Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Job, New Scarf

I feel bad that I haven't been able to update my blog recently because I love writing about the topics on here, but I can't feel too bad because I have some exciting news.

I finally got a job.

I'll admit that it is just a part-time job at McDonalds, but it is really exciting to me at the moment. That is why I have been too exhausted to actually do much on here and why I haven't been updating nearly as much as I had been doing. This job will also give me time to do guilt-free research about finding a real career path that I can get started on and possibly go back to school for. Plus I will have a little bit of money to actually put into my savings so that I can save up to knit my Dr Who scarf that I have been wanting to do for a few years now.

Remember years ago when Brooklyn Tweed and Yarn Harlot were blogging about the Noro Striped Scarves and sent everybody back on the massive viral Noro Striped Scarf knitting once again? Then last year I got a couple of balls of Chroma from KnitPicks to make my version of the scarf. Well, I got my hands on a couple of balls of Noro Kureyon and they will turn into a brand new striped scarf. The colorways are 307 and 170. I only have a ball in each color and they say that the yardage on the balls are about 110 yards each, so I am thinking that I will have enough for a scarf but reading back over old posts, most people used four balls.

The only way to see for sure is to start knitting and see how far it gets me. If worse comes to worse, I will just have to get two more balls of yarn. The hard part will be getting the right colorways because the site we got these from refused to use the colorway numbers to describe the actual colorway.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lolita Hobbies: Sewing & Quilting

Let's face it, dressing in elaborate Lolita clothing can be really expensive, especially if you are just starting out. It might have crossed your mind that you can learn to make your own clothing. Well, making your own clothing now won't really be that much cheaper, but it can be an excellent way to personalize your fashion and discover your own sense of style.

If you want to learn how to sew, it doesn't mean that you have to spend a small fortune on a sewing machine. You can also sew by hand if you want to and hand sewing something small like a headband, a bow, or a little bag might give you the push you need to decide that you would like sewing in the first place and might want to save up for a sewing machine.

There are some positives and negatives to making your own clothes. On the positive end, instead of trying to fit into what is available, you can make your clothes to fit you exactly. If you have a bigger bust then you can fit your tops to fit your chest. If you are taller then you can make skirts longer. On the negative is that it might take you longer to get the clothes you want and you might have to spend some money on classes to really understand how to sew if you don't have anybody close to teach you.

You can also make what is not available on the market. Have any of you Gothic Lolitas ever wanted a Cthulhu inspired dress? Maybe some of you Sweet Lolitas might have been wanting some different food themed dresses? Coffee or bacon anyone? Or some of you Classic Lolitas may have discovered that you can indeed make yourself a polka-dot dress that is still classic but doesn't border on the sweet side too much. Cat lovers could make their own cat inspired dresses. You can find fabric for your favorite sports teams. The ideas go on and on.

While we are talking about sewing, I thought that quilting deserves a good mention too. If you can't tell by now, I love learning crafts that can help keep me warm or decorate a space to match my personality and interests. Quilting does both.

I decided to add quilting in with sewing because the act of quilting is a form of sewing itself when you strip it down to the simplest definition. What you do is that you take one fabric square and put that on top of another fabric square and you have some form of batting in the middle to help it become warmer. Then you sew the layers together and you have a quilt. Or if the square is to thick, then you take pieces of yarn and tie the layer together. When you are done, you have a fully functional thick and cozy blanket that we call a quilt.

Sometime back in the layers of history, some ladies must have gotten together and realized that they can save their precious bits of material from worn out clothing and combine them to make patterns. They also realized that they can use the different colors to create designs and patterns too. Then they probably realized that it was pretty as well as functional. And for some strange reasons, humans are attracted to beauty so it caught on really quickly.

This eventually led to the pieced tops that we see today that are constructed from lots of different types of fabric. Choosing the fabric, cutting the fabric out, and sewing the shapes together is part of the fun of making a quilt top. There are even some quilters out there that choose to have a pieced back to their quilt as well instead of having it be all one solid color.

I toss quilting into the group of being a good Lolita hobby because it looks dainty and delicate while you are doing it (especially if you are doing it by hand) and it just lets you create beautiful works of art that can coordinate with your sense of style.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lolita Hobbies: Tatting

Tatting is a form of making durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops. Those who have done macrame before will recognize the simple half-hitches used to make the double stitches over a core thread. Gaps can be left in between these stitches to form the lacy picots that can be used for either decorative or practical purposes.

Tatting is done with either a tatting shuttle or a tatting needle. The differences between the two is that the stitches formed by the tatting shuttle have to be un-picked one stitch at a time which makes the lace very durable and very easy to make a long strand of lace and cut anywhere along the line without a fear of it unraveling. On the other hand, needle tatting is done with what looks like a double-pointed knitting needle and if your strand of lace is cut, what you have done might unravel easier until it reaches a durable spot in the lace. Whether you prefer doing one or the other is all up to personal preference.

But what is the allure of tatting? What can you do with a craft that seems only able to make long straight rows of lace or little lacy doilies?

Well, for one reason tatting is extremely portable, especially if you are working a pattern that only calls for one shuttle. Unlike knitting, you can literally stuff a tatting shuttle in your back pocket of your jeans it takes up that little space.

If you are really into the Lolita fashion, then you will be aware that there are different types of lace that you can make. Tatting is one of the easier types of lace to make and it is one of the lace types that looks very nice with the Lolita fashion. You can whip up a horde of tatted butterflies and sew them onto the hem of a skirt or a purse to enhance it. You could also make a lacy collar that you can wear around the neck of your blouses to change the look of it. Tatting can also be made to make bracelets, broaches, hair clips, earrings, and necklaces. For a much bigger tatting project, you could even make a light and airy tatted lace shawl or scarf to wear like you would a fabric scarf as an accessory.

The tools for tatting can also range in looks from plastic beginner tatting shuttles to unique one-of-a-kind handmade beauties that you can find on Etsy. You can also choose from a range of colored threads to tat from so that you can make either coordinating or contrasting lace for any outfit you can think of.

The hardest thing about tatting is trying to figure out what you can use it for because there are not that many good tatting pattern books out and available on the market today because people have not re-discovered it. There are lots of people that still tat online, but since I started tatting a year ago, I only saw one other person tatting in public. But tatting can do almost anything you ask of it if you fiddle around with it and figure out what you want to make. I have seen everything from tatted masks to a gorgeous 3-D tatted butterfly. Imagine walking around with a tatted butterfly attached to a ribbon as a headpiece instead of a giant head-eating bow. There also are a pretty large amount of tatting patterns online if you poke around on the internet for a bit.

The best beginning tatting book I have found so far is called Learn to Tat by Connie Ellison. This book comes with a DVD for those people (like me) who learn best by seeing something done and reading about it.

There is only one bad thing about tatting. It is insanely addictive and satisfying to do once you get the hang of it. Soon you will be trying to look for things to tat or looking for things that you can add tatting to.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lolita Hobbies: Embroidery

Momoko from Kamikaze Girls Embroidering
Embroidery can be as simple as cross stitches a few dozen "x"s on an old skirt to make a little flower or as complicated as using a bunch of french knots with a stab stitch to create a border of sheep. The fact is embroidery is nothing more than some fancy sewing that has been designed to be decorative.

Many, many people enter the Lolita fashion through finding things like anime and manga or watching a copy of Kamikaze Girls. One of the main hobbies for the Lolita character is embroidery. I had a faint memory of trying to cross stitch long, long ago and even I was re-introduced to embroidery only after seeing it done on movies. There is just something about imagining a young lady sitting in a room patiently working on her embroidery that makes us feel comfortable. At first glance, she is being lazy and not doing anything too important. But, with a closer look, we see that her needle glides deftly in and out of the fabric to create these designs that look like paintings or pictures. So, it is only natural that embroidery should be picked up by Lolitas and glamorized as the "ultimate craft for Lolitas".

Cross Stitch Sample
While I don't believe that there is any one craft that is better than the others, I do have a growing love for embroidery. You can embroider on any fabric that you would like as long as you have a few simple tools: an embroidery hoop, different colored embroidery thread, and a sharp embroidery needle.

One of the easiest forms of embroidery is cross stitching because it only deals with one stitch. Now, you may not think that making a ton of little crosses on fabric would be interesting, but it is very soothing and a very good way of making complicated pictures with complex shading. That is why most cross stitching kits are designed for you to frame and hang on the wall as a type of art. But don't let that make you think that there is only that one type of embroidery. You can embroider anything you can imagine and a little stroll through the internet will also lead you to several interesting embroidery designs (including a few My Little Pony patterns)

Most cross stitchers do use a special fabric called Aidia fabric because you can easily see the weave of the fabric. This means that you will be able to make your crosses will be even and uniform throughout the piece easier than if you were using a fabric that you couldn't see the weave on very well. But that doesn't mean that you have to limit yourself to only using that fabric. Once you get the hang of it, you could make simple designs on just about any fabric you want. The only trouble would be is that you would have to be patient and make sure that every cross was the same size.

A Crewel Embroidered Pomegranate Motif
What most people think of when they think of embroidery is often referred to as crewel embroidery. This is the embroidery that uses multiple types of stitches to create different blends of texture and color to make the motifs. Even though there are a lot of different embroidery stitches, they are simple to remember how to do them once you have mastered the stitches.

This embroidery style can be done on any piece of fabric because it does not rely on the grid to help you do it perfectly. You will have to draw the design on the fabric first to help you create the design you want to do. Or you can through caution to the wind and start stitching your design without drawing it on first. This is a lot like painting with thread and is really fun to do once you let yourself do it.

There are many different types of embroidery that you can do, but there are too many types to try to explain them all in detail right now. What is important is that this is an elegant and simple hobby that you can enjoy to do anything to make decor for your living area to embellishing headbands and ribbons.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lolita Hobbies: Crochet

A lot of times crochet is looked at as the red headed step-sibling to knitting. It is a craft that people either love or hate and there doesn't seem to be many people that embrace both. I am here to say that crochet is also another craft that is elegant, portable, and highly customizable as well as a valid form of crafting.

It took me a few years to figure out that there is really nothing wrong with crochet and that crochet even has a few things that it does better than knitting. Crochet produces a strong sturdy fabric that makes fantastic blankets, strong sturdy straps to things, and fun stuffed creatures often referred to as amigurumi. Now, while this is fascinating and fun to hear about, I am sure that you are wondering on how this little craft could fit in with the Lolita lifestyle.

The simple answer is that it fits in the same way that knitting can fit in, it just depends on what you do with it.

Depending on the type of yarn and how big your hook is, you could make anything from simple motifs to gather together and decorate anything from your room to your dresses to dainty jewelry and accessories.

Crochet also lends itself very nicely to home decor. Imagine snuggling up into a blanket knit with your favorite colors or spending time making up flowers to join into a headband that you can wear with your favorite dress to go to a springtime meetup.

The thing that really drew me into crochet from knitting is the ease of making cute amigurumi. Amigurumi is the current catch-all phrase that describes cute crocheted stuffed animals. Most lolitas that I have run into love cute things and being able to make cute things is extremely satisfying.

But these things don't necessarily have to be just cute. For those that are drawn to more Gothic tastes, there are patterns out there that are more creepy-cute like the Tiny Cthulhu! pattern by Amber of Cthulhu Crochet. For those Lolitas that have a deep love of all things science fiction, there are plenty of patterns out there that can help you make a tiny Yoda or some little robots to anything that your heart could desire. For those of you who want to try to make some of these, be careful because they are addicting!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mending & Mistakes

I never thought that I would ever end up liking to sew. On top of that, I never thought that I would end up enjoying hand sewing so much because it is slow! But at the end of two hours of slow stitches patching a pair of my favorite jeans using some thread that I took from my mom's sewing chest and some denim that I collected from a pair of pants that no longer fit me, I discovered that not only did I patch my pants myself, but that I enjoyed doing it.

The only thing that my mom regrets is that when I wanted to learn how to sew when I was eight, she didn't have the time to teach me. Now, I'm several years older and I am pestering her to learn how to quilt with me and teaching myself how to sew. I think she enjoys the fact that I come to her with sewing problems since she finds herself coming to me with knitting problems sometimes. The only reason that we aren't busy quilting up a storm is that the box of fabric I want to use is out in the coldest part of the house and we only remember about it when it is freezing. I will have to remember when it is still slightly warm during the day to go out and get that box so we can look through it and plan a quilt out together.

I have been slowly stitching together a teddy bear that I cut out using a very old pattern. I spent some of the afternoon stitching together the inside arm to the outside arm so that I have two complete arms for the bear complete with different colored pads for the paws. I am ridiculously excited about this and I hope that I have enough stuffing to fill the bear when it is complete.

The funny thing is that the bear has been riddled with mistakes. I didn't sew anything wrong this time, but I noticed when I was going through the pieces that I had the forehead part of the bear, but I didn't have the part for either side of the head. Everything else is cut out except for that. Not a huge mistake, but a funny beginner mistake. I am going to have to find that pattern piece and cut out those pieces before I start sewing together the body or else I will forget that I have to do it. I also have the rest of the floral fabric that I took from my mom's fabric stash sitting out on my coffee table so that I will remember to do it the next time I have some crafting time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lolita Hobbies: Knitting

Painting by Johan Georg Meyer
In my mind, the perfect Lolita hobby should be something portable, something that looks elegant, and something that you can use to add to your wardrobe no matter what your style preference is. Knitting accomplishes all of this and more.

Knitting is insanely portable, especially if you stick to knitting small pieces for when you are out and about. Sure, you can't stick knitting in the pocket of your jeans when you go out, but you can fit it into a little coordinating bag to stick inside of your purse. It also gives you something to do when you are waiting in lines or waiting for an appointment. Even better, if you only stick with accessories, by the time winter comes around you will already have enough mix-and-match pieces to add warm winter charm to any outfit.

You can also choose from a multitude of yarns in just about any color to knit with. There are fine wool yarns to big bulky yarns perfect for quick last-minute accessories. The material can also vary from wool to angora rabbit to silk to cashmere. There are even yarn shops out there like Habu Textiles that specialize in carrying interesting yarn blends like wool/stainless steel or even silk/stainless steel and, ribbon yarns, and yarn made out of paper.

Leftie by Martina Behm
Knitting is a really easy way to add accessories to your outfit and customize them to fit your likes and needs. You can even add main pieces to your outfits like jackets or warm blouses to wear during the winter months.

The Leftie pattern by Martina Behm is a great example of what you can do with knitting. It is a little scarf that is knit all in one stitch and takes advantage of small pops of color against a white background. The way it is shown in the picture with red, pink, and brown against a background of white would be perfect to go with a Sweet Lolita coordinate.

But imagine it with dark purple, light purple, and a little bit of royal blue against a black background for a little bit of flair to stand with a Gothic Lolita coordinate. Or a lemon yellow, mint green, and orange against a light brown for a fun hint of springtime flowers for a Classic Lolita coordinate.

Bonnie Birds from Knitting Knee-Highs
Now take it one step further. In Lolita one of the staples of the wardrobe would be the knee-high socks. Every so often you will find an adorable pair of socks that may fit perfectly on your feet, but your calves are just too big and the stretched fabric make your legs look like sausages. Or you might get it big enough to fit your legs, but that leaves fabric flopping off of your foot because the feet are now too big for your feet. One of the big advantages to knitting is that not only can you make socks, but you can make socks to fit your body perfectly. No more sausage legs and no more longer than normal feet. Only a perfect pair of socks knit in any color to match your outfits perfectly.

Even better, there are some patterns that even try to help with the slipping sock syndrome. The Bonnie Birds pattern in Knitting Knee-Highs comes with directions on how to knit a garter directly into your socks as a design element that comes with an advantage of helping your socks stay up. The book also comes with directions on how to turn any sock into a knee-high sock so if you run across a pattern that you love but it isn't a knee-high sock pattern, you can turn it into a pair of knee-highs. You can also mix and match elements from one sock into others.

 As I said before, knitting is a perfect combination of portability and customization that will allow you to make pieces that coordinate perfectly to your sense of style. You just have to remember that all knitting happens one stitch at a time and that you are the boss of your knitting.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Lolita Lifestyle

There are people out there who say that the Lolita Fashion is just a fashion choice and doesn't dictate the rest of their lives. Then there are the people out there that say that because they wear Lolita, they choose to live in a more elegant way. Then there are people like me who live a lifestyle that fits in perfectly with Lolita, but they found the fashion last.

Any way you put it, the Lolita Fashion is going to have some "lifestylers" out there. These are the people who want to live like what they perceive to be the perfect Lolita Lifestyle. For many people, as soon as you say the words "Lolita Lifestyle", the first thing that pops into their head is Momoko from Kamikaze Girls.

Momoko is (at her core) a spoiled brat who lives in the most elegant way possible. She doesn't like sports because it isn't dainty enough. She prefers to embroider, look at pictures of flowers, eat only sweet things, listen to classical music, and basically live a life of elegance and luxury as best as she can. Don't get me wrong, I love Momoko and Kamikaze Girls is one of my favorite movies out there, but I don't think it portrays a good version of the Lolita Lifestyle that everybody thinks of.

A lifestyle is more than a style of dress or what music you prefer listening to. A lifestyle is made up of your hobbies, habits, general aesthetic and (for some people) your job. I'm not saying that you should go out and try to find a job that fits in with you love of the Lolita fashion. But if you want to make your love of Lolita fashion part of your lifestyle, then you should do it.

 A lifestyle makes up who you are and you shouldn't be chained in by what you think that other people think you should do just because you are a Lifestyle Lolita. As Momoko would say, "if it makes you happy, do it!"

Almost all of my hobbies fall into the category of the Lifestyle Lolita, so I am going to do a series of posts about Lolita friendly hobbies if you are interested in picking a couple up. There are tons of activities out there that could be considered proper for the sometimes cute, sometimes sassy, sometimes elegant lifestyle of a Lolita, so I am just going to write about the hobbies that I have a personal experience in. Keep your eye out for them and I hope that you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.