Friday, May 30, 2008

Love is in the air...

Dear Shayne,

Oh, this is so exciting! My friend Jan is, as I write this very post, proposing to her partner of 22 years -- yay! (ETA: She said yes!) Jan asked me yesterday, "Is it difficult to make an envelope?"

In response to her question, I said, "Well, it's not difficult, really..." but that's because I am a Crazy Envelope Makin' Lady and I've got waaay too many tools for the job. So I offered to make her the envelope myself.

I am very pleased with the outcome. Here's the front:
Envelope for Lori
(She requested "purple" and "hearts." Success!)

I am not usually one to experiment with rubber stamps, but I like the effect I got here. I stamped that inner heart, then I cut out around just the heart part. Then I used the same stamp on the middle sized heart and glued the first heart where it fit. The effect is neat -- almost a cut-out look (click through to see more details).

The envelope contains an application for a marriage license, print outs of a legal statement that this marriage will not invalidate their domestic partner benefits [I don't have a link to that -- Jan?], and this article saying that same-sex marriage is now legal in California (as well it should be EVERYWHERE) and will start happening on June 17.

She also wanted to include a pair of rings that she and Lori used in a commitment ceremony they had 22 years ago. Awww.

So I took a ribbon and a little heart-shaped buckle and tied them in a bow. I also made a tag for her to write "Happy Anniversary" on. (Could this get any sweeter? Today is their 22 year anniversary. Seriously. I can't get enough of this stuff.)

While rifling through the stash, I stumbled upon paper that's got all kinds of wedding-y phrases on it like, "To have and to hold" and such. She is going to stick a photo of them (from 22 years ago! They're so adorable!) with "Will you marry me?" printed on it on top of that paper so Lori sees it when she opens the envelope. Here it is, before she put the photo in:Jan's proposal documents

Sniff! I'm getting all teary eyed. I'm so happy for them. Congratulations to Jan and Lori! (And every other person in the state of California right now who is finally able to marry whoever they damned well please.)

Yay for love! I love it!

love, (<-- see?)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Resin attempts

Dear Shayne,

After going on and on yesterday about the amazing work of John W. Golden, I guess I should show you my own attempts at pouring resin, right? Weeellll... I'm not up to John's standards yet, that's for sure.

In summary: My friend Hollie and I tried it out, learned a lot, scrapped most of it, and are looking forward to our next attempt.

In the meantime, I'd say my best piece is this little chunk o' buttons heart:
Resin heart

No idea what I'll do with it. I used heart-shape ice cube trays from IKEA. It's cute, but far from perfect -- the release that we sprayed in the bottom of the mold (it's like Pam non-stick spray, but for resin) pooled and left pocks in many areas. Here's a hint on how bad it is: this photo looks blurry, but it's not -- it's the crappy texture of my resin. So I learned something with that one.

I also made this little "sewing shrine" out of an old measuring cup. It's difficult to see, but there are two resin layers in there: one of buttons, then one with a miniature dressform and a safety pin through a scrap of fabric:
Resin sewing shrine

I read somewhere that you can get rid of the bubbles in the resin by using a lighter near the surface while it's still wet. Unfortunately, I forgot the part about not getting too close because resin is flammable. We did have a moment of excitement as I said, "Oh. It's on fire!" (which caused poor Hollie's husband to whip around in fear), but I was able to put it out pretty quickly. If you click through to the bigger version of that photo, you can see that some of the buttons look "smoky." That's where the fire was. Oops. Another lesson learned.

I think that particular piece needs more layers. I would like to find more small sewing related items to put in there and give it at least twice the depth it has right now.

This last one was supposed to be a gift for Jenny (Hi, Jenny!) but I'm not thrilled with it:
Resin Q

It doesn't look too bad in this photo, but I forgot that curved surfaces distort, so the Scrabble tile looks oddly stretched in the middle. My plan was to put an eye screw into the top of it and make a pendant. I'll probably ruin it when I try that, so I may attempt this one again next time we try this activity.

All in all, we had a good time with our first attempt. We certainly learned a lot (both from our experiences and from John's video), so we'll try again soon. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The King of Craft: John W. Golden

Dear Shayne,

I'd like to tell you about a totally awesome all-around craft guru I have only recently stumbled upon: John W. Golden. (Anyone reading this who is already familiar with John, please forgive me for being so late to the party!)

I found John last week via craftster. That link'll take you to his post, but here is his fantastic video on pouring resin. Really good stuff -- lots of great tips.

While I was watching the video, I thought to myself how surprising it was that he was sharing his "secrets," since he sells the wares that he makes during that video. By the end, though, I was sold myself! I immediately went to his Etsy shop and ordered myself this ring:
Fantastic resin ring

(Now I'm thinking I might also need the orange one. Right? Don't I?)

I spent a lot of time poking around this man's shop and I gotta say: Wow. He's a man of many talents. As I checked out his fantastic stuff, I realized I had been eying a print of his on the Etsy front page earlier in the day: Rayguns don't kill people, people with rayguns kill people. Hahaha! That's great! (Plus, I love the graphic.)

I also found his amazing photos of Paris that I think would go great in our Paris themed bathroom. (Don't you?) The "By Order of Management" signs would be fantastic in a kid's room (or even an adult's room!) In light of the recent sad news that Polaroid would no longer be making film, this print is bittersweet.

I love Chuck Taylors. You love your pug. And pink. And birds! We both love squirrels and robots. Really, I could go on and on -- check out John's shop. There's something for everyone.

I bought two other items from him, but one is a print and I'll show it to you once I've framed it. The other one is a gift and I don't want to spoil the surprise. I'm proud of myself for holding my purchase to only three items. Rest assured, I will be returning to John's shop again.

When I first found John, I was impressed with his willingness to share his techniques with the craft community. Once I looked at his work, I became even more impressed with the wide variety of art/crafts that he is producing -- he's a true inspiration for all crafters/artists/creators.

Ooh! I feel a burst of creativity comin' on!


PS -- Are you sick of me raving about John yet? Too bad, cause I also wanted to mention that he keeps a blog. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Catnip, Take 2

Dear Shayne,

Remember my catnip failure? Well, here is my second attempt:
Catnip, Take 2

Today is Day 2 that that catnip plant has been in my possession and... it's not dead! Yay!

(I dumped the seeds and bought an already growing plant from Petco -- here's hoping for continued growth.)


Monday, May 26, 2008

Still hand quilting

Dear Shayne,

I have made several more practice lines on my hand quilting sample. When I went into the living room to take a photo of my work so far, Kaesea had the answer for what I could do with the hoop if I decide to give up:
Quilt hoop, now owned by Kaesea
(I think he's voting for "kitty bed.")

Meanwhile, my hand quilting is getting better, although my finger smarts a bit. Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell ya: When hand quilting, you have to use a finger on the hand under the quilt to feel the needle as it comes through (that is, as the pointy end comes through) and guide it back to the top of the quilt.

In class, someone asked, "Which finger do you use to feel the needle come through?"

My reply [after hearing what that finger was going to have to deal with]: "The finger you like the least."

Apparently, I like my middle finger the least, because that's the one that's all beat up right now.

Some people have suggested that I can use a thimble on that finger, but I tried that and disaster ensued. I guess I'm still in the Punish-the-Finger phase of my quilt learnin'. And you know, if any finger deserves punishment, it's probably my middle finger. Poor middle finger.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Hand quilting

Dear Shayne,

It's likely that I have sworn up and down in the past that I would never hand quilt anything. This is why, of course, I took a hand-quilting class this week. I'm full of surprises.

So far, it's not going well. The instructor insisted I had a good beginning and just need to keep practicing, but... gah.
My first row of handquilting

The two things you are looking for in hand quilting are small stitches and even stitches. So far, I have neither:
Close up of my stitches

I'm not giving up yet. I'll keep practicing for awhile longer before I write a post entitled, "What can I make out of this quilting hoop?"


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hi-larious birds!

Dear Kelly,

I came across this great Etsy seller, The Mincing Mockingbird. She paints birds and then gives them funny little captions. Here's my favorite:

Click through to see more. They really crack me up :)


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gardening? O-kay...

Dear Shayne,

Even though I come from a long line of avid gardeners, I did not inherit the gene. I don't really like to touch dirt or plants, sooo... yeah. Gardening = not the craft for me.

Despite this, I decided to try my hand at planting some things this year. Mostly as a semi-privacy screen on our back deck. And also for a little bit of green back there. Green is nice, right?

Three weeks ago, I planted some lavender in planters. Within four (four!) days, I had already killed one plant. I have a very powerful black thumb. So I went back to the nursery and they helped me plant a new one, showed me how to care for them, and voila! I've kept these babies alive for 10 days now! Go, me!

Here is one of the boxes (photo taken from our back door -- these are hanging on our deck rail):
Lavender: front

Here is kind of a crappy photo from the other side showing both boxes -- this is the side we can't see from the house, which is good because, um, can you see the sawed-off hockey stick I used as a shim in the planter to even out the pots? Yeah. We're creative problem solvers around here. It's not sexy, but it works.
Lavender: backside

Meanwhile, my other little gardening project was to grow catnip. From seeds. Hrm:
Catnip! Well, not quite.
(I've given up on that one.)

Apparently, they sell catnip plants [already started] at Petco, so I may have to re-try with that. My black thumb is too strong for seeds.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Artistic Calling

Dear Kelly,

I've been crafting since I was a wee little girl and over the years I have tried all sorts of different crafts. Cross-stitching, altered books, crochet, lampwork beads, jewelry, bookbinding...some I've done well, some I was awful at and mostly I did adequately but never really enjoyed it in the end. As I'm nearing my 33rd (eep!) birthday, I think I've finally found my artistic calling - perler bead portraiture. Here is my first masterpiece:

I am in love with my own work. Mr. T pities the fool. Yeah. He's big, too. Huge. A good two feet high, if not more. The best part is that I'm making patterns (using cross-stitch software) for more portraits. 70s Elvis is up next!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cute little coasters

Dear Shayne,

Today I went and poured resin with my friend Hollie. It's still curing, so I'll post photos when it's done -- I think it went okay, but we'll see.

Since Hollie kindly invited me to her home and had me over for lunch while we were working on resin, I thought I might take her a little hostess gift. This, happily, coincided with a post I saw at How About Orange yesterday that made me say, "Damn! I need to make that!" (I love it when a crafty idea and a crafty opportunity come together.)

The post showed some darling coasters using fabric and iron-on vinyl and included a terrific tutorial -- you can see it here.

Here's a shot of the ones I made (click on that pic to see them bigger -- that fabric is great):
Vinyl + fabric coasters

And, of course, I wrapped them up with a sweet little ribbon:
Vinyl + fabric = gift!

Hollie seemed very pleased and we used them while I was there today. Yay!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Crafty organization

Dear Shayne,

Inspired by this post at montague and this post at Posie gets Cozy, I organized my embroidery floss:
Organized embroidery floss

Compared to those two, I have a very small amount of floss (Alicia had over 400 bobbins! Wow!) But it's still nice to see it all lined up. Plus, I figured it would be better to organize them now, rather than wade through a bunch more at some later date -- I don't think I'd have the patience.

I don't know if you can tell from that photo, but I printed labels for all of the bobbins with the DMC number:
Labeled floss bobbin
(Red embroidery floss got the shaft in the numbering system. Could it be... eeeevil?)

I only ever see DMC these days... when I was a kid, there was another big floss brand, but I can't remember what it was. Is that one gone or is this a regional monopoly? What floss brands are stocked at your local craft stores?


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'm a winner!

Dear Shayne,

This week, I won a lovely mini quilt from The Silly BooDilly. I never win anything, so when I saw my name listed, I stood right up dropped the bowl I had in my hand -- I was so shocked!

And what did I win? This 4x4 inch piece of total awesomeness:
Quilt by the Silly BooDilly

I am so impressed with how finely crafted this is! Even the hanger on the back is pure loveliness:
Back of the quilt

I've been reading The Silly BooDilly's blog for a couple of months now, and I am blown away by her craftsmanship. You need to check out her work!

I originally saw her featured on the Craft blog with this amazing piece. I couldn't stop staring at that when I saw it. Wow. I also love the little abstracts she makes -- check out this beauty. And this one! This "boob tube" one is also most excellent.

Meanwhile, lest you think that Ms. BooDilly is only a quilting genius, you've got to check out this astounding piece of embroidery she posted just the other day. My jaw dropped when I saw it!

Have I raved about her too much now? Oh, sorry. I am just so very inspired by her work. I look at my own quilts and embroidery and then I see artists like this and it really encourages me to push myself harder. So I'd like to thank Victoria (the Silly BooDilly herself) for being a true inspiration to me. (And, of course, for this awesome little quilt I won!)

Meanwhile, if anyone else reading this want a piece o' the Silly BooDilly to have and to hold yourself, you're in luck! She's got an Etsy shop right here. (Go check it out!)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Dear Shayne,

You know my crazy plan to make a shiny mud ball? Yeah, well.


Apparently my mud ball was not dry enough when I left it out of its plastic bag all day today. I came home to find what you see above.

I guess I should appreciate this interesting effect, but I'm just bummed right now. All that work for nothing. Poo.

I probably won't try again. Dorodango is a jerk.

I'm going to go knit now.


Monday, May 12, 2008

What should I cast in resin?

Dear Shayne,

This weekend, my friend Hollie and I are going to try our hand at pouring some resin. That means I have about 5 days to figure out what I'm going to put in there.

I already have:

Sprinkles (Mmmm...)

Jar o' buttons
Buttons (of course)

Keyboard keys
Keyboard keys (if I can cut the unsightly backs off...)

Scrabble tiles
Scrabble tiles

What else?
- Safety pins?
- Postage stamps?
- Maybe a little embroidery piece? I wonder how that would work.

I used to have a ton of Barbie shoes that I gave away... I think they would be a blast to cast in resin. I've also seen watch parts cast, which looks neat. Perhaps I need to hit the thrift store this week and see what I can't stir up.

I once saw an amazing necklace with a threaded needle cast in resin, but now I can't find it. Where did I see that? Etsy? Craftster? Hrm. Ah, yes -- Craftster. Here is is right here. Pretty sweet, eh?

Sooo... got any good ideas for me?


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Dear Shayne,

Happy Mother's Day!

This year, I gave my mom something that is mostly crafted by someone else, but is also sort of crafted by me. Her name is Rosemary (Hi, Mom!) and I bought this great letterpress card last week from Lizard Press at the Bazaar Bizarre:
Rosemary card

I have a Logan mat cutter (a tool that I love soooo much) so I cut a mat for it and framed it (that's the part I crafted):
Rosemary card, framed

My mom has a rosemary themed kitchen and I have given her many items over the years to fill it up (much to her husband's dismay, although I think he's finally at peace with it). She had recently asked for something new for the collection, so I was happy to find this card.

I saw Lizard Press again yesterday at the PCBA Printers' Fair. You should check out her Etsy shop -- these letterpress Emoticon cards crack me up. Also, I love the amazing texture of these William Morris cards -- what a lovely effect.

I hope you (and everyone else reading this, mother or not) have a wonderful day today!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

PodPost = Awesome

Dear Shayne,

This morning, I attended the Pacific Center for the Book Arts (PCBA) Printers' Fair at Fort Mason. The PCBA site doesn't have very much info on it, but here's what it says at the Fort Mason site:

"Letterpress printers, book artists, calligraphers, paper marblers, ‘zine publishers & book enthusiasts share their love of the word in all its forms. Come meet artists, see crafts-folk at work & see the tools & equipment of the book arts. Vendors offer unique handcrafted books, papers & journals, old-fashioned equipment, book-making supplies, letterpress ‘zines & subscription art."

It was pretty darned cool.

I was alerted to this event by a note from the letter-lovin' gals of PodPost, who had a table at the show. I ended up buying a "Mail Art Goodie Bag" from them (cause you know I have a weakness for random junk):
Mail art goodie bag

Being a fellow member of the Letter Writers Alliance, you'll appreciate this story:

I'm on the PodPost mailing list because I ordered a "Mail Art Bento box" from their shop last year (very cool). They wrapped my package in a fantastic Adrian Tomine print, which I then re-purposed as an envelope and sent back to them. Hee hee. As a result, I got this terrific handmade postcard from "Jennie-Pod" (one of the Pods):

It's pretty sweet -- a bunch of stickers covering a bland USPS pre-postage paid postcard and then embellished with stamps. Here's the back:

It was great to meet Jennie and Carolee in person -- they were in their full PostPod uniforms (check that link -- the outfits rock) and they were super friendly.

Obviously, I fully embrace today's communication technology (email, blogging, etc.) but there is something to be said for getting mail that's not bills or junk. Podpost certainly makes sending those letters more fun.

All right. I'm off to send a "real" letter... it might even be to YOU!


PS -- If you were inspired by this post to send someone some real mail, remember that US postal rates are going up this Monday, May 12. Domestic letters are now 42 cents. (Still a bargain!)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Oh yeah

Dear Kelly,

I make *the* best brownies ever. Seriously, I don't know what it is, 'cause I just use a box mix, but everyone who's ever had one agrees that they are the best! I used to think it was the weakness with which I stirred the batter, but in more recent years I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, so that's not it. Anywho, since I made brownies tonight, I thought I'd share my exact brown-making details to try to help those who don't make the best brownies. Ever.
  1. Buy Betty Crocker brownie mix - either the Supreme with Hershey's Syrup or the one with the Hershey's chocolate chunks.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Spray bottom of 8 x 8 pyrex pan with baking spray. (I always used to use Baker's Joy, but I can't find it anymore, so I use PAM baking spray.)
  4. Combine brownie mix, water, canola oil, 2 eggs (large, I think - whatever they give you in the 8-pack) and Hershey's Syrup packet and mix thoroughly. I use an OXO plastic mixing bowl with spout and rubber bottom and a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour almost all of the mix into the pan. Leave just enough in the bowl to satisfy your need to eat raw brownie batter.
  6. Pop pan in the oven for 50 minutes. Remember to set timer!
  7. Fill house with delicious scent of brownies, while simultaneously disgusting your husband who hates chocolate.
  8. Remove pan from oven.
  9. Let cool only to the point of being able to eat brownies without causing third degree burns to mouth.
  10. Enjoy!

P.S. This pan of brownies is from a while back. I can't remember why I made them in the round pan. Were both of my square pyrex pans dirty? Hmmm.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I love Etsy: Check these foxy napkins!

Dear Shayne,

I bought the cutest damned napkins in the world this week from Etsy seller Cakehouse. Check them out:
Foxy napkins!

We already use cloth napkins at home, but these cutie pies are for my lunch bag. They're made "from secondhand sheets and hand-printed with water-based inks." Every time I've eaten lunch this week, I've seen this little foxy guy and giggled. Whee!

I also love how Cakehouse got her shop name. From her profile:

what's with the name?

susie: so, i've been trying to email you all week, since you gave me your new email address, but it keeps bouncing back.

me: are you sure you had it right? it's k couse at verizon dot net.

susie: oh.....i thought you said "cake house at verizon dot net."

Hee hee! That totally cracks me up!

Foxy napkins are available here. She's also got kitties and llamas -- check out her shop. Cute-ness!


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Squirrel postcards

Dear Shayne,

I have a fondness for squirrels (you may remember this tray I bought last year) and I have long been admiring this squirrel print at OrangeWillow's Etsy shop. Lo and behold, she was at Bazaar Bizarre this past weekend.

She had that print, which I almost bought, but why buy 1 squirrel when you can have 5? Granted, 5 smaller squirrels, but still: FIVE! Yes, I bought 5 assorted squirrelly postcards. It doesn't look like she has the cards for sale in her shop right now, but she does have plenty of great prints, so go have a look!

I am going to frame and keep this guy:
Squirrel postcard #1

Of the others, I am having a hard time choosing a second favorite. But I like this one:
Squirrel postcard #2

And these two dudes are pretty fun:
Squirrel postcard #3

I will probably post them around the house for my enjoyment for a bit, then send them off so that others can enjoy them too. But that first guy? Yeah. He's staying with me.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Our house smells like cotton candy

Dear Shayne,

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to Bazaar Bizarre at the Maker Faire this weekend. Of course, I bought a few things. One of those things is, right this very moment, making our house smell like cotton candy. Mmm!
Smells like cotton candy!

I bought this delicious smelling candle from i melt with you. The candles are great and so is that name -- There's nothing you and I won't do! Hee hee. (I've had that song in my head since buying these.)

In addition to the sugar-y sweetness you see above, I also bought one that smells just like cake. Mmm-mmmm!
Smells like cake!

I love how clean-burning and tasty-smelling soy candles are. You can buy your own right here. They say "Pleasantly Scented" on them, but trust me when I say that that's an undersell -- they smell fantastic!


Sunday, May 04, 2008

I met the Yarn Harlot!

Dear Shayne,

Yesterday was a day made in crafty heaven. In the world of knitting, there is a very gifted and talented individual called The Yarn Harlot, also known as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. She writes a hilarious blog and books about knitting and life -- even if you're not a knitter, her blog is fantastic and you should check it out.

Some knitter friends and I (Hi, Jan! Hi, Katie! Hi, Hollie!) went to the Maker Faire where the Yarn Harlot spoke and was, of course, hilarious. Really funny. She talked about knitters and knitting and had many true and funny and interesting things to say.

One thing that really struck me as true and funny was when she said (I'm paraphrasing): People think that knitters are generous. But [and I can say this because we're all knitters here], the reality is that we give things that we knit away because they didn't fit.

I burst out laughing when she said that because, as you know, I recently gave my Knucks to my mom when I finally conceded that they were too small for me. I laughed so hard and so loud that Stephanie heard me and said, "There's a lady who has recently given something away." And it's true!

We were sitting in the front row, which was great. She always takes pictures of the crowd, so you may even be able to see us in the photos when she posts them. I'll post a link if we show up there.

After she spoke, she signed books. This part is kind of a blur for me because I was super-duper nervous. I babbled a lot and it took me about 30 minutes to come down from a nervous high after we spoke. But she was great. Just great. Charming and nice and just what I would have hoped.

Here she is, signing my book:
Yarn Harlot signing

And here is my signed book:
Yarn Harlot book

Of course, I made buttons:
Yarn Harlot button

It's the next day and I'm still a little bit buzzy about the whole thing! Whee!


PS -- I also bought some stuff at Bazaaar Bizarre, where there was an amazing selection of crafters selling their wares -- I'll post about that later.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Whee! Yarn in the mail!

Dear Shayne,

Last week, I got the best kind of package in the mail -- an unexpected gift! Yay! Plus, it was yarn! Double yay!

Last time I was in Ohio, my parents were telling me about all the alpaca farms in their area. I said, "Hey -- I'd love some local alpaca yarn!" (Mmmm... alpaca.) And lo and behold, here it is:
Classic Alpaca yarn

My stepfather works with this guy, Jim, who also raises alpacas. Pretty cool, eh? So I guess they got to talking about how I'm a yarn junkie and Jim gave him some yarn to send me. Isn't that awesome?! I'm so lucky!

Jim and his wife, Judy, have a farm called Slow and Easy Alpaca Farm (you should check out that site -- cutey pie alpaca photos as well as interesting alpaca facts). They keep some of the fleece to spin and send the rest out to a co-op called America's Alpaca.

The yarn I got is Classic Alpaca. It feels terrific and I am blown away by the color selection -- if you can imagine a color, they make it. The colorway of my yarn is 1633 "Horizon." Not sure if you can tell from the photo, but it's a lovely grey with hints of lavender and blue. It's like a cloud.

I don't know yet what I'll make out of this -- I'm just fondling it for now. But when I do make something, I will, of course, post photos.

Thanks so much to Jim and Judy for this yarn -- I love it!


PS -- The internet claims that even people with wool allergies can handle alpaca. Perhaps alpaca would work for you?