Crafty Manolo » 2011 » July

Archive for July, 2011

Can’t Sleep… Clown Will Eat Me

Friday, July 15th, 2011
By Twistie

There’s nothing like a warm, snuggly quilt to make you feel cosy at night. And a hand-made one warms you with the love stitched into it, too, right?

Well, sometimes no matter how much love went in, it’s still the stuff of nightmares.

Poor Thomas the Tank Engine! He’s got the dreaded green chicken pox! Who could get a good nights’ sleep under that?

You can goggle at Thomas the Pox-Ridden Tank Engine and a couple dozen other cautionary tales in quilting at About.Com Quilting in the Pictures of Ugly Quilts Gallery.

While some of the quilts merely represent a little wonky construction work or a slightly off color choice, there are others that might well induce seizures, like this one:


Each monstrous example has been lovingly (or not so) entered and described by its creator.

There’s a comments section where you can send love, pity, or suggestions for how to make prettier quilts to the creators of these deathless bed covers. So if you have any good advice for these quilters, go thou and tell it on that mountain!

Or, you know, just gawk at the scary.

Call For Entries: Smithsonian Craft Show

Thursday, July 14th, 2011
By Twistie

This amazing basket by Christine Adcock was shown in this year’s Smithsonian Craft Show in April. Adcock’s brilliant basketry skills won her the Best of Show award. You can see more of her work (including details of materials used) here.


Every year the Smithsonian Craft Show showcases the best of the best of American fine craft. Ceramics, glass, embroidery, beadwork, leather, woodwork, furniture, mixed media… if it’s considered a craft, it will probably be represented among the 120 artists hand-picked by a three-member committee.

That committee changes members every year and no artist is grandfathered in… not even Ms. Adcock.

What does that have to do with you? I’m so glad you asked!


Musical Mollusk

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
By Twistie

Have you ever wanted to play a snail? How about a ukulele? How about… a snail ukulele?

Yeah, that’s probably not something you’d thought about too hard. I know I hadn’t until I happened across this snail-themed acoustic electric tenor/baritone ukulele by celentanowoodworks. Oddly enough, I’d never imagined such a beast. Now I can’t get it out of my head.

Not a snail fan? Not to worry! They also make apples, panda bears, and even PacMan. And if the uke isn’t your instrument, they do guitars, banjos, violins, and mandolins, too.

So how do they play? I must admit, I didn’t know. I haven’t held one in my hands, I haven’t known anyone who had played one, and I was hesitant to recommend an eight hundred dollar uke without hearing it. That’s why I did what any rational person would do and went to YouTube, where I found footage of the cupcake ukulele being played. Oh, and there are ten more vids of these instruments being played. I would say they sound pretty nice, judging by what came through my computer speakers.

Got a crazy idea for a stringed instrument? Talk to celentanowoodworks. They do custom work, and I don’t think you could imagine something that would phase them!

Hmmm… maybe they could make me a raspberry tart banjo. Then I would only have to learn to play it.


Better With Time

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
By Twistie

Check out these fabulous mittens. They are the creation of our own Cthululovesme, and her entry in the recent Crafty Manolo contest. How gorgeous are they? Mighty gorgeous, that’s how.

Not only did she knit these bad boys, she also dyed and spun most of the yarn for the project. For details on the yarn, the pattern, and the work as it progressed, check out her Ravelry page on the project.

Early attempts at spinning the colors she needed wound up inconsistent, so she put the project aside for a while… a couple years, in point of fact!

It wasn’t until I decided to do a mass WIP purge that I remembered my plans. Having had several years of spinning experience at this point, it was considerably easier  to get consistent, non-overspun yarn from the last few batches of fiber.  I wound up playing around with the fiber prep on some of them, handcarding some, spinning others straight. I also decided that the mittens would never get done if I also had to spin up the background color and lining, so I got those from Knit Picks.

I would say these mittens were well worth the wait, Cthululovesme! They’re superfantastic in the extreme!




Quickie Question: Silly Crafts?

Monday, July 11th, 2011
By Twistie

 photo via a blog whose name cannot be written in a family friendly blog. Check it out, because there are some awesome things there.

Sometimes you just have to make something silly.

In fact, I’ve done a lot of silly things in the name of craft. I have a rather warped sense of humor and access to a great many craft materials, after all.

Probably the single most ridiculous, though, was a collaboration with another amazing crafter. You see, we belong to the same Scottish clan and she decided it was shameful that we hadn’t ever seriously punked our traditional rival clan. We put our heads, our fibercraft talents, and our mutual love of the randomly silly together to create a Whoopie Cushion cover.

The cover was sewn in the tartan of our rival clan with a lovely miniature needlepoint rendition of their clan crest with a pretty lace ruffle in one of the colors of the tartan. In addition to the item in question, I wrote a speech for the presentation of the item. Everybody had a great laugh, and a new tradition was born, with each side trying to up the ante at the other for several years before some no-fun people got put in charge and the laughter stopped.

So how about you? What’s the most ridiculous craft project you’ve ever created or been involved in?

Sage Advice

Friday, July 8th, 2011
By Twistie

This is a smudge stick.

Just last night, I was discussing smudge sticks with my good friend, Fabrisse (wave to the crowd, Fabrisse!). You see, Mr. Twistie and I have just recently inherited a Major Item from a Rather Dubious (to us mentally right now) Source. Said item feels kind of full of cooties, bad juju, negative associations… whatever you want to call it. We were deciding whether or not a good smudging is in order.

No, I’m not usually given to burning herbs to cleanse spaces and objects. In fact, the only open flame I’m comfortable with is the burners on my lovely new gas stove (I love you, Algy! And I always will!). Strong scented burning things aren’t my thing, either. That one David Bowie concert I went to?

Yeah… I didn’t last long. No more big concerts for Twistie. I now stick to small, intimate, smoke-free venues.

All the same, there are times when it just feels like a ritual is needed to deal with powerful negativity, whether it comes from within or without. And some of you may find that a good smudge stick is precisely what you need. If this is the case, you might head over to this rather cool article on how to roll your own. And speaking as someone who has had strong negative physical reactions to burning herbs… do take their advice to be careful – especially of potentially poisonous plants! – seriously.

Oh, and the Major Item? I don’t think I’ll actually burn sage over it. I’ve got a better, more personal, smoke-free way of cleansing the bad emotional baggage out. Because sometimes, traditionalist though I am at heart, you just have to roll your own to make it work.



Lacing With Interesting Women

Thursday, July 7th, 2011
By Twistie

Have I mentioned how much I love pretty tools to work with? There’s a gentleman in England called Chris Parsons who makes some tremendously pretty bobbins to toss. This is his set of Famous Women of History. The set includes: Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, George Eliot, Emmaline Pankhurst, Amelia Earhart, Marilyn Monroe, Margaret Thatcher, and Mother Theresa.

Of course, you may like some of these women better than others. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get the entire set. Pick and choose at your pleasure! And if there’s an amazing woman you feel he’s missed (say, Harriet Tubman or Aphra Behn, for instance), he’ll be happy to paint her for you, special.

Or maybe great women of history isn’t your thing. Perhaps you’d prefer Egyptian gods, celtic patterns, butterflies, famous buildings, or non-figurative pewter inlays.

Oh, and of course in light of a recent happy event in the British Royal family, well, what could be better than a nice commemorative of the event? It’s a long-standing tradition among English lacemakers, after all.

I have several of Mr. Parsons’ bobbins on my pillow, so I can recommend them as excellent tools. Then again, you might just want them around because they’re pretty. They’re certainly that!


Seating in the Key of C

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
By Twistie

It’s a porch swing! It’s a xylophone! It’s two things in one!

No, really, you can play this porch swing in the key of C as well as sit and swing in it. It even comes with the mallets shown on the seat.

Made of western red cedar with stainless steel fittings, it sounds like a marimba. The pitch will drop temporarily if it gets wet in the rain, but fear not! The original sound will return when it dries.

Who came up with this amazing item? Well, it’s the brainchild of the proprietor of Musical Furnishings at Etsy.

In addition to this very original porch swing, he can make you a rumba table with eleven interchangeable percussion inserts, or a colorful zylophone cedar chest, as well.

You know, I always wanted a porch swing. Now if I just had $1,300 to spend on it! Mr. Twistie could play the porch furniture.

Hmmm… I wonder if he could do a bistro set that doubles as a set of congas.

Quickie Question: When Good Crafters Make Bad Choices

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
By Twistie

It happens. We get seduced by a pretty color, a fabulous texture, an unusual possibility to the point where we don’t think through whether it’s really the right choice for the project at hand.

Once I found some gorgeous, shiny thread in a really fine weight and spectacular colors. I decided to try making some lace with it. Alas! I didn’t gauge the weight correctly for the pattern, resulting in a thin, wimpy look to the piece even as it sat on my pillow.

Further, I entirely failed to check the fiber content of the thread… which turned out to be a rayon/nylon blend. Yeah, stretchy nylon. When I pulled my piece off the pins after about thirty hours of work, it looked about like this:

… only in shiny magenta.

What about you? Did you ever make a spectacularly wrong decision about a material? What was the project? Can you laugh about it yet? Or is it still too painful?

Me, I can laugh. It’s been about twenty years and I learned a valuable lesson I never forgot: always check the fiber content before winding the bobbins.

And the Winner Is…

Monday, July 4th, 2011
By Twistie

… Julia!

I got some lovely entries for this contest, and believe me each and every one is well worth some serious public kudos. However, for sheer scope, range of technique, and ultimate impact I had to go with Julia’s amazing Harvard departmental thesis project.

The project is a 10′ x 15′ tapestry depicting scenes from various fairy tales, myths, and folk legends that include fiber arts. From Rumplestiltskin and Sleeping Beauty to Penelope weaving all day and unraveling her work all night to fend off suitors until her husband’s return, it’s all there.

Techniques used include: felting, printing, embroidery, painting and knitting, as well as others not enumerated in Julia’s email.

This is her illustration from one of my favorite Russian tales, The Six Swans.

The whole project took nearly a year to complete and almost a thousand dollars worth of materials. Now that’s dedication!

It was all worth it in the end, though, not only because I love the way it came out, and couldn’t be happier with the finished project, but also because, as a result of my project, my department has changed the requirements for graduation – instead of a long written academic paper, now all future concentrators will have the option of making a creative capstone project to fulfill the guidelines. I’m so pleased that my project could serve not only to demonstrate the work that I’ve personally done creatively, but to allow other students the option of exercising their creative muscles when planning their theses.

Julia, I couldn’t agree more!

Please contact me ASAP with your mailing address, and your prize:

will be wending its way to you quickly.

Congratulations, Julia! And thanks to everyone who entered the contest. Your work will be showing up randomly during the month of July for readers to ooh and aah over. You all had amazing work to share!

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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