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Crafty Curios

I went to Nairobi Textiles and got some awesome kitenge fabric. Can’t wait to start sewing with them!

Nairobi Textiles is a cool place. It’s a small building with many independent vendors selling fabric from their stalls. A lot of tailors also work there, ready to turn new purchases into custom clothes. The fabric are more expensive there than in Eastleigh but more affordable than say, in Canada.

The atmosphere reminded me a lot of Lotus Pond Market in Chengdu (colorful and crowded). Though, I haven’t visited Lotus Pond Market in over a decade so I’m sure a lot has changed.

If you’re buying fabric in Nairobi, I’d recommend a visit, but allow ample travel time: it’s in the heart of CBD and many Uber drivers don’t pick up there.

I’m having a real “time is circular” moment.

It’s been almost 8 years since I wrote Python scripts to create stuffed animals using 3D models from video games. Now that I’m getting back into sewing, I’m discovering a whole new world of software for pattern makers.

CLO3D is the industry standard, offering advanced cloth simulations.

Valentina is the best open source alternative (GPL3!).

With FOSS tools, some are just as amazing as their non-FOSS counterparts while others are a little lacking. For example, I think Blender is entirely able to replace Maya and 3DS Max for a hobbyist animator. The same is true for Krita replacing Photoshop for illustrators. OpenSCAD and FreeCAD are not quite able to replace Solidworks for engineers.

I have very limited pattern making experience so I’m not a great judge for pattern making software. If cloth simulation is critical, then Valentina needs a lot more features to be able to compete with CLO3D. If cloth simulation isn’t super necessary, maybe Valentina would make an adequate substitute.

Either way, I’m loving learning about the ecosystem around sewing and making clothes. Sewing is a craft that dates back to ancient days and has neat jargon (like armscye). At the same time it’s been really modernized with the industrial clothing supply chain. It also has a fascinating digital component, like the transformation from flat pattern making to pattern making software.

It’s so cool!

I recently picked up sewing as another pandemic hobby. When making my first cami, I realized I needed a loop turner for turning straps inside out. Not having one on hand, I searched for good substitutes. YouTube suggested using chopsticks, safety pins, and bobby pins. Unfortunately, none of them worked.

Harry suggested I use a zip tie. I was initially skeptical but zip ties worked great! You can sew one end to the head of the zip tie and pull without worry!

diy loop turner

Posting this for anyone else who’s too impatient to wait for a loop turner.

Here are the steps I use to cast a fish keycap. If you’re completely new, see the Z-Butt wiki and my older blog post.

petri fish at an angle

First I cast a bottom piece. Thanks to the Z-Butt community, I learned to get the petri effect, you need to wait for about 1-2 hours before adding in alcohol ink to the resin. Here I waited for 1.5 hours.

alcohol ink

After the bottom piece is cured, I add a polymer clay fish. I use acrylic paint to add details and dab a dollop of resin to secure the fish to the base. When everything looks dry, I invert it to cast the top piece.

WIP keycap

That’s it!

After casting keycaps over a couple of months, I’ve finally finished my first bottle of resin. Now I’m trying out a different brand and realize not all epoxy resins have the same properties. I started with Unicone Art a couple of months ago and now am using Dr Crafty.

Here’s a comparison of the resin brands Unicone Art (left) and Dr Crafty (right):

resin compare

Epoxy Resin Brand Unicone Art Dr Crafty
Cure Time 18 hours – hard enough to work with, 24+ hours – full hardness 24 hours – still very pliable, 30 hours – hard enough to work with
Casting Great for casting More viscous and will not conform to certain complex molds
Clarity Clear but small trapped air bubbles will make the keycaps appear cloudy Crystal clear and fewer air bubbles
Odor I couldn’t detect anything Strong chemical smell from the hardener

If you look closely at the photo above (and ignore the different dye colors), there are a lot more tiny air bubbles in the left keycap than the right. I let all resin degas before casting, but it seems like for Unicone Art, the air bubbles have a harder time making their way out.

I prefer strongly Unicone Art for its casting property and turnaround time. However, Dr Crafty is visibly clearer.

Maybe I’ll try to cast the bottom pieces with Unicone Art and the clear top with Dr Crafty. Will report back.