Illegitimi Non Carborundum

Sewing Projects

Translation: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Illegitimi Non Carborundum square

Needlecraft is like meditation, only at the end you have a thing. A sailor-tattoo inspired latin embroidered thing, in this case.

No specific instructions here: just sketch out a design on paper, place it under your fabric and light it from beneath (to trace it onto the fabric with a pencil), and keep sewing until your stress goes away. You are welcome to use my design if you like it (CC BY-NC-SA yada yada).

BTW did you see this amazing Anders/Justice amigurumi by Tattered Pantaloons? They used my Liara pattern as a starting point and it turned out so well! I love the look of the glow-in-the-dark thread.

QR Code Cross-Stitch: Great Idea, But Does It Work?

Sewing Projects

CD case frame 4

Cross-stitched QR codes have been popping up all over the web: I loved the idea, but was somewhat skeptical as to whether QR readers would recognize x-shaped stiches as perfect pixels and be able to read the code (especially since my stitching is a bit… heterogeneous, shall we say?)  So I did a science and tried it out.  I was inspired by a tutorial from MAKE but there are many others online: just go to a QR generating site like qrstuff and stitch away!  I recycled an old CD jewel case into a frame: tutorial at the end of the post.

I decided to stitch up one of my favourite quotes from House, to put on my desk at work:

Look Stupid House Quote 2

I’m not sure how to attribute the quote other than to the TV show: it’s not clear who did the graphic design (if you know, please tell me so I can give them credit).  After making a text-based QR code at, I printed it out so I could take it with me.  I found it easier to cross-stitch if I drew a grid on top of the code:

QR code printout

So… did it work?

QR code scanned

Yay!  I reject the null hypothesis and conclude that my horrible stitching is actually clear enough to be read by a QR reader.  Go science.

For a frugal (by which I mean free) and eco-friendly way to display your cross-stitch, you can make use of one of those old CD jewel cases you have gathering dust in a closet somewhere.  I’d hung on to this one since it was my friends’ album, and since no harm is done to the CD or case in the process, I can still listen to the music, and if they ever move back to Canada I can pretend I didn’t make crafts with it ;)

Step 1:  Put bristol board or other stiff card inside the front of the case and trace around it.  Cut out the shape, place it inside the front of the case, and trim if necessary.

CD case frame 2

Step 2:  Use an x-acto knife to cut out a window large enough for your cross-stitch.  Slide it back into the case, and tape the cross-stitch cloth inside, using the album liner to sandwich it in place.

CD case frame 3Step 3: Go relax, you’re done!  This is a very short tutorial.

CD frame case 5

Large Hadron Collider Quilt

For Science!, Sewing Projects

My winter project is done!  Inspired by the textile art of Kate Findlay, and using the Compact Muon Solenoid as my muse, I’ve finally finished the Large Hadron Collider quilt.  It’s 130 cm (about 53 inches) squared.  It’s hard to tell from the photographs, but the silver fabric is sparkly and the silver thread is metallic and shiny.  Yes, I’m a magpie with opposable thumbs.

Large Hadron Collider quilt close up

Embroidered on the back is a wee Carl Sagan quote that I thought was fitting:

Large Hadron Collider quilt Carl Sagan quote

Making a quilt is simple: just create a design, pick out some nice fabrics, and voila!  Five months later, you’ve spent a heck of a lot of time making a fancy blanket.  Of course, said blanket is also a nerdy piece of art, so if making a Large Hadron Collider quilt wins in your hedonic calculus, here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Sanity check

Are you sure you want to do this?  Quilt-making, like cross stitch, requires a significant amount of time and patience.  It really did take me five months from inception to completion, although I only worked on it from time to time, and it’s only my third quilt (the Portal companion cube quilt was my second).  If you’d like to dip a toe without all the commitment of a full-size quilted blanket, try a pillow or a small wall hanging first.

Step 2: Make a design

You know the saying “measure twice, cut once?”  Do that.  No, really.  Few things are more frustrating than realizing you made a measurement mistake and having to re-do a whole lot of sewing.  I started with a few sheets of sketching newsprint and drew out exactly what I wanted the quilt to look like.  This is also a great excuse to get out your old geometry set.

LHC quilt in progress 1

LHC quilt in progress 2Now that you have your paper pattern, you can cut out the pieces, and add a seam margin (1/4″ used here) to make your final pattern.

Step 3: Pick your fabrics

I’d recommend against spending a lot on fabric if you’re new to quilting.  For the record, everything used here was $3-$5/m on sale at Fabricland.  Recycled fabric works well too.

LHC quilt in progress 3

Step 4: Try out a small piece of your pattern

If you have a repeating element, start by cutting just enough fabric to make one.  I tried out a few iterations before I found the colour combination I liked best.

LHC quilt in progress 4

Step 5: Go crazy and cut all the pieces

This can be done while doing other things, like watching reruns of Storage Wars.

LHC quilt in progress 5

Step 6: Sew everything together

Start with each section (each repeating unit), then sew the sections together.  I used patchwork and applique, machine and hand sewing.  The more you can do by machine, the less time it will take.

LHC quilt in progress 6

Step 7: Make the back

Once you have something that resembles the front of a blanket, cut a piece of same-sized fabric for the back.  Place your front and back right-sides together, and sew three of the four edges together.  Now sew most of the fourth edge together, leaving a hole at least as big as your arm.

Step 8: Add quilt batting

Cut a piece of quilt batting the same size as your quilt.  Optional: use some washable fabric glue to tack down the batting so it doesn’t migrate all over the place when you turn it inside out.

LHC quilt in progress 7

Step 9: Turn the whole thing inside out

Turn the whole thing inside out, using the hole you left in Step 7.  Even if you used fabric glue, your batting probably still bunched up and migrated all over the place.  Stick your arm in the hole and skootch the batting all the way to the edges, and smooth it down.

Step 10: Quilting time

Unless you are part of a quilting circle (in which case: cool!), I’d recommend doing all the quilting by machine to save time.  Start by pinning all the edges, making sure the quilt batting hasn’t migrated again.  Sew around the edges until you get to the hole you left.

LHC quilt in progress 8Now, close the hole by hand.  I used a running subcuticular stitch to make it invisible.  I’m sure there’s a non-medical name for this stitch that sounds less creepy, but if you google it you’ll get the idea.

LHC quilt in progress 9

Once all the edges are done, quilt the rest of the blanket until you’re happy with it.  I only quilted along the major lines (so far, anyway), but you could certainly make it more like a traditional quilt.

I should mention that metallic thread, although eye-catching and shiny, is a real nuisance to work with.  It made a nice accent but I wouldn’t use it for anything structural since it has a tendency to snap.

Science FTW… if you make one too I’d be happy to post a pic or link on the blog :D

F Yeah Cross Stitch

Gamer Crafts, Sewing Projects

I’ve finally taken the plunge and finished a cross stitch project.  Also, I’m not dead (yay), I’ve just been busy.  I sidestepped the more traditional motifs to stitch up one of my favourite Carl Sagan quotes, along with a slightly wonky – let’s call it artistic – freehand interpretation of the Milky Way using random space-y colours I found at Fabricland.  I love how it turned out!

I’ve decided this craft isn’t for the faint of heart… learning cross stitch gave me even more appreciation for artists like the ones at mr x stitch.

Carl Sagan cross stitch

A close-up of the Milky Way, if you like the design…

Carl Sagan cross stitch square

I’m using it to fancy up my kitchen.

Carl Sagan cross stitch framedI’m well on my way to geeking out my kitchen: check out these fantastic N7 tea towels Jess made me for Christmas…

N7 tea towelsMore coming as soon as I have time to finish up some projects.  The Large Hadron Collider quilt, on the other hand, is going to be a while yet :)

DIY Star Wars Christmas Ornaments

Sewing Projects

I was looking to make a Star-Wars themed present, and it occurred to me that with a bit of felt and imagination, some of the characters would look like traditional Christmas angel decorations.  See?

Star Wars felt ornaments 2

Star Wars felt ornaments 3

Of course, I drew up the pattern too.  I think Princess Leia is my favourite; I’m going to have to make more of these.  Just print and cut out the shapes as marked, embroider (or draw) on the details, then sew (or glue) them together with a little stuffing inside.  You’ll need:

  • this free Star Wars ornament pattern
  • felt (black and red for Darth Vader; green and beige for Yoda; brown, skin-toned, white and black for Leia)
  • needle and thread (black, green, brown, white and silver used here) or fabric glue and markers if you’re not in the mood to sew
  • stuffing

You can also use the same technique to make all sorts of cute ornaments, like this dachshund:

Dachshund ornament

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

In case the pdf link above isn’t working, here’s the same pattern image as a jpg.

Star Wars ornament pattern

DIY Super Mario iPhone/iPod Case

Gamer Crafts, Sewing Projects

Here’s a quick and easy tutorial for an iPhone or iPod case, like this one:

I was inspired by some cross-stitched Super Mario characters I couldn’t resist picking up at the Ottawa Comiccon (I can’t remember the name of the vendor – if by some chance it’s you, please let me know so I can give credit).  How cute are these?  The little piranha plant was the perfect size for an iPhone case.


What you’ll need:

  • cross-stitch, patch, or other image you’d like to show off on your iPhone or iPod case
  • felt
  • needle and thread (and a few pins to hold it together while you’re sewing)

Step 1:

Lay your iPhone or iPod down on a piece of felt.  Fold the felt over to make sure you have room to cover the whole thing, with room for a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Cut out the shape, leaving an extra flap of felt on one half.

Step 2:

Sew on your decoration (it’s easier now than later).

Step 3:

Put your iPhone or iPod inside the felt.  Pin and sew right sides together along the bottom and side (your decoration should be sandwiched in the middle).  Make it snug: the added thickness of the decoration will mean you have extra room when it’s right side out again.

Step 4:

Turn inside out (or right side out, really).  Reinforce the free edges by rolling the edges under and running a stitch along them.

You’re done!  Now go rock your nerdy iPhone case.  You could certainly add a snap, toggle, or strap if you’d like (I primarily made this to keep dust and dirt off, and to keep keys from scratching it).

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…

Weighted Companion Cube Quilt: How-To

Gamer Crafts, Sewing Projects

I’m so excited someone wants to make the Portal quilt, and that ukky369 made my Liara pattern... she looks great!  If you’re out there and you have any suggestions, let me know and I can tweak the pattern.  Also there was a bunny on my lawn when I got home from work, so that’s pretty much a trifecta of awesome all in one day.

Back to the quilt: here’s another pic of it that’s more face-on.  I don’t know a good way to hang a big heavy blanket to photograph, but I hope you’ll get the idea.

The quilt is 23 x 23 squares with a 1.5″ border.  I cut out 4″ squares and left a 1/4″ seam allowance, for a final size of 83.5″ squared (about 7 feet on a side, except somehow it ended up a bit bigger than that).

At 1 square per ‘pixel’, you’ll need 529 total squares:

  • 96 black squares
  • 39 pink squares
  • 140 dark grey squares
  • 254 light grey squares

Not a quick project, but quilts tend to be time-consuming.  On the other hand, I love this blanket and use it all the time: it’s cozy and durable.  The backing was made using the same dark grey fabric, with standard weight quilt batting sandwiched in the middle.  All the stitching was done with a Brother 5000H sewing machine (not a fancy one), rolling the blanket tightly to fit it into the machine to quilt the middle sections.

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)!