Goodbye 2016

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This has been a year. So much has happened in 2016, it hardly feels like it could contain it all. Now is the time we usually get introspective and think about what has come before and what comes next. I’m doing more of that than usual.

As this year comes to a close, so does my time blogging here at Craft Hackers. I have enjoyed the opportunity given to me, and I will still be around as a Member if anyone would like to contact me, but I am stepping away from the blog for personal reasons. I hope to be able to find time in the future to come back and continue our journey through cosplay and craftdoms, but for now, I will be focusing on things that I Need To Do.

Best wishes for the coming year and all your crafty projects!

~ eliste

 

 


In the face of Darkness, let there be Light

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I’m recently back from Germany, and so the news out of Berlin this week has hit me quite hard. This post was prepared before the tragedy struck, but I just felt I had to say something.

I was not feeling the holidays much this year until this trip and the Christmas markets of Dortmund and Düsseldorf. Christmas markets are one of the most wonderful things you can do during the holidays. Crafts, gluhwein, good friends, and fun in the cold. What is there not to love? It is awful to think that such horrifying attacks could happen at such a place of fun and joy. But rather than be defeated by the terror and anger, we must soldier on.

I love the German Christmas aesthetic. My mother has always loved it, and some of my favorite ornaments in her collections are German. I do love my woodworking, and a lot of the Christmas ornamentation and crafts I found at the Christmas markets were wood-based. But one of the best was Käthe Wohlfahrt.

From the larger pieces like the traditional Schwibbogen…

to the tiny handcrafted ornaments of cuteness. The quality of the craftmanship of Käthe Wohlfahrt is exceptional. In today’s world of mass-production, it is a joy to see unique and interesting options still out there, thriving.

Whatever your holiday aesthetic, let it be of cheer, let it be of joy, and let it be a light in this dark winter to drive away the sorrows and pain to lead you to better days.

~ eliste


Closet Cosplay 2: Leia

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Its Rogue One premiere day here in Ireland! Like last year, I’m out to it in a casual costume. Last year I went as Han, which turned out to make the evening a heck of a lot more heart-wrenching, so I chose a character who I was fairly confident would not die in this movie, Leia. So here are some closet outfit suggestions from me to you in case you want to represent Her Highness on your way to the cinema.

The classic and easy option is her senatorial gown that she spends most of her time in early on.

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All white dress, white shoes, and a silver belt and you will definitely be giving a nod to the original trilogy’s heroine, especially if you add the classic Leia buns. But I’m more interested in another, warmer option out there- that of her Hoth outfit.

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-11-33-31 White shirt and pants with an off-white fuzzy “Wampa” furred vest and grey boots and you’re done! The hairstyle for this will be a bit more difficult, with the long braid around the head, but this will keep me much warmer as I venture out into the rain that has finally come to Dublin.

Rogue One is looking like it will be amazing. Have a happy Star Wars week ya’ll!

~ eliste


Cosplay A to Z: Choosing a Commercial Pattern

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One of the things I think many beginner sewers have difficulty with is choosing patterns to sew with. For today’s article, I’m going to assume you’re working primarily with fabric for your costume.

Choosing a pattern can make your life easier or not, so today we’re going to talk about my 4 S’s of pattern selection.

Size
It goes without saying that size is important. Pattern sizing is not the same as fashion sizing, and so at a basic level, you need to ensure you are using the correct size. If your pattern size is the same as what you bought in a store, you’re probably going to have problems.

But in a more abstract manner, size is important in different ways. Maybe you don’t want perfectly fitting clothing. Maybe you want oversized clothing.

Is your character a cartoon with blocky features? If so, maybe you want to ensure that your pattern is going to be oversized to give that less human, more pixelated look. Some designs may be created that are made to hang large on a frame. Looking at the fit of the design on the model can help you get an idea about whether it will really bring your character to life in the way you want to.

 

Shape
Shape goes to the basic shape of a pattern. If you were to represent your costume in 2 dimensions, what shapes would it take?

If you’re looking for a skirt, the first question to ask is does this give the right kind of skirt? Is it a-line? Is it mermaid? Does it go in where you want it to go out? For instance, a short school uniform-type of skirt has a very different shape than a pencil skirt worn by the school principle.

If you’re wondering whether a pattern would give similar shapes, you can easily try drawing them out to compare.

 

Silhouette
Silhouette takes shape to a step above. It is about the lines on the edge of the body and the curves or straight lines they make that that point. You want to check that the pattern you choose gives you the same silhouette as a character.

For retro and historical patterns, you may find that the correct silhouette is not achievable without proper undergarments. For instance, the 1890’s saw the use of spoon-busked corsets. These are very distinct silhouette and corsets that use any other type of busk will not give the S-curve of the 1890’s corsets. Further, any clothing not designed for a spoon-busk may need alterations to accommodate a different style of corset.

The Victorian silhouette

The Victorian silhouette

I think silhouette is best explained by Jessica Rabbit. Any pink sparkly dress with a red wig will evoke the comically drawn Jessica, but only a specialised corset and dress will depict her incredibly tight waist and buxom features for an accurate silhouette.

 

Seam Lines

The last, but certainly not least, consideration is where to the seam lines lie on the pattern?
You can save yourself a lot of effort if you can find a pattern that has similar seam lines. It will be more easily alterable to gain the silhouette you want, as well as looking more like what the character uses.

I will caution that seam lines are not always a requirement for many costumes, but for some, they can make or break a costume. In some instances, seam lines can be the difference between a screen accurate costume and not.

For instance, while any black bodysuit could be used to represent Mara Jade, she is always depicted in the comics with very specific patterns. I had to adapt a bodysuit pattern to add these seams in and take extra seams out in order to get an accurate costume.

All four of these things may not exist in a single pattern. However, if you can find a pattern that has 3 of them, you’re going to have a lot less work to do to make it fit and look accurate than if you just pick the first jacket pattern you find in your size. You could choose the first jacket pattern you buy, but take some time, and you may find one that is not only 1940’s styled, but has princess seams.

There are thousands of patterns in existence, and combing through them can be time consuming. However, taking that time at the beginning of the process can significantly make the construction process later on easier.

~ eliste


Cosplay A to Z: Measure it out

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One of the fundamental issues with getting a good costume is starting from a good base.
If there is any sewing involved, that base needs to be accurate measurements.

Measuring a body is more tricky than many people realise. It is one of the first things they teach you upon stepping into the world of pattern making, and for good reason. We have pudgy bits that defy attempts to keep things where we want it, but without accurate measurements, it is difficult to know where to begin.

Here are some tips on how to get accurate measurements for your costumes.

1. Don’t measure yourself
It is a little known fact that you almost certainly cannot get accurate measurements of yourself by doing the measuring yourself.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, you cannot actually see some of the measurements to take- like your back. It is physically impossible without a multiple mirrors to be able to see what’s going on at your back. Likewise, one of the key things in measuring is that you are doing it accurately, and you cannot view where the tape is sitting on your back to ensure it sits straight/at the right height/etc.

Further, if you were to somehow set up mirrors to deal with this, you would have to contort your body in order to get those measurements. As soon as you move your body, you lose accuracy in your measurements. That is not to say that you need to be stock still, but bending arms or legs, twisting your head, all of these things will alter the measurements that get taken. So at the bare minimum, you will get better measurements if you get someone, anyone to take them for you.

2. Learn how to measure
Measuring is a science. You need to be precise. You need to keep using the same spots for measurements, and you need for it all to be harmonious.

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Note that this person is actually measuring their waist wrong.

One of the simple ways of doing this is to add guides to your body. Tying strings around your waist and where your arms and shoulder meet can provide good guidances.

Additionally, there are little things you need to do like keeping your measuring tape level with the floor when you’re measuring, keeping your measurements all in one metric system (cm or inches, don’t mix), and

If you’re not sure how to measure, then look for guidance. Between the internet, books on garment making, and traditional sewing classes, you should be able to find someone out there to give you guidance in this respect. Even better, get whoever you are going to have measure you sit down and learn it too. I recommend finding a costume buddy, because then you can do it for each other.

I highly recommend learning in person. There is nothing that quite replaces being able to feel a shoulder bone or the divet in the neck. You can see it, but feeling it really puts it in your mind forever.

3. Learn where to measure
Most costume companies will ask for three things- your chest, waist, and hip measurement. This sounds easy, but this is actually not going to give you a particularly accurate costume.

The more information you have on your measurements, the more accurate a costume will be. These three measurements, while crucial, only give a basic understanding of what your figure is like.

They don’t explain that your waist is higher than most cause you’re only 5’ and while you might have a fairly standard sizing in these three areas you actually need that, but with about 4 inches lopped off the overall length. Further, if you’re a busty girl, it will be obvious from the other measurements that using the large bust measurement will make your costume way too large overall.

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This is the basic minimum that is needed IMO. But if you are drafting you will need more information than this. There are many guides like this that can be found with simple Google searches.

So you need to take all the measurements necessary to make your costume. This may be all the upper body alone, or it could include lower body. Maybe you don’t need sleeve measurements cause it will be sleeveless.

My word of advice is that it is always better to take more measurements than are needed. It is best if all measurements are taken at the same time by the same person, so if you think you’ll use the measurements a second time before re-measuring get everything you can before you lose whoever is helping you. At least if they do everything, if there are errors, they will be consistent throughout.

Like with learning how, the tools are out there. You just need to find them.

4. Don’t rely on old measurements
Got some measurements done in college 2 years ago? Great! But don’t just expect them to be the same now. If you’ve gained or lost 5lbs or more, your measurements will likely change. Even if you haven’t changed weight, exercise and diet can have changed how your body is put together.

In fact, even if your clothes still fit you, that is not a guarantee that your measurements have not changed.

My point is, if you haven’t had measurements in a while, then you should get new ones done.

Once you have all of your measurements done, make sure whoever is making your costume has all of them. Even if they only ask for three measurements, send them all. If they don’t use them, you won’t have lost out on anything, but if they do, you should get a costume that is as close to your size as possible.

Further, you can use this as a way to determine if a costume seller is really up to the standard that you want them to be. If you contact them and they are unwilling to work with custom measurements, that is going to tell you something and then you can make up your mind about whether it is worth getting a stock sized costume that you may have to alter to fit, or whether you want to hold out for someone who will make a costume that will genuinely fit you.

Happy measuring!

~ eliste


Meet the Hackers (Irish Edition): Eirtakon!

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While I generally only create posts, I am an active member of the Irish con scene. This weekend marks the first step into doing more than just being a punter in terms of my crafting ability (I’ve staffed and run cons before).

This Saturday at Eirtakon, Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland, I’ll be holding a panel at 4pm on Cosplay Sewing 101: Patterns. If you are attending Eirtakon, I’d love to meet you. Swing by the panel or just after it and say hello!

~ eliste

 


Embracing the Mess

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The rise of “Pinterest Perfect” crafting fills me with dread. It looks beautiful, it is arranged beautifully, it is made to look easy. But, to me, what it never particularly looks like is fun.

Halloween is such a fun time, and it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to Pinterest Perfection the way other holidays do. The types of decorations and costumes and crafts that I think of in conjunction with Halloween are messy, dirty, fun.

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You cannot make a jack-o-lantern without getting messy. Your hands will be messy, your plate will be messy. You will later find pumpkin stuck in places and on furniture that will surprise you.

Haunted House staples are not just scary, but disgusting and gross to the touch or to look at. Eyeballs in jelly, messy blood spatters, We celebrate that which we normally avoid when Halloween comes along.

This is one of the reasons I feel Halloween has always been beloved by crafters. We understand that the Pinterest Perfect end product can only be found through a period of absolute, downright mess.

Yes, you can get that perfect photo, but you have to be willing to put up with the mess to get there. And in fact, the Halloween ideas and photos that strike me most are the ones where you can still feel that mess, that uncontrolled disaster that is lying underneath the surface.

For me it’s like the difference between the beauty of a highly groomed garden and the beauty of wildflowers. They both hold beauty, but the raw, natural chaos has a striking quality that never ceases to draw the eye.

And this is also why Halloween is the perfect time to get your children involved. Children are inherently less bothered by mess. They are happy to get their paws in the mud, the blood, the crafting mess.

I am once again pleased to be involved in the Halloween costumes for my friend’s children this year. We will have bloody vampires and zombies running forth.

Embrace the mess this Halloween. A little blood never hurt anyone.

~eliste


Crafting Memory Lane

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Last week Facebook gave me a memory of a blog post from 2 years ago. I started my blog back in 2010 as a way of keeping track of things. I thought it might help me keep on track of current projects, and it did do that. However, having been blogging for 6 years now, there are a number of un-sung benefits from it. So today is about those not-so-talked about reasons why you might choose to blog.

Accountability

Crafting in public, be it on a blog or just posting progress pictures on social media, has been great for making me finish projects. When you work in secret its easy for a project to fall onto the UFO pile and never be seen again. But when you start posting about what you’re working on, even if the only people who follow you are friends and family, someone will inevitably ask “How did that embroidery you were working on turn out?”

It may not be a big deal, but for me, it makes motivation a lot easier to find when I know someone will eventually ask to see what I’ve done. Deadlines don’t work well for me, as I am constantly prey to the planning-fallacy trap. But the subtle social pressure? Yup, works like a charm.

Explaining Clears Up Your Thought Process

As any teacher will tell you, you need to really have a good idea of what you’re at if you’re going to explain it to someone else. Its not just that you understand what you’re doing, but you need to understand why the way you are doing something works or doesn’t.

Blogging can be many things, but craft-blogging tends to be about process. So when you write your blog post about your particular project, you provide guidance for others who may be doing something similar. You teach, whether you intend to or not.

Writing has a way of helping you put your thoughts, the whys, the reasons, and the hows all into a nice little package. It can even give you help if you’re torn between several options. Why did you choose to applique instead of paper-piecing? Well, if you can put it in words, you can justify it to yourself. And that can be incredibly helpful in figuring out tough projects.

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Ready Made Journal

There have been a lot of things written about the benefit of journaling. What they often fail to realise is that blogging can be a lot like journaling.

For one, looking back at blog posts can be like taking a trip through a diary or journal. You can relive projects that you enjoyed, be reminded of tips you’d forgotten, and even maybe realise how much you’ve learned since then.

Blogs can be memory lanes. Did you make a project as a gift? You can still revisit it, even if the actual work is far away. Did a project help you deal with a particular time in your life? You can find that strength again too.

I haven’t managed to blog as much this year as I have in previous ones, but I do hope I get back to it soon. I need to go make more memories.

~ eliste


Availability Awareness

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I’m just back from my sojourn in the States, and I can’t help but think about how different crafting in the US is from over here.

Prepping for my wedding, I walked into a number of craft stores. The first time I walked into a crafts shop, I was with my mother, who has been living in the US. She approached the task like hitting the grocery store. Get in, get what you want, and get out.

The second time we went shopping I went with a friend of mine who has been living in Ireland like me for some time. This time, we walked in and it was like we had found Mecca. We poured through the nooks and crannies, delighted in the variety, oohhed and ahhed over the giant selections, and went wild at the prices.

I took crafting for granted when I lived in the US. I didn’t know it then, but I was living in a crafting paradise. I would never say that crafting is easy, but the ability to get into crafting- be it quilting, papercraft, jewelry making, sewing, cosplay, whatever- is so much easier in a place where the basic building blocks of the hobby are plentiful.

I embroider. I quilt. I sew, I’ve made jewelry, created cards, decorated homes, made handmade gifts, done my own flowers. Some of which probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been a culture that supported crafting.

While we complain about the increase in mass-produced costumes, or the genericism of everything, I think its important to acknowledge that while not perfect, the crafting community has supports in the big businesses that are so imperfect.

This might be more of a thankful post than is typically seen in October, but I really am grateful for the opportunities that growing up in America, with its crafting community and supports, gave me.

~ eliste


A Change is as Good as a Rest

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One of my never ending battles is the fight against becoming Burnt Out. This time last year I was suffering from it, and its back again this year but for other reasons. Things always come in cycles for me, and this is no different.

A lot of people don’t realise that crafty people can suffer from this just as much as anyone else, and it can be difficult to take the time you need to step back, find your groove and reconnect to what it is you want to do in life.

Burnt Out takes on a couple of forms for me. First among it is crafting burn out. I become exhausted by the need to finish things. Deadlines can be hard to stick to time and again, especially if you place significance on them. It can also happen because I’ve been crafting so hard that I forget to take a break, as one of our other bloggers discussed before.

I’m almost always reinvigorated from this type of fatigue by doing something else. Either not crafting at all and focusing on something altogether different, or by choosing to craft something else altogether. Right now, I’m burnt out on cosplay. I don’t want to look at the fabric that is already cut out and partially assembled on my chair. I don’t want to think about finishing the half-done shirt on my dress form.

I’m not the only one. I know several people who have been crafting non-stop for Dragoncon this weeken who are finding it daunting. There can be that moment when you’ve worked so hard, fought with your craft so much, that you just don’t want to see it let alone wear it.

Its important to remember that it is ok to take a break. Fortunately, I have nothing coming up for cosplay that needs doing. Even if I did, I think I’d still be avoiding it and doing what I have been- getting back to one of my loves, embroidery. Its a different kind of craft, but it is exactly what I need right now. The tranquil simplicity of placing threads soothes me, calms me, and makes me feel a little more in touch with my crafty side instead of the frenetic try on/try off of attempting to get items to fit.

Its also good for me to slow down right now, as my wedding is just under 3 weeks away. I’ll be taking a break from the blog for the month of September to get everything sorted and enjoy my time with my new husband, but I will be taking my embroidery with me. It has already helped reinvigorate me.

Have a great September, ya’ll. I’ll see you on the flipside.

~ eliste