Saturday, September 24, 2016

Loot Crate: Month Two

This month's theme for Loot Crate is SPEED.  Much like last month, there was a bit of something for the both of us, but there were pieces of loot that we wished had gotten the other option.

The box for Loot Crate turned into a blue roadster (which you can see in the picture below). There were blue, green, and red roadsters. It also included:
  • Battlestar Galactica Cylon Raider replica -- It's a cool looking vinyl with some battle damage. My Viking loves BSG, so this is his.
  • Loot Crate Speed booklet -- It gives you the low-down on all the stuff inside, along with the digital downloads for this crate.
  • Loot Crate Speed Pin -- This will just go onto our pin collection.
  • Stark Industry T-shirt XL - It's a nice t-shirt and the Viking will wear it proudly. Loot Crate had this designed by Marvel.
  • Batwing Keychain -- This one is mine, because, well, Batman. It's a heavy metal keychain with some nice stats in their booklet.
  • 60 Seconds Die Cast car -- Neither of us have seen the 2000 version of this film, so I guess we should put it on our Netfix queue.
  • Chrome hood ornament of Green Arrow -- (the alternate was the Flash). However, this hood ornament is for show. You can't put it on any vehicle that might travel 75mph for any amount of time. It's attached magnetically, so you can't really put it on any modern car. I've claimed this piece of loot.


Fortuitously, I was going to be shooting an archery tournament when the Loot Crate arrived. I had to fix some vanes on my arrow and took the opportunity to set up a shot with the Green Arrow hood ornament.


I just can't help mixing my forms of geek -- archery, comics, and photography -- Oh My!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bag Fetish: The Tom Bihn Swift - A Review

If you've read this blog, you know that I have a bag fetish. I've acquired more than a few bags and I've also made everything from project/ditty bags to carpet bags to full-blown TARDIS messenger bags. Part of this bag fetish is trying to find the "one perfect bag" that will carry everything that I need everyday, comfortably, and without hassle.

However, I know that the "one perfect bag" is a myth --- an elusive unicorn that exists only in myth & story. But recently, I've found something that is pretty damn close to that unicorn, and those bags are made by Tom Bihn. I've known about their company for a number of years, but haven't tried out their bags until this year. Why? Because I didn't quite like their aesthetic; it was fine, but there were always other shiny / pretty bags available. But, as they say, don't judge a book by its cover.

I've seen many knitters rave about the Tom Bihn Swift for a few years. Generally, I prefer messenger bags (both vertical and horizontal versions) instead of totes with shoulder straps, but I thought to give it a try. Back in May, I bought the Swift for my birthday.


(From Tom Bihn's site)


And WOWZA. They really took the time and effort in working with Knitty.com to create this bag! I've never had a bag so thoughtfully laid out, organized, and with a multitude of space and pockets! It's more than a knitting bag and slightly less than a true bag of holding!


Here's my Every Day Carry for Work:  Big (sweater or shawl) and small knitting project (socks), a shawl (because my office gets cold), work laptop, tea mug, sunglasses, wallet, keys, notebook, pen, and assorted knitting notions in the blue case. (Cat not included)


It all fit into the Swift without issue and with room to spare. The side pockets with clear windows is genius! You can see what's inside without rooting about. Also, they have a key strap at the top of the back that I can clip my car keys onto --- so no more fishing for keys at the bottom of the bag!

I was so enamored with the configuration that I ordered a few more organizational things from Tom Bihn, because I loved how well just the bag helped me organize everything.

I picked up their "Freudian slip", a few of knitting pouches, and two of their knitting ditty bags.
  • The small Freudian slip let me able to consolidate my wallet, notebook, pens & pencils, earbuds, extra cell phone battery, a phone cable/charger, and a few other things. It's extremely convenient:
    • If I turned the FS sideways, it opened up the bag when I was working at my LYS. 
    • The FS also lets me transfer all the important things to any other bag with minimal fuss. 
    • Note: I did not purchase the FS made for the Swift. I bought the smaller version because I thought Swift FS was much too big.
  • The organizational pouches let me get rid of the bulky notions case AND add a few more things, like a pair of scissors. 
    • The clear windows let me see what's inside.
    • They come with a ring that keeps them together.
  • And insofar as the knitting bags........ Hold on! Sure, you might be asking right now - You have made tons of ditty bags! Why buy!? - Well,  the ditty bags have a built in clip that lets me clip it to the O-ring inside of the bag so that they never fall out! They also have a yarn guide on the inside. (In my copious spare time, I am going to add these features to any new ditty bags I might make, but for now, it was just as easy to purchase them.)

Here's all that stuff in the bag.

For FUN, I bought their Field Journal Notebook (FJN), because I love notebooks and writing. This is slightly bigger than an iPad Mini; it actually fits my iPad mini inside.


Here's the FJN inside the Swift instead of the laptop.

So far, I've used this bag extensively for work, for play, and generally everything. I've take it on car trips and on airplanes. It's a great bag to have at your feet as a passenger or under the seat for a plane and be able to access everything quickly and without hassle.

I am still amazed at how much stuff I can fit into this fairly compact bag. You would think that it would get heavy, but the weight distribution of the bag is actually well done. Yes, there is weight, but because the weight is distributed evenly, you don't really notice it. The only time I really noticed a problem was when I went urban hiking for 15 miles, but then again, I knew I was probably taking the wrong bag for a romp through the San Francisco hills!

Is it perfect? Not quite, but it's pretty damn close despite the fact that it's not my beloved messenger-style bag. I'm seriously considering purchasing a few more in different colors for different purposes!

Tom Swift makes bags in the U.S with a lot of workmanship and care. Their products have a life time guarantee and they have a small cult following.

I was so impressed with the quality of workmanship of the Swift, its organization, and its carrying capacity that I also purchased the Maker's Bag almost two months later to try out the messenger bag version (kinda sorta). I'll review that later.

I told you that I had a bag fetish....I might also be a Tom Bihn convert.



Friday, September 2, 2016

Clothes Sizing for Women Sucks

Any woman in the U.S knows that the clothes sizing is an exercise in frustration. Individual clothing manufacturers having their own sizing standards -- a "small" to one company is a "large" to another; or a size 4 for one company is a size 10 to another! It makes buying clothes difficult at best. (Men's clothing sizing is also afflicted with this problem, but not as badly as women's clothing.)

To make matters worse, many companies use 'vanity sizing' to sell more clothes to people by appealing to their egos. They downsize the clothing labels. For example, they'll mark a size 12 to a size 8.

On the flip side, there are some Asian manufacturers who size their clothing based on the sizing of their local population, so their version of a "small" is really a child-size, whereas an XL might fit the average American woman, which according to Google (at the time of this post):

The average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches 
and weighs about 140 pounds.  

I can't begin to describe how frustrating it is to try on clothes at a store. I will grab a large range of different sizes to see which fits me better, grabbing everything from sizes 6-16.  And I'm slightly below the average (according to Google).

For reference, I am fairly petite at 5'3, 120 lbs. I'm fairly fit -- I have a fairly active lifestyle and go to the gym on a regular basis.  I also prefer my t-shirts semi-fitted or looser. I don't like extremely fitted t-shirts. Most clothing sales people assume that I wear a SMALL size or am about a size 6-8.

Ordering online is even trickier, especially if the store in question doesn't have an actual size chart to denote what they mean by small, medium, large, or extra large. I always have to click that little SIZE CHART link to make sure that I'm getting the correct size, which is not always a guarantee. At times, I have to read the comments and reviews (especially on Amazon) to see what consumers had to say. I've been saved from ordering the wrong size when customers complain about the sizing running too small or too big.

This discrepancy between sizes is seen clearly between all of the t-shirt companies that sell my beloved geek shirts. I have shirts from various companies and all of them FIT me exactly the same and all of them have different labels.

In the photos below, we have a t-shirt from TeePublic, TeeFury (which just recently changed their sizing*), and Her Universe. All three of these t-shirts are approximately the same size along the shoulder (given the differences between the collar sizes).

The widths of the shirts are within 3/4ths of an inch from each other and all fit me well.

Notice the sizing is XLarge - Large - Small, respectfully...of the same shirts as above.



All of these fit me very well, and yet none of them are labeled the same. This is why women sizing is Bantha fodder. This sizable problem has been occurring since sizing was introduced to clothing and women have been complaining about this issue for a long time. Mostly the clothing companies have ignored the complaints. (Vox gives a breakdown of the history of women's clothing sizes.)



Don't get me wrong. I love all of these t-shirt companies. But I would love it more if we adopted European clothing standards, which go by the actual measurements of a person's body, such as chest or waist or foot size, versus an arbitrary use of small/medium/large or US 0-24. It would really force manufacturers to a strict labeling standard and help consumers wade through the mess of clothing sizing. For example, I know that my shoe size is a EU 38. I can confidently purchase EU 38 shoes from any online shoe store and know that it will fit me.

I hope that one day, the US standardizes their clothing sizing and follows the European standards.  It would help more consumers shop more effectively.



*For completeness within this article, TeeFury changed their women clothing sizing based on feedback from their female customers. I used to be a medium, but now am a Large in a Woman's sizing according to their charts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Increasing the Self-Striping Sock Yarn Stash

Whenever I order small stuff online, I have it delivered to work because it's easier for me to retrieve said items than having them sit on my doorstep at home. Plus, it's like Christmas whenever I get a package at work. Last Friday, I got two separate packages full of sock yarn to replenish my lack of sock yarn stash.

Webs (yarn.com) was closing out their supply of Stilleto yarn from Plymouth, so I bought a few skeins. Each skein lets me knit a pair of socks AND they were about $7.50 a skein.

Colorway (not in order): Winterthru, Dillon, Villandry, Eden, Birmingham  

I had previously knitted two other colorways of this yarn, and while I wasn't happy with some "splotching" of some of the color, the socks have worn like IRON. Consequently, I have really fallen for this sock base. I hope these new colorways don't have the same color issues.


Yes, I have a "thing" for self-striping yarns as of late. I love how the stripes knit up. In fact, I've finished a whole bunch of socks that I haven't posted about yet.

(Yes, I have a lot of work meetings)

The second package was from Simply Socks Yarn Company and picked up some fairly cool self-striping yarn from a new-to-me company.
Vespers 75% Merino + 25% Nylon
Colorways: Hay Ride & Callistos


I really can't wait to start knitting them....as soon as I finish my current pair of socks....

Kroy Pattons Yarn. Toothy, but holds up like iron.
Great as boot socks as it's slightly thicker than sock weight but not as heavy as sport.

No, they aren't quite self-striping yarn, but it's almost self-striping, and when you're desperate to knit, you do what you can.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Last Skein of Yarn

Last night, I realized that I was down to my last skein of sock yarn --- specifically, yarn designated for knitting socks, not sick weight yarn that already is slated for another project such as a shawl.


I'm not sure how that happened but it meant that I HAD to go shopping for more sock yarn...oh, such a bother! :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Loot Crate: Month One.

My Viking and I are splitting a Loot Crate subscription. We had gotten the FireFly version and liked it.  So, we subscribed to their regular version.

The very first one out of the gate is an awesome package for the both of us. The theme is ANTI-HERO. 

One of the things LootCrate does is let you turn the box in which your goodies arrived into either a diorama for your loot or a prop. In this case, the box turned into a giant " hammer".


Insofar as the loot, there's a little bit for both of us. My Viking is a big HellBoy fan, while I'm a classic Harley Quinn girl. He gets the Sterling Archer shirt, while I get the Kill Bill socks. It's yet to be determined who is going to get the Sylvana's pin (from World of Warcraft)


I can't wait to see what they put in for next month.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Phat Lewts: Loot Crate For Fan Girls

While I was at San Diego ComicCon this year, we might have done a bit of shopping and got some phat lewts while we were there.

The most epic was the LootCrates for Fan Girls with a Her Universe exclusive. I'm a big fan of the Her Universe line of clothes, so I just had to get this, especially considering the price!


The price of the box ($65 USD) was well worth what was inside. They claim there's about $100 USD worth of merchandise, which was about right.

First, there was a small, but cute pin that went right onto the lanyard. It's a nice little warning that a FANGIRL! is at large. :-)


Then, a small DC bombshell figurine of Wonder Woman...so cute. I actually want to collect all of them now, and I'm haven't collected figurines in a long while.

Another item was a coloring book for fangirls, along with some coloring pencils. It has several types of fangirls, from the gamer girl to a gear head girl to the Whovian! 

Coloring books aren't normally my thing; I was going to give this to a friend, but all the drawings and subjects were adorable that I just might keep it for myself. When I started flipping through it, I found myself laughing at many of the quips and quotes inside (as they were so true!). The LARP-er girl cries out, "FOR THE HORDE!", which warms my little Warcraft heart.....


There were a few minor trinkets as well, including a Walking Dead charm bracelet and some nail gels. (Not exactly my fandom, but fairly nice)

Oh, and there was this SWEET Star Trek clutch. Perfect for a night out with your friends. Of course, you could also use it for make-up too, if you were so inclined. I'm going to just assume that the red is for a command officer, instead of being a red-shirt. I would have preferred a blue or yellow (ala ST:NG), but red IS my favorite color.


And then the jewel of the box, which was this awesome dress that has the Marvel super heroines, including Ms Marvel, Scarlet Witch, and so many many more! I love the fit. :-)


The dress is well worth the price of the box, so you could just consider buying the box for the dress and getting a bunch of free stuff thrown in for that price.

If you missed out, there are still a few left at: https://www.lootcrate.com/limited-edition-crates/loot4fangirls-crate

I'm looking forward to any more Loot Crates for Fan Girls, especially if they are all of this caliber.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cosplay Problems: Part I

When getting ready for San Diego ComicCon, I realized that there were a bunch of (first world) cosplay problems that often occur. I decided to try and document a few of them as they happened.(Note: numbering is random)

Cosplay problem #122: when the accessories and props take up more room than the actual costume. 

Cosplay problem #123: when your makeup kit is its own piece of luggage. 


When packing outfits for a convention, I always run into the problem of "How much do I really want to pack?!?!" This problem depends on the mode of travel (plane or car), how far away is the convention, and how much I want to pay the luggage fees or sacrifice other packed things.

This conundrum leads to the two following issues:

Cosplay problems #10a: when you pack more outfits than number of days (and nights) attending the con. 

Cosplay problem #10b: when you decide to not pack a costume because, "eh, I won't wear that anyways/ Ive got enough costumes to wear!" 

Which leads to more problems...

Cosplay problem #11: when you are grateful that you packed Costume B because you just can't deal with Costume A for whatever reason. 

Cosplay problem #12: when you kick yourself for not packing Costume B because for whatever reason, Costume A, is not working out, not the right outfit, etc. 

Luckily, during SDCC, I was experiencing #11

The weather in San Diego was about 90 deg F with 100% humidity. In other words, it was too damn hot, which lead to the following problem.

Cosplay problem #124: trying to determine how much of your cosplay you want to wear in the goddamn heat.

I'm sure there's a part B to this one, which deals with cold weather & skimpy outfits. For SDCC, I was really glad to have packed a fairly comfortable and "light" costume.

(Worn at Gallifrey. I forgot to take photos during SDCC.)

Then it came time to go home and repack all of our cosplay outfits, props, and accessories back into the luggage. During this time, much of the accessories were spread around the room.

Cosplay problem #150: when you realize that you have to repack all of your costumes back up to go home.

Cosplay problem #150a; when you wonder just how the f*** did you Tetris-packed everything into the suitcases you brought.

I'm sure there are more cosplay problems. I'll continue documenting them as I run into them during conventions. Let me know some of your cosplay problems!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Addams Family Cosplay: Wednesday Addams

It's been a long while since I've actually finished my costume for the San Diego Comic-Con Masquerade. I've actually delayed in posting this dress diary until after the convention, in an attempt to keep it somewhat secret. I wrote this post in pieces, as I worked on the dress.

When my friends said they wanted to do an Addams Family skit at SDCC, I immediately knew which characters I wanted to create. My friend, C, who was our exalted leader laid claim to Morticia. C is fairly tall and wanted the chance to play a tall character (ala Angelica Houston's Morticia). I put in my bid for Wednesday.

Given our height differential, I was pretty sure I could get this role as it would make me seem more of a "little girl.". LOL  I had my own backup Adams character, but I really wanted to play Wednesday. The costume would be relatively easy to create and the look is fairly iconic that I would be able to wear this costume more than once :-)

I initially made the pattern from a simple sloper pattern. In the following photos, I've already made the first set of adjustments to my pattern (having forgotten to take photos from earlier steps). The blue tape indicates the adjustments I made to the original pattern.
  • Changed the slope of the neckline for the front and back.
  • Changed the angle of the left back shoulder, as one shoulder is slightly more muscular than the other. (Which means that I have to cut the shoulder slightly bigger than the other.)
  • Lengthened the front & back pieces
  • Increased the angle of the side seams for both the front & back.

The mockup for the dress fit rather well.

After I was happy with the mockup, I started with the actual fabric. I used a 85% linen / 35 % rayon linen blend. 100% linen wrinkles if you even look at it funny, and I wanted it to survive being packed repeatedly with minimal ironing. The lining was just a black rayon fabric.

When making the dress, I started the lining, in case I had to make any last minute adjustments. I had to mark which shoulder was for my left and which was for my right because they are different cuts. (Even I got confused at one point and had to 'reverse' my markings.)


I serged all of linen & lining edges, just because I could. Also, this was linen and I didn't want any additional fraying.



The garment and lining are created separately, but I did not "bag line" the finished product, but the lining is carefully tacked in at the shoulders and each seam is sewn separately with an edging.


I created the collars & cuffs much earlier (see this post) I pinned the collar and sleeves to ensure that it looked about right. I eventually basted these pieces onto the dress AFTER I added buttons and buttonholes, because, I didn't want them to get too dirty.

Then it was a matter of aligning the buttons and button holes. I used this handy-dandy buttonhole gauge to evenly space out where I want the buttons. First, I pinned where I wanted the first button, then used the spacer to mark out the exact number of buttons I wanted to use. Pins and chalk marked the rest.


The button holes were easy to add. My sewing machine does a very good job at button holes. However, sewing on all of those buttons took several evenings.


For a bit of fun, I added a special bit of Addams' to the top button, right next to the collar. I think Wednesday would approve.

The finished dress looked awesome. It was finished with a pair of tights and an existing pair of black shoes that I already owned

In addition to the dress, I opted to style a wig. My hair isn't long enough to make two sets of ponytails. So I purchased a very long wig that was approximately the same color as my own hair, which is the same color as Wednesday, and started braiding. It took a long while to look correct, but it was well worth it. 


Ironically, I have a ton of different black wigs of varying lengths and cuts, despite my own hair being black.

Here's the final outfit along with the Marie Antoinette doll.


Here's one of the photos of the whole group taken backstage.





Thursday, July 28, 2016

SDCC Masquerade 2016: The Addams Extended Family

The primary reason we went to San Diego Comic Con this year was to compete in their yearly masquerade with our cosplay group, which numbered 14 people.  The theme was the Addams Extended Family.


But, you might ask, "Why 14 people? There are only 7 in the Addams Family!" (It'll make sense once you see the video.....)

Organizing 14 costumers is no mean feat.  Our wonderful group director (who played Morticia) managed all of the aspects of our group skit / presentation --- including putting together our choreography, arranging our music,  scheduling our many, many rehearsals, and coordinating with the masquerade staff. On the flip side, each individual is responsible (more or less) for their own costumes and props --- although we all chip to help whenever it's required.

Over the course of many months, we got to know our music arrangement and rehearsed our skit. (You didn't think we just made costumes and strut them on stage, did you?)

As our group was scattered between northern and southern California, we had to arrange last minute rehearsals with the entire group once we arrived at SDCC. Some of us had practiced by watching the rehearsal videos.

 On the day of the masquerade, there was a lot of preparation.


It took about 4 hours to do our last few rehearsals, the "final" rehearsal on the secondary stage to show the masquerade staff, AND then finally, to get into our costumes --- makeup, any prosthetics, and finally our costumes. We all helped each other get dressed and ready.



Some of the group had to change from their day cosplay to their actual masquerade outfits.

There was a total of 35 contestants. We were #23. So, we had a bit of a wait before we even got onstage. The curtain went up around 8pm.


We were not allowed to wander the hallways in our costumes, so we stayed in the Green Room along with everyone else. It was a bit of organized chaos. :-)

While we waited, I took a few photos of the contestants. There were some amazing costumes.

Fortunately, the masquerade show let the contestants view the rest of the masquerade from the green room.

Uncle Fester, Lurch, and Cousin Thing watch  the MCs announce the next act.

The presentation before us was a couple who played Kylo Ren & Rey. Their skit was the fight scene from the movie. However, unbeknownst to "Rey",  "Kylo" got on his knees and proposed to her on stage! It was pretty amazing and she said YES. I bemoaned to my fellow group members that we had to follow THAT act......


When we finally went onstage, it seemed that everyone got the jokes inherent in our presentation. At least one person loved our skit so much that they tweeted this......

Here's the full video.


Here's how it was shown on the big video screen. I kinda like see'ing the MC (Phil & Kagia Folio)'s introduction.


(Can you name all of the Adams?)


The end of our presentation didn't mean the end of the masquerade. We had to wait for everyone else to finish. We couldn't get out of our costumes, but we did chill for a bit.

Cousin It playing with Grizzly's beard.

Eventually, the winners were announced.



We took home a medal for the Most Humorous (and given the laughter from the audience, I did think we nailed it!)

(From the next day's newsletter)

Ecstatic, we stumbled out of the convention center after midnight. We were exhausted as it had been 8 hours just for the masquerade; happy with our presentation and our win.

http://www.laweekly.com/slideshow/the-cosplay-of-san-diego-comic-con-2016-7175313/45
Photo - ©Ryan Orange. LA Weekly