Crumpets and Tea

Back in my old blog I posted all kinds of patterns I had designed, and I’ve been trying to slowly re-post them on this blog so that they can go back into circulation. So here’s en embroidery pattern that I designed back in 2014:

I would have taken new and better pictures, but I gave them away as gifts ages ago!

My younger brother is a huge fan of the 1995 movie Tank Girl. I mean, I loved that movie, but his fandom by far surpasses mine. I am all in favour of sarcastic embroidery, especially when it can be combined with practical objects. (This idea of pretty and practical is not new to me.) It’s not very often that I get a chance to embroider something for my brother –- he’s not generally a huge fan of embroidered items in general, and is often difficult to find gifts for. So for his birthday in 2014 I made him Tank Girl kitchen towels. The quotes are all from the interrogation scene.

These are commercially-made, 100% cotton tea towels (labeled as “premium flour sack tea towels” by Cantina), which I bought at $12.99 for a four-pack at Home Outfitters. They are 61cm X 91cm. I don’t think those specific ones in specific are available any more, but it’s possible to find something similar with a quick Internet search. Each towel that embroidered is actually two: one for the front, and another sewn onto the back to cover the wrong side of the embroidery. I chose the stitching colours of brown and brick red based on my brother’s preferences, trying to be fairly neutral so as to match his kitchen decor.

I also cross-stitched a coordinating fingertip towel for his bathroom, starting with a towel with an Aida fabric panel built in. They are available at most crafting supply stores (or online), and generally cost around $5.00.

So here are the patterns:


Click through for extremely large versions of these images which you can print to scale.

For the tea towels, I ran them through the washer and dryer a couple of times to shrink the fabric. I learned the hard way years ago to do this as it keeps the design from shrinking at a different speed than the stitching — which really sucks when you spent this much time working on something! It’s not as big of a deal with a mounted piece, but something like a towel is going to be washed over and over again. To transfer the pattern onto fabric, I printed them out to the proper scale to fit on my towels, then set the design underneath the fabric and used an embroidery transfer pen with the kind of ink that disappears when you wet it to trace the pattern onto the fabric. Then when I was done stitching, I just washed out the pen marks.

The cross-stitch pattern was transferred via the standard counting method instead of inking in the pattern first. I won’t go into the details of how to do counted cross-stitch here, but there are loads of resources online to teach you how, including a bunch of YouTube videos if you’re a visual learner like me.

You’re welcome to use these patterns I designed for personal, educational, or small business use! And if you do, please send me a picture. I’d love to see your work.

Frozen/Star Wars Mash-Up Photos

The paint is currently drying in my kitchen, which means cooking is being kept to a minimum for the moment. Instead, I’ve finally found the time to edit the rest of the photos from Ottawa Comiccon: Holiday Edition! All of the photos were taken by Ian Walton, I just played with them a bit.

We started by taking photos indoors by the big windows at the front of the convention center for the best lighting — and look who we found!


Left to right: Darth Sven, Jedi Anna, Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Jedi Elsa, and Darth Kristoff.

Christmas Darth Vader and the Stormtrooper in their holiday AT-AT were probably the most awesome (and seasonally-appropriate) costumes we saw all day.

I discovered that I need to learn how to pose better in this costume. Also, I need to trim (or re-position) the white streak in my hair, which was a clip-in (the rest is my real hair dyed with Féria C74 Power Copper), so that it’s a matching length.

Elsa’s Force snowflake pops against the indoor backdrop, although it was hard to see outside. I was really happy with how Elsa’s costume turned out, because she made it herself and it was her first time sewing anything so complicated. She put so much hard work into it and she ended up with a great final product!

I absolutely love Sven’s antlers! And yes, the reindeer does have reindeer mittens.

Kristoff’s fantastic makeup was done by the fabulously talented Jessica Harkonnen.

This is probably my favourite photo of the entire day.

Then we moved outside to freeze for our art:

The cold may not bother Elsa, but it definitely bothers Anna.

I hope to use this costume again for the regular ComicCon in May, and this mini-con was a great chance to try it out and figure out what needs to be changed, what can be done better. I definitely want to add some more detail to it with embroidery or maybe paint. I want to alter the obi so that it’s stiffer and has more structure. And I need a better lightsaber, preferably one that lights up on its own. I may have convinced my kids to join in on the group as well, so that’s more costumes to make — but that won’t start until much closer to the date, since there may be some growth spurts in the meantime and I don’t want to have to make the costumes twice.

Meemaw’s Cookie Recipe

I have a number of friends and family who are huge fans of the television show The Big Bang Theory, and I don’t mind the show myself. I thought that, since Christmas is coming up, I might try to make a show-based recipe that has been floating around the Internet for a while. It’s for a type of cookie purportedly baked by Meemaw (Sheldon Cooper’s grandmother). My Google-fu has failed me and I haven’t been able to find the original source, else I would link back to it to give proper credit.


Sheldon Cooper (played by Jim Parsons) holding a cookie baked using his Meemaw’s recipe, as baked by Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) in The Big Bang Theory, season 8, episode 11.

The recipe I’ve found is a cookie press or spritz cookie, although from the reference photos I’ve found that the final product looks more like something made with a cookie cutter. Or possibly they started with a flat cookie and created the tree design on top using a pastry bag filled with dough? Granted, you don’t see the cookies in the show for very long, and I could totally be wrong. I thought I’d try the spritz version anyway.


Thing 1 and Thing 2 being very serious about getting the cookie dough just right.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 did most of the work this time (okay, mostly Thing 1), so it’s definitely a simple recipe to follow. The kids really like working with the caulking-gun-like cookie press, and they also love to add the sprinkles. Of course, this meant that the final product looked far from perfect, but who cares so long as they had fun and it tastes great?

In the end, I was really happy with this recipe, even though it may not be a hundred percent screen accurate. Here’s what I did:

Meemaw’s Christmas Cookies
Makes about 8 dozen small cookies

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Beat together until creamy:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp almond extract*
Beat in, about a third at a time:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Insert any shape of disk into cookie press (the ones in the show are tree-shaped, but any shape will do). Press dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet one inch apart. Alternately, use a pastry bag with a wide tip to create designs.
Decorate with:
coloured sugar or sprinkles
Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until firm and very slightly browned.
Remove from cookie sheet onto a cooling rack. Serve immediately, or place into a container once they are cooled, where they can last up to a week.

*If nuts are a problem, vanilla extract may be substituted (although the flavour will change a little bit).

Progress

I had planned on spending all day yesterday working on my costume, but a power outage until after noon made that highly problematic. I couldn’t even cut out pattern or fabric pieces, since that requires a large, flat surface, and the only spot like that in my house was my basement floor — where there was no power for lights.

Luckily, I had a good portion of the rest of the day to work on the costume, and some progress was made. I am happy to say that at least one element of the costume is complete. I did have to take a break to cook and eat dinner, though.

I didn’t want to make something that took hours of prep work, since I should have been spending that time sewing. I still had one enormous zucchini left to cook (my friends, overloaded with their harvest, kept bringing me more), so I made a big batch of baked Panko zucchini sticks. Normally I wouldn’t peel the zucchini, but this time I did because the squash was huge and old, so the skin was very tough. For meat, I chopped up some chicken, coated it in Golden Dragon Thick Teriyaki Sauce, and fried it up on the stove while the zucchini baked. It all turned out quite well, and it was found acceptable by my friend who came over in the evening to work on her own costume. We were up until well past midnight sewing, and we’re not done yet!

Last-Minute Costume

Some friends of mine had these great mash-up Halloween costumes this year, and they’d mentioned at a party this season that they’d like to upgrade them for a mini convention coming up this month. I’d like to say that they dragooned me into cosplaying with them, but I kind of volunteered. I’d made a similar costume before, how hard could it be, right?

I’m adapting two McCall’s patterns: M7225 (Misses’/Men’s Cape and Tunic Costumes) and M7229 (Men’s/Misses’ Nativity Scene Costumes). I don’t want to come out and say what it’s going to be just yet, because I’m not a hundred percent sure that I’m going to get it done in time. What I will definitely say is that it’s definitely not what the pattern designers had in mind.

I’ll be re-using some stencils from a few years ago and, if you know the movie that part of this costume is based on, these motifs might give it away. Even so, I’d be surprised if anyone can guess exactly what this mash-up costume will be. (No giving it away for those I’ve already told in person!)

At any rate, I think that this view will be my life for the next few days. I really hope that this costume turns out well; if so, I might be able to persuade my kiddos to do a group with me for the next ComicCon. Right now they’re talking Legend of Zelda instead, which I totally approve of, but it would be so much easier if I already had one of the costumes done this far in advance.

The Great Glebe Garage Sale 2017: Fabulous Finds

I found all kinds of neat things at the Great Glebe Garage Sale this past Saturday, although I did try to exercise some restraint and didn’t fill up the entire trunk. Although I did see someone walking past who had purchased a modern spinning wheel, and if I’d found it first it would totally have come home with me. Ah, well. It’s probably best for my budget.

– Miniature T.A.R.D.I.S. from Doctor Who (about the size of a Christmas ornament) with a working LED light on top, $1.00

I was actually pleasantly surprised to find a number of Doctor Who merchandise, which, since it is imported, can be pretty pricey around here.

– Small T.A.R.D.I.S. and Dalek silicone molds, which can be used for baking, chocolate or ice cubes. $2.00

– Aluminum T.A.R.D.I.S. lunch box, $5.00

– Girl Guide doll (an older version of the ones found here), $2.00. I was especially happy to come across this doll because my girls already have dolls in Sparks and Brownie uniforms, and my eldest will be starting Guides this year.

Of course, no day spent rummaging through garage sales comes without a stack of books.

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera (2008), free (for Thing 1)
Candy Apple: Confessions of a Bitter Secret Santa by Lara Bergen (2008), free (for Thing 1)
The Canadian Harvest Cookbook by Jen Sayers & James Darcy (2008 edition), $0.50
The Divvies Bakery Cookbook: No Nuts, No Eggs, No Dairy, Just Delicious! by Lori Sandler (2010), free
Around the World Cookbook: More Than 50 International Recipes for Children by Abigail Johnson Dodge (2008), free
Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual Core Rulebook III, (2000), $10.00 (for a friend who had been searching for a copy)
Monstrous Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, (1993), $10.00 (for a friend who had been searching for a copy)

– Air Zone Punisher Gatling Blaster, $5.00

This was my only purchase that was too large to photograph in my light box, since the gun is almost a meter long. Please ignore the dandelions in the lawn. I didn’t test it to see if it works at the sale as it requires batteries, and I still haven’t, to be honest. I plan to use it as a costume prop, so it doesn’t really matter if it fires. I thought it might be fun to paint it up as a junior version of Sasha, the gun the Heavy uses in Team Fortress 2.

– Pentax MZ-7 35mm camera with a 28mm to 300mm zoom lens, $60.00

This was my most expensive purchase, but also the one I am happiest with. The camera itself is a side bonus; the lens works on my Pentax K-30, which is currently my main camera. My longest lens previously was 200mm, so this is a fantastic find for me.

– Kodak Brownie 8mm film camera, $10.00

This last one is the purchase I am most happy with. I have always wanted a camera like this, not to use (can you even buy 8mm film anymore?), but because I am a bit of an old home movie nut. My maternal grandfather shot his home movies on a camera like this. This camera will happily be added to my collection. I think I need to build a shelf to exhibit them all.

Ottawa ComicCon Day 3: Pro Photos

Day 3 of Ottawa ComicCon (Sunday) I went as a femme version of the Joker from Batman. This was my easiest costume of the weekend, since I assembled the pieces instead of making them. I bought the ugly purple ladies’ suit years ago at Value Village for about $10; I’m pretty sure it was originally a mother-of-the-bride dress from the 1980’s. It was too small for me at the time, but the outfit just screamed “Joker” to me, and I hoped that one day I’d fit into it. (Now it’s actually a little bit big.) I bought the wig at Audrey’s Costume Castle and it was the last one of its kind that they had in stock, so I don’t know the make or model. The striped hose were from an American Mcgee’s Alice costume I’d done years before, and the shoes were just ones I’d had in the closet. The bow and flower were all from Michaels. I thought final look would be more Jack Nicholson’s Joker than anything else, but in the end I think I looked more like the 1960’s Cesar Romero Joker. At any rate, I don’t think anyone was confused as to who I was supposed to be.

(All photos in this post by Richard Dufault Photography, also known as Open Shutter Photography.)