Monday, January 30, 2012

Article #4 is officially a go!!!!!

I just submitted my proposal for my fourth magazine article and it was accepted!  Woohoo!!!

That's pretty much it.  ^_^

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hedgehog the first!

I finished my first Valentine hedgehog.  This one is for my older son.

AhHhhhhHHHH!!!!  I LOVE IT!  It's the Huggable Hedgehog pattern which you can purchase on Ravelry, or if you live in the Phoenix area and you'd like to support an amazing local business, you could buy it at Tempe Yarn and Fiber.

Anyway, I freaked out just a bit because I thought I had gotten eyes that were too big.  If you look at the eye placement of most other people's projects on Ravelry, you see that they're more above the nose.  I knew that these eyes were too big to do that, but JoAnn was all out of the smaller ones.  I texted my hubby and said, "I think I got eyes that are too big.  I guess it's not too big a deal... if these don't work, I can go somewhere else and get smaller eyes.  They're only $2."

He texted back, "Is it anime?"  And I texted back, "Probably!  LoL!"  And I kind of forgot about it.  When I got home, though, and I started trying to make this work, I took his funny comment to heart and suddenly thought of Hello Kitty and how her eyes are almost on a straight line with her nose.  So I thought I'd give it a go.  And I LOVE it!!!  I'm so glad that JoAnn was out of smaller eyes and that my hubby is brilliant on a future-seeing-psychic scale.

My husband is also wonderful because he sat after this was finished for probably at least two hours, pulling all of those little tendrils out so that the hedgehog would be extra hairy after felting.  If you don't use a fun fur type yarn, it's almost required that you pull all the little bits from the inside to the outside so that you have a more dramatic finished product.  TOTALLY worth it, by the way.  He actually found it relaxing.  So he gets to do the next one, too.  But even if he didn't, I'd be doing it because the results are so incredible.

At first, I thought a crochet hook would be easier, but it was actually much easier to use the tip of a dpn and just flick them out, rather than having to hook each one individually.

Also, after the guy was felted, I couldn't poke those eyes and nose through to save my life.  I marked the spots where I wanted them to go with a black marker and then snipped a tiny hole (no wider than 3/16") on those spots very carefully with extremely sharp scissors.  Basically aim to make the hole you snip just a little smaller than the width of the post of the eye/nose attachment you use.  I used 15mm eyes and a 21mm nose.

Also, just in case any of you are unfamiliar with the process of felting, this is what the hedgehog looks like BEFORE you felt it.  Everything felts faster, by the way, if you felt it (in a zippered pillowcase... that's not faster, it just saves your washing machine) with a pair of jeans in the cycle.  Just so ya'll know. 

Basic felting instructions (Kathy style) are as follows: set your machine to the hottest water, the smallest load size, and the longest wash cycle.  Throw in just a touch of laundry detergent.  (Some people leave this out, but I figure that you might as well wash it at the same time.)  Zip up your piece into a zippered pillow case (or tie an overhand knot in the end of a normal pillow case, which is what I really do because I don't have a zippered pillow case, but I want to get one because untying a knot to check felting progress is a pain in the butt... but I do know that tying the corners together is not good enough because it always comes undone in the machine).  Throw into the washing machine with a pair of jeans and run the cycle.  After agitation begins, check the piece every 5 minutes.  If it looks like it's almost done at one point when you pull it out, then put it back in and check after only 2 minutes.  DON'T let the machine go through it's spin cycle (why you picked the longest wash cycle) because this can apparently create permanent creases.  Rinse the item by hand, fold a towel over it and step on it a lot, like you're crushing grapes, to remove most of the moisture, and then temporarily stuff it until it's completely dry, to get the shape you want.

Boxes are great for purses.  Use plastic bags for soft, round things like this.  It usually takes 1-2 days to dry completely, or, if it's summer, leave it in your garage or outside if you're not afraid of animals (animals LOVE wool... it's weird) and it could seriously be completely dry in half a day.

Anyway, I wasn't intending to write this much, but then I never really do.  I'm the Sensei.... I just kind of can't help myself.  ^_~

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Corner Studio

Lupe requested pics of our spaces to put in the AZPCG (Arizona Polymer Clay Guild) newsletter.  She specifically requested pics of mine because it's small, I suppose.  I feel like it's kind of huge, but then my space started off even smaller than this.  I get a corner of our living room all to myself, and I have jokingly called it my corner studio.  This thing has evolved slowly over the course of the last 8 years or so of my life.  It's been built very organically, actually.  I gradually spread out as I could to where I think are the limits.

My space is possibly unique amongst most creative spaces that get shown online because I'm going to show you the "for real" of it...  It's totally low budget.  I think I'm the fourth or fifth person to own my desk, for instance.  I didn't have some designer come in and make my area.  I have barely any purchased storage.  Most of it was made by moi.  If it wasn't, it's likely I purchased it at a garage sale.  I am going to get really honest and transparent about my storage spaces, too.  I'm posting this mainly hoping that I can potentially help someone else with their space, rather than with any wish to show mine off.  (Not that there's anything wrong with showing off.  I show off quite frequently.  That's just not my intent today.  ^_~)

Below is a shot of what my area usually looks like.  The primary tip I have for using a smallish, multi-purpose space is to keep it clean.  I'm pretty militant about cleaning up every single time I finish, unless I'm in some marathon session and I know I'll be making the same thing for quite a while.  In any case, I also believe that I need to lead my family by example.  If I expect them to clean their messes up, then I expect the same thing of myself.  (My younger son usually sits and plays in that empty spot on my coffee table and I let him because I think it's cute.)

Here's another shot of the area, not including my coffee table setup.  One of the other tips I have is kind of obvious, I guess, and overstated, but still... Go vertical.  If you don't have a lot of space, you can usually build up.  Don't forget to build down, too.  I use the space underneath this little table to store a few things I don't usually need to get to, as well as a little gift bag that I frequently fill with things I no longer want/need.  I let my crafty friends look through the bag when they come to my house so that they can take stuff home with them if they like it.

These stackable plastic drawers are pretty neat.  There are three sets here.  I started with only 1 (about $12 for a three drawer storage unit at Walmart) and eventually bought the other two as I expanded.  They are a perfect size for storing scrapbook papers.  I also store my purchased papers in kits.  A 2 gallon Ziploc bag is perfect for storing 12x12 scrapbook papers.  I put each separate paper pack and all of the stickers/accessories that go with it into the bag, then store them flat in the drawers marked "paper".

I picked up this rotating thingie at a garage sale for $4.  Previously, I stored all of my items in a storage container I made from an old tin and toilet paper rolls.  I covered the rolls in paper and stood them up in the tin to separate my pens and pencils and whatnot.  Invariably, there were little spaces between the lip of the tin and the curved edges of the rolls, and those were the spots I'd stick my scissors and bone folders and other tools into.  That little cheap organizer served me for a LONG time before I finally found this beauty.

I basically played Tetris with this thing for months before I got it exactly the way I love it now.  It was just experience... I realized which things I used constantly and which things I didn't really need at hand and I cycled things in and out as I worked.  That's another tip, I suppose... It's all a process.  I don't think you can perfect your space overnight, and you certainly can't perfect it just by buying a bunch of expensive stuff and then suddenly hoping it will be organized.  You've got to do it as you go, as you learn about yourself and about your art and what you use and what you need.  Just because everyone else needs this tool right by them, for instance, doesn't mean that you need it, especially if you never use it.  You'd be surprised at just how much your own preconceptions and other people's opinions about art and life can influence your space in ways that make it less useful to you.  You've got to learn to listen to your own process to make it work for you.

Up on my shelves, I have all of my glorious Stampin' Up! stamps.  I'm officially out of room, too, so I'm going to start rotating the ones I don't use as much out as I buy new sets.  The ink storage was handmade.  It's basically a divided box that has sections big enough for the ink pads which I store upside down.

I use my big stamps quite frequently to create texture in clay and to create my own background papers for paper crafting.  So I didn't have to keep guessing, I cut pieces of paper that would fit on the outside and then stamped the paper with the stamp.  I glued the piece to the end of each stamp.  They're arranged biggest to littlest in a stack.

I also cut a piece of cardstock that fits under the rubber of the biggest stamp so that I can slide the stack in and out as I work.  I had done a piece for each stamp, but it was too much of a pain to put back in place.  I like to work mostly sitting down.  Pretty much everything I need most frequently is in reach.  I discovered that it was just easier to slide the entire stack out, use the ones I wanted, then slide it all back once the stamps were cleaned and dried.

This shot shows my other homemade inkpad storage.  As you can see, over time the little "shelves" of the divided box have curved to the impression of the pads, but it still works beautifully.  So that I could easily tell which color was which, I stamped a little paper with a design and then cut out a bit and inked the edges with the same pad before attaching the piece to the side of the ink pad.

This shot also shows my use of the shelf space behind the two pretty jars in front.  I use so many recycled containers to hold my stuff.  Spice jars, and, my favorite, the strawberry jelly jar in front.  I use these to hold buttons and various other trinkets.

Here's a shot of my top shelf.  I used old container candle glasses after the candle burned all the way down.  You just pour the wax out while it's all liquid.  To get extra finicky, just stand the glasses in a pan of simmering water until the wax gets all liquid inside, too, and then wipe them out with a paper towel.  The two on either end actually had metal wick holder glued into them with some kind of crazy glue that NOTHING has removed.  I was going to just throw them away in utter despair (^_~) before I realized that I'm storing buttons in them and the buttons will cover up that metal bit.  Guess what?  They do.

You can see some more of my homemade storage here.  The red box up top is a cardstock box with ribbon handles glued into the sides and across the bottom.  The storage boxes you see are homemade.  I made my little ribbon tower (you can see a link over to the right about how to make your own homemade ribbon tower storage) vertical like this because I don't have space to have a big horizontal bar somewhere.  I also try to keep just my spectrum stocked in kind of plain ribbon because, seriously, no one needs 72 spools of ribbon.  I'm not criticizing.  It's just kind of true, right?  How do you use it all?  Is your finished art really so effected by whether or not your ribbon has dots/ruffles/etc.?  Every now and then I DO purchase a cute, fancy ribbon, but only if it fits in the tower.  I could make myself another tower, but I don't have room.  Anyway, this is all to say that you need to make decisions when you have a smallish area, and a severe limit to ribbon was one of those calls I had to make for myself.

I store random 3D embellishments in this little white box that was part of the packaging of my Nook.

I like this cute white storage thing I got, too.  It was $3 at a garage sale and it had these horrifying wicker baskets in each hole that took up so much room.  I pulled them out, cleaned the entire thing up, sanded all of the edges so that it was worn evenly, lined the back with some of my favorite papers, and turned it into storage without the baskets.

Over on my wall I hung up some decorated binder clips just slightly more than 6 inches apart. I can clip a single page in the middle or two on each end and have it look balanced.  Or I can have a marathon scrapping session and hang a ton of pages up like I did recently.  I like to hang them for at least a day to make sure all of the glue is dry and whatnot.  I also think it's fun to have the pages displayed for a while before shoving them into an album on my shelf.

I store my non-kit paper scraps in a binder with 8.5x11" page protectors.  (The scraps that go with a certain collection just stay with the collection in the 2 gallon Ziploc bags.)  If your scrap is too big to fit into one of these page protectors then it can probably just go back onto the shelf.  12" scraps are easy to store... Just let them stick out of the top.  I have it organized by color, with two protectors for each color... Plain paper/cardstock first, then patterned.  Don't agonize over this too much.  Whatever your very first impression of the patterned paper is, file it in that folder.  I periodically go through this folder and recycle a bunch of the scraps, too.  I also make sure to look here first when I'm looking for a specific color so that I can make my modest paper supply last longer.

Oh, clear stamps... how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...

I've written a lot about how clear stamps are actually awesome and DON'T give blotchy images if you use pigment or chalk ink with them.  And how you can appreciate the blotchy image you get with dye ink if you call it "vintage" or "distressed".  I adore clear stamps.  They're easy to clean and easy to store.  And in a limited space, this storage glory is key.  It turns out that an 8.5x11" page protector is the PERFECT size for two sets of most of the clear stamps you can buy in JoAnn or Michael's.  Manufacturers have to get cute, though, and make weird, non standard sizes.  So Paper Sensei has a solution for that, too.

Lay your stamp sets down on a page protector and draw sharpie lines around them.  Leave plenty of room.  If you have stamp sets going in the bottom of the page protector, then draw a line over the top of each stamp set plus about 1/4".  Slip a piece of cardstock into the page protector and cut the line with an X-Acto knife, being careful to only go through the protector and not through the cardstock to the other side.

Remove the cardstock from the page protector.  Sew up the lines you originally drew with your sewing machine.  So easy!  Now you can slip your stamps into the spaces up top and slide your other stamps through the slits you made and into their holes.  These things hold up over time, too.  I have some that I know are at least 3 years old and they still work perfectly.

Here are shots of my drawers now.  I store most of my pens flat to keep them from drying out.  (Apparently this is a concern... I don't know for sure.  I'd just rather be safe than sorry.)  My alcohol inks and some spare clay blocks are stored in some more handmade storage, another divided cardstock box.  I pretty much just try to keep the stuff I use the most on hand and easily accessible.  I will sometimes pick a spool of ribbon to use up (you will actually use your stuff if you decide to use it up, and that keeps your space from getting overcrowded and gives you something to buy next time you go to the store) and throw it in here and try to use it on practically every project.

I also purposefully don't fill my drawers all the way if I can help it.  This combined with using up my stuff means that I always feel like I've got wiggle room even if I never intend to use it.

The drawers are really a big Tetris game, too.  I try to keep stuff in trays and boxes.  The three cardstock boxes you see there are more homemade storage.  They were made specifically to fit the things they hold, so that helps take up less space, too.  Rather than buying bulky bins for everything, I tailor make much of my storage.

I store my embossing powders in some jewelry storage, too, to save space because the bottles are all different sizes.  This way I can keep them all neat and use the little embossing powder bottles for other things.  I can recycle them or use them as packaging for tiny gifts of little things like buttons, charms, etc, which I put together quite frequently for my crafty friends.  (Giving stuff out of my stash, usually, which they love and I love because they get cute stuff and I free up more space.)

The tiny bits of jewelry storage are perfect for brads and such.  I sort them out, especially if they come in a package that is all mixed colors.  Don't look at me like that.

Anyway, I try to just stick to neutrals with the brads and the eyelets.  Sure, other colors are cute, but this is another one of those decisions I've made so that I can save space.

Another tip: If you run out of silver brads or eyelets, just sand the tops off of some of your colored pieces.  Virtually every one of them is silver underneath.  You can also color these with alcohol inks if you'd like a brighter color that you don't have because you don't buy bright colors.  ^_~

The final drawer is my exception to the "don't make the drawers too full" rule.  But this one works for what it works for.  I made homemade storage for my Cricut Solutions cartridges, too.  There are little cardstock bars in there that hold all of the cartridges in place while all of the keyboards and booklets sit in the bottom of the box.  I store all of the extra cords for my devices (and other things) in that clear shoe box bin so that I always know where they are.

Here's the coffee table where I store my Imagine, Imagine cartridges, and my filing cabinet, which is that wicker thing.  I store all of my craft ideas, knitting patterns, yearly receipts, and other such things here.  You can see here, too, that I use the space under the table to hold various things.  Storing things in a tray on the floor is handy because I can just pull the entire tray out, grab what I need, then push the tray back.  It keeps everything much neater.  I also store my Kates here for my spinning.

Here's another shot that shows the other end of my corner studio...  My polymer clay stuff and tools are all stored in the black pull case, and my clay oven is on top of the case.  This fits perfectly, but there was a bit of Tetris involved here, too.  It's evolved over time, so everything is right where I want it.

Okay, here's the part that horrifies me.  I can't believe I'm showing this.  But here is the area where I store all of my beads and jewelry tools.  It's separate from my studio area, but still in the living room.  These were built in cabinets.  The boxes up top actually are very neatly organized with old baby food containers lined up inside of them, filled with various bits.  They make the boxes stack quite neatly.  I used to have ALL of my jewelry storage set up like this, in these boxes.  But eventually I was running out of room and needed storage with smaller containers, so I finally purchased storage for my beads.

My primary recommendation here is to not go anywhere NEAR bead storage that is just a divided box with a lid that snaps shut on top of it.  I still have nightmares (not really, but you know what I mean) about just how many times I have dropped, dumped, or hit one of these containers while it was open and sent my entire collection flying...  Every single bit of my storage was required to be separate containers within another container.  Yes, I sort out my brads after I buy them, but I'm not completely crazy.  I only want to do it once.

You can actually still see some of the cute little stackable baby food containers in this shot.  Funny!  Those things are so old.  They're Gerber, by the way, in case anyone with babies out there wants cute stackable storage for their craft area.

Here is my tool shelf which actually slides out.  This is the coolest thing!  Anyway... I'm able to keep it semi-messy because it slides out.  But actually, everything is here even though it doesn't all fit because this is ALL of the stuff that I am constantly using.  Buy a button from me at TYF and, seriously, practically all of this stuff was used in making that little thing you enjoy.

Ack!  This is really the full Monty, isn't it?  Anyway, here's my other cabinet.  So while I have a smallish space, I actually do have quite a lot of storage space.  But I like to think I use it effectively.  Except for those top two shelves...  I have a vague idea of what's up there.  It's the one area I'm not entirely clear on.  If I ever need that space, I'll go through it, I'm sure.  ^_^

One last thing... I can't show off my yarn storage because we're rearranging the living room right now and there's stuff in front of my yarn shelf.  (The yarn you've seen in previous pics is a collection of my handspun yarn, including one skein that isn't my handspun, and is in fact my genius friend, Kim's, handspun... it's kind of in the middle.  The lightish one that has a lot of glorious colors.  I had to have it, so I bought it.)  But I'll show where I store my scraps and leftover balls of yarn...

Cute, huh?!  I was at Yumiko Alexander's house for a spin-in and saw a huge fish tank she has which she uses to store gobs and gobs of yarn.  It's so neatly organized, too, because she's a designer with Universal Yarns and they send her yarn to work with.  Anyway, it kind of inspired me, and I remembered that I had this huge hurricane candle thing that was left in our house by the previous residents and I grabbed it and started filling it with my scraps.  I love the sight of yarn in the glass like this.  Don't know why.  It just speaks to something inside of me.

Anyway, I can't believe I've written a post this long.  I have things to do!  ^_~  I hope it helped someone.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oh, my gosh... Blame Pinterest.

Sorry for three posts in one day!  But I just found out that TYF got three of the spindles that Ken Ledbetter made with my flowers and I have to post them somewhere so that I can pin them on my pinterest...  So that's what this is about.

I'm loving how they turned out!

He's writing my name on the bottoms of the spindles, which I think is almost unnecessary... He clearly did so much more work than I did.  But still... it's cool!

Geeking out just a bit... He matched the shafts to the flowers, too!



This is the current configuration of my dining room table.

I like to set it extra fancy so that it's fun to sit and eat dinner here.  We don't eat here every night, but we do eat here probably at least 4 days out of any given week.

When we eat here, we all practice our table manners.  The boys are becoming quite proficient.

It turns out that the key to a perpetually clean dining room (something I've always longed for) is setting the table and leaving it.  Also, taking the table cloth off of what is the most expensive piece of furniture in our house certainly helps.  Everyone is being so careful.  I love it!  ^_~

Latest Shawl Pins

Here are some of my latest pins.  They sell for $20 each and a lot of them are already sold.  For now, I sell these exclusively through Tempe Yarn and Fiber.  Visit their website here for their location and information.

 The one above is possibly one of my favorites.  Ever.

The one above has a piece of brass I etched using my super secret image transfer technique.  I'm hoping to get my fourth instructional magazine article published about this technique.  ^_~

The one above uses one of my earlier polymer clay beads, sanded and buffed to a high gloss shine.  I really miss being able to do this on a large scale.  My hand and arm bother me too much if I try to do too much sanding now.  I'm hoping to find some solutions.  If any clay people out there have experienced the same problem and solved it, I'm ALL ears.

I love the turquoise/bird's nest one.  ^_^  The inspiration for this came, as it often does, from a friend's special order necklace.  I LOVE special orders, especially for things I've never done before.  I get to try new techniques and learn new things.  My favorite ones are the ones that start off with, "Is it possible to...??"  Or, "Can you do...??"  And God always lets these ideas work out so well, too.  I was hunting through some of my old stuff and came across these bird beads that I completely forgot I had.  So I had to make them work with the little nest I made.  This one sold to one of my favorite people at the yarn shop, too.  I get really happy when the pieces I treasure go to people I treasure.  ^_^

Love the heart one and the squiggle one above.

I'm in love with all three of these...  I love the squiggle one and the fun shape that just so happened to PERFECTLY set this crystal.  And my polymer clay octopus, of course.

Anyway... I'm going to be making some more pieces pretty soon.  I'm actually looking forward to translating a lot of these design ideas into pendants and earrings.  The one above, for instance, can also be a pendant.  Just take hold of the jump ring, hold it up, let the crystal fall into the lovely frame, and string it that way on a chain to wear it like that instead.  ^_^  I'm not sure how to package/market this idea.  But I'm going to be doing more like it in the future.  I like multi-purpose pieces.