Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Sneaky Peek

Here is a sneaky peek at a project I'll be sharing here in the future (hopefully next week, or the weekend if I get impatient).

I  was working on this today, and, well...

Ever stabbed yourself with a needle? Multiple times?

I managed this today. What's worse, I managed to jab myself with a very sharp needle, right under my fingernail. 


The pains we go through for our craft, eh? :) 

DIY Ruff

Ruffs are one of those iconic pieces that have carried through the ages - seen on nobles of the mid-sixteenth century, jesters, pierrot, clowns, and even the catwalks of today.

It’s easy enough to cobble together a quick elastic-and-fabric ruff, but if you’re looking for something that ‘stands up’, it’s necessary to take a little more time over the construction. 

These ruffs were all made for ‘cosplay’, therefore the designs are not mine, but having made them I can appreciate how much work went into the originals! (If you’re wondering, I reproduced costumes worn by Kozi, guitarist of Japanese band Malice Mizer).

Ever since making them, I’ve had a few people ask how to put them together! The first ruff I made (black and gold, above) was constructed based loosely on some instructions I found on the internet. Unfortunately the web site with these instructions has gone to the internet graveyard, so I’ve never been able to share links with people.

As a result, I thought I’d put together this tutorial!

I haven’t made a ruff from scratch for this, so some of the photographs are from the ruffs above. I used some off-cuts and fabric scraps to create process shots, so it should all be clear.
I’m not gonna lie. This will take you a LONG time.

So to find out how to make a ruff, read on!
It’s quite lengthy, so go and make a cup of tea first :)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Sad Sight

My trusty pal Athena (that's her name, it says so on her label!) is looking a bit of a sorry sight. Her gorgeous chocolate skin has been in the sun too long, and now she's starting to peel!

I've had this tailor's dummy for a few years; she was one of my Nanny's charity shop finds and cost the grand sum of £8!

Originally I kept her in the conservatory, covered with a heavy duty plastic bin bag to keep out light and other debris (our conservatory is more of a workroom/rabbit house/storage room than a nice place to sit). Then somebody used the bag. And there was rain. And the conservatory roof leaked.

After much reorganising and upheaval, Athena has relocated to a cupboard in my room. Her slipping neck has been temporarily repaired with electrical tape and now I'm wondering how to solve the problem of her peeling skin.

Basically, she needs recovering.

And that's where I need your help.

I can't figure out how to do it! There's a drawstring at the bottom of her body, so the simple answer seems to be to make a new fabric cover for her. But the knobs and disks at the side (as seen in the picture) seem to be attached to the brown fabric. Honestly, I'm worried about trying to take it apart!

I have searched online for how to recover a tailor's dummy, but the results are either relating to recovering one for artistic purposes (a non-adjustable dummy) or recovering a dummy that adjusts by knobs in the centre, rather than at the side.

If anybody has any suggestions, please let me know!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Geisha: the Real Memoirs

Ready for more books?
To break away from my usual habit of writing solely about one author, this post focuses on one topic: geisha.

Everybody has heard about Memoirs of a Geisha, right? Whether it’s the book, the film, or both, it’s a work that had a pretty high profile!

Well, I’m not writing about that one. Instead, this post focuses on these:

Geisha of Gion – Mineko Iwasaki
This is the real memoirs of a geisha. I read Geisha of Gion some time after reading Memoirs of a Geisha and found the storylines of the two books were incredibly similar (with the latter being somewhat more dramatic). Then I found out why: Memoirs was inspired by Mineko Iwasaki’s life.
The book follows Iwasaki’s story, from the time she is taken as a young girl to be tutored as a maiko (apprentice geisha) into her life as a geiko (geisha). (Apologies if I make any mistakes in the terminology; I’m writing this based on memory of a book I read a couple of years ago!)
As with any life story, there is drama and action, but explains a lot of things slightly misinterpreted in Arthur Golden’s fictitious tale. Between the two, I prefer this one, simply because it’s autobiographical and more realistic.

Geisha – Liza Dalby
When I saw this book for the first time, I was a little cynical as to whether it could accurately portray the training, work and lifestyle of geisha. I thought it would be a typical case of Foreigner Goes To Japan And Makes Lots of Misconceptions Based On What They See.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Geisha is the product of the author’s study into the Geisha lifestyle--a study so deep that she travelled to Japan to train as a geisha herself. The book covers the history of geisha and looks at how they have changed over time.
Whilst a little academic in places (it was written for a thesis, if I recall correctly!) it presents the facts in an interesting and respectful manner.
For me, the respect towards this part of Japanese culture was as equally important as the information presented.

If you only read one of these books, read: Both books have their merits. If you’re interested in the history of geisha and like factual books, check out Liza Dalby’s book. If you prefer your facts to be in the form of autobiography, try Mineko Iwasaki.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Circuit Board & USB 'Dog Tag' Necklace

What do you do with a broken computer mouse? Or anything else that plugs into the computer, for that matter?

Throw it away? Toss it into a cupboard and forget about it?

Hold your horses!
Don’t just toss it, cannibalise it!

Unscrew screws, cut wires, take stuff out that you can use (and drop off any leftover metals at your nearest recycling point!). Just be careful if you’re playing with anything that might hold an electrical charge, and watch for sharp edges.

Amongst a heap of broken computer stuff I was given for crafting with, was a broken card reader (I think that’s what it was anyway!) Basically a bit of plastic with a bit of circuit board inside, attached to a USB plug.

I wanted to make something with a more masculine edge to share with you here, so this is what I came up with:

My inspiration was dog tags. The circuit board especially reminded me of a tag.
As I happened to have a necklace with multiple strands of ball chain, I took a strand off to use for this craft :)

Of course I have a tutorial for you too. So if you’re looking for a little inspiration or what to know how to make one of these USB and circuit board necklaces.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Hot Stuff

It's time for a 100% NOT sponsored post :) 
To be honest, it's kind of lame that I feel the need to write this on posts where I want to talk about a product I enjoyed. But I want you guys to know I'm not being paid to glorify any products here!

Whilst on a shopping trip to Bluewater, Mum picked up this chocolate for me.

 Mitzi Blue ‘Hot Stuff’ by Zotter
(dark chocolate with chilli and strawberry chocolate)

Isn’t the packaging cute?
The inside of the carton states that the packaging comprises a CO2-neutral carton and 100% biodegradable organic plastic. Great, right?

As for the chocolate itself, it is delicious!
The strawberry flavour reaches your taste buds first. Then your mouth is assaulted by the heat of the chilli as you swallow! Add that the chocolate is organic and fair trade and you have a big mouthful of yum.

The chocolate bar is round and there’s a mini circular chocolate - called a ‘Mini Mitzi’, apparently - in the centre. I would have taken a picture, but my bar was smashed to pieces! Boo!

Zotter seems like a pretty awesome company.  Right now for every ‘Yummy! Meals for Schools’ chocolate bar sold, they will ensure a Burmese refugee child will receive a school meal.
Chocolate loaded with good karma? Yes please!

Looking at their web site, there are some utterly mad sounding chocolate bars. Pineapple with Celeriac? Sweet Wine and Cheese? Bacon Bits?

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of this chocolate as we all need a little indulgent treat sometimes. If I ever get my hands on a bar of Bacon Bits chocolate, you can bet I’ll be writing about it here! (Next up, however, is Wasabi chocolate...)

This is NOT a sponsored post, just me rambling about something that made my taste buds happy!

Friday, 14 September 2012

DIY Shoe Fringe

Whilst leafing through ELLE’s September edition, I saw some great loafers by Marni. They were leather, brown and white, but with a long black fringe at the front to cover (I assume) the lacing, which tied up on top of the fringe. The colours aren’t completely my style, but I did love the design!

Sadly, I don’t have money for designer shoes (or designer anything!)

So I dug out my old mid-heel brogues (from Primark, kingdom of cheapness!) and some scraps of faux leather left over from a fancy dress costume, and got to work...

DIY marni-inspired shoe fringe customisation tutorial

Granted, Marni’s version had a double layer of fringe, but in all honesty I was feeling too lazy to set up the sewing machine. Plus I think one layer looks just fine on these shoes (Marni’s are a lot chunkier).

This is a great, non-permanent way to get a different look from a pair of shoes!

Drawing a pattern for the fringe is a little fiddly, though it’s harder to explain it than it is to do it.
Hopefully this tutorial explains clearly. However if you have any questions please comment to ask! :)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Framed Criss-Cross Noticeboard

For a while now, I’ve admired those cute, pin-free notice boards made with fabric and ribbon. When I gave my bedroom a mini-makeover, I got rid of my cork notice board (which I was previously using for necklaces) in favour of a home-made necklace board!
However, I’ve had an increasing need for somewhere to stick important notes, so sat down to make a notice board using things from my stash.

Sherlock Holmes Museum card and train tickets = utmost importance! ;)

Alright, so I broke my resolution (again) and bought a frame for this project.

But it was £1.50 from a charity shop, so that doesn’t really count, does it?

...maybe it does, but at least the money went to a good cause!

This notice board turned out to be fairly simple to put together, and took about an hour to complete. Here’s a tutorial, with lots of pictures! 

Monday, 3 September 2012

C.J. Sansom

Since I was a child, I’ve been interested in the Tudor period. This can be partly attributed to learning about the Tudors in primary school, but mostly thanks to Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories: The Terrible Tudors.

So when I found the Matthew Shardlake books by author C.J. Sansom, I was dead pleased!

To my knowledge there are five books in the series:
1. Dissolution
2. Dark Fire
3. Sovereign
4. Revelation
5. Heartstone

The hero of these historical detective stories is Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer practising from Lincoln’s Inn, London. The books are set in Tudor England, during the reign of the infamous Henry VIII, beginning with the dissolution of the monasteries and continuing through to the sinking of the Mary Rose. Each tale is filled with mystery and drama along with an insight into the life of the era. 

When I first started reading these stories, I disliked the fact that the author had made Shardlake a hunchback, as it seemed like he was trying too hard to make an unusual character.
But I stuck at it, because I liked how the story was written.
As the story progressed, I realised what a clever idea it was to give the main character an obvious deformity.
Shardlake isn’t young, nor immensely handsome, and whilst the state of his finances is comfortable he’s hardly rolling in money; nor is he a man of title.
What Shardlake is, however, is incredibly clever--a Tudor era Poirot or Sherlock Holmes.

Each of these books has a little map at the front, to depict the area in which the story is set. I think this is rather cool :)

The first of the Shardlake books is set during the Dissolution of the monasteries. Working under Cromwell, Shardlake and his assistant Mark Poer are dispatched to Scarnsea, Sussex, to investigate the strange murder of a royal commissioner.
As Shardlake and Poer investigate, two more murders come to light, along with evidence of treason and corruption. Little by little, they come closer to the truth--and the murderer. 

An interesting story that sheds light on the Dissolution. I’m a little biased in the favour of this book as it’s set in my county :)

Dark Fire
This second book is set in 1540, three years after Dissolution. Shardlake is once again on a case, this time of a girl charged with murder. Just as it seems he’ll lose the case, Cromwell steps in and offers him a deal: the proceedings against the girl will be delayed by two weeks if Shardlake will do some work for Cromwell. His task is to find the Dark Fire, a liquid with the power to catch fire and burn with epically destructive results. Following Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves, Cromwell is in poor favour with the king and looking to Shardlake to provide the means for him to get back into Henry’s good books.
Once again Shardlake is sent headlong into danger and intrigue, this time on the trail with one of Cromwell’s men, Jack Barak.

This tale truly strikes home the corruption within the royal court. Ulterior motives, treachery--people will stop at nothing to see the intentions realised.

In this book, Shardlake and Barak have been sent north into York. Following a conspiracy against the king, Henry VIII is has set off on a great ‘progress’ in attempt to squash any chance of rebellion. With him is Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, select nobles, and thousands of soldiers. Working with aged local lawyer Giles Wrenne, Shardlake is processing petitions to the king, which will be ceremoniously handed to Henry VIII on his arrival in York.
But there’s a second reason for Shardlake’s presence in York: he has been charged to protect a dangerous conspirator, imprisoned in York to be transported to London. Shardlake must ensure the prisoner’s wellbeing so the man can be interrogated in the Tower, something that gives him a little crisis of conscience.
The plot deepens when a local glazier is murdered, and Shardlake discovers a box of secret papers, some of which threaten Henry’s claim to the throne. This discovery thrusts Shardlake even further into danger and with unknown enemies working against him, the threat of being thrown into the tower himself becomes all the more real.

For most of the second part of this book, I was torn between two possible ‘baddies’ behind the main plot, but didn’t completely figure it out until the truth was revealed.

It’s 1543. England is in the midst of religious unrest, with an impending mass-burning of all those considered ‘heretical’.
Shardlake has a new mystery to solve: that of a religious teenage boy, held in the Bedlam for his own safety. The boy has been imprisoned for religious mania, spouting out heretical and treasonous words that could lead to his execution.
Meanwhile, one of Shardlake’s oldest friends is brutally murdered. Shardlake promises the man’s widow that he’ll find the murderer and bring them to justice. As he investigates, he discovers other murders have taken place--gruesome interpretations of the book of Revelation. Throughout the investigation, the serial killer is always one step ahead of Shardlake, with his victims already planned...and one of them could be Shardlake himself.

This was a fantastic book! I usually struggle a little with works involving religion, but this was so full of intrigue that I couldn’t put it down.

It’s 1545 and Henry VIII’s warships are gathering at Portsmouth, to be joined by a huge army conscripted from the people of England. Henry VIII’s invasion of France has been unsuccessful, and now a fleet of French ships is due to leave for the English coast.
Shardlake has been given a case from a servant of Catherine Parr: to investigate alleged wrongdoings against a ward of the court, Hugh Curtey. At the same time, Shardlake becomes interested in another matter: the mystery surrounding Ellen Fettiplace, a woman in the Bedlam, whose past is full of secrets.
Whilst investigating the matter of Hugh Curtey, Shardlake takes it upon himself to also look into Ellen Fettiplace’s past, wanting to answer the question of how she ended up in the Bedlam.
Shardlake and Barak’s investigations take them into Portsmouth, where they find themselves at the very heart of the war preparations, and once more thrown into danger.

Another gripping, page-turner of a novel. Even knowing how some parts of the story (historical fact) were going to turn out didn’t ruin it. The tale isn’t without its surprises, either!

If you only read one of these books, read: Revelation.
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