Friday, December 21, 2007

luna scribbles

luna scribble earrings. pearl and silver

ah, there's a better look now. I have this friend that I got into the habit of making jewelry for. We met in college, when we were both terribly poor, and we had a habit (still do!) of having magical fun times together and making thoughtful gifts all on a shoestring budget. It is a relationship of poetry and appreciation of the small things, and her thoughtfulness and attention to detail warm my heart endlessly.

This autumn, for example, she sent me a care package. Instead of packing peanuts, she went to a favorite park where we used to take long walks and talk, and gathered coloured leaves from each tree along the path, and used those to cushion the package. I was smelling the leaves for weeks. Whey they finally got dry and crinkly and lost that damp "fall leafy" smell, I took them out and used them to mulch my garden, so that they can continue to feed and nurture my home and my life. (except the pine cones, which are joining the ranks of my holiday decor)

So I got into the habit of making jewelry for this woman because a.) it was fun, b.) I always found a way to express something I wanted to say and c.) I always keep my supply stash fairly well stocked. I started to wonder last year if it wasn't getting repetitive or boring or whatever, but when she told me brightly that she never buys jewelry anymore because she has artist friends that design and make pieces just for her, I was reassured. I had a hard time coming up with what I wanted to do this year.

I've never been able to justify the expense of these beautiful button pearls before, but I found some in a summer sale this August and snapped them up. They're creamy with a pinky iridescence and I love the soft, dewy-drippy texture of their surfaces. Inspiration hit at the last minute (just when I needed it) and yesterday, I broke out long lengths of sterling silver wire and started weaving around them. They make me think of many things: the moon, wholeness, birds' nests (and a certain home-finding nest charm!), weaving (and the re-woven yarn hanger on the stained glass), scribbles/doodles, etc. - which all felt so appropriate.

They're quite simple, but I think they're rather dramatic in their own way. I hope she likes them.

gift from the sea

I'm winging my way south!

Our local beach has some wickedly good beachcombing some days. When the tides get really exaggerated for a while, low tide will frequently drop to 1 or 2 feet below sea level. The trick is to get a very low tide occurring during the daylight hours, and then you're all set. I've found a couple of complete clam shells while I've been here, which has been terribly exciting.

I've been wanting to replace the drying, crackly animal's natural/muscular hinge with something more permanently flexible on dry land. This is my first experiment, so it remains to be seen how well it holds up: I made the hinge from some heavy copper wire (salvaged from a mirror that it framed) and used superglue to attach it. This one is a gift for a special friend that appreciates found objects and this kind of recycling/experimentation with nature. Fingers crossed that she likes it! (and that it holds up okay!)

I also decided to line the interior with purple velvet, so now it is like a pretty cushioned box:

... oh, and what's this inside? well, that's something for next time ...

it's nearly time!

fulled cashmere and purple velvet, with cotton embroidery and button eyes. What is he?

We leave tomorrow morning, on a 6:30 am flight to LAX. After a 3 hour stay at the LAX Grand Airport Waiting Area, we hop on Mexicana Air and we're off! I couldn't sort out why my tummy was upset this morning. True, our hosts KEPT FILLING my little cup with Shoju last night - jeez, guys, I'm a lightweight - and true I ate some new things (kimchi, anyone?), but it didn't seem right.

After dropping off three packages this am (one of which included this guy. Perhaps I'll get a better, full-body shot of him in his new home when he arrives. Does anyone get the joke?), I think I've sorted it out: this is kind of an intense break. Money's tight, but I'm flying up to Seattle in January, that's got me watching my budget very closely. I applied to a program that I very VERY much want to get into, and I'm terribly nervous (sent my application off today). I'm flying to Mexico (big excitement, but also worried about, for example, hiking in the jungle on my awful old beat-up knees). And finally, I have exams when I get back, so I will have to study while abroad and of course, I always get terribly worked up about exams. I also feel awful about leaving the kitty for so long. We've never left her this long before. We're wracked with guilt.

I took a deep breath and told myself I had to let go of some of these worries and I feel a little better. Still, there's a lot to do today before we're ready to go (the house is still messy and we haven't packed a thing!) so I'd better run. Apparently, there's an internet cafe down the street, so I am writing a couple more surprise-ruining posts (don't look, E!) now that I can just post quickly tomorrow morning and then perhaps from Mexico.

take care, everyone! Have a safe and happy holiday and we'll be back in the new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

spring comes early?

I have been working and working and working on this thing all through fall quarter and FINALLY, I tacked up the lining with a blind hem, and it's done! Well, maybe. the neckline, yoke seam, and hem are all trimmed in palestrina knots in pale blue. I think I may very well do the same to the armholes, just for consistency's sake.

So yes. here it is. My tribute to Jenny Gordy's inspiring jumpers. I bought this 100% wool navy suiting fabric for a song at, laundered it thrice (on hot water, oh the abuse!) to shrink/full it as much as I figured it would, thereby giving me a washable wool to work with, not to mention its lovely nubby organic texture. The yoke is self-lined, but the body (as I've sensitive skin and am prone to the "itchies") is lined with soft microfiber T shirt knit in a pale celadon that nearly matches the embroidery.

So, in short, I have a comfy-cozy pull on jumper that feels like something I want to sleep in. It looks darling with flats, I think, but I chose the wool so that, with thick tights, a long-sleeved henley, and some boots, I could don it in January for teaching days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Indulging in a bit of satisfying Finish What You Have work while enjoying A&E's five glorious hours of "Pride and Prejudice." (the darling boy scores BIG points for this gift!) This ostentatious hair ornament is inspired by the incredible work of Louise Black. Had I the money, I'd gladly buy one, but this little bit of frippery cost me all of $5 or $6 in materials: an ivory velvet poinsetta (some cast off from holiday seasons past, the plastic hair comb on its back and superglue).

I think it will look fabulous with some of the bright sailor/preppy styles that are popping up in stores now.

Here's how I did it (for those that might be curious):

the center of the rose is an ornament from an old dress that I bought at a garage sale to rip apart and use its components separately. It was missing some rhinestones, so I replaced them by supergluing pearls into the empty holes.

Then, I ripped apart the poinsetta and painted the petals a pale pink with darker reddish edges, using very watered-down acrylic paint. After the petals had dried, I arranged them and stitched them together, one at a time, adding the ornament at the center. I tucked many of the edges under to create a curled "rose petal" look, using a touch of superglue to affix the curled tips.

For the little flowers, I cut flower shapes out of a bit of fulled grey cashmere. I brushed both sides of the cutout with a mixture of water and tacky glue, allowing each side to dry before moving on. I then mixed some acrylic matte medium with some copper metallic pigment to make a shiny "copper paint," and polka-dotted the flowers. I stitched and gathered the cutouts to give them shape, then made a center with a brass head pin and a freshwater pearl. I put a bit of tacky glue on the front before pushing the pin through flush to the fabric, then put glue on the back and turned them all upside down to dry. I left the long ends of the brass pins sticking out the back, and covered them in superglue and stuck them in between the petals of the rose, letting it sit and dry.

For the lace, I used a bit of antique lace that I received from a friend's mother about 16 years ago. I painted it with watered-down acrylics in a deep amber yellow colour (over paper towels, so that all the excess moisture could be absorbed). When dry, I added the little bits of ivory lace, stitching them down. I then stitched the lace to the back of the flower and added the hair comb.

time consuming (many steps), but fairly simple!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

sweets for the sweet

I received some artisanal salts for my birthday, and wanted to try out some recipes using them right away. These are salted chocolate caramels that I found on epicurious, one of my favorite sites for food - and drink! - recipes. There were a lot of mixed reviews for these - it seems there are two or three points at which the recipe can take a drastic turn for the worse, though you won't necessarily know it until the end. So it's something of an adventure.

With that in mind, I only made a half batch (rather expecting to fail), but they turned out fantastic! Here are the changes I made:

Instead of 5.25 oz. of high quality bittersweet chocolate, I used 2.5 oz milk chocolate (a bar I received as a gift from a student) and 2.75 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate. Good flavour. I may try again with a high-quality bittersweet chocolate and see if there's any noticeable improvement.

I only had dark corn syrup, so as far as watching the sugar syrup "darken," I had to go with my gut and experiment. The original time to boil was 10 minutes. As I was doing a half batch and working in a cast-iron saute pan (more surface area), I reduced the time to about 6 minutes and called it good.

I only heated the chocolate and caramel mixture to about 223 degrees. They are quite firm, not too soft at all. I'm glad I didn't go any further, and I think 250 definitely would have been too hot.

Instead of 1.5 T butter (for a half batch), I used about .75. For the cream, I used Horizon Organic Heavy Whipping Cream, which was literally the thickest heavy cream I've ever seen - it almost held small peaks as I poured it into the cup measure. I agree that they are still a bit greasy (I might try a lighter cream next time); however, I plan to merely quickly blot the bottom/sides with paper towel before I wrap the individual caramels up. Otherwise, the flavour is smooth, buttery, rich. perfect.

I also added my (generous) sprinkling of red Hawaiian salt at the 5-min point. None to soon - the surface was already hardening. I patted mine gently to make sure it was pressed into the surface. Perhaps I'm just cheap, but I feel there's no sense wasting good artisanal salt.

Finally, I turned mine out and cut them into long strips after 45 min - and yes, I oiled my knife frequently. After another 15 to 30 minutes, I had cut all of the strips into individual rectangular candies - by the end, they were becoming so stiff that the tops were beginning to stretch/scar as I cut them, so I'd say the 1-hour-mark is probably a good time to cut if you want the tops to remain smooth, dark, and glossy.

some for you, some for me

I am beginning to quilt! (see near edge) I sure hope I'm doing this right. It's a 5' square lap quilt. Smaller than I'd hoped the final project would be, but let's face it. It's mid-December and I'm tired and quite a bit burnt out from this quarter. (gosh I hope my grades are okay) So it seems more important right now to try and enjoy the last bit of grading, tidying up the house before we leave (in six days, argh), while also getting my personal statement written and out.

Part of trying to enjoy this all-too-short and all-too-busy break has been forcibly slowing myself down and indulging in some fun little crafting for myself - accessories stuff, mostly. I have been consciously and purposefully engaged in rediscovering one of my best skills: my ability to make a thorough mess of a room. The living room is covered in neat tupperware storage boxes, their contents of beads, thread, lace, paint, glue, brushes, tools, etc. strewn everywhere. How liberating to stop cleaning and enjoy dirtying the place up for a change! And how nice to treat myself to some of my crafting.
Two of the three current projects in process are done (my Louise-Black-inspired hair ornament is coming together):

I fell in love with a red and pink baubly necklace at Anthropologie this summer, and this is the version I've finally made. The stones cost me a pretty penny to collect, but I'm afraid I'm not certain what all of them are. Some are carnelian, some are garnets, the tiny bright pink are coral, and I suspect that the large pale pink ones are some kind of agate. I don't normally wear big jewelry, but I am finding the bubblegum-ball-feel of this very fun.

Aha! My piece de resistance! I have been searching and SEARCHING for brooch frames! Who knew it would take so long to find one?

This has been something I've wanted to do since late summer. I finally found one at Antiques Alley yesterday and snapped it up (along with these white elbow-length leather gloves!) I know, I know, I'm a terrible nerd, but this makes me laugh ridiculously, and I plan to pin it neatly to a cardigan for my first day of teaching next quarter, just to see if my students notice. The embroidery is quite small - I sturdied the back by stitching it around a nickel - so they'll have to squint.