Monday, October 31, 2011

oh, and -

this scarf, anthro's silimba loop scarf. It's hand knit in Peru by a group of women earning a decent wage, but I just don't have $198 for a scarf. For $42, I have ordered five skeins (yes, I'm aware, it's probably way too much, but i get anxious about these things - and heck, if I have extra, I'll just make two and give one away) of Rowan's Big Wool chunky yarn in Madras (only $7.49/skein on amazon, half off retail), a size Q (!!) crochet hook for the central ring of the scarf, and a size N for the loopy fringe. The scarf is a 62" loop (as in, 62" in total) and 14" wide. I'm assuming the fringe is about 6" long (or rather, a 12" loop folded in half).

More on this when the materials come; I don't think it'll actually take a terribly long time to make; those loops, after all, just seem to be simple chains. Oh, this should be fun, I've never used such a big needle before! I also found an etsy seller offering remnants of metallic leather lace and snapped those up, too - looks like both these upcoming projects will be coming to fruition soon!

(This is what happens when I'm laid up with what I hope is a badly sprained/dislocated and not broken toe. argh. Happy halloween, indeed.)

next up

anthropologie's november catalogue is up on the website; in it, I found the ice amulet necklace, made by the same artist (and using the same technique) as the cinched quartz earrings. I think this is lovely, too - one of the nicest quartz-point necklaces I've seen lately (and I have to admit, I kind of love this trend; I grew up in Eugene and still have a bit of hippie earth mama in me). The pendant is only half an inch long - can you believe it? it seems so much bigger in the image! I've heard that sometimes the pieces shot for the catalogues are one-offs, with slightly different proportions than the items sold in the stores - I wonder if that's the case here?

Anyway, it is strung on lambskin, which seems to have been dyed bronze with a metallic finish. I'm going to go dig around and see what I can find; I bet a simple 1/4 or 1/8 inch metallic leather lacing shouldn't be too hard to find - I think I've seen this treatment on deerskin lace, which is even softer than lambskin.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

happy halloween!

ah, at long last! There was more I wanted to do, but I just plain ran out of time. Oh well, I can add more to it next year. We decided to throw a Prohibition party for Halloween, complete with a big hors d'ouvres spread (next post) and classic cocktails, and we projected Ken Burns' new documentary on the wall of our friend's apartment (you can buy episodes on itunes already!)

so, getting in the 20s/30s spirit, I found this silk ombre dress (Gap!) at Goodwill. It's a bit big, but I figured, that's really going to give me the silhouette I want, anyway.

This is the dress after I dyed the dress with idye on the stovetop for a couple hours. I used kelly green because green and red are opposite each other on the colour wheel. Therefore, I knew I'd end up with a green dress that faded to brown where the pink colour was stronger. The colour seems much more Art Deco to me. Note: if you put silk chiffon in hot water, it shrinks. See the hem sticking out at the bottom? I thought I'd have time to take the dress up (it's a bit long for a flapper, anyway), but I didn't - oh well, another project for next year!

Next: I pinned appliques and bits of lace that I had cut up on the dress. Pin, pin, pin! I looked at images of 20s fashion for a few days and started noting the trends: deep Vs at the neck, whether overlays or appliques or just trim, there are a lot of deep Vs at the neck. And then a horizontal line right at the widest part of the hips. I arranged my appliques accordingly.

Then the real work begins: sew sew sew! I added little seed beads for additional sparkle after I got all the appliques and lace on.

And voila! The starry headband is a project from a few years ago; I also bought a wide headband base to cover with green silk when I take the hem up. So, hopefully next year I'll have a matching headband with appliques and maybe even tassels on the sides - next year, next year.

Cass made himself a foam-core tommy gun - isn't it cute? It's sculptural, too - about five separate layers. It was a hit at the party, everyone wanted to play with it. We don't know what to do with it, but it's too cute to throw away, so it's sitting in our bedroom.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have fun tomorrow! I am looking forward to hanging out and seeing all the kids in their costumes and handing out candy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

handmade holidays, the early edition: It's a cinch!

Oh, I love it when a plan works out! These cinched quartz earrings from anthropologie were SO easy to make. Let me show you how!

You'll need:
hollow brass rod, approx 1/4" diameter (from the hardware store!)
wire/metal cutters
metal file
needle-nose pliers
a strong but flexible epoxy appropriate for metal and stone
2 quartz points (drilled or not is fine)
14k gold filled jump rings (2) and ear wires (2)

since the original earrings were about 2" long overall, and it looked like the brass "cinch" took up about half the length, I cut two 2" pieces of my hollow brass rod (because this is going to be folded in half).

next, use your hammer and anvil to flatten those pieces of rod. Hammer the ends a bit flatter than the rest to really seal the rod into a flat bit of brass, and to give you some extra width to play with when you file.

Use your metal file to round the edges of the hammered piece so they are smooth, not jagged. Then use needle-nose pliers to fold in half - you want a gentle loop at the top, not a tight crease. Use the metal file to rough up the brass on the inside of this "cinch," as this will help ensure adhesion when you apply the epoxy/glue.

If your quartz points are too long, you can gently tap the ends with a hammer on your anvil and gradually chip away some of the length, leaving blocky points like the ones I have (yes, I hammered mine to achieve this proportion). Then, make sure your "cinches" fit tightly around your quartz points. My cinches closed quite tightly, so I'd have to kind of wedge the quartz into them - this is good.

Once you've guaranteed a tight fit, remove the quartz stones from the cinches.

Place a drop of glue/epoxy (I used Gorilla Glue's superglue gel, as it promised flexible hold for metal and stone, was suitable for indoor/outdoor usage, low temps, and in humidity, etc.) on either side of your quartz stone where the cinch will come into contact with it. Carefully wedge the stone back into the cinch. Do your best to avoid smearing the glue about so you don't end up with detritus stuck to your earrings.

Let these dry overnight. I stuck pins into my dress form at an angle and hung the cinched quartz bits, free of contact with anything, to dry.

The next day, add jump rings and ear wires. Note: if you're really smart, feed your jump ring onto the cinch before glueing the stone in. I got very lucky that the jump rings I bought fit - but what if they hadn't? I would've had to start all over, boo.

and that's it!

A group of my girlfriends receives care packages every year with a little jewelry surprise tucked in amidst the pickles and jams; I hope you all are into the brass-and-sparkle? I think this is the theme of this year's gifts!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

love these

anthropologie's cinched quartz drops. Lovely, aren't they? $128 for brass and quartz, with a gold-filled earwire. Do you see what I see? Look closely; you can make out where these pieces of quartz were drilled. That's right, these are quartz point beads; a strand can be bought for approximately $30. Now, the challenge is - do I have any quartz points that are short enough to recreate this style? Would it be too tacky if the quartz crystals were longer? They could be masked - to some extent - by the brass. Oh, that reminds me - I forgot to share my little quartz point necklace that I made. I'll have to do that.

So, how to do the brass? I'll get a hollow tube of brass from the hardware store, cut two lengths, pound flat on the anvil and smooth the edges with a file.

How to affix the crystal to the metal? I'll use a heavy-duty epoxy glue; rough up the back of the metal with the file to help ensure adhesion. Probably superglue, whatever the hardware store has.

I may not find oversized jump rings made from a square wire like this, but I'll find heavy duty jump rings of some kind or another.

Definitely not $128 of materials is what I'm saying. Anthro, challenge accepted. (Besides, wouldn't they make really pretty gifts at the holidays, even for my friends who are less outlandish in their dress as I am? Yes, I do actually realize that not everyone goes around with taxidermied starling wings on their head.)

ok, I have GOT to go finish my Halloween costume so I can get started on this.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

halloween fun: glitter bats!

Our neighbours really go all out for Halloween; in order to keep up a bit, I made a garland of these cute glittery bats for our porch! Here's how I made them:

Download a picture of a bat stencil. Print it out and cut it out, then trace it onto your cardstock or cardboard (I had to use foam core because it was all we had on hand. I think a thin cardboard would be better.) You can use a white charcoal pencil if you are tracing it onto a dark surface, so that the outline shows up.

Cut out your stencilled bats. I made about 10 or 12, using an exacto-knife to cut them out.

Next, punch holes in the tips of the wings. I used a leather punch and a hammer, but a regular hole punch would probably be fine for thin cardboard. Also, you might want to paint your bats a dark colour - whatever colour you want them to be. Coloured glitter can only do so much to alter the colour of the material underneath.

Next brush a thin layer of elmer's glue all over the bat. Keep a cup of water on hand for soaking your brush if you need to step away. I used glue-all from the hardware store. Note: we are only glittering one side of the bat at a time!

Set your bat on some kind of drop cloth or mat to keep the glitter from going everywhere. I used a trash bag. Sprinkle glitter all over the bat. You definitely want to immediately glitter the bat after brushing it with glue - don't try to glue and then glitter three at once, as the glue will dry and then you'll have to start over.
Let your bats dry for a few hours. Afterward, I sprayed mine with a fixative designed to keep charcoal from smudging. I figured it would help keep the glitter together - and even better, it gave the parts of the bats where the glitter didn't stick (if I had a dry patch, for example) a bit of a sheen. Then I let them dry 24-48 hours before starting over again with the other side: glue, glitter, fix.

Link your bats together with a bit of wire (see the photo at the top of the page) and use a bit of wire to hang them.

Ta-dah! Cute, aren't they? We're carving pumpkins tonight, and I'll wrap our porch light with some orange cellophane or tissue paper before Halloween night, to give the porch a suitably spooky atmosphere. I had two bats leftover, so I might hang them with a bit of fishing line taped to the soffit. One more halloween post coming - my new costume!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

by the pricking of my thumbs

something wicked this way comes!

I love fall quarter. I always give my students Macbeth to read and then write a paper on just as we hit Halloween. I love it.

Everyone on our street, it seems, goes all out for halloween. There are decorations everywhere. Not wanting to miss out on the trick-or-treaters by broadcasting a candy-free message, we're putting up a few bits of holiday cheer to make sure those monsters and witches come a'knocking in droves again this year. Try switching out the bulb in a streetside lamp or your outdoor lights with a "flicker flame" bulb (our smaller local hardware store didn't have them in stock, but Home Depot did) to create some atmosphere! You can always switch it back later!

More halloween posts from me in the next few days, including the glittering bat garland I'm cooking up for the porch and a new halloween costume for me this year: a dress with some flapper attitude, just in time for a Prohibition party. (bonus: I think I'll wear my costume to the university on Halloween this year, something I surely couldn't do with my faun costume!)

a harvest classic: tomato sauce

with balsamic vinegar, red wine, and fresh garden basil - a great way to use up the last of the tomatoes before tearing out the final plants. We had several spaghetti dinners in September made with homemade sauce from homegrown tomatoes. I'd forgotten how simple spaghetti with bolognese can be - and how enticing, if you have four or five hours to let your tomatoes and wine and meat and onions ever so s-l-o-w-l-y simmer down to beautiful, deep, rich deliciousness.

This is like a shortcut to do the same again this winter. If you haven't canned tomatoes before, the only real trick is to make sure you add enough vinegar (with at least a 5% acidity level - my balsamic was 6%) or citric acid so that your acidity is at a safe level. Not sure about how much to add, or seeking recipes? I always rely on the USDA to tell me how to make sure my foods are safely packed. Find more information here. And happy harvest!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


erm. seems I accidentally deleted my "before," since it took so long to complete this project! Let me paint you a picture: denim-blue cabinets with a shabby-chic dry-brush effect over them in white. Lemon-yellow walls and door. White trim, except for the middle part of the wainscoting around this window, which was a darker yellow, and except for the trim around the ceiling which was, for some reason, also denim-blue with a shabby-chic treatment.

This is the second room that had 3- 4 different colours of paint on the walls when we moved in. We did the bathroom first (lavender walls, with trim in two colours of green, a celadon shower, and ivory fixtures, woof!). Now it is blue, with white trim, and we are still stripping the shower to paint it white as well. After working all summer to get every bit of the painting done, I finally got Cass to help me do the wallpapering today - we'd been putting it off, dreading it. Thank goodness it was only the one wall - it only took a few hours to do. I still have to re-upholster the chairs, which are badly stained after years of use, and put up the steel curtain rod we purchased at ikea and hang privacy sheers (won't our neighbours be glad!), but mostly, this room is DONE. Whew!

Now, the walls are a muted off-white, as close a match to the background of the wallpaper as we could find. All trim is bright white, the cabinets are a pale green. Wallpaper is "forest" by Cole and Sons. It retails for $180/roll at anthropologie, but it's quite a bit less if you have friends in Britain, as wholesalers there offer it for about 55 GBP/roll.
I absolutely love the way this wall looks now. We'll be packing a few more plants into that window for winter - all the lemon-scented things that need to overwinter indoors, plus a few plants that I am taking care of for the neighbours while they are visiting family overseas. We bought little bathroom benches from Ikea to set them on, which can double as additional seating at the table when we have guests - we'll just move the plants to another room and set some cushions on the bench and voila! Seating.

So there it is, my little "swedish forest," as I am calling it, of a kitchen. Can't get over how elegant that paper is!