OtherWhere Spring Faire!

I’ve been working like mad lately getting ready for the spring show season. Up first is the OtherWhere Spring Faire Saturday, March 28 at Mill No. 5. It’s shaping up to be a great event. There will be everything from pottery to leather masks to embroidered patches and more.

I’ll be debuting a new apron, which I’m super excited about. It combines my favorite elements from a few different vintage aprons in to a simple and practical style. I’ll also have some tea bag and utensil pouches, as well as lunch bags in fantastic new prints. Behold!

IMG_2743 IMG_2751

I’m really looking forward to this season, and not just because it means milder weather. I hope I’ll see you at the OtherWhere Spring Faire!

Please note: I’ve been spending my time making fun things for the market, so I got a bit behind on my tutorial schedule. The sash tutorial will be up Wednesday, April 1 (no fooling).

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Tutorial: Yes, we need some stinking badges.

Badge Tutorial
I used to be a Girl Scout and as an adult it’s a bit disappointing that we don’t get to earn badges for doing stuff. I’m not suggesting the world owes me a cookie for being a decent, mostly functioning adult, but I do think giving oneself a little reward here and there can make life a bit more fun.

Badges are great for personal achievements. Get a promotion? Make yourself a badge! A friend is playing their first public gig? Make them a badge! Refrain from killing that annoying coworker? Badge!

They don’t have to be merit-based either. A few years ago our circle of friends decided we’d gone on long enough without earning badges so we started a club (the Unnamed Society of Friends in Favor of Frippery and Frivolity, or US4F). Really it’s just the usual friends getting together, sharing a meal, doing some sort of thematic activity (which is sometimes just eating), and getting a badge to sew on our sash just for participating (or eating). It’s a way to mark the occasion.

A badge can take many forms. For our club’s strawberry themed event we just used red buttons. For the 70s party we sewed on costume mustaches. As long as it fits the occasion and you can sew it on a sash it’s fair game.

The classic round scouting style badge is really easy to make. You’ll need the following:

  • Scrap fabric
  • Scissors or pinking shears
  • Embroidery hoop, floss, and needle
  • Fabric markers

Your badge design shouldn’t be too complicated. It should be something that can be done in one or two colors, doesn’t have a lot of fine details, and conveys the idea of the achievement or occasion simply.

Once you have your design sorted, choose your fabric. For this tutorial I used some scrap denim from a pair of old jeans. See additional fabric recommendations below.

For a quickie badge, draw your design onto the fabric with fabric markers.

doodles on denim

 

Mark the border of the badge. I used a votive candle as a template and traced around it.

Badge Tutorial

Cut it out with pinking shears (which will prevent the edges from fraying) or scissors, and you’re done. Denim works great for this kind of badge, so if you’ve got some scraps of old jeans lying around this is a good way to use them up. Canvas would work great, too. Avoid felt for this version because the fuzzy surface does not work well with markers.

Badge Tutorial

If you want to get a bit fancier, put the fabric in a hoop and embroider over your drawing. I embroidered just the outline to save time. You could even embroider some outlines but not others as I did with the bubbles example below, or fill it all in completely.

Badge Tutorial

Cut it out using the same method above. You’ll want a fabric that can handle dense stitching. Consider using interfacing if you choose a particularly thin fabric. Scraps of denim work great for this option as well as canvas. Craft felt is a good choice if you don’t mind not being able to draw your design on in detail before you embroider. I love working with felt because it comes in dozens of colors and is inexpensive. Cross stitch fabric is particularly helpful if free-form embroidery gives you the willies.

Badge Tutorial

 

Badge Tutorial

To affix your badge to something (sash, banner, super 80s denim jacket), pin it in place and hand stitch around the outside using a coordinating thread. Or if you have a sewing machine, use a dense zigzag stitch all the way around. If you don’t feel like hand sewing and you don’t own a sewing machine, get some fusible iron-on tape and heat set it in place.

Et voila!

US4F Sash

You can make a badge for any occasion or achievement. Make a bunch to keep on hand to surprise your friends. Take to the streets and leave a few out in the open for people to find. A little bit of silliness might brighten someone’s day (and we could all use a bit of brightening now and then, especially to get us through a difficult winter). Use your imagination and have fun!

See next week’s tutorial on how to make your own sash.

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Project Update: Running with Sticks

running with sticks

Last year I decided to try knitting while walking/running. It was going great for a while. I completed two and a half pairs* of legwarmers before I stalled out in the fall when I got super sick. I’m feeling much better these days, but a combination of weather doom and the difficulty of restarting something after a long hiatus has kept the second legwarmer of the third pair languishing on the needles in a sad little heap in my knitting basket. It’s time to pick it back up again and show that legwarmer some love.

February was supposed to be my get-back-to-the-gym month, but I have pushed that forward to March because winter has broken me and I do not have the fortitude to make time to go until it stops resembling Hoth** outside. I don’t want to wait that long to restart the legwarmer project, so I’m trying various exercises at home to see which I can pair with knitting.

Thus far I’ve tried marching in place with various goofy leg and knee lifts, but none of those have worked particularly well. Mostly I just end up standing in place knitting while listening to music, because apparently I need either a moving platform below me or a road out in front of me to understand how to move my legs. My next hilarious experiment will be to use the lower step on the stairs step-aerobics style like in the 90s. I do have the ridiculously bright shoes to match.

running with sticks

I’m glad to be back at it again – both the legwarmer knitting and the exercising. I’ve got two and a half pairs to go before I finish the first round, and I’ve got two people on a waiting list for round two. Fret not, legwarmer subscribers! Kristin, yours is the pair in progress that I’m close to finishing. Sarah, yours are up next, and then Lisa’s. Thank you for your sponsorship of this project, and thank you for your patience. Warm ankles will be yours soon!

* The second pair were yellow and green and I loved them. I loved them so much I forgot to take a picture before I sent them on their way to their new owner.

** More like a combination of Hoth and the trenches the Rebels have to fly through on the Death Star.

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Sunday Eats! Carrot Soup and Crusty Bread

Carrot soup and crusty bread

  • Carrots
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 large onion
  • Garlic, as many cloves as you like
  • Ginger, a couple chunks
  • 1 can of white beans

Peel and chop all ingredients (except the beans), put them in a pot and add enough stock to just cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until soft enough to puree. Strain out all the veg, place in blender, pour cooking water in a little at a time. Rinse and drain the beans, add to the blender and puree until smooth.

Add less of the cooking stock if you want a thicker soup. Save whatever you don’t use for your next soup.

The bowl is from Squirrel Forge, who makes all sorts of great pottery; the bread recipe is from the Inn at the Crossroads Game of Thrones cookbook; and the napkin is made from vintage fabric.

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Boston cosplays as Nebraska

SNOMG

Temperatures consistently below freezing, five or more feet of snow on the ground and more on the way – it’s ridiculous. Snowdiculous*, if you’ll allow the portmanteau.

We’re lucky out here in the suburbs, though. In town there’s about six feet or seven feet of snow and absolutely nowhere to put it. We at least have the space for the 20 foot snow piles and are both fortunate to have jobs that allow us to work from home. We’re also lucky to have personalities such that we’re more likely to laugh at the absurdity of the situation than to cry over it. (This is true most days, and one can certainly forgive us the occasional cry after a week of five hour commutes to and from work.)

SNOMG

We’re also not really susceptible to cabin fever, and as long as the heat and water stay on we can amuse ourselves with books and crafts and be content.

This week’s shop update is all cozy and silly things. When the walls of the trench leading from your door tower above your head and the forecast is calling for more snow in a few days, you may need a fleece blanket that folds into a pillow that looks like toast to cheer you up. If you really need cheering, you may need to get yourself a goofy nose warmer with a tassel. They really do keep your nose warm and they look silly enough to make your crabbiest neighbor smile (as long as you’re wearing it while you help them deal with the ice dams on their roof).

SNOMG

Stay safe and keep warm, New England! Spring is on it’s way. Really.

*Snowdiculous is not my invention. I thank my friend Jamie for that one.

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Hot Chocolate o’Clock is my Favorite o’Clock

heartfelt

Every day (or nearly) at three o’clock in the afternoon I have a cup of hot chocolate. It’s become the tastiest part of my winter survival strategy (which also includes a daily vitamin D supplement and a 30 minute session in front of my LiteBook). As a dairy-free person it’s difficult to grab a cup on the go, so I make my own powdered mix and carry it with me to work. All you need is hot water and it’s your very own hot chocolate o’clock.

Here’s my recipe:

Mix everything together and keep in an airtight container. Two heaping spoonfuls is enough for one standard mug of hot chocolate, but you may need more or less depending on your mug size and how rich you want it to be. I never need more than three heaping spoonfuls in my largest mug, but your mileage may vary, of course. Fill your mug with hot water, stir until everything’s dissolved, sip, and enjoy. (Yields approximately 5 servings.)

Winter is difficult and we’ve got two more months of the stuff ahead of us. Share this recipe with your friends to keep them warm. Better yet, make them a batch and present it in a mason jar with a Cuppow! lid adapter and felt cozy (available in the Storenvy shop).

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We’re back!

The shop is reopened and it feels so good!

Listings in the Etsy shop include lunch bags, mason jar cozies, and dice/gaming bags (which can be used for snack bags if that’s your thing – just don’t get your snacks and dice mixed up). There are still a few of the discounted 1.0 style lunch bags available. All new lunch bags will be made in the new size – see the Robot, Mushroom, or Bento lunch bag listings for more information.

Mason jar drinking lids are available via the Storenvy shop. Cozies are available at the Storenvy shop as well, so if you’re placing a cozy+lid combo order you don’t have to do so via multiple shops. (I sell the lids on Storenvy because I do not make them myself and cannot sell them on Etsy.)

The next scheduled shop update is Monday, 16 February 2015 when we’ll be adding more lunch and dice bags and party banners. As always, custom orders are welcome any time.

Cheers!

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Project Update: Longest Scarf Ever

Just keep knitting

Before I started sewing for a living, I’d spend much of my free time knitting. Now my creative brain is all used up on the job and there’s little left at the end of the day to put into complicated wooly pursuits. Luckily, this garter stitch scarf is waiting for me whenever I have a spare moment to knit a few rows. It requires little thought at all and I can shut off my brain while simultaneously channeling my nervous energy into something productive.

I began it in October 2013 and I’m quite close to being 3/4 of the way through it. I’ve been weaving in the ends as I go (every couple of feet), so I won’t have those looming over me at the end of the project. Once I’m through the knitting, I just have to add the fringe, then BOOM. DONE.

If you’re on Ravelry, the yarn and pattern details are here. As I’ve mentioned in previous project posts, I’m using a pattern from (now defunct) Witty Little Knitter and working in Valley Yarns Northampton in the (approximately) appropriate colorways, though my red isn’t orange enough, and my tan is too grey. Those are the only two colors that really bother me. The rest are passable. Thus far I’ve made do with one ball of each color, though I will have to order more of some colors before the end. I’m terrible at yarn estimating and I’ve been putting it off.

My probably-making-things-harder-than-they-need-to-be plan is to knit until I run out of one color, add up all the rows I’ve knit in that color, and figure out how much of each of the other colors I’ve already gone through. Then I’ll probably panic and just order one more ball of each, spending more money than I have to, and be stuck with a bunch of yarn in 1970s colors.

Until then? I knit.

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Arisia 2015

Two Doctors Who, Omega, and me. Please pardon the crappy mobile phone picture. I am getting a proper camera soon.

One of the fun parts of my job is attending conventions as a vendor. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and tremendously stressful leading up to the event, but once I get there and start helping to set up the booth things start to look a lot brighter. No matter how grumpy I am (or stressed out about how grumpy other members of our crew are) as soon as I see that first patron dressed as the TARDIS, I’m reminded of my place in the tribe and all is well.

I’ve been helping with the Threads of Time booth at various shows for about five years. I don’t get to see much of any show unless it passes directly in front of our booth, but I get rather familiar with the dealers’ rooms. I look forward to seeing the show regulars each year, and I’m always on the look out for new-to-me vendors. There’s always so much to see, so I usually end up with a pile of business cards at the end of the weekend.

Below are some of the other vendors I visited at this year’s Arisia science fiction convention (Boston, MA, January 16-19):

Tea and Absinthe – Always a favorite of mine at these shows, their tea is delicious and their tea accessories are fun (and functional). I always go home with a few bags of tea (and sometimes a new tea infuser), and I love when they bring their chocolate truffles to a show.

Emporium 32 – Lovely jewelry and other unique adornments. They have an author portrait pendant line that I love and they recently started carrying men’s grooming products. I got Jesse a mustache comb and he loves it.

Zooguu – Faux taxidermy! Adorable soft sculptures mounted on colorful plaques to dress up any wall. I really want the unicorn one. Or maybe the narwhal. Or platypus.

Storied Threads – While they started as makers of clothing, I really love visiting their booth for the patches. Anything you can think of in the geeky-pop-culture universe they’ve probably made into a patch. I want pretty much all of them.

Well Played Clothing – Represent your favorite pop-culture fandom in business casual style. I really wanted to get the Hogwarts one, but I spent too much on tea.

Crested Creations – I fell in love with these dragon soft toys, and if you need a giant mustache plush you need look no further.

Untamed Undies – Need some underpants with a kick-ass message? Here you go. My underpants tend to be quiet, and I don’t like words on my bum (or elsewhere), but every now and again I come across a booth and just want to shout “I LOVE THAT THIS EXISTS!” and so I’m sharing.

 

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The Lost Year

Ever have one of those years? The kind of year where you get to the end of it mostly intact, but you don’t have much to show for yourself? The kind of year where you spend more time ill and grieving than you do actually living? The kind of year you never want to see the likes of again? I suppose we all have lost days or weeks every now and again. Sometimes there are so many lost days strung together we want to write off whole years as a loss. 2014 was my lost year.

This year was a struggle on many fronts. There was much illness and death, as well as frustration and guilt. (Who feels guilty about being ill? This gal, that’s who!)  To say that 2014 was a complete waste would be inaccurate and unfair. There were some tremendously good bits thrown in with all the bad, and in the end, while both my immune system and self worth have taken major damage (pro-tip: don’t measure your worth by productivity, folks), I am coming out of this year stronger and with more resolve to make 2015 the best damn year ever.

As I sit here in a pool of sunshine snuggled in a quilt made by my mother, sipping my tea, with a purring cat on my lap it is difficult to NOT be hopeful. (Is there anything a quilt, a cat, and a cup of tea can’t soothe?) As gloomy as things may have seemed this year, I have a really good imagination and know that we could have had it much, much worse. Instead of dwelling on past failures, I am revisiting my plans for the year and calling a do-over. All those beautiful and fun prints I bought for this year will be made into wonderful wares in the new year. Spring will come again, and Sparkle J Designs will be ready to celebrate. It’ll be time for picnics and garden parties before we know it. In the meantime, I’ll be relisting current lunchware stock for those of you who need a little bright color in your work or school day to get through winter.

I plan on surviving and even enjoying the rest of winter by surrounding myself with warm and cheerful things, which will probably include lots of wool. It was such a struggle to keep up with paying work this year, I wasn’t able to make much time for personal crafting. I managed to knit the odd sock or two, and a foot or so on my Doctor Who scarf, but that’s about it. I’m taking the time now while on vacation to make a few things for myself, friends, and family before I get too busy. I’ve been learning to make candy and have been honing my bread skills. I’m very much looking forward to the new year and hope you are, too.

However you choose to spend the rest of winter, I hope you take some time for yourselves. I wish you a very happy and healthy new year, full of friends and family and lots and lots of love! Cheers!

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