Thursday, September 30, 2010

Updating Old Shoes.

I'm loving this Krylon tutorial on how to update a pair of old shoes, courtesy of Craft. When I find a good pair of shoes, I just don't want to say goodbye to them, often wearing them until they are totally scuffed and destroyed. This would be a great way to breathe new life into a favourite old pair! I also can't stop thinking about the other possibilities for these pens (their advertising worked on me, apparently).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spinning Yarn!

Last night, Mike and I went to the knitting night at the Vancouver Hack Space, and I got to try spinning my own yarn! It was amazingly fun, and surprisingly easy! There was a woman there named Penny who I has been spinning her own yarn for many years and makes her own drop spindles.

I am dying to try making my own! I was spinning on one that was made of nothing more than a toy car wheel, a piece of dowling and a picture hook. They may be having a craft night in a couple of weeks where you can make your own spindle - stay tuned. Apparently she got 5 fleeces of wool from someone on Craigslist for free - even delivered. I'm so jealous!

There's a video on how to make one here. And an eHow article here, and one on how to make a spindle from old CDs here. The yarn I have is natural, and a perfect excuse to try dying with food colouring once I finish spinning

There is a simple article on how to use a drop spindle here, and a wikiHow here with a good, but long video on how to spin here. The pre-drafting of the wool isn't really necessary, but her video tutorial for it is here.

Apparently you don't even need to spin 2 strands of yarn together, but the twist in the yarn will shift your pattern, unless it includes the same number of pearl and knit stitches - like an even numbered rib. There are some patterns that incorporate this property of "energized" yarn to make some neat patterns.

Penny had some interesting ideas on spinning with feathers, and naturally coloured cotton, and energized knitting patterns, and spinning in beads... Oh my god, I will never sleep again!

There was also talk of bringing a mini Maker Faire to Vancouver! I am so excited!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Photography at Night

Not that long ago, I purchased a used Nikon d50 digital SLR camera, and only recently started really playing around with the features. The feature that most interested me about this camera was the ability to take long exposure photographs - especially after I saw the northern lights a couple of times in Iqaluit - I wanted pictures.

Alaska Photo Graphics has a good page describing how to set up your camera (and yourself) to photograph the northern lights, but the online manual (and probably the non-online version) for my camera sucks. It happily describes the relationship between sensitivity, exposure, and aperture, but is terrible at describing HOW TO CHANGE THESE ON THE CAMERA. Isn't that the point?

There are some good online resources for digital photography, including the Digital Photography School.

A few things are key to photographing at night. The main one is long exposure. The max for my camera without getting a shutter release attachment is 30 seconds. The problem with long exposures is you need to keep the camera still. And I didn't have a tripod - so my images depended greatly on where I could find a stable surface on which to rest my camera...

Long exposure of lights, with a jittery hand...

Also, when you're in the city, it's hard to get the exposure just right. My images often turned out a little too bright, but it made for some neat effects.

Iqaluit at night

The second problem with photographing in the dark is FOCUS. The only trick I know for photographing the sky at night is to auto focus on something distant during the day, then switch your focus to manual and wait for night WITHOUT TOUCHING THE FOCUS. Not an easy task, and some of my photos could have had better focus.

Poorly focused image of boat.

All in all, it was a fun exercise. I never did get to see the northern lights after I figured out how to use my camera, but it probably would have been tough to take photos of the sky without a tripod anyhow... But I did learn a lot about my camera, and that next time I go north, I should bring my tripod. The rest of my photos are on my Picasa Web Album.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Need New Clothes - BAD!

One thing I like about working in the field is that you can stop caring what you look like. It really doesn't matter - nice clothes will just get destroyed anyhow, your hair is always a mess, and you wind up with bruises and scrapes all over your body. You even shower less for lack of water. Someone has to fill the water tanks, so it just seems cruel to shower as long and as often as you do at home - so you stay dirty.

This is a huge contrast to the work I do when I'm at home. I work in the office 5 days a week. I need to look presentable since the president of the company is two offices down, and investors can show up at any time. It makes things interesting when loads of samples come into the office and you have to do physical labour while in a pencil skirt, tights, and heels...

I tend to forget about my office clothes while in the field. I forget about my going-out clothes as well, so I come back at the end of the summer with fresh eyes on my wardrobe.

This year, upon returning home, I have realized that I pretty much need an entire new wardrobe. This has likely been partly caused by the fact that I have been watching a lot of Project Runway lately, and am realizing just how ridiculous most of my clothes are.

I haven't been shopping in ages, and sort of lost my connection with my sewing machine for a while. I bought a huge office-worthy wardrobe when I started this job, but that was over two years ago. Some things have warped and don't fit me anymore, while the ones I loved are just getting too old and ragged to wear.

And my casual clothes, I have had for far too long. I realize now that they are mostly for someone about 5 years younger than I am. Most of my shirts are T-shirts with Roller Derby logos on them, and I just don't feel like I can pull that kind of look off anymore...

The fun part is that I get to reinvent myself, but I hate shopping for clothes. So, I have to do a lot of sewing in the next little while... Whee! It's going to be interesting trying to make a cohesive wardrobe - I have always made individual pieces without thinking about how they fit in with the rest of my clothes, but I'm going to try and make it all fit together somehow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Octopus Cake!!

This is a totally cool octopus cake - it's kind of weirding me out.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Digital Rights Management Made Me a Criminal.

Field work is wonderful, but it does have its drawbacks. Today, I had a ticket to see Screeching Weasel in Seattle. This will be the first time they have toured since a brief reunion in 2004 - but this will be the first time without original band member, Jughead. They were one of my favourite bands in high school (and still are), but I have never had the opportunity to see them live, since they're broken up more than they are together.

Since I am still in Iqaluit for work, and the show is taking place in Seattle, I will clearly not be making the concert. In celebration of this day, I wanted to play my favourite Screeching Weasel album in the warehouse - Kill the Musicians - but I, unfortunately, didn't bring it with me here.

I decided to try and find an online MP3 album that I could purchase to download, but I made the following discovery: Any places that allow the purchase and download of MP3 albums don't allow you to purchase from Canada.

Why is that? I don't think that Canada is any more strict with DRM than other countries. But, for some strange reason, the only place to purchase and download music (that I found) for Canadians is iTunes.

So, what's wrong with iTunes? Well, I, like many people, don't have an iPod. Or and iPad, or any other Apple product. iTunes only allows you to download Apple's special proprietary music files, which can only be played on their products. So, you have to download their special software just to be able to listen to the music you buy. It's a win-win-win situation for them because, now that all your music is in their format, well, you're only going to be able to purchase their products to play them. How fair is that?

So, since I wasn't going to be able to play anything I download from iTunes on my portable player (a Nintendo DS with a chip in it...), there was no way I was going to be able to purchase the album in digital form.

So I had to download it illegally. Their DRM methods made a criminal of me. And I didn't get to support the band like I wanted to. I did, however, find a really cool website while I was hunting around for the album. Ramone to the Bone is a blog that posts nothing but links to downloads of albums for Ramones-inspired bands. Their database is HUGE. For any punk-lover out there, it is worth checking out, for sure.

In my opinion, file-sharing isn't going to hurt the music industry. Anyone who has ever downloaded music knows that most of what you get is crap. It's labeled incorrectly, the sound is bad, you get incomplete albums... Any music worth listening to is worth purchasing, just so you know you have the best quality. The MP3 should be embraced as a format for selling the album virtually worldwide. Most people don't have hard copies of music any more, and when they do, it gets loaded on to the computer and tossed aside. Let's just do away with all this CD nonsense!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tasty Gluten-Free Recipes...

I've been trying to eat gluten-free lately (at least, when I'm at home I do), and when I heard the name of this recipe from Canelle et Vanille, I was stoked: Gluten-Free Yogurt, Walnut, Apple, Olive Oil Cake. Sounds so scrumptious!

The unfortunate thing is that it is meant to be a wheat flour cake, but it has a variation to use all-purpose gluten-free flour and xantham gum instead of wheat flour. I think I prefer to know what goes into my food, and using a generic gluten-free flour mix doesn't appeal to me. Maybe I'll have to experiment once I'm back home (I've been saying that about a lot of things).

I also want to try this gluten-free zucchini-banana bread. Yum!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Independent Video Games!!

One of the fun things about PAX is being introduced to new games. Not only the big-name blockbuster hits, but the small independent games. Indie games are often made on low budgets with small teams, and so to make it big, they really have to rely on the design of the underlying game play.

Most of these games can be played right on your browser, many of them for free. I came away from the convention with a list of games I was dying to play; I think I was the only one there making my list with an old-fashioned pen-and-paper (instead of a smart phone...). Here are my picks:

-Windosill: A lovely atmosperic point-and-click adventure. I really enjoyed playing this one. You can play through about half the game for free (which isn't very long), and for only 3$ you can get a code to play through the second half, which is just as interesting. The worlds you are in are totally crazy and completely interactive.

-Today I Die: This is a truly unique game. It's an interactive poem that you can play through entirely for free in your browser. Changing the words of the poem change the words of the poem changes the world you play in - trying to make a sad, depressing statement into a happy and uplifting one. A fun, quick little play.

-Machinarium: Machinarium is an amazing little point-and-click interactive about a adorable little robot on an adventure to find his girlfriend. The artwork is beautiful, and the puzzles are super cute. I only had the chance to play through the first 3 or 4 demo worlds, but I loved it. If it weren't for lack of time I would have played the whole thing.

-Elude: Elude is a very quick play game designed to emulate the difference between a happy mood, and a state of depression. The idea is there, and the game is cute, but I don't think it fully succeeds in dragging you into the emotions it sets out to capture. Nonetheless, it is interesting and innovative.

The rest of the games on this list, I have yet to play. I will post reviews when I do!

-Devil's Tuning Fork
-Puzzle Bots
-AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! - A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
-Boryokudan Rue
-Fowl Space
-Plane Weaver
-Small Worlds
-Avernum 6
-The Journey Down
-Desktop Dungeons

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How to Market your Crafts

I have been thinking for a while now about starting to make crafts to sell. Ultimately, I'd like to cut back my time working - to seasonal or part-time (wouldn't we all), and make a little extra cash doing what I love the rest of the time. The idea of MAKING the crafts may be great, but how do I sell them? I know nothing about marketing, and am terrible at networking. An Etsy shop is the obvious choice, but Etsy has become so overwhelming, it's easy for one shop to get lost in it. So, what to do?

This is why I was so excited when I found this article through Paper and Stitch: 25 Ways Artists and Craftspeople can Market Their Work. There are some great and simple ideas for getting your name and product out there for people to see. It seems a little less daunting now. The next thing I need is time to get everything set up...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Adjusting the Bust on Sewing Patterns

Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing
is a great sewing blog. Gertie tries some really fun stuff, and I have learned techniques I never even thought existed by reading it.

One of my favourite things she is doing at the moment is a sew-along for a coat. Such a fantastic idea, and a way to learn step-by-step how to not only sew a garment, but how to make it fit your body precisely. She is answering questions all the while. If I weren't so VERY far from my sewing machine at the moment, I would be sewing along. As is, I may just have to catch up when I get home :)

Learning to alter patterns appropriately is one thing I need to do. Gertie linked to a tutorial today on how to adjust the bust size of a garment to fit. Apparently it's better to size a garment according to your high bust, rather than your actual bust (measuring under your armpits, but above the full part of your chest). I'm not super gifted in the area, but I'm not flat either, and whenever I make a garment to fit my bust, the shoulders are too wide. I'm hoping to use this tutorial the next time I make a top, so that it fits me correctly! She's also recommended the book Fit for Real People as a resource on how to fit garments. I need to look into making that purchase...

On a completely separate note, a few things have shown up on the Craft blog that caught my eye:

- Neozoon's fuzzy animal art. Luxurious graffiti, who would have thought!
-These canning jars by Weck are so lovely, and look very practical. They show of their contents well, and most have large, reusable lids that I love.
-Apparently they have a nice collection of free patterns over at Living Crafts. I will have to take the time to check it out one of these days...
-The photos from Caboodle Ranch kind of creeped me out; they make the cats look like giants!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


For those who don’t know about PAX, PAX is 3 days of awesomeness put on by the creators of Penny Arcade twice annually (once in Seattle, once in Boston). It’s focus is on gaming and the community and culture surrounding it. There is an exhibition hall where new video games can be tested before they are released. There are panels on gaming topics (a discussion of the 25th anniversary of the release of the NES, how to raise children in a gaming family, etc.). There are panels just for the hell of it (The Wil Wheaton hour and live Dungeons and Dragons, to name a few). I have a whole list of games I was introduced to that I have to play...

There are screenings of films, there are concerts, there are gaming tournaments, including the Omegathon – the final round of which marks the end of the convention. The game for this round is a total surprise, even to the participants, until the last moment. This year it was the Claw – you know, that frustrating game where you put your quarters in and try to pick up stuffed animals? They played it versus, live, on stage, in front of 2500 people. It was EPIC!

One of my favourite things about going to PAX is the cosplay. I don’t usually go all out – mostly I just wear some form of interesting head gear. This year, I finally got another opportunity to wear my squid hat I made for Cthulhupalooza a couple of years back. This hat is a recreation of one I found at Estee's House of Fine Squid Hats. They weren't being sold at the time, so I made my own. Since then, he has made a shop of it, and I totally recommend it, though there doesn't appear to be anything on Etsy at the time. These hats are awesome, and I have had requests to make them from many a friend.

While at the convention, I ran into another girl with a squid hat that her friend had made, and I couldn’t resist a photo. So cute!

I didn't bring my good camera, and only got a handful of photos from PAX. Check them out on my Picasa Web Album here.

Another piece of headgear I wore (and sadly, forgot to get a picture of) was a knit wig I made using this pattern from I had been dying to make a wig like this for ages, and finally got one finished while in Iqaluit in a deep red colour. The funny thing is that it’s almost the same cut as my actual hair, but way creepier in knit form. My boyfriend said that it reminded him of Lego hair…

Tons of people dress up for the convention (like the StarCraft characters below. Too cool!), and I really admire them. REALLY. Those outfits have to be so uncomfortable, and they are constantly getting stopped for photos. Some of them I’m sure are paid by the makers of the game, but most of them are just adoring fans who really REALLY like cosplay. I love the dedication!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How and Why to Donate Your Hair!

For about two years now, I have been growing my hair out in order to donate it to charity. I got the idea when I came back from the field and my hair had grown out so much that after a cut, it was pretty much all my natural hair colour – one of the requirements for making a hair donation.

I hate growing my hair out. I haven’t really had long hair since I was in high school, so I decided it was time to see what long hair was like again. Now, in order to donate hair, you have to meet the minimum length requirements. Most people have heard of Locks of Love – they have a minimum donation length of 10”. I didn’t feel I would have the patience to grow my hair that long, so I went for the Pantene Beautiful Lengths, who only require a donation length of 8”. Having a goal was what forced me to keep going through all the times I REALLY wanted to cut my hair off - not because I didn't like it long, but I have a tendency to get bored with it...

A few weeks ago, I measured, and realized that my hair had passed the 8” mark. I was enjoying my long hair, but since it’s a pain in the ass in the field, I decided to get it cut off and make the donation. So during my last break, that’s what I did.

Making a hair donation is super simple. You just go to your regular hairdresser, and before they wash your hair, while it is clean and dry, you get them to tie it into a ponytail at the nape of your neck and cut above the elastic, saving the ponytail for a donation. The ponytail itself has to meet the minimum length requirement for the donation.

You then get your hair styled as you wish. As for the ponytail, you put it in a zip-loc bag to mail it to your charity of choice. I find it kind of funny that my hair went to Wisconsin without me… They collect hair to be made into wigs that will be donated to people with illnesses that cause hair loss. Pantene Beautiful Lengths makes wigs for cancer patients. Funny thing about that...

I went into the office today to grab a couple of things before heading back up North, and saw a bunch of people in the office I haven’t seen much this summer. There was a lot of talk about my new hair cut and my reason for growing out my hair, when one of my co-workers (who had been away on maternity leave and had no idea about my plan to donate my hair) grabbed me and pulled me into our corporate secretary’s office. It turns out that while I was away, our corporate secretary was diagnosed with breast cancer, and is currently going through chemotherapy. She now wears a wig, partly made by donated human hair like my own (wouldn’t it be creepy if it was mine?). Everyone in the office was thanking me for the donation – it made me feel so amazingly great.

For once, I was pretty sure I had done something right, and it made me feel so proud. It’s such a simple thing to give. I know some people who make a hair donation every year, and call for as many people they know to do it. I highly recommend it – for me, it was nothing but a positive experience, and I'm sure it enriched the life of someone else in the process.

Also, I really like my new short hair! Here's the only (fuzzy) photo I could find of it from PAX (I was mostly wearing various hats - here at least it was only kitty ears). PAX was awesome and I will post on it tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Desert Bus for Hope - How You Can Help!

I just got back from Iqaluit, and went straight to Seattle for PAX - North America's largest gaming convention. It's crazy good fun, and I will make a more detailed post in the very near future.

At PAX was a video game themed sketch comedy group from Victoria called Loading Ready Run. If you've never seen their videos before, one of my favourites is How to talk like a pirate, perfect for Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th!).

Every year, Loading Ready Run hosts a fundraiser for Childsplay called Desert Bus for Hope. This year, it starts on November 19th. Check out the blog for the event here.

Desert Bus for Hope is basically a video game marathon with the most boring video game ever made (though not released) where you drive back and forth across the desert in real time. The road is straight, and there are no other drivers, but the bus slowly drifts off the road, so you constantly have to input commands.

There's a nice little news story on YouTube here that explains the event pretty well, but basically, there are a series of drivers taking shifts playing the game 24 hours a day. Previous years they had 4 drivers playing in shifts of 4 hours. This year, they have 5 drivers, and they will be each playing shifts of 24 hours. That's right - 24 hours of the most boring game ever made. And the bonus is that the more money they raise, the longer they have to play - so if they raise enough, the first person to play will have to go all over again!

In conjunction with the video game marathon, they are actually having a Desert Bus Craft along. If you are a crafter and have something they could auction off, be sure to check out their blog post on the Craft Along - they have a super cute video describing how to send in your craft for the auction too!

You can also watch the entire game marathon in real time. Make sure you contribute to keep them driving!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Styrofoam Shoes?

Lately, I haven't been able to get the idea out of my head of making my own shoes. Oh, who am I kidding - I've been wanting to do it for a LONG time, but can't quite picture how I'm going to pull it off, and thus can't totally get motivated.

I'd like to start just with a pair of ballet slippers. There are tutorials online, but I think I'll just make it up as I go along...? I love ballet slippers because it's simple to make a prototype (in theory, not that I've done it yet), and you can embellish them all you want - buttons, bows, piping - the sky's the limit!

This post from the Etsy handmade blog got my creative juices flowing. It's more of a case of "re-fashioning" shoes than making shoes, but the comment at the end of the post about the possibility of using yoga mats instead of old flip-flop soles made me wonder: what else can you use?

Of course, I've been in the North, with not much time and none of my normal resources for crafting, but I've been staring at the things around me, wondering what I could do with them once I get back and it hit me - styrofoam containers.

They're not recyclable, but often come with our every day purchases. I think making them into the soles of shoes would be a great way to re-use them. And I won't feel bad if I waste a few in the process :)

But, how to attach them to things and turn them into shoes? I have been dying for an excuse to use the amazing This to That site. You simply input two things you want to glue together, and it will tell what you need to do it! Genius!