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1  Octopus Lights! in Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: Reconstructed by BrocadeLion on: September 14, 2016 05:14:28 PM

I have one small bathroom in my house. In the 10+ years I've lived here, this is the second time I've renovated it (after a hack job). This time around, the priority of the priority was...octopus lights.

I researched like crazy, trying to find someone somewhere who made octopus lights I could use as main lighting for the room. No luck. The answer was as it so often is to make them!

After trying out three different octopus plaques/statues, I settled on one that seemed suited for the project: wall-mountable with good tentacles for nestling lights into.

The bronze octo has three spots where bulbs could potentially fit, which would mean 6 bulbs between the two I intended to install on either side of the mirror cabinet. They're still small curls, though, so full-size bulbs wouldn't work. That meant more research on candelabra bulbs to find some that would give enough light, sans heat, and would still look cool.

I got some little candelabra sockets at the local Lowe's, which almost fit into the curled tentacles. The plaque itself is some sort of resin, so I decided I could open the space a little with my Dremel, to get the sockets in there. Luckily, I decided to talk to my cousin Rob about this project, and he said the sockets would be easy to shave down, with less potential for disaster. See, this is why you sometimes just need a second brain on a project!

Rob got interested in the whole idea, so he came over and the two of us sat out on the deck, shaving down plastic lamp bases until they fit nice and snug. Then we filled in any gaps with epoxy to keep them stable.

The sockets were plain black, which worked fine since most of it was behind the tentacle, but the raw top edge was pretty ugly and unfinished, even with a bulb set in it. I found some nice rounded collet nuts at the hardware and decided those would make an appropriate finishing touch, with a little bit of paint. So I spray painted them matte black, and then dry brushed some copper. They really look like a part of the sculpture now!

Rob helped me wire all three sockets together to be suitable for the existing wall location, and they were nearly completed. The last thing I hadn't really figured out was how they were going to mount to the wall itself. Because these were just meant to hang, there was a fabric cord moulded into the back to hang on a nail. Obviously, that wasn't going to work. I thought we might have to install some sort of keyhole hanger, but after looking at how my previous lights were mounted, we figured it out. It was going to involve drilling right between the eyes.

This made me very nervous! Rob found some nice small, and appropriately colored, acorn nuts, though, and after testing out how it looked, not only was I not bothered by the exposed hardware, I decided it really added to the overall look!

Now came showing the contractor.

I told him this room really depended on these lights. All the colors in the room were based on the lights. This whole project was planned around them! He was pretty tickled by them, which made me happy. I was concerned there might be a moment of "what kind of hack job lights are these, you can't expect me to put something like this up!" But no, he was all for it, even though it was going to mean moving everything on that wall over a few inches to keep the much wider new lights out of the shower.

So, this is the new bathroom! I won't bother with pictures of all the other stuff, the new floor, tub, shower tile, etc. Because this is aaaaalllll about the octos. Even the wall color was chosen to highlight the copper shading, and the narrower wall cabinet was also a compromise to get them in there. Yes, that big abstract thing between the lights is a mirror; no one needed to see me standing there with my camera.

Everyone who has seen pictures asks the same thing: "Where did you get those??" Which is my cue to say my favorite thing in the world: "I made them myself."

(An even more verbose version of this post is on my website. http://www.shefightslikeagirl.com/2016/09/octopus-lights.html)
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2  Embroidered Card Wallet (and matching biz card) in Machine Embroidery: Completed Projects by BrocadeLion on: November 20, 2014 07:09:46 PM

Recently, to make good on a bet, I decided to make a little card wallet for a friend out of state. I decided it should fit a few bills, as well as business cards and a drivers license, just in case he wanted to take it on the road with him. (The $5 bill was the debt; the rest was extra.)

I decided I should embroider the wallet with a custom monogram while I was at it, and make some matching business cards since I already had the graphic.

A certain fandom among us will recognize the origin of this monogram right away. One of my friend's books, the first of his that I read, is Tracking the Chupacabra, the Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore. In it, Ben believes he "solved" the mystery of the (non-existent) chupacabra, which makes him a vampire slayer of a certain sort.

Starting with the Buffy logo, I found an expanded character set, and made outline versions of Ben's initials, BTR. Knowing the logo was also going to be digitized for embroidery, I simplified the design where appropriate so the cards would exactly match. This design is 2-color only, so it was a simpler conversion than my Electric Eel project, but essentially the same process. The embroidery went down without a hitch.

Embroidery accomplished, I built the wallet. The wallet itself is very simple, using only two pieces of fabricthe black for the body (folded in half on the long edge) and a scrap of red & black for the inner pocket (also folded in half on the long edge), along with some interfacing in the body. I started with this tutorial. The trickiest part, for me, was getting the size and the stitching juuuuuuust right so that the longest item to be placed in the pocket, the business cards, were held snugly.

Overall, a fun, uncomplicated project, with very big personal impact. I think so, anywayI know MY socks would be knocked off if anyone made something like this for me! Can I say that? Smiley

(Edited to move finished project photo to top!)
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3  Re: BRAINSTORM! Making suction cups in fabric tentacles. in Sewing in General: Discussion and Questions by BrocadeLion on: October 11, 2014 02:12:25 PM
Thanks for the input everyone. Here's what I decided to do.

First, I tried taping a thumbtack to my sewing machine deck and doing a circular satin stitch. The problem is, this doesn't work very well for small circles, plus craft felt tends to be a little loose, so structured stitches just ate it up. So that didn't work. Watching how the felt reacted, though, gave me more hope for another technique.

Using my open-toe embroidery/mending foot (if you want to know more about that, askit's awesome), I "sketched" out circles staggered down the length of the precut tentacle, using a matching thread. Because of the tensions, what happened is the inner part of the circle bubbled out a littleperfect!

Because these are tentacles and not quilting or apparel, nothing needed to be exact. I just wanted a suggestion of texture/shapes rather than something very overt, so this method worked great. Here are some photos:

This is a close up of the circles with a little bit of stuffing, after being attached to the "upper" part of the tentacle, which is marine vinyl.

This is a finished tentacle, with wire running through it for articulationpart of it anyway; they are about 3 feet long each.

Thanks again for your suggestions! When the whole thing is finished, I'll post it in the appropriate location.

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4  Looking for parts for Jaguar 298 serger... in Sewing Machines: Discussion and Questions by BrocadeLion on: January 05, 2014 06:25:56 PM
Hey folks.

I have a lovely Jaguar 298D serger, which I bought at an estate sale. It was the first sewing machine I bought used, and didn't know the cardinal rule: ask for the accessories!

So I don't have the rolled hem foot and plate, and boy do I wish I did. The book has the part numbers as 72199 for the plate and 72082 for the foot. The plate and the foot are each marked with an R on the top, if there's no visible part number. Having a helluva time finding them online. My understanding is that some White (the parent company) serger parts are interchangeable with Jaguar.

Anyway, anyone with a spare kit or an unworking Jaguar (or maybe White), DM me. Smiley

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5  The Anatomy of an (Embroidered) Electric Eel in Machine Embroidery: Completed Projects by BrocadeLion on: December 09, 2013 08:21:20 PM

I did a project this weekend which serves as a great example of the typical steps I take in order to create a machine embroidery pattern. I'm going to break it down into steps.

Step 1: Inspiration, aka, I am invited to a special event.
In this case, it's a fundraiser for the Belle Isle Aquarium, as they attempt to bring back an electric eel to the country's oldest public aquarium. When I make something for myself, it almost always starts as a special event to which I want to wear something I made. I feel positively naked without something I made.

Step 2: Research/concept.
Electric eel, that's easy. I mean, it's easy because electric eels are awesome. Turns out, electric eels are more catfish than eel. I don't feel like I need to know the whole biology of the creatures, but I want to at least know what they look like, and what their distinguishing features are. Assumptions are the enemy. (If there is one thing in my life that defines me as a "skeptic," if not a crafter, it's that statement right there.)

So I watched a few videos, looked at a bunch of pictures, and thought about how I would represent it. I veered both literal and figurative.

I think electric, I think lights. Although cartoonists love to show them with lightning bolts and beams coming off of them, electric eels don't actually light up at all themselves. (Bioluminescence is a whole different thing — if you haven't looked into it yet, do yourself the favor! Natural bioluminescence is incredible and fascinating and gorrrrrrgeous, all at once.) However, they can be used to power lights. Every year, a new video comes out of an electric eel powering a Christmas tree (usually in Japan, dog love 'em). I love lighting things up, as is proven by the fact that I have a small drawer with 6 or 8 little LED light strings tucked away for future use. I set a couple of those aside.

My first concept was to take a western-style shirt with front yokes, and do a cartoony eel with lightning bolts embroidered on either side. Those sorts of pics kept coming up in my searches, and I even found a couple of Tesla-riding-electric-eel illustrations to choose from. To my immense shock (heh), I did not have a plain western-style shirt in my stock. (And by "stock" I mean "closet." And by "closet" I mean "the third bedroom of my house which serves as my dressing room.") I had neither the time nor the inclination to make a shirt from scratch, neither to buy one, so that idea was out.

Second thought was to do a hairpiece. I have very short hair, so putting things in my hair/on my head is always a pretty high priority. (Wait, that's not really a short hair thing is it? In any case, I do.) Since I've practiced/developed a pretty good technique for embroidering on felt, making hair decorations has become a favorite quick-and-satisfying go-to project for me. I decided on a headband. With lights.

Step 3: Illustration.
Because I was going to an aquarium to be speaking with docents and other experts, I abandoned the fanciful "electric eel" concept for the more accurate. I was a little surprised to find a couple examples of vector clip art specific to the electric eel; frankly, they are neither attractive nor especially interesting to look at. As is so often the case, personality wins out, and interested some people enough to do realistic representations. I acquired this one from Thinkstock as a vector illustration, shown here opened in Adobe Illustrator.

Step 4: Color assignment.
Electric eels are brown. Just...brown. As you can see, the clip art there uses 6 different shades of grey, making the shading look more variegated than do the actual eels. At this point, I can decide whether I want to choose as many colors as I need to suit the design, or to limit the design to fit the colors available (or feasible).

I checked my grandmother's antique spool cabinet where I keep my good thread to see how many browns I had available. When it comes to thread color palettes, there are a couple of things to consider in addition to color, specifically weight and sheen. Because we're talking eel, I wanted to use only shiny threads, so I stuck with 40 weight rayon/viscose. (This is merely one of many niggling details that I will overshare.) This left me with 4 browns, plus black for the outline and details.

The background is the final significant color choice. As I said, I've had great results embroidering on felt, which is both weighty enough to stand alone, and non-raveling to allow for a clean border. I checked my stash for something maybe a watery blue...and found a stone-embossed medium grey, which struck me as a good background for this bottom-dwelling creature.

Knowing what I know about aquariums (one of the first things I look for when traveling to a new city is whether they have an aquarium where I can spend an hour or two), I anticipated the lighting to be fairly low, the bulk of the ambient light coming from within the exhibits. This would allow the browns to blend in to each other, without the whole thing getting lost in total darkness.

Step 5: Re-illustration.
With an idea of what the animal actually looks like, technical and feasible restrictions, it was time to colorize and simplify the original illustration. I've talked about using Adobe Illustrator before, and how it's one of my favorite crafting tools. It was an absolute must for me to be able to use Illustrator as a primary prep tool before starting an embroidery pattern, for this reason.

Starting with the original, I selected the areas to be colored, simplified some of the details (remember, we're talking about a 4" x 4" maximum area, and embroidery machines don't have nearly the resolution of your desktop printer), and removed overlaps. In some cases, stitching one color over another is acceptable — even desired. But what we have here is large areas of solid color on felt, with details on top of that. More than 2 layers of heavy stitching overlapped tempts a big ol' mess of broken needles and thready birdnests.

Step 6: Import and edit and edit and edit.
At this point, I saved the Adobe Illustrator file from my Mac to a thumb drive to sneakernet over to my totally-unplugged-from-everything-because-it's-so-old-it-will-just-crash-everything Dell laptop, where I reopened it in Illustrator on the PC. The illustration was resized to under 4", and then reduced by another 85% for resolution reasons I don't quite understand. From there, I selected one shape at a time to copy and then paste into the embroidery software. The software I have does a great job of auto-converting a basic shape, so that's where it all starts.

Copy a shape, paste a shape, convert a shape. Next...

Then, of course, each shape is going to need ordering and tweaking. After...honestly, I don't even know how long it took because this is the part where I tend to go all zen and start fidgeting with things at 800%...and this is where we wind up in the embroidery software.

This is the stitch view. One thing that is significant/fun about embroidery, vs typical graphic design, is the textures available simply by stitching the same color in a different direction. This software simulates/supports this, and so I wanted to take advantage of the option to give more dimensionality to the slippery critter.

Rather chaotic, no? The panel on the right side shows the stitch sequence. It's very important that the objects are stitched in the right order; sometimes for layering, sometimes just to minimize jumps between areas. The 8th and 9th objects are simply green circles for the eyes. The 10th object is a satin stitch outline which serves as a fence for me to cut around when he's all finished.

You may also notice that black gets stitched twice, first as the background/outline, and then as additional detail. I actually used two different blacks for that — lightweight bobbin black for the background/outline, and 40wt for the details, so they'd stand up as the spines would.

The final outline was done in a grey matching the felt to give me a border to follow for trimming. Here it is all stitched out and trimmed, with green glass beads for his eyes, and human hand for scale.

Step 7: Finishing.
I already had a headband picked out for this project, a two-bar deal with some scrolly connectors between. This meant it was wide enough to support what I wanted, with openings for me to stitch through.

I don't really have any photos of this step, but trust me, it's not very interesting. I had a 7-light LED string from Ikea in the drawer which I stuck through the openings, and stitched in place with regular thread. (I will never understand why people will choose messy, unreliable hot glue when hand-stitching is so much easier and non-destructive.) I wanted a fabric to go over the lights to represent water, and to diffuse the white LEDs a bit, so I chose this short-pile blue faux fur I had. A large part of that decision was down to it being what I had on hand, but additionally, the swirly pattern looked pretty cool and watery over the lights.

I hand-stitched the fabric down, trimming and ladder-stitching as I went (while watching some non-"The Thing" arctic-station-gone-wrong movie). I pulled two of the lights through a small slit in the fabric so they would be extra-bright right next to the eel, to show him off a little. Then I took a tuft of light blue tulle, of which I have several yards for completely unknown reasons, and put that down for a little splash and for something to stand the eel against. (Yeah, there are a few beads in there, too.)

Here's a close up so you can see what a difference layering and varying the stitch direction makes.

And his adorably alien little face.

With the lights on, in a fairly accurate simulation of the light at the event.

The "underwater" lights.

So there you go, the anatomy of the ultimate in one-time-use wearables. Oh, it's perfectly capable of being worn again and again, but where am I going to be inspired to wear an electric eel on my head again?

hahahaha Considering that I wear eyeballs and skeletal birds in my hair on a regular basis, this is actually not so hypothetical a question...

A copy of this post and embiggenable images are available at my website: http://www.shefightslikeagirl.com/2013/12/anatomy-of-embroidered-electric-eel.html

ETA: The needle-arts website Mr XStitch gave my electric eel a little love today. Check 'em out!
Brocade Lion's Electric Eel
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6  What does one DO with 20 mouse jawbones? in Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General by BrocadeLion on: December 08, 2013 04:57:00 PM
I try not to search auction/sale sites for bones and skulls, but sometimes I can't help it. This is how I accidentally came across a listing for 20 mouse jaws.

After a little thought/experimentation, I landed on pre-wrapped wire coils as a mounting method. I glued each jaw carefully, with gel cyanoacrylate.

Once they were all glued in, including any loose teeth, I attached all of them to a short length of chain, as a fall. To give the fall some visual and literal weight, I added a faceted black beaded ball which I strung on an eye pin with a metal teardrop at the bottom. That whole assembly was then attached to a silver chain, which was decorated with deep red faceted oblong glass beads, which are effectively black under most lighting. I hung the fall off-center for a little added interest.

This is a piece that has to be worn with a certain type of top. In this case, a black knit with snap-front. The chain itself is simple enough to wear with a collared shirt; it's the centerpiece that needs a frame of its own. It never fails to draw a lot of commentary when I wear it, usually including variations on, "Really? REAL mousejaws??"

Of course! Only authentics for me!

A slightly wordier version of this post also appears on my website: http://www.shefightslikeagirl.com/2013/11/mouse-jawbone-necklace.html
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7  Re: Simplicity 3741: The Skulls-n-Roses Dress in Clothing for Curvaceous Craftsters: Completed Projects by BrocadeLion on: October 26, 2010 01:25:01 PM
Okay chicky- You started this thread a while ago, and there are still no picture of you in this amazing dress! I have to tell you I find it inspiring and I'm headed down to buy the pattern now. Hopefully it's still around. Beautiful job and what a great find on the pattern. Thank you for sharing!


Yaaaaaaaa know? I totally forgot. This is me last year in Vegas, on my birthday (in my crappy hotel bathroom), just about ready to head out to Penn & Teller. Still easily one of my favorite dresses.

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8  Re: My various Psychobilly T recons ~evil shirts rock~ in Clothing: Completed Projects: Reconstructed by BrocadeLion on: June 06, 2010 08:54:59 PM
Very much inspired by the shirts in this thread! I did this a little differently. I cut up the sides and around the sleeves, but kept the shoulder seams and neck in place. Then princessed the hell out of it (using a bodice pattern from another project I'd done). The arm holes are just edged with more of the same leopard knit ($4/yd!). I loved this shirt before, but now, well...!

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9  Vinyl and Recycled Plastic Strapping (!!) Corset in Clothing for Curvaceous Craftsters: Completed Projects by BrocadeLion on: July 22, 2009 05:21:49 PM
Edited to put this image at top for the thumbnail. Smiley

I went away to Las Vegas for my birthday for the second week in July, because the notion of 105F weather doesn't frighten me LIKE IT SHOULD.

On one of the shuttles to or from somewhere, wearing a dress that I'd made, I suddenly decided that I wanted to make a corset. Mostly I thought it would be a cute addition to that specific dress in a bright yellow vinyl. When I got home, I received an announcement for the Marquis de Sade Ball the upcoming weekend. That solidified the project and the deadline. I can make a corset in, like, 3 days, right?

I've made a corset once before, using Simplicity 9769, affectionately known as the Giant Cock Corset, as I built it from upholstery fabric featuring colorful roosters on a burgundy field. It was sort of a test to see how hard it is to do, and what kinds of materials I could use. Looking at it now, I can see how I fouled it up a bit. I had used plastic needlepoint canvas in place of real boning, and that doesn't impart much structure at all.

I had originally made it in size 20 with 1.0mm seam allowance rather than the usual 1.5mm because I was concerned it would be too small. Turns out, it was a little too big that way, so I made this one in 20 with standard 1.5mm seam allowance. I wear RTW 16/18.

When I went to buy vinyl, I couldn't find a yellow. So I dug through the upholstery flats until I found on this beige/pink stuff on the red tag clearance table. It's a very... fleshy color, with leather texturing.

Because I had less than a week to make the thing, I didn't have enough time to order supplies, even if I'd wanted to. I've read about a lot of different things people have used for corset boning. I wanted something with some strength, but it's not like I'm doing tight-lacing or waist-training, so I didn't need to get carried away. My first thought was to get some of the biggest zip ties I could get. Lowe's has 175-lb test zip ties in 18" lengths for something like $4.50/8. They were a little narrow and I'd have preferred they be stiffer, but at least they were immediately available and not horribly expensive -- although I would have to buy 3 packages.

Someone had also suggested to me that I grab some of the steel banding that lumber yards use to bind pallets of board. The Lowe's I was at doesn't use steel banding, but rather a heavy-duty plastic. This seemed like a good thing to try as I could use utility scissors to cut/round it, and I wouldn't have to worry about rust-proofing.

Recycled Plastic Strapping Boning

The pattern calls for twill tape as boning casings, but the plastic strapping was actually wider than the steel bones would have been -- just a touch under the width of extra-wide double-fold bias tape that's been opened up. What a coincidence! (Oh there are no coincidences in math.)

I opened up the bias tape and stripped it over the seams, pinning just through the flannel backing, then stitched close to the edges. More bias tape went roughly through the middles of the panels for still more boning. More boning! Can never get enough boning. This was fun because this was one of those situations where you have to put a layer of tissue paper between the vinyl and the sewing machine so it doesn't get all skippy.

Flat and Sewn Panels

As with the boning, I knew I wouldn't have enough time to order a traditional busk for the closure, but it occurred to me to call the better fabric store in town, Haberman in Royal Oak, because they have a bridal salon. Turns out, they do have busks in stock -- for $35. If there is any theme that carries through most of my projects, that theme would be CHEAP. So I didn't see making that investment. Realistically my choices were zipper, as used on the Giant Cock corset, or... nothing. I went with nothing. Thought it would look slicker.

As for the rear lacing, I had some two-part grommets on hand. I took the two bones that were to go in the back edges and drilled evenly-spaced holes -- and how much do I love garment projects that involve power tools? When I installed the grommets, I skipped half the holes that I'd drilled -- there are 9 lacing holes in the corset now, but there are, in fact, 17 holes available. Just in case.

After the grommets were in and all the bones in place, my old friend extra-wide double-fold bias tape finished the top and bottom edges. And that's it! Fairly rigid, nicely heavy duty corset! Here's the price breakdown, as I remember:
Clearance vinyl: $3 for 1 yard
Extra-wide double-fold bias tape: 3 packages (1 for casings, 2 for edging) at around $2/pkg
Plastic boning: Free
Grommets: On hand
Round waxed cotton cord: $4.50 for about 5 times as much as I needed

And I started cutting Wednesday and wore it out Saturday (and I have a full-time day job in the in-between). All-in-all maybe... 6-8 hours, HALF of which was probably installing those consarned grommets.

Corset Front

Corset Rear

As usual, the piece looks better on me than it does on the dummy, but Heddy is wearing the same outfit that I wore to the Ball that Saturday night; that is a black vinyl pencil skirt. The corset is quite comfortable, although getting into it was... a bit of a challenge. I figured if I got it mostly right I could borrow someone's slave once at the event, for purely wardrobe purposes. You can see that I tied it in the front, so I was able to keep it well adjusted. Well, enough so that whenever I dropped anything, I had to have someone else pick it up for me. A small price to pay, I'd say.

My only "complaint" at this point is that it's too plain. Because it was largely a test, and was in a bit of a hurry, I didn't do anything decorative to it. I really want to play up the fleshy aspect of it. I had considered doing some semi-random Frankenstein-style stitches to make it look like the panels were pieced together from smaller pieces of skin. But I also thought it would be cool to have someone draw some old tattoo-style art on it. We'll see what I wind up with before it hits the city again the next time.


My Goofy Self

As always, a more blah-blah version with more pictures is also available on my website:
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10  Re: Houdini x-stitch -- Tada! in Needlework: Completed Projects by BrocadeLion on: April 09, 2009 07:00:58 AM
Thank you everyone! I can always count on craftster to make me feel like I didn't just totally waste 6 weeks of my life on something like this.

I created the pattern myself using Photoshop. I use the program all the time, so converting something to X number of colors is a process I'm familiar with. I separated out the colors on layers and printed each out in a huuuge grid so I could see what I was doing and then just went to town.

As for patience, it's a virtue I can *sometimes* claim. After getting in such an instant-gratification habit, every now and then it's really nice to spend a lot of time on one project. Made me miss beading!

I did make it for Teller, for his birthday. Originally anyway... but I missed that by a month. D'oh! I'm thinking about going to see them in Atlantic City next month, to give it to him in person. As anyone who has seen them knows, both guys will hang out in the lobby after their shows, meeting and signing autographs, until the last person has gone home. These are entertainers who understand where their bread is buttered and *genuinely* appreciate their audience. More reason to love 'em.

This is us several years ago, with another gift I'd given him (difficult to see, it's a silver dagger & rose pin).

Oh yeah! One eagle-eye noticed there is a "secret" message in the margins of the piece. It's two words in Morse code. I won't give it away, but since it's very difficult to discern in the photos, I'll just say it has to do with Houdini's message to his wife. Wink
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