Monday, July 11, 2011

John's Heaven

No lie, I think John would give a non-vital organ to be the guy in this vid:

Found via Wimp, John's favorite video-sharing site.

Well, up until that last second, anyway. ;)

John has a huge soft spot for big cats; he can't get enough of 'em. He's always showing me pictures and videos like this, and asking if we can get a serval. In fact, I suspect he's over-feeding Tonks (now up to 15 pounds, thankyouverramuch) just so he can have a monster cat here at home.

Someday I'd love to bring John to Tiger Island in Australia. You know, once they invent the stasis chamber so I don't have to be conscious for a 20 hour flight.

UPDATE: John just offered this correction: he would in fact give a vital organ to be the guy in that video. I suggest you all link to your favorite big cat pictures and vids in the comments below to help ease his pain. :D

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday Steam: Disney Style!!

Hold on to your hats, fellow Disney steampunk fans, because today I'm going to introduce you to Epbot reader Christina Grey's AMAZING steampunk bride & groom Mickey ears:


[double swoon]


Quick backstory: Christina and her hubby came to WDW for their honeymoon last January, and they wanted Mickey ears to reflect their steamy interests (mrowr). So, naturally, they made some themselves!

Since their last name is Grey, Christina dubbed the newly 'punked ears the Earl Grey and the Lady Grey. I love it! And here's what she did:

"The Earl Grey is an old style Mickey Groom Hat. I took off the ears and covered the hat with an embossed faux leather. Mr. Grey hand patina'd the ears and I cut a keyhole in one before attaching a keyhole cover."

"The hat band is a linen measuring tape and the hat is striped with brass upholstery tacks (trimmed for safety). The final touch is two old fashioned loupe lenses in the band.

"The Lady Grey is a fascinator rather than a true hat. The headband portion is made of the same faux leather as the Earl Grey. The ears are the gold see-through Disneyland 50th anniversary ears and the right one has been embellished with a line of gears.

"Mr. Grey painted a pair of welder's goggles with gold and bronze paint and they are affixed to the headband along with a veil made of Russian netting."

YOU GUYS. I...I don't own any Mickey ears. Can you believe it? Don't ask me how this is possible, because now I HAVE TO BUY MICKEY EARS AND STEAMPUNK THEM OUT.

A huge thank you to Christina for sharing this amazing steamy awesomeness with us, and also for being incredibly patient with me, since I've had this in my "to-post" folder for nearly six months. (Eep!)

And finally, since you guys have been sending me links to the steampunk Vinylmation figures at Disney for nearly a year now, I thought you might be interested to know that they've finally been released:

The figures are only available as a set ("Steam Park" - cute), which costs about a hundred dollars. There are six figures in the set, and they come in this nifty box:

They're only making 1,000 of the sets, so grab 'em quick if you want one. Personally I'm not into VM enough to spend that kind of money, but they *do* look pretty:

via The Dis Parks Blog (click to see the other three figures)

For those of you who can't get to a park, the sets will be available for purchase online here on the 22nd of this month. (They released in the parks just yesterday.)

Now, who has some old Mickey ears they want to give me? :D

Friday, July 8, 2011

Star Wars Wedding Boutonnieres

Instructables user krystylynn84 made these amazing wedding boutonnieres using plastic rings from a cake shop. (You know, the ones you always find on cupcakes?)


And here's the whole set:

Kristy mentions that the fathers were supposed to wear Darth and the rest of the groomsmen (including the groom) were to get Storm Troopers, but due to a mix-up the groom ended up with Darth. Either way, I think it's friggin' fantastic. I just love inexpensive personal touches like this!

Check out her tutorial for full instructions, and a big thanks to @ArkhamAsylumDoc (who you should follow on Twitter if you're a Star Wars fan) for finding it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

When my brother gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday, I did something I never do: I bought a book without reading it first. (Usually I read library books, and then buy the ones I know I'll read again.)

After finishing Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I'm glad I took the leap.

I won't summarize the plot for you here, but suffice to say this is a YA fantasy supplemented with darkly intriguing vintage photos like the one above. I didn't learn until finishing the book that almost all are actual vintage photos (a few slightly modified), and were not made specifically for the story.

This was quite the revelation, and I found myself going back and looking at each photo again, marveling at how seamlessly the author, Ransom Riggs, was able to weave them into the storyline. These aren't simply bonus illustrations on the side; they're integral keys to the entire plot line. As a result, you can tell that Riggs built some of his characters around their images, as opposed to the other way around. Fascinating stuff.

From the description and cover images I was afraid this was going to be a horror story. It's not. In fact, I am a *huge* wimp when it comes to scary books, and I was able to read this in the dead of night just fine - although I could imagine a few of the creepier images in the middle revisiting the odd nightmare here and there. (The Santa in particular was pretty shudder-worthy.)

The ending was everything I like: enough resolution to satisfy - no annoying cliff-hangers - but enough room left over for possible sequels. And I dearly hope there's a sequel.

So, if you like young adult fiction (and after Harry Potter, who doesn't?) I definitely recommend Miss Peregrine's. For a debut novel, the story alone is fairly impressive - but combined with the photographs, it becomes one of those tales that will stick in your memory for years to come.

And finally, I was about to embed the book trailer here, as it's one of the best I've ever seen, but I just stumbled across something even better: the making-of video. Turns out, Riggs went urban exploring in Belgium to shoot the trailer, trespassing in abandoned old mansions, and the resulting film is filled with jaw-dropping scenes of simply gorgeous urban decay. So, by all means, watch the finished book trailer, but you simply HAVE to see this:

Wow. I think I'm going to watch that again now.

Oh, and if you're inspired to take the leap, too, Miss Peregrine's is currently $10.25 at Amazon.

Young Adult fantasy is my genre of choice, so I've read most of the popular titles and I'm always looking for more. Have one to recommend? Then please, tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Geek Glee 7/5/11

After ending a long weekend, who couldn't use a few pick-me-ups?

My first smile came in the mail today:

Yay, ebay! I scored all these guys, plus an extra Gonzo, for about $6. Now I just need Animal in his red wagon to complete the set. (Because, really, I need more toys on my desk.)

From the always-amazing SuperPunch, a pic that made me squeal and gasp at the same time (squasp?):

That's it, I want to play Atlas. (The short 'bot.) Now I just need to learn how to mold plastics and wire electronic eyes and stuff.

And finally, something I shared on FB last night from LeVar Burton's Twitter feed:

Considering that John and I spent last night watching old Star Trek episodes on Netflix (did you hear? Both original AND TNG are now available for online viewing!), I found this especially apropos. And you've gotta love Brent's expression.

So, how was your weekend, guys? John and I worked, per usual. (The downside of working both at home and for yourself: you have to try reeeally hard to take a day off.) Not that I'm complaining; I love my job. Most of the time. ;)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Steam 7/2/11

I haven't done a Saturday Steam roundup of random whanot in a while, so prepare for an onslaught of steamy goodness!

First, a little bling:

Found by Lisa R., Astrolabe Necklace by dragonweave, $39.95

Astronomical jewelry? Yes, please!

- Hannah F. found a flash program I had way too much fun playing with: a steampunk "costume creator:"

It's kind of like virtual paper dolls, except everything is customizable, right down to the skin tone and makeup. Here's what I came up with:

Seriously: so fun.

The program was designed and created by DeviantArt user Ammotu, and you can play it here.

- Speaking of costumes, who wants to see Epbot reader Jason dressed as steampunk Buzz Lightyear?

Woohoo!! Rock on, Jason!

He tells me my photos of the steampunk Wizard of Oz gang helped give him the idea. Ah, I love having a part in inspiring greatness like this.

- Someone sent me this amazing short film, "Bird: A Decent Animal," but I've managed to lose said person's name. I'm sorry, someone! Anyway, the film is kind of like Bride of Frankenstein, only less B monsters and more haunting steampunk. It's beautiful, but also dark - and there's a brief surgery scene - so it's not for the extremely young or squeamish:

And as is the case with most short films, I was equally fascinated by the making of:
More info at the film's website.

And now for a little whimsy!

Eric found this DIY Steampunk Singing Bird over on Instructables, and I totally want to make one. Isn't it amazing? Kind of a clockwork Tim Burton vibe. Hit the link for in-process photos and instructions, and then visit creator Keith Newstead's site for tons of jaw-dropping automatons.

Which is a great segue to this:

- Gena C. found something for my fellow history buffs: Check out the world's only known surviving pair of singing bird pistols:

These jewel encrusted beauties aren't actually pistols; they're a form of automata. When you wind them and pull the trigger, a tiny bird pops out of the barrel and sings:

The bird's movements are astoundingly lifelike - if nothing else, go to 1:25 on the video below to see it in action. You will be amazed. Especially when you consider these were made in 1820.

The pistols sold last month at auction for over five million dollars. WOW. Visit Christie's for more info.

- And finally, there's a steampunk group planning an airship Nautilus float for the New York Mermaid Parade next year. Awesome, right? If you want to get involved (or chip in for supplies) head over to their Facebook page.

Well, I think that's enough for today - the rest will have to wait 'til next week. Hope you guys are having a great holiday weekend!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Geek Glee: Blasts from the Past

Dedicated geekery-finder Libbie A. recently shared these gems on the Epbot FB page:

Check out Dan's glasses! Clearly, he was hipster BEFORE there were hipsters.

And here's a goodie from the Atlantic's photo collection on the history of the space shuttle:

Wait. Scotty had a beard?

(Hit that link for tons of fabulous shuttle photos, too.)

And while we're sharing, here are a few more I've had kickin' around my hard drive:

Apparently there were some practical jokers on the set of Wrath of Khan.

This one interested me for obvious reasons:

CAKE! Originally it was so washed out you couldn't see much, so I tweaked the photo and zoomed as much as I could to read it. I believe it says,

To Lenny with love from "the gang of five."

(Lenny would be Leonard Nimoy, of course.)

There's also a cartoony looking guy riding one of the nacelles, with a speech bubble that reads
"Ho, Enterprise!" (John thinks "Go" would make more sense, but that doesn't look like a "G" to me.)

Anyway, anyone else find it interesting that Shatner wasn't one of the "gang of five?" I've read enough biographies to not find it too surprising, but this still seems an embarrassingly obvious exclusion.

And finally, one of my favorite photos OF ALL TIME:

So. Much. Win.

Happy Friday, everyone!

(And Happy Canada Day, Canada!)

All photos found via a rabbit trail of sourceless Tumblr links and/or disreputable content farms, so if anyone has original source credits, please let me know!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

With Apologies to Canada

John and I have been sitting in the office all day, trying to figure out how to write a Sunday Sweets post honoring Canada that won't offend Canadians.

Not that Canadians as a whole are easily offended. It's just that over the course of several blog posts on CW my good-natured teasing managed to irritate a few. The worst instance was a misunderstanding: I posted some "improvised" lyrics to the Canada song that plays at Epcot ("Canadaaa! CanadAAAA! Oh, Caaanada!" you know, that one) and a few people thought I was making fun of the Canadian national anthem. Not many, but enough to warrant an apology and make us lay off most of the Canada humor since. (And place it on Texas, instead. Which also got us in trouble. But that's another post.)
Anyway, since July 1st is Canada Day, we thought we might switch things up a bit and feature that instead of July 4th Sweets on this weekend's Sunday Sweets. You know, a kind of peace offering.

The only problem is that Canada isn't all that different from the U.S., so finding uniquely Canadian things to spotlight via fabulous cakes isn't as easy as you might think.

We started with a list:

Black bears
Royal Mounties
Maple Leaves

John was worried. "It's all so...stereotypical. We can't let anyone think we're making fun of Canada."

So he did some research, and then wrote a painfully polite intro extolling Canada's great and various virtues, which he asked me to look over.

"Um...well, I think you're going so far the other way that people might think you're being sarcastic."


"You're talking about Justin Bieber and the guy who invented the microscope."

"Darn. What should I do?"

" know, write it like you're NOT trying to run for Canadian public office."

---a few hours later---

John: "I got 'nuthin. Besides, the cutest thing in here is the beaver cake."

Me: "Maybe we should just do all beaver cakes. You know, 'Here's a beaver, here's another beaver, here's a mountain cake that probably has beavers in it... Oh! and here's Justin Bieber...


"...and here's some more beavers..."


"Now look at this dam cake. Beavers built it. Booya."

"You're. Not. Helping."

John was also completely unreasonable when I suggested Dudley Do-Right ("He's a Mountie!") and Rocky & Bullwinkle ("He's a moose!") so I gave up and wrote this post instead.

So, whatever goes up on Sunday, let me apologize, Canada. We tried.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jen Yates and the Quest for the World's Best Book Purse

Sometimes on my tutorial posts I'll get a sweet comment that goes something like, "You make me sick. Don't ANY of your projects turn out less than perfect?!?"

The answer, of course, is a hearty "BWAHAHAHA!!!"

Which is to say yes. Ohhhh yes.

That said, I believe that failure is really only failure when you give up. 'Til then, it's just a work-in-progress.

Uh, I have a LOT of works-in-progress, guys.

So today, I want to share one with you. This is not a tutorial, because I haven't worked all the kinks out yet. However, I'm almost there, and I think you guys might be able to give me some advice/suggestions, while hopefully still getting some fun DIY inspiration out of it.

So, let's get to it!

First, here's what we're talking about:

Most of you have seen these before: books made into purses. You can find them all over online, and they look almost exactly like this one. However, I set out to make The World's Best Book Purse, meaning:

- The width would not be limited by the size of the book spine, like other book purses

- It would be much more durable

- It would be made from prettier books, with more decorative details

- It would be practical enough to actually use as a functioning purse

Quite a tall order, huh? I guess that's why I'm still working on it. :)

My main motivation in this project was to find a useful way to recycle thrift-store children's books, since I always swoon over the great cover illustrations. (And before you book lovers form a lynch mob, allow me to say I keep all the interior pages for future art projects, and I'm not destroying anything of great value.)

Because every other book purse is essentially a gutted book with handles on it, they have to be made from relatively fat books. The problem? Fat book covers are BORING. (Encyclopedias, anyone?) And if you use regular sized books, like a Nancy Drew, then your purse has a maximum girth of maybe two inches - not very practical. The prettiest cover options (in my opinion) are kids' books, but those are the skinniest of them all.

So, to use children's books (or something otherwise too skinny), you have to first construct a new book spine. I made mine from Masonite, and then covered them in the same fabric I used to line the book interior:

Attaching the new spine to the book is tricky, because you don't want to cover up too much of the front cover. After a lot of trial and error, my solution was to first use flexible clear plastic (think report covers) on the interior, creased to form a fat new spine and glued securely to the interior of the cover pieces. The Masonite panel is then glued to the inside of the plastic spine to give it structure. (So, in the photo above, the order from the outside is fabric, plastic, Masonite panel, and then the fabric lining.)

With my solution, the plastic is holding the entire weight of whatever you put in your purse, so it's important that you have a lot of plastic overlap glued to each book side.

Here's the very first book purse I made:

For the handle I used a recycled chain belt, which looks pretty, but is heavy and rather clanky when you put the purse down.

I've also saved all the book spines, which I plan to make into bracelets some day. (That's for when I start experimenting with resin jewelry!)

As you can see, there's a nice, roomy interior thanks to the larger book spine:

You can also see my pocket goof. Heh. Sewing skills have always eluded me (most of this was done using hem tape), but I thought I'd be clever and add a pocket to the lining. It wasn't until I glued the lining down that I realized the fabric wouldn't be able to flex, so the pocket was useless. Oops.

After figuring out the spine, my next challenge was the fabric edges on the side, which need to expand when the purse opens. I considered elastic, but I've yet to find a glue strong enough to handle that kind of strain.

My best solution so far is to use more of the clear plastic. I cut a thin, long strip, creased in the middle, and then slipped it into the top edge of the fabric side panels. The plastic lends strength to the top edge, and the crease makes the fabric fold inwards as the book closes:

I also used the clear plastic in the fold over strap with the magnetic snap on it, for strength - but you could also use interfacing.

To make my book purses more durable, I first cleaned and spray lacquered each book cover, making them water resistant and easy to wipe down. The fabrics were all coated in Scotch guard. I experimented with as many glues as I could find to get the strongest hold between fabric and book board - but so far, the best I've found is a combination of fabric glue and Gorilla super glue. (Any suggestions on that?)

For additional detail (and added durability) I began adding brass book corners:

These also help preserve bumped and peeling corners.

You can also buy metal purse feet, but I prefer rubber cabinet bumpers. They're softer, lower profile, and you can just glue them on instead of drilling through the bottom of the spine:

See that line of stitches along the edge of the fabric there? That edge remains one of my biggest hurdles: I need a way to attach the fabric to the book cover that won't lift over time. Because it's on a crease, all of my glues eventually give out, so I thought I'd try stitching. This had to be done by hand, through the layers of plastic, fabric, and paper board, and was a huge pain. You guys have any other suggestions?

With the body of the book purse mostly figured out, I next set about finding the perfect book purse handles.

This isn't it.

Store-bought handles like these look cute:

...but they just aren't practical. If I can't comfortably carry it on my arm or my shoulder, it's not leaving the house with me.

So far, this is both my favorite handle and favorite book purse:

When I found this old textbook it was covered in flaky plastic laminate, and filthy. By the time I cleaned it (Magic Eraser, I think I love you) and lacquered it with a flat lacquer, it looked like a new book:

The handle is a recycled soft leather belt:

(Isn't the back cover awesome?)

Of course, the problem with a single strap (which I prefer) is figuring out how to attach it, since you can't have one side of the book flopping open. I think this design was fairly successful, with the strap attached on the right of one side, and the left of the other, but it does look a little odd. I'd love to find a way to attach a single strap to the fabric sides of the purse somehow. (Um...any suggestions?)

At least the strap doesn't interfere with the purse opening:

Here you can see the fabric lining lifting on the inner corners and around the fold over clasp. Again, I've yet to find a glue that will hold long-term (I've used this purse a few times over the past few years), and I'm loathe to put rivets or grommets through the actual cover.

Although I did have to try it, at least once:

I actually like the look of the grommets through the cover, although this is my least favorite purse. I think I messed up on the fabric selection, and the handle chain is heavy and hideous:

I should go back and take that chain off, and just use the leather handles. Which, by the way, are super easy to make: just cut a thrift store belt in half, thread the ends through metal rings, and hammer in a rivet to hold them shut. Beats paying $6 for store-bought ones, right?

I'll leave you with a few more shots:

After cleaning up the old book covers, my favorite part of the process was choosing the fabric. I love finding a pattern that seems to be an extension of the book itself:

And finally, allow me to preface this photo by saying it was John's idea:

Apparently the flexing makes it more manly.

So, my fellow crafty types, here are my questions:

1) Is there some miracle glue out there that can permanently hold fabric to book covers?

2) In the same vein, do you have any suggestions for stitching/riveting through the covers?

3) Can you think of any way to make a book purse actually close, so that your things won't fall out when it tips over? I've debated attaching a zipper or even a metal snap clasp to either side, keeping the fabric edges free, but I'm again stuck on how to attach something to the book edges.

I suppose the alternative would be to build a zippered bag separate from the book and then attach it inside, but I'm not sure how that would work, exactly.

Frankly, any suggestions/advice you guys might have would be welcome. I've poured more hours than I'd care to count into these, and I'd love to make more - but not until I perfect the design further.

And, regardless of whether you have any suggestions or not, I hope you enjoyed seeing the kinds of things I obsess over. :D


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!