Month: January 2015

The Destruction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Last week I drove from Atlanta to Chicagoland to visit my mom. The visit was spurred on by my mom’s desire to put her house up for sale. This is not my childhood home. We moved there when I was in high school so consequently I really only lived there for about threeish year. She put her house up for sale a few years ago, but for various reasons, moving was a non-starter. We had gone through a lot of my old stuff previously but it was clear now that I needed to get serious and be ready to purge and say goodbye.

I opened boxes that had been taped since we moved. I was engulfed in some serious time warps. There were some casualties and calamities, the most notable being The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

In 7th grade, I had to do an academic fair project. We were not limited to science. We could also chose topics from social studies or math. I was fascinated with photos of intricate models of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World from my Childcraft Encyclopedia set. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon being my favorite.

(While prepping to write this entry, I went searching for the inspiration image of the Hanging Gardens that’s posted above. I did not realize that the photographs had nothing originally to do with Childcraft but were of actually models originally made for a Viewmaster reel! No wonder they looked so awesome!)

Luckily for me, the Seven Wonders were a suggestion on the fair topics list! I had to write a paper about the Wonders and I also had to create a visual display for the fair. photocopying some images from library books to slap on the three-sided board was not going to cut it. I had to create my own model of the Hanging Gardens. The task was set and the gauntlet of parental assistance was thrown.

My Dad ended up being the engineer of the project, suggesting that we build the Hanging Gardens out of foam core for both durability and lightness. He had previously helped me build a medieval castle out of sugar cubes and glue which proved to be nearly impossible for a wee Gretchen to get to school so transportability was key. I do remember a couple of simultaneously fun yet Dad maddening Sunday afternoons during which we built the Gardens. It turned out that some Maize latex paint that was leftover from painting some room in our house was perfect for golden glow the Hanging Gardens needed. My Mom was on the decorating committee, which made perfect sense since she was/is the green thumb of our family. We used silk flowers and leaves to make trees and plants. We also made small trailing strands of flowers to give the Gardens that signature “hanging” look. There were even a few real cactus plants on the top floor — for authenticity.

The formerly majestic structure!

I ended up getting a 2nd place prize for my project which both I and my parents took to be a gyp. I received a first the next year in 8th grade when my project was “The Science of Developing and Printing Black & White Film”. Once again, I was aided by Dad, as he happened to have everything non-perishable required collecting dust in a dark corner of the basement.

As much as I love the Hanging Gardens model, it has lost some of its flora and gained a lovely patina of dirt and dust. I took off the remaining trailing garlands and have them saved to use as trim on a hat or something. Or maybe just as a more space efficient reminder.

The Ancient Ruin.

My fascination with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World never really ended. I’ve seen fragments of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in the British Museum and the scavenged columns from the Temple of Artemis installed in the Hagia Sofia. I have not yet managed to see the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is the only wonder still standing — but I will! After I unpack more boxes, anyway.

In closing, here are a couple of mythological giantesses attacking the ancient structure.

Terrors of the Gods!

Pouches for Joeys

You may have read about the recent call for mittens to protect the healing paws of koalas burned in this year’s Australian bush fires. The appeal went viral and within a week, the IFAW had enough mittens (Mitten Accomplished!) for both this year and also (unfortunately, because more fires are inevitable) next year. I had planned on making some mittens. The pattern is super easy to make and uses small pieces of fabric. But the IFAW politely asked that if you hadn’t started mittens, would you please consider making pouch liners for joeys. Kangaroo and wallaby babies are also victims of the fires, both as victims and orphans. They convalesce in makeshift pouches. The preferred fabric is soft cotton flannel which happened to be on sale at Joanns. So I made 6 pouches in two of the five requested sizes.

All the Joey Pouches

Here is an shot of what I assume the pouch might look like in action.

Pouch Action Shot!

After buying fabric and paying the postage to Australia, I suppose it could be argued that I could have done just as much good by making a $25 donation to IFAW. While this might be true, I probably would not have even thought to do something without the call for making. Not because I don’t care, but because the call was something tangible I could do. I was just in Australia in November. I saw both kangaroos and koalas in the bush, steps away from me. I have never been as close, in nature, to any other “zoo” animals. It gave me all the feels. Also, koalas make crazy noises!

I hope my pouches help keep the joeys cosy and that maybe the prints I chose will entertain their caretakers too.

If you want to help out the animals injured in the fires, here is the link for IFAW donations. You can find the sewing patterns here.

January Crafty

Presenting my first crafty of 2015: a panel for the Fabulous Travelling Steampunk Yarnbomb. The yarnbomb is curated and based in the UK so I figured I’d try to make a panel that gave a bit of American flavor. It took me a bit to actually come up with what I thought was a good idea for my panel. When I finally thought of just making something Old Glory-esque, I also thought, why did it take me so long to come up with that idea!?

Steampunk America!

I did make some efforts to create a flag that was proportional to the genuine article but as I was not in a terribly exacting mood, it got wonky as I went on. I also ran out of the letter A, but found an acceptable sub in an upside down V.

When my mom was visiting over Christmas I was lamenting that I always want to sew during the holidays right about the time that there is no possible way I could get any crafting completed. For example, I’d like to make some of the cute advent calendars I see tutorials for but I usually think of this somewhere around December 20th when I remember I don’t have an advent calendar. Mom suggested that I do my Christmas sewing sometime in the summer. It’s true that there do seem to be lots of Christmas fabrics out around near Labor Day. That seems so lame though and also I’m usually in the throws of DragonCon sewing anyway. Since I don’t manage to undecorate until after the 12th Night (and before Valentine’s Day most years), I was still feeling in a holiday crafting mood even though Christmas 2014 had already ended. So I went ahead with a project I have been planning, Christmas Bunting.

I’ve had odds and end of various Christmas prints hanging out in my stash from a previous sewing bonanza. I thought bunting would be a perfect and cute way to use them up.

I managed to cut 8 triangles from each piece of fabric I had, out of maybe 12(?) various fabrics. I was awfully particular about the layout of the flags. I love the colorful bric a brac look I ended up with.

As you can see from the (admittedly crappy) photo below, I got a little zealous in my bunting making.

All the Bunting!

I really don’t know where I’m going to hang all this bunting but I think it looks damn adorable! I sort of want to make bunting for all occasions, or all occasion bunting — bunting that has 12 panels representing a holiday for every month. Perhaps 2015 will be the bunting year?

Speaking of a new year, I’ve started doing hot yoga. I did not so hot yoga several years ago. I had already planned on trying out something to reverse of some of ick from last year. I wouldn’t say that it is a resolution or anything. I just knew that trying to start a new exercise / lifestyle routine would be futile during Christmas party time. I don’t know if I am “hooked” on hot yoga but I like it enough to have paid for some classes in advance and also to buy my own yoga mat and towel. Now that I have my own gear I needed something to haul it around with. I used this tutorial from Sew4Home to make a yoga bag.

Yoga Bag Front with extra Deery Lou!

I didn’t want one of those tube mat bags because I also needed something that could handle my towel, sweaty clothes, etc. I think I read the tutorial wrong and made the straps too wide. I gathered them at the shoulder and that fixed the issue and it looks like a nice detail also.

Dragon (or bird or something) Interior Pocket

I added an inside pocket so I had somewhere for my driver’s license or other easy to lose objects. I used some home furnishing sample fabric that I had lying around and animal print cotton from the stash. I finished the bag off with vintage buttons. I feel a lot cuter walking out of yoga now because now I am a sweaty mess with a super fun yoga bag versus just a sweaty mess! Namaste Bitches!

All the things I forgot to mention from 2014, Part 1: Wizardpunk

Well happy new year! Hope all the holidays and whatnot went well for all of you. I had a lovely, if frenzied time. I am quite hopefully for 2015. 2014 wasn’t an especially wonderful year for me, although it was far from the worst. The fall was actually filled with quite a bit of fun and travel which is why this post is entitled “All the things I forgot to mention from 2014, Part 1”.

I previously blogged about my planned costumes for Dragon Con but I never showed you how they turned out. Well, in one case, they didn’t. I ended up dropping my Robin costume. I just didn’t have the time to make it properly. It’s partially cut out and I have have all the elements so it’s just waiting for the future.

Saturday was devoted to Wizardpunk. The idea behind it was, I thought, Dungeons and Dragons mashed up with 70s punk. But as I started to see other people in my costume group post what they were doing I started getting more confused what Wizardpunk was supposed to mean. This was a costume that I almost dropped instead of Robin but I decided to just go for it instead. I decided to make Wizard robes from cut up t-shirts. Some were mine and others were from Goodwill. My original idea was only to use black / metal / punk / somehow wizard related shirts. I did pretty good on that front but after cutting up umpteen tees and still not having quite enough panels I added in a few that weren’t exactly on theme but close enough. A couple of my Goodwill scores were a Harry Potter shirt that said “Speak parseltongue and carry a big wand”, another that said “Majik Water” (?) and finally a  XXXL shirt from a previous Dragon Con.

I used Simplicity 1582 as my guide. I cut the images and logos from the shirts and then zigzag stitched them together somewhat haphazardly into shapes that were close to the pattern pieces. When I had enough panels assembled I actually cut the pattern pieces out and then serged the entire thing together, leaving all edges raw. It was very time costuming and also simple and really fun. I was thrilled with how it ended up. Also, it was, by far the most comfortable and coolest (tempwise) costume I have ever made for DragonCon.

To further the Wizardpunkness, I made some accessories. I used clear plastic christmas ornaments to make some potion vials. I filled them with random things and used an old skool label maker to name them things like Unicorn Vomit and Yeti Pubes. I also made a goofy staff with some stuff from the floral department, various “punk” ribbons, a battery operated candle and some black duct tape.

Minions, Nature’s Bullshit and Yeti Pubes


Here are a few photos of my final look and our complete Wizardpunk group.

Wizardpunk by Leo Photography

“I’m a fucking wizard” by RBC Image

All the Wizarrrrrrds by RBC Image


I was also caught by DragonCon institution Atlanta Fashion Police!

Caught by Atlanta Fashion Police

As it so happens, I have continued wearing my wizard robes as a house robe. Being just a bunch of tshirts the robes are super comfy to lay around in. There were a few of my old band shirts I didn’t end up using for this project because I couldn’t quite bring myself to cut them up. Considering how much I wear my wizard robes, I wish I had. Wizardpunk has ended up being my most worn costume ever! Putting the robes on just makes me happy and my pup Uno likes to curl up in the big wizard sleeves. My mom just asked me if I would make her some wizard robes from some old favorite shirts of hers! Of course, I said yes. When I have them done, I’ll post a photo, hopefully of both of us being all magikal!