Thursday, October 30, 2014


I love crocheting afghans!  Above is the blanket I just finished making as a gift for Ginelle and Ashley, celebrating their wedding.  I've been making them for many years, as is evidenced by the very old photo of Ashleigh I have below.

I've been crocheting since I was a small child.  It's incredibly soothing, having a blanket come to life underneath my fingers twirling away. My favorite stitch is double crochet.  I'm very fast at simple patterns that include lots of double crochets.

The above blanket comes with a funny story:  I made it in high school for myself.  My mom's first reaction was "Ooo, I'd love to have one of those!"  So I made her one, right in front of her, without her knowing.  When she opened it many months later for Christmas, she was shocked, exclaiming "When did you make this?"  I simply hid the yarn and everything underneath the one I had already made, so it blended in.  When she would wander into the room I was in, I would simply stop crocheting for a few minutes until she left again.  I still can't believe that worked so well!

This is another one of my favorite patterns.  I made at least two others of these before making this one for myself.  One went to Madison, though I don't remember who got the other one.

When I visited my friend Ted a couple years ago, he proudly showed me an afghan that was on his bed.  When I didn't recognize it, he laughed, because I had made it for him about a decade ago.  I've made so many afghans that I have forgotten about them!

Every year or two I get the itch to crochet something.  If any close friends want an afghan, feel free to give me a nudge.  It may or may not happen - I like to make gifts when I feel like making them - but when I get the urge to crochet again, I'll think of you and you might get a blanket!  (By the way, I generally only use acrylic yarn: it is both machine washable and affordable.  The yarn for an afghan costs about $40, in my experience.) 

Anybody else have a favorite crocheting stitch? ~Kell
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Pocket Watch Belt Pouch

This pocket watch is dear to me, as it was a favorite possession of DeForest's.  Pocket watches, being breakable, need a secure place to be kept.  As I don't have suitable pockets in all of my clothing, especially my SCA clothing, I made a padded belt pouch to carry the watch.  

Pocket watches are a little later than my period (pre-1200s), as the earliest references to them are in the 15th century and they weren't popular until the 17th century (similar to wristwatches).  Hiding the pocket watch in a simple belt pouch allows me to keep the watch protected and still have it fit in with my garb.

The lining of the pouch is made from very thick fox fur.  This pocket watch is so padded I could probably throw it across a room and not break it (though I won't be testing this assertion on purpose!).

I'm in love with the natural curves of the leather that edge this piece.

The belt loop has a simple button closure that makes it very easy to take on and off.

The pouch closes with a matching button.

I adore this.  Leatherworking can be so beautiful.  ~Birke
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beautiful Heraldic Knife Sheath

Here is the sheath I made for my belt knife.  The knife was made by my friend Galen, out of a piece of my second fencing sword.  I bought the most flexible thirty inch sword I could find, with the intention of cutting it down to make it shorter.  When dithering about how much to cut it, Galen chimed in with "If you cut off at least five inches, I will make you a knife."  That decided it - my second fencing sword became twenty-five inches long.  (Cue the "that's a dagger!" comments now from the rapier crowd.)

The knife has a birch handle, wrapped in rawhide.  I love it.  My SCA name, Birke, means "birch" in German, and my heraldry includes three birch trees.

The sheath was cut out and tooled, then wet-formed to my knife and sewn shut.

The sheath fits the knife so tightly that it doesn't need to be tied - it takes a firm tug to remove the knife.  It doesn't fall out, no matter how much the sheath shakes or rotates.

The design is created with a mixture of dying, simple tooling (mostly carving with a swivel knife), and painting.

The handle is a braided leather thong, sewn together with white artificial sinew at the bottom to mimic the rawhide handle.

The top was cut to emphasize the branches.

There is an extra piece of leather sewn into the seam at the blade, to protect the thread from being cut by the knife.

The sheath is beautiful, simple, and extremely functional.  I love it.  ~Birke
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

5 Things Starting With the Letter...

There's an amusing game going around Facebook right now, where people name five things they like starting with a letter of the alphabet (assigned by someone else who's already poster their five things). I got assigned the letter O by my friend Esty. I am notoriously bad at games like this (I once couldn't come up with a single person in the bible whose name started with J). Struggling with this, I broke out my dictionary and had a lot of fun with this challenge.

Five things I like that start with O: (Really, O? Wtf? Now to try and make this PG...)

1. Oranges
2. Orange chocolate (so delicious)
3. Orange (the color) - especially as it relates to Halloween. Black and orange together are fun!

*breaks out the dictionary* (My mind is blanking beyond orangutans and opossums, which I don't really care about... I'm really bad at Scattergories, by the way.)

4. Oaks! In that I like trees in general.

(Don't really like oatmeal... heh, that word is not PG... objection! I object to this letter! ... oblique makes me think of triangles, which are pretty neat - I do love geometry... obsolescent is a fun word... aha!)

5. Ocarina of Time - I still have my N64, and I will replay this game every couple years. I've never actually finished it, though, as I always get 3/4 of the way through, get distracted, and then don't play for a year or two. By then I've forgotten so much of it that I start over.

I haven't held a dictionary in a while. This is kind of fun. I am continuing to look up "o" words. (Occult... no; oceans... eh, too salty, though snorkling in them near reefs and stingrays is fun.)

6. Ocelots! In that they are big cats (which are generally awesome, except for lions, which are boring - that mane breaks up the sleekness of them), and that they are also in Minecraft. They keep the Creepers out of my bases!

7. October! Because the leaves are changing colors, the air is nice and chilly, sometimes there is snow (more so when I lived in Minnesota), Halloween, and because it's not too far from my birthday.

Woah. The "Independent Order of Oddfellows" - a "secret social and benevolent society... which originated in various clubs formed in England in the 18th century... which is made up of local lodges." Weird.

8. Oddities! This includes me and the vast majority of my friends and hobbies. 

Hey, strange - there's an oe single vowel like the ae single vowel. I didn't know that.

9. Onyx - yay, rocks! The rocks and minerals exhibit in the Natural History Museum in DC is one of my favorite places.

10. Otters! Adorable and intelligent - they use tools! Also Seregil's animal form in the Nightrunner series (my favorite books), if I remember correctly. I would be happy to be an otter as an Animagus, though I can think of other forms that would be even more fun.

11. Overcast days. I love them. The sun hurts my eyes (why I will almost always be wearing a hat or hood outside). Overcast days can be really beautiful.

12. Oxygen. I like breathing and living.

13. Oyez/Oyes - ah, SCA heralds. I love the SCA.

14. The ozone layer, letting us live on this wonderful planet without getting fried by the sun. I hope we make more strides to combat climate change soon, so we can continue to live here for centuries and millennia to come.

And that was a fun trip through the O section of my dictionary! Leave a comment asking for a letter if you want to list 5 things you like starting with that letter.  I won't assign you a letter if you don't ask - I don't like trapping people!  Feel free to answer your 5 things here, or bring it to your own blog and link to it.  No reason why this game should be confined to FB!  ~Kell
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Baby Doll Basket

I made my toddler friend Snow a baby doll basket last year!  I was inspired by Dana at Dana Made It.  She posted a picture of a baby doll basket, and I was so inspired by that picture that I figured out how to make one.  She then came out with a pattern for it!  Dana is an incredibly talented blogger and sewer, and you should check out her site for lots of amazing tutorials, videos, and photos.

I originally was going to post a lot of photos of how I made this.  Now that Dana has a pattern for it, I'm only going to post the funny cat photos of the progress (there are a lot of those!).  Dana deserves to retain the credit for this cute design.

Both of my cats (but especially Gnome) thought that I was making them a great new cat bed. These photos still make me giggle - Gnome kept getting in the way during every single step of this project.

Oh look, Mom's stepped away for a moment again...

This is for me, yes?

Hey, hey!  I contrast so beautifully with the felt lining this.  I think it's for me, not my sister.

All done!  And cat-free (for a moment).

I made a little ruffled blanket and a tiny pillow.

Aha!  Wrapping paper!  It is truly mine now - both a comfy box and paper that crinkles when I touch it - it is clearly made for cats!

Sadly, Gnome was wrong.  She got booted out before the wrapping finished.  :)  ~Kell
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to Make a Spiderweb Shirt

I just made the coolest shirt, and I'm going to share how to make it with you!  I'm so excited by how this turned out.  It's a spiderweb shirt, just in time for Halloween.  This shirt takes a lot of patience to make, but it's definitely worth the effort.  Read on to find out how to make your own spiderweb shirt!

First, you need a black shirt, and a white shirt.  

You can start with a too-large long sleeve shirt and make it fit you, like I did, by following these steps:
  • Remove the sleeves just past the seams (leaving the seams attached to the shirt).  Turn the old seams under and zigzag them to hem them (using black thread).
  • Take in the sides a little (pin with safety pins so you don't stab yourself while measuring!).
  • Add darts in the front, so it fits your curves (if you have them - if not, you're done already!).  Since you're adding the spiderweb on top of them, don't bother to make the darts super even.

Once you have a black shirt to work with, you also need a large white shirt.  Cut open the white shirt so that you have the largest canvas with no seams: Cut off the sleeves (removing the seams), neckband, and hem, and then cut up one side and along one shoulder, so that the fabric will open flat.

Put your black shirt on your dress form (or a willing model), and drape the white tshirt fabric over it.  Aim for the center of the white fabric to be on a side seam of the shirt - this is where the middle of web sits.  Once your fabric is roughly pinned in place, draw the spiderweb onto the fabric with chalk.

After you have it marked, cut out all the holes in the web.  Yes, this does take forever.  Use a pair of very small sharp, pointy scissors, like thread snippers - they will more easily pierce the fabric to create the holes.

Before sewing the web to the shirt, gently hand-wash the white webbing to remove the chalk.  Normally chalk comes off in the wash, but you don't want any of it to get caught underneath the thread and not come out.  You can wash it in the sink with a little laundry detergent, gently swishing it around and then letting it soak for an hour.  Hang it up to fully dry before sewing it to the shirt.

Sew the web to the shirt, using white thread and a simple zigzag stitch:
  • Sew down the radiating lines:
    • Roughly pin just the radiating lines of the web to the shirt on the dress form.
    • Carefully try the shirt on, and make sure that the bars stretch over your body well (re-pin if necessary).
    • Cut off any parts of the web that extend off the edge of the shirt (it may have stretched out, as mine did, between sketching with chalk and now).
    • Zigzag stitch the radiating lines of the web.  Start at the end of one, stitch to the center, then stitch down the next radiating line to its end.  Just sew a single zigzag stitch down the center of the lines - the goal is to anchor the web in place now, not sew down all the edges.
  • Sew the outer edge of the web:
    • Pin the outer web edges into the curves you want.
    • Sew a zigzag stitch around the outer edge of the outside web circle.
    • Sew a zigzag stitch around the inner edge of the outside web circle.
  • Sew the inner web circles:
    • Pin them into the curves you want.
    • Sew a zigzag stitch around the outer edges of the web circles.
    • Sew a zigzag stitch around the inner edges of the web circles.
  • Sew along the two edges of the radiating lines.
  • Make sure all the edges are sewn down everywhere.

It takes a long time to sew all those edges down, but it looks amazing when it's finished!  By taking the time to sew along each edge, it won't unravel in the wash and come apart.

Here is what the inside of the shirt looks like!  You can clearly see all the lines that were sewn.  If you're looking for a quicker version of this shirt, perhaps try just sewing the white lines directly on the black shirt.

Almost done!  The shirt might have some odd puckering problems now.  The main problem mine had was in the exact center of the web - it stuck out, because all of the stitching made it a little stiff.  

I solved this puckering problem by cinching the center of the web and hand-sewing it with black thread.  The center just looks a little smaller than it used to, unless you get very close to it and notice the black stitches in the middle.

After solving any potential puckering problems, the spiderweb shirt shirt is done!

Have fun impressing your friends at a Halloween party in your new shirt!  Please send me photos if you end up making this - I'll share them on the blog!  ~Kell
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