{ Under The Bluegums }

DIY: Quick Princess Leia 'A New Hope' costume for GeekFest 2015

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While I didn't really have a plan for a costume for our cosplay at the GeekFest 2015, after hubby decided he'd go as a Jedi, Princess Leia seemed the appropriate choice, seeing as she's the only woman worth any mention in the original trilogy and seeing as we could dress Emma up as an Ewok. I wanted to wear the outfit Leia wears on Hoth, it would have been more time-consuming than the two hours I used up to make the outfit she wore in 'A New Hope'.

I was inspired by this post on StarWars.com for a very quick outfit to be done at short notice, since I spent most of the time on the Jedi cloak and tunic. Emma's Ewok outfit, however, took an even shorter time to complete. Let me know in the comments if you'd like a tutorial for her Ewok costume (cuteness guaranteed!).

I obviously altered the StarWars.com pattern a little as I went, since I didn't actually have it open at the time I was sewing it. As a result, it doesn't have the hood, but it has wider sleeves and the polo neck seen in the film. Here are all three of us on the day:
All I used for the outfit was two men's shirts. If you plan to do a similar outfit, use a t-shirt that is wide enough between the seams of the armholes (A) to fit around your hips and waist to use as the skirt. This t-shirt should also have short sleeves.
The second t-shirt, which must have long sleeves and a v-neck, should be wide enough for you to gather it a bit at the bottom to allow it to billow over the belt. I made mine a little too narrow but I don't like huge puffs of fabric around my waist, so it really is a matter of personal preference.

The skirt is also a little too short in comparison to the one in the film, so if you have a third shirt that is much bigger than the one you used for the skirt, you can add an additional section to make it longer. My belt was also too wide but I had given my narrow one away, thinking, of course, that I was never going to use it, haha.

So, steps. I apologise for the lack of images; I worked on this late at night and you know what happens with hastiness... If my instructions aren't clear, please feel free to contact me!

For the skirt:

1. Lay out the shirt to be used for the skirt. Cut off the sleeves as close to the seam as possible and then cut across as close to the bottom of the neckline as possible.

2. Fold in half and mark the side of what will be your skirt with a fabric pencil. You will be drawing a straight line from the shoulder seam parallel to the armhole seam and then you will taper your line down to the side seam of the shirt. Cut once you're certain (Unless the t-shirt is very big, mistakes will be costly), leaving the bottom hem intact, as this will be the bottom hem of your skirt.

This is in essence what you will be aiming for:
3.Sew the side seams up.

Notes: Feel free to cut off the bottom hem of the t-shirt if you are adding another section. All you'll need to do is cut the bottom section off the third much larger t-shirt depending on how much longer you want the skirt, taper the seams to match with the skirt, seam, and attach to the bottom of the skirt.

For the bodice:

1. Put on the skirt and the second shirt, measuring where you would like the waistline for the dress. Mark the shirt at your waistline with enough give for a hem.

2. Cut straight along the shirt at the point you marked off.

3. Set your sewing machine to it's widest stitch and sew a line or two of gathering stitches along the bottom of the shirt.

4. Mark the centres of the t-shirt and your skirt; pin the side seams of the shirt and skirt together; and begin to pull the gathering stitches until the centres of the skirt and shirt match. Pin and sew over the basting stitches. Remember to remove these stitches when you've sewn your waistline seam.

Notes: When I tried the shirt on at this point, I didn't like how low the armhole and shoulder seams hung on my arms. I actually cut off the sleeves, made the shoulder seam narrower, and reattached the sleeves. This also really depends on your personal preference and time constraints.

For the polo neck:

1. Cut off the ribbing around the neck of the bodice t-shirt as close to the seam as possible.

2. Mark the centre of the back and front necklines with pins. Now take one of the sleeves you cut off from the short sleeve t-shirt.

3. Pin the sleeve seam to the centre of the back neckline and the point of the upper sleeve to the centre of the front v-neck. It works better if you work from the centre back down to the v-neck for each side of the neckline. Sew it up.

For the wider sleeves:

1. Decide how much wider you want your sleeves to be. This also depends on how much fabric you have left over from your bodice t-shirt.

2. Mark an isosceles triangle into the leftover fabric, with the uppermost point being the length of the point in the sleeve where you want it to be wider.
3. Cut the seams of the sleeves to a little less than the height of the triangle.

4. Pin and sew first one side of the triangle to the sleeve opening, and then the other.
5. Neaten the seam by matching the two seams of the triangle and sewing straight along the original sleeve seam.

6. Repeat with the other sleeve.

7. Put on the dress and mark the point where you want the sleeves to reach on your wrist. You can simply cut across the bottom of the sleeve at this point, securing the seams, or you can seam it. I left it with no seam.


And that's about it! I just added an old brown belt and knee-high black boots. However, if you want the look to be more authentic, you'll need white boots, something I'm not brave enough to purchase! :) I do have a pair of white pumps, which I was going to wear with white trousers under the dress, but the boots looked better. I doubled up on layers as well because the white shirts were pretty see-through. If you have thin hair like me, you may also like to purchase a wig with Leia's iconic buns already on, but this all depends on how much time you have on your hands. If you have more time, you will most likely purchase the correct amount of fabric, all the correct notions, and have everything you need to replicate the official look.

I am actually really chuffed at how well the outfit turned out; how well everyone's outfits turned out, especially since this is the first time I've ever done cosplay. What do you think?

{Image credit: By The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (WonderCon 2012 - R2-D2 and Princess Leia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

Forget stranger, danger - the threat is likely in your own home

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By Jeppestown [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
June 30, 2015

When I was younger, I was, as many other young children were, taught that strangers could be dangerous; that strangers were not allowed to touch me; that I should never trust strangers to take me to my mom; that sort of thing. But parents are too afraid to admit that the danger is - has statistically been proven to be - much closer than strangers.

Research has shown that eight out of 10 children (Another site claims this number is really 90%, while 68% are abused by members of their family) who have been sexually abused knew their abuser. This mean it's family members, friends, neighbours, teachers. I personally know at least three people who have been abused at the hands of a family member, and it is exactly because parents trust these people that this kind of thing can happen.

DIF Zapopan has created a series of public service announcements warning people of this fact. Called 'Some things are hard to see', the campaign's advertisements feature various abusive situations between children and family members. They are heartbreaking and cut you to the core.

Here is one of the PSAs (click here to watch the rest):

The fact that abuse does not usually occur by strangers is more commonly known since I was a little girl, and yet sexual abuse of children is still rampant. Sexual child abuse in South Africa is often a point of conversation. A simple Google search (for young girls only) reveals news story upon news story of minors being raped by people in their community. It is scary to think that very often, familial child abuse often goes unreported because the child - or the family - is too afraid to say something.

Children's minds are not fully developed yet, and this is why it is so easy for abusers to take advantage of them. Often children will not tell anyone what happened because they felt ashamed, didn't think they would be believed, were threatened not to tell by the abuser, or didn't know that what was being done to them was wrong.

This is where I believe parental communication is of the utmost importance.

Planned Parenthood believes talking to children about sex in early childhood is a good idea. It makes sense that the knowledge parents impart to their children about sexuality will help them make good decisions for themselves and their bodies. Much as a parent would tell a child why jumping off the side of a cliff into an ocean below is dangerous, parents need to equip their children with the knowledge they need to make decisions concerning their own safety sexually. This knowledge would include what makes a relationship or action good or unhealthy and a child will be aware when something is being done to them that is not right. (Watch this video if you feel uncomfortable talking to your child about sexuality.)

Many communities believe talking about sex is taboo but I think this is like sending your child into a jungle without any survival skills. Even abstinence-only education is flawed, making teens who have been sexually abused feel worthless and dirty.

Having an open and honest relationship with your child will not only help you to impart your knowledge from your own mistakes to them, but will also instill trust in them - something necessary if you want them to tell you if they are being abused. You want to know if your child is hungry, don't you? So why wouldn't you want to know if someone is hurting them?

Note: This [PDF] from Unicef South Africa is a helpful guide for parents about sexual abuse, what they should look out for, and what steps they should take if their child has been abused.

{Image credit: By Jeppestown [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

DIY: Pegged! Scarf organisation

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June 27, 2015

I don't know about you, but I love scarves and as a result, I have about 20 or so. But how to store them? If you have an open space somewhere in your closet, why not try this idea - it's quick and easy!

CEOSleepoutZA: Congrats on the money, not so much the idea

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June 24, 2015

I know it makes me sound bitter and unappreciative of the funds raised and effort that went into planning the recent CEO Sleepout in South Africa, but I really struggle to understand the idea behind it.

Not only do the CEOs of major companies - who earn millions of rands a year - sleep outside in conditions nowhere near those that actual homeless people experience, they are sleeping out to raise money. To me this just seems a cyclical error. Those with money urge other people with money to give them their money to help a social cause.

I know that many civic organisations would never survive without the donations and assistance of major corporations and individuals alike, but the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Sleepout is ridiculous.

After the photos of the event were published, the hypocrisy of the matter just unnerved me. The whole thing reads like an allegory of privilege.

All the campaigning and advertising for the event dripped with the names of the sponsors. The event's website asks: 'Do you have what it takes to rise to the challenge?' Well, is the challenge sitting outside in the cold pretending to be a homeless person, or 'winning' the event as the biggest fundraiser? It was certainly not difficult to 'experience homelessness', especially not for the CEOs who took part n this event, so the challenge must have been making a name for oneself as the biggest fundraiser.

Then, there was a wonderful welcome event held at the Maslow Hotel - where the cheapest room is a mere R2,011 a night - just before the fundraising was to start. Although I am only making assumptions about the details, I can see how this event would have consisted of welcome drinks and hors d'oeuvres, while CEOs clutched hands in greeting and networked.

After this warm-up event, the CEOs were given sleeping bags by Virgin Atlantic and allocated their specially designed cardboard chairs that folded into beds within the cordoned-off and guarded section of Gwen Lane where they would 'sleep under the stars'. Because saying 'sleep in a cardboard box in the bitter cold with nothing but the clothes on your back' wouldn't sound quite so romantic.
The participants arrived prepared, of course, wearing the warm outfits they perhaps purchased for expensive trips to wintry Europe that, oh yes! no homeless person could ever dream of embarking upon.
Some CEOs 'braved' the cold in their entertainment kiosk, walking on the soft padding of what appeared to be a mini-golf course.
And heaven forbid they get bored! With PJ Powers and their trusty cellphones, they can still have fun!
And, at the end of the night, a reward: A hot beverage and a gift bag.
The irony of the matter was not lost on Twitter users, who commented on the hilarity of the rich and privileged in the country sleeping out to experience only an iota of what homeless people go through and inspire others to donate money so they can 'win' the event as its biggest fundraiser.
I humbly understand that this platform has raised the most for a single charity ever in South Africa's history but there is something wrong with a society that needs a privileged person to pretend to be unprivileged for one night to get donations rolling. To me the Sleepout was a mere parody of what it means to be homeless. The donors could just as well have sat in an auction room and tried to beat each other in terms of amounts. All of the ridiculousness of CEOs sitting around coal fires, in onesies and wearing the warmest clothing and lying in the comfiest sleeping bags and browsing the web on their expensive cellphones turned the evening into more of a marketing event than anything else; marketing for the CEOs who took part and their companies and for the major sponsors Sun International, Stuttafords Van Lines, Talk Radio 702, and Virgin Atlantic, and other brands whose logos appeared on the official stationery.

And right at the bottom of the rung, the fact that there are really homeless people out there was completely negated by the fact that these CEOs were given a fun time of it all. As Megan McLean of the North Eastern Tribune said, the aim of the event was not to be fun, but to change attitudes. And no amount of fun will change any number of attitudes.

DIY: Embroidered Drawstring Pouch

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June 20, 2015

The simplest and quickest way of ploughing through your fabric pile is to make pouches. And you can really make them pretty with embroidery details.

I have made several pouches recently, and though they are pretty without embroidery, adding a little detail turns it into something special. In addition, it's the simplest way to rid yourself of that pile of fabric and you can use your creativity too to come up with your own designs.

Pouches can be used for anything from gift packaging for that special someone to handy shoe holders, jewellery storage, and linen storage.

These look especially pretty if you use a transparent fabric such as voile or netting.


What you'll need:

Design of your choice
Fabric of your choice in the shape of a rectangle
DMC thread in the colours you need
Embroidery frame that will hold your size of fabric
Embroidery scissors
Embroidery backing (if you're using an opaque fabric)


1. First put the centre of one half of your rectangle into the centre of your embroidery frame. It doesn't have to fit perfectly; it's really just to ensure that your design does not become too distorted.

2. Embroider your design. Use shadow embroidery techniques to hide the end of your threads if you're using voile or a similar fabric.

3. Prepare your fabric to be sewn into a pouch. For transparent fabric you can choose to overlock the edges but some may prefer not to, as the stitching will show through the fabric later. You'll have to judge for yourself whether a visible serger is worth preventing a fabric prone to fraying from doing just that. (Personally, I've foregone the overlocking - even on transparent fabrics - as it appears neater to me.)

4. There are two ways to sew the pouch together. Either: fold over the top seam about 1cm and sew it closed, leaving a gap large enough for the ribbon you want to put through (this is not a very neat way of making the pouch, but it is likely not to be noticed). Then fold your rectangle in half and sew up the bottom and side of the pouch, leaving the ribbon casing loose.

Or: Fold the pouch over about 3cm. Sew about half a centimetre from the fold at the top of the pouch, and then another half centimetre from the bottom of the folded fabric, depending on the width of your ribbon. Sew the bottom of your pouch and then sew up the side up until your topstitching at the bottom of the ribbon casing. Then sew up the rest of the side seam above your top topstitching, leaving the gap open for the ribbon.

5. Put one end of your ribbon into a safety pin and push it through the ribbon casing. If you've followed the second technique for sewing up your pouch, push the safety pin around to the front of your pouch (i.e. through the middle of the four layers of fabric).

6. Tie your ribbon in a knot at one end.

And you're done! Keep a look out for a tutorial for a simple way of making a lined pouch!

Jurassic Park: My Top 11 Favourite Moments

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June 12, 2015

I am almost squealing in anticipation for 'Jurassic World', which starts this weekend. I haven't been so excited, indeed so eager to watch a film at the cinema in so long I can't even remember.

Just Read and Watched: Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

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June 10, 2015

This delightful and scandalous novel is filled with snobbery and malice, and it is also deliciously sinister, especially coupled with the film version.

DIY: Found object bottle frame

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June 6, 2015

Whenever I go to the sea, I cannot help picking up shells and stones and other objects along the beach, and keeping mementoes of special moments. All these items usually end up in a box somewhere, but what about displaying them?

Just Read: The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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June 2, 2015

Elizabethan British history is one of my favourite escapist topics. For all my annoyance at the concept of royalty and my desperation that Emma doesn't turn out to love princesses, I enjoy reading about princesses, princes, queens, and kings all too much. Plus, my guilty pleasure is imagining their completely impractical yet exquisitely embroidered clothing.

DIY: Stained Glass Bathroom Light

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May 29, 2015 - 
I was looking for something unique for our bathroom after I gave our bathroom a makeover. I looked at chandeliers and globes, flat bulb covers and even paper shades. But I was inspired by Moroccan lanterns with their geometric designs when I decided to use stained glass paint and lead to design my own shade from our current glass shade.

It's one of my favourite touches to my new bathroom, and it really is simple to accomplish.
What you'll need:

A glass bathroom shade
Heritage lead liner
Glass stain or paint (I originally had a Martha Stewart glass stain, but it was not dark enough for what I needed. I used Heritage glass stain instead.)
A paintbrush
A pencil
A ruler
Your design (I used a modified version of this design)

1. Divide your bathroom shade into quarters using your pencil and ruler.

2. Draw your design onto the shade. I modified an image I found on the web of a circular Moroccan design with fish to match my mural. Remember that if you have chosen a geometric pattern you will need to make sure the pattern is the same, or as close as you can get, in every quarter. 

3. Using the lead, trace along your design. Be careful of smudging the lines. Wait for the lead to dry before you paint in the lines. I left my lamp for a day. Once it's dry, you can erase your pencil lines if possible, because they will show through the paint.

TIP: If you have a shade design printed on paper and have a clear glass shade, tape the print on the inside of the shade and use that as a guide when you do the outlining.

4. Paint in between the lead lines. If you are using a pearl lead as I did, take care not to paint over the lead itself as it will show. Decide on your colours beforehand, as there's no way to undo the glass stain.

Once your paint is dry, hang up your shade and enjoy your work! The stained glass look will make the light more muted and may also cast pretty colours around the room.

Beauty Treatments and Insecurity: How the Fug Makes You Do It

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May 27, 2015

Practically with a weapon pointed at my head, I was told to 'have my feet done' today. Unfortunately, I am blessed with chronically dry heels, which no amount of home treatments, rubbings, soakings, or torture can heal. Strangely, though, a pedicure at a salon does wonders (I believe it's the fact that they're getting attention at all that saves them). But as I sat in the fug of acetone and the overwhelming scent of nail vinyl, I found myself considering having my nails done and wondering whether I should go have a haircut and style.

Now, if you know me, these things are not my forte - I prefer to seem resiliently unconcerned about matters of beauty. Strangely though, I felt more swayed by the beauty industry as I sat in that seat than I am looking at any amount of advertising.

Why was this so?

Was it because I was literally high from the fumes and thus entirely impressionable? Was it the wilting posters displaying bottles of nail varnish that piqued my interest? Was it the combination of this dizziness and the euphora of being amongst my own sex that contributed to the emergence of my subconscious desire to be beautiful?

Or... was it the shifty and sidelong glances of the other women receiving treatments - all of whom had hair impeccably styled and coloured and were sitting having false nails pasted onto their fingers - that inspired this feeling?

As I sat on a chair with my pants hiked up to my knees and my feet dangling in a foot spa below, clutching my unsightly fingernails deep inside the sleeves of my cardigan, and unbearably aware of my fly-away hair and clean face, I felt as insecure as a first-time bungee jumper.

You may wish to write this off as nerves but it's not as though I've never had a pedicure before. No, it was indeed the feeling that I did not fit in with the ladies having their weekly treatments done that caused me such a feeling of dis-ease. It was as though I were causing their own dis-ease by merely placing my unkempt self in their presence.

This situation is exactly what is meant when women say they feel pressured to care for their appearances. I hazard to guess that men are relatively unconcerned at the everyday appearance of their women, though they will judge a woman they're interviewing for a job. But it is other women who present the most pressure: these other women look successful, paying for people to scrape away their dead skin and put plastic on their nails. They look healthy with the glow of artificial chemicals on their faces and their hair treated with questionable proteins and more artificial chemicals. There was not a single man in that room and yet I felt the pressure to make myself keep up a feminine appearance and make myself meet the beauty standards that everyone in the room was adhering to.

This concerns me the most as a mother of a daughter. I cringe inside every time I hear myself tell her she looks pretty. I desperately attempt to mention other reasons why she is so amazing, but why is it that 'pretty' is the first thing I turn to? I don't want her to grow up believing that her appearance is the only thing that is important as a girl and as a woman. I want her to know that her value goes beyond the physical plane. I want her to feel loved just as she is by everyone in the world.

But how do I do that when other women - who may become some of the most influential people in my child's life - will judge her for not racing to the pharmacy for that stick of lipstick?

{Image credit: By Fing'rs (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fingrs/4080069679/) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

Just Read: Veronica Mars - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Audio Book)

May 14, 2015 - 

All the angst, witty remarks, danger, drama, friendship, mystery, and crazy twists of 'Veronica Mars' in convenient audio book format!

And then Hitler trended on Twitter

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See page for author [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
April 29, 2015 - 

South Africa has been fraught with tension for the past few weeks. Attacks on foreigners have been making a poor impression of us all around the world, and the international opinion of South Africa is seemingly in a downward spiral as our leadership has done nothing to stifle the xenophobia - if anything it has stoked the fire.

And then Adolf Hitler trended on Twitter.