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 23, 2016

10 Days Before the Ball -- a Hurried Costume Diary

I've been pretty busy these past months with a few archery tournaments, conventions, and our anniversary. In the middle of September, I was asked to potentially help out at a special event -- a Moulin Rouge ball hosted by our local costumer's guild. My part is relatively small, but we still get to go. However, considering my schedule, I hadn't had the time or energy to really think about going to the ball. I did consider costumes on my off hours.

Much like Cinderella, I didn't quite have a new dress to go to this ball, EXCEPT, unlike Cinderella, I don't have a fairy godmother, but I CAN sew. Unfortunately, it's almost a week before the Ball and I don't have is a lot of time, what with work, archery/fencing practice, and the last regional archery tournament of the outdoor season.

OY! What's a busy girl to do? Look to see what costumes can be re-used! So, on Wednesday evening (exactly 10 days before the Ball), I started looking to see what I could use.

After work & practice, I dug through my costume closet and I found my old Can-can outfit that I made about 16 years ago (back in 2000), complete with underthings, petticoat, and skirt, but I could not find the matching bodice!!

As mentioned, this outfit is about 16 years old. The skirt needs to be altered slightly, as I'm definitely not same size as my younger self, but the petticoat & chemise do fit -- go figure. I can work with these things and make a few minor modifications. All I would need to do is:
  • Alter the skirt with either smaller seam allowances or add additional gores.
  • Re-do the waist band
However, there's still the issue of the missing bodice. After much digging through my various pattern bins, I found my corset pattern, and after a lot more digging, I also found the original pattern for the costume.

Luckily, I still had the original mock-ups for my corset, which still fit (with minor seam alterations) as well as the matching paper patterns, but I didn't have the modified patterns for the bodice. I would have to start from scratch if I made the bodice.

I'm used to corsets, so I decided to make the corset. I quickly cut out pieces with the alterations, and opted to start making the mockups the next day.

As long as I didn't make anything too fancy, I could pull it off. I've got less than two weeks before the Ball. I got this....

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 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.