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Movember is all about moustaches and raising awareness about prostate cancer. My friends have been growing their moustache for several weeks, sporting their facial pilosity with pride. But how could I participate? Crocheting one, of course.

My all-time favorite composer and guitarist is Frank Zappa. He is one of the most prolific musician I know, releasing over 60 albums during his 33 years of musical carrier. He is also well known for his iconic moustache. Here it is :

frank-zappa.jpgSadly enough, he died from prostate cancer at the young age of 52. I felt I had to pay a tribute to him for our annual moustache contest (the JIMM : Journée Internationale de la Moustache Montréalaise, not originally related to Movember, but we moved it to November to show our support).

This year, we had a props category for the persons who can't biologically grow a moustache (mostly girls, in our case), and guess what... I won! Here is the picture from the competition.

This is not much of a pattern, but more some kind of guideline to explain what I did. I hope you get inspired by it.

My Zappa moustache is crocheted from natural (undyed) brown single-ply wool, which incidentally matches my hair color. It was easy to do : I chained until it was long enough to cover my upper lip and go down on both sides of my mouth. Then, I singled-crochet 2 rows. Holding the moustache-to-be over my face in the mirror, I decided where I wanted the angle to be. That happened to be 4 stitches from each ends.  I slipped-stitched 4 stitches, skipped 2-3 stitches, and single-crocheted tightly so it would pull the end of the moustache at a right angle. I single-crocheted until I was 6-7 stitches from the other end of the moustache, skipped 2-3 stitches and slip-stitched tightly to form the other angle. The key here is to be symmetrical. I finished it my slip-stitching some more to make sure the angle will stay put and weaved in the ends.

Then, I made a square for the pinch. Soaked everything in water and blocked it overnight. You can felt it if you feel like it.

On the big day, I used regular scotch tape to adhere it to my face, but I think double side tape would have been better. I tried to eat soup while wearing it, and I tell you it's a real challenge!

Here are some great hand crafted moustaches resources I took my inspiration from :


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champagne_model1.jpgI designed this neckwarmer last year for my friend's birthday. Within 48 hours, I had spun and  knitted it. I could not find a decent set of buttons in my stash, so I figured out how to make a set of buttons out of Champagne cork stoppers. By the way, after a year of wear, the buttons never failed, so unless you pull on them deliberately, they're solid and there to stay. For your pleasure, here is how to do it and how it all happened.

Big chunky snowflakes were slowly falling as I was trying my hands at a new hobby : spinning. I was turning mountains of big fluffy Corriedale top into soft, chunky yarn with the humble help of a drop spindle. I was plying it using my own two hands with the Andean ply technique. It was low-tech. It was awesome.

I soon had a big ball of bulky, bumpy, slubby, thick-and-thin yarn. The natural wool color was asking for another natural companion : wood. A couple of cork stoppers turned themselves into buttons, the yarn was tamed with a simple stockinette stitch and in an evening I had a new cozy neckwarmer for my friend's birthday.

This is a great neophyte spinner project that showcases your very own bumpy handspun yarn. This neckwarmer keeps you warm while the upcycled cork buttons make both an environmental and a fashion statement. It also makes a quick and sophisticated gift : after all, you had to drink four bottles of Champagne to make it!

champagne_model5.jpgFinished measurements
Width: approx. 7.5 inches
Length: approx. 19 inches

  • 1 set(s) US #11/8mm straight needles
  • Fiber: Louet [100% corriedale wool; top]; color: natural white; 3.5 ounces.
Spin it using a drop spindle and the Andean ply technique.

Or use a commercial alternative yarn, like :
Cascade Jewel [100% Peruvian wool; 142yd/130m per 100g skein]; color: 8010; 1 skein

The idea is to have a yarn with 7 wraps/inches that knits with a gauge of 9 sts/12 rows for a 4'' square.

For making the buttons
  • 4 champagne (or sparkling wine) cork stoppers
  • 4 two-holes buttons
  • 2 two inches long safety pins
  • wire cutters
  • a sharp knife
CO 20 stitches.
Rows 1,3,5 : *K2, p2 * to the last 2 sts, k2.
Rows 2,4 : *P2, k2* to the last 2 sts, p2.
Row 6 (WS) : K3, p14, k3
Row 7 (RS) : K all sts.

Repeat rows 6 and 7 until work measures 16.5 inches. Finish on WS.

Next row (RS) : *K2, p2 * to the last 2 sts, k2.
Next row (WS): *P2, k2* to the last 2 sts, p2.
Button holes row 1: *k2, p, bo1 * 4 time,  k2
Button holes row 2 : *P2, co1, k1* 4 times, p2.
Next row : *K2, p2 * to the last 2 sts, k2.
BO all sts in pattern.

Weave in loose ends. Block to size.

To make the buttons :
Step 1 : Using a sharp knife, cut the champagne cork stoppers in order to have four 0.5 inches thick slices.

champagne_butt1.jpgStep 2 : Cut the two safety pins with the wire cutters in order to have four straight pieces of metal.
champagne_butt2.jpgStep 3 : Bend each piece in two.
champagne_butt3.jpgStep 4 : Insert a bent piece of metal into a 2-holes button.

champagne_butt4.jpgStep 5 : On the wrong side of the work, place the button. The metal should be poking out on the right side.

champagne_butt5.jpgStep 6 : Center a cork slice on the metal pokes and press firmly.  Tip : It's better if the metal pokes are not parallel. In other words, they must flare a little. That way, once it's inserted into the cork, it will not come out easily.

champagne_butt6.jpgRepeat steps 4-6 to secure the remaining buttons.

Floppy disk pencil holder

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I can't resist the charm of old technology upcycled into something useful. I saw the instructions for making a pencil holder out of old floppy disks on Esprit Cabane and I knew I had to try it.

floppy_cube.jpgI gathered 5 old floppy disks (not that old actually, I was still using them 3 years ago for making backups of laboratory data. Ahhh... USB drives changed my life...) and made the pencil holder. I also hot glued some felt under it, but that's totally optional. I looks pretty neat, I think. Try it too ! It would make an awesome DIY gift for the geeks in your life.

(Note : Floppy disks are not square, so you have to fiddle a bit to make it look like a cube. Also, tie-wraps and floppy disks come in different colors, so have fun with it!) 

T-shirt upcycling tutorials

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I have a bunch of old t-shirts I would want to put to a better use. Some of them are to big and boxy for me to wear, some of them are too small and some of them are too worn out. I scavenged the web to find ideas of how to upcycle a t-shirt into something else, be it wearable or useful around the house. Here are my favorites, in case it might give you a good stating point with your own project.

A recycled t-shirt necklace. It's super easy, fast and I made one in 20 minutes yesterday. Tada!

A colorful tote bag

tote.jpgA cardigan with a crocheted button band

cardigan.jpgMake a cute skirt.

skirt.jpgMake a pillow.

Leave the t-shirt as-is but hide a stain or an ugly logo with crocheted flowers or another embellishment. Or screen print on it. Or add a crocheted neckline.

Restyle a boxy t-shirt into a halter top, a comfy pair of yoga pants/capri, the "keesha shirt" from the sistahs of harlem, a colorful skirt, a quick and no-sew camisole,  a no-sew cute top, a sexy bikini, make a picnic blanket or frame your old band t-shirts.

Magnet Galore (pt 2)

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This set of ladybugs magnet was inspired by the work of Suntaree Palasingh, an awesome artist who makes beautiful decorative - as well as useful - objects using papier maché. This technique might be underrated by people thinking it's a child craft. But it's very versatile, cheap and lightweight, just what it takes for this projects.

ladybug_magnet2.jpgBasically, to make a papier maché sculpture, you first make a structure using cardboard, styrofoam, balloons, empty cans, etc. and solidify it with (a lot) of masking tape. Then, you dip strips of newspaper in a glue made of water and flour and apply several layers of them on your structure, letting the glue dry between layers. Then you paint and varnish your object and you're done.

There are several glue recipes out there, and the one I use is a very easy and effective one. Just put 1 cup of water into a small saucepan, then add 3 tablespoons of white flour and stir well with a whisk until there are no lumps left. On med-hi heat, bring the mixture to a boil while stirring. Then lower the heat and let simmer a few minutes while constantly stirring until you obtain a custard-like texture. Let cool completely before using. It keeps in the fridge for a few days, maybe a week.  Throw it away when you no longer need it, because it will eventually develop molds (yuk).

For this project, I tried two methods for the structure of my ladybugs. I first tried to make a body using only newspaper taped into a somewhat semi-spherical shape. Masking tape is best used here, because the strips of newspaper will adhere to it while it is not the case with other, glossy tapes. The outcome was satisfying, though there were not all alike. The other method was to simply cut a styrofoam ball in half, which led to a much more uniform batch of ladybugs. The drawback though is that you have to buy styrofoam, which is not really eco-friendly, while the all-newspaper ladybugs give you an occasion to reuse materials that you would otherwise throw away. Yes, I'm a sensitive eco-minded gal.

Then I made two or three layers of papier maché on the structure, let it dry and taped the antennas, which are made of florist wire that was twisted a bit around a toothpick to give it's spring shape. Then I made some more layers of newspaper and let it dry overnight. This is important because when using gesso, acrylic paint and varnish, it seals moisture inside the papier maché, which can lead to problems. The next step was to paint and varnish it, and when it was dry I glued it to a round magnet using a strong adhesive (I should have tried silicon sealer, it would have smelled less horrible). For the bigger ladybug, instead of round magnet I used self-adhesive magnetic tape cut to fit its entire bottom area and it worked very neatly.ladybug_magnet3.jpgMy mother-in-law was crazy about them and made comments every time she saw them on my fridge. So I made a set of ladybug magnets for her. I gave it to her in a small gift box to which I have glued a metallic circle at the bottom (the metal plate that comes with my magnets). I cut leafs out of green construction paper and arranged them to hide the metal and arranged the ladybugs on top so that the leafs won't move. This small scene was a really nice way to present the magnets.

Magnet Galore (pt 1)

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One of the successful handmade gift I made was fridge magnets. We all have a bunch of ugly magnets on our fridge gathered from eclectic sources, so a themed set of kick-ass magnets really gives your appliances some flair. They are not only useful on the fridge : they also work on other ferromagnetic surfaces like the stove, white board, metallic file cabinet, etc.

I made a set of marble magnets for my best friend (and some for me too!) with her favorite characters from Rejected, which is also my all-time favorite short film. I firstly attempted to draw the pictures myself, but it has to be so tiny and sharp that I couldn't do it, with the ink from my fine point pen bleeding a bit on the paper I used. So I printed out the images and made some hand drawn additions to them. I guess it might be against copyright laws to do this, but it was for only 9 fridge magnets that light up my day every time I see them, and I go to every film festival I know of where Don Hertzfeld's  work is presented, so I hope he will not be upset about that.

Having my pictures, I followed the very nice instructions of Not Martha for making marble magnets. I used silicon sealer as the glue and it worked beautifully and doesn't smell really bad (as super glue tends to do). The marbles are actually the kind of marbles for aquariums or floral arrangements, and I had a pack of 100 for 1$ at my local dollar store. It's a cheap and easy craft, but all the fun resides in drawing tiny pictures or cutting them out of magazines/postcards/pictures/etc.

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