Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Check out:

Kat Wise. She rocks. I want to kidnap her and convince her to help me paint my van.

Monday, December 29, 2008

DoodleSlip Preview.

It's done! This photo was taken before I added color. I'll be wearing it to my sister's New Years B-Day Partay, unless I'm still sick, so full photos will be forthcoming.

Woven Wire Bangle Bracelet

I have all these bangle bracelets that I bought for my dance costume but, alas, my wrists and hands are tiny and one quick arm thrust means the floor is now wearing my bracelets. So I've been trying out different methods of dressing them up to sell or give away, and so far this is my favorite. I wrote this after I'd made it, so forgive the vagueness in some areas.

You'll need:

-2 metal bangle bracelets (mine came from Target and were about $8 for a big ol' pack)
-wire (I used 24g silver-toned cheap stuff)
-a large focal bead that has a hole running top to bottom
-wire cutters and jeweler's pliers

1. Cut two pieces of wire of equal length. I don't know how long mine were, so I'd guess 1.5'? Don't make them longer than you can easily handle.

2. Bend both pieces at the centers, just to mark that point. Slide the bead over both wires, to the center point.

3. Take the wires coming from the top of the bead and wrap them five times, each in opposite directions (left and right) around one bangle. Keep the wraps tight, and end with the wire sticking straight up to keep it outta your way.

4. Repeat step 3, but with the wires coming from the bottom of the bead and the other bangle. Keep the bead pressed tightly against the top bangle-- the work you're doing now is securing it in place. The rest is mostly artsy.

5. While weaving, you'll want to keep the opposite sides of the bangles-- opposite the bead, that is-- pinched together. If needed, wrap a twist-tie around them to keep them cinched together tightly.

6. The weaving goes as so:
  • Bring the top wire behind the top bangle and in front of the bottom bangle.
  • The bottom wire goes behind the bottom bangle and in front of the top bangle.
  • Repeat over and over, until you have about 3" of each wire piece remaining.

I find it helps to do one set of weavings per side, alternating between left and right, to keep the spacing even. Here's another photo to see what I'm talking about:

7. Tightly wrap each piece of wire around the bangle it's closest to, ending the wire with small curlyques.

8. Assuming you didn't entirely cover both the bangles in wire during steps 1-7, you'll finish the bracelet by cutting another 1' or so of wire. Remove anything you had cinching the bangles together. Starting with the midpoint of the wire placed at the point exactly opposite the bead, wrap both bangles tightly in wire, working in both directions. End in curlyques.

You could also add beads to the weaving, or during the wrapping steps. This could also be adapted to allow more than one focal bead.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Reconstructing Clothing For Dummies, by Miranda Caroligne Burns

Another recent library find was Reconstructing Clothes For Dummies, by Miranda Caroligne Burns. Can't find an image of it, but here's a link to Amazon:

Link! Here!

The book was surprisingly helpful, at least in the ways of hacking apart knits. I've done my share of reconstructions, but am often short on ideas of what to do with old sweaters/sweatshirts other than, um, make them shorter. I especially liked the Bad Unkl Sista sweater, because although I don't know that I'd ever wear it, Bad Unkl Sista rocks.

  • Pro: Lots of variations with each project.
  • Con: The variations are often the same with all the projects-- "Stitch it a different way. Paint on it. Add some lace."
  • Pro: There's pictures of each project.
  • Con: They're all in black and white and are very small, except for a fashion-shooty middle section that's in color and full sized. This middle photo section was surprisingly lush, but beyond that my eye candy urge was left unquelled.
  • Pro: Easy to understand.
  • Con: May be overly easy for experienced sewers. (Apparently I'm not a Dummy.)
  • Pro: Wide range of projects that cover tops, dresses, pants, skirts, accessories and housewares.
  • Con: Some projects seemed pretty unwearable. Seriously, you want me to flip a sweater upside down and wear it as a skirt, with the sleeves still attached? Sweaters can be changed up by buttoning them crooked? Mmmm... nein, danke.

Decent library find, but I wouldn't buy it. Scoop it up at your library if you're running low on ideas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review: Zakka Sewing by Therese Laskey and Chika Mori

I picked this book up at the library and, of course, flipped through it to browse the projects. The squirrel tea-cozy on the cover had already enamored me to the book (my online handle used to be squirrelgirl), and inside I found a nice assortment of projects. They're simple, for the most part, and have that sort of cute/minimalist flavor that many Japanese crafts do. What I liked best was that many of the projects are housewares, and are based on the idea that Japanese houses (specifically, kitchens) are small, and as the book says, "With small living spaces and a design aesthetic that celebrates clean lines, Japanese culture places a high value on items that keep environments tidy." Were I fully honest with myself I'd admit that I am drawn to these sorts of crafts not because I strive to have a Japanese-esqe house and lifestyle, but because I am generally the complete opposite, with explosions of color and junk everywhere. Peeking into an entirely different life-- be it another culture, country or just another person-- is always fascinating.

I also appreciate that the projects are, for the most part, fairly practical. There's fabric baskets; who doesn't need more storage? There's cozies for all sorts of things (tape measures, tea pots, cameras); who doesn't need to keep their belongings protected? There's a wrist pincushion; who would refuse one? (Hint: not me.) And there's even house shoes that you can sew up, complete with leather bottoms. Who doesn't need nice house slippers? (Hint: Me. I have four pairs already. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to try the pattern.)

All in all, it's a nice book. The layout is clean and easy to read, the projects are well-explained and nicely photographed, and there's a small beginners section explaining the how-tos of basic sewing. Those interested in Japan would do well to pick it up.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My favorite pants.

These are made from a pair of too-small "Wish" brand jeans I found for a dollar. They had that engineer-stripe material that overalls are often made with. And, obviously, not enough room for my butt to fit in. So I cobbled them together with another pair of pants (also too small), added wide side panels, pockets, and many many appliques done in purposefully-patchy style. Other than one of the pockets ripping through, they've held up nicely through many washings. I lurve 'em.

"Antique" Pendants/Book Review

I recently found this book at my library:

Which struck me as weird: I mean, how can you make something antique, unless the book is actually instructions on how to make a time machine? But it's a book on faking antiques using polymer clay, with a fun twist: the author went through pictures and items on display in museums, and then set out to recreate the pieces with the clay. While some of them are a far cry from authentic-looking, some are surprisingly realistic, and if nothing else the techniques were new to me, and highly addictive.

So I made me some pendants. I mostly used flat-backed marbles, beach glass, and on one I used a white (undyed) howlite cabochon with red coral beads. I'm quite fond of them, especially the tentacle/green stone one and the large one with the coral beads.



The basic idea is to use black polymer clay, working it into ribbons that act as bezels and hold the stones in place. You add whatever you like to the pieces, then bake them. I painted mine with cheap craft acrylic, but I'm sure you could work wonders with mica powders and so forth.

This is probably not news to people who often work with polymer clay. I don't, though, so it was all look-at-this-fantabulous-idea! to me. My next such project will be a "pocket watch" done with stone and glass beads, bits of metal and whatnot.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Faux Mosaic (Painted)

Our kitchen is Mexican themed. Not original, no, but given my love of bright colors, glitter ala Kathy Murillo and tin artwork, well, we had to devote a room to it. Our basement door is in the kitchen, and was pretty banged up when we moved in-- cracks in the nine layers of paint, etc. Eventually it'll be either stripped and stained or stripped and repainted, but for now, I decided to dress it up with a faux mosaic. It's almost like pointilism, I suppose.

Pluses to this sort of piece:

-It's cheap, especially if, like me, you already have ninety thousand bottles of cheap craft paint. All I had to buy was some poly sealant.

-It's easy to fix mistakes, unlike real mosaics.

-You can paint over it if you have to move or don't like the end result.

-You can do pretty much any design, and are not limited by the availablity of certain tile colors. You also can do very small details because you don't have to try and find a teeny little piece of tile-- you just use a very small brush.

Minuses to this:

-It's not mosaic. It looks like one, especially from, oh, twelve feet away, but it's not for real, which can leave you feeling a bit fakey. Me, I don't care.

-It takes a really long time. Even simple designs take quite a while, because you have to fill in everything with dots instead of just slapping the paint on with a wide brush. My design was simple, but it still took me two days of solid, every-spare-moment-spent work.

-It can be hard to make your work look imperfect on purpose. In real mosaic, the tile pieces aren't perfectly shaped; they're sometimes off-kilter, leaving more or less grout showing. The temptation to make a "perfect" faux mosaic is there, especially if you're used to painting things nice and neatly. But hell, if that's what you're after, you might as well use the Rasterbator.


-a paintable surface

-an idea and a pencil

-craft acrylics in desired shades

-baby food jars or similar for mixing colors, if you so choose

-small paint brushes

-clear polyurethane sealant

-Q-tips and water (to fix boo-boos. Not that you'll make any. Just in case)

First, paint your surface the color of your "grout." The grout is the stuff that's normally inbetween the tiles on a real mosaic. My door was already white, so I skipped this step. Let the paint dry completely before going to the next step.

When you're ready, sketch your design out on your surface. It doesn't have to be perfect; you can always erase errant lines if you don't like them. You can label each section with color codes-- "B" for blue, "A" for aqua-- or you can make a mini-sketch on a piece of paper and label the colors there.

Mix any custom colors you need. Make sure to mix more than you think you'll need, especially if your paint is thin (some colors need several coats to be opaque- the orange on my design did). Using baby food jars is great for this because if you need to stop your work for a while, you can close them up and not have to match a secret paint formula the next day.
Start painting. I started with the sun, but you can really start anywhere. I'd suggest starting with the side opposite your "strong" hand-- i.e., I'm right handed, so it makes sense for me to start on the left side of the design. That way I can paint freely without dragging my hand or sleeve through the wet design.

The tiles can be random blobs, geometric shapes, whatever. I think squared-off random blobs look nice, but that's me. The important thing is to be random about it. To "force" randomness, you can also paint a tile or two in a big open space, and then fill in around it. If you keep doing this, it'll change the pattern you're unconsciously making with the tiles. It can also help to work on one area for a while, and then work on a different area.

On my piece, I used several layers of paint on the sun, to make sure it was vibrant, and to create blended-color tiles. On the sky area, I went over random tiles at the end, making them a bit darker than the surrounding tiles. I thought it made it look more realistic. Varying the color of the tiles just a smidge, I think, makes the tiles look more like, well, tile and less like paint.

When you're done, let the whole thing really dry. Then seal it with a coat of polyurethane. I haven't done this on my door yet, but it seems like a good idea. You can skip it if you like; my door has held up just fine in the year since I did it. But again, that's me.

Other ideas:

-What about using glossy paint for the tiles, and matte paint for the "grout" background? It may give a more realistic texture to the piece.

-Obviously, you don't have to paint one of your doors-- you could use this on anything: a canvas, your old combat boots (use leather paint, hey?), a coffee table, the hood of your car...

-I used plain paint, but who's to say you can't mix in some metallic or glitter paints?

If you try this out yourself, let me know how it goes! Send pictures! I'll hopefully add more faux mosaics to the door as I get more free time (but given it's December and I have two young kids, who knows when that'll be?).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Start with a plan, Stan.

Lookit, lookit! It's a new journal! And this time, it's crafty crap. All the time. Unless I get distracted.

No doubt there'll be some formatting coming soon, photos, links and the like. For now I pronounce this blog open, and am ceremoniously drinking Sugar Plum Fairy herbal tea to celebrate.