then, I went through my thread very quickly and randomly assigned four colors I thought would like nice together, grabbed some scrap 14 cnt. aida, and sewed up a little section, to see how it would look:

The colors I picked don't really have enough contrast (though they do match, which given how quickly and arbitrarily I picked them, I'm actually rather proud of) but I do think that they achieve the "perspective box" phenomena. I pretty happy with how the sample turned out. After I did this, I messed around with some alternatives, just on paper, but I didn't like any of them as much. If I have the time today (I might have a little when I get back from a meeting that ends at 6...) I might draft the full book mark, and maybe even start to sew it. And consider colors with more contrast! :)

So, do folks think the perspective works? Just want to be sure I'm not fooling myself...input appreciated! Thanks! :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Operation: Stash the Stash

Though I'm very eager to get started on all the things that have been percolating in my mind while I was away, I realized over the weekend that before I could embark on that project, I first had to tackle the monstrosity: I had to go in to my closet, and pull out the Stash. It was essential, because a lot of the supplies I need to do cross stitch design (like all my DMC thread) were in the boxes of the Stash. I've needed to do it anyway, though.

Background: I own a lot of stuff. I've lived in some decently big places in the past, and have had room to spread out. But now, I live in a very small apartment - I'd guess 500 square feet, much of which is the kitchen and bathroom - which has very limited storage space. I have so many things in my closets that I can hardly use them for clothes, which is a pain in the butt! Now, a full third of the space in my closet was occupied by my craft and craft related items (like my sewing machine). So to begin this process, I was confronted by this:

Three big crates of craft stuff, plus a small crate of patterns, plus all the bits and pieces of the materials left from recent projects, plus a bag of yarn. This doesn't include my storage drawers or sewing machines, which were elsewhere (some in another part of the closet, the rest in a stack by a bookcase). And thus, at 1600 yesterday, I commenced Operation: Stash the Stash.

1. Go through everything in the crates.
2. Sort things in some kind of fashion that makes sense - at minimum, by craft.
3. Get it to the Stash to the point that I'm no longer deterred from embarking on projects because the idea of going in to the crates is too intimidating to ponder.
4. Find all my cross stitch design supplies from the last time I attempted to design patterns.
5. See what fabric I have that might make some kind of Halloween costume.

Step 1: Pull it all out of the closet.

Step 1 took about 20 minutes of pulling stuff out and gathering it all in one place. It took up pretty much the entire floor in my living room. My dog was trapped on one side and kept looking at me sadly, though once I let her by all she did was lie down on the other side (but she stopped looking at me sadly...).

Step 2: Go through it all.
Step 2 is about as far as I got. I worked on the stash until just after 9 PM (with breaks for dinner and dog walking). I got through all the contents of two of the crates, sorting things by type as I went - a pile of cross stitch, a mound of cloth, a heap of yarn - with the intention of making one crate of JUST cloth, one of JUST yarn, the cross stitch back into the drawers that were originally meant for it, my drawers re-sorted so that I could get at the trim and see what thread I have instead of being a tangle of bobbins all part-way unwound over a bed of loose grommets, that kind of things. There were a few surprises, though - I had thought I'd gone through this right when I left Indiana, but I clearly haven't done so in considerably longer than that. I can tell because of the clear presence of completely unusable scraps from sewing projects I did in early 2007. So I'm not sure WHEN I last did this, but it's been much, much too long. As a result, I was able to get rid of a surprisingly large amount of stuff, which is good. When I saw how much I was throwing away, I had distant hopes that I might even be able to get it down by a crate, but that's not seeming too likely anymore. But one crate will have room, and if I can keep making things, I might get it down yet.

This also revealed a clear need for Operation: Go Through the Papers in the Filing Cabinet. I knew I had to do this - if I can reduce the papers in the Cabinet, I can take a crate that was in the closet that contains mostly papers and get rid of it, thus clearing up space, but this is an even more intimidating and time consuming project, so it's gonna have to wait at least a little bit.

Many of the things in the Stash were items that I knew were in there, but there were some surprises, like a couple bags of things that I know are my mothers. I think I must have grabbed them when I visited my grand father's in December, 2007, and went through all the craft stuff my mom had stored in his basement. Then, there was the fact that, in all the different moves of the past, I had used the small amount of empty space for non-craft things, like a towel, and some dish clothes, clearly in a "must use every inch of available space!" philosophy. I also seem to have a lot of little, self-contained projects that I'd managed to forget about, like a couple pin ornaments to make, and some little foam Halloween decorations. The presence of these is what started to overwhelm me, as I think I won't keep all of them, but as I got more tired it got more and more difficult to make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid off.

Step 3: Organize the patterns.
I keep accidentally double-buying patterns (for a dollar or two) which is no big deal but annoying. So I started to organize the patterns, only to encounter what I always forget: that I've got like, three costumes worth of loose scraps of brown paper just folded and stuffed in the pattern box. I've also got random bits of pattern mixed in with the cloth, from things like pockets I cut but then decided not to make. Often, these are still pinned to the fabric! So I made a pile on the table of the random loose bits, and organized the rest of the patterns. I didn't have the energy to sort the loose bits by which pattern they went to and try to get them organized; that'll be one of today's tasks, if I have the time (today is looking VERY busy in other regards). So this is a part that is only somewhat finished.

Step 4: Put it all back.
Yeah...not done with this step yet. I have one full crate now of cloth, and one full crate of yarn. On top of the cloth crate is some cloth I found that I had bought for two specific past projects. One is to make a Renaissance-style dress, which is the current contender for Halloween mostly cause nothing else is saying "MAKE ME!" at all, and the other is for an 18th century-style vest and coat, to wear under my awesome leather coat of awesomeness. I also found some absolutely beautiful cloth that I'd forgotten all about that I bought in a fabric store in Hong Kong, and of course I found the bag with the 14 yards of cloth that would have been my wedding dress, along with the main trim I'd gotten to go with it. These materials are currently stacked on top of the cloth crate - I'm gonna pick which is for Halloween, and then see how much of the rest I can get in the crate.

I put as much of the cross stitch stuff as would fit in the two available craft drawers, and there's some left over, so I think I'm going to pull everything back out and look at it all critically and ask myself, am I ever REALLY going to make this? ...and see if I can't reduce it. Haven't yet decided what I'll do with the rejects - probably Goodwill or E-Bay, depending on if I think they have any value. Heck, maybe I can list it under the Vintage part of Etsy or something.

Meanwhile, as I got more tired but was determined not to leave my apartment a COMPLETE mess to greet me when I woke up, I toss pretty much all the random loose stuff into the third crate, and I will tackle that today or tomorrow, depending on when I get the time.

Conclusion: Unsatisfactory.
I'm not done yet. Didn't reckon on how long it would take! And I think there's an entire side project that should be done, but not now: sort the cloth into true "scraps" (a 1/2 yard or less) versus usable chunks, and make a little book of what I have that's usable, with a small swatch and how much of it I have. This will, I think, VASTLY increase the likelihood that I'll ever actually USE it, instead of just buying new fabric every time I want to make something. I must have found 4 or 5 yards of muslin in 1/2 - 1 1/2 yard chunks. There must be a better way!

In the meantime, I found some projects in various states of completion that I thought were interesting enough to share. I also frogged three or four partly crocheted or knitted items, which took a surprisingly large amount of time, and did a number on my back (that's what happens when you work while sitting hunched on a sewing machine case, I guess).

Balthier Cosplay:

This is a pattern I drafted last fall so that I could do cosplay as a character from my favorite video game. The pattern was a ton of work, turned out really well, and is now almost useless because I've lost almost 20 pounds since then. Very frustrating! I'll have to start over if I still want to do it, but at least I can remember the lessons I learned from doing it the first time...

Dragon Cross Stitch:

This is a cross stitch pattern that I undertook with a specific goal: to find out how long it takes me to actually make a big project. Every time I picked up the needle for this one, I've made a note of how long I worked on it, and have taken day-by-day pictures. But it's been "missing" for two years - no idea where I'd put it - turns out it was right-bloody-on-top of one of the crates, which I think says a lot about how long it's been since I've looked in them!! :)

Muslin Pants:

For my Union Soldier Halloween costume last year, I had to make pants for the first time. The material for the pants was quite expensive, and I didn't want to waste it, so I drafted a pair of pants in muslin. I didn't really have the time, but I'm glad I did it anyway, cause I would NEVER have gotten the crotch right in wool if I hadn't had the practice. Of course, now they're useless - who needs cheap muslin pants? - so I tossed them.

Panda Bears!

Embroidery that I bought in Hong Kong (pre-made). Don't know how it ended up here; now it's on the pile of Christmas gifts I accumulated while in Italy.

THE Ball of Ch Crochet:

This kinda sad looking ball of yarn in a crocheted chain is one of my most treasured crafting possessions. When I was a little girl, my mom would lie on the couch and crochet granny squares out of her scraps. Seeing mommy do it, I wanted to do it too, so she taught me how to crochet chains. When she'd use enough of a ball of yarn that there wasn't even enough for a granny square any more, she'd give the little bits to me, and I would add them to my chain. The result was this ball, which I made between the time I was about 5 and 7. The large amount of off-white at the end is a scrap from the granny smith blanket she made me when I asked for one - it's the "main" color in it.

Cross Stitch Sampler:

I have NO idea when this came in to my possession, but this is another of my most important and beloved craft items. My mother taught me to cross stitch on this, when I was maybe 6 or 7. She had done some of it previously, and my grand mother, who died before I was born, is the one who started it. I think I must have taken it from my grandfathers, where my mom used to store things she didn't have room for in her apartment, but it was a real shock to find it in my craft box! Someday, I'll teach my daughter to cross stitch on this sampler.

Anyway, time to get to work on my day! I found some other interesting bits and pieces, but didn't take pictures of them yet, that'll be for another day. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Costumes of Halloween's Past

The subtitle for today's post is, "or: Have I Mentioned I Also Sew?" :)

This post was in the works (as in, on my mind to do), but it's getting done today as a response to Joni Nickrent's Halloween Costume Post on the the Hive. I don't have pictures of many of my old costumes, but here's what I can piece together. :)

I LOVE Halloween. I love that there is a day set aside every year for me to dress in whatever wacky thing I want to, and if anyone looks at me funny, I can shrug and say, it's Halloween. I remember a LOT of my costumes from when I was a kid, with the earliest I remember being when my mom took a set of pink footie pajamas, sewed on a puffy white tail and made a head band with ears, and I went as a bunny. I was probably 3 or 4. There are many, many others. I went as the Phantom of the Opera in fifth grade, and as a Toxic Waste Dump in 6th grade. I won a prize at my middle school for being a hippy when I was in 7th grade - and that's the first day I remember meeting my friend Adam, who was in 6th grade and dressed as a secret agent. I skipped 9th grade cause I thought that high school kids were too cool or too old for Halloween, only to find that lots of kids had come to school dressed up, so I was back with a vengeance in 10th grade. The earliest photo I have available for this post is from 11th grade, though.

I went to all the crappy tourist stores around Times Square, and emerged dressed as a New York City tourist for the day. I wish the picture showed my tennis shoes and Big Apple socks...

12th grade, I finally hit "rebellious teenager," and dressed as what I described as a 19th century prostitute. The highlight of that outfit was carrying the outrageous, enormous pink hat I had on the train during rush hour. Sadly, I don't have pics.

I don't have any memory what I did as a college freshman (anyone reading this remember??), but in my sophomore year is when I started getting really serious about Halloween. I don't feel I can really explain the subsequent costumes without a brief bit of personal information. I am a huge geek, and am many kinds of geek. One of the main forms of geekery I engaged in while I was in college and graduate schools is gaming. I am a table top role playing gamer (for example, Dungeons and Dragons), and a LARPer (or, Live Action Role Player). For those who don't know what this is or don't know much about this, it's basically make believe for grown-ups - in table top, it's a lot like being kids and playing doctor or school, except with rules; in LARPing, it's like that, only with dress up and acting. Now, why does this matter? Starting my sophomore year of college, I started doing costumes inspired by my characters. The first year, this involved dressing up in retro outfits so that I could look like a super hero c. 1942. Unfortunately, a bad break up by one of my roomies at the time meant a total loss of all photographs taken of that costume. In 2002, I once again dressed up as a super hero, this time from a game set in the modern age. The only photograph I know of is one that a friend posted on FB:

It's pretty terrible; I'm on the far left, blurry and laughing. The most distinctive aspect of this outfit is the ridiculous amount of red temporary dye I put in my hair to try (and fail) to make pigtails stick straight up. :)

The real change was in 2003. I wanted to dress as a character from a game called "Exalted," where I played an Asian diplomat who also had magical powers and could wield a sword (trust me, it makes some amount of sense if you've actually played Exalted. Otherwise, it makes no sense at all. :) ) Being a broke college student, I couldn't afford to buy a kimono, but my friend Jen (shameless plug: her blog, her Etsy, she makes amigurumi too!) knew how to sew, and she convinced me that I could make a kimono pretty easily with her help. I had only ever sewn one thing in my life: a little teddy bear, when I was in middle school (not counting buttons and the like) - but I like to learn new craft skills, so I was game. Again, I'm afraid I don't have pics...

In 2004, I was SUPER, CRAZY busy, but I wanted to make a costume. I had no more characters I really wanted to do (this opinion was certainly affected by my weight, which was at it's highest, and my stress level at the time). Still, I went ahead and picked out a pattern that I liked and decided that rather than be something specific, I would just wear that outfit. I don't have a pic of me wearing it that Halloween, but here's me wearing the outfit about a year later (and about 30 pounds thinner than when I first made it, which required some modification):

(by this point, I was reusing the costume for a character I played in a LARP, thus going full circle :) ).

Come 2005, and I was living in Bloomington, IN, for grad school, and I stepped up my Halloween costume again (no pics from Halloween, but here's a pic from about a month later):

I generally refer to this dress just as "the Victorian," though technically when I wore it was I was dressing up as Irene Adler, Holme's only love interest from the Sherlock Holmes book.

2006, I was living with a girl named Sara. She's very effusive and energetic, where as I tended to be more restrained. We both like to sew, so we decided that we would dress up as Eleanor and Maryanne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility (I was sense - Eleanor - and she sensibility - Maryanne):

The next year, I found myself living abroad in Japan as Halloween approached, and I wasn't planning to do anything. I didn't have many friends there, and none of them mentioned celebrating Halloween. As the day approached, I got increasingly depressed about this, until finally, when Halloween dawned, I realized: SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! So I tromped over to a nearby mall where I knew there was a Claire's Accessories, bought myself a witches hat, and spent the day wearing a floor-length black skirt, a cute shirt that I owned that had a little ghost saying "boo," and the witches hat. Every where I went, Japanese people looked at me like I was OUT of my mind, occasionally exclaiming, "oh, it's Halloween!" in Japanese. (It's not a commonly celebrated holiday there.)

In 2008, a friend of mine and I went to the Greenwich Village parade. I was dressed as Milady from the Three Musketeers; everyone thought I was Marie Antoinette (not a single person guessed this one right):

Tragically, this photo doesn't show the pleating around the bottom, which took about as long to make as the entire rest of the outfit put together. I'm not even exaggerating...

Finally, there was last year! Last year, I had a REALLY busy fall again (I closed on an apartment on Oct. 27th and moved Oct. 28th, to put it in perspective), but I was determined that not only would I make a costume, I would make an AWESOME costume. So I spent a lot of money I didn't have to get the materials to make something I'd always wanted to make: A Civil War uniform. I'm a big Civil War buff, and I've always wanted to try reenactment (though still haven't!) so I went ahead and made a costume that was as accurate as I could manage, so that if I wanted to do reenacting, I could. There are sadly not many pictures, but it is - in my opinion - my best work (and was HARD, and took three days straight standing in the kitchen in my new apartment because I didn't have a table yet - the counter was my only work space):

(this terrible picture of me at least shows most of the details - taken with a random guy on the street of the Village who was dressed all Napoleonic. :) )

And this year? This year, I have no idea. Before I started thinking about this post this morning, I had been planning to wear the uniform again. I'm so busy, I reasoned. I love the uniform, which I do. I want to focus on crafts for the business, I justified. But now that I've written this post? What can I say...I really want to make something. I'm just not sure what, yet. I'll be going through my stash tonight, if I have the time, and I know I have some wonderful cloth in there, as well as a mess of patterns (including all of the materials needed to make a Renaissance outfit I never got around to sewing; I've also got 14 yards of a wonderful off white that was once supposed to be my wedding dress, back when I was once engaged, but now I don't have a clue WHAT to do with...).

I guess I'll just have to see what I can come up with! :)

What about everyone else? :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010


It's funny, in light of my previous post, but I'm coming home from this trip feeling inspired, REALLY inspired, in a way that I don't think I've ever felt before. It's not just that I want to go home and make things, it's that I want to go home and create - I want to design, I want to try things I haven't done before, I want to take all the crates out of the closet and organize my crafts things so I can FIND stuff again, I want to stare at paintings and see HOW the artist made x, y, z, effect, and try it myself, except with thread on linen, I want to get started on the four amigurumi projects I know that I have waiting...it feels GOOD, though kind of overwhelming, and a little sad, cause I know I have a lot of other things I have to do one my return (like my job...) ...but it kinda feels like a new chapter in the book that is my life.

In the last month, I've really started taking steps to grow my exposure in crafts. I feel like this is going well - better than I would have imagined, honestly - but that now I have to step up and do the WORK that goes with it, to get out a lot more of a product that I can be proud of, and build on the momentum that I've gotten started by taking all the ideas in my head and going with it. Some will work, and some won't, but I'll get better by trying. I want to see how far I can take this.

My family and friends who are reading this, I think you all know how much your support means to me, but in case you don't...it means a lot. Without that feedback, I would never have had the confidence to get started, or to keep going, and your continued support and interest keeps me going. To all the new people who are reading my blog, or chatting with me on the Hive, or following me on Twitter, or liking me on FB, or visiting me on Etsy, you may NOT know how much it means to me, but please know: seeing that what I'm doing - crochet, cross stitch, photography, the whole lot - is of interest to other people is meaning the world to me. Seeing all the amazing things that many of you make inspires me. I want to do my best, for my family, friends, and all of you, and so I say, THANK YOU!

Right. Now I have to finish packing. :) See ya'll when I get back home!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Inspiration? That's a Tough One...

Once again, the Busy Little Elf has made a post that has left me feeling that it makes more sense to write my own post about a topic than to leave my reply in a comment. This time, she discussed one of her inspirations - Cirque du Soleil - and ended off with the question, what inspires those of us reading it?

Oh boy. Well, when I made my Creating the Hive account, that was one of the questions it asked, and while I puttered out some kind of answer, what I really realized is that I have a lot of trouble with this one. I think it's because I feel that there should be only one answer, and I don't have only one answer - when I hear this, I think of a jumble of images that all relate to different things.

Here are some pics (all taken by me) of some of the first things I thought of, just stream of conscious (note that these aren't the BEST pictures, these are the pictures that sprang to mind:
The sun setting over the Hudson river (on the 4th of July, waiting for the fireworks to start):

The beautiful fashions of ages past (at the Met, in a special exhibit):

Almost anything by Rodin (also at the Met, in this case):

Lying on my back, soaking up the sun in Central Park:

Poking around the back alleys of the world (like in Prague!):

Music, or, seeing my favorite band, and knowing that they're the favorite of everyone else in the room, and that we're all complete strangers yet completely bonded by this:

My family (on Christmas day, 1995):

My friends, in more images and times and places than I could possibly list here, and just trying to think of them all brings tears to my eyes.

Baseball, or, David Wright, hitting his first home run of the season on his first at bat of opening day, and my being there to see it, and getting a picture:

My country, and the sacrifices of those that have come before me, or, visiting Shiloh battlefield on the anniversary of the battle and seeing a bald eagle:

Awe, which cannot be captured in any photograph, but at least can have a photo evoke the memory of it (in this, the cathedral in Cologne, the most amazing man made structure I've ever seen...):


These (and more that I can't even sort through, that faded to be less strong as I looked up these images) are what come to my mind when I'm asked what inspires me, appearing all at once in a huge jumble that's really baffling and impossible to process. Yet, looking at them, I can't think of a single work that I created that I can say was specifically inspired by any of these shots. (With the exception that two of the books I have written are completely and directly labors of love that commemorate times shared with my friends).

And, furthermore, I think I have so much trouble answering this because when I look at the first things that I think of, I don't think "wow, that's amazing, I feel inspired," I think, "wow, that's amazing, and I know that I could never replicate it." I don't, generally, feel capable of creating magic, and I never really have. What I've come to accept in my life - and generally be very happy with, by the way - is that I'm not the magic maker, and that that is okay. If what I create brings me joy, and makes the people who encounter it smile, that's enough for me. I'm never going to be the best writer, the best photographer, the best amigurumi designer - I'm not sure I want to be, I am sure I don't want to apply myself enough to be, and I know that I don't need to be. I just love to create things, and if that's sitting at home in the evening, watching baseball and cross stitching or editing my manuscript; if that's lying in the park, thinking how wonderful it is to have sunlight and be alive; if that's rocking out to music with a group of like-minded punks; if that's paying my respects to those who have come before me; whatever it is I'm doing, it's part of who I am, and I could never be anything other than someone who creates things - and so all of those things, all of the things that make me who I am, I guess are what inspire me.

I know, that sounds like a kinda cop out, general answer, but honestly, it's the best I've got, because I've never once in my life seen X and then thought, "wow, I want to make Y!"

Anyway, I have to stop now, cause the more I look at this post, the more of the images sort themselves out into specifics, and the more I add, and the longer it gets! :) I mean, how can I not include dinosaurs? Or the zoo? Or art - ANY art? Or...

So, everyone, I tackled the challenge, it's your turn: What, honestly and really, inspires you?