Holiday DIY – Easy Gifts to Make and Share

Random Musings

I love handmade gifts. Except… somehow it’s December already and I’m running out of time! If you’re thinking of going DIY this holiday season, it can be a fun and easy alternative to hitting the shopping malls.  Everything here was given or received in my family over the last few years: if we can do it, so can you :)

Crocheted gifts:

Any amigurumi can be made into a Christmas ornament by adding a Santa hat… the octopus pattern is from Adorably Kawaii and the hat is from a holiday pattern by Pepika.  This would look good on my Angry Birds Green Pig ornament too…

Christmas octopus

This little Yoda pattern from Happy Together makes an adorable gift.


The crocheted Divine Hat and Cable Hat patterns from Rheatheylia (crocheted cables!) make gorgeous cozy toques and work up quickly.

Crochet divine and cable hats

Felt and fabric gifts:

Felt ornaments rock: let your imagination be your guide. I really love the Star Wars ornaments I made last year… pattern here.

Star Wars felt ornaments

You can make an iPhone case out of felt and decorate it however you like.

Super Mario - piranha plant iPhone case

If you have a sewing machine, try making reversible tote bags in interesting fabric (if your recipient is shy, they can put the marauding robots on the inside :)  The pattern is from Skip to My Lou.

Robot tote bag

For pregnant gals, sew knit fabric into a tube to make belly bands: pattern from DIY Maternity.

Belly bands

A pillow cover is just two squares of fabric sewn together. Sometimes with ears. Don’t forget to add a zipper if you want the cover to be removable.

My Neighbor Totoro pillow

For the girl/guy who has everything but a berth on the Normandy, customize some kitchen towels with felt accents:

N7 tea towels

Miscellaneous gifts:

Transform a hardcover book into a Grid-It for travellers. I got some flak for trying out this Design Sponge project, but in my defense I’m planning to give my Silmarillion pages a new binding.

Silmarillion Grid-It

Paint a wooden disc (available at craft and hardware stores) to make a colourful pendant, or add charms to ribbon to make bookmarks.  I love my dragon.

Wooden disc necklace

Shooooooooes! Ahem. Comic book shoes for someone very special.

X-men shoes

Cross-stitch doesn’t have to be old-fashioned. My sister made these video game coasters, and my sister-in-law framed cross-stitched kanji with beautiful paper and coins for a modern look.

Gaming coasters

Happiness cross stitch

Food gifts:

Cookies make a yummy holiday gift. For more food ideas, this delicious gift basket contained…

Christmas goodies

  • Strawberry jam (red jars): if you don’t have a favourite family recipe, this one is easy and has less sugar than many recipes
  • Spiced nuts (blue jar): this Alton Brown recipe has kick, but there are tons of tasty variations
  • Homemade vanilla extract (bottle with blue ribbon): add vanilla beans to either bourbon or vodka and wait a month for the flavours to develop… you can also throw vanilla pods into a sugar dish to make vanilla sugar!
  • Homemade limoncello (bottle with gold ribbon): soak lemon peels in vodka for 1 week, then strain and mix with simple syrup to taste… keep this one refrigerated

You can use pretty fabric to make the jars festive:

Jess jam jars

My sister also made a family cookbook: everyone contributed a few recipes. This is a wonderful keepsake and includes some of my grandma’s traditional dishes.

Family cookbookMerry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Io Saturnalia, and Happy Isaac Newton’s Birthday!

Geek Meets Bandwagon

Amigurumi Projects, Gamer Crafts, Random Musings

Like this blog, but don’t like reading all these pesky words?  Want to see what else I’ve been up to?  I started a Tumblog, since all the cool kids were doing it.  In addition to mini versions of the posts here, I’ll be posting pics of random things I’ve made that aren’t original ideas or patterns, like this oh-so-adorable (and easy!) Bob-Omb from a free pattern by Wolfdreamer.  It was too cute not to make, and with unpopped popcorn kernels inside, it makes a handy paperweight for anyone who still uses tree-derived information storage formats.

Bob-Omb amigurumi

I’ll still be posting free patterns and original projects here, but the microblogging format is nice for quick posts.  I’m always on the lookout for blogs to follow, too… the sheer amount of creativity in the world just blows me away :)

San Francisco is Geek Paradise

For Science!, Random Musings

I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco, and finally got the chance a few weeks ago.  Between the aquarium, Exploratorium, Academy of Sciences, and other science-themed museums and attractions, I feel as though I could have spent a month there and still not run out of things to do.  One of the highlights of my trip, though, was a visit to a place called Noisebridge.

That’s a hacked payphone at the entrance – you have to enter a code to be let in – it reminded me of old Get Smart episodes :)  They’re a non-profit educational collective – aka hackerspace – offering sessions on everything from vegan cooking to zinemaking to Raspberry Pi, or just space to work on projects where no one will look suspiciously at your giant robot.

Once a week they host Circuit Hacking Mondays, where noobs like myself can learn new skills and try their hand at, well, circuit hacking.  It’s free to go, and they have kits and parts you can buy (at cost) if you’d like.  I wanted to learn how to solder safely, so I put together a little RGB LED light kit that slowly changes colours.  If I build a little lampshade to go around it I’ll have a trippy mood light:

So if you live in the San Francisco area, or are there for a visit, be sure to check out Noisebridge!  In the meanwhile, I’m still working my way through the Make:Electronics book, trying to come up with an interesting art/electronics project to sink my teeth into.  Now if only I could get my hands on some conductive thread…

A Dance With Dragons: The very, very abridged version

Random Musings

I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of the fifth novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series (i.e. Game of Thrones).  It should be here any day now, upon which time I’ll curl up on the sofa, stoke my fireplace with imaginary logs and refuse to lift my nose from the book until it’s finished.  In the meanwhile, here’s a (spoiler-free) synopsis, courtesy of Jess: click any image for a slideshow.

The last page is my favourite…

Dance with dragons 1Dance with dragons 2

Dance with dragons 3

Dance with dragons 4

Dances with dragons 5 Dances with dragons 6

Handmade Birthday Awesomeness

Gamer Crafts, Random Musings

I just got my birthday present from my amazing sister (who also cross-stitched the gamer coasters).  Granted, my birthday was a while ago, but I’ve had the pesky habit of not being in my home country much lately.

Here’s what she made me:

Those are X-Men comic book shoes, y’all.  You could hear my squee halfway around the world (yeah, that was me).  I’ll post some better pictures once I find out how she made them: I lack sufficient words to describe how awesome they are.

In the meanwhile, here’s a better look at the Marauder Shields birthday card:

Sadly, even he couldn’t save me from getting older.

I’m on a Boat (in a Robot Dress)

Geek Fashion, Random Musings, Sewing Projects

I haven’t blogged in a little while: even geeks need a holiday every now and then.  Not having internet access is both freeing and a bit unsettling, but I did find time for a bit of crafting in between adventuring, eating, and faux-pirating.

That’s me, on a sailboat, on my birthday, wearing the robot dress I finally found time to make.  I’m not sure life gets any better than that, although I do think I need a nautical-themed pashmina afghan to complete the ensemble ;)

More about pirates (and an impromptu DIY pirate craft) shortly…

Adventures In Yarnbombing

Gamer Crafts, Random Musings

So… I’d mentioned I was going yarnbombing with a few like-minded gals on Friday.  Yarnbombing is where you take a whole bunch of knitted/crocheted/otherwise fibred-together stuff and put it out in public spaces, like this bus, or this stop sign.  Like graffiti, but warm and fuzzy and pretty much no one objects to it.  Also, yarnbombing gangs tend to be quite friendly and bake a lot.

Naturally, my contribution skewed geeky:

We started with the park’s bandstand, since that was the centre of the Art in the Park festivities.  You may be wondering why there aren’t more pictures, why there are no people out on the street, and why it’s so dark.  I shot these in between lightning strikes, and although the old adage says you’re supposed to suffer for your art, I draw the line at crocheting stuff to large metal poles in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Sadly, my double helix had to go without its base pairs.

Another time, perhaps… but for now I’ll post the Pac-Man pattern if you’re feeling inspired to make the world a little more geeky :)

Props to Carol and Leslie from the Wabi Sabi yarn store for organizing the event!

Tagged by a Space Giraffe

Random Musings

We’re playing blog tag and I’m it :)  By the rules, I have to list eleven fun facts about myself – regular facts just won’t do – and answer eleven questions, then make up another eleven questions for eleven more bloggers.  I sense a theme here…

I’ve tried to write mostly about crafts and geeky things and leave out the personal bits.  On the other hand, it would be untoward of me to ignore a friendly request from an extraterrestrial mammal, so here goes.

Here are eleven fun facts about me, most of which are true:

1.  I’m a Canadian gal, meaning I can arm-wrestle a polar bear, build a beaver dam with my teeth, and I do happen to know Bob from Toronto.  Also if you cut me I bleed poutine.

2.  I do science for a living.  Best.  Job.  Ever.

3.  I was once on the Canadian national team for a solo sport, but am completely hopeless at team sports.  I’ve also never played hockey (sacrilege!)

4.  I have more fun playing Star Wars games than watching the movies (geek sacrilege!)

5.  I don’t eat meat… and I’m not going to insert the obvious song lyrics here because this is an all-ages blog, folks.

6.  I once had a pet mouse that I trapped in a bucket in my first apartment: I bought him a cage with a little mousey wheel.  It wasn’t a very nice apartment.

7.  Few everyday things give me more joy than riding my bicycle on a beautiful day.

8.  My Halloween costumes as an adult have included Leeloo (multipass!) and Nana Osaki.  Surprisingly, I’ve never cosplayed outside of officially recognized dressing-up holidays.

9.  I only learned to sew so I can one day make a Skirt Thing.  William Gibson fans will know what I’m talking about.

10.  I once convinced my sister she was adopted from another planet.  In my defense, we were both young and I was pretty sure it was true.

11.  I’m going yarnbombing this Friday!  Details and pics in my next post, unless something goes horribly wrong.

And now, eleven questions from iamspacegiraffe:

1.  What can you hear at this very moment?

The tortured screaming of hellspawn: my husband playing Diablo 3.

2.  What is the first thought that comes into your head… now?

Ack!  Think of something clever.  Right now.  Homer Simpson.  D’oh!

3.  What was the first book you ever read?

Probably something to do with ABCs.  The first book I remember reading was Frog and Toad Are Friends.  I love reading, and while I try not to accumulate too much stuff, I make exceptions for books, dresses, and fabulous shoes.

4.  What do you think about when you hear the word “Faith”?

She’s a country singer, I think.

5.  Giant Panda or Polar Bear?

I’m Canadian: polar bears FTW.

6.  WHAT, is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Auuuuuuuggggghhhh!  (Falls off bridge).

7.  What is the best joke you have ever heard or told?

I have a rare case of humour aphasia: I can never remember jokes, even the really funny ones.

8.  What is the last movie you saw and was it any good?

I honestly can’t remember, and it wasn’t that long ago.  I’ve been watching Game of Thrones season one, and enjoying it just as much as the books.  The last movie I saw that I really liked was Hanna.

9.  If you could meet one person (living or dead) who would it be and what would you talk about?

Nikola Tesla, and I’d spend the whole time asking him about his ideas.  I doubt he’d want to chat, though, so I should probably pick Ada Lovelace instead.

10.  Cats with Smartie-tubes on their legs or Dogs with two legs on wheels?

That dog is awesome.  The cat is plotting revenge, and calculating how to make it look like an accident.

11.  What sports team do you follow, if any?

I’m a fairweather fan.  I’ll cheer loudly for Canadian teams during hockey playoffs and Olympics, but I don’t follow sports regularly.  I used to own a vuvuzela (got it about fifteen years ago) and have used it in public to glorious effect.

Whoa.  That was way more sharing than I’m used to.  Now’s the part where I’m supposed to write eleven new questions for eleven more bloggers… except I’m new to this and don’t actually know eleven more bloggers.  So this thread dies with me, but check out iamspacegiraffe’s blog if you’d like to see what other folks have to say.  And as a special thank-you for checking out this long-winded post, here’s a picture I took of a sea turtle:


Failure Is Awesome

Random Musings, Sewing Projects

I finished making a dress today.  Why, you may wonder, am I writing about dressmaking in a supposedly geeky blog?  Here’s my inspiration:

Shockingly, this fabric was in the clearance section of Fabricland.  Yes, that is a happy robot washing his robot dog.  Naturally I couldn’t resist buying some, and since it’s a lightweight jersey I thought it would be perfect for a nerdy summer dress (apparently I have less willpower than the typical Fabricland shopper, because there was lots of it left).

The snag is that I’ve never sewn clothing, unless you count the ill-advised and thankfully never worn culottes I made in Grade 7 home ec class.  So I bought a pattern labeled ‘easy’ (they lied) and went to town with some even cheaper practice fabric.  From cutting out the pieces the wrong way — apparently two sides of a dress should be mirror images of one another — to sewing the wrong sides of things together, I think I’ve made three or four dresses in order to make one.  Here it is:

A cute little wrap I can wear over a bathing suit… and no one will be the wiser about how much I goofed up along the way.  Except anyone who reads this, of course (all three of you ;)

I tried, failed lots, and eventually got somewhere.  Not bad for a few dollars’ worth of discount fabric.  One day in the not so distant future, I’m going to sew myself a robot dress.  And that day will be glorious.

Photo from Pretty/Ugly Design (thanks, Lifehacker)!