3.30.2010

Tiny Terrarium

I considered using dried moss and molding realistic looking (hopefully, anyway :3) mushrooms to put inside to make a terrarium in miniature for use in a pin set I'm making. However before I got to that point I wanted to try to be ambitious and plant my own to see if it would take.



Supplies::
  • Bottle
  • Sand
  • Charcoal
  • Dirt
  • Tiny plant (like moss)
  • Stones or other tiny decor

Directions for making a very basic terrarium can be found on one of my previous videos.




When getting the balance of moisture right, you might see some condensation on the inside of the bottle. As I understand the basics of terrarium keeping (of which I warn I'm not particularly advanced) that means you should unstop your bottle and let it breathe a little. The point is to keep the soil moist without there being so much moisture that the plant gets prone to molds.


Right now I am giving my terrarium some light and hoping the moss will take. I have no idea if it will work on this small as scale or how difficult it will be to maintain. It's kind of an experiment.



Hmmmm... a round little chunk of moss shoved into a bottle. What could go wrong?

I guess I'll give it a week or so to try to balance the moisture and see what happens.

3.29.2010

Paper Garlands and Lace Tea Bag Favors

I'm getting ready for Flora's first birthday. I'm pretty set on making lots of simple, classic decorations (like the ever-popular tissue pom poms and such) but they're a little time consuming so I've been working on them a little bit at a time. As I go along I'm going to post a few progress entries and include tutorials for the favors I make so be prepared for it to be officially Birthday Post Week (Or Two).



Having finished her birthday doll, I made some paper garlands and some of the party favors today. Both projects were really easy. I'm going to keep the garlands after the party and string them up somewhere in the house.


Paper Circle Garlands



Supplies::

  • Paper
  • Sewing machine

**I used computer paper but it would be more eco friendly to use paper from your recycling bin or magazines. Something that might be kind of cool is to use book pages. I know that our local used bookstore has an unfortunate practice of dumping multiple crates of unwanted books into a dumpster every day. If a store in your area has a similar habit they might part with them for free.


1) Cut out paper circles (or whatever shapes you're choosing to use). I traced three sizes using cups and then cut a few pages at a time to make the work go quicker. I did this while I had tea and chatted with my gran. That also made it go more quickly. x...x

*Try to cut well but nobody will notice a few tiny imperfections. You just don't want them hyper-wobbly.

2) After I was done I spread them out in alternating sizes on the table as appealed to me and then collected them in a stack in that order for sewing.



3) Run your shapes through your sewing machine. I used a fairly long stitch. Size 3 out of a possible 4 length. Be sure to check for tension on tester strips first. The needle will poke a large hole that you can't hide so once you start in on your piles of circles you only get one shot at it.





4) After each circle, pull gently on the thread to make some space between circles. After pulling a bit, slide your next circle under and sew. Try to get a feel for how much you like to pull and try to keep the amounts fairly even. 




Hee, check out that snowman bed spread... The sewing machine is kept in a back room that was a guest room in winter and has become a temporary storage room. So changing the covers wasn't high on the priority list... But there you have it! Super quick and easy garland. I'll be sure to include a picture of all the decorations when they're finished and strung up.



Lace Tea Bag Party Favors



I love tea. And I found out the day I caught Flora chugging down a cup of abandoned tea she got her paws on that she loves tea too. It seemed like a fun idea then to make play food tea bags and felt sweets to give away for party favors at Flora's first birthday party next month. And while I'm not super into the hard-nosed separation of "girls things for girls and boys things for boys" kind of business, I know some of my guests are into the traditional so I'm going to play nice and make lace tea bags for the girls and little footballs or whatnot for the boys. Ah, gender roles. What fun. : |

I found a tutorial for lace 'tea bags' at Until Wednesday Calls. I didn't actually follow her tutorial. I just looked at her tea bag idea and then made it up myself as I went. The main differences are in the shape of the bag and that my bags are sewn rather than glued but the idea is the same. If you want to do something like this you can choose whatever method suits you best.



Supplies:
  • Lace
  • Ribbon
  • Felt
  • Small trinkets (Gems, beads, et cetera)
  • Scissors, sewing machine or sewing needle, thread, and pins
**If you give these to children be sure they're of appropriate age to handle something like this. Use your brain.








1) Cut your lace into strips that are as wide as you would like your bags to be, plus some seam allowance. Fold them in half as I'm showing here, and run down the sides. Use a very small stitch to keep the seams nice and secure. I'm using a 1.5 out of possible 4 stitch length.




2) I keep sewing down one line of bags and then flip and rotate and sew down the next so I have a long chain of bags that are sewn down two sides with one folded end and one open end. After sewing them all, then clip the chain apart. It's a time saver when you're doing multiples.




3) After sewing down the sides I give them a trim. After that, zig zag stitch the edges. Because this is just nylon lace it won't fray and ravel but it will add a secondary reinforcement.





4) Now this is a lot like sewing a basic purse or tote bag. What you have is a simple rectangle but you want to make a flat bottom. So you're going to pinch the corner so you can sew a seam across the tip to make a T shape out of the side and bottom seam. I really hope that makes sense. It's hard to show on lace because it's hard to make out the fold.

 

What you're looking to do is something like this. Turn the pouch so that you can flatten the corner down. Center it by looking at the side seam of the bag. 




5) When you put the corner under the foot for sewing, be sure you have a reference point or use the measuring guides. I'm using the side of the presser foot as my reference. The tip of my mitered corner will be out to the edge of the foot on both sides. That will help you make sure you take in the right amount on each side.




6) When you're finished sewing, clip off the extra and turn the pouch right side out. If you're using cotton lace, this would be a good time to press it. I was trying to keep my party favors cheap but I realised as I was looking at my poofy bags that I would have been willing to spend more for cotton lace just so I could have the option of ironing the seams down to look nice and crisp. Oh well, lesson learned!




7) Fill your pouches with your trinkets. I'm using plastic gems and shiny confetti. Plastic gems and plastic lace. I'm going to Earth Unfriendly Hell.




8) Fold down the top corners of your pouch after filling




Before you fold the tip down, put your ribbon on. Fold the tip down and then fold the ribbon back up over top of the point so that the ribbon goes up like a tea bag string.




9) Pin your folded pouches with the ribbons coming out of the top and sew across it all. Sew a zig zag stitch that's fairly close and wide to make sure it's good and closed. Because of the multiple layers of lace, you probably won't see the stitches so you can make them thick.




10) Lastly, cut a rectangle of felt and fold it over the ribbon and pin. You could cut a fun shape instead of a rectangle too. I considered embroidering the recipient's names on each of the tags but then I reminded myself that these are meant to be simple party favors and I have a lot to do so I'm going to pass on the fancy details this time. But it sure would have been cute. ;...;

Sew across the bottom of the felt with a zig zag stitch. I didn't change out the thread so my sewing was going to be a contrast white and had to be neat and straight as I could.




The finished tea bag is fairly cute, easy to make, and (most importantly) really quick. If I was going to give a set of these as a gift I'd put a little more time into detailing but as party favors go, I think even a simple tea bag and felt cookie set will top what I could have purchased at some big box store so I'm pretty pleased.




All of my nieces have a toy tea set of some kind so I hope the tea bags will be enjoyed. 










3.28.2010

Fairy Habitat Night Light


So I think first thing I have to do is make two disclaimers. 

First is that I didn't develop this concept myself. I first saw something similar in a blog but I can't remember which. I've lost some computer memory though and so I no longer have the bookmark. I'm sorry I can't give credit where it's due. If anyone knows someone that deserves credit for this idea though, they can speak up.

Second is that these are fairly old pictures. I did the project a good few months back and since then I've been trying to work on my photography. So while the pictures aren't maybe super amazing, I hope they'll get the point across. Yay!



Fairy Habitat Night Light



Kids get so much for their birthdays these days, don't they? I guess I wasn't really feeling the idea of getting my niece one more toy she would be bound to grow out of before long on her first birthday. Instead I made her a night light. I didn't really expect her to do much with it at that age other than have it safe on a shelf (being made of glass, and all) but they grow quickly and maybe by the time she's old enough to care about such things it might be a fun memory when the old blocks and chew toys left years before on Craigslist.

Her five year old sister was absolutely more enthralled with it than the birthday girl but I think it goes to show that this might be a nice project to make with an older child. One could go on a nature walk and get little bits of things and put it all together at home. It would be a nice opportunity to talk about local plant life or make up stories together. Then again, I scoff at the idea that this has to be for children. I might stick something like this in my house because I get excited about miniature things and dioramas. Go fig.

       Supplies:

  • Suitable glass jar (washed well or sanitized- no remaining bits in the lid or crevices)
  • Naturally fallen plant life (plant no-longer-life?)
  • Optional store-bought floral supplies
  • Vellum paper
  • Photograph 
  • Small scraps of felt
  • Battery operated 'tea light candle'
  • Hot glue gun

Get a glass jar. It's good to have a lot of space inside. I wish I'd been able to find one without impressions but finding the perfect glass can be tricky. (What's up with my pictures having that little black line under them?)



(Okay, now I see a line on two sides...) Soak your jar to soften the glue. Remove the label and glue residue. Be sure the jar and lid are completely clean and completely dry. No sense growing a mold farm.



Because I love temperate forests, but live in a tropical location, my dad saves me bits of things he finds in a crate at his home. He bakes them at a low temperature in the oven to kill any bugs before sending them to me. It's much more inexpensive than buying forest bits at floral shops and I know they're collected in a sustainable manner so that's a plus.



For a project like this if you need a little filler or you live in an urban area without forest access you might just pick out some commercially made florals from a craft store.



Next thing you'll want to do is get your photos. You can obviously do this project without the photo (maybe even just use craft butterflies or fake bugs) but I'm using a picture of the birthday girl and a Flower Fairy drawing so I can make it look like the baby IS the fairy in the bottle. Just to make it a little personal, you know? I tried to pick a photo with the baby in as close a position as possible to the illustration I had in mind.



After using my meager skills of a Photoshop artist, I did my best at placing V's face onto the fairy body and had the image printed a few times onto a piece of vellum paper. It's cut to have a tab at the bottom which will help with gluing it into the jar later. 

I figured I'd have a few extra in case I messed up. If you're going to print one, you might as well print fifteen! The extras were given to the mother. Maybe she can do something fun with them.



I chose to add some accent glue and glitter to the fairy. If you do this with a kid, depending on their age, you might want to do the photo printing and cutting first. Letting them do the glitter could be pretty awesome... or I suppose it might get glitter awesomely all over every surface known to man. Use your logic.



(Ooh! Scary flash! XD Like I said, trying to improve photography.) The mossy fungus made a pretty good base after it was balled up and tucked in but you could support it with some balled up newspaper. If it helps position things, use some chopsticks. To make sure things don't shift you can touch a little hot glue on the undersides of them. Hold the object down for a few seconds to let the glue set up.



Once you've got it filled to your taste, find a good spot to tuck your fairy. The vellum paper is a little sheer which helps it blend and look less stark and cartoony. Plus, with this fairy being a combination of drawing and photograph Photoshopenstiened together, I think the vellum helps smooth the transition a bit. I wanted baby V's face on the fairy to be subtle.



Now this is fairly easy so I didn't add a photo step for it. Take two half-rounds of felt and glue them into the lid of your jar so that the ends over lap. The felt makes it easy to slide the battery operated 'candle' in and out for turning it off and on without any complicated latches. The felt laying on top of itself a bit provides enough of a hold that the candle won't slide out.

(This candle has a switch on the bottom. If you can find a candle with a switch in a more accessible location you can just glue the piece directly to the lid and not worry about a felt holder.)



When you turn out the light, the inside of the jar is illuminated and the chunky glitter on the fairy's wings reflects the light. It's a subtle glow, but just enough to inspect the fairy habitat inside.



To finish it up I added a band of some collected cedar bark and made a bow and decoration and attached them with glue. I actually liked it before I added that stuff but I did it to make the lid portion deeper to hide more of the candle when you're looking at the jar. I think next time I'll just look for a jar with a naturally large lipped lid so I can skip the bow. I prefer it simple and to let the focus be on the stuff inside.



For wrapping I used some craft foam sheets and cut out some hearts with a pair of scissors. I cut a few squares and glued them together to make a thin stamp block and then glued my hearts to that. Voila! Custom stamp! It's not as detailed as a properly carved stamp might be but it has a certain charm. :3  They looked pretty cute stamped onto paper grocery bags with acrylic paint. Once the paint dried on the stamps I put them in a baggy along with the extra vellum baby V fairies and gave them to her mom for crafting.



I used some remnant ribbons and strings and little bits of favor flowers on the packages. We had a shower for a different baby to attend but I actually ran out of grocery bags. And by 'ran out', I mean apparently there was only one in the cupboard. So new baby, Cael, was denied the joy of crazy hippy wrapping paper. So sad. I'm sure it was the anti-highlight of his entire life.



I think that the idea of a habitat-in-a-jar or container of some kind is actually pretty cool. So much so that a few weeks after making this jar I made a little bird cage-in-a-box kind of deal. I'd like to make another one so I think I just might make a video of it. Things like this can be kind of pretty but they can also be really quirky so even if a fairy jar isn't your idea of a bedroom decoration, maybe there's something kind of neat you could put in a jar that would be.

And in video news, I'm planning a video on cute flower vase, terrarium, and fairy bottle pins that should hopefully be out by the end of the week or so. Yay for attempts!

3.25.2010

A quick doll project

I actually had to look for my old missing camera to find photos from another project I wanted to put up. That's a little sad...

My daughter's birthday is coming up and she's a bit too young for chemistry kits and hardback books so I decided on a nice, floppy rag doll. I was hoping to buy one but nothing looked quite right. I also wanted a race neutral doll that wasn't any specific culture. It was hard finding what seemed just right. Not too serious for a one year old, but pretty enough to be for a special occasion.

When I saw the patterns by Bit of Whimsy I was pretty set on them. They're a great design and didn't look too complicated for something that will probably be bitten and thrown everywhere.


Here's the supplies:



Out of the interest in protecting Whimsy's pattern I didn't take a whole lot of pictures during the cutting. It was nice that the PDF prints out to the proper size. Everything is well labeled. My only problem with the pattern is that I didn't really catch it telling me which way to cut certain parts (like flip them over before cutting second set, etc.) I'm very visual so I cut all the arms and feet and parts of the doll that relied on the fabric having a right and wrong side and then when I LOOKED at them I realised some were backwards and had to cut them over again. Because I only had a fat quarter of the special blue fabric it was really close! I would have liked if the pattern had warned people like me with picture brains to flip the pieces, but apart from that the pattern was great!



Oh my god! Fuzzy photography! Always take more than one shot as you work. ;...; Otherwise this is all you'll have at the end.



Well, and this. Admittedly it was tricky in some spots sewing her. There were a few layers around the middle but it was smaller in circumference than a can and so I couldn't slip it around the end of my machine. I had to stitch very slowly. And then my daughter crawled over and stood up on my foot and made me pedal-to-the-metal the machine right in a touchy part. 



In the end, she worked out just fine, though! I realised stuffing is a bit of an art that I'm not familiar with because she was a tad lumpy. Matching up seams and sewing really straight is important on this pattern because it has a lot of very detailed rounded edges. The few places I must have wobbled show because they have little puckers when they stuff. But you know what? It's made with love, so there.



"Jane" is really called Issiti now. She has off-white hair, purple eyes, and tan skin. The white-blue-brown combination is pretty, I think. She has a silk ribbon around her waist and on her bun. I stayed the edges with a little edge stopper but I wonder if it was a little bit of a mistake and will get ripped off in no time. She loves to fiddle with little ribbons and tags. Oh well, she looks nice for the moment. : )



Here's a closeup of the material. I really think on a pattern like this that it's all about the fun material you choose. This one has silhouettes of cats, "Bambi Prince", chandeliers, rabbits, and carriages. HOLY CRAP. That's cute overload!


As a final note: Something that I really respect about Bit of Whimsy's patterns are that she DOES allow you to sell dolls you make, as long as you limit to quantity of five at a time and you credit her as the pattern maker. I do understand and respect that people want to protect their work from copy, but when a person has to do all the labor of constructing a doll or item from a pattern, it seems to me like it should be viable as a sellable item... so long as respect is given to the designer. I think if I were to make patterns for anything, I'd allow sellable copies. Anyway, I just thought that was really good of her and had to make my little statement. I'll get off the soap box. <3

3.12.2010

Part-Time Artists

Been pretty busy. I've lost twenty-two pounds--and counting! I finished the NaNoWriMo challenge and have continued to work on my manuscript. Albeit pretty slowly I'm up to 60,000 words-ish. I've made myself promise I will finish, edit, and submit it for consideration for publication for the sheer practice of doing so. I have started and dumped a few manuscript attempts over the years with big, starry-eyed dreams of being a novelist, but it's always been a lot of talk and no follow through. The difference now is that after having completed NaNo, I've realised that I can really write. Not in the quality of writing I mean, but in knowing that I can write in a determined way with butt in chair day after day and doing what it takes to finish and edit a real manuscript. I feel that maybe with some experience from practice, I'll be better prepared to launch into writing a series which is what I feel would be probably the smartest move if I want a writing career.


Even though I haven't been running business to speak of in over a year, I've been keeping busy making hand-made gifts and having art get-together parties with friends and family. (Will post projects soonish...) Here's a little snapshot from the last get-together.

 (Jasmin "posing candidly" on painting day n...n)

(My crazy Medusa looking portrait in process and Jasmin going abstract.)


I've been getting together with friends and family to have a little artistic fun about once a week for the past few months and it's really re-sparked feelings of how satisfying it is to me to create but it's also driven home to me how I don't just want to create, I want to be an artist and crafter with a business. Both aspects interest me.

During the course of my get-together with my friend, Jenica, I learned that she finds time consuming arts relaxing and has been doing lacework knitting for a while but would like to do something she could potentially make some money at. I offered to teach her to make tsumami kanzashi style accessories and somehow the conversation turned into 'and we can do it together' and then into 'we could run an Etsy shop together'. A day or two later it was 'and you know who else might be good to have?'

Before you know it, it had turned into a whole group of people.

We've formed an artist collective we're calling Part-Time Artists. A lot of people I know love being artsy and craftsy in their spare time but few of them have the time or inclination to run a solo business. Running a full-time art business by yourself and actually making enough money from it to make your time worth it is... well... hard. I've been trying to run my business in some form or another for almost six years and I still struggle with it and that's with no other job or financial expectations on me. Trying to do this while working, doing homework, and living paycheck to paycheck is like... ridiculously intimidating- hence the decision to have a collective of people who would love to try to make some spare money on the side but without the commitment of working and promoting entirely alone.

 (My sister, Amanda, and my friend Jenica in our first meeting.)

(Omg, we use an outline itinerary of topics too! Too many professional business-office workers in our collective, I guess...)

What's really nice about it is that one: it's getting me back to work and two: even I, as someone who sees myself as a full-time artist, has times where I'm just not able to be as busy online and having all of the other artists there will help keep the store stock afloat and business being promoted even if I have to take some time off. And vice versa, of course.

We've also got such a variety of work and professional experience amongst us that it's great having people who know how to do what you might not and are willing to help you out. For instance, I designed a small logo but suck at t3h Photoshops, so my sister converted it and made an awesome Photoshop brush. YAY!

(Jenica working on a fascinator.)

Now I have an excuse to get together with my friends and make things! I'm trying to enjoy the opportunities to get together with my fellow artists while I'm still in the state. I guess I'll just have to try harder to make art friends in Hawaii.

I really think that once our shop really gets going that we'll have a really neat variety. We have a painter, crocheters, stationary maker, wire worker, a dress maker, photographer, and more. <3

I'll be sure to update once things are really in a good swing.