Monday, October 31, 2011

This is Halloween

This is Matilda.  She's my oldest decoration; my grandma made her for me when I was 6ish.     
The time of the party has come!  All my preparation and plans have come to fruition.  If you see anything I made that I didn't post a how to for, shoot me a message.  If I made it I'll tell you how or put up a post for it.  That goes for my recipes too, by the way.

There are going to be both pre and post lighting change photos.  My camera does a pretty decent job, but I lose detail when I adjust for lighting.  I hate using a flash for things that have special lighting since the flash totally destroys the effect, especially in the black light areas.  But not using the flash means I have to use the 'high sensitivity' setting and they weren't kidding when they named it that.  The slightest shift, like breathing or your pulse, blurs the whole frame even with anti-shake on.  So, in areas that you miss things with the special lighting I've included both so you can actually see what's there.

Care to join me on a tour?

 Welcome to the Cat Cave.  This is Frans and he's happy to see you.

On the way in you'll see a familiar face, it's just that he's upside down now.   I normally web this whole area, but we've had excessive wind and I decided not to waste webbing.

Enter the Cat Cave

The Spiders' Den.  I have big plans for ramping this up next year.

The Blood Bath.  Lots of pics on this one.  It looked really awesome in person once the lighting was installed.  Those pics are a bit hard to see, but even with tinkering with the saturation and contrast it was the best I could get.

Living Room Highlights


The Dining Room

And, of course, the feast!
Frog Spawn Shots

Frog Nests

Cat Barf

Pretzel Bones

Delicious, delicious brains!

Kitty Poo (see, told you it was awesome!)

Blood and Butter Beer

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Loop Mini Scarf

I've got another mini scarf pattern today!  I was originally going to call it a "lollipop" mini scarf, circles on the end of lines and all that, but the circles went all ovoid on me.  So, loops it is!

I'm not 100% certain which yarn I used, though.  I'm pretty sure it started out life as Lion Brand's Lion Wool, but it was buried in the stash without a ball band so I could be wrong.

Loop Mini Scarf

1 ounce (60-70 yards) Lion Wool
J hook

Ch 8, join.
Ch 1, 20 sc in loop, join with sl st in ch 1.

(Ch 5, ch 8, join to make loop, 10 sc in loop)* repeat until scarf is desired length, mine was 60 inches.

 Then work 10 more sc in end loop(total of 20 sc), join to first sc in loop.  (5 sc in the back of each ch, 10 sc in loop, join to first sc.)* repeat to end and ending with 5 sc in the back of each ch. Bind off, weave ends.

You can change how you wear this one by threading one end through any loop.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie Mania

I love movies.  A lot.  Well, that's probably the understatement of the year, as well some of you may now know from any number of my posts.  Do you know how Douglas Adams defines the universe in the Hitchhiker's Guide?  His description of the size of the universe could be applied to my love of movies.  I've seen tons of them from every decade.  Seriously!  I've even seen some of the original motion pictures that were made by Thomas Edison.  TCM had a great special on the history of movies and they showed so many of the originals it made my head spin.  Silent films provide a bit of a conundrum though.  It's very hard to follow what's going on if you aren't paying attention the whole time and I can't just sit still.  I'm always doing something, usually knitting or crocheting with a cat or two on my lap, sometimes blogging or eating dinner or any number of other things (I'm actually watching an old Buster Keaton flick that has me laughing 'til it hurts. As I write this he's shaving a brand onto a cow so that he doesn't have to burn it on.). Movies are a very constant thread in my life.    You would think I would have a great system of organization for the 200ish titles I have, but I have so many that I can't think of how to classify them all.  I mean, I could go by genera, or lead actor, or year released, or viewing frequency, or director, or...the list goes on.

With the number of movies I watch and the wide range of years they come from, it's hardly surprising that my favorites are a bit eclectic.  For someone who grew up with the Ninja Turtle movies and Indiana Jones, most people would never guess that I adore Kirk Douglas and Peter O'Toole, or that I will watch anything with Vincent Price or Johnny Depp in it.  And let us not forget the actresses!  I've loved Julie Andrews since the first time I saw Mary Poppins, Barbara Stanwyck always makes me laugh, and there's the always impressive Helena Bonham Carter.  And that barely scratches the surface, I haven't even gone into the directors or costume designers or the voice actors that I love!

I was thinking about all this one day when it occurred to me what I should do.  I'm so often inspired by the things I watch, granted it isn't always obvious since I don't think in straight lines, that I ought to make some manner of tribute to those I truly adore.  The next thing I thought was, "Wow, this is gonna take a while".  Not only do I have to come up with something really original, I also have to figure out how to make it.  It's that second bit that's proving to be quite the challenge.  Much like typing with a cat laying on both your arms and part of your keyboard.  Not that that ever happens...  Anywho, I've started playing with some pattern ideas which should be AWESOME once I figure out how to make them.

Being imaginative, coming up with neat things isn't terribly hard.  Making them is a different story.  I've been working on a scarf idea for several days now and all I have to show for it is some very abused looking yarn and some vague ideas about how to try it next.  Evidently making a crocheted object have extra corners is not as easy as it ought to be.  I've had some ideas for projects that I think can best be accomplished with knitting but most of them require multiple colors and I've never done that before so I taught myself the basics today at lunch.  I can now do double knitting and intarsia, though they both need a bit more practice to tidy them up.  If my idea works I should have something reasonably impressive to put up in a few days.  Unless, of course, my idea doesn't work as planned (and it almost certainly won't at first, I'm not that lucky).  Then it will take a bit longer.  I do still have some other patterns to put up so patterns in general will keep coming until I'm really out of ideas.

Just for clarification purposes, the plan isn't to make things in honor of a specific movie though that won't always be readily apparent.  More than enough people make Harry Potter themed stuff, for example, that I don't feel we need more of that sort of thing.  My goal is to celebrate the people who make the movies.  The Harry Potter series is based on great books, but if they hadn't used the people they did the movies would have sucked epically.  Just look at how much Dumbledore's character changed when Richard Harris died; Michael Gambon is a great actor but his Dumbledore was NOTHING like Harris's and it markedly changed the tone of the Harry/Dumbledore relationship.  Continuing with the same example, rather than making something Hogwartsy I might make a tribute to Alan Rickman where green and black figure in heavily as an homage to his noted role as the Head of Slytherin House.   A fine distinction, but it makes sense in my twisted little brain. 

On a related thread, does anyone know how to size a pattern so that other people can wear the object?  Some of my ideas are for sweaters and, while I can do the math for my own odd figure, I have no idea what general sizing is considered to be or how to change the shaping to accommodate those other sizes because I'm fairly certain that shaping isn't always needed at the same places for different sizes.  Perhaps the bible (aka the better homes and garden complete guide to needlework) knows.  I shall have to check.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vampire Bite Choker

As I was crafting my Blood Scarf I noticed that it didn't look quite as impressive as I would have liked.  It also gave me an idea for a garland, make of that what you will.  There will probably be a pattern for it at some point, but I don't think I'll be able to meet the 'pre-Halloween' deadline, so maybe next year.  This pattern is a little more subtle.

I'm sure everyone is now well versed in how much I hate sewing knitted or crocheted things together.  If you missed that somehow, I absolutely loathe piecework.  I also hate sewing things on to crocheted or knitted things.  This presents something of an issue with buttons and zippers.  I have two sweaters which I have had the zippers for since July and I still haven't installed them.  I don't think it will be hard to do, I've never installed a zip into a sweater before, I just do not relish doing that much sewing and so keep putting it off.  Buttons annoy me only slightly less.  I don't like having little thread knots on my things, but with buttons you have no choice.  Well, most of the time.  My hatred of sewing buttons led to a rather interesting development.  I discovered that I could use a popcorn stitch like a button a few years back.  Ever since then I've used that method whenever possible instead of having to sew a button on.  Mostly on my own little designs, it's more challenging to adapt the popcorn button to other patterns and I'm awfully lazy.  That's why I like the popcorn button.  No knots, no sewing, and the button can't fall off since it's part of the piece.    

This is also my first attempt at sizing things, so please bear with me.  I have no idea how big a 'medium' or 'large' neck is, and mine is tiny so that isn't much help.  Happily, this pattern is super simple so I've come up with a method that I think will work for everyone.  

Vampire Bite Choker

Caron Simply Soft in red and black.  You don't need much, less than 1/4 ounce of each

G hook

5 dc = 1 inch (2.5 cm)

Finished Measurement
Small: 13 inches (33cm)
Medium: 14 inches (35.5 cm)
Large: 15 inches (38 cm)

The choker fits neck neck sizes 1 inch (2.5cm) smaller than the finished item.

Row 1: Dc in 3rd ch from hook. Ch1, dc in the remaining 2 chs.  Ch2, counts as first dc, turn.
Row 2: Dc across including in the ch 1 sp (5 dc total) Ch2, turn.
Repeat row 2 until choker band measures 12, 13, 14 inches (30.5, 33, 35.5 cm)* then work the bobble button as follows.

1 dc, 8 dc in next st, 2 dc, ch 2 turn.
Work row 2 once.

Break off, weave in ends. 

*Note: If you need a larger neckband work row 2 until the ends of the choker touch, but don't overlap, when put around your neck.  Then work the bobble button

Blood drop pattern:
Ch 3.  In first chain work 6 dc , 1tc, 1dtc.  Then work one ddtc in the top of the chain 3.  Work fsc as directed. (Further instruction can be found in my Blood Scarf pattern)

Make 2 blood drops.  One with a 9 st fsc tail and one with a 6 fsc tail

Try on the choker band for blood drop placement, you can mark where you want them to go with removable stitch markers.  I recommend you place the shorter drop in the higher position for maximum contrast. and sew the drops on from the wrong side of the choker.  Use the tail on the drop and watch where it goes through the choker, that's what gives you the bite mark. 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blood Scarf

Watching marathons of themed movies is one of my all time favorite things to do.  I am one of those who can sit for hours on end watching movies.  It doesn't even bother me if they're basically the same movie.  Take Manhunter/Red Dragon.  Most of you have probably heard of Red Dragon, it's the prequel to The Silence of the Lambs and stars Edward Norton.  What many people do not know is that it is also a remake.  The original was made in 1986 and starred William Petersen of CSI fame.  Any way, they are more or less the same movie.  Some remakes have big changes, like Arthur for instance.  This one, not so much.  The scripts are virtually identical, which is kinda trippy if you watch them back to back.  That's the kind of thing I do.  A normal weekend for me usually involves watching a cluster of "linked" movies like Manhunter-Red Dragon-Silence of the Lambs-Hannibal.  Depending on when I start watching movies and if I still have time after the initial marathon, like if I start in the morning, I might then jump to another movie with a connecting theme, in that set it would be Anthony Hopkins in Bram Stoker's Dracula (sadly, I don't have many of his movies), which could lead to watching any other "linked" like Beetlejuice/Edward Scissor Hands (Wynona Rider), The Matrix (Keanu Reeves), The Princess Bride/Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Cary Elwes) or, if I go theme, eating people for instance, instead of actors it would lead me down a vampire track since, for some reason, I don't have any zombie movies. An so on, and on until bed time. 

Amazingly, I still get things done on weekends.  Part of the reason for the endless stream of movies is noise.  I've seen so many movies so many times that I don't really have to pay attention to them and so can do other things simultaneously with the TV talking at me for company.  If I don't have chores to do I usually knit or crochet which leads me to one of the more interesting aspects of my movie obsession.  I get a lot of inspiration from movies.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my Signature Scarf was created while watching The Crow and my pumpkin head scarecrow is a dead ringer for the one in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow.  In this latest case, I was watching anything that might fit a Halloween theme.  I was surprised, the first three were all Disney flicks (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hocus Pocus, and The Haunted Mansion) from there I went with some Addams Family.  The Addams Family was the one that really got me though.  The scene where Wednesday and Pugsly are performing Shakespeare and they start slicing off limbs, spraying the audience with 'blood' in the process set off a light bulb in my head (a long lead-in, I know, but I'm getting to the point now).  I needed festive Halloween neck ware and I needed it now.  And neck + blood = vampires in my book.  So, I set out to create an appropriately gory scarf. 

Sadly, this one had to be piece work.  Oh, how I loathe piece work.  Alas that it was the best option.  Since I had no choice, I made the piecing as easy as humanly possible because there is quite a bit of it (sorry about that).  If it gives you hope, I was able to make this in less than 5 days working mostly during my lunch break.  I named it simply the Blood Scarf because I'm horribly opinionated about all things vampire, though I am by no means an aficionado of the genera, and I refuse to tie it to any specific franchise.  Any similarly themed things will be the same.  Just 'blood' or 'vampire,' no names!  So, here you are.  The brain child of my incessant movie watching.  My apologies for the darkness of the initial photo.  The only mirrors I have are in bathrooms and my bathrooms have enough light for people, not photography.  This scarf looked impressive enough that I wanted to give you a look at it on a person though, and I think you'll agree that it looks far more impressive that way even if the image is a little dark.

Blood Scarf

Caron Simply Soft 2 1/2 ounces, about 140 yards.
G hook

Special Stitches

Ddtc- wrap yarn 4 times around hook, insert into stitch, pull through, and work the remaining loops as you would any dc/tc/dtc.

Foundation single crochet (fsc) or double chain stitch: We won't be doing this from the normal starting point of chain 2. This is the adaptation used for this particular pattern.  When working the very first fsc at the top of each drop, work as a single crochet through the center of the ddtc top and through the post at the top of the stitch (see image).  Then work the 'normal' fsc as follows. Keep the point of the blood drop up, the top of the first fsc will face your right hand.  Insert the hook through the center of the first fsc, to the left of the top of the stitch, and work 1 sc around the single strand that runs horizontally.  For another point of reference, the horizontal thread is the thread that makes the loop that is around the hook.  Continue in this manner until you have the desired number of fsc stitches, counting the first one.
Start of the first foundation single crochet

Blood drop pattern:
Ch 3.  In first chain work 6 dc , 1tc, 1dtc.  Then work one ddtc in the top of the chain 3.  Work fsc as directed.  The blood drops have a tendency to curl.  I like the effect, but if you don't it can be removed by blocking.  In the image to the right you can see the difference between curled drops on the sides and the flat ones in the center

Scarf Base:
Work one blood drop pattern, fsc the desired length of the finished scarf.  Mine was 65 inches not counting the blood drop, if yours is longer or shorter you will need more or fewer blood drops, respectively.  Mark the center of the fsc rope (don't count the drop on the end) with a spare bit of yarn or stitch marker.

Make 1 blood drop with no fsc.  Instead, break off leaving a long tail to sew with.

Blood drops, make 52
Work the blood drop pattern ending with 9 fsc.  Bind of and break the yarn leaving a tail long enough to sew with.


To place the first blood drop, lay it next to the one on the end of the scarf base, then raise it about an inch (2 1/2 to 3 cm) higher.  Using the tail, sew the blood drop to the scarf base.  Repeat this process until you reach the center marker.  Sew the blood drop with no fsc to the terminal end of the scarf base, then repeat the placement process that you used on the first side of the scarf.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Creepy Creeps with Eerie Eyes...

Here's one I've been fiddling with for a while now.  Home made window clings.  Not for my windows, but for my hallway artwork.  The frames in the hall have glass panes in them so, in theory, anything that will cling to a window will cling to them too.  The main idea is to make eyes to put up so that I don't have to tape plastic tree faces to the art lining my walls.  I did that last year and was less than impressed with how corny it looked.  This year, though, this year I shall do better.  My Eerie Eye clings ought to do the trick nicely.  Named for the bestest song from a ride EVER (Grim Grinning Ghosts from Disney's Haunted Mansion, one of my top 3 favorite rides at Disney Land).  If you aren't familiar with the wonder that is the Haunted Mansion you should listen to this.  For those of you who know the ride, it's the good version with the elevator music and the singing busts. (-:  I'm also partial to the version that Barenaked Ladies did. 

Right, so my Eerie Eyes.  I remembered making Elmer's glue window clings when I was little.  Sadly, my memory of it is clearer than my mom's, I suspect because I got to make a mess with glue.  What I remembered doing was coloring glue with food color and then spreading said glue out on wax paper in whatever pattern I wanted.  Simple enough, more so when Elmer's made colored glue specifically for that purpose.  It wasn't popular for long but it was really popular for its 15 minutes of fame.  My plan was to mix some of the glow in the dark paint from my worm pot into some glue and use that for the eyes.  I have no idea what the actual proportions were.  I added just enough paint to make my clear glue opaque and went with that.

I quickly drew out some eye shaped templates, stuck them under wax paper, mixed my glue, and got to work.  First thing I discovered is that I remembered wrong.  Wax paper BAD!  The glue beads up on it and refuses to hold a shape.  If someone tells you to use wax paper for this they're lying.  I had to scrape the glue off the wax paper with my tongue depressor/mixing stick and start over.

enter the beading.  this is why wax paper is bad
looks good here...
After a quick reboot I started making my eyes again, this time on Glad Wrap.  As I suspected, the glue didn't bead up and mess up my design.  I put one template on each of my trays, covered them with the plastic wrap, and went to town.  I stacked the trays on the table as I finished them, perpendicularly traywise...I'm not THAT big a moron.  Then I sat back to watch TCM's marvelous old movies (they're playing horror flicks on Mondays and I adore old movies).  At some point I got up to check my clings and discovered that I am an idiot after all.  You see, there's this little thing called gravity which means that anything you want to be flat can't be on something with a curve so slight you don't even notice.  Fortunately, none of my would-be clings ran all the way off the plastic wrap.   I let them dry overnight, some of them were still ok, and soon discovered my next mistake.

In my enthusiasm to get started, I neglected to tape down my cling wrap.  Glue shrinks as it dries.  Yeah, wrinkly clings.  So wrinkly, in fact, that none of the functional ones would stick to anything.  Wonderful.

The next logical step was to turn to the interwebs and see what else I may have done wrong.  The Elmer's webpage is full of all kinds of projects but their "window sticker" pattern calls for their puffy paint, not white glue.  A quick "how to" search on Google saved the day.  As I read over a number of sites with instructions I remembered something of critical importance.  When Elmer's sold the colored glue for clings, they made the packaging in such a way that you made the clings ON THE PACKAGE.  Nice, stiff plastic.  ARGH.

I regrouped, again, this time with Ziploc bags and my table.   I used gallon sized freezer bags because they were the thickest plastic I had.  Everything seemed to be going ok, then I saw where the glue was starting to run.  Again.  Ye old Ziploc bag must be 100% completely and entirely flat.  The slight bump on my tester (I finally got smart and worked on a smaller scale) made some of the eye shapes distort.  I also discovered that  rounded edges work better, so long as they're large rounds.  The pupils of the small eyes filled in before the glue ran on that set and the eyes with angles have utterly refused to cooperate thus far

One good thing came of the tester, though.  The clings worked.  Finally.  I was able to peel one off to check and it had a good texture and, more importantly, it stuck to glass.  At least, it did for a day.  Turns out that the glue gets drier and then it curls and refuses to stick.

My last ditch effort involved going to the store and getting some glow in the dark puffy paint.  I got a nice, big bottle of glow in the dark and a smaller bottle of red for my other idea.  Once again, to the table and the Ziploc bags.  The first thing I noticed was that puffy paint stays where you put it.  The second thing I noticed was how much easier working with puffy paint is when you're 27 and not 10.  Go, motor skills, go!  Heartened by the first eye I put down, I made the whole sheet of them and set them to dry.

And, at long last, success!

The clings work great!  They even stick to smooth walls***.  A few things to be aware of, though.  First, always ALWAYS pull the puffy paint.  If you push the tip into the paint as you move the bead line along, it will cause the edges not to be rounded and that will cause your clings to not come up off the Ziploc easily.  Second, outline the shape first with a nice, thick line and then fill it in.  It makes it so that if the paper template moves the clings are still properly shaped.  Third, be sure to let the clings dry for 2 or 3 days before you try to peel them up.  You want to make sure the paint is all the way dry.  And, finally, plastic can bond to plastic.  Unless you want some interesting effects under your cling, be mindful of where any markings on your bag of choice may fall.  Else you may end up with this.


Those awesome "REDRUM" clings I made for the bathroom were almost a great idea.  I tested them to make sure they would come off, and they did every day for like a week, but the one thing I didn't test was someone using the bathroom.  I think it was the combination of heat and humidity that did it, but the clings bonded with the paint.  It's a good thing I love painting because I get to repaint almost my entire bathroom.

That whole plastic to plastic thing?  Yeah, my walls were painted with latex paint.