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DIY Totoro Highlights at Anime Boston’s Artists Alley

25 Apr Totoro Kimono

There’s never a shortage of Totoro crafts at Anime Boston! This years DIY Miyazaki highlights are featured below: A hand-painted (and home-sewn) kimono by Hanabi Kimono, and plushies by Sam and Rae Crafts.

Totoro Kimono

Handpainted on gingham nursery cloth. Note the soot sprites on the belt!

Totoro Kimono detail

Wonderful flair on the left hip.

Totoro Plushie

Totoro is my spouse's spiritual guide

More Totoro plushies

All of them eminently huggable.

Star Wars Weekends Fashion Alert

7 May

I may not organize my t-shirts as effectively as my stylish BFF, but I do specialize in planning ahead. So, yesterday I placed an order for a couple of the geek-chic Studios Central Star Wars Weekends shirts made available at Cafe Press by our friend Mr Matt “Outstanding” Hochberg.

While I was shopping, I couldn’t resist trying my hand at a little design myself. You can see the results over at Zazzle, and if you’re a coder or symbolic logic geek it might even make sense.

Or, if you’re a crafty type headed to Star Wars Weekends, this is the perfect time to DIY some gear! Last night I pulled out a piece of blank stencil, found a Rebel logo from Google image search, and with the help of my trusty exacto knife I now have a nifty little stencil, perfect for a little hot pink fabric paint on a black tank top. Target actually has some nice (and inexpensive) “layering” tank tops in a few different cuts and patterns, quite suitable for customization and embellishment.

And hey, while we’re talking about Star Wars . . . this awesome picture comes from Dark Roasted Blend:

Oh and hey, while we’re being random here can I just say I’m all atwitter these days? But I’m having a hard time finding any of my buddies. I dunno whether that means they’re just not in the twitterverse, or that I lack the skills to find them. So hey, if any of my buddies are twittering out there and don’t mind me following, drop me a note!

Disney DIY Duds: Re-constructing and Re-purposing Jeans

27 Feb

During the last batch of major reductions at Disney Outlet online, I succumbed to the allure of a couple pairs of jeans. I’d had an eye on them for a while, but hadn’t ventured out to my local Disney Store to try them on . . . and this was, in fact, a mistake. The waist was super-high, and the seat/hips super-baggy. I refuse to call them “Mom Jeans” because I find that an unnecessarily demeaning term, but I think you know what I’m talking about, right?

Instead of dealing with the return/exchange shipping and all, I considered it a $25 investment in craft and sewing materials, and an opportunity to experiment a bit. I’l share these experiments here, including things that didn’t work too well. Either one is a fairly simple project, and could surely be improved upon.

Reconstruction: Shorten the rise

I simply removed the belt loops and waist band, then sewed the belt loops back onto the jeans, leaving the raw edge relatively unfinished. The jeans came out okay, but the rise is still a bit too high, and the seat a bit too baggy. Here are the steps I took, and what I’d do differently next time:

  1. I removed the belt loops with a seam ripper.
  2. I removed the waist band using a seam ripper. Next time, I’d simply re-cut the rise with a good pair of cutting shears, and customize the rise and angle based on my own measurements.
  3. Using special “jeans” thread, I reinforced/finished the new “waistband” the same way one would finish the edges of raw fabric after cutting out pattern pieces: I sewed right on the edge, using an overlock stitch. I did two rows of overlock stitch, partly because denim unravels easily but also because I wanted more of a visual contrast.
  4. I reattached the belt loops to the waist of the jeans, and called it a day.
  5. Next time, I’d do a little reading on pants construction, and see if I could take in the seat a bit, in addition to recutting the waist.

Re-purposing: Denim handbag, with pockets

This one was a little trickier, but no more time-consuming. I’m much happier with the results, and have been carrying this bag nearly every day.

I’d been poking around online at various jean purse projects, and was inspired by an electronics pouch I saw on Instructables. I changed the approach significantly, but was inspired by the basic shape of the bag, and the leverage of existing pockets. I wanted to include the front pocket as well as the back, because I really like the embellishment on the front of the jeans. It’s also turned out to be very handy; the watch pocket is perfect for keeping track of my lip gloss.

  1. I ripped out the center seam (ie, crotch from front to back). This basically splits the pants into two completely separate legs, only one of which was used for the purse.
    1. In retrospect, I could have just cut it, I didn’t need to save that extra 5/8″ of fabric.
  2. I took the pant leg that I wanted to use for the purse (in this case, the leg with both front and back pockets decorated). I split that pant leg open on the inside seam (ie, the seam that would have run down the inside of my leg).
  3. Measuring carefully, I cut a rectangle from the top of the pants. I was careful not to accidentally cut through the front pocket, since I wanted to keep it intact. The size of the rectangle could vary, depending on the size of the pants (mine were a 12) and the dimensions of the purse. I chose to cut the bottom of the rectangle about 2″ below the bottom of the back pocket.
    1. Special note: Because jeans are not rectangular, the hip seam will likely not be the side of your purse.
  4. Using special “jeans” thread (in this case, I used the “denim” color thread rather than the gold), I finished the edges with an overlock stitch, since denim loves to unravel.
  5. I sewed a zipper into the waistband, to be able to zip the purse closed. This was the trickiest part, and an experienced seamster would do it way better than I did! Basically I bought a 7″ zipper, and sewed first one side, and then the other, to the inside of the appropriate sections of waistband.
    1. In retrospect, I should have shortened the zipper, because it’s a little too long and creates a little bulge on one end. Or, if I didn’t want to learn how to shorten zippers, next time I’d err on the side of putting the extra length on the bottom of the zipper (ie, the part that’s always closed).
  6. I folded the rectangle in half, right-side to right-side, and seamed the side and bottom, using 5/8″ seam allowance on the side and 1.5″ on the bottom. I then stitched the bottom a second time, 1/4″ into the seam allowance, for extra strenth.
  7. I’d had all kind of fancy ideas about making a shoulder strap from another piece of denim . . . but it didn’t work quite right. So, I poked around the house a little and found an old piece of clothesline. I cut three pieces, of about 1.5 times the length I wanted the strap to be. I braided the clothesline, and then tied it onto a couple belt loops to make a strap. It’s held up better than I’d expected!

DIY Disney Project Ideas for Crafty Types

5 Dec

Sometimes it’s tough for Disney geeks to find the right wardrobe . . . there’s plenty of stuff out there emblazoned with our beloved characters, but perhaps it’s not quite in keeping with our personal aesthetics. Or maybe it’s out of our price ranges. Or, well, maybe we just like to spend a bit of time with our sewing machines, or with a tub of fabric paint.

I’m very new to crafting, but thanks to books like Sew Subversive and a wonderful lesson from a local sewing machine shop, I’ve been having fun customizing clothing and starting to design a few pieces of my own. Having caught the crafty fever, I’d like to show off a few of the things I’ve made and perhaps inspire you to DIY a few pieces of your own.


One easy way to get started is to grab a few patches and customize clothing you already own (or can obtain cheaply). I noticed this summer at Disneyland that they’ve got some great patches out for Pirates of the Carribean. Disney is selling these patches as part of the “make your own pirate hat or bandana” package at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but you can also buy them separately — and they’re a pretty good deal, running about $2.50 per patch. Because they’re not designed for use on clothing, you might want to carefully remove the snap from the patches using an exacto knife, and then you’re ready to go.

In homage to the city-ablaze scene in Pirates, I made a hat and scarf out of fleece, using this pattern. I swear, it’s totally easy to sew! Including the patch, it took maybe 90 minutes to make the whole set.

Pirates fleece scarf and hat

Close-up on fleece pirates patch(click this and other thumbnails for better view of patch)

Also in that same set of patches, there’s an awesome little pink girly skull! This time, I scavenged fleece fabric from a major fashion mistake, a pink fleece I picked up super-cheap in the Dollar-A-Pound section of the Garment District (home base for Boston-based bargain fashionistas — email me if you want advice on when to go!). I also added a Ramones patch to the scarf to complete the look.

Pink skull fleece hat and scarf

Pink skull patch

Another patch in this same series worked well on a black Banana Republic shirt I found that same day on the crowded floor of Dollar-A-Pound:

Pirates shirt

Pirates patcho

Pirates not your thing? Shame on you! But over at Animal Kingdom, the Expedition Everest gift shop is all ready for you with a set of patches, designed for your iron-on convenience (I tend to sew them anyway . . . holds up better over multiple washings). Here’s a vest (once again from Dollar-A-Pound!), with a lovely Yeti patch.

Everest fleece vest

Everest fleece patch

Fabric Paints

Want to create your own designs? Make yourself a fabric stencil, grab some paint and a t-shirt, and you’re on your way. I made a Mickey Jolly Roger, which I’ve painted onto a couple shirts and a pair of jeans. Now, beware of copyright issues here . . . you can’t even think about selling this sort of thing. But in many cases you may be protected by the first amendment, especially if your design is satirical, as is my Pirate Mickey below.

Mickey pirate fabric paint jeans


The piece I’m proudest of so far is the Mickey Christmas hat. Totally simple.

Mickey Christmas hat

This was very simple to make, if you have basic improvisational sewing skills (or are willing to pick up that Sew Subversive book, and get yerself some skillz!). . . use a stocking cap as a pattern, cutting two pieces about the same size and shape of the cap but with about 1/2″ added on each side for seam allowance. Cut yourself out a pair of Mickey ears from black fleece, two pieces of fleece per ear so you can sew them together and stuff ’em, then sew into the main seam of the hat. Stuff them firmly enough that they’ll stand up straight when the hat is pulled on snugly.

If you find yourself interested in crafting, there are tons of web sites out there that can tell you way more than I can about how to get started, and how to move on to more advanced stuff. I hope I’ve whetted your appetite just a bit.

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