Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Taupe and Gold

Hello, everyone!

The Harry Potter Party Posts are all finished and I am owing you guys a pdf file of printables. Which is all ready and scanned. But I do not currently have access to my files and other regular computer stuff so I am going to wait until I am before putting it up for sale. This way, if anything goes awry with the download process or the transaction process or there is some glaring typo I missed, I'll actually be able to fix it right away.

In the meantime, I will share a random project not related to parties or Harry Potter. 

Have you heard it said, "Less is more"?

I will add: "Especially with bags."

See - I've been craving what I generally call a Goes With Everything kind of bag. You know the kind: works with church outfits and supermarket runs and dropping kids off at school; big enough to hold your tea mug and a spare sweater when at the mall but not so humongous that it looks as if you've packed all your kids' beach towels and a year's supply of diapers. 

I own many different bags. Not because I like the variety, but because I keep making and buying new bags in my fervent search for a single candidate that might possibly transcend most social occasions and color schemes. Occasionally I will find one remotely suitable, and proceed to use it to death, until it's stained and ripped and the zipper jams and even I can't tell what color it is anymore. Or until I've realized my needs have inexplicably changed and I no longer need something so big, or so colorful, or so waterproof or so. . . whatever.

Anyway, last week, I made a new bag.

My ongoing craving might be an omnicouture impossibility but my (current) specific weakness is grey and brown and plain and non-fabric-looking, hence this taupe suede and chocolate strap ensemble. I haven't had the time to go shopping for leather of the right thickness to cut into straps, so for the time being, it's vinyl. 

Yes, it's completely featureless. The suede, however, dresses it up, I think. Isn't it interesting how the kind of fabric (not the print) defines a bag? I've always been partial to solid fabrics with extraverted textures. 

I will admit that I was tempted to applique a big accent detail on the front like I did with this bag, but eventually decided not to take the time to. Maybe for the next iteration - I have a milk chocolate suede that I could try that out in - I'll do some floral thing with saddle-stitching. Hm.

I do still like subtle print, though. So I always funkify the lining. 

See? Mildly distracting on the inside, but calm and easy-going on the outside.  

Incidentally, this bag has an invisible snap that you er. . . can't see, to hold the mouth shut. And the base seam is driving me nuts in these photos because I didn't want to get my ironing board out in the middle of all the home remodeling and press it open, and now I'm paying the price for it.

Just to see if I could turn this same design into something conventionally dressy, I made another bag in Jessica Jones' In Theory barkcloth (golden retro gorgeousness).

Instead of a hand-made strap, I used an actual belt. Amazing time-saver.

And put in one of those turn-lock flap closures to complement the brown strap (and the brown base, which you probably can't see in the photos).

And I'm trying out a new way to make a faux-welt pocket on the inside. Much easier than regular welt pockets because you don't have to do the crazy interface-the-welt-window thing.

Here you go: one fancy, one plain. 

When I have some time, I am going to make a few more variations on this design - a grommet-knot rouleau strap, for instance. And I must do one with those shiny screw-in grommets. So many possibilities. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Ollivander's and the Science behind the Magic

This is the last of our Harry Potter party posts! I counted: 20, including this one. Twenty!

This one is less of a tutorial than a series of links to resources Emily used to re-create the "magical" effects of Ollivander's Wand Shop.

For your convenience, here is the Wand Shop video from our original party post:

Let's start with her MakeyMakey set, which I bought her some years ago. She's had a lot of fun with it, largely because it's such an open-ended tool for turning everyday objects into working circuits that do crazy things. Like turning a banana into a computer keypad. Yes, really. If you're not familiar with MakeyMakey, it's essentially a circuit board that makes it easy to connect anything that will conduct electricity (e.g. fruit, your own body, etc.) to a computer and/or the internet. 

Which sounds vague, so here's the example of the Ollivander's Wand Shop Sound Effects setup. The nuts and bolts are straightforward: there is a circuit board and a bunch of connecting wires. Emily created a kind of effects board from a piece of cardboard and aluminum foil,

on which each sound effect she wanted to create had its own terminal (a patch of aluminum foil) that was connected via a wire

to another terminal on the MakeyMakey circuit board, which then gets plugged into a computer that accesses the sound effects.

Then she used Scratch, which is a simple coding software that she learned to use in school, to write a program on that computer for her MakeyMakey setup. Here is the link to her code.

To work this thingamabob, you'd essentially have to make a complete circuit, using that computer (ours was a laptop), all those wires, and your body.  

Here is a short video Emily made to instruct the party volunteer helpers on how to work her setup. 

Summary: Apparently, there is no such thing as magic; magic is really Science. And Science is supreme (but not as supreme as cardboard, obviously).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Wand Boxes

In keeping with the wand-shop style of presentation during her Harry Potter party, Emily made some boxes for her wands.

Her specifications were particular: they had to be black, they had to be narrow and flat, and they had to have lids and be lined with some kind of velvety fabric.

We experimented not just with sizes but also the methods of making these boxes, bearing in mind that they had to be simple to construct, including the cutting-out, as we would be mass-producing over a dozen of them (which, if you consider that a lid was like a second box, would mean over two dozen in total.) 

This was the simplest and most efficient version of the flat template, before folding. In theory, it could be sized to fit within a single letter-size or A4 sheet of cardstock, but Emily's wands, with their beaded pommels, were too long for a box made from a letter-size sheet, so we traced ours in multiples on black poster board to accommodate their longer lengths.

Because scoring, folding and gluing 30 boxes soon became unexciting, Emily extended the process over a leisurely few days.

Here is a box and lid. The lid is the same width as the box but slightly longer, so that it would fit just right without either loosely falling off or squishing the box underneath.

Emily then measured and cut rectangles of red velour and glued them to the inside of the box.

Next, she matched the wands with their labels, and set them in the boxes

Then she hand-drew fancy random numbers on paper rectangles and glued them onto the ends.

Very fancy numbering, I must add. I was very impressed.

Finally, she improvised an organizational display using our old cardboard greengrocer cubbies. Incidentally, we've tried to throw away this greengrocer shop countless times, with limited success. The kids were eventually persuaded to let go of the shop front, being an utter space-hogger in their playroom, but they begged to save the cubbies. I am so glad we did, because they have used these cubbies for so many scenarios in their pretend play. 

Here are the shelves of Ollivander's wand shop. It almost looks like we should have made a hundred wand boxes and not just fifteen.

The sign was an internet image capture, I believe, which Emily traced over with a black pen to create this effect.

You'll probably be able to hack our wand box just by looking at the flat template in the third photo, and size it to your own needs. However, if you'd prefer to use ours, we will make it available in the downloadable file at the end of all the posts. We sized that to fit a single letter-size paper so it will hold wands up to 9" long, and included photo instructions and folding lines.

If working with cardstock isn't your thing, here is a faster alternative: a wand sheath (or pocket) in felt. We used felt because it was thick and no-fray, but feel free to use any other fabric, finishing the edges and interfacing for stability as you need to. 

Emily first made these for last summer's craft fair, at which she sold her first batch of wands, and you can find the original tutorial in that post here. I am also reposting those photos here for your convenience. The actual dimensions of the felt piece used depends on the length and thickness of your wand. 

Cut a long strip of felt, roughly twice the length of the wand. The width of the felt should be sufficient to create a pocket for your wand that's not too loose so the wand does not slip out on its own. Start with 1.25" or 1.5", and adjust it for more slender (less embellished) or thicker (more embellished) wands.

Fold in half and serge both sides together, sealing the edges in the process.

We didn't fold ours exactly end-to-end; we left the front layer shorter than the back layer 

so the wand could peek out at the top of the sheath.

Took literally minutes to make!

We have just one more post and then we'll wrap up this party series and share the downloadable template file!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Wands

Of all the DIY takeaways at Emily's Harry Potter party (and possibly any Harry Potter party), wands are probably among the most awe-inspiring while at the same time being the easiest to make. 

With the simplest of materials and some imagination (and a half-decent eye for color and design), you can roll out some truly gorgeous wands

Emily first learned to make the basic wands from Youtube videos (just google them and you'll find plenty), and then experimented with her own techniques and add-ons to create ornate 'pommels' and other interesting effects.

Here is what we used:
  • disposable wooden chopsticks
  • hot glue and a hot glue gun
  • toothpicks, beads
  • acrylic paint

Here are some photos of the basic technique: hot glue on a chopstick, layered in random formations.

Here are a few of Emily's own designs, made by slowly rotating the chopstick as you apply the glue. To make the tight spiral in the rightmost wand, Emily applied a big blob of hot glue and then inserted the end of a toothpick at an angle into the glue while rotating the chopstick.

Smearing the glue when partially-set or dragging toothpicks in different directions through it creates other effects.

For added texture, she also embedded beads in the glue. 

Then she applied coats of acrylic paint, and stuck the wands in a bucket of rice to dry.

Here is a photo of a chopstick next to a finished wand - pretty amazing transformation for something so easy (and inexpensive) to make.

Here are some close-ups of some of our favorites:

Beauty aside, wands are dangerous, magicky things which, if improperly stored, reportedly cause nasty accidents, so we made two kinds of protective casings for our wands.

The first kind was wand sheaths, or pockets. 

Emily sewed these for the summer craft fair at which she sold her earlier batch of wands.

The instructions for making these are in that craft fair post (link above).

The second kind were boxes, 

lined with a bed of some luxurious-looking fabric.

Emily designed and printed these double-sided labels

to give her wands fictitious personalities,

then tucked each wand with its label into a wand box,

and stocked Ollivander's shop in Diagon Alley in time for the party!

The wand boxes are up next!