Turn a Pillow Sham and Tablecloth into Renaissance Faire Costumes

Like most of my projects, I got in over my head. It started with a large, fancy tablecloth, probably discarded from a hotel or restaurant, and an ornate pillow sham, both of which I found for 50% off at a thrift store. As soon as I set eyes upon them, I began to imagine the potential. Our renaissance faire trip was quickly approaching, and that fancy tablecloth could make a great cape for my daughter, and the pillow sham could surely be transferred into something “knightly” for my son.

Fancy Tablecloth

Fancy Tablecloth


Fancy pillow sham

I sat down with my mother-in-law for some brief sewing machine tutorials before lugging her machine home and jumping into my new sewing project. I found a girl’s cape pattern and went to town. Sewing a cape is pretty straightforward and turned out to be a great first project to gain some initial sewing experience. Red Cape While I made a few mistakes on the cape, it was really exciting to have sewn something from scratch, and I was ready to take on the pillow sham next. First I stared at it. Then I stared at it some more. After finally coming up with a strategy, I removed all of the trim and separated the front, back, and extra linings with a seam ripper. Then I sewed the front and back together, leaving room for the arms and neck. I reattached some of the extra trim to make a collar. I was really happy with the result. Who knew a fancy pillow case or sham could be transformed into a knight’s tunic?IMG_0331

I discovered that costuming is like eating chips–once you start you just can’t stop. Of course, now my son needed a cape, too. We scoured some more thrift shops and yard sales, and hit the fabric jackpot! I also scored a few old McCall’s renaissance patterns, which I would use to make a gown for my wife.

The boy’s cape pattern was actually the easiest of all pieces to assemble. For the finishing touches, I used a decorative chain and buttons from a craft store.Version 2

Then came the gown. I came very close to giving up on it. For starters, I had to draft the pattern because I didn’t have the right size. Then I cut some pieces out backwards and didn’t have enough material to cut new pattern pieces. Fortunately, I chalked it up as a learning experience and tried fixing it instead of giving up. I made several creative patches that would make Frankenstein proud, and in the end, it all turned out ok. I learned a lot while making the gown, like using interfacing for support, and attaching zippers and sleeves. At first these were overwhelming obstacles that stretched my sewing abilities and knowledge, but once accomplished, it was all extremely rewarding and worth the invested time.Gown

Like I said, once you start, it’s hard to stop, so I took some old corduroy pants and made the kids some belt pouches to be stuffed with snacks and trinkets for a long day at the faire. Belt Pouch

Renaissance faire costumes can be costly, but with some creativity, some salvaged materials, and a sewing machine, you can create some cool garb for next to nothing and learn a lot throughout the process. Maybe those old curtains or pillow cases will someday adorn a King or Queen! Ren faireRen Faire

Make your own Trick Decks with this eBook

Trick Decks

I really wanted to learn card tricks when I was a kid. I had already envisioned the look on my audience’s faces as I performed mystifying feats right before their eyes. Of course, it never worked out. I felt completely frustrated and intimidated trying to work out my first card tricks with a confusing paperback magic book. Without access to good information, it was all just over my head. Ultimately, I abandoned cards, but I still made up my own silly magic tricks. I learned to rely heavily on humor, since my magical effects were so terrible. My style was much more Pee-wee Herman than Pen and Teller. I just liked making people laugh and smile.

I started dabbling with magic again over these last few years and have had a much better go of it. Still feeling the sting of card magic failure from my younger days, I’ve opted to work primarily with coins. I carry a silver dollar in my pocket and have gotten fairly adept at palming and vanishing coins.

Regardless of my success with coins, I’ve still been shy about working with cards, until now. Mark Frauenfelder, author or Maker Dad, has a great new eBook called Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Extraordinary Magic. After reading through the book, I’m super excited to finally tackle cards again!

Mark walks you through how to make five different trick decks. The directions are detailed, very easy to follow, and include plenty of pictures. He even offers multiple methods and materials for making them. While it’s more a deck making guide than a magic trick book, it does get you started with a unique trick using each one of the decks, and offers additional resources for exploring more tricks. You can also view some instructional resource videos on the companion website, http://www.trickdecks.org/.

If you’re interested in card tricks and love making things yourself, definitely check out Trick Decks!

Running of the Goats

My family recently attended our first goat racing event in a small Pennsylvania town situated alongside the Susquehanna river. We had a blast watching people of all ages race their pet goats. Some folks were decked out in fun and gaudy costumes, and so were some of the goats! We got the feeling that the races were more about having fun and not so much about the competition.
Here are some more posted videos from the event:
One goat got a little too rammy and knocked over a judge. I hope all parties walked away unscathed!
I’d love to enter the race next year, except for the fact that I don’t own a goat of my own. Are goat rentals a thing?

Halloween Zombie Graveyard Cake

Last year we made a Halloween Zombie Graveyard Cake. While I’m not sure that we’ll make one again this year, one thing I would change is the grass. Instead of using green icing for the grass, I’d use coconut flakes dyed with green food coloring. I think it would look much better and taste great, too!

Gardens and Dragons

Dragon CarrotMy family has enjoyed tending our small vegetable garden all spring and summer. We use a square-foot gardening design to maximize our small space. While it’s full of the staples like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs, our favorite thing to do is to plant something unique or unusual each year. This year, we bought a pack of dragon carrot seeds from Amazon. The seeds germinated extremely well and we had to thin back the sprouts.
We’ve been pulling them out a little at a time, and are now enjoying the last of the bunch. They are a beautiful purple color on the outside and orange in the middle. They look great chopped up or as a garnish. To me they taste a little spicier than a normal household carrot, but perhaps I just can’t get the dragon idea out of my mind.
Even Kramer likes Dragon carrots!

Even Kramer likes Dragon carrots!

Quick and Easy DIY Juggling Balls

DIY Juggling BallsMy kids are finally taking an interest in learning how to juggle. They’ve always loved throwing balls around whenever I practice, but they’ve never been interested in practicing the proper techniques until now. The problem is, my favorite juggling balls, the MMX Plus, are too heavy and large for their tiny hands. Instead of buying smaller balls or hacky sacks, I used plans from juggler.org to make several kid-friendly balls. This worked perfectly because I wanted to practice with them while their interest and excitement was high, and together we were able to crank out several balls in about 15 minutes. All you need to make your own juggling balls are balloons, tape, an empty water or soda bottle, and some filler (bird seed, sand, or rice). We used rice and the balls turned out great. Ok, kids, time to practice!Balls1 Balls3

DIY Juggling Balls