Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Photobooth Costume

Photo Strip Costume

Happy Halloween everyone! I just wanted to share a few pictures from Saturday (aka Halloween Observed). We had lots of fun down at the Hyde Park Art Center during the day and I think my costume was a hit. It was pretty funny because even though all of the kids seemed to be intrigued by me, the lady wearing giant pictures of herself, almost none of them actually knew what I was. Photobooths might just be a little before their time. A friend said, "Don't worry, once they grow up and start going to awesome bars, they'll understand." The best part was when a little French girl's mother explained to her that I was a "Passport Photo." I loved that.

Later on in the evening we went to Hallowmas, a party at HQ in Chicago with a variety show. It was great, the whole place was decked out spookily. Creepy twins led you inside, there was a room for carving pumpkins, a place to have your palm read, you could play chess with a voodoo king. And during the show an amazing barbershop quartet sang House of the Rising Sun.

But the very best part was how they had a room set up to take Post Mortem portraits of all the guests. What a great idea for a Halloween party.
I can't wait to give out candy tonight. I give double candy for homemade costumes (of course I do), so I hope I see some good ones. Happy Halloween!

Too meta?

Alexandra, who just looked more beautiful the crazier her costume got.
Tahnee, as Suzy Bishop. This is my absolute favorite picture. Perfectly creepy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My So-Called Sweater Project: Week 1

Week 1: This first week was all about preparation. Knitting something from television isn't as simple as just following a pattern. Mostly because you have to make the pattern. This first week I spent a lot of time googling images and pausing netflix trying to examine different angles to get our game plan together. Becky at Elgin Knit Works helped me choose yarn for the body of the sweater and I eventually settled on Cascade 220 in Doeskin Heather, which looked more oatmeal-y than the Natural which actually looked closer to white.

After picking a color, the next step was to work out a pattern. Angela's sweater has texture to the body, and this thing wasn't shot in high def so no amount of research was likely to yield the exact pattern used. So I spent a little while working a few different patterns to come up with one I liked. I settled on a kind of modified basket weave which basically amounts to:

Rows 1, 2, 3: K2, P2 repeat to end (ending on P2)
Rows 4, 5, 6: P2, K2 rep to the end

Once I decided on a pattern for the body, the ladies drafted a pattern for the sweater. Originally we searched ravelry and some books for a sweater that was just the right shape, but we couldn't really find one we loved so instead we drafted a pattern from a tshirt I already owned. (And when I say we I mean not me, because I definitely don't know how to just whip up a pattern yet.) This went a long way to quell one of my main fears: that I will spend all this time knitting something that will turn out to not fit me. Since I know the original shirt fits me, the sweater should too, unless I do something seriously wrong. Now that the prep work is all done, we are ready to start knitting.

In addition to knitting the sweater I wanted to re-watch the series. I'll be recapping here each week, and you can follow along on Netflix streaming or for free on Hulu.


We meet protagonist Angela Chase and are immediately introduced to the introspective voiceovers that are the show’s Hallmark. Angela has recently started hanging out with Rayanne (a bad girl) and her best friend Ricky as a way of shaking off her high school existential crisis. The expectations and pressures of life are starting to get to her, she knows she needs a change and at Rayanne’s suggestion she starts symbolically with a box of Crimson Glow. Ah, the transformative power of hair dye. Is anything more quintessentially teenage?

Angela also has typical parental woes. Her mother, Patty, drives her crazy for reasons she can’t quite articulate and her father, Graham, seems kind of freaked by her not a girl not yet a woman-ness. For their part, her parents seemed pretty confused about how to relate to her too. This episode is basically laying the groundwork for a lot of angst. 

And speaking of angst, Angela is in love, unrequited love that is, with Jordan Catalano. He looks about 5 years older than her, which she explains by saying he was left back twice. Angela notes that he’s always “closing his eyes like it hurts to look at things.” I want to tell her it is probably because he is stoned. To drive the point home we see Jordan putting in eye drops. Rayanne quizzes her on her crush and Angela admits the she thinks he “leans great” and we all know what that means. She invites Angela to a party Jordan will be at because Rayanne knows how to make things happen. And by things I mean sex. Then Angela abruptly quits Yearbook, like in the middle of a discussion for some reason. Never let it be said she’s not a drama queen. Her old best friend Sharon seems to disapprove…of it all…the hair, Rayanne, quitting yearbook, all of it. Her mom doesn’t seem too crazy about it either. Plus her room is a mess.

Angela’s English teacher expresses her concern for all the radical changes, especially quitting the VERY IMPORTANT Yearbook that is apparently a huge deal at this school. Angela explains why Yearbook is pointless thusly: “It is like everybody is in this big hurry to make this book, to supposedly remember what happened. But it’s not even what really happened, it’s what everybody thinks was supposed to happen. Because if you made a book of what really happened, it would be a really upsetting book.” You could probably replace the word “yearbook” with the word “facebook” and this quote would still be relevant.

Angela dips her toes into the teenage rebellion pool by lying to her dad to go to the party. Just as she is making her way through the crowd she’s shoved face first into a huge mud puddle. At least that is what I hope it is. She goes to clean up and runs into Jordan, watching TV alone. Let’s just say it seems like it might be hurting him to look at stuff again.  After an incredibly awkward silence they have their first conversation….about how it isn’t Friday, a fact Jordan was unclear on. He leaves the room without saying goodbye. What a charmer.

When Patty gets home she is angry that Angela lied to her father, but even more pissed at the prospect of having to yet again be the bad guy. A fight ensues, and as predicted everyone seems to resent her for ruining the fun.

The next day, wearing the combination of backward baseball cap and crop top (which would be weird even if she wasn’t at school) Rayanne insists Angela come to a rave that night to see Jordan again. Sharon walks in on their scheming and tells Angela everyone is talking about her for hanging out with Rayanne. But actually she’s more hurt by her friend ditching her, than she is concerned for her reputation.  Angela can’t explain why she’s acting so differently lately but it is apparent she doesn’t really plan on stopping. Sharon cries and you really have to feel for her. It sucks to have a friend dump you, it sucks even more if they’re pretty much doing it for no reason.

In an attempt to be the good guy for once, Patty suggests a family ice skating trip, but nobody bites. Graham wants to go play pool and Angela’s little sister Danielle wants to watch a tv movie about an obscene phone caller (Danielle is the best) and of course Angela has to get to her rave. This sparks a predictable family squabble between the forces of fun and responsibility and everyone leaves a little bit upset. Except for Danielle, who has a movie to watch.

Angela changes clothes behind a bush and runs into her neighbor Brian, who makes fun of her. It seems like basically everyone thinks Angela is great and special and handles the pain of her rejection of their expectations of her by lashing out. If you consider how much easier her life would be if she just went along, her commitment to red haired revolution is actually pretty impressive.

Less impressive is the fact that they don’t actually get into the rave and spend the night drinking from what looks like a bottle of suntan lotion in a parking lot and getting assaulted by a skeezy dude until the cops show up to take them home. As they’re getting into the back of the police car Jordan finally arrives and confusedly calls Angela’s name, which makes her happy, because now he actually knows it. 

After the cop lets Angela off with a warning she sees her father talking to another woman on their street. Upset, she runs home and crawls in bed with her mother crying. It doesn’t seem like she’s crying about one thing exactly, just sort of a swirl of badness. Seeing her dad with another lady, having a fight with her mom, watching her drunk friend get roughed up. Sometimes life just sucks and you have to cry it out. That is just a fact.

But another fact is that just as things start to suck, they can suddenly get good again.  On Monday Jordan talks to Angela in the hall and her new friends brag about their wild weekend in the parking lot. And even though that isn’t exactly what happened, Angela is happy, because at least it isn’t just what everyone thought was supposed to happen either.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Photoshop and the Wisdom of Eugene Mirman

I can relate.

I'm pretty solid in Illustrator, but lately I've been trying to learn a few more tricks in Photoshop to make this blog nicer to look at. (What, you thought it was what is on the inside that counts?) One of the sites I'm absolutely loving is Pugly Pixel. Katrina's resources are great and her instructions are easy to follow. Above I used one of her tutorials to make this little image from my favorite Eugene Mirman quote. Let's all toast to learning.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween DIY: Lace Mask

Black and White for maximum spookiness.

Wow, I just realized Halloween is 2 weeks away! Are you making a costume? Does your costume need a fancy lace mask? Do you just need a fancy lace mask? Well, whatever you plan on using it for, here is a pretty simple tutorial for making your own.

Black Lace (I usually like a sheerer lace, but this project works better with a lace that has hearty appliques)
Mask Template
Wax Paper
Fabric Stiffener
Black Paint

To make the mask first find a template. I found a couple online here and here but there are plenty more. Before you cut your lace, cut a paper version of your mask and make sure it fits you well. Eye holes in the right place and all that. Once you're sure it is good, pin the lace to paper and get cutting. A good tip is to start with the eye holes first, it makes it a little easier.

Now, lay your mask down on the wax paper and squeeze some fabric stiffener onto it. Use a brush to apply the stiffener to the entire mask, but use more of a dabbing motion than a stroking motion so you don't mess up your lace.When the mask is completely covered flip it over onto a clean piece of wax paper and do the same to the other side. I didn't have to add more stiffener to the second side, I just distributed the stuff that was already there. It is important not to be too generous with the stiffener otherwise it will dry badly, so show a little restraint.

After you have coated both sides flip it onto yet another clean piece of wax paper. I know it seems like you're using a lot of wax paper but one of the keys to getting a good finish is to not let your mask dry in a pool of stiffener. Now using a dry stiff brush dab at your mask to pop any bubbles that may have formed between the lace. Do this quickly before they set, then let your mask dry.

Once it has dried for a few hours you'll want to repeat the whole process, and then let it dry overnight. At this point your mask should be pretty stiff! I noticed a few spots where the stiffener had dried white so I hit the outside of the mask (read: the side that wasn't going to touch my face) with the lightest coat of black spray paint. Finally attach ribbon to the side and you're ready to be Sexy Zorro. Have fun kids, I hope you get lots of treats!

Also, thank you so much to blogtographer Melissa Rudin for taking pictures of the finished product. She's lovely and talented, and she let me pay her in pickles. Best friend ever!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My So-Called Sweater Project

Well, now that I've procrastinated for a month and a half, I've decided it is time to get started in earnest on my Thirty Before 30 list. When I was brainstorming ideas I knew I had to include knitting a sweater. I've been knitting for about 12 years, since a lady at the pizza place I worked at showed me how, but my range is somewhat limited. I've never knit a sweater, and basically it has come down to the fear of disappointment. Think about it, how many times have you tried on a sweater in a store and thought "Ugh, no." Now imagine if you had just spent weeks making that same sweater by hand. I would probably cry....or need a drink...probably one followed by the other.

But, I guess there comes a time in life when you just have to stare fear in the face and say "you're not the boss of me." So a couple of weeks ago I headed over to Elgin Knit Works and told them I wanted to make a sweater. But not just any sweater, my very own replica of the stripey sleeved sweater that Angela Chase wore in My So-Called Life. To their eternal credit, the owners were not at all thrown by the fact that I was basically asking them to help me recreate something I only had a low res cell phone picture of. They welcomed me inside and helped me start planning. So starting next week this blog will be featuring weekly updates from My So-Called Sweater Project, we'll also be reviewing the series as we go, because it rocks. Please stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Free Printable Eames Rocker Cards

Eames Rocker Card
Yeah you do.

I found these nifty Modern Design Icons that Curbly generously offered as a free resource (get them here) and I made these little cards up in Illustrator. Download them and send a little love to the USPS by buying a stamp with all the money you just saved getting a free card. There are two versions, white on black and a black on white, for those of you who are running low on toner. Download, mail, enjoy.

Rock Card Black

Rock Card White

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My New Car

Someone is selling this truck a half a block from my office. I mean, that is obviously a sign, right?