Thursday, January 31, 2013

What We Made Today-Upcycled Flannel Burp Cloths

A sewing machine is a fabulous thing to own when you have a baby on the way and funds are a little tight. Or you're cheap. Or both. There are so many things you can save money on by simply making them yourself, especially if you already posses a healthy fabric stash or like to thrift for used/vintage fabrics(as I do!). My personal list of things to make before the birth of our new baby includes

*burp cloths
*a quilt
*receiving blankets
*a Boppy type pillow
*a neck pillow
*diaper bags
*soft rattles
*appliques for upcycling bodysuits that belonged to The Kid

Today I crossed the first item off the list. Well, sort of. I mean, I made a few burp cloths but will more than likely make several more as I find them incredibly relaxing to construct, since they are so simple to make that even a mushy brained cow like me can't screw them up. And, babies puke. A lot. So you really can't have too many appropriate surfaces available for them to puke on.

Best of all, I didn't spend a single cent on these, since I raided The Husband's stash for the flannels(apparently he's a lumberjack. And he's ok.) and my own stash for the cottons(mostly pieces of sheets)that I used as backings. Old flannel shirts or jammy pants would also work equally well, if you don't want to spend any money but don't have random yards of flannel hanging around, as we apparently did.

Here's how they turned out-

I love them. In fact, I love them more than any of the burp cloths I used while The Kid was a baby, because they are softer, a tinch bigger, and they are double layered, which means less puke, spit and snot soaked shoulders for me. Whooo! Yeah.

I thought about trying to construct a tutorial, but honestly, I hate writing tutorials and there are so many good ones already in existence, that it seems a waste of time to try and improve on what's already available when burp cloths are about the simplest type of item you can sew.

So, I googled until I found a tutorial which better explains the basics of what I did.

You can find that really lovely tutorial here at The Hazel Bloom.

Or, if you'd prefer a tutorial that doesn't have so many photos, there is one here at Bright Hub.

Even if you don't have a little one on the way, find yourself a pregnant friend, acquaintance or relative with a baby shower coming up so you have an excuse to make these. They are so easy it's almost therapeutic. And with all the colorful, fun, chic, elegant, geeky fabrics available these days, the sky is the limit when it comes to making these as funny, classy or timeless, as expensive or thrifty/earth friendly, as you can imagine.

And trust me, while a bunch o' burp cloths may not seem that exciting a gift from the viewpoint of a person without a baby, I can tell you from experience that when you are cleaning up puke or spit up for the hundredth time in a day, a lovingly handmade, wonderfully absorbent and extra pretty(or charming or funny or bright) burp cloth might be just the things to give a tired new mom an extra little smile.

It's the little things(that make big messes!), you know?

Snapshots-Pretty Little Bears-Or, What I Found At The Local Art Gallery

The Husband and I really love supporting the local art gallery here in town. Partially because we love supporting the arts and the handmade movement, and partially because we are impressed that our itty bitty little city has been able to maintain an art gallery.

We stopped by a few weeks ago and I fell in love with this pair of little stuffed bears, made from vintage embroidered linens. I can't tell you the name of the artist that made them, because the art gallery kept the tag off of them, but I'll update this post if I am able to locate that information.

The imaginations of upcyclers never cease to amaze me. And my home is ever more lovely and comfy because of them.

Snapshots-Thread Candy

Is there anything that excites a crafter more than new supplies?!

I mean, obviously, babies, houses, family and such are way more exciting, but outside the realm of "the big stuff", is there anything that excites a crafter more than new supplies?!

The Husband and I visited a local sewing shop a couple of weekends ago and to my everlasting delight, small spools of cotton sewing thread were on sale for a dollar a piece. I loaded up on some new colors for my button embroideries, then went home and daydreamed about what it might be like to have five sets of hands so I could whip all those new embroideries just as fast as I could conceive them in my head...

Sometimes I just want to wrap myself up in thread, head to toe, and never have to worry about wearing clothing ever again.

Until I think about how much like a giant sausage I would probably look. Then I become content to simply open my desk drawer and dream about the day when having all those extra limbs will be scientifically possible. Because that's a much less weird thing to want to do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Progress-Grape Soda Creme Cake Button Embroidery

I've been working on this piece for a few days now, in between other smaller embroideries. I have to take time outs when I work on the hoops that are bigger than 3 or 4 inches, as the repetitive stitching of the backgrounds starts to make my eyes go funny at a certain point, and I start to think that I can hear the thread tauting me("You sucky stitcher! You couldn't fix a fallen hem!") as it begins to tangle and snap more easily. I thought I'd go ahead and share it, despite the fact that it isn't finished, as the bright purples and pinks really cheer me up as the gray, cold days of winter drag on.

As the name suggests, this piece was inspired by a grape soda creme cake(if you've never made a soda creme cake, you should!), only I imagined one slathered in creamy pink buttercream(the pink stitches of the background) and sprinkled with happy grape and berry candy bits. It's meant to evoke the warm and happy type of nostalgia that most of us relate to at least one pleasant food, birthday party, carnival or county fair memory. For me, when I look at this piece, I am instantly reminded of slick grape Kool-Aid, sticky and shiny sno cones, drippy wet Popsicles, bright Lisa Frank stickers, Cartoon unicorns and Care Bears and Gummi Bears, sugar sprinkled Easter Peeps and a certain iridescent Homecoming dress. These are all things to which happy memories, that bring a smile to my face and transport me to a calm and positive mental state, are attached .

  It is said that fragrance can instantly transport people to another place or time in their memory( I can't even smell saltines without wanting to puke-thank you morning sickness from four years ago!), but for me, colors and patterns achieve that more effectively. My pieces are meant to transport people to happier, warmer, more comfortable places through color, pattern, texture and material, as opposed to imagery or the written word(both of which I also employ during various phases of my life).

I'm hoping to have this piece finished and listed in my etsy shop by the end of next week(along with about ten or so other new pieces!)I think it would make a fun bit of decor for the room of a young girl or teenager, or a really unique and special birthday, Valentine or Christmas gift for the grape soda or purple lover in your life(maybe YOU?) who has "everything", and I am really looking forward to meeting the lovely person who gives this sweet piece a new home!



What I Found At The SalArmy-A Not Entirely Creepy Vintage Doll Head

I have always been creeped out by vintage dolls. Not Strawberry Shortcake or Rainbow Brite or Cabbage Patch(except those weird Koosas) vintage, but the ones that came before. You know, those glass eyed dolls from the 1950's and before. I don't know, there's just something...unnerving about their stares. Especially the ones with the moving eye parts. They don't resemble any child I've ever known, and they don't look particularly cuddly and cute either. I don't trust them, and I sure as heck cannot spend a night sleeping in a room with one. If you invite me to your house and your guest bedroom contains creepy old dolls, don't be surprised to find them stuffed into your hope chest or lined up outside of the guestroom door in the morning. Sorry, but I don't find your creepy dolls trustworthy when I'm at my most vulnerable, sleeping with my guard down.

Once, when I was young, my grandmother sent us a a very tall and awkwardly heavy and fleshy vintage doll, with extremely close cropped, slightly curly and very coarse(I think you could have washed your dishes with it) butterscotch colored hair, and those creepy openy closey eyes. It bothered me so badly that my mother and I wrapped her in a black plastic garbage bag and stuffed her under the stairs so nobody would have to see her again. It was like, "The Sopranos, Iowa".

Anyway, I tell you these things because as I was strolling through the local SalArmy the other day, I came across what I assume is a big ole doll head, probably from the 1950's or 60's, I think, and was oddly, indescribeably, drawn to it.

It was marked "$5", which seems a little expensive for a doll head with no body(at our SalArmy where I can buy a jelly glass jar full of buttons for the same price, heh heh), but I just had to have it. There was something about it that struck me as only slightly quirky creepy(in fact, almost hopefull/quirky/creepy), and not murderously creepy. Maybe the fact that it is only a head with no body accounts for that. I mean, what harm can a helpless head cause in the middle of the night while I am asleep? I suppose it could hop over and bit me, but I suspect that may be just out of it's realm of capabilities. Anyway, it is attatched to a wooden base(which makes me wonder if maybe it was actually part of a mannequin or something?) so it is just perfect for display on the book shelf in my living room, which is where it is now perched. So at least she can't attack my child in her bedroom, should the mood strike her. Because, she'd need, you know, hands, to open the bedroom door...

Annnnnywho...all thoughts of murder by doll in the middle of the night aside, this is my favorite find of the new year(so far). It is another one of those odd finds that makes my house feel just a little more comfortable and "homey" to me. I mean, some people find that designer pillows and pictures frames and furniture from certain stores, a fireplace, a big kitchen or a Jacuzzi tub, make them feel comortable. For me, it is weird little doll heads that I stumble upon at the Salvation Army.

And if I have even the slightest suspicion that the dang thing has moved, turned or blinked her eyes in the middle of the night, I will be promptly wrapping her up in my orange Anthropologie ruffles comforter then tying her up in a garbage bag and stuffing her under the stairs.

  Or placing her in the window that faces my neighbors' patio, so she can cast her glassy stares at them. Maybe then they'll quit feeding the birds that crap all over my car...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Let's Ketchup

This post doesn't actually contain any ketchup. Just so you know.

What it does contain is just a few photos from the past few weeks, to prove that I didn't totally give up on making things while I was finally starting to pull away from the puke train. I actually have several new embroideries and illustrations to show  you as well, but pregnancy brain has kept me from getting back into the swing of photographing things as I complete them.

And don't even try to act like pregnancy brain isn't a real "thing". Come hang out with me. I'm living proof. A couple of days ago, I sat in my parents driveway for FIVE MINUTES trying to remember how to turn the lights off on my Jeep. It's true. Not even lying.

So here are just a few of the things we've made, seen, found and experienced over the past few weeks, in no specific order. Because I'm too tired to try and arrange them in chronological order. Or, my brain doesn't work correctly, right now. Or, all I can think about is a double cheeseburger with a side of bison burger and elk snacky sticks.Yeah, it's probably that one. Can you tell I am having unreasonable meat cravings?

First up, it's The Cupcake Kid's first gingerbread house! She was so excited to put it together. All through the month she kept telling me how much she "love dat gingerbwead house!"

This was the first year that The Cupcake Kid really understood and "got into" Christmas. She was so excited that we even put our Christmas tree up a day or two before Thanksgiving. For reals. It's a tiny tree, decorated mostly by vintage and handmade ornaments. I forgot to take pictures(of course), but this year we made painted cinnamon salt dough and markered cardboard cut out ornies. If you look closely, you'll also notice lovely crayon markings on my antique table...

I didn't have a lot of time to make Christmas presents this year, but I did manage to fit in an acrylic cowboy painting for my brother in law(I watered the paints down so the grain of the wood would show through. The wood is a scrap from Mr. Cupcakes' man cave).

I also made this painting, in similar fashion, for one of my brothers. The image is inspired by a well known photograph of the doe eyed singer Lana del Ray. Though I was simply translating someone else's work into a new medium, I spent a lot of anxiety on this little painting. It's hard for me to create fan art when I am not actually a fan of the person I'm drawing or painting. I suppose I could have made the job easier on myself had I simply downloaded the photo and traced it to my board, but I'm a pregnant dummy and decided to do it free hand. Thankfully, my brother was pleased with it. And, just to clarify, I don't consider myself a fan simply because I don't know anything about the girl, other than that she's pretty. I have nothing against her, I just don't know anything about her. I've not really checked out her music yet. It's on my "to do" list though...

I finally began to overcome the constant puking just in time to make a return to light cooking and baking for Christmas. This no bake chocolate peanut butter banana pie was one of my favorite new recipes that I tried.

What you cannot see, is the layer of sliced bananas slathered in melted chocolate that makes up the bottom layer of the pie. Super super yummy!

 For the grandmas Christmas presents, I made custom beaded bracelets, and embroideries based on drawings  made by The Cupcake Kid. The embroideries were undoubtedly my favorites of the gifts I made this year. I think the grandmas are going to treasure them forever. The Kid thought it was pretty cool to see her drawings turned into embroideries, but I think she'll find them most special when she's grown up.

I was lucky enough to receive a gigantic stash of homemade jams, jellies and pickled squash from my grandma this year, and in the spirit of the season, I decided(ok, FORCED myself) to share a few of the jars with The Husband's father. But how to present them? I came up with the idea of a rugged little crate, which The Husband cut and assembled from some tree trunk bits he has hanging out in his man cave. I'm thinking next year, we'll make some jams, jellies and sauces ourselves(or maybe even baked goods) and make more of these crates to make personalized gifts for some of the people in our lives that we know and love.

The best thing about glass canning jars? They double as drinking glasses when you've eaten all of their yummy contents. Well, they do at our house anyway...

 The paper "filling" in the box is comprised of simple brown paper lunch bags, torn into shreds.

 Recently, I've begun cleaning and sorting some of the many jars of buttons I've accumulated over the past few months. With a new baby coming, it's become imperative that I get my thousands of choking hazards all sorted and securely stored before the potential choker arrives. You cannot tell from this photo, as it only displays the contents of one jar, but I'm pretty sure I've got a bazillion and one buttons. Thank goodness I have a few months to get them squared away. Although, I'm starting to feel like I might need a few years...Let's just admit it. I may have an obsession...

I really wanted to start a Christmas tradition this(past) year, since our little family didn't really have one yet. I settled on an Advent calendar, because getting a little gift all through December sounded like a lot of fun. I had all these creative plans for a neat, heirloom calendar that could be used year after year by The Kid and the new baby...And then I got sick. And totally forgot. But remembered, suddenly, a few days before it was to begin. My poor kid ended up with brown paper lunch sacks tied to the railing of our staircase with vintage, red lacy seam binding.

You know what though? She totally didn't care. The exciting part was the stuff inside the sacks-little toys and colorful knee socks and Christmas candies. She could have cared less how they were packaged. I vow to do better next year though. Which, you know, is a goal that won't be difficult to achieve. How hard could it be to trump brown paper lunch bags?!

I had a birthday, somewhere back there, a few months ago. My mama made me marranitos and pumpkin empanadas, because she knows that I love them and was craving them. I only ate one of each, since I was still in puke mode, but The Kid had NO PROBLEM whatsoever consuming my share as well as hers.

One of our favorite pastimes is to walk along the river searching for treasures and listening for trains as they come barreling down the tracks towards the bridge over the river. On one of the few trips we were able to make to the river(I'm not a fan of puking in public, even if the puking occurs in a naturey type setting), we encountered several neat little treasures to take home and add to our collection.

These dried water lily seed pods would look so neat wound up in a wreath with pine cones and sisal, or placed inside a big glass vase of homemade potpourri.We also debated spray painting them silver or gold for use in holiday decor, but I'm not really big on spray paint or holiday decor either one at this point, so I'll find a use for them that better suits my taste. If you'd like to see a photo of what the pods look like before they dry out and fall to the water, click here. I don't know what it is, exactly, about these pods that I find so appealing, but I just cannot get enough of them. They remind me of spaceships and honeycombs and evil plants that speak and eat people, all wrapped into one uniquely beautiful and somewhat creepy little package.

We also happened upon a plastic duck decoy, bobbing along the shore. I plan on giving him quite the makeover. After a nice, light sanding, he'll be receiving a bright, bold and flamboyant new paint job. Then he'll find a new home in our rainbow colored front porch, amongst all the other "found" and made odds and ends that make us happy.

Finally, we found this interesting piece of driftwood and this natural sponge tucked into the rocky, shell littered shore line and decided we needed them as well. One of the fun things about our foragings is that they often lead to many questions which we can only acquire answers to through research when we get home. I had no idea that there were any types of sponges growing along the Mississippi river where we live. I thought that all sponges were sea sponges. Truthfully, we still cannot be sure that this one was growing anywhere near where we found it, but if it wasn't, where did it come from? Did it fall off a barge? Did it float down the river from somewhere else? We may never know. What we do know is that we enjoy the little guy perched alongside other found treasures and plant specimens in our little terrarium.

 One day last fall, The Husband and Kid were outside doing fall yard cleanup, when they unearthed a bunch of slugs(or are they snails? internet research has been confusing, with some pages saying that slugs are snails without shells and some saying that they are two separate things...Oh who knows. All I know is that they are icky) under a leaf pile. The Husband planned on sending them to the compost pile, but The Kid determined that her kitty "needed them". So she moved them, one by one, to her kitty sprinkler. I am glad that I was not there to witness it. I was already puking enough as it was!

 And finally, I leave you with this short story.

As I mentioned above, we like to head down to the river and do a little train watching from time to time. The Husband likes to take The Kid right on up near the tracks where she waves to the conductors(are they still even called that anymore?) and sometimes the conductors blow their horns for her. It's super exciting for a three year old when the train "talks" to her!

One day, the two were able to approach a train that had actually stopped on the tracks(it had to wait on some river traffic) and peer through the chain link fence at the train while waving at the conductor(as per usual). Only, this time, the conductor actually exited the train and walked over to the fence to say hello. He asked her if she had been a good girl and she very shyly replied "yes". As a reward, he gave her this little pin, which might as well have been made of a gold princess crown, a rainbow colored unicorn and  fifty-one flavor ice cream party all rolled into one, as excited about it as she was.

She's still very proud of her pin and likes to tell people about how the "man on the twain gived" it to her.

Whew. Finally caught up. Well, sort of. I've got about ten embroideries and four or five new illustrations to post too, but that'll just have to wait. This expecting mama is expecting to pee on herself in about five seconds if she doesn't quit pecking on the keyboard.

I just gotta say though, it's so nice to be back. I can hardly wait to show you what I'm working on for The Kid's Valentines, Easter and birthday gifts this year. Oh and the new lines of embroideries that I have planned. And all the funky things I've found while thrifting!

But seriously. I've got to get outta here. Peeing on self commencing in 3...2...

I've Got Some Splainin' To Do...

Sooooooo...Long time, no see, eh?

I basically just fell off the face of the planet for about four months, I know. I'm surprised somebody didn't send out search parties or declare me dead. Let me assure you, my absence was completely unplanned and unintentional. The events of the late third and fourth quarter of 2012 were incredibly unexpected and they really knocked me off my feet.

I think I may have mentioned, back in September, that Mr. Cupcakes went to work one day and discovered that in two months time, he would not have a job(along with hundreds of other workers) at the wind turbine plant he was employed by.

What I failed to mention, was that on the following day, we discovered that I was(still am) pregnant. TALK ABOUT IRONIC TIMING. The panic and anxiety began to set in immediately. Why was this happening now, unexpectedly, when we tried purposefully a year ago? What were we going to do about insurance? How could we afford a baby when we would suddenly be living on a lot less income? Why didn't I keep The Cupcake Kid's car seats and bassinet and swing instead of yardsaling them? The anxiety was made worse when about two weeks later, the so called "morning sickness"(which is about a bull crap name as is possible) set in. And stayed. For almost three months. And it wasn't just, "Oh I feel so nauseous in the mornings that I can barely eat my breakfast" morning sickness, it was violently puking up to eight times a day nearly everyday for weeks on end, losing fifteen pounds by the time I started to get towards the end of it, "morning" sickness.

Needless to say, it pretty much turned my life upside down for awhile. I could barely get off the couch most days. I couldn't work, I couldn't cook(good Lord, the smell of cooking foods made me instantly retch), I couldn't do much of anything besides feel frustrated, hate on those women who never puke once throughout their entire skinny pregnancies, and bawl like a baby because NOTHING could relieve my symptoms. Though, Sea Bands did indeed help(definitely not extinguish, but helped a little) with the nausea itself, at times. I wore out four pairs of them, as I wore them 24/7(minus shower time).  Even after I stopped puking on a daily basis, I was puking every other day, then every third day or so, then once a week. And it was so weird, because I RARELY ever puke outside of pregnancy. I am healthy and sturdy. Like a horse. Or a mule.

Once I started to have more good days then bad, I was overwhelmed with all the house work which had escaped me over the past three months, the task of trying to find affordable insurance for my pregnant self and family(COBRA is a joke), trying to round up Christmas presents for our families(I usually spend several months making/shopping but only had a few weeks this year), and helping Mr. Cupcakes with his job search. We still are working on obtaining insurance and a job for Mr. C. Each day without feels like a month. Each week feels like a year.

Unfortunately, due to the illness, I missed out on attending most of the biggest craft markets of the year(holiday season is the busiest for most crafters(unless you specialize in bridal or something like that), so my fourth quarter business profits were practically nonexistent. And just as my little business was starting to pick up some speed too.

I also missed out on several personal and family events which I was simply too sick to attend or travel to. I mean, when I say I could barely get off the couch, I mean it. I was practically on couch rest(my bed is farther from the bathroom than the couch is, thus I slept on it for the duration of my illness) for three months. Seriously.

It's been a frustrating, frightening and worrisome chapter in our lives, to say the least, and it's not over yet. But even if I had not been too ill to focus on the ole blog, I'm not sure that I would have written much anyway. I needed to focus on taking care of myself physically and mentally. Unexpected and overwhelming times like this can really wreak havoc on a family, especially when the member who most acts as the "cement", so to speak, becomes a worthless lump of vomit on the couch. It's so important to stick together and maintain as positive outlook as possible. Worrying and negativity will never improve the situation, so might as well not give them the time of day.

Thankfully, I'm finally feeling better, and we can begin to move forward as a family in a year which is undoubtedly going to be full of many changes. Some of these changes we will have control over, and some we won't. We just have to be wise enough to know when to ride the waves and when to fight them. I'm optimistic that we're going to turn this year into a great one, despite all the unexpected setbacks. Ultimately, the most important thing is that we have each other, and no matter where the year takes us, as long as we are all together, we will consider ourselves blessed.

In other news, I am pleased to say that I'll be adopting a more streamlined approach to my business, placing a more heavy focus on embroideries and original artwork. I'll be abandoning my textile jewelry and accessories lines for the time being, but I've some new ideas in the works that I am just beside myself with excitement about, and I can hardly wait to share with all of you(including a new line of wood and embroidery pendants!). However, having a new baby(who I will be nursing) this year will mean that I will have to be more selective about which markets I apply to and attend, since I won't be up to working the full schedule I had planned on. I also will most likely not be blogging as regularly as I had been, but I will earnestly try to post at least twice a week. I have so many new embroideries, illustrations and Salvation Army finds to show you all!

In closing, I'd just like to say that there are several of you who have been so supportive these last few months(when others were questioning the reality of the severity of my pregnancy sickness) who I would just like to extend a big HUG and THANK YOU to. It's comforting to know that there are others out there who have been in my shoes and made it through, but it's just as comforting to know that there are people who cannot begin to understand what I am going through, but offer their emotional support and physical help anyway.

Despite the uncertainty of the future, I am excited. I am excited for new opportunities, new challenges and the new creativity that comes from being unexpectedly thrust from a place of comfort and complacency to one of wonder and humility.

And of course I am most excited about the edition of a new member of our family!

I hope it goes without saying that I am also definitely excited to share the journey with YOU, too.

Now prepare for lots of photos because it's been WAAAAYYYYY too long!