Saturday, 31 January 2015

Monthly Homework Assignment: On the Cutting Table

The Professor Z's this month's homework assignment is about unfinished projects we have, knitting, sewing and so on. My project is really not even in the beginning, because I've been really busy this week and had not time to find materials and right knitting equipment.

My friend gave me a brand new Finnish knitting book for goths and I really want to make some of their knitted clothes. Now that I have stated this in public, I really have to get those yarns! The book is made by Mila Duktig and Marjukka Vuorisalo, the title is Synkät kuteet - Musta neulekirja which means something like Grim clothes - the Black Knitting Book. Here is the blog of Mila Duktig and Marjukka Vuorisalo. It is mostly in Finnish, but there are entries in English too.


My ultimate favorite and the one I plan to try to make myself is Gargoyle. It is a long skirt that has a subtle print of a huge gargoyle on the hem. It is subtle because one does not use different color or yarn to make it, it is done simply by knitting purl stitches. I am currently in the United States due to things related to my studies, so unfortunately I do not have the book with me at the moment. I only took photocopies of quite awful quality of the instruction and they are not suited for showing in a blog. Neither can I find photos of the Gargoyle online. Instead here is one of the cutest products in the book, A Mustard Gas - sleeping bag for infants! I might try to make this too, since in my circle of friends there are going to be two babies in a few months.


Do click the Monthly Homework Assignment badge and check what Professor herself and other participants have posted! I am a bit annoyed I did not get the yarn in time for this post, but that's life. I've been in Washington DC for a week now and I have barely got rid of jet lag. My mission is to get that skirt with a gargoyle finished during my stay here! I am spending here three months, so I believe this is indeed achievable challenge for me. As long as I find some decent store where I can get me some cable needles and good black yarn. If you know or have a favorite place you can recommend, please mention it in a comment!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Goth Tourist in London: Terror & Wonder and other things to see

At the beginning of January I traveled to London with two friends. The main attraction was of course Terror & Wonder: The Gothic Imagination. This post is mainly about that exhibition but other things that might interest a goth tourist in London are introduced or mentioned at the end of this post!

One could not photograph in the exhibition but here is a commercial video of the exhibition and you can see tiny glimpses of the exhibition area. The atmosphere in the exhibition was not as spooky as in the commercial but the temporary constructions of the exhibition were goth-y and purple.

The first and best introduced object in the exhibition was The Castle of Otranto of Horace Walpole. Sadly this sometimes a bit absurd yet sinister novel is not as well remembered by today's goths as Dracula or Frankenstein but maybe this exhibition changed that a bit. I too got acquainted to The Castle of Otranto only when studying literature at a university.

For a literature student the beginning of the exhibition did not offer that much new information, especially of the better known classics but they were well presented. The only thing that slightly annoyed me was that when the subject was Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus they systematically used the word "monster" when concerning the creation of Dr. Frankenstein. In the book it is called Creature or Demon but very rarely Monster. Monster is a label it got from the movie industry. Frankenstein was filmed in 1931 and was part of the "Universal Monsters", because the same company (Universal Pictures) also made several films of Wolf man and Dracula.

My other friend was a bit disappointed of the final room of the exhibition. It was supposed to be about goth subculture today but it was just a few photographs of Whitby Goth Weekend. Nice photographs but still. I got the feeling that instead of being another item to show, today's goths were more like a "to be continued..." kind of comment on the whole exhibition. The things that fascinated people on the Gothic literature of 18th century are still fascinating us. Goth subculture evolves and is very diverse so trying to define it in one small exhibition room will most certainly get somebody angry or offended.

I took some photos in the museum shop, they had really invested in the products and the decor of the place! In the sealing there were huge keys, as you can see, because a locked space is a typical element in a Gothic novel and so are secrets behind locked doors and the heroines are often locked up.

The exhibition ended the 20th of January but the British Library is still worth a visit. First of all, there might be some of those awesome artifacts of Terror & Wonder still left on a discount. Secondly there is still a free exhibition Treasures of the British Library of famous books, there one can see Shakespeare's work and Beowulf manuscript.

Even though the exhibition is no more, London is a goth friendly city. The architecture is worth ogling, since many of London's great buildings represent the Gothic Revival architecture. Close to Charing Cross tube station is Cafe in the Crypt in the crypts of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Me and my friends drank some wine in there before attending a concert in the church. They played Vivaldi and it was an exquisite way to spend one of the nights in London. Classical music has many qualities a goth would appreciate, the drama, the violins, etc. so I do recommend listening to it in beautiful surroundings like the St. Martin-in-the-Fields!

On the weekends there are antique markets. I and my friends went to two, first was in Bermondsay Square on Friday, there were more real antiques and peculiar things. One person was selling three taxidermy ducklings. Their feet were flexible so that one can place them into different poses. Someway I was tempted to buy one but decided a duckling is a bit too cute to my taste, even if it is dead and stuffed.

The second place we went was the Portobello Road Market. There were numerous stalls with all kinds of things from tourist crap to vintage jewelry and antique prints of human anatomy. I bought myself two old prints of animals, goats that are clearly up to no good and disturbing rhinos. They are still in the protecting plastic, I plan to find ominous black frames for them.

We were in London only four days so I did not get to see everything I wanted but these were the things I actually experienced and can recommend to goths. There was also an exhibition of witches and witchcraft in art in the British Museum but it too ended some time ago.

Thanks for reading and next time it is time for The Curious Professor Z's Monthly homework assignment and after that I'll post another Creepy Reads Review of a story by Neil Gaiman!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

DIY: goth-y reflectors (or safety first but fashion is second!)

I must have a fewer or something, this is a second DIY post in just a few weeks! This post is about making goth-y pedestrian safety reflectors, also known as reflectors or luminous badges.

Reflectors are not necessarily so important in cities with bright streetlamps and neon signs but they are very useful in suburbs, small towns and in the country, where might not be sidewalks nor streetlamps on every road. As they say, a reflector is a pretty cheap insurance against being hit by a car or other fast moving large object.

Reflectors are like bicycle helmets, at some point people'll think it's "uncool" to use one. Well, if the reflector is really nice and cute, it is no longer so uncool.

What you need:
- a felt cloth: the size of a normal A4 printing paper will probably do
- luminous/reflecting fabric
- some yarn
- a safety-pin or two, depending on how many reflectors you make
- some thin thread or a flat iron or both
- paper and pen if you want to make a template
- scissors or some other instrument to cut

I chose black felt (no surprise there) but of coarse there are many other options, like blood red or emerald green and so on. The reflecting fabric is the color it is, there were no options in my local store. I somehow doubt there are any options in general, the point of it is to reflect light.

When making a reflector suitable for a goth, the shape of the reflector matters. A spider is an easy shape but more talented person could even make a scenery of a cemetery or a profile of E. A. Poe! Knowing my own limits, I chose to make two bat-shaped reflectors.

Since I wanted bat-shaped reflectors I first folded a normal paper to draw half of a bat and then cut it so that wings would be somewhat similar size. I must say I am quite pleased with the shape, even though the other ear is bigger than the other. I have no idea how but luckily it doesn't really matter.

After making a paper template I used it to draw on the back of the reflecting fabric. If you want a really useful reflector, you'll want the both sides to be luminous, so you'll need two identical (or not if you do not want the both sides to be alike) pieces of reflecting fabric.

Because I am not that crafty person I do not have all kinds of crafty tools so I used ordinary scissors to cut the felt and fabric. A carpet knife would be more precise, or one could even use some other cutters made into ornamental shapes (at least that is what they suggested in the tag of the reflecting fabric).

I did not bother to draw bats on the felt too, instead I cut out a piece that was big enough for the reflecting bats. I left some margin on the felt so that the black color would also be seen and so that the rims might protect the reflecting fabric and it would not wear from the edges. When the reflecting fabric is attached, one can cut the felt into the proper shape.

It is also smart to leave a little more edge to a small area so that you can pull the yarn through there. The point of the yarn is that you can attach the finished reflector to your clothes. Of coarse I managed to forget this while cutting the first one and I am now a bit worried the felt is not thick enough and is going to be ripped if the reflector is ever caught into something.

Some of those reflecting fabrics are equipped with a coat of glue, so that you can iron it to another fabric. Some also have a detachable film so one does not need a cloth between the reflector and the iron. After ironing the film is gently detached.

So, depending what kind of reflecting fabric you have, you might be able to attach it to the felt with heat. Reflectors are usually smaller than the face of a flat iron so try to hold the felt from a corner with another hand while ironing. Felt can have static electricity and get attached to the iron if you are not careful. Believe me, it is not pleasant to try to pick it off. Especially if you panic like I and do not use any tools instead of bare fingers...

I found a fabric that has glue surface on the other side but the salesperson suggested it might be a good idea to make a few stitches to make sure the fabric won't detach. That is why one needs the thin thread. As you can see from the photo below, my stitching skills are equal to the skills of a three-year-old. So, one out of two reflectors looks a bit crappy but luckily one can not see it from a distance.

If you use thread to attach, make sure the needle you are using is thin, so that it won't shatter the reflecting surface, if it is made of stiff material (plastic-like stuff). You also might want the thread to be more subtle color or perhaps fishing line, so it would not look like ugly stitches like on my poor bat. It looks a bit like Frankenstein's creature, so I'll just claim that was the point.

When the reflecting piece is made, one has to attach it to the clothes, so one needs the yarn and a safety-pin, as mentioned before. It's a good thing that a reflector can spin around freely, because then it can reflect light from various angles and that way it is more safe because it can reflect light the light of cars headlights in various distances and various directions.

Here you can see that I've attached one bat to the sleeve of my coat. The other bat is on the other side hanging from the hem of the coat.