January Craft Roundup

This year, I’ve decided to try doing a craft roundup at the beginning of every month for the prior month.

Of course, I’ve somehow managed to lose all the pictures I took of the gifts I made for one of my friends. It’s a shame. They turned out nicely.

However, I did manage to make myself a new pair of mittens. Finally.

A pair of handmade mittens with a section that flips over the fingers.I had made myself a pair years ago, and promptly lost one of them. Each year, I told myself I’d make matching mitten to replace the one I lost.

Of course, I lost the orphan mitten.

So, there we go. A new pair for this year. I didn’t follow a pattern, but I like how they turned out.

I’ve also decided to make a temperature blanket for this year. One row gets crocheted per day, and the color is decided by that day’s high temperature. Since I’ve been using scrap yarn, it’ll probably be more colorful than most people’s.

A partially finished crochet blanket.I like how it’s turning out so far. January has been rather cold, hense the blues and purple. That purple is actually 22 degrees and under. The dark blue is right around the freezing point, and the lighter blue is above freezing.

Hopefully, February will be more productive.

Quick ‘n Easy Tutorial – Make Your Own Gift Tags!

The fact I’m writing this at just shy of 9:30 on December 23rd demonstrates just how last-minute I am with making and wrapping gifts. If you have a few last minutes gifts that you’d like to personalize, why not make your own tags?

This was quick and easy. All I needed were printed out tags, though you could easily draw your own if you’re so inclined, contact paper, scissors, a hole punch and some yarn.

Since I already had a tag-sized image printed out, I’ll use it as an example.

A picture of a small picture of a snowy bridge and trees with the words "We Live In A Wonderland" in the foreground.I’ve found that right around 2″ by 2″ is a good size for cards, though smaller sizes work, too.

Once you have your tag printed out, cut out two pieces of contact paper that are a little bigger than the tag. Carefully apply them to each side of the paper.

The above picture between two peices of contact paper.There will be bubbles, but they’re easily gotten rid of by scraping the contact paper with your fingernail or coin.

Trim the edges of the contact paper and punch a hole either in one of the upper corners or in the middle, near the top.

The tag sitting on a ball of yarn, next to a little box with the carving of a person sitting peacefully on it.Lastly, cut a length of yarn or string, fold it in half and put the folded edge through the hole. Then, pull the two tails through the loop and tie it to the gift!

There you have it. A unique tag for the perfect gift!

A bottle of herbs with a custom tag tied to it and the words "Make Your Own Gift Tags" in the foreground.
Hey, hey you. Pin me!

The value of handmade gifts

You can find this adorable pattern here.

Ok, let’s see if I can post this on the CORRECT blog. I’d accidentally posted it over on Alternative Wiring, at first. Woops.

Making your own gifts for others is something of a double edged sword.

On the one hand, few things are more satisfying than making something with your own hands and knowing it brings joy to the recipient.

On the other hand, it takes time to make. This can get in the way when you have as many time management issues as I do. Fortunately, my loved ones understand I have a hard time with dates and times when it comes to gifts or cards.

There’s a relatively common Pagan belief stating handmade objects have more power than mass produced things. The idea is that the creativity, time and effort put into the thing’s creation creates something of a “soul” and enhances the naturally occurring magic in the materials.

If you don’t prescribe to those beliefs, there is still something uniquely special about handmade things. Tiny mistakes or alterations in the pattern/materials makes the object completely unique. Choices made during the creation and preparation add a personal touch mass produced things simply don’t have.

There is beauty in handmade.

Are homemade gifts better than store-bought?

One of the recent BlogHer prompts was asking if we preferred handmade gifts to store-bought.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s less how the object was made so much as the intent with which it’s given.

Today, I’ve been wearing the locket my dad bought me on the day I was born. He had intended to give it to me on my 18th birthday, but since our lives didn’t go the way he’d hoped, he gave it to me the summer after.

As you can see in the picture, it’s very tiny and delicate, but I don’t think it’s handmade. But that doesn’t take away any of the sentimental value it holds for me. It’s something I’ll always treasure, because it came from him, and he’d put so much thought into it.

On the other hand, my grandmother made me a doll when I was around five years old named Gretel. I used to haul her around with me wherever I went. In a way, that hasn’t changed much, since I still have her with me. That, too, is something that will always be treasured, because it came from my grandmother, and she’d put so much thought and effort into her.

As for giving gifts? I prefer to make them, if I can. If the thing I’d like to give isn’t something I can make, and it’s in my price range, I have nothing against shopping for gifts, though.

All that really matters to me is that the gift is given with love. Sure, there are complicated politics around how materials are attained, what they are and how gifts are made before they hit the stores, but on a strictly interpersonal level? Affection is the only thing that counts.

Cosplay on the brain

So far as crafting goes, I’ve had my mind on cosplay and jewelry. I’ve recently found a couple of tutorials about how to crochet jewelry wire, but I haven’t tried any of them just yet. That’ll probably happen this weekend.

Depending on how it turns out, I may end up making a small jewelry collection to submit to the Art Show at CONvergence this year instead of the crochet/knitting. I’m having such a hard time with the knitting patterns. That project should be done without the pressure of any sort of deadline.

Like last year, I’ll be showcasing some of the fun cosplays attendees put together on this blog, plus there are a couple of crafty panels I fully intend on taking part in. One is about making a DNA necklace, and another is making a little gargoyle out of polymer clay!

Sounds fun, right? I’m looking forward to it.

Anyway, I’ve only done a couple small things this week. First, of course, was that bracelet I made for the Art Assignment.

Fascinating, huh?

Then came the cell phone pouch with large, friendly letters in red.

Fun times. Really gotta get more embroidery practice in.

And lastly, my very first ear-cuff.

Needs some tweaking, but still a cool idea.

I’m still not that practiced with wire wrapping, but I plan on designing and making a “Babel fish” ear cuff for the convention, and maybe selling some of the better ones I come up with online.

The fish idea will either be molded out of the wire, or I might incorporate some orange or yellow glass beads into it. I’ll have to play around with the materials and see what I come up with.

Between the ear cuffs and the earrings, I guess I have a thing for bejeweling my ears, huh? I think I might start expanding to rings, too. Since wire is so malleable, I figure whatever I make will be adjustable enough to fit most finger (and toe) sizes.

Anyway, just small stuff this week. I haven’t done much with the plants, since it’s been sort of cold and miserable, lately. The cilantro’s still alive, at least, but I don’t know about the morning glories. I haven’t checked them in a few days.

I should probably do that, huh?

May Shop Feature – Highwind Steamworks

One of the activities I enjoy the most about CONvergence, the sci-fi/fantasy convention I attend every year, is wandering around the dealer’s room. There are always goodies to drool over that you can’t find in every day shops. Even if your budget isn’t big enough to pick them up, most people have business cards so you can get in touch when your wallet is a little fatter.

Last year, I stumbled across this little booth full of the most amazing steam punk goods. If it wasn’t so crowded, I probably would have been dancing around in little circles and making the most undignified squeaking noises imaginable. I was able to hold it together, but y’know, I was still impressed.

I connected with the co-owner/co-creator, a very nice guy by the name of Jeff, through Facebook, and he’s graciously agreed to let me feature his online shop, Highwind Steamworks for May! Here are my three favorite listings:

Lavender Tea Necklace

 This is such an adorable, unique idea. I’m impressed with how cleverly it’s constructed, too. Let’s hear it for physics, creativity and art coming together! This one’s great for anyone who loves their tea.

Tan Mechanic Belt Modular Belt System Centerpiece

I’m a sucker for these types of belts. This one in particular caught and held my eye, because it reminded me of my husband, who’s very mechanically inclined. Sadly, this isn’t his style, and if he wore it for work, it would get beaten up in a hurry.

That aside, I’d certainly wear this sort of thing in place of a purse any day. If it’s attached to me, I can’t lose or leave it anywhere, right?

Knitted Spats – Turquiose – Small

These spats are beautiful, and they’re the sort of thing you could wear even if you don’t do the cosplay thing. They have a loop that goes around the arch of the foot, so they wouldn’t ride up, and the top looks tight enough to hold them in place without being uncomfortable. Extremely cool idea.

Highwind Steamworks has a lot more to offer, including more beautiful knitting, wonderfully unique jewelry (including gearwork cuff links!), leather work, hats and assorted other goodies. If you enjoy steampunk, or just appreciate amazing handmade goods, check them out!

You can also find them on Facebook for some work in progress pictures, custom work and updates on what these awesome folks are up to.

I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Jeff for letting me feature some of his (and his wife’s?) amazing work here. Keep up the great work, and if you’re at CONvergence again this year, maybe I’ll see you there!

DIY Spring Felt, Yarn and Wire Flower Wreath

Although I’m not a decoration guru by any stretch of the imagination, part of me still enjoys adding

Simple spring flower wreath for our front door.

a few things to our home to celebrate the seasons. Today, I decided to make something in honor of spring to put on our front door.

Since our funds don’t allow for much extra spending, I took a look at some of what I already have lying around the house instead of going out. For this wreath, I used the following:

  • Large gauge jewelry wire
  • Four colors felt (One of these should be green for the leaves.)
  • Two colors of yarn
  • Hot glue gun
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Chalk or a sewing pencil
  • Glass beads

Here are the steps I took to make this particular wreath.

If you’d like to make one like it, here’s what I did.

1. I bent a long length of wire into a circle, and wrapped the tail end again all around the length. This serves as the base on which the decoration goes. The wire I used was soft enough for me to bend without any tools, though I did need to cut the excess off.

You could probably make a flower crown out of this, too.

Don’t worry about the jagged ends. Those will be covered by the flowers.

2. Wrap your yarn around the ring. I only did it once for each color, but you can wrap the yarn around it as many times as you’d like, depending on the look you’re going for. You’ll need to anchor the yarn at the beginning. I just tied it in place, but you can use hot glue instead, if that’s easier for you.

Ribbon would probably work nicely, too.

The beginning is a bit messy, but that will be hidden by the flowers, too.

3. Draw four different sized five petalled flowers on three of the colored sheets of felt with your chalk or sewing pencil. I did this part freehand, but you can probably find flower and leaf outlines to trace online.

4. Cut shapes out.

Don’t worry about the chalk lines. That side should face the back.

5. Layer flowers, so the petals alternate. The smaller flowers should go on top for that layered look. Although I decided to make my flowers multicolored, there’s no reason why they can’t all be the same color.

This is what it looked like before I broke out the glue gun.

It’d also be a good idea to lay whatever you’ll be putting in the center of the flowers, so you can get an idea of what they’ll look like when you’re done.

I used glass beads, but you could use buttons, small stones, sea shells or any number of little decorative objects.

6. Either glue or sew the flower layers together. I sewed the beads in place, but used our hot glue gun to put the petal layers together.

7. Lay the wreath base flat and arrange the flowers/leaves into whatever positions you like best. Originally, I was going to cluster the flowers at the top of the wreath, but decided I like them on the bottom more.

8. Once you have an arrangement you like, glue the leaves and flowers in place. I chose to glue the leaves in place first, since they were actually attached to the flowers.

I did a great job of giving my fingertips minor burns on this step.

When you attach the flowers to the actual wreath base, turn them face-down, and glue the piece together in that position.

Last step? Hang the wreath up and enjoy!

Welcoming addition to our “No Solicitors” sign, isn’t it?

(Please only use pictures with permission, and always link back to this entry. If you decide to try this, I’d love to see what you come up with!)

Catnip, Stuffing and Glue Guns

How’s that for a combination, huh? It sounds like it would be a lot messier than it turned out to be.

As for my crafty endeavors this week, I did manage to get a few things done.

There is Doctor Crankypants, of course. I may end up trying to make some of my characters from some fiction I have in the works. I’m actually thinking of redesigning some of them, so this might be a fun way to do that.

Yes, these are cat toys! I rather like how four of those turned out, but the red, green and white one, and the yellow and pink one are just…meh. The other four are on their merry way to friends and family with kitties. The two weirdly shaped ones are staying here.

Hey, the cats don’t care. As soon as I’d finished the red, green and white one, our tux kitty went chasing after it and proceeded to bat it around the house for the next fifteen minutes.

There is catnip in them, too. We have a ton of it growing in our back yard, and some of it had been drying in my office closet. I used making these toys as an excuse to get it bagged up, and some of it sent out to loved ones whose kitties will enjoy it.

I think I’ll try making some cat toys out of the felt, too. Our cats do like the crochet toys, but they go nuts over the felt toys I’d gotten at the store a few months ago.

Besides that, I wrapped a bunch of gifts, and in retrospect, I probably should have gotten a few pictures of them, before packaging them up for shipment.

Ah well. Have a slightly out of focus pic of our tux kitty sniffing away at the carpet for more catnip.

He’d pose all sweetly, but as soon as I hit the button, he’d do this. Little trouble maker.

Tutorial Try – Plush Tutorial

He turned out slightly pudgy. Time to lay off the

A while back, one of my friends requested I try making a plush doll of one of our favorite characters from Bleach, Ryuuken Ishida (or as I like to call him, Doctor Crankypants).

I let her know about my last attempt at making plushies, Lumpy, but she pointed me towards this tutorial, by AlchemyOtaku17 on DeviantArt.
So, I decided, hey! Why not?
Completely disregarding my distinct lack of talent in the drawing department, I ordered some felt and, with reckless abandon, gave it a try.
So, without further delay, here’s what went down –
At least gathering the supplies wasn’t a problem.
Oh, Lumpy. You’re so awkwardly

After tracing my dear, sweet Lumpy, for a rough outline I was made acutely aware of my distinct inability to draw a straight line or get proportions right the first try.

I think I need to
use graph paper when
trying to do this sort
of thing.

After attempting to clean it up the unevenly proportioned outline, I cut and folded the pattern in half. Ugh. It was still SO uneven.

My husband then made something delicious smelling. My stomach let me know that it was a long time since breakfast, and…
…well, who am I to deny the call of nature?
To be eaten with tortilla chips. Very
nommy. Hubby is rather
decent in the kitchen.

After eating, getting thoroughly distracted and finding thisquite excellent resource regarding street harassment, I finished cutting out all of the pieces.

(Really, I’d suggest everyone check that link out, especially if they’ve ever been subjected to unwanted advances while out and about.)
Hey, look! Ryuken bits!

Anyway, I got to work sewing everything together, as instructed in the tutorial.

First, I attached the heads to the bodies, same with the hands and feet. Then, I started putting the front and back together.
And then, I renewed a close relationship with the seam ripper. Instead of putting the two right sides together, I had the wrong sides facing. Oy. If I’m going to make a mistake, odds are it’ll be something simple like that.
C’mon, dude. Don’t
be like that. You know
you want that leg right-
side out!

In any case, I figured it out eventually.
After some slight struggles with turning the arms and legs all the way inside out, I managed to get him into stuffable shape.
I had decided to try cutting out the suit pieces before actually firing the glue gun up. Enter my lack of visual art talent.
Despite the fact I have quite a few buttons, I couldn’t find two of the same style that were the right color. So, I gave the safety eyes a try!
Next, I glued up the head. Although hot glue is probably easier for a lot of folks to use, I think the next time I attempt a plush, I’ll just sew the head up by hand. I guess I prefer that because I have some more experience with that method.
Eh, I suppose it’s good enough.

Oh, boy. More drawing. I actually worked off of a picture on the internet, and
still only got a vague idea of the style.

Anyway, once I glued the hair on, he…well, sort of started to look like the character. A little.
I rather like the bitty Angry Eyebrow.

Originally, I was going to forego the adorable blushing cheeks, but I decided to add them after I had glued the clothing on. Hey, some peoples’ cheeks get pink when they get irritated with something, right?

Lastly came the glasses. Since the character wears a pair that has pretty much no rims, I was a little stumped about how to pull them off. First, I tried some thin jewelry wire. It didn’t work out.
Embroidering a pair crossed my mind, but I wasn’t up for making a mistake and potentially ruining the face after getting so close to being done.
He’s a doll. He doesn’t actually have to SEE out of these things.

Fortunately, I had some heavier silver wire on hand, and after a little bit of finagling, I managed to make a pair of appropriately shaped glasses.

To be honest, I’m a little disappointed in the final Dr. Crankypants. Granted, he’s not quite as awkward as Lumpy, but he’s not what I had hoped he’d be. It doesn’t have anything to do with the tutorial, either. That was very easy to follow, and the pictures she provided were excellent.
I guess it just has to do with my current skill level, and how hard I tend to be on myself when it comes to this stuff.  
All that counts in the end is that my friend seems to like him and still want him.
Well, the more I practice, the better I’ll get, right? Maybe I should try some different techniques, and see where those take me. I certainly have enough felt to last me a while!

December Shop Feature – MADE by DWC

This month’s shop is operated by the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles, California. The DWC organization helps women break the cycle of homelessness and unemployment by helping them develop skills for work and healthy living.

In addition to running a cafe and boutique, they also sell some beautiful handmade products online, on their etsy shop.

Here are three of my favorite listings:

Handmade Soy Candles in Assorted Upcycled Teacups

In addition to stones, crafty supplies and books, I’m also a huge fan of candles. These are absolutely adorable, and I love the idea of turning old teacups into candles. They come in an assortment of aromas, too: lavender, sweet orange and oatmeal & honey.

Handmade Repurposed Journal

This is actually a journal made out of an old book. I know quite a few writers and artists who enjoy working with unique materials, and these journals certainly fit the bill.

Handmade All Natural Soap

Some of the nicest soaps I’ve used have been handmade, and if the ingredients in these bars are anything to go off of, these would be lovely to wash up with. Aromatherapy also helps clear the mind, and offers a wide range of benefits, too.

This is really a fantastic organization, and the products they sell look amazing. If you’d like more information about the DWC, check out their web page here, and if you’re in the LA area, why not check out their cafe and shops? You can find more information about those here.

I’d like to thank Dena for letting me feature their outstanding work here, and everyone who works for/with the organization for all they do. You’re all inspirations and make the world a better place to live in.