Sweet, sweet curiosity.

This blog is all about things I have made. You can find intense embroidery, paper quilling mania, crazy gingerbread houses, masks, puppets, steampunk clothes, ornaments, wackiness and sculptures on this site. So have fun and check it out!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Can of awesome embroidery

To Share with you today.. I was looking at this great blog and there is an ammmmazing embroidery artist who's work is really inspiring and cool.  I found a really cool interview with the artist on a blog called Faster kittykill! Blog! Blog! I know.. weird right? But the artistry in this embroidery is jaw dropping and mouth salivating. That may be a messy combination but it certainly is beautiful work.


It definitely makes me wonder what else I could do with some embroidery thread..

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A plush Robot who needs love.

Sometimes we can buy way too much fabric.  This is the case for a stuffed elephant I made for my nephew.  I had oodles leftover and couldn't decide what to do with it. Then I started doodling and thought - I think I need to make a lonely robot.
It was a pretty straightforward process. I drew out the basic shapes which were boxes and rectangles; figured out the size for each shape and sewed them together with a machine. To piece all of the shapes together I hand sewed A LOT. However when you are listening to a trashy audio novel like the last twilight book, then sewing by hand is the perfect thing to do to bide your time. To give this cutie lil' robot all the details such as the heart, eyes and mouth, I used some wool roving and needle felted the details onto him. I think he was a good use of excess fabric. The question now is what will I do with the rest of the 6 metres that I have left of this fuzzy Grey fabric. hmmmm..

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Duct-tape-tastic!


I am sure many people think it a compliment when told they resemble a famous piece of sculpture. I discovered after having spent 3 hours being wrapped up in duck tape to make a dress form clothes judy, that I most resemble the famous 22 000 year old sculpture, "The Venus of Willendorf". It apparently was a symbol of fertility and the new spring.
 
(photo of "venus of willendorf" courtesy of wikipedia)

SO.. Why did I make this crazy thing of myself? I like to sew, and I like to make clothes for myself. I was never really able to try and make clothes by dressing on a judy because nothing was my size and I really wanted to try some draping techniques. I found that I could purchase a dress form for 300 bucks and it would still never be as big as I actually am. So after going to chapters and browsing through a craft book that was too expensive to purchase, I saw this idea of wrapping yourself in duct tape, then stuffing it and voila! ; a dress form that is exactly what you look like. Now I can make clothes that will fit me directly on a judy. I basically copied what they said to do in the book however, I didn't purchase the book so I made a bunch up as I went along.
    To do this I started by putting on a crappy t-shirt, which I would then use as the base to put the duct tape on to.   My husband sat on a chair ( If you ever decide to do this, there is no shame... so find someone you trust, or someone you can laugh a lot with to do this with). He started by putting smaller pieces on me to deal with the curves.  Then I began to get bored so I just starting spinning around. Not a great idea. Dizziness will follow.  You will also get to a point where you can no longer bend over and peeing just won't happen until you are totally done. So don't drink too much while you do this.
I put on about 4 layers of duct tape then we cut up the back of the shirt carefully not cutting me or my bra. Then I cut pieces of cereal boxes out to fill in the shoulder hole and base.  I then had to stuff the thing.  Though I knew I wasn't a small woman, I found it difficult to fill the space my body inhabited. I did have stuffing but it barely filled it and I didn't want to spend money on stuffing, so I just started crumpling up newspapers and filling the judy with them.  The only problem I discovered with the newspapers, is that they will, over time, lose their shape.  There are parts that are definitely pushed in now, that on my body stick out just fine (thank you very much).
Doing this - gave my husband one more good solid reason why his wife is crazy, but it was fun, funny, and useful. Well, sort of, I used the judy maybe three times, and then the back seam came undone.. so I think I will put the venus of willendorf out of her misery in the garbage.. However she was fun while she lasted.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Can of delight for today: Upholstering the tub chair

   As I have stated in another post - the only way to get experience upholstering is just by doing it. I let my father know that I was interested in reupholstering furniture and if any of the friends of the family needed stuff done I could help them out. My father being the man he is - never let me down!  Neighbours from down the street needed a tub chair and a lazyboy recovered. She bought some nice brown fabric for the tub chair and off I went to modernize it.  I haven't even started the lazyboy yet ( I will admit I am a bit intimidated by it...).
   Some of the things they were interested in doing were losing some of the buttons on the chair as well as getting rid of the skirt to try and make it look more modern.  I accepted my mission and began my second upholstery journey.
   Taking apart this chair took me one hard long day in which my hands were so swollen afterward I couldn't fit my wedding ring on my finger anymore! It also took me two days to heal from so I would suggest perhaps doing the stripping of the chair with a partner or a team as it can be hard on the hands. This chair also had an exorbitant amount of staples. I feel like the original upholsterers may have had a bit too much whisky and thought the staples looked pretty as they glittered or something cause there were piles of them underneath the chair. It was also made in the Seventies, so that might explain it. 
   The most difficult part of this chair was the pillow backing, it was a complicated pattern, that I could not figure out, so although I knew I shouldn't have, I used the original fabric as the pattern. I took copious notes on how everything fit together because I didn't want to screw up their chair, as well as that this was such a complicated chair that I needed all the help I could give myself.  I originally didn't want to put the buttons on the back of the chair, but quickly realized the purpose of the buttons was to hug the pillow to the springs at the back it, so they were necessary. However the side buttons and the puffy side pillows on the arms, which I didn't like, had to go. I replaced some of the foam as it had deteriorated, and just stapled and shaped the front of the arms. Taking out the skirt was fairly easy. I just put piping on the bottom to give it a finished look then brought the fabric up and under the chair bottom.
    The other big difference with this chair was that I hand sewed most of it together. There are pieces that commercial upholsterers use to quicken the time it takes to upholter the chair called tack strips.There are varying types and sizes of tack strips and when I took this chair apart there were at least 8 strips of different types. Not only are these difficult to find for a non-professional upholsterer but they often look bulky on the furniture and I've heard that they are the first spot to show wear and tear so I just sewed these sections on by pinning and hand sewing. I was also told that the finer upholsterers all hand sew these types of areas anyways.
   So this project, all told, took me about seven hard working eight hour days to finish.  I gave it to the neighbours just before Christmas and I hope it lasts them a long time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Erma Lee ; a crafter remembered

This past holiday season, my grandmother passed away. It has been incredibly sad in all respects as she was such a gracious woman, who was incredibly loved by so many people.  I did not get to see my grandmother as often as many of my cousins, as my family lived about an hour and a half away, but every Christmas we went and stayed with my Grandmother.  Her cooking was always exquisite (a trait in which my mother seemed to have been blessed with, but somehow skipped me), her wrapped candies were always out, and her tree was trimmed with some really amazing ornaments.  One year for Christmas she had knitted my sister and I sweaters during the grunge/nirvana phase of our adolescence when the big chunky decorative sweaters were in style. I remember thinking how awesome the sweaters were and I am pleased to say I still have and wear mine on really chilly nights. When I began to get interested in knitting myself, my mother gave me one of my grandmother's sets of knitting and darning needles. It was in a fabric case which was hand embroidered decoratively, which I imagine she had done herself. Inside of it were many needles, most of which I didn't know how to use or what they did, but I took them happily.

I look at them now that she has passed and get more than a little teary eyed.  They are bent, well used and well loved - evidence that she had made many things with those needles. She came from a generation where making your own clothing and knitting was an essential skill. Even when her own children were grown she kept knitting for her grand-children. She was also constantly knitting booties and little sweaters for babies that she would give to the Salvation Army. When I imagine my grandmother I see her with a set of knitting needles sitting on her lovely brown chair and her evil cat named 'Boogers' tucked in close by.  I loved my grandmother very much and I will miss her.  I hope that one day I can honour her by knitting something beautiful for someone that I love with these needles - just as she had done for me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Canned puppy! warm!

   I am starting to think that I am getting to be one of those people who will proudly wear a shirt that says "I (heart) my Scotty" with a cheesy picture of a Scotty dog playing with ribbons, all pastel colours, eighties cut and awful - purely because there is a scotty dog on it. I actually screamed in a clothing store because I found Pajamas that had a scotty on them. I got those for christmas. 
   As I realize that I care probably too much for Peter, my young Scotty dog, I decided that in this wintry land of Canada, my dog needed more of a coat than he already has. Instead of forking over $15-$50! buckaroos on a dog coat, I decided to make my own.


   I began by going to a dollar store and buying a fleece blanket that was red with little dog paws all over it. (I know, it's just one more sign I am going to be a crazy dog lady eventually). I would actually suggest not going this route though, because it was a really small dog blanket and there was not enough fabric to do what I really wanted to. 
   I then measured his back length and around his belly to figure out how much of the blanket would actually go around him.  The fleece was kind of thin so I doubled it up by folding the blanket in half. My basic shape was a rectangle with rounded corners. I made one side more round than the other so as to give the back a nice shape.  Then I cut it out, sewed it together leaving a small section to pull it out through, sewed up that spot and did some decorative top stitching. When I put it on the dog, I thought it looked better if I flipped back one side almost like a collar, so I pinned it back and sewed it as well. I was orginally going to go with a velcro fastener but I didn't have any. What I had a LOT of was some thick black band elastic, so I measured and pinned the elastic on the coat with one band around his neck the other around his belly. I simply took that off the dog and sewed it all together and voila! A quick coat for my wittle precious puppy... oh man...I am doomed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A difficult can to open: Upholstery on a budget

    At my job, I needed to know how to do a little upholstery but I didn't know how - so to rectify that problem I ordered some tools and a DVD to teach me how to do the more complicated upholstery stuff.  I was determined to teach myself to upholster. I am a pretty good sewer to start so I had a good grasp on making pillows and piping but I had never applied it to furniture before. I had a couch that badly needed to be redone and so I began on my first upholstery journey.
   I watched the DVD and even though the teacher had poor taste in fabric and was drier than a desert, I managed to glean enough to think I could attempt to reupholster my own couch. I can tell you right now, that my first mistake was starting with such a big project.  Having never reupholstered before I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

   Finding the fabric to do such a large piece like this turned out to be a challenge. To do this couch I needed a whole heck of a lot of fabric which can cost a lot of money - money I didn't really have! I went everywhere I could think of to find cheap fabric. I learned that a huge complication with cheap fabric is that it's difficult to find large quantities without any problems in it. I didn't find anything at Fabricland for exactly that reason and they didn't carry rolls long enough for me to complete the project. I had to go to Toronto, to Designer Fabrics, in order to get what I needed.  I ended up with a $7/yard green soft wash denim, that was hardy enough for upholstery but was pretty on the eyes and soft to the touch.  I also purchased other cheap fabric for the inside parts that was strong but also pretty just in case it was seen. 
    I then began the grunt work: taking the couch apart.  I really believe that the hardest part with reupholstering is taking the old fabric off. Well made pieces of upholstery often have about a million staples in them.  Those commercial upholsterers do not joke around. They don't take any chances and so they staple and staple some more until there are piles of wasted staples on top of wasted staples. It's a bit ridiculous.  Taking this couch apart took me a week merely because getting staples out of hardwood is difficult and by the end of each day my hands were red and swollen.   Putting the couch back together took a lot less time - about 3 days.  I had taken photographs of each step of the couch and copious notes on how it was put together so that I could properly put the new fabric on in the correct order. I had been told more than once not to use the fabric I took off of the old couch as a pattern pieces for the new couch.  This is because fabric stretches and a lot of fabric gets trimmed off of the couch once it has been stapled. As well,  you often need extra fabric to hold onto while you are stapling on the new pieces. I added an extra 2 - 3 inches on to my pattern pieces to allow for this.

    When I began this couch I wanted to do something really funky but found that my pocket book could not afford the really pretty fabrics that would have accomplished that easily. Instead I chose to use a darker green piping to give the couch a more updated look. It's still pretty conservative for me, but it's the amount of funky I could afford. Most books on upholstery say the only way they learned was by just taking stuff apart and learning from what was already in the chair. So to my couch and the people who originally upholstered it - I say thank you for the lesson.

Friday, January 1, 2010

In the can today: the crafter erratic

I can remember as a child crafting with my mother. We made ceramics and painted them, created ornaments from cork, walnuts, paper crafts, sewing, knitting, moldmaking, plaster casting, and many more but none of these crafts ever stayed long in our house. We would start with a craft, invest in the tools and then a year or so later, start a new craft. The tools would then becoming fodder for some garage sale in the spring. I can remember thinking at University how that would never happen to me as an adult because money was so tight then ( not that it isn't now) but I cared for my tools and imagined myself using them for decades. I thought then, my mother and I were so fickle with our crafting.
Now that I am an adult and craft on my own, I too, somewhat shamefully find myself to be fickle. The tools I once cherished in University, I haven't touched in years. Last year I thought needle felting was beautiful, interesting and something I wanted to do. I purchased all of the tools and lots of wool, and made a lot interesting projects but this year I find that I am bored with it. I tried to use the rest of my wool and found no inspiration. Then I went shopping in Chapters and found a whole bunch of needle felted ornaments exactly like the ones I had made for my friends and family the year before. I felt two pangs of differing emotion: excitement because what I had made was interesting and cool enough that people in Indonesia also felt it was cool and had to make some, but then I also felt disappointment that this neat idea was now commercialized. Like buying a record and loving a song that hasn't been made into a single yet, and when it is released on the radio the song is somehow tarnished. So needle felting, though it's still in the early stages of becoming a craft in every home, has now lost some of it's appeal to me as a crafter. I don't think I am ready to give up the needles quite yet, but I might think twice before I shell out the dough for a new up and coming craft.
It also makes me think that other people must also be erratic with their crafting choices - What tools have you spent money on and now no longer need, want or look at? How many crafting tools are sitting in boxes waiting for your next garage sale in the spring?