Better Late Than Never: Projects Long Completed

That I forgot to post because I’m a bum.

If you’ve been checking back with my very inconsistent posting, you might recall my super-awesome mod podge Black Canary shoes.  Awhile back, I decided I was tired of the flat-out terrible that was the Winick “Green Arrow/Black Canary” run and chopped it up for parts:

Comic panels for bag

Such pretty art from such a terrible, terrible comic.

There’s a lot of Dinah on the top of the pile, but there’s also a lot of Ollie, Mia, Connor, and a few shots of Hal Jordan (used for another project).  If you’re not a comic book fan, all those names are characters in the book.  They’re awesome.  When not written by Judd Winick (zing!).

I then went and grabbed a giant red bag I’d bought at Hobby Lobby weeks before this project because it was giant, red, and I was certain I could find it useful.  I did!  However, there was quite a bit of red in the background of the panels I wanted to use (and Mia (Speedy 2) was wearing the classic red costume), so I wanted to tone down the very bright red.  I grabbed some black acrylic paint to paint up the bag.

Paint and Mod Podge

The paint takes the forefront, while the Mod Podge waits patiently for its turn.

I then took the black paint and brushed it all over the purse, which looked pretty neat when I finished up:

Bag, post-painting

Bag, post-painting, pre-awesome.

I then laid out the different pictures on each of the different panels of the bag, deciding to set up an ass-kicking scene for Dinah (aka Black Canary, aka my favorite superhero EVER).  I used the back side of the bag to showcase the different characters in the comic, including Green Arrow (Ollie), Speedy (Mia), Green Arrow II (Connor), Black Canary (Dinah), and Red Arrow (Roy–the three pictures there were of him).  Once I had the whole thing planned out, I put the mod podge to work and created the Bag of Badass:

Front of Bag

Front of Bag

Back of bag

Back of bag

I’ve taken it out a few times since I finished it, and it’s held up well.  I accidentally tore a panel, but I managed to line it back up and mod podge it back together.  Super fun, though a touch time-consuming (lots of tiny pieces to cut out), but I swear mod podge gets more fun every time I use it.

Close up of bag panels:

Front of bag, panel 1
Front of bag, panel 2
Front of bag, panel 3

Back of bag, panel 1
Back of bag, panel 2
Back of bag, panel 3

Crochet on the Internet

Tension Magazine has just launched the start of their latest issue and looking at their absolutely lovely site has made me stop and think about where I spend my time looking at crochet on the Internet.  And so, for your perusal, a short list:

Craftster:  I don’t post here nearly as much as I should (the same could be said for this blog (ba-zing)).  What I enjoy about Craftster as a site is its inclusion of all crafts.  I’m usually there for the crochet boards, which are usually a nice illustration into the variety of things one can do with crochet, but I’ve also posted on the clothing boards with my Mod Podge shoes, and I’ve spent a lot of time simply milling around and looking at crafts I’ve either never attempted (jewelry making) or attempted and failed repeatedly (knitting).  I like seeing that much creativity housed in one place, and the all-inclusive feel of the place makes it fun to surf.

Ravelry:  Home to any knitters or crocheters who want to keep track of their projects and stash, Ravelry has been hugely useful to me in the last couple of years.  While I don’t use the stash function (you can log all the yarn you have, and how much, and where you bought it), I can appreciate the advantage of having the chance to track your yarn usage.  My use of Ravelry comes down to being able to see my completed projects in one easy place.  I’ve had more than one occasion where I couldn’t remember if I’d completed a project, or started and frogged it, or perhaps only sketched out the basic idea.  Ravelry lets me log in, look at my own pictures, and be certain of what I’ve finished.  There’s also a major community aspect on the site with groups to join, but I can’t speak to them, as I’ve never jumped in that particular sandbox.

Tension Magazine:  Yes, I mentioned it above, but I want to give it a proper explanation as I have the other sites.  Tension Magazine is what CrochetMe planned to be back when CrochetMe put out patterns like this gorgeous sweater vest and before the whole thing devolved into a series of amigurumi and scarves that I’d seen everywhere else on the internet.  Tension offers interesting patterns and editorials, and I want it to stick around for a very long time because I think it can really and truly be the crocheters’ answer to Knitty, and I’ve been waiting for that for years.

Prototype of a new bag

This bag is especially exciting for me for two reasons.  First, I wrote the pattern as I went, so I have a starting place when I want to play with it again (most of my bags get made up on the fly with nothing written down to assist me later).  Second, I sewed in the zipper; I have never sewn a zipper in my life, and while I’m certain it shows a bit, I’m okay with that.  Because now I have sewn a zipper, and that means that I can do it again.  I like learning new things like that.

The bag was done up with some leftover Red Heart acrylic in yellow and black and my trusty I-hook.  I like the I-hook for Red Heart worsted weight because it gives the yarn enough leeway that it doesn’t curl into itself quite as easily.

I worked the body of the bag (the yellow) in a single rectangle, with the openings for the straps worked into the pattern:

zippered bag front

From the front

The black stripe you see along the edges of the bag is the back of the stitches that make up the side panel.  I crocheted directly onto the yellow rather than create a separate side panel that would then have to be seamed in on three sides rather than one.  I’m going to get a picture of the side panels before I stitch them the next time I make the bag so that it’s clear how I do it.

zippered bag side panel

Side panel (slightly blurry)

The result is a nice splash of black on the side panels and a bag that has some room to actually store things.  The strap was made very easily; I crocheted straps the width of the loops, threaded the loops through, and then seamed together the ends of the straps.

Now, for that tricky zipper.  As I mentioned, I’ve never sewn a zipper before, so the first thing I did was fire up google and get some ideas on how to do it.  I would link to a good tutorial, but I didn’t find one.  Most instructions I got involved a sewing machine, and I simply tried to match my hand stitching to the way the stitching looked in the machine-stitched pictures.  I also realized, as I sat down to pin in the zipper, that my box of straight pins has gone missing, so I was forced to improvise.  It turns out, in case you find yourself in a similar situation, that bobby pins will do in a pinch:

zipper with bobby pins

When it doubt, use hairpins!

The bobby pins worked exceptionally well because I could slide them into the stitches on the purse to hold everything into place, so it was easy to space them evenly.  I had the bonus of not jabbing myself in the finger because the bobby pins don’t have a sharp point at the end of them.

It took about an hour to sew in the zipper properly, and the final result was slightly uneven, but I’m still pleased with it because I did it.  The next zipper will go in smoother, I’m certain, and I’m ready to try it again:

zipper top view

zipper from the top

Like I said, it’s not perfect, but it’s in there, and that’s an accomplishment.  You’ll notice the end of the zipper is curled up and sewn over with black thread.  I learned that you shorten a zipper by cutting off to the length you need, fold the end of the zipper over, then zig-zag stitch to keep the zipper from splitting open from the back end.  I accidentally sewed the end facing up rather than facing down.  I will not do that next time.

Right. This thing.

Another half a week, and my semester will be over.  I would love to blog more often, but I find myself up to my eyes in homework much more often than not.  Happily, I’ll have some time over the winter break to get a few projects finished.  First up, some quick and pretty Christmas gifts.

If you’re still reading, thanks.  And tell me what you’re working on.

Book Review: Index: The Mages

Index: The Mages, buy it now.

The Index: Mages is the first novel by author Katherine Gilraine.  It is a fantasy novel that includes wars and fight scenes and plenty of people with cool powers trying to blow up stuff.  There is also character development, interesting interpersonal relationships, and a carefully-drawn plot that will surprise you with its occasional left turns.

Gilraine hooks you in from the very first page, opening the story on a post-battlefield world that has been decimated by an intergalactic war.  The main characters are then sent out to recuperate from their experiences, and they end up on Earth.  When the story picks up again, it’s modern-day New York and everything’s just gone sideways.  The man responsible for the intergalactic war has gotten loose, and there’s precious little time to save Earth, its people and maybe even a good chunk of the universe.  Saving a piece of the universe is a tall order for a first novel, and Gilraine fills it well.  Her characters hit the ground running and fighting, and you’re taken along for the chase.  One skirmish has barely finished before another starts to flare up, and Gilraine’s writing style—brief descriptions and snappish dialogue—keeps the up the pace without losing the punch.

A good plot is incredibly weak without well-drawn characters, and it’s clear Gilraine is well aware of that fact.  She uses the events in the plot to showcase each of her characters individually, and that allows her to branch out her story and give a complete, complex narrative that showcases soldiers trying to do their duty, families trying to find out the truth about their loved ones, and friends working hard to help each other through a sudden change in events that leaves them all confused when they have time to think through everything.  Gilraine’s main characters are aliens from a world where magic is commonplace, but they’re wholly relatable in their actions, even when their response to being furious is accidentally setting a hall of portraits aflame.  Metaphor is an effective tool in style when a writer knows how to manipulate it, and Gilraine knows what she’s doing.

The Index: Mages is not just a first novel; it’s the first novel in a series.  Gilraine finishes her fine work with a cliffhanger that should get an award for not being set directly before any major battle, not being set in the middle of any major battle, and not being set just as the good guy and the bad guy finally face off for the first time (an overdone series of tropes used by plenty of adventure fantasy novelists).  It’s obvious she knows where she’s going with the rest of her series.  The first book is a double winner:  It’s a well-constructed set-up into the universe Gilraine wants us to see, and it’s a strong story with an engaging plot and interesting characters.  On the basis of her first novel, I look eagerly forward to what else Gilraine has planned for her universe.

Action Shots of the Shrug-Like Thing

In my last post I posted a vid about a shrug I’d made.  I found the time and incentive to take a few action shots, and the restuls were…variable.  Out of about 15 shots, I picked a few that I really liked, and I think the pictures do a good job showing how the shrug fits and falls.

The shrug hits right at my natural waist [Yes, I’m very high-waisted.].  I still think I need a third button to finish the look.  Or possibly different buttons. I found some cute ones at Joann’s last week that I think will funk up the shrug just a touch.

A slightly closer-up shot of the shrug.  I’m especially proud of the small panels on the sides of my chest that help shape the bottom half of the shrug.

I like this shot of the back because it really shows where the shrug started [the teal] and where it ended [the purple].  It also showcases the general fit on the arms, back, and waist.

And I just discovered that I’ve got a lone skein of the Jewel Box yarn [the purple] that I had misplaced.  Part of me is tempted to add one last bit of flare to the shrug, but I think I can make a tiny purse, instead, and use it as an accessory.

Trying Something a Little Different

I made a shrug that went above and beyond requirements, and I found I had a hard time writing up the explanation without feeling like I was just confusing myself.  I decided to try for a video instead.  It’s not a perfect, professional video, but I decided to stick with try number five as long as I didn’t curse or nearly knock over my computer [both issues with previous versions].  The results are as follows: