Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas

I know I’m a little late to wish you a Merry Christmas, since it’s already over. But consider it retro-active. I was so busy preparing for Christmas that I had no time to post. I hope it was Merry and bright for you though.

I spent the weeks before Christmas making festive sugar cookies,

AND clothespins. Yes, my family and friends were so impressed with my paper embellished clothespins, and I’d done such a good job convincing them that they were the perfect last minute gift for friends and co-workers that my mother placed an order for 60 sets. At 5 pins per set, let’s do the math – that’s 300! I think she gave a set to every person in her entire workplace.

It was quite an order to fill but I had 2 great friends to help me, (thanks again Shawna and Angie) and we whipped them out in a couple days. The search for a local craft store with an inventory of 300 magnets however, took another 2 days and I was sweating bullets big and bad.

The best thing though is that there are now 300 clothespins floating around out there with my etsy site address on the back of them and I’ll take all the marketing I can get. I’ve also managed to post some on Etsy for sale.

We’re headed out of state to continue holiday celebrations with more family over New Year’s but I’ll be back soon and hopefully posting some more stuff for your enjoyment. I’ve got a great project planned for Valentine’s Day that I can’t wait to get started on.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Baking Extravaganza – and my cool flea market purchase

Some friends and I got together Friday night for what we dubbed, “Holiday Baking Extravaganza”. Five of us filled one kitchen with pans, sugar, butter, almond bark, chocolate and good conversation.

I and two of the stoutest of the group created holiday treats until 2 a.m. (the other two wimped out on us at about 10 pm). It was fantastic, and we all came away with tons of holiday goodies to share with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

I’m taking my goodies to work in a device that is my 2nd most exciting purchase of 2008 (my new camera is #1). I found this picnic carrier in a local flea market and couldn’t resist it. It was so unusual and unique. It has 5 stacking aluminum sections, the bottom of which has a removable handle that can convert it into a sauce pan or you can use the long handle and hang it over an open campfire for cooking in the great outdoors.

By the look of the literature inside I’d date it around the 50’s or 60’s. I found one on Ebay just like it and the bidding was creeping up to the $45 mark, which made me feel really good about getting this one for the low low price of 3.99!

I have no desire to sell it though, I love it too much. It’s perfect for carrying a large variety of different items very compactly and conveniently, plus it’s just downright retro cool!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Paper Embellished Clothespins – a Tutorial



When I first saw this particular craft I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t very impressed. After all, they were simply regular wooden clothespins covered with decorative paper. However, the more I saw of them, the more I realized that they were a charming, quick and easy little craft, and they could be quite useful.

They make great desk accessories to clip your papers together, they’re also quite useful to hang items on a ribbon or string such as a child’s treasured artwork or Christmas cards. Add a magnet to the back and they’re great for hanging notes, photos and important paperwork on the fridge.

All the practicality and utility of a clothespin but with more glamour and flair!

Their construction is pretty straight forward but I thought I’d do a quick tutorial for anyone interested in making some of their own.

Supplies:


Wooden clothespins – the kind with the metal spring
Scraps of paper
X-acto knife
Decoupage glue
Small paintbrush
Magnets (optional)
E6000 or other strong adhesive (optional)

Step 1

Gather all of those paper scraps that you’ve been hoarding for years in the hopes of employing them in some fantastic project. Finally their time has come!!

I trimmed mine to approximately 4” by ¾ “. If you want to try and measure the clothespin exactly and cut the paper to fit you can, but as the clothespins may vary slightly in shape and size, I found it easier to leave plenty of excess paper and slice it off later for a cleaner look.

Step 2

Apply a thin layer of decoupage glue to the top of the clothespin



Step 3

Place your paper onto the clothespin. You’ll need to rub it slightly with your thumb/fingers to make sure it is properly adhered.

If you want decorative paper on both sides of your clip you would now repeat steps 1 – 3 for the other side of the clothespin. I decorated both sides of mine since at the time of construction I wasn’t sure if I’d be using them as clips or as magnets. However, if you know you’re going to be placing a magnet on the back, you could probably save yourself the trouble and only embellish the side that will be visible.

Step 4

Allow to dry. Decoupage glue dries fairly quickly so you’ll only need to wait a few minutes.


Step 5

With your X-acto knife pushed up against the edge of the clothespin, carefully slice off the excess paper. It gets a little tricky around the metal hinge but with practice you can master it easily.


Note: Be sure that your knife blade is sharp. I learned the hard way that a dull knife can be disastrous as it will pull and tear the paper rather than making a clean cut. See the rough edges on the clips below


Step 6

Apply a layer of decoupage glue to the top of the paper. This seals the paper and gives it a nice matte finish. I found that one layer was sufficient but you could certainly do more than one if you feel it needs a heavier seal. You could also use something like a varnish sealer, or polyurethane if you wanted more of a glossy finish.

Step 7 (optional)

Apply a magnet to the back. I used E6000 for this as it creates a nice strong bond. Be sure to do this step in a well ventilated area as E6000 is potent enough to give you quite a headache and/or make you believe you’ve entered into a trippy episode of Fraggle Rock.


If I had to do it over again I would have used a slightly smaller magnet that would be less conspicuous but as I already had an abundance of this size on hand I just went with it, that and the fact that I wasn’t thinking clearly after inhaling all of that E6000. I think I might have mistaken the cat for a Doozer and nibbled a little on the kids’ building blocks.

There you have it! The makings of lovely embellished clothespins. I made up a few sets to sell at a craft sale and they took very little time. They’d make great quick and inexpensive gifts for co-workers, family and friends as well.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bekkie

Have you ever been awake so long into the wee hours of the morning and had so much to accomplish that you begin to contemplate whether you should even bother going to bed at all?

I have, and the only thing that convinces me to eventually retire is the thought of what I would look like around 1:00 pm the following day – my drool seeping into the keyboard, my cheek resting on the spacebar and my co-workers huddled around giggling and discussing whether or not I’ll get fired right then and there or if management will simply document the infraction in my file so that they can fire me at a later date.

I’m trying to do so much crafting for gifts that I often cannot decide on which project to work on first and end up flitting from one to the other and getting very little accomplished.

I am bolstered though as each small project is completed. I can’t show you all I’m working on since the recipients of some of these gifts read this blog, however I can show off one thing that I’ve already gifted to my daughter for her 2nd birthday which was last week.

Bekkie is from a pattern by Rosalie Quinlan. She was quite simple to make but still time consuming. I made her tights out of a pair of socks I found on clearance at Target and her denim dress and shoes are actually made out of an old pair of my jeans – my way of both recycling and putting even more of me into this little gift.

As expected, the gift of such a thoughtful, heartfelt, handcrafted doll had little effect on my beloved baby girl and she unceremoniously tossed her into the corner of her room.


I’m not taking it personally though – perhaps she’ll learn to appreciate it in time, and even if she doesn’t it matters very little. My joy was in making it for her and that is enough.

Monday, December 1, 2008

They can't all be masterpieces

I'm busy knitting and sewing away to make all the holiday gifts I have on my list. In my haste I decided to choose a nice chunky yarn and an easy knitting pattern to bang out a scarf to give as a gift.


I chose Homespun yarn which is very soft and wearable and I chose a color that I thought would be neutral enough to coordinate with any coat color, and . . . well . . . it came out looking like a macrame plant hanger.


Now a couple people I've shown it to have thought it was lovely, however to me it is too completely reminiscint of the plant hanger my mother made in the 70's with jute twine that is still hanging in her living room. Nothing against macrame. It has its place and purpose just not around someone's neck. Even though this scarf is completley soft, I can barely stand to touch it because it looks like itchy jute, nor can I bring myself to give it to anyone. I might as well ask them to hang something like this around their neck:

I guess it's back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Late night project

This week has not been a real good one as far as productivity goes.

We've had a medical emergency with our dog, a toddler tooth removed, and on top of it all everyone in the household has a cold. We're also trying to prepare for an upcoming trip to visit my husband's family in Kansas. So though I have a couple items prepared and ready to list in my Etsy site, I'm afraid they'll have to wait until next week. Work on business related crafts will also be put on hold starting next week. I'll be frantically working on crafts for Christmas gifts.

However, I did accomplish something small last night and I wanted to share it. I felt it was a necessity with our upcoming trip so I sacrificed a couple hours of much needed sleep to get it done.

Aaron has a Nintendo DS and when we bought it for him we also got a pouch to house it in. It works well, however there is nothing to hold his extra games. We bought him a hard sided case to house the game cartridges in but then he's either carrying it in his pocket or just leaving it lay somewhere.

I thought if I could create another simple pouch to piggyback onto his current DS pouch that it would be perfect. I used some felt I had and I embellished it with some quick hand embroidery. I did the rocket free hand and it only took me about 3 tries to get the letters small enough to fit his whole name inside the rocket.








Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Knit-stravaganza!

It never fails that as soon as I start going on and on about how I never have time to finish a knit project, that I would then all of a sudden complete a whirlwind of projects and prove myself wrong.

After I finished my first cowl Aaron was very depressed that I had not yet knit anything for him (I had crocheted a sweater for Gwen a couple months ago) and so I could not let the poor boy down. He picked out this yarn himself from the store and requested a hat and scarf, "with stripes, Momma!"

Only after I'd started knitting it did I realize that he'd picked colors that almost exactly matched his winter coat. And considering that at the time he chose the yarn his coat was still in storage, he's either a fashion guru, or just plain lucky.

I also recently finished my second cowl from the fabulous bargain yarn I found at Big Lots. This time around I opted for a simple garter stitch and just made a simple tube rather than the fancy button closure like I did on the first one. It's my favorite of the two, mostly because it's a lot easier to put on and fits a little better.


I've been getting quite a bit of use out of it now that the temperatures are dropping.

I didn't have much leftover yarn. I thought it might be enough for a small scarf for Gwen but I ran short. It made a perfect little scarf for her teddy though.





Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prototypes

For some reason there seems to be a fake moustache and beard trend, and I'm dying to get in on it. Why? I'm not quite sure. Maybe because it's just plain fun.

I'm still working on my prototypes but I wanted to give you a sneak peek. Aaron is seen here sporting "The Poirot" an homage to the Agatha Christie detective whom I adore. I'm fairly happy with it but I might make it slightly smaller.


I'm also working on "The Selleck" an homage to Tom and his bushy facial locks, "Bandit" which is based on Burt Reynolds stache of Smoky and the Bandit days, and perhaps a nice Fu Manchu.

Right now I'm having some trouble with The Selleck. I haven't yet captured that Magnum P.I. essence. It looks alright on Aaron but I want these to be wearable by adults as well and when Matt dons it, it is a little reminiscent of Hitler so it's back to the drawing board on that one.

Hope to have them in the shop soon.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm in love, and her name is Nikki

Merry Christmas to me!

I know it's a little early to be talking about Christmas but why not? They're already moving in the holiday decorations at the stores AND I've alread gotten my present!

We've been saving up for months to get a new camera. I've been dreaming and longing and drooling for months and the original plan was to purchase it as my Christmas gift in December. However, the quickening decline of my faithful duct tape encrusted Kodak sped up the timetable of the new camera purchase.

I've had my eye on the Nikon D40 for quite some time, well really ever since it came out and I was suckered in with their ingenious marketing plan. I did my research though and decided that based on its price, ease of use (it's my first digital SLR) and features that it would be perfect for our family - and it is.

I call her Niki and she and I have spent the entire weekend spooning. I've been nuzzling her lens while she wrapped herself around my neck. We shall never be apart.

It's an unconventional relationship, that's for sure. But it has its rewards. I give her a warm and caring home and she gives me:

The speed and ability to capture action shots - on the first try! Not on the 50th!

I have dozens of shots like these! Dozens! With my old camera I'd have to force the poor kids to jump in and throw leaves for 45 minutes before my camera could actually capture them mid-air like this.

She also gives me the speed needed to capture faces like this, that flash for only a moment:

and moments like these:


vibrant and detailed still-lifes:


and natural coloring and glow in low-light situations (this was taken in the basement, without a flash!)


Our love shall last forever!
(special thanks to my hubby for having the financial wherewithall to save up for this camera, and thanks to my sweet Momma for the extra push at the end to allow me to get it this early!)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Like high school but without the acne

I’m not in general the best person in social situations. Small talk pretty much scares the hell out of me. It’s not my forte. I never know what to say, or I’m afraid whatever I do say is going to make me sound stupid. It stems from a pretty healthy fear of rejection I think. My close friends and my husband have great fun pointing out my social ineptness and therefore I’m trying to slowly but surely make more of an effort to overcome said deficiencies.

I figured that perhaps some sort of online chat situation would be a non-intimidating avenue to explore. Plus, I’m also eager to promote my Etsy shop and make more crafty connections and therefore the Etsy Chat seemed like the perfect thing to do. I boldly logged in and browsed the active chats. I chose a Vintage chat since I’m pretty keen on vintage stuff and with one click of my mouse I was in on the chat.

I had some problems initially with my pop up blocker not allowing me to see some of the stuff on screen. However, once I got that issue resolved I was greeted warmly and was prepared to chat!

It was awful! It was like high school all over again. There were inside jokes that I didn’t get, there was slang that I didn’t understand – I get LOL but there was BRB and PYT and TLC and R-E-S-P-E-C-T – okay, maybe that’s not exactly the acronyms used, but the point is that I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about half the time. I didn’t have any burning questions to ask these complete strangers, I didn’t see any threads of conversation that I felt I could add input to without coming off as a complete dork.

I finally just gave up and left. I felt embarrassed and exposed – like I’d just walked around the entire dance floor at prom and then realized that the back of my dress had been caught in the waist of my pantyhose. Terrible.

I think I just need some more experience. Maybe next time I’ll look for a chat room with only one desperate person in there waiting for someone to talk to. Of course then I’ll feel the pressure of being the only source of conversation.
Man, it sucks to be socially inept.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Intimidated – vintage quilt blocks

Years ago my grandmother gave me a large sack full of hand pieced – let me say that again – hand pieced – quilt blocks that she had found at a church bazaar or rummage type sale. Or perhaps someone gave them to her I can’t quite remember. Anyway, she gave them to me thinking that I could possibly use them in my crafts and I was excited to receive them because they truly are beautiful. I have nine patch blocks, appliqu├ęd sue bonnet blocks and meticulously cut and sewn honeycomb patchwork and they’re absolutely gorgeous!

However I’ve been so intimidated by them that they’ve sat in boxes under my desk for years just waiting for me to muster the nerve and inspiration to do something with them. Some of them, I’m sad to say are stained and badly disintegrated, but others are in excellent shape and they’re begging to be given new life.

I’m particularly fond of these honeycomb blocks. Whoever put these together took great care with the color palette and the placement of the fabric pattern within the block.

I’ve got a few ideas for these pieces rummaging around my head but it’s fairly intimidating. To me these items are precious and I’m afraid to waste them on any less than worthy project. However, I’ve been trying to tell myself that any use for them would be better than letting them rot away in a dark lonely box and I’m hoping this mindset will allow me the freedom to be creative with them.

So stay tuned and hopefully I’ll be able to show you some finished projects soon. Do any of you have any thoughts on possible projects for these pieces? Have you made something out of old quilt blocks that you’d like share?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cowl or double chin cozy? You decide

I recently finished my first ever knitted cowl project with the fabulous bargain yarn I purchased a few weeks ago.

I didn't really follow a pattern, I just pretty much knitted a short version of a scarf, made some buttonholes (which really was a big accomplishment for me since I'd never done buttonholes before) and Bob's Your Uncle, I have a cowl.

I absolutely love this yarn. It's a wool blend but not 100% wool. I felted it ever so slightly after knitting it just to tighten it up a little since I made it a little too large. I kind of half expected it to be a little itchy but it's really not.

I think it looks quite nice actually and nothing like a double chin cozy as I had feared. On a separate note, it's really no fun taking pictures of yourself. I mean first of all you can never get the right angle. My nose really isn't as large as it appears in the following picture and I'm really popping my eyes open here because the previous 10 shots I'd taken made me look like Courtney Love before rehab - or even after rehab really - is there a difference?

Look below, do you see the seemingly half asleep/half conscious eye situation going on? And this is one of the better shots. I think I was squinting to see the camera. You see I had an elaborate set up which involved a mirror in front of me so that I could see the reflection of the camera's viewing screen so that I could try to frame myself in the shot. And man, maybe my nose is that big?!

Anyway, sorry I got off track. I still have a little yarn left which I think will be enough to make a skinny little scarf for my soon to be 2 yr. old baby girl. Plus I have two skeins of the pink/rose colored yarn that is destined to be another cowl. I think I might try a more textural tube-like cowl for that one.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Altering hand me downs - a fabric applique tutorial

This weekend was one of those rare occassions when we had relatively few obligations and I actually found some time to work on some projects.


I'd been wanting to do something with these old sweatshirts that my son wore. They're the perfect size for my daughter but were covered in stains and not very feminine. So I decided to spruce them up with some fabric appliques. It's a simple process but I thought I'd do a quick how to for those who haven't done it before.

What you'll need:
Sweatshirt or other piece of clothing you want to alter
Fabric for the applique
Heat N' Bond
Sewing machine (optional)
Needle and embroidery thread (optional)
Buttons (optional)

I knew I wanted some simplistic nature silhouettes for these sweatshirts but didn't really have the confidence to draw them freehand so I searched online for free clipart until I found images that I could print out and trace. I did have to alter them slightly to make them big enough and to make sure they covered all the stained areas of my sweatshirts. I had to alter the branch pattern several times to cover all the stains on the orange sweatshirt and had to use a heart shape here and there as well.

Once your image is the right size and shape you'll need to transfer it to the Heat N' Bond. Be sure to reverse your pattern (Notice in the picture below how the deer on the Heat N' Bond is reversed in direction from the finished product. This is imperative if you have an image that needs to face a certain way. if your image does not have a right and wrong side then this is not an issue) and trace it on to the paper side of the Heat and Bond.


Cut around your image but do not cut on the lines. Then apply your Heat and bond to your fabric per the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to apply the Heat N' Bond to the WRONG SIDE of your material. One of the fabrics pictured here is a woven fabric and therefore doesn't have a right and a wrong side so I dont' want that to confuse you.

Once your heat and bond is applied to your applique fabric, cut out the image. Peel the paper backing off and position it on your garment. Then adhere it with your iron following the manufacturer's instructions.

A note on Heat N' Bond. Heat N' Bond can be purchased at most craft/fabric stores in varying strengths. I used the lightweight version because that's what I had on hand and I like it because it's not too stiff and is fully sewable. I knew that I wanted my applique pieces to be stitched onto the sweatshirt as that was the look I was going for. However, if you're not a huge fan of sewing or want to make this project even quicker, be sure to purchase a very strong/heavy duty version of Heat and Bond (look for "Ultrahold") that can withstand repeated wearings and washings without needing sewing reinforcement around the edges.

I sealed the edges of my appliques with the blanket sitch setting on my sewing machine. If your sewing machine does not have this option or any other decorative stitch, then a small zigzag stitch over the edges or even normal straightline stitching along the edge of the appliqued piece will keep it in place just fine during wear and washings.


I felt that my bird and branch applique needed more detail so I enhanced it with some hand stitching. 2 strands of embroidery thread, a needle and a simple running stitch was all it took to add some more charm to this piece. To finish off the fawn I simply added some buttons.


Here are a couple more pictures of the finished products.
'

This is my first tutorial so I hope that I made the directions clear and concise and that you'll find this information inspiring and helpful. Post a comment or send me an email if you have any specific questions that this post did not cover. pinandpaper@q.com

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Finally! Retro Tags are here!

I've been working on some retro inspired tags for what seems like months and fnally I've got them printed, assembled photographed and listed.

There are some general gift tags and then some Christmas gift tags as well. Click my Etsy showcase to check them out!