My natural cynicism makes me unreasonably grumpy about most holidays, but I do quite like Halloween. In particular, I like to dress up and have a reason to eat and drink to excess.
I also relish any excuse to try out a new craft, so I was very excited to try out a friend’s rather snazzy pumpkin carving tools. I started out by looking for inspiration on Google images and settled on Boo from Mario as my design. I started out by sketching it onto the pumpkin using dry wipe marker.
This gave me an outline to trace using a Stanley knife. Next was the fun part, using a tool I called ‘the gouger’ to dig out the sections where I wanted light to come through. You have to be careful if you have a complex design because it’s very easy to accidentally remove bits you’re not intending. Technical language: you have to be aware of the positive and negative space (this is also important in papercraft).
I am absolutely thrilled with the way this project came out, especially since it is my first ever crochet project and first ever blanket. The 8 bit design looks really effective with the granny squares and it’s really a very simple make.
You just need a lot of patience when it comes to the sewing up. My blanket is 16×16 squares. Making the 256 granny squares was incredibly easy and pretty enjoyable. By the end, each square took under ten minutes to make, so this was an ideal project to take on public transport.
The other great thing is the price. Normally I’m a real advocate for natural fibres, the more expensive the better (to the delight of the moths in my local area). However, this is a gift for my sister who is starting University this autumn. It really needs to be hard-wearing and machine washable. I paid less than £15 for all ten balls of yarn including delivery. Add in the cost of my fancy crochet hook and we’re still talking under £20 for something pretty amazing.
This won’t be a true how- to as there is already a wonderful Instructable that goes through the process step-by-step with loads of clear pictures. It’s more a document of how I made my own blankie.
1. Plan your project
Decide which character you want to make and how large your granny squares will be. Boo is a square design and the sprite I chose was 16×16 pixels. I crocheted a couple of granny squares to get an idea of the size they would be with three or four rounds. Crocheting a square and then undoing it also allows you to calculate how much yarn you need to buy. The Instructable has a really helpful spreadsheet template that helps you do all the calculations. Here’s mine.
My practice square, with a 1m tail to aid with sewing up, used 10m of yarn, which allowed me to work out how many balls of each colour to get. I probably could have got away with one blue, but I thought two colours would look effective so I got two blue balls. Hee hee, blue balls.
As a note, for future projects I will most likely pick designs that are no more than 10×10 pixels and make each square larger. 256 squares = 512 ends to sew in = misery.
2. Buy yarn
Thanks to eBay, I didn’t need to leave my house. Sweet.
I recommend getting all the colours from the same brand, so it’s more likely that the gauge of each colour will be the same.
3. Crochet granny squares
This stage went really quickly for me. I used the spreadsheet to keep track of how many squares I’d done and I stored them in bundles of specific numbers (e.g. I needed 88 white squares, so I stored 8 bundles of 11 squares each) to double check.
One thing to note is that if you’re not used to crochet, your gauge will probably change as you improve. I made my grey squares first and you can see here how tight my tension was when I started.
I considered re-crocheting them but couldn’t face it. Fortunately crochet’s quite forgiving so I don’t think you would really notice this in the finished object.
4. Sew each row together, then sew the rows together
I think the Instructable recommends sewing all the rows together first, before sewing them to one another. I went one row at a time, which felt more manageable to me. To sew two squares together, you lay the right sides together, then whip stitch along the edge.
I left long tails on each square and used these for all the sewing, which worked well.
Here’s how Boo grew. Check out my Tumblr for an animated version.
5. Sew in ends
7. Sew in more ends
There were SO MANY.
8. Look on in disbelief when you realise you’ve sewn in all those crazy ends
That’s the ends-less WS. This also illustrates that this blanket is basically reversible, I think it looks good on either side.
9. Crochet border
The Instructable recommends a single crochet in each stitch, then a half-double crochet in each single crochet. No, I don’t really understand that sentence but I did it. Be careful of the corners. I messed mine up the first time by not reading the pattern fully.
10. Add vanity tag
I embroidered this freehand at Crafternoon Cabaret Club, which is why it’s a bit wonky.
11. Revel in the joy of completed craft. You deserve it.
For non-crazy knitters, FO=Finished Object and not other, ruder, things that might have the initials FO. Anyway, last night I finally finished sewing the ends into my blanket! Here’s a picture of the WS to prove it.
After weeks of feeling like I was never going to get this done, the end came surprisingly quickly. I looked at my blanket properly for the first time yesterday and suddenly there was only a handful of loose ends remaining. Then, I looked again as I watched Seinfeld and it was over!
Full post coming soon, I just need to decide how I’m going to attach the label to it.
I’m going to pretend this is festive by saying that you could wear this Mario costume to a New Year’s party. If anyone from Nintendo is reading and feeling litigious, then any resemblance to your character is purely coincidental. I think that should cover me!
Here’s a pic of the finished cossie
Definitely not the most flattering picture of me, but it’s the only one where you can see all the elements of the costume. Isie, if you ever read this, don’t be annoyed that I covered you up, I just wasn’t sure you’d want your image used on here!
I’ve got a few pics of my process so we’ll start with the hat. Here we go!
You will need:
- Fabric or all-purpose glue
- Cheap red baseball cap
- White felt
- Scissors (proper sharp ones)
- Scrap paper and pencil
This was really very easy.
- Find an image of a Mario M online and use it to create a template on the scrap paper. To make sure it’s the right size, I found a circular object that looked a good size and used that to draw the large circle like so.
- Here’s my finished template
- I folded it half so I was sure it would be symmetrical, then trimmed it up a bit.
- Place the template on your felt and carefully cut around it. You could use a fabric pen to draw it on but I worried that it would stain the felt and end up looking dodgy.
- Now you just carefully glue it in place. My hat had a helpful seam down the middle so I knew the M was perfectly in the centre. Put glue just on the bottom of the felt and below the cut-out M. Carefully glue just the first half. This allows you to make adjustments more easily.
- Once you’re satisfied that it’s looking good, glue the rest and voila!
This is very easy. All you need is:
- Black felt
- Scrap paper and pencil
- Sharp scissors
- Tit tape
- Again, find a good reference image online and draw your template. The folding-in-half-for-symmetry trick works here too.
- Again, lay on your felt (pin if you wish, but I didn’t) and cut out
- I found that I had to trim this one a bit more- if you don’t pin the template, it can slip around a bit.
The ? Box
This was actually the most complicated part of the whole enterprise! Don’t bother with it if you’re stuck for time, though it does look very cool and you could use it to give a present to a nerdy friend once you’ve finished with it.
My box has two sides with ?s, two with brick print and the top and bottom are plain yellow.
You will need:
- Lots of paper. Preferably, coloured paper- 6 sheets of yellow, one orange, two brick-coloured and one black. Yellow wrapping paper would be ideal. If you don’t have coloured paper, you’ll need paint.
- A cardboard box
- Squared/graph paper
- Black permanent marker
- If you don’t have coloured paper, paint your paper and leave somewhere to dry flat
- Prepare your template for the ? Again, find a good reference image online. Since it is 16-bit, this actually makes this much easier. I used the squared paper so my dimensions were perfect. The shaded bits will be black and the rest, orange.
- Draw around your template onto orange paper and cut out carefully.
- Using the black marker, carefully draw and then shade in all the hatched parts of the ?
- Make another one. I love this pic.
- Using the squared paper again, cut out four pixels for each corner of the block.
- Stick the yellow paper all around the box, overlapping the corners so that it is completely yellow. You could also spray paint the box, I imagine, or use wrapping paper if you’re sensible.
- Hold your breath and glue on your ? and pixels
- For the brick pattern, you really only need the ruler and a marker. Again, a reference image helps.
- Carefully rule out your grid pattern with the marker. I used the width of the ruler for the brick and then the edges of the numbers for the black parts. This avoided some unnecessary measuring. Although I did measure a bit to ensure that the lines were straight.
- Colour in all the black bits
- Cut and stick to your box
- Some blue dungarees. I got mine cheap on eBay.
- Yellow Fimo (optional)
- White gloves
I created some little discs of yellow Fimo for Mario’s yellow buttons. This was slight overkill, so I’d only do it if you have Fimo lying around the house. You could also use stiff card.
Strut your stuff- you look like an awesome diminutive Italian plumber!
I’m posting about this as I think it’s interesting even though my sense of perfectionism/harsh superego (shout out to any psychoanalytically oriented readers!) nearly prohibits it. Recently, some friends and I went to a mosaic-making workshop. For somewhat obscure reasons, I decided on a Mario theme and chose the exact design based on the tiles available. Here’s my rather rough-around-the-edges finished productHere’s how this wonderful effect was achieved.
I laid the tiles down to check that dimensions were okay. The baseboard is just an old piece of MDF.
Step 3: High and dry
Leave your board to dry for at least an hour, so that the pieces of tile will stay solid when you start grouting. Looking back at this picture, I wish I’d used a darker colour of grout. Oh well, it’s all learning for next time.
Step 4: I’m a mosaic, get me grout of here!
Mix up your grout with water to approximately the consistency of toothpaste and then get messy. Smear it all over the place, using either a proper tool or an old credit card to work it down into all the gaps.Leave for about 10 minutes until it begins to dry, while you prepare a bowl of warm water and a sponge.
Step 4: Clean it up
Gently clean the grout from the surface of the tiles with your clean sponge, rinsing frequently. You’re just wiping off the surface, trying to keep all of the grout between the tiles level. This step takes ages, but you should be left with something like this.
Step 5: Polish
Just polish it up with a clean t-shirt and voila!