Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mini PVC Greenhouse for my Chiltepin Plants

Last winter my chiltepin plants had a bit of a rough time - they all froze and only half of them came back in the spring. So this winter we thought we'd make them a mini greenhouse to help keep them from freezing again. It's made out of PVC pipes and old shower curtain liners, which are attached to the pipes with 2 inch lengths of vinyl tubing which have been split down one side*.

It has a hinged lid so we can get inside it and so we can leave it open during warm times. And since the shower curtain liners are translucent we can leave it shut if we go on vacation and the plants should still get enough light to survive (Christmas vacation is what did them in last year). Hopefully this will help my chiltepins make it through the winter!

* Update 12/4/09: The vinyl tubing does NOT work! Not in Arizona at least. Either the temperature change during the day or the strong wind pops the vinyl tubing off of the PVC pipes. For now we have replaced the vinyl tubing with duct tape (lots of it!) and we are looking into a product called Snap Clamps, which are made for holding plastic/fabric on to PVC pipes.

Related Posts: Quail Nest and Chiltepin Seeds, Chiltepin Plants Update 1, Chiltepin Plants Update 2

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Amigurumi: Crocheted Fruit Keychains

Ever heard of geocaching? It's a game where you use your GPS to find "caches" - containers of varying sizes - that have been hidden outside all over the world. Inside the container is a log where you sign your username to show that you've found it, and also sometimes there are trade items. You can take an item out of the cache as long as you leave another item of equal or greater value. Generally the items are small toys or random dollar store items. I thought it would be fun to come up with something different to leave in the caches that I visit, so I made these amigurumi crocheted fruit keychains.

They were a little difficult to photograph, but the fruits are (clockwise from left): cherries, orange, apple, lime, and lemon. The shapes are so simple that you don't really need a pattern for them. The cherries, orange, and apple are all simple spheres and the lemon and lime are spheres with a few extra rounds in the middle and the first and last rounds of six stiches repeated to give their ends the points. I did use a pattern for the leaves, it can be found on the blog Crochet and Other Stuff. You will also find a pattern for a crocheted apple there; I didn't use that exact pattern (my spheres had 24 stitches in their largest round) but what can I say, a sphere's a sphere!

I couldn't find any keychains for sale in my area so I just ordered some online. I got 50 of them for $13.50 which was a pretty good deal.

I also made little tags out of shrink plastic (aka Shrinky Dinks) to put on the keychains with the name of the website (geocaching.com) and my username (blacked out for privacy):

All in all, these were easy and quick to make and will hopefully be a fun thing to find for the next person who visits the cache!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wicked Costume: Glinda's Yellow "Emerald City" Dress

My Halloween costume this year was one of Glinda's dresses from the musical Wicked. Specifically, the yellow dress she wears to the Emerald City during the song "One Short Day."

First off, I have to give a big thanks to Corbyjane at the blog Pink Goes Good With Green! for her detailed post about this dress. Her collection of photos of this costume was a huge help! If you're not familiar with this dress, check out her post to see what I was trying to replicate.

Of course many of the trick-or-treaters that visited us on Halloween didn't recognize the costume. At first I tried to explain who I was but after getting a few odd looks I just said that I was a fairy!

The costume isn't a perfect match for the "real" Glinda dress but I think it's a pretty good replica considering I only spent about $30 and two weeks on it. It's missing the rhinestone and flocking embellishments of the original. I did buy rhinestones but ran out of time to glue them on and I couldn't figure out how to do the flocking. Hopefully if I figure it out, I can go back and add the embellishments to it later.

I'll cover each part of the costume in detail below.


Project Name: Glinda's Yellow "Emerald City Dress" - Gathered Top
Time Taken to Finish: 2 days
Pattern: McCall 5380 Unfortunately this pattern has been discontinued, but I was able to find it on eBay for a pretty good price.
Materials Used: Yellow fabric with a sheen. I got lucky and found this fabric for $1.50 a yard in the clearance section at Wal-Mart. Here's a photo of the fabric up close:

You can see that the fabric has tiny little lines sewn into it. Cute!

What I Did: I followed the pattern closely (view A). The only change I made was to not connect the straps on the back - I tied them behind my neck instead. There is a zipper in the back of the dress, it continues down into the handkerchief skirt.
What I Liked About the Project: Having an actual pattern made this part of the costume easy to sew.
What I Didn’t Like About the Project: I really wanted the gathered part of the dress to be made of the same yellow organza that I used to make the outer layers of the skirt. I thought that was closer to how it was made in the original costume. Unfortunately after three attempts to make it with that fabric, I just couldn't get it to work. If I just gathered the amount of organza specified in the pattern it wasn't enough - the gathers were too far apart. I calculated that I would have to gather 8 yards of organza to get it the way I wanted and I didn't have that much fabric to spare! I made a few attempts at using an amount somewhere in between but it still didn't look right so I gave up and used the fabric I was using for the rest of the dress.


Project Name: Glinda's Yellow "Emerald City" Dress - Layered Handkerchief Skirt
Time Taken to Finish: 3 days
Pattern: I modified these instructions from the Weekend Designer blog
Materials Used: Three layers of yellow organza ($2 a yard at an odds-and-ends fabric store) and two layers of the yellow fabric that I used for the gathered top.
What I Did: Cut out the fabric into squares of different sizes and marked the center of each square. Piled them up with the smallest square on top and the largest on bottom, matching centers Rotated the layers around the center so they overlapped each other. Pinned the layers together at the center. Marked a circle on the top layer with a radius as suggested by Weekend Designer. Sewed a basting stitch through all the layers along that circle and then did it again about 1/2 inch outside that circle. Cut out the center of the circle, gathered the layers along the basting stitches and sewed it on to the gathered top.
What I Liked About the Project: This is a surprisingly easy skirt to make, it's just a lot of squares!
What I Didn’t Like About the Project: It's a little shorter than I would've liked but the length was limited by the width of the fabric I had (45 inches). If you wanted a longer skirt you would have to sew two widths of fabric together to make a bigger square.


Project Name: Glinda's Yellow "Emerald City" Dress - Underbust Corset
Time Taken to Finish: 4 days
Pattern: Hand-drafted using these instructions from the Necromancer's Palanquin blog
Materials Used: yellow fabric, middleweight interfacing, 3/8" cable ties for boning, 5/32" gold eyelets
What I Did: After drafting the pattern, I cut out pieces from the yellow fabric for both the outside and the lining. I used some fusible webbing to attach the outside pieces to the interfacing. I sewed all the outside pieces together and all the lining pieces together. With the right sides of the outside and the lining facing each other, I sewed the two vertical edges together (along the edge where the eyelets will be going) and then turned it right side out. Next I basted the edges and then sewed 1/2" channels around each of the seams between the pieces. I inserted the boning and then used bias tape (made from the yellow fabric) to complete the unfinished edges. Finally, I put 10 eyelets on each side at the back.
What I Liked About the Project: This is the first corset I drafted by hand. It was pretty easy, it only took me about two tries to get the pattern right.
What I Didn’t Like About the Project: Making the bias tape myself was annoying but it was the only way to get it to match. I would definitely recommend using starch if you can when you're ironing the tape - it makes things a lot easier!


Glinda's Yellow "Emerald City" Dress - Accessories

The Wig:

Originally I wasn't planning on wearing a wig, even though my hair is dark brown. But I got a haircut right before Halloween and my hair was way too short, I couldn't even curl it. I found this wig for sale for $6 at Wal-Mart. The color wasn't perfect (it was a little too white) but the price was right! I brushed it, cut it, and styled it with a curling iron on very low heat. You can see the difference this makes in the photo below. The hair on the right has been fixed while the hair on the left has not.

The Glasses:

I didn't have $20 (plus shipping) to shell out for the authentic Emerald City glasses from the official Wicked store so I picked these up at a costume store. They're not the greatest, the lenses are far apart so they look kind of odd when you're actually wearing them.

Other Accessories:

I looked hard for some light-colored Mary Jane heels like Glinda wears but fall is just the wrong time of year to look for light-colored shoes! Instead I wore some old ivory heels that I bought to wear to a wedding a long time ago. I also tried to find a necklace and a purse like Glinda's but couldn't find anything close enough. I'll probably keep an eye out for all these things so I can eventually complete the costume.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anatomy Doll Pattern

Update: I've put together a free PDF pattern for this doll that you can download and print. It hasn't been tested so please let me know if you find any errors. And of course I would love to see any dolls you make, just post a link in the comments!

Well here it is, the top-secret project I've been working on for months!

A little morbid, isn't it? It's an anatomy doll, made for a friend who is a medical student. Here's the doll wearing her hospital gown:

A close-up of the insides:

Here are all the organs:

The organs are the lungs, heart, liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas, small intestine, kidneys, large intestine, and bladder.

A close of up the face:

The back of the hospital gown:

Project Name: Anatomy Doll
Time Taken to Finish: 5 months, off and on
Made it myself, you can find it here
Notes on the Pattern: My patterns are free and may not be sold. Please do not reproduce or repost patterns or instructions from CraftyCattery.com without my permission. For information on selling items created from my patterns, please view the FAQ.
Materials Used: body and organs are made of fleece, hair is yarn, hospital gown is cotton
What I Did: I've been working on this doll intermittently since June. I started out with the organs since I needed to know how much space they would take up before I could make the body. Once I had them made I created the body to fit them. There are magnets in each of the organs and the inside of the body was lined with metal washers so the organs would stick to it. There are also magnets in ends of the stomach, small intestines and large intestines so they would stick to each other.

I haven't ever sewn a doll of any kind before so this was a challenging project for me! With all the experimenting I did, by the end I had created every part of the body at least two or three different times. But the final product turned out well and the medical student who got it seemed to like it so it was definitely worth all the effort. :)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Word Cloud for The Crafty Cattery

A word cloud showing the most used words in my blog

Thanks to Costume Queen for recommending Wordle.net! It lets you make these cool word clouds from your own text or blog. I started out making my word cloud using the Wordle's option to paste in your blog's URL but I found that it only picked up words from my most recent posts. So instead I copied all the text from my blog and then pasted into Wordle's text box.

It looks like "make", "used", and "one" are my most common words with "pattern", "made", "knit" and "stitches" close behind. It also looks like it picked up "sc" and "sts" from my crochet patterns, which I guess makes sense since those abbreviations are repeated a lot.

My blog has been quiet lately because I'm in the middle of a pretty complicated top-secret project! I'm trying very hard to finish it up in the next couple of weeks because I want to get started on my Halloween costume. Once it is done I will of course post photos here, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yet Another Amigurumi Bear

I've crocheted yet another amigurumi bear using the Beary Jackson pattern at Rheatheylia.com. I've made 3 bears prior to this one - they are awesome baby gifts and only take a few hours to make! You can see my first bear here and the other two here. This one was crocheted out of Red Heart Baby Teri yarn in Medium Pink. I love this yarn, it is so soft! The eyes and mouth are embroidered on with blue yarn and pink embroidery floss. I have several other friends who are expecting so I see more Beary Jacksons in my future...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Anime Cosplay: Canal From "Lost Universe"

This is an older costume, I just finally got around to posting it here. I wore it to A-kon (a Japanese animation convention in Dallas, Texas) in 2005. It's based on the character Canal Vorfeed from the television show "Lost Universe":
While I designed the costume and helped find the patterns, I can't claim any of the sewing - my amazing mom did it all! Afterwards she said "Never again!" which is why I began sewing my own costumes. :) Overall it took us about four years off and on to complete it. Part of the reason it took so long was the wig. We actually had the rest of the costume ready to go for A-kon 2003 but I waited until the day before the convention to work on the wig and it was a disaster! I decided not to wear the costume until I had enough time to fix the wig properly.

Here are the details on the different parts of the costume (to the best of my recollection - it has been 4+ years since we worked on it).

Dress - front

Dress - back
Project Name: Canal's Dress
Patterns Used: Top - Butterick 3187 (out of print); Skirt - McCall's 2890 (out of print)
Materials Used: pink fabric with slight stretch; white tulle; white satin/satinette
Notes: The top and bottom are one piece, though they were created from different patterns.
The top was created using Butterick 3187, a Victorian bathing costume. The only major alteration was to the neckline, which was modified to include a fold-down collar. Since this pattern is out of print, I suggest McCall's 4948 for the top since it has long leg-of-mutton sleeves.

Dress - skirt detail
The skirt was created from McCall's 2890. As you can see in the above photo, there were four layers: an underskirt of white satin/satinette, a layer of white tulle, another layer of white tulle with some white lace stitched to the edge, and an outer layer of the pink fabric. Since this pattern is out of print as well, I suggest Simplicity 3618 or 4015 as substitutions (but any short poofy skirt pattern will do).

Project Name: Canal's Apron
Pattern Used: McCall's 2947
Materials Used: heavy weight white cotton
Notes: The apron was created using McCall's 2947 apron pattern. It follows view D pretty closely with a few alterations: the skirt was shortened and the bottom ruffle and pockets left off, the shoulder ruffles were enlarged, and the ties in the back were made smaller since we would be using a separate bow (see below). I added some small pieces of wire into the outer edges of the shoulder ruffles to help them stand up.


Bow detail
Project Name: Canal's Bow
Pattern Used: none
Materials Used: heavy weight white cotton
Notes: This was worn over the apron - the bow went in the back and the rectangular piece of fabric (on the left) wrapped across the waist and was tightened using the D-rings (on the right). The two large triangular pieces of fabric were the "tails" of the bow. They were folded into pleats and ironed down. Unfortunately I don't have a good photo of the bow being worn, you can sort of see it behind me in the two top photos.

Project Name: Canal's Tie
Pattern Used: none
Materials Used: purple cotton
Notes: The tie is just a piece of purple fabric, sewn into a tie shape and pinned to the neck underneath the folds of the collar.
Here are some details on the other parts of the costume:
Wig - This was purchased from Amphigory's Wigs. The style was "Enchantment" and the color was "Daydream" (sky blue). As it was the wig was too thin in the back to part and make into two braids - the mesh and elastic inside the wig showed through (this is what I unfortunately discovered the day before A-kon 2003!). To fix this problem, I purchased hair extensions in the same color and used a tutorial from a wig artist named Katie Bair to add extra hair to the back of the wig. I then parted the hair into two braids and finished them off with rubber bands hidden under some purple ribbon. The whole thing was then coated with loads of hair spray to keep it all in place. The braids made the wig very heavy, after wearing it all day I had a massive headache! If you need some tips on how to put on and wear a wig, check out this page on Katie Bair's site.
Garter and Stockings - It's difficult to tell in the photos but the opaque white thigh-high stockings I am wearing are being held up by a garter belt. I purchased the garter belt at Victoria's Secret and the stockings were pantyhose that I cut off at the thigh.
Shoes - These were probably one of the most expensive parts of the costume. The shoes were ballet flats that I purchased at a bridal store and had them dye to match the purple ribbon. I then sewed two pieces of ribbon into each shoe. The ribbon on my calves was attached to the stockings by a few small pieces of purple duct tape.
Neck band - Just a ribbon with velcro sewed at the back.
Forehead Decoration - I made Canal's forehead decoration using yellow craft foam and plastic rhinestone "jewels" purchased in the jewelry-making section of a craft store. They were attached to my forehead using eyelash glue.

A few final thoughts on the costume: Once I actually got to wear it to the anime convention it was a blast! I got asked to have my photo taken many times but unfortunately I hadn't thought to practice any poses beforehand so I don't think I did the costume justice! You might feel silly striking a pose for some stranger but it really does improve the photo.
The only major problem I had with wearing the costume was the heavy wig. By the end of the day it had worked its way back so that some of my hair was showing underneath. If I had realized that and had brought some extra hairpins I probably could've fixed it but unfortunately no one pointed it out to me! I guess the lesson is to find a mirror and check your appearance every now and then.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bisquick Caramel Apple Desert

We had a few apples sitting around and I wanted something different for desert so I found this recipe: Bisquick Caramel Apple Desert. I liked this recipe because it doesn't have eggs - we don't eat them that often so I almost never have any in the house. It took a while to bake (nearly an hour) but it was worth it! It was great served right out of the oven with a little bit of Cool Whip.

Friday, May 22, 2009

American Idol Cake: Adam versus Kris

I wanted to do something special for the American Idol finale, so I made little fondant figures of Adam Lambert and Kris Allen to top a cake I ordered from the grocery store (my homemade cakes never taste nearly as good as store bought). This is the first time I've made fondant figures so they don't look much like the actual people but they were fun to make!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Amigurumi Raven

I crocheted this raven back in March as a birthday gift for my dad. Unfortunately I was in a hurry and I "freehanded" it so I don't have a pattern. If you want to make your own, the shapes I used were fairly simple (except for the feet):

Body: A pill shape - just an amigurumi ball with a few extra rounds thrown in the middle to make it longer.

Beak: I think I started out with four stitches in a circle, then increased twice in each round, putting the increases opposite from each other. I stuffed it a tiny bit.

Wings: Also started with four stitches in a circle. I then put all the increases on one side so that the wing would be curved. I didn't stuff the wings.

Tail: I did the tail a little different. I chained several stitches (6 or 8 maybe) and then started crocheting "in the round" up and down both sides of the chain. Once I had one round finished, I decreased twice in each following round, putting the decreases opposite from each other. I stopped when there were only a few stitches left in the round. This made a flat trapezoid shape. I did not stuff the tail. I sewed the open end (the less-wide end of the trapezoid) to the raven's body.

Feet: I'm a little unsure how I made them. I think I made a small circle (maybe 4 or 6 stitches) and then did the toes by making a few chains away from the circle then turning and stitching back down the chain until I hit the circle again. I repeated that for each of the three toes.

I hope this helps explain how I made it. If I still had the raven I would try to write up a pattern but it is now in Texas with my dad so I'd have to start from scratch and I don't have time for that at the moment. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions and I'll do my best to help.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Simple Apron

I made this apron as a gift for a friend's bridal shower. I made a similar one for myself a long time ago (I think it was my first sewing project ever) and really love the style - it covers everything! The pattern is Simplicity 5525 which is unfortunately out of print but Simplicity 4987 and McCall 5690 are similar. The only modification I made was to leave out the elastic waistband - I don't like the way it looks and it works just fine without it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Make Your Own Lawn Markers

If you need a way to mark your lawn or garden that's cheap and won't interfere with a mower, try something like this:

It's a plastic cap from a milk (or water) container and a large 8 cent nail from the hardware store. I used an icepick to poke a hole in the center of the milk cap and pushed the nail through (if your nail is sharp enough you probably wouldn't need to use an icepick).

Then you can just push it into the ground to use as a marker.

We were looking for some way to mark where in our lawn we wanted to set our sprinklers so we don't have to figure out where to place them every time we set them out. Flags would be in the way when we mow but plain stakes or nails would be hard to spot when they're pushed all the way down. So my mom came up with the idea to use the milk caps and a nail - since they're brightly colored they show up in the lawn but they're flat so they won't get in the way.

Friday, April 03, 2009

My Texas Saguaro

So I am 98% sure that this cactus is a saguaro (pronounced sah-wah-roh). If you don't know what a saguaro is, it's one of those giant cacti that have the big arms. I had no idea that they were called saguaros before I moved out here to Arizona. The saguaro is pretty much the mascot of Arizona and the southwest - there's even one on the Arizona quarter.

The interesting thing about my saguaro is that it is not in Arizona. It's at my parent's house in south Texas. Back when I was still in grade school I got one of those little greenhouse cactus seed kits while on vacation at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I'm not sure exactly when that trip was but I am guessing it was between 10 and 15 years ago.

This cactus was the only one to survive from the kit. It finally outgrew the little pot we had it in so we re-planted it in the back yard. I never really given much thought as to what type of cactus it was - I thought it was some type of barrel cactus until I noticed that it getting taller but not wider as a barrel cactus should. It's shape made me think of a saguaro, so I started researching them online.

After a few days of searching, I was almost convinced that it wasn't a saguaro because many sources said that a ten year old cacti would only be 1.5 to 6 inches tall. As you can see from the photo above, mine is between 2.5 to 3 feet tall! But after doing some more research I found that those heights were for wild cacti in the desert. Since Texas is slightly wetter than Arizona (and since my parents probably watered it occasionally) my saguaro probably grew faster than it would have in the wild.

I compared my cactus to pictures of saguaros and to saguaros I've visited in real life here in Arizona - I couldn't find anything that made me think that my cactus wasn't a saguaro. The main identifying trait that I found mentioned online was that in each group of spines, there is one spine that is much larger than all the others and points downwards. You can see this on my cactus here:

So all these things together have led me to the decision that my cactus is a saguaro! After living here in Arizona where saguaros are a big deal (a full grown one can cost thousands of dollars), it's fun to know that I grew one without really trying! And that's even more special since it's in south Texas, which is not really it's native habitat (there are no wild saguaros in Texas or even in New Mexico). It's kind of cool to think that my parents are probably the only people in my hometown with a saguaro in their yard!

(By the way, if anyone who has some cacti knowledge thinks that this might not be a saguaro, please let me know why not and what you think it might actually be. I'm no expert so it's very possible that I'm wrong!)

Update 9/29/11: I've posted an update with photos of how the saguaro has grown over the past two years.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"The Office" Party Decorations and Activities: Throw a party themed around the TV show!

As part of (another!) task at DunderMifflinInfinity.com, my branch (Ypsilanti) came up with a bunch of printables that can be used by anyone wanting to throw an "Office" themed party. We won the task so I guess our items must be worth something! Here they are:

Jell-O Mold Placecards and Butt-Kisser Game

"The Office" Paper Dolls: Dwight, Michael, Pam, and Jim

Not pictured: Who Said That? "The Office" Quotes Game and our Party Recipes.

- Jell-O Mold Placecards (PDF) To decorate your table.
- The Butt-Kisser Game (PDF) Played like Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, but with Michael's butt as the donkey and Dwight's lips as the tail!
- Who Said That? "The Office" Quotes Game: Questions (PDF) and Answers (PDF) Quiz yourself or your friends by identifying quotes from "The Office".
- "The Office" Paper Dolls (link) I posted these here before, they can be used as decorations or party favors.
- Party Recipes (link) These were also posted here before, there are 14 party recipes submitted by the members of DMI Ypsilanti.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Chiltepin Plants Update 2

I've been trying to grow some chiltepin plants (a tiny pepper) from seeds taken from a plant that has been growing at my parent's home in Texas for more than 20 years. Unlike most pepper plants, their chiltepin stays alive during the winter so they don't have to re-plant it every year. My goal is to also get a chiltepin to survive year round here at my home in Arizona. I started growing my plants indoors last May and ended up with 31 seedlings (all the seeds were from one tiny pepper, I might add!).

Eventually they started to attract pests so in early fall I moved them outdoors. They grew much faster outside and were just beginning to develop peppers when it started to freeze. I worked hard to cover them up when it got too cold, but I had to leave for two weeks over Christmas and, well, they didn't make it. Since I had been working on them for 8 months I was pretty upset (I have to admit I cried a little). I couldn't bring myself to pull them up and throw them out so they've been sitting in my backyard for two months.

I was making plans to have my mom send me some more seeds when I happened to look at the plants and I was surprised to find that there were tiny green leaves shooting from the bases of many of my "dead" chiltepin plants!

I guess they were just hibernating! The chiltepin seeds can take a month or more to germinate so I was very happy that I didn't have to mess with trying to get them to sprout again. Since I had let them grow too tall while they were inside (they had to be held up by stakes) I decided now would be the best time to prune them a little. Even though they looked pretty dead it was still hard for me to cut them back. I left them all at about 6 inches.

There are still about 1/3 of the chiltepin plants that don't have any new leaves, but the stems of all the plants were green on the inside when I trimmed them so I'm hoping that those will come back too. And as soon as the plants have recovered enough, I'm going to put them in the ground - no more messing around with plastic buckets! Hopefully they'll have enough time this year to make some peppers so I can try cooking with them.

My 31 chiltepin plants, still looking nearly dead

Related Posts: Quail Nest and Chiltepin Seeds, Chiltepin Plants Update 1

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