Tuesday, October 30, 2018

'Puff Party Prep: A Drunk Suit Of Armor & Our DIY Fireplace

John and I have so many party projects going over here it's laughable, but I thought you guys might like a few updates! (In case you're new here or missed it: we're throwing a Hufflepuff Slumber Party this year for Christmas. :D)

First there's this guy:

I stumbled across this suit of armor on Craig's List a month or two ago, and the very next day John and I drove three towns over to buy it. Someone had (badly) spray-painted it gold, and it's pretty banged up, but c'mon. IT'S A SUIT OF ARMOR.

First I spray-painted it back to silver:

Then, my favorite crafty thing ever: AGING.

I painted on a heavy coat of brown-black craft paint, then quickly wiped it off again. As I went along I also stippled on a few "rust" spots with bright orange and burgundy paint.

Here's the top half done:
And a full body Before-and-After:

We plan to tuck a wireless speaker inside the helmet, so our armor can drunkenly sing Christmas carols and perhaps recommend a few items on the buffet, since he'll be stationed near the dining room. We've already tested the speaker, and the echo inside the metal helmet is A++.


We're hoping to make a few magical plant specimens for our Hufflepuff Common Room. This one's still in process, but it's the beginnings of a Mimbulus Mimbletonia: 
 John used an assortment of foam balls held in place with toothpicks and small wooden dowels to make the structure. After that he covered the whole thing in spray foam, but that did NOT go as planned. (FOAM EXPLOSION, lol)

John was ready to chuck the whole thing, but I'm trying to save it. First I've carved off most of the foam:

Saturday, October 27, 2018

October Art Roundup: Halloween Creeps, Cats, & Cuties!

It's time for more awesome art! And in the spirit of the season, LET'S GET OUR CREEP ON.

But not like that. Ew.

Dennis Hansbury makes spooky art year-round, but he's really amped it up this month:

It's not all scary, though; look at his adorable enamel bat pin!

I love it!

 Dennis' cat skull magnet is also just the right amount of spooky for me:

He has this as a die-cut sticker, too!

Dennis hand cuts all his wood pieces himself, then shades with thin ink washes, so his originals are silky smooth - no brush strokes. John and I own a handful of his originals, and I can tell you they are SUPER cool in person.

Last one: Dennis drew this right after we got Eva, and admits she helped inspire it:


 Head over to Dennis' Etsy shop to see the rest, and follow him on Instagram to see new works and all the stuff that's already sold! (I can't wait for him to finish his new "bats in costumes" set - SO CUTE.)


One of the best things about October is Inktober, the month-long celebration where artists make a new ink drawing every day. There are SO much great artists over on Instagram, and one of my new favorites is Artemii Myasnikov:

His mostly black-and-white inks with bright pops of red are just incredible this month.


Oh, and you may have seen these: Artemii is the one who gave the Disney princesses a warrior make-over that's to die for:

This is honestly the first time I've been tempted to make cosplay armor. IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL.

Rapunzel is rockin', too:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

MAKE IT SEW: My Hufflepuff Badger Hood & Slytherin Snake

Remember the free sewing pattern I featured in my last Gems?

This one, by Sew Desu Ne?

Well, after that post my friend Christie asked if I wanted to get together, and try making our own.

This was a big deal for me, because A) I am famously bad at/scared of sewing and B) I've never had a craft day with a friend besides John. Like, ever. I've always been jealous of peeps who do, but most of my friends live far away, and are super busy, and yeah, I guess also I've never asked. ::sheepish grin:: 

("See here the Awkward Introvert in her natural habitat of self-doubt and second-guessing. Tsk. SO SAD.")


Here's what went down:

I will say that Choly's pattern is phenomenal: it's clearly laid out with step-by-step photo instructions. I'd never have had a chance without it. Oh, and my materials cost about $15: that's for two yards of fleece, a little faux fur, and a few big buttons.

Actually I made both ears with the wrong fabric. Yay.

Christie made the unicorn pattern, with a slight variation in the mane so it could have two colors.

Since sewing isn't already hard enough for me I also set out to modify the hood into a badger design, using soft faux fur for the stripes and inside the ears:

You can see the shape I'm using here for the stripe on each side. It worked out great, but I had to hem the fur before attaching it to the fleece, since the edges shed like crazy. This took two tries (hemming curves is hard!), but I eventually got it "good enough."

PSA: The sound of a machine needle snapping in two is... unpleasant. Also you should generally try to remove ALL your pins before sewing over them.

Christie and I got started in the early evening, then I kept going late into the night after she left. Around 3 the next morning, I had this:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Our Magical Twinkle Light Ceiling, And How We Did It!

For our next project, John and I did something ridiculous and utterly magical to our living room ceiling:

I wasn't prepared for the reaction I got once I posted this on Instagram, though; turns out you guys like twinkle lights almost as much as I do! You also demanded a tutorial, so I'll do my best here with the few photos I took along the way.

First things first: you need a ceiling you can staple into (so hard plasters are out) and LOTS of lights. We used this set from Amazon: for $38 you get 1,000 lights on over 300 feet of a lovely clear/white wire:

 It doesn't actually arrive in a giant tangled ball, don't worry.

Other than the lights, all you need is a ladder, a staple gun and at least 800 staples. (We also spray-painted the tops of our staples white before using them, but that's optional.)

To begin, move any large pieces of furniture out of the way, so you have room to move your ladder.

Next you may want to unspool all 300 feet of lights onto the room's floor, just to make sure you have enough to cover the space:

This wasn't very helpful for us, though, because we ended up running out faster than we expected anyway.

In fact, our magical swoopy flourish was a happy accident: we originally thought we would randomly place lights over the entire ceiling. When we realized we didn't have enough for how tightly we were installing them, though, we changed the design to what you see here.

Now let's talk install. 

If you're planning a shape like we did, and if your ceiling allows it, outline the shape first with blue painter's tape:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Harry Potter Cat Tree, Because Our Kittys Are KEEPERS


 Behold its glory. 

Yep, our sisal fabric arrived yesterday, so John and I were finally able to finish our newest build: the Kitty Quidditch Tower. All that's left is adding a pillow inside, and fashioning some hanging snitch toys for them to bat at. (I'm thinking I'll sew felt wings to a craft pom-pom.)


Features include two interior cubbies in the tower, padded vinyl beds in each hoop (held in place with Velcro), and sisal-wrapped posts for climbing. The roof peak is open on both sides for easy jumping up to the hoops.

As for the cats, our two girls were inseparable from this thing the second we dragged it inside to start painting. They love sleeping on the hoops and fighting over the top spot. And now that we've added sisal for them to climb? Oh yeah, HUGE hit.

If you follow my Instagram Stories then you've been watching this build take shape for about two weeks now. I got the idea when I spotted a round tube on a cat tree somewhere online, and immediately thought of a Quidditch goal post. I sketched out a design for John, who loved it so much he instantly sat down and drew out a to-scale version:

(Our original plan was to have the hoops be enclosed tubes with holes for jumping. We changed it on the fly during building.)

Lots of you have been asking for templates, but drawing up plans are a massive amount of work for John, and he's already moving on to bigger party projects over here. (You're welcome to keep asking him on FOE, though; I know my hubby, and he can't say no to you guys for long. :D)

So while I don't have a template to share, I'll do the next best thing I can: build photos and a general walk through. If you're an experienced wood worker, then this shouldn't be too hard to recreate.

We started literally from the ground up with a one-inch thick MDF base and posts made from two 2X4s screwed together:

Monday, October 15, 2018

12 Insanely Creative Halloween Wreaths To Spook Up Your Season

Last week I went looking for Halloween inspiration - just anything different and quirky - and I found so many awesome wreaths. I wasn't even looking for wreaths, you guys, but after my 5th or 6th "Whaaaat, THAT IS BRILLIANT!" I switched gears and just started compiling a list of all my favorites to share.

Starting with this so-perfect-I-bet-you-want-to-make-one-with-me Maleficent wreath:

All we need is a spray-painted wreath, glittery craft foam, some ribbon, and a cute googly eye! I'm itching to go buy the stuff and make one right now.

I love non-traditional wreaths, and this felt ball design is so sweet and cheerful:
By My Sister's Suitcase, click for the tutorial!

Or how about using the wreath like a shadowbox frame, and making a little scene inside?

By Manal Aman for Martha Stewart

There are lots of cute owls in the shops right now, so this is another easy DIY that packs a big punch.

This next one is not a craft tutorial - it's for sale - but Nancy Freeman was an INSTA-FOLLOW once I spotted her Little Shop of Horrors wreath:

How fabulous is this?! I'm in love.

Nancy also makes headband versions of Audrey and this faaabulous Demogorgan hair flower:

I know I'm veering off the wreath path here, but I think you'll agree the detour is worth it. Go check out Nancy's Etsy shop for more - it's all so, SO GOOD.

It would never occur to me to sculpt a Halloween wreath, but that's exactly what artist Zachary Jackson Brown did:

SO CLEVER - and all built on a base of a Styrofoam ring! Someone should do a traditional man-in-the-moon in this style, right? I like how bright Brown's design is, though, and how it rides the line between cute and creepy with that realistic eyeball. ::shiver::

That one obviously takes an artist to make, but here's something more doable for us mere mortals:

Friday, October 12, 2018

Quick Craft: Spookify Your Candy Bowl For Halloween

This quick craft is SO quick I'm almost not sure it counts, but there's hot glue involved, so I guess I'll allow it. :D

Remember this floor lamp John disassembled for the Game Room makeover?

He removed the top half of the light since we never used it, so I turned the metal part into a display stand for our Sorting Hat.

That still left the plastic lamp shade on top left over, though, and here in the Yates household we aim to use ALL parts of the junk animal.

Sure, the shade had a big hole in the middle, but I figured it could made a good Halloween candy bowl. So I went to the dollar store and grabbed 3 plastic skulls, a rubber rat, and a strand of battery-operated lights:

 That's $5 in materials, plus some hot glue.

To do this yourself, you really just need a plastic bowl, the skulls, and hot glue. The rat and lights are optional. 

(Btw, "the rat and lights are optional" would be an amazing sentence to hear out of context. That is all. Carry on.)

Arrange the skulls in a nice tripod formation, then hot glue them to each other:

Now hot glue the bowl on top of the skulls.


Well, I also had to hot glue the rat into the middle of my bowl to cover the hole.


After that I arranged the light strand inside the bowl, covered it with cheap Halloween candy (because if we buy the good stuff this early I *will* eat it all), and bam. Now I'm done:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Jen's Gems: Dragon Cowls, Lost Star Wars, Cute New Disney Figs, Timey-Wimey Fabric, & More!

It's been ages since I did one of these, so I have quite the backlog! Here are some of my favorite finds from around the web lately:

Choly Knight of Sew Desu Ne gives away free plush patterns from time to time, and last Friday she shared something PERFECT for Fall:

I am so tempted to buy some fleece and actually try sewing again, you guys. SO TEMPTED. Go download the free pattern on Choly's site here, and follow her on FB for the most adorable plushies!


Star Wars fans, have you seen the lost Michel Parbot documentary from Empire that just popped up on Facebook?! I've only watched the first 15 minutes so far, but this thing is phenomenal: all behind-the-scenes looks at filming, props & scenery, and interviews with the primary cast. (Watching Mark train for one of the lighsaber fights in a random backlot warehouse was my favorite so far.)

The whole thing is an hour long, so grab some popcorn and go watch it full-screen here on Facebook.

Less fun, but equally fascinating: If you haven't read HuffPo's article "Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong," please do so. It's definitely a long read, and it drops some depressing facts at first, like this:

... but at the same time, there's a huge amount of vindication here for the long scoffed-at notion of "healthy fat." There's also a psychological examination of why overweight people can't - or won't - band together for support, and how the medical community is almost criminally negligent in their shame-based treatment. Read it, please. It's world-shifting.


Now more fun stuff:

David Rose took this picture at the Labyrinth Masquerade Ball, and it makes me so happy I could burst like a giant toasty marshmallow:

Dappered-up Dana & Tully from Ghostbusters... WITH GLOWING TERROR DOG MASKS.

I just... I mean... YES.  I'm grinning like a goof over here. I will love these two forever and always. Anyone know who they are?


More awesome: my friend Jason of Red Rocket Farm met a McCree cosplayer at Dragon Con who showed off her incredible prosthetic arm:

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Game Room Makeover & Tour: Come See Our Nerdy Stuff!

Now that the big renovation at the other house is done, John and I are back to working on our own house. It's been nice getting offline and working on something tangible this week; gets me out of my own head, so to speak, and gives me something fun to focus on.

John's Fan Cave was our first priority, as it was bursting with clutter and the last room in the house to still have carpet, which is a huge dust trap and far too tempting for cats to pee and/or chew on. (Arg.)

 Just... so much stuff.

More of the Before:

The art situation had gotten out of control - we'd been tacking up frames willy-nilly, and were flat out of space -  and the big wall unit was so cram-packed you couldn't focus on anything. Total dusty chaos.

Getting all that huge furniture out was half the battle, but let's pick up here:

That's old terrazzo underneath.


This laminate is the same John used in the renovation house. It's from Home Depot, cheap, and the easiest he's ever installed - you can see he did the whole room in about an hour and a half. Anyway, A++, would recommend.

Here comes one of my favorite upgrades:


And here's how the wires come out in the corner:

I love this, since we have a lot of wires to hide! (Mostly speakers; we love our surround sound.)


John is a sentimental pack rat, so it took some convincing to get him to purge and prioritize a little. He came around once I pointed out all the new art he's been wanting to hang, and that we could dedicate a whole wall to Harry Potter. At this point John did a full 180, and declared he wanted the walls Hufflepuff yellow. (Aw yeeeah.)

Now, take it from a former pro painter: yellows are scary. To keep it from going too bright or sickly, we color matched our favorite Hufflepuff pillow, which is more of a neutral gold: