Saturday, February 16, 2013

My iPod is bigger on the inside

A couple weeks ago I decorated an iPod case for my brother as a birthday present, and mentioned that I had an idea for another custom case. I had some time off this week and was finally able to get it done. Introducing...the TARDIS iPod!

Sorry for the flash..I'm used to using the iPod camera to take pictures for the blog, but I had to dig out my old digital camera to get a picture of the pod inside the case. Here's the best part:

Matching background screen!

And a shot of the back (before I assembled the case):

Here's how I did it. The first step was drawing the outlines and the words. I printed out a picture of the TARDIS the same size as the case and taped the case right on top. Actually, it was the same width but taller. That's why the bottom panels cut off in the middle. I also flipped the picture to create a mirror image before I printed it out, because I did all the painting on the inside of the case. This keeps it from rubbing off after use. I used the same paint markers that I had for Johnny's case: black for the outlines and a thin white marker for the words.

On the front, I lined it up so the hole in the center covers up "Public Call" and the on the side covers up the "O" in BOX. On the back, I lined it up so the hole for the camera covers up the first 3 letters. Now it says "ICE BOX" which I find amusing. Rather than try to trace over the letters in "Public Call" I just made small lines. The white you see in the windows and on the sign is actually on the picture I taped the case onto. A more confident artist could probably freehand the whole thing, but I like tracing. The markers are very easy to use and the lines are nice and even.

In my first attempt on the front, I colored over the words with the black marker. Either the words needed another coat or the paint wasn't fully dry, because the words were barely legible afterwards. I had to muddle over the problem for a bit until a solution came to me: if the paint markers are acrylic, and nail polish is also acrylic, will nail polish remover work to take off the paint? Answer: yes, it will. Rather than risk smearing the paint a second time, I drew lines above and below the words and left the space around them blank.

To make the sign, I cut out the sign from the picture I had printed (not mirror-image, so I had to re-print it) and pasted it in. I used a mixture of Elmer's glue and water. The only problem is that the printer ink is water-soluble, so the edges of the sign are now illegible. I was kind of going for a stained-glass feel, so it kind of works. That particular bit just looks more aged than the rest.

To fill in the background, I used tissue paper. I could have used solid blue, but all I had was plain white. However, I also have a set of 50 colored pencils! I colored in a block of blue using a few different shades mixed together. First I cut out small squares of white to fill in the windows, and a thin strip of black for the top:

I ended up doing three layers of white squares. The background covers the entire case, so there's blue behind the white. I didn't bother cutting around the windows; three layers gives enough opacity that you can't tell that there's anything behind it. Likewise, two layers of blue was enough to create the effect I wanted. 

For the front, I did thin strips to cover each side, again with a layer of black over the words before the two layers of blue.

I let everything dry overnight, then went back and trimmed away the extra paper with an X-acto knife. Don't try any trimming while the glue is wet--the paper is so thin it will almost certainly tear. I even had a couple rips while I was applying the paper, although that can easily be repaired by gluing a small piece on top to cover the hole. After the trimming was done, I put another glue-and-water coat around the edges and corners so they wouldn't pull away.

The first time I tried putting the two halves together, the bottom corners wouldn't fit, so I had to go back and trim a liiiiitle bit more paper from each side. The only problem with this particular case is that the tabs lock so securely I'm always afraid something is going to snap when I take them apart again. Now that everything is done it's going to stay together for a long while.

The finishing touch was my background picture. I traced over the windows and door panels onto another piece of tissue paper, colored it in, and scanned it into my computer. From there, I played around with it a bit in MS Paint (yes, I'm old-school like that) to darken the colors and add in the "Pull to open" sign. Then I transferred it to my iPod and set it as the background screen!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hat #7 (Hat-a-week): Epbot!

Here is my latest hat creation! Fellow readers of EPBOT will recognize this little guy instantly. Everyone else will think it's just a robot hat, but still pretty adorable.

Epbot is one of my favorite blogs. I started reading her other, more famous blog, Cake Wrecks, after I found the CW book and could not stop laughing. I think my favorite was the cake which said, in beautiful script, "Go Die In a Car Fire." Anyway, Jen has the most amazing projects on her blog. One of my goals in life is to make a penny desk...though that will undoubtedly need to wait until Jason and I have a house, rather than an apartment with carpeting that could get covered in bartop epoxy. Jen is one of my favorite friends-I've-never-met. I think that should be a thing now: someone you feel like you know, through blogs or YouTube videos or podcasts, but you've never met in person.

But I digress. Back to the hat! I find that designing a piece from scratch (rather than adding a picture to an otherwise plain hat) is easier with crochet than knitting. This is probably because it's easier to see my work as I go along--with knitting, all of the stitches are connected to the needle until it's all done.

Unlike knitting, which starts at the bottom, crocheted hats usually start at the top. I started with the plain silver yarn to make the basic hat. The embroidery was next: teal for the eyes (the same fuzzy stuff I used for the brim of my last hat) in satin stitch, and backstitch in black to make the seams. 

The little earpiece-thingies (I think?) on either side were made separately and sewn on. The little knobbly parts I worked with a smaller size crochet hook. Then I picked up 4 stitches with a knitting needle and worked a couple inches of I-cord. The antenna/orange light on top is made from pipe cleaners. I twisted the orange one around a yarn needle to get the right shape. I used the very end to make a little loop and put the end of the black pipe cleaner into it. Then I pulled the orange end down through the middle. It seems to be pretty secure. I stuck the other end of the black through the top of the hat and used the yarn ends to stitch it in place.

I had to work the ear flaps in black because I ran out of the silver, which was left over from the Dalek plush I knitted a couple years ago for my hubby. It's called Vanna's Glamour, and I used two strands held together throughout the whole project. The black is worsted-weight yarn.

If people want a more complete pattern I will try and post one later!

The ears tend to flop when I put the hat on. I may try to put some pipe cleaners in there as well, for stability. On the other hand, they do look kinda cute all floppy.

My next hat is going to be another hat with ear flaps, and another hat that sci-fi geeks will probably recognize instantly. Stay tuned!

Well, what do you think, sirs?

It stinks!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentine's Day Ice Cream Cake

In addition to knitting and crochet, the hobbies I spend the most time on, I also enjoy baking. My project yesterday was trying out my new heart-shaped filling pans to make an ice cream cake. The pan is from Wilton, and I found it over on ThinkGeek:

See the indent in the middle of each pan? The pan on the left creates the bottom of the heart, and the one on the right creates the top. I used Pillsbury chocolate cake mix and Joe and Ross (local brand) chocolate chip ice cream. The first step was to make the batter. It came out kind of thick, so I had to spread it out with a spatula to make sure it got into the bottom of the pan all around and covered up the raised parts in the middle.

The next step was to bake the cakes. The recipe book that came with the pan set said the most of the cakes should bake for 25-30 minutes. However, their chocolate cake recipe had a baking time of 38-42 minutes. I was unsure if this was a typo or if chocolate cakes took longer to bake. I decided to start with 30 minutes, and that seemed about right. While the cakes were baking, I moved the ice cream and the Cool Whip (for the icing) from the freezer to the fridge. 

The floor in our kitchen is slanted slightly, enough that it actually can affect cakes and things while they are baking. I once had a pan of brownies where one corner was thin enough to break like peanut brittle, and the opposite corner was very thick. I tried to correct this problem by turning the pans around halfway through, but I must have waited too long because they had already started to rise unevenly. 

The one on the right (the top half) had me especially worried, because it looked like there was a small hole in the cake. They looked pretty good once I turned them out of the pan, though.

There was no sticking, because I made sure to use plenty of spray in the pans. I may have even used a little too much. But to get the cakes out, all I needed to do was turn the pans upside-down and tap on them a few times. The next step was the filling. I used a regular spoon to fill the cavities with the ice cream, which had softened very nicely in the hour or so it took to bake and cool the cakes.

It looks like an owl face, doesn't it? The "beak" in the middle is a dollop of ice cream that accidentally dripped onto the rack and melted onto the table:

Anyway, after freezing the cakes for about half an hour to let the ice cream set, it was time to flip the top over onto the bottom and frost the whole thing with Cool Whip. The flipping was the step that had me most worried. Fortunately, it went off without a hitch.

I started frosting by putting a big scoop of Cool Whip in the crevice on top. Cool Whip is much easier to work with than, say, buttercream icing. The cake is sitting on a rotating stand, which I bought when I took Wilton cake classes a couple years ago. It made it very easy to frost it all the way around. I smoothed the Cool Whip with the spatula as best I could.

Not quite ready for the cover of Martha Stewart Living, but not bad either. The cake stand has a tab that can be pulled to lock it in place, so I locked it, covered it with foil, and stuck the whole thing in the freezer.

The only question left is, how did the heart-shaped filling come out? Check back later this week! We are saving the cake for Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Birthday Gifts

My brother's birthday is coming up this week, so Jason and I went to my family's house to celebrate on Sunday. Johnny was very excited to see the Mario hat. He immediately put it on and requested I take a picture of him wearing it.

I had several gifts for him, including another craft project. I had been wanting for a while to decorate an iPod case, ever since I saw Epbot's tutorial on custom iPhone covers with scrapbooking paper. I snagged a couple of clear cases off of Amazon on the cheap, and my idea was to paint a design on the inside (so it wouldn't rub off). Jason and I went to Hobby Lobby a couple weeks ago to look for paint. I wasn't sure what type of paint would be the best, so I finally ended up with a set of paint markers that are supposed to work on nearly any surface. 

I went with a simple design for my first attempt: the little star guy from Mario. I printed out a picture to use as my template and taped it right underneath the case. I did the black first to outline the star and draw the eyes. Since your design will be seen from the back, the background color needs to be done last. After the black was dry I filled in the middle with yellow. I probably could have waited a little longer, because the black started to bleed through just a little. You'd have to look pretty close to notice, though. Here is the completed case!

I took this one at home before I wrapped it. That's not an actual iPod in there, just the cardboard insert that came with the case (hence the shadow in the picture).

I have another case for my own iPod, but I have a different idea in mind for that one. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hat-a-week: Hat #6

This hat is warm and fuzzy, perfect for walking in newly fallen snow. I woke up this morning and saw we had gotten a couple inches overnight. I'm one of those rare adults who still gets excited over snow, so it was a great way to start my weekend. Especially since Chicago has been awfully light on snow the whole winter so far.

I had a busy week this week, so this hat is a quickie. The pattern is from a knitting Page-A-Day calendar I had several years ago designed by Pine Tree Yarns (the link will take you to the Ravelry page for the design but the actual pattern is no longer available). I used the bulky weight instructions, along with Knit One, Crochet Too Fleece yarn. The bottom was done in garter stitch with a solid yarn and the rest was done with a variegated yarn (which appears to be a discontinued color). This was a yarn I'd had sitting around for a while and I had been waiting for a chance to use it. I love polar fleece, and the resulting hat definitely feels like the fabric.

Warm, fuzzy, and slightly oversized. I have enough yarn left for another project. I may make some mittens to go with the hat (although I do think wool is the best mitten fiber).

The first month of hats have all been ski caps. The next batch is going to be hats with earflaps!