30 March 2010

Resolved: No new clothes for 2010.

You heard me.  It's taken me almost 4 months, but it just makes sense as a new year's resolution.  I won't buy any new clothes this year.

Allow me to explain.  I've recently discovered upcycling as a method of coming upon clothing.  Turns out I'd been doing it for years - taking my younger sister's hand-me-ups or raiding my roommates' closets and car trunks for a quick fix to a wardrobe emergency.  When said sister and roommates relinquish the clothes to me with an "It just doesn't fit me anymore!", I feel like I have license to perform alterations.  I've already altered an old pair of jeans into a pair of snug-fitting knee-length 50s style pants.  I turned a 2-sizes-too-big mock turtleneck sweater (ick) into a tailored scoop neck that fits me perfectly.
I am particularily inspired by my copy of the Winter 2010 issue of Altered Couture and the work of the local designer group, Counter Couture.  The idea that someone's unwanted bridesmaid dress or old jacket could be turned into art is something that I can certainly get behind.

The rules: No new clothes this year.
The challenge: Shopping only on craigslist, at thrift stores, and through trades, I will make it a year without purchasing any new outerwear.  Fabric can be purchased, though preferably, it's salvaged from another item. 
After my alterations fervor in the beginning of this year and in the wake of making my Christmas dress, I can certainly do it.
Does not include my bridesmaid's dress for my sister's wedding in August, though, since my parents pitched in for that, I'm not sure that it counts (thanks, Mom!).  Also does not include underwear, socks, shoes and really anything that a) wears out quick and I can't make myself, and 2) gifts.  I'll accept gifts for sure.  (Special Note to Laura: April 6 is around the corner.  Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers?)
Also - I'm a bit behind on this, since I purchased a pair of jeans in February.  They were on sale, fit me great, and I was running out of pairs that fit.  And my sister was buying me Levi's that day.  2 pair will get me through the year.

Projects already in the works (or on the list of ideas) are a 1940s styled swimsuit, made from a sundress and an old shirt, and that COAT!

No worries, noble few!  I will keep you updated, especially in regard to the swimsuit.  After my last half-failed, half-complete success at making a swimsuit from a pair of tee shirts, we'll see how this goes!

26 March 2010

The Friday 5 of Sleep, and some geekdom gushing.

Oh man. Sleep. One of my favorite subjects. One I've had a lot of experience with, and a lot to say! Here goes:

1) How many hours’ sleep do you need in order to be at your best, and what’s the minimum you can get on a regular basis and still be functional?
On average, I need probably about 7 hours to be at my very best. However, I have had weeks where I stay up late, and can get by on about 4. Getting by is helped on by frequent napping during the day, including catnaps during commercials, and full-on sleeping through "Two and a Half Men."

2) What’s your favorite sleeping position?
For sleep-sleep? I'm definitely a side or belly sleeper.  For naps, I prefer sitting up or laying on my back.  It's how my brain separates the two.

3) What was the cause of your most recent difficulty sleeping?
An hour-and-a-half nap at about 8:30 to like 10 last night. I woke up feeling really refreshed... but dammit if I actually needed it then.

4) When you can’t seem to drift off to sleep right away, what are some things you do to bring about sleep?
I have a CD in my old alarm clock that has my sleepytime music on it. Reading usually knocks me out. Failing that, I pull up my computer, open up Hulu or throw in a DVD. There's something about watching TV in bed that just lulls me to sleep. Also? I'll highly recommend going out and getting Hulu Desktop. It's pretty much the best program to have at your disposal for times like this.

5) When did you last doze off at an inappropriate time or in an inappropriate place?
Probably yesterday. There was a lull in my work day, and I dozed for a little while. I'll admit it. Woke up feeling great, and kicked ass for the remainder of the day.

There it is - another week, another 5!

On to the geekery.
April is one of my favorite months of the year due to the end of the hockey season and the start of the baseball season, the sprouting of crocuses, the opening of windows and Farmer's Markets, and my birthday.  Now I have something else to look forward to: new episodes of Fringe.
Fringe has become one of my favorite shows, partially due to the fact that I've recently converted to JJ Abrams-ism, and mostly due to my deep and abiding affection for Joshua Jackson.  Any show that can, convincingly and perfectly, use "Single Ladies" as the backing track to a woman and her 9-year-old niece playing Operation is all right by me. 
But COMING APRIL 1!  We get to find out Peter's backstory.  It's been bugging Fringe viewers since mid-season 1, and the fact that they're putting it in Season 2 is awesome.  (As opposed to waiting 5 seasons and delivering it all in a vomit of backstory that washes over us in a wave and forces us to watch twice... LOST viewers you know what I'm talking about.  Seen "Ab Aeterno" yet?) 
What makes it more awesome is the casting of Orla Brady as Peter's mother and Walter's wife.  I've been wanting to know more about her (Mama Bishop) for a long time, and I love the actress.  She's both gorgeous and adorable - kind of like an Irish Audrey Hepburn.  Just timelessly pretty, with a voice like a viola.  And, as Colm Meaney's character in "The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns" says: "A figgur that'd make a monk cry."
Also, she's now the connecting link between Star Trek (TNG and DS9), The Mighty Ducks, Lord of the Rings and Nathional Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
/end geekery

19 March 2010

Friday 5: Chit-Chat

This week, I will attempt to seriously answer the questions normal Americans usually cast no more than a passing comment at.

1) “Come here often?”
(assuming this happens at my local pub): "Every Sunday and Wednesday when I can afford it.  This place is my Cheers!" 
(Nod to Chatterbox Pub in Highland Park - karaoke twice a week from 8:30pm to 12:30 or whenever the manager asks us to leave.)

2) “What’s new?”
Not much, honestly.  Still attending karaoke every week, still living with a couple and their daughter, still making stuff with yarn and fabric. I'll be creating a few costumes for Urban Spectrum Theatre's dance and fashion production of "Alice in Wonderland"! I'm excited about it. The looks I'm working on will be on sale after the production, which is happening the weekend before the "Destination: Outer Space" premieres!
(No worries, blog followers! I'll keep you posted and let you know more in May!)

3) “[insert your recent weather condition here] enough for ya?”
Oh, we had a warm week!  I had my window open until last night when everything froze.  This is great!  It means the maple trees are running, and I'll have a quart of fresh syrup by Easter!

4) “How’s it hangin?”
Provided no one has knocked it down again? Well. I hope.

5) “How ’bout them [insert local sports team here]?”
Well, the Wild are doing okay, and the Twins are still in spring training. My sports brain turns "off" during March to avoid March Madness.

There you have it! Another week, another 5.

17 March 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sitting here, eating my leftover corned beef and cabbage from my triumphant batch last night, and wondering... what should I do to commemorate this, the only holiday that makes people immediately think of Ireland?

Etsy's blog, The Storque, put out a wonderful post of green items - green as in, wear it and you won't get pinched.  I thought about it, and I'm trying a different tack: I hit the "Shop Local" section, typed in "Ireland," hit "enter," and this is what I found.

Handmade Necklace green Silver Foil Beads by lindsaycrafts.
lindsaycrafts has a great selection of both jewelry and handspun yarn.
Eoin the Bear by TheIrishBearCo.
Complete with handknit Donegal wool sweater and handmade Donegal tweed pants!
French Vanilla Bridal Wrap by bonzie.
Leave it to Waterford to have a resident create something that exquisite.
An Irish Heart. Set of 5 Paper Baubles. by TanyaMac.
Too green to pass up here!
Owl on a stick mobile by ememem.
Her Galway shop just about melted my heart with all of its woollen critters!
Paddy the rat drinking Guinness in a quiet pub - 5x7 print of an original drawing by Tanya Bond from tanyabond's shop.
He looks like a regular - like he's there every night, and that's his usual.  Maybe it's women troubles...
Gran Canarian Heartsong by Lysulka.
Handknit and hand painted. If there's anything else Ireland is known for besides drinking, fighting, and not having snakes, please, please let it be lace making.
Want to give it a try yourself? Check out Shop Local - Ireland!

Did you know?
Corned beef, as we know it today in the US, is primarily our own doing as Irish Americans. Beef in Ireland was traditionally corned and shipped to the US as an export due to the prevalance of rented land by cattle farmers. Here in the US, beef was less expensive than the real Irish darling, bacon, and Irish immigrants salted the meat to preserve it and ate it instead.
In the UK, "corned beef" is known as "pickled beef," and is more like SPAM than the briskets we buy and eat for St. Paddy's.

As an added bonus, here's a quick recipe for corned beef, cabbage and stewed veggies.  Also known as "what I made last night that rocked my socks off."
In your pasta pot, put in:
about 2 lbs corned beef
1 large white onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 white russet potatoes, diced (or 5 red potatoes, diced)
...and cover with water.  Spice to your liking - I used "pickling spices," which includes mustard seed, coriander and thyme, and added sea salt, parsley and peppercorns.
Bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, slice up and add one half cabbage, remembering to take out the bitter core (learn from my mistake!), and simmer for another hour or two, or until cabbage is tender.  Take the brisket out and slice it.

Then eat, papa, eat!  Delicious and filling, as long as your watch out for peppercorns.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

12 March 2010

The Friday 5: Deadlines

It's finally Friday! Awesome. And, as a procrastinator, I'm going to be ashamed of my answers here, and I apologize to anyone who's had to put up with that.

1) When was the last time you had a serious deadline to make, and did you make it?
The last one I can think of is my Christmas dress. I made a dress to wear on Christmas Day and to midnight mass, so I had to have it done by the time I went to bed on the 23rd. I stayed up an extra hour after completion to re-make the collar because it was too high up on my neck. I ended up not going to bed until about 4am, but I finished the dress! And it looks amazing.

2) Do you generally plan for deadlines, or are they more likely to sneak up on you until you’re frantic?
More of the sneaking thing. I'm really not great with deadlines. And I feel like I disappoint folks when I do it, too.

3) When did you last set a deadline for someone else, and did that person make it?
I rarely set deadlines for other people unless absolutely necessary. Usually, they don't meet them, so I don't give myself any expectations.

4) How flexible and understanding are you when it comes to other people meeting your deadlines?
If I set a deadline, I typically allow for them to not make it. It's easier that way to be flexible.

5) What were the circumstances the last time you hung up on someone in the middle of a phone call, or the last time someone hung up on you in the middle of a phone call?
This one's usually due to frustration or disconnection.

There you have it - another week, another 5!

I want that coat: a costumer's journey.

Well, folks, as per my own personal usual, I have another project I've given myself: a new coat.

I love movies, television and miniserieses (miniserie? miniserum? miniserieses.) so much that I've fallen in lust with a few completely different coats. Living in Minnesota means I can never have too many coats, so it really only makes sense that I put forth a little time and effort to making my own. (In case you were wondering: a brown trench, a navy blue peacoat, a grey overcoat, a black overcoat, and a black and red ski jacket.)  I don't plan to be done until next fall or winter, but it's a good idea to get started now.

I'm starting with evaluating my favorite coats for what I like best. I've decided to exclude Malcolm Reynolds' Browncoat not because I don't like it, but because he's a boy, and I really love tailoring details. No worries, folks - some of my favorite detail of the Browncoat show up in some of the following, too.

This coat is from SyFy's "Alice", released near the end of last year. It looks absolutely gorgeous and comfortable, and, in the context of the story, it's a gift from Hatter to Alice, so it's kind of a big deal.
What I like about it:
- deep color: That purple is beautiful.
- fabric: It's very clearly velvet.
- cuffs: These wide and turned cuffs match the style of the coat beautifully.
- trim: The trim of this coat matches, but is a different texture, and highlights the edges of the coat quite nicely.
- buttons: I love huge buttons.
- flare: The bottom flares out a bit, allowing for a skirt.

This coat is a different Alice - Tim Burton's iteration, played by Mia Wasikowska. (Minor spoilers ahead.) This is the coat from the ending scene of the film, in which Alice is an explorer here, building upon her experiences in Wonderland. It's that same light blue color we're used to seeing on Alice, but its length, collar and style clearly state that she'll be standing on the deck of the ship, no matter what the weather.
What I like about it:
- collar: It's not the huge Elizabethan stand-up, but is instead that little bit of "just enough" and would easily accomodate a scarf.
- clean lines: The tailoring of this coat is GORGEOUS. It almost looks as if it has some corset style construction in the main body of it, and fits her body really well. It seems to follow the same lines as a "paletot," a type of mid-length coat from the mid-1800s.
- length: Long enough to cover a dress, short enough to stay off the ground. "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" indeed.  Also, the front appears to be slightly shorter than the back.
- flare: Following along with the 1800s nature of the costuming, the bottom of this coat clearly accomodates a skirt.
- buttons: Lots of 'em. They provide another clean line down the center.

Yeah, I went there. Kahlen from the "Legend of the Seeker" series. Say what you will about the show itself, but DAMN is the costuming fantastic! I knew I loved Kahlen's coats within the first fifteen minutes of the show.
What I like about them:
- hood: The hood is voluminous and fantastic. When up, it frames the face. When down, it forms the lapels and highlights the back of the coat.
- closure: Not buttons or a tie, but lacing and buckles.  I'm a big fan of the lacing on her white coat.  It's a lot of fun, though I think it would annoy me if I had to lace and unlace my coat all the time.  If I had a belt with a buckle like that to keep my coat closed, however...
- fabric: It does not matter if she's wearing her thicker green traveling coat or the thinner white Confessor's coat, the draping is absolutely fantastic.

This last coat is from another obscure source: NBC's "The 10th Kingdom", from the golden age of meniserieses in the late 90s. Virginia, the main character, wears this coat through most of the show. It's not talked about or even really mentioned at all - it's simply her constant and silent companion as she journeys through the Nine Kingdoms. I've been stuck on this coat for ten years.
What I like about it:
- buttons: They're huge, and they look to be vintage or handmade.  Who can go wrong?
- lapels: I'm stuck on the wide lapels, and the big buttons frame them really nicely.
- collar: It's very similar to the Alice the Explorer coat from above in that it's "just enough" of a collar. 
- liner: I adore this liner.  It's gorgeous.  It's like a little secret that the coat would love to share with you, but you had damn well better earn it.  It's like the bright orange liner in the Joker's purple coat from "The Dark Knight."  I'm not the only one who noticed that, right?
- trim: This coat, like the SyFy Alice coat, has a defined trim to it.  Instead of being the same color as the outer, the trim mirrors the color of the liner and provides just a bit more to the coat itself.
- fabric: Wonderful.  Looks to be a wool blend, mostly a grey-blue, but it does have hints of that burgundy from the liner.

Based on my favorites above, I've come to the following conclusions:
- fabric: A wool or wool blend or something tweedy, in a deep and rich color.  No, I haven't decided which yet, but I have ideas.
- collar: A little bit of stand-up like the Alice the Explorer coat.
- lapels: Wide, but able to come together to close up the coat.
- tailoring and trim: Trim in a complementary color, tailored to fit over a sweater underneath.
- flare and length: Thigh length with a bit of skirt flare to it.  I like having a coat that drapes.  Though I really love the swoop in the Alice the Explorer coat.
- liner: A fun and complementary color.  I have some wine-colored wool/lycra blend at home that is calling to be used for a project like this.
- cuffs: I love having turned-up cuffs.  I've never had them on a coat before, but I'd certainly love to.
- pockets.  Not really mentioned above, but a coat's got to have pockets.
Most of these ideas are the complete opposite of the Kahlen coats, so I'm considering making a Kahlen-styled cloak for use primarily at the Renaissance Festival, though with the ability to be used in the "real world."

Pattern Source Ideas:
Simplicity 3628 - Several styles of tailored jackets.  (I like the red one and the purple one.)
Simplicity 2581 - Long length, 1920s style historical coats.
Butterick 4954 - Historical pattern, pelisse style.
Vogue V8465 - I don't know why I'm so drawn to this one... but I am.
Butterick B5425 - Just about perfect.

05 March 2010

The Friday 5: Staples

And not the office kind.

1) Of all the hundreds of sizes and shapes bread seems to come in, what is your favorite?
Hmm... A difficult question, especially since I worked in a bakery!  I'll have to go with... probably... a basket style loaf (kinda wide sandwich bread), or hallah, because it's typically all fancy and braided.

2) What’s your favorite thing to eat with rice?
Cheese. Okay, if rice isn't the main dish, then probably ring bologna and green beans, or chow mein.

3) What are your feelings about milk?
Love it.

4) What was wrapped in the tortilla you most recently ate?
Probably Chipotle.

5) How many staplers are there in your house and where are they?
I know I have one either in my room in the desk, or in the office in my box of misc. office supplies. And Brent probably has one on his desk, too.

So there you go - another week, another 5!