How to make a cactus hat: Tutorial

So you think you can make a cactus?  I spent the last week making a cactus hat for someone who wanted to pay me for it ! This gives me endless joy.  I am very proud of myself for completing it so quickly, and now I can start on a new project that is more time-sensitive.  This is for Halloween, but I think it’s fashionable any time of the year.  Step-by-step pictures after the jump:

Find a balloon and a newspaper. Blow up the balloon, cut the paper into strips, and layer it on with a mixture of  flour,  hot water and some salt (to keep the mold/bugs away).  Do a layer or two, let it dry completely, put another layer on.  I did a  third so it’d be nice and hard.

This would definitely look better the other way. Tilt your head.  To make paper mache (wheat paste): heat some water on the  stove and add some salt.  Slowly add flour until it maintains a goopy consistency.  Try to mash out any lumps.  I used mine three days, and just added a little hot water from the kettle to make it workable again.

My first go at a cactus blossom.  It did not pass J’s muster.  The needle-felting techniques from First Stitch helped me so much on this.  I think felting flowers together gives you much more control on the structure.

Here is the second version, pre-modge podge.  See how more realistic this one looks?

After all the layers dried,  I found a bell jar that fit my head and used its base to cut the headband hole (I don’t know what you should do if you don’t happen to have bell jars of differing sizes laying around).  Once I was sure it would fit a head alright, I reinforced the opening with another layer of paper mache.  It doesn’t hurt to try your creation on a model to get a feel for how it wears.  This model’s skull was much too big, owing to the great amounts of interview prep he was stuffing himself with all week.

I used Fast Mache (paper pulp) to make little globs, and stuck in toothpicks cut in two.  For the top of the cactus, I made the spines a little smaller.  

Before the Fast Mache hardens, stick your globs to the form and press them down around the edges.

I drew lines to make sure things were symmetrical, but things did get a little off. 

That flower you saw earlier? I painted on three coats of modge podge so it would look waxy.  Verdict: looks fucking fantastic.  The felt just drinks up the modge podge so it ends up very solid.

I started to paint the green directly on the newspaper, but that was silly.  I started with a coat of white to cover up with newspaper.

After the white dried, I started the painting with eggshall  and  leaf green Cerama-coat acrylic.    I painted the spines first so I could be messy, then did the green.   Truth be told, if I ever have to make a cactus again, I’ll do things differently.  This took the longest of any of the steps, because I attached all the spikes before the whole thing was painted.  Time-consuming to say the least, but it was so beautiful on Saturday I didn’t mind sitting on the back porch and listening to the radio while doing it.  

So how does this stay on a person’s head?  I made a little cap out of felt.  It’s a bit hideous, but if it’s doing its job, you can’t really see it.  This also prevents the cactus from irritating your forehead.

So proud of this damn beanie.

I attached the two cactus blossoms with some fishing line attached to a button on the inside.  They can easily be taken off and made into something else if the owner wants to.    I added two little ribbons on each side to attach through holes in the bottom of the cactus (made with a hole punch).  You just knot them and voila!  I also add a chin strap, though the cap keeps in on your head nicely.

I had to add a totally silly Myspace profile shot.  As you can see, the base of the cactus sits on the puffy brim of the beanie.  I wouldn’t head-bang in this, but dancing is just fine.  

Cactus Hat: Part 2

Many thanks to J, who has been acting as my cactus flower consultant.  He think I’m not being realistic enough, but I’m just happy to see him interested in one of my projects.  We are taking some time out re-watching Battlestar Galactica*, which is a delightful distraction while felting and entering grades (him, not me). 
Also: a lot of people who have the fancy phones are playing Angry Birds**.  This game, well, it kind of makes you angry.  J found me an alternative to all those bloodthirsty birds, namely Tiny Wings.  He bought it on his iPhone, and lets me steal it anytime I want to play the game.  The sole point of the game is to move forward, there’s no killing, no dying, and the soundtrack is so cute!  It was a well-spent dollar.
**I have friends who would likely have advanced degrees by now if not for this game.   Yeah, I know you’re reading this.

Sequin crafts

A quick trip to the Salvation Army got me 10 packages of ice-blue sequins ($1) and a large, beige flat sheet ($2).  Let’s talk about what happened to the former.

One dollar! (That’s just 1.5 packs)

As for the latter, I was attempting to make a pair of Laupre’s Easy Breezy Wrap Pants, but something went wrong in my head and I ended up with a kind of long-legged diaper.  It’s unfortunate, because the beige sheet I found was a good weight and khaki-look, but I think I’ve ruined the whole piece.  I swear I followed the directions (of course, I hate directions, so I’m lying to myself) but it ended up looking like it’d need a lot of tailoring.  The pants are supposed to be really easy, so I’m missing something. I’ll try it out again tomorrow night. : (

Louisa Knock-off: GLAMOUR SHOTS

So many thanks to Kara-Line for making beautiful dresses and inspiring me to start sewing on my own.  This dress is an almost exact replica, except for some changes I made to the fitting on the sleeves and, of course, my lack of a serger.  I hope this is only the first of many dresses I make for myself, and someday get the skills to make them for other people, too.

Finished: Trumpet skirt

I look like a sloppy cheerleader, but overall I think this worked out.  But NEVER AGAIN am I working with lining fabric when it isn’t directly attached at all edges to the garment.  Ugh. Even with my hemmer foot, that part turned out super shitty.  Pictures!!

I’m learning an important lesson about palettes.  I love this color, but I don’t have anything to wear with it (without looking like a cheerleader).  I should have picked a color that was more muted, so it would play nice with others.
Here’s a shot of the inside, which I’m more proud of than the outside:
This was a good learning experience, definitely. I finally used some of the foot attachments my mom gave me, to some success.  I’ll definitely be using a hemmer foot again.  But hemming lining fabric? Screw that. Not fun, not fun at all.
This also taught me that I would LOOOOOVVVVE a serger.  Finishing all the seams with bias tape looked good, but not every garment wants that much extra weight on the inside.  I also need a serger so I can turn these tissue paper cut-outs into fabric curtains:
Cut-outs by a friend, originally party decorations.
Imagine trying to hem THAT.

Trumpet skirt project

I couldn’t find any fabric I liked for my next Louisa dress, so I decided to remake a skirt I’ve had for a decade: 

Doesn’t look like much from the photo, but it’s a beautifully put-together piece that fits me perfectly and looks good when I spin.  I thought it was called a tulip skirt.
It’s 10 panels in cotton with a more vibrant lining and a zipper on the side. Since I don’t want to take the original skirt apart, I am going to have to experiment with how the inner belt and lining work, but looks like the lining is just an identical version of the skirt.  So far it looks a little cheerleader-y, but when I iron it out I bet it’ll look better.  Bright blue will be my color for spring/summer.  I am looking forward to storing my grey and black winter wardrobe.

One of the millions of seams.
Since there are 20 big seams to finish, I was feeling adrift without a serger.  I didn’t want to make any more stitch lines on the right side of the fabric, and I also don’t want ratty seams.  Someone suggested Dritz Fray-no-more, but I didn’t want any sharp edges or weight added.  I ended up trimming the seam allowance to 1/2″ and using bias tape to finish.  Yeah, it added weight, but it looks super professional (from my perspective).  Why didn’t I take a picture??
Lovely lining fabric.
I don’t mind the finished seam stitches showing on the right side of the lining, since no one will see it. This will definitely get done over the weekend, then I have a few days off for Spring Break!  I promise I will actually finish a project from a real pattern.  I don’t know why I’m so hesitant. I HATE reading directions, that’s why.

[Update: I just found a Simplicity pattern for a trumpet skirt that looks SOOOOOOO much simpler than this 10-panel one.  Urgh. Thank you internet for giving me a sign.]

Make a damn shirt or something

It was a weird doldrummy day (too much damn wind and no sun) so I spent too much time on the internet. By 9:30pm, I was jittery from too much sitting and told myself I needed to make something and NOW.  So I decided to get out the pieces of my Louisa dress (bought in ye olde Portland and being re-created so I can wear it 7 days a week) and see how far I had to go.  With all this crazy warm weather reminding me about Spring, I need to finish this pattern so I can make myself dresses.  When I got it out, I had an almost-finished dress missing ONE SLEEVE.  That’s just the muslin and I’ll have to cut it out and sew it together again with my fabric, but HOLY SHIT SO CLOSE.  Knowing I didn’t have the focus to start taking it apart tonight, I decided to just go grab a piece of fabric and sew some lines on it.

I made a shirt, or what is supposed to be a shirt.

And it fits kinda like a shirt, and kind of looks like one.  That is the shot of confidence I needed.  Tomorrow (after the soccer game, aaagggh) I’m going to re-start the dress project.  Be on the lookout for a finished product in the next few weeks!  And make fun of me and call me a quitter if you don’t.