Saturday, March 31, 2007

how about chickens?

Ok, so as the resident straight guy who's been invited to post on an arts and crafts blog, I'm feelin' a little bit like Charlie Sheen in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. So as not to get too freaky on y'all, I thought I'd start with a nice suzie-homemakerish post about a cake dish I did that had chickens on it.

I'm not kidding. My mom was doing her kitchen up in a chickens theme, so for Christmas I made her a couple things. The first was a rooster mosaic that could serve as a trivet, but also makes a nice wall hanging. I started by drawing on a charger I bought at target (I didn't know what a charger was, but apparently it's something you put a dish on). Then I put in the glass tiles:

Then I proceeded to fill it in some more...

Until it was done. Normally I'd then grout it, but for some reason I wanted to try not grouting a piece once. I think sometimes the grout takes away the ability to see the whole tile, so the effect is a sort of muting of the colors. Since there were some bright colors here, I went sans grout.

Then I mixed up this special epoxy. You mix it and it heats up, then you pour it and gently blow on it. The carbon dioxide in your breath removes all the bubbles. Comes out like glass.

I kind of wish I had grouted it though. But whatever, it came out pretty well. Next I decided to put some chickens on a cake plate (which I also got at target). I started by finding a suitable chicken pic, blowing it up, cutting it out, and putting it on the plate via permanent marker.

Then I just started choosing colors and filling in...

Finally it was filled in:

This one I grouted.

Then you have to wait til the grout dries a bit, and wipe it off with a wet sponge. This part is a pain in the ass, because if you don't wait long enough it just spreads around. But the biggest reason it's a pain in the ass is that the tiles have little grooves in them. This means that you have to remove grout from each tile. The only way I've found to do this is with a toothpick, picking it out of each tile individually. That's right. Trust me, I tried everything before I finally settled on that method. Now you can see why I experimented with not grouting the rooster.

That had to dry for at least 24 hours. Then I mixed the epoxy and glassed it in. You let it drip over the sides to create a nice smooth edge. Once the drips dry you have to sand them off.

After it dried, though, it was (if I do say so myself) pretty impressive. The epoxy is just as hard and clear and smooth as glass. Crazy.

And the final product (the circle in the middle is a reflection of my overhead kitchen light):

I wrapped it up in bubble wrap, newspaper, cardboard, etc. and mailed it off marked FRAGILE!!!! in about a thousand places. When we went to visit my mom, she opened it, and as she picked up the box I heard clinking. My heart sunk. It was busted. Luckily, though, only the bottom part of the stand broke!! The top was in tact. Bill, the genius that he is, took it out to his shop and ground the bottom flat and smooth. So now it's a slightly shorter, but still functional, cake plate. Voila!

Man, it took everything I had not to swear in that post. Can we swear here? I saw pictures of children.

Next up: the lamp from hell.

The Easiest Dress You Could Ever Make

Ok, here I am back with the easy stuff. Gina wants me to strut my skillz, but the truth is, now that I have kids, those complicated projects are few and far between. Much more often, I pick up fabric on a whim and spend an hour making a super-easy dress while also avoiding taking part in the housecleaning spree that my husband is on. It's win-win!

So, above we have our cute little finished product. I'm just giving directions for the dress'll have to figure out how to make your own little girl to go with it.

This dress looks much more impressive until you realize what the fabric I started with looks like. The big secret is that it comes already gathered at the top! But you don't have to mention that to family and friends who ooh and aah over your creation. I won't tell.

Anyway, in order to figure out how much of this fabric you need, you should measure the little girl's chest. Maya, who is going on 4 is pretty average sized and she was 21 inches around. Knowing that I wanted the dress to be just smaller than her measurement and I wanted enough left over for a couple little straps, I bought 25 inches of fabric. And ended up with no scraps.

Step 1 is to pin the fabric around your little girl, stretching it just enough so it would stay up without straps, but not tight enough that she'll make you regret it. Guessing by how much I had left over, I'm guessing Maya's was 19 1/2 -20 inches around.
Sew the seam from the very top to the very bottom, making, in essence, a giant tube top.

Cut two remnant strips (mine were about 3"x 12" (and way longer than I needed) and fold them in half. Sew up the side and turn them inside
out. (See bag project below for rant on turning straps inside out.) Iron the straps flat.

Put the dress back on your model (still inside out) and eyeball where you want them to go. Pin them with the strap seam showing (cause we're still inside-out here) on on each side of the front and back. Because I was feeling extra-fancy today, I pinned mine so they made an X on the back.

While you've got it on your model, you could also pin up the hem to the length you want it. I just pin it in one spot, then lay it flat on a table to pin the rest of the hem. Turn it under twice so the scraggly threads don't escape.

I might buy some ribbon and make a little tie belt around the waist. It would be easy to sew it around the front and sides, then leave the back open so you can tie it in a box. I'd stay away from sewing anything all the way around the waist, since you want the fabric to stretch and give easily for putting on and taking off. And there you have it...a dress in under an hour!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Neighbor's Yard Waste = Lovely Home Decor!

This is my kitchen. We've lived in this house for almost 9 years now, and to be exact, it's the 4th incarnation of our kitchen. It's not that I'm obsessed with's just that the kitchen was ugly when we moved in, so it had to go immediately. Then we had a nice kitchen for about 7 years and I just got sick of it. Kitchen #3 was a very unfortunate decorating mistake that looked great in my head (bright green, terra cotta & watermelon paints in a sort of "Fiesta Kitchen!" theme), but did not translate well to reality. So after 6 months of Ugly Kitchen, calm beachy kitchen was born. And you get to hear all about it.

The house is like 50 or 60 years old, so the kitchen has soffits above the cabinets. I liked the paint color we picked, but those big empty soffits were mocking me, so I had to put something up there. Since I'm not a senior citizen, hanging plates and baskets was out, and I had never actually seen any other decorations used for such a thing.

But one day, inspiration hit. I wanted it to look beachy, and what could be more beachy than scraggly branches? (Somehow that made sense at the time.) So I went to a friend's house, hacked down her grapevine (it was fall, so it was all good) and brought all the branches back. I laid them down in the backyard on some newspapers and spray painted them mostly white. I wanted some of the natural color to show through, so they're not crazy fake white. If you don't have a friend with extra vines growing in her garden, I think most craft stores sell grapevines.

Then I pounded nails into the soffits every 12-24 inches, depending on where the branches bent. I wired them, one by one, on to the nails, just using regular thin wire that you'd get at Ace. I just kept layering them and wiring them to the nails until it resembled something Martha might make. If you really look you can barely see the wires, but the nails are completely covered up because I wired a few branches in front of each one. By the way, no need to go crazy with the nails...grapevine branches weight almost nothing, so it doesn't take much to hold them up there.

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Patricks and Nostalgia

by Brooke

Here are two layouts I have created recently that make me happy. I tried to take pictures of them leaning against the wall as I have seen some other scrappers do on the aforementioned website, instead of trying to take them face down on my floor and then cropping out the carpet on the computer. If I were hard-core, I would "scan and stitch" my images, but I'm trying to swear less, too. But, I don't think I like the resulting shadows on these, so I'll probably go back to my old way. Regardless, here we go.

First we have, Little Patricks.

This layout was inspired by Eva's name for leprechauns. (You can read more about that story on our family blog.) Materials: cardstock (Stampin' Up), patterned paper (Reminisce), Ribbon (can't remember), Buttons (Oriental Trading Fun Expressions), pen (American Crafts); letters were cut with my Quickutz Studio die cut alpahabet.

And yesterday, I made April 10, 1976.

I resisted the temptation to entitle this "1970-something" like the song lyric because I do know what year I was born. This layout was inspired by some patterned paper at the scrapbook store that I really liked, but wasn't sure what I would use it for. There are a lot of "vintage" prints in patterned paper right now, but this was more of a 1970s era baby print than your traditonal vintage. I decided to scan and print one of my old baby pictures to use with it. It is a picture of my Aunt Dawn (who is actually my mom's cousin---we just call everybody autn and uncle), who was a nurse at St, Mary's hospital in Kankakee getting me ready to go home. Yes, she is pinning on a cloth diaper. I think my mom tried those for about 3 days before switching to Pampers. Anyway, the journaling says: "Abba on the radio, Ford in the White House, SNL on TV...and I hit the scene." The pink bunny and the bug are cut from the paper that started it all.
Materials: Scalloped cardstock (Bazzil), Patterned Paper (Basic Grey for the stripes; Anna Griffen for the bunny and bug, American Crafts for the Green), Ribbon (American Crafts for the polka dots and I can't remember where the floral one came from. Probably American Crafts.) Buttons (Oriental Trading), Brad (Karen Foster), Labels (Avery), Pen (American Crafts) Stickers (Making Memories) and the year was cut with my Quickutz.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Something Simple to Start

Ok, so I thought I'd pull out the simplest thing I've sewn recently, since Gina told me that she just learned how to sew on buttons last year. Just now, as I went to post this sucker, I see that she has already posted a whole thing on homemade scrubs. I guess you can do quite a bit without sewing on buttons!

So anyway, you're still getting the simple project for my first post. Because I realize not everyone grew up in a house where everyone sewed. And cross-stitched. And painted. And drew. And washed off styrofoam meat trays and egg cartons to use for future craft projects. Apparently we had a lot of free time.

So these are two little book bags I made for my kids when they went to preschool. First, because the regular backpacks were as tall as they were when they were little 3-year-olds hitting the preschool scene for the first time. Second, because you have to put their name on the bag anyway, so why not put it in big letters on the front. And third, because my mom did the same thing for me when I went off to kindergarten, and I just couldn't resist reliving history with my own kids. So here's how it's done....

Get some heavy fabric. I picked a thick corduroy because I had it on hand, but canvas would work nicely, too. And it probably wouldn't hang on to every hair and piece of dust that comes its way like the corduroy does. (Enlarge the pics and you'll see what I'm talking about.) Cut two identical rectangles (think that you're probably going to want to be able to put 8 1/2"x 11" papers in there, so leaving an inch for seam allowances, you might cut them 10 1/2 x 13 or larger. If you want matching fabric straps, you'll also need two rectangles that are about 2 1/2" x 17 1/2". I wouldn't go much larger on the straps if this is going to be for a little kid, or it'll be dragging on the floor.

Now you get to decorate the front. I picked a square of fairy fabric, turned the edges in with an iron and stitched it in the middle of the front side for Maya, then (this is hard to see in the picture) I pinned her name using ribbon over the fairy fabric and sewed it down using a zig-zag stitch that was as thick as the ribbon. For my son, I did the same basic thing with the truck picture and hand-sewed his initials (yeah, his name isn't "Ebm") over the picture. There's no reason you have to hand sew the initials, I was probably just too lazy to change the thread color on the machine 3 different times to sew 3 little letters.

Once you have the front done, put the two large rectangles face sides together and sew from the top of the left side, across the bottom, and back up the right side. Then turn down and hem the top edge of both sides...if you turn it under twice then the little scraggly threads won't escape.

If you're doing fabric handles, now is the time to fold each long rectangle in half, so it's now 1 1/4" by 17 1/2" and sew from the bottom all the way up the 17 1/2' side. Now you have the hellish job of turning that sucker inside out. There's no easy way to do it...which is why I used blanket binding for my daughter's bag. If I recall, I think it took a lot of poking the material through the long tunnel with fingers, pencils, knitting needles, maybe a coat hanger, and lots of swearing. Once you have a right-side out strip, poke the last 1/2" back up inside of each end and iron the whole thing flat. Turn the bag right-side-out and pin both ends of one handle to the inside of one side. It should only hit about an inch or so under the top of the bag. Then sew a little square along the bottom of the handle, up the inch of each side, and along where it meets the top of the bag. If you don't want the square to show through to the front, hand-stitch it to the inner layer of the 2-layer top hem that you're attaching this to. Lay the bag flat and use handle #1 as a guide to where to pin handle #2 on the opposite side. Rinse. Repeat.

If you want to save yourself the headache of turning handles inside out, buy some 2" blanket binding and instead of hemming the top of the bag, just fold that over the top and sew it down with a zig-zag stitch. (In case you haven't used blanket binding before, it will be very obvious how to do this once you see it.) For the handles just cut a strip of binding about 17 1/2" and sew up the open side using that fancy zig-zag stitch. (Ta-da! No turning inside-out required!) Then stitch the handles on just like I wrote above.

Wrap it up and give it to your big kid on their first day of school. Then put a big smile on your face and do your best not to break down crying until after you've dropped the kid off at preschool!
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Scrubs, Natch

Gina: Aw, RIGHT!! Two things have already happened... Brooke has already posted, and I have already lost an entire post! Two important milestones for any Blogger. So here's the redo.

I think I'll start with some pics I took nearly three years ago, when I made the questionable decision to sew my own scrubs. You can see the blissfully optimistic look on my face, all, "I'm gonna be a hygienist! It's gonna be FUN!" Oh, to be young again. But when I'm in private practice (if I make it out of school alive), at least I'll get to choose some of the more non-dorky prints to make for myself.

And... speaking of dorky!

I have since scrapped this pair completely. You can't totally tell in the photo, but even though I made the XS, this pair came out with a butt the size of a barn door, and so short in the legs I had high-waters. It was like... who are they making these for? Aunt Sponge from James and the Giant Peach? That's what you get for buying used patterns from the 1980's on Ebay, I guess. But the whole idea was to make them for next-to-nothing, with material I'd bought on deep discount while working briefly at JoAnn Fabric.

My next pair came out better. I have no idea how to alter a pattern, but I cut away some of the top, lifted the crotch up off the knee area, and added some paper to the bottom. Pretty good!

I continued to adapt the pattern, and I made a purple pair (not pictured) that fit the best... They have since retained a large bleach stain, but I cover it with my scrubs jacket.

Oh, and I made a scrubs jacket!

I had never, ever sewn buttons on anything before this, and after reading some advice on the subject, I must say everything came out very well. It was also the first time I'd done french seams, which I now routinely employ. They are a hardy seam finish, and nothing ever unravels with them. You basically sew the garment right-side out, then flip it, then sew it again -- so the seams are enclosed inside.

Unfortunately, I now know that the jacket should be a size UP from your scrubs size, or its gonna be too small. It fits me perfectly, but not with something larger underneath it. But it has made a nice "back-up." And I learned a lot in making it!

As a final note on the project, if anyone out there is considering making scrubs (right), I would stay away from the material in the fabric store called "scrubs fabric." I made the first pair out of that, and it is really canvas-y and scratchy. I used the solid color, thin cotton/poly blend fabric, and it looks great right out of the dryer, but you can actually breathe in it. Also, I put in an elastic waistband instead of the pull-and-tie kind, and I love how easy they are. Who has time to tie their pants?

Just also wanted to say how excited I am about this new project... I have so many talented friends, and I can't wait to see what everyone is doing. If you know anyone else who would like to join, be sure and let me know!

Greetings from a paste-eater

by Brooke

Gina invited me to join this blog because I am one of her "Creative-type" friends. Originally, that meant theatre. However, even though I have an MFA in acting, I don't do that much theatre these days. My posts will probably revolve around scrapbooking---with the occasional cake I made for the kids' birthdays thrown in just to show you how many, many things can be done with cupcakes even if you do not excel in cake decorating. Anyhoo, it's mostly going to be scrapbooking, so I thought I might clear a few things up. I think scrapbooking, outside the "scrapbooking world" tends to conjure up images of soccer moms waving deco scissors around as they try to document that their children's lives were, in fact, perfect. And, inside the scrapping world, I can't say that such an image doesn't exist. I am active on a scrapbooking message board that is rather clique-ish. There are "Suzy Scrapbookers" (the soccer moms who want pretty pages but don't want to have to think creatively), the "Digi Gals" (people who have gone to using Adobe photoshop and other software to create their pages), the "paste-eaters" (people who like to use real paper and stuff when they scrapbook instead of creating it all on the computer), the "pubsters" (people trying to get published in scrapbooking magazines), etc. I am a paste-eater who dabbles in getting "pubbed" but mostly likes just adding page after page to our family's albums. I also teach classes at the scrapbooking store in town. It will be fun to post some of the pages I create that I like but don't think are "pub-worthy" and still want to share. I will probably post the materials list (in case anybody is interested in that kind of thing) and a little about what inspired it, etc. But, why blog more when i could sum up some of my other feelings about scrapbooking in a layout? The message board I mentioned earlier had a contest called "Why do I scrapbook?" I entered and got an honorable mention (which made me pretty darn happy) with this: Materials
Cardstock: WorldWin Treasures (kraft), Prism (orange), HP (white)
Patterned Paper: Basic Grey (elephants), American Crafts (flowers), Sweetwater (school book), Daisy D's (teacher), A2Z Essentials (swirl)
Stamps: Paper Studio (large), Stampin' Up (small), PSX (heart)
Ink: Stampin' Up and Color Box
Pen: American Crafts
Other: Dymo Label Maker
THE MAMA: I never realized how bittersweet parenting could be. As you celebrate a new skill learned, you mourn just a little for the baby-ness left behind. Scrapbooking helps me feel like I won’t forget the dearness of their different stages. I feel proud documenting their milestones and like I also have an outlet to be wistful about how they are ever-changing and growing.
THE ARTIST:So, yeah, I have an MFA in acting., not visual arts or graphic design. But that doesn’t mean I can’t play with paper and words. Performing and scrapbooking have the same idea at the heart: telling stories. I don’t get to be on stage much right now and this satisfies my need to create and to share.
THE STUDENT: I never want to stop learning. About so many things. But, Scrapbooking is a great source for always being able to learn something new…trying something different, exploring a new technique, getting excited about new products and how to use them.
THE TEACHER: Ever since I was little, if I learned something, I immediately wanted to share it or teach it to someone else. So, I’m a university professor. And, naturally, as my love for scrapbooking grew, I felt compelled to start teaching at the scrapbook store. My classes aren’t always the most popular because I don’t always want them to totally copy the original design...I want them to explore and try their own thing. I get a rush when something clicks.
THE ANXIOUS: It’s not a joke that scrapbooking is therapy for me. I guess I should not have been surprised that I developed post-partum anxiety and depression after Eva was born. I have several relatives on Paxil, after all. But it totally floored me to feel so out of control. I discovered, though, if I kept celebrating how wonderful life was through scrapbooking, eventually, I began to feel that life really was wonderful. After both the kids, scrapping was what helped me get back to normal…and any time anxiety rears its ugly head, I know scrapbooking will help tame it.
Quotes going around the edge of the page:
That it shall enver come again is what makes life so sweet-Emily Dickinson
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time-Thomas Merton
The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live-Mortimer Adler
The mediocre teacher tells; the great teach inspires-William Arthur Ward