Friday, October 29, 2010

Costumes and other Halloween stuff

Ah, Halloween. The costumes, the candy, the scary movies, the haunted houses, the jack o'lanterns...I love it all. This year I have a homemade costume. I'm going as a vampire, complete with a cape that I made myself. Actually, it's not that much of a costume. Black pants, orange shirt, the cape, and a pair of fangs. I've learned from trial and error that not all fake fangs are created equal. Obviously, the cheap plastic ones are out. They also have ones that look like dentures, but with fangs. You stick them over your regular teeth with this putty stuff. I tried those a couple years ago. The putty works well, but because the appliance itself goes over your regular teeth, it comes out looking like you've got teeth that are twice as long. I came out looking like a vampire dweeb, which was definitely not the look I was going for. The best ones I've found are these:

They also attach with the putty, but they're much smaller and you only cover the canine teeth (which are the ones that are supposed to appear longer and pointy). And they come in a little coffin box, too, which is a nice touch. They're kind of hard to find, so I actually picked up a pair last year shortly after Halloween and, by some minor miracle, actually remembered where I put them. Four bucks at Wallgreens, which isn't too bad.

I'll have to post some pictures of the cape. Actually, I'll have to take some first. Look for them after Halloween. I found some great fabric: black with a silvery spiderweb pattern. The cape ended up being simpler than I'd originally thought; I found a pattern for a vampire cape and decided that my rudimentary sewing machine skills weren't quite up to doing something with a lining and a stand-up collar. I opted for a witch cape instead, which looks really cool with the spiderweb fabric. I probably should have tested the pattern before I cut the fabric. I'm not sure if I switched to the wrong size in the middle of cutting out the pattern piece, or if it was just designed for someone really tall, but I had to shorten it by ten inches.

I love homemade Halloween costumes. They just have so much more personality and imagination than the packaged ones. I've seen some great ones over the years. Back when Tomagotchis were all the rage (remember them?) I saw a Tomagotchi costume that was just great. And one year a music-loving friend of mine went as a piano in a costume made from a cardboard box. My brother's friend went as Larryboy one year when they were little (ten geek points if you know who that is!). Some family friends are bringing their kids around on Halloween so I can see their costumes, sewn by their mom. They've got a five-year-old going as a shark and a seven-year-old going as the mascot for LSU (which, I'm told, is a tiger. In a football jersey). I've seen some of the progress, and I think the mom may have had to design the shark outfit herself.

Oh, and here is a random bit of advice if you want to save money. Never buy sewing patterns unless they are on sale. I'm not sure exactly why this happens, or how widespread it is, but patterns at Hancock Fabrics (my normal haunting grounds) usually run $10-$15. Then they go on sale for $1.99 or sometimes even $0.99. So if you live near a Hancock Fabrics (or other store that operates this way), watch the sale papers for when they're putting patterns on sale.

Before I forget: Neil Gaiman has a great idea for a new Halloween tradition. He suggests giving someone a scary book as a Halloween gift. He's calling it the "All Hallow's Read." I don't know too many people who enjoy scary books, but I do have someone in mind and I even know what book I'm going to pass along.

If you need an idea for a book recommendation, allow me to suggest The Graveyard Book (written by, yes, Neil Gaiman. I decided to read it for Halloween as my own "All Hallow's Read" gift). One of the first books I've read in a long time that I felt the need to finish in one sitting. The characters, the pacing, everything was fantastic. I found it at the library in the children's section, but if Harry Potter has taught us anything, it's that children's books aren't only for children. Please don't let that stop you from reading it. The Graveyard Book is about a boy whose family is murdered when he is a baby, and he is adopted by the ghosts in the nearby graveyard. The ghosts are quite nice, really. Nicer than most of the humans he meets, in fact. I can't really say much more without spoiling anything, but apparently it is heavily based on The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling's original, not the Disney version). I shall have to add that to my list of books to read.

Going back to costumes: I love having any excuse to dress up. I went to my first sci-fi convention this summer (and my second), although I didn't dress up beyond wearing appropriately geeky T-shirts. I'm planning to go to C2E2 next year (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo) and I had this crazy idea for a costume: Princess Peach...with a badass weapon. Sort of inspired by the "Self-Rescuing Princess" t-shirt from Thinkgeek. My boyfriend and I are still debating about what her weapon should be. Possible ideas include a sword (classic), a giant Nerf gun (over-the-top), a flamethrower (a la Ripley from Alien), or a lightsaber (because...why not?). I've got time to figure that out. The more important thing, to me, is the dress. This is the look I'm going for:

I did a basic search for Princess Peach costumes. The little girl costumes are, oddly, much closer to what I want than the adult costumes. Or maybe it's not so odd, because costume companies have decided that any female over the age of sixteen (or twelve?) who bothers to dress up in a costume must want a skirt that comes halfway down her thigh. I want a big, poofy skirt, dammit! I did find some adult costumes that look pretty good, but still not exactly what I'm looking for. I'll probably keep searching. I don't want to spend a ton, either. It would almost be worth attempting to make it myself, but again, I doubt if my sewing skills are up to the task. It's much easier for me to revise a knitting pattern, just because I've got more experience with it.

Question for the comments: What is the best homemade costume you've either made yourself or seen on someone else?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Crochet Project: Tetris Afghan

As I mentioned in my last post, most of my crafting comes from knitting and crocheting. I knit more often than crochet, but it's nice to be able to do both. I like crochet for smaller projects, and I love making granny squares. For those not in the know, you've probably seen projects made from granny squares without knowing what they're called. Here's a nice simple one:


They're small, easy, and addictive. Even beginning crocheters can churn them out easily. There are whole books of granny square patterns--they can be plain, like that one, or have color changes and patterns in the middle--and are the building blocks for larger projects like pillows or blankets.

I was inspired by the simple beauty of the granny square to make some sort of picture...but what could you make with only squares? The answer came almost immediately: Tetris! I will admit that, when it comes to video games, I am usually pretty lost. Most of my video game knowledge is picked up by osmosis from my brother and/or my boyfriend, and my strategy usually consists of pushing random buttons and watching what happens. But Tetris is one game I actually enjoy. So I set out to design a Tetris afghan. After A LOT of design ideas, I finally came up with two that I really liked.

The one on the right could be an actual Tetris game...if you were really, really bad. It was easier to design one with black squares on every row than it was to design one with no black squares, but the neat thing about the one on the right is that there are exactly 20 squares of each color: 20 black squares and 5 of each Tetrimino shape. The one on the left is really more inspired by Tetris, because of course the shapes packed so closely together wouldn't be found in a real game. I turned the Tetris-game design into a real afghan for my brother's birthday last year.

The color scheme that I chose is from the iPod version of Tetris (SO addictive, aside from the finicky controls) except I realized, after the blanket was complete, that I'd mixed up the colors for the red and green pieces (the red ones are actually supposed to be green, and vice versa). Oh well.

It's 10 blocks wide and 16 blocks tall, which works out to 160 little granny squares. These are pretty small, and they work up quickly, but it was A LOT of work to assemble. I sewed the Tetriminoes together using the same color yarn as the block, and then I joined the different blocks and black squares together using black yarn and slip stitch. The slip stitch join is slightly raised, which gives it a bit of texture. I put a lot of work into the design, and I'm really pleased with how it came out.

You can use the granny square idea to assemble any kind of (small) picture...I think it works really well with 8-bit video game graphics. What next? My new favorite video game is Pac-Man...I swear those ghosts are ganging up on me!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Post!

Welcome to my blog. I have been inspired by Jen of Epbot (and Cake Wrecks) to start blogging about my two biggest passions: crafts and geekiness.

What kind of crafts, you may ask? Sadly, I do not have the time or resources to attempt any of the stuff Jen does (like her penny table--seriously, it's amazing!) but I taught myself how to crochet and knit. I also do a bit of sewing, and I would love to get into dollhouse miniatures. I have some photos of crafts that I've already done, so I'll begin posting those soon. I also have some more planned, but those may have to wait as they will probably end up as Christmas gifts.

What kind of geekery? Well, let's see. My favorite at the moment is Doctor Who. I discovered it earlier this year and I'm catching up on all of the David Tennant episodes. I've seen a couple with Matt Smith, and he's very good, but Ten will always be MY Doctor. Star Trek is awesome--my favorites are the original series and Next Gen. I really liked the 2009 movie, especially because of Zachary Quinto as Spock. I was an avid follower of Heroes until I realized that they would never stop adding characters, and it just got too hard to follow.

If a show or a movie is connected to Joss Whedon (evil genius), I will watch it. He is a genius because he is very good at creating believable, likable characters, and evil because he then tortures them. But yeah, Buffy, Angel, Firefly, I'm there. Angel was my "gateway drug" into vampire fiction, and from there I discovered L.J. Smith's "Vampire Diaries" (before the TV show), Charlaine Harris's vampire series (also before it was turned into "True Blood"), and many others. These days I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I like vampires because people tend to assume this means I am a Screaming Teenage Twilight Fan Girl (STTFG). For the record, I am no longer a teenager and was never a screaming fan girl. I was a bit of a fan for a while. These days I'm trying to stay away from all the Twilight debates. I'm ready for the books to fall into obscurity.

I was a ground-level Harry Potter fan, thanks to my awesome fifth-grade teacher who read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to our class, back before it became a worldwide phenomenon. I don't like the movies as much, but I'll probably go and see the last ones.

Somebody stop me before I ramble on any more! I shall finish this post simply by saying, "DFTBA!"

(All right, fine. It stands for "Don't Forget To Be Awesome." Now go follow the link for more info!)