The Wonderful World of Sock Monkeys!

crafts

Emily’s Ornament – Finished!

It’s done!

HALLOWEEN is barely over, and I’m ready with a CHRISTMAS GIFT and I couldn’t be happier with it!

After finishing the beading on the beard and hair, I did the mustache, which is done with dimensional bead loops. I wasn't happy with how the nose outline and the cheek looked, so I took out the stitching and switched the colors so the cheek was the darker rose color and it looks a lot better.

After finishing the beading on the beard and hair, I did the mustache, with dimensional bead loops. I wasn’t happy with how the nose outline and the cheek looked, so I took out the stitching and switched the colors so the cheek was the darker rose color and it looks much better.

I cut out the hat and attached the bow and the bells...

I cut out the hat and attached the bow and the bells…

...then I cut out Santa's face and stitched the hat to the head...

…then I cut out Santa’s face and stitched the hat to the head…

...and finally I cut a piece of felt and glued it to the back to hide the stitching and added a hanging loop...

…and finally I cut a piece of felt and glued it to the back to hide the stitching and added a hanging loop…

AWESOME!

I think I like this idea of starting Christmas projects way before the deadline – no rush and I’ve got time to jump onto a couple more ornaments that I’m doing without a kit or pre-purchased pattern: gingerbread men and women with lots of sequin and beaded bling, and snowmen heads I’m making from yarn and old thread spools. Look for those posts soon!


Christmas Jump Start – an ornament for Emily

Every year I have this grand idea that I’m doing a HANDMADE CHRISTMAS! complete with beautiful embroidered ornaments, stockings using my stash of vintage fabrics, baked goods, home-canned jams, jellies and pickles, tote bags, pot holders, knitted scarves and other amazing stuff that will inspire me to create things I haven’t even thought of yet. The problem with this plan is I always start thinking about it the day after Thanksgiving, which means I’m doomed to failure as I’m usually working 50+ hours/week on some holiday show that’s just gone into tech rehearsals and I don’t have a minute to think about what I’m doing, let alone make it.

Well this year is different! I finished up some really cute little beaded and sequined angel ornaments in August that have been in the “To Be Completed” pile for several years, and it’s lit a fire under me to keep on it. And so begins the tale of Emily’s ornament.

Every year since they’ve been born, I give my nieces and nephews a Christmas ornament. Remembering back to after college graduation and finally being on my own, I was flat broke and had absolutely no money to buy ornaments for a tree of my own. I figured if I gave each kid an annual ornament, by the time they left home they’d at least have enough to decorate something, even if it was just a tree branch. I also stick with one theme for each, so one has angels, another snowmen, reindeer, Circus, and Emily gets Santas.

I love old vintage craft kits, and even though I have a large box of unstarted/unfinished pieces, it didn’t stop me from picking up a little cross stitched and beaded Santa/Father Christmas face for $.99 at the thrift store earlier this summer. I’ve actually never done any cross stitch as I prefer embroidery, but thought this would be a quick and easy way to dip my toe in the water. My problem isn’t just that I buy too many of these things, it’s that my idea of how long it takes is way off. I’m always sucked in by the “Simple, easy-to-follow instructions with just a touch of embroidery/beading/crochet” ad banner on the package and figure I’ll just crank these things out in a couple of hours.

So at least I take the time to read the instructions, and after separating the floss and beads, the thing just sat on my desk. It suggested making an “X” on the hole-punched base to find my center point, but I didn’t get any farther than that. My pal EJ does lots of cross stitch and she said “The easiest way to start is to make a cross with a basting thread to divide your work into sections.” Bingo! That little tip suddenly made the whole thing easier to get moving. I also used a highlighter to divide the instruction graph without covering the pattern, and I got to work.

This particular kit is made in two pieces – a hat and then face. I started with the smaller hat piece first. I realized as I got going it was easier to do the cross stitch before the embroidery, especially since the beads were so tiny. If nothing else, this project demonstrated to me that I NEED NEW GLASSES (and I’m heading over to the eye doctor after I finish writing this to order a pair). It didn’t occur to me to take some progress pics until I’d done quite a bit of the hat, but here you go:

I used an easily visible lime green thread to divide the canvas into sections. I used a highlighter to separate the pattern into a corresponding grid. This made things WAY EASIER!

I used a bright lime green thread to divide the canvas into sections, then a highlighter to separate the pattern into a corresponding grid. This made things WAY EASIER!

The hat with cross stitch and some beading complete.

The hat with cross stitch and some beading complete.

Almost done - I still need to add bugle beads to outline the sections in the top part.

Almost done – next I’ll add bugle beads to outline the sections in the top part.

The finished hat, cut to shape and ready to be attached to the face.

The finished hat, cut to shape and ready to be attached to the face.

I’m getting a little bit done every night – it doesn’t make me feel like a complete slug while watching a bit of television. And until I get those new glasses, it’s easier on the eyes!

Stay tuned for the creation of Santa’s face…


A couple of housewarming gifts from bits of the house!

My friend EJ and her husband recently purchased a new house circa 1961. The house needed work, but EJ is always up to a challenge and she had great ideas to modernize it while leaving a lot of the wonderful mid century details intact. She enlisted my help on the project, and we had a great time knocking out walls, painting, restoring wood floors and trim, more painting, and of course, SHOPPING for new stuff!

Many years ago some different friends of mine were putting new flooring into their old house, and unearthed that cool old linoleum they used to do with borders or to make into the appearance of rugs. It was all cracked and broken, but I saved a couple of the prettier pieces, squared them up and framed them, and gave them to them as found “art”, and a reminder of the old. So remembering that, I started “shopping” all the junk that we were ripping out and throwing out of EJ’s place. The kitchen ended up being a goldmine of project and crafting bits, I just needed them to reveal what they were waiting to be transformed into.

The previous owners had decided to “Victorianize” their very ’60s kitchen by applying layer upon layer of decorative moldings and trims to the cabinets. It might not have been so hideous if they’d actually finished the project, but they seemed to run out of steam and never bothered to PAINT the raw wood trim, and in some cases, didn’t bother to nail it up either, but “secured” it in place with blue painters tape – UGH. Well I knew some of the decorative trim was a definite keeper, and started squirreling bits of it away right from the start.

The original 1961 linoleum counters in the kitchen were in nice shape, but they had to go!

The original 1961 linoleum counters in the kitchen were in nice shape, but they had to go!

One cool thing about the kitchen was it still had the original countertops intact! They weren’t perfect, but they were a wonderful ’60s snapshot of decorator chic – white with tiny leaves of aqua, coral, chocolate and chartreuse with a sprinkle of gold across it all. Once those slabs of old formica were ripped out I knew I had to put a couple chunks into my treasure bag too.

The last bit of inspiration came from the electrical wiring. The kitchen had these bizarre and ultra-dangerous electrical outlets – a double plug per outlet that weren’t even grounded! In fact they were so scary, the building inspector told EJ he couldn’t sign off on the safety of the kitchen because the plugs had to be replaced – no questions asked. This was the perfect little bit of kitchen inspiration and nostalgia I needed to move forward.

Quick and easy trivet!

Quick and easy trivet!

The first item was quick and simple. My handy work friend, Marc, trimmed a piece of wood with decorative molding and we glued a piece of the formica on top to become a trivet. It’s really a decorative trivet because this old formica can burn or melt if something hot gets on it, but it looks pretty cute and I know EJ will find a use for it. I just needed to fill the nail holes with spackle, sand and paint – easy.

The shadowbox made from "Victorian" cabinet trim - what were they thinking?

The shadowbox made from “Victorian” cabinet trim – what were they thinking?

The second project I envisioned was a “shadowbox” to showcase the cool but crazy dangerous plug. Marc made me a little box,trimmed it with the decorative wood, and I had him back it with the formica. Some more spackle, sanding and painting and it’s a pretty dang cute little piece of art for the kitchen wall, isn’t it?

Doesn't this ungrounded, kitchen outlet scream "FIRE HAZARD!"?

Doesn’t this ungrounded, crazy FOUR PLUG kitchen outlet just scream “FIRE HAZARD!”?

You could easily use these ideas as a starting off point for your own craft projects made from parts of the old house. I used the formica, wood pieces and an electrical outlet, but there are dozens of bits you could salvage for housewarming gifts or from a remodel project of your own: cabinet knobs or pulls, house numbers, old shingles, decorative wood trim and molding from baseboards or ceilings, fireplace bricks – the list is endless and your imagination is going to go crazy with it once you put your creating hat on. In fact I’ve got quite a few bits of decorative wood trim available and some small glass tiles – maybe a birdhouse?

I like the way this turned out so much, I wish I'd made one for myself!

I like the way this turned out so much, I wish I’d made one for myself!


Vintage Angel Ornaments for Christmas

I needed several little projects to fill down time backstage during my recent stint on Wagner’s RING Cycle, especially during the 5+ hours each of Siegfried and Gotterdamerung – oy! My strategy was to work on several unfinished projects, which was part of my GRANDER scheme of getting my basement back under control. I heard this great quote by Dr. Phil (yeah, I know), that was something like “…to be a better person, finish what you start…” or something to that affect. I took that to mean cleaning and organizing my basement by finishing up the multitude of craft/sewing projects overflowing from boxes and surfaces. So I made a list of the projects I wanted to work on, but in the general disarray could only find one of them. Anyway….

Another funky, kitschy kit perfect to work on backstage -

Another funky, kitschy kit perfect to work on backstage –

You know how much I love the old embroidery and craft kits from the ’60s and ’70s, right? Well I’d picked up this particular little gem about four years ago because it was one of my favorite styles – felt ornaments with a little embroidery and tons of bling with sequins, beads and braid trim. These old kits have great felt colors (and it’s not crappy polyester felt), they’re graphically cute and silly, they’re easy to pick up and put down when I’m at work, and I can give them as gifts, use them as package ties or on occasion, keep them for myself. When I find these kits at yard sales and thrift stores, they’re often opened with some of the contents missing. Using/substituting my own materials, trim, and sometimes even pattern pieces, is part of the challenge and fun of working on the stuff, and these little angels fit the bill.

For some reason the crafty, creative designers at Bucilla billed this charmer as:

Novel “MOBILE” may be hung from Mantel, Chandelier, Archway; or in windows and doorways – handsome decoration for Foyer or any room in the home. So gay, so cheerful, so decorative for the Holiday Season. A real conversation piece!

OK, let’s just examine that for a moment. Yes, it’s definitely gay, which is a good thing, because the cheerful kitschy quality is a conversation piece. However, there’s no way I could hang this from my mantel as the plastic ring the angels swing from is about 8″ across, so it would hardly hang “freely”.  And the only chandelier I could see this dangling from is the crappy piece of junk in my dining room, which I definitely do not want to draw attention to.  Add to this the fact that the tinsel garland and “velvetex” ribbon used for hanging were flattened beyond use after 40+ years in their package. So mobile was out, but ornaments were on.

The helpful instructions! But really, it's not that difficult to attach beads and sequins to felt...

The helpful instructions! But really, it’s not that difficult to attach beads and sequins to felt…

I had to pick out some beads for those that were missing and some braid trim. I added purple beads to the original “color palette”, and I scrapped the directions to cut out and use this hard, gold vinyl to fill the opening of the skirts – I just couldn’t figure out how I’d attach it to the dress – hand sewing with felt isn’t really the easiest thing because the felting process makes it come apart when it’s manipulated too much. So I just ended up stuffing the body and sewing the skirt closed.

The ornaments filled up lots of time (although there was still plenty of time to read, write letters, do some clothing repairs, work on my magazine and make a SOCK MONKEY, which I’ll share in an upcoming blog) and they turned out so cute. My friend Anne wanted one (and I forgot to photo), and after deciding to keep the blue for myself, decided to give the hot pink to my awesome college pal LeAnn, and the green will go to my niece Nicole.

Hark! The gay, cheerful, decorative felt, blinged-out angels sing!

Hark! The gay, cheerful, decorative felt, holiday blinged-out angels sing!

Oh, and the basement is back to a functional state! I owe this more to LeAnn’s help in the last few weeks, than decluttering by completing a few little angel ornaments, but I can actually work on stuff again and I see a busy fall of completion ahead! I’ve already found the other projects I wanted to do this summer that were MIA, and the parts for a few more Christmas ornaments that I’ll share soon – snowmen and some ginger boy and girls. Time to get crafting!

Green for Nicole...

Green for Nicole…

...and hot pink for LeAnn!

…and hot pink for LeAnn!

...blue for me to keep...

…blue for me to keep…


A “bunch of junk” to make a bird feeder

I just can’t help myself when it comes to throwing out useable cast-offs. I have a garage and basement full of stuff that I have no idea how I’m going to use, but it just seems too cool to trash. Sometimes that piece of junk ends up being the EXACT THING I need to finish a sewing or craft project, but it doesn’t reveal itself until another piece comes along to create that “Eureka!” moment.

Such was the case with the bird feeder I just made. I’ve been helping my friend EJ remodel a house she just bought, and it’s been a treasure trove of cool stuff. The people who moved out left TONS of crap behind – and a lot was crap – and there were a few gems I had to adopt and bring home. Among my new findings were some decorative woodworking pieces and an old lathe-turned spindle to a staircase. All they needed was for me to find the giant, over-sized vintage tea cup at a thrift store to know they were meant to be a bird feeder!

THRIFT SCORE! Look how big this oversized tea cup and saucer is sitting next to a regular size!

THRIFT SCORE! Look how big this oversized tea cup and saucer is sitting next to a regular sized set –

Now this was one idea that I couldn’t realize without the help of my handy work friend, Marc. He’s made and/or repaired great stuff for me over the years including a shelf for my laundry sprinkler collection, bookends from old bowling trophies, and a kitchen counter to help organize the clutter of my tiny 1940s kitchen. He has awesome ideas to make things easier and more sturdy than my concepts often are, and he has access to a huge shop full of tools and equipment at our workplace, which he’s a whiz at using.

I love how a cheesy 18th century-style image and a bunch of gold trim means "Look! This is FANCY!"

I love how a cheesy 18th century-style image and a bunch of gold trim means “I’m FANCY!”

So – the first thing he did was make a little platform to set the tea cup and saucer on, which would become the actual bird feeder. He trimmed the platform with some of the decorative wood pieces I had, then he attached that to the turned spindle. Although I hadn’t asked him to do it (but had thought about it), he added a metal rod to the bottom of the spindle so I could stick that part into the ground for stability.

The wood I couldn't throw out but had no idea what I would do with it

The wood I couldn’t throw out but had no idea what I would do with it

Ready to drill the cup and saucer - HARD!

Ready to drill the cup and saucer – HARD!

The next part involved the “feeder”. I really scored the day I found that oversized cup and saucer while thrifting. I mean, it’s not just large, it’s HUGE, and I’ve never seen another like it. The fact that it has fancy/cheesy Rococo-style images and lots of gold trim on it make it that much better! My plan was to drill through both pieces so they could fit onto a threaded bolt inserted into the platform, then I’d hold them on with a gasket and wing nut. I wanted it to be removable so I could wash the feeder every so often.

Drilling through this tea cup was WAY HARDER than I thought it would be. I had my special drill bit for drilling tile and glass, but the pedestal portion of the base I was drilling trough was almost 5/8″ thick and it took for-freakin’ ever. Seriously, I must have spent an hour and a half on it and several battery recharges to the drill over a couple of days. Anyway, once I got through that, I tackled the saucer, which took five minutes at the most.

Felt like I should have drilled through to China for how long this took...

Finally! Felt like I should have drilled through to China for how long this took!

I drilled a hole in the top of the base for the threaded bolt piece and filled it with wood glue before I inserted the bolt. 2013-07-02 10.05.40

I let that dry for a day, then assembled the whole thing for the first time – base, then cup and saucer on the bolt and a gasket and wing nut to hold it all on. Loving it!2013-07-07 19.42.44

Now my garden is not exactly the most lush, verdant thing I’ve always hoped it would be (I used my neighbor’s yard for the picture) and I’m not entirely sure the feeder is going to be at home there – it may end up as a wedding present – but I like the way it looks among the leaves and flowers, and I hope the birds will like it too.

Bring on the hungry birds!

Bring on the hungry birds!

You can do this project easily – fancy tea cups and saucers are easily found at thrift stores and yard sales, and you could use any pieces of scrap wood for a stand. You might even want to make one that hangs and skip the stand part. Just get some decorative chain to attach to the base and you’re ready to hang it. I do think you’re going to want to anchor the cup and saucer to the base – if not with my method you could always glue it, but I like the ability to take it apart and wash it and maybe put it away for the winter months if there’s a chance it could freeze and crack if it ended filled with rain or snow.