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Archive for July, 2011

And Then There Were Fifteen

Friday, July 29th, 2011
By Twistie

Soooo… last night was the premiere of Season 9 of Project Runway. Fashion! Drama! Intrigue! Sewing machines!  Bizarre critiques! Tim Gunn! More Tim Gunn! Heidi being deranged! Yet more Tim Gunn!

Okay, so I’m a little obsessed.

And since there are spoilers on the horizon, I’m using a fairly generic picture that had nothing whatsoever to do with last night’s episode and inserting a handy cut for spoilers right here.


Kindle Your Interest in Crafts

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
By Twistie

I’ve been thinking for a while about getting a Kindle. Don’t worry, I have no intention of giving up physical books! I love books. I love how they feel, and I love how they smell, and I love all the emotional ties they create over the years with use and lots of petting. But sometimes an electronic reader would be really handy. You know, for trips and such. It gets heavy packing real books on the road. It would be nice to have more space for clothes and maybe even some crafting supplies in my luggage.

But what would I do with those crafting supplies if I didn’t have my crafting books along? Well, I decided to take a look and see if the Kindle would help me with that.

Seems I didn’t need to worry. Using the search term ‘crafts’ in the Kindle library, I have found more than eight thousand titles. Sure, some of them are short story collections and books about magic, etc., but the majority of them seem to have either instructions or historical information about various and sundry handcrafts. Origami, ribbon work, quilting, woodwork, blacksmithing, crochet, running a crafts business… and the list goes on.

Using the term ‘lace’ is less useful. Many of the ebooks that brings up are more erotica than instructions for making dainty trims. Still, there are a few books of interest to someone wishing to make lace rather than have sexy reading fun. And it’s more than possible that some of you would find both rewarding. I wouldn’t judge.

‘Knit’ produces less titles, but more of them on point.

The really nice thing is how inexpensive most Kindle books are. Most of them are under ten dollars, and there are some that are free (out of copyright and often converted to the eformat by volunteers, with varying levels of success, according to reader reviews) or under five dollars.

In the end, I’m not giving up my collection of craft books any more than I plan to dump all my novels and cookbooks anytime soon. Still, as soon as funds allow, I do think I’ll pick up a Kindle and a few ebooks to go on it. It’s one more way I can use modern technology to help me pursue archaic interests… and that’s my favorite way to live my life.

Number Nine… Number Nine… Number Nine….

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
By Twistie

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Project Runway? Because I do. I have a serious girlcrush on Heidi Klum because of this show (I never knew before it aired just how gloriously deranged she is!) and since the first moment I laid eyes on him it has been my life’s ambition to feed Tim Gunn homemade scones (call me, Tim! I can do any flavor you like!). There have even been a couple of serious designers who have crossed the line from ‘reality show contestant’ to actual, you know, professional. My beloved Austin Scarlett from Season one is now creative head at Kenneth Pool Bridal, which is perfect for his Doris Day movie meets eighteenth century highwayman aesthetic, and Christian Siriano is now dressing major stars not because he won a reality show competition, but because he’s that good.

Season nine, which begins tomorrow night at eight pm eastern time on Lifetime, is going to be the biggest season yet… at least in terms of number of designers. There are going to be twenty to weed through to get to the winner. Just looking at their pictures, I already want to slap Gunnar as a poseur and likely season baddie. But we’ll see what I think when I actually see him in action and witness his designs. And I have to admit that some of the people I’ve taken an instant disdain to in the season premiere have grown on me over the years.

But most of all, I’m eager to see what the challenges will be like, how the designers will rise to those challenges, what bizarre flights of imagery the judges will indulge in during the critiques, and (happy sigh) lots and lots of Tim being… Tim.

Will any of you be watching? What was your favorite PR moment? Who do you think won who shouldn’t have, or didn’t win who should have? What would you feed Tim Gunn given the opportunity?

And what about… Naomi?

Damn. I just really dated myself with that last one, didn’t I?

Help a Crafty Person, Feel Good

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
By Twistie

Check out the pretty soaps. They smell good, too, like roses. They’re quite reasonably priced, too, at just $5.95 for two 2.5oz bars. They’re the work of  one Mary Thomas, known on Etsy as WickedCreation. She’s also a pretty amazing lady. You see, she’s the founder of April’s Army, an Etsy group that various crafters contribute work to in order to help fellow crafters through hard financial times. During the last week of every month, the craftwork donated for that month is sold, and all proceeds sent to help out a crafter facing unemployment, disease, injury, natural disaster… whatever has gone wrong in their lives.

Well, right now Mary herself needs help.

Her husband, a construction worker, sometimes has to go months without steady work, and then Mary lost her lucrative day job, too. Since October, they’ve been living on her Etsy shop earnings. Then her husband got a job, only to wind up with a stress fracture in his foot. He lost his job, they have no health insurance, and he needs foot surgery. Their utilities have been turned off, and they’re on the verge of eviction.

So please, if you have a few dollars to spare, take a moment to help out someone whose huge heart has unfortunately not made for a solid bank balance. Mary has spent her time helping others, an now she really needs our help as a community. Go to her shop and buy some soap or a pair of earrings. Go to April’s Army and purchase one of the items donated in her benefit. Or just go by her webpage and make a donation.

I don’t have a lot, but I can buy a couple bars of soap to help out someone who has done so much for others as her life slowly fell apart around her ears.

It’s really the least I can do.

Quickie Question: Ever Been Thrown Into the Deep End?

Monday, July 25th, 2011
By Twistie

I admit it: I have a bit of a thing for kamikaze decorating shows. The drama, the glory, the train wrecks! And my favorite of all is the BBC delight Changing Rooms.

It’s always a bit of a knuckle-gnawing experience to hand over the reigns to someone else to do something extreme to a piece of your world, and I’m not certain I could ever have participated. I know darn well I couldn’t have had anything to do with the American version, Trading Spaces. The decorators went off on their own ignoring not only all advice about the family they were creating the room for, but reality as well. 500 halogen watts in a Florida kitchen where they’ve just removed the ceiling fan? Seriously? And you’re going to hang wine glasses from it? A dismal grey prison scene mural and a bench set on toilets for a romantic bedroom? Doug, you’re killing me!

No, no, I much prefer Changing Rooms where the designers – for the most part – thought about how the rooms were going to be used and by whom in even some of their most extreme flights of design fancy.

But no matter what the show, there’s one thing I really enjoy about watching them: that moment when some unsuspecting civilian who thought all they were going to have to do is paint and maybe hang a little wallpaper gets drafted into a Project.

Mosaic, sewing curtains or pillow cases, string art, clay sculpture, decoupage… whatever the Project, there’s always someone who starts out thinking ‘I couldn’t possibly’ who still manages to master the basics in a ridiculously short time, and that’s the moment I love. More than the reveal of the plan, more than the finished product, more than the arguments between designer and team, it’s that excitement on the face of someone who would never consider him or herself ‘crafty’ when they get it right. It’s the way the dread panic melts into confidence and pride. And, okay, I admit it, it’s also the moment when everyone figures out that while it was a nice idea to put the newbie on this, it Just Isn’t Going to Work.

But even when people have learned in a sudden lump that perhaps they don’t have a great future in  the DIY snow globe market, there’s usually a bit of self-deprecating humor involved. There’s that spirit of ‘at least I gave it a good try.’

So what about you? Have you ever found yourself thrown into the deep end of the crafting pool? What was the project? Did it work out? Did you find a new passion? Did you at least get a good story for your next knitting circle out of it?

Hot Ways to Save at Roberts

Friday, July 22nd, 2011
By Twistie

Roberts Crafts has two great deals for all of you looking for, well, great deals on crafting equipment and supplies.

First off is the very limited time Beat the Heat offer of 20% off your entire online regular price purchase. All you need to do to get the savings is enter the code: BEATTHEHEATW at checkout, and anything you bought that wasn’t already on sale is 20% off! Not bad. Hurry, though! The deal ends tomorrow!

But wait! That’s not all! There’s another deal available:

If you happen to live nearby a Roberts, Two Fer Tuesday has been expanded to saturdays, as well, meaning you can use two coupons in one transaction. Again, not bad at all.

And now I think I’ll go off and craft some homemade ice cream. That’s my way to beat the heat! Stay frosty, everyone.

The Hard Way Is Worth It

Thursday, July 21st, 2011
By Twistie

 via Handmade News

“It’s cheaper and easier just to buy stuff.”

That’s often true.

As much as I recommend DIY as a money-saving option for home decor, wedding and party planning, wardrobe expansion, etc., the fact is that there are a lot of things you can buy more cheaply than you can make them. Add in the time spent on creating things, it can be easy to ask yourself why you would put yourself to the trouble of making things you can buy anywhere.

After all, when Mr. Twistie and I got engaged, I spent the next year making lace for the wedding gown, and then one of my bridesmaids spent another six months creating the gown the lace festooned. I could have spent the same money, gone to a bridal salon (or even opened up the pages of the JC Penney catalogue) and gotten a wedding gown for a lot less effort. Sure, the dress would have been acetate and the lace nylon, as opposed to the pure silk I used for both gown and lace, but I could have gotten the whole shebang handled for the fuss of a couple fittings… and I could have looked like nearly every other bride of 1993.

The thing is, I wasn’t nearly every other bride of 1993.  Most of the typical bridal styles of the year weren’t especially flattering to me, either. They didn’t speak to me. They weren’t built for my 5’2″ body with zero shoulders and a waistline in my armpits. Sure,  a good tailor could have fitted a typical gown to me, but it would never have been anything but a dress.

The wedding gown that hangs in my closet is designed for me. It fits (well, fitted eighteen years ago!) every nuance of my figure. It made the most of the features I most liked about my body, and deftly improved a couple I felt were lacking. No shoulders? You’d never know it between the slight puffs and the elaborate epaulettes. That unusually high waist became a flattering empire line. The skirt was made to just brush the tops of my feet since we were getting married in a redwood grove and I didn’t want to wind up with a train and hemline filled with forest detritus.

So yes, I wound up spending just as much money and a couple hundred times the time on my wedding gown… but it was worth every cent and every minute. I looked and felt incredibly good. When I leaf through my wedding album, I know I made the right choice. One of our wedding guests actually told me I was the most beautiful bride she’d ever seen! And while I think I’ve got rather a good face, I’m not precisely supermodel material, and never was. What made the effect so good wasn’t my exquisite natural beauty, but a combination  of absolute certainty in the step I was taking and a gown that was built to bring out the best in me.

Whether your project is a wedding gown, a dog house, booties for your precious new baby, the perfect earrings for your big night out, or baking graham crackers to make your cheesecake crust absolutely the way you want it, there are times when cheaper and easier exist, but aren’t worth the savings they offer.

Only you know when it’s worth spending the extra time. Spend it wisely.




Inspiration Gallery: Calligraphy

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
By Twistie

 via more than somewhat

I have a confession to make: I have lousy handwriting.

I’ve always had lousy handwriting. And then being a southpaw, I drag my hand through the ink and just make it worse. It’s a disaster.

Mind you, I don’t have the worst handwriting I’ve ever seen. That distinction goes to a boy I went to high school with. One of our teachers once told him his handwriting looked ‘like the pen threw up on the paper.’ He wrote a three-line comment in my senior yearbook that took me three years of off and on effort to decipher. Last I heard, he was making his living as an Elvis impersonator. Let that be a lesson to you all.



Alpaca One of These, Please!

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
By Twistie

Reader Debra’s fabulous entry in the recent Crafty Manolo contest was this spectacular Estonian knitted lace shawl in a pattern called Crown Prince. The pattern was adapted from Nancy Bush’s in the book Knitted Lace of Estonia, a book which just happens to be available from Amazon for a mere $17.79.

Anyway, back to Debra’s lovely work. She used Alpaca Cloud Lace Yarn in Tango Red, which she got from (Pssst, you might want to head over there now if you knit or have any interest in learning how, because they’re having a great sale on books and swifts right now!). It took six months to finish the project, and I say that was time extremely well spent.

How gorgeous is that? Thanks for sharing with us, Debra!


Quickie Question: I Saw It In the Window and Just Couldn’t Resist

Monday, July 18th, 2011
By Twistie

We’ve all done it. You know how it is. You look at something and it just begs you to buy it and take it home. We’ve done this with shoes, with jewelry, with pets, with gourmet treats, and yes, we’ve done it with crafting equipment and supplies.

Sometimes the impulse buy is as small as a hank of pretty embroidery thread. Sometimes it’s huge, like the floor loom you found at that garage sale. Sometimes it’s as practical as a small magnet to help you gather up pins that have dropped in your shag carpeting, and sometimes it’s as silly as a toy mascot for your kiln.

My biggest crafting impulse buy? Well, it was actually the kit that got me started with bobbin lace. I was leafing through an issue of Threads magazine, one day in the summer of 1990, when an ad at the back caught my eye. It said: Learn to make Bobbin Lace.

As luck would have it, I had just been reading a rather fascinating history on the rise of machine laces in the nineteenth century (yes, my reading tastes have always been a little on the obscure side, why do you ask?), so the idea of learning to make lace by hand struck me as the perfect combination of esoteric and mildly revolutionary.

My check went out with the next morning’s mail, and I’ve been tossing bobbins ever since.

So how about you? What was your best crafting impulse buy? Or your worst? Or simply your least explicable?


Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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