Wednesday, 29 June 2016

yarn along

It's been a while (again) since I've joined in with Ginny's yarn along (incidentally, a huge congratulations Ginny on the birth of your daughter, Mabel :) your pictures are simply divine as ever, and she is a beauty), but if you've been keeping up with me on Instagram you can see why! I just had a fantastic trip to Sirdar last week, and most of my free time is fervently spent on working on Ben's costume for Star Wars Celebration. I've also decided my costume isn't good enough, so that needs tweaking, and I'm making a staff to go with it, and I need a bag, and I have comic con to finish up for at the end of July .... Ah, I complain, but I'm super into it all really :)

As much as I am into it though, I obviously need another project to work on. So, on Sunday night I said to Ben 'I'm going home, I'm watching a film, in bed, with a bag of chocolate, and I am KNITTING'. I cast on this jumper, but I'm going to modify it to include this Totoro chart along the bottom, and contrasting colours on the cuffs, collar and waistband - needless to say I am excited, as long as it all goes to plan! I do love knitting jumpers in the round, particularly after the success I enjoyed last year with my top down v-neck.

I'm finally finishing The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. The third book, Assassin's Quest, is pretty good so far; there is a lot of exploration of loneliness, motives, and what it means to be a part of something (whether it be family, community, humankind etc.) and I've been adequately pulled back into the fray. All this in only 200 pages so far - wow! I've come back to this after my run on free ebook downloads, which I am eager to do again once I've finished this - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, is queued up on the Kindle!

Watch this space in the coming days for a run down on the exceptional day out I had at Sirdar, and also 2 pretty exciting bits of news about new writing adventures that I am embarking on. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

the elusive Simplicity 4450 sewing pattern

Bear with me on this post lovely readers - this is a mix of dressmaking, an unhealthy desire to own one sewing pattern, and my struggles to just make a decent Sith costume for my fiancĂ©! 
source (via Google) - edited
Simplicity 4450/0579, above, is an infamous sewing pattern on Star Wars and cosplay forums. The pattern is known to most Star Wars fans as one of the best sewing patterns that was available for those who wanted to make their own costumes for conventions, film screening, gatherings, and so on. It wasn't necessarily canon, but it provided the base pattern that you could alter to match your favourite Jedi or Sith costume.

I say it was one of the best sewing patterns, because it went out of print in 2006/07 (the closest evidence I can find to confirm this is this forum thread - and also that fact you can't buy it anywhere online). I understand this was due to copyright infringement, based on the information on forum's and the fact that you can't buy it from Simplicity's out of print service

Why am I harping on about this pattern, you ask? Well, I've mentioned this before, but next month Ben and I are attending Star Wars Celebration in London, and Ben wants to cosplay as a Sith. We didn't want to buy a costume, mainly because Ben is so tall and guy's costumes are really hard to buy to fit (past experience). Plus with my weekly dressmaking class going well and the fact that Sith and Jedi have a wonderful penchant for loose, draping robes, I offered to make him his very own costume instead. 

Flashback to a couple of weeks ago, when I realised 'oh damn, I only have a month to make this costume and I haven't even begun to think about it! I hope there is a pattern I can use out there'

*a dozen or so Google and Pinterest searches later*

'Simplicity 4450 - PERFECT, I will just buy this so I can get started right away and ...'

So you understand my frustration. Particularly as, these days, we take for granted that anything out of print, or something as popular as Star Wars, should be relatively easy to find online, or to purchase from Ebay or other online retailers. But no, all my Pinterest searching kept sending me back to this pattern that I could not get, or to elaborate tutorials that I didn't think I had the time or patience for - I just want to cut the pattern out, darn it! And not spend up to £50 for an only closely matched and not as well used alternative.

let the designing of our own pattern commence!
Fortunately, not only are Star Wars fans dedicated to being true to canon when it comes to cosplay, they are a delightfully generous lot, and one chap shared a detailed guide on how he altered part of the 4450 pattern to make the tunic and tabard more true to canon. His instructions are so detailed that I was able to draw my very own version! This, he writes, was the intention, and I'm so thankful that he's done this for us young 'uns who weren't into cosplay in 2006, and also didn't have full time jobs that let you spend whatever is needed to make the costumes. 

It took a while, but measuring Ben and drawing the pattern carefully, and being able to follow directions, means I have an incredibly good feeling that this costume is going to come out really well! We are aiming to have something that looks like this, an image Ben really liked from Pinterest.
I also have several Jedi robe tutorials that can be amended to a Sith robe (have a look here and here, just swap brown for black, easy!) and this is so large and billowing it won't need the detail the tunic and tabard demands. 

I've been documenting my progress on Ben's costume on Instagram, and you can see some of these pictures on this post. It's been a while since I enjoyed sewing a garment this much (though wait until you see what I'm making for myself to wear at Manchester Comic Con this year! I am working on it at my dressmaking class, all will be revealed once we attend the con) and I feel extra proud that I am tailoring it specifically to fit Ben - a labour of love if ever there was one! :) 

I even spent some time this week inserting some back darts and adjusting the hem, while he stood watching the football - a tailored fit!

So really this post was supposed to be a 'hey here is something I am working on at the moment,' but rather became an 'argh frustration why can't I buy this one pattern?!!' ramble - I did enjoy the research into why and where the pattern was, even if I couldn't give you a specific answer on what happened to 4450. I might email Simplicity just out of curiosity! It's all working out in the end though, and the satisfaction of a tailored costume should make the work worth it (as long as it looks good!)

Do you know what happened to Simplicity 4450? If I get a response from Simplicity, I will be sure to let you know!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I'm getting hooked on ...

Expecting a crochet post are we? I'm afraid you're in for a slight disappointment, undoubtedly the first one you've encountered on this blog (aha not - please, don't leave me!). As ever of course I am hooked on crochet, and knitting and the like, but recently I expanded my geek culture horizons into 3 areas that I hadn't really tried before. And I am obsessed with them all!! Just more things to fill my bursting days with, as if I needed more interests. 

Anyway, I am enjoying them all so much that I thought perhaps you would like to know about them too. I can't recommend enough that you look some of these things up.


Ben has always loved podcasts and often recommends them to me. He however likes the unknown sciences, conspiracy theories, and thinking outside the box (in terms of the Slender Man, and Big Foot). Not necessarily my cup of tea. I've also tried knitting podcasts in the past, but they are usually visual and I prefer walking and listening. Finally something clicked when Sophie - she of the famous Sophie Cardigan - recommended The Nerdist podcast not so long ago, and from here my spiral into the podcast realm began! I love them!! 

Here are a few that I can't recommend highly enough and everyone should listen to

Anna Faris is Unqualified - this was the first podcast that I really got into, and have listened to every single episode (it's a relatively new podcast so it's easy to catch up). Anna Faris basically chats with Hollywood friends - think Chris Evans, Dave Bautista, Aubrey Plaza and more - along with co-host Sim, and they have a lot of fun! There is some structure to the episodes; some games are played and a call is always taken towards the end - but they end up talking about excellent topics, everyday (and famous) worries and pressures, and the relationship advice they (try) to administer is always really insightful and interesting! It's such a pleasant, genuine, perfect podcast and I always laugh when I listen.

Stuff Mom Never Told You - Soph recommended this to me once it was clear I was into podcasts, and after Anna Faris is Unqualified this is an unequivocal close second favourite. A mixture of history, film studies, cultural studies, politics and more, the hosts look at different (and always interesting) topics centred around female history and culture and I love it! There is plenty you might not have known about 'comfort women' in World War II, about romantic comedies, and even knitting!! The topics are always interesting, the hosts are a delight to listen to, and you are guaranteed to learn something new. 

The Nerdist - another all-star podcast, Chris Hardwick interviews and chats with actors, writers, directors, you name it; on all things nerd! One of the latest episodes with Chuck Lorre and Mayim Bialik is brilliant, and I really recommend looking up Sir Patrick Stewart's episode(s). Another fun, culturally interesting podcast that is a joy for anyone who loves the geeky things I often bring up on this blog, Facebook, and Twitter

Stuff You Missed in History Class - this is from, along with Stuff Mom Never Told You. A look into various historical topics from all through history, another podcast guaranteed to teach you something new. An episode from earlier this year was devoted to the history of Crayola - how can you not want to know about that!

I'm also listening to The Black Tapes ('docudrama' - bit of the paranormal, Ben will be proud!), The Stuff of Life, and Rebel Force Radio. I am most definitely hooked on podcasts.

Free e-books 

I recently signed up to a website called BookBub, a service which recommends free and low priced e-books to you, according to what topics and genres you are interested in. This was a brilliant find via Facebook and I'm reading my third free e-book as a result! I'm finding this is a great resource to fill the gaps when I don't know what to read next, or if I feel I should save some pennies. It should also encourage me to find and try new authors that I wouldn't have otherwise considered. 

So far it's a hit and miss exercise; I first read Frey by Melissa Wright which was abysmal - the writing is bad, the characters are two-dimensional, and the heroine is on a 'quest' (I think, I'm not sure it was very clear!) but it seems like an evil quest because they kill people and seem to relish in it ... worth a go so I can fantasise how to write a better book! Think trashy, easy read, but for fantasy lovers.

Following this I read Darkness Reigns by Jill Williamson, and this was amazing! A little complex to begin with (refreshing, following Frey), once I had a better understanding of the culture of the world/lands that the story is set it, I was hooked and simply devoured the book. Added bonus - the story isn't steeped in traditional fantasy culture (western and white) which makes it all the more refreshing and interesting to read. I am both delighted, and worried, to learn that this is the first in a long series - I get to read more, but I have to pay for the rest! At £1.89 per book on the Kindle store though, I am certain I will be purchasing these- even if it defeats the object of my free book exercise. 

Finally, I am giving The Bitches of Everafter by Barabara Annino a go. Its a modern rethinking of 5 well known fairytale princesses, with plenty of other storybook characters thrown in. The 5 are Snow, Aura, Punzie, Cindy, and Bella (I think you can work out who they are!) and are on parole for different crimes. The opening of the book has them all tangled up in something very messy. They are all pretty bad-ass and I'm enjoying the tough, tongue-in-cheek jokes, that any fairytale fan is guaranteed to laugh out loud at. If you like Once Upon a Time, I can see you liking this book as well. 

Zombies, Run!

Ok, bear with me - exercise. Yuk. I've never managed to keep it up since I was an enthusiastic young martial artist (black belt in Taekwondo, thanks very much). If you read The Twisted Yarn, you will know that Phil likes to run and usually shares lots of fun pictures and hilarious anecdotes about her runs. A few months ago she asked for app recommendations in order to help motivate her running, and someone commented with 'Zombies, Run!'

I LOVE THIS APP - it actually makes me want to go running, which I still find unfathomable. Every run is actually a 'mission', and while you can play your own music, the app plays recorded radio conversations with Sam, who tells you what's happening, where you are running to, that sort of thing. You collect items as you run (announced by an amazing computer voice) to build your township up and it also maps your runs. I love love love this and can't recommend it enough - the missions are gripping enough that I want to run to find out what happens next in the story!!

TL;DR - spend a minute to look up Anna Faris is UnqualifiedBookBub, and Zombies, Run!

Hope you take a minute to check some of these out! What are you hooked on at the moment?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

it's ok to slow down - there are too many ideas in my head!

This year, lots of exciting things have been happening for this blog; I won Online Knitter of the Year (Knit Now), my patterns are taking off in popularity on Pinterest (particularly Deadpool and the Owl Hat) and I've recently been approached by a couple of people about how they would like to work with me and my blog which, if I can put my mind to properly, will be wonderful!
Ben and me at Slam Dunk Festival, Leeds (28 May 16) - AMAZING day
Ben also has a job that he really enjoys, we are starting to out the plans that we've been thinking about for year into motion (finally) and so many of my close friends are getting engaged - it's all really exciting! I also have lots of summer plans, including a weekend in Edinburgh, a trip to Sirdar, Star Wars Celebration and, of course, Manchester Comic Con.

So, all in all, everything is going well I think and I am keeping very busy. Much busier than I was a few months ago, and this is great! I want to be busy, I'm socialising more and I have as many ideas as ever bursting out of my head.

The only thing is I have too many ideas almost and I find myself worrying that I won't get the time to do everything I want to. And that's true - as any knitter and crocheter knows, there are simply TOO MANY wonderful patterns and yarns to try and not enough hours in the day!! There is a danger that this might upset you (it upsets me sometimes) more than you think it should, after all, we are only human and we can't do everything.

This post, as I sit and type it, is taking a different turn from what I envisioned it would. I realised last night as I was thinking about the cable blanket that I want to knit, that it just wasn't going to work with the yarn I had and if I persisted I would get wound up and feel like I had wasted my time. This project is worth the use of an existing pattern and the right yarn. I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that I thought I would be upset, but that I wasn't and instead I was excited because now I can crochet a cardigan with the yarn instead! :)

Realising that made me realise I was upset with myself about not blogging as much as I want to, because as I said before, there just isn't enough time in the day to get to work on all the patterns and projects I want to, while making sure I maintain a healthy lifestyle and full time job. I was worried I was running out of things to say or ideas to share.

That does upset me, but it is something out of my control and it's important that our hobbies not become out chores. Instead, I feel better realising that I do have plenty, if not an abundance of ideas, that I want to work on and share with you, ensuring that I never get bored! And just giving voice to this is liberating.

It's also the ability to be able to acknowledge that something that was good for you at one time in life, isn't so much so now and its ok to let go. This may sound dramatic compared to the blog-analogy I am about to make, but we learn in the strangest of places! Last year I really got into my monthly craft challenges (or 'craft challenges') and they spurred me on to try new things. This year I kept them up for 5 months, but each month I didn't quite manage something and I felt I had let myself down or not achieved something. But the truth is I know I achieve, though perhaps not as much as some in everyday life, more than others in my creative pursuits, and I love what I do achieve when I know its something I want to do and do well, and not for someone else or because I see how someone does something and I feel I should do the same.
a path worthy of the Shire, close to where I work; I'm always nervous that a black rider will pounce on me at any moment!
So you see, the lessons that I learn from these small realisations (don't worry about a self imposed blanket pattern, and stop doing crafty challenges) may seem on overly dramatic interpretation towards day-to-day life, but if that's the lesson I have gleaned and I feel wiser for knowing it, I'm grabbing it by the hand and taking it out for pizza!

You might take nothing from this, or you might see yourself in some of the rambling points I've made above, and just feel a little vindicated that someone feels the same way that you do! It's ironic that this long outpouring has come around because, in all honestly, I though it was time for another blog post - talk about an odd, mildly hypocritical cycle (!) but hey, it works for me. 

And it seems to work for the blog, because I've reached over 200 Bloglovin' followers! When I thought I was perhaps not giving the blog the attention I used to, or that it deserved, it seems that some of you lovely readers (old and new) clearly thought otherwise! Thanks everyone who has given me a follow, and here is to the next 200, eh? :)

If you haven't already, you can follow me on Bloglovin' to keep up with unread blog posts from me, and all of your other favourite blogs. I also post new updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Well done for bearing with me through this 'soul searching' blog post, and don't worry there are plenty more blog posts, patterns and inane ramblings yet to come! The next projects to be shared will be a baby blanket (commissioned by a friend) and maybe something small for Fathers Day (sh - don't tell my dad!). 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

space invaders baby blanket - free crochet pattern

As promised last week, here is your free crochet pattern to make your very own Space Invader Baby Blanket, perhaps for a little one of your own or as a gift for someone who is expecting! The blanket is made up of individual mini-granny squares, crocheted to a small scale to allow for the detail of the character on the blanket, inspired by the classic game Space Invaders. 

The finished blanket is 102cm x 76cm (40" x 30") - close to 'stroller' size, following chart A.

I have provided two charts for the blanket - chart A is pictured, chart B has an additional border of squares to finish the blanket and the finished size will be approximately 112cm x 86cm (44" x 34") close to 'receiving' size.

The instructions are written in US crochet terms.

Don't forget to save this to your Ravelry library as well! Or save it to your Pinterest board, just click the red button over the pic

4mm hook
500g of Aran weight baby yarn in colour A (white) - allow 250g extra if following chart B
500g of Aran weight baby yarn in colour B (red)
Tapestry needle

Gauge/Tension = 5cm x 5cm finished mini-granny square dimensions, following pattern below


First, choose which blanket you would like to make (using one of the below charts)

CHART A  - blanket pictured above follows this chart

Squares required;
Colour A (white) - 134
Colour B (red) - 100


Squares required;
Colour A (white) - 200
Colour B (red) - 100
Once you have decided which chart to follow, follow the instructions below on how to make the individual granny squares.
Mini-Granny Square pattern
Note dc = double crochet

1) chain 4 stitches, as above

2) join last stitch to first to create a loop, then chain 3 stitches (counts as 1dc), as above
3) 2dc in the hole created by the first chain, which was joined
4) chain 1, 3dc in the same hole as step 3
5) repeat step 4 2 more times
6) slip stitch last stitch to top of chain 3, as below

7) chain 3 stitches (counts as 1dc), then 2 dc into the same gap at the botton of the chain
8) 3 dc into the same gap - you should have 6dc in one corner
9) chain 1, 3dc into next gap (3 dc away), chain 1, 3dc into the same gap (again you should have 6 dc)
10) repeat step 9 2 more times
11) slip stitch last stitch into top of chain 3 and fasten off, as below
12) weave in ends - your mini-granny square is complete! Now repeat many times.

You can either join squares as you go along, or you can do what I did, and crochet these babies on the bus, train, on your lunch break, watching TV etc. until you have the 234 or 300 you need to complete the blanket.

Once you have all the squares ready to sew together, or if you are sewing as you crochet, print off the chart that you need, and stitch the squares together using mattress stitch - here is a tutorial for this joining technique - and mark off on the chart what you have sewn together. I recommend starting from the top left corner of the chart and working out. 

After all the squares are sewn together and the ends woven in and trimmed, join your yarn to the top right hand corner and single crochet along the edge of the blanket, making sure to sc3 in each corner to turn. 

When you have gone round the blanket once, single crochet along the edge again, again making sure to sc3 in each corner. When back at the beginning fasten off and weave in your end. You should have 2 sc broders around the blanket now.

Wash and steam according to your yarn label's instructions. 

And now you are finished!! I hope you enjoy your blanket! If you do make this please feel free to share a picture in the comments below, or share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

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