So what do you think, too cool NOT to wear?
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, 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 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!
It’s so exciting to be on track with a project and know it will get finished WAY BEFORE the Christmas deadline!
I always think that I’m going to crank these things out in a couple of hours, partly because I never build in any “fix it” time. And I definitely needed fix it time on Santa’s hair and beard. I had finished two of the four sections and was cruising along on my third when I realized something was way off. I pored over the pattern and my work and couldn’t really figure out a way to “fudge” it with what I’d completed because it would affect Santa’s face, so I took out all of the stitching on the third section and started over – what a difference! Everything now lined up properly, and even though I was annoyed that it took a lot more time, it did give me more confidence in what I was doing.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
It’s another summer RING at Seattle Opera (you can read all about that if you click here), and as this is the third one I’ve worked since 2005, lots of my favorite singers are back in town, including several who own my sock monkeys! You can click on the following to see my creations for performers Greer Grimsley, Gordon Hawkins and Rosetta Greek. But I’ve never posted pictures of the monkey I made for the super talented Luretta Bybee.
Luretta is a southern lady. She’s beautiful, charming, gracious, is a Chair of Vocal Arts at the New England Conservatory, has a wonderful sense of humor and she’s a mezzo-soprano opera star with a heavenly voice. A couple years back, Seattle Opera produced a new work, Amelia, and Luretta was cast as Amanda, a 1960s homemaker who was the mother of the show’s namesake, Amelia. I’d worked with her on several shows before this, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to get her own monkey.
Now you could put Luretta in a tin can and she’d look gorgeous, but she literally stepped out of a guest starring role on the Donna Reed show in her striped shirtwaist dress, pearls, and flip hairstyle – she looked amazing. The dress was pretty easy to do, but the collar was a little tricky on the smaller scale. I decided to cut it from felt and top stitch it to the dress rather than trying to do it “for real” – the notched collar was more work than I wanted to do and the felt gave it the same look as the costume. The apron was easy, but I added a hanky because my grandmother always had one in her apron or smock pocket and I think Amanda would have used one too. The character wore a locket, and I found the tiniest one I could for her. I put a little picture of her real husband – opera superstar Greer Grimsley – as well as her stage husband – the phenomenal tenor, Bill Burden – into the locket so she’d have them both close to her little monkey heart. Then I stitched on some “pearls” for earrings and got my friend Anne McGowan in the hair and makeup department to create the perfect little ’60s flip hairstyle for her. She’s awesome!
When I got ready to do the photo of her, I envisioned her standing at a stove with a pot holder in hand. Since sock monkeys don’t really have fingers to hold anything, I created an oven mitt for her, and posed her in front of my mom’s childhood toy stove from the 1940s. Let me tell you, this is no cheap Easy Bake oven, but an electric stove with a HOT hot plate and an oven with a working thermostat – my brothers and I used to make burgers in a tiny frying pan on it when we were kids. It was exactly what Amanda needed and the photo is perfect!
Luretta was so happy to get her little Amanda, and Greer told me later that it ended up costing him a lot of money because Luretta wanted to redecorate their music room to display his Wotan monkey with her. Now seriously, am I really responsible for that?
Earlier this winter I had the good fortune of attending the wedding of my dear friend, Rosetta Greek and her partner, Miss Roxanne Oliver. Same-sex marriage was legalized by Washington state voters in November of 2011, and these lovely ladies – partners for 17 years! – were finally able to celebrate their commitment to each other in front of friends and family in a wonderful January ceremony. What an afternoon! Rosetta wore a gorgeous ’30s-inspired beaded gown with a custom headband she created herself, and Roxi looked awesome in slacks, vest, bow tie and matching two-tone wing tips.
Rosetta owns Verboten – one of my opera-themed sock monkeys, and she’s a highly talented and creative artist. As the proprietress of Heavens2Betsie she creates hip, urban textile essentials, and she’s an accomplished photographer with an amazing project titled Perfect Strangers that you should check out.
Rosetta and I share a love of vintage textiles and embroidery – I have a few treasured embroidered pillow cases my great aunts did as wedding gifts for my mom back in the 1950s, so when I found a cool old pair of percale cases with a crochet edge at a thrift store recently, I knew I wanted to do matching embroidered cases as a wedding gift for the newlyweds.
You’re probably not surprised to know there aren’t too many “Hers and Hers” vintage-looking transfer patterns out there, so I had to create one myself. I found a floral design and a font I liked in a new transfer pattern, so I cut and taped them together to create what I needed. I reversed the pattern on the second case so they’d be a mirror image of each other, then chose embroidery thread in shades of pink (Rosetta’s favorite color) and several different greens for the leaves and vines. Time to get to work!
Like too many of my projects, I dive in then lose momentum. As I kept working the pattern, it seemed to be one of those situations where the more I worked, the more work I needed to do. Even though I liked the results I was getting, I didn’t seem to be making progress, so I wasn’t working too hard on it, which is why they took five months to complete!
I do have to say I loved doing the little forget-me-knots, and I chose a yellow/orange ombre’ floss to do the French knot centers, which looks great. I finally finished the cases last week, and after a quick wash and press, got the cases to Rosetta over the weekend. She was more excited then I could have hoped, and all that work was really worth it. Even though it’s a labor of love, it’s sure a great feeling to know all that effort is appreciated. And I love Rosetta and Roxie!
Deciding it was time to stop saying I wanted to learn this and just LEARN it, I signed up for an upholstery class last week.
My choice for the class is a mid-century club chair that belonged to my grandmother. She had it recoverd around 1970 in an OVERSIZED floral print in three shades of orange with lots of avocado and celery green accents. It sounds worse than it really is, but dog chews to the arm, fading to the fabric and the overwhelming smell of cigarettes and wood smoke meant it needed a fix or a toss. I chose to fix it!
Other than the instructor Ollie, I was the only guy in the class. My fellow classmates had all taken the class before, so were far into the reupholstering process already – boy could these ladies use a nail gun! They were tacking, cutting, sewing and stapling like mad. The woman next to me said “I’m finishing this during this class or my husband says the damn thing’s going in the trash.” I could tell she was serious about finishing it.
Since I was just starting, I spent four hours pulling upholstery tacks, decorative hammer nails and staples – and I didn’t even get the chair completely apart! There was a lot of dust and floating bits of old padding and foam in the air to go with it, and I was wishing I’d taken an allergy pill and worn a dust mask – there’s always class #2 for that, huh?.
I found a lot of “hidden treasures” as I ripped my chair apart – a screw driver that was lost inside by the last upholsterer, an ink pen, a few assorted pieces to board games, a couple candy wrappers, and a penny for good luck! The best thing inside was the instructor saying “this chair has a good frame and will look great when you’re done.” Nice to know I hadn’t chosen another fruitless effort to work on –
The chairs can’t stay at the class location, and as I had howmework – to finish ripping it apart – I loaded my chair back into the car to work on in the garage. My instructor said we’d be reusing some of the original padding, so I doused it with a lot of odor neutralizing spray that’s supposed to work on cigarette smell, but I don’t think they ever tested it on something as stinky as this! I’m leaving it outside to help with the de-smelling process.