GeekOut

May the geek craft force be with you

Editor's note: Bonnie Burton, geeky crafter and "Star Wars" fan extraordinaire, is the author of "The Star Wars Craft Book." She is a proud member of the geek craft community and presents her crafts online as well as at fan conventions such as GeekGirlCon.

Jedi Masters have to build their own lightsabers. The Doctor created his sonic screwdriver from scratch. Even Cylons, Replicants and Robocops were all projects by crafty humans who wanted to make something extra special. So it's not too far fetched to imagine an extensive community of geeky fans who love to use their crafting skills to make a life-size TARDIS, or a giant AT-AT treehouse or their own Godzilla costumes.

When I wrote the book "The Star Wars Craft Book," I already had amassed a large collection of crafts I'd made for fun, including a Jabba the Hutt Body Pillow, an AT-AT planter, a bean art portrait of bounty hunter Bossk and Mos Eisley Cantina patron finger puppets. But I also wanted to feature crafts such as the Millennium Falcon bed, R2-D2 crocheted beanie hat and a Star Wars T-shirt quilt made by talented fans.

The geek craft community grows faster each day. What was once an underground group of geeks who love to crochet Spider-Man masks or make steampunk ray guns has now turned into a bona fide craft movement full of thousands of geek "craftsters" who converge at comic book conventions, craft meet-ups, science fairs and of course, online. All geek craftsters have their own passion that drives them to make a sci-fi homage from scratch.

Crafty "Star Wars" fan Jennifer Landa vlogs about her super-easy tutorials on everything from how to make a Star Wars Shadowbox to how to speak Huttese just like Jabba. Another talented craftster, Rachel Barry Hobson, a contributing writer for Craftzine.com, makes geeky crafts like a felted solar system mobile that was featured in another great book called "World of Geekcraft."

Her space-themed creations such as a cross-stitch inspired by Hubble and one of the astronauts who worked on it the most, John Grunsfeld, and her high-texture hand-embroidery of the moon make me wish NASA had a craft division.

The common bond of geek craftsters  is that feeling of being a kid again. No matter how old you are, or what your craft skill level may be, crafting reminds us how much fun it is to make something come alive like a robot from scraps of metal or a Chewbacca puppet from a discarded sock.

"Being a geek is such a huge part of my identity that I love expressing it through the crafts and clothing that I make," Landa said. "Before Etsy.com, I could never find the geeky crafts I was looking for.  So I started making them myself!  As a teenager I made purses out of my old Care Bear bed sheets.  I’ve used old comics to decoupage end tables and picture frames.  Lately I’ve been using Star Wars LEGOS to make earrings and necklaces."

Landa said before she knew it, she had crafted her, "own geeky fashion line and houseware collection."

"Geeky stuff is really fun to me," Hobson said. "I think that in some way, I'm trying to compensate for the fact that I didn't do so well in math and science as a kid. Making geeky things, especially related to science and space, is sort of my way of exploring subjects I love but wasn't strong enough in to go off and have a career in (hello, failed dreams of being an astronaut!)."

"I also hope that by making geeky, science-y things, it will open those subjects up to a whole range of folks who would otherwise not have really paid much attention to them. I'm also smitten with the Doctor and Han Solo," she said.

Crafting isn't just for the ladies; fanboys love to show off their crafting skills as well especially extreme craft groups like R2 Builders who make their own working astromechs, and the 501st Legion who construct their own stormtrooper armor worthy of an inspection from Darth Vader himself. Crafty sci-fi fan Neil Baker has made everything from full "Star Wars" dioramas to an adorkable Salacious Crumb doll.

"I definitely feel like I'm part of a larger, crafty entity," Baker says. "It never ceases to amaze me how many talented geeks there are out there who turn their hands to all manner of crafts, often making me wish I'd thought of them myself. I love catching up on what's out there via personal blogs or larger established sites."

Thanks to social media and blogging sites such as Geekcrafts.com, Craftzine.com, Crafster.org and Instructables.com, the crafty geek community continues to grow as fans show off their latest projects and give tips on how to make everything from crocheted Viking beards to zombie Christmas tree ornaments.

Even popular sci-fi franchises like BBC's "Doctor Who" tapped into the geek craft community for their Show Us Your TARDIS contest which featured TARDIS crafts of everything from tissue box cozies to cat carriers! Disney's Family.Go.com site has a section that shows fans how to make Tron crafts. StarWars.com features crafts from "The Star Wars Craft Book" as well as fan-made creations.

"Before social media, I had no idea there was a whole geeky crafting community," Landa said. "A whole world of awesomeness opened up to me the moment I started searching for 'geek crafts' on the Web. Amigurumi Star Wars toys, TARDIS dresses, Pac-Man bar soap - there are some seriously talented people out there!" she said.

Thanks to sites such as Tumblr, Etsy, Twitter, YouTube and the StarWars.com Blog, Landa said she has connected with fellow geeky craftsters.

"Every day I’m bookmarking another fun, geeky craft that I want to attempt to make.  Needless to say, I have a bookmark folder that’s filled with craft projects," she said. "But it’s not just about making my own stuff.  It’s also about sharing all the crafts I find on the Web or in real life. Because when I see something amazing like an NES controller coffee table, I have to tweet about it."

"I love connecting with folks who are geeky and crafty and can get my Doctor Who jokes or nods to astronomy," Hobson said.

"I connect with folks through my blog and through reading a bazillion craft blogs. I'm also a Twitter hound and a Pinterest junkie. I meet a lot of geeky crafters through my job with Craft and Make magazines, especially at Maker Faire. I like to call Maker Faire my 'Happy Place.' When I went to my first Maker Faire, I had an overwhelming feeling of having finally found my tribe."

Being part of the geek craft community means that you have plenty of places to go for ideas and advice no matter how obscure your project might be. If you want to build your own diorama of the first lunar landing or make a coat rack that looks like a giant Kraken, there's someone out there who can help. I’ve often gone to Twitter to ask my followers for their opinions on which felt color matches the design of Mothra best, or where I can find the cheapest googly eyes! Even first-time craftsters shouldn't feel intimidated on getting started.

"Just because you’ve never taken a sewing class or wielded a glue gun doesn’t mean you can’t get crafty," Landa said.

"Remember how you used to paper-mache as a kid?  Or used felt and a Popsicle stick to create a puppet?  You can take those childhood skills and use them for your projects now.  There are a lot of crafts that are easy to make and really only require cutting and gluing."

Free tutorials and how-to guides are available on YouTube and Instructables.com, she said. Crafters don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to make a geeky project.

"Look around your house and see what items you can repurpose for your project.  A glass jar can be transformed into a Tatooine scene just by adding some sand and a Luke Skywalker action figure.  If you’re a 'Doctor Who' fan, why not make a Dalek pin using some felt and craft glue?  Figure out what you’re inspired by, plan on how to create it, and just know that you might have to improvise a little along the way," Landa said.

"For folks who are in to the sci-fi side of geekiness, crafting is a great way to celebrate the geeky things you love,"  Hobson said. "Who doesn't want to make their own 'Adventure Time' tote bag or 'Star Wars' stitching sampler? Start easy and don't worry about how things look. Two words: HAVE FUN," Hobson said.

Geeky crafsters will want to tackle more projects because of how much fun they have during the process, she said.

"Pay no attention to perfection - it will be your worst enemy," Hobson said. "Crafting is also a great way to get your mind to work in different ways, especially if you are a scientist or engineer by trade. It's work that forces you to think differently, and it can be a great way to soothe your mind and get you to a place where you can solve science and math problems more effectively."

"Don't fret about geek cred, just make whatever geeky things you love," Hobson added.

"I used to get caught up in worry over, 'But I don't play 'Super Mario'!' and "I misspelled Wil Wheaton's name in a post. I'm a total fraud.' The beautiful thing about geekery is that there is something blissfully quirky and imperfect about it. It's why being a geek is just about the best thing ever."