Thursday, December 24, 2009

What We All Can Take From Kwanzaa

(crossposted at BlogHer)
Last week we gathered at a friend's house to learn about and celebrate Hannukah. It was a great fun evening which we will be repeating. We left a little wiser about this particular celebration and with a much deeper appreciation of any holiday that emphasizes fried food (latkes and donuts) and gambling (dreidels) as part of its celebration.

It got me thinking about the other celebrations happening this time of year and how we ALL might embrace some of the messages these holidays hold as their center.

Every year those who celebrate Christmas get emotional about about "good will toward men." leading people to remark: why are these emotions only endorsed at this time of year? Why can't we work on these positive expressions all year round?

I think that is an admirable thought -though it is not easy to sustain such emotion all the time. I suspect that when a person says that, they want other people to carry that emotion; if it were simply up to someone deciding to hold goodwill toward all men all year, they could simply do it, right?

So instead of hoping that we and others can carry unreasonable emotions for a long term, how about we take a couple days and totally immerse ourselves in all the holiday spirits that are floating around now.

Which, after my brief celebration of Hannukah, led me to Kwanzaa :a non-religious, non-political reaffirmation of basic values wrapped into a celebration of the African-American life.

These values: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith are NOT values that should be limited only to African-Americans; these are principles and values that everybody can embrace. Again, they should be embraced and practiced all year -like loving our fellow human beings. But, since the challenge of this commitment is a wee too hard to contemplate, let's focus on just a week.

So why not look at these principles and see small steps we can ALL take?
  1. Meeting a friend over the holidays for coffee? Instead of heading to StarBucks or another coffee chain, find a locally owned cafe or coffee shop to meet at instead. This is cooperative economics.
  2. Thinking about a holiday gathering and anticipating friction? For just that one day, give up your expectations and simply relax into day vowing not to participate in any of the family/friend drama. That is unity.
  3. At the same time, volunteering with your family over holiday break can strengthen your ties as a family and bind you in a unique way to your community. This is collective work.
  4. Spend some time considering your New Year's Resolutions? As a family, spend some time discussing things that each of you need to commit to in order to make your family unit stronger. This is self-determination.
  5. With children home from school for up to 2 weeks, a craft day is certainly in order. Hello, creativity!
You get the picture. There are steps we are going to be taking anyway this week, why not take them with a eye to expanding understanding of another December Holiday?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Launch My Line

I watched the first episode of Launch My Line this week- and I'm not sure that I'll watch anymore.

The initial concept sounded interested: pull a number of successful professionals together in a Project Runway style competition; the winner gets his/her line produced and sold (somewhere). Each of these professionals is paired with an experienced designer to mentor them along the way.

While the concept it intriguing, the reality is less so. Many of the hopefuls are incapable of sewing -a vital skill if you and you alone are working at designing a line. Some of the professionals do no meld well with their mentorees.

And then there are the restrictions the show has put on these people.

In the first episode, each person had one hour to choose a line name, a line logo, and a signature piece. ONE HOUR. Ignore the fact that in reality many companies may take months to come up with these items while working on developing a line. They had one hour.

After that hour all designer teams were taken to a fabric store. Obviously the store did not wish to develop the type of fondness that many of us have developed for Mood and Mood-LA, because almost as soon as the teams entered the store they were told that they would be selecting all the fabrics they will use for the entire show.

Ten fabrics.

Without knowing what the challenges will be - they have to decide on all the fabrics they will use -and the quantity that they will need.

The first night at least one hopeful started over from scratch -using new fabrics and a new design. Will that choice mean that later she does not have enough of the discarded fabrics to create the proper design?

These feel even more artificial than the demands placed on hopefuls in other shows. The individuals are not terribly compelling and I'm just not sure that Launch will catch my imagination.

Think I'll pass on the whole line.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Five Tips for Crafting a Holiday Wreath

I believe in "short time" holiday decorating-limiting the exposure of Thanksgiving and Xmas decorations to something close to 10-14 days. It's a personal choice that makes seeing any of these items appear much more dear to me. The one exception to this rule is the door wreath. Wreaths can decorate doorways years round - either changing the actual wreath by the season, or changing some element of it to indicate the seasonal changes.

Wreaths are one of the simplest items for anyone to make and decorate themselves, making them a perfect crafty project for a winter afternoon.

Some wreath making basics:
  1. Wreaths begin with a form. This can be styrofoam, straw, wire frame, dried grapevines or willow, or even the lowly wire coat hanger. The easiest places to find forms is your local craft store or thrift store.
  2. The form is wrapped or covered with a base material. This might be fabric, ribbon, garland, silk or real leaves, anything to disguise the base material and give the wreath some color and substance.
  3. Layer decorations over the base material, spreading them evenly around the wreath or weighing it more heavily at the base. These are aesthetic decisions that you as the designer make.
Let's see how we can apply these basics to different Wreath designs:

Idea #1:Soft and Simple
Savers is the website for several thrift stores that offers some exciting instructions for using materials found in their stores (or in your own closet). They created a charming Festive Felt Wreath (PDF) using several felted (mostly) wool sweaters cut into squares plus some craft wire and scrap ribbon to create a charming, simple wreath.

Idea #2: Ruffled, elegant and recycled
This elegant ruffly wreath belies it's humble origin. Lindsay created this from a cheap romance novel after spotting her inspiration (on sale for $40) at a vendor's booth at her citywide garage sale. The wreath is timeless as it stands, but substitute some gold or silver paint for the brown/gray paint Lindsay used to tint the edges and a festive holiday wreath could appear too. Would it be wrong to tear apart a worn copy of Dickens' Christmas Carol for this? (via Dollar Store Crafts).

Idea #3: Christmas Ornaments
A lot more colorful and traditional that either of the previous wreaths, HazelRuth's Christmas Ornament Wreath should only take you a couple hours to complete -after you choose your ornaments. This look could go old-fashioned and colorful as she did or take on a totally different look with a limited color palette. Add meaningful personal ornaments to make it all your own.

Idea #4: Pom Poms. Perfect Kid-Friendly Activity

Somewhere soon you are going to need that one crafty project that will occupy the kids (or the kid in all of us) for an afternoon. Prepare yourself in advance the simple supplies for making this pom-pom wreath, then let the fun begin. Bleubird Vintage provides great photos in her tutorial and includes a pom-pom tutorial to get it started.

Idea #5: Button it Up.
I love buttons. Touching them, sorting them, decorating with them. So of course I'm going to share a project that lets me do all that! Craftapalooza shares her simple tutorial for making these button wreaths. I can see different colorways being used for different season -or something like this white/off-white one filling in year round.

A Bonus Wreath:
Capadia Designs created charming three-dimensional wreath cards using her cricut. Not necessarily wreaths you'd hang on your door or your wall, but framing one of these and setting on a table or giving it as a hostess gift? Love.

How do you craft a great a wreath? Share a link to your favorites in the comments.

(photo credits and copyright remain with the owners of each website).

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Five Winter Chores for the Summer Garden

(crossposted at BlogHer)

This morning started with bright sunshine for me and I was reminded that this is the perfect time of year to get those final garden chores done to insure a successful growing season next year. (Please to ignore that this year was a disaster). Whenever it is dry and the soil can be seen and worked, we owe it to ourselves to spend a little time outdoors.

What can be done if our gardens are not actively growing?

First we can continue to weed. I've found that the most persistant weeds are often the only visible growth in the winter garden -which makes this an ideal time to attack them. These weeds tend to have root systems that encourage additional growth when damaged, so digging a small clump of soil around each weed and throwing the entire thing away is the most effective weed control. DO NOT COMPOST these clumps. They have persistence in their genes and will likely survive even the hottest compost pile.

Second, we can add amendments. Many garden centers and home improvement stores will have compost and soil additives on sale to clear out for the winter months. Now is great time to empty your own compost bins and add additional organic material to your beds. These can act as additional winter mulch in colder regions-insulating the roots of perennial plants- while in warmer climates they will be available for your winter gardening use.

Third, we can do cleaning and maintenance on our garden tools. When the weather outside is frightful, spend some time indoors cleaning, sharpening, and tuning your garden tools. Make sure all metal tools are free from rust, lightly oiled and all cutting edges are sharp NOW. If any tool needs to be repaired or replaced, start making that list now.

Fourth, look back on the growing season past. What were the successes this year? What flowers and plants do you want to make sure to grow next year? What were your failures and how will you try to avoid repeating those? Did you fall prey to the home center's eagerness to display plants and get things in the ground too early? Did you not notice insect or disease damage quickly enough? A little introspection on the year is a great learning tool.

Finally, begin to plan for next year. With last year's notes fresh in your mind, grab a calendar and begin to plan for next year. Make notes on when to plant -not too early, not too late. Winter months can be spent paging through the seed and plant catalogs, planning your garden year. But get the basics set now.

What others are doing in their gardens:

Margaret Roach reminded us that Conifers Are Forever (not just for the holidays).

The Dirt pointed to an interesting way to fight climate change: turn the Australian and Saharan Desert into forests.

Daisy the Groundskeeper at Compost Happens is still searching for The Fabled Fairies of Thanksgiving. (this made me laugh).

Emma from Coopette has a dilemma. She has discovered that teabags are not 100% compostable anymore (having a fine plastic mesh to keep the bags from breaking) and must decide what to do in the future. Did you know that your tea bag isn't completely breaking down in the compost?

Nelumbo, a girl growing Southern, expanded her own compost piles this fall (good time to do so) and wrote the details as a basic tutorial.

Kate of High Altitude Gardening shared some of the best of her holiday indoor flowering plants.

The Inadvertent Gardener threw in the towel and threw out the plant.

What gardening plans do you have for the next few weeks?

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, November 27, 2009

5 Ideas on Making a Holiday Memory Scrapbook

One sure thing about the holidays: as the family gathers together there will be a discussion -or worse argument- about something that happened at a past holiday gathering. The kids received duplicate gifts 2 years ago -or was it three? Uncle Joe hit the eggnog a bit too hard and ended up sleeping it off under the tree when??

A simple way to help provide evidence of all the fun-filled events of holidays past is start NOW to document the evidence -uhm create a holiday memory scrapbook. But how shall you do this?

1. Decide on theme for the book. YES, these are holiday books which means they already have a basic theme, but see if you can refine it. Organize the memories by year or by person. Or look through the photos you have and see if another -less obvious- theme presents itself. It might be color, food, facial expressions, anything that will let you organize some of your memories.

2. Edit the photos. While you may have 50 photos from last year's Christmas Eve dinner, choose the best 10 to 15 to use. Make the photos you use the ones that truly tell a story. They do NOT need to be the "best" photos artistically-they should be best to tell the story.

3. Trim the photos and add a frame. You can trim out any excess background (scrap bookers call this cropping) to make sure the focus stays on the story element. Border the pictures with one or two complimentary colors of paper. Think of this as the matting and framing of the pictures. Because this is in paper, though, feel free to be creative! Are the pictures of Thanksgiving dinner together? Frame these pictures with a cut border(s) in the shape of a turkey or circles to look like fancy dinner plates. Christmas memories might be framed in shapes of fancy ornaments.

5. Leave room for the story. As I understand it, the difference between a photo album and a scrapbook is that the scrapbook tells the story. Space for writing/printing/sharing the story on the page is important.

6. Feel free to add other ephemera. If you decide to make a scrapbook from this year's holiday gift-giving, include the gift tag with the photo. Or add the Thanksgiving menu, the newspaper's weather report (especially if a blizzard explains someone's absence or their extended presence). Anything to do with the day that might spark additional memories of that exact moment in time.

If I were spending the holidays with family, I would make several of these books ahead of time- minus a lot of the story. Then invite the people there to look through the pictures and write their own recollections of the days and years past on the pages. Letting a photograph spark memories from all the different perspectives would be the greatest gift for me and from me.

If your images are already on your computer-or stored online- you can use a website like scrapblog to create your memories, because sometimes holiday photos NEED the story shared. I supply as evidence myself:

Holiday Scrapping Talk:

Great instructions for Making Your Own Holiday Cards and Keeping Sane While Doing So can be found at Ella Publishing's blog. The secret is using technology.

Turn your blog into a scrap booking page. The Theory of Creativity explains using My Digital Studio to design your blog template.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Painfree Crafting

In the next few months many of us will decide we have to "buckle down" and create all the presents and decorations that are on our imaginary -or sometimes not-so-imaginary- To Do List. We have deadlines- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's Day. And we cannot disappoint others by failing to create all the wonderful things that are swirling around our heads.

We settle down for several hours of work after a day of work. Soon, our hands are aching, our necks are creaking, and our lower backs are aching. But still we soldier on. In the name of all the magical goodness that is the holiday season, we will continue if it kills us.

Sometimes we end up in such pain that we wish it would.

To counteract all the physical demands we put on our bodies while we're crafting, we must warm up and stretch before we begin, and continue to stop, rest, and stretch while we are crafting. To give you some guidance about doing this, I made a simple video: Stretches for Crafters.

The stretches are simple stretches for the neck, shoulders, chest, wrists and hands. These, done before you begin and at regular intervals while you are crafting should help to keep some of the pain at bay. If repetitive stress injuries arise anyway? Alternate applications of heat and ice, NSAIDs, and rest will move you along your way to quicker healing.

Others in craft are also thinking about your health while crafting.

Becky Striepe at Crafting a Green World wrote Yoga for Crafters: The Knit and Crochet Edition.

From what you guys had to say on Twitter, it sounds like all that yarn work hits ravelers hardest in the wrists, fingers, neck and chest. Never fear! Here are some poses to help you recoop a little bit.

I'm anxious to try several of these poses to open up my chest and wrists and feel some healing coming my way. But looking at the Bow Pose- I may need yoga to recover from doing some yoga! I wonder how I can regress that to something actually do-able?

Last week, I pointed you to the Knit-A-Square charity project. The organizers were care so much about their volunteers that they wrote a How-To on Knitting for Charity Pain Free. Their points include a plan for a basic knitting/crochet training schedule to build your body's endurance for this work! The training schedule:

You are attempting to be a marathon knitter and crocheter. And as such, like any elite athlete, you need to train to be able to knit and crochet with endurance. Too many of you, especially those of you learning how to knit or crochet, or picking up your knitting needles or crochet hook again after years away from the craft, just launch straight hours of work.Start slowly and build up. As a rule of thumb, you could start by working for 20 to 30 minutes a day, slowly on a sliding scale according to half your age. So for example:

  • 20 minutes for 10 days
  • 30 minutes for 15 days
  • 50 minutes for 25 days
  • 70 minutes for 35 days.

This will give your wrists and arms the opportunity to build strength and endurance just as a marathon runner must train over months even years to first run the distance and secondly run fast.

Now that we are armed with stretches, yoga and a training schedule, there is (hopefully) no need to pray that you receive a week of massage/chiropractic after the holidays end this year. Not that such a gift would be a bad thing if it were to come.

How do you prepare to get your craft on and keep yourself pain free?

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fashion Crafting: shows, swaps and Making it Work.

(crossposted at BlogHer)

I'm home from spending 24 hours at Pacific International Quilt Festival. This west-coast weekend is a blend of hundreds of vendors, hundreds of quilts and a fascinating mix of wearable fashions. I was there to work the Fashion Show -a Friday night tradition which is organized by wearable quilter Karen Boutte.

This year's fashion show featured designs from Margaret Linderman, Rachel Clark, and the pattern company: Decades of Style. I was one of the dozen models at the show. Lucky me! I got to wear beautiful items created by each of these three talents. Consider it my own personal experience as a Project Runway Model, except nobody was sent home at the end of the night!

While I was getting my fashion on...

...Stefanie Girard of Sweater Surgery organized and ran a Swap-o-rama-rama. If you are unfamiliar with the Swap-o-rama-rama fun:
Swap-O-Rama-Rama is a clothing swap and series of do-it-yourself workshops in which a community explores creative reuse through the recycling of used clothing.

The SwapWhen you attend the swap bring at least one bag of your unwanted clothing and a small donation (each swap varies depending on available funding). Every swap begins with a giant collective pile of clothing, the unwanted clothing of all who attend. Everyone is welcome to dive in and find their next new/used items from the pile. Take as little or as much clothing from this pile as you like, it's all free.

DIY WorkshopsAfter you have chosen your new clothes slide on over to one of the sewing stations and attend a workshop. Learn to make modifications or totally transform your finds. Each swap features a variety of workshops by local artists who are there to share their sewing and modification secrets with you. All the materials you need to sew, embroider, bead, fix, repair, knit etc, are suppled.

On Site DIY StationsSwap-O-Rama-Rama also offers on site DIY with skilled artists to help you get started. You'll find designers with sewing machines ready to teach you how to make modifications to your new/used duds. Or you might try the hand sew area and decoration station where you can learn to embroider, knit, crochet, etc. A silk screen station offers many amazing designs for immediate transfer as well as an opportunity to make your own screens using a YUDU silk screen machine.

This past August, BlogHer Burnadette Noll took place in a Back to School Clothes Swap based on the Swap-o-rama-rama idea:
We based it on the Swap a rama rama we had participated in at Maker Faire: seamstresses, silk screeners, swappers and more all gathered together in the school gym to help people modify the random selections they had made from the piles. It was amazing fun and an incredible display of abundance with more than enough of everything for everybody and not a single, solitary penny was spent. All the kids were psyched at getting "new" duds for back to school. All the parents were ecstatic at both getting rid of what they didn't want and gaining what they both wanted and needed while at the same time satisfying the societal urge to gussy up for back to school. And some cool fashion statements were made as various items were silk screened and altered and radified to suit the wearer.
Meanwhile, Kristen at ThimblyThings received a wonderful journal page with notes on a dress for her friend Erin. From the notes we can determine several things: this is to be a flirty dress with a fitted bodice and a swingy short skirt with lots of volume. And Erin does not like bows on the front of her dresses. Kristen has
made the bodice, trimmed it with a tulle ruffle, lined it, and put in boning. The boning is not particularly comfortable. I rounded the ends, but I guess I didn’t round them enough. And they are stuck in there (They’re melted slightly to the fabric. Oops.). Any suggestions? :D
This is where Kristen could use a visit by the charming Tim Gunn -with some guidance, perhaps, on how to deal with the boning and an encouraging Make It Work! Does anyone wish to stand in for Tim with encouragement or help? Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Charitable Crafting

(crossposted at BlogHer)

As the seasons begin to shift toward autumn, I starting more about giving -and especially charitable giving. Money for food banks for holiday meals, home-made biscuits for the animal shelters, and crafts for whichever charities can use them. Sewing, quilting, crochet, and knitting are the key crafts where charitable appeals are aimed.

With limited time, what are some of the charities that looking for charitable crafting?

Softies for Mirabel is an Australian crafting appeal to collect as many softies as they can before December 10th to donate to the Mirabel Foundation- an organization which assists children left without parents due to parental illicit drug use and are now being cared for by extended family. The toy collection is organized by Meet Me At Mike's. You can see some of the softies already donated by checking the Flickr Group.

Need inspiration for a softie to construct? Jodie at RicRac designed these adorable softies- one which reminds me a lot of a nutcracker toy soldier- in less than an hour. She offers the toy soldier pattern as a PDF download at Scribd.

Additionally, One Red Robin's Jhoanna MonteAranez made up an adorable Oh-Oh the Owl Softie and offers the pattern for free so you can make up a couple for toy give-aways.

Can you make a square?

Around the world from the Australian Toy drive, is Knit a Square to be used for AIDS orphans in Africa. Sandy Zanny's aunt lives in Africa and works with the Soweto Comfort Club to "collect, sort, bundle and join the squares into blankets and then distribute them to groups of children, greatly in need." If you take the short time to sort through your remnant yarn from completed projects -you can quickly knit or crochet an 8" square and mail it off. Heck, mail off a few.

These women are assembling the squares they receive into comforting blankets, hats, and overvests to give the children orphaned to AIDS. With a goal of 5000 blankets this year-this group needs donations of nearly 138,000 squares. Can you spare one evening or weekend of crafting to help? All the information you need can be found at the website.

Quilting and Sewing for a Cause

Charitable crafting takes place in the US, too. CraftSanity's Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood recently pointed out Margaret's Hope Chest, a Michigan-based charity that aims to make and distribute 400 quilts to homeless children living in shelters over this Christmas holiday.

And CRAFT HOPE has taken on crafting projects of all kinds. Their latest was to donate 225 sock monkeys to a Preschool Burn Camp. Each and every sock monkey is unique!

Ofcourse one of the long-running charitable craft projects is Project Linus.

Project Linus is comprised of hundreds of local chapters and thousands of volunteers across the United States. Each volunteer and local chapter all work together to help us achieve our mission statement, which states:

First, it is our mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.”

Second, it is our mission to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.

Together we have distributed over three million blankets to children in need since our inception in 1995.

But perhaps you are moving on from one crafting adventure to another, or simply cleaning house and willing to give some of your stash to others to use in charitable crafting. Crafting a Green World wrote a great list of suggestions on places to donate craft supplies for charity. Check it out.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Craft Room Design and Repurposing

(crossposted at BlogHer)

It's a lazy Saturday afternoon; while I sit satisfying my college football habit,I'm re-evaluating what type of crafting I'm really going to be doing in the next year. With that re-evaluation will probably come a change in my crafting room design. It's been well over a year since I actively spent time in there; it's square footage that is not serving it's purpose. So I'm taking some time and figuring out what I want to have happen there.

What ISN'T happening: much sewing or any quilting. I have a vision problem that makes it hard for me to change focal lengths. If I stare at something close: reading, computer, crafting, etc.- I am unable to see clearly at normal distances for at least an hour. It's made easier by bright daylight but I've yet to find an arrangement of artificial light that can substitute. Given that I do a lot of work on my computer-I have to choose NOT to spend a lot time at other activities that demand close-focus work. My sewing and quilting has disappeared over the past few years, I'm comfortable now at saying that because of this vision challenge (which cannot be corrected by lenses or surgery), I have to move on.

My craft room, however, is still set up for sewing. I have a large tabletop surface that I used for cutting and separate desk area set up with my Pfaff and machine supplies. Now I'm NOT getting rid of the machine; but, I think I can:
  • pack up the sewing machine and take it out when I want to use it,
  • clear all my quilting rulers off the "cutting table",
  • stop thinking of it as a cutting table,
  • donate a lot of fabric and other quilting supplies to a crafting charity.
  • Sell the books I won't be using anymore on Amazon.
  • Think about the threads and other sewing supplies I've acquired. Which do I need to keep?
More importantly, what can I envision DOING in this room? I am still making some jewelry, doing some felting, knitting. I still want to learn more about screen printing. So while I may need to repurpose some of my storage, I think I'll have more space to use differently.

Now to imagine how to use that space.

The Artful Crafter was asked for tips on designing a craft room and she gives some great tips. Having an easy clean floor really is important, and thankfully I have already replaced the carpeting with porcelain tile.

Back in 2007, Fuzzy Noodle remodeled her craft room. I'm with her on falling in love with IKEA furniture.

Don't have a whole room to dedicate to crafting? Making This Home highlighted an efficient crafting space carved out of a closet.

Really want to get some idea about organizing a craft room? Check out all the Craft Room Photos posted on Flickr. This way you can note the things you like and the things you don't to make your room your own.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

National Sewing Month: ReMake

crossposted at BlogHer

The themes of National Sewing Month are to ReUse, ReMake and ReStyle. This week, I will be looking at ideas and inspiration for ReMaking items.

EVEnl shared a great ReDo of a Tshirt shrug at Cut Out + Keep. With just some simple cutting, sewing a casing and adding some ribbon, we get the basic shape. Take a look, though, through the project gallery. By adding lace, yo-yo florets, diffrent ribbon styles -or even simply changing where the shrug is tied- different looks are created. LOVE.

JoAnne's Fabrics offers a free pattern for a felted laptop sleeve (pdf). While the directions call for using store-bought felt, I want to make one of these from a felted sweater. Diane Gilliland wrote a good basic tutorial on Felting Sweaters for CraftStylish. And if laptop sleeves aren't your bag (ooo bad pun), ThreadBangers has a nice round up of felted sweater projects including Leethal's own wool boots tutorial on craftster.

Nik at {appliance} came up with a great project: using 2 large scarves, she designed a wonderfully wearable scarf dress. You might not have enough time to create your own and enter the project sponsored by Sewing Republic and Burda Style (my challenge would be finding the scarves) but then maybe you do.

Kristen at Thimbly Things has been remaking clothing into skirts. First she made her Happy Friday Skirt from a dress, then she turned J. Crew pants into a skirt, too.

Got Neckties?'s Family crafts offers this great little project to turn an unused necktie into a small purse or cellphone case. (hat tip to Sweater Surgery for the link.)

Cassandra at Dandelion Bones seems to be taking the theme of ReMaking very seriously. She's reworked the same tank dress two times. Or is that three?? After completing the project once -and wearing the dress one day-she determined that it needed some reworking. So she cut off the skirt, improvised a new design and started sewing. Then:
There came that point where I was sewing along, perfectly proud that I was constructing without a pattern to guide me, and I stopped to flip the skirt right side out. One side was wonky. I had somehow pleated the length that should not have had any gathers. For a moment I was ready to quit, and I actually turned my machine off, unplugged it, and threw the "skirt" aside. I pouted for a minute, but I just couldn't bear the thought of that fabric going to waste, and I picked it up to look again. The solution was simple. It did involve a bit of seam ripping (which I just do not like at all,) but it didn't take long, and I revved the machine back up and finished.
The final project is so cute, that I'm sure she's glad she took the time to make it just what she wanted.

And finally, check out all the blogs that MaryAnne at Thrift Craft Mama highlighted in Favorite Sewing Blogs post.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Craft Tutorials: Simple, Scrappy, and Quirky

Crafty Tutorials. Whenever I ask individuals what they want in a post, the loudest answer is always: MORE TUTORIALS. I spent some time scouring through some of the tutorials I've filed away and think this assortment of old and new items are perfect to share this week. Most are simple items, many use scraps and small bits of this or that. Cleaning your workroom? These might inspire you to use some of what you have. Need a quick pick-me-up craft that doesn't take much time? You'll find that here too. There is even something for after your project is finished.

Read through and tell me which are your favorites?

I remember making Paper Mache Bowls in school. With all the cuts in funding, I'm not sure that this type project is being taught anymore, but Jamie Ervin wrote a thorough tutorial at Crafting A Green World. These can decorated with paints, with words/images from magazines, with scrap fabric,wallpaper or wrapping paper. Anything to coordinate them to a decor or holiday.

Browsing through Zakka Life, I found this old -but still charming- project for making a Japanese Crest Felt Coaster.

Erin at Patchwork Underground found a great way to turn several scraps into a sexy leather halter top. Concerned because she's using animal skin? While Erin eats vegan, she explains:

Anyway, it’s for these reasons that I never buy new leather. I usually get it second hand. Politics aside, it is a superior material in a lot of ways and I figure it’s better not to waste it once its already been created. (Yes – people do see me wearing it and no - they don’t know that it’s recycled and, yes, this theoretically does encourage other people in their consumption of meat/leather products. No comment. Don’t really know what to do about it.)

My one request: Please, if you’re going to use this pattern, DON’T use brand new leather that you bought anonymously from the store. Find it, recycle it, hunt it and tan it yourself -whatever. Just be connected to and ok with where it came from. Or, heck, use the fake stuff. =)

Is it a wrap? A skirt? A cowl? This pattern can be worn several different ways-which makes it not only gorgeous, but one of those very versatile pieces. Uma Joy knit Myriad and shares the pattern with us. How many ways can you imagine wearing it?

At Leethal Quick Knits, Leethal is offering monthly quick knit kits to make quick and small objects. What can you make with her small quantities of yarn? While she will include a pattern suggestion, one of the obvious items to make are some of these little knit bracelets. I bet even I could knit a couple of these up in an evening (knits-slower-than-molasses-in-winter should be knitting name!) Then spend another evening adding pretty details with contrasting yarns. I see a quick car project here!

While we're on knitting, Lee Meredith created this funky thing - a fingerless glove-scarf-fingerless glove combo that is adorable and just quirky enough to appeal to those among us who are "hard-to-please"/individualistic in our fashion choices. Or just plain practical (I lost 2 pairs of fingerless gloves last year - but I bet if they were attached to a scarf I wouldn't!). Knitty liked it enough to publish it! Do you think Entwined is charming or just too strange for words?

VenusZine has directions for a Key Hole Necklace. As Justina Blakeney explains:
If you're anything like me, your jewelry box consists of single earrings, broken necklaces, and beads from bracelets past. With a new season in full swing, it’s time to resurrect those stray pieces into a sexy necklace that'll cost you a just a couple of dollars and about 20 minutes to make.

At I Love To Create, Allee Marderosian created custom lunchbags- using fabric dyes, paints, and gems. These are sturdy enough for a child to take to school, and pretty enough to grace a work desk.

If you make any of these fun crafty projects, you just may wish to share them on your own blog. To help you out with this, Alexa at Swell Designer wrote 3 Crafty Photography Tips. My favorite tip:
If you are taking your photo in poor lighting, you are setting yourself for a bad photo from the get go. Go next to a window with light streaming in or set up the photo next to a lamp (or two). Even though it's not "professional" studio lighting, it creates a much warmer glow. Now, here's the kicker...DON'T USE THE FLASH. People are soooooo addicted to flash and in certain circumstances it is neccessary, but if you have sufficient lighting, then most times you can get a good photo just from the light you are using and it's much crisper and more vibrant an image.
Hat Tip to Crafty Pod's Diane Gilliland for pointing some of these finds out to me.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Welcome Back Macrame!

I've followed a number of the crafty trends during my life: crocheting granny squares into afghans and vests in the early 70s; needle pointing medevil scenes of unicorns and princess later that same decade. Moving to cross stitch when the monotony of filling backgrounds on needle point wore old. Quilting when cross-stitch lost it's challenge. Knitting when quilting finally stopped developing new things to try.

Crafting, like fashion, ebbs and flows. One obsession gives way to another. Since really there are no new crafts -merely new ways to look at them- it's not surprising that eventually every old craft is new again. With quilting slowing down, knitting apparently holding it's own as the current juggernaut of the crafting world, I was wondering what crafts will emerge soon from the past to become the shining star of the future.

And how will those old crafts be re-interpreted?

About this time, ebogie shared some jewelry she'd made and reminded me of old times when she said: Hemp Is Back!
With the anniversary of Woodstock, and more people going green and natural, I've noticed that hemp jewelry is being worn more. In the college town where I live, I see it on many of the students.
What struck me about the pretty bracelets she'd made was NOT that they were made from hemp -very pretty, BTW- but that they were made by macrame. According to Wikipedia,
Macramé or macramé is a form of textile-making using knotting rather than weaving or knitting. Its primary knots are the square knot and forms of hitching (full hitch and double half hitches). It has been used by sailors, especially in elaborate or ornamental knotting forms to decorate anything from knife handles to bottles to parts of ships
Thank goodness this definition says nothing about the thick nylon and acrylic cords tied into owls and plant hangers in the 60s and 70s. Anyone who lived through that is probably running in panic from the word. The definition places macrame in it's wider context. With knots, one can manipulate tension and shape in strands of fiber. This change in tension lets knotted textiles undulate and flow in ways that are difficult to achieve through weaving or looping (knitting or crochet).

Futuregirl admits that she is Under the Sway of Macrame Owls. She'd seen mention to macrame projects on blogs and websites in the recent past (come to think of it, so have I), and vaguely thought she should do something. It wasn't, however, until she hit upon some vintage crafts books that these vague feelings turned into an obsession:
Well, I had ignore the bee for most of the week because I had zero time to devote to macramé owls. But then Friday night I was able search around and try to find a macramé owl pattern. I'd decided to make one with embroidery floss as an homage to friendship bracelets. I was a little surprised (and a lot crestfallen) to find out that making a mini macramé owl wasn't an original idea (this one is cute and these are amazing). But after a couple moments of "aw shucks," my initial enthusiasm came back.
Note her word: mini macrame as that seems to be the way that macrame is manifesting itself this time around. Rather than the super-thick huge decorations I recall from the past, knotting is now being done with hemp, cotton crochet thread, embroidery floss. Thin, small, delicate fibers that make for charming delicate accessories. Craft offered a pattern for an IPod Cozy, there are several online tutorials for making friendship bracelets similar to ebogie's. Micro macrame jewelry-adding the curving, softening nature of knots to beads and other harder jeweled items- appears to be a growing accessory field.

Celtic Dream Weaver is tapping into the growing macrame vibe as Something Different:
I had been thinking awhile about trying my hand in micro macrame'. I might even do some designing on my own eventually once I start to feel more comfortable in doing this work and maybe marrying it to tatting. We will see what will happen with that as time goes buy (sic)...
Autumn Wiggins, at Crafting A Green World, points out why it's important to overlook macrame's unfortunate presence several decades ago, and why we should Tune In, Turn On, and Tie Knots:
Yes, I know what you’re thinking…plant hangers and googly eyed owls…haha. Make fun all you want, but you’ll be overlooking one of the most sustainable, inexpensive, and meditative craft techniques out there.

...Imagine cutting, then arranging thirty two 12ft lengths of hemp cord in front of you. As you begin to follow the pattern of knots, it becomes familiar and rhythmic. Much like a knitting groove, only more exotic. Your arms gracefully fling from side to side as they pull the knots through, while your fingers flutter about the strings. It’s like ballet dancing and playing the cello all at once from the waist up. I prefer to sit Indian style, and on the ground if possible. In the right setting this craft can be an introspective alternative to fidgety meditation. (Hey, yoga is not an option for people who drink as much coffee as me.)
I have a feeling that knots are building as a force in Craft. I noticed that last week two designers on Project Runway used the word "macrame" in describing parts of their design. Will you be jumping on this wave?

also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

What HAVE I Been doing?

It's really been a couple weeks since the last time I posted? I'm surprised. It really doesn't feel that way.

I've felt a bit unfocused the last couple weeks (is it the weather? possibly -it's been hot; the alignment of the stars? Sure, why not. other stuff interfering with my concentration? Most definitely.) but I still thought I was at least managing to cut and paste my BlogHer posts here every week.

Another FAIL. Oh well.

What have I been doing? I wish I could say that I've been accomplishing a whole of stuff.

  1. I made a fun crown to wear at a friend's 60th birthday party. A couple evenings of just have fun creating!
  2. I discovered that my camera needs repair. The lens-she is breaking. Want to find a local camera shop to help me determine if it's worth fixing.
  3. I've gotten back on the sock knitting train. Don't know why I took most of the summer off. I need this one pair of socks done before the weather turns.
  4. I've been writing. Not a whole lot that I can point to at the moment- lots of draft work and guest blogging and such.
And I'm studying for a new certification. It's not hard work-but takes time to understand and internalize. God, some days my brain feels so old!

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Street Fairs and Such

(crossposted at BlogHer)

Last Saturday I spent a couple hours walking downtown Oakland where the Chinatown Street Fair has being held. The notice had mentioned a number of craftspeople- I was curious to see who showed up and what they offered.

Walking the the several blocks closed (mostly) to traffic, I spotted a wide number of booths selling specific manufactured products and local services, there were only a couple stands offering anything that I would interpret as "craft". All were mainly jewelry booths and the items still appeared to be manufactured elsewhere; the street-fair sellers were only the final retailers. I enjoyed the experience for it was- a chance for individuals to sell their goods and services in a specific market- but did not stay as long as I had anticipated.

I was disappointed. This disappointment extended to the next day when I had planned to head into the city for another street festival: Rock/Make which sounded much more like it would offer my idea of vendors selling artisan crafts. When I awoke to cold wind and fog that did not clear, Saturday's disappointment made it harder to spend the time and energy to head into the city for a questionable experience.

I stayed home. And I'm still regretting it.

While this is nearing the end of the festivals that pop up in cities from early spring until often late in October, holiday craft fairs are just around the corner. How do you decide which ones are worth while and which ones can be ignored?

For me, the first decider is always a balance of the ease of getting there and time involved. Do I have to drive, or is mass-transit easily available? Can parking be found easily and without costing a lot? If I'm likely to spend half a day or more at a location, I'm more willing to consider the activity. However, if it takes me an hour to get somewhere and I spend only an hour or so there? So not worth my total time spent. I have to knead out the time value from often very vague words in the advertising. Which often makes it easier to simply dismiss the idea.

After the time/distance considerations, I look at the cost. Is it free or do I need to start with an admission fee? While admission often insures a quality experience, it also decreases the total money that I have to consider spending on crafters/artists. Are the vendors juried in? Judged? Or simply added by their willing to pay their own entry fee?

The third determinant is rather vague. What is the day/weekend/week like? Have been stuck indoors and would welcome any excuse to walk among a crowd for a couple hours? Is it raining? Will it take place in a building that is likely to be hot, overcrowded, and too noisy? Am I going alone or with someone?

How do you decide which fairs and festivals to attend?

In Related News:

The NYTimes has found that many unemployed individuals are turning to their crafting hobbies to help make ends meet. They are calling these news business owners "accidental entrepreneurs."

Anna at Knit-Write agrees with me, however, that some days are for street fairs.

There were no fiber artists this year – there never are (which is, perhaps, a niche I could take advantage of), but there was an incense maker whom we talked with for a while. It’s always very pleasant to meet other paganfolk. And a broom and candle seller we know from the flea market was there – they had their little doggy as well, and Tommy and the yorkie got to play while we visited. We came away with happily renewed acquaintances and some candles and incense that smell lovely!

Eva T. remembered past summers fondly but is Falling for Fall at the tail-end of Summer:
As a young adult, even without summer vacation (and with the
frustration of being stuck behind a desk at a boring day job when I
longed to be out in the sun) I still liked summer best. The weather
alone was reason enough for someone as outdoorsy as I (yes, even in the
city.) There was a carnival atmosphere that I loved, especially with
the proliferation of street fairs (some New Yorkers hate those but I
can't get enough of them.)

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Garden Crafts -Inside and Out

(crossposted at BlogHer)

It's a funny time of the year. Gardens are coming into full-force summer production yet many gardeners are looking forward to shorter days and the end of the growing season. My attention is being pulled both outside and inside with the desire to stretch the good feelings from gardening and to stretch out the year.

What to do? One simple thing is to look for crafty ways to bring my garden inside so that I can enjoy it in the future. Or I can bring crafty fun outside to enjoy in the garden now.


Flower Pounding: I'm ready to get some fun rewards from my garden to make this year not feel like a total waste (after all gophers have eaten everything in my veggie beds. EVERYTHING). One fun things that I've seen and read about but haven't done is flower pounding. Did you know you can use a textured fiber (like watercolor paper or fabric), choose the right kinds of flowers or leaves, and pound the color from the flowers into the fiber?

At Dave's Garden, Kathleen Tenpas asked: "Flower Pounding, gardener’s stress relief or dyeing with your garden’s bounty? Ah, perhaps a bit of both." After giving great directions for treating fabric, Kathleen goes on to explain the flowers to choose:
Not all flowers are suitable for pounding. Flowers with particularly thick petals such as tulips don’t work well as they tend to smear. Flowers with many petals such as roses need to be take apart so that you can pound the petals individually. Daisy like blooms need to have their centers removed and all flowers need to have stems, calyxes, pistils and stamens removed. White flowers don’t work as they have no pigment to impart to the fabric.

Flowers that work particularly well for this include phlox florets, single roses or rose petals, single impatiens, pansies with as much of the back removed as possible without destroying the flower (this takes some practice), hardy geraniums, St. Johns Wort, Forget-me-nots, any flower that can be flattened without losing the integrity of the bloom. The best time to pick the flowers is after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day. New blooms have more color than older. You can also use leaves, and newer leaves pound much better than older, although as they age, you get the veins and edges and that can be interesting. Autumn leaves will pound out interestingly, the colors being old, but newly released form the covering of chlorophyll.
Wendy from Build/Make/Craft/Bake demonstrated how to make beautiful botical prints in Hammered Flowers and Leaf Prints. These prints on watercolor paper would make wonderful cards or gift tags.
Start by going on a walk or visiting your garden to find leaves and flowers to work with. You're looking for things with bright colors that aren't too juicy or too dry. It'll take a little trial and error to find good plants, so start with a variety and play around.

Then set up your work surface. You want a smooth, hard surface that you can hammer on and not worry about denting or getting messy. I used a plastic cutting board covered with a paper bag.
Leaf Prints: If you're not up to pounding the pigment from leaves, you might appreciate CraftStylish's directions for printing napkins with your leaves.

Lavender Sachets: One of the simplest ways to bring the garden in and preserve it is to dry some lavender blooms and turn them into a scented sachets. The Fab Miss B created a number of hand embroidery sachets last spring to give as gifts. The embroidery made each one distinctly charming:
I'm not gonna lie. This project will take a bit of planning and time, but I was really pleased with the results. I'm so looking forward to giving these handmade sachets as gifts. They are simple but personal. I think when times are hard, a small thoughtful gesture that involves time and effort means much more than an extravagant something ordered online in five minutes.

And besides, embroidery is quite theraputic. At about sachet number three, I found the rhythm of the needle piercing the fabric and drawing through reminded me of breathing. It became quite meditative.
If you are not sure how to dry your own lavender, Peggy Murray explains it well. You can pick and start drying your lavender now, sewing some sachets while it drying and be well on your way to some charming hostess gifts or small holiday presents this winter.

Inside Out

Using slightly damaged items to bring some whimsy and charm to your garden is apparently called "garden junk" instead of "garden art." I don't know-I always thought of it as recycling. Melissa, the Empress of Dirt, caught "the junk-making fever" last month and shared a number of resources she'd found wondering if it was "garden junk art whimsy stuff".
I started making garden art/junk when I had a newly planted, barren-looking garden and wanted to fill in some spaces while waiting 2-3 seasons for the plants to grow. I love the idea of taking items that would otherwise be tossed in the landfill and turn them into something beautiful and/or interesting and/or functional in the garden (hopefully scoring at least two out of three on these points!).
Recycle Broken Ceramics as Garden Decor. Cooie Grey-Lavin made a great video highlighting how we could take chipped dishes, cracked pots, and damaged lids, partially bury them in the soil and use them to decorate a garden space.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Re-fashioning with T-shirts. What's Your Style?

Back to school is starting to infiltrate our psyches. And many creative souls will choose to refashion their "new" wardrobe instead of running to the stores to purchase all new gear. Ofcourse one of the easiest and most versatile items to refashion is the cotton knit shirt (often aka the t-shirt).

What are some things that we can do?

If you have a long-sleeved knit shirt to refashion, Jessica from Oh So Happy Together, designed this cute copy of an Anthropologie shirt.
"How cute!" I thought. Then in an instant, my mind starting going over how to do this myself with a long sleeve shirt. It didn't take me long at all. I used a jersey type of shirt, but you could use a cotton, etc. shirt. There might have to be a few adjustments though (such as finishing the top seam all the way around). I also added at the bottom how I made the headband from the extra material.

I'm tempted to try the braiding technique cougaliciousx3 showed at Craftster. Fortunately, she pointed us to a video that explains how to do it:

I think this braiding technique might let me create a t-shirt corset for Renaissance Faire and nights out. If not this, how about...

...HippieAtHeart's cute Corset Shirt on Craftster. This might be the answer for Renaissance Faire Wear! What do think? Cool and still appropriately stylish. And she made it just a few hours.

Merlinda performed t-shirt surgery to make this adorable dress! Her LiveJournal directions are hand drawn and clear. I can see some older band t-shirts being turning into dresses for new concerts.

Also on LiveJournal t-shirt surgery, dr. god (slugfever) offered directions to this cute top which combines 2 different t-shirts.

Now for a couple things for the bottom half:

logan figured out how to save a great t-shirt image by making t-shirt underwear.

I'll admit I'm having trouble imagining how she did it, but luvinthemommyhood designed a pair of shirt sleeves to yoga capris from her husband's donated long sleeve polo shirt. She had earlier done the pants in a child's size and was challenged to create these for women to wear.
yes, that's right, i made pants from a pair of sleeves. nuts? nope. fun? you betcha! i got so many comments about the first tutorial in this series (click here for the tute) stating that they wished they could make pants in an adult size, that i couldn't stop thinking about it. i remembered one day a week or so ago that my hubby had thrown this soft, blue cotton polo in his donation to my sewing pile and a light bulb went off in my head. the sleeves stretch! they could fit around my thighs, ok, possibly fit, so i tried them on. mackenzie had a great laugh, jer thought i was nuts, but i persevered. i love how they turned out.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Culture of Sharing

For several hours a day, I spend time exploring blogs, websites and occasionally a social network, seeking out the new and interesting stories and techniques. when i find something special, I'll often share it with friends on Twitter or Facebook. Before I became very active on these social networks, I might find something wonderful but was often at a loss for how exactly to share it with others who would appreciate it.

Bre Pettis, at I Make Things, wrote about the culture of sharing:
Beyond the annihilation of time and space, today's connectivity has gone the next step and made it possible for people to share anything to anywhere. The more passionate you are about something, the smaller the world becomes. ...
Right now we are seeing creativity and passion grow in a time when large corporations are failing. The future will be built by all of us and the culture of sharing that results from our individual and collective efforts.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Fun Among the Crafty Blogs

I walked into one of my favorite stores the other day (yes, Target! how did you know?) when I assaulted with back to school items already blessing the aisles. It's the middle of summer! If school starts soon, then fall comes soon, followed closely by cool weather and too many holidays. Holidays, by the way, that I need time to prepare for.

To comfort my soul when I returned I went searching for fun times among the crafty bloggers. Fun- that's what the middle of July is supposed to be about. Want to see what I found?

Have you been following A Robot A Day A Robot A Couple Tmes a Week? AnatomyofaSkirt turned the pressure down on herself by changing from once a day to twice a week after a year of making robots. She explains her reasoning:
Robot a Day is part art project, a chance to build a robot army, and a bit of a laugh. It's a creative endeavour with a simple framework: make a different bot, twice a week.
Not sure which is my favorite: the clown bot, the Plastic Canvas bot, the finger puppet bot, or the puffer fish bot. Browse through the collection, then tell me, which is your fave?

Have you heard of the gentle interventions being staged RockPool Candy called LET ME EASE YOUR DAY?
LET ME EASE YOUR DAY takes yarn bombing and purposes it, encouraging people to create textile pieces, primarily in the shape of cushions and rugs to be left in public spaces: initially bus stops and park benches. Each cushion will bear the slogan LET ME EASE YOUR DAY and be secured to a bench with corner ties. Above the cushion will be a plaque reading:

LET ME EASE YOUR DAY. This cushion is here to comfort your journey. Should you feel you need to take it home, you may. Should someone have already taken the cushion, why not replace it and ease a stranger’s day?”

There are formal rules for participating posted at the link, along with cities where "interventions" will be occurring in the future. I'm looking forward to helping out at a San Francisco function when that materializes. Crafty organizers join in!
Whip-Up shared collected links to a variety of shirt refashionings. Rather than copy them here, make your way over to Whip-Up and click though their wonderful links. The shirts - believe me- are all worth a gander.
Last -but certainly NOT least- I found this clever project on Instructables for a very unique outdoor chair or bench constructed by Got2BSkilled. What makes it so unique? Got2B formed the basic couch shape from pavers (yes, bricks!) covered the structured with dirt and planted it with grass! The rain drained through, the grass is -he claims- cushioning, and all his friends love it.

I just want to see how he mows it!

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sharing in a Crafty World

(crossposted at BlogHer)

Wednesday I shared several fun blog ideas with you. A great part of blogging -and writing about your blogs- is finding and sharing the unique, the exceptional, the brilliant among you. Now, we are all so connected that part of sharing is letting my entire social network know when I've found something. I've been trying to find the PERFECT system to both share links with people on Twitter or Facebook AND be able to find the link again for a possible blog post. So far, that search is lead me to all less than perfect methods, but I may have almost found a good solution.

Several weeks ago, I had breakfast with Marie the Bee (from the Sampler). We talked craft and CraftCon, social networks and social tools. And Marie introduced me to Smub.It. (funny name, that) is a method of sharing and bookmarking from any site using any device.

Why is it exciting? I do not have a web-activated phone; but, if I did, I would be able to simply write "" in front of any web address to save it as a bookmarks or to share it with friends through a social network or email. For those without the new IPhone (3?) is becomes a helpful tool. But, like I said, I dont' have a webphone. When I use the web, it's only on my laptop.

There are plenty of bookmarking/ and link sharing applications, too. So why did Maria think I would want to this one? One benefit is that the link shared actually has meaningful words (unlike most tiny urls). As a reader, seeing this kinc of shared link allows me to decide before I click if it is something I might actually be interested in. When I share a link with you, you can decide too.

For example, I admired a Knitty pattern for cabled fingerless gloves. Sharing it If you're a knitter following me on twitter, you can now decide to link. If you're an art quilter on Facebook, you can choose to move on.

This is not enough to change to a new sharing/file system. However, look at that link again. It uses my name as part of the link. MY NAME will get associalted in your head with the sharing. For me, it means followers who know I've been writing on craft for BlogHer for 4.5 years, will have a higher level of expectation on that link. You will expect it to be a fun, unique, value use of your time (I hope) because I recommend it. For the indepdendant crafter -or any independant individual trying to create their "personal brand"- attaching a name, whether it is your own name, your blog name, or your business name- is another level of value for this product.

Diane Gilliand also showed a value for bloggers with it's counts as a way to value the links.

Still, the product is not yet a perfect organizing tool for me. I've been promised that in the future my bookmarks will be able to be organized in folders. IF/WHEN that promise comes through, this might be a great service me. I can find a link; share it immediately on Facebook, and still save it in folder named for a future blog post. Imagine finding that perfect kwanzaa project in August -or a tomato cage in November. Even using tags, I am not likely to remember -nor find- that link when it's timely to write about.

I invite you try Smub.It and see if helps you organize your life and share your online world in a useful way with your community.


Tech Crunch's Robin Wauters wrote Smub Lets YOu Do All YOur Social Boomarking On The Go:
I like Smub already, and I suspect that while the team clearly wants to make sure the service is mobile-friendly (it works particularly well with the iPhone) some people will be interested in simply using it on their computers. For those, the Smub guys added a Firefox extension and toolbar which can come in quite handy if you’re using multiple social bookmarking services.

Presentation of Smub, by Thierry Lamouline from Atelier BNP Paribas on Vimeo.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Internet Finds #1

Have you been following A Robot A Day A Robot A couple times a week? AnatomyofaSkirt turned the pressure down on herself by changing from once a day to twice a week after a year of making robots. She explains her reasoning:
Robot a Day is part art project, a chance to build a robot army, and a bit of a laugh. It's a creative endeavour with a simple framework: make a different bot, twice a week.
Not sure which is my favorite: the clown bot, the Plastic Canvas bot, the finger puppet bot, or the puffer fish bot. Browse through the collection, then tell me, which is your fave?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Paradise Found and Lost: Where Goest the Internets?

I've been wondering if I'm just suffering from my summer ennui -except it seems to have months ago - or if I've simply become bored with my corner of the internets. It all seems so irrelevant anymore.

A couple years ago, Twitter was a great place to have conversations in real time. To connect with people I care about- and meet new people, friends of friends, and learn to love them before I ever see their face. It was conversations and drinking games and giggles and all that is good with the internets.

Then it exploded into another marketing scheme. Into an obsession about followers - seeing people as only a number. It became another platform for broadcasting a message; dominated with one-way streams. Many days I have to fight to find anyone interested in conversation. They are too busy marketing themselves. Broadcasting their ideas. So I slip away to find other amusements.

Facebook, which early on confused me then changed and charmed me then changed again and became once more a head scratcher to me, has turned into merely another Twitter feed with time-sucking games included. Why go to the website and actually SHARE A LINK when you can merely feed your twitstream over, save time, and share the tiny url? Why look for anything more there than how a friend measures up on some inane game? Or visit their imaginary abode every day to get a few imaginary coin? Why seek to interact with people there? The average user is too busy selling themselves or distracting themselves to actually interact.

Blogs -once THE place to build community and find commonality- have, to me at least, become rather repetitive and dull or once again about pushing my image upon the world. Community building is rare; conversations are stalled. Comments-where the real conversations happen- are apparently becoming "love fests" or disappearing.

And websites that once offered reasons to visit daily -hell, hourly- because of their special niche and the community they drew around that niche have chosen instead to try and compete these powerhouse social networks. Instead of staying with got them great, they try to imitate -poorly, I might add- the tools and options offered other places. And in doing so, dilute the visibility of what made them great appealling places to begin with.

I thought that this year video would finally hit it big -conversations not only in real time but with real faces and voices. Until I realized that I don't people seeing me with wet straggly hair, or tired, or less than publicly presentable. If most people feel that way, the appeal of a video site lessens. And the technology has yet to make such a community building experience truly viable.

I wonder if there is a place I can go that invites community building and conversation without the ever-present need of self-promotion? I desire that place again. Yet every time I think I've found it, it devolves into the same noisy chatter as everyplace else.

I'm almost -almost- longing for the old days where conversation took place in usenet groups and ICQ. Before most of the days of "internet marketing" and "self-branding". I've become disillusioned with this place I love and want desperately to find a crush again. But I suspect each place will eventually become a paradise lost.

I'I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

So: To Pocket or Not To Pocket. That is THE QUESTION.

Whip-Up pointed me to this wonderful tutorial for making an "add on" pocket. Wonderfully useful thing, I thought. Particularly since manufacturers have stupidly stopped putting pockets in many pants. I NEED pant pockets. Or skirt pockets. Whatever I'm wearing on my bottom half had better come with some kind of storage option.

When I shared this link on Facebook, Dale Anne mentioned that she prefers her pants sans pockets. Which led me to wonder where she puts the few items I always look to pockets for: a kleenex, dog poop bags (empty of course), my cell phone, maybe a pedometer or mp3 player. Ah. She doesn't require said "always near" items.

trying to imagine a life where there is nothing I need/want to carry on my person for hours. Nope. Can't do it. I guess at heart I am a 6 year old boy.

So I ask the question: Do you find pockets a necessity in your life? If so, what do you need to carry in them? If not? How have you come to live without packing your life on your body? Do you always have a bag -or purse- nearby?

aside: this trend seemed to begin within weeks of the Project Runway episode where Michael Kors mentions that his clients do not like functional pant pockets because the pockets might add bulk to their appearance. I know this statement on a tv show could not be solely responsible. But I'm STILL blaming MK for manufacturers' lack of understand.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.