Saturday, August 1, 2015

Big Damn Heroes Craft Swap Info

Welcome! Please read through the rules before continuing onto the sign-up form, which is linked at the bottom of the page. I am not responsible for you not know what is expected of you by signing up. I am using the swapper blacklist, so know in advance that if you are on it, I will remove you from the swap.

This swap is based on the tv show Firefly and its follow-up movie, Serenity.

Minimum Requirements:  1 medium handmade item, 1 small item (handmade or bought).
This is the absolute minimum you need to send. Extras are always welcomed, but you MUST send at least 1 medium handmade item and 1 small item, handmade or bought. Both items need to pertain to the theme. This is a general craft swap and all forms of crafting are acceptable, so be prepared to get anything! I’ll try to pair people up by what they want to receive but I make no promises. What constitutes a medium sized item? Read this blog post!

Shipping deadlines:
January 4 - Early ship date. Do not send before then!
January 15 - International
January 29 - Domestic

All photos should be tagged #bigdamnheroesswap.
If the swap grows to need swap captains, you’ll have an additional hashtag to use. Please use both as it allows for easy stalking and group management.

Your IG account must be public and you have to be active.
You can go private after the swap is over, but you absolutely must have a public account for the duration of the swap. You also need to be active. It’s hard to properly keep track of people and stalk follow your partner when you never post.

At least one mosaic is mandatory.
Sorry, if you hate making them, it’s just easier to find info on your swapee when you have one (speaking from experience, here!). There are lots of free apps you can use to make your mosaics. I use Pic Stitch myself. Add crafted things you like or general inspiration to your mosaic, anything to help your spoiler send you an awesome package. Including your pinterest name and having a board is always helpful too, but it’s not mandatory. This is a great post to get a how-to on mosaic making.

Check-ins are on the first of every month.
This is a long swap with lots of crafting time and I know that things can get pushed to the back burner. This lets us know you’re still participating and haven’t dropped off the map. If you fail to check-in and don’t respond to me or your swap captain in a timely manner (several days), you will be dropped from the swap and handed over to either the Reavers or the Alliance. Your choice.

Send quality.
Please for the love of Vera don’t send something made out of crappy acrylic yarn or Walmart fabric. Put your best out there because this is a representation of you as a crafter. You don’t want to smear your own name, right? Send something you're proud of.

Tracking is mandatory.
If you are shipping within the US, tracking is free when you send Priority mail. If you are wanting or having to ship international, please be aware of this before you sign-up. Tracking is expensive but I've had personal experience with things going missing as they travel the globe and it sucks for everyone involved.

There are 40 spots open.
If things go over 40, I'll put you on a backup list in case we have someone dropout but I make no promises. I'm also limiting the swap to 10 people who are new to IG swaps. New people will be swapping with other new people and may be required to ship internationally. If there are more than 10 new swappers, anyone over that number will be moved to the back up list.

You absolutely must say thank you.
This shouldn’t even have to be said but... Someone has spent their time and skills on you, so please don’t be a jerk.

One last VERY important thing!
Please, please evaluate your time before making the commitment to this swap, especially because it takes place over the winter holidays. I understand that things can happen and emergencies can arise. If this happens, please let me or your swap captain know as soon as you can so we can make accommodations. If you flake, cause drama, or sign up your pets, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you... Or at least blacklist you. ;)

Sign-ups are now closed. :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Craft Swap Tips and Basic Etiquette - UPDATED!

I've been doing online handmade swaps since 2009 and I've probably done 30 of them. Lots of different themes, all different craft mediums, and various minimum requirements on several social media platforms. I've received some truly amazing packages and some that weren't so great but I have learned a lot. So, I thought I'd share my handmade swap tips and etiquette to hopefully help you have a successful swapping experience. I've also added some photos of packages or parts of packages I've sent. :)

Reducio Mini Sock Swap on Ravelry  - Hogwarts Headmasters and Headmistresses themed

Swap Mod: The person organizing the swap!

Swap Mama (or Papa!): Underlings of the Swap Mod. When a swap becomes a beast, the Mod will enlist the help of people to take a smaller group of people under their supervision. Sometimes it's one person, sometimes it's ten!

1 / Participate and SHARE!
I'll tell you right now, it's really rough to get paired with someone who fills out the bare minimum on a questionnaire and then is basically MIA for the entirety of the swap. If you want a package that suits your tastes, you have to communicate what those tastes are. I tend to share a lot on my questionnaires because that gives my spoiler lots to work with. Several of the Instagram swaps I'm in right now have me paired with people who have barely put anything for their preferences and it's really hard to make a package off of that.  If you say you're up to receive anything... be prepared to get anything! If you don't like something (in my case, coffee and white chocolate) say so! I can assure you, your spoiler won't be offended if you aren't into the exact same things they are.

2 / Make mosaics or get to pinning!
Mosaics and/or pinterest are great visual representations of what you like. As crafters, we are generally visual people so take advantage of that and give clear inspiration. I use the app Pic Stitch for my mosaics but there are tons out there to choose from. This goes along with the previous tip and will help you get an awesome package. You can't blame someone for sending you a package that isn't to your tastes if you don't give them anything to work with!

Doctor Who Craft Swap on Instagram

3 / Send your best
Getting a half-assed package or one that isn't anything that is you, sucks. I've had it happen and it's not fun. If you sign-up for a swap, make sure you have the time to do all that participation entails. You need to stalk research your partner, come up with plans, buy materials or stash dive, and then actually have time to make something of quality. Don't scramble to get something done at the last minute that's shoddy work or send your partner a box full of pink when they clearly say they hate pink. You end up looking like a jerk and a lazy one at that, when you don't put in any effort. Now, if you have someone who doesn't give you much to work with, it's hard to tailor a package to their tastes but you can at least send something you'd be proud to show off. Use quality materials, too. If you're knitting or crocheting, don't send something made out of cheap acrylic and if you're sewing, please for the love of God don't use Walmart fabric.

4 / Flex your creative muscles!
Craft swaps are a great opportunity to try something new. Whether it's a technique or a whole new craft, go for it! I have stepped far outside of my crafting comfort zone the past few months and I am extremely grateful for it. I've learned basic embroidery, foundation paper piecing, applique, and I'm getting better at sewing zippers! You don't have to spend a ton of money to make a package that someone will go crazy over.

Nerds Craft It Better Swap on Instagram - zombie apocalypse, Star Trek, cartoons, and rainbows!

Nerds Craft It Better small handmade items

5 / Communicate with your swap mama!
If you are going out of town near the send date or you know you won't be able to get your mail, drop a message to whoever is hosting your swap or in charge of your group, and let them know. It's frustrating to send a package and have it sitting for days saying "delivered" while hearing nothing. If I'm doing a Ravelry swap, I'll just put up a note in the swap thread but on IG I find it easier just to email the swap mama. Think of it as common courtesy.

6 /  Mind the minimum requirements!
Most of the IG swaps I've been in have had requirements like "one handmade item plus one extra" while the Ravelry ones tend to include a handmade item plus a monetary minimum. Those price minimums never cover shipping! That is always an extra cost. I prefer to send to the US only for that reason as international shipping is ridiculously expensive. You do need to be aware of the minimum requirements though and realize that just because you went way overboard (ahem, like me) that doesn't mean the person sending to you will. You may get the bare requirements for the swap so don't be disappointed if that happens. We all love extras but sometimes that's not possible for everyone swapping.

Hogwarts Swap 2015 on Instagram

7 / Say thank you!
It's sad that this even has to be said but have some courtesy and say thanks for your package. Your spoiler spent their time and creative process on you and you should have the decency to thank them for it. Even if you aren't over the moon with what you got, be polite and courteous. The only time it's ok to not tag a person in a thank you is if they have accidentally left out their username. You should still post a photo and express your thanks though! Usually if you put it under the swap hashtag, the sender will pop in and claim responsibility. ;)

8 / Know When To Speak Up
This goes back to communication and it's very, very important. If you are having problems with a swapper,  you need to speak up. Let's say they sent you a package full of rabbits, despite saying repeatedly that you're allergic to rabbits. Obviously, that's not good. Let your Swap Mama know that you are having issues because that's what they are there for. If you only have a Swap Mod, let them know. Now, if you are having issues with your Swap Mod and there are no Mamas, speak up publicly. This actually happened last month with an IG swap. The Mod paired herself, her wife, and her dog with people... TWICE. Yes, her dog got two packages and someone had to spend their crafting time doing it. To make matters worse, they didn't send out packages to the people they were supposed to. It was a mess and downright infuriating. Lots of people got screwed but because people spoke out about it, an amazing amount of fellow swappers volunteered to make angel packages. If you are in a swap that has no Mama and the Mod is either MIA or misbehaving, you need to speak up about it!

So, those are my tips! In short: participate, be prepared to fulfill your commitments, and send something that you're proud of!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Post-Apocalyptic Snow White Cosplay

This week, my cousin/sister and partner in nerdy crime, Holly and I went to check out All-Con here in Dallas. It was much, much smaller than the conventions we usually go to, but fun nonetheless. My favorite part of conventions is of course, the cosplay. I now have 5 cosplays in my closet: Oswin, the TARDIS, the fem!eleventhdoctor, Hermione, and... zombie hunting Snow White.

I am SO proud of that last one. I found this artwork thanks to pinterest and was instantly dying to make this into reality. I roped Holly into things because she's obsessed with Disney and the Little Mermaid. I chose Snow White because she's always been one of my favorite but mainly because I already had almost everything in my closet. What can I say, I'm a really cheap cosplayer!

My sparrow tattoo is a design from Sublime Stitching that I colored in using Photoshop and then printed out on Silhouette's Temporary Tattoo Paper. I was supposed to have one on either side but I had a mishap (user error!) and that didn't work out. I also made Holly's heart tattoo and added "Eric" with a tattoo font to the banner.

The fabulous wig I'm wearing is from Arda Wigs in their Jane style in black. I love the way it looks so much that I never wanted to take it off.  Holly's wig is also from Arda and she's wearing the Luthien style in cherry red. I cannot recommend this place enough for wigs!

My machete came from the dollar store and I fixed it up with some black Krylon Fusion spray paint, acrylic silver and brown paints, and some brown yarn. I am really pleased with how it came out since the blade was glow-in-the-dark when I started!

Our looks were a big hit and now that we've worn them out once, we have some ideas on how to tweak them to make them better. This was my first time doing a coordinated cosplay and it was so much fun! Hopefully we can rope some more friends into our parade of post-apocalyptic Disney 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Crafty Recap Part One

I am the worst blogger. The last time I wrote a blog was in August!

Hides in shame

As ever, I'm crafting away so I thought I'd do a recap of some of the things I've made over the past few months. In September, I finished up my third Rikke Hat for a swap with Jess of Milky Robot. I used some Knit Picks Chroma that was bought on a Black Friday sale. It's a one of a kind color and I love the way it turned out!

Also in September, I made a pair of Jane Richmond's Mitten Cuffs out of Malabrigo Chunky in Mariposa. This is one of my favorite colorways and I love the way the double seed stitch shows it off. However, the finish project filled me with so much rage, I gifted them so I wouldn't have to see them. I had to restart these 4 times because they kept coming out too big for my tiny hands and then by the time I was done with them, I was just over it. They look pretty though and their new owner is now a member of the Cult of Malabrigo. ;) 

I spun some yarn inspired by Arthur Weasley. It's bulky weight and single ply, which was my first time doing an unplied single. I think it turned out ok but it's definitely over-twisted in some spots. 

I also finished plying some yarn I started at the end of July (yikes!) from Wool Pack from Spun Right Round. It's 237 yards of fingering weight, 2-ply and I call it Every Flavor Beans. 

In October, I donated two items to a charity auction put on by my friend Molly of Hello Doll Face to raise money for the domestic violence support agency she works for. The mitts were a test knit of a pattern that I don't think has been released (which is sad because they are cute!) they are in Brown Sheep Lanaloft in Garland and the hat is Jane Richmond's Autumn made with Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Bulky in Turmeric. 

I also made a wand for my Hermione cosplay (more on that later) that was turned in for Potions homework in the HPKCHC and it won a trophy! I made it out of a wooden dowel, paper, wire, and hot glue. Plus paint, of course. I was really happy with how it turned out and felt like it completed my cosplay quite well. 

In November, I went a bit crazy for these cabled headbands and made 7 of them! The pattern is the Knit 101 Headband from Toronto yarn shop, The Knit Cafe and they are total instant gratification. I can make one during a movie and every recipient, myself included, loves them. I deviated from the pattern a bit, as usual, by doing a crochet cast-on and a three needle bind-off. This pattern is perfect for introducing cables!

I also made a Hitchhiker which had been in my queue forever! I used Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Blue Yonder, which had also been lurking in my stash for a long time. It's wrapped around my neck twice here but I think I prefer it looped once. I will most definitely be making this again! 

On Thanksgiving Day, I made a baby sized Barley hat as a thank you for someone who translated a pattern for me. It was a very quick knit as I made it in the time it took to eat and talk after the meal! I used Knit Picks Brava in Rouge.

December saw some last minute gifts and was crazy with the amount of travel I had to do. That's also for another post! Part two of my crafting roundup, aka 2015, is coming soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Having Fun in Dallas and Denton

This month my husband has been working incredibly hard getting things ironed out in the technology department of our school district for the beginning of school. One day he worked for 12 hours and spent 8 hours of that in a conference call. Needless to say, he was in desperate need of a day off. Luckily, he got two! We spent three days going around the Dallas metroplex, which is huge, and I feel like we barely scratched the surface of cool stuff to do and see.

On Thursday, we went to the Dallas neighborhood of Deep Ellum and the Dallas Museum of Art. Deep Ellum is a funky neighborhood right off of downtown Dallas that is famous for it's graffiti lined streets. It was revitalized in the 90's and has lots of small businesses, lofts, and as goes with the territory, hipsters. We drove around looking at graffiti and stopped in for lunch at a super delicious burger/sandwich place, Uncle Ubers. It was some seriously good food and they had the most hilarious vintage advertisements on the walls for silly things like x-ray specs.

Next we went over to the Dallas Museum of Art and walked through every single gallery. My feet were killing me by the time we left! I took one of my blythes with me to take photos with, which I haven't done in months. I got some nice pictures in the sculpture garden (and only a few weird looks) and saw so many great pieces of art. I particularly liked the Slavs and Tartars exhibition which was awesome black and cream wool rugs but my favorite was The Museum is History exhibition.

After the museum, we attempted to go by one of my favorite local shops, We Are 1976, but they were closed this week for travel. Bummer!

My husband in The Museum is History exhibition, matching the Rothko. 

Chihuly in the Museum Cafe
The next day, we went the opposite direction and went to the suburb Southlake for some green chile and Container Store shopping. Central Market hosts Hatch Chile Fest every year where they bring in tons of green chile from Hatch, NM. You know we can't miss out on what our state is famous for! They roast them, sell them fresh, and they had so many foods with green chile mixed in including chocolate, cheeses, and even apple pie. Heaven!

On Saturday, we went up to Denton (which is the closest to where we live) to check out the Denton Community Market, a weekly art and produce market. It was super cute and had lots of great local vendors selling everything from beef jerky to hand carved wooden wine stoppers and of course, food trucks! 

My favorite booths were The DIME Store (basically a brick and mortar version of Etsy for local artisans), these things (adorable illustrations and the cutest handpainted pendant necklaces), and most of all, Denton Design Company. I chatted with the owner Darien for quite awhile about crafting, dolls, and her completely awesome trailer. She even let me check out the inside of the trailer, of course I totally want one of my own now!

Earrings at The DIME Store's booth. 

The cutest booth of all, Denton Design Company! 

Embroidered fabric buttons at Denton Design Company

Last but not least, we stopped by SCRAP Denton a resale shop for craft supplies. Holy cow, I thought I died and went to creative heaven. They had a room stacked to the ceiling with fabric, piles of vintage sewing patterns, notions, knitting needles, yarn, old trophies, beads, wood of all shapes... just about everything you need to make well, anything! I picked up a drop spindle for $1, a ball of vintage wool, and then I found the books and magazines section and went a little crazy. To my credit, the magazines were .25 or 10 for $2. I managed to get 9 issues of Interweave Knits (two from 2006, all of 2010, and all but the winter issue of 2011), a Mollie Makes, and then I also grabbed two books for $7, one about polymer clay jewelry and the other a vintage Better Homes and Gardens book of knitting and crochet patterns which look surprisingly modern. Not bad for $13! 

I'm pretty sure my husband is exhausted after I dragged him all over town but we had a lot of fun and made some good memories!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Which Shepard Smith Demonstrates His Complete Ignorance of Depression and Suicide

I wasn't going to post anything about the suicide of Robin Williams but after reading the disgusting comments of Shepard Smith, I can't help but speak out. Here's what he said following the news of Williams' death:

"One of the children he so loved, one of the children grieving tonight. Because their father killed himself in a fit of depression. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known. And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it." 

I am quaking in my (figurative) boots in anger after reading that. The thought that depression is a "fit" is completely ignorant and untrue and that kind of thinking is highly dangerous to someone going through it, especially coming from someone who has such a large stage to speak from. If you have never been there, let me tell you right now, you have absolutely zero room to judge a mentally ill person. It isn't a fit, phase, or simply not being cheerful, they are sick. They need help and people in their lives to be there for them no matter what. Yes, it's incredibly sad to see a life cut short because of suicide but that person is in no way, shape, or form a coward. They have struggled daily for months and years to simply survive. That person has fought with their own brain and lost. It's heartbreaking for everyone involved and calling someone a coward for succumbing to their illness make you the lowest of the low.

Yes, something inside him was so horrible he couldn't live with it. Does that make him a coward? Not in the slightest. It makes him an incredibly brave man who fought against himself daily. Depression warps you mind, period. It doesn't choose only the poor or the weak, it can target anybody and can make even the strongest person crumble to their knees in agony. If you know someone who is depressed, don't discount their pain as merely something they can get over, because they would get over it in a heartbeat if they could. Educate yourself and do everything you can to be there for that person.  Depression consumes, distorts, and ruins lives because it's a disease. Telling someone with this disease to smile, cheer up, or move on is like telling a cancer patient to buck up and get over cancer. I recently had someone who I was meeting for the second time tell me "I looked up your blog and read what you have been through. You'd never know from meeting you!" I was flattered but that is one of the things that makes depression so dangerous. People assume you look happy so you must be happy. Make no mistake, depression looks like me, you, your friends, family, and neighbors.

If you suffer from depression, know that you aren't alone. I've been there, on the brink of giving up and I have lived with the pain and frustration that comes with being mentally ill. As dark as things get and as hopeless as you feel, there is hope and there is help. If you have no one personally in your life that is there for you, let me tell you that you aren't alone in this fight. I obviously have never met Robin Williams but I wept when I heard the news of his suicide. Not because the world lost a great actor and comedian but because he lost the fight against himself and I felt his pain.

If you are feeling like you can't take it anymore, you can contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at their website or by phone (1-800-273-8255) if you need to physically talk to someone.
Finally, if you have come out the other side of depression and suicidal thoughts, speak out about it. Share your experiences and be unashamed of what you have gone through. The stigma of mental illness has decreased over the years but remarks like Smith's make it apparent we have a long way to go. Sharing will only open the eyes of people around you. You are a SURVIVOR and should be damn proud of that. 

Shepard Smith has since issued an apology saying:

“The last thing I would ever suggest about a man I know nothing about personally, is that he’s a coward, that goes against everything I am. If those words, I used so innocently, offended his family, from the bottom of my heart, I could not be more sorry.”

Unfortunately, he didn't just offend his family, he offended 25% of Americans who deal with mental illness and all those who live with someone mentally ill. Those words should have never come out of his mouth. 

Statisticts on mental illness in America

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why I Love Knitting (and Crochet and Spinning!)

Knitting as a hobby used to conjure up images of little old ladies making blankets and crocheted doilies on tops of dressers. Today, there is a surge of knitters in the younger generation (say, 60 and under) and knitting is becoming more and more popular. But why? Obviously I love these crafts because I enjoy them but it goes deeper than that.

Knitting connects me to my past. 
Both of my grandmothers knit and while one died before I was born, snuggling up with an afghan she made makes I feel like I'm connected to her in a special way that no one else in my family can claim. Since knitting used to be such an everyday task, I'm sure I have lots of women (and maybe even some men) in my family history that sat down with yarn and needles. I feel like I'm keeping that aspect of my ancestry alive.

Knitting keeps my hands busy! 
Easily portable and sometimes mindless, knitting keeps me from getting bored. I knit while I watch tv, ride in the car, and I even take it with me to restaurants when I know there will be a long wait. I can be productive at almost all times!

I love turning nothing into something.
This is true for most crafts but I especially love it with fiber arts. Turning wool into yarn and then yarn into a hat, socks, or a sweater? That is the ultimate "Look! I made this!" moment. For someone who has dealt with depression and needs small victories to feel accomplished, this is a huge part of why I do what I do.

It's very cerebral.
It may not seem like fiber arts involve a lot of thinking, but math plays an integral part in all three of these crafts. There are drive ratios and twist angles in spinning and pattern repeats, increases, and decreases in knitting and crochet. Not to mention adjusting sizes in things like sweaters. Once you start following pattern, there are charts, repeats, and color changes to keep track of. Make no mistake, fiber arts take brain power!

It connects me to an amazing community.
I have met so many creative, generous, and highly individual people through knitting. Finding out someone is a knitting (or crocheter or spinner) gives you an instant bond. Ravelry has been a huge part of meeting people as has the Harry Potter Knitting/Crochet House Cup game that I play. Knitters are incredibly generous selling patterns with proceeds going to every charity you can think of, making hats for chemo patients, and blankets for kids in the hospital. We also send hats and mittens to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, our troops, the homeless, and veterans.

Every item is made with love.
That sounds cheesy, but it's true. I can easily go out and buy any of this already made at any store in America. The things I make involve not only my time, but my desire to make whoever it's going to end up with happy. I literally will spend hours searching for the perfect pattern and yarn combination for gifts. Every stitch is done by hand and every project made with a lot of thought put into it. Seeing a smile on someone's face that has received something I've made is the ultimate thank you.