Friday, August 27, 2010

I won!

Remember this guy?  Thanks to everyone who voted in the shirt revamping contest on the Handmade Artists' Forum blog, I won!  I'm so excited.

The original contest is here, and the post about my win (and an interview with yours truly) is here.  This really plays to the attention hound in me.  

I was up against some pretty cool competition too!

Eclectic LadyLand did a very cool job making a shirt much nicer with some simple bleach.

AnnMadeStuff turned this vintage shirt into a great purse, and used the shirt's pocket as a cell phone pocket!

Calcedonia Design actually turned a single t-shirt into a hat, necklace, and bracelet!

Deb Thuman did some really intricate embellishment on a formerly plain shirt.

Greenwycke turned this plain ol' shirt into a totally original parasol!

And Crafted Roots, who was wonderful enough to organize this contest turned a nursing shirt into a skirted nightie!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sewing Table Revamp

When moving to the new house, Eric and I vowed to organize things differently so they'd make life easier.  It's good to start with a clean slate for something like this.  Reorganizing everything in the same space is much different and more difficult than doing it while moving to a new house, especially one with a better setup for us.  The old place is a one bedroom with a tiny, skinny office.  The new place is two bedrooms plus an office sizeable enough to also be a sewing and craft room.

And yes, I said sewing... I've gotten so into this idea of my sewing machine!

Well, Eric has had this sewing table for so long that he doesn't even remember where he got it... he may have seen it on a street corner in Brooklyn and absorbed into his apartment, or he may have gotten it on Craigslist, like much of his other premarital furniture.  Maybe he bought it at a stoop sale (the Brooklyn version of a garage sale).

All we know is that it's old, and was a little worse for wear.

We had a garage sale a few weeks ago, and actually tried to sell it, with no takers.  It was after that sale that my sister and brother-in-law surprised me with my kickin' sewing machine.

Aha!  Sewing machine... sewing table... hmm...

And Eric's got a sander.  So we went to Lowe's and I picked out a nice Red Oak all-in-one wood stain.  I figured an all-in-one would be good for this project, since it's an indoor piece that wouldn't really be getting wet for any reason I could fathom.

And then Eric sanded the table with his orbital sander.

And sanded...

And sanded... That was some serious varnish on that sucker!  We went through 14 disks of sandpaper getting it off!

I helped too, of course.

Then I went to work with handheld sandpaper to get the finer bits, like near the seams.

Eric went over it again with the orbital sander with a find sandpaper to smooth it out, while Meg inspected his work.

And I stained it!

It was finished pretty quickly, at least the parts I could get to without turning it over.  The rest I had to save for the next day, and then I gave the outside a second coat to make it a redder finish and more shiny.  Really pretty!  My biggest peeve was that it started raining every day and I'd done this in the garage, so the stain took forever to dry and stop being tacky before I could bring it on over to the new house.

But it finally found its new home!

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Monday, August 16, 2010

I wouldn't normally do this,

... but I feel like talking Elvis today.

Yes, Presley.  Elvis Costello must always be "Elvis Costello," while Presley gets to be "Elvis."  Sorry, that's how it is.

Thirty-three years ago today, when I was just 7, I remember getting the news that the legend had died.  I remember turning around, away from the TV, on my parents' couch and bawling over it.  At 7.  I grew up on Elvis.  My dad was singing along to Elvis in Israel, before he could even speak English and had no idea what he was singing.  Elvis was that big.

Funny thing?  Even with that, I never really understood the women who went absolutely bonkers over him, tearing at his clothes... heck, at his person.  I never understood fans crying at a concert.  At his death, yes.  At a concert, no.  And that's even taking into account the fact that I will cry at any strong emotion.  Sure, I'll cry when I'm sad, but all also cry when extremely angry, or even happy.  That explains this rather ugly face I'm wearing just after Eric proposed to me.

I was crying.  A lot.

Know when I understood it, though?  When I finally saw my favorite band after they'd regrouped in 1991, Styx.  13th row at the Garden State Arts Center, and when the curtain lifted and they started to play, I started to cry.  So now yeah, I get it.

But back to Elvis, who though I feel a pang when I think of his death, always makes me smile.  Even when I still razz my dad for failing to take me to the Elvis concert he attended at Madison Square Garden (it was 1972, and I was 2), I can smile about it.

In fact, Elvis Presley's The Wonder of You was the song I chose as the father/daughter dance at my wedding.  I'd also told the DJ that at some point during the night, he had to play Jailhouse Rock, since my dad is a kickin' jitterbugger.  Well, our DJ, bright guy that he is, morphed the first song directly into the second, so our dance ended up two songs long.  As a result, we got two very different sorts of photos during that dance.

So... in honor Elvis Presley, who shaped a lot of my life growing up, enough that he needed to be part of my wedding, here's my favorite Elvis song...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

He's got a name!

This guy,

has been dubbed Nathaniel by my sister.  My nephew's two favorite stuffed animals are also named after authors, so based on his reaction to the puppet, she figured it was fitting.  He smushed Nathaniel's head and arms, pulled his hair, grabbed his nose, and loved being "kissed" by him and having his arms, legs, and belly "eaten" by him.

Wanna know how I made him?  Look here.

And don't forget, he's part of a contest, which is located here.  If you vote and comment on the post, you are in the running to win a $25 gift certificate to anything in the Handmade Artists' Shops, located here.

And Now for Something Completely Different...

(Sorry, no Monty Python sketch forthcoming.  Instead, you get the post I foreshadowed here.)

See, I'm a member of the Handmade Artists' Forum, and they decided it'd be nifty to hold a forum-wide challenge.  I happened to agree, so I joined in.  This was not a soaping challenge.  It was a general craft challenge.  The challenge?  It was to take any type of pre-made shirt and revamp it in a creative way.  We could update an old shirt into a nicer shirt, or turn it into something completely different.

I kinda did both. You'll see.

We then had to post before and after photos of the shirts and what became of them.

(See the contest here.  If I win, I get $25, plus a bunch of free advertising for Reef Botanicals, on 4 different websites, plus a writeup on the Handmade Artists Forum blog!  Anyone who votes, and then comments on the blog, is entered to win a $25 gift certificate to any and all of the Handmade Artists Shops!)

I started with this shirt:

And then in the process of creating my challenge project, I realized I wanted a second shirt, so I got this one.

So far, so good.  Have shirts, will revamp, yes?

Well, it's been a long time since I did anything with fabric.  A long time.  The last thing I remember making with fabric was this poodle skirt.  This photo was taken in October of '99, so that should give you an indication of the minimum time ago in which I picked up a needle and thread to do more than sew a button or fix a hem.

And yes, needle and thread.  My mother, who can sew, hates to sew.  Chalk that up to a nasty old home economics teacher when she was a kid.  But the upshot is that we've never owned sewing machines in my family.  I made that skirt, oh-so-many-years-ago, with a needle and thread and a pattern I bought together with the felt and rickrack.  This project was begun and has mostly been made the same way.  It makes sense, though, what with the challenge being for a handmade forum!

So... I began to draw and then pin, as I was taught in 7th grade by my thankfully nice home economics teacher.

And then, I began to sew.  And I have a question.  How did a tomato become the go-to shape for pin cushions?  No, really, how did it happen?  There are lots of round things in the world.  Who thought about sewing and keeping pins and thought:  Tomato!  Eureka!

All I know is that my mother has a tomato pin cushion in her sewing box, and when I went to the store to develop my own sewing box, all they seemed to have were the very same tomato pin cushions.

And there's always that tiny tomato hanging off the side...

Anyway, as I said, I began to sew.  It went pretty quickly, and I got most of it done one day while I was watching my nephew.

I changed the shape a bit as I went, but I managed all those teeny tiny stitches.  Any ideas what I was making yet?  OK, once I finished sewing, cut it out, and turned it right-side-out, you might know.

A puppet!  And not just a sock puppet, a real hand puppet!

At this point, I took a break.  The next part, you see, was something that was out of my comfort zone, and I actually had to search for a how-to on it.  The mouth.  I wanted this to be a good puppet you see, a real puppet.  With a real mouth board.  So I found the instructions online, bookmarked them, and then waited.  I was afraid I'd ruin the puppet.  Finally, I got the courage, and cut a slit for the mouth.

Yikes, that one simple cut made me nervous.  For the board, I used a plain ol' shipping box (thank you, USPS).  I cut a piece, and folded it in half, scored the back of the fold with a scissor, then cut out the mouth shape.

I had black and red foam sheets in the house, so I lined the mouth in black, and cut out the red to be a tongue.

Huzzah for hot glue guns!  I am almost as skilled with a glue gun as a I am with needle and thread.

We have a mouth!  Now to give said mouth to the puppet.  Right.  A careful insertion and some more hot glue...

Puppet's got a mouth!  I hadn't thought of a name for him and still haven't got one.  The only thing I did know at this point was that he was going to be a boy puppet, and when the contest was over, I'd give him to my nephew.  So either my sister and I will come up with a name... or my nephew will once he starts talking.

Anyway, once he had a mouth, I knew where his nose would go, so I sewed it on.

Then I stuffed his arms and head with some poly-fill I had in my craft cabinet.  I also inserted a foam sheet I cut into a circle into his head to keep the stuffing up top.

Added eyes... it was back to the hot glue for this bit.

At this point, I hated to put him down, I was on such a roll, and he was looking so cute!  But I did; it was late, and I didn't want to forge on and make any mistakes in my tired state.

I was excited about the puppet, though, so on another more recent night when I couldn't sleep, I started in on his eyebrows.  In the same pack as the large blue pompom I used for his nose, were these small brown and black pompoms that I was able to use for his eyebrows.

I pulled a slew of them, but ended up only needing three per eye.  I think they came out really cute!  

I did make one mistake, though.  In sewing them on, since I preferred the security of sewing them rather than gluing, I probably should've unstuffed his head before I began.  I didn't do so, and therefore suffered all the stabs and jabs that could otherwise have been avoided.  It's a good thing Eric's a heavy sleeper, because I was jumping and yelling in pained surprise quite a bit.

Then I went to work with the blue t-shirt, using it to make a shirt for puppet.  Thing is, the t-shirt as purchased was way too big for puppet, so I had to make a completely new, much smaller shirt out of the one I purchased.  I sort of measured it out, mostly eyeballing it, pinned it, and started to sew.  Of course, on this bit Catimus decided to get in on the act.  I spent more time prying the thread from her claws and jaws than I did sewing.

The deceptive beastie would pretend to be bored with the string and snuggle in my lap or play with my hair... and then when I finally stopped expecting the need to fight her off, there she was again, grabbing the thread or chomping down on it.

I put aside the puppet's shirt for a bit, while I added some hair.  This yarn is actually pretty old.  It's left over from latch hook rug kits I did many, many years ago.  Sometimes there's a benefit to never throwing anything away "just in case!"  My "just in case" has finally arrived for this stuff!

It was after this, that my birthday arrived, and I was surprised by the arrival of my brand new sewing machine!  This changed my plans - I'd undo the portion of the puppet's t-shirt that I'd already started to sew, and do the whole thing with my brand new machine!

Since I hadn't used a sewing machine in over 26 years, I first read the manual, and especially how to wind the bobbin and load the thread.  What a refresher that was!  Then I found an appropriate font and printed this.

I wanted puppet's t-shirt to be a sports shirt, and since I'd be giving this to my nephew, "09" seemed appropriate as his birth year.  Cutting the numbers out was easy enough, with my nice, sharp scissors.

Since the "wrong" side of the denim was lighter and offered a better contrast on the navy t-shirt fabric, I traced the numbers on the "right" side of an old pair of jeans I cut up for the purpose.

Cutting those out wasn't quite as easy as the paper versions, but not bad.  Even though I was just putting the number on the front of the shirt, I made two copies of the numbers, just in case.  This was going to be, after all, my very first time using a sewing machine since at least 1984.

And then I started to sew.  It turned out to be a good thing I did two sets of numbers.  I botched my first attempt at sewing on the 0 (forgot to put the foot down!) and ended up shredding it pretty badly when I removed it.  Once the numbers were on, I cut denim strips for the striping at the bottom of the shirt and the sleeves.  

This part was much easier to sew, so I had some fun with a zigzag stitch on both the back and front pieces of the shirt.

I cut the puppet's sleeves from the t-shirts sleeves, and here's an indication of the size ratio, and why I had to make a whole new shirt from the original T.

I used the same zigzag stitch to sew the striping onto the sleeves, made the sleeves, and attached them to the shirt.

Then I cut off the collar of the original t-shirt, cut it shorter, and sewed it onto the neckline of the t-shirt I'd made, so the puppet would have a finished-looking shirt.

Throughout the process, I used the finished edges of the existing t-shirts to give the puppet and his shirt those same finished edges.

I dressed him...

And he's done!  (Drumroll please)  Ta da!

And his trip to the backyard (in which I got riddled with mosquito bites):

Now... don't forget to go vote here!  Again, if you vote and then comment on the blog, you are then entered to win a $25 gift certificate to any and all of the Handmade Artists Shops!

And tell me.... what would you have done with a shirt?

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