Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The North Remembers - House Stark Sigil Dress (Game of Thrones)

So, my husband's grandmother heard that I like sewing, so she gave me scrap pieces of fabric she had lying around. Or more like I got permission to rummage through her fabric cupboard and take whatever I wanted. She also told me that she has more fabric stashed away in the attic and I am welcome to rummage through that stash as well - suddenly visiting relatives doesn't seem so bad, now does it? :D

Anyways - New Year's Eve is here! So naturally I had to make something to wear (as if my closet wasn't already full of clothes...) My Lord of the Rings dress got such a positive response that I thought I could reach into the depths of my favorite fandoms once more and get some inspiration. And inspiration I got, oh yes. And I had just the fabric for this purpose, too. Something cold and blue, like the North...

It's one of the pieces that I snatched from my grandma-in-law's cupboard:

It's a nice blue/turquoise print fabric, and the only bad thing about it was that the piece was so small that I had to get creative, hence the other fabric lying on top of the print fabric. See, no matter how I measured and twisted the fabric, I couldn't get a long-enough half-circle skirt out of it and still have enough fabric for the top. So I cut a too short half-circle skirt and added a strip of fabric on the bottom to get enough length.

First, I found the sigil I wanted to use. I used this stencil from Free Stencil Gallery:

I put on a shirt with a high neckline to see the placement and measure the size of the sigil on the dress:

I cut out the half-circle skirt and the top pieces (plus linings for the top):

Then I attempted to make a cutout of the sigil on the front by drawing the sigil on the wrong side of the fabric, then placing the lining and the print fabric right sides together and sewing over the drawn line. I then cut out the middle part and pulled the lining through the hole, so the right side of the print was visible... then I tried to push and pull the sharp corners of the cutout in place. I tugged and shoved and cried and cursed - to no avail. The sigil as a cutout was a failure since the cutout image was too detailed and hence impossible to recreate on fabric in the way I attempted.

Above is the sigil sewn through the fabric and the lining, before I cut out the middle and tried to assemble the cutout image.

So I nearly gave up. I tossed the (now torn) top front in the trash, then dug it out of the trashcan a minute later because I realized I didn't have enough fabric for another top front. So I cut slivers of the print fabric and sewed them together to create another top front.

Then I set out to try another way of creating a cutout of the Stark sigil.

I lined the top pieces as I normally do (right sides together, leaving a gap at the bottom and pulling the whole thing inside out to reveal the right side) and then pinned the (slightly crumpled) sigil paper on the fabric:

As you can see it's on the right side of the fabric, and the lining is on the back. Then I simply sewed around the paper, through both the lining and the print fabric. It took ages, but finally I was able to remove the paper and reveal the sewed line on the fabric.

Then I cut the fabric in the middle out as close to the thread as I could, added fabric glue to prevent the edges from fraying and painted over with black fabric to cover up the edges of the fabric. If you have Fray Check or something else like that, it's probably better for this purpose than textile glue. I only had the glue and at the time it was so late I couldn't go buy anything else :D

So then I sewed the shoulder and side seams together to complete the top, top-stitched the armholes and the neckline, added a strip of gray fabric at the bottom to avoid flashing everyone, attached the top and bottom parts, hemmed the skirt and added a zipper. The usual stuff.

...And it was done. After seven or so hours of labor, it was finally done. (And I realized I had forgotten to eat, so I made dinner around 10 PM. Go me.)

This morning I realized I needed pockets, so I added them:

I cut out crest-shaped pieces, two of the print fabric and two of the lining. I sewed the pieces together, right side to right side, leaving a small gap. I then turned the pockets inside out, ironed them and top-stitched over the sides, closing the small gap. Then I simply attached them to the skirt of my dress and now I can have my cell phone in my pocket tonight in case I want to take pictures of the NYE festivities.

Rocking the new look:

I'm really loving how this dress turned out, even though it was a struggle at first with the cutout direwolf. Now I just wish I had an actual direwolf to go with this outfit ;)

So, what do you think of my Stark sigil dress? :)


Have a geek-tastic New Year's Eve, and remember to dress warmly because Winter is coming.


Monday, December 22, 2014

A kick-ass holiday dress made of tablecloth!

So last Christmas I got a Christmas/Yule* tablecloth. Bad thing about the tablecloth was that I couldn't use it when I got it, because it would have felt weird to add more Christmas decorations since Christmas was already done for the year. Also a bad thing was that I don't do tablecloths. And I mean it in the least dirty way possible.
*(Note, when I say "Christmas", I don't mean it in the religious way. It's just the simplest way to refer to this annual holiday, and though I'd rather use a neutral non-religious word, we'll settle for "Christmas". Or occasionally Yule. But anyways, no religious aspects here whatsoever!)

So anyways, a tablecloth. I am not a fan of tablecloths in general, and this was no exception. It's not a bad tablecloth considering it's a holiday themed tablecloth, but I knew it would probably never decorate the top of my table.

No sir, you are not going on my table!

But since the print was nice and not too tacky, I figured the tablecloth could, instead of a table, decorate me. Meaning, would it work as a dress?

I set to find out. After all, I didn't have anything to lose besides a tablecloth I wasn't going to use anyway.

Since there wasn't enough fabric for a full circle skirt, I opted for a half circle and cut it out:

Then I realized I needed to line both the top and the bottom part of the dress as the tablecloth was rather see-through. So then I cut up some of my husband's old dress shirts he had given me because he didn't need them anymore (they swapped to different color dress shirts at work a while ago so those white shirts just took up space in the closet...) I cut the front and the back parts of my dress, along with the white lining:

I then sewed the lining to the tablecloth along every edge besides the bottom one, right side to right side:

...then turned the pieces inside out to reveal beautifully lined front and back pieces:

Then I sewed some more strips of those dress shirts together to make a lining for the skirt part:

Once I'd attached the lining to the skirt and sewed the side and shoulder seams of the top (plus added some darts for a better fit), I attached the top to the bottom (right side to right side):

Then it was just a matter of sewing the still-open back seam together, adding a zipper, hemming the skirt and top-stitching the armholes and neckline. And as it turned out, what sort of sucked as a tablecloth kicks ass as a dress!


So, here's me rocking my tablecloth!

So, what do you think of my holiday attire? :)


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Unleashing my inner fangirl: Lord of the Rings dress

So, my local Goodwill had a holiday sale a few days ago. Everything in the store was -50% off. So naturally I attacked the fabric section and came home with a bagful of fabric - and no place to put it. The assigned spot for my fabric stash is, well, full of fabric. Well, then I decided I had to use some of the fabric I purchased right away, so it wouldn't take up space among the other fabrics. Logical, eh?

Denim is all the rage now, right? So when I found this very light blue (or light blue/gray) denim for 1.5€, I grabbed it:

Since it doesn't look like traditional denim (mainly because of the light color), I decided it would do well as a dress. It's not super thick denim either, but rather light yet non-stretchy.

So next morning, I sketched a rough pattern for a dress with a half-circle skirt as the bottom. I usually make full circle skirts because I like them best, but this time I didn't want there to be too much of fabric. See, I had a plan to add a stenciled picture on the hem, and if the skirt was full circle, the excess fabric would hide half of the picture in the folds when wearing the dress. So, half circle it was.

I found this awesome calculator for different circle skirt measurements. I mean, you can calculate them yourself pretty easily, but if you're lazy and suck at math like me, then this is your best friend. Essentially, I just needed the radius of the smaller circle (the waist part), and then I measured 55cm from the circumference of the smaller circle to make a skirt that falls just above my knees.

Here's a rough pattern of what I did, and please don't laugh at my Paint skills :D

Yeah, I'm aware that the sleeves are huge in comparison to the other illustrations, but meh. :P

I used an existing dress to measure out the top of the dress, so basically I just laid the dress I already had on folded fabric and cut out two pieces (with seam allowance) and then cut the front piece neckline into a V shape. I lined the neckline, added darts and sewed the shoulder seams together, but left the side seams open because I wanted to add sleeves.

For adding the sleeves, I used this amazing tutorial (the name of the tutorial is very descriptive): "How to sew sleeves without wanting to murder everything". Even I have learned to add sleeves without wanting to toss my sewing machine down from my balcony, and that's saying something :D

So, then I added a zipper and hemmed the sleeves and the skirt hem. And it was done:

So then for the stencil picture. As a background story to this, I just went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in the movies, and that was such a huge disappointment for me. So basically I ran back to my Tolkien books and wanted to hug them for comfort (maybe I did. Just a bit. Don't judge, okay?). And since the LotR movies were actually pretty good, especially in comparison to The Hobbit, I decided to pay tribute to them (but mostly the books. Oh, yes, the books.)

So I found this silhouette picture and figured it could be turned into a stencil:

So I measured the front hemline of the dress, enlarged the image, then drew the stencil in permanent market on self-adhesive book cover plastic. I actually held the plastic sheet against my laptop screen and drew it through. :D I had to adjust the stencil because the hem of the dress is curved, but that was easy - I just drew the hem curve on the plastic sheet first and then started from the middle and drew outwards, adjusting to the curve as I went along.

This is how the stencil turned out:

Then I just had to cut out the stencil. I used an X-ACTO knife and small scissors. When I was done, I peeled the book cover and attached it to the hem of the dress, then painted over it with black fabric paint. I waited a moment and then carefully peeled the stencil off the fabric.

Here's the result:

It turned out pretty damn awesome, don't you think?

Here's me rocking the new dress:

Really, really awesome.

So, that kind of a DIY project this time. :D

And the best part is, this dress was cheap.
- Fabric from Goodwill, 1.5€
- Zipper, 1.8€
- The thread I already had but can't be more than a few cents...
- I also had the self-adhesive book cover at home, but it's pretty cheap when you buy in bulk
- Black fabric paint, 5.90€/bottle. I used maybe like one fifth on this project, so ~1.2€
= 4.5€ plus thread and the self-adhesive cover, so maybe around 5€?

...still, CHEAP.


I can definitely see myself wearing this dress a lot. I don't usually go for the print stuff, but this is nice without being too aggressive. It's the perfect way to flaunt my adoration towards J. R. R. Tolkien. ♥

So, what do you think? :)


Monday, December 15, 2014

Oversized t-shirt + tunic = color block dress.

So, it didn't take me all that long to get in holiday mode and start crafting/sewing again. Really, inspiration struck me and so I sort of neglected to do the cleaning I was supposed to do yesterday... Oh well, there's still time :P

So I had this tunic that I thrifted a long time ago, but never used as-is:

So then I chopped it in half.

I then took the top part and laid it flat on a t-shirt I'd also thrifted because I needed an orange strip for my Pride top earlier this year. I cut a rough sleeveless top out of the orange t-shirt:

(...Maybe I should have ironed the orange shirt?)

Then I ripped the sleeves off of the tunic...

...sewed the side seams of the orange top, and inserted the sleeves:

Then, once the top was done I attached it to the bottom half of the tunic:


The waist part was a bit loose-fitting, so I also added an elastic band, and since I couldn't match the waist seam exactly it was visible from the outside. Since I am lazy and didn't want to fix that, I simply added a belt:

The dress is still a bit short for me (you know, giant), I'm still thinking about adding a strip of fabric on the hem to make it longer, but I didn't have anything at hand that A) would match the gray and orange fabrics and B) would be suitable material to sew on the hem. So I'm thinking about a trip to the Goodwill store to see if they have any nice fabric lying around.

Now I'm thinking about making a dress for Christmas. We'll see how that goes. :D


PS. If you have snow, send it my way, please. This no-snow December thing is so depressing.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Quick update: "it's alive!" (meaning, I am)

It's been a long while since I've posted anything... November was insane, studying-wise, so I mostly just studied, stressed, wrote essays, stressed some some, slept and repeated. Like that Tom Cruise movie tag line. Study. Stress. Repeat. Or something like that.

So this is just a quick update to let you know I'm not dead. In fact, my holiday break started a few days back, so now I can simply relax until January... and that relaxation was needed, I can tell you. Really, really needed.

So I haven't done much creative stuff lately, since I haven't had time and in my experience nothing kills creativity as quickly as stress. But hopefully I can get back to more sewing and such soon!

Anyways, here's some things I have done (or gotten done!) lately:

1) a new tattoo!

It depicts nerve cells on a sound wave. The two ends of speech process, or my vision of it. Nerve cells synapse in the brain, sending information to the muscles of the larynx, the muscles move the vocal folds closer and air comes out of the lungs, creating differences in air pressure levels which we then perceive as sound.

So, nerve cells and sound - makes sense, doesn't it?

I kind of wanted a tattoo that has something to do with my future occupation, and I think this is pretty good in that aspect. The above picture is taken on day 1, right after I removed the wrap, but I'll post better pics once the damn thing has stopped peeling like mad. :D


2) I finally had time to do some sewing again!

Stress + lack of time = me not doing any sewing projects. But the other day I spotted this picture online:

That shirt dress looked so comfortable that I wanted to do something similar. Luckily I had a piece of stretchy knit fabric that was striped. So I simply took an existing shift dress I had and used it to measure and cut out the pieces. I made the sleeves extra long because I never get to enjoy sleeves that are actually long. What with me being a giant and so on...

So here's the result:

It may not be the most flattering dress for my figure, but damn that thing is cozy. It's like a soft nightgown, but you can wear it outside your home! Like, you can actually go out into the society wearing it and it's completely okay. Comfortable and socially acceptable. Now that's a win-win right there.

Seriously. So comfortable.
(And yes, I'm standing on a chest because I was bored with taking pictures in the same places every time...)


So yeah, I just wanted to let you know I'm still alive and sort of kicking... although right now I'm mostly just kicking back and relaxing, because for the first time in two months I can actually do that. So once I've managed to get less sleep-deprived I might actually write more blog posts. But right now, I think I'm going to bed. At 10 PM. Yes, I'm that old.

Happy Holidays, people!

(extremely sleepy) scoundrel

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Voice Massage - what's that, then?

So, a while ago I posted a rather fierce rant about speech-language pathology (SLP) and how it's a valid field of academic research and so much more than just teaching correct pronunciation to preschoolers. (You can read said rant here.)

So, this semester we've had a couple of interesting classes about voice disorders and phoniatrics. I will post more info about those later, but in a nutshell voice disorders are disorders caused by organic/functional factors which fuck your voice up. Phoniatrics is a field of medicine that is specialized in staring down your throat to see what's going on down there (kind of like an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor but not quite). So, during the voice disorder classes our professor mentioned voice massage several times. I'd heard of it before, but now I really wanted to try it out.

Voice massage is a form of massage therapy that is aimed at the deep muscles that help us breathe, and the muscles that we use when we speak. It was invented in Finland in the 80's and has been a supportive therapy form for (for example) voice disorder patients, singers etc ever since.

Here's a brief explanation (which I stole from a voice massage site because they said it much better than I ever could):

"Voice Massage is a treatment that facilitates all muscle groups related to breathing and voice production by means of classical massage strokes. It is aimed at relieving tension in the muscles so that proper posture, flexibility, especially in the area of the rib cage and diaphragm, and over all relaxation will return. Breathing exercises and stretching may be used in addition. This tension release in body and mind is the prerequisite for balanced voice production.

The muscles that relate to voice production are in the middle and upper part of the body, the chest, the neck, the face and the head. Massage strokes are carefully applied in the area in question. The respiratory muscles and masticators as well as the tongue are treated."


Unfortunately there aren't many scholarly articles published about voice massage, but I managed to find one study in which voice massage had a positive effect on teachers' voices. You can find it here.

I have a normal, healthy voice (otherwise I probably couldn't be studying to become a speech therapist), but I have muscle tension in my upper body. And when I say tension, I mean TENSION. I honestly can't remember when was the last time my shoulders have been completely relaxed. I also have a tendency to hypertension of the voice, which means I do excessive muscle work when I speak. It's a bad habit, but luckily nothing irreversible. So I figured I could use a voice massage to release the tension in my neck area.

Picture from here.

I booked an appointment with a voice massage therapist that my professor recommended, and today I walked into my first voice massage, curious about what I had gotten myself into.

First the therapist asked some basic background info, mostly questions concerning my voice. Since I was there just out of curiosity and a mild case of hypertension, there were only a few questions. I told her I study logopedics and wanted to try voice massage and that I do seem to have some mild hypertension around my neck area.

Then I was asked to strip my clothes from waist up (yes, bra included, for those of you who are prissy about such matters), take off my shoes and lie face down on a massage table.

Even though I know the respiratory muscles and the anatomy and physiology of respiration, it still surprised me how low down on the back the massage goes. She massaged pretty much my entire backside from hips to neck. But it wasn't a regular back massage, like one you can get at any massage place. The pressure level was higher and concentrated mostly around the spine and a bit on the sides. She pressed down hard and I could really feel it in between my ribs.

The area between my spine and my shoulderblades earned me a few 'tsk-tsk' remarks. I was aware that I had some muscles in a knot around that area, but I had no idea they were that badly tensed. At first I started to feel slight pain in the muscles, but only after the spot had been massaged (the massaging itself did not hurt). I think it's because the muscles started functioning properly again. Like, "oh, so this is what it feels like when blood flows properly into the muscles!" :D

Picture from here.

The voice massage therapist made me do deep breathing exercises every now and then while she pressed down between my shoulder blades. It was the most amazing feeling when she lifted her hands - after breathing in and out deeply a few times with her weighing down on my back, I felt like I could float away when the weight was gone. And breathing felt so easy and light, it was amazing.

After she was done with my back and shoulders, I was asked to turn and lie on my back. She then massaged the muscles between my ribs also at the front (and yes, around your boobs if you have those, just a friendly warning if you're squeamish about that kind of stuff). Another set of deep breathing exercises followed while she pressed down on my sternum, and again when the weight was lifted I felt like I could float away as I took a breath in. Such an amazing feeling. I think I'll have to ask someone to sit on my chest every now and then so I can feel like that again when they get up :D

As my respiratory muscles were now mostly functioning, the therapist moved onto my neck. She massaged the superficial muscles and some of the deeper around the hyoid bone (the bone which your tongue is attached to) and around the cartilages of the neck. It was the funniest feeling when she massaged my tongue from the outside, below my jaw - I could feel my tongue moving but I wasn't the one moving it! :D Again I got some disapproving comments about the overall tenseness of the neck area, but the condition of my masseter muscles (the big ones in your cheeks which you use for chewing) really set her off. Apparently it's noticeable that I bite my teeth together when I sleep, and I should consider an occlusal splint (a mouthguard that prevents you from biting your teeth together when you sleep). I'll have to see to that.

After she'd massaged my face up to my forehead and temples, the massage was done. The session took around 75 minutes, but it didn't feel all that long. I was surprised to see what the time was when I got up from the massage table. The session cost 60 euros, so it's not the cheapest form of massage therapy, but it was so worth it!

See, when I got up I could feel myself breathing differently. The air went all the way down my lungs naturally, and my stomach expanded while my shoulders stayed put. And then I opened my mouth to speak, and it was a different world to me. Gone was the tense voice, gone was the occasional vocal fry at the ends of my sentences. My voice flowed out effortlessly and beautifully. I sounded like me, but a thousand times better. A nice, firm voice and not a hint of tension to be heard.

Picture from here.

I am so going again if need be. I enjoyed the massage thoroughly and I could feel the results immediately afterwards. My voice massage therapist told me not to thank her yet, though - she said that it's possible I'll be very sore tomorrow, especially around those muscles which are rarely stimulated by external forces (like the small respiratory muscles between your ribs). She also told me to drink plenty of fluids and avoid overexerting myself today, because this kind of massage therapy can cause you some weakness and weird feelings afterwards... naturally I promptly disregarded this advice and went to buy some necessities that had been on my shopping list for a while, like contact lens solution, hairspray and Q-tips. I also popped into a grocery store to buy something to eat today, so I was somewhere near the cheese aisle when the nausea and dizziness hit me.

A pro tip / note to self: when your massage therapist gives you advice, you'd better heed to that advice.

I took the bus home and ate and drank something, and then I felt better again. I can't really describe the feeling that hit me while I was shopping groceries, except for it felt a bit like when you've donated blood and feel weak and fatigued afterwards.

So now my plan for the rest of the evening is to sit on the couch and drink hot chocolate.

Picture from here.

In conclusion: voice massage is awesome and hot chocolate rocks my socks. How's your week going?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Logopedics? (Or "the loco-what-now?")

You all know that blank look that one receives when he/she says something that the other participant of the conversation doesn't understand.

You know, that vacated Homer Simpson stare.

I tend to get that look when I say that I study logopedics.

"The loco-what-now?", accompanied with the aforementioned blank stare, is the most common reaction I get.

So then I elaborate, "I'm studying speech-language pathology, to become a speech therapist."

To which the person in question throws this lightbulb answer: "Oh! So you'll be teaching kids how to say 'r' correctly!" (the /r/ sound is the sound which is the most problematic for Finnish kids.)

To which my reaction is:

*brb facepalming*

Okay, I get it. Most people only have heard about speech therapists that correct mispronounced /r/ and /s/ sounds - it's the only experience they have of speech therapists. It's only logical they would assume that's what speech therapists do.

It's true that speech therapists sometimes do articulation therapy. But it's only a tiny, miniscule part of what a speech therapist does. It's like the tiniest fish among all the fish in all the oceans of the entire planet. It's like saying that all a chef does is peel potatoes. Or that all a car mechanic does is change the tires of the car. Or-- Well, you get the idea.

In fact, with the current budget cuts and lack of resources, most speech therapists don't have the time to correct articulation problems that cover one or two sounds. Unless they seriously hinder the person's ability to speak or to be understood, articulation problems are seen as "cosmetic" problems.

So what if your kid's got an /r/ missing?
...There's that other kid with neurological problems who needs AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) methods, such as signs or pictures - as speaking is not an option in this case.
...That other kid who falls within the autism spectrum and is unlikely to ever actually speak at all.
...That kid with specific language impairment who hasn't uttered his first word at two years of age.
...That lady who had a stroke and completely lost her ability to speak.
...That woman whose vocal folds are paralyzed and she needs voice therapy to be able to speak louder than a whisper.
...That man with Parkinson's Disease, who will suffer from hoarseness of voice and possibly dementia and language loss later on.
...That kid with a developmental disorder which not only prevents her from ever being able to communicate with speech, but also prevents her from swallowing properly (so the first milestone would not be communication, but rather teaching the kid to swallow so she can eat.)

In comparison, that mispronounced /r/ sound is rather small of a problem, don't you think?

Picture from here.

So no, I'm not spending five years on learning how to correct /r/ and /s/ sounds. I'll be getting a master's degree in speech-language pathology (SLP). The five years include studying our own field, as well as phonetics, psychology, medicine and statistics (to name a few). When I get my degree, I'll (hopefully) have sufficient knowledge about neurological problems that cause issues with communication (such as dyspraxia, dysarthria, aphasia, CP, Down Syndrome, autism spectrum etc). I'll know what kind of language development is normal for a child and what is cause for concern. I'll understand the psychological aspects that affect human communication. I'll know about brain hemorrhages and lesions and strokes that can rob a person of their language skills, and I'll know approximately what kind of effect to expect if I know what part of the brain is affected.

Infarct that covers part of Broca's area, so that means difficulties in speech production rather than in reception. (Although I won't be looking at these pictures, the doctors will do that and then write a diagnosis for me. But it's still good to know where the language-associated areas are in the brain.)
Picture from here.

In short, I'm not in the front line with doctors when they are saving the person's life after a brain hemorrage or stroke, but I'll be there to do the aftermath, as part of the rehabilitation team. I'll be the one working with the person long-term, helping them regain their language or coming up with alternative methods of communication if all else fails.

Or I'll be there with the child with CP whose dysarthria, muscle tone and/or spasms prevent them from forming words, or doing signs, or pointing at pictures... so then it's up to me to find a method of communication that is possible for the child to perform - be it a button they can reach with their pinky toe (if that's the only part of their body they can consciously control), or a button they can bump with their left temple, or something like that. It requires knowledge and creativity to fix a communication method for someone to utilize.

That is what I'm studying. Communication. How to help people communicate when they cannot do so with words.

So even though I know I shouldn't be offended by people's ignorance in what I'll be doing when I get my degree, it still makes me grimace every time someone thinks I'll just be that speech therapist lady who helps kids pronounce things correctly. Because I'd like to think that what I do is far more important... wouldn't you say?

Picture from here.

So yeah. I'm thinking about doing some blog entries about SLP and stuff related to it. Let this rant be the first in the series. :D Next time I'll talk about some specific subject, but I felt it necessary to open up the field of SLP a bit before diving into it fully.

Let me know if you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions!