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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Green Earth Fest!

We’re a last minute addition to the Green Earth Fest at the South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell, MA. The event is May 4th, 11 am – 4 pm and will take place rain or shine.

This is a family-friendly festival, and this year’s theme is “Celebrating Dirt.” There’s going to be all sorts of activities for kids, and it looks to be a very fun day. Hope we’ll see you there!

(Photo credit: Green Earth Fest)

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Merry PAXmas!

Greetings, PAX-goers!

I’m looking forward to a weekend full of amazing games and tens of thousands of fellow game-type-people!

I’ll be there all weekend, knitting my way through the crowds. If you see me, please say hello. I’ll have some Cunning Hats and Dice/Gaming Bags on hand if you want to pick up an order at the show. Order from the shop just like normal, using coupon code PICKUP at checkout to waive the shipping fee. We’ll make arrangements to meet up so you can pick up your order. Please note this applies ONLY to dice bags and cunning hats. All other orders will have to be shipped to you. I need to save room in my bag for games!

See you there!


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Running with Sticks: one down, five to go.

It’s finished! Well, the first pair are done, anyway. I started them mid February and just wove in the ends yesterday. Considering I took two weeks off in March, that’s not too shabby. Each legwarmer took 10 knitting gym sessions to complete. I started at a knitting rate of 12 rows per mile and have increased to 17 rows per mile. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty impressed with myself.

That said, while being impressed with my knitting and walking prowess yesterday I got cocky, lost focus, and didn’t notice when the last remnants of the last ball of yarn pulled out of the knitting bag, tumbled to my feet and got swept behind me on the treadmill. I didn’t trip, but I did utter a few profane oaths and turn several shades of red not related to the physical exertion at hand. Way to keep me grounded, Universe.

On to the next pair! These ones will be shades of green and yellow. Everyone else chose more shades of blue, grey, and black. I just can’t with those colors right now, so green and yellow it is.

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Bags for all!

A customer recently told me she uses her lunch bag as a knitting bag for socks on the go. How clever is that? I was so focused on food, I never even thought of using the lunch bags for anything else. Thanks to her genius, I’m now using one of my old lunch bags (v 1.0) to bring my leg warmer knitting with me to the gym. Thanks, Candice! It really was a great idea.

What about dice bags? Do you like my dice bags but have no dice to call your own? As sad as your paucity of dice makes my wee, game-loving heart, I sympathize with your predicament. You don’t have to use the dice bags for dice, though. Did you know I first made those dice bags to accompany the lunch bags? Yes! Their original purpose was as receptacles for snacks. They’re still quite useful for that purpose, so you might as well grab a couple for yourself. One for your snacks, one for your dice. Just don’t mix up the two. I shall not be responsible for your dentist bills.

Got any clever ideas of your own? Do let me know! I’d love to hear how you’re making use of these bags.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

The lovely gals at Chifferobe, a dance and entertainment company in Providence, RI, asked me to team up with Tropigal Melissa Freitas to design some Alice in Wonderland themed accessories for an upcoming event. You may already be aware of my fondness for tea, cake, parties, and miniatures, so the combination of all those things in this project probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I just couldn’t resist those tiny cakes. Tiny cakes!

Please see their blog for the Alice band tutorial as well as Melissa’s curiously wonderful (see what I did there?) designs for playing card and painted rose fascinators. They’re darling!


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Hello, Anime Boston.

If you’re popping over here from the panel on bento culture, hello and welcome!

I started making draw string lunch bags and coordinating napkins specifically to wrap and carry standard, rectangular bento boxes. I now make them a bit larger to accommodate a wider variety of lunch box shapes. All of the lunch bags I offer are handmade by me, reversible, flat-bottomed, and machine washable. I’m also happy to take custom orders. Please visit the lunchtime section of my Etsy shop (use coupon code ANIME2014 for 10% off anything in the shop) or the lunchtime gallery on flickr to see what I have to offer. I also carry Cuppow BNTO mason jar adapters that turn your canning jar into a two-compartment lunch container. Since I don’t make those myself, they are only available in my Storenvy shop.

Thanks for visiting, and happy lunching!

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Runs with Sticks Update

Things are moving along nicely in the Runs with Sticks department. I’m nearly done with the first legwarmer. I think I’m going to buy another set of circulars, though. I’m getting nervous I’ll run out of yarn before I make the second in this pair. I don’t mind that they won’t have identical stripes, but they should at least be the same length. My plan is to cast on for the second one the next time I go walk/running, then I’ll work until they’re even. After that I’ll just go back and forth between them until I run out of yarn.

My pace is holding steady at 3.2 mph. I am not ready to go faster yet, so to make the workout harder I’ve increased the incline. I start out flat and work up to 2% for the warmup, then work up to 5% for the most of the hour, then go back to flat for the cool-down. I’ve only done that for a week, but it’s really kicking my butt (in the best possible way). All of my workout days in February (minus one) were knitting days.

You know about my sticker rewards program, right? Basically, I treat myself like a kindergartener and give myself a sticker every time I go to the gym or do a significant home/outside workout. I hung the calendar in a place I walk past constantly so I get to enjoy my sticker collection. I did pretty well last month with 13/28 days. My goal is 3 gym visits per week & the outside stuff is a bonus. I only managed that once last month, so I’ll keep the same goal for March. Behold: my February 2014 sticker collection!

I knit and give myself stickers to stay motivated. What do you do to trick yourself into doing things you don’t really want to do but know you should anyway?

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Quest: do something silly, avoid disaster

The treadmill is boring, right? I refuse to walk or run outside in the cold where there’s barely enough room on the roads what with the snow banks and all, so the treadmill is what I’ve got to work with until it stops snowing, which will probably be July.

I hate exercise. I love being active, though, and I miss being fit. I just don’t like the hamster wheel-ness of the treadmill, nor do I care for the music or television selection at my gym. Music on my headphones is great, but I still need something to look at and The View isn’t doing it for me. Reading on the treadmill is great, but I can’t listen to music when I read. Last time I tried that I ended up thinking about how awesome it would be if Freddy Mercury fought a bunch of orcs with his microphone stand, which IS awesome but I totally lost my place in the Hobbit and had to go back several pages. What I’m trying to say is that roller derby ruined me for every other fitness activity ever. If it’s not on wheels it is therefore wicked boring and I go out of my tree trying to stay focused.

Then I read this. There’s a world record for the longest scarf knitted while running a marathon, and this guy broke it. You can see where this is going, right? I’ll probably never be a marathoner, but I’m a pretty good knitter, and I’ve already mastered knitting-hats-while-walking-in-a-crowd-to-prevent-panic-attacks-at-large-conventions, so the treadmill should be easy, right?

RIGHT! You thought I was going to say “wrong” didn’t you? Turns out, I’m awesome at knitting and walking on a treadmill! I can knit and walk up to 3.5 mph, though it seems my best pace for walking and knitting is 3.2mph. As I level up I’ll try running, but for now I’ll continue to knit while I warm up and set the knitting aside for my run/walk intervals, then pick up the knitting for the cool down. I’ve only gotten a few funny looks from fellow gym-goers as there really aren’t that many people when I go. I’m sure the first time I have a major yarn disaster there will be a huge audience.

I didn’t want to do a scarf like the guy in that article. I don’t really need any more scarves and the thought of wrapping wool around myself while exercising makes me cringe. There are a few factors to consider when choosing a knitting project for treadmill walking. Small projects are best suited, but nothing fiddly or too small a gauge, especially if it involves tiny double pointed needles (thus ruling out socks). I have to be able to use only one ball of yarn at a time (which can fit in the cup holder) for the duration of a single walking session (thus no color work). I settled on leg warmers because I can knit a 1×1 ribbed tube easily while walking, and I can do them on circulars with a small enough cable.

I plan on bringing a different color of yarn to the gym each time I go, so they’ll end up being a kind of workout tracking system as well. The stripes won’t be of equal size as I’m sure my pace will fluctuate daily, and the pair certainly won’t be identical mates, but I’m fine with fraternal stripes. They’ll be unique and fun, and I’m sure I will love them.

Since I really don’t need more than a couple of pairs of leg warmers, I decided to ask my friends if they’d like to contribute to this ridiculous project. They buy the yarn, and I knit them leg warmers while keeping myself entertained on the treadmill. I figured I’d get a couple of my weirder friends interested, but I didn’t expect five people to sign up in less than an hour. I capped this round at five because I have no idea how long it’ll take me to knit 12 legwarmers (counting one pair for myself) while walking. If all goes smoothly, I’ll open things up for another round since I know there are a few people who are disappointed they missed the first round.

I’ve started a Ravelry project page for this endeavor where you can check out all the specifics like the yarn and needles used, etc., should that sort of thing interest you. What do you think? Have you taken on a particularly silly project lately? What weird/fun/inspiring challenges have you attempted?

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