Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Yarn Doesn't Fall Very Far From The Tree

Orrrrr something like that.

I come from a long line of crafters. My grandmothers several generations back didn't actually even know that they were crafting. They called it, "surviving".

Most of my craftiness comes directly from my mother and her mother, who are particularly gifted in the crochet department. My mom especially can crochet like nobody's business(I'm not even really sure what that means...). It is rather unfortunate for her, because I have a tendency to frequently send her emails of things I see online and say, "Hey, do you think you can make this for me?"

And she ALWAYS does. And it always comes out even better than anticipated. You'd think she'd get tired of me doing this, but she doesn't seem to. In fact, she surprises me with neat things she's made for me all the time! I know, I am spoiled.

Today she surprised me with this amazing and TINY little ice cream scoop, which I am going to run a jump ring through and turn into a necklace charm.

That is a freakin' penny! I do not posses these amazing crochet skills whatsoever.

Here are just a few more of the hundreds of wonderful things my mom has made for me over the years. A doll, legwarmers, a purse and two scoops of ice cream(SQUEEEEEEE!!!)

Those last two scoops are my favorites(along with the first). I like to wear them like this-

I know I am probably too old for them, but I get the best looks from little old ladies in the grocery store....

Thanks, Mom!

What We Made Today-Batman And Ruffles Edition

We have a bunch of April birthdays in our family, which means I usually end up scrambling to find birthday presents for everybody without going totally broke. Thankfully these people appreciate handmade gifts, so I like to take some time out of my work schedule and make at least one gift in addition to the purchased ones(and typically a cake! Pics to come...).

Today I worked on gifts for my mother-in-law and my daughter.

For the Mominlaw(I like saying it as one word. I'm lazy.), I decided to go with a new(for me) style of ruffle tote in pretty shades of blue new and vintage cottons.

I hope she likes it, but if she doesn't, I definitely won't mind keeping it!

I also had the pleasure of working on The Kid's birthday dress today.

Some people have "princesses" for daughters, but I was given something a little different to work with. My daughter isn't into frills and fluff, tiaras and tutus. She likes Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Scooby Doo and Hot Wheels. She does like Dora the Explorer and the Disney Fairies, but we did a Dora birthday last year, so we decided to do a Batman birthday this year. Well, sort of. Her cake is Batman, Scooby and Superman, her dress is Batman and, her party cups are The Avengers while her goodie bags are Dora...

The Husband and I were walking through JoAnn's one day a couple of months ago, when  we came across this really cool Batman fabric and I just knew we needed to make her dress from it.

I started with this little sketch-

And ended up with this little dress-

There is also a little bow that goes with the dress. I'll post a photo of it later. (I told you, I'm lazy.)

Batman fabric is new, black fabric is from Granny's stash and yellow fabric is upcycled off a pillowcase.

I have such a free-spirited sewing style, that it is always a little bit hard for me to follow clothing patterns and get those perfectly perfect seams and hemlines, especially since I don't have a serger(and I am lazy), but  my patience and skills improve with each garment I make. And I am really starting to actually enjoy  garment making and expanding my pattern collection. I always love learning new skills that I can use when the zombie apocalypse arrives...

You know, it's funny, but sometimes people think that because you can sew one thing, you can sew everything, and it just doesn't work that way all the time. I mean, physically, yes, if you can sew one thing you can probably sew most things, but I think for some of us, there's just a mental block that gives us trouble when it comes to certain categories of the craft. I mean, I know some quilters who only quilt, and some seamstresses who only make garments, but because they are so proficient at their craft, you would think that they could many AN-Y-THING. But they don't. Because, for whatever reason, making something outside of their chozen category bores or frustrates or confuses them.

Life is weird, isn't it?

And thank goodness for that, otherwise there might not be Batman dresses for birthday parties.

Who would want to live in a world like that?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bees And Bows

More specifically, one bee and six bows.

Last night I finally finished up an embroidery piece I had been working on for over a month. Don't rush to be impressed too quickly though. It took a month because things like vacation, birthday prep and a sick kid kept me from working on it, not because it is super complicated or amazing.

Just simple, and as is typical of my style, a little cute, a little creepy, a lot thought provoking. Hey, nobody said they had to be profound thoughts, but if that is what comes to you, then you and I may be kindred spirits after all.

Black sewing thread on yellow Egyptian cotton.

I don't have a big, prolific explanation for this(I rarely do), so I'll just tell you where the inspiration for this piece came from.

I was pondering that old adage, "Children should be seen, and not heard", and imagining the phrase as a page in a Fred Gwynne book(I LOVE the man, and his books!), and thinking about how young people these days are all about having "scenes", and how funny young people seem when you become an adult and forget that you could have possibly ever behaved the same way they do...

As I inch closer to thirty with each passing day, I find that my artwork, and even my craft work, is definitely growing, changing and wandering into a different direction than it did when I was a young student.

As a teenager and young adult, my writings and paintings were so emotional, so spur of the moment and exhibiting only all or nothing feelings. The strongest passion, paralysing hatred, heartwrenching anger, profound sadness and physically painful love were all all common themes.

I find myself, at nearly thirty, a settled "adult" with a much more thoughtful, nostalgic and controlled artistic style.

I'm not sure if that is good, bad, typical or says something about me psychologically, but, it is what it is. And I accept that.

If you enjoy this piece, you can find her listed here.

And now for the bow portion of the show!

These were a special order from one of my very favorite clients. I just wanted to share. *Smiles sweetly*

And now, I shall bow out, and leave you to ponder the profoundness of the purple and yellow color combination.

*Covers mouth with hand as she giggles and snorts*

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bead It, Just Bead It.

And, button it.

That's what I've been doing lately.

And I am SO EXCITED to show you guys and dolls the results of all my hours of needlework!

New in my etsy shop tonight, textile necklaces featuring loads of gorgeous vintage buttons, lots of sparkling beads and plenty of cotton, vintage macrame cord and even a little banana silk. The inspiration for these necklaces comes from many places-Victorian jewelry, 1960's hippies, and Greek mosaics are just a few.

 I am in love with these pieces, as they allow me to combine lots of color, texture and technique into truly unique and timeless jewelry. They are so comfortable and easy to wear, especially if you are the mom of a baby or child with grabby hands. They also travel beautifully since they are made of textile.

I hope you all will love them as much as I do. They will be making regular appearances at my shop from now on, as I have many, many designs waiting to become realities!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What do you do all day?!

Just one of the questions you should never ask a stay at home(or work at home)mom or small craft business owner.

There is so much work that goes into being a stay at home parent, and a small business owner, that some people just don't get.

For example, I spent four hours yesterday cleaning and "picking"(pulling threads and pieces of cloth from the button holes) vintage buttons. I spent two hours today sorting them into color families. It was not fun, was monotonous and made me want to punch my head with the seam ripper.

One bowl to wash and scrub, one for clean buttons, and a plate to put all the "pickings" on. So exciting.

I use warm water and mild Seventh Generation dish soap to clean the buttons, an old toothbrush to scrub them and a seam ripper to pick stubborn thread from button holes.

Believe it or not, I save the "pickings" to use in other craft projects. Waste not, want not, ya dig?

And here's what I end up with. hundreds(possibly a thousand) of buttons that still need to be dried and then sorted into their color families. It is such a mundane task, but so necessary if I want to continue using vintage and thrifted buttons in an effort to make my work more eco friendly. It would be so much easier to just buy new buttons, but that's not what my items, my business, is about.

And still, some people seem to think that being a small craft business owner is all quick fun and games.

It isn't. It's work. Time consuming work that I would rather do than "sit in an office" type work, but still work. There is so much more to my job than just playing with fabric and yarn and buttons. There is design, trial and error, revision, material sourcing and purchasing, construction, packaging, shipping, advertising, marketing, taxes and bookwork, all being done by this one little person(with some help from her husband). In fact, the actual making of each of my items takes less time than all the other things I have to do with and for the product. Most of my customers get this, and are super wonderful. I have some ladies that I dearly love and care for(I'm talking about you, S Sisters, Florists and family members!).

So why do I tell you this? Because I think that modern society sometimes overlooks the origins of their "stuff", and takes its existence for granted. There are still so many people who don't understand why paying a little more for handmade items is a good thing. Because it is easy to run to a Wal-Mart and pick an item up for a cheap price, some people seem to think that handmade items should be priced equally cheap, but it just doesn't work that way. I don't work in an Asian factory, and I won't pay myself pennies an hour for the work I do. I can't live on that kind of money.

I won't even go into the stay at home parenting aspect of the question. I know many of the people who read this blog are SAH moms themselves, so they totally get it. If you have no children and often find yourself thinking that SAH moms "have it easy", please, borrow a friend's child or children for a week and you'll change your mind, I guarantee it. It has to be a week though, so that dirty clothes and dishes start piling up, a kid gets sick or hurt or poops his pants, groceries for meals need to be purchased and the cat litter needs changed, or you won't get the full effect.

I guess I had better bring this post to a close, as I need to go dig through inventory in my office and prepare for a massive product photo shoot tomorrow. New items are coming to the shop!!!! Hooray!!!

Oh yeah, I just remembered, first quarter taxes are due at the end of this month so I have book work to do tonight, too. Woo hoo! What a blast!

I'd better go get a glass of vodka so I can get this party started.


Sort of.

Boots, Fabric And Breakables. Or, What I Brought Back From Texas

Aside from the realization that I am truly getting old, I brought back several mementos of our trip(we're talking a car full, as in, we had stuff packed in the floorboards by our feet and almost obstructing our views out the back window of the Terrain), along with a bunch of craft supplies, since I was generously given the opportunity to raid my Granny's craft stash. And, as I am sure many of you already know, Granny craft stashes are THE BEST.

I tried not to be greedy in my raiding. Despite my trying, I still felt like I took a lot of stuff. Until I made my way all around her "junk room", that is, and realized that I really hadn't even begun to make a dent in the enormous amount of boxes full up with fabric, patterns and findings.

SO. MUCH. FABRIC. Waiting to be turned into dresses, skirts, bracelets, totes and necklaces.

This stuff will come in so handy as I make special occasion dresses for The Kid and collage bracelets.

Vintage patterns are just the best. Modern clothes are often poorly shaped and made of icky, cheap fabrics. Vintage patterns allow you to get those classic silhouettes in whatever fabric you choose. I am partial to cottons, myself.

While rummaging through her craft stash, I also came across a stash of crocheted baby blankets, pre-made so that when a new baby in the family comes along, she doesn't have to scramble to make a blanket. I claimed this one as my own, heh heh. In fact, it is sitting on my lap under my laptop as I type this!

The colors remind me of a watermelon in the summer. I just love it!

She also had a few things she had been saving for me. A pile of jewelry to upcycle, a vintage Dough Boy cookie jar and a jadite colored, vintage liquor bottle with Asian flair.

I love to make jewelry for benefit auctions, myself and for gifts. Most of it never makes it to my etsy shop, haha!

This cutie is from 1988. Almost as old as me. And we both like cookies in our bellies...

I set this above my kitchen cabinets, in amongst my pitcher collection. For some reason it blends in really well, instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. It helps carry that beautiful Jadite tone through that corner of the kitchen.

We also went thrifting while in Texas. Thrifting is one of my favorite ways to spend time when traveling, because you can find some of the most unique things that make far better souvenirs than anything you could get at a truck stop or tourist trap, and you pay a lot less money for them. Thrifting is also very earth friendly, too, of course. My favorite items I picked up while thrifting in Texas include a pink piggie bank from Mexico, a Siamese cat needlepoint piece that The Husband initially showed to me as a joke, and a cute little Texas A&M Aggies shirt for The Kid.

I am thinking about painting his nose, because he reminds me a little too much of Hitler...

The Husband showed this to me as a joke, but I fell in love with the little 50 cent sweetie. I don't know why, but I love it. Somebody spent a lot of time putting these guys together! And now they grace a space between my living room windows.

Our big ticket purchases for this trip(aside from GAS of course) was Nascar tickets(my first race!) and matching pairs of cowboy boots purchased at a Western store just outside of Livingston, Texas. We didn't really set out to get matching boots, or spend so much money on boots, we just happened to fall in love with the same style while browsing through our respective sex's section of the store.

I told The Husband that we have to learn to square dance now, so that we can wear matching outfits with our matching boots, just like the cute little old couples at seniors square dances do. Seriously, these were my favorite purchase of the whole trip. I mean, what could be a more perfect memento of Texas than a pair of boots?!
Mine read, "Lady Luck", and I think they must work, because I wore them to the Nascar race(that's why they are dirty) and my driver took third place. Which, if you are following Mark Martin's career, you know that third place is about as good as it can get for him. And I mean that in the most loving way possible!

There were also a massive amount of shells we picked off the beach at High Island, a cool vegan leather purse with a Texas star that I bought at my cousin's cute little retail/resale shop, a couple of Nascar items purchased from the vendor trailers before the race(Mark Martin is my driver;) and a butt load of books picked up at various thrift shops, but goodness gracious me, I just don't have the time necessary to fully flesh out this post as I am still attempting to edit the 800 photos I took during the trip, and condense them down into one reasonably sized photojournalism post to share with you all.

Also, my house is insanely disorganized right now as we unpack and I slowly sort through my etsy shop's inventory to reactivate listings and figure out which items still need to be photographed and have listings created for them. And I am just now catching up on laundry. Gah, there is just never enough time in each day!

Some of the things we brought back from Texas have already been absorbed into the blob and will likely never be seen again...

I am thinking that at this point, as I sit here surrounded by piles of fabric that needs washing, clothes that need to be put away and buttons that need to be sorted, that I just may allow myself to be absorbed as well.

But first, I need a bowl of ice cream to accompany me.

*sheds a tear because Blue Bell ice cream cannot be found in Iowa*

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Mostly Handmade Easter Basket

I know that title sounds funny, but I'm just being honest. I also realize this post is slightly overdue, but hey, better late than never, right?

I think that's the story of my life.

We took a roadtrip for Easter, and spent the holiday with family in East Texas. That's the reason why this blog has been so quiet for the past couple of weeks(Lord knows it is impossible for my actual person, MOUTH, to be quiet...).Thus, my photos are not particularly well styled or shot, because I took them quickly in my grandma's bedroom, where we made The Kid dismantle her basket before my cousin's five kids woke up for the day to do their Easter activities.

Most of the items in her basket this year were handmade. The Easter grass, the candy, some bubbles and a garden tool set were not handmade, nor was her basket, which she has used every year since her first Easter. I am embarrassed to admit that I only made one of the handmade items, BUT I did make her dress(a few posts back)! So that counts for something, right?!

My favorite toys in her basket were two wooden fairy wands(not pictured in the basket) and a wooden egg featuring her name, from Imagination Kids on etsy. Imagination Kids' specialty is simple, wholesome wooden toys that encourage imaginative play, which is in my opinion, the best type of play! The Kid loves the wands and the egg is sure to become an heirloom that she can keep with her, or near her in a special place, throughout her life. I could not be more thrilled with them and will definitely order from this shop again.

Also purchased on etsy, a family of felt bunny hand and finger puppets, from KidNAround Creations. I am in love with these puppets! They are a wonderful way for parents to engage their children and play with them. We certainly enjoy them at our house. The rest of this etsy shop is just to die for, too. The most adorable little felt toys around!

My momma made a set of crocheted Peeps for the basket, which I think are the most adorable things ever. They will undoubtedly be cherished for many years to come, too.

My contribution to the little basket was an itty bitty ruffle flower tote. Just like the ones I make for big girls, but in a cute, mini size. It is perfect for toting her Peeps and/or puppets around in.

This Easter basket was probably my favorite yet. Seeing The Kid so excited over meaningful toys that were lovingly crafted by her family and the families of others, just warned my heart in a way that no other little plastic, disposeable gifts could.

I have to say, it is pretty easy to find handmade goods that babies and toddlers will enjoy, but I know the task becomes much more challenging each year that a child grows up and electronics and shiny, expensive, mass produced items begin to put a gleam in her eyes. I look forward to the challenge, though. No honestly, I do!

I mean, really, out of all the challenges parenting presents, I think finding handmade gifts to spark my kid's interest is probably the one I'm least worried about. It doesn't even begin to compare to explaining sex, or the differences between the sexes, or evil, or murder or why cake isn't "healthy", ya know?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What I Made Today(Technically Last Night, Buttttttttttt.....)

I will be attending my first Nascar race this year, and so naturally, of course, I decided to make myself a "Nascar" tote bag.

1.Yes, I like Nascar.

Why do people find that so hard to believe?! What, a cupcake girl can't like "Hot, nasty, badass speed."?

I know some of you got that reference...

2. No, there is no actual Nascar or racing fabric on the bag. It is just my interpretation of Nascar, which is probably nothing like what most "real" fans think of. Story of my life...hahaha. Turns out, my interpretation is very similar to my interpretation of "diner". Huh.

This bag was such a fun one to make! I had a bunch of lovely scraps from apron madame Dana of Dot's Diner(The black and white checkerboard, red gingham and black gingham) that I mixed with a red and white striped vintage curtain and a couple of polka dot remnants from the clearance section at Hobby Lobby. And of course, a vintage button.

 Not what you were expecting, was it.

Lemme 'splain! The checkerboard is obvious, heh heh. The red and white fabrics make me think of concessions, the white with tiny black polka dots reminds me of pavement(I don't know why), and the big polka dots remind me of bubbles in soda(because you know, it's the first thing most of them do when they get out of their hot cars, is take a big ole, ice cold swig of whatever cola company is paying for their fender. Or windshield. Or engine. Or whatever. You know what I mean.), the shape of tires, and the way faces in a crowd appear from far away.

So, yeah. It makes sense. Doesn't it?

Oh I don't know.

I do know you won't see anybody else at the race with anything like it.

'Sept maybe TONY STEWART.


Inside joke. Lamesause, I know.

*I apologize to all Tony Stewart fans. Aside from my dad.*

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sycamore Craft Market

This past Saturday, I had my very first experience vending at a craft market. I shared a booth at the Sycamore Craft Market with the FABULOUS Mike Harvey of No Prob Bob. We had a blast! Our both was next to the organizers of the event, Pajama Love, who are just as sweet and lovely as can be. And they make really cool stuff, too, but more on that in just a minute...

For me, the best part of the market, aside from meeting new friends, hanging out with my two best friends, and getting my brand out there, is supporting other artists and crafters through purchases of their goods. And there were some Amazecakes goods, let me tell you!

I always try to find something for my kid, when I attend craft fairs, and this market treated the little bugger very well. Especially in the crochet toy department.

The bat, granite kitty and ginger bread boy were all made by the talented Jody of Pajama Love! We also have a little kitty with a mowhawk from a previous craft show that is well loved by our family. As long as Jody keeps making those little guys, we will keep adopting them!

I do not have any info on who made the other kitty and mouse, but as soon as I find out, I will post their names. Unfortunately I can't find my vendor map at the moment...*hangs head in shame*

I adore Jody's work! The bat will be a very fitting birthday gift at our daughter's Batman themed birthday party. If I can make myself part with him....

I was also fortunate enough to end up snagging a couple of items from my booth mate! This tie-dye bag is GORGEOUS! His techniques produced one of the prettiest tie-dyed bags I have ever seen. I can't help but see Simba(The Lion King) when I stare at that white patch on the right side...

I also was blessed with one of his rag rugs. I have been needing a new one for my wood floors and just haven't had the time to make one, so I was thrilled to trade an embroidery piece("Egg On Her Face" aka "Medusa") for this perfect little rug. The men call it "Iowa Hawkeyes" colors, but I am going with "Bumble Bee Butt". And that is that.

We have been wanting to slowly replace all of our cheap, Asian made dinner ware with vintage and handmade goods, which can be hard to do when you are on a budget, especially if you are looking for handmade. Lucky for us, we stumbled upon the most humble potter ever, who sold us four handmade cereal bowls for $24.00, which is an INSANE price, when you consider all the work that went into each piece. I wish I could remember the gentleman's name, but all I can remember is the word "Hobbit" in his business name, because that's what he signed the beautiful bowls with. I love how they are each just a little different, and none of them match each other exactly.

*Update* Hobbit's Hole is the name!

My husband and I had seen the bowl early in day, but he didn't go back to purchase them until later in the afternoon. He dropped off the bag full of bowls on his way to the restroom and told me I needed to look them over and "check for cracks".

"Why, did you break them already?!" I hollered as he quickly escaped down the hallway towards the potties.

I unwrapped the first bowl and a beautiful brass necklace fell out. I unwrapped the second bowl and another brass necklace fell out! Two lovely creations from Suzaphone Designs. What a sneaky Pete!

There was the most lovely lady and little boy selling moustaches on sticks. Snoobs Jewelry and Art made Mike's and my day, for only a dollar a piece! Although, I think we may have also scared some potential customers off with our moustaches on sticks...(I'm looking at YOU No Prob Bob!! XD)

The booth on the other side belonged to lovely Fangrrl Fiber Arts(and her friend who made the white, black and brown kitty in the first photo). I purchased three colors of yarn from her and can hardly wait to use them! They are so beautiful, and it was terribly difficult to choose only a few. I especially love the neutral toned color-"Figgy Pudding"(yes, it makes me squee).

The sweet lady who made the crocheted mouse, also made wonderful gourd art with gourds she grew herself. We purchased this adorable gourd ladybug for my mother-in-law.

We also purchased some soap from Mystic Creations for MIL. Dark chocolate and eucalyptus mint!

Finally, our biggest purchase of the day was this awesome piece of wood art, from RTturnings.

Entitled, "Lightning Man", the piece evokes the scene of a lightning strike. I fell in love instantly! His process is really unique. He takes "bad" pieces of wood, and fills the knots and holes in with his own unique blend of wood putty and pigment until he finds the "picture" within the wood. I find it fascinating, and truly amazing. His pieces made us stop in our tracks and immediately chat him up. What a kind, and down to earth guy he is, too! I assured him that his wonderful art was going to a very good home.

Handmade is wonderful! Making things for yourself is wonderful, but so is supporting other artists/crafters by purchasing the things they make. If I cannot do both, I will always do one or the other.

As Mike and I mused during a lull in traffic Saturday, our families don't have much to fear, should the apocalypse happen and we survive. Being MidWestern crafters, we know how to kill/grow our food, clothe ourselves with it and turn things we don't need into things we do need(or just want).

Crafters gotz skillz, yo.

And don't laugh too hard at that, lest ye find a crochet hook lodged in ye olde neck meats.