Archive for the 'crafts' Category

My Laptop Case, Begun

As soon as I finished posting about the laptop cases I was coveting the other day, I had a vision of exactly the kind o laptop bag I’d like to make for myself.  I sketched out a design with a padded internal section, various extra pockets, and a pair of shoulder straps that each encircle the pouch and must be clipped closed, in order to complete the strap and close the pouch flap.

Now, I am not a great seamstress.  I don’t follow patterns well, and I know very little about the intricacies of sewing.  I only figured out how to automatically wind my bobbins Friday- before, I thought I was just doomed to poorly tensioned seams.  But this weekend, I had time, good bobbins, a vision, and a hearty confidence in my ability to reduce a theoretical bag structure to straight lines.  Finally put that engineering degree to work and all.  Incidentally, that’s always the mindset before I tackle a freehand sewing projects, and most of them haven’t turned out so well.

Laptop case internal structure

I made the case out of a gray denim material left over from another project I’ve been working on, with a double layer of fleece to pad the laptop compartment.  It’s lined with a portion of a very unfortunate-looking velvet skirt that I thrifted, and some shiny white fabric from a remnant bag I was given lined the other compartment, and made a few pockets.  I made a second case out the grey denim to put the first, rough case in, to both conceal the seams easily and give it more strength.  Voila!

Case with Lining

I’m rethinking the strap ideas, but I need to add those, bunches more pockets, and dig up some sort of something from my fabric pile to use as a bias tape to even out the rough edges.

I’ve signed up for a for-real sewing class this weekend, so ideally that will lend some polish to my enthusiasm.  Photos will ensue, if I like how it turns out.

More photos of the construction are here.

Window Shopping

My laptop has been sitting around, naked and unprotected from the dangers of her surroundings.  Alone most of the day, completely exposed to the ravages of…well, wayward photons.  I guess.   You see, I’m trying to rationalize my desire to buy an awesome laptop case.  I do need one.  One day, I’d like to be able to leave the house with her.

I’m hoping that my need to protect my investment justifies the amount of time I spent looking for laptop cases today.  Recycled material, fair trade, sustainable fibers, and proper laptop padding are apparently all quite compatible.  I have at least four favorites.  There’s a vertical bag made from recycled mosquito netting at Peaceful Valley, in green and red.  It’s big enough for a 15.4 laptop, but it doesn’t say how the laptop pocket is padded.  But hey, if it’s not padded, maybe I could put it in this slim red leather case with fake purple fur lining from bronwenhandcrafted, at etsy.  Man, with that wrapping, I could stick her in anything and she’d be safe! Or at least fabulous.

But if it’s not a red leather and purple fur day, I could use this inexpensive, recycled plastic bag from Verdant Computing.  It comes in black, sky blue and orangish, and it looks way useful and unassuming.  Like, if useful and unassuming is your thing.  And one I keep going back to is this reclaimed plastic case that’s made from fused waste materials in India, and fairly traded.  The company that makes them, Conserve, has some really gorgeous bags, but the laptop cases come in less exciting color combinations right now.

As much as I liked them all, I don’t like any of them enough to commit right now.  And I’m hoping that, after this weekend, it won’t matter.  I have the sewing machine all set up, and some extra strong canvas and soft fleece, so I could make my own, and that’d be pretty awesome!  Or I could knit a case for it with some of my yarn stash.  Or maybe I should stop looking through etsy and getting ideas about what can be done with my extra fabric and yarn.  But I’m envisioning a canvas case with two shoulder straps and a carrying handle, a medium-sized top flap, an internal divider…

I need a case for real though, so if inspiration hasn’t made my hands swift and seams tight this weekend, I need to buckle down and pick something.  I’m leaning to the mosquito net thing right now.

Hippie Hamlet sums it up:  To buy, or DIY?

Celebratory Thrift

cotton print wrap skirtcotton print skirtpurple skirtpink skirt

grey blousesleeve pocketwhite blouseblue shirt for MYMblue guayabera

I did pretty well on my Construction Management exam today, and rewarded myself afterwards with thrifting. (If I’d done poorly, I would have consoled myself with thrifting. So’s we’re clear.) It’s getting hotter out, and I need skirts and short sleeve blouses. Thus:

Cotton wrap skirt with colorful print (detail shown), $4. I’ll need to pin it closed- it’s basically just a big bit of cloth with a waist tie. But it’s wonderful, and has pictures of five kinds of animal and two different people on it. Shapeless, huge purple skirt, $5. It’s a very light, swishy fabric, so I’ll take it in and make a proper waist band instead of the elastic mess. Pink Linen skirt, $7. Extravagance! Grey blouse, $4. Soft and light, plus a functional sleeve pocket. For…what? I might get the urge to add something to the bottom hem, but it will work nicely as-is. White cotton blouse with blue and purple threads, $4. Has some small stains, which will hopefully wash out. Navy and white plaid button-down for my darling guy, $4. Oddly dirty, so half of it is darker because I was soaking it. Needs a good washing. Former owner had a dog and some fine white powder? A blue-green guayabera with white embroidery for my ookle dumpling, $5. Guayaberas are so snazzy. Even when they’re made in Korea, and a have a little frayed seam. The latter, I can fix, and the former, I can ignore.

About half of the stuff I find at the Salvation Army is something that needs to be resized, or sewed on to make it truly cool. I’ve been getting ideas and inspiration from the newest link, Wardrobe Refashion– a group blog of people who challenge themselves to buy nothing new, and remake old and used stuff into awesome other stuff. Goodness, my project plans just keep piling up.

Also, I need to suggest to the Salvation Army-Little River people that they not staple price tags tot he clothes, especially in collars and other places where holes are noticeable.

Update: an album.

Photo Albums: Coral Reefs

For all the pictures I post here, I have many more I’d like to share- so here we go. First up, the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef display at the World Financial Center. I got to see it over the weekend. It was tucked beside a staircase, and I wish the WFC people had at least finished painting the drywall before they put it on display. Maybe a decent coat of blue paint to get us in the mood? But the crochet/coral forms were really cool, and that’s what I was there for. Some of them were made of yarn, and some of trash- plastic bags, magnetic tape, fancy pop-tab additions, jelly fish with bubble wrap tentacles, and so on.  Also, I get why they were behind glass to discourage this particular urge, but some of them looked so soft and nice to touch, or play with…

Next time: obsessive documentation of my sprouts growing.

crochet reef

PS:  Back story on the HCCF here.

Progress: By Hand

I started March’s goal with three listed projects. I only finished two things, and I started a bunch more.


1) Scarf, knit. Progressed ~6 inches, but have succeeded in carrying it around with me, so I’m getting more done these days.

2) Quilt, sewn. No real progress, though I looked up quilt making, and found a new stack of squares.

3) Weighted Companion Cube, wood and fabric. Bought all the fabric, which is now buried under other items in the Gentleman Friend’s apartment.


4) Flower, sewn. Finished!

5) Nuno-zoris, woven. I’ve marked a stack of teeshirts for dismantling. I’ve also begun debating whether to use a cord base, or try something less bulky, like another teeshirt strip for a base.

6) White Dress, alteration. I’m using the unnecessary waist ties to replace the uncomfortable shoulder straps. I’ve chopped off the straps and the ties, and now I just need to fit it and sew it back on.

7) Lampshades, watercolor. Got some lampshades for practicing from my gentleman friend’s lovely mother.painted plate

8 ) Plate, painted. I had a ratty old plate- glass with a shiny paint showing through- but the paint was chipping. I fixed it up with a dark green underlay. I hope it chips more, or maybe I should chip it more, because I wish the chipped pattern looked cooler. Plus, if it chipped more, I could add a third color. But for now, finished!

Ok, so I started more projects than I had, finished two projects I hadn’t started, and mostly just gathered supplies. But I have been finding more ways to work making things into my day, and it’s been very satisfying to plan out how to remake and refurbish my stuff so it works better. All in all, relaxing and refreshing, and woo.

So, April! I had this one planned out already, and it’s partially started. In April, I’m gardening. Since forever, my parents have gardened, and I tried deck vegetables last year. This year, though, I have a bright, sunny deck, with areas of partial shade, a composter, and a plan. Well, not really a plan, but I have a hydrangea, a kalanchoe, and a rosemary bush somewhere about. I killed a couple of houseplants this winter, and  I’ve got the remnants of the pots from last year’s latent peppers, so I have a few empty planter spaces. Plus, my mother informs me that my father, who shows his love through vegetables, has already got a few tomato plants started for me. She’s packing up some herbs, and there were strong hints at a geranium. I am told that geraniums are difficult to kill. We’ll see!

I want to plant some vegetables and flowers in my garden, with a view to both edible harvests and beauty. I need a bigger planter for the hydrangea, so that I can grow that to a viable bush. I’ll also need to get the composter going again. Biking Person was kind enough to give me two spaghetti jars of dirt, so I can get the cultures started, as soon as I find an outdoor plug for the unit. Because it should probably stay outdoors, to isolate it from the housemates, just in case of smells. I’ll also need to build it a tiny hut, since we have a tiny, curious dog (Ruby), and its lid doesn’t latch shut.

Plenty to do, and I’m psyched by the prospect of veggies and hydrangeas (my favorite flowers) and creating things from dirt, sun, and water all summer! And possibly fall. It is DC, after all, the summer lasts. I am slightly nervous, given my tendency to kill plants, about how this will work, so I’ll probably be calling my mother for advice pretty often. I wish there was some sort of gardening reference for total deck garden beginners. Actually, there probably is. Hm.

Up in Lights

Al Gore is publicizing the environment again. This time, it comes with professional ad-people and $300 million dollars, instead of a small documentary about the little Power Point that could, but hey, green’s come a long way since 2006. Gore wants to push that momentum into a popular movement that will convince politicians to actually maybe please pretty please do something sensible? Like, we’ll be more energy efficient if you dudes stop ignoring the problem. How about that? The group’s name (and motto, too, I guess) is “We Can Solve It“, and some of the first few spots are airing now on a tv near you.

In an NPR story on the new campaign, Al Gore’s own carbon footprint was brought up again. If you recall, it was reported last year, right after his Oscar win, that his personal energy use at a TN mansion was some ridiculously high number- though even Fox News reported on his solar panel installations and carbon offsetting plans. Not bad, considering their regular columnist on environmental matters thinks global warming is a vicious myth. And yes, the column is named “Junk Science,” and no, I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean it to be funny that way.

The NPR story highlighted an important part of what Gore’s message is going to have to be, though- to tackle the environmental problems we’re creating, we’re going to have to think and live differently. And the man who’s fronting and financing a campaign to tell us to do this, and write our congresspeople while we’re at it, needs to set a squeaky-clean tech example.

John Tierney over at the NYT wrote a piece last week on how to remind people to be green- nudge them into making good “abstract” and “long-term” choices by tying their carbon footprints, or resource use, or what have you- into a real-time display, like a mood ring or changing LED jewelry. He argues it would instill a sense of connection to our choices- plus, it will facilitate some public green-upmanship backed by facts, not hype. It’s an interesting read. I’d like Al Gore to start the ecomood ring trend- him and everyone else who argues for the environment. I’m in, of course- mood rings are sweet, almost as sweet as living up to your own standards.
Speaking of sweet, and environmentally sound, and things that light up, here’s the Gentleman Friend’s flower from this weekend, made from old cds, circuit boards, and flashy lights:

cd flower detailcd flower

Nicely done, sir!

A Finished Project, Almost: Kanzashi Lite

For an event tonight, the organizers requested we bring the flowers- made ones, by hand, please. I sewed mine, and it’s all recycled- made of fabric scraps from various projects, and some beads from a broken necklace. I modified a template for kanzashi, which are Japanese folded fabric or paper flowers worn mostly by Geishas. Here’s the chain of inspiration: I first saw the fabric version on etsy, then found a website with plenty of links to different tutorials for both paper and fabric versions. I adapted the instructions at this site, since I was using a flimsier fabric for the petals. And, voila:

flower petals

I had a petal base. Basically, I cut triangles of fabric, and folded them twice (so you have two folds at the top, and two loose ends and one fold at the bottom), then sewed a couple of times through the four layers at the bottom of the petal. I stitched each new folded triangle to the same thread, until I had a long chain that, when I held it in a loop, formed a solid flower circle with no obvious blank spaces yearning for its own petal. I then sewed through the circle at the bases once more, to space them a little more neatly.

You flower budcan see the “hole” in the middle, where all the petals meet, and it looks a bit uneven. Iflower stem needed a bud, which I made by stuffing a little square of fabric with some leftovers, and sewing on the beads. I also made a stem by rolling a bit of rectangular cloth and sewing up the sides in a spiral- when it was long enough, I trimmed the top to make a neat circle. By poking the bud through the middle of the hole from the top, and whip stitched the sides of the petal to the top folds of the petals. This allowed me to flatten out the bud over the entirety of the messy middle, and to hold the petals evenly in place around the bud. I then stitched together the mess at the bottom of the flower center- all of the folded bases together with the bud base poking through- then whip stitched the stem over all those to the single fold at the bottom of each petal, to space the bottoms of the petals neatly. The results:

kanzashi flower

As you can see, I added a few more beads and a little stitching to the bud, and leaves (folded the same way as the petals and sewn to the stem).

If I get a chance, I’d like to try and add some thin wire to the beads, so they poke up perkily- I’m going to dig out some twisty ties after this and see how that works. And the bud looks unfinished, since I’m no good at embroidery (yet). I’d like to finish it with some cool contrasting beads, and I haven’t got any of those. But otherwise, I’m quite happy with it.

I found other instructions for fabric flowers here, through a post at Crafting for a Green World, and they look pretty cool, too. I went with the kanzashi for this project because I liked the more defined petals, and thought they’d look good in larger sizes.

So, one handmade thing finished! I should have a few more over the weekend for you. If you have any questions about my methods, feel free to ask, of course.

Fast Flip-Flop How-To

Actually they’re not flip-flops, really, they’re nuno-zories. At her blog, Ecosamurai has translated the instructions and posted some in-process pictures of her new-no zories. (Har har! Forgive me.) They’re adorable and so practical! Having just spent way longer than I meant to in a shoe store, I do feel the need to sit down and contemplate life and consumer choices while weaving my own from all those free teeshirts that I no longer have space for. Plus, making a pair of these will isolate you from dirty floors- you’ll never sweep again, or suffer while waiting for someone else to do it first.

Thanks for the post, ecosamurai!

I’m adding it to my list of handmade things to do. And in a couple of days, I promise pictures of what I’ve done so far.

Crochet Oceans, Beads in Space

Just in case you were wondering how awesome handcrafts could be:

The Institute for Figuring is traveling the country with a crocheted coral reef. It grows at each stop, since along with lectures on the dying ocean reefs, they teach crochet classes and add the finished projects on. The IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef combines environmental activism, a smattering of feminism, and mathematics into multi-colored ruched woolly bits, now measuring over 3,000 square feet.

Apparently, in addition to calling attention to the destruction of the wet environment, crochet helped solve one of the oldest problems in mathematics- whether space can be described in geometry as anything but flat (you learned that one in high school) or spherical (you might have learned that one a bit later on). The third option, hyperbolic space, is the one Einstein used for relativity. From the IFF Website:

Mathematicians’ skepticism about hyperbolic space had been based in part on their inability to imagine how it would look, for they had no way to model it physically. Most were thus astounded when, in 1997, Dr. Daina Taimina, a Latvian émigré at Cornell University, presented a hyperbolic structure made with crochet…

Lettuces and kales – the crenellated vegetables – are manifestations of nearly hyperbolic surfaces, while in the oceans, corals, kelps, sponges, nudibranchs and flatworms all exhibit hyperbolic anatomical features. And so a woolly manifestation of a reef is not as unlikely as may first be supposed. Through the lens of crochet we may thus discern a hitherto unsuspected line connecting Euclid to sea slugs. Ways of constructing once perceived as “merely” women’s craft, and dismissed from the cannon of scientific practice, now emerge as revelatory forms of a more complex, embodied way of thinking about the world both mathematically and physically.

Apparently you can crochet a third hyperbolic geometry just by predictably increasing your stitches too much. Thus, it’s not a mistake, it’s a discovery. Pictures are up at the IFF website.

From the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of space! Devorah Sperber is making images from Star Trek of shiny beads and spools of thread. The beads she uses make it look like Captain Kirk is actually being beamed up- all the time. Yes, that’s as cool as it sounds. For a Fiber Optics part, she makes mosaics of spools of thread, then encourages the viewer to look at them through a magnifying glass, as a commentary on both human perception, and the number of Star Trek Episodes about mirrors. Check out the low-res, upside-down Spock through the glass- he’s still dreamy, of course.  Those Vulcans, and their bedroom eyes.

They’ll both be in NYC at the same time- the crochet reef gets there April 4 (location is in the first article) and the Star Trek stuff is up until April 26th at the gallery with the Spock picture link.  Sounds about time for my spring break trip.

Handcraft Update:  Sorted my fabric this weekend, gathered supplies for watercoloring some lampshades, knit another inch, and am headed off now to cut out a and sew together a fabric flower.  Have been awed and inspired by these articles. Currently plotting to quit my job and make a living watercoloring lampshades.

Craft On

It’s Wednesday, and you deserve my monthly goal. While fretting on the topic, I came up with some great ones for April and later, but this month is a hard fix. First, it’s almost half over, second, I’m so busy with work and school and home that I don’t have much time to really get into anything and not make a shambles of it. But there have been signs pointing me in a happy direction, and today was the last (fortunately for my imposed deadline).

Another good friend is putting her skills to pretty use- I’ve linked her etsy store above, also- and I almost stepped on my knitting for the fourth time this week, and thus March is handcrafting month. It started out that way anyhow, at least in my dreams. I’ll be finishing the projects I’ve started, and definitely planning grand new ones. And you’ll get pictures. And I’ll get something to relax with, in between all the time I spend eating toast and being at work all the time.

Here’s the sustainability part of it, and it’s got very little to do with the environment, *gasp!*, handmade and repurposed bits aside. My life is unbalanced of late, and some knitting (and perhaps figuring out how to crochet, once and for all? and doing something with those 50 dead cds? and designing that shelf and wine-glass rack for our living room?) and quality time with my fingers busy and the rest of me relaxed is absolutely necessary. I alway have plans and project ideas in my head, and relegate them to last priority (pushy homework and greedy paychecks elbow their way to the top). There my clever plans fester and wilt my mind with their noxious fumes of wasted potential. In pursuit of world health, I will first look to my own: Sanity, meet our yarn collection! Shambles, begin.

Handmade update: Have all the necessary fabric for the Weighted Companion Cube. Gentleman Friend is rejoicing. Found an empty bobbin and the instructions for my nemesis, machine bobbin winding, and I can already smell victory (no lie like the cake, I hope.)

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