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.