Sunday, June 29, 2008

Who needs thrfiting...

...when I can go to my sister's house??

My sister is the queen of the estate sales, y'all. Yesterday she got a pattern cabinet (you know, like the ones they have at the fabric stores). The only thing was, it came loaded with patterns that needed going through. So of course I had to come see what there was...

...and of course my sister, being the generous soul that she is, let me take home some goodies for my own.

Most of it was remarkably unremarkable. Patterns for boxy coat dresses, 1-hour jumpers, etc, all from the mid to late 80's. But there were a number of patterns that had some sort of redeeming value, whether for the item in its entirety (like an apron) or for parts and pieces (like the hands & legs for a softie).

I also snagged a number of the unremarkable patterns just for collage purposes. Some of the older ones (1970s) had interesting cover pictures, but were either incomplete or already cut on a particular size. I also plan on using the tissue as collage elements and packaging for my Etsy items. Then there were the buttons to cover and the buckles and the rest of the haul. Yay!!!

24 patterns with some redeeming design value

Check out this cute little pattern! It has instructions for the little ric-rac flowers.

Two stacks of patterns for collage. The stack on the left are for the cover art, the stack on the left are just for the tissue. I should probably also mention that there were three large boxes of the unremarkable patterns that I left behind, lest anyone think that I'm out here wasting good patterns. Those will all get freecycled. The only ones I took were ones that were either incomplete, already cut, or really so hideous that we'd be doing the world a favor in taking them out of circulation.

...and the rest of the haul.

Here's the low-down on what I got:

* 2 stacks of patterns just for cutting up.

*24 patterns with at least one redeeming bit of design value.

* 8 packages of paintable wooden buttons (16 buttons total)

* 5 cards of buttons

* 12 packages of buttons to cover with fabric, of varying sizes. Some are as large as 1 7/8", others as small as 1/2". Some have been opened and one or two buttons used, but most are new packages. There is one package with 2 small square buttons to cover. There are also assembly kits for each of the sizes.

* 2 packages of overall buckles

* 1 red plastic buckle

* 2 packages grommets. These are the big grommets with a 3/8" hole in the center and a separate piece of metal for the back. There are 10 sets of grommets in each package, along with the setting tool.

* 1 partial package pearl snaps

* 4 partial packages of various types of hook and eye closures. Some are bright colors, which could make some really cool closures for greeting cards.

* 1 ball of oatmeal colored cotton yard

* 1 ball of white crochet thread

* 1 package of Darice Tole Painting tips?? I'm going to have to investigate these a bit more as to their crafting purposes. They're like this pencil shaped tool with interchangble small plastic tips, that are kind of like stamps except they're plastic. Anyone know what you do with these???

I feel a bit guilty with all of this. But only a little bit. I've already done some collaging with the pattern tissue, but that's a post for tomorrow. (tease, tease...)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Look what Nini made!

Joanie over at Nini Makes made this super cute travel photo frame!

And check it out, she also made a tutorial! I am SO adding this to my must-sew list.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ribbon, ribbon, aaaaaahhhhh!!!!

Last week my studio reached a new level of messy. I've always had the surfaces and floor cluttered with piles, but until last week I could easily work (and step) around them. But last week as I stepped over a pile, my feet ended up going where they weren't supposed to and I crushed in the top of one of my storage boxes. Ack!!! Personal injury is one thing, but the the potential to injure my craft supplies...

I realized that I'd have to step in and figure something out. The hardest part was actually stepping in - stepping in over boxes and piles and bags....

My first thought was to switch all the supplies out on one set of shelves for all the paper and ephemera stashed in a set of two drawers. The idea was to get the stuff I needed to paw through out in the open so as to avoid the tendency to take stuff out of the drawer and never put it back. (Hence the piles on the floor.) Of course, what ended up happening was that I got everything out of the drawers and sorted into neat piles. And THEN I got overwhelmed by the organizational challenges and everything has since stayed in piles on the floor, though they are no longer nice and neat.

So yesterday my mother had the little girl over at her house all day. After making a few new playing-card-cards for my Etsy shop, I got the nerve to go in there again. Still overwhelmed by the piles, I set my sights further back into the room. On the... (insert ominous music here) RIBBON PILE!!!

Most people have their ribbons in cute little jars or on spools hanging from the wall. Mine was in a huge pile by my craft table. Huge pile meaning the entire bottom shelf of a set of shelves and about 3 square feet surrounding the bottom shelf.

So I hauled all the ribbon out of the room and in front of the TV, where I proceeded to watch some REALLY BAD daytime television and sort ribbon for 2 hours. Yes, 2 HOURS it took. But now the ribbon is all neat and orderly, divided out by color and stored in plastic containers stacked neatly on the bottom shelf by the foot of the craft table. Yay for me!!!!

Maybe I'll get brave enough to tackle the drawer-shelf switcheroo again.

This has all got me wondering - does anyone else have an overwhelming craft space? Anyone interested in a studio clean-along?

Friday, June 20, 2008

I've been *gasp* TAGGED!!!

OMG I've been tagged! Wait a minute, I've been tagged again! I was tagged first by Pink Penguin, then by Joanie at Ninimakes. I think this is the first time in my life I've ever felt popular. :)

So... 6 unimportant facts about myself:

1. We live in the house where my husband grew up. He's never moved out. When we got married, I moved in and that was that. So the steps to our basement have my husband's little handprints from when he was a boy. First thing we painted? The bedroom. Yep, had to lose the ick factor.

2. I don't like watching movies I've already seen. For me, the first time is all about the illusion of a complete story, and the second time through I see start seeing the mechanics more, seeing how they made it appear that they've told more than they have, seeing the places where the plot doesn't hang as smoothly together as I had first thought. And I don't like watching movies with someone who has already seen the flick. I think it's a power thing, like they have the upper hand because they know what's coming next and I don't.

3. I'm a cat person. Always have been. I'm actually a little bit scared of dogs and think that dog slobber is a little bit of disgusting. When I was a kid, we had one cat after another. With the exception of our first cat, Cyrus, all of our cats were named with this format: [adjective] kitty. As in, Mama Kitty, Baby Kitty, Girl Kitty, Boy Kitty, White Kitty. My sister and I could never agree on a real name and my mother is apparently not very imaginative with cat names.

4. I want to be my sister when I grow up. She's so kind and her heart is so huge. She's quick with a helping hand, and always slow to judge. She knows that the path that's best for her is not the typical way, and she's got the independence and the wisdom to follow that path wherever it takes her. She's artistic and a free spirit, and yet so grounded and so real.

5. I love jigsaw puzzles and murder mysteries. Geeky, I know.

6. I used to be really super nearsighted, but I had surgery about 7 years ago and now I don't need glasses at all. Before the surgery, my glasses were like coke bottle lenses. I think my prescriptions were -8.75 and -9.25. I have no idea what that equals in the 20/20 realm, but it's pretty darned huge. When I had the surgery, they propped my eyelids open while the laser did it's thing and I felt like Agent Mulder when he was kidnapped by aliens or the government or whoever it was that took him. Remember those scenes from the X-Files when he's all strapped down to a table and there's this light shining on him?

And now it's my turn to tag: Denise, Idyllhands, Punkinhead, Elegant Bloggery, This Old Henhouse, Janna, Nataki, Stacie. I know that's more than I'm supposed to, but I figure not everyone will play.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The blank stare strikes again

My mother was over at my house today, and for some unknown reason, I thought I'd show her my latest little projects. They're greeting cards made with old flashcards. The flashcards have sentences printed on them, for kids to practice their reading skills. They're very plain, fairly large, and are printed on both sides. Greeting card fodder!!!

So I show my mother a card I was working on - a card with some decorative pink papers as a background, then a flashcard with the sentence "Thank you for the pretty cake," inserted into a transparency sleeve that takes up most of the front of the card. I was so excited. The sentence was so big and so industrial looking, and so random. I waited for her response to my latest creative binge.

And then I saw it. The blank stare. The "I'm not sure what I'm looking at," stare. The look that says she's trying to figure out what she's going to pretend to be impressed with, but try as she might she just doesn't get it.

Finally she says, "Thanks for the cake? I don't understand..." So I have to explain that the sentence is thoroughly just a random thought, mildly amusing but not intended to be directly relevant to any particular situation. And I explain that the flashcard is two-sided and is destined to become a bookmark that can be easily removed from the front of the greeting card.

And I got the blank stare again, though a bit more concealed.

Argh. Ah well, I still think they're gonna be cool. When I get them finished, I'll post one out here and beg for compliments.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Introducing Mittens, plus a quasi-tutorial

Meet Mittens, the newest member of Liv's stuffed cat family.

She was borne out of a conversation between Liv and I, where Liv suggested that I make her a stuffed animal. Oh honey, I tell her, stuffed animals are really complicated and mama doesn't know how to make them. Then a pause while I remember reading about Elegant Bloggery's collaborative art with her daughter, and I think to myself how special it would be for Liv to have a stuffed animal that she designed herself. You know what, hon, I think we can do it after all. But we'll have to wait until Friday...

So Friday came along yesterday. My friend Jennifer (and her beautiful baby girl) came over and finished making ANOTHER fabric basket a la Pink Penguin. In between purse assistance and baby snuggles, I worked with Liv on her stuffed animal. It turned out to be a longer process than I anticipated; I didn't finish it until dinnertime the following day.

I took loads of pictures along the way, thinking that it might make a fun tutorial. Keep in mind that doing ANYTHING with a 4-year-old involves a certain amount of improvisation, so this is really more a fluid process than a step-by-step set of instructions.

Materials (very vague list)

Fabric scraps
Polyfil stuffing
Cute little child designer
Tons of patience

1. Start with a concept. For this, I gave my daughter a piece of paper and told her to draw the the stuffed animal she wanted to make. My idea was to use her drawing as a pattern, but her drawing was far too small for that. So I tried another tack, saying to draw the shape and size of the suffed animal to make. Lesson learned: Make your directions as specific as possible.

This is the final set of drawings we ended up with. She wanted to make a stuffed kitty (big surprise there). The top piece is the kitty's head, and the bottom is the body. Note the 7 pairs of legs on this cat.

2. Help your child pick out the fabric for the piece. I pretty much gave Liv free reign in my fabric stash cause I wanted to see what her little brain would choose. She chose very bright, very busy fabrics. If you want to ensure a more visually cohesive end result, you'll probably want to limit the choices some.

3. Cut out the basic shape of the stuffed animal from the child's drawing, and pin it to your fabric. In this case, she wanted different fabrics for the head and the body. The legs she drew were just sticks, so I just used the basic body shape and cut my own legs later.

4. Cut around the shapes you've pinned, allowing room for seam allowance. I added a half-inch all the way around for my seam allowance. I also cut out about a jillion strips of hot pink fabric (chosen by my designer) to use for the legs and the ears.

5. Here, I've stitched the kitty body to the kitty head with right sides together. The shapes did not match up exactly so I just kind of picked a middle point and stitched a straight line.

It was at this point that I noticed that the basic shape was a bit, well.... penile. I crossed my fingers that adding the ears and face and legs/arms would change that.

I also stitched together the many legs and the two ears. Right sides together, stitched on three sides, then turned. The first picture shows the shapes I cut, and the second shows them stitched and turned.

6. After you've got the basic body shape and the arms/legs, it's time for the face. I asked Liv to help me with the face. I drew the little nose shape, but I let her draw the shape of the white circles for the eyes. I also cut out a little pink heart, thinking that it might make a fun nose instead of the triangle. Instead, Liv decided on the triangle for the nose shape and the heart as a tattoo between the eyes. For the whiskers, we decided on white ric-rac.

I tacked all of the pieces down to the face with a bit of tacky glue. The glue makes it a bit more difficult to stitch through, so use as little glue as possible. Just enough to keep the piece of the fabric till you can stitch it down.

Notice that we've moved from 7 pairs of legs in the original drawing to just the standard 2 arms, 2 legs. That emerged when I handed her the arms/legs to place where she thought they needed to be. I think the transition from two dimensions to three brought that change about.

7. While I handstitched all the pieces down to the face, I gave Liv the legs and arms and ears to stuff. We used the eraser end of a pencil to get all the stuffing packed down in the long tubes.

Here she's examining the stuffing.

And here are the finished pieces.

This is the finished face, all pieces stitched down. This took longer than I had anticipated. I'd recommend watching some really bad TV while doing this step.

8. After all the pieces were stuffed, I added some stitching to give the arms and legs some little paw hands.

First, a horizontal stitch across -most- of the piece. (I left about 1/4 inch on either side of the stitch.) Make the stitch across the front and then the back using the same holes, then cinch tight. Repeat the stitch one more time for extra strength.

Then, start making stitches over the end of the arm/leg to make the little fingers/toes. Cinch 'em tight and repeat each complete stitch one time for extra strength. I made three stitches like this to give the kitty four fingers/toes on each paw.

Tie it off and take a ginormous stitch into the stuffy part of the arm/leg piece (as big as your needle will allow) and then trim the thread right at the fabric. This will embed the end of your thread into the stuffing. How cool is that?

9. Hey, who exploded the kitty???

Sorry, couldn't resist. Hang in there, we're almost done.

10. After you finish all the parts & pieces, stitch them down to the body. Here, I've stitched the tail down to the back of the kitty.

For the arms & legs, it's a bit more complicated. You have to stitch the pieces so they're all facing inward in the opposite direction of where you want them to be.

I know, it's counterintuitive, but it will all make sense at the end. You'll be stitching around the outside of this thing and then turning it out like a pillow. You want to stitch the various appendages so they'll get caught in the seam line and then be facing the right direction when it gets turned inside out.

Clear as mud? For example, I want the ears to point upward from the top of the head, so I've stitched them so the bottoms of the ears are flush with the edge of the head, but the ends of the ears point inward to the kitty face.

Here's how my little guy looked with all his pieces pinned on. (I stitched them down right after taking this photo.)

Oh, and when you stitch the pieces down, stay fairly close to the edge. I had planned on using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, but with all the lumpiness and stuffiness it turned out to be 1/4 inch seam allowance.

11. Pin the front and back pieces of the body together, with all the stuffed appendages on the inside. This is easier said than done.

12. Stitch around the edge, leaving a hole open to turn. Don't do what I did - I left the hole at the bottom where the legs were sewn. This caused a bit of a difficulty at the end when I had to close this hole up. If at all possible, keep your hole in a place where there are no appendages.

13. Oh my, did I really just write that last sentence???? I would rewrite it, but I can't come up with any other wording that doesn't sound equally as dirty - or worse. And besides, there's a certain wisdom to those words.

14. Turn the stuffed animal inside out and -voila!

15. The last thing you need to do is stuff the body and close the hole with a whipstitch.

I let my daughter do the stuffing while watching TV. Hey, if I can embroider while watching American Justice, she can stuff while watching Jakers.

And here's the final product!

This process has totally turned me on to the innate design sense that our youngsters possess. If you've stuck with me through this whole tutorial and make a stuffed animal designed by your own kidlet, I'd love to see it!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Still feeling the afterglow...

Yay! to Idyllhands and Lisa for winning my little where-am-I-going blog contest! The answer was the Indigo Girls concert. I've actually been putting off writing this post because I'm a bit intimidated trying to write about such an amazing evening. I'll give it a whirl now, and just try not to be too wordy.

My "date" for the evening was my dear friend Jennifer. (Tony does not enjoy large crowds and is consequently not much fun at concerts.) We kicked the evening off with a quick bite at the Arkansas Burger Co. up the street from my house. Greek burger (with feta) and a huge helping of cheese fries. Mmmmmm.... There's just about no way that an evening can go wrong after that kind of self-indulgence.

And the concert didn't disappoint. From the moment we walked up to the steps of the concert hall, I could tell this would be an uh-mazing evening. I'd never seen the Indigo Girls live before, only listened (and sung along to) countless CDs and cassette tapes. I know I shouldn't have been, but I was surprised at how strong their voices were. The recordings just don't do them justice. They're not little mamby-pamby sweet high-pitched girl voices, they have strong, rich, beautiful WOMEN voices.

And the audience. Wow... It was like this big communal sing-along. "Power of Two" was like this huge, group love song. People stood up at their seats and, arm in arm, swaying together. I spied a few couples slow-dancing in the aisles. People sung along, either to their dates to their left or right, or to their spouses at home, lost loves, etc. It was gleeful and beautiful. During other songs, you'd catch people just sitting with their eyes closed, drinking in the moment.

They played -most- of my old favorites, along with some new music that I hadn't heard before. (The only song I really wanted to hear and didn't was "Secure Yourself to Heaven.")

I honestly could not have asked for a better birthday present. Actually, I DID ask for this birthday present. Good choice, if I say som myself.

Oh, and I got myself a concert shirt. I wasn't going to get one, but it was green with a big huge honey bee and oh, so cute. I am observing my 30-day rule, though, which says that one should not wear a concert shirt within 30 days of said event lest they look like a big huge dork saying, "Hey, guys, look where I was last night!" (In case you're wondering, the 30-day concert tee rule is a corollary of the airport vacation-tee rule, which says that if you cannot wear your Florida T-shirts on the plane home...)

On a crafting note, I have an interesting project planned with Liv for the day. I'll try to take some pictures and post tomorrow about it. No more details till then - I'm a tease!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I went to see a doctor...

of Philosophy... with a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knees... he never did marry or see a B-grade movie... he graded my performance, said he could see through me... I spent 4 years prostrate to the higher mind... got my paper and I was free.

hee hee hee - guess where I'm going tonight??? This is Tony's birthday present to me. I'm so flippin' excited!!! Yay!!!!!! First correct answer gets a little treat in the mail.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What a dream...

Wow, I haven't been very good at posting lately, have I? I guess I haven't been doing anything much that I consider "blog worthy", or I do something cool and then don't have a chance to post until three days later, at which point the cool accomplishment seems kinda like old news. Gotta get better at that...

The other night, I had the most powerful dream, I had to share.

A little context: For the last several months I've been a little all over the map creatively. Some of this, some of that, going one direction or another only to make a sharp turn to something else. Screen printing, bookbinding, sewing, quilting, cardmaking, scrapbooking. It's kind of random, but I've been trusting the randomness, knowing that at some point the artistic space that is mine will emerge out of the chaos.

So... in this dream I'm driving with my friend Scarlett in the neighborhood where I grew up. I never felt like I belonged there; it was a very wealthy part of town, and my family was the clear exception to that rule. But on this day, we're driving around and we see this road. I'd never turned on this road before because it led to the more elite portions of the neighborhood. So wealthy, so elite that there was a sense that there was no point even driving down the road.

But this day, we decide that we should drive on this road. As a lark, if you will. So we go on this road and it turns into the hugest hill. So steep that I have fears that my friend's little Civic can't pull it and will literally fall back off of the hill. But we do make it to the top. And at the top, we're surprised to find that there aren't super-big estates and imposing gates. Instead, they're small bungalows stacked on right next to another. I remember thinking, "So THIS is the most expensive real estate in the city? THIS is what I didn't feel worthy of?"

So we drive on past the little rows of bungalows, and now instead of little houses, there's this stone wall right by the road. Inset into the stone wall are a series of little niches, each one with a carved little house scene. I thought to myself how much Liv would love seeing these little houses, and being amazed that I grew up just blocks away and never knew something like this existed. What treasure there was to be found up here, on top of the steepest hill in town.

So we keep on going, now on foot instead of by car. We go under a little stone bridge and the wall gives way to a little grassy area. There were people here, and they weren't the super elite country club set I would expect. They were normal you-and-me types, but they were all having FUN. Sitting on the grass reading, talking with friends, playing guitar, painting. Then I notice the lake. All the kids were jumping and playing in the water, splashing and having the most carefree time. Again, I'm amazed that there was this group of people and this place that I never knew about. They seemed to exist in a world beyond the rest of the city. And by virtue of the fact that I had found this group, I was somehow accepted into the group. It wasn't elite. You didn't need a pedigree or money or the right introduction, you just had to drive up the right hill.

My little journey continued past the idyllic lake scene to some sort of old book company. The company was shutting it's doors forever, and all of their leftover supplies were up for grabs. Stacks of papers, vintage items, free for the taking. Being my hoarding self, I start grabbing up what I think I need. And it's at this point that the exuberance leaves, and my back begins to hurt from the load I'm carrying and I start worrying with the details of how to get my items back to the car. Clearly, I should have just stayed at the lake.

I woke up the next morning, intellectually and emotionally drained. What a trip I had been on during the night! It was all about taking chances, self-discovery, and not getting bogged down in the details. Perhaps trusting the randomness, not being afraid to look for my own artistic space, and telling me that the place surely exists - even where I thought it not possible.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A little piece of heaven

Tonight I was fortunate enough to have one of my most favorite foods for dinner tonight. A veritable Southern delicacy, some might say. And what is this most delicious food?

A tomato sandwich.

Doesn't that just make you drool? And it's made the RIGHT way, meaning vine-ripened locally grown tomatoes, chilled in the fridge before slicing, layered on toasted white bread, still warm and spread with mayonnaise, and finished off with paper thin slivers of cold, crunchy Vidalia onion.

Then again, maybe it doesn't make you drool. Maybe you're a -gasp!- tomato hater. I've found that one either loves tomatoes, can't get enough of them, or hates them and refuses to let them pass the threshold of their mouth. My daughter falls into the latter group, though I suspect with if she ever actually ATE a bit of tomato she might change her mind. Or perhaps that's just my wishful thinking.
There's also the tomatoes-only-in-spaghetti-sauce-or-salsa camp, which the group that my husband falls into. Either way, there's no chance that either of them will sit down to a tomato with me, which makes a meal like I had tonight a rare occasion.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A bird on a branch

After years of hating any kind of hand stitching, I've lately become obsessed with it. I think it's because it's fairly portable (perfect for afternoons at the park or at the pool) and the repetitive motions are very calming.
Up until now, the only stitch I've been able to reproduce with any accuracy is the blanket stitch. Then, at our last Drunken Bunkin', Denise showed me how to do a chain stitch. I've been wanting to practice it, but haven't had a good project - til now.

Last week (or the week before) Joanie at NiniMakes had a blog giveaway. To every person who entered, she emailed an adorable little birdie pattern. It was the perfect project to practice my chain stitching. Thank you Joanie!!!