Sunday, November 11, 2012

Skeleton Key Sweater, or Adventures in Stabilizer

Finally, FINALLY it feels like Autumn has come to the Bay Area. Usually the temperature starts dropping around mid-October, but this year the heat lingered until early November. Which really sucks when you're eight months pregnant and stuck in a sweltering apartment. 

Besides the discomfort, I love Fall. I love the colors, I love the cuisine (lots of soups, stews, squashes, and root veggies), I love the layered clothes. So, I've been excited that I can finally wear the Skeleton Key sweater I finished embroidering last month. 

Changing room lights make for great clothing photos!
I'm really, super-proud of how this came out! The sweater itself was a find, a $3 score on Target's clearance rack that had no defects. I figured it was a good place to start experimenting with embroidering on my own clothing, which I'd been avoiding since I prefer knit fabrics.

Knits are notorious for being difficult to stitch on, and now I see why. Even with the assistance of some tear-away stabilizer, it was still a challenge to make sure that all the stitches came out even and didn't pucker the fabric. If you make a mistake and want to re-do a stitch, you have to do it sans stabilizer, as your needle's already torn through it! It made for a few little gaps in the design, but they're hard to tell if you're not looking for them.

I used a pattern set from Urban Threads, a skeleton key and a keyhole. After a bit of research (Sublime Stitching has a great tutorial), I decided the best way to transfer was to trace directly onto the stabilizer. It worked like a charm! I used a fine-tipped Sharpie pen, no fancy fabric pen needed, then ironed the stabilizer on where I wanted the designs. Next time, though, I'm going to iron them on one at a time. By the time I finished the first design, the second one was a bit wrinkly and tough to hoop.

With the baby belly.
I'm so excited to finally have a piece of clothing that showcases my stitching! All these years, and I've never tried it. Now I'm looking at my closet, wondering which piece is going to be next.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Halloween Baby Shower

Happy Halloween everyone! I thought I'd celebrate my favorite holiday by sharing some of the crafty and culinary creations that went into the Halloween baby shower I had earlier this month.

It was a joint planning effort between my mama, my mom-in-law, and myself, and together (with the help of my husband, dad, and sister-in-law) we turned my little 2-bedroom apartment into a full-on Halloween party central.

I'm super-proud of this banner. I could not find anywhere that sold Halloween-themed baby shower signs, either online or in the stores. So, using cardstock, mini-clothespins, and fun orange/black baker's twine, I made my own banner!

 My mom took the idea one step further. She taped more colorful cardstock onesies in the entryway, and encouraged guests to leave their well wishes for the baby. They were cute decorations, and now are precious mementos. Definitely more fun than a sign-in book!

Decorating was such a team effort! My mom- and sister-in-law were climbing like monkeys to get the crepe streamers and balloons up, while my mama spent the evening before making these pumpkin-esque puffs out of tissue paper. 

My contribution to the decor: these adorable Halloween sock monkeys I scored at a card and gift store. I only bought two, then after walking a block away, turned back to buy the third and last one. I also found the cute skeleton-bear at JoAnn's (I think I see a theme-within-a-theme here...).

For favors, we gave out cute tins stuffed with Halloween socks, a notepad, no-sharpen pencil, and candy. I also made little tags for them out of cardstock and "thank you" stickers I ordered to match my invitations. For the kids, we had little plastic cups stuffed with candy. We would have had more for them, but we didn't know they were coming until the day before!

 We had so much food! This is only a fraction of it. In addition to the veggies, fruit, wrap sandwiches, and cheeseball, we had butternut squash soup, spanakopita, baked potato bites, and lots of cookies.

Also, note the stack of plates in the right corner. My mama found these vintage milk glass party plates at an estate sale. I admit, when I first saw them, I was really skeptical. However, once they were in play, I can't imagine the party without them! They came with little matching cups that were perfect for the soup, and were much sturdier (and attractive) that paper plates. I'll definitely be using them again.

The centerpiece of the table: the cake! It was a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, from this awesome bakery in Berkeley called Love at First Bite. It was SUPER-rich, and one 9" cake was more than enough for 14+ guests. 

As for the message, we've been calling the little guy "The Tadpole." We're pretty much set on his name at this point, but I'm a wee bit superstitious and don't want to use it until he's actually born. Who knows? Maybe we'll look at him and decide that name choice #2 is actually more appropriate!

My mom-in-law makes some of the absolute best gingerbread cookies, and was generous enough to bake a couple of trays for the festivities. Mama and I contributed some nutter-butter ghosties, which are super-easy to make. You just dunk the cookies in melted white chocolate and add two mini chocolate chips for eyes. That's it!

After all that work, it was great to see everyone having a good time and enjoying the food and decorations. Here they are playing a game my mom-in-law coordinated, to see who could match and roll 12 pairs of baby socks the quickest. It was tougher than it sounds! As a bonus, I got to keep all the socks. 

The hostesses before the party began: my mama, myself, and my mom-in-law. Since they live so far from each other, it's rare that I get to hang out with them both at the same time, so it was wonderful having them both there. I couldn't have done this all this without them. 

As for the shirt, I saw one on Etsy that I fell in love with, but couldn't justify the price tag. As a total surprise, mom and sister-in-law gave me one the day of the shower. It was perfect!

And yes, I'm totally wearing that shirt again today. Have fun and be safe tonight, everyone!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Embroidered Mexican Linens (Picture Heavy)

Pregnancy is a lot more tiring than I thought it would be. The first trimester (Spring) was mostly spent curled up in a ball on my couch, too nauseated and exhausted to do more than watch Ugly Betty and Arrested Development on Netflix. The second trimester (Summer) was a lot better. The nausea went away, as did most of the fatigue, but I still had trouble rallying to do much more than what I had to (chores and writing).

Sadly, this involved crafting. There were weeks at a time when I couldn't motivate myself to stitch, none the less put together a cool new pattern to work on. If it hadn't been for my stash of pre-stamped Mexican linens, I might have gone all season without embroidering.

I picked up a slew of these little beauties at my hometown swap meet a few years ago. They're mostly 13"x13" cloths, perfect for bread (or tortilla) baskets. I also snagged a few larger ones (17"x17") for some pretty table decorations.

This is one of the smaller ones. All the little petals were deceptively time-consuming to stitch, especially since I decided to get fancy and do the whole thing in split-stitch. I used variegated floss, which is most obvious on the stems and leaves.

When it was done, I backed it with some pretty Dia De Los Muertos fabric. Note the zig-zag stitching. It was my first attempt at using this stitch for, well, anything!

It's kind of a "companion piece" to the first linen I stitched up last year...which I realize I forgot to post about.

See? Perfect for tortillas!

I also stitched up one of the larger pieces. I fell in love with the fruit motif, and I thought it was an appropriate piece to celebrate the late summer harvest. I already miss the lack of good berries and stone fruits in the stores.

I tweeded the floss for the fruit to get a more "natural" tone, I backed this one with a more classic fruit n' flowers fabric.

This one I'm planning on using more as a mini-table cloth sort of thing. If I can bear to put anything that might stain on it!

I still have about ten more of these babies. It's nice to know that if the crafting blahs set in again, I have a pile of ready-made projects waiting for me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happiness is...

...getting your contributor's copies...

...and seeing your story in print. 

Shakespeare Shaken is now available in print as well as a series of digital downloads (including a solo of S.H.R.E.W.) from Red Stylo Media. Having seen it in person, I highly recommend splurging on the print version. The artwork pops so much more on paper than on a screen.

Really, though I don't care how you choose to read it, as long as you give it a peek!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Queen of Snake

I'm definitely in love with Sew Lovely Embroidery's patterns. For me, they're just the right balance of ease and challenge. The patterns are detailed enough to encourage playing with different stitches and colors, yet straightforward enough that even a simple backstitch can make them look amazing. Not to mention, they're the only other place besides Sublime Stitching that I've found to offer "alternative" iron-on patterns. Oh, how I adore the ease of iron-on!

This is the second piece I've done from the "Circus Palooza" pattern set (the first being Lydia, the Tattooed Lady). I'd just finished watching all of the short-lived TV series, Carnivale, and I was in the mood for some carny love. I'd really come to like the character of Ruthie, the snake charmer, and I thought this would be a fun homage (even if the hair color was a little different).

I tried to keep her in a similar color scheme to Lydia, as I entertain hopes of someday making either one big quilt, or several quilted pieces that would go together on a wall. 

A bit of trivia: the albino snake is a subtle nod to the resident python of one of my favorite shops in the world, The Bone Room. If you're ever in the Berkeley area, do yourself a favor and swing by. It's a curio shop meets natural history museum, with a friendly, knowledgeable staff. You definitely won't be bored!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

S.H.R.E.W. now available from Red Stylo Media

The day has finally arrived! My short comic story, S.H.R.E.W., for the Shakespeare Shaken anthology, is now available for  download!

Download Here for only $1.99

From the Red Stylo Media site:
Kat is a perfect specimen of female spitfire and grace, and her corporate handlers in the Super-human Research, Education and Weaponization project can see her potential. But it's Kat's strength that also keeps her from submitting to her S.H.R.E.W. training, and so the programmers resort to bringing in the mysterious and sinister Doctor Petru to help Kat stay the course...
Shakespeare Shaken meets the perfect (bionic) woman in S.H.R.E.W., written by Sherezada Kent (author of ELDORADO from Poe Twisted), with art by Jarrod Perez; color and letters by Mark Mullaney ("Star-Crossed", "Zombie Cruise", and "The System of Doctor Canne and Professor Bulle".) 
This download includes a special note from the author, as well as a BONUS pin-up from artist Laura Guzzo!

Many other tales from Shakespeare Shaken are also now available, so be sure to check them out!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Final Countdown...

The summer has gone by in the blink of an eye. I feel like it was only a few weeks ago that I was making plans for trips, visits from out-of-town friends, and general warm(ish) weather lazing. Now, it's practically autumn, with the husband back in the classroom, the guests gone, and all the adventures past.

Well, not all of them.

You see, I have some news to share. I've been keeping it on the down-low, because, well, it's big news, and I'm a bit on the cautious side. I like being absolutely sure of something before I announce it, and though nothing is ever set in stone...oh, to hell with it. 

I'm pregnant!

Over 27 weeks pregnant, with a boy (well, with a biological boy. His gender identity will become known with time as he gets older).

It explains some of my long absence away from this blog. I've been a bit preoccupied over the summer, and crafting has fallen by the wayside as I've focused on my pregnancy and on trying to finish some big writing projects. I do have some embroideries I've completed, which I'll be sharing soon, and there's a slew of baby-related crafts I've got prepped in the queue. I'd better get cracking though. Once he arrives, I doubt I'll have much time for crafting for a while!

Overall, I'm feeling good, and the Tadpole (as we're calling him now) and I are in good health. The Professor is super-excited to be a father, and our families and friends have been nothing but supportive. It's been exciting and terrifying as we prepare for the little guy's arrival, and December is coming upon us quickly. So much to do!

Only 13 more weeks (I hope) and counting...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Project: Shakespeare Shaken

All the world's a stage, 
and all the men and women merely players...

In my case, all the world's a comic book, and the men and women artists and writers!

I'm excited to announce that my second short comic story, "S.H.R.E.W." will be included in Red Stylo Media's upcoming Shakespeare Shaken anthology!

"S.H.R.E.W." is a dark science fiction take on The Taming of the Shrew, filled with sinister science experiments, corporate warfare, and dangerous women. With art by Jarrod Perez.

Digital release of the "S.H.R.E.W." single issue is slated for September 12. Be sure to check out the full line-up of other Shakespeare Shaken titles, there's some great stuff in there from some really talented folks (including many Poe Twisted alumni)! All titles will be release together in a beautiful print anthology as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Folklore Crafts Book Tour

Fabulous Publishing is a new ebook publisher for crafters by crafters. Founded in 2012 by Shayne Rioux and Redd Hynes, (two of my fellow writers from my Geek Crafts days), FabPub aims to curate how-to ebooks that are fun and full of fabulous arts and crafts.

FabPub has launched their new series with a pair of adorably themed books: Garden Gnomes and Matryoshka (Russian Nesting Dolls).

Folklore Crafts: Garden Gnomes features 13 projects by artists from all over the world. The projects inside vary from sewing to crochet, paper quilling to knitting, for babies and adults.

Some of the projects include a crocheted hat so you can be a gnome whenever the mood strikes, a cross-stitched plaque to grace your wall, an amigurumi Gnome Chomsky to keep you company and an embroidered cup cozy to keep your favorite beverage warm.

How could you not feel happy wearing this hat?

The Underpants Gnomes won't be
able to resist stealing these!

Who needs ceramic gnomes
when you can have yarn ones?

Folklore Crafts: Matryoshka also features 13 projects by artists from all over the world. The projects inside vary from sewing to crochet, embroidery to traditional nesting dolls with a modern twist.

Some of the projects include a hand-printed hankie using a hand-carved rubberstamp, a sensory doll for your baby to love, needle-felted sailors for the seafarers in your life and even a full-scale costume.

For you Dr. Who fans out there!

You'll definitely win "most original" at the
company Halloween party! 

Cutest felted dolls ever!

This is the second to last stop on the FabPub blog tour. To see the thrilling conclusion, visit Geek Crafts tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

When I first heard about Snow White and the Hunstman, I had twin reactions. One was utter disappointment: "Damn. Looks like someone wrote the story I've been working on for two years." The other was excitement: "Snow White in armor? Charlize Theron as the Wicked Queen? Thor as a sweaty, hot ranger? Sign me up!"

I wanted to love this movie. I really did. Though it was a thoroughly entertaining two hours, there were just a few things that made it fall short of true love. On the up side, though it didn't exceed any of my expectations, it didn't really disappoint me.

When Snow White comes of age, she comes into the power that could destroy the powerful Queen Ravenna once and for all. Fleeing for her life into the Dark Forest, Snow White is reluctantly aided by the Huntsman, who is haunted by his own personal tragedy. Together, they make a perilous journey towards the one bastion of freedom left in the ravaged land, where Snow White must find the strength to face her stepmother--and her destiny--once and for all.

Visually stunning. My eyes were never bored, as each shot is lovingly composed for maximum pop. The special effects were  gorgeous, ranging from the grotesqueness of the Queen's darker magic to the ethereal beauty of the faerie realm. The costumes were impressive as well, and I'm sure there's already some ambitious seamstresses out there whipping up bird skull-adorned ball gowns for Comic Con this year.

Seriously, check out the details. I want this dress.

Ladies for the win. Though no one's going to be getting any Oscar nods for this, I was impressed by both Charlize Theron's portayal of the Wicked Queen AND Kristen Stewart's rendition of Snow White. Especially since she was severely limited by her dialog, Kristen did a surprisingly good job of portraying a range of thoughts purely with her expressions and body language. I admit, I have soft spot for her, mostly 'cause I'm rooting for her to break the "Bella" mold of her Twilight fame. This isn't too far away from that "sweetly bewildered" comfort zone, but she had some break-out moments.

As for Charlize, she was everything I wanted in a Wicked Queen. Cold and beautiful as sharpened gold, she practically oozed casual malice with every step. She also did a good job of making the Queen a bit sympathetic, even up until the end. She must have had fun with this role. 

Delivers what it promises. I went in expecting an action-packed, dark fantasy with lots of special effects, a dash of romance, and some slight "girl power" themes. I got exactly that. To be fair, maybe it's because they gave away most of the film in the preview, or because it's adapted pretty faithfully to a story I've known since I was three, but I rarely found myself surprised. Which, to be fair, could also be con, but seeing as I was already geared up for what they offered, I think it's a win.

Bob Hoskins was a nice surprise as the Dwarven seer. 

Weak writing. Really, for such a beautifully made film with such a broad range of talent, the script was sadly lacking. Snow White really doesn't say much, and there's some key moments of character development that were lost. You really don't get much of a sense of a personal growth arc for her -- or for any of the characters, really. The story stays firmly in the land of archetype, which is appropriate somewhat, considering it's based off a fairy tale, but I'd hoped to see some real life breathed into the avatars we'd all grown up with. 

Same old story. An extension of my previous gripe, but I felt it needed its own bullet point. I'd hoped for the story to challenge some of the themes of the classic Snow White tale, especially when the previews showed an armored Snow charging a fire-lit battlefield. In the end, though, it was still about who was the "fairest of them all." There's no real explanation of why Snow White is the "chosen one" except for "'cause she's pretty." You could cook up some theory about the "three drops of blood" magic that supposedly went into her birth, but it isn't clearly explained in the movie.

See? Fruit can be bad for you.

Worst. Siege. Ever. Okay, this is just my personal gripe, coming from playing tactics/strategy games and spending some time in a renaissance faire fighting guild, but that was seriously the sloppiest, worst-planned castle siege I've ever seen put on film. It's seriously cringe-worthy. 

Who needs formation or tactics?
So, that's my two cents. If you're a fan of fantasy, fairy tales, and sword-and-sorcery films, then check it out. I'd even recommend spending the clams to see it in the theater, as those special effects are worth it. It may not change your life, but it'll definitely entertain you on a Friday night.

On a more personal note... though Snow White and the Huntsman is similar in elements to the aforementioned story I'd been working on, it's still different enough. That comfort, in and of itself, was worth the price of admission...especially since I like my story better.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Sundress

Ta da!
We may still have nine days to go before the official beginning of summer, but in my head, it's already here. The Professor is finished with the semester, the heat is rising, and there's a ton of watermelon in my fridge. Yup, summer's come early to my world.

What better way to celebrate than by whipping up a spiffy new sundress? I found this lovely pre-shirred fabric at JoAnn's a few weeks ago, and I thought it would be a simple place to start with sewing my own garments.

All I had to do was measure, iron, and sew straight lines. The trickiest part was making and measuring the straps from scratch, but with the Prof's help that step was fairly easy. Within a few hours, I had the first home-made dress I'd had in over a decade.


There's something so very empowering about making your own clothes, especially as a big girl. I've spent so much of my life hunting a limited number of stores with a limited range of styles for clothes that really expressed "me." So, yeah, it's really exciting to be able to put something together than not only looks great, but gives me that added bump of pride when I say, "oh this? I made it."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Big Wow! ComicFest 2012 Recap

(L-R) John Gillette, Reyna Young, myself, and Dylan D Walsh
on our "Horror Filmmaking 101" panel at Big Wow! 
This was my first time attending San Jose's Big Wow! ComicFest. More importantly (to me, at least), it was my first time ever speaking on a convention panel.

I have to admit, I've dreamed about sitting at one of those long, tablecloth-draped tables since the first convention I attended. It just seemed so cool, that all those people would sit and listen to what knowledge you had to share. So when my friend Reyna Young (horror hostess Miss Misery) asked me to participate in her "Horror Filmmaking 101" panel, I was over the moon.

Also on the panel were her husband/partner-in-film John Gillette, and one of her regular actors/production assistants, Dylan D Walsh. We covered everything from where to get screenplay ideas to how to distribute your film once it's done. The panel had a great energy, and it felt more like a group of filmmakers chatting over coffee than a formal panel.

Proof that I actually said something.
Honestly, a bit of that might have had to do with the crowd. You see, there was a little SNAFU with the scheduling, which led to a last-minute switch in the programming that didn't make it into the printed convention guide. So, unfortunately, most of our audience showed up at the wrong day and time.

However, the crowd we did have was awesome. Family, friends, a few devoted con-goers, and a sea monster. What we lacked in quantity, we made up for in quality.

Really, how many audiences have a sea monster?
I was especially touched that my friend and Everything I Needed to Know About Zombies I Learned From the Movies's Director of Photography Erin Castrapel (Mr. Thumbs Up in the photo) made a surprise trip up from Los Angeles to see the panel. It made the day all the more special, especially when he coordinated an impromptu lunch reunion with another old friend.

As for the convention itself, I liked Big Wow's vibe. It had enough clout to draw in some big names (Jim Lee and Terrance Zdunich, for example), but it also had a casual, local con feel. I love conventions where you can stop and chat with the artists and creators and really get to know them and their art. I'll take that over the big budget cattle-stampede the Comic-Con conventions have turned into (and no, I'm not bitter at all that WonderCon abandoned the Bay Area for freakin' Anaheim). We didn't stay long, but we had a great time, and consensus was that this con was a definite keeper. I'll be back next year!

For some more thorough reviews of Big Wow! as a whole:

Oscar Benjamin's Examiner review (with LOTS of gorgeous photos)

Graphic Novel Reporter

ConventionLife (shout out to Michael Tang for photographing our panel)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mama's Day Flowers

Taking a strong variation on a similar theme, I decided to make my Mama an embroidered brooch for Mother's Day. Where my friend gravitated more towards darkness and tentacles, my Mama is definitely in the sunshine and flowers camp.

This, I'm proud to say, is a wholly original design of mine. In English, my mother's name translates to "Daisy," and she has two children. I thought it appropriate to have the two little daisies symbolizing my brother and I. Which flower symbolizes whom is up to debate: I'm older, but he's definitely taller now!

I sketched out some variations on the design on some scrap paper, then transferred the final design using carbon paper (I like the clean lines, transfer pens and pencils tend to bleed). I then stitched the petals and stem using satin stitch, and the centers with tiny French knots.

Again, not a tiny embroidery, but definitely small enough to keep my on my toes, especially with those pesky French knots!

My Mama adored it! She wore it proudly to her Mama's Day outing to The Avengers. 'cuz that's how she rolls.

I've been having a lot of fun with these little pieces of jewelry. Next up, I think I may actually stitch a little something for myself to wear. It'll probably be a combination of darkness and sunshine...just to change things up. Maybe if I'm quick I'll be able to have it done in time for the panel I'm speaking on this weekend (/shameless plug).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Big Wow! ComicFest 2012

Exciting news! Looks like I'll be speaking on my first panel ever this weekend at the Big Wow! ComicFest in San Jose, CA!

On Sunday, May 20, from 12pm-1pm, I'll be joining Miss Misery and other filmmakers to discuss the (artificial) blood and (very real) sweat and tears that go into making independent horror films. We'll be in room C of the San Jose Convention Center, Hall 2. (There's been a recent change to the schedule. We are indeed speaking Sunday, not Saturday.)

I'll be talking about the making of "Everything I Needed to Know About Zombies I Learned From the Movies." It should be a great time, so stop by and hear the war stories!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Call of Cthulhu

My embroidery has taken a new and interesting turn lately. After finishing a long and labor-intensive project (pictures soon) I decided I wanted to do something a little more...well, little.

I've known about needlework jewelry for a while. I even have a vintage cross-stitch pendant I inherited from my husband's late Nana. I never really thought of making my own, though, until I came across MotherEagle's work.

It was love at first sight. Not only her themes -- bones, brains, anatomical hearts, etc. -- but her gorgeous, elegant stitching. I seriously can't wait until she launches her new jewelry collection next week (that heart is mine!).

More importantly, it also inspired me to experiment with my own embroidery. The perfect occasion presented itself: a crafty friend of mine was celebrating her birthday soon. More precisely, she was celebrating Cthulhu-style (well, with more cupcakes and gaming and less madness and terror).

I found a lovely Cthulhu Celtic-knot inspired pattern (funny enough, it was a pumpkin carving design originally), and shrunk it way down to fit the pin setting I'd found on Etsy. I had to make a few little improvisations with the head, since it was too large for satin-stitching, but the color gradient gave it a nice feel.

The finished piece is about 2 inches diameter, so it's not really a true miniature. It is the smallest complete embroidery I've made, though, and I'm pretty proud of how it came out. My friend adored it, and wore it with pride through the evening.

I bought some other brooch and pendant settings, and this time, I'm planning to experiment with my own design ideas. I haven't really done anything that hasn't been part of a pattern pack for a while, so it'll be good to get the creative juices flowing again.