Friday, 31 July 2015

cosplay prep - jayne cobb (& lara croft cross over)

So, yesterday I shared a post about preparing Ben's Kaylee costume for comic con last weekend. Today I want to share the prep that went into my costume. I put together a costume for a female version of Jayne from Firefly (Kaylee is from Firefly too!). After Saturday I really fancied Lara-Crofting-it-up a bit, and did a sort of mash-up of Lara and Jayne. Though no-one 'got' the costume, it was a lot of fun!
Before I get to the hand-made section of my cosplay, you can buy the iconic Blue Sun top from Redbubble - I opted for the tank top version as Jayne wears his in the show cut up into a tank, as many a body builder seems to do. The trousers are from Forever 21 - £6.99 in the sale, so may be unavailable now. 
I had a total of three plastic toy guns for my costume. My 'Vera' is a non-painted Nerf Zombie Strike Slingfire Blaster (what a name, right?) which I bought as a Christmas present for Ben last Christmas. He designed the simple over the should strap, I sewed it up, and it was easily looped round the ends of the gun, which happened to have 2 handy loops available for such a purpose.
The short, stubby gun is a painted over Nerf Dart Tag Sharp Shot Blaster, another Christmas present for Ben bought the year before. He very nicely offered to paint the brightly coloured sections of the gun for me so as to fit in better with the look of the costume! He did this using acrylic paints.
Finally, the shotgun style gun is a simple Wii controller attachment which I bought from a charity shop for £3. The gun was completely white (unfortunately I didn't get a picture beforehand, but take a look here to see what I mean), before I gave it a black acrylic base-coat, and layered up browns, coppers, silvers and more black to give it the more 'realistic' look. Needless to say we were very proud of how these guns turned out!

Of course, if I wanted to take guns, I needed something to carry them in, but also show off all the hard work we put into them. Plus what sort of 'space cowboy' (I can say that right?) doesn't have her guns ready to roll when Reavers come to town? I used Pinterest as a base for the inspiration for the holsters, following various pictures as guides. Both holsters are constructed from brown poly-cotton fabric, with the larger pieces re-enforced with iron-on interfacing. Every piece of the holsters is made from two pieces of fabric, sewn together and ironed flat, then all constructed together using top stitching. I was really stressing about making the holsters, but hopefully you will agree then ended up turning out pretty ok! And no guns were lost over the weekend. 
And here's one I made earlier ... You may recognise this hat as the one I actually knitted a few months ago! At the time I hadn't necessarily intended to cosplay as Jayne any time soon, but I was definitely thinking about it as a possibility one day, and when last month I decided we would cosplay Firefly (I decide the costumes as currently I fund them - quite happily though!) it was perhaps encouraged slightly by the fact that I already had something integral ready to go. I knit this hat using Lion Brand Vanna's Choice, and using this pattern.
Finished look

Lara Cobb / Jayne Croft = just lose the hat, add some bandages and blood/grim, and a French braid

Thursday, 30 July 2015

cosplay prep - kaylee frye

You may have seen over on Facebook and Instagram that this weekend I attended another comic con - this time the Manchester MCM Comic Con! This time last year I attended the same show, which was my very first taste of comic conventions, and now I can't get enough! In particular the cosplay is my absolute favourite part about attending these conventions.
For this convention a lot more hand-made prep went into mine and Ben's costumes, so rather than share some cosplay/picture posts, instead I will show you first what I made to create Ben's male version of Kaylee Frye, and then later this week I will show you the prep that went into my female version of Jayne Cobb. Both characters are from one of our favourite shows - Firefly
As we know from 'Shindig' and 'Serenity', Kaylee loves to eat fresh strawberries, undoubtedly a precious commodity in the 'verse 500 years from now. Making sure Ben had a couple of strawberries to hand, for pictures, was a no brainer. I crocheted these using a great free pattern which can be found here. I managed to make 2 in a single evening, after having done some sewing for my costume (more on that later) and 3 would have been ideal, but I was tired. I heartily recommend the pattern!
Although Kaylee doesn't carry her parasol round all day long, it has become iconic and symbolic to anyone cosplaying Kaylee. She is seen holding the parasol in the first episode 'Serenity'. Instead of buying a ready painted version from Etsy, I instead bought a plain white parasol from Brolliesgalore via Amazon (currently out of stock unfortunately), and painted the design myself using basic acrylic paints bought from The Works. If only I could have knit/crochet every aspect of the costume, eh?
It turned out to be a very therapeutic exercise, painting the umbrella, and I am delighted with the bold colours and the way it added to Ben's overall look.

Kaylee has clearly personalised her signature green mechanic's overalls with cute embellishments, including a teddy bear patch, a small heart, and a tiny blue flower. Unfortunately I didn't get round to adding the blue flower, but the teddy bear and the heart were made simply by drawing the shapes onto felt, cutting and sewing into place. The teddy took a little more work as I drew the outline of the bear directly onto the felt with a black Sharpie in order to better define the image, though I think I will replace this in the future with a bought version of the patch.
Finished Look

If you want to see more pictures of the con as a whole though, don't forget to like me on Facebook to see those, and many more things! 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

yarn along

I've been meaning to try and take part in more blog link ups as I work hard to update this blog and keep it all about what I love. Ginny from Small Things very kindly hosts a weekly link up on a Wednesday, simply called 'Yarn Along', in which participants share their current yarny projects, alongside what they happen to be reading this week! I always love reading Elise's posts on this link up and I need to get out there and see some more!

I don't usually write about what I read on this space of mine, but I do love to read and I am currently working through a 2015 Goodreads Reading challenge (on track to read 45 books by December!), so this should prove to be a nice way to share briefly with you what I'm up to in one of my other (very many) hobbies, while combining it with a knitted or crocheted update!  

And if you have visited today from the Yarn Along, please say hello and share some links with me and my lovely readers! 

Currently knitting an exciting and challenging garment for myself! I'm working on a vest, using this pattern (which is actually written in the Japanese chart style!). Not only has this been a challenge to decipher the pattern, but I've opted to knit the garment as a single piece rather than 3 panels, and I've adjusted the pattern up to an adult size, from a teen size. I will be sure to share any notes on the Ravelry project page.

Currently reading a comic book called Rat Queens. I've literally just started this booking, having just come to the end of a Joe Abercrombie novel called Before They Are Hanged. I bought these comic volumes on the recommendation of a dear friend, and I need a break following the Abercrombie tale before I delve into the final of the bloody, gritty, fantasy trilogy. I'll tell you more about how Rat Queens goes over on Goodreads!

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.


Sunday, 19 July 2015

#christmasinjuly - calling all craft-swappers!

Have you seen the #christmasinjuly hash tag knocking about social media, particularly on Twitter? I hope that, like me, this gets you all excited for Christmas! And if it doesn't, I understand as it is still 5 and a half months away ... who am I kidding, get excited already!!

Perhaps you haven't a clue why this even exists as a thing? There are a few reasons that spring to mind, that I've seen evidence of. The first, this is the time of year many brands/companies roll out their Christmas lines in various press shows and releases, in order that we can be prepared for what's to come - much like clothing lines releasing Spring/Summer lines in the New Year.

Secondly, the southern hemisphere is of course currently mid-winter, and so while we in the northern hemisphere celebrates a 'traditional' Christmas (well, a cold one!) they have theirs mid-summer. So why not be awesome and have two Christmases?! You can read more about this, and other interesting #christmasinjuly traditions here.

Finally, crafters need to get their thinking caps on early in order to best plan and prepare Christmas gifts, craft fairs and online festive sales. So, half way through the year (to Christmas) is surely a polite length of time to wait before planning Christmas makes again! With the time it takes to knit and crochet gifts, you gotta start early - y'know what I'm sayin'?

no matter what time of year, knitted Father Christmas can't help but eat knitted Christmas puds!
Are you interested in a Christmas Craft Swap?

So in the spirit of this, although I haven't begun any serious gift planning yet (though I am always wondering), I wanted to put some feelers out early and call anyone interested to take part in a crafty Christmas swap!

Perhaps you have a blog, or perhaps you don't! Not to worry, I think you should just be willing to make something lovely, and buy one or two presents for your swapee and I envision organising this so that gifts can be recieved before Christmas

There are no specifics thought out yet, but depending on responses and interest here are some early, tentative guide lines,
  • the swap could be open internationally
  • you don't need to knit or crochet, but crafting will be a must in the swap, as we all know recieving a well thought handmade gift, and sending one, is such a great feeling
  • you must be willing to put a little thought and effort into your gift - I'm not saying we need to go to town, but I've done a few craft swaps now where I've either received nothing in return, or what I have received has obviously had no thought put in, and it's a little upsetting
  • I think a minimum spend on a bought gift to accompany the handmade item will be £5 
  • Christmas theme is a must, I may choose to focus on one aspect, such as snow-people or Father Christmas
If you think you are interested, comment below, hit me up on social media (see all buttons to the right, I'm active on them all!) or email me at
Once I have some interested generated over the next few months I will be sure to get in touch with everyone and post on here! 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

working in the garden

Perhaps continuing the 'slightly-different-sort-of-post' theme, I've really taken to gardening over the last few months, and really basically wanted to show off how well it (seems to be) going! I've never gardened before, and I sort of just plunged in when Ben brought me some strawberry plants a few months ago, and I really love it more than I expected!
Betty the scarecrow keeping an eye on my strawberry plants
larkspur giant imperial mixed; rudbeckia gloriosa daisies; lavender; cottage garden annuals
larkspur giant imperial mixed; rudbeckia gloriosa daisies; lavender; cottage garden annuals

Technically gardening is a crafting of a sort, right? You work at it, using creativity and patience and your hands, with the intent to make (grow) something your own. It also gives the same glow of satisfaction to see the plants growing tall and strong, much like seeing a jumper or blanket come together as you knit/crochet away. I didn't expect to quite enjoy this hobby so thoroughly, as you need a lot of patience and research (which I have done pretty much none of, relying on intuition!) and you need to take good care of your plants. But man oh man I love gardening! Even pulling out the weeds and cutting back other weeds is fun in a way. I'm trying to bring some order to our garden - of which there currently is none, hence growing my plants in my pots at the moment.
first harvest from the garden!
Growing fruit is the most exciting so far though. As you can see the strawberries are growing nicely on 4 of my 5 plants (I call that success) and some of them look like they are going to be really big and fat, yippee! I also bought a reduced price tomato plant a while a go, on the verge of death but it was cheap so I though what the hey. From no more than 6 inches it now is taller than my hip! There is no fruit on that one yet, but I am still hopeful. And as you can see the raspberry plant has yielded some juicy fruit already! I didn't even plant this one, it genuinely just appeared in the garden this year, but I'm not complaining in my current green-fingered state it's all good news for me!

Currently crafting

Of course it's not all compost and pruning in my crafty ways. I'm currently working on 2 big projects that I am excited to see come to fruition (see the theme!). The first is a crochet granny square blanket that I hope will make a huge dent in my current stash leading up to Christmas crafting, where I will inevitably buy many more skeins. I was inspired to do this by this project over on Ravelry, and you can keep up with my progress on my project page.

I've also cast on this vest and I am really excited about this project! The pattern is a Japanese diagram pattern, which I have never come across before and I've really enjoyed deciphering it. Not only that but I've decided this will be my first major modified project. Only in so much that I will knit it as a single piece instead of 3 seperare pieces, I will add some legnth and width, and hopefully I will work out how to make the arm holes a little larger to. Much maths and working out has already gone into this, and if it works (oh I hope it will) it will feel amazing! You can keep up with the progress on my project page.

Phew - as you can see I've been pretty busy on the hobby and crafting side, as well as playing Final Fantasy VII a lot on the PSP, which is what I like!

Have a lovely rest of the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

barbie pencil skirt - free knitting pattern

This is something a little unusual for me, and is quite different from the other patterns that I've written. One day I would love to be able to design knitting patterns for my own jumpers and cardigans and other items of clothing, and I decided that starting with Barbie clothes would hopefully help me to understand better shaping/increases/decreases etc. 
Not that Barbie has the most realistic body figure I grant you!
Nevertheless, last month I set myself the challenge of designing at least one item of clothing for Barbie, and I came up with this simple but rather fashionable skirt. So now your Barbie doesn't need cold knees in this changeable British weather! 


3.25mm knitting needles
10 - 20g of 4-ply yarn in a colour of your choice (I used Red Heart Margareta in 1195 Green)
Tapestry needle
A Barbie to model your finished skirt!

40 stitches x 44 rows = 10cm x 10cm
stocking stitch using 3.25mm needles

Using 3.25mm needles and 4-ply yarn cast on 28 stitches
Row 1 - *k1, p1* rib pattern, repeat to the end of the row
Rows 2-3 - repeat rib pattern
Row 4 - knit
Row 5 - purl
Row 6 - knit
Row 7 - purl
Row 8 - *k6, kfb* repeat 4 times (32)
Row 9 - purl
Row 10 - knit
Row 11 - purl
Row 12 - *k7, kfb* repeat 4 times (36)
Row 13 - purl
Row 14 - knit 
Row 15 - purl
Row 16 - *k8, kfb* repeat 4 times (40)
Row 17 - purl
Row 18 - knit
Row 19 - purl
Row 20 - *k9, kfb* repeat 4 times (44)
Row 21 - purl
Rows 22-31 - starting with a knit row, continue in stocking stitch for 10 rows
Cast off and sew your skirt together (the seam goes at the back)

The top is not my own design - if you would like to knit the top to go with this skirt you can find the free pattern here

before and after skirts 
Designing this was a really good experience for me, and boosted my confidence immensely when I pretty much nailed the overall shape of the skirt in one (because I had been planning and thinking about this in my head an awful lot!). I had to tweak the size of the skirt as the first was way too large, but this was also a fun exercise which (I hope) will help me understand altering sizes more when it comes to 'real people' clothes.
As a result of this design I am actually really eager to start work on a pencil skirt for myself! I think this will be an autumn/late summer job before I start - too busy with other things at the moment, and hoping the heat in the UK will come back soon!
Watch this space over the coming months for people sized versions of clothes (I hope!) and perhaps some more knitted garments for your Barbie!
You can find the Ravelry pattern page here.

This pattern is for personal use only, please do not sell items made from this pattern. Please do not republish this pattern as your own/without permission.

Friday, 3 July 2015

fo: aran garter stitch cardigan

I do so love being able to share an FO post that is a satisfyingly large project, particularly one that has been lurking around my room and projects-to-start/WIP pile for some time ... 
Linking up this week with hardknitlife Freshly Finished Friday and iknead2knit Flash You Finishes!

Pattern - Aran Garter Stitch Cardigan
Yarn - Hayfield Bonus Aran Tweed (shade brown)
Ravelry project page - here 
I recieved 2 huge balls of Aran Tweed as a Christmas gift last year, intended to make this cardigan, but it was only in the beginning of May that I finally cast-on (as is the way with all projects, eh?) and I worked on this cardigan over the next month and a half. 
It is a very straightforward, clear pattern - one size fits all, all garter stitch, simple increases and decreases - which was very appealing to me. This, and the fact that all the pictures on Raveler's project pages made it clear this would be a versatile and fashionable cardigan. All in all a fast, satisfying knit.
It was knit using 5mm circular needles - and circular needles are definitely a MUST here. The whole thing is a single knitted piece and so, as you can imagine, when knitting with aran tweed yarn, things started to get heavy and warm. Circular needles are a wonder to evenly distribute the weight and made for a comfortable experience!

There are two reasons why this ultimately took me a month and a half to knit, when I'm fairly certain it could have been finished a lot faster. Firstly, when I really got into the swing of knitting at the beginning of June, and was adding the inches really quickly, I was struck senseless by the Norovirus, and was bedridden for a week. I've never before been unable to do anything except lie in bed and (tentatively) sip Lucozade Sport. Which, obviously, meant knitting was out of the question: heartbreaking stuff. 
Secondly, even when I finally cast the cardigan on, it took quite a bit of time and energy to really become engaged and to want to see it grow every day. The simplicity of the pattern is also one of the bane's of this project - it would just get very boring. 
Nothing but knit rows, no patterning, minimal increase/decrease variation, and when there was it was just the same step repeated. 
I don't want you to get the wrong impression though, I would heartily and enthusiastically recommend this pattern to anyone (beginner, moderate, or experienced knitter). It was very pleasant, once in the swing of the project, to be able to knit and knit and chat and knit and watch TV, without having to constantly check the pattern, but knowing this simple knit would become a lovely cardigan!
H&M dress £14.99 - recent summery purchase
All in all I am extremely pleased with this knit, and when lil' sis took these pictures I had just worn the cardigan with pride to work that day! (This is the day before the mega heat hit the UK.)
I can whole heartedly recommend this pattern. I would suggest choosing a different yarn to my choice however; I opted for the economy option, and though the quality of the yarn is very goood for the price, the cardigan is a little 'thicker' than if I had opted for a slightly more luxury yarn (think Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran - mmm imagine excuse to knit this again me thinks!)