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Saturday Steam 7/2/11

Saturday, July 2, 2011

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!

Posted by Jen at 12:30 AM   |  22 comments  |   Labels: , ,

Geek Glee: Blasts from the Past

Friday, July 1, 2011

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!

Posted by Jen at 3:30 PM   |  17 comments  |   Labels: , ,

With Apologies to Canada

Thursday, June 30, 2011

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:

Moose
Black bears
Beavers
Beer
Royal Mounties
Hockey
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."

"Really?"

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

"Darn. What should I do?"

"Just...you 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...

"Jen..."

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

"JEN."

"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.

Posted by Jen at 10:39 PM   |  122 comments  |   Labels:

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

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

Posted by Jen at 2:34 PM   |  130 comments  |   Labels: , , ,

Saturday Afternoon at the Wild Kingdom

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yesterday we went to a new vet, since our old vet - who we dearly loved - moved out of state. The new vet came recommended by friends, so we packed up the cat, got a grip, came equipped, grabbed our proton packs off our backs...

No, sorry, that's the Ghostbusters rap.

Um, so we brought our cat Lily to the new vet.

Inside the little building we were hit with a wall of stinky animal smell, and greeted by various fish tanks and cages and dilapidated furniture. It was a very...lived in...look. The ladies greeting us were sweet, though, and quickly dispensed with paperwork and ushered us into an examination room.

Here the smell was so overwhelming we nearly turned around and left. Only a concern for Lily's health (she's been losing weight recently) kept us waiting and breathing through our mouths. In the room was a large tank, half-filled with water, with several turtles in it. You could barely see the rest of the counter for the clutter of bottles, cleaning supplies, ads for flea medication, plastic heart models, and assorted flotsam. It looked like someone was planning a garage sale in there, right down to the old antique couch shoved up against one wall.

While I paced the three square feet we were afforded between the exam table and couch, John peeked through the window of the door we'd just come through.

"Jen," he said, "You've got to see this."

"What?"

"Just look through here."

Craning my neck to see through the high window, all I could see were stacks of wire cages in the hallway outside.

"What am I looking at?"

"Look down."

Now on tiptoes, I craned further.

"Is that a...raccoon?"

"Yep."

"Snuggling with a rabbit?"

"Uh-huh."

At this point the doctor arrived. He had the congenial look of a brilliant yet absent-minded professor, right down to the neat white beard and tiny spectacles. His hands bore several livid scratches, and there were at least two obvious blood stains on his button-down dress shirt.

He went straight to Lily, exclaiming over how pretty she was, and it was immediately apparent that this was a man who, quite simply, loves animals. I've never seen my cat so at ease with a vet before, and she readily sat through his gentle prodding and poking and checking her teeth and eyes. When he was done, he continued petting her while he talked with us.

After going over her case pretty thoroughly, the doctor shoved over some of the flotsam on the counter, hopped up to take a seat, and chatted with us about the animals in the building. Some are being boarded, but the rest are rescues that he hasn't the heart to turn away.

John brought up the raccoon.

"She was dropped off on the doorstep in a Cheerios box when she was only a few days old," the vet said.

"And she likes...rabbits?"

"Oh, well, she kept crawling away from the heating element, and she needed to stay warm, so I said, well, just throw her in with the bunny!"

(This is the statement that cracked us up. "Hey, just throw her in with the bunny!" Ok, so maybe you had to be there.)

The cage with the rabbit and raccoon was just a few feet away from the check-out counter, so as we were walking out with the vet John asked - rather incredulously - something like, "Can you pet her?"

"Oh, yeah!" was the reply, and the next thing I knew I had a baby raccoon thrust in my face, all questing fingers and beady little eyes and adorable little ears and...

Ok. So maybe I fell a *little* in love. You can't prove it.

The little thing immediately grabbed first my hand, and then my sunglasses. As John would later remark, it's really strange to interact with an animal who has hands. After we wrested my sunglasses out of her grasp, she seized my arm in both paws and began licking it enthusiastically while I scratched behind her ears. I'm not sure how old she was, but she was about the same size as Lily, so...8 or 10 pounds? She wasn't soft - more bristly like a dog - but her little hands! And her wriggly little nose! Ack! So cute.

So, enter my dilemma: we need to keep an eye on Lily's weight, which means monthly check-ins. So, do we go back to a vet who clearly loves animals, comes highly recommended, seems to know his job well, but has an office building that would make Niecy Nash run screaming?

Or do we cave and go to some big impersonal chain store clinic? (Ug.)

And if we do go back, how will I know I'm not just there to visit the raccoon?

(In the car later I bemoaned the fact that I didn't have John take a picture. Why do I never think of these things at the time?! Well, if we do go back, I promise I'll get one.)

Since I don't have a picture of me being mauled by a baby raccoon (wouldn't that be a fun photo series? "Jen being mauled by exotic animals." Hey, I've already got the flamingo!), here's one of Lily and Tonks:

If looks could kill, right? And at this rate we'll have to rename Tonks Jabba. Heh. How *do* you feed two cats when one's too fat and one's too thin, anyway?

Oh, and for my fellow animal lovers who might be concerned: as far as we know, Lily is fine. Her blood work looks good, and apparently her losing two pounds has put her at her ideal healthy weight - although eight pounds seems insanely thin to us, what with Tonks clocking in at a chunky fourteen pounds. If Lily loses any more, though, we'll have to do more tests.


UPDATE: Part 2 with baby raccoon pics here.

Posted by Jen at 1:33 PM   |  160 comments  |   Labels:

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