Category: Crafts & Design


Valentine Making for Grown Ups

February 13th, 2014 — 9:47am

DSC01623Last night a few friends and I attended a Valentine making workshop for grown ups at the Monroe Street Branch Library. The free event was part of the Bubbler series, Madison Public Library’s maker-focused program. It was led by Sachi Komai from Anthology, the fabulous paper and crafts store on State Street. The evening was very low key and apparently just what I needed.

Each participant (about 20) received a starter kit with three red envelopes and three folded, blank white cards. Sachi had all kinds of crafting supplies spread across multiple tables in a small room we took over in the basement of the library. There was a treasure trove of crafting supplies—pretty craft papers, punches, scissors, doilies, stamps, etc. We were encouraged to dig in and create.

It was incredibly therapeutic to sit down and be creative for two uninterrupted hours. Thanks to my mom, crafts were a big part of my childhood—it seemed like we were always crafting something. Last night’s workshop was a great reminder that I need to reintroduce some creative time back into my life.

Below are a few pictures from the event, including piles of supplies, a couple Valentines that were shown as examples, as well as a few I created.

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My First Sewing Class

November 16th, 2012 — 11:33am

Last night I took my first sewing class—Sewing Fundamentals, Where do I begin? I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew, but never quite got around to it. I guess I figured it would always be there and that when my knees and hips eventually give out from too much running and biking, I’ll take up  sedentary hobbies like sewing and knitting. My mom has always been a passionate quilter, so I’ve grown up around a sewing machine and surrounded by dozens of quilts. But I also realized that having a mom who knows how to sew doesn’t necessarily motivate you to learn how to sew yourself. Like when you can just say, hey mom, can you hem these pants? Or hey, can you make me this quilt? How about these pillows? Why learn myself?

But then in strange twist of fate, I found myself in a job co-managing one of the biggest quilt shows in the country. And eventually I realized, I can name every major brand of sewing machine and thread, but I still can’t sew. And that’s when I decided that I needed to take the first step. And so I registered for a beginner’s sewing class at Sewcial Lounge, which bills itself as a “modern sewing lounge and fabric studio” on Monroe Street. And then my friend Julie mentioned that she was also interested in learning how to sew, so she signed up, too. Before class, I purchased my supplies—a 16″ by 16″ pillow insert, woven fabric, measuring Tape, pins/pin cushion, shears, marking pencil, seam ripper, and coordinating thread.

The class was 2.5 hours and there were just four students—by design (I, for one, needed a lot of personal assistance). The shop owner and teacher, Sara, is young, funny and relateable. She warned us that the first part of class is dry and all about the sewing machine. I admit I found my eyes glazing over at times, especially after a full day of work, but Sara made it bearable. Eventually, we turned on the machines for the hands-on part. We learned how to install a needle, wind and insert the bobbin, and thread the sewing machine—none of which I’ll actually be able to do again on my own. I found all of the steps, machine parts and holes a bit overwhelming.

I was relieved once we actually began sewing—mostly because the sewing machine takes over and does a lot of the work for you. But even then, it felt awkward—the whole stepping down on a pedal like you’re driving part. Yet, I was driving a sewing machine. I couldn’t sew in a straight line to save my life, but I was sewing. And that, I suppose, is the first step. I must say I was quite pleased when I made my first pivot. I finished my pillow case with just a few minutes of class time to spare and eagerly stuffed my pillow form inside and poked out the corners. As long as you don’t turn the pillow case inside out and examine the stitching, it looks pretty lovely, I think.

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4th Annual KY Derby Party Invites

April 17th, 2012 — 6:05am

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Spring is in the air…which can only mean one thing. Derby day is near!

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Potted Herb Garden

March 1st, 2012 — 5:09am

february-2012-220I was looking for a small garden-related gift for a few co-workers earlier this week when I came upon Trader Joe’s Potted Herb Garden. The $7.99 pot includes twelve “gourmet herbs” like Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, Marjoram, Winter Savory, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Basil, Assorted Mints, and Lemon Grass. It’s quite an assortment. february-2012-218

Last night I made vintage silverware plant markers for each pot, stamping the words “Herb Garden” into each spoon. I think these little pots make a perfect hostess or thank you gift. I’ve also realized I’m going to need to pick up one of these little gardens for myself. I’ve been using so many herbs cooking lately, and I really like the idea of condensing several pots into one.

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Vintage Silverware Plant Markers

January 26th, 2012 — 5:11pm

january-2012-223My latest craft project involves transforming vintage silver flatware into plant markers—effectively re-purposing and bringing new life to an old classic. I first saw these great DIY markers pictured in a magazine last spring and immediately wanted to buy a set for the herbs that adorn my windowsills. But when I searched on Etsy, I quickly discovered they’re not cheap (5 for $35). But more importantly, I realized I could probably make them myself.

Luckily, there are many wonderful tutorials on the web, put together by creative, crafty bloggers who discovered this great DIY project long before I did. A few of my favorites include posts from Shrimp Salad Circus and The Splendidly Imperfect Miss M. Following their inspiring pictures and careful instructions, I learned how to create my very own set of vintage silver plant markers.

All you need to get started is a variety of silver or silver plated flatware (not stainless steel—it won’t stamp), an alphabet steel stamping set, rubbing alcohol, a Sharpie, hammer, and a surface on which to hammer. I scoured several of Madison’s Goodwill and St. Vinny’s stores for a collection of silver plated spoons, knives, and forks. Most were priced at five for a dollar. I’m pretty sure I cleared out the city.

Luckily for this purpose, my apartment has concrete floors. Covering the spoon with a dish towel, I hammered the round part until it was perfectly flat. Then I planned the spacing of my chosen word by making small dots with a Sharpie. I then found each letter from the stamping set and pounded them one-by-one into the spoon with a hammer. I found it’s very important to hold both the spoon and steel stamper firmly in place—it’s so easy to slip and create a runaway (or psychedelic looking) letter. After stamping, I used a Sharpie marker to get into the grooves of each letter, which allows the word to pop against the silver background. Then, I dampened a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and wiped away the excess ink. And there you have it, your very own vintage silverware plant marker. A perfect project to prepare for Spring and the coming planting season!

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Creating a Woody Work Space

January 19th, 2012 — 11:53am

jan2I love the look of wood grain accessories—even the faux-bois variety. Using inspiration from an article in Martha Stewart Living about creating a “woody work space,” I set to work on my latest craft project. I bought two rolls of wood grain contact  paper from hardwarestore.com (available in Ultra Light Pine, Cherry Woodgrain, and Pickled Wood, from $5.49 a roll) and then coated everything in sight—boring binders, a used Kickapoo coffee tin, and an old, heavily-used mouse pad. The process is easy—simply cut the paper slightly larger than the surface you want to cover and then trim excess with a craft knife. I’m very happy with how the wood grain design transformed my work space—instant DIY chic. jan3jan1

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DIY Decorative Clothespins

December 26th, 2011 — 6:03pm

december-2011-113Another craft project I worked on recently are these DIY decorative clothespins. I had seen similar ones at local craft fairs and decided it was the type of project I could easily recreate. The materials are simple: scrapbook paper (I have a “value pack paper pad” with 180 sheets I’ve used on various projects the last few years), wooden clothespins (I bought a 24 pack at Michaels), polyurethane gloss varnish, a glue stick, and a small paint brush.

First, using a pencil, I traced the front of a clothespin on decorative paper and cut out the thin strip. I then checked to make sure the paper fit nicely on the clothepin, trimmed as needed, and attached the paper to the front of the clothespin using a glue stick. I then poured a small amount of varnish on a covered work surface and used a paint brush to coat the paper with a thin layer of varnish. I repeated the varnish step every 10 minutes or so until achieving a nice glossy sheen (probably about five coats total). december-2011-151

The finished clothespins can used in a variety of ways—as chip clips, refrigerator magnets (just attach adhesive craft magnets to the back), dinner place card holders, etc. You could also paint the clothespins first (metal parts and all) for a slightly different look. Or decorate with most anything—glitter, sequins, ribbon, etc. I ended up giving some of the finished clothespins to friends for the holidays—I attached 3 or 4 clothespins to a small piece of cardstock for a simple presentation. It’s a great craft project that doesn’t require much time, skill, or money. And paired with personalized note cards and bottlecap magnets, they’d sure make for a nice stationary set.

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DIY Personalized Note Cards

December 12th, 2011 — 12:02pm

december-2011-111I love making handmade gifts for the holidays. Whether it’s granola, cookies, or a craft, I like to use my hands and creativity to create something special for friends. My most recent project has been creating personalized note card sets. Using letter stencils and brown Kraft recycled note cards and envelopes, I traced my friends’ initials on fun scrapbook paper (I bought a big book of scrapbook paper years ago that has been great for projects like these) and then secured each letter onto a note card using a glue stick. I finished each set by collating the note cards and envelopes and tying it all together with natural jute twine. Three or four note cards make for a nice set. december-2011-116

I think the note card sets turned out well. It’s the kind of project anyone can do in the span of a few hours (I’m sure it would be a great project to do with kids, too). And while it’s a great handmade gift for the holidays, these note cards would be a cool gift any time of the year.

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Knitting With My Mom

January 5th, 2011 — 8:17pm

december-2010-1251I’ve wanted to learn how to knit for years. It all started when a friend of mine knitted me a hat for Christmas a few years back. It was one of the most touching gifts I’d ever received. The hat was so colorful and warm. I was amazed by the time my friend must have spent on it, and also that it was possible to make something so beautiful with your hands. I treasured that hat and wore it down to to its last threads.

But wanting to learn how to knit and actually doing it are two very different things. And for so long, I just wasn’t able to bridge that gap. Even when my parents gave me needles, yarn, and a “how to knit” DVD for my birthday a few years ago, I wasn’t able to muster the time or patience to learn. And so my needles and yarn sat in the lonely darkness of my closet quietly gathering dust.

Last year I vowed to myself that I would finally learn how to knit. But still, a part of me doubted my resolve. What saved me is that my mom finally decided that she, too, wanted to learn how to knit. She ended up teaching herself this past fall through a variety of books and YouTube videos. This, of course, was a beautiful thing. She was now one step ahead of me, meaning that I’d finally have someone who could sit down and walk me through the steps—which was so much more appealing to me than trying to learn by starting and stopping a “how to knit” video hosted by perky Nici McNally.

So over Thanksgiving weekend I dusted off my knitting needles and yard and dragged it all back home for a lesson with mom. She patiently sat down with me and taught me how to cast on and how to do both the knit and purl stitches. I picked up the knit stitch relatively easily; but like most people, the purl stitch gave me more trouble. It was comforting, however, to know that they were the only two stitches I’d ever need to know. And so I practiced and practiced. Over the weekend, I even became a bit obsessed—taking my knitting with me wherever I’d go.dscn07111

But then I got back from Thanksgiving break and the demands of the daily grind resumed. I’d pick up my knitting every now and then, but it largely sat untouched. Meanwhile, my mom was completing all kinds of new projects—hats, scarves, neck gators—you name it. We hoped to spend some time together over Christmas knitting together; but unfortunately, the time never materialized.

So that’s how our latest “girls day” came about. My mom made the trip to Madison last week and our focus was to spend time together knitting. She taught me how to knit “on the round” and excitingly, I began my first real project—a hat. So we sat next to each other on the couch, our conversation moving over the rhythmical “click, click” of our knitting needles.

I continued to work on that hat all weekend. I was determined. I wanted to finish my first project and to also make my mom proud. I’m happy to report that I’m just about finished with my first hat. It’s a red fuzzy number—with some dropped stitches and other mistakes scattered throughout—but something I’m pretty damn proud of nonetheless. I think my mom is, too.

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Bottle Cap Wreath

January 3rd, 2011 — 7:30pm

december-2010-150Before we move on from the holidays, I wanted to share a picture of a homemade Christmas ornament I received as a gift from my friend Julie. The ornament is made up of twelve bottle caps arranged in the formation of a wreath, with a little bell hanging down in the middle. From what I can tell, it looks like Julie primarily used a glue gun to put it all together. I especially like the festive red from the New Belgium Fat Tire beer caps. It’s a very creative and unique gift idea. So start saving those bottle caps now…by the time the holidays roll around again, you should have quite the collection saved up for crafting.

Thanks again, Julie. It’s the perfect addition to my big girl tree!

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