Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What We Do In Minnesota During the Winter ... An Adventure in Cosplay Costuming Pt 1

As we have already seen temperatures dipping into the negative double digits here in Minnesota this year, our scheduled outside activities are dwindling to a bare minimum. What does that mean? Well, more sewing and crafting, of course. For us this year, winter will be filled with preparation for the upcoming Spring and Summer conventions. That means Cosplay costuming! Last year we made costumes from our favorite geeky movie, Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising. This year we want to tackle Companions of the Hall costumes (for the uninitiated click on the link for more info).

This is the first post of what I am sure will be many in our journeys to become our favorite companions. First up, roll call...

Drizzt  ................................... Rae
Wolfgar ................................ Steffie
Bruenor ................................ Ralene (that's me)
Cattie Brie ............................ Crysta
Rigel ..................................... ???

My character, Bruenor, is a Dwarf fighter in the Forgotten Realms world. And, as we all know, Dwarves are Scottish, right? Taking that and running with it, I've decided to make a caramel brown cotton lolita skirt (pretty plain ... flat waistband, 3/4 circle, with ruffled hem) topped with a dark rose/blue/caramel plaid bustle skirt. I haven't quite decided for sure what I'm going to do with the upper portion of the outfit yet. I have a couple of options. My first option is to make a silver pvc corset, which will stand in the place of a breast plate. If I do this, I will put it over the top of a white, ruffled button down shirt. I've also thought about making a matching, hooded plaid vest to wear over the shirt. Furry brown boots will be a must. I'm also going to accessorize with a bright red cosplay wig and a small pouch made to look like a round shield with a foaming mug of ale embroidered on it.

For Steffie's Wolfgar outfit, I'm going to make her a similar caramel brown underskirt. Instead of a bustle skirt, I think I will make her a dark brown ruched cotton overskirt with channels and ties on each side so that the hemline can be raised and lowered. I want to trim out the overskirt in a dark brown fur. I've already bought her a ruffled white dress shirt to go with the outfit, and we found an awesome overbust corset from Corset-Story that is different shades of brown with leather accents.She will have a battle hammer as a weapon, and I think I will end up making some fur bracelets and big fur bow for her hair as accent pieces.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crochet Mood Blanket 2014

I saw this post from The Its Bitsy Spider blog, and I think I will do this. It looks like a fun way to use the pretty yarns I have in my scrap bin, and it's something quick and easy to do each day when I have some downtime after work. I will post my squares here as I make them.

Below is a link to the original blog post with instructions on how to participate in the project.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider Crochet: Crochet Mood Blanket 2014: It's no secret that when I have a few minutes down time, I love surfing some good crochet porn on Instagram. Well, last week, I found ...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Win Your Own Copy of Sewing & Fitting with Darts by Heather M. Claus - My First Reader Sweepstakes

Click Here to Buy

I was intending to have this review up and live on May 5th, but with the new job and general costuming and planting craziness of the season, I am running behind. I was recently asked to review this book, and I wanted to share the results with you. I was also given an extra copy to offer to one of my readers as well. So, if you are interested in winning an electronic copy of  Sewing and Fitting with Darts by Heather M. Claus, just post a message below with an email address for contact. I will announce the winner on Friday, May 17, 2013.
This book would be great for any beginner interested in learning how to better fit a garment by using darts. It covers many different types of darts, the areas of the garment that you would use them, and how they will help the garment better conform to your shape.

I have been sewing for years, and I am very familiar with the use of darts to fit shirts, jackets, and dresses. I don't often make pants beyond bloomers for Renaissance garb and pajamas, so it was very interesting to see just how many areas of a pant could be manipulated by a well placed dart. The detailed drawings were very helpful in visualizing where the darts would go and what affect they would have on the garment. She even took the time to create diagrams outlining the proper way to actually sew a dart in the fabric. I can't tell you how much frustration this caused me early on in my sewing endeavors. The seam ripper was a dear friend of mine until I figured it out. When both the right and the wrong ways are printed side by side for you to see, it's very easy to tell why you should be sewing the darts in a particular way. The author also goes over pressing, hiding, and removing darts as well. It really does cover the basics of what anyone would need to know about darts in an easy to ready, practical voice.

There are also helpful links to the 365 Days of Sewing forum where you can ask questions about each section of the book if you get stuck or need clarification. In order to view the discussion board, you do have to register for an account with the website as well as apply for membership for that particular group. It isn't instant access, so it may take a small amount of time for a moderator to approve new members. Please don't get discouraged. Once you are added to the group, you will have access to all of the different discussions from each chapter of the book.

After reading about each of the kinds of darts, I am most interested in trying the radiating dart. It has a very distinctive look, and I think it could add a bit of style as well as fit to a nice jacket or shirt. I am also really intrigued to see a couple of the upcoming volumes listed at the end of this book. The two that really caught my eye were: Volume 2 - Sewing Easy & Elegant Capes and Wraps and Volume 5 - 10 Gorgeous Vintage Details to Add to Your Contemporary Sewing Projects. I can't wait to see what kind of materials are included in these books.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Brother SE-400 Embroidery & Sewing Machine



Stars: 4 out of 5

Brand: Brother
Model: SE-400
Specialty: Embroidery & Sewing


Features

Super Bright LED Lit Work Area
Built-in Memory
On-Screen Editing
Easy Computer Connectivity
Automatic Thread Cutter
Super Easy Needle Threading System
Instructional CD and Written Manual



Included Accessories

4x4 embroidery Hoop

Embroidery Arm
Soft Cover
Free Arm Accessory Compartment
Accessory feet:
Buttonhole foot
Overcasting foot
Zipper foot
Button fitting foot
Monogramming foot
Blind stitch foot
Embroidery foot
Embroidery bobbin thread
USB cable
Power cord
Accessory bag with seam ripper, needle set, cleaning brush, screwdrivers (2), touch pen, spool caps (3), scissors, bobbins (3)


Review

I received my Brother SE-400 as a birthday present from my parents, and it has been extremely useful over the past 10 months or so. I kind of compared this model to plug and play hardware/peripherals for your computer. It really is good to go as soon as you set it up. The written manual is easy to read and organized very well to take you step by step through the process of your first embroidery project. If the manual bogs you down, you always just pop in the CD and watch the tutorials instead. I haven't watched all of them, but the ones I have used I really liked.

There are 70 built in embroidery designs, 67 built in sewing stitches, 5 embroidery fonts, 98 stitch functions, and 120 frame pattern combinations. The build in embroidery designs are pretty basic (floral scrolls, country kitsch stuff, and some decorative flourishes). I have used quite a few of the decorative stitch functions on the sewing side of things. They are great for adding little decorative trims to the edges of sleeves, collars, skirt hems, etc. It also does smocking, buttonholes, and stipple quilting to name a few.

Aside from the decorative stitch functions, there really isn't anything particularly special about the sewing machine functions. It's very similar to every other sewing machine that I've had as far as the way it operates with a couple exceptions. I love, love, love the needle threader. It is super easy to use as long as you remember to always have the needle in the uppermost position when pushing the lever to operate the threader. If the needle is in the wrong position, it will not thread properly. I also really appreciate just being able to push a button to cut the thread. Another nifty little extra is an on-screen message that pops up to let you know that the bobbin is running low on thread. This is particularly useful when doing embroidery because you can't see the bobbin once the hoop is in place. A second built in cutter is up on top where you wind your bobbin. It makes it very convenient to cut thread when the bobbin has finished.

As far as the embroidery functions go, I have been super impressed with this machine. It's on the lower end of the scale for pricing. When I got mine, it was on sale for about $460. I noticed this Christmas they have lowered the regular price down to $399. Considering that most of the embroidery machines range from $800 to multiple $1000, this one is a great deal for a beginning embroiderer. Regular, all purpose thread doesn't work so well in embroidery mode. It will work, but I have found that there is a lot of breakage and bunching of thread overall. It really is worth the investment to get a set of embroidery thread. If you search on Amazon, there are some really good deals on sets of up to 300 colors of thread. Well worth the investment. Also, stick with bobbin thread for the bobbin. It really does make a difference. I don't know what about the bobbin thread is different, but it just works so much better with far fewer hitches. If you follow those couple of tips, the operation is really smooth and hassle free.

This machine will only use a 4x4 hoop. You cannot use anything larger than that, so it does eliminate some of the bigger embroidery designs. Luckily most doesigns are readily available to fit a 4x4 hoop. While it doesn't come with a wide variety of built in designs, there are TONS of free and low-cost embroidery designs for download online. I have literally hundreds of free designs I have downloaded. One of my favorite places to buy designs is the Urban Threads website. Once you have the designs downloaded onto your computer, you just connect your computer to your sewing machine via the included usb cable and transfer the files. Your computer will recognize the sewing machine as an external drive just like it does for a flash drive. You can save up to around five designs on the built in memory of the machine. I rarely save a design unless I am making multiple items using the same one. I just delete them off the machine when I am done so that way it is empty each time I transfer a new design over for use.

As a final note, I would say this machine is a great value for someone just beginning to use an embroidery machine. It's great for embroidering hand towels, baby bibs, diapers, purses, and other small items. It's easy to use and affordable. Keep in mind that if you ever play on being able to create your own designs or make major edits to existing designs, you will need to purchase additional computer software to do that.



10% Off After Christmas Sale in My Etsy Shop

I'm offering 10% off on all of my pre-made items currently posted in my Etsy store. The sale will be on beginning 12/27/12 through next Friday, 01/04/13. All you have to do to get access to this and additional promo codes as they become available is like my store's Facebook page. This promo code is good in both of my shops. Below are the links for the code as well as the shops.

Facebook Page Link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pandoras-Box/218458428199326

Pandora's Box: Sewing, Crafts, & Costuming Etsy Store Link: http://www.etsy.com/shop/purplepandabear

Pandora's Pervertables (Adult Content) Etsy Store Link: http://www.etsy.com/shop/PandorasPervertables

Friday, November 30, 2012

First Testimonial on Purchases Made in my Etsy Store!




Meg (user eccomeg) purchased a 5 piece custom set of Christmas stockings from me on Etsy (please see the previous   post about flip flop stockings for pictures of her order), and with her permission I am posting what she had to say about the stockings when she received them in the mail. I had sent her a message the day after Thanksgiving to confirm receipt of her order since the USPS tracking info indicated that it had been delivered that day. This is what she replied:



Yes! Thank you!! We just got back from being away for the Thanksgiving holidays yesterday.

The box was waiting for us and I could not have been happier when I opened it. They're already hanging up! The kids loved theirs and the dog's and my husband was tickled by the hairy toes on his. My is wonderful as well!

I can't believe you made these and with such speed! Thank you so much! Every year I say I am going to make our stockings and every year I have a bag of materials that I feel guilty about so thank you!

We love them - they are too darn cute.

Take care and I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your friends and family and we wish you a relaxing and joyous holiday and New Year.

Meg



I am so happy to hear that she was so thrilled with the results of our collaboration. I always enjoy the creativity and on the fly problem solving that goes into a custom order of an item that I've never made before. I think the purchase ended well for everyone: Meg has five great stockings for her and her family and I have a new pattern to add to my repertoire.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Stockings for Tropical Climates and Those Who Would Just Rather Be On The Beach


As a lot of you know, I have an Etsy store where I sell a lot of things that I post about in my blog here. Around this time of year, after the hand full of Viking hat orders that I get just before Halloween, I start to get requests for Christmas stockings. I don't make just any Christmas stockings. I like to make ones that are a little outside the ordinary. Some of the ones I have made in the past include monster feet, dragon feet, mermaid tails, pirate boots, victorian boots, high heel boots, ballerina slippers, wolf paws, puppy paws, and bare feet. I even made a monster ballerina stocking for my wife.

I love the challenge of coming up with designs that are new and different, and I put in all my ads to message me for custom orders. So, I wasn't altogether surprised that during the first part of November I got a message requesting a special order. At first we were discussing making bare feet stockings for a husband and wife as well as maybe a pirate boot and ballerina for a daughter a son and a puppy paw for the family pet.

 As we exchanged emails back and forth establishing exactly what was wanted, the customer sent me a picture of a stocking that she saw online and asked if I could make one like it. Pictured to the right is the original photo. I checked all over online, and I couldn't find anywhere selling them. From the blog article where the photo was posted, it looks like the person may have purchased them on a trip to Hawaii. I had seen the photo before, but I had never seriously considered how I would make the pattern.



Of course, it being me, I said, "Sure, I'll give it a go!" I spent the next week working up a pattern eyeballing the photo and making my prototype. I then sent a picture of my mockup to the customer to see if it was what she wanted. It turns out, it was. She ordered one for herself, her husband (with hairy toes for him), and her son and daughter plus the original puppy paw for her dog. It was a fun back and forth deciding on colors and themes and embroidery for the names on the cuffs. It's the first time I've gotten to use the text option on my embroidery machine. I was really looking forward to testing that out too.


I think they turned out really, really well. It's a design that I will definitely keep in my pattern book. I have never claimed to be a great pattern maker, so I'm rather proud of myself for how well they turned out just from looking at a photo.  Below are the stockings that I made for the family.
This one is for the dad, Chris.    .



This one is for the mom, Meg.


This one is for the son, Wes.


This one is for the daughter, Sophia.


And this one is for the puppy, Ozzie.