Monday, January 5, 2009

Handmade Satisfaction

The process of creating handmade things is a reward in itself, but it's even better when the things you make are truly appreciated. I sold this little felt owl on my Etsy store before Christmas, and I have to admit, was a little sorry to see it go. I got kind of attached to the little critter. So, it was such a nice surprise when I heard back from the buyer who said my owl had made it onto a tree full of handmade owls by different artists to be auctioned for charity. Here's a picture of my guy in his new home. Thanks to simplyrobin.blogspot.com. (This is an awesome blog, by the way, and I'm not just saying that.)


I've made many gifts for people over the years, but the one I enjoyed the most was making sock monkeys for my sister, her husband and three kids. Each had a different-colored handmade scarf and a button that said I Heart and the person's name so they would know which monkey was theirs. Not everyone appreciates handmade, but her family does because they are all artists in one way or another. This is one of my all-time favorite photos of my nephew David and his monkey.

Now if that isn't reason enough to go handmade, I don't know what is!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Scary Halloween Resin Pendants

I've been making resin jewelry again like crazy because I found this vendor at a bead show in Tacoma that had all these great little beads perfect for embedding. When I picked up the little devil heads, I thought they were kind of spooky cute. But after I made the pendants, they are seriously creeping me out. See for yourself:











Not so cute anymore. The gold one in particular disturbs me, I think because his head is tilted just so, like he just turned to look at you. I put them up for sell on my etsy store in case someone else likes this kind of devil-staring-at-you feeling.

Here are some other Halloween-y pendants I made. If you want to make some and can't find little figures or beads, try making some out of polymer clay. It wouldn't be that hard to get a good bat, ghost or pumpkin head. See my polymer clay lollipop blog for instructions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tissue Paper Flowers


I recently helped organize an event with some teenage girls and we filled the room with bouquets of tissue flowers we made. They are really easy to make and they look real.


To make a basic flower yourself, click here for a tutorial I did on KCRA, the local TV station.

The video shows how to make poppies, but you can make almost any kind of flower just by changing the petal shape and centers. Don't worry about making everything exact. Nature is forgiving, and your flowers will look more real if they aren't perfect.

Try triangular or spiky centers, several layers of different-sized circles, or just a smaller version of the petal shape. For petals, study real flowers. Make sure the petal pieces are thick enough in the middle so the pipe cleaner won't rip through. Here are some ideas:



Klutz press makes a great book on making these flowers, complete with patterns and all the supplies you need. It's called, remarkably, Tissue Paper Flowers.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cat Sacks


Nothing is more exciting to my two cats than when I'm in my office crafting, especially if it involves yarn or little things to bat around on the hardwood floor. I enjoy their company, but if I leave a project to answer the phone or forget to put it away at the end of the day, it gets sat on. Doesn't matter what it is-- it's like my project is not initiated if it hasn't been sat on and thoroughly kneaded. Both cats, Moo and Sushi, don't shed much, but I can't sell a project or give it as a gift if it's been napped on by a kitty. You never know who is allergic or who would be ooked out by the thought of an animal using their new item as a napping pad. And it's not really "new" if it's been used for a cat-nap.


So, short of keeping them locked out, here is a solution that worked for me: I sewed each cat
their own cat sack. A cat sack is different from other pet beds because I filled it with those little styrofoam pellets that are used in regular bean bag chairs. I found mine at Tap Plastics. The cat sinks in a little and it makes a cozy nest. And if your cat likes to knead his or her bed before settling in, the texture of the pellets puts them in heaven. Purr purr. Moo and Sushi both love their cat sacks and don't sleep on anything but their own sack in my office. My projects stay pet-free and my cats are happy!

Directions:

1. Cut two pieces of fabric 20 inches square. Choose soft, washable fabric.

2. Double stitch the two pieces together, wrong sides out. Leave a four-inch opening.

3. Turn right side out and fill 1/2 to 2/3 full with styrofoam pellets.

4. Double stitch the opening closed. Done!

If you want to go washable, or have a cat that easily tears things up, sew an inner pillow 1/2 inch smaller all the way around than the finished pillow. Sew the finished pillow on three side and leave the fourth side open. Sew in a zipper or Velcro strip on the fourth side so you can remove the outer layer for washing.

I sell these in my etsy store and in the description for the one with the gray cat (Sushi), I mentioned that Sushi was obese, so your cat will probably fit on the pillow better. A nice lady from the UK convo'd me and said that my poor kitty was certainly not "obese," just "sturdy and lovable." Well, I have to say she is lovable, but sturdy she is not. If she rolls over too quickly on the couch, sometimes her stomach blubs over the edge and brings the rest of her with it. (Not your typical cat-like grace.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Polymer Clay Lollipop in Resin

Clear resin jewelry with real candy embedded in it is popular right now. In The Art of Resin Jewelry by Sherri Haab, she embeds a candy conversation heart in a heart-shaped pendant. I've seen everything from cupcake sprinkles to candy fruit slices in jewelry on etsy.com and other handmade sites.
I've always wanted to try my hand at resin, but wanted to do something different. Making tiny polymer clay sweets and other food out of polymer clay seemed to be a natural fit. Resin is complicated and there are a lot of tricks to getting it right, but I've finally got it down. (tutorial coming soon!) When I embedded the clay foods and got the backgrounds right, the pieces came out even better than I expected. Resin and polymer clay are happy together.
Here is one of my favorite pieces so far:



The lollipop is made from two colors of polymer clay and a broken piece of toothpick. For instructions, check out my article from FamilyFun magazine here. There are also instructions for several other clay sweets there.
Tip: When you are baking very small polymer clay items to embed in resin, you only need to bake them at 275 degrees for five minutes or so. They don't need to be strong; just set, and you don't want to risk overbaking which yellows the whites and dulls the other colors.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cutting Loose

I’ve been writing kid craft books for years, and am now indulging my urge to craft whatever I want just for the sake of crafting. Don’t get me wrong, I love crafting and writing for kids, but a girl can only handle so many years of googly eyes before she might want to make something a little more...sophisticated. Maybe that’s not the right word. My work tends to be on the sock-monkey side of the craft spectrum, but at least I can now use sharp scissors, a glue gun and toxic chemicals if I want.

I’m concentrating on writing more novels now for the job end of being a writer, and crafting to feel accomplished at the end of the day. I like to hold something in my hand and say, “I made this today.” I sleep better at night.

But I still prefer an audience. Not because I need attention (I didn’t speak a word in school until I was forced to in the second grade, which suited me just fine), but because I want to share ideas and projects. I get excited about making a tissue flower that looks like the real thing, or a felt frog that turned out with cute overload. Nothing makes me happier than when someone takes an idea I’ve shared and goes with it to create something wonderful and original. It’s like sharing a runner’s high.

(No monkeys were actually traumatized in taking
this picture. He knew the glue gun wasn't plugged in!)