Friday, January 13, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Knitters Frills.

I knit, but I don't knit often. I blame the persistent heat... and the plethora of other crafts I engage in, hehe.
When I do, and unlike many of those other crafts, I always found a need for one thing to harken that one more temptation, and I acknowledge that need by creating the tiny implements to suit the problem (such as my stitch markers or my notions bag)... gradually my appurtenances reflected the years gone by that I have maintained this hobby which I partake in irregularly.

There was one thing I haven't made until now, and I am not sure why its taken so long to do it.
I made a project bag: 

But Madame Mortem, what is a project bag?
I'm glad you asked, it's exactly as its name suggest... a bag that holds your knitting (or crochet) project during those pesky moments where you're dragged to an event and you're finding yourself unable to properly socialize. MmmHmm.

Typically these bags are drawstring so that your working yarn can be fed through the closed bag; preferred I should say, over nettlesome zippers whose teeth constantly threaten to snag fluffy yarns.

Well, and I like drawstring bags...
I have been using a Hallowe'en treat bag till this point.

While living in New Mexico, I picked up a pattern from Walmart-- it was during the release of the first batches for the McCall's Easy Stich & Save patterns they were introducing to the retail giant's repertoire. I know Easy Stitch & Save's have been around forever... but is it just me or weren't they ridiculously hard to track? I am glad to see they're in every Walmart now.
It's McCall's 9106. It's strange but I can't seem to find the pattern anywhere online by that number in a quick web search or their website... they don't seem to track them? It would certainly explain why I've had issues finding them in the past.

I have been hoarding this cameo witch head silhouette fabric for what feels like forever; I have been aching to use it but unable to find a good blender nor a good project that truly called out to me.
Though I once saw a retro undergarment set made with panels of this material, and it almost had me.

I was trekking around a self induced quilt shop hop, when I came upon this hidden treasure of a shop surrounded by automotive detail and repair places and some other commercial retail stuffs-- Memories By The Yard. I wasn't sure about it since other shops similarly located were mostly sewing machine vendors with the tiniest peppering of fabrics and notions to offer. As soon as I walked in my jaw dropped; it's wall to wall of the most succulent quilt fabrics you'll lay your weary eyes on, and a notions section to render you into a dream state.

It reminded me so much of the shop I worked at while living in New Mexico, only Jill's Fabric & Design had a fair amount of garment materials. It made my heart ache, as I loved living there.
Anyway, I found this beautiful floral print nestled right in their blender wall-- it's just the right muted granny retro that my witches needed!

I made a slight pattern change with the addition of a slanted 3 section needle holding pocket; to hold long needles or DPN's as the whim and project beckons. The pattern originally comes with just two side pockets, which was fine-- I just wanted an interior pocket of some kind, who knows if I'll really use it, hehe.

I took this opportunity to try that foam interfacing people have been using for their hand bag creations instead of the standard fusible fleece. I almost forgot I bought it, if it hadn't been for digging around and organizing my interfacings and stabilizers.
I was hesitant for so long that it just fell off my radar I guess; again I find myself asking why didn't I do it sooner? Heheh.

I had bought the more expensive ByAnnie's Soft & Stable some time ago (roughly $12 for one pack at time of purchase--it still had the tag on it! Oops), but now Pellon has been producing their own (Flex Foam) at a little more reasonable price and by the yard. Foam interfacing is quite expensive still, so I can see it drive up the cost of a handmade bag easily. However... it gives a bloody beautiful finish! Omigosh! I am sure I'll be using it for my future bag creations.

My only gripe is that it is tough to work and maneuver under a walking foot (and you really do need a walking foot for this stuff), especially if your machine has a low clearance already-- a little huffing and puffing was involved, but I managed to get through it with my sanity intact, though a little disheveled. I had to use my brother machine (with it's notoriously low sitting needle bar and ankle) for its free arm, otherwise I think I'd have saved myself all this trouble if I could use my ol' faithful.
I'd like to spotlight my orange stick turned sewing stiletto for this-- a lifesaver-- to coax it through the feed dogs without endangering my finger tips, hehe.

To round off my little project bag, I omitted the piece to create the ties and bought some simple tassel ties from the home dec department of my Jo-Ann's. I admit, I believe I should have went a little more kitchy and flamboyant with the tassels, but this suffices. Maybe if I recreate this bag in the form of an actual purse, I might embellish it a lot differently.

My final thoughts on this creation; though I love the foam interfacing, I'm not sure this was the bag to use it on. It's very full bodied and the cinch is a little awkward to pull off flatteringly to the bag-- it's quite bulky to be for a drawstring bag, unless there were a sectional left lax for the casing and cinching.

Well that's that and now I have a project bag! Heh!
If I didn't admit otherwise, you'd think I was obsessively knitting, not distracting me at all with it's one more line...

*accusatory glance*


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: It Started With A Question And Ended With Cats.

If you haven't heard, Bane of GIY started a craft along and you know I was on this like darkness in a batcave.
I might even be jumping the gun a little here; seems early... but I can get quite zealous when it comes to crafts.

She started us off on a pet based theme.
I have two little darlings, and they usually have enough "toys" from a Momma that is always producing crinkly, stringy and other nonsense that falls from her table.

However, it's been a while since they had a real toy to play with since they chew and claw their way through just about anything that isn't a skitter, and those get lost all-the-time. I don't usually see a point in buying expensive toys, unless of course they're too darling to pass up like these little jack o'lantern skitter balls I bought at Target one Hallowe'en. They're gone. I don't know where, but they are.

Whatever toy they get bored with I plop into a fabric crinkly jack o'lantern treat bag which they'll mess around with from time to time-- the combination of the plethora of jingly and sparkly old toys and the nature of the ripstop that the treat bag is made from makes it kind of like a toy in itself.

I suppose it's prudent for me to mention that this did not initially begin as a quest to make toys for the kittles. It instead was a sort of answer to a question I didn't directly think of during a moment of weakness (?).
I recently finished knitting a bat hood, and I really wanted to incorporate pom poms.

I finished the hood (my own improvised pattern), and in my crafting reverie when making the pom poms the old fashioned way (cardboard and whatnot), I pondered if maybe I should buy the clover pom pom makers. Would it be easier to make a pom pom that wouldn't fall apart and need a lot of trimming?

Well these questions burrowed a hole in my head, and the inevitable happened when I had to go back to the craft store for an item.
I bought the damn things.
(brace yourself for a brief product review and trick intermission)

I can't help myself when it comes to crafty gadgetry...
Plus my husband was with me which meant I could take advantage of two 50% off coupons-- just a perfect storm.

Well they do indeed produce a fine and uniform pom pom that needs little trimming, but they still fell apart when tugged on. So I took to my lab and started tinkering.
I heard of gluing each layer, but that sounds messy and most of all temporary. The only thing then was needle and thread.

Curved needles work really well for this, since the area where you're sewing is kind of a cramped and deep. You'll also need a button craft weight thread, as it's the only thing strong enough to withstand all that tugging without snapping.

The stitches you'll make will be in that 'U' area of the maker. I start with a few vertical stitches and finish off with horizontal overcasts, making sure to alternate between the deeper parts and the surface. You'll have to make sure your stitches are also fairly narrow to ensure they cinch all the layers together.

Instead of using one type of thread to wrap it all together, I used both the button craft thread and then a length of the yarn for weaving into your project. I noticed the cinch was tighter when I did this.

I like the pom pom makers, but I really didn't know what else to use them for... until Bane came along.
I took some time to ponder what to make for my kittles, I thought about constructing a coffin shaped cat bed but they would never use it over the couch, or my lap, or the corner of the bed. I thought about making a coffin shaped food mat but I didn't feel like trekking to find a large enough mat to cut away from (I still may get back to this one). Then I thought about buying some ceramic pens to paint cute Hallowe'en things on their food bowls (again might come back to this one)... but again, the trek to buy the supplies interrupted that train of thought.

Well, it was during the making of more pom poms for fun with the cats "helping", that a light bulb went off in my head.
Why not? lol.

I stitched on some bat wings I cut from scraps of black felt and attached a little jingle bell, cut a long enough tail to tie onto a dowel and... VoilĂ !
I barely got it off the table before Khan went crazy trying to nab it; I caught some of the action.

I will likely get back to those other projects for them; the mat and the bowls. I am due for another craft store visit here! Heh!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: Continuous Continuum.

Every new year, without fail, I am surprised by two things:
1.) That it's a new year
2.) I somehow survived the last one with my humor relatively intact.

Being of this mortal coil, I am not remiss in taking advantage, whether real or perceived, of beginning anew.
In a way, that is what keeps me going with Bat Fit. With Bat Fit, every year felt new instead of a perpetual cycle which I have placed myself in under 'tumble dry'; before Bat Fit it kind of felt like it. Granted, it's taken some refining to get my Bat Fit regime to suit my needs-- like a sock in a dryer, I kept losing pieces of myself making impulsive decisions and grandiose goals that affected my life more than I gave much thought to, but the Bat Fit community (of which I am ghost of sorts to) is a community that makes even the most ghostly of apparitions still feel connected.
Bat Fit is good, so when Franny announced the 2017 kick off  I was all too happy to climb aboard once more.

Y'know, she's right about resolutions. It's a rather finicky word that has a tendency to lead people into failure, and if anything were to be a perpetual cycle it should be good habits. Which is precisely what I will target this year.

Last year I managed to achieve most of the intentions I had set for myself in 2016, sans two or three: I didn't get a hair cut, I didn't continue learning to tat, and I didn't sew a waist training corset heh.
I didn't refer to these at all as resolutions, and perhaps that might have helped to keep my affirmations strong. Those goals were more than achievable and I feel better for having done them, and thanks to having completed them I have the confidence to continue: it's time for a little step up.
Albeit a baby step.

So, what to jot down as my 2017 intentions...
There isn't a lot I want to change from last year's, except add two or three things:

  • Participate in my chosen communities. Meaning, I shall endeavor to post more often again; write content big and small, relevant and irrelevant. Comment more on other's blogs, share more on instagram or FB groups. In other words, be sociable hehe.
  • Use my makeup. I have a pretty big makeup collection for someone who rarely wears it. I want to dress up for the sake of breaking up the amount of time I spend in pj's and messy hair, hah! Would help adding capricious content to my blog, heheh.
  • Tackle one large project. I have collaborated for large sewing projects to go in shows and other things, and of course I make a lot of stand alone pieces... but I haven't truly made, say for example, an evening ensemble from scratch all by myself. I have also wanted to illustrate my own tarot deck, heck maybe even just the major arcana, and I have never knit a sweater. I think it's about time one of these changed to said and done.

Good enough, eh?
I feel good about this list, hehe.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mortem's Tricks of Treats: Busy Bag of Bones.

So the year was a crazy one-- for many of us.
Was it the worst year? That is debatable... but sufficed to say, if it were not for the many obstacles that have presented themselves, I would not be currently scurrying and crafting to meet the opening of my etsy shop in January, of which I have many little treats in store (if you've been following me on instagram):

Though I am stressed up to my gills, it's that kind that is more laced with excited anticipation for the future state of my personal life fulfillment.
But stress by any other name is still stress, so that is excitement is tempered with a healthy dose of worry haha.

There are several things to look forward to seeing in my shop, I have been tapping into every one of my creative skills to offer a variety of items from sewing to painting, and knitting to jewelry making. I have also been dabbling in ones that are still fairly new to me, mostly because they all share the same format.

So I guess this entrada began when I had this intense urge to have a bunch of little glow in the dark bats to cover my new Christmas tree in-- like the kind in Oogie's lair

I decided they should be in perler format because perlers have glow in the dark beads I could work with, but I hit a wall since I could not find a good forward facing pattern for a bat to then modify into these cuties. So I tried using a bat vector and plopping it into one of those programs I linked in my perler bead post, but the results were still not satisfactory.

Christmas came, and with it I was given a rather fortuitous discovery of a new method of creating embroidery and cross stitch patterns via this blog post (The HomesTeady).
Regrettably, I ran out of ink in my printer... but it churned my gears, and I remembered I had make-shifted a lightbox so I could trace one of my drawings for inking; since my design didn't necessarily have color it would do well.

It surely did work like a charm. I made the lightbox from a cardboard box, a little lamp I bought at Walmart for $3 and the glass came from a frame I accidentally broke; I am also mystified why the glass didn't break but the frame did, and I never toss anything so what luck!

Since it's a perler pattern I was after, I couldn't do the half boxes (stitches), so some of the lines needed to deviate a little. Then it was a matter of filling in and taking creative freedoms, and bam! I had the pattern I wanted! I copied it into a little graph paper notebook I have been keeping all my little pattern creations in.

So I began the task of creating my little bat...
I almost finished her too in the colors she needed to be, but I realized I was going to need the majority of my glow in the dark perlers to bust out some trinkets and things I was going to do for another soul; she was taking up half my current glow beads... and I needed a pay off before I could make a trek to buy more perlers for my own projects... so I compromised and inverted her since I needed one now and had plenty of black

She is ridiculously cute paired with my Jacky, don't you think?

Since my fridge is already covered in magnets and post cards there was no room for these to be turned into magnets...
Next best thing?

Make them window clings.

Looking at the words 'embroidery' and 'cross stitch' and even 'plastic canvas' so often in these perler endeavors, the desire to do all of these has been unequivocally and heavily hammered into my head.
So I treated myself to a bundle of goodies!

I have got so many cute things coming! Some that I dearly want to keep, hah!
I want to say that the big reveal is soon, but the way things are going it's going to be to some extent a gradual process, since everything I am doing, I am doing strictly and solely by myself.
Is it too late to ask Santa for octo-limbs? ...

Here's to the new year, may the adversity it brings us help us to continue to strive forward!
Keep it spooky, fiends.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: The Tempest Sea, The Northern Star.

Hello friends!

Long time no see.
I took a rather long break from the digital web I've woven; nary a blip or blurb on many of my social media outlets sans instagram, which I have taken a small liking to.

Indeed, life has been turned upside down for many of us-- especially with the political and media tides as they have been. I took solace in my solitude and craft.
Alas, it wasn't enough.

I began suffering a streak of depression which meant a savage spike in my insomnia. Medication helped me fall asleep, but all this with my apnea meant that sleep, when it came, offered no rest. I was constantly exhausted.

My husband and I decided that a change in our surroundings might help, so we packed our apartment and we moved. Yes, we really did that, and yes, I was really that desperate.

The new house while it is nicer, meant an increase in rent and utilities that I was so sure wouldn't be a problem because I was convinced that I could find another little retail job like I have always been able to in the past-- that small income boost would be enough to keep our train rolling.
Alas, I haven't had much luck this time.

A few interviews but not a single substantial bite.

We couldn't/can't really afford to do anything extra, so my beloved Samhain and Hallowe'en came and went without celebration or indulgence. We used money that the in-laws sent for the hubby's birthday to buy some extra groceries so that I could grill a nice meal at home at least, on his birthday a day before Hallowe'en.

On the other hand, my insomnia and depression have shifted back towards manageability, but unless the pressure for work is alleviated I suspect it will return; currently in good spirits, though.

So I know it's a  rather long shot, but I have decided to jump into the artists pond in search for work.
I have begun checking off the list of things to do in order make it in the crafty market, where once I nearly drowned.

I have been reconstructing my brand and humble little corner on Etsy as the shop called The Serpent & The Thimble, which I hope you will consider come open.

Like my announcement banner states, I have been diligently preparing for a grand opening in 2017, but some items will creep into the shop before then-- the grand opening simply means the deadline at which the bulk of what I've been working on should be listed up for your buying and viewing pleasure.

I haven't fully decided on a logo, I have a few sketches I drew up to consider... but I couldn't well open the shop without a single taste in the kind of shop it'll be, so I used my meager photoshop skills and added a thimble to this already collaged vector to create this placeholder till I finalize my design.

Thimble vector from Graphics Fairy and the rest is unknown.

It is as close to what I envision as I can decide at the moment, but definitely not final since, obviously, I didn't fully create it myself.

The shop name is a lot longer than what many people recommend, but it seems to hit a note with the kind of patrons I wish to attract.

The shop name is derived from a few metaphors and literal nuances. The serpent, which is widely used in the description of Pagan's and Healers alike; my great grandmother was a Curandera, and I have taken up her mantle and craft from childhood; sewing seems to be my tool for healing.

I didn't choose to use a needle nor a spool of thread in my design, I found the significance of a thimble much more appealing. The often overlooked shield used to protect your fingers from the prick and poke of weaving and creating. You could say it was an obvious and typical choice for a Cancerian like me.

It's definitely the most ambitious endeavor I have embarked on since my failure oh those years ago, but the best beacon of hope I have. I feel changed for having taken this leap.
Thankfully one of the benefits of time is growth, and I know many more things now than I did before.
Hopefully enough to keep me afloat for as long as I need!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Freakshow Films: Home For The Holidays.

I haven't been posting reviews for the movies I watch as often as I should, and since we're nearing another wonderful October, it's time to get our caramel corn out and enjoy the ensuing flood of horror movies on Netflix and the like!

The first of the season I got my grubby hands on is:

Holidays (2016)

I started watching it before reading the complete synopsis, seduced by the movie poster, and discovered it's a series of short films according to each holiday-- including mother's day, father's day and New Years-- an anthology.

Oddly enough Thanksgiving was not included in the illustrious bunch of celebratory days... I think they missed a good opportunity there.

I also think they shot for the wrong audience when writing Halloween; it was terrible, and not the good kind of terrible...
I don't know what they were heading at exactly, but it came off cheap and utterly predictable. Bad writing, bad acting, bad setting-- just all around disappointing. Very sad to say it was my least favorite segment.

It has a very retro slasher feel throughout; I could see this becoming a cult classic, despite and because of its obvious short comings.

I would give it 4 and a half out of 10 spooky bats. The best parts are in my opinion the ones I least expected to be good. I wouldn't rush to see it, but should it come up on your queue I'd say give it a watch-- it's still worth its weight in afternoon entertainment.

What is on your queue this spooky season?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mortem's Apothecarium: The Hair On Your Brushes Need Some Attention.

Since I have been painting with watercolors I've been going through cleaning solvent like crazy. I have been using makeup cleaner on my watercolor brushes because watercolor paints have a fairly similar chemical makeup as well... make up lol, and the bristles on watercolor brushes are typically the same quality as a makeup brush, some are even made with real fur.
They require the exact same care... but even for the cheapest cleaning solution ($3 for ELF 2 fl oz), it's not quite the best frugal choice. It doesn't smell that great either... but that has nothing to do with its effectiveness, heh.

Back in 2013 I wrote a review about a beauty blender knockoff as they hit the wider makeup world (which is people like me who are not MUA's and not quite enthusiasts either hah!). In it I linked a video for a recipe to clean your brushes and sponges alike using dish soap and olive oil... it was impressive at the time because I didn't know better, I admit that. Indeed, the combination left a residue that compounded and left the brushes smelling nice, but unable to feather product because of that ickiness that later developed.

Since that revelation, for a couple years now, I've been using a recipe that I found through a youtube MAU named EnKoreMakeup (<---link to video); so far it is the best recipe I've used for cleaning my brushes. It's very effective; gentle even on my kolinsky sables, cheap, and smells quite amazing depending on the dish soap and leave-in conditioner used. I've noticed a significant drop in incidents of skin breakouts since cleaning my makeup brushes with this, so I know its been disinfecting properly-- plus they're always so fluffy and new looking after they're dry.

One batch makes quite a lot, and the ingredients are likely already on hand.

Rubbing Alcohol, dish soap, shampoo/body wash, leave-in conditioner.

Since I've juuust ran out of my spray detangler/leave-in, I used one of my cream/lotion type ones instead. I also substituted the shampoo for this gentle body wash because it smells of roses and my shampoo is tea tree which I am not entirely fond of the smell of, hehe.

I added something a little different to this batch. Since I have a few specialized things because of my soap making supplies, I decided to add in a little pre-mixed fragrance oil especially for these products. I bought this "love spell" mix from Hobby Lobby.

Oils are best added in first to a liquid mixture then the alcohol right after, so that it mixes properly in the solution.
This stuff is potent and it pours out really quick; I didn't know it at the time and it just flowed into my mix too fast for me to really say how much went in lol... so for the batch that EnKore has laid out, I added roughly 15 drops, I think. It's too strong-- oops.

A good rule of thumb with fragrance oils is less is more lol; 3-6 is more than sufficient, and probably better added with a pipette than the dropper it comes with.

Since he didn't lay out a written recipe on his video's description, I will take it upon myself to do it for those that can't for whatever reason view the video-- he states half tbsp, but tsp seemed more accurate:
  • 1 cup of distilled or bottled water
  • 1/4 cup of 90% isopropyl alcohol (a.k.a. rubbing alcohol)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dish soap
  • 1 1/2 tsp Shampoo
  • 1 1/2 tsp Spray Leave-in Conditioner.
  • *Extra: 3-6 drops fragrance oil for soaps*
*If you're using a fragrance oil, remember to add it in first, then the isopropyl alcohol-- stir till both ingredients are properly combined.
Gently mix the rest of the ingredients, stir, and pour into your bottle. When using the solution, you'll notice this stuff doesn't lather copiously so it goes without saying that you must rinse thoroughly to make sure you've got it all out.

The most effective way of cleaning a brush is to then use a surface other than your hand; things like the brush cleaning mats and mitts all over the market come to mind. I use a little cellulite massager I found on ebay a long time ago now.

Nowadays you can find really cheap brush cleaning surfaces, even DIY ones, just as easily as you would find the beauty blender dupes lol.

My own method of hanging my brushes to dry is less elaborate than some of the DIY's I've seen; fairly indicative that you're dealing with a sewist foremost lol...

Behold, my spare-thread-rack-brush-drying-contraption... heheh!
Took some rubber bands and looped them onto the brushes in a manner that I could then hook them onto the rack.

I don't know if this is the end all be all of cleaning solutions for me, but for the past couple years its been very good and nothing yet has been able to overthrow it.
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