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Archive for April, 2011

Quickie Question: Savoir Fair

Monday, April 18th, 2011
By Twistie

I don’t know about you, but I love craft fairs. Sure they get crowded and there are a lot of things I wouldn’t touch with a ten meter cattle prod, but there are also some great original items to buy and fun ideas to be admired.

I’ve bought a lot of things at craft fairs over the years, but there are a couple things that stand out as particularly great buys. One is the hat I bought at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 1997. It’s a short topper in canvas, purple with yellow orange starbursts and a black brim. I’m still wearing it. In fact, I wear it a lot. It’s the hat I wear the most, and there are people who have known me for years who don’t recognize me if I fail to wear a hat. This is the hat that’s best known of my entire collection. Not a bad investment for twenty bucks!

The other best buy is probably the fabulous mug I bought from RH Honeypots about five years ago at the Alameda Food & Wine show. It looks like this:

I can’t tell you how comfortable that handle is in my hand. The shape keeps my coffee warm for a long time, too. I just love it. It was the first piece I bought of her work, but it’s far from the last. I also have a nautilus mug, a leafy sea dragon bowl, and a sea turtle bowl. Next time I see her, I intend to get another piece.

So what about you? Do you like going to crafts fairs? Have you ever worked one? What was your best fair buy?

Bead Me Up, Scotty

Friday, April 15th, 2011
By Twistie

I love beads. They can be strung together in so many different ways, each of which brings beauty and grace to a person or a place. For instance, this rather spectacular 3-D choker of apple blossoms would make the woman who wears it stand out in any crowd as someone interesting.

But maybe you’re not a pink kind of girl. I know I’m not! But I am all about purple, so this lilac choker grabs my attention, not least because of how it’s worn:

If you like these, or if they intrigue you enough to make you want to see more, head on over to Beading With Vavara. You’ll find the kits for both these chokers and dozens of other pieces of beaded jewelry and amulet bags. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, there’s a pattern you can do. There are also books on technique available.

But what if you don’t bead jewelry? That’s okay! Vavara’s got you covered there, too, with finished pieces for sale.

Not feeling very flush? Don’t worry. There are also free patterns available to download.

Mmm… pretty.

Repurposed Purposefully

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
By Twistie

via Jeff Owen Artworks

Recently, I went to a garden show. No, I’m not changing the subject, be patient.

Anyway. Since I’m getting ready to completely redo my yard both front and back, I wanted to see the possibilities. I saw fabulous flowers, fragrant herbs (perfect for the raised beds already in place in the back!), and fruit trees that may one day fill my perfect pie crusts.

I also saw some amazing craft works, including pieces by the artist shown above, Jeff Owen.


Searching for Roots, Branching Out

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
By Twistie

“Crafts make us feel rooted, give us a sense of belonging and connect us with our history. Our ancestors used to create these crafts out of necessity, and now we do them for fun, to make money, and to express ourselves.”

Phyllis George

via Yarnerinas

It’s true. So many of the crafts we do for fun or personal satisfaction today were once practical necessities.

If we did not sew, we went naked. If we did not knit, we suffered from the cold in winter. If we did not weave baskets, we had nothing in which to store grains and carry things from place to place. If we did not carve spoons, we could not stir hot food over the fire or eat soup. If we did not build furniture, we stood all day and curled up on the ground to sleep.

Today we can go to the mall and get every practical need satisfied, so long as we have the money. Heck, we can order it all online! We don’t even have to go anywhere, let alone create it ourselves.

And yet every night I sleep under a handmade quilt. Every day I weave lace or paint something or build an item I want. I seek out the handcrafted. I remember clothes my mother lovingly sewed for me when I was a child. I smile at the painfully wonky wooden dog my big brother hammered together just for me when I was barely more than a toddler and he was only a little older. I decorate my Christmas tree every year with things made by my hands, and those of dozens of people I have loved, some of whom are now long dead.

We don’t have to make crafts anymore… but I think we still must.

I’m not concerned with discovering a biological or spiritual reason for this. It’s enough for me that I feel it to the very marrow of my bones. I feel the need to create, to share, to teach and to learn. I delight in watching someone discover the joy of creative activities.

It matters to me that there is some record of my existence beyond the paper trail of tax and employment records, birth, marriage, and death certificates. Even if my name is lost to history (as it most likely will be), even if nobody ever knows the name of the person who created that lace bookmark or painted that flower pot or sewed that sachet filled with lavender and rosemary, it matters to me that when I’m gone someone will still hold what I made. It matters to me that someone will have tangible proof that I was here, even if they don’t realize it.

My ancestors wove and spun and sewed and knitted because they needed the products of their spindles, looms, and various needles. But even the most utilitarian pieces they made had some spark of creativity. A pretty tuck on a camisole, an especially pretty dye, a fancy stitch to that mitten… the need to express ourselves has always been there. I have taught because I want others to experience the joy of getting the hang of the work, of making something entirely individual, of expressing themselves with something that will last.

There is a special joy in making something with our own hands. It’s a joy felt even when the work is done out of necessity. There’s pride and satisfaction and self-expression. There are the roots of our ancestors, and the spreading branches of the future.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of all that?

Sugar, Sugar

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
By Twistie

Have you heard about Sugar Baby?

No, no, not Sugar Babies!

Sugar Baby.

It’s no secret that I love cooking. I love baking. But I’m new to candy making. That’s what this book is all about: sugar arts. If you, too, love playing in the kitchen and want to make pretty things out of sugar, this is the book for you.

Sure there are recipes for lollipops and taffy and the currently fashionable Parisian macarons, all of which are pretty and tasty. But you can get those recipes in a lot of places. The really cool stuff includes instructions for homemade cotton candy, barley malt skulls (the recipe that sold me on the book!) and even an amazing sugar bowl featuring swirls of red and blue food dye. Gorgeous and a perfect centerpiece for a Fourth of July party. Or use different colored dyes to make it just the thing for Easter, Christmas, Hanukkah, or a wedding reception.

If you have a reliable candy thermometer and a couple basic pieces of kitchen equipment, you can learn to make beautiful, tasty things with sugar.

What’s more, Gesine Bullock-Prada’s breezy writing style will keep you in stitches. Be sure to read all the tips. And remember, never poke caramel!

So where to get this masterpiece of sugar fun? Amazon, that’s where. Oh, and if you find yourself stuck or wanting more information, head on over to the author’s associated website,

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pull out my candy thermometer and make something sweet to share with people I love.

Quickie Question: The Great Outdoors?

Monday, April 11th, 2011
By Twistie


Spring has sprung! And with the new season comes more hospitable weather. Sunshine, warmth, longer days… it’s suddenly pleasant to be outside again.

And so I have to ask, do you enjoy crafting out of doors?

I love getting outside with my lace pillow. In fact, I’ve set up a bench on my front porch where I can set up my portable pillow stand and get to work.

What about the rest of you? Is your craft one that prospers in the great outdoors? Or do you prefer to work inside?

Inspiration Gallery: Collage

Friday, April 8th, 2011
By Twistie

via Hongkiat

I kind of love collage. It’s fascinating to see how someone can take a bunch of random images or scraps and give them meaning  by the way they’re organized. For instance, this beauty is a portrait of Steve Jobs, created entirely from images of Apple products. Trippy.

Of course collages don’t have to be entirely two-dimensional. You can add texture at the same time you add to the story, as in this whimsical piece entitled Hers and made by Abstractions Art:


Come On, You Knew Someone Had to Do It

Thursday, April 7th, 2011
By Twistie

With the royal wedding happening in just a few more days, the appetite for tie-ins and trinkets has reached fever pitch. But if you get it quickly and get right to work (and don’t eat, sleep, or do silly things like show up to your job), you can one-up everyone on your block by watching Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot surrounded by their wedding party, including them!

All you need to do is head over to Amazon and order a copy of Knit Your Own Royal Wedding by Fiona Goble. Why not? It’s just $12.14 (reduced from $17.99), eligible for Super Saver Shipping, and a chance to knit yourself an entire herd of tiny corgis.

Come on, you know you want to.

Keep Yourself Organized

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
By Twistie

As any needleworker knows, keeping your tools handy and organized is as important a step as there is. Tangle threads, lost needles, and mussed charts are a nightmare.

But the good folks at Roberts Crafts have this lovely organizer created by thread giant DMC to help you keep everything in its place. It’s made of sturdy, attractive embossed denim that will live up to wear and tear on the road or at home. But inside is even better.

It’s got: 1 large pocket to hold a book, 3 tabs for stitching accessories, fabric ties to hold design materials, two pockets for scissors and similar accessories, and a section with eight fabric ties with rings to organize your thread or floss. It even comes with a felt square to keep your needles safe and handy! Just fill the portfolio and be on your way!

All this for just $27.49. Twistie sez: this is a great deal.

Quickie Question: Road Trip Crafting?

Monday, April 4th, 2011
By Twistie

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. Not forever. Just for a few days. And I’ll still have access to a computer, so don’t worry. Comments will be moderated and I’ll come back to you all safe and sound by the end of the week.

But since I’m going all Kerouac on you

I thought I would ask this burning question: Do you take your crafts with you when you travel?

In my case it depends on whether I’m going to have a lot of access to a place where I can set up my lace pillow. I do have a travel pillow that breaks down into its own carry case, and a pillow stand that folds down to the size of a briefcase (Most. Awesome. Accessory. Ever.), but I still need somewhere to set things up. And since most of my travels take place in a car with a suspension system more than old enough to drink, it’s really not ideal.

So most of the time I have to content myself with bringing a book to pore over for my next pattern or a bit of lore I can then unleash on all of you unsuspecting folks.

What about you? Does your craft travel well? Does it get you in trouble with airport security? Why do or don’t you do it on the road?

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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