My Capsule Wardrobe

The capsule wardrobe: everybody’s doing it! I’m certainly no exception. I read some advice a few months ago that suggested I should dress for the job I want, not the job I have. Since I’d like to find a different job anyway, maybe something more professional than retail, I figured I’d start over from scratch.

Obviously, building a wardrobe from scratch can be expensive.  Since I started shopping for this new wardrobe back in March, I’ve spent about $650 on it. Looking at clothing prices today, that’s actually not that much! I shopped primarily at second-hand clothing stores, including Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Stuff Etc., and Plato’s Closet. When I did shop for new clothes at retail stores, it was for the basics like leggings, tanks, underwear, and socks. Things you wouldn’t really want to buy used, you know?  I also bought a brand-new purse, because that was the only way I was going to get one the color I wanted.

There are some downsides to buying used clothes. Some of them need repair. I’ve had to fix several holes and re-stitch hems, or take in pieces I like but which are too big. But there are plenty of upsides, too! The price, for one. Clothes at places like the Salvation Army and Goodwill range from 75 cents to $5 a piece, on average. And when the prices are that low, I don’t feel bad donating something back to them if I wear it and decide I don’t like it.

Now, on to the wardrobe!

I read a lot of blogs and articles about capsule wardrobes. Some are really strict in the number of clothes you wear, some are more generous. Basically, you have to figure out what works for you. Most of them agree that you need a core set of “timeless basics” (whatever that means). You should also start with a color scheme, picking 1-2 neutral colors (black, navy, beige, grey, white, brown) along with accent colors.

I chose black and white as my neutral colors (plus a small splash of grey), and teal/aqua/turquoise as my accent color(s). Really, I love anything in the blue-green range. I’ve got pieces that run from almost green to dark teal to turquoise. As long as the colors play well together, you’re good to go. The object of the capsule wardrobe is to be able to mix and match just about anything and still look good.

Back when I was doing my KonMari cleaning, I went out and bought exactly 36 black velvet hangers for my closet, along with two skirt/pant racks which hold four pieces each and one that holds six. Those hold pretty much my entire wardrobe. I have a dresser as well, but the bulk of my capsule wardrobe resides in my closet.

Let’s look at a breakdown of what I have!

Here are the tops:

  • 6 sleeveless blouses
  • 6 short-sleeved blouses
  • 2 3/4-sleeved blouses
  • 6 long-sleeved blouses

Next are blazers/cardigans/sweaters. These are great for layering over blouses or dresses. I have a lot of them!

  • 1 sleeveless cardigan (so… a vest, I guess? But more drapey)
  • 2 short-sleeved cardigans
  • 2 3/4-sleeved cardigans
  • 1 3/4-sleeved blazer
  • 2 long-sleeved cardigans
  • 1 long-sleeved blazer
  • 4 sweaters (in the dresser — don’t want to stretch the shoulders out!)

And the dresses:

  • 3 black dresses (the LBD, a knee-length sheath, and a maxi dress)
  • 4 printed/patterned dresses (all knee-length)

I hated wearing skirts and dresses for the longest time — all the way up until after college, actually. When I found work as a waitress I started wearing skirts, and then I got into the goth and lolita scene for a couple years and began wearing skirts and dresses more. Now I have lots of skirts!

  • 4 printed/patterned skirts
  • 4 solid-color skirts

Lastly, the pants:

  • 1 pair black dress pants
  • 1 pair black skinny ankle pants
  • 1 pair black skinny jeans
  • 1 pair dark denim skinny jeans
  • 1 pair dark denim bootcut jeans
  • 1 pair medium denim bootcut jeans

And that’s it! I find that this is the amount of clothes that work for me. My tops outweigh my bottoms, but I usually wear my pants, skirts, and dresses 2-3 times before washing them, and tops I wash after 1-2 wears depending on how much I sweat during the day. It’s always fun mixing and matching to see what new combinations I can come up with.

Obviously I have other clothes besides these, like my underwear, workout clothes, two swimsuits, some basic tank tops and leggings for layering, some casual clothes I can’t wear to work (t-shirts and shorts), loungewear for around the house, and what I call my “crap clothes” for wearing when I know I’m going to get dirty (like playing in the garden or painting). Plus there’s all my cosplay and steampunk clothes in the basement closet (but I did get rid of some of those too!).

Oh, shoes and accessories, don’t forget those! Maybe I’ll write another post about them later.

Anyway, that’s my capsule wardrobe! I hope this is at least a little helpful in showing you what works for me, so that you can start to find what works for you!

 

 

Craft Room Reveal

I promised, so here it is. I’m just going to step back and let the pictures speak for themselves. Here we go!

Cosplay storageFabric bins and in-progress projects

Sewing, jewelry, miscellaneous, and scrapbooking supplies

Sewing table

Paper storage, electronics, and cutting station

Writing/media desk

Typewriter display shelves

Stamping supply cabinet

Crafting table

Yarn bins

As you can see, it’s turned out lovely! It’s all nice and organized and clean and I know exactly what I have and where it is. What you can’t see is the long and difficult road it took me to get there.

I followed the KonMari method when I tidied my craft room. I had three days off work – December 30th & 31st, and January 1st – and I had a plan. Kondo suggests dividing things into categories, gathering them all in one place, and then going through them in one go. As a lot of my craft supplies overlap with each other, I started with the most obvious categories first. On day one I did sewing supplies and fabric. This one category took almost the entire day… and I don’t even consider myself a sewing person!  I also did yarn and embroidery, but I kind of cheated on yarn a little because I went through that thoroughly on my first round and my entire stash is on Ravelry.

On day two, I started with some small stuff – painting and drawing supplies, printmaking, paper making, etc. – things that only take up a box or two apiece. Then I dove into jewelry, which took the rest of the day. I never realized I had so many chains! One of my biggest goals was to get rid of the two sets of tiny drawers that held all my beads. They came out of the drawers and into bags, and I got rid of a lot of things. Now, everything fits into the center cabinet of my white shelves!

Day three  was the hardest part: scrapbooking and paper.I started with the boxes of embellishments and stuff, then moved on to my stickers and things on my homemade clip-it-up. Everything came off, and went into a set of drawers sorted by color. Almost everything came out of its packaging, too. Now I have that, plus, a box of alphabet stickers and a box of things that won’t fit in the drawers or which couldn’t be easily divided (like sheets of rub-ons). After embellishments, I went after rubber stamps. My mom used to be a Stampin’ Up demonstrator. I finally got rid of all the sets which were bugging me, and sorted the remaining ones into six cases organized by category. I got started on paper, but it was getting late so I had to stop.

Day four (Saturday) I had to go back to work, but not until the afternoon, so I got up early and finished paper. I did some other small stuff, swept the floor, and did some minor rearranging to find the perfect place for things.

I took the next two days off from tidying, then went back at it Tuesday night… this time, with the big changes: furniture Tetris! Always a fun game to play. Lots of things got moved and rearranged, and I realized that I didn’t need two desks (writing + media). I kept my big, heavy writing table, and decided to get rid of the other.

Wednesday night I put up my two new typewriter shelves, and did some other minor rearranging. I also had my mom help me haul the desk I was getting rid of out to the front porch.

Thursday I had the day off again. I borrowed my grandmother’s truck and made a Goodwill run with a full load. I dropped off eight boxes, three bags, and some assorted small items that wouldn’t fit in boxes (a lamp, a plastic set of drawers, a small TV stand, etc.). I came back, then headed over to The Create Exchange with another three boxes to drop off. I brought a few things home, but not much! When I came back, I went through the last few boxes remaining and dealt with them, then did another pass with the broom and then the shop vac (take that, spider webs!) before I finally decreed I was finished and took the above pictures.

There are still a handful of things that need to be done, like putting up my fourth shelf (has to wait until the back corner has been cleaned out), or finishing the rug I’m crocheting to go in the space, but I’m pretty much done!

Now I can start making stuff and get it messy again… but cleaning up after will be so much easier!

 

KonMari Convert

If you’re into cleaning and organization and minimalism and all that (like I am), then it’s probably safe to assume that by now you’ve heard about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. If you haven’t, well… you might be living under a rock. Or at least under piles of “stuff”. At its most basic, the KonMari method (named after its creator), is a deceptively simple idea: keep only what “sparks joy”. You’re deciding what to keep, not what to get rid of.

Having gotten rid of most of my own “stuff” already, I haven’t had much luck putting this method into action in my bedroom. I went ahead and refolded my clothes according to her method and freed up an entire drawer of my dresser. I also reorganized the clothes in my closet and I like her ideas on that, too. But the biggest benefit of her method I have yet to put into action: getting my mom on board.

I had her read the book on a road trip (no worries, she wasn’t the one driving!), and when she came back she was ready to get started right away. There is a specific order Kondo recommends: clothes first, then books, then paper, then “komono” (miscellaneous, a.k.a. everything else), and sentimental. As soon as my mom got home, we pulled everything out of her bedroom closet and I sat with her while she went through it. She got rid of five bags of clothes, plus some obvious extra bags and blankets. Hey, if she wants it gone now, I’m not going to be a stickler for order!

After that, though, she kind of… lost steam. I did the spice cabinet and pantry in the kitchen for her, since that was just getting rid of expired items and reorganizing. I also helped my sister go through her electronics and computer parts in the basement, and took three boxes to a nearby place which recycles them for free. I did some other cleaning in the basement too, getting rid of things I knew there would be no issue with. According to Kondo, you can’t — and shouldn’t — get rid of other people’s stuff. I’ve been trying to do this with my mom for ages, and I can attest that it’s true. All you can do is try to get them on the bandwagon with you.

It’s no secret that my bedroom is the cleanest room in the house. Just to make sure, I went through my room again with a fine-tooth comb and touched everything, like Kondo says. I still got rid of a few things. Two pairs of socks, a shirt and a skirt, a couple pieces of jewelry, some stuffed animals, and my week-at-a-glance dry erase board. It didn’t really start to “click” until I removed all my craft stuff from the floor of my closet. I got it all rounded up and took it down to my craft room in the basement. I also got a cute little vertical paper organizer (Kondo recommends against stacking) to get my planner off my desk.

I still hate my carpet, and I need to get the other three walls of my bedroom painted, but it’s getting there. It feels calmer, less cluttered. Plus, the inside of my dresser and closet look awesome!

I mentioned that I took some things to my craft room… that will be the next big reveal. Stay tuned!

NaNoWriMo 2015

It’s December 1st, and that means that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) is officially over for this year. November was one heck of a crazy month, though not as bad as some prior years. In fact, a lot of that was my own making… because I decided to be an overachiever this year and go for 100,000 words instead of the standard 50,000.

But you know what? I did it!

NaNoWriMo Winner 2015

This year was my 11th time participating in NaNo, my 11th time winning NaNo, but only my second time going for 100k words in a month. The first time I did it was in 2008, and even that time it wasn’t as impressive as this year. Then, I split my 100k between two stories, a 30k novella and a 70k novel that was intended to be the first book of a trilogy (now, I think it’s going to be better as a single book, which means it’s not finished yet!).

This year, that 100k all went towards a single project, titled “Into the Lost”, and… it’s not finished yet. I don’t know what the plot looks like yet for the rest of it, but if I had to guess I’d say I’m only about 2/3 finished — or maybe even less. It’s a daunting prospect, but I’ve sworn that I will not stop writing just because the month is over. I am going to keep writing until the book is finished.

Then, I plan to go back to last year’s NaNo and finish that. And the year before. And eventually, I want to finish all my unfinished books and stories, which sadly outnumber the finished ones at the moment. There are a couple I’m content to leave as they are, because I know I can’t fix them enough to ever make them worth it, but there are only two or three of those out of sixteen novels I’ve written thus far.

Now… what should I write for next year? Time to get cracking, I’ve only got eleven months to plan for it!

Photo Shoot with Celeste

Celeste is a doll I have had a serious love/hate relationship with. She’s an SD-size (60cm) BJD, the Wind sculpt by Mirodoll, and at $120 plus shipping she’s definitely on the cheap end of the scale for her size. Unfortunately, that means she isn’t the best quality doll, either. I got her because I needed a female counterpart for Absinthe, my SD boy, and didn’t have much money to blow. When she arrived, I was not terribly impressed, but I knew that she’d need some work and I was willing to do the necessary modifications. I got off to a grand start, but when it came time to make new elbow joints I got frustrated and gave up. I put her back in her box and she sat on the shelf for a year before I decided to give her another go.

Originally she was meant to be one of my characters, a witch named Layla. It was not to be. Once I got her next to Absinthe, I didn’t like the aesthetics of the two of them together; her face is much rounder. I liked the face-up I gave her, though. I had bought her a brown wig, but when it arrived the color was too light; I got her green eyes, but Absinthe decided they looked better on him so she got the grey eyes he originally arrived with.  I had also ordered a new, all-black mohair wig for Absinthe… and absolutely hated it on him.

When I finally dug Layla back out I restrung her with better elastic, which helped. Then, on a whim, I threw the black mohair wig on her, and some glasses… and suddenly, she looked amazing! But she wasn’t Layla any more. She needed a new name, and I decided on Celeste. She stole Absinthe’s skull hoodie and refused to give it back. I hot glue sueded her joints, wired her elbows, and we set out in search of cemeteries on a windy day in mid-October to take some photos.

This ended up being my favorite photo from the shoot.  I found this amazing gravestone that matched her name perfectly. It’s a big black granite monument with a sun, moon, and star, and cutouts for each.

Celeste, a Mirodoll Wind, decked out in skulls and perched atop a celestial-themed gravestone.

Here she is peering through the star cutout. I took so many pictures of her.

Celeste, a Mirodoll Wind, peering through a star-shaped cutout on a black granite monument.Like all photo shoots, only a few came out so stellar I could share them. You can see the final cut over at Celeste’s album in my flickr account. Even though it was really windy out, I had a ton of fun. I can’t wait to take some of my other dolls on photo shoots.

ICON 40

ICON is a fairly small science fiction and fantasy convention held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This year was its 40th anniversary, and I was lucky enough to be involved in something wonderful: the making of our very own ‘zine during the convention!  I worked together with some folks from Obsolete Press and a librarian from University of Iowa, and we received much more interest and participation than we’d anticipated!

Making two-color hectograph copies of the cover image for a zine for ICON 40

Rich works on making two-color hectograph copies of the cover image for the ‘zine while I look on, and a contributor types away in the background.

I was in charge of the typewriter end of things. I provided several different typewriters for people to use to type stories and articles on, including two Royal Companions, two Smith-Corona Sterlings (one with a 6-pitch font), and two Smith-Corona Coronets (the Electric 12 got switched out for the Deluxe 12 the second day). Rich of Obsolete Press provided a working ditto machine and masters for people to type, write, and draw on. In addition, one drawing, which became the cover, was done as a two-color hectograph print as sort of an experiment.

Watching the whole thing come together, and the level of participation, was fascinating. I’m sure the decision to set up in the lobby instead of having it tucked away in a panel room helped. My greatest joy came from seeing kids — most of whom had never touched a typewriter before — tapping away at the keys of my typewriters. They seemed to prefer the electric ones (probably because the typing is closer to a computer keyboard — manuals need a lot more finger strength and effort). I got a lot of comments from older folks, too, mostly along the lines of “I haven’t used one of these in ages” and “it’s so nice to see people still using typewriters”.

Running off copies of my page on a ditto machine at ICON 40

I’m having fun running off copies of the page I made on a ditto machine. It’s an article on typewriters, of course.

We had two sessions in the lobby, and a lot of pages got run off as they were completed by contributors. Many people (including me!) got to crank out copies of their own page, which was pretty neat. I can’t wait to see the final project. I’m not sure how many pages we ended up with, but I know a heavy-duty stapler had to be purchased special just to put it together. 15 copies were signed by the special guests at the convention, including several award-winning authors. I can’t wait to receive my copy in the mail! Several of the signed copies will be going up for auction, with proceeds going to the Mindbridge Foundation, the people behind ICON.

In summary, I had a great time at ICON, and I can’t wait to do it all again next fall!

 

Recent Yarn Projects

I’ve been on a yarn roll lately, busting through my stash in the only way I know how: by making things! I discovered the existence of a local crochet club which meets Wednesday nights, and I’ve been using my time there to finish up some of my backlogged projects. About a year and a half ago I crocheted a clown fish for a friend’s baby (they were doing a Finding Nemo theme for the baby’s room) and I had plans to make a sea turtle and starfish to go along with tCrochet sea turtle and starfish plushieshe clown fish. They sat in my closet, unfinished, for the longest time before I finally got them out and finished them. I put the pieces of the sea turtle together last night, and added the eyes to the starfish. Now I can finally cross them off my list!

I’ve been finishing projects left and right. I started a ripple blanket several years ago and finished that two weeks ago; all that’s left is to add a fabric backing before it’s completely done. Then, to get the yarn out of my stash drawers because I had 7 skeins of it, I decided to knit a new fall/winter set. So far, I’ve made an infinity cowl. I have plans to make a mLacy knitted Bluebird scarfatching hat and arm warmers, and if there’s still yarn left after those, a pair of boot cuffs or leg warmers as well.

I also knitted a lacy scarf using a skein of unknown blue yarn I picked up at The Create Exchange. Rather than put it into my stash, I made something with it right away. Because of the small size, it was the perfect knitting project to leave in my purse, and most of it was knitted in waiting rooms or during my lunch break at work. It came out a little over three feet long, and drapes nicely.

I also got a new 7″ tablet to replace my Nook Color (which is getting on in years). I borrowed one from a friend while I decided if it was the one I wanted to get, and since it didn’t have a case, I crocheted one for it. Again, I dug into my stash and came up with a single skein of self-striping sock yarn in a discontinued colorway which was perfect for the projecCrocheted tablet covert. The stripes turned out nicely. I dug out a button from my stash, and after deciding it still looked a little plain, I got out my Lion Brand Yarn bonbons and whipped up a cute little flower in similar colors to spruce it up a bit. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when the case I ordered for it gets here!

 

And then there’s my growing list of upcoming yarn projects… I got a new bedspread so I need a new fleece throw for it, and I’ve decided to do a crocheted edging instead of a tied one like my last two fleece blankets have had. My mom asked me to make a baby blanket for one of her friend’s daughters who’s due at the end of the year, my sister wants a scarf, the assistant manager at work wants a scarf, I need to finish my own winter set, and I’m still plugging along on a t-shirt yarn rug for my basement workspace.

So many things, so little time!

Hatsune Miku Amigurumi

If that blog title looks like a foreign language to you, well… it is. Hatsune Miku is a popular idol singer in Japan, only she’s a computer program. She does concerts, produces music albums, and does guest appearances on Late Night with David Letterman (seriously, this happened). She’s part of a family of what are known as Vocaloids, personifications of voices from a popular voice synthesizing software developed by Yamaha.  But enough of that technical stuff. Miku is a cute pop idol with enormous teal pigtails, and my boyfriend likes her (he’s got a wall scroll, figurines, does a male version cosplay of her, etc.), so I decided I’d make him a Miku amigurumi. Originally it was going to be a birthday present last year, then a Christmas present, and, well, stuff happened and it ended up being a graduation present for when he got his masters degree.

There are a lot of Hatsune Miku crochet patterns on the internet — as I soon found out when I got this idea — but I ended up choosing this pattern as my favorite, because I guess I like a challenge. I had to use a cheat sheet of Spanish crochet terms to make it, but I think iHatsune Miku amigurumi crochet dollt turned out very nice. I used a worsted weight yarn, just regular 100% acrylic stuff. The pattern calls for much smaller yarn, so she turned out quite a bit larger than I was expecting, but he likes her and that’s what counts. Here, she’s lounging with some of his aforementioned figurines.Hatsune Miku amigurumi crochet doll

I made her head and arms back in December of last year, and didn’t get around to finishing the rest of her until this May. I’d say she’s about 14″ tall or so when standing up. Here she is standing, with better lighting. The pattern was very easy to follow (even in Spanish). I only made a few small changes. Doing her hair was by far the most challenging part of the whole thing. The rest was basic crochet in the round, with some minimal color changes. Fortunately, her outfit isn’t very complicated. I think the only thing I would change if I had the chance to do it over would be to make some color changes in under her skirt to give her underwear!

Tour de Fleece

Among the spinning community, while the bikers of the Tour de France are pumping their pedals, spinners are pumping the treadles of their spinning wheels. Being a new spinner, once I found out about this event I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.

Bird's Nest, my second handspun yarn using Shetland roving from Prairie Retreat FarmThe first couple days of the tour were spent finishing up spinning my second yarn, which I’ve titled “Bird’s Nest”. It’s a 100% shetland wool in a natural brown color. Three-quarters of it is done in 2 ply, and for the last bobbin’s worth (the 3rd skein down) I learned to chain ply (also called Navajo plying). I really like the look of the chain ply. Unfortunately, my spinning wheel did not like it. An upgrade to single drive with Scotch tension fEnglish Garden, my third handspun yarn using roving from High Prairie Fibersollowed, before I started spinning for Tour de Fleece. It made a huge difference in the way my wheel spins!

 

Once I finished spinning and plying my brown yarn, I rushed over to my local yarn shop, R. Rabbit’s Fiber Studio, and grabbed myself some new yarn, a beautiful painted roving braid of 100% BFL in a colorway called Delphinium. It’s a lovely mix of greens, blues, and purples, and it’s spinning up lovely. I call my yarn “English Garden”. Here you can see the roving at top, and the first two finished skeins (both chain plied, of course!)

I also promised that I’d show what I made with my first handspun, so here it is:

A knitted hood using my first handspun yarn

It’s sort of a hood… thing. It’s basically a big knit diamond shape with a button on one end and a loop on the other. It can be a hood, or a small cowl, or whatever. I’m not quite sure what I was going for, but it’s a nice display piece and the knitting shows off the yarn nicely. I’m still not sure what I’m going to make with my Bird’s Nest yarn (I’m considering an amigurumi spinning wheel!), or with the yarn I’m spinning now, but I’ll keep you guys posted!

Yukino (Fairy Tail) Cosplay

Back in mid-March I debuted a new cosplay outfit at Naka-Kon in Overland Park, Kansas, and never got around to posting my progress. There are still a few bits I need to finish up and tweak around (mostly trying to figure out the details for the shoulders on the cape), but for the most part I had it ready to go. Unfortunately, I forgot to get any pictures of it for myself, so I have to rely on posting a couple other people took of me until the next convention I wear it at.  I chose to cosplay the character Yukino Aguria from the anime Fairy Tail.

Yukino Aguria

Yukino Aguria at the Grand Magic Games

Yukino first appears in the Grand Magic Games, and is a member of the Sabertooth guild. Like one of the main characters, Lucy, she’s a celestial spirit wizard. Celestial spirit wizards summon spirits to fight for them. The spirits in the show are based on the 12 major zodiac signs, and the lesser spirits equate to different constellations. Since Lucy is one of the main characters, lots of people cosplay her, and I wanted to do somebody a little less well-known. I wanted to do one of the celestial spirit wizards because my boyfriend received a set of the spirit keys for Christmas. There are only a handful of celestial spirit wizards in the show: Lucy, Yukino, and Yukino’s older sister, Angel. I didn’t think I could pull of Angel and I didn’t like her character as much as Yukino. Plus, Yukino is becoming a more important character as the series progresses.

Front view

My Yukino cosplay: front view

Her main outfit is pretty simple; it’s her cape which is the most complicated. I found a white miniskirt at Goodwill and altered it to be a little shorter and tighter, and I sewed her shirt from scratch as well as her collar and cape. I ordered a white wig, and made a blue ribbon rose. The cape was quite challenging. I had to make six long”poufs”  which drape down from it, then there’s a shorter bit over the top with blue trim, and the white feathers at the collar. I had to go with feather boas for both. I still haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to do the white trim around the shoulder bits, but I hope to have them finished by Anime Iowa in July, and also come up with some way to keep the cape from slipping back on my shoulders and trying to choke me.

Yukino Fairy Tail cosplay with Lucy

Posing with a Lucy cosplayer

Here you can see a couple pictures of my cosplay. Above, there’s a view of the front of the outfit with my cape extended, and you can see the keychain hanging down from my waist. To the left, I’m posing with a Lucy cosplayer. Taking pictures with all the different Lucy cosplayers was very fun, as the two of them cooperate a lot since they control all the major zodiac keys between them. You can also see the poufs hanging down from my cape. I chose to go without her tights since I wasn’t able to find a pair in time, but I hope to have them for the next convention. I had a lot of fun making this outfit, and of course I learned a lot while making it. I can’t wait until the next one!