Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hustle in Your Bustle

For quite some time I've been working on a new design for my steampunk shop. Based on a piece from my own costume, I wanted to make bustles that can be easily taken on and off, for things like getting in a car or riding a bicycle. My bustle even has a pocket on front, since women's clothing never has enough pockets

I start with an adjustable belt, add a sizable button top pocket, and then the ruffle and fluff. The problem that vexed me for so long? What to stuff it with! I wanted it to be packable, but to spring back. Batting is too dense and heavy. Tulle too expensive and not quite stiff enough. I finally set aside the project to focus on other things...
Then, one day, I put it on, and as I was stuffing it with yet another substrate (Plastic bags, too noisy) I had a small epiphany - Why not leave it open for the wearer to fill? Like a Victorian fanny pack, the Utility Bustle was born. This first one is a little rough, but the beautiful silver and black brocade more than makes up for it! I'm beginning to list them in my shop, what would you put in it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Real Cost of Bottled Water

I have never been a bottled water drinker. Not originally from any concern for the environment, not because I loved our tap water (Tho here in Denver the water quality is quite high), I've never liked buy bottled water because - water? That should be free! Over the years however, I've seen an increase in people buying bottled water and a decrease in the number of public water fountains.
I've been reading "Bottled and Sold" for a class, and it takes an interesting look at the trends of taking a public product and privatizing it. Our society went from outbreaks of waterbourne diseases to clean safe public water in only a few dozen years. But now many beverage companies and trying to convince us that we must be paying more for it, and not trusting our taps.

Is Bottled Water Safer?

Who knows? No really, it's hard to say. Bottled water is loosely regulated, bottling plants are rarely inspected and testing is infrequent. Much bottled water (At least half) is simply municipal tap water. When a problem is found in bottled water recalls can take months, and are rarely publicized. City water systems however have strict regulations, test as often at 12 times per day, and when problems are found action must be taken within hours. Is tap water safer? Not necessarily, but it is more regulated and there is a lot more data available about what exactly you're drinking.

Then there's the issue of waste. Lots of it. About 850m gallons of bottled water are drank per year in the United States alone. Less than %25 of the 5.6 billion pounds of plastic bottles we use each year are recycled. The cost, in petroleum, of making a plastic bottle (this process also consumes a lot of water), filling and cooling the bottle, and transporting the bottles amounts to about a quarter of the volume of water within. So look at that bottle and imagine a quarter of it is oil. Plastics take thousands of years to break down in a landfill, and leach chemicals into the ground water all the while.

So what is the real cost of bottled water? Three to five times the cost of a equivalent volume of gasoline. Environmental degradation. A continued lack of access to clean water for the global poor. I highly recommend giving this book a read. It is quick and easy, with lots of data to back up the statements. What is your stance on bottled water?

TLDR - Buy a Nalgene, use it all the time, be happier.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Adventure's of VonKlank

"15th April 1882

Currently at 85 fathoms and descending. The Continental Slope here falls at about 4 degrees, and may be steepening. Our bearing is almost exactly West, varying between 265 and 273. We seem to be reaching a deeper escarpment which I intend to follow until reaching an absolute maximum depth for the craft. I have not told anyone this, as a last minute panic consumes less oxygen than a continuos nervousness. The muck is uninterrupted, no plants live here, no schools of fish cross our lights. The darkness is truly absolute.

130 Fathoms. No problems thus far with any systems. I decided to turn off most of the lights, it shall allow us to continue at lower engine power levels, I do expect us to have any trouble with running aground of something here in the emptiness of the abyss. We are making more progress downward than out it would seem. The angle on the continental slope has dropped sharply and we are forced to zig-zag as tho we are walking down a steep mountain. 165 Fathoms and we are halting to do hull and systems checks.

Wonder of wonders! Here in this black depth a creature appears, drawn to the light! A writhing mass of tentacled legs propel it along the bottom, a long tail of tendrils dangling behind. It has a long neck with beak-like proboscis, and most unusual – small eyes? It must not rely on optical input as it traverses the abyssal plains..."

An entry from the Diary of Vanessa Von Klank, this is the story I have been writing to accompany a collection of steampunk drawings. I hope to have a small published volume in time for Anomaly Con. I'll have more sneak peaks as the project comes together.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shadow Puppets

I've been trying a lot of new crafts recently. Once people find out that you make stuff, they tend to ask you about making other stuff! I was requested to make some paper puppets for a play to celebrate Imbolc, naturally I said "Sure!". Then I realized I had no idea how to make a shadow puppet...
Fortunately I had most of the tools needed. Good scissors, an exacto knife, hole punchers, wires and sticks. I bought some good stiff card stock, and pack of little tiny connector brads. (Found at a scrapbooking store in case you're curious, couldn't find any little ones at the office supply shop.)
I created three characters. The lovely young woman who is Brigid, an old hag (who is up to no good of course), and a young dashing hero - Angus Mac Og. With only simple details I wanted to stick by old stereotypes to make the story-telling go easily.
After all the limbs were cut out and tacked together, I taped them up on sticks and added wires to move the hands. They were still tricky to use, but a little practice made some very realistic motions.
For the show, we set up behind a white sheet, with a piece of green sheet cut out to make the landscape. The flowers have colored plastic sheeting on them to make them bright and exciting. The plastic didn't stick very well, next time I might need more than simple white glue...
And so when Brigid walks the land the flowers could spring up behind her, and in winter she sleeps so the land can rest. I'm hoping we will have opportunities in the future to use these again, a tale of seasonal balance should be told often, and I worked my butt off to make these!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Finds - Steampunk Valentine

My suitor sends an invitation, a love note. Won't you join me for dinner and adventure afterwards?
Steampunk Valentines from RaidersoftheLostArt
I will dress in party finery, innocent and demure with ruffles and lace. An aged mauve to enhance my blush.
Dress byGypsyJunction
A snappy dresser, my dandy man is not afraid of rich colors and fine vestments.
Man's Vest by OLearStudios
Of course he will not be late, I cannot abide by a tardy suitor.
Watch from Aranwen
He will bring me a gift, a small token of affection. Simple adornments, elegant and stylish.
Tatted earrings by Decoromana

We shall prepare ourselves for adventures unknown! Protected for whatever may arise.
Helmet by MugwortMedia
And we shall be borne away by whatever conveyance he contrives, by air, by land, or by sea...
Print by BiloxiHousewife
What plans have you this St. Valentine's Day? A Victorian romance? Vernesian fling? Or does your airship fly solo...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sandwich Cookies

Also known as "Wow, I have a lot of Jams stored away in my cabinets. No wonder there's not room for anything else!" Cookies.
I'm planning to meet with many different people this weekend, and share cookies with them of course! So I made a big batch of dough, three sicks of butter! Other than cinnamon I left the cookies pretty basic, no need to have too many competing flavors! My shape of choice today was round, I actually used a jam jar lid, it was a perfect size. I recently bought some sets of little tiny cookie cutters that are perfect for this purpose!
The key here is counting, One wants to have an even number of top cookies and bottom cookies! I tried to split each tray evenly to keep things right.

Put a nice layer of jam on a solid cookie (The weird looking tray side, not the nice top!) and stick a decorative top cookie on it. Simple, easy, done! Unless you make really chunky jams, and it's hard to spread them evenly... Colorado Cherry, and Palisade Peach Cookies. A perfect way to eat local fruit in the winter.
One could also make chocolate cookies, or use nutella inside, or a ground nut filling... Lots of choices! Just be sure you make a big batch, you will want to have plenty to share.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treasury Bug

I've been bit, I'm working on treasuries for every one of my Etsy teams... First up is the Upcyclers! Eco-friendly picks for spring.

And a Victorian theme for the SteampunkFactory Team.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Darn It All!

Back in December, while preparing for finals, one of my Professors raged into class. She spouted a few things about the administration and meetings, then turned to me (I was knitting along naturally, as I always do in class.) "Can you fix a sweater?!" It so happens that I am experienced with darning, but even if I had no clue I would have said yes to avoid total meltdown! Her favorite sweater had fallen into the maw of her beloved dog, and was short a good bit of bottom hem, the cuff of one sleeve, even a button and the appropriate button hole.

I couldn't find quite the right color yarn, but a tweedy shetland of a similar color value was deemed the closest match. After many hours with size 2 dpns. and a darning needle the sweater is back in wearable condition. All that is left is to use a felting needle to secure frayed edges. I recommend that any knit lover learn to darn, it's not difficult and it saves a cherished garment. Imagine if you hand knit a sweater and this happened! I find myself darning socks regularly, as I have yet to learn how to walk without dragging my feet ...

I go by the old slogan, "Make do and Mend" to save all kinds of old clothing!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Snow Day!

The storm blew in last night, turning green lawn and 60F days into this overnight. The transformation of winter's touch. So I'm spending the day with ginger black tea and preparing for a trek to the post office. I'm not one to let 10 inches of snow keep me from going about my day!
What is your favorite Snow Day activity?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Vintage Patterns

I just received a smorgasbord of vintage patterns from a crafty friends with crafty family. Patterns from the early 50s up to the late 70s in all their flimsy tissue paper glory! The oldest ones are of course in a single size, seems this relative was a "size 11, bust 30" which is quite small for me. Fortunately I have done resizing before,and if ever I use these they would be transferred to sturdier paper first anyway.

There were several gems with "New Look" waist and full full skirts. Those of us who are bottom heavy like when the measurements say "hips - free". Perhaps I will never have the pert hair and brilliant red lipstick, but I intend to rock these dresses in style!
But not every thing can be a hit. As the patterns get newer there are two changes. Naturally the fashions, most of which I find somewhat less flattering. I mean, the bride's maid dresses should make them look like shapeless drab things, but that effect only works if the bride is wearing something less tent-like.
The second change in these patterns, is that home seamstresses became less bold. Many of the 70s patterns advertise "Only 2 main pieces!" (There are patterns from the 50's touting simplicity as well, but to a lesser extent) Unisex shapeless vest? Check. Pom-pom trim? Yep. Painfully fluorescent fabrics? Oh my. Item that is unflattering in order to avoid making closures? Facepalm...
In defense of the decades, the 50s had some truly ridiculous knitting patterns, and the 70s had more useable items. Except for the crocheted bell bottoms and granny square dress... What vintage styles inspire you the most?