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Archive for March, 2012

Quickie Question: Frustration?

Monday, March 19th, 2012
By Twistie

Has this ever happened to you? You’re going along swimmingly in your crafts project. The crafting gods seem to smile delightedly upon you… and then in a sickening instant you realize they were laughing up their immortal (and no doubt beautifully stitched) sleeves at you all along. You’ve done something wrong that utterly ruins all your hard work and cannot be undone.

I’ve done it. Chances are you’ve done it, too. After all, we’re human. What’s more, the craft gods and our pet cats never, ever warn us of this impending doom. They just snigger when it comes to pass. Those of you who are dog people, trust me on this: cats laugh at the despair of their human minions.

But my question is this: what do you do when you find yourself in that situation? When you realize that you’ve superglued together two things never meant to touch? When you discover that you’re out of that discontinued yarn just inches away from the end of the project, right where it was supposed to be the dominant color? When you realize you added a cup of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar? When your thread snaps just at the one point where it will be impossible to hide a join or make it strong?

Me? My first impulse is always to throw something… but I usually manage to tamp that down. Most of my tools are fairly delicate and expensive to replace at the same quality. Also, nearly any direction I might throw something in my living room leads to glass. With three windows, a china cabinet, a large screen TV and a desktop computer all in the same room, yeah, too many breakables.

So once I convince myself not to hurl my Swedish full round pillow and fifty bobbins through the flat screen, I still need to find a way to vent. That’s when I pull out the angstiest music in my collection and start howling along. Melissa Etheridge, Alanis Morissette, maybe a couple of Warren Zevon’s best heartbreak songs. Jake the Cat runs in terror up and down the stairs, certain I’m yelling at him.

Somehow, though, after an album or two worth of songs about misery, betrayal, and general honked-offedness, I manage to regain my equanimity. If the goof was bad enough, I might not pull out the mess to dispose of until the next day, but I’ll get there soon enough.

And then I’ll assess how bad the damage really is. Sometimes I discover it’s not as bad as I originally thought. Even when it really is that bad, I can laugh about it again and move on.

I just need to howl first.

How about you? What do you do when it all goes horribly wrong?

Is This 24-Hour Catwalk?

Friday, March 16th, 2012
By Twistie

No, it’s still Project Runway All Stars. They just decided to get inspired for the final challenge that will determine the winner, that’s all.

I’ll explain.


Going Swimmingly

Thursday, March 15th, 2012
By Twistie

Kiddies, I hurt my dominant index finger last night in a bizarre restaurant accident. Typing is tough today.

And so instead of something profound, I leave you with this fun, no-care fish bowl, suitable for even the most pet-unfriendly apartment:

Happy Pi Day!

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
By Twistie

In honor of 3/14, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite subjects in the world: pie.

(Image via Serious Eats)

I started baking early in life. At six I was baking cookies regularly – with adult supervision, of course – and at seven I made my first pie crust.

My mother nearly cried.

It was perfect.

Pie crust was my mother’s Achilles’ heel in the kitchen, the one thing that never came out quite like she wanted it to. And her seven year old daughter turned out to be an idiot savant of crust.

Once Mom accepted that I had a talent she didn’t, though, she was more than happy to exploit it. It became my job on Thanksgiving to make the crusts for the pumpkin pies.

Over the years, many people have asked me for my secrets. For years I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know why I couldn’t turn out bad pie crust on a bet. All I knew was that every single time, my crusts turned out delicious, golden, and flaky.

Still, I did eventually come up with a short list of tips that seem to help others. And now I pass it on to you, in hopes that those who struggle with pie crust can find peace, enlightenment, and flakiness.


Somebunny Is Getting Dipped

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
By Twistie

With Easter just around the corner, it’s a great time to indulge yourself in seasonal sweet treats.

Now personally, I’m not that wild about Peeps. Then again, I don’t like marshmallow. Never have, never will. Still, while I consider them useful only for scientific experimentation, and some others mark them for grisly death, there are those who truly love eating the little suckers.

Ah, but doesn’t everything taste better enrobed in chocolate? Okay, there might be something that doesn’t, but marshmallow clearly isn’t one of those mutant food items. It’s better with chocolate.

So if you like Peeps, and you like chocolate, and you’re looking for a fun holiday project to share with the kiddies, you should definitely check out this article at Makes and Takes from a couple years back with instructions on chocolate coating your Peeps.

Quickie Question: Spring Cleaning

Monday, March 12th, 2012
By Twistie

It’s getting to be that time of year. Yes, that time when traditionally we clear out the detritus, flotsam, and jetsam of our lives: spring.

For a crafter, that can – of course – mean more than one thing. Whereas for an average Joanne it might mean airing out the cupboards and giving the rugs a good beating, for us it means just a bit more.

Maybe going out and buying fifteen specialized industrial cleaners is what some people do, but we’re more likely than most to give a go to making our own earth-friendly, inexpensive cleansers. And while others are going through piles of older clothes and sending the ones that don’t really fit anymore off to Goodwill or the Salvation Army… we’re determining which ones will make the best quilt pieces, cleaning rags, and toys for the little ones.

There’s also a tiny, nearly insignificant, outside chance that some of us will go through our stashes and release those bits of cloth and other items we never quite found a use for into the wild for another crafter to enjoy. Hey, it could happen!

So what crafty things are you planning for this years’ spring cleaning?

Limits, Ltd.

Friday, March 9th, 2012
By Twistie

Say hello to Nanette Lepore. Hello, Nanette Lepore!

Lepore was the guest judge last night on Project Runway All Stars in one of the best, most interesting challenges the show has ever presented. What was so great about it? Oh, my friends, the designers were thrown into the deep end of the reality pool, as opposed to the ‘reality’ pool they’ve been swimming in so merrily all this time.

What exactly happened? Read on after the cut to find out.


Daffily Delightful Detritus

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
By Twistie

Now this is a suitcase that won’t get easily lost or mixed up with someone else’s at the airport! What’s more, you can make it – or something quite similar – out of random junk you may already have in your home. If you don’t, you can easily get it at any garage sale or swap meet you happen across.

You see, all you need for this project is a hard sided plastic suitcase, some patterned fabric (in this case a print of the Virgin Mary and some floral motifs), and some Minwax Polycrylic. Not religious? No problem! Pick a floral, a great skull image, or just a cool geometrical motif. It’s all good.

And that, my friends, is the philosophy behind Mark Montano’s The Big-Ass Book of Crafts 2, where you can find more thorough instructions for this suitcase and more than 150 fun projects made of random odds and ends.

The projects range from the practical (a fabulous bejeweled backsplash for a bathroom sink, and a wide selection of homemade bags and purses) to the whimsical (my personal favorite is the corset composed entirely of zippers), to the downright disturbing… but in a harmless way (those baby doll head salt and pepper shakers will probably haunt my nightmares, even though they make me giggle).

Whether the random stuff you have on hand is wooden hangers, zip ties, buttons, colored paper, scraps of wood or fabric, old eyeglasses cases, ribbon, beads, bottle caps, newspaper, or tin scraps, you can find plenty of ways to use them up with this book. Most of the projects could be easily finished in an afternoon, too.

But the really great thing about this book and the other two in the series (The Big-Ass Book of Crafts and The Big-Ass Book of Home Decor) isn’t the specific projects, though they are weird and wonderful in their own right. No, the really great thing about them is that they help you see the potential in the random, the cast off, and the humble. That means these books are a great jumping off point for your own imagination.

Whether your personal taste runs to the bizarre or the gently understated, the silly or the profound, there’s a lot you can do with the discarded to make your life – and those of your friends – more charming and more unexpected.

And at just $12.81 and free Super Saver shipping if you spend over $25.00 on your whole order ($9.99 in the Kindle edition), it’s even inexpensive enough to leave you the money for that bag of baby doll heads on your next visit to the flea market.

When Irish (and Not So) Crafters Are Smiling

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
By Twistie

With St. Patrick’s Day just ten days away, it’s time to start thinking about those last-minute opportunities to craft something for the occasion. And that’s why I’ve come up with a quick roundup of some of the best, quickest, and most amusing Irish-themed crafts on the Web.

Over at Craft: Project, you can find instructions for this super cute headband. It involves several techniques, including ribbon work, needle felting, and simple hand sewing. This one was made specifically for St. Pat’s, but it’s easily adaptable for any occasion or just the desire for something fun and pretty to put on your head.

Of course, if you don’t want or need a headband, you could always go to the same source to find instructions for knitting a sweater for your guinea pig. No, seriously, I mean it.


Partington the Way

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
By Twistie

This rather spectacular piece of ceramic sculpture is made by Claire Partington. I love it. Of course, I do have a strong inclination toward the fantastical and the mildly morbid, so a lady whose head has been replaced with a squid does tend to appeal. Also, I have kind of a thing for pannier, particularly the egregious courtly version illustrated here.

She does have other works, of course, but they all tend toward the surreal, disturbing end of fairy tales. Definitely my cuppa!

I recently became aware of Partington’s work via a blog I happened across entitled Blethering Crafts, where I read an interview and saw examples of Partington’s work. You can check out the entry here.

She’s interviewed about her philosophy, inspiration, technique, education, and all the other usual things. But what I liked best was when the interviewer asked her for three words for aspiring crafters, and Partington’s reply was:

Do it yourself

I say that’s excellent advice.

But before you go running off to make things, do take a moment to check out some gloriously imaginative, exquisitely created ceramics. They may just inspire you.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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