Onward! To the Ravelry 2019 Challenge

Last year I participated in the Ravelry 2018 Challenge. I set out to complete 20 projects over the course of 2018. I figured that would be a manageable number, knowing my knitting habits and my busy schedule. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I ended up finishing 33 projects. I wasn’t purposely trying to pack a lot of projects in; I feel good about that result. Good enough that I signed up for the 2019 Challenge too. At this point, based on last year’s results, I’ve conservatively set a goal of 30 projects.

During 2018 I completed the following:

  • 1 blanket
  • 1 cowl
  • 5 shawls
  • 1 adult cardigan
  • 2 toddler cardigans
  • 4 doll cardigans
  • 19 pairs of socks

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have a couple of projects that were started that I didn’t complete yet. Notably “Alecia Beth”, a contiguous cardigan in 4 ply yarn. I hope to finish that in time for late spring when my winter sweaters and coat are too warm for the weather.

I’ve been thinking about what new things I’d like to try and knit this year. I definitely want to make a steeked, stranded colour-work cardigan. I have been looking at designs. I like the way that the colour-work wraps around those yoked sweaters that Tin Can Knits are known for.

Steeking is a construction method used to make cardigans. It’s typical of Fair-Isle and Norwegian sweater knitting. The idea is that you knit the sweater in the round like a pullover. Easy peasy! You allow extra rows of stitches in the areas where you want to cut it apart. Some people simply make a tube for the body with some extra steek rows where the sleeves will go, and down the centre front. They knit it to the full desired length. Then they knit the two sleeves separately. To put it into a nutshell, you reinforce the stitches on either side of where you plan to cut it open so your knitting doesn’t simply disintegrate. Then you cut it open. YIKES! Then you add button panels in the front (or a zipper) and insert the sleeves. Some people finish it off with a band of ribbon or a knitted band to cover up the edges where it was cut. If you use wool that isn’t super wash it is expected to felt enough along those edges so you don’t have to fuss with a binding. Some people knit the sleeves with the body so they are connected without having to steek them. I’m thinking that’s what I’d prefer.

What I don’t love about the yoked style of sweater is the neckline. To me, it always looks like it barely hangs onto the shoulder. I am not crazy about necklines that sit right at my neck either. So I’m hoping to find something that will be along these lines but with either a V-neck or a scoop neck. I could probably use short rows to shape the neckline more the way I like it. I suppose I could be brave and knit it using a pattern like the one above, but then do a steek around the neckline so I can shape the neck however I want it. That would be an option. Hmmm… for the first steeking project, that might be a little bit scary. But I figure that if I start with a child sized cardigan it should be less intimidating. Then, if I mess around with changing the neckline, it won’t be as big of a time investment (or yarn investment for that matter). Yeah, I definitely want to try my hand at steeking this year.

When thinking about what else I’d like to knit, I realized that I don’t have much in the way of toques or cowls. I’ve got some patterns in mind that I would love to knit. This time I will choose the yarn colours so that they actually look good with my coat though! There will definitely have to be some hats in my challenge list.

Obviously, I will knit socks. In particular, I have had a pattern in my queue for some time that I really want to do this year. These dirndl socks play all the right notes to thrill the German ancestry running through my veins.

Then there are these beauties:

Dornröschen schlafe hundert Jahr

I also want to get the next size up in my contiguous child’s cardigan designed and tested. I want to get the pattern cleaned up and ready to publish and I need to have at least 2 sizes to feel like it’s worth finalizing it. I may go for three but it’s such a tedious process that I might just be dreaming on that count.

I want to make a mohair shawl for one of my sisters, and a sapphire blue lace shawl for another one of my sisters. (She’s got a significant birthday coming up in 2020 and the shawl I have in mind is a huge project. I need to start it this year if I want to complete it for her birthday in May.)

I plan to participate in Tour-de-sock again this summer. That’s always a fun challenge that nets me six to eight pairs of amazing socks. I love my fancy socks. Even if no one else sees them inside my shoes. They make me feel good.

I have bits of leftover sock yarn that I might make into a net shopping bag to see how that goes. Every time I dig in my leftovers bag I’m frustrated that there isn’t enough of any of the yarns in there to make a pair of socks. This might be a good way to use some of that up. I think that will be a good mindless knit to do in front of the television in the evenings.

Oh my, I think that’s a year’s worth of knitting summed up in a 1000 words! Whee! I hope I haven’t bored you with my ramblings today. I must say that taking the time to think about what I want to make has me feeling inspired.

Happy Knitting!

 

Advertisements

Reframing Gift-Giving

Ads, ads and more ads… do you get as tired of them as I do?

As a business owner providing both services and retail products, I recognize that advertising is a very important piece of finding and informing the people who may want your products or services. We all need to make a living, after all. And yet everywhere we turn these days, we are hit with a barrage of ads. And it seems to me that it ramps up even more once anticipation of the holiday season begins.

As we approach the holiday season, I find myself feeling quite irritated by all the junk being advertised as gifts. You know what I mean? The stuff that only sells because it’s weird and will get a laugh (before being tossed in the garbage along with its packaging), or the stuff that sells because people want to look cool or be on the cutting edge.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been contemplating. When I’m asked what I would like for Christmas (or my birthday), I always feel at a bit of a loss to come up with anything because I have all the “stuff” I actually need.

What I really want is time and the opportunity to spend unrushed time with the people I love.

I want to laugh with them. I want to enjoy home-cooked meals with them or go for walks and enjoy the scenery in this amazing part of the world. I want to feel connected with them. I don’t need them to spend money on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive gifts as much as anyone. And I love the way it feels to know that they have spent precious time and energy to make me something. It’s a very clear message that illuminates just how much they love me. How wonderful is that?

I was reminiscing about past holiday seasons and remembering how varied they have been for me. There were years when it was all I could do to pay the rent and still have enough money to feed myself. I remember feeling a tremendous degree of shame in those years when I simply couldn’t give material gifts. The commercialization of the holiday season persistently and insidiously plants and builds an unconscious (or subconscious) sense that we must purchase items to give as gifts… and not just to loved ones but to teachers and co-workers and bosses and the check-out lady at the grocery store.

No wonder I found myself feeling overwhelmed with shame in those years when I had no money to spare for gift giving.

It’s so easy to get carried away and overspend in a way that puts us behind the 8-ball when the new year settles in. I’ve definitely fallen into that trap and paid the price!

I still really wanted to give my loved ones gifts, so I made up coupon books and each coupon could be redeemed for some service that I could provide. For instance, “this coupon can be redeemed for a kitchen cleaning”. When that person called in the coupon, I would go to their house and clean their kitchen for them. I gifted “tea party” coupons and “walk in the country” coupons, “pedicure” coupons and “car wash” coupons. People didn’t always cash those coupons in, but when they did, I was delighted.

Years ago, after my mom passed away we were doing some organizing of her things. I needed a small pair of scissors and looked through the drawers of her sewing cabinet and found one of the coupon books I had given her.

She had saved it all those years.

It’s funny, at first I felt bad that she hadn’t redeemed any of them. Yet she had kept that coupon booklet, and she kept it with things that (before her dementia was too severe to allow it) she used every day. That left me feeling deeply touched. She didn’t need anything from me. She just wanted to be reminded that I loved her. I like to think that my little coupon book shouted, “I love you Mommy!” every time she opened that drawer to get her scissors out. (And yes, I called her “Mommy” right up until she passed away.)

In other lean years, I would go to the thrift shop on $1/bag sale days (that was a few years ago… LOL) and look for items made of really interesting fabric. I’d carefully choose things that I could transform into new and useful items. A dated leather coat could become a beautiful purse; a several decades old fur coat could become a teddy bear. I often found remnants of new fabric, bundles of lace and other trim. I always went primed to be creative and think outside the box. I always found interesting things that had the potential to be transformed.

One of the things I love about Revelstoke is that our community embraces earth-friendly practices. Re-pair, re-purpose, re-use, re-cycle… in Re-velstoke. My business couldn’t exist without people who want to avoid throwing things away just because they are slightly damaged. Repairing clothing and gear is a huge part of what my shop offers our community. I love to see people purchasing items at the thrift shop and cutting them up and transforming them into something completely different.

I love that. I love the creativity and ingenuity that goes into that process.

It’s fun when customers bring their projects in to show me. It’s inspiring.

Like most people, I want my holiday season to be meaningful. If I’m going to give gifts it’s going to be done within my financial means and it will be because I want to express my love for those people dearest to me. And hey, I’m happy for any excuse to bake and knit! I’m all for less stress during the holiday season. I’ll be in a lovely state of Zen, knitting under a blanket in my comfy chair as the snow falls outside.

Happy Knitting!

So Many Ideas…

I am blessed to know a lot of very creative people. It comes with the territory considering that I run a yarn/sewing shop. One of the realities of being a creative person is that there are always a lot of ideas, inspirations and goals to strive to manifest. There are new skills to acquire and develop too! And on top of all those luscious projects, you still have to make your way through the mundane day to day responsibilities too. At the risk of sounding cliche, there are only so many hours in a day.

As a creative person, with a broad spectrum of interests, I do sometimes find myself feeling frustrated that I can’t pack more amazing things into each day and still manage to eat, work, sleep and keep up with a basic level of housekeeping. I already pack my days pretty full. As winter settles in and November firmly plants itself I find that I have to be careful not to let myself get overwhelmed when I start thinking about all the things I would really like to do before the holiday season arrives.

Winter is a very busy time in the store, between the sewing repairs, the yarn sales, making sure my stock levels are where they need to be, providing a high level of service and making sure that my paperwork gets done, it is a lot to do. I love it, don’t get me wrong; it’s fantastic. It makes for a full and rewarding life! In the evenings, I like to be able to knit as I curl up in front of the TV with my DH. Some nights, I have to be honest, I am simply too tired to knit.

Every day, I am surrounded by all the beautiful yarns that I sell in my store. I am the one that orders all the patterns and pattern books. There are so many stunning possibilities, so many potential projects. I imagine mittens, socks, hats, cowls, sweaters, cardigans and more. It can be a challenge to rein all that in. And like most knitters, I have a number of projects on my needles, patiently waiting to be completed.

In January, I started my 2018 Ravelry Challenge and set a goal to finish 20 projects this year.

You know, I have already completed 27. And I wasn’t rushing them. Well, maybe the Tour-de-sock socks were a little rushed… but the other items were definitely not rushed. I completed them mostly in the evenings in front of the television in the company of my husband and cat. Some of them progressed on Saturdays in the company of other local knitters who came to my shop to knit. Some of them on lazy Sundays when I just wanted to ignore the rest of the world and indulge in the zen of my knitting in my cozy chair.

Every one of those projects was a visceral and sensual outlet for my creativity. Fibre arts is amazing that way.

It’s such a tactile “pastime”. (Or should I say obsession?) The colours and patterns are a feast for the eye. The textures of the materials are sheer bliss to me. My friend would grin, with sparkling eyes and insist, “Orgasmic!” Yeah, some of them really are. And to take a ball of spun fibres a couple of pointy sticks and a bunch of hieroglyphics on a page and turn that into something wearable… yeah, now that is a pretty amazing experience. To do it again and again… what a privilege.

As much as the typical stresses of life can get to me, I am so grateful to live this life. I’m grateful that I am able to run a little shop. I love that I can provide the sewing services that I do; that our little town has the demand for those services! I love that I can surround myself with glorious colours and textures of yarns. Most of all I love that I get to interact with other amazing and creative individuals who share my passion for fibre arts.

I am learning that it’s okay to take each day as it comes.

Some days fly by and fill themselves up, with complete disregard to the things I thought I was going to do. I have my lists of what must be accomplished and the deadlines that apply to those tasks. And I do my best to navigate, filling a lull with a quick job off the rack, or perhaps a single round of knitting… or even a quiet moment to savour a well earned cup of coffee. I am learning that it’s a waste of energy to beat myself up if a day doesn’t go the way I thought it should; to let go of expectations that really don’t mean anything to anyone but me. Some days I’m more successful in that than other days. And when I give myself permission to allow the days to flow, somehow everything manages to get done in time. Not only that, but I enjoy those days so much more, even if they are very full.

As the moments of pre-holiday season panic shiver through me, I am determined to take a long deep breath and let those feelings simply dissolve. I am making a list of the items that would be nice to get done for those closest to me. But I am determined to keep my knitting blissful. I am absolutely determined to keep my knitting time sacred. It’s important to me that I don’t make it start to feel pressured or like “work”. My goal is to infuse my love of fibres and knitting into each project for each of the people I make something for. And I’m confident that when they wear those items I made for them, they will feel the love I poured into them. I refuse to allow my own expectations rob me of the joy that knitting brings me. I invite you to join me!

Happy Knitting!

Wow! Too Easy! More Gift Ideas

Anyone who crafts or sews will likely own a rotary cutter. These handy tools come in a few different sizes ranging from 28mm to 60mm. The size I find most popular is 45mm. The round blades are razor sharp and allow for nice clean cutting of fabrics and other craft materials. The newest style of blade opens up a whole vista of crafting possibilities.

The regular rotary cutter blade is simply a razor sharp disc that makes a solid clean and straight cut. You can also purchase wave blades that give a gently zig-zagged edge, like you would expect from pinking shears.

What I am excited to tell you about is the new skip cut blade. The skip cut blade has gaps around the cutting edge of the disc. It has many short cutting edges with equal spaces between them. When you use this blade, it gives you small cuts at regular intervals. For the creative individual, the possibilities for this blade are exciting. I just want to talk about two applications.

Quick and Easy Fleece Blanket with a Crochet Border

You start with a piece of Nordic/Polar Fleece fabric. With the edges cleanly cut, corners rounded off and the selvedges removed, use a ruler and rotary cutter fitted with the skip blade and cut an inch in from the outside edge all around the piece of fabric. It’s important to do this in one pass. Press firmly so that you are sure you are cutting all the way through. You now have a series of holes evenly spaced an inch in from the edge of the fabric. This gives you a place to easily crochet into so you can create a crocheted border all around your blanket. The edge folds in half, so you have a double layer of fabric contained within the first round of your crochet edge. I found two different links that show how to do this. Both are relatively long, however they give the necessary information well. The second one is more thorough a demonstration than the first.

 

Fleece Lined Blanket

The next project I want to share with you is a fleece lined blanket.

You can start with either a crocheted or a knitted blanket that you have already completed. You can either measure your blanket and use those measurements as a guide, or you can lay the blanket on the fleece to mark its size instead. Either way, you want to end up with a full inch all the way around the blanket. In other words, if your blanket is 45″ x 60″, you will want to cut a piece of fleece that is 47″ x 62″. As with the example above, you will use the skip cut rotary blade to make your nice tidy row of holes around the edge. You will have to take some liberties with how you align what you are crocheting with the existing stitches in the crocheted or knitted blanket. I would personally pin the edge profusely before beginning the process of crocheting the fleece to the edge of the blanket. Below is a link to a video in which this technique is demonstrated. This video is very thorough and assumes that you are a beginner.

I was introduced to skip cut blades by a customer who was traveling through Revelstoke. She stopped in my yarn shop and asked whether I carried them. I had never heard of them. While we chatted, I looked it up online through my supplier and found them. I brought them in for her and mailed them to her when they arrived. At the time, I brought in the packs of 5 as they are more cost effective than the individual blades. I have a couple packs still in stock. My next notions order will include some singles, so that if people want to try one out without committing to 5 of them, they have that option. I have a variety of solid colours of fleece in stock and many options for yarn that could be combined with it to make it special. What a great, easy gift to make someone’s life just a little more cozy.

As always, if you like the videos I have linked to and you want to see more from the folks who took the time, effort and care to create them, show them some love. Give them your likes, share the link or subscribe to their channel. Let’s support those amazing creative people in our world. 🙂

Happy Crocheting!

6 Gift-Making Tips

Many knitters and crocheters, sewing enthusiasts and other crafters use their creative skills to fashion gifts for their friends and family.

Whatever the project, crafters put their hearts into every step that goes into making those gifts. From choosing just the right yarn or other materials and the pattern, to all the hours carefully constructing the project stitch by stitch. If you are lucky enough to be considered knit, crochet or craft worthy, know that you are loved. I have some tips to offer Makers when they are planning out the gifts they want to create.

Depending on what your focus is, your priorities for each project can change.

Focus on Budget – Time:

When we think about a budget, we usually think about money. The reality is that we have a budget of time every bit as much as we have a financial budget. As someone who knits gifts, I’m always looking for projects that won’t become centennial jobs. There are all sorts of things I’d love to make for the people I care about. But there’s only so much time to do it. If I had unlimited hours to knit, I would be making lace shawls and 4-ply cardigans and other elaborate things for the people I love. But I don’t have unlimited time. Gosh, that’s such an understatement! I am a pretty quick knitter, but there’s a limit to what I can make in the precious time I have available.

Focus on Budget – Money:

It can be easy to let the cost of projects get away from us when we want to make something particularly wonderful for someone dear to us. Most of us have to work within a budget. Most of us also make gifts for multiple people. Even if you are not a “planner”, it’s good to be methodical about all the bits and pieces that you’ll have to buy, with money, for the projects you plan to make. And you know as well as I do, that those materials can really add up. Most crafters of all shape and size have a stash of supplies for their favourite making discipline. If money is tight, dig into that stash and see what you can use.

Focus on the Materials:

You can focus on the yarn or other materials and choose something absolutely scrumptious. There are so many gorgeous yarns (fabrics etc.) out there. Make the project a showcase for the materials by keeping your pattern selection simple. Put a little more resources into the purchase of the yarn or fabric and less into the work of the project. You might use silk embroidery thread instead of cotton. Of course there is a caveat with this. If it requires special care, you want to be sure that the recipient will apply that special care and not throw it in the washer and dryer with their jeans or towels… SHUDDER! If you think they will treat it right, but just need to know how to look after it, you could always include a travel size bottle of a “Delicates No-rinse Wash” like Eucalan with their gift. Pop in a card with the url to a demo of the product and brief, hand written care instructions.

Focus on an Artful Pattern:

There are many knitting and crochet designs that feature beautiful patterned stitches. There are sewing patterns that are true and complex works of art. When you choose one of these patterns, it’s best to back off with the materials and keep them simple. You don’t want to set up a competition between the yarn or fabric and the intricate pattern you create with it. This sort of design takes more focus to make. The more focus you need, the more time you need to allow. You may not be able to do a lot in a sitting. And you really don’t want to leave a project like this to the last minute. In my experience, that’s when you make silly mistakes that sit there like neon signs, screaming to be picked out and rebuilt.

Focus on the Practical:

There are many practical items that you can make as gifts. The nice thing about practical hand-made gifts is that you can be pretty certain that they are going to get some use. My family members love to receive hand-knit socks, for instance.

Focus on the Special:

You know that person who really likes things to be fancy? This is when you pull out those projects that you couldn’t resist pinning. Beaded projects, projects with felted accents or embroidered touches, personalized projects… add that little something extra that says “Oh yeah!”

Keep a record:

It’s easy to forget what you did for whom and when. I encourage you to keep a notebook. I love those small binders that hold paper that is basically a letter sized sheet cut in half. You can either buy the pages punched and ready to go or you can take normal paper and cut it in half and hole punch it. You can create sections; you can move the pages around. This is great for organizing what you have made for people. I tried keeping track on my phone; it was too frustrating. Between phones that die, upgrades and apps that don’t allow you to effectively back up your data when you do get a new phone… ugh! Well, “old school” works. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can staple the label from the yarn or a snip of the fabric onto the page, write down the name of the pattern and whether you modified it at all. If you ran into any trouble with the pattern, you could make a note of what it was and how you resolved it as well. You don’t have to worry about running out of pages, because it’s a binder! The main thing is that you want to jot down just enough so that you don’t accidentally make them the same thing twice… or for that matter so that if someone else sees it and wants one, that you can remember what you did.

And there you go. However you choose to focus on the gift projects you have on your making list, I hope you have fun with them.

Happy Making!

 

Gearing up for Winter: New Products

Every day as I fill in work orders, I look at the calendar. I am surprised (though I shouldn’t be) at how quickly October is disappearing.

The snow is creeping its way down the mountain and there is a definite chill in the air. In my store, I’ve been busy stocking up on the products that I know my customers will be looking for, what with cold weather coming on.

It’s always exciting to see new things. As I do every year at this time, I find myself either feeling really excited about the new things I’m bringing in or hyperventilating about the cost of doing so. I just never know for sure whether customers will be as excited about the new things as I am. I’m pretty sure it will be worth it, though.

So, here’s what I’m really excited about.

Estelle Chunky Yarn

estelle worsted and chunky

I’m being either brave or insane, but I am bringing in the entire colour line of this amazing, gorgeous, super-soft yarn. I initially brought it in only in the heathered colours by special request for a customer who wanted to make a Chunky Fair Isle sweater. When it came in, we both went crazy for how exquisite this yarn is. With the taxes in, it’s a $10 bill per 100g skein. You just can’t beat that price. It’s a blend of wool, acrylic and nylon; an excellent combination for long wearing and easy care.

47 colours, my friends! I’m STOKED!

Estelle Worsted Yarn

Okay, all those things I just said about the Chunky apply here but in worsted weight. I’m bringing in 40 colours of this one as well. These are set for a ship date of November 1st. (Keep breathing, Judy!)

Estelle Bulky Yarn

This one, I only ordered in Hudson’s Bay colours. I feel blankets coming on!

King Cole Big Value Baby DK

40 colours of this lovely yarn as well. I don’t remember specifically where the price point lands on this, but it will make customers happy!

King Cole Comfort Kids DK

I just brought a few colours of this one in. It’s already here. So soft, such an excellent value and lovely colours. I brought in a few solids to go with the multi colourways as well.

King Cole Drifter DK for Baby

this one is really cool. The colours are a little more sophisticated. It gives a sort of Fair Isle effect. The balls are 100g.

Rico Creative Bubble

SCRUBBY YARN! This is the actual yarn for making scrubbies for doing your dishes. How cool is that?! I have 3 colours on hand right now, the others are on back-order. They will get here when they get here. I brought in a pattern for pot scrubbers that look like emoticons. I also have a pattern on order to make scrubbies that look like watermelon slices. Too cute!

Black Cat Custom Yarn

I’m bringing in a selection of both their sock weight and their “Let’s Get Worsted” (British Columbia dyed) yarns. If you know and love Malabrigo yarn, you will adore Black Cat Custom Yarn! I can hardly wait!

I ordered other new yarns, but they get to be a surprise. 😀

Nostepinnes

Now, other new things include Nostepinnes. Noste-whosie-whatties, you say? Nostepinnes. These are beautiful turned wooden tools that originate (from what I’ve been able to gather) in Norway. You use them to hand wind yarn in such a way that it gives you a centre pull ball. Here is a link to how you do it. I haven’t had a chance to try one out yet, but I will.

Needle Keeper

Next up on the new items list is the “Needle Keeper”. If you knit with circular needles, you need this amazing little gizmo. I don’t believe I ever lived without it. It protects your needle tips and connections from breakage while also preventing stitches from falling off the needles. They also help to keep your knitting bag tidier. Your needles won’t get tangled with all the other stuff in your bag. If your cat likes to chew on your wooden or bamboo needle tips, you can foil their evil plans with a Needle Keeper! There’s no way your cat will chew through this puppy! This is my favourite new thing. Here is a link to the video that the inventor has up on YouTube:

DPN Tubes

Another cool product along the lines of the Needle Keeper is Knitter’s Pride’s DPN Tubes. These do for double point needles (DPN’s) what the Needle Keeper does for circular needles. I found a review of this product. Here’s the link:

Eucalan

After all the endless hours of knitting or crocheting your beautiful garments with exquisite yarns, you need to be able to take care of them. Eucalan makes a lovely rinse-free wash for delicates. I brought in 4 scents of this in 500ml bottles: Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender and Natural. If there is enough demand, I’ll bring in jugs to allow us to refill your containers. A little bit of this product goes a long way. It contains lanolin, which acts as a fibre conditioner and keeps your items soft and lovely. Here is a link to Eucalan’s demo of the product.

With all these new products coming in, I guess I’d better get busy rearranging the store!

Happy Knitting!

Creative Outlets: Hallowe’en!

The leaves are falling, a nip is in the air, frost greets us in the mornings and the countdown to Hallowe’en has begun.

Whatever anyone’s personal view of Hallowe’en might be, it has become an excellent opportunity to express creativity. Whether through costumes, decorations or parties I love to see people’s creativity shine at this time of year.

When my kids were small, I liked to make them costumes for Hallowe’en. Of course in our region, it’s very cold on Hallowe’en. So their costumes needed to be inherently warm or fit over a winter coat. As a performer and costume designer, I love any excuse to dress up in a costume. In a world that can be heavy and demanding, I firmly believe that we should take every appropriate opportunity we can to have some silly and lighthearted fun.

You don’t have to be able to sew to come up with a costume. Sure, if you want something elaborate, it helps. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money. It does help to give yourself a bit of time to come up with something. What you really need is a sense of humour and some creativity.

The thrift shop is a fantastic place to start.

  1. It’s best to make a few trips. The cool thing about thrift shops is that the stuff there is constantly changing.
  2. Watch for anything unusual. Perhaps a hat, a coat in an out of the ordinary colour, something that you could use as a prop to imply a character…
  3. Don’t let it pass you by! Because thrift shops have a quick turnover, if you see something unusual or cool, buy it! Go with cash and be prepared to grab the items that make you stop in your tracks. You might not use them this year, but if you leave them and think they’ll be there when you go back, you will be disappointed. If you think it’s cool for a potential costume, someone else likely will too.
  4. Let the unusual get your creative juices flowing. You need to give yourself permission to get out of your normal head space in regard to the clothes you see at the thrift shop.
  5. Think outside the box. A giant coat that would fit more than one of you might be worn over a backpack to create the impression of a hunchback. A bright red child’s coat might need some small black pompoms hot glued on it. Pair it with black pants or leggings and a black toque (beanie for non-Canadians) and you have a Ladybug costume.
  6. Don’t be afraid to cut things up. Don’t be afraid to reimagine what you see. A coat with a wild looking lining? Turn it inside out and be a Wild Thing!

Sometimes it’s worth it to purchase an inspiration piece.

  1. An inspiration piece in this context is something that evokes a character or an era.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of a hat. A hat can transform normal clothes into a costume. Put on a suit you already own and add a fedora, a pencil thin mustache and a cane… Presto, you are suddenly from a whole other era. A distressed bowler hat? Get some grubby old work clothes in shades of brown and suddenly you might be a railway labourer from the 1880’s. A cowboy hat, a hard hat, a helmet, a bee keeper’s veil, a welder’s cap, a newsboy cap… you get the idea.
  3. Props can also give the impression of a character. They can inspire a complete outfit. Of course if you have to carry that prop around in your hands it will make it difficult to do other things. Oh, and I don’t recommend using a real Katana as a prop. Most venues frown on patrons carrying edged weapons in their establishments. And children with weapons…. hmmm… not a good idea. Costume shops often carry plastic swords and other interesting items that can act as your inspiration for a costume.
  4. A wig can transform you. Enough said.
  5. If you have any consignment shops in your area, these are another great place to look for inspiration pieces. You may have to pay up a little for an inspiration piece. However, it may mean that you can pull the rest of the costume together with items you already own.

Recycle, Repurpose and all that Jazz…

  1. It’s amazing what you can do with some cardboard, tape and spray paint.
  2. Throughout the year, keep an eye out for unusual items that could be used to make a costume. Old bleach jugs with the ends cut out could become the arms of a space suit. They can even fit over the sleeves of a winter coat you picked up at the thrift shop. Spray paint the whole thing silver? Tadah!
  3. Check out You-Tube videos of Cosplayers for inspiration in this regard. Cosplayers are genius when it comes to transforming what most people consider garbage/recycling into brilliant costumes. Use the words  “hacks” in your search. That will generally bring up cool work-arounds and creative (and inexpensive) suggestions. If you are not familiar with Cosplay, be prepared to see pictures of people dressed up as cartoon or video game characters. Many of the female costumes are based on Anime and can be rather revealing. So, your search will bring up these images. If you are looking for ideas for little kids, maybe do that search after they go to bed.

Make it up…

A little makeup goes a long way to imply your character. There are lots of costume make-up tutorials on You Tube.

Put it all together and you’ll be on your way in a great costume. And bottom line, it’s about giving yourself permission to be playful in a world that generally expects us to be anything but. Have fun!

Happy Making!