Sunday, 11 May 2014

Adventure Time: Making the Peppermint Butler

Some of you may not be familiar with the cartoon and comic sensation that is Adventure Time. Congratulations, you almost certainly have a life and no children. Set in the post-apocalyptic land of Ooo, Finn and Jake troll around having adventures and generally being awesome. By far my favourite of the princesses they regularly hang out with is Princess Bubblegum, for the following reasons:

  1. She rules the Candy Kingdom without a regent, or a prince, or anyone else telling her what to do (she also created the Candy Kingdom and its people)
  2. She is a scientist and inventor, who is drawn to smart people who relate to her as an intelligent woman
  3. She is as often rescuer as rescued
(I should say at this point that I'm really only familiar with vol.1 of the comics and series 1 of the show, my knowledge is probably out of date for the hardcore fans out there.)

So, like the Princess herself, I set out to create myself a Peppermint Butler.

White foamboard (5mm thick, A3)
Daler Rowney Canford Card in 007 (Bright Red) and 049 (Navy Blue)

From the craft kit:
A large plate
A craft knife
PVA glue
White paper
Black marker
Responsible adult (or equivalent if this is not available where you live)

I started by drawing around the plate on the foamboard. I folded the navy card in half and used the bottom 1/3 of the plate against the pre-cut edge to create his tux. I then added the tails, without rubbing out the shape of the plate. I cut both pieces out, then cut the tails off the one with pencil marks, along the curved line. I also drew the outline of the plate on the red card and marked where the tux would sit.

Using a responsible adult (My Girl), I cut the foam board with a craft knife, and then tidied the edges with scissors. I positioned the two tuxedo pieces against one edge and glued down

I drew the markings freehand onto the red cardboard, in the right positions on the circle I drew earlier, and cut out two of each. I placed them onto the foamboard based, and glued into place.

I drew the arms, legs, hands and feet freehand on card and cut them out (again, two of each piece), and one bow tie. I glued these together and placed them onto the body. The cuffs I made from plain white paper and wrapped around the wrist. I added the black lines in marker pen, and drew on his face.

That's it, a Peppermint Butler to call your own.


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Free Comic Book (Craft) Day

The first Saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day. I made sure to go out and celebrate with my fellow Bucks-based-nerds at Dead Universe Comics in Friar's Square (Facebook), then I came home and started planning for my fiancée's epic Heroes and Villains barbecue birthday party.

I'm something of a magpie for craft materials; I buy things when I see them and find a use for them later! Rummaging in my craft box, I came across some coloured twine I bought from The Works, and two 1.5m samples of Marvel wallpaper from B&Q. The project that presented itself was obvious: bunting.

The height of the flag is also 105mm
I started with working out how widely-spaced the holes on my hole-punch are. Then - aiming for five flags on each width - I settled on 105mm width and height, and laid it out. I didn't refer to where the design is in relation to the flags, because it would have been too much of a headache, and I wanted to reduce wastage. If you wanted to, you could obviously draw the triangles out on the front to get the ideal images.

I cut all the flags out, and punched holes in the top, then strung them along the twine and secured with tape on the back. My bunting is one-sided; to make it double-sided, cut the same number of flags again but don't put holes in. Then glue the un-punched triangles onto the back. The length of twine on the reel wasn't labeled, but I think I had 4.5-5m. With about 20cm left at each end and 6-7cm between flags I had 30 flags on my bunting. It's not an exact science, of course, I decided not to be over-accurate.

I think it took me an hour (about half of my Bob-Hoskins-tribute viewing of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and looks better than I expected. Hurrah!

A footnote: The cross stitch in the picture is this kit, which we bought from Hobbycraft. It was The Girl's first embroidery but she's very good at the detail and - unlike me - always gets projects finished.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Grandpa's Gardening

"Grandpa's Gardening" is a term my mum coined to describe sitting (or sleeping) in the garden and calling it gardening. I had an excellent time "gardening" today, whilst Emily along with the lovely Peta Evans of Living Image Gardens, transformed our garden.

Before: patio
Peta repositioned the patio stones
over sand and plum slate
Our garden is long and narrow, and mostly in shade. The patio end is never in direct sunlight. Peta helped Emily to choose alpines and other plans that would thrive without much light. The plan was to create a rockery on the right of this image, and a barbecue space on the left. We don't own the house, so couldn't go for a full garden redesign, but these changes have turned what we have from just a neat garden a really special place to be.

The materials and plants came from B&Q. The slate is "plum slate" in two sizes (small and large), laid over sharp sand to form the barbecue pit (the sand was also added to our chalky soil to help out the alpines). The barbecue is Longley by Blooma.
The completed barbecue pit
To create the rockery, Peta used timber to frame the bed, and filled it with a mix of the soil that was taken away from the barbecue pit, compost, and sand. Three larger stones created a space for a raised bed at the back. There were some large cobbles in the garden that they used to add interest around the plants.

The rockery is framed and raised with timber beams; large stones add another level
The final touches were three lamps for citronella candles (Blooma at B&Q) and the gorgeous reconditioned, cast iron bench Emily found at the South Bucks Hospice shop at Aston Clinton. We also have some lovely solar dragonfly lamps and post lamps to bring some colour to the garden at night.

I am really looking forward to summer in our gorgeous garden. One of the things I really love is sitting in the garden and working or reading outside with the cat. When I had the choice as a child I would always work outside. I haven't done any gardening myself for over ten years, but the sight and smell of summer flowers relaxes me. When I am having difficulties with my mental health, I find that sunshine is good for me, but hard to force myself into. Having a lovely setting, and somewhere to sit, makes even the worst of days that little bit brighter. 

The completed rockery and reconditioned bench

Monday, 10 March 2014

Chilterns Ripple Rug

I have been fascinated with t-shirt yarn for some time, and bought some back in January with a view to making a blanket for the cat. It proved trickier than I had expected, and the cat had selected her bed before I got anywhere, but I am working towards finishing a long treatment at the moment and was thinking about a thank you present for the community that has supported me through it. I wanted to make something for one of the treatment rooms, and settled on a rug.

We are surrounded here in Bucks by the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (at least, so long as it's not driven through by a high-speed train, but that's another story). I was drawn to the idea of a ripple blanket - like the peaks of the hills - made in t-shirt yarn to be about 1.5m in diameter, and chose to use the 12-point Rainbow Ripple Blanket (Ravelry). I spent a bit of time in my stash and at Hobbycraft selecting just the right colours of Boodles to represent the Chilterns; grey for flint, two greens for the woodland and fields, two blues for the sky and water, and a white chalk border.

The Chilterns ripple rug: flint, water, fields, sky, woodland and chalk
Pattern, Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket (c) Celeste Young
The process of making a gift is always tied up in enjoyment and worry for me. I always worry about the recipient, and how they will react. In this project, I've also found the time I spent working was a good time to reflect on what this period of treatment has meant for me, and how I'm going to move on. Ending with a craft project gave me time to think that I might otherwise have not made space for.

I found it really easy to work up, and used a 12mm hook to make it slightly looser in texture. The nature of Boodles is that some skeins are very thick whilst others are very thin, and the thick yarn was far too thick for the 9mm hook they recommend. My only real problem has been blocking it; it takes blocking pretty well in the short term but will quickly shrink back. I'm not sure how well it will actually work as a rug but hope that when it's in situ it will wear in. I am still considering stitching it to a backing to hold the shape, but I like the effect of being able to see the floor through the holes.

If I were to make it again, I would probably choose an even bigger crochet hook, to try and avoid it folding in on itself. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Quick and easy: Shoelaces

I recently, finally, retired my Games Maker trainers. Although I was selected as a Games Maker in the Venue Protocol Team (Copper Box) for both the Olympics and Paralympics in London 2012, I broke my leg on the 30th June, and didn't make it to the games (it was early September before I was anything like fully mobile again, but because I was immediately post-op the Paralympics remained off-limits). Nonetheless, I've worn the trainers for years. They were the only shoes comfortable when my leg was healing, and I love wearing them, but to avoid wearing them out I've decided to retire them.

I couldn't find any I really loved to replace them. The Vans/Liberty collection are lovely but a bit fussier than I like for everyday. In the end I opted for a really cheap-and-cheerful pair of boys' trainers from Tesco (£4 on sale after Christmas). I wasted a lot of time looking for fun, silly or decorative shoe laces but they all seemed expensive and not quite right.

Finished laces
The Now That's Pretty shoelace tutorial was an epiphany! I dug around in my craft box (I'm really trying not to buy materials if I don't need to) and found 2.1m of gold satin ribbon, 20mm wide. Gold isn't a colour I usually use, but I wanted a quick craft fix and our lovely local Haberdasher is sadly not open 24 hours, so I cut it into 2 lengths, sealed the ends with a gas lighter, and followed the instructions on Ally's blog. My gold glittery nail polish (bought to make green-and-gold nails for Aylesbury Concert Band gigs) sealed the tops.

Before and after:
F&F trainers
After seeing them on the trainers, it all looked a bit incongruous. I had just bought a lovely pair of 'vintage' (nineties?) Marks and Spencer boots from my local Cancer Research UK shop, and I tried the laces in them. They are perfect together.

If I were to go ahead and make these again, there are a few alterations I would make to my version:

  • I would ruche the top of the laces tighter.
  • I would use clear sellotape instead of Scotch Tape, to make a slightly sharper finish.
It took about 45 minutes to do both (I'm quite slow, you could probably do it faster!) and I will definitely make more ribbon laces, it's a great way to add some glam to a boring pair of shoes. They feel just a bit more 'me'.